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street photography, Warning: Holidaze Coming!

Pauline had been eager to have Donna over for a private party to get to know her better and celebrate the holidays.  They had been flirting with one another at work at Fast Joe’s Burger Joint for some time, with her working the register and Donna grinding and grilling the meat in the back.

They both worked the late shift and loved Stephen King novels and Ozzy.  Together, they made fun of their over-perky manager who always looked like she was just coming off a morning yoga rave and the 2AM stoners who ordered more food than they could possibly eat.  They snuck off for “smoke breaks” and got high together. They had a thing.

Everything was in place, there were pine decorations and lights over the hearth.  The fireplace was lit and music playing softly in the background, and a kettle warming mulled apple cider.  Pauline was playing the perfect hostess.

Donna was eager to come and was dressed in her velvet finery for the occasion.

She had brought the perfect gift…

Pauline opened the box and screamed.  Staring back at her was a severed child’s head in a jar, neatly cut, eyes glazed over.  It reeked of formaldehyde.  Its blonde hair trailed in wispy swirls to the surface.

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Donna stared at her in dazed dread.  Did she know?  It was still a perfectly good head, it wasn’t obviously pallid or rotting and great care had been taken to drain it of any excess blood so it wouldn’t leak out into the jar and muddy everything in its preservation process.

Was it that obvious?

Pauline clamped the lid down on the box in a frenzy and ran to the bathroom.   The retching heaving sound of her throwing up in the toilet echoed down the hall.

Donna worried.  She must know…  It hadn’t seemed too obvious.  The head was still fresh.  Donna had only received it from her cousin Ellie the night before at their family holiday social and had complimented Ellie on her exquisite taste and expert embalming skills.  A child’s head for Krampusnacht was always the most perfect gift, and she did have quite the collection.

But Donna didn’t need another preserved head.  Her mantle was already full so she had moved on to collecting pinky fingers.  They didn’t take up as much room and they were always so delicate and small.  But her cousin Ellie wouldn’t have known that and so, there she was, gifted with one more head and nowhere to put it.

Surely Pauline would appreciate it, they had so much in common.

They both worked the late shift and loved Stephen King novels and Ozzy.  Together, they made fun of their over-perky manager who always looked like she was just coming off a morning yoga rave and the 2AM stoners who ordered more food than they could possibly eat.  They snuck off for “smoke breaks” and got high together. They had a thing.

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Pauline had finally stopped throwing up long enough to dash to the kitchen and snatch up the phone.  She was speed dialing, a low tone followed by two high ones.

It isn’t that bad. 

No need to call the cops just because of a re-gifting, how inappropriate and overly dramatic.  She should be taught a lesson in manners, thought Donna as she cut the phone line.  She knew the police would be on their way soon.  She turned to Pauline.

“Don’t you like it honey?” she asked.

Pauline was frozen to the spot clutching the phone in her long beautiful fingers.  She let out a long whimpering sigh, almost more like a hushed gasp or a stifled cry.  She couldn’t move or think or articulate a response so she just stared back at Donna who glowered at her expectantly.

“I said, don’t you like it honey?” Donna asked again studying Pauline intently like a cat fixated on a birdbath.  Donna noticed for the first time how lithe and supple Pauline’s hands were as they cradled the phone.  Her nails were exquisitely manicured and painted bright red for the holidays.  Her hands appeared soft as silk, delicate and beautiful, not hands that were used to grinding meat or working the fryer…

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street photography: found Ken doll head

Donna re-arranged her newly begun collection of pinky fingers later that night.  She had to make room for the two new additions…  Cousin Ellie and her family’s Krampusnacht gift exchange had come through yet again.

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

Jennifer Weigel is a multi-disciplinary mixed media conceptual artist residing in Kansas USA. Weigel utilizes a wide range of media to convey her ideas, including assemblage, drawing, fibers, installation, jewelry, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video and writing. You can find more of her work at: https://www.jenniferweigelart.com/ https://www.jenniferweigelprojects.com/ https://jenniferweigelwords.wordpress.com/

Original Creations

Sporespawn, a short story by Jennifer Weigel

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Sporespawn was thriving. The Mars colony had become more efficient and better at finding and using native resources with the Martians’ influence. The native creatures were a dust-borne sort, essentially existing as microscopic eggs in stasis waiting for new hosts to infect until opportunity presented itself. These particles could exist in a state of torpor for centuries, millennia, perhaps even longer. It was unclear how ancient some of them were, and the alien humans had no way of calculating this. When the humans had first arrived on the planet they hadn’t even realized the dust they were breathing was alive, nor could they discern that it was infectious. Not until it was too late anyway.

The humans who had been involved in the Martian terraforming effort had all eventually become Incubators and succumbed to becoming a part of Sporespawn. Over several generations, the terror of the situation had subsided and the colonists had acclimated to their new role as host bodies for the Martian creatures. It wasn’t all bad, the Martians looked out for their Incubators and kept them safe until the Spawning, and the period before then was 40+ years long. So an infected person could live a relatively full life in that span, even including having children of their own. And since the humans were infected and became Incubators at a very young age, typically around 5 or 6, they never really questioned their roles, merely following along like sheep until the slaughter.

Plus, the native Martian creatures were much better equipped instinctively to handle all of the chaos that the hostile-to-humans environment threw at them. The alien humans had struggled just trying to survive in the settlement, let alone make much progress, until enough of them had become Incubators to make better sense of their circumstances. And it wasn’t as if they didn’t get to make any decisions in their lives at all, more like the guardian angel on their shoulder whispering in their ear (or that little voice in their heads that belonged to the Martian creatures inhabiting their body) was much more involved in their lives, its presence increasing the more mature the Martian beings residing within became.

Sporespawn art evolution generated by NightCafe AI art generator
Sporespawn art evolution generated by NightCafe AI art generator

Fetsch was thirty-nine. She had lived a full life in Sporespawn, working from when she was just 7-years old to plant and harvest potatoes in the still relatively harsh conditions of the roundhouse, an area designed specifically to grow food. The voices in her head had grown louder and more insistent in recent years, and as always she was persuaded to obey them. She could not remember a time before her guardian angels had whispered in her ear, protecting her from pending dust storms and helping her to survive the blackouts when they happened. They taught her how to get everything back online quickly and maintain tight control of all of the atmospheric conditions in the controlled habitat. She trusted them with her life, and they seemed to have her best interests at heart. And her Elders had always taught her to mind the guardian angels; she always did as she was taught.

Now that she was an Elder herself, she had retired from potato farming and was in charge of taking care of the younglings, including her own daughter, now 4 years old, and the baby. She was lactating and nursed those who needed it. As Fetsch had grown older, she began to work harder at taking care of the younger members of the society, helping them to master agriculture and teaching them the trade, just as her Elders had modeled when she was young. It was, after all, the natural order of things. At about six years of age, after becoming one with Sporespawn, the children would finally start learning how to survive in this difficult land by shadowing the adults and doing what they could to help out.

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Sporespawn art evolution generated by NightCafe AI art generator
Sporespawn art evolution generated by NightCafe AI art generator

But at this point Fetsch couldn’t even remember which children were her own amongst the throng of infants and toddlers. In fact, she couldn’t remember much of anything, really; her existence was drowned out by her migraines. Recently the headaches had worsened considerably, and her visibly throbbing temples drowned out much of her memory and awareness. Her skin was stretched so thin as to appear transparent over her bulging forehead, which pulsed and convulsed of its own accord. Red tendrils wormed their way beneath the surface, edging towards the surface and causing it to swell further.

Fetsch remembered seeing other adults like this as they were nearing the Spawning. She knew that eventually their heads burst open, spewing forth a cloud of particulate among the children in their care. She knew that this was also her fate. And yet, she found it strangely comforting, knowing that her life would end as part of the ongoing cycle towards the continuation of Sporespawn. For this was also a part of the natural order of things, and her guardian angels ensured her that her Spawning would fulfill the needs of the colony and provide for generations to come. She could think about little else as she played amongst the children, her mind becoming more and more infantile as the pressure throbbing inside her brain grew. She looked forward to the end, when everything would go black and the headaches would finally subside. Hopefully it wouldn’t be too terribly much longer.

Sporespawn art evolution generated by NightCafe AI art generator
Sporespawn art evolution generated by NightCafe AI art generator

If you want to read another of my stories prominently featuring Mars dust, please follow these links to Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of Cozmik Debris (and it’s later conclusion here on Nightmarish Nature: Terrifying Tardigrades).

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: 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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