‘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
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.
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 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 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.