September 20, 1880

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The smell is unmistakable.

I had found a good spot to bed down for the night when the wind shifted. Along with the smell of burning wood came the stench of rotting flesh.

It wasn’t new death I was smelling, but old and human, too.

A soft laugh trailed along with the odor and brought me to my feet. Putrescent meat I can stand. Someone close by, well, that’s a different animal altogether.

It didn’t take long to find where the sound was coming from, and the stench, too. A pair of pillars and a crossbeam stood in the forest, young trees growing up around it and the ground covered in coarse brush. I drew both Colts and left my rifle slung across my back.

I passed around the arch into the overgrown clearing and followed my nose. The scent became heavier, cloying. The laughter grew louder, and soon the laughter was replaced by singing.

I recognized the song, a bit of a nursery rhyme my mother had sung to me when I was a babe, long before she decided she needed to butcher me in the kitchen.

Easing the hammers back on the Colts, I reached a cleared section of land and came to a stop.

I lowered the Colts and looked on with disgust at the sight before me.

Intestines were strung through iron eyelets pounded into the ground, and limbs were bound in chains a dozen feet from a torso where the chest was splayed open. A pair of rats raced away at the sight of me, yet one large fellow remained.

He was perched on top of a head, meticulously cleaning himself while the head babbled and sang and laughed. The hair on the head was long and matted, the beard full and tangled.

I walked to it, kicked the rat off the head and squatted down. I peered down at a face ravaged by the weather and by time and looked upon myself.

The eyes blinked, and my opposite looked at me.

“Mad,” he whispered.

I nodded.

“Every day, Prometheus without relent,” he continued.

“I see it.”

“Death.”

I nodded.

“You’ll reap me, Brother?” he asked.

“Aye, I will.”

He sang as I gathered deadfall and tufts of grass.

When I finished, he sighed from beneath the pile, and I set the bonfire ablaze.

We sat in silence, for there was nothing for us to say.

#horrorstories #fear

Published by

Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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