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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

September 12, 1880

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Sometimes, being brave only gets you dead.

I was squatting at a brook when they stumbled upon me.

The soldiers were quick, and they had their sabers out. A moment later, I found out just how fast they were.

The sabers didn’t whistle so much as they screamed. A hard wind crashed over me as I rolled out of the way, snatching up the coach gun as I did so. I managed to get a single, haphazard shot off before one of the men cut the gun in half and sent each section pinwheeling away from me.

It was all I could do to keep away from the blades and get my feet beneath me.

The soldiers spread out, forming a rough triangle with me in the center. None of them spoke, and two that were greatcoats shed them, kicking them out of the fighting space.

No, these men knew their business.

I didn’t bother going for the Colts. I was quick but not quick enough to draw both revolvers and get off a couple of killing shots to give me room to move.

But I was able to draw my Bowie knife.

One of the men cracked a smile, and in unison, they attacked.

I was right about the sabers.

They hurt like hell.

I suspect they would have hurt a hell of a lot more if the men hadn’t decided to toy with me. One of them slipped in and put his saber through my left shoulder. The metal burned as it went through, the stench of singed flesh assailing my nose as the steel ground against my bones.

Clenching my teeth, I grabbed hold of the man’s tunic and dragged him close. His eyes widened for a split second, and then he tried to pull away.

It was too late.

I drove my knife up at an angle into the pit of his arm, twisting as I did so. He struggled to stay upright, but he fell to one side, tripping up one of his colleagues and pulling the sword out of my arm at the same time.

I attacked the man still standing, smashing aside his hasty attack and slamming the knife into his groin. Spinning on my heel, I saw the last man was dead.

He’d fallen on his sword.

With the brook whispering beside us, I watched as the wounded men bled out.

The sound reminded me of my youth and how we celebrated our victories.

With a smile, I went to the dead and took their scalps.

#horrorstories #paranormal

September 11, 1880

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They mean to stay.

Tucked in a slight dip in the land and half-hidden by pine trees, the building proved difficult to see. Had I not stepped further into the woods to look for a place to hole up for the night, I might have missed it entirely.

I’m glad I didn’t.

The building squatted amongst the pines, its doors and windows small and set deep within thick walls. There was no smoke from its chimney, nor was there any sign of life.

I knew better than that, though.

With a Colt in hand, I made my way around the building, listening as I went. Soon, I heard short, sharp orders barked out in Russian. The rough smell of gunpowder hung about the air, and it brought me to a stop by a back door. I stood there, considered how best to gain access to the structure, and then decided to bang on the door.

The voices continued as the sound of footsteps joined them. A lock rattled, and the door opened.

A frowning face greeted me, and I punched him in the mouth, sending him into a wall. He slipped, fell, and struck his head hard enough to leave him moaning on the rough wood.

Beyond him stood a group of men, and it was clear as day what they were doing.

They were making ammunition.

Canisters of it stood on shelves while two men in white directed a trio of assistants. All movement stopped when they realized I was not their associate.

One of the men in white, far older than anyone else there, nodded toward my Colt.

“You know what this place is?”

“Aye.”

“You’ll die if you fire your weapon in here,” he continued.

“Chance of it.”

“What is it you want?” the elder asked.

“For you to leave Cross alone.”

The younger man laughed, and the assistants grinned. Even the older man smirked.

“What do you think this is for?” he asked. “This is enough to destroy the town.”

I shook my head.

“You disagree? What is it then, hm?”

“An excuse,” I told him.

“An excuse for what?” he asked, and I shot the man on the floor.

There were shouts of dismay as the men backed toward one another, and I stepped out and into the fresh air once more. They huddled against the wall, and I killed them where they stood.

They had nowhere to run, and I didn’t miss.

#horrorstories #paranormal

September 10, 1880

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They were angry, and I didn’t care.

I’d spent the night hunkered down in an abandoned fox den. I had a quick bite to eat and set off towards the east with every intention of killing everyone I saw. Perhaps with enough carnage, the residents would understand they needed to ignore the promises of my mother and her ilk.

Or maybe they just enjoyed being obstinate.

Either would work for me. So long as I had enough ammunition.

I had the Berdan, and my Colts, so I was feeling damned comfortable when I stepped out into a small glen and discovered a building that seemed out of character.

Then again, it’s the Hollow, and there really isn’t much that’d be strange.

I was about to pass around the building when a group exited the structure.

The wind shifted, and I could smell them.

Demigods have a peculiar stink.

I shrugged off the Berdan, laid it on the ground beside me, and rested my hands on the butts of the Colts. As I took in the sight of the demigods, I loosened the revolvers in their holsters and cocked the hammers back with my thumbs.

“Blood,” the one in the center spoke, his face an empty void.

