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May 8, 2013

Abel Lacor stared down into his mug of coffee. “I hate written stories. Once something is written its dead. You know?”

Abel offered a weak, “uh-huh,” knowing that she would have continued regardless. He stared down at the restaurant’s paper menu.

“When you tell a story you invest yourself in hearing it. It’s collaborative. Once you put it down on paper its dead. It can’t change.” She took a sip of water before going on. Abel looked down at his mug. He dipped the swizzle stick into it and raised it. He watched as a single drop plunked into the coffee.

     Hydromancy he though, searching for something as the liquid rippled. Everyone else seemed entirely rapt in the girl’s thesis. Abel just wondered. It couldn’t be true could it? Translations still existed going from one language to another, must change something. Even the mental picture created by the words had to be different didn’t it?

He dipped the stick back into his coffee. He pulled it out of the cup and let it drip onto the menu. The black spot grew as it soaked into the paper. She went on, Abel watched the brown blotch expand as she said important sounding words. “Authentic,” she said. The stain spread wider. “True representation of the real,” wider. The spot stopped expanding, nestling up against the sharp edge of a big, black inked, B. He stared down at it, following the curve of the serif on the B and followed it around the outline of the letter.

“What do you think, Abe?” The words hurled him back to reality. He had been so intent, watching the spot writhe and shift. He snapped upright. He locked eyes with her and she smirked at him, clearly enjoying the fact that she had caught him not paying attention.

Abel ran his hands through his hair. “Does it matter?”

She looked at him quizzically. “Does what matter? Realism in art? Of course it does. If you’re not exposing truth what’s the point?”

“Well I mean, isn’t it more important what someone gets out of the story? Like if we get two different things out of it isn’t that a cool thing?”

His feet felt suddenly heavy. The weight traveled up his legs to his stomach. He hated these conversations. He knew what was coming next. “Well of course it’s important,” she said. The weight made its way to his chest. “You just haven’t had as much time thinking about narratives as I have,” The weight pressed on his shoulders now. “The author makes choices to show us a fundamental truth about the world.” Her words, delivered with practiced pedagogy, added to the weight. He felt like he would, and wanted nothing more than to, fall through the floor.

“I guess,” he muttered. He looked back down. The weight had moved up to his head and he felt his neck strain under it. If there is a God let the earth swallow me whole, he thought. It did not.

“Well if there isn’t a fundamental truth why do we read or watch or listen to anything ever? Your world must be incredibly boring.” Her words piled, heavier and heavier, on his neck, his shoulders, his head. He looked back down the coffee was stagnant now. It had gone as far as it could go, bound by the heavy black ink lines. He stood up, left money for the bill and walked out. The whole table seemed shocked by his actions, and whether she had actually been silent out of surprise at Abel’s actions had, or he simply had no desire to hear here he was not sure. With every step though, every foot of space that he put between she and him the weight got lighter. By the time he stepped out into the night air he felt almost normal. He jabbed his hands into his pockets and looked around and smirked to himself, thinking about what kind of universal truth he had just exhibited.

The night air was thick and black and wet. As Abel walked farther, out of the meager light of the downtown sodium streetlamps and closer to his apartment, he watched as the black, new moon sky crept closer and closer. No longer held at bay by the orange light of sodium bulbs the hot, black night air poured down over every surface. His eyes adjusted, quickly enough but it was still difficult to see through that heavy, hot, black liquid night. With the light gone it was heavier now. Starlight made it possible to see his way, but the night air seemed unwilling to yield. It coated everything, outlined it in sharp black. Abel stopped and traced the outline of a tree. The air around it seemed thicker, more stagnant. He traced the line around the tree and along the ground. The line continued along the ground. More trees were bound by it. Kept static in their shape by the thick outline and the utter stillness of the night. The stillness made something inside Abel stir. He started walking again as he traced the line along the ground. He followed it to his shoes their brown leather running up against the thick black outline.

He picked up his feet and watched as the ink black night air seemed to fill in the space his foot vacated. He planted it again and watched the blackness wash back over his foot. Run he thought, and he did. The hot ink night lapped at him as he pushed through it. It clung to him as he pushed on. He became aware, in his periphery, of his hands flashing in and out of sight as he pumped his arms. He looked down as he ran, looked at his arms and legs and hands and feet. They stabbed at the darkness as it attempted to reign in his body. He punched and kicked at it, propelled himself forward. The shape fights the motionless ink. He ran harder.



