The Ol’ Jessup Place: Virginia Devil Folktale

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Virginia devil folktale about a young man forced to spend the night in a terrifying house, with a terrifying family. But are they really as evil as the townfolk say? Written by Kyle Moore.

You wanna know about that place up there? Heh, yeah, she sure looks like hell, don’t she? Paint peelin’ away from the wood, boards on the porch all rotted through, and them windows? Them windows’re black, not from curtains, see, but from the dirt. Yeah, there’s so much dirt on them windows you could put your nose right up against ‘em and not even see what’s on the other side.

Let me tell you; you should see her at night.

That’s the ol’ Jessup place, that is. The Jessups have been here in Porton for as long as anyone can remember. I bet when settlers first put down stakes in this little backwater, there was a Jessup, standing at the back, just a little ways away from the rest of the folk.

See, the Jessups aren’t welcome most places ’round here. Shops won’t sell to ‘em; restaurants won’t sit ‘em. Even the little ‘uns get shunned. Oh, they’ll take ‘em in the schools all right, but that never lasts long before the other boys and girls run ‘em off, throwin’ rocks and callin’ ‘em names. Nah, Jessups just ain’t welcome, and usually they have to go all the way to Suffolk or Chesapeake to stock their stores or ply a trade.

They got a reputation.

Most the time, folks just carry on like they don’t exist. But every once in a while, maybe at a church bake sale, or down at the lodge on a Sunday afternoon, the whispers about the house start skittering along like spiders under the tablecloths. It’s haunted, some’ll say. Evil.

And ain’t no one seen a Jessup attend a church here ever, and that has folks waggin’ their tongues about worshippin’ the devil or practicin’ witchcraft.


Me? I know the truth about the Jessups. No one’ll listen to me of course. That’s my own fault I guess. I found me a nice bottle, crawled in, and ain’t had much interest in crawling my way back out. And you can’t blame me neither.

You weren’t there that night. You didn’t see what I saw.

Lord this was, what? Twenty years ago? Yeah, I was just a scrawny little runt, straight outta high school. Lotsa kids grow up here, they want out of Porton. Not me. I was just lookin’ to raise a little hell, but not so much I couldn’t stand up in church on Sundays.

Back then, my daddy owned this here garage, and I was makin’ a little cash workin’ for him. It was a good life. My daddy was a good man; he charged me fair rent, and if I did a good job, he made sure I had enough money in my pocket to go out and find me a nice girl.

Well, it was late summer, and the mayor gone and cracked the block of his Mercedes. The mayor! When the tow truck wheeled that beauty in this shop, my daddy almost wept, I don’t know with pride, or with thinking of all the money he was going to make offa that job. I can tell you that just about every other car in the garage was put on hold so we could turn around the mayor’s car as fast as possible.

The problem is, as I’m sure you could guess, we ain’t got much in the way of import parts in this little town. After callin’ around to some of the other cities, my daddy found the only place with the parts we were lookin’ for was all the way over in Newport News.

And that’s how I found myself drivin’ my daddy’s truck along that road over yonder in the middle of the night.

It was comin’ down hard that night. In the summer, when it gets to rainin’ ‘round here, there’s no messin’ about. It’ll start with a drop or two, and next thing you know it’s like God’s wrath comin’ down in thick gray sheets of water.

I still remember the sound of the rain, like someone takin’ a needle gun to the roof. The whole time I’m hunched over the steerin’ wheel, eyes screwed up, tryin’ to see the road through the two feeble shafts of yellow light comin’ from the head lights. I had the radio up, but you couldn’t hear nothin’ from the racket of the rain, and really, I was so scared I don’t think I’d have been able to pay attention to the music if I could.

When I saw the Jessup place down the road, I actually felt a bit of relief. Yeah, the place was creepy, especially in that rain. It was just this big black hulking thing lurkin’ at the edge of a street light. If the circumstances had been any different, it’d have scared the bejesus outta me, but at that time… it meant I was almost home.

Yeah, I thought I was good to go and then BANG! I nearly soiled my britches when Daddy’s pick up started buckin’ and lurchin’ like that ol’ mechanical bull they got over at Larry’s. I thought I was gonna tear that steerin’ wheel straight off, I was holdin’ on so tight.

Well, she finally came to rest and I knew somethin’ was wrong ‘cause she was sittin’ real low on the passenger side. I threw my hat on and hopped out the truck to go see what was the matter. “Shee-it!” I hollered when I saw it. I ain’t a cursin’ man; my momma brought me up right. But way I figured it, I musta hit a pothole or a rock or somethin’ so hard it popped the damn wheel clean off.

There I was, the head lights nearly blindin’ me, the rain just beatin’ on my back and soakin’ through my clothes as I stared at where the wheel used to be. I swore again, and I ain’t ashamed to admit I wanted to cry. Almost did, except I knew my daddy would give me a tongue lashin’. My daddy was a good man, but he didn’t raise no sissies, I’ll tell you that.

So I’m standin’ there, tryin’ to think of what to do next when I looked up. There it was, that old house over there. It was awful. The street light didn’t reach it, almost like the lamp was afraid, and the rain just sorta draped over it like a shroud. And underneath? Just this hulkin’ black mass, the porch all crooked and warped, like teeth. I felt it starin’ at me.

Wooden Front Porch, Farmhouse, Milledgeville, GA

Now I grew up here, so I heard all the stories, all the whispers, and as much as I wanted to be inside out of the wet, as much as I needed a phone to call my daddy and tell ‘im what happened, just the idea of going up to the Jessup house was unthinkable. I’da rather just walked into town on my own and found somewhere still open from there.

That’s just what I was fixin’ to do, too, when I hear this loud bang.

“What the hell are you doin’ out there, boy?” someone called out after me.

I looked up. Castor Jessup. I’d seen him about here and there. Not much, of course. But every once in a while, I’d catch him in the yard wrenchin’ on one of the Jessup cars or cuttin’ the grass. The man was cut outta wood. I’d wager he was only a coupla years older than me, but his face was hard, you know? Whiskers and hollow cheeks and stern eyes.

He was glarin’ at me.

“Lost a wheel, Mr. Jessup,” I hollered back, strugglin’ to be heard over the rain.

Castor just stood there, his arms rested up against the crooked picket fence of the yard. It was comin’ down in buckets and the man was actin’ like weren’t nothin’ but a little sprinkle. He stayed silent a spell, lookin’ at me, and lookin’ at the pick-up, and then I saw somethin’ strange in his eyes. I can’t rightly say what, it was dark, and I only had the street light to go off of, but his look darkened, and he craned his neck to peer down the road where I came from.

I couldn’t stop myself and I looked too. All I saw was the rain slammin’ down like a bucket of nails, and behind that, blackness. Maybe I say this ‘cause I know now what was going to happen later, maybe I’m rememberin’ it wrong, or maybe I just knew, even then, but I tell ya, there was something in all that black. Felt like when you’re playin’ hide and seek, and you think you got that perfect spot, but then you can hear whoever’s it comin’ by, and all of a sudden you know, just know, that they see you, and they’re just bidin’ their time, waitin’ for the perfect moment to get you.

Castor grabbed my attention before I could look too long though. He said, “Bad night for you to be out here, boy.”

“Yes, sir,” I replied. My momma always taught me to treat people with respect, even if those people are the Jessups.

As I answered, I looked up at the sky with my eyes all squinted up tight. Now I remember this because I was just lettin’ Castor know that the weather was somethin’ awful. But Castor, he didn’t pay the sky or the weather any mind at all. And when I looked back down at him, he had that shadow in his eyes again.

It was like he was tryin’ to say the bad night had nothin’ to do with the weather.

He took one last look down the road, and I swear he was nervous. It’s a strange thing to see a hard man like that lookin’ nervous.

Then he looked back at me one more time, sizin’ me up almost, the way a coyote’ll look at a sheep, and finally he said, “I reckon you ought to come inside.”

I stood there for a moment, rain rollin’ down my back and soakin’ into my drawers, and even then I wasn’t sure. This was the ol’ Jessup place, and they worshipped the devil, or did witchcraft or stole babies or somethin’. But then I felt the darkness lookin’ back at me from down the road, and all of a sudden goin’ with Castor didn’t seem that bad an idea at all.

