Horror Fiction

The Current Settlers (Pt. 8)

Part 8 of the Settlement Series!

The CreepyPasta

[upset] I knew it! I knew you’d come today of all days. Damnit, we gotta get you out of this forest!

… … One day a year – one! And it’s the day you show up! I knew it, I tell ya! Ugh, it’s too late… we’d never make it to the bridge; hurry up – come inside. [door slams/locks]

… … … What do you mean you have no clue how you got here?! You have your pack and everything!

… … … I’m not sure I understand how you could be compelled to pick it up, but we don’t have time to chat. There’s a horde of evil outside, and more are on the way. We don’t even know what half of those things are anymore. Based on what we do know – ignorance is probably a blessing, but we can speculate later.

[Trish] We need to open the floor, it’s our only chance.

… You’re right; there’ll be nowhere left to hide once it begins. We could make a hole under the bed… Once our friend is behind the barrier, it’ll be like every other year.

… … [walking to bedroom] We’ll have to explain later, but I’m sure you remember my telling you about converting the basement, yes?

… Good. Long story short – there’s also a few magical protections around it. We couldn’t have survived without them.

… … [defensive] I’ve been brutally honest about how dangerous this place is, I’m not sure why you look surprised.

… … It’s amazing yet frightening how many questions you have in the face of certain death. Stand back, please. Come on, Ethan, help me move this thing.

… … [bed slides across floor] You’re gonna be just fine, friend, we’ll get through this together. I’m surprised they haven’t smelled you, but maybe they’re too preoccupied… or lulling us into a false sense of security…

… … [wood creaking] I’m only planning for every possibility, but those guys aren’t exactly known for their patience. If they knew you were here – we wouldn’t be considered much of a threat. It’s more likely they’re too busy to notice. These rituals have been happening for centuries; they probably can’t remember the last time one was interrupted—

[wood cracking] Whoa, hold on, boy! Just because the bed will be covering it doesn’t mean we can rip the boards in half! It would be nice to lay them back in place afterwards. Once our pal is safely hidden, we’ll make it look like this room hasn’t been touched since those kids with the tie-dye van.

[Ethan] The ones who thought we were all acid hallucinations?

… Yep, but this time – we stay quiet and lay low; there shouldn’t be any problems. I bet we can even manage a few stories to help pass the time; how’s that sound?

… … Hah, I thought that part would be well received. [board set aside] Alright, it’s time.

… … Don’t worry, friend, Ethan will lower you nice and slow; he’s stronger than he looks. You’ll be on the ground and taking the grand tour before you know it.

… … … … [shout/echo] See? No problem at all. You two go ahead; we’ll get this mess cleaned up and be with you in a few.

… … [distant/fading voice] See, Trish? I told you it was best to keep the height a surprise.


Great news, family! We’re officially bunkered down, and the ritual has begun. Only something fairly extreme could stop them now, and we aren’t giving them anything but distance; tonight, we don’t exist!

… … Thank you, friend, I’m glad you like it! This is my real library; the original journals, every book, and all our downloaded entertainment are right here. I often worry they aren’t safe enough, but I fear no amount of precautions would make me feel differently.

… … … Oh my! I was so worried about the ritual I’ve been a terrible host! I’m ashamed of myself, truly I am. You haven’t had a chance to say more than two words since you got here; hell, I didn’t even ask how you’ve been since your last visit!

… … …Well, “gracious host” is probably a stretch, but it’s kind of you to say so – I do try – but no more about me; what’s the big news? You’re grinning ear-to-ear, and the curiosity is killing me.

… … You… I mean… I know you said you were going to email Mr. Somnium, but… Are you trying to tell me he actually responded? As in he read it?

… … … He wants to narrate it? For his actual channel? When?!

… … It’s already done?! Are you screwing with me, friend? Because this is a cruel joke to play on an old man no matter how long ago his heart stopped—

… … … [whisper] Sweet cricket… okay… don’t sugarcoat it; what did people think?

… … … Shut up! I’m not crying! You’re crying! Holy, sweet mother of all crickets… You even took pictures of the comments? You, my friend, hold the special power of restoring one’s faith in humanity.

… … … Shush, everyone; of course I want to hear it, but we need to be quiet – no unnecessary risks, remember?… But don’t worry, friend – you’ll be across that bridge before you know it!

… … Hell yea, I’m positive! And – once you’re home – would you have time to pass along a message to our Dark Family? It should be heart-felt, yet stoic – humble but not desperate; maybe I should draft a few key points. First impressions are every—

[Trish] You’re doing it again, dear.

… Oops… umm, enough of all that; we’re in for a long night. What would you like to hear about next? The Mountain Settlement, maybe? How about the Civil War or the Revolution?

… … … [disappointed] Really? Firsthand accounts of America’s entire history are at your disposal, but you want to know how Trish and I got here? You’re one strange cookie, my friend, but that’s the main reason we like you so much. Alrighty then, I aim to please! Hang tight while I find the right journal; we’ll need to go back to a couple weeks before we died.

… … … [shuffling books] Oh, yea, those are the Weapons; Those have been down here since the ordeal with the outlaws. It’s kinda nice not having anyone else to meddle in what we do with our own family heirlooms.

Ah, here we are, [wipes off dust] I only hope you aren’t too disappointed. When you get bored we’ll switch to a different journal; until then – sit back, relax, and try to ignore any strange noises. Now that the Ritual has begun, they can’t leave the circle… Well, they could, but they’d be forced to start over which would be extremely inconvenient.


April 5, 1696

It has been a hard day – the kind that makes me long for the years I could work without pain in my back. If not for the grandchildren, my fields would be empty this season. It seems like only yesterday I was teaching their fathers how to plant and plow, yet now, I ramble incessantly like the old men we mocked in our youth. Even when there is actual news to speak of, I somehow default to writing the same, dull drivel as always.

Bill Sanderson returned from a business trip two days ago, and today, his entire family is ill. The doctors were only notified when his children failed to attend class for a second morning; Ms. Harvard sent one of the students to the Sanderson home, and the lad went for help upon finding the family confined to their beds.

No one dares speak the words we all know to be true, but— [woman’s scream]


… … [exasperated] Damn, that one was loud.

… … [hesitant] Well, um… it sounds like they’ve brought out a sacrifice…

… … … I can understand why you might be upset, but we didn’t see a reason to worry you when there’s nothing we can do to help that poor soul.

… … I know it’s hard to hear; in the beginning, we wanted to help, too, but you gotta trust us. Our first time hearing it, we rushed into the middle of them like fools; they had some poor girl – must have been between 17-20 – and she—

[Trish] Maybe skip that part, dear.

… Right. The point is – they almost ate us, and if you go running out there, I’m not sure we could save you at all, but we’d try. The one thing I am certain of is that we would be consumed either way. [whining] Please don’t get us eaten before I can hear Mr. Somnium read Pappy Grant’s journal! Please!

… … Yes, exactly! The demon himself is smack in the middle of it all and growing more powerful as we speak! He’s surrounded by every evil thing this place has to offer; We can’t help them in the same way you can’t walk on the ceiling.

… … … [whining] Aw, why aren’t you understanding this, friend? Yes – killing the demon would mean an end to the sacrifices, and this place would finally stop attracting new monsters, but—

… … … [sigh] Yes; it would make it possible to deal with other creepies and crawlies as well, but—

… … … Because we can’t! Even if the demon wasn’t surrounded by his minions – we wouldn’t stand a chance!

… … … Tell me you did not just point to the Weapons. [louder] No, better yet – tell me what we did to make you hate us? Why are you trying to re-kill us?

[Trish] Volume, dear.

… … [softer] It’s a moot point, anyway. The girl is dead by now, let’s not dwell on what we can’t change. I’m sorry, but if y’all don’t mind, I’d like to continue read— [man screams]

… … [annoyed] Oh, Jiminy-friggin-Cricket! Yes, I heard it! [throws down journal]

… … [exasperated] Yes, I know it was a man that time.

… … I don’t know how many more.

… … I swear, I don’t know; they don’t hunt for a specific type or number of sacrifices, but if an opportunity presents itself in the months leading up to the ritual…

… … Yea, I’m afraid so; they’ll use as many as they find. There’s no maximum limit, and the more lives they take – the more powerful the ritual becomes.

… No, please! Don’t touch the Weapons!

[Ethan] Actually, I have an idea.

… An idea on how to calm our friend down?

[Ethan] Sort of!

… Nope; sit down and zip it.

[Ethan] but—

… Sit! [clap] Zip! [clap] We are survivors! Do you understand what that means? It means we survive! We keep going; we record the story! Just now – finally – that story is making it to the outside world. We can’t let it end here. If we can get the rest of it out there, real help will come! People who know what they’re doing – hell, maybe someone with a YouTube channel—

[Trish] Dear…

… Right. The point is – someone who isn’t us! We have two choices. We can go out there – become dinner – and let the world forget about that one random story, or we can be strategic; we can forfeit the battle to win the war and enjoy victory together – as a family. Then, when it’s time to deal with the other unfriendly inhabitants, maybe some of those Paranormal Investigators will visit! I don’t think I’d be comfortable with Ghost Hunters; I know you said it’s not the same kind of hunter but—

[Trish] Dear…

… Right, sorry. Can we please just go back to reading? If they had another— [man screams]

Well, that was obviously the same one as before— Wait a second, friend! You do realize those Weapons are useless in our hands, right? They wouldn’t work even if we could land a hit; that means you would have one shot with only a dagger to fall back on!

[Ethan] Seriously, I have a plan.

… Please, boy, I’m serious, too.

[Trish] It’s a good plan, dear.

… [heartbroken] Aw… you too? But… how do you already know what it is? Why are none of you concerned with—

[Trish] Dear…

Fine, fine, fine; go ahead, Ethan. Take your time and explain in as much detail as possible.

[Ethan] Since the entire horde of bad guys are confined to the ritual circle – no one is guarding the Demon’s Path. Those egg sacs have been incubating for ages; tonight will probably be enough to put a few more monsters into the world. Unless something happens to them…

… Ok, since we’re completely ignoring my strategic plan for victory – let’s hear it. How do you propose we bypass the fact they’ll smell our flesh-and-blood pal the moment we stick our heads out of the hole? You know – the one we hid under the bed that happens to be the only exit for someone incapable of passing through solid objects?

[Ethan] Um, actually only two of us need to go. Technically, they could burst the sacs with a regular crossbow. The only reason I never have before is because the demon would know it was one of us, and we never had a way to fight back until now. Don’t you see? This is why our friend was brought here! It’s fate! We could make a real difference! The demon will feel what happened and rush over in a blind rage; he’ll pass straight by the lake! Someone on the roof could probably get a clear shot…

… … Oh, and our friend is suddenly an archer now, eh? Hell, let’s pretend that part is true – you realize the demon won’t simply be strolling by, don’t you? Even our eyes can barely keep track! That’s a vital detail since a miss would mean we all suffer fates worse than second deaths! Dying the first time was bad enough, thank you very much!

[Ethan] I could do the aiming, and I remember the demon’s name well. You know I can make that shot; let me have revenge… Imagine if Jamestown could really expand; how long do you think it would be before they brought in some electric poles? Surely WiFi wouldn’t be far behind…

… Damn you, boy. Taunt me with sweet dreams all you want, but none of those things would matter if we weren’t around to enjoy them.

[Trish] We can destroy the eggs much faster than the demon can break their circle; we could be back before they need to shoot. If the worst happens – one of us will get our friend to bridge while the others stay behind… We can pack the journals now as well – then, our story will live on, and your plan will still work. What do you think?

… I think it’s horrible! It doesn’t change a thing about how it will end. Besides, have you noticed how long it’s been since— [woman screams] Oh, come on!

[Ethan] Please, we don’t have much time; you know full well they’ve barely gotten started. This has gone too far! Once the demon is dead, we’ll be the last thing on anyone’s mind. Most of them will run scared back to their dens, and some will move on to darker pastures entirely. While that’s happening, Trish can get our friend back to safety, and we’ll go after the hostages!

… I don’t like it.

[Trish] That’s a shame dear… Based on what mother saw, I could have used your help. Oh well, sit tight – we’ll return as quickly as possible; try not to worry.

… [grumble] You can be a cruel woman sometimes… Ethan, listen to me very carefully; don’t extend a single hair beyond the protection barrier until we’re finished, you got that? Then it’s straight into position; do not overestimate the amount of time it will take him to break the ritual’s circle! We’ll clear the path for you on the way out.

[Ethan] You got it, uncle!

… Alright, let’s get it over with. If it’s the last thing I do – I’ll fit in some “told you so’s” before going loudly into that dark, eternal night.


[Trish] We’ll stay underground as long as we can and come up by the path’s entrance.

… Are you going to explain what happened with Gale? I didn’t want to worry our friend anymore than you two already have, but she clearly saw something that shook you up.

[Trish] Last week, she was having a good day and said this year wasn’t like the others. The demon was angrier after the French settlement than we realized. In our grief over lost friends and enchanted arrows, we failed to realize that several of the sacs were destroyed as well. Rather than replacing them – he poured everything into what was left—

… We should be close, let’s go up… And they’re supposed to hatch tonight? Is that what you were saying?

[Trish] You’re right; we’re here… But no – those eggs hatched ages ago. However, the results were so promising – he tried something new. This time he divided everything equally between two sacs. They’re already massive, and when the 24 sacrifices are dead – there will be two more extremely dangerous monsters loose in our forest.

Twenty-four? How? It’s never been more than a dozen!.. And wow, this place really has gotten dismal. I remember when it was impossible to see more than a few yards into the tree-line, but now there’s hardly any green left in the forest!

[Trish] The bulk of the sacrifices are boy scouts; they weren’t camping here – their bus broke down. The repairs were going to take a few hours, so their troop leader suggested bringing the restless kids for a hike. The worst part is – they never told anyone what happened; no one knows they came here. When the repairs were complete, those who stayed with the bus drove down to retrieve the others; they had no clue what they were driving into… Of course, there are probably a few other sacrifices mixed in; surely they aren’t all with the scouts.

… [pouty] I just wanna go home and listen to my story… Geez, the ground is so hard and black it feels like concrete…

[Trish] If we can end the reign of terror, you’ll have eternity to enjoy all the stories you want, dear. Now, move your ass; my baby is practically alone back there. Is your crossbow ready? I think I see the first one ahead – look up and to the right. Mother said these were bright yellow instead of orange – that has to be one of them.

… Yea, that’s it; the other is on the ground to the left, do you see it? We should stand back; that gunk inside could still hurt us… Or we could turn around and go home now – no harm done.

[Trish] Wow, they really are massive!.. Wait – did you mean ‘no harm doneaside from tonight’s 24 sacrifices?

… [sigh] Are you ready? We shoot on three… One… I love you… Two… Three! [both shoot, sacs burst with liquid explosion]

… [ground shakes and rumbles with guttural roar] Go!


… [panicked] Can you feel that? The air is heavier; it’s like walking through deep water.

[Trish] Yes, and we need to go faster.

… No, darling; just me.

[Trish] What’s in that vial? Did you try brewing potions again?

… It’s just something I’ve been saving for an emergency. Don’t worry, if the worst happens, the enchantment will weaken overnight; you’ll be able to free yourself by morning. [cork pops]

[Trish] Alex, no; we don’t have time to argue; you don’t— [Trish sucked in/Alex corks bottle]

… It’s ok to be mad; I can handle that, but not losing you. I’m sure you’re frustrated that I can’t hear what you’re saying, but if it’s any consolation – I can feel your displeasure loud and clear. Hopefully, I’ll be back for you— [frightened] Oh no; the air is getting even heavier… [sweeps leaves aside] Ok, ok… Ok, hun, you’ll be safe here, and I’ll be right back… [covers bottle with the leaves]

[speeds away, muttering to self] Alright, ole boy, – she’s safe – totally, completely safe, yessir. Now, you’re gonna bottle up that loud-mouthed nephew and hope to hell the demon is satisfied with only one savory morsel… And that our friend skews towards flight rather than fight…

[gasp] There they are – thank Jiminy! They’re on the roof; all I need to do is drag— [earth shakes and rumbles with a roar like thunder] No, please no, not when I’m this close!


[Ethan] This is it! Remember – just like we practiced; don’t panic… keep your eyes closed… body relaxed… mind clear… and—

[confused] Hey, why is uncle— Shit! [shoots arrow] No!

[everyone screams, demon screeches, arrow thuds into tree]


… … [panicked] I’m not gonna make it… Oh, no! No, no, no! It only scratched the bastard!… Holy mother, he’s looking right at them! The arrow! It’s so close; I have get to it… [pulls arrow from trunk]

… [screaming] Oi! Hey, look at me, asshole! Yoo-hoo! [whistles]

Crap, he’s really coming! Even uglier than I remember… Looks like a tall Quasimodo caught leprosy and went into the final stages of liver failure… Oof! My throat… Jiminy, he’s a big mother… lucky I don’t need to… breathe… just need… arm… free… legs are already gone…

[strained] Boy! Catch! [arrow whizzes through air, thuds into roof]

[mutters to self] Thank goodness, it got through… Wow, everything is going all wonky… sorry, fam


[Ethan] Bastard! He’s absorbing Alex! We have to shoot before there’s nothing left! [pulls arrow free, Alex groans in the distance] Hold on, we’re coming! [bow-string tightens]

[Ethan whispers] Are you ready?… Now! [fires arrow] Say it!

[demon screeches in agony, drowning out all other voices]

[Ethan, yelling over the demon’s wails] Alex! Uncle!… Why isn’t he reforming?! Stay here, I need to get down there!


… … [voice confused, disembodied] Is it over?… Is this where the dead go when they die?… Or is this a black void unique to the demon’s victims? Maybe I’m being stored away until needed… At least Trish is safe, and I thinkyes! Before everything went dark, that bastard took an arrow in the neck! I remember hearing the start of his name before the sound was cut off by screaming. It’s too late for me, but surely my boy got our friend away from this place. The demon is still dangerous even in this condition. [Ethan calling in the distance]

… … … [voice slightly more focused] Was that Ethan calling for me? No, it was too close; maybe I’m hallucinating after all… [woosh]


[Ethan yelling over demon’s continued screams] Uncle, if you can hear me – I found your dirty bottle trick lying next to what was left of you. Hopefully, I got all of you, but… umm… it looks like I’m stuck… Alex, I can’t move my legs… [whimper] He’s… g-ot me… I g-guess this guy r-really doesn’t want to die… I’m gonna throw you while I can still move my arms— [shocked gasp, dagger stabs into demon’s foot]

[demon roars in guttural agony as the ground rumbles with the force of an earthquake]

[Ethan] Holy shit! You stabbed him! No; don’t pull it out! We need to go; get on my back! [leaves rustle in the wind as the group flees] Alex, where’s Trish— Oh, right, he can’t answer…

… … … [angry and frustrated] I can answer; you just can’t hear me! What the hell is happening out there?! I can’t see or sense anything! We better be headed away from the demon with our friend in tow, or I swear before the sweet cricket I will find a way to tan your hide! [bangs loudly on the bottle walls] Ugh, you best find a way to hear me, boy! Hello?!

[Ethan continues speaking] —Yes, I’m positive Alex is in this bottle; here, you can hang onto it. Oh, wait! [hears light tapping on glass] Do you hear that? This is fantastic; I must have gotten all of him! Hey, Uncle – tap once for yes and twice for no; do you understand? [single tap] Is Trish safe? [single tap] Whew, thank goodness. Uncle! You won’t believe it! Our friend came out of nowhere and stabbed that bastard in the foot, haha! I think this is really it! He was falling apart as we fled! I’m trying to get us to the bridge – then we can find a way to get you out of that bottle.

… … … What do you mean ‘find a way’? Open it!— Wait, what are you two saying out there? No, no, no! [frantically bangs on glass] No way, friend! You are not staying one second longer! We can check on the sacrifice hostages after you’re safe! Ethan, don’t you dare listen to that nonsense! Get your ass to the bridge! And open the damn bottle! [continues banging on glass]

[Ethan] Sorry, friend, but I can’t take you to the ritual circle; Alex would kill me. Just listen to him in there – he’s going nuts!… Whoa, what are you doing?! Sit still or we’re gonna— [everyone falls to the ground, glass bottle breaks]

… … … Holy Cricket, that’s better! Now – we were all human once – let’s talk about this like reasonable folk.

[ground shakes with loudest roar yet]

… …. [disbelief] It really happened… He’s gone… Even after everything… I just didn’t believe it… But, damn, can you feel it, too? The air is normal again! The looming sense of dread is— actually… it’s stronger than ever… Let’s get Trish before we do anything else…


… … [hysteric] How?! How is it empty?! It shouldn’t have weakened that fast! How is she gone?! [sobs/smashes bottle]

[Ethan] Wait… Calm down and focus for a second… Do you feel that? There’s another fight happening, and she’s definitely part of it… [demanding] I’m going now! Are you coming, friend? Or do you want to stay here and argue with Alex?… Great, let’s go!

… No, umm… [defeated] ugh, wait up. Damnit, Trish! Why’d she have to go over there alone!

… … I know, friend, you don’t need to remind me. I’m clearly surrounded with ‘kind souls’ but, you see, we are a family of survivors, and avoiding danger is the key to being a survivor. This expedition is in direct conflict with our mission statement; she’s breaking the prime directive – that’s not ok!

[Ethan, patronizing] There, there, uncle; we can have a court martial after we help her. For now, we need to hurry! We should find a vantage point before showing ourselves. If it looks too dangerous, one of us will rush our friend to the bridge while the other helps Trish. Fair enough?

… … It’s not like I have any choice in the matter! You three have been forcing my hand all night anyway, so come on! Let’s go before it’s too late!


… … [shock] Are… are you two seeing this? It’s absolute chaos down there… [children shouting war cries] and it looks like… is Trish leading a platoon of boy scouts?

[Ethan] Hell yea, she is! Look! Everyone must have fled; only the Walker is left! Geez, where did they get all those weapons? It’s been ages since I’ve seen a mob like that – some of them are actually carrying pitchforks!

… … Don’t stand there gawking, boy! That Walker isn’t going to wait by idly while they fill it with holes! Why would she do this?!

… … Friend, if we survive this ordeal – remind me to explain the definition of a rhetorical question.

[Ethan] It won’t fight outnumbered either; I think it’s waiting for— [hostages screaming in the distance]

… … … Yep, you saw it right, friend. It waited for one to come within reach and fled with him. It’s safe for you to come down with us now; [leaves crunch beneath feet] we need to get everyone back to the cabin and calmed down so we can discuss what story you’ll tell the police.

… … Well, of course I mean you; who else is gonna take them? Their last chaperone was just carried off by the Walker and none of us can cross the bridge. We can’t send a group of traumatized kids off on their own.

… … I have no clue what you’re supposed to tell them – we haven’t discussed it yet!

[Ethan, yells over chaos of frightened boy scouts] Trish! Over here!

[Trish] You’re all here! I’m so relieved! When I was able to free myself, you three were fleeing towards the bridge – so I came straight here.

… … [muttering] How considerate of you…

[Trish] What was that, husband? Did you say something?

… … [perky] I love you, and I’m delighted you’re safe…

[Trish] You’re such a dear. [whispers] Don’t let the children know we’re ghosts; I don’t think their fragile minds could handle it.

… … Fair enough; I suppose we’ll take the long way home, then.

[Trish] Actually, I’ve had a rather long night, and so has our friend. I think it’s best if we go ahead while you and Ethan bring the boys along behind us. We’ll make sure your path is clear, of course.

… … [monotone] Of course… Come on, Ethan, you heard the lady. Round ‘em up…


[Trish] —I can’t believe the demon was finally defeated! So, you went right up to the monster and stabbed him in the foot?!… You really are amazing, my friend, and I know you’ll understand why we had to make this little detour… We need to get any demon goop left behind into this jar. [unscrews lid] We’ll burn it in the fireplace, and then you can take the ashes with you… [closes lid] There, that’s all of it; we better get moving.

[Trish, nonchalant] Oh, you don’t remember what my brother-in-law learned from the Mountain Settlement? The ashes must be spread over salt water – never fresh. Do you see any salt water in our territory? Alex doesn’t want to think about it yet, but you and I know better than to wait, don’t we?… I knew I could count on you! I can never repay you for saving my boys, [cabin door creaks open] but you’ll always have a home with us. Although, I’m sure you’ll be hearing those words in abundance over the coming months. Those children are probably assumed dead; the news crews will be rolling in before lunch – I guarantee it! [distant chatter] Oh, shh, they’re almost here! I’ll put this in the fire and get the ashes into your bag discreetly. Once you’re safely across the bridge – I’ll let the boys know we have everything under control.

… … … [several pairs of footsteps file across the wood floor] That’s right, this way fella’s; y’all are safe now. You’ll be home with your families in no time. We’re just gonna have a little chat to make sure everyone is on the same page while we wait for the sun to rise; then, our friend is going to take you all to see some nice policemen! How does that sound?

… … [exasperated] Come on, guys. We’ve been at this for over an hour; I don’t think you understand what’s waiting for you on the other side of that bridge. Do you know what it means to be national news?

… … I didn’t think so; it means you can say goodbye to your privacy for a long time, my little friends. You boys have had multiple agencies searching for you across multiple states; you’re already national news, but with our story – people will leave you alone when the next tragedy strikes. With the truth – your names will be synonymous with this event for the rest of your lives. The story for this place is older and darker than you can fathom, and I promise – you boys don’t want this shadow looming over you forever… So, what’s it gonna be, kids? Were you lost and found? Or kidnapped and rescued?

… … That’s a great choice, guys! I knew you looked like a reasonable bunch; I got a sixth sense about these things. Now – how many people found you?

… … That’s right! Only our friend! You boys are gonna be just fine – chins up, now! Remember – you’re all traumatized children; don’t be afraid to cry if they ask uncomfortable questions. As for your chaperones – you got separated; how should you know what happened? They’ll come down here to poke around and look for the bodies, but it won’t trouble us any. There’s nothing left to find, and we’ll be settled in with our new stories!

… … [sarcastic] Haha; yuck it up. Yes, I only want to listen to my story; is that so much to ask?! I’m sure they’re desperate to go home, too!

[Ethan] He’s right guys, and look – there’s a hint of sunlight out there! How about it? Are you ready to finally get out of here?

… … See! I told you they were reasonable chaps. My friend, I eagerly await your next visit when we’ll have time to thank you properly. Until then, we wish you the safest travels, and don’t forget – you deserve every reward they give you!

[Ethan opens creaking door] Hey, everyone, come take a look at this… What the hell is that?!

… … [door softly clicks shut] Umm… ok, on second thought – let’s go ahead and wait for the sun to fully rise… Anyone up for a quick game of charades?

Classics Translated

The Signal-Man

Charles Dickens, first published 1866; translated into Modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 

“Hello! Down below!”

When he heard me calling to him, he was standing at his box’s door with a short flag rolled in his hand. Considering what was said, my location should have been obvious, but instead of looking up to where I stood atop the steep ledge – he looked down the tracks. There was something remarkable about the way he did it, though – for the life of me – I cannot say what. It was enough to attract my attention even though he was hard to see down in the deep trench. I was high above him, blinded by the glow of an angry sunset; I had to shade my eyes before I could see him at all.

“Hello! Below!”

From looking down the tracks, he turned again and – looking up – saw me standing high above him. “Is there a path I can use to come speak with you?”

He looked up at me without replying, and I looked down at him without repeating my question. Then, the earth began to shake slightly, but it quickly grew violent, and a sudden blast of air caused me to jump back as though I were being pulled down. Steam rose from the speeding train and rolled away over the landscape; I looked down again, and the man was re-rolling his flag after waving it at the passing train.

I repeated my question. He paused, staring at me before pointing his flag towards a spot roughly two or three hundred yards away on my level. I called down, “alright” and made my way over. Looking closely, I found an uneven, zigzagging path and followed it.

