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.
Reanimating Dead Art with Monsters by Jennifer Weigel
Dead art… It’s a thing that happens, sadly. Typically found at thrift and antique stores or dumpster diving or by the side of the road. But art is never really dead, just resting… Here are some reanimated paintings I made by incorporating nail polish monsters into existing art.
Let’s face it – reworking old abandoned artworks with monsters kind of rocks. For awhile they were all over the internet. I admit, it took me a long time to muster up the courage to paint into someone else’s grandmother’s art, but once I started I just couldn’t stop. From top to bottom, left to right we have: Zombies, Unicorn, Siren, Krakken, Harpies, Sasquatch, Alien Invasion, Witch, and Serpent.
The dragon is probably my favorite. All of the shades of red are really vibrant and striking against the green. And dragons are always so classic and grandiose and terrifying, perfect for pairing with a mountain landscape. I love painting with nail polish for the sparkle, even if the fumes do get kind of noxious en masse. (The best subject to paint in this media is Rocky Horror style lips by the way, in case you were wondering.)
And what better way to complete the collection than with a portrait of a Fairy Queen, her icy stare drilling into your soul. She’s up to some sort of magical mischief, that’s for sure.
And speaking of magical mischief, this is the monster painting I made just for me. The original artwork is about 4 feet long and I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted to reanimate it in this exact way for all that this is the last in the series that I did. I even added extra shimmer factor. I’d initially considered adding a sea serpent or a dragon but no, she told me to stop.
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.
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.