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Day 16

As the last of the ghouls had begun to round the corner, Edgar and Jimmy dropped low to the roof, out of sight of the wanderers. From their vantage, the two men could see the rooftops of a nearby RV park. Aside from the sound of scuffling feet and low moans the area was silent.

Jimmy hadn’t got used to the silence yet.

“Christ, these things are dumb. I’ve had dogs smarter than them,” Edgar whispered.

Jimmy shrugged. True, the ghouls had no real smarts, as far as he could tell. They just kind of wandered toward whatever caught their attention. But they were still winning the numbers game. That was the fucked up part of all this.

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“Let’s get back down the ladder,” Jimmy whispered.

“Yo, old man. What’s going on with the ladder situation” Jimmy asked.

Bob looked up at the two men on the roof of the row of units. “The name’s Bob and I want to be sure you’re cool.”

Dani leaned on another row of units across the lane, the ladder leaning up against the structure. She observed the situation with caution. Bob’s play was risky.

“The hell? What’s not cool, Bob? This.” Edgar gestured to the edge of the roof with a flail. “Not fucking cool, Bob.”

“We just want to know why you were trying to break down our gate, that’s all,” Dani chimed in.

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Edgar looked dumbfounded. Jimmy stepped forward. “Edgar had a unit here, we just wanted to grab something. We didn’t know anyone was still here.”

“What unit?” Bob stepped forward, “what unit was your unit, Edgar?”

Edgar stepped closer to the edge of the roof. “Don’t see how that’s any business of yours, Bob.”

Jimmy watched Edgar step closer to the edge and reach his right arm behind his back. His fingers grazed the pistol tucked into his waistband.

Shit.

Jimmy made his way over to Edgar and placed the back of his hand against Edgar’s chest, gently pushing him back. Jimmy glanced and Edgar, eyes wide in frustration, shaking his head slightly. Too slight for the two people below to notice, he hoped.

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“Let’s be honest with them, man,” he whispered.

Edgar’s brow furrowed.

“Nobody needs to die today,” Jimmy continued, “play it friendly.”

Edgar looked down at Bob. “K34. That’s the unit. It has our weed. We were going to haul it out and use it to negotiate for some supplies elsewhere on our way out of town.”

Bob nodded. “That’s fair, but we cleared this place and locked it down. You nearly cost us our safety.”

“Sorry about that,” Edgar said through gritted teeth. He stepped forward. “We didn’t know anyone was here.”

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Sandy wandered out of the office and stood near the door. She was peeking out, observing the scene. Dani noticed how stiff and rigid she was. Clearly, she was upset. Then again, when wasn’t she?

Bob gestured to Dani. Dani grabbed the ladder and carried it over. She leaned it against the units and the pair began to climb down.

Bob tucked his revolver into his pants. “Could you spare some dope to make it worth our while?”

Dani stood outside the unit and Edgar and Bob negotiated over the marijuana bundles. Jimmy stood just inside the entrance.

“How long have you been here?” Jimmy asked.

“Me? Just a couple of days. Bob and Sandy have been here since the start.”

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“What, like, you just joined up with them?”

“I was isolated in my apartment for a couple of weeks, had to leave when…” An image of Dani’s now dead neighbors flashed before her and she felt slightly disoriented. She shut her eyes tight and took a sudden sharp breath.

“You okay?” Jimmy asked.

Dani rubbed the back of her neck with her wrist. She glanced over at Jimmy, who seemed genuinely concerned.

“I’m fine. Sorry, not sleeping much lately,” she murmured.

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“No shit,” he said. Jimmy laughed. 

Dani smirked. She walked a bit closer to the unit’s entrance, leaning on the frame. “Anyway, I, uh, ran out of supplies. Came here because my Dad kept a gun here when he was running it.”

“Oh shit, this place is yours?”

Dani shrugged. “I mean, not really? Not sure what good owning a business does for you these days. He paid the bills. Paid for Bob and Sandy to work here. I haven’t really been here in… god, like, two years?”

Dani looked at Bob and Edgar. Bob appeared to be haggling over a second plastic-wrapped bundle.

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“If anything the place is Bob and Sandy’s. They’re just kind enough to let me stay. I dunno how long I’ll be staying, though,” she added.

“Seems like a pretty good place, honestly.” Jimmy sighed. “Edgar and I were trying to find a larger pool of people somewhere, maybe closer to San Diego. Figured we could barter some essentials with some weed, y’know?”

Dani sat on a cardboard box. “A sound plan as any right now I guess.”

“Is it?” Jimmy asked. He didn’t seem to be asking her as far as she could tell.

Bob and Edgar shook hands. It seemed like the trade was done. Edgar carried several bundles in his arms. “Yo, Jimmy. Let’s get going.”

