Lost Loves

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I’ve lived with a broken heart.

Despite my age, or perhaps because of it, I’ve fallen in love more than once. Too many times, as far as I’m concerned.

Only once did I take a wife, though, and of all those I miss, it is my sweet Adelaide I miss the most.

By the mid-1600s, I’d reached the appearance of a young man of fifteen years. Not exactly appealing to a woman, though I turned the head of more than a few girls who appeared to be my own age. They never understood why I turned my attention and focus to work rather than more amorous activities.

How could I, when I was fifty years old and looked as though I’d yet to breach the walls of puberty?

By the mid-1700s, I’d aged physically enough to be noticed by young women, most of whom did not live in Cross. Those few young ladies in Cross knew to stay away from the Bloods and the Coffins, and with good reason. Wherever we were, trouble followed.

Over the decades and centuries, there would be the occasional woman from Cross who would look beyond this warning. More often than not, my partners came from other towns and countries. Occasionally, they came from Gods’ Hollow itself.

I have buried more than a few of my partners, been forced to imprison others, and several I’ve had to put down.

It gets harder each time, and I’ve no desire to let anyone into this world of mine.

Blood Farm is a place of horror, and I am in the company of monsters. I feed corpses to my trees, give sanctuary to giants and trolls, and fight with creatures that straddle the worlds.

I am old, and I am tired, and there’s a lifetime of killing left ahead of me.

What kind of world is that to bring someone into?

Besides, I’m set in my ways. Decades alone will do that, I suppose.

In the morning, I’ll travel out to the island where Child had kept his home. After he passed, I brought the mementos of my dead loves to the house, and I smoke the pipe Child carved for me all those years ago.

In the solitude of the island, I’ll think about my dead and perhaps find a measure of peace.

If peace is what I’m meant to have.

#love #horrorstories

10:11 AM January 1, 1931

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He stared at the phone as it rang.

We sat in his office at Miskatonic. I smoked my pipe, and John Hawthorne sat in silence.

The phone rang, sharp and punctual.

Neither he nor I made any move to answer it.

John watched the phone, and two minutes later, it went silent. His hands trembled as he took out his own pipe, packed it, and lit it. His teeth clattered against the stem of the pipe, and the bowl bobbed with the gait of a mad horse.

“What can I do, John?” I asked.

A weak smile appeared. “There’s nothing you can do, Duncan. It’s my own damned fault. I knew what could happen.”

The phone rang again, and John swore.

After three minutes, it stopped.

“I’ll have to answer it soon,” he whispered.

“You’ve answered it once?”

John nodded. “Shortly after I opened the book. The phone rang, and even as I translated the warning on the first page, I was answering the call. It was too late.”

“Where’s the book now?”

He tapped his desk. “Top drawer. Locked, of course. Doesn’t do any good.”

“No,” I sighed. “Usually doesn’t.”

The phone rang, and John jumped in his seat, the springs creaking and the wood groaning beneath the shock of it. Sweat beaded upon his brow, and after four minutes, the phone ceased its ringing.

“Have you bound it?” I asked.

“Yes,” he murmured. “Silver locks. You’ll take it?”

“I will.”

“And keep it safe?”

I smiled. “Yes, John, I’ll keep the book safe. There are others like it.”

He plucked a pocket square from his suit coat and dabbed at the sweat. John returned the square to the pocket, took out a key and unlocked the top drawer. From it, he withdrew a thin volume. The book was locked with silver clasps, each one intricately carved. The binding itself was a wonder to behold, the leather tooled in a fashion I’d not seen before.

And the book stung my fingers as I took it, the leather cold and the silver sharp to the touch.

The phone rang, John set his pipe down and answered it.

“Hello?”

The word left his lips, and he slumped forward, dead.

I stood up, tucked the book beneath my arm, and left the office.

It was time to bring the book home and to keep it safe, just as I’d promised.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

9:43 AM January 1, 1931

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Higgins Barrow was a miserable bastard.

He delighted in the torment of others.

Higgins developed a technique designed to inflict emotional injury to others, and he taught this to select students at the university using wards of the state.

Two months ago, I learned of this, and it took me less than a day to confirm it.

Doctor Allen Rigby made a profit on the side by renting out the feeble-minded in his care at the sanitarium. Since Higgins returned the wards without any physical marks on their bodies, Rigby was satisfied that he was doing no wrong.

At first, Rigby refused to speak with me. It was only after I threw his assistant down a flight of stairs and broke all the fingers on Rigby’s left hand that he began to talk. He showed me the contract he had with Higgins and even a large sum of cash which Rigby hadn’t yet deposited.

I stuffed the money down Rigby’s throat and watched him choke to death.

