December 26, 1859

     Murder is nothing new. Nor is the effort some go to hiding the body – or bodies – of the slain.

     Mathias Cooper traveled from England in 1840 and found work on the marina in Cross, repairing the barrels on ships replenishing their stocks.

     One ship, in particular, the Sea King out of Newburyport, Massachusetts, preferred to have its barrels built and repaired by Mathias. His uncle Elbridge, it turned out, was the ship’s master, and after work, the two would drink long into the night.

     In 1859, inspectors from a shipping insurance firm from New Bedford, MA arrived to investigate the repeated loss of life aboard the Sea King. They were unable to ascertain anything from the folk at the marina, but the suspicions of the townspeople were raised.

     Gentle inquiries were made, and soon it was discovered that the Sea King had a habit of losing new sailors in Cross. These losses were chalked up to the wandering nature of most young men, but as the older members of Cross continued their investigation, they discovered a far more sinister practice.

     Mathias Cooper made at least one new, larger than normal barrel for the Sea King every time she put into berth.

     On December 26, 1859, nephew and uncle were questioned directly and with force, and the newest barrel was opened. The fresh corpse of an unknown sailor was removed from the barrel, and the body was given a decent burial in Cross Cemetery.

     Mathias and Elbridge Cooper were placed in the barrel, alive, and they were buried as well.

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December 25, 1940

     On December 25, 1940, during a heavy snowfall. At Farley Farm on South Road, the entire Farley family – consisting of both parents, all six children, and both sets of grandparents – were ill. Duncan Blood and young Doctor Charlene Williams stopped by the home to administer to the sick. During the day, Dr. Williams left to obtain some fresh soup, and on her return, she saw a horse in the yard. She tried to approach the home, but could not get any closer, no matter how long she walked, nor in which direction she tried to go.

     Finally, frustrated, she returned to town and found a member of the police who agreed to accompany her.

     In the officer’s patrol car, they experienced the same difficulty she had on foot. No matter how fast the car drove, it could not draw any nearer. At last, with his car nearly out of fuel, the officer had been forced to return to Cross.

     Close to midnight, the officer, one of his colleagues, and Dr. Williams again made an attempt. As they traveled along South Road, they passed a small boy, bundled against the snow and riding a horse. He waved cheerfully at them as they steered around him, and Dr. Williams returned the wave.

     When they neared the house, they were surprised to see discover that they could continue directly toward it. It was then that Dr. Williams noticed that the horse was gone and that Duncan Blood stood outside.

     The house burst into flames as the officers and Dr. Williams climbed out of the patrol car. Duncan stopped the three of them from racing into the spreading inferno.

     “They’re dead,” Duncan explained. “They have been since the boy arrived. He gave them the day, you see. One last Christmas.”

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December 23, 1941

     This unfortunate picture was taken at 10:14 am on December 23, 1941.

     Mr. Jonathan Rivell and his 12-year-old son, Thomas, were looking for interesting subjects for Mr. Rivell’s new hobby – photography. Thomas, an avid swimmer, was in the water, attempting to see if there might not be a far more enticing picture that could be taken of the shore.

     As the father and son prowled along the edge, one near the water and the other in it, they heard a sweet, beautiful voice raised in song. While they were unable to understand the words, the melody drew them on toward the curve in the shore which marked the end of the public’s access to Duncan Blood’s land. Beyond the protrusion in the photograph, no one, not even the police, dared to cross.

     There were dark creatures in Duncan’s lands, and in the waters of Blood Lake as well.

     Instead of stopping and returning the way they had come, the two Rivells continued toward the outcropping.

     Mr. Rivell felt there was something magnificent approaching them, something wondrous. Thomas felt the same.

     As the boy was treading water, the father readied the camera, and when the singing grew louder, he raised the camera to his eye and prepared for the shot.

     He took the photograph a moment after the singer appeared, his horror forcing his reaction.

     From descriptions Mr. Rivell gave to the police, and later to Duncan, it was decided that Thomas was snatched by a naiad.

     The boy’s body was never recovered, nor was the naiad’s song heard again.

     Mrs. Rivell left Jonathan, and he spent the rest of his life wandering the shores of Blood Lake, searching for some sign of the thief who had stolen his child.

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December 22, 1925

     In 1920, Frau Issa Gewitter emigrated from Germany to the United States after her husband, a German veteran of the Great War, was slain during the Munich uprising in 1919. By 1921, Issa found her way to Cross, where she became the nanny for the Anderson family on Norwich Road.

     Mr. Paul Anderson and his wife, Ellen, traveled extensively, and on most occasions, they were unable to bring their three daughters with them. During these times, Issa had full run of the home, and she made certain that the children and the structure were well cared for.

     Mr. Anderson was a successful author, writing under several different pseudonyms. One of his passions was collecting rare weapons. His most prized firearm was a Browning Automatic Rifle, gifted to him in 1916 shortly before the United States’ entry into the Great War. Like many collectors, Mr. Anderson had an ample supply of ammunition for his firearms, including the Browning.

     On the morning of December 22, 1925, a heavy snowfall had fallen over Cross, ensuring that there would be little travel on the roads.

     It was at 7:13 am that the first of the goblins attacked the Anderson house.

     Issa Gewitter had survived four years of war, and a devastating battle in her home city of Munich. She was not flustered by the sudden assault, despite the hideous appearance of the assailants.

     Instead, Issa put the Browning to good use. With the children loading magazines and passing them to her, Issa is said to have slain at least 32 of the goblins, and wounding many more.

     When her employer returned and asked where the ammunition for the Browning had gone, his daughters pointed to the pyramid of heads in the backyard.

     To this day the skulls of the goblins are mounted on the corners of the home, and this photo of Frau Issa Gewitter hangs above the fireplace of the Anderson house.

 

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December 21, 1949

     Josef Wukovits owned a small farm on the eastern side of Cross. He was a diminutive man, who grew enough food to keep himself and his animals fed. Josef was a widower, and he and his wife had not been blessed with children.

     He lived a solitary existence, and he was pleasant with his neighbors. Josef’s childhood was one filled with sadness and hunger, and anyone who needed a meal could sit at his table, often eating the meager food he had prepared for himself.

     On the evening of December 21, 1949, during a snowstorm, there was a knock on his door. When he answered it, he found a young woman, clad in worn clothes and a thin jacket and nearly frozen to death. Without hesitation, Josef took her into his house, sat her by the fire, and wrapped her in warm blankets. He plied her with chicken soup, rubbed the warmth back into her hands and feet, and allowed her to sit in silence.

     Slowly, color returned to the woman’s cheeks, and when she seemed capable of walking, he helped her to his bedroom, where he laid her down and heaped quilts upon her.

     For the remainder of the night, Josef kept the fire burning brightly, and he checked on the young woman repeatedly. Towards dawn, exhaustion overcame him, and he fell asleep.

     Before midday, he awoke and hurried back into his room. The young woman was gone, and the bed was made as though it had never been slept in. On his pillow was a note, which read: Thank you, Josef. Never again shall you be hungry.

     Beneath the note was a single golden coin, and each morning another would be in its place until he died a decade later.

 

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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 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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