Blood Ties

📅 Published on June 29, 2020

“Blood Ties”

Written by Seth Paul
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 9.50/10. From 10 votes.
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The sky was dark, threatening rain as Ryan got out of the car, slamming the door behind him.  Uncle Selwyn’s house… well, less house and more the ancestral family manor he had inherited and called home…stood in front of him, larger and more foreboding than he remembered as a child.

He had been banging on the front door and yelling for his Uncle to come out for the better part of ten minutes as the other cars pulled up; Gary, the youngest cousin, barely in college, in his hand-me-down Toyota Tercel; Jennifer in her BMW Z3, a gift to herself for finishing law school and getting an associate position, saving every penny she could since high school to afford it; and Ellie in the seat next to her, having lost her license while arguing with an undercover cop trying to drive back drunk from a sorority party..

They had all grown up together; even though Gary, Ryan, Jennifer, Ellie, and Chris were only cousins, they were closer than most brothers and sisters.  Ryan would have considered himself the leader, but Ellie and Gary probably wouldn’t have thought of him that way, since he usually tormented the two of them to no end as kids.  Gary still had a scar on his arm from years ago when Ryan pushed him down a hill and he landed on an old can that someone had thrown away and was hidden in the grass, and Ellie never forgave him for locking her in the closet at their grandmother’s funeral when she was 3.  It was her earliest memory, and not one of her favorites.

Of the parents on all related by blood on their grandfather’s side of the family, they were all the only children of each one…only Uncle Selwyn never had kids, and for a very long time, the eccentric, wild-haired man who could never hold a job longer than a few months was one of their favorite people in the whole world.  A consummate storyteller, Selwyn was equal parts entertaining, hilarious, and frightening as hell.  But he doted on each one of them, even when they got older and outgrew his stories…except Gary, who thought Selwyn could do no wrong.

But then their grandfather died.  While their grandmother died somewhat peaceably from medical complications when they were all still very young (and gave Ellie that horrible memory), their grandfather had been with them until Ryan entered middle school.  His death was…much less peaceable.

The mailman, dropping off mail on the front porch, had been the one to hear the sounds coming from the woods behind the house.  A machine sound, ragged, clogged with something.  He went around the back and saw the shape in the trees, a chipper of some kind…and all the blood everywhere…

Uncle Selwyn was different after that.  At the funeral he spoke to no one, sitting towards the back, his wild hair finally showing flecks of gray.  He had been left the old manor house in the will, but he showed no signs of enjoyment, or grateful for the honor.  Instead, he just grew more uncomfortable, and he mostly retreated from family life.

Six months later, Ryan’s father died.  He had been coming home from work when he got a flat tire.  At that point, the story became jumbled, as there were no witnesses.  Police assumed he had been hit by a truck and dragged the better part of a mile, but no one ever reported a truck in the area.  But there was no mistaking the flat tire, the bloody streak that lay along the roadway, and his mangled, ruined body.  It was tragic on many fronts, but the worst was the news that after months of being underwater, his father had gotten a promotion, and couldn’t wait to tell his family the good news when he got home.

Jennifer’s mother had been given a long spa weekend by her firm for a job well done.  She was found in one of the tanning beds.  The spa was fined for improper equipment maintenance, but they said there was no way that the machine glass could break like that, or that broken glass could rip a person apart like that.  But, there was no other evidence that anything happened; the camera in there wasn’t working properly that day, and there was no reason to suspect anyone would (or could) do that to another person in that short a period of time.

All of their parents on their grandfather’s side, one by one, all died in freak accidents.  They were all different, but the results were the same: shredded, mangled, horrifically so.

All but Uncle Selwyn.  He came to Ryan’s father’s funeral, but then, he was never seen.  He never called.  He never even sent sympathy cards.  He simply retreated into that house and didn’t come out.

The rumors started shortly after.  Everyone may have died in an accident, but they all just knew that Uncle Selwyn was involved.  He had to be…why had everything bad happened to his family and he was left alone?

