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The Roamer Family Plantation

Author since 2024 1Story 3 Followers
The Roamer Family Plantation

The Roamer Family Plantation

L-3

About 10 miles off the shores of Galveston, Texas, lies Grandiosia Isle: 300,000 acres of swamp, mountain, jungle, and thick pine forest. It has endured a lot—a blizzard during the early 1200s, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and in 1875 a forest fire scorched the entire island, rendering it uninhabitable for some time. As a result, the island was nearly devoid of forest life, except for creatures capable of flight, until 1994 when deer and such were reintroduced onto the island.

What I’m going to share with you is a paraphrased compilation of journals discovered in chimneys, old basements, and beyond the island as well. I’ve woven together various segments and made adjustments for clarity and flow.

This story is not focused on the Island itself, it is focused on the story and legacy of the esteemed Roamer Family. First arriving in June 1679, they made a mark on the island, but alas, forces removed them. Determined, they attempted a settlement once again, successfully taming the island. It all came to a fiery end in 1875 when the aforementioned fire burnt the island to a crisp, and with the island dead, the Roamer Family’s legacy was lost to time.

Act One, The Isle

June, 1679

The sand yielded underneath my weight with a satisfying crunch as I stepped off the launch boat. It was pristine and white, and large palm trees peppered the beach. The breeze from the sea was strong and I looked behind me to see Issac leaving his boat early to get to the shore rapidly.

He was half-soaked when he made it to the shore. He took heavy breaths, his golden-red hair damp from splashes. He was very excited, a smile plastered upon his face.

“It wasn’t a myth, it’s massive! What shall we christen it?” Isaac exclaimed, glancing at me and then back to the large cliff ahead of us.

“For now, it can remain unnamed. Time will give us insight into its rightful name,” I responded.

I turned, gazing at the Constitution swaying in the distance, its white hull contrasting the endless deep blue it sat upon.

“Josiah,” Nathaniel said, gaining my attention. “Help with the boats,”

“Of course,” I replied, as we began pulling the boats ashore.

Once finished, we quickly equipped ourselves with our packs and began trekking inwards. From what it appeared, the island consisted of a jungle near sea level. The further up we went, the more common longleaf pine trees were. Mountains and ridges towered above us in the distance. The shade of the jungle was greatly appreciated, even though it was still horribly humid.

After around an hour, we emerged from the jungle into a large clearing, small strips of trees about.

“This place seems good enough,” I said. “Begin setting up your tents,”

I arranged the pack on the ground, extracting sheets and sticks from within. Two robust sticks found their place in the earth, serving as anchors, while a sturdy crossbeam linked them together. With careful precision, I positioned a waterproof sheet beneath, securing it firmly with stakes driven into each predetermined hole.

Next, the largest sheet was unfurled, its protective embrace shrouding the structure I had assembled. Stakes were driven into every edge, save for the front, where only the corners received their support, leaving a welcoming flap for entry.

We made good time in setting up our camp, but our arrival was not early into the morning, so the sun had begun to set. Unfortunately, darkness overtook us prematurely, as the shadows of the tallest mountain were cast upon our campsite.

In the middle of our camp, Barnabas had set up a fire to begin cooking dinner. His aged hand holding the wooden spoon as he stir the pot of stew. White strands in his hair and large sideburns extending down his face.

Gideon had just finished bringing back some sticks and logs. And I walked along the edge of the field with Isaac, finding a fallen tree to bring back for a seat. With both of us working together, it was easy, and I saw Ambrose and Tobias had done the same.

Barnabas had made a delicious stew for us. After the day, though, he could have made anything, and we would have eaten it.

“What exactly do we plan to do here?” Obadiah inquired as he leaned against a large stump that stuck out of the ground.

“I want to start a farm in this area. The soil is quite rich,” I said, picking up a clump of dirt and smelling it.

“Of course, you all can do whatever you please here. Hunt, build, live. This is our land to share. I’m positive we can start a life here,” I finished.

“Speaking of that, when can we bring our families? I yearn for my beloved,” Ambrose asked sadness in his blue eyes, hidden by the dark locks of hair.

I sat there, thinking in silence before speaking. “Well, I wouldn’t want them to bear the harsh period of settling this place. With fewer people, it will be easier to provide enough for ourselves from the land. And with more… well, if there’s a shortage of food, a group this size may survive, but a group of thirty?”

Isaac began digging in his bag before revealing a bottle of mead. He gave a crooked smile as he pried open the cap and gave it a whiff.

I grinned before speaking. “Isaac, you know I told you not to bring that. No distractions,”

He chuckled before replying, “No turning back now, plus, I’m pretty sure it’s eleven to one,”

After finishing, he took a swig before passing it to me. I stared at the bottle before muttering, “Why not?” and taking a drink. It burned down my throat, and I gagged.

“What, gah… What is this?” I asked the terrible taste still in my mouth.

“Homebrew, made by yours truly,” Isaac responded.

“Enough talking, pass it down,” Thaddeus requested, he sat cross-legged on the log, his dark coat almost touching the dirt.

After some time, the effects began to settle upon us, words slurred, and even sitting down some of us felt unbalanced.

“My parents used to own a ranch in England, they called it Hawthorne Ranch. After my last name of course,” Peregrine started, squinting his eyes.

“This group of men came, and they… they killed my Father. They, uh, had their way with my Mama,” He shifted on the log he sat upon, and we all listened to him, a lump forming in my throat.

“They just left us there, took her with them. Me and my brother lived on the streets for a while. Then we snuck onto a boat. We didn’t know it was heading here; a storm hit, and we ended up on a beach,”

“After trekking through the wilderness, we finally found civilization. That’s how we got to America. Soon after, he died of something. I-I don’t know what it was, but it killed him quickly. Eventually, I was able to get a j–”

He stopped as a loud, high-pitched cry rang through the island. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as if I knew this was something to be feared. After it ended, we sat there in silence, the only sound the crackling of the fire.

Tobias broke the silence first.

“What was that?” he asked, his tone serious but his form relaxed.

“I’ve never heard anything like it,” Isaac said, tensing.

“It sounds like a deer, but that was loud, very loud,” Silas explained, scratching his bald head.

We sat there without a sound, listening. But no other noises were heard, and I hadn’t noticed until they were back, that the crickets had stopped chirping.

“It’s late, we need to rest,” I said, breaking the encroaching silence. Without a word, we all receded to our tents, and I stared up at the highest mountain, a triangle of black in the gorgeous night sky. It stood out. I’m not sure what it was, perhaps there were indigenous people residing here, but a glare, a light, on the highest peak.

I arose first, believing I heard something outside my tent. Exiting it, I noticed there was a very chill breeze, which was welcoming. I inhaled the morning air as I sat by the embers of last night’s fire, picking up an empty bottle.

I gave it a sniff. It smelled as terrible as the night before. At least I would not have to experience the taste again. One by one, the group arose. Barnabas began to start the fire back up to make us a pot of coffee, as I gazed upwards at the mountain.

It was hard to make out, it’s probably just some rock, but I swear there’s a structure sticking out of the mountain. I poured myself a cup of coffee and began drinking.

“Was it just me, or was there something walking around our campsite last night?” Isaac asked, glancing at each of us.

“Yeah, I heard it too. And not sure if anyone else noticed, but it got cold at night,” Silas said, crossing his arms and glaring at Isaac.

“Back to the thing sneaking around, I’m sure it was just some native wildlife,” I explained, not sure with what I heard the night prior.

“On that note, when can we get some fresh meat around here?” Tobias questioned, smiling.

I rose and began providing tasks for the day. “Barnabas, Ephraim, Obadiah, go score some game, preferably a deer. If it moves, I’m sure we can eat it. Only bring one musket; pick who uses it. The rest of you use bows,”

I continued, “Isaac and Tobias, you’re going to come with me to get more supplies from the Constitution. Ambrose and Nathaniel, find the nearest source of fresh water. Thaddeus, Gideon, go see what the ground provides. Be sure nothing will poison us. Silas, Peregrine, work on the camp.” As I finished, everyone began to move.

“Issac, Tobias, let’s go.”

We started back into the jungle, towards the shore where we first arrived. Five minutes in, Issac spoke up.

“I think I know what I’m going to do here after we finish the starting process,”

“And what’s that?” I asked.

“Untouched land, untouched water. I’m sure the coastline is filled with fish. And I’m quite sure I saw plenty of salt rock. Exporting said goods wouldn’t be too hard,” he finished, raising his arms to the side.

“Not too bad,” I said, impressed with his plan.

“And you?” He asked me.

“Well, I’m thinking about tobacco. For the farm, of course. Think about it, who doesn’t enjoy a good cigarette? This rich soil would be perfect as well. Either that or sugar. What about you, Tobias?”

He walked in silence before speaking.

“Peregrine’s story, I don’t want that happening here. None of it. We need to live peacefully if we want to last. Anything like that happens, rape, murder, I want it to be handled with a rope,” He explained, his voice spiteful as he scratched his brown hair.

“I can agree with that,” Isaac stated.

The rest of the journey was in silence, besides a few remarks on plants and trees. Upon making it to the shore, we walked as I gazed at the Constitution.

Issac stopped before saying, “Uh, Josiah,”

“Hmm?” I said before averting my gaze. I felt something in my stomach as I scanned the beach slowly, then frantically. It was void of one thing.

“Where are the boats?!” I exclaimed.

“I- I don’t know! Did the ocean rise?” Tobias questioned.

“No, that’s not possible! You can see where it gets the highest, and we put them all the way over there!” Isaac exclaimed.

We rushed over, gazing at the spot, an indentation where they used to be, staring at long, bare footprints, all over the beach.

“We are without a doubt not alone here,” I said.

“So what do we do?” Tobias asked, his voice startled.

“There’s another boat on the ship, who can swim?” I questioned.

Isaac chimed in, “As far as I know, only Obadiah,”

“What about a raft?” Tobias questioned.

“No, do you see those waves? Remember how quickly they propelled us towards the island? A shoddy raft we could make would not be able to tread those waters, that’s a last resort, an absolute last! I do not want any of us drowning,” I explained sternly.

“Well, there’s nothing more for us to do here, we need to head back. Tell the others, so they don’t get caught off guard if whoever did this were to attack,” Issac said.

“Well, we have no time to waste,” I responded.

The journey back was silent, the weight of the missing boats dawning on us. The only solution that I had in mind was for Obadiah to swim out and get the spare, which I feared was risky.

From experience, I had almost met my end attempting to board a swaying ship from the water, but it was our only choice.

Upon arrival, Ambrose and Nathaniel spoke of a very small waterfall that drained from a large lake a half-hour hike up. Thaddeus and Gideon had collected a basket of mushrooms and berries that a foraging guide assured us was safe. But our three hunters had yet to return.

“The boats are missing, can anyone swim?” I questioned.

“The boats? What happened to them?” Ambrose asked, worry on his face.

“I believe there to be an indigenous population,” I clarified. “But the question still stands, can anyone swim? There should be a spare boat, and that one we can keep our eyes on,”

Nathaniel chimed in, “I believe Obadiah can swim.”

“Okay…” I said, trailing off into my thoughts.

“What about building rafts?” Ambrose questioned.

“Not an option. Well, a last resort,” I explained.

And with that, we all sat and waited for the return of the three hunters. As the sun began to set, we all felt the same thing—a large sense of worry for our missing men.

I started a fire, the pit now reinforced with stone. We sat by it late into the night. Isaac pulled out a bottle, but not one felt like it tonight. Yesterday, during the start at least, we were cheerful.

It was then we heard a chilling call echo through the island. Where Barnabas, Ephriam, and Obadias are, only time will tell.

“It’s them!” Ambrose shouted.

It was early in the morning when a shout awoke me. Leaving my tent, I spotted 2 men, one helping the other walk, at the edge of the clearing. It was Ambrose who spotted them, awakening us.

“Why are there only two, someone’s missing,” I stated.

We rushed over to them, helping the injured Barnabas, and relieving Ephriam. Obadias was missing.

“Where is Obadias?” I questioned.

Ephriam simply said, “Water…”

I allowed him to drink from my canteen, as Isaac tended to Barnabas, his leg had a large gash in it, deep enough you could see the bone.

“Ephriam, what happened to Obadias?” I inquired.

After recuperating, he spoke, staring into the treeline, his eyes wide and unmoving. “We got lost, the jungle, it’s so hard to see where you’re going. The shadows of the mountain made it worse, and before we knew it, night had fallen upon us.”

Everyone had turned to listen.

He began to whimper and cry, continuing, “Something was following us, it tracked our steps, hunted us with cunning intelligence… Oh God… When we stopped for rest, it grabbed Obadias, we heard his screams into the night, and the light from his lantern grasped in his hand as he was dragged into the forest,”

Everyone in the group tensed up, and my breathing grew heavy.

“It toyed with us, tall and gaunt. It’s not human, not human, but oh god, it’s smart. It’s so smart. It ran out, and gashed Baranbas’s leg, howling into the night. It let us live, I don’t know why.” He then broke down, weeping into his hands.

I looked around, we numbered eleven now. It was then my gaze caught something swinging at the tree line.

“What in God’s name?” I muttered as it swung from a rope.

The group turned, except Ephriam who was still sobbing. We walked towards it, as Issac said, “No, no… In the name of all that’s Holy…”

I stared at the hanging body of Obadias, just a torso and head and one arm. His limbs were severed crudely, half a right leg left on. His lower jaw was missing, and his white shirt was stained with dark dirty blood everywhere. Ambrose keeled over, retching, as I stared in disbelief.

Peregrine walked to where what was left of Obidias was anchored from and untied it. He hit the ground with a wet thud.

“We need to bury him, he doesn’t deserve to be left in this state,” Peregrine stated as he wrapped him in a cloth, and hoisted him over his shoulder.

I watched in shock as Peregrine dug a hole next to a large oak, and the rest of my men sat idly by.

“We need to leave, as soon as possible,” Thaddeus said.

“Obadias was the only one who could swim, we need to build a raft,” I explained as I considered if he was targeted for that very reason.

“I will go check the waves, there’s a chance they aren’t as strong now,” Issac said.

“We will build it there, we have to try today. It won’t be the most sturdy in the rushed time, but we will have to make it work,” I explained as I felt a drop of rain hit my hand.

“What in heaven’s name are we still doing here? The day is still young, we can not waste the light we have!” I finished, giving Isaac my hand to get up.

“The rest of you, prepare fortifications for if we are not able to make it to the ship,”

Isaac and I made our way down the familiar path into the Jungle, not much was said during the trip, but Isaac seemed especially disheartened. Upon making it to the shore, a drizzle had begun. The waves crashed against the shore, Issac looked at me with worry, and I glanced at him with the same look

“We have to try, we have to get off this island. I can not die here,” I stated.

“Can’t we wait another day, I don’t think even the boats could have gotten to the ship with these waves,” Isaac explained.

“Who knows what that thing in the forest will do, I believe it attacks at night, so we must get out of here before nightfall,” I clarified.

“What if it’s just indigenous people? I’ve seen them do terrible things,” Isaac questioned, attempting to rationalize the situation.

“I saw… There were bite marks, teeth marks. He was eaten alive, listen. Issac what I say goes, now help me build this raft,”

It took almost five hours to build something we were comfortable holding, and in that time, the rain began to pour down from the heavens, almost pleading with us not to go. We were both completely soaked when we pushed the raft into the water.

“FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION, WE NEED TO MAKE IT,” I exclaimed, staring at the Constitution swaying violently in the distance.

“WHAT?” Isaac questioned, his voice barely audible.

I sighed, and we got atop the raft, pushing it off and using the large stick to press against the floor of the ocean. The first large wave began to come closer, and I held on to the vines that held the raft together.

We rose and fell with a crash, I almost slid off. I watched the second obstacle come into view, bigger than the first. We rose, almost straight, then crashed down. I slid, barely holding on, turning completely around.

I watched Isaac almost fall off, before grabbing his hand, allowing him to be able to get back on. It was at that moment that I knew my wish to leave the island would be the death of me.

We were nearing the Constitution though, if I was able to grab ahold of the ladder I would climb up. I watched as it raised upwards, and crashed down, sending a massive wave our way. We rode it up, and the front of the raft faced the island.

The raft crashed down onto me, hitting me like a rock. I began to flail about underwater before another wave crashed me deeper, I hit the floor, and that’s when everything went black. I woke up on the beach, the rain had stopped, and Isaac was shaking me awake.

I stared at him as he said something I couldn’t hear over the ringing in my ears. When I heard him, I first recognized the worry in his voice. I sat up to see multiple men surrounding us, all holding spears or bows. It was night, they led us through the forest. Occasionally we would hear a howl from that thing, and the entire group would stop moving.

“What do they want?” Isaac asked, frightened by the fact they spoke in a language we had never heard.

“I’m not sure, but… Let’s just hope we can make it back. This is probably better than letting that thing take us out,” I responded, trying to console him.

Eventually, we reached a sea swamp, surrounded by mountains. I presume a long time ago the swamp sank somehow, but I can only theorize. We were led through until we found their town.

Multiple huts and tents were set upon wood foundations. They led us upwards, into a cave. A man sat in the center, cross-legged surrounded by candles. Two Native men flanked the entrance, standing with spears.

We sat in silence, Isaac whispered to me, “What do you think is gonna happen?”

I responded, getting cut off, “I don’t know, but-” the man in the center stirred, and rose. He faced us, his wrinkled face examining us. He tried to speak to us in their language but soon realized we did not share the same knowledge.

He brought me to the cave wall and pointed. He poked my chest with his bony finger, it hurted more than it should, and pointed to a drawing of a deer.

He then pointed to a drawing of a wolf, then pointed to a drawing of the thing. It had large antlers, and a skull for a face. It was tall, from what I could tell. He poked my chest again and pointed at a picture of a wolf making the beast cower, and revealed a picture of the beast returning the boat, while the wolf watched. The elder then spoke to the men, who then led us out.

“What did he show you?” Issac asked.

“I think… We are deer to the beast, but if we show it we are wolves, it will return the boats.” I responded, still unsure of my translation.

They led us through the forest, leaving us on the outskirts of our camp. The entire field was lined by various hog and deer heads impaled by pikes. Isaac and I emerged from the woods and made our way back to camp. Fortifications had been set up, pikes, and a few logs stacked on top of each other. I heard movement in a tent and opened it to find Peregrine sleeping.

“Peregrine, wake up,” I stated.

He rose quickly and stared at me.

“I thought you for dead.” He said as he got out of the tent, “They’re back!”

Movement stirred from each tent as people murmured, one after another they all got out, and we were greeted by each survivor of the night.

“Where’s Gideon?” I questioned, and everyone glanced at the large shady oak. I followed their gaze, to see two crosses.

“Damn,” I muttered, as Isaac and I walked over. The graves of Gideon Hatwell and Obadiah Fairfax, murdered by the thing that predates us on this island.

Peregrine stood next to me, telling me what happened.

“We finished the fortifications, as you can see. It’s not much, but if it was going to run at us, they would have helped. During the night, it snatched him away. It has antlers and wears a skull. It’s… very smart. We found him swinging at the treeline when day broke, as well as various animal heads impaled by pikes,”

I glanced around the field, it was a gruesome scene.

“So, what happened to you and Isaac?” He inquired.

“We built a raft, but that storm, it failed, and we almost drowned. There are Natives on the island, they took us across the land and told me we have to be stronger than the beast, only then it will let us leave,” I explained.

“So, we better show this thing, right?” Peregrine said.

“Indeed, let’s work on the fortifications, I’ll send some men out to fetch water and, hopefully, food,” I stated.

In short, we built more half walls by placing two small segments of log and one longer one. Pikes would go on the defending end, and trenches were dug as well.

Halfway through, we heard a shot in the distance. We hoped that perhaps they were not being attacked by the creature, as to our knowledge, it was nocturnal. After finishing the fortifications, we saw Silas and Tobias entering the clearing, Tobias having a doe slung over his shoulder.

“Well would you look at that,” Peregrine said.

“Looks like we’re eating good tonight,” Isaac stated.

“Let me prepare it,” Peregrine said sternly. He continued, “I’m the best chef, other than Barnabas,”

“Oh, how is he doing?” I asked, hating how I had forgotten about him.

“Come with me,” He said solemnly, guiding me to a tent.

I entered and the smell of decay was present. He was sleeping, but his teeth were gritting. I slowly pulled back the sheet to see a leg decaying as if he was dead. The skin was bubbly and a sickly gray, with spots around the laceration a dark dead color

“Lord almighty, we can’t keep this on,” I stated, and he knew it was true. I continued, “We need to remove the limb, or it will spread,”

“Don’t you think there’s at least a chance?” Peregrine questioned.

I shook my head, there was no possible way his limb could recover; it had to go.

“Isaac, Get me my pack!” I yelled out of the tent.

He placed it next to me, and I reached in, pulling out a hand saw. I took a leather cylinder and placed it into his mouth. I tied a strap around his thigh as tight as I could, and I set his leg atop a small piece of wood for an elevated surface.

“Isaac, Peregrine, hold him down,” I said, and they moved into position.

I glanced outside, where a fire was going. Grabbing a hammer, I readied myself. With one swing, it hit his leg with a squishy thud. Something oozed out of the laceration.

He woke up, and bit down on the leather. The bone was not broken, so with all my strength I struck again, breaking the bone. His leg sagged in an unnatural position as I grabbed the saw and began to cut his leg off. I sawed and sawed, green infectious pus pouring on the floor, as well as black–red blood.

The smell was terrible, I tried breathing through my mouth but tasted it, so I simply tried to breathe as little as possible. With a sickening release, my saw had made it through his leg.

“Come on, we need to cauterize this,” I stated as I motioned to lift him.

We picked him up and carried him to the fire, he had stopped thrashing long ago, presumably passed out from shock. We placed him next to the fire, and I moved his half limb into the flame. It bubbled and turned red, seating and cauterizing the wound. Once I felt fit, I took it out of the flames.

“Isaac, hold his leg up,” I said, as I made my way back to the tent, opening it, I glanced at the leg that sat there, black and infected. I reached into my bag, grabbing clean gauze, rags, and pure alcohol.

I rushed back over, and drenched his leg in the clear liquid, before placing the rags on the stump, and completely wrapping it in gauze.

“Pick him back up, let’s lay him somewhere comfortable,” I said.

As we walked to a new tent, Isaac noted, “That was crazy,”

Peregrine responded, “It had to be done… I hope,”

Isaac inquired to me, “When will he be able to use a wooden leg?”

“It could be a few months, I think our best bet is to get him to the Natives tomorrow, they seem friendly, and can protect him better than we can because to leave; we need to fight,”

We placed him in a tent, and just to be sure I checked his pulse. He was alive, we can only hope his wound will not get infected. With him out, we have come down to nine.

Peregrine cooked the deer and readied a stew to simmer through the night for breakfast. We ate like animals, we hadn’t had fresh meat in a long time. The journey here had been long, and amenities like this meat were not available.

“Josiah, what’s your story?” Isaac asked.

“Hm?” I replied, taken aback by the question.

“I mean, we all just met in San Fernando. You took us all the way out here, but we don’t know much about you.” Issac clarified.

“Oh, my… Listen, I don’t like to talk about this much.” I explained.

“But you plan for us to all live together here?” Peregrine stated, smiling.

“Well, okay. I was born into a family of robbers. I saw a lot of terrible things. We roamed around the Gulf of Mexico raiding ships and such. We started in the Dutch Republic, my grandparents at least. When my parents heard of a new world, they jumped at the opportunity. We started from Boston, rode our line of ships downwards, and eventually found our place in the Gulf of Mexico,” I explained.

“Oh, okay,” Isaac replied.

“That’s not it,” I continued, “We lost our luck when the Spanish army attacked us. They sunk our ships, and I found myself on the beaches, my parents might still be alive for all I know. But this nice family found me, it took some time to learn their language, but they raised me better than my real family ever could have,”

“Well, It’s getting dark, we need to get ready to defend ourselves from this thing,” Peregrine stated.

“Yeah… Alright everyone! You know your stations, keep your eyes open, let’s hope we make it through the night!” I exclaimed.

I stood at my post, a rifle in hand, watching the treeline. Throughout the night, multiple false alarms were sounded, all turning out to be birds or a simple buck.

“Josiah, Peregrine said the thing is usually more active than this,” Isaac stated, I could tell his nerves were getting the best of him.

I replied, “The night has only begun, we do not know what it’s planning. Keep your eyes open, it could be waiting for the perfect moment to strike.”

I felt a chill breeze flow through the air, it was a nice contrast to the humid and warm summer nights we have been experiencing. But that breeze carried something sinister, Isaac caught it first and gagged, and then I smelt it. The stench was putrid, it felt like the wind had carried something that had been rotting for months.

“No… No… Everyone! Get ready!” Ephriam exclaimed.

“What is wrong, Ephriam?” I questioned.

“That thing, it carries a terrible stench. Be ready!” Ephriam clarified.

We watched the fields, occasionally we believed to have heard a sound, but nothing was in sight.

“Not even a call from this thing, this is vastly different from its past behavior,” Peregrine explained.

“It stalked us in the woods, it toyed with us, and led us deeper. It’s smart, do not-” Ephriam was cut off.

“Do not what?” I questioned, my eyes staring at the tree line.

“Ephriam?” I turned and stared in disbelief as his body was violently yanked under the small wall where I couldn’t see.

“IT’S HERE!” I exclaimed and began sprinting towards Ephraim’s position.

As I reached the elevated point, I watched as the thing galloped on all fours, with Ephriam’s neck locked between its white jaws. Taking action, I lowered my rifle straight, squeezed the trigger, and fired.

The shot rang out, but the creature continued to run. My men followed suit, raining down fire upon the creature. The noise was immense, and the creature screeched, at least one of our shots had connected with it. It rolled, Ephriam’s limp body still dangling in its jaws, before continuing its gait and disappearing into the treeline.

We stared for a while, before silently manning our post until day broke. At the crack of dawn, we slept for about 6 hours. And at around noon, we arose.

“Isaac,” I said, walking up to him as he sat on a log.

“We need to take Barnabas to the natives, they can protect him better than us. We have to fight this thing, and he is just weighing us down,”

“Okay, but we need to make it back before sunset,” Isaac replied.

“As If I don’t know that,” I remarked.

We walked to the tent where we had placed Barnabas, and I examined him. I tried shaking him awake, and to my surprise, he woke.

“Barnabas, we are taking you to the Natives. They can take care of you, we need to fight this thing. I promise we will come back for you once we get out. Isaac, help me pick him up,” I explained.

“No, that’s fine. I can walk,” Barnabas replied.

“Barnabas… I don’t know how to say this,” Isaac said.

“Barnabas, we had to take your leg, it was black and gray from infection. It had to go,” I explained, cutting Isaac off.

Barnabas’s eyes grew wide, as he slowly pulled his blanket off, revealing his stub wrapped in fresh bandages.

“I… I can still feel it,” Barnabas stated, I could see muscles moving as he tried to wiggle his toes.

“It had to be done, you’re lucky it didn’t spread,” I stated.

“Alright, let’s go,” Isaac said as he reached his arm out toward Barnabas.

Isaac grabbed Barnabas’s hand and hoisted him over his shoulder.

“This is not going to be a comfortable trip,” Isaac remarked.

“Not for me either,” Barnabas replied as he adjusted himself.

“We can switch around, Isaac,” I said.

As began to walk towards the treeline, Isaac asked, “At this pace, are you sure we can make it back in time?”

I stared up at the sun, before replying “I think so, just, keep a good pace, and no breaks,”

Unfortunately, the trip took longer, and when we made it to the Native’s village, it was clear we would not make it back in time. Trying to speak with gestures, I believe they understood I wished for them to take Barnabas in. I then gestured to the sun, and the Elder spoke to some men, who left and shortly came back with horses.

“I was worried we would have to run back,” Isaac voiced in relief.

“I’m hoping they can take care of Barnabas til’ we can beat the beast,” I stated, rubbing my face.

Hoisting myself up onto the back of the horse, I watched Isaac do the same. The Native riders quickly took us back to camp. Our time was cut in more than half, and upon reaching camp we got off, and the Natives quickly took off.

“Without those horses, we would be that thing’s next meal,” I said, as Isaac nodded.

A small line of smoke rose from the center of the camp, as we scaled barricades and zig-zagged through pikes. The trench was deeper now, and it was filled with sharp sticks. A log was placed as a temporary bridge, no doubt it would be removed upon nightfall. Taking a serving of stew, I ate well after the long day’s journey.

“I’ve reloaded your rifle, it’s ready to go,” Silas stated as he handed me my rifle.

I examined it, and it appeared to be loaded.

“Thank you, Silas,” I replied, as he walked away.

Upon nightfall, we manned our stations. I brought a stump to sit on, as did a few others. As the night dragged on, my eyes drew heavy, and with time, I slumped over and closed my eyes.

