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.

Trembling With Fear 02/12/2017

‘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

Kameraden

By: RJ Meldrum

The soldier slid into the shell crater, gasping with the exertion of running.  Despite the stagnant water and the company of shattered corpses he was happy to be there, protected from the bullets and shells that clipped the earth above him.  He had no gun, his Mauser had been discarded during the flight from the Russians.  He cursed his luck.

His battalion had tried to push forward that morning, attempting to seize a nameless village on the Russian steppe.  All they’d taken with them were a few Spandaus; the officers had only expected to encounter infantry, perhaps a few mortars at worst.  Instead they’d met armoured resistance; T-34’s.  They were repulsed with heavy losses.

He’d got detached from his squad; somewhere in the scramble to escape, in the smoke, noise and dust, he’d taken the wrong turn and now he was behind the enemy advance.  He was a dead man; the Russians would show him no mercy, just as he showed none to the Russians.

He daren’t even peek out of the crater.  He could hear shouts in Russian, the thump of boots and the squeak of tank treads.  Sliding to the bottom, he feigned death, praying he would be overlooked.  He fell into a deep sleep, despite the cold and fear.

It was night when he woke.  The world around him was silent, foggy and pitch black.  He assessed his situation.  Clearly the war had moved on.  He had no idea if the Germans had advanced or if he was behind the Russian lines.  Stranded, his only option was to try to make his way towards his own troops.  But which way to go?  The wrong choice would be fatal.

A snuffling from the crater edge raised the hairs on his neck.  Feral dogs would often eat corpses and sometimes, if they were hungry enough, they would kill wounded men.  He wasn’t wounded, but he had no weapon to defend himself with.

There was a familiar howl from above.

“Rudi?” he asked in amazement.

There was an answering bark, the sound of scrambling and then a dark shape jumped into his arms.  He felt a warm tongue on his face.

“Rudi!  It’s you.  You found me!”

He felt a huge sense of relief.  Rudi was a stray dog the soldier had picked up abut two months before.  He’d been abandoned in a deserted village.  Rudi loved his new master and followed him everywhere.  Well, almost everywhere; the solider always left Rudi with the battalion cook when the troops advanced, the soldier didn’t want him in harm’s way.

“Rudi, do know the way back to camp?”

There was a bark in response.  It sounded like yes.

“Let’s go, take me back!”

The pair left the crater and headed down the road.  The soldier saw that the Russian advance had clearly faltered.  The road was strewn with wrecked T-34s and corpses in brown uniforms.  It made the soldier feel happy to see so many of the enemy dead; that meant his comrades had had the strength to counter attack.  It meant they were probably still in the area.  The soldier had a chance of surviving this night.  He placed his hand onto Rudi’s back, feeling fur and muscle.  It was comforting, it gave him the courage to keep going.

Suddenly Rudi stopped, his hackles rising.  He was looking in the direction they were travelling.  The solider strained to see what had alerted his companion, but it was just too dark.  The silence was unnerving.  There was a sudden clink of metal; the soldier recognised the sound, it was a rifle being loaded.  Soldiers were moving in the darkness in front of him, but what uniform did they wear?  Rudi bared his teeth.  The soldier decided to trust him, moving off the road and into the undergrowth.  He was just in time.

Only a minute or so later, two Russians crept past, their eyes nervously sweeping the road.  Survivors, just like him.  One clutched a rifle, the other a machine gun.  The solider backed further into the undergrowth, fearing he would be spotted.  His boot knocked against something metallic.  The Russian holding the machine gun uttered a guttural curse and spun round to stare into the bushes.  For a second he was clearly unsure about whether to fire, but then he lifted his weapon.  Rudi, his body a blur, leapt from his hiding place and attacked.  The Russian had no time to react before Rudi was at his throat, pulling and ripping.  Huge spurts of arterial blood sprayed Rudi.  The other Russian raised his rifle.  He fired once, then again.  Rudi fell to the ground.  The solider, still kneeling in the undergrowth, knew the Russian couldn’t have missed at that range.  Rudi was dead.  He felt a huge surge of anger.  Launching himself from the undergrowth, he smashed into the Russian, knocking him over.  He grabbed a piece of metal and hit the Russian with all his might.  It was over in seconds.

