A Waltz With The Devil

by Anita Marie Moscoso

Inspired By The Soul Food Cafe Writing Prompt:

Voice Dialogue

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There’s this expression people use when they’re telling you about some life changing event they went through. Some of them will say, ” I can’t pinpoint the exact time when I really decided to kill my children,” or ” no, I can’t pinpoint the exact time I became addicted to…”

So that little moment in time that changed their Universe and how they existed in it from that day forward is gone.

Kanden Seacross, he’s this logger that lived in a town called Red Root, Washington…he can pinpoint the exact time the world started to end because he saw it start on the day before Halloween last year.

He was driving from one little town to another little town when his car died. There’s no other way to describe it; all at once the power was gone, the engine cut off and out there on that old logging road that connects one hidden off road town to another the night sounded very loud.

It was dark and cold and foggy that night and Kanden sat there for about 10 minutes trying to make himself move. Being that he had stopped breathing he thought it would be a good idea if he could take a breath before he passed out from a lack of oxygen.

He unclenched his hand from his steering wheel, but all the while he’s still hanging on to the wheel with his other hand. ” What’s up Kanden, ‘fraid someone’s gonna drag you away? ”

Kanden would have thrown himself down onto his car floor and dug his way to the other side of the world when he heard that voice, but he couldn’t move and he couldn’t scream and he was pretty sure he was having a heart attack.

He knew it, he was going to die and he started to plan his funeral and wondered if anyone would come. He figured Mother would, so would the guy he bought coffee from in the Morning…Clay was his name. Clay was one of those good guys that really meant it when he said ‘ have a good day’

Kanden guessed his kids would show up.

Of course they would probably be listening to their music on those little headphones but at least they’d be there.

His Wife? Yeah, well providing there wasn’t anything good on Oprah she might show up.

There, it was all settled, he was ready to jump on the Pale Horse and ride off into eternity when Kanden realized that was his voice he had just heard.

At that moment he decided at least it was familiar and safe and it reminded his of a world that didn’t resemble the one he was trapped in right now.

So he went ahead and answered back after it asked, ” Come on Kanden, don’t be a panty waist, why are you hanging on for dear life there? Are you afraid? ”

” As a matter of fact I am. This place is creeping me out ”  Kanden said.

” Well that’s just crazy talk Kanden…you’ve lived up here in the Olympics for your entire life. I’ll bet you’ve been down this road millions…no billions of times. `

” That’s how much you know Mr. Smart guy. I’ve never been down this road. I’ve driven by it…thought about it and wondered about it but I’ve never actually been on it before.”

Kanden heard a little hiss and the Voice went on full steam ahead.

” We could sit here an let someone find us, but you know Kanden I’m feeling like a bug in a jar here. So reach under the seat and get the flash light and let’s go. Is it me Kanden, or can you feel it too? I mean outside…”

” Something’s out there.”

Kanden heard his Voice get impatient, ” No, go ahead and be more specific Kanden…that something is coming right towards us.”

Kanden let loose of the steering wheel and now he was hanging onto his flashlight and he knew he looked just like one of those guys in the Vampire movies when they held up the silver cross.

To bad most of those guys DIED with those things clutched in their hands.

He flipped the switch and…there was light.

Honest to God light.

He started to cry.

” We have two choices Kanden…we can go forward and up a road you’ve never been on before in your life. We don’t know where it goes or what is at  the end of it. Being this is the Hills it could end in a drop off and we could stumble down into a Gully and get mashed into a pulp when we hit the bottom…if we hit the bottom.

Or we can suck it up, and head back from the direction we came and hope for the best.”

” That’s all you can come up with?” Kanden screamed and the Voice didn’t bother to answer back.

” Okay, okay, we go back.” Kanden grabbed his car keys and his baseball cap and managed to do all of this without having a nervous breakdown.

” Good job. Now comes the hard put. We have to leave the car Kanden”

” God. ” he whimpered and he reached over and lifted the handle and his car door swung open.

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For the first five minutes of his walk, it wasn’t so bad. It was cold it was foggy and of course it was dark. After the first mile Kanden thought the batteries in his flashlight were dieing because the light was dimming but at that moment his Friendly Companion decided to speak up.

” That’s wishful thinking Guy, it’s getting darker. That’s the problem. It’s getting a lot darker.”

