Something was wrong.

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I knew it from the moment he stepped off the train from Worcester.

It wasn’t his size, but there was something off about the way his belly moved.

He was wearing a coat that stretched down to his knees, and for a moment, I thought the garment ill-made. It was only when he pulled it over his copious midsection that I realized it had been designed to hide something underneath.

Not his girth, for there was no way to hide that.

No, it was the way his belly moved on its own.

I caught sight of it a moment before he buttoned the coat up. His shirt and skin crawled of their own accord as though something was hidden within his flesh.

As he passed through the train station, I saw his eyes dart about hungrily, pausing on a pair of children waiting with their mother. His nostrils flared, his eyes narrowed, and a bit of drool appeared at the corners of his mouth. He hesitated a moment as though he was going to speak to them, and then he made his way out of the station.

I waited a short time, and then I followed.

He wasn’t difficult to find. He’d taken a left and was following the sound of children’s voices coming from a nearby home. I kept a fair distance behind him, making certain he didn’t notice me.

When he came within sight of the house, he stepped into a deep shadow, unbuttoned his coat and rubbed at his belly.

After a few minutes, he stiffened, opened his mouth wide and kept it open as rats crawled out of it.

Great, dirty brown river rats hauled themselves free of his mouth and scampered down his chest and belly. They clambered down his legs, kept to the edges of the building and then stole across the street.

I didn’t wait any longer.

I drew my Colt and strode up to the man, cocking the pistol as I did so.

By the time I reached his side, a child screamed and then another. A look of pure satisfaction filled the fat man’s face.

I suppose an identical one found its way onto mine as I jammed the pistol up under his chin and pulled the trigger.

Dozens of rats clawed their way out, and as the children continued screaming, I stomped on the rodents.

When I finished, the rats were dead, and my boots needed cleaning.

#monsters #supernatural

I’d been tracking the killer for days.

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I’d found the first body on Stiefel Street the day before last. The corpse had been stuffed behind a large rock and half hidden beneath a bush. Whoever it was hadn’t been a native of Cross, but it didn’t mean they’d deserved to die the way they had.

Yesterday, while searching for sign of the killer, I stumbled on a pair of bodies on East Road in a sugar shack not twenty feet from the road. It was there that I found a set of curious tracks, ones that I followed until nighttime and then picked up again this morning.

I followed the trail from East Road to Blood Road, then west to High Street.

The tracks led to a house built only a few years earlier and occupied by a woman I didn’t know.

With my coat buttoned and the Colts hidden from view, I knocked on the door several times. When no one answered, I feared the worst and went ‘round the back. I rapped on the backdoor and again received no answer.

There was a chance, of course, that no one was home, that the owner had stepped out or was traveling.

And there was a chance she was dead in a room, mangled and half-devoured by the unknown beast I was tracking.

I’ve apologized quite a bit in my life, and one more time wouldn’t bruise my ego any.

With a grunt, I broke the lock and forced the door.

I stepped into a well-organized kitchen and passed through to a small hall. No scent of death greeted me. No sign of carnage.

I heard a creak above me and made my way to the second floor.

Behind the first door, I found the mistress of the house and the killer, too.

They were one and the same.

She was beautiful and deadly, holding in her hands the head of a lion. As she sat up, she slipped the head over her own, the mane falling like a mantle about her slight shoulders. She climbed down from the bed, shifting gracefully into the great cat.

The Colts cleared leather as she leapt at me, and I sidestepped to the left, the revolvers thundering, the slugs tearing through the lion and sending her crashing to the floor.

I moved closer and put another half dozen rounds into her head.

Better safe than sorry.

#monsters #supernatural

Too damned smart.

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I came upon the kill by the stonewall that runs parallel to the Hollow on North Road. At one time, the cold, stinking meat had been a buck. And a big one at that.

The head had been twisted clean off and set on the wall to stare out at travelers such as myself. The eyes had been gouged out, and the tongue was missing.

The body lay torn asunder. The hooves and the innards were missing, the rest of the meat – the muscle and skin – had been left behind.

Settling onto my haunches beside the kill, I saw great tears in the flesh as though claws and teeth had done the work.

Straightening up, I looked around for sign and caught sight of half a bear track. The size of it made my eyes widen, and an involuntary whistle escaped from my lips. I paced out the distance between the first and second track and realized the bear probably stood twelve or thirteen feet at the shoulder.

I glanced back at the stag head and shook my own.

I couldn’t take the time to go back for a rifle. The bear was killing for pleasure and for the bits it considered tasty.

I had no desire to find the body of a child who’d suffered the same fate of the stag.

I followed the tracks to where they dipped down into the forest on the right of the road and soon came upon Coffin Brook. Stepping out onto a rock, I glanced up and down and saw the bear on all fours in a pool.

The beast looked at me, tilted its wet muzzle to the sky and let out a roar that shook leaves from the trees.

Drawing my Colts, I cocked the hammers and waited.

“I’ve killed your kin before, Blood,” the bear snarled, rising to its full height with water pouring from its fur. “You’ll be hard to kill but worth the work. Your kind always are.”

The bear lunged forward, and as it crashed onto its paws, I fired.

The shots went true, each one smashing through the mouth of the bear, shattering teeth and blowing out the back of its skull.

The earth shook, and water splashed as the bear collapsed, the corpse damning up part of the brook.

I put two more rounds into its head for good measure, reloaded and stepped onto the bank.

What the hell else was the month going to bring?

#monsters #supernatural

Dogs XXXI

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My dogs went running.

At first, I couldn’t hear anything. By the time they bolted across the backyard and past the barn, I was racing after them. It was only as I reached the tree line that the first chords of music reached my ears.

The faint notes pulled me onward and caused me to draw the Colts.

Ahead of me, I could hear the dogs crashing through the undergrowth, barking and yipping and yapping as they went. The three dogs, each nigh on twenty years old, raced as though they were puppies and not burdened with the scars and injuries of life on my farm.

Their actions made me fear the worst, and so I was prepared for it when I raced into the small glen before the apple orchard.

I wasn’t prepared for the musicians.

They brought me to a stop, guns leveled, and my mind racing.

Three of the four men were armed with instruments, the fourth had a fowling gun and a chained dog with him.

One man, armed with a squeezebox, offered a short bow.

“Master Blood,” the man greeted me. “It is a pleasure to see you in the flesh, as it were.”

“Is it?” I asked. “Where are my dogs?”

The dog on the chain looked at me, and I saw the depth of his intelligence in his brown eyes.

The speaker chuckled. “Never fear about the chain, Master Blood. That is window dressing. Should Harald decide he’s leaving, well, there’s nothing anyone here can do. We are his servants, he is not ours. As for your dogs.”

“I can best explain about your dogs,” Harald interjected. “They have lived long, Duncan Blood. Much longer than most of their kin. This seems to be the case for most dogs who come to live with you, and this pleases me. You care for us. Your dogs, I am sorry to say, ate a bad rabbit yesterday morning, and sickness will carry them away. Rather than have them suffer, and rather than have you suffer by being unable to comfort or cure them, I have called them home early. It is not something I do often.”

I lowered my Colts, then holstered them. “My dogs are gone?”

“They are,” the dog nodded.

I looked beyond the musicians and shook my head.

Whatever joy had been in the day had fled.

“My dogs are gone.”

Without another word, I went home to silence.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XXX

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He tried to call the dogs and failed.

I sat in my rocker on the porch, smoking and enjoying a brandy as my three remaining dogs lay about me. The cool evening air had settled in, and it was a fine night.

Until the horn blew.

A high, piercing note ripped the silence from us and left my ears ringing and the dogs yowling their complaints.

None of them, however, got to their feet.

Oh, the hackles stood on the backs of their necks, and their ears lay flat against their skulls, but they didn’t get up. They’re old dogs, and they know all the old tricks.

The hunting horn’s plaintive call faded, and I looked to the dogs.

“That’s from the Hollow,” Marcus remarked. “I’m not going back.”

I finished my brandy and relit my pipe.

The dogs and I waited.

A few moments later, the horn blew not fifty yards from us down the drive. But the instrument and the player were hidden by the darkness.

I eased a Colt from its holster, cocked the hammer back and lay the revolver on my lap, hand curled around the butt of the weapon.

The sound of footsteps reached us, and then an older man stepped into view. He wore a flat-brimmed hat and clothes that had seen rough days. In his hand, he held a hunting horn, and he scowled as he looked at us on the porch.

He came to a stop, and for a short time, he stood still. Then, he raised the horn to his lips and blew upon it.

Neither I nor the dogs reacted.

The man lowered the horn. “Those dogs are mine.”

I exhaled a mouthful of smoke and raised an eyebrow.

“All dogs are mine,” the man snapped. He lifted the horn. “This is mine, and it gives me power over all dogs who hear it.”

“These are free dogs,” I informed the man.

“No such creature,” he snarled and blew the horn again.

“Let off the horn,” I said when he finished. “And leave us to our rest.”

The man muttered a curse and reached behind his back. When his hand reappeared, he held a small pistol, and it cost him his life.

The Colt’s slug smashed apart the horn and crashed into the man’s chest, knocking him down into the dirt. He took one long, shuddering gasp and then died.

The dogs and I went inside and closed the door behind us.

The body could wait for the morning.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XXIX

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I returned to Elbridge Island.

I found a rowboat tied to the dock, and I made my canoe fast beside it. With my Colts drawn and my Spencer slung over my shoulder, I followed the same path as the day before to Elbridge’s house.

On the other side of it, I found four hunters, a hound, and the brace of game birds they had shot just a short time before.

Only the dog seemed happy to see me.

Before his masters could stop him, the hound bounded to me. “Do you smell it?”

“I saw it yesterday,” I told the dog. “It’s why I’ve come back.”

I looked to the men who gazed at me with obvious disdain.

“This is the wrong island to be on,” I told them. “Wrong lake, as a matter of fact.”

The man holding the birds stood. “This is a good hunting ground. We’d like to stay a bit.”

Before I could reply, the monstrosity lumbered out of the woods. As the men tried to comprehend what they saw, I holstered the Colts, freed the Spencer and fired. The rifle’s slug tore a chunk away from the creature’s mouth, leaving it oozing a foul ichor the color and consistency of molasses. The sight of it sent the men into motion.

They loaded their bird guns and charged at the beast.

I don’t know if it was bravery or panic, but it spelled their doom.

I fired until I ran out of ammunition and the Spencer’s barrel had a dull glow to it.

The men raced to the monstrosity and fired into its maw with their birdshot. The beast took hold of them, howled in fury and tore them apart. When it finished, I watched the thing add their limbs to its body.

I looked down at the dog, and the dog looked up at me.

“Fire?” he asked.

“Fire,” I agreed and shrugged off my coat. I wrapped it around a length of stick, set fire to one of the finest coat’s I’ve owned, and crossed the field toward the beast. When I was a short distance from it, I drew a Colt and put a single round into the creature’s mouth.

It threw a head and lumbered toward me, and when it was close enough, I fed it the coat.

The monster coughed, howled, tried to choke up the coat and exhaled fire instead.

The dog and I watched it burn and made sure to stand upwind.

The damned thing stank like hell.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XXVIII

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The dogs told me of the dead.

I was at the eastern dock on Blood Lake when two of the hounds told me Elbridge Island was strewn with fresh corpses.

The news didn’t please me.

Elbridge stood far to the west and too close to the Hollow. Fresh corpses meant interlopers, and interlopers meant fighting.

I had too much to do before winter, and I didn’t appreciate any interruptions.

Still, it needed dealing with.

With that in mind, I chose one of the Bateaux to go out to Elbridge with. While it might take a bit of time to go across the lake, it would hold more bodies than one of my canoes.

By the time I reached Elbridge Island, the wind had shifted, carrying with it the unmistakable stench of rotting bodies. When I docked and tied the Bateaux down, I left my ropes and such for dragging corpses in the boat. Best to scout the situation first.

I followed the path that led to the property that Elbridge Copp had once farmed, but that had been close to the end of the 19th century.

By the time I reached the farm, the stench caused my eyes to water, and there were bodies strewn across the land.

There’d been a battle. Of that, there was no doubt. I don’t know as anyone had won since the bodies lay where they’d fallen.

As I looked out over the carnage, the corpse nearest to me twitched. Then further on, another did the same. My hands went to the Colts, and I watched as the corpse dragged itself not toward me but toward the nearest body.

The others were doing the same.

One after another, they pulled themselves together. In the still air, I could hear bones breaking and flesh tearing. Sinews punched through skin and stitched the bodies together.

And then it stood.

The monstrosity swung ‘round to face me, opened a mouth made of gaping wounds, and let out a shriek that rattled my teeth.

Before the creature’s cry faded away, the Colts answered.

The beast didn’t like lead, and I poured the rounds in. Again and again, I reloaded the Colts, my fingers burning on the brass.

Finally, with a last, wounded scream, the creature bolted.

For a moment, I considered following.

But I was short on rounds and hungry as hell.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XXVII

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She came to ask for mercy.

I was sitting on the back steps, a cup of coffee in one hand and my pipe in the other. A cool breeze drifted through the yard and rustled the grass growing along the foundation of the house. Despite it being the middle of August, I could smell autumn on the breeze, and it did little to please me. It meant quicker work to get the wood in and longer days to fill the larder. When the winter months came, I’d spend a fair amount of time keeping the islands clear of whatever snuck in from the Hollow.

It’d been getting worse of late.

As I sat there, finishing the coffee, a white dog trotted into the yard and bowed.

“Master Blood?” she asked.

“Aye.”

“I have come to ask a favor of you,” she continued. “On behalf of my master and his charges.”

I put the mug down, relit my pipe and asked, “And what favor might that be?”

“Death.”

“Whose?”

“Their own,” the dog replied.

“Why?”

“They rescued a kitten yesterday morning,” the dog explained, “although the cat begged them not to. She is sick, and her sickness spreads to them. Already the rot has claimed their strength. They can do little more than sit on a log. The pain, they tell me, is nearly too much to bear.”

I looked at the dog. “You’re not ill?”

She shook her head. “Apparently, it passes only from human to cat and back again.”

“Take me to them.”

I followed her out to the shore of Blood Lake and then waded across to one of the closer islands. There, a dozen or so feet in, we found them. The dog lay down at her master’s feet. He opened his mouth to speak to her, but his teeth tumbled out onto the motionless kitten in his lap, and blood leaked from his lips as they split open.

Without a word, I drew the Colts.

The women clutched fresh flowers to their breasts, and I pulled the triggers.

It was over in a moment.

The dog laid her head down upon her forearms and closed her eyes.

I had no words of comfort for her.

“You’re welcome at my home,” I told her. “Come if you wish.”

And with that, I left her to mourn her dead.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XXVI

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Illiterate sonsofbitches.

I’ve more than a few signs up around my property with words like ‘Danger’ and ‘No Trespassing.’

Oh, occasionally, there’s a good reason for it, so I explain gently that they need to leave.

Others, though, I’m not so gentle with.

This morning is a fine example.

The turkeys are in rare form. The Toms are all out, challenging one another and trying to keep their harems together. Lots of fights between the birds while the hens try to mind their own business and ignore the idiocies of their mates. With the Toms all full of themselves, it makes them easier to spot and easier to shoot.

And that’s just what these two bastards did.

The roar of a shotgun is a difficult thing to miss on an early morning, and I sure as hell didn’t. With my Colts loaded and loose in their holsters, I went searching for trespassers, and I found them.

They were away south on my property, one with a bird over his shoulder and the other looking for their next target. A bird dog stood beside the shooter, and when the dog heard me, his tail drooped. The dog shook his head, trotted a few steps toward me and muttered, “I told them not to.”

I shrugged, and the dog went past me, out of the line of fire.

The men turned at the sound of the dog’s voice and peered at me with bored and unconcerned eyes.

“Gentlemen,” I said, letting my hands rest on the butts of the Colts. “Put the bird down and leave.”

The man with the turkey looked at me and chuckled. “This is our bird, and we’re not leaving it or here.”

I saw his companion drawing a small pistol from his waistband, and I pulled the Colts.

The revolvers cleared leather as the shooter brought the shotgun to his shoulder and his partner aimed the pistol. All four weapons went off, but it was the Colts who spoke first.

The first shot took the shooter in the throat, causing the shotgun round to go wild as the Colt’s slug continued on and smashed into the standing man’s stomach. The shot from the other Colt hit the standing man in the lower jaw, sending a spray of blood, bones and teeth from the fresh ruin of the man’s face.

“Good masters,” the dog stated in the silence. “But stupid men.”

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XXV

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Sometimes, they need to run.

I’d been ambushed about three-quarters of a mile into Toten Island. I don’t know who the men were or why they’d thought it was a good idea to bushwhack me, but they did.

The first shot took me clean through the right thigh, the bullet missing bone but taking a fair amount of meat in its passing. The second shot caught me in the belly and that hurt like hell.

They fired from cover, which was smart.

They let me get to cover, which sure as hell wasn’t.

I had my Sharps rifle with me.

Ignoring the burning pain of my wounds as they stitched themselves back together, I brought the Sharps up and looked for a target.

Some fine fellow had decided to wear a hat with a bright red feather in it.

I thanked him accordingly by putting a round through his temple.

The crack of the Sharps in the woods brought a momentary lull to the firing as the bushwhackers took cover.

They made too much noise as they moved, and their voices were raised in a furious argument. I couldn’t understand the language, but I sure as hell understood the tone.

This was more than they bargained for.

I saw movement behind a thin fir tree, and I shot through it, killing the gunman trying to hide there. As his body struck the ground, the others opened fire. I saw some of them move, and as I drew a line on a man, the island shook.

The baying of hounds shattered the air and drowned the gunfire.

In a heartbeat, a pack of hounds burst into view, and the men screamed. A few turned their weapons on the dogs, but they were no match for the canines’ speed and ferocity.

In a moment, the living men were gone, running from the hounds.

I stood up, rifle at the ready, and found myself being watched by a figure twice my height and shrouded by ancient gray winding sheets. I could make out neither their face nor their sex. A long hand, almost skeletal though still wrapped in skin, reached out and stroked a hidden chin.

“You know, Blood,” the being said, its voice the rumbling of rock against rock. “It is best at times to let the hounds run.”

Without another word, it turned and followed after its dogs.

I went the other way.

#dogs #horrorstories

Flashback! July 5, 1938

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“I loved you.”

She was dressed in a man’s tuxedo and a top hat. In her left hand, she held a martini, and in her right, a snub-nose .38. In her eyes, there was sorrow that spoke of years of longing.

Her hand was steady, and I knew that she, of all the people I had met in my long life, could kill me.

I let my hands remain at my side, not a single muscle twitched as I looked at her.

“I’m sorry,” I told her. “I don’t know who you are.”

The words struck her with the force of a blow, and the hammer pulled back on the pistol.

I didn’t move.

“You’re not the first,” she snarled.

“I don’t doubt that,” I agreed. “And more’s the pity for it.”

She blinked, and her lips settled into a firm line for a moment.

“You pity me?” she hissed.

“Pity you?” I shook my head. “Myself. I can see your passion, and I’m saddened that I never knew.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I’ll kill you, Duncan Blood.”

“I can see that. You won’t eat my heart, though. There’d be no joy in it for you.”

The pistol trembled in her hand. “Will you apologize for what you did?”

“To you?”

She nodded.

“No.”

The pistol steadied. “Why?”

“Because I didn’t do it,” I told her. “A version of me did, and I suspect he suffered for it. But it wasn’t enough. Not nearly. So you’ve come here, to the Hollow, and you help to hunt me down.”

She sipped her drink. “Do you know why I’m wearing this?”

I looked at the tuxedo, and my shoulders sagged. “You were left at the altar.”

“Would you have done that?” she whispered.

“No,” I admitted. “I’ve only married once. Had only one son with another, I would have wed. It hurts too much. I shouldn’t have done it at all.”

“You shouldn’t have married at all?”

I shook my head, and tears stung my eyes.

“You cry?”

“Aye.”

“I’ve killed you twenty-three times, Duncan Blood. But you’re the only one who’s wept for his dead. You wouldn’t have left me at the altar.”

“No.”

“You’d have stayed with me while I aged, and you did not.”

“Aye.”

She finished her drink and shot herself in the chest, and tumbled to the floor.

I gathered her in my arms and held her until I died.

There was nothing more I could do.

Dogs XXI

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It was too late.

I don’t know what killed the man, but whatever it was, the dog was terrified of it.

The dog had lost the power of speech due to his fear. His mannerisms and actions, however, told us something was amiss.

I left the Spencer at home and took after the dog with my own hounds and the Colts on my hips. It didn’t take long to get out to the pasture beyond the older orchard, and it was there we found the dead man.

He lay on his side in that mockery of sleep. Some would have believed him alive.

I knew better.

There was a curious stink about the body, and the mute dog, once he pointed out the dead man, slunk back to stand with my hounds.

I drew the Colts, thumbed back the hammers and watched with growing disgust as something crawled beneath the man’s skin and clothes. Close to his collar, the flesh tore open, and a single eye blinked and fixed its gaze upon me.

I didn’t wait.

The Colts roared and took the man’s head off at his shoulders, a geyser of black ichor spraying up and coating the body. Something insect-like tore free, and then it was followed by four more.

They were damned fast and cut corners back toward me with the speed of racing dogs. I heard them chitter to one another, and as one raised up to direct its companions, I put a round through its carapace.

The violence of the slug tearing the creature apart caused its colleagues to pause, and that was all I needed.

My Colts thundered, and I cut the little bastards down.

They were tenacious, though. One of them, despite being legless, dragged himself toward me. I saw a thin blade in his hand and heard the hatred in his voice.

Raising the Colt, I blew his head off his shoulders.

I can respect a creature that tries to kill until its last breath.

Hell, it’s how my father raised me.

I dragged the corpses to the body of the man, piled them up and then found a good bit of kindling.

With the dogs around me, I set fire to the dead.

There are worse ways to start a day and better.

But I didn’t mind this at all.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XX

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They tried to smuggle corpses.

The fools cut across my land after a January snowstorm. One of my dogs, Claudia, was out and about when she heard the men and their dog team. She followed them for a spell, and when they paused to let the dogs rest, she crept up and found out who they were.

One of the dogs in the team told her they were captives, hauling the bodies of their former masters and mistresses back to the Hollow. They and their humans had been living free on a farm in New Hampshire when the hunters from their own Cross had found them. The fight had been brief and brutal, their humans not knowing the ways of violence. The corpses, Claudia was told, would be brought back to feed the elders of their Cross. The dogs would die soon after.

To me, that sounded like a poor idea.

I took my Spencer with me and followed Claudia until we picked up the trail. Once we did, she ran ahead to scout out the men and to see what sort of pace they were keeping.

It wasn’t a quick one.

The dogs were going slow, and I didn’t blame them. With death hanging over their heads, there was no need for them to hurry.

It didn’t take long for me to get ahead of them, and when I did, I found a good spot to fire from. By the time I was dug in and hidden, the men and dogs were coming into view.

I fired a single shot into a fir tree not ten feet from the first man.

As the echo rolled through the trees, the men and dogs looked for where the shot came from.

“Stay where you are,” I called, my voice loud in the cold air.

The men did so, their heads slowly focusing on my location.

“What do you want?” the lead man asked. “Clearly, we’re not armed. We’re just passing through.”

“I want the dogs,” I answered. “Let them go, and you can move along.”

The man laughed. “Let the dogs go? No, I think not. They’re mine by right of conquest. I suppose you’ll want the bodies, too?”

“No,” I replied. “There’s no shortage of bodies about. There is, however, a lack of good dogs. Cut ‘em free, or I will.”

“Come and cut ‘em free then,” the man called back.

I fired the Spencer twice and dropped both men.

I stood up and went to cut the dogs free.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XIX

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I awoke to the howling of dogs.

I had the Spencer in hand when I reached the kitchen door and looked out into the yard. A pack of 20 or so mongrels and mixed breeds chased one another around the hardpack, nipping and yapping, acting more like puppies than dogs close to the end of their days.

When I stepped out of the house and into the dawn’s light, the dogs stopped and turned to face me. One of them trotted out to the center.

He was a great big bastard who looked like he was half Russian Wolfhound and Mastiff.

He sat down on his haunches, shivered from his tail to the tip of his nose, and his skin fell away as though it was nothing more than a heavy cloak.

And perhaps it was nothing more than that to the man who stood before me.

He was tall and proud, and I didn’t know if he was man or god or somewhere in between.

Whatever he was, he was big.

The man glanced at the rifle, and the metal and wood grew cold in my hands. The pain became almost unbearable, but I did nothing more than stand and face him down.

Finally, with he laughed, and the pain stopped.

He gestured to a small dog with brindle coloring, and it trotted up to stand beside him.

“My savior, Sees Ravens, is impressed with you,” the dog informed me.

“I’m impressed he can make my rifle so damned cold,” I replied. The statement elicited another laugh from Sees Ravens, and the dogs let out appreciative howls.

“My savior had come here to kill you,” the dog explained. “He has a collection of Duncan Blood scalps, and he sought to add another today. But you are different.”

“A bit,” I agreed. I didn’t bother tightening my grip on the Spencer. I suspected I’d be dead before I could get a shot off.

“No Blood has ever held onto his weapon before,” the dog continued. “Not when my master was intent on making them drop it.”

“Is it just me he hunts?”

The dog nodded. “You slew his family one night.”

“Why?”

“Because you could.”

“I’d hunt me down too.”

Sees Ravens peered at me, then nodded to the dog.

“My savior has a question. Do you drink coffee?”

I chuckled and put the Spencer in the crook of my arm. “I do.”

I opened the door and let the man in.

#dogs #horrorstories

War: 8.28.1930 

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Here’s a flashback. 🙂

I watched the transaction with a disgusted fascination. 

I had managed to find a small town, one not completely ravaged by the war around me. This, I believed, was a good sign, evidence that I was following the right trail towards those who conducted the campaigns from some safe place. 

Sitting in a small café, and drinking a decent cup of coffee, I watched as a young woman stood on a street corner. I could not quite make out what she was saying, but it did not seem to be offensive. Several of the men she stopped bowed, apologized and continued on their way. 

Finally, after about the tenth man, she struck up a conversation with a tall and handsome man. They spoke for several minutes, laughing and carrying on. At last, the man nodded his agreement and sat down at a chair close to me.  

