Dinner, 1914


These men weren’t soldiers.

They were gathered around a field kitchen, preparing food that smelled familiar. When I approached from the east, making my way back to the encampment, the men grinned at me and asked me what unit I was from.

Their English was accented, a sharp, Balkan bite to the words. When I answered that I was with a Canadian unit, their grins turned to leers.

One man in particular, who stood at a large drum and stirred the contents, nodded in approval.

The others spread out around me, and I saw that there were no signs of life in the buildings along the street.

I continued to face the cook, but I marked where his companions positioned themselves.

“Would you care to eat with us?” the cook asked.

I assured him I did not.

None of the men, I noticed, were armed.

No, they believed their numbers were sufficient to subdue me.

It was then that I recognized the smell.

They were cooking human flesh.

I smiled, reached behind me, and drew my Bowie knife.

The gathered men laughed, the cook loudest and longest of all.

“What will you do with that, young one?” he asked. “You will make your flesh unappealing, and it will take longer to cook you. Put your toy down.”

“No,” I stated. The men around me tensed as though preparing for me to run.

I had no desire to leave.

When the cook realized I was going to stand my ground, he chuckled and motioned toward me.

The men moved forward slowly with the confidence of the hunter.

A pity they didn’t understand they’d become the prey.

The first man died with a look of surprise on his face. The others died screaming.

When I finished, they lay in a wide circle around me, hands and fingers littering the ground. Only the cook remained, and he was on his knees by the drum. His hands were in the pot, and I’d tied off the wrists. No need for him to bleed to death.

As he begged for his life, I fished out a coal from beneath the drum and used a ladle to pick it up.

Squeezing his mouth open with my free hand, I fed him the coal with the other.

He ate quite a few before he died.

France, 1914


They didn’t wait.

I would have preferred a little more time to get the lay of the land. Hell, I would have preferred any amount of time, but I didn’t get it.

They struck as soon as we crossed the border.

Not the Germans.

No, something else entirely.

When we reached the station and got out to accept gifts from the locals, I overheard the conductor stating that we were a car short.

An entire car, stuffed with troops, was gone.

The car before it was there, and the caboose was where it should be, but forty men and their equipment had vanished.

As the conductor conferred with the Colonel responsible for ferrying us to the rest camp, I saw several of the local women looking nervously at one another. One of them, it seemed, understood what was being said, and she was sharing it with her neighbors.

Seeing as how we weren’t going to be leaving for a bit, I walked to the women and, in a soft voice, asked them in French where the car had gone.

The women all looked to one older dame, and she gave a short nod of her head.

There was a creature, I was told, that had the ability to change its shape, to transform itself into anything it wished. Even something so large as a railroad car.

It lived nearby, and it had slept for generations. The constant rumbling of engines had awakened it, and it had learned that it could eat its fill.

That was an assessment I disagreed with.

I asked for and was given instructions as to where the creature called home, and then I quietly took leave of the station.

It took me half an hour of walking to find the place, a cave nestled in the side of a hill, and the rank odor of fresh blood assailed me.

I entered the creature’s lair and found scattered equipment. I stepped around the items, frowned at the sight of bones broken and sucked dry of marrow, and drew my Bowie knife.

The creature, dull gray and cat-like in appearance, lay on its side, snoring.

Its muzzle was stained, and there were bits of flesh about its lips, and as it slept, I crept forward and sawed its head off as it bucked and writhed beneath my hand.

It was hard, good work, and I didn’t miss my train.

War, 1914


War brings monsters.

When Imperial Germany invaded Belgium to strike at France, I took a train up to Canada, found my way to Quebec, and I enlisted in the Valcartier Grenadiers. I’m not overly fond of the Quebecois, but I needed to get to the continent, and that was the quickest way.

Well, the quickest way I was willing to take at the time.

I knew – and do still know – that war is a magnet for creatures of foul inclination, both human and inhuman alike.

I didn’t have to go far to find my first one long before we boarded a ship and crossed the Atlantic.

I was encamped outside of Quebec when I noticed a peculiar odor. Following my nose one evening, I found a large fat man sitting in his tent with several of his mates. There was a wrongness about him, and as I listened and waited, I heard it in his voice.

While he was able to mimic a man, he most certainly was not one, although I don’t know what he was for certain.

Over the next few days, as we marched out to the firing range and back, I noticed how he shied away from the sun whenever possible and how he avoided the priest as much as possible.

The priest appeared to notice this as well, and this morning, the priest was found dead. He had fallen, or so it seemed and struck his head on a rock, his brains scattered about in the mud.

There was no mistaking the smirk on the fat man’s face when he thought his comrades weren’t looking.

