This week, Steph is out with The Plague (see: Flu!) so I’m having to step(h) things up a bit. Thankfully, I’m fully rested and caught up from being on vacation from last week! (Or… Close enough!) But to keep that way, I’ll be making sure to wear protective gear when I read her next e-mail since you never know how virus’s spread these days…
This week we’re starting off with a bit of science fiction by Keith A. Raymond,MD that lets you know that there are consequences to all of our actions. However, the right gamble can pay big if you’re willing to take a chance. I’m loving when I see other genres outside of pure horror filtering into our weekly release!
Heading over to our drabbles we have Zoey Xolton sharing how fatal our desires can be and what giving into them can mean.
Next up, Madison McSweeney shares that sometimes things just aren’t what they appear to be.
Finally, Lionel Ray Green has delivered a story about the showing off what one has accomplished in a year. For some reason, this one has stuck with me since the first read.
I apologize for not going quite as in-depth on these as Steph does. To be totally honest, I am still catching up from last week and to say that I’m behind is an understatement. I hope you all have a fantastic weekend and week ahead! Crush those writing goals and maybe even send some new drabble in our way. I’d be thrilled to see some darker science fiction or fantasy hit our inbox if creativity allows for it!
‘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
Casino was an entire planet dedicated to gambling. Cruise ships plied the seas, steamboats paddled the rivers, and each city was a monument to a different era related to games of chance. One could spend the day in the desert heat of Las Vegas then the cool nights in Macao. Neva owned it all. To understand her wealth one must know her upbringing in poverty.
A sensor array rose on its stalk and pointed toward the squalling. The discarded robo-nanny rose from the junk pile alert. Rubber treads rolled over rubble to a recess in the debris. The squalling was coming from a baby girl.
The child was bright red and flailing on a canvas of blue gray mottled skin, her dead mother. A scan revealed bacteria leaching the last sugars from her cells. The robo-nanny placed a micro-probe into the mother’s milk glands sampling. The child fortunately had been protected. The robo-nanny used the mother’s analysis to synthesize milk for the child, carrying it back to the other discarded bots of her clan.
The mech servants had been abandoned here on Nix 5.
Neva suckled happily at the synthetic nipple the robo-nanny made. Per protocol, it presented the infant to the Magistrate, but local social services were already overwhelmed. Slavers would have forced her into the mines in any case.
The robo-nanny raised Neva in the metal dump with her clan. Redundant butlers taught her dance and etiquette, tutors taught her through college level education, her nanny taught her everything else. Neva was a tomboy. As a teen, she explored further and further from the metal dump.
On a bright day, Neva came upon an abandoned mine. Her green and purple cropped hair barely vibrated in the breeze. Her hazel eyes spotted discarded tailings of vurtzdaleite. She picked up two chunks of the mineral and banged them together. This, the hardest of all substances in the galaxy, was so brittle that several shards broke off.
Hypnotized by a centimander, she failed to notice her hands were slippery and wet. Absentmindedly, she had been playing with the chips. They were cutting her hands without her realizing it. Wiping the blood on her dress, she took her gum and used it to collect the vurtzdaleite.
An hour later, she showed her friend Caleb the shards. He was not impressed, and continued the tattoo he was placing on the back of a miner. The vibrating tool gave her an idea. Borrowing one of the tattoo machines, Neva disconnected the ink, and used her gum to affix a vurtzdaleite chip to the business end of the device. Turning it on, she found she could use it to cut anything she wanted.
Back home, the robo-nanny scolded Neva for the state of her hands. It washed them, sealed the cuts, and applied antibiotic. All the while, the teenager’s eyes roamed the shelter taking in the windows the butlers had assembled for their enclave.
“What are they made of?” Neva asked.
The robo-nanny admonished, “Be specific, what is what made of?”
“Oh! Those are made from sheet diamond. Cheap, plentiful, and not much use for anything except windows here. There are some pieces of it laying around, look,” the robo-nanny answered, finishing the dressings on her hands.
“Can I take a piece? The sheet diamond, not the window,” Neva remembered, being specific, per instruction.
“Sure, just be careful.”
Neva picked up a piece of sheet diamond from a corner and went to her room. Sitting on the bed, she plucked a rough oblong emerald geode she had found previously from a shelf. Examining it closely, she laid it on her salvaged desk, pulled out her vurtzdaleite modified tattoo machine and went to work on the diamond glass.
Several hours later, she had constructed an emerald fish with diamond scales. The eyes were made from garnet, though she would have preferred rubies. Proudly, she showed it to the robo-nanny whose hollow praise, Neva could see right through.
The next day, she showed it to Caleb. He looked at it in disgust, but being young, he mashed on the point, “Junk made from junk by a junkie.”
Her face went beet red, then pale. She was grabbing for it, when one of Caleb’s customers said, “Hey, wait. Let me see that! Can I take a picture?”
