August 15, 1880

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I was summoned.

John Harwich showed up at my door around evening, pounding on it as though his life depended on my answering. Who knows, perhaps it did.

With a Colt in hand, I answered the door, prepared to shoot whoever had taken me away from my whiskey.

The fear in John’s eyes told me he wasn’t to blame.

“Come in, John. What’s the problem?”

He shook his head, words tumbling out of his mouth as he did so. “No time, Duncan. I was sent to get you. I’ve my buckboard out on the road. Horses wouldn’t come down your drive.”

“’Course not,” I snorted. “They’ve sense. Who the hell sent for me?”

His face paled. “Don’t know for sure. She said to tell you her name’s Sensenmann.”

“Let me get my gunbelt on, John.”

He stood on the porch, and in a few minutes, the two of us hurried down the drive to his buckboard. The horses were skittish, eyes rolling and foam gathering about their mouths. I didn’t blame them. There was a rank hint of a bear on the wind. A fair few had drifted out of the Hollow of late, and they weren’t above taking down a dray horse.

I climbed into the buckboard, took my seat on the bench and held on as John snapped the reins and let the horses have their way. I wasn’t sure that the buckboard was going to make it all the way into town, but it did, and I wasn’t surprised when John stopped outside Thomas Aldritch’s photography studio.

When I entered the building, Thomas nodded, picked up a bottle of whiskey and motioned towards a private room off to the left.

I found her sitting in a tall chair, a smile on her face.

“Duncan, how are you?” she asked in High German.

“Well enough,” I replied.

She gestured for me to sit, and I did so.

“I have a favor to ask of you.”

I blinked, and her smile broadened.

“A ship is coming to Cross,” she continued. “It is not of this place. We have been asked to reap those aboard it, but they are not ours to claim.”

“Everyone?”

She nodded.

“Why?”

The smile on her face faded. “I cannot tell you why, Duncan, only that your mother would be pleased to see them here.”

“When does the ship come in?”

“Soon.”

I stood up, said my goodbye, and left.

It was time to watch for the ship.

#horrorstories #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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