Trembling With Fear 04/01/2018

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

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Happy Easter And April Fool’s Day!

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

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

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Big Bang Bobby

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

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

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

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

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

“No. I’m Bobby.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I insist.

Kevin Holton

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

Links:

www.amazon.com/author/kevinholton

www.kevinholton.com

www.patreon.com/TheHoltoning

Blood Donor

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

RJ Meldrum

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

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

You can find out more about RJ at his homepage.

Tailor Made

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

“Is it completed?”

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

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

Alyson Faye

Alyson lives in West Yorkshire with her family and 3 rescue cats. She teaches creative writing classes, writes noir Flash Fiction and ghost stories. She is one of the writers in ‘Women in Horror Annual 2’, in Raging Aardvark’s ‘Twisted Tales’, her stories can be downloaded at www.alfiedog.com as well as being available on various sites like zeroflash/Tubeflash/101 words/three drops from a cauldron. Her flash fiction debut collection, ‘Badlands’ is out now from indie publisher Chapeltown Books – here’s the interview http://www.chapeltownpublishing.uk/2018/01/badlands-by-alyson-faye.html and is available to buy from amazon.

You can find out more on her blog- www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com

or at her amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01NBYSLRT

The Tale Of Fear Itself

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

Arthur Unk

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

Website – arthurunk.com

Serial Killers: It’s Always Easier In The Dark Part 1: Midnight March

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

It’s Always Easier in the Dark

By Aristo Couvaras

 

1.Midnight March

 

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

 

The heels of Clyde’s dress shoes tipped and tapped along the walkway. Left, right, left, right. With the same steadfast pace he had always taken his steps with, well since as a toddler he had managed to master the practice of walking.

Over cobbled stone, paving, white sandy beaches and polished, gleaming wooden floors, Clyde had made a habit of being a man noticed, and known for, the decided manner in which he walked.

He had learnt it from his father, not the practiced manner of his gait, but how not to walk. Clyde never walked with shuffling feet, never had his neck lowered, let alone bent, never slouched or kept his shoulders narrow. It was, he had learnt, unbecoming to dress as his father had done but still walk like a beggar or vagrant. So, he dressed as his father did but walked his own way, his own path.

With this well-to-do fashion, he marched down the steps of the court house and along the pavement, alone. And that was the way he liked it, he reveled in it, all the more so when there was no one to watch him. It meant that they had all gone to their cushy lives while he drove forward, burning midnight oil, lighting candles at both ends.

Why just that day he had told one of his young clerks, the name escaped him, how did he ever expect to be in his position at the firm when the young buck arrived later than Clyde did, when he left hours before Clyde did. “I understand Sir”, the young man had responded while he followed Clyde through the network of passages and hallways in the courthouse, cases and briefs piled in his arms, “it’s just that, lately, the missus Sir, she’s been having trouble at home is all. You see the children they’re…”

And Clyde had walked on to the next hearing, not hearing what travesties affected the young man’s household. Clyde’s household was sorted in its affairs. He made certain of that. Even that, he firmly believed, was as a result of the man he chose to be. A man who walked in an esteemed manner. Left, right, left, right. His heels echoed the sounds of his march.

 

Closer, closer. I hear you, I will see you soon. But you will not see me. It’s too dark for you to see me.

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

 

There were no coaches on the streets, and Clyde had given his own driver express direction to leave when Clyde pursued his business endeavors late into the night. It was not enough to be hard on his office workers, and walk as he did, carry himself as he did, but he knew he also could not make those lower than his station toil the same hours as he. They would not understand, would not come to see the intrinsic value in it as he saw it, and the more different they were to him, why, the more he could laud over them, the more he could celebrate it privately with each step.

Left, right, left right, his heels tipped and tapped along the paving. With only the moon and lampposts to guide his way. Though he could make the walk blindfolded were the need to arise, so many times had he made this exodus under the cowl of night. He had a residence that was not a great deal of distance from the court house and these regimented strolls allowed him some form of exercise that his business pursuits did not. He would not be brilliant and weak, as his father had been, he would be better and stronger, fitter.