“Aye.”

“You are wanted,” he continued.

I spat on the ground and waited.

“Your mother wishes a word with you.”

I raised an eyebrow and tightened my grip on the Colts. “That a fact?”

As one, the demigods nodded.

“Well, she’ll be disappointed. This your place?”

“It is,” the speaker replied.

“Best to leave Cross alone,” I told him. “I’m in no mood for any nonsense.”

The demigods laughed, a harsh and brittle sound reminiscent of breaking glass.

“Who are you to dictate to us?” he asked me.

“I’m Duncan Blood,” I answered, and I drew my Colts.

The guns roared in the early morning air, and the rounds tore into the demigods. To their surprise, the demigods felt them.

Pained shrieks filled the air as they tried to stagger away, but the Colts never stopped. When my guns ran dry, I reloaded, stepped closer, and finished each demigod off.

I saved the speaker for last.

Waves of fear rolled off of him as I aimed both barrels at his head.

“How?” he gasped.

“Iron and hate,” I told him and pulled the triggers.

#horrorstories #paranormal

Evening, September 9, 1880

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It was a hell of a fight.

They’re relentless, and I can appreciate that.

They just shouldn’t have been relentless with me. It cost them.

The townsfolk planned to flush me out, but that didn’t work.

I was in a good position with plenty of ammunition and patience to spare. I reloaded the Berdan and kept an eye on the people making their way towards me. One woman, standing a little off to the left, called out orders and one of the men near her translated into Russian.

They were both prime targets.

As she directed her people to spread out, I put a bullet through her left eye and appreciated the expression of shocked horror that appeared on the translator’s face. It mingled well with her blood.

Those unaffected by the shot scrambled for cover.

The translator wiped his face, blinked, and seemed to realize the position he had left himself in. By the time he started moving, I’d already reloaded.

The bullet took him in the small of the back, clipping his spine and dropping him like a sack of barley.

His screams punctured the evening air.

People yelled to one another in the strange language, and someone in Russian hollered back they couldn’t understand a damned thing being said.

A young man popped his head up to see if he could spot me, and I took the top of his head off for his trouble. His corpse encouraged the others to remain behind cover.

Keeping an eye on them, I backed out of my position and spotted a large swath of forest nearby. Without turning my back on the town, I retreated to the forest and settled down into a new position.

From my new position, I watched as a unit of troops moved in from the far end of town, an orthodox priest at the head of the column. Several of the townspeople stood up, and when I didn’t blow their brains out, they searched the buildings. One of them found the dead woman, and a collective wail of dismay rose up.

She was carried out and placed with the others I had slain.

They brought the bodies to the priest, and he spoke over them, his words lost to the wind.

That was fine, though.

There’d be plenty more opportunities for me to hear him speak.

Of that, I was certain.

#horrorstories #paranormal

Afternoon, September 9, 1880

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I’ll be damned.

There are a hell of a lot more of them here than I thought.

After I dragged the woman’s body behind the counter, I stood at the window and looked out at the town in front of me. All the construction was new, and from my vantage point, I watched as they hauled a church bell up and prepared to mount it in a tower.

I counted at least a score of residents, none of them armed with rifles or pistols.

Not that it meant much.

The woman had only a knife, and she’d been deadly with it.

I glanced at the door that led back to my Cross and considered how best to solve this problem.

The size of the town put to rest any thoughts of a mass execution. A dozen or so I could handle. Mayhaps even the twenty I saw.

But there were more.

The buildings told me that, as did the shop in which I stood.

No, I needed to convince them to stay away.

Stepping away from the window, I rummaged through the shop until I found what I had hoped to.

In a room, tucked into a corner, stood a well-oiled and cared-for Berdan rifle. A little more digging in a nearby chest, and I found the curious bottlenecked cartridges designed for the weapon. They were smaller than my Colts, .42 caliber if I remembered correctly, but they’d still knock a man down from 300 yards.

The church was a hell of a lot closer than that.

I packed all the ammunition I could and slipped out a back door. I kept close to the building, pausing at the corner to load and cock the rifle. The shop was raised on pillars, and in a moment, I was beneath it. From my position, I could see all those working and watching the installation of the bell.

There was an old tactic the Abenaki had used to good effect, and that was fear. The Abenaki would flush other towns out toward Cross by killing a man or a boy working in the fields and leaving his corpse to be found.

Fear motivates.

I sighted in on one of the men on the scaffolding and pulled the trigger.

The rifle was true, and my target tumbled off the scaffolding, taking one of his comrades with him.

It was a grand sight.

But the people didn’t scatter.

They came looking for me.  

#horrorstories #paranormal

September 9, 1880

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We were both surprised.

