Unholy Trinity: Mommy Fearest by Margo Rife

Our church worships at the altar of the Unholy Trinity. Its gospels are delivered as a trio of dark drabbles, linked so that Three become One. All hail the power of the Three.

Inspiration for my Unholy Trinity Drabbles coincided with the arrival of a trio of large Wolf Spiders. The duo that settled in a huge web in the corner of my front window were easy to eliminate. But the third hitched a ride into the house in a potted plant. Online research warned that the female spider carries her babies–numbering in the hundreds–on her back and they can hatch and hide in one’s residence. – Margo Rife 

Mommy Fearest

My babies are dying of thirst. No water source. If my midnight plan doesn’t work, my precious ones turn against me. Suck me dry. So, this human baby must save my spiderlings. 

We gave birth the same week. Our abdomens ripped open. 100 eggs vs one. 

The chubby pink spawn silently sleeps. My babies’ venom will swiftly liquefy its internal organs. I descend on a silken thread to land on its soft belly and bite. The pink blob screams. Drops of salty liquid stream from its gelatinous blue orbs. 

Hop off your mama and drink, my babies. Bite and drink. 


Spider to the Fly

“Won’t you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly.

Hey! Come inside my bar. You’re getting wet. 

What’s a lovely thing like you doing out on a night like this?

So he wove a subtle web.

Dante, get this poor creature a Night & Fog. Drink it, frail one.

Your eyes shine like diamonds. You tremble. Are you high?

Let’s lie you down. My sheets are fine and thin.

No need to help, Dante. She’s light as gauze.

He dragged her up his winding stair.

Hey, beautiful. Welcome to my den.

Frail One was never seen again.


In Memory of Kevin

Power Point presentation to CEO’s at Spencer Scientific Labs.

Click.  Decades of dedicated lab research

Click.  to create synthetic spider webs that are

Click. stronger than steel—tougher than Kevlar. 

Clink. No army can penetrate these giant structures. 

Click. Molecules unexpectedly morph into glue. The idea was to trap not enslave.

Click. Skeletal remains of the terrorist group El-Traleet. Isn’t that web stupendous?

Click. Wasting bodies of Venezuelan immigrants. The glistening is the glue.

Click. Fly-infested hanging goat carcasses in Iran. Webs are a work-in-progress.

Click. In Memory of Kevin our first intern. He looks peaceful hanging from that web.

Margo Rife

Margo seems to be drawn to small word count. As a playwright, she has had two short monologues performed by the Women’s Theatre Festival and MOJOAA Performing Arts. She is also fascinated with flash fiction. It’s a new obsession and she hopes to someday meld her writing and graphic design skills. Inspired by a member of her writing group, she is expanding into the horror genre. 

Plays available on NPX site. New Plays Exchange.com

Flash Fiction: Goodnight Shark, Down the Rabbit Hole Darkly, I am Cheetos…hear me roar, Diary of a Lazy Eye.

Serial Killers: I See the Lake. Part 2

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

I See the Lake. Part 2

Then they began to undress and the cry stuck in my throat. Each wore a shapeless dress, one I remember was bold green, and when they lifted them over their heads, there were no panties beneath. The girls tossed their clothes aside and were as bare as newborns.

Try understand. I’d never seen nude women other than the two-dimensional creatures that lived inside my magazines and even with the distance between us I could make out the happy circles around their nipples and fuzzy patches of hair, two brunettes and one fair.

Not surprising to say, but the flaming nail lost my attention, so it was by complete accident I realised it had disappeared. I scoured the surface but the lake had returned to glass, no trace of disturbance. Five decades of self-doubt was the price I paid for taking my eyes off that fire, but at the time I didn’t care. I was happy to say goodbye, felt a knot loosen in my chest once the flame was gone.

The surrounding rock megaphoned the girl’s voices. One was so close to the water I half expected the lake to jump out and swallow her.

“Don’t go in the water. Go back to your campsite.”

No wonder they didn’t hear me. I didn’t want to yell, didn’t want the water to hear me.

One of them whistled and ran in. I clasped both hands over my mouth and my scream turned to saliva in my palms. She fell forward and became a blurred mass of brown hair and pale skin under the surface. I held my breath as if I were underwater with her. When her head burst out, I thought the noise was a gurgled scream.

“Ah! That’s better,” she said.

I removed my hands.

