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April 19, 1875

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The soft humming was barely audible above the tumbling brook.

Despite being several miles into the depths of my own lands, the humming brought me up short. It was a distinctly human sound, and there shouldn’t have been anything remotely human on Blood Farm.

Part of me wanted to charge in towards the noise, to discover who the interloper was and put a bullet in their gut once they’d answered my questions.

But things had, if possible, been stranger of late, and thus a little more caution was called for.

Not necessarily diplomacy, but definitely caution.

I drew one of my Colts and eased forward, moving with a silence I’d learned from men long dead and far more skilled than I was in the art of the ambush.

When I reached the brook, I kept to the shadows and peered out at the intruder.

The sight was not reassuring.

There was a Japanese woman with her child on her back. She was crouched at the side of the running water and washing greens in a basket. She hummed to her child and, every so often, the child let out a laugh.

After a short time of watching, I prepared to confront her, and then the clouds above us broke. Bright sunlight pierced the gloom of the morning and shone through the woman and child as well.

They were dead.

I don’t know if they knew they were ghosts, but it wasn’t my place to inform them.

I holstered my Colt and remained where I was.

The woman broke off a bit of a leaf, whispered, and handed it up to her child, who let out a pleased laugh, taking it in its small fingers.

In a moment, the bit of food vanished into its mouth, and the mother and child faded from view.

They returned a heartbeat later, the mother humming and washing the greens.

In silence, I turned away from them and made my way home.

There were things far worse than the ghost of a mother and child on my lands.

I alone was proof of that.

#horror #fear

April 18, 1875

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The sweet smell of blooming flowers filled the air and made me reach for my guns.

Nothing should have been flowering. Not yet.

There’d been too many hard frosts and not enough time for the trees and bushes to awaken. Which meant the smell was either coming from Gods’ Hollow or from another creature from the beached ship.

Both were a possibility, and that meant the Colts were needed, as they had been for the first half of the damned month.

With the Colts loaded and holstered, I went out the door and gagged as the odor of the flowers slammed into me. The scent made my eyes water, and it took me a full minute before I was able to see clearly.

Doing my best to ignore the assault on my nose, I stood and looked about me. A moment later, I could see the pollen in the air. It moved as a low, pale green fog across the ground, following my drive straight to my front door.

I took a handkerchief out of my back pocket, tied it around my nose and mouth, and set off to follow the pollen to its source. I had a mind to fetch kerosene as well, but I resisted the urge.

The weather had been too dry of late, and I’d not risk burning down half of Cross just because some wretched piece of greenery was playing havoc with my nose.

When I reached the road, the pollen was thicker and issuing forth from a copse of trees that hadn’t been there earlier in the morning. Frowning, I drew both pistols, cocked the hammers back, and approached the new trees cautiously. Stepping through the thin line, I saw a young woman standing in the center, a parasol of sorts over her shoulder. She neither moved nor spoke, but the vegetation at her feet writhed and twisted.

I caught a glimpse of bones and tattered clothes, and I backed out slowly.

I’m not sure who had been eaten or what the hell was in there, but I did know one thing.

It didn’t matter if the weather had been too dry.

It was time to fetch the kerosene.

#horror #fear

April 17, 1875

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The dog was the first sign of trouble.

It was King, Jack Coffin’s old shepherd, and he was hellbent for leather when he went tearing past me on North Road.

The dog’s ears were flat back against his skull, his tail down, and his hackles up. A harsh, piteous whine issued from his throat, as if he didn’t want to be running towards wherever it was he was going.

I had the bad feeling that he didn’t.

With a curse, I drew both Colts and ran after him, sure that I’d find trouble, and I wasn’t wrong.

I don’t know what they were, and I don’t care to.

As King leapt over a fallen log on the left-hand side of the road, I saw them.

They stood tall and upright in a small clearing. Flutes were raised up under the curious hats they wore, faces hidden from the noonday sun. While I didn’t hear anything issue forth, it was clear by the way their fingers moved and King’s reactions that they were playing something.

Their attention was focused on the dog and not me, hot on his heels.

I’m glad.

As I jumped onto the fallen log, I saw the carcasses of at least half a dozen dogs, and as King came to a howling stop in front of them, they removed their hats.