I finished my coffee the same time she placed her basket on the table and drew a filleting knife from its depths. She checked the edge of the blade, appeared pleased with the result, and then turned her attention to the man’s left hand. He held it out to her, and she asked if he was ready. The man replied he was, and she took a small pill out of the basket and placed it in his mouth. He shivered in what can only be described as ecstasy, and he paid no mind when she deftly removed a section of skin from the back of his hand.  

From that piece, she trimmed off a small slice, popped it into her mouth, and chewed meditatively for a moment. She smiled broadly, gave him a pleased nod, and then turned her attention to his head. 

It took her less than a minute to completely remove the flesh from his face.  

Surprisingly little blood splattered onto his coat, and as quick as she was with her cutting, she was equally as fast with the bandage she applied. Once he was cared for, she wrapped his face up in a bit of wet cloth from the basket, and then she offered him a cigarette, which he gladly accepted. 

They chatted for another moment, then he got to his feet and left, lighting his cigarette as he went.  

I called for another cup of coffee, and I watched as the woman went back to the corner and sought to add another face to her collection. 

#horror #death 

Dogs XVI

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He didn’t like me.

I suppose I couldn’t blame him.

For a brief time, Genevieve had preferred my company over his.

The dog and I sat on the porch of the hotel. The sky, barren of moon, hung over us and the stars offered only the faintest hint of their existence. Along both sides of the streets, lanterns fought back a creeping fog.

I lit my pipe and turned to the dog.

“Care for a smoke?” I asked.

He chuckled. “I’ve naught known a man who’d willingly share his baccy with a dog.”

“I’m a different sort of man.”

The dog harumphed, then nodded.

I took one last pull and put the stem in the dog’s mouth. His teeth grazed upon my knuckles for a moment, and at that moment, I realized his power.

He settled back on his haunches and looked at me.

As I looked back at him, I understood and felt my shoulders sag.

Some of the dislike in his eyes faded, though not all of it. I’d been a tad intimate with his mistress, and he was more than a little displeased about it.

The dog smoked a bit more and then confided, “I thought those desires within her had long since faded. That belief, I will readily admit, is the sole reason I agreed to this excursion.”

“Does she know you agreed to it?” I asked, gazing out over the dark town.

“No,” he replied after a moment. “She does not know the control I have over her. She would be upset to know how easily she is manipulated, and I would not hurt her so.”

“How did this come about?” I asked.

“Not long after she left Cross,” he told me. “She found me injured upon the road a bit past Boston. Though I asked her to leave me be, she did not do so. I tried to tell her she would be harmed, but she ignored me. I wish she hadn’t. Unbeknownst to her, she gave her life for me. In return, I gave her the only thing I had. Cold immortality.”

He took another pull off the pipe and then offered it to me.

“She still would have helped even if she had known,” I said.

“I know,” he sighed. “It is hard for a god to love a mortal, Blood. I will not let her go.”

I wiped the god’s spittle from my pipe stem, took a pull from it and nodded my understanding.

She was an easy woman to love.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XV

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I’d received a letter by the morning post.

The letter informed me that a young lady awaited my company at the Lathom Hotel on East Stark Street at 11 in the morning.

It was signed, Genevieve.

I’d only known one Genevieve, and that had been in 1798. She was not, as far as I knew, of my ilk and when she had left town at the turn of the century. To say that I was smitten with her would be an understatement. Over the centuries, I have enjoyed the company of a few women, but only a very few. The knowledge that I will outlive them all is a terrible weight and lends a bitterness to the sweetness of their company.

I put on my best suit of clothes, made sure the Colts were oiled and cleaned, and I was darkening the door of the Lathom Hotel at 10:55. My heart beat quick and hard against my chest, and my palms were damp with a nervousness I’d not felt in some time. I longed to see Genevieve, but I did not hold out too much hope.

This was Cross, after all, and the missing rarely came back the way they were.

I spoke with the concierge, and he led me to a private sitting room off the lobby.

When he opened the door, I stumbled to a stop.

There, not ten feet from me, sat Genevieve. A grand dog stood beside her, and the smile on her face when she saw me twisted my stomach into knots.

I managed to step into the room, and the concierge closed the door behind me.

“Duncan,” she whispered, rising to her feet. “It has been a long time, dear heart.”

“Too long,” I replied, voice hoarse. “How is it you are alive?”

Her smile faded. “I am neither alive nor dead, Duncan. Although I seem to be the former.”

She reached out a hand, and the dog growled.

“I will touch him!” she snapped, and the dog went silent.

I took her hand and found her flesh soft but cold.

“I have been like this since 1801,” she said as she guided me to the settee. “I have no hunger. No thirst. I do not sleep.”

“I’m sorry.”

“As am I. I have come for selfish reasons.”

“So did I,” I replied.

She smiled. “You are the only one who would not be repulsed by the chill in my flesh.”

I leaned forward and kissed her, her lips as sweet as roses.

The dog growled, and we ignored him.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XIV

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The scout and a solemn dog were the first to arrive.

They came trudging across the Hollow, the man with nary a care in the world.

The dog knew better.

The wind shifted as they approached, carrying my scent across the way and within moments, the dog lifted his head.

I raised my coffee cup in salute to the canine, and he trotted ahead of his master. The scout snapped a command at the dog, but it was ignored. In less than a minute, the dog scrambled up the steps and took a cautious step toward me. I reached out my left hand, and he took a cautious sniff.

“You’re a Duncan,” the dog observed.

“Aye,” I agreed, finishing my coffee and setting my cup down on the porch railing.

“Are they inside?” the dog asked. “Are they safe?”

I smiled and nodded.

“Good,” the dog sighed. “There were only so many times I could lead them down a false trail. I had hoped they would find refuge. I did not dare to dream that it might be here. With you.”

The scout had reached the boundary of Gordon Road and the Hollow. When he paused, the dog whispered, “There are eight of them. They do not realize their prey, nor who they have found for a protector.”

I grunted and motioned for the dog to go inside, which he did.

I stepped to the stairs, walked down and called for the man to halt.

He did so, tightening his grip on his rifle.

“Best go back the way you came,” I explained. “There’s nothing save death for you here, boy.”

He bristled at the statement and risked a glance over his shoulder. The man’s companions were leaving the tree line and heading toward us.

“No,” the scout replied. “I don’t think I will leave. We’re here for the girls and to eat the dog.”

“Either one of those marks you for killing,” I told him, hands on the butts of the Colts.

“Says who?” the scout chuckled, bringing the rifle up to his shoulder.

“Duncan Blood,” I replied, and the Colts cleared leather as his jaw dropped in surprise.

He died before he could pull the trigger, and by the time his corpse hit the road, I was moving past it.

His comrades were readying their weapons, unaware that they were all about to die.

I brought the Colts up, and their thunder filled the air.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XIII

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“Little gods.”

Imperator, one of the bird dogs I’d liberated the year before, spoke those two words as I set my coffee to boil on the stove.

I looked at him with a raised eyebrow and had to wait while he dug at a flea on his hindquarters. When the dog was good and ready, he continued.

“They are at the Hepplewhite house.”

Frowning, I rubbed at my chin and asked, “How many?”

“Two,” Imperator replied. “And at least one guardian.”

“What’s the guardian?”

The dog chuckled. “What else would a little god have in this place?”

I nodded and took my coffee off the stove. It would have to wait.

I kept my Colts on but didn’t entertain plans to draw them. Little gods, in my experience, were far more dangerous than their older relations. Less volatile than demigods but more dangerous than both combined. The few scars I bore had been made by two types of creatures, various versions of my mother and little gods.

I followed North Road to Gordon Road and turned upon it, walking another quarter mile before I came to the shack that had once been the Hepplewhite house. It had seen better days, and I suspect that if the little gods had any intention of staying there, it would.

I came to a stop in front of the house and let my arms hang loose at the sides. I gazed upon the two little gods in the shape of young girls and the large guardian who stood beside them.

“Duncan Blood,” the taller of the gods greeted. “We had hoped you would visit us.”

“I would have come sooner had I known,” I replied.

The shorter god nodded. “Of course, you would. Your father taught you your manners.”

“We have come with a warning,” the shorter god continued. “Though it is, I confess, self-serving.”

“You see,” the taller god stated, “there are some men coming from the Hollow. They have been chasing us for some time and suffer under the delusion that those of our color should be enslaved. We have led them on a merry chase, and we have brought them to you.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because it would please us,” the shorter god said. “You will be inventive with your destruction. Humans are, without a doubt, too clever by far. We want to watch them suffer.”

The gods fixed their eyes upon me. “Of the many people you will meet in your life, Duncan Blood, these men deserve to die. And to die badly.”

I nodded. “When?”

“Soon,” was the answer, and then the dog cleared his throat.

“Mistresses,” the dog’s voice was rich and true. “Might we not offer Master Blood some coffee?”

“Would you care for some?” they asked in unison.

I smiled.

“That would be much appreciated.”

As the gods went to make the coffee, I took a seat on the front steps, took out my Colts and waited.

There was killing to be done.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XII

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I hate the Hollow.

Not a little, mind you, but with all my heart and soul.

Today was a perfect example as to why I hate it and hate it so vehemently.

Hund, one of the bird dogs I’d rescued several years ago, told me a group of men had made camp in the Hollow. He thought I might be interested in a look at them.

He thought right.

I took my Spencer with me on the off chance that it might be better to shoot from the road rather than the Hollow itself and set out at a leisurely pace. By the time I reached the stonewall on North Road, the sun had climbed well above the horizon and was shining down on what seemed to be a bright and peaceful day.

I paused by an old ash tree and hid in the shade, taking a good look at the small camp and hating it more with every breath I took.

From what I could see, the men wore the uniforms the Federals favored during the War of the Rebellion. Among the men, I spotted a single dog who lay down beside his master.

And it was the sight of the master who angered me most.

George Armstrong Custer.

In my time, he’d had the decency of dying out at the Little Bighorn. I regret his men died with him, but that son of a bitch had to go.

And there he was, big as life and lounging with his friends.

George and I had known each other during the war, but there’d been no love lost between us. I thought he was a braggart who needed his teeth stove in, and he thought I was a boy who didn’t know a thing about war.

I could have told him not to attack an encampment of Natives, no matter how weak he thought they were.

You could only push a man so far, and George and his kind had pushed too hard and too much.

I smiled at the dog, though. I’d stolen his dog during the war, and the dog had been a good companion.

I suspected he would be again.

I could see no reason to leave George Armstrong Custer or any of his friends alive. I knew what Custer would do, and some of his friends too.

I wasn’t worried about how the men had gotten into the Hollow or what world they’d come from. None of that mattered.

Humming, I set the Spencer up, chambered a round, and set my sights on George’s upper lips.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs XI

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They tried to kill the dogs.

I heard the gunshots as young Agatha and Princess were headed off to school. Both the child and the dog were well familiar with the sound, and each paused and turned to me. I waved them on, loosened the Colts in their holsters and went in search of the sound.

I’d no sooner gone half along the path toward the younger orchard when a pair of bird dogs came barreling toward me. One was wounded in the right shoulder, the other in the left flank. They skidded to a stop when they saw me; ears flattened against their skulls and tails tucked low.

“You’ve no need to fear me,” I told them, moving my hands away from the butts of the pistols. “Who’s harmed you?”

“Our masters,” the dog with the flank wound answered. “We’re too old. They wanted the two other members of our pack to hunt us, but our brothers refused.”

“Where are they?” I asked.

“You’ll not harm our brothers?” the dog asked, blood dripping to the ground.

I smiled and shook my head. “No, just the fools who would treat dogs this way.”

The dogs nodded, and the shoulder-wounded one said, “Not half a mile back. An open field after an orchard.”

“Good. Follow this to the house and barn. Eat and drink in the barn. Wait for me; I’ll be back soon enough to tend to your wounds.”

The dogs seemed doubtful of my assurance, but they went away willingly enough.

I picked up my pace and soon was traveling down the center aisle of the orchard. The apple trees were, for the most part, frustrated with having been awakened. I brushed off their angry comments and disgruntled remarks.

As I neared the end of the orchard, I saw the men and dogs. The men were berating and beating them.

The Colts cleared their holsters, and the hammers fell.

I cut both men down from behind, the slugs tearing through their stomachs.

Shotguns fell from shocked hands, and screams erupted from terrified mouths.

The dogs backed away, surprised and confused.

Fury boiled within me as I holstered the Colts. A glance around the field revealed a large, fist-sized rock. Bending down, I picked it up.

With the dogs watching, I beat their masters to death.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs X

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They were missing.

Caesar brought the news of Agatha Helmut. The little girl and her dog, Princess, had been snatched from the front porch of their home.

I’d known Agatha’s father, Dane, for the better part of 20 years, and his recent passing had left Isabella, his wife, and Agatha distraught. Caesar and I had been spending a fair amount of time at the Helmut home, bringing in wood for the oncoming winter, and news of Agatha and Princess’ disappearance was not welcome.

When I arrived at their house, I found the door open and Isabella on the hallway floor.

She was dead, her eyes wide and unseeing.

There were no signs of violence about her, no blood. Caesar found no trace of anyone else either.

Had she died trying to find clues as to her daughter’s disappearance?

I could not know, but I would find out what happened to the girl and dog and locate them if I could.

On the left side of the porch, Caesar picked up a new scent. It was neither man nor woman, nor was it any beast with which he was familiar.

But it had left a trail the dog could follow.

Caesar and I took off at a run, and soon we saw the creature’s destination was the Hollow.

Once it reached that hated place, there would be little chance of rescuing Agatha or Princess.

In a short time, we reached North Road and only a dozen yards in front of us; we saw the kidnapper.

A tall, thin creature, it wore ragged clothes that were once of a fashion in the early 1700s. On its head, the thing wore a tricornered hat, and over its shoulder, it carried a gray sack. From that container came whines and sobs, and we knew where the dog and child were.

Caesar bolted towards the creature, slamming into its calves and knocking it down onto its knees. Caesar darted out of the way as the thing lashed out at him.

The thing turned, its face little more than skin stretched across the skull; eye sockets were empty and mouth barren of teeth.

I drew both Colts as it dropped the bag and stood.

“Blood,” the creature snarled, and I put two rounds in the creature’s chest.

It shook off the shots and came for me.

I gave it the other ten slugs and put the boots to it when it fell.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs IX

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“We told them not to.”

It’d been the better part of five years since I’d had any real trouble regarding dogs.

Well, that changed this morning.

Caesar, the last of my rescues, had a habit of patrolling the shore of Blood Lake. Often he’d disappear for five or six days before returning to give a report on all he’d witnessed or suspected. He was a damned fine scout, that’s for certain.

I was just pouring a second cup of coffee when he came back in, panting with his tongue lolling. He drank a fair bit of water before he shook his head, sat on his hindquarters and looked at me.

“Someone’s stealing sheep,” he told me.”

I put the coffee pot down.

“Where?” I asked.

“Eastern shore,” Caesar replied. “Got a few dogs with them, too. Dogs are good. Men aren’t.”

I snorted. “Tends to be the case.”

“They’re armed,” Caesar continued.

I raised an eyebrow, and the dog chuckled.

“Thought I’d let you know,” Caesar added.

“Thanks,” I sighed. I took a quick drink of coffee and went to the parlor. I took down my Spencer, loaded it, and left the house at a quick clip.

When I reached the eastern shore, I found the thieves, the sheep, and the dogs.

I stayed off to one side, and after a few minutes, a large female shepherd found me. She sat down beside me, tail thumping heavily against the grass.

“This isn’t the first time they’ve cut into your herds,” she told me.

“Really?”

She nodded. “We told them it wasn’t wise to rob a Blood, but they didn’t listen. Told them there’d be hell to pay once you found out.”

“Aye,” I agreed. “That’s a fact.”

“I’ll get my dogs out,” she said after a moment. “When you’re done, we’ll make sure the sheep get back. Caesar says you might have room for us.”

“He’s right,” I smiled. “Always rooms for dogs.”

“Good to hear,” she laughed and dashed off to her pack.

A few minutes later, the dogs raced away, leaving the sheep and the thieves alone.

I settled myself into a good firing position, set my sights on the first man, and pulled the trigger.

The sheep ran, and the men died.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs VIII

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I went back to the ship.

The dog I’d saved was named Indomitable, and he hadn’t been alone aboard the USS Serpentine. There were, according to him, two other canines, and they were all in danger.

I’d received word of crew members sweeping Cross, searching for me. No one spoke of Blood Farm, but soon enough, the sailors would find me.

My concerns about the sailors and the violence they would bring weren’t for myself. Rather, they were about the dogs and the horses, the trees and the fey living among them. I’d not have any of them injured or killed in the crossfire of a gunfight, and that’s what the sailors were looking for.

Vengeance.

They were fools.

I cleaned and reloaded the Colts, took an old scalping knife, and left my home well before dawn.

By the time the first patrols were leaving the Serpentine, I was in place and watching. Once the last of them had set off to search me out, I made my way down to the ship.

I slipped on board with little difficulty and evaded the few sailors wandering the decks. Close to midship, I found a young sailor and a large black dog around whose neck a length of rope was affixed.

“What makes you think he’ll come back?” the dog growled between clenched teeth.

The seaman slapped him across the muzzle. “Because he took Indomitable. He’ll be back for you.”

“And Sophia,” the dog snapped.

“She died last night.”

I crept up behind the sailor, sliding silently under the stairs.

“Which of you was man enough to cut her?” the dog demanded.

“I did,” the sailor replied. “She’d nipped at me enough times. I used a galley knife to gut her, let her bleed out near the bow. You would have seen it if you weren’t being beaten by the cook for stealing that bit of steak.”

I drew my knife, and the dog sat down, tongue lolling out as it chuckled.

“My name is Caesar,” he stated.

“I know your damned name,” the sailor grumbled.

“Aye,” Caesar nodded. “But he doesn’t.”

As the sailor turned, I grabbed him by the chin, pulled his head back and cut his throat. His arms and legs flailed for a moment, and when he went slack, I dropped him to the deck.

I freed the dog from his leash, and we left the ship.

There were sailors to hunt.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs VII

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The ship had arrived the day before last.

I’d passed by it a few times, the vessel at anchor in the marina. Guards were posted at the dock, the sailors wearing a fashion of uniform I’d not seen before. It made me think of years past of ships blown in from a stray gust of Hollow air or when the gods felt it was time for a bit of jest.

When I heard a dog howl this morning, I was reminded what the little god had said to me.

She liked how I cared for her puppy’s kind.

The howl rooted me to the street, and I cocked my head to listen.

A moment later, the howl erupted once more, and words followed.

“Shipmates!” the creature cried. “Help!”

The unseen speaker went to continue, but it yelped instead. The whine and cry that followed left no doubt that the creature was a dog and that dog needed assistance.

I left the road and walked down the long steps to the dock. The eyes of the guards never left me, and by the time I reached them, they both had chambered rounds into the breeches of their rifles.

I had the Colts up by the time they had their rifles at their shoulders.

“I’ll be going aboard,” I told them. “I heard a shipmate call out in distress.”

“Move along,” one of the men said. “Else, you’ll be feeding the crabs ere I finish drawing breath.”

I shot each man in the chest, twin expressions of surprise on their faces as they collapsed, rifles falling from dead fingers.

Stepping over the bodies, I climbed the gangplank and went in search of the dog.

It took me only a minute or so to find him, and everyone save the dog’s master ran at the sight of me.

The dog’s master was also the captain of the ship, and I found them both in the captain’s quarters.

The man, seated at a table littered with correspondence, looked up at me with disdain as I entered the cabin. He glanced over at his dog and shook his head.

“He needed a beating,” the captain stated and returned to his paperwork. “And so I gave him one.”

Stepping forward, I struck him full in the mouth with the butt of a pistol. Shattered teeth bounced across the table, and as he slumped in his chair, I put both barrels against his forehead and pulled the triggers.

I carried the dog home.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs VI

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I stumbled upon the house.

It stood alone in the depths of my land, a stretch of which I’d not visited in decades and one I should not have neglected.

The child and the dog greeted me with cordial nods, and there was a sense of otherness about them. Neither seemed particularly impressed with me nor were they taken aback by my sudden appearance.

I, on the other hand, was quite perturbed to see them nestled in the center of Blood lands.

As I opened my mouth to greet and question them, the dog – who was no more than a pup – cleared his throat. When he spoke, his voice was young and high, though the words he used belied his appearance.

“Master Blood, what brings you to this place?” The dog’s tone was polite but imperious, and while it rankled to be spoken to in such a way, I felt obliged to keep my hands from the Colts.

“I was roaming my lands,” I explained, making no effort to hide my annoyance at their presence.

The girl let out a small laugh, and the dog grinned, his tail thumping on the porch boards.

“These are not your lands, Master Blood,” the dog explained as though he were speaking to a fool. “They have never been your lands. Nor were they your father’s before you. The Bloods lease them from my mistress, and they have done so since your father first pitched his tent so near the Hollow.”

My eyes shifted from the dog to the girl, and then I saw it hidden in her eyes. That glint that only the divine have.

The little god leaned over and whispered into the dog’s ear.

He nodded. “My mistress is pleased with your wisdom, Master Blood. Drawing your Colts would have ended your tenure here. And not in a pleasant fashion, I might add.”

“How often do you come to this house?” I asked, nodding at the structure.

“Whenever my mistress wills it,” the dog replied. “It will not always be here, nor will it always be in this form. She does her best to keep the structure in line with the style of the day. She prefers to disturb as little as possible.”

“May I ask what brings you here?” I inquired.

“You,” the dog answered. The little god giggled at my confusion.

“She enjoys seeing you work,” the dog informed me. “And how you care for my kind.”

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs V

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He tried to steal my dogs.

I’d seen smoke on one of the islands on Blood Lake, and I went to investigate. Smoke meant someone had been shipwrecked or, even worse, they had come to Blood Lake on purpose.

A shipwreck meant the walls between worlds had thinned enough to send entire vehicles through, and that meant more to worry about.

One or two intruders, well, that was something else entirely.

They were infiltrators, and they rarely wanted to pay a visit and slip away again.

We had crossed the ice, and I dragged a light canoe behind me. I didn’t want to reach any patches of open water, but who knew what the Hollow might slip in on a cold February day.

When we reached the island where I’d seen the smoke, I tied up the canoe and the dogs, and I went inland.

The dogs picked up the scent of someone, and soon we were following the trail. As we advanced upon a copse of trees, I caught sight of a tent, and then a gunman struck.

The bullet caught me below the sternum, punching its way through my thick coat and the layers of clothes. I felt the round damage my heart, then the jarring pain as I was knocked to the snow.

My dogs, Wolf and Hound, leapt to my defense, charging at the gunman as he fumbled with his rifle while trying to chamber another round. A loud, angry curse escaped the man’s mouth, and he drew a long blade from his belt, slashing at the dogs, keeping them at arm’s length.

Wolf and Hound lunged and dodged, avoiding blows but barely damaging the man. Flecks of blood glistened on the snow, and I got to my feet.

When the man saw me, he hesitated long enough for Hound to lock his jaws on the man’s wrist. The dog wrenched down, and the blade dropped.

Wolf dashed in and attacked the man’s groin.

The dogs savaged the assailant as I walked toward them, pausing only to pick up the dropped knife.

“I wouldn’t have hurt them!” he shrieked as the dogs backed off, their muzzles red with blood.

“No?”

“No,” the man sobbed. “I would have sold them. That’s all.”

“No one,” I told the man, moving closer. “Steals my friends from me.”

He opened his mouth to reply, but I slipped the blade into his mouth and began to carve.

No one touches my dogs.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs IV

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“She’s eating them.”

I was roaming the shore of Blood Lake, a new Winchester repeater in my hands and my Colts on my hips. A cool wind came in across the water, and there was no sign of the merfolk who’d been creeping up and raiding my sheep.

The old dog, black with her teats low from long years of feeding pups, sat by a piece of deadfall and looked at me with sad, tired eyes.

“She’s eating them,” the dog repeated.

I cradled the Winchester in my arms and asked, “Who?”

“My mistress,” the dog informed me. “Madame Arkwright.”

I frowned. “I’ve not seen her in some time. I’d thought she’d moved on to her sister’s in Providence.”

The dog shook her head. “No. She’s still at home, and most think she’s sick abed. But it’s not true. She’s been having orphans delivered to the house. About one a month from the different associations in New England.”

My back stiffened, and I clenched my teeth.

The dog nodded, sensing my anger.

“She’s been donating to the orphanages for years, planning out her menu,” the dog continued. “She finished the latest, a girl from Hartford, last evening. She’s sent a letter in the post up to Bangor, requesting a child from one of the Native Schools.”

“She’s home alone?” I asked.

“She is.”

“What’s your name?”

“Regina,” the dog replied.

“Go on to my barn, Regina,” I said. “There’s food and water. A pair of older dogs as well, brothers around your age, I believe. I’ll be back soon enough.”

“You’ll stop her, Mr. Blood?”

“Aye.”

Regina and I went our separate ways. Soon, I stood at Arkwright’s porch and rang her bell. It took her a few minutes to reach me. When she opened the door, I could smell blood and filth. In her eyes was the madness that comes from eating too much human flesh, and I forced my way in.

I’d thought of feeding Arkwright her own tongue, perhaps her fingers, too.

But there was no need.

She was insane, and she needed putting down, not torture.

Arkwright clawed at my rifle, and as she took hold, I drew one of the Colts, shoved the barrel up under her chin and pulled the trigger.

I put the Colt away and smiled.

Seems I had a new dog, and Arkwright would eat no more orphans.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs III

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The dogs called me over.

I was on my way to Boston to hunt for books, and the farm was in good hands for the day.

As it was, my mood was fine, and I suspect the dogs sensed that and took their chance as I passed by their home.

“Stranger,” the larger of the dogs whimpered.

The tone caught my ear, and I paused in my journey. I could sense the relief in the dog’s voice when next he spoke.

“Will you help us?” he asked. “You seem as though you might.”

I was about to answer when a pair of women exited the building. Neither of them looked especially pleased at my presence. The older of the two sat down between the dogs while the younger lingered in the doorway.

“Are you hungry?” the young woman asked, a playful smile appearing on her face. I believe it was meant to be seductive, but it failed by a long shot.

“No, but I thank you,” I replied.

