Lost in Cross: 1870


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


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

Lost in Cross: 1904


They were better armed than most, but they died all the same.

I never learned who they were or where they came from. I’m not even sure they were from our now and when. They might well have come out of the Hollow for a bit of hunting. Stranger things have happened.

As it is, they decided to take a stroll along Honor’s Path. They had their dogs and their guns, and the birds they had taken off my land as well. That alone would have sealed their fate had I gotten a hold of them.

Instead, they wandered from my land to the Coffins’, and from there, well, onto the path.

It was the yowling of the dogs that first caught my attention and the thunder of the shotguns that sent me toward the path.

What the women had were fowling-pieces, and they didn’t do a damned bit of damage to the creatures that called Honor’s Path home.

It was the first time I caught a good, hard look at one of the things, and it left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

The damned creature couldn’t have been taller than a foot or two, and its arms were long and spindly. I’m assuming the legs were as well, but from the waist down, they were clad in long skirts made from human faces. The creatures’ eyes were lidless, their mouths barren of lips, and they screamed and shrieked as they attacked.

They ignored the birds and went after the women and the dogs.

Neither of the dogs died, not with my Colts thundering and blasting the screaming creatures back. The hounds took off for the Hollow, and I wished them all speed as they passed by.

The women, well, I watched them get dragged down into the soil. In a moment, silence filled the void left by the violence, and I remained alone with the birds and the fowling-pieces.

I needed neither the weapons nor the birds, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to stroll along the path to gather them up.

From beneath my feet, there came the rumbling of a drum, and it sounded for all the world like war drums.

Let it be so. I’m of a mind to do some killing.

#horror #fear

Duncan Blood, Journal for 1911: A Ghost


Some fights, you cannot win.

More often than not, this is the case regarding ghosts. It was certainly a plain fact with Mary Elizabeth Daniels.

Mary was 101 years old when she died on January 1, 1911, and it took me until August of that same year to remove her from her family home on Main Street Cross. According to her grandson, Kell, Mary appeared as a ghost three days after her burial. At first, the family attempted to appease her. They spoke with her, brought her favorite books to her, and proceeded with life as though she too was still alive.

Mary was having none of it. During the first week, she remained in her chair, neither speaking nor responding to her family’s gestures. On the eighth day, however, Mary chased them all from the room, locking them out. Each day became a struggle to keep the parlor available to the rest of the family. Finally, Mary began to battle her relatives. It was only then that I was asked to intervene.

Mary and I had been friends for almost thirty years, and when she was still alive, she had valued my opinion. When I saw her in the chair, I knew that it was no longer the case.

Rather than try and convince her I was right and that she should stay, or try and force her out, I made an attempt to convince her to remain. I told her about how all her relatives and well-wishers would flock to the house, and how they would constantly seek to speak with her.

Mary had hated company when she was alive, and it was exacerbated in death.

She vanished after two months of constant reassurances of how popular she was.

I understood her dismay perfectly. Relatives and company both are overrated.

Lost in Cross: 1900


Wolfe and Georg Larson vanished on a Sunday in September in 1900.

They had gone into the deep forest between the Coffin’s Farm and my own, ostensibly in search of deer. When I spoke to their cousins later, I learned it was to see if the stories about Honor’s Path were true.

When the boys didn’t return by nightfall, their father and uncles went looking for them.

Though both Wolfe and Georg were no strangers to the woods, no one in Cross likes the idea of their children in the forest after the sun has set. There are too many creatures about that lack a sort of natural affinity for our own world.  

As the men drew closer to Honor’s Path, they were told to stop by a pair of boys claiming to be Georg and Wolfe. Who knows, perhaps they really were. Perhaps the Larson brothers had decided they’d had enough of living with beneath the heavy hand of their father.

Regardless as to whether the boys were themselves, or something entirely different, a short, sharp gunfight ensued.

All the Larson men died in an exchange of gunfire with the boys.

I found the bodies Monday morning. Surprisingly, they were unmolested, if you ignored the bullet wounds. Which I did.

I’ve seen what the creatures on Honor’s Path can do to a body.  

It’s been over a hundred years since that Monday morning, and at the end of every August, I make it a point to warn people away from that section of Coffin’s Farm.

And each September, a hunter from Boston or Worcester, New York City or Greenwich, makes the mistake of ignoring the posted signs. And each time the Larson boys kill them. 

I leave the bodies where they lay now. I’ve grown damned tired of burying them.

#horror #fear

Lost in Cross: 1884


They came from Boston, and I couldn’t help them.

The last of the Blacks had died of a fever, and the farm was empty. The livestock had been sold off, and the fields were barren. There was no one to stop the curious from seeking out Honor’s Path or to stop them from seeing what was at the other end.

No one ever found out, of course, but they sure as hell tried.

The ladies of the Church of the Infinite Redeemer arrived on a Saturday morning, their children in the long carriage with them. They never came through town, or else I would have seen them. I had gone in for a meeting at the Historical Society.

