Category: Trembling With Fear

Serial Killers: The Banquet Chef (Part 3) by Robb White

  1. Serial Killers: The Banquet Chef (Part 1) by Robb White
  2. Serial Killers: The Banquet Chef (Part 2) by Robb White
  3. Serial Killers: The Banquet Chef (Part 3) by Robb White

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

Part 3: The Banquet Chef

She ordered the mushroom ragout and polenta, the chicken and sausage casseroles to be brought out in a synchronized order. Sheer luck had prevailed because the only thing the class officers could agree on were Doritos and salsa dips; they’d compromised with a buffet style meal and deferred to her for the dishes. Single-plate entrées would have undone her. During the bustle of supervising dishes heading into the dining hall, she often added extra spices for color and, in the case of the beef and rice casserole—made with some ingredients that would have made even the most exotic chef blanch unless that chef happened to reside in a certain island in the Indian Ocean where cannibalism is practiced—a spice to mask the pungent aroma of gamier organs cooked flambeau and to assist the appetite. 

Lupe made eye contact with her from the kitchen window but didn’t acknowledge her, which suited Adoncia fine. 

When all the guests were served and the caterers reassigned to table duties, she began to breathe again. Her heart was a trapped bird, trying to batter itself out of its cage. She felt calm enough to venture out of the kitchen. As she assumed, no one but the women at one table remembered her.

“Adoncia, que onda, hey, girl,” Lupe said when she saw Adoncia approach their table. “What’s happening?’

Ni modo,” Adoncia replied with a shrug. “Nothing much.” Her high-school slang came back like a remembered sadness. When she first met Lupe, a brash girl from the suburbs, she didn’t talk much, which led to Lupe calling her fresa, “stuck-up.” 

“I didn’t care for them ham hocks and red beans in that soup, Adoncia,” Lupe said. “I still got bits stuck in my teeth.”

“Sorry.”

(more…)

Trembling With Fear 02/21/21

It’s raining as I write this and where I live, I feel as though it’s been raining forever. Wherever we go for a walk there’s mud, lot’s of it – there’s a song isn’t there for children? Mud, mud, glorious mud. I think I’ll leave that for the kids, nothing glorious about the stuff, except perhaps as inspiration for a story, a Mud Monster. Anyone care to send in a drabble featuring the dreaded ooze?

TWF efforts last week saw the creation of the TWF anthologies for Year 4, More Tales from the Tree and Serial Killers. They’re all formatted up and almost ready to go. A final close read through to check for glaring errors and make sure we haven’t missed any – there’s hundreds of stories overall – and a cover sorted and they’ll hopefully be ready in the not too distant future.

As I pulled in the stories, I noticed again the tendency to use spaces and tabs rather than the first line indent feature of the paragraph style. Some would also use spaces to centre a title rather than simply select alignment. Please avoid this! Also avoid adding lines between paragraphs.

Bios – I am still not always receiving bios with submissions and I am no longer going to hold files of biographies as the sheer number of authors submitting makes this difficult to maintain. It was a good idea at the time but has outlived its usefulness. If you do not send a bio in with your submission, you will receive a request for one on acceptance – I’m changing the message associated with the contract to reflect this. 

Saturday saw the Book Birthday of Daughters of Darkness, an anthology featuring four writers (me, Theresa Derwin, Alyson Faye and Ruschelle Dillon). It’s the first book from Black Angel Press, a women-centric project, which Aly and I hope to use as a vehicle to help newer writers (as well as established writers) get their out there. This project is intended to help level the playing field for women in an industry where there is still, sadly, a degree of bias against us in terms of opportunity. It is changing and I’m hopeful that in the very near future, initiatives such as WIHM etc will no longer be needed. I regard Horror Tree and TWF by the way, as somewhere that has been nothing but inclusive in all aspects and Stuart should receive a huge round of applause for this. HT is not Sisterhood or Brotherhood, just Family.

From the high of launching the book, I received a short story rejection the following day but my absolute highlight last week was discovering Jonathan Maberry had read my novel The Five Turns of the Wheel and regarded it as ‘superb’. Knowing someone at the top of the writing tree has actually read something of mine was a boost – and a shock. I will admit to taking a screenshot of that and I will use it to help me through those moments of rejection which I know will continue to come. I think a writer’s life could clearly be imagined as the peaks and troughs of readings on a life-support machine but better that than flatlining!

If you’re looking for any WIHM reads by the way, I would recommend Jennifer Soucy’s Clementine’s Awakening, Beverley Lee’s The Ruin of Delicate Things and for poetry, Sara Tantlinger’s Cradleland of Parasites. I’ve read all three recently. Fantastic reads.

And as to the house move, we’ve had an offer on ours and are looking at houses this week. One has a lovely view of the cemetery next door. Appropriate or what?! As a point of reassurance, house viewing etc is still permitted during lockdown, provided you’ve had a serious offer, and strict covid measures are observed.

We start this week’s Trembling with Fear with Samsara by E.C. Hanson. The main character is most definitely unlikeable but you find yourself drawn along by the countdown to opening time as she fights her desperation for a drink. An element of paranoia filters in alongside this obsession with time and you see her fall apart as the past comes back to haunt her.

Bloom by Patrick Winters is a beautiful horror when the body turns on itself and destroys. Patrick is a writer I know who always delivers on quality.

Surprise for the Date by Radar DeBoard delivers its surprise at the end, although the reader is let in on the secret beforehand.

