I was in a convenience mart when it began, standing at a pastry case looking at the donuts, trying to decide whether I wanted a cake doughnut with sprinkles or a glazed doughnut with chocolate icing. What I really wanted was a maple-glazed with bacon, but that was apparently too much of a culinary delicacy to ask of a simple gas station convenience mart such as this.
The fluorescent lights flickered in that static greenish way that they do when the ballast is going off. Nothing unusual. Then the loudspeaker hummed and crackled as if someone breathed too close to a microphone somewhere in the back and amplified a bit of spittle or a fleck of dust. The sound jarred me from pondering the doughnut case, and I looked up at a speaker in the ceiling.
It quieted briefly before it buzzed again.
Still, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Just a regular convenience mart with its typical display of overpriced donuts, shipped in too early in the morning and having sat there for half the day until they were now well-past stale… The loudspeaker continued to hum and crackle intermittently.
I finally decided on the cake doughnut with sprinkles, poured a cup of coffee the consistency of motor oil into a to-go Styrofoam cup, snapped a lid on it (literally and figuratively), and checked out at the counter. The lights flickered again. The woman behind the register, who looked as though she hadn’t slept in years, mumbled “have-a-nice-day” as I paid with my Master chip card and left. At least, I think that’s what she said. The words fell out of her mouth like too many marbles all at once, slurred together.
They didn’t make sense.
The sky was overcast. I made my way to my car. The buzzing hum and crackle followed me. “ There outside must a speaker be too,” I muttered to myself. My voice echoed in my head, but talking Yodaesque gibberish with the words disordered and falling out of place and time.
The car was where I left it, second from the right facing the front of the convenience mart, aimed at the building from which the droning hum emanated. I didn’t remember parking there but then again I didn’t remember parking… Mine was the only car in the lot so there weren’t any other choices to be made or directions to pursue. Thank goodness. I felt a faint flicker of light dance through my periphery, but it was too fast to focus on. Must be a storm coming in…
I shook it off, unlocked the car with the beep-boop key fob, and got in. I sat down in the driver’s seat, placed my coffee in the middle cup-holder, and shut the door behind me. I opened the bag and looked at the doughnut. Blast it, I had thought I’d gotten one with sprinkles. But wait – there were sprinkles. They flickered at me as if coming into and out of being. They were too difficult to focus on, white, yellow and orange, too similar to the cake color of the doughnut. They became more white-noise static, further drowning out my ability to focus.
I could no longer see the doughnut for the sprinkles.
The car radio buzzed at me with the same crackly hum of the loudspeaker. But the car wasn’t on. That’s when it hit me. The… car… wasn’t… on… A faint flicker lit up the edge of my vision again, and the din of the static grew louder and closer. The car… still… wasn’t on… The doughnut-sprinkles flickered at me like points of light on a TV screen un-tuned to snow.
I tossed the bag with the doughnut in the passenger seat. I wasn’t in the mood to sit and eat it. Not now. Something was very wrong. The hairs on the backs of my arms prickled as they rose. But why? I opened the door as if to go back in, but changed my mind. What was I going to look for there? The confusion and uncertainty wouldn’t be any clearer. It wasn’t as if buying a chocolate iced doughnut would change anything. Or would it? That didn’t make any sense.
None of it made any sense.
I sat still and looked out over the dashboard at the building. The static grew louder. Everything was snow now. The doughnut-sprinkles, the bag, the passenger seat, the coffee, the dashboard, the car, the convenience mart… Even my own hand was flickering as I extended it out in front of me. The buzzing crackling hum had taken the shape of light as well as sound, and it was everywhere.
My surroundings seemed to flatten as they grew more and more disjointed, the flicker setting in like an old movie reel zoetrope. It was as if everything I saw was just a painting or a photograph, a stage prop and not a true-to-life experience. The scenery around me rippled like a plastic tarp over a swimming pool or a clear carnival bag bulging with water needed to sustain the goldfish within it, with me being the goldfish.
I noticed it faintly at first.
There was a crack or a fold in the space-time continuum… No, it was a small gash… It seemed to almost float in the midst of my vision. It followed wherever I turned. I was trapped underneath and within the tent of my reality, watching it bulge and flicker above and around me as the tear grew wider, threatening to burst and spill everything through me. My heart fluttered but I was frozen to the spot, unable to move.
