Lunch consisted of a single chunk of canned meat split five ways, a box of crumbled crackers, and some tea that was brewed outside by Sandy. This was the most any of them had eaten in what seemed like days.
They sat in silence for a while, in the “conference” room. It wasn’t anything else beyond an office with a large table just behind the front counter of the storage office. Once upon a time, it had served as a meeting place for the employees, back when Dani’s parents were still in California. Since then it had become a storage room, and since the arrival of Jimmy and Edgar, it had become a dining room, of sorts. The irony was not lost on Dani. The room took on new life after the death of the world.
Sandy broke the silence. “Does anyone want another glass?”
Edgar looked up from his crumbs. He had wet his thumb to pick up the stray remains of crackers. He held out his glass. “Please,” he asked.
Sandy took his paper cup and filled it with the last of the tea. “I have a couple more brewing. The last of my mix.”
Edgar took the small cup and took a large gulp from it. Jimmy sipped at his tea, contemplating.
Bob wasn’t at the table, instead, he was near the door, carefully looking over the makeshift repairs of the glass door. Only one of the doors had shattered, but that was still a large hole to fill and a couple of bookshelves laden with heavy boxes of books had done a lot to reinforce the cardboard and plywood. In truth, it was mostly cardboard and it made Bob nervous. The RV in front of the entrance was an extra layer of protection, but what he needed, he said, was plywood, maybe more shelves, and boxes too.
Danielle sat at the table, finishing up the last bite of cold meat. She stared at her now empty plate, still hungry, still miserable. Had it been worth it to stick around? There was safety here, sure, but it was all relative, and safety seemed like a misplaced luxury when the hunger pangs started. They needed food.
She coughed. “I think we need to go on a supply run.”
Bob turned his gaze toward her and nodded. He rose up from his seat near the door and took a seat at the table. “I think you’re right. We should do it today. We still got light out there” he added.
Jimmy nodded. “Yeah, that’s a good idea. Let me help. Saw a couple of stores nearby. We can hit them all.”
Dani shook her head. “It’s too risky to hit multiple places right now. We’re in no big hurry. We need to get the most out of one place and then regroup.”
“What do you think,” Bob asked.
Dani wiped at her forehead with the heel of her palm, a habit she’d inherited from her dad. There were a number of options all within a couple of blocks. There was a Market Bros. just down Acacia, and down Lyon there was a drug store, one of the huge chains that had a little bit of everything.
Dani looked over at Sandy. The older woman seemed lost in thought.
“How are we for medication,” Dani asked.
Sandy peered around for a moment and shook her head slightly, aware enough to answer the question. “We don’t have a whole lot. We only had a basic first aid kit here and even that was mostly empty. Other than that Bob and I have our prescriptions and personal medications, I assume.”
Edgar lit a blunt. “Don’t forget about all that dope you got from us.”
“I don’t do that garbage,” Sandy sneered.
Edgar shrugged. “Your loss, Mama.”
Sandy glared at Edgar, who was near twice her size and weight. Jimmy punched Edgar on his arm, making him drop his blunt.
“… Hijo de puta,” he muttered as he picked up his blunt from his lap.
“Respect, Edgar. We’re guests.”
Edgar picked up his joint from the table and took a big drag as he stood up and bowed his head in Sandy’s direction. “My apologies.” He slumped back into the chair.
Dani grabbed a legal pad that sat at the center of the table and began scrawling some notes. She thought out loud as she wrote. “I think Jimmy, Edgar, and me -”
“I,” Jimmy corrected.
Dani cast a furtive glance at the tall redhead and grunted. She continued, “Anyway, we can hit the Wellman’s about a block down. Provided the place hasn’t been cleaned out we should be able to get food and medication there.”
Sandy glanced at the trio. She then gave Dani a pointed gaze, a warning gaze. “Are you sure, Danielle?”
Dani didn’t have time for Sandy’s paranoia. “I’m sure. We’d better get going now.”
She rose to her feet, and Jimmy stood up nearly as quickly. Edgar rolled his eyes, took a huge drag off his blunt, and begrudgingly rose out of his chair. Dani handed Bob the legal pad as she passed by his side of the table. He placed his hand on her hand as he grabbed the pad. It was a reassuring gesture and Dani gave Bob’s hand a squeeze.
“What’s this, kid?”
“Some rough plans. You’ll keep watch?”
“We’ll keep watch,” Bob nodded.
Sandy looked miserable at the idea of leaving the relative safety of the building. Regardless, she trudged out the door after everyone else.
The side gate’s rattle as Bob dragged it open was like a thunderstorm. Everything was so quiet now that the rattle of the gate probably carried a significant distance. Ghouls would be attracted to the sound, he figured.
Gate open, Bob stepped aside as the Cadillac drove through. Dani sat in the back seat and gave Bob a short wave. He was glad he’d had her tuck another gun into her jacket. He wasn’t suspicious of the two men, but he also knew better than to be unarmed in any situation. He’d learned that much in ‘Nam.
