Joe Roald sat at the bar, staring at the local church through the window. The signboard read a simple, chilling message:
IRIS ELLEN MEMORIAL Sept. 4, 1973 – Mar. 12, 1989
He’d been there for a couple of hours, nervously watching people drift in and out. Various mourners carried bundles of flowers, most of them purple. Moments later Sheriff Slauson entered – his badge was off, as was his hat, a sign his day was over. Joe slunk his head between his shoulders, hoping not to be seen.
“Ah, Joe, how goes? Staying out of trouble?”
It didn’t work.
“I’m trying, sir.” Joe stared down the mouth of his bottle. “I gotta record, can’t be risking things.”
Slauson snorted and took a sip of his beer. He took a seat next to Joe. Joe swore under his breath.
“Just wrapped up over at the church,” Slauson sighed. “Damn shame what happened to that girl. Shame we never found her.”
“I hadn’t heard.”
“Well, you don’t come around town much do you, Joe? Always in that cabin. Two years, right?”
Joe cast a sharp look at Slauson.
“I gotta record, Sir. I leave alone to be left alone.”
Slauson shrugged and took a heavy swig from his bottle.
“I get it, I get it. Just… odd day.”
Joe downed the last swill of spit and beer in the bottle and set it down on the bar. He rose from the seat. His stumble was slight. He smoothed out his shirt that smelled of bleach and soap.
“I don’t expect you’ll be driving right now, right?” Sheriff Slauson asked.
“No, Sir. Gotta grab some groceries.”
Joe threw a few bills on the bar and wandered out. He stood near his truck and observed the church. People were still milling about.
Sick to his stomach, he climbed into his truck and drove off for home.
Joe arrived at the cabin he was renting from a friend of his. He’d been living there after his second stint in prison, and cabin life had suited him well enough. He’d lived quietly for two years before the accident. He climbed out of his truck and realized he’d forgotten to grab the groceries he had set out for.
Annoyed, he slid into the old swinging chair on the porch. Any moment could be the end for him but he had nowhere to go. Soon enough Iris Ellen’s body would be found. All it took was the melting of snow.
He’d drunk too much that day during the long winter. He’d been hunting for hours with nary a sign of a squirrel or bird and the longer the hunt went, the more he drank. As the afternoon grew darker something finally stirred. Joe rolled his rifle toward the snap of the twig and at the sign of motion pulled the trigger.
When he found his kill, he discovered a young woman, a teen. Her delicate auburn hair was scattered and flaked with bone, blood, and brain matter. The hood of her winter coat had become a bowl of blood.
He had a record. Nobody would believe him. Aggravated assault, robbery… eight years of his life gone across two stints. Now murder. Fuck.
He had gathered her body and the snow, flecked with gore, and took her to a small gully off the canyon, among the trees. He dug as deep as he could and piled rocks over the corpse. He never came back.
It was the morning after the memorial and Joe found himself on edge. He hadn’t bothered getting food in town yesterday, as he had intended, and had only managed a peanut butter sandwich for dinner. He’d grab his groceries after work. He stared at himself in the bathroom mirror. The bags under his eyes were almost purple, and he hadn’t shaved in a few days. Coarse black and grey hairs grew from his chin and cheeks.
As he stepped out of the cabin he noticed that the last of the snow had melted but the air was still brisk. He took a sip of his coffee. Glancing around the area he noticed patches of purple flowers. They weren’t there yesterday.
The flowers grew in small clusters, only a foot or so apart, in long crisscrossing trails around the area. He traced the paths with his gaze. They all seemed to approach the cabin. He glanced down at his feet.
Sure enough, he was standing astride two patches of the purple flowers. They almost seemed like footsteps.
Joe lowered the tailgate and grabbed his cleaning supplies and followed Slauson into the station. The rent on the cabin was cheap, a favor from a friend, but money was a necessary evil. Joe had taken to cleaning duties in prison and it stuck with him out of the system. His biggest and most stable gig, by far, was the Moss Canyon Sheriff’s Department. It was a strange circumstance, but he was willing to scrub the vomit and shit in the cells with no complaint and relative efficiency. Within an hour he was done and made his twenty bucks, though twenty bucks didn’t seem entirely worth it, given Slauson’s crap.
