Strangers: Carrier

Death comes in many forms.

On an August night in 1880, as the night insects sang out through the darkness around Blood Lake, I wandered the shore, rifle in hand and Colts on my hips. There had been curious creatures making their way from the Hollow, and I’d killed a few recently.

For three hours I roamed, then, as midnight neared, I decided it was time to go home.

It was then that I heard a soft splashing coming from a short distance offshore.

I knew it couldn’t be any of the naiads; they kept to themselves unless I was actively in the water.

Looking out over the water, I saw a figure coming closer, and I was surprised to see it was a young woman. She was dressed in oriental finery, and her movements, despite the resistance of the water, were graceful.

As the half-moon shined down upon us, it caught in her hair and the earrings she wore. The light glowed in her eyes, and the water seemed to part for her.

Had a barn owl not taken that moment to screech past me as it sought its prey, I might not have survived the encounter with the strange young woman.

As it was, the bird broke the line of sight for the briefest of moments, but it was enough.

Blinking, I saw the young woman continuing her advance, but I also saw what was in her wake.

Dead fish and frogs, turtles and even a few fisher-cats floated in the water, and more joined them as she moved along.

Her presence was poison, and she was killing all those who were near here.

I snapped the rifle up to my shoulder and put a round through her forehead. Her brains were blown out the back, but she only laughed and hurried toward me.

I emptied the Spencer into her chest, but it didn’t slow her.

She scrambled onto shore with the sickening grace of a crab, and as she reached for me, I blew her hands off with the Colts. Her screams shook the trees, and a moment later, I shot through her neck, decapitating her.

She’s buried in an iron drum on a small island in the lake, and every so often I go out to make sure she’s there.

One day, I’m certain she won’t be.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

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Strangers: Sin Eater

Lloyd Grange deserved to die.

I had come to the decision early one morning after seeing his wife and two little girls leaving town. They were in the buckboard wagon, their few possessions loaded up in the back. Each of them had been beaten so badly that they were nearly unrecognizable.

Mary, his wife, was having a difficult time guiding the gelding, so I brought the three of them back to Blood Farm, put them in the first-floor library where they would be safe from those creatures which prowled the upper floors, and gave Mary a shotgun. Along with the weapon, I gave her explicit instructions to shoot whoever came through the door that wasn’t me. There were things in the house, I explained, that were less than pleasant.

With the Grange women safe in the library, I took my Colts, saddled my horse, and set off for the Grange house on North Road.

When I reached the drive, I dismounted, slapped him on the haunch, and set him off toward home. A scream sent the horse off at a gallop.

As the sound of his hooves faded, I approached the home, Colts drawn and hammers back. The front door was broken down, and the powerful scent of incense wafted out toward me.

When I entered the home, I heard a whimpering sound from the kitchen, and so I went down the hall toward the room.

I found Lloyd in his chair. What was left of him.

Seated in the chair beside him was a man in preacher’s cloth. There was blood on his lips and in his mustache. He was eating Lloyd’s left arm, the only limb the man had left.

When the stranger looked at me, his nostrils flared. I kept my Colts level, both barrels aimed at his broad chest.

“Will you interfere?” the stranger asked.

“No. I was on my way to kill him,” I replied.

The stranger smiled. “We are the same.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“I am a sin eater in my now. My when,” he explained, taking a bite. “You are the same.”

“Why are you here?”

“I smelled him,” the stranger answered, straightening up. “Smelled him as I was taking a walk this morning. He is, well, delicious. Would you like a bite?”

I shook my head.

I was still full from breakfast.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Strangers: Confusion

I consider myself a sharp man, though my wits at times may be addled.

Today was the fifth anniversary of the end of the War of the Rebellion, and I find it necessary at times to ignore the world on this day.

It wasn’t quite yet noon as I wandered along the edge of Blood Lake. The sun shined on the water, and the islands shimmered, gentle reminders of peace and horror, both of which could be found in the middle of the lake.

As I strolled along, smoking my pipe, I heard someone call my name.

I turned, prepared to chastise whoever it was, and the rebuke died in my throat.

A stunningly beautiful young woman strode toward me, wearing clothes that made little sense. The strange spectacles on her eyes were bizarre, and I found myself unable to look away from her.

The smile that blossomed on her face caused my stomach to twist, and I found myself at a loss for words.

She came to a stop some ten or so feet from me, the silence between us filled with the lapping of the lake’s water against the shore and the birds singing high above us.

“You look good,” she told me after a moment.

“Thank you,” I managed.

She smirked, and my knees weakened.

