Classics Translated

The Pit and the Pendulum

Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1842; translated into Modern English, otherwise exactly the same.

(Narration coming soon)

I was sick to death of the agony; when they untied me, and I was allowed to sit, I felt like I was losing my mind. The dreaded death sentence was the last thing I heard. After that, the sound of the interrogating voices merged into one dreamy, unrecognizable hum. It infused my soul with the idea of revolution – perhaps due to the way it sounded like a mill-wheel – but I only heard it for a brief period. For a while, I saw terrible things! I saw the thin lips of the black-robed judges. They were whiter than the paper I write on and grotesquely thin; they all wore the firm expression of one who is absolutely certain of their beliefs, and they showed a stern contempt for torture. Their lips squirmed with deadly commands as they passed judgment over my Fate. I saw them form the syllables of my name and shuddered when no sound followed. For a moment, I also saw the soft and nearly invisible movement of the black curtains that wrapped the walls. Then, I saw the seven tall candles on the table. At first, they seemed like white, slender angels who would save me, but suddenly, I became very nauseous; every inch of my body felt like I had been electrocuted. The angels became meaningless ghosts with flaming heads, and I realized they would be no help. Next, I heard a rich, musical note and thought of how peacefully the dead must rest. The thought crept up gently and took a long time to complete, but just as I began to really consider it – the judges magically vanished. The tall candles sank into nothing, and the black darkness prevailed; all sensations were swallowed up in the mad, rushing fall into hell. Then, silence, stillness, and night were the only things left in the universe.

I felt faint but did not completely lose consciousness. I will not attempt to define or describe what little remained, but all was not lost. In the deepest slumber— no, in delirium— no, in death— no, even in the grave, all is not lost; otherwise, man cannot be immortal. When waking from a deep sleep, we break through the silky web of some dream, yet a second later – we forget what it was about. There are two stages to waking. First, is in the mental or spiritual sense; second, is in the physical sense. Once awake, we can usually recall impressions of the dream; these impressions are clear memories of the gulf beyond, and that gulf is— what? How can we tell its shadows apart from the ones we see in death? If the impressions from the first stage are not remembered immediately, they come to us spontaneously, and we wonder where they came from. A man who has never felt that madness will not see strange places and familiar faces in the embers of a fire or imagine sad visions floating in the air; he will not wonder about the smell of a random flower or grow confused over the meaning of a song.

Among frequent attempts at trying to remember any part of mine, there were moments I remembered dreaming of success; there were very brief periods where I imagined myself in the future, and that is how I knew it could not be real. These shadowy memories are of tall figures that dragged me down in silence— down, down, still further down, until I became horribly dizzy at the mere idea of continuing. My unnaturally still heart also warned of a vague horror. Then, everything suddenly stopped – as if my tormentors had reached their limit and needed a break. After this, I remember a flat, damp area, and the rest is a chaotic memory trying to hide forbidden things.

I woke to my heart beating loudly in my ears followed by a silent pause, and a tingling sensation spread through my body. For a long while, there were no thoughts – merely an awareness of my existence. Then, very suddenly, my thoughts returned, and I was consumed by terror as I tried to understand my situation. It resulted in a strong desire to fall back into oblivion, but was soon followed by a surge of motivation and a successful attempt at moving. Now, I remembered the trial, the judges, the black robes, the punishment, the sickness, and the delirium; with great, concentrated effort, I was able to vaguely recall what happened later that day.

So far, my eyes remained closed. I was untied and laying on my back; I reached out my hand, and it fell heavily onto something hard and damp. I struggled to keep it there for several minutes while trying to imagine what it could be. I dared not to look even though I wanted to; I dreaded seeing the objects around me. It was not that I feared looking at horrible things, but I feared there would be nothing to see. With a wild desperation, I opened my eyes quickly, and my worst fears were confirmed. The blackness of night surrounded me, and I struggled to breathe. The intensity of the darkness was crushing, and the air was unbearably dense. I continued to lay quietly and tried to think logically. I thought about the trial and attempted to discern my location. It seemed like a very long time had passed since my sentence was given, but I did not think myself dead for even a moment. Such an uncertain belief only happens in works of fiction, but where – and in what – condition was I? Those sentenced to death usually died at the inquisition burnings, and one of these had been held on the same night as my trial. Had I been returned to my dungeon to wait for the one that is several months away? I immediately knew that could not be. Victims were in immediate demand. Plus, my dungeon and all the condemned cells in Toledo had stone floors, and they were not pitch black.

A scary thought suddenly made my heart race, and for a brief time, I once more fell into a state of delirium. Upon recovering, I immediately rose to my feet – my entire body shaking. I reached my arms out blindly in all directions and felt nothing, yet I feared taking a step in case I found the walls of a tomb. Sweat ran from every pore and stood in big, cold drops on my forehead. The suspense was agonizing and grew to be unbearable; cautiously, I moved forward with my arms extended – straining my eyes in hopes of finding any faint ray of light. I continued for many paces, but everything was black and empty. I breathed easier; it was obvious that I had at least escaped the worst fates.

As I continued to step forward cautiously, I suddenly remembered a thousand vague rumors about the horrors of Toledo. Strange things have been said of its dungeons; I had always considered them to be myths – too ghastly to repeat above a whisper. Was I left to starve in this underground world of darkness? What even worse fate might await me? It would be a harsher death than the usual bitter executions they perform; I knew my judge’s character too well to doubt it. The how and when were the only thoughts that distracted me.

My outstretched hands finally found a smooth, stone wall. It was slimy and cold, but I followed it along, stepping carefully and wondering what brilliant idea made me try in the first place. This process did nothing to help determine the size of my dungeon; I made a complete lap back to where I started without being aware of it. Since there were no unique features, I looked for the knife that had been in my pocket, but it was gone, and my clothes had been exchanged for a coarse, woolen robe; I had wanted to use the blade to mark my starting point. There was an easy solution, but my initial panic made it seem impossible to do any other way. I tore part of the robe’s hem and placed the strip of fabric by the wall; I thought it would be impossible to miss while feeling my way around the cell, but I either underestimated the dungeon’s size or my own weakness. The ground was wet and slippery; I staggered forward for some time until I tripped and fell. I was too tired to get up and soon fell asleep.

When I woke and reached out my arm, there was a loaf of bread and a pitcher of water. I ate and drank greedily – too exhausted to care how it got there. Then, I resumed my lap around the prison, and finally returned the strip of cloth. I had counted 52 paces before falling, and I counted 48 more after. In total, that is 100 paces, and – assuming two paces equal one yard – I figured the dungeon to be 50 yards in circumference. However, I found many angles in the wall and could not guess the shape of the vault; I could not help thinking of it as a vault.

