Ghost stories from hell, p.26

Ghost Stories from Hell, page 26

 

Ghost Stories from Hell
 



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  Fred ignored the frightening absurdity of it all, sighted on the galloping Englishman and shot him out of the saddle. The goat peeled off, and as Fred had hoped, the dogs were ignorant of their master’s death. Working from the rear of the pack, Fred killed four more, and as he was reloading, the last two dogs stopped, suddenly realizing that the rest of their pack was missing.

  As the dogs trotted back to examine the dead, Fred killed them both.

  Screams rose up from Town Hall as the giants broke through.

  Fred stood, gathered the remainder of his ammunition and headed back the way he had come.

  ***

  Brian watched in silent amazement as the ghosts disassembled the section of the barricade which covered Gilson Road.

  “They’ll be here soon,” Hollis said from beside him.

  “Who?”

  “The survivors.”

  How many? Brian asked himself silently. And would Jim Petrov be among them? Would Scott?

  Brian held no hope for either of them. He didn’t know how anyone could survive if even a tenth of the phone calls had been true, but of course, they had to be true. He was standing here with the dead.

  Soon, the ghosts had cleared the road, leaving open both lanes for the fleeing survivors.

  Brian walked towards the opening and folded his arms across his chest and waited.

  ***

  How any of them made that final run, Jim didn’t think that he would ever know. How Rose Mary made the run, with Gwen crying against her chest and a meat cleaver in her hand, he would never know.

  Soon, though, they were nearing the town line, and the barricade of trees had been moved. The blue flashing lights of a cruiser lit up the night, and Jim could make out the shape of a man.

  Brian. Brian Ricard.

  Brian was running towards them, helping Rose Mary to the cruiser while the rest of them stumbled into the shifting, twisting arc of illumination cast by the lights.

  “We need four people to sign this,” Jim gasped at Brian, pulling the folded contract out of his pocket.

  Brian took a pen out of his pocket as he opened the page. A boy with a sword stood up, having heard Jim.

  “Here,” the teenager said, “I will sign.”

  Brian brought the paper and the pen to the boy as a teenage girl stepped up beside him. The boy moved slightly so the girl could read the paper as well, and then the boy and the girl each signed it in turn.

  An unarmed man wearing a battered flannel jacket walked up, looked at the paper, and held his hand out wordlessly to the girl. She handed him the pen and as he signed, the last man, carrying a wicked-looking knife came up, accepted the pen from the other man and signed as well.

  “Where’s Fred?” Jim asked.

  Brian looked over at him. “Who?”

  “Fred?”

  ***

  Fred stood near the pool, in front of the door, which was open. The key which he had stolen from Jim was in the lock, and Fred held the book that he had read only hours earlier.

  A whisper came rippling through the forest and the dead boy Morgan was there.

  “The last of them has signed,” Morgan said.

  Fred nodded, opened the book, and with the light of the stars he read: “Et ego erudivieostevinctossic ego.”

  The world shifted and far beyond, in the center of Thorne, Fred heard the faeries scream out their outrage.

  Morgan smiled at Fred, and Fred smiled at Morgan.

  Closing the book, Fred turned and walked into the curious cave, removing the key from the lock and closing the door behind him.

  Epilogue: One Year Later

  Scientists were still trying to figure out what had happened to the town of Thorne. No one could understand what had caused trees to be uprooted and to form a strange barrier around the town. Some people had attempted to push the State and Federal governments to investigate, but both governments had refused. At least two independent investigative news teams had attempted to discover what had happened to the three hundred and forty-seven missing residents of Thorne.

  Neither of the teams, which had slipped over the jersey barriers placed across the sole remaining road into Thorne, had been heard from again.

  There were, of course, rumors of a government experiment gone wrong, which caused the death of the residents and poisoned the town, making it unfit for human inhabitation. Others believed that this was the case, and that the news teams were killed for trying to find out what had happened.