Gary’s father was last.  His car was upside down at the bottom of a hill, and even though the inside of the car was relatively undamaged, he was torn to shreds.

For a few years, that was the end of it.  But then, a few days ago, Chris, who worked at the docks unloading cargo from freighters, got word that he was going to be a father for the first time.  He left voicemails for all his cousins (except for Ryan, whose voicemail never worked right; it always seemed to come days after they were supposed to) the last voicemail he ever sent was to Jennifer, the final number of the five he called, and on it, Jennifer heard the commotion at the dock as the cable came loose, and the horrible sound as the shipping crates came together, crushing Chris between them.

The funeral was short…and a closed casket, on the recommendation of the funeral home director.  Again, no Uncle Selwyn, though no one was surprised anymore.  During the funeral, though, Ryan received a call.  He was handling most of the funeral planning, so no one thought much about it until he took the call out to the parking lot, and they heard his muffled yelling.  He got into his car and drove off.  Everyone wondered what had happened when Jennifer received a call herself.

It was the insurance company, apologizing for calling, but since Ryan had hung up on them they felt it necessary to call another family member.  Based on their investigation, it would be necessary to file potential criminal charges against Chris’s employer.  The cable had not broken as originally thought, but appeared to have been cut, cleanly, by something powerful and very sharp.

They knew it wasn’t the docks Ryan was driving to.  They all got into their cars and followed after him.

Ryan was practically ready to bust the door down when Gary pulled him back.  “Ryan, we don‘t know if–”

“Like hell, we don’t!”  Ryan grabbed Gary by the shirt and pushed him back off the porch.  “He may not have cut that cable, but he sure as hell knows something is going on, and for a long time!  I am not leaving until I get some goddamn answers!”

Just then, the lock turned, and Selwyn, looking like he’d seen better days, opened it.  His eyes were surrounded by dark rings, almost sunken, and he looked older and tired than his fifty-odd years suggested.  His hair, though, was still just as wild as ever, sticking up all over the place like he had woken up with his finger in an electric socket.

Ryan moved to grab him, but Jennifer put a hand on Ryan’s shoulder.  “Give him a minute, Ryan.  Let him explain himself first.”

Selwyn ushered them all into the sitting room.  The room looked more like an old film set than a room, the couch in the middle covered with an old blanket and the many staring eyes of taxidermied birds, foxes, and other animals crammed into every corner.  After grandma died, taxidermy became grandpa’s big hobby.  He’d gotten very good at it.

While they tried to find places to sit in the room, Selwyn leaned against the fireplace.  There was a small fire going in it, and even as everyone waited for him to speak, he seemed lost in it, staring into its center.

“It’s true.  I do know something about what’s going on.  But I haven’t done what you think I have; it’s because I can’t do anything that I am the way I am.  You all deserve to know the truth.”

He sighed.

“Our family is cursed.”

Ryan rolled his eyes, got off his chair, and punched Selwyn across the jaw.  The others pulled him back, but Selwyn stood up, holding his jaw, which was bruising quote badly already, just kept his same sullen expression.

“You lying son of a bitch!  What did you do?  What did you do to everyone?!”

“Ryan, stop it!”  Jennifer whipped Ryan around.  She lowered her voice.  “I don’t believe it, either, but hitting him won’t get us the truth.  Let him talk, and pay attention, and see if we can figure out what really happened.”

Gary, on the other hand, was the only one to check and see if his uncle was ok.  Selwyn nodded and waved him away.  “I don’t blame you, Ryan.  I would have done the same thing as you, if I heard the same thing.  But it’s true.  I wished it wasn’t.”

Ryan, despite clear signs that was against his wishes, sat down, frowning, and let Selwyn talk.

