Connect with us

Published

on

Day 16

The noise generated by the rolling door of the storage unit was enough to tighten anyone’s ass given the situation. The storage facility made the sound louder and more sustained, thanks to an echo, and Dani winced each time a unit was opened up. It felt like every ghoul in the area would hear each sliding door and make their way to the Family Storage. Every open shutter would be like a dinner bell.

Bob peered into the unit for a moment and then stepped inside. Dani followed suit. It was a mess. The work of documenting the contents would have been much faster with Sandy’s help, but she had volunteered to keep an eye on the front office from the caretaker’s apartment above after they had sealed the shattered door with something more than cardboard.

It was not like Sandy would have approved of going into each unit, however. She somehow still believed that help would arrive any day now. Dani had no such illusions.

Dani’s gaze drifted from box to box in the unit, looking for some indication of the contents labeled on them. Most of them had no handwriting or sign of what was actually inside.

Advertisement

Bob was already deep into the contents of one box. He had assembled a hasty stack of books that continued to grow the deeper he dug. Bob had been particular about finding books all day.

It made sense. There had to be something else besides hiding from rotting, walking carcasses. Reading could pass most of the daylight hours. As for the night… well, there was sleep, Dani figured.

She turned her attention to a stack of boxes, uneven and haphazardly assembled. She grabbed the topmost box and moved it to a smaller stack. She pried it open and began to rifle through.

“Anything good?” Bob asked.

Dani held a handful of old letters in her hands.

Advertisement

“Not in this box unless you want some letters to read.”

“Might as well hold onto ‘em. It’s all that’s left of some folks. Might make for good reading.”

She tucked the letters back into the box and folded the flaps shut. She set herself to another smaller box. When she opened it she saw tangled piles of extension cables and Christmas lights.

“I found some cables and lights.”

Bob walked over to her and peered inside the box. He handed her a fat black marker.

Advertisement

“Might as well label it and pull it out of the unit. Might be able to connect them to the generator and give us some night lights if we need them.”

“Fair enough,” Dani said.

Dani labeled the box and set it right outside the unit. She turned her attention to the larger box that made up the bottom of the stack. So far most of these units had been uneventful but she had hoped some bounty was lurking within the over 200 units. So far 20 of them had been a bit of a bust.

But there were at least some books, thankfully.

She tried to shift the larger box but noticed it was very heavy. She peeled the tape that kept it sealed up and pried it open. She found herself staring at a box full of prepackaged nails and staples.

Advertisement

“Bob, we aren’t gonna be hurting for nails to build up the wall in the office…”

He stepped over and stared into the box and whistled.

“Well, let’s label it. We’ll grab it later.”

Dani scribbled “nails” onto the side of the box and on one of the opened flaps.

She peered around the unit. Bob was still engrossed in his books.

Advertisement

“Do you think we might stumble on more tools here? That is a lot of nails.”

Bob shrugged, he didn’t seem to be paying much attention.

“Might.”

Dani rolled her eyes. He was too far gone into perusing the collection he’d made.

Curious, she stepped around odd piles of junk, toward the rear of the unit. Just past a stack of boxes was a makeshift alcove. There stood a rolling tool chest and some gallon buckets filled with various tools.

Advertisement

Dani looked them over.

“Whoever had this unit must have been a contractor,” Bob chimed in right behind her.

Dani just about jumped out of her skin.

About an hour later they had hit their 23rd unit. The tools were the first of the more useful finds. So far it had been clothes, books, and paperwork in unit after unit. Fortunately, however, one unit contained a bunch of automotive supplies and parts. Neither Dani nor Bob knew if they’d be useful right away, but if something needed to be patched they hoped something in the collection would help. At least the two metal gas containers would be really helpful for later.

“Alright, we probably got one more unit before we should call it for the day. Gettin’ tired.”

Dani nodded.

Advertisement

Bob leaned over the lock and used his bolt cutters to cut it. The now useless combination lock hit the cement with a dull thud. Dani bent down and grabbed the latch at the bottom of the rolling door, and as gingerly as she could, she rolled the door up. Again, the sound made her wary. It was just too damn loud.

At first, the unit seemed oddly sparse. Just some card tables and some boxes resting on top. Dani and Bob looked at each other, shrugged, and stepped inside.