I had few clues and no hope of learning anything, but a vague curiosity prompted me to keep trying. Giving up on the wall, I decided to cross the dungeon’s floor. At first I went with extreme caution; although the floor seemed solid, it was covered with slime. Ultimately, I did not hesitate to step firmly as I struggled to cross in as straight a line as possible. I went 10-12 paces this way when the scrap of cloth became tangled between my legs; I tripped and fell hard on my face.

During the confusion after my fall, I laid on my back, not understanding what I saw. My chin rested on the prison’s floor, but not my lips or anything above them; my forehead was soaked in a clammy sweat, and I could smell the peculiar stench of rotten fungus. I reached forward and shuddered to find myself at the edge of a round pit; I had no way to determine its size. Feeling around the bricks at the edge, I was able to remove a small piece and drop it into the hole. For many seconds I listened to it bounce off the stone walls as it fell; finally, there was a sullen splash of water followed by loud echoes. At the same time, I heard the quick opening and closing of a door from above, and a faint beam of light suddenly flashed through the gloom and faded away.

It became clear what they had planned for me, and I congratulated myself for the timely accident that allowed me to avoid it. One step further, and it would have been the end. There was a choice between a physically horrible death or a mentally horrible death, and I had been marked for the latter. My nerves were a wreck from all the suffering I had endured; I trembled at the sound of my own voice and was now a perfect subject for the awaiting torture.

Shaking all over, I felt my way back to the wall; I decided to die there rather than risk the terror of the pit. My imagination created many horrors in the dungeon. If my mind were in a better state, I might have had the courage to end my misery immediately by jumping into the hole, but in that moment, I was the king of cowards. The fact that it was a slow death was the only thing I remembered reading about the pit.

My anger kept me awake for many hours, but eventually, I slept again. Upon waking, I found another loaf of bread and a pitcher of water nearby. I was consumed by a burning thirst and emptied the pitcher in a single drink. It must have been drugged; I hardly drank any before becoming unbearably tired and falling into a deep, death-like sleep. I do not know for how long, but when I woke, my surroundings were visible. Due to an unknown soft, yellow glow, I was able to see the full prison.

I had been greatly mistaken about its size; it was no more than eight feet wide. For several minutes this fact troubled me greatly. What could be less important than the size of my dungeon? My mind tends to focus on insignificant details, and I tried to discern how I misjudged the dimensions by so much. Then, I realized the truth; during my first attempt, I counted 52 paces before falling and must have been only a couple of steps away from the torn fabric. I had almost completed the lap when I fell asleep; considering my calculations were almost double the actual size, I must have walked back the way I came after waking. In my confusion, I failed to realize the wall was to my left when I started and to my right when I finished.

I was also fooled about its shape. I found many angles when feeling my way around and assumed something very unlikely; waking from a deep sleep in total darkness has a strong effect on one’s senses. The angles were only a few small, sporadic indentations; its actual shape was square. What I mistook for stone were huge plates of iron or a similar metal, and the indentations were where the plates connected. The metallic dungeon was filled with hideous and repulsive devices inspired by the superstitious monk’s burial chambers. The walls were covered with menacing skeletons and other frightening images. The shapes of these monstrosities were clear, but the colors were faded and blurry from the damp atmosphere. In the center of the stone floor was the round pit I had almost fallen into.

It was difficult to see these things due to my poor condition. I was now lying on my back, and a long strap held me in place atop a low, wooden platform. The bond wrapped around my limbs and body several times, and only my head and left arm were able to move; with great effort, I was able to feed myself when given food. To my horror, the water was gone, and I was consumed by an unbearable thirst. The food reeked of spices that would make me even more thirsty; removing the water was yet another method of torture.

Looking up, I inspected my prison’s ceiling. It was 30-40 feet high and built like the walls. My attention then focused on a single, painted panel; it showed the Grim Reaper, except – instead of a scythe – he held a picture of a huge pendulum like we see on antique clocks. There was something about the machine’s appearance that made me inspect it carefully. When I looked straight up at it – I realized it was moving. It moved in short, slow swings, and I watched it for several minutes – partly from fear, but mostly from curiosity. Finally, I grew tired of observing its dull movement and looked at the rest of my cell.

I heard a slight noise and looked down to see several enormous rats crossing the floor. They came out of the pit which I could see to my right. While I watched, dozens hurried out with ravenous eyes – attracted by the smell of meat. It required great effort to scare them away.

There was no way to track the time, but nearly an hour later, I looked up again. What I saw confused and amazed me. The pendulum was swinging nearly a yard wider at a greatly increased speed, but the fact that it had lowered was the most disturbing part. The end of the crescent-shaped glittering steel was roughly a foot long from point to point, and the bottom edge looked sharp as a razor. It seemed bulky and heavy, but higher up, it thinned and connected to a hefty brass rod that hissed as it swung through the air.

There were no more doubts that I faced the monk’s ingenious tortures. The inquisitors knew I discovered the pit – whose horrors are reserved for bold rebels such as myself; it is comparable to hell and regarded as the worst of all their punishments. Being trapped and ignorant of what is to come is an important part of the torture. I avoided falling into the hole by accident, and throwing me into the abyss would be no fun for the demons. Now, a different, milder death awaited me. Milder! I half-smiled at the word choice despite my agony.

For many long, long hours of indescribable horror, I counted the steel pendulum’s rushing swings. Inch by inch it slowly lowered – down and down it came! Days passed; it might have been many days – it swung so close, I could feel its pungent wind. The sharp steel’s smell forced itself into my nostrils, and I begged heaven for a quicker descent. I grew frantic with anger and struggled to force myself up – into the frightening blade’s path. Then, I suddenly calmed and lay smiling at the glittering blade – like a child smiles at a shiny object.

There was another brief period of delirium; upon waking, there was no noticeable descent in the pendulum, but it might have been longer. I knew the demons noticed my lapse of consciousness, and they could have easily stopped the blade. I felt indescribably sick and weak, as if I were starving. Even during the agony of that time, my body needed food. I painfully reached out as far as my bonds allowed and grabbed the small bit of food left by the rats. As I put it in my mouth, I realized something that made me happy – even hopeful. Yet what business did I have to hope? I felt joy and hope, but I also felt the happy thought vanish before it fully formed. I struggled in vain to remember it. My long suffering had nearly eliminated my ability to think clearly; I was an idiot.

The pendulum swung horizontally across my body – aimed to strike near my heart. First, it would slice into my robe, then, it would retreat and come back again… and again. Its swing now ranged thirty feet or more and would be strong enough to shred the iron walls, but the cutting of my robe would take several minutes. I paused at this thought – not daring to think of what would come next, but I considered it persistently as if that would stop the pendulum’s descent. I forced myself to think about the strange sensation and sound the blade would make as it passed across the robe; I thought about all these pointless things until my teeth were on edge.

It crept down steadily, and I took an erratic pleasure in comparing its descent with its velocity. To the right – to the left – far and wide – screaming at me like a cursed spirit with the stealthy pace of a tiger! I alternated between laughter and howling – depending which thought became my focus.

