Blog

House Call, 1905

     Doctor Harvey Cushing lit his pipe and nodded his thanks to Duncan Blood as the man handed him a cup of coffee. The farmer had added a fair amount of brandy to it, and Harvey, no stranger to strong drink, coughed.

     “Damn, Duncan,” Harvey said after he cleared his throat several times. “I swear you must put some of the fires of hell in that brandy of yours.”

     Duncan grinned and lit his own pipe. “More truth to that than you know, Harvey.”

     “I’m sure.” Henry squinted, then leaned forward and let out a laugh as he clapped his knee.

     “What is it?” Duncan asked, bemused.

     “You, Duncan Blood,” Henry proclaimed as he reclined in his chair. “Have not one, but two white hairs in that beard of yours.”

     Duncan reached up, ran his fingers through his beard and chuckled.

     “I have known you since the battle of the Wilderness,” Harvey continued, “and in forty years, you’ve hardly aged.”

       “Oh, I’ve aged,” Duncan disagreed. “And it’s our friendship that’s done it.”

     “That, my friend, I highly doubt.” Harvey took a cautious sip of his coffee and managed to get it down without sounding like he was in the final stages of tuberculosis.

     “So,” Duncan said, setting his own cup down, “what are your plans for this fine, October day?”

     “To drink as much coffee as possible, and to stay indoors. At least after I see the new priest,” Harvey stated.

     Duncan raised an eyebrow inquisitively, and Harvey released a dramatic sigh before he chuckled and continued.

     “The Catholics sent a new priest in,” Harvey said, “and it seems as if the chill of New England does not agree with him. He’s from New Mexico Territory.”

     Duncan straightened up in his chair, his look of mild curiosity quickly replaced by one of concern.

     “Did they say where in the Territory?” Duncan’s voice had a hard edge to it.

     Harvey frowned and considered what he knew of the priest. “San Miguel, I believe is what Mrs. Shea the man’s housekeeper said.”

     Duncan frowned, glanced at his mantle clock and asked, “When are you going to see him?”

     “Well, as soon as I’m done my coffee. Why?” Harvey felt confused.

     A tight smile flickered across Duncan’s face as he said, “I’d like to accompany you if that would be alright.”

     “Yes,” Harvey said, “I’d appreciate the company. I’m merely confused by your interest.”

     “I’ve heard rumors,” Duncan replied, getting to his feet.

     Harvey waited for more information, and when he realized that nothing else was forthcoming, he asked, “What rumors? And from whom?”

     “A pair of ravens,” Duncan murmured. He walked to the corner hutch, removed a chestnut brown box and brought it to the sideboard. Harvey recognized the container and felt a wave of fear wash over him, leaving him with a cold and frightened feeling that no amount of brandy-laced coffee would chase away.

     “When is the last time you had that out?” Harvey asked in a soft voice.

     Duncan raised the lid and lifted out a long-barreled Colt Navy revolver.

     “1876,” he replied, tucking the pistol away in his coat. “When I lent it to Thomas Leckie.”

     “Almost forty years,” Harvey murmured.

     “Almost,” Duncan agreed. “Are you ready?”

     Harvey nodded and stood up. “I really wish you would tell me why you wish to accompany me, and why you’re bringing the Colt.”

     “Harvey,” Duncan said, his voice even and smooth, “you would be worried for my sanity if I told you my reasons. Let me press upon our friendship and ask that you trust me.”

     “I always trust you, Duncan,” Harvey said, “which is why I’m concerned.”

     “If it’s not what I think it is,” Duncan said, “then I’ll tell you after your examination. And if it is, well, you’ll already know.”

     “I suppose that is fair enough,” Harvey replied.

     They knocked the ashes out of their pipes and Harvey placed the still warm briar into his pocket as they left the house. Soon they climbed into Harvey’s hack, his old mare, Lenore in the traces. In a short time, they were on their way, and the horse plodded along at a steady, comfortable pace that helped settle Harvey’s nerves.

