Trembling With Fear 08/18/2019

Ageism. Does it exist in the writing industry? I’m only considering the issue (again) now because I had an uplifting moment last week when I received a story from an 80-year-old author. Prior to that I had been seeing nothing but ‘young’ pictures of writers online. Anyone who is anyone making their name, especially female, it appears, is someone at least half my age (and yes, I know, everybody looks young as you get older, the scariest being the doctors!). They all look ‘on trend’, go-getting, on the way UP. Me? I’ve got lines and wrinkles and quite a lot of me is beginning to sag these days (hence the trips to the gym – I will not go quietly into that good night!). It makes you feel a little as if you don’t belong. And I think this is a creeping danger that needs to be stopped.

I have read quite a few tweets etc online where organisations, competitions and the like are trying to promote and support new writers, the next generation of writers and so on. All laudible, however the implication, and sometimes not implicit, but explicitly stated, is that that the new writers are all young. Writers however, do not all start at the same point in their careers. Some don’t write in their childhood, or their 20s or 30s, some might not even write until much later. These older writers are still ‘new’ however and should be allowed the same support and promotion as those who are much younger. If you are going to support ‘new’ writers it has to be age blind.

Over to Trembling With Fear which leads this week with A Jarful of Teeth by McKenzie Staley is a cautionary tale of what you could find in an abandoned house. Is it abandoned? Is it haunted? Or has the previous occupant, imprisoned for murder, been released and returned? The build of tension, the references to Kiren’s own, not quite perfect life, keeps the reader from guessing the outcome too soon. Including objects from a more innocent time also adds a poignant touch. A jar of baby teeth says a lot without having to explain anything. A clever use of an object to show, not tell.

Premiere Day by Jacek Wilkos is a warning. Be careful when accepting a freebie – but it is also a novel way of appearing on screen. It was nice to move away from the usual settings of bedrooms and kitchens and woods to somewhere different. This writer is in Poland and I hope we see more submissions from those in Eastern Europe.

Traces by Alyson Faye is a mini gothic masterpiece. She makes full use of the tools of the poet’s trade to create a dark, brooding image of a neglected graveyard, a ‘giant’s maw’ of teeth, ‘the broken, the chipped, the lost and the untended’ eating up its environment.

Eyes Open by Stacey Jaine MacIntosh is a first person piece which I would actually consider reading to some of the students I work with. When they regale me with their tales of free-running and parkor I cringe. They look up to a certain You Tuber by the name of Ally Law, a peer of my son’s, and someone who I worked with briefly in junior school and saw around senior school for a little while. If you see what he gets up to online I think you’ll agree this story might be how it all ends.

 

Steph

(Not quite over the hill yet and I still have all my own teeth  so I won’t end up in Alyson Faye’s graveyard just yet!)

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Good news! I think we’ve got the new set of contracts figured out. Those of you who have been waiting for them should ideally be getting them starting in the coming week (unless testing fails or we find a glaring hole in them which needs to be addressed!) 

I did add borders around the drabble below which weren’t previously included. Please let me know if you feel this looks good and is something we should continue doing in future installments of Trembling With Fear! 

Outside of this, I’ve been massivey behind this week so no real updates on the site or TWF here. More to come soon! I hope 😉

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

A Jar Of Baby Teeth

The smell of rotten wood reaches its arms out to me. If I breathe through my nose it burns my sinuses, if I breathe through my mouth, the taste makes me gag.

“It’s not safe, Kiren,” Momma used to say. “Better to stay home.”

Not like my father passed away on the kitchen floor, when Momma’s screams were heard down the line of identical houses.

            I find a broken window at the side of the house. Glass shards crunch underneath my boots as I approach. I roll my sleeves over my palms and hoist myself through.

            Inside is far darker than the summer day outside. Dirt and dust float around the air and fills my lungs. I cough into my elbow.

            I enter through a dingy kitchen. The doorway leads to a long, dark hallway. I can hardly see the floorboards ahead.

I slow down my steps and pause at pictures hung on the wall. One shows a dark skinned woman and her two kids. Their smiles so large that it can’t be real.

Momma’s rants about the abandoned house at the end of the meadow, right before the woods forever engrained in my mind.

            “What are you doing in my house?”  

