Trembling With Fear 06/17/2018

Thank you to everyone who’s continued supporting TWF by sharing their drabbles and flashes with us. We have been having a consistent run of quality work which has been wonderful to read.

Remember we are still seeking serials and currently have an author who is actively working on one for us now. It actually evolved out of her first submission which we felt was the start of a longer story and is now developing quite nicely. Perhaps you have something similar tucked away in a folder?

In addition, we’ve just accepted a poem for publication and if any of you have some dark poetry you would like to send in, we are more than happy to consider it. My only request would be that you follow our guidelines in terms of content and poems are reasonably short – they do not have to be drabble length. I would tentatively state no more than 30 lines and see how we go from there.

So, a slightly shorter editorial this week, but then again I’ve got a story to write for that rare Cemetery Dance submission window. Hope everyone else is having a bash at it, it’d be great if a TWF writer ends up gracing its pages. If you already have done, what’s your secret?!

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

With how long I took on getting things together for the first year’s TWF in print, some of the contracts had expired. This last week saw me mass e-mailing everyone involved and ideally, this will be a quick turn around that gets things moving forward asap as we’ve got almost everything else fully completed!

‘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

Misery In Chaos

By: Arthur Unk & A.J. Cain

Charlie watched the snow fall outside while lost thoughts wandered far away. Elizabeth’s sobs echoed through the emptied room and snapped him back to dark reality. He couldn’t see where she was. Something felt wrong, but he couldn’t focus long enough to hold a thought in his head. “Misery is peace in the eyes of chaos,” he whispered to himself. The voice inside his head was back and taunted him again. It was hard to tell what was real anymore. The salty taste of tears on his lips had been there for a long time.

He stared at the framed picture of him and Elizabeth on their wedding day. It was a special day for both of them. A few weeks afterwards they found out that she was pregnant; he was going to be a father. That was the happiest he and his wife had ever been. A strong feeling of sadness, like something, was missing washed over him again. There was a void inside him, and he couldn’t remember why. The oppressive darkness enveloped him and quietly faded all his senses to black.

Charlie found himself outside in a stupor trying to silence the demon in his mind. He made his way behind the steering wheel of his car and stared at himself in the rear-view mirror. He did not recognize the hollow eyes that stared back. sleep was a luxury he could no longer afford. A piece was missing inside. The demon filled the void with sad images and things unknown.

“Love has no price? Wrong again, Charlie. Your sanity is the price you’ll pay for her love.” The voice was not his own.

Faint echoes of a local rock radio station created a dull white noise. He pulled the car onto the road. Blue Oyster Cult played the evening’s soundtrack. Darkness returned as the road faded away.

“Come on baby. Don’t fear the reaper…

Charlie pulled off to the side of the country road, put the car in park, and watched the snow fall over a field. The snowflakes were fine like sand in an hourglass. Time became meaningless, abstract. Muffled screams mixed with the song on the radio.

“There’s a lady who’s sure. All that glitters is gold…”

“Help! Help me! Please! Anyone!”

“…And she’s buying a stairway to heaven…”

“Peace comes at daybreak,” Charlie whispered to himself. The cold barrel of a revolver against his skin brought reality together with this nightmare. The face in the mirror was hardly recognizable anymore. He took aim and closed his eyes. The revolver’s scream broke the silence of the night.

“…And as we wind on down the road. Our shadows taller than our soul…The tune will come to you at last. When all are one and one is all…”

Charlie’s eyes fluttered; ringing filled his ears. The demon in his head was silent for now. The voices stopped their screaming. A lingering odor of gunsmoke in his nostrils made the dream a reality. “Lord, why have you saved me?” Charlie cried. His thoughts shifted to his wife and daughter. A moment of clarity hit with the force of an out-of-control truck.

“Oh, Jesus! I have to save them!”

He scrambled out of the vehicle and the world went sideways as he slipped on ice. The revolver slid under the car and his head bounced off the pavement. The radio continued to play its concert to the drifting snow.

“Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again…”

Charlie woke with a headache and pain all over. Faded white ceiling tiles stared back at him. The bars across the small window cast playful shadows on the opposite wall of the mostly barren room. Charlie struggled to sit up, and rested his head in his hands. He closed his eyes in an attempt to will the throbbing away. The door next to his bed creaked open and an older woman with a white coat walked into the room.

“Good morning Charlie. It’s good to see you finally awake. How are you feeling?”

“Terrible,” Charlie began. “Where am I? What’s going on?”

“I’m Doctor Watkins and you are at the Macomb Institute.”

“This isn’t real. This cannot be happening,” Charlie said anger rising. “Macomb is a hospital for the insane.”

Doctor Watkins’s face remained expressionless, “Do you remember coming here?”

“No, I don’t. Where’s my wife? Is my daughter okay? I think they are both hurt somewhere.”

“That, I’m afraid, is a discussion for a later time.”

“What the hell do you mean at a later time? Where’s my goddamn family?”

“I just need you to concentrate on relaxing for now. You can go to the day room later if you think you can handle it.”

“How long have I been here?”

“We’ll talk more later on this evening. I’ll answer all your questions then.”

Charlie reached up and felt the bandages on his head after the doctor left. The heavy dressings did little to dull the tenderness. A few minutes later the pain regressed to a dull throb. Charlie left his room and walked down the hallway. There was an anxious feeling in his stomach like something bad had happened. It wasn’t long before a familiar voice sounded inside his head. The demon was awake again.

Charlie stopped at the entrance to the day room. The other residents watched television or played games at tables ignoring his arrival. He took one step into the room and the world spun out of control. The voice grew louder; the pain sudden and intense. Orderlies in white clothes circled around him and distant voices told him to calm down.

“Stay away from me! I don’t want to hurt you!”

Charlie fell to his knees and grasped his head. The demon took full control. His eyes turned black like the coal that fed the fires of hell.

“Nomen meum est Alastor… Nomen meum est Alastor… NOMEN MEUM EST ALASTOR!” Charlie repeated the same phrase over and over in a voice that was not his own.

The building shook; lights failed; people screamed; walls crumbled. Charlie embraced the chaos and left the hospital. Clouds overhead obscured a daytime eclipse. The demon in his head continued to laugh. Everything around him faded into a bottomless pit.

Charlie awoke kneeling in a cemetery in front of three graves. His wife was laid to rest next to his daughter; the third stone was his own. He could barely read the words on the stones through his tears. He remembered everything that had happened. Charlie began to sob uncontrollably and begged God for understanding. It all made sense now. He did not want the monster to have control over him anymore.

Charlie found a rough stone nearby and with a quick movement tore open his throat. The pain was horrible, but the relief was instant. He closed his eyes while laying on top of his own grave. His blood soaked into the ground. Charlie smiled as the demon’s voice and the world went away. Soon he would join his wife and daughter in the beyond. A song softly sounded through the air from the street nearby.

Oh, where oh where can my baby be? The Lord took her away from me. She’s gone to heaven, so I got to be good, so I can see my baby when I leave this world…”

Detective Andrews and a night nurse stood over the man who was found at the cemetery. The nurse checked his vitals and recorded them in her notes. “He’s lucky that anyone found him. Any idea who he is or why he did this to himself?”

“His name is Charlie Summers. So far, we know that he has been unstable a long time. He was a patient in the Macomb Institute off and on for the last three years. He had a wife, but she had a bad case of postpartum depression. She wound up killing herself along with their newborn daughter. From what I can tell, he snapped after the funerals and has pretty much lived in his own fantasy world since,” he said.

“But, how’d he escape a max mental hospital? I thought those places were locked down pretty tight?”

“The earthquake yesterday did some bad damage to the building. This guy wasn’t the only one that got out. Between the quake and the eclipse, all the loonies are in a tizzy this week. It’s a sad case, but you know what they say, ‘Misery is peace in the eyes of chaos‘.”

The machines in urgent care continued to beep as the sleeping figure of Charlie Summers lay in a coma. His demon had left and now rested comfortably on the shoulders of Detective Andrews. A radio quietly played in the background.

“Life, it seems, will fade away. Drifting further every day. Getting lost within myself. Nothing matters no one else…

 

Arthur Unk

Arthur Unk lives and works in the United States, but dreams of a tropical, zombie-free island. He hones his drabble skills via the Horror Tree Trembling With Fear (Dead Wrong, Flesh of My Flesh, The Tale of Fear Itself, and others yet to come) and writes micro/flash fiction daily. His influences include H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and life experience. You can follow his work from all around the web via his blog at http://arthurunk.com or read his many, many micro-stories on Twitter @ArthurUnkTweets

 

A.J. Cain

A.J. Cain is an American writer who enjoys reading, sports, and spending time with his family. He is currently working towards his Master’s Degree in Military History with the hopes of one day becoming a college professor. His inspirations include Stephen King and James Patterson. Follow him on Twitter @AJCainOfficial.

