“Have you seen the Blaganschlor
Hung by rope composed of gore
Who says his name and nothing more
His true name lost in days of yore?
At the gray and barren meadow
Where ancient rivers used to flow
The dying light of summer’s glow
Will call him from the dark below.”
Those are the first two stanzas of ‘The Blaganschlor’,” said Susan Ferris. “They describe Arbormill’s most famous ghost and how to find him. Supposedly, if you go into the gray meadow in the woods east of town on the hottest day of the year, you will see the Blaganschlor at sunset. It appears as a man being strangled by his own intestines. His name comes from the stories that the only sounds he can make while being strangled sound like blagh and schloooor.” Susan attempted to get a laugh from the class in front of her by mimicking the rough zombie-like sounds. It didn’t work. Most of the people in Mr. Edwards’ class looked bored, including Mr. Edwards.
“No one knows who he was or why he haunts the woods, but local tradition states that if you see the Blaganschlor and survive, you get to write a new stanza for the poem describing your encounter. The entire poem is kept at the public library. To date, at least four people have never come back from their hunt for the Blaganschlor, but it’s widely assumed that they just wanted to get out of Arbormill.” That one got a couple of laughs. She was about to conclude the report when the bell rung, signaling the end of the day and the school year. The majority of the class jumped out of their seats and sprinted for the hallway. Susan grabbed her books off of her desk and was about to head for the hallway when Edwards cleared his throat and beckoned her over to him. Susan tried not to groan too loudly.
“Well,” asked Susan, putting on a fake smile. “What did you think?” Edwards’ expression made the answer relatively obvious.
“For starters, I think you half-assed that presentation the same way you’ve been half-assing this class all year.”
“And what makes you think that?” asked Susan, in a tone of disbelief that didn’t seem entirely genuine.
“Susan, this assignment might seem easy, but it’s supposed to sum up the class,” said Edwards. “I ask kids to go out and write about a local ghost story. This is Arbormill. We have about ten thousand of them. I always hope that kids will bring in something close to home, personal even. I like students knowing that the history around them affects them.”
“And I totally understand that,” said Susan. “Can I go now?” She took a step towards the door. Edwards kept talking.
“You picked the Blaganschlor,” he said. “It’s an old story that everyone in town over the age of five knows. You didn’t say anything that the kids in here haven’t heard. It wasn’t anything personal; you just picked something you didn’t have to do work for.”
“I know at least two of the other students made up their stories completely,” said Susan.
“At least they put in the effort,” said Edwards. “Spoken like a true Ferris, though. Blame everybody else.” Susan winced. Her family was not held in the highest regard in Arbormill. ‘Not a one worth a damn’ the older residents would say.
“Yeah,” said Susan. “So what? It’s not like this class matters. This is just the easiest elective I could take this year. ‘Local History’ is not a class that’s going to go on my college resume.” Edwards leaned back in his chair and smirked briefly.
“Probably not,” he said. “But getting an ‘F’ in such a worthless class would look pretty bad on a transcript.”
“You can’t fail me,” said Susan. She crossed her arms and stood straighter, trying to be intimidating. Edwards wasn’t buying it.
“Final grades go out in a week,” he said, smiling. “If you don’t make this up in that time, I most certainly can.” Susan’s demeanor changed abruptly. She brushed her hair back and leaned towards her teacher.
“You’re sure we can’t just move past this?” she asked, smiling innocently. Edwards rolled his eyes.
“I’ve been teaching a long time, Miss Ferris. Don’t even try.” Susan reverted back to being pissed off instantly.
“So what the hell do you want then??”
“You’re going to redo this report on the Blaganschlor.” Susan raised an eyebrow.
“I thought you said you didn’t like me doing the Blaganschlor.”
“I have a challenge for you,” said Edwards. “If you can bring me five facts about the Blaganschlor that I’ve never heard, I’ll give you your ‘A’.”
“That is BS!” said Susan. “Everybody already knows everything about that stupid ghost!”
“You’ve got six days, Miss Ferris,” said Edwards. “The public library closes at 7:30, so I suggest you get down there while you can.” Susan started to protest, but stopped herself short. She started to storm out of the room, but Edwards spoke up again, this time in a softer tone. “I’m sorry about the family remark, Susan. But you’re the only Ferris I can remember that might actually do something with their life. I want you to appreciate that.” Susan didn’t reply as she left the room. She thought again about changing her name.
