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Last time, Dani and Jimmy discussed plans regarding the storage yard’s future. They also spoke briefly about Edgar’s recent scouting project. This week in the Haunted MTL Original The Dead Life, we catch up with Edgar and see what he has been up to – and how useful an ax can be.

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.

The Dead Life section break for story about the usefulness of an ax

Day 25

Edgar had been scouting the district office for a couple of days now. The entire premises was locked up, and all gates had been padlocked shut in a hurry except for one rolling gate that had nearly been demolished by a school bus that had burst through. The tires were shredded now, and unmistakable brown trails of dried blood marked the dusty yellow surface and the windows inside. Behind one of the brown streaks, there was motion… one of the undead was still wandering inside, seemingly pacing up and down the aisle, content with its small domain.

Despite his size, he had managed to stay low on foot, crouching and crawling between vantage points around the block and always warily turning his gaze around. When these creatures were not alert and moaning, they ran eerily silent. He had nearly had a close call as he crawled past the front office and not seen a ghoul walk out from between a pair of abandoned sedans. That had been the first day of scouting, and it had rattled him so much that he shouted and alerted a few more in the area. He had fled back to the storage lot for safety, and he and Bob had picked up the trio of stragglers that had followed from within the safety of the metal gate.

Edgar would not make such a mistake again.

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Based on Edgar’s observation, the only point in and out that was walkable was the busted rolling gate, but that area also had a pair of wandering ghouls in addition to the ghoul within the bus.

It was manageable, but what concerned him most were the sounds he had heard from inside, echoing out between the building of the district campus. Periodically there was shouting and the clanging of pipes and slamming doors, punctuated by a series of moans from the ghouls.

Edgar was unsure of the disposition of the survivors, but the clamor was great, and he was sure it was more unknown people he was willing to deal with on his own, especially given the incident with the police car.

The good news was that the patterns the ghouls seemed to follow were aimless but also felt almost regular, as though they would reach some boundary, invisible or not, and reverse course. Today would be the day he would test that and work his way into the district grounds to see what he could find.

He came in low, practically on his hands and knees, following along the side of the bus, out of sight of the closest ghoul. When he was close enough, he squeezed himself under the bus. If it hadn’t been due to starving, he would have been unable to do that, he thought. It was a small comfort. He shuffled quietly on his belly under the bus, toward the front, and watched desiccated feet shuffled back and forth; the sticklike legs were in tattered slacks, and one foot was socked but without a shoe.

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He watched the ghoul’s motion until it came close enough. He pulled a small camping hatchet from the back of his pants and grabbed at one of the legs, tugging hard. Instead of dragging it under, the leg snapped off, and the ghoul fell to the ground.

“Fuck,” he whispered. He scrambled out from under the bus and grappled at the waist and back of the ghoul as it trashed. With an overhead swing, he brought the ax blade to the back of the skull, cracking it open before the ghoul made a sound. Pausing for a second to see if it was done thrashing, he scrambled to his feet to the other side of the bus, peeking out from the front, wary of any movement.

That hadn’t gone as planned. Edgar glanced down at the tire of the bus, noticing it was shredded and not an easy fix. He wondered what the possibility was of replacing it but realized where he was in relation to the bus. Sure enough, Edgar stood in front of the open door. He couched and held silent for a moment. The ghoul inside must have been in the far end because there was no sign of it.

He took his ax blade and tapped the handle at the first step, crouching against the side of the bus. The wait was long for the ghoul to spill forth, enticed by the sound. When the creature arrived, it tripped down the stairs, crumbling into a dusty, rotten heap. Edgar pinned it down on the ground with his knee on its back and gave it a couple of violent thwacks with the blade.

The facility would take a long time to clear at this rate. With no ghouls in sight, and his exit seemingly opened, he pushed forward, taking a low run toward the first building, which appeared to be the bus depot.