The chill stirred me, and the smell woke me. I looked to my right to see Isaac, slumped over and sleeping, and to my left to see Tobias the same. The thing was approaching, it had weaved its way slowly towards us, crawling on all fours. It saw me the same time I saw it, and I raised my rifle and put my finger on the trigger.

We stood there, staring at each other. The glowing white eyes stared me down, and I began to shake. It was almost as if it was waiting to see if I would do something, and I would not leave it disappointed.

I squeezed the trigger, and the hammer with flint snapped down, striking the frizzen. A spark was made, igniting the gunpowder, it combusted, and I braced myself for the kick. The gunpowder made its way into the touch hole, a puff of smoke left my barrel, but there was no kick.

With a breeze, the smoke cleared, and I lowered my rifle. No ball rolled out of the barrel. The thing made a sound, as if it was amused, and lunged at Tobias. It snapped his jaw around his neck, and he went stiff, wrapping his hands around the thing.

“NO!” I cried, Isaac woke up, and the rest stirred, startled.

It grabbed Tobias’s shoulders and pulled outwards, ripping a massive chunk out of his neck. It looked into the sky, and swallowed the flesh in a matter of seconds, before turning and galloping across the field. Peregrine fired his musket but missed it. I ran over to Tobias, he was already dead. The sun began to rise, illuminating Ephraim’s swinging body. We buried them under the shady oak.

There were six of us now, seven, but Barnabas serves no use. We ate the rest of the stew without another word, this had to end now. I stood up, and all my men faced me. I was their leader, I led them here, and I was going to get them out.

“Today is the last day, our final stand. We have let it attack us in the shadows for too long, this will not do. Today, we go to the area of the island where it first attacked us, we find its lair, and by God’s grace, we kill it!” I declared.

They cheered for me, cheered. I guess they do believe in me somewhat.

“Josiah, the Elder, he gave me this map. I think it’s its territory and that circle. I think that might be its dwelling,” Isaac voiced.

I grabbed the map from him, it seemed right.

“Thank you, Isaac. This will help,” I said.

I began to walk toward Silas, shoving him into the mud.

“You damn traitor, you didn’t load my rifle, you LIAR!” I struck Silas across the face, my hand connecting to his face with a gratifying crunch.

“Josiah, what’s going on!” Peregrine exclaimed as we rushed over to us.

“STOP IT, Silas… He did not load my rifle, he tricked me, you are the reason Tobias is dead. I could have SAVED HIM, and I made a promise.” I continued, “Why did you do it? Why!”

He stared at me, detestation in his eyes, before stating, “Your mother, your father, their group. Your people killed my family,”

I stared in disbelief, before spitting in his face.

“That blood is not on my hands, but now blood rests upon yours!”

He struggled as I dragged him by his shirt and fetched a rope. He begged for mercy, and Peregrine held him down, fully content with what was going to transpire.

I wrapped the rope around his neck and flung it over the tree. He tried to escape, tried to scream, but I hoisted him into the air with the help of Isaac and Peregrine, tying the rope to the base of the tree. I watched him dangle there, kicking his feet, until he stopped moving.

“Will we bury him?” Isaac questioned,

“Not for him, not for him,” I explained, and continued, “Let us go, find this thing’s abode, and finish this,”

The journey was long, made worse by the rain and humidity today. There were six of us now, we were quiet, as we knew what lay before us. We knew when we reached it, a large cave embedded into the cliff rock. Skulls from humans and alike were on pikes, and above written in white paint was a word in the Natives language.

“This is it,” I declared.

“We go on, and we end this. We beat it, and I believe it will return what it took from us,” I explained.

Peregrine stepped up to speak, “Everyone, we need to stick together. No matter what happens, stay together,”

I finished by saying, “Everyone, light your lanterns,”

At once, my men pulled out their lanterns, and we entered the mouth of the cave.

It was cold inside, the path was narrow and wet. After some time, it opened up into a larger cavern. As we filled in, our lanterns slowly lit up the room. I examined the walls and gasped to see many carvings from this thing. Carvings of the Natives village, of the island, but most surprising of all was a depiction of my beloved Constitution, sitting there in the ocean.

I examined further, as my men watched all the tunnels that broke off from this room. It appeared the beast had been trying to learn our language. I could recognize some English letters scribbled along the walls. All other text was in the Native language. With the time it took to learn this much of English, it had to be fluent in theirs. Some words I was able to recognize were Roamer, loop, year, peak, and lab.

“Jo…..sigh…..aghhh….Rough….marr…” The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and we all turned. It had Silas’s body, and it tossed him towards us. He hit the ground and rolled to us, his head staring directly at me.

My men raised their rifles and fired. The cacophony of gunshots was deafening, made even worse by the closed space we were in. With the echo, it sounded like an army was in here with us.

I knelt and covered my ears watching and waiting for the smoke to clear. Something came pounding through, it snatched Ambrose. We saw his light disappear down the path, and his screams echoing through the cave.

I turned to the entrance, a large boulder had been placed, blocking us in. How foolish I was to believe we could gain the upper hand, we had only entered its domain.

“We need to find another way out!” I exclaimed, my bravery not present.

Peregrine disputed, “I thought we were to defeat this monstrosity!”

“Damn it, we are in it’s home now! We can live with the Natives, perhaps they have a boat we can borrow, but by God’s grace, we need to leave. NOW!”

I began running down the path, my men behind me. We ran and ran until we took a break at a flowing stream of water. It was clear, and ice cold. It was only then we realized Nathaniel was not with us.

“Josiah, we lost Nathaniel,” Isaac said, worry in his voice.

A scream echoed through the cavern, slowly turning into a gurgle.

I grit my teeth, and responded, “We need to keep moving, there has to be another way out!”

I rose to my feet and continued down the cave. I saw a light in the distance and headed towards it. It was a large cavern, with a small tunnel in the ceiling leading to the surface. Water poured down into a hole in the middle. The floor had been covered in leaves and foliage; I assumed this was its den.

I gagged when I smelt it, and slowly made my way to a side room. Food storage I presume, bones and meat lay scattered upon the cave floor rotting away.

“We need to leave, we aren’t far from the surface, let’s go,”

Down the path, something was illuminated by a lantern. Upon closer inspection, it was Nathaniel, strung up with his own intestines. He was missing his lower half, and a pile of viscera had formed under him.

“Lord in heaven…” Isaac muttered.

“I think it’s trying to keep us away from here, we need to move past it,” I explained, staring forward past the swaying body.

Someone screamed behind us, and I turned to see Thaddeus being pulled away from us into the darkness. He dropped his lantern halfway and the last thing I saw was the terror on his face.

I felt a breeze flow through my hair, we were close, so close.

“Did anyone feel that?” Peregrine questioned.

Isaac had released his hand from his mouth, replying “I think, we’re close. We need to move, now,”

We ran fast. I finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel, but something came into view, blocking us. It stood there, expecting us to turn tail and run. Isaac went to do so, but I pulled his collar.

“We fight, this ends NOW,” I said sternly.

I looked at Peregrine and he nodded. I unsheathed a saber, and it looked surprised, adjusting its stance from a menacing one to a fighting one. We moved at once, and I dodged as it swung at me, Peregrine firing his rifle.

At this range, it struck center mass and screeched, swiping wildly and connecting with Peregrine. He was flung to the wall of the cave, and let out a cry. In its frenzy, I was able to connect a swipe to its eye, causing it to go even more wild.

I kicked it, slicing at its stomach, and leaving a red gash. I tried to drive my blade into its chest, but it shoved me and pounced on top of me. It stopped and stared into my very soul, being interrupted when  Isaac jumped atop on top and stabbed it in its back.

It flung him and he hit the cave wall, before falling to the floor. I sliced at its leg, and it stumbled. I seized the opportunity, picking up a large rock and smashing it into its white skull face, taking a chunk out. It slashed at me in retaliation, I saw a flash of white and fell to the floor. Everything looked strange and flat, and I touched my eye, but it stung me.

The thing pushed me to the ground, my chin connecting with the stone accompanied by another flash of white. It then flipped me over, staring into my eye. It was drooling on me but had yet to finish the job. Simply staring into me, almost expecting something. But I stared back not in fear, but in anger.

It felt like the standoff lasted forever, but I soon raised my pistol to its chest and fired. It exploded, blowing my hand to bits, but sending shrapnel and the ball into its chest. It shrieked in agony, before receding off into the cave.

I stared at my hand in disbelief, a mess of red flesh, before I realized there were some in a worse state than me. I rushed to Isaac, who seemed to have just sustained a head wound, and was coming too. I then rushed to Peregrine and gasped. He was dying, with a large gash in his back where he was flung against the sharp rock, and a laceration on his stomach where it had slashed him. He was holding his intestine, crying.

“Mama… Is that you?” He asked.

“It’s me Peregrine, It’s Josiah,”

“Josiah… please… don’t turn it off, I wanna come back…” He pleaded.

“Turn what off?” I questioned, tears forming in my own eyes.

I watched the life drain from his eyes, as he took his last breath. I turned to Isaac, his hand clasped over his mouth, tears forming.

“We won…” I said, my energy drained. “Let’s go home.”

We crawled through the narrow opening, into a sandy beach. The constitution swayed in the distance, in the gentle waves. A single raft waited for us, and we boarded it. Isaac rowed, whilst I sat and gazed upon the island. We climbed into the ship and set sail.

As I watched the island grow distant, I muttered something, two words, two simple words.

“Grandiosa Isle,” I said, as if speaking its newfound name would grant me some type of closure.

“Josiah… What?” He questioned me, not quite hearing it.

The island was getting smaller by the minute, its grandeur slowly fading away.

“Grandiosia Isle.”

Act Two, The Empire

August, 1861

“Boats about to leave!”

Steam had started to rise from the stacks of the ship, I watched as Edward

hurriedly picked up his luggage.  The boat was not one I had seen before, something new, something that disgusted me.

“Well Father, this is it,” Edward said to me, I examined him.

“You don’t have to die in some stupid war, Edward,”

“I have to protect our livelihood, Father,” Edward frowned at me, before turning and leaving with with Jackson.

“He’s gonna die?” Jackson asked me, looking up with wet eyes.

“War is terrible, that stupid boy is not coming back,” I sternly stated.

“Come now, Jackson,” I said, taking a glimpse at the large castle in the distance; a relic of the past. It was used for defense in the Land War centuries ago, but now it is not needed.

Jackson was holding back tears, I stared with disgust.

“You can cry at home, we have a reputation to uphold,”

We made our way through the path, and I stole a glance at the lighthouse that was in progress. Stones were being placed, platforms made to scale upwards.

“Robert, sir! May I have a moment?” Elijah said, jogging up to me.

“What is it, Elijah,” I responded, making eye contact with his blue eyes and giving a firm handshake.

“The engineers, they say we should be able to cut fuel use down to 36 gallons a month.” He exclaimed proudly.

“Okay, that’s good. What about the sunlight imitation?” I questioned.

“They’re not too sure about that one sir,” Elijah responded, disappointed in himself.

“Hmh,” I muttered, continuing my walk down the path.

Making it to the end, I mounted Iron Clad, seating myself on his saddle. I watched Jackson struggle to mount, not having the strength to pull himself up.

“I swear to God boy, if you don’t get on this horse in the next minute you will go without supper,”

“I’m… I’m trying, Father!” He said, as he finally pulled himself up.

“You’re pathetic, at least Edward might accomplish something in the war,”

We began to ride down the stone path to the manor, passing up the premium cottages and the lumber yard.

“Dad, I like carriages more. They don’t hurt to ride,”

“What did you just call me?”

“I’m- Sorry, Father,”

I quickly passed the intersection where my men had rounded up the slaves for the day and were taking them back to the camp. They looked at me with hatred, but none made eye contact. I rode by and took a right down the oak path, looking left and right at the golden tobacco plants that lined the road.

“Jackson, how do you like the new manor?” I questioned.

“I like it, but it took too long to make, I hated living in the old cabins. There were rats and spiders everywhere.” He explained.

“Well, get the hell off. I’ll take Iron Clad to the stables,”

I watched as he struggled to get off, falling upon dismounting. He quickly dusted himself off and slowly made his way up the retention wall. I took Iron Clad to the stables, letting him in and leaving with a pat on his neck. Quickly I made my way into the manor, looking at it made me feel weird, I had lived my whole life with the old castle.

I immediately stole a glance to my left inside the living room, looking at the carving I made in my youth, one of the few things recoverable. It sat as the decoration above the fireplace. I walked to the library, hearing chatter throughout the building along the way.

Upon entering, it was muffled, barely audible. I sat at my desk, and reached into the drawer, pulling out an aged photograph of the castle before the accident. Its tower peaked up, and my father and mother, brothers and sisters, sat at the step.

I felt something, sorrow, for my lost brothers and sisters, Father and Mother.

“Fuckin’ Natives,” I muttered, gritting my teeth. They took my family away from me, and now all I have are these sorry excuses of sons.

I could hear a bell from the kitchen, dinner was ready. I got up out of my seat, examining the shelves of the library. Each possible wall was covered in shelves. A large long rectangle sits at the edge, where 2 large windows are placed. The roof curves inwards, with patterns on the ceiling.

The entrance has a staircase to the right, and under each step is more room for books. It leads to a second floor which has a balcony down to the large roof room I currently sit in.

Despite all the room, I deeply lack books. The fire took my books, my collection turned to ash. I exited the library and headed to the dining room, Grace, my wife was sitting in her usual spot. So was Henry, Jackson, Benjamin, and Olivia. I sat in my seat, one I had made recently, intricate carvings throughout.

The servants brought out several platters and opened them simultaneously. A stew, something I haven’t had in a while. I picked a cylinder and wound the saxophone up. The tunes began to play, and I had a seat. We ate in silence before Henry spoke up.

“Where is Eddie?” He inquired.

I stood up abruptly, the noise of my chair skidding across the tile echoing throughout the room. “No talking while eating, and you are to call each other by your formal names.”

“Yes sir,”

I had a seat. The dining room was one of my favorite, formal tiles with a dark parquet trim. The paneling went half up with dark wood, before transferring into a light wallpaper. The roof had even square beams that went across multiple times over, and in between was an intricate gold-wood design. Jackson and Henry finished before me, and upon finishing my meal, I stood up.

“You may be excused if you are finished,” I stated before walking away. I could hear chairs squeaking as my children got up.

I made my way up the stairs, through the hallway, and into my bathroom. I started a bath and felt the water. Warm, they had finally remembered to start the fire. I began undressing and submerged myself in the water. I washed myself with soap and cleaned my hair. When the water had become uncomfortably cold, I exited, unplugging the drain cap to let the water drain.

I made my way into the bedroom and dressed in my night attire. Crawling into bed, sleep came easy, until I felt a weight on the opposite side. Turning onto my back, I stared at the large portrait that portrayed Grandiosia Isle, under the stars.

I awoke before the sun had come up. I took time to put my day clothes on, taking special time with the boots. Leaving my room, I made my way down the stairs and into the kitchen. A pot of coffee had been prepared, and I poured myself a glass. I rose the stairs once again and entered the porch extension.

I sat on my favorite rocking chair and felt the distant sea breeze flow through my hair, as I watched the sun begin to peek its face upon the horizon. The island was still shrouded in darkness, and I heard a gentle call in the distance. It was calming, I can’t say I heard anything like it before. With time, my face grew warm. I rose, placing my coffee cup on the side table.

I made my way back downstairs, grabbing my hat as I walked past the door. I pulled the front doors open, and unlocked the storm doors, pushing them open. It had taken a while to get used to this new house, but by comparison, it was better. Designed by myself, I put care and love into each inch.

I made my way to the stables, leading Iron Clad out before mounting him. I took one final glance, before making my way down the oak path. With time, I reached the encampment where we kept the slaves. I hitched Iron Clad at the post, before heading into the first room of the gatehouse.

“Mister Hawthorne,” I said, pushing the door open.

“Ah, Robert. We were going to start without you, til I saw you trotting down the path,” Hawthorne replied, standing up and shaking my hand.

“Let’s just get this over with, I have other errands to run,”

We exited the office and walked to the gate.

“Open it on up!” Hawthorne exclaimed.

The wooden gate began to creak, as it slowly opened.

“That’s enough!” Hawthorne barked.

“I believe today is for the second group?” I questioned.

“No sir, it’s group one today,”

I glanced at a man tied to a post in the middle of the compound, he looked tired and hungry.

“What did he do?” I questioned.

“Tried to make a run for it, right after you returned to your home,” Hawthorne explained.

“I can see that didn’t work out,” I remarked, glancing at the man.

“His leg is broken, should we–”

“Yes, take him,” I replied, cutting him off.

Hawthorne walked to the cabin on the left, pounding on the door.

“Ten minutes! Do not make us come in there!” Hawthorne shouted.

I pulled out my pocket watch, examining the time. I sighed and watched as Hawthorne walked back to me.

“I can’t stay for the rest, no matter how much I like it,” I said sarcastically.

“It is quite the chore, but if you think that’s bad, just imagine what the tower folk have to sit through. All day in the humid heat, all night to watch the walls,” Hawthorne monologued,

“Yes, I get it,” I remarked as I turned and began to walk away.

“Robert! What will you do if they win?” Hawthorne questioned.

“They won’t,” I said, walking through the gate.

I made my way to Iron Clad, who appeared startled. Unhitching him, I mounted his large figure and trotted my way toward the town. I had a shipment coming in today, and I was coming in personally because I had various books coming in. It had only been a few months since the manor was completed, and every time I was in my office, there was a void.

I crossed a small wooden bridge and made my way down the path that followed the coast. The sound of waves crashing against the shore and each other was ever so satisfying. I passed the lumber yard and the cottages. I tried to focus my attention on getting to the hitching area, but circumstances changed that.

“Robert!” Sheriff Clayton exclaimed.

“Sheriff,” I said, continuing my ride forwards.

“You have to see this, it’s bad.” Clayton pleaded.

I sighed, “Clayton, I have an important shipment coming–” I was cut off, which I hated.

“The Natives, I think it was them. They’re trying to start another war!”

My head snapped towards him, as I looked at an utmost distant cottage. The community was made out of staircases that traveled up the hill, rows of small private cottages to the left and right periodically. Repeated for a few rows, and if expansion is needed, we simply would build more.

Upon the top, a door was ajar. Two men leaned against the wall on the porch.

“Alright,” I said, as I dismounted my horse, leading it to a hitching station.

“Come on, Robert,” Clayton said, as he began ascending the steps.

I followed suit, and with time, we had reached the cottage in question.

“See for yourself,” Clayton said ominously.

I entered the building and instantly was met with the smell of feces and iron. Before me laid the resident, he had been strung up with his intestines, his jaw was removed, and so were his eyes. I stared at the gruesome scene, before diverting my gaze to the right. His wife lay splayed out upon the sofa, her head in her lap. Past the man was a half open door, all that was visible was a bloodied crib.

I left the building and took in a breath of fresh air.

“You think the Natives did this?” I questioned.

“That’s what it looks like, they are sending a message,” Clayton explained.

I spotted a strange carving on the wall, it was meticulous and intricate. I scribbled down a copy, but even then I was unable to show its true elegance.

“Shit,” I said, “Have someone clean this up, and put the cottage for rent again. Goodbye Clayton,” I stated as I descended the stairs,

I entered the town through the small path up the rocky segment. Glancing at the lighthouse to my right, noticeable progress had been made. I made my way down the seawall, stepping up the stairs to the wooden walkway just above, and entered the post office. The attendant, upon seeing me, immediately turned around and grabbed my mail.

“Thank you, miss,” I said as I turned and left. I stuck the mail in my satchel, and sat in the small gazebo, watching the ocean. I stared at the post office of which I just came from, an old log cabin, one of the first town buildings constructed. Its sides were weathered, and shutters tilted down with gravity. A sign waved back and forth in the wind, ‘ .25 Letters To Mainland,’

I then diverted my gaze to the ocean once again. I stared into the horizon, it was barely noticeable at first, a small white dot, but slowly it grew, and eventually, it settled at the dock. I rose and made my way down to the men unloading, supervising them as they sorted each crate and barrel. One by one, they carried my goods to a wagon and took off towards my manor.

I sighed and began to make my way back to the manor, trailing the wagon. Nothing interesting had been happening on the island, we were in an era of peace, and for some reason, I disliked that. But what those people did in that cottage, I felt something was right around the corner. I could not let them gain the upper hand, I had to act first, but what the first act would be was beside me.

Once we reached the manor I spotted my children playing in the field to the right. Henry, Jackson, and Benjamin were playing with wooden swords, while Olivia was quietly picking flowers.

“Henry, Jackson, Benjamin, unload these books into the library!” I called out, as the three swiftly ran over. Jackson stared at the load in awe, before complaining.

“All of them?”

I glared at him, before guiding Iron Clad into the stables. The day was still young, so I released him into the grazing area. I made my way into the manor and up the stairs. I stared down as my boys took the crates into the library, and eventually returned outside.

I listened, making sure no one was watching, before turning around to the portrait of me. I felt against the right side of the frame til’ it deviated. I pushed it away, revealing a small handle. I pulled it forward, and the painting swung inwards. I stepped up and into the room, before pushing the painting shut.

The room was filled with novelties of the legend of the Beast of Grandiosia Isle, something I considered a myth. I made my way to the corner of the room, staring at tapestries made by the natives of the island. Glancing behind me, I viewed the stained glass portrait of a familiar skull, with an ever so familiar symbol across its forehead.

I looked ahead to see three small display cases, papers in each one with native text. Next to a sketch of the beast, a symbol stood. With my knowledge of their language, I recognized the text.

“The beast’s mark,”

I swung my sword at Ben, and he blocked and swung at me.

“Almost gotcha’!” Ben exclaimed as I laughed.

I used the opportunity to strike back, hitting his leg.

“Oh no!” He said, well falling over and holding his leg.

“This is pathetic! How will you ever survive a war?” I mocked.

“The only way you will survive, is if you watch your back, Jack!” Henry said, before striking me with a sword and throwing me aside. I rolled in the grass, laughing.

“Henry, that’s not fair, I wasn’t fighting you!” I said, disappointed at my performance.

“You never know when someone is going to strike from behind or sneak up on ya!” Henry explained.

“I know I-” I went silent as a call rang through the island, loud and high-pitched.

“Run! It’s the monster!” Ben said playfully, as we began running toward the manor. I was second to last, playfully closing the white double doors.

“No!” Olivia squealed as she was almost shut out.

“Phew, that was a close one!” Henry said.

“You almost killed me, Jack!” Olivia complained before kicking my leg.

“Full names, children,” Father said, as he stared down at us from the landing.

“Yes Father,” We all said in unison, as he continued up the stairs.

“Hey follow me, I found something secret in the library,” Henry said.

“Father doesn’t like it when we go in there, it’s his space,” I responded.

“If you go in there, I’m telling,” Olivia stated.

Henry walked towards her, before responding. “And if you do, I’ll lock you outside when the monsters close,”

She stared in terror, before rushing into the living room without another word.

“Come on y’all, it’s so cool!” Henry exclaimed.

“But what if we get in trouble?” I squealed.

“Don’t be such a namby-pamby!” Ben mocked.

“Okay… Let’s go,” I said as we walked the short distance to the library.

“Ladies first,” Henry said, opening the door.

“Shut up, Henry,” I remarked, walking through the door. He laughed behind me, before coming through to guide the way. We walked through the library, now filled sparingly with books, more would be required to fill the shelves.

“Watch,” Henry said, before walking to a small shelf that was filled with books, more than the others. He began pulling at a book, struggling before it pulled outwards, and something clicked. He then rolled the shelf to the side, and to my awe a staircase was visible.

“Is this why Father did not want us to view the construction?” Ben suggested.

“Maybe, but imagine how much other shit he has hidden,” Henry replied.

“Hey! We aren’t supposed to use those words,” I complained.

“I know, but it makes me sound cool,” Henry stated.

As we finished the descent, I stared to the left to see a long hallway.

“Where does that go?” I questioned.

“Eh, it just leads outside, in a small valley,” Henry explained, then continued, “But this is the cool part, look at that door,”

It was metal, with a circular handle. I viewed the lock, it had a large R crowning it.

“Henry we can’t open that, this needs Father’s key,” I stated.

Henry smiled, “Yeah, but I found his spare.” As he pulled out an identical key to the one hung around Father’s neck.

I stared in awe as he inserted the key, twisting it with both hands as loud noises were emitted from the inside of the door. He then twisted the metal handle, pushing it open.

“Now look at this,” He said, as he motioned in.

The room was elegant, not like the usual basement sections of the manor. Multiple shelves lined the walls.

“Whoa,” I said, astonished. Each shelf was filled with stacks of American currency and gold bars.

“This is where we keep the lump sum of our wealth,” Henry stated.

“Can I take some?” Ben asked.

“No, most definitely not. He keeps track, trust me. I don’t want anyone getting lynched because of your actions,” Henry stated while side-eyeing Ben.

“What’s this,” I asked, approaching greenish metal machinery.

“Not sure, all I know is that it looks older than the house,” Henry explained.

The thing had some sort of display, with controls underneath. Dead foliage filled cracks in it as if it had been exposed to the outside world, and the house was built upon it. “Remote control, Active L-1” Was engraved into the top of the display. I was lost in my thoughts before getting interrupted by a faint bell.

“That’s dinner!” Ben exclaimed as he rushed out of the room.

“Go, Jack, I’ll get the doors closed!” Henry said as I turned and ran out of the room. I ran up the stairs and left the library. Henry and Father were talking, before he glared at me.

“What were the two of you doing in the library?” He questioned.

“We were just looking at the new books, right Benjamin?” I lied as he nodded.

“You simply can not go in there without supervision,” He said sternly, before turning around and heading to the kitchen. I heard the door swing open behind me, as a hand was placed on my shoulder.

“I waited til’ he left, good job covering for us,” Henry voiced as he walked towards the dining room.

“Let’s go eat, I heard we are having apple pie for dessert,” Ben said, and with that, we made our way to the dining room.

Classical music was already playing as we took our seats. One after another, they brought out the platters. Steak with a serving of apple pie. I picked up the fork and began to poke at my pie.

“That’s for dessert, eat the steak first, the pie will taste better afterward,” Father stated.

After eating, I sat as Father slowly ate his food, counting the seconds til’ he was finished and excused us. When he did, we all exited the table, I slid the door open for my siblings and slid it closed behind me as Father began to talk to Mother.

“Do you know anything else?” I questioned Henry.

“No, but you know that terribly loud squealing that can be heard in the night? I think the entire guest room is actually a lift, I just can’t find what controls it.” He stated as we made ourselves up the stairs.

“I wanna wash myself first!” Olivia squealed.

“Nope! All you did was sit in the grass, Ben and I actually did hard activities!” I said as I pushed past her, and ran to the bathroom, closing it behind her. She banged on the door as Henry and Ben laughed.

I raised my binoculars, examining every inch of the swamp entrances and the Native village. A group of lights, torches, or lanterns I presume, were hiking out of the swamp in a line.

“They’re up to something, I have to send this in,” I muttered, as I ran for my desk.

Thinking for a moment, I began inputting my message into the telegram system.

“Natives leaving village, at least ten, high alert”

No message back was given, but I had done my job. I felt a weight shift in the tower, and the hairs on my neck began rising, as something very large began climbing. I could hear it breathing from all the way up here, its raspy breath as it took another step, then another, then another.

I opened my eyes whilst I took a deep breath. I rose from my bed, rubbing my face. My feet touched the cold hardwood as I rose, staring at the portrait of me on the fireplace.

I walked around, glancing at Grace as I left the room. The moonlight came through the windows and door as I walked down the hall, stopping at the railing and glancing downwards at the grand staircase. The house was silent as I walked down the side hall, taking a left into the guest room.

I closed the door, locking it, and felt along the doorframe until my finger grazed a raised portion. I pushed it in and then up, revealing a switch mechanism. I turned it, and the machinery churned to life. With gravity, the compartment fell closed, as the room was lifted upwards, it was smooth, as wheels guided the room on rails.

It reached a halt and I stepped out, turning right. I made my way through the tight vines and center console, glancing upwards at the open night sky through the Observatory dome. I made my way to a set of machinery made by me, it hummed slightly and I examined the vial it produced. It was bright orange, and I removed it from the slot it was held in. I tucked it in my pocket, before walking the staircase and sitting on a couch.

I gazed into the night sky as the stars glinted above, I sat there for a moment, watching, before making my way to the large telescope in the center of the second floor.

The second story of the Observatory was an outline of a circle against the walls, with a center portion leading to a platform in the middle. Underneath were various equipment and desks used to control the telescope and synthesize various drugs.

I peeked through the peephole, it had been tracking the moon for a few days now. I gazed at the spots on its surface, to think this sphere in the sky was 250,000 miles away amazed me, and that the thousands of flaming stars were millions of miles. It was the one thing that kept me coming back, the one thing that kept me in awe.