Alone In The Forest

In that part of the forest where no traveller walks, the man who couldn’t die awaited execution.

He listened to the charges: treason, betrayal, hundreds dead thanks to his treachery.

A bullet would follow. A bullet, a shallow grave, and a miraculous escape some time later.

He didn’t start screaming until he saw the rope.

Afterwards, his brothers-in-arms remarked on how strongly he had kicked as the noose dug into his neck.

In that part of the forest where no traveller walks, the man who cannot die swings back and forth with the breeze, eyes long lost to the crows.

 

Douglas Prince

Douglas Prince is a 28-year-old writer of horror and other dark fiction. Born in Melrose, Scotland, he now lives on the Wirral peninsula, in Merseyside, where he writes stories and reads more books than can possibly be good for him. ‘Alone in the Forest’ is his first story.

WEBSITE: https://theprinceofdarkness.com/

The Change

I sat watching the mechanism on the wall clock gently slide back and forth. It was one of those fancy silver clocks with a mirror behind it; magnifying the slight, graceful swings of the tiny pendulums. No sound emitted from the clock, just mesmerizing movement.

“How many years would they continue to sway when the change came?” I wondered. I imagined hollowed out buildings overgrown with weeds, with mechanical instruments and gadgets entombed inside just quietly continuing to run. Some would run until the batteries died. Others would continue to operate on solar power: if the sun continues to shine.

Natalie Kurchak

Natalie Kurchak has always been an avid reader and consummate editor (willingly or unwillingly) of all things printed or posted in the English language. The first horror story that drew her in and never let her go was The Shining by Stephen King, followed closely by Salem’s Lot and The Stand. Horror is her favorite genre followed closely by history, non-fiction. She’s been married for 26 years, and has two kids and two pit bulls. A marketing professional by day, Natalie writes tons of marketing material for her job including commercial scripts, customer communications, and customer facing materials. A good friend of hers recently published her first book and in the process of helping her edit, she made the decision to start writing some tidbits. I hope you like what you read, and ask for more!

The Wolf Among Us

The wolf stalked through the underbrush, demon eyes a red fire in the moonlight.
I ran and the wolf pursued. I turned to face it and tripped over a branch, tumbling backwards just as the wolf leapt. The kitchen knife plunged deep between its ribs, slicking my chest with blood as the heavy body thumped on top of me.

I pushed it off, removing the chained ruby from it’s neck. It transformed back into Dad.

Tears streaked my face, remembering the scene I fled from. My family lost. I went deep into the forest, and hid the gem’s terrors forever.

Eric S Fomley

Eric S. Fomley writes Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror short fiction. He is the editor of Martian Magazine and the Timeshift and Drabbledark anthologies. His work has appeared in various venues including previous publications with Trembling with Fear. You can follow his publication on his website ericfomley.com or on Twitter @PrinceGrimdark.

Trembling With Fear 06/10/2018

I was feeling a bit stuck for an editorial this week but a submission from an Australian author made me think I’d seen an increase in stories from down under in recent times. This got me to thinking about where in the world our writers come from so I did a quick study. Note all figures are taken from those who have been successful this year, ie those we hold contracts for. I have not included those currently going through the submission process or who may have been rejected, nor have I based it on the number of stories a writer may have had published. Figures are derived purely from the names currently held in the ‘Accepted’ Folder for 2018

So here we go:

Drabbles.

United States – 57%

United Kingdom – 26%

Canada – 7%

Australia – 2%

Spain – 2%

Portugal – 2%

Sweden – 2%

Germany – 2% (although now living in Ireland)

Note: in the case of Spain, Portugal and Canada, these include ex—pat Brits.

 

Drabbles: Male v Female update

Women: 28%

Men: 72%

 

Short Stories

United States – 53%

United Kingdom – 20%

Canada – 15%

Australia – 3%

South Africa – 3%

Australia – 3%

Portugal – 3%

Republic of Ireland – 3%

Short Stories: Male v Female update

Women: 38%

Men: 62%

(The gap between men and women for both drabbles and short stories is purely down to how many submit in the first place and acceptances are based purely on the quality of the story but men definitely sub more than women.)

As an avid follower of the ‘Walter Presents’ programmes which are shown on Channel 4 (I watch them via the ALL4 app on my tv) I would love to see more stories from writers in Europe. The programmes I’ve seen are often quite dark and come from Scandinavia, Belgium, Germany, France amongst others and are extremely good quality; their reach even extends to South America although I tend to go for the colder climes, it was my love of Scandi noir that led me to WP in the first place. If you’ve not heard of Walter Presents, I would highly recommend them. Go here http://www.channel4.com/collection/walter-presents or @WalterPresents, you don’t even realise you’re following subtitles after a while.

One of our regular authors has also been pursuing a collaboration with another writer in Africa and the result of their work is currently going through the review process.

So … even if you feel your English is not all it could be, please send it in. If I read it and like it then it is something I am usually happy to work on with an author; much as I do for relatively new writers. There are no borders at Horror Tree.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

The anthology is actually closing in to being ready. However, we’ve come across a major stumbling block for contracts that might hold things up. Figuring out the logistics of getting this resolved in a timely manner ASAP. Everyone involved in the 2017 one should be getting an e-mail relatively soon with a quick revision.

‘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 Tram

That dreaded midnight hour on February 26, 2018 was almost upon him.

For the first time in his three-year career as a Hong Kong Tramways driver, it was Andy Chan’s first night shift on route #108 Happy Valley Eastbound on this day. Right across the Happy Valley racecourse was the Hong Kong Cemetery on the west side of Wong Nai Chung Road, where many taxi drivers had experienced the occasional customers paying with seemingly legitimate currency, which later turned out to be hell money. Well, at least tram drivers do not directly handle cash or any form of payment. He would rather not encounter any ghosts, thank you very much.

 

Stopping in a busy intersection in Wan Chai, Andy hung a tin bucket filled with water at the front of the tram.  Some people looked puzzled by his action, but the older locals knew. One street vendor even wished him good luck. He pressed a button to indicate Not In Service on the LED route display board instead of #108 Eastbound. As he started his route, the tram crawled slowly south on Wong Nai Chung Road in a speed just barely faster than jogging.

You have to slow for them if you see them coming, Sam Wong, a colleague, had advised him before he started tonight’s shift. But for Buddha’s sake never ever stop or get off the tram!

The tram just passed Queen’s Road East. Andy’s heart began to race. He glanced at the time on his watch, which was now midnight. He was starting to get gooseflesh, hard like the stubs on his five- year-old son’s Lego bricks. He closed his eyes momentarily after passing Dorsett hotel. The cemetery would come up on his right any second now.

(Why did I become a tram driver?)

An image of his father’s angry face suddenly surfaced in his memory. Angry he could take; but there was so much disappointment in his father’s eyes that Andy had to quit working for his old man. It wasn’t the charred barbecue duck. You’re just not reliable! His old man had said.

(Nobody’s perfect!)

 

He was still young–thirty-one when he first started driving trams–though initially he was only going to do it for a year. The pay was decent and the pension was not bad, though his father would rather have Andy take over the restaurant some day. Ironically, Andy was the one who gained a paunch after sitting in the driver’s seat all day (or night), while his father remained skinny, despite working with food fourteen hours a day, seven days a week.

(At least I still make more money than those college kids with degrees who are mopping floors at McDonald’s!)

When Andy opened his eyes again, he saw nothing; in fact, not a soul on either side of the road at this hour. A wave of relief washed over him. He even laughed aloud, albeit a little nervously. He never saw any ghosts in his life, and this yearly tradition was probably just like any other custom of a very superstitious society, nothing more. Not every driver even bothered to run this route on an empty tram anyway. He nearly resented listening to Sam Wong and the fearmongers at the hub, letting them scare him like this.

He turned on the radio. A monotonous male voice came on and reported the day’s news in Cantonese:

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the catastrophic fire that claimed close to 600 lives at the Happy Valley Racecourse. It all started when a roof collapsed, knocking over portable gas stoves food vendors were using. The fire spread fast and caused a stampede–people trampled over each other trying to escape. Charred remains of more than 590 bodies were eventually recovered, though more were believed to have perished. Buddhist monks were called in to perform a ritual after the dead were reportedly seen around the area after the fire, apparently begging for water…

Andy switched off the radio hastily, nearly knocking it off the panel close to his steering wheel. Why was the tram so slow all of a sudden? He stepped on the gas, but it was still crawling. He kicked the pedal in a moment of frustration–something he regretted instantly–for the tram suddenly stopped dead between the entrance to the racecourse on one side and the cemetery on the other.

