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The Cursed Settlement

the cursed settlement


Estimated reading time — 22 minutes

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.

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… … … …. 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!

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… … 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!

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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.

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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 choose 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.

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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.

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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 could conceal 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 lie 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 torchlight reflected off a shiny, metal object, tangled in the branches above. Ethan retrieved the item with great difficulty, and we were crest fallen 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. If being honest, 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 to all, 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 of her own deceased family. 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 too was never found.

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Bonnie McEntire complained her daughter talked to the empty corner of her bedroom on a nightly basis, and her child 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 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.

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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.

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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. One day, when I return, 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 of 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.

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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.

Credit : Page Turner

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