Now, you gotta understand somethin’, to the best of my knowledge, I ain’t never known anyone to cross that fence who’s name wasn’t Jessup. I remember when we was kids we’d dare each other, and little Matty almost did it, got a hand on the fence before he chickened out, but no one, and I mean no one had the guts to get as far as I did that night.

Every step felt like I was walkin’ onto some foreign land. Cuttin’ through the lawn, seein’ all that crab grass, still sharp and stiff even in the rain, walkin’ onto that porch, feelin’ every board creak under my step, it all felt new and dangerous.

We got to the front door, and I just wanted off of the porch at that moment. Like I said, I was scrawny back then, no beer belly or anythin’ yet it still felt like the floorboards were gonna give and I was gonna go crashin through. I was relieved when Castor pulled open the front door, even though it squealed like you hear in those old horror movies. I just wanted off of that porch, out of that rain, and if I’m bein’ totally honest, away from that darkness beyond.

Inside weren’t no better though. It was worse. The lighting was dim, just a few weak table lamps with these thick lamp shades that turned the light all dirty yellow. You could see stitch marks along the sides of some of them, made it look like they was made from skin. And the shelves! Everywhere there were these shelves that looked like they was made by hand out of old used-up wood. There were… things on those shelves, dried up lumps of stuff I ain’t never seen before, boxes with strange stains all across their surfaces in ugly brown and black clouds.

I remember there was this jar, and it was old, with metal latches on it. It was coated in dust, like them windows you see over there, and cobwebs just draped off of it like a table cloth. There was this murky gray green liquid inside. It was hard to tell in the low light, but I couldn’t stop myself from takin’ a closer look. You know what I saw? There was somethin’ in there, somethin’ black and bulbous, just restin’ on the bottom, and I swear to this very day, just as my nose was about to touch the dirty glass, the thing inside moved.

“This way, boy,” Castor said quietly, almost like I was in a museum on a field trip and one of the folks that works there was getting’ nervous I was about to touch one of the paintings. So I followed him through that front room, cramped with a beat up recliner stuffed in a corner, and blue green carpet that had been pounded flat over the years. He took me through the kitchen, over the cracked linoleum tiles, dodgin’ around the olive green appliances with streaks of rust runnin’ down ‘em on all sides.

And then we were in a cramped hallway.

Pictures were all over the walls, generation after generation of Jessups, all of them lookin’ hard and cut from wood like Castor. There was one picture, an ol’ black and white, of this one woman in one of them frilly dresses, all black and high collared. You couldn’t say she was pretty; I couldn’t anyway. But I could see how she mighta been handsome; that’s what momma would say sometimes about some of the girls about town that didn’t catch all the boys’ eyes but weren’t what anyone would call ugly. She mighta been handsome, but she had that same look in her eyes like Castor’s: dark, a shadow, almost like she was lookin’ for something that weren’t there.

It gave me the chills somethin’ fierce, but I didn’t have time much to dwell on it as Castor led me down the hall and through a door with green paint that was rippled and bubblin’ up. The dark metal knob turned in his hand, and this time, when that heavy squeal came as the door swung open, it felt like it was shreddin’ my bones into bits. I wanted to run, but the sound of the rain patterin’ off of the roof told me there really wasn’t much of any place to run to.

The room inside was small, and cramped. There wasn’t much in it, just a bed and a dresser with another one of those lamps with the eerie shades over the bulb, but it was plain that it had been years since anyone stepped foot in that room. Dust coated everythin’ and the corners were thick with spider webs. I ain’t ever been afraid much of spiders, but there was one hangin’ from its web, thick and brown and it made me jump when I saw it scuttle off into a hole in the wall.

“You’ll be fine here,” Castor said. I looked at him, tryin’ to read if he was really takin’ me in on a bad night, or if I was bein’ set up for somethin’… what’s the word… sinister. But his face was as grim as ever, his eyes full of shadows, and his normally blond hair dark and clingin’ to his skull as water dripped slowly down his face. “You ain’t got to worry about messin’ up the bed with your clothes; there’s a cover under the sheets.”

Then he was gone, leavin’ me alone in that tiny room with the dust and the spiders. It didn’t occur to me until then to ask to use the phone; my nerves were stretched so thin I know I wasn’t thinkin’ straight. I thought about goin’ and tryin’ to find Castor, but the thought of walkin’ around the Jessup place without a guide was somehow worse.

So I pulled off the top blanket off the bed, kicked off my muddy shoes, and stretched out on that lumpy mattress. I don’t know if I actually slept or not. I remember tryin’ to look out the window and seein’ nothin’ but grime and rain, and wasn’t sure where one ended and the other began. I do remember closin’ my eyes… but I don’t remember if I actually slept.

I must’ve though, ‘cause the next time I opened my eyes, the rain was gone. I could see out the window again, sorta. I could make out the blackish purple night sky, and even blacker shapes hulking in the backyard. And the sound of the rain had quit.

But it wasn’t quiet. Just above me, I could hear a low mumblin’ or mutterin’. Occasionally it would get louder, and then it would quiet down again. Sometimes the ceilin’ above me would creak like someone was walkin’ around, but the whole time, there was always voices. More than one, too.

I got up out the bed, and strained to try to hear what they was talkin’ about, but the sound was muffled. So I stood on the bed, and I waited. Around me, the dust remained unmoved. The spider must’ve thought I wasn’t gonna bother it none, as it had come back out from its hole some time through the night. And there was me, ear pointed to the ceilin’, tryin’ to make out what the Jessups was talkin’ about.

I dunno how long I stood on that bed. Maybe five minutes, maybe half an hour. But finally the voices picked up loud enough and I could tell they weren’t talkin’ at all. They was chantin’. All of them, at least four or five of ‘em, all sayin’ the same thing, over and over again.

What were they sayin’?

Shoot, I couldn’t tell ya. It weren’t English, I could tell you that. That’s probably what spooked me the most. Whatever they was sayin’ weren’t in any language I’d heard before, not that I’ve heard many if I’m bein’ honest with ya. Whatever they was sayin’, it sounded wicked.

That was enough for me. I hopped down, shoved my feet in my cold wet shoes, and I flew. I didn’t care if the Jessups heard me. I didn’t care about anything besides gettin’ out of that evil house!

When I got out onto the front lawn, it was clear the storm had moved on. There was still a few clouds left in the sky, but the stars was shinin’ and a half moon was slung low and fat, leavin’ everything in this eerie silver glow.

I didn’t take but a second to realize this. Like I said, I wanted to put as much distance between me and the ol’ Jessup place as I could. But half way to the front gate I stopped hard, frozen, and feelin’ a chill down my back.

There was this man in the road, slouchin’ towards the town proper. He looked normal at first. Maybe his clothes looked a little messed up, and his hair was all over the place, and his skin was maybe a bit too pale, but that coulda been ‘cause of the moon light.

But as he drew even with my daddy’s pick up, the man looked up, looked me straight in the face, and he grinned.

Only half of his face was normal, only that ain’t the right word for it. It was… like a mask, limp. I remember when my granddaddy got old, they put him up in one of those old folk homes out in Norfolk. We’d visit him sometimes and he would just stare off into nothing, his mouth hangin’ open and snot dribblin’ out his nose. That’s what this man looked like down half his face. Like no one was there.

The other half—I still have nightmares of that other half. The deep gashes that ran back and forth all over the place, the chunks of skin that had come clean off so you could see the dark red meat underneath. And that eye. You know, I read a bit, and I watch movies, and you always hear folks goin’ on about the eyes this, and the eyes that. But you know what?

Ain’t a one of ‘em seen what I saw that night because that eye… lookin’ into that eye was like lookin’ through the gateway of Hell.

I wish I could say that was all, but it wasn’t. That whole half of the… I can’t call him a man… monster’s body was horrible. The clothes were tattered, and caked with blood, gouges of flesh had been ripped out here and there, almost like it was done by some kind of animal. And there was a hole about where his stomach was, and out of that hole somethin’ wet and black flopped about whenever the monster moved or shifted.

“It’s a beautiful night, don’t you think?” he asked. He spoke like a gentleman, and his voice sounded like graveyard dirt, and when those words hit my ears, my jaw wired itself shut and I could feel the piss spreadin’ in my pants.