            I gasp and stumble away from the picture. A woman stands farther down the hallway. She’s the daughter from the picture. Much older, getting close to her last years at least. How did she get here?

            “You’re—“

            “Have you seen my dad?” the woman interrupts. “I can’t find him.” She hobbles towards me. Eyes glazed over, irises moving rapidly from left to right.

            I take several steps back.  “I—I don’t know.” Ahead, the front door is boarded shut. I turn and take off to the kitchen. Not sure why my blood pulses through my veins with a burning heat. My fourteen-year-old body can take a woman of her age.

            The woman appears ahead. Her white hair sticks out at all angles as she peers down at me.

“I don’t know,” I say, “but… I’ll help you.”

            The woman cocks her head. “You will?”      

            I nod. “Yeah, just tell me what to do.”
            The woman shakes her head. “You can’t do anything. I’ve already done enough, just need to finish…” She paces between the entryway of the kitchen and the wall. “I have to find him.”

            “What happened to your family?” I ask.

            The woman waves her hand my way. “They’re dead. He just got away.”

            The inside of my throat swells. My pulse throbs against my temple. “What’s your name?”

            The woman still stands in the way of my exit. Her hand shakes as she brushes a stray hair from her eyes. “Charlotte.”

I incline my head. Momma’s rants finally start to become useful. Charlotte Brandish, a seventeen-year-old killer. Her father survived, escaping through her own bedroom window.

“Where’s your bedroom, Charlotte?”

            “Down the hall.”

            “I’ll look for him there,” I say.

            “Good idea!” Charlotte calls behind me.

            Pink paint covers the bedroom walls. Its faded from time. The bed, neatly made with a wooden box at the foot. Wood splinters off of it. Hinges creak as I lift the lid.

            Inside lays a jar of baby teeth, a class ring, and a pearl necklace. Dried out art supplies fill the rest of the space.

I run a finger over a paintbrush. Its bristles prick my skin. These things kept her in her room and away from the memories that refused to move on.

            “Don’t touch that!”

             I jump, the box falls from my hands and smashes at my feet.

            Charlotte screams. She falls to her knees and hugs the pile onto her lap. Her bones creak and pop.

            I stand still, even my trembling knees pause.

Charlotte’s back stiffens. She glares up at me, tears stream down her cheeks. “What did you do?” She pulls herself up, and the box’s contents clatter to the floor.

            She shoves my shoulders. I wave my arms out to catch myself. My wrist hits the bedside table hard. I wince and yank myself away from her.

            Charlotte screams and charges.

            I scream right back as I throw myself out her bedroom window. I continue to scream through the meadow all the way to my back porch.

As I climb my porch steps Charlotte’s cries still reach me. I slam my back door.

I lean against the window and stare out at the abandoned house. It stares back at me.

 

McKenzie Staley

McKenzie Staley runs a Youtube Channel for writing under the name McKenzie Staley. She is also a part of Ghost Author’s writing team. 

McKenzie is from Pinedale, Wyoming and is currently enrolled in Full Sail University’s Creative Writing for Entertainment BFA program. 

 

Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBIWOgfZhwhprFZ18q3nOnA?view_as=subscriber

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/author_mckenzie_staley/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kenzi_staley

Eyes Open

Keep your eyes open. Look straight ahead. Don’t look down. It was sound advice. I should not ignore it. A litany, repeating itself. I clung to it, until it lost all meaning.

If I looked down, I would fall. I knew that, but still it didn’t stop my eyes from roaming to that one spot on the ground. I had to get it together. Just a little bit further and I’d be back on solid ground. I couldn’t wait.

Climbing the tower hadn’t been one of my best ideas. Losing my footing, I slipped and with eyes wide; I fell.

 

Stacey Jaine McIntosh

Stacey Jaine McIntosh was born in Perth, Western Australia where she still resides with her husband and their four children.

 

Although her first love has always been writing, she once toyed with being a Cartographer and subsequently holds a Diploma in Spatial Information Services.

 

In 2011, she had her first short story Freya published in an anthology, twelve more have followed. The latest story, Morrighan, is available to purchase among all good booksellers.

