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Toys in Cross: From Paris

The toy was found near Gods’ Hollow, and that alone speaks volumes.

From what I’ve put together, it was Erin Black, age eight, who found it while walking along near the Hollow and brought it home. Three days later, no one could find the family. Erin, her two sisters, and their parents had vanished. A neighbor, Mrs. Ida Wills, thought she had heard a wagon stop in front of the house sometime before dawn.

Nathan Hanks, age eleven and a neighbor of the Blacks, saw the toy in the backyard, and according to Mrs. Wills, took it home with him.

Nathan and his parents disappeared that night.

Within two weeks, another four families vanished, and several times there were reports of a wagon.

I had been away from Cross, taking care of some business, and I was disturbed to learn of the missing people. None of the families had taken anything with them. As I spoke with neighbors and friends, I discovered there was one common thread: a toy cart drawn by a pair of oxen and a man walking beside it.

Searching through the last house, I found the toy.

With a growing sense of unease, I brought it home with me, set it in the backyard, took out my Colts, and waited to see what the night would bring.

At two forty-one in the morning, I heard the groan and squeal of a wagon, the snorting of oxen. From the shadows near the main barn, the wagon approached – a nigh-on perfect representation of the toy. Yet where the bags on the toy were filled, those on the wagon were empty.

The Frenchman brought the oxen to within a dozen feet of the back porch, and as he prepared to fetch his bags, I cocked the hammers back on the Colts.

I don’t know what he was or where he came from, but he was damned fast and damned unpleasant.

He sprang at me from the wagon, covering the distance in a single motion. As he clambered up the steps, I saw his sharp teeth and blood-red eyes, and I put two rounds into his mouth, dropping him to the ground.

As his body sank into the earth, the oxen screamed, and a heartbeat later, they were replaced by the toy.

I keep the wagon in my library, another reminder of the horror that is the Hollow.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

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Toys in Cross: An Imaginary Friend

Not all friends are worth your time.

Happy Watts drifted into Cross from Boston, and, as his name implies, he was happy. I never saw the boy without a smile, and while I heard rumors that he talked to himself, I didn’t see much of an issue with it.

When asked who he was talking with, Happy invariably responded, “Thomas.”

No one could get Thomas’ last name from Happy, and they eventually attributed “Thomas” to an overactive imagination.

I wish someone had told me about his imaginary friend, and that friend’s name.

As it was, no one did. No one bothered to tell me that Happy was making himself known to the professors at the Cross Branch of Miskatonic University. He impressed them with the questions he asked regarding dead languages and ancient incantations. His knowledge of blood rituals was, as one survivor told me later, particularly curious.

I punched the professor when he told me that and knocked three teeth out of the damned fool’s head.

Happy Watts’ imaginary friend wasn’t imaginary.

Thomas Erasmus had lived during the late eighteenth century, and I had put him in the ground myself. How the bastard had gotten back into this plane of existence is a question I would have liked answered.

On a Saturday night, Happy and his imaginary friend went into the chapel at the university. Once there, Thomas had told what Happy what sigils to inscribe upon the altar, and how much blood to use.

A trio of professors discovered Thomas, and at that moment, I think something went wrong with the incantation

A hole was torn open in the altar, and Thomas attempted to get out. He was not alone, however, and, much to his chagrin, I’m sure, he was not first in line.

I suspect Happy realized at the last minute that something wasn’t right, and he sacrificed himself to close the hole. The child’s body was never found, and I can only hope that he died quickly.

 When inspecting the scene, I came upon a small knife, one I knew to have been Thomas’. I think he had attached himself to it. If he ever makes it back, I’ll ask him, right before I gut him with his own blade.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Toys in Cross: Cavalry

Hooves thundered along North Road and brought death to Cross.

Emmanuel Kalt was an unhappy child. Like Sabine Mont Bleu, he was a refugee. Unlike Sabine, Emmanuel was German.

How he ended up in Cross, I will never know. It was a shame, though, how some people held him accountable for the crimes of a government and a nation.

I would see him occasionally at the library, where he would sit and look at the few books in German. I taught him English when he was willing and played chess with him when he was bored with lessons.

He never spoke of the Summers, with whom he lived. Nor did he speak of the frequent visitors. It was only by happenstance that I learned he was being roundly abused by his foster family, and by those they invited. The Summers, it appeared, were making a fair amount of money by allowing the boy to be beaten by those who had lost sons in the war.

