Strangers in Cross: Jan. 15, ‘38


The creatures despised water.

It was a fortuitous discovery.

I was on the edge of Blood Lake, following a trail left by a pair of the creatures. I found the occasional bodies of animals, each stripped of its fur and holes in their bellies, and I knew the creatures were feeding as they sought to find more sustenance and a place to hide.

I hoped to deprive them of both.

While they followed the shore of the lake, they did not appear to make any great efforts to avoid the water. Perhaps they didn’t know of its effects upon their flesh. I confess I was pleasantly surprised when I witnessed it.

I had a sawed-off shotgun with me, a keepsake from my time in the Great War. I had the bastard loaded with buckshot and a pouch full of shells on my hip.

When the creatures attempted an ambush, I was glad for the weapon. Not only for its ability to wreak havoc on a body close-by but for the fear it instilled in them.

The buckshot tore through them, sending a splattering of ichor and foul flesh out in a wide spray onto the snow. As the creatures attempted to recoup, I reloaded the shotgun and fired again.

Their shrieks echoed across the water, and they stumbled back and away, injured and seeking refuge.

I followed them, leaving a trail of spent cartridges in my wake.

One of them stepped into the water, and the sound that erupted from its fetid mouth was something I’d not heard before.

The creature stiffened, shaking violently for a moment before it collapsed into the water and vanished. Its compatriot tried to flee, but I drove it into Blood Lake with a pair of well-placed shots.

As it, too, disappeared beneath the water, an oily slick rose to the surface. Reloading, I waited to see if anything might crawl out. When nothing did, the ravens sang out from the trees, and I nodded my agreement.

It was good to see the monsters suffer.

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Strangers in Cross: Jan. 14, ‘38


The wind whipped along the snow and carried the scent of blood along with it.

At the far end of the university’s property, the ravens had gathered around the caretaker’s house.

When I first caught sight of Enoch Hearth, I believed all was in order. He was as I had seen him on many a cold morning – standing in front of his truck, the blanket around the radiator, and a cup of hot water poised above the radiator.

It took me a moment to see that all was not as it should be, and I hesitated.

That hesitation, and the sudden cries of the ravens, saved me no end of trouble.

The creatures came out of the woods, and they had taken on the forms of bears. They charged at me, and I could only admire the amount of effort that had gone through to find half a dozen bears in Cross that weren’t hidden deep in their dens.

That admiration flickered and died even as I drew the Colts.

A .44 round can do damage, even to a full-grown black bear charging along.

What it cannot do is stop that bear when the animal is something other than itself.

Still, I was game to try.

The fight lasted a hell of a lot longer than I wanted it to.

Our battle raged for the better part of fifteen minutes, which is no small amount of time when you’re trying to stay alive.

The bears soaked up the bullets, and I spent a fair amount of time reloading. One of the bastards, a big one, took eight rounds before it went down, and then another two to split open the skull before the creature’s form broke down.

When I finished, I was nursing a score or so of wounds, one nasty bite in my left shoulder, and a terrible headache. As I was putting the last of my ammunition into the Colts, Enoch Hearth turned around, eyelids clicking left and right, and up and down.

I put two rounds into his head when he stepped toward me.

His body struck the snow, bursting apart as it did so.

Grimnir landed on the corpse, preened, and looked at me.

“Cross,” the raven spoke.

My shoulders sagged, and I shook my head.

The damned creatures had left the university’s grounds.

I needed more ammunition.

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Strangers in Cross: Jan. 13, ‘38


Professor Lewis Plummer never learned to hold his tongue.

I was still sour over getting shot, and my attitude was none too pleasant as I entered the Department of Dead Languages. I paused in the lobby, listening, and soon I caught the sound of a voice. It was soft at first, but as I climbed the stairs, following the words, the tone became one of adulation and reverence.

On the third floor, at the end of the hall, the door to Professor Lewis Plummer was closed.

From behind it, the man’s voice was strong and proud.

He’d been at the school for five years, and I had, unfortunately, spoken with him on numerous occasions.

They had never been pleasant conversations. Too often, he had demanded to speak with me, to discover how much I knew about the languages of old. Each time I sent him scurrying back to the university, usually with a black eye as a reminder of my dislike for him.

When I opened his office door, there was a scurrying sound and the slamming of another door.

Plummer, whose back had been to me, turned around, his eyes glowing with a feverish light, his face red with exultation.