The trail was extremely deep and unusually steep. It cut through a clammy type of stone that oozed and became wetter as I went down. The walk took long enough for me to recall a reluctant expression when he pointed out the path.

When I was low enough to see him again, he was standing between the rails, looking as if he were waiting for me to appear. His arms were crossed, and his chin rested in his hands. He seemed surprised that I paused and was wondering why.

I resumed my descent and stepped out onto the railroad; as I got closer to him, I saw that he was a pale man with a dark beard and thick eyebrows. His post was in the loneliest, most dismal place I ever saw. On either side was a dripping-wet wall of jagged stone, blocking out all but a strip of sky. In one direction, only a long, crooked view of this great dungeon could be seen, and the other ended in a gloomy, red light. It was the entrance to a black tunnel, and inside the massive structure was a depressing, forbidding air. So little sunlight ever found this spot, that it had an earthy, deadly smell, and so much cold wind blew through it, that I felt a chill as cold as death.

I was close enough to touch him before he moved. Without taking his eyes from mine, he took one step back and lifted his hand.

This was a lonesome post to occupy, and I said so; when I looked down from above, it instantly drew my attention. I suppose a visitor was rare, but hopefully not unwelcome. He merely saw me as another random person with a new interest in the great wonder of railroads. I spoke to him for that reason, but I am not sure of the words I used; I do not enjoy beginning any conversation, but there was something in this man that intimidated me.

He looked towards the red light near the tunnel’s opening in a very curious way – as if something were missing – and then looked back at me. I asked if that light was part of his job.

He answered in a low voice. “Don’t you know that it is?”

A monstrous thought came to me as I studied his fixed eyes and gloomy face; that he was a ghost, not a man. I stepped back, but in doing so, I saw he appeared frightened. This put an end to my monstrous thought.

“You look as if you are afraid of me.” I said, forcing a smile.

“I think I have seen you before,” he replied.

“Where?”

He pointed to the red light he had looked at.

“There?” I said.

Watching me intently, he replied a silent, “yes.”

“My good man, what would I do there? However, I will swear that I was never there.”

“I think I was mistaken,” he said. “Yes; I am sure I was.”

Our demeanors softened, and his answers to my questions were knowledgeable and interesting. He had many responsibilities, but most importantly, his job required him to be attentive and precise. There was practically no manual labor; he only changed the train signal, trimmed the lights, and sometimes turned an iron handle. When I asked about those long, lonely hours that would bother me so much – he simply said it was routine, and that he had grown used to it. He taught himself a language down there – even if he did form his own crude pronunciations of the words he read. He also practiced fractions and tried a little algebra, but he had no skill for mathematics. I wondered if he was required to stay in that damp tunnel the whole time, or if he could take a break to enjoy the sun. It depended on how busy he was; some days were slower than others. In sunny weather, he often did venture out of the shadows, but he never strayed too far from his electric bell, and he always listened for it nervously; it sounded like it was not worth the anxiety it caused him.

We went into his box where there was a fire, a desk for his logbook, a telegraph machine, and the little bell he previously mentioned. Hoping he would excuse the remark about his education without offense – I could not help notice he seemed educated for his position; he observed that men like himself are much more common than I would think. Men like him often end up in workhouses, the police-force, and even the army in desperate cases; he knew of others in the railroad industry as well. When he was a young student of natural philosophy, he attended lectures, but he also ran wild and wasted opportunities. He had no complaints about it – he made his bed, and he was lying in it; he was far too old to make another.

I condensed everything he said quietly in his dark, serious way; the whole time his attention was split between me and the fire. Occasionally, he threw in the word, “sir,” when referring to his younger days. He was interrupted by the bell several times along with needing to send and receive messages. Once, he had to stand outside waving a flag and shouting something to the driver as a train passed. He was remarkably dedicated to his duties – always stopping his answers mid-sentence until each new task was done.

Basically, I would have sworn he was one of the safest men ever employed in that position… except for the two times he fell silent and pale when the bell did not ring; then, he opened the door and looked towards the red light near the mouth of the tunnel. On both occasions, he came back with the same baffled expression I mentioned before and could not explain why.

When I stood to leave, I said, “You almost make me believe that you are a content man.” Though, I am afraid I must admit this statement was not completely true.

“I believe I used to be, but I am troubled, sir; I am troubled.” He replied in the same, low voice as when he had first spoken.

He would have taken the words back if he could, but I responded quickly. “With what? What trouble?”

“It is very difficult to explain, sir, and very difficult to speak of. If you ever visit again, I will try to tell you.”

“But I specifically intend to visit again. Just say when!”

“I get off early in the morning, and I will return tomorrow night at ten, sir.”

“I will come at eleven.”

He thanked me and walked me out. “I’ll use my white light until you have found the way up, sir. Make sure not to call out when you find it or when you reach the top!” He said in his peculiar low voice.

“Very well.” His manner seemed to make the place colder, but I said no more.

“And when you come tomorrow night, don’t call out! Let me ask you one last question. What made you shout, ‘hello! Down below,’ tonight?”

“Heaven knows… I said something like that—”

“Not ‘like that’, sir. Those were your exact words. I know them well.”

“Yes, those were the very words, but I only said them because I saw you below.”

“There’s no other reason?”

“What other reason could I possibly have?”

“You didn’t feel like they were conveyed to you in a supernatural way?”

“No.”

He wished me goodnight and held up his lamp. I walked alongside the tracks with an unpleasant feeling that a train was coming. When I found the path, it was easier to climb than descend, and I returned to my inn without any trouble.


As promised, I arrived the next night when the clocks were striking eleven. He was waiting for me at the bottom with his white light. “I have not called out; may I speak now?” I said when we were closer.

“By all means, sir.”

“Hello, then.” I extended my hand.

“Hello, sir.” He replied as we shook; then, we closed ourselves in his box and sat by the fire.

“I’ve made up my mind, sir.” He leaned forward and spoke in a whisper. “I’m going to tell you what troubles me. Yesterday, I mistook you for someone else. That troubles me.”

“That mistake?”

“No. The other person.”

“Who is it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do they look like me?”

“I don’t know; their left arm was covering their face, and their right arm was waving violently – like this.” He imitated someone frantically waving their arm around and shouted, “For God’s sake, clear the way!”

“One night,” he continued, “I was sitting here when I heard a voice cry, ‘hello, down there!’ I jumped up, looked outside, and saw this Someone standing by the red light near the tunnel – waving as I just showed you. The voice was hoarse from shouting. ‘Look out! Look out!’ It cried, and then repeated itself. ‘Hello, down there! Look out!’ I picked up my lamp, turned it on red, and ran towards the figure. ‘What’s wrong? What happened? Where?’ I called as it stood just outside the dark tunnel. I got closer and wondered why it was covering its eyes. I ran right up to it, and when my hand stretched out to pull the sleeve away, it vanished.”

“Into the tunnel?” I asked.

“No. I ran 500 yards into the tunnel and lifted my lamp; I saw the distance markers and the wet stains dripping down the walls, trickling through the arch. Then, I ran out even faster than I had entered and looked around the light with my own; I climbed the iron ladder to the gallery, came down again, and ran back here to send telegraphs both ways. I acknowledged an alarm was given and asked if anything was wrong, but the answers stated that all was well.”

I tried to shake the chill that ran down my spine as I told him he must have been mistaken. There were known cases where a sickness in the brain could cause people to see things that were not there; some patients were even aware of the hallucinations. They would prove what was real with various tests. I said, “for an imaginary cry, you only need to listen to the wind blowing through this unnatural valley. Do you hear the wild sound it makes with the telegraph wires?”

We sat listening to the wind for a while, and he thought that was all very well, but he was already familiar with the sound; he had spent many long, lonely winter nights there. Instead, he begged that I allow him to finish his tale.

I asked his forgiveness, and he touched my arm before slowly continuing his story.

“Six hours after I saw it, a horrible accident happened on the tracks, and within ten hours, the dead and wounded were brought through the tunnel – over the spot where the figure had stood.”

I shuddered unpleasantly despite actively trying no to. I admitted this was a remarkable coincidence – it is no wonder it made such an impression on his mind – but the fact is, that remarkable coincidences happen all the time; they must be considered when dealing with such subjects. Though, when I feared my words had offended him, I was sure to add, “men with common sense rarely believe in coincidences when it comes to their daily routines.”

He again begged me to allow him to finish.

I again asked his forgiveness for my interruption.

Again, he laid his hand on my arm and glanced over his shoulder with hollow eyes. “It happened only a year ago; I had recovered from the shock after six or seven months, but one morning – while standing at the door – I saw the ghost near the red light again.” He stopped with his eyes fixed on me.

“Did it cry out?”

“No. It was silent.”

“Did it wave its arm?”

“No. It leaned against the light pole with both hands covering its face. Like this.”

I watched as he imitated the scene; it was a gesture of despair. I have seen the same one in graveyards.

“Did you approach it?”

“I came in and sat down – partly to collect my thoughts, partly because it made me feel faint. When I looked again, the sun had risen, and the ghost was gone.”

“But that was it? Nothing else happened?”

He touched my arm with his finger a few times – nodding in a ghastly way with each poke.

“That same day, when a train came out of the tunnel, I saw into the carriage windows; there was a tangle of waving hands and heads. I saw it just in time to stop the driver. He hit the brakes, but the train continued drifting for another 150 yards. I chased after it, and heard terrible screams and cries along the way. A beautiful young lady had died instantly in one of the compartments, and she was brought here – laid on this floor between us.”

I instinctively pushed my chair back as I looked to where he pointed at the floor.

“It is true, sir. It happened precisely as I said.”

I could not think of anything to say, and my mouth was very dry. The wind and wires sounded like a long, sorrowful wail.

“Now – listen to this and see what you think of my troubled mind. The ghost returned a week ago; ever since, it has been coming and going often.” He continued.

“At the light?”

“At the Danger-light.”

“What does it do?”

He repeated himself with even more passion and intensity – making the same frantic gestures that seemed to say, “for God’s sake, clear the way!” Then he continued. “I get no peace or rest; it calls to me in an agonizing way for several minutes at a time. ‘Look out, down there!” It stands there – waving to me and ringing my little bell—”

“Did it ring your bell yesterday evening when I was here, and you went to the door?” I asked.

“Twice.”

“Do you see how your imagination misleads you? I was looking at the bell; I would have heard it, and it did not ring then or at any other time. It only rang when the station was communicating with you.” I said.

He shook his head. “I have never made that mistake, sir. I have never confused the actions of a man for a spirit’s. When the ghost rings the bell, it has a strange vibration unlike anything else, and I never said the bell physically moved. I’m not surprised that you didn’t hear it, but I heard it.”

“Was the ghost there when you looked outside?”

“It was there.”

“Both times?”

“Both times.” He repeated firmly.

“Will you come to the door with me and look for it now?”

He bit his lip – somewhat unwilling – but rose anyway. I opened the door and waited on the step while he stood in the doorway. There was the Danger-light, the dismal mouth of the tunnel, the high, wet stone walls of the valley, and the stars above them.

“Do you see it?” I asked, carefully studying his face. His eyes were wide and strained but not much more than my own were when I looked at the same spot.

“No,” he answered. “It is not there.”

“Agreed,” I said.

We went inside, shut the door, and took our seats. I was thinking of how I could keep this progress going when he resumed the conversation in a very matter-of-fact way. It seemed as if he would not even consider the facts, and it made my argument sound like the one that was incorrect.

“By now, you should understand what troubles me so much; I must know what the ghost means?” He said.

I was not sure, but I told him that I did understand.

“What is its warning against?” he said, staring into the fire as he contemplated. “What is the danger? Where is it? There is danger hanging over us somewhere on the tracks; some horrible catastrophe will happen. It cannot be doubted after what happened before – this is the third time! This surely is a cruel haunting. What can I do?”He pulled out his handkerchief and wiped the sweat from his heated forehead.

“If I send a danger signal, I won’t be able to give a reason,” he continued, wiping the palms of his hands. “I would get into trouble for nothing. They would think I was crazy. I would say, ‘danger! Take care’ and they would ask what and where the danger was. What should I say then? ‘Don’t know, but for God’s sake, take care!’ They would ignore me – what else could they do?

His pain was very sad to see; he was a good man enduring mental torture. The pressure was more than he could handle.

Pushing his dark hair back and rubbing his temples feverishly, he continued. “When it first stood under the Danger-light, why didn’t it tell me where the accident was going to happen? Why not say how to stop it? The second time – when it hid its face – why didn’t it tell me, ‘she is going to die. Let her stay home’? If it only came to show me that its warnings are true, then why not simply warn me the same way now? And I – Lord help me – am merely a poor Signal-man on this lonely station! Why not go to somebody with credibility and the power to do something?”

Seeing him in this state, I realized I needed to help him regain his composure – for his sake as well as the public’s. Therefore, setting aside the question of real or imaginary, I told him that no matter what – he had done his duty well, and that should be comforting even if he did not understand a confusing ghost’s appearances. That attempt was far more successful than anything else used to reason with him. He calmed, and his workload increased as it grew late. I left at two in the morning; I offered to stay, but he would not hear of it.

I looked back at the red light more than once as I climbed the pathway; I freely admit that I did not like it, and I would have slept poorly beneath it. I did not like the two accidents or the dead girl, either.

What ran through my thoughts most was the consideration of what to do now that I was aware of the situation. The man proved to be intelligent, vigilant, and painstakingly exact, but how long will that last in his state of mind? Though it is a low-ranking position, he still holds an important trust. Would I bet my own life on his chances of continuing with precision?

Ultimately, I felt it would be treacherous to tell his superiors what he told me without first proposing an alternative to him; I resolved I would offer to accompany him to the best doctor we could find. He said that the next night, he would be off an hour or two after sunrise and back after sunset. I decided to return accordingly.


Next evening was lovely, and I left early to enjoy it. The sun was not quite set when I crossed the field near the top of the deep valley. I decided to keep going for an additional half hour to give myself a half hour walk back so it would be time to meet the Signal-man.

Before beginning my stroll, I stepped to the edge and looked down from where I had first seen him. I cannot describe the thrill I felt when – close to the mouth of the tunnel – I saw the figure of a man with his left sleeve across his eyes, frantically waving his right arm.

The nameless horror that struck me passed in a moment when I saw that this man was indeed only a man; there was a small group of men standing nearby, to whom he seemed to be making the gesture. The Danger-light was not yet lit. An entirely new, low structure sat against the light-post; it was made of wooden supports and a tarp, and was no bigger than a bed.

With a strong sense that something was wrong, and – cursing myself for leaving the man alone with no one to supervise or correct him – I descended the path as quickly as possible.

“What is the matter?” I asked the men.

“The Signal-man was killed this morning, sir.”

“Not the man who works in that box?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Not the man I know?”

“You will recognise him if you knew him, sir – his face is in good condition.” The man said, solemnly, removing his hat and raising one end of the tarp.

“Oh, how did this happen – how?” I asked, turning from one to another as the tarp fell back into place.

“He was cut down by a train, sir. No man in England was better at his job, but for some reason, he was not clear of the outer rail. It happened in broad daylight; he turned on the light and had the lamp in his hand. As the train came out of the tunnel, his back was towards her, and she cut him down. That man drove her, and he was demonstrating how it happened; show the gentleman, Tom.”

The man wore a rough, dark suit and returned to his former position at the mouth of the tunnel.

“Coming round the curve in the tunnel, sir, I saw him at the end – as if I were seeing him through a telescope. There was no time to check speed, and I knew him to be very careful. He didn’t seem to take notice of the whistle; I shut it off when we were getting close and called to him as loud as I could.”

“What did you say?”

“I said, ‘down there! Look out! For God’s sake, clear the way!’”

I gasped.

“Ah! it was dreadful, sir. I never stopped calling to him. I put one arm over my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see, and I waved this arm until the last moment, but it was no use.”

Without prolonging the story to dwell on any one curious situation more than another – I may point out the coincidence of the train driver’s warning. It included not only the same words the Signal-man repeated to me, but also the words that only I had attached to the gesture he imitated.

Classics Translated

The Night the Ghost Got in

James Thurber, originally published 1933; translated to Modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 

This story was adapted specially for a live read by the amazing Danie Dreadful!

The ghost that got into our house on the night of November 17, 1915 caused a horrible mess; I should have just kept walking and went to bed. Its presence caused my mother to throw a shoe through the neighbor’s window and ended with my grandfather shooting a policeman. I regret ever stopping to pay attention to the footsteps.

They began around 1:15am – walking around the dining-room table at a quick but steady pace. My mother and my brother, Herman were asleep upstairs; grandfather was in the attic – in the old walnut bed that once fell on my father. I was drying off after a bath when I heard the steps. It sounded like a man was running around the dining-room table downstairs. The light from the bathroom was shining down the back steps – directly into the dining-room; I could see the faint shine of plates on the shelf and table. The steps continued to circle, and a board creaked at regular intervals when stepped on. At first, I thought it was my father or my brother, Roy; they had gone to Indianapolis but were expected home any time. Next, I suspected it was a burglar. It was not until later that I realized it was a ghost.

After the walking had continued for roughly three minutes, I tiptoed to Herman’s room. “Psst!” I hissed in the dark, shaking him.

“Awp,” he said in the low, hopeless tone of a beagle; he was always paranoid that something would “get him” in the night.

I told him who I was and said, “there’s something downstairs!” He got up and followed me to the back staircase. We listened together, but there was no sound; the steps had stopped. Herman looked at me with surprise – I was only wearing a bath towel around my waist. He wanted to return to bed, but I grabbed his arm.

“There’s something down there!” I said. Instantly, the steps began again; it sounded like a man was running around the dining-room table, but then they rushed towards us – taking the stairs two at a time.

The pale light was still shining down the stairs, but we saw nothing – we only heard the steps. Herman rushed to his room and slammed the door. I slammed the door at the top of the stairs and held my knee against it. After a long moment, I slowly opened it again. Nothing was there; all was quiet. None of us ever heard the ghost again.

The slamming doors woke mother, and she peeked out of her room. “What on earth are you boys doing?” she demanded.

Herman came out of his room. “Nothing,” he said gruffly.

“What was all that running around downstairs?” Mother asked. She had heard the steps, too! We only looked at her. “Burglars!” she shouted.

I tried to calm her by starting downstairs. “Come on, Herman,” I said.

“I’ll stay with mother; she’s all excited.” He said.

I stepped back onto the landing. “Both of you are staying right here,” mother said. “We’ll call the police.”

Since the phone was downstairs, I didn’t see how we were going to make a call – nor did I want the police – but mother made one of her quick, uncompromising decisions. She flung open her bedroom window and threw a shoe through the neighbor’s window. Glass fell into the bedroom of a retired engraver named Bodwell and his wife. Bodwell had been rather ill for some years, and was prone to mild “attacks.” Most everybody we knew or lived near had some kind of attack.

It was now about 2:00 on a moonless night, and black clouds hung low in the sky. Bodwell was at the window in an instant – shouting and shaking his fist. “We’ll sell the house and go back to Peoria,” we could hear Mrs. Bodwell say.

It was some time before mother got through to Bodwell. “Burglars!” she shouted. “Burglars in the house!”

Herman and I hadn’t dared tell her differently – she was even more afraid of ghosts than burglars. At first, Bodwell thought she meant there were burglars in his house, but finally, he calmed down and called the police for us. After he disappeared from the window, mother suddenly tried to throw another shoe, but I stopped her. It was not because of a necessity, but because she greatly enjoyed the thrill of breaking glass.

The police arrived in an impressively short time; there was a Ford sedan full of them, two on motorcycles, and a patrol wagon with eight more plus a few reporters. They banged on our front door, and flashlights searched over the walls, across our yard, and between the houses.

“Open up!” cried a hoarse voice. “We’re from Headquarters!”

I wanted to go down and let them in, but mother wouldn’t hear of it. “You’re naked,” she pointed out. “You’d catch your death.”

I wound the towel around me again. Finally the cops put their shoulders to our big, heavy door with its thick windows and broke in. I could hear wood breaking and a splash of glass on the floor. Their lights danced all over the living-room and dining-room, stabbed into hallways, and shot up both flights of stairs. They caught me standing in my towel at the top.

A heavy policeman ran up the steps. “Who are you?” he demanded.

“I live here,” I said.

“Well, what’s the matter, are ya hot?” He asked.

As a matter of fact, it was cold; I went to my room and put on some pants. On my way out, a cop stuck a gun into my ribs. “What are you doin’ here?” he demanded.

“I live here,” I said again.

The officer in charge reported to mother. “No sign of nobody, lady. He must have got away. What’d he look like?”

“There were two or three of them, whooping and hollering and slamming doors.” Mother said.

“Funny; all your windows and doors were locked tight.” The cop said.

Downstairs, we could hear the other officers stomping around. They were all over the place; doors and drawers were yanked open, windows were thrown up, and furniture fell with dull thuds. A half-dozen policemen emerged from the darkness of the front, upstairs hallway. They began to ransack everything; beds were pulled away from walls, clothes were torn off hooks, and boxes were pulled from shelves. One of them found an old harp that Roy won in a pool tournament.

“Looky here, Joe,” he said, strumming it with a big paw.

The cop named Joe took it and turned it over. “What is it?” he asked me.

“It’s an old harp that our guinea pig used to sleep on,” I said. It was true – that guinea pig never slept anywhere else, but I should never have said so. Joe and the other cop looked at me a long time before putting the harp back.

“No sign of nothing,” the cop who first spoke with mother explained to the others. “This guy,” he pointed at me, “was naked, and the lady seems hysterical.”

They all nodded but said nothing; they just stared at me. In the silence, we all heard a creaking from the attic. Grandfather was rolling over in bed.

“What’s that?” Joe snapped. Five or six cops sprang for the attic door before I could intervene or explain.

I realized it would be bad if they burst in on grandfather. He was going through a phase where he believed General Meade’s men were under fire by Stonewall Jackson, and they were beginning to desert. When I got to the attic, things were pretty chaotic. Evidently, grandfather assumed the police were deserters from Meade’s army – trying to hide away in his attic. He leapt out of bed wearing a long, flannel nightgown over woolen underwear, a nightcap, and a leather jacket around his chest. The cops must have immediately realized the angry, white-haired, old man belonged in the house, but they had no chance to say so.

“Back, you cowardly dogs!” Grandfather roared. “Back to the lines, you goddamn, lily-livered cattle!” With that, he gave the officer who found the harp a flat-handed slap upside his head that sent him sprawling. The others retreated, but not fast enough; grandfather grabbed the first cop’s gun and fired. The bang seemed to crack the rafters, and smoke filled the attic. A cop cursed and slapped his hand to his shoulder. Somehow, we all finally got downstairs again and locked the door against the old man. He fired once or twice more and then returned to bed.

“That was grandfather,” I explained to Joe, out of breath. “He thinks you’re deserters.”

“I’ll say he does,” Joe said.

The cops were reluctant to leave without getting their hands on somebody besides grandfather; their night had been a distinct defeat. Furthermore, they obviously didn’t like how the situation ended; I can see their point when they said something seemed fishy. They resumed their search, and a thin-faced reporter approached me.

When I could not find a shirt to wear, I put on one of mother’s blouses. The reporter looked at me with a mixture of suspicion and interest. “Just what the hell is really going on here, Bud?”

I decided to be frank with him. “We had a ghost.”

He gazed at me for a long time – as if I were a slot machine he lost a nickel to – then he walked away. The cops followed him; the one grandfather shot was holding his bandaged arm, cursing. “I’m gonna get my gun back from that old bird.”

“Yea,” Joe said. “You and who else?”

I told them I would bring it to the station house the next day. “What was the matter with that one policeman?” Mother asked after they were gone.

“Grandfather shot him,” I said.

“What for?” She demanded. I told her he was a deserter. “Of all things! He was such a nice-looking young man.” Mother said.

The next morning, grandfather was fresh as a daisy and full of jokes at breakfast. At first, we thought he had forgotten, but he hadn’t. Over his third cup of coffee, he glared at Herman and I. “What was with all them cops stomping around the house last night?” He demanded. He had us there.

Classics Translated

The Empty House

Algernon Blackwood, first published 1906; translated to Modern English, otherwise left exactly the same. 

This story has been added to our Classics in the Rain collection! Hear Danie Dreadful’s magnificent narration here for the full experience!

Certain houses – like certain people – somehow manage to instantly announce themselves as evil. No single feature is to blame; someone might be charming and attractive, but after getting to know each other, you see something is drastically wrong with them. They reveal secret and wicked thoughts that make others avoid them like a plague.

Perhaps it is the same with houses, and the evil deeds committed under a single roof are what give us chills and raise our hair. Maybe some of the evil person’s hatred and their victim’s horror are left behind; it could affect the new occupant – making them feel nervous or frightened for no apparent reason.

Nothing about this particular house hinted at the horror that happened inside. It was neither lonely nor dirty. It stood on a crowded corner of the square and looked identical to the houses on either side. They all had the same number of windows, a balcony over the garden, and white steps leading up to a heavy, black front door. Even the number of chimneys, the angle of the eaves, and the height of the railings were the same. In the back was a narrow strip of green with brick borders running up the wall to separate it from the adjoining houses.

Yet, despite seeming so similar to its fifty ugly neighbors, this house was horribly different.

It is impossible to say exactly where this invisible difference is. It cannot be entirely the imagination because too many people have stayed there without knowing its history; even they claimed that certain rooms were so awful, they would rather die than return. The house’s very atmosphere created a feeling of genuine terror, and the innocent people who tried to live there were forced to leave with hardly any notice. The town practically considered it a scandal.

When Shorty arrived to pay a visit to his Aunt Julia at her little house by the sea, he found her bursting with excitement. He received a telegram from her that morning and expected the visit to be boring, but the moment he kissed her wrinkled cheek – he felt her energy like an electrical wave. The sensation grew when he learned there would be no other visitors; he was summoned for a very special reason.

Something was in the wind, and it would certainly prove useful. This spinster aunt had a passion for psychic research, brains, and willpower; she was known to accomplish her goal by any means necessary. The secret was revealed after tea, and Julia stood close to him as they slowly paced along the beach at dusk.

“I’ve got the keys,” she announced in a delighted, yet disbelieving way. “Got them till Monday!”

“The keys to the changing room, or—?” he asked innocently, looking from the sea to town. Nothing brought her to the point quicker than feigning stupidity.

“Neither,” she whispered. “I’ve got the keys to the haunted house in the square, and I’m going there tonight.”

Shorty felt a slight chill down his back and stopped joking. Something in her voice and behavior stunned him; she was serious. “But you can’t go alone—” he began.

“That’s why I sent for you,” she said confidently.

He turned and saw that her old, ugly, mysterious face was filled with happiness. There was a glow of genuine enthusiasm around it like a halo, and her eyes were shining brightly. He felt another wave of her excitement, and a second, stronger chill came with it.

“Thanks, Aunt Julia,” he said politely; “thanks so much…”

“I wouldn’t dare to go alone,” she raised her voice; “but I’ll enjoy it very much with you – you’re not afraid of anything.”

“Thanks so much,” he repeated. “Er – is it likely that anything will happen?”

“A great deal has already happened, though it’s been covered up very well. Three occupants have come and gone in the last few months, and it’s said the house will stay empty from now on.” She whispered.

In spite of himself, Shorty became interested. His aunt was deathly serious.

“The house is very old indeed,” she continued, “and the unpleasant story dates a long way back. It involves a murder committed by a jealous stableman who had an affair with a house servant. One night, he managed to sneak into the cellar; when everyone was asleep, he crept upstairs to the servants’ quarters, chased the girl down to the next landing, and – before anyone could help – threw her over the rail, into the hall below.”

“And the stableman—?”

“He was caught and hanged for murder, but it happened a century ago; I haven’t been able to get any more details.”