An hour later, Susan Ferris found herself in the Arbormill Public Library. She had contemplated asking the librarian for help, but the glare she had gotten when she walked in had soured her on that plan. Susan thought that if she didn’t know better, she’d think the librarian preferred being the only one in the building. God knew there wasn’t anyone else in there.
As Susan approached the large shelf labeled ‘Local Legends’ near the back of the library, Susan saw the framed Blaganschlor poem on the wall. Twenty-two verses of made-up stories. For as many ghost stories as Arbormill had, Susan had never believed in any of them. She usually assumed it was for the tourists that came to see the most haunted town in the Midwest. It was possibly the most interesting thing in Iowa besides corn. Quickly scanning the poem, she saw the final four lines were by Chris Sanders, who had gone out to the woods on a dare after graduating last year.
Out in the woods I saw the ghost
It looked really gross
It went back in the trees
Because it didn’t want to mess with me
Chris wasn’t the best poet in the world. Susan turned her attention to the shelf full of books. There were dozens of books that might have information on the Blaganschlor. She decided to start with one titled ‘Legends of Arbormill’. It was the newest book, written by some lady named Laura Smoldt. Susan vaguely remembered her going around town last year dragging up every little story she could. She opened up the book and quickly found the entry about the Blaganschlor. It said pretty much everything she’d said in her presentation with one added detail. It said the last person said to be taken by the ghost was John Tracy, who disappeared on June 21st of 2013. Susan only knew him from vague rumors around town. From all accounts, he was a drugged up freeloader. The story went that he was bet a large sum of money to stay out in the woods all night. When he disappeared, the general consensus was that he’d taken the money and gotten out of town.
Susan looked through three more books with little to show for it other than a doodle of a stick figure Blaganschlor she had begun drawing on one of the tables. The fifth book she grabbed was titled ‘Ghosts of the Heartland’ and was from 1991. The Blaganschlor was one of three ghosts from Arbormill detailed in the book. She scanned the article, not hoping for much, when something she saw sent a chill down her spine. It talked about the three people that disappeared before Tracy. It said they had vanished in 1910, 1949, and the last was a man named Jeff Olson on June 21st of 1980.
Susan knew she had found something that no one else knew. 33 years apart, people had vanished in the woods on the exact same date. And now she knew the years of the other two’s disappearances. Susan began ripping books off the shelves, flipping through the pages and stuffing them back on if they didn’t have any dates in the entry. Two hours later, at 6:30, she was amazed to realize she had been through the entire shelf of books without finding another clue. Susan collapsed into a nearby chair in disbelief. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the poem on the wall. It almost felt like it was taunting her. She was about ready to go smash the frame when an idea occurred to her. She sprang to her feet and made her way across the library, hurrying past the librarian’s desk, to find herself at the newspaper archive.
The entire section was filled with massive binders with old copies of the Arbormill Post stored in plastic sleeves. A sign on the wall informed her that she was not allowed to take the binders out of the library. Scanning the older section of binders, she found the collection from 1949. She laid it on a table and began flipping through the sleeves of yellowed pages. She paused at June 21st, hoping she was wrong and right at the same time. Flipping the page, she saw what she had expected.
On June 22nd of 1949, Matt Slater was reported missing. The article was very brief and set in the bottom right corner of the page. All it said was his parents’ names, his age, and that he was last seen heading into the woods. Susan slammed the binder shut and went back to see if the papers went all the way back to 1910.
“Yes!” she screamed, as she saw the year she was looking for.
“Quiet!” came the reply from the front desk.
She didn’t pause as she flipped through the pages this time. Susan knew what she was going to find. Brenda Baker had disappeared into the woods on June 21st of 1910. The article was much more informative, but also very strange.
“Some say that the disappearance is the work of the ghost dubbed the Blaganschlor, first sighted nine years ago in the Malone Woods,” read Susan. She had never heard the woods called the Malone Woods. Nowadays they were just the east woods. “Thought to have something to do with certain events taking place in 1890, the ghost is rarely seen due to the shunned nature of the forest. A reward will be given for any information regarding the disappearance. Residents are advised to avoid Malone Woods in the meantime.”
