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Day 17

The sound of the police siren was the loudest thing Dani had heard in weeks, louder than the explosions she had heard on the day when the world ended. At first, she stood in shock – unable to wrap her mind around what she was hearing.

She glanced around at Jimmy, Edgar, Mary, and Alicia; they also stood still, staring toward the direction of the sound. The police car swerved into view, dodging abandoned cars along Esplanade. It made no effort to slow down and Dani assumed the driver had not seen them. She and the others probably looked like ghouls to the person speeding by.

Dani felt her heart pound and her stomach tighten. The ghouls in the area had slowly turned to track the car that had sped through. She watched the dead bastards make awkward, lurching motions further down Esplanade – despite the car being out of sight and the fading siren.

Jimmy glanced at her, his eyes wide. Edgar looked puzzled, having popped up, hand resting on the open door. Alicia had partially leaned out of the car. She stared in the direction where the cruiser had come from.

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Dani had already crept toward the street to get a look around the wall. It was instinctual. The weight of the iron poker in her hands did little to reassure her.

She stopped just short of the street and took a breath. She approached the wall and leaned against it. After a moment to steel herself, she leaned forward enough to look down the city’s main thoroughfare.

A ghoul immediately swiped at her with a flailing stick and tissue arm. She dodged it and brought her fireplace poker down on the spindly, shattering it. The ghoul stumbled forward from the weight of the blow and she quickly drew her arm back and down again, crushing the skull.

Her fears had been confirmed. A trail of ghouls was making its way down the street in the wake of the cruiser.

“Fuck.”

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Only now a small group had noticed her dispatching one of their own – maybe. She didn’t know if their brains worked that way and she didn’t want to stick around to confirm it, either.

Dani turned around and started waving the rest of the group off. Her hand made wild arcs forward, pushing them on. She didn’t say anything, not wanting to attract more attention.

Jimmy was already working to push a cart down the embankment onto the street. Edgar had already climbed over to the driver’s side and was waving at Dani. His meaty hand slapped at the roof.

Dani nearly tackled the other cart and began wheeling it down the embankment as Edgar began to turn the engine. They had to hurry.

The Dead Life is a Haunted MTL original fiction series.

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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 Series

Nightmarish Nature: Cannibalism

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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

Monkey cannibalism, staring at you, smiling wide and thinking about Brains...
Drawing of monkey cannibalism, thinking about Brains…

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.

Social Demonstration

African Wild Dog cannibalism, tongue lolling out
Drawing of African Wild Dog

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

Tom Cat calling out "Here kitty..."
Drawing of Tom Cat calling out “Here kitty…”

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.

Sexual Cannibalism

Cannibalism in spiders: 'cause spiders eating just about anything is terrifying, and they eat just about anything
Drawing of spider yelling “More spiders”

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.

Peacock Spider mating ritual

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:

Vampires Among Us

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Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

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Original Creations

Revisitations: The Devil Went Down to Georgia

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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?

Charlie Daniels Band, Devil Went Down to Georgia, Live

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.

primus, devil went down to georgia, animated

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.

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The Devil Went Down to Georgia Revisitation art by Jennifer Weigel, nail polish on found thrift store painting by L. Harady
The Devil Went Down to Georgia Revisitation art by Jennifer Weigel, nail polish on found thrift store painting by 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…

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

Cravings Part 2, story by Jennifer Weigel

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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.”

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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.

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“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.

Pregnancy 4, doll hands canvas art by Jennifer Weigel
Pregnancy 4, doll hands canvas art by Jennifer Weigel

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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