“They want to speak with you, Blood,” he laughed. “They want you to stop what you’re doing. It isn’t fair, you know, to keep this chattel to yourself. They know it. I know it. What’s more, the school knows it. We are sending word to the main branch of the school. They will send along reinforcements.”

“No,” I shook my head. “That, they won’t do.”

He blinked, uncertainty flickering across his features.

“They know my name, Plummer,” I told him, drawing my knife. “They know what I’ll do to them, should they interfere in Cross.”

Plummer took a step back, shaking his head. “They would not ignore an opportunity like this!”

I didn’t answer. Instead, I advanced further into the room, the man’s eyes widening and darting about frantically. He looked at a door to the left and called for help.

The door didn’t open.

And why should it?

To the beasts, he was nothing more than meat.

And he was nothing more than that to me.

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Strangers in Cross: Jan. 12, ‘38


They’ve changed their tactics.

The sun has set, and a new storm has settled over Cross. I have returned to the grounds of the Cross Branch of Miskatonic University, and things have gotten worse.

These creatures, for which I have no name to give, have elicited the assistance of the staff of the University and those students who have remained behind over the winter break. Some of these men have, either willingly or unwillingly, given up their lives for the creatures. The beasts have taken on the forms and likenesses and, I suspect, some of the mannerisms of their sacrificial victims.

That is neither here nor there.

What matters is that there is a combined force of creatures and men hiding on the grounds, seeking some way to stop me.

And one of the bastards can shoot.

Luckily, it isn’t anything heavier than a .22, otherwise, I’d be waiting for a whole damned limb to grow back rather than digging the round out of my shoulder.

The shot took me by surprise, a solid punch that caused me to pause and take shelter behind a tree as the echo of the blast was muffled by the snow. As I finished fishing the round out of my shoulder and dropping the bloody piece of metal into my pocket, I waited for the wound to heal before continuing on. Who knows if the scent of blood will entice them. Mayhaps it will, but I don’t want to take the chance of being ill-prepared.

Not when I know one of them’s armed.

I left the Colts in their holsters and drew my knife. This occasion now called for knifework.

For nearly fifteen minutes, I remained where I was, waiting. Soon, I heard the soft tread of a hunter, the careful step of a man not certain where his prey had gotten too, or how badly it was injured.

The barrel of a small rifle preceded him, and he stepped around the tree a moment later.

I slammed my knife up to its hilt in the center of his chest, cracking the breastbone as I covered his mouth with my free hand. His eyes widened with shocked astonishment, and a moment later, he sagged to the ground.

Pulling my knife free, I cleaned it on his coat and proceeded to tread with greater caution. 

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Strangers in Cross: Jan. 11, ‘38


They are trapped.

The ravens have formed a wide, rough circle around the perimeter of the university. They will make certain that no one leaves and that no one enters.

I returned this morning, the air crisp and beautiful, the Colts a comfortable weight on my hips. There are no guards of which to speak.

They have left this place, and that was a wise decision.

When I entered the grounds, Grimnir landed on my shoulder and peered at me.

“Where?” I asked.

The raven let out a pleased laugh, sprang up, and took wing. I followed as he led me to the Broach Building, and as I drew nearer, I caught sight of at least one of the creatures as it raced past a window in the causeway that stretched between the Broach Building and the university’s bindery.

The door into Broach was not barred, though it should have been.

At the far end of the long lobby, I was greeted by three young men, their faces pale and grim, unshaven and wild-eyed. Nearby, a pair of bodies lay entangled with one another. From what I could see, the corpses were those of students. I could see the marks of the creatures’ teeth upon them, and I knew the dead students had been fed to the abominations.

For a moment, I considered speaking with the three living young men. I thought perhaps I might convince them to let me pass, to hunt down the creatures.

But the students took that decision away from me when they attacked.

They had armed themselves with knives, and they thought those weapons would suffice.

They did not.

The Colts whispered as they cleared leather, and the click of the hammers caused my heart to soar.

I am made to kill and to do little else.

The .44 slugs slammed into the young men, catching them off balance and throwing them back. Blood splashed upon the polished stone floor, and the weapons clattered out of twitching hands.

My Colts spoke again as I passed the students by, blowing their brains out, one by one.

I did not pause.

I was hunting.

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Strangers in Cross: Jan. 10, ‘38


The thrum of machines filled the air.

