1:00 AM January 1, 1931

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The book still stinks of chemicals.

When she arrived in Cross during the winter of 1718, she proclaimed herself a master of science.

Few people paid her any mind, but still, there were a few foolish enough to listen to the drivel coming from her mouth.

She called herself Wisdom, and I wished mightily that she kept her mouth closed. Instead, the madwoman set up shop on the edge of town and sold her wares to those who believed she had any sort of power.

Wisdom claimed her abilities originated from a large volume on alchemy and that she could read the hidden messages buried in the dull and dry Latin of the text.

I don’t know if she could read it or if it possessed her, but regardless, she did create some curious powders and draughts. The effects of which were never pleasant to behold.

In the first week of January, she mixed a potion for a traveler who needed luck. We found him dead the next morning. An old and rotten tree had fallen and crushed him beneath it.

February, a young woman desperate for a child, took a fertility charm, and less than a week later, a rotten beast exploded from her stomach and slew her husband at the table as the woman died.

In March, a boy wanted his dead dog to return, and return the dog did. It was mad with hunger and obscene to behold. The dog took the boy’s foot and tore it off.

It was the attack upon the boy and the abomination that had once been a dog that finally spurred me into action.

I went to the woman’s house and told her I needed a draught to help with cramps. She told me she had just the thing, and as she gathered her cure-alls and her potions, I slipped the garrote out of my pocket and waited for her to walk by.

A few minutes passed, and she stepped in front of me.

In a heartbeat, the rope was looped ‘round her neck, and despite my small size, I was able to bring her to her knees.

She died on the dirt floor of her shack, and I took the book home for me.

One more volume to add to my growing collection.

#books #horrorstories

November 27, 1891

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He was quick.

I found him in the middle of the forest, standing astride the narrow road that cut ‘round the western side of my lands. How long he’d been there, or how he’d even gotten there, I didn’t know.

Regardless as to the length of time, though, the bastard looked fine.

He was dressed in a reverend’s black frock with a white collar to match, and as I stepped close, he opened that damned. On his hips hung a pair of Webley Longspur revolvers.

“Mr. Blood,” he called to me when I was still a fair distance from him. He pronounced my name in precise Queen’s English.

“Aye.”

He let his gloved hands fall to the butts of the Webleys. “I’m here to dispatch you.”

“Hm.”

A smile spread across his face. “It seems, sir, you are not upset by this statement.”

“I’ve heard a few like it.”

He chuckled. “I’m sure you have. You’ve not heard it from me before.”

I waited.

“Do you know who I am?” he asked.

I shook my head. When I didn’t inquire as to his name, he let out an exaggerated sigh.

“I am Pastor Thomas. You’ve heard of me?”

I spat into the snow. “I’m not a member of your congregation. I’ve no need to listen to you blather on.”

A bit of anger flitted across his face, and he shifted his stance slightly. “You’ve not a civil tongue in your head.”

I let my hands rest on the Colts and eased the hammers back.

The anger returned and settled onto the man’s features. The muscles on the left side of his face tightened, and he pulled iron.

My Colts cleared their holsters a fraction of a second before his Webleys, but it made no difference.

He was as good as he was fast, and the first three shots slammed into my chest, sending me staggering back. But my own guns were roaring, the slugs of the Colts hammering into him.

Blood sprayed from the both of us, and in a matter of moments, his Webleys were dry. Five shots each, ten shots fired.

But my Colts hold six apiece, and I had a pair of rounds left.

I was sucking air through holes in my chest as I plodded forward, the pastor on his knees in the snow.

“Good guns,” I hissed, bringing the Colts up to his forehead. “Too bad they don’t reload worth a damn.”

He tried to pray, and I gunned him down.

#fear #horrorstories

November 26, 1891

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They didn’t know what they were doing.

I was still suffering from the aftereffects of Horatio’s gift when I went out this morning. I had hoped the cold air and fresh snow would help clear my head, but neither did.

Instead, I ended up trudging through a foot of snow over a good portion of my land that runs along Blood Road. It was there that I saw the tracks and that whoever was searching for me had no idea as to what they were about.

They passed by a string of maples where the sap buckets were hung, a subtle sign from the dryads who lived upon my land. They were a warning that armed strangers were afoot.

The sight of the buckets chased the cobwebs from my thoughts, and I drew my Colts. Pausing for a moment, I examined the tracks and saw the boots were hobnailed and heavy. And there was more than one pair.

Moving along the path they left, I listened for any sound they might make. As I moved along, bird song faded, and soon I was left alone with the wind as it hissed across the land, driving loose snow before it.

I found the strangers not five minutes later.