” Of course it is ” Kanden laughed ” of course it’s getting darker ”

Then he heard, from just ahead the sound of crunching gravel, he heard slow easy footsteps. They weren’t cautious or hesitant…just the sound of someone taking a walk with all the time in the world as their traveling companion.

” Don’t run Kanden, it’s always worse when you run ” his Voice whispered into his left ear, ” whatever you do don’t run.”

The Darkness lightened in the form of a small figure with a little skip to it’s stride and then it noticed Kanden because it seemed to slow down a little.

” Keep walking Kanden…just keep walking ”

Kanden did, he walked towards the figure and then the figure was captured in the beam of light from Kanden’s flashlight.

 It was a woman, just a woman he told himself. He wanted to make some kind of joke about being afraid of girls because they have cooties…something lame. Something that would say, you don’t have to be afraid…she’s just a woman for Pete’s Sake.”

Then step- by- step Kanden felt a little taller, a little more present, a little more in control and then his Voice all but roared in his ear, ” Listen to me Kanden…before you get us both into trouble.

That Cootie Factory, as you insist on calling her, is walking up a dark road in the fog to a place you’ve never been too yourself…in fact you started to cry just thinking about going there. She doesn’t have a flashlight, she’s not even wearing a jacket and it’s starting to freeze out here. So before you drop your last means of any sort of self defense will you consider those things?”

Then she was coming directly towards him and in the light Kanden saw her dark hair and dark eyes and the way she seemed to be grinding her heels into the gravel with each step she took.

There was something wrong with her walk; there was something wrong with the way she held her head. Her chin was tilted down and as she moved it swayed a little from left to right…almost like it was a little to heavy for her neck.

When they were almost face- to- face she raised her hand and turned her palm upwards just a little. Then she  began to turn as she passed him and her shirttails swept up and wrapped around her hips. He could hear her grinding her heels into the gravel as she spun around and he even felt her hair brush against his arm as she turned full circle just inches away from him.

Then she was walking up that road and she was gone.

Kanden was still standing there the next morning; he was clutching his now dead flashlight to his chest and staring down at the ground.

There were little black footsteps going all the way up Brum Road, they moved in a straight line except for one spot when they widened out into a circle and then they moved forward again and up into the hills.

All the trees lining Brum Road were dead or dieing and the air smelled awful. It smelled like rotten eggs and no one would go up there anymore because of it.

That’s the reason people give anyway.

Only a week after they found Kanden…both he and his Voice never spoke a word again, everyone forgot about Brum Road because things started changing for everyone.

You’d think it was a bunch of little things that started to go wrong with the world that’s made it the mess you see now but there’s this man named Kanden Seacross who could pinpoint exactly when it all went wrong.

It all started a day before Halloween on the night Kanden Seacross Waltzed With The Devil.

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SHE WAS RIGHT THERE

By Anita Marie Moscoso

Inspired By The Alluvial Mine Project

” Duende “

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Last night Kamcela Turnsole got a phone call from her neighbor whose name was Romey Setwall. ” Come over right away” her neighbor says.” My family is gone.”

Kamcela was glad Romey couldn’t see her because it was obvious what was on Kamcela’s face wasn’t confusion or shock.

It was relief.

She closed her eyes and for the fist time in days Kamcela could take a deep breath and relax. ” I’m sorry to hear that Romey, do you know where they went?”

” They’re in the living room. ”

Kamcela heard a click and then the line went dead and then she dialed a single number and without being asked by the operator at the other end she said, ” My friend just hurt her family, please come.”

The phone fell from her hand and Kamcela left it on the floor where she dropped it and then she stepped over it and went out into the darkness to the house next door and it took a million hours to reach it.

That’s how it felt anyway.

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It all started three days ago on a Sunday morning.

Kamcela was out on the Great Newspaper Hunt. It was a tradition that she and her paper carrier had. Her paper carrier blindly tossed the paper from her car window and Kamcela went out and walked the length of her yard and tried to find it.

Today wasn’t even sport, it was on the sidewalk, hanging off the curb and Kamcela wondered if the woman who brought the paper in the morning was parked around the corner just waiting for Kamcela to reach over so she could squash her under the wheels of her giant SUV when Kamcela heard a scream and she heard a door banging open and she saw her friend Romey running through the rose bushes that separated their yards.

