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April 2, 1875

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He was nothing more than a husk.

I don’t know who the fellow was. Perhaps a man coming down from Pepperell or Boston. There’s a chance, too, that he was a vagrant drifting in from Gods’ Hollow. Regardless as to who he was or where he was from, the man was dead.

And he had died badly.

I found him this morning across from the Hollow, his body withered and twisted, bound in rough, raw silk that came from no creature this side of the Atlantic. There was a foul odor about him, one that tugged on a memory. Before I could bring that recollection forth, I heard a gentle, demure voice call out to me.

I turned to face the woods and saw a young Japanese woman half-hidden in shadow. She smiled shyly at me and asked in her native tongue if I might be able to help her. I didn’t respond, not wishing to let on that I understood her.

Cocking my head to one side, I frowned, feigning ignorance.

She took a small step forward and lowered her voice even more.

She told me she was hungry, that the man had done nothing to satiate the gnawing in her belly. Her smile broadened as she held out her hands to me, beckoning me toward her. There was something in her eyes, an almost mesmerizing glow to them, and the memory attached to the odor leapt forward.

Jorogumo.

As the name blazed through my thoughts, my hands dropped to my Colts, and by the time the weapons cleared leather, she was springing at me, shifting form in mid-air.

She was no longer a delicate young woman but a spider the size of a horse.

The Colts roared in the early morning air, rounds snapping into her eyes and blowing black ichor out the back of her carapace. Her squeals of agony caused my ears to bleed, and I swore as I sidestepped her stumbling form.

She skidded in the dirt of North Road, and I emptied the Colts into her.

The spider shuddered once, then collapsed, dead in the road.

I reloaded the Colts, dropping the hot, spent casings at my feet.

Holstering the weapons, I drew my Bowie knife and set about butchering the corpse.

By the time I was done, I was covered in her fetid stench and angrier than I had been.

April was going to be a hell of a month.

#horror #fear

April 1, 1875

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It was a hell of a way to start the month.

I’ve never appreciated pranks, and I’m certain that someone – somewhere – thought this was funny.

I disagree.

When word came into town that there was a strange ship adrift at the mouth of the Cross River, I voiced my opinion. Despite my youthful appearance, most of the men tended to heed my warnings.

Today they did not.

I watched them hitch up their buckboards and saddle their horses, and with a shake of my head, I went along with them. A few of the wilder young men raced off, but I kept my pace steady. There was no need to race. Unless I was wrong, she wouldn’t be going anywhere.

I wasn’t wrong.

When the rest of us arrived, those fools who had raced ahead were already in the surf, swimming out to the ship which had foundered only a hundred or so yards off the shore. Within minutes, the men were clambering aboard and setting out lines in order to pull her up close.

The lines of the ship were odd, and it took me a moment of recollection to realize I was looking at a Japanese sampan. How in the hell she had arrived at the mouth of the river, in the Atlantic no less, I did know, and that lack of knowledge caused a knot to form in my stomach.

I wanted to tell the fools to stop, but I could see by the gleam in the men’s eyes that they weren’t going to relinquish their prize.

All I could do was wait.

It wasn’t long before the lines from the ship had been brought back to the shore, and they were secured to the buckboards. The horses strained in their traces as they dragged the ship all the way to the beach, and there she was grounded.

The young men called out to one another, and one of them stumbled onto the deck carrying a large, lacquered chest.

There was no lock on it and no sense in the man carrying it. He set it on the deck and opened the damned chest.

A howling wind exploded forth, tearing the sails from their spars and throwing the men from the ship, killing two of them. In the wind, I could hear laughter and raised voices.

A second later, and it was silent.

Whatever had been the chest had been loosed upon Cross.

#horror #fear

Cross and Miskatonic University: Ten

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Hank Killingly had lived longer than he should have.

I found him on his property, the old professor humming to himself and seemingly oblivious to the world around him. This, I knew, was all an act.

Of the many things the old bastard was, oblivious was not one of them.

I did not hide my approach as he stood with his back to me, examining the beauty of the sky.

“Have you come to kill me, Mr. Blood?” he inquired.

“In a manner of speaking.” I spat my words at him, and I was pleased to see his back stiffen.

My anger was evidenced in every syllable I spoke.

He turned around, revealing the sawed-off shotgun in his hands. Both barrels of the weapon were pointed at my stomach, and I raised an eyebrow. He smiled.

“You’re a tad more difficult to kill than I first imagined, Mr. Blood,” he informed me. “But I’ve no doubt that a belly full of shot will put you down long enough for me to find a way.”