The tarp of my consciousness ripped open in a sweeping encompassing motion and gave way completely. My surroundings pulsed into themselves before they swelled and broke loose. The convenience store, the car, the dashboard… all flew past me like a million star-points of light and shadow and flowed away. I was enveloped in light. A quiet solace engulfed me as I was bathed in the bright white curtain, feeling cold and warm at the same time, distant and wholly present.
Slowly, fuzzy shapes emerged from the light.
Murmured talking began to take form around me, as well as a rhythmic beeping coming into focus. “It’s going to be okay,” one of the softly silhouetted shapes spoke as it grew clearer and formed itself into a doctor in a white lab coat. “You had a minor stroke and have been in a coma for a few days. You’re going to pull through.”
I looked around. The room was sterile and white with a sickly blue-green-gray partition preventing me from seeing the other side. A series of plastic looking machines with all sorts of knobs, buttons, and switches beeped and lit up beside me. The doctor held one of those hand flashlights towards me to look into my eyes. She spoke but seemed very far away.
As the light flashed in my eyes, a buzzing hum began to emerge, quietly at first. The rhythmic beeping of the machines receded and gave way to the static drone. It grew louder and louder as I became attuned to the constant flicker of fluorescent lights. The humming sound grew, emanating from everywhere and burying itself behind my eyes to pulse through my being. The fluorescence soon began to engulf everything and the room flickered to steady snow.
Everything went fuzzy again, lost to the flickering fluorescent din.
A crackling loudspeaker jars me out of my reverie, amplifying dust, or spittle.
I look up at the speaker above me, standing in front of a convenience mart doughnut case. An underwhelming array of stale mid-day donuts scattered on trays calls for my consideration… do I want a cake doughnut with sprinkles or a glazed doughnut with chocolate icing?
Some Bewitching Line Drawing by Jennifer Weigel
This month we are going to explore more fun marker art from Jennifer Weigel, starting with black and white line drawing. Jennifer is getting ready for her big Life Is Brilliant solo show in March and has snuck in a few spookier themes, so she wanted to share them with you here.
The magic is strong in this Witch Way line drawing with its fun witchy head-topper, complete with striped hat band and star dangle. No self-respecting wizard’s ensemble would be complete without it.
And now the adorable Kitty Witch will don the Witch Way hat and cast a spell of cuteness on you. You gotta wonder just how the hat stays on but best not to question these things. We all know it’s magic…
The devil is in the details in this Not Today Satan line drawing, and boy is he pissed!
This She Devil is just plain goofy. Maybe she’s coyly playing innocent; it’s not a look most devils can pull off, seeing as how innocence really isn’t their schtick…
This little spider came down to your tuffet to remind you to Hang in There. She is very well-intentioned and is only looking out for you. I guess maybe she’s not so little though, she is an Argiope after all…
LTD Tripped Out Motivational Posters
Tripped out… in case you just couldn’t get enough of Everything Everywhere All at Once and the return of the infinite bagel with EVERYTHING on it…
Artwork description: kaleidoscopic image of pink hairy horror (This is actually a fink fuzzy frond plant not unlike a Cockscomb but with longer thinner flowering feelers rather than the fuller protuberances you see on a full-bodied Cockscomb plant. I have no idea what it was, but it was very odd so I had to snap a photo.)
Image text reads: Mixing Magic Mushrooms & Peyote Just remember: once you open that Pandora’s box, you’re never going to get the pink hairy tarantulas back in it…
Artwork description: kaleidoscopic sunflower backlit by the sun with text and rainbow eye overlay
Image text reads: Eye See You Eye See All (in circle text so you can start and end reading wherever). In an ideal context this would be printed in the bottom of your tea mug or on a record that can slowly spin.
For more crazy tripped out fun, check out Weird Al’s post on Craig’s List…
The Elves Reunion, a short story by Jennifer Weigel
I had heard tale that The Elves dwell in these woods. Many underestimate The Elves; they have a fondness of heart for Tolkienesque Middle Earth fantasy stories and tales where Elves are the most highly civilized, virtuous and intelligent. They forget that those are just myths, save for The Elves being cunning. Remember that the Pied Piper was an Elf, and the children he took were not destined for such a glorious fate.
