February 6, 1968

She wanders the halls alone.

The Student, as she is known, has been a part of the Cross Branch of Miskatonic University’s library since 1959 and the acquisition of a large number of books from one of the preeminent collectors in town, Madame Virginia Lauzon. It was only on the passing of this esteemed bibliophile that the books, estimated to number nearly 10,000, were acquired. This being the case, there was no way to know the provenance of each volume.

The Student was first spotted by a librarian on February 6, 1968 in the upper-stacks, close to the bibliographies, the majority of which came from Madame Lauzon. Given the Student’s garb, it is believed that she died sometime during the early portion of the 1950s.

Over the decades since the first sighting, numerous other students, staff, and employees have reported encountering her. The Student is shy, showing no wounds or giving any hint as to how she passed or when, exactly, that might have occurred.

What is more, when mediums have attempted to speak with her, she has pointedly ignored her.

The various librarians have reported seeing her with different books, and they find previous books she read placed on the desk, ready to be re-shelved.

While the Student is not averse to company, she is not fond of photographs. The few images that exist have been taken from outside the building, and they always show the Student reading, which seems to be her sole desire.

There is only one recorded incident of the Student being aggressive, and that was on the anniversary of her appearance at the college.

A well-known medium, James Avril, attempted to force her to speak.

The Student put the gentleman in the hospital, where he remained in traction for seven months.

If you are interested – and polite – the Student can still be seen in the University’s library.

#CrossMassachusetts #horror #death #missing #fear #scary #nightmare #newengland #secrets #murder #Miskatonic

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January 23, 1903

Maggie Kite refused to die.

In 1899, Maggie died of an unknown illness. She was laid out in the parlor, per the family’s custom, and by the end of the evening she sat up on the table and inquired as to what was being served for dinner.

The family was rightfully overjoyed at the return of Maggie, but that joy was short lived.

Within a week, Maggie was dead again, but by the hand of her uncle. He claimed that she had assaulted him on their way home from Sunday service. When the family called the police to arrest him, he defended his actions with a revelation.

Maggie had attempted to eat him.

He had large bite wounds on his back and shoulders.

As the police were questioning the uncle, Maggie was resurrected again, and she readily admitted to trying to eat her mother’s brother.

When asked why Maggie replied that she was hungry.

Over the course of the following year, Maggie was found to have eaten two horses, nine pigs, and three cows. The bones and remnants of dozens of other small animals and birds were discovered in the woods around the family’s home, but it wasn’t until the neighbor’s newborn daughter went missing that the family decided to take action.

Maggie’s father shot her twice in the head.

Within an hour, however, Maggie was up and about.

And furious over her family’s betrayal.

By the time she was finished, Maggie’s mother, two brothers, the bitten uncle, and three nephews were all injured.

Maggie was shot multiple times, and her father took a drastic measure.

That evening, on January 23, 1903, Maggie was buried in seventeen separate pieces around Cross. Her head remained unburied, for her father sealed it in a lead canister, and he and Duncan Blood brought it out to sea, dropping it into the Atlantic.

#CrossMassachusetts #horror #scary #death #killer #fear #writersofinstagram #murder #secrets

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December 18, 2017

     Marilyn Holt of Cross purchased a katana and a photograph at a private auction in the home of a recently deceased professor of Asian History at the Cross Branch of Miskatonic University. While the university sought to lay claim to the professor’s possessions, the family succeeded in selling off many of them before any case could be brought to court.

     Marilyn, at the age of 54, was a new breed of Cross resident. She and her husband had retired early, moving from Cambridge, Massachusetts two years before. While her husband practiced his golf game, Marilyn took up a series of rather expensive hobbies. Her most expensive, by far, was the collecting of katanas. If she could find one with an impressive provenance, such as the one acquired at the deceased professor’s home, then she was thrilled.

     Marilyn quite happily displayed her collections for friends and well-wishers, and upon the purchase of the katana and photograph, she made the announcement that the items would be the centerpiece of her annual Christmas party. While none of her new neighbors were invited to attend, her and her husband’s friends from Cambridge were on the guest list.

     On December 17th, 2017 an impressive number of cars arrived and deposited well-heeled couples at the Holts’ house.