Shorty’s interest was now thoroughly peaked; while he was not particularly worried for himself, he was a little concerned for his aunt. “On one condition,” he said.

“Nothing will stop me from going,” she said firmly; “but I might as well hear your condition.”

“You must guarantee that you’ll be able to control yourself if anything really happens – that you’re sure you won’t get too frightened.”

“Jim, I’m not young and neither are my nerves, but with you – there’s nothing in the world for me to fear!” She said.

This, of course, settled it. Shorty had no hope of ever being more than an ordinary young man; any praise implying otherwise was irresistible. He agreed to go.

By sub-consciously preparing himself, he remained in control of his fear for the whole evening; he imagined packing up his emotions and locking them away. The process is difficult to describe, but wonderfully effective; all men who have lived through severe hardship will understand. Later, it served his reputation well.

It was 10:30 when they left the comfortably lit hallway of his aunt’s home, and Shorty had to hold back his fear for the first time. When the door was closed, he saw the silent, empty street bathed in white moonlight and realized that the real test would be dealing with two fears. He would need to carry his aunt’s as well as his own. Glancing down at her expression – which was difficult to interpret – he realized it would not become any easier in a rush of real terror; he could only be confident of one thing – his ability to stand firm against any shock that might come.

Slowly, they walked along the town’s empty streets; a bright, autumn moon painted the roofs silver and cast deep shadows all around. There was no wind, and the trees lining the beach watched in silence as they passed. Shorty did not reply to his aunt’s occasional remarks; he understood that she was mentally preparing – distracting herself from thinking unnatural thoughts. Few windows were lit, and smoke rose from even fewer chimneys. Shorty was already noticing these small details when they stopped at the corner to read the name on the house; without speaking, they turned into the square and walked to the side that lay in shadow.

“The house number is thirteen,” a voice whispered. Neither of them said more about the obvious reference; instead, they continued walking in silence.

Halfway across the square, Shorty felt an arm slip quietly but purposefully into his own, and he knew their adventure had truly begun. His aunt was already succumbing to the house’s influence; she needed support.

A few minutes later, they stopped in front of a narrow, ugly-shaped house that rose tall into the night and was painted a dingy white. The windows – which were missing their shutters and blinds – stared down on them, shining in the moonlight. There were weather streaks in the walls, cracks in the paint, and the balcony bulged out from the first floor unnaturally, but the pitiful appearance did nothing to warn of such an evil character.

Checking over their shoulders to ensure they were not followed, they ascended the steps with confidence and stood against the huge, foreboding black door. They were hit with a wave of nervousness, and Shorty fumbled with the key for a long time before getting it into the lock. For a moment, they both hoped it would not open; they felt various unpleasant emotions as they stood on the threshold of their ghostly adventure. Shorty – struggling with the key and hindered by the weight on his arm – felt the importance of the moment. It was as if the whole world were watching through his eyes and listening to that grating noise. A stray puff of wind wandered down the empty street and rustled the trees behind them – otherwise the rattling key was the only sound. Finally, it turned in the lock, and the heavy door swung open to reveal a large gulf of darkness.


With a last glance at the moonlit square, they quickly went inside, and the door slammed with a roar that echoed through the empty halls. Another sound was heard, and Aunt Julia suddenly leaned on her nephew hard enough to knock him off balance; he had to take a step back to avoid falling down.

A man had coughed right next to them in the darkness. Thinking it could be a prank, Shorty quickly swung his heavy stick toward the sound, but nothing was there. His aunt gave a little gasp. “There’s someone here, I heard him.” She whispered.

“Be quiet! It was only the front door.” He said sternly.

“Oh! Quick, get a light!” she added as he fumbled with a box of matches and opened it upside-down; they all fell to the stone floor with a rattle.

The sound was not repeated, and there was no evidence of retreating footsteps. Soon, they had a lit candle and the end of a cigar case as a holder; he held up the makeshift lamp and studied their surroundings. Everything about it was dreary; there is nothing more desolate than a dark, forsaken, empty house, yet it was also filled with memories of violence and evil.

They were standing in a wide hallway; on their left was the open door of a spacious dining-room and straight ahead, the hall narrowed into a long, dark passage that led to the top of the kitchen stairs. The staircase rose before them, draped in shadows – except for a spot halfway up where the moon shone through the window. Its light was surrounded by a faint glow, giving the objects it touched a misty outline that created a haunted atmosphere better than total darkness. As Shorty continued staring, he thought of the countless empty rooms upstairs, and he longed for the safety of the moonlit square or his aunt’s cozy home. Then, realizing those thoughts were dangerous, he locked them away again and focused all his concentration on the present.

“Aunt Julia, we must search the whole house thoroughly.” He said forcefully.

The echoes of his voice slowly died away, and in the intense silence that followed, he turned to look at her. In the candlelight, he saw that her face was ghastly pale, but she dropped his arm, stepped in close, and whispered. “I agree. First, we must be sure there’s no one hiding in here.” It took her some effort to speak, and he looked at her with admiration.

“Are you sure? It’s not too late—”

“I think so,” she whispered, her eyes shifting nervously to the shadows behind them. “Quite sure; there’s only one thing—”

“What’s that?”

“You must never leave me alone, not for an instant.”

“As long as you understand that anything we see or hear must be investigated immediately; hesitating would be the same as admitting we’re frightened, and that could be deadly.”

“Agreed,” she said shakily. “I’ll try.”

Arm in arm, Shorty held the dripping candle while Julia carried his cloak over her shoulders; they would have made a funny sight to anyone else as they began their search.

They entered the big dining-room first – walking on tip-toes and shielding the candle to avoid being seen through the windows. There was no furniture – only bare walls, ugly mantel-pieces and empty fireplaces. They felt like everything resented their intrusion and was watching them with hidden eyes. Whispers followed them; shadows darted around silently, and it always seemed as if something were standing right behind them – waiting for an opportunity to hurt them. There was a sense that whatever normally occurred in the empty room had been paused until they were out of the way again. The entire building’s dark interior seemed to become a malignant Presence; it rose up, warning them to mind their own business, and the strain on their nerves increased every moment.

From the gloomy dining-room, they passed through large, folding doors into a sort of library or smoking-room; it was equally as silent, dark, and dusty. From there they returned to the hall near the top of the back stairs.

Here, a pitch black tunnel opened into the lower regions, and they only hesitated for a minute. With the worst of the night still to come, it was essential to search every area. Aunt Julia stumbled on the top step; their descent was poorly lit by the flickering candle, and even Shorty almost tripped.

“Come on!” He demanded, voice echoing off into the dark, empty spaces below.

“I’m coming,” she faltered, grabbing his arm rougher than necessary.

They descended the stone steps unsteadily; the air was cold, damp, and smelly. The stairs led along a narrow passage and into a large kitchen with high ceilings. It had several doors – some belonged to closets with empty jars on the shelves, and others led to horrible, creepy offices – each colder and less inviting than the last. Black beetles scurried around, and when Shorty bumped against a table in the corner, something the size of a cat jumped down – scampering across the stone floor and into the darkness. There was a gloomy sadness everywhere, and a sense that someone had just been there.

Leaving the kitchen, they went towards the scullery (where the dishes and cleaning were once done). The door was slightly open, and as they pushed it wider, Aunt Julia screamed; she instantly tried to stifle it with a hand over her mouth. For a second, Shorty stood completely still, catching his breath. His spine felt as if it were hollowed out and filled with ice.

Standing directly across from the doorway – facing them – stood the figure of a woman. She had messy hair, wild, staring eyes, and her terrified face was white as death.

She stood motionless for a single second. Then the candle flickered, and she was gone; in the door was nothing but empty darkness.

“It was only the beastly candlelight jumping,” he said quickly, in a half-controlled voice that sounded like someone else’s. “Come on; there’s nothing there.”

He dragged her forward, and they tried to seem brave as they continued, but Shorty’s skin crawled as if covered in ants. He knew by the weight on his arm that he was supplying the strength for both of them. The scullery room was cold, bare, and empty; more like a large prison cell than anything else. They walked around it – trying the windows and the door to the yard – but they were all locked. His aunt moved like someone in a dream. Her eyes were squeezed shut, and she seemed to merely follow his arm; her courage amazed him. At the same time, he noticed an odd change had come over her face – a change which he could not quite define.

“There’s nothing here, aunty,” he quickly repeated. “Let’s go upstairs and see the rest of the house. Then we’ll choose a room to wait in.”

She followed him obediently – staying close as they locked the kitchen door behind them. It was a relief to go up again. The moon had traveled further downstairs, making the hall brighter than before. Carefully, they entered the dark vault of the upper floors with the boards creaking under their weight.

They found two large living-rooms, but a search of them revealed nothing. Again, there was no furniture or signs of recent occupation – nothing but dust, neglect, and shadows. They opened the big folding doors between the two rooms and came out onto the landing before continuing upstairs.

They had not gone more than a dozen steps when they both stopped to listen, looking anxiously at each other across the flickering candle. From the room they had just left came the sound of quietly closing doors. There was absolutely no question; they heard the booming noise the heavy doors made when shutting and the sharp sound of the latch catching.

“We must go back and see,” Shorty said in a low tone, turning to go. Somehow, she managed to drag after him, her feet catching in her dress and her face livid.

When they entered the front living-room, it was obvious the folding doors had been closed. Without hesitation, Shorty re-opened them. He almost expected to see someone facing him in the back room, but he was only met with darkness and cold air. They went through both rooms and found nothing unusual. They tried everything they could think of to make the doors close by themselves, but there was not even enough wind to disturb the candle flame. The doors would not move without a strong force, and it was undeniable that the rooms were empty, and the house was completely still.

“It’s beginning,” Shorty hardly recognized his aunt’s voice as she whispered at his elbow.

He nodded in agreement, checking his watch to note the time. It was fifteen minutes before midnight; he wrote exactly what happened in his notebook, setting the candle on the floor in order to do so; it only took a moment to balance it against the wall.

Aunt Julia always said she was not actually watching him at that moment; she had turned towards the inner room where she heard something moving, but both agreed they heard running footsteps – very fast and heavy. Then, the candle went out!

Only Shorty saw more than this, and he has always been grateful for that. As he rose from his stooping position of balancing the candle – but before it was actually extinguished – a face rushed forward so close to his own that he could have kissed it. The man’s face was filled with passion, had thick, dark features, and angry, savage eyes. It belonged to a common man, but it was bursting with intense, aggressive emotions; it wore a malignant and terrible expression.

The air was completely still – there was no movement aside from the muffled sound of running feet, the apparition’s face, and the extinguishing of the candle.

Shorty let out a cry, nearly losing his balance as his aunt clung to him with her full weight in a moment of terror. Fortunately, she had not seen the face and was able to regain control almost immediately; after he was able to get free, he struck a match.

The glare chased away the shadows on all sides as his aunt knelt to retrieve the cigar case with the precious candle. Then, they discovered that the candle had not been blown out at all – it had been crushed out. The wick was pressed down into the wax – which was flattened by something smooth and heavy.

How his companion overcame her terror so quickly, Shorty never properly understood, but his admiration for her increased tenfold and inspired his own courage; for that, he was undeniably grateful. The evidence of physical force they had just witnessed was equally unexplainable. He immediately suppressed memories of hearing about “physical mediums” and their dangerous phenomena; if those were true, and either himself or his aunt was unknowingly a medium – it meant they were helping to focus the forces of a haunted house already at full-charge. It was like carrying an open flame among uncovered supplies of gun-powder.

So, with almost no thought, he simply relit the candle and proceeded to the next floor. The arm in his trembled, and his own steps were uncertain, but they continued being thorough; after the search revealed nothing, they climbed the last flight of stairs to the top floor.

Here, they found a cluster of small servants’ rooms with broken furniture, dirty chairs, cracked mirrors, and decrepit bedsteads. The rooms had low, sloped ceilings, cobwebs, small windows, and badly painted walls; it was a depressing and dismal area they were glad to leave behind.

They entered a small room on the third floor at the stroke of midnight and prepared to make themselves comfortable for the night. It was totally empty and once used as a closet. It was said to be where the infuriated groom had caught his victim. Outside, across the narrow landing, began the stairs leading to the servants’ quarters where they had just searched.

Despite the cold outside, there was something in the air that cried for an open window, but there was more. Shorty could only describe it by saying that he felt less in control of himself here than in any other part of the house. There was something that preyed directly on the nerves, wearing down one’s resolve and weakening his will. It took less than five minutes in the room to realize this, and it was during that time he lost all of his energy, which – for him – was the worst scare of the whole experience.

They put the candle on the floor, leaving the door open a few inches so there was no glare to confuse their eyes and no shadows to dart around. Then, they spread a cloak on the floor and sat down to wait with their backs against the wall.

Shorty was within two feet of the door; he had a good view of the main staircase leading down into darkness and the start of the servants’ stairs going to the floor above. His heavy stick laid nearby within easy reach.

The moon was high above the house. Through the window, they could see the comforting stars like friendly eyes watching from the sky. One by one, the clocks in town struck midnight, and when the sounds died away, the deep silence of a windless night fell over everything. Only the far away boom of the sea was heard as hollow murmurs.

Inside, the silence was awful; any minute, it could be broken by terrifying sounds; the strain of waiting was harder on the nerves. They whispered when they talked – their voices sounding odd and unnatural. The chill in the room was not completely due to the night air, and it made them cold. Whatever was influencing them slowly stole their confidence and ability to make decisions; their self-control was declining, and the possibility of real fear took on a new and terrible meaning. Shorty trembled with worry for the elderly woman by his side; her stubbornness could only protect her against so much.

He heard the blood pumping in his veins. Sometimes, it was so loud, he thought it was preventing him from hearing other sounds coming from deeper within the house. Every time he focused his attention on these noises, they stopped instantly and never came any closer. He could not shake the idea that something was moving in the lower parts of the house. The living-room floor – where the doors were strangely closed – was too close; the sounds were further away than that. He thought of the kitchen, with its scurrying black beetles – and of the dismal scullery, – but they did not seem to come from there either. Surely they were not outside of the house!

Suddenly, he understood the truth, and – for an entire minute – he felt as if his blood had turned to ice. The sounds were not downstairs at all; they were upstairs – somewhere among those horrid, gloomy servants’ rooms with their broken furniture, low ceilings, and cramped windows – where the victim was first awakened and chased to her death!

The moment he realized where the sounds were coming from, he began to hear them more clearly. It was the sound of stealthy feet, walking along the passage overhead, through the rooms and around the furniture.

He turned quickly to peek at the motionless figure beside him to see if she had realized the same thing. The faint candlelight shining through the crack in the closet door illuminated her expressive face against the white wall, but it was something else that stole his breath and caused him to stare. She wore an extraordinary expression – it spread over her features like a mask and smoothed out the wrinkles; with the exception of her old eyes, she appeared quite young again.

He stared, speechless and amazed – an amazement that was dangerously close to horror. It was indeed his aunt’s face but from forty years ago; it was the blank, innocent face of a girl. He knew stories about the strange effect terror could have on someone – it consumes them, dominating all other emotions; Shorty never realized that it could be literal, or that it could mean anything as horrible as what he saw now. The dreadful signs of total fear were written all over her face, and when she felt his intense gaze – she turned to him, but he instinctively closed his eyes to avoid the sight.

When he regained control of his emotions and turned a minute later, he was relieved to see a different expression; his aunt was smiling, and though her face was deathly white – the awful veil was gone, and her normal look was returning.

“Anything wrong?” It was the only thing he could think to say, and the answer was persuasive.

“I feel cold and a little frightened,” she whispered.

He offered to close the window, but she grabbed him and begged him not to leave her side even for an instant.

“It’s upstairs, I know,” she whispered, with an odd laugh; “but I can’t possibly go up.”

Shorty thought otherwise; he knew taking action was their best hope of maintaining self-control. He poured a glass of brandy from his flask – it was strong enough to help anybody through anything, and she swallowed it with a shiver. Now, his only plan was to get out of the house before her inevitable collapse, but they could not safely run away. Doing nothing was no longer an option; he was losing more composure every minute, and it became necessary to use desperate, aggressive measures without further delay. It was unavoidable, and they would need to show great confidence when facing the enemy. He could do it now, but in ten minutes he might not have the strength left!

Upstairs, the sounds were growing louder and closer, accompanied by the occasional creaking floorboards. Someone was sneaking around and bumping into the furniture.

Waiting for the numerous spirits to finish their work, Shorty stood quietly and said in a determined voice, “Now, Aunt Julia, we’ll go upstairs and find out what’s making all this noise. You must come too; it’s what we agreed.”

He picked up his stick and fetched the candle. A limp figure rose shakily beside him – breathing hard and very faint, she said, “ready.” The woman’s courage amazed him; it was much greater than his own. They moved forward with the dripping candle, and this trembling, white-faced, old woman was the true source of his courage. It held something that both shamed him and supported him; without it – he would have failed long before.

They crossed the dark landing, averting their eyes from the deep, black space over the handrails. Then, they ascended the narrow staircase to locate the sounds which were still growing louder and nearer. Halfway up the stairs, Aunt Julia stumbled, and Shorty caught her by the arm. At that moment, there was a loud crash in the servants’ corridor above. It was immediately followed by a shrill, agonized scream that sounded like a cry of terror and a plea for help mixed together.

Before they could move aside or go down a single step, someone came rushing towards them from above, taking the stairs three at a time. The steps were light and uncertain, but close behind them was the sound of a heavier person walking, and it shook the whole staircase.

Shorty and his companion had just enough time to flatten themselves against the wall when the jumble of flying feet reached their location, and two people dashed through the tiny gap between them at full speed. It was a midnight whirlwind of sounds crashing through the empty building.

The two runners kept going and were already racing across the creaking boards below, but Shorty and his aunt saw absolutely nothing – not a hand, arm, face, or even a shred of clothing.

There was a pause before the one being chased ran into the room which Shorty and his aunt had just left. The heavier one followed, and there was a scuffling sound with smothered screaming; then came the step of a single, heavy person on the landing.

A dead silence followed for half of a minute before they heard the sound of rushing air. It was followed by a dull, crashing thud on the lower floors of the house.

It was total silence after; nothing moved. The candle’s flame was steady, and the air was undisturbed. Filled with terror, Aunt Julia began fumbling her way downstairs without waiting for her nephew; she was crying softly to herself, and when Shorty put his arm around her – he could feel her shaking like a leaf. He retrieved the cloak from the little room’s floor, and they marched down the three flights of steps very slowly, without speaking or turning.

They saw nothing in the hall, but the whole way down, they were aware that someone was following them; when they went faster, it was left behind, and when they went slower, it caught up. Never once did they look back; at each turn on the staircase, they lowered their eyes to avoid the horror they might see above.

With trembling hands, Shorty opened the front door; they walked out into the moonlight and breathed in the cool, night air blowing in from the sea.

Classics Translated

The Phantom Coach

Amelia B. Edwards, originally published 1864; translated to Modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 

1

What I am about to tell you is the truth. It happened to me, and I remember it like yesterday despite the fact twenty years have passed since that night. In all this time, I have only told the story to one other person. Even now, it is difficult to overcome my reluctance to share it. I must ask that you avoid forcing your own conclusions onto me; I want no arguments or explanations. My mind is already made up on this subject; I prefer to believe what I saw with my own eyes.

Well! It was twenty years ago, and a day or two after the end of grouse hunting in December. I was on a cold moor in northern England with an east wind, and I became lost after being out with my gun all day. It was an unpleasant place to lose one’s way; the first flakes of a snowstorm were falling, and the sun was beginning to set. I shaded my eyes and stared anxiously into the darkness; a range of low hills were 10-12 miles away. There was nothing to see in any direction – not so much as a fence or sheep’s track. All I could do was continue walking and hope to find shelter along the way. I had been going since breakfast and eaten nothing since; shouldering my gun, I pushed forward.

Meanwhile, the wind was blowing, and it snowed with ominous persistence. The cold became more intense, and the night was rapidly approaching. My hopes darkened with the sky, and my heart grew heavy as I thought of my troubled wife sitting at the window – watching for my return. We had been married four months and spent autumn in the Highlands; for the winter, we traveled to a small, remote village near the great English moorlands. We were very much in love; when we parted that morning, she begged me to return before dusk, and I promised to do just that. I would have given anything to keep my word!

2

As tired as I was, I thought it might be possible to return before midnight with a little food and rest if I could find shelter or a guide. The snow fell and thickened; I stopped to shout occasionally, but my yells only made the silence feel deeper. A vague sense of uneasiness came over me, and I recalled stories about travelers who walked in the snow until they collapsed dead from exhaustion. I wondered if it would be possible for me to keep walking through the night; eventually, my legs would fail along with my resolution, and I would die.

I shuddered; it would be very hard to die when my whole life still lay ahead! It would be hard for my darling – she has such a loving heart – but I could not think of that. To distract myself, I shouted again – louder and longer – then listened eagerly. Was my call answered, or did I only imagine a far-off cry? I yelled again… and the echo followed once more.

Then, a wavering speck of light suddenly came out of the darkness – it was bobbing – getting closer and brighter. Running towards it at full speed, I found myself face to face with an old man and a lantern. “Thank God!” I exclaimed involuntarily.

Blinking and frowning, he lifted his lantern and peered into my face. “What for?” He growled, sulkily.

“Well… for you. I was beginning to worry I would be lost in the snow.”

“Oh, folks do get lost here from time to time; what’s stopping you from being lost as well if that’s what the Lord intended?”

3

“Friend, if the Lord intends for you and I to be lost together, then so be it, but I won’t be alone. How far am I from Dwolding?” I asked.

“A good twenty miles, more or less.”

“And the nearest village?”

“The nearest village is Wyke, and it’s twelve miles the other way.”

“Where do you live, then?”

“Over that way,” he said, vaguely pointing with the lantern.

“You’re going home, I assume?”

“Maybe I am.”

“Then I’m going with you.”

The old man shook his head and scratched his nose with the lantern’s handle. “It’s no use; he won’t let you in… not him.” He growled.

“We’ll see about that; who is He?” I replied, briskly.

“The master.”

“Who is the master?”

“That’s none of your business.” He replied abruptly.

“Well, then; you lead the way, and I assure you that the master will give me shelter and dinner tonight.”

“Oh, you can try him!” my reluctant guide muttered; still shaking his head, he hobbled away like a gnome through the falling snow. Suddenly, a large structure appeared in the darkness, and a huge dog rushed forward, barking furiously.

“Is this the house?” I asked.

“Yea, it’s the house. Down, Bey!” He fumbled in his pocket for the key.

4

I stood close behind him – determined not to lose my chance at entry – and in the lantern’s light, I saw that the door was studded with iron nails – like the doors of a prison. In another minute he turned the key, and I pushed past him into the house.

Once inside, I looked around curiously and found myself in a raftered hall – which apparently had a variety of uses. One end had corn piled to the roof, and the other had flour-sacks, farm tools, and lumber. Rows of meat and dried herbs hung from the rafters for winter use, and in the center of the floor was a huge object covered in a dingy blanket that extended halfway to the ceiling. Lifting a corner of the cloth, I was surprised to see a telescope mounted on a crude, mobile platform with four small wheels. The tube was made of painted wood and wrapped in bands of rough metal, and the reflective glass was at least fifteen inches in diameter. While I was still examining the instrument, a loud bell rang.

“That’s for you,” my guide said with a malicious grin. “His room is over there.”

He pointed to a low, black door at the opposite side of the hall. I crossed over, knocked somewhat loudly, and entered without waiting for an invitation. A huge, white-haired old man rose from a table covered with books and papers, confronting me sternly.

“Who are you? How did you get here? What do you want?” He demanded.

“James Murray, attorney-at-law. Across the moor on foot. Meat, drink, and sleep.”

His bushy eyebrows bent into an ominous frown.

5

“This is not a boarding house,” he said, disdainfully. “Jacob, how dare you let this stranger in?”

“I didn’t,” the old man grumbled. “He followed me over the moor, and forced his way in before me. I’m no match for someone six foot two.”

“Excuse me, sir, but what gave you the right to force your way into my house?”

“The same right I would have to cling to your boat if I were drowning – the right of self-preservation.”

“Self-preservation?”

“There’s already an inch of snow on the ground, and it would be deep enough to bury me before dawn.” I replied.

He pulled aside a heavy black curtain and looked out the window. “It is true. You can stay till morning if you choose. Jacob, serve supper.”

With this he waved me to a seat, and sat down to resume the studies I interrupted.

Placing my gun in a corner, I pulled a chair to the fireplace and leisurely examined this new room. Though it was smaller and decorated more normally than the hall, it contained many curious things. There was no carpet on the floor, and strange diagrams were drawn on the white walls; shelves were filled with dingy books and scientific instruments I couldn’t even identify. Beside the fire was a small piano – wonderfully painted with medieval saints and devils. Inside the half-opened cupboard at the far end of the room was a large display of special rocks, surgical tools, crucibles, beakers, and chemicals; next to me – on the mantle – was a model of the solar system, a small battery, and a microscope. Every chair was filled with more items, and books were stacked high in every corner; the very floor was littered with maps, carvings, and papers. My amazement increased with each new object I saw; I had never seen such a strange room – especially not in a farmhouse on a wild, secluded moor!

6

I looked at my host, asking myself who and what he could be. His mind was remarkably sharp, but it was more of a poet’s mind than a philosopher’s. His broad temple protruding over his eyes and abundance of rough, white hair made him look like Beethoven; he had the same furrowing brow and deep lines around his mouth that gave him an appearance of deep concentration. The door opened while I was still watching him, and Jacob brought in dinner. His master then closed his book and invited me to the table with the most courtesy he had shown yet.

A plate of ham and eggs, a loaf of brown bread, and a nice bottle of sherry were placed before me.

“I only have the dinner of a poor farmer to offer you, but I trust your appetite will make up for the lack in taste.

I had already begun eating and excitedly announced that I’d never had anything so delicious.

He bowed stiffly and sat down to his own dinner which mostly consisted of milk and porridge. We ate in silence, and when we were finished, Jacob removed the dishes. I moved my chair back to the fireplace, and – surprisingly – my host did the same; abruptly turning towards me, he said, “I have lived here in retirement for 23 years. During that time, I have not seen many strange faces, and I have not read a single newspaper. You are the first stranger to cross my threshold in over four years. Will you tell me information about the world I have been away from for so long?”

7


“Absolutely! Ask away; I’m happy to be of service.” I replied.

He nodded and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees; staring into the fire, he began to question me. He mostly wanted to know about new scientific advancement and how it affects daily life; he was completely ignorant of such matters. I answered as best as my limited knowledge allowed, but it was not easy; I was very relieved when the interrogation ended, and he began discussing his own conclusions. I listened intently as he talked until seeming to forget my presence; I have still never heard anything else like it. His subtle analysis and bold generalizations spilled forth uninterrupted as he drifted from topic to topic. From science to philosophy and from the greatest doctors to the greatest artists – he seamlessly transitioned from one subject to the next. I have forgotten how he linked each point together, but it went beyond what any man could know for fact. He spoke of souls, psychics, ghosts, and prophecies – of things that skeptics say cannot exist.

He said, “the world grows more skeptical by the hour, and our scientists have a fatal habit. Anything they can’t prove with an experiment or dissect in a laboratory is disregarded as a myth. What superstition causes them to be so stubborn about the possibility of ghosts? Show me any fact in physics, history, or archaeology that has such a wide variety of testimonials. There are witnesses of all ages from every culture around the world, yet the supernatural is treated like a nursery rhyme by the philosophers of our century. Circumstantial evidence carries no weight in the matter; regardless of how valuable cause and effect might be in physical science – it’s worthless here. A reliable witness – despite being conclusive in a court of law – counts for nothing, either. A moment’s pause before speaking is considered a sign of lying, and believers are called fools.”

