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Last time on Feeding Frenzy

Lucille woke to a rap on the door.  “Hey’derr.”  Tom’s voice echoed from the other side of her sanctuary.  “Jus’ wanted ta let’ya know, ‘dat part’s takin’ longer than I’daspected.  It’ll be’in-n abouts a week…”

Lucille groaned.  There was no way she was staying in this ghastly nightmarish town that long.  Especially not after what she had seen the night before, and the night before that.  She began to suspect there was no part or no order for a part and that she was being led on to stay put.  Head throbbing, she emerged from the bathroom to find the room as she’d left it, the light still on, the TV snowing static, and the chair still propped against the door.

“I broughts’a yer luggage,” Tom’s voice bellowed.

“I’ll be right there,” Lucille called to the closed door.

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She composed herself, straightened herself up a bit, and crept forward slowly and methodically.  Just one foot in front of the other…  She hefted the chair out of the way and cracked open the door.  Tom had apparently taken off, perhaps to the diner, and left her suitcase outside of the door.

Lucille cracked the door just enough to grab the suitcase and retreat inside.  She took inventory of its contents.  Nothing was amiss, and it appeared not to have been opened.  Thank goodness.  She gathered up some fresh clothes, loose-fitting and light summer travel-wear (shorts and a t-shirt), and she retreated to the bathroom to take a desperately sought shower.  The warm water enveloped her like a much-needed hug and her headache receded.  She emerged, toweled off and got dressed, feeling a bit more human again.  It was time to plot her escape.

Deciding it was best not to let on to her plans or to withdraw wholly into her room, Lucille decided to brave the diner again.  She figured it would give her a chance to observe her surroundings and secretly consider how to leave.  Tom’s rusted out truck was stationed by the diner where she remembered him parking prior, almost as if he hadn’t left for days.  She wondered if he’d had her luggage stashed in it this whole time but tried to push the thought from her mind.

She also noticed that the white Cadillac hadn’t budged from its sentry by the office.  As she neared it to head towards the diner door, she made a mental note that the tires seemed solid enough, and the keys were still casually flung on the driver’s seat.  Bingo.

She passed by the office, opened the door to the diner, and strolled through.  The desk clerk smiled widely, bright white teeth glimmering slightly through her parted ruby lips.  “Welcom’y’all back, hon,” she cooed.

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Lucille took a seat at the near end of the bar.  She requested a cup of coffee and an order of flapjacks to minimize conversation.  She ate very consciously, taking note of her surroundings with every bite.  The flapjacks were still doughy beyond what any amount of syrup could reconcile, but they were food anyway and seemed harmless enough.

The bearded man sat with the taller older man at the far end of the bar.  They glanced up at her briefly and then shot their black eyes back down to what appeared to be a newspaper splayed between them.  The vein in the taller man’s head throbbed less than the previous morning, receding into his flesh to be consumed by his wan face, and the bearded man’s facial hair was matted and crusted up with what appeared to be maybe thick jam or maybe old blood.

Tom stood from where he’d been sitting next to them as before.  He sauntered over to Lucille, eyeing her over.  “Glad ta’see ya gots yer luggage,” he said.  “I’s sorry dat parts on backorder.  Seems it’ll be a couple’a more days ‘fore it gets’in…”

“It’s okay,” Lucille murmured.  “The wedding was today anyway.  No hurry now, I already missed it.”  She glanced up at him and forced a small smile.  “Thank you for bringing me my suitcase.”

“’Twas da least I could-do,” he replied.

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“Do you think you could take me into town?” Lucille asked.  “I may as well look around a bit while I’m here.  Is there anything to see?”

“Sure, I’ll drop’n ya off on‘m way ta da shop.  Dere’s da l’il flea markt,” Tom considered, “It gots all sorta odds’n’ends.”

Lucille looked at the desk clerk.  “Can you just add this to my tab?” she asked, “And can I take a coffee to go?”

“Sho’thing, hon,” she sang as she poured some coffee into a to-go cup.

Lucille pretended not to notice that all eyes were upon her as she and Tom left for his pickup.  She just focused ahead.  One foot in front of the other…

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 “So where am I anyway?” she asked.  “I’m sorry but I hadn’t noticed where I’d gotten off the highway and I don’t get cell phone reception out here.”  Crap, too much information, she thought.

“”Nightssshade,” Tom answered, the words spilling out of his mouth in a drawled out hiss.  “Use ta be quite da tavern town, but not much here nowadays.”

“Why not?  How far off the highway is it?” Lucille led the conversation, taking mental note of each answer as if her life depended on it, which she considered it very well might.

“Only a couple’a miles,” Tom shook his head.  “Dunno why no one stops by now.  Reckon it could be da casino up’n da road apiece.”  Bingo again, Lucille thought.

“Dere’s da flea markt.”  Tom pulled over.  The town was a shabby and derelict mix of ruined and barely-standing old brick buildings, some toppled over and spilling what was left of their facades in haphazard piles on the sidewalk.  The burnt skeleton framework of a building stood sentry across the street.  The flea market was a ramshackle structure cobbled together with bits of old weathered wood and siding.  It appeared to be more fleas than market, but nonetheless Lucille got out and wandered towards it.

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“I be at da shop,” Tom gestured two fallout-ruin buildings over past a vacant lot overgrown with yellow weeds.  Lucille recognized the boarded up gas station at the end of the row.  She hadn’t realized straining to see through the smoke that it was so close to this semi-civilation when she’d stopped there before.  “Jus let’n me know when ya wants ta go back to da mo-tel…”

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 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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