I opened my eyes and rose out of bed. I could tell the sun had not risen yet, and snuck down off the top bunk, careful not to wake my brothers. I exited the bedroom, taking a sharp left and exiting onto the porch extension, walking to the balcony.

“Hell, Father,” I said as he glared at me, before questioning.

“You kids usually sleep in, what’s got you up so early?”

“I wake up when I wake up,” I stated, and we watched the sun peek over the horizon.

“Father, when is Edward coming home?” I questioned, weary for my older brother.

“Henry, to be blunt, I’ve seen a lot of war on this island. It’s bloody, no one is safe. They murdered my brothers, and sister, stringing them up in the tree line. If he comes back, I doubt it will be in one piece,” Father explained, grimacing at the mention of his family.

“Oh, I see,” I said somberly.

A chill breeze with the slight scent of something rotting accompanied by an animal call passed through as the sunlight began baking the island in orange.

“What do you think that is?” I questioned, genuinely interested.

“Most likely a deer, but it’s very loud. I hear it almost every morning, it’s calming,” He responded.

“Not to me,” I replied.

“Well,” He said, grunting, “I have to go meet Mister Hawthorne before he starts without me,” He said, as he began to walk away.

“Father, why do we treat the blacks so poorly? They’re people too,” I questioned, facing away.

I felt his gaze upon me, as he struggled to find the words. “Well, I uh. We’re just, we’re just better than them. Do not bring this conversation up again, ever,” He stated sternly, leaving the porch.

After some time, I watched him head to the stables from the balcony. A warm breeze ran through the air as he led his steed out of the horse compound, before mounting him and riding down the oak path. The gold tobacco plants glistened under the golden rays of the sun. They swayed and rustled in the sea breeze, singing to the island.

Sun filtered into the room as I opened my eyes, I rose and yawned. I got out of bed and looked at the bunks to see Henry missing, but Ben’s silhouette lying behind the curtains. I got out of bed, exiting the room taking a left, and peeking outside to see Henry leaning over the banister. I opened the door, closing the gap to meet him.

“How long have you been up, Henry?” I questioned, staring at him. He glanced at me, before turning back to face the fields.

“Look at them, led out to work. Gunned men on horseback, forcing their labor. Does that seem right to you?” Henry questioned.

“Well… Henry, without their work, we wouldn’t have all this. Father says we are better than them, something about the bones. We are more fit to survive I think?” I said, attempting to explain.

“I know he says that it just… Doesn’t seem right. They think like us, act like us, what’s the difference?” He asked.

“They’re black?” I stated.

Henry sighed as a wave of sea breeze passed through. Henry jerked his head, observing something, I followed his gaze.

“Oh shit, that one’s running,” Henry said, as we witnessed a man beginning to run. He darted through the tobacco fields as a man on a horse raised a rifle. The man fell, and a puff of smoke came out of the barrel. Moments later a gunshot rang through. I could see Father approaching on his horse, before dismounting. He touched the man before speaking to another.

Father picked up the man and laid him upon the back of the other man’s steed. He talked a bit more and handed him something small before the other rode off. We watched as he diverted off the path, and disappeared into the trees.

“Does that seem right to you? Murdering a man who wanted to be free? What if the English did that?” Henry said, and I was starting to see his view.

“I don’t think that’s right,” I said, a lump forming in my neck “But still, without their work, we would not have this new house, this island to ourselves. The wealth in the basement!” I exclaimed.

“You tell anyone this, I’ll kill you, but I hope the north wins the war,” He stated whilst storming off, and I gazed back into the field, Father was heading off back onto the path, soon taking a left into town.

I hitched my horse on the station, and made my way up the cottages, examining each one. I spotted a familiar symbol on the one to my right and worriedly peeked through a window. A man was preparing breakfast, and I sighed in relief. After my rounds, I made my way to the Sheriff’s office, greeting Sherrif Clayton and gazing at the countless posters of Native men and women.

“Any more mishaps?” I questioned.

“Not now, but the watchman hasn’t telegramed us in two days, which is not what he usually does. It’s about three times a day, and once a day he’ll send a signal that he’s a-ok,” Clayton explained, leaning into his chair, and taking a sip of his coffee. “Was gonna head up there; or send one of the boys. Why don’t you go greet him personally? He looks up to you,” He finished.

I sighed, “Sure, why not? I could use something to do today. I’d rather not supervise the slaves or lounge around.” I said, exiting the office.

I walked down the pathway, gazing at the men loading my vessel up with cargo, soon to depart. A lump sum would be made in a few days, upon the selling of my products. I made my way to the bank, swiftly dropping off this week’s payroll before heading back to the hitching area. I mounted Iron Clad and began riding down the beaten path.

Along my way, I noticed the telegram line was snapped by a fallen tree. Checking for foul play, I gazed at the base. It appeared natural, and I noted internally to send a team out to fix it. Iron Clad stepped over the small tree as we continued to make our way down the path. With time, I began making my way up the winding trail up Obsidian Ridge.

I was shocked to see the gate that secured the cave entrance that led up the final stretch to the top of the ridge bent inwards, allowing something to enter. Along the cave wall, an ever so familiar symbol was etched into the stone. As I dismounted, my hand felt the familiar grip of my revolver, The Sentinel.

“Jack, check this out,” I said, as I grabbed his shoulder, he was sitting on the living room sofa, he was reading a book.

“What is it, Henry?” He questioned.

“I found a way into the observatory!”

He jumped up, “How!” As I motioned him to follow me. I guided him to a hallway, where I lifted a wall panel.

“Whoa!” He exclaimed as I revealed a dumbwaiter.

“Okay, you climb in, I’ll lift you, you get out, then you lift me!” I exclaimed.

“Okay!” Jack said as he crawled inside the tight space.

I began hoisting it up before it came to a stop.

“I’m up!” I heard faintly, as I began hoisting it downwards. I crawled inside, it was tight fit, and I shut the cover.

“Okay, lift me up, Jack!” I said, and slowly, I was hoisted up. I crawled out and was instantly in awe.

“Wow! Look at this!” I exclaimed, staring at the room. We surveyed the room, pointing out various things.

“Look at this,” I said, pointing at a small console. Various keys with letters were strewn about, I pushed one, and something snapped onto the paper quickly, leaving an ink letter.

“Wow!” Jack exclaimed, before gazing left, “Is that a camera?” Pointing at a small box on a stand.

“Look at it! This is where he keeps it!” I exclaimed as Jack walked over to touch it.

“No Jack, don’t touch anything!” I exclaimed, holding him back. “What if he finds out we were out here, it’s a trip to the gallows!” I teased.

“Oh no!” Jack said as he grabbed at his neck, mocking me.

“Look at that,” Jack said while pointing out a hunk of brass machinery.

“I’m serious though, don’t touch anything,” I said sternly.

“Like you did that?” As he pointed to the bit of machinery I previously pushed.

“I do what I want, you’re my slave,” I teased.

“Oh please, Henry! I thought you were against that,” He mocked.

I heard a bell from downstairs, breakfast. Rain peppered from the dome above us, as we hurried to the dumbwaiter.

“I wonder if Father will eat breakfast with us,” Jackson pondered.

“Ah, he’s more of a dinner person,” I joked.

I slowly made my way up the stone stairs, my ears focused not on the water rushing down the drainage, but on any signs of movement. I had fully unholstered The Sentinel, and the hammer had been cocked back. When I emerged from the cave, rain began peppering my hat. I breathed in the fresh air, but the scent of death enveloped me. I examined the tower, all seemed normal, but no man could have bent that iron gate in.

I began to ascend the tower steps, stopping periodically to listen. The rain did not help me, or perhaps it did, perhaps it covered my noise, my scent. Nevertheless, I continued, and with time, I had made it up. I glanced at the swamp, staring at the Native’s village. I tried to glance inside, but the shudders of the tower windows had been closed and locked.

I fully made my way around the entire balcony, before pushing the door open. Blood filled my lungs, and my eyes widened. There were no recognizable remains of a man. Chunks of flesh were strewn about, bones as well. It dripped, the walls, the roof, all dripped, stained with blood. My Breathing was fast, as I backed out of the room.

I had never seen such savagery before, it took me aback. The Natives did this to blind my left eye. But I would not only blind their right in return, I would blow a hole in their chest. I turned tail and began to descend the steps, and left. It was cold in the room, and the stench of death–even outside, was still strong. I felt eyes on me as I entered the mouth of the cave once again, but I had long ago learned to ignore that feeling.

I was launched into Wilson Creek, my ears ringing. Covered in mud, half submerged in water, I struggled to get up. I heard shouting, as more gunfire ensued. I crawled under the destroyed wooden bridge, concealing myself behind the pillar. More artillery fire ensued as dirt was blown towards me. A man ran down into the creek, facing away. He was a Union soldier, I stared at him, he had not noticed me.

I reached for my knife, pulled it out, and slowly made my way towards him. I latched onto him, driving it into his neck. He pushed me back and I pulled it out. He stared into my eyes, gargling, and I stared into his. I grabbed his rifle and concealed myself in the same spot.

“CHARGE!!!” The voice screamed, coming from my commander, as men began storming down into the creek. Some stopped to fire, some keeled over from a gunshot wound. I joined in and rushed forward.

They were retreating, and we chased. I began firing, hitting multiple men. I chased one down and held him at gunpoint. I recognized his uniform, he was a general. I grabbed my rifle and struck him in the side of his head. I began tying his hands together, as I exclaimed “I captured a General!”

Iron Clad halted, sliding in the gravel. Quickly I hitched him and rushed to the Sheriff’s Office. I pushed the door open, a break from the rain, I looked crazed, my eyes wide and my clothes were soaking wet.

“They murdered him! They murdered Ellis!” I exclaimed, Clayton tensed.

“What?” He responded, his tone serious.

“Blood was everywhere, no recognizable body!” I said, slamming my fists down on his desk. “Gather the fucking posse, we have a score to settle,”

We sat at the dining room table in silence, I stared at Jack, Ben, and Olivia.

“Well, he’s not coming for lunch,” Mother said, before opening her platter. We all did the same.

The meal was delicious as always, sandwiches with potato chips seasoned with Salt and Vinegar and fresh fruit.

Midway through, Mother interrupted. “You may be excused whenever,” She said, before continuing eating.

“Is Eddie going to die?” Jackson questioned,

“No Honey, he will come back just fine, I promise,” She said, her voice soft and assuring.

I got up, covered my dish, and left for my room. I stared at the portrait of my father, the light, showcased a small deviation in the frame. I examined it with curiosity, placing my palm on it. I pushed it to the right, and a small compartment opened up, with a lever. I heard one of my siblings excusing themselves, so I closed it, ready to see what secrets lie behind sometime later.

I guided Iron Clad to face my men and stared them down. We had 12 men on horseback, 2 in carriages. One having a cannon, the other a cage cart.

“We give ’em hell, they’ve been testing our limits way too long. As aforementioned, the payment will be One-Hundred-Dollars, triple to your family if you are to lose your life, double if you sustain a substantial injury,”

I turned my horse, facing the path ahead. The rain poured down upon me, soaking me to the bone.

“Capture if you can, we aren’t to wipe them out, just teach them a lesson,”

I reared my horse, and the others did the same.

“YAH!” I said, and my men followed suit.

I kicked his side, and he yelped. I grabbed my blade, and dug it into his hand, making him cry.

“Just give me what I want, it will all be over,” I said, staring at the man who once portrayed himself as strong.

I turned him around, and forcefully opened his eyes, spitting in his face.

“I said fucking TALK!” I said as I stepped on his hand, leaning down with my blade, and placing it on his ring finger. He wore a gold ring, and a wave of remorse overcame me, but I brushed it off.

“No–N-Never…” He said, barely able to get it out.

I pressed the blade down with my spare foot, and he screamed. Swiftly I grabbed his neck,  bringing him up and slamming him against the wall. He fell back down, cradling his hand. I held the ring in my hand, caressing it, before stuffing it in my pocket.

I kicked his face hard. Teeth flew out, hitting the wall, as he grabbed his mouth. He spit out blood and tried to rise. I kicked him back down, placing my foot on his back as he struggled to move.

“Come on, Nathan. Give me what I want, and I’ll give you a bullet,” I said, mockingly.

“Pfht,” He started, spitting out blood. “Okay, fine, please just make it end.” He pleaded,

I pulled out a notebook, “Start talking,” I commanded, releasing the pressure off his back.

“General Lee will like this,” Lucas said, glancing down at the whimpering man.

After some time of riding, we reached the entrance to the swamp.

“Leave the cage cart here, but bring the cannon,” I said, as the men on the carriage cart began to unhook their steeds. I climbed up onto some rocks and stared into the distance, just visible; the Native’s village.

“Sir, we’re ready,” A man said from behind me.

“Let’s give em’ hell,” I said, as we began to ride.

As we neared the border of their camp, we heard a few shouts. I heard an arrow whiz by, as I ducked and began to light a fire–bottle.  I threw it, and it landed on one of their boardwalks. It burst into a wave of flames, as I trampled a woman under Iron Clad. Gunshots began to ring out as I gave the order to fire the cannon.

It hit a large brick building in the center of the Village. The building collapsed in on itself, as I heard screams from the inside. In my awe, a Native soldier attempted to fire at me with a rifle, but one of my men shot first, striking him through his shoulder, and dropping him in a matter of seconds.

“First Litenniant Edward Roamer, as General of the Confederate Army, I hereby give you the Award of Excellence in obtaining substantially useful information, and rank you up to Captain Edward Roamer.”

“Thank you, Sir,” I responded, shaking his hand. I then let him pin the medal to my shirt. I stood still and stared straight, as he went down the line, giving each soldier their own little speech.

“As if he didn’t say that to hundreds of other men,” Lucas remarked, laughing.

“You’re just mad you’re a lower rank, I expect a salute every time I enter the room,” I teased.

“Say, why did you join the Confederate Army?” Lucas inquired,

“I uhh… My father owns a plantation, out on an island. I’m fighting for our livelihood,” I replied,

“Ah, I see,” He said, as he straightened his posture.

I raised my rifle, holding my breath before firing. It hit a man with an axe square in the head, and he fell off the boardwalk he stood upon into the mud. I was suddenly yanked off my horse, falling into the mud as a man crawled upon me.

“Why are you doing this, Robert?” He questioned, as he held a knife to my throat, seizing the opportunity, I grabbed his hand and raised the knife to his neck, slicing. The job was not over, it was merely a flesh wound. Using the shock, I grabbed the knife fully and dug it deep into his neck. He fell to my side, gargling and writing in pain as I stared in his eyes.

I raised to my feet, and immediately dodged a flying buttstock, plunging the knife into the man’s stomach, before twisting and pulling out. I pushed him to the ground as he squealed in agony. I gripped my side, a sting where I had hit the ground first, and looked to Iron Clad. He was frightened, and I examined the battlefield.

Tents and huts were on fire, and men and women were slaughtered in the street. One thing had yet to click until this point, he said ‘Why are you doing this?’. We had done enough damage, and I mounted my steed.

“THAT’S ENOUGH BOYS!” I shouted as the men immediately stopped,

“Ride out!” I exclaimed, as I turned my steed and began trekking through the swamp.

As we rode back, I thought to myself, did they truly attack first; or had I just been wanting a war? Because after that, I was most definitely getting one.

“You’ll have your payroll as well as the usual amount in your box this Saturday,” I explained as we continued to ride.

“Why didn’t we finish the job?” A man said as the ever-so-familiar howl rang throughout the night.

“I don’t know,” I said, glaring at the cage cart carrying multiple somber individuals.

“Take that wagon to Mister Hawthorne, tell him to take them to the Mountain,” I said, as I broke off from the group, heading back to the manor.

I was sitting in the living room, reading when I heard him come in. I turned around and stared at him, he was filthy.

“Oh my! You need to wash yourself, Robert!” Mother exclaimed, storming over.

“I know, Grace. Not one second in this damn house, and you are already on my ass,” He said, glancing at me as he made his way to his bathroom.

“Dinners soon Robert, finish up quick!” Mother exclaimed as she stormed upstairs after him.

I sighed and put the book on the coffee table. Getting up and leaving the living room and making my way to the kitchen. I glanced to my left, spotting a small wood stick behind the pillar. I walked towards it and touched it. It slightly moved with my touch, and with my hand, I fully pressed it down.

Two panels slid open, revealing a set of various guns, cash, and gold.

“You found one,” Henry said, approaching from behind.

“Yeah, I guess,” I replied.

“That’s just some silly stuff, I have something cool to show you,”

“Alright,” I said, pulling the lever back up causing the panels to slide back.

Henry guided me out of the kitchen and up the stairs. He began examining the frame, soon pushing a little slot open and pulling a lever. To my awe, the painting itself swung inwards. Peeking from the new doorway was a stained glass portrait of some creature.

“What is this place?” I questioned.

“That glass is visible from outside,” Henry said, and I walked over, clasping my hands to the glass and my face, seeing a faintly visible outside view.

“It’s the monster, maybe it’s real,” Henry suggested.

“You think?” I said as I examined more artwork of this thing.

“It’s like a room, dedicated to it,” Henry started, “There’s no way all this is just for a legend,” He finished, I walked up to him, and followed his gaze to a broken flintlock pistol that sat in a center display case. The barrel appeared to have exploded, most likely from improper use.

I heard faint muffling from outside, and Henry motioned me out. We closed the secret door with seconds to spare and casually began making our way down. Our parents were laughing, and upon hearing the dinner bell, we diverted our path to the dining room.

We ate with music, per usual. A basic soup with fresh bread, no dessert. But Father and Mother were chatting during dinner, something new. I wasn’t paying attention to their conversation, but Father took Mother away to the ballroom and turned on the music in there.

My siblings and I looked at each other, I gazed at their unfinished meals. I exited the dining room, sneaking up and peeking into the ball room. They danced with each other, laughing. One step after another, the music played and they moved fluently with it. I did not know my parents could dance. I made my way back and had a seat.

“Where’s Olivia?” I questioned, only now noticing the fact she was not present at dinner.

“Last I saw she was in the meadow,” Ben said.

“She probably just wasn’t hungry, maybe ill,” Henry stated.

“Mother and Father are acting different, how long will this last?” I questioned, a sense of unease by their newfound connection.

“Not long I assume,” Henry suggested.

“Then why should we not enjoy it while we can?” I suggested.

I stared into the night sky, and we sat around the bonfire, sharing a bottle.

“Eddie, here,” William said, as he coughed violently into his shirt.

“You okay?” I said, taking a swig.

“Eh, I’ve had it for a while.” He clarified.

“Let’s hope it’s not contagious,” I teased.

I continued cleaning my revolver when finished, I reattached the parts, and began to load it.

William was sharpening his knife, and Lucas was cleaning his rife. We all were tending to ourselves, caught in our own little worlds, our own little experiences.

“Let’s hope we don’t run into any Union patrols,” I said.

“I’d quite enjoy to get to Virginia in one piece,” William said.

“You aren’t in one piece to begin with,” Lucas said, laughing.

At this time, I thought back on my family and what they must be up to. I thought of the new manor, Jack, Olivia, Ben, and Henry. If they were okay if they had fallen ill. I worried for them, I missed them, I yearned for them, to be with my family again, back on that sandy hellhole is what I wanted.

I woke up, sunlight filtered through the windows, and I got out of bed, kissing Grace on the cheek as I prepared myself for the day.  I readied myself and made my way to the balcony. It was dark, and only a slight orange had appeared on the coastline. The sea breeze was strong, it was cold, very cold. I smelt a whiff of something rotting, but it soon left with the wind.

The golden rays of the sun covered the island, and I heard the ever-so-familiar call, something I had expected now. This time though, it was close, so close I attempted to scan the forest line to catch a glimpse. When I saw fit, and when my cup went empty, I left and prepared myself to meet Hawthorne. I mounted Iron Clad and began riding down the path, when something caught his leg, and rolled.

He neighed as he sidestepped, and I looked down to see something strange. I dismounted Iron Clad and nudged the object, it was hairy. I rolled it over with my boot, and to my shock, I recognized the face of Olivia. I took a step back and covered my mouth. Behind a tree, I saw a hanging body in a white bloodied dress.

“Shit,” I said, my grief replaced with anger for whoever retaliated in such a vile way.

“SHIT!” I exclaimed, as I turned and kicked a large rock, it rolled down the ditch.

“Shit…” I whimpered, kneeling on one knee.

“Turn it off Edward,” The voice rung out, and I jolted awake. I stared around the dying campfire at my friends, looking into the sky.

I sighed, rubbing my eyes and lying down again. Eversince I left, these people would speak whilst I slept, most of the time I could not remember what they said, but it was clear this time.

“Turn it off?” I mumbled, closing my eyes and falling asleep.

My breath came out heavy as a group of hired militia and I trekked through the jungle in the northwest sector of the island, an area we believed a Native outpost was located.

The area surrounding the swamp was a no man’s land, with traps, scouting parties, and men hidden away in trees. The North–West sector was filled with small mountains, completely jungle in the trekable area.

“Look at that,” A man said to my left, I gazed, viewing a line of sticks with skulls embedded in each one.

“Look out for traps,” I stated as we moved forwards.

I pulled out my map, surveying, as my men waited patiently, taking up a defensive stance. I soon realized we were half a mile out from the crossing point.

“A bit further!” I exclaimed as we began to trek forward.

I stared up at the backside of the mountain rage I had become ever so accustomed to gazing from the opposite side I was in now. It loomed over me, visible only through small gaps in the canopy.

I heard a meaty thud next to me, followed by gargling. We all turned as we watched him drop to the ground, an arrow in his neck.

“SHIT GET DOWN!” I exclaimed as I ducked behind a fallen log.

With the silent shot finished, gunfire from the opposite side ensued. I heard a few men go down, as I peeked to return fire. It was almost as if they were invisible–they were hidden perfectly within the undergrowth. I fired where I heard shots, and my men did the same.

“RETREAT,” I exclaimed, as I began to crawl down a small ditch. I was soaked with mud, but no one came running by, and no one retreated, they were all gone.

I began sprinting, having to make it away, I heard a horse behind me, galloping. I twisted myself, turning over and landing on my back, firing at the rider. He yelped as I barely rolled out of the way of the horse’s path. His body fell on me, and I shoved him off. More gunfire pursued from behind me, as I watched the horse slow down.

“C’mere boy!” I exclaimed as I went to mount it.

We began to ride, but I was not used to riding in the jungle. He tried his best, but he caught his leg in a hole, I heard a snap, before getting flung off, hitting my head on something hard.

I groaned in pain, rolling over before crawling inside an old hollow log. More riders drove by me, their horses stepping on the log, almost breaking through and crushing my face. In the distance, I heard them speak in their language–I believe they said they lost me.

I heard them ride back, examining the area as I held my breath. They rode around, speaking to each other sternly, what I mostly made out was my name. One walked closer to the horse and ended its suffering. They rode away, and I waited.

I laid there in the hollow log, holding my head until night when I finally crawled out. I began making my way through the almost completely dark jungle. I stepped through mud, water, and eventually sand.

I emerged onto a beach. The waves were calm, and a smaller island stood in front of me, comprised of mostly mountains. I glanced left at the tallest peak, the all too familiar glare from above staring down at me. I spotted a structure sticking out from the natural terrain.

I began to approach it, an old ruin. All that remained was the stone, thick vines covering it. The jungle had fully taken over, incorporating it. I crawled inside, and lay there, waiting. I heard faint talking in the distance and I tensed up. I concealed myself in thick vines, as a search party slowly rode by, lanterns in hand.

They spoke my name, they were searching for me, they knew I was here. One dismounted and entered the ruins, examining them. I was hidden by the vines., and he soon exited the building, speaking to the others before mounting his horse and continuing the patrol.

I waited a while, before getting up. I continued down the shoreline, walking on the cold sandy beach. The waves began to crash as I moved past the area sheltered by the center island.

I heard a whistle and tensed. I stood there like a rabbit caught in a snare. I stared into the tree line, as I heard laughter from the jungle. I began to run before something was flung around my legs, it snared them and I fell into the sand.

The two men surrounded me, whilst one gave a call into the night. Multiple others called out in celebration before a different call rang out. Everyone went silent, as the young man stared at the older one.

“Tala’ikto,” He muttered, before continuing in their language.

They restrained me, and I was blindfolded and placed on horseback. I lay there, helpless, as we began to climb a steep incline. It felt like hours, and I was lost in my thoughts of how I could escape before I was abruptly pushed off the horse, hitting the ground. Two men lifted me, as another laughed.

I smelt it before I saw it, and did not want to get any closer. It was as if something had been rotting for years, and unfortunately, I was right. My blindfold was ripped off as whom I presume to be their leader unlocked the gate, swinging it open.

“You’re a bad man, Robert Roamer.” He mocked, and I caught a glimpse into the pit. Blood was on the walls, and I could see forms below.

“The fuck is this?!” I exclaimed.

“Your punishment, for what you’ve done to us, and the shit you did on the mountain,” He stated, as the memories flew back. I blocked them out, not allowing them to return.

“Let’s end this, throw him in,” He ordered as I was cast into the pit.

I hit the ground as the smell got worse. The floor was cold and dry. I opened my eyes, which had briefly flashed white, and stared into the empty eye sockets of a man who had suffered the same fate. I crawled myself into a corner that wasn’t covered in shit or bones and sat there.

“I’ll be back in a week, Robert. Let’s see if you’re still alive then,” He said, laughing.

I examined my surroundings, three men stared back, their thin forms blending in with the skeletal deceased ones who lay next to them. The man in the middle of the pit was just a torso head, his arms and legs had been ripped off.

I stared at them, as they rose, ready to hunt their new meal. I did the same and grabbed a large femur off the floor.

The first one swung at me with a large bone like myself, except this one was bloodied and sharpened at both points into a makeshift war hammer. I ducked, sidestepped, and swung, hitting him in the head. He collapsed as the vibration reverberated through my arms.

Another came from the side, he pushed me to the wall, attempting to drive a small bone–blade into my neck. We struggled, as the third tended to his friend, who laid in a small pool of fresh blood under his head. I gained leverage and slammed him into the wall, stunning him. With the opportunity, I pungled the knife into his neck, and blood sprayed onto my face. As he fell he attempted to grab the wall, leaving bloody hand prints.

He gurgled and grabbed at his throat, staring into my eyes. The third, noticing it was just me and him left, approached with another large bone. I threw the small bone–knife at him. It hit him, pathetically knocking off as he touched where it hit, a small amount of blood peeking out. He laughed, as I grabbed another femur and readied myself.

He charged, and I blocked, his powerful strike cracking my weapon.

“Shit,” I muttered, as he kicked me to the ground. Small droplets of rain began to make their way down, as I crawled backward away from him. He slowly approached, as I threw whatever object was in grabbing distance.

My hands landed on a femur that had been sharpened at the end, and I thrust it forward, plunging it into his stomach. I seized the opportunity as he stared into his wound. I punged it deeper, before pulling it out. He screamed, falling onto his knees, as I flipped the weapon around, and swung it into his jaw, breaking it.

I stared at the pitiful form, turning the weapon around, and putting it against his temple. I looked away as I pressed downwards. With some effort, it pushed through, accompanied by a terrible sound echoing from his head. The first one I attacked began to stir, and I swiftly walked over, grabbing another femur. I hit again, and again, and again, and again until his head was a bloody mass of gore.

I kneeled over, the rain pouring down, and threw up. Returning to my corner, I lay there, looking up at the moon, and the peak that barely peeked at me, watching me with that taunting glare.

“He said he would be back for dinner, we need to do something!” Henry exclaimed.

“I’ll contact Sherrif Clayton in the morning, I’m sure it just took longer than expected,” Mother assured, calming him down.

We continued to eat in complete silence, the lack of music was getting to me. In time, Mother left the table, leaving us three to our own devices.

“We need to do something,” Henry said.

“What do you suggest?” I responded.

“We go out and find him. He didn’t take Iron Clad with him and he likes me, we could ride out and help him!” Henry suggested.

“I’m not coming,” Ben responded.

“I don’t care,” Henry said sternly, before continuing, “Jack, are you coming or not?”

“Well, I guess so,” I said timidly.

He got up, and I followed, covering my plate. We walked out of the kitchen, and I followed him as we headed into the Library.

“Where are we going?” I questioned.

“The storm doors are locked up, we can’t get out that way. I’m sure Mother will hear them opening,” He said as he pulled on a familiar book, sliding the entire bookcase to the left.

“Not sure if you remember, but there is an exit in the vault area,” He said as he waited for me to begin walking down so he could close it. He hesitated, before saying, “I’ll be right back,”

I waited at the open passage and listened to his footsteps echo through the halls. He soon returned with two lanterns and two revolvers. He handed me one of each.

“I barely know how to use this,” I said hesitantly.

“If you never learn, you’re gonna die,” He remarked, as he lit his lantern.

I struggled with it, attempting to figure out how to turn it on. Once I did, I began making my way down the stairs, he slid the passage door closed behind us.

“Let me take the lead,” He said, jogging in front of me.

