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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 (coughcoughcough) of 12 Nightmares of the Holidays. If you missed it, check out the others so far: here for Jen’shere for Nicole’shere for Phil’s, here for T.T.’s, here for Court Court’s, here for Eve’s, and here for Nicole’s.

This is a continuation of Christmas Dinner, which can be found here. It can be stand alone, though. It’s a year after the events in the first story.

Home for Christmas banner with two women almost kissing and an anatomical body in the background of stars

Christmas is about traditions and family. And Dr. Virginia ‘Ginny’ Kostyshyn is making up her own this year – frozen chicken nuggets for dinner every night, crying while playing Roger Whitaker’s ‘Home for Christmas’ on repeat, glasses of Riesling wine while watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, and dodging Dr. Katherine ‘Kate’ Wright’s texts. 

Work is harder to dodge Kate, though, since they work in the same lab, in the same office and on the same experiments. And Kate doesn’t like to tiptoe and pussyfoot the way Ginny does. 

But thanks to Ginny’s insistent avoidance and quietness, they’ve reverted back to last names. All while Subject 205 a.k.a. Greg, now an off-hand lab assistant, watches the situation darkly. 

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And he’s not apt to get into other people’s business, far be it from him, a year-old reanimated body. However, he has vague memories of last Christmas with Ginny. Fractured recollections of tinsel, eyes glaring at him, skin sliding off, mashed potatoes, Roger Whitaker…and Ginny crying as she stitched him back up.

He also remembers wiping away a tear and apologizing. For being who he is. For being what he is. For ruining everything like he ruined in his first life. And he recalls her hands being so warm, as warm as her smile, as she told him that they had nothing to apologize for. 

And tonight is Christmas Eve, with Dr. Wright putting on her coat, coldly silent, and Dr. Kostyshyn slowly shutting down her laptop and hesitating. 

“All right, Greg,” Dr. Wright says, her clipped accent echoing in the white, clean lab. “Have a good night. Dr. Woodruff is on call. He’ll be in tomorrow. Have a holly jolly and all that.”

“Yes,” he grunts and his eyes peer over to Dr. Kostyshyn, the offset orbs wide and inquiring. He earns a stern look for it, so he concedes, “You, too.”

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Dr. Kostyshyn peeks up, but Dr. Wright just nods, “Dr. Kostyshyn.”

Ginny Kostyshyn’s face falls and she nods in return. “Yes, good night. Have a happy-”

But Dr. Wright is already walking out the door. Ginny can feel her chest clench, another new tradition. She gathers her coat and scarf listlessly. “I’ll come by tomorrow, Greg, don’t worry.”

“I don’t worry,” he says, feeling some of that heartache. He doesn’t worry, though, when he has a plan. 

“Ah, good. Then…I guess have a good night.”

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***

Ginny checks her phone but no texts to dodge tonight. Not from Kate and not from her family. One text from Bath and Bodyworks telling her about a special and wishing her a happy holiday season. 

At least someone cares.

She sniffles as she flops into her couch and searches around for a half empty bottle she left last night. This isn’t like her. She knows that, so why can’t Kate know that?

The last argument they had, Kate told her to grow up and stop pining over a love that wasn’t reciprocated. Just like that. Ginny’s family didn’t love her. 

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Yes, maybe it’s true. Maybe they haven’t called her since last Christmas. Maybe they hated her. Maybe they’ve blocked her on social media. Maybe they never would have her come back. Maybe she’d never have her mother’s lasagna again. 

Stupid things like that seem so much more significant. 

Stupid, stupid traditions she could no longer have, but still remember. 

And after the bottle is empty, the tradition of crying herself to sleep begins again, as it did the night before, and the night before that. 

***

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Kate is angry and getting piss drunk, looking at her phone again. It’s useless, she knows, but still. 

She sighs and puts it back into her pocket. Along with other lonesome losers, she’s in a dive bar, watching some American football highlights from a game twenty years ago. Her parents are already asleep in Birmingham, six hours ahead of her. 

She tries to watch the television, but it’s just flashing images. It’s just lights and muted sounds. It’s not real, doesn’t feel real. Merry Christmas. 

She’s been away from her family for ten years now and she was half-hoping, now that Ginny’s family was bust, that maybe, just maybe, they might have gone to her hometown. It’s been five years since she’s gone back and even though she calls and Skypes, it’s about as real as the television. Just flashing images. It’s not the smell of her mother, the warmth of her father, and the sassy gleam in her granny’s eye. It’s all different. 

But when she vaguely brought up the holidays, Ginny shut down. 