Down – unavoidably, relentlessly down! It swung within three inches of my chest! I struggled violently, furiously, to free my left arm; it was only loose from the elbow down. With great effort, I could reach the nearby plate and my mouth, but no farther. If I could have broken the bonds above my elbow, I would have attempted to stop the pendulum by catching it; I might as well have attempted to stop an avalanche!

Down still – consistently and inevitably down! I gasped, struggling and convulsing at every swing as my eyes followed it with a desperate eagerness; they reflexively closed at the descent, but death would have been a relief! Still, my whole body shook at the thought of how slight the descent would be that came before that first, glistening strike across my chest. Hope is what made my nerves quiver; the desperate kind that whispers to the condemned – even in the dungeons of the Inquisition.

In 10-12 more swings, the steel would connect with my robe. My soul was consumed with despair, but then, I realized the strap was the only thing holding me in place. The blade’s first strike would cut the bond – making it possible to free myself – though, the blade would be horrifically close. Any wrong movement would be deadly! Also, it seemed likely that the torturer’s minions had not considered or planned for the possibility! Was there a chance the strap was in the pendulum’s path? In my last, frustrated hope, I struggled to lift my head enough to see my chest. The strap wound tightly around my limbs and body in all directions except for where the blade would strike.

I dropped my head back, and an escape plan suddenly flashed through my mind. Earlier, I hinted that parts of one were beginning to form while I ate. Now, the plan was complete; it was weak, insane, and dangerous – but still complete. Though nervous and filled with doubt, I began immediately.

For many hours, the area around me had been swarming with rats. They were wild, brave, and starving; their red eyes glared at me as if they were only waiting for me to go still before attacking. “What food are they used to eating down here?” I thought.

Despite my greatest efforts to stop them, they ate almost all of my food. I was constantly waving my hand over the dish, but once they grew accustomed to the movement it stopped working; in their hunger, the vermin frequently bit my fingers. With the spices that remained, I thoroughly rubbed the strap wherever I could reach it; then, raising my hand away from the floor – I laid entirely still.

At first, the starving animals were startled and terrified at my sudden stillness. They retreated in alarm – many into the well – but only for a moment; I was right to depend on their hunger. Seeing that I remained motionless, a couple of the bravest jumped onto my platform and smelled the strap. This seemed to be the signal for the others to come forward. They rushed over in hordes – clinging to the wooden frame, and leaping onto me by the hundreds. The movement of the pendulum did not bother them at all; they avoided its swing as they focused on my tasty bonds. More and more swarmed over me in heaps, writhing on my throat, and their cold lips found my own. I was suffocating under their weight; the world has no word for the level of disgust that swelled within me, and my heart felt deeply chilled, almost clammy. Yet, I felt that the struggle would be over in a minute; the strap was noticeably loosened. It must have already been severed in multiple places. With inhuman determination, I continued laying still.

My calculations proved correct, and my efforts were not in vain. Finally, I was free; the shredded strap hung loosely from my body, but the pendulum’s swing had already cut into my chest. It had split the robe’s fabric and made two more passes – sending sharp shots of pain through every nerve – but it was time to escape. A wave of my hand scared the rats away; then, my movements were steady, cautious, and slow as I slid out of the straps and away from the blade. For the moment, I was free.

I was free from the blade but not from the Inquisition! I had barely stepped onto the prison’s stone floor when the hellish machine stopped moving, and some invisible force pulled it up into the ceiling. It was a lesson I took to heart; my every move was surely being watched. Free! I had only escaped one agonizing death to endure another – perhaps one even worse. At that thought, I nervously inspected the iron bars holding me prisoner and noticed something unusual – something I did not notice at first. For several minutes, I busied myself in vain with random assumptions, and – for the first time – realized where the yellow light was coming from. It came from a half-inch wide crack that extended around the entire cell at the bottom of the walls – which were completely separate from the floor. I struggled to look through the opening, but could not see anything.

As I rose from trying, I immediately understood the purpose of the chamber’s alterations. I saw the distinct outlines of figures, but their color was blurred and hard to describe. These colors were now intensely bright and gave them a menacing, ghoulish appearance that might have frightened someone with even stronger nerves than my own. Wild, ghastly, demonic eyes glared at me from a thousand directions, all gleaming with a fire I could not believe to be imaginary.

I could smell the vapors of heated iron, and the suffocating odor spread through the prison! A deeper glow settled into the eyes glaring at me, and I panted, gasping for breath; there was no doubt what my persistent, demonic tormentors planned now! I retreated to the center of the cell, away from the glowing metal. As I thought of the fiery end to come, I was relieved to remember the pit’s coldness. I rushed to its deadly edges and strained to see down below. The glare from the burning roof lit its darkest depths, but – for a wild moment – my eyes refused to understand what I saw. Finally, it wrestled its way into my soul until I could not deny logic any longer. Oh, what I would have given for a voice to speak! What horror! With a scream, I rushed away from the edge and buried my face in my hands, weeping bitterly.

The heat rose rapidly, and I looked up once again, shaking with fear. There had been a second change in the cell. Like before, I failed to understand what was happening at first, but I was not left wondering for long. The Inquisitor’s revenge had been rushed by my escape, and the King of Terrors would have no more delay. The room had been square; I saw that two of its iron angles were now small and the other two were large. The frightening difference quickly increased with a low, rumbling moan, and the room suddenly shifted into the shape of a diamond as the walls closed in. They did not stop there, and I did not want them to stop; I would have pulled those red walls to my chest like a blanket of eternal peace. “Death,” I said, “any death but the pit!” Fool! I should have known the burning walls’ purpose was to push me into the pit! Could I stand against its heat or pressure? The diamond grew flatter and flatter so fast that I had no time to think. The center fell just over the pit; I shrank back, but the closing walls pushed me forward. Finally, there was no foothold left on the prison floor for my burned and writhing body to stand. I stopped struggling, but the agony in my soul found comfort in one loud, long, and final scream of despair. I balanced on the edge and looked away—

There was a conflicting hum of human voices, a loud blast of trumpets, and a harsh grating like a thousand thunders! The fiery walls rushed back! An outstretched arm caught my own as I fell, fainting, into the abyss; it was General Lasalle. The French army had entered Toledo; the Inquisition was in the hands of its enemies.

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

Bluebeard

Charles Perrault, originally published 1697; translated to Modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 


This story was adapted specially for Classics in the Rain with the wonderful Danie Dreadful. Enjoy Bluebeard in its full glory with this fantastic narration!

There was once a man who had fine houses, a great treasure, embroidered furniture, and gold-plated coaches, but this man was unlucky enough to have a blue beard; it made him so frightfully ugly that all the women ran away from him.