Bob leaned against the wall of the unit, a bit winded. He seemed very tired. It made sense given his age and circumstance. Dani took it on herself to check the boxes.

Her eyes grew wide.

“What? What is it?” Bob asked.

Advertisement

Dani pulled out a wax-paper-wrapped package. The smell of marijuana wafted through the unit, overlaying the musty air.

Bob did a slow blink.

“Is that… is that dope?”

Dani smiled.

“Like, a lot of it. At least three more of these packages in this box. Who knows what is in some of these other boxes?”

Advertisement

“Holy shit,” Bob whistled.

Dani opened the package. Sure enough, it was weed.

The celebration was cut short, however, with the sound of the front gate rattling.

No, not rattling. Violently shaking.

Something was trying to get in.

Advertisement

Next Installment

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

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Something Rotten, Flesh in Flowers

Published

on

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

Advertisement

Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

Advertisement

Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

Horrifying Humans

Giants Among Spiders

Advertisement

Continue Reading

Original Creations

Dirty Clean Sweep, a Short Story by Jennifer Weigel

Published

on

Wendell was a germophobe. His obsessions with cleanliness extended far beyond the reach of OCD and even hypochondria, because for all that he was totally infatuated with his own mortality and utterly convinced that he was sick, it was his peculiar obsession with germs that eventually drove him to an insanity that doomed the world to an unexpected and dire destruction. For Wendell was the reason for the Clean Sweep.

When the COVID pandemic happened, it only increased Wendell’s fear, and his germophobia worsened significantly. He started meticulously waxing all of the hair off of his body, even his eyebrows, and would shower several times per day, using an abrasive pumice to slough off any dead skin that might otherwise accumulate and attract mites. As his manners and habits surrounding cleanliness became more and more rigid and involved, he left his house less and less for any reason whatsoever. He began to treat his home environment like a hospital or chemical facility and reworked everything to minimize debris, personally installing air filtration systems that rivaled some of the most sterile industry environments and cleaning everything constantly (he had once worked in HVAC and now no longer trusted anyone else to be involved in his efforts).

He took advantage of all of the delivery services, with packages coming to his back porch once weekly. He had everything on video camera and would scream at anyone who didn’t follow his explicit instructions through a small speaker in the ceiling. If a delivery-person didn’t first sanitize their hands with the supplied wipes and then put on latex gloves and booties before turning the door handle to drop their package on the specified table, they were yelled at and reported, and a bad review was left for whatever service had sent them.

Dirty Clean hand sanitizer out and about
Dirty Clean…

Wendell only order packaged foods, simple soups and cereals that would not come in contact with the world outside of their factory packaged settings. He meticulously researched processing plants to determine what he could and could not consume according to his own standards of cleanliness. When a parcel was delivered, he would leave it where it sat for two to three days time depending on the weather, all the while monitoring it. He would eventually suit up in a tyvek jumpsuit, goggled and gloved, and brave the porch himself in order to extract his needed food and hygiene supplies. Whilst there, he would spray and wipe down the porch, replenish the hand sanitizing wipes and latex gloves, and take everything that might have come into contact with the outside world out with his trash. The cycle would then repeat again a few days later. Every delivery included yet more gear to perpetuate his clean infatuation. More latex gloves, more wipes, more sprays, more tyvek suits… And every time his labors increased…

While Wendell continued to go about his business, ordering life necessities like soap and soup online, a slow and subtle change to his environment began to take over. It wasn’t obvious and, as he never put any distance between himself and his bubble world, he was unaware of the shift. It began because of a spore, well more of an anti-spore like blossoming of suddenly self-aware sterilization. No one really knows where it came from, or how it managed to get such a strong foothold, but perhaps it was because of Wendell’s meticulous cleaning habits. For this strange and unusual being, or beings as it were (for it was hard to tell whether there was a single individual or a number of them all acting under one consciousness), though unaffected by cleaning reagents and the like, had once been highly susceptible to bacteria and rarely survived at length when competing for resources with other species previous to its evolution in Wendell’s abode. But the bereft home was the perfect outpost for it to thrive, and it finally managed to gain a foothold. It grew rapidly and had soon infiltrated most every corner.