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Jimmy scratched at the patch of red hair on his cheeks. It was a weak growth. “Actually, I’m thinking maybe we ask to stay here a bit, to just kind of rest up.”

Bob stepped forward, rubbing his chin. “How long are you thinking, kid?”

“Honestly, could we just stay for, like, the night?” Jimmy gestured over to the fence that they had hit repeatedly with Edgar’s Cadillac. “I’d be happy to help you reinforce the gate tomorrow before we leave.”

Edgar brushed past Jimmy. “Dude, are you kidding me with this shit? What about San Diego?”

Jimmy shrugged. Edgar looked angry.

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“Look, man, we had a plan,” Edgar said. “We can get down there and find someone to exchange with.” He held up one of the six packages he was holding and waved it in front of his friend. “We had a plan.” He tapped Jimmy’s forehead with the bundle for good measure.

Jimmy looked around the storage facility. The grey concrete had begun to take on an orange hue from the encroaching sunset.

“I… don’t think San Diego is worth it, man. All those things… the city would be full of them.”

“That’s a solid point,” Bob said. “We got completely overrun here. Imagine a big city.”

Dani stepped in. “You two can take an RV for the night if you want. That’s fair, right, Bob?”

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“Can’t imagine Sandy is going to be thrilled, but I don’t mind if we’re all cool about it.”

Dani started off toward the RV area. “You two coming,” she asked.

Jimmy and Edgar stared at each other, shrugged, and followed, with Bob right behind them.

Sandy wasn’t happy about the strangers staying the night, but she was outvoted. How she was outvoted in her own home was beyond her. She wasn’t sure why Danielle had any sort of say. She was leaving soon, anyway. The only compromise made to put her at ease was that she would hold onto the stranger’s car keys so they wouldn’t escape in the night and leave the gate open. Everyone had retired to their various RVs, and she to her apartment, locking their doors behind them.

Sandy sat in her chair in the living room. She had turned it toward the window to keep an eye on the world outside of her domain. There was smoke in the far distance. Maybe it was a wildfire. Maybe it was something else.

She sipped at her tea. She was running low on the mix. She wasn’t a fan of cold tea, but heating anything had been a problem, so all her tea was at room temperature. She hated that there was still no power. Bob suggested the power might never come back. Sandy was not so sure. She had a brother in the military. Surely he and the whole would be on their way to save her. It made sense. This was all just a little societal blip. The government would cure the sick and restore order in no time at all.

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The apartment was dark and there was no glare on the window. She could sit comfortably on her seat and stare out the window toward the hills toward the west, past the outskirts of the city of Emmett. In the distance, she saw what looked to be some sort of light flashing. She approached the window, setting down her glass of tea. After a brief time, the lights faded.

How odd, she thought. I hope they don’t come this way.

Next Installment

Thank you for reading the tenth installment of the Haunted MTL original series, The Dead Life. Please share your thoughts about the story with us.

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David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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Original Creations

More Nail Polish Paintings by Jennifer Weigel

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Well, seems I’m at it again, with more nail polish paintings into found thrift store art. Why so many flowers this time…? Well a friend sent them and I just couldn’t help myself. They are so perfect for creepy fairy paintings. And for those of you who think fairies aren’t scary, you haven’t read much about the fey now have you?

More Revisitations nail polish paintings by Jennifer Weigel
More Revisitations nail polish paintings by Jennifer Weigel

Top left: Blue Fairy, originally painted by M Wadorf

Top right: Pegasus, originally painted by Edie Babb

Bottom left: Unicorn, originally painted by R Lovelace (After I painted this I realized I missed the opportunity to do a troll with a bridge and so I hope to do another along those lines in the future.)

Bottom middle: Fairy, originally painted by SD Janz

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Bottom right: Dragon, original signed FZ, very sparkly with black-light sensitive eyes

And the most horrific of the bunch this time is this mermaid, who started as a weird bucket painting by Helen Miller… So, what’s in the bucket, Helen? Body parts? Fish? Plants not yet in bloom? I envisioned a trapped mermaid waiting to ensnare some unsuspecting land-goer, because no one would expect to find a mermaid there…

Mermaid in bucket, original by Helen Miller
Is this mermaid trapped in need of help or just trying to lure you close?

So I broke down and redid the unicorn to a troll. Apparently the troll was hungry… Anyway, here is the result. I am happier with it now.

Troll with toll bridge, original by R Lovelace
Hungry troll wants bridge tolls after eating innocent unicorn.

You can find more of my Revisitations art on Haunted MTL here, including links to even more nail polish paintings…

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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Original Creations

Bloody Mary or More Doll Costuming by Jennifer Weigel

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So I came upon a Liv doll with no wig and decided to make her a mourning ensemble. The result was so reminiscent of this Bloody Mary music video based on the Lady Gaga song, by Ruben Samuel Cortez for his film school final (not the Wednesday TikTok remix, though that is also fun) that I simply had to share.

