Trembling With Fear 12/16/2018

Welcome to December’s latest offerings as we stagger towards Christmas. I’m not quite in the festive mood yet, a new kitchen is being installed on Monday and I haven’t the faintest how long it will take, only that it will be chaos (although it is a small kitchen). Only when that is done can I think about relaxing and looking forward to the festive season – although with a family dental check up on the 27th that does add a little tension still. I hate going to the dentist. The easiest way to switch off from all that is obviously to read.

Our longer piece of flash this week is Spring by Evan A. Grace. This is a painting, the words splash colour and sound, emotion and sensation across its canvas. The personification of the land adds so much to the mood of this story, earth and sky are alive and brooding. The girl, the watcher, the whole world is involved in that moment. Memories of ancients infiltrate the modern, the past, the ancients reclaiming a son, time stretches and ancestral memory links all. This was not just a painting, this was poetry.

Six by Steven Holding as a piece of dialogue between two characters featuring many stories within one main story – those 6 word tales people ask for and I can never come up with. They’re clever and always make me a little jealous, why can’t I do that? And then there is the main story, the last six being the crux of the tale and is the reality rather than the fiction. A great interweaving of wordplay between the couple.

The Loch Ness Monster by David Rae depicts a perfect moment between a pair of young lovers but as you read, the language used starts to hint at something else, the water is a ‘dead lover’s caress’, one character is compared to a ghost. These are subtle clues as to what is to come when against this backdrop of tranquillity and fun, something stirs. You know it won’t end well. Clever and subtle use of language to hint at the story’s outcome.

Rain by G. A. Miller uses sound as an extremely effective method of setting a scene and creating an atmosphere, juxtaposing expected tranquillity against a strong sense of tension and unease. I love it when writers use the senses to pull in the reader – you are there straight away, listening to the rain … and of course a killer last line.

Out in the wider world, I caught wind of our stalwart Richard Meldrum’s latest publication, Trick in Sirens Call free ezine (available here http://www.sirenscallpublications.com/ezine.htm). What did I find however when I opened the pages? A roster call of TWF contributors. So many familiar names, it felt like coming home. So, congratulations not just to Richard but to Patrick Winters, DJ Tyrer, B.B Blazkowicz, Rie Sheridan Rose, Alyson Faye, Andrea Allison, Mathias Jansson, Ken MacGregor, G.E. Smith, Michael Carter … and if I’ve missed any, apologies. I’ve dipped into the stories a little but hope to give it a proper read at the weekend.

Back to Christmas now. I’ve just posted a little Christmas flash on my site – it gets dusted down each year and put on display. Does anyone have any Christmas/New Year stories or poems they’ve put up on their own sites for the season? If you have send us the links and I’ll put them in next week’s editorial.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

It is the holiday season my friends and I actually scheduled today’s post with the singular thought that I wanted something refreshing in the middle of winter. Something titled “Spring” has to fall into that category to keep you in a good mood, right?

…right?

‘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

Spring

He stands at the edge of the clearing amongst his brothers and watches the

horizon slowly stub out the sun, spitting fire. Smashed idols and thrown crimsons paint

the sky and he smiles. He hears the crickets hum their legs together and warm the

ancient chorus as shadows stretch and pool in periphery. He feels the air convulse

once–twice–and become still. He stands as his father and his father before.

As the sun disappears the wind picks up again and he smiles. She will hear his

song.

The girl appears in the distance, her image wavering and curdled against the sky.

She carries a book in her twisted hands and her hair is bundled and messy; tied like

straw above her head. Her shadow grows long and flickers and leaps over the stones

and tall-grass as she begins to run. The line of trees at the far end of the plot grows

closer and in that moment one might be unsure if it were they or the girl in motion. The

sky looms and lists drunkenly as insects buzz, suspended in time above the flaking

corpses of trampled grain. The air is tight; alive and expectant.

The girl—and maybe time itself slows, unsure.

He watches and his excitement grows. He will feed his brothers. He will make the

Fathers proud.

 

The girl stops and shades her face. Her eyes narrow and she tilts her head to

hear. Underneath the cricket-hum, through the loping breeze…down, down into the

loamy wormy earth she can feel it in her body. All other sounds fade and her senses

sharpen to a point. The air turns thick and she hears him.

Unearthly and earthy, an alien concerto: his voice is throbbing and sensual. He

sings and she is drawn to him. She sees his smile turn vulpine and she is attracted and

afraid. Every cell of her body is a screaming klaxon but the song pulls at her, all knotty

white knuckled anger that leaves bruises and promises. She sways and begins to lurch

unsteadily toward the tree line. The sun winks out and all goes black.

His task is complete and his brothers have been satisfied. Soon they will be

strong again but for now they slumber and swim through the distant memories and

ancient dreams of the Fathers. He can feel them waiting and whispering across the

cold, inky expanse of abandoned dead and distant worlds. On clear nights he can catch

fragments of their murmurs and tortured thoughts like tinny, ghostly voices from a

static-filled radio. They are hungry and time is short. But for now he will watch and wait

through the frozen winter until grey becomes green and life returns and he will begin

again. They are on the cusp of reunion. All is quiet, peaceful.

This was an easy one, he thinks. Sometimes he has to drag them by their hair.

 

The man wakes in a sweaty fit. A branch rakes against the window, cackling like

a witch and the wind is insane. He gets out of bed, loudly cursing his body, and

stumbles to the bathroom. He pisses and washes his face. Down the stairs, and into the

kitchen, now.

He grips the counter, and opens the twin windows above the sink. The curtains

begin to billow, and he pulls them aside and squints, looking out. The air is

cool–crisp–and he hears and sees nothing but moonlight.

Those trees have got to go. They’re hurting the crops; but it was just a dream, he

tells himself. It will be nine years in November and he still reaches for her in the night.

He stumbles and sees nothing but white lights blinking as his head catches the back of

a chair and he falls to the floor.

A branch reaches through the window and tickles his hand, offering buds. He

coughs, and grabs at the branch and eats from it. The branch begins to enfold him like a

glove and he feels safe. In that cozy place he hears the song, and he begins to hum

along.

The branch grips tighter, kissing his forehead, and the man sucks at his thumb. Now all

is chorus and he hears chanting.

“You will make our father proud.”

Over and over and over.

He can only hold out for so long.

 

The man seems to melt into the floor, seeing visions of alien worlds: where trees

are like people, and people are mouths. The man becomes immobile, and the branches

stretch, groaning; covering his face.

Evan A. Grace

Evan A. Grace is an aspiring writer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin: a city commonly known as being somewhere north of Chicago. His credits include handwritten letters to the local village newspaper, decorating Pringles cans for birthdays, and staging shows for his parents that he’d cancel immediately if he felt the response wasn’t what he had hoped for. Evan began and ended his college career at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, studying journalism and wasting a lot of money. As a child, Evan was plagued by scary dreams that frighten him to this day so now he writes them down, and draws weird stuff @laurapringleswilder on Instagram. He hopes he can pass on the feeling of skin, just crawling back across itself, making faces. Boo!

Rain

The random patter of rain on the windows in counterpoint to the steady tick of the wall clock should make for a relaxing and peaceful atmosphere in my living room, yet instead creates an air of tension and unease… but why?

This is a late summer rain, no storm or winds, no reason to take shelter, so why am I looking over my shoulder for shadows that aren’t there?

Why do I keep glancing at the door, as though expecting it to burst open, an intruder dashing in?

