Trembling With Fear 02/17/2019

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Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

This week, Steph is out with The Plague (see: Flu!) so I’m having to step(h) things up a bit. Thankfully, I’m fully rested and caught up from being on vacation from last week! (Or… Close enough!) But to keep that way, I’ll be making sure to wear protective gear when I read her next e-mail since you never know how virus’s spread these days…

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This week we’re starting off with a bit of science fiction by Keith A. Raymond,MD that lets you know that there are consequences to all of our actions. However, the right gamble can pay big if you’re willing to take a chance. I’m loving when I see other genres outside of pure horror filtering into our weekly release!

Heading over to our drabbles we have Zoey Xolton sharing how fatal our desires can be and what giving into them can mean.

Next up, Madison McSweeney shares that sometimes things just aren’t what they appear to be.

Finally, Lionel Ray Green has delivered a story about the showing off what one has accomplished in a year. For some reason, this one has stuck with me since the first read.

I apologize for not going quite as in-depth on these as Steph does. To be totally honest, I am still catching up from last week and to say that I’m behind is an understatement. I hope you all have a fantastic weekend and week ahead! Crush those writing goals and maybe even send some new drabble in our way. I’d be thrilled to see some darker science fiction or fantasy hit our inbox if creativity allows for it!

‘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

Casino

Casino was an entire planet dedicated to gambling. Cruise ships plied the seas, steamboats paddled the rivers, and each city was a monument to a different era related to games of chance. One could spend the day in the desert heat of Las Vegas then the cool nights in Macao. Neva owned it all. To understand her wealth one must know her upbringing in poverty.

A sensor array rose on its stalk and pointed toward the squalling. The discarded robo-nanny rose from the junk pile alert. Rubber treads rolled over rubble to a recess in the debris. The squalling was coming from a baby girl.

The child was bright red and flailing on a canvas of blue gray mottled skin, her dead mother. A scan revealed bacteria leaching the last sugars from her cells. The robo-nanny placed a micro-probe into the mother’s milk glands sampling. The child fortunately had been protected. The robo-nanny used the mother’s analysis to synthesize milk for the child, carrying it back to the other discarded bots of her clan.

The mech servants had been abandoned here on Nix 5.

Neva suckled happily at the synthetic nipple the robo-nanny made. Per protocol, it presented the infant to the Magistrate, but local social services were already overwhelmed. Slavers would have forced her into the mines in any case.

The robo-nanny raised Neva in the metal dump with her clan. Redundant butlers taught her dance and etiquette, tutors taught her through college level education, her nanny taught her everything else. Neva was a tomboy. As a teen, she explored further and further from the metal dump.

On a bright day, Neva came upon an abandoned mine. Her green and purple cropped hair barely vibrated in the breeze. Her hazel eyes spotted discarded tailings of vurtzdaleite. She picked up two chunks of the mineral and banged them together. This, the hardest of all substances in the galaxy, was so brittle that several shards broke off.

Hypnotized by a centimander, she failed to notice her hands were slippery and wet. Absentmindedly, she had been playing with the chips. They were cutting her hands without her realizing it. Wiping the blood on her dress, she took her gum and used it to collect the vurtzdaleite.

An hour later, she showed her friend Caleb the shards. He was not impressed, and continued the tattoo he was placing on the back of a miner. The vibrating tool gave her an idea. Borrowing one of the tattoo machines, Neva disconnected the ink, and used her gum to affix a vurtzdaleite chip to the business end of the device. Turning it on, she found she could use it to cut anything she wanted.

Back home, the robo-nanny scolded Neva for the state of her hands. It washed them, sealed the cuts, and applied antibiotic. All the while, the teenager’s eyes roamed the shelter taking in the windows the butlers had assembled for their enclave.

“What are they made of?” Neva asked.

The robo-nanny admonished, “Be specific, what is what made of?”

“The windows.”

“Oh! Those are made from sheet diamond. Cheap, plentiful, and not much use for anything except windows here. There are some pieces of it laying around, look,” the robo-nanny answered, finishing the dressings on her hands.

“Can I take a piece? The sheet diamond, not the window,” Neva remembered, being specific, per instruction.

“Sure, just be careful.”

Neva picked up a piece of sheet diamond from a corner and went to her room. Sitting on the bed, she plucked a rough oblong emerald geode she had found previously from a shelf. Examining it closely, she laid it on her salvaged desk, pulled out her vurtzdaleite modified tattoo machine and went to work on the diamond glass.

Several hours later, she had constructed an emerald fish with diamond scales. The eyes were made from garnet, though she would have preferred rubies. Proudly, she showed it to the robo-nanny whose hollow praise, Neva could see right through.

The next day, she showed it to Caleb. He looked at it in disgust, but being young, he mashed on the point, “Junk made from junk by a junkie.”

Her face went beet red, then pale. She was grabbing for it, when one of Caleb’s customers said, “Hey, wait. Let me see that! Can I take a picture?”

Neva was still ripping the skin from Caleb’s bones with her eyes when she uttered, “Sure, whatever.”

 The customer uploaded the emerald fish onto his social media. The transmission was intercepted by the Hoarder, a wealthy trader who happened to be in orbit above Nix 5. Interest was so great, the Hoarder had to acquire it and insisted on adding the fish to his upcoming auction.

Neva stood in awe as the luxurious shuttle descended into the metal dump. The mechs had never seen a yacht of such quality. The Hoarder arrived like royalty in a fur lined gold mantle.

He walked directly up to Neva offering a vast amount of credits.

“Be specific,” she mimicked her robo-nanny.

 Neva realized that she had created an art treasure. The Hoarder offered an astronomical amount. In the end, Neva refused to sell. Instead, she preferred to consign the art to auction. The Hoarder, upset, agreed to accept the consignment.

The bidding became the stuff of legends. In the end, the House of Salman paid her with a planet, along with a sum of credits. Neva was suddenly the wealthiest eighteen year old in the quadrant.

Taking her obsolete robot servants, she built Casino. She left Caleb behind. He hadn’t known it at the time, but his comment had cost him a life of luxury.

Casino became the gambling hub of known space. All of Neva’s service mechs were collected and refurbished as a dedication to her nanny, the butlers, and the tutors who raised her on Nix 5.

