Strangers: Playful Creatures


“They’re the happiest children I’ve ever seen.”

Danny O’Malley said that to me when I met him a short distance from the VFW club.

The statement struck me as odd, especially since I knew he and his wife were childless. When I asked him what children he was speaking of, he readily told me.

“I was coming back from Pepperell,” he explained, “along North Road. There was a group of children playing around the wall to the Hollow, and when I called out to them to stay away from it, they listened. I pulled the truck up close and asked where they were from. The oldest of them, he said they were from the west a bit, and that their parents had dropped them off in the morning, saying they’d be right back. Well, I won’t lie, Duncan, those parents, they never came back.”

“Where are the children, Danny?” I asked, keeping my question light.

“Back at home with my wife and sister,” Danny smiled. “I’m about out of gas, so I’m walking to the station. Got to let the police know about the kids. My wife and sister are having a hell of a lot of fun with the kids. I might pop in for a beer at the club before I head back. You know, just to give them some more time.”

“I’ll talk with the police. Get the beer now, Danny,” I said. “Tell Hank to put it on my tab, alright?”

Danny grinned at me, nodded, and hurried toward the club.

With a sinking feeling, I walked toward Danny’s house up off Olive Street, and soon a shriek of terror cut through the air. I broke into a run, though I knew I would get there far too late.

I was right, of course.

The feral little monsters were laughing as they sprinted away from Danny’s house. I drew my Colts, but they scattered, making their way back to the Hollow with their bellies full.

The stripped, gnawed, and bloodied bones of Danny O’Malley’s wife and sister, as well as his dog, lay on the sidewalk in front of the home.

I’ll go into the Hollow later and kill whatever and whoever I find.

For now, I’ve got to scrape up the remains of Danny’s family, and then buy the man another beer.

It’s all I can do.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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