He confided this to me only after I saw that two of his fingers were broken on his left hand. The Summers, he told me, made a great effort to make certain he was not permanently damaged or marked. They would lose money from their investment.

I was enraged, of course, and I told Emmanuel that I would kill them for him.

He asked, instead, if I would instead be willing to write a letter on his behalf.

Confused, I agreed.

It was a short letter, nothing more than a note. It read, ‘Send me my horses.’

I promised to post it that day, and I did. I offered the boy sanctuary at my home, and he politely declined. He needed to be at the Summers’, he said. It was the only way his horses would find him.

As much as it pained me to do so, I agreed, and I allowed the boy to return to his foster family.

It took three weeks for his horses to arrive, and I heard them at dawn, thundering into town.

I followed the sound of screams to the Summers’ abode, and there, on the front lawn, I found Emmanuel and his foster family dead. He was smiling, and toy soldiers were scattered by his open hands.

I keep them with me, a small reminder of the vengeance of a child.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Toys in Cross: Her Only Friend

I burned the doll, though not soon enough.

Sabine Mont Bleu was a quiet and lonely child, one of several who had come to Cross shortly after the end of the Great War. She rarely spoke, and when she did, it was only in halting English. The family with whom she stayed could converse in French, but they often complained that she would only speak when forced to.

Some thought it might be after-effects of the war. Sabine had lived in German-controlled territory, and no one quite knew what she had gone through. She was, in fact, more than a trifle mysterious to the townsfolk, though I knew her story to be sadder than the people of Cross could comprehend.

Her father,five older brothers, six uncles, and both grandfathers had all died fighting the Germans. Sabine’s mother had died of a broken heart, and her aunts had vanished during the war. Some said they died at the hands of the Germans, but I know they were caught in an artillery barrage launched by American forces near the war’s end.

Sabine had arrived with only a few clothes and a doll that should have been left in France or thrown overboard on her trip across the Atlantic.

The doll was malignant and foul, and I pressed Sabine’s foster family to allow me to remove it from the house.

They refused. It was, they said, the only comfort the child had, and on many a night, they could hear her whispering to it in French. When I asked if they were sure it was Sabine and not the doll who was whispering, they laughed and said good day.

It is my hope that they did not know it was the doll who convinced Sabine that they were responsible for the annihilation of her family.

Early one morning, well before dawn, the fire brigade was called out. When the engines rushed to the scene of the blaze, they found Sabine standing outside, weeping and clutching the doll while the house lit up the sky.

When I arrived, Sabine was unconscious in the arms of a female neighbor. The doll, wearing a broad smile, lay on the ground close by.

I took the damned thing and hurled it into the fire. The explosion that followed shook the town and set Sabine to screaming.

She hasn’t spoken since.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Toys in Cross: Away from Home

Jacob Darrow vanished on a Monday afternoon, and his uncle died a short time later.

Jacob, when he was all of twelve, lost both his legs and his parents in a railroad accident outside of Boston. To compound his problems, his only relation was his uncle, Danforth Brown.

Danforth did not take Jacob in out of the goodness of his heart. Had Jacob’s father not left behind a considerable amount of money, Danforth would have sent the boy off to an orphanage about as far from Cross as possible. But seeing as how he would be the boy’s guardian for another six years, Danforth readily agreed.

When Jacob turned thirteen, his uncle hired me to help Jacob learn German. Danforth was adamant that the boy learn the language so he could go and work in Berlin. It didn’t matter that the Germans were suffering economically after the war, or that the boy more than likely wouldn’t get a job. Danforth, it seemed, wanted the child gone on his eighteenth birthday.

I took the job because I felt the boy could use a friendly face, and in that, I was not wrong. He was an unhappy child, but always pleased to see me. I made it a point to visit daily. The boy was a quick study, and soon we were conversing in German. It was then he showed me his model.

It was of a farm, and he told me it was nearly done. He told me he thought about the farm every night, and whenever he had time, he worked upon it.

Each time I saw Jacob, a little more of the model was finished. Finally, he informed me that he had only to put a few more bricks on the chimney, and the house would be done.