” There’s a stranger in my house! Kamcela call the police!”

Then Romey’s door banged open again and Kamcela saw Sanford, Romey’s husband running through the rose bushes after her and he when he got to her yard didn’t even seem to notice Kamcela standing there in her t-shirt and socks with the newspaper clutched to chest.

Sanford grabbed Romey by her arm and spun her around and he stared hard down into her face.

But it was Kamcela he talked to.

” It’s okay Kamcela, she’s been having these night terrors and she doesn’t always wake up right away. She’s not herself right now.”

Romey pushed Sanford away and she didn’t scream, she didn’t yell …she looked up at him and growled, ” Get away from me. ”

They both went back into their house together and after that things just got worse.

Kamcela saw Romey later that day at the grocery store. Her children were walking ahead of her down the cereal aisle and when Kamcela looked up and saw Romey looking at the back of her children’s heads she wanted to grab them away from their Mother and run.

As they walked towards each other Romey only slowed down long enough to tell Kamcela, ” It took my children too. ”

On the second day Kamcela saw Romey standing out in her front yard wearing the same clothes from the day before, only they were wrinkled and her hair was unbrushed.

She walked around the Rose Bush Fence and into Romey’s yard and she stopped just a few feet away from Romey because she was scared.

Scared of that look on Romey’s face, scared of the way her voice sounded, scared of the way Romey’s foot was turned in.

Romey was standing on her ankle and didn’t seem to care.

“We went to Hidden Hills for a hike ” Romey told her. ” Sanford wanted to show the children that wall in the cave behind the waterfall with the petroglyphs. You know, the one with the drawings of those people with two faces.”

” And horns ” Kamcela said.

” And horns.” Romey agreed.

” Well, we go to leave and April and Kevin don’t want to leave. They’re looking at the pictures and when finally convince them to go April slips a little and I remember she looked down and the look on her face Kamcela…”

Kamcela waited and then she looked right into Romey’s eyes and Romey said, ” she looked down at her own feet and screamed. ”

” She was hysterical and crying that her feet were gone. It didn’t make any sense and then she tried to walk towards us. She fell and hit her head and there was blood everywhere. Sanford grabbed her and ran out and I grabbed Kevin and Kamcela…he bit me.”

” His teeth Kamcela were…they were wrong, they weren’t Kevin’s.”

Kamcela wasn’t afraid of her friend’s story.

What scared her was the feeling that what she was hearing was the truth.

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On the third day, the last day Kamcela say April and Kevin walking passed her house. They were pushing their bicycles instead of riding them and when Kamcela called out to them they let the bikes fall over onto their sides and they stood there with their messy hair and dirty clothes…and they smiled at her.

Kamcela came within a few feet of the children and then she stopped and for no reason at all she wanted to run, she wanted to scream, she would have dug a hole in the concrete with her bare hands to get away from those two…

and she had no idea why.

April and Kevin stood there with their shoulders turned and a little twisted and their legs not quite straight and they looked up at Kamcela with those dull blue eyes of theirs and waited.

No they watched her.

” How’s your Mom” Kamcela asked.

The children reached down and picked up their bikes and started to walk away and Kamcela reached out, even though she didn’t want to and she put her hand on April’s shoulder and bit down hard on her lips.

It was April, she told herself. She was there the afternoon April was born at Alderwood Hospital, she was helped Romey set up Kevin’s nursery.

It was April and Kevin she told herself as she watched them walk away…it was April and Kevin.

Who else could it be?

The door was open and the house was dark and Romey was sitting on the bottom of the stairs.

” What’d you do Romey.” Kamcela asked.

” I’ve been in this house for the three days with those things, those things that killed my husband and my children. Those hideous little monsters…they don’t even look human Kamcela. How could you leave me alone with them? How could anyone leave me with those things?”

” Where are they Romey? ” Kamcela asked and when Romey looked up at her Kamcela looked down and she saw Romey for the last time.

Romey turned her face away and when she looked back up Kamcela screamed and backed away.

Romey was gone, she was right there a few minutes ago and now she wasn’t there anymore.

Only her voice was the same, ” It takes you a little at a time Kamcela, it spreads through you like a virus. You can’t stop it, you can’t make it go away.”

” But it can make you go away, that’s what it does.”