Then, from an alleyway he had passed, he heard the young clerk’s voice, “Sir, it’s just that, lately, the missus Sir, she’s been having trouble at home is all. You see the children they’re…”

Left, right, left…Clyde halted. Was that? No, it couldn’t be. But Clyde was a man who trusted his intuition, a man who walked as he did, and did what he did, very rarely doubted himself. That had been the clerk’s voice.

Far above the street, above the lampposts and the eaves and gables, the weathervanes and steeples, above the shingles on the courthouse even, a dark shroud had just stopped in front of the glowing moon as Clyde stopped near the alleyway.

 

Ah! Now you hear me too. Only you don’t know that it’s me you hear. You don’t know that it’s me in here. But you will know me soon enough. Come in, let us become acquainted. But you don’t need to see me. Besides, it too dark in here for that.

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

 

Clyde announced to the cavorting shadows between the two walls, “have you been a lush? Absconded all your earnings on a night out?” He took a step closer, a step off the pavement and into the alley. “I thought things were rather, exasperated at home, that you retired early tonight so as to attend to your wife and your children. Now am I really to find you here, inebriated, laying in the dark not ten minutes from the courthouse?”

The voice that answered grew less and less to belong to the clerk, “attend to the children? Tonight? Not me Sir. Sundays are for laying flowers at their graves.”

“I do apologize. I had no idea.” Clyde stepped deeper into the constructed abyss, “Why don’t you come with me then lad. We’ll sober you up at my residence, fortify you with some piping hot coffee and telephone your wife, tell her you’ve been busy all the night. What do you say?”

“Why don’t you come with me?” hissed the blanket of shadows. Then the voice giggled.

Now annoyed, Clyde took another step toward the voice. From right behind him, so close he smelt something unpleasant but surely not liquor – something more akin to embalming fluid – came the malevolent mirth, “it’s more interesting than where you’re going.”

Clyde spun about sternly. And then he felt it. Looking down he saw a grisly section of steel, a notched blade, its pointed edge sticking out a full six inches from his heart. He could feel his shirt quickly becoming drenched in blood.

The voice dripped with spite, behind him again, “go on. Walk in that officious way of yours. Walk right away from this. You might want to take my other hand though, where we’re going…well, you don’t know the way…”

The voice giggled and a coated tongue licked at Clyde’s cheek.

Aristo Couvaras

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

Trembling With Fear 03/18/2018

I had such writerly plans last weekend, mainly making a proper start on the second draft of my current WIP. I loved the world I had created in its pages, the bizarre characters and the somewhat gruesome rituals they performed and really wanted to get back to it. It was great to feel positive instead of that sense of an uphill slog appearing before me but real life got in the way and from Friday evening until Sunday evening my time was taken up by my most important role – that of being a mother. With my daughters, I spent hours on Saturday wandering around a city and then hours on Sunday wandering through woods. So, no writing, even when I collapsed on the sofa at the end of the day and I am still not writing (apart from some twitter prompts). Do I feel guilty, no … because I am doing that thing all other writers should be doing and that is reading. My current book is Stephen King’s 11.22.63 and it reminds me how brilliant he is at creating a world with such an immersive sense of time and place, and how fluid and fluent his prose. He knows how to tell a story. I think my writing might now have to wait until I finish the book as its pages keep calling me – currently p. 245/740. It’s sat by me as I write this editorial, waiting patiently, but it knows I’ll return very soon.

Many writers comment about not finding time to write and then when you do have time, feel mentally drained, a situation I am often in myself; this is life, it’s just how it is. It’s how it was for me last weekend and long days at work this week have pretty much wiped me out. So, I am being kind to myself, as should you all in the same situation. Let the frustrations, the irritations, the anxieties go; put aside the pen, the notebook, the laptop and just read. Let another author do the heavy lifting for you, give you the break you need from your own work; a busman’s holiday, so to speak. And as you all know, it will also improve your own writing.

