Blog

5:12 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

The books tempted him.

Christopher Jones came searching for books. His need for rare volumes had driven him to Cross.

I suspect by the time he was done; he wished it hadn’t.

He arrived on a fall weekend and spent that Saturday making house calls. By Friday, he had gathered up eleven books, and he heard of one more he wanted.

The book belonged to John Carver, an aged scholar who had returned to Cross after years abroad. John had brought with him a wide array of occult books, several of which he kept bound in chains. John, unlike most, knew what he had and how dangerous they were.

We spoke of the books often, and those books were to come to me with his passing (which they did).

Mr. Jones went to John’s house on Friday evening and tried to pressure the old man into selling.

John refused. No amount of money or threats could sway him, and when I arrived for our evening game of chess, I walked into an argument.

Mr. Jones had knocked John into a chair, the old man bleeding from a shallow head wound and glaring at the collector. Mr. Jones, for his part, held the book he wanted in his hands, and he was fumbling with a key, attempting to release the padlock and hence the chains as well.

I stepped forward to stop him, but John stopped me with a shake of his head.

Mr. Jones paid me no mind. Indeed, he even forgot about John as the padlock sprang open and the chains clattered to the floor. The man tossed the lock aside, dropped the keys, and sighed with pleasure as he opened the book.

For a moment, Mr. Jones beamed at the book. He turned a page, and thick, green hands reached out from the volume. Black talons dug into his head as he screamed, and another set of hands appeared. They gripped the edges of the book, holding it open as the first pair of hands dragged themselves toward Mr. Jones’ head. In a heartbeat, the book was over his head, and his screams were muffled.

The hands pulled themselves down to the floor, and Mr. Jones was silenced.

The hands slipped back in, and John got to his feet. He closed the book as he picked it up.

“Book’s hungry,” he explained. “I haven’t fed it in years.”

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

5:00 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

She thought she’d made a deal with Death.

Susannah White had a tremendous fear of dying. So much so that she went in search of Death to strike a bargain. Like so many others, she got her hands upon a book that promised to extend her life.

On a winter’s eve, she released a creature calling itself Death. She’d gone out to one of my islands on Blood Lake, and it was the worst choice she could have made.

The creature was not Death. Not even close. He was a trickster, locked into the book and released on my land. His name was Iktomi, a Sioux trickster in the form of a giant spider.

He listened to her plight, understood what it was she wanted, and he lied to her about how she might achieve her goal.

Iktomi told her to bring him the feather of an eagle, the tears of an orphan, and the blood of an innocent man accused of murder.

Not surprisingly, Susannah gathered all this. What she didn’t know, however, was that I ran into Iktomi while patrolling my islands. He was as little pleased to see me as I was to see him.

I found him in a large nest, waiting patiently for his acolyte to return, and as we argued about his presence, she did exactly.

Susannah walked stiffly and triumphantly into the small glade where Iktomi and I spoke. She ignored me and presented her gifts to him.

He crept forward, praising her as he settled down to examine the items. When he was satisfied with their authenticity, he called her forward, and I waited.

“Do you still wish for immortality?” His voice came out soft, lilting, a delicate sound for so monstrous a body.

“Yes,” she whispered.

“To live forever?”

She nodded, her body quivering.

“Then let it be so,” he said and sprang from his perch. His fangs sank into her breast, silencing.

I picked up the book and slid it into my rucksack.

Iktomi peered at me with his eight eyes. “Will you come back for dinner?”

“No.”

“She’ll be sweet by then.”

“I don’t doubt it,” I told him, “but I’ve other plans.”

We bid each other farewell, and I left him to his feast.

The bookis on my shelf still, and every so often, I can hear Iktomi singing about how sweet she was.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

4:50 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

He considered himself an artist.

I never got the bookbinder’s name, and I never cared to.

He came to Cross shortly after the war of the rebellion, and he set up shop close to Von Epp’s Books. Several times, I saw him in the bookstore and overheard him inquiring as to damaged books. He was, from what I could gather, seeking to purchase them from either the store or from nearby residents.

He was entirely too keen on gathering them.

Margaret von Epp, who was helping to run the store at the time, asked him why, and he responded that he was a bookbinder by trade and an artist by design. His attempts to flirt with the young woman fell miserably flat, and he left the store with anger on his face.

Later that night, word came to me that Margaret was missing, and I was asked to help search for her.

I remembered the bookbinder’s awkwardness around her and the anger with which he left the bookstore. Rather than go into the woods to seek Margaret out, I went to where the stranger had set up his shop, and I was glad I did.

The tools of his trade were out for anyone to see, but he was not with them. I could hear him arguing with someone, and so, following the sound of his voice, I arrived at a back room.

He was arguing with Margaret von Epp, who was bound to a chair, her dress and undergarments cut away to reveal the bare flesh. She was gagged, her eyes full of fury as she glared at him. In his hand, he held a grease pencil as he squatted down in front of her, debating the merits of her inner thighs and wondering, aloud, which one would serve better as a binding for his collection of love poems.

His musings stopped when I put the barrel of a Colt against the base of his neck and cocked the hammer. In silence, he freed Margaret, who got to her feet.

“The book’s on the table,” she told me, her voice low with rage. “Can you bind it?”

“Aye,” I answered.

She nodded, and modesty be damned, she left the house.

The bookbinder didn’t.

I bound the book in his skin and gave it to her as a gift.

The book sits now on a shelf reserved for those bound in human skin, a pleasant reminder of Margaret von Epp.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

4:30 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

She became proficient in seduction.

Charlotte Giles had always been an attractive young woman. At the ripe age of seventeen, she was wed, and by eighteen, she was miserable.

Charlotte began spending a good portion of her time at Von Epps Books. Her husband, Malachi Evers, was as handsome as she was attractive, and he was a right bastard. He wanted a wife for the sake of having one, and he kept her as one might keep an unwanted dog. Malachi gave her a small bit of money to keep her out of his presence, and he was quite pleased that she was at the bookstore.

He shouldn’t have been.

By the age of nineteen, Charlotte realized that what she truly wanted was power and that her appearance and knowledge would enable her to be as powerful as she desired.

She managed to get her hands on a volume that taught her the art of seduction. Rumor reached me that there was something living in the book, a creature feeding off her passions. The more passion she enjoyed, the stronger it became, and the stronger the creature became, Charlotte’s power grew.

She no longer visited the bookstore. Instead, she used her allowance for tickets into Boston, where she seduced men – regardless of age – and butchered them at their climax.

I learned of her activity when she turned twenty-one, and the creature in the book told Charlotte to try her hand with me. It told her that I was worth more than all of the others combined.

She came to me on a cool October evening, inviting herself inside with a surety that she’d not had only a few years earlier.

She mistook my appearance, as so many did, and thought I would be easy to take to bed.

I was not.

We were in my parlor when she tried to take me by force, and I placed the muzzle of a Colt against her temple. She reached for the pistol, and I blew her brains out.

I took her body to her home and found Malachi drunk in bed. I laid Charlotte beside him and bound him to the corpse. I retrieved the book and then set the bed on fire.

Malachi’s screams drowned out the angry complaints of the book, and even now, as I drink my bourbon, the book continues to complain.

Oh well.

 #books #horrorstories #supernatural

4:05 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

I remember Goody Dunston.

She was kind, and she was sweet. She’d buried two husbands and eight children, as well as all three of her brothers. The fever had burned through her family shortly after she wedded David Dunston, and she spent two weeks burying her dead. I know because I helped.

She, like so many others, sought her refuge in religion. Goody did not place her faith in the hands of any man, but rather she began to read. Her father had allowed her to learn her letters, and in her hour of need, she put that learning to good use.

I lent her a great many books, helped purchase more for her, and connected her to collectors willing to let her peruse their collections.

In one volume, the title of which I’ll not write here, she found damnation.

The man who owned the book warned her about its properties, never believing she would be foolish enough to follow any of the steps outlined within.

But then, he was not a grieving mother. A grieving mother presented with the opportunity to bring her dead back.

He allowed her to visit at any time, even going so far as to give her permission to enter his house when he was not home. His servants were amicable, and they were more than happy to help the kind woman whenever she arrived.

One morning, when Goody knew he would be out, she went to his home with the items needed for the spell she wished to cast. Later that same night, I rushed from my farm to his home and found the horror Goody had stumbled upon.

I could hear her screams from down the lane, the man’s servants weeping by an old oak tree. The man’s pale face and fearful eyes greeted me as I reached the home. He gestured towards the open door, and I went in, armed and ready for hell.

It was worse than I feared.

Goody was the room.

Her flesh was stretched across the walls and the floor, her face spread over the ceiling. She’d gone blind, thankfully, and could not see the nightmare she had become. Her words were gibberish, but I could hear the pleading in the tone.

With a broken heart, I drew my knife and set about my chore.

It was hard and bloody work.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

3:53 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

He had tried to steal a book.

Charles Bruce of New York City had heard of some of my books. He had dipped into dark places and conversed with creatures best left unmentioned, and he had come away with a desire for books, not his.

I don’t think whoever he spoke with cared for the conversation. Or for Charles, for that matter. If they had, they wouldn’t have sent him towards me.

I had finished the rough shelving for the expansion of the hidden library, and I was sitting in the chair, enjoying a bit of brandy and the warmth of the fire. There was no need for a lamp. The ghosts hadn’t found their way down to the library yet, and even if they had, none of them were a match for me.

It was well after midnight when I heard the whisper of a shoe on the stairs and then caught sight of Charles in the dim light thrown by the dying fire. The look of avarice on his face was unmistakable, and his hands trembled with excitement as he peered at the shelves. Several times, he reached out, then snatched his hand back. He shook his head and focused on the titles, refusing to touch the bindings. Not from a fear of the books themselves but of his desire to own them.

He was so intent upon the books, so focused, that he never saw me sitting in the chair. He never heard the knife glide out of the scabbard.

Charles came to a stop a short distance away, his back to me as he leaned forward to read the titles. I heard him inhale sharply and saw his body stiffen.

He’d found a book he was interested in.

I waited to see what he would do next, to see what, in turn, I would have to do next.

He reached for the bookshelf, paused, and then took hold of one of the volumes. He eased it down with a lover’s care and opened the book.

It was then the book whispered, and Charles turned around, snapping the book closed and staring at me in surprise.

The surprise transformed into shock as I drove my Bowie knife deep into his belly. He tried to pull away, but I took hold of his shirt and pulled him closer.

“Why?” he whispered.

“I was about to ask you the same,” I answered, and I twisted the knife.

He shouldn’t have touched my books.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

3:30 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

The book is hard to hold.

She’s trapped inside it, and I’ve not been able to set her free.

It was 1853, and I was sweet on Charity Coffin. Despite my appearance of a lad of 15 years, I had more than two centuries behind me, and that woman fascinated me. She had a sharp wit and was a deft hand with a rifle. She could outshoot her sons and her husband, as well as most men in town.

Charity would flirt with me, but flirt and nothing more. I’d like to say I admired her for it, but I wanted the woman, plain and simple.

Still, I respected her, and so it never went beyond playful banter when we were alone.

1n 1853, Cross had suffered through a bad year with the crops. Winter would be tight, especially if we lost any more of our supplies to the weather. Charity found an old spellbook written in German in the Von Epp bookstore, and she purchased it. From what I gathered after, she studied it for the better part of a month, slowly gathering what she needed for a spell.

A spell to save the town.

The things she did, though, well, they should never have been done.

A child was stolen from a poor family outside of Pepperell, and the altar at the First Congregationalist Church up in Nashua, New Hampshire, was shattered.

A few other items went missing too, and I made all haste to the Coffin Farm. Mr. Coffin and the boys were out hunting, looking to lay in a good supply of venison for any bad times.

Charity was home alone, and when I found her, she was in the kitchen.

The remnants of a child burned in the fireplace, and the parts she’d needed simmered in a pot on a nearby hook. A knife made from the altar lay bloodied on the table, and there was a wild, fearful look on Charity’s face. The book she’d bought from the von Epps lay propped open on the table beside the knife.

I snatched up the weapon and cleaved her breast in twain.

A heartbeat later, I was alone in the kitchen. The remains of the child were gone. The fire was out.

Charity had vanished.

The book was closed, and from it, I heard her begging for mercy.

I could not, and cannot still, give her what she seeks.

And it makes me drink all the more.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

3:10 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

He deserved to die.

Ethan Sawyer’s appetite for books was as big as he was. He had no control, as far as I could see, and there were rumors from some of the dealers in other towns and cities about his behavior.

None of the rumors were good.

There was even word that he was associated with Miskatonic University in Arkham. I’ve a poor opinion of the school, one that’s gotten worse since they’ve established a branch here in Cross.

At the time, though, that wasn’t a worry. Merely his appetite.

Dan Reams was a small collector in Cross, a man who had plain, happy books. There were one or two gems in his collection, but they were few and far between. He didn’t brag about his books, but those who knew, knew, and I was one of them.

That’s why I was surprised when I saw Ethan Sawyer walking away from Dan’s small home, holding a book I knew Dan would never sell.

It was a history of Cross, written by his father and signed by every member of the Cross Historical Society. The book had been a gift from the society upon his father’s untimely death. There were three copies of the title, and in its leather binding, many of Cross’ mysteries were explained.

None of which Ethan Sawyer needed to know.

When I saw Sawyer, I hastened up to Dan’s and found the man dead, brained with a heavy brass candlestick.

I left Dan where he lay and chased after Ethan Sawyer.

Ethan hadn’t gotten far, and when he heard me, he broke into a shambling run.

But he was fat and ill, and he didn’t get more than a half dozen yards from me before I caught hold of him and snatched the book from his damp clutch.

Stuffing the book into my coat, I pushed Ethan down, and he fell onto his back, striking his head against the cobblestones. He stared up at me, face pale and eyes wide, lips trembling with fear.

“I only wanted the book,” he gasped.

“It wasn’t yours,” I answered, and I kicked the bastard to death.

Dan Reams had no family to pass the book on to. He was the last of them all.

His book is here now, with me, tucked in amongst the good and the bad, just as we all are.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

3:00 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

Katrina von Epp was wicked.

I’ve known a fair few to practice magick, and most of them I counted as my friends.

This was not the case with Katrina.

There was a foul streak through her, from the time she could walk to the last breath she drew.

I’ve no quarrel with someone using their skills to earn a bit of coin. Or more than a bit of coin, for that matter. When Katrina put her magick to making money, I wished her the best.

When she started helping others harm and murder the innocent, well, that’s when my attitude changed.

She, unlike most of her family, discovered my secrets. Katrina did so in the foulest of ways, sacrificing children plucked from the womb and devouring the souls of the unwitting.