Keith A. Raymond,MD

Dr. Raymond is a Family and Emergency Physician that practiced in eight countries in four languages. Currently living in Austria with a wife and a polar bear our husky brought home. When not volunteering his practice skills with refugees, he is writing or lecturing. He has multiple medical citations, and also published stories and poetry in Flash Fiction Magazine, The Grief Diaries, The Examined Life Journal, The Satirist, Chicago Literati, Serendipity, and Frontier Tales Magazine.

Fatal Desire

The fires burned strong and bright in the Pits of Hell, gorging on the pain and suffering of some of humanity’s wealthiest and most influential individuals. They had named their price and sold their souls. The Devil smirked. Their requests were always the same. Their predictability almost bored him into oblivion. They lusted after the flesh or the clink of gold. Other times it was power. Thrones. Kingdoms. Nations. But it was always greed. Humanity’s one fatal flaw was greed. They had still not yet learned and so continued to arrive at his fiery Gates. Eve had been the first.

Zoey Xolton

Zoey Xolton is a published Australian writer of Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Romance and Horror. She is also a proud mother of two and is married to her soul mate. Outside of her family, writing is her greatest passion. She is especially fond of short fiction and is working on releasing her own collections in future. To find out more, please visit: www.zoeyxolton.com!

The Vanishing Lady 

The lady was a disappearing act, vanishing at odd hours and slinking back home without so much as a lie. The husband was meek, the type who could screw himself up enough to put a tail on his wife, but never confront her.

I parked outside streetlamp range and waited, camera lens trained on her house.

She arrived home in style, whisked through the sky in a silver rig that would’ve blotted out the sun at a different time of day. I admired her shapely legs in silhouette as she slid into her kitchen along a beam of white light.

 

Madison McSweeney

Madison McSweeney is a Canadian writer, poet, and blogger.

Her horror, sci-fi, and fantasy stories have appeared in Unnerving Magazine, Women in Horror Annual 2, The Fulcrum, Horror Tree, 365 Tomorrows, and Dark Horizons: An Anthology of Dark Science Fiction. She also has stories set to appear in Weirdpunk Books’s upcoming Zombie Punks F*** Off and forthcoming issues of Polar Borealis and Deadman’s Tome.

Her non-fiction arts and culture coverage has been published in a number of outlets. She blogs at madisonmcsweeney.com and tweets (mostly about horror, rock music, and the Canadian arts scene) from @MMcSw13.  

Edgar’s New Year’s Eve Bash

Edgar adjusted his black tie and stepped into the dining room.

A banner hung from the ceiling.

18TH ANNUAL NEW YEAR’S EVE BASH!

On the table, a chocolate sheet cake with seventy-two candles provided the only light.

Edgar glanced at the six guests sitting motionless around the table, their cadaverous faces nearly invisible in the flickering shadows.

“Last year, twelve attended the party,” Edgar said.

The jawbone of one of the guests dropped to the table and clattered to the floor.

Edgar’s left eye twitched once.

“There’s always next year,” Edgar said before adding six more candles to the cake.

Lionel Ray Green

Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. His short stories have appeared in the anthologies Alabama’s Emerging Writers, The Heart of a Devil, Fifty Flashes, How Beer Saved the World 2, Graveyard, Frightening, Tales from the Grave, In Creeps the Night, and 22 More Quick Shivers. His short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition All Hallows’ Prose and his short story “A Tale of Two Shards” was third runner-up in the WriterWriter 2018 International Fantasy Competition Phoenix Rising. His work has also appeared in The Poet’s Haven Digest anthology It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, in Issue 1 of Cross+Decay magazine, and in the 2017 issue of From the Depths magazine as well as in Trembling With Fear, an online feature of the Horror Tree website.

Homepage: lionelraygreen.wordpress.com

Trembling With Fear 02/14/2019 – Love Isn’t In The Air!

Valentine’s Day. The ultimate Hallmark holiday which has taken over consumerism to allow us to show our love, lust, and obsessions over one another. Also a holiday created to possibly adopt and take over the pagan holiday Lupercalia. It’s that one on February 15th where an order of Roman priests would sacrifice a goat and dog, take their hides, drench them in the sacrificial blood, and take to the strips to lightly slap women and crop fields with them to increase fertility and harvest yields.

So that was a thing.

With the crazy shenanigans which gave birth to what is now a consumer-driven holiday in mind I’m sure you can expect some fun readings in the works below about love and loss.

Enjoy!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Dear Valentine (A Twisted Valentine’s Day Love Story)

Dear Valentine,

How could you?

When you suggested we try some role-playing for Valentine’s Day, I thought you’d taken it a little too far. I didn’t think you were into cosplay, and honestly, it’d never really turned me on. And then when you brought home that Roman Emperor costume a few days before the 14th, I began to reconsider. The more I thought about it, well—I just knew I’d get to play your concubine, and you’d make me do very naughty things that your wife would never do.

I agree our affair had gone a little stale; it wasn’t nearly as much fun as when we only had the odd afternoon to sneak into bed. But then your wife kicked you out and you moved in with me. It happened quickly, and the excitement dulled soon afterwards. I often wondered if you’d go back to your wife if—rather, when—we decided to call it quits.

But this—this was something new. When you said you’d had to special-order my costume, I was even more intrigued. Something special, you said. Something I’d remember for the rest of my life.

After you’d left the next morning, I had to take another look. I trailed my fingers over the metal breastplate, and imagined it cool and hard against my skin. Your toga was a deep purple silk, with gold embroidered wreathes dancing at its edges. I took it in my palms and drew it across my face. I inhaled, imagining the ecstasy of our clandestine Roman encounter. And the sword and sheath…it was heavy, like solid gold, in my hand. Carefully, I pulled the sword from its metal sheath and ran my thumb across its blade. I hoped you’d hold it up to my throat and force me to be subservient. I’d never imagined this type of thing…but now I simply couldn’t stop.

For two days, I peppered you with questions and asked how I should prepare. I guess I got a little sulky when you wouldn’t tell me, but I thought my lippy pout might encourage a hint from you…it certainly used to get your attention, in fact, you used to like it. You didn’t bite; instead, you became increasingly irritated with me. But I was determined to make our Valentine’s Day as naughty as possible, and I kept imagining how aroused you’d be once you saw me as your concubine.

On Valentine’s Day morning, my costume still hadn’t arrived. You kissed me and told me not to worry, that it was being delivered to your office that day.