Susan sat down and stared at the page. Something happened in 1890 that had made the town shun the forest for 19 years. Something that the writer would not even give a name to. Something that had been covered up.
Susan felt anxious as she walked towards the oldest section of the archive. When she found the binder labeled ‘1890’, she had the urge to flee the room and take the F. Something drove her on, however. It was a notion that had finally taken hold that there was something out there in the woods. She was a believer for the first time ever.
Susan slowly turned the pages of the binder, not knowing exactly what she was going to find. Everything was normal for the first few months. Around the beginning of May, a drought had set in on the county. That was all the Post talked about for weeks. On June 17th of 1890, everything changed.
The headline read ‘A Butcher Among Us’. It detailed the police discovering the body of a young woman that had been strangled and mutilated. Two days later, another girl was found dead. The exact method they were killed by was absent from the article, but the second mentioned massive wounds to the torso. One day after the second body was found, a young man was found dead with similar wounds. As Susan turned the page, she expected the string of bodies to continue. However, the next page’s headline was a different kind of frightening. Massive plumes of smoke were seen early in the morning over the woods east of Arbormill. With the severe drought, it was a possibility that the entire forest and town with it might go up in flames. Susan quickly flipped to the next page to see how they stopped the fire. It turned out that they didn’t. A massive rainstorm moved in overnight and drowned the flames. It had been the first rain in two months. When Susan read the first paragraph of the story from June 22nd, she knew that page was what she had been waiting for. Looking at her watch, she knew the librarian would be kicking her out shortly. She needed to look this over carefully and she needed it that night. Keeping one eye on the doorway, Susan opened the latch on the binder and took out the page. Seeing more of the same story in the next day’s edition, she took that one out as well. She could hear the librarian getting up from her chair and she rolled up the pages and stuffed them into her book bag. A moment later, she was smiling innocently at the librarian as she yelled at Susan to get out.
Later, in her room, Susan pulled out the pages and unrolled them on her bed. Rolling them up had damaged them a bit, but they were still legible. It detailed the events of the day, beginning with the pillar of smoke mysteriously disappearing. When police and firemen entered the woods they found three things. First, a large area of the forest had been reduced to ash. The burned woods were at the intersection of two dry riverbeds. Secondly, they found two dead bodies burned down to the bone. Lastly, they found a young woman in hysterics a short distance from the burned area. After they got her calmed down a bit, she claimed that one man had kidnapped her and was going to kill her out in the woods. The other man had witnessed the kidnapping, followed them and saved her. She was unaware of how the fire started. The two bodies were identified soon after. The kidnapper’s name was Silas Malone, a man that had moved back to Arbormill after spending most of his life in the deep south. The picture of the man in the paper was unnerving. He had pale, staring eyes, a scar across one cheek, and part of an ear missing. The man who had stopped his was identified as Daniel Ferris. Susan stopped reading and just stared at the page as her family’s name stared back at her. She didn’t recognize the picture next to the name, but even in the black and white, she could tell that Daniel had the bright green eyes that were so common in her family.
She quickly turned to the paper from June 23rd. The police conducted a search of Malone’s property in the woods and found a charnel house. Several parts missing from the three human victims were found, as well as a number of dead animals. As far as they could tell, the oldest parts were from at least a month prior, the same time that Malone cut himself off from what few friends and family members he had. Reports said that he had become obsessed with the idea of mortality. After all was said and done, Daniel Ferris was a hero. Malone’s estranged family denied any inheritance and gifted all of his assets and property to Ferris’s widow and child.
Susan suspected two things from the reports. First, she knew that the incident had to have been covered up by the town. Malone and Ferris’s names had been stricken from the records. Even the name of the woods had eventually been forgotten. Secondly, she no longer thought the hottest day of summer was a factor. It was the date that it all ended: June 21st, which just happened to be tomorrow. She just had to talk to one person to be sure.
