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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.

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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.

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Idiot.

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.

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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.

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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.


Bluebirds of North America | Illustration from Birds of America (1827) by John James Audubon, digitally enhanced by rawpixel-com 397.jpg | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Illustration_from_Birds_of_America_(1827)_by_John_James_Audubon,_digitally_enhanced_by_rawpixel-com_397.jpg
A herald of spring and sometimes winter.

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David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Jennifer Weigel

    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.

    • J.M. Faulkner

      March 20, 2022 at 5:45 pm

      Jesus… no wonder it stuck with you!

    • David Davis

      March 21, 2022 at 11:42 pm

      That’s a very sad story, but very good. Do you recall the title?

  2. J.M. Faulkner

    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!

    • David Davis

      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.

  3. Nicole

    March 21, 2022 at 9:58 am

    I swear I could smell the air in this. Had a slight copper scent.

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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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Original Creations

Have a Dystopian Girls on Film Valentine’s Day

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So it’s finally actually Valentine’s Day, and thus marks the final segment of our dysfunctional dystopian romance. So far, we’ve survived both Gen X and Krampusnacht, what else could possibly be in store? Girls on Film…

Valentine's Day card Girls on Film
Girls on Film Valentine’s Day card from Jennifer Weigel

Image description: Video camera umbrella shower succubus stares through the lens at the viewer, surrounded by eerie Cthulhoid horror embellishments with text.

Text reads: Happy Valentine’s Day; lipstick cherry all over the lens as she’s falling; give me shudders in a whisper; take me up ’til I’m shooting a star; (she’s more than a lady)

OK so this Valentine’s Day dystopia ends in a Duran Duran video, because of course it does. If the video doesn’t load properly, you can find it by following this link. Girls on Film.

Duran Duran official video

Here’s the camera eye succubus all by itself, for your viewing pleasure. Actually this is the original original image from an Unselfie performance art piece in the shower before I decided to forego the umbrella. Girls on Film.

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Unselfie performance art video still
Video still

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.

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.

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