Of my Father

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I was thirteen when we went to war.

A group of Abenaki had come down by way of Boston Towne, skirting the city to the west before settling down on some raids. When they reached Cross, they struck as they were wont to do.

They picked off a few men foolishly working too far out in the fields, but the war party kept clear of the Hollow. They knew better than to tread that unhallowed ground.

The alarm rang out through the town, and most of the folk made it to the garrison house, securing themselves within it and keeping the raiding party at bay.

My father and I, well, we were in the orchard. We had been checking on the trees, and my father had been negotiating, strenuously, with the oldest of them. They were demanding fresh meat, and my father was reminding them that corpses were in short supply.

Until the alarm sounded.

My father and I took up our rifles, loaded up shot and powder, and made our way into town. We kept to the trails on the outskirts, moving silently. The Abenaki weren’t the only ones who knew how to wage war in the forest.

When we came in behind them, my father gave me permission, and I crept forward with my knife.

I found the first three warriors crouched low behind a fallen log. Their position was excellent, giving them a perfect view of the garrison and all approaches to it. For a few moments, I watched them.

Only one man had a rifle, and he treated it with the respect it was due. His two companions, far older, were armed with war clubs. The man with the rifle brought it up to his shoulder, steadied the barrel on the log, and fired at the house.

When he did, I attacked.

I launched myself toward the gunner, sliding the blade in between his ribs and up into his lungs, making sure not to get the weapon stuck in the bone. I ducked as the man to my left saw me and swung his warclub, the heavy cudgel smashing into the back of the gunner’s head and caving the skull in.

As the man jerked the weapon back, I threw myself onto the other man, who dropped his club to try and catch me.

What he caught was my knife instead.

I thrust it up under his chin, the blade piercing the roof of his mouth and catching at the last moment. As he fell back, clawing at the knife, I let go and scrambled over the fallen log, snatching up the dead gunner’s rifle as I did so.

The surviving man brought his bloody warclub to bear, his face painted for war and splattered with his comrade’s brains. He tried to hit me, but I blocked with the rifle’s stock, then reversed it, slamming the butt into the other man’s groin with enough force to knock him down.

I didn’t bother retrieving my knife from the dying man or snatching up the warclub the last assailant had dropped.

Instead, I raised the rifle over my head, and I beat the last man to death.

My father appeared a moment later, splattered with blood and grinning. He glanced about at my handiwork and nodded.

“Messy,” he told me, “but well done, my boy. Let’s see how many of our neighbors are still alive.”

All but two within the house had survived the attack, and that was because they had been wounded on the way to the garrison.

As for my father and myself, we gathered up members of the Coffin family, girded ourselves for war, and set out on the trail after the remaining Abenaki.

We found them a few days later, and we reminded them why it was best to leave Cross alone.

***

My father taught me to kill. Not for pleasure. Not out of spite.

“Killing is a chore,” he would tell me. “Nothing more and nothing less. Sometimes it’s a pleasure, but more often, it is merely another bit of unpleasant work. Do it, do it well, and move on with your day.”

It is a lesson I learned and one I keep close to my chest.

I remember the day we caught up with the war party of Abenaki. We took their scalps and left their heads hanging from the trees along the trail.

My father and I took no pleasure in the killing or the abuse of the corpses.

It was a chore, one of many, and nothing more.

My father was many things. Most importantly, though, he was my father, and I miss him more than I can say.

When I found his journals and this one on the outskirts of the Hollow, decades after he had vanished, I was a boy once more.

A boy missing his father and hoping that one day the man might return.

December 6, 1870

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“Your scent is wrong.”

The man’s voice rolled across the distance between us. His horse remained motionless, his arms comfortable in their position, a short bow fitted with an arrow and drawn back. I could see the weapon’s killing head from where I stood, and I knew it would be an unpleasant injury to sustain.

“It’s been a few days since I bathed.”

The man did not relax his pull on the bowstring. “No, that’s not what smells wrong. I sorted that out in a moment or two. What I can’t place is where you’re from. Most of your scent is hidden by that damned coat you wear. I could encourage you to take it off, but there’s a whiff of gunpowder and lead about you. I’d hit you with the arrow, of that I’m certain. There’s a chance, though, that it might not kill you. I suspect you’d kill me, though.”

