In The Dead Of Night

“Your got here just in time.

“Find yourself a comfortable place near the bonfire, because I’m ready to tell a story.”

“My name is Duke Masterson, and I’m the oldest resident in Weston… still able to talk that is. There’s old Charlie Dent, but since he lost his dentures no one can understand him. Truth be told, his memory isn’t as good as mine. 

“Any of you folks from Missouri?

Only one arm went up. The rest of the group was tourists from all over the country. One young couple was busy passing a bottle of Jack Daniels back and forth while keeping their eyes on Duke.

“Just a little history first. One of the things this town has always been proud of was our rich heritage built by beer and whiskey. There was a time, long ago, Weston was a main port for riverboats, but things changed.

I’m proud to tell you we have been drinking quality beer since 1842, when John Georgian built one of the first lager beer breweries in this country. Old John was a German immigrant who brought us a fine old world beer they we still enjoy today.

“Any questions?”

“Yeah! What time does that brewery open tomorrow?” a young man with a baseball cap that said “Booze Hound” asked. A couple of other tourists laughed. Duke waited until the laughter died down.

“I’m back to bragging again about liquor. We’re also home to McCormick Distilling Company, founded in 1856. For you history buffs, it’s the oldest whiskey distillery west of the Mississippi River that’s still in operation.

How about this; the Lewis and Clark Expedition stopped not far from here at today’s town hall. Remember reading about William Buffalo Bill Cody? He was a resident here for years.”

“Hey Duke! One of the men sitting on a lawn chair said, “Enough history. We’re here to listen to your story!”

Applause broke out as the group looked at the old man eagerly. Duke managed to muster up a smile. They were right. They wanted to be scared tonight. They wanted ghost tales that would tickle their fears.

He was happy to accommodate them.

“Back in 1840, before we had beer and whiskey industries, most folks were farmers. Hemp was a crop that grew well and exporting rope helped keep the town going. I think I mentioned that riverboats used to come here.

“One day a strange-looking fella got off one of those riverboats and caused quit a stir. He had tattoos all over his body. His bald head was painted blue. He had three negro servants and was wearing silk robes. You can imagine what a sight they made.

“The tattooed man hired someone to haul their baggage over to the old Frontier Hotel where he rented two rooms. Well, it didn’t take long for rumors to circulate about him being a witch doctor and his negroes being zombies.

When a series of strange things started happening around town, people started questioning the tattooed man. All of the cows stopped producing milk and the chickens stopped laying eggs. The owner of the hardware store went nuts and ran down the street frothing at the mouth!

The city fathers got together and held an emergency meeting. They decided that the tattooed man and his negroes were bad medicine. Tempers flared and things sorta got out of hand because they marched over to the hotel and pulled the tattooed man and the negroes out of their rooms.

The next thing you know, they hung them from all from a tree just outside town. Before they slipped the noose over the tattooed man’s neck he cursed them all…and their descendants!

Just before they liberated him from this world, he warned them that their town would become his at night from that moment forward.”

Duke looked at the group to gauge their reactions. They were quiet and subdued.

A wolf howled nearby. The bonfire sputtered and a sudden rush of wind put it out. As the group watched in horror Duke transformed before their bulging eyes. Gone was the old man. A tall tattooed man with a bald head painted blue drew a knife from the sash at his waist.

He roared in rage, and then plunged into the terrified group!

As It Stands, storytelling time in Weston is a hell of an experience!

Destroy The Mirror

I’ll cut right to the heart of this warning. Time is precious.

Destroy the mirror.

The damn thing is sitting upright next to this letter, like a demon perched on the table. Don’t let that elaborate golden frame and stand dazzle you. The thing is cursed. It drove me to madness. Yes, I admit it. I’m crazy, but that’s just because of what I’ve seen in the mirror.

You would be too if you saw the horrible things that I did.

Time is of the essence. Still, I want someone to know my story. I’ve been unable to destroy this damn mirror, so all I can do is give fair warning while telling my tale. If you can, destroy the cursed thing!

My name is Dominic. I’m the only child of Caesar and Antoinette Debardi. I grew up in the family castle, DeBardi Hall, in the Lombardy (Lombardia) region of Italy. We had many servants, and I seldom got to see my parents who traveled a lot.

When I was seventeen, a small flat wooden box (15″ x 18″) and a letter arrived addressed to my parents. They were still traveling on the continent at the time so I signed for them. It was made of cherry wood and was quite handsome. The letter had the family crest imprinted on it.

I waited for my parents to come home. A year went by with no word. I sent out inquiries to all of their friends and business associates. I ran newspaper ads. I finally hired a detective, after the courts allowed me access to the family fortune.

Two years went by with no word. One day I noticed the cherry wood box, still sealed, laying on the bookshelf in the library. It was dusty. Half-hidden by a Jade Buda my mother brought back from Tibet.

I pulled it out. Moving a stack of papers on my desk to one side, I made room for the box. Sitting down, I examined it for a few moments, trying to see if there was a clever way of opening it. Like the trick beech wood boxes my father use to bring home from India.