“I know you don’t know me, Duncan,” she chuckled. “We have not met. Not yet. It’s 1870?”

I felt my brow furrow as I nodded.

“Yes,” she said, and her smile faded, replaced for a moment by a look of sadness. “No, we won’t meet for another seventy years. Our time will be short, Duncan. I want you to know that I cherished it. Every minute.”

“What’s your name?” I asked her.

She shook her head. “That I cannot tell you. It would spoil the fun. I’ll see you soon, Duncan Blood. We’ll have coffee and I’ll laugh and tell you I don’t believe we met before. But you’ll say one word to me, and I’ll know it’s true.”

“What word is that?” I asked.

“Kendall,” she answered. “Remember that and remember July 1st, 1940. Boston Common. Say it back.”

I did.

“Seventy years, Duncan,” she whispered. “Wait for me.”

She faded away and I was left alone on the shore of Blood Lake, wondering who she was, and why I had to wait so long to know her.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Strangers: A Hidden Appetite

For some, hunger can never be sated.

In 1866, Madeline Roche arrived in Cross and took up a position in the Hall house as caretaker.

She was, by all accounts, a diligent worker. She cared for the Hall children as though they were her own, and the house was immaculate on the few occasions I had reason to visit.

Her decorum was perfect, her personality stunning. Had I been of a mind to wed at that time in my life, I most certainly would have sought her hand.

As it was, I was, shall we say, preoccupied with other events occurring. My amorous pursuits were of little concern.

Nearly six months after her arrival, dark creatures came to my library in the depths of the night and whispered tales of missing children. I spent almost a month following up these stories and found them all to be true.

Most of those missing children had belonged to families passing through, or to families just over the town’s border.

In July, the first Cross child vanished.

Annie Proctor, age three months, was taken from her crib.

Suzanne Renquist was found dead on Myrtle Street, the pram empty; her son, Liam, age eleven months, was missing.

By the end of August, four children had been taken, and two more mothers had been slain.

There were no clues, and not even the dark creatures could tell me where the monster was hiding.

I suspected the Hollow, as I always do, and as I prepared a hide from which to watch the Hollow, I was able to stop the next kidnapping.

Ellen Westinghouse, who lived on Gordon Way, was pulling her year-old twins along in a small wagon when a creature sprang out from the Hollow. It was fast and wrapped in black cloth that hid its form, and it was pure luck that I hit the damned thing with my Spencer rifle.

Ellen snatched up her children and ran while I sprinted for the creature. As it tried to escape, I tore off the cloth, revealing the upper half of Madeline Roche and a monstrous mouth and dozens of legs from her breasts down.

The scream that escaped the thing caused my ears to bleed as I emptied the Spencer and both Colts into her.

Then, for good measure, I reloaded and emptied them into her again.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Strangers: Crucifixions

The sound of hammering rolled along North Road and ushered in horror.

North Road runs parallel to Gods’ Hollow, and there’s a stone wall that separates the beaten dirt of the road and the Hollow’s ever-changing expanse.

The harsh sound of hammer on iron caught my attention as I was writing in my journal, and given that there was no moon and dawn was still a ways off, I cleaned my rifle and my pistols. By the time the sun crested the horizon, the weapons were loaded, and I was ready. The hammering had grown louder and frenzied. The steady rhythm of hours earlier had been replaced with a relentless, maniacal beat that made little sense.

When I reached North Road, I came to a stop and stared at what stood before me.

Along the left side of the road, facing the Hollow, men, and women had been crucified. They were dead, their chests splayed open, and the sun glowing in the drying blood that clung to shattered ribs and cracked sternums. The victims were bare, their pale flesh awash in their own blood. Flies swarmed around the corpses, seeking to feast and mate in the filth.

As I advanced along the road, rifle in hand, the sound of the hammering increased, and then slowed. Someone laughed, and another screamed. There was a loud, disturbing cracking noise, and the screaming stopped.

I saw a man scurry out of the shadow of a tree, then dart back into the woods. Someone yelled, and a slapping followed.

A moment later, I saw a woman sprint out of the woods, and when I called out to her, she hesitated.

Her hesitation killed her.

A hammer soared out from the woods and struck her in the back of the head, crushing her skull and driving her to the road where she twitched in the dust.

Her killer came out a moment later. He made a straight line for the corpse, jerked his hammer out of the back of her skull, and ran toward me.

I put a single round through his shoulder, causing him to drop the hammer. A second shot took out a knee and sent him tumbling to the ground.

He was a blacksmith, I learned, and he and his victims were from the Hollow.

I nailed him to the wall of my barn.

