Hallowed Winter: An @hallowedwinter Instagram Art Challenge

Although this challenge, created and hosted by @hallowedwinter on Instagram, focused on visual artists, I’m participating (after the fact) as a “literary artist.” The challenge provided nine prompts for works of art that cross Halloween and Christmas, to be completed between Dec. 1 and 31, 2017. I’m joining the fun three years late!

1. Merry Krampus

Timmy’s blood-starved hands had been numb for hours, strangled by deliberately undersized handcuffs, worsened by the swelling of his wrists (Krampus had shattered those while restraining the deviant critter). Before being inducted into the underworld, Timmy endured an aggressive body-cavity search that rendered him incontinent and robbed him of his ability to seal off a certain point of entry best left defended in that realm. Then, after being powdered with lye, infected with parasites and sent away nude, he was shown to his cell.

2. Cold Bodies

She recoiled as if shot in the gut the moment her bare foot made contact with the frosted floor of the walk-in freezer, slamming her head as her balance deserted her, and drifting off into a concussion-induced coma. The women imprisoned there with her had already become living icicles from their prolonged exposure, scarcely able to hear the thud – but infused with envy when they did. Unlike her, they were being individually terrorized by the claustrophobia-like panic that comes from being simultaneously incapacitated and conscious for every millisecond of torture.

3. Winter Witchcraft

Dainty snowdrifts punctuated the bleak, featureless landscape like a field of headstones, concealing the mass grave beneath them: a village wearing an avalanche as a death shroud. Covens from the surrounding villages, offering condolences to those buried alive, converged there to set a pyre ablaze. It was Imbolc Eve, mid-winter’s epilogue to the harrowing months of famine, captivity and destruction. And as the villagers’ corpses materialized from the slush of snow melting around the bonfire, they portended an ironically early spring.

4. Arctic Aliens

Humanoid silhouettes phased through the exterior of the spaceship blocking the road, then suddenly appeared beside her in her car and pushed her out of it. Savagely enough to fracture several of her bones, they stripped her and strapped her onto an iron cross with steel manacles. Then, after rectally gagging her with a data-mining device, they levitated her and transported her telekinetically onto their ship. After months of vivisections and failed attempts at inter-species breeding, they finally set her free – in the subzero vacuum of outer space.

5. Sinister Snowglobe

Corrosion tie-dyed his extremities with splotchy spirals of discoloration as his hacked-up carcass sunk into the bath and disintegrated. The ions in the special mixture I had prepared hastily feasted on his molecular bonds like piranhas. The sizzle of the chemical reaction was like a somber requiem, played magnificently by the orchestra of acid degrading his butchered limbs to a liquid state. Transferences of energy propelled scraps of tattered body tissue into orbit, and the graceful swirling of the human-flakes in the tub reminded me of a snow globe.

6. The 13th Day of Christmas

I mask the stench of my true love’s abysmal hygiene with the potpourri emitted by the squalid indoor bird farm I bought her for Christmas. I bought her a pear tree for our kitchen, too, secretly hoping it would generate more oxygen by processing her fumes. And I bought her five copper rings to kill the bacteria on her eternally grubby fingers, which my employees at Nine Ladies Dairy and Disco (wise entrepreneurs diversify) suggested. Today, after her friends’ dance and music recitals, I’m meeting her at our favorite vista for the 13th day of Christmas – to propose!

7. Killer Toys

The effigy’s likeness of the old hag surpassed even her in its hideousness, with its mangy thatch of sunbaked roadkill as hair; its swollen, gestated Black Widow egg sacs as eyes; its fused shards of fluorescent emerald glass as teeth; and a germinating potato as her body, its buds so advanced they furnished her arms, legs and head. To drag out her suffering before allowing her to enter the gates of hell, I stuck her doll methodically and patiently with 65 pins – one for each year of her duplicitous crime spree of a life, a life cut short before it could claim yet another.

8. Beneath the Ice

For $28 a night, I expected sandpaper bath towels, walls thinner than the motel’s half-ply toilet paper, and bedsheets with stains that left nothing to the imagination. So, it didn’t faze me when the ice bucket on the vacant TV stand had a microbial civilization inside; I just needed two cubes for my scotch anyhow. As I scooped my prize out of the oversized ice bin outside though, wincing as roaches scuttled away, I felt something familiar – a hand! Dropping the bucket out of shock, I dug around until I found a face. And despite the freezer burn, I could tell whose it was: mine.

9. New Year’s Evil

Wearing the rapist’s stomped head like a galosh, I swept his face across the parking lot with my boot, pausing where he had abducted my daughter so that I could savor the irony. Each step screeched as his teeth grated against the asphalt. Slick, chunky traces of his organic waste – including the “weapon” I had clipped off with bolt cutters before he went catatonic – shimmered in the moonlight. This was for her, for my baby girl. But she wasn’t his only victim, and he wasn’t the only predator out there. So, for the new year, I resolve to multiply my scumbag body count – exponentially.