As far as I could tell, it was sealed tightly with no way to open it. I was young and very inquisitive. In that way, a normal seventeen year-old. I tried breaking the seal with my pocketknife, but ended up breaking my knife instead.

Challenged now, I took it down to the basement where there was a workshop. It was filled with tools and workbenches cluttered with isometric drawings of cabinets, and draftsmen supplies like compasses, rulers, drafting squares, and pencils.

I put the box in a vice. Grabbing a hammer and a chisel that were hanging from a rack on the wall, I proceeded to whack away! I ended up splitting the wood to get at the contents.

Miraculously, it was a mirror, and had somehow survived my crude assault. A very expensive-looking mirror. I took it upstairs to the parlor, marveling at it’s weight. It was a solid gold frame and stand.

The mirror itself was cloudy-looking. Like it was very old. Created in the days before they made perfect mirrors. Upon closer examination I made out fantastic-looking creatures intertwined around the stand and base.

They appeared to be demons from an ancient culture. Greek? Roman? I wasn’t educated enough to know the answer of where it came from. When I stepped away from my examination I was surprised to see the clock strike midnight.

I’d been in the library for hours. Shaking my head tiredly, I went upstairs to my room and instantly fell asleep. When I woke up the next morning the first thing I saw was the mirror sitting on my chest of drawers!

My heart stopped. I’d given all of the servants the weekend off. I was alone. So how did the mirror appear in my bedroom? I threw the covers aside and scrambled into my clothes. It was still there.

There was no rational explanation. The damn thing should have stayed in the parlor. I briefly wondered if someone was playing a prank on me. Searching everywhere, I couldn’t turn up a jokester.

I carried the mirror back downstairs. It actually felt heavier than the first time I picked it up. That’s the first time I heard it call my name. In the following days the mirror stalked me! I would find myself staring into it and seeing terrible visions for hours.

I gave all the servants a month paid vacation, and sent them away.

One day, during a lucid moment away from the mirror, I remembered the letter that came with the box. I went into the library and searched throw my desk drawers. It was there, along with other letters I’d saved over the years. Unopened.

I’m not sure why I didn’t open the letter sooner. If I had, I could have saved myself a lot of suffering. The letter was from my father. He told me not to open the box. No matter what. He explained that the mirror inside had my mother’s soul trapped inside!

He was writing the letter with the last of his strength. With the help of a Turkish holy man his father had sealed the mirror in a box using ancient spells. He sent the box back for safekeeping while he sought a way to free her.

But his brief exposure to the demons inside wore down his frail body. He was dying and wanted me to find a way to free her. The mirror inside was from Crete, and was stolen from an ancient king’s grave. He admitted that they bought it on the black market. It was all he knew.

He ended with a final goodbye and wished me the best. You know the rest. I screwed up when I smashed the box open. The demons have been after me ever since. Wait a moment! I think I hear them in the hallway…

As It Stands, this is my warped take on Pandora’s Box.

Nightmares

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He woke up screaming!

Ever since Jake Jones returned from combat duty in Afghanistan he was plagued by nightmares.

They were so real that he woke screaming every morning, bathed in sweat, with bruises and even scratches on his body.

The Army psychiatrists said he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and put him in counseling, and fed him pills that were supposed to help.

While he was patient at the White City VA, in White City Oregon, the doctors observed his bruises, cuts and scratches on him every morning. The consensus was they were self-inflicted, despite Jake’s denials.

He refused to speak during group counseling so they had to resort to one-on-one counseling. His doctor experimented with every anti-psychotic medication available but none of them helped.

All the doctor knew about Jake was that he was wounded twice in 2009. He was among 3000 U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division that moved into the provinces of Logar and Wardak to push out the Taliban.

A group of Afghan Federal Guards fought alongside the Americans. They were the first wave of an expected surge of reinforcements originally ordered by President Bush and increased by President Obama.

One day Jake and his squad were exploring caves looking for enemy insurgents. They came upon a group of old men and some young Taliban fighters and a deadly firestorm erupted.

When it was over half of Jake’s squad was dead or wounded. Jake suffered a bullet wound through his left shoulder. All of their enemies lay dead except one old man. He had been hit several times and was sitting with his back to the wall.

When Jake approached him blood was running out of the corner of his mouth and he was muttering something. Scott, the team translator came over and listened to the old man’s fading words. When they stopped, Scott turned to Jake and said “This guy has cursed us 1000 times over. Too bad that I don’t believe in that crap.”

Jake was medevaced to safety and returned to combat duty three months later. All of his remaining team members were gone, dead, or returned to the United States.

Three days after returning to his new unit his platoon was ambushed. Jake was the only one wounded. This time in the chest, just missing his heart. That’s when the really bad nightmares began.

While recuperating in the hospital the first one happened. One moment he was sipping water through a straw and sitting up in a hospital bed, and the next he was in an unfamiliar place that looked a lot like the province of Wardak.

Three old men approached him with long canes. He stood there, powerless to move while they beat him and chanted ancient curses. He could feel every blow. When he couldn’t stand the pain anymore, he screamed…and woke up with a nosebleed.

A nurse ran into the room and comforted him as she washed the blood off his face and beard. In her report she noted that the patient had somehow inflicted injury upon himself while sleeping.