Neva was still ripping the skin from Caleb’s bones with her eyes when she uttered, “Sure, whatever.”
The customer uploaded the emerald fish onto his social media. The transmission was intercepted by the Hoarder, a wealthy trader who happened to be in orbit above Nix 5. Interest was so great, the Hoarder had to acquire it and insisted on adding the fish to his upcoming auction.
Neva stood in awe as the luxurious shuttle descended into the metal dump. The mechs had never seen a yacht of such quality. The Hoarder arrived like royalty in a fur lined gold mantle.
He walked directly up to Neva offering a vast amount of credits.
“Be specific,” she mimicked her robo-nanny.
Neva realized that she had created an art treasure. The Hoarder offered an astronomical amount. In the end, Neva refused to sell. Instead, she preferred to consign the art to auction. The Hoarder, upset, agreed to accept the consignment.
The bidding became the stuff of legends. In the end, the House of Salman paid her with a planet, along with a sum of credits. Neva was suddenly the wealthiest eighteen year old in the quadrant.
Taking her obsolete robot servants, she built Casino. She left Caleb behind. He hadn’t known it at the time, but his comment had cost him a life of luxury.
Casino became the gambling hub of known space. All of Neva’s service mechs were collected and refurbished as a dedication to her nanny, the butlers, and the tutors who raised her on Nix 5.
Keith A. Raymond,MD
Dr. Raymond is a Family and Emergency Physician that practiced in eight countries in four languages. Currently living in Austria with a wife and a polar bear our husky brought home. When not volunteering his practice skills with refugees, he is writing or lecturing. He has multiple medical citations, and also published stories and poetry in Flash Fiction Magazine, The Grief Diaries, The Examined Life Journal, The Satirist, Chicago Literati, Serendipity, and Frontier Tales Magazine.
The fires burned strong and bright in the Pits of Hell, gorging on the pain and suffering of some of humanity’s wealthiest and most influential individuals. They had named their price and sold their souls. The Devil smirked. Their requests were always the same. Their predictability almost bored him into oblivion. They lusted after the flesh or the clink of gold. Other times it was power. Thrones. Kingdoms. Nations. But it was always greed. Humanity’s one fatal flaw was greed. They had still not yet learned and so continued to arrive at his fiery Gates. Eve had been the first.
Zoey Xolton is a published Australian writer of Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Romance and Horror. She is also a proud mother of two and is married to her soul mate. Outside of her family, writing is her greatest passion. She is especially fond of short fiction and is working on releasing her own collections in future. To find out more, please visit: www.zoeyxolton.com!
The Vanishing Lady
The lady was a disappearing act, vanishing at odd hours and slinking back home without so much as a lie. The husband was meek, the type who could screw himself up enough to put a tail on his wife, but never confront her.
I parked outside streetlamp range and waited, camera lens trained on her house.
She arrived home in style, whisked through the sky in a silver rig that would’ve blotted out the sun at a different time of day. I admired her shapely legs in silhouette as she slid into her kitchen along a beam of white light.
Madison McSweeney is a Canadian writer, poet, and blogger.
Her horror, sci-fi, and fantasy stories have appeared in Unnerving Magazine, Women in Horror Annual 2, The Fulcrum, Horror Tree, 365 Tomorrows, and Dark Horizons: An Anthology of Dark Science Fiction. She also has stories set to appear in Weirdpunk Books’s upcoming Zombie Punks F*** Off and forthcoming issues of Polar Borealis and Deadman’s Tome.
Her non-fiction arts and culture coverage has been published in a number of outlets. She blogs at madisonmcsweeney.com and tweets (mostly about horror, rock music, and the Canadian arts scene) from @MMcSw13.
Edgar’s New Year’s Eve Bash
Edgar adjusted his black tie and stepped into the dining room.
A banner hung from the ceiling.
18TH ANNUAL NEW YEAR’S EVE BASH!
On the table, a chocolate sheet cake with seventy-two candles provided the only light.
Edgar glanced at the six guests sitting motionless around the table, their cadaverous faces nearly invisible in the flickering shadows.
“Last year, twelve attended the party,” Edgar said.
The jawbone of one of the guests dropped to the table and clattered to the floor.
Edgar’s left eye twitched once.
“There’s always next year,” Edgar said before adding six more candles to the cake.
Lionel Ray Green
Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. His short stories have appeared in the anthologies Alabama’s Emerging Writers, The Heart of a Devil, Fifty Flashes, How Beer Saved the World 2, Graveyard, Frightening, Tales from the Grave, In Creeps the Night, and 22 More Quick Shivers. His short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition All Hallows’ Prose and his short story “A Tale of Two Shards” was third runner-up in the WriterWriter 2018 International Fantasy Competition Phoenix Rising. His work has also appeared in The Poet’s Haven Digest anthology It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, in Issue 1 of Cross+Decay magazine, and in the 2017 issue of From the Depths magazine as well as in Trembling With Fear, an online feature of the Horror Tree website.