The Ghost Train by K.A. Williams reminds me of a time I actually stayed in a converted railway station! Luckily it wasn’t haunted, like this one. If something’s cheap, there’s usually a reason and it’s better to check out why first!

 

Take care

Steph

 

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

We’re going into the final week of Women in Horror Month and the amazing posts have been stacking up! I hope that you’ve all been enjoying reading them as much as our staff has. Please, be sure to comment on and share the ones which you’ve been enjoying!

As to what the Horror Tree staff has been up to? Steph and I are making giant strides (mostly Steph. I’d like to stress, mostly Steph) on putting together this year’s anthology releases! On top of that, I’ve been starting to go over my portion of it and am sketching out some rough draft ideas on how we’re looking into changing up the site in our next iteration of Horror Tree. Working on getting it up in a test environment and I will bounce the preview off our staff and Patreons once it is ready for official viewing and initial feedback!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

(more…)

Serial Killers: The Banquet Chef (Part 2) by Robb White

  1. Serial Killers: The Banquet Chef (Part 1) by Robb White
  2. Serial Killers: The Banquet Chef (Part 2) by Robb White
  3. Serial Killers: The Banquet Chef (Part 3) by Robb White

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

Part 2: “The Banquet Chef”

Adoncia bagged Cinda’s head to keep from being bathed in the blood. Head wounds bleed a lot, she knew from past experience at hitting her head on the sharp corners of vent hoods. She wrapped the cellophane so tight that the girl’s facial features were distorted as if she’d posed for a funhouse mirror.  

Her contribution to the night’s menu took longer than her brother’s. 

Time was pressing Adoncia now. Julio had a late afternoon routine he wouldn’t budge from once he planted himself in her La-Z-Boy in front of the plasma TV with a cold beer in his hand. But she’d given more thought to his Achilles’-heel, however. 

“The game’s about to start, God damn it,” he blurted. He tried to mollify her with a whiny apology. 

“The insurance guy I told you about . . .”

“What insurance guy you talkin’ about, Adoncia?”

“You know, babe,” she said, sickened by the endearment she’d once used and meant. “The man said I had to get your signature today. It’s a law or something. Beneficiaries have to know how much insurance is on the policy holder.”

“You could have said something before you left—what beneficious are we talking about here?’

“You, cariño,” Adoncia said. “You get money if anything should happen to me and the policy won’t go into effect for another six months, like. But you gotta sign the form.” She hoped that sounded right, honied words to catch a fly. The situation had reversed completely, she thought. I’m the spider now, he’s the fly . . .

“I asked you how much?”

“A quarter-million dollars.”

Silence. A rapt silence. If Julio had done his homework on her, he would know her spousal insurance from the job was only five thousand. The number she just gave him should launch him from the chair.

“Julio, baby?”

“I’ll be right down.”

True to his word, Julio showed up at the back door at three-seventeen with a single flower in his hand. She glimpsed the limp-petaled, black-eyed Susan wrapped in green tissue—a discounted grocery-store bargain. She fortified herself with the instant knowledge that Julio was already concocting a plot for her own demise with that pathetic-looking object in his hands.    

“How sweet,” Adoncia said and took the flower in her left hand. 

She tossed the flower aside. Julio’s mouth opened and his eyes tracked the flower to the floor. She lunged forward with the kebab skewer in her right hand and rammed it into a spot just below his Adam’s-apple. 

Julio roared, flung himself backward, slamming into the wall, hands flailing at the skewer. 

She plunged her right hand into her apron pocket for the heavy-duty meat claw. Julio gurgled, a red geyser shot out from his throat and spattered the front of her. He jerked the skewer free and scrambled to get to his feet, slipping on blood, and banging his head into the door. She couldn’t let him get into the alley where a passerby might hear or see him. She could deal with another mess, not a witness. 

She tugged at his belt from behind. Julio whirled around, a gored but now savage bull. He threw punches at her, which she took high on her shoulders. He sailed another punch over her head while she gripped his belt tighter to pull him into the kitchen. He was a dog tugging at a chew toy in his master’s hand but this was no play.  When she felt she had room behind her, she aimed a punch at his jaw but only clipped the underside of it. More blood flowed from the wound and from his mouth. He thrashed with his arms, desperate to flee and kill her at the same time. Adrenalin flooded his system, giving him a crazy strength. If he didn’t choke on the blood, he’d get free.

Calmly, with her own tunnel vision taking over, she stepped inside Julio’s legs and launched another fist at his head. A clumsy uppercut but it did the trick. Like a grain silo toppling over, Julio did a half-turn like a drunken ballet dancer, and dropped straight to the floor.

She fell back against a table panting. Julio lay a few feet from her.  

Long minutes passed before she could recover, more valuable time wasted.  

She undressed him on the floor and tossed his clothes into another garbage bag. She sobbed, almost hysterical but knew what she had to do next. She dragged and rolled him onto the plastic tarp.  With the other two, she’d started with the head. This kitchen came equipped with a 12-amp Sawzall with a six-tooth-per-inch, rotating blade.    

With her sharpest filleting knife in hand, she approached his corpse. “A fish rots from the head down,” she said, “but with you I’m going for the other head, pendejo.” 

Afterward, she carefully packed dry ice around the head, testing all sides to make sure there were no leaks. Then she arranged the orchids skillfully around the center of gravity by pressing their stems into Styrofoam packing. These would go into her trunk at the end of the night. Twice during the business, Adoncia had to slip off to the staff lavatory to vomit from tension. 

