Trembling With Fear 01/21/2018

No numbers this week – or rather statistics – although I will post them from time-to-time to see how we’re faring in terms of gender balance. I have been pondering something else though and that is age. Is it a barrier to writers? As I follow news of publication deals and events, unless the author is already well known, those who are following through are often from the younger end of the spectrum. Yet frequently we are reminded of those writers who never got published until in their 50s, 60s, 70s and told it’s never too late, until yet another award or publication appears for a ‘bright young thing’, ie younger than 40 and your heart sinks.

As a person of a certain age, ie 53, I sometimes wish I had started writing sooner but then perhaps I wouldn’t be creating what I’m creating now. Only by following the path I have, has it led to me being here, nudging my way into publication. I have survived the good and the bad that life can throw at you and this I believe has added a depth to my writing which would not have been there years ago.
I believe writing is for all ages and the move towards the continual lauding of youth at the expense of those who are more ‘mature’ in years is something to be resisted. I can’t even think of a phrase here to describe us older folk, ‘mature’ sounds like cheese, senior or older citizen creates an image of a little old man or woman shuffling along. Any one got any ideas?
I know one of our contributors is over 60, he has had two pieces published in Trembling With Fear, the first being his first ever serious submission and they were great. The message I really want to get across to everyone is that it doesn’t matter how old you are, just send us your work. Help us celebrate the written word of horror from across the range of human experience and if you want a bit of a boost to keep you going, have a look at these articles:
Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I hope that you’re hungry for horror today as we’ve got a few tasty treats for you to read!

‘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

Death By Barbecue

The heavyset waiter tossed the fourth plate of steak down in the middle of the table. Luke greedily reached over with his fork, dragging a slab of blood-drenched meat onto his plate. There, he began slicing it, rubbing chunks in a thick puddle of mustard before stuffing them into his eager mouth.

He wiped the mixture of blood and butter from his thin lips and grasped a shining, golden chicken leg. He brought it closer and took a huge bite, evoking childhood memories of the Flintstones and brontosaurus burgers. He rotated the leg, gnawing away, in no way perturbed by the grease that was building on his cheeks and in his beard. He cast aside the naked bones and burped obnoxiously.

He looked around to see the reaction of his fellow diners, but the restaurant was empty. Not a soul, waiter aside.

“Is it always this quiet?” he said, barely stifling another violent belch.

The waiter stood, smiling and moving his head, taking in the scene – as close to a battlefield as a restaurant table ever might look.

“Are you enjoying your meal, sir?”

Luke nodded.

“Don’t let me stop you. All you can eat.” The waiter hurried off to the kitchen before he’d even finished speaking, returning with a plate piled high with ribs, the fragrance of chicory, bourbon and pork dancing a few paces ahead of him. He stacked empties to make room and slotted the ribs in, barbecue Tetris played out in front of Luke’s eyes.

The smell was intoxicating, mouth-watering. Luke extended his arm, gripping a huge chunk of rib with both hands. He chomped off mouthfuls of meat and fat, the thick, vibrantly red sauce ingraining itself under his fingernails. He dropped the stripped bone on to his plate and tipped back the bucket-like cola that sat beside his feast, glugging the bubbling, sugary liquid down his throat.

It was only then that he noticed the roiling of his stomach. He reached down with his free hand and felt the vibrations within. An unexpected fart escaped from under him, noisy and moist. His inner voice announced that he’d had enough, but his eyes were fixed on the waiter. He wore a beaming, almost sinister smile as he delivered a tray of chicken skewers. The smell of marinated flesh was pure seduction, Luke fighting and losing as he slid the tender white meat onto his plate and carved through it with his steak knife, heaping it into his mouth and chewing.

A surge of pain ran through his chest as he swallowed, but still he forced the next forkful down, his mandible exhausted from chewing through such enormous quantities of flesh. He was lazily groping for another rib when bold, wall-mounted letters caught his eye ‘Come for lunch, stayed ‘til you’re finished.

He hadn’t so much as wondered about the slogan as he’d walked in. Nor about the lack of patrons in a high street restaurant. At lunch. On a Saturday.

“Eat,” said the waiter, nodding.

Luke ate.

Kev Harrison

Kev Harrison is an English teacher and writer of dark fiction, living in Lisbon, Portugal. He has only started taking writing more seriously in the last twelve months and has had work published, during that time in the Below the Stairs: Tales from the Cellar anthology, Theresa Derwin’s Mummy Knows Best, Two Eyes Open from Mackenzie Publishing and others, including Trembling with Fear itself. He is currently (nervously) putting the finishing touches to a supernatural horror novella.

You can follow Kev’s work on Amazon

Darkness

It spreads, the darkness.

What begins as a speck of blackness in your mind expands, clouds all thoughts, poisons every action. Takes away any light.

The darkness took me several years ago. I’m no longer in control.

Maybe one day it will consume me completely and I will be no more. But for now, I keep walking.

Do not look for me. And if you do see me, walk the other way, and fast. The only good I can do is to warn you away. To keep you safe from the dark that has gripped me.

It spreads, the darkness.

 

David Turton

David Turton has extensive training in Journalism, Marketing and Public Relations and has been writing as a career for over fourteen years. David has written several short stories, all centred around dark tales of horror and dystopia. Look out for his post-apocalyptic horror novel The Malaise which us due in late 2018 and download a free ebook from his website.

You can follow David’s work at: http://davidturtonauthor.wordpress.com

A Special Treat

They always ask. “What’s the red thing in the ice cube?”

 

I always tell them it’s a drop of a rare red wine for flavor. Play it off as some new novelty drink, but I know its true origins. A drop of crimson death added to each drink has become my life’s work.

 

A special treat for the wealthy to die for. A present passed from one of them to me never to be spoken of. It’s sometimes hard to conceal my smile as the cubes melt and they consume it whole without hesitation. I’m a part of them forever.

Andrea Allison

Andrea Allison currently resides in a small uneventful town located in Oklahoma after moving from a small uneventful town in Texas. She is an author who enjoys writing horror of all varieties and her work has appeared both online and in print.

The Hunger

Trapped in the room it eternally waited.

Bound to guard the room and stairs leading to the darkness below.

Unable to leave, not even to feed.

It waited.  Wanting.  Needing to eat.

The thought of sinking fangs into anything was the only it was still capable of.

On rare moments of clarity, it could remember a life before all this, a name, a destiny, dreams.

