July 29, 1938

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The room stank.

It was a cloying smell reminiscent of desperation and terror.

My footsteps rang out on the old wooden steps, and when I reached the table in the center of the room, I saw I was in an operating theater. It reminded me more of a school, though, and a closer look at the skeleton near the table – and the diagrams on the wall – showed the truth of this line of thought.

I was about to leave when my mother’s voice filled the theater.

“Do you know what this room is, Duncan?” Her words were a snarl, hatred dripping from every syllable, venom in each thought.

I didn’t answer as I took the first step toward the exit.

“This is where your children die.”

Her statement stopped me in my tracks, as I’m sure she knew it would.

“My children.”

It wasn’t a question.

I’d had a son once, so it was perfectly reasonable that other versions of myself would have fathered children along the way. Who knew how far into the future the Hollow threw this place or how far back. There were too many paths that line of thought could follow, and to do so would threaten my sanity.

It took me a moment to gather my thoughts, and it was only then that I realized she was speaking still.

“So many of them die screaming,” she was saying.

“I’m sure they do,” I said, biting off each word. I forced myself to take a step toward the exit.

When she spoke again, there was the faintest hint of surprise and disappointment in her voice.

“Where are you going?”

I didn’t answer.

“I want to tell you what happened,” she continued. “Are you a coward? You know, I believe I could scream like them if you like. I probably could mimic their little voices too.”

I knew what my mother was trying to do.

But I wasn’t going to be swayed.

I’d promised Patience.

My sister would set things right.

I straightened my back. “I’m sure you could,” I told my mother. “Just as I’m sure Patience will have a few words for all of you when she’s ready.”

There was the slightest hesitation before my mother spoke again. “She’s still here?”

I smiled. “Oh yes. And she’s waiting.”

“For what?!”

Smiling, I left the room without answering, and I enjoyed the growing panic in her voice.

#horror #fear #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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