The other two waded in holding hands, then paddled chin deep into the water, the ripples circled and then happily disappeared. I even heard a sigh of bliss as one of them massaged the lake into her scalp. Those girls expected pleasure and, yes, the water obeyed, the lake loved them. The fair haired girl splashed her friends and the water landed on their faces as rain, not bullets.

But it was the same lake. There was no great space between us, no divide. I scrunched my bleeding toe and released a fresh ripple strong enough to make my eyes run. My pain, mixed with the sound of their happiness, twisted me and an unsettled feeling burrowed deep. I still feel it now, stuck to me like tar on the lungs.

A new voice blasted out the trees, made me jump.

“Hay minx, what’ya doing? You said you’d wait for us.”

Two men weaved out from the drooping branches, one walking behind the other. They were both tall, their hair long like mine, one was topless and so thin I could count his ribs from the distance.

“Aw. Tex I’m sorry babe,” one of the girls called out. She stood up and the water coursed down her back and over the curve of her buttocks. “It’s too hot. Get in here already.”

Another girl waved her hand at the boys. “Charlie, this was a perfect idea. I feel so much better. You’re coming in too, right?”

“You know I am, sweetness, be patient,” said the man named Charlie.

The boys talked with low heads and lower voices and I wondered what they were discussing so seriously. I figured they were talking about the lake, felt like nothing else in the world existed except the damn lake. The girls hooted, beckoned them in with long leg strokes. The boys attempted to ignore them, which seemed like a superpower to my young mind.

“Fuck, Linda I’m coming alright,” said the skinny man, Tex.

Charlie gripped his shoulder and made a gesture that I took to mean ‘we’ll talk later’ and the two of them undressed down to their nothings.

I didn’t call out, not this time. Those two men strolled into the water without a flinch, without even a light bruise. I puffed out. I don’t know what I did wrong but seemed I was the only son-of-a-bitch bitten by the lake.

The men sank real slow and their obvious relief felt like a massive fuck you smack in my face. I stepped backwards, feeling ultimately finished with the lake – finished with the entire holiday – but kept watching. The first stars lit up on the navy blanket above me and I continued to play chicken with the growing darkness.

Tex swam up to the fair haired girl named Linda and wrapped his arm around her teeny waist. He kissed her mouth and then her neck, and I figured that’s what love must look like. He lifted her up in his arms mid kiss, and then pulled away with a grin.

“No, Tex don’t-”

Linda kicked too late. Tex tossed her sideways and dunked her head several times under the surface. She thrashed, a drowning lamb struggling against a hyena.

“Nah man, stop it,” Charlie said. Charlie walked through the water with a girl on his back, her wet arms draped over his chest. The lake parted against his step with such infuriating ease.

“Don’t disturb the spirit of the water. There’s life in water, you know that, and if you show it respect then your body will drink up the spirit. Show some respect.”

“Yeah, Tex,” said the girl on Charlie’s back. “But don’t actually drink the water.”

“Leslie, hush,” Charlie said and Leslie was quiet.

Tex nodded and floated on his back. The third girl rested her head on Tex’s feet, as though she could fall asleep. Poor Linda took Charlie’s hand and they swirled together, Leslie holding tight as his jet pack.

“A song?” said Linda.

Charlie kissed her hand and started to sing. It was a Beatles song, goes something like, ‘she’s well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand like a lizard on a window pane…’

His voice swarmed the forest and the five swimmers moved in drunken sways. The guy had a good voice, strong without that airy hiss of breathing between the words. Leslie slid off Charlie’s back with her eyes closed and her arms moved under the water below Charlie’s waist.

Charlie stopped singing. “Thank you baby, but don’t do that, not while we have someone watching.”

He pointed towards the rock shelves above him. At me. Every muscle in my body screamed.

Someone whistled. Tex turned to where Charlie pointed and stood up in the water, and all of a sudden he didn’t look so skinny. He was certainly bigger than me.

“Howdy,” Linda waved with both hands. Someone slapped her hands down, but I wasn’t watching to see who. I was climbing. I lurched up the rough stairs of boulders, ducking under branches as I hopped off the rock shelf. A bright pain radiated up my leg, the gash on my toe left a trail of bloody breadcrumbs. The rocks I’d skipped down not so long before I now scrambled to climb up. I never took a backwards glance of the lake and I’m mighty grateful I didn’t.

I reached the top of the sunken forest ledge, the opening between the trees lay dead ahead. That’s as far as I got. Tex caught me by the elbow and pushed me into the dry mud, I caught a rock with my face and grazed my cheek.