“Where do we plan to go?” I asked as we walked down the stone passage. It was long and occasionally made some turns.

“The Native’s village,” He said, glancing at me.

Near the middle of the tunnel, it smelt wet, and I spotted an area where a small amount of water over time had eroded part of the brick wall, making it smooth. Upon reaching the end of the tunnel, a rusty iron gate lay locked by chain and lock. He grabbed the lock, examining it, before smirking. He pulled out the key necklace he wore and unlocked it.

“Go through, I need to relock this, imagine how much of a security hazard this could be,” He explained, as he held the door open for me. He swiftly locked the door, tugging on it to make sure it was secure, and we exited the tunnel.

We emerged in a small ravine, smooth rock on each side. Two paths lay in front of us, left and right.

“I think we need to go left,” He said, as we began making our way down one of the two possible paths.

He soon stopped, gazing at a certain area.

“You think we can climb up there?” I questioned.

“No, look at that…” He said in awe. Carved into the rock, a massive insignia. It was elegant, and aged. Obviously made by the Natives some time ago. But just as old, something that baffled me, in the center, carved centuries ago, sat English, Perfect, English.

In the mouth of that cave,

Past the chamber where they all lay,

Up the shaft, as gears they creak,

Is the place where time sleeps,

As history circles, it does not change,

With every cycle, it stays the same,

“What does it mean?” I inquired and attempted to figure out what the carvings meant to represent.

“I’m not sure,” Henry said as he broke from his trance. “Let’s climb up here,” He finished.

We scaled the wall, and I glanced back one final time. We were not far from the stables, so that is where we headed next. We snuck against the back wall, not wanting to be caught.

“Here,” He said, sliding the door to the stables open. When we entered, we were able to untense. No one could see us in here. We walked by multiple stalls with horses too soon to be sold til’ he spotted Iron Clad.

“Hey boy, how are you?” He said as I watched him pet him. Iron Clad obviously had a favorite.

“You wanna go for a ride?” He said as he opened the gate. “Jack, go grab his saddle,” He said as he led Iron Clad out.

I struggled with the heavy saddle before Henry came to help carry it over. Once we finished, he went and got blankets. He laid them upon Iron Clad’s back, and we then lifted the saddle onto Iron Clad. I watched him tighten certain buckles before he was ready.

“Can you help me on? Iron Clad is really big,” I explained.

“Okay,” Henry replied, as he gave me his hand, helping me up top the steed. We rode out the door, heading straight into the jungle.

“Alright men, once the reinforcements arrive in a few days, we can try to take the Union’s position north of here, but we MUST defend Kanawha Valley. Captain Edward, I need you and a group of soldiers to do a scouting of the perimeter-” General Floyd was interrupted by a man sprinting into the building, screaming, “THEY’RE ATTACKING!”

I barely had time to react, before a cannonball flew threw the shack, ripping the roof off. I was knocked to my feet and stayed down til I began to crawl. We were firing upon them, and they were firing upon us. At first, it seemed like we were gaining the upper hand, but once they rolled in more artillery, we soon lost that advantage.

Cannons upon cannons pelted us, men flew in the air, missing limbs. I cowered inside a ditch as they began to charge, with a battle cry, I commanded a retreat with my power.

“RETREAT ACROSS THE GAULEY RIVER!” I screamed as I blew a whistle. We began rushing away from the incoming Union soldiers and crossing the river. They stationed on the hill firing upon is, and I was struck in my leg. The pain rang through my body, it was truly the worst pain I’ve ever felt.

A man rushed towards me, and pointed his gun at me, “I got one of them alive!” He exclaimed as I began to lose consciousness.

The night was silent, besides the constant chirping of crickets. It was eerie, and a fog had begun to set in.  We felt isolated, and the jungle was so dense. The vines that stretched up to the trees appeared to be hundreds of armed men, waiting to strike, and the shadows our lanterns emitted did not help whatsoever.

We turned our heads, hearing something rustling in the brush, a vast difference from the silence we were accustomed to.

“What was that?” I whispered, and Henry turned his head, Iron Clad slowing.

I heard Iron Clad’s beath begin to heavy, as he neighed softly. It then began to walk away, concealed by thick undergrowth, and hidden by the shadows.

“We need to continue moving,” Henry stated, as he made Iron Clad continue his trot forwards.

I had the revolver in my hand, cocked. From the little experience I knew, I had learned to have my finger off the trigger til’ I was ready to fire. My light began to cast a shadow on something engraved into a tree, and I stared in curiosity as it became more illuminated.

“Henry stop, look at that tree,” I said, shifting as Iron Clad came to a halt.

The area of the tree had barked stripped, and an intricate carving within. Similar to the one in the rock, but different in its own way, this time no English lettering. It featured lots of spirals and circles, and I stared in awe.

A loud howl began to echo through the night, as we stared around. It was close, but still far.

“The monster,” I said, as I began to shake.

“Jack… That’s just a story I told you and the others, the Monster isn’t real, it’s just a Legend,” He explained, but I was still off-putted. Why would a simple Legend have an entire room dedicated to it in the manor?

“How sure about that are you?” I questioned.

“I’m sure,” He assured as we continued forward.

It wasn’t long before we came across a gruesome sight, a line of skulls impaled on pikes.

“Shit,” Henry said, glancing at the line. Through the fog, we could see that it continued left and right as far as the mist allowed us.

“Because that’s not a bad omen,” I said.

“We need to continue,” He sternly stated.

It was noticeable he had quickened the paste at which we traveled. I began to feel eyes on me. I could tell it had become colder, and a lack of any sound besides the trotting of Iron Clad’s hooves trotting in the wet mud.

“Is it just me, or has it gotten colder?” I questioned, but Henry continued staring ahead.

“Henry?” I said louder as I began to smell something disgusting

“Don’t… Do not look behind us, don’t let it know we see it,” Henry said, as I tensed up. I took in a breath, immediately regretting it as a foul stench invaded my nostrils.

“What is it?” I questioned.

“It’s the mo-… The Beast of Grandiosia Isle,” He said, continuing his gaze forward.

I began to listen, noticing a set of steps that were slightly different from Iron Clad’s trots. Iron Clad was extremely distressed, but Henry was attempting to keep him calm. I leaned over, staring at Iron Clad’s face. He was terrified.

Henry made sure he could only see forwards, and every time he went to turn his head, Henry would guide it back. It was a terrible feeling having that thing trail behind us, not knowing what it was felt even worse, I just had to catch a glimpse.

I raised the Revolver, it was polished steel. I caught a glimpse of it as it crawled on all fours, imitating the gait of Iron Clad. I quickly lowered the revolver, but as I did, the thing stopped. I felt Henry tense up, and I did the same. Iron Clad came to a stop as well, and we all stood there in a silent standoff.

I raised my Revolver again, watching in the reflection as it stood on two legs, towering over us.

“Henry,” I whispered, “You need to ride, ride very fast,”

Henry began shivering “Hold on tight, don’t fall off,” He said, as he prepared himself. He gave Iron Clad a pat on the neck and screamed “YAH!” as we took off.

Soon after, the thing let out a howl. It was so much worse having it chase us, and I turned around, staring at the beast as it ran on all fours.

“It’s gonna catch us!” I shouted as Henry glanced behind him.

He suddenly made a sharp turn, Iron Clad skidding in the ground and we rode in a different direction. As the beast tried to do the same, it slipped, slamming against a tree. I turned, it had gotten its dark crown of antlers stuck.

“It’s stuck!” I exclaimed triumphantly, but it soon broke out, ripping vines down, and continuing pursuit.

“No, it’s fast Henry, it’s Fast!” I exclaimed as Henry began tapping Iron Clad with his boots.

Suddenly, I turned around, it had begun to slow down. Sunlight was slowly pouring through the trees.

“It’s nocturnal,” I said, “It can’t get us anymore!” I exclaimed as a wave of calmness came over me.

We dipped into the ground, falling downwards into a ditch. The leaves fell as the stick platform collapsed inwards, and I was thrown off Iron Clad, rolling and hitting a tree. I screamed in pain and writhed in the dirt.

Slowly I got up, staring forward and listening to Iron Clad screaming ever so loud. It was terrible to hear such a sound, and I crawled to the edge of the hole. Iron Clad had been impaled by multiple pikes. Henry lay next to him, only one impaled his leg. He stared in shock, his breath heavy.

“Oh shit, shit shit shit, Henry are you okay?!” I exclaimed,as he grabbed the pike and snapped in it half, crawling towards Iron Clad who writhed in pain.

“Iron Clad…” He said, squeezing his eyes shut. Iron Clad was calmed a bit by Henry’s presence, but it was clear he wouldn’t make it. Henry pulled out his revolver and cocked it back. He began to cry, as he put it to Iron Clads head and pulled the trigger.

He wept over Iron Clad’s still body for a long time, and soon we emerged from the pit. He laid himself up against a tree in the darkness and continued to weep.

“I’m sorry Henry, but, he would be glad that we made it out alive,” I said, staring at Henry’s form in the darkness.

I tensed as I heard something growl behind him, Henry turned quickly, screaming as he tried to enter the sunlight. It grabbed him with its jaws, yanking him into the darkness. I cowered in the sunlight as the thing mauled him viciously.

“LET HIM GO PLEASE!” I cried as I placed myself against a tree. It felt like hours as it mauled him, and eventually, it tossed him next to me. I stared at his bloody form, he was barely alive. I heard something akin to a laugh from the beast as it galloped away.

“Henry, please, don’t die…” I cried as he stared at me.

“Don’t worry Jack, I’ll see you soon,” He said, his voice growing weak.

“What do you mean?!” I asked, tears rolling down my face, he placed something cold in my hand, an intricate key.

“Look at it, it’s so beautiful…” He said, gazing into the sky. I fell next to him, trying to see what he was looking at. All I could see was the peak of the mountain, and a strange glare cast off of it.

Three Native men rode up to me, they looked at the scene before them and spoke to each other. I grieved the death of my brother, as they dragged me away. I struggled, but I was taken away from him.

I stared at the body that lay before me, it had begun to rot. The skin was bubbly and a sickly gray. Seven days had passed since I had been cast to this terrible fate, and the hunger was gnawing at me. But alas, I could never bring myself to eat my own kind.

I was weak from starvation and had yet to get used to the smell. I made my way to a skull that was turned upward, rainwater had been collected inside. I drank what was inside, and laid back against the wall.

I screamed, as loud as I could. I screamed to no one, I hit bones against the walls and I carved elegant sketches into the stone.  My eyes toned in to a sound, a sound that grew louder with time, a monotonous sound at the same tempo.

It took time to figure out what it was, with the heat of the sun baking my brain into slush. It was the trotting of a horse, of a steed. It was dry, so very dry. I drank from the skull and listened to the sound. I waited for whoever had come to see me to finish arriving up the mountain.

“It’s been a week, Robert,” He mocked, as he ordered some men behind him in the Native language.

“Are you here to finish me?” I questioned.

“No, I’m sure the starvation can handle that,” He said, finally glancing down at me.

I heard muffled screaming as he began to open the gate. It had to of been an eight-foot climb to escape, and in my weakened state that was something I could never accomplish. A man was tossed in as he screamed. He hit his head upon falling and immediately stopped.

“Well, I guess I’ll be back in another week, enjoy your new friend–he’s a traitor,” He said, beginning to leave, but instead he stopped and turned around, taking a deep breath.

“I do have some news, guess it would be… wrong to keep the information from you,”

“What is it,” I said, my anger trying to take control, but whatever information he wished to provide, I wanted to hear.

“Your boys went out looking for you, Henry and Jackson. The Tala’ikto got to them, it killed Henry, and your steed,” He explained, glaring down.

Anger was replaced by sadness, the loss of another child. How would Grace be taking this?

“And Jackson?” I questioned.

“We took him back to your manor, he’s okay. Our fight is not with your children. They have done nothing wrong,” He said.

“But… You killed my daughter, you killed Olivia! You strung her up at the treeline! That’s why I attacked you!” I said solemnly.

A silence came as he thought about the words I spat out.

“I did no such thing,” He said as he turned tail and walked away.

I thought about what he said as the day began to grow old. It wasn’t them, it wasn’t. It was me who started that war, they didn’t kill her as retaliation. The man began to stir, and I watched him go through the same emotions I went through.

“Not here…” He muttered as he crawled to a corner. It was a Native man, a traitor I presumed from what their leader told me. I watched him as he glanced around, his eyes landing on me.

“So it’s true, you have been cast into the starve pit,” He said in a heavy accent.

“How do we get out of here?” I questioned.

“Do you know how to pick locks?” He said, mockingly.

“Yes,” I responded.

He glanced around our prison, before rebuttling with “With bones?”

I sighed and looked up as I felt a drop of rain hit me.

“Have you eaten yet?” He questioned.

I glanced back down, examining him. To my understanding, cannibalism was deep in their culture. But I presume that’s different when eating rotting meat.

“No, never,”

He tossed a piece of bread and I picked it up, consuming it in a matter of seconds. I ate like a wild animal, but the bread simply made me want more.

“I’ve got a month in here, for murder,” He explained.

“There are sentences?” I asked.

“Yes,” He said, looking at me.

“How long do I have left?” I questioned.

“You have a death sentence,” He said sternly.

He glanced back at me, looking me up and down.

“You know, from the stories, you sounded really bad. But in person, you’re simply a man,” He explained before continuing “What did you do on that mountain?”

August, 1861

“Hold him down,” I said, as two men did so with a young native boy around Jackson’s age.

I inserted a syringe of yellow liquid into his neck, and he immediately went stuff. Soon he began seizing and screaming in agony. I watched as he cried and begged, after around 5 minutes he stopped and rose, rubbing his neck. He spoke in the Native language whist staring at me in horror.

“Did it work?” The man to my left questioned.

“One way to find out,” I said as I raised The Sentinel to his head, he looked in shock, and I fired. The shot rang out, and his head flew back. He went limp, and I stood, staring.

“Another failed experiment, Markus, mark it as failed, Tim, take him to the mouth,” I said as I exited the room. Tim hoisted the boy over his shoulders, and exited the building, taking him to the mouth of a large cage, which was a steep drop. He glared down, before diverting his gaze.

The rain poured down, the rock was slick, and the spot he had placed himself upon was stained with blood. With a push, the boy rolled down some sloped rock, before falling. He hit soft material, and Tim swiftly turned and left. The rain pelted down, for minutes, everything was still, then an arm raised from the pile of decaying bodies. He lifted himself, rubbing his forehead, he gazed in shock at the carnage around him, and wept.

January, 1860

”Mail just came in,” Jason started as we rode next to each other up the mountain. “We have orders for three new sets of teeth,” He explained, as I glanced at the four black men who sat inside the carriage cart.

“What about organs?” I inquired.

“No sir, just teeth,” He said.

We continued up the mountain, leading the men into the aged stone building and an operating room. Three were chained to the wall, one was forcefully placed on an operating chair, bound with leather straps.

“Alright, let’s get this over with,” I said, pulling out a pair of pliers.

I stared at the man, fear-driven into his face. “Please, don’t,” He pleaded to me.

“Oh, you’re going to struggle,” I said while motioning others to hold him down.

I gripped his jaw open and held onto a tooth with the pliers, I ripped it out, and he screamed.

One after another, the teeth were removed, and placed in four containers. I handed the containers to Jason before heading to the washroom. I washed the blood off my hand, glancing at the four men chained to the wall as they held their mouths.

“Throw them in the mouth,” I said, laughing to myself at the irony of that statement.

March, 1861

I sat on Iron Clad, a leader in a pack of wolves.

“Alright boys, capture as many as you can, and take them back to me,”

They all glanced at me

“Men and women, we sterilize, control the population,”

I finished, and we rode forward, straight into a Native patrol.

April, 1856

The men sat, coughing and gagging, their skin bubbling. I watched, noting down their behavior as they writhed in pain.

“Interesting, when can we test this on children?” I asked the scientist to my left, turning the valve off as one man collapsed to the floor.

“No child subjects yet sir, you will have to get some more,” He stated.

“Ah, I can’t afford any more! Unless…” I trailed off, thinking about the Natives’ vulnerability.

“I’ll gather up a posse,” I said, walking out of the room.

January, 1861

His arm came off and fell to the floor, a bloody puddle forming.

“Hand me the prosthetic,” I said, reaching out my hand.

I began connecting it to his arm, veins, and ligaments. When finished, I shook him awake.

“Wake up, what do you see?” I asked him.

Through a robotic and teary voice, he said “I see all of them,”

October, 1860

“Look at that,” I said in awe, an arm had begun to sprout from his side. It was small, but still an amazing and awe-inspiring mutation.

“Imagine what we could accomplish if we could control where and what sprouted,” The scientist said next to me.

“Exactly! The benefits for mankind, and the profits! How does One Hundred Dollars for a regrown arm after amputation sound?” I said.

“I would buy it!” He replied cheerfully.

“We need to consider advanced prosthetics, perhaps vision and vocal improvements,” I stated, leaving the room.

He stared at me, my explanation done. Disgust was in his eyes, accompanied by pure hatred.

“You’re evil,” He said, glaring at me.

“I did what I did for my family, my LEGACY. For the betterment of mankind! Imagine if you lost a limb, and you could simply PAY to have it regrown. Imagine the benefits!”

“You deserve to be here,” He muttered, glaring at me. The rain had begun to pour down now.

I raised myself, picking up a bloodied femur. He did the same, picking up a femur himself.

“You tortured people for fun, not the betterment of people!” He exclaimed, charging at me. I dodged him, striking him in his back.

“I have no reason to state my case to the likes of you,” I exclaimed, dodging his next strike.

I laughed at him as he attempted to strike again and again. I brought my tool down upon his head, and he fell. With one more strike, he was dead. I laid back against the wall, as another wave of hunger passed through.

I thought for a while, before picking up a bone knife and cutting a chuck of meat from him. It wasn’t easy, but soon I held a chunk of flesh. I stared at it, I stared for a long time. Weighing my options. A death sentence he said.

I threw it down, and it the floor with a wet thud. I backed further into the corner of the stone prison. I would never consume the flesh of another man, even if it meant death in here.

“Robert,” the voice called out, I scanned the pit.

“Robert,” It said again.

“Who’s there?” I questioned, examining each skeletal figure on the walls.

A figure rose, skeletal and staring at me with empty sockets.

“You need to eat, don’t let your legacy die with you,”

My eyes were wide as another rose, and another, and another.

“Eat it,” They said in unison.

“NO! I won’t!” I exclaimed, staring upwards at the metal gate. It was open, I ran and jumped. My fingers barely were able to grasp the edge, and I pulled myself up.

I heard an eruption of wailing from the pit as I limped away from the entrance. I viewed my surroundings, where the sun was rising and setting so fast the sky was flashing light and dark. I was on a mountain, it was surrounded by other far taller mountains. I spotted a glimpse of the peak, the glare I was accustomed to was so bright, so very bright.

The hairs stood up on my back as I turned around, viewing the beast. It stared at me, tensing, and I did the same. It let out a howl as it pounced on me, locking its jaws around my neck. It ripped out, and I felt something missing, but I was still alive.

I was on a cold concrete floor, and I rose, exiting the hallway I was in. Desks were strewn about, and equipment I was familiar with being in the observatory was here as well. It was some sort of laboratory, but everything was ever so old. Sunlight poured into the cylindrical room, a window on the entire wall.

I glanced back, I had come from the core, where an elevator shaft sat. I turned my head, and my eyes unfocused around a strange control panel. I felt a need to progress, to turn it off. Something was humming from it, and it made my ears bleed.

I pushed forward, and with each painful step, I grew thinner. With time, my legs became useless, and I crawled towards it, chunks of flesh falling off and hitting the floor. When I got closer, it all became clear. Why it was there, why I was here, and what was to come.

I had clarity about the situation, and a wave of peace washed over me. I knew I did not need to turn it off, for it watched over us with love. I had been here before, and I knew what I had done. My time had come, and my breaths grew shallow.

I stared at the island down below through the window. I thought of my family, my legacy, and everything I had strived and failed to become. I thought of the manor, my Father and Mother, brothers and sisters. Friends, the town I strived to build.

I shed a single tear, but I was content in my fate, I knew I would return, I would not be gone forever. And so I closed my eyes.

Act Three, The Loop

July, 1875

I opened my eyes, and I gazed down a large hallway. I looked behind me, small amounts of light filtered through the entrance that was hidden by rubble and foliage. I was standing up, and I was unsure of where I currently was.

Looking down the hall once again, I saw it. Despite the condition of the hall, trimmed by a darker concrete color, papers strewn about, and parts of it caving in. The hallway was obviously abandoned, but at the end, a button was glowing yellow. An elevator waited for me, its gentle hum calling to me.

I proceeded forward, glancing at open doorways. Each room was hidden in shadows, some having the ceiling caved in. From what it appeared, this place could be hundreds upon hundreds of years old, but the architecture looked far too modern.

Upon reaching the end, I stepped into the shaft. It creaked under my weight, and I pressed the button. I began ascending, and ascending. It took time, a lot of time, with no floors in between, just two. The elevator creaked to a halt, and the doors slid open. I stepped out into a circular room with a window against the entire wall.

I viewed the entire island, and from what I observed, I was up top the peak. Two bodies laid in front of me, skeletal, dead centuries ago. Their tattered clothing was not from the age from when they should have perished, instead both mirrored my own clothing. I leaned down, they each wore my pair of glasses, and around their necks, a familiar key sat, long ago rusted and unusable.

I stared forward, the morning sun’s golden rays filtering through the window. I watched the sunrise for some time, looking at the island in awe. My eyes unfocused when I glanced at something sitting against the window. I began to walk towards it with curiosity, but when I was almost close enough to see, I opened my eyes.

I groaned, turning to my side. The room was filled with the sun’s white light, and I sat on the bed, looking upwards at the painting of Grandiosia Isle, under the stars. I rubbed my face, caressing my beard, and rubbing the spot where only a stubble grew under my nose.

I put on my clothes, taking time with my boots to get them just right, and made my way to the bathroom. I splashed my face with cold water, rubbing it in, and put on my glasses. The fuzzy vision became clear, everything turned detailed as I cracked my neck and made my way down to the kitchen. I took my seat and waited.

“Tonight’s the night,” He said, walking up to me.

I stirred from my position watching the sun, taking in a deep breath, and rubbing my face.

“Yes, we will make it quick,” I responded, pinching my nose in response to an itch.

“I know how long you’ve waited for permission from the Elders and the Cheif,” He stated, taking a seat next to me.

The wind blew through my long brown hair as I adjusted the glasses on my face. I sighed, staring at him.

“Have you seed Tadewi recently?” He questioned, concern in his voice.

I chuckled, staring at his blue eyes. “Wherever the hell he is, he’ll come back,”

“Eddie!” I called out, hearing someone stir. “Eddie don’t tell me you’re too weak to walk now!” I teased.

I heard his door open, coughing as his wooden cane struck the floor. He slowly made his way down the stairs, and with his slow arrival, my playful attitude was gone.

“Jackson, calm the hell down,” He said, glancing at the table. “Why are you rushing me? Breakfast isn’t even on the table,” He muttered, taking a seat.

“I know, I know,” I said, smiling. “But I do have a surprise!” My face shifted into a frown as I turned to the kitchen.

“That’s your cue, bring it in,” I said, as the servant hurriedly rushed to give us the glasses.

“Jack, is this ice?” He said, chuckling.

“New shipment today,” I said, taking a sip of the refreshingly cold water.

A servant proceeded into the room, placing platters in front of each of us. I took the top off, revealing eggs on toast.

“Ugh, can’t you people come up with something new once in a while? It’s like the same menu, every other day it’s eggs on toast and I’m sick of it!” I exclaimed, glaring at the servant.

“Oh, sorry sir, I will… We will take care of that. Expect something different tomorrow.” She said, scurrying off as I glared at her.

“Treat them better, you’re lucky we’re not technically American,” He said, examining me whilst caressing his mustache.

“By land no,” I responded, taking another sip of my drink.

“They make your food, what if they decide to poison it?” He questioned.

I sighed, before beginning to eat my food.

We finished in silence, and I got up, walked to each door, and slid them shut. I then made my way to the far corner and started touching the wall. I pushed down on a lever, and two panels slid open, revealing an array of guns, gold, and cash in an area of bricks that had been removed to give space.

I picked up a shiny silver revolver, making sure it was loaded before tucking it into my holster. I pulled the lever back up, closing the compartment. I glanced at Eddie, who was hiding some coughs, and exited the room.

I made my way through the manor and exited through the front doors, taking in a breath of fresh air as I took a sharp left and gazed at the Conservatory as well as the carriage drop-off, now used for horseless carriages. I diverted my gaze to the stables, deciding whether to take a horse or an automobile.

I sighed and began heading to the left. I pushed the double doors open into the Conservatory, an extension from the main building. It started with a rectangular room and extended outwards. The insides were filled with gardening supplies and exotic plants and fauna, where Eddie spends most of his time caring for the plants.

Various statues were placed throughout, plants in pots hanging from the ceiling where a glass roof was situated. The glass roof extends upwards, curving elegantly. I walked through the stone paths, making my way across the interior. Pushing another set of white double doors open, I exited the Conservatory.

In front of me, my vehicle sat. I made my way to the engine, cranking it ‘til it started. Topping off the gasoline tank, I opened the door and sat down. I shifted the gears and began to leave the manor compound. I turned, taking a glimpse of the manor.

Two stories, a wrap-around porch on both, sat upon an ancient star-shaped retention wall. Any soil available had flowers planted. The main manor was square, besides the large area that extended in the front giving more porch space. The trim arched through each segment of the porch, it was a yellow-tan color. In between lay dark brick.

Extending out the left side was the aforementioned Conservatory extension, as well as the carriage drop-off. The tan arches of the latter had intricate and ornate metals. The roof moved inwards toward the middle from all points, except the porch extension which formed a triangle. In the center lay a dome for the observatory, casting a glare. On the left, right, and back side each had three windows extending from the roof. Totaling nine, they gave views throughout the compound and fields.

This was my home; my legacy. I would defend it with my life, I would gladly die for it. I had left this island a total of forty-seven times, the outside world frightened me, but here everything felt natural. The sights, the mountains, the fresh air, and that ever so familiar glare casting from the peak of the tallest mountain that sat directly center to the island.

It’s a silent observer of the horrors and joy that takes place here. I was lost in my thoughts again, sitting there in my vehicle. I took a breath and continued my drive. I glanced to my left, looking at the golden leaves of the Tobacco crops. They sway in the wind, rustling. I took a short left at the end of the grand oak path, then took a right.

I left my vehicle running, entering the office that lay inside the gatehouse.

“Good morning, Mister Hawthorne,” I said, as he turned to me.

“Same to you, Sir,” He said, struggling to get up. He groomed his beard, gray with age. He placed a small pair of glasses on the desk and grabbed a hat off the wall.

We exited the office, heading to the gate before he stopped.

“Jackson,” He said, trailing off and glancing towards the mountain.

“What’s that?” I said, stopping my stride.

“Never mind,” He finished, continuing his walk toward the gate.

He shouted to the people atop the gatehouse to open it, and in a short time, the aged doors creaked open. The morning went by as usual, we rounded up the second group and sent them out into the fields. I watched for a while, before getting back inside my vehicle and taking off towards the town.

“He ain’t gonna say anything,” Jacob said, rubbing his eyes.

I stared at the man in front me, a Native caught trespassing past the borders. He sat behind iron bars in the basement of the Sheriff’s Office. With cobblestone walls and a wooden floor, it was cramped, a special cell made hidden for people like him.

I sighed, before stating, “Yeah…” Rising from my seat.

“Let’s just hang em’,” I said, glancing at the man who showed no emotions. I was hoping perhaps he would talk with the knowledge of his fate.

“Today?” Jacob questioned, beginning to make his way up the ladder. He moved the piece of wood out of the way and finished his ascent.

“In an hour,” I said, beginning to make my way up the ladder myself. I heard a slight chuckle from behind me, glancing at the man who now stared at me with crazed eyes. I paid no attention, scoffing at him as I finished my ascent.

“Tell Samuel to prepare the gallows,” I said, sliding the crawlspace entrance shut.

“Yes sir,” He said, before walking out of the Office to find Samuel.

I groaned, sitting on my office chair. I cracked my neck, before opening the left side drawer. I pulled out a leatherbound journal, opening it, and flipping through pages of sketched faces.

I stopped, scanning a familiar one. I examined the various details, the nose, the eyes, the cheeks.

“Tadewi…” I said, glancing at the notes of his crimes. Various murders, attempted arson, all the bunch. I wrote a quick deceased notice on the top. And closed the book, wrapping it with the leather cord. I placed it back into the drawer, sliding it shut before I got up from my desk and exited the Office.

