Trembling With Fear 03/31/2019

I managed to get to the cinema this week with some family members to watch Us. I enjoyed Jordan Peele’s Get Out, so was hopeful this would be both good and ‘different’ to the usual horror fare. I remember all the hype about Hereditary but I’m afraid I was one of those who felt rather let down by the end result (I know many people loved it but for me it dragged and the end felt a bit of a cop out). Not so with Us. I loved it and I’ve had the song played when the Tethered replicate the Hands Across America event stuck in my head all week; it’s been tough avoiding humming it when I’m working with students! I’m certain I’ve heard it before somewhere but cannot identify it, it’s only a short blast and isn’t even included on the soundtrack which I’ve listened to on YouTube. Does anyone know what it is? The soundtrack is very good by the way and can be listened to here.

Trembling With Fear leads this week with Symbio-Trial by Louis Stendhal, a timely story as so-called advanced societies tackle both the obesity epidemic and the search for a cure for cancer. Josh Parker is obese and needs to lose weight, he also wants to do it in the easiest way possible, ie by avoiding exercise. As part of a medical trial he does actually lose the desired flab but at what cost? Unbeknown to him, the trial is really one which produces a cure for cancer. This story was a winner because it challenges the reader to think about whose life is worth more. How far could society go? How far should it go?

Herbie’s Eats by Hailey Piper is a great, informal blog style piece written with some underlying humour. Cannibalism is regarded as the norm and the restaurant attended by the food critic has received rave reviews. The absence of an answer as to how only positive reviews are ever achieved plus the selection process of the intended victim for the meals should surely have given the reviewer pause for thought. A good example of show, not tell.

Jiang Shi by Patrick Winters uses the simple technique of a repeated sound to build tension and a sense of ominous doom. Threaded through the story, the sound brings both the tale and Cheng to its expected, and inevitable, end. Clack, clack.

Salty by Kevin M. Folliard is very much a tale of pride coming before a fall. The huntsman taunts his prey as he tracks it, not paying much attention to other predators in the area. The dialogue in this piece gives Hayden a boastful, swaggering air. No actual description of the man is needed after this because you know you can see him perfectly in your mind’s eye. I also enjoyed the juxtaposition of the pig’s indifference to the violence of the hunter’s come-uppance at the end.

Three Blind Mice by Scarlet Berry builds tension well with the hiding of the sisters from their attacker. Using a nursery rhyme is a good technique to employ when writing something dark or horrific because it brings innocence and horror into stark contrast, thereby heightening the latter (and in terms of movies, how often have you heard children’s voices chanting a rhyme in a horror film – it really adds to the creepy element). In this case there is also an extra layer of violence as the rhyme is about to be enacted in real life.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

This week, progress was made on some anthology prep and artwork changes. We’ll have more of that to debut with you asap! 

If you’ve been thinking about dipping your toe into the world of drabble as of late, we’re a little light on those 100-word stories. While we’re scheduled out for over a month in them, it always helps to be prepared for the future!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Symbio-Trial

Josh Parker sat across from me in my office that day, out of breath and lethargic. His corpulent body overlapped the wooden armrests of his chair. Beads of sweat dripped down his forehead, like rain droplets on a window-pane. He seemed eager to begin.

“So, what is the medicine exactly?” he asked, wiping his forehead.

“The medication itself is a living organism. It has been genetically modified to consume human fat cells as its primary food source.”

“How fast does it work?”

“In our earlier trials, our patients lost an average of five pounds per week. We are increasing the dose this time around in hopes of that average increasing to about seven.”

“And there is no exercise required?” he asked.

“Exercise would be in your best interest Mr. Parker,” I said. A smile began to creep onto his face, “But no, it’s not required for the treatment to work.

He let out a few spurts of thunderous laughter. “I can see it now, as a T.V. commercial. ‘Are you tired of eating tasteless food and doing pointless workout routines for no particular reason? Would you rather sit on your ass all day and do nothing as the pounds fly out the window like your motivation to exercise? Then call this number now,’” he said, chuckling.

“There are already commercials like that—but I assure you our product actually fulfills that guarantee.”

Josh slammed his hands on his knees. “Well, let’s get started then. How do we do this?”

“I’ll be administering thirteen injections into your body: two in the stomach, one in each arm, two in the chest, two in each leg, one in each side and one in your neck.”

“Does it hurt?” he asked.

“Have you ever had a flu shot?”

“A few years ago.”

“It’s just like that.”

 

Progress Log (Josh Parker P#304)

Day 1

 

Injections of compound SBL-22 in subject were successful. Minor bleeding occurred in frontal cervical region; nothing serious. No visible side effects have appeared within the first few hours of injections. (end)

“Where do we go from here?” Josh asked, buttoning up his shirt to the rim of his neck.

“You will remain here with us during the trial for observations during the first six weeks. During that time, we will have you keep a journal so that you can document your experience.

“Are there any side effects to this?” he asked, scratching at the bandage around his neck.

“None that you need to worry about.”

 

Josh’s Journal

Day 7

 

Whoever owns the patent for this is going to be damn millionaire. I’ve lost sixteen pounds in a week. On top of that, I feel pretty good, other than an occasional headache or two. I have a few sore spots on my body, but the doc assured me that it would clear up in a couple of days. At this rate, I’m gonna be rockin’ washboard abs by April. Just in time for the final season of Game of Thrones. I’ll invite Becky over to watch it on the big screen. And right when Kit walks into frame, I’m going to flex so hard that my shirt will literally explode into a hundred pieces, she’ll look over all shocked—yet impressed, and I’ll be like, “Whoops, sure don’t make them like they used to.” Then we’ll make sweet love for days. (end)

 

Progress Log (SBL-22 T#2)

Day 7

 

The drug’s effectiveness is working better than expected with the body weight in the Trial 2 subjects. The deterioration process appears to be delayed in males over 135kg. We are highly optimistic about the overall results of this trial. (end)

“How are you feeling today Josh?”

“On top of the world Doc. Other than the pain I’ve been telling you about.”

“Lift up your shirt and I’ll take a look.”

Josh lifted his shirt up to his shoulders. His chest and stomach were covered with oblong shaped splotches of green and black discolorations across his skin.

“That’s just a bit of bruising caused from the injections—it’s nothing to worry about.”

 

Josh’s Journal

Day 14

 

The weight loss is continuing to do fantastic. Thirty-four pounds and counting. The creepy religious morning nurse controls what goes on the T.V. in the rec room. If I have to watch another second of Fox News, I’m going to break that damn, Make America Christian Again coffee mug that she drinks that decaffeinated diarrhea out of. Other than that, I can’t really complain. Feeling a bit foggy-brained lately. Doc said it would improve as my blood glucose levels stabilized. I had to look up what glucose was, which somehow led me down the internet rabbit hole to something called “The Hoboken Squat Cobbler,” which was fifteen minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. (end)

“Something’s wrong Doc.”

“How so? Are you still having pain?”

“Yeah, quite a bit of it.”

“Where does it hurt?”

“Everywhere.”

“On a scale of one to ten, how bad would you say the pain is?”

“Maybe a six—and it’s constant. It’s a dull throbbing throughout my entire body, especially in my stomach.”

“We can give you something for the pain.”

“I appreciate that and all—but aspirin isn’t going to fix this.”

