I heard her singing.

I’d been walking for some time, and night was coming on. After the incident at the tea shop, I’d managed to find a place to buy some food, and I had avoided others since. But I was growing tired, and I was more than eager to put my first day in this version of the Hollow behind me.

I entered what was undeniably a cemetery. I’d seen enough to recognize one when I saw it, and this place was most definitely a home for the dead.

Massive crypts, each sunk deep into long hills, were festooned with ornate carvings, and as I walked along a well-kept path, I searched for one to rest by.

When I heard her singing, I knew I’d found the spot.

Her crypt was clean and cared for, her voice rolling out from behind the stone and wrapping the world in comfort and calm. The sound of her words soothed my bones and bade me sit.

I did so.

When she finished her song, she spoke.

“You hear the dead,” she stated.

“Occasionally,” I admitted.

“I am Liu Sanjie.”

“Duncan Blood.”

There was a pause and then a soft, musical laugh. “Oh, I’ve not heard a Blood speak since I was alive.”

“When was that?” I asked, taking my pipe out and packing it.

“Long, long ago,” she sighed. “You sound tired, Blood.”

“Aye,” I replied, tucking the pipe into my mouth and striking a match. I lit the tobacco and, as the smoke curled up, added, “More tired than I’ve been in a long time.”

“Will you rest with me?”

“Aye,” I answered. “If you’ll let me.”

“Yes,” she said. “None will harm you here. We do not allow it. The dead keep this place, Blood.”

“What is this place?” I asked, curious.

“Nothing more than where our bones lie,” she answered. “Still, it is ours, and we will not have its sanctity ruined with violence. Do you bring violence here?”

“I am violence.”

Liu Sanjie laughed, and the sound brought a tired smile to my face.

“That you are,” she said. “But not here, and you never with me.”

“I know you?” I could not keep the surprise from my voice.

“Not yet,” she replied. “But I remember when we met and how you felt in my arms as I sang to you. Listen now, and forget your violence.”

I closed my eyes, smoked my pipe, and did my best to forget.

#China #horrorstories

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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