August 15, 2012

By Justin Cornille

Barb sat at her desk and waited for the soft “bing” of the library’s P.A. system. The only thing better than the closing announcement, was the half an hour or so that she got to spend alone in the library as she reshelved the books in the reference section and locked up the library. Nobody understood the library like she did. To them it was just a building full of books. They just didn’t get it.

“The library is now closed. Please bring all books for checkout to the checkout desk,” announced the automated voice. Barb sighed to herself remembering when the announcement was given by a real librarian and not a recorded woman who had never worked there. That, she thought to herself, was what people loved now though. Patrons coming in with laptops and Kindles and Nooks, they all wanted it to be electronic. Nobody but her even used the old card catalogue that she kept so meticulously. She wasn’t convinced that that was a bad thing though. As a reference librarian she needed her resources to be in perfect order, and she made sure that they were.

Barb was shaken out of her daydream as the volunteer girl said, “Good night Mrs. Rachman.” Barb acknowledged the girl with as small a response as her upbringing as a lady would allow. She wasn’t entirely true why the girl had to be in her section anyways. They had told her that she was there to transfer all the periodicals from microform to computers.  Addie, that was what they said the girls name was. She seemed pleasant enough but why she had to be here, in the basement, was a complete mystery. Put her on one of the other floors. Stick her on the third with the children’s books. Barb had no use for her in reference. Reference was the soul of the library.

Barb stood up and walked around her desk to the little cart of books and looked up. The Loutre Public Library had been designed by the man who paid for it to be built. There were a few peculiarities due primarily to the fact that Hack Dunmill was not an architect. The most obvious of these oddities were the gargoyle and grotesques that stood sentry on the roof of the building but Barb’s favorite part was the skylight. In the center of the roof was a glass pyramid. Inside the building on all three floors there was a square cutout in the floor that matched the dimensions of the pyramid and allowed the natural light to flood the entire building. The stacks on each level then radiated out from the square in straight lines with reading nooks at each corner.

She wheeled the little cart out into the square of light and began organizing the books on the cart according to their decimal numbers. She listened attentively as she ran her long fingers over the spines of the books listening for the sound of the front door closing. After she heard it she smiled, now the library was empty except for the books and her. She finished ordering the books and spun the little cart towards the first aisle on her nightly routine.

The aisles in the basement reference section were warren-like. They stretched floor to ceiling and down each one a single row of fluorescent lights provided the only light that didn’t pour in from the skylight. The shelves themselves were heavy, old, wooden behemoths that, having been built in the 1920’s were now too near to each other to be up to code. However, given the historic nature of the building and the cost of updating the fire inspectors generally agreed that the aisles down in the stacks were actually just wide enough to avoid fines and closure.

The wheels on the cart squeaked quietly as Barb rolled it down the aisle. She picked up each book, checked the number on the spine, then the numbers of the books on the shelf and placed it gently on the shelf amongst its mates. She treated these books like the treasures they were. Too often students would come in looking to research something for a paper on something or other and just pull books from the shelves and then leave them laying around or worse yet, attempt to reshelve the books on their own. They never treated them with the love these old books needed. Barb always did though.

She picked up a book about marine invertebrates and set it on the shelf. As she slid it back she felt a sharp pain. She instinctively pulled her hand back towards her and watched as a small drop of blood formed out of a paper cut. She put her finger in her mouth and sucked on it backing up slightly before her shoulders bumped into the bookshelf behind her. From time to time she was still surprised at how narrow the aisles really were.

She took her finger from her mouth and shook her hand. She looked back at her finger and moved on. She couldn’t remember the last paper cut she had gotten. She pushed farther down the aisle. She loved the way the stacks smelled. The old books smelled like knowledge. That’s what these kids didn’t understand. Sure they knew how to find things on the internet or with their cell phones but their knowledge didn’t last. They didn’t understand that knowledge gained was a direct corollary to effort spent gaining it. Barb did though, that’s why she took such care of the books and the building. She welcomed that old musty smell and those wooden shelves smoothed with age. The knowledge was here for the taking. All you had to do was respect it and it would open the world for you.

