Let us take a brief glimpse into the Infernal Insurance Answering Service… because you always suspected as much.
A cherry-red-skinned woman with slightly pointed ears and long black hair wearing a studded black leather miniskirt and matching corset wakes from her nap. She turns to answer a 1950s era black rotary dial telephone from an office in the depths of Hades. A red light on the phone flashes to indicate that there is a caller on hold, which is released as an incoming call finally rings through after several attempts.
The demonic receptionist spins ever so slightly in the oversized leather office chair, using her barbed tail as a sort of paddle to push herself lightly along. She glances at an old microcomputer on the desk in front of her, its black screen just sitting there staring blankly ahead as if powered down permanently. She coils the tangled phone cord around a long black claw tipped with red.
As the receptionist speaks, smoke and brimstone curls around her yellow jagged rows of sharks teeth barely hidden behind her ruby painted lips. Her small wings rise and fall teasingly. Her flame yellow eyes glow, like those of a cat in the darkest night. She is both stunningly beautiful and terrifying at the same time.
“Hello and thank you for calling Infernal Insurance. May I put you on hold?”
The phone clicks over before the caller can respond. The loudest, most obnoxious elevator accordion and bagpipe music imaginable wafts from the receiver as the receptionist sets it aside to manicure her claws. After a long interlude she picks it up again.
“Thank you for holding.”
“Ok, first I’ll need you to verify your account with us…”
The computer screen in front of the demonic receptionist sits black and vacant until she presses a button on the keypad and it springs to life. An account number must be entered and verified to continue. The receptionist speaks into the phone, pausing just long enough to give the caller time to respond.
“What is your account number?”
“What is your current name as well as any other names, nicknames and pseudonyms you might have used or been associated with over the course of this lifetime and the three prior?”
“Yes, I need all of them.”
“Ok, now what is your most recent date of death associated with this account?”
The receptionist types in all of the information given over the next 12 pages without verifying the spelling of any of it. She enters a string of 6s scrolling through the last three pages until she is satisfied with her entry and hits the Enter button. She turns back to the phone call.
“Now we need a sample of your blood. Use the razor blade built into the phone receiver to slit your wrist and bleed into the phone mouthpiece.”
The receptionist types madly into the system. The screen flashes a red warning error message and goes black again.
“I’m sorry, we have no record of that account number as associated with you. Can you repeat that? Did you perhaps miss a nickname or misread or transpose any of the numbers? Sometimes the account number tattooing becomes less legible or migrates over time.”
The receptionist types the caller’s information in again, this time adding six more 6s at the beginning and again at the end than were spoken.
“You’re right, that was the correct number associated with your account. It seems we didn’t get enough blood to run through our verification process the first time, I’ll need for you to do that again. Try holding the receiver to your wrist for several minutes while you bleed out this time.”
The account appears on the screen, its content information slowly forming character by character in flaming red from the dark void in old school DOS fashion. The screen locks on a bill for $2,720,322.46 owed for services both rendered and not. A payment plan must be initiated to proceed.
“Ok, I found your account. You owe $2,720,322.46 in back policy payments.”
“Yes, I am sure that is the amount owed. Would you like to pay in full today? Do you have a bank account that you would like to use?”
“Yes, we can arrange for scheduled payments but there will be a surcharge for that service.”
The receptionist types in the bank account information given by the caller, this time verifying every figure three times to be sure to plug it in correctly. She hits the button to schedule monthly payments.
“Oh I see that you are already on our scheduled payment plan which is how you came to owe $2,720,322.46 with the surcharges, compounding interest and inconvenience fees. We will up your payment amounts, then. If you can offer a down-payment of your firstborn, we can minimize the amount you owe for each payment processed to the account.”
“Ah yes, I see that you have already done so, Carrie is in the system accordingly. Her balance is $1,425,866.53. We cannot transfer any more of your balance to her account. Do you have any other offspring?”
“Oh, I’m so very not sorry to hear that, what a tragic loss,” the receptionist smiles and runs a forked tongue over her jagged teeth. “No, we don’t cover those circumstances. Let me see what I can do.”
She downgrades the insurance plan from a Deluxe Super Premium plan to a Super Essential Premium Plus account. The resulting savings are -$35,609.24 so that now $2,756,933.70 is owed in total. It doesn’t add up, but that is to be expected.
“Ok, after some changes to your policy, I managed to get your payments down to $527.31 per month. It’s only a 300% increase.”
“I’m going to need to put you on hold again while I make those updates.”
