Can you believe that we’re in our second quarter of the year already and I’ve still been able to keep ‘Trembling With Fear’ going strong for you fine folks? Honestly, I’m a little shocked too. Timewise, fitting this in has been crazy with how nuts this year has been. With the popularity it has received I’d love to expand it on short stories (as we still get far too few drabbles) but that is a long-term option that I’ll have to explore.

Offhand, does anyone have a good resource for formatting books/ebooks? If we do get this to the point where an anthology would be released, it is outside my budget to get formatting done so is a skill I would have to learn. Ideally, not in December while trying to finish scheulding the year and getting the first anthology put together!

‘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 Gift

By: Paul Wooldridge

He shut the door, cutting himself off. Jeff was glad to be out of the board room. He closed his eyes, appreciating the relative quiet of his office. Stretching his shoulders, he sighed and ran a hand over his stomach. All bought and paid for, he thought. He walked around the desk and let the leather chair take his weight. He listened to the low rumble from the factory beneath him, all his machines whirring, busy producing for him. Each one operated by his employees, men who looked to him as their boss. The shareholders were happy, orders poured in and his company continued to grow. He sighed once more.

His office was decorated with images of himself shaking hands with other men in suits, or holding oversized cheques. There were framed newspaper clippings that praised his business successes or his charitable donations. “Local Lad Makes Good,” read one headline. Jeff smiled.

The photographs that lined his walls were of business men but on his desk there were pictures of one particular woman. A number of years his junior, the women displayed a highly polished smile. She stood in cocktail dresses, or lounged in swimwear, brandishing cocktails. She was slim, tanned and her blonde bob was well maintained. Jeff felt a flush of pride. He was a success, there couldn’t be any doubt. He was closing in on his fiftieth birthday and there wasn’t much he hadn’t accomplished, there wasn’t much he wanted that he didn’t already have.

Jeff picked up a newspaper and began flicking through it. A local girl had gone missing, a single mother of seven bemoaned the cuts to her benefits, and youths had stripped the lead from a nearby church roof. The front page showed a photo of the missing girl, peering out from behind long ginger locks. Inside, the single mother held up her benefits letter, looking suitably miserable. Jeff tutted. Idiots, he thought, either incapable of looking after their own kids or unable to stop having them. The parents deserved to have their daughter go missing, and as for that bloated chav, she should be sterilised.

The other pages covered numerous prosecutions, a local stabbing and various ASBOs. Jeff was sickened by people’s failures, and particularly their excuses. Hard work and intelligence had got him where he was, not shirking or whinging. It seemed everyone was always blaming others for their stupidity. Benefit scroungers, druggies, immigrants, criminals; they all had their sob stories, they all pleaded special circumstances and demanded handouts from the weak minded liberals who indulged them, they couldn’t just make something of themselves, like he had..

In the back pages he noticed an advert for a new car dealership. Sandwiched between shiny soft tops, a blonde girl caressed their paint work and beamed above an ample bust. Jeff briefly noted the cars but found his attention lingering on the girl. Blinking, he pulled his thoughts from her and smiled again at the pictures on his desk.

#

Jeff made his way to his car, parked in a named space closest to the entrance. He looked down at his BMW and wondered if an upgrade might be necessary. Once inside he ran his hands over the steering wheel and marvelled at the lights displaying the car’s numerous high-tech capabilities. He turned on the radio and steered the vehicle out of the car park, out of the trading estate, and headed for home.

It wasn’t long before he’d left the city’s outskirts and was driving, speedily, through country lanes. The radio had offered some of his favourite tracks which raised his spirits. He’d sang along to Dire Straits but, as he drew nearer to the iron fence that ringed the estate, the radio news update began. The reporter summarised the headlines, the escalating refugee crisis near Calais, the missing girl- how she’d last been seen being approached by an unknown female- and the political turmoil surrounding Brexit. Jeff switched it off.

He entered the estate passing large homes, each surrounded by manicured lawns and sweeping driveways. He swung the car up, past the water feature, and brought it to rest outside his double garage. He got out and moved, as quickly as his large frame would allow, past the Grecian columns and up the steps to the front door. Inside, he removed his jacket and called out to his wife.