When I arrived the next afternoon, Jacob was gone, and his uncle was screaming with rage, furious that his meal ticket was gone.

I put a bullet through Danforth’s temple, and I took the model home.

I keep it in my lower library, far from prying eyes. Occasionally, out of the corner of my eye, I see Jacob as he walks around his property. How he managed it, and how he managed the return of his legs, I do not know, nor will I ask.

It’s not any of my business.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Toys in Cross: Toy Soldiers

I’ve a man to kill.

I have only a first initial and the last name, van Zant. From what I’ve been able to gather thus far, I should be able to find him in San Francisco.

He’s a toymaker, and the toys he made have done some damage in Cross.

This week, a box of toys arrived at Cross Elementary School. It was addressed to the children of the second grade, and to the children of the second grade, it went. Ms. Hausen, their teacher, was thrilled at the toys found within. They were soldiers and artillery, an ambulance, and a tank. Magnificently rendered and perfectly constructed for children.

When she passed them out, it was mostly the boys who wanted to play with them, though a few girls partook. Those few children who refrained were the luckiest children in Cross.

Within an hour, screams could be heard coming from the classroom.

The children who had played with the toys were afflicted with wounds of the war.

Some were blind and shrieking; others collapsed, sounding as though they had been gassed. Shrapnel and bullet wounds sprang open, and soon Ms. Hausen’s classroom had the appearance of a field hospital.

I was visiting a friend near the school when the screams reached us, and I was one of the first into the room.

I have seen a great many horrors in my years, and those inflicted upon children are always the worst.

I must give credit to Ms. Hausen, who kept the uninjured children calm and helped care for those who were wounded. As I helped to bind wounds and make the injured comfortable, I saw the toys. Without a word, I swept them into the box in which they had arrived and then turned my attention back to the children.

By nightfall, three of the second graders were dead, and seven more were permanently scarred. I doubt that any in that room will ever sleep well again.

I am headed out to San Francisco shortly. I will take paths not fit to be traveled upon by good and generous men, but I am neither of those.

I will find Mr. van Zant, toymaker, and when I do, I’ll keep him alive as long as possible.

P.S. Three days, six hours, and nineteen minutes. Not nearly long enough.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Toys in Cross: SS Minotaur

The quiet ones are the most dangerous.

I’d known Joshua Cole Butler since his mother had given birth to him. He was a quiet, unassuming boy who enjoyed the sun and the ocean and a good book. He had learned to read at the tender age of three, and he devoured everything he could get his hands on.

One of the professors at the Cross Branch of Miskatonic University was so impressed with him that he gave the boy a small book that was, according to the professor, written in an unknown tongue.

Joshua learned to read it.

He never told anyone what was written within its dark covers, but he kept the book close at all times.

Rodney Fellows’ son Elk beat young Joshua up on his fourth birthday and threw his book into the water. When I arrived at the marina, Joshua’s parents were arguing with Rodney even as his son climbed aboard the SS Minotaur to go sailing with a friend’s family. As the Minotaur tacked out along the Cross River for the Atlantic, Joshua sat down with his sailboat, held it up to his lips, and whispered to it.

Neither his parents nor Elk’s father noticed, but I did.

Before I could reach the child, Joshua set the boat into the water and let it go.

I could do nothing more but sit down beside the boy and wait to see what he had done.

For a few minutes, the toy boat sailed around in circles, then, almost lazily, it drifted back toward us. When it was several feet from us, she sank.

The Minotaur, which had not quite cleared the bend in the river, shuddered. The argument between the parents ceased, and all watched in horrified silence as the ship slipped beneath the water.

Rodney Fellows let out a howl and dove into the water, but he did not come up for a single breath of air.

He vanished.

Not a single body was recovered, nor any part of the SS Minotaur.

A few days later, Joshua’s toy boat and his curious book washed up onshore. It was fortunate that I was the one who found them.

I keep both locked in an old sea chest. Occasionally, when the library is quiet, I can hear those on the Minotaur screaming for help.

 #horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Father’s Day, 2020

I hope you will forgive me for not writing anything more than this quick note today. It is Father’s Day, and I have successfully avoided anything remotely smacking of responsibility.

