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Last time on Dealing with the Devil, the mourning Jonathan Menkhir was approached by Satan in the form of a dapper small dog while he was out raking leaves. Let us pick up where we left off, shall we…


“Wait, my input?  What could you possibly need from me?  Chloe never harmed anyone, she died trying to save the baby.  She refused to give up.”  My anger seethed forth in my voice as I spoke.

“Chloe died before she was supposed to because it was the baby’s time and she was too stubborn to let go.  Now she is in what you mortals would call limbo.  But in between states, she cannot act and so someone needs to engage on her behalf.  You see it’s not nearly so simple as you might think.  It’s like when someone goes to jail and needs someone else to represent in court so they don’t get convicted and sent to the chair.  Oh, that’s a terrible analogy, but you get the drift, I suppose.”  The devil dog winked again.

“What do you mean, go to jail?” I asked taking the bait, further losing my grip.

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“Calm down, it’s not what you think,” the dog barked.  “She’s not in jail, just in limbo. It’s more like that game show you mortals have been playing for decades, what is it?  The one where you have to decide whether to hold or trade between what’s in the box and what lies behind door number one but without the pretense of costumes, that’s not required…  Although you can dress up if you like,” the dog smirked.

The dog spun around the hunched over dog-walker’s legs and leapt in the air, leash vanishing.  The devil stood before me, no longer a small dog being walked by a remarkably unmemorable gaunt silhouette but rather a fusion of the two.  He was a menacingly impish man with amber eyes and a coif of frizzy white hair that hung in wispy clouds over his orange faux tan skin, wearing a white silk suit with red accents.  In his outstretched hand, he still held the bag of dog poop and leaves he had collected, which he promptly swallowed in one gulp, his mouth opening wider than should be possible to reveal a cavernous maw of sharp jagged yellow teeth leading to a dark pit.

“Sorry, now where were we?” Satan smiled as he recalled the turn of events.  “Ah, yes, you were about to embark with me to Purgatory to undertake the game on behalf of your dearly beloved Chloe.”  He extended his hand towards me, now devoid of the bag and its unpleasant contents.

I was bewitched by his silken words and the flickering gleam in his eye and acted wholly on impulse outside of my own volition.  Mesmerized and without hesitation, I took the devil’s extended hand, leaving the leaves to drift back into my yard to gather in their windswept ridges.  We were instantly transported to a small staged room full of red velvet curtains and flashing lights.  Chloe stood motionless in the center, rigid and frozen in space and time.  She was dressed exactly as she had been for our wedding.  Her eyes were open but unblinking and seemed to stare straight through everything as if she were not wholly there.  The impish Satan smiled widely as he addressed an unseen audience from an overly loud gold microphone.

“Ladies and gentleman, angels and devils, tonight we bring you Jonathan Menkhir, who will be playing on behalf of his beloved wife Chloe.  Chloe met with an untimely end due to complications carrying their firstborn child.”  He motioned at the frozen woman front and center on the stage and then gestured widely to point directly at me.  “So let’s give a warm welcome to Johnny here as we begin.”

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The room was ghastly silent; crickets chirping would have been louder.  Something about this wasn’t right.  Of course, I was brought here by the devil, who had approached me as a Westmoreland Terrier and sweet talked and entranced me into going with him, so what did I expect?  But the whole situation was amiss in a way that I couldn’t quite discern.  Was it the grandiose gestures of announcer Satan as he addressed the nonexistent crowd?  Or how Chloe just stood there unmoving?  Or was there something more?

I was stationed behind a knee-high panel.  It was all too short and seemed shoddily constructed, like a piece of bad chipboard stage scenery from a very amateur production.  The lights all around us flickered as a spotlight panned the stage and myself before resting on the devil again.  Everything appeared badly faked as though cobbled together from various backroom props and accessories.  Even Chloe was not herself, just a picturesque image of her from our wedding photos, completely static and etched in place.

Satan spoke again, “Now, Johnny, let’s see what we have in store tonight.  In order to save your beloved Chloe, you must choose wisely…  I have in my hand a small box and token of your love.  It’s your high school sweetheart ring!”  He brought the box containing the ring over and handed it to me.  It was just as I remembered it – a small gold band centered on a rose quartz gemstone.  Chloe had worn this constantly until I was able to procure a true engagement ring in college.  As we aged and put on a little extra padding, it grew too tight and found its way to the back of the jewelry box until it was lost in the move.  Chloe had felt terrible about it at the time, but soon enough it was forgotten.

“Do you want to keep the box with your prize or see what lies behind curtain number 1?”  Satan boomed, gesturing widely to the velvet drapery at his left.

“Where did you find this?” I asked.  “It’s been missing for almost four years.”

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“Never mind that,” the devil sidestepped.  “Do you want to keep it or see what lies behind the curtain?”

I glanced again at the stage as things began to grow clearer.  The knee-high pedestal had been from a middle school production of The Wizard of Oz, where I had played the Munchkin Mayor in my first real role.  Chloe was standing beside a curtain that had served as a backdrop for the variety show in which we danced together; I had given her the sweetheart promise ring that night.

I discreetly slid the ring box into my pocket.  “I guess I’ll take the curtain,” I said.

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
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: Something Rotten, Flesh in Flowers

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This time on Nightmarish Nature we will again explore some of the more fetid fungi and plants, this time focusing on those that imitate rotten flesh in order to attract flies. Among the best known of these are the Stinkhorn and the Corpse Lily or Corpse Flower. The Language of Flowers be damned, literally…

Fungi

Many of the fungi in the Stinkhorn family erupt in mushrooms that reek of rotten flesh and sprout from a white sort of egg sac in various forms, the common type being a phallus like structure with a white body and olive head. The Beefsteak fungus resembles, well, a cut of beef oozing blood. And some mushroom bodies of the Clathrus genus bloom in elaborate lattice structures or devil’s tooth and devil’s fingers that resemble terrifying alien beings. These odoriferous fetid fungi grow in decaying wood material and use their stinky attributes to attract flies and other insects which will then spread the spores from their fruiting bodies. They truly look like something out of an outer space or aquatic nightmare.

Some various fungi that can reek of rotten flesh, drawing by Jennifer Weigel.
Some various fungi that can reek of rotten flesh.

Plants

Some plants also utilize pungent putrid odors to attract flies and other insects, in part to aid in the pollination and dissemination but also to attract insect matter for their own needs, to absorb the insects for valuable nutrients that they cannot otherwise obtain. The largest flowers in the world bear many of these characteristics, also being among the stinkiest. And some pitcher plants mimic rotten flesh to attract flies upon which they “feed”.

The Titan Arum of Sumatra and Indonesia is a plant that over time produces a huge flower somewhat resembling a calla lily but larger as the plant body stores enough energy to do so. While Calla Lilies are often used to symbolize rebirth and resurrection and can be associated with death, often in a funerary setting, the huge Titan Arum does more than that, strongly mimicking decaying flesh in order to attract flies. These flowers can grow to almost 8-feet tall and bloom for only about three days before wilting; they are a huge draw at botanic gardens when flowering because of the rare nature of the event and the remarkable presence that the flower has, in both size and smell. The US. Botanic Gardens has a page devoted to this plant here, where you can even track previous blooms.

Titan Arum flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.
Titan Arum flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.

Another noteworthy flowering plant is Rafflesia, a parasitic flower native to Indonesia and Malaysia that feeds on the liana vine and grows from a sprouting body bud into a huge flower over the course of five years. Its flowers, once finally formed, can grow to almost a meter across and resembles something out of a horror film. These too smell of death and decay to attract flies in order to cross-pollinate. You can learn more about these unusual plants on this video from Real Science here.

Rafflesia flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.
Rafflesia flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.

If you’ve enjoyed this segment of Nightmarish Nature, feel free to check out some previous here:

Vampires Among Us

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Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

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Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

Horrifying Humans

Giants Among Spiders

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Nightmarish Nature: Giants Among Spiders

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So, as you may have noticed, we have a special fondness for spiders here on Nightmarish Nature.  Well, they are kind of the spokes-critters for horrifying animalia, perhaps because they are so freakishly different from us.  Or maybe it’s because I find them a little disconcerting for all that I try to take the “you mind your business, I’ll mind mine” approach, at least if they stay outdoors. Or just because I really like to draw spiders for all that I prefer not to find them sharing my home (though I’ll gladly take spiders over other bugs or mice or larger critters who didn’t get an invite).

Anyway, this segment is devoted to the largest Giants Among Spiders, as if you didn’t have enough to worry about already.  And the top place is contested based upon body mass or leg length.  Most of these are tarantulas, which globally take top place among the large arachnids.

Goliath Birdeater Tarantula
I’m hungry… I bet you are…

Goliath Birdeater Tarantula

The Goliath Birdeater Tarantula of South America is the biggest brute of spiderdom, weighing in at over 6 ounces.  They build funnel burrows and are known to eat birds (although rarely), mice, lizards, frogs, and snakes, but largely any big insects including other species of spiders.  They have urticating barbed hairs that they fling at would-be attackers as an irritant to escape.  And people even eat them after they singe the bristles off. Here’s a National Geographic video showing this spider in action, in case you wanted to see a giant spider take out a mouse.

