An Incident Under A Waxing Moon

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Seth and Eli had no choice. They waited until nightfall to make their break.

It was a waxing moon and they felt exposed under its bright light, but if they stayed where they were the Yankees would eventually find them. The union army under McClellan had split the Confederate forces in half that hot afternoon in July, seizing a decisive victory by capturing or killing half of Lt. Col. John Pegam’s men, and routing the rest.

Seth and Eli were among the many Confederates who were escaping to nearby Beverly, and on over to the Shawnee Trail. They were separated from their unit in the chaos of retreat. Seth was wounded. A Yankee mini ball hit him just below his right knee, shattering the bone. It was bound up hastily by Eli who helped him walk by supporting his wounded side with one brawny arm. Seth was weak from loss of blood and they were hiding in a thicket near a farmhouse.

They would have to cross an open field to reach the forest that led to Beverly where the Confederate forces were fleeing. Eli looked up at the sky and cursed the bright moon.

“Time to go Seth. We’ve got to find a place to hide before the sun comes up and McClellan’s boys catch us.”

The two men awkwardly walked towards the tree line. Seth had his loaded rifle in his free hand. It seemed like forever before they entered the forest. They pressed on for two hours before Seth had to rest. Eli scouted around and found a small cave. He helped Seth inside. It was barely big enough for both men and smelled like bear. Eli sat up with his back against the rear, and rifle across his lap. It left enough room for Seth to lay down. He was in obvious pain, but didn’t complain.

They were best friends and were raised in the same small town in Virginia. As boys they hunted together and spent lazy days fishing. That all changed when the war started. They signed up to defend their home and state like the rest of the boys in their community. It was a year since the War of the States broke out and both young men had seen their share of fighting in numerous skirmishes, leading up to the Battle of Rich Mountain.

Eli was starting to fall asleep when he heard a strange noise and simultaneously smelled something rank. Like a skunk. He leaned over to the narrow opening where he’d pulled some bushes in after entering the cave. He peered through the brush and saw something that scared the hell out of him! It was at least eight-feet tall, and looked like a giant hairy man. It was standing mere feet away from their hiding place and sniffing the night air like a great hound.

The moon was bright enough to slash through the forest canopy exposing the creatures face. It was the stuff nightmares are made from. It’s head looked too small for its huge body. Protruding fangs and lifeless eyes, like a sharks, stared into the night. It’s grunts sounded similar to a boar.

Eli was afraid to move a muscle, and hoped Seth wouldn’t wake up and start moaning. He saw the thing bend over something and gradually became aware that it was a body. A flash of blue uniform under the moon’s unforgiving gaze, told him it was a Yank. Streams of light filtered through the trees around the creature as it bent over and casually tore off the mans arm and started chewing on it!

Nothing in Eli’s life prepared him for the horror he was witnessing. He saw men die on both sides off the battlefield, but their violent deaths paled beside the nightmare unfolding in front of him. The thing had plucked the other arm out like a chicken wing and tossed the bones of the other in his direction. Eli flinched. He forced himself to remain calm. Wild things could sense fear. He learned that as a boy growing up in the hill country. The man-thing tossed the other arm bone aside and bent over the body again, coming up with a trail of intestines in it’s large mouth.

At that moment Seth woke up, and groaned out loud!

Eli quickly put a hand over his mouth and prayed it didn’t hear him. Seth’s eyes opened in surprise and Eli put a finger to his lips. The grunting outside stopped. He could barely make out the beast’s movement. It was amazingly stealthy for something so large. The creature suddenly hunched down and looked in the opposite direction in time to see a Confederate soldier with fixed bayonet charge it!

There was a terrible roar of rage when the bayonet pierced the beast’s breast, but it didn’t go down. Still standing, it slowly pulled the bayonet out, to the soldiers horror. It grabbed the rifle and threw it down while reaching out with his other massive arm for the terrified soldier.

Eli was already moving and scurried out of the cave and took aim at the beast’s back and fired! It kept plunging forward and grabbed the soldier with a scream of anger and tore his head off with it’s bare hands! Turning, it saw Eli standing 20-feet away and roared with increased rage. Eli barely had time to fix his bayonet on his rifle when it charged. Bracing himself, he thrust his rifle forward and stabbed the creature’s bloody breast before it knocked him over!

The force of it’s charge sent him backwards several feet and he tumbled roughly on the forest floor. As he scrambled to his feet he saw Seth crawling out of the cave. He calmly leveled his .36 caliber Navy revolver and fired six shots at the beast. It turned away from Eli and turned on Seth. Eli screamed “No!” and pulled his hunting knife out and started to take a step when more gunfire broke out!

Three Union soldiers appeared and were firing volleys at the beast! It let out a terrible scream of agony and finally lumbered away in the opposite direction. They could hear it smashing its way through the deep forest for minutes afterward.

Eli looked over at the Union soldiers, who lowered their rifles, and cracked a wry smile, “I never thought I’d be so damn glad to see some damn Yankees!” he said, as he held his arms up in surrender.

As It Stands, you never know when you and an enemy might end up on the same side one day.

Stolen Souls

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During the American Civil War photography was still in its infancy.

The men who photo-documented it would forever be assured a place in photography history.

Men like Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner,┬áTimothy O’Sullivan, James Gibson, George Barnard, James Gardner and William Pywell, covered all of the war’s struggles and camp life.

There was one photographer however, Weldon Wall, whose works during the war between the states were all destroyed just after the war in 1866.

He sometimes shared his photos of dead bodies during the war with amorphous beings rising from them.

His peers thought it was trickery and blasted him for re-touching the images which they suspected he was going to sell to their grieving relatives. Actually, it was much worse than that.

Wall, a loner, didn’t have an assistant, so it took him even longer to process the images, feeding the rumors. His wagon was always well away from the others and he never associated with them, despite numerous invitations.

These intrepid men with their traveling labs recorded the bloody fields of Antietam to Gettysburg. Their daguerreotypes, unlike Wall’s, were destined to be viewed for generations.

Wall, a physic vampire, never attempted to sell his collection. Each of the photos represented stolen souls. They were caught at just the right time escaping the bodies. His work was more diabolical than anyone could have guessed.

He kept the photos locked up in a steamer chest. His plan was to capture as many souls as possible before the carnage was over in order to make a deal with the devil. He wanted immortality, something a physic vampire could only achieve by making a deal with the Great Deceiver.

After the Union victory, Wall went back to his hometown of New York with his collection of over 3,000 photos. He kept them in the bedroom of his rented apartment. The moans of the trapped souls were a lullaby to his ears.

He waited patiently for the devil to contact him after performing the rituals required to summon him. He repeated the ritual every day. The soul’s groans would also help attract the Dark Lord.

The night finally came when the devil appeared in Wall’s apartment.

At first, the devil was amused at Wall’s sheer audacity and listened to his proposal. By the time he was done speaking the devil had heard enough. The fool really thought he could dictate terms to him!

Wall had opened the steamer trunk and was standing beside it expectantly as he waited for a response.

The crude fire brigade did their best to save the apartment building but it was engulfed in such intense flames they could only retreat and stand back and watch.

The next day the newspaper had a short story on the front page about the mysterious fire and speculated that a photographer might have accidently started it when developing a photo.

As It Stands, the devil will always get his due.