Blooming, 1923

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The residents were doomed.

I’ve been away for some time.

Oh, I’ve stopped by here and there, as much as the war would let me, but for the most part, I’ve been gone from Cross.

It shows.

Those that knew better almost a decade ago seem to have left their wits in the past.

They’ll pay for it soon.

I was walking through Cross this morning, acclimating myself to someplace other than a battlefield, when I passed in front of the Stowe residence.

When I’d left for the war in Europe in 1914, the front yard had been a mass of brambles and unkempt weeds. What stood before me now was far from the mess I was familiar with.

Brilliant flowers of a dozen varieties lined the paths leading up to the home’s stonewall. Each plant was well-cared for, trimmed back, and on prominent display.

Yet the blossoms were wrong.

Their colors were off, just a fraction. It was enough to tell me where the flowers were from, where they had been gathered.

Gods’ Hollow.

I went up to the door, and as I was about to knock, Harriet Grange – the Stowes’ neighbor – called to me from her own front door.

“I’ve not seen them in a week, Duncan,” she told me when I crossed to her.

“No?”

She shook her head and spat towards their house. “They spent too much time with the flowers. Can’t remember the last time they spoke to me. Children weren’t going to school. Albert, he wasn’t even going to work anymore. I’ve rung the bell a few times, but they don’t answer. I couldn’t even hear them.”

“Did you look in?”

She shook her head quickly. “No.”

“I’ll be back,” I told her and returned to the Stowe house. I peered in the closest window and saw the nightmare that awaited anyone who entered.

One of the Stowe children was face down on the floor. Flowers grew out of the child’s back, and fresh buds were pushing up through the hair.

For a moment, I considered entering the building and searching for survivors. But Harriet hadn’t seen a Stowe for a week.

“Call the fire department, if you would,” I told Harriet when I returned to her home.

“Why?”

“I have to burn the house down.”

Her lips tightened into a thin line, and then, like a true child of Cross, she went and did as I bade her.

#horror #fear #paranormal

Published by

Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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