“You hear things growing up, things that sound strange, that the adults only talk about when they think the kids aren’t paying attention.  But I always did.  This, with everyone dying like this?  It’s not new.  No one talks about it, but every generation on this side of the family has been wiped out.  Not one in 150 years has died of natural causes.”

Selwyn looked down into the fire.  “It all has to do with this house, and my great-grandfather… your great-great-grandfather… and my namesake, Selwyn Meyer.  I don’t know how much you kids know about your family’s history, but he was a legend in real estate.  Made a fortune, but sadly for us, it wasn’t always honestly earned.

“After all his hard work, he wanted to have a place away from the rush of the world, and he found this land here was exactly what he said wanted.  It was already owned by a family that had settled there shortly after the Revolutionary War.  He offered to buy the land, offering less than what it was worth.  But the owners refused, said they had an obligation to be there, and their family went back decades and further.”

Selwyn tapped the top of the fireplace.  “Apparently he wasn’t one to settle for a ‘no.’ He offered them more, eventually twice, then three times what the land was worth, but they still wouldn’t budge.  They said they literally could not leave, the land meant too much to them.

“Great-grandfather Selwyn assumed the land must have had something far more valuable than they were letting on, so he hired a band of thugs to help him search the land at night, looking for what secrets the family was hiding, and to rough the family up if they turned up nothing.  He found a cave.  He expected gold.  Instead, he found an altar, with a large chunk of brownish crystal on it.”

Ellie scrunched her brow.  “What crystal is brown?”

Selwyn smiled.  “That’s just it… they didn’t know.  But Great-Granddad said when he picked it up… it spoke to him.”

Ryan sighed.  “Spoke to him?  Where did you hear all this?  He talk to you after hanging out with Captain Morgan all night?”

Ellie spun on Ryan, scowling.  “Ryan!  Jesus!”

Selwyn waved at her, gently.  “It’s okay.  I know it sounds crazy.  But I know because it’s all in his journal… this journal nobody knew existed until now.”  He threw a dusty book onto the couch, where it flopped open.  The paper inside was thicker than the type they saw in books today, more leathery, but the ink in it was very legible… even if the handwriting was difficult to make out.

“You don’t believe in curses, Ryan, but your Great-Great-Granddad did.  It’s because the rock that spoke to him asked to be freed from its prison, and it would help him.  So, he smashed the crystal on the ground.  The next day, the family on the land all perished in a horse-drawn cart accident while going to town, and he bought the land just like he wanted.”

Selwyn suddenly pounded his fist, hard, on the fireplace top.  He winced, and looked at his hand; a small trickle of blood leaked out of it.

“But something happened in the deal.  Either he cheated it… or it cheated him… but it doesn’t really matter which is true.  That’s when the curse rebounded on our family.  This… thing from the crystal comes for our family, intending to wipe it out, a generation at a time.  Maybe that’s the reason, deep down, that I never had kids.  But the thing is… even when they’re not yours, some kids just worm their way into your heart.”

He went over to where he threw the book onto the couch, and flipped through the pages, coming to a page with a drawing of what had to be the crystal he mentioned.  It looked a lot smaller, cracked in places.

“There was one fragment of the crystal left.  That… thing can’t stand it, and whoever has it is left alone by the creature.  Maybe it‘s afraid it will trap it once again, I don’t know.  But I know it works.  Because I am the last one of my generation.  And my father gave it to me.”  Gary took the book and began flipping through it.

Ryan said nothing, but balled his fists again.

“The day after he gave it to me, that was when the mailman found him lodged halfway in his wood chipper.  It must have been waiting, just waiting, for him to give it up.”

Ryan had enough, and stood up.  “You expect us to buy this crap?  And then you turn around and tell us that grandpa, what, loved you more than my Dad, and gave you that?”

Ellie teared up.  “If that’s true, why didn’t you try and protect Mom?”

Selwyn gulped, and teared up.  “I did try to save them.  But you don’t believe me now, even after all that has happened.  What do you think they thought of me when I tried to warn them, when I didn’t even know the truth until I read that journal?”

