2020 American Fiction Awards WINNER - Horror
"Replete with tinges of Supernatural and Stranger Things, it brings to mind what you might get if director Tim Burton wrote horror novels!" -Manhattan Book Review
Can a village be inherently evil? Welcome to Brunswick NY, Population 4,941.
On the surface, this sleepy hamlet comes alive in the autumn with picturesque apple orchards, haunted corn mazes, laden pumpkin patches and holiday hay rides. During a snowy Halloween, a young William Willowsby must battle evil forces that have been shielded by the locals for generations. On the outskirts of the town is the abandoned Forest Park Cemetery. All things wicked seem to revolve around the old graveyard. A rarely seen homunculus serves an evil task master. Together they weave a wicked web that attempts to snare the youth of the hamlet. A creepy graveyard, a spooky schoolhouse, an abandoned mortuary and a member of his own family will leave you simply sleepless.
|Publisher:||Black Rose Writing|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.47(d)|
About the Author
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And the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one;-Matthew 13:38
Oh God, how you ponder the fate of your little-fallen angel. Her tears of sorrow bring terror and dread to those who relegate her memory to Mephistopheles's dark abyss. The somber silence of shrouds; the morose grey light of a sunless dawn, a horse-drawn casket. Those decaying iron gates of hell are a warning to all. Heed all ye who dare to enter ...
Those ominous words were part of a local fable written in the seventeenth century about an obscure, but wicked town in Upstate New York. It was the result of whisperings that is often the creation of age-old myths and mystical folklore. Its warnings were not going to deter a brave child who unknowingly had the strength to confront and combat a dreaded evil.
My name is Noah Zeilke, I am a good Christian man who ardently follows the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. Our family has made our home for nearly two hundred years in Millersburg, Ohio. I am a fourth-generation carpenter who, along with the men who went before, takes great pride in my work. My grandmother was a virtuous Mennonite who went against tradition and settled long ago in a sinful hamlet of English. The occurrences that I'm about to pass on to you were told by family members who fled this wicked village and returned to our righteous dwellings in Ohio. I believe this to be a true and factual account.
This story focuses on events that occurred around a rather snowy Halloween and a dark force that lurked in a mountainous village, preying upon their effeminate progeny. This is also a tale of a hamlet that concealed its mysteries for countless generations; that is until young William Willowsby came along ...
William tried his best to bounce and catch his spanking new spaldeen with one hand as he meandered down Banbury Road. He caught the ball, holding it close to his nose; he adored the smell of new rubber. Its musty odor appealed to him. He had a playful hop in his step as he made his way to the house of Lilly Mueller, his best friend and dogged companion. Lilly was a little sparkplug, a sort of freckled-faced tomboy, who at the same time was cute as a button. Her hair was a silky golden hue, always primmed into pigtails; often wearing a pretty dress and pink sneakers. She never left her house without her trusty Hello Kitty pink backpack, usually its contents included a few boxes of chicklets her grandmother gave her, and along with a few squinkies (her favorite was Hello Buttercup). Her perpetually scraped knees and shins avouched for her gaminish ways.
Her mother, Jane, often doted after William, checking on things like his school lunch and keeping track of his ever goings-on. Jane loved him so much, she'd often in a fit of adolescent fun mess his hair up, the mother in her would cause a run for a brush and comb it back to perfection. He stuttered badly, causing Jane to repeatedly grab her daughter's best friend mid-sentence and hug him tight. It broke her heart to hear him struggle. Frequently she would refer to William as her little honey-bunny, which always got an animated response from Lilly, "Mom please, you're embarrassing me." She reveled when Lilly and William would spend countless hours on the backyard swings; their love for each other trumped all that they might encounter as they grew. As a youth, Jane had a crush on William's father, but as circumstances happen, James married Jane's best friend, Lillian, and all was good. Now that Lillian was gone, she knew that this little boy needed protecting from the cruelty of this world.
* * *
The two traded tickles and pinches as they turned onto Pinewood Avenue which put them smack dab in front of the gloomy graveyard. Although the ancient cemetery had a foreboding iron fence surrounding it, in many areas the fence had fallen, leaving gaping holes. "Come-on William, let's go in and explore."
"Bu ... bu ... but Lilly, y ... you know w ... we ... we're not supposed to. Besides, its go ... go ... going to get da ... dark soon."
