How do you write?

     I suppose that’s the most consistently asked question outside of, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’

     But ‘how do you write’ is an extremely important question, because other writers want to know. Some of them will be exactly like you, others will be like me, and still, more will be exactly as they should be – themselves.

     With that being said, I want to talk about writing and editing.

     Some writers find it beneficial to write a chapter, go back and edit it, read it, then edit it again. Some even do this until they can’t see straight anymore.

     I am not one of those people.

     For me, getting the entire story out onto paper is by far the best strategy I have for getting a story out and ready for editing.

     If I stop and look at the piece, I keep going back. I keep tweaking it. And there’s no need to. In fact, I would argue that going back and constantly correcting the first few pages or chapters would be detrimental to your story. By never advancing, you can’t see where your story is going.

     My advice, then, is to put the entire story down on paper. Then walk away.

     Yup, that’s right. Put it down and walk away. Give yourself a few hours. Preferably a day or two, but if you can’t bear to be away from it for that long, then at least a few hours. This will give you some breathing room, the opportunity to come back to your story with fresh eyes, eyes that will read what you’ve written and say, “Eh, not bad. Not great, but not bad.” Or you’ll look at it, swallow back a bit of vomit and wonder how the writing in front of you ever made it past your mouth.

     Whatever you do, don’t be afraid. Write and work and try. Always try.

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December 19, 1895

     Cross High School has never been large, but it has always enjoyed a large amount of support from the community as well as participation from the student body.

     In 1895, the High School boasted the Massachusetts State Champions for football, a still terribly violent sport that saw more broken bones than most parents were comfortable with.

     On December 19, 1895, the football team celebrated their victory with a formal dinner at the high school, catered by the parents. The town council was present, as were many members of the community. What happened later that evening was witnessed by 73 people.

     The dinner went well, and many toasts were given by prominent members of Cross. The champions had their fill of champagne imported from Boston for the event. Only the members of the team drank from the bottles, and it is suspected that the resulting incident was caused by the drink, although it was never proven.

     At nine minutes past eight, the football players began to fight one another.

     No words were spoken, no looks exchanged.

     They launched themselves across tables and ignored all the other guests. The young men were imbued with a hideous strength, and in some cases literally tore the limbs off their teammates.

     When the carnage was finished, all were dead.

     It was another 40 years before Cross High School had another football team.

     Champagne is strictly forbidden.

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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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December 16, 1995

     Time and distance can be constructs of the mind more than based in reality, although there are few who would believe such a statement.

     In Cross, however, this tends to be far more truthful than most are comfortable with.

     Quinton Straus was born on April 3rd, 1975, and when he graduated from Cross High School, he decided to attend the Cross Branch of Miskatonic University. His focus of study was theoretical migration and the fluctuations in time through the Bleed between realities. Along with his professor, Dr. John Winthrop IV, Quinton succeeded in opening a fourth door into the Bleed. On December 16th, 1995, with cameras rolling and students and staff cheering them on, Quinton and Professor Winthrop entered the Bleed.

     According to witnesses, the door slammed itself closed, and a force sealed it against all efforts to open it.

     After three hours of strenuous effort, the decision was made to attempt to cut through the door, to see if the student and professor were at least visible.

     Another hour passed before a bolt-hole was cut into the wood and a small, fiber-optic camera was inserted into the opening. The camera revealed a desert scene with tents and materials one related to the ancient Bedouins of the Middle East.

     A moment later the camera settled on an old man, who turned and faced it. His eyes went wide, and then he shook his head. He held up his left hand and showed a Cross High School class ring.

     When he lowered his hand, he mouthed three words, “Seal the door.”

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Old Cross Cemetery

     Elena leaned against the car door, her head half out the open window. The bass pounded. Paul drove hell-bent around the back roads of Cross, Massachusetts. An empty bottle of Heffenreffer rolled against her feet, her stomach rolling with it.

     “Oh Christ, Paul, I’m gonna puke.”

     “Not in the car! Out the window. I just cleaned the damn thing.”

     “Can you turn the stereo down?” she asked. “It’s making my head ache.”