The light above her head flickered. She looked up and saw it flash. It was dying. She knew how to replace the bulbs. She had taught herself because the damned maintenance man never got around to her request. Maybe she would have Addie put in the next request. Surely that pretty young thing would have better luck with the maintenance.

She left the cart in the aisle and made her way to the little closet that housed the step ladder and the light bulbs. She turned the doorknob and pulled the door open. The big, heavy door seemed unwilling to budge at first. It startled her, but she set her feet again and pulled harder. The door gave way and opened. She searched for the light switch on the wall inside the room. She ran her hand over the wall, but was unable to find it. Instead she stepped inside and used what little light managed to find its way into the little room.

As soon as she stepped in she regretted it. The air in the little room was stale. It felt heavier, saturated with the darkness. It pressed down on her. She tried to breathe in. She found it difficult and the air she did breathe in the air seemed to stuff her nose. She grasped for a bulb and, wrapping her hand around one of the fluorescent tubes, quickly backed out into the light of the stacks. The air was lighter again, she breathed more deeply and quickly than she would have liked to admit. She turned to walk back to the flickering bulb before quickly realizing that she needed to go back into the closet for the step-ladder. This time she stood and found it before she entered the closet. She held her breath and plunged back into the darkness. Again it pressed itself against her, wrapped itself around her legs; she grabbed the step-ladder and rushed back out the door.

She breathed again and headed off to replace the bulb. She walked through the wide open square in the center of the basement and looked up through the skylight out of habit. At some point clouds had rolled in and blotted out the moon and stars. Light still trickled in but it was much darker out than normal.  As she neared the dying bulb it flared brightly and then went black. Just in time, she thought to herself. She set the step-ladder and climbed. She changed the bulb easily and climbed back down. Barb set the dead bulb and the step-ladder by her desk, rather than risking the dark of the closet again, and walked back to the cart of books.

As she walked under the skylight she noted that there was no light coming through. Instead of the faintly defined square there was only the soft wash of the pale fluorescent tubes. She looked up, the sky was ink black. Clouds must have rolled in. She went back to re-shelving her books. She moved more quickly now. Although she would never admit it, tonight did not feel like a good night to stay late.

With her increased pace she had managed to shelve half of the books on the cart. She had also come to notice for the first time just how long and narrow the rows of bookshelves were. She had always liked how close together they were as it made easier work of putting the books back. Tonight though, she noticed the odd shadows they threw and the blind corners they produced. She clucked her tongue and scolded herself for being so silly.

As a general rule she followed the same path every evening while she put the books back. She would march down one aisle toward the exterior wall, then loop around the shelf and then march back up the aisle shelving books as she walked back toward that square of light. On some nights, nights like tonight when the clouds rolled in over that big glass skylight, she altered her path, and refused to walk around the end of the shelves. Without that little hint of real light, she hated being stuck between the wall and the shelves. Something about the tube-light made it seem too close.

She pushed the cart into the middle of the square after finishing one of the aisles and looked up. There wouldn’t be any harm in leaving just half of these books un-shelved.  Besides, nobody but her and her girl assistant even came down there most days. She could just leave these for the morning and nobody would say anything. There would probably be a storm soon with as dark as the night sky had gotten.

She pushed her cart over toward her desk before stopping. No, she thought, she would shelve these books tonight. There was no thunder, no lightning, no rainfall that she could see or hear, and she would not let herself be scared off by a dying light bulb. As she thought this another bulb flickered. This one though, was in an aisle she had already completed and so, rather than going back into the closet to find another bulb she simply turned around and walked back toward the aisles that remained to be completed.

As she walked farther toward the exterior wall putting books back as quickly as she could she began to hear a buzzing sound. It wasn’t unusual for the bulbs to hum. Maintenance always said something about a ballast or some such nonsense. She knew it was just a bulb about to burn out that they didn’t want to change. As she walked back to the center of the basement however, the buzzing got louder, much louder. She trudged on ignoring the fact that it was now too loud to be a regular bulb and continued her task.