The soldier, his vengeance satisfied, turned to find Rudi; he deserved a decent burial.  To his amazement, Rudi was standing, but his fur was covered in blood.  Fearing the worst, the soldier knelt and held his companion, his hands running up and down the dog’s body.  There were no wounds and the solider suddenly realised that the blood belonged to the Russian.  Tears rolled down his face.

“I could have sworn he’d got you, Rudi.  He was just so close.  It’s a miracle.”

Rudi licked his face.

The rest of their journey was uneventful.  The soldier found his comrades camped about four kilometres from the village.  He called to the sentries and was allowed to enter, with Rudi at his side.  He was greeted warmly, they thought he’d been killed.  But the joy he felt at his safe return wasn’t to last.  His squad leader took him to one side, his face serious.

“I have bad news, kamerad.”

“What?”

“I’m sorry.  Your dog was killed just after we left this morning.  A stray shell hit the camp kitchen.”

“That can’t be.  He’s with me now.  He came and found me, just an hour ago.  He protected me, saved my life.  He brought me back to the camp.”

The squad leader pointed to a small shape, covered with a burlap sheet.  A paw stuck out from one side.  It was Rudi.  The soldier looked down, there was no longer a dog by his side.  He knelt by the body of his friend, feeling a grief that can only be experienced when a beloved animal dies.  The words sung over the graves of fallen comrades came into his head.  Ich hatte einen Kamerdan.  As he wept a wet nose touched his hand.  He reached out and felt familiar soft fur.  The soldier smiled, grieving no longer.  Amidst this hellish conflict he felt a brief moment of joy.  He hadn’t lost his best friend.  Rudi would be by his side forever.

 

 

 

RJ Meldrum

R. J. Meldrum is an author and academic. Born in Scotland, he moved to Canada in 2010 where he now lives in splendid isolation in rural Ontario with his wife, Sally. His interest in the supernatural and ghostly is a lifetime obsession and when he isn’t writing or teaching, he is busy working to increase his collection of rare and vintage supernatural books. He has had stories published by Horrified Press, Sirens Call Publications and James Ward Kirk Fiction.

You can find out more about R.J. at http://wolfstarpublishing.com/meldrum/.

The Tender Spot

By: Andy Brown

I’d been picking at it for a week when it really started to throb.

Just a spot on my leg… More a boil, really…

I had to do something about it so I squeezed it hard.

It just throbbed more.

I squeezed it again and it burst open. Pus squirted out and poured onto my leg, yellow and foul smelling…

I dabbed at it with an antiseptic tissue, mopping up the pus and the blood.

There was a moment of huge relief as the throbbing lessened.

Then I saw the eyeball…

It looked out from the open wound… At me…

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” any more…

Granny Gwen

By: Hillary Lyon

“Granny Gwen, who is the man in this picture?”

“Let me see, child. There’s your brother Montgomery, and Mommy,” Gwen said, tracing her finger along the old photo.

“But who’s that man standing next to Mommy? Daddy?”

“No, hon. That gentleman is Mr. Scratch.” Granny Gwen sighed and smiled knowingly. She returned the heavy silver frame to the gold-gilt Louis XV curio cabinet.

“Is he family?” The girl frowned. “And since when do I have a brother?”

“No, dear, he’s the devil.”

The little girl gasped.

“We made a deal and traded up. How do you think we got here?”

Hillary Lyon

Hillary Lyon lives in southern Arizona, where she is the founder and editor
for Subsynchronous Press. Her stories have appeared recently in Black
Petals, 365 Tomorrows, Night to Dawn, Eternal Haunted Summer and numerous
horror anthologies. Since childhood, she’s loved all things frisson-y.
You can find out more about Hillary at: hillarylyon.wordpress.com.

Hunger Moon

By: Jennifer Canaveral

The newlyweds sat against a spruce tree, the glow of lunar light shining down on their weakened bodies. A romantic romp in the Alaskan wilderness gone awry after fresh snow covered their tracks back to their cabin. Two days passed. Still lost.