 

Stacey is also the author of a self-published novel Solstice, and she is currently working on several other novels simultaneously

 

When not with her family or writing, she enjoys reading, photography, genealogy, history, Arthurian myths and witchcraft.

 

You can find her here:

 

WEBSITE: www.staceyjainemcintosh.com

 

FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/StaceyJaineMcIntosh

 

TWITTER: www.twitter.com/StaceyJMcIntosh

 

INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/morrighanfae

Premiere Day

The screening room was full. Sitting comfortably in their chairs, people were waiting impatiently for the mysterious film to start. They had all found strange movie tickets in their mailboxes, showing only the date and place – an old abandoned warehouse.

When the lights went out, the audience were surprised to see themselves appear on the screen. They waited, wondering what would happen next. Suddenly, a steel cable appeared, was stretched across the room and released. It sprang at them with great speed, decapitating them all.

Their brains recording those last images, the audience watched their death on the silver screen.

Jacek Wilkos

Jacek Wilkos is an engineer from Poland. He lives with his wife and daughter in a beautiful city of Cracow. He is addicted to buying books, he loves coffee, dark ambient music and riding his bike. He writes mostly horror drabbles. His fiction in Polish can be read on Szortal, Niedobre literki, Horror Online. In English his work was published in Drablr, Rune Bear, Sirens Call eZine.

You can find him at https://www.facebook.com/Jacek.W.Wilkos/

Traces

Feral churchyards

consumed by nature,

arrayed with gravestone teeth –

a giant’s maw filled with

the broken, the chipped, the lost

and the untended.

The stones chew the frothing summer grass,

reign proud over winter’s barren dirt.

Beneath – bones shifting, settling, decaying

whilst dead voices linger,

captured pre dawn

in the greying granite walls

glittering with grief.

Heard only by the corvids

garnishing the trees branches

in their black tattered cloaks.

Avian mourners,

a cacophonous choir,

drowning out

the whispering of wraiths;

those lingering souls who suck up

the chilly silence –

a banquet for eternity.

Requiescat in Pace.

 

Alyson Faye

Alyson lives in West Yorkshire with her husband, teen son and 4 rescue animals. She has been a teacher, a carer, a road safety instructor and a lifetime film buff. Currently she teaches creative writing workshops and writes dark fiction, both short (flash) and long. Her short stories have appeared in print in the anthologies, Women in Horror Annual 2, Stories from Stone, DeadCades:The Infernal Decimation, Coffin Bell Journal 1 and Crackers. Her debut flash fiction collection, Badlands, was published in January 2018 by indie publisher, Chapel Town Books and her own Trio of Terror – Supernatural Tales (all set in Yorkshire) came out in December 2018. Her flash fiction has appeared in several charity anthologies and can be heard on several podcasts. Her fiction has won, or been shortlisted in several competitions.

Her latest horror story is out as an ebook from Demain publishing, on amazon, Night of the Rider.

Her blog is at www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com.

Her amazon author is at https://www.amazon.co.uk/l/B01NBYSLRT and she’s on twitter as @AlysonFaye2.

Unholy Trinity: Mommy Fearest by Margo Rife

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

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

Mommy Fearest

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

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

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

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

 

Spider to the Fly

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

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

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

So he wove a subtle web.

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

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

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

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

He dragged her up his winding stair.

Hey, beautiful. Welcome to my den.

Frail One was never seen again.

 

In Memory of Kevin

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

Click.  Decades of dedicated lab research

Click.  to create synthetic spider webs that are

Click. stronger than steel—tougher than Kevlar. 

Clink. No army can penetrate these giant structures. 

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

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

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

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

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

Margo Rife

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

Plays available on NPX site. New Plays Exchange.com

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

Serial Killers: I See the Lake. Part 2

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

I See the Lake. Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ah! That’s better,” she said.

I removed my hands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, Tex don’t-”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A song?” said Linda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ash Tudor

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

Find Ash on Twitter @AshTudor888

 

Trembling With Fear 08/11/2019

Yay, the house and its occupants are pretty much back to normal – or as normal as you can be in this family. It meant I could finish Chuck Wendig’s, Wanderers which I absolutely loved and would highly recommend as well as Richard Meldrum’s The Plague and Kevin M. Folliard’s Candy Corn. And yes, I managed to fit in some writing as well.