     By the morning of December 18, 15 people were dead.

     14 of the victims were found on their knees, perfectly upright although their heads were missing. The 15th, Marilyn, was found kneeling in front of her guests, the victim of ritual seppuku.

     Both the katana and the photograph remain missing.

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December 17, 1904

     Where William Oertzen obtained his money, no one knew.

     He arrived in Cross in 1876, and within a week, construction on his home began.

     Located on the southern border of the town, the Oertzen house would eventually have a total of seven levels, although there were some in town who were positive that the house had many more.

     Herr Oertzen loved children, and would often host parties for them, giving out gifts to not only the children but to their families as well. While some folk held misgivings about such charity directed towards those so young, it soon became apparent that there were no sinister designs on the part of the older gentleman.

     Instead, some of his history came to light. At one time, in Austria, Herr Oertzen was the father to 13 children, but an unknown accident had taken the lives of all his children and his wife.

     When he passed away in 1902, Herr Oertzen willed his home to the town of Cross to be used for the benefit of orphans and wards of the state. In addition to his home, the good man left a large trust fund to care for the upkeep of the building and whatever children lived there.

     A distant cousin arrived from Austria, however, and challenged the legitimacy of the will. As the fight continued in the courts, the cousin succeeded in winning the right to live in the home.

     Three days after he moved in, the cousin fled the house, certain that he had been attacked by his cousin’s dead children.

     Twice more he attempted to live in the home, and twice more he was driven out, finally relenting and withdrawing his claim on December 17, 1904.

     The Cross Home for Lost Children continues to operate on the town’s southern border.

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The Cajun Tap, 1919

     The bus stopped in a small town called Cross, and Hank Rivers decided he’d gone far enough. He tipped his hat to the driver, shouldered his sea-bag, and stepped out. Once on the sidewalk, Hank took out his pipe, packed it, and lit it.

     As the smoke curled up from the bowl and escaped from the corner of his mouth, Hank glanced up and down the street. A few Fords, all older models, were parked at the curb. But like all the New England towns he had passed through, after 6 PM the center of town was battened down like a destroyer ready to ride out a storm.

     Hank sought out a place to drink and was relieved to see a sign for a watering hole.

     The faded, wooden sign hung from a rusted iron swing pole affixed to a brick wall near the mouth of an alley. Hank could make out the carved images of a mug of beer and a bottle of whiskey, and three words engraved above them.

     The Cajun Tap, he read. Then, with a shrug, he adjusted his sea-bag and made his way to the sign.

     When he reached it, Hank saw a flight of narrow stairs leading down below street level. A dull, orange tinted light seeped out of a large rectangular window set high in an ancient, dark wood door. Hank descended the stairs and caught a glimpse of a small brass plate engraved with the word, Knock.

     He rapped on the center of the door twice.

     It opened a moment later, and an old man who looked like death warmed over stood in the doorway. He wore a battered bowler hat that was ragged and threadbare with age. The man’s blue eyes were sunk deep within their sockets, and lines spread out to either side of his thin face from the corners of his eyes and mouth. He had on a pair of dungarees held up by stained red suspenders, and the boon-dockers on his feet looked older than Hank. The sleeves of a collarless shirt had been rolled up to the elbow, revealing thick scars on the man’s pale flesh.

     “What do you want?” The old man asked in a heavy Louisiana accent.

     “A drink and a meal, if you have them,” Hank answered.

     The old man leaned forward a fraction, his nostrils flared, and then he nodded.

     “Come on in,” the man said, stepping aside. “Straight to the back, you’ll find the bar. Booths are private.”

     “Can I get a booth?” Hank asked.

     The old man chortled and said, “What’s your name, son?”

     “Hank.”

     “I’m Louis Crowley, Hank,” the old man said, closing and locking the door behind them. “And we’ll see if you warrant a booth when you’ve finished your drink at the bar.”

     Hank shrugged and walked along the length of a slim, dark aisle. He could make out the booths on either side, but the angle of the lights above each hid the occupants from view.

     The sound of murmured conversations rose and fell around him.