One of his neighbors – a highborn lady – had two daughters who were perfect beauties. He wanted to marry one of them and let her choose which it would be. Neither of the women would have him; they sent him back and forth from one to the other, unable to bear the thought of marrying a man with a blue beard. Adding to their aversion was the fact that he had already been married to several wives, and nobody knew what happened to them.

To win their affection, Bluebeard took them, their mother, and a few friends from the neighborhood to one of his country houses where they stayed for a whole week.

The time was filled with parties, hunting, fishing, dancing, and feasting. Nobody went to bed; they all spent the night celebrating and joking with each other. Everything went according to plan, and the youngest daughter began to think the man’s beard was not so blue after all, and that he was a very nice gentleman.

They were married as soon as they returned home. About a month later, Bluebeard needed to travel to the country for at least six weeks due to very important business matters. Not wanting his wife to be lonely, he suggested she take some friends to the country house and enjoy herself.

Original art I found

“Here are the keys to the two big rooms where my best furniture is stored. These keys are to the good silver, which are not for everyday use, and this one opens the safe containing my gold; these are for the jewelry cases, and this is the master key to all the apartments… Now – as for this little one here – it is the key to the ground floor closet at the end of the great hall. Open them all; go into each and every one of them – except for that closet. I forbid it. If you do open it – I will be greatly angered and resentful.” He said.

She promised to obey his exact wishes. Then, he hugged her, got into his coach, and left on his journey.

Her friends and neighbors did not wait to be invited; they were impatient to see the rich furniture, but they were too frightened of her husband’s blue beard to visit while he was there. They ran through all the rooms, and each was finer than the last.

Finally, they visited the two great rooms with the most expensive furniture. They could not sufficiently admire all the beautiful paintings, beds, couches, cabinets, tables, and full-length mirrors; some were framed with glass, others with silver, and they were the most magnificent they had ever seen.

In the meantime, the wife did not waste her time looking at all these fine things because she was impatient to open the closet on the ground floor. Her curiosity was so strong, she descended the black staircase with no thought to how rude it was to leave her guests, and – in her hurry – she nearly fell and broke her neck.

She paused at the closet door, thinking about her husband’s command and considering what the consequences might be if she disobeyed, but the temptation was too strong to resist. Trembling, she opened it with the little key, but it was too dark to see anything clearly. After a few minutes, her eyes began to adjust; the bodies of several dead women were laid against the walls, and the floor was covered with dried blood. These were all the previous wives of Bluebeard; he married and murdered them one after another. She thought she would die of fright, and the key fell from her hand.

She retrieved the key, locked the door, and went upstairs to recover in her room, but she was simply too frightened. Noticing the key was stained with blood, she tried to wipe it off, but it would not come out; she even tried to wash it with soap and sand, but that did not work either. The blood remained because it was a magical key, and she could never get it clean; when the blood was gone from one side, it reappeared on the other.

Bluebeard returned from his journey that same evening; he received letters on the road stating the business matters had ended well. His wife did all she could to convince him she was happy about his speedy return.

The next morning, he asked for the keys; her hand trembled so badly that he easily guessed what happened.

“Why is the key to my closet missing?” He asked.

“I must have left it on the table upstairs.” She said.

“Bring it to me at once.” Bluebeard demanded.

After several back and forths between them, she was forced to bring him the key. Bluebeard carefully examined it before asking, “Why is there blood on it?”

“I do not know!” The poor woman cried, paler than death.

“You do not know!” Exclaimed Bluebeard. “I know exactly what happened! You went into the closet, did you not? Very well, madam; you will go back and take your place among the ladies you saw there.”

At this, she threw herself at her husband’s feet and sincerely begged his forgiveness – vowing to never disobey again. She was so beautiful she could have melted a rock, but Bluebeard’s heart was harder than any rock!

“You must die at once, madam,” he said.

“If I must die, give me time to say my prayers.” She answered, her eyes bathed in tears.

“I will give you seven minutes, but not one second more.” Bluebeard replied.

When she was alone, she called to her sister, “Sister Anne, I beg you, go to the top of the tower, and see if my brothers are coming. They promised they would be here today; if you see them, give them a sign to hurry.”

Anne went to the top of the tower, and the poor wife cried out from time to time, “Anne, do you see anyone coming?”

“I see nothing but a cloud of dust, the sun, and the green grass.” Her sister replied.

Meanwhile Bluebeard held a great sword in his hand and called to his wife as loudly as he could, “Come down now, or I will come get you.”

“One moment longer, please,” his wife said; then, very softly, she cried out, “Sister Anne, do you see anybody coming?”

“I see nothing but a cloud of dust, the sun, and the green grass.” Anne answered.

“Come down quickly, or I will come get you.” Bluebeard cried.

“I am coming,” his wife answered; then she cried, “Sister Anne, you do not see anyone coming?”

“I see a great cloud of dust approaching.” Anne replied.

“Are they my brothers?”

“No, my dear sister, it is a flock of sheep.”

“Are you coming down?” Shouted Bluebeard.

“One moment longer,” his wife said; then she cried, “Sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?”

“I see two horsemen, but they are still far away.” She said.

“Thank God,” the poor wife replied joyfully. “It is my brothers; I will give them a sign to hurry.”

Then, Bluebeard yelled so loud, it shook the whole house. The frightened wife came down in tears, her hair in disarray, and threw herself at his feet.

“This means nothing; you must die!” Bluebeard said. Taking hold of her hair with one hand and lifting the sword in the other, he prepared to remove her head. The poor lady turned to him, and – with pleading eyes – asked for one final minute to compose herself.

“No, explain yourself to God,” he said, ready to strike.

At that moment, there was such a loud knocking at the gate that Bluebeard stopped suddenly. The gate was opened, and two horsemen entered. Drawing their swords, they ran directly to Bluebeard, and he knew they were his wife’s brothers; one was a soldier, and the other was a musketeer. He immediately ran to save himself, but the brothers captured him before he was off the porch. They ran their swords through his body and left him on the ground. The poor wife was almost as dead as her husband; she didn’t even have enough strength to stand and welcome her saviors.

Bluebeard had no heirs so his wife inherited everything. She used part of it to marry Anne to a young gentleman who loved her, and another part was used to buy captaincy commissions for her brothers. The rest she used to marry a very worthy gentleman who made her forget the bad time she had with Bluebeard.

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 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

Easter Memoria

This story is dedicated to Coach Freeman; she was one of those special teachers who touched the life of every student she taught, and the best damn coach anyone could ask for. Rest In Peace, we love you always. 


The CreepyPasta


My amazingly talented friend, Danie Dreadful, did another phenomenal job narrating this one. If you haven’t subscribed to her yet, make sure you do; there’s going to be a lot more where this came from! Here’s the YouTube link.
Mr. Easter

Easter is always the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox. Sounds a little weird, doesn’t it? This holiday’s origin varies depending on your chosen religion, but that’s not important for what I’m here to talk about. Instead, I’m going to tell you something that used to be common knowledge, but was scrubbed from history due to global mass murders and suicide.

