War: 8.3.1930

They weren’t hidden in the trees, they were the trees.

I am not too proud to state I am a savvy woodsman. I learned my craft at the hands of my father, and those Indians who were friendly with the town of Cross. Woodlore is an art and one to which I am well-suited.

I cannot, however, transform myself into a tree.

These Frenchmen could, and they were quite displeased to see me when they shifted back to their human forms.

There was no discussion. No attempt at negotiating a peace or some sort of truce.

They attacked, and I replied in kind.

My Colts thundered in the forest, and as each bullet found its mark, clothes were rent and chunks of bloody wood flew from the men. As heavy as the slugs were, the men refused to fall, and soon, I was forced to rely on the BAR.

The .30-06 rounds fired from the Browning tore through the Frenchmen, scattering limbs and shattering heads.

Despite the devastation wrought by the weapon, the Frenchmen did not give up. They were soldiers, after all.

They pressed forward, and several of their own shots cut through me. Twice they closed in on me, and only by firing the BAR on full-auto was I able to beat them back.

In the end, there was only a handful of the men left, and my anger got the better of me.

I suppose I could have taken some prisoner. In all honesty, I should have. Had I had the foresight to question the men, I might have brought this to a close.

But those are all events that did not occur.

What did was destruction.

Not a man of them survived. Some had been killed outright, but a few more were wounded and alive. Recalcitrant and cursing at me in French.

I kept a civil tongue in my head. And why not? My wounds had healed, and I knew what I was about to do.

They didn’t.

I bound them together, and when I did, the survivors transformed into a small copse of trees.

That was fine.

I set fire to the trees and waited. Soon enough, they transformed back into men, each screaming as flames devoured him.

The air smelled faintly of sandalwood, and when night came, I cooked my dinner with the fire from their corpses.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

War: 8.2.1930

The beast was ravenous.

This, apparently, was something the soldiers I observed knew, but I was as yet unaware of.

I’d spent the night hunkered down in a small fighting position, the previous owners having relinquished it after I had liberated them of their lives. Unlike the Germans I had fought the morning before, the three Englishmen I killed did not transform into a malignant creature. Of course, I had to remove their heads from their shoulders before they stopped, and, in the case of their sergeant, I had to listen to him berate me for the better part of an hour before he finally gave up the ghost as well.

This morning has been an exercise in caution.

I have decided that the best opportunity for me to end this bizarre war is to find the nearest commanding officer and force him to call a retreat. Only then will the Hollow become relatively safe. Or so I hope.

Regardless, I could go no further.

There was a large swath of barbed wire stretched out for as far as I could see, and a group of men working upon it. They took great care not to touch the wire with their bare hands, and I waited to see why that was.

Granted, in the normal course of laying wire, you would avoid the barbs. They hurt like hell. But these men seemed positively terrified of it.

I watched them for almost an hour before I decided I no longer wished to wait for them to leave or show why the wire was dangerous.

I drew a bead on a man standing atop a plank and shot him once through the chest with the BAR. He died instantly, which made him lucky.

His comrades were not so fortunate.

As the body struck the wire, the other men stood dumbfounded, and before they could react, the wire came alive.

It tore itself free of its stakes and wooden binders, the metal lashing out and taking hold of the men closest to it. I watched as one man was torn in half, and the others lost limbs. All the men, and the body of the one I had slain, were dragged down into churning earth.

When they had vanished, the wire stopped moving.

I decided it would be best to find another way around.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

War: 8.1.1930

War has come to Cross.

I will not let it past the stonewall of Gods’ Hollow, not if my town is to survive.

Last night, as July said goodbye and August crept in like a thief, I heard the rattle of machinegun fire and felt the unmistakable thud of artillery. I have fought in a great many wars, and I am well-familiar with the sounds of violence.

When dawn breached the horizon, it found me standing across North Road and looking into the Hollow. Most of the damned place was covered in a haze of smoke and mist, which managed to smother the chatter of death.

One of the Coffins happened to be passing by, and I sent him to gather the Cross Militia. A squad of ten arrived a short time later, and we held a brief palaver there on the road. All ten were veterans, and they too recognized the noise issuing forth from the Hollow for what it was.

They agreed to set a guard upon the road, to not let any pass along it, nor to allow any other than myself to exit the Hollow. While they offered to accompany me into the place, I could see the relief upon their faces when I said their task was to hold the road.