Ten men were frozen where they stood, and as I approached them, I watched the eyes of the men follow me.

There was hatred and fear in their eyes, and if those men could have willed themselves free, they would have.

I kept my distance as I circled them, not only to make sure I wasn’t within easy striking range should one of them regain his freedom, but I didn’t want to end up in the same predicament. Just because my land is mine doesn’t mean it always listens to me.

When I’d satisfied myself about their inability to move, I stopped.

There is no doubt that I am, at times, a cruel man. I’ve done a great many things of which I’m not proud, and I’ve no doubt I’ll do a great many more before I’m done with this life and Death comes to reap me.

But there’s a time and a place for mercy, and this was such a time.

In the stillness of the snow-covered landscape, I gunned the men down, blowing out their brains.

It was as quick and as painless as I could make it.

#fear #horrorstories

November 25, 1891

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I’ll admit, I was in a sour mood.

As I wandered along North Road, keeping the stonewall between myself and Gods’ Hollow, I noticed the damned place had changed again. What had been snow-covered forest the days prior was now open flatland free of snow.

I stopped, took out my pipe and packed it with fresh tobacco. Lighting it, I admitted to myself that my mood was foul because of Horatio. I’d enjoyed the monkey’s company, his wit, and his undeniable ability to drink far more than he should have been able to. Our short time together had been just that, short.

Standing at the wall, I wondered what my ‘kin’ in Europe my send my way next. They’d spent the better part of the month trying to destroy me, as my unwanted visitor on the first had said.

They’d failed, of course, though they’d harmed and killed a few others along the way.

I took a long draw off the pipe, held it for a moment, and then let the smoke ease out through my lips. I watched as the smoke curled up and away, forming small clouds and then breaking apart on their travels.

It was then I heard the rattle of wheels and a tsking.

When I looked off toward the sound, I caught sight of a strange trio coming along the Hollow side of the stonewall.

A wagon, pulled by a pair of harnessed turkeys and driven by a young boy, soon was abreast of me. The wagon was loaded with the bounty of a good harvest, and the driver brought his curious steeds up short.

He tipped his hat to me, and when he spoke, it was in the language of my father.

“Duncan,” the boy said. “Do you know me?”

“No.”

The boy chuckled. “Your father knew me as Freyr, and so shall you. I bring you good tidings.”

I raised an eyebrow and waited.

“Horatio sends his greetings, though it be from Helheim,” Freyr stated. “He wants me to remind you that dead is not gone. He bade me give you this gift as well.”

The boy pulled a silver laced bottle out and passed it to me over the wall.

“The finest scotch I could lay hands to,” Freyr winked.

I nodded my thanks and watched as Freyr climbed back into his wagon.

Bringing the bottle home, I did exactly what Horatio would have done.

I drank it in one go.

#fear #horrorstories

November 24, 1891

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The drumming woke me up.

Horatio came into the bedroom, dressed despite the early hour. His somber expression spoke volumes, and without a word, I pulled on my clothes.

The drumming never ceased.

When I reached the first floor, I made my way towards the front, but Horatio stopped me with a shake of his head.

“He’s ‘round the back, Duncan,” the monkey explained, and so we went to the kitchen instead.

With the morning sun cresting the horizon and sending long, stabbing rays of light across the snow, I saw him.

He couldn’t have been more than ten, perhaps younger.

The boy played a steady beat on his drum that was both familiar in its martial air and unknown with the rhythm he kept. His clothes, too, were recognizable, but there was naught when it came to insignia. Even the color was curious. Neither blue nor gray nor chestnut brown.

It simply was.

When the boy saw us, he lowered his arms, nodded and spoke, “It is time.”

“For what?” I asked.

“I am not addressing you, Duncan Blood,” the boy said, and his eyes flashed. My blood ran cold, and my heartbeat quickened.

“I did not know you,” I replied and offered a bow in apology.

Death chuckled and gave a quick rat-a-tat on the drum’s taut skin. “No apology is necessary.”

“Will you come in for coffee?” I asked. “Perhaps something a bit stronger?”

“Perhaps when it is time to reap you, Duncan Blood,” Death responded. “But for now, I come only to escort Horatio home.”

I glanced down at the monkey, and Horatio nodded.

“I died some time ago,” Horatio stated. “I have been running a bit wild since.”

Death struck his drum again, and the monkey sighed.

“I will see you again, Duncan,” Horatio observed and flashed me a smile.

The monkey left the kitchen, crossed the yard and scrambled up onto Death’s shoulder. In a moment, I was alone.

I closed the door, went into the parlor, and found little joy in the whiskey waiting for me.