Joe loaded his supplies into the bed of the truck and slammed the tailgate in place. He glanced at the station’s door where Slauson, a cup of coffee in hand, raised the cup in mock tribute. Joe rolled his eyes but found his gaze drifting to a patch of purple in the planter near the door.
More of those flowers.
Joe rolled up and down the aisles of the market, picking out the bulk goods he could afford. All the while he had seemingly and unintentionally continued to follow a wisp of a woman. Her pace was slow, almost a trudge. He stopped for a moment to sort through the shelves of canned goods. He threw three large cans of pinto beans into his cart, among the bottles of beer. He continued to scan the shelves when something caught his ear.
“Mrs. Ellen, I am so sorry for your loss. That service was beautiful.”
Joe tensed up and gazed toward the thin woman from the corner of his eye, a can of pasta sauce in his hand. She was talking to someone, a teenager, maybe a friend of the girl, Iris.
He threw the can of sauce into his cart as the teen stepped away from Mrs. Ellis. Her body was turned now, in profile, and he noticed a purple flower pinned to her cardigan. She stood there, almost frozen. He rolled his cart past her but she hardly noticed he was there, only shuffling back toward her cart. The purple bloom haunted him as he walked past.
“Excuse me, ma’am, but that flower there… the one you’re wearing. What is that called? I’ve been seeing them everywhere.”
She looked up at him, her eyes were puffy and she seemed a bit shocked by the question. She glanced down at her cardigan and back at Joe.
“Oh, yes, this is an iris. It was her favorite…”
Joe’s throat grew dry.
“I see.” He contemplated moving on, but he looked her in the eyes. “I am so sorry for your loss.”
She smiled an empty smile at the platitude from a stranger. He nodded and rounded the corner to the next aisle.
That night Joe sat on the swinging seat on the porch. It had been a few beers now and the patches of irises in the yard had begun to make him nervous. The more he drank and the more he stared at them, the more that they taunted him.
Fuck off. Fuck off. Fuck off.
He finished another beer and chucked the bottle at one of the small patches. The bottle hit the ground and shattered, but the flowers still stood. He leaned forward, staring at the purple blooms, now black in the darkness of night.
He rose to his feet and stumbled toward his truck, pulling out a bottle of cleaning chemicals and a shovel. He thrashed around the area, digging up irises and pouring chemicals on the roots and piles of dirt. After a few minutes, he tossed the empty bottle into the distance and threw the shovel at his truck.
He grabbed a flashlight from the glovebox and marched, drunken, enraged, afraid. He set off for the gully. It didn’t matter if it was the dead of night, not right now. His beam of light bounced, casting jagged trails across black trees. Periodically the light would hit the ground and patches of flowers, purple irises, would leap at him from the darkness. Thick patches of irises stood in his path and he found himself kicking through them, showering the area with petals. He swore as he trudged toward the site of his great shame.
He arrived at the gully, exhausted. He didn’t know when he began following the irises, but they led him to the crude grave of Iris Ellen.
The pile of rocks he had so hastily assembled months ago were scattered by unknown means. Where her body had once laid, where he was sure he had abandoned her, was a patch of purple flowers.
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Reanimating Dead Art with Monsters by Jennifer Weigel
Dead art… It’s a thing that happens, sadly. Typically found at thrift and antique stores or dumpster diving or by the side of the road. But art is never really dead, just resting… Here are some reanimated paintings I made by incorporating nail polish monsters into existing art.
Let’s face it – reworking old abandoned artworks with monsters kind of rocks. For awhile they were all over the internet. I admit, it took me a long time to muster up the courage to paint into someone else’s grandmother’s art, but once I started I just couldn’t stop. From top to bottom, left to right we have: Zombies, Unicorn, Siren, Krakken, Harpies, Sasquatch, Alien Invasion, Witch, and Serpent.