Well, let him.

I have room for one more body out back.

 

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 work has been published in numerous anthologies from a variety of publishers, and he’s just released his first novella, “Spirit of the Dead”, now available at Amazon.

https://talesfrommiller.com/

http://gamillerdotblog.wordpress.com/

Six

She smiles at him.

“Tell me a story. A horror story. In six words.”

He grins. Nods. Thinks for a second.

“Face at the window. Nobody’s home.”

She giggles, shivers.

“Your turn,” he whispers.

Chews her lip. Claps her hands.

“Siamese twins. Separated at birth. Reunited.”

His nod of approval. She gestures. His go.

“God is a fiction, whispered Beelzebub”

A shriek of delight. He tickles her. Her round.

“All alone? Who’s that behind you!”

He fakes a scream. She punches him.

“You do better!”

A pregnant pause.

“The knife took his wife’s life”

She’s in bits. Carpet’s a mess.

Steven Holding

Steven Holding lives with his family in Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom. His work has been short listed in several contests and his story UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD was selected as the winning entry in the WRITING MAGAZINE 2016 annual short story competition. He is currently in the process of completing a number of new short pieces of fiction and is also working upon a novel. You can visit his website at www.stevenholding.co.uk

The Loch Ness Monster

We rode out to the loch in your dad’s silver merc; you drove. Giggling, laughing, we stripped on the water’s edge letting our clothes fall together. Our eyes stealing shy glimpses of smooth skin. We swam out into the loch, out to the deep water; backstroke, breaststroke, crawl, the icy water like a dead lover’s caress.
In the full moon’s light, your hair and skin glowed like silver, like you were a ghost or a spirit.
You swam towards me and treading water, you kissed me. Your lips tasted of salt water and lip balm.
In the depths, something stirred.

David Rae

David lives in Scotland. He loves stories that exist just below the surface of things, like deep water.

He has most recently had work published or forthcoming  in; THE FLATBUSH REVIEW, THE HORROR TREE, LOCUST, ROSETTA MALEFICARIUM, SHORT TALE 100 and 50 WORD STORIES. You can read more at

Davidrae-stories.com

Damien’s Dilema

Damien Cross hated his Godforsaken name.
He knew that for it only his parents were to blame.
A stupid movie from the seventies would forever have other kids call him the Devil’s son.
Though the chances of finding him without his head in a book are slim to none.
Damien knew that one day soon he would put his newfound knowledge to good use.
Everything he was learning about from poison to politics would help him end the abuse.
He might not be the devil, but he was no one fool.
Damien had always known he was born to rule.

Stuart Conover

Your local Horror Tree editor has been super busy as of late! With the holiday season, I’ve been working diligently on keeping the site updated and not much else. My writing has been slim to none as of late. However, that slim has still allowed me to pen an outline for a fantasy novella.

I’m hoping that when the new year hits that things will calm down and I can really focus on it because…


Hopefully, this will be a piece of writing I can actually get finished!

Trembling With Fear 12/09/2018

I’ve been thinking about feedback again in recent times, not so much in terms of what I might comment on in in the conversation I have directly with an author, but in terms of letting readers know what I actually think of a story, why did I enjoy it? The lead short story this week is Faithful by Daniel Shirey and is certainly a story to make you think, showing the two faces of man. In the west, he is a peace-loving guru with followers among the wealthy and well-fed, in the east, he was a monster, a man who left his prisoners behind to starve and suffer relentless mental torture. This was a different setting to many submissions (covering two continents doesn’t happen very often) and there was a neat mirroring of opposites throughout the tale. The use of the phone to aid meditation in one country whilst torturing others at the same time on the other side of the world was particularly clever.

The Amulet by Greg Fewer, is a nice bit of gothic ‘be careful what you dig up’, whilst Fayth Borden’s What Mollie Said is an example of how bad children can be (I do like stories featuring a ‘devil’ child) In complete contrast, you get Kim Plasket’s very raw, very blunt Heartbeat – sometimes it’s just the underlying energy or emotion that will carry the story through for me.

Now to the doings of TWF/Horror Tree alumni beyond these pages (love the word alumni, makes us sound posh):

Robert Allen Lupton has some stories up at www.aurorawolf.com and www.erbzine.com. Give them a read (I have, they’re great fun) and share them with friends.

Alyson Faye has been extremely prolific of late. Not only has she released Trio of Terror – Supernatural Tales on amazon – an excellent read, by the way – but also has a Christmas story over at The Casket of Delights (not horror, just nice and cosy).

Eric S. Fomley had a great story, A Girl Like Us, in Flame Tree Press’ December newsletter. Scary and all too possible.

Kev Harrison has just announced the publication of his first YA story, Your Blue Friend, in Frostfire Worlds.

CR Smith has also announced she will have a poetry pamphlet, Fourteen, published by Hedgehog Poetry Press. I enjoy poetry but love writing it even more as it’s a great exercise in producing strong imagery or emotion and find that feeds into my prose writing. We both used to create cut-up poems over at Verstype (currently on hiatus) and I would highly recommend you pop over there to see what she created, you can also read mine if you want.

On a personal note, I have suffered rejection (Shock Totem), still waiting (Pseudopod – apparently a good sign?) and just sent in first 3 chapters of my novel to Crystal Lake Publishing who’ve currently got an open call for novels for the month of December. At this point I would also like to say a very big thank you to Alyson Faye, Kev Harrison and Phillip E. Dixon from this site who very kindly beta read my CLP submission. Beta readers are incredibly useful when you have become ‘too close’ to your work. They see with clearer eyes.

Like you, still reading, writing, doubting and waiting … always waiting

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I’m writing this kind of last minute but have to applaud Steph’s goal of giving what we liked about the stories we include each week! I am going to strive to include this as well in future introductions. Just as a reminder, if you had picked up a copy of ‘Trembling With Fear: Year 1‘ we’d love to snag a few more positive reviews on it!

Offhand, I just wanted to re-point out a few areas which we’d appreciate more submissions for if you’re in the mood to get writing which we included last week as well!

  • The Unholy Trinity – We’re looking to have 3 stand-alone drabbles that link together either in theme, character or to expand upon one another. They need to work alone but there has to be some connective tissue!
  • Serial Killers – On the opposite end of the spectrum, we’re hoping to print a few more serials. Stories which can easily be broken up into 4-10 installments of 1,000-1,5000 words or so in length (we’ll go longer or shorter a bit as long as it works!) We’re not looking for a story to just be cut up though, these have to work as mini-chapters for the overall tale being told.
  • Finally, in January we’ve got a call for authors in the LGBT+ community or stories that would fit in that area!

‘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

Faithful

The first blue of morning came before Lowell looked at the sky outside his window. The phone in his hand lit in azure, prompting the middle-aged man to get out of bed. His fingers were combing back the memory of hair when the white letters appeared on the blue background:

*faithful*

Lowell swept his legs out from under the sheet and placed his feet onto polished oak, feeling the cold wood floor. His new morning ritual was all about feeling, connecting to his emotions and embracing what the daily word truly meant. Be in the moment, the Master had said, feel this moment. But all Lowell could feel now was a scratching need for coffee and the chill of a bachelor’s bedroom before the heater kicked in.

Still, he had made the commitment to do Mantra first thing every morning. And Lowell was nothing if not a man of his word. After two weeks of unbroken adherence, he still found it difficult to push past his discomforts or set aside the To Do List in his head, even for a few minutes of meditation. What else had Sri Raga said? Give it 40 days. God cleansed the world for Noah in 40 days. After 40 days, Mantra will become habit.