I’m going back to my book now … and I’ve got Shirley Jackson, Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan, Margaret Atwood and others all ready to help me escape and learn at the same time.

What are you reading?

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

As always, thank you for the submissions! We can always use more shorts and drabble hitting the inbox as it seems that we fluctuate on which we’re low on.

‘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

Dedication

John Pearson was proud to be the manager of the town’s only supermarket.   He’d worked there for his entire career, starting as a shelf-stacker at age sixteen and working his way up to store manager by the time he was twenty-eight.  Now, in his mid-sixties, he had no intention of retiring.  He used to joke to his staff that he intended to work right up to the day before his funeral.

It was Wednesday.  John sat in his office at the back of the store, checking the inventory.  He ran his hand through his thinning hair, his fingers catching and removing some of the remaining clumps.  He glanced at his watch.  It was 8 a.m., time to open the store.  This was the part of the day he loved the most.   A fresh, bright morning, ripe with the promise of new customers.  He walked into the store, past familiar shelves and displays.  His fingers tracked clean marks in the dust.  He rubbed his fingers together, feeling the gritty dust between them.  The dust was one of his biggest concerns.  What would Head Office think if they carried out a snap inspection?  They were very strict about store sanitation, but no matter how hard he cleaned he simply couldn’t stop the dust from constantly settling.  It blew in through the destroyed doors and windows.  John hoped Head Office would understand.

He stood at the front doors and looked at the street outside.  The nuclear blast that had destroyed the town had miraculously left the supermarket standing, albeit a bit cracked in places.  It was because the store was concrete, the other buildings in town were wood-framed.

John thought back to when it happened.  Two months ago.  It had been a normal day, a Monday.  The store had been relatively busy.  There had been five of them working, plus about seven customers.  The first sign of trouble had been a rumble in the distance.  Then, from outside, there had been screams, cars braking and skidding.  Crashing.  John and the others had stepped outside to see what the problem was.  In the distance there was a mushroom cloud, black and red, swirling.  The air force base, fifty miles to the south had been hit.  John and the others had fled indoors, hunkering down in the back office.  Minutes later, the town had been hit by the blast.

Afterwards, the others had scrambled to get home.  They’d left, worried about family, friends and loved ones.  John had no family, no friends and definitely no loved ones.  His main concern was the store.  He had to protect the stock.  He’d put up the ‘Closed’ sign, then loaded the shotgun he kept in his office.  The gun was against the rules, but after his first robbery he’d bought it to protect the store from the criminal classes.

For the first week after the disaster, he’d been ill.  He knew about radiation poisoning, he’d been brought up during the Cold War, so he expected it.  He’d erected a cot in his office and put himself to bed.  At that point, he hadn’t cared about the store.  He feared for his life.  Nauseous, he’d barely been able to eat or drink, but he’d forced himself to swallow as much water as he could.  After the fifth day, the symptoms had passed.  It was the fallout, the irradiated dust falling from the sky.  He knew he was luckier than most, the concrete shell of the building had protected him from the blast and from the worst of the fallout.  Afterwards, he was careful to always wear a mask when removing the dust.  He dosed himself with vitamins and antibiotics from the store’s amply stocked pharmacy.  He slept in his office, the only room in the store with no windows and a solid metal door.  He never went outside.  He knew he’d been and was still being exposed to radiation, cancer was probably already fermenting in his organs.  Death was inevitable, but until the day he put the shotgun barrel into his mouth, he had his duty to fulfill.

