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“Check The Children” by J.M. Brannyk

In the still night, he watches his steps. Balancing his weight from one side to the other, he moves slowly, as if the weight of quietness is pushing against him like a very angry wind.

The scent of soap and popcorn confronts him the closer he slips towards the other people in the house. He imagines the shadows are drawn lines that separate him from them, and the silence colors them so differently. Like animals — here they graze and lower their heads as he sneaks up to them, saliva barely held in by the sharp, powerful teeth. If he could be any animal, he would be a lion. A hungry lion.

Toys are scattered like oracle bones on the carpet and he cautiously doesn’t move them, not out of reverence, but out of disgust. The warmth of children has always carved an inch deeper into his guts. The things that could not be changed after the accident are still solid and immeasurable.

“Have you checked the children recently?” He had asked her before hanging up the phone upstairs, taking a moment to hear his own heart get lost in the corridors of his ears. So much more was at stake than watching tv and talking to her boyfriend, and it hurt him that she was so young but thought she knew so much…

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Unimportant thoughts free themselves as he swallows and finds the door to the bedroom –twin boys, bunkbeds. He saw the bedroom through the window when he climbed the tree during dinner time to get to the attic. He had wondered what their hair smelled like. What they would dream?

He’s calmer, much calmer, than he imagined he would be. The handle of the ax is wet under his tight hand. Holding it to the side, he reaches for the doorknob. In a quick, nervous twitch, the door is spreading open, the eerie glow of the nightlight spilling into his eyes. Without breathing, he can’t even hear himself as he moves to their beds.

‘Have you checked the children?’ His words, the nervous gravel of his voice, echoes so clearly as he bends over the bottom bed, but finds nothing but sheets.

After a moment of looking at nothing and becoming used to that nothing, he realizes that she must have taken the children downstairs. To draw her out, to shake her up enough to slip up and keep slipping, he decides to call her again.

And maybe it’s just about hearing her voice and that little tremble that makes him feel just a bit naughty and a bit irreparable. He’s learning that the only thing he exceeds at is damaging everything around him.

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The ring of the phone is a soft hum sleeping against his ear and he starts to feel in control again, and so stuffed with power that his breath leaks out the access. There’s a click. She’s picked up. That full breath into the phone, fat with power. “Have you checked the children?”

“Have you checked them?” Her strained voice lands like a wounded bird with a long and slender neck, broken at the base. The repeated question pulls out that confidence, his warm glow of contentment. How could he be questioned? The tone of her voice spirals down his stumbling system without the hope of lifting; he needs to find the children now. Their livelihood is marring his own; their presence is disconnecting him from completion.

His face resurfaces angrily from question after question. Would he like to make a call, would he like to please hang up and try again?

The intimacy of suspense is crushed.

He tears through the house in cyclone strides. Door hinges bend and violently cough when he slams them open. He knows that she knows that she has been violated, that he was here with her the whole time, that there never was any safety.

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Each time, after each giant heave and door slamming, there is only emptiness and that stillness that he naively thought he invoked, when she stole it away from him. Pieces of the shadows are ruined by hastiness and rising desperations. Had he checked the children? He should have so much sooner; he should have tied them down or waited for them to come to him. Each room so vast and empty of all life, leading him into further uncertainty like a mirage of a cold desert in the middle of the imposing jungle.

She doesn’t flinch when he finds her in the bathroom, dripping wet, shaking in delicate teaspoon doses. There’s water resting on the floor and the room feels like it’s going through the aftermath of something very loud and fierce – not quite believing what had just happened within its own walls.

In the tub are the two boys, heads under the calm water. Their nighties are soaked and the cloth clings cozily to their limp bodies. Water droplets still roll down the wall.

The ax slips in his hands, but doesn’t fall and he doesn’t understand – things like this just didn’t happen. He doesn’t understand.

Her eyes are sharp and thin like wire, taking the skin of his arm, chest, face right off with her quick glances. The stillness builds against them into such an immovable tower, locking them both in place, together, even mixing them. Who was he? The one with the ax and the anger? Or the one with the resolve and desperation? They both are such inconsistent characters, changing roles and words, balancing them onto nothing and they’re not surprised at the harsh sound of breaking.

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In this moment, he learns how to feel horrified. The sounds of the door swinging shut behind him pins him there, with her, forever in his mind. The lights of red and blue kaleidoscope off the window, onto their faces and hands, hers are still dripping, his are still slipping the handle of the ax.

“Why?” he manages to pull out of his mangled, split thoughts. He’s the one to ask why, to break the barrier between them.

“Better me than you.” It’s all she says while their perfect stillness is invaded by noise and chaos as the front door is kicked in and their moment is taken over again by the outside world…

J.M. Brannyk lives in constant duality, like a tossed coin, but is steadily adjusting to the movements. They study geology and other nihilistic interests. Surprisingly, there’s a romantic side that’s hard to kill.

J.M. Brannyk, author.

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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Assassin Fashion

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I thought about featuring some sort of Father Nature bit for Father’s Day, but having already explored Perilous Parenting I decided to focus on more creepy insects instead. Because we love creepy insects here at Haunted MTL. Thus, I present Assassin Fashion, featuring the Assassin Bug…

Assassin Bug drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Assassin Bug

Fashion Plates

Now I don’t know about you, but my first thought after snagging my prey and slurping out their dissolved innards is that I totally want to wear the dried up husk of their now lifeless body. Like that necklace made of nothing but shrunken heads. That is some first-rate fashion right there, and no one would dare to say otherwise lest they want to become a part of the dead-flesh coat… And this is exactly what the Assassin Bug does. Like a spider, it stabs its unsuspecting prey, turns it into a giant protein shake inside of its insectoid shell-glass, sips it out, and then attaches the corpse’s carapace to its ever growing collection atop its back.

