Fred moved into the apartment in early September. It was a simple place, not much to write home about. Still, he tried to tout the benefits of being on his own to Lily, requesting her to visit as soon as she was able, but he knew the six-hour drive away from the city would be a hurdle to overcome and she was still immersed in her studies.
Mostly the apartment was just barren and devoid of any life or personality. Other than a large long-dead stained patch over the toilet that the landlord assured him had been taken care of and that looked old, the rest of the apartment was just a white blank slate. It was too bad Lily and he couldn’t add color to the canvas of this home together. Give it time, he thought. It’s part of the plan.
He had finally found a reasonable job and taken it. The competition here was not as harsh and he felt his skills were more in need in the backwash anyway. The city was pretty progressive but he didn’t have the 2-3 years under his belt that he needed to make anything of himself. Not yet anyway. But there was a desperate shortage of therapists and counselors rurally. He could make the biggest difference here. Still, it was going to be awful lonely. He sighed.
The next few months dragged on. Lily and he talked and texted constantly. He had begun to make a little bit of a name for himself, especially helping those struggling with addiction. There was a large need; group therapy only did so much, and not everyone fit the standard mold for treatment. Fred considered the limitations of the deeply religious community influence which impacted the groups even more than where he had come from. He tried to provide alternatives to those who were turned off by this.
Lily’s first visit was over the long Thanksgiving weekend. She had wanted to come sooner, but there was a major exam over the previous holiday and she couldn’t get away. Still, they were grateful for the time that they had, and they made sure not to waste it.
After the first night of unbridled passion after the three-month hiatus from physical contact, Fred found himself called to the bathroom at 3 AM. As he stood at the toilet, something caught his attention.
He hadn’t bothered to turn on the overhead light, not wanting to wake Lily, and he couldn’t make anything out in the darkness.
He looked down but the dim light revealed nothing. He filed it away in the back of his mind to take up with the landlord in the morning and returned to bed.
The next morning, Fred studied the toilet. There were indeed some dark brown spots on the floor beside it. He was certain they were not of his making. they almost looked like old dried blood. He looked up and was taken aback. The stained region was fresh, and it had grown. The musty smell of old decay began to set in. And it was dripping.
Lily stared at the stain. Something about it seemed to upset her even more than it should have. She was unnerved and didn’t want to linger in its presence. Then again, women are always more squeamish about these kinds of things, Fred considered to himself. There was something rather offputting about it though, especially given how quickly it had sprung to resurrected life.
The landlord was of little help. A prudish elderly man, he sized Lily up as soon as he showed up, glancing back and forth between her and Fred. “You know you’re not supposed to have guests unannounced,” he declared.
“My apologies,” Fred answered, trying to mend the rift in the weighted air between them. “This is my fiancée Lily. She’s here for the long weekend.”
The landlord raised an eyebrow. “Long weekend, eh? Just remember, there’s a two-week limit on how long any one person can stay without their being on the lease. And I don’t change my leases. Keeps things quiet around here; I’m too old for any drama.” He bowed his head slightly to Lily in a well-rehearsed gesture of gentlemanly propriety and turned towards the attic door at the end of the hall.
The landlord allowed Fred to follow him upstairs. It seemed the door in the ceiling that led to the attic was unlocked or that the landlord didn’t bother with it. There were only two units up here and no one would have reason to go up there. Fred’s only neighbor, a diminutive middle-aged woman named Debra, kept to herself; he suspected she couldn’t even reach this door if she wanted to. And the landlord lived downstairs alone. It was just the three of them. So there was no real need to lock it.
They made their way over to the corner above Fred’s apartment. The musty odor grew stronger as they approached but there was no evidence of anything being amiss. The roof was intact. The insulation was clean. The attic was dry and dusty as was expected. The landlord shrugged. I’ll put a coat of Killz over it. That’s all I can do for now. My daughter’s cooking for the holiday; they pick me up at 10.”
The smell of wet paint masked the stain but Lily wasn’t convinced. “I dunno about this place,” she said, shuddering.
“It’s only a six month lease,” Fred said. “It’s up in February. We’ll get a better place after that, someplace we can share. Together. I’ll have a better lay of the land by then.”
“Alright I guess,” Lily glanced again at the ceiling.
Over the weekend, the staining emerged slightly from beneath the drying paint, like rust creeping through to oxidize in the exposed air. It restabilized at about the point where it had originally been, when Fred had first moved in. Lily left and went home. The musty smell subsided and the stained patch dried to a dull muted distant discoloration. Fred shrugged it off to the Killz and to time and went on about his life. He had bigger things to worry about.
Lily returned over the December holidays. The semester was over and exams were in; she was free for the week between Christmas and New Years. The end was becoming clearer every day. One more semester and she was done, and Fred would be a half-year closer to the three-years experience he needed for them to move back…
About half a day into her week-long stay, the stain reemerged from its dormancy.
Although it had seemed like a blessing at first, unfortunately the landlord was away for the week. So was the neighbor Debra. Fred and Lily had the place completely to themselves.
Fred went to the local hardware store and bought a gallon of Killz so he could recoat the stained region himself, but it kept bleeding through, more and more forcefully as the days swept by.
On day four, the stain began to cascade down the wall in the corner, pooling at the floor and threatening to overtake the bathroom corner. The smell of decay became pervasive, as if a squirrel or a rat had died deep within the wall someplace.
Lily was horrified and did as much as she could to avoid the bathroom. She even began making twice-daily trips to the grocery store to use their facilities, using the apartment bathroom only when no other options were available.
“We can’t stay here,” Lily sobbed. “It’s disgusting.”
“I know. I’m sorry. It’s a small town,” Fred exclaimed despairingly. “The nearest hotel is an hour away and I have clients lined out and group on Tuesday. I need to be here for them. The holidays are a rough time and I have two people on suicide watch as it is.”
He checked the attic again. Nothing. He applied yet another coat of Killz. He even put down towels to sop up the seepage, knowing full well that said towels would need to be destroyed later. But nothing helped.
On the sixth day, Lily rose from bed at 2 AM desperately needing to go to the bathroom. Her constipated innards were a mess from the constant stress of trying not to go and the floodwalls were coming down. She had no choice. She ran into the bathroom and leapt upon the toilet in the darkness, trying not to wretch as her slipper caught in something sticky that had enveloped the base of the commode.
Fred woke to Lily screaming. He ran into the bathroom and flicked on the light but she wasn’t there. There was no sign of her. Just the gooey stain-soaked corner leached up against the toilet. He looked up at the ceiling and noticed that it was bulging. The ceiling was stretched taut over a lump and it was moving… Something was trapped in there!
Fred raced up to the attic. The area above the toilet was obviously swollen, almost to the point where it appeared transparent. A vague female silhouette scraped at the outgrowth to no avail, a shadow flickering away to darkness. Fred darted over to the form. It was oozing sticky pus-like sap, hardening as it began to recede back into the attic floor. He tore at the form, flinging insulation and shouting. “Lily!”
The bulge continued to dwindle and grow more and more faint. The stickiness subsided. The insulation became drier chaff that dissipated to dust as it was flung. As the bulge withdrew into the attic floor without a trace, Fred raced downstairs again.
His apartment was quiet. Too quiet. The stained patch in the bathroom had receded to its seemingly long-dead dormant state. There was no sign of his fiancée or of the horrors they had borne witness to over the last two days. Everything was static.
For another horrific tale of living conditions gone awry, check out The Portal here on Haunted MTL. 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.
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.