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Day 14

Rounding the corner onto Lyon Avenue, Danielle was relieved that there were no cars in front of the Family Storage that her parents owned. She steered the Focus into the small lot in front of the building and parked the car in front of the gate. There was bound to be no power to the complex so she would need to open the gate by hand. 

She was beginning to despise rolling gates.

She wondered about the people who used to work there. Her parents more or less had just given up on managing the business themselves a couple of years ago. Instead, they let an older woman named Sandy Gunderson live on the property as the manager. As far as Danielle knew, her parents would just collect the occasional check from Sandy in the mail.

Then, of course, was old Bob. He was the security guard. He used to show Danielle his collection of Vietnam stuff. He even taught her how to shoot, unknown to her parents and against their wishes.

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Danielle hoped Bob was still alive somewhere, safe.

She cut the ignition and stepped out of the car. Down Lyon Avenue was an older housing development. In the distance, she could make out some figures that were already approaching. The other direction, past Acacia and down toward Esplanade, the main street of the city, were more figures who were also heading her way. Behind her was the district nutrition center for the school district. She made a note of that for later. The storage units were far enough from the main thoroughfare that if she kept quiet most of the ghouls would not be altered to her presence. That was fortunate.

She shut the door of the Focus and walked to the gate. She hooked the end of the gate with the crowbar and began to pull.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

Dani’s head darted toward the sound of the voice and saw an old man, shotgun raised. His wrinkled brown skin and white beard were recognizable instantly to her.

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“Holy shit, Bob!”

Bob lowered his shotgun and laughed. “Danielle? Is that fucking Danielle Kim?”

Danielle lowered the crowbar and grabbed the gate with her free hand. She was laughing.

“Bob, you old son of a bitch, help me open the gate.”

Bob stepped forward and placed a worn and wrinkled hand on her own. “Baby girl, just punch in the gate code in about a minute.”

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Danielle was dumbfounded. “You have power?”

“Only as long as I got fuel. I got a generator hooked up so I can get in and out with little fuss.”

Bob shuffled over to his right, following a power cable that was hooked up to the gate control box. He vanished behind the outbuilding that served as the main office and on-site manager’s apartment.

Soon enough the sound of a gas generator filled the area. Danielle hurried back into the car and rolled up, punching in the code. The gate slid open and she drove through. She was parked just in front of the gate as it rattled closed and the sound of the generator fell silent.

Bob walked toward her and wrapped her up in a hug. It was the most comforting hug she had in what felt like years. He was deceptively strong despite how fail he looked. The man was close to his 80s by now, she had figured.

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“Bob, you’ve been here the whole time?”

“Danielle, I live here. Your parents hired me as security, remember?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t know you fucking lived here. Did you marry Sandy?”

Bob laughed and shook his head. “I can’t stand that woman, Hell no. I was living on the lot in my R.V.”

He jerked his thumb back behind him, a few rows back she could make out the empty area where customers were able to store their vehicles. Some RVs and a couple of boats filled the space.

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Danielle raised an eyebrow. “This isn’t an R.V. park.”

She paused and rubbed at her temple. “I can’t believe I fucking said that like it fucking matters. I am just so glad to see someone who isn’t covered in blood or trying to kill me.”

Danielle wrapped her arms around Bob. The old man gave her back a reassuring pat.

“C’mon, Danielle, let’s go have some tea with Sandy.”

Sandy Gunderson sat at the kitchen table, staring at Danielle Kim, the daughter of the owners. She wasn’t aware Danielle even still lived in town. Bob sat next to the young woman, pouring some whisky into her mug of tea. Danielle smiled and took a sip.

“I’m so glad you’re alive, Danielle.” Sandy took a sip of her own tea. “Bob and I have been keeping this place locked tight. Nobody was coming here when everything went south.”

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Bob scratched at his eyebrow. “Well, nobody living, that is. I’ve mostly been killing those bastards as they come and dragging the bodies over to that old drainage pit near the railroad tracks next to us.” He took a sip of tea, wrinkled his nose, and poured in more whisky. He continued, “It’s usually about two or three a day but they’re starting to really pile up. Smells like shit.”

