Peaches, 1908

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They whispered.

The sound of hushed voices stopped me in my tracks, and in a heartbeat, the Colts were drawn, hammers back as I stood in the middle of North Road.

The hair on my arms and the back of my neck stood, and as the last vestiges of fog were burned away from the morning sun, I looked into Gods’ Hollow.

A peach orchard stretched for as far as the eye could see. The trees were laid out in neat, military rows, bright blossoms festooning the branches. Not a bird could be seen, nor any squirrels. Beneath the whispers, I caught the sound of bees buzzing, the insects moving lazily from flower to flower.

The wind shifted and carried the voices to me directly, and it felt as though someone had dumped cold water on me.

I recognized the voices.

Singly, at first, and then by the half dozen, then the score, until I knew them all.

Hundreds.

Men and women, children and beasts.

They were my dead.

“Do you see what your hands have wrought?” my mother asked, her voice echoing down the aisles between the trees. “Do you see the agonies and the pain?”

The darkness of my soul opened, and I saw the hell I had created for myself.

Yet even as I saw it, I looked away.

With shaking hands, I eased the hammers down, holstered the Colts, and straightened my back.

“All these would be living,” my mother continued, “had I but butchered you at breakfast.”

I heard the sneer in her words, the hate behind them.

It was that hatred that brought me back into focus. That reminded me of who I am.

“Aye,” I nodded, “but they were meant to be dead, just like you.”

A hard wind sprang up and threw a wall of dust and debris at me.

I remained where I was.

When she had finished her tantrum, I smiled.

“Best to clear another field,” I told her. “I suspect there are a few more bodies yet to bury.”

My mother howled, and the earth shook. “I’ll kill you yet, boy!”

“Maybe,” I admitted. “But it won’t be today.”

As I walked towards home, my mother’s furious shrieks behind me, I wondered if the peaches would be sweet or bitter.

Considering those I’d killed, most would be bitter.

#horror #fear #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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