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The Last Settlement

the last settlement


Estimated reading time — 25 minutes

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

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

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

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… … Wait, you wanna what?!

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

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

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

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

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

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… … What do you mean, why? Why wait?

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

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

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

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

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

… … The second author is me again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

——

September 5, 1888

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

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

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

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

——

September 6, 1888

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

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

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

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

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

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

——

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——

September 7, 1888

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

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

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

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

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

Alas, that is all at this time.

——

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——

September 8, 1888

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

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

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

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

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

There will doubtless be more to report soon!

——

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——

September 9, 1888

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

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

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

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

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

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

——

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——

September 11, 1888

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Credit: Page Turner

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