March 2, 1900

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First, do no harm.

The stranger was brought into the operating room at Cross Hospital at 4:13 AM on March 2, 1900. He was a tall man, thin as the proverbial rail, and near death. His skin was an unnatural alabaster, and most of his blood was gone, having poured from the massive lacerations to his upper torso.

When he was prepped and set upon the operating, Doctors Gilbert and Evans – along with Nurses Locke and Down – prepared to fight a losing battle.

They had little doubt that the man would die. His pulse was weak, and sometimes missing altogether. His blood loss was immense, and there several ribs that were broken off and missing.

Yet the four medical professionals refused to let the man die without at least attempting to save his life.

For six hours and a half, they battled death, and they won.

The man continued to breathe.

As the nurses and the doctors staggered away from the operating table, Nurse Angela Down – pictured here at the foot of the table – made it to the door. She needed air, for as they were finishing up with the injured stranger, she had smelled a foul, acrid scent.

No sooner had she opened the door and when the stranger opened his eyes.

Nurse Locke attempted to speak to the man, stepping forward as he sat up.

Yet as Nurse Locke reached out to him, the man took her arm, smiled, and tore it out of her socket.

As the woman crashed to the floor, blood pulsing from the wound, the doctors leaped to her aid.

Before they reached her, the stranger was off the bed, grinning at Nurse Down as he took hold of Dr. Gilbert’s head and snapped the physician’s neck.

Dr. Evans tried to scurry away, but the stranger killed him with a single blow to the temple.

Angela Down stood perfectly still in the doorway, and the stranger winked at her, turned on his heel, and threw himself out the window.

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March 1, 1859

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What do you carry from your past?

Electa and Elsbeth Schell came to America in 1858 from Austria, and they brought with them not only their past but that of their homeland as well.

They carried the dark secrets of their family and those of their neighbors aboard the ship that brought them to Boston. In the deep recesses of their hearts and minds, as well as their luggage, they carried things both fair and foul.

The two sisters lived in Cross and worked as weavers in a small mill located near the border with Pepperell. Both young women were quiet and tended to mind their own business. Their English was halting, but passible, and they did their jobs well, which was all their foreman cared about.

He and others should have cared about what accompanied the sisters on their trip.

Duncan Blood was the first to notice the arrival of the strange guests, and thus he was the first to attempt to find the origin. It did not take him long to locate the sisters, but it did him little good.

The Schell women were unaware as to what had come with them.

Neither Electa nor Elsbeth knew that they had brought a drude from Austria to America.

The drude crept from its place in the folds of the travel chest, and from the minds of the sisters, it picked its shape. It wrapped itself in the cloak of nightmares and settled in to feast upon the dreaming lives of Cross’ citizens.

A few, like Duncan, chased the beast out, but many others were unable to do so.

For nearly a year, Duncan hunted the creature as it literally scared people to death. Finally, he located it in the home of Thomas Nevin, the local schoolmaster.

On the night of March 1, 1859, the drude attempted to hide in the thoughts of Thomas Nevin, who had given it refuge.

Duncan ended the drude’s existence by putting a single bullet through Thomas’ head.

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February 28, 1901

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What do we know of madness?

This was a question that Dr. George Merrimac asked himself, and it was a question he valiantly sought to answer.

George was an accomplished psychologist, one whom many of his colleagues went to when dealing with particularly troublesome patients. In a time when hysteria was a common diagnosis for any woman who failed to fall in line with the standards of society, George was an outspoken opponent of such a diagnosis.

Thus, when George, a widower, retired at the age of 68 to Cross, it was unsurprising that he sought to help those who were tucked away in the maddening labyrinth of lunatic asylums and poor houses.

In an effort to determine how imprisonment affected the perception of reality, George purchased an old ‘coffin,’ a device used in Vienna, Austria to restrain lunatics.

He wrote a letter to Dr. Mitchell Anderson, a colleague in Boston, requesting that the man visit him at his home on 1st of March 1899. The letter contained explicit instructions on where to find a key to the home and, more importantly, the key Dr. Merrimac’s private study in the basement.

Dr. Anderson received the letter on the 27th of February 1901.

Curious as to why his friend wanted him to visit, and why he had left such detailed instructions, Dr. Anderson traveled to Cross on February 28, 1901. Once inside his friend’s home, Mitchell was disturbed by the dust on the furniture.

With a rising sense of panic, Mitchell descended the stairs to the private study, let himself in, and found the remains of Dr. Merrimac in the ‘coffin.’

When Mitchell managed to open the device, the remnants of George fell out, and two facts were painfully clear.

The first, Dr. Merrimack’s fingernails were embedded in the wood of the door.

And the second, the corpse’s teeth were ground to nubs.

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February 27, 1905

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Vengeance is a bitter draught.

Axel St. Anselm was a man who felt himself wronged.

Life, as far as he was concerned, never did him a kindness. Not a single one. So, he treated the world in a like manner. He was a thief, a murder, and a rapist. What he wanted, he took.

