Strangers: The Card Sharks

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Beneath the masks, there was nothingness.

A pair of strangers walked into town via North Road on a September morning. Neither spoke, though both understood English. They were able to communicate in French, writing out their needs on a small pocketbook each carried.

Professor Lawrence Pelt, head of the university’s Department of Modern Languages, happened to be in the train station when they came in. No one in the station knew what transpired between the three men, but the witnesses agreed the professor’s expression was ecstatic. He led the two strangers off to the university.

It was close to dinner when a knock came at my door, and a messenger from the university beseeched me to come with him.

When I arrived at the school, there was a circle of professors and older students around the door to the staffroom, but everyone made a path for me when I stepped toward the door. I rapped sharply once, and then I let myself in, my free hand on the butt of a Colt.

I didn’t need it.

The two strangers sat at a table, playing cards. Beside them was a pile of clothing. There were pairs of shoes, trousers, waistcoats, the whole gamut. What there wasn’t was any sort of sign of the professors.

I asked the men what had occurred, and they paused in their game to write down the response.

Pelt and his colleagues, knowing the men were from the Hollow, had pestered them to remove their masks, to see what was beneath. Finally, the strangers obliged.

There was nothingness. And when the professors had seen their fill, the strangers had devoured them.

I was not so foolish as to ask the men what they hid. It was not my business.

When they saw that I was going to hold my tongue, they invited me to join their game, and I did so gladly. We played for half the night, and I drank a fair share of the whiskey the professors had set it aside.

When it was done, the men and I left the room, passed by the horrified faces of the staff and student body, and I walked with them back to the Hollow.

As I watched them scramble over the stonewall, I shook my head and wondered how in the hell those two men had eaten all those bastards.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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