Trembling With Fear 10/14/2018

As I write this, I’m expecting a message from Stuart to say, yes, the Trembling With Fear anthology is going live shortly (yay!). It’s been long in gestation, due in part to the pressures of time as we fought to fit it into our everyday lives – little windows which seemed to get narrower and narrower, but it’s done. Another weight from our shoulders and I hope you’ll be pleased with the result, I know I am and I found when I recently reread it, how the stories seemed so much stronger. Distance from work, a resting time, does have a benefit, bringing greater objectivity. It’s also interesting to look at from the point of view of my time at TWF. I came to the site half-way through 2017 and I was a stranger to many of you. As I compile 2018 (currently ongoing – proactive or what!) it is with a different perspective, this time I feel as though I am working with friends (although that makes me feel even more responsible).

So, please read, please keep writing your wonderful stories for us and we’ll do our best to help you get your work out to the audience it deserves.

Thank you all for being part of this

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

So… The Trembling With Fear anthology is going live shortly! Am I saying that to make Steph happy or am I serious? Here’s a shot of the cover while I think that over!

Why yes, yes this title is available for pre-order digitally on Amazon at this very moment Right Here for our US readers and Right Here for our UK readers! The physical copies should be available soon if they didn’t appear overnight and I’ll try to update the post with those links as I can (pretty busy Sunday and I’ll be offline most of the day!)

‘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

In the Frame

He’d been trapped inside the painting, suffocated by oils, for half a century. He knew May sensed him and his anger, which was growing steadily and leaking over the edges of the gilt frame into the parlour. His favourite room where he and May had laughed, danced, kissed and fought until that last Christmas. . .  here memories bled into oily paint swirls and it was hard to recall what had happened. Except May was out there – alive, albeit now an old woman and he wasn’t. He was trapped, flattened and raging. He peeked out from their bedroom and watched the young woman settle on the sofa to drink tea with May. Youth, ah sweet youth! He could smell her. She might be his way out. . .

 

***

Ellie smiled at Grandma May, as she sipped weak Earl Grey.  She didn’t like to tell her Grandma she preferred Yorkshire builders, just like Dad. Small deceptions didn’t matter, she told herself.

Ellie glanced at the easel, propped in its usual place in the bay window, supporting May’s current work in progress. The house was May’s favourite subject, she painted it repeatedly in all seasons, from every angle. May did portraits too, but oddly none of her late husband, Grandpa William. Long gone, but never spoken of.

Despite this lacuna in the family history, the front room was preserved as if William had just stepped outside. His slippers resided under his armchair, his pipe and baccy rested on the walnut sideboard, his whiskey decanter gleamed from regular elbow-busting polishes. Ellie didn’t pry. It wasn’t her business.

Ellie’s favourite painting hung above the mantel; an oil, executed in minute detail, depicting all  the interiors, like a doll’s house, with one wall removed. Every stick of furniture was duplicated, so too every pattern on the wallpaper. Glossy and luscious in texture, it dangled out of Ellie’s reach for years, until she grew tall enough to touch its curly-wurly gilt frame.

That particular October day, when dusk tapped early at the windows and May closed the heavy velvet drapes by 3.30pm, Ellie pointed at the painting.

‘Granny May is that a face? See – there – in the bedroom? Top right?’ She leapt up. In that moment  the face or perhaps it was only a smudge, disappeared. Ellie paused, nonplussed. ‘It was there. I’m sure it was.’

May’s reaction surprised Ellie; the old woman retracted her head, tortoise like, defensive and wary. ‘What? Don’t be foolish child.’

When May left the room to put the kettle on – again, Ellie, her curiosity piqued, stood on tip toe and peered at the painting. The patio doors were depicted as thrown open. Though Ellie was certain they were usually closed. Or were they?

The lights in the parlour dimmed, dipped and flickered – on and off, three times. In the brief flashes Ellie glimpsed a shadow in the painting creep down the main stairs, into the hallway and reach beyond the frame. A thin wisp of smoky darkness hovered, Ellie stretched out her finger to touch the . . .

‘Stop peering at that daub child.’ May’s sharp tones made Ellie jump and drop her hand. ‘You didn’t touch it, did you?’ May added. Ellie shook her head, wondering what May had seen, but not daring to ask.

The weeks flew by in the lead up to Christmas. Ellie, busy with work, friends and parties, didn’t visit May as often, so it was a shock when her Dad warned her May’s health was failing.

‘Like a bird now she is, tiny and frail. Pecking at food. She’s got something to give you though lass.’

Ellie was taken aback by how dilapidated Grandma May had become, her cardigan buttons and wig were askew. May’s smile was as warm as ever. Perched on the familiar easel, in the front room, stood a brown-wrapped rectangular shaped package with an accompanying empty space above the mantel.

‘For you Ellie. You’ll know what to do with it. I trust you to do the right thing.’ The old woman seemed anxious. Ellie wanted to reassure her, so she nodded. May muttered, ‘You give them power when you paint them . . .’
It was to be the last time Ellie drank weak Earl Grey with her Grandma, for May passed on just two weeks later. The subsequent clear out of her house produced a surprise. It was Ellie who unearthed the folder full of faded, foxed newspaper clippings.

‘Dad, didn’t you say Grandpa walked out on you and May? When you were a baby?’

‘Yeah, that’s right, love. Why?’

Ellie felt her stomach lurch. ‘You’d better read this then.’

Several newspaper clippings from January 1966 ran with the story of  ‘Local man . . . missing after 3 weeks.’ ‘Not seen since November 1965, William Phelps. . .’ ‘Has anyone seen this man? (A fuzzy black and white photo). Then- ‘Presumed dead.’ The mark of officialdom, the death certificate, dated seven years later.

Ellie squeezed her dad’s calloused hand. ‘It’s OK love, I never knew him. May raised me. Still it’s a mystery . . .’

Ellie hung the oil in her apartment, where it took over the walls. Everyone commented on it. Ellie however had to live with it. For most of that first year of their shared habitation nothing happened, until October rolled around.

Coming home from work, Ellie switched on her desk lamp and noticed a face shaped smudge staring at her from the master bedroom or on another evening in the kitchen or standing in the hallway. The impression grew stronger as the weeks passed – of someone watching her, from within the gilt frame.

The features on the face grew more defined too. Ellie bought a magnifying glass. Yes- it was a man’s face, with tufty dark hair, an open-mouthed expression as if he was shouting, (this development rattled her), hot flushed cheeks and a stain flowering on his shirt front, which began as a pink daisy and transformed into an ugly crimson geranium. It was the face from the newspaper. It was William Phelps.

‘Granddad? Is that you?’ Ellie whispered. In the magnifying glass she saw the man’s face react to her words. ‘You can hear me?’ She felt sick.

As October morphed into November, Ellie took to keeping all the lights switched on, hoping to blast the dark oil painting into submission. Finally she resorted to draping a sheet over the canvas.

Christmas Eve was her last day at work, so Ellie stayed on for a few drinks, reluctant to return to her apartment. The figure was there all the time now, sometimes leaning out of the frame, beckoning her; his face eager and greedy.

Opening her apartment door, Ellie noticed the painting lying face down on the carpet. Cello-taped to the back was a small lavender envelope, covered in May’s copperplate handwriting. Ellie opened the envelope, with a glass of wine at her side for courage, but she left the painting lying blind. Just in case.

‘This is the last letter I will write, dearest Ellie. My darling granddaughter. I think by now you will have guessed my secret. It is hard for the dead to tell lies. You will know your Granddad went missing . . . have you guessed the rest? It was Christmas Eve, he was so drunk and I was three months pregnant. It was an accident I promise. . . he got as far as the patio doors….before he ….’   Ellie gulped the wine down in one go. ‘He never left though. Somehow- I kept his spirit alive in the painting. He wouldn’t let me give away his possessions. Be careful Ellie, he wants to escape. His power grows as my health fails. . . It is up to you now.’

Ellie’s eyes lifted. She gaped at the slow, lazy trickle of cerise paint escaping from beneath the painting, oozing towards her, reaching for her toes. Rivers of vermilion and magenta paint poured forth, swamping her carpet, spilling onto the balcony. The painting began to lift off the floor.  A long skinny hand crawled from beneath the frame, its fingers questing and clawing. Ellie cried out and the hand froze, then turned towards her. Another skeletal hand crept out, flexing long bony digits with black nails attached. How long before the body climbed out?

Wine fuddled, Ellie was slow to move, but the sight of the creeping fingers with hairy wrists, replete with raised bulging blue veins, forced her to her feet. Looking round, she grabbed the first object she spotted -a pearl handled letter opener – a gift from May for her 18th birthday. She thrust its blade deep into one questing hand. Paint poured forth, black and viscous, whilst the fingers curled up and scrabbled at the air. One elongated finger scraped her bare ankle, from where tiny droplets of her own vermilion blood erupted.

‘Ow! You bastard!’

Frantic, panicked, she stabbed repeatedly, skewering one of the hands to her once luxurious, vanilla carpet, rather like a bizarre BBQ offering. The fingers went into a spasm, scrabbled, a blackened nail dropped off, then the appendage stopped moving.

Ellie collapsed onto her leather sofa. Sweating and panting, she watched rivers of paint seep into the floors.

 

***

Later that night in bed, Ellie tossed and embalmed herself in her duvet, scratching her ankle in her sleep, bleeding blackly onto her bedding. In her dreams she screamed in silence, trapped within a frame; a living work of art. Morning came, then the next- but for Ellie it was endless night.

END

 

 

Alyson Faye

Alyson lives in West Yorkshire with her family and 3 rescue cats. She teaches creative writing classes, writes noir Flash Fiction and ghost stories. She is one of the writers in ‘Women in Horror Annual 2’, in Raging Aardvark’s ‘Twisted Tales’, her stories can be downloaded at www.alfiedog.com as well as being available on various sites like zeroflash/Tubeflash/101 words/three drops from a cauldron. Her debut collection, ‘Badlands’, is due out soon from indie publisher Chapel Town Books.

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

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

Her twitter handle is @AlysonFaye2.

Bad Habits 2

Disgusting. No other word for it. Why did people have to look in their hankie after blowing, thought young Katie? What did they expect to find there?

She watched a woman on the train now. Blowing violently into her handkerchief, then inspecting it closely. This time though, Katie saw there was blood. The woman looked frightened.

More blood dripped from her nose. She blew again, looked, then screamed. She fell back against the train door and let the handkerchief fall. Something small and bloodied scurried away. A maggoty thing saw Katie.

Katie remembered never to look in her own handkerchief.

Justin Boote

Justin Boote is an Englishman living in Barcelona for over twenty years, who has been writing short horror/suspense stories for two years. To date, he has had published or accepted for publishing around 20 stories in diverse magazines. He is also moderator for a private writer’s forum, The Write Practice.

He can be found at Facebook under his own name.

Born in the U.S.S.A.

Attempt 1: I traveled back to the day dad killed mom. I was invisible. I phased through dad when I tried to wrestle the knife away.
Attempt 16: Scratch off writing on the wall.
Attempt 31: Every form of sound waves is officially out.
Attempt 36: I’m running out of ideas.
Attempt 39: I think I need to look to the future instead of the past.
Attempt 40: I’m fucked. I thought I could learn from the future. I learned how to change the past, but I damaged the timeline. Irreversibly. I now live in the Soviet States of America.

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.

Ruby Slippers

It’s a long walk up from Hell, and her shoes are filled with blood. Every step leaves a crimson imprint on the ground, a serpentine path winding from her crypt, through the town, and back again, where she lay during the day, as The Devil himself cannot keep her interred.

Where the dead walked, Death follows, taking sacrifices to sate its spectral fury at ‘The One Who Got Away.’

I always thought the worst sensation was seeing police roping off a scene to which those stained steps led, but no.

Tonight, her cursed moonlight jaunt ended at my front door.

 

 

E. N. Dahl

E. N. Dahl is a novelist and award-winning screenwriter from a shady corner of the USA. She’s the author of Nova EXE, among others, and her short work has appeared with Thunderdome Press, Transmundane Press, Sci-Phi Journal, Helios Quarterly, The Siren’s Call, The Literary Hatchet, and many others. When not reading and writing, she can probably be found doing yoga or watching horror movies.

www.facebook.com/ENDahlWriter

www.Twitter.com/ENDahlWriter

www.ENDahlWriter.com

Trembling With Fear 10/07/2018

Almost missed getting an editorial together this week, life has been a bit crazy with the convergence of both the DeadCades and Trembling With Fear anthologies upon my time. DeadCades is now finally out in the wild and I have approached a few people for reviews, if anyone else would like to review, get in touch and I can send a .mobi or .pdf. If you take this on, don’t worry that a certain number of familiar writers are amongst its pages, including Ruschelle Dillon, Aly Faye, myself, Richard Meldrum, Martin Fuller, Arthur Unk, Robert Lupton, Michael Carter, Andrea Allison, CR Smith, and not forgetting the bossman at Horror Tree, Stuart Conover (hope I haven’t left anyone out!). You will also find the wonderful Christina Dalcher – and TWF alumni – writing the foreword. But don’t be frightened, just be honest!

It has been a highlight for me with this project, to meld my shared world of the Infernal Clock/FlashDogs with you TWF people and seeing the contacts between the two sides developing in the cyber sphere. We’ve grown a new network and one that I hope will be useful to you in terms of writerly support as well as opportunities. Which leads me onto something I often mull over – how to break in to seemingly ‘closed’ groups of writers.

As I’ve submitted over the years, I’ve often considered editors and publishers as being ‘cliquey’, some editors seeming to go for the same names again and again so that it is harder to break in, ie it’s that old adage, it’s who you know, not what you know. And that’s frustrated me … and then I found myself being asked by an editor to submit to a number of projects becoming in turn part of a ‘clique’ and that gave my morale a boost … and then when DeadCades was mooted, I decided to invite people from TWF because I was familiar with their writing and trusted them to deliver the goods (which they did, and then some) and so in a way became that person creating a clique. It will probably that in our next (paying) project at Infernal Clock, some may find themselves invited again as well as a general sub call for other places.

So, whilst it is tough to fight against this and break in, I think ultimately it shows that you have proven yourself as a writer – that you can write to the required standard, can hit the deadlines and are professional in outlook and response. I would also say that these are characteristics I believe all our TWF contributors hold, should recognise in themselves and be proud of.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Yes, I know this is a weekly post but we’re SO CLOSE to having the anthology finished! Also, we are so pre-scheduled with TWF posts right now it is amazing. We may have a few changes coming to the guidelines soon and a few extra opportunities in the works but more on that soon! This is just a tease of things to come 😉 The Halloween edition has come together nicely and while we’re not officially closed on it we’ll likely be primarily accepting drabbles for it from here on out.

‘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 Rise and Fall of the Parricide Punisher

Condemnation to the cross, burning alive, beheading, sentencing to the mines, and deportation to an island. As a boy, Faustus memorized those forms of punishment from the Digest in his small school outside Rome. Although he dreamt of becoming a punisher, he never believed Augustus would bless him with such an honor during his life.

But it came true. As a soldier, Faustus battled valiantly against the Huns, and he was commended by his General to appear before the Emperor. Augustus listened to Faustus’s accomplishments in the Last Battle of Eastern Plains, pondered with his finger before his nose, and announced the promotion.

“You shall serve the Empire as the Parricide Punisher. You will be called upon, as needed by the lead executioner, to inflict the punishment outlined in the Constitution of the Divine Hadrian.”

Faustus was told not to show emotion before the Emperor. “Hail Justinian, Hail Augustus,” was all he said without expression. When he left the Emperor’s quarters, his lips cracked as he smiled, and his face remained bright for weeks. This was more than a promotion. This was a chance to live out his life as a respectable servant of the Empire.

The other punishers were envious of the appointment. Parricide occurred infrequently, so Faustus’s services would rarely be needed. Also, it was a special crime, warranting a punishment separate from the general forms listed in the Digest. He would not have to pierce flesh with iron stakes. He would not have to burn people or chop appendages. He would not have to run the mines, which were more arduous than the prisons. He would not risk being lost at sea traveling to the islands or coming back with scurvy.

Compared to his colleagues, Faustus had it good. All he had to do was take care of the animals required for the punishment, and wait until his services were needed. He was allowed to live with them on a compound reserved for the appointee, located on one of the few open patches of land within the city. It was country life, but with all the luxuries of Rome.

On the compound, the cock had his own hutch, peck-and-play pen, and run. Faustus fed him fresh mash and chicken scratch from the market daily. The cock required little care, except on punishment day, when Faustus sharpened his nails.

The viper also required little care. Faustus kept the viper strong and plump with vermin he trapped in the tunnels and sewer. The only difficulty was maintaining ideal conditions in the vivarium during cooler months. With the help of servants, Faustus rotated torches below angled glass to keep the requisite temperature.

The monkey required the most work. The basement of the compound dwelling was converted to a giant cage. The monkey had a sleeping area, toys, ropes, and logs. Faustus spent most of his time feeding the monkey and cleaning to keep odors from wafting up the stairwell into his quarters.

The last animal was Faustus’s favorite. Kakai, the dog, became his friend. Faustus taught him tricks and assigned him chores. Kakai would drag hay to the monkey basement, toss meals to the viper, and perform other tasks when instructed.

Life on the compound, just as Faustus had imagined, was grand.

But, Faustus’s attachment to the dog was not something he anticipated when the need for punishment arose. He knew the dog would have to go, and that bothered him. To reduce the suffering for his friend, he decided to would throw Kakai into the burlap sack last.

The lead executioner arrived at the compound on horse, pulling a cart with a prisoner in chains. The inmate had food and welts on him from pelting and flogging at the Forum. Faustus ordered the inmate into the burlap sack. Then, as required by the Constitution of Hadrian, he threw in each creature—the cock, the viper, then the monkey. Cries, screeches, hisses, grunts and maddening gibbers echoed across the land. Would the prisoner even make it to Fiumicino, where the sack was to be sewn shut and cast into the sea? Why was it necessary, according to Hadrian, to also throw in a dog?

Faustus hesitated. The prisoner had surely received adequate punishment. Was he even alive in the sack? Why, why must the dog also go?

            “Do it, Faustus, or you will suffer the wrath of Augustus,” the lead executioner instructed.

Faustus grabbed the back of Kakai’s neck. The lead executioner held the thrashing bag open while red spews and screams escaped from it. Kakai whimpered and looked deep into Faustus’s eyes.

* * *

Years later, Faustus sat beneath an olive tree and watched the sun set on the cathedral domes. He had been banished from Rome for the rest of his natural life. A tear-track glistened on his cheek. He wondered what could have been, with Kakai by his side.

END

Michael Carter

Michael Carter is a short fiction and creative nonfiction writer. He’s also a full-time ghostwriter in the legal profession. He studied Roman Law at the University of Oxford, Magdalen College, and he holds a minor in Classical Studies from the University of Washington. When he’s not writing, he enjoys fly fishing, cast-iron cooking, and spending time with his family. He’s online at www.michaelcarter.ink and @mcmichaelcarter.

Azriel’s Visits

Azriel promised that my blood would flow

and that I would die in his arms.

But he seldom keeps his promise that he will return each nightfall and at last

take me with him to the abyss of his world

making me ache for his ethereal beauty and craving his companionship

with more feeling than the pain of the suffering that even a martyr could bear for his faith.

 

Love sick fool that I have become, I continue waiting

by my open bedroom window, where I sit

wearing my lace night gown with my sleeve pulled down around my shoulder,

hair twisted in a braid

leaving the left side of my neck shamelessly exposed

for my Love’s kiss

of sweet death that will, at last, assure me of eternity with him

 

You may scoff of my naïve faith in him

But unless you, too, ever feel his sensuous touch

and hear his euphoric voice making promises to you

of being reborn into a world of eternity where death becomes a meaningless word

and the dark becomes your eternal home with him for always.

Then I tell you, my friend

You too would wait,

You too would wait

 

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!

Honesty

He drained his glass.

“Better go.  Don’t want to keep the wife waiting.”

There was a snigger.  He turned.  His friends were staring at him, laughing.    He suddenly realised they knew the truth.  He left the pub.

He sat in his kitchen.

“It was bound to happen.  Shouldn’t have lied in the first place,” he said to himself.

He had no wife, he’d never been married.  He’d lied to fit in.

“Time to face up to it, I suppose.”

He placed the barrel of the shotgun in his mouth.

“No way I can face them again,”

He pulled the trigger.

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/

 

Webs Of Trouble

I went to the doctor with the worst headache of my life and blurred vision. It felt like a thousand bees were loose in my skull. All the standard tests came back negative; a brain scan was the next step. I found myself on an operating table ready for exploratory surgery. The surgeon chose to keep me awake as he cut into my skull. I first heard a scream from the nurse and the doctor backed away. Thousands of tiny spiders swarmed out of my head. The pain was much better, but now I had a different set of problems.

Arthur Unk

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

 

Trembling With Fear 09/30/2018

Time is flying by and it’s tough to catch a breather but here we are, another Sunday, and … finally I have a proof copy of the TWF 2017 antho. This arrived on Thursday, one hour after I received my proof copy for the DeadCades anthology, so you can all guess how I’ve been spending this weekend! As you read this, I can guarantee I will have gone through both books and both should be on track for publication. DeadCades (which includes some lovely TWF authors, not least a certain Stuart Conover!) is slated for 1st October. It’s neck-a-neck with these two at the present, I can’t believe how they’ve managed to converge in my life!

More important things now. Happy Birthday G.A. Miller, TWF stalwart and all-round supportive writer. Read his work today, Test Case in TWF, or pop over to his blog and find out about the publication journey of his novella, Spirit of the Dead, and his upcoming collection of short stories, Thirteen.

Last weekend I joined the HWA having finally sold a story at the right value (The Way of the Mother, in The Fiends in the Furrows folk horror anthology)! Will it be of benefit to me? Hopefully so. Any obvious benefits if you’re considering it? So far, the most obvious thing is the chance to promote your work and make connections. Had a quick look to see who else was a member and it was nice to see a number of familiar names. If you are a member, let us know what you’ve found the most worthwhile aspect of HWA.

What will I be doing once the two anthologies have been released into the wild? Going back to those Horror Tree articles about getting an agent and making a concerted effort this time (only subbed to one before). Even mulling the idea of #pitdark as it is in the middle of half-term and I might just have time …

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I lied last week. My proof copy was in, Steph’s was ordered and never made it to her place for some reason. I’ve got another on order which I’m hoping will be there soon! I’ve already found two changes to make (1 was quick, one is quite time consuming but is being done.) PROGRESS!

‘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

Test Case

It was just past midnight when I rang the doorbell at the small, nondescript house. He answered right away, ushering me in to the tidy living room and motioned to the sofa as he moved to the recliner opposite. He was a tall, overweight man, yet he moved gracefully, hinting at an athletic past.

The window behind the sofa was open, a gentle breeze coming in, the backyard well lit by the full moon above. He settled back in his chair, then jerked his arm away from the armrest.

“Ow! Shit, that burns! Do me a favor and close that shade, willya?”

I reached for the curtain rod and slid the heavy drape across the window, cutting off the fresh air and the bright moonlight coming in and falling on the chair he’d taken. I took a small digital recorder out of my leather bag and set it on the coffee table after pressing the Record button. I settled back in the overstuffed cushion, listening as he spoke.

“Hey, thanks for that. You know, those old movies were fun to watch, but they got a lot of it wrong, lemmie tell ya. For example, that full moon tonight? Supposed to be the best time for the monsters to come out and do their thing, right?

Bullshit.

Staying out of the sunlight is legit, that shit will fry your ass in no time flat, but guess what? The moon doesn’t make light of its own. It reflects that sunlight, and that stings! Not as dangerous as the direct sun, more like a hot burn, but I wait for the clouds before I go out to feed.”

He leaned forward in his chair, clearly agitated.

“I’ll tell ya what you came to ask me about. I’m a friggin’ vampire now. No idea how or when or why, but somehow, I wound up dead and hungry. I got my first hint when I woke up after dark one day and the heart rate monitor on my watch showed two dashes where the numbers used to be. The rest of it, I’m figuring out as I go.”

My quiet nod of understanding seemed to reassure him as he sat back and sighed, settling down again.

“Problem is, there’s no instructions, and there ain’t no teachers either. Can I turn into a bat or a wolf or mist? Hell, I dunno, but if I can, I don’t know how. You’re a writer, you ever see a ‘Dracula for Dummies’ book anywhere? The feeding, now that’s easy. You get close to someone, you can hear their blood rushing and heart pumping and the dinner bell starts clanging, believe me. The feeding takes over all by itself.”

“You call it ‘the feeding’, then?” I asked, and he nodded as he continued.

“Oh yeah. The feeding is easy, like I said. All you have to do is stare at them and they freeze right up. Tell them what to do and they’re like a friggin’ zombie, moving real slow, but they’ll do whatever you want them to.

The neck bite just makes sense. You bite into that big ole artery and the blood comes out like a flood, just like a busted hose. The hard part is keeping it from splashing all over, wasting it, but you get the hang of that pretty quick.

Man, does that blood pack one hell of a kick. You know, I actually get a bone when I’m feeding? Gal, guy, cute, ugly, it don’t matter. It’s all about the blood, not the container. One thing, though, I always feed on them from behind.”

“Oh? Is it easier to feed that way, from behind them?”

“Easier? I don’t know about that, I just don’t wanna look at them. I just wanna take what I need and move on.”

“Interesting. I’m getting a sense of conscience, of regret on your part. Tell me, do you have fangs that somehow come out when you feed? I don’t see any now. Can you control them?”

“Fangs? I guess so, I mean the biting is easy, but I never thought about it. They must come on their own, I don’t know. I’m too busy doing it to worry about the workings of it. Far as I can tell, I look the same as I did before, just a fat old guy wearing a T-shirt and beat up Levi’s. No cape, no tux, that’s just pure Hollywood crap, like the mirrors they make a big deal of. I can see myself just fine, and pictures come out just like they always did before. I tried one to see, because like I said… there ain’t no instructions.”

His frustration and confusion were evident, but I said nothing, just listened.

“I suppose I musta got bit myself, but I don’t know how or when that happened. Oh, all that jazz about being forever linked to the one that made you? Nope. I don’t know who bit me, and I don’t know how to bite somebody and make them change either. Everyone I ever bit was left drained and dead, not a one of them walking around as far as I know.”

“Well, since we’re talking about those old legends, what about religious symbols and artifacts? Do those cause you a problem?”

“Not at all, but then I gave up being a practicing Catholic a long time ago, so maybe that has something to do with it, I don’t know. I just know seeing a cross doesn’t bother me in the least. Don’t know about the running water myth, but then I wasn’t a swimmer before, so I don’t see myself testing that one anytime soon.”

“And that leads to the question, are you immortal?”

“Shit, I don’t know. Forever’s a long way off, and I’m still new to this, still trying to figure it out. Ask me in a century, OK?” he chuckled and continued.

“A stake through the heart or beheading me, yeah, those things would probably kill me, but then they’d kill you too, right? Don’t think those are just for killing a vampire. Never been shot, so I don’t know if that’s on the level, but I’ll tell ya one thing I sure didn’t expect. All the aches and pains, my back, my bum knees? All gone. They just don’t hurt anymore.”

“That’s something of a positive at least, compared to all you’ve shared.”

“Oh yeah, it’s nice to not hurt all the time.”

“Now, this feeding, as you call it, that seems to be the most significant part of the change from all you’ve said. I trust I’m not on the menu?” I laughed at his surprised expression.

“Nah, you’re good, no worries. I went out and fed before you got here. It’s nice to actually sit and talk to somebody about all this shit without them thinking I’m a friggin’ looney tune or something. You’re cool, let’s go on ahead.”

“All right. What’s the worst part of the whole transition for you?”

“The worst part is moving around, not staying in one place for too long, being so alone all the time. With the damned internet and cell phones, there’s cameras everywhere now, ya know? When I scope out a new area, I usually look for a loner first, and after I feed on them, I take over their digs as my home base until I have to move along again and start over. That’s what this place is.” He waved his hand at the room.

“It sounds like a very solitary life, almost like being a modern-day nomad of sorts.”

“Yeah, it is. I miss some people, sure. I miss my dog too, but the reality is, if I’d have stayed with them, they’d all be dead right now. My disappearing saved their lives, they just don’t know it. If that living forever stuff is true, best to not get too attached anyway. They’re only gonna get old and die on me, which also sucks.”

“Mind if I take a look around and see how you’ve set yourself up here?”

“Oh sure, knock yourself out. I know there’s food in the kitchen here, go ahead and grab something if you’re hungry. It’s only gonna go bad, right? I’m sure it hasn’t yet, the old sniffer works better now than it ever did before, that’s for sure. Ears do too, come to think of it. I don’t know if I can turn into a bat, but I sure as hell can hear like one now.

Didn’t really change my vision, though. Still need my glasses, although I do have much better night vision now. Good thing, considering I can’t go out in the daytime, right?”

“I’m fine thanks, I’m not hungry right now. Can I bring you anything?”

“No, no thanks. Tried regular food once, puked my guts out. I really miss my pizza, which was always my favorite, but that’s out now. You go on ahead if you change your mind, though, help yourself.”

“How does such a drastic change from everything you were used to make you feel?” I asked after a cursory look through the rooms, as I sat back down.

“How’s it make me feel? Sounds a lot like a shrink’s question, but I suppose it’s a fair one.

It sucks, that’s how it makes me feel. Maybe somebody on a power trip might dig it, but for me, it just sucks. I don’t take any pleasure in hunting and killing people, I just have no choice.

It’s not even about surviving either, it’s the hunger that takes you over, compels you, leaving you no choice but to feed. Say what you will about drugs, about smoking, whatever, this hunger is total, complete, and addictive beyond anything you can imagine, trust me.

I thought about refusing to feed, taking a walk on the beach at high noon, whatever, but it will not let me. The slightest thought of depriving the hunger makes it fire up even worse than usual. It’s like the only living thing inside a dead body, as weird as that sounds, and it takes over completely.”

“And there’s that hunger again, the center of it all. It seems that’s one part of the legend they got right, anyway. I expect that memory foam bed in the blacked-out room I saw back there is far more comfortable than a traditional coffin would be.”

“Yeah, that mattress is very comfortable. Hey, you watching the time? It’s gonna be sunrise before too much longer, and I’ll be packing myself away for the day. So, do you mind if I ask you about something now?”

“No, not at all. Go right ahead.”

“What exactly are you gonna do with those recordings you made? You said you’re a writer, didn’t you? What’s the book going to be called? I used to love reading before… well, you know. Before this. Anyway, I’d like to get a copy when it comes out.”

“It’s not going to be fiction, to be honest with you. More of a reference manual, and won’t be a public release, I’m afraid.”

“Wait, what? A manual? What kind of manual?”

I remained silent, and his eyes narrowed as he scowled.

“A vampire hunter’s manual, maybe? You have got to be shitting me! You mean, all along you were… well, son of a bitch. You’re good kid, real good. I had no idea.

So, what’s it gonna be? Is there a hammer and stake inside that bag of yours? That it? Or, are you…” he said, a mix of anger and fear in his eyes as he began to stand up.

I struck so fast, not even his enhanced senses could see me moving. I clamped down on his carotid, my extended incisors nearly shearing it in half in my fury. His blood, mixed with my blood this time, flooded down my throat once more, his violent spasms much stronger now because he’d been turned. My eyes rolled back, as they always do when I feed, consumed by the act itself. It didn’t take long at all, and this time he was dead, really dead, when I let him drop to the floor.

He was right about some of it, and his observations will be very helpful for me when the time comes for me to turn a mortal of my choosing, to better prepare them for their new existence. His clumsy efforts, made without any guidance, taught me the areas I’ll need to focus on when the time is right.

He was my first, a test case, no more. I observed him as he tried to acclimate and adapt, his carelessly discarded victims attracting undue attention. When I approached him under the guise of a writer interested in hearing his story, he didn’t recognize me at all, perhaps too grateful for the opportunity to unburden himself. I cannot say, but he didn’t pick up my scent either. Perhaps he needed more time.

No, the next one has to be a better choice, the more cruel and cunning as a mortal, the better. The vetting process is a very important consideration, more so than I’d expected.

And this time, I will oversee the transition and teach the next one how to flourish.

 

 

 

THE END

 

G.A. Miller

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

His published tales include:

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

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

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

“Nightmare” – Horror Bites Magazine, November 2017 Issue

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

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

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

http://gamiller.info/.

http://gamillerdotblog.wordpress.com/.

Constructive Criticism

“I’ll buy you a drink,” the man said as I autographed his hardcover. “I insist.”

So we sat at the hotel bar.

“They called your novel a triumph of suspense and cruelty. Nonsense! You have no imagination. If I’d written it, the killer wouldn’t have let the parents off so easy. Dumping the child’s body in plain sight! I would’ve left clues the kid was still alive: creepy phone messages, tapping at windows. Cultivate that desperate glimmer of hope. I’d drag it out for years.”

He stood. My phone rang. My wife.

“You really should get that,” he said, leaving.

Edward Karpp

Edward Karpp is a new writer with one story accepted for a horror movie-themed anthology from Hellbound Books. In his day job, he is a college dean in the Los Angeles area. His not-entirely-serious writing about misunderstood movies can be found at Senseless Cinema (http://www.senselesscinema.com).

 

Eat Your Greens

“No! I’m not gonna eat it!”

“Seamus, you will eat it!”

“No!”

“Young man, I did not go all the way into town to get this and just let it go to waste! Besides, it’s good for you.”

“Why can’t we have something really good? Like some more mutton?”

“Because this is what’s for dinner, and if you don’t like it, you can just go hungry!”

“But, Dad, I don’t like Roman Catholic! They taste so—well, bleh!”

“Just a few bites.”

“But—”

Now! Or I won’t let you go out stalking the countryside with your friends tomorrow night!”

“Oh, all right!”

Patrick Winters

Patrick Winters is a graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. He has been published in the likes of Sanitarium Magazine, The Sirens Call, Trysts of Fate, and other such titles.

http://wintersauthor. azurewebsites.net/Pages/Home

Flowers

“Why don’t you give me flowers anymore?” asked the lady.

“I used to receive such beautiful bouquets almost every fortnight. But now, I can’t remember the last time you gave me flowers.”

“I’m sorry,” answered the man. “I’ve had so much going on recently I just haven’t found the time.”

“Do you still love me?”

“Of course I do, you’re always in my heart.”

The next day the man lifted the delicate vase,  removed the withered stalks and replaced them with fragrant, radiant blooms.

Thank you, whispered a soft female voice.

The man smiled, slowly walking away from the graveside.

Gary Hazlewood

With two novels to his name and when not watching soccer Gary enjoys writing short horror tales. He lives a hectic family life outside of a small town in the north of England.

Gone Fishing

She wouldn’t shut up. Didn’t he have enough fish already?

Why did he have to use the bath when cleaning out the tanks?

Why did he have to store bait in their fridge?

Not his fault the lid hadn’t been closed properly.

He had one empty tank. Imagined the fish swimming around in it.

“Alright, love. How about a holiday to make up for it?

He’d already booked the tickets. There was good fishing to be had in Brazil if you had the right bait. He looked at his wife, patted the tickets in his pocket. One single, one return.

 

Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis writes speculative fiction stories which have found success in a variety of horror magazines and anthologies. Her first novella, Domnuill-dhu has recently been published in Dark Chapter Press’s Bloody Heather anthology. She is also co-editor at The Infernal Clock and at Trembling with Fear, the online magazine branch of Horror Tree (the online writer’s resource). She is currently awaiting decisions from publishers following submission of a novel and a novella.

Samples of her writing can be found on http://stephellis.weebly.com/ and she is on twitter at @el_stevie.

Trembling With Fear 09/23/2018

A valid point was raised in a recent email concerning submission of comments on the TWF part of Horror Tree. This reader could not see where to enter comments to respond to a story. All you need to do, once you have clicked on ‘Read Trembling With Fear’ from the menu, is to click on the TWF header itself (written in red). This will take you to the actual page for that edition alone. Scroll down to the bottom of that page and you will see the comments box.

Last week, Alyson Faye alerted me to a new site which aims to promote the work of women writers. Ladies of Horror Fiction exists to ‘bring about a multi-dimensional way to support women (either cisgender or those who identify as female) who either write in the horror genre or review in it.’ The site contains a directory of women writers to check out, various features and challenges and a podcast is in development. They can also be found on twitter @LOHFiction.

 

I honestly look forward to the day we no longer need a ‘special’ month or initiatives like these because that day will mean women are viewed as equals in the world of horror writing. In the meantime, however, many thanks to those who do bang the drum on our behalf.

 

As always, TWF is a home for one and all and if you see an area of under-representation in our publication, write us a story to help fill that gap. Everyone is equal here.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

A few TWF updates!

The proof copies are in and are being hastily reviewed for errors so that we can finally go live, it has been a long wait but one I hope that everyone will feel was worth it!

Also, we’re not fully scheduled until the year’s end but we’re pretty close. Steph and I are having ongoing (if very spaced out, mostly my fault) talks on how we’re evolving TWF going forward. More to come on that!

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

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

The City

Night fell across the borderlands. The rider paused there for a minute, waited for the grey grass to whisper a memory. Instead, the reeds rustled, possessed, like wraiths.

Silent fields.

They were a bad omen. His mother had gone to work with wordless wheat once before. She’d never come home again.

The rider lifted his visor. He judged himself still beyond the watchman’s gaze, there, a mere a step outside the thin embrace of the city. He decided it would be best to seek refuge within. True, a stranger among strangers was a bad omen, but the road behind haunted him, in all the ways empty things do. He could no longer suffer its company. So he coughed, kicked the side of his horse, and rode down into the valley. The bones of long-abandoned towers rose out of the dirt to greet him.

The rider kept to the roadway, galloping at speed. Once, through trees, he saw a campfire, but he resisted the temptation to approach it.

Wandering fires.

Another bad omen. His father had stamped a few flames into the dirt once before. He’d never come home again.

On the other side of the phantom forest, the rider reared to a stop. There, where the first defences were destined to be, stood the wasteland.

Moss crawled all over the city, feasting, stripping flesh from bone bit by bit. The growth infected towers, bridges, statues. Even the walls, a hundred feet tall, had been consumed by the sickness. Black, moist, glowing—the wretched organ pulsed and breathed.

“Easy girl,” the rider said, as his horse wrestled beneath him.

The rider held his breath and passed into the mouth of the city, where only a skeleton of a gate remained. It hung open now, eternally, as if it was laughing, or screaming.

It was clear the city was making a last stand, though from exactly what, the rider couldn’t tell. He weaved his way between rubble, pausing only once, when he met the body of a man cloaked with blood. A misfortune left behind in the retreat. It would be a bad omen to leave him unburied. The rider passed him by though, because he was dead, and he’d long distrusted men of that persuasion. In fact, he was almost glad to press further into the carcass of the city. Of course, had he understood the true nature of decay, he’d have realised most things rot from the inside out.

The rider shivered beneath his cloak. Around him, the city shone with a ghost-light, a morgue-light, a light so dead it couldn’t cut the shadow. From the cracks of the highest window, pales eyes hunted him, selfish in their pursuit. Worse still, they saw everything. They saw him unarmed and they saw his fear.

The rider turned from the nightmare and urged his horse forward. Instead of obliging though, she paused in the middle of the street as if, after all the years, she’d lost the will to go even one step further.

“On,” the rider said.

The beast pretended not to hear.

The rider glanced over his shoulder. Behind, the little eyes watched with renewed interest.  The boldest among them, hungry for something more than darkness, dared even to follow.

“On.”

The horse threw back her head and snorted.

“On!”

The rider kicked the horse hard. He placed the blow in an old war-wound, a spot intimate as murder. At last, she lurched forward, stumbling down the path.

The rider’s heart emptied inside him. The horse was his last friend, the bearer of his worldly burdens. Years before, they’d founded their relationship on silence. He always wondered was the horse mute, or like him, wary of words.

Dangerous things—saved for curses and prayers.

The rider breathed a sigh of relief as the horse settled beneath him. The kick had been a last resort. Or maybe a strange kind of mercy.

A thrice-disobedient horse.

It would have been a bad omen. His brother had ridden off to battle on the back of one before. He’d never come home again. Or at least, not as the man who’d left.

Ahead, a worm-eaten palisade wall loomed out of the darkness. A single figure bobbed up and down along the battlements. The silver tip of his spear paraded above him.

The rider snapped his reins. Again, the horse resisted, even as the eyes multiplied on all sides. He imagined they must have made quite a sight, cantering up to the gate with the hosts of hell licking at their heels. The sentry waved for him to stop.

“Who goes there?”

“Rider.”

The sentry smiled, but the expression was wrong, like he’d have been naked without it. “I can see that. What business brings you to the city?”

“Rest.”

The sentry grinned. “Rest of what?”

The rider clenched a fist. “Shelter.”

The sentry squinted at the sky. “I hadn’t noticed the rain.”

This time, the rider didn’t answer. As expected, it robbed the sentry of his armour. He soon called for the gate to be opened.

 

***

 

“Something got you spooked?” the sentry said, when the gate had been firmly locked once more.

The rider huffed and dismounted. “Eyes.” He gestured upwards. “Blinking. Following.”

The sentry knitted his eyebrows. He craned his head over the battlements. “Do you mean the stars?”  he said.

The man didn’t wait for the rider to answer. He bowled over, mouthing half-words, choking with laughter. His spear knocked against the fence, rhythmically, a sure sign it mocked the rider too.

The rider responded with a grunt. With some effort, he tied his horse to a fence nearby. Then, ignoring her idle protests, he headed in search of a local inn, a place where the laughter would at least be mocking itself.

He trudged away so fast though, that he didn’t hear the sentry behind interrupt himself a second too soon. He didn’t smell the danger, even as it lay thick amongst the fog at his feet. He didn’t see the sentry remove his helmet, revealing the old frown hidden beneath.

But the sentry saw everything. He saw the rider unarmed and he saw his fear.

 

Kyle Malone

Kyle Malone is an emerging writer of speculative fiction based in Cork Ireland. Previously, he has written for the award-winning Motley Magazine. Currently, he writes for the review website Comicbuzz. His work is forthcoming in Deep Magic and Books Ireland.

Deadly Goliath Frog Plague

Will the sun ever rise? Not very clear

Doomed to uncertainty, nothing’s there

Bodies dropped like flies, eaten up inside

Bewildered, panicked

Hollow inside

Mass infections, threatening mankind

As we all struggle to survive, a worldwide decay

Deadly, murderous, hazardous

Manslaughter

The croaking

The lonely eyes

The sounds of the night when somebody dies

Afraid of the dark

The pieces all fall apart

No love from God

No blood on my door

Faith transcends

A plague awaits

Taking victims to Nevermore

The nighttime calls out my name

Fantasy and reality are the same

What a beautiful disaster

Home once again

Made a comment

Idealize

The word “Idealize” describes who she is and her perception of things (most of the time). She is a young, friendly, ambitious student living in Cameroon who aspires to be an author one day and spends her free time in between the stanzas of her own poems. Idealize is mostly inspired by word prompts on Twitter and WordPress. Her poetry and short stories are available at www.Idealizeblog.wordpress.com and www.twitter.com/IdealizedH (@IdealizedH) for all eyes and critics. So, come along, everybody’s welcome.

Arthur Unk

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

Full Moon

I can’t live like this anymore. First, I was bitten, under the glare of a full moon. I was just out for a walk in the woods. No big deal. Now every thirty days, I do the biting. How many people have I killed or worse, turned? No more. One slice through the jugular and it’ll be over. Must die before the moon rises tonight. I’ll miss my family and Becky. They can never know what I’ve become. Just raise the knife and do it. Too late! I can feel the change coming. Next month I’ll do it for sure.

Terry Lee

I have been writing occasionally for over ten years, completing various short stories. Days I spend providing IT support and training.
Nights are spent writing, when my imagination (hopefully) blossoms . I am currently writing a novel, which I plan to have completed in 2018. I write for my own pleasure, these being the first works that I have submitted for publishing.

The Go-between

Frayed cap, bald head; his badge of honour – few lived to lose hair – Giles made his way up the hill. He remained useful because of the Mobile; it still received texts, but it was the camera that really mattered. Since the Whimper, things changed imperceptibly. No great fires or alien invasion. The monsters were already here. Known to the small-folk by the cryptic name The Gypsied, they called themselves simply: The Facts.

Giles approached the wagons, gorge rising, the humming Desktops inducing his Pavlovian tremor.

He opened the door, knowing what was in the pictures, and hooked up his phone.

Syreeta Muir

Syreeta Muir is a poet and writer with an interest in interpreting nature and trauma in unusual contexts. Currently she is writing poetry, short fiction, flash and micro fiction via Twitter #vss365 and #FrightWriters, and modding on Facebook group [email protected] She is also an active member of a small online writer’s collective who call themselves the Obscurities. You can find her on Twitter as @hungryghostpoet.

Mardan’s Disdain

Chains bound Mardan as they marched him to the gallows.
He would not cower before the executioner but did sneer at the onlookers who had come to witness his death.
They would not get the satisfaction of seeing their fear mirrored upon his face.
The dread lord had pillaged the island for years and held them all with contempt.
As long as he drew breath, Mardan would know nothing but hatred for the commoners.
In the distance, the sigil of his cutthroats could be seen.
A smile spread across Mardan’s face.
His death wouldn’t be the one celebrated this day.

Stuart Conover

Some say that Stuart Conover is a prophet. Some say that he is a mad man. Some say he just spends far too much time putting random things about himself into his bio when there is a chance to include a drabble in Trembling With Fear. No one can be certain but what we do know is the man loves coffee and requires at least one a day just to draw breath.

Coffee. It is a strength. It is a weakness. *Channels his inner Gary Oldman*: The Coffee Is The Life!

Trembling With Fear 09/16/2018

Many thanks to those of you who contacted me with regard to feedback for your submissions. All were supportive and constructive, so I will continue to give feedback but not as detailed as before, this should help me get my writing balance right!

On the publication front, I have news that a new anthology, the Indiana Horror Review 2018 (James Ward Kirk Fiction) will soon be available, featuring no less than two stories – Slaughter Hill and The Immortalisation of Mary Kelly – from our own Richard Meldrum. Knowing his writing quality, I am sure this’ll prove a good read. I have also just received my copy of the Her Dark Voices charity anthology (written in support of breast cancer) featuring Horror Tree interviewer Ruchelle Dillon as well as other TWF contributors. This will be battling for my attention soon with the proof copy of TWF’s own anthology which is winging its way towards the shores of Britain … and that other little project of mine – DeadCades – is heading towards the last stages of production as well.

A little reminder now that we have special editions coming up in the next few months for Hallowe’en and Christmas. Feel free to send in stories relating to these themes. Much as I hate thinking about Christmas outside of December, I’m sure I can put those feelings to one side …

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank a few lovely TWF contributors for agreeing to beta read my novel (The Five Turns of the Wheel). Finally finished it and it’s now with Alyson Faye, Kev Harrison and Phillip Dixon (and a couple of other writer friends outside of TWF) for their opinions. This is a process I would recommend by the way – if I’ve not mentioned it before – whether it’s for short stories or a novel – find yourself people you know who will give honest and constructive feedback. Yes, it can be nerve-wracking as reading is subjective and they might not like it but it is one of the most useful things you can do.

With this WIP out of the way for the moment and other things coming to a head, it’s allowing me time to think of what my next project will be and I do have a few ideas. I am hoping NaNoWriMo this year will give a form to it. Anyone else doing NaNo?

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Ladies, Gentlemen, My Dog who I’m reading this out loud to in hopes to prevent any significant mistakes – I Have Good News!

We’ve finalized the cover for The Trembling With Fear: Year 1 which has now been previewed by our Patreons and proof copies have been ordered and are on route to Steph and myself! This means that once they take a week or so to come in and we each have a chance to look them over if there are no issues the anthology can go live shortly after! We’ll be doing the cover reveal here soon(ish!)

I’m excited, your hopefully excited, so I’ll leave you with this:

‘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 Death of Rejection

“Unoriginal.” The felt tip screams in the silence as it pulls across the page to connect the corners, then squeaks as it is repositioned and connects the other two corners in an angry ‘X’.

“But–”

“Unnecessary.” A shake of the head this time as the dark red tears into the flesh of another page, a large circle swallows three paragraphs before the ‘X’ buries the words beneath the edit.

“Wait–”

“Uninterested.” The firm conviction of the decision swims in lifeless eyes that glare from the opposite side of the desk, intimidation and disappointment mute the slap of the manuscript as it skips from the wood and explodes against his chest.

He stoops to collect the papers cluttered with corrections, while the red ink hemorrhages and expands to disguise whatever story he was trying to tell. His arms fight to pinch a crumpled and unsteady pile clutched tight, as stray chapters flutter and depart in the soft breath of central air.

The crimson that hides so much of his work seeps into hungry skin, warmth from his hands spills into shaky arms, and veins thump taut in his neck beneath the grimace smeared across a purple face. His heart pumps fire and desperation as his eyes burn into the face that leans back across from him. The armloads of dissatisfaction drop to the floor as he steps forward, and a flinch allows him a laugh as he pulls something from between the mahogany and stacks of other unfortunates waiting to hear about their submissions.

Stained paper crinkles and crunches under tattered shoes as he backs away, a blink of sharp gold clutched tight in his fist holds the hateful stare now. He lowers to a knee, and then the other. The metal glows under fluorescent light as it is gently placed on top of the disheveled heap of unfulfilled expectations, and he sits back on his heels with a sigh.

“Just words,” his voice barely audible over the electric hum of a recycled breeze, “Uninspired and meaningless to you, maybe, but this is part of me.” He closes a fist around wadded streaks of scarlet and black, pain and memories mixed into the fiction that soaks creased sheets between his fingers, and lowers his gaze as his body begins to shake violently. He blows a sharp breath through clenched teeth with a whistle, and the sparkle of gold turns over and changes hands while he waits, until he explodes in choking gulps for air. He pulls his shirt up over his head, jagged shadows shift and dance to hug the crude scars that litter his abdomen. “These stories live within me and clog my veins. I bleed ink.”

The shiny tip of the letter opener parts the skin and pushes into his stomach a few inches to the side of his belly button.

Silence does little to disguise the shock in the eyes across the table as the gold tugs at the skin and splits the pink of old wounds, rivulets of crimson wiggle and disappear between his fingers to join the growing pool beneath him, and his hands are at the other side. Slick blood drips from the blade before it disappears into the skin again, just beneath the sternum. The mouth beneath horrified eyes gapes and pushes the stench of nicotine and coffee into the air between them.

The hands quit moving again once they reach his pelvis, their eyes meet, and he falls forward into the stinking squish of his intestines with a smile.

An exasperated sigh bleeds into the beginning of a question, and confidence returns, “Are you done?” The editor stands and continues, “Still nothing new.” Sunglasses unfold and wrap the head that shakes in disbelief, “Seriously? Ritual suicide? Hara-kiri?” Gravel scrapes out a chuckle, “It’s been done. Now,” he looks at his watch, “since you’re dead, I’m late for lunch.” Slick leather soles tiptoe through the gore and over the corpse lying prone in the middle of the floor. “And another thing,” he wipes a sticky heel on the carpet, “why didn’t you just email it?” He pauses at the door and watches the fallen writer for a moment, “You just started, and you’re already outdated. Plus,” he kicks the overflowing wastebasket near the exit, “the garbage is getting pretty full.” He spins to leave and a burst of sputtering gasps startles him.

“Wait.”

The voice pulls to his knees, then leans forward onto all fours. He tries to stand and stumbles, tripping to a mouthful in the slippery tangle of entrails. He reaches the edge of the desk and pulls himself up, “Wait, please, this is different,” his knees wobble and the wood cracks under his grip, but he doesn’t fall.

“Nope, I’m done.”

“But I’m not.” Scotch Tape squeals from the dispenser and breaks into long strips that hold his guts in place, the lengths criss cross and bunch together, until the roll is finished. “I’m not going away. I invest myself fully in everything I send your way, and every rejection kills me, but I will never truly die.” Half a smile on his lips, a stapler is pulled open and slams into his stomach. Each tiny piece of metal barely strong enough to hold the stray curl of intestine that it tacks down. He stops to feel around, satisfied, and points at his handiwork with a smirk, “See?”

Speechless study is the only response.

“You can hurt me…you can even kill me,” he motions toward his sloppy wounds, “but you can’t get rid of me.” He bends to gather the scattered papers and stumbles again, but regains his balance. Holding his words in a sticky, controlled mess that dangles dangerously close to disaster, he mutters, “Thank you for your time and consideration,” and shoulders past the stunned editor. “Keep your eyes on the inbox for my next one.”

Kevin Berg

Kevin Berg is the author of Indifference and Daddy Monster. His shorts can be found at Pulp Metal Magazine, Near to the Knuckle, The Blood Red Experiment, and Horror Sleaze Trash, among others. Look for him on Goodreads and Facebook, let him know what you think.

Webpage: https://kevinbergauthor.wordpress.com

Amazon author page: https://author.to/kevinberg

Facebook: Kevin Berg

Ggoodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16225161.Kevin_Berg

 

Beneath the Ice

At 11pm the town’s rink was deserted. The McGuire sisters were there alone and illegally.

Laughing they glided onto the ice.

Livvy tripped, fell face first on to the ice, then screamed. An endless ululation. Amy wobbled over, looked down and froze.

Faces stared up at the sisters. A gallery of them; men and women, children with ice-glazed eyes, Mouths open in stretched silent screams. Jaws unhinged.

Amy scrabbled at the ice, ripping her nails. A crack appeared.

Skeletal hands reached up, caught Amy’s blades and tugged her down. The icy underworld’s denizens consumed her.

Livvy lay till morning. Watching.

Alyson Faye

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

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

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

Her twitter handle is @AlysonFaye2.

Dinnertime

Princess Kata entered the courtyard carrying a large bowl of table scraps in her hands. She bent to set down the dish and a Samurai assassin stepped from the shadows. He brandished a longsword in one hand and his short sword in the other.

He stepped forward and smiled. “Well, Princess, I’ve got you now.”

The royal wolfhound leapt from the shadows and bit off the Samurai’s arm.

The Samurai dropped to his knees and looked at Princess Kata with questioning eyes.

She watched him bleeding to death. “He hates it when you stand between him and his food dish.”

 

Robert Allen Lupton

Robert Allen Lupton is retired and lives in New Mexico where he is a commercial hot air balloon pilot. Robert runs and writes every day, but not necessarily in that order. He has been published in several anthologies and his short stories are online at www.horrortree.com and www.crimsonstreets.com. His novel, Foxborn, was published in April, 2017. His collection of running themed horror, science fiction, and adventures stories, Running Into Trouble, was published in October, 2017. Dragonborn, the Foxborn sequel will be released in April, 2018

www.amazon.com/author/luptonra

www.goodreads.com/author/show/15292457.Robert_Allen_Lupton

https://www.hometownreads.com/books/foxborn

The Ride

In the small boat, Alice and Bob floated thru the water ride, “Tiny World”.

Animatronic children sang and sang, “It’s a tiny world.”

“Annoying,” thought Bob.

“Babies” dreamt Alice.

The ride halted.

The children sang louder.

A robotic voice boomed over the intercom. “Resuming – one hour”.

“Seriously?!”  Bob. yelled toward the voice.

“I hate babies,’ Alice wept.

Another hour…

“…It’s a tiny world…”

“My brain aches,” moaned Bob.

“My eardrums are throbbing” whined Alice.

The boat finally lurched forward.

Then emerged outside.

Finding the couple slumped together –  dead – with Alice’s ears bled out, and

Bob’s rattled brain exploded.

 

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 09/09/2018

Well, I’ve survived the first few days back at work, probably because there were no students but it was tough, nonetheless. By the time I got home and decided to spend ‘just a little time’ getting up-to-date at TWF, which turned into a few hours, I was pretty shattered, which leads me to my editorial dilemma. I hope this gives you some insight into the amount of time and care I (and Stuart) take over reading and commenting on submissions.

In that first read, I don’t just glance at the story, I read it properly. If it’s not quite right I’ll do some editing which hopefully gets taken onboard. This editing I do takes time – a lot of time and is voluntary; I agonise over adding or taking out hyphens (I can hear Alyson Faye laughing ), dither over wording, double-check apostrophes and extra spaces (yes, Martin Fuller and Kim Plasket ) because I feel hugely responsible for what will become of that work. I spent several years professionally employed as a senior software author and that involved a lot of time editing to high industry standards and the pressure of those tight budgets and timescales was immense. I know creative writing is different to technical but I apply the same approach and effort as I did back then.

Recently, one piece took me hours at the weekend but I wanted to indicate to the writer where aspects could be tightened up, where certain words, ie the beloved ‘that’ (of us all I should say) could be deleted, where improvements in general could be made. I did not complete the full edit as by then my own plans had taken a dent. In this particular case the writer appreciated the comments I had made and took them onboard for future reference – job done. If however, I spend the same amount of time on another piece of writing and a number of the ‘major’ suggestions/comments – honed from my own experience and the advice and wisdom of others further up the publishing ladder – are ignored/declined, do I continue to provide editorial feedback? I do appreciate this is a two-way dialogue and some things are subjective, but if those darlings are not killed, what to do? Stuart also gives input but the initial ‘breaking the back of it’ is usually done by me.

So, the dilemma. With the increased number of submissions we’ve seen at TWF this year – which has been brilliant – do we continue to give feedback or, like so many others, just straightforward yes/no responses? Let us know what you would prefer. And don’t worry, I’ll be back here next week.

And finally, just an update on Andrea Allison’s website featured last week. She announced her own domain name last night and can now be found at http://www.andreallison.com. Another step up the ladder towards author recognition. Good luck, Andrea!

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I know that I keep saying SOON but our cover artist is on the final draft of the cover, 1 small change and it is set for our test run! (He’s suffering from the plague this week so we didn’t want to kill him by pushing for quicker updates.)

‘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

Question And Answer

“Do you know where you are?”

My eyes opened onto an unfamiliar room. A slice of icy moonlight illuminated a shabby parlor, the same shape as my own, but decorated in garish shades of blue. A davenport, in a style and upholstery unlike any I had ever seen, lumped in the corner, occupied by a group of strangers. They couldn’t be any older than I, I thought, but how strange they look! It was as if the three wore only short nightclothes in bright, foreign patterns; I glanced around for some explanation.

“I’m afraid I do not. Pardon me, but would you be so kind as to tell me how I got here?”

One of the children, a lad of maybe eleven, flinched as though struck. I tried again. “If you think this is some kind of jest, I’ll have you know I’m not amused.” Wrapping my shirtsleeves close to my chest, I shivered. Dust motes danced in the fog of my breath.

“What’s your name?” asked another, shrouded in shadow.

Only last year, I’d heard tell from my governess about rogues like these. Lorelai always told the quaintest stories, though, so one hardly knew what to believe. She said, “Getting you ready for the future, young master. Never know when they’ll snatch you up in the night, moneyed lad like you.”

“Surely father would pay the ransom,” I had replied. We both knew he counted on me, as his only child, to take over for him as his heir. It was my calling. I let Lorelai take the history book from my hands. It was so difficult to listen to those dusty old lessons, especially when she would get sidetracked and start to tell a tale from ‘The Old Country’. Today’s lesson was ‘The Danger Of Brigands’, but it devolved, as most did, into Old Wives’ Tales, courtesy of an old wife herself. She only clucked her tongue at me, like I should know better.

“You’re putting too much stock in ‘ifs’. What you must do is keep your head about you if you want to find your way home safe.”

Keep my head about me? If only I had paid due attention to Lorelai’s lesson. How exactly was I to keep my wits when this gaggle of youths refused to acknowledge me? Fine. I shall play by their rules, I thought, drawing myself up to my full height. I cleared my throat. “My name is Edmund Thomas Fitzpatrick IV, son of Sir Edmund Fitzpatrick of Chesterfield Manor. And who, might I ask, are you?”

The room fell silent. I allowed myself a smug smile. Good. They understood with whom they dealt. I looked around, trying to ascertain where I found myself. Every glance helped convince me I had no reason to truly fear. The details of the room, position of the windows, the doors, and the slope of the ceiling, reminded me of home; in them, I took comfort. I couldn’t be too terribly far away. The moonlight admitted me no further clues, but the glow of a row of colorful candles underlit the faces of my captors. They seemed rather young for a crime of this sort, but then again, I’d known a number of boys my own age who indulged in roguish behaviors.

In the summer of 1807, when I was but nine, I encountered a schoolboy named Lawrence, apparently a distant cousin of mine. He and his father, my uncle, spent the season at Chesterfield, along with Lawrence’s nanny, a Miss Eliza. Lawrence was quick to recruit my assistance in a prank against her, in an attempt to avoid geography lessons, so he said. There was something about him that made me wish to avoid him, but as an isolated only child, I longed for the company of someone near my own age.

“Now, all you must do is bring her the tea,” he said through his gapped teeth, “and slip in this.” He handed me a small, amber-colored bottle. As I shook it, fine white powder drained from one side to the other like hourglass sand. “Are you certain it won’t hurt?” I hardly knew his nanny, an elderly woman who had said but one “Hello” to me all week. I had no qualms with her, but I could see Lawrence had; she watched him particularly closely, as though he were a poorly-behaved toddler, not a boy of ten or so.

“All it’ll do is make her sleep. Et voila, no more lessons. Trust me.”

I did. I shouldn’t have, but I did. My childhood offered so few opportunities to make friends. I refused to surrender this one simply because I was too cowardly to play a harmless prank. So at four o’clock, I brought in the tea.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized what I had done. I awoke and, dressing myself, became aware that something was not as it should be. Where were the servants?

Descending the staircase, I met the entire household, hats in hand, gazing at the ground. My first thought was that my father had died; this seemed fitting tribute for the master of the house, and he was always so ill. Was I then, in charge of everything? Was I to ascend to the role that had been mine since birth, to be sure the family line thrived long into the future? It filled me with equal parts pride and dread. Then I stopped myself, and silently sent up a prayer. Not for my father, but for forgiveness, that in his hour of peace, my first thought should be for myself.

“Whatever is the matter?” I asked, expecting to be addressed with a ‘sir’ proceeding their explanation. Instead, no one replied, but two of the maids glanced up at me. I swore they fixed me with a glare. I felt myself running through all possible scenarios. Did they detest me already in my new position? The dark look only deepened as cousin Lawrence, struggling in his father’s grip, was forced into the family carriage. In the fuss, all I could understand of my uncle’s words were “I thought I could trust you. The doctors promised it wouldn’t happen again” before the carriage pulled away. Over the frantic neighing of the horses, I heard the gruff baritone of Doctor Marshall coming down the corridor.

“As I thought: Miss Eliza, poisoned.”

My heart stuttered. Miss Eliza? Lawrence’s nanny? I added a guilty ‘thank you’ to my prayer, that it wasn’t my father.

“What has happened?” I asked again. My words echoed like church bells in the grand foyer.

“One of the maids,” Marshall said, “There was a fire in her chamber from a fallen candle.

Somehow―” he glanced over the rim of his spectacles. I squirmed. “―she slept through it. Burned alive.”

The servants were of one voice in their desolate murmur. As for myself, I could hardly think. Had he known all along? Had Lawrence actually meant to harm her?

And now, I thought, nightclothes doing little to keep out the chill of the strange room, did these children mean to harm me? Perhaps this was some sort of penance, my dues for my part in poisoning poor Miss Eliza, or retribution for thinking―hoping―I had succeeded my father.

“I did not intend to hurt anyone,” I said aloud, trying to reach out to my captors. “Please, let me go home.” I hated how my voice shook, like that of a small child on the verge of a tantrum.

The boy who had asked my name sat up taller. “It definitely said “hurt”. You heard that, right?”

“No. That’s not going to work. I’m not scared.”

I realized with a start that one of the three was a young girl. Her hair, shorn boyishly short, and trousers rather than skirt, let her camouflage with the others. Only her high, youthful voice gave her away. What sort of strange underground did I then find myself in? All the information I regarded as fact could not hold up to my scrutiny. Nothing made sense.

“Sure you weren’t,” said the first boy, “that’s why you’re practically peeing yourself.”

How dare he speak to a woman like that? Clearly I was surrounded by godless villains. It would only be a matter of time before my governess discovered me missing, and then my father would come to pay these brutes whatever it was they demanded.

“Isn’t this supposed to be like your great-great-great-” he trailed off to catch a breath, “great-great-great grandfather’s house?”

“Just this room and the downstairs. The rest is all new stuff. Apparently a bunch of the Fitzpatricks died here,” said the girl.

“Ooh, spooky,” one of them teased.

The mention of my own title shot spikes of fear into my stomach. I glanced about again, but could not recognize the room as any of the properties my family owned.

“Who are you?” I asked, trying to determine just where I was. In the pinched, childish features of the girl who claimed to be my relative, I could detect no trace of the noble brow of my family line. Perhaps she belonged to the branch that left for the Americas, the lawless band the true Fitzpatricks shunned. Or perhaps another cousin; I did not know if Lawrence had siblings, but the more I examined her features, the more I imagined I could see the resemblance.

She could be a sister of his, so similar was the shape of her wide eyes. Relation or not, I figured it would make my location easier to find, should I truly be in a family property. In the interim, though, I was quite alone. Though vaguely I knew the room’s shape, it seemed to me a dungeon, or at least a barn, judging by the tasteless furnishings and odd rattling sounds coming through the walls. I watched the candles flicker, holding onto the only familiar object in the room. My captors still had no mind to answer me; very well. I stepped out from the corner, taking slow steps toward the door. I saw no weapons, and guessed their strength not much greater than my own. I would make a run for it, try to find civilization and get home to my real family. Surely they already were come to my rescue. Where paternal love failed, an abhorrence for scandal could be enough to motivate my father. His pride would never allow him to accept the pity of the townspeople should his only heir be lost. If in no other respect, we were at least alike in our understanding of our place. I would need to gather my strength, treat this as a test of my right to lead. And what with cousin Lawrence locked away, the line depended solely on my wellbeing.

My confidence rose at that. I was a Fitzpatrick. I had a duty to keep my head. I couldn’t be forgotten; I was necessary. “Do what you will,” I said, “For I am not afraid of you.”

The three stiffened. I smiled to myself. Finally, I was being taken seriously.

“You must’ve heard that.”

The girl shot a glance in my direction, looking just over my shoulder. I did not dare to turn around and face just what unnerved her so. “Yeah,” she said in a whisper, “It said ‘afraid’.”

“It? How dare you?”

“Shh, May. I think it’s trying to tell us something.” The children leaned in close. For the first time I saw what sat before them. A rectangular board, embossed with letters and elaborate decorative designs took up most of the table before the davenport. The wax from the candles dripped onto its edges. A spirit board.

In the week we had spent before the fire, Lawrence had told me a number of stories meant to frighten me. One was of a woman near his home who claimed to be a medium. She held dark gatherings under the light of the waning moon, and those who came to speak through her to their deceased relatives came away mad. At least, according to him. He had described the board she used to contact the dead; all the while his eyes gleamed with something beyond childish wonder. I must have been a fool not to see it then. That, or I had been willfully ignorant. His fascination with the darkness should have warned me then. At least it served to educate me, so I now could recognize the seance before me.

But what could they need me for? Was I to be a human sacrifice? I dared not look behind me; the cold grew ever stronger in that place, until I felt as though my back touched solid ice.

The fear in me was almost enough to boil the ice away. I felt myself tremble, like the very air around me shook. Every inch of my body tingled with a terror I had never before known. Their eyes fixed just behind me. I stood ramrod straight, unable to flee.

Slowly, the gaze of my captors came to rest on me. Their fear mimicked my own. One of them shrieked. “It’s….it’s right there! Tell me I’m not going crazy, Dan.”

I shouted, “For God’s sake, won’t someone tell me what’s going on?” Again they ignored me.

But the girl, May, whose eyes did not leave mine, stood. I tried to step back, but my feet refused to move.

“Tanner, make it stop. Tell it to go back. This isn’t supposed to be real,” said the one named Dan.

My heart thumped. May came to stand just in front of me, one hand outstretched. This was it; in one fell swoop, my line would be decimated. The family legacy would die with me.

“Please don’t hurt me,” I said. Still she reached out. Just as her hand met mine, it passed completely through. We both fell back with a shout.

“You really are a ghost,” she whispered. Her words went through me as her hand had. A ghost? What nonsense….?

“I most certainly am not!” I said.

One of the boys, Tanner, I assumed, held a small triangle over the board. He began speaking some nonsense about kind spirits and the Other Realm.

May stared. “Where are you going?”

Going? I followed her gaze. My bare feet, cold on the wooden floor, shimmered. Before my eyes, they began to vanish. All the way to my ankles, I could see through to the wall behind.

“What’s happening to me?” I refused the children’s foolish explanation. I was not so gullible as to believe in spirits; I was perfectly alive. This was only a vivid night-terror. I could almost feel the pillow beneath my head. The more I pondered it, the more I reasoned with myself. I remembered going to bed, after all.

The last candle burned low. Around me, the manor had fallen silent except for my pulse pounding in my temples. The headache kept me from sleep. Though I’d taken hot tea earlier, I was very much awake, though I could feel an involuntary exhaustion creeping in. Instead I watched the feeble flame as it faded out, wax running slowly down the candlestick. I replayed a conversation from earlier that still preyed on my mind. A servant had gossiped with my father’s valet, “They’ve searched the forest surrounding, but neither the doctors nor the police have caught sight of him. Totally mad, they’ve said, and dangerous.”

I had hidden myself behind the bannister, frowning. I knew instinctively they had meant cousin Lawrence; no one mentioned him by name even once in the year since he’d been committed. Father tried to keep it all hushed up, naturally. Couldn’t have the line besmirched with insanity.

“You think he’ll come here?”

“Got a job to finish, hasn’t he?”

I had pondered this later, as the candle gave way to darkness. I could imagine only one sort of ‘unfinished business’ Lawrence might have, if he wanted to be the sole heir. It was me. A creaking had me bolting upright in bed. There, in the doorway, I had seen a familiar silhouette.

“Who’s there?”

Just like that, I pieced together how the memory ended. How everything ended. “No….” I tried to fight the slow dissolving of my body. It was true, it was all true. I had died; worse than that, I had let the line die with me. I could feel the burn of my father’s scorn upon me like raw flame.

May stepped back, turning to the others with her mouth agape. She’d said Fitzpatricks died here, but I hadn’t imagined―couldn’t imagine―that meant me. How long had it been since I lived? Since I died? But along with the swirling fear came relief. Not all of them must have died, if she was here. True, she may have descended from the one who betrayed my family, but that was through no fault of her own. My own blood still dwelt in what was left of my family home. A sense of peace warmed the ice that threatened to overtake me. I felt lighter, freer.

Chains I did not know restrained me suddenly fell free. I took in a deep breath.

I tried to cry out to her, but everything spun, a dizzying hurricane of fading color. This is it, then? I wondered. The end?

“If there are any spirits with us―begone!” Dan shouted.

“No!” she reached out, but my hands had faded. The erasing mist coiled around my neck, the living world forced from me as the air was sucked from the room.

The candles flickered out, and only smoke remained.

Emily Duncan

I am in my final year of education for my bachelor’s degree in English. As a playwright, I have had my work locally produced.

Bad Habits #1

The rash was at Oliver’s balls. This, by its very nature, was extremely disconcerting. No creams worked, they seemed to make it far worse. Finally, when it covered his entire groin, he was forced to visit the doctor. She was mystified.

“Any dubious sexual encounters?” she asked.

A pause.

“No.”

“Visited any exotic countries lately?”

“No.”

Pills and creams then.

It was when it covered his entire body, pus spewing from open sores, he thought about his girlfriend. He really should find another, he thought. She had been dead for three days after all; who knew what diseases they carried?

 

 

Justin Boote

Justin Boote is an Englishman living in Barcelona for over twenty years, who has been writing short horror/suspense stories for two years. To date, he has had published or accepted for publishing around 20 stories in diverse magazines. He is also moderator for a private writer’s forum, The Write Practice.
He can be found at Facebook under his own name.

Heartless

Maya crept through the house, wondering what churlish plans her husband had in store. Friends she had long distanced herself from used words like ‘abuse,’ but banter and teasing shaped her childhood—why not adulthood as well? Their effervescent echoes faded into the silence of this long, hot night.

Her feet clung to the floor, skin sticking from humidity, until she turned on the lights. Blood pooled all around, spread thin, a new coat of paint for the hardwood, festering in the grooves. Her husband lay dead, his cold heart removed.

Before she could scream, fingers curled around her shoulder.

 

E. N. Dahl

E. N. Dahl grew up with a love of strange, dark books, instilling a dream of writing her own stories. She’s had work accepted to quite a few venues under quite a few names, but only recently decided to use this one. If you find her in real life, she’ll probably be doing yoga or laughing at a scary movie.

Screams Unending

I can hear them in the walls. They talk to me, begging me to listen, understand, and hear them. The problem is I wish they would stop.

I can hear the scratching and screaming so loud I can scarcely sleep. When I think they’ve finished screaming they begin to beg again. And when I shout and tell them to cut it out the screams begin anew.

The police came. They can’t hear the screams like I can. Once, I didn’t want the police to know about the people in the walls. Now, all I want is the screaming to end.

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.

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