Until the lights went out. There was a sudden clunk as the breaker tripped. The big, heavy breakers could always be heard in the basement. Almost immediately the darkness returned. Heavy, heavier now than even a few minutes ago in the closet, it pressed down on her. She gasped and immediately regretted it. It rushed into her lungs and stayed there. She felt it slick and wet in her mouth, in her nose, in her ears. She flailed trying to brush it away. It was no use. It filled the library. It swarmed her body and licked between her fingers as she swatted. It rushed against her.

She collected herself as much as she could and moved slowly, instinctively toward that center square. If there was light to be had it would be there. Her hip met the book cart solidly and she knew she would have a bruise. She didn’t care. The only thing that mattered was that light. The black air of the library basement fought her every step of the way. She held her arms out in front of her searching for obstacles after her collision with the book cart.

The darkness wrapped around her wrists and snaked its way up her arms. It squeezed and tugged trying to pull her away from that square but she kept moving forward. It slithered over her shoulders and around her chest. It constricted as she kept moving forward. She breathed hard and it rushed in like black water. She could feel beads of sweat form on her brow. She pushed forward. As she took her next step the blackness seemed offered one final crush.

The medical examiners had questions for Addie when she showed up the next day. She had no answers for them. Barb had seemed fine when she left and it wasn’t unusual for her to change dying bulbs on her own. The medical examiner assured her that the questions were perfunctory and that the cause of death was most likely a heart attack. Most people at the library would never have admitted it, but they all thought it was a bit fitting that Barb would die under the skylight in that old library. She had told all of them more than once that they didn’t have the same feel for the building that she did.

Hide and Seek

July 15, 2012

By Justin Cornille

The hardest part about maintaining a secret society in a small town is that secrets are almost impossible to keep. The Parliament was no exception. It was a secret society only insofar as it was a society that had secrets. Everyone knew it existed, what they did not know, was who they were or where they met. They had taken to hiding their faces in elaborate animal masks at some point. This fact combined with their propensity for running through yards had led on several occasions to reports of werewolves and, on one occasion, to a near shooting.

As important as the masks were to their secrecy the more important part, the part that had afforded them whatever secrecy they had, was the woods. It was old-growth forest. The old hemlocks that grew there often proved more trouble to search than anyone was willing to spend looking for a group of kids. That, along with the fact that the group never met in the same place twice in a row afforded them tremendous secrecy.

Felix stood at the edge of the woods, took a deep breath, and pulled his mask over his head. He had gotten his invitation to join The Parliament two weeks ago. It had been stuffed into his locker, written on thick paper with rough edges. It included a map that, vague as it was, provided just enough information that Felix was certain he could find it. The mask, made from a second hand goalie helmet with the cage removed, encased his entire head and constricted his field of vision and muffled his hearing. The fact that sound could only enter the mask at the sides made it difficult to tell the direction of origin and the new moon made the woods even more dark. Luckily, Loutre was no metropolis and without city lights the stars in the clear sky provided just enough light.

He stepped into the woods and stopped and pulled out his invitation. He looked around and attempted to reconcile his surroundings with the crude map. After what felt like minutes he had made no progress. He found a sturdy tree and began to climb. The hemlocks were not easy to climb the low branches were usually too fragile to support his weight. He was small, but years of gymnastics and wrestling had made him dense. Instead he had learned to climb them by clinging to the trunks and shimmying his way up. Once he was high enough he looked out onto the forest floor. He found what he was looking for, a downed tree and small creek that matched the map perfectly.

After climbing down, feet on the ground, he set off toward the landmark. He walked slowly, and deliberately. He panned his head left and right almost perpetually attempting to make up for his handicapped peripheral vision. The muffled sound made the forest unnaturally quiet. He had never realized how reassuring the sounds had been when he had been in the woods on previous nights. He trudged on though, footsteps falling soft on the ivy covered ground.

As he reached his landmark he sat on the downed tree and took out the invitation. He had just begun to orient the rough map when he heard it. The snap was easy to identify: dry, dead wood. What was not easy to identify was what had made the sound. It was loud. It had to have been to make it through the mask. He sat up listening for the soft rustle of ivy and ground cover to tell him where the sound was coming from. What followed was silence.