Armed with my Colts and a Browning Automatic Rifle I had acquired from John Browning, I entered the Hollow.

I’d gone no more than twenty paces in before the mist cleared, and I caught sight of a four-man patrol hunkered down near a hill that had not been in the Hollow the night before. From what I could see, the men were Germans, wearing the helmets preferred by them at the start of the last war. As they spoke to one another, I heard them discuss the men and the monsters against whom they were fighting.

One of them, unfortunately, saw me, and the fight began.

It did not last long, and I can say with all sincerity that they did not suffer overly much.

Yet as the last fell to the ground, there was a rattling hiss, and all four corpses clambered onto one another, forming a mass of meat that charged at me.

This thing took a great deal more effort to kill, and it revealed a bitter truth:

This fight would be no easy thing.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Strangers: Travelers

I’ve killed them all.

I don’t know who they were, only that they came from the Hollow, and they deserved to die.

I found Nettie’s remains by the stonewall on North Road. There wasn’t much left of her, mostly charred bones and a pile of innards that never should have seen the light of day. Her shoes were cast off to one side, and her dress – bloodied and soiled – was crumpled on the ground a short distance away.

The ones who had killed her, and who had eaten most of her were on the other side of the wall. There were eight of them, three adults and five younglings. They were roughly humanoid, more reptile than anything else, and they were clad in clothes that closely resembled those favored by the Romani.

These creatures did not know me, and so, they did not run when I climbed over the stonewall.

Instead, they called out to one another and came towards me. Knives appeared in the hands of even the youngest, and the sight of them brought a smile to my face.

I brushed back the sides of my coat and revealed the smooth, well-worn grips of my Colts. As the creatures drew near, I drew the pistols and cocked back the hammers all in one, smooth motion.

The clicking of the hammers as they locked into place was a sound that at least one of the creatures was familiar with, and as it opened its gray-green mouth to shout a warning, I opened fire.

The Colts roared in the obscene stillness of the Hollow and echoed off the trees lurking on the edge of the rolling grass. When the sound of death finished its victorious lap around me, all eight of the creatures were dead.

But my anger was not sated.

They’d killed Nettie Sands, a beautiful young woman who was the sweetest soul I’d ever encountered. Killed and eaten her on a warm August day.

I reloaded the Colts, slid them into their holsters, and took my matches out.

The Hollow would survive, of course. It always does.

Every once in awhile, though, there’s a need to let it burn.

And today, today, it needed to burn.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Strangers: The Hermit

He had been silent for sixty-three years.

The hermit had wandered out of Gods’ Hollow in the 1880s and had taken up residence in a small cave a short distance from the Hollow. On occasion, he could be seen wandering along the length of North Road.

He didn’t speak to anyone. He didn’t break bread with any of his neighbors.

The hermit minded his own business, and that was why I let him live.

As I’ve stated in the past, I’m not overly fond of the Hollow and those things or individuals who make their way out of it. More often than not, I have discovered a very real need to put them down, and sooner rather than later.

And while the hermit never gave me cause to, it didn’t mean I stopped checking on him.

I don’t know how he fed himself, because the man did no work. Nor do I know how he entertained himself. The hermit, for all intents and purposes, simply was.

Over the years, the hermit built a small house for himself from salvaged materials. While he stayed close to the cave, he made the house his primary residence, and it was there, I could often find him sitting.

He would look at me, and I at him, and he would nod.

We did that for decades.

This morning, he was not in front of his house. Nor was he in it, or in the cave.

The hermit was gone.

I went back to North Road and caught sight of him walking toward me. As he did so, the earth rumbled beneath my feet, and I saw the source of it came from the Hollow.

The hermit and I turned at the same time, and I saw a dark green beast hurtling out of the trees. I drew my Colts, and as they cleared the leather, the hermit climbed onto the stonewall.

The beast, its shape twisting and formless, charged at him, snatched him up with curious appendages and stuffed him whole into its mouth.

As my fingers tightened on the triggers, the beast shuddered, stopped, and then imploded.

It vanished, not in a spray of blood and gore, but with a soft and almost gentle ‘pop.’

I holstered the Colts, scratched my head, lit my pipe, and walked toward home.

It’s strange to see a man know his fate and do nothing to try and change it.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Strangers: Playful Creatures

“They’re the happiest children I’ve ever seen.”

Danny O’Malley said that to me when I met him a short distance from the VFW club.

The statement struck me as odd, especially since I knew he and his wife were childless. When I asked him what children he was speaking of, he readily told me.

“I was coming back from Pepperell,” he explained, “along North Road. There was a group of children playing around the wall to the Hollow, and when I called out to them to stay away from it, they listened. I pulled the truck up close and asked where they were from. The oldest of them, he said they were from the west a bit, and that their parents had dropped them off in the morning, saying they’d be right back. Well, I won’t lie, Duncan, those parents, they never came back.”

“Where are the children, Danny?” I asked, keeping my question light.

“Back at home with my wife and sister,” Danny smiled. “I’m about out of gas, so I’m walking to the station. Got to let the police know about the kids. My wife and sister are having a hell of a lot of fun with the kids. I might pop in for a beer at the club before I head back. You know, just to give them some more time.”

“I’ll talk with the police. Get the beer now, Danny,” I said. “Tell Hank to put it on my tab, alright?”

Danny grinned at me, nodded, and hurried toward the club.

With a sinking feeling, I walked toward Danny’s house up off Olive Street, and soon a shriek of terror cut through the air. I broke into a run, though I knew I would get there far too late.

I was right, of course.

The feral little monsters were laughing as they sprinted away from Danny’s house. I drew my Colts, but they scattered, making their way back to the Hollow with their bellies full.

The stripped, gnawed, and bloodied bones of Danny O’Malley’s wife and sister, as well as his dog, lay on the sidewalk in front of the home.

I’ll go into the Hollow later and kill whatever and whoever I find.

For now, I’ve got to scrape up the remains of Danny’s family, and then buy the man another beer.

It’s all I can do.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Strangers: The Card Shark

Never gamble in a game you can’t win.

It’s sound advice, though rarely followed.

This evening, I went out to Coffin Farm to sit a bit with Vaughn, one of the older Coffin cousins. He was 90, and not blessed with the great age of his earlier relations. Soon, that line of the family would die out, and it would be a sad day for me. The Coffins had been in Cross as long as the Bloods, and I felt a special affinity for them.

When I reached the farm, I found Vaughn alone in his parlor, which was strange. I had never seen him without one of his older boys around, and the fact that they were absent irked me. I asked where they had gotten themselves to.

Vaughn told me that a new hired-hand had come on, and he was doing a hell of a job. The Coffin boys were out in the small bunkhouse, playing cards with the fellow.

When I asked where the man was from, Vaughn frowned. He had asked the same question, and he had been given an answer, but he couldn’t recall what that answer was.

For a man his age, this would be par for the course.

Not for Vaughn Coffin. The man remembered everything.

It left me with an unsettled feeling, so a little later when Vaughn dozed off in his rocker, I went out to the bunkhouse.

I found two of his sons, Dan and Michael, and a stranger at the table. In the fourth chair, John’s held only a pile of clothes, and no one seemed to notice.

As I stepped further into the room, the hand was thrown down, the cards revealed, and Dan vanished. The son’s clothes collapsed, and the stranger’s eyes rolled up into his head for a moment, his eyes black instead of white. There was the unmistakable grinding of teeth, and a moment later, the stranger was once more grinning and chuckling, his eyes as normal as any man’s might be.

Stepping fully into the room, I put to rounds into the stranger’s face, knocking him out of his chair. As Michael screamed in surprise, I gave the forty-year-old a backhand and sent him in to sit with his father.

The stranger on the floor tried to move, and I emptied the rest of the Colt.

I hate the Hollow.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Strangers: Fireman

The heat was like a blast from Hell.

I was clearing deadfall on one of the larger islands in Blood Lake, an island situated close to the border with the Hollow. When the hot air washed over me, I was in mid-swing, the ax raised high.

The blast surprised me, coming down from the sky the way it did, and when I looked up, I was in for a greater shock.

A paratrooper was descending from the air above the Hollow, and he was on a course to land on the island I was currently occupying. I’d not heard an airplane, and I more than suspected the stranger’s original descent was not my particular version of Cross.

Nearly everyone in this world deserves a moment of consideration.

That being said, this individual was not from my world, and strangers from the Hollow leave much to be desired.

I didn’t waste any time getting to where he landed, and I’m glad I didn’t.

He was in the act of cutting away his parachute when I reached him and saw the curious garb he was clad in. His face, protected behind a wire shield, became a mask of disgust and rage. He shouted to me and demanded to know where he was.

I told him, and he didn’t like my answer.

He opened his mouth, and a torrent of fire shot out, narrowly missing me.

I’m not a fan of fire. It is, without a doubt, one of the few things which can cause me real harm.

And so, I confess, I was more than a trifle mad.

I didn’t go for the Colts, though they were in their holsters. Instead, I advanced on the man, ducking as he fired his draconic flames. When he realized I could out-maneuver him, an expression of panic flitted across his face. His movements became jerky and nervous; he fumbled as he tried to free himself from his tangled lines.

He didn’t succeed.

I took his right arm off with a single blow of the ax, the blade cutting through the joint and showering me with blood. He screamed and expelled what would be the last of his flames.

My second blow was not as clean as the first, and it left his other arm hanging by tendons.

I was not tidy in my killing, and he knew how angry I was.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Strangers: Soldiers

They shook the land as they thundered into Cross.

The tank stormed out of the Hollow, took a sharp left onto North Road, and came in search of me.

It had been a long time since I had heard the rumble of treads, but not long enough for me to forget.

I stood on my porch, Colts holstered, and a sawed-off double-barrel shotgun in my hands. The gun wouldn’t do a damned thing to the tank itself, but it would wreak holy hell if I managed to get a shot into the belly of the beast.  

Standing there, I listened, and I waited.

I heard the groan of the tank as it turned; imagined the tearing of road and trees as it shifted toward my home, and I knew I had to take the fight to it.

Leaving my porch, I walked to the drive, stepped off to the right, and moved through the shadows and the woods. I heard men calling out to one another, and for a moment, I was afraid there was more than one piece of armor moving towards me.

There was not.

The fools weren’t buttoned up.

The commander was yelling down to his men, the language undeniably one from the Hollow.

As the tank neared me, I hunkered down and got a good look at the machine. It was painted a dull ochre, and the fumes stank of a curious mixture of whale oil and diesel. The tank commander was standing in the turret, and I blew his brains out with a shot from a Colt. His body slumped to one side, and yells of angry confusion escaped as the tank ground to a halt. I saw the body jerk as I sprinted toward the tank.

Before they could pull the body down and close the hatch, I was on the tank. I shoved the barrel of the shotgun into the opening and emptied both barrels. Screams erupted, and a small hatch opened near the front machinegun. I killed the gunner, reloaded the shotgun, and fired again.

I heard what sounded like pleas for mercy from within the tank, but the only mercy they found was a quick death.

The bodies went to the hogs, and I’m disassembling the tank, although I am tempted to take it to the University.

Mightily tempted.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

Strangers: Visiting Professors

I should kill them all.

There’s no love lost between the staff of the University and myself. They believe me to be an interfering rube, and I know them to be self-righteous fools.

This morning, I found Mrs. MacDougal standing on my porch. Her face was pale; her lips pressed tightly together. In a shaking voice, she said Duggan, her husband, hadn’t come home the previous evening. He had been walking out along Gordon’s Way after having played bridge at a neighbor’s. The neighbor told her that Duggan had accepted a ride from a gentleman in a Ford. The tags on it, she informed me, were 3-2-3.

I knew the vehicle of which she spoke.

The only automobiles with tags that began with ‘3’ in Cross were those belonging to the University.

I told her I do what I could, but her clothes told me she understood the situation.

Mrs. MacDougal was clad in black.

I arrived at the school a short time later, hands on the butts of my Colts. The older guards at the University know better than to try and stop me, so when I stepped up to the open gates, they turned their attention to newspapers as I passed by.

I’d gone no further than a score of feet in when I smelled it. The nose-wrinkling, fetid stench of the Hollow. There was little wind, and as I turned my head slowly, seeking the source of the odor, I saw the Ford parked outside the Life Sciences building.

Drawing both pistols, I walked to it, found the door locked, and shot out the bolt. As I stepped into the foyer, one of the professors rushed down the stairs, a look of horror on his face when he realized it was me.

He pointed down the next flight of stairs, and I descended into the building’s basement. In a small surgical room, I found the source of the odor. A collection of surgeons and nurses, speaking in a Hollow tongue, manipulating the corpse of Duggan MacDougal.

One of the surgeons yelled at me in his unrecognizable tongue, and I put a slug through his groin. Black ichor exploded out with the exit wounds, and the medical staff shrieked in agony as I gut-shot the rest.

There was quite the array of surgical tools spread out, and before the day was done, I’d sampled them all.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death