Her husband snuck their last energy bar without her knowing. He forgot it had peanuts. He forgot his injectable epinephrine.

His agonal breathing echoed throughout the forest, drawing shadows into the moonlight. Sets of yellow eyes emerged from the trees and surrounded the couple. They don’t eat humans, the wife thought, but they looked famished. They looked merciless.

Jennifer Canaveral

Jennifer Canaveral is an aspiring writer from San Francisco, CA. She is a veteran of the US Coast Guard, where she served nine years. After spending time as a sailor and as a corpsmen, she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of writing. She has had a short story published through *Sanitarium Magazine* as well as a flash fiction piece on the website, Friday Flash Fiction. She currently lives in Kodiak, Alaska with her husband and three children.

The Real Bogey Man

By: Liz Butcher

Quillon crouched in the darkest corner of the room, hidden from sight.
Though weak, he knew the boy still sensed his presence. He could see him trembling under the bed covers, too scared to tear his gaze from where the monster hid in the shadows.
Quillon welcomed the fear, it strengthened him and as it came to him in waves, he felt himself grow stronger, taller.
The rapid pounding of the boy’s heart was music to his ears as he stretched his arms out, scratching his nails against the walls.
With a guttural growl, he lunged, welcoming the boy’s screams.

Liz Butcher

Liz Butcher resides in Brisbane, Australia, with her husband, daughter, and two cats, Pandora and Zeus. While writing is her passion, her numerous interests include psychology, history, astronomy, the paranormal, mythology, reading, art and music – all which help fuel her imagination. She also loves being out in nature, especially amongst the trees or near the water. Liz has published a number of short stories in anthologies and currently has a multitude of projects in the works including her upcoming novel, ‘Fates Revenge’.

You can find out more about Liz at her homepage.

Trembling With Fear 02/05/2017

‘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.

We’re on the second month of “Trembling With Fear” and are still going strong!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Hello Mr. Magpie

By: Ross Baxter

Sophie looked at her watch again in frustration; Jim had kept her waiting for nearly twenty minutes now, even though he knew she needed to be home to collect her daughter from art class. She sighed heavily, bitterly regretting ever offering Jim a ride home from work. As she had to drive past his house on her daily commute she had offered to give her colleague a lift whilst he fixed his broken car, but over three weeks later it was still not on the road. She had not really known him before, but during the increasingly tedious rides to and from the office, she had learned more about him than she ever wanted to know. Just as she opened her car door to return inside to find him he saw him stroll out of the front doors of the office and slowly made his way across the car park towards her.

“I told you I needed to leave at five!” she frowned.

“Yeah, but something came up,” he explained casually. “I’m sure whatever you’re going to do can wait a few minutes.”

“My eight-year-old daughter and her teacher would probably disagree,” she muttered, starting the engine.

Jim said nothing and unhurriedly climbed in. Sophie put the battered Ford into gear and roared off towards the outskirts of town. Luckily the traffic was light but she doubted she could get to the school in time. Another round of apologies to the teacher and to her daughter was not what she needed after a stressful day, and she started to think about what she was going to say.

“Just pull in at the shop on the left,” said Jim. “I need some beers for the game tonight.”

“You’re kidding me?”

“I won’t be long,” said Jim.

“I’ve already told you how late I am! My daughter is already going to be really upset, as is her teacher.”

“Oh, come on!” Jim cried, sounding more like a churlish teenager than the forty-year-old he was.

“Sorry,” Sophie shot back. “Perhaps you can fix your car instead of watching the game?”

Jim shook his head and looked longingly at the off-licence as they drove past.

After a couple of roundabouts they soon emerged on the country road which led towards where Jim lived, and she speeded up a little. Jim gave her a disapproving look.

“You know the limit is forty here?” he muttered.

“I’m late,” she answered, looking at the empty road ahead.

Jim tutted to himself and then for the next five minutes kept openly glancing at the speedometer as they drove in silence. Suddenly he stared incredulously at his colleague as she appeared to salute and then mumble a few inaudible words behind her hand.

“What the hell did you just do?” he asked.

