Trembling With Fear 03/26/2017

‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

The Heart Song

“I wanna stop, Mama. It hurts.” Desiree said. She was bent over the family washbasin, her hands plunged deep into the ice filled water.

“You’ll do no such thing.” Mama said “If you move those hands, I’ll whip you good.” There was the quick rapping of wood on wood; the spoon, Desiree thought, striking the table.

Mama marched across the room behind her. Desiree heard her heavy steps on the dirt, the opening and closing of cupboards, the rattling of jars and the clanging of pots; a frustrated grunt then a squeak of exaltation followed by the dry, scraping din of metal.

Desiree couldn’t take it anymore. Her hands felt warm and tingly, alive with cold fire. She removed them from the icy water.

The pain was quick and sharp. Mama grasped Desiree’s hands and submerged them back under the water. The wooden spoon was in her other hand. The pain on Desiree’s neck brought tears to her eyes.

“I know it’s hard, Dezzy.” Mama said. “It’s always hard the first time, but you need to do this. Only dead hands can find a dead heart. A few more minutes, then you can move.”

Desiree nodded okay and Mama disappeared again. The minutes passed. The quiet ruffling of sheets as Mama finished setting up, then: “It’s time, sweetheart. You can move, now.”

Desiree got up, her legs stiff and her hands heavy. Her normally dark skin was ashen and lifeless.

Papa lay on the table, dead, and naked save for a washcloth over his eyes and a towel to hide his decency. Mama stood over him, the Special Knife gripped in both hands.

Mama beckoned to her, and Desiree went. She was scared, but everyone is scared at first. That’s what Uncle Amos had told her. Uncle Jasper and Aunt Lily, too.

Mama placed the Special Knife on the table and pulled a small hammer from the inside of her smock. She gently stroked the gray stubble on Papa’s cheek.

“Your Nana’s Mama called it the Heart Song. The beat.” Mama said, her fingers searching over Papa’s ribs. “It’s the strength of your life force. The first time I introduced Papa to your Nana, she was out of her skin with excitement. Said she could hear Papa’s Heart Song through the walls. Said he had good ribs. ‘Singing ribs’. Acoustics like a goshdarned opera house.’”

Mama’s finger settled on a rib just below the sternum. When she was certain of her choice she brought the hammer down hard. The chosen rib snapped like dry wood.

“The Heart Song keeps on after you die. Like a band that continues to play even though its conductor has left.” Mama smashed another rib.

“But it can’t be found with living hands. No, only dead hands can find a dead heart.”

Desiree watched as Mama made the incision between the smashed ribs, burying the Special Knife to the hilt and opening a glaring red mouth.

“Your father loved you, Dezzy. He would have wanted this.”

Mama guided Desiree’s cold hand into her father’s broken ribcage. The heat was intense, like a vice. She pushed through it, glancing off tissue and broken bone until she found what she was looking for: a knot. Her fingers wrapped around her father heart.

“I don’t feel it.” Desiree said, panicking. Had she done it wrong?

“Just wait, dear.” Mama said.

Desiree waited, her hand gripping the soft tissue. Then, she felt it. A beat.

“I feel it, Mama.” Desiree said. It was picking up, becoming stronger with each thrum.

“Pull.” Mama ordered.

It only took one tug to pry the organ free. Desiree pulled it out into the open air. The heart beat in her hand like palmed thunder. It made her mouth water.

“Your father’s heart was strong, dear. It has a lot to offer to you. Take it.”

Desiree’s hesitation evaporated. She tore into the heart greedily. The taste was intoxicating. Her father’s heart seemed to beat on her tongue, between her teeth.

Mama said something, but Desiree couldn’t hear her. All she could focus on was the taste, the hot blood, and in the back of her head, a high, singing chorus.

 

 

Timothy Rock

Tim resides in central Pennsylvania, on the cusp of obtaining his bachelor’s degree.

When he isn’t working at the bar or studying for law school, he writes, and he one day hopes to make something of it. His previous work can be found in the first issue if MYTHIC MAGAZINE.

The Black Spot

‘I judged our annual ghost story competition again today.  Some of the villagers claim I am not capable enough, or sane enough, to do this competently anymore.’

‘I disagree.  The third prize went to a story about a ship that disappears into the fog, second place to a tale about nocturnal comings and goings in a graveyard, while the winning entry featured the ghost of Blind Pew from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.’

‘The latter story won because its main character came to me last night – tap, tap, tap – warning if it didn’t win, I would receive the Black Spot.’

Brendan Joseph O'Dea

Brendan Joseph O’Dea lives and works in Leicestershire, U.K. He enjoys writing fiction and non-fiction in his spare time. He has published two books on Amazon Kindle and has recently started submitting short fiction to magazines. He has a preference for Gothic and traditional ghost stories which rely on atmosphere and strong characters.

Just A Dream

I dreamed about him again last night.

Every dream starts the same. I’m walking through thick forest. In the distance, someone is screaming. It’s not a scream of fear… It’s a scream of madness, from a mind totally unhinged.

I finally arrive at a clearing and see a man tied to a stake.

He’s screaming and thrashing around, unable to escape. His eyes, his insane eyes, are darting about, scanning the tree line.

He turns towards me, and I wake up.

Last night the dream ended differently…

I recognized his face…

It was my face…

That’s when I started screaming…

Andy Brown

Andy Brown is a professional musician who occasionally dips the smallest of his toes into the huge pool of writing…A horror, sci-fi and fantasy fan since he was a tiny child, he still loves the genres although he could in no way be described as “tiny” anymore…

Till You Do

“Go to sleep. Please, go to sleep. I can’t sleep till you do.”