*faithful*

The white letters on the blue screen exited left, then flew in again from the right, one letter at a time. Lowell remembered from his three-day training to mimic the motion of the letters in his imagination; consciously sweep out all extraneous thoughts, brush them aside and let the feelings from the daily word resonate.

As a software developer, Lowell knew that the screen’s repetitive motion, the exit and rebuild of the letters, was only an animated overlay to allow video to load. He could see the code in his head, but he just as quickly dispelled this intruding thought. Without self-admonishment, Lowell regained concentration and smiled inwardly at his improving ability to meditate.

*faithful*

The blue screen dissolved to a vivid splash of fabrics: a Persian rug, embroidered floor cushions, block-print pillows overstuffed with color. The white letters continued to sweep on and off; the motion seemed to push a gliding thrum of sitar out the phone’s speaker. And as Sri Raga walked into the frame, the word dissolved to ghostly transparency; there in digital spirit, but no longer the center of attention.

They said this old man emerged from the Kush Mountains and walked all the way to Mumbai to bring his messages of enlightenment. They said he was once a powerful warlord with a vengeance so great that its fury blinded him. He could no longer see, but his sight was replaced by an angelic vision of peace. Sri Raga took the divination to heart, convinced his followers to escort him to the West and left the warring tribes behind. They said his former enemies did not believe in his loving transformation, that the only thing Sri Raga found was a way to finance his wars. Yet his legions of followers believed.

The Master took a seat on the colorful cushions, and Lowell could see the hard lines of resolve that creased the man’s face. Even though he was blind, there was something deep inside Sri Raga that still sparked emotion in those sightless eyes. On screen, the Master slowly crossed his legs, sat upright and pulled a gray, oily braid over his shoulder. His loose caftan and drawstring pants were peach colored, well-worn and immaculate.

Lowell had tried previously to emulate the meditation pose, but his own pudgy body would not follow suit. In that three-day retreat there were scores of followers who could not comfortably sit in the Lotus position. Lowell remembered looking at his plump peers, each with their complimentary Sri Raga t-shirt, sitting in chairs instead of on floor cushions. It was no shame, the instructor said, to use a chair. Just keep feet flat to the floor and hands relaxed in laps. Lowell assumed this pose now, placing the phone on one chubby thigh.

*faithful*

Sri Raga spoke the word. One syllable purposely spaced from the other. In his non-English pronunciation, it sounded like fate-fall. He said the word at the top of each inhale and again at breath’s release. Sri Raga repeated it at least a dozen times, while the camera pulled in to frame the old man’s face. His dark, ageless, almost vengeful eyes widened when the Master spoke again, “Now you say.”

     “faithful”

Lowell chanted and breathed to the instructed rhythm. He peeked at the phone, only once, to make sure he was speaking loud enough. Because of his blindness, the Master wanted to hear his followers. The Mantra app let devotees, anywhere in the world, chant with Sri Raga. The screen on Lowell’s thigh had an icon of a microphone, and stretching from it, a red line that squiggled violently the louder Lowell spoke. After checking the waveform, Lowell reclosed his eyes and repeated the Mantra over and over.

“faithful

faithful

faithful”

 

#

 

Nadj woke because the noise had changed, not the volume. The loudspeaker had stopped pounding one word and started another. Every day came a new word chanted by a thousand voices. This one sounded like fate-fall.

Since his hearing was almost gone, Nadj woke by the change in tremor. This new word vibrated differently throughout his body. He opened his eyes. Months of ear-splitting volume had deafened the pain of noise, but the debilitating crush of headache and exhaustion never stopped.

He rarely slept long, a few minutes at most. Nadj thumbed the corners of his eyes to remove the grit and saw Hedo. His older brother looked a hundred years old, lying on his side, knees pulled up to his chest. His skin sallowed by lack of sunlight, a coat of dust on matted hair. The only color other than gray was the yellow-brown of his cataracts. Hedo blinked. Still alive.

Nadj’s own misery didn’t matter. Seeing what his brother had become reignited the hate. It burned when Nadj saw Hedo and those who remained from the village. It burned for revenge on the warlord who put them here. Kaled Bahn. Just thinking the infidel’s name soured Nadj’s mouth, but he could not afford the spit to remove it.

As Nadj pushed up from the thin foam pad his papery muscles did not comply. He fell back onto his sleeping mat, feeling it skid on the grit of the filthy cement floor. His first concern was for his fellow prisoners, hoping the noise he’d just made had not disturbed them. Had he the strength to laugh, Nadj would have, realizing that none of the eight remaining men could hear him under the volume from the loudspeaker.

“fate-fall

fate-fall

fate-fall”

Though his ear damage rendered the sound to a distant, hollow buzz, Nadj assumed the thousand voices still chanted in English. The words didn’t make sense; no one in the cell understood any of them. But Nadj knew two things: Kaled Bahn was responsible for this torture. And the words on the loudspeaker changed every day.

Nadj knew it was a daily occurrence, even in a room without windows. When the bare bulbs dimmed, it was nighttime. In his poor town, the electricity was overused at night, improved by day. Even so, everything in the village was better at night. The warlord and his soldiers halted attacks by sunset.

When the bulbs dimmed, prisoners were served a bit of food. The long table, just within reach outside the bars, was laid with stale scraps of flatbread and a shallow pan of weak broth. Nadj watched until the men with fat orange cups on their ears left the room, struggling to his feet only after the door shut behind the guards. Nadj still had strength enough to tear at the hard crescents, soak them in the tasteless soup and bring the food to Hedo. Praise be, his brother could still eat.

Only a few of the prisoners had strength left to stand. All were naked from the waist down and did their best to hide the shame. It was a cruel joke that Nadj, Hedo and the others had only t-shirts to wear; thin, cheap material with Kaled Bahn’s face printed on the front. There were two words on the shirts–Sri Raga–but they were just as foreign as those from the unrelenting loudspeaker.

Wherever Nadj looked, he always saw the thin smile of his enemy, head and shoulders tented in fabric the color of peaches, vengeful eyes never breaking gaze.

Nadj scowled. And this time he spat.

Then he knelt to feed Hedo another piece of bread. After his brother, Nadj delivered food to all who could not walk. It was an honor to serve the few who remained from the village, the faithful.

 

 

END

 

D.L. Shirey

DL Shirey lives in Portland, Oregon under skies the color of bruises. Occasionally he lightens up, but his dark fiction can be found in Confingo, Zetetic, Liquid Imagination and in anthologies from Truth Serum Press and Literary Hatchet. Find more of his writing at www.dlshirey.com and @dlshirey on Twitter.

Heartbeat

You told me that you gave me your heart, yet I see the confusion on your face. You do not understand why I press my knife into your skin, your blood flowing free because
of me.

Terror mars your once handsome face, your eyes glaze over time.

“Don’t worry baby,” I croon softly. “You won’t feel the pain for long.”

You try to push me off but I am stronger. My fierce love for you makes me a warrior.

I hold your once beating heart, your hot blood painting my face and hands. Yet I smile knowing you are mine.

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.amazon.com/-/e/B074YCLRCF

 

The Amulet

Income from the estate no longer supported Lady Agnes, but seeing the gold amulet in her great-great-grandmother’s portrait, she recalled the story that it adorned her corpse. Agnes resolved to seize the amulet for herself.

