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July 19, 1938

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This place is a warren.

I’ve not seen a set of stairs for nearly a day, and at first, I thought I’d be pleased.

I’m not.

I’m completely turned around. There aren’t any windows on this level, and every five minutes, it seems, there’s a turn to take. Either left or right.

Several times, I’ve doubled back only to find myself in a new corridor. Everything changes as soon as I turn a corner.

I took an apple out of my rucksack and was eating it when I came upon a curiosity. Five paths stretched out before me. There was nothing different from any of them as far as I could see. So, I stood in the center, finished my apple and took the far left. It was as good as any.

I’d not gotten much more than a dozen steps down the hall when it curved sharply to the right and opened onto a small room. I’m not sure which surprised me more, the room or the woman sitting on the desk.

She held a death mask in her hand, and when she looked up, she didn’t seem overly concerned to see me. I opened my mouth to speak, and she placed the mask upon her own face.

In a blur of motion and with a hideous grown, she transformed in front of me.

The body of a large man tore through her clothes, and her hair tumbled down from her head as her skin grew up and around the edges of the mask. In a moment, the creature stood naked in front of me, body quivering with rage. The plaster mask remained the same immobile object, blood trickling down from the edges.

I barely had time to duck as the creature grabbed for me, arms passing through the air above my head as I drew my Colts. I was knocked back by a kick to the groin that caused pain to explode through my stomach and sent bile up into my throat, but I didn’t lose hold of my guns.

The creature raised a large foot to stomp on me, and I put two slugs into its chest, which did nothing more than cause it to hesitate.

With a bitter curse, I raised the pistols higher and squeezed the triggers again.

The mask exploded, the creature shuddered, and then it too exploded, covering me in trembling globs of dying flesh.

For an hour, I cleaned my guns and wondered what I might find next.

#horror #fear #paranormal

July 18, 1938

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The cold struck me with the force of a closed fist.

I exhaled sharply through my teeth, grimacing and bracing myself for an attack.

None came.

My eyes adjusted to the weak light in the room, and I took in my surroundings. They were bleak.

The room was a wreck and had been so for decades at the very least. From what I could gather, it had been an operating room of some kind.

Sadness hung in the air. Sadness and desperation.

Painfully cold fingers touched my cheek.

“I know you.” The words were hardly above a whisper. I could not tell if they were spoken by a male or female, adult or child.

“Do I know you?” I asked in response.

A sigh hovered around me, and the chill in the room intensified.

“No,” the ghost responded. “I don’t think you ever did. I wanted you to know me, though. But you are not my Duncan. He was kinder. Gentler. I can see your hard heart in your eyes, Blood. How many have you killed today?”

“Not nearly enough.”

Silence greeted my response, and for a few moments, I thought the ghost had left me.

“No,” the ghost’s voice finally became clear. The speaker had been a woman. “I suppose you’ve not killed your fill. So few of you have.”

“Why are you here?”

The ghost replied with a sad laugh. “I don’t know. I think, at one time, they kept me here. Bait for others of your kind. But none of you took it. I was unknown in your worlds. I’ve only existed in a handful of them.”

“Did they kill you?”

“No,” she answered, “but they didn’t help me to live either. They let me starve to death. I took a long time to die, Duncan Blood. Everything takes a long time here.”

“Is there anything you want me to do?”

“No,” she replied. “You’re dead. That part of you that was perfect, it died here, in this room, when they gunned you down and cooked your heart. You’re dead, but you don’t know it yet.”

I nodded and left the room and the strange statement behind me.

But she was wrong.

I knew full well that part of me was dead, and it had been from the moment I killed my mother in the kitchen.

#horror #fear #paranormal

July 17, 1938

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The click of a hammer shattered the silence.

I came to a stop as the door closed behind me. A middle-aged man sat at a large desk, a book in his hands and a smirk on his face.

The man at the desk glanced at me.

“Duncan,” he nodded. “Still as brash as ever.”

From the corner of my eye, I caught sight of his companion, a much younger man holding a large revolver casually in one hand, the barrel pointed at me.

“Oh, I know,” the man in the chair sighed, closing the book and setting it on his desk. “The shot wouldn’t kill you. It would, though, put you down, and then we could take our time with you. I’m just not in the mood to have blood cleaned off the floor.” He chuckled. “Do you enjoy the double entendre, Mr. Blood?”

I didn’t respond. Instead, I clasped my hands together, well away from the Colts.

“I want my dog,” I told the men, and I eased the pruning knife down from my sleeve with slow, patient movements.

“So, I’ve heard,” the middle-aged man sighed. “It seems to be your constant refrain. Your mother has overheard several of your conversations.”

“Where’s my dog?” I asked.

