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Last time on Feeding Frenzy

The next morning, the sun streaked into a small gap in the curtains reflecting off the minute specks of dust in the air like a shimmer of glittering stars.  Lucille had no recollection of going to sleep.  She woke with a start, still recalling the events of the night prior as if they were etched into her mind, Was it a dream? Did she imagine it?

She got up, still wearing the same rumpled clothes she had arrived in town in the day before.  She then realized her suitcase for the trip must still be in her trunk.  “Oh, well,” Lucille muttered to herself, “might as well find some breakfast…”

There was the diner attached to the front of the motel, or what was left of one anyway.  One of those old countertop-style cafes where you place your order sitting at the bar looking into the kitchen.  It smelled of grease and dirt and old persons’ houses, with maybe a bit of bad long-expired and worn out odor-eater air freshener thrown in just to try to mask the musty rotting funk that seemed to imbue everything all throughout the backwash of a town.  Lucille’s stomach turned but then growled; she had to see what they offered, she was ravenous.

The hotel desk clerk took notice and nodded slightly at Lucille from the swinging door to the back, apparently she was also the head waitress.  “What’n I get ya, honey?” she drawled as she slid over to the counter.  Her hollow eyes fixated on Lucille as if sizing her up in the depths of a darkness that seemed to go on forever, black as night.

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“Coffee” Lucille answered.  “And… what else do you have?”

“House’pecialz flapjacks,” the words rolled together into one long drawl.  “We’s also got eggs ‘n bacon ‘n taters.”

“I guess I’ll try the flapjacks,” Lucille answered, surprised at how small and distant her own voice sounded.  She cleared her voice with a deep-throated cough to seem less unnerved.

“Hey’derr,” Tom Jones whistled from the far end of the counter bar where he was huddled over coffee and heated discussion with the guys.  Shouldn’t he be working on my car? thought Lucille.  He sauntered over and looked her up and down.

“Rough’night?” he asked.  His clothes bore yet more rust colored stains.  Lucille suspected they weren’t from motor oil.

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“I’m ok,” she stammered quickly.  “I left my luggage in the trunk…  Any word on the Buick?”  The desk clerk casually tossed a plate of pancakes in front of Lucille and returned to her post by the swinging door.

“Ya’s gotta bad leak.  Gonna needa new gasket.  I don’ts have the part.  It’ll be a couple-a days befores I can get it in.  Feel free’n swing by da shop later today’n have a look if ya wants.”  As if things couldn’t get any worse.

“I have to get to a wedding in Portland,” Lucille muttered under her breath, adding, “I can’t stay here.”

The flapjacks were pretty standard pancakes.  A bit doughy but otherwise just blank tasteless discs of pan-fried batter.  No amount of syrup made the situation better.  She ate them anyway; to be fair, she devoured them really.  She had been so famished and once she dug in she couldn’t stop until the pancakes were almost gone.  Two bites to go and… suddenly she felt adrift and awash in unseen eyes upon her, boring into her soul.

She glanced up and caught the desk clerk staring at her intently, her dark eyes beginning to blossom and glow, seemingly growing larger and more focused.  Her nostrils flared a bit too, and did she just barely lick her ruby lips with a flash of her thick pink tongue?  Two patrons at the other end of the bar from where Tom had come to check in also stared, the same eerie dark eyes alight with interest.  There was chum in the water…

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Lucille stopped dead in her tracks and stared back.  The desk clerk shook it off, her pallid flesh jiggling as she brought herself back to consciousness, her eyes returning to hollow black pools.  “Y’all done, honey?” she cooed.  “I’ll get’n ya check.”

Lucille met her at the register and briskly paid cash for her meal, fully aware that the other patrons continued to track her every move.  “Keep the change,” she said as she flashed out the door.

On her way back to her room, she diverged from the sidewalk to examine the spot where she had dreamt the fray in the middle of the night.   There were signs of a struggle.  Something large had fallen just off of the curb, crushing much of the dying and poorly mowed edging under its weight.  The mud-streaked grass streaked down a small hill towards a slight ravine as if something had been dragged there.  There were some signs of what may have been blood, but not near as much as Lucille had dreamt.  She followed the movement.