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Ginny shut down, but worst of all, shut her out. 

She taps the counter for another and the bartender nods. “‘Kay, but then you’re cut off.”

“Got it.” She had a long, quiet few days ahead of her. It wasn’t so much she was angry at Ginny, it was just hard to have someone keep grieving and not know what to do. Kate had never been the shoulder to cry on. She had put all of her efforts into school, career, study, science, and technology. She wanted to be one of the best.

But being one of the best made her one of the lonliest and she thought those days were over when Ginny somehow wormed her way into Kate’s life and heart. 

She thinks about the gift in her desk, sitting there for the next few days. For an eternity, perhaps, unopened. 

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How disappointing. 

How frustrating.

How soft and stupid. 

She finishes her drink and cashes out. 

***

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One empty bottle later in Ginny’s home and one cold, drunken walk later to Kate’s home, and suddenly they both get a call. A call from the lab. It rings to both of them, at opposite ends of the city. It wakes Ginny up and startles Kate into falling off the sidewalk.

“H-hello?” Ginny stutters into the phone, frizzled hair in her mouth.

Kate is still picking herself back up and then joins. “What?”

“Oh, hello,” Greg says, monotone, as usual. “You both may want to come back to the lab.”

Sighing, Kate replies, “Dr. Woodruff is-”

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“He’s dead,” Greg states, looking down at the man split in two. Shame, really. Woodruff wasn’t too bad. Just opened his mouth when he ate and clipped his toenails in the lab. “Remember the man-pig hybrid Dr. Chuz is working on?”

“Yes,” they say in unison but with alternating inflections. 

“Oh God,” Ginny exclaims.

“What happened?” Kate asks, looking for a cab or something to get her to the lab. It’s hard with everything spinning. 

“It escaped…somehow,” Greg quietly explains. “I think it’s a bit sick, though. Reanimated meat probably didn’t do it any good.”

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“Greg?! Are you okay?” Ginny asks and gets up, tangling in her coat and scarf. 

He looks down, legs half-eaten and chartreuse blood pooling around him. “Hmm, I’m still alive. The legs need work, though.”

“We’re on our way,” Kate tells him, and still looks around at an empty street, “…somehow. I can’t drive. Ginny, can you pick me up?”

“Uh…” She looks at the empty bottle on the ground. “Unfortunately…I probably shouldn’t drive.”

They both sigh.

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“Let’s get cabs and meet there. Greg, is it still in the building?”

“Oh yes,” he states, as the mig- er pan, whatever it is, is heaving in the corner, vomiting up bits of the doctor and vile parts of himself. Greg eyes the bits and bobs in morbid fascination. “I don’t think he’s going anywhere for a while. I think I didn’t agree with him.”

“They keep a shotgun upstairs, so we’ll come down with that.”

“A shotgun, Kate?! While we’re- uh…”

“Pissed?”

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“I’m not- Oh, no, I’m just tipsy.”

“You’re slurring.”

“And I’m losing blood,” Greg calming brings them back on point.

“Right. Since you’re ‘just tipsy’ and American, you can call, well, shotgun.”

“Oh, Kate,” Ginny admonishes as she flings her shoes on. “Don’t worry, Greg. We’re on our way.”

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And just like that, his plan is in action.

***

When they both make their way to the underground lab, Ginny faring better than Kate’s weaving and swaying. However, they find a horrific mess. Just…a mess. Everything is turned upside-down. Blood on the walls, on the floor, on the ceiling and doors. 

Calmly, in the mess, Greg is leaning against a desk, playing a word game on his phone. His legs are torn asunder and remain only in strings of cartilage, bone, and muscles. It reminds Ginny of oozing and meaty string cheese. Looking up, he nods. “Merry Christmas.”  

“Jesus H!” Kate breathes out. 

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“Where is it?” Ginny says, shotgun shaking in her hands, almost the size of her. 

“I think it’s dead,” he tells them and points to a hidden corner. “I heard gagging and struggling…Serves it right.”

Ginny goes to peek while Kate remains. “Aren’t you a bit calm?”

They share a glance to size up each other as Kate sways and refuses to acknowledge it as much as Greg refuses to acknowledge his string cheese legs. There’s a pause before he says, “Why wouldn’t I be? I’ve done nothing wrong.”

After her investigation, Ginny breathes in relief. “It’s dead! I think it died by aspiration.”

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“Hallelujah,” Kate sarcastically replies, still glaring at Greg, who is almost at the next level in his game.   