The man at the desk rolled his eyes. “Oh, I believe Bob and Gerta managed to catch him. He’s upstairs, somewhere,” the man answered, waving his hand in a vague direction.

“How do I get up there?”

The middle-aged man raised an eyebrow and chuckled. His companion laughed as well, and the barrel of his pistol lifted ever so slightly.

I dropped down to one knee, and as the pistol roared above me, I flicked the pruning knife open, bringing the blade up in a long, graceful arc that caught the young gunslinger’s gun-hand at the wrist.

Pistol and hand alike were severed and thudded against the door.

The young man clutched his wrist and staggered back, his face pale with shock and blood loss as I sprang up and over the desk, kicking the other man in the chest and knocking him back to the floor. With a snarl, I kicked in his temple, his body convulsing as he fumbled towards death.

Turning back, I saw the young man sitting on the floor, staring at me in horror.

“Where’s my dog?”

He died before I finished asking my questions.

#horror #fear #paranormal

July 16, 1938

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Soft, gentle laughter accompanied the scream, the two sounds twisting and rolling down the hall together.

The hallway was long and barren of decoration, doors, or windows. A few bulbs hung from bare sockets above me, and the walls looked more like polished bone than painted plaster.

I’d been in the hallway for at least four hours, the air chill and stale. The old floorboards beneath my boots groaned and sighed with every step, but there was no way to avoid it.

The laughter and the scream grew louder with each step, the pitch of one or the other changing every few minutes. Only once did the scream rise to the level of a shriek. Only once did the laughter take on a maniacal tone.

Another hour of walking brought me to a tall, narrow door. From the lock, a skeleton key protruded, and I reached out and let myself into the room.

I was unsurprised to find the room occupied.

A woman stood by a table, a large, polished crystal in front of her. There were a great many drawers behind her, the kind a library might keep for documents and maps.

The laughter came from the woman, whose pretty face twisted with malignant humor as she pressed upon the crystal, eliciting a scream from it.

“It’s a pity,” she murmured, dropping her hands but keeping her attention focused on the object in front of her. “I wish we could make them scream like that when they’re alive.”

A flicker of movement in the polished facets revealed my own face.

There were younger versions of myself and older ones, too. Some were scarred, others stamped with the fixed gaze of the insane.

All screamed each time she placed her hand upon the crystal.

“Have you come for a reason?” she asked, and for the first time, she looked up.

It took her a heartbeat to register who I was.

What I was.

But in that time, I crossed the floor, grabbed her by the back of the neck and slammed her face into the crystal.

Once more, the spirits within screamed. Mingled with their pain, though, was a fierce, triumphant shout.

Without any pause, I smashed her head against the crystal until her scalp came free in my hand, and her teeth clattered on the floor.

I’d had about enough.

#horror #fear #paranormal

July 15, 1938

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They thought they were clever.

And they were, in a way, but not nearly enough.

I was in the middle of a stairwell when the stairs flattened and gave way, transforming themselves into a short slide that delivered me into the center of an exact replica of my private study at home.

It took me only a moment to recover my senses and less than ten minutes after that to ascertain that almost everything was there.

How foolish were they?

Did they think this room would upset me?

For a moment, it did.

The unmistakable scent of my dead wife, a perfect blend of lilacs and a fall breeze, stung my nose and caused me to falter as I crossed the room.

But within a heartbeat, I had recovered.

She was dead, and no other could take her place.

I went to my desk, found a decent bottle of bourbon and took a long, hard pull from it. The sweet sting of the liquor cleared my mind, and I sat back on my haunches to reach beneath my desk. There, off to one side, was a small compartment. From it, I drew forth a box of .44 caliber shells and restocked my Colts and the belt before slipping the box into my haversack. Then, from a drawer, I retrieved a curved Greek pruning knife, a gift from an old friend and one that I was glad to see.

With a flick of my wrist, the blade snapped open and closed just as easily.

I’d only ever used it on my apple trees before, but I was sufficiently disgruntled to prune some lives with it.

I spent an hour searching the room until I came upon a door they had crafted behind one of the bookcases, and it took me but a moment’s work to get it open.

The man standing on the other side of it was surprised to see me, but that surprise died as the hooked blade caught in his throat, the metal severing flesh and slipping between the bones with ease.

His head tumbled to one side, his body to the other, and a great fountain of blood sprayed over the walls.

Wiping blood splatter from my face, I kicked his head out of the way and started up another set of stairs.

#horror #fear #paranormal

July 14, 1938

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“You’re a young fool.”

My eyes open and brought my Colts up.

An old dog gazed upon me with rheumy and disapproving eyes.

His breath was foul, a stink of rot and sickness. The smell of death.