“Don’t worry, Josh. We will give you something much stronger than aspirin,” I said, making a note of it in my log, “Any other issues?”

“I’m having trouble thinking and talking sometimes—it’s not too bad but it’s noticeable. And my pee looks funny.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, when I went to flush the toilet earlier, my urine looked brown.”

“Brown? Like dark brown?”

“Let’s put it this way Doc, for a moment I was concerned that my rectal tract somehow got connected to my urethra—because I was almost certain that I was pooping out of my wiener.”

“Never lose that sense of humor Josh. It’s unusual at times, but it’s unique.”

“To the grave Doc,” he said, as a smile grew on his face. “Oh,” he muttered, bending down towards the floor. He lifted his pant leg up, exposing his ankle. “Should I be concerned about this? They are like two times their normal size.”

“That’s just a bit of fluid retention; nothing to panic about.”

 

Josh’s Journal

Day 21

 

Legs gave out on way to bathroom. Broke a tooth on sink when I fell. Nurse said I go home tomorrow. Tired. (end)

 

Progress Log (Josh Parker P#304)

Day 22

 

SBL-22 has taken just a little over sixteen days to spread into subjects’ brain and liver. He is exhibiting signs of both severe short-term memory loss, along with rapid deterioration of motor functions. Our general hypothesis is that liver failure in subject will occur within seven days. The Harvesting Procedure of compound CT-63 will be scheduled for tomorrow morning. (end)

“Dr. Hyatt,” the man’s voice said through the doorway.

“Mr. Williams,” I said, standing from my desk, “come on in and have a seat. Care for some coffee?”

“No thanks,” he said, sitting down. “So, run me through how this works.”

“Alright. So, you’re into wine making if I’m not mistaken?”

“Correct.”

“Okay—think of the SBL-22 like the yeast.”

“Alright.”

“Now think of the fat cells as the sugar. After the SBL-22 consumes the fat cells of the host, it produces compound CT-63 as waste, just as yeast produces alcohol after it metabolizes sugar.”

“The CT-63 is what’s being harvested?”

“Yes.”

“What could it be used for?”

“The compound itself is completely harmless to the human body—but, we have found it to be toxic to several types of cancer—including leukemia.”

“Leukemia. Is that what Charlette has?”

“Yes.”

“And how was this discovered?”

“Like most great things—by accident.”

“How’s she doing by the way?”

“She’s hanging in there. Just turned ten last week.”

“Ten already? Do anything special?”

“I took her to that little Italian place she likes.”

“The one with those little buttery garlic rolls?” he asked, glancing at her picture on my desk. “Angelo’s, I believe.”

“That’s the one.”

“I like that place too,” he said. “What happens to the donors after the extraction?”

“They will be kept here for a few days for observation. When all their test come back normal, they’ll be sent home.”

“Well Dr. Hyatt, we’ll give you all the funding you need,” he said, shaking my hand. “And I sure hope this works. For human-kind—and your daughter’s sake.”

“As do I.”

 

Progress Log (Josh Parker P#304)

Day 28

 

Subject’s Time of Death is 11:23am, 07-04-2018. Harvesting Procedure was successful before the subject expired. Subject, along with the additional thirty-six participants, are scheduled for incineration on the morning of 07-05-2018. (end)

 

It’s been said, in order to make an omelet, you have to crack a few eggs. Sometimes, although unfortunate—it can take dozens of eggs, to make just one omelet.

-Dr. Steven Hyatt

Louis Stendhal

Louis Stendhal is a Science Fiction, Mystery and Horror writer from Chattanooga, TN. He currently lives in Twin Falls, ID, with his wife and ten year old son. He also does works of comedy and humor under his real name, Eric Baker.

https://www.facebook.com/Stendhal

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010406173634

 

Herbie’s Eats

GERALDINE’S QUICKIE FOOD BLOG

In a time glutted with brusque service, Herbie’s Eats is a shining example of friendly restaurants from a bygone age.

“Service with a smile, that’s our motto,” Herbie himself says. Asked his secret to keeping spirits bright amid stiff competition since the overturning of national anti-cannibalism laws, he added: “We have a careful selection process for who becomes food, and when customers are happy, we’re happy. Plus, we always get positive reviews.”

When probed as to how he manages this feat, he only smiled a little brighter and asked if I’d be interested in today’s special.

 

Hailey Piper

Hailey Piper was raised in a creepy patch of woods up north, haunted by ghouls and monsters. Today she keeps her childhood nightmares alive by writing them down.

Twitter: @HaileyPiperSays

Site: http://www.haileypiper.com

Amazon: https://smile.amazon.com/Hailey-Piper/e/B07HDYFL2C/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1549619585&sr=8-1

Jiang Shi

Clack. Clack.

Cheng stirred, the noise out in the alley rousing him from sleep.

Clack. Clack.

When the ruckus kept up, Cheng threw off his covers and went to his window. He threw it open, peering down the alley.

He saw an old woman, hopping her way along the street, towards his house. It was Mrs. Huang — who’d died two weeks ago. She wore the hanfu and sandals she’d been buried in.

Cheng gasped — loudly. Mrs. Huang stopped her hopping, looked towards his window — and snarled at him.

Cheng quickly shut his window; but it was too late.

Clack. Clack. 

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, Deadman’s Tome, Trysts of Fate, and other such titles. A full list of his previous publications may be found at his author’s site, if you are so inclined to know: http://wintersauthor.azurewebsites.net/Publications/List

Salty

Hayden tracked hoofprints alongside the brackish outback creek.

He lifted his rifle.

“Piggy, piggy. Here piggy.”

Saliva mixed with tobacco behind his lip.

“Roast piggy. Morning bacon. Salty crispy bacon.”

A kingfisher screeched and warbled. Water lapped at Hayden’s hunting boots. Snuffling grunts sounded around the brush.

Hayden licked his lips, stepped into the creek, and waded around the bend.

Water erupted. Serrated jaws clamped Hayden’s arm. He screamed as an enormous saltwater croc yanked him into a death roll.

The creek reddened. Scaly tail swayed. And the pig watched with indifference.

But the kingfisher’s shriek was almost a laugh.

Kevin M. Folliard

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

Author Website: www.KevinFolliard.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kmfollia

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

 

Three Blind Mice

The three frightened sisters huddled together on the closet floor.  They could hear the sound of footsteps coming down the hall and wished that their parents would come home.  He was back, and they were hiding.

The footsteps stopped outside the closet door.  They could hear him breathing.  He started to sing a song about three blind mice and a carving knife.  The girls knew it was meant for them.  Slowly, he opened the closet door.  The sisters squeezed their eyes shut, praying that he wouldn’t see them.

He did, of course.

“This time I brought the knife,” he whispered.

Scarlet Berry

Scarlet Berry is a Yooper. She’s been married forty years to the same man and they raised four children together. She is a mystery wrapped up in a conundrum, and loves to laugh; both evilly and happily.

The Unholy Trinity: Eternal Companion

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

Eternal Companion

Joel remembered the bus’s horn and then nothing until he stood before Pearly Gates and a toga clad man with a beard.

“Saint Peter?” Joel said.

“Hmmm?” said the man.

“You’re he aren’t you?”

The bearded man remained silent.

“Heaven! Amazing. Listen, will my wife be here?”

The smiling gatekeeper shook his head no.

