In 2020, Haunted MTL brought you the 13 Days of Krampus. Now we offer another exclusive series of holiday horror stories: The Twelve Nightmares of the Holidays. It’s day three of 12 Nightmares of the Holidays. If you missed it yesterday, check out Nicole C. Luttrell’s yule terror!
He had been sitting in his blind for about three days now. The quarter-moon beamed soft light onto the surface of the fresh snow. Earlier, a light dusting had come through, masking all signs of activity on the ground. The hunter took a swig from his canteen and sighed quietly, his focus beginning to waver a bit from the exhaustion.
His mind wandered slightly, back to before setting out for the hunt. Packing his equipment onto his sled, his cherubic wife hurried out from the warm orange comfort of their shared workshop. She draped a large white overcoat around his broad shoulders, claiming it would help him hide in the snow. She kissed him on his cheek, handed him a thermos full of piping hot chocolate, and lastly, sent him on his way.
All of a sudden his consciousness snapped back to the present moment as he noticed a large, dark shape stride into the clearing. He quietly leaned forward and stared, laser-focused on the shape as it carefully moved into the dim moonlight. It continued to paw and sniff at the ground, until moving into the clearing and looking at the sky.
There was no mistaking it. Caribou. And it was massive. Simultaneously, the hunter’s stomach did a small jump and his clutch tightened around the edge of his stool. The hunter quietly, but urgently grabbed at his rifle and a coil of rope moving swiftly from behind the blind.
The moonlight outlined the nightmarish shape. Patches of black hair jutted out sideways, resembling enormous quills. Thick, mucousy sludge fell from its lips between large clouds of breath. Dotted across its body were bleached white bone fragments, whether caught in its coat or piercing out from under its skin. It was too dark to tell. Its legs were thick and pulsing with muscles as if it planned to dash away – or towards – any slight provocation. The antlers sticking out of its head were twisted and jangled like a bunch of broken fingers.
Its’ terrible eyes scanned the nearby area, gradually changing from a deep red to a bright white glow as they moved. It stomped its front foot into the slow and whipped its large head into the air and let loose a bellow that echoed for miles.
The hunter moved into position, behind a tree out of the beast’s eye line while clutching the rope. Indeed, the best way to take this monster alive would be to wrap its antlers and drag it down. The rifle is only for if things go bad. Straightaway, he tied several knots in the rope while moving himself around to behind the trees. Luckily the large white coat was doing a lot of work hiding him from the fresh snow.
Carefully, and quietly, he moved into range and prepared to launch his assault on the monster. His boot slipped on a rock hidden under the snow and scraped against the ground. He saw the monster’s leg muscles tense up into giant knots as it swung its huge head around in his direction. He held his breath as the caribou looked directly into the trees and overgrowth where he was standing. Eventually, the caribou began to look away, deciding that there was no danger present.
In one swift motion, the hunter threw his massive arms. He launched several lines of rope that landed across the caribous’ enormous shoulders and antlers. With a start, he bucked up and bellowed so loud it knocked snow out of some nearby pines. The hunter quickly yanked on the ropes, pulling the caribou’s head down toward the ground. Antlers grazed against the snow, leaving large gouges in the fresh powder.
In retaliation the caribou swung its entire body around in the opposite direction, jerking him out of the brush line. He stood there, momentarily stunned as the caribou turned to face him. Their eyes met. The caribou lowered its head and pawed at the ground, snorting madly. The hunter quickly fumbled for his rifle, shakily aimed it at the caribou, and clicked the safety off. He knew what was about to come.
The caribou pushed off the ground and threw itself at the hunter, heading towards him at an impossible speed. The hunter popped a shot off his rifle, but his aim wasn’t true – it grazed the caribou’s left shoulder but didn’t slow him down. The caribou seemed to glide across the snow with incredible ease and there was no time to reload the rifle. He held the rifle out in front of him as the caribou pulled its antlers up and a loud CRACK echoed across the forest.
The hunter was thrown backward against a tree and slumped to the bottom. The caribou managed to run a deep cut against his left shoulder. Crimson blood was beginning to soak out of the wound and into the coat. The hunter looked up. The caribou was standing over him, staring directly into his eyes undoubtedly daring him to make the first move. He finally could get a good look at this enormous beast. His head and shoulders were crisscrossed with all kinds of wounds and scars. Its huge figure shuddered with every breath. The glancing blow from the rifle shot seemed to have done more damage than initially thought.
The rope he had managed to land into the antlers was still there. Other bits of rope and netting from others who had tried before dangled in the cold air. He noticed there might be enough rope left over that he could make one last-ditch effort to break this animal. Launching himself at a loose rope by the beast’s side, he swiftly rolled out of the way. The antlered head took a massive swing at his location and smacked hard against the tree.
The caribou was stunned and the hunter took his opportunity to grab the loose rope and drag it into submission. The animal bucked wildly, left and right, shaking its head and honking loudly at the hunter. With every shake of its mighty head, the beast would sling another loop around its antlers, slowly constricting its movement with every wild buck.
The hunter finally got the beast tied down enough to control it easily. He placed his mittened hand on its nose, shushing it into quietness. It was now under the hunter’s control, fully respected as the winner of their battle of strength. He climbed to his feet and gently adjusted the rope around his neck so he could lead him to his new home.
“You sure gave me a struggle there, lad!” he exclaimed. He winced as the sharp gash in his shoulder suddenly reminded him of its existence. He took the rope in his hands and began to guide the caribou off out of the clearing.
“The wife is going to let me hear it about ruining her new coat,” he chuckled as they both began to walk out of the clearing. “but maybe she’ll change her mind when she sees what a strapping buck will be joining our family. And a quick one too! I’ve not seen one move as fast as you before! Perhaps I will call you… Dasher…”
Into the Deep Woods 1, an October AI journey with Jennifer Weigel
I am embarking on an AI journey using NightCafe to illustrate this graphic story based on a dream I had awhile back. I am also using Canva, so here’s to learning more online systems of image dissemination and propagandizing…
I will include some of the original AI generated images with each piece along with a bit of the dream that inspired it. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
Artwork description: Overall layout: Lightning strike through the corner into obscure clouds and map-like graphic in gray tones sets the mood for Into the Deep Woods.
Part 1, Art: AI generated image of a girl with reddish hair dressed in a robe of some sort and holding a staff. A similar girl in soldier garb fades behind her. Edited in PhotoShop.
Part 1, Text: 1.) Two sisters entered the woods, one a soldier and the other a witch. Only one lived. 2.) The young witch had picked up a bit of magic as she and her sister fled into the deep woods to seek the old witch… They were tired and alone, this was their one and only chance… 3.) The war raged on all around as the Nazis drew closer…
Prompt (Horror): Portrait of soldier girl sister
Prompt (Horror): Portrait of witch girl sister (Evolved from soldier girl)
Prompt (Horror): Soldier girl sister hit by lightning (Evolved from soldier girl)
As mentioned this series is based on a dream that I had awhile back. The two girls first enter the woods to escape the Nazis. In my dream there were initially more soldiers with them who perish due to the war or hazards in the woods. It wasn’t unlike Pan’s Labyrinth but on a much smaller and more intimate scale.
It had been awhile between having the dream and creating this story to share with you. And I quickly learned that the term “Nazi” is prohibited by the AI art generator interface. So there are some changes that have been made, but hopefully you can still follow along. The time and place are not as relevant to the overall anyway.
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…