It laughed. It laughed to see me so araid, and the laughter filled the road and the night. He wasn’t even done laughin’ when he started makin’ his way towards me with that slow lurch of his, and said, “No? To each his own, I suppose.”

With each step he took towards me, I could feel the fear risin’ inside of me like a pot full of boilin’ water, and this thing seemed to enjoy every second of it. At one point, he even licked his lips, like he was gettin’ the last drop of barbecue sauce.

“I was just going to pay your little hamlet a visit. Oh, I’ve long been aching to do so. How delicious, to savor the sights, the foods,” and here he stopped walkin’ and leveled that eye at me hard, I could almost feel it you know? Like when a fence board falls on you. He looked at me with that eye that opened up onto Hell, and I could feel the hunger oozin’ off of him when he said, “…the people.”

He was at the gate now, and I knew, I just knew, he was gonna get to me. I couldn’t run. I wanted to, but it was like my body just up and quit. I was as broke down in the gaze of that creature as my daddy’s pick up was across the road.

When I heard the front door behind me bang open, I thought my knees was gonna give out and I was gonna crumple to the ground. There was footsteps, and next thing I knew, Castor had come outside with his little brother Billy.

Billy. That boy couldn’ta been a hair over fourteen, but there he was, already lookin’ like a man who seen too much in his life. Baby fat was still clingin’ onto them cheeks, but the eyes were still as dark and terrible as his brother’s.

“How delightful!” the thing said, soundin’ almost like a cat purrin’ as you pour its food out from the can.

I heard metallic clicks on either side of me, and the Jessup boys hauled up a twelve gauge each and trained it on the monster. Outta the side of his mouth, Castor said, “Boy, you go on upstairs and you get Ma Jessup. Now.”

I did nothin’. I said nothin’. What the hell was I supposed to do? At some point, I think your brain just gets to tellin’ ya that whatever is goin’ on, it’s so bad it can’t be real. That’s where I was, I guess, and this time Castor took his eyes of the monster and looked straight at me. I could see what that shadow for what it was right then; it was fear. “I said go get momma, now!”

That was enough to snap me outta my daze, and I bolted, my pants smellin’ of piss, and my heart feelin’ like it was gonna drop right through my stomach. I musta looked like an idiot when I hit that house–yellin’ at the top of my lungs, “Mrs. Jessup? Mrs. Jessup?” as I climbed up the stairs, like I was too scared to keep from wettin’ myself like a baby, but not scared enough to forget the manners my momma taught me as a youngun.

I found the ol’ woman upstairs in a wicker chair, surrounded by black candles, each givin’ off flickerin’ yellow light. In one corner, there were a pair of girls with dirty blond hair, chantin’ like I had heard earlier over a weird shrine. But Ma Jessup was the focus of the room.

She looked like she was born old, with skin like old onion peels, and hair like the bristles of a broom. She had pudgy cheeks, and lips that were flat and cracked. The moment I saw her, I recognized her; she was the same woman as the one in that old black and white picture in the downstairs hall only much older.

“Mrs. Jessup?” I breathed.

“He’s here, isn’t he?” she said, her voice like sandpaper, her eyes tired and wary.

“Yes ma’am,” I nodded.

She gave a heavy sigh and stood up. It was odd, watchin’ her climb out of that chair, like watchin’ a piece of paper unfold itself. And when she did stand up straight, I wager she didn’t hit five feet, but you could feel it, the power, when she walked. She may have been a tiny, wrinkled up prune of a thing, but when she walked, you almost expected the ground to crack beneath her feet.

I followed her down the stairs and out the house. She was all wiry gray hair and ancient shawls and dress. She smelled of mothballs and somethin’ pungent, and if’n I’d seen her in the light of day, and I hadn’t seen all the things I’d already seen that night, she’d look almost silly. But not then. Not that night.

Ma Jessup held her head high, and marched straight towards the thing in the road. She paid no mind to her kin holdin’ shotguns. She barely paid attention to the gate as she went through. When she stopped and faced the monster, I could see her face, round and wrinkly, framed in the orange light of the street light, and the silver light of the moon. She sneered at it.

“What business you got comin’ ‘round these parts, demon?” she said.

It smiled sick and sweet at her. “Oh, so you know who I am, do you?”

“I know what you are; I don’t need to know a name,” she said with a little nod. Her voice still sounded like sandpaper, but there was somethin’ else underneath. Some kinda power. “I know of that poor fella you brought with ya, too. Mr. Felray—the banker.”

The demon raised his arms and looked at them, almost like watchin’ someone try on one of the fancy suits at the Dillard’s over at the mall. “This old thing?” he said, and you could hear him wantin’ to laugh. “Yes, I do so appreciate the depravity of a greedy man. Very useful in my line of work, don’t you think?”

Ma Jessup spat off into the dark. “You ain’t answerin’ me, demon. What business you got comin’ round here?”

He just smiles at her and says, “I just thought I would take a little stroll. It seemed like the perfect night to see the sights, meet the people—“ And here, somethin’ about that ol’ demon turned even darker. He licked his lips and lowered his eyes and stared at Ma Jessup like a wolf, and not them cartoon wolves either, but like the real ones, all cold and empty and hungry inside. “—sample the delicacies.”

Ma Jessup didn’t flinch. Instead, she took a step, almost like she was puttin’ herself between the demon and the town, and she said in that croaky ol’ voice of hers, “I reckon I may have a problem with that.”

The demon raised an eyebrow at her. “Do you really believe you can stop me, old woman?”

It was then that Ma Jessup reached into all them shawls and waddya call ‘em? Afghans? I dunno, all I know is her hand disappeared and when it came back out she was holdin’ this big, curvy knife. I ain’t seen nothin’ like it before nor since. She turned it over in her hand and I could see symbols sparkling in the street light.

“I reckon I can,” she nodded at the demon.

Oh, he laughed at her, laughed at her hard, pointin’ at the knife, and almost doublin’ over and fallin’ on the ground. Ma just stood there, lookin’ at him, waitin’ for him to quit actin’ a fool. He was still laughin’ when he finally spoke, “Your grand plan is to stab me with that little thing?”

And then Ma Jessup laughed. She didn’t carry on like the demon did, but she snorted a dry chuckle and shook her head. “The knife ain’t for you, idiot. It’s for me!”

Ma Jessup held up her empty hand for all us to see, and then she whipped the blade of that knife straight across her palm. At first nothin’ happened, but then blood started to bubble up from her hand and spill down her wrist and forearm. In the night, it looked more black than red, and everyone stared at it as more blood oozed out of the wound.

“You a stupid little demon!” she hollered, and now the power in her voice seemed to fill the air and shake the ground. As she shouted down that demon, she flung her empty hand at him, sprayin’ him with her own blood. “You come up here, walkin’ on our soil, usin’ our bodies, tryin’ to cause a ruckus up here? Well Ma Jessup may have a thing or two to say about that!”

She flung the blood pumpin’ from her hand at the demon, and it sizzled and hissed when it hit its skin, like it was boilin’. And oh, how that monster howled and moaned, “What kind of backwater hokum is this?”

“Ain’t hokum,” Ma Jessup spat. She was only a foot away from him now, paintin’ the blade of the knife with the blood from her hand. The look of the knife, streaked in dripping red in the orange street light… it looked like somethin’ ripped right out of a human body, like a mangled bit of bone. I felt somethin’ in my stomach threatenin’ to rise up and spew sick all over the Jessup’s lawn, but somehow I bit it down. “Ain’t hokum at all, and if you wasn’t such a stupid, arrogant little demon, you might know better.”

The demon had collapsed to his knees. Ma Jessup’s blood had burned holes into the demon’s flesh, leaving foul smellin’ wisps of smoke curlin’ up out of the wounds. Even on his knees, Ma Jessup only barely stood taller than the monster. But in that moment, as she held the knife over the demon, she towered over him.

“Then what is it?” the demon begged.

Ma Jessup bent down and looked him in the face so close their noses almost touched. “It’s the blood of a matriarch, you stupid son of a bitch, and I’m gonna use it to send you right back where you came from!”

Thunk!

