Serial Killers: It’s Always Easier In The Dark Part 4. The brother who was a Father

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

It’s Always Easier in the Dark

By Aristo Couvaras

  1. The brother who was a Father

Won’t you walk on out those doors? You’ve been in there long enough haven’t you? I wonder if you know that I can’t come in there for you, that I’ve waited before and grew impatient. But now, you’re all that’s left. No matter, you’ll leave when the time is right.

When it’s dark. It’s always easier in the dark…

“Thank you, Father.” Said the mourning mother.

“There is naught to thank me for ma’am.” Replied the priest.

“And so? What should I do?” she asked from behind the confessional screen.

The priest ran his hands along his temples, there was so much of what she had told him that she wanted to hear was somehow her fault. None of it was. But the weary and desperate seek absolution and they believe it is not so easily attained.

He sighed from his side of the barrier, “do? All you should do, is continue to lay flowers on the graves of your children. Pray and return to this house when you feel you have the strength to. You should not seek penance for loss, you have not sinned. You are simply in mourning. Love and honor your husband and the Lord our God and I too will pray for you, your husband and the souls of your children.”

“But, but the picture father, the newspaper reports! Surely, I carry some blame do I not? One does not whisper the words I did and then find out that those words brought death through doors and simply, and simply chalk it up to coincidence.” She was pressing the drawing in question up against the screen again, what good it would do either of them. He could not see what she wished to show him. And he did not believe it had any bearing, much as she wished to attribute it to, the deaths she mentioned.

She wanted to make a connection, the priest knew, between the last drawing done by her deceased son and a host of grisly murders. Why wouldn’t she? Even knowing her son had incanted evil into this world left her with the sense of his actions still playing out, and her wanting to stop it, to know how to stop it, was little more than her desire for closure. Some macabre manner in which to finally bid her child farewell.

He drew in his breath, “my child, I am no demonologist, none in this parish are. But I would tell you that there is no connection between a drawing your son made and the words of an angry, distraught mother, to the actions of a murderer intent on bringing one family’s deaths and secrets to the world. God forgives us for the words we utter but don’t mean, He laments such utterances but knows we know not that which we say.” He wondered silently, God forgives us, but what Else may listen to such speech?

“If it would do you good, leave the paper in the confessionary, there is no one else here at this hour, and when I hear that you have gone I will dispose of the drawing within these hallowed walls. Will that put you at ease?”

Her answer was tears, “thank you Father.”

With his head bowed he listened to her frantic steps as she left the church. Her heels tapping against the marbled floor and then dulling as she trod on the carpet between the aisles. When he heard the doors close behind her, he got up and went to her side of the confessionary, picking up the dead child’s artwork left behind.

It was like nothing he had ever seen before, like nothing that should have been brought into this sacred space, like nothing he believed was depicted in Revelations or any grimoire on demons and the occult.

It wasn’t in the charcoal lines scrawled upon it. But, he thought of what she told him she had said; how she blamed her husband’s now dead employer for not giving him a pay rise those months ago when their children were both bed ridden. How that extra money for a better physician may have saved their young lives. How she had said what she did and pinned the drawing to a wall with a notched and rusty knife.

It was as if the picture had never been drawn by the child. By no stick of charcoal. But by the very words she had said while seeking someone to blame for the unexplained and perpetual loss.

Of everything she had confessed to him, there had been one thing he had wished to confess in return. But, how could he? How did he tell her that the man she chose to blame for the eventual demise of her children, that the man whose death she believed was linked to her words, she convinced herself to be a hex, had been his brother?

So, you have seen my picture Father. I wonder if when we meet you will believe it does me any justice. I do not think it does, I was not meant to be observed in that way, I am not meant to be seen.

I believe I look all the better ‘neath the dark. It’s always easier in the dark…

The priest felt gripped by a presence. Not a sinister one but a voice of warning, as he prepared to leave the church for the evening and lock the doors behind him. With each candle and censer he snuffed, each little dancing light he gutted, that voice grew louder.

He didn’t want to listen to the voice, or it’s words of warning, the voice he heard as also being insecure. Was it not paganism to give credence to the mourning mother’s beliefs? Were he to burn the drawing would he not be lending himself to the same superstitions that might lead to decrying her a witch and having her burnt at the stake?

He reached for the drawing he had stuffed deep in the pockets of his robes, the touch was, well, coarse. Like a hunting dog’s tongue. No, he chided himself, he of all people cannot give in to such folkloric considerations. It was simply a child’s drawing. Then why did he suddenly fear pulling it out and gazing upon the etching? Why did he fear to put out the next host of candles? It would make the church too dark.

He should burn the drawing, right then and there, he decided. Whether it was because he had made a promise to the woman or because superstition clutched at his heart, he did not wish to entertain. God forgive me this pagan weakness, he thought, this superstitious fear, for the wavering of my faith in you, but I must do this.

With one hand, he rolled the parchment up in his pocket before he withdrew it – not wanting to look upon the sinister depiction. He went to the altar and brought with him the goblet from which they drank the holy sacrament, along with a vial of holy water.

He placed the drawing in the goblet and held a candle to the paper, letting the orange tongue lick and lap at it.

What are you doing? It burns! How it burns!

It’s so bright, so bright and hot!

Never mind, when it’s over I’ll fade into the dark. I’ll go back, back to the dark from whence I came…it’s always easier in the dark…

The priest poured the holy water into the ashes and swirled the cup to the let fragments mix into a grey mulch. He knelt down and prayed for protection. When he left the church, and locked the doors behind him, he held the goblet in hand.

He poured the slop down a drainage pipe and crossed himself. He walked home that night and the moon and every lamppost seemed to shine brighter.

Right, left, went his footfalls; right, left, right, left.

Aristo Couvaras

Aristo Couvaras is twenty-seven years old, of Greek descent (if the name doesn’t give that away) and who was born and raised in South Africa, where he still resides. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in both English Literature and Clinical Psychology, as well as a Bachelor of Law degree, both attained from the University of the Witwatersrand. He has an upcoming work titled The Natloer, set to appear in Things in the Well Publications latest anthology -Beneath the Waves- Tales from the Deep.Anyone wanting to contact Aristo can do so on twitter @AR1sto.

Trembling With Fear 04/15/2018

Reading is the lifeblood of writing, it expands vocabulary, introduces new ideas, shows you how the great and the good have achieved their status. Reading is the easiest way to learn the craft, an escape which teaches you without you even realising it as you unconsciously absorb the tricks of the trade and discover what works and what doesn’t. I read regularly, I always have done but find that on a regular basis editing and writing takes that time away from me. After a few days of this however, I find the need to pick up a book and lose myself become overwhelming and then I shelve the writing, try and ignore the editing and just disappear. Do you allow yourself this time of vanishing into the pages? If not, why not? In the words of the master “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” (Stephen King)

And this quote I just discovered from another favourite author, Ray Bradbury (you MUST read Something Wicked This Way Comes and Fahrenheit 451 if you have not already done so):

“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

We have made a bit of progress on our first ‘Trembling With Fear’ anthology over the past week and I’m hoping to provide you with a substantial update in next Sunday’s installment!