     At the end of the aisle, the room opened to face a long bar with seven unoccupied bar stools. The bar itself was a long piece of planking that, judging by the scars upon its surface, looked as if it had come from an old battleship. Bottles and jars and glasses cluttered a series of shelves, and candles threatened to gutter out in old ship’s lamps that hung from the exposed beams of the ceiling.

     “Sit down, Marine,” Louis said, going around to the back of the bar.

     Hank set his sea-bag down on the floor, placed his hat on the bar, and settled down on a stool. “How’d you know I was a Marine?”

     “I’ve an eye for your breed,” Louis said. “What’re you drinking?”

     “Whiskey,” Hank answered. He took his pipe out of his mouth and knocked the ashes out into an old brass ashtray.

     The old man chuckled, nodded and said, “Course it’s whiskey.”

     “Good drink for a thirsty man,” Hank said, grinning.

     “Only drink for a Marine, so’s I been told,” Louis replied. He took a dark bottle and a large tumbler down from their respective shelves and poured Hank a healthy dose of strong smelling liquor.

     “Damn if that doesn’t smell fine,” Hank said, nodding his thanks as Louis slid the glass in front of him. The old Cajun left the bottle uncorked on the bar as Hank took a long drink.

     “Tastes as good as it smells,” Hank announced.

     “Glad to hear it,” Louis said, adding a little more to Hank’s glass. “Where’ve you been?”

     “Up and down the coast,” Hank said. He glanced around the bar, and for the first time, he noticed the curious decorations. A wide array of weapons hung from or were supported by old belaying pins. Hank saw bayonets and swords, trench knives and bowie knives. Pistols and rifles ranging from old muskets to Lee-Enfields and a Maxim machine gun. Hank shook his head and said, “Damn. That’s a hell of an arsenal you’ve got.”

     Louis nodded. “Friends leave them on their way through. Which brings me back to my question, Hank. Where’ve you been?”

     Hank looked at the old barkeep. “I told you –”

     Louis cut him off with a shake of his head.

     “I asked it wrong,” the old man muttered. “Here, what took you so long, Marine?”

     The question chilled Hank to the bone, and his hand trembled as he reached for his whiskey. He managed to empty the glass without spilling any and set the tumbler back on the bar top. Hank felt sufficiently fortified, and he asked, “What in the hell are you talking about?”

     “The wheat field,” Louis said, refilling Hank’s glass.

     A wave of brutal memories crashed over Hank and threatened to drown him with the images of violence. He saw his friends mown down on either side of him by German machine guns. The Marines leaning forward as if they walked into a high wind as they moved through the golden wheat. Over the staccato bursts of the machine guns, Hank heard men screaming in pain, others shouting in English or German.

     He gripped the edge of the bar, squeezing it with both hands, and shook his head.

     “How,” Hank asked in a harsh, rasping whisper, “in God’s name do you know I was there?”

     Louis looked at him not with sympathy or compassion, but admiration.

     “I’ve only met a few men,” the old man said, “who carried on as you did.”

     Louis reached beneath the bar and extracted a large, new grocer’s ledger. The year 1918, Vol. II was stamped in gold-leaf on the marbled cover.

     “Been a long time,” the old man said, “since I needed more than one ledger for a single year.”

     Hank watched as Louis laid the ledger on the bar and flipped it open. The old man turned several pages, nodded and cleared his throat.

     “Gunnery Sergeant Henry “Hank” Rivers. Killed in the wheat field, sixth of June, 1918. Despite death, Gunner Sergeant Rivers led the charge into Belleau Wood. Vanished before collection.”

     Without a word, his mind spinning, Hank reached up with surprisingly steady hands and unbuttoned his shirt. He slid his arms out of the sleeves and folded the garment before he placed it on the bar. Then, with Louis standing impassively in front of him, Hank stripped off his undershirt.

     He looked down at his chest and saw a trio of small, neat circles, one above each nipple, the third between them both. With his left hand, Hank reached behind him and felt the edge of a gaping exit wound.

     Hank sighed and picked up the whiskey. While Louis put away the ledger, Hank finished his drink. With the liquor gone, he put his shirts back on and asked in a soft voice, “How is this possible?”

     Louis shrugged. “I don’t know. Some few can do what you did, but it is a rare feat. I do know that you’ve led them on a merry chase for which they’ll surely call you out on.”