That’s what it sounded like. I ain’t never seen no one get stabbed before, didn’t know what it sounded like. But when Ma Jessup slammed that blood covered knife into the demon’s heart, it sounded strange, and hollow. We’d play cornhole, and that’s what it sounded like. A bean bag thumpin’ against an empty wooden box.

The demon gave the old woman one last look, and it was filled with hatred. Then the body just… slumped over, squelchin’ in the mud.

Everythin’ felt numb after that. Ma Jessup ordered Castor and his brother to take care of the body, and I helped her back up the stairs where the girls quietly bandaged her up. No one talked for a real long while, and I just stood out of the way as everyone else went about their grim business.

The rain had long since gone, and the danger had passed, and on any other night I’d just as soon walk home than spend a second in the company of the Jessups. But I felt different after everythin’ that had happened.

They let me stay ‘til sun up. Even gave me a fresh change of clothes. But that was nothin’ to the kindness that family heaped upon this dusty little town every day.

See, I learned that night that yeah, the Jessups is scary. They’re into all the dark stuff everyone round here accuses them of bein’ into. What the rest of this town gets wrong, though, is the why. The Jessups ain’t a curse upon this town, they’re its savior. And you’ll do well to remember that, should you find yourself walkin’ down a dark road on a night when the rain is comin’ down like sheets, and things that ain’t supposed to set foot on this green earth are about and ready to eat. You’ll remember that, ‘cause if you make it to see the next mornin’ it’s probably a Jessup that done saved your life.

-THE END-

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Spot On The Lawn: Georgia Horror Story

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Georgia horror story of a woman invited to the home of her new suitor – a home with terrifying secrets. Written by Alex Soderstrom.

Driving up the windy path to the home of Mr. Danvers, Grace was awestruck by the sight of pure American beauty, something she had rarely glimpsed in her lifetime. Willow trees, mixed among the towering pines, hung over the road, which lead to the white columns of Robert’s antebellum dwelling. This went far beyond anything Margaret Mitchell could have captured in any number of words or pages. Her host awaited her on the front porch, ready to welcome her in the home and present her with a cold glass of sweet tea as smoothly as he had his invitation for dinner. Grace felt as if she was entering an island of nobility and she was about to isolate herself from the world. To Grace, this was not a terrifying notion. She had chosen to not tell her naturally intrusive cousin where she was going this evening. After the whirlwind of change she had brought upon herself by leaving a man she did not love and a Ohio town that had been her only home, Grace needed her own space. If Robert Danvers wanted to enter into that space too, she did not mind.

georgia-plantation

Her arm hooked around his, their feet moved in step as they took a stroll across the expanse of green grass that was Robert Danvers’s backyard, rows of towering pines acting as natural boundaries of the green square behind the antebellum home. A gentle breeze carried the swooning words of Ray Charles from the record player on the back deck to the ears of the pair. Robert talked about his family’s origins in France and the perilous trip they had made to the New World over two hundred years ago before settling in here in Georgia. As she listened to him talk, Grace could see his bright eyes twinkling, as if they were the first stars to come out amidst the setting sun. The crickets and cicadas began playing the background for Mr. Charles and the pure wonder of a southern evening came to life.

Much better than Ohio, Grace decided mentally, grateful for the first time since leaving that she had found a new home, with a new beautiful face.

In the middle of the yard was a pond, its surface sporadically broken by cattails and the frantic activity of water bugs. The pond was surrounded by breathtaking bronze sculptures, Greek figures acting as protectors of the pond’s quaint beauty. Grace was amazed by the realism of the sculptures; it was obvious they were created by artists of high skill and acquired at an even higher price.


“I buy them from Europe,” Robert smiled. “They are beautiful pieces.”

“Quite beautiful,” Grace agreed.

“True beauty is a fleeting thing,” Robert commented. “It is so tough to preserve it.”

Grace silently nodded, still admiring the beauty of the statues. Robert indicated an open spot at the edge of the pond, between two statues.

“I have a spot for you right here, Grace. Come help me with the food and we will dine in style.”

Grace was all too happy to accompany her gentleman back across the lawn, her head swirling from the unexpected majesty of the evening. Upon entering the home, Robert excused himself to enter the cellar and grab a bottle of wine. After he had descended, Grace seized the opportunity and used the restroom. As she washed her hands, a loud thump resounded from outside the square little room she occupied. Grace exited and slowly approached the door to the cellar.

“Robert,” she called, “are you alright?”

Receiving no response, Grace pulled the cellar door open, revealing the figure of Robert Danvers, which soon collapsed on the floor, blood flowing freely from the back of his head.

Grace’s hand instinctively went to her mouth, which began uttering moans of terror and confusion. Another figure stepped out of the darkness of the cellar stairs and stood over Robert’s body. It was a woman, her appearance as tattered and crazed as her face. Her hands gripped a shovel, covered with splotches of blood. Large sections of her body were badly burned and other parts were covered in hardening bronze.

“Oh God, no!” Grace screamed, paralyzed. “Please, no!”

“Why are you screaming?” the woman hissed. “Did he not have a spot on the lawn for you?”

Grace slowly backed away, her head beginning to spin again, this time with images of the impossibly realistic faces of the sculptures she had seen. Sick realization began making her stomach contort and her brain was fearfully urging her legs to run.

As she began to break into a sprint out of the white – columned home, Grace heard the woman’s screams echoing behind her.

“There is always a spot on the lawn! He always finds you a spot!”

-THE END-

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Mud

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Tennessee killer encounters a strange old man along a dark road after burying his victim. What does this old man know about his crime? Find out in this short story by Andy Hinton.

Although the walk should have been easier without the load, the adrenaline and whisky that had fueled Jason earlier in the night is exhausted, and what energy remains is being used to shiver himself warm. As a result, it takes him half an hour to get back to the car. But time is relative, for what is half an hour in a night that never ends.

Jason leans the shovel against the trunk and reaches into his right pocket for the keys; finding none, he goes to his left pocket and digs deeper. Then he runs both hands through all his pockets and rechecks them again.

“Damn it.” Jason kicks the car, but the sound is muffled by the storm. He is angry enough, cold and worn out enough, to break a window, but he knows he needs the keys to drive home if he is ever to be done with this dreadful deed.

Jason takes the shovel and slings it deep into the ravine hidden in the tree line. He hears it clamor and clink then splash as it bounces through the brush and lands in the water below.

Then Jason begins to walk towards the road, relying on the sporadic whims of a weak flashlight. When all goes dark, Jason continues to stumble, hoping a burst of lightning will illuminate a tire mark for him to follow. And whenever Jason feels that he is on the old roadbed, the flashlight flips on again, just long enough to show him that he has lost his way.

Surrounding Jason is what locals call the river bottom, a vast floodplain of the Tennessee River made up of agricultural fields and intertwining gravel roads. It’s where old men go to sip beer and rednecks go to throw out their trash. It’s where parents teach their children how to drive, and where their children teach each other how to drink, how to fight, how to love.

And it is where people bury bodies that need never to be found, for the river bottom doesn’t give up its dead. Jason is sure that he is not the first to recognize this fact. Locals say that in the river bottom there are more ghosts than people.

The wet clothes hang off Jason’s frame, tugging against his every movement. But despite the cold and the rain, Jason takes solace knowing that in a couple of days all of this, acres and acres, will be underwater, covered with the backwaters of the river. Any traces of this night – his footsteps, his tire marks, the grave – will be buried under a fresh layer of mud.

And as far as the body, a man once known as Randy, he will not be missed. The fact that Randy disappeared without a word to anyone will not surprise those who knew him, for Randy was a man with many enemies.

Jason ponders over this as he walks. “He could’ve have done a lot worst than to get shot by a friend.” Jason knows eventually that if he hadn’t shot him, someone else would have and some of those someone’s wouldn’t have been so nice about it. “It happened so fast he didn’t even know it was coming. Hell, it happened so fast I didn’t even know I was going to do it.”

When Jason reaches the road, he gives up on the flashlight and ambles along, relying on the feel of the gravel to keep him straight. The culmination of cold and despair weighs heavy on him now. And as Jason contemplates all the dead that surround him, of all those who lost their way or someone lost it for them, he wonders if their souls can ever escape this darkness. Jason always thought of hell as a place of fire and heat, but now he knows it can just as well be a land of rain and cold. Then Jason begins to weep, for he realizes that if he was to disappear tonight, the only friend that will miss him is buried in a fresh, shallow grave.