Long ago, Easter was celebrated on the full moon; it’s the only day Easter Memoria can be performed. Yes, memoria – as in Latin for memory; it allows you to remember everything – including past lives – until sunrise. When the night ends, so does the spell; you might remember flashes or a name, but most is forgotten. The concept sounds great at first, but it’s extremely dangerous. It’s not like watching a movie; these memories are as real as what you did yesterday.

When we die, our souls either hang around as a ghost or pass on. Explaining every aspect of both possibilities would fill a book, so we’re going to ignore the complexities of ghost life completely. Passing on also has quite a list of subcategories, but our focus is on when a soul enters a new vessel.

There’s a lot of fear and misconception about being reincarnated as something terrible, but don’t worry; people are people, just like dogs are dogs, and no, that doesn’t mean Hitler is back. The truly evil souls never make it past the Bad Place, but drunk drivers and rage killers… Eventually, they’ll return; it’s an important distinction.

Deep inside – at the core of our souls – lies the essence of who we are, but when our slates are wiped clean through the process of death and rebirth, we’re forced to start fresh with a new family, body, and brain – sometimes gender or race. Every aspect influences who you ultimately become; it’s entirely possible for a serial killer to have been a surgeon in the past or vice-versa.

Another common belief is that our souls stay around the people or places we share a connection with; that one is absolutely true and played a big part in why the ritual was banned. When it comes to our loved ones, we can see beyond their physical appearances and recognize them for who they were in our past. It made for many heartwarming reunions, but it ruined even more lives. Eighty percent of married participants were having affairs; parents who lost a child would kidnap them when they were reborn, and good people were murdered for past mistakes. That’s only a few of the problems, but they were enough to start our Easter Sunday tradition. Of course, that was only the beginning; it took centuries and countless of executions to get where we are today.

Now, let’s switch gears and think about what it’s actually like to remember all those past lives. Aside from inducing a terrible headache, most people agreed the good memories weren’t worth the trauma endured afterwards. The mind still suffered extreme emotional damage, and nothing can change that. For example, if someone were shot in a previous life, they might suffer crippling panic attacks around guns even if they aren’t consciously aware of the reason.

With the points made so far, you might wonder why people would still do it or how they made use of the knowledge. That part is simple; if you have a private place and way to take notes – you’re all set. Thousands of years ago, there was a decent chance one might remember burying a fortune or any number of useful secrets. With today’s ability to record and travel – the possibilities are limitless. You can probably see where this is going… I did it last year. Thanks to the cameras, I learned more than I bargained for, but I’d like to take you through a summary of what I learned; it will help me organize my thoughts while deciding my next steps.


The Ritual Room

Some people might be curious about how it was done so I’ll start with that, but it’s nothing complicated. First on the list was finding a quiet, indoor location without mirrors. I used our family’s cabin in the woods and drove out three days in advance.

The room can only be illuminated with yellow candles; no other light source is allowed. The number doesn’t matter, but I didn’t relish the thought of sitting in the dark. There was enough to worry about without adding a possible house-fire, so while I did fill the basement with tiny flames – it was done in the safest possible way. Anything with a screen – such as phones or laptops – will effectively taint the ritual, so I used security cameras and put tape over the red lights.

Next, I placed several bowls of rosemary around the room and scattered the rest of my supply onto the floor; traditionally it’s used for multiple reasons, but here it’s to open the mind to lost memories.

Then it was time to fill the room with sentimental possessions. Our basic tastes don’t change much regardless of lifestyle; this can include anything from the foods we eat to the entertainment we prefer. Have you ever seen an old movie or book and felt a connection; almost like you were meant to know it? That’s the sheer bliss of rediscovering a previous love. This step relies mostly on instinct, but it’s easier after the first year since you’ll know what to bring for future rituals. A few examples of my items include a copy of Homer’s Odyssey, pictures of loved ones, and a poster of Van Gough’s Starry Night.

The final step is a doozy; Peyote (pay-oh-tee) is a cactus with a fascinating history, but due to possible mind-altering side-effects, I’m not comfortable detailing step-by-step instructions for this part. If you want to know more, it’s very easy to Google.

Once a comfortable nest was built in the center of my most treasured possessions, there was nothing more to do except have a good night’s rest. The following morning, I ate well, took it easy, and began lighting candles around 4:30; an hour later the full moon was already showing itself. After consuming the recommended Peyote dosage for my size, the meditations began, and it was off to the races.


Prime Memoria

It’s extremely important for the mind to be relaxed; any stress or anxiety will delay the process from starting, but once it does start there’s no stopping it. It’s difficult to describe what it was like, so bear with me. It’s not like opening a floodgate; it happens gradually – starting with the most recent life, then the one before and so on until sun-up. No one has ever been known to reach the end – er… beginning – but that’s probably for the best. The headaches are barely tolerable after a single night; any longer could be deadly. Plus, where exactly would it end? Were we all dinosaurs at one point? I honestly don’t want to know.

Anyway, in the beginning there was only a slight pressure in my skull and it was easy to call out what I saw as memories of being a little girl in the 50’s surfaced. A sense of dread formed while realizing there was hardly thirty years between that date and my birthday, but then I was distracted by moving into a new home at age six. The concern for dying young was nothing compared to the absolute horror that washed over me at remembering that house. The following is everything I know about my tragically short life as a girl named Bethany.

From the moment I saw my pink and white nightmare of a bedroom, something about it made me queasy. It and my parents’ rooms were on the opposite sides of the home, and they never heard me cry. For the first few weeks, I had terrible dreams but couldn’t remember them after waking. My bed was placed in a corner, and the only way I could fall asleep was by pressing my back against the wall. That way, I could make sure the closet stayed shut, no spindly fingers crept from beneath my bed, and no shadows stood outside the window. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked until the nightmares suddenly evolved.

One night – as I was finally drifting off – fingers began lightly caressing my back in the same way Mom sometimes would. In my half-dreamy state, it took a moment to register how wrong the situation was. There was no room for anyone to be between the bed and wall; plus, the fingernails were too pointy. They would break skin at the slightest encouragement, and I knew that’s exactly what they would do if I moved or spoke.

I could only lay there frozen in horror as the nails slowly dragged across my skin, and I shivered beneath them. Hours passed, and my tiny bladder emptied, but I still couldn’t move; it was like being a helpless spectator in my own body. Finally, when the first rays of sunlight beamed through the curtains – a single finger ran through my hair and whispered, “we meet again” before departing.

