Murder in Cross: December 30, 1957


The smell of burning human flesh is indescribable and unforgettable. It is not only a scent that loiters on the back of the tongue but a taste that pollutes your memories.

This afternoon as I walked along North Road and turned up to walk the long way back home, the wind shifted and carried to me the smell of burnt human remains. Since the wind did not come from Gods’ Hollow, I knew I would need to investigate the origins of the scent.

I followed my nose along the road, then into the woods as they cut through some of the deeper lots, bringing me closer to Hall Farm. As I reached the property, I saw smoke curling up from the sugar shack, where Dennis Hall would boil down his maple syrup. Outside of the shack stood his youngest boy, Michael, who seemed not to have a care in the world.

The boy walked along the path from the shack to where it intersected with the farm’s long drive, then turned around and walked back to where he had started. His head was down, and I watched him repeat the process for almost five minutes before I loosened my Colt in its holster and approached the boy.

When I called to him, his head jerked up, a look of surprise on his features. He stared at me, his eyes wide, and his fingers twitching.

“Michael,” I called. “Where are your parents?”

A smile creased his face and showed far too many teeth. “Cooking.”

“In the house?” I asked.

He shook his head. “In the pot. That’s where they’re supposed to be if they’re to be eaten. You can’t eat folks raw. That much, I know.”

The boy was fast, had I been any closer, my gun might not have cleared the leather.

But it did.

The shot cut through the stillness of the day and blew the boy’s brains out all over the snow.

I found his parents diced and burning in the shack, and so, despite the stink, I did the same with the boy.

It’s a shame. Dennis Hall made the best maple sugar in town.

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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