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The building was a small outbuilding combined with what appeared to be a large carport meant for bus maintenance. There was no sign of a wandering ghoul, so he ducked into the small office that seemed to operate as a dispatching area. The place was a wreck, but there were no signs of life except for some smears of blood on a table. Peering out from the office, he saw the prize of school buses. There were three parked in a large lot, and there was a lone bus in the bay that was mid-operation. Other busses had been out on the job when the place had gone into lockdown. But the remaining three were just what he was hoping to find if they were still operational.

He turned his attention back to the small room. There were a couple of computers on desks, a couple of phones, a small table and some chairs. Little else, but he checked behind the desks anyway. He was surprised to catch sight of a minifridge but then realized what was in there had probably become little more than sludge.

Curiosity won out, however, and he crouched down, opening the door. The scent of rot punched him in the face, nearly knocking him onto his ass, but the sight of a sealed can of cola won out. He snatched the can up and slammed the refrigerator shut, gagging all the while.

After a few moments where he could collect himself, he studied his can of cola. It had picked up a little odor from the fridge’s contents, and he ineffectually attempted to wipe away any grime on his pant leg.

He turned the can over and saw it was a diet soda. He grimaced at the idea of a diet soda but also realized there wasn’t much of the stuff left in the world.

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He checked the label, and sure enough, it was good. He cracked the tab and took a sip of the sickeningly sweet cola. Content, he took it down in a series of huge gulps.

He finished the last sips and set the cat beside him. There was no sound coming from anywhere outside of the office. He rose to his feet, glanced out the door, and made his way to the closest building, which seemed to be some sort of administrative spot. He kept his creeping, crouched movements and went to a glass doorway. He noticed that things had been piled up against it on the other side, serving as a barricade. There was just enough room near the top of the door for someone to look out from. Edgar kept out of sight and approached the door, placing his ear to it.

Sure enough, there were voices. 

Raised voices. 

Shouting.

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Gunshots.

“Fuck, fuck.”

Edgar scrambled away from the door, falling over a couple of times, dashing his way back toward the garage area. 

Sure enough, dreadful moans seemed to echo all around, and the sound of muffled gunfire from inside continued to pick up. He ducked around the corner into one of the bays and watched as shattering glass scattered over the walkway where he had just been, and office furniture and boxes tumbled out with a pair of people.

Edgar watched as they ran for their lives, a man and a woman. Both were thin. A third man spilled out of the same doorway and fruitlessly pulled a revolver trigger over and over. Out of ammo, he picked up his pace like a crazed beast and overtook the woman grabbing her by the hair and throwing her to the ground.

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Edgar saw him climb on top of her and club her with the revolver; the other man, who had been running from the gunman, whipped around to come to her aid.

Edgar threw himself out from behind the wall of the garage and ran toward the scene as the two men struggled over the woman, but four ghouls had begun approaching them from behind some parked cars.

“Watch out!”

Edgar waved and cried at them, but the two men played out their drama, ignorant of him. It was too late; the ghouls converged and fell upon the struggling men, tearing them apart.

Edgar watched in horror as greasy fingertips slashed at the gunman’s neck, and hot blood burst. In a second, another pair of hands grabbed at his scalp and began pulling out clumps of bloody hair. The other man hadn’t been as fortunate with two ghouls falling upon him and sinking rotten yellow teeth deep into the neck and shoulder. Edgar was shocked at how strong and quickly the monsters moved at the prospect of fresh flesh.

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Each man was stripped of skin and tissue by teeth and fingertips. Edgar had never seen the things feed. He felt like he was about to vomit, but Edgar swallowed down the acidic bile that rose in his throat and cautiously approached the group to see if he could at least help the woman.

The ghouls were distracted by their eating frenzy, and the sounds of the men’s screams masked Edgar’s heavy steps. As he was within a few feet of the gruesome scene, he noticed the woman moving. Her face, however, told a different story and amounted to little more than a bloody bowl. The revolver had smashed her nose and teeth, and she was drowning in her blood. Her gargles terrified Edgar. He had nearly drowned once himself, but that was at the beach.

