Aunt June, 1936

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The ditch stank in the warm light of morning.

When the sun rose, it found me already awake and in my study. My Colts were oiled, loaded, and in their holsters. On my shoulders was my rucksack, and in it was a trio of sharpened stakes and my beechwood mallet. The BAR would stay home.

I finished my coffee, ate a piece of toast, and set out on foot.

When I crossed the river, I found the world had gone unnaturally silent, and so I followed the stillness for some time. I ended up in a place I tended to avoid.

My father had called them the border woods, and he had warned me that they expanded and contracted with an unnatural rhythm. Some days the woods were only a mile or so at their widest. On others, well, on others, it had taken me a full day’s walk to cross it.

I was standing on the road, peering into the depths of the forest, listening to it grow, when a fetid odor drew my attention to a nearby ditch. In it, I found the charred remains of a body, a pair of long, ragged tree limbs piercing the torso and pinning it to the earth.

Small tracks led away from the body, and so I followed them even as they entered the woods.

Soon, I walked into a small clearing and caught sight of a small but well-made building. On the narrow porch that lined the front of it, a pair of boys – undeniably brothers – sat side by side. One was barefoot, and the other wore rubber sole shoes.

They watched me with tired eyes, and when I greeted them, they nodded in reply.

Squatting down, I looked from one to the other and asked, “Did you kill the vampire?”

“Yes,” the shoeless boy answered.

“She was our Aunt June,” the other boy stated. “She came for us last night when we was runnin’ toward town.”

“She was gonna eat us,” the shoeless boy sighed. “She ate Uncle Albert, but we staked him this mornin’ while he lay under the bed.”

“You did good,” I told them, and the boys shrugged in unison.

“Are you boys hungry?”

“We ate,” the shoeless boy answered. “But we’d like to sleep some.”

“We’ll go into town.”

“We’re too tired to walk,” the other boy whispered.

I straightened up. “It’s alright. I’ll carry you both.”

#fear #horror #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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