I would like to leave you with this photograph, taken by my wife about seven years ago. This particular arrangement was put together by our youngest, who was three at the time. In this image, he is using his older brother’s Star Wars action figures and a book from when his sister was his age. Had this been his sister at three instead of fifteen, there would have been a photo of 12-inch GI Joe action-figures dressed in evening gowns and Barbie dolls fully equipped with WWII and Vietnam era weapons. His older brother, in turn, would have been hammering away with his toy tools whilst watching cartoons.

So, for those of you who are fathers, who still have fathers, or who have simply enjoyed a day of peace, I leave you with this image of the Rancor reading to stormtroopers and a Dewback.

Have a great evening, and I look forward to creating something tomorrow.

Nick

Toys in Cross: The Parasol

People should learn to mind their own business.

Evelyn Stone, fifty-two years old and one of the wealthier residents in town, saw a pair of children sitting in the Cross Train Station on a Saturday morning. According to Allen Hitch, the ticket clerk, they had been there since he had arrived at four in the morning.

Mrs. Stone, who viewed herself as the town’s matron, sought about inquiring the names of the children.

They refused to speak with her.

She went so far as to attempt to bribe them with candy to get them to speak their names, and still, the children ignored her. Instead, they conversed with one another in a language she could not comprehend, though the meaning, I was later told, was obvious.

The children thought little of her. Finally, in an effort to have Mrs. Stone leave, the girl turned her back to the matron of Cross and focused solely on her traveling companion.

This last act was too much for Mrs. Stone, and, rather than going to fetch the police or simply leave the children alone, she took hold of the girl’s parasol and yanked it from her grasp.

It was, Allen told me later on, nothing more than a child’s toy. A miniature of what might be carried by a full-grown woman.

Yet as soon as it was out of the girl’s hand, Mrs. Stone screamed and collapsed to the floor. The parasol pinned her own hand to the floor, and she was unable to free herself from it, despite how hard she tried. A moment later, the parasol sprang open, and water rushed from it. Allen raced to help her, but with a flick of the wrist, the boy threw Allen out onto the platform.

It was then that I entered the station, hoping to catch the morning train into Boston. Water streamed over my boots, and when I walked in, I saw it gushing from the parasol. I was able to make my way to the parasol, closing it and lifting it from the floor. As the water slowly drained from the station, I looked down at the bedraggled, drowned corpse of Mrs. Stone.

I learned of the children afterward, and while I waited for them to return for the parasol, they never did.

It is in a corner by my writing desk, and occasionally, much to my annoyance, it leaks.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Toys in Cross: A Toy Rifle

Never underestimate the power of hate.

It had been a rough year for the Copp family. Elbridge’s father had been killed in a train accident, and his mother had died of a broken neck when she tumbled down a flight of stairs at her aunt’s house. Elbridge Copp had been left in the care of his grandfather who was disabled, having lost both legs during the Spanish American War.

Grandfather Copp was too old to work, as he liked to tell me, and too proud to ask for money.

Shortly after the death of his son and daughter-in-law, the Cross Trust Bank called in the note on Grandfather Copp’s home, and they refused to listen to him as he pleaded for some sort of leniency.

While waiting for his eviction, Grandfather Copp carved Elbridge, a toy rifle. It was a rough semblance of a weapon, but the boy cherished it and he walked everywhere with the rifle. Elbridge could be seen standing guard outside the home with the dog.

On a Sunday morning, a little more than a week after the notice of foreclosure had been signed, Mr. Matthew Donaldson, the president of the Cross Trust Bank (and the man who had personally refused to entertain any notion of forbearance for the Copps), passed by the Copp house. Mr. Donaldson was accompanied by his wife, their son, and their daughter-in-law.

With a nod from his grandfather, Elbridge raised his rifle to his shoulder, sighted along its barrel, and whispered, “Bang, bang, bang, bang.”

The Donaldsons were knocked off their feet, and neighbors claimed to have seen them twitch and shudder on the ground.

By the time I arrived, the four Donaldsons were dead, blood leaking from their eyes, ears, noses, and mouths. Elbridge sat on his grandfather’s knee, crying. Not from the strange effects of his toy upon the people, but because someone from the Cross Branch of Miskatonic University had taken his rifle from him.

According to the university, the weapon is secured in the school.

In reality, the rifle is in my private library, mounted over the mantle. Over the years, I have used it to kill five men, two of whom had taken it from the boy.

I suspect I’ll use it again.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death