“Pardon?” Sophie asked back, keeping her eyes fixed on the road ahead as she steered the old Ford around a sharp bend.

“You just saluted and muttered something,” said Jim accusingly.

“Oh, I saw a magpie,” Sophie replied.

“And?”

Sophie sighed. Having to put up with the boorish and opinionated Jim for the twenty-minute ride was becoming more and more of a challenge every day.

“Why did you just salute a stupid bird?” Jim pushed.

“Because it’s bad luck not to,” she explained. “It is good luck to see two magpies together, but if you see a single one you’re supposed to greet it and say ‘Hello Mr. Magpie’.”

“Are you superstitious?”

“No,” said Sophie.

“Then why does a grown woman openly salute and talk to a dumb bird?”

“My family have always done it. I suppose it’s a bit of a tradition going back as long as we can remember.”

“So you are superstitious,” Jim scoffed loudly. “That is so lame! I really expected more from you.”

Sophie shrugged and returned her attention to the road.

“So, are you from a family of superstitious Leprechauns?” Jim continued. “Are your days ruled by avoiding black cats, not walking under ladders, and not getting out of bed on Halloween?”

“No,” said Sophie flatly. “It’s just the magpies. I’ve never given it much thought really.”

“Obviously,” sneered Jim. “I’m not sure if you realize but we do actually live in the twenty-first century and not the eighteenth. It’s time to forget about stupid superstitions, especially nonsense about greeting magpies. I can’t believe how some people still believe in such claptrap!”

Sophie said nothing, trying instead to control her anger at her boorish passenger. She had greeted magpies ever since she could remember; it was no big deal but she knew Jim was not going to let it drop.

“All superstitions are nonsense designed to frighten the weak and the ignorant; flesh and bone can’t be harmed by old wives tales,” Jim ranted on.

“Whatever,” Sophie said, trying to concentrate on driving.

“We’ve put a man on the moon; you’d think stupid superstitions would be a thing long consigned to the dustbin of history!”

Sophie ignored him; her attention drawn to a black and white bird pecking at roadkill on the narrow road ahead. She started to slow the car.

“You have got to be joking?” Jim sneered. “Just run it over!”

“Hello Mr. Magpie,” Sophie yelled loudly, flipping an extravagantly fancy salute as she slowed the car.

The magpie looked at the approaching vehicle and quickly flew off, but Sophie stopped the car anyway.

“Why the hell have you stopped?”

“Get out Jim; you can walk from here,” she said calmly.

“But my house is over a mile away!” Jim spluttered in surprise. “I can’t walk from here.”

“You are the most self-opinionated and bigoted man I have ever met,” said Sophie. “Instead of wasting energy on your constant lecturing, I suggest you spend it on fixing your car. Now get out!”

Shocked and for once speechless, Jim grudgingly unfastened his seat belt and opened the door.  As soon as he was out Sophie gunned the engine of her elderly car and roared off, leaving him alone by the empty roadside. He could not understand what he had said to make her so angry and resolved to formally complain to her manager in the morning.

As he started to trudge up the deserted country lane the thought of making trouble for Sophie cheered him up. Dozens of possible stories flooded his mind, and after five minutes of walking he finally decided he would say that he had asked to get out of the car because Sophie had made a pass at him, That felt plausible, especially as he was sure that most of the women at work actually did want to make a pass at him. Spreading that story would not only get Sophie into trouble, but it would also remind his other female co-workers what an absolute catch he was. Maybe one of them would offer to give him a ride to and from the office; although he had actually fixed his car two weeks ago he did enjoy getting a free commute.

Thinking up the ultimate story to completely discredit Sophie in the eyes of her colleagues was fun, and by the time he reached the bend on the last rise it had completely absorbed him. He did not see the truck speeding over the rise, and in the failing afternoon light the truck driver failed to see Jim as he took the corner wide whilst re-tuning the radio. The loud music masked the thud as the lorry’s offside mudguard glanced off the surprised Jim, and the trucker drove on oblivious.

The blow knocked Jim senseless for a few minutes. When he finally came too he found himself face-down in the dirt at the edge of the deserted road, confused as to how he got there. Then he remembered being thrown out of the car by Sophie, all because he told her it was stupid to believe in superstitions. With rage and indignation, he tried to clamber up but something was wrong.

