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Last time on Feeding Frenzy

Lucille returned to her room to prepare for her departure.  She bolted the dead bolt behind her and took inventory of her belongings to see what might be useful.  She had the sickle, hand axe, a spool of dental floss, toothbrush, travel size toothpaste, shampoo, and hairspray, mid-length bridesmaids dress with formal sash, pantyhose, undergarments, and other summer clothing…  Dismayed that she didn’t have a normal leather belt or heavier-duty clothing (damned low-key summer travel), she decided to rip the side seams of the bridesmaid’s dress to create a sort of armored bodice so that she could utilize the sash as a belt, since the sash was built in and she was afraid she would compromise it if she tried to rip it out.  Thank goodness this isn’t a floor length dress and the resulting movement is reasonable, Lucille breathed a sigh of relief.  I can do this…

She wrapped the handles of the sickle and the hand axe in dental floss to cover the grimyness and improve the grip, working in a tiny bit of shampoo to smooth over the floss so that it wouldn’t chafe so badly and made a more even surface.  She then fashioned two belt loop holsters using pantyhose and more dental floss to secure the sickle to the sash at her right hip and the hand axe to her left.  She shouldered her purse like a satchel to limit its movement and keep it close.  She nestled the travel-size hairspray bottle, cap off, in the front of her bodice between her breasts like a can of mace, ready for action.  She rummaged through her other belongings and decided that there wasn’t anything else she really cared much about.

She stood at the mirror studying her movements as she unsheathed each of the weapons in turn and swung them about to get a sense of their weight and her speed and accuracy with them. She practiced drawing and aiming the hairspray, careful not to actually spray it so she wouldn’t waste any.  Just in case.

Lucille lost track of time as she outfitted herself, and the sun settled into the horizon as the afternoon made way to dusk to evening.  She was startled out of her preparations by the sound of swirling shuffling feet working their way up the path; a sense of impending doom lumped in her throat as her heart raced full of dread and anticipation.  She had intended to leave sooner…

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As Lucille crept to the window to peek out, she made out the sounds of a scuffle outside.  From the folds of the dingy drapes, she watched as the tall man shoved the bearded man into the desk clerk, who shoved him back into the tall man with enough force to nearly knock him off his feet.  The smaller man from the flea market slunk behind them a slight ways off, snaking back and forth in the shadows at their backs.  Her stomach sank as she realized that Tom Jones was not with the entourage.

“C’mon out,” the bearded man started to call towards her door as the desk clerk smacked him upside the head with a hissing,”Ssshhh!”

The tall man shoved him again, shouting, “Nota’gain.”  The desk clerk ssshhh-ed him also and thrashed towards him as if to make her point even more heartfelt.

The bearded man and the tall man glared at each other as if fueled by their rivalry and dismay at the turn of events of the night before.  The desk clerk stepped between them, glowering with her pinpoint black eyes.  She gestured towards the door.

This is it, thought Lucille.

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A crash came through the underbrush and Tom emerged following the same fetid brown deer-like creature that she had seen both nights prior.  The stench was even worse than the night before and Lucille nearly threw up a little.  The animal, if it could even be called that anymore, was shedding bits of fur and flesh as it heaved itself up onto the parking lot.  The areas beneath the rotting surface gleamed a sickly pearly pallid gray color that seemed half decayed and yet vibrantly alive.  Although it was in far worse shape than the night before, the beast actually moved with more grace than it had previously, its head snaking back and forth daring Tom to come closer.  It’s once terrified brown eyes were now just dark black pools, deep and distant.

            The contingent of pale hollow-gazed figures slid towards the fray from Lucille’s door as they sized the creature up and gathered as if to bowl it over again.  Lucille slowly opened the motel door behind them and slunk out along the outer wall.  She gently nudged the door shut behind her.  The desk clerk flared a large nostril and shot a harsh glance in her direction but continued to take her place among her comrades.

Instead of hobbling awkwardly in their midst, the once-deer-like animal lunged and thrashed at them.  Its muzzle wound around the tall man as it ripped into his head with unnerving agility, tearing open the flesh where the bulging vein had been so visible only the day prior.  His skin oozed grey and melded over it, leaving the pulsing vein exposed again, throbbing at his temple.  The man threw up his arm to block the creature’s descent only to be trampled instead.  Once he was downed, the beast began ripping into his arms with rows of jagged teeth as he threw them up to protect his face.

Lucille continued to sneak along the wall.  She had crept her way past Room 2 now and was almost to Room 1.  Halfway there, she thought to herself.  Just a little more ways to go.

            Tom leapt upon the creature from behind and dragged it down the shallow slope as they slid down into the ravine, trailing mud and grass.  The diminutive hunchbacked man followed after him, eyes alight and mouth wide, sharp teeth gleaming.  The tall man lay on the ground in a haphazard mess of flesh and bones jutting out at all sorts of unnatural angles.  Yet, despite the apparent damage he had sustained, he began to rise, jerking his body back into orientation and stretching and cracking his jaw and joints back into place.

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            The bearded man and desk clerk had remained.  Lucille had just made it to the door of Room 1.  The desk clerk elbowed the bearded man and motioned towards Lucille with a quick jerk of her head.  Lucille bolted for the car as they turned and lunged towards her with lightning reflexes.  Their eyes were wide and vibrant, fixated upon her with a terrifying dark brilliance that she hadn’t witnessed directly before.  Their nostrils flared wide and their lips curled, their mouths agape revealing a horrifying vortex of three rows of razor sharp pointed teeth curved inward.

Lucille managed to grab the hairspray from her bodice and sprayed the desk clerk fully frontal in the nose and eyes.  The desk clerk withdrew, scratching at her eyes with her thick fleshy hands, as the bearded man continued his approach.

Lucille was at the ready with the hand axe and struck him in the shoulder as he thrust himself at her.  The force of his assault threw her down on the pavement next to the white Cadillac and she lost her grip on the axe, which slid out of her reach towards VENDING.  The bearded man crumpled beside her, his shoulder oozing silvery pearlescent pus.  His nostrils flared, his eyes refocused, and he lunged at her again, grabbing onto part of her dress that had billowed out from under her as she shoved herself out of his path.  She struck him in the face with the sickle, tearing a large gash across his right eye and ripping open his wide nostril, and he toppled clutching his face.

Lucille threw the Cadillac door open and jumped into the car, grabbing the keys and trying to fit them into the ignition.  The bearded man rolled over and began to claw towards her, gaining momentum as he hefted his body forward.  Lucille turned the key in the ignition as she slammed the door shut, almost in one sweeping motion.

The white Cadillac lurched into being, as if animated by some unseen bolt of lightning.  The radio was blasting static and the lights were on bright, shining like beacons against the wall.  She shifted into reverse and backed into the desk clerk, who had regained her footing just in time to be bowled over by the automobile as it sprang into action.  Lucille wished the thud and crunching sound were more satisfying, but it just made her feel sicker to her stomach.  She shifted into forward and drove over the bearded man with a resounding bump-a-thump as she pulled out of the parking lot and turned towards town, gaining speed.

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She flashed through town, jolted every which way by the uneven pavement, trying to forget the images etched into her memory of the grisly figures, their black eyes, their jagged teeth, and the deer-like animal that seemed to become like one of them.  She just kept driving, unsure of where she was or how fast she was going as the evening replayed itself over and over in her mind, cringing every time she heard the crunching sound as she backed over the desk clerk.

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/

Original Series

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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Original Series

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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