  A State sanctioned search party went in after each team, yet nothing was found of the reporters and their crews. There was no secret memory card or tape found containing the reasons why—no last video journals.

  The news teams—eight men and three women—had simply vanished. Eventually, their cars were towed away.

  Theirs were not the only cars, however.

  Others came seeking the mystery behind the destruction and abandonment of Thorne. Some never returned, although others did make it into the town and came back. Those that did return said that their various electronic devices were rendered useless during their time in the mysterious circle of trees.

  What they had seen in the town had changed them.

  Few of the buildings were still standing, and on Main Street they found the remains of large bonfires and the gnawed and broken bones of people. They also reported that the trees lining Gilson Road had human skulls nailed to them.

  Jim Petrov and the other five signers of the contract knew all of this. Jim and Evan and Philip had actually been the ones to nail the skulls to the trees. Rose Mary had built dozens of disrupters, which Erin and Klaus had placed in the barrier around the entire perimeter, each connected to a solar-powered battery. These simple devices ensured that no recording equipment or cell phones would work properly within the faery confinement area. None of the signers of the contract were responsible for the deaths, however.

  The faeries took care of that.

  On the one-year anniversary of their escape from Thorne, the six of them sat in Jim Petrov’s new house on the edge of the perimeter on Gilson Road. Brian Ricard was there as well, having full knowledge as to what had occurred. All of them were gathered in Jim’s den with after-dinner coffees, yet this wasn’t a mere social gathering.

  “Have you spoken with Fred?” Jim asked Klaus.

  “Yes,” the young man said. His voice still had a hint of a German accent. Klaus adjusted his arm slightly, Erin slipping in closer to him. “Erin and I spoke with him on Saturday. We made it all the way to the pool and found him. He was pleased that the note he had thrown over the barrier on the road had been found. Thus, we brought to him those things which he had requested, the books and ammunition.”

  “Good,” Jim said. “What’s the word with rumor control, Phil?”

  Philip grinned. “Good. The garage is a great place to spread information. Lots of tourists have the bright idea of trying to go through Thorne. I dissuade most of them, but a few get through,” he said, the grin fading. “Those I feel pretty bad about. I wish that I could get all of them to stop.”

  “I know,” Jim said, nodding. “Try not to worry too much about it, Phil, we can’t stop them all. Rose Mary, what about any new electronics? I know that you were looking for a way to shut down onboard computers for the newer cars.”

  “I’m still looking,” she said, sighing. “The tech’s out there, but the Feds have most of it watched. I’ve got feelers out, but I have to wait until someone contacts me.”

  “Evan?” Jim said, looking at the man.

  “Still patrolling the perimeter at night,” Evan said, stifling a yawn. “Every once in a while I’ll get a goblin troop that comes a little too close, but a few rounds from the Colt usually settle that business. Most of them are too afraid to come to the barrier now. With Phil spreading the bad news about the barrier and the faery folk kept away from it, well,” Evan grinned, “I think that we’ll keep accidental sightings to a minimum.”

  “Good,” Jim said. He lo
oked over at Brian. “And politics?”

  “Politics is politics,” Brian said simply. “We were fortunate that the few descendants of the original signers have as much political pull as they do. Without them, we’d never have been able to shut the world out. As of last week, Senator Copp from Massachusetts managed to get Thorne designated a National site, and Governor Hall of New Hampshire is going to have Thorne listed as a permanent monument. Judge Coffin has also managed to deny the release of any information on Thorne by way of Homeland Security.”

  “So we’re covered,” Jim said, “all the way around for now.”

  “What about the giants?” Evan asked. “What’s going on with them? I know that they’re kept back by the barrier, but we don’t need someone sneaking around the perimeter and spotting one.”

  “Don’t worry too much about them,” Jim said. He put his coffee down on the coffee table and stood up. He walked across the den to the bookcases lining the far wall. He moved a small clock and pressed a switch. As he pulled his arm back, the wall started sliding to the right.

  “Fred’s been busy,” Jim said, smiling grimly, “very, very busy.”

