In response to the United States Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade and to consider the pending Haunted MTL Bodies womens’ anthology, here is another adult fairy tale…
Aileen was weary. The long journey through the dense forest had taken a toll. She leaned on a tree near the edge of the woods and rubbed her groin. She looked back at the path behind her. The breadcrumbs she had scattered had been eaten away by birds and small rodents. A few stray chipmunks remained, eyeing her from a distance. The narrow trail had filled in as she had moved along; vines, twigs and leaves consuming her footsteps and erasing them almost as soon as her feet had left the earth. No turning back now, Aileen turned to face the cottage.
The cottage loomed ominously in the small clearing before her. It was just a simple structure, and not nearly as terrifying as Aileen had pictured it. It seemed rather… cozy. The hag who lived within this isolated hovel hated outsiders and was distrustful of any who came near. Labeled a witch by the villagers, she kept to herself. She was outside gathering plants in a basket carried over her arm when Aileen spotted her. Their eyes met for a brief second. The old woman’s icy stare bore holes in time and space. Aileen gulped and sighed. She gently heaved herself up from her brief respite at the wood’s edge and approached cautiously, still clutching her heavy abdomen. This is why I’m here she reminded herself.
“Hello,” Aileen hailed.
As she trudged into the clearing, the old woman continued to stare at her, unmoving and unspeaking, like a wild animal startled from its reverie. Her white hair danced every which way around her and her throat flashed with every breath. Her eyes followed Aileen’s every shift in movement.
“I am Aileen,” she continued. “I came here to seek your help.” She held her empty hands aloft. “I mean you no harm.”
“I know why you’re here,” the crone interjected. “This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last.”
Aileen quieted a moment before continuing. “I am very sick.” She chose her words carefully, rubbing her belly. “The child that grows inside of me is making me ill. Something is dreadfully wrong. The Village Elders will do nothing.”
“The Elders are why I am here,” the old woman spat, glaring at Aileen. “I used to live in the village like you. I was forced here when they ransacked my home and set fire to my house and garden. They destroyed everything I had.”
“I am dreadfully sorry,” Aileen said. She had known of the witch’s treason, of how she had gone directly against the Elders’ orders to help others like herself. She knew of the banishment by the torchbearers and pitchfork wielders who had shown up on the woman’s doorstep, although it had happened when Aileen was far too young to remember. The Elders spoke of it often and had kept the defaced property as a warning to be heeded.
“We… we still need you.” Aileen’s voice grew heavy with her words. “I need you.”
Aileen drew nearer. She was close enough now to see the tiredness in the old woman’s eyes, the pain that haunted her every movement. They studied one another for a long while. The woods, the clearing, and the cottage lay in quietude as if sleeping all around them. They were both enveloped in silence.
The old woman was robust and hardy. She had endured much and it was written in every fold of her skin; every crease, every wrinkle bore signs of her past. Aileen was downtrodden, spent and weak. She could barely hold herself up. Her skin was pale and ghostly, her ashen complexion ill-fitted for a woman of her young age. She was with child, but her body bore the gift all wrong and off-kilter. She leaned to the side and gasped slightly as she drew each breath, her hand still clenched over her stomach region. The air only barely entered her lungs before trickling out again.
Finally, the old woman spoke. “You are very sick,” she said.
Aileen spoke again. “I desperately need your help. I cannot bear this child. Doing so will kill me. The Elders do not understand – they say it is all part of God’s Plan.”
The old woman spoke again. “I was young once, and carrying a child I did not consider my own, that was conceived not of my choosing. I ran away.” Her eyes softened. “I tried to resolve my situation on my own with some herbs I had acquired from a Medicine Man on the down low, way back before I knew what I was doing, and I almost died when I used them wrong.” The old woman studied Aileen and continued, “There was a woman not unlike me now in the village at that time. Her name was Bella. She helped me to recover from all that had happened to me. I stayed with her and studied her craft, so that I might safely help others like myself. Like yourself.”
“The Elders found our aid to be threatening. They claimed it went against God’s Will. Bella disappeared mysteriously without a word. I stayed to upkeep our house and garden and to continue her practice, and because it was important that we remain steadfast in our service. That was the very same home I was later forced to flee in order to keep my life,” the witch went on.
“I am truly very sorry for your loss,” Aileen spoke pensively, realizing that all of this was much larger than her self, much larger than the stories she had been told. “I do not mean to endanger you. I come alone, seeking your help. Beyond the stories that the Elders tell, I have only heard of you through hushed whispers under the table where prying ears cannot linger. That is how I learned that you had come here. In all of my searching for answers and desperately trying to find someone who could assist me, no one would even utter your name. They just told me that I needed to see the Witch of the Wood. It became a sort of unspoken understanding among those of us who could bear children as my condition grew worse.”
Aileen was in arm’s reach of the witch now, her gaze at her feet studying the soft ground between them.
“You needn’t know my name. My name is the babble on the brook, the cry of the lark, the dance of the wind through the willows,” the old woman whispered. She put her arm around Aileen, her grasp gentle but strong. The girl sobbed as the witch held her closer. “I can help you, but you will not be able to go back to the village. You are too far along and too many will notice the change. Others who have undergone such noticeable changes have been hung, or stoned, even burned at the stake. You will be in grave danger if you return, as will I for assisting you.”
Aileen looked up at her and nodded. The fear in her eyes gave way to a sense of solace, to an understanding that in order to save her own life she would have to leave everything she knew and all that she loved and held dear. It wasn’t fair but it was necessary. The witch was right; she had seen what had become of others who had lost their babies early. She should have come sooner, but she had been so afraid, both of what was happening to her and of the unknown outcome. Perhaps there was another way.
“Can I stay then, with you? Like you did with Bella. To learn all that I can, so that I may one day help others like you have?”
The witch smiled. “If it pleases you to do so, you may stay afterwards as long as you wish and learn what you can. Many have come and gone before, and have left for distant lands unknown to us to help those who have needed it. We are not alone.”
“I would appreciate that very much,” Aileen said, resigned to her fate. A smile crept across her face, offering hope. “Thank you.”
The witch answered, “No need to thank me. Not now and not later. I do this because I don’t want any to have to suffer as I have, as too many of us have. I do this because these circumstances are more complicated and varied than the Elders will acknowledge.” She smiled back at Aileen. “I will gladly help you, as I have those before and those yet to come. You are welcome to join us in this… And you can call me Abuela.”
For another terrifying adult themed fairy tale, read The Fur Coat as posted on Haunted MTL back in the day. 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.