Crowbar in hand, Agnes unlocked the family crypt’s wrought iron gate and pushed it inwards, the metal screeching in protest. Finding the coffin, she peeled back the lead lining and prised off the lid. Gagging at the stench, Agnes ripped the amulet from the fleshy corpse’s neck and scrutinised it, but a cold hand grasped her wrist, a voice hissing ‘No, dear – that’s mine!’

Greg Fewer

Greg Fewer has had genre stories and reviews published in Aoife’s Kiss, Eile Magazine, Tightbeam and Workshop (@TETWorkshop).

What Mollie Said

After pulling an unforgivable prank on Mollie she yelled, “I could kill you all!

When she said that we laughed and laughed because Mollie has a squeaky

voice and we can be jerks.

Next day Carla was found with her neck slashed to the bone.  Nina’s brains were bashed in and she

was left on her parent’s lawn.

The twins were found floating in the river, and after two days it was difficult to ID them.

I’m cornered in room 207, Geology, while Mollie is tossing a huge geode at my head.

You should never laugh and laugh at Mollie.

Fayth L. Borden

I have written and published nearly one dozen horror poems the past few years in small press zines.

I have written these poems for many years now and began submitting them. Happily several editors enjoyed them and published

From the conciseness of horror poems I turned to writing horror drabbles.  I discovered the challenge of Drabbles which have the feel of poetic storytelling to me as they must be concise, direct and grab an emotion at the end.

Horror in any form has intrigued me all my life.  I’d spend hours in the libraries, from childhood till even now, reading horror and learning how authors create macabre worlds with a thought and a string of sentences with the right words that scare!  

My love of the horror genre began as a child listening to the stories told by my Sicilian aunts and uncles of ghosts, exorcisms and all unholy phenomenon from the homeland.  Scaring me and my cousins was an achieved goal. And we loved it!

Trembling With Fear 12/02/2018

Last weekend saw me disappearing from the online world for a little while, mainly because the security settings on my tablet refused to allow me to view various postings/emails on the ‘free wi-fi’ supplied by a well-known UK hotel chain. I had no quibble (one of my favourite words) with that as it gave me a good excuse to sign off and read a book. Anyway, that weekend was spent in Derby at Sledge Lit, a writer’s convention for those who read or write in the spec fic genre. I met up once more with Alyson Rhodes (contributor to TWF, reviewer and interviewer for Horror Tree) and Martin Fuller (TWF contributor and White Belt in Use of the Apostrophe – although Black Belt in Story Ideas). To be able to switch off from everyday life, ie the one you have to live to pay the bills, and just be absorbed into the writer’s life is a wonderful experience. I attended author interviews/readings with Mark Morris and M.R. Carey and sat in on panels featuring Sarah Pinborough and Stuart Turton amongst others. I couldn’t face any workshops as NaNo and editing responsibilities had left me somewhat braindead.

One of the best panels I attended was the one about getting an agent. In this, all the authors completely identified with those of us in the audience. They had ‘made’ it, but they understood how tough it was and that it did not make them any better than us, just that they had finally had the breaks and that it would happen for the rest of us – if we kept at it. So please, go back to those Horror Tree articles on getting an agent and keep on trying.

If you’ve not been to a convention – and this is the first year I have attended any – I would recommend them. If nothing else, they are a great motivator and you come away wanting to write more and get something done, but on the other hand they are also a great way of forging friendships and making you feel like a ‘proper writer’. Whilst I haven’t signed up for any next year, I have bought tickets for StokerCon in 2020 when it will be held in the UK for the first time.  You have until the end of December for early bird prices. I am really looking forward to a ‘horror only’ convention and, as it’s in Scarborough, popping up to Whitby … I mean, Dracula!

One thing I would ask. If you go to any of these cons with friends and you see someone on their own, invite them to join you. Conventions can seem a little ‘cliquey’, lets break down those barriers and invite everybody in.

Also, convention drawback. You buy books and your TBR pile suddenly doubles …

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I can’t believe we’re in the final month of 2018 already! That’s just crazy how fast this year has gone.

At any rate, I just wanted to re-point out a few areas which we’d appreciate more submissions for if you’re in the mood to get writing!

  • The Unholy Trinity – We’re looking to have 3 stand-alone drabbles that link together either in theme, character or to expand upon one another. They need to work alone but there has to be some connective tissue!
  • Serial Killers – On the opposite end of the spectrum, we’re hoping to print a few more serials. Stories which can easily be broken up into 4-10 installments of 1,000-1,5000 words or so in length (we’ll go longer or shorter a bit as long as it works!) We’re not looking for a story to just be cut up though, these have to work as mini-chapters for the overall tale being told.
  • Finally, in January we’ve got a call for authors in the LGBT+ community or stories that would fit in that area!

‘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

He Could Be a Psycho Killer

The first car to drive by slowed, but passed him. That was okay.

It was the husband who was driving, and he had nearly yielded. In the end, though, the wife had objected: “He could be a psycho killer for all you know!”

Oh well. Rich liked them better alone, anyway.

It was two hours before another car came. It was an old-fashioned model, 1990s at the latest; a thin coat of dust rested atop its matte purple finish. The car thundered ahead, but thudded to a stop ten metres ahead of him and started to reverse. A door flew open. “Get in.”

Rich smiled gratefully and climbed into the passenger side, hoisting his duffel bag over his shoulder and into the backseat.

“Where to?” the driver asked. He had a dull sort of look, like a man who travels from town to town selling insurance or encyclopedias. He had a smell to him, too, like he’d been on the road for a while without a proper shower.

“North Bay,” Rich replied.

Nothing but miles and miles of desolate road ahead of them – he had time to play with this one.

“North Bay,” the man echoed. “My sister married a guy from North Bay. Not much to see.”

Rich shrugged. “Well, you know, I like the quiet life.” He restrained a smirk. “I got a girl out there. Figured I’d move out, look for work, settle down.”

It was a lie, or course. The kind of thing you say when you’re hitchhiking and you want your driver to feel safe. The kind of thing a man with a switchblade in his pants pocket and an axe in his duffel would never say.

The driver nodded. “Sounds very nice.” His voice and mild and non-committal. His inflection didn’t change as he added: “It’s a shame you won’t get there.”

Rich felt a small prick in his thigh. He looked down. The top of a syringe, the needle jabbed into his saphenous vein, was still sticking out of it.

“This’ll go best if you’re calm,” the driver said, as Rich’s world started to fuzz and fade. The driver pulled to the side of the road and stopped. “If you relax, this business can be over very quickly. It’s when folks start to panic that things get messy.”

Rich shoved his hand into his pocket and groped for his knife. He grasped it just as the sedative took effect. His fingers slipped away. “I’ve got an axe,” he tried to say, but his words were slurred and garbled.

“Shhhhhh.”

Rich slumped in his seat. The driver pulled the syringe from Rich’s thigh and restarted the car. Cranking up the radio, he drove for a while before turning onto a gravel road that veered off into the woods.

Madison McSweeney

Madison McSweeney is a Canadian horror writer and poet. Her works have appeared in a number of outlets, most recently Bikers VS The Undead, Under the Full Moon’s Light, Zombie Punks F*ck Off, Horror Tree, and Rhythm & Bones. She blogs at madisonmcsweeney.com and tweets from @MMcSw13.