#fear #horrorstories

November 23, 1891

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The fighting didn’t stop.

I found the men who’d killed the Hendricks family.

Found them and all their friends too, it seemed.

I tracked them down shortly before sunset, and when I found them, I gunned them down where they stood. As the roar of the Colts reverberated off the Hollow’s trees, the others came.

They were yelling and howling, blowing bugles, and firing their weapons. The earth shook with the slamming of their boots, and the snow fell from the trees.

My Colts soon ran dry, and there was no time to reload.

I beat men to death with the butts of the revolvers, and I snatched up their strange rifles and opened fire. I don’t know how many times I was shot or how often I was knocked down.

I know the snow around my feet was churned and bloody, and the stacks of corpses piled up as I waded through my newfound foes.

Not once did they try and flee. I’ll give them that.

Through the night, we fought, the sound of gunfire unrelenting, continuous. A steady roar reminiscent of locomotives crashing.

My coat was shot away, and soon too, my shirt.

It mattered not.

The blood lust was upon me, and I felt neither pain nor cold, fatigue nor hunger.

My enemy was in front of me, and I was as pitiless as I was effective.

I stepped over and upon corpses. Killed the wounded and butchered those who tried to surrender.

When it was done, I stood half-naked in the snow, body raw and still healing from the last score of wounds.

I’d left none alive.

I cast down the strange rifle I’d been using, and I reloaded my Colts. From the nearest corpse, I stripped off the man’s overcoat and pulled it on, the fabric still warm from his cooling flesh.

With my Colts in hand, I waited to see what else the Hollow might have for me to kill.

There was nothing and no one.

Without holstering the pistols, I turned and followed the trail of butchered men back to North Road.

Sleep and hunger called to me, but I’d drink before I ate and speak with Horatio before I slept.

The monkey would accept nothing less.

 #fear #horrorstories

November 22, 1891

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They attacked the wrong house.

I was patrolling the back roads alone. Horatio had a distinct dislike for the snow, and I didn’t blame him. I was not so fond of it myself.

Still, there was work to be done, and so I had my pipe and a new coach gun. There was little to see or hear until the wailing of a child caught my attention.

I followed the sound to the Hendricks’ house, and I saw there was no smoke coming from any of the chimneys.

Approaching the house with caution, I saw that it’d been some time since Eliot Hendricks had brought his wagon home. There were no fresh tracks other than his own, and even they were far older than they should have been. Cold or not, Hendricks would have been out and about much as I was, though with a different purpose.

With a growing sense of unease, I went up to the front door and peered in through the sidelights.

My heart sank at the sight of crumpled bodies in the front parlor.

The door, as always, was unlocked, and I let myself into the house. The wailing rose to a high pitch and sank down to a whimper.

Without going into the parlor, I made my way up the stairs, down the hall, and into the nursery. Eliot and Mae’s baby girl lay swaddled in her crib, the child’s face frightfully pale. I set down the coach gun, opened my coat, and picked up the child. I nestled her against my chest and then buttoned the coat back up, leaving enough space for the child to breathe. She was cold, but she continued whimpering, and that was as good a sign as any.

Taking up my gun, I returned to the first floor and entered the parlor.

Eliot and Mae were dead. Both shot in the back, coffee cups on their sides. The rug was stained with a mixture of blood and coffee.

The exit wounds were big, and I could see where the spent bullets had lodged themselves in the wall.

A stink lingered in the air. One I was well-familiar with.

It had the bitter tang of the Hollow, and I had no doubt the killers had been looking for me, just as I had no doubt there was more than one.

The fact that both were shot in the back spoke volumes.

And once I brought their daughter into town, I’d have my turn to speak.

#fear #horrorstories

November 21, 1891

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The bastard met a bad end.

We’d had a solid snowfall last night, and there was a good, thick layer of it on the ground. That was how we knew someone had slipped out of the Hollow.

Horatio and I were walking along North Road, the two of us keeping a weather eye out for any sign of trouble. The month had been far too active, and it didn’t show any sign of slowing up.

We’d gotten to about the midway point when Horatio spotted the tracks. They were made by hobnailed boots, and they went in a straight line from the stonewall to my property. Given the distance between each step and the size of the damned boots themselves, well, I thought I’d need all twelve rounds from the Colts to put whomever it was down.

We left the road and followed the tracks into the forest. There was an unnatural stillness to it, once that set my teeth on edge and caused Horatio to grip my shoulder tighter. Despite the cold and the thinness of the air, there was a sharp, electrical charge to it. It reminded me more of a summer storm than a day in late November.

We went another hundred yards or so when Horatio hissed for me to stop. He leaned in close to my ear and whispered, “Do you smell it?”

