Edgar entered the stock room, following after the girl pushing the cart. The stockroom was darker than the store was, and it took a moment for his eyes to adjust. When they finally could discern anything, he noticed Dani standing, supporting the weight of a woman who had a limp, bruised, and battered leg.
The teenage girl rolled the cart over the the other women and Dani glanced up at Edgar expectantly.
“Can you carry her?”
Edgar shrugged and made his way to Dani and the woman. Dani turned her face to the woman she had been bearing the weight of.
“Mary, this is Edgar. He is with me, he’s going to carry you, okay?”
Mary seemed apprehensive – likely alarmed by Edgar’s size. She nodded. “Alright. But what about my leg?”
Dani shook her head. “It’s really going to fucking hurt when it dangles, I will splint it when we get back to our camp.”
May grit her teeth and nodded rapidly. Edgar stepped behind Dani and lifted Mary’s arm over his shoulder and the back of his neck and, with a sudden motion, scooped the woman into his arms. Mary let out a sudden scream but covered her mouth with her free hand. Dani took a few steps back and turned to the teenager.
“I need you to push that shopping car in front of the door back there.”
Alicia looked puzzled.
“We need to come back to this place; I want to block off any of the doors with carts, so we know if something came in here later,” Dani explained.
Alicia shrugged and rolled the cart to the back door. Edgar began carrying Mary out of the stick room. Dani hung back so Alicia wouldn’t get separated. Edgar paused for a moment, allowing Mary to track her daughter as she did her task.
The group of four made their way to the front of the store where Jimmy was waiting, somewhat agitated, by two shopping carts of salvaged supplies. He spun around, shocked to see the group had grown by two more.
“Alright, so this is not what I expected out of a supply run” he said.
Dani made the introductions. “Edgar, Jimmy, this is Mary and her daughter Alicia. They were trapped in the stock room.”
Jimmy looked the two new survivors over and turned his attention toward Mary’s bruised leg. He glanced at Dani and was about to say something, but she cut him off. “It’s a break, a nasty one, but we should be able to set it. No cuts or anything.” She made sure to emphasize the “anything” as she spoke – no need to worry about an infection just yet. Jimmy shrugged, seemingly convinced for the moment.
He turned back and gestured to the carts – they weren’t exactly full, but it was still a rather nice haul. “I think we’ve done pretty well… we can stretch this. I am worried about getting back, though.” He pointed across the street, and Dani glared into the distance. About six of the ghouls were wandering a parking lot. Right between them as Dani’s position sat their car… right in the middle of the street.
Jimmy continued, “I think if we are very, very quiet, we can get this stuff loaded into the trunk. It’ll be a tight fit in the cab, but-“
Edgar shifted Mary’s weight in his arms, and she yelped as pain shot through her leg. Every one shuddered, alarmed by the sudden jolt of noise.
“It’s gonna be harder with Edgar having his hands full…” Alicia whispered.
Jimmy turned to the teen and nodded. “Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking.”
“Sorry,” Mary whispered.
Dani shook her head and looked at her, “It’s nothing to apologize for. We just need to think this over.”
Dani weighed their options for a moment. The six ghouls in the parking lot were toward the far end near an abandoned clothing store, a couple of ghouls could also be seen at the gas station kitty-corner to the drugstore and a small strip mall on the right-hand side had motion in the window of a liquor store.
Dani turned back to the group. “I think what we need to do is head out there quietly and open the doors and trunk. We can then have Edgar take Mary and Alicia to the cab, and then Jimmy and I can run the carts out and dump everything into the trunk as fast as possible.”
Edgar shrugged his shoulders, but the motion moved Mary in his arms, and she grimaced from the pain that shot through her leg. He looked at her with a furrowed brow.
“Sorry, Miss.” He turned his gaze to Dani and Jimmy. “That should work,” he added.
Alicia crept toward the entrance. “I can open the doors, if that will help?”
Mary glared at her. “Absolutely not!”
Everyone cast a hard gaze at Mary, chiding her for the sudden burst in volume. She flinched but continued, “I don’t want you out there by yourself.”
Abigail rolled her eyes. “Keys?” she asked.
“The doors are unlocked already,” Jimmy said. He tossed her the keys. “You just need to get the trunk.”
Abigail smiled and crept out the door. Mary began to wriggle in Edgar’s arms, but he held onto her tightly.
“Easy, Mary. Easy. We’ll keep her safe.”
Mary relented and fell limp. Dani and Jimmy rolled the carts into position as the girl made her way down the grass embankment. Within moments she had opened the rear passenger door and unlocked the trunk, ducking back out of sight from the ghouls wandering the lot across the street. She scanned the area quietly and waved Edgar over.
Edgar, ducking slightly to no effect, carried Mary and quickly and gingerly as he could across the parking lot of the drug store and down the embankment. With Alicia’s help, he managed to load Mary into the back seat, but the process was painful. Dani and Jimmy heard her whimper from inside the entrance and glanced at one another nervously.
