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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: Something Rotten, Flesh in Flowers

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This time on Nightmarish Nature we will again explore some of the more fetid fungi and plants, this time focusing on those that imitate rotten flesh in order to attract flies. Among the best known of these are the Stinkhorn and the Corpse Lily or Corpse Flower. The Language of Flowers be damned, literally…

Fungi

Many of the fungi in the Stinkhorn family erupt in mushrooms that reek of rotten flesh and sprout from a white sort of egg sac in various forms, the common type being a phallus like structure with a white body and olive head. The Beefsteak fungus resembles, well, a cut of beef oozing blood. And some mushroom bodies of the Clathrus genus bloom in elaborate lattice structures or devil’s tooth and devil’s fingers that resemble terrifying alien beings. These odoriferous fetid fungi grow in decaying wood material and use their stinky attributes to attract flies and other insects which will then spread the spores from their fruiting bodies. They truly look like something out of an outer space or aquatic nightmare.

Some various fungi that can reek of rotten flesh, drawing by Jennifer Weigel.
Some various fungi that can reek of rotten flesh.

Plants

Some plants also utilize pungent putrid odors to attract flies and other insects, in part to aid in the pollination and dissemination but also to attract insect matter for their own needs, to absorb the insects for valuable nutrients that they cannot otherwise obtain. The largest flowers in the world bear many of these characteristics, also being among the stinkiest. And some pitcher plants mimic rotten flesh to attract flies upon which they “feed”.

The Titan Arum of Sumatra and Indonesia is a plant that over time produces a huge flower somewhat resembling a calla lily but larger as the plant body stores enough energy to do so. While Calla Lilies are often used to symbolize rebirth and resurrection and can be associated with death, often in a funerary setting, the huge Titan Arum does more than that, strongly mimicking decaying flesh in order to attract flies. These flowers can grow to almost 8-feet tall and bloom for only about three days before wilting; they are a huge draw at botanic gardens when flowering because of the rare nature of the event and the remarkable presence that the flower has, in both size and smell. The US. Botanic Gardens has a page devoted to this plant here, where you can even track previous blooms.

Titan Arum flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.
Titan Arum flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.

Another noteworthy flowering plant is Rafflesia, a parasitic flower native to Indonesia and Malaysia that feeds on the liana vine and grows from a sprouting body bud into a huge flower over the course of five years. Its flowers, once finally formed, can grow to almost a meter across and resembles something out of a horror film. These too smell of death and decay to attract flies in order to cross-pollinate. You can learn more about these unusual plants on this video from Real Science here.

Rafflesia flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.
Rafflesia flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.

If you’ve enjoyed this segment of Nightmarish Nature, feel free to check out some previous here:

Vampires Among Us

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Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

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Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

Horrifying Humans

Giants Among Spiders

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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Giants Among Spiders

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So, as you may have noticed, we have a special fondness for spiders here on Nightmarish Nature.  Well, they are kind of the spokes-critters for horrifying animalia, perhaps because they are so freakishly different from us.  Or maybe it’s because I find them a little disconcerting for all that I try to take the “you mind your business, I’ll mind mine” approach, at least if they stay outdoors. Or just because I really like to draw spiders for all that I prefer not to find them sharing my home (though I’ll gladly take spiders over other bugs or mice or larger critters who didn’t get an invite).

Anyway, this segment is devoted to the largest Giants Among Spiders, as if you didn’t have enough to worry about already.  And the top place is contested based upon body mass or leg length.  Most of these are tarantulas, which globally take top place among the large arachnids.

Goliath Birdeater Tarantula
I’m hungry… I bet you are…

Goliath Birdeater Tarantula

The Goliath Birdeater Tarantula of South America is the biggest brute of spiderdom, weighing in at over 6 ounces.  They build funnel burrows and are known to eat birds (although rarely), mice, lizards, frogs, and snakes, but largely any big insects including other species of spiders.  They have urticating barbed hairs that they fling at would-be attackers as an irritant to escape.  And people even eat them after they singe the bristles off. Here’s a National Geographic video showing this spider in action, in case you wanted to see a giant spider take out a mouse.

Giant Huntsman Spider drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Creepy crawly at it’s worst…

Giant Huntsman Spider

And with the longest legs, we have the Giant Huntsman Spider of Laos, with a leg-span of 12 inches.  Their legs have twisted joints and they move in a crab-like manner, which furthers their impressive appearance. ‘Cause they’ve got legs, and know how to use ’em.  They prefer to live in underbrush and cave entrances.  These are like the big relatives of their Australian cousins, which we’ve all seen online and developed a healthy aversion to.