My initial instinct was to run away, but I imagined a hand reaching from beneath the bed just as my feet touched the floor; it would grab my ankle and pull me under – that was a fact. Dad found me in urine soaked sheets a few hours later and got me cleaned up, but he didn’t believe my story. Later that night, I begged to sleep somewhere else, but the best I got was Mom’s offer to sit with me as I fell asleep. Nothing happened while she was there, and I quickly passed out from pure exhaustion.

It was several hours later when I woke to sharp fingernails trailing down my back, and once again I was completely paralyzed. Hot tears spilled over my cheeks and onto the pillow, but I couldn’t wipe them away. We stayed like that all night until those slim rays of sunshine finally banished the monster. I felt its cold breath in my ear when it teased, “see you tonight,” and – as if a switch were flipped – the tears began in earnest. My body convulsed under the forceful sobs, and I struggled for every breath.

I was still crying when Mom came in hours later; once again, I told my story, and although they didn’t believe it – they were convinced I did. That night, I slept on the couch, and nothing happened; it became my routine for several weeks until Dad decided enough was enough. The back scratching resumed that very night, and this time it was accompanied by the stench of spoiled meat. When the glorious dawn finally came, the fingernails dug into my skin like hooks, and a gruff, menacing voice spat, “you can’t avoid me” before disappearing.

I cried harder than ever before, and later found five red punctures in my skin. The experience bred a healthy resentment towards my parents; I understood only that someone was hurting me, and they didn’t make it stop.

Here, I quit talking to the cameras and simply lived in the moment – forgetting my present life and purpose. I had prepared for assaults and murders – not ghost and demons; I wanted to get off the ride but it was stuck upside down, and there was no surviving the fall. In real life, I was hugging my knees, rocking and whimpering; there was no talking until I – Bethany – was eighteen and getting the fuck out of that house.

For a time, I managed to escape my nightly tormentor by moving. It took three months for the bitch to find me, and I got five deep cuts trailing between my shoulder blades as a greeting; they were next to the five triangular scars from my first transgression. There was a strip of unmarked skin on the right that would look even worse next time…

It was obvious she wasn’t attached to the house – only to me – and life was hard in general. After years of slowly losing my mind, college wasn’t really an option. A woman’s best-case-scenario was to marry a good husband and hope for sons. As if things weren’t bad enough, I had zero interest in men; being a lesbian in the (now) 70’s wasn’t a viable option – especially not in the south. For the first few years, I lived in an apartment, but each time a roommate moved out, the witch grew bolder during our alone-time.

A few months before turning 25, I hopped on one of those hippy buses traveling across the country; it didn’t matter where I was as long as people were nearby, and I wasn’t sober. Most of the time, we didn’t even know what state we were in, and we only paid for three things – drugs, gas, and sometimes food. When we were sick of being on the road we camped in the woods until supplies ran low. People were always coming and going, but there were a few like myself who stuck around. It wasn’t a bad way to live except for the fear of being found… and the overwhelming need to know “why me?”

After two years on the road, I hardly thought of the witch anymore – drugs worked miracles in that regard. Staying in one location longer than two weeks made me nervous, but those times were exceedingly rare. The day she found me, my guard was completely down. I never gave a second thought to the states we would cross on the way to Florida, but somewhere in the middle of Georgia – probably near my hometown – I fell asleep.

It started as a dream; I was very young, and lying next to Mom as she gently rubbed my back. Soon, my eyes began to droop, and she hummed a soft melody while her fingernails grazed my skin under her firm caress. I was drifting away completely when the hand stopped, and my world exploded. Time slowed as claws tore through my back and into my ribcage. Somehow, the witch’s voice found a path through the fog of agony and into my ear; “found you!” She cooed as her claws ripped downward, and blood filled my throat; her cold, putrid breath was the same as before.

Suddenly, my eyes opened wide with shock, and my senses were flooded with chaos; my head throbbed from the screams of those around me and approaching sirens. The brief instant my vision cleared, I saw the twisted remains of our bus and had just enough time to wonder… Did the witch cause the crash or merely take advantage of it? Knowing what I do now, I’m sure it was the former, but we’ll get to that.

In the real world, every camera stopped recording simultaneously when I tried to describe the witch; I think I saw her true form in that final moment, but I can’t be sure now. That’s when I carved “never again” into my arm; when the cameras come back on, there’s a bandage tied around the wound, and I’m still shaking from the memory of dying as Bethany. I would have sold my soul to quit before the next one started, but I barely had time to catch my breath.

Fun fact: When people actually do sell their souls, it’s not to Satan like in the movies – hell it’s not even to the same entity. It’s usually a demon, but as far as the owner is concerned… Well, let’s just say reincarnation is off the table. Trust me folks, never sell your soul.


The Carter House

Now, it was the early 20’s, and all I could do was brace for impact. The only consolation was how little my brain can hold at once; the slight pressure evolved into a full blown headache as new information poured in, and the old was pushed out. Unfortunately, the bad memories stick hardest, and even when they’re gone, they leave behind a nasty residue. What little I said over the following hour was mostly gibberish; when I finally calmed enough to speak coherently, I was being drafted into World War II, and soon, the screams began anew.

Something haunted me in that life, too; something worse than the war. I survived two years in battle before going home with a Purple Heart, yet the worst of my reactions happened long after being discharged. Based on the few understandable things said, my death wasn’t natural or any longer than Bethany’s. Thankfully, whatever happened was enough to scare me straight; I suddenly became very serious and managed to compose myself before the next round.

The time between death and rebirth varies from years to decades pending each person’s situation; it’s impossible to know when someone will be reincarnated. That being said, a definite pattern was beginning to emerge as I was plunged into the late 1880’s – the same timeframe as the two before. It’s even more concerning when you take my current age of 28 into consideration.

My childhood as Charles began well enough; my parents were farmers, we lived in a grand antebellum home, and I was the youngest of five. My siblings weren’t cruel, but they were several years older and held no interest in me. Much of my time was spent at the creek behind our house; it was only a ten minute walk through the forest, and I enjoyed skipping rocks across its surface.

At age 8, I was trying to build a dam when another boy leapt from the woods on the opposite bank. I was so excited to meet someone my own age, I answered all of his questions and asked a slew of my own. His name was Daniel, and he lived on the other side of the forest. We played together until dusk and agreed to meet again the next day. For the next two weeks, I woke early, hurried through my chores, and rushed to the creek.

Then came the Fourth of July; every year, the town threw a huge celebration. Such events were taken very seriously in the days when there was literally nothing else to do. The idea someone might wish to stay home was practically unthinkable, yet that’s what Danny claimed – stating his family didn’t like the loud noises or crowds. I was disappointed, but my parents were suspicious; being antisocial wasn’t just frowned upon, it was downright sinister. They already thought it was odd someone moved into the old Carter house – the only home on that side of the creek, apparently – without their knowing, but shrugged it off as a consequence of a secluded farm life.