Aside from being totally badass, these nightmarish embellishments serve a number of additional functions. They help the Assassin Bug blend in among its prey, masking its own odor and helping it to appear as a mass of insects that belong in or near the nest (especially among those more social networking creepy crawlies like ants and termites). In fact, it may even draw the attention of those clean up crews seeking to bury their dead, luring them in to become part of the body snatched horde. And the horrifying additions also act as a sort of armor and potential decoy for other predators like lizards and birds, who can end up with a mouth full of dead bug bodies rather than a bite of juicy Assassin Bug.

Wearing the Latest Trend in Dead Ant Bodies, drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Wearing the Latest Trend in Dead Ant Bodies

Kissing Sucks

And Assassin Bugs don’t just carry around one or two dead bodies, they may totally pile them up, as well as use other insects’ and plants’ secretions to their own advantage. Here’s a cool video from Deep Look that shows a partnership some Assassin Bugs have with Tarweed, keeping moth caterpillars from eating all of its flowers so that it can itself reproduce and spread.

Fortunately humans are too big to be susceptible… Or are we? There are also parasitic Assassin Bugs known as Kissing Bugs or Vampire Bugs that feed on mammal’s blood at night; they even act as a vector for other parasites that can cause disease years after feeding, which are associated with Chagas disease and are transmitted to mammalian hosts when the Assassin Bug poops while feeding and the host animal smears the poop into the bite when itching it.

pencil drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Pencil Drawing by Jennifer Weigel

So here’s a pencil drawing I did of a dead bug I found (I had a whole series of these back in the day). I hadn’t at the time known what it was, but it turns out to be an Assassin Bug. I wonder what its fashion sense was like…

So remember, if you want to be at the forefront of creepy horrific fashion, just look to the Assassin Bug for inspiration. If you’ve enjoyed this segment of Nightmarish Nature, feel free to check out some previous here:

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Vampires Among Us

Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

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Terrifying Tardigrades

Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

Horrifying Humans

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Giants Among Spiders

Flesh in Flowers

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Original Creations

Goblins, a Short Story by Jennifer Weigel

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Revisiting the creepy faux fingernail art, I made a couple of goblins… They then ransacked my house. This is their story, as told by myself, Jennifer Weigel.

More faux fingernail art from Jennifer Weigel, featuring wide smiling mouth with red sparkly lipstick and faux fingernail teeth on textured green goblins background
More faux fingernail art from Jennifer Weigel

So it finally happened. My art came to life. And of course it couldn’t be one of the cute pretty pictures, like the sparkly unicorns or the cat drawings. No it had to be the faux fingernail goblins… Ugh. I first encountered them in the bathroom.

I see England.
I see France.
I see someone’s underpants!

Of course you do, it’s the bathroom. That’s totally the room for that. Remind me again why I decided to paint these little green monsters. Ugh. From there, they moved on to the kitchen.

We so tricksy.
We so sly.
We eats all the cherry pie!

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Did they have to eat ALL the cherry pie? Like seriously. But what can I expect, they’re goblins and they’re in the house. Ugh. And honestly they’re just plain gross.

I pick my friend.
I pick nose.
Just whose nose, do you suppose?

Get away from me you obnoxious, vile creatures! I can pick my own nose on my own time, thank you. Ugh. Oh, great, now they’re tearing up the living room.

We be goblins.
We be green.
We be making quite a scene!

No, not the sofa! Now there are little bits of fabric and stuffing flying everywhere. I can see you’re all too pleased with yourselves. Nasty critters. Ugh. Why can’t you just leave?

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I do mischief.
I do bad.
This best party ever had!

I did NOT agree to host your little shindig. Stop tearing up my house! All I know is, it’s about time you moved on to wreak havoc elsewhere. Ugh. Just get out – NOW!

We scare the cat.
We scare you.
We scare all, we care not who!

I may have brought these dreadful disgusting demons into being seeing as how I painted them, but I have no idea what brought them to life or why. What kind of cosmic miscalculation caused this? I need to know so I can avoid it in the future. Ugh. Goblins… need I say more?

Feel free to check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.

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.

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Original Creations

Faux Fingernails Art by Jennifer Weigel

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So I had some faux fingernails leftover from a costume based modeling session, from posing as Cruella De Vil for the figure drawing group… Here’s a teaser from that modeling session, before the horrible creepy art generation in the aftermath. If you zoom in tight enough, you can see my tiger fingernails, which kept trying to fall off constantly, reminding me why I hate trying to wear the things and why they (d)evolved into art.

Cruella De Vil modeling for figure drawing
Cruella De Vil modeling for figure drawing

My version of Cruella De Vil channels Glenn Close or the original animated character more than the recent Emma Stone variant, but they’re all delightfully devilish.

Anyway, I made this series of “Tiger Sharks” prominently featuring the same tiger faux fingernails, including those used in the Cruella De Vil costume. These “Tiger Sharks” also incorporated some pirate fingernails, because sharks and pirates are tight.

Pirate skeleton hand with faux fingernails
Pirate skeleton hand with faux fingernails

I couldn’t think of a better use for the pirate fingernails than adding them to this skeletal hand. I never actually wore these, they were too hard to come up with something to go with. But I do love the Beetlejuice vibe with the stripes…

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.

Feel free to check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.

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