I busied myself around the house all day, chilling champagne, putting fresh sheets on the bed, enjoying a luxurious sweet-smelling bath. I was ready to be conquered.

You walked in with a strange, excited smile. I ran to you and grabbed the gift-wrapped box from under your arm, giggling with nervous anticipation. Impatient now, I undid the ribbon and clawed apart the wrapping. I lifted the box top and pulled the tissue paper aside to discover only a white linen tunic and a rusty-red cloak. A pair of leather, fisherman-type sandals. A large, wooden crucifix on a jute cord. This wasn’t at all what I’d imagined—where were the silks, the slippers…the jewelry?

I know I must have looked disappointed as I tossed my costume to the floor. Well, I was a little irked…this wasn’t sexy at all! How did you expect I’d respond?

Trust me, you said. Put it on. We’re about to pretend today is the first Valentine’s Day ever…it’ll be exhilarating, I guarantee you. Now, I want this to be a surprise, you explained, so I’m going to dress in the bedroom, and you can use the bathroom to get ready.

I grudgingly picked up the tunic, the cloak, the sandals and the crucifix and slowly shuffled to the bath. This wasn’t at all what I expected. But I hoped we could still create a mood and save the evening.

First, I pulled the tunic over my head. It fit well but was rough against my naked chest; optimistically, I convinced myself I wouldn’t be wearing it very long. Surprisingly, the cloak was the right length, and the sandals were my size. Clearly, you’d put significant thought into this. As I slipped the crucifix over my head, I looked at my reflection in the mirror. What a strange juxtaposition this was, my ill-prepared whore’s makeup and these religious togs. I wondered if this was meant to be what St. Valentine actually looked like.

I exited the bathroom, a little unsure of what was to happen next. But when you saw me, you smiled that strange smile again, and drew me closer. Let me look at you, you said. Yes, you’re perfect. It’s perfect.

And you, of course, were magnificent. The metal breastplate, your toga, your belt and gold sheath—it was perfect. But still, I didn’t understand the meaning of our role-play.

I asked you, why St. Valentine? Why wasn’t I your concubine, like I’d imagined?

You held me close, then led me to a kitchen stool. Sit here and I’ll explain, you said, and I did as requested.

Let me tell you the story of St. Valentine, you continued. And you proceeded to explain the relationship between Emperor Caligula and St. Valentine, and how Caligula tortured the saint for his insistence on marrying young Christians in love. In the end, you added, after horrible beatings, Caligula finally decapitated St. Valentine.

I can only imagine the expression on my face upon receiving the history lesson. You didn’t seem surprised at my reaction, though. I sat, puzzled and rather terrified by the tale.

Why would you tell me such a gruesome story? I asked. I think it’s horrible. And besides, this is Valentine’s Day—a day for love and romance! Where’s the romance in this entire…charade?

You stood behind me, and whispered in my ear. Well, you said, that’s the funny thing; it is romantic, strangely enough…see, my wife and I have been seeing each other again…and we’re getting back together.

I suppose I will never forget this moment, I thought. And then I heard the metallic zing of your sword being pulled from its sheath.

 

 

 

Cat Kenwell

Cat Kenwell is a writer, mediator and adjudicator living with a brain injury. Her work has appeared in Brainstorm Revolution and Chicken Soup for the Soul, and she is a contributor to Trembling with Fear. She’s currently writing a ‘real-life-horror-story’ comedy based on her experiences with PTSD and post-concussion syndrome. www.catherinekenwell.com

Sinking Hearts

Rose sat on the grassy ledge of the river, legs dangling over the side, throwing conversation hearts one-by-one from the bag and into the water. Primarily the “Marry Me,” “Soulmate,” “4Ever” ones, but never the purple ones no matter what the phrase. She was too selfish in her love for that flavor to get rid of them, even for this cause. And it was a cause—you do have to be mad to throw away your favorite candy. Maybe the fish would enjoy a treat. She’d give them an even bigger treat if Josh wasn’t careful.

Watching each candy plunge to its depths as the river rolled swiftly by, she tilted her head back and let the cool, damp air surround her. Winter’s leftovers melted into mud and puddles in anticipation of an early spring, but her heart was having a hard time thawing out these days. She crunched a few candies with the back of her teeth, letting the sugar give her a rush.

Josh had been gone for two days. He was drinking again. Heavily. Their little two-bedroom home in the woods felt lonely with just her cat for company, but worst of all, she didn’t even know if he was alive or dead. Of course, if he was there with her and drunk, she might be sporting a black eye too, for something as little as asking him to bag up the trash. It was an ominous feeling that put walls around her heart. Once, she had hopes for their future—a wedding, a child, a bigger place with city water and not just the backwoods rainwater collection method that never really got her hair clean.

It was Valentine’s Day and where was her romance? At the bottom of the cesspool of life; at the bottom of the river like the candy. She was angry because in the days before Josh left, he had been fighting with her again too. Addicts liked to scream at their loved ones as their carnal needs would rise, and she knew it, but she hated feeling so inadequate. The dinner was just a little overcooked. His t-shirt wasn’t folded correctly. She smiled too much. His ire rose and with it her anxiety. But he was always right of course, it was always her fault. She rolled her eyes.

Lost in the flashbacks of her mind, it took her a minute to realize something was moving across the river and into the brush behind the forest. Easily could be a hunter or fisherman, but there wasn’t really anyone out doing those things yet. Plus, she saw flesh. That’s what made her do a double take. It was about thirty degrees and she was cold in her jeans, flannel, heavy sweater, and beanie, which was situated over her long, curly, brown hair. She had the sleeves of her flannel pulled over her hands, cradling the open candy bag in her lap.

Chalking it up to it being a crazy in the trees (one would have to be crazy to be partly naked in the woods in this temperature), and hoping they weren’t contemplating jumping into the high rising river, she grabbed the bag out of her lap with her fingers and stood up. As angry as she was, she needed to walk. It was a mile back and she’d take her time with her thoughts. She turned around, the flesh flashing right before her eyes before she could register, and she screamed.

“Shhh-shhhh,” said a red-haired woman, wearing just a cream, sheaf dress. It had a strap just over the left shoulder, so the right shoulder was completely bare, freckles and all. Her nipples protruded through the bodice so she must be cold, even if she didn’t act like it in any other way. “You must stop screaming, Imma not gonna hurt you, lovey. But come with me. Quickly.”