When the celebration began, I joined the other kids, and we played while the adults gossiped. It was surprising to learn not one other child knew Danny, but I still wasn’t concerned until the next day, back at the creek. We were only there for a few minutes when my two brothers appeared; judging by their facial expressions, they were there for something I would find extremely unpleasant. Sure enough, Eric (the oldest) said they were tasked with inviting Daniel and his parents to supper.

My brothers were almost triple our size, and not easy to handle when provoked. I countered each smartass remark Danny threw with groveling apologies and promises to invite his parents myself; when they ignored Daniel’s remarks – a temporary relief washed through me. If nothing else, I wouldn’t be forced to watch them kill my only friend, but they still continued across the creek. Danny ran ahead, disappearing into the dense forest, leaving me to awkwardly follow my siblings.

We walked for almost 45 minutes before finally coming to the old Carter House. It needed a fresh paint job, but structurally, it wasn’t that bad. There was no sign of my friend, and I stood far back as Eric knocked on the front door. When no one answered, he walked around back; a few minutes later the door opened, and John – who was still on the stoop – walked inside. My heart raced as I imagined the various ways they were sabotaging my only friendship. It’s hard to say how much time actually passed before Eric called for me from a second story window, but it felt like hours.

The moment I crossed the threshold, two things happened. First, I realized the house was empty; no one had lived there for years. Second, John grabbed my wrist and pulled me to the ground. Once pinned, Eric began the interrogation. “Why wouldn’t you admit he was imaginary before we came all the way up here?” They demanded.

I was naive enough to think we had the wrong house, but there were no others in the area. The only logical conclusion was that Daniel lied to me, but why? That’s when I realized my brothers didn’t ignore him at the creek; they genuinely hadn’t seen him. It was too much for me to comprehend, but I had plenty of time to think about it after Eric and John locked me in the basement. They said if I tried hard enough I would find a way out… I couldn’t believe they really abandoned me. When their laughter faded into the distance, the silence was absolute.

Every spooky tale my siblings ever told filled my mind, and then I heard it; the front door opened… Someone came inside, (thud) but it didn’t sound like my brothers. There were no taunts or jeering, and as the footsteps continued into the house, (thud) I could tell it was only one person; (thud) one person who was moving extremely slow, (thud) and had loud, heavy footsteps (thud). When they were directly above me, dust showered onto my face, (thud) and I struggled not to cough. Wiping the grit from my eyes, I moved beneath the staircase and positioned myself behind the few boxes there (thud). I sat, desperate to control my breathing as each thudding step reverberated through my body, (thud) and finally, they came to a stop at the basement door (thud).

As the doorknob turned, I clasped my hands over my mouth to stifle a scream, but my whimper was surely heard. The door creaked open on rusty hinges, and it lasted for so long I wanted to leap from my hiding place and finish it myself. Had I the presence of mind to remember what an orgasm was – I would have recognized the euphoric sensation I felt when the beautiful sound of brass meeting wall announced the end of that damned creaking!

Then the steps resumed, (thud) and slowly made their way down the stairs (thud). Shielding my eyes from the fresh shower of dirt, (thud) I waited anxiously for my tormentor to come into view (thud), but they stopped before reaching the bottom (thud). In the small gap between treads, a tall shadow could be seen looming on the wall, and for a moment, I thought it had eyes, but on the next glimpse, they were gone. Finally, when I thought the tension would suffocate me – a young, familiar voice spoke. “You never learn do you?” It was Danny.

Relief was my immediate reaction, though it was quickly pushed aside for embarrassment – which was actually just a precursor for fury. I decided whatever was said should be done face to face, but upon trying to stand, I noticed my pants were soaked in urine; the blood-boiling rage threatening to consume me suddenly vanished and – in the end – shame was the prevailing emotion.

When I didn’t respond, Daniel took a few more steps and stopped at the bottom of the staircase. Between the treads, all I could see now was the black outline of his body; it was too dark to make out any features, but from my position on the floor, he appeared much taller than he should. After a long, tense moment of silence, he spoke again, “Over and over, we play this game, but you’re just as clueless as ever.” It was almost a sigh.

Had I understood what he was trying to say, I might have answered, but nothing made sense – not his words, not the house, not why my brothers couldn’t see him – nothing! Whew, it’s getting harder to talk about this… what he said next… I thought I was going to die right there in that basement.

“How many times will you fall for the same trick? How often have I told you? I can look however I want!” As he spoke, his voice was changing – becoming the high, shrill voice of an old woman… or more specifically, an old witch. I didn’t recognize it at that moment, but yea, it was the same one who tormented Bethany. Of course, for now, it was enough that I watched my only friend’s shape grow taller and thinner before my eyes.

Despite my best efforts a loud groan escaped my throat, and the thing I once called Danny cackled the most sinister, maniacal laugh I’ve ever heard. Even now, a year later, echoes of that laugh haunt me; it only stopped when the loud bang of the front door surprised us both. At the sound of my brother’s taunts, I wept openly with relief, but the witch had one more thing to say before vanishing. “I’ll see you soon, Charlie boy!” It used Daniel’s voice, and left behind a horrid stench of rotten meat.

Seconds later, Eric burst through the door; apparently, it had never been locked. I could have left right behind them had I bothered to check. Mom sent him to fetch me when they returned alone; in exchange for not telling her they left me behind, he agreed to help me hide the shame of my wet trousers.

My entire world changed that day; there was no more Danny at the creek, only the witch in my dreams… except sometimes they weren’t dreams. For seven years, I periodically woke to light scratches on my back, but those were the least damaging encounters. Sometimes, I woke to pebbles being thrown at my window; if I looked outside, Daniel would be there, pale and black-eyed. Sometimes, he morphed into a monster that I can only describe as an evil Chewbacca.

At eighteen, I joined the military; it was a hard, miserable life, but it was preferable to being tortured in my own home. As an adult, it was easy to convince myself the witch’s cryptic remarks were meaningless – just another psychological warfare tactic – but sometimes, late at night, a voice in the back of my mind made me wonder if there wasn’t more to it; I should have listened.

I did well in my chosen career, and life improved slightly when I was no longer at the bottom of the pecking order. The first time I returned home was over a decade later, after my thirtieth birthday; my success in the military made me mistake foolishness for bravery. One of the first things I did upon returning was mock the witch; sitting on my old bed, I said all the things I was too afraid to say as a child. Nothing happened; it was almost disappointing until I realized how silly it sounded to have expected anything else.

I thought no more of her as I enjoyed reuniting with family; Eric and John kept me awake with talk and liquor late into the night. When I finally stumbled upstairs, my head was swimming with their finest homemade reserves, and I was unconscious before my boots were off. The next thing I knew, there was a burning, itching sensation spreading down my spine; it felt like ants were in the bed.