There’s desperation in its voice.

“Go to sleep.”

I hear the possible threat hidden in its speech, but I’m unconcerned. This ghost beseeches, but does not haunt.

“I can’t sleep till you do.”

Good! Stay with me! Explain your strange request! I need to understand.

I can’t sleep till I do.

There’s desperation in my voice.

I wait for a face to rise beside me, but nothing ever comes.

So we stay silent, neither of us able to explain the needs we wish the other would satisfy.

P.J. Kryfko

P.J. Kryfko is a writer, producer, storyteller, daydreamer, and avid YouTube watcher (not always in that order). He has been published as a comic writer, prose writer, journalist, and in 2014 wrote and produced his first short film. His publishers include: Image Comics, Liars’ League NYC, Weirdpunk Books, the DFW Art & Words Show, and the Brooklyn Prose Bowl. AintitCoolNews.com calls his work “atypical and original.” His Mom calls him “Handsome.”

You can find out more about P.J. at his homepage.

Trembling With Fear 03/19/2017

‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.

Fun fact: This is week includes our first accepted poetry! These will fall in line with Drabble in how they’re accepted.

Two requests this week if you have a chance:
For the writers: We’re always suffering a severe shortage of drabble and could use more!
For the readers: Would you be interested in Trembling With Fear to become its own website down the line? Still a Sunday post on Horror Tree but having its ongoing content with a focus on readers? (More shorts published online, author interviews, etc.) Please let us know via Twitter, Facebook, our contact page, or in the comments below! Thanks!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

The Hunger

By: Rachel Wesley

I wake with a start, lightning flashing through my otherwise dark bedroom; thunder rumbling across the sky. That familiar tingle bounces around my stomach, the one that people get when they know they are being watched.

 

I lay there, pretending to still be asleep while I slowly inch my hand under my pillow for the waiting 9mm. Knowing the monster that stalks me causes a tinge of guilt for what I am planning. There is no other choice; it has to be done.

 

I can feel the thing staring into my back, waiting for me to make a move. My fingers close around the cold metal and I instinctively click off the safety. A horrendous roar bursts into the night, like nothing describable. My heart pounds in my ears, drowning out all other sounds, except that roar. It goes on and on.

 

I dash out of bed, making a run for the door. Too late, I hear the glass of my sliding patio door, connecting my bedroom to the outside, shatter. I made my move too late. I turn, expecting to get off at least one shot, but I’m shocked to see the monster is already on me.

 

A massive, clawed hand wraps around my throat and lifts me off the ground in one quick movement. Why had I waited? I should have taken a shot while it was still outside. I try to scream as my gun, my only hope, falls from my hand, but nothing comes out. The giant creature pulls me up above his face and for the first time since he stalked me, I see the full horror of him.

 

At least 8ft tall, with warped, gnarly, antlers rubbing against my 10ft ceiling, the boney creature has a strength his size betrays. A foul odor rises from every part of his leather-like skin. Small uneven patches of fur burst out in areas at random.

 

He slams me hard against the door, enough to knock the air out of me. The creature slides me up higher. Fear and confusion warp my thoughts. I meant to make it through this; it had been the plan. I meticulously worked on this plan; perfected it.

 

Nothing had been enough.

 

Finally, the beast looks me in the eye. It was the first time I have seen my husband Ben since he was killed 2 weeks ago. His eyes plead for forgiveness, but still, his gaunt stomach rumbles tremendously. He sends me flying into the adjacent wall and is on me in a second. As the crunching begins, words fill my mind: “Forgive me.”

 

Rachel Wesley

Rachel Wesley is an American author who writes in the horror, thriller, and fantasy genres. She has a particular interest in old school horror with a new school twist. She loves obscure legends and wishes to bring more of them to light. Some of her work has been featured on Reddit and read by various YouTubers. She ghostwrites articles for business sites and individuals and submits expert advice on miscellaneous topics. Rachel is a homeschool parent and has written two books and numerous articles on the subject.
http://www.rachelwesley.com/

The Hag of the Mists

by Frank Coffman

A mist was rising o’er the lonely lea

As he approached a crossroads in the dark.

There, suddenly, an old hag, haggard, stark,

Was there before him standing silently.

Her cloak was green and hooded and half hid

Her face. But for some reason rising fear

Grew great within him as she drew full near.

Then she put back her hood and—God forbid!

 

Her hair was not just fiery gold, but flame!—

Real flames swirled like long locks around that head

Above that hideous face and glowing eyes!

Then she keened out—most shrill—a well-known name.

And he knew then that his true love was dead.

The banshee never errs and never lies.

 

 

 

Frank Coffman

Frank Coffman is Professor of English, journalism, and creative writing at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois. A published poet, author, and researcher, his emphasis of late in literary criticism has been on the poetry of Robert E. Howard [edited Robert E. Howard: Selected Poems]. His weird/supernatural poetry has appeared in Spectral Realms, Skelos, and other journals. He is the founder of the Facebook site: Weird Poets Society. He has a keen interest in all of the genres of popular imaginative literature.

Bound

By: Emma Taylor

Bound bodies were everywhere, unconscious or even alive, only God could have known. The rope tore at my wrists. The knot at my feet was looser.

The grind of a garage door opening shattered the silence. An enormous shadowy figure emerged, moving as if he just woke up from a year long nap. His massive teeth ripped into the first victim’s stomach. Blood and intestines dripped from his scratchy beard as he moved from one body to the next. My stomach tensed.