He moved through the reception room and entered the open plan kitchen, calling out once more,

“Kate?”

He poured himself a whiskey, a little perplexed as to why his wife had not responded. He was back at his usual time, she would normally be waiting for him, either in the kitchen preparing a meal, or in the bedroom, preparing herself. He removed his tie, undid his top button and felt the flesh of his neck spill forward. Then he heard something, or at least thought he did. A murmur, something faint. Jeff listening intently. There it was again, a brief intake of breath. He turned towards the basement door. It was open. That door’s never open, he thought. The sound came again, like a whimper. It was coming from the basement.

Jeff grabbed an empty wine bottle and approached the door, gently pushing it open. The steps stretched out, down into the darkness beneath him.

“Hello?” he called.

Immediately there was the sound of fumbling, as of something dragging itself across the floor. His heart jumped. He took a step back. There was something, or someone, down there, hiding beneath his home. Jeff gritted his teeth. How dare they break into my house. He adjusted his grip off the bottle and began his descent.

“You bastards, you’re in for it now!” he barked.

Half way down he pulled a string and the room below light up in a faint glow.

“Come on then!” he bellowed as he turned into the basement.

Jeff gasped. He stopped dead with the bottle brandished above his head, his heart pounding. In the far corner, crouched against the cold stone of the basement, was a young girl. She turned away, scraping her bare feet on the floor and hiding herself behind her tattered dress. Her face was hidden but over her hands flowed long red hair.

“Wha?” he muttered.

Before he could process the scene a high pitched click came from the stairs behind him. He spun around.

Click, click, click.

Each sharp sound echoed off the walls as, gradually, a pair of high heels came into view. The figure stopped at the foot of the stairs. She was tall and her legs were crisscrossed by fishnet stockings. She wore a corset and her blonde hair hung in a perfect bob. She stood there staring at him, her dark red lips parting into a smile.

Jeff struggled to speak, “Wha…. What?” His words getting lost in his erratic breath.

“Happy Birthday, Honey,” she said, “I thought you’d like a red head,” nodding towards the young girl cowering in the corner.

Jeff looked at his wife, then, as the realisation dawned on him, stepped forward. He cradled her head in one hand, gripped her buttocks with the other, and greedily pushed his tongue into her mouth.

 

Paul Wooldridge

Paul Wooldridge

Although new to short fiction I have had a piece published by Storgy, as well as poetry appear in The New Humanist Magazine, About Larkin (The quarterly magazine for the Philip Larkin Society), The Fat Damsel, The Cannon’s Mouth, A Swift Exit, The Good Funeral Guide and Graffiti Magazine.

The Survivor’s Musuem

“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.

Her work has appeared in No Rest for the Wicked Anthology and Flashes in the Dark Ezine.

Bathtub

You could hear the fireworks and smell the meat on the grill from a block away. Andre waited outside the bathroom for his sister to come out. Knock Knock knock, that was Andre’s anxiously beating on the door.

“Hurry up Susan other people need to get in there”

Andre lost his patience and said, “I’m coming in if you aren’t coming out.”

Andre opened the door and he didn’t see his sister, so he kept walking and he decided to look in the bathtub, so he pulled on the shower curtain and saw his sister lying in the bathtub motionless.

Maci Mills

My name is Maci Mills I live with my family and my two cats will and Lou. I love to read and write mystery stories. My favorite book is Me Before You.

Little Leanne

When Mrs. Lisa’s baby went missing Paul and Momma went over and prayed.  They knelt and prayed that Jesus would watch over that baby.  She was only year old, and Mrs. Lisa had just walked to check the mail when she disappeared.  The whole park was scared.

Later, while his Momma slept, Paul snuck outside and under their trailer.  He pulled little Leanne out of the hole he had dug for her and sat with the body.  He read the Bible, and he knew God demanded sacrifice to answer prayers, and he really wanted a new bike for his birthday.

Patrick Broussard

Patrick Broussard lives in Louisiana with his daughter, five dogs, three cats, and two fish that ate all the rest and gained immortality. He works as a delivery driver to pay the bills and spends his free time reading and writing horror fiction and collecting comics. His house is filled with more animals, books, and comics than any rational person would allow.

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