It was early in 1840 when she came to me, seeking congress and wanting to conceive a child.

The feeling was far from mutual, and I sent her on her way.

Later that night, the first of the assassins came.

Dark creatures armed with blades who thought they could slip into my house.

My house, where I’ve prowled the halls for the better part of two centuries. Where the dead listen for intruders and where monsters are still barred behind doors not opened in decades.

I killed them all, their corpses twisting into smoke and slipping down between the wide pine floorboards.

Less than an hour later, at the striking of midnight, another came in. He was larger than the others, towering over me as I sat in my chair and looked up at him. He leered at me, salivating and whispering in Latin. Katrina had promised my flesh to him. He was going to drag my corpse into the kitchen and feast upon my living body for as long as I lasted.

When he came forward, I drew my knife and jointed the bastard. As he lay on the floor, dying and bleeding black blood, I asked him how he’d been summoned, and he told me of the book Katrina von Epp had acquired from Paris.

I paid her a visit a short time later. She was, to say the least, surprised.

That expression is on her face still, her head on the shelf alongside the book she’d used.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

2:45 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

Booksellers should know better.

The Von Epp family ran a successful bookstore for decades in the center of town. Eventually, through no fault of their own – not really – the business eventually failed. And while there were several members of the family who truly knew books, there were a few who paid them no mind.

These were the worst of them.

Karl von Epp fancied himself a collector, though he often bought facsimiles of the worst sort. I had no sympathy for him when he wasted his own money, but when he dipped into the family’s coffers, I often stepped in.

It was only a few months after the Whiskey Rebellion that his younger sister, Elsbeth, came to me and reported her brother’s acquisition of a haunted tome on the history of Charles and Mary. The dealer from whom her brother had purchased the book had told him it would bring the family good luck, and it would whisper the future to them.

Unfortunately for Karl, it did inform him of the future, but as to good luck, well, that’s really a matter of opinion.

He took to gambling because the book was telling him what would come to pass.

Karl’s winnings increased, and he and the book would disappear into Boston Towne.

Which is where the trouble started.

Karl took to spending more time in the city than he did minding the store, and while that worked out well for his sister – she ran the shop far better than he ever could – there was the growing fear that he was gambling with the family’s future.

One evening, he returned with his face still flush with the thrill of his victories. He spoke of the large quantity of monies he had won and how furious his defeated opponents had been.

The book failed to inform him the losers had followed.

I’d been visiting his sister Elsbeth at the store when Karl returned, and I was still there when the men came in.

They were armed with truncheons and knives.

Karl wet himself a split second before they attacked.

When the men moved on Elsbeth and myself, I took the fight to them. Three of the four died on my knife. I strangled the fourth.

The book is here, bound in a slipcase and muffled.

As it should have been in the first place.

#books #horrorstories

2:30 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

The book argues.

I found the book shortly before the start of the Whiskey Rebellion, and at first, I thought the man who owned it was mad. Mind you, that didn’t bother me much, not since I’ve seen plenty of madness to go ‘round.

Still, he was holed up in a ramshackle hut off North Road with a fine view of the Hollow from his front door. His English was strange, his mannerisms curious, and when I saw him on a Monday morning, he was standing outside his hut and yelling at the book.

The volume was propped open against a stone, the title page facing the man, and the stranger was pointing his finger at it, telling it to shut up.

As I said, I first thought him mad. At second thought, however, I suspected he came from the Hollow and that perhaps the book did as well. If that were the case, the likelihood of the book actually speaking increased exponentially.

I was armed only with a walking stick at that point as I’d no desire to get in a fight of any sort. I was young, though, and foolish, and instead of leaving the man be, I called out to him to see what the matter was.

He saw me, growled, and charged.

It was not the response I’d expected.

In a heartbeat, I had my stick up and stepped aside as he rushed me. I brought the stick down once, hard on the back of his neck and sent him sprawling to the ground. He tried to get to his feet, drawing a knife from his boot as he did so. I told him to put it away, but the man ignored me and slashed at me.

I broke his wrist with the stick, and then, when he tried for the knife with his remaining hand, I crushed his temple with the stick’s iron end.

It was then that I heard the book.

It told me I shouldn’t have killed him.

It’s been saying that for over a century.

And the damned thing is saying it now.

I don’t bother telling it to shut up. That only makes it louder.

Instead, I open a fresh bottle of bourbon, pour myself a drink, and ask the book a simple question.

“Do you think I should have killed him?”

The outrage in its voice suits me just fine.

#books #horrorstories

1:59 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

Some books are merely an annoyance.

The German opera book had been donated to the Cross Social Library. No one knows by whom or why, although I suspect it was done more as a way to harass the librarian than anything else.

The librarian at the time, Ms. Foster, wasn’t known for her personality. Or her kindness. Or anything, for that matter. She was a foul-tempered woman who worked at the library, making sure no one enjoyed the books they borrowed. She held onto the post for thirty-two years, and that was mostly because people were too afraid of arguing with her over the job. It paid enough for her to live in a small apartment above the tavern, and she ate her meals in the tavern, too. Unlike her, the tavernkeeper was a lover of literature, and I suspect it was he who donated the book.

The tavernkeeper, Heinrich Kalt, enjoyed opera, and so it would make sense that this book had come from him.

It also arrived at the library on the day he passed away from old age.

I’d been in the library, admiring some of the newer books, when Ms. Foster stormed out of her office, hands pressed against her ears. For a moment, there was silence, and then I heard it, the sound of a deep baritone singing in German.

The power of the voice shook the windows and rattled my teeth, and it was worth it.

Ms. Foster’s expression was one of utter dismay.

She stumbled toward me and spoke, although I admit I feigned ignorance of what she was saying. Eventually, she took me by the arm and dragged me outside.

“It’s on my desk,” she wailed, glancing worriedly at the library.

“What about your desk?”

“There is a book in German on my desk,” she snapped, eyes alight with anger. “I need you to remove it, Duncan Blood, and find something to do with the damned thing before I burn it and the whole library down around it.”

With a nod, I went in and collected the book, which went silent as soon as I touched it.

“Take it home,” she ordered. “I don’t want to see it again.”

I nodded, tucked the book under my arm and went home. Every so often, I take it out, open the pages, and listen as Heinrich sings.

#books #horrorstories

1:50 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

For twenty-two years, he was a fine doctor.

That changed on the night of August 1st, 1798.

Dr. Albertus Hellespont was as far from a quack as a medical professional could be at the end of the sixteenth century. He practiced his medicine to the best of his ability, and a surprising number of his patients survived.

On the night of August 1st, however, he killed a patient.

Mrs. Potter, who had gone to see him about the condition of her gout. Her eldest son, Marley, had accompanied her, and as he sat in the room, chatting with his mother and the doctor, he watched Dr. Hellespont open a large book, peruse it for a moment, and then retrieve a large scalpel from a table. Before either Marley or his mother could react, Dr. Hellespont stepped nimbly forward and opened her throat with a single, deft motion.

Marley managed to escape, and he ran square into me as I left the tavern. He was awash in his mother’s blood and gibbering as he pointed to Albertus’ home.

Dr. Hellespont stepped out a moment with a long piece of flesh in one hand. He called out to me and bade me join him, and so I did, sending Marley off for help.

When I reached Albertus’ home, I entered and found him in his office. He had cut away most of Mrs. Potter’s clothes, and he was sawing at her right arm.

“This is the problem, my good lad,” he told me without looking up. “This was the source of her ailment. The creatures came from here, and they died with the blood when I opened her throat. We’ve some luck, it seems.”

I glanced at the large tome on the table beside him and saw worms squirming through ink in the pages. Gently, I closed the book, and Albertus jointed the arm, tossing it to one side.

“There are more in town,” he called over his shoulder. “Many more. We have to cut and bleed them all, Duncan.”

“Aye,” I sighed, “I suppose we do.”

As he moved off to the next arm, I picked up a heavy fireplace iron, stepped forward and swung it with all my might.

I crushed the top of his skull and sent him sprawling to the floor. For a moment, I paused, then I stepped closer, raised iron over my head, and made sure I did the job right.

I did.

#books #horrorstories

1:10 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

She came armed with history.

It was shortly after my father had vanished into the Hollow. My mood was not pleasant, for although I lived for over a century, I had not been without my father before. His sudden disappearance and subsequent failure to return had left me shaken. I was alone on Blood Farm, fending for myself.

I was in town, buying more lead for bullets when one of the Jack Henry made the mistake of walking towards the woman.

In her hands, she held a large book, which she opened as he drew near.

Jack saw her, tried to steer clear, but didn’t do so in time.

She read from the book at the top of her lungs, howling out the words, describing a scene from a battle. And as she did so, Jack stumbled back, a large gash appearing down his left cheek. Blood exploded from the wound and then out of his back as an invisible blade was thrust through him.

Her voice rose to an impossible volume, and Jack fell to his knees, his chin dropping to his chest.

A heartbeat later, and his head bounced upon the road, blood spraying up from his neck as his body fell to the side.

The woman crowed with delight and snapped the book closed, and as she did so, I sprinted toward her.

She caught sight of me and scrambled to open the book once more, but it was too late.

I knocked the book from her hands and punched her in the chest, knocking her backward. She tripped over her own feet, and as she landed on her back, I snatched up Jack’s head by his hair. The woman yelled at me in Latin, and I snarled, replying in the same tongue.

“Jack has something to say.”

I smashed the severed head into her face, shattering her teeth and crushing her nose. Her cry of anger became one of anguish, but even that vanished a moment later as I brought head down again and again upon her.

She tried to crawl away, one eye hanging upon her cheek and the other pushed into her skull.

I planted one foot upon her back, pressed her down into the street, and beat her with Jack’s head until her own was nothing more than a smear.

I bound the book closed with a length of her hair.

The hair binds it still, the hair itself still joined to a clump of scalp.

#books #horrorstories

1:00 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

The book still stinks of chemicals.

When she arrived in Cross during the winter of 1718, she proclaimed herself a master of science.

Few people paid her any mind, but still, there were a few foolish enough to listen to the drivel coming from her mouth.

She called herself Wisdom, and I wished mightily that she kept her mouth closed. Instead, the madwoman set up shop on the edge of town and sold her wares to those who believed she had any sort of power.

Wisdom claimed her abilities originated from a large volume on alchemy and that she could read the hidden messages buried in the dull and dry Latin of the text.

I don’t know if she could read it or if it possessed her, but regardless, she did create some curious powders and draughts. The effects of which were never pleasant to behold.

In the first week of January, she mixed a potion for a traveler who needed luck. We found him dead the next morning. An old and rotten tree had fallen and crushed him beneath it.

February, a young woman desperate for a child, took a fertility charm, and less than a week later, a rotten beast exploded from her stomach and slew her husband at the table as the woman died.

In March, a boy wanted his dead dog to return, and return the dog did. It was mad with hunger and obscene to behold. The dog took the boy’s foot and tore it off.

It was the attack upon the boy and the abomination that had once been a dog that finally spurred me into action.

I went to the woman’s house and told her I needed a draught to help with cramps. She told me she had just the thing, and as she gathered her cure-alls and her potions, I slipped the garrote out of my pocket and waited for her to walk by.

A few minutes passed, and she stepped in front of me.

In a heartbeat, the rope was looped ‘round her neck, and despite my small size, I was able to bring her to her knees.

She died on the dirt floor of her shack, and I took the book home for me.

One more volume to add to my growing collection.

#books #horrorstories

12:36 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

The book’s yelling at me.

This is nothing new. The damned thing’s been yelling at me on and off since 1715, ever since it arrived in Cross.

From what I’ve gathered over the centuries, the book was put together by Spanish missionaries to the Siona-speaking people sometime in the 1600s. How the damned thing made it to Cross, and how it became haunted, have not been shared with me, nor have I been able to learn.

There is some information the book keeps to itself.

During the years, I have learned more and more of what is being said to me. Mostly it’s insults, sometimes it’s curses. Occasionally, vulgarity spews forth from the pages, and that’s always interesting.

Tonight, well, tonight it’s yelling about the Spanish.

When it first came into Cross as part of a parcel mailed to my father, the first words out of the haunted book were complaints about the Spanish. It took my father and myself by surprise, but my father recovered quickly. He did his best to gather information, but he had less luck – and less time it would turn out – to spend with it.

As a young man, I would take the book out to the orchard and listen to it complain, try to converse with it, and then eventually give up the effort as a bad job.

Now, with the book open on my desk, it amuses me. Oh, not the obvious discomfort it feels for the situation, but its ability to swear consistently over two hundred years. That’s impressive, and it puts my own skills to shame.

For a short period, after my father vanished into the Hollow for the last time, I kept the book upstairs with me as a comfort. That was until the bookseller tried to steal it from me.

He was the first to ever try and take one of my books, and this volume didn’t want to go anywhere.

As soon as the bookseller plucked it off the table and tried to make for the front door, the book began yelling in Siona. I caught the man as he tried to run, and I retrieved the book and took his right hand for my troubles.

The book has a proper place on a bookcase, and beside it, stuffed and mounted, is the bastard bookseller’s hand.

That’s the only thing the book doesn’t complain about.

#books #horrorstories

12:25 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

My father tried to save him.

In August of 1700, the man arrived in the center of town, close to the Hall Garrison. He was disheveled, slurring his words and dragging a leather bag behind him in the dirt. At first, some of the townsfolk believed him to be mad. Others that he was possessed. Finally, a few decided the man had come from the Hollow and that he needed to be put back as soon as possible.

My father believed none of these things.

‘Though I was close to seventy at the time, I still appeared as no more than a thirteen-year-old boy. I would remain that way for another thirty years.

We approached the stranger together as the man came to a stop in the center of town, and as the wind shifted and carried our scent to him, he lifted his head, nostrils flaring. He stared at us and asked, “Which of you is Duncan?”

“I am,” I answered, and the man gazed upon me with horror.

“I cannot,” he whispered, shaking his head. “I cannot.”

“Cannot what?” my father asked.

The man pulled the leather bag to him, and it was then we saw the bag’s long drawstring was stitched to his stomach. Blood leaked down his belly as he lifted his shirt, and he screamed as he tore the bag open.

He retrieved a book, damp and foul with ichor, from the confines of the bag and held it up.

“They will not release me,” the man whimpered. “They say I must kill the boy.”

My father shook his head. “Give me the book, man. I will help you. I swear it.”

The stranger struggled with the book, clasping it with both hands as the dripping volume shook in his grasp.

My father stepped closer, his own hands outstretched to take the burden from the stranger.

