An Excerpt from Hemlock Hollow

Hemlock Hollow
an excerpt
by Bob Freeman

There’s an unmarked grave on the outskirts of Hemlock Hollow where the shadow of an old oak descends like a grim blanket to comfort the bones that lie beneath the blackened soil. That shadow’s solace is for the dead alone. There’s no such consolation for the living. Standing in that desolate place, Brooks Autry was surrounded by old ghosts and pale remembrances, of a misspent youth and all the guilt associated with it. It was here, in this godforsaken place, that he’d taken his first life, under the watchful gaze of that old oak and the man who lifted the veil from his eyes, who showed him of the hidden places, the dark places, where demons dwelt, colluding in the black with soulless men. He wished Landon Connors was here with him now. The weight of that night, long since passed, was heavy on his heart. Without Connors to turn to, Autry sought comfort from the flask he drew from his jacket pocket. There was normally nothing that a little Kentucky bourbon couldn’t take the edge off of. It was like a little taste of home. But if that old saying has any truth to it — ‘home is where the heart is’ — then no amount of whiskey was going to unknot Autry’s pain, for his heart was firmly set in the grim, with deep roots twisting around the bones that slept in this unmarked grave. Another nip of whiskey couldn’t change that, but Brooks Autry tried anyway.

“Y’all here to see the circle?”

Autry turned toward the voice, eyes trying to pierce the inky black. “Why don’t you step out here where a man might see ya, hoss?”

A flashlight flared to life, catching Autry in the face. He raised his hand to shield his eyes from the intrusive light. “Hell’s fire, lightning bug, careful where you shine that thing.”

“Sorry, mister.” The light hit the ground and Autry blinked a few times trying to get his night vision back. It’d be a while. “Meant you no harm. We don’t get many folk out this way.” The young man spat on the ground. “I don’t reckon too many from Hemlock ever been out to this here spot, and I’d wager there’ve not been any strangers about for sure. At least till you came along.”

“I’m no stranger.”

“Is that a fact?” The boy stepped closer, his head tilting to the side as he looked Autry over. “You look sorta strange to me.”

“I used to hang my hat in the Hollow,” Autry said, his eyes drawn to the moon overhead as it peeked out from behind the clouds. “I was shacked up in Elbert Gentry’s old cabin, down by the artesian spring.” Brooks pointed off toward the not so distant treeline and gave the kid a crooked smile.

“Is that a fact?”

“Yeah, Slim, its a fact.” The smile faded as Autry grew tired of the kid’s attitude.

“No harm, mister. No foul.” He spat again, black tobacco juice dripping down his hairless chin. “I just figured you for a reporter or some such, traipsin’ out here lookin’ for that circle that everyone’s been jawin’ about.”

“What circle?”

“You know, the one made by the aliens. Hell, it’s spittin’ distance from Elbert Gentry’s old place.”

Autry took another nip from his flask and returned it to his coat pocket. “Is that a fact? Well then, Huck Finn, I guess it’s your lucky night, ‘cause you get to show me the way to that circle.” Autry took a cigarillo from out of the pouch in his breast pocket and lit it with a match. “I can’t pass up seein’ Hemlock’s very own little green men landing pad.”

 To Be Continued in First Born,
Coming Soon from Seventh Star Press

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