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Day 16

The sound of the gate, under some form of duress, caught the attention of Dani and Bob. Within an instant, they dashed out of the storage unit and made their way to the entrance of the facility. Just over the top of her Focus, parked flush against the sliding gate, Dani saw two men. Bob’s revolver, one of his many sidearms, was already drawn as they approached the two strangers. Dani drew her pistol.

“What the hell are you two doing?” Bob yelled.

The two men immediately turned their attention to Dani and Bob. They both stepped back, their hands raised. The clatter of bolt cutters hitting the ground filled the air.

“Yo, yo, hold up,” said the red-headed man. He looked to be in his late twenties or so, dressed in baggy clothes and a hoodie. His face was scruffy. He looked worn out.

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“Please, you gotta let us in,” said his companion. He looked Latino and was dressed much the same as the red-head. He was twice his friend’s weight. Dani’s dad would have called them gangbangers. She hated the term.

Dani scanned her pistol in their direction. “Why should we let you in?”

The redhead lowered his guard slightly and turned his head to the street behind him, enough to point behind him without taking his eyes off Dani’s gun. “We’re being followed. Got a shitload of those rotten fuckers on us. You gotta let us in.”

Dani looked at Bob and gestured with her own head. Bob reoriented himself to get a peek through the gate to look down the street.

“I don’t see any of ‘em,” he said.

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The Latino man furrowed his brow. “Do you think we’re fuckin’ lying? They’re coming, dude. You gotta help us.”

“Shut up,” Dani barked. She turned her ear to listen for sounds. Sure enough, there was a sustained series of low moans in the distance.

“Bob, I think they’re right.”

“Shit. Alright, plan?”

Dani looked at the strangers and lowered her gun. “Alright, listen, we have a side gate. We can’t risk a bunch of them piling up on this gate here. We want you to go around. Got it?”

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The red-head nodded. “Yeah, sure, got it. Promise you’ll let us in?”

“Provided you do your part and help us move that group along, sure.”

The men glanced at each other and nodded.

“Bob, right?” asked the bigger man, “right around the corner?”

Bob lowered his revolver. “Yeah, get in your car and get your ass in gear. I’ll be right there to get it open.”

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Alerted by the noise, Sandy finally stepped out of the administrative building holding a baseball bat.

“What is going on?”

Dani gestured to the strangers. “These guys – what are your names?”

“Jimmy,” said the redhead.

“Edgar,” said the other.

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“- Jimmy and Edgar here, they need our help, we’re gonna have them come in the side gate.”

Sandy looked incredulous. “Why in God’s name would we do that?”

As if fate, the first of the ghouls made its presence known. It stumbled into view on the street and lobbed its body in lurching motions along the pavement.

“Fuck! Bob, get it!” Sandy yelped.

The ghoul cast a pair of glassy eyes at the gate and let out a moan.

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Bob snapped at Sandy, “there’s a bunch more coming.”

He turned to Jimmy and Edgar, “We need to move now. Get goin’ boys.”

Edgar grabbed the bolt cutters from the ground. The pair scrambled to their car, a burgundy Cadillac. They practically dove inside and turned the ignition. Dani and Bob moved towards the office and escorted Sandy out of sight of the gate.

Bob turned to Dani. “Kid, you’re faster, I need you to get to the gate, now. Got it?”

Dani nodded and tucked the pistol into the waist of her jeans. She started running to the side gate, sorting through the keyring she pulled from her pocket.

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Bob pulled Sandy into the office and pointed her to the stairs.

“I need you to go up there and keep an eye on how many of those things are comin’. We need to keep as quiet as possible, so I want you to write them down on that little whiteboard, you know the one you use for the schedule?”

“Right, I have it.”

“I want you to write the number you see on that board, okay? Show it to me out the window near the bathroom, right? It’ll keep you out of sight.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I think I have a way to direct those things,” he said. “I just need to know how many there are.”

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Dani arrived at the gate with the key in hand. She could hear the engine of the car idling on the other side. The gate was reinforced with corrugated metal, but it was still a sliding gate. There was only so much weight it could bear. She worried that they were substituting one weak gate for another.

She slipped the key into the lock and ripped the chain from the assembly. She pulled the gate open for the car to drive in. As the car entered she wondered if it was already a pile of shit before the apocalypse or if the collected grime and gore was most of what she saw. The car drove down a few units and came to a stop as Dani began to slide the gate closed. She nearly shit herself when she heard the raspy moan on the other side of the metal barrier.