The loud, obnoxious elevator accordion bagpipe music returns as the phone clicks over. The only comparable sound anyone can think to associate the hold music with is that of someone skinning a live cat. Fortunately, few callers have actually heard such a terrible sound as that of a live creature being skinned, but this so-called music is exactly what they would imagine it to be like.
The receptionist continues to file her claws to sharpened points, moving onto her exposed feet as she removes them from her thigh high leather boots to manicure those nails as well, before answering again.
“Thank you again for holding. Now, what did you need?”
She types “Maggots eating face” into the line to open a claim. She hits Enter.
“No, I’m sorry, but your policy type does not insure against maggots eating your face off. You would have to upgrade to a Deluxe Super Premium plan for that, but we cannot offer that policy type with your current amount of back payments owed.”
“Let me put you on hold while I look that up.”
The yowling cat elevator accordion bagpipe music returns briefly, inspiring even the most stubborn callers to want to cut out their eardrums or lobotomize themselves with an ice pick or do whatever it takes to make it stop. The receptionist yawns, takes a swig of coffee, flexes her wings, and clicks over the phone again.
“No, I see no record of your having been in that policy type before. You are in a Super Essential Premium Plus account. This account type has limited liability when it comes to bodily harm, possessions, and damages caused by weather, insects, animals, humans, demons, angels, and any other supernatural or otherworldly beings.”
“No, I’m sorry but as I’d stated previously, maggots eating your face is not covered by this account type. It will cover any routine losses caused by ordinary houseplants, several highly uncommon diseases, and some specific interactions with Azamir but not while online in any form. You will have to read the fine print on the 5,687 pages following the policy account information to discern just what is and isn’t covered in what circumstances.”
“Yes, you can file a formal complaint if you wish. As a receptionist for Infernal Insurance, I am mandated not to give you my name or identity so you will have to file any such complaint without said information.”
“To file a complaint, you will have to call back on Saturday morning between 2 and 5 AM and wait your turn on hold. We do not get to everyone in the queue every week, so it may take several Saturdays to get through. I’d recommend calling as close to 2 AM as possible.”
“All complaints are promptly incinerated the following Tuesday at 10 PM.”
“Thank you again for calling. I will put you on hold until the phone system will allow you to hang up. Have a horrible day.”
The demonic receptionist smiles a wide toothy grin as she clicks the call over to the grating hold music, takes another swig of coffee, and curls up in her chair for a long overdue nap. The red phone caller indicator light blinks that there is a call on hold waiting to be released as she drifts off to sleep again until the next call comes in.
Revisitations: The Devil Went Down to Georgia
So I’ve been working on more painting into found art (as seen here before) and I thought I’d share a newer one, based on the song The Devil Went Down to Georgia by Charlie Daniels. But first let’s make like my She Wolf post enjoy a couple variations of the song, shall we?
First we have Charlie Daniels, the writer of the song which was inspired by the beautiful poem by Stephen Vincent Benet titled The Mountain Whipporwill. You can read the poem on Your Daily Poem here.
Then we have to watch my favorite version, the animated music video by Primus. I know there are claymation-haters out there who find the effect bit too “uncanny valley” but how can you not just love those chickens?
Anyway, without further ado, here is my painting, incorporated into a found still life, original signed L. Harady.
Here The Devil is defeated, crushed along the lower edge of the artwork beneath the fiddle and lamenting his loss. The bow jabs into his sneering nose as if to add insult to injury, but his eyes still glow, alight with the prospect of coming back for another round. (They actually do glow, I have acquired some blacklight reactive nail polish to use in these pieces now.) I suppose I may go to Hell for this portrayal (or for defiling yet another painting) but alas, such is the price of art sometimes. I guess I’ll add it to the list…
Cravings Part 2, story by Jennifer Weigel
If you missed the beginning of this pregnancy horror story by Jennifer Weigel, you can catch Part 1 here.
Jayden’s stomach turned. Who or what was this creature standing before him, and what had it done with his wife? Claire proceeded to eat more than half of the jar of eggs in a fury of consumption; Jayden finally retreated to the office alone unable to watch any more. He heard a sloshing sound as she finished the jar and proceeded to drink the brine before retreating to the bedroom and crashing into their bed, presumably to pass out. Again. Later that night, he crept in to find her sleeping, clammy and sweaty, nervously twitching. Her body made the most abnormal guttural sounds as her internal systems groaned and sputtered. It was definitely getting worse. Jayden resolved to call Dr. Randolph the following morning; this had gone on for far too long already.