When the doors came down, I stepped through the smoke and embers and into a long hallway. As I walked forward, the smoke dissipated, swept back by an unseen force. The walls around me were carved out of the same material the doors had been set into, and lanterns burned brightly in their sockets. At the far end of the hall was another door, this one in far better shape than those I had destroyed.

I double-checked the coach gun’s load, took hold of the brass doorknob and gave it a gentle turn.

The door swung in.

Soft light and the smell of furs greeted me.

As did the sight of a woman who was not expecting me to walk through the door.

In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting a woman to be there either.

She was in a small shop stocked with linens, furs, and a variety of sundries. On the counter in front of her was a ledger, a pencil in one hand, while she held the edge of the ledger in the other.

I opened my mouth to speak, and the hand with the pencil dipped beneath the countertop.

Her expression never changed as her hand came back up, a long skinning knife in it. With a flick of her wrist, she sent it tumbling end over end at me, and I batted it out of the air with the coach gun, tossing the weapon aside as I leapt toward her.

She scrambled over the counter, fury in her eyes as she drew a smaller knife from her belt.

She was quick, and she was skilled, but it wasn’t enough.

I caught her knife hand, locked onto her wrist and twisted it hard and sharp, driving her own blade up under her sternum.

She spat at me, cursed in a language I’d never heard, and tried to claw my eyes with her free hand.

I slammed my head into her nose, shattering it and driving her back against the counter as I twisted the blade.

She kicked and tried to free her wrist, but I bent her far enough so that her back cracked and the life drained out of her.

I let her body sink to the floor, and then I knelt there for a moment. She grinned with bloody teeth and whispered a curse.

She fought ‘til the end, and that’s more than I can say about most.

If all of them here are like her, it’s going to be one hell of a fight.

#horrorstories #paranormal

September 8, 1880

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Well, that’s a kicker.

The pixies led me on a merry chase this morning, and if it hadn’t been more trouble than it’s worth, I would have killed a few of them just on general principle.

But if you kill one, then they tend to get irate, which leads to too much trouble.

Still, if I hadn’t followed them, I wouldn’t have found the doors.

The doors look as though they’ve been there for at least a century. But neither the doors nor the bunker they’re set in were there two years earlier.

Which means someone’s helping the Russians, and the only person that might be is my mother.

I tried the doors when I first saw them about two hours ago.

They were locked.

I’d considered putting a few rounds from the Colts, and even a couple from the coach gun, into the doors but then decided against it. It’d be a waste of ammunition, and I had a feeling I was going to need more of it rather than less.

So, I’d gone to work instead.

In the past two hours, I’d scoured the woods around the doors, dragging deadfall back and stacking it up against the intruding portal and packing it with kindling.

I smoked my pipe, looked at the doors, and wondered how many were hiding behind it. Were they the remaining crew members from the ship I’d sunk in the marina? Did they manage to find wives in the Hollow and breed?

What would I find waiting for me beyond those doors?

The fisher cat pixie appeared off to one side, and she crept close, her eyes watching me warily.

I took the pipe out of my mouth and asked, “Was that you I was chasing?”

Her smile told me it was.

“I almost put a bullet in your belly.”

She gave me a disgruntled expression. “I don’t like iron.”

“It’s lead.”

She snorted and settled down on her haunches, just out of arm’s reach. She shifted her attention from me to the doors, then back again. “Are you going in?”

I nodded.

“Should we help?”

“Just keep the fire from spreading,” I replied, getting to my feet and picking up my coach gun.

She frowned. “Fire?”

Without another word, I walked forward, lit a match from my pipe set the flame to the kindling. The fire devoured kindling, nipped at the deadfall, and made its way to the doors.

#horrorstories #paranormal

September 7, 1880

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He thought he was alone in the glen.

There was no need for me to go back to the farm. The Russians were on the island, and over the next few days, I hoped to bring the situation to a close.

I bivouacked beneath some deadfall, made myself as comfortable as possible, and ate sparingly of the jerky I’d brought with me. I’d fought Russians once or twice in the past, and I had no doubt they’d poison their food if they thought it would kill me. It wouldn’t, of course, but it would be damned uncomfortable.

The night passed quietly enough, and when I broke my rough camp in the morning, I looked for sign of a trail and found one.

It was slim enough, but it was a trail nonetheless, and so I followed it.

Less than an hour later, I came upon a glen, and a single Russian soldier stood in it, his head titled up slightly toward the eastern sun. His eyes were closed, and the morning’s light glowed in his dark beard. By his feet, stretched out on a gray blanket, was his rifle.

I eased a Colt out of its holster, and the man’s eyes opened. His body tensed as he looked around, realizing suddenly the exposed position he had left himself in. He turned slowly, then fixed his gaze at a spot far off to my right.

