Welcome to the first story of the Spring Horror Collection for 2022, where Haunted MTL’s writers craft original tales of terror with the fresh scent of grass. Check with us all week for new stories.
For more original stories, check out Haunted MTL’s Original Creations.
A wistful note from out the sky,
“Pure, pure, pure,” in plaintive tone,
As if the wand’rer were alone,
And hardly knew to sing or cry.“The Bluebird” by John Burroughs
One of the benefits of living outside of town was when the winter thawed, and spring arrived, Johnny Francis figured, was the freedom to take his pellet gun out into the woods along the small highway that led into town.
Twelve now and full of vigor, Johnny wanted to make the most of his gun-time. He dashed off the property along the dirt road that led to the highway. He would spend his Sunday taking in some target practice. There was a war on, after all.
When Johnny arrived at his clearing, just over a small gully along the road, he looked over what he had for targets. Most of his bottles seemed to have shattered, and a particularly ugly thaw left many of his wooden targets rotted and damp.
Johnny was about to give up on the whole exercise until he heard chirping. He glanced into the trees around him and saw a nest. In the nest sat a fat bluebird.
He shrugged and took a shot. The pellet ripped the bird apart.
With little left to do, Johnny made his way home. Today had been a bust.
The next day Johnny was thankful to walk to school without his heavy boots and winter coat. Trudging through the snow was always a pain, and the reprieve of mere mud was welcome. On the way to school, Johnny was sure to give the edge of the woods by the road a large berth. Last spring, a hunter accidentally shot his friend, leaving him with a limp.
The sound of chirping drifted into his ears as he walked. He glanced around and noticed no sign of a bird.
A prick of guilt forced its way into his brain for a second, and he recalled the sight of the bird as it exploded from his shot.
The walk home from town was somewhat chilly today. Chillier it had been for Spring.
Johnny had been menaced by the sight of a bluebird all week. Everywhere he turned, he would catch a glimpse of it. It didn’t matter where… the school lawn… above the drug store… even outside his window.
When it wasn’t seen, it was heard. Chirping everywhere and constant.
Again, chirping now. The sound grew louder and more intense as Johnny walked, even as he picked up his pace along the side of the highway.
A blue shape dove at his face with a sudden jolt, flapping at him. Johnny threw his arms in front of him, trying to swat it away but not making contact. The chirping was frantic, and soon Johnny darted into the woods, swatting away the bird that menaced him. He crossed the treeline and found himself in his gully.
Within moments, the chirping was silenced by a loud crack in the air. Johnny fell to the ground with a searing pain tearing through his neck, leaving him unable to scream. As he rolled over in a warm puddle of mud, blood, and leaves, he made out a deer darting off as he heard the cries of a man.
The last thing he saw before his eyes seemed to go dark was a tiny bluebird flittering off into the branches.
The smaller creature lay in the clearing, not moving beyond ragged breathing. Blood boiled out from a wound in the neck. The more giant creature, with the strange grey stick, seemed to paw at the smaller one, trying to keep the blood in.
The air was thick with fear, and its scent wafted through the clearing and into the trees.
The bluebird sat on the branch, observing the situation.
When the life had finally left the lungs of the smaller creature, the bluebird felt content and vanished in a puff of air.
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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.
Movies n TV
She Wolf, Art by Jennifer Weigel
So this isn’t a review but more just some thoughts…
I have to admit that I actually like the She Wolf music video by Shakira.
Maybe partly because my Zumba group back in the day used to dance to it with all of us cautioned to not to look up the music video for fear it would be too risque or something… (The Zumba dance to this was one of my favorites, and I loved our group of mostly 60+ year old retirees for all that some of them did act surprised at these things, whether or not they actually were.) Or maybe partly because it reminds me of Madonna’s Express Yourself, or by extension the famous dance scene in Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang.
It’s a guilty pleasure.
The ways these things evolve and stay the same over time fascinates me, especially how the messaging and movement change, and yet stay the same.
Anyway, I created this artwork based upon the She Wolf video and song, incorporating a Hazelle puppet head atop a modern Barbie doll body. I don’t recall what happened to Barbie’s actual head though I’m pretty sure I needed it for another project. (Technically I needed the body for another project too, and this was just a stopover.) Years ago this piece found itself part of the Women’s Caucus for Art website as one of the chosen artworks for the year. I was going to try to write something to go with it for Haunted MTL but instead I thought I’d share it as a lead up to my revisitation of my werewolf story from St. Patrick’s Day last year.
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.
March 20, 2022 at 2:05 pm
Love the imagery. Conjures up images of Iris from last spring… When I was growing up, maybe in middle school, we read a short story about a boy growing up in Africa who would shoot a rifle into the open air every morning just because he could. One day, off in the distance, he could make out the form of a deer twisted and writhing in pain as it was devoured by ants, wondering why it didn’t bound away until he realized that one of its legs had been shattered by a stray shot from a rifle (probably his own). That story has stuck with me to this day. This has that same kind of presence.
March 20, 2022 at 5:45 pm
Jesus… no wonder it stuck with you!
March 21, 2022 at 11:42 pm
That’s a very sad story, but very good. Do you recall the title?
March 20, 2022 at 4:19 pm
Nice. Maybe I’m reading into it too much, but is there an anti-war message in there? It made me think of Metallica’s One and Johnny Got his Gun–not that I’ve read anything other than the Wikipedia page for the book!
March 22, 2022 at 12:26 am
I imagined this set in the 1950s or so, so I saw the Korean War in my head.
March 21, 2022 at 9:58 am
I swear I could smell the air in this. Had a slight copper scent.
March 22, 2022 at 12:26 am
I appreciate that.