Dryad, 1913

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She stepped out of the tree.

I was more surprised that she’d done it in front of me than that she did it at all.

The dryads know who I am, of course. While we’re not necessarily friends, we’re not enemies either. We’ve all been around a terrible length of time, and while they tend to forget from one decade to the next, I don’t.

I was sitting on the stonewall that runs along North Road and serves as a barrier between Cross and the Hollow. I had been enjoying a pipe and minding my own business, as was my wont when she appeared. She was, like all her kind, stunning and alien all in one breath. And, like her kind, she refused to speak.

Instead, she pointed at a ragged stump close to her tree.

My shoulders sagged, and I nodded. “What do they look like?”

Around her, fallen petals rose up, spinning around her and then forming a face I recognized.

Trefor Knott.

New to town and foolish.

He’d been warned off by others.

Evidently, he hadn’t listened.

I relit my pipe, nodded, and climbed off the wall.

It took me half an hour to find him.

Trefor was sitting on the side of the road, his coat off on the already wilting sapling laid upon it. He eyed me warily as I came to a stop in front of him, took the pipe out of my mouth and asked, “Why’d you go into the Hollow?”

“Keep on walking, Mr. Blood,” he replied pleasantly. “I’m not as impressed as the rest of the town is with you.”

I nodded, stepped forward and slammed my pipe into the bridge of his nose. Burning embers seared his eyes, and as he yelled and tried to bring his hands up to shield himself, I beat him.

His nose collapsed under my fist, as did his jaw, and when he spat out blood, there were shards of teeth mixed in. I stomped on his groin, kicked in his left knee, and then I dragged him down the road and back to the Hollow.

Twice I had to stop and beat him down, and when I finally reached the stonewall and the dryad, I was angry, sore, and splattered with the bastard’s blood.

With a grunt, I picked him up and dumped him over the wall.

A heartbeat later, he was surrounded by the dryad and her sisters.

And like all their kind, there was no mercy in their hearts.

#horror #fear #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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