Anthony M. Rud
In the heart of a second-growth piney-woods jungle of southern Alabama, a region sparsely settled by backwoods blacks and Cajans — that queer, half-wild people descended from Acadian exiles of the middle eighteenth century (1) — stands a strange, enormous ruin.
Interminable trailers of Cherokee rose, white-laden during a single month of spring, have climbed the heights of its three remaining walls. Palmetto fans rise knee high above the base. A dozen scattered live oaks, now belying their nomenclature because of choking tufts of gray, Spanish moss and two-foot circlets of mistletoe parasite which have stripped bare of foliage the gnarled, knotted limbs, lean fantastic beards against the crumbling brick.
Immediately beyond, where the ground becomes soggier and lower — dropping away hopelessly into the tangle of dogwood, holly, poison sumac and pitcher plants that is Moccasin Swamp — undergrowth of ti-ti and annis has formed a protecting wall impenetrable to all save the furtive ones. Some few outcasts utilize the stinking depths of that sinister swamp, distilling “shinny” of “pure cawn” liquor for illicit trade (2).
Tradition states that this is the case, at least — a tradition which antedates that of the premature ruin by many decades. I believe it, for during evenings intervening between investigations of the awesome spot I often was approached as a possible customer by woodbillies who could not fathom how anyone dared venture near without plenteous fortification of liquid courage.
I know “shinny,” therefore I did not purchase it for personal consumption. A dozen times I bought a quart or two, merely to establish credit among the Cajans, pouring away the vile stuff immediately into the sodden ground. It seemed then that only through filtration and condensation of their dozens of weird tales regarding “Daid House” could I arrive at understanding of the mystery and weight of horror hanging about the place.
Certain it is that out of all the superstitious cautioning, head-wagging and whispered nonsensities I obtained only two indisputable facts. The first was that no money, and no supporting battery of ten-gauge shotguns loaded with chilled shot, could induce either Cajan or darky of the region to approach within five hundred yards of that flowering wall! The second fact I shall dwell upon later.
Perhaps it would be as well, as I am only a mouthpiece in this chronicle, to relate in brief why I came to Alabama on this mission (3).
What is the narrator's mission? Will he succeed or fail? Find out, on Fantastic Worlds!