  Revealed by the moving wall was a large trophy case made of dark mahogany and museum-quality glass. Warm lights spilled down from recesses in the ceiling upon six massive, roughly human-looking skulls which had been boiled white. The skulls of the giants stared emptily out from the case with their death’s head grins, a bullet hole in the center of the head.

  “Damn,” Evan said softly as the others murmured, “I guess Fred really has been busy.”

  * * *

  Bonus Scene Prologue: Darkness in New England

  There is an old and seemingly eternal darkness that resides and infects New England. You can find it anywhere, tucked into the culverts of brooks, amongst the apple trees, and even in the clear and quiet glens of the forest.

  Ancient in their ways, we are less than nothing to these things, and indeed at times we are nothing more than a convenient meal which has walked into their kitchen.

  All we can do is take heed of those who know better, and caution our children to do the same.

  Bonus Scene Chapter 1: Old Man Copp in the Orchard, 1976

  “What the hell is wrong with these trees?” Peter asked.

  Dan shrugged, backing the car onto the dirt drive that branched off of Farley Road. The sun was just beginning to set, the Ford’s engine running rough at idle as Dan put it into park.

  “Hey,” Peter said, looking at Dan. “Those trees don’t even have any apples on them.”

  “I know, I know,” Dan said, pulling the latch for the trunk so that it popped open. “I’m telling you, though, the best apples in Cross are from the Blood family’s orchard.”

  “I don’t know,” Peter said, looking at the barren, twisted trees lining the drive, “these trees look like shit, man. And that’s not really getting my hopes up for any good apples.”

  “Shut up and get out of the damn car,” Dan sighed. He left the car idling and the door open as he walked around to the back. Peter met him there, and they each pulled a surplus Army duffel bag out of the cluttered trunk.

  “You ought to clean this,” Peter said.

  “You should shut up,” Dan replied.

  Peter shook his head. “So, just windfall?”

  “Yup,” Dan nodded. “I’ll pick the fresh stuff. Just make sure you fill that bag. I want to get as much for hard cider as we can.”

  “Me too,” Peter said.

  Dan led the way into the orchard with Peter following. They passed by rows of truly ancient apple trees. The boughs were heavy with age and absent of fruit, each aged branch hanging low, caressing the grass with each breeze. Gnarled branches and twisted trunks took on sinister appearances as the sun set. Peter felt a growing sense of unease, as though the trees were watching him. He kept close to Dan as they moved further in.

  The old trees were quickly replaced though with younger ones, and soon the sweet smell of McIntosh apples was filling the cool, autumn air. Most of these trees, Peter saw, had been picked bare, and the windfall had long since been gathered up early on in the season.

  Dan, Peter noticed with relief, kept on a straight track as they walked deeper into what was easily the largest orchard that he’d ever been in.

  “Hey, what about the Old Man?” Peter asked suddenly, glancing behind him.

  “What? Old Man Copp?” Dan asked, looking back at Peter.

  Peter nodded. “I heard he’s a son of a bitch. That the Bloods pay him to run off anyone that even comes near to the orchard.”

  “Nothing to worry about,” Dan grinned, turning his attention back to the trees. “Guy’s like sixty or seventy, or something. Pretty sure he’s not patrolling the orchard with a shotgun or anything. Besides, I don’t think he’s going to be too upset about a couple of bags of apples, so don’t be such a bitch.”

  “I don’t know, man,” Peter said. “Some of the farmers in Massachusetts get pretty upset if you’re caught stealing apples.”

  “New Hampshire isn’t that uptight,” Dan chuckled. “And besides, things are pretty low key in Thorne. I’ve been doing field work for the Gauthiers out on Ridge Road since sixty-five. Things are pretty mellow.”

  Peter looked back again over his shoulder. Something didn’t feel right, no matter what Dan said.

  Soon they passed a gap in the trees. There were large, dark holes in the earth where trees had once stood.

  “Careful,” Dan said, giving the holes a wide berth.

