Strangers in Cross: Jan. 26, ‘38

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Paul Staples went out to check his trees and didn’t come home.

His wife sent word to me that Paul, the hired hand, and Jenny Tull (who was sweet on the hired man) had all gone out to check the maple trees. They’d taken the Harold, Paul’s collie, and gone out early in the morning. The maples on Paul’s farm were a curious breed that could be tapped all winter long.

Perhaps this was what brought the monsters into Paul’s forest. Perhaps it was bad luck.

Either way, the dog had made it back, but the others hadn’t.

Jenny was no fool. She knew what it meant, but she had two young boys to think of, and she would do her grieving after the farm was secure.

There was a heavy snowfall from the night before, which made walking difficult by following the tracks of Paul and his helpers was easy enough.

About half an hour from the house, I found where they had been ambushed by at least two of the creatures.

Both horses were dead in their traces. Paul’s back was broken, and his stomach stripped of its innards. The hired man and Jenny were both dead, and the man must have put up one hell of a fight. His was the worst body I’d seen as of yet, and it looked like they’d stripped him to the bone in their rage.

The trail of the monsters stood out plain as day. Blood had stained them, and so they left streaks of bright crimson on the sweet, fresh snow.

When I found them, there were three of them, all huddled around a small campfire and whispering to each other in their abysmal tongue.

I didn’t waste any time.

As they rose up from the warmth of the flames, their bodies shifting and twisting in the cold, I drew the Colts and opened fire.

They were dead before the thunder of the Colts faded in the forest.

I kicked snow over the fire, holstered the Colts, and made my way back toward the farmhouse.

My boots were wet, and I was cold as hell.

#horror #fear #art #writing

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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