I also spent some time catching up on the recent author interviews over at the This is Horror podcast (including the excellent Paul Tremblay sessions) as well as Brian Keene’s latest. These podcasts are now firmly part of my weekly listening. Which ones do you listen to?

So, all is right with my world – apart from the never-ending wait for news on submissions.

One quick comment though before I move on to the stories, if any one is confused about who to send Unholy Trinities, Serials and Specials to, don’t be. Yes, Catherine and Stuart review and edit them but please just send them initially to the usual TWF contact address or directly to me (as some of you do) as I enter them into our all-singing, all-dancing tracker (aka our spreadsheet) and get them into the system. This way it keeps things coordinated (hopefully!!).

Now for Trembling With Fear, and the first story, Vermin by Sarah Katz starts off with an apparent escape from a nasty domestic situation. But is it what it seems? A child, even an almost grown child, should be able to trust their mother and this story focusses on the betrayal of the most primary of relationships. Where is the father in all this? He’s there. Also stirred into the mix are ideas of madness and infection. A literal tale of family breakdown. This story was well-paced with a great building of tension.

Adrift by Jackie Allison lures you into the ocean and whilst there is an inherent danger in the observer’s situation, I loved the feeling of disassociation as death was contemplated so that it became an almost out-of-body experience.

Reaper by Claire Fitzpatrick shows you can’t destroy a problem, even if you follow ancient ritual. Death comes in many shapes and probably still within the family. We don’t actually get many tales of witchcraft, evil covens and Sabbath doings. Perhaps something for contributors to think about coming into those wonderful spooky autumnal months. I would say old school though, much like vampires, preferred, not too sparkly, if at all.

Young Love by Kim Plasket brings us poetic prose on the death of passion and the end of life but with a strong ending. No time for weeping or wailing, ‘The night is young, I’m hungry for more blood.’

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

This week we also have the drabble ‘Casting‘ by Steph. It takes a unique look at the casting process of the movie industry when life imitates art. Also, I took the liberty to edit her bio for this one. Thankfully, her household is feeling better, and she is back in action!

As always, please be sure to comment at the bottom of the post as to which works you like and why! (Feed the authors!)

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Vermin

I couldn’t remember the exact moment it happened – or even the exact day. All I knew was that my father had gone mad.

 

The bickering between him and my Ma had gone from once in a while to nightly shouting matches. Sometimes, one of them would throw a glass or mug that would shatter, followed by more yelling. At times like this, I stayed in my room with our Yellow Lab, Scully.

 

As the weeks passed, my mother began picking at the skin on her face. I figured, who could blame her – being subjected as she was to my Pa’s thunderous bellowing.

 

Then, all at once, the sheriff’s deputy came by and took away my Pa. Ma ran to my room and hugged me something fierce.

 

“Roy!” she exclaimed, tears in her eyes, as Scully danced excited circles around our feet. “He’s gone! We’re safe.”

 

Naturally, I hugged my mother back. With some relief, I noted that the pinched flesh of her face hadn’t yet bled and hoped that now things had settled, she would leave herself alone.

 

 

Pa would be in jail for at least several weeks, while the conditions of a restraining order were set. As he hadn’t beaten me, Ma or Scully and paid the bills on time, they couldn’t hold him for long.

 

 

The following week, I came home from school to find Ma scrubbing hard at the kitchen floor.

“Ma?” I asked, stopping to inspect her work so far, “You need help cleaning?”

 

My mother continued, “Rat scat,” she explained offhandedly, pausing only momentarily to wipe her brow from the last of the summer heat.

 

“We got vermin?” I asked, frowning. “First I heard.”

 

“I’ve been hearing around town,” she picked up the pace of her scrubbing, “They sneak in real stealthy, so you have to catch them before they can get in.”

 

So, with Scully on my heels, I ventured to seek out some of these prowlers. Turned out, I couldn’t find any, at least not in my room or the bathroom. Good news, it seemed.

 

 

The ensuing days brought on the chill of autumn and the first rains. Scully had a field day of leaping after crows, as I subtly grew more used to not hearing Pa’s irate bellow or footsteps around the house.