A slight drizzle was coming down so I quickly made my way under an overhang and sat on the porch, lighting a cigarette. The time passed quickly as I listened to the slight rain. I flicked it onto the wooden platform, crushing it under my boot. I examined the box, the words ‘Roamer’ on the front. I tucked the lighter inside and stashed the box into my pocket. I heard footsteps on the wooden platform, and turned my head to see Jacob coming to speak to me.

“Charles, the Gallows have been prepared,” He said, leaning against the post.

I pulled out my pocket watch to see just under an hour had passed.

“Ah, how time flies. It really felt like only a few minutes,” I said, taking my hat off my knee and placing it on my head. I adjusted it to my comfort, before standing and guiding Jacob back into the Office.

I parked my vehicle under a covering, exiting it, and making my way up the ancient steps towards the town. I gazed as I often do so at the lighthouse, moss forming in the cracks of cobblestone. Rain was softly peppering my hat as I began the descent.

This staircase was built in the early 1700s, the carving blown out with explosives and flat stone placed for ease of travel. It went upwards first, then flat, then downwards exiting onto the seawall which was constructed after a storm caused a large storm–surge to revenge the town in the late 1700s.

I glanced towards the docks as I exited the passage onto the seawall, the hotel, and the bank to my direct left. The few ships bobbed in the waves, in the foggy distance the ancient castle stood, most of the towers collapsed but the main structure stood.

I was going to make my way directly towards the post office before partaking in a friendly game of cards, but a crowd of people caught my attention. It clicked instantly, and I diverted my path towards the gallows.

I’d say half or more of the town had gathered to watch. Sheriff Charles stood above the platform, as well as his three deputies. I pushed my way to the center, hearing murmurs of townsfolk. I climbed the stairs, greeting Charles with a handshake.

“Who’s this?” I said, firmly grasping his hand.

“Uhh, Tadewi I believe, his face matches,” He explained, glancing at the man who stood in place restrained by a deputy.

“Oh, okay,” I said, moving to the back of the platform. “Carry on then,” I finished, nodding at him. He returned the gesture, turning to face the crowd.

“People of Darkwood,” He started, “We gather to witness the execution of one Tadewi for various crimes to our people, including murder and arson,”

I glanced at the man, through his long hair a smirk that transformed into a grin appeared. It was unsettling, his yellow jagged teeth almost appearing animalistic. I glanced at the crowd, who waited in anticipation, hanging on Sheriff Charles every word despite the fact this routine had been repeated multiple times over.

“It is not my wish for this to happen, but justice must be served,” He said, taking some time to clear his throat. Someone in the crowd shouted obscenities, and another followed suit.

“Please, despite his actions, we are all people. Show some respect for this lost soul,” He said, and with that, the crowd grew silent.

I stepped forward and took a look at the crowd, my eye-catching on a young woman. She caught my eyes, and I diverted the look, a lump forming in my throat.

“Whilst he may be lost, he can still be found,” Charles continued and turned to the man. “Please sir, say any final prayers, and may God have mercy on your soul,” He finished, and glanced at Jacob.

“Whenever you’re ready,” He said, as Jacob tensed his grip around the lever.

Gears turned as Jacob pulled the lever, the man dropping through the trapdoor. The world was silent as he fell, the rope slowly readying to snap and tighten around his neck.  When the rope had nowhere to turn and twist, his body snapped still with a disturbing jolt.

I heard a snap first, then the crowd let out a collective gasp. A silence that felt like it stretched for hours ensued, each man and woman taking a gander at the man, who lay limp, dangling by the noose tied around his neck. Slowly, the crowd dispersed, and the rain began to pour a little bit harder.

“Well would you look at that,” I said, adjusting the glasses on my face. “Tadewi got caught in another rope,” I continued, chuckling. Glaring at Jackson who stood on the platform.

I rose from my knelt position on the cliff overlooking the town, glancing at Aylen who sat a distance away from me on his horse.

“How long before he gets out of there?” He questioned, heightening his posture to glance at the town below.

“Give it a few days, if the town survives that long,” I chuckled as I mounted my horse, rubbing my brown beard and the mustache segment where only a stubble grew.

“Jakoda, there may be unforeseen consequences of your actions tonight. Perhaps you should take some time to think?” Aylen suggested I could tell he was judging me, but I paid no mind to it.

“It will be done tonight, let’s scout the manor,” I explained, taking off into the wilderness.

I stretched my hand, cracking my knuckles. I rose, grabbing my cane and taking a final glance at the paperwork. I coughed as I made my way from my office to the conservatory. I took a seat in the middle, staring at the plants that I had been taking so much care to keep alive.

Despite my best efforts, the vast majority was decaying slowly. I began lighting a cigarette, I glanced to my left, believing I saw a man on a horse. I shrugged it off, inhaling the cigarette.

I exhaled the smoke, coughing as I adjusted in my chair for comfort. I closed my eyes and was transported to a state between dreams and conscientiousness. It was peaceful–until it wasn’t. I heard the screams once again, as my men were slaughtered. I attempted to move the thoughts away, to think of something else, anything else, but then the visions began to come to me as well.

I rose, the sharp pain in my leg saving me from the nightmare. I tossed the cigarette that had fallen onto my thigh and began burning me to the floor, patting my injury. I sighed in relief, before lighting another cigarette and making my way to attempt to save some of my beloved plants.

“The storm doors will be locked, and so will the windows. Breaking one is not an option, too much noise. We will use a rope to get atop the second story, we never keep that one locked,” I said, pointing to the manor.

“We?” Aylen questioned.

“They,” I clarified, before continuing. “We go through the front door, take care of Jackson, and take the island back. What’s most important is that we do it quietly, so we may attack the town and move out of that swamp,” I finished, glancing at Aylen.

“What about Tala’ikto, Jakoda?” He questioned, gazing at the manor.

“If they have been able to deal with him, we will be able to as well. If we don’t have to live in the swamp anymore, just… Imagine that, waking up and exiting your home to not see mud,” I explained, pushing my long brown hair out of my face.

“The swamp keeps us safe from it,” He stated, beginning to dismount his horse.

“This island is ours, they took it from us. We are going to take it back,”

“How many of them have been spotted?” I questioned, glancing at the man who bobbed on Jacob’s horse back.

“Many, too many. It’s now a weekly occurrence by hunters, the ones who come back that is,” He explained, his voice stern. He began lighting a cigarette, stuffing the case back into his pocket.

We trotted along towards the graveyard, I stared at the wooden church, its white siding aged with grime. The tower stood to my left, a golden bell within. We passed it, making our way to the back where we buried those who did not belong with the others.

“Three so far this month,” He stated, staring forward and inhaling his cigarette. “It used to be rare to see one, and once every three months we would catch one. They are planning something, I’m sure of it,”

I thought for a moment, before catching a glimpse of a freshly dug grave.

“There?” I asked, pointing at the hole.

“Yes, Jacob, take him off your horse,” Charles ordered, turning his head to speak to him.

“Yes, Sir,” He responded, dismounting and walking to the back of his horse, keeping a hand on the animal at all times. He dragged the man off, losing his grip and dropping him on the ground.

“Shit,” He muttered, and I began dismounting my horse.

“Here let me help you,” Charles said, walking over to the deceased man and picking him up.

In an instant the man rose, latching onto Jacob and digging his teeth into his neck. He let out a yelp as the teeth cut through his skin. Charles began to coil up to strike the Native in his head, and my hand fell on my revolver. I felt along the grip, grabbing hold and swiftly pulling it out.

I followed the barrel to the man’s head, imagining a line that would lead the bullet to its destination. I squeezed the trigger, the shot rang out and chunks of the man’s head and brains blew towards me and out the other direction. I let out a breath, and Charles stepped back as well.

“Shit,” He said, as the man hit the dirt with a thud. We stared at him before being interrupted by a gurgling and gasping sound.

Charles let out a cry, running over to Jacob and I did the same. Blood was pouring out his neck, the man obviously knew where to do the most damage. He grabbed at the air, as well as grasping Charles’s face and leaving a bloody smear upon his beard.

Charles reached into his pocket, taking out a cloth and tucking it into the deep laceration left by the man’s attack.

“Get him to the doctor,” I exclaimed, motioning back towards the town. Charles muttered to Jacob to keep pressure on his neck, guiding his hands to his neck.

“I need handcuffs,” I said, as Charles dug in his satchel and tossed a pair to me. He lifted him onto his horse and rode quickly towards the town.

I walked over to the Native, staring in awe at the hole in his head as it slowly was closing up, new tissue forming where old was lost. It was almost as if a point in time was saved, and he was reverting to it. Snapping out of my trance, I took out the pair of cuffs and restrained the Native.

I watched as the light slowly came back into his eyes, he blinked and began to breathe again.

“How?” I asked, and he glanced at me, taking time to see who he was talking to.

“Ask your father,” He said, spitting out flesh that was in his mouth. He attempted to move his hands, finding them restrained, so he began to rise to his feet. He was unsteady, and I kicked his leg, causing him to fall to the ground again.

I reached into my satchel, grabbed a knife, and removed the sheath. I dug the knife into his knee, he groaned but barely reacted. I pushed the knife, popping his knee out of the socket.

“That won’t last long,” He said, chuckling. I rose again, and spit on his face. He tightened his mouth, and I dove my foot into his face, rendering him unconscious.

“Alright, we wait for Jackson to return and for them to sleep, we climb to the second story with rope, and enter through the doors. We end this quickly, then by morning we attack the town, forcing them to either leave or die,” I explained, facing a group of seven men.

They were all close friends, family perhaps. But not my true one, they had been taken long ago. Takanta stood in the back towering over the others, holding a study axe. His face is clean and his hair short.

Nokowi stood in the center, his hair behind him and his face scarred from years of hunting and battle.

Aylen sat upon his horse, his lean form paired with his intelligent eyes. He held a rifle in his hands, whilst patting his horse on the neck.

Kaiya sat on a log, sketching something into the sand with a stick. It was an intricate drawing from what I could see.

Inali stood to my right, a bow upon his back and a large sword on his hip. His long hair reached down to his chest, swaying in the wind.

Kohana stood to my left, his breathing slow and steady. He was meticulously stretching his fingers back and forth.

Yansa stood next to Takanta, slightly shorter than him. He did not talk much, but his strength was there.

These were my closest friends, my family. They had been here ever since I was called here. They listened to me, ready for tonight. I knew I could trust them, they were for me, not against me. They would fight with me, and die for me–they were valuable tools.

“Tonight we end this, we shall take back the island!” I exclaimed, and they cheered for me.

Aylen trotted up to me on horseback, speaking in a silent tone.

“And what if we fail?” He questioned, he always thought of the consequences of all actions.

“It’s just Jackson and Edward, and Edward is gravely ill. There’s no possible way we fail,” I explained, taking a seat and facing Aylen.

“With every action unforeseen consequences may unfold,” He stated, trotting away.

I stared at my hands, they were bloodied. My knuckles ached, and I stretched my hand in and out. I took a deep breath, staring at the man beneath me. Despite all the pain, he had stayed silent. Under the blood on his face, the bruises slowly began vanishing. His nose cracked and shifted, returning to its original form.

“Believe me Jackson, he simply does not speak,” Charles said, barely visible through the crawlspace gap.

“He can’t die,” I said, staring at him as the blood began to be absorbed by his skin.

I stormed out the cell, shutting it behind me, and tugging to make sure the locking mechanism worked. I crawled up the ladder, sliding the crawlspace entrance closed. I exited the Sheriff’s Office, wiping sweat off my forehead.

“How can we deal with this?” I questioned, glancing at Charles as he leaned against the wall.

“We can’t kill him, but maybe we could keep him somewhere he can’t escape,” He suggested, rubbing the back of his neck.

“I’ll have to think on that… Maybe he can be of use, to get information?” I suggested, scratching the back of my head. The sun had set, only twilight illuminating the island.

Charles began to speak, but I was focused on something else. Inside the ancient castle, through a window in the collapsed tower, a light was visible. I focused on it, thinking of who could be residing within. No one was to be in there, no one.

“Charles, who is in there?” I said, pointing to the castle which sat upon a jungly, separate smaller island.

Charles stepped forward, staring at the building.

“We should check it out,” He said, glancing back at me. “I’ll gather up a few men, clean yourself up, you look terrifying,” He said, gesturing to my hands.

I sighed and headed into the Sheriff’s Office to clean myself.

The manor was lit up by lights, a beacon in the darkening night. My men and I sat on the edge of the treeline, concealed by foliage. Our horses were a good walk away from us, and we examined the manor.

“Where is he?” Aylen asked, glancing at me nervously.

“Late night perhaps, get comfortable,” I explained, taking a seat on the ground.

“I just want to get this over with,” Nokowi said, staring at me.

“Good things come with time,” I explained, lying down on the grass.

“Then why rush this?” Aylen said, glaring at me.

“We have waited long enough, years our land has been taken from us. Now is not the time to wait longer ‘til they remove us from the island altogether, now is the time for action,”

My feet crunched against the sand as I took in my surroundings. I had been here once before, and none more. A large old wire fence surrounded the shore, a defense long unneeded. Charles landed next to me, examining the castle up close in awe.

“It’s massive,” He said, staring upwards at the ancient structure.

“Keep your voice down, someone is in here,” I said, gripping the rifle in my hands.

I scanned the fence, and the ancient wire rusted long ago. I spotted a point where it had broken, leaving an area for entry.

“There,” I said, beginning to walk towards it.

Charles, Samuel and I had used a small raft to cross the short distance. The sun had fully set now, and we crept slowly through the island to the entrance, to not alert the intruders.

“Who do you think it is?” Charles whispered to me, crouching down.

“No clue,” I said, glancing around. I turned behind me, seeing nothing. The jungle was thick, thicker than most of the island. We crept through the underbrush, careful not to be loud. With time, we came across the wall, we then walked along ‘til we came across the entrance.

I peeked at the corner, the inside was dusty and aged, and I crept inside. We made our way through the ancient halls, I examined it with awe. To my knowledge, this castle was built in the late1700s, close to the beginnings of the town. I spotted an old portrait on the wall, I felt a sense of familiarity. I scanned the bottom of the golden frame, seeing the name “Josiah Roamer”.

He had a dark beard and styled hair. He had an elegant suit on, but his left eye was simply scarred skin. He stood with his posture up and proud, a beautiful painting. I thought to myself perhaps I should take it back with me, but we continued onwards. We came into a dining room, the room long and the left side of the wall caved in. Vines and bushes crept inwards, the long table broken in the middle from a chandelier.

The ceiling stretched upwards, arching towards the middle with wooden beams. It was gorgeous but long abandoned. Why would we move out? For what purpose did we leave this sentinel of beauty to rot? My train of thought was interrupted by faint speaking, coming from upwards.

“You hear that?” I whispered to Charles, he turned to me and nodded. I signaled him with my hand to continue.

Exiting the dining room, we came across another hallway. I looked to my left, seeing a large staircase. It matched the staircase in my own home very similarly, with the same design and layout. The only main difference was the materials used to craft it.

It had fallen inwards, the weight of the heavy stone bricks used to construct it bearing down on it over time. I assume underneath was a basement, but it was far too unstable to explore.

“There has to be a servant staircase, just like in my manor,” I explained, as I led my men deeper into the structure.

With time, we came across an ancient door on the floor. It had fallen off its hinges long ago. I peeked inside the room, it was pitch black. I lit my lantern, lighting up a large dormitory. Bunk beds lined the walls, and in the back, a staircase was barely visible through the light.

“Servant’s quarters?” Samuel questioned, and I noticed some living areas and lounging areas were present in the room.

“I believe so, and look, a staircase,” I whispered before proceeding towards it.

The steps were uneven, moonlight poured in through the small windows in the tower. It was winding, rubble on the floor. We scaled in silence, then I heard a laugh from many men in the distance.

“Sounds like a few,” Samuel remarked uneasily.

“Don’t shoot first, but understand these are trespassers, not meant to be here” I explained.

“Why would they be in here though?” Charles questioned.

I thought for a moment, growing unease. Were these Natives? We continued further into the second story, being as silent as possible. I was scared, this sounded like a lot of men.

“Did you tell anyone where we were going?” I questioned both Charles and Samuel.

“No, you?” Charles responded, quickly facing Samuel.

“No, sir,” He responded.

A sense of unease came to me, and I glanced out a large window, the glass long gone. I saw a boat on the shore, and it looked very official.

“Charles, look at that boat,” I said, gesturing towards the window.

“That’s definitely a boat,” He joked, but I was not in the mood. I glared at him, and he awkwardly looked away.

“Alright,” I said, readying myself. “Let’s do this,”

We closed the distance, standing next to a large doorway. I counted from three to one, before we all rushed in.

“HOLD IT!” I exclaimed, I quickly scanned the room. About 6 men dressed formally sat around a small campfire. Glancing upwards, I noted we were in the collapsed largest tower.

I pointed my rifle at who I assumed was their leader. “WHO ARE YOU?” I screamed assertively. He raised his hands and glared at me.

“Who are you?!” He responded, his eyes wide.

“My name is Jackson Roamer, this here is my property and you are trespassing. I own more than half of this island, this is part of it!” I explained, examining him.

“My name is General Phillip Sheridan of the United States Army,” He explained, getting on one knee.

I glared at him, and the other men around him. They were dressed in uniforms, rifles on their back. A table to the left of mine had a map of the island, as well as other information.

“And what the fuck are you doing here?” I questioned, glancing out the window directly in front of me which had a great view of the town.

“I can’t tell you that, Jackson,” He said, scoffing at me.

“If you don’t, I’ll put a bullet through your head,” I said, aiming at his head.

“You’re outnumbered,” He explained, waving his arms at his men.

“Numbers won’t help the first shot,” I said, levering the action on my repeater. He tensed up, staring the barrel down.

“W-we’re here to scout the operation to free the slaves here,” He explained, raising his hands again.

“That won’t happen,” I responded slowly, gritting my teeth.

“You can’t stop us,”

“This island is not American,” I said, taking a step forward.

He laughed, before staring at me once again.

“It’s considered American soil now. New bill passed, approved by President Grant,” He mocked, and I stared in shock. I snapped out, staring in disgust.

“You have… YOU HAVE ONE HOUR TO GET THE FUCK OFF MY ISLAND!” I exclaimed, my voice echoing through the room.

He tensed, and I turned around.

“Let’s go,” I said to my men.

“You can’t stop this, Jackson. It’s a new age,” He explained as I walked away. I rubbed my beard, caressing the stubble where a mustache should be.

“What’s gonna happen?” Charles asked me as we exited the castle.

I glanced backward, at the towering structure. Cannons poked from balconies, a true war structure.

“We will defend our home. And we might need this,” I said, gesturing towards the structure.

“It’s late, does he know our plan?” I stated, staring at the manor.

“Perhaps this is a sign from the island, we should go home,” Aylen suggested, and I started to agree with him.

“Okay… Let’s–Wait, look!” I exclaimed, pointing towards a vehicle traveling down the oak path. I knew who it was, less than 10 automobiles on this island, and one was going towards the manor.

“Just a bit longer,” Takanka said, laughing to himself.

I parked the vehicle, turning it off. My boots hit the ground with a thud, as I slammed the door. Rain was pouring as I entered the Conservatory. I barely noticed him in the moonlight, sitting on a wooden seat. He was a sickly pale, his dark hair messy and his cap on the floor,

“Eddie, wake up,” I said, nudging him.

He stirred awake, mumbling. I noticed an empty bottle of whisky next to him, and I sighed.

“Come on, let’s get you to bed,” I said, lifting him with one arm and grabbing his cane. We walked out of the Conservatory, walked around the porch, and into the house.

“Someone close the storm doors and lock them,” I exclaimed, as I heard movement from downstairs.

I helped Eddie get to his bed, laying him down and covering him. I placed his cane on the nightstand, and left the room, heading across the hall to my own. I was exhausted, placing my knife and revolver on the nightstand and quickly undressing to my undergarments. I lay on the bed and quickly fell asleep.

“Now seems like a good time,” I said, motioning the others to move with me. We walked the outer wall in silence, one by one we made our way to the Conservatory.

“Walk along the side,” I said, gesturing to the path I wished us to take. We traversed the side, making it to the side of the manor. It loomed over us, the arching porch that fully wrapped around.

“Takanka, do your thing,” I said, stepping back. He grabbed a large segment of rope, winding it up, and tossing it to the second story. He tugged on it, making sure it was safe to climb. One by one we scaled it, making our way upwards. I brushed against vines, concrete, and brick, but made it. I glanced around at the ever-so-familiar layout I was to take for myself.

We crept to the doors, opening them as quietly as possible. I slowly closed the door once we all made it in, and glanced around.

“There’s Edward’s room, and there’s Jackson’s,” I explained, pointing to each.

“I’ll take care of Edward,” Takanka said, chuckling.

“Wait,” I exclaimed, grabbing his shirt.

“What?” He questioned, and everyone stared at me.

“N–never mind,” I said, releasing my grip. I continued, “Nokowi, Kaiya, Yansa. Stay at this door and wait just in case he runs out,” I said, slowly wriggling the doorknob. Locked.

“Everyone else, come with me. The bathroom is usually unlocked,” I said, guiding the three other men to the bathroom.

I opened my eyes, groaning. I swear I heard something, something hitting concrete outside. I listened, thinking I was hearing voices. I brushed it off as the sea wind weirdly hitting the manor. I began to fall back asleep, til I swore I heard the door open. I listened, hearing voices. A slight wiggle at my doorknob set me off, and I slowly grabbed my knife and revolver, tucking them under my blanket.

I waited, listening to the footsteps move. The first door to my bathroom creaked open, and I heard hushed whispers. The second opened, and three men entered the room. They stared at me, a white man approaching with long brown hair and a pair of glasses.

He approached with a knife, raising it above me. My eyes were squinted, but I watched. I heard a thud from Eddie’s room, as well as some fast-paced footsteps.

“I’ll get him,” I heard muffled. I plunged the knife through the blanket, right into the white man’s stomach. He yelped in pain, and I raised my revolver, shooting one in his chest. He collapsed to the floor, gasping and screaming. The other approached with a sword, and I cocked the hammer back, firing and hitting him in his head.

He kept running for a bit, before collapsing and falling on the floor with a wet thud. I stared at the man whom I stabbed, kicking him in the face and knocking his glasses off.

My eyes shot open to the sensation of being violently hurled from my bed, my heart pounding in my chest as adrenaline surged through my veins. The darkness of the room enveloped me, and for a moment, I was disoriented, unsure of what had jolted me from sleep. I hit the wall, sliding down as a large man walked to me, towering over my quivering body.

He then walked over to me and kicked me in the stomach. I yelped in pain, before my flight or fight kicked in, and I rushed out of the room. I saw two men standing at Jackson’s door, they looked at me in surprise, before the man behind shouted out “I’ll get him!”

I ran down the stairs, hearing gunshots above me. I jumped the banister, landing on the floor. I groaned, my heart was pounding before I got back to my feet and rushed to the kitchen.

“Come on, come on…” I said, feeling around the siding. I pushed down on the lever, and the panels slid open, revealing an armory. I could hear the man approaching me, and I picked up a revolver. I checked to see if it was loaded, he was grabbing distance away.

I cocked the hammer, raising it to him. He pushed it away, but I shot him in his side. He screamed in pain, before grabbing the revolver and shaking it out of my hand. He grasped me, spitting in my face before tossing me towards the table. I slid across, dishes and plates falling towards the floor til I reached the halfway point.

I rushed out the bathroom door, turning to see Eddie running downstairs and a large man pursuing him. I feared for him, for his safety, and for a moment I began to run after them. With my diverted attention, I barely had time to react to the double barrels in my face. I ducked, pushing it upwards. The shot rang out above me, hitting the wall. I raised the revolver, shooting him in his stomach.

I held him by his neck and turned the corner. Two other men looked at me in surprise, and I raised my revolver, striking one in the head. He slid against the wall, leaving a smear of blood on the wallpaper before hitting the ground with a wet thud. Quickly pulling the hammer back, I shot again, shooting the other in his chest.

He began to scream and convulse, and I cocked the hammer back again, shooting the man in my arms in the back of his head. Blood splattered on my face as I winced. Out my bedroom door, the man I stabbed ran out. He glanced at me in horror, as he turned and ran out the balcony door. I raised my revolver, cocking it but it struck nothing, out of ammo. I quickly reached below, grabbing the double-barreled shotgun, and giving pursuit.

I got up quickly, running into the bar. I turned right, the man giving close pursuit. I fell against the wall, pushing up on a panel and it slid upwards, revealing an old dumbwaiter. Inside, gold, cash, and one more revolver. Grabbing it, I spun around, facing my pursuiter. I raised it to his head, and he tried to move it away but I was too quick and fired into his neck.

Blood sprayed against my face, as he grabbed my neck and punched me square in the face. I saw a flash of white, and he moved my head into the dumbwaiter, slamming it three times onto my head. I was barely conscious as he dragged me to a staircase leading into the wine cellar. He tossed me down, each hit on the step was painful to my body and head.

He stood, staring at me, before losing balance and falling downwards. I was attempting to get up when his massive form landed on top of me, the air leaving my lungs. I tried to breathe, but it was nearly impossible to move my weak chest. I attempted to push him off, but I was unable to. I was gasping for air, as everything faded into darkness.

I sprinted out, turning left the same way he went. I spotted him scaling down via a rope. I raised the shotgun and fired, breaking a chunk of the balcony off. He flinched, staring at me with wide eyes, before sliding the entire way down. I heard a gunshot, and I remembered Eddie, and how he was in danger.

I rushed down the stairs, following the trail of destruction. Coming into the kitchen, half of the dishes were knocked on the floor and broken, to my left the small armory was open, a revolver missing. Blood trailed on the floor, leading into the bar. I followed, glancing at the dumbwaiter. Blood was dripping from it, and in shock, I followed the trail one last time.

Down the stairs, a mass lay. I rushed down, almost slipping on a puddle of blood, and pushed the large man off him. He wasn’t breathing, and I pounded his chest.

“EDDIE!” I exclaimed, attempting to revive him. I was crying over his body, and I heard a gasp and sputter.

I cried over his body, as he began breathing again.

I gasped, taking time to catch my breath and examining my wound. I left the knife in there, and I limped forward, taking one final glance at the manor. This was not over, this was simply the beginning.

“Tell him, Hawthorne,” The voice said as I struggled to sleep.

“No, shut the hell up!” I exclaimed, placing the pillow on my head.

“Peregrine would have told him,” They said in unison, and I groaned.

“I HAVE NO IDEA WHO THE HELL THAT EVEN IS!” I shouted into thin air, turning and groaning once again.

“It has to happen, Peregrine does not wish for it to turn off, we believe otherwise. It has to end,”

“SHUT THE FUCK UP! I DON’T KNOW HIM!”

“Tell them about the mountain, that’s all you need to do,” They said, their voice louder this time.

“I MADE A FUCKING PROMISE!” I exclaimed, hitting my head.

I stared at his form, he lay on the bed, a bandage wrapped tightly around his head. His breathing was shallow and raspy, but I was glad he was alive.

“I’ve done all I can do, the only thing we can hope is that he pulls through,” Dr. Reed explained, patting me on my back. I inhaled slowly and exhaled swiftly.

“I understand, I’m sure he’ll be alright,” I said, a glimmer of hope still present.

“Jackson, please understand he may not awake the same. Injuries to the brain like that, they don’t turn out good,” He explained, kneeling to meet my gaze.

“It’s… IT’S OKAY,” I shouted, grabbing a bundle of cash and placing it into his hands. He was surprised, but grabbed the cash, sticking it into his coat pocket.

“Just… Go, leave me be,” I said, lowering my head.

“Sir, I… You drove me here,” He explained, gesturing out the window.

“Oh, Okay. Sorry,” I said, standing up and glancing at Eddie one last time.

Without uttering a word, I drove the vehicle toward the town as the gentle drizzle transformed into a steady rain. The rhythmic patter of raindrops against the car’s roof filled the silence between us. After dropping the doctor off, and instead of returning directly to the desolate solitude of our home, I decided to pay Charles a visit.

“They came to my home and tried to kill me. Almost killed Eddie,” I muttered, my hands in my palms. I was shaking, I didn’t even notice ‘til now.

“This means war, they’ve stepped across the line,” Charles responded, leaning forward.

The rain poured outside, but it was warm inside the Sherrif’s Office. Its aged brown wood bringing a sense of comfort.

“There’s just one thing that doesn’t make sense,” I said, reaching into my satchel. I pulled out a pair of broken glasses, handing them to Charles. He examined them for a while, before muttering “J.R”.

He glanced at me, then back at the glasses. Slowly, he took off the pair I wore on my face and compared them.

“They’re identical…” He said in awe.

I grabbed both pairs, storing one in my satchel, and putting the other on my face. My mouth was dry and a silence that spoke a thousand words ensued.

“How? Where did you get that?” He questioned, breaking the silence.

“Their leader I presume, he was a white man. Long brown hair, and a beard. I knocked these off his face when I kicked them,” I explained, my hands together up against my nose.

