July 7, 1938


The room was a beautiful trap.

It reminded me of my youth, long before my mother lost her mind and tried to kill me as we broke our fast one morning.

Oh, the wire to the lamp and the rug on the floor wouldn’t have been there. Nor the chair on the left as I stood in the room. But everything else I would have found in my home.

As I stood in the room, the heat from the fires pulsating in slow, steady rhythms. There was a lingering scent in the warm air, and it sent a chill along my spine.

It had been centuries since that smell, that particular scent that was the mark of my father.

My throat clicked as I swallowed, and my body stiffened.

He’d vanished when I was a boy. Lost in the Hollow.

I glanced about the small room, searching for some sign of him. It was unwilling, the act of a boy who has lost his father.

I saw no sign of him, though. Nothing at all.

Then, as my shoulders sagged, the narrow double doors across from me pushed open, and my father emerged.

My breath caught in my throat, and then, as I prepared to call to him, the words died on my lips.

The man across from me was and was not my father.

I could see it in his eyes. There was a curious, almost snakelike quality to them, and there was nothing about my father in them.

And he was as fast as a snake, too.

His hands dropped to his hips, to the pair of Colt .44s, and he had nearly cleared leather by the time mine were in my hands.

Both barrels were pointing at his chest, my faux-father frozen in place. A smile crept across his face.

“Duncan,” he said, pronouncing my name with a soft, sibilant lisp. “Would you shoot your father?”

“No,” I answered, “but I’ll kill any bastard that pretends to be him.”

He spat venom at me as the slugs from my Colts hammered into his chest, spun him around, and sent him screaming into the nearest fire.

He struggled to get to his feet, but I was already there. I planted a boot on the center of his bleeding back and pressed his face down into the flames.

He took a long time to die, and when he was done, the room smelled of roasted snake.

#horror #fear #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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