The Church of the Good Shepherd, 1936

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The word’s been passed. No one’s to go outside after dark.

When I arrived at the Church of the Good Shepherd, there was an ill-scent lingering about the place.

I approached it with all due caution, Colts in hand as I went up to the main entrance and peered in. Nothing greeted my eye, and so I followed the same course of action that Carl Mydans had taken. I went around back.

The windows were shattered. Shards of glass and broken framing littered the ground, and the rose bushes that had been the pastor’s wife’s pride and joy had been torn up by their roots.

When I tried the back door, I found it unlocked, and so I went into the church.

There was oppressiveness in the air. An atmosphere of filth.

I passed through the church kitchen and found it in perfect order, the way it always was. The coat closet and the pantry both were empty, and so I pushed on into the body of the church itself.

As I stepped through the doors, a thousand flies took flight, their buzzing and the whisper of their wings a sound reminiscent of the battlefields of France and Belgium, Gettysburg and Antietam, and a hundred other places I have seen the dead.

What was left of the pastor and his wife was strewn across the floor, draped across the pews, and nailed to the rafters. Piles of bones were stacked every few feet as though the vampire had gotten bored after its meal. The black garb of the pastor, and a simple white dress that had once belonged to his wife, were filthy, smeared with offal and torn into long strips. These were strung from the pulpit to the floor in a shape reminiscent of a maypole.

A few feet in front of the pulpit, a broken cross lay on the floor, and half a hundred-odd teeth arranged in a perfect circle around it.

A single, bloody thumbprint was on the lower half of the cross. I suspect that the good pastor, or perhaps his wife, had tried to use the cross to ward off the vampire.

It takes more than the mere symbol of faith.

True faith is needed, and few are blessed with it.

I slid the Colts into their holsters, left the remains where they were, and made my way home.

It’ll be dark soon enough.

#fear #horror #paranormal

Information, 1936

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He stopped me on Blood Road to pass on a bit of news.

Carl Mydans had been born and raised in Cross and, when he was old enough, he had joined the Navy and left town about as quick as he could. I didn’t blame him. When he was 13, Carl had the misfortune of watching a bear with two heads eat his father.

Eventually, Carl had returned from his travels, and he had settled down at the ripe age of 60. But not in Cross. No, he had taken up residence in Pepperell, but he did find occasion to come into town now and again. Mostly it was to jaw with me and one or two others he cared to see.

I was walking and considering how I’d had to butcher Joel Hanson the day before when Carl pulled up beside me, his wife and their children in the carriage with him.

“You’re a sight for sore eyes, Duncan Blood,” Carl told me.

“Why’s that?” I asked. “My bourbon’s at home.”

His children giggled, and his wife raised an eyebrow at my statement, but Carl merely shook his head. “We passed by the Church of the Good Shepherd not twenty minutes ago.”

“And?” I asked, disliking the way the conversation was going.

“Doors are open, Duncan,” he told me. “Looks like they’ve been open all night, too.”

“Pastor Daniel?”

“No sign of him,” Carl continued. “I took a quick look ‘round the back, and some of the windows are busted in. All the rose bushes, they’ve been pulled up by the roots.”

I shook my head. “Where are you headed?”

“Into town to stop at Von Epp’s,” he explained. “The kids want new books, and they’ve worked hard for ‘em.”

“Make sure you’re home before dark,” I warned.

Carl nodded.

I looked from him to his children and then his wife. “There’ve been some mountain lion sightings,” I said to them. “At least two. If they’re hunting together, they won’t be bothered by the size of your horse.”

“Would they attack?” Carl’s daughter asked, holding onto her doll protectively.

“They might,” I said. “Best not to tempt them.”

“A wise course,” Carl’s wife agreed.

Carl tipped his hat, clucked at the horse and gave the reins a gentle snap.

As they headed into town, I adjusted the Colts in their holsters and started for the Church of the Good Shepherd.

#fear #horror #paranormal

Hunting, 1936

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Joel Hanson wasn’t with his sheep.

I couldn’t remember a time in the past 65 years where the man wasn’t with his flock. He’d never married, and when his mother and father had died of influenza in 1918, he’d continued working the small farm just as he always had.

On any day of the week, I could stroll past his house on the outskirts of town and find him tending to his small flock. At night, he was wont to sit by the fire and spin the wool into yarn, and then Mrs. Brisbee up the road would sell it when she went into Pepperell.

As is the nature of most New England towns, Cross likes its repetition.

So do I.

When that steadiness is interrupted or broken altogether, it means something’s in town that shouldn’t be.

I was worried for Joel when I didn’t see him in the field. Close to midday, I went up to his house, gave a solid rap on the door, and when he didn’t answer, I opened it and went into the house.