‘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

Damp Wind and Leaves

Dracula.  Frankenstein.  The Mummy.  The Wolfman.  Posters covered his walls, as did cotton cobwebs, rubber tarantulas, and bats strung with elastic.  Dribbles of wax added authenticity to the gold-painted candelabra on shelves covered with Tales from the Crypt  and Vault of Horror  comics and antique Aurora monster models.  Layered across this display fit for a wax museum was the season’s own finishing touch, stark claw-like shadows of brittle, bare branches cast through his window by the flickering street lamp outside.

As he stood gazing down at Marlborough Street, Jeff wished he were twelve again—old enough to go even a block ahead of Dad while still young enough to get pounds of free candy.   Since he was seventeen, though, he was supposed to be a bit old for that.  Might look too threatening to the generally older, wealthy residents of Back Bay Boston should he, a six foot tall walking corpse, lean into a well-lit foyer and growl, “Trick or treat!”

Jeff refused to let go of Halloween any more than he had to.  He turned from the darkening street back to his bed, where white facial stage makeup, a sponge, black eyeliner pencil, white formal gloves, a circular, golden amulet on a red ribbon, and the heavy, long, black cape were strewn.  Smiling over the goods, he felt totally prepared.  Jeff already wore his uncle’s tuxedo, and his hair was black shoe polished and slicked back.  After joining the living (his parents) for dinner, he would don the rest of the costume, inspect himself in his bathroom mirror, pretend he couldn’t see a reflection in it, and fully become the only Dracula these trick-or-treaters would care to remember.  Practicing his best Lugosi, he said, “There are far worse things awaiting man than cavities.” Then Jeff gave a goofy smile made wicked by the porcelain fitted fangs he had worn off and on all afternoon.

He heard his Mom call down from the kitchen and he returned to reality.  Scaring crowds of costumed kids was not going to be the exciting work it was on TV and in smaller towns.  These days, especially in a city like Boston, trick-or-treating was on its way out due to publicized stories of poisoned candy, and most of the neighborhood was reluctant to open doors very often at night.  So this year, Jeff’s parents were doing their part for safety by holding a party and asking parents to bring their children.

There was a tap on his door, followed by the wild creaking of the hinges.  A couple of tightened screws had achieved the effect.  His Mom entered.  “Honey, we’ve got to eat now so I can clear the table in time.  And I don’t want you to rush or else you’ll get tomato sauce on your costume.”

He came out of the bathroom, yanking his fangs out.  “None of these kids are going to appreciate it anyway.  The effect is gonna wear thin when they laugh at my accent.”  Jeff sat on the edge of his bed and sighed.

After a moment, his Mom sat down next to him and put her hand on his knee.  “I know you’re not looking forward to this, Jeff.  You probably wish you were a little younger tonight.”

He rolled his eyes.  “Yeah, yeah, we all grow up, whatever.”

“But I’ll tell you something, pal, this was always one of my favorite holidays, and it still is.  I’m forty-four.  So there.  Incidentally, the Morrises’s daughter Melanie is around your age.  They’re making her come along.  Now come on down to eat.  You can have some wine, if you like, on this grand occasion.”

They stood and she patted her son on the back.  In the doorway, he said in character, “I never drink…wine.

            They finished eating just as twilight crossed over to the beginning of true night.  Jeff flew upstairs and donned the Dracula wear.  The plates went into the dishwasher as soon as the doorbell rang.  At the bottom of the stairs, he caught his Mom’s gaze and saw her wink.  From behind a newspaper his Dad grunted, “Go suck their blood, son.”  Jeff floated across the foyer, wrapped his cape about him, and opened the door.

“Trick or treat!” Before him stood a four-and-a-half foot cat-woman carrying a writhing mouse-boy on her back.  Their eager smiles soon faded to looks of concern.  The Mouse’s head whipped back in search of parents back on the sidewalk, but the King of the Vampires held the Cat’s eyes in his piercing gaze.

Then he opened his cape, changing from mysterious to elegant.  “I am Dracula.  I bid you welcome.” The girl’s smile returned even if the younger boy was still unsure.  As Jeff opened the door wider Susan and little Mike Morris entered, followed by Mr. and Mrs. Morris.  They were both shy, and they smiled at Jeff as they walked back into the living room.  As they left the foyer, he noticed Mr. Morris was wearing gorilla feet instead of shoes.  This made Jeff grunt in approval; the grunt became a sinister chuckle, and soon Dracula was testing the echo of the empty foyer with a resounding, evil laugh.

Then a creak from the open door made him turn toward it, arms still outstretched, head still high, mouth still wide open.  It was not the usual pose for attracting women.  Slouching somewhat in the doorway was Melanie Morris.  At least that was who it must be, thought Jeff, as he composed himself—but still remaining in character, for he wasn’t sure how to act around girls he didn’t know.  Her wide brown eyes focused on him in an expression of amazement mixed with what must be the Morris Adult Shyness; her head was tilted down a touch so that those eyes looked out from under a prettily concerned forehead.  She gave a sudden, brief smile and walked briskly past him into the living room.  As he watched her go, he almost shut the door in Mr. Finch’s face, who was just arriving with his wife and their twin boys.

For the next half-hour, the crowd down the short hall in the living room grew.  So did the noise, between uninhibited adults, like the boisterous Mr. Finch who got onion dip in his wife’s hair and proceeded to lick it off, and their children who were high on sugar and numbered around fourteen.  Jeff wafted in and out of the room, trying to look darkly dignified when not putting on a show for newcomers at the door.

On one of his return trips he noticed that Melanie had situated herself by the clean but currently dormant fireplace.  On either side of her the festivities raged, but she sat in a pocket of calm.  Back out in the darkened foyer, he realized that she was in the one spot where she could see the front door.  When he suddenly looked down the hall toward her, her pretty eyes immediately darted away to the right.  Although they were at opposite ends of the house, they could see each other as if through binoculars.

By the time the last guests wondered in, Jeff stopped returning to the living room.  He rested out on the staircase near the door in anticipation of the madness that awaited him in the form of the kids. All the gaiety in there seemed about to overflow into his area of refuge.  Sure enough, a shadow slowly began to take over the light pooled on the floor by the hall.  But instead of his Mom or, God forbid, a couple of bored, costumed children, it was Melanie who quietly stepped into his shadows.  At first, she did not see him, and she moved over to the front window, hands clasped behind her, and knelt by the unlit jack-o-lantern.  Jeff had forgotten it was there; apparently his Mom had asked Melanie to light its candle.  The flickering light from the match she struck and the candle she lit gave him not only an ethereal image of her face but a feeling that slowly made him stand.  Then he forgot why he stood and just watched her.

Then he spoke softly.  “Melanie.”

Instead of jumping up in surprise, she merely replied, “Count Dracula, is that you?”  Then there was a long moment of exciting silence.

He descended from the stairs.  “Actually my name is Jeff.  Somehow we’ve never met.  I mean…”

“I know.” When the light from the hall suddenly revealed him right in front of her, Melanie gasped and said, “I really like your costume.”  Then she moved out of the shadows.

He saw her try to hide her smile as soon as the light showed it.  They now stood two feet apart.  Jeff was terrified even though he knew he must look scary to her.  He wanted to slip back into character and was just about speak Transylvanian when rapid footsteps approached from behind him.  He knew exactly what to do.

By the sound of it, all fourteen of them were scurrying toward them.  His Mom had probably sent them.  Just as they were about to reach the foyer, the Great Vampire turned on them with a vicious snarl, his vast cape of darkness spread wide.  High-pitched screams erupted, followed quickly by hysterical giggling, as the hallway became a chaotic mass of miniature monsters, princesses, and various creatures delighting in the scare.  Then one small voice spoke up: “Where’s Melanie?” Now all were quiet.

Jeff moved to the side and quickly glanced about the foyer and the dimly lit staircase, but she was gone.  Then there came a low creaking sound as the front door slowly swung on its unoiled hinges.  There was nobody there.  No body, but there sat the jack-o-lantern flickering away in all its spookiness.  They silently gathered around it.  In an intentionally trembling voice, Jeff said, “Melanie?”

“Boo!” An explosion of screams perhaps even more impressive than those Jeff had elicited came from the rear of the group.  There stood Melanie in the middle of the foyer laughing proudly at her scheme.  She gave Jeff a wink, and he was now in love.

He decided, too, that he wouldn’t mind showing these kids a frightfully good time if she were there.  So he led them all up the pitch-black staircase, using the jack-o-lantern as a light.  Jeff prepared them for his Monster Palace by giving an ominous warning not to touch the models or cobwebs, it being in their own best interest as mortals.  Then he showed them inside.  They gasped and shuddered (and, of course, giggled) as he gave each ghastly prop the show-and-tell treatment.  Particularly effective were the glow-in-the-dark, life-size skull and Ben, his gerbil who, he told them, was a rat who came over on the ship from the old country.  Finally, he prepared them for Borris Karloff in Frankenstein.  By the time he was done setting the mood, even the older kids were ready for a black and white movie.  He set the jack-o-lantern on the shelf above the TV and started the creature feature.

The second feature was a full-color homage to the monster films to which his palace was dedicated, Fred Dekker’s The Monster Squad.  Ten minutes into it, the kids were so hooked on monsters that he felt he could leave them entranced for a while.  He put Jamie Barton in charge, told his Mom to look in on them, and stepped outside into the damp, breezy night with Melanie.

Through filling the kids with the spirit of Halloween, he felt satisfied and happy.  As he stepped onto the sidewalk with this girl he had met only hours before, he felt impossibly comfortable with her.  Halloween was a night when the impossible, the strange, and the supernatural, aspects of humanity the civilized human ignores the rest of the year, were remembered and celebrated in all their mystery.  They had walked more than a block in silence.  Now they reached the vacant corner of Marlborough and Exiter, and a cold gust swirled dead leaves around them.

Melanie spoke up first.  “You were fun with those kids.  You really have a way with them.”

“That’s because,” he said, “I wish I were one of them.”

She though for a few seconds.  “Then you wouldn’t be out here with me.” They kept walking in the crosswind, both suddenly afraid again.

“I wish I had worn a costume, but I don’t know,” she stuttered, “I-I’m, you know, shy sometimes and…”

They stopped and more leaves blew past.  Jeff looked at the full moon and said into the night, “You don’t need a costume, because you have beautiful brown eyes.”

It was a surprisingly easy thing to say.

Amy Grech

Amy Grech has sold over 100 stories to various anthologies and magazines including: Apex Magazine, Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled, Dead Harvest, Deadman’s Tome Campfire Tales Book Two, Expiration Date, Fright Mare, Needle Magazine, Real American Horror, Shrieks and Shivers from the Horror Zine, Space and Time Magazine, Tales from The Lake Vol. 3, and many others. New Pulp Press published her book of noir stories, Rage and Redemption in Alphabet City.

 

She is an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers who lives in Brooklyn. Visit her website: https://www.crimsonscreams.com/. Follow Amy on Twitter: https://twitter.com/amy_grech.

Fright Done Right: https://www.crimsonscreams.com/

Live Journal: https://amygrech.livejournal.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/amy_grech

Gingerbread

The house was just there one day.  Big porch, fancy carved decoration, like Victorian. It shone white, like sugar icing.

Grace wasn’t scared.  She went up and knocked on the door.  It opened, light spilled out, too bright, I shut my eyes.  Then there wasn’t any house, just a dusty alley.

Remembered just now, the house didn’t have any windows.

They said I never had a sister Grace.  I almost forgot her myself.  Grew up.

I can see the house out the window, down in the motel parking lot.  I’ll go knock.

The cash under this note is for Housekeeping.

Manuel Royal

Manuel has been published in online magazines (Longshot Island, Dialogual, Jersey Devil Press, etc.) and in some anthologies. He has also sold one short film script and an audio script.

Manuel Royal, like Tristram Shandy, was born with a broken nose. He will die. In between, he lives and writes in Atlanta, Georgia.

Kill Code

Androids aren’t supposed to commit suicide.

I scroll through security footage, trying to piece together what happened before Unit 291 threw itself from the roof. A shadow flickers, almost a glitch, but not quite. It walks in the wrong direction, falls on the wrong wall. Two silhouettes cast by one body, from one light.

Hitting pause, I see the shadow doesn’t stop. It lurches, disjointed, then peels itself from the wall. It turns toward me. It approaches the camera, moving from two dimensions to three. It smiles, then it disappears.

There’s a ghost in our machine world.

It’s getting closer.

 

Kevin Holton

Kevin Holton is a cyborg and fitness junkie from coastal New Jersey. He’s the author of At the Hands of Madness (Severed Press), as well as the forthcoming novels The Nightmare King (Siren’s Call Publications) and These Walls Don’t Talk, They Scream (HellBound Books). He also co-wrote the short film Human Report 85616, and his short work has appeared with Sci-Phi Journal, The Literary Hatchet, Radiant Crown Press, Pleiades, Rain Taxi, Mighty Quill Books, and Thunderdome Press, among others. He is also a blogger for The Bold Mom, a columnist for Helios Quarterly, and a Game Master at Escape the Puzzle, which basically makes him The Riddler.

 

You can find him at:

www.amazon.com/author/kevinholton

www.kevinholton.com

www.patreon.com/TheHoltoning

Party Killer

The walls reverberated to loud techno music, and dim lights made it hard to see beyond the shadows of dancers writhing like snakes in a pit. Flashing lights occasionally bathed the scene in alternating reds and blues, sliding over one shadow, darker than the rest. The masses shied away from the light unwilling to be seen. A low moan could be heard. Once in a while screams rang out followed by silence.

Every beat brought the masses further into a frenzied trance until they suddenly stopped. The music continued on, but they did not. Death became the ultimate party killer.

Kim Plasket

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

You can find Kim’s work on Amazon.

Serial Killers: It’s Always Easier In The Dark Part 3. Executing the Estate

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

It’s Always Easier in the Dark

By Aristo Couvaras

 

  1. Executing the Estate

 

I’m drawing yours out. Don’t ask me why, could it be it’s all becoming rather fun?

You don’t believe the boy, you believe the doctor, that suits me. Eventually the sun will sink, it always does.

And when it does it grows so deliciously dark. It’s always easier in the dark…

 

Mrs. Atteridge, or should that be the former Mrs. Atteridge she now pondered, walked in through the large cherry doors and was greeted by Edgar.

“Ah, Ma’am you’ve returned earlier than expected. Would you care for some Earl Gray?” he offered the fine china tray up to her. Her eyes said thank you, conveyed her gratefulness, but her curt attitude and recent grief held the words fast behind her teeth.

“Yes, Edgar I would”, she said as she took a cup from the decorative tray, “things went, well things went rather well today at the executor’s office, as well as could reasonably be expected, I suppose.”

“Allow me to extend my sympathies again ma’am, to both you and the young master. What has befallen this family, well it’s a travesty.”

She waved a gloved hand in his direction as if chasing away a bothersome fly, “oh come now, it’s terribly sad for us, agreed. But it’s no travesty Edgar. People die all the time. Alistair and I are just lucky my late husband had his affairs in order. We shan’t starve or lose the roof over our head, and you shan’t lose your employ, will you?”

“Well if you would be so charitable as to keep me on Ma’am. Shall I fetch you the day’s paper, it seems the late Mr. Atteridge was not the only victim on that night.”

Mrs. Atteridge had no time or interest in other victims of madmen and a society with a decaying moral compass – besides, her liaison with the executor had told here more than she cared to know about the other victims, “No, no, that’s quite alright Edgar. We’ve dwelled enough on death in this household I don’t believe it would be healthy for Alistair to hear more about it. Where is the boy? Has the doctor been in to see him today?”

“Indeed, he has ma’am. He came to us at noon and saw to the young master.”

“And what did he say?” the widow demanded.

“That the night terrors are not abnormal ma’am. On the contrary, they’re to be expected given the unfortunate circumstances. He explained to me that given there is no face on which to pin the trauma, no accused as of yet, that it is the natural progression the lad might fantasize and invent monsters of his own accord. He seemed to have a way with the boy, if I may say so, in fact, the young master confided in me that he might even take to sleeping in his own bed again come the evening.”

She told the butler to fetch her son for her. She didn’t tell him that she would dread sleeping on her own. Not that having the bed to herself was an altogether unique experience for her, her husband had often worked exceedingly late nights. But since his passing, well, since his passing Alistair wasn’t the only one whom felt as if he shared his bedroom with…well with something else.

“Mother you’ve returned” cheered Alistair, bounding down the stairs like he wasn’t supposed to. Mrs. Atteriedge didn’t have the strength to chide him that day, and drew her son in to her arms. She instructed Edgar to begin preparing their dinner and then brushed her son’s hair from his eyes.

While the boy told her about his day and the visit from the doctor she did her best not to tear up. Behind her tired eyes, where she held fast to those tears, were the thoughts she had been plagued with since her meeting with the executor.

How was she to tell the boy, even in the distant future, though a mother knows that all futures are only but around the corner, that his father had bequeathed unto him a lovely town house near the courts. A house she had never known he’d purchased. A house in which two women had been found so brutally butchered on the same night the boy’s father had been. So much for the nearby inn or the charitable bed of neighboring friends during the nights he worked late, she thought. He had been the one charitable with his bed.

If Alistair had trouble sleeping in their house where nothing of the sort had happened, how would he take to one day owning a house in which something very horrid had. Never mind the implications of why the two women in question where there in the first place, Mrs. Atteridge knew the reason, but she didn’t know if she’d ever know how to tell Alistair.

More so, her initial reaction to the news was to tell the executor to have the house immediately auctioned. If it were left in her name she may have burnt it to the ground herself and be damned with even calling upon any recompense from insurers. But, she had thought, and still did, when Alistair came of age and was told everything, would he forgive her for selling such an item as his father left unto him?

Perhaps when he was a man himself he’d want the blasted house sold in any case. Yet, that would have to be his decision to make. Hers was only whether and when to tell him.

 

You needn’t worry about telling the boy. Why I’ll arrange it so he can take it up with his father and his whores this very night! Just as soon as the moon hangs high and you snuff out your candles, all alone in your beds.

I’ll take you to them in the dark! It’s always easier in the dark…

 

Edgar’s quarters were affixed to the kitchen, an expansion added to the sprawling abode so that were Alistair ever to need anything in the lost hours between today and tomorrow, he would be able to raise himself from slumber and attend to the boy. His quarters were in fact designed to be nearest the kitchen, where much of his duties were seen to, but also below the young master’s own chamber’s.

In his bed, during the still of the evening, a sound from above brought Edgar immediately awake. Something crawled along the wood of the ceiling, across the floor of Alistair’s room. It was akin to an unskilled chef sliding his knife along a cutting board, dragging it rather. Then, whatever the cause of the disturbance was, it began tapping. Prodding a point as if hammering a nail.

More night terrors Edgar thought. Best to go check on the boy lest he disturb his mother. He knew that the lady needed some proper rest herself. Edgar fumbled besides his bedside for a candle and matches. There was a slight hiss and a flame puckered the night air before being set to the wick. The prodding paused, as if disturbed by the actions below as Edgar was disturbed by those above.

When Edgar reached the summit of the spiraling stairwell, candle held high, he pressed his ear to the boy’s door. The young master was mumbling and moaning in his sleep, his breath haggard. And yet, Edgar heard the child speak to him from the bottom of the very steps he had just climbed.

“There’s no need to check on me Edgar. I’m quite alright. Night terrors is all they are, they’re not real. You heard the doctor say so yourself.”

The butler felt as if he had suddenly swallowed a handful of frozen cubes, and they were lodged in his throat. His hackles rose and he knew he had to turn to confront the source of the stolen voice below. However, for fear of seeing something staring up at him, he froze. His jittery hand made the sign of the cross and he did so again when he slowly turned around. Looking over the balustrades he saw a section of the dark move behind a corner.

The voice that sounded like the boy’s but wasn’t really spoke again, in a whisper, “why don’t you put the candle out Edgar. It’s so terribly difficult for me to fall asleep with its constant flickering.”

Edgar didn’t wish to speak with the entity but took one step down and held the candle even higher. The voice that next lathered the looming shadows was not Alistair’s by any stretch, “Listen butler. My business is not with you. Though it may serve you to share their fate, them both found dead and you alive, why the finger will have to be pointed at you.” The voice giggled, as if it took great pleasure in the portrayed scenario.

Edgar took another step down. Then another, carefully measured. Then a third. Some animal growled at him menacingly from below. The butler reached a candelabrum affixed to the wall and began lighting the candles settled there. The growling grew. It behooved the butler not to imagine what teeth were bared that hid from the light, what cursed lips drew back in response to his actions, what wicked tongue spoke the language of such malevolence.

There was the sound of a blade grinding against the wall before the voice next spoke, “Will you stand guard all night then? And then the next? And the one after that? I was sooo close to the boy and then you come with that blasted waxen weapon of yours. I remind you butler, your death is not in my sights, but that can be adjusted, or, you can blow those flames out, pack your belongings and be far from here before the sun ever rises. You are little more to them and your former employer than paid help.”

Edgar took the chance to speak, “and then what will happen to the madam and the boy?”

“The same thing that will happen if you stay. Those candles will wane, or perhaps a night will come where your sleep is so deep you don’t awaken until after you hear their death cries.” Whatever blade the intruder held furrowed into the wall it hid behind.

Edgar made his way down the curve of the flight and lit the next wall fixture. He stood there until his legs tired, and there he sat. Whenever he thought sleep might grip him, he held the flame near his palm or enjoyed the pain of hot dripping wax, it was a safe pain.

After perhaps an hour of silence, the shadow below hissed with disdain and then spat, “very well.”

Edgar sat, waiting, watching, a reluctant sentry. No door opened or closed to tell him the stabbing speaker was gone, but the rising bumps on his flesh eventually smoothed, and the sweat on his brow grew cold instead of the hot sticky residue it had been. Whatever it was, he believed it had gone, somehow.

The butler rose and made his way cautiously back up the stairs to check on the boy. When he put his hand on the door knob, he cast his stare down the long hallway that lead to the master bedroom. The dwindling flame he held caressed so little of the purveying gloom with its light, and the door to the master bedroom was now an ebon maw.

 

Err on the side of caution butler. I have one hand in particular you would dearly not like to force. See to the boy then, take your flickering ward to him. Best grab him and make your way to his mother before I do. There are other places the shadows stretch and open doors you cannot see.

Doors that open in the dark. It’s always easier in the dark.

 

Mrs. Atteridge turned in her sleep, tossing about from her own nightmares. In them she saw Edgar protecting Alistair from some demonic vagabond. In a dark encompassing cloak, the stranger with ill-intent had a long blade protruding from one of his sleeves.

A cloud passed over the moon and drew a dark curtain over what silver rays filtered through the large windows in the lonely master bedroom. Mrs. Atterdige heard her husband whisper to her from underneath the bed, “My sweet. I know I don’t deserve it, but let me beg your forgiveness. Those other two women, I meant to tell you, I did.”

“Oh Clyde”, she mumbled and turned over in her sleep, one ear pressed against the downy mattress so that she could better hear the wanted apology emanating from under the bed. Her dead husband spoke, “perhaps words will never do me justice, so allow me one final kiss? Would you?” Even from beneath the bed her husband’s breath reeked, vapors of some distilled spirit wafted up through the mattress and the linen; it was strong liquor, not malt or barley…something like formaldehyde?

She murmured some response her heart formed that had no words. When a coarse tongue of hair licked the side of her face and flirted with her ear, she came to from her nightmare into one unimaginably worse.

Even in the dark she could make out some semblance of the unholy features that tongue dangled from. A long blade entered her side, piercing flesh and perforating organs. She cried with unexpected pain as the blade sunk in again and again and again. She heard footsteps charging down the corridor towards her bedroom door.

When Edgar opened the door, the candle he held cast its light dimly about the room. The creature atop of her withdrew immediately from the glow but in that instant, she caught a more revealing glimpse of the thing and she was glad to die.

In her sheets, now drenched in a pool of pouring blood, she managed to give her final order to the butler, “ALISTAIR!”

But a terrible voice that was not her husband or anyone’s husband, already said with a giggling seditious glee from outside the boy’s door at the start of the hallway, “too late. He’s coming with me.”

 

Aristo Couvaras

Aristo Couvaras is twenty-seven years old, of Greek descent (if the name doesn’t give that away) and who was born and raised in South Africa, where he still resides. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in both English Literature and Clinical Psychology, as well as a Bachelor of Law degree, both attained from the University of the Witwatersrand. He has an upcoming work titled The Natloer, set to appear in Things in the Well Publications latest anthology -Beneath the Waves- Tales from the Deep.Anyone wanting to contact Aristo can do so on twitter @AR1sto.

Trembling With Fear 04/08/2018

Submitting work for the first time is a huge, scary step. Trembling With Fear has received a number of stories from first-timers, some have been published, others have not quite made the grade but we have tried to give constructive feedback and this is something we will continue to do. We want to actively encourage writers who have not taken that first step to send us their work. Everybody has to start somewhere and what better place than here? It might take a number of attempts before that first publication appears – it’s the nature of the beast after all – but time spent honing and crafting is never wasted time. So, written something? Never sent anything out anywhere before? Take the plunge and send it to us. And whilst you’re here, read the other articles on the site, check out the author interviews, the book reviews, you’ll find a community of people who have all trod the same self-doubting path as yourself but have pushed on regardless. Join us.

We accept drabbles (100 words exactly, excluding the title), short flash stories 500-1500 words (we can be flexible though) and now serials (where instalment word lengths can range from drabble to short flash).

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

We’ve got a nice mix of authors this week in both names you’ll recognize from the site as well as a couple of new ones. Fun reads all around and hopefully these will help start your Sunday off right!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Murphy’s Toothache
I came to know Jim Murphy around the time his toothache first appeared. He seemed a rather simple man. Kept to himself, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though when it came to the toothache I’m certain his introversion was his biggest adversary. Each day, Murphy would stumble up the stairs to his apartment, let his cat out on his deck, and turn the television on. Then he’d go to the wicker bowl atop his refrigerator and fish out his favorite snack: a salted nut roll.

Then, one fateful day, this daily allowance of delight brought indescribable agony to Murphy when he bit down and a shockwave of pain seared through the left side of his face and nestled into the crook of his neck. After a few moments to recover, Murphy stumbled to his medicine cabinet, plucked out a bottle, and ingested 800 mg of anti-inflammatory medication. Then he laid down on his couch. He turned off the evening news and tried to sleep. Nobody’s pain mattered more than his, anyhow.

 

#

 

Murphy called his dentist’s office the next morning.

“I waj’ in about a week ago, an’ I ha’a caffidy fiw’d, an’…”

Though she’d been rather patient with his idiot speak, it was clear the assistant had no choice but to interrupt.

“Who was the doctor you’d seen previously?”

“Dockher Fweisch.”

“Dr. Feist?”

“Yesch.”

“I’m afraid I can’t get you in with Dr. Feist until tomorrow afternoon. Will that work?”

Murphy caved as usual and accepted. Then he hung up the phone and walked through his kitchen. He dropped five anti-inflammatory pills into his palm and took the dosage without concern. He stayed in the kitchen and rummaged for toothpicks, finding them spilled out in the back corner of his silverware drawer. With his typical hesitation, Murphy slid one between his pursed lips and poked at the irritation. The sharp needling brought, as he’d hoped, instant relief. He moaned while picking in reckless ecstasy, savoring the taste of blood with a strange gleam of fascination in his eyes.

 

#

 

Murphy returned home from the dentist’s office, his only prescription being to ice his mouth and take more anti-inflammatory. Grumbling, he walked to the hidden cupboard next to the stovetop fan and opened it, retrieving a bottle of cinnamon whiskey. He took one pull, grimaced, and added another before settling in on his couch. He sat with his hands on his knees and waited, counting the seconds for the liquor to take effect.

Before long, he beat his fist into the soft cushion of the couch. He spat out something unintelligible. Then he heaved an unbecoming sob and stood to retrieve a steak knife from the kitchen. Upon finding it, Murphy slid a finger inside the nearby whiskey bottle, gathered some of the liquor, and dabbed his gums.

Waiting hardly long enough for his mouth to numb, he set to sawing at the flesh just below the tooth. A tiny chunk fell loose into his mouth. He rolled it around with his tongue, then spit the pink gob out on the floor. He put a hand to his jaw and reacted as if he’d felt something move beneath it. He knocked at his cheek, like one might at a stranger’s door.

An idea struck Murphy then. He stumbled to his bathroom and dug through the cupboard beneath the sink, finding his needle-nose pliers. He pivoted like a clumsy drunk and fell back on his toilet. He slid the pliers into his open maw and tapped each tooth until he found his antagonist. Spewing forth foul utterances, he tightened the grip on his tooth like a grim soldier. Then he yanked. All he got for it was a new kind of misery.

He ambled back into the kitchen and took another long pull from the whiskey, sputtering and making a miserable mess of himself. Then he reintroduced the pliers back to his mouth. He set the closed point just below the tooth and, with his free hand, he lifted the whiskey bottle and held it aloft, in line with the pliers handle. The first swing of the bottle was too hesitant. The second swing knocked Murphy clear unconscious.

 

#

 

Murphy emerged from his fog and pulled himself to his feet. Then he relocated his steak knife. He lurched into the bathroom, set the knife in the left corner of his lip, and sawed.

The skin cut quite easily in proportion to the pain. He bled heavily at first, though he was able to stave it off with a few minutes of tight compress. Soon enough, Murphy had more room to work. He reached beneath the sink once more for a small hammer and a flat-edge screwdriver. He placed the screwdriver in the tight groove between his molars, and knocked at the end of it with the hammer.

After nearly a minute of battling the onslaught, the tooth relented and cracked apart. There was no echo of death or delayed final ripple of pain; only the smell of blood and overworked metal. Murphy was free.

He spat out the few chunks of tooth into the sink and looked upon them with a strange mercy. While in his mouth, the tooth had been a pillar of mighty and destructive pain. There, in his sink, the fragments of rotted, yellow bone were so broken and small that they ought to have reminded him of someone he knew.

 

#

 

Some have asked how I know so much about a man I was acquainted with for such little time. Here’s what I tell them: One can get to know a lot about someone by living in the soft tissue of his brain. Right in the limbic system, where fear and anxiety live to torment until death do they part.

Yes, Murphy was the type who wouldn’t normally harm an insect. Yet sometimes, even the most righteous falls short. And the day Murphy poisoned my family for settling in his apartment was the day he sealed his fate. An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, as they say.

And so, if you wish to find me, that’s where I’ll be—the fat, wriggling bug inside Jim Murphy’s brain.

Erik Bergstrom

Erik Bergstrom lives in Minneapolis, MN. Most recently, he was published in Horror Bites magazine, and his latest story was published as a finalist in the STORGY: Exit Earth anthology competition.

Website: http://www.erikbergstrom.net

Bogeyman

I’ve been forgotten.

Once, I was great and terrible. The eye to all of little Sarah’s storming fears. I would scratch my finger against the floorboards, or chuckle in my dark way, and she would cower under the covers. And if ever I reared up to reveal my horrible self, she would scream.

But Sarah no longer screams. She has grown accustomed to staying quiet, and I’ve since withered, left to the dusty dark beneath her mattress.

Because she no longer fears what’s under her bed; she fears the bedroom door. She fears when it will open.

She fears him.

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.

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

Disease #1

When Tony’s hair began falling, he wasn’t overly worried. Happens to all. Saves on shampoo and hairdresser’s, he liked to joke. It was when it fell in great clumps, he stopped joking. Within weeks, he was bald.
A wig took care of his hair problem, but not the tooth problem. Five dropped in only two months. I’ll eat soup, he would joke. When he lost them all, he stopped joking about that.
The doctors couldn’t find anything wrong. You’re just unlucky, they said.
It was when his eyes popped out he wondered about the nuclear power plant recently closed down.

Justin Boote

Justin Boote is an English ex-pat in Barcelona, Spain for over 20 years, working as a stressed waiter in a busy centrical restaurant, which does at least provide ideas for stories!

All my stories are horror/suspense/supernatural based, trying to combine the influences of King/Barker and James Herbert. To date I have several stories in various publications, and  contribute regularly to Deadlights magazine, a wonderful e-zine and paperback publisher.

When not thinking of disturbing ways to avenge nasty clients at work, or writing, you can find me asleep, or at [email protected].

Headphones

I hear beautiful music through my headphones. Everything from violin symphonies to new songs strummed on acoustic guitars. The sound wraps around me and lifts me up as I sit and smile and hum to myself. Voices speak to me through the headphones too. Lyrical, plaintive words echoing in my ears. Shrill, fast-talking cadences, flowing in time with the beat. Sometimes the melody is soft. Sometimes it’s creepy, but I kinda like weird stuff.

Although, to tell the truth, the music’s style isn’t the creepy part. The creepy part is that my headphones aren’t even plugged in to anything.

Jennifer McCollom

Jennifer McCollom has been telling stories ever since she was a little kid running around pretending to be a jungle girl. She graduated from Southern Illinois University with a B.A. in English and has had her work published in Whatever Our Souls and Autumn Harvest Anthology. When she’s not writing novels, she occasionally posts poetry and stories on her blog nodtothemoon.wordpress.com.

Serial Killers: It’s Always Easier In The Dark Part 2. Sorting Affairs

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

It’s Always Easier in the Dark

By Aristo Couvaras

 

  1. Sorting Affairs

 

How long will you wait? I see the flicker of the flame. Wont you just blow it out?

So that it’s dark. It’s always easier in the dark…

 

Ambra glanced towards the wick burning in the lamp. The dipped fuse didn’t have much left. She closed her book and set it down besides the lamp.

In bed besides her, Priscilla began to get prissy, “Oh! Where is he? How long does that man expect us to wait for him while he sits over his papers and documents?”

“Would you hush” Ambra barked, “Do you ever think that maybe his wife called upon him, or went down to the firm or the court house herself to see him?”

“Well then, why doesn’t he just bring her to join us?”

Ambra got out of the bed and began sifting through the clothes in the cabinet, careful to put on the same ones she had left in there earlier, “I don’t know why it matters to you Priscilla. We’re not whores, we don’t get paid per the act.”

“Well,” the younger women goaded, “I’m the only one that’s not. I have no wife who might call on me and no husband to slink back to in the dead of night…oh, but don’t worry, I know I’m not as fancy as you, what with your books. Besides when it comes to whores, he only paid for one of us to be here.”

“Yes, coming by sea isn’t nearly as illustrious as being bumped into in the countryside. Tell me Priscilla did he even offer you a thing before you let him bump himself into you? No, you were just a ditsy girl who was a tight fit, and now finds herself under a roof that isn’t made of hay or shared with animals.”

“Oh, just sod off back to your wop husband then and tell him you couldn’t settle his cuckold account, so you’re all going to have to spare that one olive you have left.”

Ambra, half-dressed turned around and flung her book at the upstart.

“Don’t you dare mention my family again you little cunt. You don’t know what we’ve come from and what we’ve had to do to stay here. And before you start thinking of yourself as his mistress rather than some strumpet, why don’t you take off those earrings you keep on for him. In fact, you lucky I don’t tear them from your milky little ears for my children.”

At this Priscilla rose from bed, and reached for one of her shoes on the floor.

“Chuck that at me”, Ambra threatened, “and see that I don’t throw this lamp at your pretty little face. Whether it burns you or this whole house down, he’ll never say a thing, and you can go back to finding a new ponce…provided you don’t burn too bad.” She smiled at her younger counterpart devilishly, her hand itching, inches away from the lamp.

 

Do it, but don’t do it. Put the light out but don’t burn her and this place down. You’ll spoil everything for me. I want you both to myself. Just like he did.

But in the dark. It’s always easier in the dark…

 

Priscilla dropped the shoe to the floor. The heel tapped against the wood with the sound of retreat. Then, from downstairs in the foyer they heard another heel tapping. Left, right, left. Her milky cherub’s face lit up, “Finally he’s here!”

Ambra watched her, still undressed save for pricey earrings, parade herself towards the bedroom door. The older of the two had heard those familiar steps too, but, she hadn’t heard the front door opening, nor closing. Despite her disdain for her partnered concubine, the maternal side of her wanted to grip the other’s mousy hair and hold her in the room.

She whispered with clenched teeth, “Priscilla. Wait! Did you hear the front door opening? Closing?”

Hair like hay sifted side to side as Priscilla shook her head, “So? What does that matter in any case? He’s the only other person who has a key, and only the three of us know this address. Here I thought your fancy books made you smart.” She flashed an impertinent smile towards Ambra in the sputtering light.

“Well, why hasn’t he called out to us? Or come straight up here?”

Peach lips made themselves into a wicked grin, “maybe he wants to play a game. A little late-night hiders and seekers.”

Ambra pulled her head to the side as Priscilla made to plant a kiss on her lips. At the bottom of the stairwell, the first step creaked under the pressure of a foot. Ambra thought, he always misses that step. The squeaking one, he hates the sound it makes. But Priscilla had taken off, she plunged headfirst and bare-bottomed through the door and down the dark towards their shared ‘investor’.

Ambra listened to him call out to his nubile welcoming party of one, “there you are my sweet. Dressed accordingly too, I see.” But, Ambra thought, how could he see in the pitch black? She listened as Priscilla hastily trotted down the stairs, the pads of her feet touching down on each step softly.   

Her trill voice came up to Amber’s ears, “finally, we’ve been waiting all night for you!”

“My sweet! And you’re even wearing the earrings I so adore, come here let me kiss your lobes.”

Then Ambra heard Priscilla’s scream. And that scream stretched into a shriek. She heard the sound of a slim body hitting the stairs, slipping as she hastily turned, a yelp of shocked pain, naked limbs clambering to climb back to the safety of the sparsely lit bedroom. Then she heard a thump like a boot to a face, Ambra knew that sound all too well, then the tumbling of Priscilla’s body rolling down to the foyer floor.

The voice that slithered through the darkness was no longer one Ambra recognized and she instinctively gripped the lantern, holding the hot glass close to her bare chest. “What’s wrong my sweet? Do you not fawn for my kisses any longer?” She heard Priscilla howl at the intruder, and howl to her, to anybody for help, but the stranger was not dissuaded in the least, “is my tongue not to your liking this night? Well, what about my touch?”

Ambra heard steel plunge into warm, young flesh. Again, and again and again – in the unseen darkness, pale, creamy skin had been painted over, and tainted with death. She thought not of aiding Priscilla, only surviving this ordeal for her children. She dared not put the lamp down but hurriedly searched for the bedroom key.

Cries of murder still stampeded upwards from down below, and between each desperate plea there was the rapid sound of stabbing and flaying.

She found the key and panicking, locked the door. But that wasn’t enough, she had to find a place to hide. Under the bed? Behind the curtains? In the cupboard? Ambra opened it up and crawled inside, her knees up to her ears as she hunched and balled herself up to fit in her makeshift sanctuary.

She closed the cupboard door but there was still one thing left to do, she lifted the lid of the lantern and blew the gutted flame out.

 

Ah! There it is! The light is out. How I would have preferred to enjoy you both together as he did, but alas, only the one of you was eager to run into my arms. She changed her tune ever so quickly though. Not to worry, I shan’t have to wait for the next. And neither will you.

Not now that it’s dark. It’s always easier in the dark…

 

Ambra pressed her ears to tell her more. The stabbing symphony had ended, but from within the cupboard and behind the closed bedroom door, she couldn’t be sure. Priscilla’s screaming had certainly stopped, the poor thing. Still, she persisted, listening for the creaking stair, for the borrowed steps and the stolen voice.

Nothing.

She clutched at the still warm glass. As soon as she heard the bedroom door open she would prepare to thrust and smash the lantern into her would be attacker’s face. Only the door never opened.

She heard not a sound but her own pulsating heart that she was sure telegraphed her position. And her bated breath which she couldn’t catch and hold, she tried only breathing through her mouth but was agonizingly aware of each draw and release of air.

When the voice whispered from directly behind her, hot and cloying on her ears, smelling like an open grave, Ambra let out her own howl. Her back had been against the cupboard wall, there was no space for anyone to be there, behind her.

“You didn’t think I would forget you, did you? His ripe olive. Why don’t you come with me? I’ll take you to him, the others will join us soon.”

A blade punctured the nape of her neck and grew from her throat. Her screams turned into gargled drowning sputtering’s before they ever left her.

The dreadful voice whispered, “silly me, can’t seem to keep my hand to myself tonight. Oh, and thank you for putting out that horrendous light, my eyes are rather sensitive.”

 

Aristo Couvaras

Aristo Couvaras is twenty-seven years old, of Greek descent (if the name doesn’t give that away) and who was born and raised in South Africa, where he still resides. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in both English Literature and Clinical Psychology, as well as a Bachelor of Law degree, both attained from the University of the Witwatersrand. He has an upcoming work titled The Natloer, set to appear in Things in the Well Publications latest anthology -Beneath the Waves- Tales from the Deep.Anyone wanting to contact Aristo can do so on twitter @AR1sto.

Trembling With Fear 04/01/2018

Easter is here, a tad early for my tastes as I associate it with the beginning of warmer days and bluer skies whilst currently the UK has yet to shake off its pretty horrible run of cold weather and general greyness … and don’t mention the snow … it’s supposed to be coming back. But for all that, it is still a time for a break, to be with your family AND to gift yourself some concentrated writing time. When out and about with your nearest and dearest, use those days in the countryside gazing at lambs gambolling down the hillside to inspire new storylines – how about a demented shepherd (note, I’ve never actually read a story with such a character, I think it would be interesting … hint, hint). Think of all those things you could do with fluffy bunnies or create your own recipe for a crème egg filling. Create horror from the cute and the traditional, sharpen your knives on Spring’s whetting stone and send us your results. Mint sauce, anyone?