Yet as he did so, the man’s back arched, his mouth opened, and he vomited his innards. He collapsed to the earth, a steaming abomination, eyes pleading as he died.

The people of Cross kept their distance as my father, and I worked. We cut the man’s clothes, wrapping them around the book before lifting it.

Together, we brought the book home, dried it out, and put it away.

Even now, as I gaze upon it, it whispers new deaths to me, and I smile at the damned thing’s creativity.  

#books #horrorstories

12:00 AM January 1, 1931

Advertisements

I killed a minister for the book.

I held the book in one hand and read the title aloud, as I had nearly three centuries earlier.

“The Discourse of Witchcraft,” I murmured and took a sip of my brandy.

I was fifteen years old when the minister came to Cross, searching for my father and all others whom the minister considered witches.

My father was in the Hollow, hunting werewolves at the time, and my siblings and I were alone. Alone, however, did not mean we were unable to look after ourselves.

I was the youngest and the angriest. My mother had succeeded in murdering one of my brothers before her failed attempt upon my life, and her treachery had scarred my elder brother and sister.

When the minister arrived in his black coat and his high collar, it was 1645, and our place in this new world was tenuous.

The man clutched the book to his chest, his eyes wide and feverish. His free hand plucked at the pocket of his coat, and when he spoke, his words rose and fell with a frenzy I’d not heard before. He told me he’d been sent to deliver God’s judgment upon my father for practicing witchcraft.

These were not words I wanted to hear.

I asked the minister where he was from and upon whose authority was he acting.

He told me Boston Towne and that both the King and God had sent him to Cross.

I told him he’d find no witchcraft in Cross and that he best make his way back to Boston Towne ere my father returned and expressed his dissatisfaction with the minister’s presence.

The minister waved the book at me, and I felt the book’s power radiating toward me. There was madness hidden in the pages, and so long as the minister held it, he’d not relent.

I asked to look at the book, and he refused, drawing a long knife from his pocket instead.

He howled at me, and foaming at the mouth, he declared me a sinner and a witch and that only through death could I be saved.

I took the knife from him on the downswing, reversed it, and buried the blade to the hilt in his chest.

My siblings and I buried him in the orchard, and I tucked the book away.

I never told my father.

There was never a need to talk about our chores.

#books #horrorstories

December 31, 1930

Advertisements

It is the last night of the year.

I am alone, as is so often the case, in my secret library. That place where I have squirreled away books and items far too dangerous to be left out amongst the public. The objects in this room would cause the learned professors of the Cross Branch of Miskatonic University to salivate if they but knew of the room itself.

I have no intention of ever letting them know.

They wreak enough havoc, cause enough pain, murder enough innocents without these gathered items.

What would they do with books that scream? Or a drum that calls for war?

How would they react to a scalpel that convinces them to amputate one of their own limbs?

I know they would try them all on the helpless and the unsuspecting.

As I sit here and drink my whiskey, gaze out over the books that populate these shelves, I recall how I obtained each and every one.

Some of them were printed only last year. Others before I was born.

But they are all the same, in the end.

Each and every one of them is dangerous.

Some killed before I took them to my home.

Some have cursed families and trapped the dead between their covers.

I think as this night progresses, I shall reflect upon them.

Thinking of my books is better than remembering my dead and all whom I have slain.

#newyear #horrorstories

December 30, 1930

Advertisements

I found him.

He’d hidden himself away on one of my islands. I don’t know if he thought he’d be safe from me by being close, but it was a mistake.

It was the smell of smoke that caught my attention, and the sight of the same is what condemned him.

There are few creatures that live on my islands, and all of them do so with my permission. When I find evidence of habitation, I go and see who or what has dared to trespass.

I followed the smoke, spoke to a few of the merfolk who had sense enough to answer my questions, and found the Father Christmas on Bear Island. He’d fortified the place, putting up walls and ruining any sort of decent anchorage.

But none of that would stop me.

Since I’d rescued the last group of children from the Hollow, I’d been looking for the Father Christmas who’d stolen them. Word had gone ‘round the Fey that he was somewhere close to Cross. I just hadn’t realized he was still in Cross.

I found a high wall on the lee side of the island and pulling my canoe close, I scrambled up and over the barrier. When I reached the forest floor, I saw a great many carved monsters.

A wide trail cut through the woods, and I followed it. Soon, I heard someone hammering and a pleasant voice singing. A hard snow fell, building up on my clothes despite the speed at which I moved.

I reached a small glade and found the Father Christmas. He stood at a quaint house, hammer in one hand and nails in the other as he gazed at his work. The house was a pretty bit of business and no doubt would have enticed more than one child.

Drawing a Colt, I shot him in the lower back.

The roar of the revolver rolled through the stillness as the man cried out and fell to the earth. He tried to drag himself away, but his arms lacked the strength he needed.

He managed to twist around as I walked closer, his eyes widening.

I holstered the Colt and squatted down beside him. I drew my knife, pried open his mouth, and cut out his tongue.

I had no desire to listen to him beg and beg he would.

He didn’t know it, but he was going to take a long time to die.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 29, 1926

Advertisements

It took me a year, but I found them.

With the death of the last Father Christmas, I spent each day in the Hollow. Neighbors helped with my harvests, and the dead watched over Blood Lake. Even the fey lent their hands to the task of caring for the orchards, and more than a few bodies were buried beneath young saplings as I hunted through the Hollow.

This morning, I found the house the Father Christmas had spoken of.

The grand building was bedecked with lights, pine wreaths, and garlands. Smoke curled up from the chimneys.

I did not hesitate to approach the house.

Elves and sprites, brownies and nixies saw me and darted away. They fled from the house to the tree-line, and soon others raced from the home.

They knew who I was and what I’d come to do.

Soon, I climbed the stairs to the broad porch and forced the door open.

A tall, thin elf saw me, raised a rifle in shaking hands, and died as my Colts roared. He was blown backward, bones and flesh spraying out through his now tattered coat. I stepped over the fresh corpse and gunned down another elf that sprang out of a doorway with a large piece of cutlery.

At the far end of the grand hall, a pair of doors swung open, and a trio of elves came howling through them. They carried nothing but kitchenware, no match for my guns.

I stood my ground and pulled my triggers.

Brains were splattered across the wall, and the bodies rolled toward me.

From the upper floor came a cry of rage and despair, and more elves appeared. There was fear in their eyes, though not of me.

My Colts were not as fearful as their master, and that was fine with me.

The .44s jumped in my hands, the long barrels spouting flames as the slugs tore from them, and I butchered the elves.

I killed the last, reloaded, and went in search of the missing children.

I found them in the dining room, gathered ‘round a long table decorated with a Christmas tree, the children in their holiday finery.

They looked at me with disbelief. Some knew me, others did not.

“Come,” I said. “It’s time to go home.”

The elder children scooped up the youngest, and I led them all from the Hollow.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 28, 1925

Advertisements

He tried to steal the children.

No children had been snatched by a Father Christmas for decades, but the strange wailing I heard told me that was changing.

I’d been drinking at Marcus Daly’s home, and when we were halfway through our second bottle of whiskey, we heard wailing from the upper floor, where his granddaughters were sleeping.

The pair of us launched ourselves from our chairs and out into the hallway. His daughter and son-in-law stumbled out of the parlor, their clothes and hair in disarray. Both stayed out of our way as we thundered up the stairs and sprinted toward the girls’ room.

Their door was closed, and despite its sturdy construction, it crumbled beneath the force of Marcus’ body as he threw himself into it. He and the door went down, and there, in the room before us, stood a Father Christmas, holding both girls in their nightshirts. The children were half-numb with sleep and fear.

I drew both Colts, and the Father Christmas dropped the girls, their grandfather catching them deftly as he got to his feet. Without a word, he hurried past me, leaving me alone in the room with the Father Christmas.

The man edged towards the fireplace, and as he brought his hand up towards his nose, I took it off at the wrist with a single shot. Blood exploded out onto the walls and ceiling, and he stared at the stump of his wrist.

His face paled at the sight of his injury, and then, he tried to bring his remaining hand up.

That too was blown apart, the round passing through and taking an eye as it did so.

He stumbled back with a scream. His eyes darted about the room, seeking some passage to safety.

There was none.

“Where are the others?” I demanded.

He hesitated, and I shot him in the foot.

As he crashed to the floor, he tried to scoot backward, pressing himself against the wall.

“Home,” he hissed. “In the Hollow. At my home.”

“When?”

Again, he hesitated, and I shot him in the other foot to teach him haste.

“Tomorrow,” he wailed. “Tomorrow night, they’ll all be there for dinner.”

“You won’t.”

Stepping forward, I thrust both barrels of the Colts into his mouth. Teeth shattered, and I pulled the triggers.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 27, 1923

Advertisements

The Hollow didn’t want Christmas to be over.

I did.

It’d been quiet the past few years, and that’s how I wanted it to stay. This morning, though, I found the body of a man. I don’t know who he was or where he was from, but he’d been butchered.

His clothes were in a neat pile by the stonewall on North Road, and his skin was stretched out in long, curling strips. Muscles were stacked in one section, bones in another. The ligaments were woven into a herringbone pattern, and his organs were arranged as though they were a bird in flight.

I found dozens of small tracks, each no larger than my thumbnail, appeared to have been made by a miniature boot.

I followed the tracks into the Hollow to a small clearing where a house stood in the morning light. Smoke curled up from a fieldstone chimney, and there was an air of joy about the place.

The bloody prints led to the front door, and so I followed them.

I didn’t bother to knock. There was no handle. I pushed upon the door, and it opened on silent hinges.

In a well-appointed parlor, with a fire burning brightly in the fireplace, dozens of miniature soldiers stood at attention on their shelves. They were armed with cavalry sabers, and they wore black cloaks over blue shirts and white pants. Some were splattered with blood.

I crossed the room and passed through a second door into a workshop.

A Father Christmas sat at a table and worked diligently on the face of another toy soldier. The toy’s saber lay on the bench.

The Father Christmas looked up from his task, frowned, and I gunned him down.

Without a word, I went into the parlor and found the toy soldiers staring at me. Using the fireplace’s iron poker, I pulled the burning logs out onto the floor, where the flames leaped onto a rug and set it ablaze.

The soldiers came for me, but I kicked them aside, ignoring their slashing blades. I slammed the door closed behind me and took a seat close by, shooting the occasional toy that tried to get out of the house.

None of the toys escaped, and as the flames devoured the building, I heard the soldiers scream.

It was a good sound.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 26, 1916

Advertisements

I went hunting.

The day after Christmas found me behind the German lines with a truce enacted between myself and the Germans. Something had been killing his men for the past week, and it wasn’t Canadians or British, of that they were certain.

From what the captain told me, several of the survivors of the attacks stated the killer was Father Christmas. The captain, who was slowly becoming adjusted to an eyepatch – the orb gone courtesy of the unknown assailant – happened to agree with his men.

“I’m not sure who he is,” the captain told me, pouring a glass of schnapps. “I know he was dressed as Father Christmas, and he took my eye out with a horsewhip.”

I took a drink, blinked back tears at the strength of it and asked, “Where did they see him last?”

“That’s the trick, isn’t it?” The captain shook his head. “He comes round each night and ambushes any who are too close to the Christmas tree. We’ve had no luck stopping him, and I’ve heard you know what you’re about.”

“Aye, that I do. Once your men are finished with the tree tonight, have them fall back to safety. I’ll wait by the tree alone.”

“I will make it so. Do you need anything?”

“Just keep your men safe.”

Soon, I had my Colts ready, the revolvers cleaned and loaded and waiting to work.

I watched as the soldiers did their best to appear merry. They redecorated their tree, gathered around it to read letters, and as night fell, they retreated to their dugouts, leaving me alone by the tree.

The Father Christmas was not long in arriving.

He was stockier and loaded for bear. He had a shotgun cradled in his arms, a horsewhip, and a cudgel swinging at his waist. He caught sight of me and grinned.

Then, in the firelight, he saw who I was, and his expression changed.

“You’re not supposed to be here,” he hissed.

“Neither are you.”

He was quick, and he nearly had the shotgun up and aimed by the time the Colts cleared leather. There was gunplay, as I’d warned, but not as much as I’d feared.

In a heartbeat, the Father Christmas was dead beneath the Christmas tree, and I put an extra pair of slugs in his head, just to be sure.

I was in no mood for Christmas miracles.

#Christmas #horrorstories

Merry Christmas flashback!

Advertisements

He was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands.

My father, Ezekiel Blood, had been born sometime in the fourteenth century, though I know not exactly when. From what I gather, he had been born in what is now Denmark, and both his parents had been Danes.

When he was ten, his parents brought him to England. They were to pay a visit to where one of his ancestors had fallen in battle, and it was in this same place that he killed his first man. As his parents went into the town, my father chased after a pair of puppies racing along the roads. My grandparents had allowed him to do so and inadvertently saved his life.

My father told me that he had caught up with the puppies in a small copse of trees, and it was from there, with the puppies on his lap, that he saw his parents slain.

Somehow, the townspeople had learned of my family’s unique traits. Somehow, the townspeople knew that they were related to the men who, centuries earlier, had pillaged the town.

As my father watched, his parents were pierced by pikes, pinned to the ground, and set aflame.

It took them nearly ten hours to die.

My father remained hidden, the rank stench of his own parents’ burning flesh heavy in the air.

That night, when the townspeople butchered the charred corpses and sealed each portion in a separate container and spread out through the town, my father crept into town.

He moved from house to house around the perimeter of the town for hours, patient and silent. In his small hands, he held a slim blade, and he killed hundreds. No one was spared. Not the aged nor the infirm, neither mothers nor suckling babes.

All died at my father’s hands.

When it was close to dawn, he began to set fire to the buildings.

Few made it out of the flames alive. Those who did, he hunted down over the following months until not a single citizen of the town remained alive.

With the puppies as his companions, my father stayed in England and learned about death.

My father was the finest of men.

December 24, 1915

Advertisements

It’s not the first Christmas Eve I’ve spent at war.

It won’t be the last.

Rumor had reached me of ambushes deep behind our lines. The men had been cut down, literally. They’d been hamstrung, and then their throats slit. The attacks had been going on for nearly a week, and the assailants had become brazen.

The first of the dead had been found singly or in pairs. Slowly, the size of the dead had increased, and last night, a platoon had been ambushed.

Three men had survived, but only one was expected to live through to see Christmas Day.

When I reached the hospital where the men were being kept, I noticed a strange, unpleasant, and disturbingly familiar smell.

It was the faint, burning stench of the Hollow.

Entering the hospital, I found it abandoned.

