Trembling With Fear 11/12/2017

‘Following on from our recent Halloween edition at TWF, remember we have a submission call out for Christmas-themed stories. Twist the topic, bring us your disturbed elves, your winter solstice rituals, your rabid Rudolph’s, turn that jolly Santa into something else, make it original. As always, send us your stories as drabbles (exactly 100 words) or flash pieces (1500 words and under).

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

Charla Nash

I used to tease my school buddy, Sandra: she would never be brave enough to keep a monkey. 

She proved me wrong. 

It was Friday the 13th when Travis arrived. We felt damn lucky. That weekend we, best friends forever, neither slept nor had meals. 

In some weeks Sandra let the chimpanzee out of his cage. 

The Herolds, Sandra’s family, ran a tow-truck business. When Travis got to ride in the truck, we asked: ‘Steak?’ Nod. ‘Cupcakes, pretzels?’ Nod. ‘Lemon tea?’ Nod.  

On his birthday pink champagne. 

Once, not himself, he stormed out and roamed. Sandra called me to interfere. 

The chunklets of my fingers reminded a witness of minced meat. Most of my scalp went, my eyelids got bitten, my nose and lips were ripped off. 

Not my ears. 

Everyone talks about my ears, noble like ivory. Nobody mentions my removed eyes and the hole in my face to drink through. 

Whenever I have visitors from hell, I try to chase them away by touching my forehead – but I have only one thumb left, and it is numb. And there’s nothing to feel, only a polished yet raw bust to represent I’m able to chin up. 

I made it to the Oprah show, I was wearing a veil. 

Sandra? We are not on speaking terms. What words could we exchange? 

I might look shattered but I remained the same. 

Travis was shot dead. 

If I had my eyes, they could still talk to him, offering relief. 

 

Agnes Marton

Agnes Marton is a Hungarian-born poet, writer, librettist, Reviews Editor of The Ofi Press, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, founding member of Phoneme Media. Recent publications include award-winning ‘Estuary: A Confluence of Art and Poetry’, her poetry collection ‘Captain Fly’s Bucket List’ and two chapbooks with Moria Books.

In the Woods

You’ve gotten all tied up in how dark and mysterious everyone says the woods are.  There’s nothing here but the trees and squirrels.  Come on, I’ll show you.

Don’t jump at that rustling.  It’s just a mouse in the grass. See, there’s an owl diving to catch it.

Hush.  Those aren’t fingers in your hair.  It’s just the branches brushing against you.

Don’t worry about the fog.  It’s not entirely out of reason for the weather to turn hazy at this time of year.  …I think.

That snarling?  It’s probably…  Look, maybe we should go back.

…Which way is back?

Steppen Sawicki

Steppen Sawicki lives in Michigan, where she writes horror and science fiction stories and consumes caffeine. You can read more of her work at SteppenSawicki.com.

Pink Poodle

Amy found a pink poodle buried halfway into their lawn. “Amy! Come play!”
“You’re a talking, doggie?”
“Yes!” The poodle’s eyes shined. “Pet me!”
She reached for it.
“Amy!” her mother called. “Lunchtime!”
The poodle yipped as she hurried inside.
She ate PB&J on the porch and watched the poodle emerge. The top was a fluffy dog, but the bottom was a huge pink crab with orange tiger stripes, scissor-shaped claws, and gnashing teeth hidden under the dog’s torso. It crawled to the neighbor’s lawn and burrowed back down.
Davey Chen came skipping outside.
“Davey!” the poodle said. “Come play!”

Kevin M. Folliard

Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, and adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by Double Feature Magazine, Flame Tree Publishing, Parsec Ink, and more.

You can find out more about his work at his author website!

Tea Party

Edward hands his guests china cups. Several pairs of glassy eyes stare back. It?s a quiet gathering. Edward is the centre of attention. Just as he likes it. He combs Lillian?s blonde tresses. Silky soft and real. Shorn from her dead scalp. He remembers the girl vividly. Her wide pink mouth and lolling tongue.
A knock makes him jump. ?Put your dolls away. It?s dinner time.? His wife announces.
Guiltily Edward drops his hand. Red faced he stands up knocking Josephine who falls into Lillian?s lap.
?They?re historical artefacts.? He whispers.
Edward kisses each doll?s cheek. His silent adoring girls.

Alyson Faye

Alyson trained originally in the UK as a teacher/tutor. She wrote a couple of children’s books which were published by Collins and Ginn. Now she lives near Bronte terrain in Yorkshire with her teen son, partner and 3 rescue cats. She writes noir Flash Fiction (some of which is published on line) and spooky longer tales (3 are available for download on www.www.alfiedog). She has a collection of her Flash fiction coming out soon from Chapel Town Books in the UK. She enjoys old movies, singing, and swimming. She is a confirmed chocoholic and is still hopeless at maths. Her blog is at http://www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com.

Trembling With Fear 11/05/2017

Halloween’s behind us although the long dark nights remain. So, what to do? Well, I don’t know about anybody else but I’m using November to create some new nightmares and like so many thousands of others have signed up to this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I joined up a few years back, most efforts were a few half-hearted attempts then a couple of years back I took it a bit more seriously, used it to stop the writer’s eternal enemy—procrastination. One novel completed got through to a second reading round at Hodderscape. It now lurks in a drawer to be dusted off and revisited one day but its reception gives me hope. Last year’s effort wasn’t so much something completely new as to force me to finish an ongoing work. The first few chapters are now with Gollancz—it may fail but you never know. This year editing and beta reading has eaten into my writing time so I am being selfish(!) and reclaiming November. I have signed up to NaNoWriMo. I have an outline, which, for a pantser like me is amazing. There may be blood. But I am looking forward to it. Any one else up for the challenge?

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

First off, as Steph mentioned it’s that certain month where many authors try to get a ton of words down that they can hopefully eventually turn into something publishable. For those of you who are trying, I wish you the best of luck! With the family and a brand new day job, I just won’t be able to try this year.

Secondly, I have to say that I really think the image that I choose for today’s short is more horrifying than anything that you’ll be reading today. I should probably apologize for it but I just…. Can’t…
Enjoy!

‘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

Just A Little Bloob

Kathy couldn’t remember exactly when it progressed to hatred. She had a hazy recollection of the slide from young lust to something resembling love to begrudging acceptance, and then bored indifference, but when it finally crossed the line into hate somehow escaped her.

 

Joe wasn’t mean or abusive, nothing like that, but he was indifferent to her, to her wants or needs or feelings. They’d evolved into a dead end couple working dead end jobs to maintain their dead end house in their dead end neighborhood.

 

Not the fairy tale she’d often imagined as a little girl, no, not at all, much more like a reflection of her mother’s life when she looked in her mirror, becoming more clear and distinct by the day.

 

And she hated it. She hated her life, she hated Joe for his casual indifference, and she had to admit, she hated herself for just going along with it, day after day.

 

It had become worse lately, though. She began making an effort to eat better, more salads, more vegetables, leaner proteins, and Joe would have nothing to do with it.

 

“You can do what you want, but I’m not eating that Goddam rabbit food. I’ll pick something up on the way home from work for myself.”

 

And he did. He tried a few of the usual fast food places, and finally settled on a new place in town, the “Taco Tower”. He’d bring home spicy smelling bags and eat their contents while she had her salad, neither of them talking much at all during their meals any more.

 

The worst part for her wasn’t what he ate, not by a long shot. It was the aftermath.

 

He’d begun farting regularly, producing the most obscene, vile odors she’d ever had to endure. She’d worked in a nursing home as a teen, and tending to the bed pans was nothing compared to the repugnant smells he produced.

 

She soon learned that the loud ones, the ones that sounded like thick leather being torn, weren’t so bad at all. It seemed most of their energy went into producing the loud, wet noises.

 

No, the worst ones were what Joe came to call “a little Bloob.”

 

The tiniest popping sound, followed by a poof that reminded Kathy of actors blowing out candles in the old black and white movies. That was the “Bloob”.

 

And those produced the most hideous, rank odors imaginable. She’d be lying on the couch, he in his recliner, and as soon as she heard the little pop, she’d pull up the comforter and cover her nose and mouth with it. Even their little Jack Russel Terrier would hear that sound, jump off the couch, and trot outside through his doggie door to the fresh air out back.

 

With his sensitive little sniffer, she didn’t blame him. Even dogs had their limits, it seemed.

 

As time went on, Joe stopped there more frequently, and it got worse. She’d taken to keeping a can of air freshener at her side at all times, like a Sheriff’s six-gun in a lawless town, to try and offset the revolting odors emanating from his chair.

 

The arguments got worse, more bitter as time passed. One day, he made an extremely rude comment as she was in the kitchen, and she stopped her work, not believing what she just heard.

 

She finally lost it. She’d had enough. She raced in from the kitchen, her chef’s knife in hand from slicing vegetables, and told him she couldn’t take it any longer. She wanted out.

 

And he laughed. He actually laughed in her face, laughing so hard, he produced one of his room clearing “Bloobs”.

 

She shrieked, gripped the handle of the knife in both hands, and plunged it deep into his gut.

 

Even before he howled in pain, she heard the hissing, wooshing sound. The sound of a broken air line, or perhaps escaping compressed air.

 

She understood immediately that she’d made a critical mistake. She’d hit the stomach, possibly the intestines.

 

Her eyes widened to comical proportions, realizing what she’d done. She began backpedaling, waving her arms frantically, but the stench hit her hard, a noxious cloud straight from the very bowels of Hell itself.

 

Decomposing bodies floating in raw sewage would be spring roses in a field of lavender compared to the malodorous effluvium quickly filling the room. The back of her legs hit the couch, and she went down hard, choking and gagging. She leaned to the side and vomited profusely, trying to get it all out and not choke on it, completely ignoring Joe’s frenzied cries for help.