She looked down to see the woman was also barefoot, then glanced at her face again, searching for answers. She was frantically worried if she was mentally ill or high on some sort of substance. “Are you ok?” she finally asked her. “Aren’t your feet at least cold?”

“Imma feel nothing, dearest,” she said. “Imma used the natural world on ma feet and a chill in the air. Now cmon with me, I have something to show you. Imma Scarlet. I promise, you don’t have to be ah-fraid.”

Curiosity was getting the best of her, and she didn’t know what she really had to lose anymore, so she took her hand and followed along behind the half-dancing woman. “Life circles around and never begins but only defines and draws lines and then we dance,” said the woman. “Dancing is the best part.”

“Um—ok?” said Rose, looking confused but carrying on. “My name’s Rose. Nice to meet you, Scarlet”

“Oh I knows you Rose, lovey,” Scarlet said. “And what ta beautiful name tis, too.”

“Wh-hat?” Rose said. “How do you know my name?”

“Shhh-shhh, child,” Scarlet said. “We have more important things to discuss.” She started to pull Rose into a run. They ran down the side of the river, but at the shallow pass, Scarlet led Rose into the water with her, making them wade together across and into the forest. They continued to run; she pushed branch after branch away from her face with her free hand and was glad she had jeans on as a buffer against the dead mess of the forest. She had no idea how Scarlet was not being torn alive with bare legs and feet.

Finally, they came upon some sort of clearing, circular, and she could see candles and firelight flickering around her. Smoke like fog was dancing around the area making everything appear hazy, but she could see more flesh, more cream dresses and long hair, and arms waving in rhythmic movement. Light, soft chanting and a cadence-like drumbeat sounded, reverberating among the woodland amphitheater. Rose thought it was a scene out of one of her horror novels and stood in wonder at the display. Almost speechless, then verbally vomiting.

“Wh-what the hell is all this, Scarlet?” Rose said. “You ladies sure party different than us—back of pick-up truck, Bud Light, and Doritos, kicked back under the stars…or sometimes…”

“Shhhh-shhh,” Scarlet said. “Imma told you, I have things to show you and things to discuss. There won’t be none more of those lazy nights in the pick-up, make-up sex after he’s been missing on ya for days, kisses after he’s screamed bloody murder at ya for an hour. Enough is enough, and if ya don’t know what’s good for ya, we do.”

As they wound their way through the women congregated in groups and speaking in hushed tones and around those dancing to the beat, she saw they weren’t only dancing around a bonfire, but around a man upside down, naked and hog-tied with a gag in his mouth, being roasted over the main fire. His eyes were wide, hollow, and then all at once, alive and pleading as they locked on Rose.

She smiled over to Scarlet, then opened her conversation heart bag and ate them one by one. Every single one of them while she watched him burn.

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has twenty years of experience in the communication and marketing fields and is currently an author, writer, journalist, publicist, and an editor, primarily in the publishing industry, among many other things.

Breathe. Breathe., published by Unnerving in 2017, is her debut collection of dark poetry and short stories and was an Amazon best-selling paid title, debuting at #2 in Hot New Releases in Women’s Poetry and holding in the top ten of horror short stories. Her work has been called raw, honest, evocative, and beautiful by reviewers and readers alike. She has poems and stories featured in several other anthologies and magazines and was the co-curating editor for the gothic anthology Haunted are these Houses.

Born in England, America has now been her home most of her life, from where she continues to write from the forests of Ohio.

You can e-mail her at hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com and find her easily at her website Oh, for the Hook of a Book!, Amazon, or GoodReads. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter (@erinalmehairi), and Instagram.

Stupid Cupid

Kevin scratched the starfish-shaped diaper rash on his left buttock with the head of his arrow.

“I’ll show them,” he told his short bow, temerity tinting the tone of his voice like the tangerine-colored stain on his diaper.

Kevin sat on a rooftop across the street, spying on a man and a woman through their window.

His target was the man.

The woman was in love with him, and the two were about to have sex for the first time.

It would be Kevin’s arrow that would transform the “sex” into “making love” for the man.

This was Kevin’s first mission as a Cupid, and it was the easiest of all missions, because it was a Valentine’s Day mission.

No way he could screw up this one.

However, the childish, chunky cherub was churlish because administrators at the University of Eros delayed his graduation, forcing him to suffer the humiliation of attending remedial education classes, or what the other Cupids called Diaper Day School.

That was where he and his other classmates were dubbed Stupid Cupids.

 “I’ll show them,” Kevin grumbled again, now using the arrow to dislodge a chunk of something soft and yellow from his swollen belly button.

Is that cheese? Kevin wondered before taking a nibble.

Yep. It was Gouda. I love cheese.

Kevin noticed the couple was undressing.

“Damn it, Kevin, focus,” he chided himself.

Kevin adjusted his tiny white wings, nocked his arrow, and aimed at the man’s heart.

Steady.

Breathe.

Kevin fired the Cupid’s arrow.

The arrow, invisible to humans, flew through the window.

Kevin smiled, exposing his two front teeth, which made him appear like a weird-looking beaver.

“Bull’s eye, bitches,” he boasted to the breeze, but his comment was directed at the University hecklers who were not there to witness his success.

All Kevin had to do now was sit back and enjoy the show before filing his report.

“What the Hades?” Kevin frowned, his brow furrowed like an angry, although still weird-looking, beaver.

The woman was getting dressed and leaving in a huff.

What’s happening?

Kevin answered his own question when he noticed where the arrow hit.

It was sticking out of the man’s crotch.

Of course, neither human could see it.

“I’m sorry,” the man pleaded as the woman walked out the door. “This has never happened before.”

“Damn it,” Kevin mumbled. “Who knew Cupid’s arrow could melt more than just the heart?”

Kevin stayed on the rooftop and nibbled on Gouda for the rest of the night, wondering how in the world he would ever live this one down.

Lionel Ray Green

Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. His short stories have appeared in the anthologies Alabama’s Emerging Writers, The Heart of a Devil, Fifty Flashes, How Beer Saved the World 2, Graveyard, Frightening, Tales from the Grave, In Creeps the Night, and 22 More Quick Shivers. His short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition All Hallows’ Prose and his short story “A Tale of Two Shards” was third runner-up in the WriterWriter 2018 International Fantasy Competition Phoenix Rising. His work has also appeared in The Poet’s Haven Digest anthology It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, in Issue 1 of Cross+Decay magazine, and in the 2017 issue of From the Depths magazine as well as in Trembling With Fear, an online feature of the Horror Tree website.

