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.
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.