February 21, 1939

Where do nightmares come from?

 

Do they come from our thoughts and fears? Perhaps memories or experiences, both real and imagined, supply the fodder.

Or perhaps there is something far more sinister at work than base reality and chemistry.

On February 21, 1939, the citizens of Cross found a possible answer.

It came in the form of an abandoned building, one they had never seen before, and which sprang into existence on an island in Blood Lake.

Lead by Duncan Blood, a group of twenty men and women crossed the lake on foot, climbing up the steep sides of the island’s bank. Each was armed with a rifle and a handgun, and no one knew what to expect.

Cross, as they all knew, had a way of surprising everyone.

The building they explored did not disappoint them.

It had once housed a mail order business, although from what concurrent timeline they did not know. But what they discovered was that the business supplied nightmares. A sample catalog found in a foreman’s office listed nightmares from the mundane to the terrifying, ‘a nightmare for every price range,’ as the advertisement went.

Children could buy nightmares to terrorize classmates and peers. Adults could assail their enemies with sleepless nights and thoughts of suicide.

Deep within the storerooms of the business, the group from Cross found some of the nightmares. These boxed terrors were carried outside and burned, and upon the group’s return, the town kept watch on the building.

The abandoned business remains, and somehow nightmares continue to appear in their neat, cellophane wrapped boxes.

Not all the nightmares are destroyed, and not all who suffer from them survive.

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February 16, 1888

No trespassing.

It is a simple statement and one which generally should be followed.

Duncan Blood has been posting signs bearing those two words around his property for decades.

Yet so many people ignore them.

Or, worse still, they believe that they do not have to follow them. This is the case with the surveyors from the Boston and Maine Railroad, who – despite Duncan’s refusal to allow them access to his land – breached his border regardless of his warnings.

On February 16, 1888, ten men of various ages rode up to Duncan’s property where it abuts Gods’ Hollow. With them, they brought their dog, Rex, and they set about the business of planning a new line to pass through Duncan’s land.

Robert Bly, a photographer, accompanied them for a short distance, and when they reached a curious outcropping of rock, he took their picture. Feeling unwell, Robert returned to his horse and rode to his home in nearby Pepperell.

Several days later, members of the police department called upon Robert to ask him if he knew where the men had gone to following their examination of Duncan Blood’s land. He learned, much to his surprise, that none of the men had returned. The dog had shown up at the Cross police department, his paws soaked with blood. Yet the dog was uninjured.

While some witnesses stated they had seen a group of ten or so men riding away from Gods’ Hollow, none of them had returned to their homes in Boston and the surrounding towns. Nor had the horses been seen again.

Duncan, according to the police, hadn’t known the men were on his property.

Years later, Robert Bly bumped into Duncan in Cross. Robert brought up the subject of the still missing men and mentioned how it was curious that it was only the dog that had ever been found.

“Not really,” Duncan had answered. “I’ve never had the desire to kill a dog.”

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February 15, 1931

Imelda Mae was a brilliant artist.

She was one of the few female artists invited to teach at the Cross branch of Miskatonic University.

Her use of colors and space on her canvases was a wonder to behold. There were times when viewers felt as though they could reach out and touch her subjects, whether those subjects happened to be still-lifes or – her preferred – the portraits of children.

While Imelda was unmarried and childless, she was able to draw upon a deep, maternal vein within herself. From there she painted with a poignancy few could match.

Imelda’s private studio was in an old barn off Northwood Road, a road often traveled, but one that had only a few homes upon it.

At all hours of the day and night, she could be found working in her studio, one canvas or another in the process of being completed. Imelda never minded an interruption, nor did she ever turn away a hungry guest or inquisitive student. She always showed any who asked how she went about preparing her paints and cleaning her brushes, the best way to use light to draw out the subtle nuances of a piece of still life.

Imelda Mae was one of the university’s finest acquisitions in the art department, and she blended in seamlessly with the other staff members.

It was shocking to all, then, that Imelda vanished on February 15th, 1931.

Concerned that she might have injured herself, several of her students hurried over to her home and never recovered from what they witnessed there.

In a room over her studio, they found where Imelda mixed her paints, and what she mixed them with.

Ground bones were in a small mortar and pestle while blood was carefully gathered into sealed containers.

The half-finished portrait of a child stood by her work table. On the floor was a pile of bloody children’s clothes, which matched those upon her painted subject.

On the counter was a small index card which read, Nathan, age 5, taken in Boston.

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February 12, 1850

Duncan Blood.

This is perhaps the earliest known photograph of Duncan Blood, taken on February 12, 1850, after successfully enlisting in the New York Infantry.

Duncan Blood is a fighting man. Not only does he enjoy the martial aspects of life, but he excels in them.

He has fought in nearly every war that America has fought, both as a nation and as a colony of the British. Duncan killed his share of Huron’s in the wilds of Canada during the French and Indian War, and he waded through pools of blood at Gettysburg. In Europe, Duncan fought the Germans in both world wars, and it is rumored he may have traveled to Korea and Vietnam to fight in those countries as well.

All the bitter, brutal skills he brings to combat against his fellow men, however, were honed on the beasts and creatures that have attacked Cross.

He is as deft with a blade as he is with a gun, and there is a rumor, among the older folk, that he has done terrible things with hatchets as well.

When Duncan joined the New York Infantry in 1850, it was to seek vengeance on a Wendigo that had ravaged part of the Massachusetts volunteers who had fought in the War of 1812. He had tracked it to NY, and with the infantry unit to mask his scent, he moved into the deep parts of that state.

Near Lake George, Duncan slipped away from his unit (later claiming to have gotten lost during a storm) and found the Wendigo’s cave. The battle lasted for three days, and when it ended, Duncan Blood burned the corpse and stitched up his own wounds. Duncan served for another four years with the New York Infantry, before returning home.

He bears the scars of the Wendigo’s teeth upon his stomach still.

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February 11, 1925

Cross breeds survivors.

There is no other way to put it.

Dark and fell creatures emerge, trying the intellect and strength of the townsfolk. Some people survive the experience; others do not.

Ian Dylan survived.

Born in 1880, Ian left his home in Cross at the age of 15 and traveled the world. Eventually, he returned to Cross, working as a cook.

On the rare occasion when out-of-towners arrived to hunt some tract of land or hike the wilderness, Ian Dylan would be called upon to cook their food for them. He was a master of creating dishes from what seemed to be nothing more than wild herbs and whatever was brought into the camp.

On February 11, 1925, Ian was with members of the Wheeler family at their basecamp near the edge of Gods’ Hollow. The elder sons and fathers had gone off to hunt for dinner, leaving the younger boys with Ian. Ian had cooked for the Wheelers in the past, so they were familiar with him, and they trusted him.

An act for which the boys’ mothers were eternally grateful.

At five in the evening, when the hunters had yet to return, Ian gathered the younger boys – ten in all – to him, and he spoke of his life to keep them entertained.

It wasn’t until seven that the first of the fathers returned, and he came back dead.

The man’s throat was slashed, and his lips were a bright red, and when he saw the boys, he charged straight toward them.

Ian removed the father’s head with a cleaver, and before the body hit the forest floor, the rest of the hunting party arrived.

For nearly an hour, Ian fought the undead members of the Wheeler family, beating them back and removing heads whenever possible. By dawn, only he and the boys remained.

The fathers and elder sons, all of them, were dead.

Ian Dylan’s body is buried in the private graveyard of the Wheeler family, and it bears a single inscription.

Protector.

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February 10, Of Every Year

It is the little place of waiting.

Less than one hundred feet down Duncan Blood’s driveway, on the left-hand side, the building stands. It is small and unobtrusive, easy to miss if you’re in a hurry to meet up with Duncan for a bit of his homemade peach brandy, or even stronger apple schnapps.

But the building is there, and there are a few in Cross who know of it.

The little place of waiting has existed since the early 1800s, although there is no exact documentation as to when the building was constructed. Duncan knows, of course, but like with so many other subjects, he refuses to speak of it.

Those who need to wait, wait. Those who do not, well, they do not.

Waiting, as the song says, is the hardest part, and those who sit in the little place of waiting know this better than anyone else.

They wait for the missing to return.

And sometimes, in Cross, they do.

The first such person to reappear in Cross after vanishing was Raelynn Crowell, who – at age 8 – disappeared from her front yard in 1846.

Three years later, without having aged a day and wearing the same clothes in which she had gone missing, Raelynn knocked on Duncan’s door on February 10th, 1849. Her only memory was of opening her front door and stepping out onto Duncan’s property.

Five years after, a second lost individual reappeared, and two years after that, a third. There is no rhyme or reason as to who returns, or how long they have been gone.

The only constants are the date, February 10, and those waiting for the return of their missing.

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February 8, 1936

The tower stank of death and fire.

At the edge of Gods’ Hollow, where it dipped down into a slight, curving embrace with the cusp of Duncan Blood’s land, they found the tower.

It was older than any structure still existing in Cross, and the three young women who found it on February 5, 1936, knew there was something wrong with it.

Several days later, on February 8, one of the young women – Annabelle Berkley – and her father, Malcolm, returned to the tower.

Malcolm noticed the smell, and Annabelle stated that her father’s face, “Went as white as a ghost, which I always thought was a rather mellow dramatic thing to say.”

But his face did pale, and with good reason.

Malcolm was a veteran of the Great War, and he had smelled his share of death. He knew what a rotting corpse smelled like, and he was too familiar with the stench of bodies unearthed from shallow graves.

Together, they drew closer to the tower, the odor of fire quickly adding its powerful scent to that of the unseen corpses.

At the entrance to the tower, Malcolm hesitated long enough to tell his daughter to wait outside for him.

Through the years people had gone missing near Gods’ Hollow, and he did not wish for his daughter to set eyes on anything unpleasant.

“I waited for him,” Annabelle later told her family. “I waited a long time. I called to him, yelled for him, and finally, when I had gathered up my courage and prepared myself to go after him, he returned.”

Malcolm stumbled out of the entrance, his face bloody and his eyes wild.

“Run,” he whispered, and then he smashed his head open against the wall.

Visits to the tower are discouraged.

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