“But you must be thirsty,” the young woman pressed, and I saw her older companion begin to work a knife out of her dress. “Come in and have some coffee.”

“No,” I stated. “I wouldn’t mind taking your dogs off your hands, though.”

The women paused, surprise flashing across their faces.

The younger woman cleared her throat. “They’ve too much work to do for us.”

“Shame,” I remarked. “You’ll have to find someone else to do it or do it yourselves. They’re coming with me.”

“The hell they are!” the older woman snapped and got to her feet, a long carving knife in her hand. “We need fresh meat, and you’re it. Inside, now, or the dogs will run you down.”

I unbuttoned my coat and drew my Colts in one long, easy motion. The barrels cleared leather, and the hammers cocked before the shock of it settled onto the women’s faces.

The older woman raised her knife up, and the Colts roared in the morning air.

A slug caught the younger woman high in the chin and blew the top of her head off. The second round punched into the older woman’s chest, driving through her heart and sending her tumbling to the earth.

I reloaded the Colts and looked at the dogs.

“I’m book hunting Boston. Care to come?”

The dogs let out howls of joy, and we set off.

It was a fine day for a walk.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs II

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This Duncan is much to my liking.

People are stupid.

After the incident in Aldrich’s photography studio, I put signs up at every entrance to town. It was, I thought, simple enough.

“Treat your dogs well.”

Some folks don’t read, some folks can’t.

This fellow just ignored the sign and young James Coffin.

The stranger had come into town by way of North Road, avoiding any mishap with the Hollow and coming into town on a cart pulled by a pair of dogs. Daphne Coffin, James’ younger sister, was there when her older brother bade the man stop and pay heed.

James received a beating for his trouble.

Once Daphne had rushed home for her father and uncles, they had sent her to tell me.

I went into town with my Colts, I’d taken to wearing them whenever I went out. Too often, of late, I have needed them.

And as Mr. Franklin once observed, ‘Better to have and not need than need and not have.’

I found the man with the dogs on Cross Road, in front of Haversham’s Shoppe.

The man was a right bastard, from what I could see, and his dogs looked miserable. I drew both Colts and kept them barrels down as I nodded to the dogs and ignored the man.

“How are you, boys?” I asked.

The dogs glanced over their shoulders at their master, and the man scowled at me.

“Keep your questions to yourself,” the man snapped.

Whatever else he might have said died in his throat as I brought up a Colt and pointed it toward him. I kept my eyes on the dogs.

“Best hope they speak well of you,” I informed him, cocking the hammer.

“I cannot,” said the larger of the two dogs, shifting his stance in his traces. “We are ill-used and ill-fed. There were four of us at one time, but he beat our brothers to death.”

The man started to swear, and I pulled the trigger.

As the Colt’s roar rolled down Cross Road, the stranger tumbled from his seat, a hole in his chest. He lay on his side, legs akimbo, blood pumping out of the wound.

A few townsfolk looked on with disgust.

They all knew my thoughts on dogs and those who treated them ill.

In Cross, the life of such a man was not worth much, nor did it last very long.

I like most dogs more than I like most people.

#dogs #horrorstories

Dogs

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There’d been a heavy snowfall on New Year’s Eve, and the farm was isolated by several feet of snow.

I’d checked on the animals and then settled down in the library with the journals I’d salvaged. With a freshly packed pipe, a good fire, and coffee, I flipped through the journals to see what other versions of myself and my father had jotted down.

I picked up a journal with the word ‘Dogs’ written on the spine, and I opened to the first entry and a line that promised interesting reading:

“I never met a dog who couldn’t speak.”

I put my feet up closer to the fire and began to read.

I’ve been to a few versions of Cross now, and they are, as my father had said: same and yet different.

This is as true a maxim as I’ve ever heard.

I’m close to three centuries on this Earth, and the finest people I’ve met have been dogs. It irks me some when I see them being spoken down to, and I’ll confess to a red fury when they’re being mistreated.

This winter has been hard, and so I have decided to reflect on the dogs I have known. Such memories please me, and it is my hope that they will lessen the grief I feel at her loss.

I remember shortly before the War of the Rebellion when the Secesh were making noise and little else. A pair of soldiers came into town with their two dogs.

I’d been sitting in the train station, reading the Boston Gazette and enjoying a cup of coffee, when the men stepped out of the car and onto the platform. As they entered the station, the men snarled and kicked at their dogs, both of whom cried and moaned and begged their masters to stop.

The men laughed and aimed their plows at more tender parts.

Once the soldiers left the station, I followed.

Not surprisingly, they made their way to Aldrich’s photographic studio.

I watched them enter the building, and when I was sure they were settled down and ready for a portrait, I went in after them.

I heard the dogs crying and heard Aldrich plead with the men to be kind, if only for a moment.

I waited until the photograph was finished, and then I stepped in through the back.

Neither of the men saw me, nor did they hear me.

Not even when I used my blade and killed them both.

#dogs #horrorstories

December 31, 1870

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The academy stood upon a hill.

The school occupied the highest point of ground, and someone had once cleared the land around it, denying cover to any who attacked.

But that had been long ago.

Scrub-brush and trees had sprouted up. The building’s walls were crenelated but abandoned.

No one kept watch.

I scouted around the academy for two hours, and not once did I see a sentry or a patrol. All four watchtowers were empty, and the only sound I heard was the rising wind as it whistled and howled through the school’s useless defenses.

For they were unmanned.

If there are no sentries, no guards, no one to watch for the likes of myself, then the walls of such a place were little more than hindrances. Minor irritations.

I shook my head at the neglected beauty of the place.

I did not bother with secrecy.

Instead, I strode up the long, narrow path to the gates, and an old woman greeted me. Her steel gray hair was swept back, and a long, clay warden’s pipe was clenched in her toothless mouth. The woman’s hands, gnarled with arthritis, were still deft enough to relight the pipe in the brutal wind.

“Mr. Blood,” she said, offering a curtsey. “You’ve come for the young fools and their master?”

“Aye.”

“They’re all at lunch,” she stated. “He’s at the far end. Sitting and lording it above the cadets. He’ll be backlit by the window.”

“Thank you.”

She nodded. “Be quick and be clean, I’ll not thank you for too much of a mess.”

I chuckled, drew the Colts, and entered the academy.

I followed the sounds of eating and the laughter of young men full of themselves and fearless. Men not yet tried by combat or horrified at the deaths of friends stronger and better than themselves.

A louder, more authoritative voice called out as I approached an entryway, and the young men laughed in response.

I stepped into the room, and a few noticed me but said nothing.

At the far end, an officer sat, backlit by the window. I could see his face and the fear spreading across it.

With a smile, I brought up the Colts and put a round through his forehead.

Unfortunately, there were no thanks from the gatekeeper.

I left far too much of a mess.

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December 30, 1870

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I knocked, and the door opened.

The old man looked at me with calm, dispassionate eyes and motioned for me to come in.

I did so, and he shut the door before walking to a single rocker by the hearth. He moved the chair a little closer and had his boots nearly in the low flames dancing around the logs. The man picked up a paper from the floor, opened it and went back to what he had been doing before I’d so rudely knocked upon his door.

I shucked my haversack, hung up the coat, and saw the hunting rifle propped against the left side of the fireplace.

“I’ll put coffee on in a minute,” the man stated, not looking up from his reading.

“I’d be obliged,” I replied. I spotted another chair in a corner, dragged it out and sat across from him.

He glanced over the top of his paper, chuckled, and went back to reading.

I thought about the journals in my haversack and resisted the urge to grab one.

Time passed, and soon the man tossed the newspaper into the fire. As the flames devoured the newsprint, the man stood up, gathered the makings for coffee, and set it to boil. When he finished, he adjusted his rocker to face me and sat once more.

“You’ve killed a fair few in town,” he observed, folding his hands on his lap.

“I have,” I agreed.

“Have you come here to kill me?”

I shook my head. “I was seeking shelter for the night, and I saw your lamp.”

“You’ll be away come morning?” he asked, ‘though I could tell he already knew the answer.

“Aye.”

“To the academy?” he inquired.

“Yes.”

He chuckled and checked on the coffee. “You’ve enough ammunition?”

“And my blade is sharp.”

“Yes,” he mused in a soft voice. “It always is.”

I peered closer at the man, past the wrinkles and the exhaustion in his voice, past the beard and the weight of the world upon his shoulders.

“You’re family,” I stated.

The man let out a hard, clear laugh, and the sound nailed me to my seat.

“I’m more than that, Duncan,” the man grinned. “I’m you. I won’t tell you how long we live until we look like this, but it’s a goddamned long time. Most of it isn’t pleasant.”

The coffee boiled, and he sighed.

“You’ll need the coffee,” he said.

“Tomorrow, they pay the butcher’s bill.”

December 29, 1870

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The storm forced me inside.

I’d been making my way towards the north of town when the storm struck, the wind picking up and the snow coming down hard and fast.

Through the rough weather, I spotted a tall home, and I made my way toward it. I doubted I would find any friends beyond the door, but I’d cross that bridge when I came to it. I know I’d not freeze out in the storm, but that didn’t mean I had any desire to suffer through it.

Once I’d climbed the steps of the porch and reached the front door, I hammered on the glass twice. When no one answered immediately, I twisted the knob and forced the bolt. It broke easily, and in moments I was inside, the storm shut out behind me. From a few feet away, I dragged a hallstand and set it against the door to keep it closed.

Shaking off the cold and the snow, I listened for voices, for anything that might give me a clue as to whether the home was occupied.

I heard the creak and groan of the timbers as the wind shook the house and nothing else.

I was, as far as I could tell, alone.

I made my way through each room, checked the basement and the attic, and made certain there was no one hiding from me.

When I had assured myself of my solitude, I went into the kitchen and set about making a pot of coffee. Once the brew had boiled, I returned to a large parlor where I had seen some inviting pieces of furniture and bookshelves which needed browsing.

I set most of my gear by a fireplace, started a fire, and placed my coffee on a table close to the first bookcase. From the top shelf, I removed the first book and flipped it open, only to have my breath catch in my throat as I read the handwritten title.

Duncan Blood, August 1859.

The next journal was Ezekiel Blood, August 1633.

Some were from relatives I had never heard of before. Others were in my own hand or my father’s.

In the end, I made a pile of 25 journals, 13 of which were my father’s and 12 of my own. A quick glance at those a Duncan had written showed they were not copies of anything I had done. These were the memories of someone else, and they would be good to read.

Just as soon as I was home.

December 28, 1870

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They hid from me.

I slept the night in a bank, my back against the vault and the Colts in my hands. No one bothered me, nor did any come looking when dawn arrived.

When I exited the building, I saw the street was deserted and had there not been a bit of light coming from one shop far down on the left, I might have spent a fair amount of time looking for directions.

The men in the shop weren’t pleased to see me, and I don’t blame them.

I wasn’t in a pleasant mood, and I had no intention of allowing it to be changed anytime soon.

As the door closed behind me, I heard the sound of running feet and the slamming of a door in the back of the building as people fled. Three others remained within view, and one of them was a young boy who’d been working in the back.

With a nod and a wave of a Colt, I sent him out.

I remained alone with a customer and a salesman.

Dead animals lay on the counter. It seemed as though I’d interrupted a sale.

I cocked the Colts.

“Where’s the academy?” I asked.

The salesman opened his eyes wide, feigning confusion. The customer’s hand slowly inched toward the opening of his coat.

“There is no academy here,” the salesman offered. “I fear you have been misinformed.”

“I don’t think I have,” I remarked. “In a moment, I’m going to put a .44 slug into your belly.”

The salesman’s face paled, and the customer’s hand paused for a moment before continuing on.

“Would you shoot a man for not knowing the answer to a question?”

“I’ve shot men for less,” I told him.

“There is no academy,” he started, and the roar of the Colt ended his sentence for him.

As the salesman fell back, the customer drew a short-barreled revolver. He tried to bring it to bear, but I shot him in the mouth and killed him where he stood.

I walked to the counter and found the wounded salesman crawling away, leaving a trail of blood and intestines behind him.

I put a foot on his back and pressed down, stopping him and eliciting a scream at the same time.

“Where is it?” I asked.

He gasped, “North of town.”

I knelt down, put the Colt to the back of his neck and pulled the trigger.

My stomach grumbled.

It was time to eat.

#paranormal #christmas

December 27, 1890

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The dead lay in the street, and I hunted down the living.

I followed the police chief into a shop, ignoring the crash and roar of his Spencer rifle and the shattering of glass around me.

We stared at one another down the length of the shop as he brought the rifle up to his shoulder once more. There was panic in his eyes and fear writ large across his face. He pulled the trigger, and a loud click sounded as the weapon misfired.

The chief soiled himself, cast his rifle down and tried to run.

I put a single round into his lower back, dropping him to his knees. I saw him claw at his belly, trying to push his guts back in while I walked towards him.

After a moment, he regained some semblance of sanity and tried to draw his sidearm. He brought the pistol up to his head, and I put a bullet in his shoulder. The slug tore through the joint and nigh-on severed the limb.

The pistol fell from his deadened hand, clattered on the floor and lay still as blood pooled around his legs.

The chief wavered, then collapsed. His breath came in great, hitching motions, and the telltale death rattle seeped out of his chest. The noise filled the room and close to drowned out the sound of my own footsteps.

When I reached him, I hunkered down and looked at him.

His face lay in the ever-spreading pool of blood, his left eye fixed with fear upon me.

The man was a fool.

He had no need to fear me. Not any longer. He’d be dead soon enough, and far from any sort of pain, I might visit upon him.

But either he did not know it or did not want to know it.

In the end, it comes out the same.

“Where is he?” I asked.

“No,” the chief whispered.

I put the Colts away and pushed a finger into the hole in his lower back.

The man’s shriek shook glass bottles on their shelves.

I withdrew my finger and asked again.

He shook his head, and I shrugged.

Another scream rang out as I twisted his injured arm.

“Where?” I asked.

“The Academy.”

I nodded, drew my knife, and finished the man off.

I got to my feet, cleaned the blade, and reloaded the Colts. In silence, I packed my briar pipe, and when the tobacco was good and lit, I left the shop.

It was time to find the academy.

#paranormal #christmas

December 26, 1870

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The townsfolk were at ease.

Whoever removed my parents from this place must have informed the citizens of the deed.

My father was gone again, and I was ill-pleased with the world at large.

I did not bother with subtlety, nor did I attempt any form of discretion.

I was done with it all.

I entered the first store I came upon, and the man behind the register looked up with kindness in his eyes as he greeted me with a nod.

“Good morning,” he said as I walked toward him. “How might I help you today?”

“I’m looking for a man,” I explained, coming to a stop in front of him. “I don’t know his name. He tried to kill his wife and newborn son after he swore allegiance to my mother.”

The cashier’s face paled. He stuttered, then managed to get out, “What’s your name, boy?”

“Duncan Blood.”

His movements were clumsy, made so by fear. He stumbled as he drew a scattergun from under the counter.

My Colts cleared leather long before he brought the weapon up to bear.

I didn’t bother with any more questions but blew his brains out across his wares.

A shot rang out from the balcony above, and I saw a woman pointing a derringer at me. She tried to step back, but the heavy .44s sent their rounds through the floor and up into her legs. The woman fell forward, tumbled over the railing and smashed down into the display case. She clawed at me as she bled out, and I put a single round in her head.

I heard running feet above me and caught sight of a second man racing for a door.

I put a pair of bullets into his legs and sent him crashing into the floor.

I was halfway up the stairs when a gun went off, and when I reached the balcony, I saw the man was dead. He’d shot himself in the heart with a small revolver.

Anger swelled within me, and I went back down the stairs.

Kicking open the door, I stepped out into the street as a gentle snow fell.

Men and women with weapons were racing towards the store, and I reloaded my Colts. A man wearing a policeman’s badge stepped forward, a Spencer repeating rifle in hand.

“Put the guns down, boy,” the man snapped.

I smiled and brought the pistols up.

“I’m Duncan Blood,” I told them.

And the townsfolk ran.

#paranormal #christmas

December 25, 1870

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“You haven’t behaved.”

The words snapped me out of sleep and brought my Colts into my hands, hammers cocking back as my eyes locked onto the speaker.

Kris Kringle stood a short distance away in the woods, a none-too-pleased expression on his face.

“Christmas morning?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t,” he said, gesturing toward the rising sun. He eyed the pistols in my hands.

I didn’t lower them. On some Kringles, the Colts worked. On others, well, the rounds failed to leave an impression.

“What nonsense are you on about?” I asked.

He leaned on his cane and shook his head. “I speak of both you and your father.”

I looked to my left, but my father was gone.

“He’s been escorted away,” Kringle stated.

I snarled and pulled the triggers, the rage at the loss of my father overcoming any semblance of control.

The Colts thundered in the forest, and Kringle snorted with disdain. The slugs slammed into him, flattened, and tumbled to the snow.

I lowered the Colts, cocking the hammers again as I did so.

“I didn’t take your father away,” Kringle continued. “Someone else did. They’ve left you here to your own devices. Find the Woman’s husband and kill him, if you must. Think not on your mother, though, she’s been whisked away as well.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“There’s a creature what watches over this particular land, and it does not think highly of your kith and kin.” Kringle shook his head. “You, for some reason, do not irk it so. Your parents, however, well, let’s say that if it could have killed your mother and father, it would have done so with pleasure. The best it could do, though, was take them away. It’s a pity you haven’t behaved better, Blood.”

Kringle started to pull his sled away, toys rattling and jingling as he did so.

“And why’s that, Kringle?” I asked.

“I’ve a fine bottle of brandy in my bag,” he said over his shoulder. “Seems I’ll have to drink it alone.”

I considered shooting at him again but thought better of it.

The bullets wouldn’t do a damned thing, and I still wouldn’t get the brandy.

More than likely, I’d need those bullets in town.

And in town, I knew they’d work.

#paranormal #christmas

December 23, 1870

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We were angry.

For some time, we sat in the woods, hunkered down in our hide as we watched the men and women of the town. They raced around the seed store, wisely remaining outside.

After almost an hour, they left, and no guards were posted.

They should have if they wanted the creature to survive.

As night moved toward dawn, we slipped forward, and I entered the seed store as my father kept watch.

The creature groaned and moved slowly toward me, bloated with my cousin’s flesh.

From one pocket, I took flint and steel. From another, tinder.

As the creature eased across the floor, I squatted down and struck the first spark.

The tinder caught and flared up. The flames blazed in a single spot for a moment, then spread out across the floor.

While the creature could not see the fire, it certainly sensed it.

With a howl, the thing reared back.

From the wall, I took down a lantern, lit the wick and hurled it against the creature. The glass shattered, spilled the kerosene across the beast and set it alight.

With the creature screeching behind me, I slipped out, and my father and I returned to the woods. As the townsfolk reacted to the blaze, I decided it was time to go into town.

“And if someone knows you again?” my father asked.

I patted the Colts.

He nodded. “We may have to put the town to the torch soon.”

It was my turn to nod. “Aye. It seems that way.”

“Where are you headed?”

“A place to listen.”

My father chuckled, and I left the hide. I walked to the far end of town, cut across a field and entered by way of Main Street. I’d no sooner gone a few blocks down when I nearly stumbled over my own feet.

Von Epp’s Bookstore stood at the intersection of Main and Olive.

I walked to the entrance, opened the door and stepped inside.

I didn’t recognize anyone, but the woman at the register looked up and smiled at me.

I smiled back, then turned my attention to the shelves of books and the paintings hanging from the walls.

I listened to the staff chat with the customers, discuss authors I’d not heard of, and speak of works in Greek and Latin.

As I stood there, taking a work by Homer down, I knew one thing.

I would not let Von Epp’s burn.

#paranormal #christmas

December 22, 1870

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We asked hard, and the tough bastard lied to us.

Lied and got his revenge on Obadiah.

After three hours of questioning, the man broke. The answers to our questions came tumbling out past broken teeth and shredded lips. His eyes moved beneath swollen lids, and the man could do nothing more than whisper as he lay on his side, bleeding from dozens of wounds. All painful, though none fatal.

The man told us that the Woman’s husband could be found in the seed shop, even with the alarm having been raised. As for my mother, she was in her house, protected by her guards.

My father asked Obadiah if he knew where that was, and my cousin nodded.

“Your part is done,” my father told the man, and Obadiah killed the prisoner with a single, smooth cut.

We left the man bleeding in the forest and made our way into town.

Slipping past patrols and nervous men with guns, we found the seed shop. The back door looked worse for wear, but when my father raised a questioning eyebrow, Obadiah shook his head.

In a low voice, my cousin said, “There was a bit of trouble a few days before you arrived, although I do not know what sort. Something to do with a shipment brought in by your former wife.”

My father grunted his disgust and took hold of the doorknob. With his warclub at the ready, he pushed the door in and stepped aside as Obadiah dashed inside on silent feet.

A thump and a groan followed, and then so did we.

The Woman’s husband did not lie on the floor.

It was Obadiah.

His eyes were open, his expression dazed. We caught a glimpse of movement, and the thing which had struck him down was among us.

It was monstrous.

I could make out no discernible shape, no eyes or mouth. It appeared to be a pile of leaves and rotting plants, and it stank of the same. It rolled over Obadiah’s prostrate form even as we leapt forward and beat at it.

Our blows were useless, and in a heartbeat, we were forced back. From the creature came a sharp wheeze, followed by a pop, and a mist of blood sprayed into the air.

There was no doubt as to whose it was, nor was there any doubt as to Obadiah’s fate.

Without a word, we retreated.

There was naught else we could do.

#paranormal #christmas

December 21, 1870

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The town was up in arms.

The butchery at the bakery, however, got the town’s attention.

The townsfolk closed up their shops and barricaded themselves in their houses. From what we could determine, there were multiple families who took refuge in each house, much as the colonists did when the Abenaki or some other tribe went on the warpath.

A single house became a fortified position, and that was fine with me.

With my cousin Obadiah as a guide, we left his shop in the evening and made our way to another place of business, closer to the center of town. From here, I hoped we might strike out at the Woman’s husband and my mother as well.

We entered a tobacconist’s shop, and the sweet, heady smell set me at ease.

My cousin nodded, and my father grinned.

And then the guns erupted.

The shots tore through a closed door and cut into us, heavy slugs knocking us back and sending us sprawling for cover.

As the splintered door was kicked open, a pair of young men stepped into the room. In their hands, they held Colts, shorter barreled but heavier calibers. The men wore matching uniforms of dark grey, a blood lust on their pale features as they shot and tried to keep us pinned down.

It didn’t work.

The men ran out of ammunition simultaneously, and when they went to reload, we attacked.

Not a one of us reached for our own guns.

My father had his warclub, I my hatchet, and Obadiah a long, slim blade.

The young men tried to fire the rounds they’d loaded, but we were among them.

One of us would have been more than enough for the two gunmen. Three of us were more than they could handle.

The fight ended as soon as it began, the two men were disarmed and on the floor. Both looked on with bravado, masking fear and horror.

“We only need one,” my father said, and I nodded. Obadiah bound one man’s hands behind him while my father brained the other.

Without a word, I gagged the prisoner and dragged him out of the building, my father and cousin close behind.

We slipped into the darkness as armed men ran toward the shop.

It was time to ask some questions.

And I had no doubt we’d have to ask hard.

#paranormal #christmas

December 20, 1870

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I found no comfort.

My father and Obadiah agreed that the best place to do so would be at the bakery on the other end of town. I went with no more intent than to listen and get some warm bread.

I confess my mouth watered at the idea of it.

When I entered the bakery, I was assailed by the sights and scents, and for a moment, I stood in the doorway, enjoying the sensations.

Only for a moment.

A soft bell had chimed when I opened the door, and it chimed again as the door closed behind me.

At the sound of the second chime, several of the staff nodded to me, and a customer turned away from the register to glance at me. She wore a black dress, a large hat, and when she saw me, her eyes widened.

I didn’t know who she was, but it appeared she knew me.

Her gasp drowned out all other noise in the place and brought the bakery to a standstill.

Before the shop assistant behind the counter could respond, the customer whispered, “Duncan Blood.”

Apparently, the townsfolk here take one another at their word.

Every eye focused on me, and an older baker at the far back of the shop on a raised platform locked eyes with me.

“By the devil,” the man hissed, “he is!”

Not a damned one picked up a weapon to come at me.

Not a damned one of them charged me.

They scattered and ran.

Some for the back of the building, others towards the door behind me.

I couldn’t let them out. None of them.

The Colts cleared leather before the old baker leapt down from his platform, and he was dead before he took a single step. The .44 caliber slug smashed into his back and blew a hole on its way out of his chest.

In my hands, the Colts roared. A thunderous, barbarous noise that froze the staff and the customers for a split second, and that was all I needed.

I’d shot all save one, a baker cowering by his patisserie stand. He kept his face hidden as I reloaded the Colts and then shot him dead. In silence, I walked among the dead and the dying and gave them all the coup de grace.

I could hear the townsfolk yelling out in the street, so I slipped out the back, stepping over the elder baker as I did so.

Behind me, the warm bread cooled amongst the dead.

#paranormal #christmas

December 19, 1870

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I knew this room.

I’d spent the night with my father and my cousin at the textile shop. Obadiah had put up a sign stating, Closed Until Further Notice, and we made the place our headquarters.

My father and cousin remained behind closed doors.

While I, as an unknown, could move about. There were none in town who knew me at my present age. I looked no older than sixteen and a young sixteen at that. No one would suspect I’d been alive for nearly two and a half centuries.

The previous evening, Obadiah had recommended the home of Mister Heinrich Lindt. He had, according to my cousin, a habit of speaking freely when plied with fine whiskey. And so, with a mouth full of lies, I knocked on the door to the Lindt home. In my free hand, I had a bottle of the man’s preferred drink, and my knife was tucked away.

When no one answered after the first knock, I tried once more, this time with a little more force.

The door opened of its own accord, and so did I.

The stench of death filled my nose, and I set the whiskey down on the floor and drew my knife.

I moved from room to room, keeping to the edges and listening for anything.

There was nothing.

I entered the last room on the first floor and felt my heart hammer against my chest.

I had seen this room before. In 1864, in a small town just outside of Philadelphia. There’d been a man in the room at the time, or what was left of him. He’d murdered his wife and the maid and had been in the process of feeding on them both when I came in. It took all twelve rounds from the Colts to put him down, and I suspected the same might be true in this when.