Felix stood up and set off again content that it was probably just the wayward step of an animal. He walked a bit farther following the creek towards the spot marked on the map. Behind him he heard a sharp rustling sound, something running through the ground cover. He spun around trying to source the sound. It seemed to run away from him and Felix was more relieved than he cared to admit. He felt sweat form on his forehead under his mask. It was from the heat, he told himself.

The silence fell again. He marveled at how much sound the mask cut out. He looked up at the sky and was surprised at just how far back he had to crane his neck to see the sky. The mask was cutting down on his hearing and sight more than he had anticipated. He inhaled deeply and walked farther towards the spot marked on the map.

It would be so much easier under a full moon. Any moon would have helped. Instead he got whatever starlight could get through the canopy. He was grateful that they weren’t meeting in the deepest part of the woods. That would have been almost impassable. As he lamented the lack of moon he turned his head in the direction of his destination.         Out of the corner of his mask he saw movement. Instinctively he turned to focus on it. it was fast. By the time he was able to focus it in his view it was gone. He laughed at himself for allowing his mind to play tricks on him.

He set off again, faster this time. While before he had been somewhat cautiously walking through the woods he was now jogging. The sight of the wolf mask made him stumble. He regained his footing and stopped. He looked straight at it. It was a hell of a mask. If it hadn’t been so high off the ground it may have looked like a real wolf pup. Instead it was clearly a masked person peering out from behind a tree. The most striking part was the eyes, even in the dim starlight they shone like glass, staring at him. As soon as he took a step toward it, it ducked back behind its tree.

Felix walked over. There was nothing. No person, no mask, no footprints. Felix convinced himself that it was just his mind again. He pulled out the map to check his location. He felt something brush against his shoulder and jumped. He swatted at his shoulder as he danced manically attempting to get away from whatever it was that was touching him. He stopped once he realized that there was nothing on his shoulder.

He panted as he looked around for what had grazed his shoulder. He stopped and shook his head. He tried to clear his thoughts. His attempt was cut short as something grabbed his shoulder again. This time he distinctly felt fingers. They wrapped themselves into his shirt and curled tight into a fist. He twisted and turned as the grip pulled him until his back slammed hard into a tree. He fought but the grip was stronger than he was. Every time he would pull away from the tree it would pull him back. He felt a hand touch his other shoulder and pulled again, hard.

He turned into the grip of the hand on his shoulder and wound up facing the tree. The tree and that mask with its head tilted to the side, glass eyes glinting as it stared into his face. He put one foot up against the trunk and pushed. His kick sent him rolling backwards breaking free of the grasp. He completed his backwards somersault landing on all fours. The mask still stared at him. It didn’t move it just stared.

Its fur looked worse now, matted and dirty. It looked old. Felix straightened himself slightly, turned and ran. He sprinted wind blew through the mask and if it had been difficult to hear before the sound of the wind through the mask made it all but impossible to hear. That was unimportant. What was important was putting distance between himself and whoever was in that mask. Trees flew past him as he sprinted forward.

He ran until each breath stung his lungs. His legs burned with lactic acid. He jumped instinctively over felled brush and tripped over what he couldn’t jump. He would falter, catch himself on his knuckles and force himself upright only to keep running. He slowed when he felt his stomach constrict and his dinner rise into his throat.

He stopped and rested his hands on his knees. His heart beat hard and fast sounding like a bass drum in his head. He had to fight off the panic of not being able to hear as he tried to catch his breath. He reached for his invitation again to check the map. His heart sank as he emptied his pockets and found nothing. He didn’t care where it was or where he had lost it. All he cared about was that it was gone. He looked around. The combination of stress and time of night rendered the woods completely unrecognizable.

He breathed in deep, wrapped his arms around a tree and began climbing. He looked out into the woods for anything familiar, dreading the thought that he might see those shining glass eyes. Instead he saw the warm orange glow of a fire. A tiny voice inside him screamed with the primal joy that only a campfire can provide. He scrambled down the tree. Bark scraped at him as he descended. As he set feet on the ground he heard footsteps.