The cold night air suddenly turned very hot and smelled like smoke. Andy looked to his left at the racecourse but there was nothing there. No one would be burning incense at this hour at the cemetery (it was closed), and just for confirmation, he looked at the sprawling cemetery but there was no smoke anywhere. In a place like Hong Kong, one would rarely have this opportunity to be completely alone, yet Andy felt like he was the only living soul in the area. He tried to find a logical explanation. Was the smell coming from the engine? If so, what an unfortunate time for it to happen, of all times, of all places!

But for Buddha’s sake don’t ever stop or get off the tram! Sam Wong’s words came to Andy’s mind for the second time tonight.

(What should I do now?)

 

Andy took out his cell phone, but despite the 5G broadband (among the first in the world, no less), he had no signal. The air brought in by the heat exchange smelled like that day he left five barbecue ducks in the oven half an hour too long in his father’s restaurant, an infamy in his family’s history. Then he heard footfalls–lots and lots of them. Every hair on his arms stood on its end, even though he was wearing a down jacket. He was a sitting duck (he thought of the charred barbecue duck again) and not even a single car had passed by. He could hear moaning, wailing, whimpering and screaming all around him, and yet, he still did not see anything. He pushed the button to make sure all the windows were shut and the doors were locked, just in case. In case they…

And then they came.

A teeming crowd–charred and melting–suddenly appeared out of nowhere and swarmed his tram. They flailed their burning arms and bemoaned the heat. They came for the bucket of water. He heard the bucket hit the tram and watched as the water spilled all over. The horde kept coming–some were banging on the glass of his front windows begging for more water. He feared the impact would eventually break the glass, so he did another thing he would regret in a few seconds–he honked the horn to scare them off.

The sound of the horn pierced the ruckus. But instead of inciting fear, it spurred the horde even more. He was completely surrounded and trapped inside the tram. The tram was shaking from side to side like the seats in a 3D ride at amusement parks. Andy had to hold onto his steering wheel to steady himself. He frantically looked at his phone again, but still, no signal. While he prided himself on being a manly man who had never shed a tear, a few drops had started to pool at the corner of his eyes, threatening to trigger a flood. He thought of his wife, his son, and even the angry face of his father, and feared he would not see them again.

(Please go away I gave you water already what more do you want please just leave me alone)

In a moment of panic, he hit the gas pedal again. To his immense relief, the tram jolted and started moving. The charred faces in front of him screamed, some fell as the tram ran them over. Andy shrieked–he would remember the sensation of his tram going over bodies for the rest of his life, and with each thump his tears fell a bit more freely. There was a lot of caterwauling from the dead, as the tram made its trip around the racecourse, passing Wong Nai Chung Road Crescent Garden and going north.

Once he passed the Happy Valley Recreation Ground, he could no longer see the racecourse. The air no longer smelled adust. He looked back in the side and rear-view mirrors and did not see the dead anymore. He wiped his tears and snot off his face with the sleeve of his jacket, erasing any evidence that he wasn’t such a manly man after all.

 

At the end of his route, Andy parked his tram at the hub and left the key for the next driver without a word. It was the last time he clocked out at Hong Kong Tramways.

 

 

 

<<<<>>>>

Judith Baron

Judith Baron loves to base her stories on actual events and folklore, especially from her homeland Hong Kong. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Western Ontario and currently lives near Toronto, Canada with her husband and child.

Hot Head

He tanned until his white skin turned a burned russet, his shameless smile full of white teeth and reddened eyes providing the only change of hue. More walking potato skin than human, his epidermis shimmered, oiled in a way he no doubt thought was bronzed, with a sure shot at the gold.
Coming in second-to-last didn’t exactly make him happy. Returning to his favored salon, he blamed them for his failure, demanding free sessions, extra oiling and massage. The managers exchanged a nod.
Once he lay inside the tanning bed, they tied the handles, sipping margaritas as he screamed, burning.

Kevin Holton

Kevin Holton is a cyborg and fitness junkie from coastal New Jersey. He’s the author of At the Hands of Madness (Severed Press), as well as the forthcoming novels The Nightmare King (Siren’s Call Publications) and These Walls Don’t Talk, They Scream (HellBound Books). He also co-wrote the short film Human Report 85616, and his short work has appeared with Sci-Phi Journal, The Literary Hatchet, Radiant Crown Press, Pleiades, Rain Taxi, Mighty Quill Books, and Thunderdome Press, among others. He can also be found acting, blogging with The Bold Mom, or talking about Batman.

You can find more of his work on his website, Patreon, Amazon, or just follow him on Twitter .

 

Love To Love You Baby

It’s said there’s someone for everyone and I have always hoped that this was true.
Despite all the challenges, my belief in love never once waivered; my faith in Aphrodite was unshakeable.
This then, was my reward.
A perfect partner. My soulmate.
So, after proposing, and receiving a furious headshake for an answer, it could be said I took the refusal… badly.
They declined my hand in marriage. But I still took theirs.
And their tongue.
Then toes.
Then eyes.
It’s also said that there’s plenty more fish in the sea.
I hope so.
I’m already angling for another catch.

Steven Holding

Steven Holding lives with his family in Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom. His work has been short listed in several contests and his story “UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD” was selected as the winning entry in the WRITING MAGAZINE 2016 annual short story competition. One of his monologues was chosen to be performed at Northampton’s Royal Theatre, while his adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland” was produced at Northampton’s Derngate Theatre in 2017.

 

You can visit his website at www.stevenholding.co.uk

Night Terrors

Your eyes burst open, as though pulled. It is ink dark. Your thundering heart thumps in your temples. Your eyes adjust to dim light, your ears to night’s near silence.
A vision blooms in your mind.
A fragment…
Of a dream?
What is that sound? A scuffing, like the stagger of one who emptied their fifth drink long ago and returned for more. A shadow looms, darker somehow than the darkness around it. It lumbers awkwardly, closing the distance to your bedside. You stare up to face it, mouth gaping, only… there is no face to face.
Only a dream?

Kev Harrison

Kev Harrison is a writer of dark fiction and English language teacher from the UK, living and working in Lisbon, Portugal. His nomadic lifestyle has previously taken him to various cities in the United Kingdom, as well as to Turkey and Poland. He has an unquenchable thirst for travel and is passionate about food, photography, and music, as well as fiction. He is a staff writer for This is Horror and has had short fiction published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including Below the Stairs: Tales From The Cellar from Things in the Well, Mummy Knows Best from Terror Tree Books and, most recently The Pale Leaves website of gothic and weird fiction and The Other Stories podcast. He has more stories scheduled for publishing in 2018 and is currently editing his first supernatural horror novella.

www.kevharrisonfiction.com

Trembling With Fear 06/03/2018

Rejections. I talked about them recently. What I didn’t mention was the ‘theory of twelve’ I discovered via a Facebook thread. I discussed this with Alyson Faye, a regular contributor to Horror Tree and TWF. A number of authors/editors on FB subscribe to the view that a story will usually get published by the time you reach the 12th submission of said story. (I wish I could remember whose thread it was so I could credit them properly!) Aly and I tend to sub a story a lot less than this before we move onto something new but it left me wondering if there was anything in it. So I am testing the theory with one particular story. It has received 2 rejections and is now out on its 3rd submission – 9 more to go perhaps? Sadly any updates will have to wait because this particular submission takes 6-8 weeks before I get a response. But it will be interesting to test the idea all the same. There was also the view you should have between 15-20 short stories out circulating in the ether at any one time. Um … I’ve got several but not sure I could achieve this rate. Anyone else care to test the ‘theory of twelve’?

Continuing with my visitations of various contributor websites, I dropped by that belonging to Kevin M. Folliard http://www.kevinfolliard.com/blog/ – 5 drabbles and 2 shorts accepted/published with TWF 2018. (A little way to go to reach RJ Meldrum with his 9 drabbles and 2 shorts but still prolific – when I have a moment, I will check out the status of our ‘league’ table). This in turn led me to an interview carried out with Hinnom Magazine which not only made Kevin a more ‘real’ person to me but demanded I read the story they were talking about (White Noise). What did I do? I bought a copy of the magazine and I look forward to reading it.

I hope that, like me, when you enjoy an author’s story, you check out their websites, read a little more about them, maybe buy their other works.

Remember to let us know of your successes and we will share them here – or perhaps why not go one better and write a guest post for Horror Tree?

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Oh, my, god, Becky, look at her book
It is so big, she looks like
One of those writer guys’ girlfriends
But, ya know, who understands those writer guys?
They only talk to her, because,
She looks like a total bookworm, ‘kay?
I mean, her book, is just so big
I can’t believe it’s just so full of words, it’s like out there
I mean gross, look
She’s just so, smart

Yes, I’ve lost what little is left of my mind.

‘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

Catch Me

Charlotte was ready. Coat and boots on she stood in the doorway like a horse waiting to bolt.