Neither creature had a face. Only a mouth. A long, wide slit that almost split their head in half. Jagged, greenish-gray teeth, between which were bits of flesh and hide. King screamed in agony as they reached for him, and the Colts roared in my hands.

At the thunder of the pistols the spell was broken, and King ran.

I didn’t.

I emptied a Colt into each of the damned things, and then I jumped down and gave vent to my rage.

There wasn’t much left of them when I finished, and I’m going to have a hell of a time cleaning my boots.

But stomping those damned things into a pulp was worth it.

#horror #fear

April 16, 1875

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The sounds of battle were hard to ignore.

As was the large building which stood in the center of my cornfield.

I admit that I was a trifle disgruntled at the sight of the structure. Getting the corn in is never an easy task, and all I could picture was having to tear the damned building down before I could even break ground to plow.

A sharp scream pierced the air and caused me to roll my eyes.

Whatever battle had been taking place, I’d missed it.

With a sigh, I walked towards the building, and when I reached the closed front door, the clash of steel on steel broke the silence.

Surprised, I drew a Colt, pushed the door open and entered the structure.

I found myself in a crowded courtyard, in the center of which a pair of men fought.

This was no sparring match. The men were out for blood.

In a moment, the sword of one was knocked aside, and he went tumbling to the patio. His opponent stomped on his right leg, the snapping of the bone sharp and bitter in the air. The man on the ground shrieked, and his opponent drove a long dagger into the fallen man’s chest.

Bright blue flames leapt up around them, burning them both alive inside their armor. Flesh melted, and the armor collapsed into a smoldering heap. Dust spilled out over the stones and accoutrements of war.

There was a harsh odor in the air, and a gentle breeze came in through the door I’d left open, stirring the dust up.

Yet as the breeze faded away, the dust didn’t settle.

Instead, it continued to rise.

As I watched, the armor shook and trembled, clattering as it was pulled unerringly up, bodies forming within the confines of the armor.

The resurrected warriors took up their weapons and resumed their duel.

I holstered my Colt, left the building and closed the door behind me.

I’d plant the corn somewhere else this season.

#horror #fear

April 15, 1875

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They weren’t native to Cross.

Hell, they weren’t native to anywhere or when I had seen.

I found them in a stretch of Hassel Brook that passed from my land and beneath a section of North Road. Like most unexpected creatures and objects that showed up in Cross, I kept my distance as I observed them.

As I smoked my pipe and considered what to do about the situation, the sharp clip of a horse and the soft jangle of harness and tack caught my attention. When I glanced toward the sound, a horse and buggy came into view. The mare was a fine-looking creature, and the man driving the buggy was bloated and worthless from what I could tell.

He had an imperious expression, a paunch that strained his ill-fitting suit, and the air of someone who has not had to earn his bread with his hands.

The man pulled the buggy up short and was about to speak to me when his eye caught the curious fish in the stream. His small eyes widened, and he spoke in a high voice that sounded as though he was forcing each word through his nose.

“Are those fish yours?” he asked.

“No,” I answered.

“I’d like to buy one,” he continued as if I hadn’t answered. “Fetch one for me.”

I raised an eyebrow and remained silent.

He frowned. “Did you hear me, boy?”

I nodded.

“Then do as you’re told,” he snapped.

I took the pipe out of my mouth, spat on the ground and replied, “No.”

He sputtered angrily for a moment longer, but when I refused to budge, he climbed out of the carriage and waddled over to the stream. Kneeling down, he reached in, tried to catch one of the fish, and tumbled in.

He didn’t come up.

As soon as he was in the water, the fish attacked.

The water churned into a bloody froth, but within seconds, there was nothing but a fine mist of blood dissipating in the stream, and man and fish were gone.

The mare snorted, and I nodded my head in agreement.

Climbing into the buggy, I turned it around and headed home.

The horse, no doubt, was hungry and needed a good rubbing down.

Who wouldn’t after hauling the fat bastard around?

#horror #fear

April 14, 1875

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He reeked of bad meat and spoiled milk.

And he fought like a son of a bitch.

The bullets from my Colts were useless, striking home without causing the bastard to suffer any ill effects.

I, on the other hand, had to watch out for that damned sword.