8

He spoke with bitterness and sat silently for several minutes before raising his head. With an indifferent tone, he added, “I investigated and believed; I was not ashamed to state my convictions to the world. I was also labeled as a visionary, ridiculed by my peers, and laughed out of the industry where I spent the best years of my life. These things happened just 23 years ago. Since then, I have lived like this, and the world has forgotten me – as I have forgotten it; that is my history.”

“It is a very sad one,” I murmured, not knowing what to say.

“It is a very common one; I have only suffered for the truth – just as so many others before me.” He rose – as if wishing to end the conversation – and went over to the window. “It has stopped snowing.” He observed, dropping the curtain and returning to the fireplace.

“Stopped!” I exclaimed, eagerly jumping to my feet. “Oh, if it were only possible – but no; it’s hopeless! Even if I found my way across the moor, I couldn’t walk twenty miles tonight.”

“Walk twenty miles tonight?” My host repeated. “What are you thinking?”

“Of my wife,” I replied, impatiently. “She doesn’t know I got lost; right now – her heart is breaking with worry and terror.”

“Where is she?”

“In Dwolding, twenty miles away.”

“Dwolding,” he echoed, thoughtfully. “Yes, it is twenty miles, but… are you truly that desperate to save just 6-8 hours?”

9

“Yes! I would pay a fortune for a guide and a horse!”

“Your wish can be granted at a lower price,” he smiled. “The night-mail changes horses at Dwolding and passes within five miles of here; it is due to arrive at the crossroad in an hour. If Jacob were to take you across the moor to the old coach road – could you find your way to where it connects with the new one?”

“Easily – and gladly!”

He smiled, rang the bell, and gave the old servant his instructions. Taking a bottle of whisky and a wine-glass from the cupboard, he said, “The snow is deep; it will be difficult to walk on the moor. Would you like a drink before you go?”

I would have declined, but he insisted so I drank it. It went down like a liquid flame and almost took my breath away.

“It is strong, but it will help keep you warm. Now, there’s no time to spare; goodnight!” He said.

I thanked him for his hospitality and would have shaken hands, but he turned away before I could finish my sentence. Outside, Jacob locked the outer door behind me, and we were once again on the wide, white moor.

Although the wind had fallen, it was still bitterly cold. Not a single star shined in the black sky overhead, and there was no sound to disturb the heavy stillness of night except for the crunching of snow beneath our feet. Jacob – unhappy with his mission – stumbled ahead with his lantern in sullen silence. I followed with my gun over my shoulder – not wanting to chat any more than him – and day-dreaming as I mused over my experiences. Thoughts of the old man filled my mind – I could still hear his voice, and his words had captured my imagination; my over-excited brain retained almost every detail exactly as he relayed them.

10

At the end, Jacob came to a sudden stop. “That’s your road. Keep the stone fence to your right, and you can’t get lost.”

“Then, this is the old coach road?”

“Yes, it is.”

“How far is it until I reach the crossroads?”

“About three miles.”

I pulled out my wallet, and he became more helpful.

“The road’s good enough for walking, but it’s too steep and narrow for the carriages. Be careful near the sign-post where the bridge is broken; it’s never been repaired since the accident.” He said.

“What accident?”

“The night-mail fell into the valley below; the drop is a good fifty feet or more. It’s the worst stretch of road in the whole county.”

“That’s horrible! Were many lives lost?”

“Four were found dead, and the other two died the next morning.”

“How long ago did this happen?”

“Just nine years.”

“Near the sign-post, you say? I will keep it in mind; goodnight.”

“Goodnight, sir, and thank you.” Jacob pocketed his money, lazily tipped his hat in farewell, and walked away.

I watched the light of his lantern until it disappeared, and then turned to go my own way. This was now a simple matter; despite the darkness, the stone fence was easily seen against the pale, gleaming snow. Only my footsteps broke the silence, and a strange, unpleasant feeling of loneliness consumed me. I walked faster, humming a random tune or adding large numbers in my head; I did anything I could to forget the startling claims I heard that night, and – to an extent – I succeeded.

11

Meanwhile the night air grew colder and colder, and though I walked fast, it was impossible to stay warm. My feet were frozen, and my hands went numb as I clung to my gun. Breathing also became difficult; it felt as if I were scaling a mountain instead of walking along a quiet road. It became so distressing, I had to stop and lean against the stone fence for a few minutes. As I did, I happened to look back up the road, and – to my immense relief – I saw the faraway light of an approaching lantern. At first, I thought Jacob had returned to follow me, but then I saw a second light next to it – moving at the same speed. I quickly realized they must be the lamps of a private carriage, though it seemed strange that someone would take their own vehicle down such a disused and dangerous road.

However, there was no doubt the lamps grew larger and brighter every moment, and I could even see the dark outline of the carriage between them. It was coming very quickly and quietly, and the snow was nearly a foot deep under its wheels.

Then, the body of the coach became visible behind the lamps, and it looked unusually tall. I suddenly became paranoid that I had passed the crossroads in the dark without noticing the sign-post, and wondered if this was the coach I had come to meet.

I didn’t need to wonder long; it came around the curve with a guard, a driver, one outside passenger, and four gray horses – all wrapped in a soft haze of light which made the lamps blaze like a pair of fiery meteors.

Apparently this story has been added to numerous collections, but I think this is from the original.

12

I jumped forward, waving my hat and shouting. The carriage came at full speed and passed me. I feared they had not seen me, but only for a moment. The driver pulled over, and the guard – wrapped to the eyes in blankets – was apparently sound asleep because he failed to answer me or make room; the outside passenger did not even turn his head. I opened the door and looked inside; there were only three travelers so I got in, slid into the empty corner, and congratulated myself on my good fortune.

The air inside the coach seemed colder than outside and was filled with a foul, wet smell. I looked around at my fellow-passengers; all three were men and all were silent. They did not seem to be asleep – but absorbed in their own thoughts. I attempted to start a conversation. “It’s intensely cold tonight!” I said to the man across from me.

He lifted his head and looked at me, but made no reply.

“The winter seems to have begun in earnest.” I added. He was staring at me, but he never said a word; it was so dim in his corner, I could not see his features clearly.

Any other time, I would have felt – and probably shown – my annoyance, but at that moment I felt too sick to do either. The icy coldness of the night air chilled me to my bones, and the strange smell inside the coach was making me terribly nauseous. I shivered from head to toe and asked the neighbor on my left if he objected to an open window.

13

He didn’t move or speak.

I repeated the question louder but with the same result. Then I lost patience and pulled the strap to open it. As I did so, the leather strap broke in my hand, and I saw the glass was covered with a thick coat of mildew that appeared to have been accumulating for years. This drew my attention to the coach’s condition; with the faint lamplight, I could see that it was in the last stages of ruin. Every part of it was beyond repair; it was actually decaying. The straps splintered at the touch, the leather fittings were crusted over with mold, and the floor was almost crumbling beneath my feet. The whole thing smelled putrid – like it had been dragged from an outhouse after being left to rot for years.

I turned to the third passenger and tried one more question. “This coach is in horrible condition. Is the regular mail-coach being repaired?”

He turned his head slowly and looked me in the eyes without saying a word. I will never forget that look for as long as I live; it made my heart turn cold – and still does even now. His eyes held an unnatural, fiery glow, his face was as pale as a corpse, and his bloodless lips were drawn back to reveal clenched, gleaming teeth as if he were in the process of suffering a painful death.

My next words died on my lips, and I was consumed by a dreadful fear. My eyes had adjusted to the gloominess of the coach, and I could see much better. I turned to the man sitting across from me; he was looking at me with the same startling paleness and stony glow in his eyes. Wiping my hand across my brow, I turned to the passenger next to me and saw— oh Heaven! How will I describe it?

He was no living man; none of them were! A low, glowing light reflected upon their awful faces, and their hair was still damp with the dew from their graves. Their clothes were stained and falling to pieces, and their hands were those of corpses long buried. Only their malicious eyes were alive, and they were all staring directly at me!

14

I screamed a wild, unintelligible cry for help as I flung myself against the door and struggled in vain to open it. In that one brief and vivid instant – I saw the moon shining down through a gap in the stormy clouds, the ghastly sign-post, the broken bridge, the plunging horses, and the black gulf below. Then, the coach lurched like a ship at sea followed by a mighty crash – a sense of crushing pain – and finally, darkness.

It seemed as if years had passed when I awoke from a deep sleep and found my wife sitting at my bedside. I will skip that scene and tell you the story she told through thankful tears. I had fallen over a ledge near the intersection of the old coach road and the new one; I was only saved from certain death by landing in a deep snowdrift at the bottom. I was discovered there at daybreak when a couple of shepherds carried me to the nearest shelter and fetched a surgeon. The doctor found me raving deliriously with a broken arm and a compound fracture of the skull. The papers in my wallet revealed my name and address, and my wife was notified. Thanks to youth and a healthy lifestyle, I was able to pull through. It goes without saying that I fell precisely where that frightful accident occurred nine years before.

I never told my wife these terrifying events; I told the surgeon who helped me, but he treated the whole adventure as a delusion. We discussed it over and over until we lost our patience, and then we dropped it. Others may form whatever conclusions they wish; I know that twenty years ago – I was the fourth passenger in that Phantom Coach.

Horror Fiction

I Found Something Disturbing in Aokigahara Forest

🚨ATTENTION🚨

This is a Swamp Dweller exclusive; he owns all rights to this story and it cannot be used in any way/shape/form. Here are the links to his narrations on YouTube, Podcast,and Spotify. If you haven’t heard his work, I highly recommend checking him out! I’m (still) binging the podcasts, and he uploads so often that new viewers will be hard pressed to run out of content!

⚠️TRIGGER WARNING⚠️

This story contains much talk of suicide.

Hello Dweller of Swamps,

It’s strange to finally write this after months of meticulously crafting the perfect letter with which to grab your attention, but sadly those hours were in vain. It’s impossible to express the entirety of what happened without including some rather embarrassing details, but I can’t keep this to myself any longer. Hopefully, you can see past my mistakes and consider reading this to your viewers. There is no defense for my intentions, but I would like to conclude this preface by saying that I am a different person now.


My name is Parker, and I’m a 21-year-old manic depressive, bipolar, college dropout; I’m also a snob and all around asshole. This isn’t a cry for help – it’s an explanation. You see, I’ve been coming to The Swamp since 2018; it’s one of few pleasures in my pathetic life. Any tale where someone suffers more than myself is a treat, but here… I don’t know, there’s something special about the atmosphere; I’ve nearly convinced myself I’m visiting a real place. Did I cross a line from loyal fan to obsessive psycho? Probably, but listen to my whole story before passing judgment.

Eventually, listening wasn’t enough anymore; I wanted to “keep the show going daily” – to hear my words shared with everyone here in the Swamp! The problem? I was a boring nobody, and apparently, so was my family; there wasn’t a single haunting or stalker among us. Finally, I decided to create a work of fiction, but they were dull; even if you read them, they’d be immediately forgotten. No, if I was going to lie, it was going to be something memorable!

After trashing a dozen more drafts, the entire world stopped. My sister died, and I experienced real pain. The previous depressions were nothing compared to the new torments of daily life. Leslie was walking to her car after work when some shitbag just… grabbed her, but that’s not the story I’m here to tell; it’s only the catalyst.

I’ve always wanted to die; not in a ‘I can’t take it anymore’ dramatic way; in a ‘this is pointless and I don’t wanna’ passive way. After Leslie, it became the bad kind. Wanting justice kept me going at first, but when the shitbag went down shooting, that was gone too.

There’s a calmness that comes with the decision to die; the pain finally stops because it doesn’t matter anymore. It felt like my mind was clear for the first time, and I understood exactly what I wanted to do. Opening a new doc, my fingers danced over the keys as words practically wrote themselves. In minutes, three perfect paragraphs introduced myself as a adventurous hiking enthusiast; I explained my love for this channel and lifelong desire to visit Aokigahara – Japan’s Suicide Forest. It was far from finished, but a beautiful beginning.

Next, I bought a plane ticket (round-trip to support my claims), got a passport, and packed my bags. The plan was nearly flawless; I would write of my daring adventures, and when the audience was captivated with my unbelievable discoveries, I would deliver the clincher – the “returning tomorrow, will update soon!” Of course, that was never going to happen. Later, when my body was discovered… Well, you get the idea.

There was a chance details about my true personality would surface, but most people want the mystery; they’ll overlook a few discrepancies if the story is good enough, and I thought mine was. I researched the area to ensure no claims contradicted the legends too much and found the subject fascinating. In 2003, a record breaking 105 bodies were discovered; in 2010, over 200 suicide attempts were made! Due to the drastic increases, they won’t release the numbers anymore.

In the year 864, Mount Fuji erupted and where the lava flowed, Aokigahara eventually grew. Halfway up the mountain, one can see the forest from high above the treetops; that breathtaking view is the reason it was named, Jukai, or Sea of Trees. Unfortunately, the surrounding villages were poor and starving; it was common for families to abandon their elderly in the woods and call it mercy. Many of them committed suicide rather than face weeks of starvation and exposure.

This brings us to the Onryo – vengeful spirits capable of causing physical harm. Many claim these malevolent beings are responsible for most – if not all – of the forest’s deaths and disappearances; even experienced hikers tend to lose their way. Now, the public trail ends with ‘No Trespassing’ notices and warning signs. Those who are determined to die simply venture forth and do it;. if they’re unsure, they tie a ribbon in the trees to guide their possible return.

Sometimes, locals volunteer to perform suicide checks and know what it means to find one of those trails. In case you’re wondering, I took camping gear, but only to support future claims. We can skip the swank hotel, weird toilets, and actual trauma of public transportation. I’d rather jump to where fantasy and reality diverged.


Once I learned what it’s like to travel in a crowded city – I knew multiple trips were out of the question. Instead, I took everything on the first day. Finding reception at the bottom of the mountain seemed preferable to another round trip. Plus, it fit my narrative better – “I was just camping, but things were so scary I came down to send this!” At least, that’s what I told myself.

It wouldn’t matter why I went back afterwards – people always make dumb decisions in those situations. Let everyone speculate I forgot something, or maybe I was forced. The important thing was to steer them away from suicide. I didn’t care what went in its place – Onryo, Yakuza, Aliens – pick your poison!

From the moment I arrived, things were more difficult than anticipated. The insects were drawn to me like they smelled a foreign delicacy in my blood, and the weight of my gear increased with every step. When the trail split in two, I stopped for a much needed break. The signposts were in Japanese, but a passing elderly couple spoke English well enough to help. They exchanged worried glances after noticing my tent; I insisted my interests lay only in camping, but it’s doubtful they believed me.

I’m still in awe of the forest’s beauty; it’s amazing what nature can do when the trees aren’t cut every 10-20 years! If you leave the trail – even before the forbidden zone – it’s practically guaranteed you’ll get lost. I stopped for a few more breaks along the way and reached the end in roughly two hours. A small barrier with numerous warnings offered no challenge in preventing my entry, but that’s what marks the point of no return for so many.

My first glimpse revealed tattered ribbons of all colors and sizes blowing in the breeze. I worried my line would be too easily seen if it started within view of the trail but then noticed a uniquely shaped tree in the distance. Halfway there, a blue, uncut ribbon could be seen stretching into the dense foliage ahead; it inspired a combination of fear, curiosity, and regret. Turning back, I found a new landmark to the right; when sure no others were nearby, I started my own red lifeline.

It was a solid hour before I found a suitable place for the tent. It was the lightest available, but as the clouds gathered overhead, the choice felt regrettable. Not checking the weather is a perfect example of the basic things I overlook in laziness. I set up between two huge trees and hoped heavy rocks would help against the wind; there was nothing to do against flooding except hope it didn’t happen.

It wasn’t until resting inside that I heard the sporadic patter of raindrops and realized the trees blocked most of it. Luckily it never rained hard enough to be more than a nuisance, but the soothing sounds lulled me to sleep. Nightmares are a common theme in the forest’s legend, but that’s true for most haunted places. Regardless, bad dreams are ineffective threats against those of us intimately familiar with night terrors… as long we realize we’re sleeping.

One moment I was resting comfortably; the next – footsteps were crunching in the distance. I rose to look outside, fully expecting a deer or bear. My ears couldn’t discern how many legs it walked on – just that it was heavy. The sound stopped instantly when I unzipped the flap; taking a few cautious steps forward, I scanned my surroundings. It was then I realized Aokigahara was a serial killer’s paradise, but it was too late for new worries. Besides, I was there to die; if someone wanted to help – why complain?

I turned and felt urine stream down my leg. Standing not five feet behind my tent was the elderly couple from before… except now they looked like zombies! They weren’t ghostly apparitions but solid bodies! Their faces were chalk-white and peeling; the woman’s neck had a jagged red slash, and her husband was missing a portion of his skull.

With a sickly, rotten smile, the man – in perfect English – asked, “Are you sure you’re only here to camp? Is there anything you’d like to talk about? We’re wonderful listeners.” As he spoke, they advanced from both sides, and I stumbled backwards.

“Oh don’t be frightened dear,” his wife added, “We only want to help; we have a grandson your age! Or we did… until he left us to rot, the sorry, selfish bastard!” Her voice became deeper with every word until it no longer resembled a human’s.

I retreated faster and soon fell flat onto my back. Twisted roots and rocks jabbed painfully into my skin, but there was no time to stop for the stars dancing in my vision. The couple’s approach grew louder with each step, and their cold, iron grips would come any second. I flailed, desperately propelling myself backwards, but my clothes snagged in several places. Finally, when I thought my heart would fail from pure terror, I jolted awake to a loud clap of thunder.

Outside in the cool, fresh air, I noticed my clothes were soaked in sweat. Once changed, I started a fire and wondered at the possibility of staying awake for the rest of my life; having one of those dreams at night was something to avoid. A phantom-pain lingered from the imaginary fall, but as a lifelong hypochondriac, I’ve learned to ignore most aches and ailments.

In a blatant act of rebellion, my brain showed me awful things waiting in the forest – creeping closer by the minute. I didn’t care about the story anymore, but I was trapped. If I fled in the dark – every branch would be fingers, every animal would be demons, and every cold breeze would be the Reaper’s breath.

Shadows darted about in the corner of my eye, but I was paralyzed. The trance was only broken when a figure suddenly lunged into the clearing; I turned my head in time to catch a glimpse of a pale, angry woman before she vanished. Taking advantage of my regained mobility – I dove into the tent. I felt a cold certainty that’s what They wanted, but my anxiety grew in tandem with the darkness; staying outside wasn’t an option. I felt naked and exposed; countless eyes were watching, waiting… but for what? The whispers hinted suicide, but I wasn’t ready to admit I heard them yet.

Things were almost calm during the first hour; writing seemed like a good distraction, but it was difficult to focus. It wasn’t until accidentally dozing that I heard real footsteps – several. The firelight cast tall, exaggerated shadows onto the tent, and they grew taller with every step. There were at least six, maybe more; I thought they would force their way inside, but they circled me like vultures! Round and round they went, slowly, never stopping or talking, but – occasionally – they showed me things.

I could hear, smell, and feel everything; most husbands granted their wives quick, painless deaths before committing suicide, but sometimes they tried to survive out there. Either way, death always came, and the men were always furious when it did. Their rage and hate poured into the land, strengthening its curse with every fresh infusion of fury.

What’s interesting is how the same children who left them on the mountain were in turn abandoned by their own offspring years later. The Onryo never forgot, and their sons were greeted accordingly. The practice of abandoning the weak may have ended, but its victims remain – and they hate us, all of us.

The visions continued until all meaning of time was lost; my head ached and my eyes grew heavier with each passing minute. I had drifted off for only a moment when the sound of tearing fabric startled me. Inches from my ear, a long, black fingernail poked through a small hole, and I screamed in surprise. The finger was immediately replaced by a glazed, blue eye. Gripped by panic, I leapt away from the tear, covered it with my pack, and sobbed as the circling footsteps resumed. I stayed that way until dawn, when all fell gloriously silent.


There were no retreating footsteps into the forest; they vanished mid-stride as if never there. I opened the flap wide enough for a peek but saw nothing. The gray light of morning filled me with renewed determination; it was imperative to finish my business before sunset, but I was no longer sure what that entailed. Not wanting to trust any decision made under duress, I reassessed my situation from the beginning.

The real doubts began with my letter to you, Mr. Dweller. It was nothing compared to the nightmare of reality. After much soul searching, the file went into the trash bin where it belonged. When I decided to visit Aokigahara, no part of me expected to witness any form of supernatural activity; now that I had – it would practically be criminal not to share it with the Swamp, right?

Admitting I might want to live was too scary; that would mean returning to my miserable existence of everyday life. It was easier to postpone the suicide rather than cancel, but my priority was getting the hell out of that forest. My gear was packed in ten minutes, and leaving the tent behind was an easy decision; no matter how long I lived, there would be no more camping in my future.

Following my red line back to its starting point, I remembered the stranger’s blue ribbon. My intention was only to take a few pictures – for the story – but then it was clearly older than I first assumed. The chances of finding a corpse at the other end were extremely high. Seeing a corpse wouldn’t bother me half as much as a living person would. I could be like the YouTubers and claim it was to give closure to a grieving family – or that it was the right thing to do – but I was chasing a story.

After twenty minutes, the sound of rushing water alerted me to a stream beyond the cliff-side, and the terrain was much better for walking. The forest’s beauty, made it easy to forget the previous night’s terror and the morbidity of my current objective. Lost in another fantasy, I wandered past the ribbon and into an old campsite. A gray tent was flattened beneath a large tree limb, and personal effects were scattered throughout the area.

Initially, I worried a person was inside the tent when it was crushed, but that wasn’t the case. After a brief inspection of the belongings, I noticed a yellow ribbon leading further into the woods. The dead woman was at the end of a much shorter hike. She’d been there long enough for the rope to eat through her decomposing neck; the noose still hung from the tree, but her head and body lay separately on the ground. Taking a picture was horrible, but no one would believe me without evidence.

Her icy, dead stare gave me chills; I couldn’t look directly at her – only through the camera. With my finger over the button, I took a few more steps and waited for the auto-zoom. When the shot came into focus, I screamed and fell hard on my ass.

The woman’s face was back to normal – her lips slightly parted; in no way could she be described as smiling. Yet, when the picture came into focus, that’s exactly what she was doing. Her terrifying grin stretched ear-to-ear, her lips were blood-red, and her eyes were suddenly aware and full of hatred. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her or she might make that face again, but I desperately needed to see that picture.

After several minutes spent blindly running my hands over the ground, I finally found it. The sad, broken remains of my phone only displayed the soft glow of nothingness; we can fast forward past my tantrum. Without a phone, there was no way to judge time, but I knew it was early enough to be safely locked in my hotel room before nightfall.

When retracing my steps through the ruined campsite, I heard a strange, gargled cry – like someone was drowning – and instinctively ran towards the sound. Looking down from the cliff’s edge, I froze at the sight below. It wasn’t water flowing through the stream but blood and bone! Skulls littered the banks, and spines stretched far beyond my sight. My head began to spin, and I sank to my knees knowing another vision would soon assault my senses.

Skeletal Stream

Countless people jumped from that very spot, and countless more were all but pushed. I watched them in an endless loop; so many people – just like me – were surrounded by a horde of ghoulish figures taunting and poking them until they fell. Death wasn’t always instant – some only suffered broken bones; those begged for help until their heads sank below the surface. They were the same gargled cries which led me there in the first place.

I only returned to my senses when leaned forward, hovering at the tipping point. It was my own doing, but not my conscious doing; it required all my willpower to carefully lean back and avoid panicked movements. When there was a comfortable distance between myself and the cliff, thunder boomed overhead, and the sky was quickly growing dark. That’s when I remembered my laptop; it had a clock, but with a little luck – my phone would appear on the Wi-Fi options!

At first, I assumed it must be on American time – because why else would it say 5:15pm? The battery was over half full, but the power died when I opened the Wi-Fi settings. When pressing the power button, the light blinked and died. If it was almost 6:00, that meant I missed the sun’s entire journey across the sky while I was… what? What could account for so much time?

The answer hit me, and I almost lost the little food in my stomach. It hadn’t felt long at the river, but my muscles were weirdly stiff when I returned to my senses. As if confirming my worst fear, the bottom of the sun dipped just behind the mountain’s back and a long shadow fell across the land. That’s when the whispers returned, but it was hard to distinguish the outside voices from my own while crying in the dirt. “Kill yourself now; forget the story. You can’t spend another night out here.” No matter who said it – truer words were never thought.

After repacking the computer and finding my flashlight, panic finally consumed me; I ran without looking back. The headless woman would be there; there’s no way to prove it, but she would. A painful stitch in my side soon forced me to a stop. The flashlight wouldn’t have enough battery to last all night, but if I didn’t turn it on until it was pitch black – it should have enough power to make it to the public trail. The plan was to walk until the light dimmed, then start a fire next to the path.

If nothing else, having a plan granted me several minutes reassurance. I genuinely saw myself making it out of there and being a better person for it – like one of those life-changing experiences you see in a movie where the main character is an entirely different person at the end. All I needed to do was walk back to the blue ribbon; even I couldn’t get lost in the short space between it and the public trail!

The ribbon was gone; I followed it when fleeing the river, but it wasn’t there anymore. As if answering my screams of frustration, a violent wind blew, and a wall of dirt hit my skin like a thousand needles. Underneath the howling wind and crunching leaves there was another sound – whispers – floating to my ears off the cold breeze. They were secrets and knowledge, questions and answers, promises and threats – all for my ears alone! When the trees were calm once again, I opened my eyes in time to watch the last blue tatters fall to the ground.

Instead of being consumed by terror, I felt relieved… The whispers were pleased, and so was I, but immediately upon that realization, was the now familiar feeling of waking from a trance; those feelings hadn’t been my own, and the appropriate response of panic began in earnest. Thinking the trail must be close, I used the flashlight and kept moving in the same direction.

Fun fact: Walking in a straight line is impossible without a guide; you’ll always make a circle. Feel free to Google it; I didn’t believe it either, but it’s an interesting read.

I pointed the flashlight into the cluster of trees and took three deep breaths before proceeding. The light bounced with my unsteady movements, and the whispers begged me to look for their faces – to follow them home – but if they were trying to lure me right – I needed to go left; that’s when the old couple returned.

The moment the light fell on their rotting faces, I came to an abrupt halt, and they laughed at my fear. “You think he’ll wet his pants again?” The man asked his wife.

“Oh, hush, that doesn’t count! That was a dream… wasn’t it?” The woman teased.

“No telling, he was soaked clean through afterwards, who knows what fluids came from where.” The husband answered, and they both laughed.

My eyes only glanced away for a second, and my head never moved an inch, yet they halved the distance between us. Despite every conscious effort to avoid it, I yelped and fell once again. Standing no more than five feet away, they cackled maniacally while the whispers in my head turned to screams, “there’s only one way to end it!” They warned.

Consumed by panic, I struggled to my feet and ran around them while (hopefully) staying on course. When their wild, mocking laughter was gone, I slowed to catch my breath. Turning the flashlight off at that moment was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but every second of battery power was precious. In the dark, my breaths were loud and jagged; it felt like the sound would carry for miles.

As my heart began to slow, a soft whisper spoke into my ear, so closely I felt breath on my neck. “Come play with me.” It was a child’s voice that time, and before a chill ran the length of my spine, small fingers brushed the tips of my own! I frantically fumbled with the flashlight, nearly dropping it before finding the switch. It was on for only a brief instant, and immediately began to dim. As the beam slowly faded, faces began to appear between the trees, watching and smiling.

A whimper escaped my lips as I banged the flashlight against my palm – causing it to flare back to life for short spurts, only to immediately dim again. The pale faces in the forest blinked in and out of existence with the light – appearing closer with every flash, and the whispers promised, “soon!”