"Wee Willy ... Wee Willy, you're just a little scaredy cat."
"Do ... don't call me th ... that!" Although William was frightened, he loved the adventure, deep down he couldn't wait to explore the forbidden graveyard. "O ... k ... ka ... Okay, let's go, bu ... but only for a little while."
The two gingerly stepped over the vast section of the rusted gate that had fallen ions ago. While everything seemed to be tucked away from the comforts of suburbia, the truth inside was paradoxically different. The decaying fence with its succession of sharply pointed tall spears was now just a tangle of perilous rusting iron. Since the cemetery went bankrupt long ago, (if such a thing is possible) neglect, along with a lack of rudimentary maintenance, was a forgone conclusion. As they entered the hallowed grounds, a single beam of bright sunshine that lit the first grave, marked the end of safety and the beginning of the graveyard's domain. Just beyond the sky was drowning in eerie shadows and a blue shaded mist. There were thick weathered stone slabs that once memorialized the inhabitants of the village, now just lying in disarray, covered in crusty, greyish-hued moss, many kicked over by local troublemakers. These eroded grave markers made it hard to tell who was buried any longer. Beneath one massive oak was a dozen or so of decaying beer cans, more than likely the remnants of Rex Herkimer and his gang of hooligans.
As they inched their way further into the graveyard, they did not notice the shadowy form of a woman off in the distance. The statuesque entity was draped in a long flowing cape with a large hood which hid the identity of who was beneath. Rather than concern for the children, her creepily reticent glare seemed menacing and foreboding.
No matter what the weather was like outside, Pinewoods always seemed foreign, ages apart from the rest of the world. It was perpetually dark and gloomy. Except for an occasional squirrel, it was always eerily still; it even seemed mysteriously devoid of any visible birdlife during the day. Dense tangles of twisted vines hung down from the trees like sinister, bony limbs reaching for the unsuspecting. Impenetrable sheets of ivy choked the trunks of the ancient trees. There was a custodian assigned to watch for the interlopers and trespassers; but in reality, no one had cared for the graveyard for many years; sparse patches of brown colored weeds and thick hairy stems of witch grass nearly waist high testified to that.
As they made their way into the bowels of the graveyard, they were confronted by a large, foreboding stone. Its greyish color was painted with patches of dull green algae, but that couldn't hide the large, uppercase family name which was prominently emboldened in raised letters;
"Oh my God William, that's you. Did you know there was a grave with your name on it?" William appeared as shocked as Lilly; his blood chilled as he bent over, rubbing his hand against the icy stone. His index finger pressed into the name that topped the list of the graves inhabitants, "Ja ... Joshua. I th ... think that wa ... was my great gra ... grandfather." Next to Joshua's name was inscribed,
BELOVED DAUGHTER DERICA WILLOWSBY 1909-1915
Lilly turned; "That must have been his daughter," needing to use her fingers to count, "two, three, four, but she was only six, how awful." The two seemed genuinely disturbed by the discovery. Lilly broke the momentary silence, "Come-on William, let's play hide and seek." William ran up to her and tapped her back, "Yo ... you're it!" He ran off, his eyes darted back and forth, in a mad search for the best hiding spot. Off in the distance, partially hidden by dense growth, was a massive stone crypt. He ran past a grave that was adorned by a life-size statue of a stallion with its raised front hooves reaching for the sky, worn down by the years of harsh winters. He thought, surely Lilly will never find me there. He slowed as he approached the door-less crypt; it was rather large and seethed of dread. In its heyday, it was a receiving tomb; bodies of people who died during the cold of winter were stored in the crypt. In the spring when the ground softened, the graves would be dug, and the coffins would then be interred. He touched the chilled stone column that framed its arched entrance. The structure had two tall stained-glass windows that had been shattered long ago. He gazed above at its ceiling; it oddly held a greenish tint (since it was made of copper). He took a deep breath (God, this is creepy), he held onto the arch for security, peering deeper into its depths. The white stone structures stacked high into the rafters took a moment to come into focus, the sight of the countless catacombs made him hop back a step. These empty marble vessels all seemed to be anxiously awaiting a corpse. Not wanting to go further, he crouched down near the front archway (no way I'm going back there where the bodies were). It was frightfully cold inside; frost was creeping down the sides of the interior of the vault. He noticed on the inside wall a bright red inverted cross had been spray-painted, next to it were a collection of pagan symbols. William thought for a second, these were awfully strange things for Rex and his gang to graffiti (he blamed Rex for nearly everything). His eyes were drawn to mounds of thick, deep-rooted pads of moss dotted the floor of the tomb; a stale odor filled its interior. It was damp and spookily unpleasant; it reminded him of his root cellar back home after a rainstorm. William felt an odd chill as he snuggled into a corner, trying to ensure that his playmate couldn't find him.