Unlike the blacksmith, the spikes are still there.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Strangers: The Horse Eater

I hate Gods’ Hollow.

Throughout my long life, strangers have drifted out of the Hollow. Some few have been travelers passing through Cross. Others, like the Horse Eater, came to prey upon our world.

How this man developed his taste for horse flesh I’ll never know, nor do I want to.

He arrived in town around 1846, and within days a horse went missing.

The mare belonged to Henry Black, and he was none too pleased with her theft. Word went out to the various outlying farms to keep an eye out for the mare, and Henry was hopeful she would be found.

She was, in a manner of speaking.

On the North Road, across from Gods’ Hollow, her remains were found. She’d been eviscerated, and all her organs were gone. The horse had been cut open deftly, and whoever had killed her had taken her brain as well.

Some few thought it might be a bear, perhaps a mountain lion if one had come in from the west.

I disagreed, though I kept my own counsel.

Over the next week, another two horses and one foal were stolen, and they were all found at various points on the North Road. Several townsfolk stationed themselves on the road after the foal, but nothing happened. For five days, they remained on the road at night.

When they left after the fifth night, I remained.

The Horse Eater arrived close to midnight of the sixth day, leading a gray stallion from my own barn.

The Horse Eater was the stranger I had seen around town, and he laughed and sang as he walked my horse along. When he drew near the spot where Henry Black’s mare had been found, the stranger stopped. He leaned in, whispered something to the stallion, and then drew a long knife from his waistband.

The ball from my Colt took him in the elbow, shattering it and causing him to scream. The stallion, being no fool, took off for home.

As I stepped toward the Horse Eater, his arm limp, he turned and cursed at me in a language I had no knowledge of. His teeth, I saw, were serrated, and his eyes flashed silver.

I don’t know what he was, but he took a long time to die.

Not that I minded the work.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Toys in Cross: His Airplane

Flights of fancy ought not to be mocked.

Mr. Gabriel Riordan served as the interim principal for Cross Elementary in 1946, and, in 1947, he took over the duties of Mrs. Sandoval when she retired from teaching the fifth grade.

Mr. Riordan was displeased when he was not offered the position of principal on a full-time basis. He took his anger out on Ernst Heckler, a refugee from Austria. Ernst’s father had managed to smuggle his son aboard a ship before the Germans clamped down on those of Jewish ancestry trying to flee the country.

Ernst was a bright, personable boy who was fascinated with airplanes, and who spoke with a lisp in addition to his accent. Ernst’s classmates adored him, as did everyone else in the school. The only one who disliked him, it seemed, was Mr. Riordan.

Each day Mr. Riordan would belittle the child for his accent, his lips, and his faith. Ernst took it all in stride, accepting the ridicule without any reaction. When Mr. Riordan would finish his tirade, Ernst would go back to his schoolwork, and when it was time for recess, he would play with his favorite airplane, a transoceanic vehicle that, according to his foster family, he wished he could take back to Austria to search for any of his family who might have survived the Holocaust.

On a warm May day, Mr. Riordan crossed the line with his students.

He took Ernst’s plane from him.

When I spoke with Mr. Riordan that night, he said the class had gone silent when he threw the plane down and broke it, and that all refused to go out of the room for recess. Furious at the disobedience, Mr. Riordan had stalked out of the room to get the principal for assistance with his unruly class.

When he returned with the woman, none of his students were there. The broken airplane, he saw, was missing as well.

It was at that time that a transoceanic airplane rumbled over Cross.

None of the children were found that night, or the night after, or ever again. They and Ernst had somehow repaired the airplane, and they had left upon it. Of that, I am certain.

I don’t have Ernst’s airplane in my study, but I do have Gabriel Riordan’s skull.

He forfeited it when he broke the boy’s toy.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Toys in Cross: Baseball

Grief is a fearsome weapon.

Victor Gordon moved to Cross with his mother from Detroit. His father had died of fever, and his mother, one of the Coffins, decided to move back to Cross to be close to her family.

Victor grieved for the loss of his father and those intangibles that accompany a drastic move. His friends were no longer around to offer him sanctuary. He could not lose himself in baseball, which was his favorite sport. There were some boys in town who played, but there was no real team on which Victor might play, not like Detroit.

One day, when he was walking home from playing ball, Victor stopped in front of the train station and looked upon it. I watched him walk into the station, and a few minutes later, he left again, his bat over his shoulder, glove in the crook of his arm. His face was grim, and tears filled his eyes.