Joel grinned, until he thought of his hound. “What about dogs? I hoped Brick and I would deer hunt for eternity.”

“All dogs go to heaven.”

“Terrific. Where is he?”

“Heaven.”

Joel now noticed the pointed ears and forked tongue dancing in Peter’s mouth. Screams followed.

 

White Knight

The dog dragged my girlfriend to the pavement by her winter coat. It had surprised us as we cut through the alley.

The beast savaged her shoulder. Teeth pierced her coat, sweater, shirt, and finally, skin. Its size indicated a partial wolf heritage.

I moved towards them but stopped. My mother’s haunting words regarding canines played in my head, paralyzing me.

The hound released her shoulder and mauled her face. Cheek flesh peeled away. She was missing an eye. Crimson slobber hung from its jowls.

She called my name, but mother was right, I couldn’t help. I’m allergic to dogs.

 

Animal Magnetism

Gwen missed Larry, but her current liaison had potential.

The pair rolled around the bed. The burly man growled. He bit her lip. She felt his dense back hair and smiled as he howled. They rolled again, knocking a plant off her nightstand.

“Damn, I got it,” he said.

“NO!” Gwen shouted, but he already held the green.

“What?”

“The wolfsbane doesn’t hurt?” Gwen sighed and reached under the sheets.

“It’s poisonous?” he asked.

Gwen pulled the revolver from the pillow.

BAM!

He slumped to the floor.

“Bullets weren’t even silver. Why are the good ones always married or human?”

 

Ryan Benson

Ryan Benson previously found employment as a researcher/professor in Boston, MA. He now resides outside of Atlanta, GA with his wife and children. Ryan hopes to one day complete a novel, but until then he keeps himself busy writing short fiction stories. Trembling with Fear, Suspense Magazine, The Sirens Call, ARTPOST, Short Fiction Break, Martian, and The Collapsar Directive (Zombie Pirate Publishing) have published his work.

Twitter: @RyanWBenson

Trembling With Fear 03/24/2019

The days are getting a bit lighter, there’s blossom on the trees and … there’s still a lot of coughing and spluttering going on in the Ellis household. Not all me, I might add, but my lovely family. Then again, it’s a small revenge for them all supporting Wales in the recent Six Nations Rugby. My husband’s Welsh and my children prefer to forget their English halves. (Wales won by the way.) I feel a bit outnumbered at these times. 

At least my head’s clear enough to try writing again and I’m attempting a ‘weird’ story. Not something I normally write but I thought I’d give it a go. That’s one thing HWA’s Fright Club is good at – encouraging you to try areas outside your comfort zone. At least it keeps me occupied while I wait for decisions on some stories submitted not so long ago. Plus I’ve got TWF!

Trembling With Fear leads this week with Fruit on the Forest Path by Chris Panatier, a story which feels almost harmless at first. There’s a touch of the gothic in the setting, the description of Janie’s walk into the woods, away from the world, away from her trials and tribulations. It continues with this sense of innocence, brings in a touch of fantasy – a vein which you think will continue but … things change and Janie soon discovers her mistake in her attempted good deed. This story reminds me a bit of the films where you shout at the character, ‘Don’t go in there,’ but they do and you watch helplessly as they move towards inevitable disaster.

The Crooked Man by Andrea Allison twists a memory of a family member. The portrait shows one face presented to the family, the skeletons which come tumbling out of the closet show another. Scary what a smile can hide. Provokes that perennial question – how well do we really know those closest to us? A thought which often sends a shiver down the spine.

Cimmerian Shade by Terry Miller is very strong in building up mood and atmosphere by simple juxtaposition of noise and silence, light and dark, life and emptiness. It shows you don’t need a lot going on, just a simple idea pulling your character along, turning her into a puppet, easily manipulated, easily destroyed.

The Last Cloud by CR Smith takes us to a drought-stricken world invaded by aliens. Despite the latter, the desperation for water brings humans out into the open for a moment which will probably, possibly, never happen again. I enjoyed the use of alliteration and onomatopoeia which brought both sound and image to the page, eg ‘Rainwater sizzles, haphazardly hitting abandoned vehicles.’

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Okay, some fun updates! We may have a new TWF logo to enjoy in the near future and work may have started in on the covers of the anthologies! Also, some good news may or may not have gone out to the contributors of our first edition of Trembling With Fear!: Year 1! 🙂 This one is another short and sweet update by me. I’ve been running myself ragged trying to keep all my commitments as of late. . 

‘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

Fruit On The Forest Path

Janie made her way past the final house on the block, a black-shingled Victorian whose resident, an old widower, was a shut-in. His eyes, it seemed, were multiple, set in a herd of mostly feral cats that watched from the perimeter like gargoyles atop the stone columns marking each length of iron fence. Other than their suspicious yellow eyes, they showed no movement, and Janie felt relief as she entered the path to the cover of the woods.

     The path was a refuge, the solitary route she took home from school when life felt too much. Silence hung like a cottoned fog and the outside world faded to rumor, a million miles from squabbling parents and jeering classmates. Her shoulders relaxed some as she burrowed ahead.

     The trees had already surrendered to autumn, with all of the sycamores and oaks baring themselves. Janie pushed through their leaves, each footfall muted by the smothering quiet.

     She stopped near a bramble and spoke aloud just to test if her voice would be swallowed. “Hello.”

     “Who’s there?”

     She turned to either side. “Hello?”

     “Are you a cat?” A melodic voice.

     “Uh,” she checked herself, “no. I’m a person.”

     “All cats are persons. They’re just person-cats. What kind of person are you?”

     “A human person.”

     “How do I know you are telling the truth?”

     “Tell me where you are and I’ll show you.”

     “Exactly what a cat would say!”

     “Well I don’t really know how to convince you that I’m not a cat unless you look at me.”

     “Did the cats see you come in here?”

     “Mr. Harkleroad’s cats? Of course they did. There’s like a million of them.”

     “Oh, great. You’ve probably led them right to me. Please go.”

     “I could help you. Where are you?”

     “Prove you’re not a cat first.”

     “How do I do that?”

     “What word means to understand another person’s plight?

     Janie gave the obvious answer. “Empathy?”

     A relieved sigh. “You’re not a cat.”

     “What?”

     “Cats can’t use that word.”

     “Can’t use it? Can’t say the word empathy?”

     “Can’t, won’t—cats are selfish. It’s all I-I-I, me-me-me. Never a thought about anyone else.”

     “Okay, so I’m not a cat. Where are you?”

     “I’m hiding from cats, girl.”

     “Okay,” said Janie, spinning about, “where?”

     “My wing is broken. I can’t move very well. Stuck, really.”

     “You’re a bird?”

     “An owl, girl.” Now the voice made sense. Exactly the voice an owl would have.

     “My step-sister is a vet! I can get you help!” Her heart swelled.

     “Is she good, your step-sister?”

     “The best. I can take you if you’ll just tell me where you’re hiding.”

     Silence. A snow flurry blitzed down. There wasn’t much place for an owl to hide. Janie poked a scraggly blackberry with a sneaker, careful to avoid the unpicked fruit, ruptured and hanging like offal.

     “You see the burnt trees?” asked the owl.

     Janie knew the ones. Ahead was a stand, three of them blackened by a decades-old lightning strike. She’d always wondered if it had hit only one, with the others catching fire, or if its electric fingers had spread wide to touch all three in one go.