He was there, dead on the floor by his chair.

The fire had long gone out in the hearth, and the cup of tea on the small table beside his seat was untouched. A bible lay on the floor beside the man, and his large, calloused hands were curled up. His eyes were open, the irises and pupils milky white. The man’s skin, always a deep tan from his time in the pastures, was far paler than it should have been. I could see the spiderweb pattern of blue veins on his cheeks, and I knew what had happened to him.

Going into the kitchen, I found a string of garlic and a large butcher’s knife. I up-ended one of the chairs at the table and snapped a leg off, leaving a jagged point on it.

Returning to Joel’s body, I set the knife and garlic on the mantle, picked up an old iron, and then set the point of the chair leg against his breast, just above his heart. I slammed the iron against the leg and drove the wood into the man’s chest.

For the next few minutes, I set about the task of removing the man’s head and stuffing his mouth with garlic. When I finished, I put the head in a bag and carried it out of the house with me.

It would go into the Cross River, and then, well, I’d have to look for the vampire that’d killed Joel Hansen.

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July 31, 1938

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Bob and Gerta were surprised to see me.

They were seated behind a large desk, and between the two of them was Turk. The dog looked no worse for the wear.

The duo opened their mouths, and as one, they spoke.

My mother’s voice came from their throats.

“You have made it this far.” Spittle gathered at the corners of their mouths as they spoke. “What will you do now?”

“Take my dog.” I beckoned Turk to me. The dog whined deep in his throat, and Bob tightened his grip on a leash they had put upon Turk.

“You’d best let go of him.”

Bob sneered, and my mother laughed.

“They do as I say, Duncan,” she informed me. “They’ll tear the dog’s throat out with their teeth or let him do the same to them. It doesn’t matter to me. You won’t get out of this house.”

“Of course, I will.” I drew my Colts. To Turk, I said, “Sit.”

The dog dropped down to his haunches, his weight pulling Bob closer to Gerta, and I shot them both through their eyes. Turk howled as bone fragments bounced off the curtain behind the desk, and my mother’s voice boomed in the room.

“I’ll burn this house down to kill you!” she screamed.

“No.” I walked over to the corpses, kicked them out of the way and took hold of Turk’s leash. I wrapped it around my left wrist and looked at him. “You don’t run off. Not now.”

The dog’s tail thumped Gerta’s limp form gleefully.

Turning back to the desk, I leaned closer to the microphone and spoke into it.

“I have my dog.”

“Who are you speaking to?!” my mother demanded.

“Patience.”

“You can’t tell me to be patient!” she shouted. I could hear her inhale to yell again, but instead, she gasped.

“No,” she hissed. “No!”

I ignored her and spoke to my dog instead. “Home, Turk.”

He pushed the curtain aside, revealing a spiral staircase. We followed it down to the bottom and the small, unadorned door at the landing. Turk scratched at it, and when I opened the door, we stepped out into the Hollow.

Ahead of us, less than a hundred feet away, was the stonewall separating the Hollow from North Road.

As we walked towards it, I heard my mother scream and my sister laugh.

A heartbeat later, the thunder of Colt .44s filled the air as Patience set about her chores.

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July 30, 1938

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The steps led to a wide foyer and death.

I’m not quite sure how many young men were in that room or how many instructors, only that there were a hell of a lot of them, and they weren’t afraid.

Not of me, not of my guns, and not of death itself.

Which is a shame because they should have been.

I didn’t waste any time speaking. Nor did they, for that matter.

As they scrambled out of their seats, I drew both Colts and opened fire.

The instructors called out commands, and the students obeyed, and so I killed every adult I could see.

The last round split the head of the last instructor, but it didn’t matter at that point.

The students were already upon me.

I’ve been in brutal fights before, but not one so intense or prolonged.

I retreated into a small alcove, my back against the wall as I clubbed those too close to me with the butts of the Colts. For a split second, my enemies gave me time to breathe, and when there’s time to breathe, there’s time to draw another weapon.

The Colts went back into their holsters, and I drew my knife.

There was no artistry to the killing. No deft maneuvers with the blade.

Only blood and death.

I could taste the sharp tang of iron on my tongue, smell it in my nose, and feel it splash hot against me.

The bodies piled up, and the students pulled the wounded and the dead away. Not to care for them, only to try and pry me from my fighting position.

I am no fool.

I’ve been fighting for nearly three hundred years, and I had no plans on dying.

Soon, they no longer dragged their fallen away, and I saw why.

There were perhaps twenty students remaining. Perhaps fewer.

The cries of the wounded and the dying were as sweet as bird song to my ears, and so I climbed over the corpses in front of me, and my enemies fell back.

