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We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming to continue our summer story saga… Sit back, relax and enjoy the tale, game reviews will resume again next month.

Last time on Betty Lou’s Treasure Trove…

When Pauline awoke, she was in a small dark room.  She was sitting motionless on a large old desk with an unkempt melanine top.  A clip lamp illuminated metal shelving along the wall, with rows of arms and legs and mannequin parts that could barely be deduced at the periphery of her vision.  Pauline’s gaze fixated on a shelf on a bin of glass eyes and could not be refocused.  Everything was chilly, but not uncomfortably cold.

The world around her was clammy and metallic.  The seemingly thin air enveloped her in a pervasive musk that was uniquely disorienting and seemed to permeate her flesh.  The odor, if it could even be called such, slithered all over and throughout her skin.  It was an indescribably odd sensation almost like tiny centipedes crawling all over her numb body like the tingle of being positioned poorly for too long and having part of oneself fall asleep to wake to pin and needle nerves twitching.  Except that this was her whole being, not just an arm or a foot.  Other than that, Pauline couldn’t feel anything.  She couldn’t feel her limbs at all.  Her only real consciousness was a sort of detached, reserved stiffness that rested at the root of her mind and held her in a rigid formal stare.  She couldn’t speak.  She couldn’t turn her neck.  She couldn’t avert her gaze.  She just looked silently forward, unmoving, unblinking, unfocused.

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There was a long tube extended down Pauline’s throat but she couldn’t sense it, and so she was completely unaware of its presence.  The tube ended in a rusted out orange bucket and was extracting a thick reddish liquid from somewhere deep within her chest.  The hollow cavity left behind in her bosom congealed and hardened to a resin-like consistency.  She was unaware that she was only a torso, a framework upon which a full figure could be built, her arms and legs no longer a part of what was left of her body.  She couldn’t see them on the metal shelves along the facing wall and, even if she could have, she certainly wouldn’t have recognized them as her own.

Off to the side, Pauline could hear a door open.  A few moments later, a gaunt greying wire-haired man with deep black eyes strolled into her field of vision and stood before her… Chester.  He pulled a nondescript wooden stool out from its nook under the table, sat down on it in one fluid motion, and studied Pauline intently through a pair of thick black-rimmed magnifying glasses pushed down on his nose.  She tried to lash out or scream, focusing all of her energy into the effort, but she remained rigid and trapped in her postured pose.  All that came out was a small worn whimper that Chester either didn’t hear or simply ignored.

He removed the tube from her throat and forced her mouth closed.  A long sigh escaped as he pushed her lips together in a slightly smirking Mona Lisa smile.  Despite whatever sound she had mustered forth, Chester just continued working, pulling a roll of blue painter’s tape out of his pocket to temporarily clamp her jaw in place while he waited for it to set.  Pauline could feel her neck and mouth stiffening as they dried out.

Chester applied thick ruby paint to Pauline’s lips to gloss them a more sensual color and began touching up her blush to accentuate her high cheekbones in a stark retro-1980s fashion.  He added smoky eyeshadow with powdery paints for a glamorous brooding effect.  He super-glued a thick set of faux black feather eyelashes atop Pauline’s eyelids, curling them carefully to enhance the vampish vixen look.  He carefully trimmed Pauline’s black bangs in a sweeping even motion and pulled the rest of her raven hair back, securing it in place with wig pins and a deep red satin bow.  Pauline felt nothing, no gentle caress of her hair across her shoulders, no pinpoint pricking in her scalp, no head pinching from the fabric hair band…  She stared straight ahead with distant eyes, blurring in and out of time and place.

Chester smiled at his handiwork, rose from his stool, and turned off the lamp, leaving Pauline to mewl voicelessly at the darkness as it engulfed her.  She heard his footsteps creep up the stairs and echo overhead, joined by Betty Lou’s hobbled cane stride before being followed by a faint bell as they exited out the front door for the night.

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Mannequin legs, detail from featured image with the writer
Mannequin legs, detail from featured image with the writer
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull h
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

Jennifer Weigel is a multi-disciplinary mixed media conceptual artist residing in Kansas USA. Weigel utilizes a wide range of media to convey her ideas, including assemblage, drawing, fibers, installation, jewelry, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video and writing. You can find more of her work at: https://www.jenniferweigelart.com/ https://www.jenniferweigelprojects.com/ https://jenniferweigelwords.wordpress.com/

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Nightmarish Nature: Komodo Dragons

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This time on Nightmarish Nature, we are considering Komodo Dragons.  These awesome lizards are the largest in the world and are native to Indonesia.  The lizards don’t get to be full-sized without feasting on a lot of meat and are known to prey on animals notably larger than themselves, even including deer and water buffalo.  But honestly, they pretty much eat anything they can get a hold of, including smaller Komodo Dragons.

Tongue-tied Komodo Dragon drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Tongue-tied…

Beyond Bad Breath

If you’ve ever wondered just how far really bad oral hygiene can take you, then look no further.  Although the Komodo lacks the bite strength to employ strangulation as an attack strategy, like crocodiles do, it is a dangerous and formidable hunter.  Long assumed to be the result of bacterial infection, Komodo bites are outright deadly, and this is in part due to their thick viscous saliva.  It’s all about the spit, ’bout the spit, that trouble. Eat your hearts out, Rottweilers, you ain’t got nothing on this.