I must have whimpered. He turned in my direction and caught my eye. Smiling, he moved toward me.

 

Emma Taylor

Emma Taylor lives in rural Missouri with her dogs, Roscoe and Bowie. She loves reading and writing (especially horror and suspense stories). She has been writing since she was 6 years old.

The Survivor’s Musuem

By: Andrea Allison

“Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Devon. I’ll be your guide for this evening. Welcome to The Survivor’s Museum. Every person in our exhibits are the lone survivor of a serial killer. Learn the history of their tormentors as well as what they did right that granted them their life.

We arranged each display to honor a killer’s specific tastes and it’s interactive to make your experience more enjoyable. This is a one time private showing. Under no circumstances are you to touch the exhibits. You paid a lot of money for this tour. We don’t want any…..complications.

Let’s begin.”

Andrea Allison

Andrea Allison currently resides in a small uneventful town located in Oklahoma. She is an author who enjoys writing horror of all varieties. Having discovered her love for all things spooky courtesy of the Fear Street series, she has found minimum writing success and massive amounts of kind rejections.

Trembling With Fear 03/12/2017

‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Resurrection

The cream-colored ceiling greeted me when I woke up. The silence in my apartment complex was surprising, especially at this hour. I turned to my nightstand, and my small, red alarm clock blinked 8:20. I had work at 9:30 and the alarm had gone off, however, instead of the obnoxious blaring it was faint beeping noises. Swinging my short legs over the side of the bed, it didn’t creak like usual. The hardwood floors felt warm despite it being December.

I bumped the bathroom door open with my bum and again, no creak. Meeting my own face in the mirror, I was confused. I squeezed my cheeks, lifted my eyelids, pushed my long, curly, black hair behind my ears for it to fall front again. For some reason, I couldn’t recognize myself. I see that it’s me but my skin looks gray and shallow. Blue lines of veins wiggle across my cheeks and forehead. The contrast of my dark hair to this zombified version of myself was chilling. I rushed the wet toothbrush across my teeth, scrubbed the minty foam along my tongue and spat. I didn’t look back in the mirror.

I opened drawers in search for warm clothing, and every wooden knob I pulled did not make a sound. I shot a look over at the clock, 8:20. My heart leaped and released a pump of blood that made my fingers and toes tingle. My toes. I wiggled them, they prickled with pain and warmed as I pressed them firmly into the ground.

Is the clock broken?

I moved the white curtains, and bright light seeped through the blinds behind them. The cars in the street were parked and abandoned. All set in their lanes as if rushing through morning traffic, just still. The sky was grey, like my skin, not a cloud in sight. Was it just one big cloud? I pressed my hand to the glass, and they stung with painful pinpoints like my toes did. It felt heated as if it were a summer afternoon. But clearly, there was snow on the ground.

I pile on my black jeans, wool sweaters, and leather boots. The echoes of the thick heels on my shoes were just silence in the stairwell.

I stopped and dug my pinky finger into my ear.

Am I going deaf?

I heard the alarm clock, didn’t I?

My fingernail had a thin layer of honey-colored wax on it. I stomped heavily as I ran to the bottom step but no noise emitted. My chest felt hot and my fingers prickled again. I pushed through the door to the outside and flashed my card at the reader.

Beep.

I stared at the green bulb of the scanner and flashed my card again.

Beep, and it turned red. Why am I only hearing these strange beeping noises?

My curls bounced in the corner of my eye. It was warm out, and the tight layers were making me lightheaded. I brought my hand to my armpit, and it felt warm but not moist. I’m not sweating, but I feel so hot.

Making my way down the sidewalk, the city was eerily silent, like the apartments.

The local coffee shop had a buzzing neon OPEN sign that flashed various patterns. I reached for the doorknob, and with every flash, a beep followed.

The tiny bell above the door did not ring.

It was dark on the inside with the grey light illuminating whatever was near the windows. The counter was darkest, momentarily being lit by the red and blue of the neon sign.

Muffled voices came from the door behind the counter.

I dashed for the door and jiggled the handle, but it was locked. I kicked the door with my boot, and it sent tingles up my leg. The voices were getting louder.

I tried the handle again, and it wouldn’t budge. Punching the door, I tried to scream. My throat was warm and scratchy, but nothing came out. Bright light poured in from the bottom and side cracks in the door.

The voices were so loud it was like they were in my head. It was so overwhelming, I fell down onto my back.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

“Clear,” A loud voice said.

The air was squeezed from my lungs and the heat returned to my chest.

The brightness turned to the faces of people in masks and blue gowns. Some of them clapped, and I heard it.

My breathing was heavy. I tried to speak, but my throat was sore and scratchy again.

“She’s stable,” A masked man said, followed by a high-pitched beep, beep, beep.

Chanelle Pina

Chanelle Pina is a Creative Writing for Entertainment student at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. Chanelle has previously attended the Art Institute of Tampa for Computer Animation. This quiet soul enjoys watercolor painting and charcoal drawing. She is a horror enthusiast and avid self-help reader and, of course, a caffeine addict. Chanelle has been published in the Polk County Poetry Anthology in 2010 and Down In The Dirt magazine in 2016. She has been an honor roll student for most of her schooling, going to art school from middle school through college, and continues to progress. She is striving to become an editor and writer for popular genre magazines and websites. You can read her writings on her blog at chanelleartista.wordpress.com

Starting Over… In Style

“Something old,” she mused, looking down at James. He was certainly old, forty years her senior.  He lay quietly, hands clasped together.