He wielded it with the fury of a demon and the grace of a dancer. I had no doubt that healing from a wound by that blade would be difficult.

He had ambushed me on my own drive, and neither myself nor any of those upon my farm had been wise to his presence.

The earth shook with every blow that landed on the ground, and trees planted by my father two hundred years earlier were hewn in half with wild blows.

I tried to slip past the man to reach my house, but he kept me from it. High, hollow laughter escaped his mouth and hung in the trees, grating on my nerves and causing me to grind my teeth. Reversing my grip on the Colts, I prepared to use the butts of the pistols to beat him to death if such a thing could be accomplished.

Before I could strike, a whistling filled the air.

For a heartbeat, it was a solitary noise, but then it was joined by others, each followed by a hard and heavy thunk.

The man before me seemed to sprout arrows.

Long, well-fletched shafts that caused him to stumble to a halt. Black smoke drifted out around the arrows, dissipating before it reached the tops of the trees.

In a moment, the man vanished, and the armor collapsed with a clatter.

From the shadows along the sides of the drive, the wild strangers from the day before appeared. In their hands, they held longbows, quivers slung at their waists. They moved in silence to the pile of armor, and one of the men produced a bag.

With quiet efficiency, they picked up each piece of armor and then sealed the bag closed.

They left as quietly as they had arrived, and I reloaded my pistols.

It was time for coffee and a drop of whiskey.

#horror #fear

April 13, 1875

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They called to me.

It was a strange, beckoning sound that reverberated through my lands. I could feel it rise up from the ground beneath my feet and sing from the stones themselves. My trees shook with it, and it caused the weeping willows to pause in their wanderings.

Crouching down, I put the palm of my right hand upon the well-trodden path of my drive and felt the pulse of the sound.

With the direction of it firmly fixed in my mind, I set off for the source, and I was not in the least surprised to discover it came from a small valley deep in the heart of my lands.

A rough camp had been established there, and a group of men the likes of which I’d not seen before awaited me.

Their signal issued forth from a bowl set in front of the headman, and when I stepped out in front of them, he nodded to me and bade me sit.

I did so, my hands near the hilts of the Colts.

When he spoke, his words sounded only in my mind, his lips refusing to move.

“Duncan Blood,” the stranger said, “we are well met.”

“Are we?” I asked.

The men around me smiled.

“We are,” the headman stated. “If not, I believe there would be a great deal of violence, and none of us would survive the encounter.”

I nodded. “Sounds like truth.”

“I am here to ask your permission,” the headman continued. “We are hunters, and we’ve followed our prey from our home to yours.”

I considered the statement for a moment. “They came on the ship.”

“They did.”

“And a fool let them out.”

A bitter look flashed across the man’s face. “Yes.”

“What will you do with your prey?”

The headman offered a grim smile. “We’ll kill those that need killing.”

I nodded, smiled, and got to my feet.

“Stay as long as you like,” I told him and left them to their business.

#horror #fear

April 12, 1875

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They have an affinity for my lake.

And for me as well, although I could do without the last.

I was coming back on the western shore, reflecting on the current situation in town, when I heard my name called. Looking towards the speaker, I saw a young woman sitting at the edge beside a large stone.

Neither of them had been there a few moments before.

I stopped where I was and waited to see what would happen.

“Will you come and sit with me?” she asked. Her voice was high with a hint of steel and something darker nestled in its depths.

“No,” I answered, taking out my pipe and lighting it.

“You’re being rude,” she scolded.

I nodded in reply.

A frown flickered over her face.

“Come and sit with me,” she ordered, and my body jerked a quarter of an inch forward.

I took the pipe stem out of my mouth and spat on the ground, shaking my head.

“Now, Duncan Blood,” she commanded.

It took all of my strength to resist the urgency in her voice, but I managed it, though I confess it set my brow to sweating and my skin to crawling. I didn’t reach for my guns, fearing that if I did so, it would cost me too much of an effort, and I would find myself marching to join her.

Behind the strange woman, the water shimmered.

In a strained voice, I stated, “You ought not to use magic this close to the lake.”

She scoffed at me. “I’ll use it when and where I like, Duncan Blood. In a minute, I’ll use it to tear your heart out and sacrifice it to myself.”