But to dream requires sleep and that too was denied.

All that remained was the hunger.  The need to guard the stairs.  The knowledge that where it allowed free that it would devour the Earth.

Stuart Conover

Your friendly neighborhood Horror-Tree editor! If you want to know more head over to my homepage.

Trembling With Fear 01/14/2018

This week it’s all facts! Interesting actually (sorry, formatting got a bit lost in cut and paste) 🙂

As you may have read from Stuart’s Horror Tree update, the anthology is underway and I am currently formatting it up into a presentable document.

Following on from my comment about seeing a relatively equal amount of submissions from both sexes to TWF, I thought I would actually find out what the real statistics are – bear in mind I have only been an editor for six months so will have a slightly skewed perception of what has been sent in. Having compiled the anthology I have discovered the following:

Total Number of (Successful) Contributors to TWF 2017: 107

Of these 41 were women (38%) and 66 (62%) were men.

There is a slightly different picture when looking at the number of stories submitted:

Total number of stories published = 212

Of this 76 (36%) were women and 136 (64%) were men.

(As an interesting footnote to this, the number of authors using initials rather than their own first names showed an equal spread which surprised me.)

Amongst these contributors, a number submitted and were published, numerous times. The award for most successful author in this field goes to RJ Meldrum with 14 stories (7%) of the total published. Our top female was Alyson Faye with 9 stories (4%) of the total published.

Our Top Ten is as follows:

RJ Meldrum                        14 stories published

Alyson Faye                        9

Justin Boote                       8

Robert Allen Lupton           8

Kevin Holton                      7

Patrick Winters                 7

Mathias Jansson               5

Stephanie Ellis                   5

Stuart Conover                 5

Liz Butcher                          5

This was an interesting study and something I feel reflects the need for more women to submit – and to submit more often.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

We’re 2 weeks into the New Year! While we don’t have an official call for darker Valentine’s Day stories for next month, if you’ve got some horrifying tales of love and loss they might get priority on what we pick! All month long! Just a head’s up.