     “They’re right in front of me,” she said, approaching. “Which one are you in?”

     “The big log on the ground.”

     Janie spotted it, thick with char and set askew beside the leftmost tree. She followed it upward and matched the fracture-lines. It had been a towering tree, still was, and even though fire had gutted it the wood held. “You’re…in there?”

     “Where else would you go if you couldn’t fly?”

     “I guess in there.”

     “Well that’s where I am.”

     “Can you hop out?”

     A shuffling from inside, moaning. “Ugh, it hurts too much. Can you reach me?”

     Janie considered the trunk’s empty hole, what would be a tight and claustrophobic fit. “I’ll run home and get a pry-bar. I bet I can break this longways. My dad left his toolbox behind.” She turned to leave.

     “No-no-no! Please!” cried the owl. “Cats hunt at nightfall.”

     Janie turned back to the hole, somehow blacker than the sooty wood that held it. More flurries fell from the greying sky, low and bulbous. She knelt by the log to look inside.

     “There you are,” said the owl, though he remained in darkness. “And not a cat at all.”

     “How far back are you?” asked Janie, uneasy about navigating the narrow tube.

     “An arm’s length, perhaps a touch more.”

     Janie sat back on her calves, felt the moisture on the ground wick into her jeans, and looked around at the woods. Dusk. She exhaled nervously and let her backpack droop to the ground.

     “Quickly, please, or I’m a goner,” urged the owl.

     Janie zipped her jacket to the top and eased onto her stomach, bringing her face to the threshold.

     “I’m so relieved, girl. What was your name?”

     “Janie,” she said, shuffling on her forearms into the maw.

     “Lovely name. I’m lucky you came along.”

     Her shoulders rubbed the sides and she kept her face low to avoid bumping her crown on the tunnel’s ceiling.

     Outside came a scratching. “Did you hear that?” she asked.

     “I only hear you.”

     “I’m afraid I’ll get stuck,” said Janie, pressing inward. “My arms are pinned. I don’t know if I can reach you.”

     A zipper tore opened outside. Her backpack. “Who’s out there?”

     She kicked in blind fear at whatever had come and tried to push out. “I can’t move! I’m scared!”

     “Oh, that’s loud,” said the owl. “The cats will be coming for sure now.”

     Something scratched at her ankles and she shook it away. “Ow! They’re here!” Another scratch, and another. “They’re hurting me! Help!”

     The owl was silent.

     “Hello?” Janie pleaded.

     A purring.

     She brought her eyes forward and strained them into the void.

     Blackness lifted from over orbs of gold, and the slits that divided them spread wide.

Chris Panatier

“Chris’ short fiction has appeared in The Ginger Collect Magazine and he was a finalist in this year’s Writers’ League of Texas manuscript contest. He does album covers for tiny metal bands. He practices law in his spare time.”

@chrispanatier

chrispanatier.wordpress.com

facebook.com/chrispanatier

The Crooked Man

            The Crooked Man drenched in black stood contorted on my uncle’s wall. A drop of drool dangled from it’s pointed teeth, but he claimed the painting with a smile as his self-portrait.

            Upon his death, the Crooked Man probed my fears with his large white eyes. I quietly approached it when a cloud of soot ruptured from the fireplace. Nestled in its center, hundreds of photos spilled from a gray shoe box all of the Crooked Man standing over bloody women. My gaze reverted to the painting only to find the smiling face of my uncle staring back at me.

Andrea Allison

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

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

Cimmerian Shade

Old houses settle. Floors creak. The sounds upstairs were neither. Floorboards don’t make noises in succession, of this Piper was certain.

Knife in hand, Piper quietly climbed the stairs. Once at the top, the slow squeak of door hinges followed by the clicking latch drew her attention to the end of the hall. Darkness.

Piper listened as the foreboding silence swept over her. She focused on the pitch-black corridor, its ominous presence drawing her gaze deeper into itself; drawing her deeper. The Cimmerian shade consumed her consciousness, a transcension to bleak, soul-crushing perpetual emptiness. Piper found herself implicitly forsaken, hollow.

Terry Miller

Terry Miller lives in Portsmouth, Ohio right along the Ohio River. His work has appeared in Sanitarium Magazine, Devolution Z, Jitter Press, Poetry Quarterly, O Unholy Night in Deathlehem, and was nominated for the annual Rhysling Award from The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association which earned him a spot in the 2017 Rhysling Anthology.

The Last Cloud

When the first drops fall we run from the shelter, dry mouths open, our upturned eyes ignoring the oppressive alien crafts hovering overhead. The heat is unbearable.

Overdue precipitation dispenses hope with a dose of relief. Rainwater sizzles, haphazardly hitting abandoned vehicles. The scorched earth greedily absorbing what misses.

We feel the vibrations of the weather weapon starting up, hear the rumbling in the distance. The terraforming is nearing completion.

Rain stops as quickly as it arrived, lingering petrichor evaporating all around us.
We pray silently watching the cloud disappear, knowing deep down we will never see its like again.

CR Smith

CR Smith is an artist and writer living in the UK. Her work has been published by Ellipsis Zine, Spelk Fiction, Visual Verse, Glove Lit Zine, Train Lit Mag and The Cabinet of Heed. It is also to be found in several anthologies including, The Infernal Clock, Drabbledark: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles, Chronos: An Anthology of Time Drabbles, the Trembling With Fear: Year One Anthology, and The Infernal Clock Deadcades Anthology. A poetry anthology, Fourteen, and a Stickleback pamphlet are due to be published in 2019 by The Hedgehog Poetry Press. Her artwork has graced both the cover of Déraciné A Gothic Literary Magazine, issue 2, and the inside pages of issues 2 & 3.  

Twitter @carolrosalind

https://crsmith2016.wordpress.com  https://www.instagram.com/smith.cr/?hl=en

Trembling With Fear 03/17/2019

Oh dear, the plague has returned (with Stuart still suffering, TWF is really a hotbed of germs at the moment). I’ve been unable to shake off a cough from my recent bout of illness, it had been getting better but now I’m back to square one and the ‘fluey’ feeling is also back. This means I will be keeping this week’s editorial short and sweet; I’m typing it up from my sickbed before I knock myself out with Night Nurse – there’s dedication for you.

The first story this week in Trembling With Fear is The Masked Rider Saves his Family by Max Sparber is a story in the vein of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds told simply from a child’s point of view. With a childish belief in the fictional Masked Rider, he tries to emulate his hero, acting out what the character would do when confronted by an alien. The sheer simplicity and naivety of the boy makes the ending that much more tragic and horrific.

The Death of Dave Harbour by Arthur Unk has cold desperation bleeding through the paragraph. Adjectives and word positioning, alliteration and some great phrases, eg ‘The baritone howls of the creature echoed off the ravine walls’ immediately build atmosphere and tension and creates a stark image in the reader’s mind.

Blood Brothers by Steven Holding one of those reunions in a cabin stories which lead to murder – with a neat, although psychotic, twist. Some great imagery in this story too, ‘Throat slit like a second smile’ being a particular favourite.

Sting by Steve Toase is sheer poetry. A lyrical folk horror, Sophia becomes an element of nature, creeping into houses and into dreams to bring about a living nightmare. Perfect use of language, what more can I say?

