August 29, 1880

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We’ve scuttled the ship.

There was naught else I could have the Cross militia do than help me scuttle the black-hulled ship the men had sailed in on. The last thing I wanted was for the strangers to seize captives and escape the way they’d come.

I set the charges, and we opened the seacocks, and in no small amount of time, all that remained above the waterline was its masts. I’d need to strike a deal with dryads and perhaps even the merfolk, but I’d worry about that bridge when I came to it.

As the militia set up roving patrols, I went hunting for the strangers.

The next one I saw would have to be taken alive.

I needed information.

As luck would have it, I found one of them in my kitchen.

I opened the back door and surprised him at my table. He put a bullet through my belly, and I broke his nose with his own pistol.

The fight was short and sweet, and it left him dazed and me a bit angrier than I like to be.

Still, I kept a tight rein on it.

I stripped him down and tied him to a chair, and as he watched, cursing me in Russian until I dug my fingers into my wound and dug the bullet out. His eyes widened as I held up the bullet, and then I threw it onto the table.

With my wound healing, I set the kettle to boil, took out a paring knife, and sat down across from him.

“How many of you are there?”

He smiled with bloody teeth, and I punched him in the face again. His head lolled back, and I grabbed it, forcing his mouth open and using the paring knife to pry out one of his teeth. As he screamed, I shoved the tooth into his mouth and forced him to swallow it.

I waited as he coughed, choked, and finally managed to keep it down. There was caution and fear in his eyes, but not enough to make him talk.

I could see that plain as day.

“How many of you are there?”

He shook his head and grinned.

I shrugged, saw that the water was boiling, and leaned over to drive the paring knife into his knee. He howled as I twisted it around, an impressive litany of vulgarities spilling from his lips.

Standing, I took up the kettle and poured some of the boiling water into his wounded knee.

He told me how many there were.

#horrorstories #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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