It was only around eleven, when I came out, that one of the ravens informed me that there were intruders at Black Farm and that they had entered the path.

When I learned that it had occurred an hour or so earlier, I knew all I could do was search for the bodies.

I arrived at the farm a short time later, and I found the driver of the carriage huddled beneath it, his horse dead in its traces. The man had torn off his own ears and dug out his eyes. Somehow, he had managed to rip his tongue out by the root, and it lay drying in the heat of the early afternoon sun.

I put a bullet through his head and entered the forest. I didn’t get too far along the path, and unfortunately, that was not a good thing.

The creatures which live beneath the damned path had decorated once again.

Small hearts hung by locks of bloody hair, and a ring had been formed by hands laid out, one upon the other, and well over a dozen eyes were piled in the center of it.

I stood there for a short time, trying, desperately, to think of some way I could destroy the path without incinerating the lands around it, and understood that I could not.

I would need to find another way to exact my vengeance on the beasts below Honor’s Path.

Returning toward the relative safety of the farmyard, I paused beside several cloth dolls. They were bloodied and torn, and I picked each of them up.

It took me hours to clean them and to sew them, the needle pricking my thumbs as I struggled to see through my tears.

#horror #fear

Lost in Cross: 1883


The house arrived in the morning.

No matter how many odd things happen in the Hollow, there is always something that surprises me.

And the house did just that.

I’d stopped to relight my pipe when there was a distinctive ‘pop.’ A rush of cold air followed, and when I looked into the Hollow, I saw the house. It was roughly built with a rough man standing in the doorway. He was holding onto the barrel of a rifle, there was a dog resting on the ground, and a freshly slain deer hung up.

The man called out to me to by name, an act which caused me to put away my matches and rest my hand on the butt of the Colt.

I gave him a wave with my freehand and waited to see what might occur next.

“Blood,” he called out. “How’s your father?”

“Dead, far as I know,” I answered.

The old man swore and shook his head. “What’s the year?”

I told him, and he swore again.

“And who’s the King?”

“Of what?” I asked.

“Our country, of course,” he snapped.

I shook my head. “Friend, we’ve had no King for almost a hundred years.”

The torrent of curses and profanity, which exited the man’s mouth was, without a doubt, the most impressive I had heard. When he finally finished, he called the dog to him, and the animal stood up wearily. They both entered the house, the old man closed the door, and the sound of rushing water filled the air.

A heartbeat later, the house was gone.

Letting go of the Colt, I lit my pipe, shook my head, and sympathized with the stranger.

There are some days where you just don’t get any of the answers you want.

#horror #fear

Lost in Cross: 1882


Reginald Tierney picked a bad way to die.

He’d been sick for the better part of ten years before he finally went blind and could no longer get around without help.

People were happy to do it, mind you. Reginald was a decent man, and folks are always willing to help a decent man.

I wasn’t.

I wasn’t because I knew he wasn’t a decent man.

Far from it.

Reginald was a bastard, and if he hadn’t been suffering from his illness, I would have put him out of my misery years earlier. As it was, I didn’t mind him lingering about the edges of town, not so long as he was in agony, and he was.

Reginald had been one of those rotten men who helped hunt down the slaves escaping from the southern states before we put down the rebellion. I’d even heard him brag about going all the way to Canada to bring a slave back. Not for the money, mind you, but for the sheer pleasure he experienced when he inflicted pain on another human being.

So, no, I didn’t mind his suffering. Not a bit.

He asked a stranger for a ride this morning, and the stranger helped him up into the wagon he was driving. They rode out of town along North Road, and it was there that both men took a short respite from the broken springs in the seat. They stretched, and when it was time to go, the stranger helped Reginald through a hole in the fence. The blind man had stumbled forward, suddenly bereft of the stranger’s guiding arm.

The monsters in the Hollow made short work of him, ripping his limbs from their sockets and feasting on his flesh even as Reginald begged them to stop.

They didn’t, of course. And why should they?

It’s not often I bring them meat that’s still alive.

#horror #fear

Lost in Cross: 1881


They dealt themselves a dead man’s hand.

Vivian Husker’s book was recently reviewed in a Boston paper, and a new crop of fools has arrived in Cross.

I heard the news a short time after breakfast and, I confess, I stood in my orchard, pipe in hand as a sense of bewilderment swept over me. It lasted only for a moment, but it goes to show how stupid these four ladies truly were.

I don’t know who they were, and I doubt they would have appreciated the upbraiding they would have received from me, but I’m sure it would have been preferable to what they experienced.

Despite their idiocy, I raced for the Hollow, for that was where the ravens said the women were. The birds, as always, spoke the truth.

Their carriage was parked alongside the stonewall that separates Gods’ Hollow from the road. Two stallions stood uneasy in their traces, nostrils flaring and eyes rolling. The horses were about ready to bolt, and it took me a moment to calm them down. As I looked over the necks of the steeds, I saw the four women sitting amongst some deadfall as though they were in a manicured garden.