So that’s it for this week and now I lay me down to sleep (if I am going to have any chance of dealing with a full work day tomorrow!)

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

With the flu out of my system outside of a persistent cough I’ve been able to make progress on a few things.

First off, we may have figured out the cover for the next volumes of TWF and I’ll update you on that shortly!

Secondly, authors who were in ‘Trembling With Fear: Year 1’ should have received an e-mail from me in the last week. Please respond asap!

Third and finally, a huge thank you to our Patreons! I’ve been brainstorming a few new offerings for you soon. Stay tuned!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

The Masked Rider Saves his Family

Manny was playing with his Masked Rider doll when his mother made a noise. He knew it was her voice but he had not heard that noise before. It was the sort of sound the dog made. Sometimes Zorro got caught underfoot and yelped slightly. It was that sound.

     Manny set down his doll. It looked just like the Masked Rider from the television show, with a detachable plastic hat that was constantly falling off. Manny didn’t like that.

     He stood and went to his door, peering out. Downstairs he could hear his parents speaking in quiet voices, urgently. “So soon?” Manny’s mother said. “They said it would be at least two weeks. How did it get here so soon?”

     Manny walked to the stairs. Zorro was asleep at the top, so Manny stepped over the dog and padded downstairs.

     His parents were at the living room window, looking out. In the distance outside there were flashes of light, like fireworks.

     “I’m hungry,” Manny said.

     Manny’s parents turned. His mother marched over and took his hand while father drew the blinds on the window.

     Mother took Manny to the kitchen and set about making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “No edges,” Manny said. He did not like the crust.

     “No edges,” mother said.

     Manny watched as his father passed the kitchen door. Father was carrying a portable television. He went into his study and closed the door.

     “You know what?” Manny asked his mother.

     “What?” she answered, smearing peanut butter on bread.

     “The masked rider was caught in cave last week and he was surrounded by bandits,” Manny said.

     “Oh no,” mother said, adding jelly.

     “I knew he could take them,” Manny said.

     “Of course he could,” mother said, cutting the sandwich in half.

     “He sure could,” Manny said. “They came in to get him and he took out his guns and bang bang bang,”

     “Bang bang bang,” mother said. Then father groaned.

     Mother put a plate with the sandwich on it in front of Manny. She turned and walked out to the study. The sandwich still had its crust on it.

     Manny frowned. He took the plate in his hands and followed to the study. He stopped at the door. Mother was crying.

     Mother and father were watching the television. There were explosions on it. Father spoke, very quietly.

     “They’re saying they have a ray,” he said. “It burns up whatever it touches.”

     “Can’t somebody talk to them?” mother asked, her voice thin and high.

     “I think they’re trying,” father said. “They damn well better be trying.”

     Manny laughed. Both parents turned, looked at him.

     “You said a bad word!” Manny said.

     “Go up to your room,” father said.

     “But my sandwich,” Manny said.

     “Go up right now,” father said very sternly.

     Father stood and closed the door to his study.

     Manny kicked the ground, angry. It woke Zorro, who stood at the top of the stairs, stretched, and then looked down at Manny expectantly.

     “Come on Zorro,” Manny said. “Let’s go to my room.”

     Manny went upstairs and into his room, the dog following. Manny slammed his door. He sat on the floor and ate his sandwich, feeding the crust to the dog.

     Outside, there was a noise. It went boom. Manny stood up and looked out the window. There were people in the street outside. They were running.

     Manny went to his closet. He put on his felt cowboy hat. He pinned his plastic sheriff star to his shirt. He pulled his plastic gun belt around his waist. He put his cap guns in the holsters. Finally Manny put on his plastic eye mask. Now he looked just like the Masked Rider.

Zorro licked Manny’s plate where Manny had left it on the floor.

     The door opened and mother came in. She kneeled down in front of Manny and took his hands.

     “Manny, we’re going to go down to the basement,” she said.

     “Why?” Manny asked.

     “It’s a game,” mother said.

     “Can we take Zorro?” Manny asked.

     “Not for this game,” mother said. “Zorro makes too much noise for this game.”

     She stood and they walked out the bedroom. Zorro stayed behind, still occupied with the plate.

They walked down the stairs. Father was there, holding open the basement door.

     They went down together.

     “Go into the shelter,” father said. “I’ll turn out the lights and follow.”

     Mother and Manny went into the bomb shelter together. It was small and concrete and cool. They sat on the floor.

     “This is the game,” mother said. “The game is to be as quiet as possible. No matter what we hear, we are going to be as quiet as possible. Can you do that, Manny?”

     “I’ll protect you,” Manny said.

     Mother choked for a moment. The lights went out.

     “I know you will, little one,” she said. “But right now we need to be very, very quiet.”

     Father came in. Manny heard him move the metal door across the entrance to the shelter. Father sat down. Father held them both.

     “Quiet as a mouse, Manolo,” father whispered. “Quieter than you have ever been.”

     There were more booms from outside. The house shook, and dirt fell from the ceiling of the shelter.

     Everything sounded very distant, very deep, like it sounds when you put your head underwater in the bath. Like you are underwater and far away somebody is screaming.

     Soon there were the sounds of barking. Zorro. Then heavy sounds from above the shelter, from upstairs. Zorro barked again, and Manny inhaled hard, like he was about to say something.

     Father put his hand on Manny’s shoulder and squeezed. Manny closed his mother.

     Another bark, and then a strange noise, like the buzz a television makes when you turn it on.

     Zorro did not bark again.

     More sounds. Movement. Something came down the stairs.

     Manny could hear it moving around the basement. In the dark, he put his hands on his cap guns.

     And then there was a sliver of light. The metal door to the shelter opened slightly.

     Father’s hand was still on Manny’s shoulder, and father’s hand shook. Mother was pressed up against Manny, and Manny could feel her chest rising and falling, like when Zorro had been running and began panting. Her breaths came fast, but in a whisper.

     The door to the shelter opened more. There was a hand on it. Or, not a hand. Something like a hand.

     The door opened the entire way. Mother sobbed at what she saw.

     Manny stood up and drew his cap guns, pointing them. “You go away!” Manny shouted. He heard a buzzing.

The room got very hot.

Max Sparber

Max Sparber is an author from Minneapolis. His speculative fiction has appeared in “The Best of Strange of Strange Horizons: Year One” and “People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy.” Publications in 2018 include having stories anthologized in “Fangs and Broken Bones,” “Strangely Funny,” “Sanctuary,” “Black Buttons Vol. 3,” “Ye Olde Magik Shoppe,” and “Under the Full Moon’s Light.” Max is a member of the Horror Writers Association. He can be found at http://www.maxsparber.com/

The Death of Dave Harbour

The cold wind and ice blew against David’s frostbitten skin. Baritone howls of the creature echoed off the ravine walls. Teeth, fangs, and fur lumbered up the pass in pursuit. Jason and Kim were already dead; slaughtered savagely. David could taste death as the bile rose in the back of his throat. He slumped against a rock and pulled out his climbing tool. It would be useless against such a large creature, but the feel of it brought a sliver of comfort. Buring eyes appeared on the path ahead. David raised his weapon in faux defense and accepted his fate.

Arthur Unk

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

Blood Brothers

                Of the six that arrived, only two of us remain. Comrades since childhood; this secluded mountain cabin the perfect spot for our overdue reunion.