My entire system shut down; I collapsed and between loud, wracking sobs – apologized for every horrible thing done to the spirits in life or after. Somewhere in the corner of my desperate brain, I remembered the only paragraph involving “how to appease” an Onryo. They want justice; for many reasons – that wasn’t feasible here, not in the traditional sense, but I promised to share their story with as many others as possible. Then, I repeated it a second time; part of me hoped if I kept talking, I wouldn’t feel hands reaching from the darkness.

The words did nothing to appease the Onryo, but something appreciated the sentiment. The next time the light roared to life, it stayed on. Most of the faces were gone, and the ones that remained were beyond the beam’s reach. Rising unsteadily to my feet, I was surprised to see the clouds had parted; the moon and stars were shining brightly.

I wasn’t foolish enough to let my guard down; there was still a heavy tension in the air, but it was possible to breathe again. Forcing myself to move slowly, I turned in a circle, hoping to see anything familiar. On my third pass, I finally saw it; the end of a blue ribbon tied around a tree. The rest was torn away, but that one beautiful scrap remained; I ran to it – the possibility it would vanish was too real.

Halfway there, a cold, steel hand clamped around my ankle, and I face-planted, hard. If not for the mouth full of dirt and leaves, my scream would have surely woken the dead – though, to be fair, most were already awake. As I tried to rollover, a heavy weight fell onto me; it felt like a knee was pressing into the center of my back with two hands on my shoulders. My terror was complete; I couldn’t move or think. No air was getting through, and my vision was going black, but everything was just… blank.

I thought the distant voices were hallucinations until whatever held me down suddenly vanished with the appearance of multiple flashlights. Fortunately, the hotel manager was always suspicious of my reasons for camping at Aokigahara; when I hadn’t returned that day, he reported me as missing. The officials refused to start the search until morning, but the manager said he had a “bad feeling”; he’s friends with a few of the locals who volunteer there, and convinced them to come immediately.

So yea, I definitely owe that guy my life. There’s a lot I’ll never know about what happened out there, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since. What you believe is up to you, but I have a theory.

Suicide was viewed differently in Japanese culture; in the Feudal Era, the act of Seppuku was an honorable way to take one’s own life. It was most often carried out with a short blade to the abdomen – ensuring an especially agonizing death by disembowelment. There were a variety of reasons – usually to restore lost honor or to prove one’s loyalty, but the important thing is – it wasn’t the shameful, cowardly act most Americans view it as. They had a special name and honored traditions to show it was not for the weak.

Many poor souls were happy to die; they saw it as putting extra food in their children’s mouths and freeing their caretakers from an unnecessary burden. They expected their sacrifice to be honored and remembered – not forgotten on the mountain with their rotting corpses! So, I promised to remember – to pass their story on to all who would hear it. I think that’s why some decided to let me leave; not out of kindness or mercy, but a desperation to be known. I’m not sure if that conveys the profound life lessons I learned, but if nothing else, please try to be less judgmental towards others; not everyone is raised with the same ideals or opportunities, but we all bleed.


Anyway, that’s my story. Even if you don’t use it for the channel, I don’t care; the fact you saw it is plenty. Most importantly – thanks for all the shitty nights you’ve gotten me through. Whether you knew it or not, I think you might have saved a few lives when you started this channel. It’s not just that you provide quality entertainment; it’s that you include us – all of us – in every episode. You created a second home where all your friends are welcomed like family. I hope you knew that.

PS: Sorry again for being such a dick before.

Horror Fiction

The Last Settlement (Pt. 7)

Pt. 7 of the Settlement series. 

Now a CreepyPasta
The Cursed Woods (1888)

Hey, hey! Welcome back; come on in! The rain is pouring, and the fire is roaring; soon as we saw those storm clouds, we doubled the wood supply. It can do this all week, I’m just glad the snow is gone.

… … … You bet, friend – we’ve been watching YouTube since you left; the last phone didn’t die till yesterday!

… … … Fantastic, thanks for charging the other battery; it’s like having the ole geny back! That Somnium guy is incredible, isn’t he?! Can you imagine if we had sound effects for the journals?!

… … … Wait, you wanna what?!

… … … Pft, a guy like that wouldn’t wanna read my chicken scratch… would he?

… … … Wow, if you think he’d like ‘em I’ll give you a copy of Pappy Grant’s journal!

… … I wrote them… how else would I make copies?

… … … We have lots of spare time, and those babies are too valuable not to. Plus the originals have all the “thee and thou” nonsense; trust me – you want the copy. Oh, and we’ve acquired a few more phones since your last visit… do you think you could—

… … … Great, you’re the best kind of good people! Ethan, get everything together!

… … What do you mean, why? Why wait?

… … Don’t mind us; he’ll have you loaded up lickity-split. Oh goodness, where are my manners? Here, take a blanket; it must be fifty degrees in here. Later, I have questions about those CreepyPasta things, but for now, we should get started.

… … … … Yep, this was the last group; calling a bunch of outlaws “settlers” is a stretch, but ‘The Last Settlement’ sounds catchy, doesn’t it?

… … … It was a complicated situation; there wasn’t much our people could do. If they came here, they were liable to get shot; if they didn’t, the demon might acquire a body.

… … … Tonight’s tale took place in ‘88; we’re gonna mix things up and tell it from two perspectives. The first author is Joshua’s great, great grandson, Thomas. That boy was a wild one – born in 1856. He had a hard time choosing just one lady, but Margaret managed to settle him down. When was that, Trish?

… … … … That’s right; he did a bit of traveling in ‘91 and came home a married man, but we’re talking about his bachelor days. Most of his time was spent hunting and trapping, but he had a strong love for the written word. It’s a shame we were never given a chance to speak.

… … … The second author is me again!

… … We were a far cry from the stamina we have now, but I was able to write a bit each day.

… … Don’t get sidetracked; we can talk about how I got the journals here another night. Back then, I didn’t have blank paper… so I carved the story into the bottom of these very floors.

… … … I couldn’t write where just anyone would see it; you never know what people might do.

… … … I’m glad you asked! When the French left, we caved-in the basement entrance and made a home away from Breather drama. We made new rooms when we were bored, but they filled fast once we started collecting lost supplies.

… … … Yep, they could burn this place down and build a Costco, but we wouldn’t lose anything important. Hell, I wish they would! Can you imagine living under – not just a grocery store – the Supreme Daddy of grocery stores?!

… Oops, I rambled anyway; let’s get started before it happens again!


September 5, 1888

Those Cursed Woods have remained silent for almost ninety years, yet today the fishermen saw smoke rising from the forest. It was gone within minutes and likely from passing travelers; I cannot imagine any would choose to live in such an awful place.

Years ago, curiosity overtook my better sense, and I ventured there alone; the place was not fit for habitation, and conditions have certainly worsened since. Storms converted most homes to rubble, and those remaining lack roofs or walls. The ground is bare of grass, and if there are fish in that cesspool of a lake – I will eat my hat!

If smoke is sighted again, I shall accompany the Sheriff to investigate. Is it horrible to wish for the opportunity? Our town is dreadfully boring; any break in the monotony is a welcome reprieve. I have dreamed of holding the enchanted bow since childhood; it was used by my great, great grandfather, Joshua Cooke. As a boy, I spent many hours refining my archery skills – hoping to follow in his footsteps.

We should wait not one day more; that the demon remains confined is nothing short of a miracle! How long should we expect such luck to hold? Sleep will undoubtedly be elusive this night; perhaps I will begin the day early. If my work is finished quickly – I might join the fishermen after lunch… just in case.


September 6, 1888

My mouth has landed me neck deep in the muck this time; Father always says “show caution with desire”, and now his meaning is clear! I believed the Elders might be swayed to action if I were to… “discover” heavy activity at the old settlement, but the truth is far worse; even I hesitate to return! There will be a meeting tomorrow morning, and I am expected to recount my experience to all.

I traveled to Dirge Lake. Instead of finding a cold trail, I witnessed four outlaws and six horses; we should proceed under the assumption there is a rider for every horse – maybe more. I am exceedingly fortunate to have escaped without notice!

Bishop King and Kitty Bang (those absurd names) were recognizable by their wanted poster, but the other faces were unfamiliar. One was tall and fat with a shaved head; the other possessed dark hair and was quite young. They were outside playing cards and arguing.

It was difficult to hear their words, but there was mention of a bank robbery, and they have planned for an extended stay. We must all proceed with due caution – especially at night. The food is sparse in that area; eventually, they will need supplies, and we provide the closest solution.

We should locate the posse hunting these men; they have the necessary force for confrontation, and would likely welcome additional volunteers. News of the robbery will travel quickly; we would not be long upon the road before learning which town was assaulted. If I were to propose such action, the Elders would be obligated to honor a majority vote.

That concludes today’s findings; may tomorrow bring better news!


Last Cabins by the Lake

Now, let me tell you what was actually going on over here. Eight outlaws were laying low after a robbery down south; they started as ten, but two died during the escape. You don’t want to know what happened to the horses, but rest easy knowing we turned those six loose that very night.

Our home was a fortress compared to the rest, but they found two more good enough to stay dry. At first, we thought the woman named Kitty was a hostage, but that lady was pure evil. She was dating Bishop, the leader; he was a great chess player, but it’s hard to respect a man who can’t control his temper. The lovebirds stayed here while the rest split between those other two.

Dinky was only 17 and not very bright; his fire wasn’t burning five minutes before Fatso doused it. I’m surprised they didn’t hear his cursing in Jamestown. As for the rest- Red was half Indian, and a decent man; he wasn’t with those fellas by choice, but no one wanted to hire him for honest work. He had a sick mother back home and damn near got his head blown off for refusing to shoot at the posse; he wouldn’t trade one life for another, but if robbing white men facilitated medicine costs, so be it. That was hard logic to argue with in those days.

Marco was a middle-aged Spaniard with a bullet in his leg, and Hops was an old man running from a murder charge; he got shot twice – once in the shoulder and once in the gut. Flint was in his 40’s, obsessed with fire, and covered in horrible burn scars. He tied himself to the saddle after being shot in the back and wasn’t aware of his head wound until they stopped here. It was only a graze, but he lost too much blood. Even with a doctor, he would’ve died.

Splitting the money was the biggest problem. The shares grew with each dead body, and that was hard for those boys to ignore. Paranoia spread through the group like wildfire, but none would risk leaving; they were stuck together.

I didn’t catch the names of the two that died during the robbery, but one was killed in the bank; the other was shot out of his saddle and dragged.

… … … Oh sure, if your boot got caught in the stirrup… well, unless the horse stopped – it was a bad way to go. Alright, back to Tommy!


September 7, 1888

Men were dispatched to make inquiries in nearby towns. It is disappointing not to be among them, but no matter; I simply have additional time for preparations. Our town also holds stake in this situation; allowing others to blindly enter the Cursed Woods would be disgraceful and cowardly! They may not believe my warning, but it will save precious time when they witness something unspeakable.

I am equally disturbed by the personal betrayal from my own blood! After the meeting, my father distracted me while others retrieved the enchanted weapons! Apparently, I have not “matured” enough to be trusted with their location!

Despite this, they have asked me to carry the bow. While I am confident in my ability, the pressure of having a single arrow is overwhelming. When Joshua Cooke was forced to leave two behind – I did not consider how many remained; it was a foolish oversight, but my resolve is unshaken.

The weapons are even more beautiful than imagined; I cannot fathom the hours of delicate work required to produce such magnificent pieces, but the real mystery is what makes it glow. When in total darkness, they produce enough light to guide one’s way. Whatever magics are behind the effects would be highly desirable; imagine if one could eliminate the need for lanterns!

My brother-in-law, Douglas, will carry the dagger; he is a large, bear of a man, and if any hold a chance of using the close-ranged weapon, it is he. Of course, Mother and Margaret are cross, but our honor will allow no alternative. There are times when a man must put fear aside and protect his people. When I eventually marry, I do not wish for my children to be born with only a river separating us from hell!

Alas, that is all at this time.


Tommy didn’t have much to say that day, but I sure did. Do you need a drink or snack before we start my account of the 7th?

… … … … Oh, you’re right, it is louder than usual outside, but they always get like this when it’s so close to their… holiday.

… … … It’s nothing fancy – think of it as a reunion. They just kind of gather and… hang out.

… … Why does anyone hang out? They build a few campfires, chant a little, and go home; no biggie.

… … … Hmm? No, no, no – not “chant” I meant “chat”. We don’t know what about – we stay downstairs.

… … … Worry not – we got you covered. Those phones you’re taking have calendar alerts; it was the boy’s idea. All you gotta do is stay away that one night, and everything will be gravy!

… … … Hey, that’s what friends are for; now let’s get back to those squatters. The three of us made a game of it; there were no points, rules, or winners – only losers. Basically, we were creative when screwing with them, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t do most of the screwing to themselves! Although, Gale genuinely wasn’t part of the game; she dropped in of her own accord as she’s prone to do.

The three injured guys were sharing the cabin farthest from the lake. The others reasoned if the wounds didn’t kill them – starvation or bullets would. Food was too scarce to share, and if they were discovered, it’d be every man for himself.

We were planning to visit Dinky and Fatso, but we knew real trouble was coming when Gale emerged from the forest. You could tell she was having a bad day because her hair was in flames. She floated through the wall of the injured men’s cabin, and within seconds, the first screams erupted. She thinks every man is Trish’s dad. Honestly, Patrick was a wonderful father and friend, but he was a downright awful husband; the man couldn’t keep it in his pants – that’s what got him killed, too!

Anyway, we rushed in – couldn’t have been thirty seconds behind her – and even I was mortified! Gale was squatting over Flint – straddling his chest; her bones bent at sharp, impossible angles, and her mouth was over the man’s remaining eye… sucking. It was the worst sound we’ve ever heard; it took longer than you’d think, but soon, it was just another gaping hole.

With her hanger-pains satiated, Gale visited with Trish as if having afternoon tea. Hops whimpered with a blanket over his head, and Marco alternated between screams and prayer. Dinky and Fatso came, but too late to see a ghost; they saw the terrified, eyeless face of their dead partner and ran for Bishop.

The fearless leader didn’t believe in spirits, but he was pleased to have another man down. Kitty laughed; that woman had a bucket of loose screws rattling in her brain! When the arguments ended, the body was buried in a shallow grave and promptly forgotten.

Hops and Marco tried to warn everyone of the “eye-sucking demon witch” but to no avail. Despite their injuries, the men dragged their pallets into a shared corner and slept in shifts. The poor guys were so rattled they didn’t notice they were out of food, and I didn’t want to be there when they did. Instead, we followed Fatso and Dinky.

They were hiding in their hovel; it had four walls, but half the roof was caved in, leaving only the front portion accessible. It was barely tolerable for sleeping, but to avoid Bishop, they gladly endured the cramped, pungent space. Red moved into a barn loft the previous night. No one could access it without climbing through a noisy pile of rubble. It’s too bad he didn’t know what happened to the previous occupants.

Anyway, Fatso theorized they would be killed after the injured guys were out of the way, but that was slightly off the mark. Kitty only wanted Chubs dead. Dinky was easily manipulated, and that was valuable to her; there wouldn’t be a reason to kill him unless the food situation worsened – which is why Red was vital; if not for his knowledge – they’d all starve. Don’t misunderstand – they still considered him a deadman but after returning to civilization.

It was almost enough to pity the fellas, but then they swapped stories about their experiences attacking women. While Fatso was describing the final moments of a young lady, Trish was getting closer. The look on her face was worse than any Demon – wasn’t it, Ethan?

… … Trish went through the crate-table, stopped in front of the lard ass, and raised her foot over his Jimmy Johnson; we had to look away, but the sound he made! I’ve heard tamer death wails! He didn’t know what the hell happened, but Dinky did. For a moron – he had surprisingly good instincts when it came to ghostly business; it’s a shame he sounded like a raving lunatic.

The more he talked, the angrier Fatso became. It was tempting to let them fight it out, but to end the argument quickly, I pulled Dinky’s knife from its sheath and pointed the business end at his business. They ran out screaming – probably like those poor girls they were mocking – and straight to the Boss-man.

I would love to take credit for timing this to interfere with the couple’s mating ritual, but it was a happy coincidence. Regardless, their interruption was received poorly, and matters escalated quickly. In the end, Dink and Fatass fled as bullets sprayed the ground around them.

Things were mostly quiet until the early hours of morning, but Thomas has the telling of this incident – having received Red’s firsthand account. That’s another thing Tommy and I had in common – he had a sense for good people; he’d have loved you, friend.


September 8, 1888

I have made a new friend; we met after the noonday meal, when I discovered him emerging from the river. Here, I shall call him R; his mother is ill, and the cure is absurdly expensive. It is no wonder he resorted to acts of thievery; charging such prices for life-saving medication is simply criminal! If it were my own mother, what might I do? Of course, that is assuming he speaks the truth; think me a fool if you wish, but I believe he is. That he spoke honestly of his experience at the old settlement, there is no doubt.

Ignorant of its history, he slept hidden away in a loft. Last night, he woke to the piercing cries of an injured animal. His first thought was of a deer, but as the fog of sleep dissipated, he realized it sounded… wrong. As it grew louder, he crawled to the window and peered out. There, standing in the moonlight not twenty feet away, was an enormous buck with a coat black as pitch. Its tremendous antlers tangled together in the center to form a solid knot of bone; its haunches were slick with blood and deep, gaping wounds revealed the muscles beneath.

Head raised, it emitted another distorted cry as it rose to stand on two legs. R gasped in horror, and the beast’s head turned sharply in his direction. It came for him, but slowly; my friend readied his weapon, put his back against the wall, and held his breath when the creature’s heavy steps pounded beneath him. It knocked over his hastily stacked climbing crates and growled at the offensive noise, but luckily failed to understand their purpose. After thrashing about for several long hours, it finally returned to the forest.

At sunrise, R packed his meager possessions and left without a word to his former companions. Fortune favored us both that it was I who discovered him. In hopes of catching a thief, I paid special attention to the river trails, but imagine my surprise to see this lone, dark man crawling ashore! He hurried to conceal himself in the brush and watched the opposite bank carefully. It was curious he did not fear exposure from our side but his own. When certain none followed, he stripped his wet clothes. When his holster was safely hanging over a branch, I stepped out to introduce myself.

We each had valid cause for wariness and quickly agreed to move our discussion indoors. In no time, I found myself inviting him to the use of my spare room until he might journey home safely. As he held no stolen currency , there was no evidence with which to prove his guilt – or some such technicality. Additionally, there are no others to care for his mother should he fail to return.

There will doubtless be more to report soon!


I know what you’re thinking, friend – and any other time, I’d figure the kid was being played for a sucker, too – but it really wasn’t like that with Red. The only thing he wanted besides medicine was to be left the hell alone, and I think we can all identify with that to some degree. We knew he made it across the river, but not what happened on the other side. I had faith though, and I kept right squirreling away his cash.

… … Sure did! Every night, I took a little more from the stash and set it aside.

… … … Those banks had plenty of money; it only seemed right they should help an old lady.

… … … For whatever reason, we can take inanimate objects through floors or walls, but nothing organic. When Red left, I worried he’d never get the money, but it worked out.

… … … We’ll circle back to that – it’s hard enough to stay on point without the extra distractions. The outlaws piecing together Red’s disappearance was like watching those Three Stooges skits… except with more stooges.

Most didn’t notice his absence until there was no lunch – then he became the top priority. When he was nowhere to be found – Bishop decided to interrogate the injured. Marco and Hops gave exactly zero shits about Red, but they cared deeply about food. After a round of pointless arguments, all agreed on one thing – the man was dead; they couldn’t fathom another reason someone might abandon money.

The lovebirds stormed out – their concerns were eating and plotting an extra murder. You’d think the others would understand that and consider an alliance – but nope. Both Hops and Marco’s wounds were infected; the stench in their cabin was enough to gag a ghost, and the noises they made were inhuman. The men stood in awkward silence until Dinky and Fatso left.

They were imbeciles, but preferable to absorbing anymore death-rot. They surprised us by entering the forest to find vines and branches suitable for fishing; all we could do was watch from a distance. The resulting poles were an odd sight, but technically functional. I don’t know where they got the hooks, but if that lake still had fish – and only fish – they would have caught a few.

We kept our distance from the water but stayed to watch the excitement. Bessie – the baby Kraken everyone is calling a Lake Monster – is pretty tame when she’s full, but she’s wiley when hungry.

… … … Oh, I don’t know how long their infancy is; they’re extremely rare and live thousands of years. All I can say for sure is – we’re extremely lucky the parents don’t return.

… … … No, they only leave the ocean when giving birth. If an adult remained in a single location, they would throw the whole ecosystem out of whack. They stay on the move; towards the end of their lives, they’ll find a mate and travel to a place like this. The young are left to grow and mature until they can survive in the open – at which point they’ll naturally migrate to the ocean.

Yep, Bessie was plenty hungry that day. Both men were standing almost knee-deep in the water, and Fatso’s bait wasn’t in for sixty seconds before something nearly snapped the line. He pulled hard as he dared, but the branch was cracking. Dinky threw his own to the bank and rushed deeper into the slimy muck – wrapping the vine around his arm along the way; he was almost waist-deep when he called for a shirt – we assume to use as a net.

Fatso took two steps before falling backwards and losing his pole. We couldn’t hear what Dink was saying, but his lips were moving when it happened. The arm tangled in the vine was pulled hard; the kid’s words briefly turned to screams before being abruptly silenced. The water churned and grumbled, but the only scraps of fabric surfaced.

Chubs was out of the water before the last air bubbles popped, and he was promptly greeted by the Bishop and Kitty. They were hiding nearby – hoping to steal food – but were once again forced to reevaluate their plans. When shooting blindly into the lake didn’t yield results, the fearless leader really lost his shit. Without speaking, he walked straight back to Hops and Marco’s hovel.

Kitty and Fatso were trailing several yards behind, and froze in their tracks when the gunfire resumed. Bishop mercilessly emptied his weapon into the wounded men and ordered the others to “start cooking”.

… … … Of course they did, most people would. They had weeks before it would be safe to leave; as far as they knew, anyhow. I’m sure they would think differently if they knew how soon it was going to hell. Possessing no interest in cannibalism, we went home for a quick rest.

Fatso moved in with the lovebirds hoping to find safety in numbers. In truth, having them in one place made our lives easier, but they’d had a rough day, and we like to play fair; we meant to stick to the basics. After supper, there were loud noises and moving objects, but then the fat one started running his mouth about a teenager!

Her father was an innkeeper in Massachusetts; Fatso rented a room, hid in the girl’s closet, and waited. That night, he stole her away to a secluded area in the woods where she suffered for hours before he abandoned her corpse to the local wildlife. The way he described her desperate pleas for help was too much… I couldn’t hear another word!

I’ve always been a cautious man; this is a dangerous world, and you never know what’s lurking in the dark. That’s why – despite being fairly certain those three would die soon – I couldn’t stop thinking ‘what if’, ya know? When it’s a matter of whether someone’s daughter is safe in her own home, is there a sure enough bet? I don’t think so.

A knife was left on the table, and I picked it up before I knew what was happening! Time stood still, and everyone fell silent, mesmerized by the “floating” knife. With one enthusiastic thrust, all my worries faded. Mr. Fat’s dingle would now only dangle; blood sprayed the ceiling, and his screams were triple what they were when Trish kicked him… not that it was a contest.

Kitty hid in our old bedroom, but Bishop helped him stop the bleeding. We were surprised by his generosity until we realized he was keeping his meat fresh; there was no cool place to store it while finishing their Marco steaks. The mood was deader than we are, so I took a few extra bucks for Red, and we called it a night.

Is it just me, or do these stories get longer every time?

… … … I tend to agree, friend, a story can never be too long, but if you want to finish this tonight – we should get on with Tommy’s next entry.


September 9, 1888

It is a miracle R escaped when he did. Three hours ago, Gerald Miller returned with news that his fellows learned the posse’s location; all should arrive before dusk tomorrow. When they do, we can inform them that five men and one woman remain in hiding. With luck, we will depart on the morning of the 11th.

R wishes to join the manhunt, but it is too risky. One false move and he would go straight to the hangman! Though I cannot force him, I advised he remain as my guest until the old settlement is cleared. Prisoners are rarely taken alive in these situations; there would be none left to recognize him if he waited a few days more. For his mother’s sake, I hope he will see reason.

These next days will decide our very futures, and I have prepared a score of new arrows for the occasion. It is best to avoid explaining the uniqueness of our true weapons if possible. The dagger and arrow will remain concealed unless needed, and – though it was painful – the bow’s intricate designs are hidden beneath a coat of mud. The urge to clean it is almost unbearable, but it is a necessary evil.

Douglas has likewise prepared the dagger’s hilt, but it is not his primary weapon. Unless confronting the demon directly, the blade need never leave its scabbard. Margaret continues to hold anger in her heart, but I cannot condemn her feelings. The father of her children – the man they depend upon for shelter and meat – is leaving for battle and may never return. Our country has seen enough war… I was still a lad when it ended, but I will never forget what it was like.

Occasionally, survivors passed through and told their stories. Entire towns were burned, and people were thrown into the streets while their family homes were given away. Some stayed in Jamestown, but many wished to travel farther north. A few neighboring villages were destroyed, though we were fortunate to never see battle in our streets. Of all our men who joined the fight, only nine returned; fortunately, Father was one of them.

It seems I am drifting from topic. There is much to do in little time, my brain has amassed everything into a jumble. Hopefully, a good night’s rest is the remedy.


It’s been a long night, but we’re finally on my last entry!

… … Keep in mind – we weren’t sure if the folks in Jamestown knew people were still here, and – if they did – we damn sure didn’t expect them to know who they were.

On the morning of the tenth, Fatso was crying on the floor, and the lovebirds were arguing. There was no denying the place was haunted; Kitty wanted to leave, but Bishop refused. There was nowhere else to hide, and neither could enter a town without being recognized. Instead, he buried the knives and unloaded their guns. He did it as much for his partners as he did for us; men like that don’t trust their own mothers.

Then, Mr. Macho taunted us – he said without the weapons, we were no worse than angry toddlers! He spat at our “tantrums” – said to “do our worst”! Well, challenge gleefully accepted, dear sir! He’s lucky I didn’t have white glove to bitch slap him with.

Whew, that man always got me a special kind of riled. Anyhow, we couldn’t sit on our hands after that, but little did we know that Ethan already struck; I couldn’t have been prouder if he was born directly from my own loins! How he kept a straight face when Kitty said she was going to fetch the jerky – I have no idea, but I’m glad he did. Their reaction was priceless, but not knowing it was about to happen? Epic!

He went back the night before and stole their entire food supply – granted, it was already turning sour, but it would have kept them going for days. Fatso was barely conscious for everything else, but when Kitty screamed you could almost see his attention focus. For all the man’s faults – stupidity wasn’t one of them. Before that, there was a chance he could make it out alive; no matter how slim – it existed, but with the food gone, so was his last hope.

I can’t fault him for his logic. He was injured, defenseless, and knew the couple would kill for food. It surprised us all when Bishop cracked Kitty’s skull with a log, but he said it was only a matter of time before she tried it first. He couldn’t see it, but we shook our heads in agreement along with a wide-eyed Fatso.

Chubs wasn’t fooled; he understood it was only postponing the inevitable, but it gave him more time to think and heal. Based on the waves of pride and greed radiating from Bishop, we’re fairly certain there was an added factor of wanting to keep the largest meat source for himself. To avoid seeing what he did with his lover’s corpse, we stayed behind while she was dragged to the shed.

The moment Fatso was alone, his eyes searched the room suspiciously. It was a look we’ve grown to know well; every time we meet a skeptic – they get that look when gathering the courage to communicate. We sat next to him as he stared at the ceiling; they always think we’re floating, go figure. Barely above a whisper, he asked, “is someone here with me?”