In May of 1902, Axel attempted to take from Ms. Charlene Roi, the librarian at the Cross Social Library. Unfortunately for Axel, the librarian was far stronger than she looked, and the large book with which she struck him knocked him out. When he eventually awoke, he found himself in chains and awaiting transportation to prison.

Axel served three years and was released on February 27th, 1905, and made straight for Cross.

Over the years he had been able to learn where Charlene lived.

He had planned his revenge to the finest detail. Axel knew when he would strike, and how he would strike.

He knew Charlene lived in a small house with a sponsoring family. He understood that she went to bed early, and that on most nights the family she resided with spent their time in the parlor, playing charades.

Axel was a skilled criminal, and since there was little crime in Cross, he was not surprised to find the back door unlocked. The laughter of the family hid his nearly silent steps as he crept up to Charlene’s room.

Her bedroom was small and tucked away in the attic. Far from prying eyes and ears.

Axel was unarmed for he was a man who prided himself on his ability to kill without a weapon.

Charlene was armed, with a large revolver, and she shot him twice, creating a hole large enough for someone to put a fist in.

When her sponsors reached her, she was sitting on her bed, the fire in her small stove burning brightly, the flames devouring the letters she had sent to Axel, inviting him to visit.

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February 26, 1920

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What would it be like to meet your double?

While much of the world theorizes and wonders whether the multiverse exists, many in Cross do not.

They know, first hand, that parallel universes, alternate planes of existence, and the maddening structure of the multiverse, all exist.

Few, however, can speak so succinctly upon the idea as Hazel Clay.

Or rather, who most people believe to be Hazel Clay.

On February 26th, 1920, another version of Cross bled through the thin fabric of the universe in front of the Cross Social Library, and it was Hazel Clay who found it.

And it was Hazel Clay who came through.

Both versions of Hazel were holding their dogs, and both women were wearing the same clothes. Their hair was identical, as were the expressions of shock on their faces.

Witnesses state that both women spoke at the same time, yet none of the words were decipherable. It was as if the two versions were so in tune that a new and brilliant language sprang up for those few minutes they were together.

Reports stated that the universes pulsed around the women. Waves of light and darkness, truth and lies, flowed about them, pulling and pushing at reality.

Finally, after nearly five minutes, the ground around the women shuddered and they were hidden by a black shape.

When it cleared, only one Hazel Clay remained. She held her dog in her arms, and smiled and called to those she knew.

Over the years, she has professed to be herself, which she undoubtedly is. But she does not know certain people, and has no memory of events in which she played a key role.

Thus it was that in 1921, Hazel filed for divorce on the grounds that she had never been married, and had never met her alleged husband.

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February 25, 1951

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Marion Cass’ middle name should have been ‘Kindness.’

The man was kind and generous. Hardworking and faithful.

When the First World War broke out in August of 1914, Marion traveled to Canada and joined with the Canadian Army to serve abroad. He fought until the armistice of 1918, and then he returned home. Yet when he stepped off the train from Boston, his father died of a heart attack in the station, leaving Marion the task of running the family farm and helping his mother to raise his three younger siblings.

And Marion did just that.

His farm prospered, and he shared his prosperity with his neighbors. No family went hungry, no child lacked for a job if they went to Marion.

He was, in the words of Duncan Blood, “A man I am proud to call a friend.”

On February 25th, 1951, Marion Cass learned that the six-year-old son of the Hawkins family was missing.

Marion packed himself enough food for a day’s search as well as extra for the boy, and blankets too. Then, knowing that no horse could go where the boy was believed to have gone missing, Marion climbed onto his tractor and set off into the dark woods around Gods’ Hollow.

It was Duncan Blood who found the tractor at the edge of the road, and the Hawkins boy was wrapped in Marion’s blankets and coat.

There was no sign of Marion, and Duncan did not search for him.

Later, when the Hawkins boy was reunited with his family, and Duncan sat with Marion’s family, Deborah Cass, Marion’s wife, asked Duncan why.

From his pocket, Duncan drew a folded piece of cloth which she recognized as part of Marion’s shirt. When she opened it, there was a single sentence written in blood.

“His life for mine.”

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February 24, 1935

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Peculiar.

It was the one word most citizens of Cross would have used to describe Annabelle Perkins.

She lived alone in the Perkins estate and being an only child, the family home was left to her. She had a modest income from an account established by her father, and she supplemented this by teaching piano to students of varying ages and skill levels.

Annabelle was an accomplished pianist, but she was also an anxious person who disliked any sort of attention.

The only time that Annabelle seemed to come out of her shell was during Halloween. She decorated her home as much as possible, and in the early 1920s, she began to place blank grave-markers in her yard. At the end of each season, she would take them in, afraid that the stones would be stolen from her.

By 1929, however, Annabelle began to leave them out year ‘round. When visitors remarked about the stones, Annabelle would smile shyly, apologize, and admit to being, ‘a tad obsessed with the macabre.’