“Put them away,” he grumbled, sitting down. “Or are you stupid as well as a fool?”

I snorted, slid the guns into their holsters and pushed myself up.

“Hector,” the old dog said, “told me you were different. If I hadn’t smelled it for myself, I wouldn’t have believed it. He drinks too much. And he smokes too much. But he was right about you. You’re different.”

“What’s your name?” I asked, digging out some bread and passing it to him.

He grunted his thanks and ate the bread slowly, gumming it. When he finished, he said, “I’ve had a few names. My favorite, though, is Rex. My first boy called me Rex.”

“Rex it is.”

“Tell me,” the dog sighed, shifting his position, “did Hector tell the truth? Are you looking for your dog?”

“I’ve no love for the Hollow,” I told him, “if it weren’t for Turk, I wouldn’t have come in at all.”

“That would make sense.” Rex eyed me and chuckled. “They make a great effort to get your kind in here without any weapons. For the most part, they succeed. Oh, a few make it into the Hollow with their Colts. Sometimes a scattergun. There are some deaths among these hunters of Bloods, but not many. And there are always more recruits to the cause. Your mother makes certain of that.”

“She’s a delight,” I muttered and took some more bread out, breaking it into smaller pieces for the old dog.

“She is at that,” Rex chuckled. “I’ve taken a bite out of her several times, and I’ve lost my teeth because of it. Worth it, though. Quite so.”

“Is she here?” I asked, hate filling my voice.

“She comes and goes,” Rex answered.

A silence fell over us, broken a moment later by Rex. “You need to keep better watch if an old dog and can sneak up on you.”

“Aye.”

“I’ve a favor to ask you,” Rex said.

I raised an eyebrow.

“I’m tired,” the dog said, settling down onto the floor. “Damned tired. Will you help an old dog?”

“Aye,” I sighed and drew my Colt again. I placed the muzzle of the barrel against the base of his skull and pulled the trigger.

#horror #fear #paranormal

July 13, 1938

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Some froze, some ran, and some charged.

All died the same.

Food is scarce in this damned place, and so I follow up any hint of a meal.

I was tracking the faintest scent of freshly baked bread and listening to the howls of Turk over the intercom system hidden in the ceiling of a long, broad hall. There were no windows, only a pale, sickly light emanating from thin bulbs hanging down. At the far end of the corridor was a set of double doors, each painted a green reminiscent of fresh vomit.

From beyond those doors came the scent of bread, as well as a low murmur of voices. The conversations were unintelligible beneath the lonesome howling of Turk.

With a growling stomach and no small amount of anger, I reached the doors and threw them wide.

The conversations stopped, and I found myself looking in at somewhere close to thirty young men sitting in a cafeteria. They looked at me in surprise, none of them speaking.

Finally, one young man whispered, “He has his guns.”

The last word sent the men into a flurry of motion, yet even as some struggled to their feet, I had my Colts drawn.

The revolvers thundered in the cafeteria, and those who had stood up first were the first to die.

The slugs from the .44s tore through them, some of the bullets smashing into the young men behind them. Some of the diners remained in their seats, paralyzed with fear. Others tried to escape to the door off to the left, and a few charged at me.

They, like those who had moved first, died sooner than the rest.

As the remainder struggled to flee, I reloaded first one Colt and then the other, killing those closest to the exit. The bodies piled up, blocking the exit, trapping the rest of the men with me.

The survivors huddled against the back wall, eyes wide and darting from side to side.

There were less than a dozen left.

“Where’s my dog?” I asked.

No one answered, and so I killed one of them, splattering his brains over the young man closest to him.

“Where’s my dog?”

I repeated the question eight more times, and in the end, no one had answered me.

But that’s alright.

I’ll stack bodies until I find him.

#horror #fear #paranormal

July 12, 1938

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The silence was sickening.

No sooner had I stepped through the door than the dead air had wrapped around me, threatening to smother me as I stood in the pale light.

A single stride carried me to the window, and I shattered the glass, allowing a cool, fresh breeze to sweep into the room even as the door closed and locked behind me.

I glanced first at the door, then the room around me.

The lock, I saw, was large and ornate and – I had no doubt – was meant to stymie me. And it would have, had I not been wearing my Colts.

Several times the residents of this hellish structure had reminded me that I was the only version of myself to have entered the building armed.

I would put my Colts to good use again, and soon, too.

But first, I was more interested in the books lining two of the walls.

The volumes were large and laid on their sides. Above them, kept in neat, pull-down cases, were additional works. All of them, I discovered, were about me.

Oh, not just my own version of myself, but all the others the residents were tracking or had been tracking.

There were hundreds, if not thousands of entries.