I almost answered; one day, I’m going to whisper into someone’s ear just for kicks, but we held our tongues. If you let them think they’re in control – they’ll be nagging you for parlor tricks til sun-up. Of course, when we don’t answer – they assume it’s because we can’t, which inevitably leads to, “knock once for no and twice for yes” as Chubs did.

We gave him a few seconds to feel stupid and knocked twice; if for no other reason, it’s funny to see their reaction. Even when they reach that point – no one actually expects a response, and he was no exception. If he coulda heard us laugh, he’d have been redder than the log used to bludgeon Kitty!

… … … Aw, I’m sorry darling; I didn’t think it counted as insensitive since she was already an evil bitch before she died. You remember what she did to that lost couple last week, don’t you? If we wouldn’t have crushed those SIM cards before giving our friend the phones – a SWAT team would be breaking down their door tomorrow!

… … … Sorry for the interruption, friend; yes, that’s correct, Kitty still haunts these parts but she’s more Banshee than Ghost nowadays.

… … Whoa, that’s way too complicated for tonight, but you’ve heard about her new husband – remember Mr. Long?

… … Sure, just remind me to tell you next time. Now, let’s wrap this up.

Fatso tried to sell us his soul, his body, and anything else he thought we might want if we’d only kill Bishop and let him leave in peace. Under normal circumstances, we probably would have assisted in his escape, but it was hard to forget what he did to those girls; furthermore, if his injury healed – he wouldn’t necessarily be harmless. In fact, anyone he hurt from then on would be our fault!

So, as you can see, our hands were tied. I only knocked once to indicate our refusal, but my darling prankster of a wife added an additional knock. The fat man’s eyes shined brightly with false hope, and we had to smile.

Don’t think us too horrible, friend; Trish was already seeing people’s memories sometimes, and he told every one of those poor girls he wouldn’t hurt them if they played along. Plus, we had his victims to think about. With deaths like that, you can bet your knickers they were ghosts. That means part of their spirit was tied to Lard-ass, and they couldn’t have it back until he was gone.

His tone changed fast once he considered the deal made; he wanted us ready to do it on his signal when Bishop returned. When he came back twenty minutes later, Fatso unleashed all the aggression he’d suppressed since coming here. It was like seeing one of our books brought to life! We were on the edge of our seats, waiting for Bishop to snap, but he didn’t; he only stood there, silent and motionless.

At first, we thought he was letting Chubs get it out of his system before exploding, or maybe he was more concerned with his food supply than a mouthy deadman; then we recognized his stiff posture and forced speech. He was exhibiting signs of Demonic Exposure!

We didn’t expect them to go into the Cursed Woods. With the exception of the fishing attempt, Red was the only one who ventured in – and he wasn’t exactly the Demon’s type. Four out of seven dipshits were already dead, and damnit, that crooked pecker wasn’t screwing us this late in the game! If the Demon got its claws on him again, we were in deep shit.

Fatso’s rant wasn’t funny anymore; even we were scared. Then it happened – he shut up, but he wore a disgusting grin to let us all know exactly how pleased he was with himself. The tension was so thick we saw it as a cloud of black smoke. Bishop spoke in a quiet but forceful tone; he asked what suddenly changed to make the fatass think he was invincible…

Friend, I wish you could see the shit-eating grin Chubs had when he answered, but you’ll have to take my word for it when I say it was a gloriously satisfying display of Karma.

Fatso boldly proclaimed he was now our Master! Did he forget he was a blubbering mess thirty minutes prior? When we didn’t leap into action, our master lifted the bloodied log and yelled “catch” before throwing it into the wall. Haha, I don’t care who you are – that was funny.

Both men stared at the fallen log for several silent seconds. Then, Fatso cursed, demanding we honor our agreement, and Bishop retrieved the log manually. While they settled personal matters, we went to find Gale. The time for games was over – there was work to do before night came and lured the psychopath back into the forest.

When we returned with Gale – Fatso was no longer recognizable and Bishop was gone. We raced to the forest and followed a trail of his clothes, but we didn’t find him. He was naked somewhere; we’ve never been more confused. After Tommy’s last entry, you’ll see what happened, but don’t expect to understand why.


September 11, 1888

I have seen strange things this day. I would almost trade my very soul to know what transpired before our arrival, but I fear it is a mystery we will never solve. R was finally in agreement to stay behind, and our people returned with the promised company; All was progressing as planned.

We departed with the sunrise and made good time crossing the river. Then, we began the slow, stealthy crawl to the houses near Dirge Lake. There was no sign of the outlaws or horses; we feared they moved on but waited before advancing. It was possible they ate the animals in desperation – especially if we guessed their numbers correctly.

We watched for hours with no activity before the Sheriff signaled the first group to advance while we stood ready to provide cover fire. Five men raced across the clearing, and one was shot. We could not discern where the shooter was, and panic quickly ensued. The remaining four did not know whether to continue or retreat, and the hesitation cost another life.

Our eyes desperately searched every window, but we saw nothing. I felt a terrible certainty many more would perish before discovering their location, but then I spied something strange beneath a large oak tree. I did not immediately understand the blurry mass was man-shaped, but the longer I stared, the more details I noticed. It was the visage of a young man, perhaps a teenager, and he was pointing into the tree above him.

I’m not sure what made me trust him… I know it is foolish, but he had a kind face. I turned my aim away from the houses and fired into the treetops. A deafening scream silenced all additional shots, and I watched in amazement as a naked man fell to the ground. Correction – he wore chaps, a hat, and a gun-belt, nothing more. He was hit in the shoulder, but rose as if he felt no pain. As he attempted to raise his weapon, he was promptly filled with additional bullets.

We recognized the man as Bishop King and recovered most of the stolen money, but no other bodies were found; we fear the others have escaped. The visiting Sheriff has quit the search; they have recovered enough funds to ensure their people will not starve. I agree with his decision; surely their wives will as well.

There was a time not long ago when such an ending would fill me with disappointment, but now I am glad more good men were not lost. It is one thing to read of battle, but it is another to stand shoulder to shoulder with friends, knowing you or they may drop any second. It seems I still have much to learn, perhaps it is time to see what else this wide world has to teach.

Damn, the time! I wish to send R home with proper farewells and a gift for his mother; this journal is more demanding than any wife!


Holy cow, we’re finally done! The end! Alright, I know you’re ready to burst, but I ran my mouth too long so make them snappy. If I gotta fight the Demon over you – I will, but it won’t be with a smile.

… … … Of course nobody fought the Demon. We keep saying its still out there, and it’s unlikely that changes anytime soon. This is real life, friend. It’s happening now; we can’t help it’s not over yet. Did you forget this isn’t one of them stories with a neat little ending? Believe me, I wish it was; then some hero could come along and finally be rid of the sucker.

… … … Ah, I see what you’re asking. It’s all about territories with us. This house is our domain like the Cursed Woods is the Demon’s and the lake is Bessie’s; at night – the other ghosts roam about everywhere else.

… … … Ha, goodness no. The myth about spirits doing their haunts at night comes from the fact most prefer a nocturnal lifestyle, and therefore recharge during the day.

… … … Glad you reminded me! This is my favorite part. I accepted I wouldn’t get to share the money with Red, but this route was the fastest way for him to get home; when he came back – we left the cash where he wouldn’t miss it!

… … It gets even better! The following year we met Red once more; he was moving to Jamestown with his recovering mother! Isn’t that great?

… … Goodness no – he couldn’t stop to chat! He had to get that sweet lady into her new house.

… … Well, like I said – it’s just a theory, but we think Bishop went bat-crap crazy and hid. I’ll admit, we didn’t think to look in the trees; when you see a trail of a man’s clothes leading into the Cursed Woods – you assume the Demon ate him, what else can I say?

… … … Oh don’t worry about us, friend; you can explain CreepyPastas next time. We got plenty of new stories left to keep us busy and a slew of ones we want to hear again. Right now, our only concern is seeing you safely to that bridge and not seeing you again until the… festival ends.

… … … Look, I know we had some laughs tonight, but don’t forget how dangerous this place is. Mark the calendar in your phone when you get home, too; I can’t stress how important it is to stay away that night – even we couldn’t guarantee your safety!

… … … I never want you to think you aren’t welcome, but there’s no such thing as too careful around here.

You too, friend. See ya next time, and be sure to make me one of those Gmail things – it would be nice to have my own YouTube account. If we ever get internet out here, we’d like to pay our respects to Mr. Somnium and Family; until then I’ll leave to you to pass along our sentiments.

Horror Fiction

The Dying Settlement (Pt. 6)

Pt. 6 of the Settlement series. Now a CreepyPasta

It’s about time! Where have you been? Get inside, you can explain by the fire. Trish! Ethan! Look who’s still breathing!

… … Of course we knew you didn’t die here – we’d have heard about that immediately – but it’s a dangerous world out there…

… … … Hey, that’s not true! Those YouTube downloads were the last things on my mind… if you didn’t have time or something – it’s no big deal…

… … … … Sure, you can dump them right here on the table – let me clear a spot!

… … … … Sweet Cricket, you filled them all? What?!… That Dark Somnium fella has over 800 videos?!

… … I’m beyond words.

… … Oh, please, no; don’t apologize, I was only having a little fun! We know you have a life out there, and we wouldn’t want you missing a minute on our account. We’re happy for any time we have together, and I mean – look at this – another one of them big battery things too? You spoil us!

… … … At least winter is almost over; storms are one thing, but I think I’ve had enough snow for this season.

… … Maybe you’re right, Trish. I probably am just bitter about that thing with the snowman.

… … … … Nothing, friend, it was just a stupid ordeal with a horse and some pumpkins, nevermind all that.

… … … Anywho, we best get to business before the night starts slipping away. Last time, we read Nicky’s entries from 1752 – and eventually, I would like to show you his writings from the War – but for now, we’ll jump to 1801.

… … … Because those don’t take place here; I thought you wanted to learn about ghosts and the Demon.

… … Alright then – tonight, we read about the seventh bunch that tried to hang their hats in our humble abode. Even though the war ended in ‘83 – the aftermath weighed heavily on the country. You’d be hard pressed to find a family who didn’t lose someone in the Revolution.

Travelers passed through often; most could be steered around the Cursed Woods with warnings of bandits, but the occasional fool would disappear. In 1801, a French colony passed through Jamestown, but there was a language barrier in communications. They managed a few trades but failed to understand the warnings about Dirge Lake. To make a long story short – they settled right in once they found the houses.

The best account of their brief stay is in Joshua’s journal. He’s Nicky’s son; the man was smart – like his father – but he didn’t take to school quite the same way.

… That’s really all you need to know for now; let’s get started.


March 30, 1801

These people will bring disaster upon us, that is certain. While I find it difficult to imagine the horrors of which Father spoke – he was the most intelligent, level-headed man I ever knew. If further proof is necessary – there are the lovely homes which stood untouched for decades! For such things to go unused – there is no doubt something must be horribly amiss. Yet, these people have moved in as if all were built for their use!

Our predecessors should have burned every last one to the ground. Now that I am the Sheriff – it is my responsibility, but I cannot act alone. Leah wishes for me to deputize her brother… though, he is more likely to shoot friend than foe; Larry has less sense than a headless goat…

I intend to deputize men, but I shall decide who after speaking with Mark. A perk of being the Mayor’s cousin is knowing which issues to press. If he helps to disperse the settlers – he will have the people’s good graces by default!

Today, I traveled alone to avoid an inconvenient misconception, though it seems to be unavoidable. They feigned complete ignorance at my words, yet understood we wished them gone. Clearly, our reasons were misjudged… but I cannot express “Demons will eat thee” in French… I can barely manage it in English! Even so, they would think me a madman; such matters require personal experience to appreciate.

Their mayor – or whatever their term for the position – made earnest attempts at bribery, but I dared not reinforce the skewed context of our unwelcome. There is a preacher among them… it may be beneficial to include Father Caleb in our next venture. He might yet convince them we harbor no malicious intent; that alone would be considerable progress.

One cannot help but pity the small, desperate bunch. They have clearly faced much adversity and wish to live in peace… but that is not the place to do so. The war has left too many ghost towns across the country. Instead of approaching such a place with due caution, they assume it was abandoned during battle. If only they understood our language… perhaps then…

Alas, such thoughts will drive me mad in earnest. It was a long day, and tomorrow will likely be longer. Nothing more can be done this night; it is time I retire.


March 31, 1801

Wallace has taken ill again; the doctor is on the way. My pacing drives poor Leah to the brink of insanity; this journal may be the only thing capable of keeping me still. Tomorrow, my son’s eighth birthday will be his third spent sick in bed. My heart breaks anew with each inquiry as to why he must suffer these spells; he is unaware that I, too, have screamed that very question to the skies.

I must not dwell on sorrows or I may falter in my duties. For my family and town – I must trust Doctor Eli to his profession and focus upon my own. If a settler succumbs to the Demon – more than one child’s life will be at stake.

Our family buried the Shaman’s special weapons when the war began. The location is known to few, and it requires much effort to access, but Mark and I have done so. Each item was individually wrapped with great care and mesmerizing to behold. Even the arrows are decorated with intricate carvings and seem to exude a faint glow. It is no wonder such precautions were taken in their concealment.

Afterwards, we asked John Baker, Melvin Barclay, and Douglas Smith to serve as deputies while Dirge Lake remains inhabited. Together, the five of us – along with Father Caleb – paid our new neighbors a visit. If not for the sparse livestock roaming about, we might have believed the place already abandoned; instead, it appeared as if they hid at first sight of our approach. Under closer inspection – stirring movements could be seen behind curtains as they watched from the shadows.

We offered gifts – I fed a curious dog – but no one would speak with us. The hike would be a simple matter if not for the river, but without a bridge, it is terribly inconvenient. When we could wait not one minute closer to nightfall, we resigned to leave a message among the gifts. If they are able to translate our words – they will know themselves welcome among us. For now, that is all we can do.

Damn, where is that Doctor? What else is there to write?… Ah!

I was rather surprised by the land itself; I expected the ‘beautifully gloomy’ forest as described by Father, but it was not so. The trees – though impossibly large – were long dead, and the lake was simply putrid… it would be shocking to find life in those waters. Then there was that smell – so terrible our clothes required burning! How desperately I wish to convey that stench through ink and paper! Like rotten eggs and molded cheese cooked in a chamber pot!

Finally! The Doctor has arrived!


… One minute, friend; let Trish fix you a drink while I find the next relevant entry.

… … … We’ve come across new supplies since your last visit; don’t be shy – go have a look. You’re welcome to anything that strikes your fancy.

… … … … …

… Excellent timing; I’m glad you found refreshments; we’re ready to continue when you are.

… … … Yea, Wallace was a sad story. They’d probably know what to do for him nowadays, but nobody had a clue back then. Sometimes the kid was fine; sometimes he was sick for weeks. Josh and Leah took him to the best doctors in the country – which was hard as hell – but the kid didn’t make it to sixteen…

… … … Unfortunately, his story was common for those times… but for the years he did live – he lived well.

… … … Funny you should ask; that’s what we’re about to find out! When Josh and those boys were standing around holding their wankers, I was screaming some sense into them. More than a handful of those assholes understood English just fine, but they thought they were being set-up to pay protection money.

… … Sure did – they used another word for it, but that’s what it boiled down to. If only they would have listened for a minute…

… … … Well, we couldn’t understand most of what they said. Being a ghost doesn’t make you multilingual… but they were frightened. There were only a few dozen of them and most of those were women and children.

… … Settle down – you have more questions than a virgin on prom night – and less patience too!


April 8, 1801

It has finally happened. Tensions grew thicker each day until we were suffocating under the weight of wonder and speculation. A pathetic excuse of a man wandered into town this afternoon. If not for his wife and children – he may have been turned away; that’s how great our fury was at the sound of his English words. The previously feigned ignorance served to avoid unpleasant conversation; though, I fear they are paying an unexpectedly high price.

Lucien and his family fled without telling a soul; surely they are assumed dead. If his words can be believed – life has been unkind to our neighbors. Food is scarce; no vegetation grows, the lake is too toxic to support life, and the wells have run dry. Hunting provides their only resources, but soon, that too will be exhausted. Even more troubling – as their desperation increases, they will travel deeper into the Cursed Woods.

I cannot fathom how one experiences the horrors of last night and abandons his fellows, but when discussing plans to cross the river at dawn – Lucien made clear his refusal to accompany us! Instead of filling these pages with my disgust for cowards, I will detail the events which caused our new friend to flee. I am unsure as to the accuracy of his claims, but I will record the account as he relayed it.

The family moved into a secluded farmhouse while the others clustered around the lake. Lucien planned to fill the outlying homes with his children and thereby retain ownership of all future crops; unfortunately, it also ensured no one would hear them scream.

They were on edge for some days before fleeing; heavy footsteps traversed the porch at all hours, yet no one was there when checked. On multiple occasions, the children saw grotesque figures looking into the windows only to disappear when approached. Last night – after a bit too much to drink – the eldest sons were sent to investigate a sighting with rifles; moments later, the first cry was heard.

The following wails of terror blended together with gunshots in a concert of chaos. Lucien and another son – Lucas – rushed to lend aid. Pausing on the porch, they saw one of the boys being dragged into the brush. He screamed until his head disappeared – at which point he was abruptly silenced…

Lucas hurried forward, but seeing no sign of the other son, Lucien dragged him back. Barring the door over his family’s protests, the man knew both boys were lost. For the remainder of the night, the family stayed awake, weeping and waiting for dawn.

Only after they were safely away did Lucien turn back to inspect the place he last saw his eldest child. Following a trail of blood, he saw shredded clothing and skin littered across the forest floor. He felt compelled to continue despite the trees rapidly closing in around him; with each step, the foliage grew denser, and his feet tangled deeper into the weeds. Finally, the sight of something hanging from a low branch stole his attention.

When only a few, short feet remained between Lucien and the object – his stomach violently purged itself. If there was any suspicion of the culprit being a wild animal – such delusions were shattered at the sight of the young lad’s head swinging in the breeze. Why anyone – monster or otherwise – would do such a heinous thing is beyond my understanding.

It is unknown how long the father stood there, but when he attempted to leave, his feet were held in place. Weeds wound tightly around his ankles, and thorns bit into his skin as they continued to grow! Lucien had no desire to see more. A blade made quick work of the issue, but without the knife, things may have ended poorly.

Once released from the woodland’s clutches, Lucien followed the bloody trail back to freedom but not without difficulty. He felt as if a thousand eyes were watching – relishing his anguish. Overcome with a dark certainty it would mean death – he never turned back. He ignored temptation by concentrating on the cold, wet sweat drenching his clothes.

I was raised with knowledge of the Cursed Woods and how – one day – brave warriors would defeat the Demon with tools acquired by our ancestors. I never wished to count myself among their numbers, but I fear the matter is beyond my control. This train of events was set in motion long ago, and there is little I can do to alter its track.

This evening, we gathered for a town meeting; we cannot ignore what is happening across the river. Too many lives are at risk to ‘sit back and wait’ as so many before us chose to do. The cycle must stop! Tomorrow we will finalize our strategies and make necessary preparations; Friday, we shall return to Dirge Lake.


April 9, 1801

Everything is prepared for our departure at first light; In the event I fail to return, I wish to leave a detailed record of our intentions. Those of us who will cross the river were given the Demon’s true name. Though I cannot commit it to paper, I can confirm my predecessors did not exaggerate its complexity. Our alphabet simply does not contain letters capable of producing the necessary sounds.

Lucien has agreed to join us… I will not dwell on the man’s aversion to common decency, but instead, on the possibility of his brethren’s assistance. The meeting began at noon and ended almost five hours later; I could fill these pages with the protests alone if time permitted. When we adjourned – it was with a total of seven volunteers. I was personally disheartened, but Father Caleb insists it is a holy number and sign from God.

Most men have taken comfort in those words, so I do not speak out… but they are meaningless. We are mere mortals embarking on a fool’s quest to slay a Demon; although it sounds like a fanciful theater play, it is a deadly serious matter! I would not be put at ease by 100 men, but seven are too few to even make the attempt!

Mark, Lucien, Father Caleb, and my three deputies enjoyed dinner with their families while I attempted to do the same. Afterwards, we met here to refine tomorrow’s plan – which was surprisingly straightforward compared to the circus of our previous gathering.

We read of our ancestor’s mistakes, hoping for guidance toward success, or rather, away from total failure. Part of me fears my body will refuse to rise from bed; the dread I feel is almost unbearable. We are hopeful more men will join us upon reaching the lake, but we cannot depend on uncertainties – especially where Lucien is involved.

We held a mock archery contest to determine who would carry the bow, and sadly, the “honor” is thine own. Mark cannot wield the dagger for his hands shook violently at the mere suggestion. Douglas shall carry it in his stead, and the others will form a perimeter while I loose the arrows.

In theory, it does not sound terribly difficult – but once face-to-face with the Demon – within a dark forest – our true mettle will be weighed. Personally, I expect each man to promptly wet his underclothes – myself included. The most difficult part will be living long enough to make the shot; time for a second round would cost dearly. When Timothy Cooke hit the creature, two men were killed before his arrow could fly… and the demon is sure to be stronger all these years later!

My deepest regret is the pain this causes Leah; I detest seeing my family sick with worry. If someone were capable of taking my place, I would gladly allow it, but there is no alternative. In case the worst should happen – I have prepared a series of letters; with luck, I anticipate burning them upon my return.

It is odd to think these few, short paragraphs are capable of sharing my sentiments long after I am gone from this world… it sounds absurd, does it not? I long to know how far into the future these words might speak, to know who’s ears they might reach, or on whose tongue they might dance.

Perhaps I should retire now, before my mind cracks from philosophical strain; I will need every moment’s rest for tomorrow’s endeavors.


… … How ya doing over there, friend? Need anything before the next part? You won’t want to stop after this, trust me!

… … … There really isn’t time to tell you about the snowman thing.

… … … Shush, Ethan! You watch yourself or I’ll have you back to kicking potatoes!

… Haha, nothing, just an old ghost joke. Way back – potatoes grew all over this place; when we were learning our spooky ways, we used ‘em for practice. You know… by kicking them. We made a game out of it – fun times.

… … … You never fail to impress, friend! Those are good instincts warning you about Lucien; his story did sound fishy, didn’t it? Almost as if some important bits were left out…

… … … Well, if you’re ready to proceed, maybe you’ll find out, eh?

… … … Okey dokey, then, here we go!


April 11, 1801

As I sit with quill poised, I cannot decide how to begin. So much has happened… it seems strange to sit calmly, writing at my desk after watching good men perish. It has left me feeling that I, too, was meant to die; what right have I to survive?!

Yes, believing we stood any chance against a Demon was idiocy, but believing we would receive help from the settlers was utter lunacy. They remained hidden until Lucien made himself known; then we were promptly greeted by an angry mob.

They did not assume the family dead – in fact, they were unaware of any absence. A day without Lucien’s presence was considered a blessing, but many mourned the loss of his boys; I can only assume they did not inherit their father’s character. Our hearts broke for the elder son’s fiancé; I regret she could not learn of the news in a more delicate setting.

We were taken into the church where our plans were discussed at length, but none volunteered to assist. The gathering was not a total failure; we did learn our friend’s true reasons for returning and of the settlers’ recent struggles.

Lucien wished to return to his people and live in a house near the lake; he never intended to venture into the forest – only to acquire safe passage home. Had he received the expected welcome – his immediate desertion would have followed; he is clearly despised by all. Having nowhere to go, he was forced to stay in our company.

Pierre DuPont attended University in New York and speaks English fluently; it was he who spoke for his people when they shared their own tribulations. Most suffer from horrible nightmares, but were too embarrassed to come forth until prompted. It is possible the disappearing livestock and work accidents were natural occurrences, but when considered with other matters – one tends to wonder.

People of all ages were displaying unusual behavior; some were withdrawn and sullen while others were loud and violent. Knowing the possible dangers they faced – we shared all we know. At mention of Mister Long, a portly woman rushed forward with a small child.

Maria Dubois is six and began speaking to her imaginary friend on her third night in the home. At first, he was kind, and they played innocent children’s games. As things progressed, the girl’s parents noticed increasingly peculiar activities; on several occasions, their daughter was discovered muttering gibberish while standing in the corner of her room. When asked, she said it was a game; she repeated every word Mister Long said , exactly as he said it. The poor child believed she was learning Latin.

Two nights ago, Maria murdered her father in his sleep, and she has not spoken a word since. Mrs. Dubois woke to see her husband gasp his last breath and her daughter holding a blood-stained knife. There was no time for thought; she was forced to process the scene in an instant as the child moved closer – blade raised to strike.

Mrs. Dubois acted quickly and decisively – I genuinely admire the woman. She subdued Maria by throwing a quilt over the child’s head and using a pillow for a shield! The girl was tied in a soft bundle until morning; once released, she remained in the stupefied state we were currently witnessing. I may suffer a naturally cynical perspective, but Mrs. Dubois was hopelessly blinded by her motherly perspective.

Behind Maria’s gleaming, brown eyes, there was an old soul. When all attention returned to our group, the facade slipped from her face. The lost, frightened girl was gone, and what remained could hardly be described as human. For a short instant, her eyes were yellow and askew – paired with the sudden paleness of her complexion, it was enough to render me speechless.

How does a man stand before his peers to proclaim a six-year-old possessed? I would appear mad – pointing, screaming, “Monster” at a small girl! Perhaps that was its hope – to provoke a hasty response. Moreover, the mask of innocence was restored as quickly as it vanished, and there was little chance it would slip again.

Nine people were lost in the forest before further search attempts were forbidden, and a child was recently dragged into the water. Earlier sightings of the lake monster describe it as gray in color, yet now several witnesses claim its tentacles were distinctly purple. Was it always so? Or is there more than one? Perhaps the same beast changed colors over the years; we cannot be certain.

It is hard to believe so much has happened in so few days. I felt compelled to ask why they stayed after surviving such horrific circumstances; they simply have nowhere else to go. After two years of roaming the countryside and falling victim to the perils of such a life – they simply wished to stop. They attempted to settle other lands, but were forced to leave in each instance.

The hour grows late, and my eyes struggle to remain open, but I dare not leave this account untold; death stalks in every shadow – of that you can be certain. Even my own home no longer feels safe; I see danger in every face, hear deceit in every voice – where does it end? Will life ever feel normal again?

I was speaking aloud again… Leah woke and came to calm me; Now, it is time to finish this account and hurry to bed; I must rise with the sun once again.

Conversing with the Frenchmen lasted longer than expected; it was almost 2:00 when we entered the forest. We seven men were a pitiful sight amongst the vast expanse of wilderness. The twisted, giant trees towered over us with bark as hard as stone; it seems death did nothing to still their growth. The further we hiked, the denser they grew – many wrapped tightly beneath sharp, thorn-infested vines – but we pushed forward.

We wandered with little direction until locating signs of a recent struggle. Blood stained the bark of two trees, and the surrounding brush was trampled. I personally lack tracking skills, but Mr. Baker is a marvel to behold. He believes three men fought a beast of immense size. The tracks it left behind are breathtaking; it walks on two legs and the footprints resemble that of a wolf… only they are far too large. A cold breeze chilled us to the core as we stood in awe of the sight.

John also found a discarded rifle; the barrel was bent upwards almost ninety degrees… I cannot imagine the force such an act required. It was apparent two men fled in separate directions, but – unwilling to divide our own force – we chose the path with better visibility.

The trail told the story of a man consumed with panic; he ran through the forest with little regard for direction and fell often as a result. Smears of blood stained the ground where his worst spills occurred, and scraps of clothing were tangled among the brambles. Eventually, we found a shoe with the owner’s foot still inside.