“Something new,” she said, smiling at the five-carat diamond ring James had given her last night. It sparkled even with the curtains drawn.

“Something borrowed,” she continued, glancing fondly at the last of her luggage. She’d packed all the jewelry and money she could find.

“Cassie, are you ready?” David— until yesterday just the sexy pool-boy—picked up the last suitcase.

She nodded, looking back. “Something blue,” and yes, within the plastic bag, James’ face was definitely blue.

 

Rose Blackthorn

Rose Blackthorn is a writer, dog-mom, and photographer who lives in the high-mountain desert, but longs for the sea. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared online and in print with a varied list of anthologies and magazines. Her poetry collection Thorns, Hearts and Thistles was published in February 2015, and the novelette Called to Battle: Worthy Vessel was published in October 2015.

You can find out more about Rose on her homepage and her Amazon Author Page.

Separated Again

I’m missing my wife already. She was beautiful. Perfect.

Those diamond eyes that could kiss you with a stare and those luscious lips that could give you the real thing; her tickling fingers and her tiny toes; that adorable nose; her cute little ears, which she’d wiggle to make me laugh; those warm arms that would hold me in the day and those long, lovely legs that she’d wrap around my waist at night.

There wasn’t a single part of her that I didn’t cherish.

I admire each for one last time before I toss them into a garbage bag.

Patrick Winters

Patrick Winters is a recent graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. He has been published in the likes of Sanitarium Magazine, The Sirens Call, Trysts of Fate, and other such titles.

You can find out more about Patrick on his homepage.

Trembling With Fear 03/05/2017

‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Down to a Sunless Sea

Beneath the playhouse were passages deeper still than any the theatre folk made use of. They lay below the lowest of the property stores in which were held all the sets of costumes and sundry items necessary for the staging of their plays. They lay below even the foundations, stretching down through the earth till they reached the level where water pooled and they could go no deeper.

None had descended the stairs in years. There was no need. Besides, legend spoke of horrid things that flopped wetly in the darkness and of the tall, gaunt phantom that stalked those passageways. Yet, down he dared to go.

He didn’t know why he went. Not exactly. Just felt a strange compulsion. It just felt right as he set foot on the damp steps and cautiously made his way down into the darkness, the wan yellow light of a candle stub his only companion.

The walls were carved with grotesque faces that seemed to turn and leer at him as he passed by, the candlelight flickering horribly across them. He shivered and crossed himself, although he wondered whether the sign had any power here, deep below the earth.

He followed twisting passageways that turned sinuously back upon themselves. He couldn’t bear to halt. It was as if a force were pulling him onwards, downwards. Something flopped wetly past his feet, but he dared not crouch down to discover what made the sound. He knew better than that. Knew to press onward.

Somewhere in the darkness, he imagined he could hear the distant echo of soft footsteps, sometimes nearer, sometimes further away. Did another wander here in these dark tunnels or did he but hear the echo of his own footsteps? Somehow, he knew that was not the answer and that he was not alone. The phantom they spoke of walked here yet.

After many twists and turns and slimy stairs, he found himself in a cavern standing on the shore of a still and silent pool. Restricted to the narrow circle of candlelight, he couldn’t tell if the water was of limited extent or not. For all he could tell, he might have been standing upon the shore of a sunless sea.

He stood there for some minutes as the candle flickered and died. He no longer feared the darkness.

Standing there, he gazed out across the water he could no more see, across that sunless sea. Above him, somewhere, the Play would be beginning, but here, he was the lead in one all his own.

In the distance, somewhere far across the water, he could make out lights. At first, they were small and faint. But the longer he stared, the closer they came and the brighter they glowed.  He was certain he gazed upon a city on the far side of an underground lake.

And, as he stood there, he became aware of another presence, not far off. Someone standing upon the shore and staring out at that same city. He barely turned his head, loath to look away from the lights of the city. He thought the figure was tall and gaunt and arrayed in rags, with a face as blank as the masks of drama and comedy.

He stood there beside the phantom of the lakeshore until the two of them were one, merged in their desire for the distant city. A city which seemed to grow ever closer, the longer he looked at it. It was his home, he knew that now.  It was what had called him down here, calling him home. And, O! How he longed for it! His heart ached for it.

It was nearer now. So near…

He couldn’t wait any longer, the pull was too strong.

He stepped into the water and waded out till it rose past his knees, his waist, his shoulders, his chin…

He would be home soon. Home, at last…

 

Ends

DJ Tyrer

DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree), State of Horror: Illinois (Charon Coin Press), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), Tales of the Black Arts (Hazardous Press), Ill-considered Expeditions (April Moon Books), and Sorcery & Sanctity: A Homage to Arthur Machen (Hieroglyphics Press), and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor).

DJ Tyrer’s website is at http://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/

The Atlantean Publishing website is at http://atlanteanpublishing.blogspot.co.uk/

Kindness in the Aftermath

Her mother’s hands bore purple welts, and lesions rimmed her eyes. Her breathing came shallow as the ochre dust that lay on everything, the skin of a new world forming in the Aftermath.

 

Payal ran from the house, throat dry from the dead air, eyes stinging and wild.

 

Soldiers choked the village and blocked the road, a wall of men and machines. Masked and hooded faces turned towards her; then all was muted shouting and pointed guns. Payal raised her hands and saw the marks. She understood.

