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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 Series

Nightmarish Nature: Zombie Snails

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This time on Nightmarish Nature, we will look into zombie snails, because we were having so much with the Whore Snails recently. So this is a lot like the Freaky Fungus except that this time it’s a parasitic worm that is the cause of the horror… Leucochloridium paradoxum, the green-banded broodsac worm, forces snails to be a part of its nefarious plans to take over the world (well, really more just continue on keeping on in its strange and bizarre life cycle).

Hungry birds want nummins
Hungry birds want nummins

This Is What We Get for Eating Poop

The worm, which spends much of its life as a parasite in birds’ digestive systems, is part of a weird cycle that includes both birds and snails, though the snail end is much creepier. It starts when a snail ingests worm eggs in bird droppings. These eggs hatch into worm larvae that eventually turn the poor hosts into zombie snails! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Snails make questionable food choices, but I guess this comes from being where they are on the ecosystem clean up crew...
Snails make questionable food choices, but I guess this comes from being where they are on the ecosystem clean up crew…

The worm larvae work their way up into the snails’ brains and take over, hijacking them on suicide missions to continue their own life cycle. These worm larvae eventually grow large and worm their way into the poor snail’s eye stalks, pulsing and throbbing therein to resemble maggots or other tasty treats.

Zombie Snails
Zombie Snails

Mind-Control

The worms use the zombie snails to get into their bird hosts by mind-controlling them into climbing out of the shady undergrowth where they will be easily spotted by bird predators which will feed on them, ingesting the eye stalks and continuing the worm’s life cycle as it gets into the bird’s digestive tract. The huge, bulging eye stalks are irresistible to birds looking to snatch maggots and other delicious delicacies. Eventually, after the worms are well ensconced in its bird hosts, the bird poops out more worm eggs for unsuspecting snails to ingest, completing the cycle.

Birds love their grubs and maggots and other nummins, even if they are just zombie snails.
Birds love their grubs and maggots and other nummins, even if they are just zombie snails.

You can watch this in action on Nat Geo Wild: World’s Deadliest here, if you dare. Warning, it’s a little gross but not near so much as some of the other topics we’ve covered. If you enjoyed this slimy segment of Nightmarish Nature, please check out past segments:

Vampires Among Us

Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

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Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

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Original Creations

Snails a Whorl Whirl Whore World…

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So a friend and I made some artsy snails awhile back. Essentially this was in response to her granddaughter proclaiming that her favorite animals are whorl snails. My friend heard “whore snails” and was a bit perturbed that the child would use such a word so nonchalantly, whether or not she knew what it meant. But then again toddler-speak is like that sometimes… Anyway, it stuck.

So we made some whore snails, all glammed up and ready to go. We started with these flat metal snails and then painted and decorated them, to whore them up a bit. I figured this would be apropos after my recent Valentine’s Day posts and that the end results were horrifying enough to appear here.

My friend's whore whorl snail
My friend’s whore whorl snail

This is my friend’s creation. I especially like the David Bowie star and cherry bling to match her cherry red lipstick. The purple shell is a great color on her too. I think my friend went back and decorated her shell more after the fact, but I didn’t see the snail after those changes.

My whore snail
My whore snail

And here’s my whore snail. She’s a bit more of an ice queen with her deceptively lovey-dovey eyes and mouth full of poison darts, like the underwater snails do. I believe I called her a Hoar Whore Whorl Snail as when the discussion first came up I heard “hoar” and thought of hoarfrost. Hence the ice queen take…

And another friend joined us via Zoom just to visit and have fun making art together.

Another whore snail, drawn by our friend over Zoom
Another whore snail, drawn by our friend over Zoom

This little Zoomed in snail is kinda cute, like she’s out on the beach in her bikini… Mixed media on paper.

So if that wasn’t disturbing enough, check out my inappropriate Shrinky Dinks posted here before, or maybe this Eye Candy Peeps Easter basket, both taking some innocuous thing(s) turning into something… else…

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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. Her friends will remain anonymous for now…

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Original Creations

Have a Dystopian Girls on Film Valentine’s Day

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So it’s finally actually Valentine’s Day, and thus marks the final segment of our dysfunctional dystopian romance. So far, we’ve survived both Gen X and Krampusnacht, what else could possibly be in store? Girls on Film…

Valentine's Day card Girls on Film
Girls on Film Valentine’s Day card from Jennifer Weigel

Image description: Video camera umbrella shower succubus stares through the lens at the viewer, surrounded by eerie Cthulhoid horror embellishments with text.

Text reads: Happy Valentine’s Day; lipstick cherry all over the lens as she’s falling; give me shudders in a whisper; take me up ’til I’m shooting a star; (she’s more than a lady)

OK so this Valentine’s Day dystopia ends in a Duran Duran video, because of course it does. If the video doesn’t load properly, you can find it by following this link. Girls on Film.

Duran Duran official video

Here’s the camera eye succubus all by itself, for your viewing pleasure. Actually this is the original original image from an Unselfie performance art piece in the shower before I decided to forego the umbrella. Girls on Film.

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Unselfie performance art video still
Video still

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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