They had cards spread out and a basket of food close by, and their voices were raised in gaiety.

That changed a moment later.

Branches exploded from the ground, piercing the flesh of the women yet not killing them. Their lungs were left unharmed, and their shrieks rent the air. More branches lashed out from the deadfall around them and hooked into the joints of the women, all of whom cried out for help.

Then, the wind picked up, rattling the dead branches and bringing a solitary name to my ears.


My mother’s laugh followed my name, and she tore the women to shreds.

She had waited until I was there, helpless to do anything other than watch.

As the bloody mist that had once been the women settled down onto the land, I cut the horses from their traces and set them loose.

I still had my orchard to tend to, after all.

#horror #fear

Lost in Cross: 1880


He smoked his last pipe a little before sundown.

I’d known Peter Murphy for the better part of ten years. He was a solid man, not given to foolishness nor any excesses. Peter enjoyed a pint after a day’s work and a pipe of good tobacco whenever he could get it.

Why in the hell he decided to take a stroll along Honor’s Path, I’ll never know.

I was in my kitchen, swearing at a loaf of bread that was refusing to rise, when young Daniel Black came rushing up to the backdoor, telling me that Peter had gone for a walk.

I didn’t have to ask where. There was only one place that would set a Black off like that.

I had only a moment to grab my Colts, and I told Daniel to run on ahead and ask his father to get the shotguns ready. The boy replied that they were, and he and I broke into a quick trot.

There was little else I could do.

Peter would either be savable, or he would not.

When I reached the Black Farm, I took both shotguns from August Black, Daniel’s father, and told him to keep everyone near the house. It had been years since anyone was foolish enough to try and travel the path, and who knew how hungry the damned things were that lived beneath it.

I had only gone a dozen or so feet in when I realized that Peter hadn’t gotten much farther.

From where I stood, I saw what remained of him, and to this day, I’ve no idea as to how he died or what happened.

His clothes were frayed and worn, his boots missing. Peter’s yellowed bones could be seen through holes in the fabric, and his skull was twisted around so that the empty sockets stared up at the trees and the sky. His pipe was a foot or so from the bones of his left hand, and I paused only long enough to pluck it from the ground.

I left him where he lay. What good would it have been to haul his bones out to bury them?

I think of him, occasionally, when I sit on my porch, take a drag from his pipe, and wonder what the hell he was thinking.

#horror #fear

The Von Epp Bookstore


Here’s another look back into Cross’ past, originally posted almost two years ago. I hope you enjoy it!

For decades the Von Epp Bookstore was a staple of the Cross business community. The owners, always members of the family, were active in the town and its various programs. While the proprietors spoke German with one another, they always spoke in English when in front of customers or non-family member employees.

Beginning in the middle 1800s, a curious, annual event began to unfold.

Children disappeared within the store.

On the 10th of every month, if there was a child in the shop, that child vanished. They were never found again. No trace, not any sort of clue.

They were gone, and although the police and residents tore through the building, no child was ever recovered.

Soon, residents of Cross kept their children away from the store on the 10th of each month, and the store would close as well.

In 1891, a new relative took over the business, and since there had been no disappearances for 25 years, he felt it safe enough to open the store again.

On December 10th, 1891, the store remained open. Several families visiting from out of town paid the store a visit to inspect postcards and small prints.

At 11:31 in the morning, Joseph Danforth – age 12 – of Cambridge, Massachusetts, wandered over to the history section of the store and vanished.

Amelia Harding, the shop-girl in the photo, was watching the boy when he vanished, and when she was calm enough to speak, she told the police what she saw:

A  hole had opened in the bookstore, and a devil had snatched the boy out of this world and into darkness.

The Little Place of Waiting


This is a flashback to a little more than a year and a half ago. While it is not written by Duncan, it is nonetheless part of his story.

Less than one hundred feet down Duncan Blood’s driveway, on the left-hand side, the building stands. It is small and unobtrusive, easy to miss if you’re in a hurry to meet up with Duncan for a bit of his homemade peach brandy, or even stronger apple schnapps.

But the building is there, and there are a few in Cross who know of it.

The little place of waiting has existed since the early 1800s, although there is no exact documentation as to when the building was constructed. Duncan knows, of course, but like with so many other subjects, he refuses to speak of it.

Those who need to wait, wait. Those who do not, well, they do not.

Waiting, as the song says, is the hardest part, and those who sit in the little place of waiting know this better than anyone else.

They wait for the missing to return.

And sometimes, in Cross, they do.

The first such person to reappear in Cross after vanishing was Raelynn Crowell, who – at age 8 – disappeared from her front yard in 1846.

Three years later, without having aged a day and wearing the same clothes in which she had gone missing, Raelynn knocked on Duncan’s door on February 10th, 1849. Her only memory was of opening her front door and stepping out onto Duncan’s property.

Five years after, a second lost individual reappeared, and two years after that, a third. There is no rhyme or reason as to who returns, or how long they have been gone.

The only constants are the date, February 10, and those waiting for the return of their missing.