I followed the sound up and out of the darkness I’d been traveling through and came into a room of Miskatonic students.

Or, rather, what used to be Miskatonic students.

The machines went silent as the young men turned and faced me. Their eyelids flickered from left to right, then up and down.

Then one of them turned out the lights.

If it was meant to frighten me or to give them some sort of an advantage, they made a poor decision.

I knew where they had been standing, and I don’t need to see to shoot.

The first two rounds found their targets, the screams telling me as much.

As I moved forward in the darkness, I listened and waited.

The creatures attacked.

The first one latched onto the side of my face, the needle-teeth sinking into the soft flesh of my cheek. The pain was horrific and intense, blinding light shooting across my dark field of vision.

But as the creature sank down, trying to pull me to the floor with its weight, I brought the barrel of a Colt up under it’s writhing neck and pulled the trigger.

In a heartbeat, the remaining two were on me, even as the head of their dead sibling fell from my face. One of them took hold of my left arm while the other grasped my legs.

Their hunger made them fools.

The one at my legs broke its teeth on the hard leather of my boots, and I slammed the Colt into the bell of the one on my arm, putting a round through its belly. The sound of the slug tearing through it made me smile.

As the new corpse fell away from me, the one at my feet let go and ran. I waited, and a moment later, it opened the door out. Light streamed in, silhouetting the creature in the frame.

I emptied the other Colt in its back.

I stood in the thundering silence, reloaded my pistols, and then left the basement.

The hunt wasn’t over yet.

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Strangers in Cross: Jan. 9, ‘38

M0005987 Interior of Pontes’ Pharmacy in Granada, Spain Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Interior of Pontes’ Pharmacy in Granada, Spain. Founded in 1492 Published: – Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Professor John Englebright overestimated his worth.

After I killed the creature and her spawn, I dragged him back into the house and tied him to a chair in his kitchen. Through the night, the ravens came and spoke to me, carrying news both good and bad.

The good news was simple enough. All the creatures had made their way to this house.

The bad news was simple too.

All the creatures had made their way to this house.

It was a little past midnight when Professor Englebright ventured to speak again. His words were difficult to understand, what with the broken nose and several loose teeth, but speak he did.

I listened, sifting the truth from the idiocy spewing from his bruised and cut lips.

The house, I learned, had a deep cellar, one that was connected by tunnels to the rest of the campus, a bit of news I’d not known.

The creatures had found the staff of Miskatonic to be accommodating, and there was no surprise there.

The professors of the university put ambition and the quest for power above all else.

It’s one of the reasons why I have no qualms about hurting them.

When I inquired as to where exactly the creatures might be lurking, the professor refused to answer at first. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that he would not risk their existence. There was too much to learn from them.

I asked him if he was a Christian man, and he affirmed that indeed he was.

With several of the ravens watching with interest, I cut him out of the chair, stripped him down and threw him on to the dining table. By the time I was finished, he was screaming out where the creatures were hidden, and he was crucified to the table.

As he bled out in the chill of the kitchen, I took a small kerosene lantern and made my way to the lower level. When I reached a room tucked in the far corner, I heard Professor Englebright let out a weak shriek.

Drawing a Colt, I walked through the open doorway in front of me while the ravens devoured his eyes.

As I made my way into a narrow passage, Professor Englebright cursed my name, and that was fine.

I don’t mind being cursed at all.

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Strangers in Cross: Jan. 8, ‘38


It was only a matter of time before they found their way to the University.

Eight days, to be precise.

I had stepped out of my house at sunrise for a breath of fresh air and to gather my thoughts. As I stood and smoked my pipe, Grimnir landed on the porch railing and peered up at me with his one eye. He chortled deep in his throat and spoke a single name.


The Cross branch of Miskatonic University had been open for only a short time, and that was long enough for me. If I had my way, I’d burn the damned place to the ground and salt the earth when I was done.

If the Romans could do it to Carthage, well, I suspect I could succeed with something as small as Miskatonic.

Still, the town would frown upon such an act, so as much as I despised the school, I let the buildings stand.

With the name ringing in my ears, I made my way out to the University, and when I arrived at the gates, the watchmen wisely looked the other way. By the time I stood near the main building, I caught sight of a raven, who winged off to the right when he saw me. I followed him, and when he came to a stop near a professor’s bungalows, my ire rose.