Sighing, he reached up and unlocked the front door.  There was no glass, but he still observed the standard procedure laid down by Head Office; locking and unlocking it at the required times.  He stood for a few moments in expectation.  There were no customers.  John guessed the blast had killed most of the people in the town.   There would have been survivors, like him, but perhaps they’d died from disease or radiation poisoning.  Perhaps they’d fled.  None of his staff had returned.  John didn’t know what happened to them, he hadn’t left the store to find out.

The lack of customers was a cause for concern.  It was nearly time for the quarterly return; John was worried what the auditors at Head Office would think.  Zero sales for three months, nowhere near his performance target.  Worse than that, after the electricity failed, he’d been forced to dump all the fresh and frozen produce, leaving the fridges and freezers empty.  The shelves were well stocked with canned and dried goods, but the financial loss sustained from the discarded produce still gave him sleepless nights.

The door opened.  Three people entered.  They were emaciated, dressed in rags.  Their skin was blotchy and their hair patchy.  Two males and a female.  One of the men carried a machete, the other a baseball bat.  They weren’t townsfolk, probably transients passing through, but a customer was a customer.  John adjusted his tie and spoke.

“Come in, please, how may I help you?”

The trio glanced round, seeing the well-stocked shelves.

“We need food.”

“Yes, of course.  We have a wide range of brands.  Unfortunately, we have no fresh or frozen produce at the moment, due to the failure of the electricity supply, but we do have a comprehensive range of other produce for your selection.”

He indicated the row of shopping trolleys.

“Please, take a trolley and make your selections.  If you have any questions, please just ask.”

“We can just take what we want?” asked the woman incredulously.

“Of course!  The store is open to everyone.”

The trio looked suspicious, but nevertheless the woman pulled out a trolley and they moved down the first aisle.  The men, still holding their weapons, glanced back at John, standing near the front entrance.  He smiled at them, happy to finally have some customers.

After about thirty minutes the scruffy group returned to the front of the store.  Their trolley was full.  John was standing behind the checkout.

“Please place your items on the conveyor belt so I can tally up your bill.”

“Our bill?” asked the man with the machete.

“Yes, of course, we require payment for good purchased.”

“We ain’t got no money.  What good would it do you anyhow?”

“It’s company policy.”

“Look friend, we’re starving.  We’re taking this food.”

“Not without appropriate payment.”

The man raised his machete.

“Don’t make me use this, buddy.”

John reached below the desk and lifted his shotgun.

“Shoplifters will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

He pulled the trigger.

Replacing the shotgun on the shelf below the cash register, John stared at the bodies.  He was happy, he had enforced the no shoplifting rule, but job satisfaction wasn’t the only reason he was pleased.  Head Office prohibited store managers from eating the stock without appropriate payment, but he’d been forced to break that rule.  He was sure the executives didn’t want their store managers starving to death, but he still felt guilty.  Now he was happy, tonight he didn’t have to eat the stock.  Tonight, he wouldn’t have to worry about Head Office.

RJ Meldrum

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

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

You can find out more about RJ at his homepage.

Abandoned Cabin in the Woods

“Someone explain this to me. Of all the things we could be doing, how did ‘spend a week in an abandoned cabin in the middle of the woods’ end up at the top of our spring break list? Isn’t that how every horror movie begins?”
“Because it’s free. Duh. Besides, nothing’s going to happen. You worry too much.”
As they opened the door, a foul smell flooded them. Various body parts hung from the ceiling. Flies circled their prey. Pools of blood dotted the floor. Rusted tools caked in blood laid out on the table.

“You were saying.”

 

“Good call.”

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.

Black Umbrellas

They called it an unexplained tragedy, but it wasn’t true. Seventy people dragged into the ground by the elongated fingers of blackened children encased below the asphalt. A massive black umbrella expanded overhead and manipulated the reality for the outsiders. We knew about them. They called them black sites. Vanishing places. Rewritten places. Horrid black icicles witnessed. I see hundreds of the biggest from orbit. I’m the only cosmonaut that has ever breached into space. They apparently sent no more. Apparently seeing the black umbrellas from a distance tethers me to the glitch enough to see the loops evolve forever.