LINK:

lionelraygreen.wordpress.com

XOXO

Always wash your hands. The most important rule of using public restrooms. She fumbled with the automatic faucets sensor. Scarlet matter swirled the drain with each ration of water. Valentine’s Day had gifted her with a surprise date, and here she was spending it in the bathroom. A clear indication it wasn’t going well.

The man in the handicapped stall appeared to be on his knees “worshipping” the porcelain throne. Because that’s how she had positioned his body. He should have never followed her in. Feeling a tad discouraged, she leaned against the tiled wall and huffed. No matter how hard she tried, she kept attracting the same kinds of men.

The kind that couldn’t fathom being hunted while they hunted. She chalked it up to fragile egos. Egos they expected her to stroke. If any of them had bothered to pay closer attention to her, they would have known she wasn’t a fluffer for self-esteem issues. It was just her rotten luck she couldn’t get a more observant man on the hook.

Romance might be dead, but at least she had a date to observe this day of love and death with. Yes, death. How easily we tend to forget the massacre that birthed this holiday. Bloodshed was merely another method of celebration.

Disappointment lurked in the outskirts of her conscious mind as she regarded her suitor’s carefully posed form.  No. She thought, shaking the feeling away. Today would not be ruined. She tossed a small heart-shaped valentine at the man’s feet. It may not have been a love connection, but it was still fun. So very kind of him to show her a good time.

She touched up her lipstick and smirked before heading out the door. At least I have a type. She told herself.

 

Erin Moore

Erin Moore is an aspiring horror author. She hopes to one day scare the pants off of her readers for a living instead of as a hobby. You can find her on twitter at: https://twitter.com/Blue86X

A Perfect Night

“Tonight has been perfect. I can’t believe you cooked dinner for me.”

 

“Anything for you, my love. But the night isn’t over yet. One final surprise.”

 

“What? This is too much.”

 

“Well, I can’t quite return this gift. You’ll love it. I promise.”

 

“Alright. Lay it on me.”

 

“Close your eyes and put out your hands.”

 

“I give up. What smells funky and is squishy all over?”

 

“Open your eyes.”

 

Screams “What th-.”

 

“I deliver to you, my lady, the head of your lover. He will keep you company seeing as I wasn’t satisfactory enough for you. Goodbye, my love.”

Andrea Allison

Andrea Allison currently resides in a small uneventful town located in Oklahoma after moving from a small uneventful town in Texas. She is an author who enjoys writing horror of all varieties and her work has appeared both online and in print.

You can visit her website at www.andreallison.com.

Alas, my heart…

You told me how you loved me, how we would be with each other until

our dying day.

I guess you failed to see just how twisted I can be.

You once said how you loved my mind, it intrigued you like none other.

Now you say you want it to be over. As if I never mattered.

You stand there hatred on your face, how did I ever think I loved you?

I thought it was everlasting love.

I guess I was wrong, I pull the trigger. I loved you until your dying day.

Guess today my love ends.

Kim Plasket

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

https://www.facebook.com/Kim-Plasket-Author-1388808427906955/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

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

Candlelit

Grandmother’s antique candelabra completes the mood for any romantic dinner. Its cold, gold curves and hooked arms shimmer to dancing licks of flame. The cherished heirloom remains a symbol to the matriarchal wisdom and beauty of our family.

On February 14th, 1950, Grandmother used it to bash the skull of my tyrannical grandfather.

In 1985, Mother ignited my deadbeat father’s alcohol-soaked shirt with its hypnotic fire.

Tonight, I’ve secured a vial of deadly ricin beneath a hollow candle. I’ll slip it in my clever husband’s anniversary champagne, collect the insurance, and tell our daughter the tale every night before bed.

Kevin M. Folliard

Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, as well as adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, and more. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Street Fighter, or traveling the U.S.A.

 

Author Website: www.KevinFolliard.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kevinfolliard

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kmfollia

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

Contaminated Hearts

Amber placed the candy hearts on the bench, checked that the coach’s room light was off and dashed down the hallway to the library. Rhythmically shelving books she barely heard the sirens, and feigned shock when Sandy rushed in sobbing “the entire volleyball team is really sick”. 

Sticking around long enough to assuage suspicion she rushed home, up the stairs past her snoring mom. The headlines were about ‘a tragic case of fentanyl poisoning in the suburbs”, nothing about the coach’s Valentine, nothing about field trip pictures. Was it too late to deliver a heart shaped pizza to the principal?

Roxy Thomas

Roxy Thomas, an aspiring writer in the horror and paranormal genre by evening and a psychiatric nurse and safety specialist by day.

She has published a personal essay in my city newspaper and non-fiction pieces on the topic of mental health in a small town weekly. She has been published in TWF and in CafeLit.

You can find her on Twitter https://twitter.com/roxythomas , Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pg/storiesbyroxy/about/?ref=page_internal ,

Goodreads  https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/91462444-roxy-thomas and through my website/blog https://storiesbyroxy.com/

Swipe Right

I liked your face so I swiped right.

I liked your style so I swiped right.

You flattered me to no end so I swiped right.

Your smile sent my heart to flutter so I

swiped right.

Your touch made me want you more, so I

swiped right.

You told me how you loved me so I swiped

right.

You turned out to be more twisted than I

could imagine so I swiped right.

My heart grew bitter as I saw who you really were.

With one final scream, I use my knife and swipe left.

Never again to swipe right.

Kim Plasket

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

https://www.facebook.com/Kim-Plasket-Author-1388808427906955/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

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

Serial Killers: Plaything Part 2

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

Plaything Part 2

Then again, maybe drinking on an empty stomach was making her melodramatic.  “Do you have any crackers or something? I meant to get lunch,” Anna said. But does she really need to eat? Only if she wants to stay upright, replied a voice that frequently urged her to go home early and take “no” for an answer.

“I had all these plans for a picnic spread from this little French bakery, but best laid plans, you know? How about a pizza?”

“I’m on this whole no fat, no sugar, no gluten diet, so yes, basically, YES.”

“I love being the bad influence for once,” And she walked out, leaving Anna to not argue about who was in fact, a good influence.