     Harvey held the reins loosely, and he and Duncan rode in silence. Soon the soft thump of Lenore’s hooves on the dirt road changed to a sharp ring as her iron shoes struck the cobblestones of Main Street.

     Both he and Duncan greeted people they knew, but soon Harvey turned the hack onto Church Street. He guided Lenore toward St. Patrick’s and the rectory that was attached to it.

     Both buildings were small, wooden structures and Harvey was always amazed that Catholicism had obtained a foothold in town. Cross wasn’t known for its religious or spiritual nature. The townspeople were old New England stock, and they kept their gods to themselves.

     “Did you hear about Jepson’s land?” Duncan’s question interrupted Henry’s reflections on religion.

     “I had heard mention of a possible sale,” Harvey replied after a moment.

     “It sold,” Duncan stated. “A university from Essex County purchased the land. They’ll be building a library here. They might even put in a few buildings for lectures as well.”

     “Interesting,” Harvey mused, guiding Lenore to the rear of the rectory. “What’s the name of the university?”

     “Miskatonic,” Duncan answered.

     “Good Lord!” Harvey exclaimed, pulling Lenore up short by the hitching post. “I’ve not heard good things about that school, Duncan.”

     “I would be surprised if you had, my friend,” he replied. “The professors there research and examine items of questionable morality. Most of the learned educators seek information. Some, however, are on a journey towards what they believe will be power.”

     “And where will it truly lead them?” Harvey asked, taking up his black bag as they both climbed out of the hack.

     “To madness and damnation,” Duncan said, giving the mare an affectionate pat on her neck. “And that is if they’re lucky.”

     The conversation stopped as they climbed the back steps and Harvey stepped forward to knock on the door.

     No sooner had he done so than the door opened. The small, compact and weathered housekeeper, Colleen Shea, stood in the kitchen. Her normally composed and sphinx-like expression was nowhere to be found.

     Her eyes darted about, and in her hands, she twisted a red and white checkered dishtowel.

     “Mrs. Shea,” Harvey said gently, “whatever is the matter?”

     “It’s Father Pacheco, Doctor,” she answered her accent a curious mixture of Irish brogue and Boston roughneck. “He’s so strange! He’ll not let me into the room to change the bandage, and I can smell the rot!”

     “Damn” Harvey muttered, then in a louder voice he asked, “Is he in Father Mackenzie’s old room?”

     Mrs. Shea nodded vigorously.

     “Get water boiling, please, Mrs. Shea,” Harvey said, leading the way through the clean and organized kitchen. “We’ll need boiled rags if I’m not mistaken.”

     With Duncan close on his heels, Harvey hurried through the house to the stairs.           Climbing them two at a time, Harvey reached the upper hall and recoiled at the stench of gangrenous flesh as it assailed his nose. A short distance away was the closed door of the bedroom.

     “My God!” Harvey slapped a hand over his mouth and nose, causing his next words to be somewhat muffled. “Duncan, would you be so kind as to open the door?”

     Duncan strode forward, grasped the knob and twisted, pushing the door open at the same time. The nauseating odor of rot struck Harvey with the force of a blow, and the terrible odor was incongruous with the bright and cheerful scene before them.

     Sunlight filled the Priest’s bedroom, and photographs in beautiful dark wood frames hung on the walls. Father Pacheco reclined on his bed, propped up with an open book in his right hand. His left arm lay across his stomach, and that hand was swollen and discolored.

     The priest set the book down on his lap, nodded to the black bag in Harvey’s grasp and said in a clear, strong voice, “You are the doctor, I presume?”

     Harvey lowered his hand from his mouth, forced a smile and said. “I am. Dr. Harvey Cushing.”

     Father Pacheco extended his right hand, and Harvey stepped forward and shook it. He was surprised at the strength of the priest’s grip. Harvey tried to let go and begin the examination, but the priest tightened his hold.

     “I need your left arm, Dr. Cushing. The stitches came out in mine,” the priest’s eyes flickered over to Duncan. “Or your associate’s arm, I’m not particular about which –”

     Father Pacheco was cut off by the painfully loud report of the pistol as Duncan fired a single shot. The bullet slammed into the priest’s temple and splattered blood, bones, brains, and black hair across the pillows and wall.

     With his ears ringing, Harvey pulled his hand free and staggered back.

     Duncan stepped forward, the revolver’s barrel fixed on the corpse of the priest. With his free hand, Duncan jerked back the blankets.

     Father Pacheco was naked from the waist down.

     And what Harvey saw was a patchwork man.

     The priest had been cobbled together with the body parts of other men. A dark shin with a pale white foot joined by rows of stitches, and the combination was reversed on the opposite leg.

     The sound of running feet broke through the fugue that had settle over him, and Harvey turned in time to see Mrs. Shea as she crossed the threshold.

     She gazed upon the corpse, then her eyes rolled up to reveal the whites.

     Harvey caught the woman as she pitched forward. He glanced up at Duncan, saw the man cock the revolver’s hammer back and fire a second shot into the dead creature’s skull.

     Duncan picked up the book the creature had put down, turned it over and let out a dry chuckle.

     “What?” Harvey asked, easing himself and Mrs. Shea to the floor. “What is it?”

     “Appropriate reading, it would seem,” Duncan responded, and he handed the book to Harvey.

     Bound in red leather and worn from use, the book’s title stood out in surprisingly bright gold lettering.

     Frankenstein.

     Dumbfounded, Harvey looked up at Duncan.

     But the other man had removed a scalpel from Harvey’s bag. And as Harvey watched, Duncan began to cut away the stitches and disassemble the creature.

 

Help Support Cross, Massachusetts!

Hello! I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please consider putting a dollar in the pot. 🙂 Every little bit helps, and each dollar allows me to spend more time creating posts and stories for you to read. Thank you for your support!

$1.00

December 14, 1895

     Billy Neville left Cross at the age of 13 aboard his father’s ship, Cross Winds. The ship sank off the coast of Sumatra in 1875 with the loss of all hands.

     Billy’s mother was devastated when news reached her of the fate of her husband and son, and she went mad with grief. Her brother, William – after whom Billy was named – promptly placed his sister in an asylum, collected the insurance money from the loss of the ship, and retired to the house that had once belonged to his sister and brother-in-law.

     Billy’s mother slowly died of malnutrition and neglect, but William invested the insurance money wisely and lived comfortably as the years passed.

     Unbeknownst to William, his nephew Billy was still alive. The boy was rescued by Batak warriors on their way to battle against the Dutch forces in Sumatra. For years Billy sought to return home, traveling with a small monkey, his sole friend.

     Eventually, Billy found a ship to work on, and he made his way across the Pacific, moving ever closer to California. When he reached the States, Billy and his pet traveled across the country. For years he had sent letters to his mother, but never had he received an answer.

     Fear grew in him that something terrible had happened to her, and when he arrived in Cross on December 14, 1895, Duncan Blood told Billy what had transpired, and Billy and his monkey went home to see Uncle William.

     Billy and his pet lived at the home for another 42 years, but his Uncle William vanished that December night.

     Some of the neighbors recalled seeing Billy the next morning, bringing a sea chest out to his uncle’s wagon, the monkey’s small paws dyed a darker stain of brown as the creature sat upon his shoulder.

Help Support Cross, Massachusetts!

Hello! I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please consider putting a dollar in the pot. 🙂 Every little bit helps, and each dollar allows me to spend more time creating posts and stories for you to read. Thank you for your support!

$1.00

December 13, 1903

     Marceline Leon’s imagination was terrible to witness.

     Her dreams were the stuff of nightmares, and if she told them to you, in her soft, sweet voice, you would wish she hadn’t.

     Born in 1895 to a French family which consisted of the mother, father, three daughters, and four sons, on the outskirts of town. Marceline spoke both French and English passably well, enough to terrify the listener.

     Her words crafted images, and breath breathed life into the visions.

     Between 1898 and 1902, six people were hospitalized, four more placed in sanitariums, and at least three committed suicide, all because of what Marceline spoke of.

     She would whisper into people’s ears and pour out her fears. In a matter of moments, those fears would become realized.

     Goblins and trolls, giants and wicked kings. The stuff of fables and myths, they would vanish once blood had been drawn.

     On December 13th, 1903, Marceline screamed from her room at the top of the stairs, howling about the presence of a great and dark goblin beneath her bed.

     When her parents reached the room, Marceline and her two sisters were gone. Blood was splashed across the walls, and trails of the same lead beneath the bed, vanishing into the shadows.

Help Support Cross, Massachusetts!

Hello! I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please consider putting a dollar in the pot. 🙂 Every little bit helps, and each dollar allows me to spend more time creating posts and stories for you to read. Thank you for your support!

$1.00

December 12th, 1872

     Born on January 1, 1855, James Madison Whitmore never felt as though he belong fully in Cross. His parents were both active participants in the First Congregationalist Church, and they attempted to instill in James the same faith and religious convictions they held.

     James, however, was fascinated with tales of the orient. When he read of Russia and the power it held, his interest in the world far from the borders of Cross only increased.

     He was a remarkably intelligent child, and as he grew older, whatever he put his mind to, he accomplished. By the age of 10, James could speak Latin, Greek, French, and Portuguese. His parents, hoping that their son might one day take up the mantle of missionary work, allowed him to study Russian and Arabic.

     Concerned with his son’s physical safety, Mr. Whitmore employed the services of several combat hardened veterans of the Civil War to train his son in the use of firearms and swords. Not surprisingly, James became an expert shot, and was undefeatable when armed with a cavalry saber.

     On his 17th birthday, without a word to anyone, James Madison Whitmore vanished. His sword and a few belongings were missing, but there was no letter or explanation of any kind.

     His parents believed, firmly, that James was in the Orient, proclaiming the word of Jesus Christ to those who had not yet heard it.

     On December 12, 1872, a letter arrived from James, the envelope bearing any number of curious stamps upon it. His parents brought it to church, where they hastily opened it and showed the photograph James had included. Happily, his parents started to read it to the congregation, and his mother and several others fainted moments later.

     “My dearest mother and father,” James wrote, “I am in the employ of the Khan, and have executed 300 men, women, and children to date.”

Help Support Cross, Massachusetts!

Hello! I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please consider putting a dollar in the pot. 🙂 Every little bit helps, and each dollar allows me to spend more time creating posts and stories for you to read. Thank you for your support!

$1.00

How Much is Enough?

     ‘How much is enough?’ is a question that crops up often in regards to many ventures, but especially when the focus is on writing.

     Writing shouldn’t be a painful act.

     Some elements of what you write may be painful (memories of abuse, struggles in life, and a slew of other triggers), but the act of putting thought to paper shouldn’t pain you.

     What you need to do is strike a balance between how much you believe you can write, and how much you want to write.

     These can often be two vastly different numbers.

     The best way for you to find the happy medium – the amount you can reasonably produce – is to pick a subject you like, estimate how many words you believe you can write, and then write about it for half an hour.

     Focus and write.

     That’s all. Don’t set up your music.

     The only task you should focus on is your writing.

     When those 30 minutes are up, stop and take a look at what the difference is between your estimated ability, and the actual amount you were able to produce.

     Let’s say you were able to write 500 words in those 30 minutes. And let’s say you thought you would be able to write at least 1,000.

     Split the difference.

     For this instance, I think that 750 would be a reasonable number to strive for.

     In my experience, increasing your writing a little at time is better than becoming frustrated with an inability to meet an unrealistic expectation.