“Leaves us in a bit of a predicament,” I observed.

The man chuckled and spoke softly to the horse. Whatever command was issued was inaudible, but the steed took several steps to me.

“You’ll both die as soon as that notched arrow gets released,” I told him in a low voice. “I can live a helluva lot longer with an arrow in me than you or your horse can with a bullet in your throat.”

The man clucked his tongue, and the horse came to a stop.

“What is it you want, Stranger?” the man asked.

“I want to go into town. There are some people who need to meet me.”

The stranger lowered his bow slightly. “You strike me as a man who might engage in a bit of violence on someone else’s behalf.”

“It’s been known to happen,” I nodded.

“Would you be killing anyone?” he asked.

“Aye.”

“How many?”

“Any I can find,” I answered. “I hear they’ve made a deal with a devil.”

The man removed his arrow and slid it into his quiver. “Who am I to stand in the way of good work?”

I smiled.

The man looked at the sled and let out a laugh. “You’re wearing the watchman’s coat, pulling the forester’s cart, and holding her hatchet, too. Will you collect the archer’s bow?”

“Not so long as you don’t try to kill me.”

“That,” the archer said, “seems as though it might be a dangerous occupation.”

“Aye,” I smiled. “It tends to be.”

#paranormal #christmas

December 5, 1870

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Curiouser by the minute.

I’d no sooner closed the door behind me than I heard the sound of sled runners on the hardpacked snow.

From the right came a woman, bedecked in furs and thick cloth, dragging a sled piled high with firewood. When she came abreast of me, the woman stopped. She peered at me with dark, questioning eyes, and then, in a low voice, she said, “You wear the watchman’s coat, but you are not he.”

“I’m a stranger, making my way toward town,” I replied.

She lowered her scarf and revealed a bleeding mouth that took up the entirety of her lower jaw. “You are an abomination.”

She dropped the sled’s lead and held her arms out.

The firewood sprang up from the sled and encased her, pushing her up until she stood at least ten feet tall and was armored. In her hands, she clutched long branches as thick as my wrist.

I dove to the right as the branches slashed down, smashing into the place I’d been but a moment before. The glint of steel caught my eye, and as I rolled back to my feet, I snatched a hatchet up from the sled.

She caught me with a backswing, the glancing blow from the branch snapping my femur like a twig.

Pain, intense and nauseating, flooded my senses, and I fought it back as I caught the next blow with my free hand.

The woman let out an undulating victory cry as she sought to stove in my head, but her cry of victory transformed into a shriek of pain as I drove the hatchet into her knee.

She crumpled to the ground, blood spouting from the wound as I delivered two more quick strikes, severing the leg at the knee.

As my femur knit itself back together, I drove the hatchet into the woman’s open mouth, cleaving her head in two. The top bounced on the snow, struck the sled and tumbled away, coming to a rest against a base of a small tree.

I sat for a few minutes in the snow, waiting for my leg to finish healing. I looked from the body to the sled, from the sled to the blood-slick hatchet in my hand. Getting to my feet, I picked up the tether for the sled.

The hatchet had already proved useful.

I had no doubt the sled would as well.

#paranormal #christmas

December 4, 1870

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The wall stretched for as far as I could see.

The only entrance was guarded by a wearing a fair amount of clothing. He looked like a self-righteous bastard, and when he spoke, he confirmed my first impression of him.

“Where goest thou?” he asked, grinning at me. There was no affection in his phrase, and he looked at me with something close to disgust.

I don’t deny that I felt the same.

“I’d hoped to pass through the door and make my way to the next town,” I told the guard.

He shook his head. “This is not for the likes of you. You’re to take the narrow trail three miles to the east. It should bring you to the place you seek. Your kind is not allowed through this entrance.”

I smiled, amused at the man’s words. For a moment, I considered forcing the issue but decided against it. I turned to leave, and the wind shifted ever so slightly, carrying my scent to the guard.

“Stop!” he ordered, and I turned to face him.