The next day, Susan headed down to the mall at ten to find Chris Sanders, the last person to go out into the woods. She remembered that he had gone out on the 21st because it was the day after school had ended. He came back with a wild story and added his lines to the Blaganschlor poem. She found him almost immediately, hanging out with his buddies outside the main door into the mall. He smiled broadly as Susan approached him.
“Hey there, babe,” said Chris. “Heard Edwards chewed you out good yesterday. Want to tell us how you got out of that one? In graphic detail?”
“Actually, I have a question for you,” said Susan. Chris and his cronies laughed.
“I’m free tonight, if that’s what you want to know,” said Chris with a smirk.
“Good, then you can come out to the east woods with me tonight,” said Susan. “You went out there last year, right?” The blood drained out of Chris’s face as his smirk faltered.
“Of course I did,” he said. “And I saw that stupid ghost. I wasn’t scared at all.” Susan stared him down.
“I know you didn’t go out to the gray meadow, Chris,” said Susan. “Because I know what happened to the people that really did on the 21st. They’re the ones that didn’t come back.” Chris’s face went from pale to gray.
“You’re saying that if I’d actually gone-“
“You’d have done the world a service, Chris. Nice talking to you.” As Susan walked away, she could hear all of his buddies starting to yell at him. She knew what she had to do now. She had to go out to the ashen meadow, where the dry rivers met, and prove all of it once and for all. She’d keep people out of those woods and save her family’s name at the same time.
Everyone said that the burnt meadow was easy to find. You just had to find one of the dry riverbeds running through the woods. Susan arrived at the edge of the woods around 8 o’ clock, with the sun still shining. That gave her about an hour to get to the meadow. She set her phone to go off five minutes before sunset so she could have her camera at the ready. Ten feet away from the tree line, she almost gave up and turned back. She had enough to give Edwards at this point anyways. Then she remembered Daniel Ferris’s eyes. That was her family’s legacy. He was a hero that nobody remembered. She had left a note in her room with everything in it in case she didn’t come back…just like Daniel. Susan stepped into the Malone Woods.
The woods weren’t overly dense, but the oppressive heat still made them seem claustrophobic. There was absolutely no breeze inside the trees. Susan couldn’t see a single branch or leaf moving. She couldn’t hear any birds or animals. It was like time had stopped inside the forest. She could imagine the woods having been exactly the same for a thousand years. Until Silas Malone decided to make them his own.
Susan had been hiking for almost twenty minutes when she finally heard the first noise other than herself. It sounded like footsteps behind her. She quickly spun around, hoping to see an animal of some sort. There was nothing. She waited for a minute, hoping the sound would happen again. It didn’t. She turned and began walking again. As soon as her back was turned, more footsteps echoed through the woods. She spun around again, more quickly this time, hoping to catch someone behind her. Again there was nothing. She walked back the way she had come, checking behind trees as she went. She searched the entire area the sound seemed to come from and could not find the source. Checking her phone again, she saw that she only had half an hour to find the meadow. She began walking very quickly into the woods. And, once again, as her back turned, the footsteps came from behind her. Directly behind her. Within five feet. Susan ran.
As she sprinted through the woods, the footsteps ran with her, never losing or gaining ground. Susan dodged trees left and right, trying to lose her pursuer in the more dense foliage. At one point, the feet behind gained on her and pulled to her right. Susan resisted the desire to look back and darted left, trying to run faster. A stitch in her side told her that she couldn’t keep the pace up much longer. As the trees around her began to blur, a strange thought occurred to her. She felt like she was being steered; directed towards a specific point. As soon as the thought materialized, the ground beneath her feet fell away at an incline. She instantly lost her footing and fell headfirst down the slope. As she fell, she finally looked behind her and saw only trees.
Susan woke up to the sound of her phone’s alarm going off. It was the alarm that meant five minutes until sunset. She sat upright and looked around her. Red light shone through the treetops as the sun began to set. She didn’t have much time. She looked back at the slope she had fallen down. Her eyes followed it down into the woods. Looking behind her, she saw another slope on the other side. Susan realized she had found one of the dead rivers. She rose groggily to her feet, rubbing the sore spot on her head. After a moment’s consideration, she faced the path of the riverbed away from the setting sun and ran as fast as she could.
