Stories from the Sentinel: 1898

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Strength means nothing.

Whit Hollis didn’t understand that. Oh, he was a bright man. Pleasant too. But he relied on his strength more than anything else. Strength and brains had helped him when he captained the Yale football team.

It was this reliance upon his strength more than his intellect that was his downfall.

Whit was engaged to Sophia Hughs, whose father was a writer on the Sentinel. Whit spent quite a few Sundays enjoying the company of his fiancé’s father, listening as the older man told some of, the milder tales he had sanitized for readers of the Cross paper.

The information inspired Whit to investigate some of these stories and to begin digging around in places he shouldn’t have. He never quite understood that the stories he heard were carefully culled from decades of horror Mr. Hughs had covered up.

Or, perhaps he did.

Regardless of what Whit knew or didn’t know, he went to Honor’s Path to see what he could learn.

I am thankful he went alone. Had he taken Sophia with him, then I suspect I would have found something far more atrocious on the path when the Black family reported fresh screams from the path.

The Blacks had learned, like many others, to avoid the path as they would the Hollow. Others, such as Whit, never did take those lessons to heart.

Whit was still screaming when I found him, though it was little more than a hoarse cry.

He was suspended in a wooden cage above the path, the living branches of the tree he hung from having formed the bars. When he saw me, he tried to move, and I watched his wooden bonds tighten. He croaked out a desperate plea and then vomited out a loop of intestine. His eyes bulged as the branches tightened again, and then his head exploded as I drew my Colts.

Blood and brains and bits of skull fell in a soft patter to Honor’s Path, and the ground ate of him readily. The tree stretched out more branches and began to pick the meat off Whit’s bones.

He was a big man, and the tree would eat well.

I holstered the Colts and left.

There was nothing more to do.

#horror #fear #art

Published by

Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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