Lost in Cross: 1882

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Reginald Tierney picked a bad way to die.

He’d been sick for the better part of ten years before he finally went blind and could no longer get around without help.

People were happy to do it, mind you. Reginald was a decent man, and folks are always willing to help a decent man.

I wasn’t.

I wasn’t because I knew he wasn’t a decent man.

Far from it.

Reginald was a bastard, and if he hadn’t been suffering from his illness, I would have put him out of my misery years earlier. As it was, I didn’t mind him lingering about the edges of town, not so long as he was in agony, and he was.

Reginald had been one of those rotten men who helped hunt down the slaves escaping from the southern states before we put down the rebellion. I’d even heard him brag about going all the way to Canada to bring a slave back. Not for the money, mind you, but for the sheer pleasure he experienced when he inflicted pain on another human being.

So, no, I didn’t mind his suffering. Not a bit.

He asked a stranger for a ride this morning, and the stranger helped him up into the wagon he was driving. They rode out of town along North Road, and it was there that both men took a short respite from the broken springs in the seat. They stretched, and when it was time to go, the stranger helped Reginald through a hole in the fence. The blind man had stumbled forward, suddenly bereft of the stranger’s guiding arm.

The monsters in the Hollow made short work of him, ripping his limbs from their sockets and feasting on his flesh even as Reginald begged them to stop.

They didn’t, of course. And why should they?

It’s not often I bring them meat that’s still alive.

#horror #fear

Lost in Cross: 1881

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They dealt themselves a dead man’s hand.

Vivian Husker’s book was recently reviewed in a Boston paper, and a new crop of fools has arrived in Cross.

I heard the news a short time after breakfast and, I confess, I stood in my orchard, pipe in hand as a sense of bewilderment swept over me. It lasted only for a moment, but it goes to show how stupid these four ladies truly were.

I don’t know who they were, and I doubt they would have appreciated the upbraiding they would have received from me, but I’m sure it would have been preferable to what they experienced.

Despite their idiocy, I raced for the Hollow, for that was where the ravens said the women were. The birds, as always, spoke the truth.

Their carriage was parked alongside the stonewall that separates Gods’ Hollow from the road. Two stallions stood uneasy in their traces, nostrils flaring and eyes rolling. The horses were about ready to bolt, and it took me a moment to calm them down. As I looked over the necks of the steeds, I saw the four women sitting amongst some deadfall as though they were in a manicured garden.

They had cards spread out and a basket of food close by, and their voices were raised in gaiety.

That changed a moment later.

Branches exploded from the ground, piercing the flesh of the women yet not killing them. Their lungs were left unharmed, and their shrieks rent the air. More branches lashed out from the deadfall around them and hooked into the joints of the women, all of whom cried out for help.

Then, the wind picked up, rattling the dead branches and bringing a solitary name to my ears.

“Duncan.”

My mother’s laugh followed my name, and she tore the women to shreds.

She had waited until I was there, helpless to do anything other than watch.

As the bloody mist that had once been the women settled down onto the land, I cut the horses from their traces and set them loose.

I still had my orchard to tend to, after all.

#horror #fear

Lost in Cross: 1880

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He smoked his last pipe a little before sundown.

I’d known Peter Murphy for the better part of ten years. He was a solid man, not given to foolishness nor any excesses. Peter enjoyed a pint after a day’s work and a pipe of good tobacco whenever he could get it.

Why in the hell he decided to take a stroll along Honor’s Path, I’ll never know.

I was in my kitchen, swearing at a loaf of bread that was refusing to rise, when young Daniel Black came rushing up to the backdoor, telling me that Peter had gone for a walk.

I didn’t have to ask where. There was only one place that would set a Black off like that.

I had only a moment to grab my Colts, and I told Daniel to run on ahead and ask his father to get the shotguns ready. The boy replied that they were, and he and I broke into a quick trot.

There was little else I could do.

Peter would either be savable, or he would not.