The Cadillac drove into the street and made a left. They were on their own now.
Bob slid the gate shut and took a length of chain and a padlock to it. Content with the security measures, he stepped into the nearest unit on the lot and took a seat in one of the salvaged lawn-chairs. Sandy sat impatiently in the golf cart, stewing.
Bob placed the legal pad on the TV-tray next to his chair. He looked it over and noticed there were a lot of notes in tiny, cramped handwriting. He’d expected Danielle’s writing to be tidy. Why he expected that he didn’t know. He’d just assumed, maybe because she was Korean, he thought. The notes seemed scattered, but he saw where she was heading with them. There were some good ideas. He’d need to talk them over when she got back. Maybe over some beers. He should have asked her to grab him a six-pack if she could.
He leaned back in the chair and stared out of the unit and down toward the other end of the property. He was already feeling tired but didn’t want to risk sleeping and being caught off guard.
After a few minutes of silence, he asked “What do you think these things are, Sandy?”
Sandy glanced and shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe some kind of mutant or something?”
“Like those old sci-fi movies?”
Sandy stared at the gate. “I guess. I don’t know. I generally don’t believe in that stuff but God works in mysterious ways.”
Bob leaned forward in his chair. Now this was interesting. “Y’all still believe in God after all this?”
Sandy smiled, albeit faintly. “Of course I do. God is why I have survived,” she replied.
Bob scratched his chin with a chipped thumbnail. He hadn’t really considered the existence of God much, at least since his late-twenties which were spent knee-deep in rice paddies and being shot at by the Vietnamese. Sandy was maybe thirty years younger than him and hadn’t had the pleasure of such experiences. Her position made a bit more sense, taking that into account.
“Y’know, it’s probably some sort of chemical thing,” he suggested. “Lotta weird stuff tested by the government over the years. Probably some experiment gone wrong. Bringing back the dead like that.”
Sandy shook her head. “They’re not dead.”
Sandy dusted the top of the steering wheel of the cart with her palm. “The only way the dead could rise is at God’s hand, and I don’t see God in any of this.”
Bob rolled his eyes. Of course she was a zealot. Fuck.
Sandy stepped out of the cart and began to pace a bit. She didn’t seem to enjoy being idle here in the open. She was on the wrong end of 50, now and her curled hair had gone unmanaged for weeks. She still carried a little bit of that middle-aged spread. She was noticeably beginning to shrink in other places, though.
Though perhaps she had always been small and he’d failed to notice.
Bob leaned back in his chair. “These things, they remind me of a movie I saw when I was on leave back in the war. Might have been ‘68? I was home for a bit and I had no girlfriend, no real family besides a drunk-ass daddy and I had money to burn.”
Sandy stopped pacing.
“Anyway, so I could have done something really damn stupid with that GI money but I just decided to go to the movies, right? I was back in New York and there was a theater that ran a few movies together for one price. You go there and spend hours watching shit and eating popcorn. Good times.”
“What was the movie,” she asked.
“I don’t remember the name, but it was something with Vincent Price as the last man in a world surrounded by these vampire freaks. They were smarter than these dead shits we are dealing with, but I definitely see some similarities now that I think about it.”
“How did the movie end?”
“Vincent Price died. I guess that’s the only ending that would make sense.”
Sandy took a seat back in the golf cart. She leaned over the steering wheel. “No more happy endings,” she muttered.
Thank you for reading the twelfth installment of the Haunted MTL original series, The Dead Life. Please share your thoughts about the story with us.
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.
Movies n TV
She Wolf, Art by Jennifer Weigel
So this isn’t a review but more just some thoughts…
I have to admit that I actually like the She Wolf music video by Shakira.
Maybe partly because my Zumba group back in the day used to dance to it with all of us cautioned to not to look up the music video for fear it would be too risque or something… (The Zumba dance to this was one of my favorites, and I loved our group of mostly 60+ year old retirees for all that some of them did act surprised at these things, whether or not they actually were.) Or maybe partly because it reminds me of Madonna’s Express Yourself, or by extension the famous dance scene in Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang.
It’s a guilty pleasure.
The ways these things evolve and stay the same over time fascinates me, especially how the messaging and movement change, and yet stay the same.
Anyway, I created this artwork based upon the She Wolf video and song, incorporating a Hazelle puppet head atop a modern Barbie doll body. I don’t recall what happened to Barbie’s actual head though I’m pretty sure I needed it for another project. (Technically I needed the body for another project too, and this was just a stopover.) Years ago this piece found itself part of the Women’s Caucus for Art website as one of the chosen artworks for the year. I was going to try to write something to go with it for Haunted MTL but instead I thought I’d share it as a lead up to my revisitation of my werewolf story from St. Patrick’s Day last year.
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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