It didn’t matter if they weren’t looking.

I was.

Later that evening, as he sat in his tent jawing with his mates, I waited.

Night crept on, and soon, he slipped out, disturbingly quiet for a man of his girth.

I followed him on silent feet, trailing him as he made his way to a pasture some miles away. Once there, he latched onto a sheep, sinking his teeth into its neck while the animal was incapacitated in some way.

I didn’t bother to ask how. Or why. Or anything, really.

Instead, I picked up a large rock, stepped up, and smashed in the back of his head.

The blow collapsed the skull, but it didn’t kill the fat man, and that was fine.

As he rolled onto his back, eyes wild, I smiled and raised the rock above my head.

Visitors, 1937


Sixty years have passed since I last saw it.

Grimnir landed on the porch this morning, the old, one-eyed Raven greeting me with a low, harsh call that I knew well.

Setting my coffee aside, I asked if he wanted a drink, and the god shook his head. Instead, he spoke a single word.


There was no urgency behind the name, but the fact that Grimnir spoke was enough to move me out of my chair and back into the house. By the time I finished strapping on the Colts and returned to the porch, he was already gone.

I didn’t bother with my truck or with saddling one of the horses.

The walk would help me brace myself for whatever I would find.

I was wrong.

When I caught sight of Gods’ Hollow, a second wall stood a short distance from the stonewall, and my heart thundered against my chest.

I recognized the new wall, though it was far longer than the last time I had seen it.

Some of the bricked openings had fresh mortar; others were single, solid slabs of marble.

There was a name inscribed on each, faint and only visible when the light of the sun struck it full on. There were no dates, and there didn’t need to be.

I could remember each one, and why wouldn’t I?

I was looking at the wall of my dead.

These were not the graves of random folk or monsters, criminals or neighbors.

No, these were the graves of my loved ones. Relations and friends. Some I had put down myself, out of need and nothing more.

Some had been taken from me by others. A few had been claimed by old age.

But only a few.

I climbed over the stonewall and walked to the one grave more important than all the others.


I sat down beside my wife’s grave and rested my forehead against the cool marble.

Time passed, and the sun climbed higher, and soon, I heard her sweet voice come from the depths.

“Duncan,” she sighed. “Why didn’t you wake me?”

My own voice was raw and broken when I spoke. “I did not wish to disturb you.”

“You never do,” Adelaide laughed. “I met your son.”

I could not speak.

“He is well,” she continued.

“Is he?” I whispered.

“We all are, Duncan,” she told me. “The dead have no more worries.”

“Aye,” I sobbed. “Aye.”

#horror #fear #paranormal

Ivy, 1936


In 1857, Lucy Stone had eaten her daughter.

Like so many of my memories, I could picture it perfectly. The smell of roses wafting from the Hollow still brought a foul taste to my mouth, and often only a good, strong bourbon could wash it out.

Lucy’s husband, Francis, had remained in Cross, and his descendants occupied the family homestead still.

The house itself stands on North Road, close to the intersection with Washington Street, and it faces north, toward the Hollow. I can well recall seeing Francis Stone standing in his yard, worn with age and staring off at where his family had died.

The Stone House is three-quarters of a mile from the Hollow, and I was on North Road, walking towards town when I heard the whispers. They came from beneath my feet, vibrating up and penetrating the road. There was a disturbing familiarity to the voices, and I hastened my steps.

It wasn’t until I reached the Stone House that I understood what had happened.

The building, immaculately kept, had a heavy unkempt growth of unknown vines on it. The vines were new and had not been there when last I had seen the home.

The Harbors weren’t fools. They knew better than to remove anything from the Hollow.

The vines had found their way to the building.

When I approached the house, the whispering stopped, and the door opened. I did not bother with the Colts. They’d be useless against whatever I might find within.

The lights flickered into life as I crossed the threshold and looked with disgust upon the scene of butchery before me. The Harbor family, all six of them, were dead on the hall floor, laid out end to end. They had been stripped bare, and their bodies were sunken in and little more than husks. The walls were covered with roses, and as I looked, a mouth formed at the far end and the voice that emanated from it was Lucy Stone’s, full of madness and hunger and remorse.

When she finished, I nodded and left. I stopped in the garage for an ax and then made my way to the Hollow, where Lucy’s spirit remained trapped in a small rose bush and begged for release.

The ax was heavy in my hands.

#horror #fear #paranormal

Respite in the Garden, 1930


The years are heavy.

There are moments in my long life where I am forced to remember how alone I am.

There is a small island on Blood Lake that I have never shown to anyone. If my brother or sister knew it, well, they took that information with them to their graves.