He closed the gap between them and, tears in his eyes, brought the ax’s blade down on her face, smashing what was left of her head into three wet chunks. He cried as he put her out of her misery and, when finished, whirled around and smashed at the skull of the closest ghoul.

He flew into a rage, striking any head he saw in a pile, and after a few moments and a couple of near bites, had brained every single one of the ghouls and the men for good measure. He instinctively grabbed the revolver and absentmindedly pulled the trigger, hoping at least a single shot was left.

Still nothing. 

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He tucked the gun into his pants and noticed the commotion had begun to pull in a few stragglers. He sighed and ran for the administrative building, hoping he could find a way to wait out the storm.

The Dead Life section break for story about the usefulness of an ax

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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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Komodo Dragons

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This time on Nightmarish Nature, we are considering Komodo Dragons.  These awesome lizards are the largest in the world and are native to Indonesia.  The lizards don’t get to be full-sized without feasting on a lot of meat and are known to prey on animals notably larger than themselves, even including deer and water buffalo.  But honestly, they pretty much eat anything they can get a hold of, including smaller Komodo Dragons.

Tongue-tied Komodo Dragon drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Tongue-tied…

Beyond Bad Breath

If you’ve ever wondered just how far really bad oral hygiene can take you, then look no further.  Although the Komodo lacks the bite strength to employ strangulation as an attack strategy, like crocodiles do, it is a dangerous and formidable hunter.  Long assumed to be the result of bacterial infection, Komodo bites are outright deadly, and this is in part due to their thick viscous saliva.  It’s all about the spit, ’bout the spit, that trouble. Eat your hearts out, Rottweilers, you ain’t got nothing on this.

And Komodo Dragons rend their victims’ flesh with serrated teeth and saw into the muscle, adding to the wounds’ ability to fester. Because of course they do. If you want to see some horrifying pictures of how this plays out, you can read about it in this NIH National Library of Medicine account of a zookeeper attack and recovery, complete with full color images not for the feint of heart.  Just wow, what a meaty mess…

All about the spit Komodo Dragon drawing by Jennifer Weigel
All about the spit…

Bacteria Versus Venom

It has more recently been shown that Komodos, like other Monitor lizards, actually do possess venomous saliva, and that this can inhibit clotting and cause blood loss, paralysis, and extreme pain, symptoms previously believed to result from bacterial infection.  It’s possible that their bite contains some of both, and in reality the why doesn’t matter so much as the ewww factor.

So regardless of whether there is venom or bacteria at play, a Komodo Dragon’s bite is nasty nasty.  Like you don’t want any part of those so-called love nips, even more so than with sharks.  (Side tidbit: male sharks have a propensity for biting during mating, so female sharks’ hides are thicker to withstand this sort of engagement.  In fairness, sharks use their teeth to explore the world around them, so this comes as no surprise really.)

"Hey baby..." You look good enough to eat shark drawing by Jennifer Weigel
“Hey baby…” You look good enough to eat

If you enjoyed this bite of Nightmarish Nature, 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

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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Reindeer Give Pause

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So reindeer aren’t generally thought of as all that scary, unless you have elafiphobia.  But since it is the holiday season and they are among the most celebrated animals this time of year, here are some fun facts about reindeer and their deer kin that are weird and even a bit creepy.

Female reindeer also have antlers and continue to grow them during Christmastime, whereas the males shed theirs in November.  So the antlered reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh are girls.

Girl reindeer all dolled up and ready to go drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Girl reindeer all dolled up and ready to go

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Some reindeer make a clicking sound as they walk so they can stay together as they travel through adverse weather.  Better than yelling “Marco” (or “Polo” in response) around every bend…

Deer have very good night vision and reindeer can even see ultraviolet light, which helps them to spot predators and find food in the arctic.  Speaking of food, deer have been known to gnaw on bones or flesh (including that of humans) and even eat small animals like birds and mice.

