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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.

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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.

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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.

A silhouette of a caribou creature howls at a hunter, grasping his injured left shoulder.
The Caribou confronts an injured hunter

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.

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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…”

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer Weigel

    December 17, 2022 at 8:20 am

    This explains oh so ho ho much….

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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Something Rotten, Flesh in Flowers

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This time on Nightmarish Nature we will again explore some of the more fetid fungi and plants, this time focusing on those that imitate rotten flesh in order to attract flies. Among the best known of these are the Stinkhorn and the Corpse Lily or Corpse Flower. The Language of Flowers be damned, literally…

Fungi

Many of the fungi in the Stinkhorn family erupt in mushrooms that reek of rotten flesh and sprout from a white sort of egg sac in various forms, the common type being a phallus like structure with a white body and olive head. The Beefsteak fungus resembles, well, a cut of beef oozing blood. And some mushroom bodies of the Clathrus genus bloom in elaborate lattice structures or devil’s tooth and devil’s fingers that resemble terrifying alien beings. These odoriferous fetid fungi grow in decaying wood material and use their stinky attributes to attract flies and other insects which will then spread the spores from their fruiting bodies. They truly look like something out of an outer space or aquatic nightmare.

Some various fungi that can reek of rotten flesh, drawing by Jennifer Weigel.
Some various fungi that can reek of rotten flesh.

Plants

Some plants also utilize pungent putrid odors to attract flies and other insects, in part to aid in the pollination and dissemination but also to attract insect matter for their own needs, to absorb the insects for valuable nutrients that they cannot otherwise obtain. The largest flowers in the world bear many of these characteristics, also being among the stinkiest. And some pitcher plants mimic rotten flesh to attract flies upon which they “feed”.

The Titan Arum of Sumatra and Indonesia is a plant that over time produces a huge flower somewhat resembling a calla lily but larger as the plant body stores enough energy to do so. While Calla Lilies are often used to symbolize rebirth and resurrection and can be associated with death, often in a funerary setting, the huge Titan Arum does more than that, strongly mimicking decaying flesh in order to attract flies. These flowers can grow to almost 8-feet tall and bloom for only about three days before wilting; they are a huge draw at botanic gardens when flowering because of the rare nature of the event and the remarkable presence that the flower has, in both size and smell. The US. Botanic Gardens has a page devoted to this plant here, where you can even track previous blooms.

Titan Arum flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.
Titan Arum flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.

Another noteworthy flowering plant is Rafflesia, a parasitic flower native to Indonesia and Malaysia that feeds on the liana vine and grows from a sprouting body bud into a huge flower over the course of five years. Its flowers, once finally formed, can grow to almost a meter across and resembles something out of a horror film. These too smell of death and decay to attract flies in order to cross-pollinate. You can learn more about these unusual plants on this video from Real Science here.

Rafflesia flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.
Rafflesia flower as drawn by Jennifer Weigel.

If you’ve enjoyed this segment of Nightmarish Nature, feel free to check out some previous here:

Vampires Among Us

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Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

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Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

Horrifying Humans

Giants Among Spiders

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Original Creations

Dirty Clean Sweep, a Short Story by Jennifer Weigel

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Wendell was a germophobe. His obsessions with cleanliness extended far beyond the reach of OCD and even hypochondria, because for all that he was totally infatuated with his own mortality and utterly convinced that he was sick, it was his peculiar obsession with germs that eventually drove him to an insanity that doomed the world to an unexpected and dire destruction. For Wendell was the reason for the Clean Sweep.

When the COVID pandemic happened, it only increased Wendell’s fear, and his germophobia worsened significantly. He started meticulously waxing all of the hair off of his body, even his eyebrows, and would shower several times per day, using an abrasive pumice to slough off any dead skin that might otherwise accumulate and attract mites. As his manners and habits surrounding cleanliness became more and more rigid and involved, he left his house less and less for any reason whatsoever. He began to treat his home environment like a hospital or chemical facility and reworked everything to minimize debris, personally installing air filtration systems that rivaled some of the most sterile industry environments and cleaning everything constantly (he had once worked in HVAC and now no longer trusted anyone else to be involved in his efforts).

He took advantage of all of the delivery services, with packages coming to his back porch once weekly. He had everything on video camera and would scream at anyone who didn’t follow his explicit instructions through a small speaker in the ceiling. If a delivery-person didn’t first sanitize their hands with the supplied wipes and then put on latex gloves and booties before turning the door handle to drop their package on the specified table, they were yelled at and reported, and a bad review was left for whatever service had sent them.