 

The Jack Russel was already out in the yard, howling instead of barking.

 

She rolled off the couch onto the floor, praying the stench would rise, like stifling air does. She began crawling toward the door to the kitchen, to try and get away, and as she passed the wall vent, she heard the click of the heat coming on downstairs.

 

And they heated their home with natural gas.

 

The resulting explosion shattered the windows in seventeen houses nearby, causing severe structural damage to the ones closest. A Desert Storm veteran who lived down the street was quoted on TV as saying it looked worse to him than direct hits by missile strikes from air support in the desert. He was not at all surprised to hear that the governor had mobilized the National Guard.

 

Neighboring towns had to lend support, tending to the wounded, and transporting the worst cases to nearby hospitals.

 

Neighbors first thought an aircraft fell from the sky, hitting the house directly, the fuel exploding on impact. The damage was too severe, too total to have been caused by anything inside. Kathy and Joe were normal people, they said, not criminals or terrorists.

 

Arson and bomb squad investigators ran every forensic test in their arsenal, looking for trace evidence. They suspected a meth lab, a hidden cache of explosives and weapons, but every test came back negative for those elements.

 

The only unusual result was an exceptionally high trace of natural methane, which they could not explain. There were no signs of accelerants, and the trigger seemed to be the pilot in the furnace going on as it should, nothing more than that. Even the FBI, once called in, had no meaningful results from their labs at Langley.

 

The medical examiner couldn’t shed much light, as there just wasn’t enough left of Joe or Kathy to autopsy.

 

The mystery remained front page news for a couple days, only to be replaced by the latest wave of scandal and accusations making the rounds in the Capital.

 

Locals looked forward to the new coffee house being built on the grounds of the former “Taco Tower”, which had been shuttered and abandoned by its owners without explanation.

 

Life moves on.

 

 

THE END

 

G.A. Miller

G.A. Miller is a new voice in the chorus of horror authors, drawing his ideas from every day, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors, often with horrific consequences.
Born between the original Japanese “Gojira”, and the Americanized “Godzilla, King of the Monsters!”, G.A.’s interest in horror developed early on, nourished by televised movies on “Shock Theater” (Hosted by Zacherley, the “Cool Ghoul”), Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines, old issues of the late, great EC Comics, the British Horror Invasion of great films from Hammer Studios…the list goes on.
Making a living as a technician, he enjoys stepping away from the digital world, where ones and zeros are absolute, and entering the world of dark imagination, where a single “What If?” can turn normalcy to nightmare in a frenzied heartbeat, and rules of logic do not apply.
His published tales include:
“Bequeath” – Hinnom Magazine 001, Gehenna & Hinnom publishers.
“Shower Time” – The Edge: Infinite Darkness, Patrick Reuman publisher.
“Ear Wax” – Year’s Best Body Horror Anthology 2017 – Gehenna & Hinnom publishers.
“Nightmare” – Horror Bites Magazine, November 2017 Issue
G.A. lives where Lovecraft lived, due south of where King lives. Perhaps there’s something in the water in New England? One wonders…

Website – http://gamiller.info/

Blog – http://gamillerdotblog.wordpress.com/

Break Her Back

He first heard the rhyme when he was eight years old. He believed it absolutely. He couldn’t imagine hurting his mother. That was when he started avoiding the cracks on the sidewalk. His mother chided him for staring at his feet, but he couldn’t stop.
For forty years he followed his own rule, but the inevitable happened. He was at an intersection. He stepped off the kerb without checking. Looking down he saw his foot, sitting neatly on a crack between two pavers.
He prayed the gods would forgive him. His phone rang. It was father. It was bad news.

R. J. 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.

Let Down Your Hair

The old tower was covered with moss and ancient vines. The doorway was bricked with dry crumbling mortar.
The Prince called to the turret high above and a woman answered.
“Thank goodness. Help, A wicked witch chained me here years ago.”
“The doorway’s bricked shut.”
“I’ll let down my long hair. Climb it.”
Her golden hair cascaded downward like a waterfall. The Prince caught the first strands, but the hairy deluge continued until he was trapped and the weight suffocated him.
Rapunzel pulled up her hair. Damn, I’ve killed another one. Not to worry, the wolves will eat him tonight.

Robert Lupton

Robert Allen Lupton lives in New Mexico where he is commercial hot air balloon pilot. He writes and runs every day, but not necessarily in that order.

Recent publications include short stories in the following anthologies:

Uncommon Origins
Twelve Days
Hindered Souls
Potters Field #6
Worlds Unknown #4

Strangely Funny IV

The novel, Foxborn, was published by West Mesa Press in April of 2017.

Other short stories are available online from “Crimson Streets”, Daily Science Fiction. A piece of flash fiction and a half dozen drabbles have been published in “Trembling With Fear”.

“Running Into Trouble”, a collection of 15 fantasy, science fiction, horror, adventure, and humorous stories, all with running as a central theme, will be published in September of 2017. The novelette, Dejanna of Mars, will be published in August 2018, and the second book in the Foxborn series, ‘Here There Be Dragons,” is scheduled for February 2018.

Bugs #3

Doctor Henson ran to the injured girl, laying in the rain by the roadside. He decided on mouth to mouth. As he breathed, movement to his left caught his eye. A puddle was forming rapidly around them. He had to reanimate her quickly or the puddle would cover them both. The water covered his ankles, then his legs. As he breathed into her mouth, something tickled his tongue. My God! Is she kissing me? Then, it ran down his throat. Shocked, he spat it out. The thing ran to join its companions that were the puddle. The cockroaches engulfed him.

Justin Boote

Justin Boote has lived for over twenty years in Barcelona, Spain, plying his trade as a stressed waiter in a busy restaurant. He has been writing horror stories for just over a year, and currently has 8 published in diverse magazines including for Lycan Valley Press, Deadlights Shotgun magazine, Zimbell House Publishing, Dark Dossier Magazine and The Horrorzine’s summer edition.

He is also a member of a private writer’s forum called The Write Practice where he has also acted as a judge on two ocassions for their contests.

He can be found at Facebook under his own name, or at [email protected].

Trembling With Fear 10/29/2017 – Halloween Edition!

One thing I’ve noticed about those who submit to TWF is the accepting nature of our comments if we ask for some rework and their sheer determination to try and get it right for both themselves and us. Resilience is a remarkable thing and I’ve certainly noticed it in TWF writers to the extent that these same writers submit new pieces which then, quite often, need no revision at all. The instances of being able to read a piece, mark it as ‘accept’ before passing to Stuart without any need for further comment from myself, have become more and more frequent. This is a wonderful development and just shows how you have become masters of your craft.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Well folks, it’s our first annual Halloween edition of Trembling With Fear! We’ve packed in a pile of bonus stories to celebrate everyone’s favorite holiday and hope you enjoy them! Please be sure to comment, spread the word, and submit your own holiday stories for the Christmas Edition before November comes to a close!