Mary was loaded in, along with Alicia. Edgar was crouched near the front of the passenger side. He scanned the area and nodded at Dani and Jimmy. He continued to stay crouched, but something nearby was making noise. It grew closer as the other two began to roll the carts out from the drug store, and soon Edgar could tell it was a car.
But the sudden sound a police siren tearing through the air changed everything.
Nightmarish Nature: Cannibalism
Let’s return to explore more Nightmarish Nature, shall we? This segment focuses on cannibalism, as we generally find it icky / taboo and because it’s more common than you might think. There are many different reasons that different creatures engage in cannibalistic practices. Energy waste doesn’t last long in nature; gaps are filled as things evolve to utilize whatever resources are available to meet their own needs. C’est la vie (light up another cigarette). In any case, the challenge to the cannibal lies in determining kinship and not accidentally erasing their own line or progeny, thus decreasing their likelihood for survival over generations. Oh, and in avoiding those pesky prion diseases…
Resource Driven Cannibalism
Resource driven cannibalism can occur when competition for resources is high. This may be due to scarcity, with individuals taking to eating each other to avoid themselves starving to death (with those consumed either still alive and killed to this end, or eaten after death of other causes). Or it may be outside of the cannibal’s control, considering the spread of Mad Cow Disease from feeding beef meal harboring the prion disease (and parts from other mammals like sheep) to growing cattle to save money, ’cause it’s not like the cows were allowed to order whatever they wanted. Or it may be due to direct conflicts with other groups of the same species, either due to competition for resources, mating rights and/or territory. These behaviors have been noted in mostly male chimpanzees raiding other groups, which have even been documented as all out wars against other males in neighboring bands, campaigning to eradicate all outside of their ranks.
Thinking about chimpanzees, males are also documented to gang up on alpha males seen as too controlling or sadistic, with groups of younger males attacking and rendering the alpha male to pieces, often consuming his flesh and blood in the process. This can upend established hierarchies to replace them with new structures, for example with a new male taking on the role of leader. But cannibalism can also be used to reinforce existing hierarchies, as seen in African Wild Dogs wherein the dominant pair will kill off any offspring that other dogs may have birthed so that the pack will focus on raising only the alpha pair’s pups, thusly reestablishing and enforcing social structure while ensuring the best survival chances for the pups raised by channeling all resources to the one brood.
Infanticide & Filial Cannibalism
Like African Wild Dogs, other parents may also eat their offspring, or better yet their rivals’ offspring. Stillborn or unhealthy offspring may be consumed, or just any that they can get their hands on at birth. (Again with the young male chimpanzees…) Some creatures enter into cycles wherein smaller individuals are more vulnerable to predation by larger ones both within and outside of ones own species, as is seen among many fishes with eggs and smaller fishes playing an important role as prey to larger ones. Other creatures may engage in these practices to reduce competition (for themselves and/or their offspring) and/or increase opportunities to mate. Male cats are notorious for killing kittens that are not their own in order to bring females into heat again sooner, potentially increasing the likelihood of mating with said females themselves while decreasing future competition. Win-win! Female cats must take great care to hide their kittens in order to protect them from males as much as other predators, and can have kittens by different fathers within the same litter in order to increase their kittens’ overall survival as a group with father cats more willing to accept kittens when their own kin are present.
Mantids and spiders are especially known for sexual cannibalism, with larger females consuming males during copulation, but this is not always linked to vast size differences and does not appear in every species. Females who engage in this practice may have healthier eggs in larger clutches, thus increasing the survival likelihood of more of their offspring. Sometimes the risk to the male suitor of being mistaken for another species by an aggressive would-be mate is high, and various rituals have developed within certain species to help avoid such mistakes and entice the female to mate. Male spiders are known engage in elaborate dances, movements, tapping and silk spinning rituals to avoid being eaten pre-copulation or at all. It’s a hell of a lot more involved than a good pick up line and a well-timed drink, as you can see here.
If the above video doesn’t load, you can find it on PBS YouTube here.
Thank you for joining us for another exciting episode of Nightmarish Nature. If you enjoyed this, please feel free to check out these previous segments:
Revisitations: The Devil Went Down to Georgia
So I’ve been working on more painting into found art (as seen here before) and I thought I’d share a newer one, based on the song The Devil Went Down to Georgia by Charlie Daniels. But first let’s make like my She Wolf post enjoy a couple variations of the song, shall we?
First we have Charlie Daniels, the writer of the song which was inspired by the beautiful poem by Stephen Vincent Benet titled The Mountain Whipporwill. You can read the poem on Your Daily Poem here.
Then we have to watch my favorite version, the animated music video by Primus. I know there are claymation-haters out there who find the effect bit too “uncanny valley” but how can you not just love those chickens?
Anyway, without further ado, here is my painting, incorporated into a found still life, original signed L. Harady.