     Next time you sit down to write, set a goal for yourself. If you’re going to write for half an hour, try to reach 750 words. An hour? 1,500.

     Remember, life happens. It’s cliché, I know, but it’s also the truth. You’ll be interrupted by the phone, by family, by just about everything under the sun. Roll with those disturbances and keep your eye on number of words you’re striving for.

     It can only make you a better writer.

Help Support Cross, Massachusetts!

Hello! I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please consider putting a dollar in the pot. 🙂 Every little bit helps, and each dollar allows me to spend more time creating posts and stories for you to read. Thank you for your support!

$1.00

December 11, 1920

     Dane Young marched off to glory along with hundreds of his New England brethren when the call went out in 1917.

     By 1918, Dane was in France and regretting the decision that had thrust him deep into the horrors of warfare, but he fought on until he was wounded by an artillery shell.

     A piece of shrapnel tore away part of his skull, and left his brain exposed.

     Dane, who had been a quiet, unpresuming lad when he left Cross, returned as a discouraged man who rarely spoke. Slowly, Dane recuperated under the ministrations of his mother, and slowly a strangeness settled over their home.

     Without effort, Dane seemed to know what everyone in and near the house was thinking. He knew when people were coming to visit, and when death would claim a victim in the township.

     When people whispered of his new, curious ability, Dane would smile, and do nothing to set their minds at ease.

     On December 11, 1920, his mother prepared the home for a small gathering of friends. They were working out the niceties to help out some of the poorer citizens of Cross. Dane sat in a back corner of the parlor, eyes closed and smiling at thoughts only he and the thinkers were privy to.

     At 7:01 PM, the doorbell rang, and Dane’s eyes snapped open. He screamed at his mother not to answer it, but his cry went unheeded.

     When she opened the door, she later told her friends, cold air rushed past her, and Dane let out a terrified scream. Turning around, she saw her son slump in the chair, a rigid smile on his face.

     His healed head wound was torn open, his brain exposed to the world once more.

Help Support Cross, Massachusetts!

Hello! I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please consider putting a dollar in the pot. 🙂 Every little bit helps, and each dollar allows me to spend more time creating posts and stories for you to read. Thank you for your support!

$1.00

Branching Out

     Jobs often offer something terrible: security.

     Mind you, security can be absolutely wonderful. I worked – full-time – as a trash-man for seventeen years, and the safety of that position (the steady pay raises, the health insurance, the vacation days, and the sick days), kept me there. So did my attitude at the time. I had a chip on my shoulder, and it took a debilitating injury for me to realize that I had done my family and myself a disservice by staying in a job that I hated – and one that had no possibility of growth – for almost two decades.

     For the past three years now, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working as both an editor and as a ghostwriter. I’ve been able to fine tune my writing with the help of some exceptional editors and my publisher. While I intend to remain with this company for as long as possible, I’ve discovered that I have put my own writing on hold, much to my own detriment.

     So, I’m branching out. Or going back to my roots. However you want to look at it. The point is, I am at last able to recognize when I need to do something, and I have the confidence to do it.

     And that means getting back into writing my kind of story. A little horror. A little fantasy. A whole lot of ‘what the hell’ was that?

     Now, I’m not telling you to drop your job and run for your writing space. Far from it. What I am suggesting is that if you love to write, if you are driven to write regardless as to whether anyone reads it or not, then it’s time to start focusing on that.

     Carve a little bit of time out of the day for yourself. Don’t cut into family time, or those precious few moments with your spouse.

     If you are an early riser and you function best first thing, then set your alarm a little earlier.

     If you’re like me, and the night brings out the best in your writing, then stay up a little later than you would.

     Time for you to work is there, you just need to find it, and stick to it.

     I know you can do it, so, go ahead, start writing.

Help Support Cross, Massachusetts!

Hello! I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please consider putting a dollar in the pot. 🙂 Every little bit helps, and each dollar allows me to spend more time creating posts and stories for you to read. Thank you for your support!

$1.00