The Hollow brought him back to silence.

‘I walked into a glade that was familiar, which was strange for Gods’ Hollow.

‘While this place was familiar, it was not identical to anything in my memory.

‘I advanced with caution, the bear hunter’s rifle in my hands and every sense attuned to the possibilities of danger around me.

‘As I moved deeper into the glade, I saw a small cottage off in one corner. From the fieldstone chimney, smoke rose up in delicate tendrils. The door to the cottage was open, the windows too. Laughter drifted out into the glade. The laughter of a child and a woman. Soon, I reached the cottage. Stopping a fair distance away, I hailed the residents and waited as they went silent.

‘A young, pretty woman appeared in the doorway. She had a bird-gun in her slim hands, and she held it with the knowledge of one who is comfortable with violence.

‘She nodded to me, and I lowered my rifle. I smiled as she kept hers at the ready. A small girl joined the woman, and in the child’s eyes, I recognized the old woman I had killed a little more than a week earlier.

‘Through the vagaries of the Hollow, I had slipped into the past.

‘The girl whispered something, and her mother nodded. In a strong voice, the woman said, “My child has dreamed of you. Your name is Blood.”

‘I admitted that it was.

‘The woman lowered the bird-gun. “She tells me you’ve a skull and a journal and that in her dream, you stay here for a spell. Is this true?”

‘I told her the skull and the journal were true, but as for the time I spent with them, that was unknown to me. The woman smiled. “Becky says it’s true, and so it is. Come then, Blood. Dinner’s on the stove, and there’s a fresh pot of coffee brewing as well.”

‘I found the offer too inviting to resist, and with the rifle in the crook of my arm, I went into the cottage to see if the coffee was good.

‘I am pleased to write that it was.’

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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