“Tales From Hawthorne: An Anthology” is a collection of five short stories all taken place in Hawthorne, a fictional town located in Scotland. Each story is individual, and specifically set in a different place in Hawthorne and at a different point of time, surrounding from 1970s to 2010s, with different storylines and characters.


HAWTHORNE /haw-thawrn/: A small town located in the Northeast of Scotland. It situates near the city of Aberdeen to the North, and borders the North Sea of Atlantic Ocean. Its popuation is approximately 20000


Next to the dress case was a shelf that held a series of wartime photographs. As his vision absorbed the black and white details, he recognized a lot of familiar faces though he was unable to recall their names. These pictures depicted an army and their fellow members from the War, and the last one showed a group of five troopers sitting on a ruined Nazis tank which August spotted the second one to the left, was no other than Evan Cairstine in his harsh youth.

Cairstine, even without that mustache, but that crooked lips, those hooded eyes and the scar running down his cheek told everything

He came across a panel door and it was an unlocked one. Walking in, he felt obstructed by a view of blackness and his shoulder sensed a slim contact with a dangling cord-like object from above. His fingers seized the thing and instantly dragged it down, exposing the bulb atop and bringing a fraction of light to the cryptic room.

On the direct wall pinned an enormous portrait of three members of the Cairstine family embedded in a golden frame: himself, his wife, his little daughter. They all wore a formal suit and dresses for some special occasion, and the lady seemed to have her arms get hold of something wrapped in a pink scarf. No one smiled except the little girl whose curly hair was fairly highlighted and adorable, though her left ear was nowhere to be seen and her cheek maintained a large birthmark that might astound people in fright. The girl who was drowned in the deep lake and her body never to be recovered, remembering August

Along the corridor, further back to the main room, echoed a loud screeching noise that stroke August’s hearing sense. By the time he showed up at the first entrance, a flash of purple glided past his naked eyes, up to the stairs and vapored in a wink. Even though it was blurry and brief, he managed to catch a peculiar detail that would hardly ever leave his brain, and now, emotions started to resonate his entire nerves.


Sewn right on the wrist of the jacket

Purple of cotton, purple of nostalgia

The red of her hair is no mistake

He rushed up the twisting stairs until he reached the upper floor. There, he faced another and broader corridor. There were various doors on his left, painted in the same color of dark. He neglected the first four ones and chose to open the fifth since it was already left unbolted. His nose received hot wax scent from burning candles in each corner of the murky room. He saw books, tons of books tightly placed on three stinky and timid timber shelves. August read out loud some of the titles while going over the names on the dusty cloth covers, and apparently, all of them center on one specific subject, which puzzled August in some way. Eventually, he gave up at the fifth title due to the obvious endlessness of the list and its convoluted Latin language






    He switched to another room, where he encountered a chunk of unpainted rough-hewn coffins leaning against the cracked walls. Cobwebs vanquished everywhere, transforming into a forest of spider networks, only that it held no spiders. On each hexagonal crate’s lid, a shape of crucifix was carved intensely on the raw surface. The crucifix, however, was an upside down variant, similar to the one he had seen numerous times in many catholic churches and on the front cover of the bible.

    The Holy Cross of St. Peter

    On the contrary, it can be understood in a more devilish way,

    The Notorious Inverted Cross of Antichrist

    “There’s a sense of evil lurking around this depressing land, darling. Let’s just get back.”

    “No, you’re thinking too much. Nothing happened here.”

    He tried to pry open one of the muggy, vulgar wooden boxes, and when the top came out, bundles of skeletons touched the ground swiftly, clanking the gruesome sound of human bones. There was blood stained on a still dissolving skull, which August perceived a stack of tiny maggots digesting half of a dry eye. He nearly threw up because of the vile scene and the filthy odor which certainly he wouldn’t ever want to look back.




    He knew this voice, this tone, it was unmistakable. He ran wildly to outside, and there she was, running towards the ascending steps to the highest story. He chased after her image, her shadow, her crying in the dark. Heart beating in a crazy note, overwhelming his sense of vigilance. Fear was expanding its domination over the poor man with every step he climbed. He finished the last stride and peered at the surrounding picture. An absolute emptiness.

