Herman Kane wandered too far from home.
Herman was a stonemason and a skilled one at that. I had seen some of his work in Pepperell, and some as far north as Concord, New Hampshire. He had a master’s touch when it came to working with stone, and, unfortunately, he had a master’s ego as well.
He arrived in Cross and sought me out, informing me that he had heard tell of a rich source of black granite on one of my islands in Blood Lake. I told him he was correct, but that the island was off-limits to all. Given the fact that I still looked all of fourteen years of age in 1857, Herman promptly disregarded everything I said.
Twice I caught him attempting to hire a boat to take him to the island to sample the stone. Once, when I had my Kentucky long-rifle in hand, I found him about to set sail on his own.
His fourth attempt to get to the island went badly for him.
I received word from the Black family that there was a man who had slipped onto their farm and set out on what had become known as Honor’s Path. It was the same trail that Honor and her mother Mary had vanished from, and I knew the man was sorely tempting fate.
Whatever creatures inhabited Honor’s Path had a taste for flesh, and as much as I disliked the stone mason’s arrogance, I had to make an effort to stop him. Not for the man’s own sake, but rather for that of the Black family. I feared that the more the creatures were fed, the more brazen they would become.
Armed with my rifle and a well-honed hatchet, I set out after him. I kept to one side of the trail, wary of it, and what might be living below it.
I heard Kane’s scream not long after I entered the forest.
Racing along, I found him sunk to his waist in the center of the path, not far from where Mary and Honor had disappeared. His face was pale, and his eyes bulged from their sockets. He struck again and again at something beneath the surface.
His efforts were futile, and earth and blood frothed together around his stomach.
He died a moment later, and I watched his body as it was sucked into the earth.
The sound of chewing filled the air and the earth trembled beneath my feet as I left the darkened woods.