‘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

Our One Night a Year

I couldn’t tell if Rhea was still mad at me for scaring away her crush. She hadn’t spoken until we got home. Then, as were about to start up the steps to the front door, she grabbed my arm and suggested we detour to the backyard to play one of our old games. So, high on Twix bars and Tootsie Rolls, Rhea and I did the ‘tornado’ ‘til we were warm again, twirling in our Halloween costumes under the arm of the giant maple in our yard. She was a yellow Crayola crayon and I was the same thing I’d been the previous three years: black jeans, black long-sleeved turtleneck, blue spray-in hair, and a featureless white mask. I called it a “freak,” and I was quite the treat. After 10 seconds of whirling like spin-tops, we threw our bodies to the grass. We closed our eyes and let the world swim around us. After a minute, Rhea stood up and attempted to walk. She stumbled here and there, a drunk crayon colouring the yard.
“Whoa, mama,” she said. She tossed her black hair out of her face, then tucked it into the little hole below the crayon’s tip where her pink face peeked out. “So dizzy. Going to hurl.”
“Gross,” I replied from the ground.
A cold wind stirred around us. The arms of the maple loosened their remaining leaves with a bone-rattle shake, sending dark shapes dancing into a bruised sky. I reached for the candy bag at the base of the tree trunk. It was a dirty old pillowcase, off white and pregnant. I sat up cross-legged, spilling a few bags of Ruffles as I dragged the sack into my lap.
“Looks like you lucked out this year.” I tossed a shiny chip bag at Rhea, hitting her mid-crayon.
“Hey!” She bent over to pick it up. “Ooo—Ruffles!” She crayon-waddled over and handed me the tiny bag so I could open it for her.
“Don’t know how you like these things,” I said, handing her back the chips. “They’re stale before they leave the store, ya know.”
“It changes the taste. They’re just … better.” Rhea sat beside me and turned her pillow case upside down, spilling its contents onto the darkening grass. Her hands spread the goods thin, fingers smoothing a giant heap of rocket rolls, fizz strips, gumballs. She sorted the candy into small piles: chocolates, gums, caramels, sugar candies; then into sub-piles: bite-sized bars, full-sized, Nestlé brand, Cadbury. Her hands moved with the sure speed of a veteran trick-or-treater, tossing aside the odd can of club soda as they went.
“Listen, Rhea. About Jordy.” My voice sounded muted, as if underwater, from behind my mask.
“I know. It’s not your fault…Well, it is, but it doesn’t matter.”
“I was only doing what any brother would have done.”
“I know. Really. It’s fine.”
I waited for her to burst into an angry assault, and when she didn’t, I raised my head. “Yeah? You mean it?”
Rhea looked up from her work. “Braxton, it’s O.K. Besides, I don’t even really like him anymore.”
Though she couldn’t see it, my face had lifted in surprise. I couldn’t believe Rhea would give up that quickly on a boy, not after having allocated a dime a week of her allowance for the past two years to the bottom of the town fountain, in a wishful toss to secure a boyfriend. For an 11-year-old, she was abnormally invested in romance.
“I saw him pick his nose at Mrs. Rady’s,” she confessed. “He’s ultra-gross now.”
“I see.”
“He did it when she made us sign her stupid guestbook before she gave us candy,” Rhea said. “While Sarah Taylor was signing, Jordy took off one of his claws and stuck his finger in the nose hole of his wolf mask. It was big-time disgusting.”
I chuckled.  “What did he do with it?”
“What—the snot?” she said.
“No…the wolf claw.” I grinned under my mask.
Rhea rolled her eyes and flicked my forearm. “I dunno. Ate it?”
I laughed at that, and then she laughed, and then I was coughing, deep and watery. Rhea looked at me and fell quiet. She drew her knees up to her body and wrapped her arms around them. The breeze came at us again, colder this time. I shivered in my damp clothes.
“How come you scared Jordy by showing him your face, but you won’t show me?” she said.
“Rhea…”
“How come?” She tore her eyes from me and went back to fidgeting with her candy.
I listened under the wind, hoping I wouldn’t hear our parent’s Volkswagen pulling into the driveway around front. We never had enough time. “He was calling you names. That’s why. I don’t know if addressing you as ‘Crayon Crud’ means he likes you, but he was being a bully.” I reached over and touched her legging-covered knee. “So I bullied back.”
And did I ever.
I had Jordy by the fuzzy chest of his wool sweater. I’ll never forget the boy’s eyes. They doubled in size in his grease-painted face when I lifted the chin of my mask, exposing the water-logged flesh of my face. I hadn’t gotten it any higher than my mouth before he broke my hold and tore off down South Street. He howled like a wolf cub split from its pack, and his clip-on tail wagged below his butt as he ran.
Rhea looked at me. She sat in a line of warm light spilling over the hedges from the neighbour’s back porch. It carved half her face out from the darkness around us. She really was growing up.
“You’re leaking again,” she said.
I brought my hand up to my jawline.
“No, here.” Rhea raised the corner of her pillowcase and dabbed at the liquid escaping my mask at the chin. The fabric was soft, though I hardly felt it. She set the linen down and returned to sorting her candy. She got faster every year.
“Braxton?” she said, after a minute.
“Yeah?”
“How did it feel when you drowned?” Rhea turned her eyes on me. The darkening sky behind her had lost its purple hue. It was all black now. I buried my hands in the grass, wet around me.
I didn’t tell her about the panic, or my first desperate lungful of water. I didn’t tell her about the pressure—all that weight on my chest—or how the river grew darker as it took me under, and even darker as it carried me toward the dam. I didn’t even tell her about the warmth that somehow stole the cold from my body when I finally gave in.
I grabbed another bag of Ruffles.
“Maybe when you’ve outgrown trick-or-treating,” I said.
“So never?”
I smiled under my mask, and opened her a bag of chips.

Chris Campeau

I am an Ottawa, Canada-based writer and lover of all things horror and strange. My fiction has appeared in Deadman’s Tome and Polar Borealis magazines, and my first children’s book, The Vampire Who Had No Fangs, is available via Amazon.

You can follow his work on his homepage.

In The Pumpkin Patch

The old ones broke open easiest. Their skin was but a thin membrane, nothing more. You needed only to dig your boot—or a sharp knife–into their puckered flesh and they would collapse upon themselves, disgorging their stewed guts onto the earth.
Their guts smelled most foul, suitable only for pig slop.
Zoraida was an expert in the preparation of pumpkins. She knew everything about them. She was famed for her stews. Her towering wedges of spiced pie delighted the children of Hampton. She painted empty pumpkins and sold them in the market. One could see her gaily-daubed gourds throughout the village all though the autumn.
Zoraida knew there were other things one could make from pumpkins, however. She was a most ingenious woman.
Zoraida tottered through the vine-choked pumpkin patch, her brittle limbs aching. She eventually came to an inflated pumpkin with a hide like a dried apricot. Tufted with white fur, she fancied it looked like a shrunken head. She would cook with it, she decided. It would delight her with its treacly over-sweetness. She would feast on stew for days.
But this was a big pumpkin. It could have many uses.
She kicked the pumpkin hard, smiled as it yielded to her piercing shoe. It buckled like a corpse. Its innards, liquefied by rot but still stringy as seaweed, oozed onto the ground.
She then took a rusted knife from her belt and plunged it into the pumpkin, hacking off misshapen hunks and collecting them in her hand.
Zoraida had not been to this pumpkin patch in many years, more than she could reckon. It was her favorite, for it marked the spot where imprudent old Goodman Bosworth had once tried to farm. He hadn’t heeded the warnings of the elders, the ones who knew that the Wessagusset had once interred their spirit-women here.
That had been his last mistake. He had been a most foolish sort of man.
Now, she had come to punish another man, equally unwise.
She chuckled to herself. Her laugh sounded like the shrill cry of a crow.
She returned her knife to her belt and began to form and knead the cold pumpkin slurry in her hand, idly giggling as she did so, exercising great care.
Eventually, she made for herself a globular, jolly-looking sculpture, a doll, mucoid as a newborn. She had limited gifts as a sculptor.
The keen-eyed observer would observe that this doll possessed a bulbous head, stumpy legs, and a big belly, full and swollen like a gravid crone’s. An inhabitant of Hampton might chortle and exclaim: “‘Tis Goodman Colby! Oh, Zoraida, you are most wicked to mock him so!” Perhaps this person would laugh and indulge Zoraida’s unkind wit.
Indeed, the poppet was an imperfect approximation of her neighbor, Goodman Colby, a reckless youth, given to sloth and—evidently—to stealing. Zoraida hoped very much that he had enjoyed feasting on her beloved he-goat, Buer, the beast of the fortunate conjunction, born when the darkling sigils burned brightest on the skin of the moon. She had doted upon him for many years, filling his barrel belly with rotten apples and sweet corn, stroking his long beard and caressing his spiraling horns. She had followed him as he revealed to her the secret paths in the deep woods.
Young Colby’s denials had been most unconvincing. Tears had spattered his cheeks like raindrops as he protested his innocence. Indeed, he was correct, animals often wandered into the woods and were never seen again. Indeed, the wolves had grown lean and hungry this year.
She had assured him he had nothing to fear. “I do not tarry in the wood any longer,” she had told him.
Zoraida was nearly as good a liar as she was a cook.
“You are a silly boy,” she tittered, her words scraping against each other like rusty nails. “You will pay a high price for the gristly meat of that poor beast.”
Zoraida’s smile fell away as she gingerly implanted a strand of Colby’s straw-colored hair into the poppet’s spheroid chest.
Silent now, her eyes hard and black, Zoraida dug deep in her apron for a pin. She found it among yellow knobs of ginger and sprigs of blackened wormwood and hag-tree fetishes. It was sharp yet. With a ferocious motion, she stabbed the knife into the unformed, notional man-shape in her outstretched hand. She sought the place where the man’s belly would be.
The poppet might have squirmed, thought that could have been nothing more than a trick of the gathering dusk. And it might have shrieked too, though that could have been nothing more than a distant crow.
One thing is certain, though: fluid, thick as old molasses but red when it should have been brown, dribbled from Zoraida’s hand and pooled at her feet.
And Zoraida, the hag of Hampton, laughed as she had not laughed in many years.
She then began to gather up chunks of pumpkin for her stew. Her work had made her hungry.

Ross Smeltzer

My fiction has appeared repeatedly in Separate Worlds, Bewildering Stories magazine, Quantum Fairy Tales, and Enchanted Conversation, an online fairy tale magazine. My first book, a collection of dark fantasy and Gothic horror novellas titled The Mark of the Shadow Grove, appeared in print in January of 2016. In addition, my fiction has appeared in Sanitarium Magazine, Body Parts Magazine, and WitchWorks Magazine. My short fiction has appeared in anthologies by Egaeus Press, Dragon’s Roost Press, and Hic Dragones.

Hungry Pig

span style=”font-weight: 400;”>THERE WERE THREE MORE HOUSES left before Frankie Kleetus felt ready to return to his home at the end of the block. So far, he had ventured down his main street, which was just north of his house and between homes that he was familiar with; those that were certain to give him a fair amount of candy and an even fairer amount of attention.

“Trick or treat.”

“Wow. Don’t you look…scary,” said the blonde-haired woman standing in the doorway.

She reached out and gave Frankie a handful of chocolate bars that she dropped into his opened bag. After five years of dressing in costumes and trying to be as scary as possible, Frankie wanted to do something different. Tonight, he decided to dress as a pig that had been slaughtered and to accomplish this, his mother bought him an old pig costume and some plastic knives that Frankie cut in half and pasted the handles onto his portly body. He painted red around the wounds and he did this until he believed he looked more grotesque and disgusting. Some people thought it was amusing while others saw it as ridiculous and weird. However, Frankie didn’t give much thought to the people who disliked his costume. He didn’t make it for them, he made it for himself, and so long as people shuddered or reacted to it in some way, then Frankie believed it was done well. He had lots of candy in his bag.

This year, he received more Halloween candy than he ever had before, and he believed it was a result of the houses he chose to visit. The one that Frankie wanted to visit next was the same one that he visited with his friends. An elderly woman resided there. She sat near the window and rarely came to the door, not even when Frankie and his friends threw eggs against the glass, and not even when they knocked on the door to irritate her. She was a quiet lady but she would shout and scream whenever Frankie and his friends trespassed onto her property. Some of Frankie’s friends would make jokes about how she was a witch or some other sinister hag that tried to cast spells on them. It was a sensible assumption. When she chased them, she would talk funny and make weird gestures with her hands. Yet, Frankie didn’t believe in witches, and neither did his friends, and if she did have candy, then Frankie would be sure to ask for it.