Be Careful What You Wish For

The policeman looked up to see an agitated woman standing at the reception.

“Yes?”

“It was that stupid man’s fault!”

“Pardon?”

“Meldrum, the writer.”

The policeman knew who she meant.  A local celebrity, churning out dark fiction.

“Well, I know him.  As a joke, he put me into one of his silly stories.  My character killed her husband.”

“And?”

“Meldrum kept teasing me about killing my own husband.  Constantly asking if I’d done it yet.  He wouldn’t stop.  He just kept on and on.”

“And?”

“Well, I did the only thing possible.”

“What was that?”

“Naturally, I killed him instead!”

RJ Meldrum

J. Meldrum is an author and academic.  Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010.  He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Smoking Pen Press and James Ward Kirk Fiction.  He is an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.

Website: http://wolfstarpublishing.com/meldrum/

Business As Usual

A bleary-eyed man in a stained lab coat handed his proposal (in triplicate) to the bureaucrat in charge of government subsidies for time travel.

 

“For an effective vaccine, we urgently need samples of a non-mutated strain of the virus that’s plaguing the world. My remote-viewing team located a pocket of potential donors two centuries ago in an isolated Alpine village.”

 

“You’re too late,” the clerk said, suppressing a yawn.

 

“Not if we leave immediately! We can still save mankind.”

 

“Sorry. We’re over budget. The last available grant went to a classical musician who wants to study the harpsichord with Beethoven.”

John H. Dromey

John H. Dromey has had short fiction published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Stupefying Stories Showcase, Unfit Magazine, and elsewhere, as well as in a number of anthologies including Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree Publishing, 2015) and Timeshift: Tales of Time(Shacklebound Books, 2018).

Needles

Entranced by new age music and sandalwood incense, I close my eyes letting the acupuncturist do her magic.

I need serenity. Soon, I will tell Jeremy. He deserves to know. Hell, I was the best man at his wedding.

But it happened. Joanna and I fell for each other. We couldn’t help ourselves, the attraction too great.

My hands and feet hurt, probably guilt throwing off my chakras. Opening my eyes, Jeremy leers down at me.

I jump up, except I don’t, my hands and feet pinned to the table.

Jeremy points a steel needle at my eye, “Hello, betrayer.”

S.E. Casey

Not long after celebrating his twenty years of accounting service in a Boston investment firm, S.E. Casey began to write. As an attempt to quell an unspecific desperation and stave off a growing resentment of everything, he found stories buried in the unlikely between-spaces of numbers, balances, and accounting formulae. This expanding existential collection has been published in many magazines and online publications, which can be found at www.secaseyauthor.wordpress.com.

Amazon Author Page:  amazon.com/author/s.e.casey

 

A Lucky Man Indeed

Eighteen decades into its journey, the freighter Erebus turns lazily against the blackness.

Stacked in her hold: half a million earth men and women. Their stasis pods are stacked like poker chips, each rigged with failsafes and self-repairing circuitry. There is a better chance of a lottery win than a stasis pod fail.

Pod #20456 houses a lucky man indeed, as a minor glitch causes him to wake.

No room to move – scarcely room to scream.

His eyes flicker left and right, and he sees the company he will keep for eternity…

…and decides he has room enough, after all.

Douglas Prince

Douglas Prince is a 28-year-old writer of horror and other dark fiction.

Born in Melrose, Scotland, he moved to the Wirral peninsula in his late

teens, and has lived there ever since. A lifelong fan of horror, he began

writing his own macabre tales in April 2018. He currently lives in

Birkenhead and hopes, one day, to be able to write for a living.

URL: https://theprinceofdarkness.com/

Trembling With Fear 11/25/2018

For our US readers, Turkey Day has come and gone. We hope you all gave into gluttony and got stuffed on whatever it is you enjoy munching on! Following that was Black Friday, the darkest holiday of all in our nation, as we worship at the alters of consumerism. Hello debt! 

At any rate, I’d like to take this moment to give thanks to all of you. Without our growing readership Horror Tree wouldn’t still be expanding! Without our spectacular Patreons, Horror Tree wouldn’t have been able to afford to keep the website going! Without our amazing authors, Trembling With Fear wouldn’t have become such a hotspot for Sunday morning reading. 

So thank you. Each and every one of you! 

‘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

Shearing Season

“Mama, may I go outside today?” Sammie wanted to go pet the sheep in the pen one more time before their wool was sheared. They were so fluffy. One sheep in particular would even let Sammie hug him, so she’d decided they were friends and named him Abraham.

Sammie stood outside Mama’s door, waiting for the answer. There was a long pause. “May I go outside, please?” Sammie called, remembering her manners.

“After your chores,” Mama said, her voice slightly muffled through the closed door.

“Thank you, Mama!”

Sammie’s wool skirt swished around her shins as she ran down the hall to the kitchen. Her limp was almost gone now. The wooden slats creaked beneath her bare feet. She was sad that after tomorrow the sheep would be cold, but she wasn’t too sad since she’d be getting a new skirt soon. Hers was too short now that she was almost ten years old. It had lots of patches and more stitches than her brother Billum did in his back. She’d counted.

Sammie glanced at the paddles hanging from their hooks on kitchen wall, easily finding the newest one. It stood out because it was clean. The handle wasn’t black from Mama’s sweaty hands and the board didn’t have any blood stains yet either. It still smelled like a fresh-cut log. Across the top in cursive letters the paddle read SAMANTHA and Sammie was proud of how nice it looked. She’d written it herself.

In the kitchen, the evening lantern was already put away, and the clapboards over the washbasin were open. The sun shined on the orange tomatoes set on the window sill to ripen. For a moment, Sammie was tempted to eat one since the tomatoes weren’t squishy and gross inside yet, but she didn’t. She wasn’t a wicked girl.

She wasn’t allowed to boil water by herself, and Mama was doing penance in her room, so instead of hot porridge Sammie made gruel. It was cold and gross like tomato slime, but it wasn’t for her so Sammie didn’t care too much. She’d already eaten her breakfast.

Above the paddles on the wall were Bible verses. Sammie picked Exodus 23:25—her favorite one there. Billum had written them but his cursive wasn’t as good as hers. Just like she’d been taught, Sammie poured the gruel into the burl bowls and blessed each one. “And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water, and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.” Her voice echoed slightly in the washbasin as she prayed.

Carrying the bowls on a tray, Sammie opened the door to the basement. The iron hinges squeaked. The old steps were just as noisy and so steep Sammie had go down sideways, almost like a ladder. She’d only ever dropped the tray of bowls once, and she wanted to keep her other littlest finger, so she went carefully—slowly, like syrup sliding down the inside of a jar. Finally, she felt the cool dirt beneath her feet. She wiggled her toes just for a second because it felt good.

Sammie set the tray on a small table at the bottom of the stairs. Next to the tray sat a shuttered lantern with colored light peeking out. She opened the spotlight’s cover and a brilliant explosion of light like rainbow lightning burst forth. The lantern took no oil, yet it always worked and was much brighter than any other lantern Sammie had seen. Mama said there was a sliver of God’s Grace inside, given just to their family from the Lord himself.

With the lantern in one hand and a bowl of gruel in the other, Sammie padded over to the corner behind the stairs. None of the cells had a door that Sammie could see, only a brick wall with a small gap at the bottom just wide enough for the bowls. Sammie stopped to listen, but like usual it was quiet. She wondered sometimes if maybe the boy inside had died and been replaced with a new boy, or if there was even a boy in the cell at all like Mama said. Sammie never heard any sounds come from inside. Maybe the boy had decided he was done living and crawled into a corner, like how Mrs. Callow’s dog had crawled under the porch and never come back out again. But Mama said that demons couldn’t die, only be contained.

