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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
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.”
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.”
“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.
“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.
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.
Revisitations: The Devil Went Down to Georgia
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?
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.
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.
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…
Cravings Part 2, story by Jennifer Weigel
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.”
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.
“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.
Cravings, a Pregnancy Horror Story by Jennifer Weigel
Here is Part 1 of Cravings, a pregnancy horror story considering darker cravings and changes in contrast to the glow that comes with the all-too-often toxic-positivity focus of carrying a child.
“Honey, I’m home,” Jayden’s voice echoed through the house like a bad 50s sitcom rerun for all that he didn’t watch those kinds of shows. The callout seemed equally rehearsed and hopeful but harbored a hint of fear in the way his voice cracked that didn’t bespeak Mayberry or the like. He waited for his wife Claire to greet him at the door. The house was still and cold with all of the heavy drapes drawn and no lights on anywhere. He glanced towards the dark bedroom where she must be napping, like the day before and the day before that, for weeks and months on end now.
Honestly, Claire hadn’t been the same since she’d finally conceived, following that witch doctor Miracle Madame Maresh Meliasma’s advice after years and years of trying to get pregnant. Now Claire was lethargic and succumbed to migraines, nightmares & morning sickness that kept her bedridden much of the time, screaming bloody murder because of her headaches if anyone so much as flicked on the lights. And she had barely even gotten into the second trimester. Jayden had read that it was supposed to get better but there didn’t seem to be any improvement; if anything she seemed to be getting worse. He tried to get her to see her doctor about it but she snubbed the idea. “After everything they put us through, all those years of fertility treatments, the invasive procedures, the bills… No way. To Hell with modern medicine,” Claire had retorted.
So now here they were, readying themselves for their first child. Maresh had foreseen that Claire would birth a healthy baby boy, and with all of the card readings, spiritual advice and herbal concoctions, Claire had fallen right in line, hanging onto the witch doctor’s every word. Jayden was still frustrated she wouldn’t consult with her normal doctor, but she instead visited with Maresh every day through Instachat online for about an hour and even invited the creepy old woman into their home once a week on Thursday mornings to supply fresh herbs, massage her aching joints and swelling tummy, and call forth healing realigning energies with elaborate candlelit rituals. Claire could focus on only one thing: anticipating the pending home birth and natural delivery of their firstborn child, still several months away.
Jayden wished his wife had never set foot in that weird alternative new age spiritual center, something about it had just seemed off. It wasn’t the crystals or candles or psychic energy books that seemed to line every surface; he wasn’t into any of that mysticism crap but it seemed pretty innocuous. He recalled small figures made of sticks, straw and mud, and giant Mason jars boasting exotic herbal remedies, and the lingering scent of something sickly sweet decaying, all of which was genuinely unsettling, but it wasn’t really that either. There was something decidedly sinister about the place that he couldn’t quite put his finger on, more caught up in the air surrounding and within the space itself. It settled into his gut like that feeling you get when you know you’re being watched by some unseen far away presence or when you meet someone you know deep down has ill intentions. And Maresh herself was just as disturbing; she only ever addressed Claire and had not uttered a single word to Jayden in the entire time. In fact, she acted as if she looked right through him without even seeing him.
As days turned into weeks into months, Claire became more withdrawn and more obsessed about the baby. She never left the house, locking herself away in the gloomy stagnant nest and occupying herself with the remedies, rites and rituals that Maresh suggested. Oh, and knitting. Jayden hadn’t realized that Claire knitted since he had never seen her do so before, but her hands were a frenzy of motion, whipping silver needles back and forth and pulling soft white yarn between them like a growing umbilical cord tethering her to the circumstance at hand like some sort of strange pregnancy lifeline. The so-called blanket she was producing grew larger and larger every day.
Jayden snapped out of his reverie to see his wife eyeing him from the hallway. She studied him up and down slowly, staring longingly at his body. She inadvertently bit her lower lip in anticipation, teeth striking flesh to cut forth a small droplet of blood. Her tongue eagerly danced across her pursed mouth and lapped it up before withdrawing again.
“Aw, what’d you bring me this time, Sweetcheeks?” Claire smirked; eyes alight with flame like a cat readying to pounce
She had been ravenous throughout the pregnancy so far, and her cravings kept getting stranger and more bizarre as time passed. The other day, Jayden had fetched boiled shrimp, and she had devoured over 2 pounds of the mud-bugs in less than an hour’s time, shell, tail and all, their little legs matted together like thick wet whiskers. Today she had requested pickled eggs, the kind that they import from Europe or Dutch-country Pennsylvania in those big almost gallon-sized jars, stained pink with beet juice vinegar. Jayden procured the giant jar of eggs from the paper bag in his arms. Claire lunged at him and grabbed up the prize, prying the lid off in one fell swoop. She reached in, pulled out a pink rubber-looking egg still dripping with brine, and shoved it in her mouth whole. She hadn’t even bothered to chew it before she grabbed another to meet the same fate. And another.
I hope you have enjoyed the first part of this story. Part 2 will air next time here on Haunted MTL. In the meantime, feel free to follow your cravings and order up some midnight munchies, or listen to this lullabye.