“Trick’r’Treat.”

Frankie waited near the door but instead of being greeted by a person holding a bowl of candy, he was welcomed with a vacant, dark, and quiet hallway.

“Uhhh,” said Frankie,

There was no one nearby and not a single sign of candy anywhere and if he had to guess, he’d say that the door opening was nothing more than a simple accident.

He peeked his hand inside and tried to see into the home.

“Hello?”

His voice echoed into the space before simmering and vanishing within.

“Hello?”

Frankie was standing in the hall and surveying the space with his bag of candy and waiting for someone to answer his call. He checked the rooms to see if they were like those he had ventured to before, with a sofa or television, if there were tables and chairs, but the space he was walking into was too dark, and he could not see anything other than what was in front of him, a space illuminated by scarce amount of light.

“Hello?”

Frankie proceeded into the house, passing by a table with a vase before he moved into the kitchen, one with a table and chairs. On the table was a tablecloth as red as the fake blood painted on Frankie’s costume, and in the center, was a bowl of candy that Frankie rushed towards the second he spotted it.

Yesss,” he said. “More.”

He plunged the candy into his sack and packed it in for as long as he could but stopped when he heard the basement door creak open behind him. Frankie’s body became ridged and he could feel chills on his arms and shoulders. He didn’t bother to speak. He didn’t care if the old woman was home or not. She never did anything to him then, why would she do something to him now? He stood at the top of the stairs and looked down. His shoulders quivered and he could feel his heart beating. He listened closer, trying to hear where these noises were coming from and if they were really happening or just the result of his overly active imagination.

“Hee-hee-hee,” a voice chuckled from beyond the stairs.

Frankie heard it, but when he heard it the second time, he noticed a full-sized chocolate bar sitting on the stop of the stairs.

“Whoa.”

On Halloween, it was rare for houses to give full-sized chocolate bars, but if there ever was a house that did, kids would flock to it like vultures hovering over a rotting corpse. Frankie rushed to this candy and peeled off each wrapper and took in their scent. It was amazing. He had felt an impulse to gorge himself before but never like this. He felt as though the candy was calling to him, and as he shoved it into his mouth, he felt an instant craving for another as soon as he was done.

“Mmmm,” he said. “Mmmm. Mmmm. Mmmm.”

He swallowed the chocolate and licked his fingers.

“Heeee. Heeee. Heeee.”

The bickering persisted and Frankie crunched the wrapper and threw it down onto the floor. He stepped down the first stair and making his way into the basement. He flicked the light switch on the wall and waited for the lights to turn on, but none did. All he saw was a light flickering at the bottom of the stairs.

He moved towards it.

He didn’t think about the reasons why there was candy, or why the woman would place it at the base of the stairs. The light continued to flicker and yet Frankie couldn’t stop thinking about the candy. It was better than anything he had tasted before. Frankie swallowed what he was still chewing while, lurking in the shadows, he saw the elderly lady, sitting on a rocking chair, and grinning ghoulishly at Frankie as he approached her.

He shuddered.

“Ah-huh.”

The old lady glared and Frankie backed away.

“Shhhh,” she said. “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.”

Frankie was ready to run back up the steps and leave the house he knew he was trespassing upon.

“Don’t be afraid.”

The old lady raised her hand and smiled.

“I was down here when I heard you knock. I didn’t know that I left my door open. I just thought…maybe you would like to come in and take what you wanted yourself. After all…,” the lady lifted the blanket that was over her lap, “…I didn’t want to be the one to stop you.”

“Oh…,” said Frankie.

“Yes,” the old lady said with a sly grin, “do you want more?”

“Ummmm…”

Frankie was nervous to answer. He thought the old woman would recognize him but then he remembered his costume. He wanted to get back home. He didn’t like it when he didn’t obey his parents. His mother would yell and send him to his room, but this was Halloween and there was candy, lots of candy, and he wanted all of it.

“Come on,” the elderly lady invited. “I know you want it. I know you want what I have.”

Frankie gulped and tried to stay away, but couldn’t help but feel entranced by this woman. And then, before Frankie moved to the door, he spotted another bowl of candy. It was filled with his favourites: Twix, Gummy Bears, and a bundle of black licorice. His hands were moist and his lips felt as though they hadn’t touched chocolate in hours and yet it had only been mere minutes since the last time he ate it.

The old lady grinned at him.

“Do you want some more?”

Frankie’s mouth was full as he waddled to the table and sat. He reached into the bowl and grabbed the candy.

“What’s your name?” the lady asked Frankie.

Frankie swallowed and started to unwrap more candy.

“Frankie,” he said, after he swallowed.

“Frankie,” she said, smiling. “I like that name. I’m Gretel.”

Frankie smiled back at her, but made sure to keep his distance.  

“Good?” the woman asked.

Mmm-hmmm,” Frankie mumbled. His mouth was exploding with chocolate and cookie crumbs. “Great.”

Gretel reached across the table and gently tapped the back of Frankie’s steady hands.

“I have more, if you want more?”

“No,” said Frankie, wiping his face. “I think I’m good.” He marched towards the door and grabbed his bag, which was resting on the floor.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. Thank you.”

“Wait,” said Gretel. She stood up from her chair. “You can stay and eat more. I have so much more candy, more than any house on the block. You can have all the candy you want if you stay. I’ll make sure of it.”

Frankie lowered the bag from his shoulder and stared. His stomach ached and he felt an upsurge of vomit crawling up his throat. His instincts were telling him that this was all he was capable of consuming. The longer he stared at the lady’s glistening green eyes, the emptier his stomach began to feel. He felt hungry and hypnotized by the woman’s candid, unrelenting insistence, and the moment she placed another bowl of candy onto the table, Frankie’s licked his lips and headed back to his chair.

“Okay,” he said. “Okay.” He ploughed his face full of chocolate and the lady watched him.

“Good?” she said.

Frankie was swallowing the last of his bar before he belched and wiped his face clean of the jelly that was accumulated around his lips. “Is this…jelly?” he asked.

“Yes. Why, does it not taste like it is?”

Frankie was looking down at the back of his wrist and saw three red streaks that he assumed were from the candy bar, but then which was which, he didn’t know. To his knowledge, there were no chocolate bars that contained jelly, let alone jelly so thick that it could stick to one’s face, and appear in chunky globs around the hands. “I don’t know of any candy bars that have jelly inside of them,” said Frankie.

“Well, does it taste bad?”

Frankie shook his head. “No.”

There were five wrappers on the table, all of them spaced apart and all made with the same silvery paper that appeared crinkled and covered by the shade of red that Frankie noticed from the beginning.

“More?” asked the woman.

Frankie looked down at the last two bars that he was holding in his hand. These were hard, so hard that they chipped a few of his teeth without realizing. They were like pebbles moving around his mouth and the reason why he could feel it was the same reason why he saw the red streaks at the back of his hand.

“Something wrong?”

Frankie was quiet. The hard ingredients inside the candy were now under his tongue and against the muscles below. They were stiffer than he thought they would be. “What are these candies made of?”

“Same things that all candies are made,” the elderly lady said with a sly grin.

Frankie could hear her laughing but was focused on the plastic bag peeping from behind the door. He crept up to it and was immediately assaulted by the smells that were creeping through his nose and nestling in the back of his throat. The red stains on the plastic were familiar now, and as he spotted them, he drew his attention to his wrist. He could see the stains on his hands. It was the same as on the bag. It had a distinct and familiar smell.

“Hahahahaha!” He rubbed his hands and reached forward and touched the plastic. It was moist and there wasn’t anything that he could see inside, not until he yanked and dragged it from the room.

The old hag laughed.

Frankie pulled it again and, from within, several bloody bundles rolled along the floor and into the sides of his feet. They were red; soaked like sponges and yet each one appeared different than the other. Some thick, others were lighter, but all of them acquired the same pungent smell. Frankie removed his hand from his nose and kicked the bag. More pieces fell out but then there was one that was larger than the others, and when it rolled it made a tumbling sound that was like a boulder sliding along until it hit something. It hit his foot. Frankie thought it was a rubber ball because of how it rolled, but he knew later that it was no such thing, because when it stopped, it turned over and there were two eyes staring up at him.

The old hag’s cackle stopped and Frankie looked down at the severed head. It was then that it dawned on him; in his little premature, twelve-year-old mind, that in this bag was a body and those bloody stumps that hit him were all that was left of it.

He stopped and gawked.

“That candy was mighty tasty, wasn’t it?”

Frankie pressed his hand against his stomach and stumbled out of the room. He could feel something rumbling from within and the taste that he once equated with chocolate had now radically shifted and all he could taste now was blood.

The elderly lady stood and opened her hand. In it was a bag of dust that Frankie didn’t notice until now. She was carrying it with her as she crept forwards, her cackling carrying through the space, and her body shaking as she walked.

“Eat,” she said. “Makes everything better. My favourite spice,” she laughed. “My secret ingredient. Sprinkle it on and makes everything taste like chocolate. Hypnotizes the mind. Do you like it? Do you want to taste it some more?” She threw more at Frankie. “Here,” she said, “there’s plenty. Eat, fat boy! Eat!”

The dust spritzed Frankie’s face and he could feel it changing his senses. It was now making him nauseous and dizzy. His vision was blurry and his footsteps became unsteady. He could fall if he did not find a way to stay balanced. Whatever the old lady was tossing it was forcing Frankie to wobble as he attempted to escape. He clutched the walls and hunched over and as he tried to puke out whatever was inside him, the old lady continued to laugh until she came right up to where he was and touched him on the shoulder.