She looked back into the room. It was always the same; Harry, still in the bathroom, reluctant to go, but she would be late if she didn’t set off now.

Charlotte called through the steam of the shower.

“It starts at eight. Kings Arms Pub, then onto the riverside trails. Catch up with me.”

“‘Kay,” came the reply.

A sizeable crowd had assembled inside and outside the Kings Arms, many with a drink in hand. Charlotte wasn’t inclined to enter the pub alone and hung around at the back of the group to wait for Harry.

Out of the shadows boomed Ray’s voice. Garbed head to toe in black, his tiny pinched smoky face the only variation in shade. On closer scrutiny even his lips appeared grey; a cavernous gateway to the raven-coloured chasm displayed when he spoke.

Ray welcomed everyone theatrically and beckoned the crowd closer, inviting and enticing them with his tales of spirits and tortured souls from the city’s past.

Charlotte was reluctant to move away from the back of her group in case Harry couldn’t see her but she found herself being pushed further inside as the pub dwellers made their way outside.

“Come forward if you dare. Payment into the hat. If you please.”

Said hat was thrust under Charlotte’s nose. She jerked her head backward, slightly disturbed by the peculiar man. He tilted his head and peered at her from the sides of his eye. She quickly paid and he flitted away in a flurry of cloak.

Hurry up, Harry’ she thought, but still there was no sign of him as the ghost tour began.

Back in the hotel Harry rushed around hunting for the information guide.

Ah, here, pretty sure it’s this one by the river. I must catch them up, shouldn’t be too hard. Oh, she will be cross.

The clock chimed eight fifteen as Harry approached the meeting point. He bent forward to catch his breath then looked around. He supposed they must have set off already and would be somewhere along the riverbank, so he jogged along the track.

Charlotte again sought to break free of the centre of the throng. She picked her way through to the edge of the group as they listened to the storyteller. Turning back, her eyes searched again for Harry. He must be nearby now.

“Dick Turpin rides this path!”

At her ear was Ray, his jaw pecking towards her as he warbled tales of ghostly highwaymen and where to find them.

Ray circled the group making them laugh and jump in equal measure. When he finished his highwaymen tale, he flapped his cloak dramatically around him and took flight to the next destination.

Harry heard the storyteller’s voice and rushed to join the group. He couldn’t see Charlotte; it was so dark. He didn’t want to call out her name as the guide was in the midst of reciting anecdotes of highwaymen and tavern landlords.

Charlotte now found herself forced to the head of the bunch, uncomfortably close to Ray. This was not the evening she had expected. Hopefully Harry would catch up soon.

As the group crossed towards the illuminated tower, she glanced backwards towards the river paths. An unusual looking shadowy clutch of bodies had congregated and amongst them she spied Harry.

Typical. He’s with the wrong party.

Charlotte didn’t remember noticing the other group earlier but gave it little thought. Whilst the others in her party were gazing mesmerised at the tower she stepped out of line to dash back, to grab Harry so they could continue the tour together.

“Where are you going?” twittered Ray, creepily close again. Before she could explain he folded his foisty black coverings around her; earthy warmth clinging to her shoulders smelling of rot.

“Let me take you under my wing.”

Harry now realised he was not where he should be. Raising his head above the others he observed a large figure swoop upon Charlotte. Angry at both his own tardiness and the stranger’s manhandling of his girl, Harry lunged through the bodies. They reacted angrily.

Thunderous beating sounds pounded his ears. He was drawn backwards, hauled in by frenzied beings, pecked and clawed. Harry stumbled, his jacket ripped from him. He was snared and as the trampling began, he submitted to the terror.

Ray moved slowly into the tower shadows, he resumed his tour speech pulling Charlotte inside his greasy feathered overcoat. Its fluffy inner warmth muffled Charlotte’s cries and smothered her. She became weak.

Rumbling of heavy boots over towards the tower stirred panic within Ray and he flapped away to the shadows, taking Charlotte with him.

The apologetic boot-wearer, Pat, announced himself to the crowd as their guide for the evening. He had been delayed … profound apologies … was everyone okay?

A puzzled member of the group began to talk about their guide Ray when a screech of pain illuminated the night air. An enormous dark hooded shadow clumsily took flight. Within its clutches there appeared a woman, lifted higher and then upwards to the sky.

Gasps of astonishment, applause and appreciation for the amazing act twittered through the crowd. Only the current host, Pat, remained silent.

Harry’s eyes scanned the skies. He watched Charlotte’s captor, now in full raven form, settled on a pillar with his prey.

Harry used one last surge of strength and propelled his suffering frame across the ground, fleeing the grasp of his own murderous flock.

Harry cried out and caught off guard, Ray loosened his grip. Charlotte fell.

The commotion caused crowds of bodies to surge around the river trails.

Harry’s torturous group morphed into their natural forms and screeched away across the skies followed by a large, dejected raven.

A whisper breezed through the trees. “Catch me Harry.”

Charlotte’s fall was broken by a tree, before she plunged towards the ground.

Harry stretched out his arms but, arrived late.

He died from his mysterious injuries, soon after Charlotte.

The storyteller now has a new tale to tell of The Raven, the Girl and her Sweetheart.

If you look carefully, through the trees, near the tower, you might just glimpse two chasing shadows, one trying to catch up with the other.

Joanne Campbell

Joanne Campbell lives in Yorkshire in the North of England and write short stories and flash fiction with an ambition to eventually pen a novel. Her passion is and always has been for the dark, supernatural, spooky world.

She loves discovering tales from ‘new’ writers and have found some great talent out there such as Michael Leese author of Going Underground (Jonathan Roper British autistic detective) who she discovered via a Kindle free offer.

Some of her flash fiction stories has been published in two anthologies by Otley writers –

‘The Pulse of Everything’ and ‘The Darkening Season.’ Both are available to buy on Amazon.

Her aim for the coming year is to update her newly set up Word Press blog https://jocampbellcreepycreations.wordpress.com and begin that novel.

Contact

The house was reputedly haunted. We decided to explore.
“Hold my hand,” she whispered.
We climbed the stairs. The landing was pitch black.
“I don’t like this,” she said.
Her hand slipped away. Blindly, I reached out. For a few frozen moments I couldn’t find her. I encountered a hand in the darkness.
“Let’s go,” I said.
I lead the way, back towards the top of the stairs. I looked down. She was standing near the open front door. She glanced up at me, her face terrified. I stood, frozen in a paroxysm of fear. Whose hand was I holding?

RJ Meldrum

R. J. Meldrum is an author and academic. Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010 with his wife Sally. His interest in the supernatural is a lifetime obsession and when he isn’t writing ghost stories, he’s busy scouring the shelves of antique book-sellers to increase his collection of rare and vintage supernatural books. During the winter months, he trains and races his own team of sled dogs.
He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Digital Fiction and James Ward Kirk Fiction.
You can find out more about RJ at his homepage.

Pillow Talk

Beloved hush now. Do not struggle so. You cannot break the binds that tie. Lay your head upon the pillow I’ve fetched from our marital bed. Here be a dozen candles for you to see by. Let me wrap you in your second favourite woollen cloak, lest you catch a chill from the earth seeping into your casket. Here is my final bequest; the gift of light. A box of Lucifers. Aptly named.

Remember to bid the Devil, ‘Hello’. I am sure you will be seeing him. Do use these strikes sparingly. You have eternity, my love.

Rest in peace.

Alyson Faye

Alyson lives in West Yorkshire with her family and 3 rescue cats. She teaches creative writing classes, writes noir Flash Fiction and ghost stories. She is one of the writers in ‘Women in Horror Annual 2’, in Raging Aardvark’s ‘Twisted Tales’, her stories can be downloaded at www.alfiedog.com as well as being available on various sites like zeroflash/Tubeflash/101 words/three drops from a cauldron. Her flash fiction debut collection, ‘Badlands’ is out now from indie publisher Chapeltown Books – here’s the interview http://www.chapeltownpublishing.uk/2018/01/badlands-by-alyson-faye.html and is available to buy from amazon.

You can find out more on her blog- www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com

or at her amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01NBYSLRT

Premonition

I wake to agony. I’m inside a coffin. I hear the crackling, feel the heat. It takes seconds to realize my wife has done this. Drugged me, got her pet doctor to sign the certificate and then cremated me. I thump against the wood, but it’s too late. I’m done for.

I wake to cool sheets and a sense of relief. Just a nightmare. My wife and the doctor peer down at me.  She smiles.

“You know, I do believe he knows our plans.”

“Impossible. We’ve been too careful.”

I see the syringe in his hand. I try to scream.