He spun wildly trying to find the source. When he found it he wished he hadn’t. Trudging slowly toward him was that masked figure. It was too far away for the eyes to shine and Felix was glad of that. He pounded his fists into his thighs, attempting to rouse them for one last burst. He turned in the direction of the fire glow and sprinted again.

Again his lungs burned and his legs ached. He leapt and tripped and staggered. Every time he fell forward he would shoot his arm out almost punching the earth to stay upright. He could see that orange glow getting brighter. Suddenly his legs no longer ached and the breath no longer burned. All that mattered was that fire. He could almost feel its warmth, smell the wood burning. He could feel those eyes shining into his back. He was almost there.

And then he was. He exploded through the tree line into a clearing. In the center was a clearly manmade fire. He stumbled again and this time could not catch himself. His muscles had given everything they had to get him here and now, whatever primal drive had gotten him here had been exhausted and he collapsed. He got as close to the fire as he could and rolled onto his back. He watched that tree line and prayed that those eyes didn’t follow.

His breath came in ragged gasps. He looked up at the sky and closed his eyes. He opened them again after hearing a soft tapping on his mask. In front of his eyes was a rabbit mask. He scrambled backwards. The rabbit rose to his feet and stretched out his arms, “Woah woah woah, It’s ok its ok you’re among friends,” he spread his arms and gestured to the animals around him. There were three others: a fox, an owl, and a bear. Felix continued to scramble backwards. “You’ve made it to session, friend,” said Rabbit. “You can relax,”

Felix looked at them; their masks looked newer, more like his. He slowed and stood. “There’s something out there,” he said.

“That’d be Rhino,” said Rabbit. “We sent him to follow you. We can’t just have someone running around in the woods with nobody knowing where they are now can we? Especially in a,” Rabbit hesitated, “chipmunk mask?” Felix thought about what he was saying. It made sense. Much more sense than a masked killer or a monster in the woods. “Maybe we should have sent Fox after you instead,” Rabbit laughed, “Certain poetry to that, Fox chasing Chipmunk. Oh well, if we had only known what you were going to be,” Rabbit said with a hand flourish. “Oh look, here comes Rhino now!” He pointed at the woods as a hulk of a figure in a rhinoceros mask entered the clearing. He was panting.

“Jesus kid, you are fast. Every time I would get close to you, you’d take off like a shot.” Rhino said. He laughed. “I haven’t seen anyone that fast since Fox. You might be faster.”

Felix looked around. His sense of dread was gradually being replaced by a sense of pride that he had found the session, that they had recognized his animal mask, and that they thought he was so fast. The animals all began welcoming him and offering congratulations. Felix looked them all over and admired their masks. As he looked at the dull eyes of the rhino mask he chided himself for letting his mind get the best of him and took a seat around the fire.

The Ballad of Ezra Miner

July 10, 2012

By Justin Cornille

Ezra Miner moved to the town of Hammond with the intent of revolutionizing the lumbering business. Ezra had opened a new shop called Miner’s Mechanical Concern and after studying the local lumber operation he had built a better mousetrap. Using his training as a watchmaker and a natural knack for problem solving Miner began to make machinery to increase the efficiency of the nearby Loutre logging camp. The loggers were initially apprehensive of Ezra Miner as they thought at first that his goal was to replace manpower with machine-power.

After sussing out the nature of their mistrust after several long nights and many, many rounds of beer Ezra was shocked as his true intentions were nothing of the sort. He began to explain at every chance, to every logger, that what he desired was “a perfect blend of humanity and automation.” Ezra Miner believed that the future brawn of the future would be mechanical but that the heart and soul would remain human. Ezra was bound and determined to lead the charge.

After earning their trust by sharpening and repairing their tools at what everyone agreed were incredibly reasonable rates, Ezra started coming around the logging camp and watching their operation. He would carry with him a small bound journal, making notes and drawing little pictures in it as he asked questions that sometimes annoyed the loggers. They all agreed, however, that Ezra Miner was harmless, even if he did often fail to heed their safety instructions.

It took almost a full year before the contents of Ezra’s notebook began to make sense to the rest of the town. Ezra had devised a very efficient conveyor belt system that could move recently felled logs towards the giant saws at the camp. This was an incredible boon to the camp which up until this time had been relying on water currents to carry the logs downstream.  Ezra’s conveyor system increased productivity greatly and he became something of a local celebrity.