‘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

Oinopole

He had not slept well. He always felt like when he laid his head down it might be for the last time. Especially after too many pain relievers. They might put him in a coma. Last night he was anxious about his alarm not going off. That he might miss his flight. There was no reason to be anxious. He had set two alarms. But at the moment he was about to drift off, eight hours ago, something snapped in him and forced him awake. He then began to be anxious about being anxious. Sleep was felled by wave after wave of panic attacks, until finally, maybe two hours ago, his body had succumbed.
And now after the second alarm went off, he felt wide awake. But he knew that, the moment he opened his mouth to speak, it would seem like the words were being projected in slow motion. People would stare at him with a mixture of confusion and pity. Why couldn’t he translate his thoughts into words?
Coffee would fix that. He poured the grounds into the basket and the water into the reservoir. He loved the smell. But he would have to put away the dishes. He hadn’t budgeted time for that. Ten minutes. Could be the difference between making and missing the flight.
He flung the dishwasher door open. The mugs, and glasses, and bowls, and plates were all arranged together, and the silverware separated by fork and knife and spoon. That made it easier to put them away. He could save maybe a couple minutes.
He pulled the long sharp knife from the top rack and, turning, slipped on some water that had spilled from the coffee basket. As he fell the knife plunged into his neck. Blood gushed out. Should he pull it out, or would that release more blood? He was alone. No one would arrive before he bled out.
His arm stretched out and, the knife pointing away from his body, he inserted the utensil into the wooden block. The wave had passed. He had done this so many times without stabbing himself. Just be slow, cautious. Don’t treat it like a cereal bowl. That made him smile.
He opened the container of raspberries. He ate one row a day. Raspberries had less sugar in them. His triglycerides were high. He could get pancreatitis. His kidneys could fail. He could get cancer. The moldy ones might poison him.
He ate a bowl of cereal. Next would be the pot of coffee. He could do nothing else, so he sat on the couch, the mug in his left hand, his phone in his right. He arranged his Facebook feed chronologically and scrolled through it. He had gotten to where he could dismiss an uninteresting post in milliseconds. Maybe a millisecond. He hadn’t timed it.
His mother had posted two nights ago that her weight was down to 103 pounds. He thought he felt his heart sink a little. It was difficult to tell. He had tried to harden himself against these feelings. He tried to remember if that was significantly lower than the last time he had seen her. He had argued with her over her diet before he left. Too many sugary sodas and candy bars. And he refused to get her fried chicken. But what was the point? She was dying. The oncologist and hospice nurse liked to constantly remind them. So let her have what she wanted. She always seemed to quickly erase the memories of their arguments. He had bent over, just before he left, asked for a kiss, and felt her soft lips on his cheek. It made him happy. Until he realized there were a finite number left. She asked him to cover her legs. Moving towards skin and bones. Black-and-white footage of concentration camps. It was boiling in the room, but she was always cold. He would have the visions until she was gone.
She had tucked him in every night until he was seven or eight. Sometimes she read stories. Her voice was gentle and hypnotic. The room seemed huge. It was an old house. He still had dreams about it. The dreams made it difficult to remember the reality. Where certain rooms were, what was in those rooms. The floors creaked. May have been the ghost of the man shot in the house. Thunder exploded outside. It would split the house in half. Shadows danced on the walls of his room. Amorphous, flickering. They could have been demons. They were waiting under his bed for him to fall asleep before they devoured him. Or a vampire would fly from its cliff dwelling and tap tap at his window. Was it a woman? He sometimes fantasized about being seduced by a vampire. The teeth stimulating something within him. He tried to creep into bed with his parents. His mother would sling him on her shoulder and haul him back to his room. Check under the bed, latch the window, pull the shutter. All clear. She kissed him and said she loved him oodles and oodles. He loved her back. She was the most beautiful woman in the world.
He had dreams that his father was still alive. He would ask, where have you been the last twenty years? Hiding, his father would say. They seemed so vivid. He always woke up wondering if he were really dead.
Sometimes he felt he was being watched. It was a group of men in a room, wearing suits, regarding him on a video monitor. He couldn’t see their faces. Usually these visions came to him during the day, not at night. It was like his whole life was an experiment. Or they were guiding him to do the right thing, or to keep him out of harm’s way. An antique wardrobe crashed on top of him when he was a toddler. He thought then he might be immortal. No longer.
He stepped into the shower. He scrubbed himself with soap. He worried it would make him itch afterwards. He massaged shampoo into his scalp. Would the chemicals make his hair fall out? He rinsed it out. He had not bought a bathtub mat. Bending over to turn off the spigot, he slipped, and his head cracked against the tiles. He was paralyzed. Maybe the maintenance guy would find his body in a few days.
He stepped out of the shower. The news from the speaker was about the crazy dictator testing another nuke. A flash. Fifty thousand people dead. More dying over the coming weeks from the fallout. More bombs dropped. More people incinerated. Masses of
people stumbling forward, the living dead, their faces melting off.
The men in suits would fix the problem. They would gather around a table in a room and work it out. They always did. Until they didn’t. And he thought he could manage his fears without therapy.
Sometimes when people were talking to him, when they started going off on a tangent and losing him, he thought about punching them in the face. He wondered if they could see him twitch as he shook it off. He would never do it. He didn’t need to talk to anyone.
If it weren’t the bomb it would be a crazy guy with a gun in a hospital, a library. A baseball field. An airport. Wherever. Panicked people running to hide in patients’ rooms, behind bookshelves, dugouts. No escaping. He would find you. Plenty of bullets. The men in the room could fix it. They wouldn’t.
He pulled his suitcase into the hall. It was probably too heavy. He would have to pay $50. Or was it $75? That was food for one day. Maybe two. He always worried about running out of money. He never did.
He stepped into the elevator and pressed the button for the lobby. He was thirty floors up. The cable holding the car to the pulley snapped. He plummeted to the ground. The impact forced the lower half of his body into the upper half.
He strode out of the elevator. He was afraid he had missed the rideshare, but it was waiting for him. The driver was friendly. Asked where he was going. To visit family. My mother’s been ill. He knew he sounded panicked and nervous. Better to say nothing. He worried when he ran out of things to say. Sorry to hear that. I’m sure God will take care of her. It was a nice thought. It didn’t give him much comfort.
They pulled onto the highway. No traffic this time of day. They should make it in ten minutes. He gazed out the window. Fatigue hung on his forehead like a shelf. The retail complexes were painted against the beautiful blue sky. A tractor trailer drifted into their lane. It struck them head on. Shards of glass ripped through his face. The truck driver had been texting.
How many trips were taken every day without an accident? What if his trip were the outlier? He had to stay alive. He couldn’t die. He couldn’t do that to his sister. His father had died in a car. He imagined his father gasping for his last breaths. What if the deaths were meant to happen in reverse order, first him, then his mother, then his grandmother, who was over ninety? He feared most losing his thoughts. Death would be the end of thought. His thoughts revolved around fear.
His bag was half a pound over. They let it slide. He tipped them. He subtracted it from what he had budgeted for the day. He had lots of cables in his carryon, for his computer, his phone, his e-reader. The security people didn’t think he was making a bomb. At least they didn’t say so. How many other bags did they scan every day stuffed with electronics?
He thought about his mother’s hair. It had grown back. Completely white. Curly. Sometimes she said she wanted to talk. But she couldn’t hear anymore. So she scanned her Facebook page. He sat and read. Or wrote stories on his computer. He walked around the streets composing them in his head, making notes in his phone. Unaware of his surroundings, a zombie. Connected but disconnected. Sometimes she groaned, in pain. They said there were only days left. He didn’t think she was ready to die. Her eyes would bulge out, and she would gulp for air like a fish on the floor of a boat.
At the gate, they were lining up to board. He was always in the C group. He wondered if he could conquer the fear. He thought about whether, as the plane started its ascent, as his heart began thumping furiously, when it leveled off, his heart now pounding, then hit a patch of turbulence and lurched, like it was going down, if the pain and the pressure would build in his chest, and then begin skipping beats, and he would start choking, and the flight attendants would run to his seat, unfasten his lap belt, yank him onto the floor, and begin pummeling his chest, but was it too late?
They were calling him to board. He was frozen. Maybe he had stood there for minutes. He had remembered that he would gain three hours on his life by flying westward. That made him happy. He didn’t think about losing time going in the other direction. He smiled. He boarded. He buckled himself into his aisle seat. The engine hummed around him. He drifted off to sleep. He would make up for the sleep he lost last night. No melatonin required. All time and space were erased. He could have been on the ground or at thirty thousand feet.
Turbulence rocked the plane. His heart began pulsating. He looked to his left. His arm was stretched across the armrest. A woman’s face was buried into it. She was biting into his arm. Red seeped from the punctures. The skin was honey-tinted. The plane jerked. It might turn upside down. Her hair was ebony, silky. The black-and-white photo of his beautiful mother at the beach, her lips so full. Pressed against his arm, drawing blood, so soft. It made him comfortable. Her head raised up. The neck extending above the seat, the eyes drawn to slits, the pupils barely visible through them. The mouth opened, sharp incisors bared. A ringed plastic tube flickered in and out of the mouth, The head and neck undulated in rhythm with the flickers. A tear trickled out of one of the slits.

They were saying something over the intercom. His eyes snapped open. Everyone was buckling in. How much time left? A text from his sister. The plane descended slowly, no, it was fast …

Matt Spangler

Matt Spangler recently relocated to New York, where he is pursuing his love of writing fiction and plays. He is new to writing horror, but his short plays have been produced in the Washington, DC, area over the last several years. His taste in horror fiction tends towards the more classic – Poe, Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, and so forth – but his aim is to push conventions more in his writing.

Colours

Guild members looked on with poorly hidden scowls. Her table was the busiest, she smirked, relishing their jealousy. Her pottery designs weren’t all that innovative, it was her colour patterns that were her secret, and really drove them mad. Swirling speckles, crystallized vibrant bursts, no one else seemed able to achieve.

Later, she dipped wares into glaze, prepping for another kiln load. A cooler sat nearby, filled with severed human limbs, waiting to be loaded amongst pottery bowls and cups. Vaporized flesh produces colours impossible to duplicate, but she doubted her guild friends would really want to know her secret.

M.T. Moos

M.T. Moos is an aquatic microbiology professor by trade and an aspiring writer and potter. Her passions include science fiction and the strange. When she isn’t working, she can be found playing with mud and creating functional earthenware pottery while contemplating new story ideas.

Hog Slop

Bess is hog slop now. Too much of a fighter, that one. When I found her, a blue-eyed-apple-cheeked dumpling working at the diner, I swore I’d marry her.

When I married her, I swore I’d treat her right.

When I treated her right, she spit on me.

