July 5, 1938

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“I loved you.”

She was dressed in a man’s tuxedo and a top hat. In her left hand, she held a martini, and in her right, a snub-nose .38. In her eyes, there was sorrow that spoke of years of longing.

Her hand was steady, and I knew that she, of all the people I had met in my long life, could kill me.

I let my hands remain at my side, not a single muscle twitched as I looked at her.

“I’m sorry,” I told her. “I don’t know who you are.”

The words struck her with the force of a blow, and the hammer pulled back on the pistol.

I didn’t move.

“You’re not the first,” she snarled.

“I don’t doubt that,” I agreed. “And more’s the pity for it.”

She blinked, and her lips settled into a firm line for a moment.

“You pity me?” she hissed.

“Pity you?” I shook my head. “Myself. I can see your passion, and I’m saddened that I never knew.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I’ll kill you, Duncan Blood.”

“I can see that. You won’t eat my heart, though. There’d be no joy in it for you.”

The pistol trembled in her hand. “Will you apologize for what you did?”

“To you?”

She nodded.

“No.”

The pistol steadied. “Why?”

“Because I didn’t do it,” I told her. “A version of me did, and I suspect he suffered for it. But it wasn’t enough. Not nearly. So you’ve come here, to the Hollow, and you help to hunt me down.”

She sipped her drink. “Do you know why I’m wearing this?”

I looked at the tuxedo, and my shoulders sagged. “You were left at the altar.”

“Would you have done that?” she whispered.

“No,” I admitted. “I’ve only married once. Had only one son with another, I would have wed. It hurts too much. I shouldn’t have done it at all.”

“You shouldn’t have married at all?”

I shook my head, and tears stung my eyes.

“You cry?”

“Aye.”

“I’ve killed you twenty-three times, Duncan Blood. But you’re the only one who’s wept for his dead. You wouldn’t have left me at the altar.”

“No.”

“You’d have stayed with me while I aged, and you did not.”

“Aye.”

She finished her drink and shot herself in the chest, and tumbled to the floor.

I gathered her in my arms and held her until I died.

There was nothing more I could do.

#horror #fear #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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