     “No.”

     “Paul,” she started.

     “No,” he said. “We’re almost there anyway.”

     “Almost where?” Elena closed her eyes and sucked in the fresh air and tried to ignore her head.

     “The Old Cross Cemetery.”

     Elena sat up. “No.”

     “Yes.”

     “I don’t like going there in the daytime,” she growled. “The place scares the hell out of me. Why the hell would I want to go there at night?”

     “’Cause it’s the only place we can get it on tonight.”

     “Listen,” she snapped, “you’re out of your mind. I am not having sex in a cemetery. Ever.”

     “Yes, you are.” He glared at her. “You owe me.”

     “Christ,” Elena said. She put her hands over her eyes. “You’re such an ass.”

     “Yep.”

     “And I’m not having sex.”

     “Yes, you are.” He pulled the car over to the side of the road. “’Cause we’re here.”

     Elena looked out into the dark woods and saw a small stonewall. The trees fell back, revealing Old Cross Cemetery. The headstones and a single mausoleum stood in the moonlight. The car stereo’s bass ricocheted off of the trees and monuments.

     Paul turned off the radio and the engine, pulling the key out of the ignition and stuffing it into his front pocket. For a moment, the music seemed to echo among the stones.

     “Paul,” Elena said. “I don’t want to be here. I don’t like this place.”

     “Come on.” He climbed out of the car.

     “Paul.”

     He slammed the door.

     Dick, she thought as she followed him, stumbling.

     Paul walked into the center of the cemetery, slapping and kicking at the headstones.

     “Paul, don’t do that,” she said.

     He sneered as he mimicked her. “Paul, don’t do that.”

     “You are such a dick.”

     “Thanks.” He stopped behind a tall marble obelisk. “Hey, check this out.”

     “What?” Elena walked around the monument. At their feet lay a large round drum made of deep stained wood with a dark, worn skin.

     “Somebody left their toy.” With a laugh, Paul raised a foot and slammed it down, putting a hole through the drum’s skin.

     “Paul!”

     “What?” He shook his foot free. “Come on. I’m horny.”

     “I’m not. Bring me home.”

     “Not until we do it,” he said, winking at her and licking his lips.

     “Bring me home,” she demanded.

     “Walk.”

     “I’ll walk!”

     Elena turned away, Paul laughing.

     “Have fun, you little tramp. Two miles in the dark before you even hit the high school!”

     Elena gave him the finger and kept walking.

     I hate him! she thought. Now I’ve got to walk home.

     A scream sounded behind her.

     Elena turned and froze.

     In the center of the cemetery, a tall, thin creature clad in orange armor stood, it’s shoulders hunched. Silver eyes glowed from a noseless gray face, jagged black teeth showing through a snarl. Large, pointed ears, decorated with silver earrings, protruded far above its bald head. In a long thin hand, it squeezed Paul by the throat, holding him several feet off of the ground. Paul’s legs and arms flailed. Fast at first, then slower.

     The thing looked to Elena. “Was it this one, young Lady?”

     The voice came out rough, harsh, and male.

     “Was it?” He asked. “Did this one damage my drum?”

     Elena could only nod as Paul’s limbs stopped moving.

     “My drum?!” He shook Paul, who dangled in his grasp. “Mine! A gift to me from those gibbering Gauls. A peace offering made from the skin of a Centurion. Ruined!” His voice echoed off of the trees. Birds, frightened from their sleep, screamed as they fled their nests into the night.

     “And now I must replace the flesh of a worthy man with your worthless hide!” With an angry shout he tore Paul’s clothes off. Using his free hand, he gutted the boy with a smooth snap of the wrist. Muttering under his breath, the creature skinned Paul with disturbing ease.

     Elena collapsed to her knees and vomited, her head spinning.

     The sound of skin tearing away from muscle filled the cemetery.

     Elena fell forward, catching herself by thrusting her hands into the steaming pool of bile and liquor. Vomit dripped from her nose and mouth.

     A thud and the sound of glass shattering jerked her head up. The thing stood by the mustang, and slammed Paul’s skinless body into the car repeatedly. The hood curled up; the roof bent down, and with a last curse the thing stuffed Paul into the shrunken window frame.

     The thing came and knelt beside Elena.

     “Now,” he said. “What to do with you?”

     He rubbed his hairless chin.

     “My name is Illoc,” he said after a moment. “Hero among the Nej, the dark Faeries, and I have yet to make a habit of slaying young maidens,” he sniffed, “though you are no longer a maiden. So, the question is, what to do with you?”

     Illoc scratched his forearm with blood covered nails, then snapped his fingers, laughing. “Faery extract! I haven’t used it all. Stay there, young lady, I shall return.”

     In a daze Elena watched Illoc stride off to the mausoleum, pausing to pick up Paul’s skin, which flapped with a wet sound as he went.

     Illoc disappeared into the mausoleum, then reappeared with a small bottle.

     Elena pushed herself into a sitting position, wiping her mouth with a shaking hand.

     Not real. Not real. Not real, she thought.

     Illoc reached her side and lifted her chin with a cool hand. “Drink.” He lifted the blue bottle to her lips.

     Elena drank, the liquid cold and sweet.

     Illoc took the bottle away.

     “Good. Now home for you, young lady.” Setting the bottle down, he picked her up. He cradled her, rocking her while walking toward the mausoleum. Her vision grew hazy, her eyelids tired. His rough voice became soothing. “We’ll find your room through the shadows shortly, dear.

     “And I must apologize for that vulgar display of my temper, but I disagree with people breaking my belongings. I brought only my most prized possessions when I left Ireland for this new world, and I cannot tell you the number of Goblins I’ve slain or the Faeries I’ve hunted listening to that drum being beaten upon a hill. And I doubt that I’ll see the likes of that centurion ever again. A real soldier he was.

     “But the past is the past, and your friend’s skin shall have to suffice. And, if it is not too forward of me,” Illoc said, “I might advise you to seek friends of, shall we say, a higher caliber?”

     Elena closed her eyes as they climbed the steps of the mausoleum.

     Softness wrapped around her, and she felt her clothes being removed.

     Illoc spoke in a whisper as she felt her own bed beneath her and the sheet drawn up around her shoulders. “You will sleep now, young lady, from the extract. Perhaps we shall see each other again, for Cross is a small place and its shadows are deep.”

     Elena managed to open her eyes and caught sight of the tall Faery stepping into the darkness behind her bedroom door.

     Closing her eyes, Elena drifted into sleep.

     She awoke with a start, her head pounding. Looking at the shadow behind her door she shivered, her mouth dry. Then she pulled the blanket closer and through her open window the sound of a distant drum welcomed the sun.

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House Call, 1905

     Doctor Harvey Cushing lit his pipe and nodded his thanks to Duncan Blood as the man handed him a cup of coffee. The farmer had added a fair amount of brandy to it, and Harvey, no stranger to strong drink, coughed.

     “Damn, Duncan,” Harvey said after he cleared his throat several times. “I swear you must put some of the fires of hell in that brandy of yours.”

     Duncan grinned and lit his own pipe. “More truth to that than you know, Harvey.”

     “I’m sure.” Henry squinted, then leaned forward and let out a laugh as he clapped his knee.

     “What is it?” Duncan asked, bemused.

     “You, Duncan Blood,” Henry proclaimed as he reclined in his chair. “Have not one, but two white hairs in that beard of yours.”

     Duncan reached up, ran his fingers through his beard and chuckled.

     “I have known you since the battle of the Wilderness,” Harvey continued, “and in forty years, you’ve hardly aged.”

       “Oh, I’ve aged,” Duncan disagreed. “And it’s our friendship that’s done it.”

     “That, my friend, I highly doubt.” Harvey took a cautious sip of his coffee and managed to get it down without sounding like he was in the final stages of tuberculosis.

     “So,” Duncan said, setting his own cup down, “what are your plans for this fine, October day?”

     “To drink as much coffee as possible, and to stay indoors. At least after I see the new priest,” Harvey stated.

     Duncan raised an eyebrow inquisitively, and Harvey released a dramatic sigh before he chuckled and continued.

     “The Catholics sent a new priest in,” Harvey said, “and it seems as if the chill of New England does not agree with him. He’s from New Mexico Territory.”

     Duncan straightened up in his chair, his look of mild curiosity quickly replaced by one of concern.

     “Did they say where in the Territory?” Duncan’s voice had a hard edge to it.

     Harvey frowned and considered what he knew of the priest. “San Miguel, I believe is what Mrs. Shea the man’s housekeeper said.”

     Duncan frowned, glanced at his mantle clock and asked, “When are you going to see him?”

     “Well, as soon as I’m done my coffee. Why?” Harvey felt confused.

     A tight smile flickered across Duncan’s face as he said, “I’d like to accompany you if that would be alright.”

     “Yes,” Harvey said, “I’d appreciate the company. I’m merely confused by your interest.”

     “I’ve heard rumors,” Duncan replied, getting to his feet.

     Harvey waited for more information, and when he realized that nothing else was forthcoming, he asked, “What rumors? And from whom?”

     “A pair of ravens,” Duncan murmured. He walked to the corner hutch, removed a chestnut brown box and brought it to the sideboard. Harvey recognized the container and felt a wave of fear wash over him, leaving him with a cold and frightened feeling that no amount of brandy-laced coffee would chase away.

     “When is the last time you had that out?” Harvey asked in a soft voice.

     Duncan raised the lid and lifted out a long-barreled Colt Navy revolver.

     “1876,” he replied, tucking the pistol away in his coat. “When I lent it to Thomas Leckie.”

     “Almost forty years,” Harvey murmured.

     “Almost,” Duncan agreed. “Are you ready?”

     Harvey nodded and stood up. “I really wish you would tell me why you wish to accompany me, and why you’re bringing the Colt.”

     “Harvey,” Duncan said, his voice even and smooth, “you would be worried for my sanity if I told you my reasons. Let me press upon our friendship and ask that you trust me.”

     “I always trust you, Duncan,” Harvey said, “which is why I’m concerned.”

     “If it’s not what I think it is,” Duncan said, “then I’ll tell you after your examination. And if it is, well, you’ll already know.”

     “I suppose that is fair enough,” Harvey replied.

     They knocked the ashes out of their pipes and Harvey placed the still warm briar into his pocket as they left the house. Soon they climbed into Harvey’s hack, his old mare, Lenore in the traces. In a short time, they were on their way, and the horse plodded along at a steady, comfortable pace that helped settle Harvey’s nerves.

     Harvey held the reins loosely, and he and Duncan rode in silence. Soon the soft thump of Lenore’s hooves on the dirt road changed to a sharp ring as her iron shoes struck the cobblestones of Main Street.

     Both he and Duncan greeted people they knew, but soon Harvey turned the hack onto Church Street. He guided Lenore toward St. Patrick’s and the rectory that was attached to it.

     Both buildings were small, wooden structures and Harvey was always amazed that Catholicism had obtained a foothold in town. Cross wasn’t known for its religious or spiritual nature. The townspeople were old New England stock, and they kept their gods to themselves.

     “Did you hear about Jepson’s land?” Duncan’s question interrupted Henry’s reflections on religion.

     “I had heard mention of a possible sale,” Harvey replied after a moment.

     “It sold,” Duncan stated. “A university from Essex County purchased the land. They’ll be building a library here. They might even put in a few buildings for lectures as well.”

     “Interesting,” Harvey mused, guiding Lenore to the rear of the rectory. “What’s the name of the university?”

     “Miskatonic,” Duncan answered.

     “Good Lord!” Harvey exclaimed, pulling Lenore up short by the hitching post. “I’ve not heard good things about that school, Duncan.”

     “I would be surprised if you had, my friend,” he replied. “The professors there research and examine items of questionable morality. Most of the learned educators seek information. Some, however, are on a journey towards what they believe will be power.”

     “And where will it truly lead them?” Harvey asked, taking up his black bag as they both climbed out of the hack.

     “To madness and damnation,” Duncan said, giving the mare an affectionate pat on her neck. “And that is if they’re lucky.”

     The conversation stopped as they climbed the back steps and Harvey stepped forward to knock on the door.

     No sooner had he done so than the door opened. The small, compact and weathered housekeeper, Colleen Shea, stood in the kitchen. Her normally composed and sphinx-like expression was nowhere to be found.

     Her eyes darted about, and in her hands, she twisted a red and white checkered dishtowel.

     “Mrs. Shea,” Harvey said gently, “whatever is the matter?”

     “It’s Father Pacheco, Doctor,” she answered her accent a curious mixture of Irish brogue and Boston roughneck. “He’s so strange! He’ll not let me into the room to change the bandage, and I can smell the rot!”

     “Damn” Harvey muttered, then in a louder voice he asked, “Is he in Father Mackenzie’s old room?”

     Mrs. Shea nodded vigorously.

     “Get water boiling, please, Mrs. Shea,” Harvey said, leading the way through the clean and organized kitchen. “We’ll need boiled rags if I’m not mistaken.”

     With Duncan close on his heels, Harvey hurried through the house to the stairs.           Climbing them two at a time, Harvey reached the upper hall and recoiled at the stench of gangrenous flesh as it assailed his nose. A short distance away was the closed door of the bedroom.

     “My God!” Harvey slapped a hand over his mouth and nose, causing his next words to be somewhat muffled. “Duncan, would you be so kind as to open the door?”

     Duncan strode forward, grasped the knob and twisted, pushing the door open at the same time. The nauseating odor of rot struck Harvey with the force of a blow, and the terrible odor was incongruous with the bright and cheerful scene before them.

     Sunlight filled the Priest’s bedroom, and photographs in beautiful dark wood frames hung on the walls. Father Pacheco reclined on his bed, propped up with an open book in his right hand. His left arm lay across his stomach, and that hand was swollen and discolored.

     The priest set the book down on his lap, nodded to the black bag in Harvey’s grasp and said in a clear, strong voice, “You are the doctor, I presume?”

     Harvey lowered his hand from his mouth, forced a smile and said. “I am. Dr. Harvey Cushing.”

     Father Pacheco extended his right hand, and Harvey stepped forward and shook it. He was surprised at the strength of the priest’s grip. Harvey tried to let go and begin the examination, but the priest tightened his hold.

     “I need your left arm, Dr. Cushing. The stitches came out in mine,” the priest’s eyes flickered over to Duncan. “Or your associate’s arm, I’m not particular about which –”

     Father Pacheco was cut off by the painfully loud report of the pistol as Duncan fired a single shot. The bullet slammed into the priest’s temple and splattered blood, bones, brains, and black hair across the pillows and wall.

     With his ears ringing, Harvey pulled his hand free and staggered back.

     Duncan stepped forward, the revolver’s barrel fixed on the corpse of the priest. With his free hand, Duncan jerked back the blankets.

     Father Pacheco was naked from the waist down.

     And what Harvey saw was a patchwork man.

     The priest had been cobbled together with the body parts of other men. A dark shin with a pale white foot joined by rows of stitches, and the combination was reversed on the opposite leg.

     The sound of running feet broke through the fugue that had settle over him, and Harvey turned in time to see Mrs. Shea as she crossed the threshold.

     She gazed upon the corpse, then her eyes rolled up to reveal the whites.

     Harvey caught the woman as she pitched forward. He glanced up at Duncan, saw the man cock the revolver’s hammer back and fire a second shot into the dead creature’s skull.

     Duncan picked up the book the creature had put down, turned it over and let out a dry chuckle.

     “What?” Harvey asked, easing himself and Mrs. Shea to the floor. “What is it?”

     “Appropriate reading, it would seem,” Duncan responded, and he handed the book to Harvey.

     Bound in red leather and worn from use, the book’s title stood out in surprisingly bright gold lettering.

     Frankenstein.

     Dumbfounded, Harvey looked up at Duncan.

     But the other man had removed a scalpel from Harvey’s bag. And as Harvey watched, Duncan began to cut away the stitches and disassemble the creature.

 

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December 14, 1895

     Billy Neville left Cross at the age of 13 aboard his father’s ship, Cross Winds. The ship sank off the coast of Sumatra in 1875 with the loss of all hands.

     Billy’s mother was devastated when news reached her of the fate of her husband and son, and she went mad with grief. Her brother, William – after whom Billy was named – promptly placed his sister in an asylum, collected the insurance money from the loss of the ship, and retired to the house that had once belonged to his sister and brother-in-law.

     Billy’s mother slowly died of malnutrition and neglect, but William invested the insurance money wisely and lived comfortably as the years passed.

     Unbeknownst to William, his nephew Billy was still alive. The boy was rescued by Batak warriors on their way to battle against the Dutch forces in Sumatra. For years Billy sought to return home, traveling with a small monkey, his sole friend.

     Eventually, Billy found a ship to work on, and he made his way across the Pacific, moving ever closer to California. When he reached the States, Billy and his pet traveled across the country. For years he had sent letters to his mother, but never had he received an answer.

     Fear grew in him that something terrible had happened to her, and when he arrived in Cross on December 14, 1895, Duncan Blood told Billy what had transpired, and Billy and his monkey went home to see Uncle William.

     Billy and his pet lived at the home for another 42 years, but his Uncle William vanished that December night.

     Some of the neighbors recalled seeing Billy the next morning, bringing a sea chest out to his uncle’s wagon, the monkey’s small paws dyed a darker stain of brown as the creature sat upon his shoulder.

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December 13, 1903

     Marceline Leon’s imagination was terrible to witness.

     Her dreams were the stuff of nightmares, and if she told them to you, in her soft, sweet voice, you would wish she hadn’t.

     Born in 1895 to a French family which consisted of the mother, father, three daughters, and four sons, on the outskirts of town. Marceline spoke both French and English passably well, enough to terrify the listener.

     Her words crafted images, and breath breathed life into the visions.

     Between 1898 and 1902, six people were hospitalized, four more placed in sanitariums, and at least three committed suicide, all because of what Marceline spoke of.

     She would whisper into people’s ears and pour out her fears. In a matter of moments, those fears would become realized.

     Goblins and trolls, giants and wicked kings. The stuff of fables and myths, they would vanish once blood had been drawn.

     On December 13th, 1903, Marceline screamed from her room at the top of the stairs, howling about the presence of a great and dark goblin beneath her bed.

     When her parents reached the room, Marceline and her two sisters were gone. Blood was splashed across the walls, and trails of the same lead beneath the bed, vanishing into the shadows.

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December 12th, 1872

     Born on January 1, 1855, James Madison Whitmore never felt as though he belong fully in Cross. His parents were both active participants in the First Congregationalist Church, and they attempted to instill in James the same faith and religious convictions they held.

     James, however, was fascinated with tales of the orient. When he read of Russia and the power it held, his interest in the world far from the borders of Cross only increased.

     He was a remarkably intelligent child, and as he grew older, whatever he put his mind to, he accomplished. By the age of 10, James could speak Latin, Greek, French, and Portuguese. His parents, hoping that their son might one day take up the mantle of missionary work, allowed him to study Russian and Arabic.

     Concerned with his son’s physical safety, Mr. Whitmore employed the services of several combat hardened veterans of the Civil War to train his son in the use of firearms and swords. Not surprisingly, James became an expert shot, and was undefeatable when armed with a cavalry saber.

     On his 17th birthday, without a word to anyone, James Madison Whitmore vanished. His sword and a few belongings were missing, but there was no letter or explanation of any kind.

     His parents believed, firmly, that James was in the Orient, proclaiming the word of Jesus Christ to those who had not yet heard it.

     On December 12, 1872, a letter arrived from James, the envelope bearing any number of curious stamps upon it. His parents brought it to church, where they hastily opened it and showed the photograph James had included. Happily, his parents started to read it to the congregation, and his mother and several others fainted moments later.

     “My dearest mother and father,” James wrote, “I am in the employ of the Khan, and have executed 300 men, women, and children to date.”

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