Robb White

Robb White lives in Northeastern Ohio. Many stories and novels feature private investigator Thomas Haftmann or Raimo Jarvi. In 2019, White was nominated for a Derringer. A crime novel, The Russian Heist, won Thriller Magazine’s Best Novel of 2019 award, and a short story, “Inside Man,” was selected for inclusion in Best American Mystery Stories 2019. New Pulp Press is bringing out a second collection of Haftmann stories, including the novella of the title: The Dearborn Terrorist Plot & 4 Stories.

Trembling With Fear: Happy 2021 Valentine’s Day!

We have always regarded the contributors to Horror Tree as ‘family’. If we hear of your successes, we like to share them, and if we hear of a need for support, we try to give that. Sometimes, we also hear of other things, including those real life events which we all dread. This week, came the unhappy news that one of our most prolific, and consistent, TWF writers – Richard Meldrum has sadly lost his partner, Sally, to a short illness. I know you will all join is in sending our love and condolences to Richard.

This news does however, makes this week’s Trembling With Fear a bitter-sweet edition as it is our Valentine Special. To this end, we would like to dedicate it to Richard and to the many happy years he and Sally had together.

Take care

Steph and Stuart

 

A Gift with Spirit by Andrew Jensen

“This rust-colored one is nice. What kind of stone is it?”

“Hematite. Most are silver-black, but this is the red variety. That’s why we carved it into a heart shape.”

The teen-aged boy was obviously looking for a Valentine’s gift. He was trying very hard to get it right.

“Hematite,” he repeated.

“It’s from the Greek word for blood. Like ‘Hematology’.”

“So it means ‘blood-stone’!” He smiled proudly.

The shop-keeper snorted. “Blood-stone is green with blood-red flecks. A completely different mineral.”

“Sorry. Does Hematite have any special properties?”

“It’s slightly magnetic.”

“I meant spiritual properties.” The teen looked hopeful. “Alyx is really into that stuff.”

“Young man, I am deadly serious about mineralogy. If you try to commune with my crystals, you will have to leave. I cannot abide fuzzy thinking.”

“Alyx says crystals . . .”

“Crystals are inanimate mineral structures. They’re beautiful, but they’re not alive.” The man was becoming furious.

“But Alyx says . . .”

“No! The only way to give a stone a spirit is to petrify a person!”

“That’s impossible!”

“Is it? Is it?” The shop-keeper waved his hands in an angry gesture and uttered a word from a long-dead language. There was a flash of light, and then silence.

“You deserved that,” he said to the Hematite teen statue. “You don’t understand the logic of science. Or magic.” 

Calming down, he smiled wryly. “On the bright side, now Alyx can have a truly spiritual stone. Well done.”

Andrew Jensen

Andrew Jensen lives in Braeside, Ontario with his family and too many dogs and cats. He is the minister at Knox United Church, Nepean. Twenty of his speculative short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including a cover story for Dreamforge Magazine and a special Christmas story for Abyss & Apex. Andrew is also the author of a book of Church humour called God: The Greatest User of Capital Letters, published by Wood Lake Books. When not writing or ministering or walking dogs, Andrew plays trumpet, impersonates Kermit the Frog, and performs in musical theatre. You should have seen him as Henry Higgins . . .

Beneath a Bridge by Steven Holding

Time flows. Another year passes by and so much has changed, yet here we are: beneath a bridge, by the river. It is impossible to resist the pull of this place. Strange that such an ordinary location can hold such significance for two people. That we still meet is testament to how, despite our efforts, we can never put an end to that which is between us. Twelve months and I know without a doubt that I will see you once again.

The moss-covered red brick of the bridge provides shelter from the dismal February weather. Fat drops of rain strike the river, sending out circular ripples that distort the muddy water. Watch them for too long and they become dangerously hypnotic. As if you’re suddenly aware of this, you break the heavy silence.

“This is hard for me,” you say.

I imagine it is. Twenty years have passed since you first brought me here. Such a long time ago. Now, the anniversary is always marked by this ritual. A tiny slice of time, secretly snatched back from the hustle and bustle of everyday existence. Just thirty minutes of talking. Nobody walks the path along this bank, and you seem to take comfort in this solitude. It allows you to speak freely, and I wonder if the rest of the world ever gets a glimpse of the real person that I get to see here.

You tell me how your life has changed in ways you never thought possible. A successful career, a happy home. A family to love and to love you. Events you never dreamed of when you first met me. Things, that even though you are uncertain that you deserve them, you could never bring yourself to surrender. And I can understand your perspective for I have seen, with the passing of the seasons, the way that your life has grown. That it wasn’t me that was with you for this magnificent adventure no longer holds the pain that it once did. I have found my peace, and with this comes the wonderful blessing that is forgiveness.

“I am sorry,” you whisper, and I can even pardon you this sin, for I know the truth. That the real reason you come here is for you and not for me.

“I am so, so sorry.”

By way of an apology, you hold out a single red rose in your hand, offering it to me as you always do. I reach out for it, stretching, wishing to God that I could pluck it from your fingers. But, as always, I cannot quite reach. 

Sensing my rejection in the bottom of your heart, you release your grip and allow the flower to fall. It tumbles through the air and settles upon the liquid surface. I envy the freedom it has as the slow current whisks it away.

“Goodbye.”

You turn and walk back towards your life. Knowing I’ll always be here. Waiting for you.

By the bridge.

Beneath the river.  