But then, out of nowhere, as if Harper was there, inside her head: “Who never let go of Anna’s hand that day at the clinic? The one that wasn’t even Planned Parenthood, for fear they’d run into one of their friends who always volunteered there.”  Because abortions are something successful women believe in, but never, ever have.

“Can I ask you a question?” There was Miles. Suddenly at her feet and playing shy.

“Sure.”

“How’d you get so ugly?”

“That’s not very nice.”

“Do you not know?”

“It’s not really a question, is it?” This seemed to stump him.
(more…)

Trembling With Fear 02/10/2019

February is the shortest month but provides plenty of opportunities to write. Remember we have a Valentine’s Special coming up but if you missed that, there are still others. Take a look at our Submissions page to see what else you can challenge yourself with. And please take note of word counts …

The lead story in Trembling with Fear this week is The Hangman’s Tree by G.W. Musko and is a very creepy and atmospheric tale. We loved the whole setting of the gallows tree and the villagers down below, the bodysnatching and the undead. Musko also uses the senses – sight, sound, touch, smell – which adds to it. Using senses allows a reader to relate to a character and draws them in, often triggering an emotive response. We could feel that cold night air, hear the sounds in the village, sense the fear. This is what we want from a story, to bethere … and I was.

The Hunter Grimm by Arthur Unk is a poem (yes, we will take dark poetry) and is presented as an excerpt from a book. It is a narrative work which starts to tell a tale and, while telling you a lot about Grimm, actually leaves you wanting to know more – because of the note as to where it comes from. This hint of mystery was a nice touch.

Into the Light by Gary Hazlewood focuses on the use of sound and light interacting to lead the reader through the story, turning them, in effect, into characters, the people in the story almost taking a backseat. A novel approach.

Winter by Stacey Macintosh brings us the personification of winter in the form of the Queen of Winter and her expectations as consort of the King of Summer. He is the one who will thaw the frozen winter – but the reader knows they cannot coexist and so hints at a doomed relationship despite what the Queen says. Lots of detailed winter imagery here, painting an easily imagined scene. We felt cold reading it.

On a personal note, I would just like to wish my son, Dylan, happy birthday for the 14th, 22 years old! I’m feeling positively ancient.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

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

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

The Hangman’s Tree

I steal bodies from the hangman’s tree. Jewels, rings, and coins that the hangmen forget to shake out I happily collect too, but it’s the bodies that pay the best. Men and women can reach almost two hundred Liros per corpse; children even more. Although it was a long time before I broke that taboo.

Each night I move in time with the sun’s setting. The mountains cast long shadows over the village which conceal me like a grey blanket as I creep up the hill. On my belt hangs a sharpened knife and a sack hides my face.

The tree is impossible to lose sight of, even on the darkest nights. Its colossal trunk sits omnipresent above the village, silently glaring down on the wooden huts. During the day while in the fields people keep their eyes down and try to ignore the roped titan. In the nights it fills their dreams with dread.

Even the guardsmen, so sure of themselves down in the valley, fear the tree. They stand away from it with their backs to the faces of the hung.  Their rifles tight to their chests, wide-eyed and ready to fire at any sound on the wind.

I sit and watch them from afar, cold and curled up in the brambles. Eventually, when the tobacco runs out, or the wind begins to bite, they lower their guns and head back home. When the day breaks and the new guard marches up the hill, no one makes note of the missing bodies.

#

Once the hill is empty, I finally begin my work, move like a ghost. When I walk my boots are soundless against the ground of wet leaves. My breath barely escapes my lips. With hands wrapped by gloves, I grasp onto the rough twine rope and with a glint of silver cut down the body. It takes less than a minute where any graverobber would take five.

My first night, when I was still learning from Frillo – before he too found a place on the tree – I almost cried when the weight of the person fell on me. Stiff and cold, surrounded by the aura of death that I soon grew familiar with. The reek of sour earth and dirt. By now I am as comfortable as a hunter with venison or a fisherman with fish.

Pulling the body away from the village and deep into the valley, I meet my buyers before the sun sets. They hide their faces too and once the money is in my hands I depart swiftly. Who and why are questions better left unasked.

#

Before Frillo hung, the hunchback forgot to tell me a secret to our trade which may have saved me from sharing his fate. But he never mentioned it and none the wiser I set out to the tree that night. Under the blue hunter’s moon, as if it were any other night.

#

She was still fresh. Barely a day spent on her branch. Almost beautiful in the way her pale face and fair hair gleamed under the cold glow of the moon. When I cut her from her place and set her on the ground, I could swear she felt almost warm. As if a trace of impossible life had clung to her.

The night was bitterly cold but I pulled a glove off and with a hand red and raw from the wind touched her cheek. I had to convince myself I was wrong. The tips of my fingers felt as if pressed against a stove. Startled I shot my hand back. Before I’d never thought I’d wish for the clammy touch of a body.

The choices rattled in my brain. Leave her, or drag her to the buyer. She was certain to fetch a good price, yet I felt no desire to tangle myself into the occult.

The girl decided for me. Her eyelids drew open and she glared at me with clouded-over eyes. Then her jaw flopped open revealing a dark maw filled with a shriek.

I stumbled back, my mind unable to comprehend anything but disgust and primal fear deep in my stomach. The scream seemed to echo out across the entire mountain. A wail far removed from anything human.

The candles in the village flared up and the shouts of men’s barks mixed with the cries of frightened children. Then, came the footsteps of the guards as they raced towards the woman and me.

A fist knocked me down. Face pressed against the wet soil I saw them surround her. While she writhed and kicked, they grabbed the rope around her neck and dragged her back to the tree. She howled and spat as they cast the cut rope over her branch and with a single pull, hung her again. It was done as quickly as if they had seen it before.

She did not die again, however. Instead, she flailed and thrashed, cursing in her animal’s tongue, as I was marched away.

Her rage at being woken made the tree shake as if a storm were blowing through it.

#

The next day, I was granted a place beside her. My hanging took place at night with only an audience of hangmen and guards present. As the noose slipped around my neck, I kept my eyes closed and tried not to listen to the girl’s snarling at my side. When I dropped, the last thing I felt were her nails digging into my arm.

 

THE END

G.W.Musko

G.W.Musko is a writer of horror and surrealism. He’s the creator of the online series “Neo-Warsaw” and also writes free fiction for his blog “CintheR”.  You can follow him @Cigintherain and read more stories here http://gwmusko.tumblr.com.

