Anne Sandoval sat in her window and waited for death.
She lived on the Gordon Road, watching the Hollow. The number of horrors she witnessed in her life can only be imagined, for she never spoke of it, not even with me.
In 1905, when her oldest daughter was stolen off the road by horsemen from the Hollow, I thought she would have gone mad. Instead, she set a chair by the window and waited to see if her child would return. Each day, after her son went to school, and her husband to work, she would take a seat and watch until the menfolk returned.
In 1911, her husband walked up to the Hollow and smashed his brains against the stonewall. Her son told me that worms the diameter of a man’s thigh came out of the wall and devoured him.
In 1917, worried he would miss the glory of the war, her son shipped out to France, only to die of Spanish Influenza when he got there.
As far as I know, Anne Sandoval rarely moved from that chair.
This morning, the ravens told me she was screaming.
When I found her, she was in her seat, and the windows were broken. She had taken shards of glass and driven them into her arms. She had carved her eyes out of her head and set them atop the casement. As I approached, the eyes followed me, and she called out my name a moment before she cut out her own tongue and threw it out the window.
It writhed on the ground and called to me in my mother’s voice.
I stepped around the damned thing and kicked in the door. When I entered the house, I smelled human waste and the sour stench of rot. The chair, I saw, had sprouted thorns, which had pierced her thighs and lower back.
Maggots swarmed around the wounds as she tilted her head back and vomited black blood towards the ceiling.
I went for my Colts to put her out of her misery, but she was already dead.
From the yard, I heard my mother laughing, and when I stepped out into the morning light, the tongue berated me for my stupidity.
The heel of my boot silenced her, and in the stillness of the day, I heard Anne’s daughter calling from the Hollow.