Welcome to the third story of the Spring Horror Collection for 2022, where Haunted MTL’s writers craft original tales of terror that’ll grow on you. Check with us all week for new stories.
For more original stories, check out Haunted MTL’s Original Creations.
My favorite jacket, a jean jacket I bought years ago that I have since decorated with patches and pins and printed fabric, is the first thing to catch my eye when I slide open my closet door. The weather is warming up and I haven’t worn it in months, but I love to touch it, explore all the different pieces of art sewn onto the lapels and pockets. It reminds me of the rainy overcast days on which I wore the jacket.
One of those days in particular was in April last year, when I went hiking with my friend Jackie. The trail was difficult, the kind littered with rocks and soaking mud puddles. It was actually a rather horrible day to go hiking, but Jackie insisted and I’d been needing to get some fresh air after a few weeks of being a recluse.
The worst part about hiking in these specific mountains is not the steep, slim, rocky trail, nor the ankle-deep mud, but the snakes that pop up out of their little holes in the mountain sides. They’re essentially harmless, meaning they’ll bite but their venom isn’t poisonous to humans. Nevertheless, they’re sneaky enough to catch you off guard when they jump out at you from their little hiding spots.
About an hour into the hike, it started to rain and the path became so slippery and muddy that we had to take baby steps. I took a knife out of my pocket and held onto it, just in case.
“Jackie,” I said after half a mile. My voice echoed across the mountains. “This is ridiculous. Can we please look for cover or just go back?”
“But we’re so close to the top.”
“This is dangerous! We need to do something.”
Jackie sighed and nodded her head. “Fine, let’s find cover.”
But it turned out that looking for cover became just as difficult as climbing up the mountain. On one side was a massive hill, and on the other side was a steep slope that ended in an abyss of trees.
There was nowhere for us to go.
“I don’t care anymore,” I said. “I’m heading back whether you come with me or not. I’m sorry Jackie, but it’s just not worth it.”
I started inching my way back down. I could feel Jackie stare daggers into my back, as she does when she’s pissed off. But after I took a few more steps I heard her let out a large huff and follow me down. I kept digging my knife in the hill and watched the mud crumble down.
Suddenly a snake flew in front of me and I couldn’t stop myself from screaming and jolting back in shock. Everything happened so fast that, until it was too late, I didn’t realize how close Jackie was behind me. She rear-ended me, which caused her to fall. I whipped around to see her laying on the ground, her head on a rock, blood pooling her face, my knife piercing through her eye.
I screamed her name, tried to see if she could breathe, but there was nothing. She was gone, and I didn’t know what to do. It would be impossible to carry her back. I should’ve run down the mountain and called for help as soon as I had service again. But another part of me was angry. None of this would have happened if she had listened to me earlier and we just went home as soon as it started raining. And why was she so close behind me anyway? You need to give people you’re behind a little space no matter where you are, especially on a mountain as steep as this.
I shoved down the idea that this wasn’t Jackie’s fault, that her wanting to try hiking a little further didn’t mean she deserved to die, that we both should have been more conscious about the snakes, that it wasn’t her fault that nature acted against our expectations. I had to shove all that down, and still, to this day, I swallow those thoughts. Otherwise how would I be able to live with the fact that, out of sheer hatred and anger, I pushed Jackie’s dead bleeding body down the steep mountain and into the abyss of pine trees? I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I realized my anger had, once and for all, gotten the best of me.
After I pushed her, I watched her roll. Her body slammed into trees, hit rocks, she just kept going and going. I walked down the mountain, grateful for the emptiness of the trail and that no one seemed to want to try hiking on this obscure mountain in this terrible weather.
When I reached the end, I called 911. I cried that I left my friend after she refused to go back home with me. I told them I didn’t want to risk my life and I needed to do what was best for me. The dispatcher was very calm and collected, proving their experience with tough situations. They didn’t find her that day, and the search and rescue team told me to go home because there wasn’t anything more for me to do.
When they finally found her body two weeks later, it was rotting and molded, moss-ridden and covered in ants. I was never suspected of foul play, not that I ever thought I would be. Jackie was my best friend, one of my only friends. I wish I had a better reason for doing what I did. I’m sure she would have wished I had a better reason, too.
Into the Deep Woods 1, an October AI journey with Jennifer Weigel
I am embarking on an AI journey using NightCafe to illustrate this graphic story based on a dream I had awhile back. I am also using Canva, so here’s to learning more online systems of image dissemination and propagandizing…
I will include some of the original AI generated images with each piece along with a bit of the dream that inspired it. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
Artwork description: Overall layout: Lightning strike through the corner into obscure clouds and map-like graphic in gray tones sets the mood for Into the Deep Woods.
Part 1, Art: AI generated image of a girl with reddish hair dressed in a robe of some sort and holding a staff. A similar girl in soldier garb fades behind her. Edited in PhotoShop.