“Make up your mind,” I chuckled.

“You are a Blood.”

There was no need to respond to his statement. I knew who I was, and apparently, this man had some sort of inkling as well.

“There is a price on your head,” he told me.

“Worth your life?”

Without a word, he threw off his coat, and I saw a half dozen arms, three on each side. He drew pistols from holsters slung across his broad chest, and I drew my Colts as I dropped to one knee.

His first shots tore through the air where my chest had been a moment before, and the heavy .44 caliber slugs of the Colts slammed into his groin and thighs. The impact of the rounds sent him staggering back and throwing off his aim for the next volley of shots from his pistols.

As he tried to steady himself, I fired off another pair of shots, each one catching him in the center of his chest and sending him another step back. His boots became tangled in his coat, and he went down with a thunderous crash.

He tried to bring his pistols to bear, but my revolvers spoke first. Round after round slammed into his head, the bastard’s blood and brains steaming in the morning air.

I paused long enough to reload the Colts and to take his discarded coat.

It was getting cold.

#paranormal #christmas

December 3, 1870

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This wasn’t Cross.

I stepped out of the woman’s back door into a world not my own. The sun hung in the air wrong.

On my back, I had a bit of meat and bread as well as a container of hot tea. They would last until I found the town I needed.

I’d been on the move for no more than a few hours when I came upon a narrow, well-trod road. I followed it for another half hour or so and spotted a blacksmith’s. Five men stood outside; all work paused as they watched me approach.

There was an unmistakable animosity in their faces.

The man at the bellows spat upon the ground while the smith, with hammer raised above his head, as though frozen in mid-strike, eyed me with growing hate. The other three fixed their gaze upon me and waited.

I came to a stop, slipped my hands behind my back and took hold of my Bowie knife. There was no need to draw the Colts. Not when there were no firearms in sight, and especially not when I couldn’t be sure as to how many men might be in the house behind the smith.

“What do you want, Boy?” the smith asked, lowering his hammer.

“Nothing,” I replied. “I’m headed to a village not far from here. I’m to kill a man and any who stand in my way.”

None of the men found the statement humorous, which was good. I hadn’t meant to be funny.

“And why’s that?” the smith inquired.

“He’s aligned himself with Dame Blood, my mother.”

“Then you’ve more than one man to try and kill!”

The smith and his comrades spread out and came at me from all sides, which was fine with me.

My father had taught me close-quarters fighting, and I’d learned the hard lessons of fighting Abenaki and Mohicans.

Five men at a smith’s forge were far from worrisome.

The men fought well and died fast, the smith lasting longest of all.

In the end, he was on his knees before me, arms hanging useless at his sides. I had him by the hair; his head pulled back to expose his neck.

“You’re Duncan Blood,” he said.

“Aye.”

“I should have known,” the smith mused. “I saw you fight once, twenty-odd years ago. You killed eight men with a pruning knife. There are, I suppose, worse ways to die.”

“There are,” I said and drove my knife into his throat.

#paranormal #christmas

December 2, 1870

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The child slept.

His cradle hung from the ceiling. The boy’s delicate snores filled the calm of the small room the woman had led me into, and burning logs threw a pleasant light and warmth from a fireplace set in the far wall.

Furs and rugs lined the floor of the room, and large, overstuffed pillows were piled along the walls. When we sat again, the woman took a seat by her child, smiling at him before speaking.

“My son’s father attempted to kill us both a short time ago. I used the last of my power to bring us here to hide. It is a place he would not think to look,” she told me. “My people’s fear and hatred of you is come by honestly, Blood. You’ve done a great deal of killing, although you are much younger here than you are in my world.”

I took out my pipe and tobacco, held them up, and she nodded. As I packed the briarwood bowl, she continued.

“Your other self butchered every member of my family save my husband and me.”

I lit my pipe, took several long draws upon it to get the smoke going and then asked, “What stayed my hand?”

“You said I had not listened to your mother, and so there was no need for me to die.” She adjusted the hat upon her head, smiled at her son and then added, “My husband had only just become so, and he had not been foolish enough to raise his hand against you.”