 

Amidst the cruelty of this new world, they were doing her a kindness.

Rob Francis

Rob Francis is an academic and writer based in London. He started to write speculative fiction in 2014 and since then has had around fifteen stories published in various online magazines and anthologies, including SQ Mag, SpeckLit, Theme of Absence, Every Day Fiction and You Are Here: Tales of Cartographic Wonders.

You can follow Rob’s work on his Amazon Author Page.

Awakening

Drip… Drip… Drip…

 

The unsettling sound roused her from unconsciousness.

 

‘Where am I?’

 

The utilitarian room was cold and dark, save for a thin strip of light peering beneath the door at the top of a wooden staircase.

 

Drip… Drip… Drip…

 

Large, metal hooks hung from the ceiling; from one dangled the body of an inverted man. Blood ran down in gullets from his grotesque, grinning throat, coalescing at the scalp before finding its way to the awaiting drain.

 

“Jeremy?”

 

Drip… Drip… Drip…

 

The door creaked open. “Oh, good,” her captor said, a wry smile upon his lips. “You’re awake.”

KM Zafari

KM Zafari’s mind oscillates from silly to scary. Her stories have appeared in “A Long Story Short” magazine and Time (a Flash Dogs’ anthology).

Her work has also been produced as audio stories by both Mr Creepy Pasta and Chilling Tales for Dark Nights.

She won the Writer’s Digest Shortest Short Story competition in 2012, along with several other microfiction contests.

You can find out more about KM on:
Her Homepage
Her Amazon Page

Although many things creep her out, the only things that truly scare KM are people.

And bears. Damn, they be scary.

The Very Best

On Valentine’s Day he gave Connie a bracelet that sparkled in the light, and she made him one her of her special dinners.

“That was delicious,” he said, giving her a kiss.

“I wanted to give you the very best,” she teased, delighted. “My favorite recipe for heart braised in wine; it seemed appropriate for the holiday.”

“It was,” he assured her after a moment, shrugging off the exotic choice.

Connie smiled. If he liked that, perhaps she’d cook him the liver or sweetbreads in the basement freezer. After she got rid of what was left of Roger, of course.

Catherine Berry

Catherine Berry lives and works in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. When she isn’t writing, she’s spending time with loved ones, caring for her malamute, or satisfying her many hobbies, like cosplay.

More of her work can be found at: her homepage.

Trembling With Fear 02/26/2017

‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

The Adelphi

By: Alyson Faye

It’s not easy being the youngest. Becca was always being left out or left behind. It wasn’t fair.

She so wanted to be in. Especially with them. So when Jake and Joss had laughingly challenged everyone to the ‘hugest dare ever,’ Becca had been the first in the gang to leap up and accept. Now she was sorry. Sorry seven times over. Joss had nearly choked with amusement on her chewing gum, while Jake had smirked behind his usual fag.

‘OK Titch,’ he’d said shrugging. ‘You’re on.’

Then he had bent down and whispered into Becca’s ear. Her bones had melted and she’d had to hold onto her bladder.

‘Bastards!’ She thought, ‘you 100 per cent bastards!’

Two nights later Becca sneaked out of her family’s tiny terraced house, with its clutchy curtains, and began hiking out of town along the main road towards the destination of the ‘dare’.

‘We ‘ll know if you bottle it Titch.’  Jake had warned her, waving his lighted ciggy close to her face.

She’d spotted him spying on her from his bedroom window when she’d strolled past his foster parent’s house. Keeping his beady on her. So to show him, she’d waved carelessly. He’d laughed and given her the finger.

Ten minutes later Becca faced up to the old Adelphi; a once regal hotel, now derelict. Its state of decay didn’t stop the local kids, druggies and the homeless creeping inside its rotten shell. Looking up Becca felt dwarfed. It had been such a grand old behemoth. She noticed the pair of stone lions still roosting on either side of what had been the main entrance.

‘Bollocks.’ She thought.

‘Don’t forget Titch, you gotta go right inside. All the way down to the basement, take a photo and send it me.’  Jake had instructed, smiling all the time. As if he was her mate.

Becca knew how to get in; knew exactly where to lift the broken hoardings and slide through,  leaving only a little bit of skin behind.

Once infiltrated in the Adelphi’s innards, Becca found her way to the grand ballroom. Fifty years ago, with its marble floor and wall to wall mirrors, it had been the most glamorous venue in town. Now all Becca saw was a rubble strewn, filthy, echoey space.

Her phone bleeped. It was Joss, ‘U there yet girl?’

Becca frowned but obediently texted back, ‘Yeah. In ballroom. Stinks in here.’

Joss sent an emoji of a smiley face, ‘Watch out 4 dead bodies.’

‘Cow,’ muttered Becca with great force. But she didn’t text the thought back. She didn’t have the nerve.

In the shattered spiders webs’ of broken mirrors, Becca caught a glimpse of movement. Just a brief flicker. Heading for the door. She swung around.

‘Who’s there?’  The glass shards crunched under her trainers.

She walked back into the foyer where a trapped sparrow was frantically beating its wings against the ceiling’s fabulous plasterwork. The door leading to the basement was swinging slightly on its hinges. Just as if someone had passed that way. Becca gulped. Sweat was already breaking though under her armpits. Knowing she had to go through that same door didn’t help either.

Reluctantly Becca pushed at the green baize and holding her breath because of the smell, she inched her way down the stairs. Past signs which read ‘Kitchen’ and ‘Laundry.’ Down, down  several flights until the ‘Basement’ sign greeted her.