Steven Holding

Steven Holding lives with his family in the United Kingdom. Most recently his work has appeared in the collections OCEANS and ANCIENTS from Black Hare Press and the TWF anthologies TREMBLING WITH FEAR YEAR 3 and MORE TALES FROM THE TREE VOLUME 2. You can follow his work at www.stevenholding.co.uk

Salt in the Wound by Vivian Kasley

Becker tried to figure out his next move. He’d already called and texted Lori too many times, and showing up at her place at this point would probably just piss her off. Sure, they’d broken up weeks ago, but how could a break-up truly be the end after three whole years of what seemed like the near perfect relationship? The day Lori broke it off with him, she’d called him a slug. She’d said, “You’re a slug, Beck, and I wish I could pour salt on you, and then watch as you writhe around in agony, bubbling and frothing until you dissolve.” Who the fuck says shit like that? Lori, that’s who. But that’s why Becker adored her. She was a bad ass who rocked his world, and he wanted her back in the worst way. Truth was, he was a slug and he knew it. 

Love can be most wonderful feeling in the world, where every cell in your body buzzes and your blood practically tingles in your veins or it can be the worst feeling you’ve ever felt and you want nothing more than to rid yourself of its poisonous drip. Becker felt like he was in detox all over again. Days would go by where he felt like he was on the edge of dying, gasping for air as he sobbed in his sweat drenched sheets wondering how much longer he’d be able to hang on. Then he’d scroll through his phone and look at pictures of happier times until his agony was somewhat assuaged. Something had to give. It just had to.

Becker called Lori again. His heart felt like it was being punctured by loads of tiny arrows as he listened to her raspy voice telling him to leave a message. He wished her a happy upcoming Valentine’s Day and told her how much he loved her. Then he said he wished they could spend the holiday together again. February was the month they’d first met, it was the month they swore they’d get married in one day, and now it was the month he hated the most. All he wanted was for her to understand how much he loved her. He called her again, and again and again, not even feeling the blood that slid down his chin from the hole he’d chewed into his lower lip. 

It was cold outside for Florida. The kind of cold that feels like tiny needles are tattooing your exposed flesh. Becker wore a tee shirt and ripped jeans and he shivered uncontrollably as he walked down a tree lined street toward Lori’s house. He’d seen her earlier that day. She’d popped outside for a cigarette, something she always did when she went on a break. Her old number was no longer in service and it crushed him when he could no longer hear her voice. She didn’t see him watching her as she held her phone to her ear. A smile had lit up her pale oval face as she talked. Rage soared through Becker’s body as he wondered if it was another man. She had another Valentine.

There was a crawl space under her house. Becker crawled under and went further in, before he then laid on his back and stared at the cloud of thick cobwebs above him. Spiders were the least of his concerns. There was a bad smell. Damp musty dirt, but also a sweet sickening rot that permeated his sinuses. When he turned his head to the side, he saw the cause of the odor. There was a dead cat, its body was stiff and bloated, and it looked ready to burst and leak its festering contents. 

Becker couldn’t take his eyes off the cat’s carcass. He heard somewhere once that it was instinctual for animals to find a place to die when they were sick or near the end of their lives. Something resembling calmness washed over him. He was ill, too. I understand completely kitty, he thought. Becker was going to give Lori the ultimate Valentine. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his knife and the note he’d written earlier. There was one last thing he had to do now. As he sliced into the meat of his throat, he grinned.

It wasn’t long before Lori noticed a putrid odor. She figured another stupid animal had crawled under the house to die. They seemed to like to do that, for whatever reason. She’d had a few removed before, but funds were low so she lit some candles instead. Except as time went on, the stench only ripened and candles weren’t doing the job. Lori decided to see if she could find what was causing the smell, and remove it herself. With a flashlight in her rubber gloved hand, she got down on all fours and shone the light under the house. 

The recent cold snap had slowed the decomposition of Becker slightly, but not enough. His lips were peeled back into a morbid grin, and his cloudy eyes were sunken deep into his rotting face. Bugs skittered all over his corpse, annoyed by the bright light. Lori screamed the kind of scream that pierced the sky. Birds flew from of trees and dogs barked. Soon, familiar flashing lights surrounded the house and Lori tried to collect herself as she hugged the blanket wrapped around her trembling shoulders. The note they found next to Becker’s body read, Dear Lori, Forever Your Funny Valentine

An entire year went by before Lori could bring herself to sleep without the lights on. She didn’t believe in ghosts—not really—but someone had died beneath her house. And not just someone, but someone she knew and once loved. When February fourteenth rolled around again, Lori tried to ignore it. It was just another boring winter day. She turned down dates and declined phone calls and texts. That night, gusts of chilly air seemed to meet her around ever corner of her house and when she heard a familiar voice whisper her name, her guts twisted into knots and her bones rattled inside of her goose-pimpled flesh. There was no denying whose voice it was. Becker really would be her forever Valentine.

Vivian Kasley

Vivian Kasley lives in the land of the strange and unusual—Florida! She’s an educator and a foodie who also loves to write and travel. At a young age, horror and science fiction opened their arms to her to which she ran head first and stayed to cuddle. Her stories have appeared in several anthologies and online magazines some of which include Dark Moon Digest, Blood Bound Books, HellBound Books, Castrum Press, Gypsum Sound Tales, and Sirens Call Publications. She has more on the way including an upcoming story in Vastarien and her first novella. When she’s not writing, she’s enjoying time with her other half, snuggling her fur babies, eating something weird, or reading in a bubble bath.