“You make yourself comfortable in the dirt, alright?” He yelled without volume. “Don’t move.”

I nodded and sank my head into mud. My t-shirt and pants lay on the rock shelf where I left them, and the sticks and snags prodded my bare chest. My heartbeat prodded right back.

Ash Tudor

Ash Tudor is a horror writer from Perth, Australia who hides from the sunshine while she scribbles dark tales. She has a degree in ancient history and is a trained ancestry researcher, but now devotes her time to creating nightmares. Her debut short story released last year on Writer-Writer and her work has been shortlisted in several competitions. Currently Ash is writing a collection of short horror fiction and hording werewolf teeth in her attic.

Find Ash on Twitter @AshTudor888


Unholy Trinity: Venostuthulu by Gabriella Balcom

Our church worships at the altar of the Unholy Trinity. Its gospels are delivered as a trio of dark drabbles, linked so that Three become One. All hail the power of the Three.


Eyes blazing, Venostuthulu snarled and bellowed. He surged first this way and then that, trying to break free of the magical boundaries imposed upon him.

But the combined strength of the other gods outmatched his, and they trapped him in a secluded prison.

One year passed, then dozens and hundreds, and Venostuthulu’s rage burned just as uncontrollably as it had the day he was first caught. However, no matter how many times he tried to get free, he could not. The other immortals’ watch over him might have been silent and from a distance now, but it was ever vigilant.  


Venostuthulu studied his surroundings, remembered his past days of glorious freedom, and his nostrils flared. A memory of something he used to enjoy, hunting people, ran through his mind. If he were free…

His anger over being trapped skyrocketed, but he knew brute force hadn’t worked to free him. Then something occurred to him. Wondering if the solution to his imprisonment could really be that simple, he forced himself to take slow, deep breaths, went icy cold, and plotted. 

Over the next few weeks, Venostuthulu tested his idea, cautiously extending the tiniest tendrils of himself and gently probing his boundaries.  


A breeze blew inland from the ocean, carrying a salty tang, summer’s heat, and more.

Venostuthulu gloated over his delicious plan. He knew his presence, fragmented into thousands of particles, was undetectable. Because the other gods had condemned him for violence against people, choosing a target had been easy.

Reaching the metropolis, he noted the human infestation, reassembled himself as a massive snake, bared his venomous fangs, and laughed as poison dripped onto screaming people. He shot fireballs from his eyes, exploding structures, individuals, and everything.

Venostuthulu sensed gods coming, vanished, and reappeared elsewhere. Chortling, he again rained down destruction.

Gabriella Balcom

Gabriella Balcom, who is from Texas, writes fantasy, horror/thriller, romance, sci-fi, and more. She likes traveling, music, photography, great stories, history, and movies. Gabriella says she loves forests, mountains, and back roads. She has a weakness for lasagna, garlic bread, tacos, cheese, and chocolate. Check out her author page https://m.facebook.com/GabriellaBalcom.lonestarauthor

Serial Killers: I See the Lake. Part 1

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

I See the Lake. Part 1

I visited the lake many years ago and only once. I’ve lost many memories between that day and this one, can’t tell you what my ex-wife said for her wedding vows, don’t remember what those damn nurses fed me yesterday. But my summer in the ranges has a stick that won’t go slipping and when I close my eyes, I see the honey-baked colour across the sky. Close my eyes a little harder and I feel the desert’s hot breath on my neck. The lake remains firm in my thoughts but, boy-oh, I’ve tried hard to forget. I’ve tried.

I was fifteen and wasn’t too thrilled about our family vacation that year. “Why can’t we go to the beach-house at Salando like every summer? Why are we tenting in the desert like hicks? Why do you hate me?” You get the picture.

My folks ignored my bitching and off we went to the piss-hot California mountain ranges– ma, dad, my twin sisters and me. It was a long drive and I wasn’t mighty pleasant to be around, ma used to say I went five years straight without cracking a tooth. Funny to think about now, considering the ol’ fart box I’ve become. Oh ma, I do miss you.

Anyway. We arrived and I thought we’d parked on Mars. Seemed the ranges spread out forever, a sterile blanket of sand made lumpy by boulder fields and rolling dunes. In the distance I saw patches of forests scattered on the base of the mountain, each one half a mile long and looked like acne marks along the clay slopes. We set up camp besides a mini canyon of stacked rocks, a spot where the dirt winds whipped our necks with gusto and even the tumble weed looked thirsty. I whined about sand filling my socks until Dad turned purple.