RJ Meldrum

R. J. Meldrum is an author and academic. Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010 with his wife Sally. His interest in the supernatural is a lifetime obsession and when he isn’t writing ghost stories, he’s busy scouring the shelves of antique book-sellers to increase his collection of rare and vintage supernatural books. During the winter months, he trains and races his own team of sled dogs.
He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Digital Fiction and James Ward Kirk Fiction.
You can find out more about RJ at his homepage.

Red Was His Colour

Red was his colour. Red rags, red mist, red-handed. Dawn had worn his brand for years on her crimson-slashed back and maroon-masked stomach, a heart in a bruise, bleeding. She longed for a change, anything to wash away the stain. She preferred ivory, its cold tone, its sense of peace; the grave-bound bones of the babies she had denied him wore this shade. Dawn made his new bed alongside them, earthy and shallow, ready for him to lie in it. She poured him a glass of his favourite red and added granules of ivory. A poisonous combination. Like their marriage.

Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis is a UK-based writer of dark fiction. Her poems, short stories and novella have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies. She has written a novel which she is hoping to get published and is currently at work on a second. Steph is an active member of the FlashDogs flash fiction online writing community and is also co-editor at The Infernal Clock, a fledgling publishing effort which has so far produced two well-received anthologies, The Infernal Clock and CalenDark, The Infernal Almanac. She reviews ARCs on occasion for Crystal Lake Publishing, is on the review team at HorrorAddicts.net, and is a beta reader. Steph currently works with secondary school students developing their literacy skills. In the past she worked as a senior software author in a technical publications company. She lives in Southampton with her husband and 3 children.
https://stephellis.weebly.com/

Trembling With Fear 05/27/2018

Submission Guidelines – don’t groan. Please can I politely ask anyone who submits to just check over their work against our guidelines before they send it in. One bugbear of mine is having to deal with stories sent within an email. Our submissions procedure involves transferring stories into an ‘Unread’ file, really easy to do with an attachment but when it’s within an email, I have to cut and paste it from the email into a new document. Another dislike, which luckily doesn’t happen too often, is writing content which is too ‘extreme’ for TWF. Yes, we publish horror and yes, there is violence and pain and scary stuff but no erotica, porn or graphic sex and definitely no child abuse. Remember to check your word counts as well for longer flash stories. We are flexible but there is still a limit. If you want to sub a longer story, look at turning it into a serial. We could do with a few more of those. And my last moan, please could I also ask that if you are going to write to us, give us a name to reply to – even if you use initials as your byline. I feel extremely awkward just replying to someone with a ‘Hi’ because I don’t know their name, I feel as though I’m being rude (it’s that very British thing about good manners😊). I know I’ve said some of this before but …

Gripe over.

Now on a happier note, I’d like to say thank you to everyone for their birthday wishes recently. I had a lovely day and increased my TBR pile considerably. One of the books was Guillermo del Torro and Chuck Hogan’s The Night Eternal. It is the last instalment of a vampire trilogy which so far, I would highly recommend. I am aware it is a TV series but I haven’t been able to catch that yet. I should be reading a book for review but I snuck this one in ahead. I’ve still got a while to the deadline …

And finally, here’s a website I would recommend http://gingernutsofhorror.com/index.html. Whilst reviewing books, films and working tirelessly to support all things horror, they also offer writers guest post slots amongst other features. Follow them via twitter @jimbomcleod.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

As you read this, I am on vacation so I’m going to keep it short and sweet (that has been happening a lot lately hasn’t it? The short and sweet, not the vacations.)

I hope you all have a great weekend getting your writing in and would love to see some serials hit our inbox if anyone else is interested in contributing any!

‘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 Sledge

“Do this: and you will live.”

Our city lives – just – I can hear its slow heartbeat: the metronome from the radio that ticks once every two seconds, broadcast when there is no music and nothing to say.

I open the kitchen drawer. I know which knife Mama meant.

They have carried her down the stairs and put her on the sledge. We drew lots: Papa, Tyotka; Nadia. It fell to me – Nadia – to take her across the park. She’ll stay there until the spring when the earth softens and she can have a proper burial.

Tiny snow nips my face in the late morning twilight. I take the strain of the rope on my shoulder. The sledge – the one I used to ride, laughing, with Mama – jolts from its frozen grip: we’re moving.

The road crossing is smooth but the park is heavy going. Breaths come laboured through Papa’s woollen scarf. The rope twists into my hands through thin mittens.

“Don’t stop. Keep going till you get to the fir trees: and you will live.”

But I can’t: the sledge has jammed on a lump in the ground and won’t budge. My strength is gone. My stomach is collapsing; the cold is starting to chew at my fingers.

What do they taste like..?

I fall to my knees: pull the knife from the deep pocket of Papa’s coat: study the rough steel blade.

Mama’s face is hidden: wrapped in a shawl, but the fringe only just covers her neck. She’d meant me to halt just up there, out of the wind: out of sight…

I can’t bear it.

But she’d said, “Nadia, it won’t be the first time I’ve fed you. Just imagine it’s borsch.”

I turn over the knife.

We used to have meat.

I feel sick.

But she’d said, “What if you were an artist? And you spent fourteen years creating something beautiful: something that should live on after you? And then it just curled up and faded away: how would you feel?”

I stab at the lump that’s stopped the sledge.

Paper rips.

Paper! You can eat that!

I tear it and stuff it in my mouth: the savoury taste delights.

It’s stuck round something, wrapping it. I thump the block to move it. It crumbles: rich_

Bread!

I scrabble at the dark, frozen lump: press its fragments to my face, to my open mouth. I shut my eyes: take in the gorgeous scent. A tiny warm spark lights, takes hold, deep inside.

I can keep going…

#

The man hands me Mama’s outdoor clothes: her fur coat, scarf and boots. He frowns at her bare hands: no rings.

“Would you like tea?”

“No… Thanks. I’d better get back. It’s getting dark.”

His face isn’t yellow and lined.

His hands aren’t bony.

He doesn’t even stoop.

And I’d never have noticed that furtive look if I hadn’t been alert: my senses revived by the bread.

I’ll keep going now.

The siege will lift.

The spring will come.

And we will live.

END

C.L. Spillard

C.L. Spillard is a complex interplay of matter and energy in wave-patterns whose probability cloud is densest in York, U.K.

 

The moon landings influenced the young pattern’s self-awareness mechanisms, igniting lifelong interest in Physics and in humanity’s plight on Earth.

 

C.L. Spillard’s wave-pattern enjoys proximity to a second pattern originating in St Petersburg (Russia), and these two have since generated two younger ones who are now diffusing over the planet stuffing themselves with knowledge as if it were going out of fashion.

 

C.L. Spillard authored stories published in Mad Scientist Journal, Flash Frontier and three anthologies, the latest being ‘Steampunk Universe’ (ed. Sarah Hans).  She has two ‘Science in SF’ pieces on Dan Koboldt’s page.

 

She claims full responsibility for the recently-published fantasy ‘The Price of Time’.

 

www.cspillardwriter.co.uk

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Price-Time-C-L-Spillard/dp/0956046983/

 

Preservation

We could wait them out.  Entropy was our ally.  Zombies reaved the Earth, so we hid and waited.  For however strong, savage, unstoppable, the zombies were necrotizing tissue.  Dead flesh and bone, animated yet decomposing.  We pledged patience, enduring while the zombies decayed.  We forgot about formaldehyde.  Zombies didn’t rise the moment life’s spark fled, they sat up on funeral homes’ steel tables, veins filled with tissue fixatives.  So obvious in hindsight.  When the first zombies attacked, they drew close and claimed their victims easily, because they hardly looked dead at all.  Smooth skin, rosy cheeks: their makeup was flawless.

Dale W. Glaser

DALE W. GLASER is a collector, re-teller and occasional inventor of fantasy tales.  He requires air, food, water and stories in order to survive, not necessarily in that order.  His lifelong love of written words has manifested as a devotion to the English language almost exclusively, which is probably just as well because if he were to master any of the dead tongues that conceal ancient mysteries and invoke malevolent forces, we’d all be in trouble.  His short stories have been published in magazines such as Cheapjack Pulp, Occult Detective Quarterly, and Trysts of Fate, as well as anthologies such as Final Masquerade, Eldritch Embraces and Carnival of Fear. He currently lives in Virginia with his wife and three children. He can be found online at https://dalewglaser.wordpress.com.   

New Sight

“We need a Peninsula Trail map,” Bobby told the store clerk.

“I can show you,” old Eugene offered, waving a wrinkled hand towards clouded blue eyes. “Sight’s gone, but I’ve walked the trail for years.”

Bobby and Sarah hesitated, shared a skeptical look, and accepted.

Eugene guided them along ocean cliffs leading down into lush green woods.

“It’s beautiful,” Sarah commented, embarrassed for doubting their guide.

