War in the Hollow: Dec. 19, ‘36

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They set the trap and I walked into it.

Thorn and I moved quickly through the field, the men staring dumbfounded at us as I brought the Spencer up and prepared to fire.

I didn’t know what the trap was, but I knew it was there, and I was confident I could handle whatever these residents might throw at me.

I could, but I was sorely tested.

The first two men, wearing uniforms that marked them as prisoners, died where they stood, the Spencer’s rounds tearing through their chests. The third man, their guard, was running away from me as I took aim at the center of his back.

Before I could pull the trigger, it attacked.

A solitary tree tore itself from the earth and lashed out with its branches and roots. It crushed and mangled the man, howling in a language both raw and unknown as it charged.

Thorn let out a snarl and launched himself toward the tree while I emptied the last of the Spencer’s rounds into the trunk. The bullets did little damage, and my own voice joined the howling of the tree when it struck the hound a blow that broke the dog’s back and killed him instantly.

It is not often that I let rage get the better of me, but I did today.

Sprinting forward, with the Colts drawn, I fired all twelve shots into the tree. The rounds were close enough to cause a font of black blood to explode. As the tree shuddered and twisted, suddenly fearful of me, I sprang up and clambered into its boughs. Roots and branches snapped at me, but they were unable to stop me from digging out my matches.

Shucking my rucksack, I stripped off my shirt, wrapped it around a branch, and set the damned thing ablaze.

Jumping free, I misjudged, dislocated my right shoulder and slammed it back into place as the tree rounded on me.

I reloaded the Colts, and when it heard the hammers cock back, the tree tried to run again.

It staggered to a stop, shuddering each time the bullets struck home, the flames devouring the limbs, the black ichor steaming in the fire.

I’ve buried Thorn, the heads of the dead serving as his marker, and the smoldering corpse of the tree as a testament to his bravery.

#horror #fear #art

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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