     “I don’t understand any of this,” Hank murmured. “Who’s been looking for me?”

     “The Valkyrie, Marine,” Louis said, pouring the last of the whiskey into the tumbler. “You’re due in Valhalla. Well, past due.”

     “How do you know all this?” Hank asked, confused. “What is this place?”

     “I’ve been around a long time, Hank,” Louis said. “And as for what this place is, that’s easy. This is my bar and a way station for Valhalla.”

     Behind him, Hank heard the door to the bar thrown wide, and the sound of boisterous female voices filled the air. Men cheered from the darkened booths and Louis smiled.

     “Well,” the old Cajun said, “looks like your ride is here, Marine.”

     Before Hank could respond, a firm hand gripped his arm, and a woman said over his shoulder, “Gunnery Sergeant Rivers. You are a pain in the ass.”

     Still, in shock at what had transpired, Hank laughed and said, “Yeah. That sounds about right.”

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Pacing

     Several years ago, I made the transition from part-time freelancer to a part-time ghostwriter. While I’ve discussed working within the constraints of someone else’s ideas concerning good writing, I haven’t talked about all the particulars.

     And I can’t in a short format such as this.

     What I can do, however, is take them one at a time.

     Today’s focus is pacing.

     I had a terrible time with pacing originally. Personally, I want a story to develop in a certain way. More organic than formulaic. I think most of you reading this can agree with that. Writing out a specific iambic pentameter for chapters leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Especially when you’re a fan of letting your characters grow and change with the story.

     And that is all well and good when you are doing your own thing. I have plenty of stories where the development of a character or the climax of the tale takes a long time to achieve.

     If you’re working as a ghostwriter, then you need to think about pacing. You need to set your pacing so that you can put it on a graph where A stands for action, and B stands for anything else. Basically, when you lay out your chapters in front of you, you should have a rhythm, like so: A B A B A B…

     Ad nauseum ad infinitum, as the Romans were wont to say.

     Should you find yourself working as a ghostwriter and creating thrillers of any sort, keep this pacing in mind. Rev the engine, let it idle; rev the engine, let it idle. Not only will this keep your readers excited, but it’ll make your boss happy too.

     And, best of all, it can help you with your own writing.

     Speaking of which, time to do a little more of my own.

Keep writing!

     Nicholas

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Indian Summer

     Alex Archer paused, wiping the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand, leaving the ax head in the stubborn pine deadfall. The day was cloudy and warm for so late in October.  In Cross, Massachusetts winter usually arrived early and stayed late.

     With a sigh, Alex sat down on the floor of the forest, the sound of his brother’s ax ringing out among the trees, the smell of pine sap thick in the afternoon air. Through the trees, Alex caught glimpses of the soft, pleasant blue sky. Along his back and under his arms he felt his flannel shirt clinging to him. Down his temple, a trickle of sweat made its way towards his unshaven cheek.

     Mike’s ax stopped abruptly, and Alex looked up.

     Mike leaned on the handle of his ax, a grin on his flushed face, his strawberry blonde hair clipped short and damp with sweat.

     “Tired already?” Alex asked, laughing.

     Mike shook his head and sat down, resting his ax against a tree. “What time is it?”

     “A little past four,” Alex said, glancing at his watch. “Want to call it a day after these two?”

     He nodded at the pair of pines lying between them.

     “Yeah,” Mike said, “we can hitch up the team tomorrow and drag’em out in the morning.”

     “Sounds like a plan to me. Where do you want to eat?”

     “The Diner?”

     Alex nodded again, climbing back to his feet.

     “Might as well,” his voice trailed off as the sound of movement reached his ears. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Mike rise cautiously, ax in hand.

     With the bear and mountain lion sightings, Alex thought, we’re a good two miles into the forest. A helluva long way.

     He reached out, working the head of the ax free from the stubborn pine.

     Out of a copse of fir trees, perhaps fifty yards away, an old man appeared. Wearing an orange vest over his clothes he held a Winchester rifle, an army surplus canteen slung on his hip. He waved as he drew closer.

     Squinting Alex recognized Lee, the caretaker of the cemetery. Alex relaxed, sighing.