“Hank, you pull those triggers, and you’re going to die in the worst way I can imagine.”

He smiled and shot me.

He pulled the triggers.

The shot tore through my stomach and shredded my innards. I took a step back, glaring at him, but I didn’t fall.

I didn’t even lose my balance.

His look of utter surprise was worth every ounce of pain.

He tried to break the weapon open and reload it, but shock and growing terror caused him to fumble the weapon and drop it. As my stomach struggled to knit itself back together, I moved forward, ignoring the shrieking agony of each step, and struck the man with an open palm.

Hank babbled and begged as I shoved him back against a broad pine tree, and his hands clawed at me as I took hold of them and jerked them backward. By the time my belly was done with its repairs, I had him tied to the tree and naked.

“I learned this in Afghanistan,” I told him, drawing my knife. “And it takes a damned steady hand.”

I made the first incision at his breastbone and whispered, “You shouldn’t have killed the boy, Hank.”

In the stillness of the afternoon, Hank Killingly screamed as I skinned him alive.

#horror #fear

Cross and Miskatonic University: Nine

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He hid his fear well.

Doctor Peter Stockham, originally of New York City, came to a stop just outside the entrance of the Department of Languages. Despite the calm smile on his face, the hand on the door-latch betrayed his nerves.

There was nowhere for him to run.

No safety he might find. Neither inside the building nor outside of it.

And he knew it.

“Duncan,” he said, clearing his throat, his smile broadening.

I nodded.

“Would you care to walk with me?” he asked.

I shook my head. “Let’s go inside.”

His face paled. “Well, you know, I really can’t. Not right now. There’s a bit of work that needs to be done, and I’m to meet with the Hope brothers for dinner.”

I smiled. “They’ve had to cancel, I’m afraid.”

Peter’s Adam’s apple bobbed nervously, and his grip on the door-latch tightened. His eyes darted from left to right, and I said softly, “Best not to try and run.”

“Would you shoot me down?” he asked, eyes fixing on the Colts on my hips.

“As easy as I draw breath, Peter,” I replied. “But it won’t be to kill.”

His eyes widened, horror spreading over his features.

“Why?” he whispered. “What have I done?”

“You helped to kill the boy.”

“That was Hank Killingly’s idea!” Peter hissed. “I only wanted to get rid of you.”

“But you went with it,” I reminded him.

The man took a step forward, releasing the door-latch and fumbling in his overcoat. I waited until he drew the pistol he’d hidden within it, and I drew down on him.

The Colts roared, slugs tearing through his thighs and sending him spinning backward. Blood was smeared across the old doors, and despite being knocked down, Peter didn’t lose his grip on the pistol in his own hand.

With a howl, he rolled onto his stomach and pulled the trigger, his body shuddering once.

Disgusted, I flipped him onto his back and saw the coward had shot himself in the heart.

I considered mutilating the body for a moment, but then I decided against it.

My anger was stoked and hot.

It was time to deal with Hank Killingly.

#horror #fear

Cross and Miskatonic University: Seven and Eight

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It was an abomination disguised as a surgery.

In the depths of the university’s newest building was an operating theater that rivaled any on the East Coast. The finest pieces of equipment for the most delicate of surgeries could be found within its gleaming walls, and those who operated there did so under the pretense of goodwill.

Doctors Ronan and Christian Hope were monsters masquerading as men.

Oh, they were human, born much the way any man or woman might be. Their hideousness was a product of upbringing and wealth. Their parents had spared the rod and spoiled the child and the men that they became.

They had achieved their status as board members of the Cross branch of Miskatonic University by way of the foul experiments they conducted and wrote about. I knew of the men, and they had earned their place on my list of chores long before the murder of their colleague’s grandson and the attempt on my life.

I’ve no idea as to what surgery they were preparing themselves for, but I caught both men unawares. They were chatting, lost in conversation and excitement when I entered the room. Their nurses were dead in the other room, throats slit. A quieter death than any of them deserved.

Neither of the Hope brothers would escape their fate.

I put the muzzle of a Colt behind Christian’s ear, and in a matter of moments, he had secured his brother to one of the operating tables. Then, under my watchful eye, I had him wheel out a second table, and then I bound him to that. The men peppered me with questions as I set about the task of cutting off their clothes, and as fear gripped them, they demanded answers.

Silence is an effective tool.

Soon, their voices had risen several octaves, their eyes darting to the doors, as though they were expecting someone to come and rescue them.