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Happy Easter And April Fool’s Day!

To celebrate, we’re not doing anything for either! Basically, we didn’t do a push for stories that would include either of these two holidays so there is nothing special to include. Sorry! Both would have been prime candidates for fun to have. Maybe next year!

‘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

Big Bang Bobby

I met Bobby in the basement of the empty house on Wilten Street, where the police don’t look because the whole neighborhood has been abandoned—by God, at least, if not by the government. It wasn’t bright down there, in a same-but-different way from how he’s not bright. We almost didn’t see each other. He said I’m a glowing thing in a light world, and he was a shadowy thing in a dark one.

There were lots of shadows in the basement, but shadows are just not-light. He’s un-light. Bobby is a darkness so complete that if you look into his heart, you see stars.

We only met because my stomach growled. I’d curled up under a broken window, letting the cool breeze rock me to sleep, when my emptiness announced my presence

“Who’s there?” The voice had no substance—just an echo, infinite and hollow.

“I’m Alex… Are you Death?” Death came for my parents years ago. I’d been waiting.

“No. I’m Bobby.”

A shadow darker than any other peeled itself from the wall, stepping toward me. He smiled. I think I did too.

Bobby seemed okay. Just okay. When he didn’t want to be seen, he pretended to be my shadow, and when I didn’t want to be seen, he did something to people so they couldn’t see me. They’d get this glassy look, space out, look right through me and the whole world until they didn’t see anything. We used this trick to stay happy. Trick is, I was hungry. He was angry. So, so angry. I’d sneak a hot dog from a cart, or shove a pack of waffles under my jacket. He didn’t eat my waffles, though. We’d have fought if he did. No, he fed on… something else.

I don’t pretend to know what he ate, but every time he disappeared, and somebody got that spacey look on their face, he came back less angry. He came back sleepy and sated, like me after a big meal, while the person he’d possessed turned to scream at a cashier over expired coupons, or spank a child who just wanted to stop and look at some toys.

This made me feel bad, but not enough to stop him. For all I knew, they were fine again soon. I told myself it was temporary, the same way he’d calm for a little while, then the dark of his body would bubble like boiling ink and we’d set out into the world to find a new target.

Once, I hung around a bookstore where some science guy was giving a guest reading from his book. He said everything in the whole universe comes from The Big Bang, and that we’re all made from the scraps of exploded stars. I think Bobby is still burning.

We kept this up, me and Bobby, for weeks. A few months have gone by, but I keep getting hungry, and he keeps getting angry. There’s too much in him, and not enough in me, and there’s an ache in my chest for all the people I’ve seen screamed at after he gets involved.

The after effects started getting worse, too. One time, a mom turned right around and slapped her kid in the face when he asked if they could have chicken nuggets for dinner. Called him “a filthy little brat.” A food truck owner got so mad he punched his own grill, burning his hand. A priest wound up on the news later for killing one of his church members.

Anger might be temporary, but death sure isn’t. All this comes from just a few seconds with Bobby inside them. He only had the priest for five. Five seconds. Then someone died.

I’m looking up at Bobby now, and he’s looking down.

“What’s wrong?” His words never really seem to end, like each word lasts forever.

“I’m cold.” A little true, at least. My fingers are turning blue. “There’s no heat.”

He shrugs. He doesn’t feel cold. Only rage.

A week back, I stole an old woman’s phone. Had to. Needed the way to call other people. Tonight, I only have one call to make. I punch in 9-1-1.

“There’s a crazy guy. Kid, I think. He’s got a gun. 154 Wilten Street.” That’s all I need to say. Then I hang up.

“That’s where we are.” Bobby looks sad. Maybe for both of us.

“Yeah. I think… I think we should… That you should do, you know, that thing you do. To me. I’m not sure how to say it.” There’s a lot to say that neither of us can. He stares at me, unending, all the universe and all its stars within him, burning away. We both know this is it. He’s got everything within him, and I’ve been empty for years.

This is the only time I’ve seen him hesitate.

I insist.

Kevin Holton

Kevin Holton is a cyborg and fitness junkie from coastal New Jersey. He’s the author of At the Hands of Madness (Severed Press), as well as the forthcoming novels The Nightmare King (Siren’s Call Publications) and These Walls Don’t Talk, They Scream (HellBound Books). He also co-wrote the short film Human Report 85616, and his short work has appeared with Sci-Phi Journal, The Literary Hatchet, Radiant Crown Press, Pleiades, Rain Taxi, Mighty Quill Books, and Thunderdome Press, among others. He is also a blogger for The Bold Mom, a columnist for Helios Quarterly, and a Game Master at Escape the Puzzle, which basically makes him The Riddler.

Links:

www.amazon.com/author/kevinholton

www.kevinholton.com

www.patreon.com/TheHoltoning

Blood Donor

It was shady, but he needed the money. A back street clinic. One liter of blood for $500. The elderly were clamoring for this latest age-defying treatment. Young blood injected into old veins. He could do it weekly, make a pile of money. Pay his debts.
He arrived at the clinic and gave the required code word. They strapped him down. He eyed the large plastic bag beside him.
“Seems too big for just a liter.”
“I guess you believed the lie, otherwise, you wouldn’t be here,” smiled the Doctor. “I’m sorry, it’s just too profitable. We take it all.”

RJ Meldrum

R. J. Meldrum is an author and academic. Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010 with his wife Sally. His interest in the supernatural is a lifetime obsession and when he isn’t writing ghost stories, he’s busy scouring the shelves of antique book-sellers to increase his collection of rare and vintage supernatural books. During the winter months, he trains and races his own team of sled dogs.

He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Digital Fiction and James Ward Kirk Fiction.

You can find out more about RJ at his homepage.

Tailor Made

Jared laid out his tools: needle, thread, silver stork-handled scissors, a thimble, a length of virgin white silk- intended for a wedding dress. As Jared sewed up the hem and arm holes, he knew no bride would wear it.
Upstairs he heard Eliza coughing. He must earn coin. The tailor worked through the night till his hands shook.
At dawn the black coach pulled up outside.

“Is it completed?”

Jared smelt the man’s arrogance; his hunger. Inside the carriage a woman lolled, bound and gagged. Jared handed over her shroud.

The fifth he’d stitched that year of our lord 1892.

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

The Tale Of Fear Itself

He was the bump in the night; the thing under the bed. Now he was dead and being slowly pulled down a worn path. His face still frozen in absolute horror. Fear itself had been conquered. The others cringed and scurried away. An evil aura of the thing permeated the air. The only sound made was that of a dead husk being dragged to oblivion. The thing stopped in front of an old stone pile. Effortlessly, the shape placed the boogeyman’s body on the altar. Dark flames consumed the sacrifice.

Arthur Unk

Arthur Unk lives in the United States with his wife, son, and dog Chuzzle. He spends his days writing and playing video games. His primary influences include H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, R.A. Salvatore, and his grandfather. He is also a voracious writer and reader of all types of flash fiction.

Website – arthurunk.com

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