Later, wiping the blood off his fresh, young skin, Eugene blinked with Bobby’s brown eyes. They were still sensitive in his skull, but harvesting the couple had revitalized him. Every sight felt new again.

Catherine Berry

Catherine Berry lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. When she isn’t working, she’s spending time with loved ones or satisfying her varied hobbies. Her work has previously been published in Horror Tree’s Trembling With Fear.

 

More of her work can be found at www.caterinaberyl.blogspot.com

I Cannot Allow You To Touch Me

Why not? What will happen? Will you disintegrate, vampire-style? I won’t simply stretch out my hand; I respect your words. But I need to know. Are you a ghost? A virtual being inside a computer?

Some questions demand answers. Before she left, my wife said I’m obsessed. Do I only hallucinate you? But you aren’t even my type. Infectious disease? Just tell me! You owe me that much, after all you’re costing me.

You’ve left me no choice but to stage this accident. Take my hand and live, refuse and drop thirty storeys. Come on, let me find out. Please …

Tobias Radloff

I am a writer from Germany who lives and works in Belfast, preferrably with a cat on my lap. I write in German and English (sometimes both at the same time), and among my publications are novels, short stories and poetry encompassing a multitude of genres including fantasy, thriller, and historic fiction. Homepage: https://www.tobias-radloff.de

The Half Elf’s Triumph

Zelly bent to the stream, cupping water to wash dirt and blood from her face.
One eye swollen shut, it was a battle well fought.
Her kind wasn’t known to take on a troll single-handedly.
A deep rumble caused her to turn.
The troll stirred.
Lifeless.
Dark magic now animated the corpse.
Grasping her halberd, there was no time to think.
Racing past the undead as it steadied itself.
Into the forest beyond.
In the shadows, the enchanter was lost in his possession of the beast.
As her ax swung down, it would be the last mistake he ever made.

Stuart Conover

All Fathers, Cthulhu, Gods, Demons, all fall before Stuart as he goes about his daily routine!
Well, his pen at least.
Keyboard even.
Now if he could only have “The End” fall into the last page of his current WIP!
Your resident Horror Tree editor has snuck in a drabble past Steph this week and hopes you enjoy!

Trembling With Fear 05/13/2018

A recent email with a contributor involved a discussion about how we actually made our decisions here at TWF and I thought it would be a good idea to share it with everyone. This way you know exactly what goes on.

So, who reads the subs first? That would be me. I read the story and log my decision on our tracker (I do like trackers 😊). Stuart then takes a second read with that in mind. We pretty much match over what we do/don’t like. Where one of us might be on the fence about something we usually give the other the choice of rejection or acceptance. I also note where I think edits are needed in terms of story development or clarification as does Stuart if he thinks something more needs to be considered. Once I’ve seen his comments, I then move forward with sending out acceptances, rejections, or requests for rework. This is very much a two-way process and I feel a good way of working as reading can be so subjective and this gives a story a proper chance by offering a healthy debate.

Now I know there’s plenty to read here at TWF but if you would like to see a few more quality drabbles, I would recommend popping over to one of our regular contributors, Kevin Holton’s sitehttps://kevinholton.com/blog/. They are really very good. I would also like to say that his story, Big Bang Bobby published back in April must rank as an absolute favourite of mine.

And a little update on story rejections. Had one this week (not Bingewatching Cure, still waiting), it was short-listed, nothing wrong with it, original little tale, enjoyed – just didn’t fit the balance of other stories in the anthology. They also said it was good enough to find another home. So there you go, remember it might not be your writing, just circumstances … now to find somewhere else to send it!

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Steff’s process above is about one hundred thousand times more organized then what I had previously had in place. I just wanted to make sure that everyone was completely aware of that.

‘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 Crimson Mirror

Jim Burcher contemplated his purchase as it lay on his studio workbench at the rear of his shop. He was unstinting in his self-deprecating curses at being an impetuous and careless fool.

Jim had been late to the auction, missing half the items he wanted, and being outbid on the rest. He’d almost resigned himself to a wasted trip, when he’d seen the last item to for sale was a mirror unlisted in the catalogue. A last-minute entry to the sale, probably to clear it out of storage.

On impulse and determined to come away with something, he’d bid a tenner and got it. His triumph however, was short-lived. It had looked fine from the back of the saleroom, but on closer inspection he realised his mistake. The frame was molded plaster, chipped and fractured in places, causing its coat of cheap gold paint to flake off. But it was the mirror glass itself that was the real disappointment. Not only was it ‘foxed’, his reflected image engulfed in a grey mist, but its surface was a web of crazed cracks. How it adhered to the silvered backboard he couldn’t guess.

A piece of crap. Another star item of object d’art for ‘Jim Burcher Collectables Emporium’. Jim liked to think his business was an antique-come-retro boutique. Others crueler in mind and spirit referred to it as a junk shop-come-scrapyard.

He decided, despite his bad luck to keep it and brought it back to work on that evening. Jim grabbed a late supper and a mug of tea and returned to his studio just before eleven hoping he might try and salvage something before retiring to bed.

He held up the mirror, tilting it around under the light and studied the damage to its glass surface.

It suddenly seemed to twitch violently, pulling away from his grip. He made a series of desperate frantic grabs trying to catch it before it crashed to the floor. In his fumbling attempts to grasp the frame, his hand rubbed across the cracked glass and pain bit through his fingers and palm as the jagged edges cut into his flesh.

Cursing and bleeding profusely, he dropped it, ignoring the crunch as it hit his wooden bench, and he ran for the bathroom.

After half an hour of washing, disinfecting and dressing his wounded left hand, he returned to his studio, determined to bin his dodgy buy and call it quits whilst he still had any limbs left.

What he saw on that bench defied reason, almost freezing his brain. A transformation had occurred in his reflective nemesis which appalled and fascinated him in equal measure.

The surface of the mirror reminded him of a diagram of some creature’s circulatory system. His blood, rather than forming droplets and smears on the broken surface, had seeped into its glazed fissures and had spread along their zigzag courses. The mirror was delineated into tiny glass sections edged with crimson.

The phenomenon amazed and disgusted him. He knew of the capillary action of fluids from old college biology lessons but to see it demonstrated, and with his own vital bodily fluids, was unsettling. There was a surprising weird beauty in the patterns defined in the ruined glass and the resemblance to veins and arteries was remarkable. It also dawned on him that the ‘foxing’ effect had vanished and if the tracery of fine scarlet lines was ignored, his reflected image was crystal clear. Even more intriguing was something was etched onto the inner surface of the glass. It was hard to define amongst the reddened cracks, but it looked like two words.

The mirror’s fall onto the bench had caused its plaster border to crumble away on one corner. Jim brushed away the gold paint and plaster debris and discovered a solid inner frame made of a dark wood.

An hour’s work with a variety of his tools revealed the frame in its entirety. He surmised it was red stained oak and of great age. Older than baroque or rococo periods. Perhaps late medieval. Whatever period, the quality of the carving was superb, if somewhat macabre.

The frame was bordered by two columns topped with Corinthian capitals and its other surfaces crowded with twenty carved heads of men and women, each being about an inch and a half in diameter and rendered in incredible detail. They appeared to have been drawn out of the fibres of the raw timber rather than chipped away by a woodcarver’s chisel and they were deeply disturbing. The torment depicted on the carvings chilled his heart, their features contorted in an agony of pain and absolute terror. Jim shivered, falling prey to some unspeakable feeling that haunted his reason, magnified by the shadows and loneliness of his gloomy studio.

Despite the grotesque element to this unusual antique, it was obvious there was money to be made. It was rare and ancient. It was a shame about the glass which would have to be replaced, but the frame alone would bring a fine price.

Midnight announced itself by the gentle chiming of the shop’s battered grandfather clock. Jim hadn’t realised how late it was and felt exhausted. He resolved to return to the mirror in the morning.

He turned to leave, switching off the lights and reaching out to close the door.

Some strange urge made him turn back into the room. There was a fluorescent glow emanating from the mirror, which he’d propped up on his workbench. Mesmerized with an unnatural compulsion, he walked towards it, drawn on by its bright light which pulled his gaze into the depths of the mirror. The radiance was stained with an ochre tint which coalesced around the words he’d seen earlier in the mirror’s glass. The letters became bolder, larger, emerging from the dark reflections of himself and the studio, crawling into words.

Sanguinis speculum

He knew enough to recognise Latin, but no translation came to mind. The glow increased, deepening in intensity, illuminating the darkened room in a throbbing scarlet light which oozed from the bloodied cracks in the mirror’s surface.

Jim found his limbs paralysed and beads of perspiration traced lines down his flushed face. Even the involuntary blinking of his eyes was stayed.