Advertisement

As mentioned, Wendell didn’t notice, or perhaps he welcomed the change. For this strange surface skimmer actually looked even cleaner than its surroundings, appearing as an even brighter less dingy white that almost seemed to glow. It embodied cleanliness, at least insofar as we have come to perceive the concept. And the more that it acclimated to its habitat, the more resilient it became, learning to alter its own surroundings to its gain by killing off any and all other life forms that stood in its way. When a small quantity of some bacteria or mite or other single-celled threat was introduced, say on a box surface or embedded in the cardboard, the newly evolved clean critter would attack and annihilate them almost as if it were itself composed of harsh cleansers like bleach and ammonia. It seemed to develop a memory for different organisms and found a way to destroy most everything. It steadily increased in size and became stronger and stronger.

Clean Dirty hand sanitizer out and about
Clean Dirty…

Finally, one day, it had grown large enough to determine that Wendell himself was a threat, for no matter how clean his environment or person was, he still harbored a myriad of organisms required to keep a human healthy and fully functioning. He was inherently dirty and had to be eliminated. And so the creature he had fostered at length, by providing a nearly sterile environment for its incubation, rose up and destroyed him. It did so while he was sleeping and so he had no awareness of what had happened; had he realized a blanket of seemingly sudsy foam was suffocating him he would have panicked thinking it was some sort of bacterial infection or the like. But he blissfully slept through his untimely death, and the aggressive new organism worked to dispel all of the unclean bits and detritus of his being.

After finally taking over the whole of the house, this new creature began to spread, much like a fungus or a rot, dismantling all in its path in order to leave a wake of clean sterile nothingness. Although it has been said that nature abhors a vacuum, somehow this void had become powerful enough to negate that and continued on its path of complete and utter destruction, leaving nothing living in its path. Before too long it had absorbed the two neighboring houses, and then the houses just beyond those, in a sort of reverse infection that defied logical explanation. The local health department and center for disease control were perplexed; these spaces seemed too clean to harbor such a deadly silent killer and yet something was slowly annihilating everything in its path on a microscopic level. It almost acted like a slow progressing chemical spill but yet there was no evidence of such either.

Before long, word had gotten out and samples had been taken and distributed across the globe. One of those samples was eventually leaked intentionally, as a weapon of mass destruction, and was unable to later be contained. The Clean Sweep was upon all and the world began to be disinfected wholly as it spread. Life was literally in the balance, slated to be eradicated and left to a sort of shiny surface devoid of substance. All was being cleansed, slowly but surely. What started with Wendell, whom would never be known or acknowledged as the source of this new terror, had grown to be much larger.

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.

If you enjoyed this tale, here is another creepy story about cleanliness. 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.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Original Creations

More Nail Polish Paintings by Jennifer Weigel

Published

on

Well, seems I’m at it again, with more nail polish paintings into found thrift store art. Why so many flowers this time…? Well a friend sent them and I just couldn’t help myself. They are so perfect for creepy fairy paintings. And for those of you who think fairies aren’t scary, you haven’t read much about the fey now have you?

More Revisitations nail polish paintings by Jennifer Weigel
More Revisitations nail polish paintings by Jennifer Weigel

Top left: Blue Fairy, originally painted by M Wadorf

Top right: Pegasus, originally painted by Edie Babb

Bottom left: Unicorn, originally painted by R Lovelace (After I painted this I realized I missed the opportunity to do a troll with a bridge and so I hope to do another along those lines in the future.)

Bottom middle: Fairy, originally painted by SD Janz

Advertisement

Bottom right: Dragon, original signed FZ, very sparkly with black-light sensitive eyes

And the most horrific of the bunch this time is this mermaid, who started as a weird bucket painting by Helen Miller… So, what’s in the bucket, Helen? Body parts? Fish? Plants not yet in bloom? I envisioned a trapped mermaid waiting to ensnare some unsuspecting land-goer, because no one would expect to find a mermaid there…

Mermaid in bucket, original by Helen Miller
Is this mermaid trapped in need of help or just trying to lure you close?

So I broke down and redid the unicorn to a troll. Apparently the troll was hungry… Anyway, here is the result. I am happier with it now.

Troll with toll bridge, original by R Lovelace
Hungry troll wants bridge tolls after eating innocent unicorn.

You can find more of my Revisitations art on Haunted MTL here, including links to even more nail polish paintings…

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.

Continue Reading

Trending