The occasional bird roosts there, but the trees are small, and the grass offers little in the way of sanctuary from the winds, which are known to tear out of the Hollow and whip the lake into a frenzy.

I have not built a pier. There is no need. I am not afraid of getting wet, and I think of this as I jump out of the canoe and drag it up the small beach.

As I tie it down, the wind shifts subtly and brings to me the scent of flowers. It is a smell I’ve not encountered on the island before. Loosening the Colts in their holsters, I climb up the small bank and find myself in a garden.

I can hear insects calling to one another and birds singing, and there, directly across from me, is a woman.

She is bent over, gathering flowers that are not native to this place. She glances at me and smiles.

“Duncan Blood,” she says, returning to her task, “you’re a hard man to get a hold of.”

I let my hands rest on the butts of the Colts, and a sweet laugh escapes her.

“You’ve come to rely on those too much,” she states without looking up. “Give them rest. They would do little to me.”

“Who are you?”

She straightens up and smiles. “No one you know, but one who knows you.”

“Why are you here?”

“To offer you some peace, Duncan. Sit.” She motioned to my left, and a tall, ornate chair took shape beside me.

Cautiously, I sat.

A chair formed beside her, and she sat down as well. “You’re tired.”

I nodded.

“You have had some trouble sleeping of late?”

I hesitated before I nodded again.

“Why?” she asked.

“I’m alone.”

“You are,” she sighed. “I can do nothing for that. I can offer you some peace for an hour or two. Will you take it?”

“The price?”

“It is free,” she answered.

“Aye,” I sighed. “I’ll take it.”

Listening to the singing of the birds, I closed my eyes and slept.

The hour was short, but it was sweeter than any I could remember.

#horror #fear #paranormal

Draped and Dressed, 1930


The town nearly paid for his stupidity.

The new funeral director’s a fool.

Simon Jacobite came from Hartford up to Boston, failed there, and found Cross. I wish he hadn’t.

The man cut corners, and I know for a fact that he broke legs to make the dead fit into coffins that weren’t quite right. More than one ghost stopped by the farm to complain about the man, and I was planning on visiting him sooner rather than later to have a little discussion. I suspect that he might lose some teeth as the conversation progressed.

Well, sooner came along quicker than I imagined it would.

I’d had a telephone installed in the house, much to my chagrin, and it wasn’t much past eleven in the morning when the damned thing rang the quick three rings that signaled a call from the police.

When I answered, Patrolman Mark Davies asked me to get down to Jacobite’s about as quick as I could. They had secured the premises, but they didn’t dare go in.

I hung up the telephone, armed myself with the Colts and a scattergun for good measure, and rode into town at a gallop.

Davies took the reins from me when I arrived, and I saw some of the Cross militia had been called out as well. They were hard men and women, armed with Springfields and Thompsons. There was a scattering of cars and fresh blood on the sidewalk in front of the funeral home.

In short order, Davies told me that Jacobite had lost a hand to something in the building, and all they could get from the man was that he had been to the Hollow for some fresh flowers. Jacobite hadn’t wanted to pay for them.

Without a word, I nodded and went up to the front door and kicked it in. Entering the viewing room, I saw the casket and the flowers, and when I crossed the threshold, the corpse sat up. It grinned at me, and I took the top of its head off with the scattergun.

An unearthly shriek escaped from its mouth, and I dropped the weapon to the floor, drawing both Colts by the time the scattergun struck the wood.

The roar of the Colts filled the air and shook the room, and when I was done, so too was the thing in the casket.

I reloaded, picked up the scattergun, and left the room.

It was time to work on Jacobite’s teeth.

#horror #fear #paranormal

Rebirth, 1924


My mother thinks I am a fool.

This thought came freely to my mind as I stood on the shore of Blood Lake and watched the seed land and nestle into the crevice of the boulder.

There was no wind, not as such, that would guide a seed across the waters and set it down in front of me.

Sitting on a log across from the boulder, I took out a Colt and waited to see what my mother had sent to me.

I have no doubt as to the origin of the seed.

She is, I know, the force behind the foul creatures sent to plague this town. Her hatred of myself and my family knows no bounds, and while I would enjoy the rationale behind this animosity, I am not overly concerned.

It is enough to know she is responsible.

The seed had no sooner settled into its place than sprouts pushed up around it. Within minutes, half a dozen stems protruded from large leaves, and white flowers bloomed. The petals opened, closed, and then opened again, and when they did so, their stamen took on the shapes of tongues and my mother’s voice issued from them.

“I hate you.”

“Good,” I answered.