Nothing would respond; he could not move his legs, arms or even his head. He felt no pain except for in his eyes which were full of grit, each blink causing him to cry out in agony. But his cries were silent.

But his cries were silent. Next, he saw the blur of a black and white shape hopping towards him. The magpie stopped inches from his face, coldly peering into Jim’s bloodshot eyes.

Then it started to peck hungrily at flesh and bone.

Ross Baxter

Ross Baxter

Author

After thirty years at sea, Ross Baxter now concentrates on writing sci-fi and horror fiction. His varied work has been published in print by numerous publishing houses in US and UK short-story anthologies. In December 2014 he won the Horror Novel Review.Com best creation short fiction prize.

Married to a Norwegian and with two Anglo-Viking kids, he now lives in Derby, England.

You can check out Ross’s work on Amazon right here and take a look at his homepage for more information.

Mrs. Margolis

By: Greg Moss

Mrs. Margolis lived in the house across the street from me.
Every night on the way home from school she was visible through her window, as she sat and knitted in front of the TV. One night she invited me round to help her with some chores, and I reluctantly accepted, she was going to pay me and I’d be able to afford the Spiderman graphic novel I’d been eyeing up.
Of course I was surprised that evening, as after she called me into her house, I found her dead in front of the TV.
Maggots crawling in her eyes.

Greg Moss

Greg Moss is a 27 year old English graduate currently living in the north west of England. He started writing before he turned 10 and still has his very first ‘novel’ that he put together with staples and sellotape. Growing up on a steady diet of Goosebumps and Point Horror books, it didn’t take him long to get lost in the stories of Lovecraft, King, Barker, and many others. He now spends his time writing alone in a dark room at night and looking after his three cats, Wednesday, Prince, and Ziggy.

Bath Time

By: Stephanie Ellis

Every drip ate away at the rusted tub. Corrosion and time had done their worst. Nothing remained. And yet ears listened although they only heard blessed silence. Eyes watched, transfixed as they witnessed every flicker of disintegration.

On the wall hung the Waste Disposal outfit: the dirty yellow boiler suit, heavy gauge gloves and thick protective visor. He was very careful with the chemicals he handled, had a healthy respect – awe you could say – for what they could do.

Despair and resignation claimed her as he refilled the tub. She had given up trying to escape.

It was bath time.

Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis is a TeachingAssistant in a Southampton secondary school but previously worked for many years as a technical author. Her genre fiction short stories have found success in Massacre and Sanitarium magazines as well as a variety of horror anthologies. She is also an active member of theFlashDogs flash fiction online community where most of her contributions are of the darker kind.

You can find out more about Stephanie at: http://stephellis.weebly.com/.

The Greatest Love

By: Paul Starkey

I fell in love the moment we met. How could I not? She was so young and vibrant. We went everywhere together, did everything together. I never thought it would last forever, only a fool imagines any romance ever does, but I thought we’d have many years together.
Sadly it was not to be.
She gave me her heart. Her other organs were placed in storage, eventually I’ll need them too.
I loved her, but I’ll love my next clone just as much. Hopefully we’ll enjoy a much longer courtship before our love must be consummated on the operating table.

Paul Starkey

Paul Starkey lives in Nottingham, England and has been writing for many years. He’s had stories published in the UK, US and Australia, including being published by Ticonderoga publications, Alchemy Press, Fox Spirit, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and the British Fantasy Society journal. In 2015 his novella The Lazarus Conundrum was published by Abaddon Books. He’s also self-published several novels. 

He blogs about films, books and writing at werewolvesonthemoon.wordpress.com/
His UK Amazon page can be found at here
His US Amazon page can be found at  here

Ghost of a Smile

By: Ken MacGregor

Ben had been haunting me for days. The moment he died, his ghost appeared. The apparition wore Ben’s favorite shirt: the orange one with the ink-stain on the cuff. He was smiling.

My brother was always happy. Some people are impossible to depress.

I watched the undersize coffin lower into the ground. Mom tossed a handful of dirt; her eyes were red with constant tears.