I put the knife away, reloaded the Colts, and shot those still upright as they tried to run.

Slugs tore through their backs, and not a single shot was a killing one.

Those boys had lost their chance at a quick death.

I went around the room and locked doors and windows.

When I was done, I drew my knife once more and went to work.

I wanted to remind my mother what I could do.

#horror #fear #paranormal

July 29, 1938

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The room stank.

It was a cloying smell reminiscent of desperation and terror.

My footsteps rang out on the old wooden steps, and when I reached the table in the center of the room, I saw I was in an operating theater. It reminded me more of a school, though, and a closer look at the skeleton near the table – and the diagrams on the wall – showed the truth of this line of thought.

I was about to leave when my mother’s voice filled the theater.

“Do you know what this room is, Duncan?” Her words were a snarl, hatred dripping from every syllable, venom in each thought.

I didn’t answer as I took the first step toward the exit.

“This is where your children die.”

Her statement stopped me in my tracks, as I’m sure she knew it would.

“My children.”

It wasn’t a question.

I’d had a son once, so it was perfectly reasonable that other versions of myself would have fathered children along the way. Who knew how far into the future the Hollow threw this place or how far back. There were too many paths that line of thought could follow, and to do so would threaten my sanity.

It took me a moment to gather my thoughts, and it was only then that I realized she was speaking still.

“So many of them die screaming,” she was saying.

“I’m sure they do,” I said, biting off each word. I forced myself to take a step toward the exit.

When she spoke again, there was the faintest hint of surprise and disappointment in her voice.

“Where are you going?”

I didn’t answer.

“I want to tell you what happened,” she continued. “Are you a coward? You know, I believe I could scream like them if you like. I probably could mimic their little voices too.”

I knew what my mother was trying to do.

But I wasn’t going to be swayed.

I’d promised Patience.

My sister would set things right.

I straightened my back. “I’m sure you could,” I told my mother. “Just as I’m sure Patience will have a few words for all of you when she’s ready.”

There was the slightest hesitation before my mother spoke again. “She’s still here?”

I smiled. “Oh yes. And she’s waiting.”

“For what?!”

Smiling, I left the room without answering, and I enjoyed the growing panic in her voice.

#horror #fear #paranormal

July 28, 1938

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“You have a fondness for dogs, Mr. Blood.”

“Aye, that’s a truth.”

My hands were on the butts of the Colts, thumbs on the hammers.

The knuckles on her hands whitened, and a low whine escaped from the throat of the hound. I kept my eyes locked on hers, and in turn, she didn’t look away.

“I’m going to kill this dog soon,” the woman said. “Just as soon as my husband returns. Neither of us expected to see you. We heard you were looking for your mutt, and we happened to find this one only this morning. We were, in fact, planning on butchering it later on and having one of its haunches for dinner this evening.”

“When is your man returning?”

“Soon,” she smirked. “I suspect he’ll run you through with that damned sword he’s always carrying, and I’ll be forced to listen to him crow about how right he was to wear it, but it will be worth it. Of that, I’m quite certain.”

“A sword won’t do much,” I stated.”

She laughed. “I know. But it will keep you in place, at least for a moment, and that will be long enough for me to get the shotgun out from under my settee. You know, Mr. Blood, you’re a bit older than most of those we see here. I would have thought someone with your age and experience wouldn’t have been so foolish as to be sentimental about a dog.”

“I’m sentimental about a great many things,” I replied. “They usually get someone killed.”

“Someone you care about?”

“No. Someone I couldn’t care less about. People like you.”

She opened her mouth, and I drew the Colts, the steel whispering against the leather, the hammers clicking into place. Before she could kill the dog, I put a pair of slugs through her mouth and blew her brains out across the wall.

The hound sprang past me, slammed into a man entering the room, and tore the man’s throat out. Blood sprayed across the walls, and the gentleman’s sword clattered uselessly to the floor. The man quivered, and his heels thumped on the floor for a moment before the dog stepped back, chewing noisily on the piece of flesh it had torn free.

“Good luck, Duncan Blood. I’d join you, but I feel a need to make a meal out of these two.”

I didn’t blame the dog. I’d do the same.

#horror #fear #paranormal

July 27, 1938

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The clink of flatware on plates stopped when I stepped into the room.

Fifteen people sat around a long, rectangular table. A trio of well-dressed waiters stood off to one side, and eighteen sets of eyes fixed themselves upon me. A gamut of emotions flickered across their faces. I saw fear and shock, hatred and desperation.

In the end, all the emotions melded into one, and that was terror.

From what I could see, not a single one of those dining were armed.

Oh, they had their silverware and their dishes, but none of them looked as though they could wield the items in front of them as weapons.