“Enough Tom,” he slapped my backside. “This trip is our way of re-connecting with nature. You know, hippie shit.”

Remember, it was the sixties. My folks liked to believe they were members of the new age because they listened to Bob Dylan and allowed me to grow my hair to my shoulders.

Dad tried his hardest during those itchy summer days. He dragged my city ass on hikes, this way and that way over the dunes. We stopped for breaks between the patches of forest, the trees were our sanctuary from the brutal sunshine, but we never ventured far inside the greenery. I can’t rightly say why. Nearing the end of another day’s trudge, I slipped pass the rows of trees for a splice while dad sat out in the sand. That’s how I found the lake, one hand on my tool while dehydrated piss covered the tree bark. I noticed, past the shrivelled bushes, the forest just, well, it dropped. I poked my head over the edge and saw a second level, a lower forest hidden by rugged shelves of rock. And at the bottom, glistening at the centre of it all, and a little smaller than a football field, was the lake. There was no one around to see me crack a tooth.

We walked back to camp in silence. I considered telling dad about the lake and decided, no. To hell with my family. In my cruddy little head, the lake was a matter of finders’ keepers.

While Dad slept off the hike that evening and Ma read the twins ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ for the fiftieth time, I left camp.

I lit a joint on the walk there, tried to puff smoke rings and coughed my damn heart out. When I reached the forest and strolled through the opening in the trees, I was close to happy.
Strange little lairs, those forests. I’ll try explain best I can but keep in mind, I’m no grand storyteller. The trees wore that flaky type of bark that dropped brittle in the dirt, the branches arched high and looped together. No traces of sand either, the ground turned from desert floor to mud in a snap. It felt strange. After spending so many days amongst the single sand-tones of the mountain range, facing a thick greenery seemed wrong, like a bright smudge on a white shirt.

It’s hard to believe looking at me now- just look at this gut- but I was wide as a rope back then and moved like a grasshopper down the rock shelf, used overhung trees as a Tarzan swing. By the time I reached the bottom, the sky was blossoming.

I still think of that lake as one of the most beautiful sights of my life. You might’ve seen photos but the black and whites don’t compare, I promise you. I stood beside water so pure, I could see right to the bottom where long grass swayed like human hair. Diamonds of light sparkled the surface, in a sunken place where no light should rightly reach. The lake was a lord-mighty pool of flowing glass and no leaf or tree root or speck of mud touched it.

You may think I’m exaggerating, that the weed was working magic on me. I don’t think so. Suppose I got no way to prove it.

My shelf of rock— and I call it mine because it damn well was mine— was a lip hung over the water. I stopped there and stripped down to my whities before sucking out one last puff. I almost flicked the roach into the water but hesitated and aimed for a shrub instead. You know, I often wonder how everything would be different if I’d thrown that stub into the water instead. Best not to think about it.

I remember clearly that last childish moment, running fingers through my hair to keep bangs out my eyes. Then, without thinking, I did what every California kid does at Salando Beach; I tested the water. I planted my butt on the rock and, slowly, tapped my toe to the surface.

Slow wasn’t slow enough.

The searing cold took a bite and I yelped backward. I’d never felt a cold like that and never have since. It was a cold that burnt, seared my toes and jumped up my leg through to the bone. I was a jittered rat, scrambling on my butt away from the water. My hands shook so fierce that, when I grabbed my foot, my damaged toes rattled to a blur.

Three of my toes were glowing red, the skin shrivelled like they’d spent too long in the bath. My big toe bled and when I squeezed my foot tighter the blood oozed out in thick blobs. I tried wipe the blood away and, boy-oh, that stung to hell and back. See, the entire nail on my big toe was gone and I was wiping the fleshy under-part. I hissed at the gaping. My whole foot throbbed.

“What is wrong with you,” I yelled. I fancied yelling. Seemed like a good idea to yell.

I leant over expecting to see a snapping animal in the water. Instead, I saw a tiny leaf floating alone on the crystal surface. Except it was no leaf, but my toe nail.

I didn’t see a speck of blood, the nail was clean and it danced in circles on the water, moved by a breeze I couldn’t feel. I tried to stand, still watching my severed nail twirl, and fell on my knees.

“I hate this fucking place.”