Beside me, Ben began to fade, starting at the feet. As more dirt fell, more of Ben disappeared. Finally, like the Cheshire Cat, there was only his smile.

That faded, too and he was gone.

Ken MacGregor

Ken MacGregor’s written work has appeared in dozens of anthologies and magazines, and the occasional podcast. His story collection, AN ABERRANT MIND is available online and in select bookstores. His second collection, SEX, GORE & MILLIPEDES comes out later this month. He edits an annual anthology ( RECURRING NIGHTMARES ) for the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers. Ken is an Affiliate member of HWA. He has also written TV commercials, sketch comedy, a music video, and even a zombie movie. Recently, he co-wrote a novel and is working on the sequel. Ken lives in Michigan with his family and three cats, one of whom is dead but still haunts the place.
Homepage: http://ken-macgregor.com/.

Trembling With Fear 01/29/2017

‘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.

We’re closing out the first month of ‘Trembling With Fear’ and submissions are still coming in strong. I hope you’ve been enjoying reading these as much as I’ve been enjoying putting them together!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Interred

By: Ryan Neil Falcone

My god—they’re going to bury me alive!

Phil Kersey’s mind churned with turmoil moments after awakening to find that he was lying in a coffin, unable to move. That he had no recollection of how he came to be in this predicament was as disconcerting as the paralysis itself. Even his eyes were unresponsive; in an attempt to get his bearings, he slowly took stock of his surroundings using his peripheral vision.  The room he was in had the unmistakable décor of a funeral parlor.

This was a funeral. His funeral.

The shocking epiphany was interrupted when the open space above his coffin was suddenly occupied by a looming figure.  It took a moment for his unfocused eyes to coalesce on the somber face of his brother-in-law. Curtis was his daughter’s godparent, a frequent golfing partner, and an even more frequent drinking buddy.  More importantly, he was also a doctor.

I have to signal him … let him know that I’m not dead…

He first tried to speak, then to lift his hand to get Curtis’s attention, but nothing happened either time. Instead, he remained silent and motionless as the gurney the coffin laid upon was pushed down a lengthy corridor.  From the way his head was positioned, he could see that the man pushing him was his wife’s oldest brother, Perry, a mortician. His heart began to race when Perry began to discuss perfunctory burial arrangements with his wife.

How had he gotten here?  What the hell had happened?  It took the full measure of his concentration to block out the blinding intensity of the migraine he was experiencing, which shrouded his memory.

I’m a pharmaceutical sales rep.  I have a wife and a daughter and drive a red Porsche. My wife calls it the “mid-life crisis-mobile” and complains that the vanity license plate is tacky…  I was driving home from a sales conference when…

He shuddered involuntarily.  Something about that specific memory was frightening.

Why couldn’t he remember?

Roads thick with ice and snow… his attention instead focused on the redheaded woman sitting next to him in the passenger seat…

His wife?

No… his wife had brown hair… someone else …

His attention snapped back to the present when he heard his wife ask for a final minute alone with him before they loaded the coffin into the hearse.  She waited until the others left the room before reaching into the coffin to pluck off his sunglasses.

“I know you can hear me,” she began, the distinct lack of pity in her eyes causing a shudder to ripple down his spine.  “Curtis assures me that you’re awake, you only look dead.  The reason you can’t move is because I drugged you with tetrodotoxin—an extract from puffer fish toxin.  The proper dose can paralyze an adult man for hours, even though they’re fully conscious.

“Since your condition wouldn’t fool medical professionals, I needed to enlist my brothers to exact revenge.  Curtis was the one who pronounced you dead at the hospital. Perry made sure that you weren’t embalmed when they brought you to the funeral home—because I want you to be awake to experience what comes next.

“I’m going to bury you now,” she continued, roughly stuffing the sunglasses back down onto his face. “But not in our family plot—I’m going to plant you next to where she’s buried. The toxin won’t wear off for another few hours, which will give you plenty of time to think about what you’ve done.”

Her face tightened into a disgusted sneer as she threw a fluorescent, Halloween glow stick into the coffin. “Goodbye, Philip—may you rot in hell.”