“We’ve been keeping quiet, so they’ve not been coming around as much.” Sandy sighed. “But, well, since you got here you’ve probably dragged a few of them behind you.”

Danielle set her mug down. “I’m sorry if my coming here is a problem.”

Sandy smiled. “Not at all, it’s just, I hope you’ll do us a favor and help clean up before you leave.”

Bob’s eyes met Sandy’s. “Before she leaves? Hell no, it’s her parents’ place. She can stay if she wants.”

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“I’m just saying we only have enough supplies for myself and you, Bob…”

“We can get more supplies.”

Danielle removed the hair tie that had kept her ponytail up and she let her hair fall to her shoulders. “Look,” she said, “as far as I can figure it’s finder’s keeper’s now. I barely had any involvement with this place since my parent’s divorce. So as far as I am concerned, this is your place. I am just here for my Dad’s gun. I’ll gladly help take care of those bastards I brought to your door. but I am planning on leaving town after.”

Sandy smiled. “That’s perfectly fair, your dad’s unit is locked up. Let me find the key. I assume his gun is there.”

Sandy rose from the table and went downstairs. Bob leaned toward Danielle, he smelled of cigarettes, booze, and body odor.

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“Danielle, please. We have this place locked down, you can rest up for a while.” He glanced toward the door to the stairwell. “Don’t leave me alone with her.”

Danielle smiled and placed her hand on his shoulder. She squeezed it reassuringly and he placed his other hand on her’s.

“I’ll think about it, Bob. I just need to get that gun, first.”

The pair sat in silence for a moment, happy to see one another. Danielle held her cup of tea over in Bob’s direction and rocked it gently. Bob smirked and poured more whisky.

A sudden scream from downstairs sent the old man and the young woman scrambling to their feet from the kitchen table.

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Next Installment

Thank you for reading the fourth installment of the Haunted MTL original series, The Dead Life. Please share your thoughts about the story with us.

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Original Series

AI Journey: Little Red Riding Hood, Part 1

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And as promised in Big Bad Poetry, we shall embark on our next AI journey, this time looking at Little Red Riding Hood. I had wanted to depict her as the Big Bad Wolf one and the same, although maybe not so big nor bad. But it just wasn’t happening quite as planned. All of these are based upon the AI generated art and prompts using NightCafe and then created as posters in Canva.

Little Red Riding Hood beautiful woman with red cape hiding her wolf face.  Sinister style, July 29, 2023
Sinister style, July 29, 2023

So I actually like this even better than my original vision, it is playful and even a bit serene (especially given the Sinister style). The wolf is just being a wolf. It’s quite lovely, really. But it wasn’t what I had in mind, so I revisited the idea later to see if I could get that result…

Little Red Riding Hood with wolf face, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

Well, that’s not quite right…

Wolf face Little Red Riding Hood, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

Yeah more of the same…

What part of wolf face don't you understand?, Hyperreal style, Aug. 1, 2023
Hyperreal style, Aug. 1, 2023

And as you can see this is starting to devolve quickly. Join us again next week to see how this continued to develop… And if you want to catch the last AI art journey, you can find it 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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Original Creations

Big Bad poetry by Jennifer Weigel

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So considering my recent revival of a wolfwere and his Lucky Days and Nightmarish Nature’s hostile humanity, it seems we are due for a visit from Little Red Riding Hood, or perhaps even Big Bad himself… Here’s a poem on the subject by Jennifer Weigel.


Over the river and through the wood
flashed the fleet-footed Red Riding Hood
on her way to her “grandmother’s” house.

When running past, who should she see
but just one of the little pigs three
cowering like but a tiny mouse.

“But my dear piggy, what do you fear?”
Red Riding Hood asked as she slunk near,
teeth hidden under a sheepish smile.

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The nervous small pig looked up in fright
and decided that Red was alright,
missing the subtle clues by a mile.

“The Big Bad Wolf, that horrible beast
upon the other wee pigs did feast!”
the last little pig said with a squeal.

Red Riding Hood laughed with a great growl
and threw back her heavy long-robed cowl,
in a vast terrifying reveal.