‘OK. Let’s do this,’ she tried to encourage herself. The carpet was mushy with mould. Some of the  spores stuck to her trainers. The walls were splattered with green mouldy patches rather like a Pollock painting gone to seed.

Worst of all though Becca could feel an energy down here; a thrumming. It made her skin itch and the hairs on her arms lift up. Pushing open another swing door, she found herself staring at a room filled with floor to ceiling racks once used for storage. At last she’d got here. The basement. The bowel of the beast.

She could hear the skittering feet of rats. The air smelt of a blend of wood, damp and something metallic, which caught at the back of her throat.

‘Just rats that’s all girl. Chill.’ She tried to breathe steadily, calming herself. But her heart banged away at a quicker rhythm.

She knew if she didn’t get this pic, she’d be out, ostracised, tormented, hounded.  Right now though Becca thought perhaps she could cope with that. Maybe being ‘in’ wasn’t so big a deal.

Facing the racks Becca held up her iPhone at face height and took the shot. In the momentary flash she glimpsed a figure hanging from one of the top racks, its feet jerking, doing the death dance. She saw legions of dark things scuttling around on the ground feeding. She spied a stain creeping out from under the racks, dark and viscous. The air buzzed and hummed; she tasted iron in her mouth.

Becca turned and raced for the stairs. Heart thumping, bile in her throat, sweat pouring down her body. She had only one thought, to get up and out. What if they followed her? What if? She slipped on the mouldy carpet, fell face down and tasted the dirt. She heaved herself up.  In her haste to escape, she ripped her hand on the barbed wire fence. She’d have to go to A&E with that the next day she knew. It looked deep it. Damn it!

Only when she was back on her own street, did she pause and take out her iPhone to check the image again. Surrounded by her neighbours’ bins, gardens and under the street lamps she now felt calmer.

The image she’d clicked and sent onto to Joss and Jake showed only a cellar filled with tall wooden racks, stretching back into darkness. There was no hanging man, no scuttling insects, no pool of …fluid.  Except when she peered closely at the top right corner of the screen there was a black spot there, a bit like a fly. Or a spore. Or something anyway.

Hearing a noise behind her Becca jerked around. No one was there. Except she couldn’t help but think she’d just missed seeing something scuttle away, out of sight behind No 33’s recycling bins. A rat, that’s all it’ll be, she told herself. Lots of rats round here. Armies of them.

Letting herself in quietly at the back door Becca made her plans. First up a shower. She felt disgusting. Those mould spores had got everywhere. Tomorrow she’d go to A&E, after that she’d tell Josh and Jake to count her out. Scary as those two made themselves out to be they weren’t half as creepy as what had happened in the Adelphi.

‘Sorted then,’ she muttered. ‘I’m all sorted.’

Rubbing her arms, she headed for the bathroom. ‘Jesus though I don’t half itch.’

Outside her bedroom window a black shape gripped the drainpipe and slithered up inside the tubing. Sucking in the damp and moist debris, drawn by Becca’s scent. It had followed her trail of skin fragments, blood and sweat. It had been alone a long time, but now it had a new home.

 

Alyson Faye

Alyson Faye

Alyson trained originally in the UK as a teacher/tutor. She wrote a couple of children’s books which were published by Collins and Ginn. Now she lives near Bronte terrain in Yorkshire with her teen son, partner and 3 rescue cats. She writes noir Flash Fiction (some of which is published on line) spooky longer tales and is working on a crime novella. She enjoys old movies, singing, and swimming. She is a confirmed chocoholic and is still hopeless at maths. Her blog is at http://www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com.

The Paper Clip

By: Mathias Jansson

Do you remember Commodore 64? Perhaps you also remember that you could use a paperclip on one of the ports on the backside to reset a game?

My friend I must warn you. Never try that trick on Friday the 13th at midnight as I did. I was playing a new text adventure called Inferno when the game froze and I tried to reset it with a paper clip. Suddenly an electric flash hit my hand. When i woke up it was dark and when I screamed for help a voice constantly was repeating: “I don’t understand that command.”

Mathias Jansson

Mathias Jansson is a Swedish art critic and horror poet. He has been published in magazines as The Horror Zine, Dark Eclipse, Schlock and The Sirens Call. He has also contributed to over 100 different horror anthologies from publishers as Horrified Press, James Ward Kirk Fiction, Source Point Press, Thirteen Press etc.
Homepage
Amazon author page

Swift Retribution

By: Robert Allen Lupton

Carl slipped on a loose pile of gold coins and woke the dragon. It opened both eyes, spotted Carl, and knocked him over with one paw like a cat playing with a mouse. It tore open his backpack with a razor sharp talon and raised its eyebrows at the gold and jewels that tumbled out.

“I can explain. I’m sorry, I won’t ever steal from you again.”

A wisp of smoke curled from the dragon’s nostrils before it expelled a flash of fire and burned Carl to a crisp. “I know you won’t,” it said and went back to sleep.

Robert Allen Lupton

Robert Allen Lupton is retired and lives in New Mexico with his wife, Sally, where they are commercial hot air balloon pilots. Robert runs and writes every day, but not necessarily in that order.

Amazon.
Good Reads.

The Monster from Moorsville

By: Erik Bergstrom

The smell inside the old barn was always the first thing they noticed. Old and rotted
and wet, it was almost a sweet smell.

Especially the newspapers—stacks of them on the floor, all forty, fifty years old or older. There’s one story Polly showed Nell from 1965, talking about the “Monster from Moorsville”, a name given to the man who stole kids from nearby farms and never got caught.

