October 8, 1937

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They were old hands, tried and true.

I’d known the Ketch brothers, Adam, David, and Eldridge since they were born. Had, in fact, raised them for a short time before their father returned from prison. 

They’d been working my fields for fifty years, and there were few residents of Cross I trusted more.

We gathered in the top of a barn in one of the eastern pastures, the brothers snacking on apples and waiting to hear what it was I needed to say. 

I told them my mother had her hand in the deaths of the children at the home, and so too did some of those from Miskatonic. 

Adam, who affected a conductor’s cap, tilted it back, gnawed on the core of his apple and asked, “What do we need to do?”

“Watch the roads,” I told him.

“Rifles?” David asked.

Eldridge nodded. “We’ve the deer rifles ready for the season. If I can hit a buck, I can sure as hell hit some smug university bastard.”

The brothers laughed, and I smiled.

“Aye. Rifles,” I agreed. “Folks who don’t belong, warn ‘em off. If they don’t go, fire a shot to hustle ‘em along.”

“Shoot ‘em if they fire back?” David asked.

“Aye,” I nodded. “Keep yourselves safe and stay in the fields and on our roads.”

The humor slipped away from them. 

“What are you going to do?” Adam asked.

“I’ll be going deep into the forest. It’s time for some to wake up and walk for a spell.”

In silence, I left the brothers and made my way down to the floor of the barn. I walked out into the yard, crossed it, and then entered a nearby copse of trees. The path dipped down, farther than it should have, slipped beneath a tree trunk, and stepped onto a stone walkway I’d not visited in close to half a century.

Weeping willows hung over the stones, obscuring the sun and silencing the world.

My boots whispered across the stones, the long, whip-like branches of the willows curling away from me. My fingers twitched and longed to grasp the smooth butts of the Colts, but I knew it would be futile, and it would make the conversation difficult.

And it would be hard, to begin with.

The woman was rarely in a pleasant frame of mind, and I didn’t want to think of what she’d demand for payment this time ‘round.

#fear #horrorstories #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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