Dirty Clean hand sanitizer out and about
Dirty Clean…

Wendell only order packaged foods, simple soups and cereals that would not come in contact with the world outside of their factory packaged settings. He meticulously researched processing plants to determine what he could and could not consume according to his own standards of cleanliness. When a parcel was delivered, he would leave it where it sat for two to three days time depending on the weather, all the while monitoring it. He would eventually suit up in a tyvek jumpsuit, goggled and gloved, and brave the porch himself in order to extract his needed food and hygiene supplies. Whilst there, he would spray and wipe down the porch, replenish the hand sanitizing wipes and latex gloves, and take everything that might have come into contact with the outside world out with his trash. The cycle would then repeat again a few days later. Every delivery included yet more gear to perpetuate his clean infatuation. More latex gloves, more wipes, more sprays, more tyvek suits… And every time his labors increased…

While Wendell continued to go about his business, ordering life necessities like soap and soup online, a slow and subtle change to his environment began to take over. It wasn’t obvious and, as he never put any distance between himself and his bubble world, he was unaware of the shift. It began because of a spore, well more of an anti-spore like blossoming of suddenly self-aware sterilization. No one really knows where it came from, or how it managed to get such a strong foothold, but perhaps it was because of Wendell’s meticulous cleaning habits. For this strange and unusual being, or beings as it were (for it was hard to tell whether there was a single individual or a number of them all acting under one consciousness), though unaffected by cleaning reagents and the like, had once been highly susceptible to bacteria and rarely survived at length when competing for resources with other species previous to its evolution in Wendell’s abode. But the bereft home was the perfect outpost for it to thrive, and it finally managed to gain a foothold. It grew rapidly and had soon infiltrated most every corner.

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As mentioned, Wendell didn’t notice, or perhaps he welcomed the change. For this strange surface skimmer actually looked even cleaner than its surroundings, appearing as an even brighter less dingy white that almost seemed to glow. It embodied cleanliness, at least insofar as we have come to perceive the concept. And the more that it acclimated to its habitat, the more resilient it became, learning to alter its own surroundings to its gain by killing off any and all other life forms that stood in its way. When a small quantity of some bacteria or mite or other single-celled threat was introduced, say on a box surface or embedded in the cardboard, the newly evolved clean critter would attack and annihilate them almost as if it were itself composed of harsh cleansers like bleach and ammonia. It seemed to develop a memory for different organisms and found a way to destroy most everything. It steadily increased in size and became stronger and stronger.

Clean Dirty hand sanitizer out and about
Clean Dirty…

Finally, one day, it had grown large enough to determine that Wendell himself was a threat, for no matter how clean his environment or person was, he still harbored a myriad of organisms required to keep a human healthy and fully functioning. He was inherently dirty and had to be eliminated. And so the creature he had fostered at length, by providing a nearly sterile environment for its incubation, rose up and destroyed him. It did so while he was sleeping and so he had no awareness of what had happened; had he realized a blanket of seemingly sudsy foam was suffocating him he would have panicked thinking it was some sort of bacterial infection or the like. But he blissfully slept through his untimely death, and the aggressive new organism worked to dispel all of the unclean bits and detritus of his being.

After finally taking over the whole of the house, this new creature began to spread, much like a fungus or a rot, dismantling all in its path in order to leave a wake of clean sterile nothingness. Although it has been said that nature abhors a vacuum, somehow this void had become powerful enough to negate that and continued on its path of complete and utter destruction, leaving nothing living in its path. Before too long it had absorbed the two neighboring houses, and then the houses just beyond those, in a sort of reverse infection that defied logical explanation. The local health department and center for disease control were perplexed; these spaces seemed too clean to harbor such a deadly silent killer and yet something was slowly annihilating everything in its path on a microscopic level. It almost acted like a slow progressing chemical spill but yet there was no evidence of such either.

Before long, word had gotten out and samples had been taken and distributed across the globe. One of those samples was eventually leaked intentionally, as a weapon of mass destruction, and was unable to later be contained. The Clean Sweep was upon all and the world began to be disinfected wholly as it spread. Life was literally in the balance, slated to be eradicated and left to a sort of shiny surface devoid of substance. All was being cleansed, slowly but surely. What started with Wendell, whom would never be known or acknowledged as the source of this new terror, had grown to be much larger.

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.

If you enjoyed this tale, here is another creepy story about cleanliness. 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.

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Original Creations

More Nail Polish Paintings by Jennifer Weigel

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Well, seems I’m at it again, with more nail polish paintings into found thrift store art. Why so many flowers this time…? Well a friend sent them and I just couldn’t help myself. They are so perfect for creepy fairy paintings. And for those of you who think fairies aren’t scary, you haven’t read much about the fey now have you?

More Revisitations nail polish paintings by Jennifer Weigel
More Revisitations nail polish paintings by Jennifer Weigel

Top left: Blue Fairy, originally painted by M Wadorf

Top right: Pegasus, originally painted by Edie Babb

Bottom left: Unicorn, originally painted by R Lovelace (After I painted this I realized I missed the opportunity to do a troll with a bridge and so I hope to do another along those lines in the future.)

Bottom middle: Fairy, originally painted by SD Janz

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Bottom right: Dragon, original signed FZ, very sparkly with black-light sensitive eyes

And the most horrific of the bunch this time is this mermaid, who started as a weird bucket painting by Helen Miller… So, what’s in the bucket, Helen? Body parts? Fish? Plants not yet in bloom? I envisioned a trapped mermaid waiting to ensnare some unsuspecting land-goer, because no one would expect to find a mermaid there…

Mermaid in bucket, original by Helen Miller
Is this mermaid trapped in need of help or just trying to lure you close?

So I broke down and redid the unicorn to a troll. Apparently the troll was hungry… Anyway, here is the result. I am happier with it now.

Troll with toll bridge, original by R Lovelace
Hungry troll wants bridge tolls after eating innocent unicorn.

You can find more of my Revisitations art on Haunted MTL here, including links to even more nail polish paintings…

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.

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