Nick Rayner

Nick Rayner lives in Toronto, Canada and is the Creative Director of Rayner Marketing Consulting. He has been published in The Danforth Review, Hello Horror, and The Tandem Region Times. His online portfolio is at milliondollarcuffs.com.

The Hunted

He ran breathless and scared, crashing through the woods.

He hadn’t believed it, the story was just too fantastic. Imagine, vicious beasts kept so close to home, but childhood curiosity had got the best of him.

The outlines of shadowy figures shifted through the dense fog just behind him. He increased his speed, afraid of what might happen if he were caught. Then, squinting ahead, he breathed a sigh of relief, he was close.

Gasping to catch his breath, he gently traced the sign with his grey three-fingered hand: “DANGER: human reserve – invisible fences in place – DO NOT CROSS”.

M.T. Moos

M.T. Moos is an aquatic microbiology professor by trade and an aspiring writer and potter. Her passions include science fiction and the strange. When she isn’t working, she can be found playing with mud and creating functional earthenware pottery while contemplating new story ideas.

Trembling With Fear 03/11/2018

Success in writing is something we all aspire to and when we achieve it, we want to celebrate and make that elusive golden moment last longer but … writers are their own worst enemies. When rejection appears, hot on the heels of success, what do we do? We dwell on failure and allow the success to fade into the background, tell ourselves we’re not good enough, nurse the embers of self-doubt back into a roaring fire. We need to get past this and make those golden moments last a little longer, and TWF can help you do that. Let me know of your successes, drop me a line about a shortlist, a win, a publication, even a wonderful rejection or taking the plunge in a new writing venture and I’ll include it in the editorial. Send in a photo as well if you have one. TWF has become a great little community and I’d like to celebrate that more in these pages.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I’d like to request some drabbles for those who don’t usually contribute. We’ve got a stockpile of our regulars at the moment (and try to only do one per author per month) and would like to expand what is available if possible. Thanks all!

‘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

A Second Hand Haunting

“Used Tombstone for sale.” The ad drew her eye.

“Here read this Luke.” Roxy’s red painted fingernail jabbed at the newspaper.

Luke was busy feeding the seagulls,  “Big buggers these gulls,” he muttered.

It was the third day of their mini holiday to Bridlington. Luke couldn’t wait to get home. His Roxy had done nothing but sulk, moan and eat since they’d arrived. Why couldn’t she just enjoy herself? He watched her forcing more chips between her pink glossy lips.

“I’ll ring up about it.”

Luke eye balled the nearest gull who losing the staring match, flew away. Around them couples huddled under umbrellas, swaddled in macs and plastic rain hats. The tinny sounds of the arcade blared out but no one was on the rides.

Roxy was dialling her mobile, eyes narrowed, chin stuck out. Luke recognised the look. He sighed.

“Hiya? I’m interested in buying the tombstone in the ad. Yeah. Right.”

She’d put on her posh phone voice, he noticed.

“OK, yes – 15 Havelock Street. We’ll be round soonish.”

She rang off and turned beaming to face Luke.

“It’ s a bargain at a fiver. Said to come straight over.” She stood up thrusting the chip wrappings aside.

Luke gazed at her nonplussed. “You’re kidding love? What are you going to use a tombstone for?”
Roxy shrugged, her eyes blank and her hair dripping round her face. “Garden ornament?”

“We live in a terrace with a yard!”

Roxy was teetering along the pier in her high heels, her mac clinging to her. Behind her something thin and grey slithered. Luke blinked hard.

It’s just the dirty rain water running down the drains, he thought.

They took half an hour to find 15 Havelock Street. It was a thin sliver of a house tucked away in a nest of others, which looked derelict but a faint light shone in an upstairs window.

“Hardly ‘Ideal Home’ material,” Luke joked.