“Who is he?” He questioned, but I knew nothing.

“I have no idea, but he’s a threat. We need to take him out,” I explained, glancing at the rain hitting the window.

We sat there in silence, the snoring of a drunk in the cell to the left of us. The silence was broken by a thud under us, and we both knew who it came from.

“I want to get back at them, I think I know how too,” I explained, glancing downwards.

“We can’t kill him, you know that,” He asserted, sighing.

“Remember what you suggested? Keeping him trapped?” I said, showing my palms in an open gesture. I was trying to get him to remember, and he thought for a moment before it clicked with him.

“Maybe… Bury him? Uhh… Put him in a cave then blow up the entrance?” He suggested, and I shook my head.

“With time, he can get out. But hear me out, if we were too… keep him in a state between death and living. Then he would be too disorientated to escape?” I explained, trying to get him to understand. He thought for a moment, thinking.

“Hang ’em?” He questioned.

“No Charles… Look at this,” I said, pulling out my journal and flipping through the pages. I turned it around, and he examined the sketch.

“I… Don’t understand,” He said, looking at me.

“Tie his legs, to something really heavy. Make sure it’s super tight, like super tight. Uhh, then we drive out with a boat, and toss the heavy thing underwater,” I explained, tucking the journal back into my satchel.

“Okay… Okay, that sounds good,” He said, standing up.

“We bring him to the boat, kill him first so he doesn’t struggle. Then you go get something real heavy and I’ll watch him,” I stated, opening the crawlspace.

I hopped down, pulling out a knife as the man stirred from sleep. Charles opened the cell and I walked over to him. He showed no fear, a cocky smirk upon his face. I plunged the knife into his neck, sawing across and cutting his throat open. He gargled for a bit, before succumbing to the wound.

“Come on, we’ll take him to my boat, then you go get the stuff,” I explained, grabbing one arm. He came over and grabbed the other one, and we swiftly dragged him to the boat. I felt eyes on me from nosey townsfolk as we boarded my small personal vessel.

“Give me a pair of cuffs,” I said, holding my hand out. He provided one, and I cuffed him to the side of the boat. I could tell his wound was almost fully healed, he would be awake soon.

“Okay, Charles. Go get a rope and something heavy. No actually go get some chains,” I ordered, motioning him off the boat. The storm was loud, water poured onto me as I sat waiting for him.

I saw him approaching, Samuel and him both carrying a very heavy rock together. I could see them struggling, they grunted along as the docks groaned with the weight. On Charles’s back swinging and clacking together was a coil of chain.

“Samuel can’t come, this is between me and you,” I said, glancing at him.

“I wasn’t going to,” He explained, placing the rock on my ship which caused it to groan and lean in that direction.

“What’s happening?” I heard from behind us, as we all turned. The Native had fully healed and was now looking at us with wild eyes.

“You don’t get to know,” I said, grabbing the chains off Charles.

We pulled down the sails and took off into the distance. I watched the island become smaller as we sailed away. I was in awe, it had been some time since I had seen it from this distance. The mountains towered over us even at this distance, the trees causing it to look fuzzy in a way.

“Alright, let’s do this,” I said, taking the chain and wrapping it around the rock. I took the free length to wrap around the Native, but he made it impossible with the kicking.

“Okay, just. Damn it!” I said as I struggled to wrap his legs with the chain.

“Don’t… DO NOT DO THIS!” He exclaimed as I kicked him in his face. He stopped moving, and I wrapped the chain around his leg, torso, and head. I made sure that he would not be able to escape, not in a thousand years.

He began to stir as I made sure everything was ready.

“Help me lift it,” I said, digging my fingers and grabbing hold. We lifted, and the Native began to struggle against his binding. We placed it on the edge, the boat swaying in the waves and with the weight of the rock. The rain poured down on the deck, seeping through holes in the side.

“YOUR EMPIRE WILL FALL!” He exclaimed through the rain, and I stared at his squirming form.

“You won’t be here to see it,” I said, scoffing at him.

I pushed the rock over the edge, the loose chain following suit. He quickly was dragged to the edge. He screamed out a final obscenity.

“YOU PIECE OF SHI-” He was cut off as his head collided with the side and soon was dragged under the surface. Charles stood on the edge, peering downwards.

“You think we’ll see him again?” He questioned, glancing at me.

“Not for a long time,” I assured, before continuing. “Let’s go home,”

I groaned, grabbing my my head. I didn’t know where I was, and I examined the room. This was… This was the bedroom. The… Plantation room. My bedroom? How did I get here? How did I get back to Grandiosia Isle?

I attempted to get off the bed but fell. I began to gain my bearings, small snippets of memory coming back to me. I grabbed at my head after feeling a sharp pain, and it was wrapped in bandages.

I sat, leaning against the bed, as I heard movement rushing up the stairs. He burst in, at first I didn’t recognize him, but then it clicked who he was.

“J-j-j-jackschon?” I said, my speech slurring.

“Eddie! Are you okay?” He questioned, coming to me and lifting me back onto the bed. I groaned in protest, but when my head was placed on the soft pillow I felt better.

“Gjackshon… Wwhat hagppenned?” I questioned, rubbing my face.

“Eddie, the Natives, they came and tried to kill us. Unprovoked!” He explained, pulling the blanket over me. My heart slowed as the wave of warmth moved over me.

“Gackson? Wheress… Henree… Bven…” I said, as my eyes closed and I drifted off.

I stared at the five men who sat facing me, they glared with hatred. I was an outsider to them, even though I’d been here for years upon years.

“Jakoda, your actions have caused the death of seven people, what say you?” Wiyaka exclaimed as the crowd muttered behind me.

“Their deaths were not in vain, but martyrs of a new era!” I exclaimed, raising my arms in protest. I turned, facing the crowd, and they all looked me in the eyes.

“My friends, my people. These so-called chiefs, these so-called WISE elders have caused us to retreat further and further into the island! The only reason we live in this swamp is because they are COWARDS!”

“JAKODA! Your disrespect towards us is simply repulsive!” Wiyaka exclaimed, standing up. “Do not make me cast you into Kasa Wapasi,” He remarked, glaring down at me from his elevated platform.

“No… NO! You have disrespected ALL OF US by cowering and looking after YOURSELVES rather than the TRIBE!” I remarked, turning back to the crowd. “FRIENDS! FAMILY! Why be RESTRAINED by THEIR leadership? I say TODAY is a NEW DAWN, a NEW DAY. TODAY I become the NEW CHEIF of our TRIBE, and lead us OUT of this swamp, and into a NEW ERA!” I exclaimed, raising my arms in an open gesture.

They were silent, a silence that spoke a thousand words. I heard a slight chuckle behind me, but it was interrupted by all the men women, and children cheering for me. I looked at the chief and elders with a smirk and stepped onto a table.

“TODAY IS A NEW ERA, A NEW DAWN, AND I CAST YOU, AND YOUR ASSOCIATES INTO KASA WAPASI!” I exclaimed as the crowd rushed forwards to capture them.

“Sherrif,” The man greeted me, scratching his gray beard.

“Uh, Simon right?” I said, extending my hand out and shaking his hand. His grip was firm, and he stared me in my eyes before releasing me.

“I go by Hawthorne, Mister Hawthorne,” He stated, taking his hat off and scratching his gray hair.

“Two days ago, we played cards, right? You took in the pot?” I questioned, lighting up a cigarette.

“Yes sir, I’m a natural,” He said, chuckling.

“And you work for Jackson, the slave overseer I believe?” I said, taking in a deep inhale of my cigarette.

“Yes… Uhm listen I gotta get back and get group one into the fields, so let’s make this quick,” He explained, looking around before continuing. “Can we go, somewhere more private?” He asked.

“Sure uhh, no ones in the cells right now, come in,” I said, holding the door open.

He walked in, and I entered after him. He scanned the room, checking each corner.

“Okay so, there’s… Robert, Uh. I saw some… Suspicious buildings up on the mountain, by this lake,” He explained, handing me a map of the island. I examined it, spotting a spot circled, a little blue lake.

“Suspicious…?” I questioned, leaning against the wall.

“Yes, I uhh… Saw some activity,” He explained, clenching his fists.

“Okay I’ll uh, I’ll check it out,” I said, raising my head to meet his gaze.

“Okay, thank you,” He said, leaving the building swiftly.

Hawthorne was acting… Strange to say the least, I don’t know him much, but he was. Scared? I sighed, tucking the map into a drawer and taking my own out of my satchel, circling the same area.

My map was aged, with various drawings, sketches, and border lines showing areas where Natives were usually spotted, as well as their patrols and the supposed territory of the Beast of Grandiosia Isle.

Whilst I did not believe in it, the howls that echoed through the night still sent shivers down my spine. I went into a supply room, opened a chest, and grabbed a lantern and canteen. I checked to make sure it was filled with water, before exiting the Office, grabbing my hat on the way out.

I walked the decks that surrounded most buildings in the town, used as a main walkway or main street. Eventually, I stepped down onto the seawall, glaring at the castle that loomed in the distance. Once it was a figure of awe to me as a child, now it’s a clock, keeping me guessing when the United States Army may arrive.

I walked the carved path, taking each step with ease. Vines reached towards me from each cliff, dangling down and swaying with the wind that funneled through. Once I exited the path, I began walking towards the stables. I passed the private cottages, stacked nicely on a hill, with wooden staircases giving access to each building.

Walking past, cattle grazed and an aged redwood horse barn stood. I walked towards it, greeting the man tending to the horses. I glanced at the large amounts of cows, sheep, and chickens, and made my way inside. I stared at each horse, each adorned with different patterns and colors, ‘til I came across my steed. He was a dark brown, with white spots across his body and two on each eye.

I led him out, staring at the horse keeper as I did.

“Saddle ‘em up,” I said, handing the lead to him.

“Yes sir,” He said, moving to the side of the barn where the saddles were kept.

I lit up a cigarette as I watched the ocean, waiting. The waves crashed against the yellow-white shores, the sea breeze flowing through my hair. A mother and father sat on a bench, watching their children play in the ocean. I took it all in, it was calming, but Hawthorne’s paranoia stayed latched onto the back of my mind. Why was he so terrified?

“Sir,” He said, handing me the lead. My horse was saddled up, and I said a swift thank you as I hopped on, riding down the trail.

I crossed the old bridge, and with time I glanced at the golden tobacco crops, as the slaves worked away. They cut off unwanted segments of plants, ripped out weeds, and made sure no pests were able to damage the crops. I turned back to the trail, passing the entrance to the shady oak road, leading to the Roamer Family Manor.

I began down a trail of which fewer people traveled. These were used to get to other less inhabited portions of the island, smaller homesteads littering about, cabins, and other abodes occupied by people who wished to live away from the town.

I stopped, reaching into my satchel and grabbing my map. I glanced upwards, at the trees and the mountain that loomed over us, and back at the map. In a bit, I needed to divert off the path and into the jungle, which was unfortunate. I trotted forwards, glancing at the peak which cast an everso-familiar glare.

When I deemed fit, and a segment of the underbrush was clear enough for my horse to traverse, I entered the jungle, and the world instantly became darker. I traveled forward, listening to the birds chirp. A deer ran by me, startling my horse, but after he calmed down, we continued forward.

I sighed in relief as the jungle slowly transitioned to pine forest, leading to clearer underbrush. I believe my horse appreciated it as well, as he picked up speed. I became interested when I spotted a long clearing in front of me that turned out to be an old road.

The quality seemed to be of the manor’s paths, but it was aged, grass growing in between the gravel. I followed it up the mountain, and it led into a cave. I almost decided to get off, but the cave was wide, and gravel was on the floor. A light was at the end as well, it seemed more like a passage than a cave.

I entered, not having to duck, and made my way through the passage. At the end, a large gate sat, in the middle an ‘R’. My entire life, I had not known of this place, I even explored the island in my youth, but this was new. That insignia could only mean one thing, Roamer.

The gate was closed, but as I approached it I noticed it was not locked. I dismounted, pulling it open before mounting my horse again and continuing forward. It began getting steeper, and we traveled up a winding path. I glanced down, viewing the large clearing the tobacco sat in.

When I reached the top, there was a flat clearing. A large lake glistened as the sun reflected on it, it was a beautiful spot. I tied my horse to a tree and went to the shore. The water was calm, and I glanced around, spotting an old cabin. I walked towards it, it was dilapidated, with beams bending and making the roof on the porch cave in slightly.

I entered it, the shudders were closed and it was dark inside. I lit my lantern, revealing the interior. A bed sat next to a fireplace, as well as a small cooking and dining area. A couch sat to my right and a small desk. I walked inwards, taking in the sight. Nothing seemed to grant Mister Hawthorne’s paranoia, so what else was hiding up here?

I exited, glancing at the door that lay fallen onto the porch. I took in the lake once again, a small island in a corner, it was rocky, and three trees sat on it. I debated lighting up another cigarette, before spotting an unnatural edge in the trees to my right.

I turned, viewing a rock building. My attention was stolen, and I proceeded towards it. Moss grew within the cracks of each slab, and I walked around the side. No windows were on this building, which struck me as strange. A sense of unease surrounded me as I came across an iron door.

It was locked, no windows on it either. I shook at the handle, feeling the locking mechanism give way with each tug. I placed my lantern on the ground, pulling the door until the rock crumbled away and the door swung open. With it, a disgusting smell invaded my senses, burning my nostrils and eyes.

It wasn’t decomposition per se, but the long-lasting effects of it. I could tell something had rotted here long ago, and with the poor ventilation only a residual smell was left. I glanced into the dark room, it was a large hallway, with cell doors on each side.

I proceeded forward, grabbing my lantern first. I glanced into each cell, skeletal remains of people were in each one, one to two for each cell. I was horrified, to say the least, and I tucked my shirt over my nose to help with the smell. Another door like the one before lay cracked open, and it caught my attention. But one detail still haunted me, each skull had an obvious bullet hole within it.

I entered, leaving the door open as I progressed forward into the structure. Desks and science equipment lay in small areas, long ravaged by time. A fine layer of dust sat upon everything. I entered further, opening a smaller concealed cell. The skeletal remains of children sat, one having far too many arms. I gasped, closing the door, as I stumbled into an open cell behind me. A man sat, metal arms and a device on his skull, long perished like everyone else.

That was my breaking point, and I rushed out of the room, taking in the fresh air and slamming the door shut. I took out my journal and began writing this all down when I noticed a smaller path and some platforms against the cliff.

I noted down points for the report as I walked down the gravel path, focusing as I stepped through stone steps on the stone platform. I walked along it, moving under the cliffs of the mountain, and I came across the mouth of a cave. I glanced downwards, gasping as I saw a mass grave beneath me.

Hundreds of skeletal bodies lay below me, and I took a knee to take it in. I gazed for a long time, before deciding it was time to get out of here. As I stepped up, a part of the platform crumbled, and I lost my balance. I dropped my journal and fell.

It was a slow fall, for me at least. My heart pumped, and my adrenaline spiked as I saw the platform grow farther and farther away. I hit the skeletons with a crunch, and I heard glass shatter. I was out for a bit, coming to with a throbbing pain in one of my legs and head. I examined my surroundings, my eyes wide in horror.

I was surrounded by piles upon piles of bones, and I rose, staring deeper into the cave. I muttered obscenities, walking around to find my lantern. It was broken, the fuel spilling on stone clearing within the hundreds of skeletal bodies. I looked upwards, there was no way to get back out there.

I stared deeper into the cave, weighing my options, before I began to limp forward. I walked for a long time, slowing my pace as it began to grow harder to see. Any weight on my right leg shot pain throughout my entire body, but I moved forward. I began crawling as it became pitch black, I’m not sure how long I crawled for, but my hands became raw from pressing against the cave floor.

Eventually, it started to become lighter, and I came across an opening above me. It shone light from above, and I stared at it in pain. I was still stuck down here, no way I could climb out. I pulled out my canteen and drank ‘til it was empty. I noticed something unnatural, a straight edge, and my eyes focused on it. Rubble and vines concealed it, but it was something unnatural, something manmade.

I limped towards it, crawling through and moving the vines out of the way. I came into a modern hallway, papers, and desks strewn about. Doors sat periodically on each side, some rooms too dark to enter, some caved in. Parts of the roof were bending inwards and collapsing, giving me a sense of unease for my safety.

I pressed forward, and I noticed something peculiar. A glowing button, I stared at it, making sure I wasn’t hallucinating. It gave off a slight hum, and I looked behind me, staring at the daylight. I stepped into an elevator, it creaked under my weight. I pressed it in, and it gave a satisfying click as I began to move upwards.

It traveled for a while, and I waited, a lump forming in my throat. I debated sitting down, but I was not sure if I could stand up again, and so I stood there, waiting as this aged machinery lifted me. It screeched to a halt, the safety doors sliding open and sunlight poured into the room.

A short hallway separated me from a large room, where large amounts of lab equipment and desks lay. I limped forward, groaning in pain as I came into a circular room. The elevator was in the core, and hallways cut out of the rocky structure.

On the entire wall, a window sat, and I walked towards it in awe. I almost cried, seeing the island from all the way up here, and I placed my hand against the dusty window. It was beautiful, every last bit of it. My mouth grew dry as I scanned the room, for anything of use.

It took many glances before I noticed an area of my vision was out of focus. I tried to see what it was, but it gave me a headache, and I flinched away. I knew something though, I had to see what this was. I limped forward, and the closer I grew, it almost seemed like walking became easier. I kept trying to look at it, and when I was close enough, it came to me.

Every last bit, everything. It all made sense.

I awoke, and I quickly got up and dressed. I opened my door, walking across the hall to Eddie’s room. I entered, seeing him sitting up on his bed.

“You need help to walk today?” I questioned, giving him my hand. He shook his head, grabbing his cane. He missed the first grab, recalibrating and grabbing the second.

We walked in silence, I occasionally had to help him not to fall.

“The doctor says this could be permanent,” I remarked, helping him down the stairs.

“It’sh shjust mie spheech,” He remarked, clenching his fist.

“Uhh, I’m sure you will get better. You’re lucky you’re still here,” I explained, pulling out his seat so he could sit with ease.

“It swill,” He said, taking his seat and setting his cane on the table.

We sat in silence before the servants came and gave us our breakfast. I ate quickly, glancing at Eddie struggling to use his utensils.

“Do you need help?” I questioned, gazing at him.

“No, I do chnot,” He responded, sighing and leaning downwards, shoveling the eggs into his mouth.

After he finished, he tried to light up a cigarette, struggling with the lighter.

“Gackshon,” He said, extending the lighter out. I stood up, walking over. I grabbed it out of his hand, extending the lighter to the cigarette hanging in his mouth. I lit it, and he took a deep inhale, taking it out and coughing.

“I have to go, Eddie, see you,” I said, beginning to walk away.

“Gackshon, how whill Ie do papreworke?” He questioned, turning his head to look at me.

“Uhh… Have one of the literate servants help I guess, see you tonight,” I said, exiting his line of sight. I could hear his coughs echoing through the house until the moment I exited through the front doors.

I glanced at the stables, before taking a sharp left towards my vehicle. I walked through the conservatory. The plants were decayed from the lack of care Eddie has given them in his current state. It pained me to see them like this, the once lush greenery now filled with dark colors.

I exited through the double doors, viewing mine and Eddie’s vehicle. His lay dormant, he rarely exited the manor as his illness grew worse, and I feared now he would never leave. I sighed, doing the chores required to start my vehicle, and took off towards the town.

I stopped by the fort, quickly informing Mister Hawthorne that I would not be attending the routine this morning, and resumed my path toward the town. I parked my car and passed a family crossing from a day at the beach. They made their way up into one of the cottages as I made my way through the old stone path.

I entered the bank, gazing at the old brick structure, it wasn’t the most grand building. Constructed in 1811, most would consider it lacking in today’s structure, but I found its architecture interesting. It had four extended parts of brick, the bottom area having a concrete trim around waist-high. In the middle of two of the brick extensions sat a pair of double doors, with a grid pattern in the glass.

The brick there arched upwards, with lettering that read “Establish 1811”. Above it a sign that read “Grandiosia Isle Bank” in silver lettering. On both sides of the doors past another extension, two windows sat with the same grid panning as the doors. Above the doors in the arch sat a curved window that spotted the same familiar grid.

I made small talk as I dropped off this week’s payroll. The inside had a teller desk with various sayings on semi-transparent glass. It was wooden, with barred openings to tend to people’s financial needs. The roof was white, with a grid pattern similar to my dining room, a detailed segment in each opening.

Benches sat against the wall, as well as a lamp. The walls had a dark wood baseboard, leading into a tan marble, then another dark board at waist height, a light tan wallpaper, near the roof, a different more detailed wallpaper divided by another dark board, and a final board leading into the aforementioned roof.

I exited the building, taking a left and bumping into a young woman.

“Oh sorry,” She said, as I stumbled and caught myself on the side deck of the saloon. I immediately recognized her as the one I made awkward eye contact with during the hanging of Tadewi.

“No it was my fault, I wasn’t paying attention,” I explained, catching her gaze and staring into her blue eyes.

“Jackson right?” She asked, examining me.

“Yes ma’am, and you?” I assured, examining her as well. She had blue eyes and dark brown hair that was tied together in a ponytail.

“Mary, pleasured to meet your acquaintance,” She said jokingly, giving a little bow and raise of her dress.

I laughed, and she continued.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry,” She said, with a tilt of her head.

“Uh, Post Office. Checking the mail,” I explained, gesturing to the building in the distance.

“May I come with?” She asked, and I flustered up.

“Oh uh, uhm. Sure I could use the uh, company,” I said, tripping over my own words. She laughed, a real one too.

“Well, let’s go,” She said, gesturing to the building in the same way I did.

“Sure,” I replied, beginning to walk there.

We made small talk along the way, and I held the door open for her as I entered. I noticed a look from the teller as I picked up my mail, I caught his eye, and he smirked. I began to sift through the bundle of mail, before being interrupted by Mary.

“Really? Just going to look through the mail?” She stated, sounding disappointed.

“Oh uh, sorry I forgot you were here,” I said, chuckling and tucking the bundle into my satchel.

“Why don’t we go do something?” She suggested, taking a seat on a bench against the wall and staring out the window.

“Oh sure, uh why don’t I buy you a drink?” I suggested, leaning against the wall.

“I don’t drink,” She said bluntly, crossing her legs.

“Then… What do you do?” I questioned, laughing.

She laughed with me, before responding. “I clean the cottages,” She explained, resting an arm on the armrest.

“Well, instead of drinks why don’t we grab something to eat? I suggested, standing from my leaning position.

“Sure!” She said excitedly, as she exited the Post Office.

“Saloon? I questioned, gesturing towards it.

“Well it’s really the only place to get something to eat here,” She said, walking down the steps from the dock.

We crossed the muddy street, walking up onto the porch of the Saloon. I held the Saloon doors open as she walked up to the counter.

“What can I get ya’ll?” The bartender questioned, cleaning a glass.

She scanned the menu behind him, before saying.

“A lunch special please,” Stepping away and giving me room to speak.

“Uhh, I’ll have the same,” I said, handing him three dollars and walking away with Mary to a table.

I clenched the water can, slowly making my way to a plant. I poured the water, placing the can to my left and kneeling. I went to cut off a dead leaf, my hands shaking. I missed, cutting the plant in half.

“Schit,” I muttered, placing the snippers down in despair.

No more putting it off, I had to get the paperwork done for today. I slowly made my way out of the Conservatory, heading to the slave quarters. I viewed the door, opening it to reveal steps downstairs.

“Can anemone downe thair right?” I shouted, hearing muffled speaking.

“No, sir,” I heard from below, and I sighed.

I made my way to the library, opening the door and leaning weight against a shelf. I moved forward to the desk, taking a seat. I struggled to grasp the pen, eventually grabbing it with two hands. I sighed in disappointment with myself and began to cough. I stared at my hand, stained blood on my palm.

I stood facing a long gap in the crowd, leading up to an elevated platform. They chanted and cheered for me, drums banging and singing chants. I began to walk forward, and the crowd grew louder. Torches were placed in rows on either side of me, leading to my destination.

I smiled, as I continued my walk down the path. I glanced at the crowd, their faces etched with excitement. Stepping up the stairs onto the platform, their cheers reached a crescendo, and as I took my seat, they all went silent.

I heard footsteps behind me, and a weight met my head. A large elegant headdress was placed upon my crown, and as it finished its placement, the crowd erupted back into cheers.

I was ecstatic with joy, as I glanced at the backdrop of the swamp. I rose from my seat, raising my arms and shouting “SILENCE!” All men and women hushed, small murmurs dying out as they waited for me to speak.

“My people, it is with great gratitude that I accept the position as Chief of our Tribe,” I started, lowering my arms and stepping forward.

“As we all know, under the leadership of our previous Cheif and Elders, we have been pushed into this far muddy corner of the island. No more will we be oppressed by these people, for this is a new age, an age of war!” I exclaimed, raising my arms as the crowd cheered. I waited ‘til it died down, catching the eye of many men and women.

“For the last hundred years, our land has been taken from us, but in the next hundred years or less, we shall take it back!” I shouted, another round of cheers and applause echoing through the swamp.

“I will make sure that in my lifetime, we are to expel these intruders from our land. We will take back what is rightfully ours!” I exclaimed, as the crowd once again cheered.

“Our people are wolves, not simple deer who cower to safety! As the sun rises tomorrow, that will be the start of a new age. Not another age of us simply being prey, but an age of our ancestors, an age of war, an age of predators! An age of the wolf.” I shouted, my words echoing as a final cheer erupted from behind me.

I walked into the previous Cheif’s hut, examining the various trinkets. Deerskin covered the walls, hiding the ugly wood, and a fireplace sat in the middle, crackling from a previous flame.

“Cheif, what is the first course of action,” The man questioned, following me into the hut.

“I do have an idea,” Taking a seat on the elegant throne crafted from bone. I stared into the fireplace, watching embers shoot out and die.

“I must know, I must!” He pleaded, taking a seat on a bench.

“If you must. We will sabotage his vehicle, taking gasoline out so that it dies out in the correct spot,” I explained beginning to write in a leather book.

“And?” He questioned, pleading for more and leaning forward.

“We will use the telegraph lines to give a false code, causing him to head to town in a rush late at night,” I said, scribbling in the book. I was attempting to find the logistics of how much gasoline to leave within the tank of his vehicle.

“Then what?” He said, pushing dark hair out of his face.

“Take him into the wilderness, and string him up,” I explained, standing back up from the throne.

“Tonight though, tonight is not a night of war, tonight we feast!” I exclaimed, and the man stood up before me.

“Sir, we have not captured any white men,” He explained, uneasy.

“Oh but we do not need them, we have the Ex–Cheif and Ex–Elders, who were banished to Kasa Wapasi,” I stated, turning and facing the door.

“They still serve some use I presume, to fuel our people for war!” He exclaimed, understanding.

“Yes, my child. Tonight, we feast, tomorrow… Tomorrow we shall stand victorious!”

I sat in the gazebo, it was small and was accessed by the main dock, near the post office. It had mesh windows, allowing the sea breeze to flow through.

“This has been nice,” Mary said, leaning forward and placing her arms on the table. She rested her head upon both her clenched forst.

“Yes, it has,” I said, flicking through the mail and opening them one by one.

“Oh, look!” Mary said, pointing towards the ocean. I saw the Constitution slowly approaching, its white hull a contrast to the deep blue.

“That’s strange,” I remarked, glancing at it with a curiosity.

“Why’s that?” She questioned, straightening her posture and flicking brown hair out of her face.

“Well, they were supposed to arrive tomorrow,” I explained, turning to face her.

“What day is it again?” I questioned, and she thought for a moment.

“Twenty–third,” She stated, tilting her head.

“I thought so, they were supposed to arrive twenty–fourth,” I explained, glancing back to the constitution.

“Maybe they just decided to come back early?” She questioned, turning her head to see the ship once again.

“No, that… That has never happened before,” I clarified, as a breeze flew through the gazebo.

“There’s a first for everything,” She said, placing her hand on my hand. I flustered up, blushing and pulling away.

“That’s… True,” I stated, flipping to the next piece of mail. A lump formed in my throat, it was far more Official than every other piece of mail I had scanned through so far.

The letter was heavy, and the paper was high quality. The address and lettering were clear and typed on, not handwritten. It was signed on the bottom right, with an elegant stamp just above it featuring an eagle and the American flag.

In the middle on the top stamped on was “United States Government,”. I turned it, it was sealed by an elegant wax insignia.

“Oh,” I said, pulling it open. The paper inside was heavy and felt rough, folded neatly into three segments. A lump formed in my throat as I unfolded it.

“What’s wrong?” Mary questioned, straightening her posture.

I began to read it, my mouth growing dry. I hung on each word, wiping sweat off my forehead.