The sun was still barely over the horizon when she reached the ashen meadow. She climbed up the side of the riverbed and into a large round area directly between the two valleys. It was a patch of gray dirt about 200 feet wide. There were some sickly looking weeds, but the only evidence that anything substantial had ever grown there were two charred tree trunks that were mostly rotted. The fading red light had an ominous effect on the ground. The gray and red combined to make the ground look as though there were fires still burning. Susan was almost grateful when the light finally faded and dusk set in.
Susan wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but it was going to happen on tape. She pulled out her phone and a flashlight and started recording the area around her. So far there wasn’t much to see; just trees and scorched earth. After scanning the trees for five minutes with nothing to show for it, Susan decided to turn off the camera to conserve the battery. She had just put the phone back in her pocket when she heard it from behind her. A low and haunting sound.
Her blood ran cold. It sounded just like she’d imagined. Words being stifled by a crushed throat. Susan turned her light behind her. Out of the woods came the Blaganschlor. It was exactly as she expected and far, far worse at the same time. It was a vaguely transparent young man that came stumbling out of the trees. Out of a massive hole in his abdomen came a distended mass of entrails that reached up and around his throat. Translucent blood dripped off of every wound and left a shining trail behind him. It was the eyes that she found the worse though. They were two bloodshot masses of pain, suffering, sorrow, and rage.
Susan began to back up slowly, not wanting the thing to reach her. As she studied the phantom, she realized that the ghost was neither Silas Malone nor Daniel Ferris. She actually recognized him as the third body discovered during Malone’s killing spree. Still backing up towards the riverbed, Susan pulled out her phone and tried to get the camera working again. She looked at the screen only to see the words ‘low battery’ before the screen went black.
The new moan came from behind her. Susan turned to see another transparent figure climbing up the embankment. This one was a young man in the same condition as the other figure. From what remained of his clothing, he had to have been from a much more recent time period than 1890. As this revelation came to her, moans came from the woods in every direction. Susan flashed the light all around the meadow and saw six more lurching phantasms coming out of the forest around her. A monstrous chorus of agonized groans filled the air. Susan looked around her for a way out, but the ghosts seemed to be everywhere she looked, pain and rage shining in their eyes.
Susan had almost given up hope when she heard a loud noise in the woods to her right. A figure that was definitely not a ghost leapt out of the woods and motioned for her to follow.
“This way! Hurry!” Susan recognized Chris’s voice. Somehow the asshole had summoned up the courage to come out here. Susan wondered if he wasn’t that bad after all before running to him. The new arrival had thrown the ghosts into disarray. Susan ran by them and into the woods as they were staring at Chris. As she hit the woods, he ran behind her. About a minute into the woods, Susan had to stop and lean against a tree. She doubted the ghosts were quick enough to follow them and all of the running from earlier had taken its toll on her body. She was amazed she was still capable of keeping upright. Chris walked by her and looked deeper into the woods. She shined the light on him as he faced away from her. She still couldn’t believe he’d followed her.
“They probably won’t follow us for long,” he said. “They don’t like straying too far out of the gray meadow.” Even in her exhausted state, there was something about his voice that sounded off to Susan. Chris had no accent, but she noticed a distinct drawl in the last sentence. She looked more closely at the figure in front of her. Susan’s eyes trailed up his body, becoming more concerned with every inch. At last, she saw the side of his head. A piece of the figure’s ear was missing. And she had seen that wound before.
“Silas Malone,” she said in a whisper. The figure in front of her jerked at the sound of the name. There was a long pause, and then the laughter began. It was a loud, hysterical laugh that sounded like he had just heard the funniest joke in the world.
“I haven’t heard that name in so long, missy,” said the figure. Whatever he had done to mimic Chris’s voice was completely gone now. Malone’s voice was low and hoarse. “So we got us a historian here.”
Malone turned and Susan saw the face from the newspaper. The pale blue eyes and the scar stood out on a face that was otherwise blackened by ash. There was a maniacal grin on his face full of jagged, smoke-stained teeth.
“What are you?” she asked, staring in horror. Malone approached her slowly, knowing she wasn’t going anywhere.
