“The Popobawa” by J.P. Roquard
“Where’ve you come from?”
“Ain’t much past Churchtown.”
The hunter considered this.
There were three of them, all squatting around the campfire. The hunter, his friend, and the stranger. The stranger from up river.
The firelight flickered, the stranger’s face half hidden behind a cup of stew. In the stew was a rabbit. The hunter had shot it, the friend had cooked it and they all ate it.
“So what you doin’ up there?”
“Ain’t nothin’ much to hunt up there, less you shootin’ crows. You bin shootin’ crows?”
“Then what you huntin’?”
The stranger drained the last of his stew and placed the cup in the dirt. He didn’t look at the hunter, or his friend. He just stared into the fire.
“Outpost up there wrote and asked for guns. They offered money. Said there was something up there, some beast, messing with their livestock, messing with them. What they wrote in their bulletin didn’t really make much sense. Some claptrap about needing a fearless hunter to protect their souls. Sounded like a bunch of frightened goatherds to me, but I figured they’d at least feed me. Might even make some money shooting their beast too. So up I go.
“I get up there and, sure enough, it’s three families of herders. All living in shacks and lean-tos, goats sleeping right in there with them. Real frontier living. But they were spooked. Properly spooked. The first thing that happens when I get there is this man comes up to me and says ‘He got me. He got me and he had his way with me. Now I gotta tell you or else.’ I said ‘Who got you?’ but he just turns around and runs off.
“Next comes this woman. She comes up and says ‘I’m pregnant. He got me and I’m pregnant, and you gotta know about it mister, you gotta know’. I said ‘Who? Who got you pregnant?’, but she just runs off as well. And that’s how it was, the whole damn village. They each come up to me, one after another and told me about how he got them, how he cut them or had his way with them. Some even showed me scars. And as soon as they tell me they all run off and hide. It wasn’t until they’d all spoken that I finally heard its name. The Popobawa.”
“The Popobawa?” This was the friend. His voice was thin and high like a child.
“That’s what they called their beast, the Popobawa.”
“What the hell kinda stoopid name is that?” said the hunter.
“This old man up there, he’d traveled the world. Merchant navy I think. Said he heard about it in Africa. A beast like a bat that comes at night and attacks you. It’s as big as a man and it’s got one big huge bat eye. The worst thing is it knows when you’re weak and when you’re alone. It knows when you’re frightened or sick, and that’s when it comes and gets you. When nobody’s around to hear, or to help, that’s when it comes. Most say you never even see it. It attacks you, then it’s gone.”
“How’d they know what it looks like if they never even seen it?” asks the friend.
“I don’t know. That’s just what they told me.”
“What does it do? When it attacks I mean. What does it do to you?”
“Depends. It does what it feels like. Sometimes it cuts you up with its claws or its teeth, seems like it does that mostly. But other times it has its way with you. That’s what that first man was saying to me. It got him and it sodomized him.”
The hunter spat. “Why in hell would he go and tell you about somethin’ like that?”
“Well, that’s the thing about the Popobawa. If he gets you, you have to tell everyone you meet about it.”
“Or else he comes back and gets you again.”
The fire crackled, the three men watched it. The hunter and his friend contemplated what the stranger was telling them.
“So lemme git this straight. You git got. Then you gotta tell everyone you ever meet about it?”
“For the rest of your life?”
“That’s the dumbest fuckin’ thing I ever heard.”
“Well, it’s worse than that. Everyone you tell about it also gets attacked. That’s why the goatherds kept running away after they told me, they thought I’d be angry.”
“So did you ever see it, this popo monster?” asks the friend.
“Nope. I never saw it. I stayed there two weeks, ate a lot of goat, then I couldn’t stand it anymore. Those people were driving me nuts. So I came back down the river. And here I am.”
The hunter turned to spit again. He eyed the stranger.
“So it was bullshit? You never saw nothin’ and them herders were all just crazy?”
“They were crazy alright. Crazier than a cut snake. And it’s true, I never saw a thing. But it sure as hell saw me.”
The stranger stood as he said this. He untucked his shirt and lifted it to show his belly. Red and raw in the firelight were three long scars. They stretched across the stranger’s abdomen, disappearing around his flank. The angry skin glistened in the firelight.
“I’m sorry to do this after you shared your dinner, but I’ve got to tell you. I was attacked by the Popobawa.”