 

On that Friday, I skipped class early to go home and play catch with Scully. Nothing quite like starting the weekend early. Plus, the heavy gray clouds gathering over the distant fields only encouraged me to end that school day sooner and avoid getting caught in the rain.

 

Upon entering our front gate, a soft, keening whine hit my ears.

 

Glancing around, I followed the sound around back of the house. There, under one of the nearly bare cherry trees, lay Scully. At first treading over to see why he hadn’t risen to greet me, I stopped dead in my tracks as my eyes fell on his fur. In at least three places throughout his back and the two legs visible to me, patches of missing fur gleamed, the flesh raw underneath.

 

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I cast another furtive look around. No one in sight and silence, save for a crow leaving a tree, whose squawk nearly made me jump out of my skin.

 

Could it have been Pa? No, surely, we would have gotten word that he’d been released.

 

After sitting beside Scully for a while and tending to his wounds with water, I considered the possibility of a wolf. Though, no wolves tended to tread down to these parts of Missouri. And a wolf likely wouldn’t have removed patches of fur without also mauling the flesh.

 

Assuming my mother was out to the grocer’s, I entered the house, preparing to break the news about Scully…

 

When Ma’s smiling face greeted me from the sofa, I stopped short again. She looked like she’d been reading a book of poetry.

 

“Home early from school?” she asked sweetly.

 

I stared. “Um, yeah, Ma. Listen, something happened. Scully’s been attacked or something. I think we should have the sheriff look into it.”

 

To my surprise, Ma just nodded sadly. “I think he might have mange from being bit by those rodents. I got a call into the local vet.”

 

Again with the vermin. “Well,” I started again, “I rinsed his wounds.”

 

Another smile. “Good boy, Roy. I’m sure he’ll be fine, the doctor just needs to call back. In fact, I’m glad you’re home early. It’s a special day.”

 

I perked up, curious. “Oh, yeah? How’s that?”

 

“It’s the start to a wonderful weekend, you know how I enjoy this Fall weather. Now, what do you say to some supper? I’ll be cooking the meatloaf.”

 

She did know my favorite meal. “Sure,” I grinned back, wishing I could set aside the ease over Scully for just a moment.

 

 

Sitting down to the reddish-brown meatloaf managed to brighten my mood. That is, until I glanced up at Ma, who had just taken a seat, herself.

 

Made more obvious by the light of the kitchen lamp, several wounds decorated her face – not scabs I’d failed to notice before, but fresh, small wounds that, despite being shallow, shone softly with hints of blood.

 

“Ma…” I began, “Are you all right? Your face…”

 

“It’s those rats,” Ma shrugged it off, “Awful bites. We just got to make it our own, show them they can’t make us sick.”

 

“They bit you in the time it took me to wash my hands?” I asked, aware that my tone wasn’t the most respectful and yet, not entirely caring. My unease far outweighed any manners at that point.

 

“Roy,” that sweet smile was back, “Eat your loaf.”

 

Eyes trained on my mother’s for longer than I intended, I finally glanced down at my food. Though not overly hungry, I twirled the fork tines through the meat, carving out a crumbly slice…and froze.

 

There, between several large meat crumbs, multiple short beige hairs sprouted from the reddish-brown of the beef.

 

Scully.

 

Putting two and two together faster than I ever would have thought possible, I resolved to play it cool. Whatever had gotten into my mother, I had to tread very carefully.

 

“You know, Ma…,” I started, “It looks great, but I’m really not feeling well. I think I’m gonna go lie down.”

 

My mother hummed softly but didn’t protest. In fact, she remained silent otherwise, which only added to the tremble I was desperately trying to conceal as I exited the kitchen.

 

I had to find Scully and get the heck out of dodge.

 

On my way to the front door, I grabbed the book my mother had been reading. On instinct, I checked the small paper she’d been using as a bookmark. After a cautious glance back at the kitchen doorway, I opened what I now realized was a folded letter.

 

A letter from the sheriff’s department, notifying Ma of my father’s release on parole today.

 

At the sound of my mother’s footsteps, I made a mad dash for the foot of the stairs and ran up to my room. Now feeling trapped, I scolded myself for not chancing the distance to the front door. No matter what was happening with my mother, I was a sixteen-year-old young man. Surely, I could defend myself…

 

Against a woman who mutilated herself and animals? In any case, I had missed my opportunity at escape. Now, all I could do was wait it out and hope that Pa either hadn’t kept his household gun or, if he had, Ma wouldn’t know where he stashed it. Come to think of it, my father hadn’t even mentioned the thing for years anyway.