I found Higgins in his office at the university reading a proof of his newest work. He started to speak, but I didn’t let him.

Twice I punched him in the face, the second blow rendering him unconscious. And although he was heavy, I managed to get him back to the farm without interruption.

When he came to, we were in one of the rooms I generally keep closed off. I had bound him naked to a chair, and in the semidarkness, I waited.

“My mind is too strong,” he chuckled. “You can’t break me with torture.”

“I’m not going to do anything,” I told him.

He grinned. “You’re a weak man, aren’t you. The stories about you are merely that. Stories.”

“Mm. Possibly.”

I lit my pipe and smoked.

He was about to speak again when they came into the room.

Dark shadows peeling away from the walls. They whispered and crept closer. Long and paper-thin, hands cold and eyes dead. I saw the gooseflesh rise on Higgins. One of the shadows leaned in and whispered in his ear.

Higgins’ eyes widened, and he shook his head. The others crept close, long fingers trailing along his arms.

I stood up, and as I closed the door behind me, I heard Higgins let out a long, low whimpering, “No.”

It turns out he wasn’t difficult to break at all.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

9:30 AM January 1, 1931

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Bitterness consumed Frank Cunningham.

He moved to Cross about a year ago, taking a position at Miskatonic as an assistant professor of early magic in the Balkans. Part of his credentials, he told me, was a practical understanding of Eastern European magic.

While we weren’t friends, we were fair acquaintances. I was not averse to having a beer or two with him in the tavern. We would exchange stories of our travels, and while he listened to mine, I don’t think he believed them.

And that was fine with me. It suits my purposes fine if certain people believe I’m little more than a man with an active imagination.

As for myself, I believed everything Frank said, and the folks at Miskatonic should have as well.

Less than a month ago, I saw Frank in the tavern. He had whiskey instead of beer, and he was drinking hard.

When I asked if he was well, he shook his head.

“They’ve stolen my books, Duncan,” he told me.

I took a seat beside him. “Who has?”

“The members of the board authorized the librarian and his ilk to seize them,” Frank stated.

I considered his situation for a moment and then asked, “Do you want help getting them back?”

Frank shook his head. “No. I had every intention of leaving the books to the school when I died. They’ll have to pay, though, for taking them instead of waiting.”

I motioned for a beer, and the barman brought me one. To Frank, I asked, “Will you demand money?”

“No.” He took out a tall, slim book and showed me a list of names and a blank space to sign. Frank set the book on the bar, took out a fountain pen and smiled. “Will you hold this for me after I sign it?”

I nodded, my stomach queasy from the raw magic pulsating from the book.

“Thank you.”

Frank leaned forward, and with a flourish, signed his name. He lifted his whiskey, finished it, and vanished.

I’m not sure where he went, only that he didn’t go alone. The librarian and his three assistants vanished, as did the two board members who had approved of the theft.

When I wonder where they are, I think of the Balkans and their monsters.

The book, I’m pleased to say, is locked away.

I don’t need anything crawling out.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

8:44 AM January 1, 1931

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His courage did him no good.

Jake Riley was a brave man. One seemingly without fear.

He had heard of the fate of the Archers, and he told the board members of Miskatonic that he wanted their job.

He was hired on the spot.

Over the next month or so, I heard about some of the books he retrieved. A few were purchased from places deep in Europe. Places where it wasn’t necessarily safe to travel. But he returned each time, laden with books.

Come September, he was in full swing. He’d go out once a week and return with a book or two, and then, mid-month, he vanished for a week.

When he returned, he was haggard, worn, and foolish.

On Monday morning, I saw him walking towards the university. He carried a large, curious book, and I followed along at a fair distance. There was something off about the book, and it set my teeth on edge to be near it.

As he drew nearer the school, Jake stumbled. He nearly went down to the road, but he caught himself, and a pair of nearby students helped to steady him. I overheard Jake say he was headed toward the library with the book, and they took it upon themselves to help him make his way there.

The wind shifted slightly, and I could smell sickness pouring off him. In the morning light, I caught a glimpse of sweat upon his brow, and his face paled noticeably. He bent his head toward the book as though it spoke to him.

Perhaps it did.

The trio reached a building, and Jake bade them stop. I saw him offer up an apologetic smile, and then he drew a carving knife from his overcoat.

The blade flashed in the sunlight, and Jake cut the students down. As they lay dying on the steps, he set the book upon top riser, knelt beside and cried out in a tongue I did not know.

A heartbeat later, he bared this throat and opened it over the book.

Blood washed down upon it, and the world shook as I sprinted up and threw my coat over the book. I snatched it up and felt it writhe in my arms.