A shriek of claustrophobic terror echoed in his mind after she slammed the casket’s lid shut, sealing him inside.

Jarring around inside the casket as the hearse traveled toward the cemetery, he tried to make understand what his wife had told him.  Her chilling words echoed in his mind, but none of what she’d said made sense.  Their marriage was far from perfect, but what could he have done to deserve such a fate?  Surely she wasn’t capable of murder… if she went through with this, she’d have blood on her hands.

Blood on her hands …

Oh god …

All at once, the memory that had previously eluded him came back in full, vivid detail.

Red Porsche … snow covered roads … his fingers tapping on the steering wheel to the song blaring on the radio … wedding ring moved to the pinky finger of his left hand … the designer sunglasses he was wearing were a gift from the redheaded woman riding next to him … his gaze descended, stopping to admire the toned contour of her legs… 

Not his wife … someone else … Bethany Milton, a coworker with whom he’d been having an affair … the fling had started casually, but it hadn’t been long before he was spending late nights at the office and going out of town on “business trips” in order to spend time with her …

Making a quick stop for a clandestine encounter at a hotel one the way home from a sales conference… distracted by the memory of what they’d done… being startled when the windshield was illuminated by the headlights of an oncoming car …

Slamming on the brakes… skidding out of control on the icy roads… Bethany’s terrified scream before impact silenced by the sound of twisting metal and shattered glass… upside down in a ditch… his shock at seeing Bethany with shards of glass protruding from her face… blood streaming down arms outstretched over her head, trickling down onto the tattered remnant of the Porsche’s convertible top …

The horrid recollection was chased away when he felt the coffin being lifted from the vehicle.  He again tried to shout for help, but his paralyzed body betrayed him yet again, and he remained silent even as the coffin was lowered into the grave.  Moments after the casket came to rest at the bottom of the hole, the first shovelful of dirt careened loudly against the coffin’s lid. The noise eventually grew fainter as more and more dirt was piled on. When it faded entirely, he was left with the horrific realization that he’d been entombed.

I have to get out of this coffin! If I could somehow force the lid open… 

His panic gave way to hopefulness when he felt his face twitch.  Now that he was thinking about it, he could also feel his chest now rising and falling as he breathed.  He again tried to move his hand… and finally succeeded.  Whatever his wife had poisoned him seemed to be wearing off.  But was it too late?  Would he run out of air before the paralysis wore off?

This terrible notion was immeasurably worsened moments later when the glow stick his wife had placed in the coffin suddenly winked out. Surrounded by suffocating darkness, a primal scream rose in his throat, growing louder as the use of his vocal chords finally returned.

Fueled by adrenaline, he began to thrash, ineffectually smashing his uncooperative hands and feet against the interior of the coffin.  Sobbing, he lay trapped for what seemed like an eternity, screaming for help—his pathetic cries dying in his throat only when he heard a noise coming from outside the coffin.  Straining to listen, a wave of warm relief spread throughout his body—somebody was digging him out!

A few minutes later, he heard scraping on the outside of his coffin.  Relieved anticipation gave way to astonishment when the top of the casket splintered above him, pouring dirt inside until the flow was choked off by something slithering through the opening. He knew at once that it was Bethany; not even the absolute blackness of being underground prevented him from seeing how corpse-like her once beautiful face had become. The stench of decay overpowered the familiar scent of her lilac perfume, and he began to hyperventilate as the imaginary presence caused the few remaining strands of his sanity to fully unravel.

Gasping as the last of the oxygen in the casket was used up, the terrified man’s dying scream was cut short when the hallucinatory revenant encircled skeletal hands around his throat and began to squeeze.

Ryan Neil Falcone’s short stories have been published in numerous horror, sci fi, and fantasy themed markets including Stupefying Stories, Dark Eclipse, and Macabre Cadaver, as well as numerous commercially available print anthologies. He currently serves as a story editor for Dark Moon Books and Dark Moon Digest, and is an active member of Cornell University’s Irving Literary Society. His platform of work is summarized at:
www.ryanneilfalcone.com.