As she approached the ravine, she became aware of more and more flies buzzing about, flitting here and there as if protecting some unseen prize.  And there was a foul odor of death and decay that permeated the place.  But otherwise, there were no signs of life or death or anything in between.  No signs of anything having been, having struggled, or having left.  Lucille turned to return to her room and was confronted by the other bar patrons.

“Y’all right there, missy” said the older man, grey and pallid and somewhat frail looking despite his notable height, his flannel shirt stained and streaked with years of age and too-hard work.  A bluish vein protruded from his balding head, throbbing casually as his hollow black eyes rolled up and down and all over her.  His friend, a gaunt and grisly fellow with more dark-grey-flecked-black beard than hair joined in, scanning her over like a synchronized swimmer that drifted in just a moment later.  She recognized them from the scene she had dreamt the night before.  Why does everyone in this backwash of a town have to size me up in slow motion like some unknown trophy to be won? she wondered, her stomach rolling into a knot as her hand balled into a fist.

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“I’m fine,” Lucille said, bowing her head as she headed briskly towards her room.

The grisly bearded fellow caught her arm as she passed and looked long into her eyes, the same unnerving cavernous pools of blackness alight with a far away flame.  “Good.  I reckon y’all stay outta trouble.  We don’t wants no troubles here.”  His face twitched uneasily as he spoke, nostrils flaring slightly once and again.  She thought she caught a glint of light flicker off of a white pointed tooth from beneath matted facial hair.

“I’m not causing any trouble, just waiting on my car,” Lucille said plainly, staring back at him, trying to break his focus and appear un-intimidated.  His grip loosened and she returned to her room as quickly as she could manage without appearing jarred.  She dashed in the door and bolted the deadbolt.

Her cell phone was dead.  Bar-less.  No reception out here.  She turned on the television.  Black and white static gave way to a rerun of Let’s Make a Deal.  At some point she drifted off again, her head still spinning with the events of the day prior.

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.

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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 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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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Zombie Snails

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This time on Nightmarish Nature, we will look into zombie snails, because we were having so much with the Whore Snails recently. So this is a lot like the Freaky Fungus except that this time it’s a parasitic worm that is the cause of the horror… Leucochloridium paradoxum, the green-banded broodsac worm, forces snails to be a part of its nefarious plans to take over the world (well, really more just continue on keeping on in its strange and bizarre life cycle).

Hungry birds want nummins
Hungry birds want nummins

This Is What We Get for Eating Poop

The worm, which spends much of its life as a parasite in birds’ digestive systems, is part of a weird cycle that includes both birds and snails, though the snail end is much creepier. It starts when a snail ingests worm eggs in bird droppings. These eggs hatch into worm larvae that eventually turn the poor hosts into zombie snails! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Snails make questionable food choices, but I guess this comes from being where they are on the ecosystem clean up crew...
Snails make questionable food choices, but I guess this comes from being where they are on the ecosystem clean up crew…

The worm larvae work their way up into the snails’ brains and take over, hijacking them on suicide missions to continue their own life cycle. These worm larvae eventually grow large and worm their way into the poor snail’s eye stalks, pulsing and throbbing therein to resemble maggots or other tasty treats.

Zombie Snails
Zombie Snails

Mind-Control

The worms use the zombie snails to get into their bird hosts by mind-controlling them into climbing out of the shady undergrowth where they will be easily spotted by bird predators which will feed on them, ingesting the eye stalks and continuing the worm’s life cycle as it gets into the bird’s digestive tract. The huge, bulging eye stalks are irresistible to birds looking to snatch maggots and other delicious delicacies. Eventually, after the worms are well ensconced in its bird hosts, the bird poops out more worm eggs for unsuspecting snails to ingest, completing the cycle.

Birds love their grubs and maggots and other nummins, even if they are just zombie snails.
Birds love their grubs and maggots and other nummins, even if they are just zombie snails.

You can watch this in action on Nat Geo Wild: World’s Deadliest here, if you dare. Warning, it’s a little gross but not near so much as some of the other topics we’ve covered. If you enjoyed this slimy segment of Nightmarish Nature, please check out past segments:

Vampires Among Us

Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

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Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

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