                At the height of the storm the first corpse appeared. Throat slit like a second smile. Frantic discussion eliminated initial suspicions; no stranger could’ve possibly gained access. Despite denials, responsibility lay amongst our terrified group.

                In the ensuing chaos, another was discovered, gutted. When the power came back on; two more, butchered and bloody. Simple mathematics revealed the truth. Facing my friend, I screamed “WHY?”

                Until the cold steel in my hand made me question everything.

 

 

Steven Holding

Steven Holding lives with his family in Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom. His work had been published in FRIDAY FLASH FICTION, THEATRE CLOUD, AD HOC FICTION and MASSACRE MAGAZINE. Most recently, his story THREE CHORDS AND THE TRUTH received first place in the INKTEARS 2018 flash fiction competition. He is currently in the process of completing a number of new short pieces of fiction and is also working upon a novel. You can visit his website at www.stevenholding.co.uk

Sting

Nettles emerged from Sophia’s every pore, unfurling just out of sight to button her skin white.

In bars drunken men plucked the leaves and folded them upon their tongue to prove their worth to no one in particular.

At night Sophia shattered their windows with leaf covered knuckles and crouched upon their beds while they slept. Slid the burn-hazel under their fluttering eyelids. Down their throats. Filled their dreams with snake bites that pierced cramped muscles, and limbs crumbling to stone with slow creeping gangrene. Dreams that did not fade with waking or the bite of the surgeon’s precise saw.

Steve Toase

His work has appeared in Shimmer, Lackington’s, Aurealis, Not One Of Us, Hinnom Magazine, Cabinet des Feés and Pantheon Magazine amongst others. In 2014 Call Out (first published in Innsmouth Magazine) was reprinted in The Best Horror Of The Year 6.

From 2014 he worked with Becky Cherriman and Imove on Haunt, the Saboteur Award shortlisted project inspired by his own teenage experiences, about Harrogate’s haunting presence in the lives of people experiencing homelessness in the town.

He also likes old motorbikes and vintage cocktails.

You can keep up to date with his work via www.tinyletter.com/stevetoase, facebook.com/stevetoase1, www.stevetoase.wordpress.com and @stevetoase

Trembling With Fear 03/10/2019

Oh, those moments of rejection. I had a wonderful half-hour this week when not one, but three, rejections came in – just like buses! They were nice enough rejections and I have sent the stories straight out again but it was one of those moments when you wonder if you’re in the right game. However, I was cheered up by some lovely reviews for my latest offering, Asylum of Shadows in Demain Publishing’s Short Sharp Shocks! Series. Swings and roundabouts as ever.

Other good news was on a more personal front. As a librarian in a secondary school, I was cheered by the news that our library is being rebuilt – we have, unfortunately, been surviving in a temporary portacabin for a while. By the end of the year, I will be in a new building with a lot more room – lots of space for horror! This month’s book purchases included Shirley Jackson and Richard Matheson. I have also donated my copy of Alma Katsu’s Stoker nominated The Hunger. It’s interesting to hear the HWA is providing a list of recommended books for YA/teens, so that, combined with Gingernuts of Horror Young Blood section will certainly provide me with some inspiration. Reading is as vital to me as writing and I love being in a position to get the kids reading – and no, it’s not always horror. It’s great when they come in with their own books and you discover they are reading some of the latest books out there – one student came in with Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions which I also have. Moments like those make me happy.

And now for our own reading. The first story up this week in Trembling With Fear is The Old Man in the Window by G.A. Miller carries overtones of Stephen King’s coming of age stories. Childhood memories of a creepy guy in the corner house on Hemlock Street – great name by the way, it immediately points out that something dark is coming – who never moves from the window, return years later resulting in a trip down memory lane. What is particularly chilling is that after all this time, nothing has changed and whilst the main character appears to have escaped from something possibly demonic, that escape is not quite so clear cut. I do like stories which hint at a possible bad ending for all concerned without necessarily stating it explicitly, leaving it to the reader to work out what is going to happen. I know what I think the character’s decision is, do you?

The Monkey by Patrck Wynn  is an end-of-mankind scenario. The almost hypnotic trance he is in as he watches the animals die conveys both fatalism and almost a complete separation of self from what is going on in front of him. Sometimes this absence of emotion, the dulling of the senses can carry as big an impact as including emotion itself, but this ‘void’ has to be clear and that’s what’s been achieved in this piece.

Tied to a Tree by Roxy Thomas turns a story which at first appears to be a stupid prank gone wrong into one where a particularly brutal form of justice is meted out following an apparent acquittal. A clever turnaround.

Philosophy by David Berger is a great speech delivered straight to the reader, forcing you to listen, to feel uncomfortable with his reasoning, his amorality. We always try to find the good in people and when confronted with one such as this, it is very disturbing.

Latest anthology update. We have to write a couple of forewords and obtain artwork and hopefully we’ll be all set, which reminds me, I should start building Trembling With Fear’s Year Three edition!

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Between The Flu, a huge project at work, and a huge financial thing that came up I’ve been beaten down to just about nothing the last month. I’m honestly not sure how these posts have been getting scheduled. Magic? Desperation causing me to get things out and pretend at normality? Late night sacrifices to the Ancient Gods who went dark before the light came into the universe? Who knows! I honestly don’t 😉

That being said, I’m still horribly behind. I owe a forward and need to push for getting artwork towards the next TWF installments. On top of that, I need to reach out to all of our past contributors and these are all things that I’ve just not been able to get done. The flu is gone (even if the cough remains) so I’m hoping that during or after this next week (when a HUGE timesink of a project comes to a close at the day job which will relieve me of a pile of stress) that I’ll be able to get all of that finalized.

At any rate. We’ve got some great stories for you today though we’re looking for more drabble and a few more shorts as usual if you’d like to get into our extensive queue of work to be printed! 

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

The Old Man in the Window

As kids, we add new words to our vocabulary all the time. We could define them, we could spell them, and we could say we know most of them.

Some words, however, are not truly known until they are experienced firsthand.

Freedom is such a word.

I knew freedom in the summer of 1968, when school let out and I spent the summer exploring near and far on my new bike. My grandfather got me a shiny new Schwinn Stingray bike for my twelfth birthday in late ’67, and as soon as the snow melted in ’68, I was out riding every free moment, strengthening my leg muscles and becoming as one with that bike.

I rode far and wide, well beyond my previous comfort zone, discovering places to explore and places to stay the hell away from too.

That house on the corner of Hemlock street, for example.

Every time I rode past that corner, no matter the time of day, he’d be there in the window, just watching.

I knew he was old, the little hair that remained on his head pure white, thin as a rail, always wearing a long-sleeved white button-down shirt, a pair of black suspenders holding up loose khaki trousers.

Today, I’d probably describe him as gaunt. Back then, he was just creepy.

Never moved a muscle, stood silently at the window watching, his face always set in a grimace.

I wondered if he might be blind, and stood there to listen to the world outside. I shared that idea with a friend and he suggested we find out by throwing an egg at the window and see if he flinched or moved away.

The thought of that icy cold expression bearing down on me and grabbing my collar as I tried to run was enough for me to take a pass. I told my friend I was curious, but not stupid, thank you very much. I told him to feel free to go ahead and let me know how he made out.

I wasn’t surprised that he never came over to proudly share the results of his experiment.