When I reached the Black Farm, I took both shotguns from August Black, Daniel’s father, and told him to keep everyone near the house. It had been years since anyone was foolish enough to try and travel the path, and who knew how hungry the damned things were that lived beneath it.

I had only gone a dozen or so feet in when I realized that Peter hadn’t gotten much farther.

From where I stood, I saw what remained of him, and to this day, I’ve no idea as to how he died or what happened.

His clothes were frayed and worn, his boots missing. Peter’s yellowed bones could be seen through holes in the fabric, and his skull was twisted around so that the empty sockets stared up at the trees and the sky. His pipe was a foot or so from the bones of his left hand, and I paused only long enough to pluck it from the ground.

I left him where he lay. What good would it have been to haul his bones out to bury them?

I think of him, occasionally, when I sit on my porch, take a drag from his pipe, and wonder what the hell he was thinking.

#horror #fear

The Von Epp Bookstore

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Here’s another look back into Cross’ past, originally posted almost two years ago. I hope you enjoy it!

For decades the Von Epp Bookstore was a staple of the Cross business community. The owners, always members of the family, were active in the town and its various programs. While the proprietors spoke German with one another, they always spoke in English when in front of customers or non-family member employees.

Beginning in the middle 1800s, a curious, annual event began to unfold.

Children disappeared within the store.

On the 10th of every month, if there was a child in the shop, that child vanished. They were never found again. No trace, not any sort of clue.

They were gone, and although the police and residents tore through the building, no child was ever recovered.

Soon, residents of Cross kept their children away from the store on the 10th of each month, and the store would close as well.

In 1891, a new relative took over the business, and since there had been no disappearances for 25 years, he felt it safe enough to open the store again.

On December 10th, 1891, the store remained open. Several families visiting from out of town paid the store a visit to inspect postcards and small prints.

At 11:31 in the morning, Joseph Danforth – age 12 – of Cambridge, Massachusetts, wandered over to the history section of the store and vanished.

Amelia Harding, the shop-girl in the photo, was watching the boy when he vanished, and when she was calm enough to speak, she told the police what she saw:

A  hole had opened in the bookstore, and a devil had snatched the boy out of this world and into darkness.

The Little Place of Waiting

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This is a flashback to a little more than a year and a half ago. While it is not written by Duncan, it is nonetheless part of his story.


Less than one hundred feet down Duncan Blood’s driveway, on the left-hand side, the building stands. It is small and unobtrusive, easy to miss if you’re in a hurry to meet up with Duncan for a bit of his homemade peach brandy, or even stronger apple schnapps.

But the building is there, and there are a few in Cross who know of it.

The little place of waiting has existed since the early 1800s, although there is no exact documentation as to when the building was constructed. Duncan knows, of course, but like with so many other subjects, he refuses to speak of it.

Those who need to wait, wait. Those who do not, well, they do not.

Waiting, as the song says, is the hardest part, and those who sit in the little place of waiting know this better than anyone else.

They wait for the missing to return.

And sometimes, in Cross, they do.

The first such person to reappear in Cross after vanishing was Raelynn Crowell, who – at age 8 – disappeared from her front yard in 1846.

Three years later, without having aged a day and wearing the same clothes in which she had gone missing, Raelynn knocked on Duncan’s door on February 10th, 1849. Her only memory was of opening her front door and stepping out onto Duncan’s property.

Five years after, a second lost individual reappeared, and two years after that, a third. There is no rhyme or reason as to who returns, or how long they have been gone.

The only constants are the date, February 10, and those waiting for the return of their missing.

Lost in Cross: 1871

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Joe Fische fought Death and lost.

He was a fool, of course. There isn’t anyone I know who could fight Death and come out on top. I’ve known Death in many forms, and I’ve seen my fair share of Reapers over the years. There isn’t a one of them I could have beaten back had they a mind to take me.

Joe Fische was no ordinary fool, though.

He was a man who had beaten all-comers when it came to fighting. A man who believed there was nothing he couldn’t handle.

Someone had given him a copy of Vivian Husker’s book, and the damned fool read it. There’s a story in the book that talks about how Death can be seen, on occasion, in the confines of the Hollow.