There was no staff to be seen. None to be heard.

The wounded and the sick lay in their beds, all of them asleep. I’ve been in many hospitals, and there is always someone awake.

Pain is a poor nursemaid.

The smell grew stronger, and at last, I found the source of it.

A Father Christmas stood by a sickly Christmas tree. Gifts lay beneath it, each stamped with the red cross emblem. He wore it as well, but it was nothing more than a bit of camouflage. Subterfuge and eyewash for those who don’t know better.

I do.

Soft whispering filled the room as I entered, and the Father Christmas turned to face me. Elves, clad in red and green and white, crept out from beneath the hospital beds. In their hands, they held long, curved knives, and they peered at me with worry.

The Father Christmas didn’t know me, but they did.

I drew my knife, and their eyes settled on the blade’s keen edge.

They sheathed their weapons and slipped away into the darkness, leaving the Father Christmas alone with me.

Anger filled his face, and he demanded in French, “Who are you?”

I stepped forward, and he shrank back.

“Answer me,” he snarled.

When I moved toward him again, he tried to run for the fireplace, but I caught the back of his coat and slashed his hamstrings. He crashed to the floor, and as he tried to scramble away, I jerked his head back.

I did not slit his throat.

I sawed through his damned neck.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 23, 1913

Advertisements

“Do you know what’s coming?”

The question caught me off guard.

When I looked up, I found a Father Christmas standing in my parlor, his arms loaded with presents. The Colts were on the table beside me, and I considered how best to kill the man, should it be necessary.

“Something’s in the air,” I answered. “Has been for a while now.”

“Yes, there is.”

He peered down at the toys in his arms. “Soon, my kin will find a new generation of orphans. Children who’ve seen their parents butchered. They will know nothing but war.”

“That bad?”

“Worse than any of us can imagine,” he stated. “I will give dolls to motherless girls and toy guns to fatherless boys who will wish for the real things. You will be there, Blood, in every world where the war runs rampant. You will lead reapers across fields of battle, and you will leave entire towns of orphans in your wake.”

I remained silent.

“I will bring gifts to help dry tears,” he continued, “and you shall bestow nightmares upon children not yet old enough to walk.”

“Aye. I suppose I will at that.”

“Does this not break your heart?”

“A great many things break my heart,” I told him. “But I won’t shirk from my chores, no matter how unpleasant they are.”

“Is that all it is to you?”

“Killing?”

He nodded.

“Aye,” I told him. “That’s all it is. All it will ever be.”

“What if you could have something more?” The Father Christmas’ voice sank low. “What if you could have anything you want?”

“I’m happy with what I have.”

He opened his mouth to speak again, but I pulled the Colts from their holsters. The Father Christmas remained silent.

“I know what I am.” I got to my feet and drew the hammers back. “I’m a killer. I butchered my mother on the table in the kitchen, and I’ve put down friends I loved more than life itself. Killing is a chore, Father Christmas. Nothing more and nothing less, but some days, there is joy in my work.”

“And the children you’ll orphan?”

“Let’s hope they don’t become a chore,” I told him.

He stiffened, placed a finger alongside his nose and up the chimney he went.

I sat down, put the Colts on the table, and closed my eyes.

Christmas Eve was fast approaching.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 22, 1901

Advertisements

He was a bushwhacking son of a bitch.

There’d been no sign of any Father Christmas’ for the better part of a year, and I was happy with that. The stretch in 1900 had been a rough one. I still kept a weather eye out for them and for anything else that came crawling out the Hollow, but for the most part, the world had moved on at its own pace and without much interference from the Hollow.

Until this morning.

I was on North Road, passing the time with Henry Morgyn, when the two of us heard sleighbells. As one, we’d turned and looked into the Hollow, and it was the last thing Henry ever did.

I heard the crack of the rifle after the bullet passed through both my cheeks and smashed into Henry’s forehead. I fell to my knees, drawing my Colts while spitting blood and teeth, and Henry Morgyn – who’d done naught but want to talk with me about his dogs – lay dead in the snow.

From the Hollow came an uproarious laugh, another jingle of sleigh bells, and a man’s deep voice as he called out to the reindeer by name.

When he got to Blitzen, I was back up on my feet, and I could see the Father Christmas and his team of reindeer. Man and beasts all turned to face me, and the Colts thundered in the morning air as the Father Christmas fumbled with his rifle, and I butchered the reindeer in their traces.

He was quick, I’ll give the fat man that.

He dove out of his sleigh and swore as the rifle fell from his hands. The Father Christmas took cover behind one of the freshly dead reindeer, and I got to my feet. I could see the stock of the rifle, and when he reached for it again, I put a bullet through his hand. He cursed me as he tried to crawl into the tree-line, but I shot him through his boots.

When I reached the man, he lay on his back, dark blood seeping from his wounds as he glared at me. Steam rose up from him, and his eyes darted about, searching for some weapon.

I spat another fragment of tooth out and stood with both Colts ready.

“Finish it,” he hissed.

I holstered the Colts, picked up the rifle and found its weight to be fine.

Without a word, I beat the bastard to death.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 21, 1900

Advertisements

They were dead.

I found the bodies on the lawn. A husband and wife, young. I didn’t know who they were. I didn’t need to.

They were dead, gutted in the snow.

There was no elegance to their deaths. They’d been butchered, innards spread out for the moon to shine upon. Fear and pain had been stamped on their faces. They’d taken a long time to die.

Scattered around the bodies, mingled with bits of flesh and splattered with frozen blood, were Christmas firecrackers and cookies. A pair of tracks led from the carnage to the front steps. I saw boot prints the size a man might wear and shoes fit for a child.

Snow and blood were left upon the stairs of the porch, on the boards and the threshold. In the hall, standing upon iron grates, were the boots and the shoes, drying in the warmth. I heard a man humming and a child speaking.

I kept the Colts holstered. I’d not risk the child.

I reached a door and peered into a small parlor. A Father Christmas sat on a fainting couch, his bloodstained outer garments on a nearby chair and a child on the couch beside him. The Father Christmas held a toy horse, and the boy held the man’s beard.

The boy seemed unsure of himself. Confused.

Neither the child nor the Father Christmas paid me any mind.

It was as though they couldn’t see me.

I eased into the room as the man continued to hum, and it was then I realized he was in the midst of a spell. He was casting it as I crept around the edge, close to the walls. Should he stop, so too would the child stop, and once the child stopped, the boy would scream.

I could see it in his eyes.

The boy knew something was wrong with his parents, though he didn’t seem to know what.

I did.

Reaching the pair, I crouched down behind the Father Christmas, drew my Bowie knife and slipped it up and through the back of the chair. The man gasped, and the spell broke. The boy let go of the beard and collapsed to the couch.

The man tried to pull away, but I grabbed him by his beard and jerked him back. I twisted the blade through the fabric and listened as he died.

His death was too quick, but there was the boy to think of and the bodies in the snow.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 20, 1900

Advertisements

He was too patient.

Apparently, the Father Christmas thought he could wait me out.

He was mistaken.

I heard this particular jolly old elf humming and singing away long before dawn but well after sunset. A fine snow fell from the sky, and the moon peaked through the clouds now and again. When the wind shifted, as it occasionally did, I could smell his pipe tobacco.

At first, I couldn’t find him, though I searched every yard and carriage house on Washington Street. It was only when he let out a faint snicker that I realized he was up on a rooftop and not waiting for me with his boots on the ground.

Stepping out into the street, I saw him. He was perched on one of the Barkers’ chimneys. Smoking a pipe and peering up at the last of the clouds as they drifted away. This Father Christmas broke out into song once more, a long, low tune in French.

Foul and obscene, the words filled the air and cast a pall about the house.

He sang of innocents and what he had done to them over decades.

The joy in his words sent rage ripping through me, and I drew my Colts.

“Pere Noel,” I called, and he broke off his song to look down at me in surprise.

He stood up and asked, “Who are you?”

The Colts answered.

The heavy slugs tore through his belly and sent him tumbling back, smashing into the slate shingles. He caught hold of the chimney, pulled himself forward, then lost his grip. The Father Christmas and shingles crashed down and landed close to me but a moment later.

The man howled as I strode forward, hammers cocked.

“Don’t you know who I am?” he screeched in French.

I shot him in both knees, and he squealed.

His pipe lay nearby, the tobacco still hot and glowing. I slipped the Colts into their holsters and picked up his pipe. The Father Christmas screamed at me, and I ignored his insults and curses.

Squatting down beside him, I waited until he paused for breath and then I tapped some of the embers into his eyes.

He clawed at his face, and I emptied the rest of the burning tobacco into his open mouth.

Casting the pipe aside, I clamped a hand over his mouth.

“Come now,” I whispered, “let me teach you about torture.”

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 19, 1900

Advertisements

He made a mistake with the boys.

I’d slept little since finding the maid with the missing tongue. Oh, I’ve seen a damned sight worse than her injury, but I was busy trying to convince most of the families on Washington Street to keep a weather eye out for any sort of Christmas mischief ere the appointed eve.

A few heeded me, but far too many didn’t. I was more concerned for any children than I was for the adults.

I’d just spent an exhausting hour with the Andersons, and I was preparing to leave when a cheer broke the pleasant stillness of the home from behind the closed parlor door. The mother, clearly put out by her sons’ behavior, went to the room to reprimand them, but could not gain entry.

The door was barred against her.

She knocked upon it, a frown creasing her brow as her husband went to join her. The three of us could hear the boys laughing and chattering on the opposite side of the door, fully ignoring their parents.

As the father began to speak, threatening to take his belt to their backsides, a deep, booming laugh shook the house.

Fear swept all other emotions off the faces of the mother and father. As one, they turned and faced me, but I was already moving toward the door, drawing my Colts as I crossed the hall.

Before I reached the parlor, there was the rattle of musketry and a cry of pain, and the house shook.

The door opened.

In the parlor, standing by a bedecked Christmas tree, were all five of the Anderson brothers. They were dressed in military and police uniforms. In their hands were weapons, and around them were scattered magnificent gifts. A tree, tall and glorious, dominated the room, and the confusion on the faces of Mr. and Mrs. Anderson spoke volumes.

“Where is he?” I asked.

The boy on the far left smiled. “He tried to take us with him, sir. He told us it was what he was owed.”

“You disagreed?”

The boy nodded. “We’d given us real muskets, so opened fire, and the police beat him back to the chimney. Up the flue he went, sir, and good riddance to him. He was not as kind as he pretended.”

“No,” I agreed. “He most certainly was not.”

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 18, 1900

Advertisements

She wept.

I used the Barker house as my headquarters on Washington Street. Once night fell, I ranged up and down the street, returning to the house only to warm or feed myself. A heavy snow fell, and a bitter wind played havoc, driving sheets of snow down from roofs and building drifts along walls.

As I walked, I listened and looked. I waited to hear Christmas merriment and to see the lights of the same.

Yet as the hours passed, I neither saw nor heard anything of the sort.

I confess I began to hope.

Yet, it was too soon to do so.

Nigh on three, close to the witching hour itself, I heard wailing and went running.

I entered the house through the back, slamming into the wood and knocking the door out of the frame. I crashed through the kitchen, leapt the body of a maid, and followed the wailing.

Through a dark hallway, I stumbled, swore, and turned into a parlor with the Colts drawn.

The wailing had been replaced with weeping, and there, in front of me, was a young girl.

Barefoot and wearing her nightdress, she was on the hearth, leaning in over what should have been a roaring fire and staring up the flue.

The room was stripped bare.

No furniture, no decorations. Nothing.

Nothing save the child weeping on the hearth.

I slipped the Colts into their holsters and approached the girl, who turned at the sound of my boots upon the bare wood of the floor. Her red eyes implored, and her lips trembled.

When I reached her, I crouched down.

“What happened?” I asked.

“He took them,” she whispered.

“Who?”

“Father Christmas,” she wailed. “He said they were needed. My mother and my father, my brothers. Everything was needed.”

“For what, child?”

“Toys,” she sobbed, collapsing into my arms. “Father Christmas said he needed them all to make toys from.”

I cradled the child against my chest and stood.

“He didn’t take me,” she moaned. “He didn’t need any parts from little girls. Not yet.”

I had no words of comfort for the child.

I carried her to the kitchen to see if Father Christmas had left the maid alive or dead.

She was alive, but it seems he had needed her tongue.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 17, 1900

Advertisements

I caught another Father Christmas.

There are quite a few families on Washington Street, and I deemed it wise to linger. I loitered in the Barker house, weapons ready and anger brewing. I hoped the Father Christmas who had stolen the family might return.

Near midnight I heard the clatter of hooves and the jingle of harnesses coming from nearby. A glance out the window showed a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer parked to one side of the next house, and I knew someone had come from the Hollow.

I made my way outside as quietly as I could, and I resigned myself to the fact that this would be knife work.

I left the Barker house and stepped into fresh snow. The reindeer saw me, raised their noses and pranced nervously in their traces. I passed them by, far more eager to be deal with their driver than with them.

He had gone in through a narrow door. I passed by the maid’s room and saw her asleep, a rosary clutched in her hands.

I followed the wet bootprints of the invader to the nearest set of stairs and up to the second floor.

The tracks went into a small nursery, where a babe slept in a bassinet and the mother upon a narrow brass-framed bed.

And there was the Father Christmas. Toys were scattered on the floor and spilled from his bag, his eyes brimming with avarice. The curious prints upon his dark blue robes throbbed as though reflecting the desire within him.

He wasn’t the Father Christmas who’d stolen the Barkers and their maid.

He was something worse.

The fiend heard me and spun on his heel, hurling toys without hesitation. As the last left his hands, he sprang at me, fingers splayed wide to reveal long, curved blades curling from their tips.

But my own knife was out, and in the stillness and sanctity of that room, our breath rushed from our noses as we strained against one another. Blades flicking out, inflicting a thousand small cuts.

Then, his robes caught, and for a heartbeat, he hesitated.

I plunged my knife into his chest, twisting and cracking the bone as I cleaved his heart in twain.

Outside, the reindeer shrieked and inside, the Father Christmas vanished.

Mother and child slept on.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 16, 1900

Advertisements

They were gone.

Samuel, the milkman, noticed something off. The Barkers, religious in their dairy habits, had left neither their empty bottles nor their list for him. When he rapped on the backdoor, the scullery maid failed to answer, and so it was that he retreated from the Barkers’ large home and came hellbent for election to see me.

I sent Samuel back along his route, along with orders to place a call to members of The Cross Sentinel newspaper and the police at the first house with a phone.

As for myself, I strapped on my Colts, saddled one of my horses, and made for the Barkers’ home up on Washington Street.

The ride didn’t take long, and I was glad to see some of the journalists working with the police to keep a few interested townsfolk away. I tethered the horse to the hitching post at street-side and then went ‘round the back. The tracks of Samuel’s hobnailed boots were clear to see in the snow.

They were the only tracks in the snow, and they stopped at the top of the stairs. I could see where he stood, waited, and then kicked some snow aside in his haste to leave.

Taking hold of the doorknob, I let myself into the house.

Cold, stale air greeted me, as did the odor of cheap pipe tobacco.

In the parlor, I found the Christmas tree and opened gifts beneath it. A quick search of the rest of the home revealed it to be empty, and so I returned to the parlor. There’d not been a Father Christmas incident since ’96, and I hoped it would stay that way.

Well, I was wrong to hope.

On a small toy piano, I saw a note, which I collected and stepped back to read.

In fine, elegant script was a short poem.

“The Mother and Father,

And the Irish maid, too,

Have come to feed the fire,

 With skin, bone, and sinew.

The Children, six in all,

Will fill empty shelves

As they work away their years

As Santa’s new elves.”

I read the note several times, though it offered nothing else. Finally, I tucked it away into my breast pocket and went out to speak with the journalists and the police.

There was nothing more I could do.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 15, 1896

Advertisements

The Father Christmas spoke in lies.

A few houses in Cross now have telephones, the damned thing having been introduced from Boston Towne some years past.

Well, it seems some bright and foul Father Christmas has managed to thread a line from the Hollow into Cross, and he’s been making some calls.

On the first of the month, he told Harold Iverson that his boy was dead. Iverson, in a panic, shouted the news to his wife, raced outside and fell down the stairs, smashing open his head and dying there with his wife and the supposedly dead boy by his side. The following evening, the Father Christmas called Maybelle Duggins, introduced himself, and informed her his gift was the knowledge of her husband’s affair.

Maybelle’s in jail, and her husband is recovering from her attempted castration of him.

This has gone on for two weeks, and I’ve had more than enough.

I traveled to the Hollow, and I found the bastard’s house.

I wasn’t surprised to find the door unlocked or to smell cheap whiskey and old sweat when I went in. Half-made toys were scattered about, and old Christmas trees littered the rooms. A long strand of telephone wire ran along the wall and disappeared into a room at the hall’s far end. I followed it, and when I stepped into the doorway, I saw him.

This room, unlike the others, was immaculate. A picture-perfect image of Christmas spirit.

And there the old man was, leaning in and making a call.

He didn’t notice me, so focused he was on whispering into the telephone.

That was fine.

I took out my knife and hacked out a length of telephone wire, ending the conversation.

The Father Christmas stared at the telephone, confused, and I put my knife away. He turned and saw me for the first time as I wrapped the wire around first one set of knuckles and then the other.

“I just wanted some fun, Blood,” he smiled.

He tried to get past me, but I knocked him down, put my knee in the center of his back and looped the wire around his neck.

“Aye,” I whispered. “Fun.”

I pushed down with my knee, and pulled up with my arms, and showed him what I thought of his fun.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 14, 1895

Advertisements

I found the musically inclined bastard.

Father Christmas had given the horn to Marvin Thomas, a good boy who lived on the far southern edge of town where the sea sometimes met the shore. He and his sisters, much to the confusion of their parents, had awoken to the sight of Christmas presents. The Thomas’ being well-familiar with some of the peculiarities of life in Cross, relaxed when the toys didn’t turn around and attack anyone.

The family, being far enough away from any of the town’s burial grounds, were also unaware of the rising of the dead.

While Marvin was somewhat distressed at the loss of his horn, he was thrilled with the replacement I offered, a small birding rifle his mother – one of the finest shots in town – would teach him how to use properly.

I was given permission to set up shop in the parlor, and the Thomas family went into Boston courtesy of me. They would spend the night in a hotel and enjoy the theater.

I didn’t know how long I would need to kill the Father Christmas, who had gifted the horn.

The instrument was no mean thing. It was an off-shoot of Gabriel’s and too dangerous to be out in the open. The horn’s presence gave me a sense of unease, and I fretted over the idea of what else the Father Christmas might unleash on the town through the children.

I was right to worry.

He showed up close to midnight, a pack of toys on his back and the rank odor of the charnel house about him. I recognized miniature versions of terrible items. There was a pair of war drums from a Hessian unit from the war against Britain. A guillotine from Robespierre’s great experiment and a cat’s cradle made of nooses.

Oh, he was here to play havoc, and that was fine.

So was I.

I had promised Mrs. Thomas I’d not damage her house, so the Colts stayed in their holsters.

When Father Christmas clapped eyes on me, he snarled, but it was too late.

I was already up against him, pressed close with my Bowie knife. My wrist snapped out twice, and he went down, hamstrung and bleeding into his boots.

He fought me the whole way out, but out he went.

Then, as the night passed, I expressed my displeasure. #Christmas #horrorstories

December 13, 1895

Advertisements

He raised the dead.

When I find the Father Nicholas that left these gifts, I’ll kill him slow.

The trouble started this morning, shortly after dawn, when the blast of a horn shook the world awake.

It was my own dead who interrupted my morning coffee and told me – gleefully, I might add – about the guests headed my way.

Without waiting for them to go into further detail, I strapped on the Colts, loaded myself with extra ammunition, and headed out the door.

Trouble was waiting for me.

The dead were gathered ‘round the back of the door, stretching from the steps to the first barn. And there were more than a few.

I recognized each and every one of them, and why wouldn’t I? I’d killed them.

Men and women and children I’d gunned down, cut down, and beaten to death. Those who’d deserved it, and quite a few who hadn’t.

I’d been intemperate in my youth and learned my art at the hands of my father, a master when it came to death.

I stood in the cold, my breath rushing out in great streams while the dead stood, patient. My hands rested on the Colts, more for comfort than anything else.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“We’ve come for you.”

I searched out the speaker and saw a cousin from France who I’d hung and burned before the 17th century had ended.

“Not my time,” I stated.

There was a murmur of disagreement.

“The horn was blown,” the cousin stated.

“What horn?”

“Gabriel’s.”

I frowned. “Well, how in the hell did that happen?”

As one, the dead pointed to the south. Then my cousin spoke again.

“Father Christmas left it as a gift to a boy. The more the child blows upon it, the more of us will return. There is nothing you can do.”

I snorted. “Sure as hell there is.”

The dead laughed, and my cousin asked, “What choice do you have?”

“I’ll break the damned thing,” I told him, and the smile vanished from his face.

“You wouldn’t.”

“The hell I won’t,” I snapped and turned on my heels.

The dead surged forward, hands outstretched, but the horn hadn’t blown long enough. They lacked strength. They could do naught more than howl their displeasure, and howl they did.

Father Christmas ‘ll do a sight more than that.

If I find him.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 12, 1894

Advertisements

The girl was having nightmares.

Genevieve Holmes came and spoke with me this morning, expressing concern about her daughter, Annette. The little girl was having nightmares about Christmas and presents that were and were not there.

I knew Genevieve’s husband well, and after his death, I had told her to come and see me with any issues she might have. She told me, in detail, of the curious aspects of the child’s nightmares. Annette would be frozen in place, unable to move while something prowled around the bed. At times, despite her bedroom being on the second floor, Annette was positive she could see an old man pressing his face against the glass.

Genevieve had taken to sleeping in the girl’s room, which meant she wasn’t sleeping much at all.

Genevieve asked for my advice, and I offered to join them in the bedroom. The girl might just be having nightmares – it was the first Christmas since her father’s death – or there might be something more to it.

The nineties were proving to be a bit disruptive when it came to the Hollow and Father Christmas, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find some twisted elf lurking in Annette’s room.

I joined them for dinner, and after a more than decent roast and a fine bit of brandy, we retired to the girl’s bedroom.

Soon enough, mother and child fell asleep, and I alone remained awake.

The prowler arrived soon after, but he was neither a twisted elf nor was he Father Christmas.

It was Malcolm Holmes, Genevieve’s deceased father-in-law.

He moved about the room with an expression of sorrow, trying to place toys upon various surfaces for the girl to find. Yet no sooner had the toys left his hand than they faded.

“Malcolm.”

The dead man turned to face me, confusion on his face. It took a moment, but recognition flared up, and he mouthed my name.

“Aye. You’re scaring the girl and her mother.”

His shoulders slumped, and he looked from Genevieve to Annette. He paused, then nodded. The dead man pointed to me, then to the child and the woman.

“Aye,” I told him. “To the best of my ability.”

He offered up a smile, looked upon his kin one last time, and then drifted from sight.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 11, 1893

Advertisements

He wasn’t the smartest one I’ve met.

It was close to dawn when I heard noise in the parlor.

Armed with a coach gun, I left my bedroom, shooed away the few ghosts who complained about the disturbance, and double-checked some of the closed doors. A few of my kin had been anxious of late, and they’d made their displeasure known. The Hollow had been especially active the past few years, and they could feel it. Those few creatures imprisoned in the house did, too, and it made for some noisy evenings.

None of them had slipped free of their rooms, though, and so I could only imagine what fresh hell awaited me in the parlor.

The sound of cheerful singing reached my ears, and by the time I stepped into the parlor, I knew what I’d find.

Father Christmas.

Again.

This one stood on a chair by a tree which had definitely not been in the parlor a few hours before when I’d gone to bed.

He was decorating, and the gleam in his eyes was one of madness.

When the man saw me, he did not slow down, nor did he seem particularly concerned.

“Duncan,” he chortled. “You’ve been a bad boy this year.”

I raised an eyebrow and adjusted my grip on the coach gun. I didn’t want to shoot him in the house since there would be damage to the walls, but if he was too difficult, I’d have to.

“Do you want to know what you’ve done?” he asked.

“Nope.” I brought the gun up to my shoulder. “I’m well aware of what I do, Father Christmas.”

He snorted. “You should change your ways.”

“You should step down off that chair,” I replied, “and be careful as hell when you do it. This close, and I’m liable to take you off at the knees. I’ve no desire to clean up blood.”

Father Christmas laughed, shifted his weight, and one of his boots slipped off the edge of the chair. He reached out to steady himself, missed the branch and fell forward. A length of garland wrapped around his throat, and he clawed at it, twisted, and crashed toward the floor.

But the tree was stronger than it looked, and it stood true as the old elf was hanged.

I lowered the gun, waited until Father Christmas was dead, and left the room.

There’d be no burial until after a cup of coffee.

Maybe two.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 10, 1892

Advertisements

The sound of merrymaking ripped through the air.

The house stood on the edge of the Hollow and North Road where the stonewall ends.

No house should have stood there, but the Hollow cared little for the rules of this world.

Despite the cold, the windows and door were thrown wide. Light spilled out onto the porch and illuminated the darkness. In the crisp air, I could smell hot chocolate and candies, cookies and Christmas pies. All the good and sweet things beloved by children and adults on Christmas Eve.

I went up to the house, eased my way across the porch with its snowdrifts, and entered the home. Beneath the smell of sweets was the unpleasant odor of rotting meat. The walls were decorated with Christmas pictures and bows, yet I could see a thin film of filth coating it all.

Music wafted from a room at the far end of the hall, and while the notes were pleasant, there was an undeniable discordant sound woven into the weft of the tune.

The house was bad, as was whoever lived within it.

I reached the room at the end and looked in at a parlor. A grand Christmas tree occupied the far corner, and a Father Christmas stood with his back to the door. From where I stood, beneath the glam and the glimmer, I saw a blight upon the branches, and the cloth of Father Christmas was poor.

When he spoke a moment later, his words wheezed out, body rattling.

The air became fetid and thick with sickness, a stench that raised my bile and caused me to draw both Colts.

Thumbing the hammers back, I waited, the revolvers ready.

Father Christmas turned around, and I gazed upon the face of pestilence. His eyes were gone, face ravaged, his beard stricken with mange. He shivered as he turned his ruined visage upon me, mouth spreading wide to reveal broken and blackened teeth. His nose had long since rotted off, and in the brief moment, before he spoke, a single strip of flesh fell from the bridge of his nose and fluttered to the floor. The skin rested between his worn and ragged boots as he croaked, “Father Christmas is here, Childe.”

I shot him twice, and as he crashed to the floor, I emptied the Colts into him.

I hate the Hollow.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 9, 1892

Advertisements

He shot me in the face.

I stepped into the barn to feed the horses, and the roar of a bird-gun greeted me.

As I fell back, blood pouring from my wounds and lead grinding against my bones, I heard the horses kicking their stalls. A moment later, through the haze in my head, I heard a deep, throaty laugh, and though my eyes were covered in blood, I saw him.

Father Christmas walked into the morning sun, opening the breach on his shotgun and plucking out the casings. He was speaking to me, but his words were nothing more than a jumble. The man paused as he removed a fresh pair of shells for the double-barrel shotgun, and he laughed again as I sank to my knees.

I don’t know why he was laughing. I don’t know what he thought was funny.

Perhaps it was the idea that I’d been laid low by an ambush, but I hadn’t been.

Oh, it hurt like hell, and I’d have a headache for days, but I’ve survived worse.

Far worse.

And I wasn’t going to use the Colts on the bastard.

As he went to close the shotgun, I drove myself forward, knocking the gun up and to the side, his thick finger catching in the trigger and firing off both barrels. He swore at me, tried to back away, and failed.

I’d caught hold of the weapon and pulled him closer. With my free hand, I punched him in the groin and then in the inner thigh, knocking him to the ground. He hit hard enough to shake the earth, and I broke his finger when I twisted the shotgun out of his hand and cast it aside.

The man tried to move, but I took hold of his beard, wrapped my hand in the hair and pulled as hard as I could. His shriek made the agony of my own wounds well worth the effort.

In a heartbeat, I was on top of him, slamming my fist into his face and feeling my fingers break as I shattered his cheeks and nose.

He tried to fight back, but I gouged out his eyes and bit off his nose, spitting it onto the ground. As he bled and screamed, I tore off both ears and stuffed them in his mouth, holding his broken jaw closed until he started to swallow them.

They didn’t fit.

It took a long time, but he choked to death on them.

In the end, though, he didn’t take long enough.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 8, 1891

Advertisements

I found him in Old Jake’s bedroom.

I could smell the pipe tobacco and knew it wasn’t mine. The ghosts in the house were irritated and told me, in no uncertain terms, that they weren’t pleased with having an unannounced guest.

I checked the loads on the Colts and went upstairs at the behest of several insistent dead relatives.

By the time I reached the upper hall, the scent of fresh cookies had joined the tobacco. The dead were gathered around at Old Jake’s room at the far end of the hall, and I paused to shake my head.

Whoever was in the room was a fool.

Old Jake didn’t appreciate guests.

When I reached the room and peered in, I saw it was festooned with Christmas garlands. A Father Christmas sat there, looking at a book and pretending to ignore me.

“Duncan Blood,” he greeted me. “Will you not come in?”

“Nope.” I remained in the hallway and folded my arms over my chest.

“Afraid?” he asked.

“Not of you.”

“Then come in the room.”

I shook my head.

“I want to talk with you,” he said, leaning forward, the smile falling away. “You’ve been killing some of my kin these past years.”

“Only those that need killing,” I replied.

He frowned at me. “None of my kin need killing.”

“More than a few,” I argued. “Not only need it, but they deserve it. Figure you do as well.”

“And will you be the one to try and kill me, Duncan Blood?” His voice was low, the words slick and smooth.

“Not me,” I smiled. “No need.”

“Oh, there is a need,” he snapped. “I’ve come for vengeance.”

“You’re a fool and a soon-to-be-dead one at that,” I remarked.

“If you won’t be the one to try and kill me,” Father Christmas snarled, “then who will?”

“Old Jake,” I replied. “You’re in his room, and he doesn’t care for it.”

“Who?”

Before I could answer, Old Jake appeared. Or what I could see of him.

A dark shadow pulled away from beneath the tree and swarmed over Claus. The man tried to scream, but Old Jake poured into his open mouth and nose, choking Claus to death as he did so.

The fresh corpse crashed to the floor and the body pulsed for several minutes until Old Jake ate his share and then crept back into the darkness.

My home is always interesting.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 7, 1890

Advertisements

The children were afraid.

Frank Richards came to me with a story. His children claimed Santa Claus visited them at night. The old elf, they said, had come the first of December and each night thereafter.

Frank hadn’t believed it until this morning when he’d gone into their room and found the place half-covered with gifts. Neither he nor his wife had placed them there.

The children were loathed to talk about it. According to them, Father Christmas watched them sleep, and there was nothing pleasant about the experience. He seemed to wait for one of them to leave the bed, and so not a one dared to do so.

Last night had been different.

Claus had tried to take the blankets off.

Frank asked me to come to his house and to hide myself close to the children’s room.

I agreed to, and while I strapped on my Colts, I also brought my Bowie knife.

When I arrived at Frank’s home, we went up to the children’s room. They were excited and nervous, lined up in bed and looking at me expectantly.

“Do you know who this is?” Frank asked them.

The eldest child nodded, and the others followed suit.

“Then you know I spoke the truth when I said I’d bring someone home to help,” Frank continued. “Duncan will stay here with you tonight, just on the other side of the room and in the dark. He’ll be beside the wardrobe, and he’ll know what to do.”

I squatted down by the bedside and looked at the children. “Do you trust me?”

They whispered that they did.

“Good. Now rest, if you can. I’ll be here.”

I took up my position by the wardrobe and waited.

He arrived sometime after one.

He was tall, thin, and stank of madness. I watched him as he crept up to the bed curtains, free hand twitching as he pushed his face between them to peer in at the children. The sack on his back hung empty on his back, but I doubt he intended it to be empty for much longer.

As he pushed aside the curtains, I stepped forward.

I put one hand over his mouth and slipped the Bowie knife between his ribs, pushing until his back was arched and he stood on his toes. He died a moment later.

As the children slept, Frank and I buried the bastard outside.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 6, 1880

Advertisements

December was quiet for about ten years after I gunned down the Hollow’s Claus.

Something came back last night.

Some of the gentlemen from the Cross Sentinel came and got me mid-meal. They said it was important, and it’s rare for the men of that establishment to be wrong.

They certainly weren’t this time.

I left Hel to guard over the house. He had a goodly number of years on him, and it was getting harder for him to move about.

The town had grown a bit in the last few years, and new houses had been built. It was to one of these the newspapermen brought me.

Entering the home, I noticed a rough, grating sound. I followed the noise until I came to a large parlor and a trio of children. They were all young and gathered around a well-decorated Christmas tree. Presents were scattered about, and one girl – astride a rocking horse – glanced toward me as I entered the room. She smiled after a moment and then returned her attention to whatever enthralled her siblings.

I looked and saw why the men had remained outside.

I’m fairly certain the room had once been the dining room, but someone had gutted the walls and torn out the floor. In the center was a fire pit, and over that, a great spit. A man, his body blackened and glistening with oils, was tied down to the crossbar. On one end of it, a naked woman turned the spit, her eyes gouged out and her hair cut close to the scalp. On the other side of the fire stood a second woman, much younger and wearing the tattered remnants of a housemaid.

The housemaid had her eyes but little else.

The skin had been stripped from her face, the teeth smashed from her mouth, and her jaw wired shut. With painful motions, she basted the man on the spit.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Santa came early,” the girl on the rocker responded. “He gave us gifts and made mother and Annie to prepare a feast for his return this eve.”

“Go outside, children. I’ll help with the feast.”

In silence, the children gathered their gifts and left.

I had to leave the women alive until Father Christmas returned, but when he did, I’d put them out of their misery.

And Father Christmas would end up on the spit.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 5, 1869

Advertisements

We surprised each other.

I was walking with Hel, the dog I’d rescued the year before, and minding our own business.

Both Hel and I were in good moods. He’d rousted some birds a short time before, and I had a belly full of coffee and fine tobacco going in my pipe. The snow was thick, the air cold, and the warmth of home was only an hour or so away.

I should have known it was too good to last.

Hel froze and pointed, his nose still and left paw up as a low growl grew in his throat. My hands dropped to the Colts, pipe clenched between my teeth, and Father Christmas slid out into the open. Over his shoulder, he held a bag of gifts, and in his right hand, he held an evergreen.

For a moment, we stared at each other, and then the bastard threw the tree at me.

Hel darted forward, and I ducked, drawing the Colts as I did so. Father Christmas gave the dog a kick that Hel partly dodged, the toe of the man’s boot snapping up from his ski catching the dog’s hindquarters and sending him howling and rolling through the snow.

I fired a pair of shots at the man, but he’d swung his bag and the gifts within blocked the slugs before he hurled the bag at me. Once more, I ducked, and when I could see him clearly again, Father Christmas had a hatchet.

I snapped off a quick shot that took the man in the shin, causing him to drop to a knee, blood spraying out over the white snow. He cursed at me in Danish and threw the hatchet, the blade lodging in my right shoulder.

He let out a deep, pleased laugh, one that died in his throat as I brought up my left hand and shot him in the face.

For a moment, he wavered on his knee, reached up, probed the hole where his nose had been and then keeled over to the right.

Hel limped up, sniffed Father Christmas, and then made water on the dead man’s face.

When he finished, the dog limped to me, sat down and kept me company as I worked the hatchet out of my shoulder.

He’s a good companion and a hell of a dog.

#Christmas #horrorstories

(This photo is courtesy of the Danish Royal Library and was created by Sven Türck.)

December 4, 1868

Advertisements

I heard a howling dog.

They were new. Recent transplants from Pennsylvania who had chosen Cross as their home.

It worked out poorly for them.

Christmas was some three weeks away, but the jolly old elf had made an early visit to this family.

I found their house well-lit, smoke coming from the chimneys and general pleasantness emanating from the entire structure. The walk leading up from the street was swept clear, as was the porch.

And the closer I moved towards the house, the louder the dog’s howling became.

By the time I reached the door, the animal’s cries had reached a fever pitch, and I didn’t hesitate to kick the door in. The lock broke beneath my boot, the door swinging and bouncing off the wall. By the time I came back toward me, I had a Colt drawn, and I was storming into the hall, grinding my teeth against the agony of the dog’s cries.

I entered the parlor, and the dog, a small black and white mixed breed, dashed toward me, ears back and tail tucked between its legs. The animal shook and cowered behind my legs, and I looked upon the scene before me, unsure as to what was wrong, what was making the dog wild.

It took me but a moment, but in the end, the problem was laid bare.

There were four people in the room. A mother, father, a son and a daughter.

They were all dead, though I know not for how long. Each was forever fixed in a curious position. The mother stared straight at me instead of the book in her lap, as though she had been expecting some company. The father’s attention was fixed upon his newspaper, and both children were similarly enthralled.

None of them breathed or blinked, or moved. They were as lifeless as the furniture upon which they sat.

As my eyes took in the situation, I saw the doll sitting by the girl, and the toy smiled.

I felt it then, a cold, bitter hand sliding through my chest, seeking out my heart. As the cold digits dug in, the dog howled, and I snarled, brought the Colt to bear and pulled the trigger.

The doll’s porcelain head exploded, and the cold in my chest vanished. Holstering the weapon, I picked up the dog and left the house.

I’d bury the dead in the morning.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 3, 1867

Advertisements

The church had been empty for years.

There’d been a heavy snowfall the night before, and I had spent a fair portion of the day checking on those families snowed in.

I don’t often travel along the edge of Cross River. Not in the winter. The wind tends to be too bitter.

This evening was no different.

As I hastened along, I caught sight of the old Baptist church. There’d been no congregation for the church since their pastor had died some thirty years prior. When I caught sight of light in the windows, I decided to see who might have taken shelter in the church.

I found the main door unlocked and entered, closing the door against the weather and enjoying the sudden warmth I found myself in.

That enjoyment was short-lived.

All I found in the church was a tree lit with small, white candles set up on the dais. The candles were bright, the flames dancing madly on their wicks, and then, faintly, I heard screaming.

I took a step closer and saw the candles were carved in the shapes of men and women and children. All stood in their Christmas finest, arms stretched over their heads, hands clasped together, and the flames blazing around them.

Expressions of terror and agony twisted across the faces of these waxen people, and when they saw me, their screams of pain became howls of supplication.

The tree leaned towards me, the stench of eagerness and evergreen rolling out across the floor.

I walked toward it, reached out and seized the tree with gloved hands. Branches wrapped around my wrists and forearms, and I tore the tree out of the dais. With a snarl of rage, I dragged the tree backward, branches lashing at my face.

Kicking the door open, I pulled the reluctant tree into the cold and the snow and watched as the candles were snuffed out.

The tree’s branches lashed at me in a frenzy, but I dragged the tree to the river’s edge, snapped the branches off my arms, and hurled the damned thing down onto the ice. It writhed and twisted as I drew my Colts and fired into the thin ice around it.

The ice cracked, and the tree vanished into the water.

I reloaded the Colts, holstered them, and made my way home.

#Christmas #horrorstories

December 2, 1866

Advertisements

He was a frightening bastard.

I don’t know where in the hell he was from, but he came down the wrong chimney.

It was close to midnight, and I was at the Coffins’ house, enjoying a bit of schnapps and some cards. The Coffins were sickly, and I was sitting up with them. The entire family had finally dropped off into some semblance of slumber, and I finally had time to sit down and relax. Because of how poorly everyone was, John Coffin and his wife Marissa had allowed the youngest of the children to decorate early for Christmas. It had taken everyone’s mind off the fever that had wormed its way into the family.

I had just refilled my glass when there was a cough and a snort, a muttered curse, and the rattle bones.

When I turned to the sound, I saw Claus drop out of the chimney. He flashed a smile and raised a single finger to his lips. As he straightened up, I noticed not only the strange costume he wore but the long, curved knife he drew from the bag of toys on his back.

I stood up, replaced the cork in the bottle of schnapps and took hold of it by the neck.

His grin broadened, and he crossed the room on silent feet. He moved with ease and comfort, as though he’d crossed a million such parlors, and perhaps he had.

Beyond me, he’d find the stairs to the second floor, where the sick and tired Coffins lay resting.

But he’d not be going beyond me.

He spread his arms wide, the knife flashed in the lamplight, and he brought the weapon.

It’s a pity for him that I know how to fight.

I caught his wrist easily enough and brought the bottle of schnapps up from the floor, as it were, and shattered his elbow. The knife clattered to the floor, and he opened his mouth, revealing the lack of a tongue while he issued a groan of agony.

I didn’t care.

The knife clattered to the floor, and he tried to reach for it with his good hand.

I stomped on his fingers with my boot heels, and when he tried to stand, I slammed the bottle down.

The heavy glass crushed the back of his skull and dropped him to the floor.

As he lay on the floor, gasping out his last, I returned to my seat, uncorked the bottle, and finished enjoying my drink.

#Christmas #horrorstories

Christmas

Advertisements

Like with everything else in Cross, Christmas can be challenging.

Christmas is a time of magic when barriers between worlds are naturally thin. There’s a reason why elves and darker creatures are spoken of.

Cross, with Gods’ Hollow so close, is no different.

Some years, Christmas is fine. Gifts are exchanged, children made to smile, and life carries on.

Other years, fell beasts in the guise of Old Claus slip into town and attempt to wreak havoc.

This year feels as though it will be rough, though I know not why. But sitting here, in the warmth and comfort of my private library, with the memories of my long life gathered ‘round me, I feel the need to reflect on Christmases past.

The first Christmas that wasn’t quite right came along in 1860, and I should have known it for a bad sign, what with the Secesh raising a fuss about the country.

It was December first of that year, and Washington Street bore the brunt of this Claus’ displeasure, though I know not why.

I had spent the night in town, engaged in some amorous activities, when the fire alarm was sounded, and all hands turned out. Had I not been in town, I wouldn’t have seen Claus trying to sneak away from the fire he’d started.

His white beard was singed, and his deep red riding outfit was smeared with soot. In his gloved hands, he held a lantern, the light of which glowed in his eyes and reflected off his yellow teeth. He stank of madness and misery, and he needed to die.

Of that, I had no doubt.

I cocked both Colts on the draw, and the bastard heard me over the sound of the fire engine and the horses. The wind shifted and brought the stink of burning wood and fear to us both, and the man’s smile broadened. On his hip, he carried a horsewhip, and he reached for it as he threw his lantern at me.

A single shot from one of the Colts blew the lantern apart, showering his face with glass and fire, and a second shot from the other punched through his wrist and into his hip.

Still, he staggered toward me, bleeding and burning, until I put one last shot through his left eye.

I dragged him into a shed to butcher later and to hide the body from any children.

#Christmas #horrorstories

November 30, 1891

Advertisements

The officers hadn’t done them any favors.

I’d spent a good portion of the previous evening going through the papers and maps the officers had been in possession of. From what I gathered, there was only one group of soldiers left.

The men were placed along a small branch of North Road which dipped into the Hollow. They were laid in ambush, and I suspect I killed the officers before they could finalize any plans on how they were to draw me out.

I worked my way around to the front of the ambush and discovered the men had taken some initiative. They’d built a barricade from which to fire from.