My sister lost her firstborn to The Elves. She hadn’t noticed the Changeling until it was too late. Her baby had already long since been stolen away. She was so distraught she refused to eat or speak. She locked herself in her room. Or my family locked her into it as she succumbed to the madness. Such are the ways of the family, for all of our protection. We never question but follow as expected, as a means of self-preservation. It has kept us all alive.
But I couldn’t get the sinking feeling out of my stomach; the grief became too overwhelming. That is why I came here. I know I will not be able to rescue the child, nor my sister. But I seek to avenge their meaningless deaths. To ensure that it doesn’t happen again. My family will never act. I am tired of the Village Elders just shrugging these things off in hushed whispers and badly shrouded secrets. It happens time and again. We are all expendable. They never do anything.
So here I am, in the Elven wood. Alone. As soon as my family figures out that I’m here, they will disown me. They probably already have. Again, it is for our own protection. I’ll be just another casualty of The Elves. Everything is so structured, so regimented. Anyone who dares act in opposition to the rules vanishes. We are all so afraid.
I lay in wait. It’s just a matter of time before the portal appears. The Elves use the portals to travel across time and space. They appear where and when they wish. But this time, I will go through first. I know not what is on the other side, just that the portals allow only one to traverse in each direction. We will trade places, if only for a moment until another portal forms. Hopefully that will be enough time.
The trees shift and morph. Falling leaves drift slower and slower towards the ground. There is a stillness that I cannot fully express. My breath hangs heavy in the silent air. There is no sound, no smell, no taste. It is time. The hairs on the back of my neck and arms rise. I can sense the opening forming. There is an uncanny familiarity in this moment, as if I have been here before.
As soon as the portal opens, I dash through. But something isn’t right. No one came through from the other side. Or did they? I cannot tell. I am alone, in limbo between states of existence. The world spins around me. I can feel the drift. Is this what death feels like? Cold unbroken silence? I feel distant eyes upon me everywhere, all around me, in the trees, the clouds, pinpoints of light that shimmer through.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Maybe this is all according to plan. But who was orchestrating the exchange? My idea was only half formed in those passing pensive moments I am able to think for myself, few and far between. My family, the Village Elders… no one allows time for freeform thought. I hadn’t considered what would happen after the portal exchange. I never really got past step one.
A voice greets me from the trees. It is hauntingly familiar but seems only a distant memory.
“I’ve been expecting you.”
The world slowly comes into focus. Clarity restored, the leaves circle me in an embrace. My sister emerges, her dark eyes smiling. She cradles the baby in her arms.
“You made it. You escaped,” she sings.
“I didn’t see anyone,” I retort, skeptical. I hadn’t recalled having seen any Elves, dark nightmarish fiends that they are, wild, unkempt, uncouth. Savage beasts like Pan or Krampus. Is this an illusion? My sister seems so lifelike, so much herself. She is the joyful young mother I had known her to be. Filled with love and laughter. Light dances about her, and she shimmers.
“Not in passing,” my sister clarifies. “You have been living among them your whole life. I had done so as well until the baby was stolen. My heart broke; I had to follow after. That was when I learned the Truth.”
“Why do you think we are so sheltered? Why are we forbidden to do anything? They do so to protect us from the Truth about who and what we are,” she continued. “We’ve spent our lives evading that which we truly know ourselves to be. We were the stolen ones, not the other way around…”
I notice that the portal I came through is still open, reinforcing my idea that no one had passed through the other way. It is as if the portal was opened specifically to call me through. My sister extends her hand, beckoning me to join her. There is a gleam in her eye I cannot pinpoint. She seems happy, but something still isn’t quite right. I’m still uncertain why I am here, in this time and place, as if destined to be present in this moment, in this decision.
The Village has fallen away to the woods. There are no breadcrumb trails to follow home. The idea of home itself seems distant like yet another illusion. Nothing makes sense anymore. I am unsure whether I am coming or going. Two paths lay open before me. Which shall I take?