It’s bound now, imprisoned here in my library. Denied its sacrifice, the book sulks and waits for me to die.

It’s not the only one, and like everyone else, it’ll have a long time to wait.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

8:10 AM January 1, 1931

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Their books betrayed them.

Lawrence and Rebecca Archer took a job they shouldn’t have. They became book buyers for Miskatonic. They were aggressive in their quest to obtain certain volumes, and soon they were unwelcome in the book world.

They heard rumor of my collection, but neither was foolish enough to approach me. The couple knew what fate lay in store for those who did.

Because of this, I thought I would need to pay only the slightest bit of attention to their activities.

I was wrong.

They didn’t enjoy taking ‘no’ for an answer. So much so that they ended up breaking into the home of Oscar Lorde. Oscar had gone off to visit his daughter in Providence and had a bad fall and died a few days later. When word reached Cross, Lawrence and Rebecca forced their way into Oscar’s home and stole his fine collection of books on arcane lore.

It was a poor decision.

Oscar had been a fair hand at magick. He’d had a bit of natural ability and an affinity for the fey, so they had taught him that which he didn’t have at birth.

Oscar had put spells of protection on his books. When Lawrence and Rebecca kept several for themselves, the spells were triggered.

From what I’ve been able to gather – and what the fey have told me about those books of Oscar’s which are now in my collection – Lawrence and Rebecca sat down to enjoy some of their own books.

As they settled in and enjoyed the evening, Oscar’s magick awoke.

The Archers’ prized books, kept in a nearby secretary, slowly shed their bindings. Leather and coarse string slipped down and made their way across the rug. The leather and the string curled up and around the legs of the chairs, stitched themselves together, and then bound the thieves in their seats.

Legs to legs and arms to arms, the husband and wife struggled to free themselves, but to no avail.

Leather wrapped around their heads, binding their chins as the cloth had for old Jacob Marley. The couple could moan and whimper, but naught else.

String stitched eyes closed, lips shut, and nostrils tight.

Husband and wife suffocated in their seats, as all book thieves should.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

7:29 AM January 1, 1931

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I told him not to play it.

Professor Asa Bruchac taught music the first two years the Cross branch of Miskatonic was open. His skill at the piano was undeniable and remarkable.

His morals were not.

His foul temperament and his peculiar tastes left much to be desired.

Like most of those employed by the university, I spent a fair amount of time avoiding them. Two years ago, however, I learned of the school’s acquisition of a large book of music. The volume had been compiled in the 18th century, and I remember my father speaking of it with the Coffins, back before the longevity drained from that family line.

There were songs in the book that best not be played. Music that could tear flesh asunder and grind bone to dust.

I suspect the learned folks at Miskatonic wanted to see if those rumors were true.

As much as I disliked Bruchac, I went to the university and paid him a visit. I told him about the dangers of the book and how it would be best if he didn’t play a single song from it. He sneered at me, of course, and informed me he would be playing that evening.

I decided not to go too far from the school.

Crossing the street, I settled down in a patch of woods, lit my pipe, and waited.

The afternoon passed and settled into evening. A dozen or so guests arrived at the university’s small conservatory. As the doors opened and closed, I could hear the faint sounds of a piano being tuned.

At seven o’clock, the last of the guests arrived, and a few minutes later, the conservatory trembled.

It didn’t last long. Perhaps ten seconds. Perhaps less.

It was long enough to bring the building down.

I was the first to the rubble, and I managed to pull three survivors out before students from the school arrived. Together, we saved six and recovered the bodies of all save Bruchac. He’d been crushed by the largest piece of the conservatory, and it would take far longer to retrieve his remains.

As night closed in, I slipped off to one side and found the book I’d told him to leave be. It was large and ungainly, but I bound it closed and carried it home.

There are some songs that aren’t meant to be heard.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

7:12 AM January 1, 1931

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Miskatonic opened a door best left closed.

Someone in the fledgling Miskatonic library learned of a book purchase I’d made, and they intercepted its delivery.

The courier was waylaid on the train from Boston, the station master finding the man unconscious in the restroom and his bag stolen. When the man came to, he handed a letter of introduction to the station master, and it was then that the master sent for me. The letter of introduction confirmed who the stranger was and what he had been carrying from Boston.

I had discovered the existence of a book in Somerville, and I had arranged for its purchase. The book was a rare, Arabic edition of a text on mad prophets, and it was known to damage – quite severely – those who read it. While I didn’t mind anyone at the university suffering, I couldn’t abide the thought of an innocent reader perusing the shelves and coming across the book.

With my Colts on my hips and anger in my heart, I left the injured currier in the care of the station master, and I went to Miskatonic.