Part 1, Text: 1.) Two sisters entered the woods, one a soldier and the other a witch. Only one lived. 2.) The young witch had picked up a bit of magic as she and her sister fled into the deep woods to seek the old witch… They were tired and alone, this was their one and only chance… 3.) The war raged on all around as the Nazis drew closer…
Prompt (Horror): Portrait of soldier girl sister
Prompt (Horror): Portrait of witch girl sister (Evolved from soldier girl)
Prompt (Horror): Soldier girl sister hit by lightning (Evolved from soldier girl)
As mentioned this series is based on a dream that I had awhile back. The two girls first enter the woods to escape the Nazis. In my dream there were initially more soldiers with them who perish due to the war or hazards in the woods. It wasn’t unlike Pan’s Labyrinth but on a much smaller and more intimate scale.
It had been awhile between having the dream and creating this story to share with you. And I quickly learned that the term “Nazi” is prohibited by the AI art generator interface. So there are some changes that have been made, but hopefully you can still follow along. The time and place are not as relevant to the overall anyway.
Nightmarish Nature: Cannibalism
Let’s return to explore more Nightmarish Nature, shall we? This segment focuses on cannibalism, as we generally find it icky / taboo and because it’s more common than you might think. There are many different reasons that different creatures engage in cannibalistic practices. Energy waste doesn’t last long in nature; gaps are filled as things evolve to utilize whatever resources are available to meet their own needs. C’est la vie (light up another cigarette). In any case, the challenge to the cannibal lies in determining kinship and not accidentally erasing their own line or progeny, thus decreasing their likelihood for survival over generations. Oh, and in avoiding those pesky prion diseases…
Resource Driven Cannibalism
Resource driven cannibalism can occur when competition for resources is high. This may be due to scarcity, with individuals taking to eating each other to avoid themselves starving to death (with those consumed either still alive and killed to this end, or eaten after death of other causes). Or it may be outside of the cannibal’s control, considering the spread of Mad Cow Disease from feeding beef meal harboring the prion disease (and parts from other mammals like sheep) to growing cattle to save money, ’cause it’s not like the cows were allowed to order whatever they wanted. Or it may be due to direct conflicts with other groups of the same species, either due to competition for resources, mating rights and/or territory. These behaviors have been noted in mostly male chimpanzees raiding other groups, which have even been documented as all out wars against other males in neighboring bands, campaigning to eradicate all outside of their ranks.
Thinking about chimpanzees, males are also documented to gang up on alpha males seen as too controlling or sadistic, with groups of younger males attacking and rendering the alpha male to pieces, often consuming his flesh and blood in the process. This can upend established hierarchies to replace them with new structures, for example with a new male taking on the role of leader. But cannibalism can also be used to reinforce existing hierarchies, as seen in African Wild Dogs wherein the dominant pair will kill off any offspring that other dogs may have birthed so that the pack will focus on raising only the alpha pair’s pups, thusly reestablishing and enforcing social structure while ensuring the best survival chances for the pups raised by channeling all resources to the one brood.
Infanticide & Filial Cannibalism
Like African Wild Dogs, other parents may also eat their offspring, or better yet their rivals’ offspring. Stillborn or unhealthy offspring may be consumed, or just any that they can get their hands on at birth. (Again with the young male chimpanzees…) Some creatures enter into cycles wherein smaller individuals are more vulnerable to predation by larger ones both within and outside of ones own species, as is seen among many fishes with eggs and smaller fishes playing an important role as prey to larger ones. Other creatures may engage in these practices to reduce competition (for themselves and/or their offspring) and/or increase opportunities to mate. Male cats are notorious for killing kittens that are not their own in order to bring females into heat again sooner, potentially increasing the likelihood of mating with said females themselves while decreasing future competition. Win-win! Female cats must take great care to hide their kittens in order to protect them from males as much as other predators, and can have kittens by different fathers within the same litter in order to increase their kittens’ overall survival as a group with father cats more willing to accept kittens when their own kin are present.
Mantids and spiders are especially known for sexual cannibalism, with larger females consuming males during copulation, but this is not always linked to vast size differences and does not appear in every species. Females who engage in this practice may have healthier eggs in larger clutches, thus increasing the survival likelihood of more of their offspring. Sometimes the risk to the male suitor of being mistaken for another species by an aggressive would-be mate is high, and various rituals have developed within certain species to help avoid such mistakes and entice the female to mate. Male spiders are known engage in elaborate dances, movements, tapping and silk spinning rituals to avoid being eaten pre-copulation or at all. It’s a hell of a lot more involved than a good pick up line and a well-timed drink, as you can see here.
If the above video doesn’t load, you can find it on PBS YouTube here.
Thank you for joining us for another exciting episode of Nightmarish Nature. If you enjoyed this, please feel free to check out these previous segments:
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…