“I killed him,” she whispered into Frankie’s ear. “Your friends. I killed them. I chopped them into tiny pieces and wrapped them up. Did you hear me, boy? I chopped them up into tiny pieces and wrapped them all up!”

Frankie vomited and watched as the liquid formed into a puddle around him.

“I didn’t want to throw any of the pieces away,” said the woman. “I couldn’t, but I was willing to play tricks, and use some of my…” the old woman didn’t finish her thought, “maybe I could find someone to do it for me,” she said. “Maybe one of the many brats who steal from my garden, throws eggs at my house, and call me a witch, well maybe they could help. Maybe I could make them help me.”

The lady threw the dust down on his face and it trickled into Frankie’s nostrils as it did before. However, from this proximity, he could smell what he thought was a spice and it was similar to the smell of chocolate. It was what on the candy, which Frankie knew wasn’t candy now, and it was how this woman was able to disguise the pieces of one of Frankie’s friends. It was how she readied them for consumption.

It was how she made him eat it, how she made him eat him.

Frankie staggered up the stairs and into the door. He pushed it forward and raced down the path outside the porch, to the sidewalk. Although he was far, he could still hear the old woman laughing. He ran as quickly as he could while three more children walked up to the house. It took three rings before the door opened and once it did, the old lady answered; her face clean and carrying a fresh bowl of candy in her hands. “Trick or treat.”

JaRrett Mazza

My name is Jarrett Mazza and I am a graduate of Goddard College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. I have been published online in the GNU Journal, Bewildering Stories, Aphelion, and currently write for the website Sequart.

The Cold Uncertainty of Love or Real Love in a Cold Climate

I know they are talking about me again. Vicious whispers echoing along the tiled corridors. I ignore their gabble and instead carefully carry on rinsing and drying the dishes and jars. I bear the laughter as I wipe the surfaces dry, oblivious to the smirks and sly smiles. They prefer to ignore the customers at the tables to gossip about me.

I know what’s next of course. The false offer of friendship to go for a drink after work which they know I’ll decline. Now that the boss has sneaked off home early, it will be, ‘Oh Davy boy, just finish up will you, we need to get off. Yes, thanks bye. See you tomorrow’.

To be truthful I encourage it. I long for these quiet moments when I can clean up and set things right without the need to bear my co-workers.

I can freely chat with the customers before I finish my shift, delaying my dreary bus ride home to the flat where I am so alone.

I return to the main room and catch the eye of Sylvia. I overheard her name from Stan earlier when she arrived. She’d smiled at me as she came in and her eyes held me in their beautiful green gaze. She is absolutely stunning. I was surprised that she would even look at me but I sense an emotion in her, a connection. I smiled back but that fool Stan Dawson told me to get out as I was in his way. I was furious and embarrassed, but mollified when I saw that Sylvia understood and she gave me another wonderful smile of sympathy.

I carry on with my duties, trying hard to be professional. I’m above the sarcastic humour of those creatures who work with me. I respect our customers and try hard to maintain a high level of professional service. I care when nobody else does. Why can’t they see that?

My prediction comes true as all the others leave early to go for drinks leaving me alone to finish clearing up. The moment they leave I turn up the radio and change the channel to the classical station. I love the classics and I hear a buzz of agreement from the few customers still here.

I suddenly notice that Stan has spilt fluids all over a table occupied by a lovely elderly lady. She reminds me so much of my mother.

I dash over and wipe up the mess, apologizing profusely at the oversight of my colleague. She thanks me with genuine sincerity. This is what makes my life worth living. Those simple thank-yous.

I smile back and notice that the rather dignified middle-aged gentleman on table two is nodding his approval. I’m sure I hear him comment to Sylvia about my helpfulness. I can’t help sneaking another look at her again and see a sparkle of real interest in those eyes which shine from that white moon skin of her adorable face.

Totally out of the blue, she calls me over and thanks me for the care I take and for maintaining standards. We talk for an age, oblivious to the other customers and time itself. Decent people long to see the blossoming of love and I know their gracious hearts swell with pride at my achievement of having the courage to speak to this goddess.

An annoying thought reminds me I must clean the floor in the canteen and chapel. I make my excuses and dash to the store cupboard for my mop and bucket. It will take a full twenty minutes to wash the floors and put all the knives and instruments in the sterilizer. I quickly grab my sandwiches from the fridge as I’m famished. I work so hard that I sometimes forget to eat. After a few bites of sustenance I get on with my tasks, my hands on the mop but my mind and heart with Sylvia.

Finally, I’ve finished. I am free. As I re-enter the room of cold steel and white tile I hear the welcome from the customers. I apologize to them informing them that it is late and I must turn off the lights and lock up now. They fully understand and thank me as I place them on the trolleys and move them into the fridges, ensuring the temperature is healthy and comfortable four degrees centigrade.

I am shocked to notice that Stan has done a sloppy job of stitching up the elderly lady’s abdomen, and has even left the finger from a discarded rubber glove protruding through the stitching. Yet again am forced to apologize for the incompetence of my colleagues, who despite their doctorates and qualifications have the standards of the gutter. I unpick the stitching and gently tuck in the rubber finger, slightly uneasy about using her empty chest and abdominal cavity as a wastebasket for the detritus of the examination slab. I take great care in re-sealing her skin with precise stitches. Perfect. The lady giggles saying I tickled her, but thanks me all the same. I carefully zip up her bag and that of the distinguished gentleman as they indulge in a last bout of small talk. Then a final smile as I bid them goodnight and close the heavy fridge doors.

I now take Sylvia’s cold smooth hand and say adieu. She softly whispers sweet words to me and smiles. I almost cry I’m so happy at her request. I gently close her fridge door blowing a gentle kiss and turn off the mortuary lights.

No long sad journey home for me tonight. Not for me the loneliness of any empty flat. After I finish up, Sylvia has asked me round to her place this evening. Life is good.

Martin P. Fuller

Martin P. Fuller is just the west of 60 and trying to enjoy a semi-retirement from being a law enforcement officer for over thirty-four years. He works part time delivering cars for a rental company and endeavors to join as many writing classes as time and finances allow. He lives in a small terrace cottage in Menston, Yorkshire England.

It was because of these writing classes that he started gain the courage to submit his work for publishing. He prefers darker stories especially if he can affix a twist in story although he has dabbled in some comedy and poetry pieces.

So far, he has had work printed in self-produced anthologies from writing groups but hopes for a story to appear in October in an anthology published by comma press. He is hopeful that people will like the twists and turns of his dark mind. Either that or recommend serious therapists!

The Pumpkin Club

The kids ran around the street shouting, screaming, and singing. Harold Saggerbob smiled. He was in a good mood also. At Halloween, he always was. Another year, another chance to expand the pumpkin collection he had painstakingly built up over the years.

The doorbell rang. Harold put down the stained knife, and headed upstairs, whistling to himself. It was going to be a goodun this year, he thought. With a bit of luck, he might be able to fill the shelf above the workbench. That would make twenty; a nice round number, just like the pumpkins on the other shelves.

He answered the door to be confronted by Michael Myers, albeit a much smaller version, and accompanied by a very nasty looking witch.

“Trick or treat, trick or treat,” they sang in unison.

“Oh my!” he replied. “You two sure look scary young folks. I guess it’d better be a treat. Wait just a moment, I’ll be back,” he said and closed the door.

“Little shits. The hell they think they’re doing coming in pairs?” he grumbled, as he grabbed a handful of candy. Last year’s candy was for those that came in pairs or more, fresh-baked chocolate cake for those alone.

He toyed with the idea of throwing the door wide open and bawling at them, just as a joke for ruining his hopes of it being some young kid alone, then thought better of it. The night was still young, plenty of time for another hapless little shit to come knocking.

“Okay, here you go. Now don’t you come back and frighten me like that again,” he said, trying his hardest to force a smile, and disguise the look of hate in his eyes.

The two youngsters took the candy greedily, yet Harold noticed they looked at him rather suspiciously, their smiles fading rapidly and backing away as they filled their bags.

Harold closed the door and returned to the basement, his voluminous body-almost as many kilos overweight as his fifty-five years-bouncing up and down on each step. He looked at the latest addition to his collection, recently acquired that afternoon. He’d already removed the top, and was busy removing the insides-not a simple or particularly clean task. The juices were already running onto the floor, and he’d inadvertently covered his plastic apron in the thick goo that made up most of the contents.

“Never ceases to amaze me the amount of crap that fits into one of the things,” he mumbled, then chuckled as he turned it upside down to empty the last remnants, before working on the eyes. He wanted them to look particularly scary-it had after all cost him certain anguish obtaining this one; somebody had walked by just as he was claiming it for his own, and he had envisioned a heated discussion ensuing. Fortunately, the other person had ignored him, and left him with his new, grand prize.

Harold finally finished carving out new eyes, then looked at his creation. How to create the mouth? A nice, pretty smile, or a wicked, ghastly sneer? Or maybe a look of utter shock and horror? Would be fitting really, considering. He looked around the basement at the others. He’d painted many in almost war-like make-up, others he’d even put wigs on to heighten the effect, and the majority had small red or black candles sitting inside to give them a…cosier look as he liked to think. All good fun.

He decided on the shock effect. Taking the knife, and wiping it again (so much damn sticky shit), he began cutting out the mouth, when the doorbell rang again. Automatically, his heart began to thud a little harder and faster, while his intestines spun around inside. It was the anticipation which did it, of not knowing what to expect when he opened the door. Surprise and delight, or disappointment.

He took off his apron, put the knife in his back pocket, then headed back upstairs. Taking a deep breath, and wiping the sweat from his blotchy, round face, he opened the door.

“Trick or treat, trick or treat,” said a voice. A single voice.

Harold’s heart kicked into overdrive. The boy before him was alone. He quickly looked around to see if any friends might be hiding at the garden entrance, saw none, then faked his best smile.