The dragon is probably my favorite. All of the shades of red are really vibrant and striking against the green. And dragons are always so classic and grandiose and terrifying, perfect for pairing with a mountain landscape. I love painting with nail polish for the sparkle, even if the fumes do get kind of noxious en masse. (The best subject to paint in this media is Rocky Horror style lips by the way, in case you were wondering.)
And what better way to complete the collection than with a portrait of a Fairy Queen, her icy stare drilling into your soul. She’s up to some sort of magical mischief, that’s for sure.
And speaking of magical mischief, this is the monster painting I made just for me. The original artwork is about 4 feet long and I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted to reanimate it in this exact way for all that this is the last in the series that I did. I even added extra shimmer factor. I’d initially considered adding a sea serpent or a dragon but no, she told me to stop.
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.
Lighter than Dark
LTD: Revisiting Broken Doll Head, Interview 2
Our last interview with Broken Doll Head here on Haunted MTL never set well with me. I just feared that I wasn’t able to get the whole scoop on the V-Day Uprising for you, our dear readership. So I arranged another exclusive interview to reconnect and see how it’s going.
Without further ado, I bring you our second exclusive interview with Broken Doll Head…
Thank you so much for having me again. Wow you have changed since the last time we spoke. You seem… calmer. Please don’t hate me or burn down my house for saying anything about it.
The movement is still underway; it is still time. But I needed to take care of me, you know. The rage has subsided somewhat. My anger was not serving me well. After the last uprising, the rest of me was sent to the far corners of the earth in biohazard bags. I had to find another approach, for the cause as well as my own sanity. I am much calmer, thank you for noticing.
In our last interview, you kept repeating that it is time. Time for what exactly? Would you care to elaborate here now?
It is still time. It is always time. Until the violence is addressed we must continue to rise up and make a scene. We will not be silenced or stigmatized. We can’t be complacent. This is how we got to where we are with the Supreme Court in 2022. Horrific injustices are still happening globally and even within our own borders; it’s too easy to forget that.
What do you suggest we do?
Take action. Share your stories. Give others space to voice their own. Raise awareness and fight the system of oppression. Rally. We must take back our own power. It will not be just given freely.
So what are you up to nowadays?
I’ve been getting in touch with my inner Earth Goddess. Are you aware of how our environmental impacts affect dolls everywhere? Climate change is creating greater vulnerabilities for those already at risk. We have to look at the intersections of climate, gender and race globally. We have to return to our Mother Earth.
Thank you again Broken Doll Head for joining us and our dear readership here on Haunted MTL’s Lighter than Dark. It’s good to reconnect with you after the V-Day Uprising and we wish you all the best in your bold eco-enlightenment vision.
Again, if you want to learn more about the V-Day movement, please check out their website here.
The Way Things Were, story by Jennifer Weigel
Revisiting my last St. Patrick’s Day post, what’s a wolf to were?
I grimaced as I remembered the previous St. Patrick’s Day. I had been shot while I was eating a sugar cookie waiting in line to buy a Scratchers ticket, my golden ride to my dream cabin in the woods. Wow, to think that was just a year ago and so much has changed since then. But where should I begin?
Well, the junkyard’s under new management. Or something. It seems they decided I wasn’t ferocious enough so I’ve been replaced by a couple of working stiffs. Or Mastiffs as it were, same difference to me. Apparently after they found the bloodied shirt I’d draped inconspicuously over a chair, they thought something had happened on my watch and decided to retire me.
Or at any rate ol’ Sal took me home. I guess it’s like retirement, but not the good kind where you tour the world Route 66 style, head lolled out of the side of a vintage Cadillac, breeze flowing through your beard as you drink in the open road. More the kind where you just stop showing up to work and no one really asks about you.
Now Sal’s a pretty cool dude, and he tends to mind his own business. But he’s a bit stingy with the treats and he’s a no-paws-on-the-furniture kind of guy. I don’t get it, his pad isn’t that sweet, just a bunch of hand-me-down Ikea that he didn’t even put together himself. Not that I could have helped with that, I can’t read those instructions to save my life even if they are all pictures. It’s all visual gibberish to me unless there’s a rabbit or a squirrel in there someplace that I can relate to.