The Hunter Grimm

Echo of death

On leather wings

Howls in the night

Of unearthly things

Without remorse

I watch them die

I am the monster

That makes their children cry

Beware ye foul beasts

Souls of the damned

Evander Grimm

Hunts this land

The night is my home

While you sleep, I plan

The last sight you see

Is death by my hand

I’ll send you to Hell, torpor, and the beyond

I bathe in the river Styx

I am friends with Charon

Run

Run

Run

While you can… I will find you

— Excerpt taken from the Book of Eternally Damned

Arthur Unk

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

Into The Light

The tapping was faint at first, rising steadily like a resounding drumbeat.

Next came a voice, soft gentle tones attempting to coax a response. The name sounded familiar as the beckoning continued.

A single, threadlike, ethereal beam of light pierced the harsh darkness. The rhythmic tapping ceased, once more the disembodied voice probed, “Katie, are you there? Can you here me?”

The response was muted.

The voice and tapping continued as the light pooled more enticingly.

Katie was drawn into the light.

The tapping ceased.

Five children were entombed inside the walls of Number 9, Katie was the sole survivor.

Gary Hazlewood

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

Winter

She let the cold flow outwards, creating soft billowing clouds of snow as she walked. The frost bit at her lips, icicles formed in her hair and the cold clung to her skin. She breathed out watching the tiny puffs of cold air dance before her frozen, blue lips. It was a spectacle and he’d been right all along. She was the next Queen of Winter and now it was time to take up her staff and rule as only she could as his consort – The Summer King. She shivered, not from the cold, but from him and his warmth.

Stacey Macintosh

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

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

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

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

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

You can find her here:

WEBSITE: www.staceyjainemcintosh.com

FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/StaceyJaineMcIntosh

TWITTER: www.twitter.com/StaceyJMcIntosh

INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/morrighanfae

Serial Killers: Plaything Part 1

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

Plaything Part 1

Anna drove white-knuckled up to Santa Clarita, having never acclimated to the creep and dash of LA freeways. She doubted the dress she chose, chalking it up to the Harper Effect. Even back in college, Harper left people wondering why they weren’t as cool as she was. This “effect” was free of malice or even intent, which made it ache all the more.

Harper’s blunt text: “i need to see you,” arrived out of nowhere on a Wednesday afternoon. Anna’s first impulse was to drop everything. But that was an old reflex, from when they were inseparable. This was six years into Harper’s Mommy Exile, and their last brunch was two years ago. But it was comforting that Harper assumed they were still close enough to be cryptic, so she offered: “How about Saturday? Like 1?”

She readied her “happy for you” look, that’s expected from her married or more successful friends, though it might be rusty from her tendency to bail on baby showers and toddler birthdays. Weddings at least offered open bars and the forgivable hook-up.  Now parties felt like junior high dances, everyone pressed into corners again, boys with boys, girls with girls, only now, at their center, were sticky-fingered trolls, all at once needy and brutish.

There’s still time to cancel: car trouble, or the all-purpose “work” excuse. But then she recalled gloating about her new non-profit gig, with its work-life balance. That white shoe law firm was an awfully convenient way to explain all the dateless sex, social disappearances, and streaky sobriety.
(more…)

Trembling With Fear 02/03/2019

February already and thoughts are turning to spring – just as winter decides to go all out on a number of you. I’ve seen Stuart’s tweet with Jack Nicholson’s frozen image from The Shining so I know he was suffering and I counted myself lucky we don’t experience such things over here. When we do get a few flakes, it is pretty much a national crisis. I hope for those of you sharing Stuart’s situation that the thaw comes soon. Which has now triggered another thought. I’ve read many dark stories set in a ‘snowmageddon’ situation or seen films of this ilk but you don’t find many set in the thaw. Any takers?

Our stories this week start with Fishgiggles by Catherine Kenwell which recounts a person’s disjointed thoughts, implying – as you read – an element of madness, or was it concussion brought on by the blow to the head? Then there is the character’s lack of food as she waits to be rescued adding to her situation, someone marooned or lost waiting to be rescued, this again can cause a person to suffer delusions. Regardless of what caused her situation, it is the playing with words which we enjoyed and here I think the simplest thing is to share the comment I sent back to the author, ‘There’s this whole air of madness and surrealism around it and the way she plays with language as she considers her position is wonderful’ or as I said to Stuart, ‘excellent weirdness’. We were really pleased that Catherine chose to share her delight and playfulness in language with us via this story.

Dark Water by Richard Meldrum is an excellent tale of misdirection. He sketches an image of something mysterious beneath the water, a swimmer nervous and edgy, allowing imagination to take hold (as it already has done with the reader) and then the reveal. The moral here is, I think, don’t let your imagination run away with you …

Late by David Rae is a short but chilling story with a skilfully created atmosphere using the senses to draw the reader in. The cold literally seeps out of his lines as the ghost of past crimes appears.

Campfire Songs by E.N. Dahl brings us a killer in an original form, stepping away from the trope of serial killer or monster from the lake to something in a way far more powerful. The effect of music is often used in stories but here it is an entity in its own right.

Thank you to all the above writers for their terrific stories and ongoing support for TWF.

***

I’m not sure about the rest of you but it’s taken me some time to discover the areas of horror which work for me in my writing, ie where I feel most at home. I have no intention of pigeonholing myself as I love writing gothic, industrial and folk horror and all three have delivered some success to me. Folk horror has gradually come to the fore in my recent writing and I have started reading more about it, a current read being Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies. In one of its essays, it talks about the British Public Information Films, particularly those of the 1970s, which is a blast from my past (the 70s were a pretty dark time all round, I still remember the power cuts!). These films are available on YouTube and are pretty horrific, especially when you consider a large number were aimed at children. Take a look at the one with Donald Pleasance narrating, I would have been about 9 years old then and it has stayed with me. If you’re stuck for inspiration, I would think some of these shorts would be a good place to look!

A serious tip here – try and move away from standard tropes, seek out the rarely used, bring us originals. There are so many monsters out there but somehow we all gravitate towards a handful. Give us other creatures of the dark. Give us new monsters.

Stop Press: a Facebook post on Wednesday showed Iron Faerie Publishing are still actively seeking submissions for their Gods and Goddesses anthology, closing date 18th Feb – they haven’t received many at the moment.

Keep writing, keep submitting.