I stood on the second try. My toenail made an abrupt stop, dead still for only a second, and then sailed out into the lake’s belly. The ripples around it pulsed and in a sudden rush of feeling, I wanted to swim. A mighty thirst dried my body and every stringy tweak of muscle screamed to be swallowed by water. A terrifying feeling, I’ve got no shame in saying, and I shivered in the evening heat, because even through the wanting — crave seems the better word — I knew the water meant pain. I scrunched my bleeding toe and winced at the reminder.

And then my toe nail caught fire.

I thought I’d lost my mind. I glanced away into the trees, blinked hard to clear my eyes, but when I turned back the nail was still on fire, a slim flame rising above the water. I squinted every which way and the flame stayed true. Pretty sure it was growing too, turning into a thin and flickering cylinder of fire.

I’ve spent fifty years with open-eyed dreams questioning that flame. I had no doubts back then. Back then my eyes were strong and my mind young, full of stone conviction, and as I watched the fire and nail float further, I knew the lake was to blame. I damn well knew the water was the culprit in the same way I knew my sisters apart. That lovely and putrid water destroyed my nail. How dare you touch me, that’s what I heard the water say and I wanted to run. But you know what? At the same time I wanted to swim. Damn right I was scared.

I didn’t run. I took a limped step forward and watched the sailing fire, no blinking allowed.

The sun completed its dive behind the trees. I’d been standing on my rock slack-jawed and half naked for several minutes, long enough to age me. Laughter snapped me awake. On the opposite side of the lake, where the water became a shore over hardened dirt, three women emerged from the trees. They draped their arms around each other, walked as if they shared the same footsteps. The fiery nail stopped its sail and I had a maddening idea that it heard the women too.

They stopped far too close to the water. I opened my mouth to yell and for the first time I noticed my feet. I’d been inching myself forward on the rock and now my blood-soaked foot hung over– try imagine meat dangling above a waiting shark. I jolted backwards on my heels, landed real hard on my good foot. I came this close to falling face-first-ass-last into the water. Thinking about it churns my insides.

I looked up and the women were a hopscotch jump away from the shore. An image flashed of each one diving into the water and skin falling off their faces, blood spreading and then dissolving into pristine blue water. I imagined the lake conquering their bodies, I imagined their bones being used as a dead raft for living flame.

“Don’t go in the water,” I called.

No one heard me. I was drained and frightened and thirsty for the lake, but inhaled deep to try again.

Ash Tudor

Ash Tudor is a horror writer from Perth, Australia who hides from the sunshine while she scribbles dark tales. She has a degree in ancient history and is a trained ancestry researcher, but now devotes her time to creating nightmares. Her debut short story released last year on Writer-Writer and her work has been shortlisted in several competitions. Currently Ash is writing a collection of short horror fiction and hording werewolf teeth in her attic.

Find Ash on Twitter @AshTudor888

Unholy Trinity: In the Beginning … by G. Allen Wilbanks

Our church worships at the altar of the Unholy Trinity. Its gospels are delivered as a trio of dark drabbles, linked so that Three become One. All hail the power of the Three.


From the moment they achieved sentience, the creatures had been savage. Simple tools quickly evolved into simple weapons. While many managed to die on their own with the proper passage of time, there were always those who chose brutality and the sudden, violent end it brought with it.

Death flitted from location to location, harvesting the souls released in the mayhem as he had been bid. He knew the new animals were a mistake, but the creator favored these ‘humans’. So, he would make no complaints. 

Besides, at this rate, they would not be around to vex him much longer.


Five people were going to die. Each of them in a different location around the globe. The cowled specter sighed as he calculated where he needed to be, in what order, and how quickly he would need to travel.

He missed the good old days, when human beings hadn’t migrated so far yet. A time when great plagues would ravage the populations and he could wave his scythe to harvest hundreds, even thousands of souls without ever moving so much as a single step.

He signed again. It was time to move. People were so much less considerate these days.


It was a quiet day for Death. His cloak hung on the wall, and his scythe leaned in the corner, neglected. Most disease had been defeated and no wars raged today that demanded his attention. It was a day for rest.

A noise startled him to alertness. With a bemused smile, he realized he had dozed off while waiting for the rival gang members to spot one another in the subway. They had found each other while he dozed on the filth encrusted bench.

Ah well, he lamented as he rose to his feet. It had been a nice dream.

G. Allen Wilbanks

G. Allen Wilbanks is a member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and has published over 60 short stories in various magazines and on-line venues. He is the author of two short story collections, and the novel, When Darkness Comes. For more information, visit www.gallenwilbanks.com, or check out his weekly blog at www.DeepDarkThoughts.com.

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