UNITED STATES ARMY

July 18th, 1875

For Jackson Roamer, or individuals affiliated with the Roamer Family

Grandosia Isle Post Office

Dear Mister Jackson Roamer,

I hope this letter finds you well. It is with a sense of duty and commitment to justice that I write to inform you of our imminent arrival to liberate the enslaved negro population residing on Grandiosia Isle.

As part of our ongoing efforts to uphold the principles of freedom and equality, our forces have been mobilized to Grandosia Isle to ensure the emancipation of all individuals held in bondage. Our mission is to bring an end to the institution of slavery and to secure the rights and liberties of those who have long suffered under its yoke.

Our arrival is scheduled for this month, and we anticipate that our forces will be prepared to commence operations shortly thereafter this letter arrives. It is our sincere hope that this endeavor will bring about a new era of dignity and opportunity for the inhabitants of Grandosia, free from the shackles of oppression.

Our troops will conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism and adherence to international laws and conventions. We seek a peaceful resolution to this matter and urge all parties involved to cooperate fully with our efforts.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Respectfully,

General Philip Sheridan

UNITED STATES ARMY

I stared in disbelief, sweating and gritting my teeth. My heart raced, as I folded the letter once again. I placed it back into its envelope, closed it, and placed it on the table. I glanced at the ship, now docked as Mister Fairfax, the man who oversees the travel of the ship, rushed out, screaming for me.

“HAS ANYONE SEEN JACKSON?” He exclaimed, questioning a frightened woman.

“I uh, I saw him in the gazebo,” She said, pointing at me.

I exited, waving towards him and walking down the steps. We greeted at the staircase up the seawall, and he put both hands on my shoulders.

“What is it, Mister Fairfax?” I questioned, staring into his crazed eyes.

“WE…” He said, tripping over his own words.

“Calm down calm down,” I said, knowing what information he was to relay to me already.

“It… The Army! They have a massive warship on the docks of Galveston!” He exclaimed, shaking me. “We heard them, they’re coming here, they gonna arrive tomorrow!” He explained, his breathing rapid.

“How big of a ship?” I questioned, my heart dropping.

“It’s MASSIVE, twice the side of the Constitution, its metal, has cannons, guns, it’s a WARSHIP, and it’s COMING HERE TOMORROW!” He exclaimed, beginning to grow hysterical.

I grew faint, almost collapsing and stumbling.

“Dear God,” I exclaimed, walking backward. “We need to… We need to prepare!” I exclaimed, walking back up the deck and towards the Sheriff’s Office.

I burst in, scanning the room and shouting for Charles. I spotted a figure leaning against the wall, and he stepped forward. It was Jacob, a large bandage on his neck. He examined me, his arms crossed. I scanned the rest of the room, looking for Charles, but no one else was in the Office.

“Where’s Charles?” I questioned, staring into his eyes.

He shrugged, glancing around the room and then back at me.

“Have you seen him?” I said, and he shook his head no.

“You… Can’t talk,” I questioned, and he shook his head yes.

“When was the las–… Have you seen him today,?” I questioned, and he shook his head yes. He walked over to a small desk, pulling out paper and pen. He scribbled for a bit, before handing it to me.

“Charles talked to Hawthorne, he left after that”

I thought for a while, before nodding and tucking the paper into my pocket. I needed to call upon the town, we needed to defend our home.  I exited the Office, glancing around. My eyes landed on the church, and its large bell. It clicked, ringing it five times would tell everyone who could hear it to gather in the town square.

I ran, opening the doors and viewing the inside. Rows of pews were in front of me, the roof curved inwards and stained glass windows plastered the wall. I turned to my right, seeing a large rope suspended. I held my breath, as I pulled at it. It rang once, it was hard the first ring, but the momentum helped me ring it again.

Once more, then again, then one last time. Five rings and I exited the church. People were already gathering in the square, around the gallows. I made my way to them, stepping up and staring at everyone as they stared back.

We rode up the mountain, and I gazed at the sights. This was where my journey began, and coming back here, to this grizzly place, I felt at ease. As we approached the top, I smelt it. The smell of rot, fresh and old. The man behind me drove a wagon, a caged wagon.

I dismounted, walking towards the iron bars that lay on the floor. I glanced down, several men lying against walls. I could tell which were dead, and which still lived.

“Hello,” I said, and they all jumped, gazing upward.

One laughed, he moved and stared at me. “Jakoda, you evil devil,” He muttered, glancing upwards.

“Oh I’m sorry, is it just now you realize how terrible of a place this is?” I mocked, laughing to myself.

“You’re evil, just like the Roamers, just like Robert and Jackson,” He spitted out, and I laughed.

“Oh but I am, more than you will ever know… Let’s cut to the chase, before the new dawn, before our declaration of war, we shall have a feast. To give us strength, power, bravery,” I explained, staring downwards.

He laughed, before speaking. “Oh but I do know, I know your secret! Do you take me for stupid? And you fool, you don’t have any flesh!” He exclaimed, continuing his laugh. I waited for it to click for him, and his laugh died down.

“No… You wouldn’t…” He said, standing up. “THAT IS NOT WHAT OUR PEOPLE DO, THAT IS NOT THE TRADITION, NOT THE CULTURE!” He exclaimed, his voice echoing out of the pit.

“It’s a new day, a new dawn. Things are changing, for the better,” I stated, as four men stepped to my sides.

“You’re a monster,” He muttered, sliding down to a sitting position on the smooth stone walls.

“A monster? No. I am doing what’s better for my people, far better than you ever did,”

He shouted out curses, and obscenities, as I chuckled.

“I wonder what you’ll taste like,”

I stared at my handwriting, it was horrendous, nothing more than scribbles. I placed the pen down before an idea clicked. I grabbed my cane and the bundle of paperwork. I slowly limped my way upstairs, to the guest room. Muttering to myself I felt along the post of the room, finding a deviation. I lifted upwards, revealing the mechanism

Twisting it, the room came to life, and the door slowly disappeared. I emerged in the observatory, glancing around at the elegant room.

“Wchere ish it,” I muttered, staring at various desks.

My eyes focused on a typewriter, and I made my way to it, plopping the paper stack down, and taking a seat. I placed my cane against the drawers and struggled to set up the paper. Once it was in, I flicked it on, and a subtle hum came from the machine.

I began typing away, but I typed far too fast for my fingers, and I horribly misspelled a word. I backtracked, writing multiple letters on each word to black it out, and started again much more slowly this time. I typed for some time, slowly but surely making far greater progress than with a pen.

I heard a small bell ring out behind me, and I turned the rolling chair to see. Across the room humming was some lab equipment, and my curiosity was taken. I grabbed my cane, limped across the room, and glanced at the equipment. It seemed a drug had finished synthesizing, and I examined the desk to the left.

A wave of emotion passed over me, and I leaned against the sturdy oak desk. Documents, writings, from Jackson. They dated back years, I examined the books stacked on the left of the desk. All relating to ailments, and one focusing entirely on Tubercliosis.

I sat down, examining the writings which all grew more frantic by the month, all wishing to cure me. For years, Jackson had worked away up here, trying to save me. I began to tear up, wiping them away quickly and kept reading the writings. Once I finished, I turned to the lab equipment, gazing at the messy desk.

Dozens of vials sat on the desk, as well as various herbs and medicinal supplies. The main equipment was bronze, a circular structure with various slots cut out to insert combinations of herbs. They liquified, turning into a solution with which dozens of vials were filled.

A paper sat next to them, showing all of the failed experiments. It seemed he was onto something, combining various antibiotics into a drinkable solution. His theoretical treatment started with a dose of an antibiotic, and then monitoring the patient after for some time. If Tuberculosis was still detected in the patient, another dose would be given.

I grabbed the next paper and examined it. He seemed to be performing trial and error on the fluid, currently, this solution contained Isoniazid, Rifampin, Pyrazinamide, Ethambutol, Streptomycin, Ethionamide, Para-aminosalicylic acid, Cycloserine, and Capreomycin. I didn’t know what most of these were, but nevertheless, I placed the paper back onto the desk and made my way back to the typewriter to continue my work.

I stood, facing the crowd. I watched as the groups of people funneling in slowed, and eventually, there was no one left. They waited in silence, and I prepared myself.

“My friends, we all know the principles of Grandiosia Isle. Freedom, grandeur, and hard work. We live by these principles, and we stand by them. But, our way of life is under threat. The United States now considers our home to be under their jurisdiction, and they are going to come here and liberate our working force from their shackles,”

The people began murmuring.

“Without them, with having to pay wages for their work, our society can not flourish, our lives will crumble, and we may have to leave this beautiful land. Everything that our ancestors have fought for will be lost, all the work they put in. Our Legacies are on the line!” I exclaimed, stepping forward. My heart was racing, and I thought about just cowering. That was not in my blood, we had to fight.

“They have ruled under their courts, without any word to us, that Grandiosia Isle is American. They have labeled it one of their territories, but we know better. We are independence and freedom incarnate, and they wish to take that from us.” I explained, my voice raising.

“We need to stand together as one, stand together united, and defend our lives. We need to defend our home, our way of life, so I call to you, to band together with me and stand against adversity! We will conquer them, and stand over a new dawn, victorious!” I exclaimed, glancing around.

They murmured to each other, and the silence spoke a thousand words. Despite my predictions, they erupted into cheers, and I smiled.

I sat in the living room, staring at the elegant wood carving and focusing on my breathing. I inhaled, and dehaled, but I failed and began into a coughing fit. I sighed and raised my hands. I stared at my right hand and attempted to extend it. I reached out toward nothing, but the path deviated, the more I reached, the more it shook.

I tried the same with my left but failed all the same. I breathed again, breaking out into another coughing fit. After I finished, I tried once again, attempting to fill my black lungs with air. My intake was capped, and I wheezed out, breaking into another yet coughing fit.

I raised, feeling especially tired. I began to limp to my bedroom, scaling the stairs and putting strain on my ill body. I collapsed to the floor, breaking out into another coughing fit. My breathing was shallow, as I got back onto my feet, continuing to my bedroom.

I sat at a long table, the flowers and feathers of my elegant headdress covering my face. I moved them out of the way, glancing at my people as they ate the feast. I stared at my plate, my dry mouth dampening. I sighed, before using a fork and knife to cut a chunk of meat apart. I ate it, it was chewy and tasted like pork.

I grabbed the silver chalice in front of me, taking a sip and wincing at the taste of it. After the terrible first taste ensued, a pleasant fruity aftertaste came after. I let out a breath, as I stared down the table, men, women, children, they all ate. Was this wrong? Not telling them that we were eating fellow Natives?

No, no. With a new era, why is it so wrong to break tradition? I needed my people to be strong for the upcoming war. A new dawn is here, and I simply can’t wait to baste in the sunlight. I smiled, staring at my people once again. This time, everything seemed normal.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting long shadows across the castle grounds, we toiled tirelessly to fortify our defenses. With each passing hour, the urgency of our task became more apparent, driving us forward with unwavering determination.

Inside the aged stone walls of the castle, the clang of metal against metal reverberated through the corridors as we hastily assembled barricades and reinforced doorways. Sweat glistened on our brows as we heaved heavy furniture into strategic positions, creating makeshift barriers to impede the advance of our enemies.

In the flickering lanternlight, we meticulously loaded cannons with powder and shot, ensuring they were primed and ready to defend our stronghold. The rhythmic thud of boots echoed off the stone floors as we maneuvered Gatling guns into position, their menacing barrels trained on potential points of entry.

Amidst the flurry of activity, we assigned sentries to stand watch at key vantage points, their eyes scanning the waters for any sign of the warship. Lanterns flickered along the battlements, casting eerie shadows that danced across the ancient stones.

Despite the fatigue that gnawed at our bones, we pressed on, fueled by the knowledge that the safety of our home depended on our diligence and vigilance. With each task completed, the castle transformed from a mere fortress into an impenetrable bastion of defense, ready to withstand whatever onslaught the coming day might bring.

I sat on top of an aged tower, one that still stood. I gazed down at the stone bridge that gave access from this portion to the next. A smaller structure stood on a long stretch of land, the main portion of the fortress being on a larger island. I watched the sun begin to peek over the horizon, sending warmth through my body as I began to doze off.

I was awoken by a faint shouting, and a loud whistle being blown. I stirred, glancing into the ocean. Something was peeking from the corner of a rock formation in the distance, three smoke pillars towered into the sky from it, and I jumped up in shock.

Rushing down the tower, I moved quickly, almost falling down the spiraling stairs. I made my way to the main platform, cannons being moved to face the intruder, and we watched as it slowly came into view.

It was massive, metal, and it floated as a sentinel to America’s power. We waited, as it moved directly in front of us, and sat there.

“Are they watching us?” Samuel questioned, stepping to my left.

“Maybe,” I replied, staring in awe at this massive warship.

“Calibrate the cannons to hit it!” I exclaimed as men went to work positioning cannons.

“Do we fire?” A man questioned, and I glanced at him.

“No, not yet. Let’s wait to see what they do–” I got cut off by a terrifying horn, echoing from the ship.

“Shit,” I heard a man mutter, as a whizzing sound became audible. It hit the bridge, and it exploded, collapsing inwards and sending rock outwards. Moments later, a boom rang out from the ship. I crouched down from the shaking, as debris from the tower to my left fell from the impact.

“FIRE!” I exclaimed, and a second later, a barrage of deafening cannons was set off. My ears rang as the castle was enveloped in smoke, I coughed and fanned smoke from my face. It burnt my eyes, my lungs, and my ears.

When it cleared, the ship stood, no damage visible. It felt like a thousand hours as I witnessed its barrage of cannon fire flying through the air. My eyes widened, my adrenaline spiked, and my heart just about stopped.

I gasped, slowly rising from bed. I scanned around me, it was just a nightmare, but it sounded so real. I lay back down, coughing up a storm as I did. I almost drifted back off, when it came again. I shot up, knowing that it indeed was real.

I fell onto the floor, crawling through as gunfire flew above me. I rolled into a trench, curling into a ball as I attempted to shield myself. My brothers-in-arms were to my right, and I attempted to crawl toward them.

A cannonball ripped through, exploding. Blood and chunks of flesh fell upon me, soaking my legs in it. I crawled backward, away from the gory scene. I began to cry, continuing my crawl, when it all ceased.

I opened my eyes, and I was on a sandy beach. I was home, I was safe, and I began to walk into the land, but I collapsed back into the sand. I laid on my back, feeling the cool sand in my hair, as I gazed up at the mountain.

The glare began to grow brighter and larger, and soon enough it was all I could see. The blinding white lights caused my ears to ring, and that was all I heard. I attempted to close my eyes, but it shone through my eyelids. Suddenly all sensations dissipated, and I felt calm, all pain was gone.

I was at peace.

“You hear that?” He questioned, glancing at me.

“Of course I do,” I said, glaring at him.

A rider approached, skidding in the mud.

“Sir, the United States is attacking them,” He explained, dismounting his horse.

“Well that explains it,” I stated, taking a seat again.

“So, what now?” He questioned, taking a seat in front of me.

“Well, this will make things… This will make things a lot more interesting,” I said, leaning into the seat.

“Will we still attack him tonight?” He questioned, leaning forward.

“I’ll have to see, it depends on how badly the Army damages them and their security,” I said, rubbing my eyes. My vision blurry since the loss of my glasses, but I knew that would not be for long.

“Why don’t we ride out and check it out?” He suggested as I listened to the cannon fire slow down.

“Alright,” I said, standing up.

I cowered, listening to the cannon fire and silently praying that I would not fall victim to the ruthless barrage. Our fight was useless, the Army’s arms were far stronger than us. The cannon fire soon began to lessen, and I heard smaller explosions below us.

I ran to the edge of the platform, glancing at the carnage around me. Upon reaching the edge, I gazed down. Multiple rafts line the shores, soldiers rushing inwards. They had already breached the building and were soon making their way up.

I knew what I had to do, I knew what would be required. But was I too stubborn to sacrifice my legacy to save the residents of Grandiosia Isle? I began racing up the tower, gunfire and shouting below me. My legs grew tired and began to ache with each step. I reached the top, taking a moment to catch my breath.

I gazed outwards at the ship, it mocked me, just sitting there whilst I struggled to survive. I lowered the flag, ripping it off and tying a white piece of cloth to the rope. I thought for a moment, my hands clasping the rope. I thought of the consequences of these actions.

I began raising it, it caught in the wind and started to flail about. I watched it as it rose, tears welling in my eyes. I had failed my legacy, I had failed my people, I had failed. I’m a failure. It reached its peak, and for a moment, the gunfire continued.

The horn from the warship sounded, and the gunfire stopped, replaced by cheering. I slid against the spiked wall into a sitting position, beginning to cry. I had failed, I’m a failure, a disgrace to my people, and my Legacy. Oh, how I wish someone else had to carry this burden.

“Well, from the looks of that flag, they surrendered,” I stated, leading my horse a bit forward.

“Is this… Good?” My companion questioned, glancing at me. Even after all our conversations, I had yet to catch his name.

“I… I think it is,” I stated, before continuing. “This didn’t happen to me, although the Confederates won the war,” I explained, glancing at him.

“I see… So, will we wait to attack?” He questioned.

“Perhaps,” I responded, beginning to ride back.

I watched them walk in a line, boarding the war vessel. I now saw it up close, oh how foolish I was. I had lost so many people because of my ego, so many families ruined. How could I ever believe I could beat the United States? A line of men and women–mostly men stood on the large dock, slowly making their way to the warship one by one.

I sat in the gazebo, watching them. I was hiding, from wives asking where their husbands were, to families packing up to leave. I watched as the line grew shorter and shorter, eventually no one was left. The ship’s horn rang out, as it began to slowly crawl away from me, taking my legacy and life with it.

I sat, feeling the ocean breeze flow through the screened windows of the Gazebo as I was lost in my thoughts. A commotion slowly grew louder, people muttering, someone shouting. I glanced toward the direction of the commotion, in the town square a group of men and women had gathered.

Someone was screaming, no doubt as a reaction to the loss of our little battle. I began to walk towards it, glancing through the Sherrif’s Office windows, nothing but darkness was visible inside. I approached the commotion, pushing men and women to the sides.

A woman cried in the middle, and when she saw me she screamed that it was my fault. I walked away in shame, covering my face with my hat, and hiding away in the darkness of the Sherrif’s Office. I sat at Charles’s aged desk, staring at a box of cigarettes. I picked it up, examining it. It was my brand, the brand that was now out of business.

I sighed, opening it and picking up a single cigarette. I reached into my satchel, taking out a box of matches. I lit a match, sticking the cigarette in my mouth and lighting it. I shook the match til it went out, dropping it on the floor and taking a puff from the cigarette.

I coughed out the smoke, before taking another puff. I put the matchbox back into my satchel and continued smoking for the first time in years. I attempted to place my feet up on the desk, but a folded piece of paper that stuck out of a drawer caught my attention as my boot rubbed against it.

I put my feet back down, leaning forward and taking the paper out of the desk. I unfolded it, examining the contents. It was a map of Grandiosia Isle, that was for certain, but I couldn’t find anything of interest. I examined it, glancing at where my manor lies, the town, and the swamp.

I noticed a circular area, and I moved the map closer to my face, where I could tell a small lake was. It was a distance inwards, and I could tell that it was up a mountain. Is this where Charles went and disappeared? I sighed, rising from the chair and placing the cigarette bud in an ashtray.

I left the building, glancing at many families as they packed up to leave, most without husbands accompanying them. All a reminder of how I have failed my legacy, how I failed my people. I started my vehicle, taking off down the beaten path.

I was lost in my thoughts, staring at the golden tobacco crops as I approached the turn to the long Oak Road. I stopped at the intersection, staring down the beaten path towards where Charles could have possibly gone, and down the Oak Road.

I felt a sudden need to go to the manor, and I turned the vehicle, speeding down the path. I stared at the manor, a representation of my tarnished legacy, and I pulled into the carriage drop-off, parking next to Eddie’s car.

As I entered the Conservatory, I glanced at the various plants and flowers. They all lie blackened, each and every one of them dead. I reached out, grabbing a leaf, and squeezed it. It crumbled in my hand. It was a depressing sight, and I quickly exited the Conservatory, walking the distance to the front doors.

The storm doors lay open, and I glanced inside through the window on the door. It seemed still, and I opened the door. A wave of cold air rushed to me, and I entered the building, closing the door behind me. I stared at the elegant design and architecture, a deeper appreciation for it.

“Eddie?” I called out, glancing into the living room and viewing the carving by my late Father that sat above the fireplace. I glanced right, checking the ballroom.

As I reached the staircase, I peeked left, the dining room lay empty. Taking a few steps right, I opened the library door. I stared in, up the stairs, at the desk, and at the hundreds of books.

“Eddie?” I called out again, but with no response, I closed the door and began upstairs.

I stared at the various paintings, portraits, and much of my family history. As I reached the hallways for the bedrooms, I glanced left and right. I sighed, beginning to make my way to Eddie’s room, grasping the doorknob. It was cold, colder than usual. I felt something wrong, something very wrong.

I slowly opened the door, glancing around the white room. Elegant as the rest of the house, a bed on the far wall, the bed drapes closed. A shadow lay on the bed, and I walked towards it. I slowly pulled it, revealing a stiff figure lying on the bed.

“Eddie…?” I said, staring into his closed eyes. He was pale, and so I grasped his arm with a shaky hand. His skin was colder than the room, and I pulled away, taking a step back. Tears began to well in my eyes, as I kneeled.

I swallowed the moisture in my mouth, trying to shake him awake. I knew he was dead, but a part of me hoped that perhaps I could revive him. Alas, he remained still and stiff, my efforts accomplishing nothing. I cried as I muttered his name, but he was gone.

I sat on my chair as I examined each member of my council. They glanced at me, muttering to themselves. Whilst obtaining leadership was difficult, keeping it may be harder.

“Almost all townsfolks have fled, leaving the town barren and borderline vacant,” I explained, taking a glass from the small table that sat next to me.

“We will attack tonight, using the vehicle plan. We shall make it quick, and seize control promptly,” I finished, placing the glass back down.

“And if we fail?” One of my council spoke up, glaring at me.

“It won’t,” I said smugly, leaning back into my chair.

I stared at his lifeless body in the elegant coffin. I was holding in tears, as Hawthorne patted me on the back.

“He was good, I’m sure he died peacefully,” He said, attempting to comfort me.

The rain pattered down on my hat, and I laid eyes upon him for what would be the last time. He was wearing a decorated uniform, with various medals from his time serving in the Confederate Army.

“Okay,” I said, wiping the salty residue off my eyes.

With that Hawthorne closed the casket, and so did a chapter in my life. The casket began to lower, and I wished that he would open it, smile at me, adjust his glasses, and crawl out of his grave better.

As the few men began filling the hole, I gazed upwards at the shady oak towering above me. I took a deep breath, turning around and walking returning to the manor.

I flinched as I saw him in front of me, blocking my path. He looked deranged, thin, and had a crazy look in his eyes. I glanced in his hand, a dirty revolver clenched in his shaking fist.

“Charles…?” I questioned, beginning to take a step back as he took one forward.

“It’s… You… It’s all your… IT’S ALL YOUR FUCKING FAULT!” He exclaimed, raising his hand and rubbing his face.

“Charles… What are you… Talking about?” I questioned, tensing.

“YOUR STUPID FUCKING FATHER, AND HIS STUPID FUCKING EXPERIMENTS!” He exclaimed, raising the revolver and pointing it at me as I raised my hands.

“Charles, what happened?” I questioned, noting the position of my weapon in its holster, but that was a last resort.

“UP IN THAT MOUNTAIN, IN THE MOUTH, AND ON THE FUCKING PEAK!” He shouted, beginning to shake violently.

“Charles, tell me what happened” I stated, trying to calm him.

“THE MOUTH OF THE BEAST, IT WANTS TO… IT… AGHHH!” He exclaimed, flaring his hand around and stomping his feet.

“What are you implying?” I questioned, stepping one foot in front of the other, tilting my body.

“WHAT I’M IMPLYING? NONE OF US HAD TO BE HERE, BUT YOUR FATHER ENSURED WE ALL HAD TO STAY.”

“My father what?” I asked as he flinched simply at the mention of him.

“THAT THING UP IN THE MOUNTAIN, IN THE MOUTH, ON THE PEAK. THAT STUPID FUCKING GLARE, IT WATCHES US, IT MADE US BE HERE, WE HAVE NO FUCKING CHOICE UNTIL WE KILL IT!” He screamed, stepping forward.

“Charles, you… We can… We can help you, you’re not well,” I stated, raising my hand in a comforting gesture.

“DON’T YOU FUCKING TALK TO ME, YOU’RE PART OF THIS, YOUR FAILURE CAUSING US TO BE IN THIS CYCLE OF PURE SUFFERING!” He exclaimed, growing more hysterical.

The failure still sored me, but which was he speaking about? The Army? Or just my ‘accomplishments’ as a whole?

“What are you talking about? Please tell me, Charles,” I pleaded, taking a step forward.

“OHHH, IF YOU JUST TRIED A LITTLE BIT HARDER, THOUSANDS OF YEARS WORTH OF PAIN WOULD BE GONE!” He stated, jerking the revolver to his head, and placing it at the base of his chin.

“CHARLES DON’T DO THAT! PUT DOWN THE GUN!” I exclaimed, reaching out my other hand.

“I SWEAR ON EVERYONE I’VE EVER LOVED, IF I COME BACK, I’LL KNOW IT’S BECASE OF YOUR PATHETIC ATTEMPTS FAILING ONCE AGA–” He was cut off as he squeezed the trigger, his hand flying backward and his head flying in the opposite direction. Small amounts of blood peppered my face, landing on my glasses as he fell to the ground, the gun still clutched in his hand.

I stared in shock at his body, emotions waving through me. I wiped the blood off my mouth, stumbling over.

“Oh my God,” Hawthorne said, taking a step towards me.

“What the… What the fuck happened?!” I questioned, mainly to myself, as Hawthorne took a knee next to me.

“Uh, I…” He stopped, and I could hear him audibly swallow.

“He uh, I don’t know. Listen, I’ll have some people bury him,” He stated, turning to the men behind us.

“Let’s go, let’s go get you a drink,” He said, grabbing my arm. I stood, and we walked towards the manor.

As we grew further, I tried to look back, but Hawthorne made sure I didn’t. We entered the manor, and he led me to the living room. I unholstered my revolver, shaking as I placed it on the side table.

“Where the uhh, liquor?” He questioned, glancing around the room.

“It’s uhh, just, go to the dining room then on your way to the kitchen you’ll see it,” I replied, hanging my head low.

He left the room, I heard him muttering before bottles clacking together. He brought one glass and a bottle of Whisky.

“You’re not going to drink?” I questioned, glancing at the single glass as he placed it on the coffee table and took off the cork.

“No, I don’t drink,” He replied, pouring a glass. He handed it to me, and I took a sip. The taste was disgusting, but the after-effects I wished to come sooner.

The night stretched on, Hawthorne making small talk to calm me, and two glasses in my vision became hard to focus. I finished my second, placing it down and sighing.

“I really must go,” Hawthorne said, beginning to stand up.

I slurred my words, the alcohol turning my brain into slush.

“Please, just stay a night in the guest room. I don’t think I could bear this house with just me,” I explained, and he sighed, glancing out the window.

“Okay Jackson, never slept in the manor before I guess. Would be nice to get that done before I leave the island,” He explained, stretching his aged body.

I heard beeping from the office, recognizing it as the signal that a telegraph was coming in.

“You gonna, go get that?” He questioned, glancing toward the direction of the noise.

“No, no… I can hear it,” I explained, waiting for the message.

Jackson, please come to town immediately. Urgent, Urgent, Urgent. SOS, Urgent, Immediate response required.

I listened to the message, rubbing my face and eyes. Urgent? I stood up, glancing at Hawthorne.

“We need to, go to the town. I can’t…” I stumbled on my own words, sighing. “Can you drive me?” I questioned, glancing at him.

“Do I still need to sleep here tonight if I do?” He questioned, and I stared at him.

“How will I get back?” I remarked, beginning to walk out of the room.

“Okay then,” He said, following me.

We exited the manor, making our way to the Conservatory, passing through swiftly, and getting to the carriage drop-off.

I sat in the passenger, and leaned against the armrest, beginning to doze off. He pulled out, beginning down the shady oak road, and I glanced back at the tobacco fields, dark but still gold in the night. As we neared the bridge, the vehicle began to make strange sounds.

“What’s… Are those sounds normal?” He questioned, nudging me.

“Uh, oh uhh… I don’t…” I mumbled, closing my eyes.

The vehicle slowly came to a sputtering stop, and Hawthorne exited, shutting the door and causing me to awaken slightly. I glanced at him as he pulled open the hood, soon slamming it shut in anger.

“Grah, this stupid fucking… Horses are so much more rel–” He was cut off as something whizzed through the air, and a wet impact sounded from his direction. I immediately stirred, gazing in his direction.