To the left of the chimney was a narrow door, beneath which a dried puddle of blood had spread into the room.

I eased the door open and found Mister Lindt.

Or what was left of him.

His face, bearing an expression of unmistakable horror, was the only bit of skin remaining. The rest of his body had been stripped, the offal lying in a pile beneath his ankles. I know not where his feet had been taken.

His hands were missing, too.

I sighed as I closed the door.

There were no answers here. Only more questions.

#paranormal #christmas

December 18, 1870

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We sat in a council of war.

“There are few here who might give you aid,” Obadiah said. “They are her creatures, and few of them will stray from the protection she offers.”

“Do you know where she is?” my father asked.

Obadiah shook his head. “No. She has many places she travels to, both within and without of town. Captain Davin Hawksmoor, however, will know.”

“How do we get to him?” my father inquired.

“You can’t. And neither can,” Obadiah replied. “He knows you of old, Ezekiel. As for me, well, let’s just say his wife and I got along a little too well.”

“I take it the good captain doesn’t know me?” I asked.

Obadiah grinned. “Leave your hatchet here, Duncan, and keep those Colts hidden. Put a knife in your pocket. You’ll need it.”

I nodded, and my cousin gave me directions. Within moments, I was on the street, moving along easily and finding the home without any trouble.

When I knocked on the door, a young maid answered it. I explained I had business with the captain, and she took me at my word.

I was ushered into a room with a low ceiling, one that reminded me of the sumptuous cabins aboard the grand sailing ships of the Union Navy.

Captain Hawksmoor sat at a round table, and his wife stood off to his left.

“What is it?” the captain demanded.

“I’ve word about Obadiah Coffin.”

The man stiffened, and his wife blushed. He shot an angry look at her, and without a word, she left the room, closing the door behind her.

“What word do you bring about that scum?” the man snarled.

I smiled. “He wants to know where my mother is.”

“Who in the hell is your mother, boy?!”

I drew my knife and drove the blade deep into his right hand, pinning it to the table. As he opened his mouth to scream, I slammed his jaw up and closed. Thrusting my arm beneath his jaw, I kept it shut and twisted the blade in his hand, causing him to shake violently.

“My mother,” I whispered. “Is Mistress Blood.”

Captain Hawksmoor fainted, and I jerked the knife from his hand, allowing him to fall to the floor.

Kneeling over him, I put the tip of the blade into his scalp and helped him wake up.

In the end, he didn’t say a single word.

But I took the bastard’s scalp.

#paranormal #christmas

December 17, 1870

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We hid in the forest.

After the failed attempt to gain information from the doctor and his nurses, my father and I retreated to the woods surrounding the town. Most of the time was spent in silence. We kept watch, and I repressed a smile or two as we saw people race around the general store and the doctor’s building.

We’d been sure to cover our tracks, and a light snowfall had aided us in that regard. The townsfolk sent out a few groups of armed men into the woods, but none were close to us.

As morning stretched into afternoon, we broke camp and moved toward our next target, a textile shop several buildings down from the doctor’s office.

There’d been a bit of movement around the shop, but nothing out of the ordinary.

When we’d looked at the ledger from the general store, we’d both recognized the name of Obadiah Coffin. He’d been a first cousin, one who’d gone missing shortly before my father in the early 1700s.

Neither my father nor I believed this would be an Obadiah we knew, but the Coffins were family, and if anyone might be willing to help us here, it would be a Coffin.

We entered town a few streets down and made our way along the main street, walked up to the textile shop and entered as bold as you please.

Three women greeted us, and then a man stepped out from a small office.

The man was Obadiah Coffin.

He was older than I remembered but as well dressed, and his mustache was waxed into curls on either end. As he sat down at his desk, he smiled at us both, adjusted the hat on his head and asked, “Now, how might I be of service?”

“I’m in need of a new suit for my son,” my father stated.

“Ah,” Obadiah nodded. “Growing boys always need new clothes, is that not so, Duncan?”

The young woman nearest the exit stepped toward it, her eyes darting from Obadiah to me.

It was her only mistake.

Before my father or I could move, Obadiah’s hands were a blur.

All three women collapsed to the floor, long, thin knives protruding from their skulls.

“You are not this Duncan’s father,” Obadiah said, taking a pipe out from his pocket. “But this Duncan is my cousin. How are you, Duncan? It’s been too damned long.”

And that it had.

#paranormal #christmas

December 16, 1870

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We visited the doctor.

After my father and I had hidden the bodies and the wagons and set the horses free, we drew the blinds about the store. My father found a closed sign, put it in the shop’s window, and we ate a fine meal as we chatted about shared memories.

Shortly before darkness settled over the town, we found some ledgers which listed a fair amount of people who ran a tab at the general store. It gave addresses and a place for us to start.

We slept little that night, alternately keeping watch and gathering supplies we could squirrel away. By daybreak, we had enough food to last two weeks, three if we stretched it out. With any luck, we wouldn’t need to ration the supplies.

As we slipped out of the General Store’s back door, we moved directly to the next building. It was, according to the ledger and our reconnaissance, a doctor’s office.

The physician would be an important man to question.

If he stood against my mother, he would be able to direct us toward her.

If not, well, there was no need for the enemy to have a man with any sort of surgical skills about. Not that my father and I planned to leave anyone alive.

But we could never be too sure.

 I broke the bolt on the back door to gain entrance to the doctor’s office.

We passed through a storage room, discovered a set of servant’s stairs leading up along the rear wall, and followed them to their end on the third floor. For a moment, we paused in the narrow hallway, listening in at the door.

A man could be heard, and my father, without hesitation, grasped the doorknob and thrust the door open into the room.

Despite the early hour, a pair of nurses and a doctor occupied the room. The doctor sat in a chair while the women stood. In an instance, the nurse standing behind the doctor assessed the situation and drew a small, sharp knife from a pocket. The nurse across from her nodded, and the knife-wielding woman cut the doctor’s throat.

The dying man tumbled from the chair, and the women charged at us.

Without uttering a word, we killed them both, snapping their necks with the brutal ease of men accustomed to the task.

Which is exactly what we were. #paranormal #christmas

December 15, 1870

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It was a strange night.

While this version of my Father did not have all the same memories as my own Father, he had a great many of them. What’s more, his affection for me was genuine.

We shared coffee and tobacco, a bit of jerky he’d been carrying with him, and an undisguised hatred of my mother.

“She wasn’t like this when we were married,” he informed me as the night waned. “Nor was she like this when your siblings were born. It was only after your birth that she began to change. I learned how she spent more time in the Hollow, and then, on your tenth birthday, she tried to gut you.”

“Much the same occurred in my when,” I told him.

Neither of us slept much, and when the sun rose, we decided to go into town through the east. There was a large general store where we could gather supplies, get a feel for the place, and decide how best to move forward with our hunt for my mother and the Woman’s husband.

When we reached the store, we found a good deal of traffic, with a trio of wagons parked out front, the horses snorting in the cold air.

We climbed the steps, entered the building, and saw how out of place we were.

Everyone stopped to look at us. The shoppers and the keepers knew we didn’t belong, and in a heartbeat, guns were drawn. They appeared out of coats and petticoats, behind the counters and from below them.

But they were all too slow.

Neither my father nor I drew pistols.

He used his knife, and I my hatchet.

I split open the head of a large woman who tried to bring a derringer into play. As I shoved her body back and into a man scrambling around the counter, my father gutted another man sitting by a stove. Blood from the dying man struck the hot metal, and the room was filled with the stench of burning blood.

A man tried to take aim with his revolver, and I took his hand off with the hatchet.

In minutes, the fight was over.

The bodies lay strewn around the store, and as we stood there, cleaning the blood and flesh from our weapons, my father nodded.

“You’re better than my son,” he smiled. “Rarely were his strikes so clean.”

My heart swelled with pride.

It felt good to fight beside my father once more.

#paranormal #christmas

December 14, 1870

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I’ve reached the town.

It’s a fair bit bigger than Cross, and I don’t think finding the woman’s husband, or my mother, is going to be easy. Not if most of the townsfolk are devoted to her, which is what the woman told me.

If I could know for certain that the town was wholly my mother’s, then I would simply put it to the torch.

However, there’s the risk of innocents suffering, and I’ll not put them in harm’s way intentionally.

I spent the day going around the outskirts of the town, seeing what roads led in and what water, if any, gave access to the place. I found eight roads and three streams, as well as a single river. There was a fair amount of foot traffic, too. A few carts and a handful of carriages. The weather, cold and bitter, kept most of the people inside.

One fact I did notice was that most of the men and women went armed. Even some of the older children I saw carried rifles.

This would not be an easy place to take.

I would need to go house by house to find the man and shop by shop.

I went back into the forest, found a good spot to hole up for the night, and made myself a decent camp, though I could only build a small fire. Too much smoke would bring unwanted attention.

I’d no sooner put on some coffee to boil when I heard a distinct step in the snow.

My hatchet was in my hand, and moved into a crouch, ready to see whether I needed to split open someone’s head.

A shape stepped around a large tree. The first item that caught my eye was the heavy Abenaki warclub in his hand.

The other was the man’s face.

It’d been nigh on a century since I’d seen my father, and the man hadn’t changed.

My heart thumped wildly in my chest, and I waited for the man to speak.

“You look like my son when he was younger,” my father stated. “I suspect you’re a Duncan Blood.”

I could only nod.

A small smile played across his face.

“I watched you take stock of the town. You’ve skills my Duncan doesn’t, and I thought you might strike first, though judging by your expression, that might not have occurred.”

“Not first.”

My father chuckled. “Have you enough coffee to spare?”

“I do.”

And for the first time in ten decades, I sat with my father.

#paranormal #christmas

December 13, 1870

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There were monsters in the house.

I’d spent the night in the company of the Mare, and she told me there was a group of creatures in the house where the Man had lived. These beasts had been the ones to make him sad. He had referred to them as the monsters, and thus she assigned the same moniker to them.

As the sun crested the horizon and reflected off the snow, the Mare asked of me a favor.

“Will you kill them for me?” she asked.

My pipe, which had long since gone dark, was still between my lips. I took it out, knocked out the ashes and reloaded the bowl. Once the tobacco was lit, and I’d gotten a good draw from it, I nodded.

“Aye,” I answered. “I’ll kill them. From what you’ve said, they deserve to die.”

“And what if you think they don’t?” she asked. “Once you meet them, I mean.”

“That’s a bridge I’ll cross when I get to it,” I replied, getting to my feet. I checked my Colts and made certain they were loose in their holsters.

The Mare scuffed at the earth with a hoof, then added in a soft voice, “He said they were always hungry.”

My eyes narrowed. “Did he now?”

She nodded.

“Well then, let’s see how hungry they are.”

Leaving my sled with the Mare, I went out the back door of the stable and saw a house about a quarter of a mile away. It was built in a familiar, rambling pattern, one I’d seen over most of New England in my long life.

I followed a slim, well-trodden path from the stable to the house, and when I climbed the steps of the porch and gave a hard knock on the door, I was ready.

My hands were on the butts of the Colts, and my ears strained for the slightest sound.

I needn’t have worried.

Running feet hammered down the hall and a set of stairs, and the door was thrown open. A woman, half naked and clutching a long knife in her hand, squealed with delight when she saw me.

“Long pork for dinner!” She lunged at me as she shouted, thrusting the blade forward.

I sidestepped the attack and drew a Colt all in one motion, and as she passed me by, I blew out her brains.

By the time her corpse hit the porch, others were racing toward me.

And the Colts, their thunder, shook the house.

#paranormal #christmas

December 12, 1870

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The horse stood alone.

I came upon the barn close to midday and found a horse standing alone. As I approached it, dragging my sleigh behind me, the horse looked from me to the barn and then back again. It shook its head and freed itself of the snow slowly building upon its brow, though a few clumps clung to its mane.

I tethered the sled to one of the posts, and the horse came to me. It was a mare, and she pushed her nose against my hand.

“Hey, girl,” I murmured. “You need to eat.”

I glanced over to the barn and saw a slim door was open. “If there’s no food in there for you, I’ll set you loose and let you forage a bit before I put you to bed for the night. Weather’s looking like it’ll turn for the worse.”

The horse snorted, and I walked to the barn. I climbed over the fence and pushed the door open the rest of the way. In the dim light of the interior, I saw saddle brass and tackle, hay and oats, and something suspended from the middle of the ceiling.

A man hung from the rafters, neck broken and hands dangling at his sides. It seemed as though he’d jumped from the loft and killed himself.

The sight of it saddened me.

I had no idea who the man was or if he was deserving of my pity, but it didn’t matter. He couldn’t hang there.

I found where he’d tied the rope off and cut him down. In a few minutes, I had him outside on the other side of the barn and did my best to cover him. The scavengers would find his body soon enough, but at least they’d have to work for it.

When I returned to the barn, I found the horse inside, eating some hay.

“You’re welcome to stay the night,” the horse said, and her voice took me aback for a moment. It wasn’t often I conversed with animals who could speak.

I cleared my throat and nodded my thanks. “I appreciate that.”

“Thank you for cutting him down,” she responded. “He was a good man, though terribly sad. I couldn’t bring myself to come in. Not with him there.”

“No,” I said. “I don’t suppose you could.”

Sitting down across from her, I took out my pipe, filled it and asked, “Will you tell me about him?”

She began to speak, and I listened.

It was all I could do.

#paranormal #christmas

December 11, 1870

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Bastard!

I don’t know if he was a great shot, a bad shot, or blind in one eye. Regardless, the bushwhacking sonofabitch put a bullet through my right knee and dropped me.

Snow fell heavily from a dark sky, and I kept myself pressed close to the earth, ignoring the cold and focusing on where the shot had come from. As my knee throbbed with pain and blood pumped out into the snow, I caught a glimpse of metal and a flash of an eye.

He was only a hundred, maybe a hundred and twenty yards away from me.

Slowly, my knee knitted itself back together. The bullet, which had fragmented, was pushed out through a dozen spots, an excruciating act that brought my anger to the forefront.

I slipped the hatchet off my belt and backed out of the gatekeeper’s coat.

No sooner was I a dozen feet away than another shot rang out, causing the snow in front of the coat’s hood to spray up.

The shooter thought I was still there.

Perhaps he was trying to frighten me into moving, to check to see if I was truly dead.

I don’t believe he knew who he was shooting at.

Fresh snow began to fall, the flakes large and heavy, racing one another to the earth. They covered me as I crawled along, one eye on the shooter as my path took me in a wide arc.

I’d covered half the distance to him when I heard him chamber another round and shoot again. Like the second shot, this one threw up snow in front of the coat, and his mutter of disgust told me he was trying to shoot me, not frighten me.

I nearly laughed as he touched his trigger finger to his tongue and then held it up to gauge the wind.

There was no wind to gauge. Not even the faintest whisper of a breeze.

The snow fell straight down from the sky.

The shooter fired again, this show going over my coat and slamming into a distant tree.

As the man reached for another round, I reached him.

“Hello,” I whispered.

The man jerked around, horror in his eyes.

I slammed the hatchet into his lower back, severing his spine with a single blow. His scream filled the air before fading.

He lay on his stomach, unable to move and gasping for breath.

I could have finished him off.

I didn’t.

#paranormal #christmas

December 10, 1870

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My mother believes she has powerful friends.

I slept well amongst the dead. Before night fell, I stacked the bodies in a rough wall around me. From them, I gathered food, ammunition, and the necessities for a fire.  

I’d stripped a few of their heavy coats, and by the light of the fire, I stitched myself a fair bit of covering beneath which I could sleep. My coat, stolen from the corpse of the gatekeeper, served as both bed and blanket.

In the morning, I left my rough fort behind. My patchwork tent, a trio of rifles and all the necessities, was lashed down to the wood-woman’s sled. With a belly full of biscuits and some bitter coffee, I followed a long, wide trail down the other side of the hill. The snow thickened in some spots and disappeared entirely in others. Soon, however, I realized I’d need a pair of snowshoes if I was to make any sort of time on my way to the town.

As I walked, the sweet, familiar scent of the sea reached my nose, and soon I found myself walking along the edge of a beach. I passed between sand dunes and scrub pines, and I was not too surprised to see a group of curious individuals waiting for me as I crested the next rise.

Leaving my sled at the peak, I loosened the Colts in my holsters and walked down toward the party.

They watched me in silence until I was but a dozen or so feet away. A creature with long horns upon its head spoke.

“You are her son,” the creature stated in a deep, masculine voice.

I rested my hands on the butts of the revolvers. “Aye.”

“Would you come home and swear fealty to your mother?” he asked.

I offered him a mirthless smile.

“Answer the question!” The demand came from a pair of men who spoke simultaneously. They flanked the group, horns in their hands.

The Colts cleared leather, and I answered the question.

The heavy .44 caliber slugs took each musician in the chest, slamming the men backward and sending them tumbling to the ground.

A collective gasp escaped from the gathered group, and they attacked.

I don’t know what they thought they’d accomplish, but there are few who can stand against iron and hate.

And they sure as hell couldn’t.

#paranormal #christmas

December 9, 1870

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They tried to hunt me.

I made no attempt to hide my tracks after I left my cousin Patience in her unopenable cell. I confess my temper got the better of me, and I made certain to leave a trail easy to follow.

I wanted to vent my anger and my frustrations on my mother’s loyal sycophants.

When I’d left Patience, I spotted the troop of soldiers a fair distance away. Ahead and to the left of me was a bit of an outcropping occupied by snow, thin trees, and some rocks. A man who took the high ground and who was a fair shot with a pistol could do a bit of damage against an assaulting force.

I was such a man.

When I saw the troops, I fired off a few shots and shouted some unpleasant remarks about my mother.

There was no hesitation on their part.

I caught faint orders for the men to turn and give chase, and Patience laughed as I slipped away, dragging my sled with me.

By the time my mother’s men reached the base of the outcropping, I was well situated at the peak. The Colts were loaded and in my hands, the axe in front of me and the sled on its side.

In the cold snow, I waited.

The men came up the trail, calling out for me to surrender, to give up and face the consequences of being a disobedient child and a disappointing son.

I saved my breath, as they should have.

When the first man came into range, I put him down with a shot to his chest that sent him stumbling down the hill. He left a trail of compressed snow, broken branches and blood splatter until he came to a hard stop against a large stone.

Two of his comrades picked him up and continued toward me with their companions.

Soon, rifle fire filled the air, and I let several get close to the sled. I gunned them both down and took their rifles for my own.

It was then the soldiers realized their mistake.

An officer tried to rally them, and I shot him through the throat for his troubles.

A sergeant sounded a charge, and he went down with a hole in his belly.

In moments, they were a disorganized mob.

Some died charging me; others died running away.

None of them survived.

I put the hatchet to good use and left a pile of heads.

A greeting to my mother.

#paranormal #christmas

December 8, 1870

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“Duncan.”

The voice brought me to a stop.

“I know it’s you.”

I turned and forced my way through a hedgerow, dragging the sled behind me. I passed into a small field, the back of which was defined by a tall log wall. In front of it, perched atop a wide tree stump, was a rough-hewn house of sorts.

I approached the structure with caution, my hatchet in hand, as I left the sled behind. I walked around the house, saw a tall ladder made of stripped trees, and realized there were no doors or windows I could see. The ladder vanished into the side of the house.

Once I’d circled the building, I came to a stop in front of the ladder.

“Will you speak?” the inhabitant asked.

I cleared my throat as best I could and still could only muster a weak and broken “Yes.”

“Oh,” she whispered through the wall. “You’ve the right pitch, but you’re too young. You’re not my Duncan.”

“But I know you, Patience Blood,” I stated, my voice gaining strength. “Though I’ve not seen you in far too long.”

My beautiful cousin laughed from within her prison. “Oh, you’ve my Duncan’s way with words, though.”

“How do I free you?” I asked, stepping closer to the structure.

“It’s a wicked fairy tale, my dear cousin,” she sighed. “Only my Duncan can free me, and I’ve no idea where he is or if he is even alive.”

My throat tightened. “I would try if you would let me.”

“No,” she replied, her voice firm. “Beyond the wall to the right lay the corpses of two other Duncans. They are burned beyond recognition, for this place is protected by fire. I am trapped here, unable to die.”

“Who did this?”

Patience laughed. “Oh, dear cousin, who do you think would do such a thing? Especially to someone precious to you?”

“My mother.”

“Aye, that she is, and she is the one who did this.” For the first time, a tinge of anger entered my cousin’s voice. “Find her here, my dear heart, and you will free me from this prison. Will you do that?”

“That and more,” I answered. “Is there naught else I can do?”

“You could sit a spell,” she whispered. “I’ve not heard your voice for far too long.”

I sat down beneath the house, and we talked of days long past and the dead we’d left behind.

#paranormal #christmas

Of my Father

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I was thirteen when we went to war.

A group of Abenaki had come down by way of Boston Towne, skirting the city to the west before settling down on some raids. When they reached Cross, they struck as they were wont to do.

They picked off a few men foolishly working too far out in the fields, but the war party kept clear of the Hollow. They knew better than to tread that unhallowed ground.

The alarm rang out through the town, and most of the folk made it to the garrison house, securing themselves within it and keeping the raiding party at bay.

My father and I, well, we were in the orchard. We had been checking on the trees, and my father had been negotiating, strenuously, with the oldest of them. They were demanding fresh meat, and my father was reminding them that corpses were in short supply.

Until the alarm sounded.

My father and I took up our rifles, loaded up shot and powder, and made our way into town. We kept to the trails on the outskirts, moving silently. The Abenaki weren’t the only ones who knew how to wage war in the forest.

When we came in behind them, my father gave me permission, and I crept forward with my knife.

I found the first three warriors crouched low behind a fallen log. Their position was excellent, giving them a perfect view of the garrison and all approaches to it. For a few moments, I watched them.

Only one man had a rifle, and he treated it with the respect it was due. His two companions, far older, were armed with war clubs. The man with the rifle brought it up to his shoulder, steadied the barrel on the log, and fired at the house.

When he did, I attacked.

I launched myself toward the gunner, sliding the blade in between his ribs and up into his lungs, making sure not to get the weapon stuck in the bone. I ducked as the man to my left saw me and swung his warclub, the heavy cudgel smashing into the back of the gunner’s head and caving the skull in.

As the man jerked the weapon back, I threw myself onto the other man, who dropped his club to try and catch me.

What he caught was my knife instead.

I thrust it up under his chin, the blade piercing the roof of his mouth and catching at the last moment. As he fell back, clawing at the knife, I let go and scrambled over the fallen log, snatching up the dead gunner’s rifle as I did so.

The surviving man brought his bloody warclub to bear, his face painted for war and splattered with his comrade’s brains. He tried to hit me, but I blocked with the rifle’s stock, then reversed it, slamming the butt into the other man’s groin with enough force to knock him down.

I didn’t bother retrieving my knife from the dying man or snatching up the warclub the last assailant had dropped.

Instead, I raised the rifle over my head, and I beat the last man to death.

My father appeared a moment later, splattered with blood and grinning. He glanced about at my handiwork and nodded.

“Messy,” he told me, “but well done, my boy. Let’s see how many of our neighbors are still alive.”

All but two within the house had survived the attack, and that was because they had been wounded on the way to the garrison.

As for my father and myself, we gathered up members of the Coffin family, girded ourselves for war, and set out on the trail after the remaining Abenaki.

We found them a few days later, and we reminded them why it was best to leave Cross alone.

***

My father taught me to kill. Not for pleasure. Not out of spite.

“Killing is a chore,” he would tell me. “Nothing more and nothing less. Sometimes it’s a pleasure, but more often, it is merely another bit of unpleasant work. Do it, do it well, and move on with your day.”

It is a lesson I learned and one I keep close to my chest.

I remember the day we caught up with the war party of Abenaki. We took their scalps and left their heads hanging from the trees along the trail.

My father and I took no pleasure in the killing or the abuse of the corpses.

It was a chore, one of many, and nothing more.

My father was many things. Most importantly, though, he was my father, and I miss him more than I can say.

When I found his journals and this one on the outskirts of the Hollow, decades after he had vanished, I was a boy once more.

A boy missing his father and hoping that one day the man might return.

December 5, 1870

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Curiouser by the minute.

I’d no sooner closed the door behind me than I heard the sound of sled runners on the hardpacked snow.

From the right came a woman, bedecked in furs and thick cloth, dragging a sled piled high with firewood. When she came abreast of me, the woman stopped. She peered at me with dark, questioning eyes, and then, in a low voice, she said, “You wear the watchman’s coat, but you are not he.”

“I’m a stranger, making my way toward town,” I replied.

She lowered her scarf and revealed a bleeding mouth that took up the entirety of her lower jaw. “You are an abomination.”

She dropped the sled’s lead and held her arms out.

The firewood sprang up from the sled and encased her, pushing her up until she stood at least ten feet tall and was armored. In her hands, she clutched long branches as thick as my wrist.

I dove to the right as the branches slashed down, smashing into the place I’d been but a moment before. The glint of steel caught my eye, and as I rolled back to my feet, I snatched a hatchet up from the sled.

She caught me with a backswing, the glancing blow from the branch snapping my femur like a twig.

Pain, intense and nauseating, flooded my senses, and I fought it back as I caught the next blow with my free hand.

The woman let out an undulating victory cry as she sought to stove in my head, but her cry of victory transformed into a shriek of pain as I drove the hatchet into her knee.

She crumpled to the ground, blood spouting from the wound as I delivered two more quick strikes, severing the leg at the knee.

As my femur knit itself back together, I drove the hatchet into the woman’s open mouth, cleaving her head in two. The top bounced on the snow, struck the sled and tumbled away, coming to a rest against a base of a small tree.

I sat for a few minutes in the snow, waiting for my leg to finish healing. I looked from the body to the sled, from the sled to the blood-slick hatchet in my hand. Getting to my feet, I picked up the tether for the sled.

The hatchet had already proved useful.

I had no doubt the sled would as well.

#paranormal #christmas

December 4, 1870

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The wall stretched for as far as I could see.

The only entrance was guarded by a wearing a fair amount of clothing. He looked like a self-righteous bastard, and when he spoke, he confirmed my first impression of him.