Jason’s stamina, both mental and physical, is gone, and it is only a will to survive that pulls him forward. Ahead, the terrain becomes flooded with light and Jason’s own shadow stands before him, but Jason doesn’t even turn to look for the source. He just continues to march ahead with the devotion of a monk, taking all that falls before him as fate. And it isn’t until a voice from inside the truck asks if he needs a ride that the spell is broken. Had it not been raining, the driver might have even seen tears welling in Jason’s eyes. But these are not tears of gratitude or despair or repentance; these are the tears of one who has witnessed great wonders, for in moments of such desperation, even an old pickup truck seems a vessel of divine nature.

Jason climbs into the dark cab and tries to take in the detail around him. None of the dash lights work, except for those on the radio, which seem to pulsate rhythmically with the ranting of an angry preacher. And behind the wheel is a man, old in an ageless way. The man’s skin is weathered and wrinkled, but his eyes are wild, burned with the knowledge of things that Jason can’t imagine, and hopes he never will.

“It’s a rough night to be walking,” yells the old man trying to make himself heard over the radio.

“Well, it’s not by choice.” Jason studies his surroundings trying to decide how much information to divulge. The truck’s interior is red but upholstered in a fine layer of dust, no doubt accumulated by riding these roads for untold years. And the floor is cluttered with empty beer cans, cigarette butts, and tobacco juice.

“I lost my keys,” continues Jason. “I gotta go back to my house to grab my spare set.” Then Jason notices a couple of bullet casings rolling around at his feet – small caliber, he would guess. But at the sight of them, Jason places his hand into the chest pocket of his coat, checking the location of his own pistol.

At first the old man doesn’t respond, but then he stops the truck and leans forward, staring into the darkness as if there is an image to be made of the rain and the night. The radio cuts out and the only sound are the wipers bouncing back and forth, back and forth, an insatiable rhythm that seems to sync with the beating of Jason’s heart.

“I can get your car a going,” says the old man who seems to be talking to himself as much as he is to Jason.

Jason looks out onto the road but sees nothing and notes it as more evidence that his driver maybe drunk or crazy or both. But he comes to the realization that this old redneck could be his savior; for even if he does get home, he still has to get a ride back down to his car. And if it doesn’t happen till morning, then some farmer could find it and call the police. No, the longer he waits, the more people get involved, the more excuses he will have to make for being down there.

“I would appreciate any help you could give me,” says Jason.

Car Headlights Ward Lane UK

Jason knows if he gets the car out now, then the only witnesses will be Randy’s body and the old man and as soon as this awareness comes to Jason, he stops his mind, fearful of what scheme will unfold, fearful of what he knows he is capable of doing.

The old man turns the truck around and heads back into the heart of the river bottom.

The water is starting to gather now, and Jason wonders if his car will make it out. If it gets stuck in the mud then maybe he would be better off reporting the car stolen. But then there is the old man who knows his story.

“Are you good at hotwiring cars?” asks Jason, trying to change the direction of his thoughts.

“I didn’t say anything about hot-wiring. I got some ways about me – gifts some might call them.” The old man gave Jason a sidelong smirk. “I’m not going to help you start your car; I’m going to help you find your keys.”

Jason cannot reply; he can’t even breathe. All he can do is clear his mind and guard his thoughts, knowing that any action he takes will have to be without a plan.

There is no marker to note the old roadbed where Jason left his car. Jason doesn’t tell the old man where to turn, and the old man doesn’t ask. He just pulls off the gravel and drives along the edge of the field.

The large puddles that Jason had driven through earlier have begun to turn into small ponds. The old man dodges some and drives through others, sending great waves in either direction like a prophet parting the waters.

They come to a stop when the truck’s headlights reflect onto the grill of the abandoned car. The old man reaches for an old green poncho, stored under the seat and slips it on as he steps into the storm.

“You know we don’t have to do this right now,” says Jason as he scrambles out of the truck. “Maybe we should come back when it’s not raining.”

But the old man is silent. He has a hood over his head and his back to Jason, so perhaps the old man can’t hear. Or perhaps his mind in a trance, for the old man’s hands are spread on the car and his eyes tilt toward a sky besieged by lightning.

The old man’s body becomes rigid and clinched, and Jason wonders if he is receiving some kind of ground shock. But then the old man relaxes and turns towards Jason. “I know where your keys are.” And without taking a flashlight or waiting on Jason, the old man walks away.

Jason starts to tell him he is headed in the wrong direction but then thinks better of it. So instead he just grins and watches the old man disappear into the woods, wandering away from the field where body is buried. Then Jason chastises himself for being so paranoid. “The crazier this man seems, the less likely anyone would ever believe him.”

The flashlight now seems to be working and Jason uses it to trail the old man through the privet and briars and muscadine vines. When Jason gets to the bottom of the draw, the old man is knee deep in the water, bent over, feeling through the muck and mire below.

“You’re going to grab a hold a cottonmouth or a snapping turtle if you’re not careful,” yells Jason, half hopeful that the old man’s death will be of his own doing. “Let’s get out of here before this storm gets any worse.”

The old man doesn’t reply but stops and yanks at something under the water. “I found it.”

“My keys?” asks Jason, now more confused than humored by the old man’s actions.

“No,” smiles the old man. “I found what we need to get your keys,” and he hoists the shovel into the air and begins to laugh.

Jason falls backwards, landing on his butt with his legs spread like a child who falters after taking his first steps. The old man strides past him, shovel in hand, and begins walking on the path Jason had blazed earlier that evening to the far edge of the field.

“If the old man knows of the shovel,” thinks Jason, “then he knows of the body. If he knows of the body, then he also knows of the murder.”

Jason pursues the old man, not speaking, not acting, just observing as one does in a dream.

As they make their way through the cocklebur and crop remnants Jason has to high step through the mud at a painful pace to keep up. But the hooded figure glides across the field, never sinking into the earth or even leaving a footprint.

When Jason arrives at the grave, the old man is standing over the wet mound of dirt. The poncho hides all of his features except for the hands- one of which is holding the shovel, while the other points to the Earth. “Your keys are down there.”

“You found them,” says Jason, “Why don’t you dig them up?”

“This ain’t my doing, son. Under this dirt lies your salvation or your damnation. It’s up to you to decide.”

For a moment, neither man moves, and the flash of lightening is the only indicator marking the passage of time. But then Jason trades the flashlight for the shovel and begins to dig. The soil is loose but heavy from the rain, and at times, he seems to be moving more water than dirt. But it is also soft, so soft that when Jason hits the body, it is the firmness of it that makes him stop.

The old man points the flashlight into the hole, illuminating the face of a young man whose head is mangled from a bullet. “You’ll find your keys beside his right arm.”

Jason throws the shovel out of the way and digs through the dirt with his bare hands till he feels the keys filter through his fingers. Then he looks up, staring into the beam of light.

“Do what you must,” says the old man, “but your destiny is your doing.”

Jason reaches into his coat to draw the pistol, but it never leaves his chest pocket. His fingers are cold and wet and muddy, and Jason doesn’t realize he is squeezing the trigger until he is knocked backwards, his own lungs torn apart and his legs unable to move.

Over the pounding of the rain and the ringing in his ears, Jason hears the laugh of the old man. But when he tries to look for him, Jason is hit in the face with a shovel load of mud.

A farmer finds the car two weeks later, once the river is back into its banks. The police run the tags and say it is the vehicle of one of the missing young men. The official report speculates that the men had probably wandered off and died of exposure before the river rose. The police say that the bodies might show up downstream or lodged in some brush, but probably not. The river bottom rarely gives up its dead.

-THE END-

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The Journey of Alysis

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Texas myth and kids story of a young orphan girl in prehistoric times who discovers unknown powers to save humanity. Written by Sara Popp.