Nell was still reading the final paragraph when she and Polly first heard the footsteps and saw a large, dark shadow break away from the back wall of the barn.

Erik Bergstrom

Erik Bergstrom spends his days crafting and editing digital content for automotive marketers, and his nights releasing steam by writing gloomy fiction. His other interests include movie clubs and attending local pro wrestling shows. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and too many pets.

Trembling With Fear 02/19/2017

‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Life and Limb

By Kevin Holton

I thought she was a rumor.

People never talked openly about The Surgeon. If she came up in conversation, it was in whispers behind closed doors. When Margorie first told me about her, I dismissed these discussions as rumors. Myths. Stories told to the desperate or fearful. Gullible people are why I spent my few scarce hours of free time at home, sitting around.

My couch was full of holes, but it was mine, and I was in my favorite spot, watching the Ultranet news feed on my holographic video screen. Beyond the couch and holovid, I didn’t have much else, and my barren apartment showed it. Blank walls, a dirty floor I rarely got time to clean, and a bed that sagged in the middle were about all I owned.

On the news, another few people had been very brutally, very publicly, killed by Enforcers. Unity Government’s official statement was, as always, “Obey the law, support your country, and do not resist arrest. Follow these rules, and you’ll be fine.”

A spasm ran down my arm. The left one, the Dynatech arm I had installed to replace my real one after the accident. Lately, it had been malfunctioning. I couldn’t afford repairs, and UniGov ignored my appeals for assistance. I’d received an email of only two sentences. “We will not be able to help you. Bear in mind, a severe decrease in productivity may result in a punishment of a fifty thousand credit fine and ten years in prison.”

Another harsh jerk, this one painful. All the new models were built to feel everything flesh and bone could, and that wasn’t always a good thing. Frayed wiring sent electric bursts through my system, hurting both replicant and real tissues. Squinting my eyes shut, I massaged my shoulder, where the installation met muscle.

“Planned obsolescence,” said a voice, and I jerked back, eyes wide. A woman stood against the wall, next to the news feed, where protesters were destroying a few bodegas to show how they disliked UniGov oversight.

“Who—how did you get in here?” The hammering in my chest overrode my pain. My door had been locked, and like every home, apartment, and business in Adonia, it had a complex combination lock. Only I knew the code. There were no windows.

“Wealth perpetuates. Design faulty goods, then design a way of life so you can’t live without them. Buy, break, buy, break. Repeat, ad nauseum.” Her tone was cool, calculated, machine-like, but I couldn’t tell who or even what she was. The woman wore a long black shirt and loose pants that flowed around her like an oil spill. On her face, she had a reflective mask, and a hood drawn to hide the rest of her head. When I tried to make eye contact, I only saw myself.

I stood up, ready for conflict. I didn’t have much, but I had pride, and wasn’t about to be intimidated in my own home, no matter how crappy a home it was. “What are you doing here?”

“Relax,” she said, raising a hand, “I’m not your enemy. In fact, I’m here to help.” Being around her made my head buzz with a faint static. My brain was caught between the channels of anger and curiosity. Darkness shifted, clinging to her frame as she levered herself off the wall, slowly approaching. “Let me see: a crushing accident. Hydraulic press came down in the center of your arm. Splintered bone. Torn muscle. Beyond repair. UniGov offered a new arm as compensation, but has no interest in upkeep.”

All this was said as a statement of fact, and was completely accurate. She didn’t need to ask questions. I was barely part of this—just an observer, not reacting, or sure how to, even as she reached out and began probing at my shoulder too, as I’d been doing moments earlier. Her fingers were cold. Real fingers, with skin and tendons, but long and pointed, almost sharp.

“Hm. Artifical supraspinatus and bicep tendons. Dynatech humerus head inserted into original glenoid. Easy.” Despite her mask, I could sense a smile on her face, mouth stretching wide like she was ready to bite. “You’re angry, aren’t you? At this government, which treats you so poorly. At your…” she rapped on my elbow, sending another jolt through me. “Limitations.”

I’d had enough games. Hypnotic as her touch may have been, I fought myself to say, “Why are you here?”

“Because you want me here, David.” Her reply, swift and rehearsed, told me she’d had this conversation many times before.

I swallowed, hard, feeling a tense knot in my throat. “You’re… The Surgeon, aren’t you?”

She laughed. Just once, a short, rhythmic burst of melody that bore the memory of brighter times. “Is that what they call me now? Well, I suppose it’s not wrong. That’s what I offer you. Surgery. I’ll remove this arm of yours.”

That was downright unthinkable. No one offered Dynatech removal. I mean, even kids were getting Cosme-tech augmentations these days. Your wealth was literally measured in the price of your new “parts.” Otherwise, you were just any old human. Or worse, Defective. “Why? What’s in it for you? I don’t have money.”

“I know,” she replied. It wasn’t a condemnation, like it would’ve been from anyone else. I almost heard a note of sympathy. “I ask your service. I’ll free you from the tyranny of cybernetics, and in return, you leave Adonia. Forever. Join my coalition back on Earth’s surface, where the darkness of this floating nation is just a passing shadow. You’ll tend fields, raise livestock, whatever the group needs. Whatever you can do with one arm.”

It was an enticing offer. As it was, I was working to survive anyway. Having people around, actual companionship, and a job I could be proud of didn’t sound too bad.

Another soft chuckle. “So you accept my offer?”