The next day, Claire awoke with a start from another bad dream that she couldn’t remember. Crying uncontrollably, she clutched her swollen belly, still ripe with child, and hurriedly exclaimed, “Blood sausage! I must have blood sausage!”
Jayden woke from his curled-up safe haven beside her and muttered, “Wha… What is that? I’ve never even heard of such a thing.”
“Go!” she snapped. “I’m starving. Go now! Return with blood sausage.”
Jayden staggered over to the dresser, threw on some clothes, shuffled into his waiting shoes, and gathered himself to duck out the door in the well-practiced gesture he’d become so accustomed to. “I’ll stop on my way home from work, I guess,” he mused, making his own plans. Claire seemed to settle down a little as she woke further, but it was little consolation.
“Thank you Sweetcheeks,” she said. “You’re the best.” She blew him a kiss.
While at work, Jayden managed to secure an appointment with Dr. Beth Randolph, Claire’s primary physician since before he had known her, for later that day. He took off early and rushed home to gather his unwilling wife. She was going in, whether she liked it or not.
He opened the front door and peered inside. The house was dark and quiet, as he’d come to expect. He crept in and stole upstairs to the bedroom to rouse Claire from sleep. He’d tell her where they were going once he got her in the car, no sense in making this even more difficult than it already was. Unsurprisingly, there she was, a shadowy form hunched over in the bed, her back to him with the covers pulled up over her eyes. He peeled away the comforter and blanket to reveal a tangled mess of white knitted yarn; Claire was nowhere to be found. He looked around, trying to focus on the darkness of the bedroom that enveloped him. That unsettling feeling had returned, like he’d had at Maresh’s shop, sinking into his gut. Claire was here idling, watching, waiting; he could sense her presence sizing him up as if she could read his mind and was on to his plan. But why was her company so disconcerting? This was still their house, their home, their lives intertwined… Jayden felt his trust ebb, spine tingling sensing danger.
“Hey there Sweetcheeks,” Claire’s voice echoed from the darkness of the closet. “Do you have something for me?” She emerged into the room, her eyes wide, frothing slightly at the edges of her mouth. Tiny bubbles of drool burst forth from her quivering lips and trickled down onto her chin.
“I couldn’t find any… blood sausage… whatever that is,” Jayden lied through his teeth. He hadn’t even gone to the store. Claire should never have expected him back at this hour; apparently she didn’t even know what time it was. But that seemingly wasn’t a concern. She wasn’t herself. Something about her fragile frame, the way she rocked from side to side, reminded him of that crazy old witch doctor Maresh. He finally managed to connect the two; it was as though she were possessed. It was imperative that she saw Dr. Beth Randolph as soon as possible, if for no other reason than to sever ties to that crazy old hag and hopefully start to snap out of it. He simply had to get her to that appointment.
“No blood sausage!” Claire shouted, becoming more and more agitated. “No… blood… sausage!” Her breathing became less regular and her body shivered all over as she hulked towards him. “I am sooo hungry!”
She lunged towards him, stumbling into his arms and collapsing towards his feet laughing maniacally. Jayden reached for her instinctively, to lower her to the ground gently, and felt something sticky and warm envelop his hand. Feeling lightheaded, he glanced down as he fell to the floor beside her. Protruding from his gut was a long silver thread, no something pointedly metal and hard, oozing thick oil sludge all around. Not oil, blood. His blood. Claire continued laughing, her lightning-fast fingers quickly and methodically ripping their way into his tattered shirt and worming around within his wounded frame to pull forth bits of viscera, which she wrung in her hands and smeared up and down her arms and torso. As Jayden passed out, she mouthed each of her fingers in turn, sucking the precious liquid off of them one at a time, before she began to feast on his entrails.
Claire’s belly was finally full. The baby developing within squirmed and settled, as if finally satiated. She swiped a stray bit of flesh from her bosom, licked it off of her fingertips, and heaved a sigh of relief. Miracle Madame Maresh Meliasma was right; she just needed to get to the root of her cravings.
Cravings, a Pregnancy Horror Story by Jennifer Weigel
Here is Part 1 of Cravings, a pregnancy horror story considering darker cravings and changes in contrast to the glow that comes with the all-too-often toxic-positivity focus of carrying a child.