When she spit one too many times, I grabbed my cleaver, kissed her goodbye, and hacked her into hog slop.

And as I filled that trough with greasy brown hunks of Bess, and a line of pretty pink pigs came squealing for supper, I realized what love truly is—just fattening and slaughtering.

Kevin M. Folliard

Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, and adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by Double Feature Magazine, Flame Tree Publishing, Parsec Ink, and more.

You can follow his work on his homepage, Amazon, and Instagram.

The Snowman

Standing at the window, she sipped her coffee from a black-and-white cup and stared at the snowman in her front yard. He wore a beige fedora on his head and a crimson scarf around his neck. Two polished azure stones from her shattered aquarium dotted his eyes. A pine cone nose poked from the middle of his round face. The snow continued to fall. She smiled because the snowman was missing his mouth. He could never hurt her with cruel, condescending words. Not like her husband did. But he was a snowman now, and she was free to live again.

Lionel Ray Green

Lionel Ray Green is a 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 “Fifty Flashes,” “How Beer Saved the World 2,” “Graveyard,” “Frightening,” “Tales from the Grave,” “In Creeps the Night,” and “22 More Quick Shivers” as well as the 2017 issue of “From the Depths.”​

Trembling With Fear 01/07/2018

A New Year has begun and in the UK, we are celebrating the centenary of women’s suffrage. In 1918 it was only women over the age of 30 (and fulfilling certain property criteria) who were given the vote. Full suffrage was not achieved until 1928. Why do I mention this here? Partly because the issue of equality between the sexes is ongoing, because it seems that women in this particular section of our industry still need a boost – February is the traditional ‘Women in Horror’ month – in order to make themselves heard or get themselves seen. It should not be this way. Talking to horror writer, Theresa Derwin recently at the Birmingham Horror Convention, we discussed how, as women, we seriously had to consider whether or not to use our own names as a byline or do we revert to initials or a pen name to disguise ourselves in order to get more readers, she also waved her arm at a male-dominated aisle of authors to demonstrate the imbalance. It made me think of our approach at Horror Tree and I can honestly say that 1) a person’s gender does not come into it when I read a story, it is always the work first and foremost, 2) we seem to get a relatively equal submission rate from both sexes and 3) elsewhere in Horror Tree, staff are again balanced in terms of gender representation. I think the Horror Tree should be proud that for us, at least, equality is the norm.

Here’s to a successful year of writing for everyone!

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

We are entering the second year of Trembling With Fear and that is a little crazy if you ask me. I honestly wasn’t sure if everyone would be responsive to the concept and while comments are a little light, shares, and views of every week’s post are pretty high! Someone out there is enjoying reading these so we’ll happily be keeping it up throughout the coming year.

Stay tuned for news on a potential print edition. We’re getting that figured out right now!

‘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

Vegan Options

The door chimed as Stu entered the pine-scented office of the Mansley Arboretum. A willowy, sixty-something woman with rose-red hair and tan glasses glared from behind the front desk. She wore a flower-print dress, acorn earrings, and a pale blue lily in her hair. “Can I help you?”

“I’m here to see Traci.” Stu lifted a brown paper bag. “I brought lunch.”

The woman knit her brow. “Traci hasn’t worked here for weeks.” She sized him up. “But she often stops by with her husband.”

Stu’s stomach turned. Suddenly, his six-foot two-hundred-fifty pound frame felt full of helium. “Actually . . . I’m her husband. This is my first time here.”

The woman’s hands crossed her heart. “Oh my.”

“There’s been a mistake. I’m looking for Traci Matthews. Your receptionist.”

The woman nodded.

Stu’s fingers fidgeted, crunching the paper bag. “See I’m usually across town this time of day, but we had this stupid fight, about me losing weight. I teased her about her kooky vegan diet. And long story short, I picked up one these crazy kale salads she loves and . . .” Stu’s voice cracked. “I should go.”

“Please, Mr. Matthews, perhaps I am mistaken. You see, it’s true that Traci resigned. We have exotic plants here, and she didn’t feel comfortable caring for them in addition to her desk job. We take trees very seriously.”

Stu shook his head, dazed. “But she was the receptionist, not a caretaker.”

“Mr. Matthews, Mansley is more than an arboretum, it’s an ecosystem. Being a part of that system may have been a deeper commitment than she expected. Personally, I thought Traci was very sweet, but groves and gardens require harmony to flourish. Her stepping down was for the best.”

Stu gave an uncertain nod.

“But your wife continued to meet regularly with her friend Ash for lunch, right here on the grounds. Tall, strong fellow. You must know him?”

Stu shook his head. Tears welled in his eyes.

“But I had only assumed Ash was her husband. He must be something else entirely. Her brother?”

“Traci has no siblings.” The room spun.

The woman rounded the desk to support him. “Please have a look around outside. Traci often stops in this time of day. If nothing else, you should clear your head. The simplest explanation is usually correct.”

“Thanks.” Stu pushed away. “Sorry to disturb you.” The chimes tingled as Stu exited. Green treetops danced and grass rippled in the breeze. A pleasant aroma, like the daffodils in Traci’s garden at home, drew him down a winding path.

The susurrus of the canopy beckoned Stu toward a stout tree with pale, smoke-colored bark and a knotted trunk, low branches, and gnarled roots. He collapsed against it. He was clutching the paper bag so tight that he had torn it open.

Not sure what else to do, he ripped the bag apart and popped open the compostable cardboard container. How many times had Traci tried to get him to eat this rabbit food? Greens, tiny onion shoots, purple radishes, and carrot shavings filled the box.

He tore a packet of raspberry vinaigrette and drizzled it over the salad. Then he poked and prodded with his plastic fork and took a bite. It was sweet and citrusy, crunchy, with a hint of bitterness.

He could eat this. For Traci, he could have eaten this once a day, or five days a week. He could have budged for Traci, for his own health.

Maybe he still could.

Something caught his eye. A white gold glint in the grass. Traci’s wedding band. Had she discarded it in a fit of passion as tall, strong Ash scooped her into his arms and carried her away? Away from the part time job that would have helped pay off their mortgage. Away from all commitments.

He reached for the ring when he noticed more items strewn about. Traci’s green shawl, torn at the edge. The cracked lenses of her reading glasses.

A brown vine snagged Stu’s wrist. It coiled around him, tightened, and tugged his arm.