As he waited for Lilly, his mind wandered, his thoughts focused on the image of his mother lying dead in her coffin. It had been over a year, he remembered vividly entering the room that held the coffin. Frightened at the time, he held his breath as though he had fallen into the deep end of the pool. Deaths' razor-sharp talons had torn away an element of him, the part that was most loved. How useless he felt peering upon her cold, lifeless body. She was dressed in the white pants suit she wore when he received his first communion. Greedy for one last gesture of love, he had reached into the coffin for her hands, they were wrapped in beads, precisely arranged by the mortician, but they were shockingly cold and waxy. Her delicate lips were tightly closed and oddly painted bright red (the same red as the cross in the crypt); pursed and silent. Her prone body could have been under the influence of a spell. Yet the realty was harsh, death was cold and unreasonable.
Rex Herkimer had cruelly told him during the wake how the lips were sewed shut, and all her blood was sucked from its body--how pitiless and vicious kids could be. He recalled how helpless he felt, it all seemed so unreal, he had the urge to yell aloud GET UP! Yet, at the time he tried to convince himself that undoubtedly this was just a nightmare that he would awake from. The day after she was cremated, he arose to find that it wasn't at all a bad dream, she was still dead. Her love for her son would become forgotten lore.
The sudden shrill cries of a raven brought him back to reality, its caw, caw, caw sent shivers down his spine. Its sinister call was a dark omen ...
Nevermore ... Nevermore
The feeble sun had begun to set, that chill had now become frigid; it had long bony fingers, and they were now poking at his heart. He slowly stood, his hands braced by the clammy walls as he gingerly peered out one of the shattered panes, attempting to see if Lilly was close. He was startled by the sight of a thick fog that was slowly engulfing the mausoleum. It frightened the daylights out of him. The ghostly cloud had a sinful aura about it; it appeared to be consciously swallowing the marble structure. His eyes strained to see through its thick mist, and deep inside William could barely make out the form of a little girl. "Li ... Lil ... Lilly, is th ... that ya ... you?" He tried to reassure himself, who else could it be? Slowly but surely, the shape of the young girl began to float towards him.
"Oh, my G ... God! Lilly, stop fooling around." He began to panic, "You win. Pa ... pa ... please, I ju ... just want to go home."
There was then a faint moan, a morbid wailing. It seemed to be coming closer. It was childlike, the sounds were horrible and soulless, but it was still the cries of a child. William's fright got the better of him. Whether that was Lilly or not, William wasn't waiting around to find out, he bolted. His feet couldn't carry him fast enough; the overgrown underbrush frightfully slowed his steps. His heart was racing like the heart of a rabbit caught in a snare. As he neared the opening in the fence, he tripped over a vine that had grabbed at his ankle; he tore the skin on his elbows as he fell face first onto the ground. His glasses flew off; frantically he struggled to find them. He was desperate as the wailing seemed to be getting closer. He uncontrollably shrieked at the top of his lungs, "Oh, m ... m ... my God! Oh, my God!" His hands frantically scoured the thick underbrush; he was blind without his glasses. Time was moving faster and faster. As the fog began to creep around his feet, he could feel the chill gripping his ankles, just then, he felt the familiar frame of his glasses. He jumped up and leaped through the gates' opening in one bound, just in the nick of time.
He didn't dare look back as he fled as fast as his legs would carry him. Running faster and faster, his lungs seemed to burn. It was almost painful, but he was too frightened to stop. As he barged through the door of his home at 9 Petticoat Lane, he was met by the intimidating image of his stepmother. She stopped him dead in his tracks and instantly began railing while wagging her long index finger in his face, "What the hell happened to you this time? Look at the knees on your pants. You are a spoiled rotten kid; you just make me so angry!" For once, his stepmother's ranting seemed almost welcoming. He took a deep breath and apologized without any explanation. He scurried off to his room along with his dog Charlie (a tricolor, King Charles Spaniel) hot on his heels. As he slammed his door closed, his back pressed up against it, he slid down to the floor. He couldn't breathe; it felt as if someone was choking him. His hands were trembling.