I scouted out the position, moving from the snow of Cross into the summer of the Hollow and back again. The men wore American uniforms of a type I was unfamiliar with.

Satisfied that I knew the whereabouts of all concerned, I found a safe spot on the Cross side and called out to the soldiers manning the barricade.

Their initial response was to send a volley my way, and I was pleased that I’d chosen a thick tree to take cover behind.

“You about done?’ I asked.

I heard rounds being chambered and rolled my eyes, but instead of another volley, a man called out.

“Don’t know about being done,” the man stated. “If’n you’re Duncan Blood, we’ve orders to put you down.”

I drew my Colts, checked the loads and called back, “You get those from the British officers or that damned spy?”

There was silence for a moment before the man responded, “The spy.”

“Huh. Well, I don’t know if this’ll change your mind at all, but the spy and the two officers are dead.”

Murmurs of discontent and concern reached my ears, but the man silenced them.

“What do you think that means for us?” the man asked.

“I think it means you have a choice,” I answered. “You can either slip back through the Hollow to your homes, or you can stand your ground.”

“What are you offering with those choices?”

“Life or death,” I told him. “You stand your ground, and I’ll kill every last one of you.”

A long pause followed. Finally, the man asked, “You won’t hunt us down?”

“Nope.”

A rustling filled the silence, and soon the men were gone to their homes.

It was time for me to follow suit.

#fear #horrorstories

November 29, 1891

Advertisements

I found them in the cemetery.

They weren’t supposed to be there, and they knew it.

The trio had cracked open one of the older crypts and made camp there. They appeared quite comfortable, sitting on their chairs and ‘round their table. I saw the map laid out on top of the horse blanket serving as a tablecloth.

None of the men were armed, which was a mistake.

The men watched me, the smells of the grave drifting out through the crypt’s entrance.

I let the silence and the tension build as I took out my pipe, packed it, and put flame to the tobacco.

There was nothing close to fear in their eyes, only shrewd calculation. I could see them consider their options, and more than once, their gaze flickered from me to the crypt. No doubt, their weapons were in the safety of the crypt. Far from where they should have been.

How such foolish men live so long is always curious.

I took a long drag on the pipe, exhaled into the cold air, and eyed the men. Two of them were in uniforms, and the third, well, I’d seen him about town the past few days.

“British soldiers,” I stated. “And a damned spy.”

The three men said nothing.

I drew one of my Colts, and the spy raised an eyebrow.

“Now, sir,” the spy began, his American English perfectly nuanced.

I shot him once, the Colt’s roar echoing off the headstones as the round tore out his throat and sending him to the patio, blood spraying out over his comrades and the map. For a moment, his heels beat a weak tattoo on the stones, and then he was still.

“He was unarmed,” one of the soldiers observed.

I nodded. “That he was. Spies die. You know it as well as I.”

The soldiers nodded.

“And what of us?” the soldier who had spoken asked.

“Why are you here?”

The second soldier spoke. “We’re here to kill you, Duncan Blood. Why else would we come creeping through the graves? Our men are too fearful. Unwilling to die.”

“You’re willing, then?” I inquired.

“We’re officers. We command.”

“Officers die, too,” I reminded them.

“Not when conversing with a gentleman.”

“Hm. More’s the pity, I suppose,” I stated.

“Why’s that?” the first soldier asked.

“I’m no gentleman,” I answered and killed them both.

#fear #horrorstories

November 28, 1891

Advertisements

They’ve been dead a long time.

I’ve taken to patrolling some of the larger islands in Blood Lake. Especially those close to the border with Gods’ Hollow.

After yesterday’s gunfight with the pastor, which I was still feeling – despite the wounds having healed and the lead being spat out – I took to the water. The winds were fair and the sailing easy, and the first island I came to was barren of interlopers.

Not so with the second.

At Angel Island, I found a dock that should not have been there. What bothered me most was not the presence of the dock but the damned thing’s age. The wood was weathered and scarred as if it’d been there for close to a decade, though I’d been at the island not six months prior.

It wasn’t a good sign.

The Hollow was encroaching.

I secured my boat to the dock and took out the Winchester I’d brought with me. She was an 1876 model with the long musket barrel and accurate as hell. I had no desire to suffer through another night of plucking lead from my chest.

Armed and ready, I made my way ashore and soon found half a dozen paths. I chambered a round, double-checked the loads in the Colts, and followed the widest path into the center of the island.

There’s naught much that surprises me anymore, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t taken aback by what I found.

The trench system reminded me of some of the fortifications we’d come across during the war of the rebellion. These were built better, meant to last. In the dugouts and scattered around the grounds, I found the remains of men. Bones and clothes. Cartridge belts and uniforms. All the trappings of war. Near the center of the encampment, I found three corpses, each intact, the bodies curiously preserved.

Two of the men had been shot in the back of the head. The third had stuffed the barrel of a pistol into his mouth and blown out his brains.

Time had passed, death had claimed all those save the three I stood near.

As for them, despair had done for them.

And one man had been strong enough for all three.

Despite the cold and the frozen ground, I went in search of a shovel.

The men had been above ground long enough.

#fear #horrorstories

November 27, 1891

Advertisements

He was quick.

I found him in the middle of the forest, standing astride the narrow road that cut ‘round the western side of my lands. How long he’d been there, or how he’d even gotten there, I didn’t know.

Regardless as to the length of time, though, the bastard looked fine.

He was dressed in a reverend’s black frock with a white collar to match, and as I stepped close, he opened that damned. On his hips hung a pair of Webley Longspur revolvers.

“Mr. Blood,” he called to me when I was still a fair distance from him. He pronounced my name in precise Queen’s English.

“Aye.”

He let his gloved hands fall to the butts of the Webleys. “I’m here to dispatch you.”

“Hm.”

A smile spread across his face. “It seems, sir, you are not upset by this statement.”

“I’ve heard a few like it.”

He chuckled. “I’m sure you have. You’ve not heard it from me before.”

I waited.

“Do you know who I am?” he asked.

I shook my head. When I didn’t inquire as to his name, he let out an exaggerated sigh.

“I am Pastor Thomas. You’ve heard of me?”

I spat into the snow. “I’m not a member of your congregation. I’ve no need to listen to you blather on.”

A bit of anger flitted across his face, and he shifted his stance slightly. “You’ve not a civil tongue in your head.”

I let my hands rest on the Colts and eased the hammers back.

The anger returned and settled onto the man’s features. The muscles on the left side of his face tightened, and he pulled iron.

My Colts cleared their holsters a fraction of a second before his Webleys, but it made no difference.

He was as good as he was fast, and the first three shots slammed into my chest, sending me staggering back. But my own guns were roaring, the slugs of the Colts hammering into him.

Blood sprayed from the both of us, and in a matter of moments, his Webleys were dry. Five shots each, ten shots fired.

But my Colts hold six apiece, and I had a pair of rounds left.

I was sucking air through holes in my chest as I plodded forward, the pastor on his knees in the snow.

“Good guns,” I hissed, bringing the Colts up to his forehead. “Too bad they don’t reload worth a damn.”

He tried to pray, and I gunned him down.

#fear #horrorstories

November 26, 1891

Advertisements

They didn’t know what they were doing.

I was still suffering from the aftereffects of Horatio’s gift when I went out this morning. I had hoped the cold air and fresh snow would help clear my head, but neither did.

Instead, I ended up trudging through a foot of snow over a good portion of my land that runs along Blood Road. It was there that I saw the tracks and that whoever was searching for me had no idea as to what they were about.

They passed by a string of maples where the sap buckets were hung, a subtle sign from the dryads who lived upon my land. They were a warning that armed strangers were afoot.

The sight of the buckets chased the cobwebs from my thoughts, and I drew my Colts. Pausing for a moment, I examined the tracks and saw the boots were hobnailed and heavy. And there was more than one pair.

Moving along the path they left, I listened for any sound they might make. As I moved along, bird song faded, and soon I was left alone with the wind as it hissed across the land, driving loose snow before it.

I found the strangers not five minutes later.

Ten men were frozen where they stood, and as I approached them, I watched the eyes of the men follow me.

There was hatred and fear in their eyes, and if those men could have willed themselves free, they would have.

I kept my distance as I circled them, not only to make sure I wasn’t within easy striking range should one of them regain his freedom, but I didn’t want to end up in the same predicament. Just because my land is mine doesn’t mean it always listens to me.

When I’d satisfied myself about their inability to move, I stopped.

There is no doubt that I am, at times, a cruel man. I’ve done a great many things of which I’m not proud, and I’ve no doubt I’ll do a great many more before I’m done with this life and Death comes to reap me.

But there’s a time and a place for mercy, and this was such a time.

In the stillness of the snow-covered landscape, I gunned the men down, blowing out their brains.

It was as quick and as painless as I could make it.

#fear #horrorstories

November 25, 1891

Advertisements

I’ll admit, I was in a sour mood.

As I wandered along North Road, keeping the stonewall between myself and Gods’ Hollow, I noticed the damned place had changed again. What had been snow-covered forest the days prior was now open flatland free of snow.

I stopped, took out my pipe and packed it with fresh tobacco. Lighting it, I admitted to myself that my mood was foul because of Horatio. I’d enjoyed the monkey’s company, his wit, and his undeniable ability to drink far more than he should have been able to. Our short time together had been just that, short.

Standing at the wall, I wondered what my ‘kin’ in Europe my send my way next. They’d spent the better part of the month trying to destroy me, as my unwanted visitor on the first had said.

They’d failed, of course, though they’d harmed and killed a few others along the way.

I took a long draw off the pipe, held it for a moment, and then let the smoke ease out through my lips. I watched as the smoke curled up and away, forming small clouds and then breaking apart on their travels.

It was then I heard the rattle of wheels and a tsking.

When I looked off toward the sound, I caught sight of a strange trio coming along the Hollow side of the stonewall.

A wagon, pulled by a pair of harnessed turkeys and driven by a young boy, soon was abreast of me. The wagon was loaded with the bounty of a good harvest, and the driver brought his curious steeds up short.

He tipped his hat to me, and when he spoke, it was in the language of my father.

“Duncan,” the boy said. “Do you know me?”

“No.”

The boy chuckled. “Your father knew me as Freyr, and so shall you. I bring you good tidings.”

I raised an eyebrow and waited.

“Horatio sends his greetings, though it be from Helheim,” Freyr stated. “He wants me to remind you that dead is not gone. He bade me give you this gift as well.”

The boy pulled a silver laced bottle out and passed it to me over the wall.

“The finest scotch I could lay hands to,” Freyr winked.

I nodded my thanks and watched as Freyr climbed back into his wagon.

Bringing the bottle home, I did exactly what Horatio would have done.

I drank it in one go.

#fear #horrorstories

November 24, 1891

Advertisements

The drumming woke me up.

Horatio came into the bedroom, dressed despite the early hour. His somber expression spoke volumes, and without a word, I pulled on my clothes.

The drumming never ceased.

When I reached the first floor, I made my way towards the front, but Horatio stopped me with a shake of his head.

“He’s ‘round the back, Duncan,” the monkey explained, and so we went to the kitchen instead.

With the morning sun cresting the horizon and sending long, stabbing rays of light across the snow, I saw him.

He couldn’t have been more than ten, perhaps younger.

The boy played a steady beat on his drum that was both familiar in its martial air and unknown with the rhythm he kept. His clothes, too, were recognizable, but there was naught when it came to insignia. Even the color was curious. Neither blue nor gray nor chestnut brown.

It simply was.

When the boy saw us, he lowered his arms, nodded and spoke, “It is time.”

“For what?” I asked.

“I am not addressing you, Duncan Blood,” the boy said, and his eyes flashed. My blood ran cold, and my heartbeat quickened.

“I did not know you,” I replied and offered a bow in apology.

Death chuckled and gave a quick rat-a-tat on the drum’s taut skin. “No apology is necessary.”

“Will you come in for coffee?” I asked. “Perhaps something a bit stronger?”

“Perhaps when it is time to reap you, Duncan Blood,” Death responded. “But for now, I come only to escort Horatio home.”

I glanced down at the monkey, and Horatio nodded.

“I died some time ago,” Horatio stated. “I have been running a bit wild since.”

Death struck his drum again, and the monkey sighed.

“I will see you again, Duncan,” Horatio observed and flashed me a smile.

The monkey left the kitchen, crossed the yard and scrambled up onto Death’s shoulder. In a moment, I was alone.

I closed the door, went into the parlor, and found little joy in the whiskey waiting for me.

#fear #horrorstories

November 23, 1891

Advertisements

The fighting didn’t stop.

I found the men who’d killed the Hendricks family.

Found them and all their friends too, it seemed.

I tracked them down shortly before sunset, and when I found them, I gunned them down where they stood. As the roar of the Colts reverberated off the Hollow’s trees, the others came.

They were yelling and howling, blowing bugles, and firing their weapons. The earth shook with the slamming of their boots, and the snow fell from the trees.

My Colts soon ran dry, and there was no time to reload.

I beat men to death with the butts of the revolvers, and I snatched up their strange rifles and opened fire. I don’t know how many times I was shot or how often I was knocked down.

I know the snow around my feet was churned and bloody, and the stacks of corpses piled up as I waded through my newfound foes.

Not once did they try and flee. I’ll give them that.

Through the night, we fought, the sound of gunfire unrelenting, continuous. A steady roar reminiscent of locomotives crashing.

My coat was shot away, and soon too, my shirt.

It mattered not.

The blood lust was upon me, and I felt neither pain nor cold, fatigue nor hunger.

My enemy was in front of me, and I was as pitiless as I was effective.

I stepped over and upon corpses. Killed the wounded and butchered those who tried to surrender.

When it was done, I stood half-naked in the snow, body raw and still healing from the last score of wounds.

I’d left none alive.

I cast down the strange rifle I’d been using, and I reloaded my Colts. From the nearest corpse, I stripped off the man’s overcoat and pulled it on, the fabric still warm from his cooling flesh.

With my Colts in hand, I waited to see what else the Hollow might have for me to kill.

There was nothing and no one.

Without holstering the pistols, I turned and followed the trail of butchered men back to North Road.

Sleep and hunger called to me, but I’d drink before I ate and speak with Horatio before I slept.

The monkey would accept nothing less.

 #fear #horrorstories

November 22, 1891

Advertisements

They attacked the wrong house.

I was patrolling the back roads alone. Horatio had a distinct dislike for the snow, and I didn’t blame him. I was not so fond of it myself.

Still, there was work to be done, and so I had my pipe and a new coach gun. There was little to see or hear until the wailing of a child caught my attention.