I imagined several reasons to suggest turning back, but – in each instance – I held my tongue. Did everyone know our true destination? Did they each fear it in the back of their minds, too frightened to voice the thought aloud? Or was it only myself? With each furtive glance to the sun’s position, I knew with growing certainty we awaited the Demon’s path; where we ventured before made little difference.

We knew it the moment we saw it. The temperature suddenly dropped, and all sounds of the forest ceased in an instant. A strong, cold wind blew, yet no leaves rustled; all remained still and silent despite the prominent gusts. It created a wholly unnatural effect I shall not soon forget.

I notched my first arrow, but each shot must be taken with consideration to ammunition retrieval; it is unlikely we will receive more. The right opportunity is worth a loss, but unless reasonably certain of a favorable outcome, I must refrain from action.

It is impossible to say how long we stood without speaking, merely staring at that cursed path, but eventually we forced ourselves to act. We traversed the trail in a single-file line with Father Caleb in the lead. He recited prayers for the majority of our hike and continued to do so even as the Demon carried him into the night.

After roughly twenty paces, a tall, dark mass leapt across the path and into the trees. We halted in place, rifles raised, and the Father continued praying, bible raised to the sky in defiance. When the black shadow suddenly descended upon us, several shots were fired; over it all, Caleb’s words grew louder, bolder, but they did not save him. Before he was carried out of sight, a final bullet ended his suffering. As the beast disappeared over the horizon, we were driven to our knees from an ear-splitting roar of fury. I suppose it prefers fresh meat…

Then there were six.

It shames me to admit my first thought was to discredit the Father’s “holy number” theory, but I held my tongue. There was no doubt the Demon would return; meanwhile, it was vital to cover maximum distance. Night came faster than expected; one moment the light began to fade, and the next it was pitch black. We lit torches without pausing, afraid to lose even those seconds. Walking in two lines of three, we could hardly illuminate the ground before us, but we could not turn back or all we lost would be in vain.

I do not know how long we continued that way – hunched forward, squinting into the darkness – but soon we were frozen in place by the sound of heavy footfalls. I did not realize my breath was held until my lungs begged for air; by then, the creature was coming to a stop just above us. My gaze was fixed onto the ground, but Melvin dared to look into the face of evil. The guttural sound to escape his throat was the sad, pitiful cry of a dying babe; the tension alone was enough to drive a man insane. Even before he ran, I knew he would be the next to die. Mr. Barclay was not granted the sweet escape of a quick death; instead, he died screaming in agony.

Then there were five.

Only after the death wails subsided was I consumed with guilt for my inaction. What short distance was between us when it crouched motionless above our heads? How long did it remain so before taking yet another life?

Blame is a dangerous path to tread; it led me down a rabbit hole of madness wherein I cursed every ancestor that walked blithely away – leaving that nightmare to grow stronger for others to fight in their stead! The distraction cost yet another man his life as I failed to see Mark straying from the path. He drifted closer to the tree-line until something dropped onto his head with inhuman speed.

It took a moment for my eyes to accept the sight, but eventually I understood it was a hand. An impossibly long arm was reaching out of the darkness, and its disproportionately sized hand was grabbing the top of Mark’s head. The world froze in that moment; were I an artist, I could paint the scene to the last detail. I lived a lifetime in that split-second – envisioning ways to save my cousin. While most ideas were immediately dismissed, there was one, small hope available.

I raised the bow, but before my shot could align with the oddly yellow-tinted arm, it happened. With a quick twist of the wrist, Mark’s head was plucked from his shoulders like a petal from its flower. There was a horrifying moment where his body remained upright, and just as it began to fall, a second hand caught it. In lieu of screams, we were serenaded with the crunching of bones as the Demon ate on the run.

Then there were four.

We had no choice but to hurry onward. I expected to find strange trees and a stone altar – as previously described – though, reality was different than imagined. Moments after losing Mark, a bright, orange glow became visible in the distance; one could argue that dying beforehand was a kindness.

Every man was warned on multiple occasions – “do not touch the trees” – but human nature will forever be ingrained with the desire to do the opposite of what they are told. As we drew closer, the lights grew brighter; at their source, it was like day again. Perhaps those monstrous, sac-like things were once the size of melons – long ago – but now they are the size of pigs, possibly larger!

They pulsated, and a thick, white ooze seeped from each one, creating an acidic moat around the clearing. The only way in or out was the path upon which we tread. Douglas’ face went slack as he approached the nearest tree; I reached for him, but it was too late. The thing burst at the first hint of contact, and Mr. Smith was consumed by the foul slime. A pungent odor permeated our senses as we strained to guard our ears from his final cries.

Then there were three.

We thought the dagger disintegrated, but we found it nearby, undamaged; John took it up as we continued toward the circle’s center. The altar was no longer made of stone but iron, and it was decorated with pear-inlay carvings; we believe something is written in a foreign alphabet. Fearing Lucien would cause irreparable damage with his moronic actions, we bade him to stand back and keep a watchful eye upon the path.

John and I studied the altar – discussing how best to proceed – and thought if brute force failed to destroy the sturdy structure, we might deface the special characters. No sooner than the words passed my lips did a soft thud draw our attention; Lucien was on the ground, and a foul, black substance – I could not tell if it was liquid or gas – was forcing itself into his mouth. His face turned purple and his throat bulged into grotesque lumps as his jaw was stretched far past its breaking point.

As the last of it vanished down our cowardly friend’s throat, he rose to his feet in disturbing, spasmodic movements. When he faced us, his head turned sideways ninety degrees with a reverberating pop. Instead of falling dead, he continued forward!

What does one call a corpse capable of walking? I would hope need for such a term never arose… but I will say the Not-Dead, or better yet, the Undead – yes, that has a ring. Alas, we lost our last chance to defeat the Demon; now that it possessed a body, we could only hope to kill the man.

Black sludge dribbled from his gaping maw as he drew closer. John shouted a primal battle cry as he charged with the dagger, and it broke the spell of paralysis holding me in place. Whether that spell was real or imagined, we may never know, but my aim was true; I knew the moment my fingers released the string.

John froze three yards away as the arrow whizzed past and pierced its target’s chest, but I did not stop; the second sunk deep into Lucien’s gut as he fell to his knees, and I held the third ready to fire. Foul, black blood seeped into the ground as deep, maniacal laughter echoed around us. In a forest, it should not be possible for sound to carry in such a way, but many impossible things occur in those woods.

I did not intend to leave until Lucien’s empty husk lay upon the ground, but the acidic substance in the moat began churning like angry ocean tides – bubbling and splashing over the sides. We watched with growing horror as it began to flood the clearing. We would be trapped if we did not make haste.

Then there were two.

By some miracle we made it out of that damn forest, but two arrows were lost. Now I, too, will leave it for the next generation; let them spite me as I did those before! I do not care; no force will entice me back to those woods!

We found the settlers ready to depart. Moving so many across the river was no small feat, but with that task – we were able to find much assistance from our brethren…

Unfortunately, the nightmare was not yet finished. The Elders spoke with each person before allowing them to enter our township… and aye, an imposter was found. I fail to grasp these otherworldly concepts with the same ease as others, but – to put it simply – a seven-year-old boy, Nathan Bishop, bore no reflection!

It was just as Father wrote of Aunt Florence so long ago. The Bishop’s refused to believe their son was gone, and a rather violent altercation ensued as parents were separated from child. After his vehement denials failed, the boy’s true nature came to light. Helpless as the babe he pretended to be, his face contorted into a grimace of pure hatred, and he spat vile curses until his last breath.

The Elders wished to stress it was not merely a case of possession; an evil spirit assumed the identity of young Nathan. It is unclear what fate the real child met, but the parents recalled an odd incident from days prior.

Moments after seeing the boy in bed, Nathan walked through the front door. Mrs. Bishop hurried to discover who occupied her son’s room, but found it empty; unable to explain the event – it was dismissed. It is fortunate he was revealed before more lives were lost; I have seen enough death to last a lifetime.

Though… it is only now that I remember the other child, Maria… I wonder what has become of her. Surely the Elders have taken appropriate action; I will make inquiries tomorrow.

This is the most I have ever written; my hand aches with cramps and I am glad to be finished. Now, I will sleep for a week!


Close your jaw there, friend; I bet you didn’t expect the man to write through the night, did ya? Well, he surely did, and he didn’t write again for damn near three weeks because of it. I know the writing cramps he referred to, but I don’t know why he’s complaining; it’s a wonderfully satisfying sensation!

… … I can’t swear by it because I wasn’t there, but the Demon doesn’t typically jump in skin suits willy-nilly; I think he did something to prime Lucien up while he was stuck out there in the woods.

… … … You bet your britches those folks moved! They were ready to tuck tail before the posse arrived, but then Lucien showed up – getting everyone all hot and bothered talking that Demon Slayer nonsense! They assumed they could stay put if someone cleared out the unwanted neighbors; ain’t that a hoot?

… … … Maria actually did make it to Jamestown, but I’ll have to tell you about her another day. If you want all the bells and whistles there’s no time for it tonight.

… … … Folks mostly did fine once they got to know each other; they weren’t a bad bunch. You got to remember, hard times breed hard people. Most fall in line once they settle in enough to develop a routine.

… … … Sure, routines are great! They provide structure and order to an otherwise chaotic world.

… … … Unfortunately, Josh developed a taste for alcohol after this encounter, and later – when they lost Wallace – he succumbed to it entirely. Leah grew to hate his company and moved to Pennsylvania to be with their daughter.

… … … Well, that’s what you get with real life; every ending can’t be a fairytale. Unless… would you like it to be? I could—

… … Ok, I was only kidding; I’ll read it as I see it, scout’s honor.

… … … I suppose it’s that time again; you be safe out there. We’ll be here, watching all these wonderful downloads! Thanks again by the way – you just… wow, you have no idea.

… … … … Absolutely, I hope you come back soon; next time we’re gonna be reading about the last settlement!

… … … Haha, well, calling it a settlement is a stretch… it’s actually a desperate band of outlaws, but they made one hell of a final stand.

… … … There you go again with twenty questions; we can get to all that next time, I promise.

… … … Bye, have a good one!


Horror Fiction

Para-Hunt: Episode 101

⚠️Fair Warning to all ⚠️ 

This is only horror in the loosest sense. It’s a comedic paranormal thing. Super big thanks for guest star appearances by my favorite demon, CREEPYFACE and others ❤️‍🔥


Now a CreepyPasta
Quasi

CREEPYFACE:

Is it ready?

3… 2… 1…

Welcome back, Creepers! It’s your demon host, CREEPYFACE, and this is Episode 101 of Para-Hunt! Me and the Crypters are coming at you live from Backwoods, Louisiana! Tonight, we have ourselves a lovely trio of Hunters planning to check out a local cemetery. As usual – their mission statement is to “record evidence of the paranormal” so let’s see if they can pay the piper! Can you imagine if they learned half the horror community was actually what we claim to be?!

Their channel is Buster of Ghosts, and a link is in the description if you want to look. They’re doing okay for themselves with 10k subs, but let’s see if that number doesn’t go up after tonight! If this is your first time tuning in – we rank all teams by Class A-D, and like to use this portion of the segment to give you a little background on who we’re following. Overall, we’re ranking these guys as C-Class; when exploring they only use spirit box apps. In the beginning, they stayed around their Texas hometown, but lately they expanded their travel radius.

I’ve skimmed through their top ten videos, but found no legitimate encounters so we have the honor of popping another cherry! I don’t think these guys are pants-wetters, but I’ve been fooled before; let’s just hope they don’t turn out to be cheaters, huh?

Here’s their homepage; the tall ginger in the middle is Eric, the blonde to his right is Chloe, and the thicker guy in the hat is Travis. The girl should be especially fun – she screams every time a door slams. Now, as you can see – they wrote this nice, long bio about growing up in a small town and bonding over a shared love for the supernatural, but here on Para-Hunt we like to go behind the scenes! That’s right, it’s time for our resident Shadow-man to do his thing!

Shade:

And just like that – we’re on location! Our new friends are still at the hotel; let’s see what they talk about when they think the cameras are off…

Chloe:

Did you do any research before suggesting this place?! Please tell me we didn’t drive four hours based on a random YouTube video!

Eric:

What difference does it make? It’s not like we’re ever going to find real ghosts! Besides, did you see how big it is? It’s an easy episode of exploring; all we have to do is mention a few temp drops and strange noises.

Travis:

The man has a point – remember when we explored that abandoned hotel last October? It was full of squatters, but we didn’t learn that until the next day – after gaining 200 subs overnight!

Chloe:

And what do you think will happen if viewers find out we’re cheating? It was one thing to take chances early on, but we have too much to lose now; sponsors are finally beginning to notice us!

Eric:

We aren’t cheating; don’t be so dramatic! It’s not like we’re paying kids to run around slamming doors anymore!

Chloe:

I don’t understand how you can be so ignorant when—

Travis:

Come on, guys, don’t fight; we got a long night ahead. Besides… these big channels must be doing something extra… there’s no way they’re getting all that footage on the up and up.

Shade:

Uh-oh, sounds like there’s trouble in paradise! Before we cut back, do you think we should give them a little taste of what we have in store for later?…

You bet we should! How about the book on that table?…

Chloe:

The shit?!

Shade:

Ooo, that made a nice smack! Told you the girl was a screamer, and did you see how high they jumped?!…

Oh, look, time for the blame game!

Chloe:

I’m sick of you two setting up these stupid pranks! I swear to God if you put this into the video – I’m gonna be pissed; it’s not funny anymore!

Eric:

I had nothing to do with that one!

Shit bruh, please tell me you’re recording because that was amazing! How did you do it?

Travis:

That’s not cool; I’m fine with adding some prank clips to the videos – they play well with the audience, but even I’m tired of you trying to convince us they’re real…

Eric:

Dude, whatever! I—

Shade:

Wow, they got riled up fast! Let’s give them some time to cool down, shall we? I’ll keep an eye on our friends while you guys explore the cemetery.

CREEPYFACE:

And we’re back at… where’d that sign go?… Ah! Cypress Bayou Cemetery. Our Hunters learned of a Weeping Woman; it’s said her cries of anguish are heard throughout the graveyard – even during the day.

While me and Lucy grab some info, Helen will take you around for a Banshee’s eye view so you can see how big this place is.

Helen:

Here we go; hold on tight! Who needs drones when you have a Queen of Troy? Cypress Bayou is aptly named indeed; I guess that’s Louisiana for you, although this is my first time back in some seventy odd years.

Look at those beautiful mausoleums; I love the intricate stonework and marble plaques! This place definitely has some great stories to tell… and the groundskeepers clearly take pride in their work – those rose bushes could win competitions! The paths are all paved, and lined with flowerbeds; a girl could haunt this place for eternity!

I hope our Hunters aren’t too disappointed by the lack of homeless population, hehe… but that just means we should step up to fill the void, right? Whew, this place is huge… okay, final stretch, and the coast is clear; let’s get lower and do a proper flyby!

CREEPYFACE:

Did you enjoy the ride? The pamphlet says the earliest graves date back to the 1600’s, so there must be a few locals willing to help us out. If we take the path on the left, we can head towards the oldest residents and maybe find something interesting along the way.

Haha, Potter Pan wants to know where Quasi is. You must be a first-timer; welcome! Everyone’s favorite mascot is still in the van – the sun has only just set; he needs a few minutes to wake up or he’ll be grumpy all night.

What’s this I spy ahead, ladies? Doth my demonic eyes deceive – or do we see our first potential of the evening? Lucy, it’s your turn; go get us an interview – this is definitely your people.

While she makes the introductions, let’s see if anyone has another question…

Nightmare’s Edge, what up?! Glad to see you back, but no, our Chernobyl vacation was delayed by this detour. Don’t worry though, we’ll be flying most of the way so it won’t take much longer.

Lily Livers, my favorite cannibal! I’m glad you asked; we’re actually on our way to Mississippi to check out a place called the Deadlands, but we saw those Hunters and decided to have some fun.

Oops, I’ll have to tell you the rest later; Lucy is waving us over, we must have a new friend!

Lucy:

Everyone, this is Lady Nopeingham! She’s also passing through, but was kind enough to stop and chat a moment.

Lady Nopeingham:

Do these Hunters seem like the types to give blood donations?

Lucy:

Honestly, no… not really…

Lady Nopeingham:

Hmm… do any of you have the power to override the Free Will clause?

CREEPYFACE:

No, sorry…

Lady Nopeingham:

Shame. Oh well, enjoy your evening; I must be on my way.

CREEPYFACE:

Okay, wow she left fast; moving on, then.

Uh-oh… is that the sound of a certain gargoyle coming in for a landing? Quick, turn your volume down before the [thud]… never mind.

Whoa, whoa, easy there fella; come on, you’re gonna knock me over. Tell you what, let’s cut back to Shade while we get Quasi over to the entrance. I feel like this is a good group to play Moving Statue with!

Shade:

Welcome back! As you can see we’re on our way to the cemetery, and they’ve just gone live. Do… do you think we should give them a quick shadow-man flash and see if they notice?

Chloe:

I hope everyone is as excited as we are! The locals refuse to go there after dark because—

Shade:

I had a feeling we should…

Chloe:

but we’ll take y’all there so we can find out together!

Shade:

Oh my gods! They didn’t see, HA! Oh-oh, look, their viewers are trying to tell them!

Eric:

Hey, wait a second… why are the comments going crazy? I can’t read from back here.

Chloe:

Shut up; y’all are messing with us; hold on let me scroll up, they’re trying to scare us – saying a shadow person just appeared in the back…

Wait, shit… oh my God! Oh my God!

Travis:

What the hell is going on?!

Chloe:

Wait, wait… wait…

Eric:

The fuck, man! You just watch the road before we end up as ghosts!

Travis:

I’m fine!

Chloe:

No way, it’s… they photoshopped… more are sending… oh my God!

Shade:

Ugh, looks like we got another Repeater… this could take a while. Anyway, make sure Quasi is ready to go, we’re about five minutes out!

CREEPYFACE:

Ahh, good fun, good fun. Welcome back, so here we are at the oldest crypts available, and we’ve made some new friends… including, yes, the Weeping Woman herself! Joining us on tonight’s Hunt will be:

  • Jane Tarver: 1605-38, CoD: Childbirth
  • Peter Reed: 1756-79, CoD: Redcoats
  • Duncan Miller: 1798-40, CoD: Outlaw

As usual, we’ll pair each one with a Hunter and see who gets the most ParaPoints! Here’s a quick rundown of how to score for the new folks:

  • Double-takes – 5pp
  • Screams – 10pp
  • Runaways – 15pp
  • Quitters – 20pp

But the most important rule of all is: do not give them anything too tangible! If they really see you – it’s back to zero! Any questions?…

Ah – Runaways flee the place they’re standing but not the location. Quitters say “fuck the team” and go straight to the car alone.

The Hunters should be here by now; let’s get this party started with another Banshee view!

Helen:

The Game is my favorite part, I hope you’re all equally excited!… Ah there’s our little Hunters! Excellent; they noticed Quasi, hehe.

CREEPYFACE:

So, who do you think we should pair? You want to put the ladies together this time?… Cool, then Eric can be with Duncan and Travis with Peter. We’ll follow along to serve as referees and make sure you don’t miss any of the good stuff!

Eric:

I wish we had a drone so y’all could see how huge this place is, but we found these maps at the entrance. See how the paths are everywhere? They’ve been expanding this place for almost 500 years!

Since there’s so much ground to cover, we’re going to split up and meet at this far corner. That’s where the first graves were dug and therefore has the highest chance for activity.

Chloe:

I hate when we split up; the spirit box said my name last time…

Travis:

That’s the whole point, haha; come on, let’s get going!

CREEPYFACE:

Are you guys ready?!

Eric:

These graves up front are all from the last ten years, but I guess that makes sense. I’ll let y’all in on a little secret… I chose this path because it’s the one from that video… the Weeping Woman thing…

Anyway, I know Chloe doesn’t want us to talk about it because she’s still expecting to see prank footage, but at the hotel—

Duncan:

Wait, he missed the gargoyle… oh, I know!

Eric:

Hold on…

CREEPYFACE:

5pp for Duncan!

Eric:

Did y’all hear that? The bushes? Seriously, I’m not even joking – I heard it right where that stupid statue is! Ugh, it’s exactly like the one by the entrance; how many of those things do they have? Shit… that thing is tripping me out…

Damn, I sure did forget the spirit box – thanks, y’all.

Chloe:

This might be the nicest cemetery we’ve seen yet… ugh, except for those ugly gargoyles. There’s another one, look; just like the one by the entrance. I could understand if—

Jane:

[sobs]

Chloe:

[screams]

Lucy:

10pp for Jane!

Chloe:

Oh my God, why me?… I know y’all heard that…

Okay, y’all are right; whew, this is why we’re here. It’s time for the spirit box… hold on, the app is loading.

Jane:

I’ve been looking forward to this; I’ve never seen one, but Ms. Lucy says I can speak to her when she turns it on. I’m very intrigued.

Chloe:

Hello… is… is someone here with me?

Jane:

… Yes…

Chloe:

Hooo kay, umm, are you the one called the Weeping Woman?…

Jane:

… … Yes…

Chloe:

[deep breath] Were you murdered?

Jane:

… … No…

Chloe:

… huh…

Travis:

I wonder how the others are doing; you guys would tell me if one of them was messing with me, right? Because if I find out they’re making these weird noises, I might not be a good sport about it. Especially since that stunt in the hotel room… that shit was all Eric! Just you wait… he’s got a clip and he’s saving for who knows what special little moment.

Damn, look at that – it’s another gargoyle; someone around here bought those things in bulk is all I can figure…

Peter:

Okay, let us give this a try…

Travis:

Holy shit! What was that?! Did you see? It was like an orb shot across the path! Someone tell me— yes! It’s on film; oh my God, I can’t wait to show those assholes!

Shade:

5pp for Peter!

Travis:

Hell yea – know what? I’m actually gonna use the spirit box tonight, holy shit!

Okay, umm, hello… will you talk to me? I can hear you with this… umm device.

Peter:

Help me! Help me! It hurts!

Travis:

Fuuuck, dude! No!…

I dropped everything; I’m sorry, oh my God! [sobs]

Shade:

Haha, oh snap; I thought he was gonna run for sure! 10 more for Peter!

Travis:

Umm, can I do something to help you… like… move on?

Peter:

… … … Die

Travis:

Shit, I really don’t wanna be alone anymore…

Eric:

Okay, I’m not proud of my actions back there… throwing my drink onto that statue – creepy or not – was vandalism; and that’s not cool. That being said, I think we need to get everyone back together now and just get out of here…

I haven’t turned around; we’re clearly going in the same direction… but look at this next gargoyle… it’s wet, and there’s ice cubes on its feet! What the—

Duncan:

This kid is jumpier than horny hare; I think I might breathe into his ear a smidgen.

Eric:

—how? Can anyone tell me— [squeal]

CREEPYFACE:

Damn, son! That sounded like a little girl! 10pp for Duncan, but that might deserve bonus points later.

Eric:

This isn’t possible; it was the wind – nothing else… and maybe the path circled back somehow! I was moving fast…

Here, let’s look at the map again…

Duncan:

How upsetting you suppose he’d be about losing that there map?

I reckon we best find out, then.

[rip]

CREEPYFACE:

We have a runaway; 15pp for Duncan!

Chloe:

[sigh] … was it a plague?

Jane:

… … No…

Chloe:

Geez, what else is there… did you… die in childbirth?

Jane:

… … Yes…

Chloe:

… Oh, seriously? I mean, that’s horrible; I’m sorry to hear that… I just didn’t expect that to be it…

Jane:

[wails]

Chloe:

[screams] Shit! No – wait; please don’t do that! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you… can I help you somehow?

Lucy:

10pp for Jane!

Jane:

… … No…

Chloe:

[sigh]

Travis:

This place is weird y’all, I don’t like it… and I don’t know what the deal is – because I’m not going any closer to it – but the last couple statues were all vandalized… umm… in the same way… almost like there’s only been one this whole time…

No way – I’m not doing the app again; you can all forget that!

Peter:

See how carelessly he moves? He’s liable to fall any moment… it would be a shame to miss such an opportunity…

Travis:

Oof—

The hell; there’s nothing—

My ankle! Fuck this!

Shade:

Hot Damn; 15pp to Peter!

Travis:

Eric! Chloe! Hurry up; let’s go!

Peter:

Uh-oh, he seems to be in a hurry… maybe we can speed him on his way with a little push…

Travis:

Shit, shit, shit

My shoulder, y’all – what’s back there – something pushed my shoulder! [choke]

Shade:

5pp to Peter

Eric:

Was that Travis? Finally… yo I’m coming!

We’re almost there; they can call me crazy all they want as long as they do it in the car!

Bruh, no!… We came for ghosts; you feel me? Not gargoyles!

Duncan:

Damn, running outta time… let’s see… oh I know! How about a nice pass-through to cool him off?

Eric:

[gasp] guys… oh my God what was that?!

Travis! Chloe! Please!

CREEPYFACE:

I can’t believe I thought the girl would be the crier… either way… this guy sure can run, and that was definitely a double-take so that’s a 20 pointer right there!

Chloe:

Ugh, what are they screaming about? I’ve finally got something and they’re going to ruin it with their bullshit… probably just trying to scare me.

Jane:

Excuse me, Ms. Lucy!?

I don’t wish to frighten my new friend anymore. I believe our meeting was destiny; we are the best of friends now! She wishes me to come live with her so that we may be together forever!

Lucy:

Of course dear, I’m very happy for the two of you; feel free to behave as if the cameras weren’t even here.

Chloe:

Damn! Why does this stupid app have to stop working right when we catch up to the guys?!

Eric:

Thank God, there’s Chloe! Come on, we gotta—

CREEPYFACE:

Looks like the gang’s back together! While we tally the final scores, you guys enjoy one final performance.

Travis:

It doesn’t matter right now, we can tell you in the—

Fuck, what’s that sound?

Chloe:

It almost sounds like… flapping?

Eric:

No! No, no, no, no… look up, look up! Do you see it? It just landed in the tree I swear to God! You see the shape at the very top?!

Quasi:

[roar]

Buster of Ghosts:

[screams]

CREEPYFACE:

Well guys, it looks like our trio is calling it quits. We want to say a big thank you to all our guests tonight and a congratulations to Jane for finding a new home! We wish the new friends all the best!

As for the final scores:

  • The ladies came in 3rd with 20pp
  • Peter came in 2nd with 35pp
  • And tonight’s champion is Duncan with a whopping 50pp!

Great job, everyone, and thanks so much for your participation!

As for next week, we’ll be stopping over in a little town called Cotton Hills. We’ve heard whispers about that spot I mentioned earlier – the Deadlands… and I don’t want to spoil anything, but trust me, it’s worth checking out…

Anyway, that’s it for tonight, Creepers! Until next time, all hail the Dark Lord!

Horror Fiction

The Cursed Settlement (Pt. 5)

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Now a CreepyPasta

Hullo! Looks like these flurries will be another blizzard soon. Come on, let’s get you to the cabin before you freeze over. When this storm blew in, I knew you must be on the way. We’re thrilled to have you back with us so close to Christmas!

… It’s no trouble at all; the neighbors have been restless the last couple days. Figured I ought to play it safe, so I grabbed an umbrella and hit the trail. I’m glad you made good time; thanks to those thunderheads it’s gonna be full dark out here soon.

———————-

… … … …. Brrr! We’re home, family!

… … Here ya go, Ethan! Good job with the fire, you earned yourself first use of our newfangled portable battery. It’s the dawn of a new day with this long-lasting puppy!

… … Thanks again, friend! You discovered something that actually motivates the boy; we never thought we’d see the day. Here’s the one you left with us last time. So, is the person who invented these things super famous?

… … How can you not even know their name?!

