2:30 AM January 1, 1931

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The book argues.

I found the book shortly before the start of the Whiskey Rebellion, and at first, I thought the man who owned it was mad. Mind you, that didn’t bother me much, not since I’ve seen plenty of madness to go ‘round.

Still, he was holed up in a ramshackle hut off North Road with a fine view of the Hollow from his front door. His English was strange, his mannerisms curious, and when I saw him on a Monday morning, he was standing outside his hut and yelling at the book.

The volume was propped open against a stone, the title page facing the man, and the stranger was pointing his finger at it, telling it to shut up.

As I said, I first thought him mad. At second thought, however, I suspected he came from the Hollow and that perhaps the book did as well. If that were the case, the likelihood of the book actually speaking increased exponentially.

I was armed only with a walking stick at that point as I’d no desire to get in a fight of any sort. I was young, though, and foolish, and instead of leaving the man be, I called out to him to see what the matter was.

He saw me, growled, and charged.

It was not the response I’d expected.

In a heartbeat, I had my stick up and stepped aside as he rushed me. I brought the stick down once, hard on the back of his neck and sent him sprawling to the ground. He tried to get to his feet, drawing a knife from his boot as he did so. I told him to put it away, but the man ignored me and slashed at me.

I broke his wrist with the stick, and then, when he tried for the knife with his remaining hand, I crushed his temple with the stick’s iron end.

It was then that I heard the book.

It told me I shouldn’t have killed him.

It’s been saying that for over a century.

And the damned thing is saying it now.

I don’t bother telling it to shut up. That only makes it louder.

Instead, I open a fresh bottle of bourbon, pour myself a drink, and ask the book a simple question.

“Do you think I should have killed him?”

The outrage in its voice suits me just fine.

#books #horrorstories

Published by

Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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