None of them had the look, the one that said they’d do whatever it took to survive.

I drew my Colts, and one of the waiters began to speak.

I shot all three of them, quick shots to the chest that sent them tumbling into the wall, the heavy .44 caliber slugs tearing through flesh and bone to bury themselves in the horsehair plaster.

One of those at the table, a Japanese man, turned to the man on his left and hissed in Japanese, “How is he in here?”

Before the man could answer, I put a bullet into his forehead, splattering the questioner with blood and brains.

“Because I am,” I stated. I slipped the Colts back into their holsters as another man began to beg.

I shook my head, drew my knife, and opened it with a flick of the wrist.

“What do you want?” the Japanese man asked, his voice trembling as he removed his glasses.

“Nothing,” I told him. “Not a single damned thing.”

“He lies.” My mother’s voice came from the corpse of the man seated at the table. “He wants violence and death. Pain and suffering. He is Duncan Blood, and he will not know peace until he has murdered the world.”

“Not the world,” I told her. “Just you.”

The corpse didn’t speak again, or, if it did, the words were lost beneath the screams of the others in the room.

I cut my way through them, butchering them whether they sat and begged or tried to run.

I wasn’t there to murder, but I sure as hell was there to kill.

#horror #fear #paranormal

July 26, 1938

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The whisper of steel against steel was no deterrent.

The house was madness, a glimpse inside the twisted worlds in which my mother and all her iterations lived.

Stairs that led up invariably opened onto basements. Windows looked into the earth doors collapsed in upon themselves. The farther I traveled, the more the house tried to trap me.

I had given up searching for Turk. I would find him when I wasn’t looking, and so, I wasn’t looking.

I was hunting.

I stepped into a large room and found four men in the middle of practicing with fencing foils. They turned their attention to me. None of us spoke.

I dropped my rucksack to the floor, left the Colts in their holsters, and drew my pruning knife.

The men chuckled, saluted with their swords, and advanced.

There is a tremendous difference between a duel between gentlemen and a fight.

I’m neither a swordsman nor a gentleman. I’m a fighter and a killer.

Killing’s a chore, one that I do well.

The men were quick, stabbing and slashing with their swords.

But I can take pain.

The first stab pierced my left shoulder, and as the man tried to draw the blade out, I slammed my fist onto the thin steel, bending it out of shape and forcing him to let go. As he stepped back, attempting to retreat to the wall where a great many other foils waited, I opened him from one side of his belly to the other. Blood soaked his fencing gear, and he scrambled to catch hold of his intestines as they spilled out onto the floor.

He failed, and then one of the other men got tangled in one of the coils, slipped, and fell.

The remaining two men lost their nerve and tried to flee.

I didn’t let them.

I hamstrung one man, sending him sprawling to the floor, and then I caught the fourth with the tip of the blade, which dug into the bone of his arm, spinning him around. He lashed out with his sword, missed, and died as I leaned in and tore his throat out with my teeth.

The man slumped to the floor as I finished off the hamstrung man and the other who had yet to free himself from the tangled knot of innards.

#horror #fear #paranormal

July 25, 1938

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I followed the sound of barking into a hall of death.

Neither Turk nor any other dog was in the long hall that I stepped into.

I found myself alone with a long line of display cases, each of them holding the charred remains of a man. Attached to each case was a bronze plaque that noted the day, year and time of the resident’s death. Along either wall were rows of jars, and closer inspection showed that these too were marked. Some of them stretched as far back as 1711, and they all had one thing in common.

They were all of them me.

It had been strange enough when I entered the house and discovered the remains of the alternate versions of myself hanging, gutted and waiting to be eaten. It was stranger still to see how long these people had been hunting me.

How long my mother had been guiding them.

I’d not heard from her in some time, and while I didn’t mind the absence of her grating voice, it did add an extra layer of discomfort. I’d killed a few versions of my mother, and I hope to kill a few more before I eventually go the way of all flesh, but the sight of all of the dead was a stark reminder of the focus and determination of this little group of apostles my mother had gathered to her.

Part of me wanted to destroy the gathered remains, but I chose not to.

My sister, Patience, had been adamant regarding her desire to destroy the house, and so I would refrain from doing any more damage than absolutely necessary.

I poked around the hall for a short time, hoping that there might be some storage or display of the weapons the other Duncans had used.

There wasn’t.

I still had plenty of ammunition for the Colts, my knife was sharp, and I’d killed more than a few with my bare hands.

I crossed the length of the hall to the exit, paused, and raised a hand in farewell to the dead gathered before me.

I wouldn’t avenge them all, but I’d keep stacking bodies all the same.

#horror #fear #paranormal