Here The Devil is defeated, crushed along the lower edge of the artwork beneath the fiddle and lamenting his loss. The bow jabs into his sneering nose as if to add insult to injury, but his eyes still glow, alight with the prospect of coming back for another round. (They actually do glow, I have acquired some blacklight reactive nail polish to use in these pieces now.) I suppose I may go to Hell for this portrayal (or for defiling yet another painting) but alas, such is the price of art sometimes. I guess I’ll add it to the list…
Cravings Part 2, story by Jennifer Weigel
If you missed the beginning of this pregnancy horror story by Jennifer Weigel, you can catch Part 1 here.
Jayden’s stomach turned. Who or what was this creature standing before him, and what had it done with his wife? Claire proceeded to eat more than half of the jar of eggs in a fury of consumption; Jayden finally retreated to the office alone unable to watch any more. He heard a sloshing sound as she finished the jar and proceeded to drink the brine before retreating to the bedroom and crashing into their bed, presumably to pass out. Again. Later that night, he crept in to find her sleeping, clammy and sweaty, nervously twitching. Her body made the most abnormal guttural sounds as her internal systems groaned and sputtered. It was definitely getting worse. Jayden resolved to call Dr. Randolph the following morning; this had gone on for far too long already.
The next day, Claire awoke with a start from another bad dream that she couldn’t remember. Crying uncontrollably, she clutched her swollen belly, still ripe with child, and hurriedly exclaimed, “Blood sausage! I must have blood sausage!”
Jayden woke from his curled-up safe haven beside her and muttered, “Wha… What is that? I’ve never even heard of such a thing.”
“Go!” she snapped. “I’m starving. Go now! Return with blood sausage.”
Jayden staggered over to the dresser, threw on some clothes, shuffled into his waiting shoes, and gathered himself to duck out the door in the well-practiced gesture he’d become so accustomed to. “I’ll stop on my way home from work, I guess,” he mused, making his own plans. Claire seemed to settle down a little as she woke further, but it was little consolation.
“Thank you Sweetcheeks,” she said. “You’re the best.” She blew him a kiss.
While at work, Jayden managed to secure an appointment with Dr. Beth Randolph, Claire’s primary physician since before he had known her, for later that day. He took off early and rushed home to gather his unwilling wife. She was going in, whether she liked it or not.
He opened the front door and peered inside. The house was dark and quiet, as he’d come to expect. He crept in and stole upstairs to the bedroom to rouse Claire from sleep. He’d tell her where they were going once he got her in the car, no sense in making this even more difficult than it already was. Unsurprisingly, there she was, a shadowy form hunched over in the bed, her back to him with the covers pulled up over her eyes. He peeled away the comforter and blanket to reveal a tangled mess of white knitted yarn; Claire was nowhere to be found. He looked around, trying to focus on the darkness of the bedroom that enveloped him. That unsettling feeling had returned, like he’d had at Maresh’s shop, sinking into his gut. Claire was here idling, watching, waiting; he could sense her presence sizing him up as if she could read his mind and was on to his plan. But why was her company so disconcerting? This was still their house, their home, their lives intertwined… Jayden felt his trust ebb, spine tingling sensing danger.
“Hey there Sweetcheeks,” Claire’s voice echoed from the darkness of the closet. “Do you have something for me?” She emerged into the room, her eyes wide, frothing slightly at the edges of her mouth. Tiny bubbles of drool burst forth from her quivering lips and trickled down onto her chin.
“I couldn’t find any… blood sausage… whatever that is,” Jayden lied through his teeth. He hadn’t even gone to the store. Claire should never have expected him back at this hour; apparently she didn’t even know what time it was. But that seemingly wasn’t a concern. She wasn’t herself. Something about her fragile frame, the way she rocked from side to side, reminded him of that crazy old witch doctor Maresh. He finally managed to connect the two; it was as though she were possessed. It was imperative that she saw Dr. Beth Randolph as soon as possible, if for no other reason than to sever ties to that crazy old hag and hopefully start to snap out of it. He simply had to get her to that appointment.
“No blood sausage!” Claire shouted, becoming more and more agitated. “No… blood… sausage!” Her breathing became less regular and her body shivered all over as she hulked towards him. “I am sooo hungry!”
She lunged towards him, stumbling into his arms and collapsing towards his feet laughing maniacally. Jayden reached for her instinctively, to lower her to the ground gently, and felt something sticky and warm envelop his hand. Feeling lightheaded, he glanced down as he fell to the floor beside her. Protruding from his gut was a long silver thread, no something pointedly metal and hard, oozing thick oil sludge all around. Not oil, blood. His blood. Claire continued laughing, her lightning-fast fingers quickly and methodically ripping their way into his tattered shirt and worming around within his wounded frame to pull forth bits of viscera, which she wrung in her hands and smeared up and down her arms and torso. As Jayden passed out, she mouthed each of her fingers in turn, sucking the precious liquid off of them one at a time, before she began to feast on his entrails.
Claire’s belly was finally full. The baby developing within squirmed and settled, as if finally satiated. She swiped a stray bit of flesh from her bosom, licked it off of her fingertips, and heaved a sigh of relief. Miracle Madame Maresh Meliasma was right; she just needed to get to the root of her cravings.