 

Thoughts racing, I sat on my bed, feeling like tearing my own hair out. How had I not noticed something amiss with my mother before?

 

Roy!” a hushed, male voice called from outside my slightly open window.

 

Startled yet again, I gripped the sheets of my bed. There, shadowy face apparent in the moonlight peeking through the storm clouds outside, crouched my Pa. He must have climbed up the drain pipe.

 

“Pa!” I hissed, hurrying to open the window, “You’re out. What are you doing here?”

 

“I’m so sorry, my boy,” his gaze bore into mine as soon as he’d righted himself from climbing over the windowsill, “They took me away when she called the sheriff, I had no time to explain.”

 

“Explain what?” I probed, realizing too late that he wasn’t finished.

 

Another pause. “Are her wounds bleeding?” the graveness of my father’s next question permeated the otherwise silence of the room.

 

Eyebrows knitting together, I answered honestly. “Yes. Pa, she’s been tearing at herself. Scully, too.”

 

I couldn’t bring myself to say aloud what she had done with Scully’s fur.

 

Pa looked pained at that last statement and sat on the bed beside me. “Roy, listen. I wanted to protect you and so never got the chance to tell you what was actually going on with your mother. It started as passing comments at first, about vermin around the house, biting us and the dog. The fights began when she started saying we needed to exterminate the vermin by removing them from all they’d infected. She said she would start your ‘removal’ once her own wounds started bleeding.”

 

“They just started bleeding tonight,” I explained, suddenly feeling dizzy. “You’re saying she wants to kill us?”

 

“I don’t know what her idea of removal is,” my father shook his head, “But we’ve got to get out of here.”

 

Just then, a high-pitched yelp sounded from the ground below.

 

Scully!

 

Starting toward my door, Pa grasped my wrist. “No, son, it’s a trick! She’s baiting you.”

 

“I’ve got to go,” I protested, tearing loose and descending the steps two at a time before bursting out the back door.

 

Sure enough, Scully lay sprawled on the ground, breaths coming in shallow heaves. Fresh blood coated his fur, mixing with the rain that had started to fall.

 

Beside the nearly motionless form of my dog, sat my mother. Blood-soaked fingers contrasting red against the otherwise grey of the backyard, she glanced up at me and I froze.

 

The idle notion that Pa had followed me outside provided scarce comfort in light of the sight before me. Beside Scully’s body, Ma grinned, and I could now clearly make out that a sizeable chunk of her lower lip was gone, the roots of her bottom teeth unnaturally visible.

 

Perhaps Scully’s final attempt at self-defense.

 

A click alerted me again to my father’s presence beside me, the gun now cocked in my mother’s direction.

“Roy,” he murmured,” Go inside and call the sheriff. Now.”

 

Not needing to be told twice, I went to dash toward the back door, when Ma made her move.

 

“It’s time for you to go. You’re dirty, Roy. Those filthy vermin got into you. Such a shame.” My mother sounded solemn as her voice crept closer.

 

I pressed on, nearly at the backdoor now. A deafening shot rang out. Though the absence of a bullet soon alerted to Ma’s having found and unloaded the weapon prior to Pa’s return.

 

“Too late!” she shouted, now breaking into a full run toward me.

 

 

Desperately trying to ignore the meaning behind her words as well as the distorted garble from that horrid mouth, I didn’t see her race at me – as Scully charged her from behind.

 

Within moments, Ma’s throat joined her lower lip, as our lab used his last legs of strength to stop her deadly pursuit.

 

 

The weeks passed slowly into months. With Scully buried in the yard and Ma cremated, Pa and me tended to the yard ourselves. The few crops we managed braved the winter better than expected.

 

We never got another dog. Never wanted one. The house fell into a peaceful yet melancholy quiet without the cheerful bark. The animals didn’t stay away though. In fact, the first day of summer saw a stowaway hiding in our kitchen from the heat…

A large, black rat.

