The street was desolate except for a few stray streetlamps. There hadn’t been many stragglers around these parts; these back alleys of London didn’t see much traffic nowadays. Not since the murders started anyway. But I wouldn’t know anything about that. Wink.
A wailing shriek erupted through the darkness and the rain. A cop car was either hot on the trail or had a hunch about something. I needed to duck and cover, and fast. I dashed into a dusty old storefront to let the wailing sirens scream off into the distance and to get out of the rain for a bit. The rain didn’t bother me near so much as the commotion.
The smell of moldy books permeated the shop. There weren’t really any wares of note; the place was empty save for a smattering of old bookcases bereft of their contents. Despite the lingering odor, there were no books to be found, or anything else for that matter. There was nobody around to greet me, except for a strange object perched on the front table by an antiquated cash register.
It more or less resembled a baby doll head and other detritus on a metal structure. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen, like some sort of horrific creation by one of those nasty children that harvested all of their sister’s dolls for parts. I grinned as I recollected my misspent youth. Eventually the dolls gave way to a bigger and brighter enterprise – harvested bits can get you a long way, you know. Even a crooked tooth can fetch a pretty penny if you know who’s in the market…
The cop car wailed past, off towards some unseen calling. Good riddance. The cops typically never take much interest in these parts, which is part of why I’d picked this as my stomping grounds. Less attention can go a long way. Smile. Yeah, a couple of vagrants had died here already. And sure, they’d started an investigation. But it wasn’t going anywhere fast, and it wasn’t likely to. No sense in moving on just yet.
The damn doll head continued to drill holes into my psyche. What was even more disconcerting was the fact that I could sense that it was watching me. Not that there was anything to show for it, since the eyes never blinked nor dilated or anything. But nonetheless, it was following my every movement, I was certain of it. I wanted to reach out and smash its head in but something within me dared not draw too close.
Still, the shopkeep would be an easy mark and there was no one to be found out and about given the weather and the recent circumstances. The remaining vagrants had cleared out save for myself. Best not keep my buyers waiting… I ducked behind a nearby bookcase and called out to the empty storefront, “Hello! Anybody here?” A gust of wind outside the window roared in response. I clutched my dagger close under the fold of my coat. Nobody came. I peered out toward the register.
Suddenly, the doll’s eyes flashed a blinding beacon of white light before returning to their vacant stare, as if I had been caught in the flash of a camera. A hollow shrill sound like a mechanical chime echoed forth from within the bizarre creature and was gone again only a moment after. What a creepy security system.
I was most definitely being watched and decided to take to the street again. I had to get out of there. Briskly, I left the dusty vacant storefront and crept out into the rain. I could still feel the doll’s gaze at my rear, causing the hairs on my neck to jolt and prickle from the wayward energies charging the air between us.
I swaddled myself in my trench coat as I turned away from the building to slink into the nearby alley. From there, a flash of light greeted me and I heard a familiar mechanical chime, My heart sunk in my chest. I turned slowly to see the baby doll headed creature a little ways down the alley studying me with those same hollow eyes from atop its metal tower. Only moments before it had been perched by the cash register in the vacant storefront and now here it was in the alley.
My mind reeling, I turned back towards the storefront and picked up my pace, heading for the park across the street. What was that thing? Why was it following me? Who knew? I stopped under a burnt out streetlamp and stared back towards the alley and vacant storefront. Nothing. The rain drummed down in silvery streaks across the street, flickering into and out of focus. I shuffled over to the park bench I knew would be waiting for me. Sigh.
As I glanced over my shoulder at the street, I saw it again. The same creepy baby-doll-head-watchtower-thing. It just stood sentry, offering no clue as to how it had gotten there. My fear gave way to hate, boiling and festering beneath my skin. No one was on to me; I’d covered all my tracks perfectly. Whatever this was, it had to go. Anger welled up in me. I stalked over to the thing and stared at it. It stood there unmoving, staring blankly ahead.
My hand drew back in slow motion, knife in tow. I lunged forward at the creature, intent on smashing it in. The butt end of the knife met porcelain as I made contact with the baby doll head, sinking into the fragile surface as if it were an egg. It gave way, shattering into a million points of light as it emitted one last bright flash and mechanical chime. I recoiled and stared at the scene before me as it came into focus.
“Don’t move,” a cop shouted from the car, hunched behind the driver’s side door like it was a riot shield. Another cop had his sights trained on me from the passenger door, I could feel the weight of his itchy finger at the trigger of his gun. The cop car headlight lay smashed and shattered at my feet, glass strewn everywhere.
You can read another tale of creepy doll head mayhem by Jennifer Weigel on Haunted MTL here.
You can read more of Jennifer Weigel’s writing here on Jennifer Weigel Words.