I passed through the gates, made my way to the library, and forced my way in. Several students tried to stop me, but it’s difficult to say no when you’re staring down the barrel of a .44 Colt.

The book, they told me, was being examined by an interim library, and it was then that we heard the scream.

The students fled, and I went to the sound of screaming.

It stopped sharply, but not before I found the source.

The noise had come from behind a closed door, and with Colt in hand, I opened the door and entered the room.

Where the librarian had gotten off to, I didn’t have the slightest idea. I was more concerned with the man and child sitting and reading. The man looked up, and I knew the Colt wouldn’t work.

I slid it into the holster and waited.

After a moment, the man stated, “He was rude, so we ate him.”

“Sounds fair,” I observed.

The child smiled at me.

“We are finishing our lessons, Mr. Blood,” the man stated, turning a page. “We will be with you soon.”

I gave a nod, stepped out of the room and closed the door.

There are some men you fight and some who just aren’t men.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

7:00 AM January 1, 1931

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The first students of the Cross branch of Miskatonic University arrived in August.

I wasn’t pleased when the land was sold, and the university came in. We’ve had a love-hate relationship for the past ten years or so, and I doubt it will get any better. The professors and administration leave a lot to be desired, especially when it comes to the gathering of items and books for their school.

In the first week that they were here, Mr. Sherwood Babcock, a young man sent to help prepare the school, introduced himself to me, hinting – strenuously – that he knew my age and a bit of my history. He then inquired as to the location of a book in my collection. A book he most certainly shouldn’t have known about.

Few know that I own one of the magicked copies of the Malleus Maleficarum, the Hammer of Witches. My copy had been torn from the hands of Increase Mather as he lay dying in August of 1723. My father, Ezekiel Blood, had been the one to take it from the bastard.

These thoughts rose up as Mr. Babcock sat in my parlor, sipping my brandy and smiling.

“So,” the man said, “we were hoping you would be willing to part with it. Donate it, as it were, to the university. We would be certain to take care of it.”

I finished my brandy and motioned towards the tea-table on my left, where my Colts lay.

“Do you see yonder revolvers, Mr. Babcock?” I asked him.

He nodded, his smile never leaving his face. “I do. I’ve heard something of your skill with them, too.”

“You’ll see what I can do with them,” I told him, my voice cold and harsh, “if you poke too much into my business.”

The man stiffened. “Mr. Blood, I don’t think you understand.”

His mouth snapped shut as I slipped a Colt free.

“It’s time for you to leave.”

“The book,” he managed to whisper, his eyes locked on the Colt.

I shook my head. “Leave with your life, or not at all.”

When he stood, he drew a pistol, his face pale and his hand shaking.

His shot went wild, and I gunned him down.

I buried him in the orchard, where the trees could feast upon him.

Others from the school have joined him since, and I suspect they always will.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

6:20 AM January 1, 1931

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He trapped them to save them.

Moses Abernathy was a man of god, though I don’t know which particular god he worshiped. I’ve met my share, and none of them are worth my devotions.

Moses, on the other hand, he’d found his particular god, and he was dedicated to a life of salvation. He put his money where his mouth is, as the saying goes, and he worked hard among the sick and the poor. Moses lived up to his namesake as well, leading many people up from the depths of poverty or from the brink of death. I admired his dedication and his piety.

Moses was a man who lived in a spartan fashion. His only vice was the collection of books. Some were small, others large, and he kept them all on organized shelves, which he cleaned on a regular basis.

As he aged, his library grew. By the time he reached 92, he had little more than a bedroll and his few sets of clothes. He took his meals with the writers of The Sentinel.

On his last morning, I found Moses sitting with a bemused smile as he watched the journalists at their work.

“Today is my day, Duncan,” he told me as I sat down with him.

“Is it?”

He nodded and took the key to his home out of his pocket, placing it on the table between us. “You’ll look after my books?”

“Aye, if that’s what you want.”

“It is. They’re more than books, you know.”

The journalists stopped their work and focused on us.

“Are they?”

“Yes,” Moses sighed. “They’re all those I couldn’t save. The old and the young, men and women. I teased their souls out of their dying flesh and eased it into the pages of those books. They’re alive, in their own way. Dreaming, mostly.”

He looked at me and smiled. “Only those who wanted it, mind you. And they were surprisingly few.”

“How few?” I asked.

He closed his eyes, paused and then answered, “There are 322. I helped the first, my younger brother, in 1812. I was nine, and he was seven. I visit him, on occasion. And a few others. No more, though. No more. I’m ready, Duncan. Quite ready.”

Moses Abernathy smiled and died at the table.

His books have their own alcove in my library. Occasionally, I speak with them. But mostly, I leave them to their dreams.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural