Category: Trembling With Fear

Trembling With Fear 7-14-24

Greetings, children of the dark. It’s all deadlines in TWF Towers this week, with our short story submissions window closing at the end of today (wherever you are in the world), and our summer special closing to subs tomorrow, 15 July. Get ‘em in quick, or miss out! If you’ve subbed over these windows, you’ll get your acknowledgement in the next few days. Everything is manual here; we don’t have any of those handy auto-response systems so your first hurdle, after getting the courage to hit submit, is to wear your most patient trousers.

The summer special will be Shalini’s last issue with us, and I am sad. But, as hinted a few weeks back, we’ve got a slew of new faces moving into TWF Towers and I can’t wait to introduce you to them. Just waiting on the boss being available to chat to people in a different time zone / not being on holiday. (I mean, how dare he, right?!)

My battery is very much drained today, so I’m going to send you straight into it.

This week’s menu of dark speculative fiction kicks things off with Alice Yustas, and a heartbreaking tale that goes to a place you’re not expecting. Note the content warning here for domestic abuse. That’s followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • Alice Lawson’s eco lament,
  • Ryan van Ells’s buggy grossness (seriously; it’s not for anyone with insect phobias), and
  • Jack Fennell’s test subjects.

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Hi all!

First off, I’d like to thank our upcoming newsletter sponsor for the next year! Please check out Charlotte Platt’s ‘One Smile More’!

Ena Sinclair, a Scottish mage and spy, abandons her role in a prominent Edinburgh college and escapes to London to avoid an arranged marriage.

But London is not safe: a mage killer is on the hunt…

Abducted by vampires ‘for her safety’, Ena is terrified the nest owner will drain her to fuel his power but also curious to learn about his magic. Taking this once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn more about what her college had warned were dangerous creatures, Ena finds herself fond of the nest, particularly their bonded leaders, Addison and Tobias.

As survivors of the Immortal War, the pair still navigate a schism in vampire society that they are trying to heal. They now seek a peaceful life and offer Ena protection until she finds her own path.

…and dark things await them all.

Ena’s college seeks to forcibly return her to Edinburgh, and a killer is still on the loose. Hidden resentments surface, and Ena pays the price. Magically unstable and isolated, she must rely on her non-magical training to avoid being turned or used as a weapon to harm the nest she has grown to care for.

 

Be sure to order a copy today!

Whew. I was on vacation all of last week so am currently in the vast realm of catching up on everything under the sun. I don’t have much in the ways of updates this week though promise that we’ve got some big news coming up! 

Now, for the standards:

  • Thank you so much to everyone who has become a Patreon for Horror Tree. We honestly couldn’t make it without you all!
  • The paperback is now live! Please be sure to order a copy of Shadowed Realms on Amazon, we’d love for you to check it out!

Offhand, if you’ve ordered Trembling With Fear Volume 6, we’d appreciate a review! 🙂

 

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

(more…)

Trembling With Fear 7-7-24

Greetings, children of the dark of July. (July!?!) For those of you on the other side of the pond, I hope you’re enjoying your holiday weekend. If you’re on my side, well, I’m writing this the day before the election so all I can do is keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best!

It’s been great to see some short stories start coming our way again, so a quick reminder: we’re open to short story submissions to the general section of TWF for just one more week. Yep, we’ll close again on 14 July, so get in quick if you want us to consider your work for publication. But remember, these 2-week windows are not the only way to see your name in TWF—we also have our themed submission calls (currently considering the summer special, so hurry up if you have a dark summer-set piece for Shalini’s final round in the seat!), as well as our unholy trinities (three related drabbles as a set) and serialised stories (up to 15,000 words, able to be put into chapters for drip-fed publication). And, of course, we have an insatiable need for drabbles for these weekly pages. We publish three of those every darn week, so you can imagine how hungry that drabble beast gets! That’s plenty of opportunities. And, if I’m being honest, you’ll have a better chance of getting onto our pages with a drabble than anything else; our short story submissions are tightly-contested, and we get waaaaaay more submitted than we’re able to publish. Get cracking on those 100-word beauties!

For now, though, let’s tuck into this week’s menu of dark speculative fiction and kick things off with a creature feature courtesy of Kevin M Folliard. That’s followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • W.H. Vigo’s critter problem,
  • Debbie Paterson’s dark musing, and
  • Liam Kerry’s family business.

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Hi all!

First off, I’d like to thank our upcoming newsletter sponsor for the next year! Please check out Charlotte Platt’s ‘One Smile More’!

Ena Sinclair, a Scottish mage and spy, abandons her role in a prominent Edinburgh college and escapes to London to avoid an arranged marriage.

But London is not safe: a mage killer is on the hunt…

Abducted by vampires ‘for her safety’, Ena is terrified the nest owner will drain her to fuel his power but also curious to learn about his magic. Taking this once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn more about what her college had warned were dangerous creatures, Ena finds herself fond of the nest, particularly their bonded leaders, Addison and Tobias.

As survivors of the Immortal War, the pair still navigate a schism in vampire society that they are trying to heal. They now seek a peaceful life and offer Ena protection until she finds her own path.

…and dark things await them all.

Ena’s college seeks to forcibly return her to Edinburgh, and a killer is still on the loose. Hidden resentments surface, and Ena pays the price. Magically unstable and isolated, she must rely on her non-magical training to avoid being turned or used as a weapon to harm the nest she has grown to care for.

 

Be sure to order a copy today!

Moving on, I hope all of those in the US have had a great 4th of July, and for those outside of the US, I apologize for our over. We’ve started moving a bit forward with our new staff, so you’ll be seeing some changes soon, and hopefully, the new theme will come sooner rather than later. I know that I keep mentioning, but I promise you that it is inching closer to launch! There is a LOT of customizations that have to happen to really make it our own.

Now, for the standards:

  • Thank you so much to everyone who has become a Patreon for Horror Tree. We honestly couldn’t make it without you all!
  • The paperback is now live! Please be sure to order a copy of Shadowed Realms on Amazon, we’d love for you to check it out!

Offhand, if you’ve ordered Trembling With Fear Volume 6, we’d appreciate a review! 🙂

 

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

(more…)

Trembling With Fear 6-30-24

Greetings, children of the dark. Two bits of (I hope!) good news for you all for this final day of June. 

First of all, the team has now made its way through allllll the spring short story submissions, and you should’ve heard back by now. If you haven’t, check your spam before you chase us! Thanks to everyone who submitted to the spring window; we had about 6 times as many submissions as we had spaces to fill, so please don’t be disheartened if you didn’t get good news from us. We had to make some difficult decisions. 

Related to that good news (and the flipside for us, kinda!): the summer submissions window opens tomorrow, 1 July. You’ve got two weeks to get your darkly speculative short stories to us for consideration. Please, please make sure you check our submissions guidelines first; we can tell when you don’t, and it doesn’t put us in a good mood. Also note that, as has been the case for at least the last 18 months, we are veering very much towards the speculative side of fiction. That means real-world horror like torture p*rn, serial killers, crime, etc etc, will need to find a different home (and there are plenty out there for this stuff). Instead, send us your supernatural and paranormal tales, your grimdark, your space horror, your dark fantasy/folklore/fairytales, your eco-horror—basically, anything that falls under “speculative”, or stories set in something other than the real world as we know it in our day-to-day. 

Finally, thanks to everyone who responded to our call a few weeks ago for more hands on deck to help steer the good ship Horror Tree. The boss has been chatting to lots of great people, and I myself am excited to say we’re expanding the TWF Towers team—even getting a new admin helper, which will hopefully mean you don’t have to wait so long for responses from us. It’s going to be a game-changer. I’ll introduce you to them all once we’ve had a chance to do a proper kick-off amongst ourselves, but as a little teaser: Horror Tree representation on this side of the pond is about to get a major boost!

For now, though, let’s tuck into this week’s menu of dark speculative fiction. Our centrepiece, from Simon Kewin, contemplates whether that image in the mirror can truly be trusted. That’s followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • Weird Wilkins’ universal contemplation,
  • Jacek Wilkos’ fairytale flip, and
  • Jameson Grey’s quiet warning.

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Hi all! 

This week and next are going to be a lot of behind-the-scenes work. The short story I was hoping to finish for an upcoming deadline? Sadly, it won’t be finished. However, a lot of progress on Horror Tree shenanigans and I’m excited for the future! 

Now, for the standards:

  • Thank you so much to everyone who has become a Patreon for Horror Tree. We honestly couldn’t make it without you all! 
  • If you’re into digital copies of books, don’t forget to order Shadowed Realms on Amazon, Which will go up once the paperback goes live! 

Offhand, if you’ve ordered Trembling With Fear Volume 6, we’d appreciate a review! 🙂

 

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

(more…)

Trembling With Fear 6-23-24

Greetings, children of the dark. I’m preparing this week’s edition rather early (much to the delight of the boss, I’m sure) because I’m about to do what no horror writer should ever do: head into the woods, alone, to stay at an off-grid cabin for a few nights. I know, I know. But hear me out: disconnection is exactly what I need right now. I’m so darn burned out I can barely think. So I’m taking myself off to commune with nature and do all manner of hippy/witchy things like talk to the trees and journal in a meadow. I will also, of course, be carrying a massive stack of books with me so I can make the most of the hammock they provide. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather, because these things are never guaranteed in England! And while you’re there, keep them crossed that I come back with a mountain of notes and cryptic clues to help me get back into my own writing, yeah? Then I can stop saying “if only…” and actually start doing.

And when I get back, this week’s column will be sparkly and ready for you to read online. Our menu of dark speculative fiction this week is ushered in by a trip through the apocalypse with Joshua Ginsberg. That’s followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • Cristina Mirzoi’s universal ruin,
  • RM Lubin’s creature rampage, and
  • DJ Tyrer’s basement dwellers.

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

First things first, please support our latest sponsors!

First: Order a copy of Backwaters on Amazon! “Like Flannery O’Connor, but with toxic mermaids and body horror.” — CARLTON MELLICK III, author of Full Metal Octopus and The Haunted Vagina

Second: Get 99 horror stories that range from quiet horror, hinting at the things buried there in your psyche – the thing that will come out to play after dark, and visceral horror that leaves no doubt what lies in a bloody heap in the middle of the floor. This UNHOLY TRINITY combines three of L. Marie Wood’s horror collections, Caliginy, Phantasma, and Anathema.

Order a copy today directly from Mocha Memoirs Press or Amazon!

 
***

So for the past week there has been a ‘bit’ of a heat wave going on in my neck of the woods. We’re not being hit as bad as some areas, but, oof. Just ouch. You’re not here to hear about me complaining about the heat, though. So, what is new? On the personal front, I was able to submit a short story and am 90% complete with finishing up another one that I’m hoping to send out as well.

On the Horror Tree front, I’ve spent all of this week working on our future layout, talking to our soon-to-be-added new staff members, getting reading in for TWF submissions, and trying to keep up with posts! 

Now, for the standards:

Offhand, if you’ve ordered Trembling With Fear Volume 6, we’d appreciate a review! 🙂

 

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

(more…)

Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men, Part Seven: The Finale by Robert Gabe

  1. Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men: Part One by Robert Gabe
  2. Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men: Part Two by Robert Gabe
  3. Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men: Part Two by Robert Gabe
  4. Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men: Part Three by Robert Gabe
  5. Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men, Part Four by Robert Gabe
  6. Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men, Part Five by Robert Gabe
  7. Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men, Part Six by Robert Gabe
  8. Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men, Part Seven: The Finale by Robert Gabe

In the years that followed I became a recluse. I was now thirty-five and Tana’s parents never heard from me again, nor did law enforcement or officer Daniel. Her murder when unsolved. I spent my time working at a manufacturing plant and rented out a small high rise condo in the heart of the city. I still saw Rose Kay from time to time. She forgave me for stealing her jacket and was equally of fearful of Mr. Henrys threat in the first few months. We talked about Tana, but always wound up talking in circles.

Tana was killed because her goodness of heart could not be undone. She cared to much for the common people to live the life of Dream Rabbit. Dream Rabbits philosophy while anti-society and anti-goodwill, was unfortunately, the way of the world. Tana knew that, but she didn’t want to believe it. She wanted to believe people were capable of kindness, charity and goodwill but humans are primarily self interested organisms influenced by two things: Hunger pangs and satiating their sexual impulses. Mr. Henry knew this. Tana knew this. And now I knew this. Every human activity outside these was just a knack for killing time. Our only real function was to consume and copulate. Emotions, feelings, thoughts didn’t matter. Civilization was a farce. The general rule of life was, above all things, to enjoy oneself and to indulge in pleasure seeking as much as humanly possible while avoiding pain.  

 In the winter time I met with Rose Kay at a coffee shop in the upper part of the city. She knows I don’t go out much in fear that I might be being watched.

“So you’re gonna stay a recluse forever?” Rose Kay ask.

“No, but you have to understand why I fear them.” I say, “I really fucked up putting myself in the crosshairs like that.

“Do something for me?” she says.

“Anything”

“Come see me dance at the club.”

“Yeah, the club he manages. I don’t think so.”

“It’s been years Vincent.. Had he wanted to kill you he’d have done it by now.”

“You think so?”  

“I think you let this whole Tana Molnar thing ruin your whole life.” She bites her lip and smiles “If you continue to live like this you’ll regret it on your deathbed.”

Pause.

“I mean, I never thought of you as much of a man, but I never took you for this much of a coward…”

Silence.

“I have an idea.” I manage to say.

“What’s that?”

“I’m going to write a memoir about what happened and release it to the public. I don’t care if I’m killed. I honestly don’t.” I look out the window to the side of me watching

traffic go by. “That’s the only thing to do.”

“You know why I’m your girlfriend?” Rose smiles

“Why?” I say

“Because deep down you’re not a coward. You’re fearless.”

In due time, Dream Rabbit expanded. They now had their reach across the entire US. There was a national crisis of missing girls the same year, an epidemic of kidnappings. Young women were turning up dead left and right and the president issued a program to stagnate said crimes, but it was all useless. Dream Rabbit had become too powerful and there were too many public officials who were clients for the program to have any real stopping power. I felt useless but I continued to work on the novel.  I spent my days writing the novel from my apartment. I fasted during this time and lost weight. At night I went for long walks in the central park recounting all the details of the story, taking notes on my iphone. Was my apartment bugged? Rose called me one night and told me she thought she was being followed. Dream Rabbit had a watchful eye over every aspect of our lives down to our employment to the point where we’d notice men in suits staking out our workplace.  One night we decided to go to a Boy Harsher concert at the Electric Factory. The song “Fate” was playing. The lyrics “You’re always running. Always running away.” 

In the news, girls continued to disappear. A brothel was found abandoned and left as evidence were the remains of two college age girls clothes, all bloodied and tarnished. Law enforcement was always two steps behind. Dream Rabbit had been in the game all this time and not once had any of their operations been busted, at least to public knowledge. It got to the point where anonymous internet users began speculating on internet forums about a hidden ring. Said users were more useful than police ever were and having known about the organization, many of the posts were accurate to my experiences. One night I was sitting on my computer participating in such forums where a user made a post that stood out to me. The post reads:

My name is Isaac and tonight I’m dropping some vital breadcrumbs. There was sex shop in Philadelphia called a Sex Machines. Last Friday the Owner, Otis Blackwood, was found dead of an overdose and the place has since shut down. Rumor on the street is He was a connoisseur and distributor of snuff films and used the business as a front to launder money to some defunct corporation known as “Dream Rabbit Enterprises.” I did a little digging and found an unlisted website. Though their ‘about us’ section is vague, it claims they are a “hedonist paradise” and a membership costs five hundred thousand a year. Listed was their New York address. I went to the building only to find it completely abandoned. I got spooked when I felt I was being watched in the warehouse and got the hell out of there fast. For the past six weeks I have been receiving anonymous phone calls. Last night I heard a loud bang at my door and this morning when I went to open said door I found a decapitated kitten on the floor of it. My bank accounts are frozen and the power has been shut off in my house. I’m writing this from a library computer. Pray for me.  

This was Isaac’s final post.

I get a call in Mid-March concerning Rose. She’s been killed in a car accident. My first thought is one of profound acceptance as I never believed for one second Dream Rabbit would let her go after she killed The Siren and he waited years to carry out the hit only to toy with my emotions. It was no accident. Rose was driving along the freeway when a car came from the other lane and hit her head on. When I read the article online, I saw that the vehicle who caused the accident had no registration or inspection stickers. It was a hit and run which only confirmed my suspicions. I went to the funeral the next week and was not surprised to see that no family showed to pay their respects. Her obituary had a bitter tinge to it, like it was written by a scorned family member, perhaps her father. I lay flowers down at her gravestone to pay my respect and shed tears and when I do the wind picks up and it starts raining.     

The same week I visit my old college. My old stomping ground. I feel uneasy walking past the site of the shooting and when I did so I tread carefully almost as if the violence of it was still there, stuck in time. I pass through the music hall and go to the grand hall for the athletic department. I run into a janitor mopping the halls and he ask me if I know where I’m going.

“I used to go here.” I tell him.

“You need  a visitor’s pass..” He tells me.

“It’s okay, I’m leaving.” I say. “I just wanted to check out some of the alumni photographs.”

If you are reading this, it is the end of my story. Once I put out this memoir, a

 target will be on my back if there isn’t one already.. I’m not sure I will survive and frankly I don’t care. I’ve lived in

fear long enough. Tana wouldn’t want me to live like this, nor would Rose, the latter of which death I hold tremendous responsibility. It’s a burden I carry every day and one I will never put down.  To Tana’s  parents, I am sorry I could not bring her murderer, Jaques Mallick, to justice. I am sorry for being weak. But know your daughter was the person she projected herself to be and not the other way around. I wish to fight my own hedonistic ways and be more like the public figure Tana was.The last time I saw Tana I was standing next to her in a picture that we had taken at a college film festival. When I went through the athletic section today I notice the picture had been apart of their grand hall, dead center between the trophies they won for their basketball team’s big championship victory. Tana, Casey and I. I took the fragile photo from the case and held it dearly to me and in the reflection of the glass I saw a black van watching from outside the building and then drive off as I turned around to meet it.

 

Trembling With Fear 6-16-24

Greetings, children of the dark. We’ve hit the week of the Solstice, which means here in the UK the days are about as long as they’ll ever be. I’m celebrating by doing that very horror thing of heading to a cabin in the woods for a mini-creative recovery/retreat type of thing. I’d love to know what you’re up to: do you celebrate these moments in time? 

For that reason, and because I’m writing this the day before my next Writing the Occult event and so my brain is a bit too wired, I’ll keep it short this week. Just one note: remember that our short story submissions are only open in four windows now. We just couldn’t keep up with the submissions, and because we can only publish one story a week it was the sensible thing to do—noone wants to wait literal years to see their story on a website, right? Anything submitted to us outside of those windows will unfortunately be returned to you unread. 

That said, we have a window coming up… Make sure to check out our submissions guidelines for details of what and when we’re open. We can tell if you haven’t looked at them. And remember, we’re ALWAYS open for drabbles! Insatiably so. Feed the drabbles beast!

For this week’s darkly speculative offerings, our menu kicks off with despatches from a failing neighbourhood, direct from the mind of Benjamin Larned. That’s followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • Keith B. Walters’s failed sacrifice,
  • Gabrielle Bleu’s Ice Age revival, and
  • F.M. Scott’s mad science.

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

First things first, please support our latest sponsors!

First: Order a copy of Backwaters on Amazon! “Like Flannery O’Connor, but with toxic mermaids and body horror.” — CARLTON MELLICK III, author of Full Metal Octopus and The Haunted Vagina

Second: Get 99 horror stories that range from quiet horror, hinting at the things buried there in your psyche – the thing that will come out to play after dark, and visceral horror that leaves no doubt what lies in a bloody heap in the middle of the floor. This UNHOLY TRINITY combines three of L. Marie Wood’s horror collections, Caliginy, Phantasma, and Anathema.

Order a copy today directly from Mocha Memoirs Press or Amazon!

 
***

Hi all! 

I’ve spent most of the last week communicating with all of you lovely souls who have reached out to offer aid to Horror Tree. Things are progressing, and it looks like we’ll have a few new faces to help with various aspects of the site soon! I’m hoping to have some big news on multiple fronts in the next week or two. 

Now, for the standards:

  • Thank you so much to everyone who has become a Patreon for Horror Tree. We honestly couldn’t make it without you all! 

Offhand, if you’ve ordered Trembling With Fear Volume 6, we’d appreciate a review! 🙂

 

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

(more…)

Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men, Part Six by Robert Gabe

  1. Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men: Part One by Robert Gabe
  2. Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men: Part Two by Robert Gabe
  3. Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men: Part Two by Robert Gabe
  4. Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men: Part Three by Robert Gabe
  5. Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men, Part Four by Robert Gabe
  6. Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men, Part Five by Robert Gabe
  7. Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men, Part Six by Robert Gabe
  8. Serial Saturday: All The Queens Men, Part Seven: The Finale by Robert Gabe

 

 

Part Six 

I entered the Casino lobby at ten PM. I was met with the faint smell of smoke and the sound of coin machines echoing throughout the floor. There’s no cover charge. I ask a waitress if I can speak with Rich Boyd the owner of BoydCasinos. She laughs inmy face and walks away with her tray. I walk up to a table where they’re playing Black Jack. I join in on the game and am met with a subtle look of nonchalance by the host and the other two party members, one of which is wearing a gray suit and the other still in his pajamas who looks like he rolled right out of bed. Another big chested waitress approaches me and ask what I want to drink. I tell her I’ll have a Heineken. The game goes on for about thirty minutes and I hardly know what I’m doing. I look to my right and near the ceiling is a CCTV camera looking right over the table. I get an idea.

“Sir, do you want to draw or stay?” the card dealer asks monotonously.  

“Draw” he throws me a card. “I mean stay.”

“Sir you can not retract the draw you just made.”

“Oh can I not? I asked for a fucking stay and you threw me a card.”

“Sir?” his voice remaining calm. 

I throw the chips all over the table in frustration, upon which the two gentlemen I’m playing with grab me by my leather jacket and lift me into the air. Within seconds security rushes to the scene. I’m whisked away from the table and before I know it being escorted down the halls of the casino by two security guards towards the back street of the casino. The metallic door flies open and I’m thrown into the guttural street. I immediately spring into action and try to throw a swing at one of the guards and I hit him in the ear. He screams assault and the other guard runs to his aid and pins me down on the ground.

“You just assaulted a casino employee. We will hold you for that til the police can arrive.”

I’m brought to an office where I sit tied to a chair.  There’s a calendar of a nude model and on the desk a cactus plant.  The two guards laugh at me while I struggle with my nose bleeding all over my white shirt. 

“Don’t worry tiger…” The guard I hit says. “A swing like that will get you a nice criminal charge.” He starts ranting more about fines and whatnot until the words escape from my mouth “Tana Molnar.”

Silence.

“What?” one of the guards says “What did you say?

“I came here to talk to Rich Boyd about Tana Molnar.”

I’m uncuffed by the guard I punched and once again hauled into a hallway, which leads to a suite on the fourth floor. They put me in a chair where I’m sat across from a finely groomed man wearing a suit, his leg folded over the other and his hairline somewhat receded.

“I am Rick Boyd” he says.

He gives me a tissue to stuff my nose.

“I came here to talk to you about Tana” I say, my voice muffled as I apply the knotted Kleenex into my nostril. “She used to work here.”

“Indeed she did.” Replies Boyd. “But that doesn’t give you the right to break the rules and trash the casino floor.”

“I’m sorry.” I’m exhausted. “It was very foolish of me.”

“Anyway you have it Tana is dead. The whole community is grieving over this. Why Would you come to our establishment and ask about her?”

Silence.

“Because I know you were one of her clients as a high end call girl.

“So what if I was?” He smirks. “What has that got to do with anything?”

“You could be implicated in sex trafficking if people suspected it… You could have saved her and instead you chose to use her as a sex object like everyone else. As far as I’m concerned, we all have blood on her hands.”

“But I didn’t kill Tana. Someone else did. And If I knew who had done it I would gladly join you in wrangling their neck. Now quit it with the school-boy heroics and go home. We will dismiss what you did to my employee if you promise to stay off the casino grounds.”

“Wait….” I say “Did you really have sex with Tana?”

Boyd smiles. “Many times.”

Boyd told me about all the degenerate acts Tana would perform. She was willingly to do everything and anything. Once again I felt a mixture of envy, resentment and passion. Passion that had and never will be mine for Tana. I was foolish for my school boy infatuation. Tana was no angel. If anything, she had the heart of seasoned harlot and the mind of a criminal.

“No, I didn’t kill Tana, my dear boy. Tana was a good employee. We all loved her,” he begins to cry profusely. “And I can’t imagine what her poor parents are feeling, or wondering if her double life will emerge in the public eye.”

“One last thing” I say defeated. “Do you know anything about Dream Rabbit.”

“Dream Rabbit?” says Boyd “No. But I did talked to Tana about a client who scared her….”

According to Rick, Tana had met a man named Otis Blackwood who was into more extreme forms of sex.

“He was a connoisseur of extreme porno films” The security guard says. “Have you ever seen a snuff film?”

“No.” I say.

“Otis Blackwood is a distributor of pornographic bondage films. He owns a sex shop in the city called ‘Sex Machines'”

I took out my Tanas black book. Otis is listed as a client.

“I’ll check it out.” I add.

I leave Rich a crying mess and start towards the nearest hospital for my potentially broken nose. It was in the early morning hours of night I approach Sex Machines, the rain coming down hard against a jet black sky. I hadn’t been in contact with my mother in over a week. I checked my text and had one from Rose Kay with only three words:

 

 HE’S WATCHING YOU!

 

I try to send her a message back but the service from my cell  phone is in a dead zone. I’d panic, but I know it’s no flub. Someone IS watching me. I can feel it. I go into Sex Machines. The store was across from a parking garage in the middle of a metropolis. The whole place smells of rubber and candles. It’s vacant. I ring a bell that sits on the glass countertop of the front desk. Inside the shelves are sex toys and poppers. Other sex stimulants and gas station viagra. A man in leather emerges from behind a red curtain in a backroom. He’s in his mid-forties and gaunt like a skeleton dressed in bondage gear with a handlebar mustache.

“Are you Otis Blackwood?” I ask.

“Yeah man.” He smiles with an unnerving presence. “What can I do for you?”

“I’m into Serfdom.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Can I ask who told you to tell me that?”

“A girl named Night Nocturne.”

“Step this way” He says as he pulls the curtain back which leads to another hallway, booths of televisions playing pornographic films. Another black man stands at the endof the hallway keeping watch. “I’ll take you to our special booth.” Otis says.

All I can hear is the barely audible sound of women orgasms coming from the televisions. The hallways are dank and dark. We approach the black man who stands in front of the final door.

“My new friend.” Otis tells the bald black man, his arms fold and his facial expression deadly serious. The black man steps aside and we go into the studio room which has a big seventy inch HD television equipped with surround sound and a DVD player. Otis goes to pop in a DVD. I sit on the couch.

“Wait til you see this shit man.” Otis remarks.

The video starts as incomprehensible pixelated images flash across the screen until it suddenly stops flickering and the camera focuses on a woman tied up in bondage against a table sitting on a wall. First she is whipped. She seems to enjoy it. Then a a man in a mask comes into frame. He has a large hunting knife. He puts it to her throat. Suddenly she becomes on edge, but she’s bound and can do nothing about it so she tries to relax. The man then socks her in the face, leaving a large bruise near her cheekbone. She starts to cry. The gimp makes his mark by cutting into one of her breast and making it bleed. I look at Otis who watches in a daze.

“We haven’t even gotten to the good part man.” He says. 

I immediately stand up as I can no longer watch what’s happening on screen. Otis shuts the film off.

“Hey I told you this was some extreme shit. Still, even though you didn’t watch til the end you still gotta pay.”

I throw him eighty dollars and tell him I want out of the shop. I feel my face start to redden. I’m sweating, unable to hide my anxiety. He can tell I’m on edge.

“What was the name of that girl that sent you here?”

“Night Nocturne” I gulp.

“Here you go, bro.” Otis hands me a business phone. A Verizon flip phone. He tells me to go to the contacts. I do and I see a number for Dream Rabbit. I take the card and run out the studio door and through the hallway past the black man who screams at me to slow my pace. I make it back to the parking garage and whip out my own phone. First I go to call Rose Kay but once again it says service is disabled. I try to call Tana’s Parents, but the service is a no go. I’ve searched and uncovered all their is to uncover. But none of the calls go through. I call the number for Dream Rabbit from the flip phone. It goes through. A man with one of the deepest sounding, almost inhumanly so, voices I’ve ever encountered answers. I recognize his voice from a dream I had about Tana.

“Hello, Vincent.” He says. 

“You know my name.” I reply, my voice stoic and without trembling.

“I’ve been watching you.”

Pause.

He continues “My name is Mr. Henry.

“I know who I’m speaking with. Your reputation precedes itself.”

“I’m in a high rise building on Samson street, the fiftieth floor. The top floor. I wish to speak with you as soon as possible.” He continues “I wanna talk about Tana.”

“I’ll be there.” I say. 

It’s two AM when I make my way past an intersection and I am surprised by how desolate the streets are, almost apocalyptically so.  I arrive at Samson street and come to realize it’s a construction zone and there likely isn’t a police unit for five blocks. I look up at the building, a brooding monolith, it stands erect like a fierce dragon. I’m surprised to find the glass front door open and when I enter I close it quietly behind me and head past the marble lobby and towards the elevator. The place is seemingly empty, or is it? I go in and push the fiftieth floor. The elevator doors close and it goes up weightlessly and without any real effort.


I stand in the elevator soaking wet, my hair dripping. As it rises I can see all of the city below me sparklingly vibrant and without a sound. The doors open and that’s when I notice the big scar on his face, the overwhelming whiteness of his eyes. I approach him cautiously. Mr. Henry. His sky rise is posh and free from any blemishes. Mr. Henry himself is rather fit and proper. I notice there’s a fireplace and beside it a bar with every kind of liquor known to man. I feel out of place and on the defense. I imagine there’s spooks hiding in some corner of the room ready to guard him, but after further inspection it looks as if it’s only the two of us. He eventually turns from staring out the window at the rainy dark and we lock eyes for the first time. 

“Mr. Henry?”

“You are, Mr. Black, I presume?”

“Yes.” I say shivering. 

“I want to explain to you my philosophy of pleasure.”

Silence.

“You see, the only real thing worth pursuing in life is carnal euphoria. Nothing else really matters. Everything you hold sentimental to you is but a distraction. Your family, your work your artistic pursuits. “ He continues, “ All of it pales in comparison to the sexual limits one can reach. Not even the greatest sunset or the most breathtaking view can compare. And I think you know this to be true.

“I’m listening” I reply.

“You want to talk about Tana Molnar, don’t you.”

“That’s why I’m here.” I say, “Do you care if I smoke?”

“Go right ahead.” He laughs.

“Tana was one of my dearest girls. I was watching her when she was just sixteen. I knew of all her troubles. Her depression, her suicidal thoughts, Her forced institutionalization.”

He pours himself a drink, “Tana, initially showed interest in ‘crossing over’ but her heart was too pure for it and that was her undoing.”

“Crossing over?”

“The Outer Rim, yes.” Mr. Henry Continues “You see, there exist another world outside of this one. Few people can reach it. I possess the power to do so. It’s a place of never ending sexual pleasures with young nymphets who are eager and willing. The violence and the brutality of this world ceases to exist there.”

“Sounds perfect.”

“It is.”

“Then why did Tana reject it?”

He ignores my questions and goes back to his sermon.

“You’re whole life has been a lie, Vincent. Pleasure will always triumph over justice. Deep down you are like me. And soon you’ll have realized what a waste of time this whole silly adventure has been trying to get to the bottom of Tana’s death. Tana takes the appearance of a lamb, but deep down she is a dog who will always surrender to her evolutionary biology. Hedonism is the only real..”

I cut him off.

“Why did you murder Tana?”

“Because of the ‘goodness of her heart…’ he mocks her “…won over paradise.” Tana disagreed with my interpretation of the world. I may have had corrupted her, but I couldn’t corrupt her unselfish spirit. She still wanted to stay here to help the needy, the downtrodden and lesser beings.The commonwealth I wish to make my slaves. 

“That doesn’t explain why you killed her.” I shout.

“She knew too much about The Outer Rim. I feared she would expose me. She became a liability.” He continues “Which is why I brought you here today Mr. Black… To relay to you the same message. If you continue on this path, you will be killed.”

Paused.

“Mr. Henry continues. “ Dream Rabbit is a large organization. We’ve been handling girls for many years, all of which respect or at least fear us. Some are happy to leave this world and go to The Outer Rim.”

“I know all about it.” I say “You’re a cult leader.”

“If you don’t back down, I’m afraid your life will be also treated as a liability for our organization.”

I think for a moment. I think of something profound to say but the only thing I can muster is “What about Rose? Will she be okay? Will she be safe from harm?”

“She’s safe as long as the two of you give up your inquiries and turn the other cheek.”
He stares at me for an uncomfortably long time and then walks towards me, almost as if he’s gliding and goes to shake my hand. Reluctantly, I see no other choice but to meet his gesture. “What about Mr. and Mrs. Molnar. What will I tell them?” I say weakly. 

“You are never to talk to them again. In time, they will understand and hopefully see you in a favorable light for trying.”
Pause. 

He continues “Now go out and enjoy life. You have a great new girlfriend. It would be a shame to throw that all away.” 

I took the elevator downstairs. My phone was still out of service so I hit up a nearby dive bar and grabbed a drink, defeated. A woman my age tried  to chat me up but I was too distracted by Tana and what Mr. Henry had told me I barely registered her talking to me. I walked the cobbled streets of the city and saw an entrance way for a subway. I sat at the wooden bench waiting for the train. Thirty minutes later it arrived and I sat in the back booth by myself. When my stop came I noticed a group of Frat boys smiling at me from a distance. I was in no mood to fight. They probably thought I had cash. I didn’t. I had no more than forty bucks left in my wallet. When the first one jumps on me he strikes me across the face with a weight that nearly knocks me off my feet. The second one kicks me in the gut and the third one rolls me over and takes out my wallet from my rear back pocket.

“Forty bucks!” the leader exclaims “You broke faggot.”

They take turns wailing on me and I’m honestly too tired other then to just roll up in a ball and try to protect my face. They eventually get tired and run off once another a woman spots them wailing on me. I spit up blood then puke in a nearby trash can. In the guttural street, the dawn rising, blood and bruised I remember Tana and proclaim my eternal love for her.

Unholy Trinity: The Calling by Jack Reigns

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

 

I.

 

The woods call to me like a helpless lover, begging for my embrace. My eyes are drawn to something I cannot focus on. I’ve taken several steps forward before I realize it. Butterflies flutter across my chest as I reach forward to push a branch aside. The trees are so beautiful; I am overwhelmed by the ocean of green. A deep, droning hum breaks through to my consciousness. It floods the air but not unpleasantly, like monks chanting. Sheena tugs on my sleeve. “Daddy, where are you going?” I pause and look down, one foot poised over the cliff’s edge.

 

II.

 

The forest service ranger pulled up alongside the empty truck. The driver’s side door had been left open to the elements. She parked, got out and looked inside. A child’s backpack sat slumped over on the floor. At the edge of the road, a sharp drop off revealed an empty expanse of crumbled rock and forest debris below. A streak of dried blood smeared across the rocks, trailing off into the trees. Backtracking, she wrote down the license plate on her notepad. A glint on the trees caught her eye. She paused, suddenly lost in the beauty of the forest. 

 

III.

 

Sheena picked her way through the woods, looking for a way down to where she’d seen her father fall. She heard a car approach on the road and ducked down under some ferns to hide. Daddy told her if anyone saw her, they’d be in BIG TROUBLE. Then they’d take her back to mommy; and she couldn’t go to the big water park. A rustling sound made her turn around. Nothing was there. A feeling overwhelmed her body, a feeling that if she kept walking into the woods, everything would be wonderful. A deep, quiet droning noise filled her mind.  

 

Jack Reigns

Jack Reigns was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and finds the area a constant source of inspiration. A lifelong horror fan, as a child Jack would get in trouble for scaring family with stories and is thankful to now share them with willing participants. Jack is the author of The Reigns of Terror series of short horror collections, and a proud member of the Seattle Chapter of The Horror Writers Association. Available works can be found at jackreigns.com.