I lifted my head a fraction of an inch, and I did.

Blood.

I drew the Colts and started along the path again.

Within moments, we found splatters of blood on the trees and claw marks as well. Tattered, dark blue cloth hung from the bark, and soon we entered a break in the trees. In the center of it lay a pile of steaming flesh and bloodied clothing; to the left sat one of the biggest brown bears I’d ever seen.

His snout was wet with blood, and what looked like a liver lay at his forepaws.

“Your Colts are useless on me, Duncan,” the bear grumbled, and he took a bite of the liver. “Holster them or be damned. Whichever you prefer.”

Horatio snickered, and I holstered the Colts.

“Who are you?” I asked, keeping my tone polite.

“Better to ask what, and the answer to that is tired and annoyed. I’ll sleep when I’m done eating.”

I nodded, turned, and left the bear to his meal.

Neither Horatio nor I saw reason to interrupt him any longer.

#fear #horrorstories #supernatural

November 20, 1891

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The trees were fine, but I wasn’t.

It took me a day and a half to find the trees the squirrel was talking about, and when I did, it was already too late.

The door was in the center of a small glade, and most of the young trees had slipped away with the aid of dryads. What the squirrel had failed to mention was the fact that the door was attached to a building.

Or rather, had been attached to a building.

There were no doors of which to speak, although there was a tree growing up out of the corner of the building, and the tree was in a right foul mood.

I’d no sooner than come within range of it than it started hurling bricks and stones at me. The first one crushed my sternum and knocked me onto my back, which saved me from getting brained by the next pair of stones whistling through where I’d been standing a moment before.

With my sternum knitting itself back together, I crawled to a bit of cover while the tree continued its barrage. I don’t know why it was so foul, but I know the doors were missing, and I think perhaps the tree had been set to guard the way.

After a few minutes, my bones finished up their painful repairs, and the tree paused in its assault. I peered out at it from where I lay and searched out how the damned thing knew where I was.

The answer came a moment later.

Some right foul sprite clung to the branches, its narrow, pinched face wearing an expression of focus and intent.

I slipped a Colt out of its holster, brought it up, took aim on the little bastard and blew his head off. The body slumped out of its perch and landed in the rubble while the tree hurled stones and bricks in all directions except toward me.

And that was just fine.

For the next hour, I practiced my marksmanship, using the Colts to cut the limbs off the tree until it was nothing more than a shaking mass of juvenile top branches. I took my time gathering up some deadfall and tinder.

I needed to make sure everything was well seasoned. The tree was still green, after all, and it would take a bit for it to burn.

But that was alright.

I had the time.

#fear #horrorstories #supernatural

November 19, 1891

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I’ve seen stranger things, but not many.

I was in my library when I raised voices reached my ears. One I identified easily enough. It was Horatio, and he was using an impressive array of profanity.

The stranger’s high, shrill voice pierced the air, and the unknown speaker gave as good as he got.

After a few minutes of ceaseless bickering, I put down my book and followed the sound of the argument. I found Horatio and his verbal sparring partner in the kitchen. The monkey sat on the table; his arms wrapped protectively around a bottle of schnaps. Across the room from him, chewing on a biscuit from a batch I’d baked earlier in the morning, was a squirrel.

The argument stopped when I stepped into the room.

The squirrel continued eating, and Horatio opened the bottle and got himself a drink. I looked from one to the other, folded my arms over my chest and asked, “What in the hell’s going on?”

Horatio narrowed his eyes before answering, “He says he has a message for you. I think he’s lying.”

“Do you?” I asked.

The squirrel finished the biscuit. “That was good.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” The squirrel rubbed his face. “Yes. I have a message. My name is Ratatoskr.”

I frowned, and after a moment, I said, “I know your name.”

The squirrel straightened up, and he stuck his tongue out at the monkey, who responded with an unpleasant description of the squirrel’s parentage.

“What’s the message?” I asked.

“You’ve a door that shouldn’t be there. Out among your trees,” Ratatoskr replied. “You should make sure it stays closed.”

“Who told you?” I asked.

“My tree,” the squirrel replied. He grabbed another biscuit, hopped down and exited the house.

“I don’t like him,” Horatio observed, taking another drink.

“You don’t have to.”

“What tree was he babbling about?”

“Yggdrasil,” I answered.

“And that is?”

“The World Tree. Odin’s Horse.”

Horatio snorted, but as I started to leave the room, he asked, “Where are you going?”

“To get my Colts.”

“Why?”

“To check on my trees,” I told him, “and to make sure some damned door doesn’t open.”

#fear #horrorstories #supernatural