Like Mama taught her, Sammie turned the spotlight so God’s Grace shined through the hole, blinding the demon before she slid the bowl in. Then she delivered the other bowls and returned to the kitchen to fix more gruel. She didn’t know how Billum collected the bowls since the cells had no doors, but bowls had been his chore and Sammie wondered if she’d have to collect the bowls herself now.

Feeding took over an hour like it always did, but she blessed and delivered the gruel to every single cell in the basement. Sometimes she heard noises coming from the cells—growling, screaming, whimpering. Some of the wickedest demons even cursed at her when she fed them. One demon tried to speak to her, but Sammie didn’t answer. She’d never spoken a word in the basement—never uttered a sound no matter what she heard, just like she’d been taught.

She knelt down before the second-to-last cell and a dirty hand with nails like claws shot out of the small opening. The demon grabbed her ankle and she dropped the bowl with a squeal. The holy light from God’s Grace flashed wildly across the basement as it swung around in Sammie’s panicked grip. She tried to pull her leg away but the demon’s grip was too strong.

“Wicked girl,” the demon said, its womanly voice raspy. “Delicious, wicked girl.”

Sammie screamed but her voice was lost in the sounds of the other demons howling and screeching like a hellish choir in Sunday school. The terror in her belly grew and Sammie knew the demon would pull her into the cell and gnaw on her bones for eternity.

The demon suddenly released its grasp and began laughing wildly, its horrible voice echoing off the cell walls. Sammie quickly picked up the fallen bowl, took it to the tray, and began to cry. She hadn’t blinded the demon first like she was supposed to. She’d been looking at the last cell instead. Sammie sat on the bottom step for a while until her sniffles were mostly gone and the demons had quieted. Then she delivered the last of the gruel.

A thin voice whispered through the cell’s hole as she pushed the bowl through. “You didn’t blind me with God’s Grace first,” Billum said. “And you made a sound down here, Sammie. Now the Devil knows who you are.”

She’d left the holy lantern on the table on purpose. She opened her mouth to say so, but was too afraid. Sammie got on her knees and glanced into the cell. In the lantern’s distant light, she could see her brother huddled with his face in the corner. He was naked and shivering. She could just make out the river of stitches on his back.

“Love shouldn’t hurt, Sammie,” Billum said, his voice cracking. “God’s love isn’t painful, no matter what Mama says.”

Sammie began to cry again. For a long time she just waited, but he didn’t say anything else. Finally, she got up and brushed her hands and knees off as best she could. She shuttered God’s Grace, leaving it on the table. She picked up the tray with the demon’s single bowl and began climbing up the steps.

Billum’s voice stopped her at the top of the steep stairs.

“I’m not sorry I broke your paddle.”

She sniffled, then closed the basement door behind her. After washing the bowl, Sammie walked quietly through the farmhouse. She looked out at the garden and animal pens through the sun-filled windows, and it made her sorry. Billum only had one window now with nothing to see on the other side and only demons to talk to.

Mama was still inside her room, reading one of her favorite passages, Psalm 34:21. “Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.” Mama’s voice swayed as she spoke. Sammie knocked gently and Mama’s voice grew silent.

“Mama,” Sammie called through the door. “I’ve finished my chores.”

There was a long pause—longer than usual—until finally Mama said, “You may go outside now, Samantha. Do not get dirty.”

“Thank you, Mama.”

Sammie put on her boots and went out the front door to visit Abraham and the other sheep, but stopped at the porch. She didn’t feel like going anymore. She wasn’t sure she wanted a new dress after all if it made the sheep cold.

Phillip E. Dixon

Phillip E. Dixon is a writer and musician. He earned his MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University, and a BA in English Literature from Pacific Lutheran University. He plays guitar and mandolin, speaks poor German, and is stuck in Las Vegas traffic right now.

Website: www.everythingissquirrels.com

Twitter: @phillipedixon

Killer

Over the asylum’s outer wall and between the shadowy trees, he runs. In the distance, dogs bark in vicious glee as his pursuers comb the woods.

Reaching a road, he flags down the first passing car. A young woman, naively, offers the bedraggled man a lift.

Hand in pocket, he toys with the bloodied knife that was his tool of escape and plays out fantasies.

Engrossed in thought, he doesn’t notice the woman’s hand reaching for a taser and, then, it’s too late.

She finds a place to park, takes out a knife of her own, and begins to play.

DJ Tyrer

DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree), All The Petty Myths (18th Wall), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), What Dwells Below (Sirens Call), The Mad Visions of al-Hazred (Alban Lake), and EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness (Otter Libris), and issues of Sirens Call, Hinnom Magazine, Ravenwood Quarterly, and Weirdbook, and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor).

 

DJ Tyrer’s website is at http://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/

 

The Atlantean Publishing website is at http://atlanteanpublishing.blogspot.co.uk/

Treasure Hunt

As they gave chase, their tricorn hats and foam cutlasses dancing in the breeze, Patrick tried to remember where he’d buried it.

“Avast, ye maties!” he eventually bellowed, flipping up his eyepatch and scanning the sand. “Methinks me treasure is nigh.”

After handing each of his daughters a plastic shovel, Patrick cracked a beer and waited.

And waited.

Finally, he saw them hoist a chest to the surface and open the lid.

Only it wasn’t the chest Patrick had buried.

“What’s this?” his youngest asked now as she held aloft a desiccated human head, gripping it by its scraggly hair.

I. E. Kneverday

  1. E. Kneverday is a writer of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, whose work has been featured in publications including Drabbledark and Exoplanet Magazine. His short story “Fromagegoria” won first place in Zeroflash’s July 2018 competition. His first book, The Woburn Chronicles: A Trio of Supernatural Tales Set in New England’s Most Mysterious City, is available now. Drop by Kneverday.com to learn more and say hi on Twitter (@Kneverday) and Facebook (facebook.com/kneverday).

What Would You Do?

“Marjory, what would you do without me?”

He said that at least once a day.  George was fussy, controlling and above all, mean.  She wasn’t allowed to spend any money on herself.  She didn’t work, and the allowance from him only covered the groceries.

He came home one day to find the downstairs deserted.

“Tea’s on the table!” she shouted from above.

He ate without waiting.  After he’d finished, she entered, dressed in an outfit that was new, designer and clearly expensive.

“Here’s what I’d do without you.”

George didn’t reply.  The poison in his meal was very fast acting.

RJ Meldrum

  1. J. Meldrum is an author and academic.  Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010.  He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Smoking Pen Press and James Ward Kirk Fiction.  He is an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.

Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/richard.meldrum.79

Website: http://wolfstarpublishing.com/meldrum/

Potters Wheel

The disc spun but the clay in her hands refused to mould itself the way Mel wanted. She trickled more water around the sides to try and soften it up, make it more malleable. It still didn’t work. She picked up the lump in frustration and hurled it across the kitchen.

Get a hobby, he’d said, it’ll keep you occupied. Wrong.

Humans are mere clay, he’d said. Wrong.