Young Love

By: Rose Blackthorn

“Mrs. Matthew Brentner. Kacey Brentner. Mrs. Brentner. Matthew and Kacey Brentner.” Kacey doodled the different versions of the name that would (she hoped) one day be hers, tongue-tip protruding from her mouth without her noticing.

“Kacey,” her mother called from downstairs. “Are you up there?”

“Yeah, Mom,” she called back. She set her notebook aside as she rolled off her stomach and sat up on the bed.

“Come down here, please. The police have some questions for us about that missing boy from your school.”

Kacey shushed the bound and gagged boy in her closet. “I’ll be back soon, Matt.”

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.
More info can be found at:
http://roseblackthorn.wordpress.com/
http://amazon.com/author/roseblackthorn.

Turning Tides

By: KC Grifant

The quivering masses bobbed above the shipwreck, trailing a plum-colored cloud.

 

Maggie tapped on her underwater camera. With the warming ocean temperatures, jellies were reproducing at unprecedented rates, spawning never before seen species.

 

It was beautiful until tentacles wrenched off her snorkeling mask. She kicked upwards but felt both electrified and numb. Neurotoxins, she thought. Her mind glommed around an emphatic declaration:

 

Ours.

 

Each flick of the buzzing tentacles onto her face imparted a new vision: massive jellies swallowed ships, clogged harbors, suffocated whole cities. Her throat gasped, desperate.

 

Ours.

 

The continents sparkled with purple dust, the seas liquid amethyst.

KC Grifant

KC Grifant is a New England-to-SoCal transplant who writes horror, fantasy and scifi, with a particular focus on emerging technologies, biomedicine and mythology. The founding co-chair of the Horror Writers Association’s San Diego Chapter, KC has written stories for the Lovecraft Ezine, Electric Spec and two anthologies, What Has Two Heads, Ten Eyes, and Terrifying Table Manners? and Frightmare: Women who Write Horror.

Homepage: www.SciFiWri.com.
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/KC-Grifant/e/B01B3O66AY.

Tryst

By: Amanda Bergloff

The moon appeared red above the crypt. She picked black roses and sang a song to the dead. A song without words, yet it was full of despair. It was melancholy and macabre.

He listened as he stared at the dark stars. When she turned to look at him, he found meaning and purpose in her soulless eyes. He reached out his cold hand, and they shared black-hearted whispers until just before dawn.

When the sky began to lighten, they walked to the crypt for their final goodnight. Madness awaited them as they joined with the mist.

Morbid phantasm….eternal tryst.

Amanda Bergloff is a speculative fiction writer who has had short stories included in anthologies published by World Weaver Press, Darkhouse Books, and Transmundane Press, along withe the e-zines, The Flash Fiction Press, 200 CC’s, Speculative 66, and Enchanted Conversation. She lives in Denver, Colorado, and collects books, toys, and comics. She paints and writes daily, and the inside of her mind looks like 1950’s sci fi pulp art.

It Sleeps

By: Stuart Conover

Deep beneath the great pyramids, it sleeps. Entombed in worship, in sacrifice, trapped within its own shattered mind.
Within the earth, beyond the tunnel, stairs, and abyss below.
Buried in sand, darkness, and time.
It slumbers, a darkness held in check by dreams.
But all things that sleep eventually awaken.
Slumbering in silence the drums beat once more. Calling to it, to them. The believers once more practicing the ancient rights. Some for power and some to awaken the sleepers.
Woe to the world when the great beast opens its eyes and births once more the creatures of the night.

Stuart Conover is a father, husband, rescue dog owner, horror author, blogger, journalist, horror enthusiast, comic book geek, science fiction junkie, and IT professional. With all of that to cram in on a daily basis, it is highly debatable that he ever is able to sleep and rumors have him attached to an IV drip of caffeine to get through most days.

Oh yes, he’s also the editor at a little site known as HorrorTree.com

A resident in the suburbs of Chicago (and once upon a time in the city) most of Stuart’s fiction takes place in the Midwest if not the Windy City itself. From downtown to the suburbs to the cornfields – the area is ripe for urban horror of all facets.

You can find out more about him at: StuartConover.com.

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