Freshwater, 1880

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The stream hadn’t been there the day before.

While it wasn’t unusual for the features of the Hollow to change, it was out of the ordinary for them to change so drastically.

I could see the water from North Road, and I was wondering what sort of hellish creature might live within its depths when a group of men rode up in a buckboard. The man driving it brought the horses to a stop, and they gazed out longingly at the water.

“Hey boy,” the driver called. “Who owns this land?”

“It owns itself,” I replied, taking my pipe out and packing it. “You’d do well to keep going.”

The men laughed and climbed down out of the wagon. There were six of them altogether, and as the driver hitched the team to the stonewall, he said, “It’s a hot and dusty day. We’ll have ourselves a drink. I’m sure the ‘land’ won’t mind.”

The men chuckled and climbed over the wall, and I shrugged as I lit my pipe.

They were halfway to the water when I decided it might be educating to see what happened to them. I made myself comfortable and smoked and waited.

Their voices carried as they joked with one another about the land and water, as well as the idiocy of young men. I raised an eyebrow at the last comment, but I kept my tongue.

The men reached the water, knelt down at its edge and took off their hats. They rolled up their sleeves and splashed the water over themselves, drinking their fill. It was as they drank that I saw movement in the trees along the bank.

It took me a heartbeat to realize it was the trees moving.

They leaned out over the men, one of whom noticed at the last moment, but then it was too late.

The trees’ branches snapped down, grasping the men and thrusting them into the water. The men fought for their lives, splashing and thrashing about, but there was nothing they could do.

Not against the Hollow.

I unhitched the horses, climbed into the wagon, and drove it home.

There was no reason to wait for survivors.

The Hollow wouldn’t leave any.

#horror #fear #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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