I never saw that old man anywhere but standing at that window, yet his lawn was neatly mowed, the yard clean, no trash overflowing the steel barrels, no newspapers or mail sitting on the steps in front of the door.

If he had someone tending to these things, I never saw them doing it.

As summer made its way to fall, I forgot about the old man. He got put away in the back of the mental closet as my awareness of both music and girls mushroomed over those hot days.

Then came the purchase of a new house, moving to a new neighborhood, and the passage of time we call “life” that leaves us wondering just where all those years could possibly have gone to.

I sit now in this hotel room, fifty years later, typing these notes on a device I first saw on TV in a show called ‘Star Trek’. Now retired on a disability, I decided to go back and visit the old neighborhood and see if the years had treated it well.

The German deli where I used to get a soda and sandwich is now a Korean market, selling goods I can’t even pronounce, much less identify. Next door, the Polish butcher shop is now selling and repairing cell phones and tablets. The ethnicity of the area changed many times over the decades, the shops representing those changes. Last I heard, for example, that Korean market was a Bodega.

Changing times, indeed.

On a whim, I took a drive along my old bike route, the one that took me to the park, to the library, to the homes where my friends lived… and yes, past Hemlock street too.

I signaled, turned the corner and hit the brakes of my rental hard enough to tip over my bottle of water in the cup holder. A car behind me sounded an angry bleat of their horn, and I pulled over against the curb.

There he was, standing at the same window.

Looking exactly the same as fifty years before, those same black suspenders holding up baggy khaki trousers, and that grimace, the mouth turned down at the corners as before. It has to have been my shock and imagination that made me think he was staring directly into my eyes, as though he’d been waiting for my return after all this time.

As I shook my head in wonder…and a fair amount of fear…he moved for the first time ever since I first saw him all those summers ago. He raised his hand and gestured toward the front door, which was opening on its own as he did.

I earned another angry horn blast as I slammed the car into gear and pulled away from the curb without signaling and waiting for the coming car to pass. I never even looked. I just wanted to get the hell away from that house and that man as fast as I possibly could.

On the way to the hotel, I found a place that still makes deli sandwiches and stopped for one, adding a six pack of beer, then returned here to my room.

I wanted to eat, I craved a couple of those cold beers, and now I sit here writing in this electronic journal they recommended after the accident, to keep my mind busy and not allow depression to creep in over my condition. I had to wait for my hands to stop shaking before I attempted to type, a skill I never really had.

I’m debating… I’m either going to finish this six pack, get a good night’s sleep and then check out and head back home in the morning, or I’m going to get up early, stop somewhere for breakfast, and then go back to Hemlock street.

If that door opens again, I may just go in this time.

THE END

G.A. Miller

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

His work has been published in numerous anthologies from a variety of publishers, and he’s just released his first novella, “Spirit of the Dead”, now available at Amazon.

https://talesfrommiller.com/

http://gamillerdotblog.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100015787309417

https://twitter.com/GAMiller666

The Monkey

Gill sat watching the monkey sway back and forth, he’d been watching the monkey for hours and knew what was coming. Suddenly the monkey wobbled, sneezed a red cloud, coughed wetly, wheezed and fell from the small branch it had been sitting on. Gill watched as the monkey hit with a wet thud next to the other dead monkeys. He stared down at the dead monkeys with a blank stare for a few minutes before turning away. He was now the last living thing in the city, he wasn’t sure how he felt about that since it was his fault.

Patrck Wynn

Patrick J Wynn is an author of short horror stories with stories published in Sirens Call, Short Horror Stories and Two Sentence Horror. His works can be found on Amazon and his Facebook page, 

Tied to a Tree

Distractedly entering the anteroom to the wolf enclosure the zookeeper noticed something dark near the base of the tree. Certain his wards were still in the feeding chamber he proceeded with caution. Noticing a man slumped forward he suspected that some stupid kids had dared one another to jump the fence. Recoiling from the coppery smell of the torso tied to the tree, he almost missed the blood splattered piece of paper tacked to the bark. Ripping the note free he read, “The judge may have acquitted him of animal cruelty, but upon appeal, Mother Nature has issued her vengeance”.

Roxy Thomas

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

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

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

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

Philosophy 

I’m not the hero here. I’m not a good person. The reason I’m writing to explain this to you. Yes, I saved those two girls. I killed him, yes. And I saved them, yes. But I didn’t kill him to save them. Are you clear on that? I killed him because he owed me money. I came to collect what he owed me. He laughed and wouldn’t pay me. So I killed him. If he’d paid me, I wouldn’t have killed him. I would have left him to kill those girls. There’s no morality here. There’s a lot of philosophy.

David Berger

I’m an old guy from Brooklyn, now living in Manhattan with my wife of 25 years: the best jazz singer in NYC. I’m a father and grandfather.  I’ve been, among other things, a case worker, construction worker, letter carrier, high school and ESL teacher, a legal proofreader and a union organizer.  Love life, my wife and the world. Hope to help the latter escape destruction.

 

Trembling With Fear 03/03/2019

The plague has passed – almost. What was most noticeable recently was how many of those I’m in contact with in Europe and the US seemed to suffer something similar almost at the same time. It made me realise how quickly a pandemic could set in and how far it could reach in a short space of time; not a pleasant thought. Pandemic drabble anyone?

Our first story in Trembling With Fear this week is Canis Pyschoticus by Keith Raymond. It is a drunk’s tale, featuring, as usually happens when alcohol starts talking, a philosophical take on life – in this case the inability of dogs to have a split personality unlike humans. What makes this story interesting is the discovered relationship between father and son and how the son is treated. Is the father mad? Or the son? Or the woman who … no spoilers here, read it.

8.5 by Richard Meldrum is our monthly Meldrum offering. Some things are made more horrific when juxtaposed against the everyday and the banal, in this case the simple act of going for a coffee. The very normal conversation carried out whilst discussing the ‘almost’ impossibility of an event which then becomes true makes the contrast sharper.

These Precious Moments by Zoey Xolton is an atmospheric story focussing on sound, or rather the sound of silence. The need to be quiet, to slip through the shadows creates great tension. But when sound does return to Ruby’s world it brings horror with it and some very scary children.

The Rattling of Chains by Lionel Ray Green sends a woman into the basement and as you walk with her, you expect the usual trope of something nasty grabbing her. This story twists the trope however which was why it worked. Yes, something horrible is discovered but not what you expect and the last line opens up a whole new other story – one we can all fill in for ourselves. A clever way of turning a drabble into a much bigger tale without needing any new words.

As we leave WIHM behind us, take a minute to read the latest edition of the free The Sirens Call ezine WIHM issue. I am proud to share its pages with a number of TWF’s own WIHM including: Alyson Faye, Andrea Allison, Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Tiffany Michelle Brown, Roxy Thomas, Maura Yzmore. Congratulations to all of them and apologies if I’ve omitted anyone. Their stories are free to read here http://www.sirenscallpublications.com/.

On a personal note, I was recently invited to write a story for Demain Publishing’s Short Sharp Shocks series. My contribution, Asylum of Shadows, a gothic horror, is due for release on 3rd March. I mention it here because this series features stories in the 5-10k range, mine comes in at just over 9000 words. I haven’t noticed too many markets for these longer short stories – or novelettes as some term them – and it will be interesting to see how they fare. I hope they will succeed and perhaps become a market that others here might like to try for. I certainly intend to read those belonging to other authors in the series. Plus I also love the covers!