Kamcela went back to her house after the police came and she closed all of her curtains when they came to take away the bodies of Romey’s husband and children.

She wasn’t sure what she believed, she wasn’t sure what she thought and when Kamcela pushed the hair away from her face to rub her tired eyes she snatched her hand back and held it up to the light.

There was something wrong with it…something was different.

A SUNLESS PLACE

by anita marie moscoso

Inspired by the Soul Food Cafe Writing Prompt:

“Divining Rods”

102930177fpdvoi_fs.jpg  I know very well that many scientists consider dowsing as a type of ancient superstition. According to my conviction this is, however, unjustified. The dowsing rod is a simple instrument which shows the reaction of the human nervous system to certain factors which are unknown to us at this time.

– Albert Einstein

Simon Ledbetter is driving towards a town that’s not suppose to exist, and next to him in a canvas bag is a book that shouldn’t exist, and ahead of him is a single road cut into a hillside that leads to a town called Fallen.

If you grew up Killham, like Simon did, and you misbehaved in School or at home someone would threaten to take you up to Fallen where they would ‘lock you up and throw away the key’.

Fallen was infamous for one thing; it’s prison.

Fallen’s prison was always full and the lights from the barred windows burned night and day and no matter where you stood in the woods that surrounded Fallen Penitentiary you could hear the prisoners yelling and shouting, sometimes you could hear shots and sometimes you’d see the black hearse that came up from Leaning Birches to collect the executed prisoners driving slow and easy down the Main Street in Killham.

The windows of the Black Hearse weren’t tinted so you could see the driver if you wanted and you could see the pine coffin in the back of the hearse too.

Only nobody in Killham ever looked- which was funny because Killham was full of people who’d slow down traffic on a freeway just to openly gawk at the mangled wreckage of a car at the side of the road after an accident, and there was a lot of people in Killham who watched hockey just to see if blood really bounced on the ice.

But none of them would look at the Black Car as it crawled down Main Street and up towards Fallen.

What if it saw you, the Residents of Killham ondered, what would happen then?

It was better to look away and they did…they all did.

All except for Simon.

When he was eight he got his Grandfather to talk about Fallen, and his Grandfather told long involved stories like the one about the tongue-less men who brought the building supplies up on the train that came by Killham every night at Midnight and he told Simon about the dark women with the giant gray Mastiffs who stood at the side of the road with shot guns at their shoulders and how you never saw those women or their dogs leave or arrive Fallen.

” It got easier to see them the darker it got. And when the Sun came up, it was like they just faded away like Shadows. Those Women scared me more then anything else up there…it was the way they looked at you. “

” How’s that Grandpa? ” Simon asked.

” They could see you, even when their eyes were closed…no matter where you hid or how dark it was, they could see you.”

Mr Barker, the town’s Librarian once told Simon that the man who drove the Hearse looked a lot like a man who use to live in Killham and that his name was Undercroft.

” He use to own the Pharmacy and one day all of these kids who use to buy penny candies from his Soda Fountain died. Sixteen kids in all. They said Undercroft candied black nightshade berries himself out in his lab and sold them over the next two or three days. “

” The town’s been dieing since then you know.”

Simon knew no such thing, Simon thought Killham was small and boring and why would anyone live here on purpose just nodded.

Over the years Simon saved up stories about Fallen for no reason other then he was afraid of it and it seemed best to always know where it was and what it was doing.

Simon knew Fallen better then the floor plans for his own house, he understood it’s construction, he knew the names of the people who worked there and even some of the names of the people who were buried there.

He could close his eyes and see the bricks and bars and hear the echoes of the prisoner’s footsteps and even hear the hallow thump of the gallows doors falling open as the hanged man (sometimes woman) dropped to their deaths.

So it came as a surprise to him when he was in Seattle over the summer, that was just after he turned 20 he learned from a woman in a bookstore that Fallen was a legend.

Not legendary…a legend.

As in Fallen didn’t exist.

That kind of legend.

Simon Ledbetter was dumbstruck.” I grew up in Killham, ” he told her ” it’s real.”

The bookseller smiled patiently and said ” I’ve met lots of people from Killham…or that said they were from Killham so I’ve heard the stories. The work crews who had their tongues cut out, the women with no eyes that guard the roads, the man who takes away the executed was suppose to have poisoned a bunch of children. Those stories are famous. But they’re just stories. Fallen isn’t real. It’s a boogeyman.”

