Last time, Dani caught up with Alicia and the discussed books and the status of Mary, Alicia’s mother, who is still laid up from a broken leg. This week in the Haunted MTL Original The Dead Life, Dani looks at long-term plans with Jimmy – could a garden be the next step?
This is a serialized novel of post-apocalyptic zombie survival. Learn more about the story and setting at the series hub and take advantage of a complete list of installments.
“Go ahead and check in on your mom, Alicia. Let her know I am gonna come by in a bit.”
Alicia nodded and, after a brief moment, gave Dani a small hug. Dani initially felt surprised but returned the gesture by squeezing the girl’s elbow. She was a good kid.
Alicia wandered off, gesturing with a wave as she approached her and her mother’s trailer. Dani turned her attention to the units claimed by Jimmy and Edgar.
Jimmy and Edgar had opened the four she saw, removed various boxes, and contents had been strewn about in multiple piles, the two still obviously sorting through them. The presence of an overly furry lady’s coat on a coat rack caught her eye for a moment. She had no idea what fur it was, but the fact that Jimmy or Edgar had perceived enough value to hang the coat up was pretty funny. From what she had learned about them, she expected that was a Jimmy gesture, the more reflective of the two.
She made her way down the row, which was the main row connected to the front gate. Sure enough, she saw Jimmy, the slighter of the pair, standing at the front entrance. His hair had grown a bit longer, and he had a tangle of red curls starting to form. He was in sweatpants and a t-shirt salvaged from one of the boxes. As she approached, she noticed the neon-colored graphic of a boat with “Catalina Open ‘92” in stylized letters on the back.
She presumed nobody in their sanctuary had ever been to Catalina before.
“Why is the car out of the way?” she asked as she approached.
Jimmy looked back; his hands were on his hips, intently studying the building across the street. He pointed to them.
“Edgar is scouting that building, so we’re keeping the gate free to roll open when he gets back.”
“Believe it or not, that giant is very quiet.”
Giant didn’t even begin to describe Edgar. He was a sizeable Mexican man. While only about 5’9”, by most estimations, he was thick, a seeming combination of muscle and fat. Edgar was like a wall. Dani was glad to have him.
Jimmy was different. He was skinny, and his muscles were ropey. He looked underfed, and his raid hair had not only grown longer at the top of his head, but he was beginning to develop a rat nest for a beard. Dani would need to get him something to trim it next time they were on a supply run.
He was pretty wired-looking when he first came to the U-Stor-It, but in the time since, he seemed to have mellowed out, seemingly enthused at the company and things to do. He was one of the hardest working people she had met, always up to something to make the location more livable, and the first to assist in projects.
He didn’t even bother hiding his track marks lately. Dani wondered how long ago he’d kicked his habit and if the work helped him manage.
“Any idea what he is looking for over there?”
Jimmy scratched his chin vigorously, and Dani could hear the rustle of hair. “We saw that it is a school district facility or something. I think they make food there, and there could be buses.”
Dani technically lived around the corner, right from the building. She hadn’t paid attention to it at the time. Dani did recall a colorful mural on one of the walls. She supposed she saw some buses there from time to time as well. It was shocking how disconnected she felt from the location across from her apartment of two years.
“Why are we interested in buses, Jimmy?”
“Well, if we can hotwire them, we can take a couple of them and build a wall around the parking lot in front of us.”
Dani looked at the lot; they hadn’t been able to use it due to the need to reinforce the broken gate.
“We could find a way to make another gate and have two layers of protection here,” she added.
“Yep. Maybe even park a couple of cars or a truck for supply runs.”
“It could also give us a chance to fix the gate.”
“Yeah. I feel really shitty about breaking it. I swear I’ll fix it.”
Dani took a few steps forward toward the rolling gate and shrugged. “You didn’t know anyone was here, and you’re doing what you can to help. Nobody is mad.”
Jimmy pulled a crumpled pack of cigarettes from his sweats’ pockets and a book of matches from the other. He lit up and began to puff away. Dani watched him for a moment, and soon enough, he nodded at her, plucking the cigarette from his lips and offering her a puff. She enjoyed it. She handed it back.
“Is he going to be okay by himself?”
“If it were me, you’d be right to be worried. Edgar, though, fucker is built differently. He won’t be long. Besides, I really, really want to get to the parking lot.”
“We have plenty of parking here.”
“It’s the grass. The soil. I think I can get a garden going.”
Dani’s eyes narrowed. “No shit?”
“No shit. I was 4-H in high school, and my parents shipped me off to a boy’s ranch as a kid. I picked up the knack for growing.”
Danit thought back to the day he and Edgar had crashed the gate of the storage place. Dani and Bob had found marijuana packed up in one of the units belonging to Jimmy.
“So that weed was homegrown, I assume?”
“I can grow potatoes too.”
“I’m sure you can.”
Jimmy took a couple more puffs and handed the cigarette back to Dani.
“I have some ideas, but I need the supplies.”
“Do tell,” Dani urged.
“Well, I can build some garden boxes, but I need wood, wire, liners… soil bags… seeds; it’s a lot.”
“Makes sense,” she added, “thinking of loading up one of the buses?”
Jimmy looked over at the truck still parked against the front office’s windows.
“That moving truck would have been perfect. I hope we can salvage that if we close the lot.” He took the cigarette back from Dani. “I am thinking about a lot of supplies because I have a much bigger idea.”
He paused for a moment, perhaps worried he was going to sound crazy or something.
“Dani, do you know what is next to us,” he gestured behind them as he spoke, back toward the southern part of the U-Stor-It, “that area between us at the houses?”
“A drainage ditch for one, and a dirt alley with the railroad tracks.”
Dani remembered that a railway, abandoned, had run through part of Emmett for nearly 60 years, an artifact of the day when the town was known for orange groves. She saw where he was going with this.
“You want to seal the place up and grow back there?” she asked.
“It’d give us a lot more room than some boxes and a strip of grass in front of the office.”
It was a good idea, but the project seemed like a massive pain in the ass, especially given the need to secure the area and move the goods. She understood why Jimy and Edgar were interested in the buses.
“The problem is,” Jimmy continued, “we can’t risk losing that truck in front of the office yet because we can’t reinforce the window frame. We don’t have anything else that can work to haul around the supplies I need.”
Dani thought about it for a moment. Jimmy offered her the last few puffs of the cigarette, but she politely waved it off, deep in thought. She thought back to the area around them and where they had been in the previous few weeks.
She remembered something about her flight from the apartments where she had lived before the bullshit went down. The place was around the corner and seemed so much further away when she first escaped. Now it offered a tantalizingly close solution.
“I know where we can find a moving truck.”
Jimmy’s eyebrow raised, intrigued. He dropped the cigarette butt and mashed it with the toe of his sneakers.
“Hell yes.” He beamed. “Fuck yes.”
Did you enjoy this installment of the story? How do you think the system they opt for regarding supplies will work out for them? Let us know what you think and what supplies would be your zombie apocalypse necessity.
The Dead Life is a Haunted MTL original fiction series.
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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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