The room quieted.  That made sense.  Who would believe something so insane from lonely old storytelling Uncle Selwyn?

“But tonight is not a good night.  Since you’re all here, I was going to tell you I had the crystal, and give it to one of you.  But I can’t choose; you’d have to do it yourselves.  And… and…”

Selwyn broke down into tears.  “The crystal is gone.  It wasn’t on my bedside table when I woke up this morning.  And now you’re all here, and that’s the worst thing that could happen.”

Gary, who had been looking closely at a page in the journal, where there was a rough, almost childish sketch of a lanky figure, with long talons and a fiendish face.  “Why is that, Uncle?”

“Because if it comes tonight for me, none of you are safe, either.  It could take you all in one night.”

Even Ryan looked around for a second, half expecting a giant monstrosity to come into the room just then, but nothing did.

It was Jennifer that finally made the first move, standing up.  “Well, thank you for talking to us, Uncle Selwyn.  We appreciate it.  I think it might be best if we got going.”

“But it’s not sa–”

“I think we’ll be just fine.”  She then waved to the rest to follow her out of the room and into the front hall.

Ryan glared at her.  “What are you doing?”

Jennifer sighed.  “Look at him, Ryan.  Do you really think he could cut a steel cable?  He’s not a murderer… but he’s not well.  He needs professional help.  He thinks a curse is killing people, and he feels responsible.  You heard him talking about that crystal.  I didn’t know all that about grandpa hating him, but wow, wouldn’t that mess you up if you got into a big fight with your Dad and the next day he died, and as horribly as that?”

Everyone shuffled nervously for a moment.  It sounded right.  Jennifer was always the voice of reason; that’s why she had become such a successful lawyer, after all.

“Look, we can maybe sit with him for a little while, make sure he doesn’t hurt himself, while we wait for someone to come and get him.  Does that work for everyone?”

Everyone nodded, except for Gary, who still held the journal.  “Look, I want to make sure he’s okay, too, but… are we so sure he’s wrong?  I mean, look at this drawing.  It just… none of this is normal.  Other people’s families just don’t have this happen to them.”

Jennifer sighed.  “Gary… come on.  What’s more likely, that we have a freakishly high number of accidents in our family, or that some monster is killing them because it got stiffed by our great-great-grandfather?  I know he was your favorite, but it’s crazy talk.  He needs a doctor, and proper care.  Go back in there, I’m going to make a phone call to some doctors I know, and I don’t want him to hear me.”

They went back inside.  Ryan took a few deep breaths to get himself under control, then led Gary and Ellie into the sitting room.

Uncle Selwyn wasn’t in there.  There was another exit from the sitting room that led to a side hallway, but he wasn’t down there, either, and no one saw him leave.

Ellie wandered into the side hall, calling for him and checking in rooms.  Ryan pounded his hands on the couch, dust flying up.  “Where did he run off to now?”

Gary sat down the couch, his worry overridden by the journal he held in his hands.  He flipped through it, studying the pages.  “What if it is real?”

“Jesus, Gary, how do you know he didn’t make that himself?  He could’ve spent months making something just to fake you out.  He’s nuts, Gary.  Accept it.”

There were footsteps, and Ellie came running back.  “Hey, guys, there’s a really weird room back here.  You should come and see it.”

Gary stood up.  “I’ll get Jennifer.”

Ryan shook his head.  Her muffled voice could still be heard in the front hall, talking to someone.  “She’s busy.  We’ll go look and tell her later.”

The three cousins went down the side hall together, to what may have been a first-floor bedroom sometime in the past, but had been converted to an office.  Newspaper clippings were tacked to the walls, and notebooks filled the two fold-out table that had been placed in there.

The clippings ranged from the obituaries of their parents to much older, dating back decades.  Written on each obituary in pen was some method of death, all of which involved mutilation of some sort.