And Komodo Dragons rend their victims’ flesh with serrated teeth and saw into the muscle, adding to the wounds’ ability to fester. Because of course they do. If you want to see some horrifying pictures of how this plays out, you can read about it in this NIH National Library of Medicine account of a zookeeper attack and recovery, complete with full color images not for the feint of heart.  Just wow, what a meaty mess…

All about the spit Komodo Dragon drawing by Jennifer Weigel
All about the spit…

Bacteria Versus Venom

It has more recently been shown that Komodos, like other Monitor lizards, actually do possess venomous saliva, and that this can inhibit clotting and cause blood loss, paralysis, and extreme pain, symptoms previously believed to result from bacterial infection.  It’s possible that their bite contains some of both, and in reality the why doesn’t matter so much as the ewww factor.

So regardless of whether there is venom or bacteria at play, a Komodo Dragon’s bite is nasty nasty.  Like you don’t want any part of those so-called love nips, even more so than with sharks.  (Side tidbit: male sharks have a propensity for biting during mating, so female sharks’ hides are thicker to withstand this sort of engagement.  In fairness, sharks use their teeth to explore the world around them, so this comes as no surprise really.)

"Hey baby..." You look good enough to eat shark drawing by Jennifer Weigel
“Hey baby…” You look good enough to eat

If you enjoyed this bite of Nightmarish Nature, please check out past segments:

Vampires Among Us

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Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

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Reindeer Give Pause

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Nightmarish Nature: Reindeer Give Pause

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So reindeer aren’t generally thought of as all that scary, unless you have elafiphobia.  But since it is the holiday season and they are among the most celebrated animals this time of year, here are some fun facts about reindeer and their deer kin that are weird and even a bit creepy.

Female reindeer also have antlers and continue to grow them during Christmastime, whereas the males shed theirs in November.  So the antlered reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh are girls.

Girl reindeer all dolled up and ready to go drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Girl reindeer all dolled up and ready to go

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Some reindeer make a clicking sound as they walk so they can stay together as they travel through adverse weather.  Better than yelling “Marco” (or “Polo” in response) around every bend…

Deer have very good night vision and reindeer can even see ultraviolet light, which helps them to spot predators and find food in the arctic.  Speaking of food, deer have been known to gnaw on bones or flesh (including that of humans) and even eat small animals like birds and mice.

Vampire Deer

Some deer species, like Musk Deer, grow fang-like tusks instead of antlers, making them appear vampirish. They use their tusks like other deer use their antlers, with males fighting one another during breeding season.  Tusks also come in handy when foraging for food and fending off predators.  Plus they really up the deer’s Goth presence…

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"Vampire" musk deer drawn by Jennifer Weigel
“Vampire” musk deer

And if you’re into teeth, upper canines among whitetail deer are rare and have been highly prized.  They’ve even been incorporated into prehistoric necklaces and royal jewelry, ‘cause teeth used as decorative accents are always a bit macabre.

Previously on Nightmarish Nature

So there are some fun, somewhat creepy facts about deer.  If you enjoyed this bite of Nightmarish Nature, please check out past segments:

Vampires Among Us

Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

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Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades ?

Oh, and in the spirit of the holidays, here’s the reindeer’s top pick for a Christmas song, Must Be Santa as sung by Bob Dylan

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Nightmarish Nature: Terrifying Tardigrades

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OK so I lied. The dust hadn’t fully settled in Cozmic Debris, the space opry I’d written over the course of this month (you can catch up here with Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). In fact, it’s blown over into Nightmarish Nature for one last final huzzah…


The Last Chapter of Cozmic Debris

Kara-2-6000 had just signed on with the Voyager probe and was eagerly engaged in her first mission, en route to Mars with more components for the terraforming effort.  It seemed like a pretty simple gig, cleaning up the space dust that accumulates on the vessel after landing on the red planet.  She had been trained to keep her eye on her work and pay attention to details, that the dirt tended to collect in unusual ways in strange places, and that it was critical she contain and seal all of it to keep the spacecraft in proper working order.  She entrusted the computer to keep the vessel on track, as it was preoccupied with doing and never engaged otherwise.  No matter.  She’d never been to space before and the newness of it had her rapt attention.  What stories she would have to tell once she paid off her student loans and got her human body back, for surely Mars must be an exciting place…

Cozmic debris don't die, hanging out in space with tardigrades poop, artwork by NightCafe AI art generator
Cozmic debris don’t die, hanging out in space with tardigrades poop

And now for Nightmarish Nature…

So, this time on Nightmarish Nature we’re visiting Terrifying Tardigrades… Wait, seriously who comes up with this stuff anyway? Tardigrades are actually kinda cute, at least in the nerd fandom sense, and are remarkable in their ability to survive and withstand crazy adverse conditions. For all that the AI art generator doesn’t seem to have much of a clue what their anatomy is like, they really don’t do anything that scary, unless you’re a yummy little single celled critter that lives in moss in which case pretty much everything has it out for you… Oh, I see that the Cozmic Debris space opry usurped this segment. May as well run with it then.

Confused tardigrade wondering why they appeared on Nightmarish Nature, drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Confused tardigrade wondering why they appeared on Nightmarish Nature

So what’s so terrifying about tardigrades anyway?

So I don’t actually have much to say about tardigrades except that they started this whole crazy journey here on Haunted MTL. A Facebook friend posted a link to the Ze Frank True Facts video on them (linked here if the below video doesn’t load), and I was instantly hooked. It’s a great series and is part of the inspiration behind Nightmarish Nature here on HauntedMTL. So if you like learning about all kind of crazy animal facts and nature weirdness, feel free to check it out. I will mention, the show contains adult themes and is designed for (im)mature audiences, so keep that in mind as you foray into the freaky side of nature, literally.

And if you want to go further down the rabbit hole exploring True Facts, my favorite episodes of all time are Pangolin’s Posse and Freaky Nudibranchs. Help the Bats is also a fave.

To more of my Haunted MTL series on Nightmarish Nature about things that are a bit more terrifying, please feel free to revisit previous segments here:

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Vampires Among Us

Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

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