Social Media Links:
https://www.facebook.com/bizarrebabewhowrites/
amazon.com/author/viviankasley

 

The Valentine Intruder by Margarida Brei

I

Blast my brother for smugly driving away in his souped up spacehover! The bone doorbell jangled horribly. TheValentine party was Earth Halloween meets kitsch space. Red lights strobed causing party goers to stutter around. Tetro music blasted, spotcha beer flowed freely and a  few alien corpses were  being drained of fluid. A Cyber Vampire with razor sharp canines, a bloody werewolf android and some hungover robots hovered around a grave evoking a devilish spirit. A ghostly lime phorescent being emerged and the guests stampeded back to safety. Wait, I recognized that profile. Trust my brother to make a dramatic entrance!

II

My brother was a buffoon to crash this Valentine Party as a ghoul. Alone, I backed into the kitchen and something rancid touched my shoulder. Hell, one of the aliens being drained of its juices and made into Valentine punch, was still alive! I nearly threw up my eyeball burrito. Strangely it communicated through mind thoughts, saying a space witch had turned it into a ghastly alien. Unlikely story, but I felt compelled to save its life. Under the beams of the Valentine moons the alien metamorphosed. It became an incredibly ugly and troubling creature. A disturbing mortifying earth human!

III

The human raced for his spaceship leaving a trail of rosy heart bubbles and intoxicating scent; the results of lying under the Valentine Moon. I used my mind powers to push him forward. He entered a dilapidated ship sprayed with cyberpunk Valentine graffiti. Garish roses, winking hearts, and cheeky cherubins shooting love arrows would attract robocops. He powered up and whoosh he was gone, leaving a glass rose. I later discovered that he had stolen some valuable Valentine bijous- ruby tail rings, pink gemstone tattoos and rare star garnet antennae jewels. So ended my sweet love with a human pirate.

Margarida Brei

My real name is Margarida Brei.
As a female Senior gold,
She thinks in rhymes and inventive couplets bold.
From England, the land of cat and dog showers,
through Canada, she was chased by the snow-covered Yeti,
Now in Texas, the blazing sun and Vitamin D, in abundance, she getti.
Her two naughty dogs inspire.
From the perspective of a teacher, mother, wife, granny and animal lover, the world she sees.
Horror Tree are publishing her trinity drabble. Her historical novel is on Amazon
Scifaikuest magazine is publishing some of her scifaiku, tanka, fibonacci, ghazal and drabbun.

Be my Valentine 

Pinned to my front door, the note in red ink:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Be my Valentine

Or I will kill you.

Pathetic joke, local kids, I thought, pushing open my door, struggling inside with the groceries. Called, “Carla, I’m back.” Dumped the bags on the bench, opened the fridge for a beer, my wife’s head rolled out.

An arm circled my waist. My neighbor, Julie, the divorcee. Eyes wild. The knife in her raised hand drenched with Carla’s blood.

“I’m waiting for your answer,” she whispered in a voice that had once sounded sexy during our affair.

Mike Rader

Mike Rader is a pseudonym used by Australian author and poet James Aitchison.  As J J Munro and Mike Rader, Aitchison writes horror and noir crime.  As James Lee, he writes Asia’s biggest selling horror series for middle readers — Mr Midnight — which has sold over three million copies.  His work can be seen at www.flameoftheforest.com  

That Night at the Carnival

You were late.

So I held your place in line.

You feared the rollercoaster.

So I held your hand.

You went to the bathroom.

So I held your purse.

You looked like you might kiss me.

So I held my breath.

But we didn’t kiss.

We just drifted on a rickety swan boat in the darkening Tunnel of Love. 

You told me how much you loved your ex.

How you held him in high esteem.

I whispered, “Maybe I love you.”

You laughed.

You held me in contempt.

So I forced your head under the water. 

And held it there.

Kevin M. Folliard

Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, as well as adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, and more. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Street Fighter, or traveling the U.S.A.

Author Website: www.KevinFolliard.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kevinfolliard
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kmfollia
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kmfollia/

 

Valentine Parts

Valentine Day, would he or wouldn’t he come? I was biting my nails into metal bleeding shavings. My bimetal pacing feet dug trenches in the terraform- a grave for the stupid android! Is he flawed, being more human than robot or vice versa? Mr. Punctuality will arrive late saying his batteries were drained of humanoid juices. Mr. Smooth Talker once claimed a passionate embrace with some cyborg degenerate was a death kiss. A Spacecar throws a jumble of metal parts and human limbs out. Jeez Louise not again. I have my tool box but refuse to put Casanova Android together.

Margarida Brei

My real name is Margarida Brei.
As a female Senior gold,
She thinks in rhymes and inventive couplets bold.
From England, the land of cat and dog showers,
through Canada, she was chased by the snow-covered Yeti,
Now in Texas, the blazing sun and Vitamin D, in abundance, she getti.
Her two naughty dogs inspire.
From the perspective of a teacher, mother, wife, granny and animal lover, the world she sees.
Horror Tree are publishing her trinity drabble. Her historical novel is on Amazon
Scifaikuest magazine is publishing some of her scifaiku, tanka, fibonacci, ghazal and drabbun.

Serial Killers: The Banquet Chef (Part 1) by Robb White

  1. Serial Killers: The Banquet Chef (Part 1) by Robb White
  2. Serial Killers: The Banquet Chef (Part 2) by Robb White
  3. Serial Killers: The Banquet Chef (Part 3) by Robb White

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

Part 1: The Banquet Chef

Adoncia moved past buyer’s remorse into abject fear. She realized its first appearance when she poured Julio his coffee while he scrolled through his directory—no doubt checking the names of women he was already contacting. He wasn’t even careful to hide it now. 