    A diamond glass panel was built into the ceiling, where heaven light was sent to glow her current spot. Her back was facing August, and she was hiding behind the hood. Both of her hands shoved into the pockets, her body straightened, and her bare feet rubbed each other. The closer he came forward, the clearer her image was drawn into his eyesight. He stretched his exhausted arm, his shaking fingers craved to reach her. Why is she not facing me? He wondered. Why is she not looking at me? He pondered. Turbulence generated more and more intricate questions to his head.

    Is she still mad at me?

    Is she still not ready to forgive me?

    Please, Diane, turn around and see me. I am sorry

    Please, come back here, to me. I deserve all sorts of punishment

    I hope nothing but our home, Diane. Our happiness

    So please, hear me, and come back to me

    Come back

    He couldn’t afford to lose this once in a lifetime opportunity for self-redemption. Maybe God witnessed the pond of tears August poured into, maybe God saw the self-destructiveness August made a contract with during those four years of extreme agony. He was given a chance to be forsaken and now, more than ever, he felt the realistic current of the river of time, transporting the boat of memories to his dock. Finally, he was able to press on her slender shoulder. She stood still.

    “Your daughter has been waiting for you for so long. She is still waiting, crying, screaming for you, Mr. August Sylvester. She longs for your rescue, she hopes for your appearance, she never stops wishing for your compass to guide her. Where the hell have you been, officer Sylvester? Did you really search for her? Did you actually do anything at all to find her? Too many flaws live inside you, August, too many. But the biggest one must be the day you abandoned her, the day you ruined her life when she needed you most. It’s an unforgivable crime for a father deserting the child of his own.”

    “I know, Diane, I know I was wrong to leave you in that tunnel alone. I was wrong to indulge my anger to you and didn’t attempt to halt it. I wish those moments never had happened. I wish I hadn’t made that ugly mistake. I was too bitter, too control, yes I know, because I was afraid that I would lose you like mom. And eventually, I did lose you the other way because of all my poor decision. Now I want you to hate me, throw at me any dirty, rubbish thing you have at me. I was a bastard, a fool. I deserve to be punished. I wish you’d come back home one day, Diane, I wish our family, in the name of mom, would be fully reunited. I try to live on with that fading belief, knowing that the chance is utterly slim.”

    Every single letter he spoke out couldn’t be truer to his own heart.

    “Diane Sylvester never meant any offense to you that day, officer. She acted out of rage, and just like you, she felt terribly sorry for her doing. She even wrote you a letter, and it never got to your address. Unfortunately, I left it in the fireplace and torched it. However, I skimmed through the letter, I noticed she used big words to describe his love for her father and her late mother. You should be feeling proud, ‘cause your daughter loves his father more than anything.”

    “Four years, Diane, four years! You have any idea how miserable that amount of time is!? You ran away, stayed the hell away from me, I understand, because I did that to you, because I was responsible for your choice. Time, the river of time, Diane, it’s the cruelest torture to one’s soul. Four years are over enough to devastate a man’s heart, four years are way too much for every bit of a man’s flesh get torn out every morning he wakes up to see the shattered picture of his family. It’s too much, Diane, too much…”

    He burst out in tears, because he waited for so long to say these sentences to Diane.

    “At first, I thought that you are a man of no decency, no compassion, no emotion whatsoever, officer; those nights when you get home and watch boring TV channels, those days when you drive to your office and take some private photographs for your rich clients, imagine if you didn’t waste these precious hours, you could have figured out something and come to your Diane sooner…”

    “You been watching me all those time? You been at our doorstep every night and told me? Why did you have to do that? …”

    “…then, I see you dare to go around the town, spread bland posters of your missing child, listen to people degrading your work, follow blind leads even across the continent… I admire that spirit very, very much. I respect that undying quest for your daughter, and you’ll be meeting her soon. I promise.”

    “And you’re here, at last, we’re here, together again.”

    “The owls are not what they seem, August, for I am not who you’re looking for.

    I am not Diane.”

    Ending her words, her back whirled reluctantly and her eyes met August’s.