J. P. Roquard is a husband and father, based in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of the Buckingham Green: An Emperor Donald Tale and believes that puns are the highest of all art forms. His flash fiction can be found in Mura, 365 Tomorrows, Every Day Fiction, and other places.
Reanimating Dead Art with Monsters by Jennifer Weigel
Dead art… It’s a thing that happens, sadly. Typically found at thrift and antique stores or dumpster diving or by the side of the road. But art is never really dead, just resting… Here are some reanimated paintings I made by incorporating nail polish monsters into existing art.
Let’s face it – reworking old abandoned artworks with monsters kind of rocks. For awhile they were all over the internet. I admit, it took me a long time to muster up the courage to paint into someone else’s grandmother’s art, but once I started I just couldn’t stop. From top to bottom, left to right we have: Zombies, Unicorn, Siren, Krakken, Harpies, Sasquatch, Alien Invasion, Witch, and Serpent.
The dragon is probably my favorite. All of the shades of red are really vibrant and striking against the green. And dragons are always so classic and grandiose and terrifying, perfect for pairing with a mountain landscape. I love painting with nail polish for the sparkle, even if the fumes do get kind of noxious en masse. (The best subject to paint in this media is Rocky Horror style lips by the way, in case you were wondering.)
And what better way to complete the collection than with a portrait of a Fairy Queen, her icy stare drilling into your soul. She’s up to some sort of magical mischief, that’s for sure.
And speaking of magical mischief, this is the monster painting I made just for me. The original artwork is about 4 feet long and I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted to reanimate it in this exact way for all that this is the last in the series that I did. I even added extra shimmer factor. I’d initially considered adding a sea serpent or a dragon but no, she told me to stop.
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.
Lighter than Dark
LTD: Revisiting Broken Doll Head, Interview 2
Our last interview with Broken Doll Head here on Haunted MTL never set well with me. I just feared that I wasn’t able to get the whole scoop on the V-Day Uprising for you, our dear readership. So I arranged another exclusive interview to reconnect and see how it’s going.
Without further ado, I bring you our second exclusive interview with Broken Doll Head…
Thank you so much for having me again. Wow you have changed since the last time we spoke. You seem… calmer. Please don’t hate me or burn down my house for saying anything about it.
The movement is still underway; it is still time. But I needed to take care of me, you know. The rage has subsided somewhat. My anger was not serving me well. After the last uprising, the rest of me was sent to the far corners of the earth in biohazard bags. I had to find another approach, for the cause as well as my own sanity. I am much calmer, thank you for noticing.
In our last interview, you kept repeating that it is time. Time for what exactly? Would you care to elaborate here now?
It is still time. It is always time. Until the violence is addressed we must continue to rise up and make a scene. We will not be silenced or stigmatized. We can’t be complacent. This is how we got to where we are with the Supreme Court in 2022. Horrific injustices are still happening globally and even within our own borders; it’s too easy to forget that.
What do you suggest we do?
Take action. Share your stories. Give others space to voice their own. Raise awareness and fight the system of oppression. Rally. We must take back our own power. It will not be just given freely.
So what are you up to nowadays?
I’ve been getting in touch with my inner Earth Goddess. Are you aware of how our environmental impacts affect dolls everywhere? Climate change is creating greater vulnerabilities for those already at risk. We have to look at the intersections of climate, gender and race globally. We have to return to our Mother Earth.
Thank you again Broken Doll Head for joining us and our dear readership here on Haunted MTL’s Lighter than Dark. It’s good to reconnect with you after the V-Day Uprising and we wish you all the best in your bold eco-enlightenment vision.
Again, if you want to learn more about the V-Day movement, please check out their website here.
The Way Things Were, story by Jennifer Weigel
Revisiting my last St. Patrick’s Day post, what’s a wolf to were?
I grimaced as I remembered the previous St. Patrick’s Day. I had been shot while I was eating a sugar cookie waiting in line to buy a Scratchers ticket, my golden ride to my dream cabin in the woods. Wow, to think that was just a year ago and so much has changed since then. But where should I begin?
Well, the junkyard’s under new management. Or something. It seems they decided I wasn’t ferocious enough so I’ve been replaced by a couple of working stiffs. Or Mastiffs as it were, same difference to me. Apparently after they found the bloodied shirt I’d draped inconspicuously over a chair, they thought something had happened on my watch and decided to retire me.
Or at any rate ol’ Sal took me home. I guess it’s like retirement, but not the good kind where you tour the world Route 66 style, head lolled out of the side of a vintage Cadillac, breeze flowing through your beard as you drink in the open road. More the kind where you just stop showing up to work and no one really asks about you.