     “Hey, Lee!” Mike said, waving back to the old man.

     “Boys,” Lee said, nodding. A smile broke his sharp features as he made his way through the underbrush. At nearly eighty the man still moved with confidence, his eyes always searching, head sweeping left to right, right to left in tireless vigilance. Lee stopped beside Mike.

     “How’s the hunting?” Alex asked.

     “Couldn’t tell you,” Lee said. “I just like to be out in the woods now. Miles and miles of forest on Duncan’s land. There’s nothin’ quite like it durin’ an Indian Summer.”

     Alex nodded. “Have you seen the Old Man around today?”

     “Yeah, out by the pumpkin patch, cutting some paths for the kids.”

     “Damn,” Mike said, “I love that old man.”

     “What old man?” a voice asked from behind them.

     Alex nearly jumped as he turned around and saw Old Man Duncan leaning against a thick white birch tree. Duncan stood shorter and stouter than Lee. He carried a pump-action shotgun in the crook of his arm.

     Alex opened his mouth to speak, closing it as the words died in his mouth upon seeing Duncan’s grim expression.

     “We’d best be gettin’ in,” Duncan said, looking out beyond them into the woods. “There’s trouble in the air.”

     “How so?” Mike asked, resting his ax upon his shoulder.

     “Just trouble,” Duncan said, lowering his voice, his eyes never leaving the trees. “It’s a bad day to be out and about.”

     Alex felt the curious, unpleasant sensation of someone watching him. A glance at Lee, then at Mike, showed they felt the same. In silence, the three of them hastened towards Duncan.

     Holding his ax with both hands Alex stepped over severed branches. He felt an urge to look over his shoulder, but he didn’t, trusting in Duncan’s judgment.

     The noises of the forest stopped, the sounds of the men’s haste to leave disturbingly loud. Alex felt uneasy and picked up his pace. His heart quickened and his mouth dried, his palms sweating on the worn haft of the ax.  With great discipline, Alex fought the desire to break into a sprint.

     The roar of Duncan’s shotgun, along with a shout to “Run!” shattered that discipline.

     Still clutching the ax, Alex hurtled past Duncan, the shot-gun bucking and roaring again. A sharper, quicker sound followed the echo of the blast.

     Lee’s Winchester, Alex realized as the weapon sang out twice more. Behind him Alex heard the pounding of feet, and he risked a glance.

     Through the soft, ebbing light Alex caught sight of Mike and Lee, and heard the blast of Duncan’s shot-gun and gasped at what he saw beyond the men.

     Alex slammed into the hard packed earth of the forest floor, his ax skidding along into a small briar patch. He scrambled to his feet, not believing what his eyes told him.

     Indians.

     Dozens of them. Young men with soft brown skin dressed in leather clothes, armed with war clubs and tomahawks.

     Indians.

     Lee’s Winchester barked again, further off, as did Duncan’s shot-gun. Thorns bit into Alex’s hand as he pulled the ax clear, blood welling up on his tanned hands. Lifting his ax, Alex looked behind him.

     Fear pumped adrenaline into his system as an Indian, probably not out of his teens, leaped over a dead elm. An angry shout broke free as Alex swung the ax at the club-wielding youth. The young warrior ducked the blow and tried to bring his weapon to bear.

     With the momentum of his swing, Alex felt his legs tangle in the underbrush and fell, back first, upon the briar patch. Ignoring the pain of the cuts, he tried to stand as the Indian stepped forward, raising his club for the death blow.

     Duncan’s shotgun roared and the Indian vanished.

     No blood. No body.

     Gone, Alex thought numbly.

     With his heart thundering, Alex rolled out of the briar patch. Lee and Mike, both pale  and panting from their dash, stood on either side of Duncan, who lowered his smoking shotgun. He nodded at Alex.

     “Indian Summer, boys.  When the weather’s warm and it should be cold,” Duncan continued, his eyes sweeping the forest, “then Indian dead remember the past, when the Trickster let them raid late in the season against the English.

     “Indian Summer’s not a good thing, boys,” Duncan said, motioning them to follow as he turned away. “Wasn’t then, and isn’t now.”

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