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…
Cravings Part 2, story by Jennifer Weigel
If you missed the beginning of this pregnancy horror story by Jennifer Weigel, you can catch Part 1 here.
Jayden’s stomach turned. Who or what was this creature standing before him, and what had it done with his wife? Claire proceeded to eat more than half of the jar of eggs in a fury of consumption; Jayden finally retreated to the office alone unable to watch any more. He heard a sloshing sound as she finished the jar and proceeded to drink the brine before retreating to the bedroom and crashing into their bed, presumably to pass out. Again. Later that night, he crept in to find her sleeping, clammy and sweaty, nervously twitching. Her body made the most abnormal guttural sounds as her internal systems groaned and sputtered. It was definitely getting worse. Jayden resolved to call Dr. Randolph the following morning; this had gone on for far too long already.
The next day, Claire awoke with a start from another bad dream that she couldn’t remember. Crying uncontrollably, she clutched her swollen belly, still ripe with child, and hurriedly exclaimed, “Blood sausage! I must have blood sausage!”
Jayden woke from his curled-up safe haven beside her and muttered, “Wha… What is that? I’ve never even heard of such a thing.”
“Go!” she snapped. “I’m starving. Go now! Return with blood sausage.”
Jayden staggered over to the dresser, threw on some clothes, shuffled into his waiting shoes, and gathered himself to duck out the door in the well-practiced gesture he’d become so accustomed to. “I’ll stop on my way home from work, I guess,” he mused, making his own plans. Claire seemed to settle down a little as she woke further, but it was little consolation.
“Thank you Sweetcheeks,” she said. “You’re the best.” She blew him a kiss.
While at work, Jayden managed to secure an appointment with Dr. Beth Randolph, Claire’s primary physician since before he had known her, for later that day. He took off early and rushed home to gather his unwilling wife. She was going in, whether she liked it or not.
He opened the front door and peered inside. The house was dark and quiet, as he’d come to expect. He crept in and stole upstairs to the bedroom to rouse Claire from sleep. He’d tell her where they were going once he got her in the car, no sense in making this even more difficult than it already was. Unsurprisingly, there she was, a shadowy form hunched over in the bed, her back to him with the covers pulled up over her eyes. He peeled away the comforter and blanket to reveal a tangled mess of white knitted yarn; Claire was nowhere to be found. He looked around, trying to focus on the darkness of the bedroom that enveloped him. That unsettling feeling had returned, like he’d had at Maresh’s shop, sinking into his gut. Claire was here idling, watching, waiting; he could sense her presence sizing him up as if she could read his mind and was on to his plan. But why was her company so disconcerting? This was still their house, their home, their lives intertwined… Jayden felt his trust ebb, spine tingling sensing danger.
“Hey there Sweetcheeks,” Claire’s voice echoed from the darkness of the closet. “Do you have something for me?” She emerged into the room, her eyes wide, frothing slightly at the edges of her mouth. Tiny bubbles of drool burst forth from her quivering lips and trickled down onto her chin.
“I couldn’t find any… blood sausage… whatever that is,” Jayden lied through his teeth. He hadn’t even gone to the store. Claire should never have expected him back at this hour; apparently she didn’t even know what time it was. But that seemingly wasn’t a concern. She wasn’t herself. Something about her fragile frame, the way she rocked from side to side, reminded him of that crazy old witch doctor Maresh. He finally managed to connect the two; it was as though she were possessed. It was imperative that she saw Dr. Beth Randolph as soon as possible, if for no other reason than to sever ties to that crazy old hag and hopefully start to snap out of it. He simply had to get her to that appointment.
“No blood sausage!” Claire shouted, becoming more and more agitated. “No… blood… sausage!” Her breathing became less regular and her body shivered all over as she hulked towards him. “I am sooo hungry!”
She lunged towards him, stumbling into his arms and collapsing towards his feet laughing maniacally. Jayden reached for her instinctively, to lower her to the ground gently, and felt something sticky and warm envelop his hand. Feeling lightheaded, he glanced down as he fell to the floor beside her. Protruding from his gut was a long silver thread, no something pointedly metal and hard, oozing thick oil sludge all around. Not oil, blood. His blood. Claire continued laughing, her lightning-fast fingers quickly and methodically ripping their way into his tattered shirt and worming around within his wounded frame to pull forth bits of viscera, which she wrung in her hands and smeared up and down her arms and torso. As Jayden passed out, she mouthed each of her fingers in turn, sucking the precious liquid off of them one at a time, before she began to feast on his entrails.
Claire’s belly was finally full. The baby developing within squirmed and settled, as if finally satiated. She swiped a stray bit of flesh from her bosom, licked it off of her fingertips, and heaved a sigh of relief. Miracle Madame Maresh Meliasma was right; she just needed to get to the root of her cravings.