He returned a short time later, still with his bat and glove, and coins could be heard jingling in his pockets. Before he could step into the Cross Train Station, his uncle and a trio of male cousins arrived, running down the street and calling out to him.

I heard them tell the boy he couldn’t leave. His mother, rest her soul, had said Victor was to live with them. It was then that I learned of his mother’s death and the power of the boy’s grief.

He stopped in front of the station and told his relations to leave him be.

When they continued their advance, he dropped his glove, took up a batter’s stance, and waited.

His uncle Micah was the first to reach him, and Micah didn’t live to regret that fact.

The boy swung the bat and struck his uncle with enough force to send him flying across the street and through the window of the haberdashery. His cousins either saw and didn’t believe or saw and didn’t care.

Victor’s aim was true, and he killed all three of his cousins, their broken bodies sprawled in on the other side of the street.

He dropped his bat, turned, and entered the station.

I suspect he made it to Detroit.

His bat, like so many other toys, is in my library. It smells of wood and blood and grief.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Toys in Cross: From Paris

The toy was found near Gods’ Hollow, and that alone speaks volumes.

From what I’ve put together, it was Erin Black, age eight, who found it while walking along near the Hollow and brought it home. Three days later, no one could find the family. Erin, her two sisters, and their parents had vanished. A neighbor, Mrs. Ida Wills, thought she had heard a wagon stop in front of the house sometime before dawn.

Nathan Hanks, age eleven and a neighbor of the Blacks, saw the toy in the backyard, and according to Mrs. Wills, took it home with him.

Nathan and his parents disappeared that night.

Within two weeks, another four families vanished, and several times there were reports of a wagon.

I had been away from Cross, taking care of some business, and I was disturbed to learn of the missing people. None of the families had taken anything with them. As I spoke with neighbors and friends, I discovered there was one common thread: a toy cart drawn by a pair of oxen and a man walking beside it.

Searching through the last house, I found the toy.

With a growing sense of unease, I brought it home with me, set it in the backyard, took out my Colts, and waited to see what the night would bring.

At two forty-one in the morning, I heard the groan and squeal of a wagon, the snorting of oxen. From the shadows near the main barn, the wagon approached – a nigh-on perfect representation of the toy. Yet where the bags on the toy were filled, those on the wagon were empty.

The Frenchman brought the oxen to within a dozen feet of the back porch, and as he prepared to fetch his bags, I cocked the hammers back on the Colts.

I don’t know what he was or where he came from, but he was damned fast and damned unpleasant.

He sprang at me from the wagon, covering the distance in a single motion. As he clambered up the steps, I saw his sharp teeth and blood-red eyes, and I put two rounds into his mouth, dropping him to the ground.

As his body sank into the earth, the oxen screamed, and a heartbeat later, they were replaced by the toy.

I keep the wagon in my library, another reminder of the horror that is the Hollow.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Toys in Cross: An Imaginary Friend

Not all friends are worth your time.

Happy Watts drifted into Cross from Boston, and, as his name implies, he was happy. I never saw the boy without a smile, and while I heard rumors that he talked to himself, I didn’t see much of an issue with it.

When asked who he was talking with, Happy invariably responded, “Thomas.”

No one could get Thomas’ last name from Happy, and they eventually attributed “Thomas” to an overactive imagination.

I wish someone had told me about his imaginary friend, and that friend’s name.

As it was, no one did. No one bothered to tell me that Happy was making himself known to the professors at the Cross Branch of Miskatonic University. He impressed them with the questions he asked regarding dead languages and ancient incantations. His knowledge of blood rituals was, as one survivor told me later, particularly curious.

I punched the professor when he told me that and knocked three teeth out of the damned fool’s head.

Happy Watts’ imaginary friend wasn’t imaginary.

Thomas Erasmus had lived during the late eighteenth century, and I had put him in the ground myself. How the bastard had gotten back into this plane of existence is a question I would have liked answered.

On a Saturday night, Happy and his imaginary friend went into the chapel at the university. Once there, Thomas had told what Happy what sigils to inscribe upon the altar, and how much blood to use.

A trio of professors discovered Thomas, and at that moment, I think something went wrong with the incantation

A hole was torn open in the altar, and Thomas attempted to get out. He was not alone, however, and, much to his chagrin, I’m sure, he was not first in line.

I suspect Happy realized at the last minute that something wasn’t right, and he sacrificed himself to close the hole. The child’s body was never found, and I can only hope that he died quickly.

 When inspecting the scene, I came upon a small knife, one I knew to have been Thomas’. I think he had attached himself to it. If he ever makes it back, I’ll ask him, right before I gut him with his own blade.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death