Ellie flipped open one of the notebooks.  “It’s all family.  Going back generations.  He must have been studying all the deaths.”  She pointed at her mother’s obituary.  “He might be crazy, Ryan, but if he is, our family, is really, really unlucky.”

There was a loud crash.  In this room, the sound was washed out and could have come from practically anywhere, but in general, it appeared to have at least started upstairs.

They ran back into the sitting room.  Outside, they could still hear muffled conversation.

Ryan raised an eyebrow.  “Geez, didn’t she hear that?”  He pushed the door open.

Jennifer was still in the front hall, but not quite how they left her.  She lay on the floor near the main staircase, surrounded by bits of railing, from where it appeared she had fallen.  But more than that, she looked like she had been attacked with a series of very sharp knives… she was barely recognizable as her face and arms had nearly been flayed away.

The muffled conversation that they had heard through the door was her phone on speakerphone.  It seemed to be some kind of spoken word relaxation exercise she had saved to her phone, repeating “all is well” over and over again.

No one moved.  Ellie started to sob a little, and Gary kept swallowing, either to prevent himself from throwing up or preparing himself to.

Ryan looked on in absolute horror.  Just a moment ago, she had been just fine.  They hadn’t been gone that long, but somehow, she had gone upstairs and fallen… or was pushed.

But the gashes and slicing… that was no accident.

“Does anyone believe me now that he’s crazy?”

Gary shook his head.  “No way, Ryan.  You saw him. He doesn’t have the strength to…”

“To do what?  Stab someone who doesn’t see it coming?  Push somebody over a staircase?  Look!  He’d do anything to make us believe this stuff!”

He reached down to grab her phone, but something crunched as he did so, and the phone shut off.

“Shit.  Gary, you got your phone?”

“Crap.  I think I left it at the funeral home.”


“Mine’s in the car.  But I rode up with Jennifer, and I’m not digging in her jacket for…”  She started to sob.

“Yeah, yeah, that’s fine.  Gary, mine’s in my car, too.”  He handed Gary his keys.  “Here, go get it.  We need to call somebody.”

Gary ran out to the car, and Ryan and Ellie went into the sitting room.  Ryan grabbed a blanket off of the couch and took it into the front hall, covering Jennifer with it.

He heard a thump from upstairs.  Quietly, he started up the stairs, looking to see the cause of the noise, but the house was so big it could’ve been one of several rooms that it came from.

He stepped back down, moved quietly to the sitting room, keeping his eye on the stairs the whole time.  He waved to Ellie.

“Ellie, I think he’s upstairs.  Go on and get to my car, and tell Gary to start it up.  I’ll be out in a minute.”

Ellie nodded, moved past the covered body of Jennifer, and went out to the porch.  Ryan heard another thump from upstairs, but turned his attention briefly to Ellie to make sure she was going.

His eyes widened.  The fog had rolled in, covering the lawn to the point where the cars could not be seen.  Except now, Ryan saw a car… his car… tumbling forward, the emergency brake and headlights off, gathering speed.

Ellie had no chance.  The car smashed into her, crushing part of the porch staircase as well.

Ryan screamed and ran out to what remained of the porch.  All he could see of Ellie was her hand, sticking up under the fender.  It wasn’t moving.

He tried to feel her pulse, calling to her.  Nothing.

H sat up on the porch, looking at the car itself.  The door was open on the driver’s side.  He got up to look.  The car stank from all the food wrappers he left in there, and the pile of mail from the past few days that he hadn’t bothered to look at was still scattered on the passenger seat, but there was no sign of Gary… or his phone.

A thought suddenly burned in Ryan’s brain.  He couldn’t believe it, but then, he couldn’t believe a whole lot else that was going on.  Could Gary be helping Uncle Selwyn?  Gary was always his favorite, no doubt about that.  But maybe he’d gotten caught up in all of this, too.

He couldn’t know for sure.  But Ellie was gone.  Jennifer was gone.  And everyone else was missing.  He couldn’t take any chances.