Shared hobbies will bring us closer together, he said. She looked at the lump splattered far across the kitchen, thought of the rest of the body in the freezer. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Stephanie Ellis

The Woman. The Myth. The Legend. The Co-Editor of Trembling With Fear. Oh, and she’s a pretty amazing author as well (so says co-editor Stuart Conover who has taken over this bio today.) Steph has foolishly trusted me to keep her bio up to date! Mwahahaha! Seriously though, Steph has been knocking it out of the park lately with not only our very own Trembling With Fear but releasing her own collection ‘The Reckoning: A Collection of Dark Tales,’ having co-edited ‘DeadCades: The Infernal Decimation and had a short story featured in The Fiends in the Furrows: An Anthology of Folk Horror.’ You should really pick up a copy and review all of these today! 😉 Also, samples of her writing can be found on http://stephellis.weebly.com/ and she is on twitter at @el_stevie.

The Unholy Trinity: Missives from Hell

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.

I died waiting for a heart that never arrived.

How could I feel so alive but be dead?

“Follow me,” said the shadowy figure waiting outside my hospital room.

Looking back at my lifeless carcass on the bed, I realized I didn’t live there anymore.

“Where are we going?” I said.

“Hurry,” it said.

I was led down a long, dark tunnel.

A powerful force was propelling me to my fate.

The further we traveled, the longer his teeth and nails grew. Then the biting, ripping

off of my flesh and the despicable degradation began. My welcoming agent from hell.

I was never a lover of truth. I loved my selfish life too much. A lesson learned too late.

A resident in hell for all eternity. My freedom gone forever.

How can the dead feel pain? Because even the wicked get resurrected bodies. Custom fitted suits of torture. One size does not fit all.

Utter relentless hopelessness, my daily fare.

Assigned pain, allotted in proportion to the measure you inflicted on others.

The memories of the evil you did, eats your brain. Others savagely taunt you.

There is no mercy. Only fear, pain, and darkness. Blazing fires scorch my flesh.

The darkest darkness is only surpassed by the silence of God. The loneliness. The noisy nothingness of eternal damnation.

Worms that never die gnaw at my continuous growing flesh. A banquet of pain for their daily dining pleasure. They have no eyes to see, only mouths to feed.

I’m eaten up in small bites every day. From head to toe. Then it starts all over again.

And while that is going on, the hell dwellers tear my flesh, howl and laugh at my perpetual pain.

Did I really choose to come here? Is it fair to say I didn’t know?

 

W.E. Pearson

W.E. Pearson is a fiction writer working on her third novel. Her first book is a YA/ Middle-Grade novel with magical elements—yet to be edited. She’s in her third draft rewrites with her second novel and hopes to publish it either late this year or early next. One of her Fantasy short stories placed and won in a Wordhaus Online Writing Contest. She writes in several different genres (Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Mystery/Thriller, Children, Horror and Literary fiction). Currently, she is writing her third novel. For several years now, she has helped to moderate an online writing forum by critiquing, editing and beta reading dozens of short stories, poems, and novels every week.

Trembling With Fear 11/18/2018

We are creeping towards Christmas and stories are flowing in for our Special so this weekend I am hoping to make a dent in reading those submissions. It’s been difficult in the past fortnight to keep track of things, what with NaNoWriMo, joining an online writing group and keeping on top of everything else. However, with the Rugby World Cup firmly underway, my husband is taking our children off to Cardiff (they identify as Welsh on these occasions) and I am remaining at home. It will be peaceful and I will get a lot done … probably … possibly.

With regard to submissions, the time has come to repeat or introduce a few MUSTs in terms of how you send in your stories. Some of this is already on our submissions page, other bits I hope Stuart will add in the near future. But:

  1. All submissions, including drabbles, must be sent as attachments NOT in the body of the email.
  2. Do NOT use spaces to indent the first lines of paragraphs, use the first-line indent feature in Word. I’ve often seen this requirement stated on other sites and I assumed it was simply to keep alignment tidy. I’ve always used Word’s paragraph features, it’s easier and tidier. However, I have now seen exactly what can happen if you don’t do this. A story has appeared in our anthology with the paragraph breaks removed. Investigation revealed spacing had been used rather than the paragraph feature. A standard routine of mine in all work is to do a search and replace of double spaces. I have always assumed everyone used paragraph features as industry standard so never checked for paragraph breaks afterwards, assuming the search and replace would leave this alone (which it does). BUT if you use spaces for paragraph indents your lovely paragraph breaks get swept up and vanish. So please, DO NOT use spacing. Use paragraph settings and proper alignment for centring. (Corrections have been made to the anthology and a few other glitches swept up.)
  3. Single spaces after full stops.
  4. No underlines, italics to be used instead.
  5. Times Roman 12 pt preferably
  6. Double quotation marks for speech.

In general, if in doubt, follow the format here https://www.shunn.net/format/story.html.

Going back to NaNoWriMo, I’ve hit the 30000 mark and it’ll probably be higher by the time you’re reading this but only now is a story emerging. I actually think I’ve got two different stories which will need splitting apart but I am moving on and Grandma is taking on a bigger role in the story. I know many others have a less convoluted story development because they plan but I can’t do it. How about everyone else, stories turning out like you planned? Two weeks to go and then it’ll all be over for another year. Still can’t work out quite why I put myself through this …

Remember also, that in addition to the Christmas Special, we want stories from those in the LGBT+ community for a January Special. Drabbles, short flash, dark poems, serials, all welcome.

Before I go, congratulations to:

Alyson Faye with a latest anthology inclusion in Crackers by Bridge House Publishing and also her short collection of ghost stories in Trio of Terror – Supernatural Tales (which I’ve downloaded and hope to read soon).

If you’ve got something published anthology, collection, online or print. Let us know and we’ll give you a mention so we can all celebrate together.

Sledge Lit in a week’s time, might see some of you there.

Steph

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Stan Lee passed away this week. Even if you weren’t a fan of comics or comic movies it is hard to deny the mark that this creative genius has had upon the world. Stan “The Man” Lee has long been a beacon of hope and an icon on the comic industry. He is responsible for helping to create and grow some of the most influential superheroes and villains of our day.

RIP Stan Lee.

‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

The Last Scar

The morphine is starting to kick in when Sergeant Freeman raps his nightstick against my door. The key clicks in the lock, and the burly Marine steps into my room. “Stay where you are,” he says, as if as if I could leave my bed without help and enough morphine to put an elephant in a coma.

Dr. Lanfield comes in behind Sergeant Freeman, a gaunt shadow in white lab coat. “Hello, Scar. How are you feeling?”

“Not my name.” I work the words through my uncooperative mouth. A grenade blast removed most of my right cheek three months ago. The scars have all but frozen the right side of my face.

“I’m sorry, Kyle.”

Usually he’d go on calling me that bullshit name, but he wants something, and he thinks it’ll be easier if he plays nice or pretends to. Fuck him.

“We have a mission for you.”

The drugs have dulled the nerve-scraping agony along my spine enough to sit up. “No more. Finished.” The word mission sent daggers of terror into my brain, but I won’t let him see that fear.

Dr. Lanfield sits in the plastic chair opposite my bed. Behind him, Sergeant Freeman looms. There was a time I might have fought them, and I know Freeman just aches for it, the sadistic fuck. But all I want now is to let the world slip away in a narcotic haze.

The doctor leans forward, feigning the compassionate physician. His usual bedside manner involves restraints and Freeman’s nightstick. “I know you’re hurting, and I know we haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, but your ability has saved a lot of important lives.”