“Why does he want to kill you and his son?” I asked.

Anger darkened her face. “Because he is now your mother’s creature, and she wishes me punished for not serving her. He is to kill his son in front of me and then finish me when I am broken.”

I took the pipe out of my mouth, glanced at the boy and then back to the woman. “You won’t break.”

She gave me a hard, knowing grin. “No. I won’t.”

“You want your husband dead?” I asked.

She nodded. “He remains in our village, trying to think of where I am. He must die if my son is to live.”

I looked from her to the boy and back again. I could feel the truth of her words.

“How many in your village serve my mother?” I asked.

“All. Two hundred, perhaps. Perhaps more have joined them.”

“Any you want me to spare?”

She shook her head.

“How do I get to your village?” I asked, and she told me.

#paranormal #christmas

December 1, 1870

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Goddamn ice.

Goddamn dog, too.

I’d seen the dog running on the ice and knew it wasn’t a good sign. The weather had been touch and go of late, and that meant the ice on Blood Lake wouldn’t be nearly thick enough around the edges, which is where I saw the dog.

The dog, a black pug, raced from the shore to a near island and back again. I tried calling to it, but the little bastard ignored me and raced toward the next island.

I couldn’t wait for the dog to come back to the shore, nor could I bear the thought of it falling through the ice. If the shock of the water didn’t kill it, then whatever merfolk were lingering near the surface certainly would.

With a curse, I checked the tie-downs on my Colts and then headed across the ice toward the island. The cracking beneath my feet was none too reassuring, but I pushed all thoughts of worry out of my head. I’d survived a dip in freezing waters before, and while it was none too pleasant, it wouldn’t kill me.

And the merfolk knew better than to touch me.

Ahead, the pug reached the shore of the island and scrambled up and through the snow-covered bank into the tree line.

With a grunt of dismay, I continued on to the island.

It was a new bit of land that had shown up in October. I’d given it a cursory examination when it first arrived, but there’d been nothing of interest on it.

And, consequently, nothing the dog might be able to eat and survive.

I couldn’t let it starve.

I reached the island and followed the dog’s tracks up into the tree line, down a slight incline and into a narrow path through some granite ledges. When the path opened, the dog’s tracks led into a small house that sure as hell hadn’t been there before.

With a grimace, I walked up to the front door and found it slightly ajar.

I nudged it open with my foot and stepped in to find a petite woman standing a few feet away.

She bowed, gestured toward an ornately carved chair, and said in a low, pleasant tone, “Duncan Blood, I need your help.”

I took my hat off, sat down in the chair and asked, “With what?”

She sat down opposite me, smiled and answered, “With killing.”

I nodded.

Killing was something I could do.

#paranormal #christmas

1931: Alive

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“There are children.”

I looked at her. “More children? Where are they being kept?”

The one-eyed girl child shook her head. “No, not like us. Children birthed from the monsters.”

My mouth went dry.

“There is a small door tucked around the corner,” she continued. “I saw it once, a great trio of machines, each holding a monstrous babe that clings to life.”

This place had succeeded in breeding with creatures best left unmentioned.

Young ones in a hidden room who needed killing, and my father had taught me to put my chores off, not when I could get them done.

“Stay here,” I told the girls. “I’ll be back soon as I’m done.”

They looked at me with eyes robbed of innocence, and then they sat down on a bunk together to wait.

I left them in the room and went to the small door, standing slightly ajar. It was barely tall enough for me to fit through and hardly wide enough for me to do the same.

Still, I fit through, and I found myself in a room occupied by three machines and a single nurse.

She drew a large bore revolver from behind her back and cocked the hammer. “Come no closer, Blood.”

I obliged her and came to a stop.

“These creatures will not be touched,” she continued.

I gauged the weapon in her hand, the steadiness with which she held it and weighed both against my ability to draw a Colt before receiving a wound.

Before I could come to a conclusion, the wall above the strange machines vibrated and opened. The nurse jerked around, fired once into the hole formed in the wall, and then was snatched up by a massive, scaled hand that vanished into the wall with her.