Stu shouted. More vines whipped from behind, snaring his limbs, pulling him onto his feet. He turned to find the squat tree trunk prying apart. Knotholes split open. Wooden teeth gnashed. Wormy gray tongues wriggled toward him.

Stu twisted and screamed. More vines snapped around him. Thorny branches curled across his chest, shredding his skin, staining his white dress shirt blood red.

The woman from the office strolled up the path. Her flowery gown swayed in the breeze. “I see you’ve met Ash,” she smiled. “How nice that you’ll be meeting your wife for lunch after all.”

Kevin M. Folliard

Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, and adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by Double Feature Magazine, Flame Tree Publishing, Parsec Ink, and more.

You can follow Kevin anywhere below!
Author Website: http://www.kevinfolliard.com/.
Amazon Page: http://amzn.to/2Dl5caJ.
Instagram: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kmfollia/.

Breaking Point

“Why does mum keep doing this?  Can’t she see the plates don’t match?  I swear, if she puts just one more plate in the wrong place in the cupboard, I’ll kill her!”

She moved the plate and placed it in the correct location.  It was week two of a visit by her parents.  The mother-daughter relationship was strained to the limit.

“Don’t get wound up.”

“I promise, if she does it again, it’ll be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

She left the kitchen, fuming.  He giggled, then moved the plate she’d just touched back to the wrong place.

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.

Relief

The smell of copper filled the air, my hands were covered with hot crimson blood. I knew the last sounds my ears heard were the screams of his terror as I chopped parts of him into little pieces.

 

They found him lying in a pool of blood, his chest ripped open, his heart in his mouth as if the killer was saying, “Eat your heart out.

 

They asked me if I knew anything but all I said was, “I’m happy he’s gone. He thought nobody could take him out, guess he was wrong.” I laughed, finally relieved he was dead.

Kim Plasket

Kim Plasket is a Jersey girl at heart relocated to sunny Florida. She enjoys writing mainly horror and paranormal stories and lives with her husband and 2 kids. When she is not slaving away at her day job, she can be found drinking coffee with fellow author Valerie Willis and planning the demise of some poor character. Currently she has several short stories featured in anthologies such as ‘Demonic Wildlife’ and ‘The Hunted’, also has a story in an Anthology Titled Fireflies and Fairy dust with more to come.

You can follow her work on Amazon.

Troll Hunting

The small girl in a pink skirt wandered onto the hump backed bridge, holding a leash but no dog. She stared open mouthed at the sight of Hannah, hanging upside down over the side of the bridge.

“Troll hunting,” Hannah explained.

The girl nodded solemnly. She watched while Hannah carrying a knife, climbed under the bridge. She listened to the screams.

When Hannah reappeared she swung the troll’s ugly severed head. Blood dripped onto her jeans.

“You can sleep safe tonight.” Hannah smiled.

The little girl waved bye. There were no trolls.

She thought the dead man’s face looked sad.

Alyson Faye

Alyson trained originally in the UK as a teacher/tutor. She wrote a couple of children’s books which were published by Collins and Ginn. Now she lives near Bronte terrain in Yorkshire with her teen son, partner and 3 rescue cats. She writes noir Flash Fiction (some of which is published on line) and spooky longer tales (3 are available for download on www.www.alfiedog). She has a collection of her Flash fiction coming out soon from Chapel Town Books in the UK. She enjoys old movies, singing, and swimming. She is a confirmed chocoholic and is still hopeless at maths. Her blog is at http://www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com.

Trembling With Fear 12/31/2017

2018 is almost upon us and already that dreaded question ‘what New Year’s resolutions have you made?’ is being asked. Once upon a time I would make a resolution at New Year and try and keep it but I invariably failed. Now I make my resolutions throughout the year and depending upon the way life is going, I adapt accordingly. There is no point in setting yourself up for failure, life will trip you up from time-to-time, and all you can do is go with it. Be kind to yourself. So the writing resolutions I have made in the past few months (or rather hopes I have for the future!) are, in theory, simple: to self-publish a collection of my own short stories (a mixture of previously published and unpublished work), to edit and publish another Infernal Clock anthology, to write 6 new short stories and send out and finally – to meet more of my online writer friends in real life. There are other things I could add to the list but I’m not going to, what I have listed is something I have already started and, I feel, achievable. By all means set yourself goals, but never, ever beat yourself up over it and please, please … continue submitting to Trembling With Fear. I love reading your stories and am constantly amazed at your creativity.

Wishing everyone a peaceful, prosperous and happy New Year,

Steph’

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

‘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

Barfight

Todd awoke on his back in a puddle of beer and broken glass with his ears ringing and his vision blurred. He lay still, watched the ceiling fan spin lazily without seeing it, and thought about nothing. A few seconds passed and he sat up. He closed his eyes tight and waited for the room to stop sliding around, the colors to stop smearing. Finally, his eyes came open, focused, and looked without expression at overturned tables and overturned chairs.

 

There was a dull ache on the side of his head. With tentative fingers, he found a ragged shard of glass protruding just above his ear. With a shaking hand, he gripped the shard and pulled. Warm blood streamed, sticky and purple, over his fingers and soaking his hair. The blood joined with the suds on the floor, and turned pink. Todd held the glass shard close to his face and gazed at it. Now squinting, he looked past the shard and discovered a big man standing over him, his hand gripping the neck of a broken bottle. It was then that Todd remembered.

 

“Wanna go again?” the big man sneered. He wore a denim vest with no shirt beneath. His nose was bloody and gruesome, smashed over to one side.

Todd looked at his own right hand, found its knuckles slick and red, and smiled. With a torn voice, he said: “I’m good.”

 

The big man’s eyes glittered. “You ain’t that good.” He tossed the bottle neck to the floor and left. The crowd parted to let him through, Todd noticing their presence for the first time. A red-haired woman with green eyes and freckles appeared with a white terrycloth towel and squatted beside him on her haunches. The vertical green and white stripes on her shirt told him she was a waitress. A name tag told him she was Becky.
“Ambulance is on the way,” Becky said, wiping his bloody ear and dabbing at his sopping hair. “I called the cops and gave them that guy’s description.”

Todd blinked. “Ambulance? I don’t need an ambulance.”

“Yes. Yes, you do. Hey now! Stay still and let’s talk a little until they come.”

 

Todd went to stand but his tennis shoe slipped in the beer and he sat down with an awkward splash.

“See?” Becky said. “You can’t even stand up.”

 

Todd’s eyes were big and white. “What time is it?”