His vision was totally focused into the beating heart of the mirror in which only his image was reflected. Jim’s mind screamed with a stark true dread which took on a physical force, pulling, distorting and twisting his face into one of abject fear and utter horror. The mirror’s ruby-red fractures bulged and stretched, dissolving their own edges and flowing into the glass, becoming a solid unbroken surface of blood.

A whispering voice sounded in his mind, shouting its corrupt incantation. A voice of many tongues: all ancient and malicious. Hell’s own words of corrupted crimson magic.

A lesson in evil was being taught to Jim, the unwilling and unfortunate sacrificial pupil.

‘Sanguinis speculum.’ Mirror of blood.

With that final understanding he wept and tried to scream his fear and prayer, but no sound came from his mouth. The glass surface was now a pulsing pool of liquid crimson, its aura staining his flesh, blinding his eyes and reason. It dissolved him, consuming his body and spirit, absorbing his outer and inner self.

Only in his reflection did he exist at all, and only whilst his soul was digested. The remains of Jim Burcher became transformed and deposited in the shape of a screaming head, rendered in a wooden sculpture on the frame, now the colour of congealed blood. The light faded, and the room returned to silent darkness.

Jim Burcher’s disappearance was, over time, noticed by concerned neighbours and reported to the authorities. The police searched his shop with its attached flat and studio, but to no avail. The file remains open, the case unsolved, Mr. Burcher forever missing.

After a few years of legal processes, the property became subject of probate and the shop and its contents put up for sale by public auction.

At the auction rooms, the auctioneer smiled at the return of the sacred mirror. He reverently picked it up and greedily licked the stained surface, closing his eyes in ecstasy at its taste. His sharp tongue delighted in the texture it discovered in the grainy folds of the new head that had erupted from the wood.

He carried the mirror to his workroom where he positioned the mould around its dark carved border, then poured in the plaster of Paris, burying the frame under a dead white solidity. When it dried he would apply gold paint and it would be ready for sale again.

All he would need was a new bidder.

 

Martin Fuller

Martin P. Fuller is just the west of 60 and trying to enjoy a semi-retirement from being a law enforcement officer for over thirty-four years. He works part time delivering cars for a rental company and endeavors to join as many writing classes as time and finances allow. He lives in a small terrace cottage in Menston, Yorkshire England.

It was because of these writing classes that he started gain the courage to submit his work for publishing. He prefers darker stories especially if he can affix a twist in story although he has dabbled in some comedy and poetry pieces.

So far, he has had work printed in self-produced anthologies from writing groups but hopes for a story to appear in October in an anthology published by comma press. He is hopeful that people will like the twists and turns of his dark mind. Either that or recommend serious therapists!

A Feast for Maggots

My body is a feast for maggots. I watch them gorging on my flesh and rage at my impotence. I want to pick them out one by one and stomp on them. Instead I float above my broken, decaying body like a human-shaped balloon. I never believed in ghosts. I thought people who claimed to have seen them were just easily frightened and easy to fool. There was no afterlife. No choir of angels. But here I am. Maybe I should stop getting so angry. I could turn into a crazy poltergeist. I laugh, staring up at the night sky.

Diana Grove

Diana Grove loves to write weird short stories, and has an honours degree in anthropology and a graduate certificate in writing. She lives with a crazy lady cat in Perth, Australia. Her short stories ‘Robot Lover’ and ‘Anubis’ appear in the anthology Freak Pure Slush Vol. 13 and the zine Trembling With Fear respectively.

Stonestruck

Soaked in dusk, the boys stands, as if stone struck gazing at the sleeping angel on the family tomb. He is tired of playing hide and seek. He nestles under the angel’s wing. Snow falls, soft as goose feathers, quilting the boy.
“Jacob? Where are you, boy?”
Samuel’s lantern shows the ivy grown around his son’s wrists and ankles and the moss furring his cheek.
Nature is eating him.
Samuel lifts his son. An avalanche of bugs pour from his hair. Sweating his father heaves; only the boy’s torso rises. Beneath the angel’s wing the boy’s feet are stone clad.

Alyson Faye

Alyson lives in West Yorkshire with her family and 3 rescue cats. She teaches creative writing classes, writes noir Flash Fiction and ghost stories. She is one of the writers in ‘Women in Horror Annual 2’, in Raging Aardvark’s ‘Twisted Tales’, her stories can be downloaded at www.alfiedog.com as well as being available on various sites like zeroflash/Tubeflash/101 words/three drops from a cauldron. Her flash fiction debut collection, ‘Badlands’ is out now from indie publisher Chapeltown Books – here’s the interview http://www.chapeltownpublishing.uk/2018/01/badlands-by-alyson-faye.html and is available to buy from amazon.

You can find out more on her blog- www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com

or at her amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01NBYSLRT

The Fifth Swing

A little voice, wet with trauma and rot: “Get on.”
I wheel around. No one.
I turn back to what made me stop my dawn jog: five unoccupied swings in the schoolyard—four of them in mad, asynchronous flight. The one on the end is dead still.
“I said, get on!”
This time it’s there. About three feet tall, tiny wisps of hair. Fleshy fluid runs from its mouth and eye sockets, and down its striped shirt.
“It’s for you.”
Somehow I can’t run.
I go. I sit. I start swinging.
Back and forth, higher, higher, then everything starts to—

F.M. Scott

F.M. Scott is from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he lives and writes.  He was a finalist in the inaugural Flash Fiction Contest hosted by The Tulsa Voice and  Nimrod International Journal.  You can follow him at www.writprodsm.wixsite.com/fmscott

Trembling With Fear 05/06/2018

This week I’m returning to the subject of rejections, an everyday fact of life for anyone who is a writer. I always reject stories with a heavy heart and feel worse when it is someone who has been rejected once and then been declined again on their next submission. I know what it feels like to be in both those positions. How do I cope? A trick I have learned in recent times is to start putting it in perspective, ie look at the number of submissions that call has received and also look at their acceptance rate. I have found that once you know there is a low acceptance rate you don’t feel so bad when you get rejected. A personal example is my continual effort to get into Apex (currently undergoing another attempt!). I have subbed 5, all rejected but 2 got through to the 2nd reading round. Their acceptance rate is 1 in 400 according to this article Acceptance-rates-what-are-the-chances/ where Aeryn Rudel also lists other publications, eg Black Static and Pseudopod, to give you a flavour of the difficulties we face. I am also waiting on another submission call from way back last year when The Binge-Watching Cure announced a horror edition call. I’m still in the running but now know there were 1600 entries for 20 slots! So, when you’re depressed that a perfectly good story has been rejected, remember sometimes it’s just the numbers that are against you and it’s not necessarily a reflection on the quality of your work.

Great to see new projects out there from Trembling With Fear writers, the latest coming from Eric S. Fomley, currently producing his own Drabbledark anthology featuring horror, sci-fi and fantasy stories. From what I’ve seen on twitter, I think there will be a few familiar TWF names amongst the contributors. To find out more about Eric, check out his website https://ericfomley.com. I’m looking forward to reading the finished product.

On another note, Emerian Rich of HorrorAddicts.net is currently seeking management-level help at her site. Horror Addicts have published submission calls at Horror Tree and promote horror not just in books but in movies and lifestyle. They also ran The Next Great Horror Writer Contest last year. If you are interested in helping this truly supportive site, email: [email protected].

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Well, our first run of a serial seemed to be a success so we’d like to publish more! If you’ve got something that you think would fit, please reach out to us!

‘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

Mouse Trapped

Oh, I love a rainy night, I love a rainy night…” I warbled alone in the cocoon of steel and vinyl that is my Crown Vic. She’s my prize possession—a tank that would probably survive a Zombie Apocalypse better than I would. By a long shot.

In my car, on a night when the rain falls in crystalline sheets barely glazed by the headlights, it doesn’t matter that I have a voice like broken glass. No one has to listen but me, and, to me, I sound like a rock star.

Not that I look like one…everyone calls me “Mouse,” even my parents did—and I do rather look the part. I’m mostly forgettable. Which is fine with me. I like my own company best, and I know there is more to me than meets the eye.

With no particular place to go on this particular night, I was just cruising. It might be irresponsibly wasteful of me to squander gasoline in my huge metal monster, but who cares if I squander my own money? I pulled up to a stoplight just as Eddie finished crooning, the big car idling like a purring cat.

I was minding my own business when something bumped me from behind. The light turned green and I took off. It was just a love tap, and I really didn’t want to get embroiled in all the red tape that came from a traffic accident. No way such a tiny bump hurt my car, and I really wasn’t worried about the other guy. After all, it was their fault.

I wasn’t going to let the other driver spoil my good mood.

Taking a left on one of the farm roads dotting the landscape, I headed vaguely homeward, but not directly. I wasn’t finished cruising.

