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

November 18, 1891

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Something was wrong with the island.

I’d gotten word from the ravens about a strange bit of construction on Heartless, a fair-sized island close to the Hollow side of Blood Lake.

Leaving Horatio in charge of the house, and with whiskey keep him company, I set off for Heartless in one of my larger boats. With the sail trimmed and a fair wind, I reached it after an hour of mild sailing.

I should have known something was wrong when the merfolk didn’t attack, and the naiads were nowhere to be seen.

I tacked into shore, reefed the sail, and dropped anchor a short distance away. I stepped down into the cold water and splashed my way to shore, swearing and cursing along the way. But I’d rather wet boots and pants than not be able to get the damned boat off the shore again.

I found a small, well-trodden path that cut through the heavy grass and bushes, and as I followed it, the air changed. It took on a dry taste and a heat unnatural for the time. There was a scent on the wind I’d not experienced before, and I drew both Colts as I went.

I stepped through a small clearing and saw them.

Three men were seated in a graveyard I’d never seen before. Two faced me while the third peered out over a pair of crypts at a building that dwarfed my home.

When the men saw me, they began to chant.

The air became heavy and pushed down upon my shoulders. Heat swirled around me, and my tongue grew thick. My blood screamed within my veins, and my fingers threatened mutiny, howling to drop the Colts to the ground.

I know magic when I see it, and I damned sure know it when there’s a spell being cast.

The men’s voices rose as I brought the Colts up an inch at a time. The speed of their chanting increased, and blood spilled out of my nose to trace the outline of my lips. Tears filled my eyes and tinged the world with red, and I pulled the triggers.

The man in the center, whose back was to me, pitched forward, as dead as those buried beneath him.

The weight lessened, and my hands obeyed me once more.

The Colts thundered, and the men died.

I holstered the guns and returned to the shore. My boots were wet and there was whiskey to drink.

#fear #horrorstories #supernatural

November 16, 1891

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He was far too sure of himself.

The ravens had told me of a stranger deep in my lands, and it had displeased me.

My mood had only gotten worse as the day wore on, and I suspect he thought I’d be tired when I found him.

I wasn’t tired, just angry.

The stranger sat atop a felled tree, the sight of which only increased my ire. I knew he hadn’t done the deed, but that didn’t matter. He was on my land, and so he’d pay the price.

I’m not sure if he garnered his confidence from the shotgun he carried or the seven hounds gathered ‘round him. Perhaps it was something else. Perhaps he’d had some sort of expertise when it came to killing my kind.

I let my hands drop to the Colts and curved my fingers around the smooth wood.

“You’re on my land.”

“That a fact?” He smirked as he asked the question, his mustache twitching. The dogs got to their feet, hackles raising.

“It is.”

“I’ve come for you, Duncan Blood,” he stated, and he shifted the shotgun a fraction of an inch. “You try and draw those pistols, and I’ll have my dogs on you in a heartbeat.”

I nodded and eased the triggers back. “I’ve no quarrel with the dogs.”

The hounds looked from their master to me. The man’s brow furrowed.

“Pull that iron and see how fast they move,” he grumbled.

I smiled. “I pull my iron, you’ll be dead before the first dog gets halfway to me. Then they’ll have a choice to make.”

The dogs fixed their eyes upon me.

“And what choice could you offer my dogs?”

“Freedom,” I answered. “I’ve a lot of land and no quarrel with most of those that run wild on it. There are even some islands close by they could swim to when the weather’s nice. Plenty to hunt.”

“My dogs don’t want freedom. They wouldn’t know what to do with it.”

As one, the dogs looked at their master, and they sat down.

The man’s eyes widened as I heard him inhale to yell, and I pulled my Colts, firing on the draw.

The rounds struck the man in the chest, knocking him back and killing him as the shotgun tumbled from his hands.

The dogs stayed where they were, and I holstered the Colts.

“House is up the way a bit. Visit if you like,” I told them, and I made my way home.

#fear #horrorstories #supernatural

November 15, 1891

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The schnapps was good.

We drank clear through the night, and Horatio drank a few men under the table, although none of us could quite figure out how the monkey did it.

The lot of us were still drunk when we stumbled out into the light, singing in German and talking about the finer points of different rifles and angry German women. The latter, we agreed, was the more dangerous.

We’d persuaded Ernst to part with several bottles of his own personal stock of schnapps, and we were more than halfway through them when we reached the Hollow. It was there, standing by the stonewall along that runs between North Road and the Hollow, that we came to a somber stop.

Rolfe, the group’s commander, looked into the Hollow, shook his head and turned to face me.

“There is an ambush prepared for you,” he stated.

“Usually is,” I observed.

A good-natured chuckle ran through the group.

“Yes,” Rolfe continued. “We were to be one. There was a second, established should we fail. It seems we have.”

He was silent for a moment, then he added, “I think, Duncan, we should like to help to prevent this ambush from taking place. If you would be amicable to assistance.”

“I’d appreciate it greatly,” I replied.

It is a good and true thing to walk with soldiers. It’d been almost thirty years since I’d last done so, and there are times when I remember how much I miss it.

Today was such a day.

We went over the wall easily, Horatio darting ahead. While our heavy boots punched through the snow and the thin crust of ice that coated it, he raced across it. Soon, as is the way of the Hollow, the snow melted, vanished, and left us in the comforting warmth of an autumn day.

We were silent, and soon Horatio could no longer be seen.

Within a few minutes, though, we heard him.

A litany of foul words streamed from his mouth, and someone yelled for the monkey to leave.

In a short time, we stood behind a group of men gathered around a large gun, the likes of which I’d not seen before.

The men’s eyes were focused on Horatio when we gunned them down.