Vampire Deer

Some deer species, like Musk Deer, grow fang-like tusks instead of antlers, making them appear vampirish. They use their tusks like other deer use their antlers, with males fighting one another during breeding season.  Tusks also come in handy when foraging for food and fending off predators.  Plus they really up the deer’s Goth presence…

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"Vampire" musk deer drawn by Jennifer Weigel
“Vampire” musk deer

And if you’re into teeth, upper canines among whitetail deer are rare and have been highly prized.  They’ve even been incorporated into prehistoric necklaces and royal jewelry, ‘cause teeth used as decorative accents are always a bit macabre.

Previously on Nightmarish Nature

So there are some fun, somewhat creepy facts about deer.  If you enjoyed this bite of Nightmarish Nature, please check out past segments:

Vampires Among Us

Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

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Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades ?

Oh, and in the spirit of the holidays, here’s the reindeer’s top pick for a Christmas song, Must Be Santa as sung by Bob Dylan

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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Terrifying Tardigrades

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OK so I lied. The dust hadn’t fully settled in Cozmic Debris, the space opry I’d written over the course of this month (you can catch up here with Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). In fact, it’s blown over into Nightmarish Nature for one last final huzzah…


The Last Chapter of Cozmic Debris

Kara-2-6000 had just signed on with the Voyager probe and was eagerly engaged in her first mission, en route to Mars with more components for the terraforming effort.  It seemed like a pretty simple gig, cleaning up the space dust that accumulates on the vessel after landing on the red planet.  She had been trained to keep her eye on her work and pay attention to details, that the dirt tended to collect in unusual ways in strange places, and that it was critical she contain and seal all of it to keep the spacecraft in proper working order.  She entrusted the computer to keep the vessel on track, as it was preoccupied with doing and never engaged otherwise.  No matter.  She’d never been to space before and the newness of it had her rapt attention.  What stories she would have to tell once she paid off her student loans and got her human body back, for surely Mars must be an exciting place…

Cozmic debris don't die, hanging out in space with tardigrades poop, artwork by NightCafe AI art generator
Cozmic debris don’t die, hanging out in space with tardigrades poop

And now for Nightmarish Nature…

So, this time on Nightmarish Nature we’re visiting Terrifying Tardigrades… Wait, seriously who comes up with this stuff anyway? Tardigrades are actually kinda cute, at least in the nerd fandom sense, and are remarkable in their ability to survive and withstand crazy adverse conditions. For all that the AI art generator doesn’t seem to have much of a clue what their anatomy is like, they really don’t do anything that scary, unless you’re a yummy little single celled critter that lives in moss in which case pretty much everything has it out for you… Oh, I see that the Cozmic Debris space opry usurped this segment. May as well run with it then.

Confused tardigrade wondering why they appeared on Nightmarish Nature, drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Confused tardigrade wondering why they appeared on Nightmarish Nature

So what’s so terrifying about tardigrades anyway?

So I don’t actually have much to say about tardigrades except that they started this whole crazy journey here on Haunted MTL. A Facebook friend posted a link to the Ze Frank True Facts video on them (linked here if the below video doesn’t load), and I was instantly hooked. It’s a great series and is part of the inspiration behind Nightmarish Nature here on HauntedMTL. So if you like learning about all kind of crazy animal facts and nature weirdness, feel free to check it out. I will mention, the show contains adult themes and is designed for (im)mature audiences, so keep that in mind as you foray into the freaky side of nature, literally.

And if you want to go further down the rabbit hole exploring True Facts, my favorite episodes of all time are Pangolin’s Posse and Freaky Nudibranchs. Help the Bats is also a fave.

To more of my Haunted MTL series on Nightmarish Nature about things that are a bit more terrifying, please feel free to revisit previous segments here:

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Vampires Among Us

Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

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