“Who’s there?” he demanded, crouched down to pick up his rifle. I watched with satisfaction as he checked his weapon, made sure it was still loaded, and then brought it to his shoulder. “Tell me, or I’ll shoot!”

I brought the Colt up and sighted on the back of his head. As he cocked the rifle, I did the same with the revolver, the noise of my weapon hidden by his own and the fear rising within him.

“Sing out!” he cried. “Sing out and tell me where you are, damn your eyes!”

Neither I nor anyone else answered him.

Then I heard the pixie laugh, and I pulled the trigger.

The Colt and the rifle’s roar were simultaneous.

The rifle flew from his hand as he pitched forward, the Colt’s bullet passing cleanly through his spine. He struck the ground dead and still. Across from me, the pixie appeared, waved, and vanished again.

It was the nature of her kind.

I reloaded and went in search of more to kill, for we do as nature bids us.

#horrorstories #paranormal

September 6, 1880

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They think they’re staying.

A bitter chill settled over the house, and it took me a good part of the morning to get the damned place warmed up. A short time past noon, once I’d had my fill of coffee and a bit of coffee cake, I went out to the orchard to check on the trees. They were still in a fine state following the single shell lobbed at me from the Hollow, and I saw there were at least three trees I wouldn’t be able to save.

That meant three more saplings when planting time came round and three more bodies to bury beneath them.

Nothing feeds an apple tree like a fresh corpse.

I’d just finished arguing with an older tree, one my father had planted after King Philip’s War when one of the fey caught my attention.

She was a young creature, more fisher cat than pixie, but I understood her fine when she spoke.

“Blood, there’s men on your lake.”

“Again?” I asked, taking my pipe out and packing the bowl.

The pixie grinned at me, flashing sharp, feral teeth. “Aye. Again. Of the same ilk as those you slew yesterday.”

I raised an eyebrow and lit the tobacco.

She shifted from one hindfoot to the other. “They’re a buildin’ on your land, Duncan Blood. Your father’s land.”

I see the delight in her eyes and the hunger too.

“Which island are you from?” I asked.

She laughed. “The one you call Tod.”

“Would be a good spot if it wasn’t already occupied.” I looked at her. “Why are you telling me?”

“Too much iron,” she snorted. “Spoils the soil, it does.”

“I’ll be there bye and bye.”

She grinned again, then slipped into the shadows.

I returned home and packed heavy. The trip out to Tod was longer than most, and some days it slipped into the Hollow for an hour or two. Going onto the island was never done lightly. It couldn’t be.

I gave myself provisions for three days, took a 10-gauge coach gun as well.

It was nearly dusk by the time I reached Tod Island, but there was plenty of light to see what the men had built.

A small building stood atop the island’s first hill, and an Eastern cross rose from the center.

From what I could see, it was where the men wanted their bodies stacked when I was through.

I’m happy to oblige.

#horrorstories #paranormal

September 5, 1880

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They tried to hide in plain sight.

Their plan would have worked had they been anywhere other than Cross.

Then again, they really couldn’t be anywhere other than Cross.

Word reached me that a trio of men and a pair of dogs were camping out on Fox Island on Blood Lake.

No one stayed on Fox Island.

The ghost there didn’t appreciate visitors, as she so readily told me when she delivered the news. She was an old Abenaki woman who had died a year after I was born, and she didn’t want anyone on her land, let alone someone who wasn’t even from the damned town. She didn’t mind dogs too much. People, though, she could do without.

I couldn’t fault her on that.

I promised the ghost I’d take care of her unwelcomed visitors, and by midmorning, I was kitted out and ready to go. The island was heavily wooded, so rather than haul the Spenser around, I brought the Colts and my knife. I hoped the dogs would be sensible and mind their business.

When I reached the lake, I took a canoe and paddled for Fox Island, which was closer than most. Soon enough, I landed, listening for the telltale signs of intruders.

I didn’t have to listen long.

The men were arguing in Russian, complaining and bickering about the lack of food.

I drew both Colts as I made my way towards their camp, picking my way through the underbrush and the deadfall. I finally caught sight of them, armed with sporting guns and sitting with the dogs. The men had managed to discard their uniforms, but they were soldiers through and through.

As I brought up the Colts, the wind shifted, and both dogs raised their snouts.

It was the smallest of gestures, but it was one the soldiers didn’t miss.

The men scrambled, and the fight was on.

I managed to kill one of the men before he followed his companions into the woods, and the dogs howled as they scattered.

A shotgun roared, and a solid slug tore into the tree above me.

I took cover, holstered my Colts, and drew the Bowie knife.

In silence, I moved through the forest, listening to the men breathe.

I found them behind a large tree, eyes forward, searching for me, never realizing I was behind them.

They died without a sound.

#horrorstories #paranormal