  “Thanks.”

  They walked for a good five minutes, the sky getting darker when Peter stopped and said, “Dan.”

  “What?” Dan asked, turning around and stopping.

  “Did you bring a flashlight?”

  “Why would I need a—” Dan’s voice trailed off as he looked up at the sky, swearing.

  It was a moonless night, and it would be pitch black in the orchard.

  “Yeah,” Peter said.

  “Don’t sweat it,” Dan said after a moment. “We’ll have enough starlight to get back.”

  Dan set off again and with a shrug Peter followed. They walked for a few more minutes before coming to trees with fruit on the lower branches. Reaching up Dan plucked an apple and tossed it to Peter.

  “Take a bite of that,” Dan said, opening his duffel bag and putting it on the ground.

  Peter caught the apple easily, giving it a quick wipe on his sweatshirt. He took a big bite and tasted the sweetest McIntosh he’d ever had. “Wow,” he said as he chewed.

  “Right?” Dan laughed, picking apples as quickly as he could.

  “Damn right,” Peter said. He finished the apple in a few bites, tossing the core into the distance and smacking his lips. Grinning at the taste which lingered on his tongue Peter opened his own bag and began gathering up windfall.

  “Hey,” Peter said after a minute.

  “Yeah.”

  “Have you ever made Apple Jack before?”

  “No. Don’t think I’ve even had it,” Dan answered.

  “It’s good,” Peter said. “Takes a while to make it, though. It’s got to sit for a long time.”

  “Yeah?”

  “Yeah. I’ve had it, just never made it,” Peter said. “Don’t like waiting.”

  “Right.” Dan moved to another nearby tree, dragging the nearly full bag with him. “How are you doing?”

  “About there,” Peter said.

  “Me too.”

  “Maybe we can hit the Indian Leap on the way back into town?”

  Dan laughed.

  “What?” Peter asked, stuffing in the last apple and zipping up the bag.

  “You.”

  “What about me?

  Dan zipped up his bag. “You’re sweet on the bartender.”

  “So?”

  “Nothing,” Dan grinned, “it’s just funny to watch.”

  “Let’s go,” Peter snapped, picking up his bag.

  “Don’t get—”
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  A loud click cut Dan off.

  Peter turned around slowly and saw an old man standing in the fading twilight. He held an obscenely large double-barrel shotgun, both of the hammer’s cocked. In his lips, the old man held the stem of a straight briar pipe, smoking casually as he watched them.

  “Boys,” the old man said softly, “this ain’t loaded with rock salt.”

  Peter looked nervously to Dan.

  “Look,” Dan said.

  The old man shook his head, his long white beard twitching. “Don’t really want to look at a couple of thieves.”

  “They’re just apples,” Dan said.

  “They’re just Hollis Blood’s apples,” the old man corrected.

  “How about we just put the bags down, and we’ll call it even?” Dan asked.

  “Not quite,” the old man said. “But you will put the bags down.”

  Peter and Dan dropped the bags simultaneously, the thuds ringing out loudly.

  “Walk,” the old man said.

  “Which way?” Dan asked, his voice cracking.

  “The way you came.”

  Peter’s heart hammered in his chest as they walked, his skin crawling at the realization that there was a loaded shotgun pointed at his back. He had no doubt that the old man would use it. The old man might be in his sixties, but he didn’t move or act like it. He’d crept right up on them, right through the orchard—

  “Stop,” the old man said.

  Peter and Dan stopped instantly.

  Looking around nervously Peter saw the trees bending in the wind—Peter shook his head.

  There is no wind, he thought. How the hell are they moving? He looked around and saw that he was standing by the holes they had passed earlier and that young apple trees were moving towards them.

  The ground rippled like water, roots appearing and disappearing in the earth which frothed and rolled around the trees as they came steadily on. Peter felt his eyes widen, unable to look away from the sight of the moving trees. They were small, no fruit on their branches, just thin leaves.

 
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