    It was not a lie. She took down the purple hood, and her chin rose, causing her eyes to meet August’s. He was speechless, instantly frozen to the gut. The erratic yet shocking horror staggered the man in every sense. Exhausted, disturbed by the disgusting sight, he stumbled back, hitting the floor severely.

    Her devious eyes… they’re just soulless onyx cubes

    Hideous scars possess her lips, her nose, her chin, like a bed of earthworms

    A deformed birthmark sustained on her left earless cheek

    Her crimson hair, her voice, there were a brutal coincidence

    And her face was brushed in stale charcoal and dry liquid of blood

    “Father Cairstine was never a match to you, August. He talked the great talk but he could never walk the big walk. People considered him as a gentleman because of his virtuous demonstration to the community. Little did they know what’s behind the curtains. Now, as I’m telling you the truth, the day I was born, he saw something in me which he thought wicked, maybe this grisly stuff I’m carrying with, maybe something else I wish I knew what it truly is. Whenever he came home from work, the first thing he would do was embracing my mom, while rejecting his lonely daughter playing with thin air and ghosts. Whenever he saw me make a mistake, he would be free to use his criticism and likely violence, the latter he preferred most of the time. Mother left me for the angels too soon, allowing the demon to obtain my vitality, and I was too defenseless and powerless to oppose. A sad story of my life, isn’t it?”

    She moved on to conclude the dialogue when August stared at her pierced lips.

    “I learned a lesson, a lesson about humanity, about what we call remorse, about what is defined as emotion. I learned to overcome pain and dread by erasing the remorse and emotional part of a human being. Sentiment, fury, hope… they are meaningless in the cruel, catastrophic essence of the world. Nothing is defined ‘peace’, nothing is entitled ‘innocence’, nothing is labeled ‘purity’. They are nothing more than horrendous deceptions fabricated by human nature. My father belonged to hell, my mother belonged to heaven, but she hardly stood by the side of angels. No, no, August, I am not fictionalizing anything. They are the sanest truth I have ever known, that I came to acknowledge the moment he imprisoned me in a tight chest and threw me into the lake in cold blood. I was nearly at the eternal abyss, when someone whispered ‘the truth’ into my ears, oh dear, I listened and consumed every piece of it. Then I was able to recapture my alertness and found myself hooked to a log on the shore. I was supposed to be tied up and dead in that metal coffin father had created for me. Oh dear, for some miracle, I was brought back to life again, my brain was furnished with a different idea and perspective. I returned to the damned house and there was already a house for sale sign. I flung the board and took over this place, after acquiring the knowledge of my recently deceased mother and my demonic father’s remarriage to a younger and prettier partner. I made a decision to lead a secret life outside the society because of their nature and because I have found a new faith, a new direction, a new duty: It is no longer about survival. It is about releasing people from the bound of lies, illuminating them the concept of truth, releasing the ones in struggles of pain from the miseries. Hail the Lord above for the second chance he delivered me, for guiding me to cure the illness of those poor victims, including my father, and your daughter Diane. She was ultimately healed from the sickness. She was lucky to be rewarded the blessing of the Lord himself.”



    Cobweb: mạng nhện

    Agony: sự đau khổ

    Vitality: sức sống

    Remorse: sự hối hận, ăn năn

    Essence: bản chất, cốt lõi


    Deform: biến dạng


    Crooked: uốn cong

    Convoluted: phức tạp

    Rough-hewn: thô kệt

    Muggy: ẩm ướt

    Vulgar: dơ bẩn, thô tục, tầm thường

    Virtuous: đức hạnh, đạo đức

    Grisly: rùng rợn, xấu xa



    From Specialists

    Spelling and Grammar Checker: Hoàng Phan Anh Tuấn
    Vocabulary Editor: Hoàng Phan Anh Tuấn
    Executive Supervisor: Nguyễn Dương Trung Tín

    The Anthology created by: Võ Thường Hằng, Đào Thanh Ngân, Danh Nhật Sang, Đặng Tiểu Bảo, Hoàng Phan Anh Tuấn from Specialists

    Posted by Hải Minh from Communications