War in the Hollow: Dec. 26, ‘36

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I am nearly done here.

They are becoming more difficult to find, but I find them still.

Today, when the sun had only begun to rise, I was already moving through the fog as it lingered over the battlefield.

I climbed a small hill and came upon a group of them engaged in the act of burying their dead.

Who these men were, or how they came to be in this version of Cross, I do not know. Perhaps they were prisoners. Perhaps they had merely adopted the garb of foreigners in an attempt to evade my attention.

It doesn’t matter to me.

They froze, shovels in hand, bodies half lowered. Their eyes told me they knew who I was, what I had done, what I intended to do.

There were no weapons near them, and they were not clad in uniforms.

One man cleared his throat, straightened up, and I drew my Colts and killed him.

They abandoned their shovels, the corpses of their friends, and who can blame them?

Not I.

Neither did I let them live, though.

I shot each of them in the back, and not a single shot was a killing one.

Far from it.

I needed them to serve as a message for any others who might think to run from me.

As their screams rang out through the morning air, I staked them down to the ground, stripping them bare and leaving them naked. With my Bowie knife, I put a maggot hole in each man’s belly.

By the time I finished, I could hear beasts grumbling and snuffling.

They reached the hilltop a moment later, long, dark creatures pressed low to the earth, dozens of legs propelling them forward. Skittering, they clambered over the corpses and found the living.

In a heartbeat, each man was shrieking.

For a short time, I watched, reloaded my Colts, and then turned my back on the early morning meal. As I made my way back down the hill, I heard one of the creatures break out in song. Soon, all of them lifted their voices to the sky, and when I understood what it was they were singing, I smiled.

It was a song of thanks.

#horror #fear #fiction #art

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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