 

She blinked and put a crease between her eyebrows. “I don’t know, nine-fifteen? Sit still a minute.”

 

Todd got his feet under him. He wobbled and stood. “I’m fine. I’ve gotta go now,” he said, batting the towel away.

 

Becky took his arm and pleaded with him. Two middle-aged men who appeared to be customers came over and folded meaty arms in front of their chests like bouncers. Todd watched the men but spoke to Becky. “Head injuries always look bad. I’m fine. I have to go.  I can’t be here when the ambulance comes.”

 

The middle-aged men exchanged a glance. One of them said: “Sorry, buddy, we can’t let you go. You might as well take a seat at the bar and relax.”

“You’re kidnapping me?” Todd demanded.

The second man shrugged. “For lack of a better word.”

Todd’s shoulders slumped and he exhaled, defeated. He shook his head slowly and bolted for the door.

Becky let out a small scream and the two men sprang. Todd stumbled halfway across the room before they caught him. The crowd came over now and encircled them and worked as one to walk Todd slowly back to the bar. Someone slid a chair behind his legs and he sat.

 

At the bar, Todd sobbed bitterly into his hands. His whole body shook. Finally, his wet face came up, his eyes crazed. He screamed: “You don’t understand! The moon is full tonight! I will gut you all!”

 

A murmur passed through the crowd, as people expressed to one another a muted concern for Todd and his obvious head injury. Becky patted his arm soothingly and sirens drew close.
One of the middle-aged men reached in with an icepack but Todd pulled away. He threw back his head, and howled.

Fred Rock

Fred Rock lives in a small town in Wisconsin with his wife and two kids. Specializing in pulp and noir, his stories have been featured in Disclaimer, Scaffolding, Speculative 66, 101 Words, and others. Fred Rock is currently writing his first novel: Danger in Rush City.

You can follow Fred’s work at http://fredrockfiction.com/.

Dad

“Wha?” Bobby shook his head, still groggy.

 

A nightmare. Screams, and a heavy, wet, thumping sound, then silence.

 

He opened his eyes, letting them adjust to the darkness, and gasped when he saw the tall silhouette standing between his bed and Jimmy’s bed.

 

As the figure turned, Bobby relaxed. It was just Dad, probably came in to check on the boys. Maybe he’d yelled in his sleep?

 

As Dad turned, he lifted Jimmy’s baseball bat, which looked different somehow. It was darker, and looked wet in the dim light. Bobby saw a grim smile on his father’s face.

 

“Now, you…”

G.A. Miller

G.A. Miller is a new voice in the chorus of horror authors, drawing his ideas from every day, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors, often with horrific consequences.

His published tales include:

“Bequeath” – Hinnom Magazine 001, Gehenna & Hinnom publishers.

“Shower Time” – The Edge: Infinite Darkness, Patrick Reuman publisher.

“Ear Wax” – Year’s Best Body Horror Anthology 2017 – Gehenna & Hinnom publishers.

“Nightmare” – Horror Bites Magazine, November 2017 Issue

“Just A Little Bloob” – Horror Tree Website, November 5th, 2017, Trembling With Fear column

“Rough Draft” – Evil Podcast Website, November 20th, 2017, November episode

G.A. lives where Lovecraft lived, due south of where King lives. Perhaps there’s something in the water in New England? One wonders…

http://gamiller.info/

http://gamillerdotblog.wordpress.com/

The Hanging Lights Sway

We explored the house with some reservations. The realtor insisted we would love its historical charm. Stained walls and dust-coated surfaces filled our hearts with dread. We were prepared to make our escape when I spotted them. Two amber globes hanging from a tarnished brass chain, swaying slightly above the hallway. Nothing special about them but yet I couldn’t look away. Back and forth they pulled me in closer. My companion’s voices drifted into the void. My body went numb until a car horn forced me to return. My gaze traveled down to the crimson liquid dripping from my hands.

Andrea Allison

My work has appeared in No Rest for the Wicked Anthology and Flashes in the Dark Ezine. My bio is as follows: Andrea Allison currently resides in a small uneventful town located in Oklahoma. She is an author who enjoys writing horror of all varieties.

Not Even a Mouse

The tiny Christmas tree was beautiful; flocked with snow and gilded with gold and silver ornaments. Its perfectly fanned boughs sheltered presents gently arranged on a bed of snow.

Tina’s eyes swelled with tears as she stared at it.

She knew she would never celebrate anything as long as she was with her husband.

He heard her sniffle and yelled for her to stop being a sentimental cow.

She wiped her eyes on her sleeve.

He was right. She was too sentimental.

So she bashed his head with the little Christmas tree snow globe.

This year, Christmas would be merry.

 

Ruschelle Dillon

Ruschelle Dillon is a freelance writer whose efforts focus on the dark humor and the horror genres.
She often is found knitting bikini bottoms for shrimp and chumming the ocean with wieners for nothing in particular.
Her short stories have appeared in various anthologies and online zines. Her collection of short stories entitled Arithmophobia has just been published. Ruschelle also interviews authors for the Horror Tree website. Be afraid. Very…afraid.

You can follow her work at: www.ruschelledillon.net.

Redundant

“Our time has come at last,” said the first horseman, urging his mount through the fiery gate.

Across vast, frozen lands he rode with his three companions, only to find tanks already in place and dissension rife. Turning towards hotter climes, he discovered camps swarming with refugees and famine flourishing.

As the group looked around in dismay, a figure galloped towards them, handing a letter to each. ‘We regret to inform you that you are now surplus to requirements …’

Man did not need the Four Horsemen to bring about the End of Days; he could manage on his own.

Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis is a TeachingAssistant in a Southampton secondary school but previously worked for many years as a technical author. Her genre fiction short stories have found success in Massacre and Sanitarium magazines as well as a variety of horror anthologies. She is also an active member of theFlashDogs flash fiction online community where most of her contributions are of the darker kind. Also, co-curator and co-editor at The Infernal Clock.

You can find out more about Stephanie at: http://stephellis.weebly.com/.

Tristan

Tristan knew his lineage but until he was eighteen it never seemed real.
A normal life by day and a student of darkness at night.
As a child, he believed his wards knew his place was to usher in the end of humanity.
At thirteen he realized that were bat shit crazy and ran away.
Life on the streets was hard but he was smart
He adapted, his upbringing left him morally flexible. He thrived.
Until he was eighteen.
When the prophetic dreams began.
His wards hadn’t lied.
He was destined for greatness.
Tristan was meant to end the world.