Long, long ago, when the Earth was flat and the continents were all connected together, there were people who walked on it. The land was dry and bare, except near the oceans. People had dug out man-made lakes to create lively civilizations. Some trees started to grow and children found bushes with berries in them. It is also important to know that there were animals that were bigger than all of the settlements put together living on Earth. These animals were dinosaurs, all kinds of them. They were fierce animals that always got their way, killing almost anything that came in sight. Food was hard to come by with limited amounts of berry bushes and small rodents to eat. Dinosaur eggs were the most nutritious and filling food on Earth, but they were hard to steal from right underneath the dinosaur’s nose.

At this time, the world was starting to become a more populated and efficient place, and then a tragedy happened.

One of the people who walked through the civilizations was Alysis. She walked alone, being separated from her family nearly five years ago, when the disaster on Earth first occurred. One night, while she was sleeping, the shaking got so strong and furious that everyone in her village fled the area, hoping to get away from the horrible shaking. She was in the same hut that her family was in, but somehow they had gotten separated with all of the commotion. It was like everyone in her settlement had gone one way and she ran in the opposite way, but how could they let that happen? She was slightly afraid, but she had to be strong and think positively if she ever hoped to find her family on the big, flat Earth that she lived on. The land continued to shake after she was separated from her family like there were roaring waters underneath them, but Alysis was nowhere near the ocean.

When the shaking of the Earth first started happening, no one thought twice about it. They thought the gods were the ones who were shaking the land, punishing them for some wrongdoing. But throughout Alysis’s journey across the lands in search of her family, the shaking got significantly worse. Although Alysis was afraid because she was in the world on her own, her family had taught her the skills she needed to start up her journey to wherever she wanted. She knew she would survive without her family, but she hoped that one day she would find them so they could be together and safe.

When Alysis was quite young, she had realized she had a skill that no one else taught her or even had, unless they were hiding it, too. Alysis was strong…really, really strong. If she really focused, she could move things not only with her body, but with the force of her body as well. Alysis did not know what this meant, but since she had been separated from her family, she believed that it was important for her to continue on in her search for them and make some good out of the special skill that she had been given.

Sometimes, when Alysis would lie down for the night under the bright and shining stars, something from above would speak to her. Although she did not spend much time learning from her parents, she knew these were the gods speaking to her, telling her that she was going to one day do great things with the powers she was given, if she headed in the right direction. This was confusing to Alysis because she had no idea in which direction she should be traveling. The gods had never steered her elsewhere so she continued to walk in the same direction, towards the West, every day and every night. She hoped that her powers would someday lead her back to her family.

As she continued on her journey, the shaking of the Earth began to worsen, becoming almost constant. One day, Alysis saw something miles up ahead. It gave her determination to continue walking even though the Earth was constantly shaking out of, what she thought, was the anger the gods had. Finally reaching the things she had seen miles off in the distance, she saw three men with joyous looks on their faces.

“Greetings.” Alysis said formally to the men. Her parents had taught her to be the most formal with people you had never met before, even if they were strange looking. “I have been traveling for a long time now, alone, fending for myself. Do you have any dinosaur eggs you can spare that I could eat?” Although Alysis was a strong girl and could fight and kill any animal that came near her, no edible animals had come her way in the past few days.

“Hello Alysis, we know exactly who you are. We have been waiting.” The tallest man said to her.
She looked surprised, wondering what they meant by that. And how did they know her name? Was her family near? How else would they have known a girl like her was headed in their direction?

Another man stepped forward and handed her a dinosaur egg. She hoped these men were trustworthy because she had so much hunger in her stomach, so she started scarfing it down. “No, no.” He said, sort of giggling. “Your family did not tell us about you, in fact we have not seen them since they have not traveled in this direction.”

Another shock came to her while she was eating the delicious dinosaur egg. Could he read her mind?

“Oh yes, dear,” the same man spoke. “You know, you are not the only one with a special skill. I can read minds and I read yours quite clearly. We have been expecting you, the gods told us you, Alysis, were coming.” She almost stopped eating the dinosaur egg because of how surprised she was, but she was too hungry.

“Now,” the last man said, “it is prominent that we move fast. We know this will come as a surprise to you, but you are the Goddess of Strength. You have always been the Goddess of Strength, but the gods were waiting to show you your true powers until it was time. The time has come – it is your job to help put an end to this horrible shaking we have been enduring by using your skill of strength to stop the land from endlessly moving.” He spoke quickly, like something bad would happen if he didn’t get the words out of his mouth as fast as possible.

He hardly gave her time to process what was going on before he gave her a look like ‘do you understand?’

“What do you mean? How do I do it? Right here, right now? I don’t think I am prepared to do this, I am so young!” Alysis said with fear in her eyes.

“Come here, young one,” the first man spoke again. As she walked over to him, he reached out his arm to touch her left temple, staring deeply into her frightful eyes. Knowledge and ideas poured into her, things she needed to know about the challenge she was about to face. Images of bare land cracking, water, settlements of people miles away fearing for their lives and moving day by day to get away from the problematic cracking land.

Her eyes flung open with somewhat of an understanding of her task. In only a few seconds, she was able to get as much information she could about travelling to the land where she would help people. She knew she had to keep going westward and where she would find the land by the ocean where the shaking problem started. What she had received from the man were short clips of the problem she had to fix, but she still did not know exactly what she was supposed to do. But, she was the Goddess of Strength. Why had the gods never told her this before?

“You were meant to find us. When it was time, dear,” the mind reader interrupted her thoughts.

“Wow. This is a lot to take in at once. I am a Goddess? I can help people, save lives – stop the land from caving in and making the land fall into the ocean.” Alysis stated.

“Yes, girl,” the tallest one said, “Now hurry, you have all of the information you need. In many days you will be where you need to be. Look for the cracks in the Earth. Listen to the gods above. And when you get there, only you can decide what is necessary to make the Earth a safe place again, just use your strength and knowledge.”

They gave her a few things in a sack made of dinosaur skin and she was off to do whatever task they had put in her mind. She did not completely understand it, although she did not want to tell the men that, but she thought other people would help her to figure out her task throughout her journey to the unknown cracking area of the Earth near the ocean. These men were powerful, all knowing men who had taught Alysis in a short amount of time how she could save this planet from being empty again. But what would she do when she got to that place, where the land would fall apart if she did not step in?

As Alysis hurried through the daylight and into nighttime to find the place she was searching for, the gods started speaking to her.

“Alysis,” said a noise from the cloud-filled sky, “you must beware of what’s to come.”

What did that mean?

She fell asleep that night wondering what was coming her way and what exactly she had to do to save the planet. It was hard to understand that such a big problem had been laid upon her shoulders, but she would do whatever she could to stop the Earth from shaking.

———-

She awoke with a wetness on her face: warm and thick.

A dinosaur had creped up on her as she slept, knowing that she was similar to the type of thing that had taken her eggs in the past. Alysis, still in a sleepy state, did not know what to do and this Hadrosaurs would eat her right up if she did not think fast.

As she started to come out of her foggy, sleepy state, she quickly remembered she was a Goddess, and more importantly, the Goddess of Strength. As she stood up, the dinosaur lunged at her. She closed her eyes tightly and showed her palms to the deadly Hadrosaurs, and then she heard a screech.

She had become stronger, even though before she definitely had this power with her hands and did not know what to use it for. She never knew she could throw an extremely large dinosaur across an area twice the size of the height of a Hadrosaurs. It must have been the knowledge she gained about being the Goddess of Strength that allowed her to do things she had never done before. She finally knew how to use her force for good. With her goddess powers, she knew she would do great things with the help of the gods above.

“Well, take that!” Alysis screamed from far away. The dinosaur seemed to stir a little, so she picked up her dinosaur skin sack and started to run very, very quickly.

Alysis still did not know how far away she was from the land that was cracking. And she still did not know what she would do when she got there. Would a god give her advice from above or would she have to decide for herself? She knew she could move large things, hopefully even land, with the forces in her body, but were there other secret powers that Alysis had because she was the Goddess of Strength? Would she learn about some more of her powers when she got to the area where the land was cracking, near the ocean and the end of the world? She wished someone would lead her in the right direction, telling her how she could fully use her goddess powers and defeat the problems more quickly.

She continued walking, sometimes fast and sometimes slower. She was always afraid that something could be coming her way when she least expected it. So that night, she went to sleep with fear in her head, hoping nothing would come her way that could kill her in her sleep.