He walked a bit, attempting to flee, stumbling before he collapsed onto the floor, an arrow in the side of his head. I mumbled obscenities as I opened the door, falling onto the hard ground. I struggled to get up, hearing slight laughs as men approached from all directions.

Lanterns lit up their faces, revealing their red faces and long dark hair. I turned completely, leaning against the car and reaching for my revolver. My hand hit the holster, a missing object as I gasped and my heart began to pound.

I attempted to flee, stumbling from the alcohol as they surrounded me, and I was knocked to the ground. The beating was relentless, multiple kicks landing against my stomach, genitals, legs, face, and neck.

I gasped as I attempted to shield myself with my hands, I heard a sharp “Stop!” as it dyed down. I lay curled in a ball, as a white man with long brown hair and a pair of chops stared down at me. He slowly reached his hand to my face, pulling off my glasses as my vision blurred.

He put them on himself, adjusting them before spitting in my face and beginning to drag me by my hair into the jungle. I blacked out multiple times, the pain from being dragged by my hair throbbing my head.

“Will we eat him?” I heard a shout to my left, as another one agreed.

“What about we scalp him?” One to my right questioned, and two agreed with that.

“I will decide,” The man dragging me exclaimed, his voice far louder than the others.

I was released, my head hitting the wet dirt as I groaned. I heard my pursuer speak to a man, before glancing at him being handed rope. He slung it over a branch above me and put a nose around my neck.

“PULL!” He exclaimed as I felt all loose rope tightening, and I was elevated. I kicked my feet, attempting to breathe as the noose tightened even more around my neck.

I felt something be placed under my feet, and I glanced down to see a stump. I breathed, on the tips of my toes in order to get some relief. They adjusted the rope, ‘til I was able to comfortably breathe and tied it to the tree.

“Did you really think you could beat me?” He questioned, beginning to laugh and monologue.

“What? I… I didn’t try to do anything!” I spat out, barely able to speak with the rope around my neck constricting airflow. I caught the scent of something rotting as the air grew cold.

“Oh but I know you, I know you well, and I know you would have acted,” He explained, raising his arms to the side in a wide gesture.

“What… Fuck… Are you… Yapping abou…t,” I spat out again, the log shaking under my feet.

He continued his monologue, but I couldn’t hear, as I keyed in on a massive set of black antlers. An old memory, one I tried to block out came back as I watched the thing crawl out of the underbrush on all fours, its glowing white eyes and deerskull face glaring at me as it snuck over. It grew close, concealing itself in another area of underbrush.

“So I’ll ask you again, did you really think you’d win? That you were better? THAN ME? I’m better!” He exclaimed, stepping forward and glaring at the log.

“You can never beat me, I’m better! I know your every move, every decision you will make, because I’M–” He was cut off as it lunged from the underbrush, grasping the man to his left in its jaws.

The thing and the man plummeted into me, the knife he was holding embedded into my leg, and the log was knocked out from under my feet. The rope constricted as I tried to breathe, and everything was still as shock waved over all of us.

The thing pulled out, a chunk of flesh staying within its jaws. It looked up, opening its mouth over and over again as it swallowed the meat.

“RUN!” Their leader screamed, as every man scattered in different directions.

The beast, noticing them flee, pursued chase, and I dangled helplessly. I heard a howl from it as I grasped the knife in my leg. I winced as I pulled out, even more pain shooting through my body. I began to saw the rope, and it eventually gave way as a man screamed in the distance.

I fell, breathing for what felt like the first time in a thousand years as I stared into the dead eyes of the things first victim. He stared back, the light long gone. I stood, putting pressure on my leg and wincing. I took the noose off my neck, tossing it to the ground as I began to limp forward.

My heart pounded as adrenaline took over, and I felt no pain in my leg. I ran, hopping the fence into the tobacco fields as I glanced into the sky, seeing the glare of the peak watching me. I brushed against the leaves, they rustled and stuck to me, almost wanting me to perish.

I heard another scream, followed by a howl in the distance as I ran down the Oak Path, surpassing how fast I thought it possible for me to run. A sense of dread overflowed me, the air grew slightly cooler, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood, sending a shiver down my spine.

I heard another howl, and I knew, it was after me. I continued down the Oak Path, as I heard it break into the fields, the crops rustling as it barreled towards me. The manor, the retention wall steps, they were so close, and my adrenaline spiked again, giving me another push.

I barreled up the steps, my heart pounding, but I tripped on the final one, rolling down the straight path to the front door. I stared at the manor, so close, but I knew I knew that this was it. I heard it breathing behind me, and I struggled to find the courage to face my pursuer.

It stood, towering over me, the top of its crown of dark antlers reaching at least nine feet. I could see the breath expel from its nostrils, as it stared into my very soul. We stood in a silent standoff, and I began to shake with fear.

“Jumax aka ciclo de dolor ukat t’aqhisiñat qhispiyañatakiw destinatäpxtaxa. Uka qullu pataruw sarapxañäni, qhispiyapxañäni, ukat jiwapxañäni.” It said in a raspy voice, as it raised it’s thin hand towards me.

It placed it onto something solid, and its hand glowed blue. The posts with intricate carvings glowed with it, shooting projections up into the sky. It revealed a barrier of some sort, each carving on the post-shooting upwards, a blue projection from a touching point spreading outwards.

“Manqʼat awtjatax jan apnaqañjamäkchisa, arujax apnaqañjamawa. Jumanakax suertenipxtawa, nayra achachilanakamax aka jakañ utan base lurapki ukanakax markajan ch’amapampiw nayarux jan walt’ayañatak apnaqapxitu.” It finished, backing off and galloping away.

The barrier dissipated, as my vision began to blur. I gazed down at my leg, my pants soaked with blood. Everything went black, and I felt warm, and at peace.

“Is he alive?” A voice questioned, as I heard two footsteps.

“Look at his leg,” Another stated, leaning down.

I was barely conscious, feeling a weight on my chest.

“Yeah, he’s alive,” The voice stated, rising once again.

“Okay, bandage his leg,” One stated, walking towards me.

My pants were rolled up, cold air hitting the laceration in my flesh. I felt him wrapping what I assume a bandage around my leg, whilst questioning. “Why don’t we just end this here?”

“I’m thinking the long run, trust my decision,” He explained, starting to lift me.

“So what will we do?” He questioned, finishing his job on my leg and helping lift me.

“Kasa Wapasi,” He stated, as I was placed onto the back of a horse.

It was nauseating as I bobbed on the back of the horse, pain shooting through my leg and neck. I dosed in and out of consensinces, as we traveled through the island.

We came to a stop, and I was taken off the horse and placed on the ground. I caught a whiff some something vile as I heard a lock being unlocked, and rusty hinges squealing open.

I was dragged by my armpits to the source of the noise, and was risen onto my knees. I slightly opened my eyes, the sun causing me to shut them as I was tossed down a pit. I fell, for what seemed like ages, before hitting the cold hard floor, striking my head, and seeing a flash of white.

I inhaled sharply, instantly regretting my decision as the scent of decay and feces invaded my senses. I stared to my left, looking into the eyes of a rotting corpse. I flinched, and began to vomit, getting on my hands and knees and emptying the small contents of my stomach onto the floor.

I crawled to the wall, leaning against it as I examined the room. Stone walls, stone floor. Dirt and blood were all over the floor and walls. I gazed upwards, the entrance of the pit was blocked by a rusty metal gate, with a trapdoor locked tightly. The floor was slightly slanted, at the far end a small drain sat.

I coughed, pulling my shirt over my nose to prevent the smell. I tried to breathe through my mouth, but that only allowed me to taste the rot. Multiple bodies lie against walls and in the middle of the pit. A stacking of bones was in the far left corner. I was not alone, two men sat next to each other, staring at me.

They did not speak, and I scanned the corners to my left and right to make sure they were vacant. They were, besides the rotting corpses. In the right corner, wearing tattered familiar clothing, and long ago converted to a skeleton, another body sat.

I recognized the clothing, my eyes widening as I crawled toward the corpse. “No…” I muttered, examining the clothes. I reached forward, unhooking a necklace the body wore. I examined it, an elegant key, with a R at the base.

“Father?” I muttered, staring back at the corpse. Without a doubt, it was him. An old memory shot back, the last time I saw him. He wore these exact clothes, a black coat with a silver striped vest underneath. I scanned the key once again, pulling out my own that sat around my neck.

They sat parallel to each other, exact duplicates. I began to whimper, putting both around my neck and leaning back against the wall, covering my face.

“Jackson,” The man spoke up, and I uncovered my face, glaring at him.

“Y–Yes?” I muttered, he was old and sat in the far corner.

“I’m so sorry,” He stated, sorrow and empathy in his eyes.

“Why?” I questioned, beginning to tear up. “Why did you attack me? I did nothing wrong, we were at peace, our communities living in harmony,” I stated, anger and sorrow in my voice.

“It was not me, it was Jakoda…” He stated, straightening his posture and pushing his long hair out of his face.

“Who the hell even is that?” I questioned, anger brewing.

“I should have… We should have never accepted him as one of us, he is pure evil, driven by hatred for what your…” He glanced at the corpse to my right before continuing. “For what your Father did, to him, stripping him of his perfect life,” He explained, only leading to confuse me more.

“What… I don’t understand,” I stated, unsure of what he was trying to convey.

“Let me… Your father, he made… He did terrible things, up on a mountain. I can’t… He tried to, cure… death,” He explained, the words hard to find.

“But… What… How?” I said, confused.

“We had to put a stop to it when he… He messed with something sacred, something no one should experiment with,” He explained, shifting uncomfortably.

“You…” I glanced at my Fathers long perished corpse. I rose, grabbing a large bone club.

“Don’t make rash decisions, your Father was evil. He believed what he was doing would help people, but he tortured and ruined the lives of many,”  He pleaded, raising an open palm to shield against an attack.

“Just spit it out,” I said, raising the club to a ready position.

“There are… Other worlds outside of ours, and he broke the barrier that separates them. What he made, it was unstable, and it dragged in anything close, including a teenage…” He trailed off, trying to find the words.

“Just… Just say it,” I pleaded, lowering the club slightly.

“Jackson, the new chief of our tribe, the one who started this short war, his name is Jakoda. Do you know what that means in our language?” He questioned me, as I attempted to put together what little knowledge I had of their language.

“No, I don’t know much about your language. I tried to learn but I… I couldn’t” I said, rambling on.

“Jakoda translates to Jackson. Jakoda is you, Jackson, a version a decade older,” He explained, as I opened my eyes in shock.

“What… How?” I questioned, backing to the wall and sliding down to a sitting position.

“I’m sorry, you… I shouldn’t have…” He trailed off, attempting to explain but there was nothing he could say or do.

“Why… If he is like me, why is… Why did he…” I attempted to put together a sentence, but I failed.

“From what he told me, in his world, everything was good. He told me one day the air itself parted, and he was sucked into thi–”

“SHUT UP!” I screamed, cutting him off and rising to my feet, grasping the large femur bone.

“SHUT THE FUCK UP, YOU’RE LYING!” I exclaimed, stepping towards him.

“Jackson, why would I lie to you?” He questioned, standing to his feet.

“TELL ME THE FUCKING TRUTH!” I exclaimed as he stared into my eyes with worry.

“You’re just like him, you’re just like Jak-” He was cut off as I swung my mace, it connecting with his jaw. He fell to the floor as the other man rose, staring in shock. He began to gurgle, his jaw hanging loosely.

I heard a war cry to my right, blocking it with the bone. My hands shook with the impact, the other man lowering his own weapon. We stood there, staring at each other for what felt like hours.  Swiftly I raised my weapon, and he tried to back away.

I swung down, it connected with the top of his head with a crack, and he plummeted down into the ground. I stared at him, one of his eyes had popped out, and he was gurgling, blood coming out of his head. I began to shake, with a type of guilt. Quickly, I raised my weapon once again, striking one final time onto his temple.

He stopped, his pain gone, and I turned to the other man. I approached him, his eyes filled with hatred and sorrow. I winced, guilt overcoming me, as I glanced back at him, his eyes now showed a sense of knowledge. I frowned, raising my weapon and bringing it down.

He didn’t even flinch, he accepted his face as the mace struck down his face. It cracked up, and my arms vibrated from the impact. I stared down, a wave of guilt overcoming me. A temper I didn’t even know I had had taken control of me, and I lay against the wall, suffering from the consequences.

It began to rain, and I gazed upwards, my face growing wet. I opened my mouth, fresh rainwater quenching my dry mouth. But the rain came far too slow, and I glanced in the middle of the room, white skulls collecting water. I crawled forward, lifting the container.

I examined it, they were clean, at least as far as I could see. I began to drink the water, it was refreshing, but a hint of something disgusting within. Nevertheless, I finished it, placing it back down to collect water. As I leaned back against the wall, I wondered to myself if I would be able to escape this fate.

“Is he… Is he in there? I don’t see him,” A man from above asked, and I glanced upwards, the rain blocking my vision.

I looked downwards, at my hands, bloodied and thin. I examined the rest of my body, pale and thin, and I looked at the wound in my leg, unbandaged and slightly healed. How… What? What just happened?

“You know what he said, go down there and check,” Another said, laughing.

“Shit, ugh okay,” He said, beginning to open the gate. Something animalistic perked up in me as a ladder was placed to my right, and he began to scale down.

I watched as he examined the pit, glancing over me twice. My form was concealed, my thin body fitting in with the other decaying corpses.

“I can’t find him!” He shouted upwards, continuing his search. I glared at the revolver that sat in a holster, my hand clenching.

“You need to, Jakoda needs that key!” He shouted downwards as the man muttered obscenities under his breath.

When he faced away from me, I sprung up, hopping onto his back and biting into the back of his neck. He yelped in surprise and pain, as I removed the revolver, pulling back the hammer and releasing my grip. I shoved him down, he landed on his knees, and I pointed the barrel at the back of his head.

I pulled the trigger, blood splattering against the wall. He fell over, a pool of blood already forming and beginning to wash away from the rain.

“Shit!” One shouted, running over. I turned, and he was hoisting the ladder up. My escape, they were trying to take it, and so I sprinted over.

I grabbed the ladder, tugging it and the man fell inwards. He hit the ground, curling into a ball, and glanced at me. I pointed the revolver, and he gazed into the barrel. I fired, the shot ringing out as his head flew back. A trail of blood against the floor, shooting outwards in the path of the bullet.

I heard noises upwards, and I began scaling the ladder. I peeked, a man rushing over with a repeater. I raised the revolver, firing, it hit him in his chest, and he collapsed over. I climbed out of the pit, shock enveloping me as I left the confines of my prison. I glanced around, beauty all around me, mountains, trees, and endless blue ocean.

Behind me, the wounded man began to stir, and I walked over, stepping on his neck with a tattered boot. I squeezed, and he clasped his hands around the boot. I pointed the revolver as he tried to shield himself with his hand.

I fired, through his hand and into his face. I released the pressure, staring at the three startled horses. I turned, back to the pit, walking over. I gazed downwards, two men lying dead. I gazed at the sun, watching it as it rose above the ridge. I turned, glancing at the peak of the tallest mountain.

I knew I knew deep down where I had to go, but why I did not comprehend. The glare shined down, almost becoming me to it. I had to go, I had to come, but I needed to pay a visit to my manor first. I knew that would be where he was, and I needed to end this. I needed to get revenge for the uncalled-for attacks, I needed to redeem my failures.

I descended, checking the bodies for anything valuable. They had little on them besides weapons, but I gratefully took what I could. I was hungry, glancing at the rotting corpses of the individuals I had murdered at the start of my captivity. The era between then and now was a blur, and I assume I had blocked it out, as their bodies lay mutilated, chunks of flesh missing.

I ascended, checking the final body for anything, and proceeding to check the horses. They had little more than a few necessities and canteens, but I drank the fresh water graciously. One satchel held small scraps of food, I consumed it in a matter of seconds.

I hoisted myself up onto a horse that closely resembled one long ago perished and began to ride down the mountain. I traversed carved stone steps and the winding path down the mountain. A sense of ecstasy grew over me as I moved farther away from my prison, a smile forming on my bloody face.

Once I got off the path up the mountain, I stared into the jungle. Thankful that it was only the beginning of a new day. The horse strode through a small portion of the ocean that surrounded the mountain that the starve pit sat upon. He panted, and upon reaching the shore, I patted his neck.

He picked up pace, and we began traveling in the direction of the manor. I bobbed up and down on the saddle with anticipation, readying myself for what would come next. I shook as we broke the treeline. Slowing down, I made the horseback away into the treeline. I dismounted, staring at the manor in awe.

I hadn’t noticed the time, and the sun had already set. It had only felt like a few hours, perhaps I had gotten turned around. I gazed at my home, it seemed desolate, but I knew otherwise. This man, this imposter, he wanted to take it back, take back what my Father took from him.

I began to walk around the side of the lagoon, a stretch of ocean that moved inwards, forming a long bay–lake. The mountain loomed over me as I walked the shore against it. I continued, ducking into a small amount of underbrush and examining the manor.

The storm doors were closed, and I needed to sneak in. I thought for a moment, before proceeding past the manor. I ducked and weaved through the fields of golden tobacco, careful not to alert anyone who watched. I glared down, gazing into a narrow and deep crevice in the ground.

I slid down, scraping my pants, and landed on the wet floor. I walked against it, coming to a familiar carving and rhyme, and past that, an aged gate was embedded in the stone.

I brought out the key, inserted it, and twisted it. The gate unlocked and swung open as I entered the passage. I walked in the darkness for a long time, before a light at the end of the tunnel appeared. It was dim, and I gazed at the vault to my left, before taking a sharp right.

I silently walked up the stairs, reaching the back of a bookshelf. I slid it open, closing it behind me and hearing it click locked. I glanced around the library, it seemed it was clear. I unholstered the revolver, cocking the hammer back, and walked a few steps up the stairs to be sure it was clear.

I slowly opened the library door, glancing around the manor. It seemed okay, and I stepped out, examining what I could. I heard movement in the living room, something faint, as I slowly continued forward. I turned the corner, pointing my revolver at nothing.

My satchel and my hat lay on the long table behind the couch. I stared, confused, before I was struck on the back of the head. I heard laughing behind me, trying to turn and point my revolver at my attacker but it was knocked out of my hand.

He laughed, and I examined a near-perfect mirror image of myself. He bore my glasses, his hair pomaded, and a spot on the top of his lips where a lack of facial hair grew, only a small stubble.

I backed up, crawling and pushing against the floor to gain distance. He began walking forwards, as I rose to my feet and prepared myself to fight.

He laughed, before stating “Let’s get this over with,” And clenching his fists.

He closed the gap towards me, and I swung. He dodged it, and grasped my arm, hoisting me over his shoulder and flinging me behind him. I hit the floor and groaned in pain, the throbbing in my head returning as he kicked my stomach.

The air left me, as I curled up into a ball and he laughed again. I raised quickly, taking a few steps back as he progressed. I stuck my hand into a slot in the wall, it pushing back and extending a bottom, revealing a revolver. I went to grab it, but he kicked the extending part, crushing my hand.

I screamed as I pulled my hand out, it throbbing worse than my head. I kicked at him, and he grabbed my leg, yanking. It caused me to fall and strike my head again. I yelped in pain, grasping my head as I turned to my side.

“You really are predictable,” He exclaimed, beginning to laugh more.

I attempted to seize my moment, rising quickly and attempting to tackle him. He moved out of my path, extending a foot and causing me to fall on my face.

“We do have one thing in common, a will to live, and win,” He stated, placing a foot on my back.

I struggled, attempting to break free.

“The difference is, one of us has a stronger one,” He explained, laughing more.

“I’ll… You…” I tried to spit out, but he pressed harder.

“Okay, y’all can come in now!” He exclaimed as I heard movement coming from the dining room.

Two Native men entered the room, and he released the pressure on my back only for me to get hoisted up by my arms.

“Okay, let’s not get the manor that messy. Just, take him out and deal with him,” He stated, gesturing to the front door.

I was dragged out, down the steps, and into the tobacco field. My mind raced on how I could escape this situation. I focused on a knife in a sheath, dangling on the man to my right’s belt. I readied myself, heart beginning to pound as I waited ‘til they thought I wouldn’t try anything.

I yanked my right arm out, grasping the knife and unsheathing it. I dove it into the left man’s neck, twisting and pulling out. Blood sprayed on my face. He released his grip, and I rushed to tackle the man on my right. We hit the ground, and he twisted himself on top of me.

He began strangling me, but I still grasped the knife and I dug it into his stomach, then his side, then his chest. I continued my assault a few more times, til he collapsed to the side of me. I climbed on top, and he stared in shock and blood loss as I raised the blade.

I went into a frenzy stabbing him whilst screaming. When I snapped out of him, I could guess he had at least fifty new holes in his body. I rose, glancing back at the manor. I sprinted, to a specific oak tree. It had to be here, it had to be true. I felt along the bark, finding a seam as I knocked on it, a metal sound ringing out.

I saw a keyhole, and I took the key off my neck. I inserted it, twisting with both hands and pulling outwards. I glanced at the manor, taking in the sight one final time. I diverted my gaze to the interior of the tree. Mechanisms lay within, but I noted a large red button.

I took the key out, inserting it into a keyhole within, and twisting. The button lit up, glowing red as I turned to the manor once again. My legacy lay within those halls, everything I have ever known. A tear ran down my cheek, as my hand grew closer to the button.

“Rot in hell,” I spat out, as I pushed the button inwards. It clicked, and I stared at the manor, but nothing happened.

Dread overcame me, as I began clicking it frantically, staring at the manor. I flinched as a thunderous roar that echoed through the island. The center erupted into a fireball, debris flying outwards and causing the structure to implode on itself. Flaming strands lashed out like whips, and flaming debris flew outwards.

My very legacy was devoured by that flame. My home was reduced to a smoldering pile of ash. All that remained was burning wood, piles of concrete, and the faint resemblance of elegant architecture. The remains of the lives of people who once lived.

I stared at it for a long time, taking in the sight. Only parts of the retention wall stood, a reminder of what grand structure once lay there. A noise erupted from behind me, horses fleeing from the burning stables. I watched them scatter, some burning, as I kneeled.

One approached me, frightened to its very core. Something felt different, and I glanced upwards at the peak. No glare sat, instead, a light in an obvious window. I stared in awe, the viel of something once used to conceal a circular room up there now gone.

It beckoned me, and I mounted the horse in front of me, taking off down the Oak Path for a final time. It was as if I knew where to go, deep down inside me I had traveled this path before. I cut off into the woods, my horse sprinting through the underbrush.

We passed through a cave, where a large gate lay open, and traveled up a winding path against the side of the mountain. I stared at the golden fields of tobacco, cast into flames. We reached the top, and I glanced at the decaying body of a horse. The smell invaded my nostrils, but I continued forward.

I gazed at a glistening lake, as I viewed a cabin. I thought about dismounting, but something felt off, my mind grew fuzzy. I proceeded forward, coming across a stone building. Once again, I went to dismount, but a ringing in my ears and a pain in my head was all I needed to know.

I glared around, spotting a set of steps where things became easier to comprehend. I dismounted, walking towards it, and picking up a journal. I flipped through it, knowing immediately it was Charles. A large portion of the foundation had broken, and I glared down, hundreds of skeletons lay in the darkness.

Something glinted below, a reflection, and it piqued my interest. I slid down, scaling and falling a few feet, hitting bones with a crunch. I waded through the bodies, coming across a broken lantern. I examined it, carved in the base read ‘W.C’.

“Charles,” I muttered, gazing down deeper into the cave. I proceeded forward, making my way through the dark for a long time. As I entered the light, I glanced around the room. A hole in the roof let light in, and I examined the room to see where to go next.

I spotted something unnatural, vines from the outside concealed most of it. Rubble from a structure, and straight edges. I closed the gap, crawling through and pushing vines out of the way. I examined the room, and a light at the end called to me. It was old, with papers across the floor, doors open revealing dark side rooms and collapsed segments. I walked forward, staring at the glowing yellow light.

As I closed the gap, it was clear that it was an elevator shaft. I pressed the button, and I heard something far above me. I waited, and It took a long long time before it arrived, an elevator. I entered, and it creaked under my weight. There were only two buttons, and I clicked the top one.

The safety doors closed, and it began up. It took a long time before I reached the peak. It slowed, coming to a stop as the doors slid open. I exited into a cylindrical room, with a window across the entire wall. Two skeletons in tattered clothes lay on the floor, deceased long ago. I stared out the window, sunlight from the new dawn poured in, and I gazed downwards.

My mouth became dry, almost the entire island had been engulfed in flames. It had reached the town, the swamp, and everywhere I could see. I heard a sound behind me, and it clicked that I called the elevator down. I turned, ducking as a fist swung where my head was.

I tackled the man to the ground, as he pulled out a revolver. We fought over it, but I was on top of him, and I used my body weight to give me leverage. I fired into his head, blood splattering in a straight line against the concrete floor. I dropped the revolver, glaring at the body in the darkness of the room.

A pool of blood had begun to form, and I glanced around the room to see if anyone else was there. It was empty, but in my examination, I spotted something strange. It was blurred, my vision unfocusing where it was.

Something stood, on a rolling cart, and I tried to walk towards it, but I heard a gun cock behind me. The bullet passed through my side, and I collapsed to my knees, groaning in pain. Blood began to seep from my wound, and I cried. It was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, and I turned in awe to see the man rise.

“It’s time to end this,” He said, walking over and ripping the key off my neck.

He began to walk over to the thing, and I turned, gazing at the machine. It took a long time, a long time to realize what it was. My mind attempted to push it away, but I needed to know. It all came to me, centuries of suffering invading my mind all at once.

I cried, the revelation coursing through my mind. I saw it all, all of it, everything in amazing detail, and so I muttered “Please… Turn it off,”

He turned in surprise, glancing back at the machine.

“You don’t… You don’t say that,” He stated, staring at me in surprise.

I tried to push out the suffering and the pain, but it was overwhelming. Something came through, it pushed away the bad thoughts and calmed me. All the good memories, my family, my friends, and everyone I’ve loved. I cried, remembering the good times, and a thought sounded.

If the Loop continued, if the machine stayed on, I could fix things. I could help Eddie, I could prevent everything, I could fix things. I could save Eddie. With enough iterations, everything would turn out good, and I would be happy.

“NOOOOOO!” I screamed, beginning to cry. “PLEASE, DON’T TURN IT OFF!” I pleaded, coughing up blood.

He turned back to the machine with a smirk, and inserted the key, turning it.

“PLEASE, LET ME FIX IT, PLEASE!” I pleaded whilst more memories of my family and loved ones flashing through my mind.

“Please…” I said, weakness overwhelming me.

He pressed the button, and I could hear something deep within the mountain stop turning. He walked by me, stopping to spit in my face, and entered the elevator, exiting the room.

I lay there, in a pool of my blood, crying. I had failed, for the final time, and this time there were no second chances.

“It’s going to be okay,” A voice said, echoing through the room.

“Eddie?” I questioned, my voice low.

“It will get better,” I heard my mother say, as I scanned the room.

“No… I need to,” I said, glancing at the control panel.

It was cold, so cold. I grew weaker by the second, the pool of blood around me slowly growing into a lake.

“Please… Let it… Turn it back on…” I pleaded to the echos of the chamber.

A wave of warmth overcame me, calming me, and I felt everyone I’ve ever known there with me in my final moments. I knew, I knew I would come back, I knew someone, someday, would turn it back on. Explorers, years in the future, their curiosity allowing me to return.

For it sits, it waits, it waits, it waits patiently, waiting, waiting for someone to come along, waiting for someone to turn it on. All it takes is a single person to activate it, a single person to make it turn, for it to churn, and for the Loop to start once again.

And so I closed my eyes.

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Hello! My name is Bibonic, and I am a newer writer! The stories I have written and posted on here will be listed below, please go give them a read, it means the world!

The Roamer Family Plantation, story developed over the span of five years!
https://creepypasta.org/s/82182/the-roamer-family-plantation

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Evegrendiaer
11 days ago

Made an account just to say this:

TL:DR Story is amazing, presentation could be better, amazing twists and characters, perfect setting!

Great story, though the way its written could be better. It was extremely refreshing, a very original and new concept! The setting is amazing and so are the characters as well as the entire story! Loved the twist at the end of Act Two, and how well it explained the twist at the end of Act Two… well I wouldn’t call that a twist, but nevertheless it was amazing and I immediately understood it without having to think on it!

The way I write is that I know what I’m going to do, but not all that stuff in between. That defiantly shows here, and I’m sure if you rewrote it when you are more experienced in writing (Not story writing, actual words, I think people call it delivery) this could be perfected!

If given the chance, no, you should seek out, making this into film, TV or movie doesn’t matter! As said before, the story is original, and I can tell there could be some more fleshing out in between Act One and Act Two, as there is a large date gap there!

Also noticed how one of the original settlers shared a last name with a character in Act Two and Three, if you would tell, how exactly did he end up there, as I’m already in love with this universe!