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            Lucille pulled into the station just in the nick of time.  The hood of her Buick erupted in smoke as the scent of burnt motor oil poured over its sides and spilled onto the concrete.  The car sputtered and coughed as though it had just lit up a cigarette for the first (and last) time.  Then it gagged and shut down completely.  Lucille got out, slammed her door shut and glared at it.  She turned towards the derelict ruins.

            Just another forlorn station with its no-name gas and boarded up windows, strewn with bits of siding that were once attached.  No services for 40 miles.  She wondered just how this place had even qualified.  It seemed like an alien world, or someplace in a long-forgotten dream, filled with the lazy, hazy glow of the afternoon sun.  Or maybe it was just the smoke dissipating.  A mechanic sauntered over to Lucille, illuminated from behind like a religious icon.  She squinted into the sun in order to watch him approach.

            He was a regular grease monkey.  Old oil stains canvassed his rumpled, light blue uniform with the subtle nuances of a Rothko painting.  Over his right front pocket, some heavily embroidered letters spelled out the name Tom Jones in a font way too fancy for such a seemingly blue-collar kind of guy, or such a desperately needy place, for that matter.

            Lucille stared at him.  He was a younger man, in his early thirties, although she guessed him to be in his mid-to-late forties.  He had an ancient, stale air about him, the sort that settles upon someone who’s lived his whole life in some god-forsaken backwash of a town, scraping out a meager existence in a place that may as well be dead.  In fact, he was exactly the sort of person you’d expect to find in a place like this.  And yet there was something unnerving about him.  Perhaps it was his dark, vacant eyes.  Lucille looked into those hollow eyes searching for some sense of spirit and kept coming up with nothing.  No spark, no flame, no sense of higher being.  She started to feel woozy, as if she were drowning, and turned back towards the Buick.

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            “What’s da trouble, Ma’am?” he rasped.  His dry voice crackled, prematurely aged with too much whiskey and too many cigarettes.

            “It’s been leaking oil,” Lucille said, “a lot.  And lately it’s been overheating…”

            “You gots worse problems than some leaky oil,” he drawled, giving the simmering Buick a long, cold stare.  “I reckon we’re gonna have ta take ‘er apart.  See what’s da trouble.”

            “How long will that take?”

            “A couple ‘a days.  Maybe e’en three or four.  She’s in a bad way.”

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            “But I’m on my way to Portland for a wedding,” Lucille gasped.  “And where would I stay?”  Lucille cringed at the thought of having to stay at the decrepit gas station with its creepy mechanic and disheveled facade.

            “There’s a mo-tel, up da road a’piece.  I can take you up there, if’n you want.”  The mechanic gestured at a brown, rusted out old Ford pickup parked alongside the poorly maintained gas station.

            “A couple of days, huh?  I guess I’d better get a room, then.”  Lucille sighed.  “Sure, take me to the motel.”  She liked the idea of staying here, in this nowhere, about as much as she relished the thought of climbing in a rusted-out old truck with the vacant-eyed mechanic, but she didn’t seem to have much choice.

            Neither spoke a word as they wound up and down the once paved road.  The road had fallen into a state of disrepair and was little more than chunks of pavement and gravel-filled potholes now.  They circled through the small blip of a town cutting from the gas station across what must have once been a main road.  The town was a dump.  A couple of large brick buildings had fallen in on themselves, bricks and debris littering the broken-up sidewalk.  The skeletal framework of a long burned-down structure swayed ominously in the breeze.

The motel was just another worn building on the other side of the town, attached to a small hole-in-the-wall diner out front.  Paint peeled from a large wooden sign near the road that informed would-be travelers of VACANCY.  The lot was empty except for an old white Cadillac.  It was parked next to the office with the keys casually tossed in the driver’s seat.  T-E-L flashed in pink neon above the office door.  Lucille still couldn’t stop thinking about the mechanic’s eyes, like dark, hollow pools.

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“I’ll call for ya once I figures out what’s wrong with da car,” the mechanic called out hoarsely.  And then he turned and drove off.

“Probably just my imagination,” she whispered, avoiding his gaze.  She shook it off to the breeze and hesitantly stepped inside the motel office.

The office was empty.  Two worn, olive green chairs welcomed guests, but they were anything but inviting.  One was littered with cigarette burns while the other harbored a foul, rotting stench and a large inexplicable rust colored stain.  The veneer had begun to curl from the check-in desk, exposing the poorly maintained particleboard underneath.  A sign sat at the edge of that desk, hand-written in black permanent marker: RING BELL FOR SERVICE.  Lucille tapped the silvered dome and a long-silent chime sounded as if to awaken the entire town to her presence.  Or what was left of it anyway.

A large, heavy-set woman, in her late forties or early fifties, emerged from a back room, leaving the door ajar. From behind that door, a television echoed some late afternoon talk show, but Lucille couldn’t make out enough of the murmur to be certain which one.  The woman slowly waddled up to the front desk, her periwinkle tent of a dress gathering behind her knees, and looked at Lucile.  Her skin was a waxy pallid gray, lifeless and void of color, except for her face which was coated in several layers of thick, bright makeup.

“D’ya wanna room for ta’night, honey?”

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“Yeah.  My car’s broken down and I needed someplace to stay the night.”

“Tom bring ya by, then?  Good lad, he is.  He’ll fix ‘er up, jus’ like new.  How many nights ya gonna need?”

“I don’t know.  Depends on how long it takes to get that car up and running.  I’m going to a wedding in Portland the day after tomorrow, so hopefully…” Lucille stopped dead in her tracks.  Her heart raced and sweat began to form on the palms of her hands, making them clammy.  She felt her face flush.