Joe took it as a sign that he should challenge Death.

Like others who had read the book, he managed to find his way to Cross. He didn’t ask for assistance getting to the Hollow. Somehow, he learned that it was along North Road, and so he set out for it on his own.

It was the sound of screaming that caught my attention as I was working on cutting away from deadfall from the previous night’s storm.

The scream was high pitched, almost childlike, and as I hurried towards the sound, I heard the scream turn into a shriek.

When I reached the stonewall along the Hollow’s edge, I found what was left of Joe Fische. And he was still alive though he was spread out over a dozen or so square feet. I dropped my hand to a Colt, with every intention of putting the man out of his misery when a voice issued forth from a shadow along the wall.

“He’s mine, Blood, and I’ll do with him as I will.”

The voice was cold and hard, unforgiving, and familiar.

I moved my hand away from the Colt, and with Joe Fische’s shrieks in my ears, I went home for a cup of coffee.

#horror #fear

Lost in Cross: 1870

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At least the dog lived.

By 1870, I’d had quite enough of the fools who managed to find their way to Cross to explore the tripe found between the covers of Vivian Husker’s book.

Bella Croix was one of them.

She and her dog, Rex, arrived on the morning train from Boston, the young woman having taken a lighter from New York City up the coast until she figured out a way into town. I wish she hadn’t.

She came off the platform with the dog on a braided leash and a smug look upon her pretty face. Seeing as how she was attractive, she had no difficulty finding her way to Gods’ Hollow. From what I gathered, she almost convinced young Ezekiel Hall to go in with her.

Almost.

The young man kept his wits about him, though, and he did his best to keep her on the safe side of the wall. When he turned back to calm the horses down and check their traces, she was over the wall, laughing as the dog ran free, and she took off after him.

Ezekiel lit out for my house, found me, and brought me back.

It was already too late.

I’m not sure what the creature was, though it looked as though it might have been a cross between bear and troll, but it had Bella Croix, and she no longer had to worry about earthly matters.

As the creature popped off her head and chewed laboriously upon the skull, the thing swiped at the dog with its free hand.

I went over the wall and put several rounds into the creature’s chest as I called for the dog. Rex, I am happy to say, came running to me.

He’s asleep on the rug in front of the fire, by the front door hangs his leash, still stained with the blood of his dead mistress.

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Lost in Cross: 1870

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Cross is a place of horrors.

I have not yet become inured or deadened to the horrors that slip out of the shadows in Gods’ Hollow, or the fetid creatures lurking on Honor’s Path. Nor, for that matter, have I accepted the fact that my mother – whom I killed at our kitchen table when I was still a boy – lurks as a ghost in my home and as a living and breathing flesh within the confines of the Hollow.

Ennis Hack vanished in the winter of 1867 when he had come into town to write a bit of fiction about New England. He had taken a room with the Hutchinson family off Washington Street, and then, one fine, brisk morning, he had lit his pipe and set off for a stroll.

He never returned.

A soft snowfall hid his tracks, and it was assumed that the town had had its way with him.

The Hutchinson family, being good people, packed up his belongings and set them aside in their attic. They did not know if the man had family of his own and if the man’s kin, at some point, might show up to claim it.

It was not his family who showed up to claim it, but Ennis himself.

I met with him at the house for the family sent for me. He was a careworn man, ragged and wary. His story was plain and brutal.

He had heard a child crying from the Hollow, and not knowing the history of the place, he had gone in to help it.

Ennis never found the child, and he almost didn’t find his way out of the Hollow. He had been walking for the better part of three years, and he refused to speak of what he saw, with whom he spoke, or what he had been forced to do.

When he gathered up his things and finished a cup of hot coffee, he looked at me and shook his head. I raised an eyebrow, and he flashed a smile of broken, black teeth at me.

“Your mother doesn’t like you, Duncan Blood,” he told me.

“That’s fine,” I answered. “I don’t much care for her either.”

He chuckled, nodded, and got to his feet. “She said you killed her once.”