(No matter what Lilly says, I'll never go back there)
Charlie nuzzled up to him, licking his face in a soothing manner. This time he welcomed the sloppy kisses, he was safe, and they felt so-so good. After a few minutes, he brushed the dirt off his knees. The one knee was painful, the skin was stinging something awful, but the peroxide was in the hallway, and there was no way in hell he was going to open that door. He went to his window and timidly peered out. There was nearly a full moon, and off in the distance, he could see a thick greyish gloom. It was the mist from the cemetery!
(Oh my God, it knows where I live!)
It was hovering in wait. It desired for him to come out and play (or die). William could sense its being; it was alive; breathing, slithering and morphing into a vague, beguiling body of distant troubled and tortured souls. These were ghosts that were disturbed for keeping evil obsessions hidden. It was seeking to lure the unsuspecting like a spider into its deadly web. It had a palpable consciousness that was frightfully sinister. His fear was beginning to get the best of him; assuredly the fog was simply waiting for him to sleep. William apprehensively peered out his window again. Suddenly, like the Lone Ranger to the rescue, right out of the mist, the familiar sight of his father's old paneled Country Squire came rumbling into the driveway. That old Ford was a sight for sore eyes, he could now breathe easy.CHAPTER 2
Can a mother forget her nursing child?Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?
William was to turn twelve on November 1st, the day after All Hallows Eve. He like many in this outwardly charming hamlet adored Halloween and everything that autumn brought to the area. The hills of Brunswick were dotted with vibrant orchards, burgeoning cornfields and glorious pumpkin patches. People came from far and wide to pick apples, frolic on hayrides, and collect gourdes, while searching for that elusive, perfect pumpkin. Come the first autumn chill, a corn maze seemed to pop up at every local farm. Many of the village women made extra money by catering to the tourists, cooking candy apples and bags of kettle corn for the plethora of roadside stands that appeared near the end of September and disappeared promptly on that first day of November. This small village rolled out the red carpet, happily adorning their houses in folksy decorations. Jack-o'-lanterns, ghosts, and goblins trimmed many a storefront. Cornstalks and bales of hay decorated Town Hall, along with hanging pots brimming with mums, all shades of brown, adorning each lamp post on Main Street. But as pretty a town that Brunswick was, it had become better known for its haunted past. Far and wide people told tales of the creepy graveyard, a spooky schoolhouse, and a dreaded abandoned mortuary. After hearing of all its dark dwellings, this writer was curious; were the stories all untrue, and if not; can a town be inherently evil?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Wistful Tale of Gods, Men & Monsters"
Copyright © 2019 David Ruggerio.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PART ONE - THE PARTICULARS,
CHAPTER 1 - WEE WILLIE,
CHAPTER 2 - MOTHER HEN,
CHAPTER 3 - HADES,
CHAPTER 4 - HOMEL,
CHAPTER 5 - CHARLIE,
CHAPTER 6 - BANGER,
CHAPTER 7 - ANNE,
CHAPTER 8 - BALIN,
CHAPTER 9 - JANE MUELLER,
CHAPTER 10 - SHERIFF TOM,
PART TWO - KANIEN'KEHÁ:KA,
CHAPTER 11 - ATSI'TSIAKA:ION,
CHAPTER 12 - JOSEPH WOUTER,
CHAPTER 13 - REBECCA HIBLER,
CHAPTER 14 - JOHNNY B,
PART THREE - THE TOWN MEETING,
CHAPTER 15 - BRUNSWICK,
CHAPTER 16 - GERARD HIBLER,
CHAPTER 17 - ABNER ROBERTS,
CHAPTER 18 - THE SILVER BULLET,
PART FOUR - UNLEASHED TERROR,
CHAPTER 19 - PURE AS SNOW,
CHAPTER 20 - MR. SMITH AND MR. WESSON,
CHAPTER 21 - THE BABYSITTER,
CHAPTER 22 - GROUNDED,
PART FIVE - A FRIGHTENING CONFRONTATION,
CHAPTER 23 - THE HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN,
CHAPTER 24 - THE CURMUDGEON,
CHAPTER 25 - IT WAS ALWAYS LILLY,
CHAPTER 26 - HADES SECRET,
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR,