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!
Credit: Page Turner
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