Keep on reading, keep on writing

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I have still suffered from the plague this entire week. The throbbing in my head signifies the end is near! (Hopefully, of the plague and not me…) 

At any rate, I’m currently trying to play catch up and while I know I’m behind on any major announcements I do hope that we’ll have a couple for you soon! 

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Canis Psychoticus

Mad Dog poured whiskey (approximately) into a shot glass, drank it, and promptly fell off the bar stool. His next view was of the brass foot rail and his pit bull’s nose checking to see if he was okay. Assessment complete, Mad Dog received a reviving lick that he could not feel any more than the spreading bruise on his hip.

“You okay down there, old timer?” A barmaid, with dirty dishwater-blonde hair, looked down at him.

“Nuthin’ that a kiss couldn’t make better!”

“Aw go on, lemme give you a hand up.”

He couldn’t help but notice her tattooed arm with men’s names crossed off. She was surprisingly strong, he noticed, as he staggered upright. The tan pit bull whined a bit, as Mad Dog aimed his butt back toward the stool.

“Maybe you ought to call it a day, old timer?” Stella, the barmaid, said.

“I’d just be doing the same on my porch. Prefer the company, piss poor as it is,” his rheumy eyes swam around in the twilight. Other drunks with their heads down were sipping slow at their glasses. “At least I have you to admire.”

“Just the same, best be on your way.”

“Before I go, can I tell ya a story?” Mad Dog asked.

“Sure, sure, just be quick about it, before the boss shows up and wants you to settle your tab,” Stella answered.

Mad Dog winked, then screwed it up by mixing in a grimace like his teeth hurt, “Ever wonder why there ain’t no schizophrenic dogs?”

She leaned her elbows on the bar expecting a joke, sharing some cleavage with him. His eyes tracked slowly downward, until her breasts ached.

“No, why?” she asked, as she straightened up and started wiping glasses with a towel.

“Take Ranger here,” the pit bull’s ear pricked up at his voice, awaiting a command, “he’s a pound puppy, lived in the worst condition imaginable,” Mad Dog said, slurring the last word. “Never went crazy, never heard voices, never barked at the moon even after the first time he saw it full. Now why is that? Do dogs know something about sanity we don’t?”

“I’ve seen mad dogs,” Stella answered.

“Made that way by their owners,” he discounted. “Then there are the depressed ones, anxious ones, and the rabid ones. Them’s sick, but they ain’t crazy.”

“Come to think of it…” Stella began, but he interrupted.

“Lemme finish,” he spit. “A dog’s life ain’t worth nuthin’ if his personality splits. So they don’t. Can’t survive life in a two-faced world. Not only is that not in their nature…my that makes my head spin,” Mad Dog admits, and Ranger moaned a little. “But… but they can’t survive it.”

“So humans can?” Stella asked, her interest piqued.

“They got room enough in their skulls,” Mad Dog said, jamming his finger against his own head, “to make it work. Also they don’t fall through the cracks like a hound would.” Ranger nuzzled against his master. “Not that their life would be worth two shits afterward.”

“Language there,” she admonished, pointing at the hand carved sign above the bar.

“Well, it’s the truth. Now, I best get home and feed the dog.”

“I got some kibble for Ranger here, if you want to stay?” Stella had forgotten what she just said a minute before about him leaving.

“Naa, that boy of mine is out in the yard on a chain. Can’t do nuthin’ with him, but at least he can entertain himself, talks all the time.”

“You keep your son out in the yard on a chain?” Stella asked, unbelieving.

“Yeah, well, safer that way. Can’t afford them fancy shrinks, and they won’t keep him in no asylum, so…and, he likes it in the fresh air.”

Stella just shook her head, as Mad Dog staggered out, the daylight blinding as he pushed the upholstered door open.

One of the other drunks at the bar woke up a bit, lifting his head, saying, “Sheriff went by Mad Dog’s place once, told him it was inhumane what he was doing to that boy. Mad Dog told him ‘You take ‘im,’ and a week later he was back home on the chain under the oak tree, with a diagnosis, but no change. The boy don’t mind it, I swear. Go see for yourself.”

“Think I will,” Stella answered.

***

It was love at first sight. For both of them. Stella and Wayne couldn’t take their eyes off each other, as she stood there in the yard. “How much you want for him?”

“Well, lookey here, as I live and breath, Stella, from my favorite bar! Oh, and he ain’t for sale,” answered Mad Dog.

“What if I marry him?”

He couldn’t believe his ears, even Ranger perked up. The answer to his prayers, in a pretty little package. “I suppose you can have this place after I die, if you still want him.”

Stella and Wayne looked each other up and down.

“With this, I thee wed,” Wayne agreed, then lost focus and spoke to no one in particular in the yard.

***

Back in the bar, Stella was explaining to two of her girlfriends, “Best man I ever had. No back talk, never hits me. Easy to clean up, and heck, every man I’ve known I’ve ended up paying for anyway. Just look at him,” Stella turned to the handsome ginger-haired man talking to himself with the studded collar.

”He‘s adorable!” the brunette gushed.

“Where can I get me one?”

 

Keith A. Raymond, MD

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

8.5 Minutes

 “Set your stopwatch. 8.5 minutes.”

“Okay, but why?”

“If the sun exploded right now, we wouldn’t know for 8.5 minutes.”

“You’re full of fun facts, aren’t you?”

“What’s the countdown?”

“6.5.”

“Could be all we have left.”

“The chances are infinitesimal.”

“But not zero.”

“You want to go for a coffee?”

“Time?”

“4.”

“No time for coffee.”

“Well, I’m going to assume it hasn’t exploded and get a latte. Oh, and 3, before you ask.”

“Let’s go.”

They walked outside. The sun was shining.

“3,2,1. You see, nothing…”

The sun suddenly flared, burning reds and yellows. Then, the sky exploded.

RJ Meldrum

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

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

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

https://twitter.com/RichardJMeldru1

These Precious Moments

Breathless, Ruby waited. Seconds passed. Silence. The only sound, the thundering of her own heart. She counted to ten, cautiously opening the restroom door. The corridor was clear. She slipped out, quiet as a mouse. Like a shadow she slunk through the abandoned primary school. For two precious minutes she heard nothing. Blessed peace. Then, softly at first, she heard them. Moaning. Rasping. They called to her with their rotting maws. Come play with us, they sang. Stay with us. Rounding the corner, she froze. Vacant eyes and bloody smiles greeted her.

“Hello, children.”

One-hundred hands reached to embrace her.

Zoey Xolton

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

 

The Rattling of Chains

Her first night in the old rental house, Lily heard chains rattling in the basement.

Her second night, Lily heard moans accompany the rattling of chains.

The next morning, Lily opened the basement door.

She crept down the stairs, her iPhone flashlight subduing the darkness and prompting more moans and rattling of chains.

Lily’s light quickly discovered the source of the haunting sounds huddled in a dank, dark corner.

The ghost appeared as a young girl, emaciated and wearing filthy pink pajamas adorned with mermaids.

Lily caressed the girl’s pale cheek.

“You’re not a ghost,” Lily said and dialed 9-1-1.

Lionel Ray Green

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

LINK:

lionelraygreen.wordpress.com

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