“Damn it!”

She leaned hard against the gate’s end, trying to roll it shut faster but there was no use. The ghoul stumbled into the property. It was a thin man, clothes tattered and stiff and stale. The scent of rot and waste made her gag. She backed off the gate and pried the pistol from her pants as the ghoul turned to her. This was the first ghoul she’d seen up close, within feet, since the day she arrived. She held her pistol up, taking a few steps back to give herself some distance, but all she could see was the face of her neighbor, torn from her memories. She took a deep breath, pulled the trigger, and popped the ghoul in the shoulder. The impact made it stumble slightly, out of sheer force rather than any sense of pain, but it didn’t stop. Dani fired another shot right into the forehead. This time the ghoul fell backward, landing in an awkward crumple. It didn’t get up. Blackened blood and discolored grey matter pooled beneath its shattered skull.

Jimmy and Edgar made their way to the gate. They finished rolling it shut. Gun still in hand, Dani strode over and looped the chain around a couple of times before locking everything down.

The pair stepped away from her, their hands open and raised to show they meant no harm. The red-head, Jimmy, kicked at the ghoul’s tattered hand and looked at Dani.

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“Now what?”

Next Installment

Thank you for reading the eighth 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.

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Original Creations

Goblins, a Short Story by Jennifer Weigel

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Revisiting the creepy faux fingernail art, I made a couple of goblins… They then ransacked my house. This is their story, as told by myself, Jennifer Weigel.

More faux fingernail art from Jennifer Weigel, featuring wide smiling mouth with red sparkly lipstick and faux fingernail teeth on textured green goblins background
More faux fingernail art from Jennifer Weigel

So it finally happened. My art came to life. And of course it couldn’t be one of the cute pretty pictures, like the sparkly unicorns or the cat drawings. No it had to be the faux fingernail goblins… Ugh. I first encountered them in the bathroom.

I see England.
I see France.
I see someone’s underpants!

Of course you do, it’s the bathroom. That’s totally the room for that. Remind me again why I decided to paint these little green monsters. Ugh. From there, they moved on to the kitchen.

We so tricksy.
We so sly.
We eats all the cherry pie!

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Did they have to eat ALL the cherry pie? Like seriously. But what can I expect, they’re goblins and they’re in the house. Ugh. And honestly they’re just plain gross.

I pick my friend.
I pick nose.
Just whose nose, do you suppose?

Get away from me you obnoxious, vile creatures! I can pick my own nose on my own time, thank you. Ugh. Oh, great, now they’re tearing up the living room.

We be goblins.
We be green.
We be making quite a scene!

No, not the sofa! Now there are little bits of fabric and stuffing flying everywhere. I can see you’re all too pleased with yourselves. Nasty critters. Ugh. Why can’t you just leave?

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I do mischief.
I do bad.
This best party ever had!

I did NOT agree to host your little shindig. Stop tearing up my house! All I know is, it’s about time you moved on to wreak havoc elsewhere. Ugh. Just get out – NOW!

We scare the cat.
We scare you.
We scare all, we care not who!

I may have brought these dreadful disgusting demons into being seeing as how I painted them, but I have no idea what brought them to life or why. What kind of cosmic miscalculation caused this? I need to know so I can avoid it in the future. Ugh. Goblins… need I say more?

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.

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.

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Original Creations

Faux Fingernails Art by Jennifer Weigel

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So I had some faux fingernails leftover from a costume based modeling session, from posing as Cruella De Vil for the figure drawing group… Here’s a teaser from that modeling session, before the horrible creepy art generation in the aftermath. If you zoom in tight enough, you can see my tiger fingernails, which kept trying to fall off constantly, reminding me why I hate trying to wear the things and why they (d)evolved into art.

Cruella De Vil modeling for figure drawing
Cruella De Vil modeling for figure drawing

My version of Cruella De Vil channels Glenn Close or the original animated character more than the recent Emma Stone variant, but they’re all delightfully devilish.

Anyway, I made this series of “Tiger Sharks” prominently featuring the same tiger faux fingernails, including those used in the Cruella De Vil costume. These “Tiger Sharks” also incorporated some pirate fingernails, because sharks and pirates are tight.

Pirate skeleton hand with faux fingernails
Pirate skeleton hand with faux fingernails

I couldn’t think of a better use for the pirate fingernails than adding them to this skeletal hand. I never actually wore these, they were too hard to come up with something to go with. But I do love the Beetlejuice vibe with the stripes…

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: 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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