“Well, I ain’t no pansy-ass ghost,” said Malone. “That’s for damn sure. I’m what you’d call a revenant, caught between the dead and the living. I’m here for some very specific unfinished business.” He put one hand on the tree above her head and leaned down, his face inches from Susan’s. “So what brings you to these parts talking about ol’ Silas?” She steeled herself and looked him square in his pale eyes.
“I’m Susan Ferris.” Realization dawned on the dead man’s face. There was a hint of rage in his eyes before a wide smile broke onto his face again.
“Well don’t that beat all?” he asked. Malone suddenly grabbed Susan by the throat and threw her to the ground. He began to squeeze. “You’re gonna wish you’d kept that little tidbit of information to your damn self.” He let go of her throat and Susan gulped in a deep breath of air. She felt Malone grab one of her feet and begin to drag her. He was headed back to the meadow.
“Now, I usually like doing my work out here,” said Malone. “I like doing it right when people have that feeling of hope. Right when they think they’re getting out alive. But you, Miss Ferris, you’re going to have an audience. And I hate to inform you, but you’re gonna suffer a lot more than them.”
In her light summer clothes, Susan could feel every rock and twig on the ground scraping against her body. She attempted to kick her leg free of Malone, but his cold hand had a death grip. He wasn’t letting go and she didn’t have the ability to fight.
“You see, little girl, I had an arrangement with certain parties I can’t place a name to. The price for what I wanted was five souls sent downtown. Three were easy. Then your great-great-grand-daddy decided to be a hero and try to save number four. I knew he was following me the entire way. These are my woods, you see.” Susan looked ahead groggily and saw the moonlight in the clearing ahead.
“The dipshit thought he was being sneaky. He hung back a ways and kept lighting matches to see his way. Must have thought they’d be harder to see. So he comes up on my clearing, right? And I’m waving my knife around in front of that girl’s pretty little stomach and he can’t take it. Did exactly what I expected him to and tried to get the drop on me. I’m kind of proud to say that I had him gutted in under thirty seconds. Some hero he was.”
“He still killed you,” said Susan, still clinging onto some semblance of lucidity. Malone dropped her briefly and turned to her with rage in his eyes.
“That dumb son of a bitch couldn’t kill me in a thousand years!” he shouted. “He dropped one of his god damn lit matches on the grass as I was gutting him. It was so damn dry it lit up right under my feet. And what a sick, god damn joke it was. Last thing I felt was the rain hitting my face.” Malone cracked up at that and started to laugh like a maniac again. He grabbed her leg again and continued. “But I got myself a loophole. I was the fifth soul owed, you see. So I get a second chance. I needed five more to add to the pyre.”
Malone dragged Susan out of the tree line and into the ashen meadow again. The full moon had risen and the clearing was fully visible. Susan could count eight ghosts moaning in the darkness, all of them backing away from Malone.
“These deadheads get the whole week to spook people here,” said Malone. “But I get all of one night a year to do my work. Do you realize how many years it has taken for five people to come out here on exactly the 21st of June?” He dropped Susan’s leg and left her rolling on the ground in agony. Her leg felt like it had almost been dislocated and her back was torn up.
“Since 1891?” she asked, barely coherent.
“Oh, you ain’t lying,” said Malone, turning towards her. “And guess what? You’re number five. So I think they all need to see this. You think the summer’s hot up here, little girl? Wait ‘til you feel the heat down below. I can tell you, it feels a lot like burning to death. I’ve done both, you see.”
Susan struggled to get to her feet, but her body didn’t want to cooperate. The night had taken an awful toll.
“And what do you get out of it?” she asked, her eyes meeting Malone’s.
“I wanted to live forever,” he said. “And now I get to do it outside of this sorry little excuse for a forest. Although I might actually miss it, you know? That’s why this all works, you see. Because these are my woods, in life and in death. I control what goes on here.” What he said stirred something in Susan’s mind; something she read in a newspaper.
“No,” she said, rising onto one knee with a great effort. “They’re not.” Malone stared her down.
“What do you mean by that?”
“After you died, your family didn’t want anything you owned,” said Susan. “They gave all of your property to Daniel Ferris’s widow; everything including your land. These woods belong to my family.” Malone began to chuckle. He seemed to be forcing his laugh this time.
