In the Hollow

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I walked for hours.

I entered the Hollow from North Road, climbed over the stonewall, and headed east.

At noon, the land dipped into a wide valley populated with trees the likes of which I’d not seen before. I paused at one, touched the bark and found it the same as that which had been left in Pratchett’s home.

I soon found a path made of cobblestones and lined with odd stone carvings. Strange birdsong filled the air, and curious insects hummed past my head.

I loosened the Colts in their holsters.

When the valley leveled out, I saw a home that reminded me of those I’d seen in China years earlier. The path I was on passed by the home, but a walkway led to the front of the home, and so I followed it.

I stepped up onto a small porch, knocked on a deeply carved wooden door and waited for an answer.

It came almost a moment later, echoing curiously in my head. “Enter.”

I gave the door a cautionary push, and it swung wide.

The smell of strong tea led me deeper into the home, and as I passed along well-polished floors, I found another open door. Within the room, a woman lay on a couch and observed me with cool unaffected eyes.

“You are a stranger here.”

Her words echoed in my thoughts, and her mouth remained still.

“Aye,” I spoke aloud.

She smiled. “And you cannot speak properly.”

I chuckled. “I suppose not if this is the way you speak.”

“It is. What brings you here, stranger?”

“I’m hunting a killer,” I told her. “An old friend said the silk was from this place.”

The woman frowned. “May I see it?”

I took it out of the wax envelope I kept it in and handed it over.

She opened the envelope, sniffed it and nodded. “Your friend is correct. This is of my realm. It is created by the worms of Gao. He has a taste for flesh.”

She motioned to her feet, and I saw how small they were. “He murdered my husband and took my feet. Will you kill him?”

“Aye.”

“I will give you anything if you bring me his head.”

“You can have it for nothing,” I told her.

“What is your name?”

“Blood.”

Her eyes widened. “I am Sun Yee. We are well met, Blood.”

I nodded and left the house.

I’d had enough of talk.

There was a man to find and a head to collect.

#China #horrorstories

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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