I. Solitary Reaper

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That night was the first and only time I ever saw a man with terror bleached upon the whites of his eyes. We both ran from the bedroom to the nursery, the noise from our scurry polluting the house.

We opened the nursery door to see a dark figure standing over the cot. I screamed, and even George could not stop an awful, terrified sound from escaping his lips.

I could not tell what the dark figure was, if it was a man or a woman, but it turned to look at us. I tried to avert my eyes and I looked to a nearby mirror, but before I could take in the image of this haunting shadow, I collapsed to the floor.

When I awoke, it was daylight. For a moment, I thought, I prayed, that the strange occurrence was just a nightmare induced by my mysterious headache. I was prone to sleepwalking, and that would also explain the reason to my lying in the middle of the doorway to the nursery.

'George?' I called out as I lifted myself up. I caught my reflection in the mirror near the cot, where I had seen the frightening figure, and saw a person pass behind me.

I turned to look, thinking it to be George, but not a soul was in the hallway with me. The cot was empty and my panic returned.

For the next hour, I searched through every room in the house, calling the names of my missing baby and husband. Had George taken her out for a morning stroll? No, he would have left a note as he always did.

The next few hours passed by in agony. I waited only briefly in the hopes that George would walk through the door at any moment, but my impatience grew and I found myself running to a nearby tavern.

'Help!' I screamed as I entered. 'My husband and baby are missing!'

As you can imagine, my entrance turned heads and my crazed outbursts raised questions. Before long, the County Police arrived and I told them what had happened that night. News of the intruder in my house sparked alarm and all of the villagers kept their doors and windows locked tight for the next few weeks.

Still, they could not find my husband or child. Two months passed by in grief and madness, and I spent my anguished days with my sister who lived an hour away from the village.

Her strength inspired me to face my fears and return home.

'Are you sure you are ready?' Elizabeth asked, though it was too late to annul my decision to visit my abandoned cottage that day.

I faked a smile, because that act was the only way to convince her. 'I am more than ready. Perhaps it will bring me closure.'

She offered to stay the night with me, my first night back, and I gladly accepted. The cottage felt dark and empty upon my return. Without the presence of my husband or child, the air felt somewhat infected with a silent sorrow. I fought back all explosive emotion as my sister would have sent me back with her before I could manage a protest.

I had to return home. It was not good for my sanity to avoid it.

That first night, when the moon ascended, my headache returned. Just as I did on that fateful night, I ran to the window to prevent myself from retching. The fields outside were deathly quiet, and soon, a noise from inside the house turned my attentions to the nursery.

A faint squeaking echoed down the hallway. I froze, unable to move from the window. I turned to look down the hallway through my open bedroom door.

'Elizabeth?' I called, though not loud enough for her to hear. Fear had quietened my voice. I swallowed before heading to a table near my bed. The candle that I kept alight was now half the size it was before I slept.

Leaving the room with the candle in my hand, I wanted, more than anything, to instead hide under my covers and imagine nothing was happening, but the sounds from the nursery grew louder.

'Elizabeth?' I called again, but I was still met with silence. A flickering light now appeared around the closed nursery door. Somebody was in there, and I paused before opening the door.

As I did, the sound stopped and the light seemed to fade. I entered and looked around the small room. The cot still stood in the middle of the room, and the mirror reflected nothing else but my reflection. The light from my candle danced on my face. My poor, petrified face.

The rocking chair in the corner of the room started to rock on its own accord. My head turned to it. The shadows prevented me from seeing the entire chair. A presence stopped me from screaming, and instead I found myself walking towards it.

My candle slowly eradicated the shadows that engulfed the rocking chair. At first, I could see a pair of legs. Then, I saw a man holding a baby.

That is how I discovered that my husband and child are dead. 

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