“Where goest thou?” he asked, grinning at me. There was no affection in his phrase, and he looked at me with something close to disgust.

I don’t deny that I felt the same.

“I’d hoped to pass through the door and make my way to the next town,” I told the guard.

He shook his head. “This is not for the likes of you. You’re to take the narrow trail three miles to the east. It should bring you to the place you seek. Your kind is not allowed through this entrance.”

I smiled, amused at the man’s words. For a moment, I considered forcing the issue but decided against it. I turned to leave, and the wind shifted ever so slightly, carrying my scent to the guard.

“Stop!” he ordered, and I turned to face him.

“Make up your mind,” I chuckled.

“You are a Blood.”

There was no need to respond to his statement. I knew who I was, and apparently, this man had some sort of inkling as well.

“There is a price on your head,” he told me.

“Worth your life?”

Without a word, he threw off his coat, and I saw a half dozen arms, three on each side. He drew pistols from holsters slung across his broad chest, and I drew my Colts as I dropped to one knee.

His first shots tore through the air where my chest had been a moment before, and the heavy .44 caliber slugs of the Colts slammed into his groin and thighs. The impact of the rounds sent him staggering back and throwing off his aim for the next volley of shots from his pistols.

As he tried to steady himself, I fired off another pair of shots, each one catching him in the center of his chest and sending him another step back. His boots became tangled in his coat, and he went down with a thunderous crash.

He tried to bring his pistols to bear, but my revolvers spoke first. Round after round slammed into his head, the bastard’s blood and brains steaming in the morning air.

I paused long enough to reload the Colts and to take his discarded coat.

It was getting cold.

#paranormal #christmas

December 3, 1870

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This wasn’t Cross.

I stepped out of the woman’s back door into a world not my own. The sun hung in the air wrong.

On my back, I had a bit of meat and bread as well as a container of hot tea. They would last until I found the town I needed.

I’d been on the move for no more than a few hours when I came upon a narrow, well-trod road. I followed it for another half hour or so and spotted a blacksmith’s. Five men stood outside; all work paused as they watched me approach.

There was an unmistakable animosity in their faces.

The man at the bellows spat upon the ground while the smith, with hammer raised above his head, as though frozen in mid-strike, eyed me with growing hate. The other three fixed their gaze upon me and waited.

I came to a stop, slipped my hands behind my back and took hold of my Bowie knife. There was no need to draw the Colts. Not when there were no firearms in sight, and especially not when I couldn’t be sure as to how many men might be in the house behind the smith.

“What do you want, Boy?” the smith asked, lowering his hammer.

“Nothing,” I replied. “I’m headed to a village not far from here. I’m to kill a man and any who stand in my way.”

None of the men found the statement humorous, which was good. I hadn’t meant to be funny.

“And why’s that?” the smith inquired.

“He’s aligned himself with Dame Blood, my mother.”

“Then you’ve more than one man to try and kill!”

The smith and his comrades spread out and came at me from all sides, which was fine with me.

My father had taught me close-quarters fighting, and I’d learned the hard lessons of fighting Abenaki and Mohicans.

Five men at a smith’s forge were far from worrisome.

The men fought well and died fast, the smith lasting longest of all.

In the end, he was on his knees before me, arms hanging useless at his sides. I had him by the hair; his head pulled back to expose his neck.

“You’re Duncan Blood,” he said.

“Aye.”

“I should have known,” the smith mused. “I saw you fight once, twenty-odd years ago. You killed eight men with a pruning knife. There are, I suppose, worse ways to die.”

“There are,” I said and drove my knife into his throat.

#paranormal #christmas

December 2, 1870

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The child slept.

His cradle hung from the ceiling. The boy’s delicate snores filled the calm of the small room the woman had led me into, and burning logs threw a pleasant light and warmth from a fireplace set in the far wall.

Furs and rugs lined the floor of the room, and large, overstuffed pillows were piled along the walls. When we sat again, the woman took a seat by her child, smiling at him before speaking.

“My son’s father attempted to kill us both a short time ago. I used the last of my power to bring us here to hide. It is a place he would not think to look,” she told me. “My people’s fear and hatred of you is come by honestly, Blood. You’ve done a great deal of killing, although you are much younger here than you are in my world.”

I took out my pipe and tobacco, held them up, and she nodded. As I packed the briarwood bowl, she continued.

“Your other self butchered every member of my family save my husband and me.”

I lit my pipe, took several long draws upon it to get the smoke going and then asked, “What stayed my hand?”

“You said I had not listened to your mother, and so there was no need for me to die.” She adjusted the hat upon her head, smiled at her son and then added, “My husband had only just become so, and he had not been foolish enough to raise his hand against you.”

“Why does he want to kill you and his son?” I asked.

Anger darkened her face. “Because he is now your mother’s creature, and she wishes me punished for not serving her. He is to kill his son in front of me and then finish me when I am broken.”

I took the pipe out of my mouth, glanced at the boy and then back to the woman. “You won’t break.”

She gave me a hard, knowing grin. “No. I won’t.”

“You want your husband dead?” I asked.

She nodded. “He remains in our village, trying to think of where I am. He must die if my son is to live.”

I looked from her to the boy and back again. I could feel the truth of her words.

“How many in your village serve my mother?” I asked.

“All. Two hundred, perhaps. Perhaps more have joined them.”

“Any you want me to spare?”

She shook her head.

“How do I get to your village?” I asked, and she told me.

#paranormal #christmas

December 1, 1870

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Goddamn ice.

Goddamn dog, too.

I’d seen the dog running on the ice and knew it wasn’t a good sign. The weather had been touch and go of late, and that meant the ice on Blood Lake wouldn’t be nearly thick enough around the edges, which is where I saw the dog.

The dog, a black pug, raced from the shore to a near island and back again. I tried calling to it, but the little bastard ignored me and raced toward the next island.

I couldn’t wait for the dog to come back to the shore, nor could I bear the thought of it falling through the ice. If the shock of the water didn’t kill it, then whatever merfolk were lingering near the surface certainly would.

With a curse, I checked the tie-downs on my Colts and then headed across the ice toward the island. The cracking beneath my feet was none too reassuring, but I pushed all thoughts of worry out of my head. I’d survived a dip in freezing waters before, and while it was none too pleasant, it wouldn’t kill me.

And the merfolk knew better than to touch me.

Ahead, the pug reached the shore of the island and scrambled up and through the snow-covered bank into the tree line.

With a grunt of dismay, I continued on to the island.

It was a new bit of land that had shown up in October. I’d given it a cursory examination when it first arrived, but there’d been nothing of interest on it.

And, consequently, nothing the dog might be able to eat and survive.

I couldn’t let it starve.

I reached the island and followed the dog’s tracks up into the tree line, down a slight incline and into a narrow path through some granite ledges. When the path opened, the dog’s tracks led into a small house that sure as hell hadn’t been there before.

With a grimace, I walked up to the front door and found it slightly ajar.

I nudged it open with my foot and stepped in to find a petite woman standing a few feet away.

She bowed, gestured toward an ornately carved chair, and said in a low, pleasant tone, “Duncan Blood, I need your help.”

I took my hat off, sat down in the chair and asked, “With what?”

She sat down opposite me, smiled and answered, “With killing.”

I nodded.

Killing was something I could do.

#paranormal #christmas

1931: Alive

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“There are children.”

I looked at her. “More children? Where are they being kept?”

The one-eyed girl child shook her head. “No, not like us. Children birthed from the monsters.”

My mouth went dry.

“There is a small door tucked around the corner,” she continued. “I saw it once, a great trio of machines, each holding a monstrous babe that clings to life.”

This place had succeeded in breeding with creatures best left unmentioned.

Young ones in a hidden room who needed killing, and my father had taught me to put my chores off, not when I could get them done.

“Stay here,” I told the girls. “I’ll be back soon as I’m done.”

They looked at me with eyes robbed of innocence, and then they sat down on a bunk together to wait.

I left them in the room and went to the small door, standing slightly ajar. It was barely tall enough for me to fit through and hardly wide enough for me to do the same.

Still, I fit through, and I found myself in a room occupied by three machines and a single nurse.

She drew a large bore revolver from behind her back and cocked the hammer. “Come no closer, Blood.”

I obliged her and came to a stop.

“These creatures will not be touched,” she continued.

I gauged the weapon in her hand, the steadiness with which she held it and weighed both against my ability to draw a Colt before receiving a wound.

Before I could come to a conclusion, the wall above the strange machines vibrated and opened. The nurse jerked around, fired once into the hole formed in the wall, and then was snatched up by a massive, scaled hand that vanished into the wall with her.

A dark shadow filled the room as dozens of hands and tentacles, arms and grotesque forms spilled out of the hole. They gathered up the children, the machines, and everything they could find.

Yet none touched me.

As the last creature vanished into the hole, a voice escaped from it.

“These children are ours, Blood,” the voice shook my bones with every consonant. “We will raise them and cherish them. When it is time, they will devour this place. Stone by stone.”

It sounded like a fine plan to me, and there were some at Miskatonic who I’d do that to.

But bone by bone instead.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Survivors

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They stood in silence.

My ears still rang from the thundering roar of my Colts, my fingers singed from swapping out hot brass for fresh rounds.

The room in front of me was small, controlled by a handful of staff. My heart sank, and my anger surged as I saw a trio of young girls, two on the right and one in a bed on the left.

From the looks on their faces, I could see they knew what fate awaited them.

The women in the beds gazed at me; all hope lost.

Genevieve was not among them.

“Where is Genevieve?” I asked.

The doctor stepped forward, his voice high and tight as he lifted his chin imperiously. “We don’t bother with names in the impregnation chamber.”

I shot him in the head, and blood splattered over the white linens and clean walls. While the nurses cried out and shrank back, neither the girls nor the patients abed did so.

I nodded to the closest nurse. “Same question.”

The woman straightened up, her entire body trembling. “I won’t – ”

I shot her before she could finish speaking, the heavy slug ripping through her chest and dropping her to the floor.

The nurse to the far right cringed as I looked at her, and before I could ask my question, she exclaimed, “Genevieve died this morning by her own hand after we impregnated her.”

I tightened my grip on the Colts and asked, “Which of you did it?”

Before either of the nurses could answer, one of the girls – whose right eye was bandaged, whispered, “They all did.”

As the nurses looked at the child in horror, I gunned them down.

None of the shots were clean, and they were squealing in pain as I walked to the nearest adult patient.

I opened my mouth to speak, and the woman shook her head.

“There is no hope for any of us,” she explained. “We are all of us doomed. Even should the beasts within bloom, we will be sacrificed to their foul gods. We can only ask for mercy.”

“That,” I whispered. “Is something I can do.”

The young girls gathered on the far side of the room, and I walked among the impregnated women. Some prayed. Others remained silent. All looked at me with fierce, determined eyes.

I wept with each pull of the trigger.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: A Show

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I stood and watched the show.

I had come upon a small balcony overlooking an operating theater.

New machinery, glistening and thrumming with the pure sounds of oiled parts, occupied a great deal of the room. Doctors and nurses hastened about the room, moving back and forth between a pair of patients. Around the periphery of the room stood a few men who were, without question, members of Miskatonic’s faculty.

They watched in fascinated silence.

I looked down at the two women in the beds. Neither of them was pregnant from what I could see, and if the concerns of the medical staff were to be believed, then the young women would die before the day was out.

The insemination, it appeared, had gone terribly wrong.

One woman, facing away from me, convulsed on her stretcher as the nurses and doctors tried to strap her down. She threw an arm with such violence that it tore from the socket and sailed across the room to strike the floor with a wet thud. As arterial blood sprayed up and out, showering down upon the staff, the young woman’s stomach beneath the sheet churned and convulsed.

A heartbeat later and her innards exploded out, showering down upon those around her and painting the walls with her blood.

The other patient fared better than her co-sufferer.

As a doctor leaned forward to check on the woman, she threw herself forward with enough strength to lift the gurney off the floor for a split second, and then her teeth sank into his neck. The doctor tried to wrench himself free but only succeeded in leaving a chunk of flesh in her mouth.

The doctor stumbled back, fell into the arms of a pair of nurses and was dragged out of the way as another doctor leapt forward to help secure the now shrieking woman to the gurney. Her body jumped and twisted violently, and when I heard her shoulder break, I drew the Colts.

The first slug took her in the temple and ended her misery.

I took my time with everyone else.

The thunderous roar of the Colts filled the operating theater, drowning out the screams of pain and horror issuing forth from those within the room.

I killed every last one of the bastards, and I was angry there weren’t more.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Too Late

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The room was empty.

I could smell a faint hint of perfume mingled with the potent odor of fear.

The room, which held a cell in its center, was devoid of sound and hope. From where I stood, I could see the harsh bunk upon which the prisoner had lain. Sweat stains and splotches of blood marred the surface of the bunk and the floor of the cage as well.

Hopelessness and desperation stood before me in the form of iron and steel.

I did not know if Genevieve was kept here, but if she wasn’t, then I’m certain other young women were.

Was it prior to insemination? Were they bound and held until it was time for whatever unholy rite the professors of Miskatonic partook of?

I did not know, and I doubted I would know.

Not because the information would be unavailable to me but rather because I would kill anyone I came in contact with.

I had no doubts about that. What I had seen condemned the staff of this Miskatonic – and possibly those in my own world – to as brutal a death as I could manage. There were a great many ways to put men and women to death, each more painful than its predecessor.

Whether I would have that option, I did not know.

I only wanted to save the women I could and kill those who needed killing.

As I stood looking at the cage, the building shook beneath me, and raucous laughter vibrated through the walls.

The demigods continued wreaking havoc below me.

They might bring the walls down, but I would make it one way or another.

My only concern was finding Genevieve and saving her. Either from this place or from a miserable death.

I double-checked the loads on the Colts and then drew the pruning knife from the small of my back. Snapping open the blade, I checked its edge. It was, without a doubt, in sore need of sharpening, but there was enough of an edge to slit a throat, although it wouldn’t be pretty nor nearly as easy as it might ordinarily be.

But I wasn’t worried about easy or pretty.

So long as the knife cut the throat, I’d be pleased.

The Colts never failed, and I looked forward to hearing the thunder of the guns.

I adjusted the Colts in their holsters and made my way to the door.

This task was nearly done.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Upward

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I climbed the stairs.

Behind me, the sounds of a massacre faded. The demigods, unnamed and unknown, worked their way through those rooms I had not opened. I could feel the fear in the air, a sensation both unpleasant and fraught with danger.

I enjoyed it immensely.

At the top of the stairs, I found a large tin sign bolding, proclaiming the floor to be ‘Observation and Exploration.’

The stale, bitter scent of antiseptics eased out around a thin door and told me what I could expect beyond its slim boundary.

The doorknob was cold in my hand, but it opened easily enough, and I entered a large room dominated by dissection tables and various other pieces of scientific equipment for which I had no names nor any idea as to what they were for.

Only one person occupied the room, standing beside a small table upon which lay a collection of half-human bodies. He, like so many others in this place, paid me no mind as he went about his business. I watched as he peeled back skin and pierced muscle down to the bone.

At one point, he leaned forward, sniffed one miniature body, and then sliced off a bit of muscle near the rectum. He held it up, turned it from left to right, and then shrugged before he popped it off into his mouth.

The man hummed as he chewed, and I repressed a sudden desire to vomit.

I stepped toward him, and the man did not notice until I stood on the other side of the table from him, partially blocking some light.

He looked up with a frown and asked, “And who might you be, sir?”

My fists answered his question.

The first blow shattered his nose and caused him to drop the scalpel he had been using on the abominations in the tray in front of him. The second and third blows collapsed his orbital bones and dropped him to the floor. My boots shattered his knees, and I cracked his sternum as I crashed knees-first onto his chest.

The air rushed from his mouth, blood bubbled in his nostrils, and I grabbed him by his hair.

Without so much as a word to him, I slammed his head into the tiled floor until it had shattered and his brains were splattered around him.

I wish I could have hurt him more.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Prep work

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Sonofabitch!

He was quicker than I would have thought, and I paid for it.

I’d entered the room with more confidence than I should have felt. There’d been the steady thwack of a blade into meat and cutting board, but it hadn’t meant the butcher wasn’t paying attention, which was what I’d assumed.

I’d no sooner cleared the doorway than he spun around and charged. My pruning knife was no match for the cleaver he wielded.

And he could handle the tool, too.

He knocked my knife aside, I threw my left arm up to stop the back blow from taking off the lower half of my face, and I sacrificed a fair chunk of my forearm instead.

The blade was as sharp as it should have been, and so it was with little surprise – but a lot of anger – that I watched the lower part of my sleeve and a fair amount of flesh sail across the room.

As my unattached portion of arm slapped wetly upon the wooden wall, he was coming back toward me. I cursed at the lightheadedness sweeping over me and the blood soaking my left side. I managed to avoid another blow and step over my pruning knife.

The bastard handled the cleaver better than most men handled knives, and it took all I had in me to avoid disembowelment.

I snatched up a bit of offal from a table and threw it at him.

His reflexes were as good as I thought, and he ducked easily, a derisive grin on his face as he straightened once more.

The grin faded at the sight of the Colt I’d drawn with my good hand.

He raised the cleaver up to throw it, and I shot him through the hand, blowing his fingers off and shattering the handle of the tool. Fingers and cleaver landed on the floor together, and I watched with growing amusement as he struggled to draw a skinning knife from his belt. As the steel cleared the leather, I shot him in the hip, dropping him like a felled ox.

He bellowed in pain, then shrieked as I stepped down on his wounded hand. The butcher tried again to draw his knife, and I shot him in the groin, ending all resistance.

“I hate you,” he snarled.

“Figured that out,” I told him and drove my knee into his groin.

When his squeal of pain finished, I smiled and whispered, “I hate you, too.”

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Surgery

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Not what I wanted to see.

I found a nurse standing outside of a surgical room. She was in the process of adjusting her garb when I cut her throat from behind and left her bleeding to death on the linoleum floor.

I pushed open the swinging doors of the surgical chamber and found myself face to face with horror. A young woman lay on an operating table, arms strapped down and legs in stirrups, the feet bolted into place. She struggled against the bonds and the thing clawing its way out of her stomach. I suspect she would have screamed had a great flap of skin not been sewn across her mouth. At some point, someone had removed her eyes as well. This last, however, may have been done as a mercy. The discoloration on her skin and the marks upon it appeared to have been caused by whatever abomination grew within her.

A trio of nurses and a pair of doctors worked around the victim, their voices strained and their focus solely upon the salvation of the child and not the mother.

As I prepared to step forward and kill them all, the young woman’s belly exploded.

A rib shot out, pierced one doctor’s eye and burst from the back of his head as he collapsed to the floor. The woman on the table shuddered and expelled the thing within her half through her stomach and half in what would have been a natural birth.

The thing in her tore her open, and a great, clawed hand snapped out, gripped the closest nurse by the throat and shredded it.

The other two nurses came at the thing with syringes, plunging the needles into its gray-green skin. The other doctor stepped over his dead colleague and tried to wrench the thing from the mother’s corpse. As he did so, a long, black tongue lashed out, snatching first the doctor’s left eye and then his right.

The thing then grabbed the nurses and pulled them into the corpse.

The room shuddered as their legs disappeared into her belly, and then the body collapsed upon itself.

I found myself alone with a screaming doctor and a pair of corpses.

I took a length of surgical tubing and looped it around the doctor’s neck.

He died quicker than the others but not nearly as quickly as he would have liked.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Artists

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There was no denying their skill.

I found fault only with their choice of medium.

A beautiful piece of music slowly filled the hallway from the kitchen. The notes grew louder with each step, and when I reached a door marked ‘Remembrances,’ I could have fired off a scattergun, and no one would have heard me.

Like all the doors I’d tried so far, this one was unlocked.

When I opened the door, I saw a pair of men working diligently around an immobilized figure. It took me but a moment to see the woman between them was dead, her lower portions covered with thick clay.

The two men worked with smooth, careful motions. They had, from what I could tell by the gathered masks along the far wall, been working together for quite some time.

The only pity was what they were part of.

That, and they seemed to be enjoying their work a trifle too much.

And I wanted to know where Genevieve was.

I drew a Colt, cocked the pistol and brought it up. The movement caught one of the men’s attention, and as he looked up, his eyes widened in surprise.

I pulled the trigger and killed the man next to him, spraying bones and blood, brains and flesh across his face. As he wiped the remains of his companion from his mustache, I nodded toward the phonograph off to the left.

The man took several dazed steps over to the machine, lifted the needle and stared at me in slowly dawning horror.

“The women,” I said.

“No,” he whispered. “They’re mine when they’re dead. You can’t have them.”

“There are a few I can still save,” I told him, my voice growing tight. “I want them.”

He shook his head, body trembling. “I need them. They must be saved for posterity. They are the mothers of the future. Even those who are slain in birth.”

I could see it in his eyes. He didn’t care if he died.

Only if he couldn’t work with the dead.

I took two steps forward and punched him as hard as I could in the face. He collapsed to the floor, unconscious. I holstered the Colt, found some twine, and tied tourniquets around his wrists.

My knife wasn’t as sharp as when I’d come looking for Genevieve.

But there was enough of a blade to take his hands.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: In the kitchen.

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The kitchen was a marvel of efficiency.

The cooks laughed and joked good-naturedly with one another as they moved from stove to stove and pot to pot. Some slipped in and out of a walk-in refrigerator, removing selections of meat while others prepared vegetables.

None of them noticed me standing in the corner, just to the left of the door.

They were busy preparing a meal which, I must admit, smelled delicious.

At first, I feared they might be cooking some of the slain women, but there was no hint of human in the meal. I’ve seen enough men roasted to know what the smell of a cooking man is.

Still, there was something quite wrong with the meat.

Something unnatural.

I learned the source of it a moment later when a door at the far end of the room opened, and a disgruntled surgeon entered. In his hands, he held a bloody object wrapped in a sheet.

“Another?” a tall cook asked.

The surgeon nodded and replied in a voice filled with frustration. “We were only a week or two away from this one being viable. So close!”

“Show me,” the tall cook ordered, stepping close to the surgeon.

The surgeon threw back the sheet, revealing a twisted body reminiscent of a devil fish crossed with a small ape.

“Not nearly as ugly as the last few,” the tall cook observed.

“No,” the surgeon agreed. “In fact, this one actually took several breaths before blood seeped from its ears and mouth.”

“How bad for the breeder?” the tall cook inquired.

“This one decided the rectum was the place to exit,” the surgeon chuckled. “Wasn’t pretty, but it sure wasn’t the worse I’ve seen.”

“George,” the tall cook called and motioned toward the small body. A cook wandered over, wiped his hands off on his apron and took the corpse.

“I think we could probably sauté the tentacles,” George mused. “Maybe even pull some of the ribs.”

“Excellent,” the tall cook smiled, and he dismissed George as several blenders were turned on. The combined noise was loud, obnoxious, and perfect.

I drew my Colts, and the tall cook noticed me. His eyes widened, and he died as the first slug tore through his open mouth.

It wasn’t a fight in the kitchen.

It was a massacre.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: How Many

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How many had they killed?

I had rested in the room of the madman. I’d even found a bit of food tucked away and some tepid tea. Neither had been particularly appetizing, but it’d done the trick. I’ve eaten worse, and I suspect I’ll do so again.

When I left the madman’s room, I passed through one nearly as large as a football field and found a flight of stairs that led down. The stairs were wider, and the stairwell itself was well-lit.

At the landing, I paused and listened, knife in hand. There was a bit of talk, and a quick glance around the corner showed a trio of soldiers walking away from me, chuckling and passing a small, brown paper bag back and forth. A door to the right clicked shut. On the center of the door was a single word.

Delicacies.

That sure as hell didn’t sound like barracks.

Once the soldiers turned a corner, I crossed the hall and let myself in.

I found myself in a brightly lit room with shelves lining the walls. Some of the shelves were occupied by large jars, others by much smaller containers. A counter, much like one might find in a candy shop, stood across the room and was manned by a gentleman with a white uniform. He wore a neatly trimmed mustache, and sweat broke out upon his forehead when he caught sight of me.

There was a lock on the door, so I made good use of it.

He remained still and silent as I walked to him.

I went to speak, but my eyes caught the lettering on some of the larger containers.

H. Daily, 10/1/1889.

L. Bartleby, 9/3/1856.

My gaze went to the smaller jars.

Carried three months, uterine explosion.

Carried six months and two days, collapse of both lungs.

“Take one down,” I whispered.

The man nodded, took hold of a container marked A. Boone, 2/27/1901, and removed the lid.

“Dump it.”

He winced and did as I commanded.

White hard candy with black swirls tumbled and clattered across the counter.

“You should try one,” he said, voice shaking. “They’re quite good.”

I stared at him, the hatred rising.

“Every girl tastes different,” he continued. “No two are alike. I make sure of that.”

I broke every bone in my hands, beating him to death.

It was worth it.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: In the Chamber

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I wonder how many he’s killed.

He never heard me enter the room, which was fine with me. I was tired and in no mood for any sort of conversation. Still, the apparatus and the equipment caught my eye, and I wondered whose skulls he’d decorated his laboratory with.

I didn’t know what any of the material might have been used for or if he was particularly attached to those skulls. Perhaps they were patients he had been fond of. Perhaps he had simply enjoyed watching them die.

As I stood in silence, the machinery of the room rattling and thrumming around me, I watched the man putter around the lab. Every so often, as the noise of the machines sank for a moment, I would catch a bit of a classical piece. I knew it, somehow, but couldn’t quite place it.

That, too, I found to be irksome.

I glanced about the room as the man went about his business, and off in one corner, I saw several notebooks. Whether they contained any information which might be useful, I didn’t know. But I planned on finding out.

Just as soon as I was done with the scientist.

I took a quiet step forward and paused as he lifted up a skull. He sang to it, kissed its brow and stated, “You were nearly there, my dear. Another month and you would have given birth to a live one.”

He returned the skull to its place and lifted another. “And you, sweet Gillian, you died in childbirth, as did your unnatural offspring. Its lungs collapsed even as yours exploded.”

The man placed Gillian’s skull down and clasped his hands behind his back. He lowered his chin to his chest.

“My dear ladies,” he whispered. “It is a sad sacrifice you make but a necessary one. I wish you could have understood this fact while still alive, but I hope, through the clarifying lens of death, that you know it now. I will continue. I will use your sacrifice to guide me to our salvation.”