I nodded. “I aim to do so again.”

“Good,” Ennis replied. “She deserves it.”

With his bag in one hand, the man left the house without looking back, and I was amazed my mother had let him live.

Wonders will never cease.

#horror #fear

Lost in Cross: 1869

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I don’t have much when it comes to forgiveness.

Allen Cuthbert learned this, and I only wish I had been able to show him how truly angry I was.

The situation robbed me of that opportunity.

Somehow, Allen Cuthbert got it into his fool head to become a guide for those wishing to explore the mysteries of Honor’s Path. On several occasions, I wanted to brain him and leave him for dead on the tracks.

Danielle, his daughter, was the only person who held me back from this.

She was a delightful child, a sweet young creature who had a magnificent singing voice, and while she rarely smiled after her mother’s death, she still sang. Granted, the songs were a tad mournful, but they were beautiful, nonetheless.

After the publication of Vivian Husker’s book, several people managed to find their way to Cross, and they had even gotten as far as Honor’s Path, where they were promptly slain by whatever hellish creatures thrive beneath the path’s poison soil.

Allen Cuthbert saw there was money to be made by an intrepid fellow, and so he took Danielle with him on his forays into the Black and Coffin farms, always seeking some new route to Honor’s Path.

He found it.

This morning, as I saw with Phineas Black and enjoyed a cup of coffee laced with whiskey, Allen came stumbling and shrieking from the woods. He collapsed before we could reach him, and Phineas wanted to send for a doctor.

I told him, no, and I slapped Allen Cuthbert awake.

The man screamed when he saw me, and then he babbled that his daughter had been taken, that she was gone into a tree. My blood ran cold when I heard that, I knew what it meant. I demanded to see where, and the man refused.

Refused to take me to where his child had gone missing.

I broke his legs, shattered his teeth, and then dragged him by his hair back to the path. Phineas Black caught up with me and handed me a mallet and spikes.

Allen screamed and wept the entire time, and when we arrived at the tree, I searched for any sign of the girl.

There was none.

I nailed him to the tree and blindfolded him.

I didn’t want him to see them coming.

I didn’t want him to know when he was going to die.

#horror #fear

Lost in Cross: 1867

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Lost children break my heart.

I have been lost many times in my life, and on more than one occasion, it was as a child. Well do I remember the fear I felt and the relief when my father or siblings found me.

I am no longer afraid to be lost.

But I am not a ten-year-old child, brought to Cross by her father.

I found James Wode dead at the head of Honor’s Path. His back had been flayed open, his spine removed. In his hands, he clutched a copy of Vivian Husker’s book, Where to go and what to see in Massachusetts.

According to Phineas Black, James Wode had arrived a short time earlier, accompanied by Wode’s daughter Anastasia. Wode and his daughter had been denied entrance to Honor’s Path via the Coffin Farm, and so they had tried their luck with the Blacks.

Phineas had refused them entry as well, but James Wode had returned and slipped in.

“I fear he took the girl with him,” Phineas told me.

“Aye,” I replied. I peered down at the dead man. His face was frozen in a mask of abject terror. I could only hope that the girl had died quickly.

I adjusted the Colts in their holsters, dragged James Wode’s corpse out into the open, and told Phineas to burn the damned book. With that said, I entered the woods.

I followed the path for a distance and then found it forked a short space after the tree that had eaten poor Cal Truscott. I knew myself to be on Coffin Farm, and I crouched down, peering at the trail, seeking sign of which way the child had gone.

She had taken the right fork, and at a run from what I could see.

The branches of the trees rattled, and I eased my Colts from their holsters.

Keeping to the edge, I started along the right fork and stopped when I saw the new horror the trees had set out for me.

Anastasia was dead. Something not human was wearing her skin and clothes, prancing about the path and throwing the child’s innards into the brush.

I put two rounds into its belly, and then another pair into its head.

Laughter rippled through the trees as I reloaded and left, wondering if they would be brave enough to try for me.

They weren’t.

#horror #fear