Costumed Liv doll to Bloody Mary by Jennifer Weigel
Costumed Liv doll to Bloody Mary by Jennifer Weigel

The outfit is made up of really fancy thick black lace leftover from a skirt I decorated for a party and an old translucent black handkerchief. It really reminds me of the table dancers in the music video but black instead of white (though it also alludes to some of the other outfits too, and Wednesday’s dress from the TikTok remake).

Close up of Bloody Mary doll's face
Close up of Bloody Mary doll’s face

I love the detail on the eyes on these Liv dolls, which are embedded and not painted on.

Closer still...
Closer still…

The Liv dolls’ eyes are just so lifelike. I think this is what attracts me to the Rainbow High dolls too, and why I had to turn the Makeover Failfix 2Dreami into Lady Amalthea of The Last Unicorn…

Failfix 2Dreami as Lady Amalthea from The Last Unicorn (not scary but one of my all time fave movies and I love how this doll turned out so I'm posting her here anyway)
Failfix 2Dreami as Lady Amalthea from The Last Unicorn (not scary but one of my all time fave movies and I love how this doll turned out so I’m posting her here anyway)

If you want to check out more of my altered dolls, I have posted several to Haunted MTL here:

Fashion Zombies

Heartbreak Hotel

Mummy Dearest

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Catharsis

Fairy Wands

She Wolf

Queen of Everything

More Altered Dolls

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Krampus

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.

Oh and here’s a bonus photo of the skirt that I got the lace for originally, titled Kiss My A$$.

Portrait of the artist, dressed for a Blue Jeans and Bling party
Portrait of the artist, dressed for a Blue Jeans and Bling party

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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Giants Among Spiders

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So, as you may have noticed, we have a special fondness for spiders here on Nightmarish Nature.  Well, they are kind of the spokes-critters for horrifying animalia, perhaps because they are so freakishly different from us.  Or maybe it’s because I find them a little disconcerting for all that I try to take the “you mind your business, I’ll mind mine” approach, at least if they stay outdoors. Or just because I really like to draw spiders for all that I prefer not to find them sharing my home (though I’ll gladly take spiders over other bugs or mice or larger critters who didn’t get an invite).

Anyway, this segment is devoted to the largest Giants Among Spiders, as if you didn’t have enough to worry about already.  And the top place is contested based upon body mass or leg length.  Most of these are tarantulas, which globally take top place among the large arachnids.

Goliath Birdeater Tarantula
I’m hungry… I bet you are…

Goliath Birdeater Tarantula

The Goliath Birdeater Tarantula of South America is the biggest brute of spiderdom, weighing in at over 6 ounces.  They build funnel burrows and are known to eat birds (although rarely), mice, lizards, frogs, and snakes, but largely any big insects including other species of spiders.  They have urticating barbed hairs that they fling at would-be attackers as an irritant to escape.  And people even eat them after they singe the bristles off. Here’s a National Geographic video showing this spider in action, in case you wanted to see a giant spider take out a mouse.

Giant Huntsman Spider drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Creepy crawly at it’s worst…

Giant Huntsman Spider

And with the longest legs, we have the Giant Huntsman Spider of Laos, with a leg-span of 12 inches.  Their legs have twisted joints and they move in a crab-like manner, which furthers their impressive appearance. ‘Cause they’ve got legs, and know how to use ’em.  They prefer to live in underbrush and cave entrances.  These are like the big relatives of their Australian cousins, which we’ve all seen online and developed a healthy aversion to.

Everything's cuter when it's fuzzy, right? tarantula drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Everything’s cuter when it’s fuzzy, right?

Brazilian Salmon Pink Birdeater & Brazilian Giant Tawny Red Tarantulas

Next we have two more South American species: the Brazilian Salmon Pink Birdeater, which boasts one-inch fangs, and the Brazilian Giant Tawny Red, believed to be the longest-lived spider with a lifespan of up to thirty years.   Both are in the tarantula family and have urticating hairs, a word you probably never read much before today unless you are in the hobby.  So apparently South America is not the best travel destination for you if you struggle with arachnophobia, though I suspect you’d figured that out already.  (I wouldn’t recommend Australia or Southeast Asia either.)

Face Size Tarantula drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Face-Size, sorry no Face or Face Hugger for scale

Face Size Tarantula

And finally the Face Size Tarantula, which has a very terror-inducing name reminiscent of the Face Huggers of Alien-glory.  Anyway, these spiders have an 8-inch leg-span and live in India and Sri Lanka.  They look kind of like big hairy wolf spiders with stripey legs, sometimes with pink and daffodil coloring.

If you enjoyed this eight-legged segment of Nightmarish Nature on Giants Among Spiders and their larger than life kin, 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

Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

Horrifying Humans

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