“You think anything a damn piece of paper says changes anything?” asked Malone. “These are my woods and my souls.” The transparent figures surrounding Malone took their eyes off of him and looked at each other. Susan gathered every ounce of strength she had left and rose shakily to her feet.
“I say that all of these souls are free,” she said. “And you, Silas? You can go join yours down in Hell.” Malone must have felt a change because he suddenly had a look of panic on his face. He looked at the souls around him. They were looking at each other more urgently now, their moans becoming louder. With a mighty effort, one of the ghosts yanked on the bowels around his neck. They let loose.
“No,” said Malone. “You belong to me. You can’t disobey me! Put that back around your neck!” Another ghost took the intestines from their neck; then another; then another. Malone turned back to Susan with a look of rage and horror. “Let’s see how much power you have here when you’re soul number five!”
Malone pulled a blackened knife from his belt and ran at Susan. She saw the blade seconds away from her. Then, as he began to thrust it into her, something caught his arm. It was a loop of intestine. Malone jerked backwards, caught in the loop. He reached out for Susan with his other arm, but two inches from her face, another loop of entrails ensnared his other hand. They yanked backwards and pulled Malone to his knees. Susan looked around in shock as she saw the ghosts gathering behind him, two of their intestines stretching impossibly long to latch onto Malone. Another stepped forward and its bowels shot forward, snaring Malone around the neck. He began to choke out muffled curses.
“No…she’s…mine.” Malone grabbed the noose around his neck and pulled it away briefly. “SHE IS MIIIIIIIIIIINE!!” After that deafening howl, the snares around him yanked back with a huge force. Malone reached down with a mighty effort and dug into the ground, his fingers leaving a smoldering trail of scorched earth as he slid back towards the vengeful crowd of phantoms. His pale eyes were filled with a fear more visceral than any of the ghosts’. More and more of the ghosts grabbed onto Malone and lifted him into the air in the center of the mob. Susan saw the ground beneath him light on fire. The smell of sulfur filled the air. Before she could see what happened, a ghost walked directly in front of her and looked into her eyes. She recognized the bright green eyes of Daniel Ferris. He raised a hand and wordlessly pointed into the ravine, telling her to go. She could not refuse. As she stumbled through the dead riverbed, she heard an inhuman scream filling the air around her.
“No! I am a myth! I am a legend! I am immort-“ The last word was cut off in a flash. That was the last thing she heard from the ashen meadow.
It was three in the morning when Mr. Edwards was awoken by his doorbell. Thinking it had to be an emergency, he jumped out of bed and ran to the door still in his pajamas. He was shocked when he opened the door and found Susan Ferris, disheveled and exhausted with bloodstains on much of her clothing.
“I’ve got those five things you asked for, Edwards,” she said in the most deadpan voice he’d ever heard. “I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed getting them.” Edwards had no idea what to think.
“What the hell happened?? Who did this to you??” he asked. He opened the door wider, inviting her to come in out of the sweltering night, but she just stood on the doorstep, eyes a million miles away.
“It doesn’t really matter,” she said. “I really just want to give my report and go home.”
“Alright,” said Edwards, grabbing a phone and starting to call for an ambulance. “Go right ahead.”
“The Blaganschlor was first sighted in 1901. That was ten years after a man named Silas Malone killed three people in Arbormill. He would have killed another, but a man named Daniel Ferris stopped him.”
“Jesus,” said Edwards, recognizing her family’s name. He took the phone from his ear as an operator picked up. “What else?”
“You won’t hear any more accounts of people seeing the Blaganschlor. If you do, they’re bullshit.” She paused a moment while she grabbed something out of her pocket. “Lastly, the poem’s finished. I wrote the last four lines myself. Give this to the lady at the library tomorrow morning.” She handed the piece of bloodstained paper to Edwards. He quickly read it and looked back at her.
“What in God’s name happened out there, Susan?” For just a moment her eyes watered, but she quickly wiped them with her hand.
“I already told you five things, Mr. Edwards. I’m going home now. Have a nice summer.” She turned and walked off into the night. Edwards reluctantly hung up the phone and read the verses she had given him one more time.
I too once sought the Blaganschlor,
As many others have before.
I found the barren river’s shore,
The trees, the ash, and nothing more.
Credit: Alex Taylor
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