I followed the sound to the Hendricks’ house, and I saw there was no smoke coming from any of the chimneys.

Approaching the house with caution, I saw that it’d been some time since Eliot Hendricks had brought his wagon home. There were no fresh tracks other than his own, and even they were far older than they should have been. Cold or not, Hendricks would have been out and about much as I was, though with a different purpose.

With a growing sense of unease, I went up to the front door and peered in through the sidelights.

My heart sank at the sight of crumpled bodies in the front parlor.

The door, as always, was unlocked, and I let myself into the house. The wailing rose to a high pitch and sank down to a whimper.

Without going into the parlor, I made my way up the stairs, down the hall, and into the nursery. Eliot and Mae’s baby girl lay swaddled in her crib, the child’s face frightfully pale. I set down the coach gun, opened my coat, and picked up the child. I nestled her against my chest and then buttoned the coat back up, leaving enough space for the child to breathe. She was cold, but she continued whimpering, and that was as good a sign as any.

Taking up my gun, I returned to the first floor and entered the parlor.

Eliot and Mae were dead. Both shot in the back, coffee cups on their sides. The rug was stained with a mixture of blood and coffee.

The exit wounds were big, and I could see where the spent bullets had lodged themselves in the wall.

A stink lingered in the air. One I was well-familiar with.

It had the bitter tang of the Hollow, and I had no doubt the killers had been looking for me, just as I had no doubt there was more than one.

The fact that both were shot in the back spoke volumes.

And once I brought their daughter into town, I’d have my turn to speak.

#fear #horrorstories

November 21, 1891

Advertisements

The bastard met a bad end.

We’d had a solid snowfall last night, and there was a good, thick layer of it on the ground. That was how we knew someone had slipped out of the Hollow.

Horatio and I were walking along North Road, the two of us keeping a weather eye out for any sign of trouble. The month had been far too active, and it didn’t show any sign of slowing up.

We’d gotten to about the midway point when Horatio spotted the tracks. They were made by hobnailed boots, and they went in a straight line from the stonewall to my property. Given the distance between each step and the size of the damned boots themselves, well, I thought I’d need all twelve rounds from the Colts to put whomever it was down.

We left the road and followed the tracks into the forest. There was an unnatural stillness to it, once that set my teeth on edge and caused Horatio to grip my shoulder tighter. Despite the cold and the thinness of the air, there was a sharp, electrical charge to it. It reminded me more of a summer storm than a day in late November.

We went another hundred yards or so when Horatio hissed for me to stop. He leaned in close to my ear and whispered, “Do you smell it?”

I lifted my head a fraction of an inch, and I did.

Blood.

I drew the Colts and started along the path again.

Within moments, we found splatters of blood on the trees and claw marks as well. Tattered, dark blue cloth hung from the bark, and soon we entered a break in the trees. In the center of it lay a pile of steaming flesh and bloodied clothing; to the left sat one of the biggest brown bears I’d ever seen.

His snout was wet with blood, and what looked like a liver lay at his forepaws.

“Your Colts are useless on me, Duncan,” the bear grumbled, and he took a bite of the liver. “Holster them or be damned. Whichever you prefer.”

Horatio snickered, and I holstered the Colts.

“Who are you?” I asked, keeping my tone polite.

“Better to ask what, and the answer to that is tired and annoyed. I’ll sleep when I’m done eating.”

I nodded, turned, and left the bear to his meal.

Neither Horatio nor I saw reason to interrupt him any longer.

#fear #horrorstories #supernatural

November 20, 1891

Advertisements

The trees were fine, but I wasn’t.

It took me a day and a half to find the trees the squirrel was talking about, and when I did, it was already too late.

The door was in the center of a small glade, and most of the young trees had slipped away with the aid of dryads. What the squirrel had failed to mention was the fact that the door was attached to a building.

Or rather, had been attached to a building.

There were no doors of which to speak, although there was a tree growing up out of the corner of the building, and the tree was in a right foul mood.

I’d no sooner than come within range of it than it started hurling bricks and stones at me. The first one crushed my sternum and knocked me onto my back, which saved me from getting brained by the next pair of stones whistling through where I’d been standing a moment before.

With my sternum knitting itself back together, I crawled to a bit of cover while the tree continued its barrage. I don’t know why it was so foul, but I know the doors were missing, and I think perhaps the tree had been set to guard the way.

After a few minutes, my bones finished up their painful repairs, and the tree paused in its assault. I peered out at it from where I lay and searched out how the damned thing knew where I was.

The answer came a moment later.

Some right foul sprite clung to the branches, its narrow, pinched face wearing an expression of focus and intent.

I slipped a Colt out of its holster, brought it up, took aim on the little bastard and blew his head off. The body slumped out of its perch and landed in the rubble while the tree hurled stones and bricks in all directions except toward me.

And that was just fine.

For the next hour, I practiced my marksmanship, using the Colts to cut the limbs off the tree until it was nothing more than a shaking mass of juvenile top branches. I took my time gathering up some deadfall and tinder.

I needed to make sure everything was well seasoned. The tree was still green, after all, and it would take a bit for it to burn.

But that was alright.

I had the time.

#fear #horrorstories #supernatural

November 19, 1891

Advertisements

I’ve seen stranger things, but not many.

I was in my library when I raised voices reached my ears. One I identified easily enough. It was Horatio, and he was using an impressive array of profanity.

The stranger’s high, shrill voice pierced the air, and the unknown speaker gave as good as he got.

After a few minutes of ceaseless bickering, I put down my book and followed the sound of the argument. I found Horatio and his verbal sparring partner in the kitchen. The monkey sat on the table; his arms wrapped protectively around a bottle of schnaps. Across the room from him, chewing on a biscuit from a batch I’d baked earlier in the morning, was a squirrel.

The argument stopped when I stepped into the room.

The squirrel continued eating, and Horatio opened the bottle and got himself a drink. I looked from one to the other, folded my arms over my chest and asked, “What in the hell’s going on?”

Horatio narrowed his eyes before answering, “He says he has a message for you. I think he’s lying.”

“Do you?” I asked.

The squirrel finished the biscuit. “That was good.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” The squirrel rubbed his face. “Yes. I have a message. My name is Ratatoskr.”

I frowned, and after a moment, I said, “I know your name.”

The squirrel straightened up, and he stuck his tongue out at the monkey, who responded with an unpleasant description of the squirrel’s parentage.

“What’s the message?” I asked.

“You’ve a door that shouldn’t be there. Out among your trees,” Ratatoskr replied. “You should make sure it stays closed.”

“Who told you?” I asked.

“My tree,” the squirrel replied. He grabbed another biscuit, hopped down and exited the house.

“I don’t like him,” Horatio observed, taking another drink.

“You don’t have to.”

“What tree was he babbling about?”

“Yggdrasil,” I answered.

“And that is?”

“The World Tree. Odin’s Horse.”

Horatio snorted, but as I started to leave the room, he asked, “Where are you going?”

“To get my Colts.”

“Why?”

“To check on my trees,” I told him, “and to make sure some damned door doesn’t open.”

#fear #horrorstories #supernatural

November 18, 1891

Advertisements

Something was wrong with the island.

I’d gotten word from the ravens about a strange bit of construction on Heartless, a fair-sized island close to the Hollow side of Blood Lake.

Leaving Horatio in charge of the house, and with whiskey keep him company, I set off for Heartless in one of my larger boats. With the sail trimmed and a fair wind, I reached it after an hour of mild sailing.

I should have known something was wrong when the merfolk didn’t attack, and the naiads were nowhere to be seen.

I tacked into shore, reefed the sail, and dropped anchor a short distance away. I stepped down into the cold water and splashed my way to shore, swearing and cursing along the way. But I’d rather wet boots and pants than not be able to get the damned boat off the shore again.

I found a small, well-trodden path that cut through the heavy grass and bushes, and as I followed it, the air changed. It took on a dry taste and a heat unnatural for the time. There was a scent on the wind I’d not experienced before, and I drew both Colts as I went.

I stepped through a small clearing and saw them.

Three men were seated in a graveyard I’d never seen before. Two faced me while the third peered out over a pair of crypts at a building that dwarfed my home.

When the men saw me, they began to chant.

The air became heavy and pushed down upon my shoulders. Heat swirled around me, and my tongue grew thick. My blood screamed within my veins, and my fingers threatened mutiny, howling to drop the Colts to the ground.

I know magic when I see it, and I damned sure know it when there’s a spell being cast.

The men’s voices rose as I brought the Colts up an inch at a time. The speed of their chanting increased, and blood spilled out of my nose to trace the outline of my lips. Tears filled my eyes and tinged the world with red, and I pulled the triggers.

The man in the center, whose back was to me, pitched forward, as dead as those buried beneath him.

The weight lessened, and my hands obeyed me once more.

The Colts thundered, and the men died.

I holstered the guns and returned to the shore. My boots were wet and there was whiskey to drink.

#fear #horrorstories #supernatural

November 1, 1891

Advertisements

He knocked on the door and demanded entry.

There’d been a hard frost on Halloween, and so I’d decided on a second cup of coffee before making the rounds of the farm. I’d no sooner poured the cup than there was a knock at the door, and a knock at six in the morning is never a good thing.

When I answered the door, I found a tall, thin man standing on my porch. He was well, if ill-dressed for the weather, and when he looked down at me, he raised an eyebrow in obvious disgust.

I sipped my coffee and waited to see what the hell he wanted.

“You must allow me in to speak with you,” he stated. He spoke an old and elegant form of French.

Bemused, I stepped aside and gestured for him to enter. He did so with short, mincing steps, and his nose wrinkled at the smell of my home. I closed the door and led him into the parlor, where he sat down in my favorite chair.

My good humor drained away.

Without waiting for me to sit, the stranger spoke again.

“We are aware of your misdeeds in Gods’ Hollow.”

“Hm. Is there anyone other than you?” I asked.

“There are many of us across Europe, though not as many as once was. We are kin, in our own fashion.”

I sipped my coffee. “Can’t see as how I’d be related to anything such as yourself.”

He heard the disdain in my voice and sneered.

“I have been sent to inform you to leave Gods’ Hollow be. You are not to trespass in it again.”

“Not likely to happen,” I replied after a moment. “Cross is my town. I’ve no like of the Hollow or most creatures that come from it.”

“Be that as it may,” the man continued, “you are hereby ordered to leave Gods’ Hollow be. We are quite willing to be sterner with our next rebuke.”

“That so?”

He nodded.

I finished my coffee. “You’re going to leave now. You’re not going to come back. I’ll go in the Hollow when I want and leave just the same.”

The man stood and looked down with disgust.

“We will have you destroyed.”

Without another word, he turned and left my home, taking the joy of the day with him.

Sighing, I returned to the kitchen and started another pot of coffee.

I’d need it. Once the chores were done, I’d need to clean the Colts.

#fear #horrorstories #supernatural

Lost in Cross: 1870

Advertisements

Cross is a place of horrors.

I have not yet become inured or deadened to the horrors that slip out of the shadows in Gods’ Hollow, or the fetid creatures lurking on Honor’s Path. Nor, for that matter, have I accepted the fact that my mother – whom I killed at our kitchen table when I was still a boy – lurks as a ghost in my home and as a living and breathing flesh within the confines of the Hollow.

Ennis Hack vanished in the winter of 1867 when he had come into town to write a bit of fiction about New England. He had taken a room with the Hutchinson family off Washington Street, and then, one fine, brisk morning, he had lit his pipe and set off for a stroll.

He never returned.

A soft snowfall hid his tracks, and it was assumed that the town had had its way with him.

The Hutchinson family, being good people, packed up his belongings and set them aside in their attic. They did not know if the man had family of his own and if the man’s kin, at some point, might show up to claim it.

It was not his family who showed up to claim it, but Ennis himself.

I met with him at the house for the family sent for me. He was a careworn man, ragged and wary. His story was plain and brutal.

He had heard a child crying from the Hollow, and not knowing the history of the place, he had gone in to help it.

Ennis never found the child, and he almost didn’t find his way out of the Hollow. He had been walking for the better part of three years, and he refused to speak of what he saw, with whom he spoke, or what he had been forced to do.

When he gathered up his things and finished a cup of hot coffee, he looked at me and shook his head. I raised an eyebrow, and he flashed a smile of broken, black teeth at me.

“Your mother doesn’t like you, Duncan Blood,” he told me.

“That’s fine,” I answered. “I don’t much care for her either.”

He chuckled, nodded, and got to his feet. “She said you killed her once.”

I nodded. “I aim to do so again.”

“Good,” Ennis replied. “She deserves it.”

With his bag in one hand, the man left the house without looking back, and I was amazed my mother had let him live.

Wonders will never cease.

#horror #fear

Lost in Cross: 1869

Advertisements

I don’t have much when it comes to forgiveness.

Allen Cuthbert learned this, and I only wish I had been able to show him how truly angry I was.

The situation robbed me of that opportunity.

Somehow, Allen Cuthbert got it into his fool head to become a guide for those wishing to explore the mysteries of Honor’s Path. On several occasions, I wanted to brain him and leave him for dead on the tracks.

Danielle, his daughter, was the only person who held me back from this.

She was a delightful child, a sweet young creature who had a magnificent singing voice, and while she rarely smiled after her mother’s death, she still sang. Granted, the songs were a tad mournful, but they were beautiful, nonetheless.

After the publication of Vivian Husker’s book, several people managed to find their way to Cross, and they had even gotten as far as Honor’s Path, where they were promptly slain by whatever hellish creatures thrive beneath the path’s poison soil.

Allen Cuthbert saw there was money to be made by an intrepid fellow, and so he took Danielle with him on his forays into the Black and Coffin farms, always seeking some new route to Honor’s Path.

He found it.

This morning, as I saw with Phineas Black and enjoyed a cup of coffee laced with whiskey, Allen came stumbling and shrieking from the woods. He collapsed before we could reach him, and Phineas wanted to send for a doctor.

I told him, no, and I slapped Allen Cuthbert awake.

The man screamed when he saw me, and then he babbled that his daughter had been taken, that she was gone into a tree. My blood ran cold when I heard that, I knew what it meant. I demanded to see where, and the man refused.

Refused to take me to where his child had gone missing.

I broke his legs, shattered his teeth, and then dragged him by his hair back to the path. Phineas Black caught up with me and handed me a mallet and spikes.

Allen screamed and wept the entire time, and when we arrived at the tree, I searched for any sign of the girl.

There was none.

I nailed him to the tree and blindfolded him.

I didn’t want him to see them coming.

I didn’t want him to know when he was going to die.

#horror #fear