Still half delirious, I reached back to scratch, but something grabbed my wrist in a cold grip of steel. It didn’t feel like flesh and bone at all; my mind struggled to shake the sleep away, and upon remembering my location, I understood what was happening. Thinking that monster would show itself when challenged was simply moronic; of course it would wait until I was most vulnerable.

“Did you miss me?” It used Daniel’s voice – pulling my arm down painfully as it leaned forward to whisper in my ear. If its cold, putrid breath weren’t bad enough, an oddly dry, pasty tongue licked around my earlobe before plunging all the way inside. Just when I thought my arm would break from the pressure, I was flipped over onto my back and face to face with the ugliest creature I’ve ever seen. It was humanoid but with dark green skin that was covered in sores and boils; though it appeared frail in size, it had me pinned as effectively as if I were strapped to the mattress.

“Do you remember me yet?” It smiled wide, and its black tongue slowly ran across two rows of sharp, yellow teeth as drool dripped onto my chest. Every drop burned into my skin like acid; I opened my mouth to scream, but no sound came out.

“You better hurry; we’re almost out of time and then you’ll have to start all over again in the next life!” It threw its head back and laughed that insane, maniacal laugh. I didn’t have to wonder about the last remark for too long; I saw thick clouds of smoke floating by the window in the same instant I smelled it. Our house was on fire, and my whole family was asleep on the upper floors. I poured my entire being into trying to scream; I didn’t care about myself – I only needed to wake the others, but it was no use.

Thankfully I can’t physically remember the details of burning alive in that moment, but I’ll never enjoy a bonfire again. Last time I went near one, I collapsed the moment I smelled the smoke. There’s actually a lot of things I can’t enjoy anymore, but for now let’s get this last part over with. Recounting these experiences has been less therapeutic than hoped, but they’re helping me organize my thoughts so I’m trying to see this through.


Easter Egg

The splitting-pain in my head was now a full-blown migraine; trying to sit-up was impossible, my skull was filled with cement, and I genuinely wondered if I would die. I know at least two more lives played out while I was half comatose, but the details are lost. They were no doubt strikingly similar to the others; the important thing is that I was able to save what is likely the most vital piece of information from my entire existence.

When I finally had enough control to talk to the camera again, I wasn’t sure of the date, but it was still the 19th century. This time I was a woman named Penelope, and yet again my romantic preference skewed towards women; it was dangerous in the 70’s, but downright deadly in that era. Though I was never brave enough to pursue my true interest, I couldn’t force myself to be with a man, either. Unfortunately, being single wasn’t much safer – it was practically scandalous by age twenty.

I made it to 25 before my father arranged a marriage, and I ran away three weeks before the ceremony. There was no chance of escape in my hometown; it was small, and everyone knew me. My chance came when we journeyed to the city. On the first day, I feigned weariness from travel and stayed at the inn while my family enjoyed the shops. When they had enough time to be well away, I walked out with nothing but a bag of meager supplies; no one even noticed. My only regret was never learning my family’s reaction. Did they think I was taken? Did they suspect the truth? I have no idea.

Getting through the streets was easier than my best expectation once I pinned my hair and put on a hooded cloak. When the city sounds were nothing but fading noise, I felt happiness for the first time in decades. Kicking off my shoes, I ran and jumped like an elated child; it was pure ecstasy. I intended to go as far as my legs would take me; there was enough food in my bag to last a week if I was careful. Beyond that I didn’t have a clue.

When the sun began to set, I searched for a place to spend the night. Wandering along a high cliff-face, I stumbled onto a small recess, barely big enough to crawl through. I thought it was a crevice, but was shocked to find it opened into a large cavern! The sparse light remaining was dedicated to starting a cozy fire in my new home; it was easy once I’d gathered the wood and lit a few torches. With the cave illuminated, I could see another opening in the back wall; it was a tunnel – almost four feet wide, and high enough to stand.

I walked for roughly a mile and was almost ready to turn back when the passage suddenly veered left. I was only planning to look around the curve, but it was impossible to stop once I saw what lay ahead; the tunnel continued for another 30-40 yards before opening into a second cavern. It was too dark to see well, but something in there was emitting a soft, purple glow; I had to know what.

This, my friends, is a tragically perfect example of ‘curiosity killed the cat’; deeper and deeper I traipsed into the lion’s den – because why not? I was very familiar with monsters; they’re people – humans, like you and me. They live in my home and in yours; they live next door and in the streets, but there were no people in my heavenly cave!… Now, let me tell you what was

With the torchlight I could see the walls were covered in some kind of fleshy, pink membrane, and the strange light was coming from dozens of colored eggs. They stood on intricately designed pedestals and cast their strange glow on the boulders surrounding their nest. I thought it was the most marvelous sight in the world; how they came to be never crossed my mind. I leaned in closely with the torch – only wanting to see them better – but the very second the light fell on them… They erupted into flames.

Once the first ones were burning, the rest soon followed, and the entire cavern became bright as day. In the same instant, the things I mistook for boulders formed grotesque faces with bulbous black eyes and curved needle-teeth. Now that I could see clearly, I noticed thousands of thin tendrils all over the cave-floor, connecting the creatures and eggs. Their deep, guttural moans made my bones shake; the only thing I wanted to do was crawl out of that cave and get married in three weeks. Covering my ears, I hastily backed away from the hungry flames, but I collided with something.

Cold, hard arms lifted me high into the air, and no amount of kicking or pleading was going to save me. During the walk, my captor showed me things; it wanted me to understand what was done, and what price I would pay. I was helpless as visions of our planet’s darkest secrets raced through my mind.

Long before the first white man came to America, the entity was worshiped as a god. When other nations tried to settle their land, his followers rapidly dwindled until none remained. Though the creature killed many of these invaders – they refused to submit; instead they chose to flee or return with an angry mob. Over the centuries, circumstances only worsened until those caves – and eggs – were are all that remained.

The eggs weren’t conceived in the traditional sense, but born of tormented souls. When enough malice and hatred are collected into one being – it’s morphed into a horrible abomination. Those eggs were like little incubators; they grew until the transformation was complete, then a new nightmare was unleashed into our unsuspecting world. Monsters that, today, people call Cryptids – but it takes centuries for those eggs to hatch, and I had just destroyed 42 in seconds.

I’m being primed for one of those eggs; my soul is marked. Each time it finds me, it thinks of new, creative games, and – each time it kills me – it takes a piece of my soul for the incubator. I don’t know why it hasn’t come for me yet, but I’ve never known about Easter Memoria before meeting him like I have this time… or… wait… maybe that’s what it wants me to think; maybe it’s already in my life! What if my being raised around people with this knowledge was part of its master plan?

I need to get the fuck out Georgia, now. If I can find a safe place to do the ritual just one more time… I think there’s a reason those cameras cut out when Bethany died; it has to mean something. This revelation might just give me a fighting chance; if I’m able to update this one day – I will.

Thank you all so much for listening… Wish me luck.

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

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