The same thing happened for three nights in a row before he was transformed to a mental ward and strapped onto a bed for his own safety. When the nurse checked on him the next morning he had a black eye and more bruises on his chest.

The stunned staff immediately launched an investigation to see who had attacked him. The night nurse said no one had entered the ward, and the security guards verified her story.

The nightmares continued, but the beatings stopped. He was released back into the general population and assigned a new doctor two weeks later. Jake was a pale shadow of himself having lost fifty pounds since his second wound.

The nightmares morphed from beatings to ghosts of dead Afghani children, women, and old men surrounding him with sad eyes. They were the same old men in the cave that he helped kill.

He continued to wake up screaming until one day he decided that he’d had enough. He tied his sheets together, firmly securing one end to the ceiling fan and wrapping the other around his neck. Then he kicked the chair away from beneath his feet.

As It Stands, this tale was an exercise in mixing a real mental problem with the supernatural.

Moonshine Mayhem in McKinleyville

Moonshining

Circa 1950, The Arcata Union Newspaper

Mystery Murders in McKinleyville Continue

“Locals say the horrific murders are happening during full moons and claim it’s an ancient Yurok curse.

This reporter was unable to get anyone in town to go on the record about the supposed curse.

All that’s known for sure is the victims were all horribly mutilated. County coroner reports have been consistent in the analysis that it was probably a wild animal attacking people.”

McKinleyville is a small town that proudly harkens back to its early pioneer days and independent citizens. A sign posted, as you come into town over the hill, says, “McKinleyville – Where Horses Have The Right of Way.”

It was a quiet unincorporated town without its own police force. The city fathers contracted with the County of Humboldt for protection.

As can be imagined, response times were often slow when an emergency happened in Mack Town (what the locals called it) because it was located 21 miles north. Residents of McKinleyville did their best to solve their own problems.

Grandpa Zeke was a moonshiner. His whiskey took the paint off metal, but was popular throughout the county. His still, set up east of the populated area of Mack Town, was a hand-me-down from his father.

The old man came into town every Sunday to sell his Hooch to the church-going husbands who bought his whiskey after church services were over, in a back alley. Children loved him because he was always telling tall tales.

Four months after the brutal murders began Zeke started showing up in town every night at the local bar. It became the talk of the small community. Old Zeke was buying commercial whiskey instead of drinking his own product.

Even more puzzling, Zeke wasn’t talking with anyone. He sat at a small table alone. After drinking steadily for an hour, or more, Zeke would start babbling gibberish about werewolves and moonshine not mixing very well.

The town fathers became concerned when the owner/bartender, Bob Goldswaith, told them about Zeke’s recent drinking habit during a town meeting. It was decided that two of them would have a talk with old Zeke the next time he came to town.

They found Zeke the next night drinking at Bob Goldswaith’s bar. The old man was well into his cups when they greeted him.

Zeke…how are you doing old friend?” one man asked.

“Are you okay? I never saw you come to this bar in my life,” the second man asked, with a touch of concern in his voice.

Zeke looked at the two town fathers. He knew them well. They were among some of his best customers. “You boys will think I’m crazy if I tell you what’s happening,” he drunkenly replied.

“No! Not, at all!” they protested.

Zeke poured some whisky from the bottle in the middle of the table and invited them to pull up a chair.

“About four months ago some fella showed up at my still. Said he was looking for a safe place to stay in the woods. I said, safe from what? Myself, he said. Well, I can tell you right now, I thought that sounded odd.

“Said his name was Walt. No last name. I told him there were plenty of places to stay. I showed him a redwood that a natural hidey hole at the base. He thanked me and I went back to my still.

“The next day, I was sampling my latest batch of moonshine when Walt showed up. He asked if he could have a snort and I handed him a cup. Then another. Pretty soon he was getting lit up and telling me stories about his life.

“I was getting tired when the moon came out and Walt jumped to his feet and howled like a wolf! For a brief moment I thought that was the damnist reaction I’d ever seen from my Hooch!

“When he started getting hairy and dropped to all fours, I got up and ran like a buck chasing a doe in heat! 

“Ran all the way to my cabin and sat there in the dark shaking like a leaf.”

Both men had skepticism edged on their faces, but one still asked, “So, what happened next?” 

Zeke picked up the bottle and took a healthy swig.

“Nothing. Nothing else happened that night. About a month later Walt showed up as I was tending my still. We stared at each other a long time before he apologized for scaring me. Said he was a werewolf, but did his best not to kill folks, just animals.

“I wasn’t sure what to do, so I offered him a drink. He gladly accepted. We talked until the full moon came out and he ran off howling again.

“It wasn’t until the third time that I saw Walt, that I suspected he was killing people. By then it had become routine. He’d come by on full moons to swig my moonshine and murder my neighbors.

“So, I did the only thing I could, and destroyed my still and my whole stash of moonshine. It was apparent Walt could’nt hold his liquor and got murderous when he drank it. That was three weeks ago.

“The next full moon is coming up tomorrow night. Recon we’ll see if my plan worked out and Walt went back to catching animals instead of humans.”

As It Stands, what could be worse than a drunk werewolf?