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December 6, 1880

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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