The check-in woman had the same gaze as the mechanic, the exact same hollow, empty stare that seemed to penetrate her very soul.  Lucille wanted to scream or run or do something, anything to get out of this god-forsaken place.  But she just stood there, unable to move.  She waved some flyaway hairs from her face with her left hand, steadying herself so not to tremble.

“Just tonight, I guess,” she whimpered, trying to sound self-assured. “I’ll play tomorrow by ear.”  Lucille hoped to be long free of this creepy, backwash nothing of a town by then.

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“A’right then, honey.”  The check-in woman smiled wide with painted ruby lips.  “Room 3, on your left.”  She piled a key on the counter under her pale fat hand.  Lucille grabbed it and hurried out.

portrait of the artist and Great White Shark breaching a pool of blood
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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Original Series

AI Journey: Little Red Riding Hood, Part 2

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Continuing our AI journey from last time exploring Little Red Riding Hood herself as the Big Bad Wolf… All of these are based upon the AI generated art and prompts using NightCafe and then created as posters in Canva.

Little Red Riding Hood as a wolf, Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023
Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023

How very… Phantom of the Opera predatory… this is definitely not what I had in mind. Maybe something more cutesy?

Little Red Riding Hood woman with wolf head instead of her own, Anime V2 style, Aug. 1, 2023
Anime V2 style, Aug. 1, 2023

Ugh. Maybe not.

Wolf face peering out of red hooded cape, Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023
Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023

Wow, that seems like such a cop out, cropping off the head so you don’t have to depict it. And I don’t want to lose the Little Red Riding Hood reference completely.

Wolf in sheep's clothing as Little Red Riding Hood, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

So no surprise there, I knew that was too many references to work.

And we continued to devolve, join us again next week for the final installment to see how this ended… And again, if you want to catch the last AI art journey, you can find it 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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Original Series

AI Journey: Little Red Riding Hood, Part 1

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And as promised in Big Bad Poetry, we shall embark on our next AI journey, this time looking at Little Red Riding Hood. I had wanted to depict her as the Big Bad Wolf one and the same, although maybe not so big nor bad. But it just wasn’t happening quite as planned. All of these are based upon the AI generated art and prompts using NightCafe and then created as posters in Canva.

Little Red Riding Hood beautiful woman with red cape hiding her wolf face.  Sinister style, July 29, 2023
Sinister style, July 29, 2023

So I actually like this even better than my original vision, it is playful and even a bit serene (especially given the Sinister style). The wolf is just being a wolf. It’s quite lovely, really. But it wasn’t what I had in mind, so I revisited the idea later to see if I could get that result…

Little Red Riding Hood with wolf face, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

Well, that’s not quite right…

Wolf face Little Red Riding Hood, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

Yeah more of the same…

What part of wolf face don't you understand?, Hyperreal style, Aug. 1, 2023
Hyperreal style, Aug. 1, 2023

And as you can see this is starting to devolve quickly. Join us again next week to see how this continued to develop… And if you want to catch the last AI art journey, you can find it 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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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Horrifying Humans

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So we’re going out on a limb here in this segment of Nightmarish Nature and exploring one of the most terrifying, most dangerous, most impactful species to walk this planet. I’m talking about us of course. Sure, as humans, we may not seem all that horrific to ourselves, but to many other creatures we have been a force of nightmares.

Humans male as drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Humans male as drawn by Jennifer Weigel

Why are we terrifying?

Humans are among those species that engage in massive modifications to our environment to serve our needs, like beavers who dam rivers, elephants who eat all of the new growth scrub to keep the savannahs tree-free, and so on. Yeah, all creatures have some impact on their surroundings, but some take it up a notch, and we do so at an order of magnitude higher still. And we have gotten so good at it that we have managed to exist and thrive in places that would otherwise be inhospitable. We are outwardly adaptive and opportunistic to the point of being exploitative. We are the apex predators now.

Sabertooth cowering as drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Sabertooth cowering as drawn by Jennifer Weigel

We have forced many creatures into extinction, intentionally and not, and have sped up these effects enormously. The National Audobon Society chose the egret as its symbol after it made a comeback from being hunted to near extinction, and it was one of the lucky ones. Many weren’t so lucky, especially if they came in direct conflict with humans, such as wolves and the big cats who were in direct competition, or those who were really specialized in really specific niche circumstances that we pushed out of the way. And this is in only a very very limited scope of our earth’s history, and has since been even more ramped up with industrialization.

Humans female as drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Humans female as drawn by Jennifer Weigel

But humans aren’t all bad are we?

Depends on who you ask… We have created all sorts of incredible opportunities for some species too. Take mice for example. And coyotes. And kudzu. And a whole host of animals whom we’ve domesticated, some of whom wouldn’t have continued to exist otherwise or certainly wouldn’t exist in anything resembling their current forms. And the most massive extinctions occurred long before our arrival, when the earth was still forming and underwent rapid catastrophic changes and swings, decimating critters as they were trying to get a foothold. Nothing is constant except for change; that has always been true.

Wolf begging for cheezborger drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Wolf begging for cheezborger drawn by Jennifer Weigel

So it isn’t my goal to get all eco-con​scious and environmentalist here. Just that I feel if we are going to explore some of the more terrifying aspects of nature, we need to look in the mirror. Because if a consensus were taken right here, right now of all living beings globally as to what is among the most terrifying creatures among us, I’m sure we’d appear on that list.

If you enjoyed this closer-than-kissing-cousins segment of Nightmarish Nature on Horrifying Humans, please check out past segments:

Vampires Among Us

Perilous Parenting

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Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

Reindeer Give Pause

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Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

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