Roxy ignored him and knocked on the front door. She’d barely spoken on the walk over. The door opened a crack; one eye and a portion of cheek appeared. One was bloodshot, the other grey and dirty.

“What do yer want?”

Roxy hesitated, “We’ve come about the ad.”

“Show us the fiver.” A bony hand wriggled through the gap.

Roxy flashed the fiver but held it too far away from the grasping fingers.

“OK then. You’d better come in.”

Luke didn’t want to go in. His gut feeling told him no. Roxy stepped forward and he had to follow her. Even if she could be a moody mare he loved her.

“It’s in here.” The woman was wizened, scrawny and unkempt.

She pushed open the door to the front room and propped against the dead icy fireplace was the grey granite tombstone of the newspaper ad; the room’s sole item, in a space bereft of any  furniture or decoration. There were marks scratched on the stone, but worn and illegible.

“Looks old,” said Luke.

Roxy stood transfixed, staring wide eyed at the stone. She walked across the grimy lino to touch the granite with gentle probing fingers, whispering under her breath and shaking her head. Luke didn’t know what was wrong with her.

“It’s a good un,” announced the lady of the house.

“We’ll take it,” Roxy stated firmly. Luke couldn’t believe what he’d just heard.

“Hang on a minute luv. How are we going to move it?”

“Well very, very carefully and with respect.” Roxy replied. She didn’t have a smile on her face either. Her eyes looked shiny too.

Upstairs something thudded or landed on the bare boards. No carpets in this house. The old woman jerked her head upwards.

She looked rattled, Luke thought, Why?

“Better hurry and take it then.”

The sounds grew louder and more forceful. Luke realised something or someone was dragging themselves across the room. Stop, thud, shuffle, slither. Stop, thud, shuffle.

“Shouldn’t you go and help them?” he asked.

The woman looked amazed. “Why in blazes would I do that? He don’t need my help now any road.”

Roxy was stroking the stone, “Grab one end Luke.”

Luke bent and did as Roxy said. The tombstone was not as heavy as he’d guestimated but still heavy enough. He felt his lower lumbar crack.

A low moaning cry could be heard coming from upstairs. When they lifted the tombstone, a flurry of bugs scurried from underneath, fleeing for the dark corners. Luke nearly dropped the stone when he spotted them.

“Um Mrs – er are you sure they’re OK upstairs?” He nodded to the ceiling.

The woman turned her tiny monkey face towards him and he shuddered at her toothless gape. Hadn’t she been to an NHS dentist in her life?

“Best keep moving if you know what’s good for yer.”

Roxy was labouring as he’d never seen before, edging along the narrow hallway, sweating whilst heading for the doorway. Luke wanted to rest and peek up the stairs. He sensed a presence on the top landing and now could hear a wheezing hiss, like a balloon deflating.

“Don’t stop Luke!” Roxy said, “Keep going.”

Above them came a thump, a rustle and the sound of a foot hitting the top wooden stair board.

“Nearly there. Hurry!”  The old woman urged them on.

Roxy reversed out the open front door, chipping the woodwork but keeping her grip on the stone’s edges.  Whatever was descending the stairs was halfway down. Luke could smell fresh earth as if the garden had been dug. Confused he looked down at the stone paving flags in the front yard. No sign of digging there. The old woman pushed them on like they were horses. As soon as his heel was over the threshold she slammed the door on him. While he paused for breath, he heard the sound of finger nails raking the wooden door before an eldritch screech pealed out. He shuddered.

Luke and Roxy slumped on the pavement gasping, both shiny with sweat. They cuddled the tombstone between them like a granite baby they wanted to adopt.

“Wonderful holiday this is turning into!” Luke couldn’t help himself.

Roxy white faced, eyes wet, hissed, “I had to have it. Look it’s got my name on it.”

Luke followed her pointing finger. He didn’t understand what she meant. He made out only scrawls and faint markings where years ago letters had been.

