Madness: Nov. 12, 1867


She listened to the darkness.

Tessie Lane was a soft-spoken child with a pleasant disposition. A child of war, her parents had adopted her shortly after Randall Lane returned with his unit at the end of the War of the Rebellion.

For nearly two years, they had lived in peaceful harmony, the girl forgetting the fact that her mother had abandoned her and that her father had died in Andersonville Prison, starved to death by the secessionists.

Both Randall Lane and his wife, Mina, were devout Protestants, and they raised Tessie in the faith as well. Each Sunday, they could be seen walking to church together, all of them dressed in their finest. During the week, it was not unusual to see Mina and Tessie walking with Randall to his job at the post office, the mother and child holding hands as they returned home.

Sometime on the night of the eleventh, a dark creature founds its way into the Lane house, and it whispered to Tessie.

For hours on end, the thing spoke to her, cajoled her, and slowly broke her sanity.

By dawn of the twelfth, her home was in flames.

We found her standing in her nightdress in the street, holding the doll her parents had given her when they had first adopted her.

When she was asked where her parents were, she had smiled and pointed to the house.

The lack of screams told us they were dead.

Tessie did not speak until I arrived, and when she saw me, she smiled and waved. I went to her, hunkered down low, and asked her what had happened.

She shook her head, her eyes bright with joy and madness in the morning light. The child motioned me to lean forward, and when I did, she whispered in my ear.

“Mother Blood likes to watch things burn.”

The words, spoken in the soft lisp of a child, sent a chill through me, and my hands reflectively reached for my Colts.

“Is she still here?” I asked.

Tessie shook her head again. “No. She says I shall meet her soon.”

Before I could ask where the child grinned, and her eyes rolled up in her head. A moment later, she exploded into flames.

As the house burned, so too did the child, and there was no way to save either of them.

#horror #fear #art

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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