A dark shadow filled the room as dozens of hands and tentacles, arms and grotesque forms spilled out of the hole. They gathered up the children, the machines, and everything they could find.

Yet none touched me.

As the last creature vanished into the hole, a voice escaped from it.

“These children are ours, Blood,” the voice shook my bones with every consonant. “We will raise them and cherish them. When it is time, they will devour this place. Stone by stone.”

It sounded like a fine plan to me, and there were some at Miskatonic who I’d do that to.

But bone by bone instead.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: Survivors

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They stood in silence.

My ears still rang from the thundering roar of my Colts, my fingers singed from swapping out hot brass for fresh rounds.

The room in front of me was small, controlled by a handful of staff. My heart sank, and my anger surged as I saw a trio of young girls, two on the right and one in a bed on the left.

From the looks on their faces, I could see they knew what fate awaited them.

The women in the beds gazed at me; all hope lost.

Genevieve was not among them.

“Where is Genevieve?” I asked.

The doctor stepped forward, his voice high and tight as he lifted his chin imperiously. “We don’t bother with names in the impregnation chamber.”

I shot him in the head, and blood splattered over the white linens and clean walls. While the nurses cried out and shrank back, neither the girls nor the patients abed did so.

I nodded to the closest nurse. “Same question.”

The woman straightened up, her entire body trembling. “I won’t – ”

I shot her before she could finish speaking, the heavy slug ripping through her chest and dropping her to the floor.

The nurse to the far right cringed as I looked at her, and before I could ask my question, she exclaimed, “Genevieve died this morning by her own hand after we impregnated her.”

I tightened my grip on the Colts and asked, “Which of you did it?”

Before either of the nurses could answer, one of the girls – whose right eye was bandaged, whispered, “They all did.”

As the nurses looked at the child in horror, I gunned them down.

None of the shots were clean, and they were squealing in pain as I walked to the nearest adult patient.

I opened my mouth to speak, and the woman shook her head.

“There is no hope for any of us,” she explained. “We are all of us doomed. Even should the beasts within bloom, we will be sacrificed to their foul gods. We can only ask for mercy.”

“That,” I whispered. “Is something I can do.”

The young girls gathered on the far side of the room, and I walked among the impregnated women. Some prayed. Others remained silent. All looked at me with fierce, determined eyes.

I wept with each pull of the trigger.

#paranormal #mystery

1931: A Show

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I stood and watched the show.

I had come upon a small balcony overlooking an operating theater.

New machinery, glistening and thrumming with the pure sounds of oiled parts, occupied a great deal of the room. Doctors and nurses hastened about the room, moving back and forth between a pair of patients. Around the periphery of the room stood a few men who were, without question, members of Miskatonic’s faculty.

They watched in fascinated silence.

I looked down at the two women in the beds. Neither of them was pregnant from what I could see, and if the concerns of the medical staff were to be believed, then the young women would die before the day was out.

The insemination, it appeared, had gone terribly wrong.

One woman, facing away from me, convulsed on her stretcher as the nurses and doctors tried to strap her down. She threw an arm with such violence that it tore from the socket and sailed across the room to strike the floor with a wet thud. As arterial blood sprayed up and out, showering down upon the staff, the young woman’s stomach beneath the sheet churned and convulsed.

A heartbeat later and her innards exploded out, showering down upon those around her and painting the walls with her blood.

The other patient fared better than her co-sufferer.

As a doctor leaned forward to check on the woman, she threw herself forward with enough strength to lift the gurney off the floor for a split second, and then her teeth sank into his neck. The doctor tried to wrench himself free but only succeeded in leaving a chunk of flesh in her mouth.

The doctor stumbled back, fell into the arms of a pair of nurses and was dragged out of the way as another doctor leapt forward to help secure the now shrieking woman to the gurney. Her body jumped and twisted violently, and when I heard her shoulder break, I drew the Colts.

The first slug took her in the temple and ended her misery.

I took my time with everyone else.

The thunderous roar of the Colts filled the operating theater, drowning out the screams of pain and horror issuing forth from those within the room.

I killed every last one of the bastards, and I was angry there weren’t more.

#paranormal #mystery