They should have known better.

I learned of torture at the hands of masters. Hurons and Iroquois, who administered and withstood levels of pain most would find unfathomable.

With those memories at hand, I took up a scalpel from a tray of surgical tools.

I confess the sharpness of those blades impressed me.

#horror #fear

Cross and Miskatonic University: Six

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The man’s death was frustrating.

It took me the better part of a day and a half to find Doctor Stephen Kahn, who was next on my list of men to kill.

Unfortunately, he denied me that pleasure.

Several members of the Fey court tried to assist me with locating the man, but he’d taken precautions against such an action. Kahn may have been a bastard, but he knew he was going to die, and he wanted to slow me down as much as possible.

There is a bit of grudging admiration, I’ll admit, but I didn’t feel that at the time.

I eventually located him in the basement of the local chapter of the Red Cross, the members of which were off in Boston for a week-long training. How Kahn had finagled the keys from them, I’ll never know, because I don’t want to listen to the Red Cross folks complain about the sanctity of their building.

No place is safe.

Not when I’m angry.

And I was furious when I located Kahn and found him dead by his own hand. He took poison, and he must have taken one I’m not familiar with. More than likely, it came from the Hollow, and I wonder at how he knew of its efficacy.

He looked as though he were asleep, and had it not been for the rank and foul stench of death in the room, I would have believed him to be.

But Dr. Kahn was dead, and he had escaped my good justice.

He could still be useful, though. If he had told his companions of his plans, or if he had kept them to himself, he would illustrate a point.

I dragged his body out of the basement, and in the spacious backyard of the Red Cross’ property, I butchered him. I worked for two hours, making sure each piece was prepared the way I wanted, and then I brought him to the university. When the nightwatchmen saw me approaching in my truck, they wisely retreated to the safety of their guardroom.

In silence, I parked the truck, got out, and arranged the severed limbs and innards of Kahn in the driveway’s entrance. The last piece was Kahn’s head, and I made certain it was facing toward the main building.

On his forehead, I had carved a single word into his pale flesh.

“Soon.”

#horror #fear

Flashback!

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Cross dogs are a breed of their own.

It is not unusual for dogs to go feral within the borders of Cross.

There is no explanation for this. It merely happens.

On March 21, 1924, the two dogs of Mrs. Arthur A. Aaronson – Sif and her mate, Thor – were seen running into the open expanse of Gods’ Hollow.

A week later, on the 28th, the dogs returned home, much to the joy of Mrs. Aaronson and her staff (who had suffered their mistress’ abuses during the dogs’ absence).

The joy was short lived.

No sooner had Mrs. Aaronson stooped to embrace her dogs than the two canines attacked.

In a matter of moments, her throat was torn out, and she was left to bleed to death in the snow-covered veranda.

The dogs, according to the testimony of survivors, threw themselves through the glass doors and hunted down some of the staff.

The butler, a pair of maids, and one of the stable hands were slain in the house. All three of the Aaronsons’ prized stallions died in their stalls, their bellies partially eaten.

For several hours, the dogs attempted to get into the small bathroom where the last four members of the household staff had locked themselves.

Prior to the setting of the sun, the dogs left the property, leaving destruction and confusion behind them.

Over the years, other dogs have joined the pack founded by Sif and Thor. This pack roams Gods’ Hollow, occasionally venturing as far as Gordon Road to hunt.

While most people wisely avoid the wild dogs of Cross, there are those who foolishly believe the animals can be saved.

And those have paid for their hubris with their lives.

Cross and Miskatonic University: Five

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He thought he was something special.

Professor Elliot Ravensworth was of the opinion that he and he alone could handle matters relating to the Hollow. How he came by such a bloated sense of self-worth, I’ll never know.

Not that the lack of information will keep me up at night.

There’s little that does.

Regardless of his abilities, I will admit that he was prepared when I entered his home.

He just wasn’t prepared for me.

I’ve been shot plenty of times, and while I don’t enjoy the experience, it hasn’t ever kept me from doing what needs to be done.

When I stepped through the back door, he shot me twice in the chest and once in the stomach with a .32. There wasn’t enough of a punch to the bullets to do much more than cause me to pause, and I grinned at him, nudging the door closed with the heel of my boot.

“Now, Elliot,” I said, drawing one of my Colts, “that’s mighty impolite.”

He tried to squeeze off another shot, but I pulled the trigger, the slug of the Colt tearing through his forearm and causing him to drop the .32 to the floor, his hand hanging useless. When he tried to stagger back toward the hall, I put a bullet into his gut while the one in my own body was pushed out the hole it had made.