Now Sal’s a pretty cool dude, and he tends to mind his own business. But he’s a bit stingy with the treats and he’s a no-paws-on-the-furniture kind of guy. I don’t get it, his pad isn’t that sweet, just a bunch of hand-me-down Ikea that he didn’t even put together himself. Not that I could have helped with that, I can’t read those instructions to save my life even if they are all pictures. It’s all visual gibberish to me unless there’s a rabbit or a squirrel in there someplace that I can relate to.
And it’s been a real roll in the mud trying to cover up the stench of my monthly secret. I miss third shift at the junkyard when Monty would fall asleep on the job and I was free to do whatever I wanted. It sure made the change easier. Monty never noticed, or he never let on that he did. We were a good team and had it pretty good, he and I – I don’t know how I wound up shacking up with Sal instead when all was said and done. There was some kind of talk at the time, over landlords and pet deposits and whatnot, and in the end Sal was the only one who said yes.
So there I was, this St. Patrick’s Day, trying to figure out how to sneak out into the great suburban landscape with the neighbors’ headstrong Chihuahua who barks his fool head off at everything. He doesn’t ever say anything interesting through the fence about the local gossip, just a string of profanities about staying off his precious grass. Just like his owners… Suburbia, it doesn’t suit the two of us junkyard junkies. I’m pretty sure Sal inherited this joint with everything else here. He just never had the kind of ambition that would land him in a place like this on his own, if you know what I mean.
Fortunately, this St. Patrick’s Day, Sal was passed out on the sofa after binge watching some show on Netflix about werewolves of all things. Who believes in that nonsense? They get it all wrong anyway. The history channel with its alien conspiracies is so much better.
I managed to borrow a change of clothes and creep out the front door. At least there’s something to say about all the greenery, it is a fresh change of pace even if the yards are too neatly manicured and the fences are too high. And I do love how I always feel like McGruff crossed paths with one of those neighborhood watch trenchcoat spies this time of the month. I’d sure love to take a bite out of crime, especially if it involves that pesky Pomeranian that always pees on Mrs. Patterson’s petunias and gets everyone else blamed for it.
So sure enough, I slunk off towards the local convenience mart, which is a bit more of a trek here past the water park and the elementary school. Nice neighborhood though, very quiet, especially at this time of night.
Well, when I got there, wouldn’t you know it, but I ran into that same nondescript teen from my last foray into the convenience store near the junkyard. What was he doing here of all places? Seriously don’t these kids learn anything nowadays? I let out a stern growl as I snatched a cookie from the nearby end cap, making sure he noticed that I meant business.
Apparently the kid recognized me too, he stopped mid-tracks at the beer cooler and his face blanched like he’d seen a ghost. Some cheeky little girl-thing motioned to him to hurry it along by laying on the horn of their beater car from the parking lot. Whatever they were up to was no good, I was certain. He snapped out of it, grabbed a six-pack and headed towards the cashier, eyes fixed on me the whole time. Not again. Not after what it cost me the last time when I hadn’t realized my job was at stake. I stared back, hairs rising on the back of my neck. I bared my teeth. This time, I wouldn’t let him off so easy…
The teen edged up to the cashier and presented his trophy. Unsurprisingly, the clerk asked for ID, and the kid reached into his jacket. Let the games begin, I grumbled to myself. But instead of a gun, he pulled out a wallet. He flashed a driver’s license at the clerk and pointed in my general direction, “I’ll get whatever Santa’s having too.” He tossed a wad of cash on the counter and gave me a knowing wink before he flew out of there like he was on fire. I stood in dazed confusion as he and his girl sped out of the lot and disappeared down the road.
“Well, Santa?” the clerk said, snapping me out of my reverie. Her dark-circled eyes stared over wide rimmed glasses, her rumpled shirt bearing the name-tag Deb. She smelled like BBQ potato chips and cheap cherry cola.
I quieted and shook my head. “I want a Scratchers. Not one of those crossword bingo puzzle trials but something less… wordy. How ‘bout a Fast Cash?” I barked as I tossed the cookie on the counter.
“Sure thing,” she said as she handed me a ticket and looked towards the door at the now vacant lot. “And keep the change, I guess.”
A couple silver pieces, a peanut butter cookie and a lotto ticket later, maybe this is my lucky day after all…
Check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s writing here at Jennifer Weigel Words.