The man was mad, not cruel.

A lunatic, not a sadist.

I stepped up behind him, clapped one hand over his nose and mouth, and pulled back as I cut his throat.

His blood spilled out and splattered on the floor, and I laid him on it. I waited with him while he died.

He was mad and deserved that kindness.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: The Nurse

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Goddamn, but that was a fight.

I’ve had little rest in the past few days, but that’s not a reason for the difficulty of this past fight. Not at all. She would have been a challenge if I’d had a solid night’s sleep and plug of whiskey.

When I left the doctor’s room, I found a set of stairs leading up to the second floor. These were just as narrow as the hallway to his laboratory had been, and again, I didn’t mind. I’d been in tighter places in Europe and with more to fear.

Reaching the second floor, I slid a pocket door back and found myself in an operating theater occupied by a single nurse. She looked at me as I opened my mouth to speak, and she snatched up a scalpel from a tray.

Without any hesitation, she threw herself at me.

And not wildly, mind you but with skill and determination.

In a heartbeat, I was in a knife fight with a woman who knew how to wield a blade.

She didn’t waste any words, didn’t threaten or berate me. The nurse knew who I was and the danger I represented.

Damn, but she was a fine fighter.

I couldn’t draw my Colts, and she knew it. The fact that I wanted secrecy was a given to this woman, and she slashed and jabbed at me with a skill and dexterity bordering on the supernatural. She cut my coat to ribbons and kept me off balance as I drew my pruning knife and did what I could to stop her scalpel from finding something more substantial than cloth.

Within minutes I was sweating, and she pressed her advantage.

Had she not stumbled over a bit of raised flooring, the fight would have gone on a helluva lot longer.

Still, stumble, she did.

Her blow went wide, and as she corrected herself, the opening I’d been looking for presented itself.

I brought the pruning knife in an upward strike, and the curved blade punched into her underarm, causing her to drop the scalpel.

She clawed at my face and nearly gouged out an eye as I jerked my knife down and through her ribs, shattering them as I went.

The nurse fell to her knees, guts spilled out on the floor and hatred in her eyes.

I tapped her throat with the side of my blade, an offer of a quick death.

“Go to Hell, Blood,” she snarled.

I nodded. “Give it time.”

#paranormal #mystery

1931: First Floor

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I went hunting.

There was no time to waste. I’d seen what awaited the women among the scholars of the university, and it did not please me.

The anger filling me demanded I race from room to room to butcher each and every member of that organization. But the rational part of me won out. Rage and butchery would do nothing but forewarn my adversaries and allow them to possibly move her as well as any victims who might yet survive.

Before leaving the room, I locked the door and covered the remains of the patient whose head had imploded. Then, stepping over the nurse’s corpse, I exited the room through another door off in the corner.

It opened to a narrow passage lit by bare bulbs and stank of old blood and fear.

The passage opened into a laboratory where a man bent over a microscope, focused on the slide before him.

As I stepped into the room, knife in hand, he looked up. A quizzical expression flitted across his face as he asked, “And who might you be, sir?”

I shook my head. “Where are the girls?”

He raised an eyebrow, glanced at my knife and snorted with derision before he returned his attention to the microscope. “I’ve no time for some country bumpkin. Be on your way, sir, and make sure my coffee is sent up to me post haste. I’ve waited long enough for it.”

I don’t know if he was brave, cocky, or just stupid. Either way, his response to me didn’t bode well for his future.

I moved towards him, and he stood up, anger plain on his face.

“I will not have my work disturbed,” he snapped, and I punched him in the mouth.

The blow caught him flatfooted, and he went down on his ass. An ‘oomph’ of surprise escaped his lips and then a whimper as I took hold of him by an ear and twisted.

“Where are the girls?”

He swallowed and looked to the ceiling. “Fifth floor. Barracks are on the fourth.”

“How many are still alive?”

“Twenty-two.”

“How many have a chance to live?”

He looked away, and I scooped his eye out with the tip of my knife.

As he shrieked, I held the eye in front of him.

“Tell me, or you’ll eat this and your other eye too.”

“Three,” he moaned.

“They’ll all live longer than you.”

He choked to death on his eye.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Inside

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They died quiet.

Moving from the gunners, through the gates and into the open yard around the building, I stopped and hid as a patrol passed by. The two soldiers grumbled as they went, complaining about the maggoty bread they’d been given with a meager supper of chicken soup.

One was stating that the breeders were fed better than the soldiers were when he died with my knife buried in his throat.

His comrade had never fought before, a fact evidenced by his immobilization at the sight of his companion’s death.

The man started muttering and clearing his throat as I snapped the blade out of his comrade and buried it in his own. Hot blood splashed my face, stained my clothes and reminded me of my youth.

When I reached the doors, I found them unlocked, and they opened on blessedly silent hinges.

There were neither guards nor staff at the door, and I didn’t mind that one bit, either. Less killing meant more time searching, although I’ll admit I was just as keen to kill as I was to take a breath.

All these sonsofbitches deserved to die.

That was a fact.

Standing in a large hallway, I turned left and kept to the edge, unsure as to what I might find in the place. The first pair of rooms were empty of people, though the remnants of the same could be seen.

What appeared to be afterbirth lay on the floor near a pool of drying blood. Bits of skin and flesh, along with tufts of hair, could be seen. Medical equipment, splattered with gore and filth, stood in no particular order around the edges of the room.

The third room, however, well, that helped a great deal.

In the room, a nurse stood over a patient whose tired face was partially hidden beneath a sheet as she gazed down into a bowl. As I watched, a long and dark tentacle reached up, hook her through her nose, and the creature screamed.

Without waiting, I sprang into the room and cut the nurse down. The patient remained where she was, eyes pleading as I turned on my heel and slashed the tentacle. The bowl dropped from the patient’s hands as the young woman’s head imploded.

In a heartbeat, I was left with a steaming pile of human flesh and a near-blinding hatred for Miskatonic.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Word Spreads

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Someone talked.

I had to dump Calvin’s official vehicle not long after I’d taken it. I found a safe spot to hole up for the rest of the day and cleaned my Colts.

Once night had settled, I slipped free of my hiding place and made my way toward the edge of town. According to the young man I’d scalped back at Miskatonic, the breeders (as he had called them) were being held in a building off Northfield Road. In my Cross, there wasn’t a damned thing there, which is how I liked it. Northfield Road was a tad too close to the Hollow for my comfort.

I skirted along the edges of roads and cut through yards, climbed fences and greeted dogs with a kind word. When I got to Northfield Road, I saw the scalped man hadn’t been lying.

The building was tall and new. Lights blazed down from the fifth-story roof, and guards patrolled in pairs around the property. A trio of tall iron fences, each topped with concertina wire, surrounded the place. After a quick scout around the building, I saw there were only two entrances.

Each was guarded by a trio of guards on a Vickers machine gun.

The men seemed particularly attentive to their duties, and I could only assume it was due to me.

From what I counted, there were six men on two machine guns. Eight men patrolling the grounds in groups of two. If they were running three shifts, that meant there were 24 more men inside, plus an officer or two as well as a sergeant or corporal of the guard.

Too many for the Colts alone.

I watched until the shift changed, and men came out dressed for the chill in the air. I heard them complain bitterly to the men they were relieving, and good-natured ribbing was the general response.

For another hour, I waited. The men yawned, complained some more, and then fell about the subject of attractive women.

I drew my pruning knife and crept down to the front gate after one of the wandering patrols had passed.

The men on the gun, men who only knew the machine-like thrum of modern war, died in silence. My first wars were fought in shadows and darkness, hand to hand and with brutal finesse.

These men were the first in this place, but they wouldn’t be the last.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Around Town

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They were kept across town.

This was a Cross where I was known and, as all evidence showed, not particularly well-liked. I didn’t know if the sentiment was restricted to the staff and residents of Miskatonic or if it was shared by the town at large.

I was keen to know the answer as it would make retrieving Genevieve either harder or easier.

I left the campus by a side gate, cut across a field that wasn’t in my own Cross, and came out on a new street. I turned left and kept up a steady pace, conscious of the few people I saw and their reactions to me.

None of them looked pleased.

I wasn’t surprised when a police auto pulled up beside me as I stepped out onto Blood Road.

Calvin Black exited the vehicle and looked at me with a smile lacking any sort of pleasure.

“Duncan Blood,” Calvin greeted, opening his jacket to reveal his badge and the pistol slung under his shoulder. “I know I’ve told you to stay out of town before.”

For a moment, I wondered how this version of myself reacted. Then I recalled the length of time it had taken me to regrow my hand in this place.

The townsfolk must have hurt him and hurt him badly.

I kept my hands away from the Colts. “You’ve said no such thing to me.”

He frowned, squinted, and then chuckled. “Well, I can see that I haven’t. You’re not my Duncan. He’s bright enough to keep to the damn farm. You look like you’re dumber than a box of hammers.”

“Could be,” I replied.

He slipped his hands into his pockets, spat on the ground and said, “I can have twenty men here in less than five minutes and a man with a flamethrower in ten. What do you say to that?”

“I think that a man with a shoulder holster shouldn’t run his mouth.”

I drew a Colt as he fumbled to get his hands out of his pockets, and I shot him in his right arm.

Calvin was game, though, and he tried to get his weapon with his left arm.

Until I shot him in that arm, too.

He stared at me with disbelief right until I walked up, put the barrel of the Colt against the center of his forehead and smiled.

“Your men and flamethrower don’t mean a thing,” I told him, and I pulled the trigger.

I drove over his body as I went in search of Genevieve.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Negotiations

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They got the drop on me.

The unmistakable clack of a round being chambered into a shotgun brought me up short. My hands were at my sides, easing the hammers back on the Colts as a young man stepped out from a hedge and settled into a wicker chair. A trio of other men stepped out as well, holding shotguns in their hands.

They flanked the seated man on either side, and he grinned at me.

“You’re not supposed to be around this area,” the man stated.

“In fact,” the speaker continued, “you’re not supposed to be here at all. Especially not with those hand cannons you’re holding.”

I didn’t bring the Colts up. The men were fixated on my every move, and I didn’t blame them. Whether they knew me or not, the way I held the Colts showed I meant business.

The way they held their shotguns meant they did not.

The men carried the weapons as though they were uncomfortable with them. I suspect they were more afraid of shooting one another than they were of shooting me.

“I’m going to have to ask you to put your pistols down,” the speaker stated, “and leave the campus.”

I smiled. “Where did they bring the breeders?”

Surprise flickered across his face. “Drop your pistols.”

I opened fire instead.

My Colts cut the shotgun bearers down, and the speaker became tangled in the wicker chair, tumbling to the ground in his attempt to escape.

He screamed in both pain and fear as I placed the hot muzzle of a Colt against the back of his neck.

“Where did they bring them?”

“They’ll kill me if I talk!”

I clipped the side of his head with the butt of a revolver and remarked, “What do you think I’m going to do if you don’t?”

“Just kill me now,” he stuttered, trying on an air of bravado. “I won’t tell you anything.”

I holstered the Colts, took hold of him by the hair, and retrieved my knife. His eyes widened as he watched me, and when I snapped the curved blade open, he gasped.

“What will you do?”

I smiled. “I’ll prune your lies from the tree of truth and your scalp from your head.”

“What?”

He let out a shriek as the blade bit into his skin. He jumped and twisted in my hands as I scalped him.

Soon, he told me what I wanted to know.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Gunfight

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It was a helluva fight.

The guards died when they opened the doors.

The heavy slugs of the Colts slammed the two men back, tearing into their chests and sending them spinning out of the way. I stepped over twitching legs, and met another pair of guards as they raced into the room, long, metal batons in their hands.

Long or not, my Colts have a better reach.

They died just as quickly and just as badly as their compatriots.

More men and a few women came racing downstairs and out of rooms toward me.

I killed the first man on the stairs, and others stumbled over him, crashing onto the floor. I shot women in one doorway and men in another, bottlenecking the entrances.

Kicking the front door closed, I reloaded the Colts and was ready when the others scrambled over their fallen comrades.

And they died too.

For nearly five minutes, I stood my ground, and the Colts thundered in the confines of the hall. When it was over, the wounded and the dying cried out for mercy.

I had none for them.

I reloaded the Colts once more and finished off the wounded with my pruning knife. It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t out of mercy.

I didn’t want anyone coming after me.

I cleaned the blade off on the shirt of an orderly before putting the weapon away. With the Colts in my hands, I went looking for the head of the building, and I found him soon enough.

He was in a small office, busy writing down some notes. He didn’t bother to look up when I entered the room.

“They’re gone,” he told me.

“That a fact?”

He nodded and wrote something else down before closing the notebook and looking up at me. There was a hint of fear in his eyes but little else. “I’m going to die.”

I nodded.

“Which one are you looking for, Blood?” he asked.

“Genevieve.”

He frowned, tapped his fingers on the desk for a moment, and then nodded. “Yes. She was one of the new ones. They’re across town in a separate facility now. She might be one of the few to carry the creature full-term.”

I cocked the hammers back on the Colts.

He tapped his inkwell. “Poison, Blood. I took it a moment before you walked in.”

“Pity,” I said and shot him through the mouth.

I could only hope to find her in time.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Surprised

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Surprisingly, Caleb Withers managed to speak a name.

“Philip’s Hall.”

It took me a bit of time to get the blood and filth off my hands once I was done with him, but I managed to clean up nicely. My anger with Caleb and his school remained unsated. I would need gallons of blood to cool my temper, and even then, it might not do a whole helluva lot.

Still, Philip’s Hall sounded promising. I doubt the school kept its test products here on campus. Even if this particular version of Cross was fine with the experiments – which I doubted – no one would want to accidentally expose the tests to the general public.

As for Philip’s Hall, the Miskatonic in my version of Cross was lacking such a building, and so without a map or any indication as to where the building might be, I went out in search of it.

Fortunately, I didn’t see any others. That didn’t mean they weren’t watching from some safe location, but at least I wasn’t waiting for an attack.

I preferred being on the move.

As I followed the cobblestone paths of the campus, I caught a few students and faculty eying me. I knew some of them recognized me.

I didn’t worry too much about it. Instead, I made sure the Colts were loose in their holsters and ready to go.

After about half an hour of wandering, I found Philip’s Hall and knew it wouldn’t be easy to get into. I could see a pair of guards through the sidelights of the door, and as I made my way around the building, I could see others were watching from the higher floors.

These men were leaving nothing to chance.

Of course, they couldn’t have reckoned on me, the idiocy of their own, and my willingness to destroy them.

Yes, they had a version of me, but in my travels, I’ve discovered that few have lived up to my reputation of violence.

And I’m fine with that.

Finally, I returned to the front of the building and looked at it for a few moments.

With a sigh, I made my decision.

Walking up the front path, I climbed the steps, took out one of the Colts and struck the door hard in its center with the butt of a Colt. Drawing the other revolver, I waited.

As the door opened, I cocked the hammers back and greeted the guards.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Worth the Wait

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I found her beau.

My hand had finally grown in about midnight, and I gave it another hour, just to be sure. I didn’t need it to go through any growing pains as I tried to pull a trigger.

With a Colt in each hand, I climbed a circular stairwell toward the top of the building. About a third of the way up, I heard a pair of voices. Young men were chatting in good humor.

That changed when I rounded the stairs and stepped onto a small landing.

The men had just finished locking a round door, and one was in the act of putting the key away.

“Hello,” I greeted, and the men panicked.

The one holding the key died with a slug from one of my Colts in his brain. The second man, his face splattered with the blood and the brains of his friend as the dead man slid boneless to the floor of the hall.

“And who are you?” I asked.

“Caleb,” he whispered. “Caleb Withers.”

Anger surged within me, but I kept it locked down.

“Caleb?” I asked, my voice tight. “You’d be Genevieve’s beau, then?”

The cords on his neck stood out, and he started to shake his head.

“Think about your answer, boy,” I spat. “If you’ve a Blood in this place, then you know what I can do. What I’d be happy to do.”

He whispered, “Yes, I’m her beau. I’m a beau to each and every one. Forty-five, to be exact.”

I heard a hint of pride in his comment, and I pointed a Colt at his groin. “I’d watch your mouth.”

His entire body shook, and he soiled himself.

“How many of them are still alive?” I asked.

He licked his lips and answered, “Um, let’s see. Two, maybe three. I can’t remember. Most die in different ways. I don’t do much after I fetch them for the school.”

“So you’re bait?”

He nodded. “No one is as good as me.”

“You’re using the wrong tense.”

Caleb frowned. “What do you mean?”

I fired both Colts, and the slugs tore through his groin and his abdomen. Excrement tumbled out of the wound as easily as fresh linen from a basket.

He tried to stuff his guts back, but they wouldn’t go.

As he stood there, confused as to what had happened, I stepped forward and helped.

I drew my pruning knife and grabbed a handful of intestines.

With his screams filling the stairwell, I began to cut.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Unwanted

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Well, that’s damned unfortunate.

I’ve had to hunker down in a room for a bit. Seems that my injuries take a mite longer to heal in this version of Cross or wherever the hell this particular Miskatonic is.

I’ve gone nearly twelve hours, and the hand still isn’t fully grown.

While I’ve never been overly cautious when it comes to minor injuries, I was going to need to change my attitude. What I consider minor, such as the loss of a hand or an eye, was certainly looking like it would be a major inconvenience in anything I wanted to achieve. The last thing I wanted was to fail Genevieve because I’d rushed in and had both my legs lopped off at the knees.

As it was, I barricaded myself in the room as best I could and with as little noise as possible. And as my hand took its sweet time growing back, I perused the shelves.

I learned more than I wanted to about why they’d snatched Genevieve.

I also discovered she wasn’t the first. Nor the second.

She was one of many.

In 1911, the home branch of Miskatonic sent out an expedition to Prince Edward Island in Canada. Rumor had it that a bit of an iceberg had lodged itself into a cove, and a strange creature had been discovered in the ice. The shape was vaguely humanoid and was a mix of both male and female genders. When the expedition retrieved the body – leaving behind several dead fishermen and their families – they were able to retrieve both seed and eggs from the creature.

Through a convoluted mixture of arcane magic and ethically questionable science, they were able to impregnate a young woman they’d taken captive. She carried something in her belly for three months before it exploded, and they both died.

The professors were thrilled, of course, and for almost two decades, they’d been trying to get a breeder to carry one of the creatures to term.

None had.

Creature and breeder always died, and the longer the creature was carried, the worse the death was.

I read accounts of skin peeling off in great strips and teeth shattering in mouths, tongues curling black and bowels exploding from rectums.

Pain and misery.

That’s what awaited Genevieve.

I needed my goddamned hand to grow.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Unexpected

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He took my damned hand off.

I’d no sooner opened the next door when an axe lopped off my left hand at the wrist.

I threw myself forward, shoulder down, and struck the man in the midsection.

He was no fool, though.

The man let go of the axe and brought both his fists smashing down into my back as I drove a punch up into his sternum. We both grunted from the pain and staggered away. I didn’t draw a Colt. There was a lot of blood pouring from the site of the rough amputation.

I stripped off my coat, wrapped it around the bloody stump, and tightened it down as best I could.

“Been a long time, Blood,” the man stated.

“Don’t know who you are,” I replied.

“Jamison,” he said.

“You’re a son of a bitch.”

He chuckled and showed me his hands. Both were crafted of steel, and when he moved them, they made an odd, ticking sound as though there was some sort of mechanics in them.

“I just need your other hand,” he informed me. “Payback for what you did, oh, thirty-one years ago.”

“I suspect you deserved it.”

“Without a doubt. Still, you owe me.”

I spat on the floor. “I suppose I do. Come at me then.”

“You’ll use your Colts. Or, rather, one of them.”

I shook my head. “You want a fight with knives, I’ll give it to you. Hands, well, you’ve got me there.”

“I like knives,” the man said, and he clenched his mechanical hands into fists.

Blades came up from his wrists, each weapon easily ten inches in length. He rolled his shoulders, grinned, and took a step toward me.

I didn’t bother reaching for my Bowie knife. The draw would take too long and let him get in too close. Instead, I drew my tree pruner, snapping the blade open as Jamison sprang at me.

His attack was skilled and deft, the blades drawing blood.

But I’d been working with knives for longer than he’d been alive, and he came to a staggering stop behind me.

I heard the first splatter of blood on the floor, then the mad splash of the same as his throat opened up. He wavered for a moment, then collapsed first to his knees and then to the floor.

Sitting down beside him, as I waited for my hand to regrow, I set about cutting off his hands.

I wanted to see how they worked.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Conversation

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He didn’t want to talk to me.

Before I left the woman’s office, I finished the tea and a few biscuits I found in a tin on her desk.

With her tongue wrapped in a bit of linen, I left the room and found myself in a hallway similar – though subtly different – the Miskatonic I was familiar with. A dozen doors stood on either side of the wide hall, and all were closed. Lamps, with dimly lit electric light bulbs, hung between each door. A runner, new from its appearance, ran the length of the hallway, inviting all who entered to travel its length.

Brass nameplates were affixed to each door, and below the nameplates stood knockers of various sorts. One was a Chinese dragon, another the head of a bull. A noxious odor hung in the air, and I was reminded more of disinterred corpses than I was of higher education. In the stillness of the hall, I waited and listened.

My patience was rewarded when I heard a muffled cough come from a closed-door halfway down the hall. I walked along the runner to the door, saw the name “Garfield, H.” in bold, gothic script, and the knocker beneath it was a closed fist.

I knocked twice with the fist, and a moment later, a sharp “Come!” greeted me.

I opened the door and found a man bent over a table, measuring the distance on a map. Without looking up, he snapped, “I’ve been waiting a damned long time, Jon, and I’d like to know why.”

I closed the door and threw the tongue onto the map. The linen opened, the tongue tumbled out, and blood smeared across the map.

H. Garfield straightened up and looked at me in horror, his face pale.

“I don’t like it when people won’t talk,” I told him.

His eyes went from me to the Colts to the tongue and back to me.

“I don’t know anything about her,” he whispered.

I raised an eyebrow. “Well, you seem to know why I’m here.”

His body convulsed, and he took a tottering step back. “No, no, I don’t.”

“Professor Garfield,” I said, drawing a revolver. “I don’t believe you.”

The man’s eyes rolled up into his head, and he pitched forward, striking the floor hard enough to shatter his nose.

Keeping the Colt aimed at him, I reached down and rolled him over.

The bastard had died.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: More Schooling

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She was unpleasantly surprised.

Once the good professor lay dead in a pool of his own blood on the floor, I stepped over his corpse and entered the washroom. The toilet stood on the right, the sink on the left, and directly across from the door, another door waited.

It was similar to the one through which I’d just entered. The hardware around the knob was different, and the hinges were a tad more ornate, but the similarity was there.

A single step carried me across the tiled floor, and the knob turned with ease in my hand.

And why shouldn’t it? No one on the other side was expecting me, ‘though they should have.

When I opened the door, I found myself in a tall, grand room with a matron sitting in a room lined with books. Before her, on a slight table, stood an elegant coffee service, and for a moment, she wore an expression of pleasant surprise.

But only for a moment.

While I didn’t know the woman from Adam, she sure as hell knew me.

Her hand reached for a small revolver tucked off to one side, and her simple act told me all I needed to know about this version of Cross.

The click of my hammer stopped her hand.

“Now,” I said, voice low. “Seems like introductions are in order. I’m Duncan Blood.”

She snarled, “I know what you are.”

“What’s your name?”

“Names are power,” she replied. “I’ll give you none.”

Keeping the pistol leveled on her, I went to the coffee service, poured myself a cup, and took a sip of the hot brew.

It was damn fine.

“I take it sound doesn’t travel well,” I remarked, and her eyes widened a tad.

“If it did,” I continued. “You’d know your little playmate was dead. Died bad, too.”

The color drained from her face. “I don’t know what you’re doing here, Blood, but you need to leave.”

I shook my head, drank a little more coffee and asked, “Where is she?”

The woman’s lips tightened as she pressed them together.

I finished the coffee, moved the small table and leaned in close. “Where?”

Her hand moved for the pistol, and I shattered her jaw with the butt of the Colt.

The blow didn’t loosen her tongue, so I pried her mouth open, pushed past the shattered teeth and cut out her tongue.

She wasn’t using it anyway.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Looking

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I went looking for Professor Withers.

I didn’t find him, but I found someone else. Someone I’d put a bullet in three years earlier. And it was well-deserved.

I didn’t question how Professor Anthony Timmons could be alive.

I was curious about what he knew.

When I knocked on the door of the Arabian architecture staff, a young co-ed answered the door. She wasn’t anyone I knew, but she sure as hell appeared to know me. Her face paled, she stuttered, gasped, and then her eyes rolled back in her head as she fainted. I caught her, set her down in the hallway, and went into the office.

“Marie?” Timmons called as he exited a small washroom. Whatever other question might have been on his lips died when he saw me.

“You’re dead,” I told him, closing the door and drawing a Colt. “I put you down and took your crown, Professor.”

I cocked the hammer, brought it up and aimed the revolver at him.

“Tell me,” I continued. “Did you come from the Hollow?”

He swallowed and gave a nod, his eyes darting to the washroom.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Blood?” he asked, his voice shaking.

“Tell me where Genevieve Hunt is, and I’ll be on my way.”

His face tightened, and he forced a smile. “Who?”

I stepped forward and smashed my knee into his groin, sending him to the floor, where he knelt, gasping and vomiting his breakfast. Placing the barrel behind the man’s ear, I waited for him to settle down.

“It’s clear you know me,” I said, voice low. “And I knew you. I know all sorts of ways to hurt you, Anthony, and I’ll use them all. Once I start, I won’t stop. Tell me where the girl is.”

“Withers took her into the Hollow,” the man whimpered. “We have our own Miskatonic. Some of our professors, including myself and Withers, are on a sort of exchange program.”

I frowned. “How in the hell do you keep the Hollow fixed in one place for so long?”

Again his eyes flickered to the washroom, and I knew.

“Through there?”

He nodded. “It’s steady. We found it only last year. It’s stayed in one place ever since.”

“Why is she there?”

“We needed a breeder,” the man whispered.

I kicked the man onto his back, put the Colt in his belly and pulled the trigger.

He died slow.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Genevieve

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The bastards at Miskatonic took her.