On February 24th, 1935, Patrolman Robert Kline passed by her home at 5 in the evening and found her outside. At this point in her life, Annabelle was 72 years old and in failing health. Her mind had begun to slip, and she was standing in her front yard with a shovel in hand and wearing nothing more than her nightclothes.

The woman was filthy with dirt, the ground still soft from un-seasonally warm weather and a hard rain. When he exited his cruiser, Robert noticed that the woman had dug several feet into her yard in front of one of her headstones, and it was then that he saw the rough pine casket in the earth.

18 bodies were unearthed over the following days, and they have yet to be identified.

As Annabelle told the police, “I was never interested in their names, just how easily their necks snapped.”

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February 23, 1864

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The world is far stranger than we think.

On February 23, 1864, at the First Battle of Dalton in Georgia, Sergeant Niles Angel of Cross, Massachusetts was wounded.

He was in the process of rallying his men when he was struck by numerous bullets, the soft, malleable lead tearing through him. When he was first brought to the field surgeon, it was believed that his left arm was the most grievous of his injuries and that he had lost far too much of it for the limb to be saved.

Still, the surgeon did his best. He cut away as much of the meat as he could, stitched it together when he was done and went in search of further injuries.

The surgeon found them.

More importantly, he found a wound that should have negated the good sergeant’s continued existence.

At least one of the bullets, the surgeon saw, had torn through Sergeant Angel’s heart.

The heart was not merely damaged but destroyed.

Most of that muscle was gone, and what remained was little more than shredded tissue.

Yet Sergeant Angel continued to live.

Lived and thrived.

He was sent home to convalesce, where his grievous injury was kept from everyone except his wife.

Following the conclusion of the war and Sergeant Angel’s mustering out, he worked as a porter for the Boston & Maine Railroad and fathered three children with his wife.

Sergeant Angel died at the age of 57 when a horse stove in the side of his head.

His children only learned of their father’s curious history when their mother died 40 years later, and they read her journal.

When they opened the family mausoleum to intern their mother, the children discovered their father’s tomb was empty and had been for some time.

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February 22, 1928

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He was merciless and kind.

 

On February 22, 1928, the stranger walked in from the direction of Gods’ Hollow.

At shortly after 9 AM, he walked down the center of the street. He was a tall man, his clothes worn and ragged, and he looked at the buildings as if searching for something.

When 9:17 AM came about, he stopped and opened his jacket, revealing a pair of old, Colt Navy revolvers carried in high-hip holsters.

As the police were fetched, a trio of large, black Fords rolled into town, coming to a stop at the Cross train station. 26 members of Samuel Mariner family, traveling from Westford to ride the train into Boston, exited the vehicles and walked towards the station’s doors. The youngest member of the Mariner clan was Silas, age two, and the eldest was Samuel Mariner senior, age 77.

Before the first member of the family reached the station’s steps, the stranger drew his weapons and opened fire.

According to the official police report on the incident, the stranger fired a total of 48 rounds in the space of two minutes. He used fully loaded cylinders to serve as quick reloads, and when he was finished, every member of the Mariner family was dead or dying in front of the station.

As the police and the residents attempted to find a way to stop him, the stranger reloaded his weapons, walked up to the downed Mariner family, and proceeded to put a bullet in the head of each one.

Three Cross police officers and nine residents were wounded when they sought to stop the butchery.

Finally, when all the violence seemed to be over, the stranger walked up to Samuel Mariner senior and said in a loud, clear voice, “I told you I’d kill you all.”

The echo of the final shot followed the stranger back to Gods’ Hollow.

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February 21, 1939

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Where do nightmares come from?

 

Do they come from our thoughts and fears? Perhaps memories or experiences, both real and imagined, supply the fodder.

Or perhaps there is something far more sinister at work than base reality and chemistry.

On February 21, 1939, the citizens of Cross found a possible answer.

It came in the form of an abandoned building, one they had never seen before, and which sprang into existence on an island in Blood Lake.

Lead by Duncan Blood, a group of twenty men and women crossed the lake on foot, climbing up the steep sides of the island’s bank. Each was armed with a rifle and a handgun, and no one knew what to expect.

Cross, as they all knew, had a way of surprising everyone.

The building they explored did not disappoint them.

It had once housed a mail order business, although from what concurrent timeline they did not know. But what they discovered was that the business supplied nightmares. A sample catalog found in a foreman’s office listed nightmares from the mundane to the terrifying, ‘a nightmare for every price range,’ as the advertisement went.

Children could buy nightmares to terrorize classmates and peers. Adults could assail their enemies with sleepless nights and thoughts of suicide.

Deep within the storerooms of the business, the group from Cross found some of the nightmares. These boxed terrors were carried outside and burned, and upon the group’s return, the town kept watch on the building.

The abandoned business remains, and somehow nightmares continue to appear in their neat, cellophane wrapped boxes.

Not all the nightmares are destroyed, and not all who suffer from them survive.

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