The impact of the Colt’s .44 caused him to slump against the wall and then sink down to the floor. His face took on a deathly pallor I was well-familiar with and one that – at this moment in time – irritated the hell out of me.

I cocked the Colt’s hammer back and aimed the weapon at his right knee.

“You’ve got a choice, Elliot,” I told him. “A quick death or a slow one.”

“What do you want?” he whispered, blood staining his lips.

“Who planned the attack?”

Elliot hesitated, and I put a bullet in his knee.

He screamed and then shouted, “Killingly!”

Hank Killingly, the head of the board. First among equals.

“End it,” Elliot whispered.

“I will,” I told him.

“No,” he shook his head. “Me.”

“I already have, Elliot. You’ll bleed out soon enough.”

I sat down in a kitchen chair and smiled, his weak curses music to my ears.

#horror #fear

Cross and Miskatonic University: Four

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He had a winning smile.

Doctor Lyle Fisher was a man who prided himself on his ability to win over even the most hesitant of investors when it came to the university. Whether it was a natural talent or one he cultivated, there was no denying his charisma. He had a near immaculate set of teeth, the charms of an aristocrat, and the skills of a diplomat.

I’m certain he expected to talk his way out of death whenever it came for him.

Alas, I am not death.

I’m a Blood, and I deal in death. Pain, when it’s called for.

And right now, it’s called for.

I could hear Fisher on his phone, murmuring soft words of reassurance. He was, from what I gathered, telling one of his colleagues that there was nothing to fear. That the other three members of the board had been struck low by some foul creature unleashed from the Hollow, and nothing more.

The idea that something from the Hollow was considered less of a threat than myself brought a smile to my face.

But the smile didn’t last long.

A moment later, Fisher hung up the phone, and I heard the telltale rattling of glasses.

I was surprised to find the door unlocked, and by the expression on his face, I could tell he was surprised he had forgotten to secure it.

In one of his hands was a large decanter of brandy. The stopper for it was in the other, and while he could easily have thrown them both at me to buy himself some time, he did not. Instead, he stood frozen in place with fear.

A heartbeat later, he soiled himself, and I was in the room, closing the door behind me.

He tried to speak, but the words were nonsensical.

He didn’t fight as I took the decanter and the stopper away, nor did he struggle when I forced him into his chair.

In a matter of moments, he was bound to the furniture, his terror-filled eyes never leaving me. I drew my Bowie knife and his eyes fixed upon its tip.

As I squeezed his mouth open, Fisher understood what was about to happen, and he howled as I used the weapon to dig out the first of his teeth.

With a flick of my wrist, I sent the tooth clattering to the floor, and I whistled while I worked.

#horror #fear

Cross and Miskatonic University: Three

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There is no mercy in my heart.

Not for these men.

They knew what it was they were doing. Oh, I’m not terribly upset with the attack on my person. That, at this point in my life, is merely par for the course.

It’s the death of the child.

The death of Doctor Wallace Lewis’ grandchild, to be precise.

He had offered the boy up as a sacrifice.

This morning, having enjoyed a breakfast and a cup of coffee at the Cross Diner, I heard one of the waitresses remark that her son’s playmate, Joshua Lewis, had been sent to live with relations in Georgia. I found this to be curious. I know, for a fact, that Dr. Lewis and the boy were the last of the line. Lewis’ son and daughter-in-law had died in an auto crash during the war, and there were no other family members to speak of.

None that Dr. Lewis would have sent the boy to.

I entered Lewis’ house shortly after noon and found the man sitting in a chair beside a chest of drawers with a photo of his grandson atop it.

If that was meant to move me to pity, it failed.

When Lewis saw the knife in my hand, he sneered and said, “I gave the boy up for your death. You could have had the common courtesy to die.”

The southern drawl he spoke with was abrasive and reminded me of the men I had killed during the War of the Rebellion.

“I could of,” I told him, stepping forward.

He tried to draw a small revolver, but I sprang forward and knocked it aside. As he attempted to bring the weapon to bear, I drove my weapon down, the blade of the Bowie knife castrating him.

His squeal of pain echoed off the high ceiling, and the revolver clattered to the floor. The man’s eyes were wide as he clawed at my hand, trying to get me to pull the blade out.

I twisted it instead.

Leaving him pinned to the chair, I tore open his shirt and began to break his ribs one by one.

He lived for a long and terrible time.

#horror #fear