For she was really the wolf Big Bad
hidden beneath the cape that he had
stolen from Red Riding Hood at point.

“And now I’ve caught you too my pretty
and surely t’wouldn’t be a pity
if I gobbled you up in this joint.”

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T’was then the wee pig leapt to his feet
And cried, “Big Bad Wolf, I shall defeat,
for I am no ordinary swine!”

The little pig also wore sheep’s clothes
spun in spells every woodland witch knows;
Old Granny herself was quite divine.

“Now give me back my granddaughter’s cape,
before I grab you by your ruffed nape
and send you pig-squealing down the road…”

The wolf dropped the cape and ran, that cur,
but Granny was swifter and hexed his fur
and the wolf she turned into a toad.

Thus the moral of this story goes,
when in the woods, no one really knows
what sheepish sheep’s clothing is a ruse
that big bad wolves and old witches use.

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So this is actually an intro to my next AI art journey with NightCafe which developed from me not getting the results I wanted (Little Red Riding Hood herself as a wolf). Here’s a preview with Eric’s versions as he is much more literal in his prompting than I am, but where’s the fun in that? 😉

Prompts (from left to right) in Dark Fantasy style, executed Aug. 1, 2023:

Bipedal wolf in Red Riding Hood’s cloak

Bipedal wolf in Red Riding Hood’s cloak close up portrait

Bipedal wolf in red cloak close up portrait

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
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 Series

Nightmarish Nature: Horrifying Humans

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So we’re going out on a limb here in this segment of Nightmarish Nature and exploring one of the most terrifying, most dangerous, most impactful species to walk this planet. I’m talking about us of course. Sure, as humans, we may not seem all that horrific to ourselves, but to many other creatures we have been a force of nightmares.

Humans male as drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Humans male as drawn by Jennifer Weigel

Why are we terrifying?

Humans are among those species that engage in massive modifications to our environment to serve our needs, like beavers who dam rivers, elephants who eat all of the new growth scrub to keep the savannahs tree-free, and so on. Yeah, all creatures have some impact on their surroundings, but some take it up a notch, and we do so at an order of magnitude higher still. And we have gotten so good at it that we have managed to exist and thrive in places that would otherwise be inhospitable. We are outwardly adaptive and opportunistic to the point of being exploitative. We are the apex predators now.

Sabertooth cowering as drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Sabertooth cowering as drawn by Jennifer Weigel

We have forced many creatures into extinction, intentionally and not, and have sped up these effects enormously. The National Audobon Society chose the egret as its symbol after it made a comeback from being hunted to near extinction, and it was one of the lucky ones. Many weren’t so lucky, especially if they came in direct conflict with humans, such as wolves and the big cats who were in direct competition, or those who were really specialized in really specific niche circumstances that we pushed out of the way. And this is in only a very very limited scope of our earth’s history, and has since been even more ramped up with industrialization.

Humans female as drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Humans female as drawn by Jennifer Weigel

But humans aren’t all bad are we?

Depends on who you ask… We have created all sorts of incredible opportunities for some species too. Take mice for example. And coyotes. And kudzu. And a whole host of animals whom we’ve domesticated, some of whom wouldn’t have continued to exist otherwise or certainly wouldn’t exist in anything resembling their current forms. And the most massive extinctions occurred long before our arrival, when the earth was still forming and underwent rapid catastrophic changes and swings, decimating critters as they were trying to get a foothold. Nothing is constant except for change; that has always been true.

Wolf begging for cheezborger drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Wolf begging for cheezborger drawn by Jennifer Weigel

So it isn’t my goal to get all eco-con​scious and environmentalist here. Just that I feel if we are going to explore some of the more terrifying aspects of nature, we need to look in the mirror. Because if a consensus were taken right here, right now of all living beings globally as to what is among the most terrifying creatures among us, I’m sure we’d appear on that list.

If you enjoyed this closer-than-kissing-cousins segment of Nightmarish Nature on Horrifying Humans, please check out past segments:

Vampires Among Us

Perilous Parenting

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Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

Reindeer Give Pause

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Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

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