Simon almost left without his book, he went back to the counter and told the woman with the smile, ” You’re right about one thing Ma’am, it is a boogeyman.”

Over that Summer in Seattle the more Simon thought about Fallen, the more he realized how frightened of it he really was.

He realized he had no idea where the Prisoners were from, where the guards were from, why was it that the Hearse drove through town almost every single day.

When he went home in the Fall Simon decided it would be best if he did what his friends and family had been doing for years and years.

He ignored Fallen.

And that worked for a little while.

It worked for almost two dozen years.

Then one day Simon had to drive into Seattle and on a whim decided to stop in at the little bookstore where his own tongue had been cut out (in a way) over 20 years before.

It was gone and in its place was a post office.

He stopped at the doorway and read the little bronze plaque to the left of the door and shook his head. Then he went inside and up to the counter and asked for a book of stamps.

” Wasn’t there a bookstore on this street awhile back? “

The Clerk shook her head, “Nope.”

” It would have been about twenty years ago…”

” I’ve been here for over that, ” she told Simon ” this Station has been in this building since 1904, and we’ve never had a bookstore down here. “

Simon nodded and took his stamps and then he went back to Killham and the next day he decided to drive up to Fallen.

He’s not sure what he’ll find, or who he’ll find.

He’s not sure if it’s a building or a devil or a woman with a shotgun at her shoulder just waiting for someone to cross that line she’s drawn in the dust.

But he’s not afraid of them as much as he was afraid of himself.

How could he have let a strange woman in a strange town convince him that his own world didn’t exist?

How easy it was for him to give up, to give in but today he’s changing that.

Next to Simon in a canvas bag is the book he bought in that shop all those years ago, “ Strange Tales From The Olympic Mountains “ it’s called.

He had chosen that book all of those years ago because there was a nice pen and ink drawing of a town that reminded him of Killham on the cover.

He’s never read it though; all of the pages between the covers are blank.

IN A TOWN CALLED DUNNING

By Anita Marie Moscoso

Inspired by The Soul Food Alphabet Project

“E” Is For The Cosmic Egg

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” Revenge is a kind of wild justice “

-Sir Francis Bacon

In a town called Dunning a woman named Embelia Felonwood took her revenge on an entire town with an ax. She did it alone and she nearly chopped off her own foot and she did loose her hand, but she’s never complained about it.

You can ask her for yourself.

Go ahead and take Highway 64 out of Seattle and head straight into up into the Cascade Mountains. There’s lots of roads and old logging trails up there but you’ll want 64 and when the road disappears and you hit brick, keep going.

When the brick gives way to dirt look for the rail road tracks if you don’t follow the tracks you could end up in one of those little towns with a population of 15 and everyone looks the same and has too many fingers.

Go ahead and laugh, but the Cascade Mountains are full of those towns and don’t fool yourself into thinking that it was shallow gene pool that changed those people.

It was those things that lived in the trees from Felonwood

Embelia’s family lived in Felonwood Valley, now days that’s this dusty dried up scab of land that use to be full of trees  and it had a houses and a cemetery and a schoolhouse and a Saloon and even a train station to connect it to the rest of the bigger towns in the Cascades.

Only nobody ever got on the train in Felonwood and when the train for some reason had to stop there the conductor would more likely to pull the shades down in the windows and the passengers were likely to not lift them until they were far away from Felonwood.

All of those buildings were made of stone, and none of the buildings had windows and if anyone would have even gotten off of the train and tried to open one of those doors that led into those little gray buildings they would have found the doors were fake.

Window dressing.

Fooled you.

The little Mills and Farms up in the Cascades had  a pretty good life up in those Mountains but they did have one problem…time.

They had way to much time on their hands and it seemed like all they had to do up in those mountains was cut down trees and gamble and drink and gamble and drink some more and on Sundays they’d stagger into their Churches and swear to God never to do that again.

Which to their credit they managed until…well the more determined ones managed it till Tuesday, sometimes even Thursday. In fact it was on a Friday that someone from Dunning staggered off the train in Felonwood at Sunset.

His name was Jacob Olson and Dunning probably would have been a better place to live had Jacob never shown up in Dunning to begin with.