Giant Huntsman Spider drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Creepy crawly at it’s worst…

Giant Huntsman Spider

And with the longest legs, we have the Giant Huntsman Spider of Laos, with a leg-span of 12 inches.  Their legs have twisted joints and they move in a crab-like manner, which furthers their impressive appearance. ‘Cause they’ve got legs, and know how to use ’em.  They prefer to live in underbrush and cave entrances.  These are like the big relatives of their Australian cousins, which we’ve all seen online and developed a healthy aversion to.

Everything's cuter when it's fuzzy, right? tarantula drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Everything’s cuter when it’s fuzzy, right?

Brazilian Salmon Pink Birdeater & Brazilian Giant Tawny Red Tarantulas

Next we have two more South American species: the Brazilian Salmon Pink Birdeater, which boasts one-inch fangs, and the Brazilian Giant Tawny Red, believed to be the longest-lived spider with a lifespan of up to thirty years.   Both are in the tarantula family and have urticating hairs, a word you probably never read much before today unless you are in the hobby.  So apparently South America is not the best travel destination for you if you struggle with arachnophobia, though I suspect you’d figured that out already.  (I wouldn’t recommend Australia or Southeast Asia either.)

Face Size Tarantula drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Face-Size, sorry no Face or Face Hugger for scale

Face Size Tarantula

And finally the Face Size Tarantula, which has a very terror-inducing name reminiscent of the Face Huggers of Alien-glory.  Anyway, these spiders have an 8-inch leg-span and live in India and Sri Lanka.  They look kind of like big hairy wolf spiders with stripey legs, sometimes with pink and daffodil coloring.

If you enjoyed this eight-legged segment of Nightmarish Nature on Giants Among Spiders and their larger than life kin, 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

Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

Horrifying Humans

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Original Series

AI journey: Little Red Riding Hood, Part 3 Final

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So here is our last installment of our AI journey exploring the idea of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad wolf being one and the same. All of these are based upon the AI generated art and prompts using NightCafe and then created as posters in Canva. Feel free to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this exploration if you missed them.

Forget this talk of sheep, it isn't helping..., Dark Fantasy style, Aug. 1, 2023
Dark Fantasy style, Aug. 1, 2023

A non sequitur I know, but I couldn’t resist. If you picked up where we left off you’ll get it.

So what about Little Red Riding Hood as a wolf?, Dark Fantasy, Aug. 1, 2023
Dark Fantasy, Aug. 1, 2023

Seriously?! Again with the cropped off head cop out…

Little Red Riding Hood as a wolf, seriously we want to see her face!, Artistic Portrait, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait, Aug. 1, 2023

Finally! That was a journey. And not even worth the result, in my opinion.

Anyway, here is a bonus montage I made out of a bunch of additional Red Riding Hood prompts for an article that never happened…

Little Red Riding Hood AI art montage, Nov. 4, 2023
AI art generated Nov. 4, 2023

Prompts for Montage:

1.) What if Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf were one and the same being?
2.) Her wolf face peering out of her red cloak, fangs dripping with the blood of another victim, lost in the forest and never found.
3.) Little Red Riding Hood closes in for the kill, lunging from her red cloak, her wolf fangs dripping with blood.
4.) I am Little Red Riding Hood. I am the Big Bad Wolf. I am coming for you.
5.) Howling within, the rage sears forth from the red cloak, discarded in the deep woods. Red Riding Hood succumbs to the lycanthropy.
6.) Heaving breaths. Dripping blood. Red Riding Hood is not what she appears. She is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
7.) Her red cloak masks the fangs hidden below the surface.
8.) It starts with a long sighing breath. Waiting. The wolf within stirs.
9.) Red Riding Hood trembles. She succumbs to the lycanthropy.
10.) The wolf bursts forth from within. It takes over Little Red Riding Hood’s mind, her body, her being.
11.) Red Riding Hood howls. She is ravenous with hunger for blood. The wolf within has taken over. Mind, spirit, body. She feasts on the blood of the moon.
12.) Big Bad Wolf Red Riding Hood ravenous blood moon feast
13.) Blood moon beckons. I. Little Red Big Bad Riding Hood Wolf. Freedom howling night curse.
14.) Beware. Bewolf. BeRedRidingHood. Betwixt. Beyond.
15.) I pad quietly as the forest dissolves around me. Red Riding Hood and Wolf, one and the same.
16.) Wolf within howling dark recesses of the mind, Red Riding Hood lost
17.) Red Riding Hood HOWL wolf bane true existence polymorph within-and-without.
18.) Red howl Riding Wolf dark existence brooding within

So thank you for joining us on another AI art journey. You can still catch the last AI art journey on Haunted MTL here.  To see more such devolutions into AI generated art, check out the Will the Real Jennifer Weigel Please Stand Up? blog.

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