“Well,” Ginny sighs, pulling off her coat. “I guess we, uh…”

She gestures to the bits of Dr. Woodruff, the larger pieces of him, the vomit, the lab, the everything. “Greg is first, I suppose.”

“I guess, the wanker,” Kate mumbles, slipping off her own coat, then having to find the coat rack in the calamity. “You don’t deserve us, 205.”

He shrugs as he contently plays on his phone, continuing to ooze out, without real concern now that the scientists are here. 

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Ginny puts 205 up into the examination bed and sedates him while Kate goes into her desk to get some supplies. That’s when she finds her present to Ginny with a frown. It seems as good a time as any.

Before they need to scrub up and put on surgical gowns, she tosses it to Ginny. “Merry Christmas. It’s after midnight.”

“Oh, sorry. Your present is at my apart-”

“Just open it.”

It’s small. Very small. Box-shaped. And Ginny is nervous and afraid. It could be something that she’s not ready for. What if it’s a tone-deaf, ‘let me be your family since you don’t have one’? What could she even say if it’s a ring? It just feels cruel. 

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With shaking hands, she opens it slowly, relieved to find a key instead. A key? To where? Kate wouldn’t be so cheesy as to say to her heart. It’s not a car key, thank goodness. 

“It’s to a cabinet,” Kate explains, seeing the confusion. “Remember when we were here the first year and there was that cabinet and you lost the key?”

Blinking, she half-recalls. Honestly, she just remembers being scolded for it and the panic afterwards. 

“And you kept looking for it and I got annoyed and just took a crowbar and sledgehammer to it. Remember?”

Ginny laughs. “Oh, yeah. I thought you were crazy.”

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“You called me impatient at the time.” Swaying, but sobering up, Kate sighs and walks over to Ginny. Sees the little key in her green-bloodied hands, shining like the star on top of a Christmas tree. “You said it’d turn up eventually.”

“God, that was years ago, though.”

Kate’s hands curve around Ginny’s carefully. “I know that you’re upset with your family. It’s not what you wanted or expected. They’re being shits about it and it hurts to be on the outside. 

“I found the key recently and I just wanted to give it back and remind you that sometimes it takes time. You were right. Sometimes you have to be patient. Maybe with them. Maybe with yourself…Maybe sometimes even with me. But you’re going to get back what you lose. Not always in the moment you want it, but you’ll find it. You just have to be patient and remember what you have now.”

Ginny purses her lips so she doesn’t cry like a sop, but leans forward to touch her forehead to the chin there. With a long breath, she replies, “Thank you.”

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“Of course. And maybe if you’re not too busy…you can come back with me and meet the Wrights. My mum collects ugly porcelain swans, my dad has the worst jokes, their dog is full of farts, but gran isn’t so bad. And I’m not saying that as-…I want you to meet them. They’re much more normal and better people than I’ll ever be.” 

A stray tear falls as Ginny sniffs and chuckles. “You’re not so bad.”

“I’m about to sew up a reanimated corpse that was half-eaten by a pig-headed abomination…I’m not great. But…I’ve got you here, so it’s not awful.” She leans down to punctuate her gift with a kiss. 

Ginny smiles and accepts the offered kiss warmly, realizing how much she’s missed it. “Mm, and when we’re done, we get to clean up the body of the aforementioned abomination and get to break the news to Dr. Chuz.”

“That’s okay. I’ll do it. I don’t mind ruining his Christmas; he misspells my name constantly.” Kate smirks and kisses Ginny’s cheek.

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“Merry Christmas, Dr. Wright,” Ginny quietly says, hugging tight onto her girlfriend. 

“Merry Christmas, Dr. Kostyshyn,” Kates replies and holds her back, just as tightly.

When not ravaging through the wilds of Detroit with Jellybeans the Cat, J.M. Brannyk (a.k.a. Boxhuman) reviews mostly supernatural and slasher films from the 70's-90's and is dubiously HauntedMTL's Voice of Reason. Aside from writing, Brannyk dips into the podcasts, and is the composer of many of HauntedMTL's podcast themes.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer Weigel

    December 25, 2022 at 4:12 pm

    I am glad this is revisited and hope that there is peace for all of them in the aftermath of the two year’s holidays.

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Original Series

AI Journey: Little Red Riding Hood, Part 2

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Continuing our AI journey from last time exploring Little Red Riding Hood herself as the Big Bad Wolf… All of these are based upon the AI generated art and prompts using NightCafe and then created as posters in Canva.

Little Red Riding Hood as a wolf, Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023
Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023

How very… Phantom of the Opera predatory… this is definitely not what I had in mind. Maybe something more cutesy?