Jacob Olson didn’t exactly walk off the train into Felonwood on that Friday just before sunset. He was getting sick over the railing and when the train jerked and started back down the tracks he went over the side and landed face down in the dirt.

When he turned himself over he was looking up into a dark face framed by black hair and dominated by a set of  black eyes and teeth so white they almost glowed blue.

The woman drew in a breath before she spoke and Jacob wouldn’t have been at all surprised had she howled like dog and sprouted horns from her forehead.

Instead she looked down at him with the same look his wife had when their cat brought home half-chewed still alive mice and birds and dropped them in the middle of their kitchen floor.

” Wonderful ” she said, ” this is just wonderful.”

When Jacob tried to get up the woman put the heel of her boot into his neck and shook her head. ” Move and I’ll cut your heart out. I’ll bury it here, and trust me. You don’t want that.”

As the woman spoke the air chilled and Jacob didn’t care at all for the way here black eyes seemed to be seeing more then what was in front of her nose. ” We’re waiting here for the next train. You’re going to be on it. Give me your word you won’t come back and I’ll let you go.”

The Woman was good to her word and she did put Jacob on the train. However, anyone in Dunning could have told you what Jacob’s word was worth so it shouldn’t surprise you he was back 72 hours later and when he was done the ground of Felonwood was sown with salt.

Felonwood started to die after that, and I don’t mean the plants and the water and the animals.

Remember the things that lived in the trees of Felonwood that I told you about earlier?

These shadows and shades and half alive creatures use to have names and homes, some of them had even spent time in Dunning.

Anyway, they started to die and if any of them thought dieing the first time around would make it easier the second time around they were wrong.

After Jacob and his friends came into Felonwood, waving around their silver crosses and salt the residents of Felonwood started to get sick.

Then one evening a  Shade, it’s face and hands eaten away by the poisoned ground of Felonwood burst into flames at Embelia’s feet.

Embelia did something she had never done before.

She Panicked.

She ran from tree to tree screaming up into the darkness that always hung above the trees of Felonwood “Stay in there, do you hear me? Stay in there and don’t come out until I say it’s okay!”

Then Embelia  went into her cabin and came out with an ax she looked back up into the trees and yelled ” Hang on! ”

She whistled the entire time she worked.

Months later something came down from Felonwood on the flatbed, the last car on the train that ran the Cascade Loop.

The ‘something’ was nothing unusual. On the flatbed were logs…lots and lots of logs.

Being that Dunning was a lumber town, they did what they were supposed to do.

They cut and processed the lumber and most of it ended up staying right there in the town.

They used the logs in the new houses they were putting up; they used it in the little hospital and the new Church as well as for the additions to the lumber mill.

With the new buildings came new problems.

Like people saying they were hearing voices in the Church, horrible voices telling them to do horrible things. Children would come home from school and insist that they were seeing faces in the floors and on their desk tops and at the hospital, well, they couldn’t keep staff there either because the Doctor and nurses were spreading stories around town about how patients who died there at the hospital seemed to be coming back.

And they were dieing over and over again.

Those stories weren’t as bad as the ones about people claiming to see the Malloy Sisters walking down Main Street-the same Malloy Sisters who were hung for Witchcraft and who all strangled slowly because the hangman wasn’t exactly  a professional and the Sister’s necks didn’t snap the way they were suppose to.

Then Mr Mayer said he was positive he had seen Marcus Spurges at the Library walking up and down the aisles arm and arm with his wife and whispering into her ear.

Mr Mayer was very surprised to see the both of them there in the Library because Mr and Mrs Spurges were both executed shortly after the Malloys for, big surprise…witchcraft.

The Spurges, The Malloys, a man named Simon who had been accused of Werewolfery. All accused, all imprisoned, all executed by hanging and all buried up the road in a little town called Felonwood.

Lots of people were left wondering why these Ghosts should be coming to Dunning of all places, how of all the towns in the Cascades they chose this one to return to.

Wondering was enough to drive you crazy and it did there in Dunning. Dunning was destined to never win any Mental Health Awards.

So before you go over the edge with the rest of the residents of Dunning, if you’re really that curious go ahead and talk to Embelia Felonwood- if anyone knows how that town fell apart and why she does.

But do me a favor.

She hand carves these little figures, animals and people and such from the trees that grow on her property.

Buy one from her.