Meatloaf began wailing teen angst and unrequited lust, and I belted it out at the top of my lungs. Glancing in the rear-view mirror, I saw headlights behind me. No big deal, there were a lot of farms out this way still…

I felt a slight frisson run up my spine. It was a bit remote out here, and I hadn’t been expecting any trouble, so I hadn’t taken my usual precautions.

I laughed aloud at my foolishness.

No one was following me. I was perfectly safe. Everyone in Steelville knew the Crown Vic, and knew me by sight if not name. I knew all of them. At the worst, the car behind me was one of the Peterson boys or Liam Thompson getting up to a bit of mischief. Nothing to worry about.

I put the car behind me out of my mind and went back to planning the gardening I needed to do tomorrow. The rain could be either a blessing or a curse, depending on when it let up. I had planned to start this evening, but the rain had put a literal damper on that.

The big flat spot behind the barn would be just perfect. There are few rocks left, because Papa cleared that space for hay way back when our farm was a working concern. There might be some residual clumps of roots or something, but it shouldn’t be too bad to dig up.

A bright light caught my attention, and I looked up at the mirror in time to see headlights fill it. A loud bang sounded, and my car skidded forward about three feet. “Damn!”

My hands gripped the wheel so tightly my knuckles went white in the glare through the rear window. My heart raced faster than Secretariat.

I still had confidence that the Vic was undamaged, but that hadn’t been a car sliding on the wet road at a stoplight. He’d attacked intentionally.

I floored it. Despite her size, my car has a lot of horsepower under the hood. I pulled away from the vehicle behind me, thanking the powers-that-be the rain was slackening.

The roads beneath my wheels were packed caliche and gravel, not smooth asphalt. They sucked at the wheels in places, and slid out from under them in others. I focused on the road unwinding before me, muscles locked with tension.

Despite the endorphins of pursuit being thrown into the mix, or maybe because of them, I felt a sense of exhilaration. Did someone really think they could intimidate me? Think a couple of taps on my bumper would throw me into a tizzy and make me do something stupid?

They’d picked the wrong Mouse for that.

I’d been driving these roads since I was twelve, I had a full tank of gas, adrenaline coursing through my veins, and—according to my Mama—a bit of a death wish.

The wheels spun and grabbed as I rounded the tight corners between my neighbors’ fences. The vehicle behind me—it had to be a truck or something with the headlights riding that high—took them almost as quickly, though I flatter myself I was a bit faster, a bit more in control.

My mind raced, trying to decide what to do. The farm was in the other direction now. Turning for home and the safety of Papa’s shotgun was very tempting, but that might end the fun.

I took a hard right, heading back toward the river. If he followed me—I knew instinctively it was a he—it would prove my assumptions correct. He skidded around the curve with a rattle of pebbles and a spray of dirty water in his headlights.

Okay then. Definitely following me. Most likely with less-than-honorable intentions. My heart raced even faster—I hadn’t known that was possible.

A giddy little giggle escaped. I hadn’t had this big a rush in a very long time. Probably not since the reading of my parents’ wills, when I found out that the Mouse Hole—as I liked to think of the farm—was mine free and clear with a nice tidy nest egg besides. Who knew they were so thrifty?

It was enough that I could quit my job pretending to teach children English. How can you teach something to anyone who would rather throw eggs at your chalkboard than turn in an assignment, and whose parents are totally okay with that? Now, I am a lady of leisure…except when I’m being chased by big pickup trucks with probable mayhem on their mind…

How long did I want to play this game of cat and Mouse? Eventually, he was going to catch up to me. The truck was at least as powerful as the Crown Vic, and the second collision had shown an intent to cripple the car. A lesser made vehicle would have stopped in its tracks. Once again, I sent up a swift thank you for good ol’ American steel.

I careened around the next turn, fishtailing a little on the wet caliche. Time to bolt for home. If he got bored before I got there, no loss. If not…the shotgun was loaded and just inside the front door.

I sped up the straightaway that led home. There‘re no other farms out in my neck of the boondocks. The river curls around my property protectively, but it makes farmland limited. The last family within shouting distance left several years ago…but I liked the solitude. Usually.

The truck behind me was keeping pace. I was a bit surprised. These roads weren’t the easiest to navigate.

I really should get a Concealed Carry permit. Then I could carry a pistol in my glove box. Legally.

I have often considered carrying one without a permit, but there’s really no need to tempt fate. As soon as I do, I’m bound to get pulled over for a broken taillight or something and wind up in jail for an illicit firearm. That would never do.

I took the turn onto my property, hitting the cattle-guard with teeth-rattling speed. I threw it into park as soon as I hit the front yard, and saw the truck’s headlights wash over the Vic as he followed.

My key was in my hand, and the door open before he crashed into the back of the car again. This one popped the trunk lid. I grabbed the shotgun and turned back to find a stranger staring dumbfounded into the trunk well of my car.

I sighed. “You had to go and follow me, didn’t you?”

He pulled his gaze away from the plastic-wrapped body currently residing in my trunk. If it hadn’t rained, I’d have buried it already…

The shotgun let off a satisfactory belch of fire and sound. “That’s for Vic, you jerk.”

He dropped like a stone, and I stepped forward, nudging the body with the toe of my shoe. I’ve always been a good shot.

“Thanks…now I’ll have to do twice the gardening.”

 

Rie Sheridan Rose

Rie Sheridan Rose multitasks. Her short stories appear in numerous anthologies, including Nightmare Stalkers and Dream Walkers Vols. 1 and 2,  and Killing It Softly Vol. 1 and 2. She has authored ten novels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs.

 

Links: website — www.RieWriter.com

Amazon — https://www.amazon.com/Rie-Sheridan-Rose/e/B002QW9NB2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1517534960&sr=8-1

Stomp

She hits the dance floor, just before the DJ hits play. Bodies bump and grind almost hard enough to shake rust from the rafters. It’s been too long since she could lose herself in someone else’s rhythm, letting a bass line blast the stress from her soul.

It all starts with a heel snapping off. Her ankle rolls, hard enough to tear a tendon. No one notices. She hits the ground, and gets caught beneath stomping feet. They play a familiar tone on her skeleton, the snap, crackle, pop of bone breaking to the beat. Her eyes shut. Song’s over.

Kevin Holton

Kevin Holton is a cyborg and fitness junkie from coastal New Jersey. He’s the author of At the Hands of Madness (Severed Press), as well as the forthcoming novels The Nightmare King (Siren’s Call Publications) and These Walls Don’t Talk, They Scream (HellBound Books). He also co-wrote the short film Human Report 85616, and his short work has appeared with Sci-Phi Journal, The Literary Hatchet, Radiant Crown Press, Pleiades, Rain Taxi, Mighty Quill Books, and Thunderdome Press, among others. He can also be found acting, blogging with The Bold Mom, or talking about Batman.

You can find more of his work on his website, Patreon, Amazon, or just follow him on Twitter .

The Feeding

Roland drank deeply from his latest victim. His thirst grew with every drop. Something was wrong. Normally he would stop, leaving enough to keep his victim alive and weakened. This time he fed savagely.
He dropped the empty body to the ground wanting more. The convulsions hit first and took him to his knees. Too weak to stand, he lay on the ground. Two shadows materialized over him.
“See. What’d I tell ya? They can’t get enough.”
“But, the homeless guy is dead.”
“Can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.”
A sharpened stake entered Roland’s chest. Eternal torpor awaits.

Arthur Unk

Arthur Unk lives and works in the United States, but dreams of a tropical, zombie-free island. He hones his drabble skills via the Horror Tree Trembling With Fear (Dead Wrong, Flesh of My Flesh, The Tale of Fear Itself, and others yet to come) and writes micro/flash fiction daily. His influences include H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and life experience. You can follow his work from all around the web via his blog at http://arthurunk.com or read his many, many micro-stories on Twitter @ArthurUnkTweets

Forbidden Fruits

She scraped away the final layer of soil, revealing the treasure. There was an intake of breath from behind her.
“I never thought you’d find them.”
“I told you to have faith.”
“Maybe we should leave them, it’s illegal to own them.”
“Worth a fortune though.”
She stared at the items, rusty, stained and dirty. A crucifix and a wooden stake. Artifacts of an evil time. Thankfully, the right side had won, although it’d been a close thing. Memories of death and dismemberment flashed into her mind. Instinctively, her lips drew back, exposing elongated fangs, the mark of her kind.

R.J. Meldrum

R. J. Meldrum is an author and academic. Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010 with his wife Sally. His interest in the supernatural is a lifetime obsession and when he isn’t writing ghost stories, he’s busy scouring the shelves of antique book-sellers to increase his collection of rare and vintage supernatural books. During the winter months, he trains and races his own team of sled dogs.
He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Digital Fiction and James Ward Kirk Fiction.
You can find out more about RJ at his homepage.

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