The corpse was a trap.
Whether they knew me, or they simply knew human nature, I don’t know. Don’t particularly care, either.
The Hollow shifted again, and I found myself in a place roughly familiar to my own. Oh, the sun was a bit off, and there wasn’t a damned landmark I recognized, but at least the day seemed to be moving at the proper speed.
I’d finished a short meal and was on my way again when I came to the body. It was in poor condition and laid out on a board. I’m not sure if someone had intended to bury the dead or if they had left it out, but there it was for all the world to see.
There was nothing close to the board. No trees, no buildings. Nothing unusual. No sign that I might be walking into a trap.
It was well laid.
I moved off toward the left. Not too far that I couldn’t get a good look at the body, not too close to actually touch it. I’ve seen plenty of bodies, but I have what can be considered an almost professional interest in them.
I glanced at the corpse as I passed by, and the trap was sprung.
The shot came from the body itself. A crossbow bolt with a wire attached to one end.
The bolt slammed into my thigh, and I felt the head open in the flesh.
I came to a stop and drew both Colts, ignoring the blossoming pain in my leg.
The wire went taut, and a trio of beasts stood up.
The creatures were small with dark gray skin. Silver eyes and noseless faces, black teeth ground to points. They wore rags and bones, and brass hoops hung in their obscenely long ears. In their hands, they held short, obsidian knives, and the wire anchoring me to the trap disappeared into the remnants of the corpse.
“Cut me loose, or I’ll cut you down,” I told them.
The creatures let out low, growling laughs and sprang at me.
I cut them down.
Before the roar of the Colts died out, all three were dead on the ground.
A fourth rose up from the corpse, cut the wire, and slipped back into its hide.
I limped out of range of the trap, sat down, and pushed the bolt the rest of the way through. I waited long enough for the wound to heal and reloaded my Colts.
I hate the Hollow.