Sarah Katz

Sarah is a fiction author working in cyber security. While not catching hackers, she enjoys worldbuilding, traveling and getting lost on Wikipedia. 

[Note: This drabble was inspired by this image which I didn’t know if I could legally include so feel free to check it out ahead of time.]

Adrift

             I floated aimlessly on the sea. A fin brushed my skin. The creature’s girth and length roiled through my feet. Alternating bands of orange and cream flashed below the waves. I pondered not death, but majesty as the creature broke the surface to face me.  The serpent belonged to the ninety-three percent of unexplored ocean, a creature mankind stood to destroy before we documented its existence. I considered the injustice.

            Though set adrift for defending its home, the serpent wouldn’t differentiate between marine biologists or drillers. Why would it?

            The serpent dove and circled, what a beautiful way to die.

Jackie Allison

Jackie Allison is a writer from Pennsylvania who is also a spouse, parent, and dog toy medic. Franken toys worthy of a few more tugs litter her home. She’s happiest barefoot at the beach or in the forest. Her work has appeared in Funny Times and Chicken Soup for the Soul. www.jackieallison.life

Reaper

Lucy and I lifted the box over the balustrade. It passed from one hand to the other until it reached Uncle Joe. He sat it inside the freshly-dug hole.  

“Is this it then?” Lucy whispered.

“Yes.”

Her brain had been buried under the begonias. Her lungs under the purple delphiniums. Her kidneys under the roses. Her liver under the orchids. Now, her heart.

Burn the witch, they’d said of my grandmother. Burn the witch, they’d said of my mother.

Uncle Joe was old, yet Lucy reeked of death.

I smiled. You think your rites are immune.

I’d take her next.

Claire Fitzpatrick

Claire Fitzpatrick is an award-winning author of speculative fiction and non-fiction. She won the 2017 Rocky Wood Award for Non-Fiction and Criticism. She has been a panellist at Conflux and Continuum. Called ‘Australia’s body horror specialist’ by Peter Kirk, editor of Breach magazine, and ‘Australia’s queen of body horror’ by Gavin Chappel, editor of Schlock! magazine, she enjoys writing about anatomy and the darker sides of humanity. Her debut collection ‘Metamorphosis’ will be published by IFWG Australia in 2019. She lives in Brisbane. Visit her at www.clairefitzpatrick.net

Young love…

Very slowly I release you from my arms, swallowing your cries. All the passion we shared has long since been vanquished.

One small mistake caused so much pain, you never thought it would end but at last, you are released. Your body slides into your open waiting grave.

Your final sin the one you cannot ever take back is thinking I was nothing without you.

Once a love to transcend all ages has slowly faded away. What was a white-hot passion is now ashes.

So many others to maim and kill. The night is young. I’m hungry for more blood.

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 she also has had a story featured in Shades of Santa  with more to come.

https://www.facebook.com/Kim-Plasket-Author-1388808427906955/

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B074YCLRCF

Casting

“They told me you were a man who likes to get into character,” said Veronica. “I must say your make-up is excellent. Your resumé says bit parts – no pun intended – in Z Nation and Black Summer. Quite impressive. I think we can say you’re just what we’re after.”

She glanced up as the actor groaned his thanks and lunged at her. She hated it when they got demonstrative.

Then she felt him bite.

Her last thought was how she would demand her pound of flesh from the director. A problem soon solved when he popped in for his daily update.

Steph Ellis

Some refer to her as Superwoman.

Some as the evil which haunts their nightmares.

Some (mainly me your friendly neighborhood co-editor Stu) refers to Steph as the main reason we’re able to keep TWF running at maximum capacity! 

Today, marks her return to the Drabble! Well, at least those found within the dusty pages (is your screen dusty? Is mine?) of Trembling With Fear!

Enjoy this one!

Unholy Trinity: Venostuthulu by Gabriella Balcom

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

Exile

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

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

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

Strategy

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

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

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

Landfall

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

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

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

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

Gabriella Balcom

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

Serial Killers: I See the Lake. Part 1

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

I See the Lake. Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slow wasn’t slow enough.

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

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

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

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

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

“I hate this fucking place.”

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

And then my toe nail caught fire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t go in the water,” I called.

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

Ash Tudor

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

Find Ash on Twitter @AshTudor888

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