Remembrance, 1908

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He was neither living nor was he dead.

Mrs. Mary Brown sent a boy to the house and fetched me into town. She ran a clean boarding house for single men.

When I arrived at Mary’s, I found her in her parlor with a box of smelling salts nearby and her face a deathly shade of white.

“Top floor,” she managed to gasp. “Joe Dunway’s old room.”

I nodded and rested my right hand on the butt of a Colt. She peered at me, then she shrugged.

“I don’t know, Duncan,” she answered. “I don’t know what’s wrong with him.”

I drew both Colts and made my way up the stairs to the top floor. The doors to the rooms were all open, the beds and contents of each room in disarray. I don’t know where she’d sent her borders off to, but it was good she’d cleared them out.

Old Joe’s door stood closed, and I walked to it, keeping to the edge of the hall and listening.

There was nothing to hear.

I reached the door, saw it was open a fraction of an inch, and I nudged it open wider still with the toe of my boot, the pistols ready.

Old Joe’s room, which had been Mary’s ballroom when her husband had still been alive, was the largest place in the house. Joe had been happy to live among those prized possessions Mary could not bring herself to part with

And there was the stranger, sitting in one of her chairs, baby’s breath in one hand and a daguerreotype in the other.

He didn’t move.

His chest didn’t rise or fall.

The man’s eyes remained riveted in place, gazing at something visible only to him.

I moved closer and felt a chill emanating from him, as though he was frozen in place. Holstering the Colts, I touched his wrist, and the flesh was ice-cold beneath my fingertips.

A glance at the photo showed a young and beautiful woman. She held baby’s breath in her hand, and written on a piece of paper beside her image were directions to Cross and the Hollow.

There was nothing else save the silence and questions without answers.

Gently, I reached out, and when I touched the baby’s breath, man and flowers and photo disintegrated.

I stood alone in the room with the familiar taste of ashes in my mouth.

#horror #fear #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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