She sat down to eat a hurried meal before heading off to her next job. She was glad to be getting away for the day. Home was not the same anymore. She wanted to pull her hair out thinking of it, what a fool she’d been. Lupe Gonzalez and her big mouth. If that nasty gossip hadn’t gotten back to her, she might never have gone on that dating site in the first place and met Julio Ortega. 

The smooth-talking charmer who wooed her was gone; in his place was a lazy, morose, and now two-timing lump who had moved in after a whirlwind romance of only two months. Too late, she realized how calculating everything he said and did was. Before she realized it, she’d become his housekeeper, a slave in her own home—not only taking care of him but his no-good son and daughter from a previous marriage. The boy was good-looking like his father, and like his father, a useless slug who did drugs and sat around the house playing violent videogames all day. The daughter, Cinda Lynne, was seventeen years old and constantly in trouble at school. At least the boy tried to be pleasant once in a while. Cinda  didn’t bother to hide her contempt for her father’s “fence-hopping Mexican.” 

She had only herself to blame, not Lupe. The sarcasm behind Lupe’s gossip she was getting old and unattractive to men stung. “You—what now, Adoncia—goin’ on thirty?”

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Trembling With Fear 02/07/21

Women In Horror Month has arrived. I was writing an article recently focussing on indie presses which had women at the helm in some way, whether owner, co-editor or the like. This was partly because women can be their own worst enemies when it comes to confidence and I felt that some might, just might, take that first step to attempt publication by approaching a press where women were more visible in terms of control. To this end, I compiled a list of such presses with the help of good twitter folk. Some notifications came in after I completed my article so I have decided to add these to the list and get the list put up publicly somewhere for reference. With this in mind, if anybody knows or is involved with presses where women are at the forefront, let me know!

Now I was going to skip any ‘editor’ gripes this time BUT as I was writing this, I checked the emails and I found yet another rude response from an author. I am mentioning it this week because I think it’s important to remind writers that such attitudes can damage their careers in the industry. If any of these writers sent such emails to bigger publishing houses, bigger names, they would receive extremely short shrift and find themselves locked out of future opportunities. I would never dream of responding to rejections in the way that some have been recently and actually, the traditional approach to rejections is that you do not respond to them, no matter how aggrieved you may feel. Additionally, in terms of contact, we aim to respond in a timely manner to all emails. On the website, we allow 3 weeks but generally, we manage a quicker turnround. And actually, I don’t often mind people querying sooner, it’s just how it’s worded. I could have kept quiet about this but I think it’s something everyone should be aware of (and I know most of you already are). Editors and publishers speak to each other, if you don’t act in a professional manner, this can get round.

Okay, and breathe, and back to why I’m doing this in the first place – the stories 😊

The first story in Trembling with Fear this week is Drăculea by Bogdan Boyar. If you’re going to write about Dracula, then you should get a Romanian involved and Bogdan provides a wonderfully humorous and delightful take on this particular monster. Poor old Uncle Gicu. The more stories we get from other countries the better, it adds to breadth of styles and voices and provides a refreshing change to the traditional ‘western view’.

The Mask by G.A. Miller is a timely reminder that small actions can have big consequences.

Viaduct Victims by Mike Rader gives a hint of something happening in the past, the ghostly repercussions continuing today. Some grudges never die.

Wee Dafty by R.J. Meldrum brings us the horrors of childhood and the torments of the bully. Children can be monsters and sometimes the monsters get their comeuppance.

Enjoy the stories and send us yours!

Take care

Steph

 

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

So far, so good! Women in Horror Month is moving along swimmingly and I hope that you’ve enjoyed our first week of spotlights. While there is more to come, if you are a woman who writes, edits, publishes, reviews, etc in horror and wants to share a guest post, do reach out to contact at horrortree dot com today!

If you’ve been thinking about submitting to Trembling With Fear, we’re open year ’round. That being said, we’re pretty backed up on our standard-length fiction at the moment so are primarily looking at drabble, Unholy Trinities, and a few serials. Those are the sweet spot at this time.

Speaking of fiction, we have some fantastic stories for you to read once again this week and as it is February, next Sunday is our Valentine’s Day edition. Love of the written word is in the air and you’ll have some great reads to check out as always! 🙂

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

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Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 5) by Stephen Bustanoby

  1. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 1) by Stephen Bustanoby
  2. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 2) by Stephen Bustanoby
  3. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 3) by Stephen Bustanoby
  4. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 4) by Stephen Bustanoby
  5. Serial Killers: The Boarder (Part 5) by Stephen Bustanoby

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

Part 5

That night at dinner, no one broached the subject of Oscar’s death. The atmosphere was as it always was. Mrs. Milkie talked about her day of volunteering at the nursing home. Floyd was quietly hunched over his plate, mechanically shoveling food into his mouth. Robert’s meeting tomorrow with the university officials pretty well occupied his mind. He was going over in his head all potential questions they would have for him and the answers he would give. This account is one of those once in a lifetime opportunities. He was, as always, confident things would go his way. They always seem to. 

Perhaps, because of the importance of the meeting tomorrow, his brain stopped itching, and the ember in the back of his head cooled off. Even as Mrs. Milkie yammered on and on, his mind was at rest. Very unusual.

                                                                             #

The following afternoon Robert rushed through the door of the boarding house. He was on top of the world, his meeting a resounding success. Robert captured the university account. He wanted to share this good news with somebody, so he went into the kitchen; it was nearing supper time and found Mrs. Milkie adding something to a pot on the stove. As Robert walked in, he announced, “The man of the hour is in the house!”

Mrs. Milkie turned from the large pot she was tending, saying, “Sounds like you had a wonderful day.” Robert wanted to hug her, yet something in her tone of voice, and the set of her mouth stopped him. She sounded almost accusatory. 

“Well, it sure smells good in here, I’m famished,” he said enthusiastically. Mrs. Milkie looked at him in silence. Her eyes like a falcon’s. Dark, shiny, and very alert.

“Robert, why don’t you get ready for supper. Floyd won’t be joining us; he says he’s not feeling well.” Robert thought, ‘the guy looked like he was at death’s door this morning.’ 

“Sorry to hear he’s not feeling well.”

Mrs. Milkie turned back to her pot and said over her shoulder in a flat, monotoned voice, “It will be just the two of us tonight.” Robert shrugged uneasily, then went to his room to change and clean up.

    

                                                                             #

“This is my famous chicken stew,” Mrs. Milkie announced as she brought two good sized bowls to the table; aromatic steam rising and filling the room. Per usual, grace was said, “Dear Lord, thank you for this bounty you have provided. And thank you for the wonderful day Robert had. Please bless him with all he deserves.” 

With that, Mrs. Milkie said, “Let’s dig in while it’s hot.” Robert went at the stew like a dog on a bone.

                                                                              #

“My goodness, you were hungry,” stated Mrs. Milkie as she brought Robert his second bowl full. “I should say. I didn’t get a chance to eat all day I was so busy. And with all the excitement, I don’t think I could have eaten anyway.” 

Mrs. Milkie sat, hands folded in her lap, watching Robert eat.

“You know, it’s kind of a blessing Floyd is not with us this evening. I need to discuss something with you.” She said in a low monotone.

Robert thought, ‘here we go, she’s going to put the pinch on me for higher rent.’

“Robert, you know my interest in solving crimes and the group I belong to, ‘Chasing Shadows?’” 

Robert felt a little weird. Physically. He shouldn’t have eaten so fast. 

“Ah, yes, Mrs. Milkie, you have told me of your group.” His eyeballs itched, and couldn’t focus very well. 

“By the way, you may call me Ellie.” Her face changed. The falcon eyes were back, and her lips disappeared into a straight line above her chin. “May I call you Jason. Jason Bohn?”

Robert’s feet and hands tingled. His head felt like it weighed a hundred pounds. The spoonful of stew he just put in his mouth dribbled over his lower lip and chin and back into his bowl. 

He suddenly couldn’t swallow.

“Robert…..let’s use your real name… Jason. I had a wonderful day too. I want to show you something.” She stood and turned, opening a drawer in the china cabinet and removed a file folder. He saw the folder. His folder from his room!  If he could, he would have jumped up and wrung her neck, but he could barely move. And his breathing didn’t feel right. He had to take a breath and exhale consciously. If he didn’t think about breathing, he’d suffocate.

“You see, I had some suspicious feelings about you from the beginning. Your outward appearance and presentation of yourself struck me as…. plastic. Not real flesh and blood. Oh, you did a very nice job covering up the real you. However, you seemed so…..guarded. So calloused. I said to myself; I think Robert is hiding something. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. And oh, I guess I am a nosy old woman, but my intuition told me you were up to something. Maybe it’s because of my group, the ‘Shadow Chasers.’ It causes me to see evil behind every door. So, I searched your room, and, oh my Jason; you weren’t very careful with some very incriminating items.” 

I was shocked! And somewhat pleased at what I had found.” 

What did that old bag do to me?!

She came around the table and stood next to Jason/Robert. She moved his bowl across the table and laid the file folder under his face. “Let’s see what we’ve got here.” First, she pulled out the xerox copies of newspaper reports from San Diego, Irvine, San Bernardino, Yuma, Tucson, and Prescott in Yavapai County. She arranged the pages in a semi-circle on the table in front of Jason. She had them in chronological order dating back ten years. “Oh, I’m sure you’ve been at this for longer than ten years.”

Wha… tha’ fuck… isss.. dis?

She then placed two sandwich bags containing hair under his drooping head. One snowy white, the other a gaudy mauve color. Next, she put two gallon-sized Ziplock bags beside the hair. The bags were frozen from the dry ice kept in the hidden chest, kept out of sight in Robert’s/Jason’s room’s closet. “The news articles never mentioned that you also kept the breasts of your victims. Though we both know that souvenirs are a big part of what you do.”  

“I’m sure there is a psychosexual explanation for the breasts.”

Faaaalling…I…feel…like…I’m….faaaaalling. 

“I can only imagine what else you did to those poor women,” scolded Mrs. Milkie, hands-on-hips, looking down at Jason/Robert with disapproval.

The last piece of paper in the file folder was a copy of a driver’s license. The picture was Robert Washburn; the name was Jason Bohn. “If we had the time, I would like to know who you use for fake ID’s. These are very good compared to the ones I have.”

Jason/Robert was still conscious; he was very alert. His body, however, had folded in on itself in paralysis. He looked like a ball of waded paper. Drool hung from his lower lip. 

“Now, I’m sure you are curious as to why you are in the condition you are in…yes?”  Mrs. Milkie sounded like someone happily playing a parlor guessing game.

Mmmmph…elp….daah. 

He couldn’t move his eyes. They wouldn’t close or blink. He stared down at the table, his vicious and vile obsession in full view.

She pulled two vials and a capped syringe from the pocket of her apron, placing them next to the baggies of hair. “Sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide are in these two vials,” she said, hands clasped under her chin and smiling proudly at the two vials like she had just viewed a newborn grandchild for the first time.

“One drug makes you drowsy, and the other causes paralysis. They are the same drugs used in lethal injections. But I just put them in your stew.” She picked up the syringe and removed the cap. “To have these drugs is completely illegal. How I got my hands on them is another story. Let’s just say I know some very…what’s the word….dicey, people.” 

She tittered behind her hand.

“And now, since I uncovered your secret’s, I think it only fair that I share some secrets of my own.”

“Secrets you will take to your grave.” 

She moved a chair closer to Jason so she could speak in his ear. “Oscar? That was me. Arsenic poisoning over an extended period. The poor man with only one leg. I did him a favor.” “Miss Winkler, the woman who’s room you now have smothered with a pillow. I put phenobarbital in her nightly tea so that she was already unconscious when I put that pillow over her face. Poor dear, just was not happy.” 

She sighed as she told these two secrets, as someone recalling bittersweet memories.

“Oh….the nursing homes, yes. I helped twelve poor souls go to their maker. They were, after all, ready to go.” There was another sigh of fond remembrance. 

“And now, dear Floyd. Feeling poorly as he’s been, made him very unhappy. Of course, slow arsenic poisoning isn’t pleasant, but he only has a short time left of suffering before he’s gone.”

Jason/Robert was sweating. Mrs. Milkie took a linen napkin and dabbed his forehead, saying, “Oh, I do go on and on. Now about you.”

She held the syringe so he could see it. 

“This is my concoction,” she announced proudly. “Potassium mixed with digoxin to stop the heart.” She used an alcohol swab to wipe an area on a neck vein. “The coroner will list a heart attack as the cause of death.” 

As she slid the needle into his neck, she said, offhandedly, “This was no more than putting down a vicious dog.” 

Stephen Bustanoby

Stephen is a new writer with several recent short story publications. He grew up with Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and

NIghtmare Theater. We can find horror in the most benign, mundane situations, and that’s what I look for.

Trembling With Fear 01/31/21

This week is going to be one of those ‘editor’s’ editorials, inspired partly by submissions received in recent weeks but an issue which seems to be becoming a little more prevalent- namely the condition of a story when it’s sent in. Apologies in advance if some elements appear like a moan but it’s January, the sky is grey and it affects my mood, so here goes:

Occasionally a story isn’t quite there for us but we know roughly what would do it, so we indicate that if the author takes onboard our suggestions, we are more than happy to reread, and in those cases, acceptance is pretty much guaranteed. However, some stories are sent in which start out really promising but as we delve in, we discover they need a huge amount of work. The story becomes confused or the plot line disappears, or the editing becomes sloppier. Sometimes, it’s even the simple matter of taking a good idea and trying to force it into a flash form when that is not its natural home. We’ve seen some excellent ideas recently which just weren’t ready. We’ve sent positive comments back with these and I hope the authors will take heart from that. I’ve also received stories where the author sends in a number of amended versions – please don’t do that, it gets irritating.

As part of being submission ready, again check that it is for us and fits our guidelines, not just in wordcount or style but also content.

Violent? Fine, but for a purpose. Violence against women, children or animals? Make sure there’s proper context, that it’s not gratuitous and not extreme. Preferences are for something hinted at and then the consequences/the comeuppance made clear. If you send in a story of graphic abuse or violence just for violence sake, thinking that is what constitutes a horror story, then it will be rejected. The subtle and the chilling can make something more horrific than any slasher or torture tale.

As to rejections. Please don’t respond to these. If we have the time to give feedback, we will do so in the rejection email. If you feel you then have to explain things or ask other questions, please don’t. We don’t want to appear rude but we don’t have the time to go in-depth or revisit work. I would love to offer more in terms of response but it’s simply not humanly possible. I’m a writer myself, I want to know why something was rejected too but a rejection is a rejection and I’ve learned to simply accept it, to do otherwise would be to damage future chances of working with that publisher. 

And word lengths? Drabbles, 100 words excluding title. Flash stories, 500-1500 words with some flexibility. Anything longer, consider as sending in as serial instalments (with the story split into appropriate parts).

Now to the lead story in Trembling with Fear which this week, is Kept Woman by Maggie Nerz Iribarne, a haunting tale of suffering and tragedy. Part of the horror in this tale, is the vulnerability of the wife and her helplessness at the hands of an uncaring husband who is her primary carer. To be in such a position of helplessness, even with a caring partner, is surely a real-life secret dread of many.

Inner Peace by Scarlet Berry plays on a pun on the title. Wordplay is something I greatly enjoy.

S.W.A.C by Catherine Berry turns abbreviations into a killer, literally. Again, take the known, tweak it and come up with something new.

The Shadow Children by Alyson Faye is a gothic horror centred on a childhood dare. A lot of atmosphere in so few lines. Atmosphere builds the place, layers the horror. My favourite stories are those steeped in atmosphere.

Enjoy the stories and send us yours!

 

Take care

Steph

 

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Ladies and gentlemen! Tomorrow kicks off Women in Horror Month and we’re eagerly looking for guest posts from readers, writers, and any other women in the publishing industry who would be interested in contributing a guest post. Please reach out to contact at horrortree dot today!

We’ve already got some great content lined up for the first week though we’re looking to have the full month set up and need more of your words! Please do reach out.
For our readers, today we have some great fiction once again for you to check out. What a way to end the month!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

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