 

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Welcome to the first ‘Trembling With Fear’ of the month. Being February, love is in the air! However, that isn’t something you’ll find much of in today’s stories.

We are always looking for more ‘Trembling With Fear’ stories and these days are hoping to see more submitted for our special editions, Unholy Trinity compilations, and Serial Killers! Please be sure to read our submission guidelines and get those words in!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Fishgiggles

Alone.

Alonealonealone.

The five letters feel nonsensible, carved by stick into the low-tide sand. She’s sure that’s the word to describe her predicament. She doesn’t remember everything, but she remembers words. She thinks.

How long has she been here? She doesn’t know for sure. She started drawing lines—one for each of four days, then a diagonal across the four—in the hard sand when the waters were low. But each time the tide came in, it washed away the lines and her memories. So it could be one day. Or a hundred. The days have been washed out to sea.

Each day is the same—either that, or one day keeps repeating itself, over and over. It’s inconsequential, really. She sleeps, when she can, in a tiny rocky cave, perhaps better described as a shaded alcove or a nook in the rock. Enough to shelter her when it rains, which it does every time that ‘the light is over there’, she thinks it is ‘afternoon’. After noon. She would need to know noon. She thinks it is when the sun is overhead, but if the sun isn’t visible, the day is simply as long as it is light.

A series of jerry-rigged rain-catchers gather water to quench her thirst. Massive palm leaves, a couple of broken coconuts, a conch shell. These are her pitchers and drinking vessels. It is almost enough.

There are seven coconut palms but not much else here. She used to shake the trees, but now she lets the hard fruit fall on its own after one hit her on the top of her head and made her hair bleed. The saltwater helped heal the wound but it stung like hell every time she bathed in the sea.

She gets angry with the fish that insist on talking to her when she pulls them from the shallows. They shimmer and giggle until she fillets them, and then they begin to admonish her for being the outsider. You’re going to die here anyway, they whisper. Why do you need to bake us in the sun? We belong in the water, they hiss. We live in the water. You can feast on our siblings, but you’re the one who’s messing up the natural order…the one who doesn’t fit. Close to shore, a silvery chorus trills a song of warning as the fish dart just under the surface. You’ll see, they giggle.

She believes she is thin, now. The sundress she wears is clean enough but dusty with dried salt, and it sags like an empty sack. All those times she wanted to be ten pounds lighter; now, she imagines, ten more pounds and she’ll disintegrate into beach sand.

Once, when she thought she might be found, when a lone plane flew overhead, she carved SOS into the hard sand and waved her arms in the air. SOS. Sauce. Saws. Sews. SOS, she pondered. Fuck our souls, it’s the body that wants saving.

Her mind is bending, but its elasticity is stretched to breaking point. She is slowly going mad. Mad. Madeleine.

Was that her name? Or did she know a Madeleine from school? No, she remembers Madeline, that little red-headed girl from the books. Books. Booooooks, she repeats the word out loud. It sounds foreign in her mouth. Was that her voice? She doesn’t remember how she sounds, but at any rate, she no longer thinks what she hears is her.

She folds and extends her bones to lying position, corpse pose, from yoga. Hands out to the side, feet and legs relaxed. Closes her eyes. Yo. Ga. Yoga. It sounds weird, reminds her of something. Yoda. The wise guy. Try not. There is no try. She must do. What must she do? She must do the twist, the hokey pokey, turn herself around.

She is stretched out on the cool hard sand left by the ebbing tide. Her feet are being tickled by quiet licks of sea; now the water is up to her ankles. The sun is over there now, but still hot.

Exhaustion seeps through her skin. She opens her eyes every so often, when she feels the sun dip further away from her. It is almost gone. Now, she sees the spotlight moon. The tide is rising. She feels the water lap further up her body, reaching her knees, then hips. She is still. She feels her body slowly merge with the shifting sand. She imagines the fish, with their tiny nibbling mouths, coming out to feed at night. The mean fish, the chastising ones. The ones who pick on her. The fish she will no longer need to catch or bake or eat. The fish that was her food. Fish. Food. Fish food.

She senses laughter starting to gurgle in her chest, but her expression is unchanged and she remains silent.

Fishfood. Fishfoodfishfoodfishfood. It sounds funny, it just does.

It must be funny. Because now, she hears giggling.

 

Catherine Kenwell

Cat Kenwell is an author and mediator living in Barrie, Canada. After 30 successful years in corporate communications, she sustained a brain injury, lost her job and joined the circus. She is currently writing a book on her experiences with post-concussion syndrome.

Website: www.catherinekenwell.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catherine.kenwell

 

Campfire Songs

Counselor Jimmy strummed his guitar, singing the same tunes he always had. People back home said Lake Delilah stored evil in its depths, so that camp closed. Six other camps closed because children kept going missing.

He played his acoustic tunes as The Anguish slinked over, taking a seat on the bench next to him. They sat by the fire, enjoying the soft music and cool breeze. Blood cooled on the killer’s lips.

Nobody figured out that the camps weren’t cursed. The curse lay in the music, ancient rhythms reformatted, damned melodies posing as camp songs.

Jimmy just kept playing.

E.N. Dahl

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

www.Twitter.com/ENDahlWriter

www.ENDahlWriter.com

 

Dark Water

It was a lake swim for charity. Standing at the edge, she peered into the dark water, imagining all sorts of underwater creatures.

She lowered herself into the water, feeling the cold liquid surround her. She started to swim, but quickly fell behind the main group. Suddenly, something touched her foot, wrapped itself round her ankle. It felt like a tentacle. She panicked, thrashing to free herself, but it maintained its grip. She quickly became exhausted. Unable to stay afloat, she slipped below the surface. The strand of weed that had wrapped round her leg, floated innocently to the surface.

RJ Meldrum

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

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

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

Late

I’ve slept in the room before without any trouble. I’ve slept in it many times. I’ve never noticed anything strange. I would be asleep now, if only it wasn’t so cold. I get up and walk to the cupboard looking for a blanket.
I can see it, the patch of darkness, but I tell myself it’s nothing, there’s no such thing as ghosts.
I’m so cold, and the patch of darkness keeps moving. I’m dreaming this. I must be. A child’s cold hand slips into mine.
“You shouldn’t have hurt me,” it whispers. It’s too late to say I’m sorry.

David Rae

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

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

Davidrae-stories.com

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