July 11, 1938

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The furnace roared in the damp air of the cellar.

I’d been traveling up winding stairs, steeply inclined hallways, and straight-up ladders for over thirteen hours. There was still half a cake left in a bag I had taken from the kitchen and a few other items of food as well. I’d even found a somewhat decent brandy tucked away in the back of a cupboard.

So, when I emerged into what was undeniably a basement after an extended time of traveling up, I was a little perturbed.

I heard a man singing, and in a short time, my eyes adjusted to the gloom of my environment. The singer, covered in the soot of the furnace, was gleefully caring for his work, the sight of which caused me to clench my teeth together.

The man shoveled in the last of what appeared to have been a large pile of bones, and I’ve no doubt as to who those bones once belonged.

I watched as he straightened up, stretched, and called out in French to my mother.

When she didn’t answer, he shrugged, cast aside his shovel, and waltzed around the room for a moment before he realized I was there.

The expression of relaxed joy on his face vanished, replaced by one of fear.

He removed his hat and then his goggles. His pale skin looked flush with a fever, and in French, he asked, “Who are you?”

“You know who I am,” I told him. I glanced around the room. “Where’s my dog?”

“Your dog?”

I let my hand drop to the butt of my Colt, and he took a cautious step back, his goggles clattering to the floor as he wrung his hat in his hands.

“My dog.”

“There was a dog here,” he nodded. “Yes. Yes. It went out the door. But this was yesterday. Or this morning? I do not know. Your mother, she does not tell me the time. No one does.”

“Is my mother here?” I asked, my voice tight.

He blinked several times, hesitated, and then shook his head.

“You’re lying,” I told him.

He swallowed and whispered, “No.”

I drew my Colt, and he jumped.

Not toward his shovel and not toward the exit.

He leaped into the furnace; his screams silenced almost as soon as they’d begun.

Sliding the Colt back into its holster and left the room. I needed answers, and I wouldn’t find them there.

#horror #fear #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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