Little Red Riding Hood woman with wolf head instead of her own, Anime V2 style, Aug. 1, 2023
Anime V2 style, Aug. 1, 2023

Ugh. Maybe not.

Wolf face peering out of red hooded cape, Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023
Sinister style, Aug. 1, 2023

Wow, that seems like such a cop out, cropping off the head so you don’t have to depict it. And I don’t want to lose the Little Red Riding Hood reference completely.

Wolf in sheep's clothing as Little Red Riding Hood, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

So no surprise there, I knew that was too many references to work.

And we continued to devolve, join us again next week for the final installment to see how this ended… And again, if you want to catch the last AI art journey, you can find it on Haunted MTL here.  To see more such devolutions into AI generated art, check out the Will the Real Jennifer Weigel Please Stand Up? blog.

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Original Series

AI Journey: Little Red Riding Hood, Part 1

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And as promised in Big Bad Poetry, we shall embark on our next AI journey, this time looking at Little Red Riding Hood. I had wanted to depict her as the Big Bad Wolf one and the same, although maybe not so big nor bad. But it just wasn’t happening quite as planned. All of these are based upon the AI generated art and prompts using NightCafe and then created as posters in Canva.

Little Red Riding Hood beautiful woman with red cape hiding her wolf face.  Sinister style, July 29, 2023
Sinister style, July 29, 2023

So I actually like this even better than my original vision, it is playful and even a bit serene (especially given the Sinister style). The wolf is just being a wolf. It’s quite lovely, really. But it wasn’t what I had in mind, so I revisited the idea later to see if I could get that result…

Little Red Riding Hood with wolf face, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

Well, that’s not quite right…

Wolf face Little Red Riding Hood, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

Yeah more of the same…

What part of wolf face don't you understand?, Hyperreal style, Aug. 1, 2023
Hyperreal style, Aug. 1, 2023

And as you can see this is starting to devolve quickly. Join us again next week to see how this continued to develop… And if you want to catch the last AI art journey, you can find it on Haunted MTL here. To see more such devolutions into AI generated art, check out the Will the Real Jennifer Weigel Please Stand Up? blog.

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Original Creations

Big Bad poetry by Jennifer Weigel

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So considering my recent revival of a wolfwere and his Lucky Days and Nightmarish Nature’s hostile humanity, it seems we are due for a visit from Little Red Riding Hood, or perhaps even Big Bad himself… Here’s a poem on the subject by Jennifer Weigel.


Over the river and through the wood
flashed the fleet-footed Red Riding Hood
on her way to her “grandmother’s” house.

When running past, who should she see
but just one of the little pigs three
cowering like but a tiny mouse.

“But my dear piggy, what do you fear?”
Red Riding Hood asked as she slunk near,
teeth hidden under a sheepish smile.

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The nervous small pig looked up in fright
and decided that Red was alright,
missing the subtle clues by a mile.

“The Big Bad Wolf, that horrible beast
upon the other wee pigs did feast!”
the last little pig said with a squeal.

Red Riding Hood laughed with a great growl
and threw back her heavy long-robed cowl,
in a vast terrifying reveal.

For she was really the wolf Big Bad
hidden beneath the cape that he had
stolen from Red Riding Hood at point.

“And now I’ve caught you too my pretty
and surely t’wouldn’t be a pity
if I gobbled you up in this joint.”

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T’was then the wee pig leapt to his feet
And cried, “Big Bad Wolf, I shall defeat,
for I am no ordinary swine!”

The little pig also wore sheep’s clothes
spun in spells every woodland witch knows;
Old Granny herself was quite divine.

“Now give me back my granddaughter’s cape,
before I grab you by your ruffed nape
and send you pig-squealing down the road…”

The wolf dropped the cape and ran, that cur,
but Granny was swifter and hexed his fur
and the wolf she turned into a toad.

Thus the moral of this story goes,
when in the woods, no one really knows
what sheepish sheep’s clothing is a ruse
that big bad wolves and old witches use.

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So this is actually an intro to my next AI art journey with NightCafe which developed from me not getting the results I wanted (Little Red Riding Hood herself as a wolf). Here’s a preview with Eric’s versions as he is much more literal in his prompting than I am, but where’s the fun in that? 😉

Prompts (from left to right) in Dark Fantasy style, executed Aug. 1, 2023:

Bipedal wolf in Red Riding Hood’s cloak

Bipedal wolf in Red Riding Hood’s cloak close up portrait

Bipedal wolf in red cloak close up portrait

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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