Everything's cuter when it's fuzzy, right? tarantula drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Everything’s cuter when it’s fuzzy, right?

Brazilian Salmon Pink Birdeater & Brazilian Giant Tawny Red Tarantulas

Next we have two more South American species: the Brazilian Salmon Pink Birdeater, which boasts one-inch fangs, and the Brazilian Giant Tawny Red, believed to be the longest-lived spider with a lifespan of up to thirty years.   Both are in the tarantula family and have urticating hairs, a word you probably never read much before today unless you are in the hobby.  So apparently South America is not the best travel destination for you if you struggle with arachnophobia, though I suspect you’d figured that out already.  (I wouldn’t recommend Australia or Southeast Asia either.)

Face Size Tarantula drawing by Jennifer Weigel
Face-Size, sorry no Face or Face Hugger for scale

Face Size Tarantula

And finally the Face Size Tarantula, which has a very terror-inducing name reminiscent of the Face Huggers of Alien-glory.  Anyway, these spiders have an 8-inch leg-span and live in India and Sri Lanka.  They look kind of like big hairy wolf spiders with stripey legs, sometimes with pink and daffodil coloring.

If you enjoyed this eight-legged segment of Nightmarish Nature on Giants Among Spiders and their larger than life kin, 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

Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

Horrifying Humans

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Original Series

AI journey: Little Red Riding Hood, Part 3 Final

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So here is our last installment of our AI journey exploring the idea of Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad wolf being one and the same. All of these are based upon the AI generated art and prompts using NightCafe and then created as posters in Canva. Feel free to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this exploration if you missed them.

Forget this talk of sheep, it isn't helping..., Dark Fantasy style, Aug. 1, 2023
Dark Fantasy style, Aug. 1, 2023

A non sequitur I know, but I couldn’t resist. If you picked up where we left off you’ll get it.

So what about Little Red Riding Hood as a wolf?, Dark Fantasy, Aug. 1, 2023
Dark Fantasy, Aug. 1, 2023

Seriously?! Again with the cropped off head cop out…

Little Red Riding Hood as a wolf, seriously we want to see her face!, Artistic Portrait, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait, Aug. 1, 2023

Finally! That was a journey. And not even worth the result, in my opinion.

Anyway, here is a bonus montage I made out of a bunch of additional Red Riding Hood prompts for an article that never happened…

Little Red Riding Hood AI art montage, Nov. 4, 2023
AI art generated Nov. 4, 2023

Prompts for Montage:

1.) What if Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf were one and the same being?
2.) Her wolf face peering out of her red cloak, fangs dripping with the blood of another victim, lost in the forest and never found.
3.) Little Red Riding Hood closes in for the kill, lunging from her red cloak, her wolf fangs dripping with blood.
4.) I am Little Red Riding Hood. I am the Big Bad Wolf. I am coming for you.
5.) Howling within, the rage sears forth from the red cloak, discarded in the deep woods. Red Riding Hood succumbs to the lycanthropy.
6.) Heaving breaths. Dripping blood. Red Riding Hood is not what she appears. She is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
7.) Her red cloak masks the fangs hidden below the surface.
8.) It starts with a long sighing breath. Waiting. The wolf within stirs.
9.) Red Riding Hood trembles. She succumbs to the lycanthropy.
10.) The wolf bursts forth from within. It takes over Little Red Riding Hood’s mind, her body, her being.
11.) Red Riding Hood howls. She is ravenous with hunger for blood. The wolf within has taken over. Mind, spirit, body. She feasts on the blood of the moon.
12.) Big Bad Wolf Red Riding Hood ravenous blood moon feast
13.) Blood moon beckons. I. Little Red Big Bad Riding Hood Wolf. Freedom howling night curse.
14.) Beware. Bewolf. BeRedRidingHood. Betwixt. Beyond.
15.) I pad quietly as the forest dissolves around me. Red Riding Hood and Wolf, one and the same.
16.) Wolf within howling dark recesses of the mind, Red Riding Hood lost
17.) Red Riding Hood HOWL wolf bane true existence polymorph within-and-without.
18.) Red howl Riding Wolf dark existence brooding within

So thank you for joining us on another AI art journey. You can still catch the last AI art journey on Haunted MTL here.  To see more such devolutions into AI generated art, check out the Will the Real Jennifer Weigel Please Stand Up? blog.

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