We left the bodies where they lay, and when Horatio joined us, we drank the last of the schnapps.

#fear #horrorstories #supernatural

November 14, 1891

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We went into town for a drink.

Horatio and I decided we had no desire to drink at home. We’d spent most of the day cleaning up glass and cursing the Hollow. By the time the sun set, there was a fine coating of snow on the ground and more following behind it. We had a few nips of the brandy, then we put on some winter gear. Mine was old and well worn, his had once decorated a soldier doll. Either way, they did what they were meant to do, keep out the worst of Old Man Winter’s bite.

Since none of the horses were particularly fond of Horatio, and since he wasn’t particularly fond of them, I walked the few miles into town with the monkey on my shoulder. We talked of war and love and various sins. He’d been in the prime of his youth when he was snatched, and he’d left a wife and several children behind.

When we reached town, I headed for Edelweiss Tavern. Ernst, the tavern keeper, served a fine beer and even better schnapps. Horatio and I had every intention of drinking the night and most of the following day away. Ernst was an old Austrian, a man who’d done his killing on the blood-soaked fields of Europe, and he had the damnedest sense of humor.

At the door to the tavern, we could hear men singing in German and Horatio, and I enjoyed a good chuckle. We would, it seemed, have good company for our drinking.

As we entered the tavern, the singing stopped.

Ernst stood behind his register, unmistakable in his broadbrimmed hat. The other men I didn’t know, but I knew they were from the Hollow. Their eyes fixed on me as I reached for the Colts.

“They’ll be no gunplay in my home, Duncan,” Ernst snapped, and everyone – myself included – looked at him in surprise. “That goes for the rest of you too. You come into Ernst’s for two reasons, to make merry and to drink. You can die under his guns tomorrow if you so choose,” he told them, and to me, he added, “and you can put more weight upon your shoulders. Tonight, you will drink or find some other place to wet your lips.”

I looked to Horatio, and the monkey shrugged. “You said the schnapps is good.”

“So I did,” I agreed and ordered a round for everyone.

#fear #horrorstories #supernatural

November 13, 1891

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They broke all the windows in the house.

It wasn’t yet dawn when the glass shattered throughout the house, launching me out of bed and sending the ghosts howling through the halls. The sound of horns faded into the distance, and I held my head in my hands, my brains vibrating in my skull from the attack.

I managed to climb out of bed and pull on my clothes, buckling on my gun-belts as I staggered out of the room. Horatio appeared from his, the simian’s teeth red with his own blood and tears of the same laid clotted trails down his cheeks.

“I’ll find the sons of bitches,” he spat and hurried down the hall.

I paused long enough at a mirror to wipe my own blood from my face, and then I went down the stairs, holding tight to the banister as though I was in a small ship on rough seas.

When I reached the first floor, I found the front door open and a cold wind blowing in. I left it the way I found it and went to the kitchen to retrieve my broom. By the time Horatio returned, the blood on his face had the shape and cast of war paint, and he helped himself to the brandy as I cleaned up the last of the glass in the parlor.

He finished his first glass, poured another for himself and then one for me. I nodded my thanks and held it as he proposed a toast.

“To you killing the bastards,” he said, and we drank to it. “You’ll find them on your side of the Hollow, Duncan. ‘Bout half a mile to the east. They’re quite pleased with themselves.”

“Locals?”

“They’ve the stink of the Hollow on them,” he replied.

I set the empty glass down, double-checked the loads, and slid my knife into the small of my back. If twelve rounds weren’t enough to take care of whoever they were, then I’d use the knife on ‘em.

I found them exactly where Horatio said they’d be, and they sure as hell weren’t expecting company.

Six of them sat around their camp. When they saw me, the men froze, their eyes flickering to their instruments.

They didn’t have time to reach them or anything else for that matter.

I killed them all.

When I finished, I took their instruments and their hands with me.

I left the bodies as a warning.

#fear #horrorstories #supernatural

November 12, 1891

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They tended to their wounded, and it cost them.

They opened fire from the Hollow when I went past it this morning, and it was a poor decision on their part.

I was in none too good a mood, and the audacity of the attack irked me further.

Hunkering down behind the stonewall, I drew the Colts and opened fire. It didn’t take long for the sound of gunfire to roll and reverberate across the land. I could hear men yelling, some calling out orders while their comrades screamed for their mothers.

Death had told me there was a storm coming and that Fate would not be kind to me.

I was more worried about the storm than I was of Fate. She would do what she wanted.

She always had before.

The bastards in the Hollow, though, they were stopping me from getting in some supplies. According to Death, a nor’easter was fixing to blow, and I had an order of brandy waiting for me in town. Oh, I had a goodly amount set in, but one can never have too much.

Especially since Horatio could drink his weight in brandy.

After half an hour, the fight slowed down some, and I took a few minutes to reload and get my bearings. From what I could see, the better part of a platoon was down. A few men crawled here and there, but they’d be dead soon enough. As I watched, a pair of Red Cross men stole out from behind a boulder, and when I didn’t shoot them, they hastened on to a nearby fighting hole. They slipped in and helped a wounded man sit up, and with furtive glances toward North Road, they set about treating his wounds.

They did solid work, from what I could see, and they treated their patient with a kindness that comes from a depth of emotion and consideration.

I killed the Red Cross man on the left first.

The .44 slug tore through his neck and buried itself in the wounded man’s belly, knocking him backward.

As the remaining Red Cross man panicked and scrambled out of the fighting hole, I put a round in the small of his back. Then, as his cries of pain filled the Hollow, I waited to see if anyone would come and assist him.

When none did, I stood up and headed into town.

There was brandy to fetch.

#fear #horrorstories #supernatural