She was from an old Cross family, and she was seeing a young man from Miskatonic University’s Cross Branch. Caleb Withers taught in the Department of Artefacts, specializing in Arabian architecture. The man was polite, charming, and self-deprecating.

This morning, the first of November, the Colonel sent a man to me, asking if I would be so kind as to join the Colonel for breakfast.

The last time Colonel Johnathan Hunt had breakfast together, we were taking cover in a shell hole on the Somme in 1916.

Rarely did we speak of it.

I agreed to go with the man, strapped on my Colts and took my pipe and tobacco. There was no telling how long breakfast might go on.

When we arrived at the Hunt home, I was ushered into the man’s library, where he sat stiffly in the chair behind his desk. His hands gripped the top of his cane tight enough to make his knuckles white. Muscles jumped along the side of his jaw, and I could see the effort he was exerting to maintain some semblance of calm.

Only when the door to the library closed did Colonel Hunt let go of this cane and slump into his chair. The cane fell and clattered on the floor. Jonathan’s eyes, sunken deep into their sockets, had a desperation I’d never seen before.

“She’s gone,” he told me.

There was no need to ask who. He was a widower, and he lived alone with his daughter.

“Where?” I asked.

Jonathan shook his head. “I don’t know. Not for certain. She went out with her young man last night, around half past seven. They were to attend an opening at the university and return close to midnight. I took my tonic and went to bed. I only discovered her absence this morning, and so I sent Henry ‘round to bring you here.”

“Miskatonic,” I mused. “You rang them up?”

He nodded. “They told me her young man, Caleb Withers, had never been employed there.”

“That a fact?”

“Yes.”

I rubbed at my chin. “I saw him lecture myself when he first came.”

“As did I. They took her, Duncan. They took my little girl.”

“I know it.”

“You’ll bring her home?” he asked as I got to my feet.

“Aye,” I told him. “And some scalps too.”

Dead or alive, I’d bring her home to her father.

#paranormal #mystery

October 31, 1976

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We met them in the Hollow.

And we fought hard.

We did not wait for my mother’s gathered troops to march out in formation, to take up their positions and sweep across my town.

No, we defended Blood lands and my town, and we went at the Killed Soldiers in the tried and true fashion of New Englanders.

We fired from behind walls and trees, and we employed all the craft of a hunter. The dogs broke off into groups of two and three, and we could hear their voices above the din of battle.

The canines lured the Killed Soldiers into traps, crying out as though wounded. The Killed Soldiers were in no mood for prisoners, and neither were we.

No quarter was asked for no quarter would be given.

It was an unspoken truth we all understood.

I led the way, if not by example, then by brutality.

I scalped the wounded and opened their bellies, their shrieks of pain unnerving even to men who had already died once.

My enemy needed to fear me more than they feared my mother, and soon enough, they did.

They began to fall back, and as they did so, the Coffins picked them off from secure firing positions, and the dogs dashed out to drag men into the tree line, where throats were torn out and stomachs emptied.

The survivors began to run, and we cut them down.

We herded them into a small glade, at the far end of which a door appeared and was thrown open. A strange version of my mother stepped out.

She stood at least seven feet tall, if not close to eight, and her arms and legs were all wrong, as though she’d once been a spider. Her white dress was yellowed and stained, her glassy eyes catching the sun. Black ichor dripped from a mouth too wide, and a horrendous scream attempted to drive back the Killed Soldiers.

I took my Spencer, chambered a round, and sighted along its barrel. As my mother barked her orders, I put a bullet through her open mouth and watched as she fell with disturbing elegance to the ground.

The soldiers fled through the door, and the field was ours.

We left the bodies to rot and went home to draw up the papers for Aretas’ islands.

Was seeing one of my mothers dead worth a pair of islands?

It sure as hell was.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 30, 1976

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They arrived.

Sitting in the Child’s house with the afternoon sun fighting against the darkening storm clouds for dominance in the sky, I remember the day in stark tones of gray and white.

With the arrival of our cousins, the Coffins, it was time to prepare for the fight.

We gathered on Blood Island, our kin at the front of the house while Aretas took a seat beside me. Molly and her pack were scattered around the island, as were the ravens. Both groups of animals kept watch while we prepared for our fight.

The men had come up from Pennsylvania, and all had brought their rifles with them. They listened politely as Aretas explained the situation, and when he finished, the men asked for some time to discuss it among themselves.

I was not surprised that they did not leap at the opportunity to go to war.

Aretas, however, was disappointed and angry.

“What’s wrong with them?” he asked, lighting his pipe. “Why are they even discussing it?”

I smiled as I lit my own pipe. “Easy enough to understand. These aren’t old Coffins, cousin. They are bereft of magic. Their wounds are permanent. Their lives short. It takes far less than fire to put them down, and when they do go down, that’s where they’ll stay. No, this is a great deal for them, and they’ll want assurances that not only will they be cared for should they be injured, but that their families will not suffer should some die or no longer be able to work their land.”

Aretas mused over this for a moment, taking in long draws from his pipe and then letting them out slowly. Finally, he nodded. “That makes sense.”

“We’ll be fortunate to get half of them,” I remarked.

“Care to place a wager on it?” Aretas asked, grinning around the pipe.

I raised an eyebrow. “What’s the prize?”

“Another island.”

I smiled. “A smaller one than Mad Island.”

“Smaller is fine. Just make sure it’s close,” Aretas stated.

Before I could reply, the Coffins appeared.

“What say you?” Aretas asked.

“What assurances can you give us, should we fall or be crippled?”

I answered, “No man or his family will suffer.”

The speaker nodded. “Then we’ll all go, Coffins beside Bloods.”

I looked like I was out another island.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 29, 1976

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We spoke for two days.

After Aretas and I had stirred the proverbial pot for a bit, we split up and went in search of reinforcements. While I haven’t seen him since the 27th, I’m hoping he was as successful as I was.

I’d sent out a few ravens in various directions, each with a single message for any dog they saw.

“Duncan would like a word.”

Some of the dogs heard.

I should clarify that.

Some German shepherds received the word.

They arrived by the twos and threes, and by this afternoon, I had nearly a platoon of dogs.

All could speak. It was a marvel and a nightmare all at once.

One or two dogs gifted with speech are impressive and awe-inspiring.

Thirty or so make you want to drink until you can’t hear a goddamn word anyone says. To say they’ve nothing to talk about would be an understatement.

I lucked out with the female who took charge. Her name was Molly, and she was trouble, the kind I could appreciate. Any dog that didn’t listen got a bite on the ass and a growl that put its belly down on the ground. More than a few rolled over and showed their necks, and I have to admit, I was impressed.

She got the dogs lined up in some semblance of order, then turned to face me.

“What’ll you have of us, Blood?” she asked, her voice as deep and powerful as her will.

“There are dead men in the Hollow,” I explained. “They’ve been brought back by my mother, and most are more than willing to try and kill me.”

Molly snorted. “You’re worried about death?”

I chuckled and shook my head. “Not from these. I just need help keeping them contained, possibly rolling up their flanks and driving them back, deeper into the Hollow.”

“That can be done,” she stated. “My pack may be a bit hard of hearing at times, but they listen when it’s time. They do their work, no matter how dirty it might be.”

“That’s damned fine to hear,” I admitted. After a moment, I asked, “How is it all of you can speak?”

Molly scratched the back of her left ear lazily for a moment before she replied.

“Well, Mother had an agreeable disposition,” Molly stated.

I looked out over the gathered dogs, all of whom were siblings, and let out a chuckle.

“I suppose she was.”

#paranormal #Halloween

October 27, 1976

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“Gatling guns.”

Aretas handed the glasses back to me, and I peered through them once more. I could see the Gatling guns on their carriages, and I was none too pleased either.

Aretas and I settled down with our backs to the wall, heads just under the lip of the same.

“Seems you’ve upset your mother,” Aretas observed.

I grunted a noncommittal response.

“Then again,” he continued. “I’m fairly certain you did that just by being born.”

“Sounds about right,” I replied.

“What are you thinking about?”

“That I wish the dogs were here,” I replied. “You?”

“That our kith and kin had responded.

“Coffins are naught but cousins,” I reminded him. “And distant ones at that, now.”

“Hm. I thought a few would be interested in a gunfight,” the man sighed.

“Well, dogs should be here in a day. P’raps two at the most,” I stated.

We sat in silence for a moment, and I waited for him to ask.

He didn’t disappoint.

“Duncan,” Aretas began.

“You can have an island,” I told him.

The man’s mouth moved in stunned silence for a moment. Then he cleared his throat and asked, “An island?”

I nodded. “I’ve got a few more than I used to. Some of the bigger ones seem to have drifted to a spot and affixed themselves to it. The merfolk and the naiads keep a close watch on them, but I’d feel better about a family member out on one of them. One of the bigger ones, too, so we could mount a proper defense, should we need it. There’s one island with a lighthouse, too. Some days, it’s even on the sea.”

He peered at me. “Has it gotten that bad?”

“Worse’n that, at times. The one with the lighthouse, Mad Island, ruined as it is, is possibly the best of them for a Blood. Got to watch out for James, though.”

“James?”

“Aye,” I grinned. “He’s from somewhere best left unthought of, and he’s a taste for hearts. Human ones.”

“I’ll worry about James after we take care of your mother’s soldiers,” Aretas said.

“Aye,” I agreed. “It’s a good thing I brought my Spencer.”

Picking up the rifle, I rolled onto my belly and judged the distance to the closest Gatling gun. Men were easier to replace than machines.

I took aim at the gun, found the rhythm of my breath, and squeezed the trigger.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 26, 1976

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He wasn’t in the best of moods.

I can’t say as I blame him. I did lock him in a mausoleum for nigh on four decades.

Without anything to eat or drink.

Seems like we can live without it, which is – according to Aretas – damned unpleasant. I’ll take his word on that.

Once we were back at the farmhouse and he’d had a proper bath and a shave, not to mention a fair bit to eat (and he drank three bottles of good French cognac, the sonofabitch), we set down to parlay.

While Aretas wasn’t overly fond of Cross, he didn’t want anything happening to Blood property. He was still harboring a desire to own it, although he had an aversion to the back section of the land where his mausoleum stood.

“How many do you think there’ll be?” he asked, taking one of my spare pipes and loading it with a heavy hand.

Holding back a sigh, I answered, “I suspect close to a regiment.”

Aretas raised an eyebrow. “How do you plan on handling them?”

I lit my own pipe, took a long, contemplative pull, and as I exhaled, I stated, “I’m thinking of calling in some dogs.”

“Dogs?” he asked with a frown.

I nodded. “They’re the most reliable.”

“Mayhaps for keeping the troops in the Hollow,” Aretas remarked. “We’ll want to kill as many as possible, though. Sharpshooters if we can find them. Any kin like that around?”

“You’re ‘bout the only kin I have left, Aretas,” I informed him. “I suspect we could reach out to some of the Coffins that moved on toward Norwichtown. There’s a chance some in Concord might be able to make it down, too.”

“Send word to ‘em,” Aretas said. “And sooner rather than later.”

I paused and looked at him. “What do you plan on doing, cousin?”

He closed his eyes and leaned his head against the back of the chair. “I’m going to sleep in a goddamn bed.”

With my pipe clenched between my teeth, I went out and saddled a horse.

Aretas deserved a bed. He’d earned his food.

But damn it, he was an irritating bastard.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 24, 1976

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The one-armed man had spoken the truth.

Only a few days passed before I was made aware of a shifting in the Hollow. Upon occasion, the place would ground itself, either by happenstance or by force. By the groaning of the earth and the buckling of North Road.

The ravens were more than happy to share the news, too.

There’d been a hard frost the night prior, and I was checking on the orchards when the ravens arrived with information about the Hollow. I was thankful for the distraction as some of the trees were putting up quite the fuss over a lack of meat. When the ravens spoke of the men gathering in the Hollow, silence fell over the apple trees as they listened eagerly.

“Truth be told, Duncan,” one of the ravens said, “it looks to be quite a force building up. You may want help.”

I nodded. There was always the possibility. Although, I was fairly irritated with my mother for all the trouble she’d caused as of late.

Before calling in reinforcements of any sort, however, I’d make a reconnaissance of my own.

I took my glasses and my Colts, as well as my Spencer, along for good measure. Rather than risking injury to one of my horses, I left the farm on foot and made my way along the right-hand side of the road. I kept just inside the tree line, careful to keep out of sight. I didn’t need any sharp-eyed picket taking a shot or two at me.

The sound and smell of the encampment caught my attention, and I crept forward until I was situated behind the stonewall, close to a patch of bramble that gave me a fair amount of cover. With the wall for protection, I peered up and over the stones, bringing the glasses with me. I focused them in, and in the distance, I saw the beginning of a force.

From what I could see, the headquarters element had arrived, and their tents established. I could hear the sound of marching feet and knew that more men were on their way. While I didn’t know how many men would eventually make camp, I had a fair idea judging by the headquarters troops.

I might face as much as a battalion.

It was time to call upon my own dead.

I only hoped they wouldn’t side with the strangers.

Family was always a challenge.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 23, 1976

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I was lucky.

I found him sitting in my parlor, sword across his lap and a glass of brandy in his hand. His cap was set at a jaunty angle, and his empty right sleeve was pinned to his jacket.

His demeanor and the smile on his face told me two things.

First, he was fast. Second, he’d take off a hand if I went for a Colt.

His smile broadened as I sat down in my chair across from him.

“This,” the stranger said, holding up the brandy, “is as fine as they come. Mister Blood and I can tell you, I’ve naught had something this smooth before.”

I inclined my head slightly and expressed my thanks.

He set the glass down and kept his hand away from the sword’s hilt, which I appreciated.

“I suspect,” he stated. “That you’ve seen a fair share of dead men wandering out of the Hollow of late.”

“Aye. You’d be right about that.”

“I am not one of them,” the soldier stated.

I raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, I’m dead. Several times over, if you’ll believe it, which I think you will. I’ve no liking for being dead, however, and so I come back.”

“Well, on with this little story,” he said. “I noticed some heavy traffic toward this particular Cross, and I thought it rather odd. Then, of course, I heard your mother’s voice and all oddness left. Your dislike for one another is well known.”

I shrugged, and the man chuckled.

“I’ll have you know,” he added, “I’ve no great love for your mother either. I’ve put a few of her down, and the last one cost me my arm. Worth it, though. As it is, I can no longer play quite the way I like, so I’ve had to shift the game a bit.”

“How so?” I asked.

“By letting people know what’s coming. Some listen, more don’t.” He shook his head. “You, I suspect, will listen.”

“I take it in turn.”

He chuckled. “Come All Hallow’s Eve, Mister Blood, your mother will send in a sizeable force to try and burn your farm to the ground.”

“I’m not fond of fire.”

“Nor should you be. I, however,” he said, finishing his drink, “am rather fond of this brandy. Think I might get another?”

With a chuckle, I nodded and got us both a drink.

“Is there more?” I asked.

“Isn’t there always?” He replied.

And there is.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 22, 1976

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Tonight is a hard night.

From my seat in the Child’s house, I can see the hills have returned to the Hollow, and I hate them.

They appear every so often, and in 1903, when my mother was sending the Killed Soldiers into Cross, the hills had appeared.

I saddled my horse Perseus, and I rode out to the hills armed with my Colts. The saddlebags had more ammunition than they did food. I never knew if my days in the hills would be long or short, but I knew they would always be bloody.

I traveled along North Road, past the stonewall, and entered through a wooden gate that’d not been there the day prior. Perseus stepped onto a well-worn and rutted path, and we followed it at the steady, ground-devouring gait he had. By midday, we found what I had feared would be there.

A pair of cavalry officers sat astride red-eyed horses, and it was clear that they were from a time and place I knew nothing of.

That they were soldiers and skilled was plain to see when they turned their mounts to face me. Around their necks, they wore braided human tongues.

They called out to me in a strange language, and when I didn’t respond, the lead man reached into his pocket, retrieved a fresh tongue, and ate it.

“Are you Duncan Blood?” the man asked, his voice clear and his accent British.

“Aye,” I answered.

“We’re here to hunt you,” the man stated with a bored shrug. “Your mother warned us you were clever and that we might well die before claiming you as a prize.”

I waited for the man to continue, and he did.

“We have hunted your kinfolk before, Duncan,” the man informed me. “We know what needs to be done to drive the life from you.”

I drew my pistols, and the men reached for their swords.

They dug their heels into their horses, whose teeth were black fangs, and they charged.

The Colts roared in my hands, the slugs striking the horses’ foreheads and killing them instantly. The men tried to clear the saddles but, caught in the act of drawing their weapons, they were trapped and pinned beneath them.

I shot each man in the throat and waited as they bled out.

They might have killed my kinfolk before, but they’d never killed me.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 21, 1976

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The smell was foul.

The island was small, no bigger than an acre or so, but it was big enough for men to die on.

I’m still not sure how many were there, although I’m fairly sure as to how it all played out.

When I pulled the canoe up to the shore, I heard a dog snarling and snapping, and in a few minutes, I knew why.

The dog was tearing at a corpse, digging out the bones and working toward the marrow as they were wont to do. There were a few more corpses lying around, but they’d been picked over by the birds and the dog himself. When the dog saw me, I raised my hands to show they were empty.

“It’s your meal,” I told him. “I’ll not try and rob you of it.”

I doubt he understood my words, but there was no mistaking my tone. He knew I didn’t want his food, so he sank down into the filth of the corpse and set about his meal.

As I passed by the dog and his dinner, I looked at the ground to see what had happened.

Near as I could tell, there’d been a hell of a fight.

I saw the tracks of a dozen men, and then they split up. It appeared they’d taken sides over some issue, and there were three men to one and the remainder on the other. I could see the dried blood and the bits of bone scattered about the dirt, the fire that had burned itself out. Some men had dragged themselves off to the scrub brush that covered the island, and when I went to look, I found bits of bones and stretches of flesh. Here and there, a face peered up at me, their eyes dull and glazed. They were lucky the birds hadn’t found them yet.

When I walked back the way I came, the dog was gone. A trail, left by a dragged bone, led off into the brush.

For a short time, I considered trying to bring the dog home and setting fire to the island. Neither would work, though. Most animals, once they got a taste of human flesh, preferred it above all others. More importantly, the island wasn’t quite right.

It stood too close to the Hollow’s shore, a sure sign that the island might vanish at any moment.

I turned my back to the island and made my way to the canoe.

It was early still, and there were more places to check for my mother’s soldiers.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 20, 1976

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Most chose to die.

From the Hollow, the sound of drums filled the air with a martial tune, and so I went to it.

A train station had sprung up over the night, and in the early morning light, the building stood crisp and clean. Tracks ran from west to east, disappearing into tunnels fashioned from the skulls of whales and other creatures I could not readily identify.

Still, it was not the tunnels or the building that my attention fixed upon.

No, I focused solely on the platoon of men who stood in a ‘U’ formation, their bayonets bright and glinting in the sun. An officer spoke proudly to the men, his eyes on them and not on North Road, which is where they should have been.

I climbed over the stonewall, drew the Colts and thumbed back the hammers. Soon enough, I’d discover if the men were merely passing through or if they were Killed Soldiers, ready to hunt me down.

The first man who laid eyes on me answered that question and gave me a bit of extra information as well.

His eyes widened and his hand, despite standing at the position of attention, reached for his cartridge box.

The rifles weren’t loaded.

I came to a stop a short distance away, and all the men turned their full and undivided attention to me.

“Gentlemen,” I greeted them, hands steady. “You’re here for me if I’m not mistaken?”

The officer cleared his throat. “We are, Blood.”

I nodded. “I offer you this advice freely. Leave now.”

Most of the men chuckled off my advice.

A few did not.

“What do you think you can do against us?” the officer asked, sweeping his hand toward his men.

“Kill every last one of you,” I answered. “Your rifles aren’t loaded, and it’ll be a hell of a time trying to bring those bayonets into play. Anyone doesn’t want to die, go on inside and catch the next train. I suspect my mother might catch hold of you soon enough, but it’ll beat bleeding out today.”

A few men, despite the angry words of their comrades, set down their rifles and entered the station.

“Kill him, boys,” the officer snarled, and the men lowered their weapons.

A few tried to load their rifles, and they were the first to die.

But they weren’t the last.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 19, 1976

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I could smell them.

The scent of roasting venison came across the lake and caught my attention.

It was a good smell, and it reminded me of my childhood and of my father.

For a moment, as my heart skipped a beat, the child in me hoped my father had returned. That perhaps he was out upon one of the islands, waiting for me to find him.

It was a foolish hope, of course, but it was one I nurtured nonetheless as I slipped into a canoe and paddled across the lake, following my nose.

On the island of Anne’s Folly, I caught sight of a slim trail of smoke rising up from a nearby hillside. Pulling the canoe up onto the shore, I moved at a quick pace toward the source of the smell and the smoke.

Drawing nearer, I drew one of the Colts.

Half a dozen yards away, I spotted a pair of deer hides stretched on racks, the hides scraped and ready to be treated. Cut wood was stacked nearby, and a small garden stood behind a fence of woven reeds.

In front of me, a small structure stood, half buried in the earth. A neatly made stovepipe protruded from the roof, and a path of stones led around the front.

 As I followed the stones, I heard several men engaged in conversation. Their voices were light and relaxed, with no notes of fear or dread.

Rounding the small building, I found myself on the other side of an opening. Cooking utensils hung from the edge, and four men looked at me in surprise.

“Smells good,” I ventured.

One of the men spoke in German. “It is Felipe’s recipe.”

“Many thanks,” Felipe said in French.

“Did my mother send you?” I asked.

“She did,” the first answered. “But we discovered she has no sway on this island.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“Yes,” confirmed Felipe. “Once we learned this, we set about making this camp. We have already died once, Monsieur Blood. We have no desire to die by violence again.”

“We want peace,” the German speaker added. “Nothing more than peace.”

I holstered the Colt and asked, “Is there enough venison for another plate?”

The Killed Soldiers laughed, and Felipe fixed me a bowl of venison and fresh bread.

In the calm, sweet air of Autumn, we talked of books and music, art and women.

Anything but war.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 18, 1976

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It was confusing.

The rumbling of the machine vibrated through the air and brought me to the Hollow. As I took a seat on the stonewall, I watched what looked to be a tank coming across an open field.

It didn’t look like any of the tanks I’d seen in France during the Great War, but it reminded me enough of them for the conjecture to seem plausible.

And like the tanks in France, this one didn’t maneuver particularly well.

Not well at all.

I watched for a few minutes as the machine pushed through long grass and then stalled out as the nose plummeted into an unseen ditch. The operator managed to work it out, but no sooner had he done so than the tank threw a tread on the left side.

The tank ground to a halt, then the cannon, much to my surprise, turned toward me. I’d not seen one do that before.

It took me less than a moment, though, to get the hell off the wall and away before the crack of the cannon rent the air. The round smashed into the wall I’d been on and sent stones and shards flying through the air.

More than a few lodged themselves in me.

It was an unpleasant sensation, and it ruined a new coat.

With my Colts in my hands, I stalked toward the machine.

I approached at an angle, keeping away from its forward gun and moving steadily to keep the main gun off balance. I’d gotten to within a hundred feet when the top of the machine opened, and a man tried to get on the machine gun.

A single shot from my Colt put him down and disabused any others from trying to operate it.

In moments, however, a pair of his colleagues exited the vehicle, pistols drawn and blazing away.

It did them no good. They were poor shots with their weapons.

I was not.

My mother was getting inventive with the dead.

I found I didn’t like it.

#paranormal #Halloween

(My apologies for the shortness of this entry. My grandson was born today.)

October 17, 1976

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I caught them in the open.

I’d heard a bit of a ruckus while working in the western orchard, and word of intruders soon came to me through the trees.

After a short conversation with one of the elder apple trees, they agreed to help me funnel the intruders into a kill box. The dryads, who weren’t feeling especially helpful, finally decided to assist me as well, and they were able to coax saplings and brush to line the edges of the kill box.

As the trees and the dryads worked together, I scouted out the source of the sound to see how many Killed Soldiers – if any – had come up out of the lake.

Half a dozen of them had.

I recognized the uniforms.

Hell. I recognized the men.

In the War of the Rebellion, I’d fought alongside all six of them and buried them all too.

It was bad enough that my mother was raising the dead and sending them back. It was worse that she was choosing those I’d bled for.

“John William!” I called out.

The men stopped and dropped down, Spencers up and ready.

“What say you, Duncan?” John William asked from the center of the small column.

“That you’d best find another way to get at me,” I warned. “I’m set to kill all six of you. I doubt dying a second time is going to be any better than the first.”

I worked my way back a bit, making sure they could hear me and follow easily if they chose to.

They did.

“We’ve our orders, Duncan,” John William replied. “Your mother wants to put an end to your bad behavior. We were going to set fire to the Coffins’ house, but your refusal to obey your mother has caused her to change her mind.”

“I’d be surprised if it didn’t.”

John William and the troops followed me at a steady pace, weapons always ready. I’d eased the Colts out of their holsters and thumbed the hammers back.

When we reached the kill box, I called out again.

“As a friend, John William, I’m telling you to leave.”

John merely cocked his rifle and waited.

With a sigh, I nodded to the trees.

In moments, the men were trapped, their rifles wrenched from their hands by the living trees.

I stepped out into the kill box, brought out the Colts, and butchered the men.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 14, 1976

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He was waiting for me.

I’d gone to visit a friend of mine who lived close to the marina. When I entered her house by the back door, as I was wont to do, I found him sitting at the dining table. Marissa, the young woman I’d come to see, lay dead on the floor.

She hadn’t died well.

The man grinned at me and nudged the body.

“I was told Duncan Blood comes in by the back,” the man stated in a long, languid accent.

“That’s a fact,” I nodded, my hands resting on the Colts.

“She only told me after I’d removed those foul lumps on her chest.” The man chuckled. “She should have thanked me. They were tremendously heavy. I cannot imagine she enjoyed having them attached to her. She reminded me of a cow out to pasture, udders swinging left and right with no apparent purpose in this world.”

“That a fact?” I asked.

He gestured with a large bowie knife. “It is indeed.”

I watched him for a moment, getting a feel for the way he moved his knife.

“She had some other unnecessary baggage beneath that pretty petticoat, too,” he began, and I drew the Colts.