The flowers shook on the ends of their stems, turning to face me. I could well imagine my mother seeing my face, and so I smiled at the blossoms.

She swore at me.

“What do you want?” I asked her.

“I want you dead.”

For the first time in my life, I asked her why.

“I want your line ended,” she snarled. “I want the Bloods obliterated. You’ve outlived your siblings and your cousins. It’s time for you to die. Come to the Hollow, Duncan, and we can finish what I started.”

I spat on the ground and shook my head. “No. I’m fond of Cross. Of this world, if I’m not to put too fine of a point on it. I’ll stay a bit longer. There’s work to do. People to kill. Mothers to disappoint.”

Before she could respond, I lifted the Colt and fired all six cylinders.

The bullets tore the blossoms from the stems, and blood sprayed out over the boulder.

As the stems collapsed, they wilted and smoked against the stone.

A foul stench lingered in the air as I reloaded the Colt and waited to see if she might return.

She didn’t.

#horror #fear #paranormal

He Loves Me, She Loves Me Not, 1923


The sound was reminiscent of fish gasping on a deck, and it set me to running.

I found them on the backside of Devil’s Island, and I’ve no idea as to how they got there. It appeared that they had settled down to a picnic, though I couldn’t tell when.

Most of the food was gone, and what little remained was rotten through. While their clothes were ruffled in the wind, and while the lady’s parasol shifted uneasily in her hands, neither the man nor the woman moved. They were frozen in their positions, and the madness in their eyes told me all was lost.

I drew a Colt to end their misery, and I nearly lost my life.

Vines snapped out at me, seeking to lock onto my wrists and ankles, and the bullets meant for the tormented souls in front of me went to my own protection.

The vines were larger than I had ever seen, and they were deadly fast.

I was in the midst of reloading when the vines reached for me again, and I stomped upon them, cursing them in the most blasphemous language I could muster.

It caused the vines to withdraw, and a moment later, the couple collapsed. Smaller vines pushed their way out of the ears, eyes, nose, and mouth and crawled away toward the center of the island.

Angry, I hastened after them, and as I did so, my mother called out to me from the water between the Hollow and the island.

For a heartbeat, I saw her standing on the water offshore, a creature of dazzling hatred and malice.

The meaning of her words was lost to me, as was her response when I fired several shots at her. She vanished beneath the waves, though I knew she was not dead.

Not yet.

No matter how much I wanted, her to be.

Turning around, I went back to the bodies and wrinkled my nose at the smell. They’d been dead for quite some time.

With a muttered curse, I stalked inland to one of my small sheds, found a length of rope and a shovel, and went back to gather up the corpses.

I can’t abide a mess.

#horror #fear #paranormal

Blooming, 1923


The residents were doomed.

I’ve been away for some time.

Oh, I’ve stopped by here and there, as much as the war would let me, but for the most part, I’ve been gone from Cross.

It shows.

Those that knew better almost a decade ago seem to have left their wits in the past.

They’ll pay for it soon.

I was walking through Cross this morning, acclimating myself to someplace other than a battlefield, when I passed in front of the Stowe residence.

When I’d left for the war in Europe in 1914, the front yard had been a mass of brambles and unkempt weeds. What stood before me now was far from the mess I was familiar with.

Brilliant flowers of a dozen varieties lined the paths leading up to the home’s stonewall. Each plant was well-cared for, trimmed back, and on prominent display.

Yet the blossoms were wrong.

Their colors were off, just a fraction. It was enough to tell me where the flowers were from, where they had been gathered.

Gods’ Hollow.

I went up to the door, and as I was about to knock, Harriet Grange – the Stowes’ neighbor – called to me from her own front door.

“I’ve not seen them in a week, Duncan,” she told me when I crossed to her.


She shook her head and spat towards their house. “They spent too much time with the flowers. Can’t remember the last time they spoke to me. Children weren’t going to school. Albert, he wasn’t even going to work anymore. I’ve rung the bell a few times, but they don’t answer. I couldn’t even hear them.”

“Did you look in?”

She shook her head quickly. “No.”

“I’ll be back,” I told her and returned to the Stowe house. I peered in the closest window and saw the nightmare that awaited anyone who entered.

One of the Stowe children was face down on the floor. Flowers grew out of the child’s back, and fresh buds were pushing up through the hair.

For a moment, I considered entering the building and searching for survivors. But Harriet hadn’t seen a Stowe for a week.

“Call the fire department, if you would,” I told Harriet when I returned to her home.


“I have to burn the house down.”

Her lips tightened into a thin line, and then, like a true child of Cross, she went and did as I bade her.

#horror #fear #paranormal