… … … Alright… Trish is right, we better get started. I can’t keep talking through sun-up. Get yourself settled while I set the scene. If you wanna hear the daily drivels of Jamestown life, we can go back when we finish the good stuff. For now, I suspect you’d prefer to hear the juicy bits.

… … What can I say, stories are my sixth… well… seventh sense? Besides, it’s adorable how you breathers are fascinated by death. You got all the time in the world to be dead later – go out there and live! Visit a library, get hot water from a faucet, buy food for weeks at a time; the possibilities are endless!

… … Whoops got excited again, sorry… anyway! We’re going to skip all the way to 1752 tonight. Such a long time passed; our descendants stopped believing in the boogiemen. With each generation, the population increased, and more land was needed. Eventually, the stories came to be known as tales concocted to prevent children from playing near the river.

… … Yep, you guessed it! Our genius legacies decided to expand to Dirge Lake. They built a bridge and everything.

… … No, their bridge was later destroyed. The one there today was built in the early 1900’s by the government. Locals fought it every step of the way, but you know how it is with infrastructure.

… … Ethan, if you don’t want to hear it, put in your headphones.

… Sorry, he’s just touchy because he was one of the geniuses. To be fair, it wasn’t his fault; his father was to blame. The boy is descended from James, but great nephew is a mouthful. He was only eighteen when that mess happened; he didn’t know any better. It’s harder to accept this… lifestyle at that age.

… It’s kind of you to be concerned, but don’t worry; look, he’s already lost in Spider-Man.

… Haha! No, the boy is far too lazy to write. We’ll be reading my own great grandson’s journal. Nicky was a chip off the ole block; that boy done me right proud… you know – once he got over his skepticism. He was only twenty-one himself, but he was lucky enough to make it out alive.

… … The weird part is, me and Trish had a front row seat for the whole ride.

… Believe me, we tried our best to stop them, but there’s only so much we could do. Sometimes, kids gotta learn the hard way.

… … You don’t just die and pop up the next second as we are now! Goodness no, it took almost twenty years just to poke stuff. I don’t think anyone could hear us for nearly a century – even then it was barely above a whisper. Appear in human form? With substance? Converse for extended periods? Psh, you’re talking more than two hundred for this swagger.

… … Well, if we had gotten mixed up with the demon and its blood sacrifices, sure, we probably coulda sped things up a bit – but being dead is no reason to drag other people down.

… … Hmm… maybe you’re right… I think laziness does run in the family!

… … We had the hang of things well enough to help a few, but even now we don’t go near the demon’s nest.

… … We’re drifting to the mumbos and jumbos again; all that will come out in the story natural-like. I’ll fill in some missing blanks as we go, but Nicholas did a fine job, especially for a young-un!

Now, you’d think so much time passed that it would take a minute for things to kick off – but nope! They were being watched from the first tree down to the last person out, you better believe that!


April 12, 1752

After nearly a year, we are finally moved to our new homes. I cannot help but laugh at how this space was avoided for silly superstition! Though, I do wonder if the water was once genuinely clear… it would be fascinating to discover the true cause of such a transformation. Regardless, it is teeming with fish; you can hear them splashing about at all hours.

As for reports of the land’s deterioration – it is honestly not so bad. The soil is more suited to farming across the river, but that hardly means it is uninhabitable. With a little extra care and irrigation, our crops will grow. Since the removal of dead trees and shrubbery, Dirge Lake is uniquely picturesque; very unlike that of traditional scenery.

We are surrounded by a forest of large, twisted trees whose branches reach out in strange curvatures, bending at odd angles. I have never seen their like. Thick, gray moss hangs down in sheets, accenting the greenery in a somehow beautiful, gloomy way.

I cannot express how wonderful it feels to sit in my own home, writing my own memoirs. Silence is a glorious thing I have rarely experienced in such entirety. When I am ready to start a family, I must add additional rooms to retain a private space.

Hopefully, by that time, these strange notions will cease; I believe the old stories have affected me in a small way. The moment I began this entry, an odd sensation overcame me. It is as if someone stands looking over my shoulder. I expected the feeling to fade, but it grows worse. There is a tickle at the back of my neck, and a chill down my spine.

At least I have the comfort of knowing I am not alone in my paranoia; Ethan thought he heard a man call from the forest, and my sister claimed to see a disfigured face in the window. Father would enjoy a hearty laugh if he read these words, but it is worth noting how easily the power of suggestion can manipulate one’s senses. I am sure others follow our example but keep the matters private.

If dangerous wildlife is nearby, it will not take long to dispatch; the farmhouse is no longer secluded from neighbors. In case of attack, help is not far away, but I do not believe such an event will truly take place. Much time was spent in the area during preparations, and nothing was seen to justify such concerns.

Damn! Clumsy oaf! One careless slip, and now there is a strike across the page!

Alas, that is enough foolishness for one night; I am eager to retire. Tomorrow will be a long, hard day. The Hampton’s crop restorations begin at sunrise. I volunteered because farming is vital for the community, and not at all for reason to be near Kenneth’s lovely daughter… although, if I were ready to begin courting, she would make me a lucky man indeed.


April 13, 1752

It was a mistake to indulge such nonsense last night. These wild ideas of monsters and demons have taken root in my brain, and now they blossom into pure madness! I’ll not have it; there are no such things as ghosts or spirits! Do you hear the insanity of those words?

One must take stock and look at the situation as a whole – outside one’s single, small-minded existence. Which is more likely? That a silly wives tale rings true? Or that – being aware of such tales – my mind warps situations to fit the narrative? Any who chooses the former clearly has no respect for science. We are no longer in the dark ages; one must adapt to the modern world, or it will leave them behind.

I digress, I should not become flustered over such trivial mishaps. If nothing else, these anecdotes may amuse my grandchildren some day; I must admit, from the comfort of home, the situation does seem humorous. Even the boys at the lake had a scare when placing the fish traps, but their incident is easily explained; in the process of stealing supper, alligators destroyed their nets. My experience was more confounding.

Alice fetched us from the field when lunch was ready. She and her mother prepared enough food to feed the volunteers, and tables were set outside to accommodate our large number. While preparing my plate, I heard Mrs. Hampton calling for her youngest, Florence. The child was assumed to be in her room, and as a gentleman, I offered my assistance.

After ascending the stairs, I turned right and followed the long hallway to the open door on the left. Florence’s room was brightly decorated with flowers, and the child stood at her window, seeming not to notice my presence. She turned when I spoke and came a few steps closer. When I relayed her mother’s message, she inched forward a little more.

Thinking it a game – I extended my arm, asking if I might escort her as a proper lady, but she did not find the offer charming as envisioned. No matter what I tried, there was no further reaction; she merely stood there, expressionless.

My stomach begged for the delicious smells wafting through the open window. Losing patience in my hunger, I resigned to the knowledge she would soon grow bored and follow. Upon returning, I informed Alice of my less than successful efforts, but she appeared confused and gestured toward the stables. I nearly choked when I saw Florence riding atop her father’s shoulders.

I believe, if nothing else, my fellows would describe me as a sane, reasonable, man; one who is not easily shaken or deceived. Yet… I cannot explain how this happened, and no matter how I replay the scene – I do not understand where I am mistaken. You must picture it precisely as I state, for I wish others to appreciate the magnitude of this riddle.

From leaving the child’s room to seeing her at the stables, few minutes passed. We dined in clear view of the home; never was it out of sight. The barn was at my back, with forty yards of open field between structures. I would have considered it an impossible task to move from one to the other without my seeing – yet it happened.

I am simply baffled. Even more that the child played her part so well; that alone is a worthy feat, but the sheer logistics behind getting her to the stables are on another level entirely. Florence did not act alone! The plotting was Kenneth’s doing – of that, I am sure.

It is not that I am a poor sport. The illusion was artfully done and masterfully executed; there is no denying that; I simply wish to know how – but they will not reveal their methods. In fact, they will not admit to trickery at all! They insist I saw a different child; the notion is absurd! Even if multiple ten-year-olds were roaming about – one could hardly mistake her golden curls and blue eyes!

Damn if this is not my own doing for showing interest in the details. Had I remained aloof, their bragging would be endless; now it is more fun to leave me in ignorance. Perhaps sleep will bring clarity: it is a theory worth testing.


Whew, and I thought I was long winded! I forgot how philosophical that kid used to be. Anyhow, no matter; I just wanted to make a quick notation for the sake of accuracy. Do you know what a doppelgänger is?

… … I had a feeling. There’re quite a few misconceptions about them, but just keep in mind they are not in any way, a ghost. They’re two completely different breeds.

… … Eh, think of them as low-level demons. They used to be human, but when passing to the other side – they landed in the unpleasant place. On rare occasions – one finds its way home but needs a new “identity” to be free. Okay, back to it.

… … Sigh… see Trish, give one little tidbit and now it’s twenty questions. Settle down, friend, we got all night.


April 14, 1752

It was another day of strange occurrences. If tomorrow is not better, we may have to reevaluate our position. While I do not relish the notion, I must admit the necessity. Ken Hampton may be a crafty devil, but I cannot believe he would force the stresses of this night upon his family by choice… honestly, I no longer know what to believe.

At dusk, all others departed, but I dallied in the stables. Florence’s soft voice startled me from thought as she extended her family’s invitation to supper. I accepted gratefully if not suspiciously, but is that surprising after the ruckus of last night?

It was not likely I would fall for the same trick twice! I kept the child in sight, watching for any sign of co-conspirators. As we left the barn, someone hiding in the trees shouted a gargled cry for help, but unwilling to traipse through the forest, I quickened our pace.

While impressed with Florence’s feigned fright, I am almost certain it was Donald’s voice. Even if slurred speech concealed his identity; the girl’s brother was supposedly on a hunting venture and not expected to return for several days. A likely story indeed. If that were not enough, Mrs. Hampton shrieked an ear-splitting scream at the sight of us.

She was descending the steps with Mr. Hampton close at heel when we entered through the foyer. Penelope’s cry shook me, sewing doubts in my previous perceptions. Without speaking, the couple rushed upstairs. When they returned, I could see the loss of color from their pale faces… I cannot conceive how one fakes such emotional response.

Perhaps what began in jest

Blast! How have I ruined yet another page! The damned pen has a mind of its own! No more of this; I have no opinion on the matters! I simply state the facts as they occurred; let others determine what lies in truth! Now, be gone whatever foul force foils my hard work!

The Hampton’s claimed to see Florence in her room only seconds before, but they could not argue with the sight of her before their eyes. The lost, confused looks they wore were admittedly familiar, but it is a hard concept to accept. At Kenneth’s suggestion, we all sat to dine, recounting each event in precise detail.

Mr. Hampton explained they were dressing for supper when Florence appeared in the doorway. She reported my acceptance of the evening invitation, and Penelope instructed her daughter to likewise prepare. She watched as the child ran into her own room. When the parents passed her door moments later, the girl was brushing her hair.

Not wishing her to dally, they paused in the hall. They insist they did not continue down the stairwell until Florence trailed behind; then, seconds later, they saw her in my own company. I have never been so utterly at loss for explanation; I feel as though all I once believed has been called into question.

Ethan continues facing challenges at the lake. Not only have they lost more nets, but a horse was taken. Its cries were heard through the village as it was dragged from shore. When the first men arrived, they saw the beast’s head disappear beneath the choppy waters. It seems as if our next priority will be hunting the alligators before a child is lost.

I grow increasingly wary as I ponder these circumstances. Once again it instills the sense I am not alone. Twice now I have glanced over my shoulder, expecting to find a visitor. It is overwhelming how strong the sensation grows. I believe I am at my limit; it is time to retire in preparation for another early start.


April 15, 1752

It was a somber day; good men have died. Late in the night, the Hampton’s woke to the sound of agonizing screams and frantic banging. Kenneth quickly recognized the familiar voice begging entry and rushed to unbar the door. He gasped at the bloody sight crumpled before him as he struggled to drag Judd Crawley inside.

Once across the threshold, the injured man fought assistance, demanding every entry point be secured. Ken humored Mr. Crawley, latching the door before further examination. A dark, crimson trail marked their passage through the home, but it was already too late.

With aid from Penelope and a newly lit fire, they were able to see the horrifying extent of Judd’s injuries. Had the man survived, it would have been without his left arm or leg, but he soon lapsed into unconsciousness, dying minutes later. His shoulder remained attached by only a few bundled nerves, his knee twisted at a nauseating angle, and puncture wounds bore deep into his thigh, exposing the muscle and tendons beneath.

Mr. Crawley never said what attacked him, and I am beyond speculation (lest another page be marred), but most assume a bear. Mrs. Hampton is terribly distraught Florence witnessed the gruesome sight. The curious child was caught spying from the balcony, poking her head between the bannisters. Alice ran to her sister, but the girl was already gone. My considerate, future wife found the little one pretending to sleep soundly in bed and considered her work finished.

Worried for Donald’s safety after multiple nights alone in the dangerous forest, we have formed a search party which will depart at first light. It is vital I rest soon, but there is more I must write while memory is fresh. Unfortunately, Judd’s was not the only death suffered.

This evening, I was told of the Johnson family’s tragedy. What they have endured these last days is unimaginable… even more so that it was kept secret. Not that I blame them; I myself had much the same instinct. Although, it is doubtful I have the fortitude to remain silent if faced with true adversity. Their tale is so unusual, I wish to record it precisely as told.

Edmund and Grace Johnson are a young couple with a frail six-year-old son. Benjamin has always been sickly and therefore does not play about with other children. As they have since been unable to conceive, the boy is without siblings and prone to loneliness. None were surprised when he developed an imaginary friend; it is a common enough thing. The parents were merely pleased at the sound of their son’s laughter.

The boy developed this “friendship” during the first night in his new home. By the next noonday meal, he was insisting a plate be prepared for Mister Long. At first the parents found it endearing and encouraged the boy’s imagination. They asked questions about his new companion, finding the answers odd but harmless.

Over the course of that day, they learned Mister Long is 842 years-old and wears a black dress which covers his feet. He is bald with stark, white skin, a crooked nose, and uneven, yellow eyes. The imagery is admittedly disturbing, but stranger still is what happened next.

After putting the child to bed, Edmund and Grace sat at the kitchen table, discussing the odd descriptions of Mister Long. During this conversation, Mr. Johnson stated the price of a dog worth distracting the boy from such hideous ideas. The moment those words were spoken, Benjamin’s shrill cry rang through the house.

The parents rushed to his aid, confused and terrified. As they burst through the door, a dark mass seemed to disappear through the wall, and items in the adjoining room could be heard crashing to the floor. Grace held her son as Edmund searched the home, but nothing was found.

They waited until the following morning to question the child. He was incapable of expressing what transpired but understood why. Somehow, Benjamin was aware of the dog jest. He repeated Edmund’s words verbatim, claiming Mister Long perceived it as a threat. I have personally been inside the Johnson home, and I can bear witness the rooms are situated far apart.

Their son relayed progressively sinister messages until the Johnson’s terror came to a climax just before dawn. Once again, they woke to the sound of Benjamin’s desperate screams. As they charged in, a solid, black form could be seen enveloping their son’s body, choking off his agonized wails.

The mortified parents lunged forward, but an invisible force propelled them backwards. They watched, paralyzed, as the malignant mass warped into an almost humanoid shape, and black, wispy tendrils forced Benjamin’s lips apart, opening his mouth far past its human limit. The snap of his jaw echoed in the small room, earning fresh shrieks of agony from the helpless parents.

As the form slowly forced itself into the boy, his throat tripled in size. In a last act of desperation, Edmund screamed into the cold darkness, offering his own body in exchange.

The black mass left the child like that of a snake leaving its den. Faster than human eyes could track, it flew across the room, forcing itself into Mr. Johnson. Grace watched in horror as her husband’s body turned into a purple, bulging nightmare.

With a sudden realization she was no longer held in place, the determined mother acted without hesitation. Returning with Edmund’s rifle, she pulled the trigger before the possessed man could rise to his feet. The stench of sulfur filled the room as Grace carried her son away from the carnage.

Mrs. Johnson has moved back to Jamestown Proper to be with her mother and says the boy has no memory of the tragic events – something she considers a blessing, no doubt. I do not pretend to know what plagued the small family; I only document the facts in hopes of one day reviewing these pages as a true man of science. Perhaps then I will understand what piece this puzzle misses. For now, all I can do is rest in preparation for tomorrow’s search.


It is definitely time for a break.

… … No way, Mister Long is not a doppelgänger or demon; we think he’s a strangely powerful ghost, but it’s hard to be sure. He was here long before the first settlement, and I doubt anyone ever finds a way to get rid of him. Who knows what kinda tricks he’s picked up since this story.

… … Haha, it’s not a dress, it’s a cloak. The kid didn’t know what to call it, and Nicky was a bit too shook up to think anything of the detail.

… … Actually, the advice came from yours truly; we felt really bad for that poor kid. We weren’t very good at communicating yet but putting all our energy into yelling instructions got the job done… sorta.

… … It was honestly the only way to save Benji, and it was still Ed and Grace’s decision. We only gave them ideas, the choice to act was all their own. Trust me, most parents would have done the same; I know we would.

… … … Hell, we also stalked the shit out of every man intent on searching the woods. You know well as us that Donald fella is long dead; there was no point watching more die on a hopeless mission. It’s surprising what you can do to someone’s food if you hover round the kitchen long enough.

… … Those answers will come in due time; you’ll find out more soon enough. So… umm… while we’re on a break anyway, I couldn’t help noticing the bulge in your pack there…

… … … … … Thank the cricket I don’t need to breathe; I think we’re about to find out if ghosts have tears. The Stand, IT, and Needful Things are my favorites! It’s like you knew!

… … … They did?! My family is the best!

… … Hey, that means you too, ya know! I’m speaking for all of us when I say you’re every bit a member! If you’ll have us, that is…

… … No wonder you were so eager to get back before Christmas! You sly thing!

… … Okay, I know, I know; I’m doing it again. Though, in my defense I think you only hindered the process by distracting me. I don’t know how you expect me to sit here reading this drivel while those babies are waiting.

… … That’s not my fault! You shoulda told me to mind my own damn business!

… Fine, at least let me hold them.

… Well, what are you waiting for? Sit your ass down so we can get to it.


April 16, 1752

I want nothing more to do with this vile place. I will need a few days for planning and preparations, but by this time next week I shall be far away from here. I woke an hour before dawn, feeling nauseated but determined to participate in the search for Alice’s brother. If the worst happened, she would need a reliable friend close by to ensure no dishonorable fiends try gaining advantage of her grievous state.

By some strange coincidence, four members of our search party also fell ill. In the end, only five of us entered the woods. To collect more men would only delay us longer, and if Donald lay injured, each passing hour further decreased his chance of survival. With all of us armed, our numbers should have been sufficient, but I never dreamed… in all my wildest imaginings… I could never have conceived such possibilities.

It was a clear, sunny day when we entered the forest, but an hour into our hike – dark, foreboding clouds rolled across the sky. Joe Harper and Travis Miller decided they would pursue a secondary trail to speed the search. I am as sure they are dead as I am of the cowards’ intent to return home, but they were never seen again.

Kenneth, Ethan, and I marched two miles deeper into the foreboding woods. I still do not understand how it could become so dark during the brightest part of day. Had I not known better, I would have believed it the middle of night!

While stopped to prepare our torches, a torrential downpour broke loose from the skies; not even the forest’s thick canopy could protect us from the rain. Finally, after much struggling, we managed to keep one flame lit under the protection of two men’s coats. Stumbling along awkwardly, we became lost, unable to tell which way was home with our limited vision.

We were not fools, we knew it better to stand in place than wander about aimlessly, and that is precisely what we did. For hours we searched our small area until finally, the torch-light reflected off a shiny, metal object tangled in the branches above. Ethan retrieved the item with great difficulty, and we were crestfallen to see it was unmistakably Donald’s pocket watch.

It was impossible not to connect his treasured keepsake’s location with that of the old stories. A tree-hopping demon seemed less of a drunkard’s ramblings as we failed to locate any signs of a climber upon the bark. Even if Donald found need to conceal himself, there were at least three nearby trees with limbs better suited to a man’s reach.

As we followed the new trail, rain continued to fall in sheets of cold, fat droplets, soaking every layer we wore and chilling us to the bone. We huddled together, seeking the warmth of our meager flame, but it felt as if ice formed on our very souls. That is when we heard something enormous barreling through the forest, approaching at inhuman speed.

I do not know how to describe the cacophony of noises as giant limbs snapped beneath a heavy weight, and thousands of leaves crackled in unison as they fell to paint the forest floor; all the while thunder boomed overhead as lightning illuminated our surroundings in brief flashes of eerie blue light. I did not see Kenneth die, but I heard his screams long enough to know it was not a quick death.

We ran blindly through the maze of trees until I tripped, falling hard into a tangle of roots and losing our only meager source of light. Ethan stopped to help me up, and we saw it was Donald’s mutilated corpse over which I fell. My cousin was quick to regain his composure, dragging me by the arm until I resumed independent function. I do not know if I could have stopped were the situation reversed, so complete was my terror; selfish bastard I am, I thought of nothing but survival.

I did not know where we were or if we ran in the right direction, I only thought to flee the sounds of pursuit that gained on us with every step. My brain could not accept when the giant beast sprung forward, blocking our escape entirely. I was frozen, mouth agape, struggling to take in the gruesome sight before me with the blessedly small light of day remaining.

That creature! It is exactly as described down to the last, disturbing detail. Lesser men may remove their own eyes at such a sight, but I cannot let Ethan’s sacrifice be in vain. I only live thanks to the bravery of my dear cousin – who without thought or care for his own life, threw me from the demon’s path as he advanced on the evil beast. Judging by the sickening squelch that sounded with the rifle blast, I can safely assume the brave man’s one shot aimed true.

My heart broke into pieces at the horrible noises to follow, but I could not look back, lest I be next. One moment I was crashing through the forest, drowning in misery, and the next – I was home, standing in bright, warm sunshine. Somehow, I found my way to the other side of Dirge Lake, near Jean Kirby’s home, and not a drop of rain had fallen. If I had not tripped, forcing us to waste precious time… Ethan would be here now.

I reported the horrible experience as we gathered in the Hampton home for the final time. I will never forget the look on Alice’s face as I broke the tragic news. Upon relaying the last, gruesome details, several others came forward with their own unexplained experiences.

Theresa Harper left her home to fetch a pail of water from the lake when a single, sharp cry rang out. Her husband followed her tracks to the water’s edge, but no prints existed to indicate where she next went. In the grand scheme of things, it is not surprising she was never found.

Bonnie McEntire complained her daughter talked to the empty corner of her bedroom on a nightly basis, and she was not the only one.

Simon Clovers, the man who witnessed the horse die at the lake, admitted to seeing tentacles wrapped around the animal’s head as it was pulled under.

As Dan Freeman recounted his experience of seeing a deer walk on its hind legs, Phillip Matthews said he too witnessed such a sight. Panic broke out as several people began talking in unison, but Uncle Nelson quickly remedied the chaos by reminding all that we stood in Mrs. Hampton’s den on the night she lost her husband and son.

Needless to say, we are ready to admit our folly, and will leave this place tomorrow. Personally, I will take great pleasure in watching the bridge burn once the last man is across. Then I shall make very serious considerations into the type of man I wish to be and do whatever necessary to become that vision. If I am lucky, perhaps I will have half Ethan’s bravery and integrity.


Aw, it’s ok, friend. Do you need a tissue? Look, if it makes you feel any better, Trish babies the absolute shit out of that boy. I know we like to joke, but honest, we’re all quite happy here together.

… … … Scout’s honor. I mean come on, just look at him! He’s so lost in whatever he’s watching, he doesn’t give a single fig about how he got here. Now perk up, it’s time for the last entry.


April 19, 1752

I refuse to let that place drive me mad! Now that survivors are safely back in Jamestown, I have decided to go east – to college, where I will become a man of science. When properly educated, I will unravel these mysteries; until then, I can only record the events in preparation of that later date. Perhaps by then, the elders will trust me enough to reveal the demon’s name. If the legends are true, I must admit there is no reason to divulge the information at present.

The day after I returned from the Cursed Woods, all of Jamestown assisted in our move. Our dead were transported so they may be buried with their families, and every wagon was overloaded with the children of desperate parents. Most could not afford to leave all possessions behind, but they could not take chances knowing what happened to the Johnson boy and now poor Florence.

Alice was in her room when she heard her mother’s pained scream. She discovered her sister wielding a kitchen knife with proficiency beyond that of a small child. I know she will likely never forgive herself, but her quick actions saved Penelope’s life. Her mother’s wounded shoulder bled freely but was not lethal.

Somehow, amidst the chaos, Alice noticed her sister had no reflection in a mirror. She describes her actions as help from a guardian angel, for she does not understand how she knew that to mean Florence was beyond saving. Grabbing a nearby fire poker, she put an end to the being posing as her sister, and now her mother will make a full recovery… physically speaking, of course.

I personally escorted the grieving women across the bridge to safety, but it will be a long road to recovery after their heavy losses. Throughout the days ahead, I came to learn more horrific tales of those lost due to our ignorance. Just as my forefathers warned, we slaughtered our own the moment we expressed our plans to escape. Part of me still suspects the events of the last week are a nightmare, but with each passing day, my hopes of waking fade.

Clyde Parker shot his wife and children in their sleep and witnesses report seeing him enter the forest, but he has not been seen since. Jim Williams lost his hand when Mrs. Williams woke him with a hatchet. He killed her as their children screamed, and he has not spoken a word since. If not for his eldest son, we would not know what transpired.

Each family now has a similar tale. All told, twenty-six souls were lost because we believed our intellect superior to those before us. The number would surely be higher had our neighbors not so graciously assisted our retreat. I believe my time away will be good for mind and soul; it is my greatest wish to return as a man who is capable of providing Alice with the life she deserves.


I know Nicky got off to a rough start, but none of us are half as smart as we think at twenty-one. Hell, he wised up faster than most, and he did go on to be quite the man of science.

… … … I’m glad you agree; people tend to forget how hard it is to believe this stuff when you weren’t raised with it.

… … Course he did! The Cooke men always win their lady’s heart! Hmph, as if you had to ask.

… … I tell you what, the hardest part of the whole ordeal was making him mess up the journal. Broke my heart to see those beautiful pages stained with stray ink, but it was for the greater good.

… … Hmm, I guess the info on doppelgängers was a little sparser than I remembered… must have confused it with the next part, my bad. It’s okay, we’ll get there.

… … … One more thing before you go, can I ask you something? I’ve seen it referenced in movies, but don’t quite understand… are you familiar with the YouTube? I think that’s how you say it… one of these phones has a picture—

… Oh, good, so you’ve heard of it!

… … … … … … … Well, that sounds neat as hell! Golly, I wish we could get internet here! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! Our lives are infinitely more entertaining since you came along… but there’s so much we miss out on.

… … … Sure, we have plenty of extra phones we’ll never use, why? You need one? We have a wide assortment to choose from.

… Yea, most are new, but—

… … … … Ethan! Bring every phone, now! Our best friend is going to fill them with YouTube downloads! Move your ass!

… … … I don’t know… I… think… this is what it feels like to be speechless… what do you recommend?

… … … … … You mean… there’s entire channels dedicated to people reading scary stories?!

… That sounds a little too good to be true…

… … Who’s your favorite? You clearly have excellent taste.

… … Dark Somnium? Okay, he sounds like a winner. Did you know Somnium is Latin for dream? I like the clever ones, yes, load me up with all his best!

… … What do you mean it’s not just stories and sound effects?

… … How can it also be a community?

… … Dark Family? My, that does sound like a dream, doesn’t it?

… … Aww, but I won’t be able to talk with them… ah, well. Maybe someday. I’m just excited to hear new stories.

… … I know I said it last time but spare me one last sappy moment. I truly wish you the happiest of holidays, my own, special Dark Family. As always, we shall eagerly await your next visit.


Part 6