There was nothing in the car he could use as a weapon, but walking around the house, he managed to come across a woodpile, and next to it, an old axe.  After the chipper incident, it made sense that Selwyn might want to go back to more manual labor.  Ryan took it, and went in through the backdoor, holding the axe ready.

The house was so quiet, other than the occasional thump from upstairs.  Ryan checked behind everything, just to make sure he wasn’t taken by surprise as he made he was back up towards the main staircase.

Once he made it to the second floor, Ryan heard another thump, and tried to follow it.  It seemed to be coming from the second bedroom on the left, the door one of the few that was closed.  He slowly, and quietly, turned the knob.

This was Uncle Selwyn’s bedroom; it was obvious from how lived-in it was.  And there, staring out the window, was Uncle Selwyn, banging his head on the glass, making the thump.  He seemed to be in pain, but there was no obvious wound, other than the mark on his hand from earlier.

“Uncle Selwyn.”  He raised the axe, ready to swing it if he needed to.  “You need to come with me.  I’m going to take you somewhere where you can get the help you need.”

Selwyn stopped banging his head.  “I’m not the one who needs help, Ryan.  It’s too late for that.”  He turned to face Ryan.  “You didn’t find the shard, did you?”

Ryan would have rolled his eyes, but too much had happened in the past ten minutes for him to feel anything but anger… and hatred.  “There is no shard, you miserable, crazy old bastard.  You need help, and you need to come with me, now.”

At that, Selwyn smiled.  “So, you still don’t believe it, even now?  I guess that’s… good, in a way.”

Selwyn stepped toward him.  As he did so, he seemed to grow taller, thinner.  His skin began to melt away.  His lips peeled back, revealing long, sharp teeth.

Ryan dropped the axe.

“Sometimes, it’s good to drop the pretense.  I love to feed on hope, and happiness, before I get to the meat.  And when non-believers see me… why, that’s when hope is at its strongest.”

Talons emerged from under the dripping fingernails.

Ryan burst into tears and fell on his knees.  And then, with an ear-rending scream, it came at him.

Some distance away from the house, Gary woke in the mud, scratched and bleeding, his head aching, but otherwise unharmed.  Before waking here, he last remembered being in the car, and something pulling him, violently, out to the side, just as he had grabbed Ryan’s phone.

His car was a mess, and Gary had had to dig through a pile of mail to find it.  In his other hand was one of the envelopes.

The envelope had no return address, but Gary recognized the handwriting.  It was Uncle Selwyn’s.

Ryan’s phone buzzed.  There was a voicemail notification.  Gary checked it… it was dated about a week ago.

His phone always had that problem, with voicemails coming days after.  Gary recognized the number on it.  Thankfully, Ryan never locked his phone, so he listened.

“Hi, Ryan, it’s… it’s Uncle Selwyn.  I know you and I haven’t ever gotten along much, but I hope you keep what I sent you the other day.  It’s important.  My Dad gave that the day before he died… and he didn’t do it out of love.  I never told you this, but your granddad hated me, Ryan.  He thought I was lazy, selfish, and had no purpose in life.  But we had a fight that day, and he told me that with this, I would know what it was like to watch everything and everyone you loved die.  He was right.  I held onto this crystal, and saw as your parents, my brothers and sisters, all died, and I could do nothing.  Or, really, I didn’t do anything.  I was a coward.

“But I know you’re not.  You’re decisive, Ryan.  And that’s why I gave this to you.  You’re strong, and you’ll know what to do when the time is right.  Maybe you’ll be better at protecting your cousins than I am.”

There was a sound like a door opening.

“It’s here.  I love you guys.  And… goodbye.”

There were still a few more seconds left on the call.  Just before the voicemail ended, Gary heard the sound of an ear-rending scream.

Rating: 9.50/10. From 10 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Seth Paul
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Seth Paul

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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