The revolvers flew out of their holsters, the guns thundering as he tried to move.

I wasn’t trying to kill him, though, and he learned that the hard way.

A bullet shattered the back of one hand, knocking the blade to the floor. The second round caught him in his manhood and freed him of that title.

The last few shots slammed into his knees.

The man’s agonized screams filled the air, but it was no use.

When the police came and learned it was me, they would turn their heads and feign ignorance. They knew better than to interfere.

The man in front of me babbled incoherently, and I didn’t care.

Instead, I walked up to him, holstered my Colts and drew my own knife.

“Now,” I whispered, leaning in close. “Let’s see what you don’t need anymore.”

He screamed, and I nodded.

“Lips it is,” I remarked and began to cut them away.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 13, 1976

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At times, the Hollow makes little sense.

Gods’ Hollow is well-named, and it was given its title by the Abenaki, who, as far as I know, learned of it from whoever was on the land before them.

From Gods’ Hollow come all manner of creatures. Good and bad, mundane and exciting, gods and mortals. The Hollow gives and – more often than not – the Hollow takes away.

The Abenaki steered clear of the place, and my father did his best to do the same, although, in the end, he vanished within its depths.

By the time I was born, my father had already managed to identify most of the Hollow’s borders, though they tended to fluctuate given the place’s temperament on any given day. Still, one of my favorite tasks was to sit with my father and watch as he built the stonewall on North Road. Later, when I was a little older, I would help him with the laying of the stones.

We have always known that the Hollow opens onto other worlds and into other whens. There are times when people from our past have emerged, and on rare occasion, from our future. Those from the future tend to die off fairly quickly.

The Hollow is an unforgiving place.

This morning, as I sought sign of any of the Killed Soldiers, I decided to walk along North Road, and I was sad I did.

By the time I reached the midpoint, I could smell the rotting carcasses.

When I went and stood at the stonewall, I looked out over a field covered in gray fog. As the sun rose a little higher, it burned off the mist and soon revealed the source of the smell.

Dozens of bodies were stretched out in long, curious arcs toward a split-rail fence that hadn’t been there before. From what I could see, the dead men had once been soldiers, and I suspect my mother had geared them for war in a desire to send them after me.

The Hollow had not allowed it.

The death wounds of the men had opened, and the men lay where they had fallen.

In the distance, ever so faintly, I could hear my mother’s furious screams.

It brought a smile to my face, and I tipped my hat to the Hollow.

Some days are better than others.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 11, 1976

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Not all the Killed Soldiers were well.

He didn’t remember his own name. He didn’t remember where he was from.

Unlike the others I had met up to that point, he didn’t know a damned thing about himself.

Despite my mother’s resurrection of him, the man had not healed completely. Either that or his death had been so significant to him his body was reverting to his death wound.

I found him sitting in the backyard of a farmstead in Pepperell. He was surrounded by blood and bits of flesh, and he looked more confused than crazed.

Off to one side lay a bayonet, the steel bloody and chipped. A rifle, its stock broken and the barrel bent, was only a few feet off.

Beyond him, I could see a pair of bodies. Older folks, if the gray hair on their shattered heads spoke true.

A great bandage was wrapped around his head and down over his right eye. He stared at me with his left, the gaze a raw mixture of fear and misery.

I drew a Colt and sat down a few feet from him.

“Mornin’,” I greeted.

He nodded, scratched at his chin and asked in German, “Where am I?”

“New England.”

He frowned, grimaced, and closed his good eye. “Where is it?”

“United States of America.”

He shook his head and whimpered. “No such place exists. A witch found me as I lay dying. She sent me here. Sent me to harvest for her.”

“Did you?”

He held up two fingers.

“I will harvest no more,” he added as he scratched his chin again.

“What do you want?”

He glanced up at the sky, then back to me.

“When I thought of death,” he told me. “I always thought I would want one more day. Perhaps a dance with Genevieve. Perhaps a night with her sister. Now, though, there is nothing I want more than death. I have slain for no reason, and I have slain for good reason. This was something different. Something over which I had control. I do not wish to do it again.”

He closed his eyes and pulled open his shirt to reveal a thin chest.

“When I was a boy,” the man began. “My mother sang of the fey and the dark woods. Places where a boy could hide from the horrors of the world.”

I shot him twice through the chest, and he slumped back.

He’d seen enough of horror, but I’ve yet to have my fill.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 10, 1976

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Randall Brown was missing.

Marcus, Randall’s father, said the boy had gone out earlier to see a girl he was sweet on. When Randall hadn’t returned home in time for afternoon chores, Marcus grew worried. He and his younger sons went out looking for Randall but to no avail. Worse, the young man had never made it to the girl’s home.

Marcus tracked his boy as best he could, but he lost the trail close to the Hollow. When he did, he sent his younger sons for me.

I arrived on the back of Claude, who was kind enough to allow me to ride, and with Thain keeping pace. Neither of the animals spoke to the Browns, which was a wise decision.

Some families can accept the curiosities that accompany me, others cannot.

I sent Marcus and his remaining sons home, and with Claude at the roadside, Thain and I went into the Hollow. It didn’t take long to pick Randall’s trail back up, but when I saw it, my heart sank.

There was no hope for the boy.

On either side of the boy’s wandering steps were a set of bootprints. A single glance at the depth of the prints and the way they were formed told me Randall was being hunted. Hunted by men who knew what they were doing.

While Randall’s trail was wild and carefree, I could see the deliberation and caution with which each foot was placed by the men trailing him.

Thain moved a little ahead of me, his nose dipping down to the tall grass now and again as we tracked the boy and the men. Soon, the dog sank low, his hackles up.

I got down beside him, and together, we crawled forward. In a short time, the grass parted before us, and I saw how the Hollow dipped down. Ahead of us, a pair of men sat across from one another. Their hands were bloody, as were their mouths, and they ate strips of raw meat.

I didn’t need to guess whose flesh it was.

I slid one of the Colts out, eased the trigger back, and took aim at the nearest man.

They never heard the shots, though I wish I’d had time to make them suffer.

Thain raced ahead of me and found Randall’s body. The boy’d been bushwhacked and then made a meal of.

I bundled him up best I could and carried him out of the Hollow.

Marcus needed to bury his son.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 9, 1976

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The thunder of artillery shook the trees.

Birds took to the air, animals sought shelter in their dens, and the trees complained mightily as I passed among them.

Whoever was on the gun seemed to be having a hell of a time.

Shot after shot shredded the peace of the day and set the earth to tremble.

I wasn’t pleased.

I’d been under fire before. Plenty of times. Artillery is always troublesome. I’d seen the cannons of the British tear through ranks of the Continental Army, witnessed damage done by Secesh teams in the War of the Rebellion, and suffered through days of shelling while fighting the Germans in France and Belgium.

There were no pleasant memories. Not when the cannons roared, and I was on the receiving end.

I exited the tree line and found the artillery team had hitched up their horses and were on the run.

That would never do.

I unslung my Spencer, took a knee, and fired at the lead rider.

The shot took him in the back, knocked him out of the saddle, and sent him tumbling to the ground. The other horses on the team rode over him, as did the caisson itself. Both gunners were thrown from their seats on either side of the gun, and as the men astride their horses tried to regain some control, I fired again.

The second shot cut down two of the men on the caisson, the Spencer’s round piercing the throat of one and striking the other in the same.

With their deaths, the team came to a faltering stop, and the men dismounted.

They struggled to draw rifles from the caisson, the two thrown men racing for their brethren.

I slew three more before the men had their weapons ready and another as he tried to fire at me.

The remaining men fired a few rounds, but it was far too little and far too late.

I had a good position, plenty of ammunition, and time.

All three died within seconds of each other.

In the silence that followed, the horses stood in their traces, well-trained and inured to the sounds of combat.

It took me but a little while to spike the cannon, dump out shot and shell, and set fire to the caisson itself.

With the horses in tow, I returned to the tree line and the bitter complaints of the trees.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 8, 1976

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“Some men are fools.”

The dog’s name was Thain, and I couldn’t have agreed with him more. Claude, his horse traveling companion, was an animal of few words. Upon Thain’s statement, Claude snorted his agreement with his friend’s assessment.

We were in the barn, and I was smoking a pipe and drinking coffee while Claude ate and Thain worked on a bone.

“There were quite a few men gathered,” the dog continued. “A handful of animals, but only one other spoke. A raven of sour disposition.”

“One-eyed bastard,” the horse said around a mouthful of food.

“One-eyed?” I asked.

Thain nodded. “Thought for sure he was an albino, but he was just the oldest damned raven I’d ever come across, and I’ve been around Duncan Blood. Let me tell you.”

“What was this one-eyed raven doing?” I asked.

“Chuckling for the most part,” Thain answered. “I thought perhaps he wasn’t doing much more than mimicking a sound he’d heard. Then after a moment, he started complaining about how the men were going about with too much weaponry.”

The bone cracked, and Thain chuckled. Licking at the old marrow, the dog added, “Last we saw, he’d attached himself to a unit of artillery and left with them yesterday morning.”

The heavy flap of wings silenced us all, and Grimnir landed at the far end of the barn. The giant raven waddled into the room, his single eye piercing the darkness.

“They’re in the north field, Blood,” the raven stated.

I nodded and as I stood, the bird faced Claude. “I’m no bastard. I know exactly who my father is.”

Without another word, Grimnir took to wing and flew from the barn.

For a short time, the three of us remained where we were in silence. Finally, Claude cleared his throat.

“He may not be a bastard,” the horse admitted, “but he’s a crotchety sonofabitch.”

I could only nod.

The horse wasn’t wrong.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 7, 1976

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I’d heard of something strange happening at the far end of the Coffin family’s lands, just over the Cross River and close to the mills. In an old lot, overgrown and long forgotten, a pair of bodies had been found.

They were drifters, as best as the police could tell, and they’d been murdered. That astute observation came from a new detective who’d once worked as a patrolman in Concord, Massachusetts.

The bodies were found with arms and legs akimbo, their heads mounted on poles a good forty feet from their necks.

The heads had been removed by clean cuts, and when I examined the ground between the bodies, I found a clear set of hoofprints and a pair of paw prints. There’d been a mounted rider and a dog. By the heads, I discovered the imprint of riding boots in the dirt, and I knew I was looking for a calvary man in the company of a dog.

I took my leave of the police and the new detective, expounding on his theories, and followed the trail.

It led me a good half mile away, and in a small glade, I found them.

The horse, hitched to a young sapling, had his nose buried in a tuft of grass and was eating contently. The calvary man, looking every bit the dandy, stood a short distance away with drawn sword in hand. Beside him, the dog sat with a bored and disappointed expression on his face.

“I’ve come for your head, Blood,” the man declared.

I spat on the ground, looked at him and asked, “That a fact?”

“It is,” he nodded. “Will you face me on the field of honor?”

The dog looked up at him and shook his head.

“Is that where you get on your horse, charge at me and try to take my head off?” I asked.

“It is,” the man stated with pride.

“Nope.”

I drew both Colts and shot the man in the chest. The sword fell from his hands as he collapsed and then tumbled onto his back.

Moving forward, I stood by the dead man opposite the dog.

“We told him he was a fool,” the dog stated.

“He didn’t listen to anything,” the horse added around a mouthful of grass.

“Hm.” I reloaded the Colts. “Need a place to stay?”

“We’d be obliged,” the dog answered.

I unhitched the horse and led them both home.

It’s hard to suffer fools, and they’d suffered enough.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 6, 1976

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He was a fair shot.

Close to evening, I’d been out riding along North Road, checking the wall and looking for trouble.

The wall was fine, and trouble found me.

I’d reached the end of the wall when something struck me in the back, knocking me out of the saddle and dropping me hard to the road. The crack of a rifle followed a heartbeat later, and the horse beat like hell for home.

I could feel the hole in my back, the shards of bone in the muscle, and I could hear the wind whistling through my lung. As control of my limbs returned, I drew one of my Colts, cocked the hammer, and forced myself to roll closer to the wall.

A quick glance at the road showed a fair amount of blood soaking into the packed earth and some dirty-looking bits of bone I knew to be my own.

My wound stitched itself back together with agonizing sloth, and I wondered what the hell I’d been shot with to make the injury so difficult to heal.

The sound of boots in tall grass drove the question from my mind, and I readied myself.

Someone climbed the wall directly above me, rifle in hand, his body perfectly silhouetted by the sun. As he looked down, I raised the Colt up and pulled the trigger.

The round smashed up into the shooter’s groin, exited his shoulder and sent him tumbling over me. He landed hard, the rifle spinning away and firing off the shot he’d chambered.

The stranger lay next to me, body shaking and quivering while he struggled to breathe.

With a grunt, I pushed up and kept my pistol aimed at the man’s belly.

His eyes darted to his rifle, which lay several feet away, and then returned to me.

With blue-tinged lips and a rapidly paling face, the dying man whispered, “Thought I had you.”

“You did,” I replied.

“I’m dead.”

I nodded. “Second time?”

He laughed and then winced. “Yes. Twice. Thought I might last a little longer the second time around. Guess I was wrong.”

“Guess so,” I agreed.

“No hard feelings?” he asked.

“None at all.”

“Good.” The man closed his eyes and died.

I checked his rifle after I healed and discovered no rounds remained.

With the weapon on my shoulder, I made my way home. The horse needed tending, and I had to change my damned clothes.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 5, 1976

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Hers is a hard memory.

I was close to the Hartwell Funeral Parlor when I saw her.

She wore the uniform of an officer in the Hussars, and her beauty caught my breath in my throat. Her eyes fixed upon mine, and she offered a slight bow of her head. There was no curtsey, nothing so genteel.

I knew her for who and what she was, a soldier and one who had already suffered death.

I should know; I’d been there when she’d died, throat torn out by a piece of shrapnel in a battle no one in this world knew.

For a moment, I feared she was not my Yulia, that perhaps she was from another world connected to the Hollow. And then, I feared that she was, that my mother had sent her back as a torment to me.

“Duncan,” Yulia greeted, her voice sweet. “I had hoped this was the right Cross.”

“It might be,” I replied, stopping a short distance away.

“I did not think to see you again,” she continued, her voice tightening. “Not after I died.”

My throat tightened, and I took another step closer. “Is it you?”

She smiled, and there was no doubt.

Our embrace was short, her scent in my nose and her skin against mine for the briefest of moments, long enough, though, to remind me of long nights outside of Kyiv.

“I cannot stay,” she whispered in my ear before she nipped at the lobe as she had once done.

“Why?” I asked, my voice hoarse.

“This is wrong,” she answered, resting her forehead against my chest. “I have a place to be, and though I long for it to be with you, it is not. Death is here.”

She looked up and gestured to the Hartwell Funeral Parlor.

“Death waits,” Yulia continued. “Not for me, but for another. Death will not begrudge me transportation.”

I lifted her up in my arms and kissed her. “I would have you here with me if I could.”

“I know,” she sighed. “There are other worlds than these, Duncan Blood, and I will fight for your company when it is your time. But only when it is your time. Now is mine.”

I nodded and lowered her down. “May I walk with you?”

She smiled and took my arm. In silence, we walked to the front door, two soldiers approaching Death.

We had done it before, and when she was gone, I would do it again.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 4, 1976

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He wasn’t afraid to die.

I found him in a wooded lot about a mile outside of Westford, Massachusetts. I’d heard rumor that some men had been shot at and a couple of others wounded. The police had gone in to look for the assailant, but they’d been driven out by what they stated was ‘wild firing.’

I didn’t believe them.

I saw the wounded. Their injuries were precise. Enough to injure and cause pain, but nothing permanent.

As for the police, the way they spoke of the firing, and the objects around them which had been hit, I knew they had encountered something far more dangerous than a random and deranged killer.

They had found a sniper.

A sniper who didn’t want to kill.

I made my way into the section of forest the police were warning people away from, and I soon found the trail. It was obvious, and had I not known about the purposefully missed shots; I wouldn’t have followed it.

As it was, I made my way along the path, my hands well away from the Colts.

The rattle of a branch and the sharp crack of a rifle told me when I’d gone far enough. While the branch tumbled to the forest floor, I stood still and waited.

A voice called out to me.

“Speak your name.”

“Duncan Blood.”

“If you are, take the Colts out and show them to me.”

I did as the unseen shooter asked.

His laugh rang out through the woods. “Put those hand-cannons away, Blood.”

I did so.

A few moments later, a short man with a large beard stepped out from a well-camouflaged hide.

“I was hoping you would come,” the man informed me.

“Why’s that?” I asked.

“I will need a second,” he replied, the humor leaving his voice. “I would like it today. Your mother has sent me to kill, and I have no desire to do so. My killing days are done. The only death I will offer to her is my own.”

“Fair enough,” I said, and the man turned and knelt down, facing away from me.  

“My thanks, Duncan.”

I didn’t reply. I didn’t ask him if he was ready.

I drew both Colts, lined the barrels up with the back of his skull, and pulled the triggers.

The dead man slumped forward, and in the stillness of the day, I buried him.

Unlike the others, he deserved it.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 3, 1976

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He thought he was fast.

I tracked one of the Killed soldiers from the Hollow to Pepperell. He’d left a string of dead animals behind him. Random birds and a pair of stray dogs.

He’d taken nothing from the beasts.

He killed for pleasure.

When I found him, he’d broken into a house that was blessedly empty.

He was waiting for me, his rifle set aside and his sword in hand.

“I could have killed you from here,” he informed me, a small smirk playing across his face.

“That a fact?” I asked, hands resting on the butts of my Colts.

He nodded. “I would have, in fact, had I not seen the pistols on your hips. I want them.”

I smiled.

“But,” the Killed soldier continued, “I will take only weapons I have won in battle. It is how I gained this sword. How I acquired my rifle and my pistol as well.”

He patted the pistol on his own belt.

“You think to kill me and take my guns?” I asked.

“I will.”

“They won’t let you,” I replied.

“They?” he asked with a raised eyebrow. “Surely you mean yourself.”

“I don’t tend to misspeak,” I told him dryly, “and I sure as hell didn’t now. The Colts won’t let you. They’ve grown accustomed to my hands, and we’re rather fond of each other.”

The Killed soldier chuckled. “Shall we duel then?”

“Duel? No. Draw and shoot? Yes.”

“What say you then?” the Killed soldier asked, flipping the top of his holster back and dropping his hand onto the butt of his own revolver.

“I say shoot and be damned,” I answered and drew my Colts.

He was fast.

But not fast enough.

He got the pistol up, but the Colts had already cleared leather, and both barrels were pointed at his chest. I saw his eyes widen with understanding, and I pulled the triggers.

The rounds punched through his chest and sent his shot wild.

As he spun around from the force of the slugs, I put in another pair, each bullet striking him where the neck meets the back of the head.

The lead tore through his collar and his skin, shattered bones and ripped flesh. For a moment, his head tottered, and then it tumbled to the floor. His body followed it a moment later.

I took his weapons for my own and left.

I’d be damned if he was buried with his weapons.

He didn’t deserve them.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 2, 1976

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There’s a cool breeze off Blood Lake today. The wind’s coming down from the north, and it’s a sign of what’s to come.

It’ll be a cold winter, and I’ll start laying in some extra wood tomorrow. There are many things that make life comfortable, but one of the finest is a good fire. I’ll set some wood aside in here as well, for I suspect I’ll be spending a fair amount of time in the Child’s House.

I received a new packet of tobacco from a family in Virginia that supplies me with a goodly amount, and as I pack the pipe, I remember the first time I smoked it.

I was at the edge of my drive, speaking with Colin Ashbury, lately of Chelmsford, when his head exploded. The sound of the shot came through a second later as I reached my hands up to wipe skin and bone and brains off my face. Colin, sans head, lay on the ground. Further up the road, I spotted the tell-tale sign of muzzle smoke rising up, and I decided to leave bathing for later.

Drawing my Colts, I went after whatever bushwhacking sonofabitch was in the Hollow.

Whoever he was, he had nerves of steel.

A second shot was fired, spinning me around as the bullet pierced my chest, punched its way through my lung, and exited close to another rib.

Despite the pain, I kept running.

He knew he hit me, and the fact that I didn’t drop set him off.

I heard the rattle of the man’s rifle as it fell from the top of an elm tree and struck just about every branch on the way down.

He did the same a moment later when I fired off a quick couple of shots at the upper branches where I thought he might be.

The man let out a howl of dismay as he struck the ground and rolled, trying to get to his feet. The .44’s slugs had ripped through his legs, though, and he knew what was coming.

He swore and cursed in German as he attempted to crawl away.

I followed along behind him, shooting him in the knees and then the lower back. He stretched out, desperate for assistance, and I shot him in the hand, blowing it apart.

I’d been fond of Colin. He was a good, solid neighbor.

His death had been quick.

The man on the ground in front of me? His would be anything but.

#paranormal #Halloween

October 1, 1976

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I have returned to Child’s Island.

It has been a long time, and I rarely come to this place Child had called his own. The windows are clean and still look out at all corners of Blood Lake.

I find it to be a place of solitude and reflection for me.

I have returned here to sit and smoke, to drink and to remember. I have slain the last of the Killed Soldiers, a task which has taken me nearly 80 years.

In 1903, some version of my mother resurrected dead soldiers from across timelines and various worlds. She sent them through the Hollow, of course, and they wreaked havoc as they left Cross. I slew the first few when they arrived, but there were 31 of them altogether. A playful bit of spite on my mother’s part.

She had sent 31. Thirteen had we held the number to a mirror.

I don’t know why my mother, regardless of the version, finds pleasure in such games.

I certainly don’t enjoy them. Which, upon reflection, is probably why she does it.

Damn her eyes.

Tonight, I raise of glass of hard cider to the Killed Soldiers. It was no fault of theirs that they were resurrected, nor could they do anything but follow my mother’s commands. They fought well, and they died just the same. Only twice. First at war, second by my hand.

The first soldier came out of the Hollow on a cool autumn night, and he used his saber on three members of the Andersen family. Leonard Andersen managed to escape, although he left his right hand on the road. When he reached me, I took care of the injury, then went out to hunt down the killer.

I found the soldier sitting on the wall, naked sword across his knees.

When he saw the pistols on my hips, he nodded.

“I was dead,” he stated, getting to his feet. “Dead and at peace. Your mother has said this is not to be, Duncan Blood. There is no rest for the soldier. Neither living nor dead.”

He saluted with the sword and charged at me.

I drew both Colts and put four shots in his chest. The impacts of the .44 slugs knocked him off his feet, and as he lay gasping on the road, I put another bullet in his head.

I looked to the Hollow and wondered if my mother would send more.

She would.

#paranormal #Halloween

Companionship

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I knew the house for what it was.

I’d wandered for the better part of a week and knew, without any doubt, that I was lost.

Oh, I was still on the island. Still on Blood Lake.

But I was in the Hollow and damned displeased about it.

A steady, persistent fog had remained for those days I wandered, and when the fog finally burnt off one morning, I saw the house.

I wondered when I was.

Was I here earlier than before? Was it later? Would I step into the small barn and see myself engaged in conversation?

I didn’t have any answers.

Still, I remembered what had been said, and I drew my knife.

I walked toward the house, and as I approached it, the door opened. My breath caught in my throat, and my steps stuttered for a heartbeat before I continued.

The woman who now stood upon the porch was beautiful. Her sumptuous form was clad in a black mourning gown, and on her head, she wore a small cap, the veil of which did nothing to hide the stunning lines of her cheeks.

She moved with a delicate grace down the steps and crossed the yard toward me. Her eyes, a powerful silver, gleamed with madness and hunger. When she smiled, vicious, triangular teeth flashed and snapped against one another.

She was hungry, and she could not see me the way she would.

And the only way she could was with my knife.

I came to a stop and braced myself, wondering which leg it would be, and waited.

The woman snarled, launched herself with the grace of a mountain lion, and slammed into me. Her fingers raked up my thigh, and her teeth sought purchase on my neck.

A quick blow to the back of her head sent her tumbling to the ground, where she caught hold of my pants leg.

A moment later, she sank her teeth into my thigh and began to eat.

With a snarl, I reversed my grip on the blade and brought the pommel down on the back of her head. It was enough to stun but not stop her.

As she chewed, I took hold of her hair and prepared to cut out her eyes.

It was, she had told me, how I had saved her. And by saving her, we would have a daughter.

I would have a daughter.

I would if only briefly, have some sort of peace.

With the tip of the knife, I set to work on her eyes.

#supernatural #paranormal

Obstacle

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Who doesn’t keep their weapon at hand?

Idiots, that’s who.

Edgar reached me today, the raven carrying news of the withdrawal of not only the troops my mother had sent in but of the Kinderzähne as well.

Such information was both welcome and worrisome. The withdrawal of my mother’s forces and allies meant that soon, the Hollow would contract.

I had no desire to be on the island when it returned from whence it came. I’d had that often enough, and I had no desire to do it again.

At least not involuntarily.

There was one last task to finish before I could go home.

I needed the men who had mortally wounded my kinsman and set his home afire.

With Edgar as a scout, I pressed on. In less than half a day, Edgar found them and shared the news with me.

I approached their camp with my Colts drawn, the hammers cocked, and rage flowing through me. I saw five of them sitting outside a tent, their rifles stacked against trees a short distance away. As they chatted and laughed, they snapped their fingers and caused sparks to fly from them.

These were the men.

“Hello!” I greeted and killed the first man who looked at me.

As the others scrambled to their feet, I put slugs through their thighs and knees.

They crashed down as they tried to throw their fire at me. But each flaming orb was off target, missing me as they ricocheted and left trees afire.

I didn’t bother reloading the Colts.

Instead, I took the war club off my belt and stepped in among them.

I shattered arms and hands, elbows and shoulders.

But I left their heads alone.

It wasn’t yet time for them to die.

Edgar settled in to watch, and when the last man was immobilized, I went to work.

Taking out my Bowie knife, I cut the clothes from the men, ignoring their screams of agony elicited by each jerk of the clothing.

“You tried to murder my kin,” I told them as they lay naked and bleeding. “Now, you’re going to suffer.”

I grabbed the body of the man I’d killed, cut away his clothes and showed them how easily I would remove their skin.

They were screaming long before I’d finished with the corpse, and they screamed just as long as I took their skin.

Inch by inch in the fading light.

#supernatural #paranormal