“I wouldn’t try.”

She laughed, a sweet and pleasant sound in the cool April air, and when she did so, they appeared.

Long, gleaming black tentacles snaked out of the water and coiled around her before she realized what was happening. Her form flickered and twisted as she tried to escape, but she was in the grasp of an Elder God.

One drawn to the thrum of magic in the air.

As its grasp tightened, her own broke, and I was able to take a step back. The woman uttered a mangled scream and then was silent, pulled into the darkness of the lake.

I left the God to its meal and went in search of one of my own.

#horror #fear

April 11, 1875

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It was the strangest damned sight I’d seen in a long time.

I can understand how an island might spring up overnight. These things happen, as do a great many others in Blood Lake. But this, this was new.

I sat on the shore of the lake, the water lapping at the sand as I smoked my pipe and stared out at the man. He was sitting on a raised platform made of bamboo, of all things. It was rough looking and weathered. Long poles stretched out in front of him, curving and forming an ‘X’ from which a net was suspended, the bottom of it in the water. Ropes, tied to the poles, vanished into the mute shadows around the man.

The man was curious in appearance. Like his platform, he was weathered. He sat in the little shade offered by the thatched roof above him, and he wore an expression of infinite patience.

To one side of his platform, there was a small boat, and behind him, there was another with her sail out.

As I smoked, I considered what to do. If he was only a fisherman, well, I’d let him be. Most of the creatures that had escaped the box from the derelict ship were far more than what they appeared.

Before I could think much more on the subject, there was a ripple in the water. I knew what that subtle movement meant, and of their own accord, my hands went for the Colts.

The fisherman was quicker.

He stretched his arms out, and for the first time, I saw the ropes were part of him. With a snarl of triumph, he jerked his hands up, the ropes hissing and the bamboo poles bending in as they snapped up. The net came with them, and trapped in it was a large merman screaming obscenities in his own tongue.

The fisherman laughed and quick as a spider, the bamboo poles spun and twisted, wrapping the merman tightly in the confines of the net. The merman’s screams of anger were transformed into shrieks of pain as the net cut into his flesh, blood spilling out as the fisherman pulled the merman closer.

As the net crushed the merman, the fisherman’s mouth opened impossibly wide, his jaw dislocating as he prepared to eat his meal.

Relighting my pipe, I smiled.

There are always too many merfolk in the lake.

#horror #fear

April 10, 1875

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They sprang from the darkness, blades catching the moonlight.

I neither heard nor saw them until they were upon me, and had I been anyone else, I would have been dead.

It was the whistling of the blades and the glint of moonlight upon steel that made me spring back, and had I not done so, I would have felt that pure steel bite through flesh and bone and sinew.

It would not have been pleasant.

They were mute as they pressed the attack, waves of cold rolling off of them and numbing my flesh, slowing me down, though not nearly enough for them to gain an advantage. Still, there wasn’t enough time to draw the Colts. My attackers seemed well-aware as to what the weapons were capable of.

But I had my Bowie knife and the will to use it.

The creatures who attacked me were clad in curious armor, and each had a bladed weapon. One used a spear of sorts and the other a sword, and both of them were put to good use. The creatures worked in tandem, their movements fluid and deadly. Soon, I was bleeding from half a dozen small cuts that struggled to heal themselves as I fought. The cut flesh stung, and I could feel a toxin burning through my blood, seeking a way to stop my heart.

As my skin blazed, a cold and ferocious anger settled over me. I’ve never been appreciative of those who’ve tried to bushwhack me.

The one with the spear lunged forward in an effort to create an opening for his comrade to strike, and instead, he allowed me the opportunity to attack. I took hold of the spear’s haft, went low and drove the Bowie knife straight up and into his groin. The stranger bent over me, hot stinking fluid exploding over my hand. I twisted the blade once, then jerked it out, ducking as the other creature slammed the sword down into his wounded comrade.

Without pause, I thrust my shoulder into the stomach of the sword-wielder, shoved his chin up with my free hand and rammed the Bowie knife into his exposed throat with enough force to crush his larynx.

In a moment, the bodies vanished. I was alone, and all that remained of the creatures were their weapons.

That and the stinking ichor soaking my clothes.

#horror #fear