“Oh my! What a scary little monster you are. You’re going to give me nightmares scaring me like that!” he chuckled, and patted his heart exaggerating a potential heart-attack. Which, he silently thought, may not be too far from becoming reality. The excitement was almost overwhelming.

The boy beamed behind his painted face, evidently delighted at the effect his mask was having. “Trick or treat,” he said again.

“Well, come on in! I’ve got just the thing for you. You deserve a special treat, young man. With that nasty-looking make-up you’re wearing, you’ve just saved me a lot of work!”

The boy hesitated a moment, then entered. The man looked harmless enough with his round, red face, and goofy grin. He followed him into the house.

“I keep all the best cakes in the basement, young man. Nice and fresh. Follow me.” He looked back at the boy. He appeared dubious, as though having some internal discussion with himself.

“I keep my pumpkin collection there as well. Unique in the world. I’ll show it to you also. You never know; I might even let you join the club!”

The boy seemed to think about it for a while, then shrugged his shoulders, and followed him down the stairs.

Harold waited until the boy had entered the basement, closed the door behind him, and locked it.

“So, do you like my little collection?”

The boy looked around the room, frowned, his jaw dropped, then he began to tremble.

“I don’t like this, sir. I want to go home,” he said in a very quiet voice.

“But what’s wrong? You don’t like my pumpkins? I think they’re very…cute. It’s taken me a long time to build the collection.”

“Please, sir. I don’t like it. Can I go now?” He turned to leave, but Harold was standing in front of the door; a great, towering obstacle that suddenly reminded him of some of the monsters he’d seen in movies, and comic books. Like the trolls from Lord of the Rings. His bottom lip began to quiver, and tears fell copiously from terrified eyes. Not wanting to, but for some reason unable to prevent it, as though he hadn’t believed his eyes the first time, he turned once more to look at the collection.

The walls were adorned with shelves, and upon them, sat row upon row of what Harold called his pumpkin collection. Children’s heads in multitude of expressions; some grinning, smiling; others with looks of horror, surprise, terror. Many with their faces painted, some wearing wigs to highlight the realism. The tops of their heads had been cut off, and the insides meticulously scooped out to be replace by candles, and their features delicately carved to create new eyes and mouths.

“You know, didn’t your mother ever tell you not to take candy from strangers? Even on Halloween?” he asked.

The boy didn’t answer. Instead, he tried to run past Harold, but Harold’s great bulk impeded him pass.

“Happy Halloween, young boy. I said I’d let you join the Pumpkin Club, and join it you will,” he said, as he produced the knife from his back pocket.

 

Justin Boote

Justin Boote has lived for over twenty years in Barcelona, Spain, plying his trade as a stressed waiter in a busy restaurant. He has been writing horror stories for just over a year, and currently has 8 published in diverse magazines including for Lycan Valley Press, Deadlights Shotgun magazine, Zimbell House Publishing, Dark Dossier Magazine and The Horrorzine’s summer edition.

He is also a member of a private writer’s forum called The Write Practice where he has also acted as a judge on two ocassions for their contests.

He can be found at Facebook under his own name, or at [email protected].

Good Carving Depends On The Pumpkin

You smile in anticipation. A knife’s hidden beneath your costume, you’re squeezing the handle ready to pounce when this year’s victim moves close enough.

There’s resistance as you first push against flesh, your razor-sharp blade slicing straight through their throat. They scream silently. You love the way blood splatters outwards releasing its tang — it’s what makes Halloween so special.

Licking away blood specks from your hand, you move round, gazing triumphantly into shocked eyes, before artfully carving shapes in skin, awaiting that final exhale as life slips away. They always seem taken aback to see the pumpkin wielding the knife

CR Smith

CR Smith is a student of Fine Art. She splits her time between art and writing and is aiming to combine the two at some stage. Her work has appeared both online and in print and she has a story in The Infernal Clock.

You can find examples of her work here https://crsmith2016.wordpress.com and https://www.instagram.com/smith.cr/

I Remember Samhain

There is no boogey man. No, but I am real.

I write this across my cell walls in dirty, bloody graffiti. A diary entry. Mouth dry.

Junior high was rough, long ago. They teased, mistook a small body for weakness. Fools.

Remember the 80’s when kids trick-or-treated in their neighborhood? Without parents? A graveyard pack bound by sugary euphoria, the oldest no more than ten?

My first taste of blood.

I hid among the bushes behind a plastic mask, clutching my daddy’s straight razor. Laughing their way towards me, Miller and Lisowski. Sidewalk idiots. I hated them enough to smile.

Chad Vincent

Chad Vincent is a teacher in rural Missouri. He lives on a farm with his wife, 3 kids, 30 chickens, 6 guineas, 1 quail, 3 dogs, and 2 cats. His work can be found in Trembling With Fear and the anthology 9 Tales Told in the Dark #21.

Trick or Tarantula

Last Halloween, Dr. Mason distributed jarred tarantulas. Little children screamed and ran. But some older boys accepted the creatures with wide-eyed fascination.

“Feed them a mouse—once a week,” Mason instructed. “They’ll soon outgrow the jar.”

Spiders grew, in shoeboxes and terrariums, under heat lamps in closets. The most dedicated boys returned for further instruction:

“A pigeon—once a week—until he outgrows the tank.”

“A cat—once a week—until he outgrows the shed.”

Come spring, the doctor congratulated his new apprentice: “Excellent, Timmy. Release Fang in the woods. Once a week, he’ll treat himself to a scrumptious hiker.”

Kevin Folliard

Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, and adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by Double Feature Magazine, Flame Tree Publishing, Parsec Ink, and more.

You can find more of his work at: <a href=”http://www.kevinfolliard.com/” target=”_blank”>http://www.kevinfolliard.com/</a>.

Trembling With Fear 10/22/2017

‘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 Marionettes

 

The humid summer air weighs heavy with the sound of my name.

Melanie… Melanie…

My kinfolk call for me as father’s coach winds through endless dark copses. Near, I swing behind draping curtains of moss. Oaks groan and bend o’re my body. Below, the brook gurgles.

The sweet voices draw near, but I cannot speak. Broken teeth splinter my lips and still my tongue.

Melanie…Where are…you…?

A howl. A sorrowful call from one of the dogs unleashed into the woods echoes through the trees, but rain dampens the earth. The baying hounds can find no scent.

Swiftly, a man’s voice rises in melody, calling for me. My body stiffens. Thomas.

Thomas’s voice joins the wails of the hounds and cries of those who loved me, all of them drawing nearer and nearer.

Scalawag, I want to say. I want to tell them. I want to warn my sister, my pretty Dottie, who took a shine to my beau same as I when he came to town – a carpetbagger, true, but handsome and so charming that even father consented to his courtship of me. Dottie was hurt, but I was older, and father said there was time yet for her to meet a suitor but nownow…

I want to scream. I cannot draw breath.

All I might do is swaysway

We all sway beneath the groaning bridge.

Dolls surround me. Once lavished with affection, their lips are frozen in an eternal yawn, parted and blue. Sparkling tokens adorn their fingers as their hands dangle limp by their sides. Cheeks sunken, bones pearly, skin weathered and worn, eyes fodder for the crows

And I am now one of them. I am a part of the collection.

Tethered by ropes around our throats that silence our voices and still our limbs, we sway.

Wooden wheels clack. The voices are so near that I could extend a hand and touch one of the hounds as the creature bounds past, but I will never be found. The crows scatter, cawing and fleeing from beneath the bridge in a murder. Flesh clings to their beaks.

Dottie and Thomas call my name into the cavernous valley of foliage and dank mud below the bridge. The movement of my father’s carriage o’er the wooden planks rocks our bones.

Below, we marionettes dance on our strings.

Carolyn A. Drake

A Jersey Shore native, Carolyn A. Drake currently resides in Howell, New Jersey, where she works as a Promotional Review Editor for Bristol-Myers Squibb. In 2016, her first short work of fiction was published in the Three Rooms Press “Songs of my Selfie” anthology, and most recently, her work “The More Things Change” was accepted for publication in the “Utter Fabrication” anthology published by Mad Scientist Journal.

Charcutier

November eleventh was once Peppero Day: after the thin stick candies. There were a lot of days in celebration of candy or fast food or carbonated drinks, back when conglomerates dictated such arbitrary things. And didn’t the kids adore all those days filled with the sweetest of sweet things?

I should be grateful to them, given that it made the children easier to chase down, all jiggling bodies and softness.

I unshoulder my pack and unwrap a fleshy sliver like an ancient leather sole. It’s not great – lean meat makes the best jerky – but it keeps me going.

James Appleby

James Appleby is a struggling amateur author striving to become a struggling professional one. He writes horror and sci-fi, mainly, but will try his hand at anything. His work has appeared in anthologies by Dark Chapter Press, and Iron Press.

Host

Far too late.
You can scrub all you like, drown it in bleach until the fumes get you, but it’s far too late.
That black, oozing patch, isn’t the mould growing.
Not for this species.
This is the decaying remains of its fruiting bodies; the spores long since expelled into the air.
You sent your kids away for the weekend to a friend’s house and moved you and hubby to sleep downstairs.
You called in a specialist to clear it out.
But it’s wasted effort.
You lean over it, with your face mask and Marigolds on, but you’re already coughing.

Sian Brighal

Sian Brighal currently lives and writes in Germany. Making use of her science degree and experiences as a trainee teacher she naturally went into flashfiction horror writing, where she has seen her stories feature in Paragraph Planet, Twisted Sister Lit Mag and Ellipsis Zine Lit Mag. Her interests include drawing, reading, baking and various other crafts.

You can follow her work at sianinkblog.wordpress.com.

The Eye

I came to the darkest corner of the land looking for answers. The great well of knowledge, presided over by the shadowy beings, stands before me.

I ask for truth.

They respond in ephemeral voices that “Nothing in this life is free.” A translucent appendage reaches out and tears my eye from me. For a moment, I can see myself in the void as I writhe in agony. I am now allowed to imbibe the well’s secrets. I drink deeply, and hear their laughter at my irony. I have become the fool … some things are best left unknown by men.

B.B. Blazkowicz

B.B. Blazkowicz is a carbon-based human male from planet earth, just like all of you. He writes horror fiction for the entertainment of his fellow humans and has been previously published in Horror Tree, Horror Writers and Bloody Disgusting. He enjoys ingesting the native plants and animals through his mouth hole for nourishment. His hobbies include breathing and lying in the dark with his eyes closed for eight hours a day.

Trembling With Fear 10/15/2017

Patience is a virtue so they say. But it’s tough when you’re waiting for a response to a submission. Do you get in touch with the editor or not? Do you, don’t you, do you, don’t you? Then suddenly you get an email, a yes and everything’s moving and … things suddenly go horribly quiet. That little voice starts to whisper in your ear, get in touch, withdraw your submission and again it’s do you, don’t you, do you, don’t you? Another email out of the blue, things are still on, just a slight delay, you are free to withdraw if you wish but we’d love you to continue … so you hang on. Silence again. By this time months, and in a few cases, a year or two has passed and you’ve almost forgotten about it when suddenly there’s a publication date, a contributor copy and somehow it’s all become real—at last.

The point of this? Writing is a long game and can be especially so when you are working with small presses but I would urge everyone to stick with them. These presses are often manned by only a handful of people or even just one person. They work the same sort of day jobs as everyone else, they have families and face the same time demands as us all. And yet they fit us in. They give writers a home for their work, perhaps the launch pad to bigger things. This is something I’ve always understood and appreciated. So I’ve learned to be patient, to hang on in and wait for things to come good. And that time waiting? It’s never wasted. Just fill it with more writing.

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

You’re Just His Type

On a break, the second day of his murder/rape trial, he notices you. Conferring with counsel, his over-the-shoulder peek into the gallery seeking friendly faces travels, lands far too long on yours. In your seat five safe rows away, his hard stare makes you shiver.

 

You do not know this hulking, bristly-faced rapist, jilted stabber of an ex-girlfriend. His case you choose at random, a court reporting course requirement: observe a week-long trial. “I’d choose a murder,” your professor had suggested. “Most likely to be lengthy and engaging.” You chose your murder straight from the front page of the News Journal, Law & Order style.

It’s close to lunch, when it first happens. An entire morning devoted to the graphic, blood-spattered testimony of the brutal rape and murder of Jenna Wollack, 25. You look at poster-sized photographs of 19-stab wounds inflicted on the victim on the concrete outside her apartment at 4:00 in the afternoon. This is when he looks at you, on this pre-lunch break — now that you’ve been acquainted with his handiwork. When he looks, his lips rub against each other in contemplation, and then the corners turn up.

The lawyer’s eyes dart from the legal pad to his client. Noticing the contact, he scowls and nods towards the bench directing his client’s eyes away. Released from his stare, your eyes drop to the floor, and you finally take a breath.

On the third day, you hear testimony from Jenna Wollack’s male neighbor describing “female shrieks so shrill they penetrated my walls and my maxed-out Manson.” He explains his decision both to race to open his door and then slam it shut as he saw the defendant, “20 feet away, soaked in blood, on top of Jenna still stabbing.”

“She wasn’t moving anymore. You see how big he is. He stopped and turned, was looking right at me. If I’d had a gun or something, but I – I just – I slammed my door and called the police.”

Judgy whispers of spectators in the gallery surround you as he leaves the stand, but you do not judge this witness. In this courtroom, surrounded by armed officers, he held you still with his eyes. You understand.

After lunch, before the jury comes in, he’s brought into the courtroom. As he stands there being unshackeled, he scans for faces, finds yours and freezes. Then his head tilts towards you, a playful nod. You look around you for any other possible targets, but none exist. As they turn him around to put him in his chair, you see a flirtatious smile.

The fourth day, his mother testifies about his fall, at two years old, from a kitchen counter. He’d landed on his head. After lunch, an expert medical witness testifies the fall severely damaged his prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that governs impulse control.

The judge calls for a 15-minute recess. It’s been a long time since a break. Most of the audience scurries out to hunt for bathrooms, water. You require no such relief, sit and process what you’ve just heard. The defendant’s lawyers are arguing in animated whispers behind their legal pads next to him when he turns toward you again. Then his lips move, and you realize he’s forming a word. It looks, to you, like “hi.”

Grabbing your purse from the bench at your side, you race from the courtroom and the building. A monster has chosen you. You’ve heard the symptoms of his disease and seen photographic evidence of its fatal consequence. You can no longer sit and pretend you aren’t aware.

Outside, requiring a drink, you wander a few blocks towards your favorite bar. It’s only 3:45. They won’t open until 5:00, but you’re a cute, young regular, and your ex-boyfriend works there. You know they get there early to deal with the liquor deliveries. Someone will let you in; you know it.

When you look in the window, you see him, Peter, your ex, unloading liquor at the bar. You knock on the window. He smiles and blinks perpetually wounded brown eyes you crafted with carelessness at a party with a boy and some coke in a bedroom. He lets you in, though, as you know he would, even hugs you before he pours your favorite red wine you don’t even have to request.

“You look pretty terrified. What’s up?”

You tell him about school and the trial and the murderer’s eyes all over you all the way to the “hi.” He listens to your monologue, wide-eyed and attentive.  Then bizarrely he laughs.

“Roger Farish, you went to his trial?”

“Yes?” His amusement irks you.

“He was a dishwasher at Rainbows, big-ass, creepy motherfucker. Called you Wednesday Addams.”

“Wait. What?”

It’s not Rainbows that confuses you.  You remember the restaurant where Peter worked as a waiter while you were dating. Sometimes you even ate there by yourself, to be close to him while he worked. You never saw this Roger Farish though apparently he saw you.

“Almost fought that dude one day. Walked into the kitchen, him ranting about exactly what he wanted to do to Wednesday Addams. Good thing I didn’t, though, right?”

He’s smiling, but you’re not.

“You never thought to warn me about this, Peter, a psychopath talking about me like this? I just spent a week at his murder trial.”

Peter drops the smile.

“Oh, right, because you told me everything then, Jill. You kept no secrets.”

You stand up to leave. You thought the wound you’d inflicted on this boy might one day heal, but now you’re sure it never will. Walking out of the bar, you hear his angry truth.

“Of course, he would like you, Jill. You’re just his type.”

You don’t look back and won’t ever talk to Peter again. You’ll go to Roger’s trial tomorrow. It’s personal now. You need to know how it ends.

 

Kristin Garth

Kristin Garth writes a lot of dark stuff, some of it stories, a lot of it sonnets. You can read her prose and poetry in SCAB, Infernal Ink, Anti-Heroin Chic, Quail Bell Magazine, Mookychick, Digging through the Fat, Fourth & Sycamore, Mystic Blue Review, Speculative 66 and many other publications.

You can follow her work on kristingarth.wordpress.com.

The Basement

It’s in the basement.

It won’t leave me be. I can hear it at all hours, moaning in the day and wailing at night. It’s driving me crazy, scratching its fingers against the old trap-door in the kitchen floor, wanting to get out and take my life. I hate it. It scares me and I hate it.

It’s scratching again, begging me to let it out.

I work up my courage and stomp on the door, shouting “Shut up! Just shut up!”

My son goes quiet again, at least for a while.

But it’ll keep on trying to get out . . .

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.

You can learn more about Patrick at his homepage.

One Person

My life would be peaceful if I removed one person from it.

The one who whispers sinister words in my ear everyday.

The one whose dark eyes sparkle as tears fall from mine.

The one that keeps me in good supply of bruises to coat my body.

The one who isolates me, forcing me to tell my loved ones to never come again someday.

The one no one believes exists.

His long bony fingers curl to rest over mine as I raise the gun to my head. Just remove one person. One shot and the devil welcomes a new monster.

 

 

Andrea Allison

Andrea Allison currently resides in a small uneventful town located in Oklahoma. She is an author who enjoys writing horror of all varieties.

Savior

The castle sat on a high ridge.  It was a cursed place.  The villagers stormed the fortress, intent on finding the creature that dwelled within.  They found the coffin.  A man rose from the silk interior.

“You have come for me.  In these modern times, with war, disease, famine, climate change and drought, you seek to destroy the smallest evil, yet you ignore the problems that will destroy your world.”

The villager in front, ripped open his shirt to expose his throat.

“Master, that is why we are here.  Make us immortal, save us from the end of the world.”

R. J. 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.

Trembling With Fear 10/08/2017

Guidelines. All publications, on whatever platform, have submission guidelines. They tell you how to present your work, what their content should be, what is and is not acceptable and … they give you a word count. At present TWF posts flash fiction of 1500 words and under and drabbles of exactly 100 words. Occasionally slightly longer pieces of flash get through but the word count is not that much higher than what is asked for. Unfortunately though, we have started to receive stories whose length is far greater than that which we accept and, even though the story may be good, we have to reject them because they are too long. We feel really bad when we do this because, as writers ourselves, we know what rejection feels like and these are rejections which could have been avoided. Please, when you submit, whether to TWF or any other publication, read the guidelines.

 

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

While we have a few drabble and shorts in the queue, we can always use more! Remember to submit something creative today! 😉

‘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

Anubis

“It was an amazing discovery,” said Jordan with a huge smile, showing arctic white teeth. “Finally we had indisputable proof that aliens exist and they have visited our planet.”

“Great. Just take a few steps back Jordan and we’ll get another shot of the big guy,” the director said.

Jordan complied and Hannah, finding herself standing beside Jordan, breathed in the woody scent of his expensive cologne. A strange giddiness came over her. Hannah had watched every episode of They’re Coming, the sci-fi series Jordan starred in. She kept telling herself she only had a crush on his character Max, not him. She didn’t know Jordan Riley the actor; the celebrity who lived in Hollywood and had just been nominated for an Emmy. But when she was introduced to Jordan this afternoon she almost forgot her own name. He was so ridiculously good-looking. She found herself gazing up at his smiling, bronzed face and gaping like an imbecile.

They were in a research laboratory within the Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane in Turin, Italy. The room was filled with half a dozen scientists in lab coats grinning like little kids about to open the best Christmas present ever and a documentary film crew. Never in her wildest dreams had Hannah imagined she would be part of a discovery like this. She, Hannah Kemble, forensic anthropologist and sci-fi aficionado, was going to see and touch an actual alien.

The wreckage of a spaceship was found recently in the Italian Alps and frozen inside was an alien–humanoid and about seven feet tall. The alien’s face was completely covered by a metallic helmet and his neck and arms were decorated with gold jewelry. Harriet Bloomsbury, a British Egyptologist, was the first to point out the helmet looked more like the head of a jackal than that of a dog as people initially thought, and the strange weapon found with the alien resembled Anubis’s Was Sceptre. After that, the media dubbed the alien Anubis.

Anubis had been entombed in his spaceship under tonnes of snow in the Alps for possibly thousands of years. Now he lay in a refrigerated capsule with little oxygen to replicate the high altitude environment of the Alps and thereby ensure he stayed preserved. The scientists only had a short time to examine him.

Anubis was carefully removed and placed on a long, stainless steel table. Looking at his frozen body Hannah was pleased. He appears to be in excellent condition. Hannah carefully examined the helmet. It was tapered at the bottom, therefore, clearly not designed to be pulled off. If they attempted to do so it would seriously damage the alien’s face. On one side of the helmet was a small round nub. Hannah pressed it with a gloved finger. Nothing happened.

“Try holding it down,” said Pete, the English paleontologist standing next to her.

She tried again. This time pressing it for a few seconds. The helmet retracted with amazing speed and collapsed into a slim line at the base of the neck. Pete gasped and clamped his hands over his mouth. Someone swore. The alien’s face was the stuff of nightmares. Hannah tried to appear calm, but like everyone else, she was shocked by the gaping wide mouth full of piranha-like teeth. The eyes were very small, like bats’ eyes, and the nose was merely two slits. On the side of the head were protrusions that looked like curved fish gills. Hannah couldn’t be sure if they were ears or something else.

“Wow, just incredible,” said Jordan, coming closer.

“Close-ups. I want close-ups,” called out the director.

Hannah stood aside as the tall Australian cameraman got his shots.

“Shit!” he yelled jumping back. “Its eye moved.”

A few people laughed.

“I swear it moved!” he said looking around the room wild-eyed.

The director shook his head, his mouth a grim line.

“Hey, people! Only one minute before we’ve got to put this guy back in the freezer,” said a perky biologist with a short bob and funky red framed glasses.

“I’m just going to take a tissue sample now,” Hannah told Jordan moving closer to the table.

Aware of the camera trained on her, Hannah kept the scalpel poised just above the closest arm for a moment. She cut downwards, piercing firm skin, then suddenly stopped. A groan escaped her lips as her whole body seized up. The pain of her muscles and tendons spasming took her breath away. Suddenly everyone in the room began convulsing as though they had been electrocuted. Hannah hit the floor hard. She felt the sharp blade of the scalpel slice her arm but couldn’t cry out. She was paralyzed. They all were.

What the hell happened? Why can’t I move? Hannah and Jordan lay opposite each other on either side of the table. Hannah looked at Jordan and saw his gaze roam all over the room like he was following an erratic fly then settle on her. They stared into one another’s eyes like locked-in patients who had no idea how to communicate.

Hannah wondered if Jordan’s face was going to be the last thing she ever saw. She remembered the scene in They’re Coming where Max was lying in a clover field with his girlfriend Rosie and they reach out for each other’s hands just before the world as they knew it ended. Now here she was lying on the laboratory floor with him in the very same poses, but they couldn’t reach out for each other and there was nothing romantic about this. Blood trickled down her arm, warm and syrupy. It seeped into her lab coat and the t-shirt underneath. The sodden fabric stuck to her stomach.

Hannah could see Anubis’s right arm and a bit of his leg from where she lay. As she stared at him two of his fingers twitched. Oh my God. He’s defrosting. Did he do this to us? Her heart thumped in her chest like a desperate creature seeking escape. Her fear was so overwhelming it eclipsed the pain of the knife wound.

According to the primitive part of Hannah’s brain, it was fight or flight time but her body couldn’t cooperate. Her mouth felt tight and dry, and her breath came out in short puffs. Adrenaline was coursing through her bloodstream, but she was as helpless as a beetle lying on its back. She was desperate to open the door and run screaming, not stopping for anything. But the only things going fast were her thoughts, ricocheting like bullets.

Yesterday someone left a newspaper behind on one of the tables in the hotel’s breakfast room. Seeing it was in English Hannah swooped down on the newspaper like a seagull spying a chip and read it while she ate her toast. She remembered in one article Harriet Bloomsbury was quoted saying Anubis’s Was Scepter represented rebirth and the resurrection from death. Hannah would have laughed if she could. We’d been warned. We’d been warned and we didn’t realize.

 

The top floor of the building had been cleared because of filming, and everyone in the institute had been directed to stay away from that floor. No one was likely to find them anytime soon. Hannah was an anthropologist with medical training, not a biologist, but she knew that after hibernation there was only one thing animals wanted to do and that was eat. Anubis had been hibernating a very long time; he was bound to be ravenous.

The loss of so much blood left Hannah feeling dizzy, and her face had turned pale. She didn’t pray; she wasn’t religious. Hannah just desperately hoped that someone would find them. Come to the laboratory. Please. Someone come to the laboratory. It seemed like an hour had gone by to Hannah, but only ten minutes had passed when she heard footsteps.

A bowlegged Italian lady in her sixties with a bucket full of cleaning products in one hand and a cleaning cloth in the other stopped in front of the laboratory door. The heavy door had a small glass square in it. Maria was only 152cm tall, so she stood on her tiptoes and lifted her chin as high as she could to peer into the room. At first she thought the room was empty then she noticed Anubis on the table. To Maria, he was just a mummy. She pulled a face and swiftly crossed herself. Working as a cleaner at the Institute for five years, Maria was used to strange sights but mummies always gave her the creeps. Taking a step back, she read the sign on the door that said in English and Italian, “Filming underway – DO NOT DISTURB.Relieved, Maria decided to start her cleaning on the floor below.

Wait! Come back! Hannah listened hard but she heard no more footsteps. Minutes passed and still, no one moved; they remained jumbled on the floor like discarded mannequins. Hannah stared into Jordan’s eyes once more as the silence was broken by the jarring sound of fingernails scraping against metal.

 

 

 

Diana Grove

Diana Grove holds a BA (Hons) in Anthropology and Graduate Certificate in Writing, and lives in Perth, Australia. She has a penchant for stories that are dark and bizarre. Her story Robot Lover appears in the anthology Freak Pure Slush Vol. 13.

The Monster

Billy Woods was tired but he couldn’t fall asleep because of the monster under his bed. He curled up under his favorite Batman blanket, dark eyes open as he watched for signs of encroachment.

He yawned, left arm slipping over the edge of the mattress, fingers dangling into the abyss. When he heard a dragging noise as the monster began to unfold and creep up on the limb, the ends of Billy’s mouth curled upwards in a cruel approximation of a smile. The monster below had taken the bait.

 

Sometimes the monster on top of the bed was far scarier.

Guy Anthony De Marco

Guy Anthony De Marco, a published writer since 1977, is a disabled US Navy veteran working on his MFA. He is a member of HWA, SFWA, IAMTW, SFPA, MWG, and hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. You can read more about him on Wikipedia and at GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

Acceptance

The Ouija board lay forgotten in the dusty basement. I knew it was there; it beckoned me in the depths of night. My parents didn’t believe me when I told them; said God would punish my lies. When they sojourned to Dorset, I stayed home.

“No guests overnight, no imbibing spirits, no parties, okay?”

“Sure,”

Down the dark steps I stumbled, following the summons I’d heard all my life.

“Finally we are alone,”

When the candle flickered and died, I broke every rule.

W-I-L-L Y-O-U L-E-T M-E E-N-T-E-R Y-O-U A-N-D S-T-A-Y A W-H-I-L-E? W-E

C-A-N R-U-L-E T-H-E W-O-R-L-D!

“I will.”

 

 

N.O.A. Rawle

N.O.A. Rawle graduated MMU with a degree in writing and philosophy. She lives with her family in the middle of mythical Thessaly, teaching English by day and scribbling creepy weird tales by candle light into the wee hours of the morning. You can get to know her better at www.noarawle.blogspot.com.

Washed Up

They will tell you about the calming sound of the ocean, or how the coastal wind waltzes with the waves and feels cool but not cold. They won’t tell you though about the fetid, curdled sea foam, the scent given off from the dying, stranded algae.

The seaweed was thick that morning, lumped especially high in one spot, a six-foot-long crescent of red and green sludge. Nicky could see that, but it was the smell that bothered her. Her husband grimaced as he saw her nose contort and scrunch up into a tight stub.

He should’ve buried that body instead.

Matthieu Cartron

Matthieu Cartron is a French American student at the University of New Mexico. His work has appeared in Trembling With Fear and 365 Tomorrows. He is in his sophomore year of college and writes for the New Mexico Daily Lobo.