That confirmed it. She really could read minds. The rumors I’d waved off as impossible held up. “I do.”

“Then the first thing we have to do is fake your death, so no one gets suspicious.”

A screeching filled my head and pain exploded behind my eyeballs, painting my vision red. I struggled to stay conscious, only faintly aware that I was crying out and kicking at the floor, my body reflexively fighting against this slow implosion. Then my limbs fell limp, refusing to respond to my primal urge to flee as she kneeled over me, holding up a scalpel.

“That involves a little screaming,” she said, “and a whole lot of blood.”

She held me down, and in truth, the operation didn’t take long. True to her word, she let me scream; in my neighborhood, no one would bother investigating. Violent crimes were common. There’d been a news report later. Maybe. Plus, when you don’t have to be careful or gentle, surgery isn’t complicated.

I passed out from blood loss. When I awoke, for a moment, I thought I’d been having a nightmare. When I tried to sit-up, but could only push myself off the metal cot with my one remaining arm, I knew it’d been real.

My body shivered, but if I was cold, I didn’t feel it. Shock, probably. Wouldn’t be surprising. I’d been placed in an abandoned sickbay. There were a dozen or so beds, all like mine: rusted from neglect.

Voices caught my attention as I shook away the veil of unconsciousness. I followed them, passing a mirror in the hall. My left arm was gone. The stump of my shoulder had been branded, no doubt to stop me from bleeding out. In the center was an eye.

“…Just one of many recent deaths in this district,” a voice said, drawing me out to a waiting area. This might’ve been a hospital. Now, it was just a waystation. A single holographic screen ran, projecting tonight’s news. A woman I didn’t recognize stood next to a picture of me. “A neighbor heard screaming. His landlord found the tenant’s arm laying in a pool of blood. He has been declared deceased.”

Deceased. She’d done it. I was officially dead. No one would be after me, or tracking me through the tech that’d given me an arm, but caused me so much pain and grief.

“You’ll be escorted to a private vessel, and it’ll take you to the surface. UniGov won’t bother hunting for people there.” Her voice echoed in my head, but she was nowhere to be found. Two men entered the room, eyeing me. “It will be a long, arduous life, but it will be yours, full of people who’ve made the same decisions. Try to enjoy it.”

Kevin Holton

Kevin Holton is the author of more than one hundred short stories, poems, and critical works. Specializing in horror and sci-fi, he has published with Siren’s Call Publications, James Ward Kirk Fiction, and Crystal Lake Publishing, among other companies. When not reading or writing, he is a student, actor, and coffee enthusiast who spends too much time talking about Batman.

You can find out more about Kevin at: www.kevinholton.com.

Valentine Surprises

By: Brendan O’Dea

A sadist refused to give his wife a divorce.
He did all in his power to make her life a living hell.
On Valentine’s Day, this cruel man made a present to her of a scarf that was the ‘wrong colour.’ He cooked her a meal that aggravated her food allergy. On her Valentine’s card he inscribed the words: ‘My Love, we will be together till death do us part.’
Later, while driving, he laughed so hard tears ran down his face.
He was caught unawares as a freak hailstone shattered the windscreen.
He lost control, swerving towards his fate.

Brendan O'Dea

‘Brendan Joseph O’Dea lives and works in Leicestershire in the U.K. He enjoys writing fiction, and non-fiction, in his spare time. He has published two books on Amazon Kindle but has recently started to focus on submitting short fiction to magazines. He has a preference for Gothic horror and traditional ghost stories which rely on atmosphere and strong characters.’

Mental Check

By: Patrick Winters

Mental Check
by Patrick Winters

As I stow the last grocery bag, I still have that nagging feeling that I’ve forgotten something. I start taking stock of my trunk, just to be sure.
Trash bags? Check.
Extra duct tape? Double check.
Disposable gloves? Yep.
New axe head? Shining nicely in its package.
Gagged and bound victim? Obviously. Kind of hard to forget him, especially with all the squirming and moaning he’s been doing.
He looks up at me, begging me to let him go with his puppy-dog eyes. Then it hits me; I finally realize what’s wrong here:
I forgot to get kibble for Rufus.

Patrick Winters

Patrick Winters is a recent graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. He has been published in the likes of Sanitarium Magazine, The Sirens Call, Trysts of Fate, and other such titles.

You can find out more about Patrick at his homepage.

Confectious

By: Matthew R. Davis

When a nurse comes down the hall, I show him the visible joins at my elbows, knees, shoulders, every joint weeping a pale putrescence – as if I’m a doll that some sullen child has stuffed with stale cream – and, fascinated, he dabs at my infection, this sickly confection, sniffs it… then licks his fingers clean and laughs, a hideous hunger swelling him, and he’s all over me until my seeping hands grab a bedpan and pulp his face into sticky red jam, but he’s not alone on duty tonight, and they’re all laughing, licking their sweet teeth as they come.

Matthew R. Davis

Matthew R. Davis is an author and musician based in Adelaide, South Australia. He has had over two dozen dark fiction pieces published the world over; forthcoming anthology credits include The Refuge Collection: Hell To Others, Between the Tracks, and Semi-Colonic Irrigation, alongside names such as Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell and Christopher Golden. He’s a Horror Novel judge for the 2016 Aurealis Awards, is the bassist/vocalist for the idiosyncratic rock/metal bands Blood Red Renaissance and icecocoon, and is currently seeking a home for his novels. He’s in a relationship with a photographer and seems to have adopted her cat.

You can find out more about Matthew at his homepage.

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