October 23, 1937

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He smelled of the desert.

He took me by surprise, which is hard as hell to do. I had a whiskey in one hand, my pipe in the other, and wishing I didn’t. My Colts were in the parlor, on the tea table next to the stranger.

“Evenin’,” I greeted and sat down in a chair across from him.

There was no use reaching for the guns. If he could get into my home, getting to my Colts wouldn’t be practical.

“It is evening,” he replied. His voice was deep, smooth. He was one-eyed, like Grimnir, and I had no doubt that he was as deadly as the Gallows god.

I drank my whiskey, set the empty glass down on the floor beside my chair, and lit my pipe. As the smoke curled up around me and drifted towards the ceiling, it steered clear of the man.

“Tell me,” the stranger said, smoothing out his beard, “do you know when you will stop killing?”

The question caused some confusion for a moment. I lowered the pipe, furrowed my brow, and then I shrugged my shoulders. “I’ve never thought of it.”

A small smile crept across his face, and then slipped away.

“No, you have not.” He motioned his hand and a silver teacup appeared beside my Colts. The man picked up the cup, steam rising from the contents, and he drank it. When he finished, he set it back down again, and from where I sat I watched as the tea was refilled by an unseen hand.

“You are a finely crafted creature, Duncan Blood. I have watched you since you killed your mother in the kitchen. It was well done.”

He sipped his tea.

“Why are you here?” I asked.

“To express my admiration.”

I waited.

“You have your moments where you sink into the morass of emotions,” he continued. “Moments that threaten to drag you down into humanity’s trap. You are above it. You always will be.”

“Will I?”

He chuckled and got to his feet. “Of course, you will. In time, reapers will do far more than merely pause to watch you at work. They will follow you. When it is time to reap the world, it will be you who leads them.”

Before I could respond, the one-eyed man turned and vanished through a shadow.

He left behind the tea, the smell of the desert, and questions I’d never thought to ask.

#fear #horrorstories #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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