I sneer at him. The shape of my mouth makes that one easy. “What about my life?”

“I’m sorry about all that, Kyle. Truly. How were we to know your gift would have these . . . unforeseen consequences?”

I chuckle, even though it feels like my face might rip apart. I can heal any wound, no matter how bad, just like those guys in the comic books. Unlike those high-flying heroes, whose bodies heal perfectly every time, my gift–as Dr. Lanfield like to call it–leaves behind scars.

The scars are no big deal when it’s a superficial cut or even the odd broken bone. They’re an altogether different matter when you eat a full magazine from an AK-47 to save the Vice President from yet another assassin. I healed, but each bullet left behind scar tissue in my lungs, in my liver, in my muscles. They called me a hero, but I didn’t feel like one when I jumped through the eighth story window of the military hospital they keep me in, hoping the glass and the fall would kill me. It’s not exactly comic book material when you wake up with most of your body held together with yet more scars and the knowledge maybe not even death can free you.

“No more.”

Dr. Lanfield shakes his head and sighs. “I could let Sergeant Freeman persuade you, but with your rapidly deteriorating condition, that would not suit our purposes. So I will make you an offer. Complete this mission, and it will be your last.”

“Don’t believe you.” I hate the tiny spark of hope his words have kindled. He’s lied to me before.

Dr. Lanfield shrugs. “Believe what you want. The mission requires only that you do what you do best: survive. Well, for a little while. Then it’s over. The missions, the pain, all of it.”

The tears surprise me. They stream down my battered face, a white flag signaling my compliance. I want what he is offering bad enough to do what he wants. He knows it, and his smile communicates that perfectly.

“One more.” The desperation I hear in those two words hurts almost as much as speaking them.

#

My glider is remote piloted and flying low. They told me the enemy would not detect the aircraft until it was too late. Outside the canopy a city appears on the horizon. It is the heart of the enemy’s empire, five million people.

They’ve seen the glider, but they can’t just destroy it. I’m too close. I could be carrying anything. Small arms fire erupts from the ground and bullets pierce the thin fuselage. I take a hit in the right leg, the left arm, and one bullet plows up through my left buttock, through my chest, and bursts from my neck in shower of blood. The wounds heal almost instantly, leaving keloid trails in my skin. I have enough morphine in my system to keep the pain at bay for now.

The glider shakes as the bullet holes compromise its aerodynamics, but I’m close. Buildings loom ahead, and the glider takes a sharp nosedive between them. People scatter as the ground rushes up to meet me. I brace for the impact, folding my body around the device.

Awful pressure.

Breaking glass.

Darkness.

#

The pain is a demon raking fire across my body when I come to. I would scream, but I can’t draw enough air. A piece of rebar has punctured my chest and both lungs. My body has healed around it. Many of my bones have broken and then mended in gruesome, unnatural angles.

Voices drift through the shattered canopy. The enemy approaches.

Fighting through the agony, I inspect the device. It is intact. I toggle open the switch guard, and the button beneath flashes red. Dr. Lanfield promised this would be my last mission. He promised an end to the pain. For the first time he told me the truth. I don’t think even I can come back from a thermonuclear blast at ground zero.

Frantic voices and then gunfire erupt outside the ruined glider. Bullets riddle my body, but I barely feel them. I will leave behind one last scar. I close my eyes and press the button.

END

Aeryn Rudel

Aeryn Rudel is a writer from Seattle, Washington. His second novel, Aftershock, was recently published by Privateer Press, and his short fiction has appeared in The Arcanist, Havok, and Pseudopod, among others. He occasionally offers dubious advice on writing and rejection (mostly rejection) at www.rejectomancy.com or on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

Demon Cloud

Black clouds of boiling obsidian, advanced across the horizon.

Even on the twentieth floor he heard mankind’s screams of primal fear.

Opening the window, he climbed out onto the ledge, two hundred feet above the car park.

There was no refuge, no escape, no hope.

The dark wall of judgement came on with increasing rapidity, whilst the cities lights failed, blinking out and mimicking the human life subsumed into Hell’s onslaught.

And in the cloud, he saw the demons brandishing their brutal inferno.

He jumped, praying for a desperate freedom in death.

His torn, rendered body, never touched the ground.

Martin Fuller

Martin lives in Menston in West Yorkshire. He was in his previous exitances: –

a beer salesman, a pall bearer and a police officer for over 34 years. These days he tops up his pension as a part time delivery driver for a car rental firm.

He started to write in 2013 after attending a local creative writing class.

Discovering his dark side, Martin has had several stories published by the on-line magazine ‘Horror Tree’ (www.horrortree.com/trembling-fear-11-19-2017) and in two anthologies from Otley writers. ‘The Pulse of Everything’ and The Darkening Season’ (available to buy on Amazon). He has appeared also in ‘Tycho Alba’: short stories by new Leeds writers, edited by S.J.Bradley published by Comma Press.

His dark fiction will next appear in October 2018 in Deadcades, an anthology published by indie press The Infernal Clock (http://infernalclock.blogspot.com/2018/05/deadcades-anthology-final-author.html)

Currently, he tinkers with a blog using his dated and dodgy technology skills.  

The Rejected

Ian clenched a butchers knife in his meaty fist as he read the letter. His chest tightened and he gasped breaths of ragged fury through his gas mask. When he finished reading, he stabbed the letter into the wall with the others. He produced a notepad from his jacket and copied the signed name to his list.

Ian plopped back onto the stool at his workstation and continued his delicate work, lacing a stack of envelopes with anthrax. He copied the list of names onto the envelopes.

The editors had sent their last rejection slips.

Now it was Ian’s turn.

 

Eric S. Fomley

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

Two of One

My shadow has been fucking with me lately.  It stops following me.  I always know, because there’s a chill at my back as if I’ve been stripped naked.

When I go back after it, it starts flitting around, an ethereal squirrel.

This time I trap my shadow and lay face-down on it.  There’s a wiggle, a thrash, a muffled hissing sound.  Then a jolt, like the touch of an exposed wire, propels me onto my back.

This time I can’t get up.  But I’m already up there, laughing at my dark form on the floor.  I watch me walk off.

F.M. Scott

F.M. Scott is from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he lives and writes.  His work has appeared previously in Trembling with Fear, and he was a finalist in the inaugural Flash Fiction Contest sponsored by The Tulsa Voice and Nimrod International Journal.  His short story “Isolated Drums” was recently published in the first issue of The Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine.

http://writprodsm.wixsite.com/fmscott

Facebook and Twitter @fmscottauthor

Jeremy’s Journey

The sun rose, and Jeremy’s journey begins.
Down from the temple and into the world.
Over a path carved into the mountains a Millennium ago.
The teachers taught Jeremy to survive the trials.
Yet no students had returned in decades.
Jeremy stared down the wolves, and they let him pass into the forest.
Beyond it, the darkness beckoned.
He brought fire to lighten the way, and the darkness unfolded before him.
A fork in the road offered two paths to choose.
One was worn.
The other unused.
Jeremy set off on the path most traveled.
Tomorrow another’s journey shall begin.

Stuart Conover

Stuart Conover is many things… A father. A husband. A messiah. A rescue dog owner. A Writer. An editor.

But most importantly this week he is in mourning over the loss of Stan Lee.

Always the showman, we can at least honor this icon’s legacy by continuing to entertain the world which is one of the most important things that help keep both the creators and those who enjoy our work going.

‘Nuff said.

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