I don’t know who the two men were who came around the side of the building, but when they saw me, they froze.

A heartbeat later, one of them tried to run, and I gunned him down.

His compatriot remained still, more out of fear, and waited for my arrival. As the other man’s body cooled in the snow, I asked where the creatures were.

“She’s inside,” the man whispered, and then he smiled. “She’s perfect.”

I broke his nose for his stupidity and left him wailing beside the body.

When I went inside, whatever ‘she’ was tried to attack.

She was slower, fatter than her siblings, and the .44 slugs tore through her with the sound of a fist through a wet paper bag. Her shriek was barely audible as it sent needles of pain through my skull, and a dozen squirming monsters tumbled from her ruptured guts.

As she fell back and died on her feet, her spawn died beneath the heels of my boots.

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Strangers in Cross: Jan. 7, ‘38


Ron Burnham was lucky today.

Ron had learned his trade at the hands of his grandfather, who had raised him after Ron’s parents died of tuberculosis.

His grandfather had been a watchmaker and a jeweler, and a damned fine poker player, too. On more than one occasion Harvey Burnham had taken home the pot.

Ron was out in front of his shop, shoveling out after a nightlong storm, when one of my ravens called out that one of the creatures had slipped into the business when no one was looking.

When I neared him, Ron looked up, nodded, and leaned on his shovel, thankful for the break that conversation might supply.

“Need something, Duncan?” he asked. “Or have you come to chew the fat a bit?”

“I’ve word you’ve a visitor in your shop,” I told him, and the man raised an eyebrow.

“No one’s been in to see me yet,” he remarked, straightening up. “Someone from Miskatonic?”

We both glanced at the university, the top of which could be glimpsed over some of the rooftops, and I shook my head.

“Surprisingly, no,” I told him. I took my pipe out, packed some tobacco into the bowl and lit it. “You may want to leave your shovel here and take a walk up to the diner. Have a cup of coffee. Maybe two.”

“That bad?” he asked.


“Huh. Well, then, you’ll gather me up when you’re finished?”

I nodded.

Ron put the shovel into a bank, adjusted his hat, and strolled past me.

I entered the shop, and Becca Roi came out of the backroom. She was ill-dressed for the weather, but I knew it didn’t faze her. She smiled, her eyes clicked in the strange fashion of the creatures, and she walked toward me.

I nodded, smoked, and when she was close enough, I slipped the Bowie knife into her chest.

She opened her mouth, needle-shaped teeth slick with a foul spittle, and she tried to latch onto me.

I cut her in half, and as she quivered on the floor, reverting to her true form, I smoked my pipe and cleaned my blade.

The day had started fine.

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Strangers in Cross: Jan. 6, ‘38


The house stood silent in the cold.

The ravens had come to me, called out that Grimnir had tracked the second creature to a house best left forgotten, and that I had best go quick.

I did, well-armed and girded for war.

It was a good thing that I did so.

The house was where Bjorn Jurgensonn had murdered his family a decade earlier. A bank from Boston owned the deed, and on occasion they rented it out to men of questionable morals.

Evidently, they had done so again.

When I approached the house, I saw the ice hanging from the edges and the lack of smoke from the chimneys. It was too cold to be without heat, and I wondered if the creatures needed heat the way humans did.

They did not.

I stepped up onto the porch, went to the front door on the left, and let myself in.

They were waiting.

I don’t know how many men had been living in the house before the creature had arrived or how quickly it had dispatched them, but there were eight of the creatures that came at me.

The Colts thundered in the house, and then they were silent, the rounds all fired, the weapons now clubs in my hands. I did not need to go after the creatures, for their hunger drove them to me.

Within a matter of moments, my left arm was broken, my jaw dislocated, and a length of wood driven through my right thigh. All save one of the creatures was dead. It salivated as it looked at me, black ichor dripping from its needle-toothed mouth. The creature was unharmed, hungry, and wary.

It tried to feint to the right, but when I didn’t move, it reconsidered its options. The creature seemed to be waiting for me to pass out.

I pulled the wood from my thigh and reset my jaw.

The creature attacked, and I beat it to death.

After I set the house on fire and stepped outside, Grimnir landed on my shoulder and whispered, “More.”

“I know,” I answered. Wiping the gore from my Colts, I reloaded them in the heat of the burning house and then made my way home.

I needed coffee.

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