Hawthorn Tree, 1860

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The tree was almost as old as I was.

The Hawthorn tree was close to fifteen feet wide and the same in height. It had lived for nearly two centuries along the border of the Hollow, its great, thorned branches overhanging both Hollow and Cross.

It was a pleasant marker, one that told me that I was soon to be home whenever I saw it.

Today, though, today was different.

The tree wasn’t there.

I could see where it had been. There were bits of broken branches and leaves scattered about the hardpack of North Road. The earth, where the roots had been sunk deep, was freshly churned.

I hunkered down beside the spot, touched the cool dirt with my fingers, and then straightened up as a single shot rang out through the cool morning air.

A piteous wail followed the crack of the weapon, and I broke into a run, wishing to hell that I’d brought my new Colts with me. Still, I had my knife, and there were few problems I couldn’t solve with that piece of steel.

In a matter of moments, I came upon a strange sight. A man wearing a tall hat and holding a rifle with a bayonet affixed to the end of it towered over another man who was sprawled out on the ground. The man on the road had been gutshot, and his face said it plainly.

The man with the hat lifted his rifle, turned it easily in his hands and drove the bayonet through the wounded fellow’s right knee.

At the sound of my approach, the armed man turned and grinned at me, his eyes a solid dark green, his teeth brown and tinged with black. There were fresh scrapes across his harsh features and a wild rankness to him that invaded my nostrils.

When he spoke, the man’s voice rumbled as though coming up from his feet before boiling out of his mouth.

“He’s wounded me, Blood,” the armed man grumbled. “Broke branches and chipped bark, torn leaves and trampled roots. I’ll have my vengeance.”

Before I could reply, he thrust the bayonet into the other man’s left knee.

The wounded man screamed for mercy and for help, but the tree made flesh, and I both ignored him.

With a nod, I stepped to one side and watched with interest as the Hawthorn went to work.

#horror #fear #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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