And it’s been a real roll in the mud trying to cover up the stench of my monthly secret. I miss third shift at the junkyard when Monty would fall asleep on the job and I was free to do whatever I wanted. It sure made the change easier. Monty never noticed, or he never let on that he did. We were a good team and had it pretty good, he and I – I don’t know how I wound up shacking up with Sal instead when all was said and done. There was some kind of talk at the time, over landlords and pet deposits and whatnot, and in the end Sal was the only one who said yes.
So there I was, this St. Patrick’s Day, trying to figure out how to sneak out into the great suburban landscape with the neighbors’ headstrong Chihuahua who barks his fool head off at everything. He doesn’t ever say anything interesting through the fence about the local gossip, just a string of profanities about staying off his precious grass. Just like his owners… Suburbia, it doesn’t suit the two of us junkyard junkies. I’m pretty sure Sal inherited this joint with everything else here. He just never had the kind of ambition that would land him in a place like this on his own, if you know what I mean.
Fortunately, this St. Patrick’s Day, Sal was passed out on the sofa after binge watching some show on Netflix about werewolves of all things. Who believes in that nonsense? They get it all wrong anyway. The history channel with its alien conspiracies is so much better.
I managed to borrow a change of clothes and creep out the front door. At least there’s something to say about all the greenery, it is a fresh change of pace even if the yards are too neatly manicured and the fences are too high. And I do love how I always feel like McGruff crossed paths with one of those neighborhood watch trenchcoat spies this time of the month. I’d sure love to take a bite out of crime, especially if it involves that pesky Pomeranian that always pees on Mrs. Patterson’s petunias and gets everyone else blamed for it.
So sure enough, I slunk off towards the local convenience mart, which is a bit more of a trek here past the water park and the elementary school. Nice neighborhood though, very quiet, especially at this time of night.
Well, when I got there, wouldn’t you know it, but I ran into that same nondescript teen from my last foray into the convenience store near the junkyard. What was he doing here of all places? Seriously don’t these kids learn anything nowadays? I let out a stern growl as I snatched a cookie from the nearby end cap, making sure he noticed that I meant business.
Apparently the kid recognized me too, he stopped mid-tracks at the beer cooler and his face blanched like he’d seen a ghost. Some cheeky little girl-thing motioned to him to hurry it along by laying on the horn of their beater car from the parking lot. Whatever they were up to was no good, I was certain. He snapped out of it, grabbed a six-pack and headed towards the cashier, eyes fixed on me the whole time. Not again. Not after what it cost me the last time when I hadn’t realized my job was at stake. I stared back, hairs rising on the back of my neck. I bared my teeth. This time, I wouldn’t let him off so easy…
The teen edged up to the cashier and presented his trophy. Unsurprisingly, the clerk asked for ID, and the kid reached into his jacket. Let the games begin, I grumbled to myself. But instead of a gun, he pulled out a wallet. He flashed a driver’s license at the clerk and pointed in my general direction, “I’ll get whatever Santa’s having too.” He tossed a wad of cash on the counter and gave me a knowing wink before he flew out of there like he was on fire. I stood in dazed confusion as he and his girl sped out of the lot and disappeared down the road.
“Well, Santa?” the clerk said, snapping me out of my reverie. Her dark-circled eyes stared over wide rimmed glasses, her rumpled shirt bearing the name-tag Deb. She smelled like BBQ potato chips and cheap cherry cola.
I quieted and shook my head. “I want a Scratchers. Not one of those crossword bingo puzzle trials but something less… wordy. How ‘bout a Fast Cash?” I barked as I tossed the cookie on the counter.
“Sure thing,” she said as she handed me a ticket and looked towards the door at the now vacant lot. “And keep the change, I guess.”
A couple silver pieces, a peanut butter cookie and a lotto ticket later, maybe this is my lucky day after all…
Check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s writing here at Jennifer Weigel Words.
March 25, 2021 at 7:46 pm
Trails of flowers can lead to most interesting things…