She awoke to a noise that was louder than she had ever heard before. All of the gods were talking at once, screaming at her, at least she thought.

“Hurry! Alysis! Go! You don’t understand! Alysis! Go! Go! Go! You must hurry! Alysis! ALYSIS! GO!!!” and it continued, louder and louder with words that were so jumbled she could hardly make out what they were saying.

When she heard the screams from the sky, she instantly started running without being fully conscious. As she awoke completely, she replayed the gods message in her head – she had to get out of the area very quickly. And that is what she did because she knew she was an important part of this plan to save the Earth. She was going as fast as she could, but was it fast enough? Was there another way she could get there faster?

After running for what seemed like hours to Alysis, she started to slow down because of the activity she saw in the distance. Was it the settlements? Or were they travellers? Or were they just random people that had been moving from the place they had previously lived?

Soon she discovered that they were people, running quicker than she had ever seen people run before. With their horses and wagons and children coming towards her with fright in their faces, she decided that they must be the people from the settlements by the land that was cracking. She needed to talk to them and see how much farther it was until she got to the cracked land and find out why exactly they were running. But how? They were so fast and so furious looking, there was no way a little girl like her could stop them dead in their tracks and ask them for help.

Then she remembered she was not just a little girl anymore. She was a goddess: the Goddess of Strength. She could stop them with the power she had within her.

She pushed her hands out in front of her and with all of the force she could push out of her body she stopped the people coming her way. She needed help from her eyes, but they all stopped right where they were, some people flipping and falling over because of the speed they were traveling towards her with, but regardless, they were stopped.

Whispers came from the crowd. “What’s going on? Who is that? How did she DO that?”

“Don’t you remember what the gods told us a few days back? She’s comin’. She’s come to help us. To stop the Earth from shaking so furiously! It’s the Goddess of Strength!” one of the members of the crowd yelled out to the other people.

“I’m Alysis.” She said, remembering how she should properly introducer herself. “Oh, and the Goddess of Strength. It seems like you were in such a hurry. I am so sorry I had to stop you like that, but that was the only way I thought a little girl like me could stop a group of so many people like you.”

“Oh, goddess! You are no little girl. You are so strong and wise. And we know you will save us from the land that keeps crackin’ in. Please!” another group member yelled from inside a wagon.

“Yes! Please Alysis!” the children all cried from inside the wagons. “You have to save us! It is so scary over there! It needs to stop. Please help us!”

“Where do I go and how much farther is it?” Alysis asked, worry in her voice.

“Oh. You are so so close Alysis! You must keep runnin’ and you will be there much before dark! Then do what you can to save us!” another traveler shouted.

“Thank you for all of your kind words and help. I will do whatever I can when I get there to help all of you and the rest of the world, even though I have no idea what I will do when I get there.” She should not have said that aloud because all of the members of the group were even more frightened – they looked like they no longer believed in her. She decided she needed to sound more confident and strong saying, “Now, leave the area and get to somewhere safe!”

They all left again in a hurry and thanked Alysis for all that she did. Alysis felt like she was going to fail them because of her lack of knowledge, but all she could do was try her best. With her newfound skills and knowledge of being a goddess, she believed she could do much more than she ever thought possible.

Again, she started off running, looking back at the flat land behind her to see if the settlement people were still in sight. They were, but hardly, because they were running just as fast as she was towards safer land. After they were out of sight, she continued to look forward to the horrible cracking land that was causing so many problems in the world.

She continued running as fast as she could, but she grew very hungry. She ate the last of the food in her sack, hoping that after she did what she could at the cracking land, she would be given more or taken somewhere that had something for her to eat. She thought the gods must praise her; after all, she was the Goddess of Strength. After she had scarfed down her remaining food, she began to run again.

The sun was getting closer to the horizon, meaning it would be dark soon enough. As she noticed this, she spotted something else about a mile off in the distance. Cracking. Land that looked like it was no longer there anymore. It had to be –

“Yes, Alysis. Go. You are so close. Save the world.” She heard a god speak from above.

Although she had stopped dead in her tracks with the sight of the land she had been looking for for so many days, she started to sprint faster than she had ever before. Sweat dripping off of her face, hunger and thirst in her stomach, she made it to the cracking land so quickly that she had no idea what to do when she finally made it to the edge of the world. Ocean water was flowing and taking pieces of the cracked land along with it.

She thought about her strength. She must use her strength to do something to stop the Earth from constantly shaking. Although she had become used to the shaking after constantly enduring it for so many years, it still needed to stop before anything worse happened.

Suddenly, something came over her. Her head filled with knowledge of what to do to save the remaining land from falling into the ocean. “Dig. It is time to dig. To push all of the dirt to places where it isn’t now. To create holes in the Earth so the water can come up between the landmasses. There is too much pressure – the land does not have enough strength to hold itself together with the roaring water rushing around and trying to get underneath it. I will dig and build up the land on the edges to make a large whole across this land.” Alysis said and no gods disagreed, so she started without hesitation, because it seemed like she did not have much time.

With the most amount of concentration she had ever given to anything, she focused all of her force and power on the land in front of her. Pushing so hard on the land that had already started cracking, moving the areas apart that were naturally being pushed apart from the ocean water. The first hole she dug was wonderful, so smooth on the edges. And when the water started to come through the bottom, she stopped and held her breath, and then the water stopped squirting up through the bottom of the Earth. It started flowing and stopped where the land was still put together.

The land seemed like it was floating on water in these places, but she knew it was just underneath the land pushing up, like where every edge of land meets the ocean. That’s why there was too much pressure coming from the water, trying to push the land apart. The water wanted to be where the land was. If she could fix this area then the pressure should not be too strong in other places and the land should stop shaking all over Earth.

Alysis continued, digging holes and building up the land around the edges in some places. Some edges were smooth; some were rough when she had to start moving land somewhere else if there was an unexpected crack and she thought the land might come crashing down. Water was flowing through the whole vast amount of land as it started going out to the ocean. Although the area was so incredibly large, Alysis found that she could see every edge and crack and crease in the area, like her eyesight had improved with her knowledge of being a goddess. There were some places in the immeasurable area that were dry with no water near them because the water had not cracked through these parts yet. Some land was taller than others, but with every move Alysis made, the Earth stopped shaking a little.

After what seemed like hours of protruding the land and fixing every last crease she could see, the Earth was hardly shaking anymore. The last crack she could see was right next to her feet and it was almost bursting at the edges with water spurting through the land. She was exhausted, but she knew after this last bout of strength, she would be able to stop and look at the land that she had saved. With the most force she could put towards the land, she dug out right next to her feet and created a very shallow opening to this new created land. She felt still for the first time since she could remember.

Then, a roar louder than the gods shouting at her earlier that day, came from the sky. The gods. She had saved Earth and all of the people who settled in this area. Although they were no longer in the area, she was sure they would come back and see the creation she had made as soon as they felt the stillness of the world.

“Alysis,” Zeus, the king of all gods, spoke to her. She knew this because he showed himself – for the first time ever, she could actually see a god. “You have proven your strength. You are truly a goddess who has created a wondrous area for all to look at on this Earth and even better, saved the land from falling into the ocean. Just look at what you have made, given water to the land around the surrounding the area. Soon you will come up to the heavens to be with us. It is beautiful. You did this all on your own with your goddess strength with little help from us gods above.”

She took her time to look around and see the land she had created with the strength in her little body and mind. It really was beautiful, flowing land.

Brazos River below Possum Kingdom Lake, Palo Pinto County, Texas

Today, people all over the grand Southern state rely on the water from the area Alysis created so many years ago. It is the important area where the Goddess of Strength came and saved the planet from crashing in on itself and the ocean. Alysis still looks down on the land and water in this area today from up in the sky as the Goddess of Strength and she is proud to know that the people of Earth have named the land something so powerful like her: The Brazos River in Texas.

-THE END-

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Old Talon

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Tennessee creature story about a mysterious monster named Old Talon terrorizing a remote Appalachian community. Written and illustrated by Seth Boyden.