In fact Ezra was so beloved by the time that the residents of Hammond elected to move to Loutre people were surprised and rather sad that he had elected to stay in Hammond. Ezra reassured everyone that their concern was unwarranted as the road between the two was clear and the trip was a mere hour. The townsfolk reluctantly accepted his decision and in time began to look for the smoke coming from the one inhabited building in Hammond on the horizon.

Ezra still saw the people of Hammond, who were now the people of Loutre, quite regularly. He would come into Loutre at least twice a month to keep the loggers abreast of the new machines he was working on to improve their operation and kept his shop open to sharpen and fix tools whenever necessary. It was around this time, with Ezra living alone in the ghost town, that people began to notice he kept a new journal in this one he would make sketches of the children.

This went on for several months before Ezra retired his secondary notebook. Mothers would frequently ask why he was sketching their children and asked if he was making a machine for the children. He would always reply that he was simply trying his hand at something more artistic than the purely functional machines he had been sketching for so long, and remind them that the perfect combination of machination and humanity had always been and would always be his goal.

It was an unusually cold winter when the people of Loutre began noticing a thicker stream of smoke rising into the sky from Ezra’s workshop and home in Hammond. They chalked it up to it being so cold and having to run his furnace at all times to keep warm. It was his decreased visits that aroused concern. Ezra had begun to come less and less. He still made it to Loutre at least once a month but the length of these stays was dramatically shorter than the previous all day visits. It was for this reason that several of the men were convinced by their wives to check in on him.

They were greeted somewhat anxiously by Ezra as he was clearly not expecting the company and seemed off put by its intrusion. He offered them seats by the fire and hot cups of tea for some and whisky for others. The men talked with Ezra for a short time before noticing his new apparent newfound interest in taxidermy. All around them were stuffed animals in incredibly naturalistic poses. The men thanked him for his hospitality and then went back to their homes in Loutre.

After this Ezra’s visits became more common. He once again would spend several days a month visiting the people of Loutre. Now he would bring gifts for the children, small windup toys that would walk or drive or do backflips. Ezra would also bring his notebook and begin sketching again. This time however he would guard his notebook and the sketches therein closely, quickly putting it away when people would attempt to steal peeks at its contents.

The contents of the journal would remain a secret until the following summer. In the spring the townsfolk of Loutre began finding animals torn apart in the woods. They were partially eaten and clearly predated upon but the animal responsible was a complete mystery. There were also reports of what appeared to be wild people in the woods. By this point the Native American population was practically nonexistent in the area and so instead popular speculation was Bigfoot.

The men of the town organized a search but turned up nothing of note until heading to the workshop of Ezra Miner. Once there they found his secret notebook opened. They were horrified at what they saw. On every page from beginning to end were sketches of the children. The sketches began as sketches of the children playing or reading or laying down. As the book progressed however the sketches became more problematic. They began to focus on specific body parts arms, legs, necks, heads all with estimated measurements. The last few pages were unrecognizable as individual children instead they were comprised of anatomical drawings. Skinless bodies covered in muscle and later skeletal frames filled each page. The men waited for Ezra to get home and confronted him.

That evening one of the children, Matthew Daub didn’t come home at dinner time. The town organized a search party and spent the entire evening searching for him. When they found him the men headed immediately for the workshop of Ezra Miner. Parts of Matthew’s skin had been peeled back from his body as though whatever had killed him had also attempted to skin him.

Justice that night was swift and cruel for Ezra Miner. He was lynched from a tree near his workshop, his house was ransacked for proof but all that was found were the notebooks and several mechanical drawings for what appeared to be a clockwork mannequin. Ezra shouted his innocence until the rope tightened and continued trying until his feet stopped dancing.

In time the Bigfoot reports in Loutre occurred with decreasing frequency and were chalked up to old stories told by the loggers. The continued appearance of the dead animals in the woods was chalked up to local wildlife. When the children began to tell stories of their friend Lydia who lived in the woods, the adults chalked it up to their fertile imaginations. What they could not explain away is why sometimes, on very cold nights in winter, smoke could still be seen rising from the chimney of Ezra Miner’s old workshop.

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