Strangers in Cross: Jan. 22, ‘38

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His hammer rang out strong and true.

It was a rare day when you couldn’t hear Richard Breton’s hammer striking some piece of iron into shape.

While he was neither particularly creative nor exceptionally imaginative when it came to working with metal, he was a solid workhorse of a man. He was stoic in demeanor, and he was possessed by a strong desire to keep silent.

I did not know the man well, he had been an equally silent and stolid youth, I knew he was a man who minded his business and who would set his work aside when a neighbor needed help.

I suspect that one of the monsters believed Richard would be easy prey. He was, after all, a man who lived alone and on the outskirts of town. A man who would readily help someone who seemed in need of aid.

The ravens led me to Richard’s smithy, and as I walked up to the open door, I found him standing at his anvil, holding up the head of a shovel and examining it. There was a fetid stink in the air, one barely hidden by the powerful scent of iron and hot coals.

Upon my arrival, Richard lowered the shovel and nodded to me. He thrust the head back into the coals for a moment, worked the bellows, and then extracted the head and returning it to the anvil. He lifted his hammer, struck the shovel’s head a few more times, and then dropped it into the vat of water close to his side.

Richard took a bit of cloth and wiped sweat from his brow. His nose wrinkled at the odor in the shop, and then he stepped outside to join me in the cold.

From his breast pocket, he took out a pouch of chewing tobacco. In silence, he fished out a pinch, tucked it between his lip and gum, and then glanced up at the cloud-filled sky.

When he put the tobacco away, I asked, “One?”

He shook his head, spat on the ground and replied, “Two.”

“Are you hurt?”

Again, the man shook his head. “Had my hammer.”

He spat again. “More of ‘em out there, Duncan?”

“A few.”

Richard grunted. “Hate the Hollow.”

I nodded.

Without another word, he returned to his work and I to the hunt.

#horror #fear #art #writing

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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