Old Talon Tennessee Mountain Creature Monster Story Dulcimer

I was younger, in my twenties during the time before the automobile road came to Knoxville, when I wandered through the Blueridge. Back then I made twenty cents a week peddling shoes in the far mountain villages of Tennessee. I was hired by Mr. Barnard, who made goat skin shoes in a stone-built workshop just outside Pigeon Forge, and would send me to journey out to the endless winding trails of the Southern mountains selling his wares. Fortunately, I was given his old pony Gertrude to carry the old flour sacks filled with shoes through the treacherous wilderness, and was the only company I shared as we slept through the black nights beneath the mountain’s towering pines.

The old mountain trails stretched along the Tennessee land farther than my memory could ever strain to recount. The peaks of the mountains were hidden in the day by great veils of blue mist, which rose from the rivers in the valley below. Everywhere the ground was seeped in spongy moss and curling ferns bedecked the trails beside the high cliffs of slick black stone. Most impressively, were the ancient pines of the valleys, which rose high above the brush, constantly creating a gloomy shroud of shade on the forest below, even during the noonday sun. In the shadow of the pines, a sudden cold rush of air would come out from the mountain’s limestone caves that would give a shiver to even the toughest Appalachian ridge runner. At night, the wood smoke would rise from the mountain towns hidden in the forest of the valleys, and as the blackness of the Tennessee night crept in, the yellow glow of the lamp lit cabins could be seen suspended high on the distant mountaintops miles away.

Tennessee Mountain Traveler Campfire Woods

Seasons went by as I trekked all across the Tennessee Blueridge selling Mr. Barnard’s shoes. The Appalachian folk used no modern currency, but traded generously for the shoes with a variety of homemade goods that could be sold back at Pigeon Forge, from amber glazed crockery to jars of molasses, sour mash, and wild honey. Occasionally, I would be paid with English minted coins held on from the revolutionary times. How many years the ancient money circulated from hand to hand in those mountains, no one can tell.

On one of these trips in the late summer, I was headed to an unfamiliar village called Second Providence, hidden in one of the farthest reaches of the Shaconage. With my pony laden with newly made shoes, I hiked up the trail that would reach the peak of the mountain where the town stood. Before making the summit, the trail dipped into a sudden ravine where the air was chilly and quiet. Fine fingers of mist played through the overhead branches of the towering pines, which stood tall and black on the overcast sky. Suddenly, Gertrude stopped behind, jerking the old leather rein in my hand. The old nag began to stamp and whinny nervously, the whites of her eyes visible as she gazed somewhere into the forest. Before I could pull on her reins to keep moving I heard the sound. Rising from the misty forest came a slow resonating tapping sound, tap…tap…tap. The noise seemed to be made from something tapping on the trunk of one of the ancient pine trees, like a woodpecker but it was too slow and to deliberate to be made by a bird. In the stillness of the ravine, the tapping seemed as if it was echoing from every corner of the glen as it continued tap…tap…tap. As suddenly as it started, it stopped, and I searched through the swirling fog hoping to see some sign of the man or animal that created the sound. Finally, as the silence became too heavy, I continued with Gertrude through the glen and to the mountain village above.

Tennesse mountain traveler woods

Second Providence was built in a small clearing nestled on the shoulder of a massive mountain peak. The village was no more than several wood and clay chinked cabins roofed with mossy alder bark shingles. The grass that grew to feed the livestock was yellow and scraggly, and the crops were withered and gray. Surrounding the town, the giant pines stood silently in a close circle around the cabins, barely providing enough of a view to see the endless expanse of blue mountains, stretching beyond the horizon.

The people of the town were exceptionally kind, presumably from having scant visitors. They were frail in appearance, and spoke more softly than the people in other villages, with more caution as if being listened to. I was met by the grandsire of the clan named Jashub, who gave me several finely made wool blankets in exchange for Mr. Barnard’s shoes. Also in return, the people of Second Providence fed me a dinner of salt beef and corn pone, and a place to stay till morning, which they were particularly insistent in giving.

That night in one of the larger cabins, the villagers gathered around the river stone fireplace to sing the old mountain songs. Most were sad ballads written in the Appalachian folk style, but others were older, stranger songs I was not familiar with, about the places and people across the ocean, from where the ancestors of Second Providence must have traveled and passed down the songs for generations. A few of the women played from turtle shell mandolins and an old lap harp known as a zither. One boy named Ezekiel tried his best to play a dulcimer, newly made from cherrywood, but being only six years old, struggled clumsily to keep up with the other musicians.

Tennesse mountain town

As the fire began to settle to a deep red in the hearth, and the children went off to bed, I sat with the men sharing stories about one another’s various travels through the mountains. I told them about the ravine I passed through earlier on that day, and the tapping sound I heard in the forest. Immediately, the eyes of the men flashed, and Jeshub’s wrinkled mouth straightened behind his long white beard. Then, lowering his voice, he explained to me that I heard the tapping of what they called Old Talon. I watched as the other men sat up tense, their eyes gleaming in the firelight as Jeshub slowly recounted his story.

He said that long before his great grandsire settled in the mountains, the ancient Shawnee race spoke of an eyeless demon that wandered blindly through the pines of the Shaconage. It was the spawn of Yakwawi, cursed by Moneto to lurk in the shadow of the mountains, and preyed on the people of the ancient tribe. It lived in the endless labyrinth of caves that wind through the mountains, coming out to capture victims and drag them back into the caverns where no one dared to venture. It was known for its intelligence, and its ability to learn the songs of the ancient people, and tap their rhythms on the trees to lure curious prey into the caves. At first, the early settlers in Second Providence discounted the rumors. But as time went on, strange things began to happen to the folk of the mountain. Children began disappearing in the forest. Women would wake in the middle of the night moonstruck, screaming in the tongue of the ancients, gone mad by what seemed a tapping sound out in the forest. On some nights, the families would wake and see it through the small slats of the cabin window, its black hairy body standing taller than a bear, tapping on the walls and windows of the neighboring cabins. It’s life in the caves removed its sight, and in replacement, massive bat-like ears to hear and listen. Worst of all, Old Talon got its name from its humanlike black hands, which possessed an unnaturally long forefinger, as long as a fiddler’s bow, which it used to play on the trees…tap…tap…tap. Always the people of Second Providence speak softly, in cautious whispers, knowing that Old Talon is waiting in the gloom of the endless pines, listening and learning.

Tennessee mountain lantern woods creature story

Suddenly, Jashub was interrupted by a splitting shriek that echoed through the forest night. Lanterns and rifles in hand, the men rushed out to the center of the clearing to find one of the women wrapped in an old quilt, pointing out into the forest. She screamed that her little Ezekiel had been taken, dulcimer and all by Old Talon. Immediately, the men of Second Providence formed a search party, and with their rusty lanterns burning, they plodded through the dark of the Appalachian night calling for Ezekiel. I was ordered to remain in the cabin to wait. I laid wide awake all through the night, listening to the distant baying of the men’s hound dogs searching through the Blue Ridge, and waited for the long black finger to rap against the cabin wall. Tap…tap….tap…

Morning came, and the men returned late morning empty-handed, covered in mud and scrapes, confounded and heartbroken. As much as I wished to help the families of the village, I wanted nothing more than to turn down the trail and run as far away from Second Providence as I could. I secured my goods to Gertrude’s saddle, said my most respectful farewell to Jashub and his kin, and guided the pony down the trail and back through the woods for home.

I was no more than a half-mile through the dense forest when I stopped in the middle of the trail. Rising from the pines came the sound of a cherrywood dulcimer, playing brightly in the morning mist. It was little Ezekiel coming back from the woods to Second Providence! But the more I listened, the more I realized I was dead wrong. Echoing from somewhere beyond the tendrils of mist, the melody from the dulcimer began to play faster, spinning into intricate arpeggios dancing in the air wilder and more complicated than any six year old could ever play. I listened in terror as the music became faster and more complex, switching from screaming, sliding glissandos to a heart wrenching ballad, finally distorting to a wild and primal song in which no words could ever achieve to describe. All around I could hear the ancient horrible music, the sound of fingers, as long as a fiddler’s bow, plucking the strings of the dulcimer faster and wilder than any man could ever play music. My legs finally began to move, and pulling the pony as best I could, fled down the trail. I couldn’t help but think I saw what looked like a black shadow, with bat-like ears standing taller than a bear off in the pines before vanishing like a specter into the mist.

Tennessee mountain dulcimer creature monster story

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