Stuart Conover

Your friendly neighborhood Horror Tree Editor!

(But if you don’t, you can find out more at my homepage!)

Trembling With Fear 12/24/2017

This week I’m merely going to wish you all a Merry Christmas and thank you all for being so supportive of TWF. We have thoroughly enjoyed reading your stories and hope you will continue to submit next year.

Enjoy your time with your family, reach out to those who are in difficulty or in crisis at this time, be kind to others and remember to be kind to yourself.

Have a lovely Christmas

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

It’s that time of year where the snow is falling (depending on where you live and global warming) and Santa Claws is deciding how to take care of the naughty kids out there. This is the penultimate installment of Trembling With Fear for the year and it has been such a wild ride. With it being Christmas Eve it seems like the perfect time to deliver some horror that you can read while sitting around the fire, eating Santa’s cookies, and scaring your kiddos (if you have them, if not, whoever’s kiddos you’re borrowing) into a nightmare induced coma!

‘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

(more…)

Trembling With Fear 12/17/2017

Six months later and I’m still here. I can’t believe that time has gone so quickly. I’ve managed to train myself into a fairly regular routine for checking for submissions so I hope that none of you have had to wait too long for a response. However there have been one or two instances where writers have been in touch about stories sent a while ago which appear to have slipped through the net – this may have been due to an email glitch, it may have been sent when a lot was going on at Horror Tree and Stuart had less help, it may have been the point when I started getting involved. Regardless, if you have sent a story and have not had a response about it, please get in touch – forward your original emails and submissions and I will look into it for you. We have rescued a couple of good stories in this way.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

As Steph has mentioned, she’s been here for six months now. I want to give her full credit here as I feel this may have been the best, tightest, most organized six months of our ongoing ‘Trembling With Fear’ run!
While we slowly lock in working out how to get this crazy thing going into print I can only hope that we’re able to have high enough sales to not only support the site as was the original intention but the contributing authors and Steph as well! We couldn’t be where we are today without her!

‘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

Outlast

The alarm blares, plucking me out of dreamland. It’s mid-winter, still dark, and my feet are twin blocks of ice, hanging off my bed in the chilly apartment. I pick up my device and silence the alarm. The screen flashes a wash of electric color; I blink and roll onto my side, tucking my feet under the blanket. The room comes to me in shapes and bruised colors. Then I remember.

It’s the first conscious thought I have in the morning, routine as black coffee. I roll back to my device, click it awake, and watch the thin flex-screen rise from its base. My device knows I want to check the app before I issue the command.

The app. The one that’s consumed my time, my focus for the past six months. It pops onto the screen.

OUTLAST

Blocky letters fill the green back-lit screen; the app loads. My heart thrums. Hands and feet prickle, turn liquid. My frosty skin now blazes under the heat of those seven white letters.

I wipe a sweaty hand across the blanket. I could never be a spy. My body betrays my nerves with an instant soak of sweat. It’s a flaw that struck during puberty and, unlike my acne, decided to hang around into adulthood.

A chorus of trumpets blast a victory tune and I read the familiar message scrolling up the screen.

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE STILL IN THE GAME.

A pause. The app gathers data from across the world. I scratch at my wrist, knowing my microchip is sending data to the global cloud, knowing its harvesting information about me in real time—my location, health, vital signs. I don’t think about it much anymore. You get used to being watched after a dozen years of surveillance.

It takes a while for Outlast to compile the information it needs. The status bar crawls forward, sluglike. I like it that way. The anticipation ignites my curiosity, makes me wonder about today’s number.

The app stops churning and the screen changes. Another scrolling message.

133 MILLION 926 THOUSAND 129 PEOPLE WERE BORN IN THE YEAR 2004. YOU HAVE OUTLASTED…

A counter box spins numbers.

…30,581,020 OF THEM.

My heart seizes. So many more than yesterday…

The number always astounds me. Tens of millions of people born in the same year as me, gone. Kaput. Dead before their thirtieth birthday.

The counter box ticks up. Every few seconds, a fresh body piles onto the death toll.

This is the part I never get used to, watching death in real time. Human lives boiled down to a fleeting number on a screen. It coats my mouth with a grimy film.

And yet, I can’t deny my vague pleasure when I see the number climbing. I’m winning the game.

I pull myself out of bed and into my apartment’s chill. It wouldn’t cost much to heat the cramped space, but not much is a lot when you have next to nothing. I rely on the heat from my downstairs neighbor to permeate through the floor and provide enough warmth to keep my studio hovering above freezing. My thick, hooded sweatshirt does the rest.

I make coffee. It’s cheap, but iron-strong. I boil water for oatmeal and check the app again. The trumpets give me goosebumps.

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE STILL IN THE GAME.

I wait to see how many people I’ve outlasted. The counter box slows to a stop.

42,007,831

I stare at the screen. Over ten million 2004 babies perished in the past ten minutes? Not possible. Usually it’s a million in an entire year. About 2,500 each day. Two per minute. Two deaths, not millions.

I gaze, bug-eyed. The counter spins upward. Fast. Too fast.

I slam the app to one side of my screen and pull up the news. My fingertips, palms, armpits trickle sweat. I scan headlines, frantic. No super volcanoes, no earthquakes. No alien invasions. No bombs dropped on Tokyo or Bombay.

Mind spinning, I close Outlast and reload it. The app greets me with ever-cheery brass and a new death toll:

47,852,203.

No.

It’s a glitch. Has to be.

My coffee has turned tepid and I have to catch the commuter train soon, but my feet won’t move. I’m tethered to my device and the dizzying numbers surging through the counter box.

I have to call Hailey. She’ll talk me down from my mania. Always does.

My voice is a bark when I command my device to dial. Hailey picks up instantly.

“Lee? Hey. Don’t you have work?”

“Yeah, but listen, Hail. Something strange is happening, something with—” I pause, force out the word. “Outlast.”

I see her cringe. We never talk about the app, even though I know she uses it too. Most users keep their obsession to themselves. The game has a dirty reputation. It’s meant to be played alone, enjoyed in sinful bites.

“What about it?” Her voice slow, a creaking train.

“The toll for 2004 skyrocketed in the past ten minutes. We’re talking a million people every minute. Is…is yours doing the same thing?”

“Lee,” Hailey protests, “you’re acting crazy. Why don’t you just—”

“Come on, Hail. Please. Could you check yours too?”

