6:30 AM January 1, 1931


Mary Stewart vanished in 1862.

I’d been away, of course, fighting the secesh during the war of the rebellion. When I returned, I learned of her disappearance. Mary had always been a quiet and reserved woman. She’d been widowed when her husband, Anthony, had been killed in a bad fall from a horse. She had sought comfort in books, and most days, she could be found reading in her front parlor, the sun shining upon her. Most evenings, one could see her, lamp lit and still with book in hand.

She and I would speak of the merits of some books, and the poor qualities of others, on those rare occasions when she ventured out of her home.

I found it strange that she should have vanished and went to investigate.

Upon entering her home, I was dismayed to see that none had cared for it. Dust had settled on every surface, and it was most noticeable in her parlor. Everything looked as it should, except for one item.

A single book lay on the floor, a corner of fabric protruded from its gilded pages.

I picked the volume up and read the title.

Laqueus et Lector.

The Snare and the Reader.

The leather of the volume was curiously warm in my hands, and I opened the book as I set it down upon the table.

A rush of hot air and a gasp followed, and Mary Stewart screamed for help.

Reaching into the book, I grasped her hands and dragged her out. She tumbled to the floor, and I snapped the volume closed.

She lay there, panting as I took a dusty shawl off the back of her chair and bound the book within it.

With that done, I turned and looked upon her.

She was thinner, paler. Her eyes were wide, and there were scars upon her bare arms. Her clothes were in tatters, and there was a rank, violent odor about her.

Shaking, Mary got to her feet, swept her long and ragged hair out of her eyes and cleared her throat.

“Thank you, Duncan,” she whispered hoarsely. “I seem to have to have read a little too much.”

I nodded. “Would you like me to draw you a bath?”

“Yes, but the book,” she shivered.

I set the book on the floor, drew a Colt, and put a single round through it.

The house shook, the book bled, and then Mary had her bath.

#books #horrorstories #supernatural

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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