A great many of the versions were dead and gone. Some had died at the hands of the residents. Most, however, had not.

Dozens died in wars. More than a few were suicides.

Some of them had been far better men than myself.

The greater part had been far worse.

With the breeze filling the air with a pleasant autumn scent, I sat down and leafed through the books, eating an apple as I did so.

Soon, I grew tired of reading of my own death and misdeeds, and as I finished my food, I noticed that one book was missing. There was a notation on the wood, a faint bit of pencil that was difficult to read. What I could make out was ‘DB.CrossA76.1938AD.Errata.’

I wasn’t quite sure what the A76 stood for, but the 1938 was my own year, and I felt certain that the ‘Errata’ was my coming into the Hollow with my Colts.

I drew a Colt, cocked back the hammer, and blew the lock out of the door.

It was time to remind them what a mistake it was for me to have my guns.

#horror #fear #paranormal

July 11, 1938

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The furnace roared in the damp air of the cellar.

I’d been traveling up winding stairs, steeply inclined hallways, and straight-up ladders for over thirteen hours. There was still half a cake left in a bag I had taken from the kitchen and a few other items of food as well. I’d even found a somewhat decent brandy tucked away in the back of a cupboard.

So, when I emerged into what was undeniably a basement after an extended time of traveling up, I was a little perturbed.

I heard a man singing, and in a short time, my eyes adjusted to the gloom of my environment. The singer, covered in the soot of the furnace, was gleefully caring for his work, the sight of which caused me to clench my teeth together.

The man shoveled in the last of what appeared to have been a large pile of bones, and I’ve no doubt as to who those bones once belonged.

I watched as he straightened up, stretched, and called out in French to my mother.

When she didn’t answer, he shrugged, cast aside his shovel, and waltzed around the room for a moment before he realized I was there.

The expression of relaxed joy on his face vanished, replaced by one of fear.

He removed his hat and then his goggles. His pale skin looked flush with a fever, and in French, he asked, “Who are you?”

“You know who I am,” I told him. I glanced around the room. “Where’s my dog?”

“Your dog?”

I let my hand drop to the butt of my Colt, and he took a cautious step back, his goggles clattering to the floor as he wrung his hat in his hands.

“My dog.”

“There was a dog here,” he nodded. “Yes. Yes. It went out the door. But this was yesterday. Or this morning? I do not know. Your mother, she does not tell me the time. No one does.”

“Is my mother here?” I asked, my voice tight.

He blinked several times, hesitated, and then shook his head.

“You’re lying,” I told him.

He swallowed and whispered, “No.”

I drew my Colt, and he jumped.

Not toward his shovel and not toward the exit.

He leaped into the furnace; his screams silenced almost as soon as they’d begun.

Sliding the Colt back into its holster and left the room. I needed answers, and I wouldn’t find them there.

#horror #fear #paranormal

July 10, 1938

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They were fast, and they were dangerous.

I’ll admit, my stomach took the reins for a moment.

I’d lost any sign of Turk, although I occasionally heard him in my wanderings through the labyrinthian building. The last bit of food I’d eaten had been with the bulldog, and that had been little more than some jerky that the dog had assured me was not human.

When I caught the scent of a cake baking, it set my mouth to watering and my feet to moving at the behest of my stomach.

I came upon a kitchen door and paused outside of it, my ear pressed to the wood. I listened and heard nothing. Not a damned thing.

I counted to one hundred, then to fifty, and finally, I let myself into the room, where I caught a knife in my chest for my trouble.

The blade was heavy, and it felt as though someone had punched me. I didn’t need to look down to know there was the handle of a kitchen knife sticking out of my left breast. I could feel it and the way the metal vibrated with every breath I took.

I pulled the knife out, bone grating against steel, and then the three girls were on me. They were all armed with blades, the light glinting off the metal as they slashed and stabbed.

The girls were skilled, calm, and deadly, and before more than a few minutes had passed, I was bleeding from a dozen wounds.

But I was healing.

The girls were trained, and there was an artistry to their attacks.

But fighting isn’t about art. It’s about winning and not dying.

I took hold of one girl, twisted her arm and drove her own knife into her thigh. Dark, arterial blood sprayed out as I pulled the blade free and cast her aside as her face paled. She gasped, whimpered, and then moaned as she realized she was dying.

That simple sound caused a crack to form in the calm façade of her compatriots.

They hesitated, and it was all I needed.

In a matter of moments, all three were bleeding out on the floor, and my wounds were healing.

They begged for help, and I ignored them as I stepped over their bodies and made my way to the oven.

With a dishtowel, I took the cake out and set it on the table.

I sat down, wiped off my hands, and waited for the cake to cool.

#horror #fear #paranormal