“Honey, I’m home,” Jayden’s voice echoed through the house like a bad 50s sitcom rerun for all that he didn’t watch those kinds of shows. The callout seemed equally rehearsed and hopeful but harbored a hint of fear in the way his voice cracked that didn’t bespeak Mayberry or the like. He waited for his wife Claire to greet him at the door. The house was still and cold with all of the heavy drapes drawn and no lights on anywhere. He glanced towards the dark bedroom where she must be napping, like the day before and the day before that, for weeks and months on end now.
Honestly, Claire hadn’t been the same since she’d finally conceived, following that witch doctor Miracle Madame Maresh Meliasma’s advice after years and years of trying to get pregnant. Now Claire was lethargic and succumbed to migraines, nightmares & morning sickness that kept her bedridden much of the time, screaming bloody murder because of her headaches if anyone so much as flicked on the lights. And she had barely even gotten into the second trimester. Jayden had read that it was supposed to get better but there didn’t seem to be any improvement; if anything she seemed to be getting worse. He tried to get her to see her doctor about it but she snubbed the idea. “After everything they put us through, all those years of fertility treatments, the invasive procedures, the bills… No way. To Hell with modern medicine,” Claire had retorted.
So now here they were, readying themselves for their first child. Maresh had foreseen that Claire would birth a healthy baby boy, and with all of the card readings, spiritual advice and herbal concoctions, Claire had fallen right in line, hanging onto the witch doctor’s every word. Jayden was still frustrated she wouldn’t consult with her normal doctor, but she instead visited with Maresh every day through Instachat online for about an hour and even invited the creepy old woman into their home once a week on Thursday mornings to supply fresh herbs, massage her aching joints and swelling tummy, and call forth healing realigning energies with elaborate candlelit rituals. Claire could focus on only one thing: anticipating the pending home birth and natural delivery of their firstborn child, still several months away.
Jayden wished his wife had never set foot in that weird alternative new age spiritual center, something about it had just seemed off. It wasn’t the crystals or candles or psychic energy books that seemed to line every surface; he wasn’t into any of that mysticism crap but it seemed pretty innocuous. He recalled small figures made of sticks, straw and mud, and giant Mason jars boasting exotic herbal remedies, and the lingering scent of something sickly sweet decaying, all of which was genuinely unsettling, but it wasn’t really that either. There was something decidedly sinister about the place that he couldn’t quite put his finger on, more caught up in the air surrounding and within the space itself. It settled into his gut like that feeling you get when you know you’re being watched by some unseen far away presence or when you meet someone you know deep down has ill intentions. And Maresh herself was just as disturbing; she only ever addressed Claire and had not uttered a single word to Jayden in the entire time. In fact, she acted as if she looked right through him without even seeing him.
As days turned into weeks into months, Claire became more withdrawn and more obsessed about the baby. She never left the house, locking herself away in the gloomy stagnant nest and occupying herself with the remedies, rites and rituals that Maresh suggested. Oh, and knitting. Jayden hadn’t realized that Claire knitted since he had never seen her do so before, but her hands were a frenzy of motion, whipping silver needles back and forth and pulling soft white yarn between them like a growing umbilical cord tethering her to the circumstance at hand like some sort of strange pregnancy lifeline. The so-called blanket she was producing grew larger and larger every day.
Jayden snapped out of his reverie to see his wife eyeing him from the hallway. She studied him up and down slowly, staring longingly at his body. She inadvertently bit her lower lip in anticipation, teeth striking flesh to cut forth a small droplet of blood. Her tongue eagerly danced across her pursed mouth and lapped it up before withdrawing again.
“Aw, what’d you bring me this time, Sweetcheeks?” Claire smirked; eyes alight with flame like a cat readying to pounce
She had been ravenous throughout the pregnancy so far, and her cravings kept getting stranger and more bizarre as time passed. The other day, Jayden had fetched boiled shrimp, and she had devoured over 2 pounds of the mud-bugs in less than an hour’s time, shell, tail and all, their little legs matted together like thick wet whiskers. Today she had requested pickled eggs, the kind that they import from Europe or Dutch-country Pennsylvania in those big almost gallon-sized jars, stained pink with beet juice vinegar. Jayden procured the giant jar of eggs from the paper bag in his arms. Claire lunged at him and grabbed up the prize, prying the lid off in one fell swoop. She reached in, pulled out a pink rubber-looking egg still dripping with brine, and shoved it in her mouth whole. She hadn’t even bothered to chew it before she grabbed another to meet the same fate. And another.
I hope you have enjoyed the first part of this story. Part 2 will air next time here on Haunted MTL. In the meantime, feel free to follow your cravings and order up some midnight munchies, or listen to this lullabye.