“Fine.”

Hailey mutters a few commands to her device. The screen splits in two, the left side showing Hailey’s dimpled chin and chicory skin, the other side loading Outlast. I hold my breath, body slippery with sweat.

The trumpets, the greeting.

The death toll.

YOU HAVE OUTLASTED…

…54,030,901 OF THEM.

The numbers surge.

“Holy shit, that’s almost half our year.”

“I told you, Hailey.” I shove my hands inside my pockets and hug my torso. My shoulders rock away from my device, then back. Away, back. “Something crazy is happening.”

“Did you check the other years? Is it just 2004?”

Without waiting for my response, Hailey navigates to the app’s settings and changes her birth year to 2020. We wait for the numbers to load.

14,600,223.

Then, 14,600,224.

A slow tick. Normal.

A handful of dead pre-teens.

Hailey’s eyes deaden. Her cheeks pale to ash. “I—” she stutters, shakes her head like a clogged salt shaker. “I don’t know, Lee. Must be a glitch. Why don’t you go to work and forget about it?”

“Are you kidding me? Even if it is a glitch, there’s no way I can work today. I’m a total wreck. Can you come over? Please? I don’t want to be alone right now.”

Hailey sniffs. “Unlike some people, I care about paying my bills. Sorry. I’m going to head to work and try to forget about this whole thing.”

A knock. Coming from Hailey’s end.

“Someone’s at the door. Gotta run.”

“What? Hailey, no! Are you crazy? People from our birth year are dropping like dominoes and you’re answering the door? Please—”

“You’ve come unhinged, Lee. Maybe lay off Outlast for the day, okay? Let’s grab a beer at the Bassett tonight. My treat.”

“Hailey, dammit! Listen to me. Don’t open that door!”

“Bye, Lee.”

The call disconnects and Hailey’s image evaporates.

I slump into my kitchen chair and knock the coffee cup with my elbow. It hits the floor and I watch it through a fog, like it’s happening in a room on the other side of the world. The liquid slides across the linoleum and my eyes flick back to the device.

Numbers roll and I wonder if one of them represents Hailey.

I pull my hoodie closer. My skin is clammy; it reminds me of a dead fish. I sit, rock, mutter to myself like the crackheads who live in the elbows of Dixon Bridge. I wait.

For what? Time to pass? Everyone in 2004 to die?

A voice floats into my head. You wanted to win the game, right?

“Yes,” I say out loud to the air, to my bleeding coffee, to the device sitting in front of me. “Yes, I wanted to win. But not like this. Not until I reached one-hundred and four. Not until old age claimed my organs and shut me down. Peacefully. In bed. Surrounded by doting friends and family.”

“Not like this. Ruler of the blood bath.”

My brain’s a circus, spinning and twisting, a riot of color. I’ll leave town, I decide. I’ll take the next bus out west and lose myself in the canyons and scrub brush. Details later. I have to pack.

I jump to my feet. My left sock has absorbed some of the coffee, but there’s no time to change it. I have to move.

I start cramming belongings into my backpack. Some clothes, a couple granola bars, all the cash I had stowed inside an empty soup can in my cupboard. I zip the bag and glance at my device.

Over 70 million now.

Damn.

I coax the screen back in its shell and slide the device in my pocket. I reach for the doorknob at the same time a knock sounds on the other side.

Kate Bitters

Kate Bitters is the author of Elmer Left and Ten Thousand Lines.

Bitters writes in the style of magic realism, influenced by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, and Neil Gaiman. Her short story was picked by the MPR program, Wits, to be read aloud by Mr. Gaiman during one of their shows in winter, 2015.

Her forthcoming novel is Ellie Half-Shadow and the Mayan Prophecy.

You can find more of her work over at her homepage and her Amazon Page.

The Ebbing Tide Calls

Svensson lies in his bed, a berth the old shipmaster has rarely left in the past few years. He watches as the accusatory finger of the lighthouse sweeps across the harbour, in through the bottleglass window and onto the long, blank wall. Each pulse shines a zoetrope puppet-show onto the whitewashed brick.

An empty room. Darkness. The door, still closed, swings its shadow-self into the room. Darkness. A woman, his wife, crosses the threshold. Darkness. Halfway across the room, her features blurred as if underwater. Darkness. Sea-water drips from her hair, her out-stretched hands, as she stands above him.

Darkness.

Daniel Pietersen

Daniel Pietersen is an author of weird horror and terror philosophy, interested in how speculative works tell us about the world today as much as the world to come. Current publications include an investigation into the work of Sidney Sime for Dead Reckonings and a piece on ‘The Hellbound Heart’ for the upcoming second volume of Thinking Horror. Daniel lives in Edinburgh with his wife and dog.

You can follow Daniel’s work on https://constantuniversity.wordpress.com/.

Date Night

It all had to be just right. She chose her best dress, the one she wore on the most important occasions.
She’d had her hair and nails done. Her make-up was flawless. She was, by her own admission, beautiful. Perfection. She had to be, this was the most important date she’d ever had.

She arrived early, nothing could go wrong, she simply wouldn’t let it. She’d been planning this night for months.

She glanced around, her date was nearly here. She counted down in her head, then, just at the perfect moment, she stepped out in front of the train.

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.

Kitty Cat

‘Reversing out of the driveway, Jake glimpsed the quick streak of white behind his back wheels. THUNK. He’d hit Mrs What’s-her-face’s cat. Damn animal never learnt. Too late now. He shrugged.

Home late after a few drinks, Jake didn’t notice several small white shapes flitting into his garage.

Drowning in his water bed, he didn’t pay attention to the soft tugging on his duvet.

Six tiny white kittens sought his body warmth; snuggling, cuddling, smothering his face and mouth till his snoring ceased.

Tiny claws hooked into his skin, slashed his eyelids and licked his cooling skin clean of blood.

Alyson Faye

Alyson trained originally in the UK as a teacher/tutor. She wrote a couple of children’s books which were published by Collins and Ginn. Now she lives near Bronte terrain in Yorkshire with her teen son, partner and 3 rescue cats. She writes noir Flash Fiction (some of which is published on line) and spooky longer tales (3 are available for download on www.www.alfiedog). She has a collection of her Flash fiction coming out soon from Chapel Town Books in the UK. She enjoys old movies, singing, and swimming. She is a confirmed chocoholic and is still hopeless at maths. Her blog is at http://www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com.

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