Roxy shook her head, her make-up had rubbed away. She looked both younger and older in the street lighting. Luke felt his stomach flip flop with love.

“Don’t mess with me. Can’t you see? It says ‘Roxanne Stewart -born 16 September 198- taken too soon from us- 29 October 20–’”

They stared at each other, confused and anxious. Behind their backs the house stood silent and seemingly uninhabited. Neither of them wanted to knock and ask the old crone for answers.

“Are you sure Roxy?” Luke didn’t know what to say. Roxy began to cry.

They sat huddled holding hands, encased in their own thoughts. Luke kept remembering the sound of stumbling feet and the smell of fresh earth. Who had been upstairs? Or what?

Looking at his distraught girlfriend, he came to a decision, “We’ve gotta get shut of it Roxy. It’s cursed I reckon.”

“What do you mean?” Roxy looked shattered, her skin waxy and stretched thin.

She’s just tired. Luke thought.

“We need a churchyard so we can hide it amongst the other graves.” He Googled the nearest church on his iPhone.

The trip to St James’ was long and tiring. They part carried, part dragged the stone,  making numerous rest stops. The tiny church had a lovely location, near a local school and open fields. Between them they manhandled the tombstone through the long grass and wedged it face down in a corner, leaving it lying on its own. Isolated.

Roxy was on the point of collapse; her nails chipped and broken, her tights laddered and she was limping. Luke held her up on the walk back and hauled her into bed in the chintzy room at the B&B just before dawn. He half noticed a thin grey shape slither through the doorway after them, reminding Luke of the greyhounds his Dad betted on, but tiredness won. He let sleep smother him.

Hours later when he woke, the clock said 2pm and the rain was jack hammering the streets of Bridlington. He stretched and kicked out, every ache in his joints reminding him of the physical labour he’d done.

Roxy was a hump under the flowery duvet. He stretched out his hand but froze in mid gesture. He felt a chill coming from her body. Tugging off the duvet he found her lying on her side. Her skin   blanched to the colour of candle wax and a grey caulk cradled her body. His screams brought the landlady to his door. The holiday was officially finished.

Alyson Faye

Alyson lives in West Yorkshire with her family and 3 rescue cats. She teaches creative writing classes, writes noir Flash Fiction and ghost stories. She is one of the writers in ‘Women in Horror Annual 2’, in Raging Aardvark’s ‘Twisted Tales’, her stories can be downloaded at www.alfiedog.com as well as being available on various sites like zeroflash/Tubeflash/101 words/three drops from a cauldron. Her debut collection, ‘Badlands’, is due out soon from indie publisher Chapel Town Books.

You can find out more on her blog- www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com or at her amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01NBYSLRT

Disease #1

They’d told Jill to be careful. Working as a biologist in the Amazon could be dangerous. Not to worry, she said. Then, a fruit bat nicked her skin but these were harmless. Now though, she wasn’t so sure.

After two months, she returned to England. She didn’t know why but didn’t like being here anymore. Her husband bothered her, irritated her. She was always thirsty, but water tasted horrible. People were horrible. She wanted to hit, kick, bite them. It was when her husband suggested a doctor, that she began foaming at the mouth, screamed, then lunged for his throat.

Justin Boote

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

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

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

The Cellar

The door to the cellar was unlocked. It was never unlocked. Never. I stood, uncertain. That door always tempted me, but now?

I opened it. Stairs disappeared into darkness. No switch visible.

I took a torch from the drawer and went down the stairs. In its beam, the cellar was boringly normal: cardboard boxes, crates, old chairs. Boring!

Then, the torch flickered, died. Plunging me into darkness. But, I could see the rectangle of light at the top of the stairs. I ran for it.

The door slammed. I reached it. Tried it. The door to the cellar was locked.

 

 

 

DJ Tyrer

DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree), All The Petty Myths (18th Wall), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), What Dwells Below (Sirens Call), The Mad Visions of al-Hazred (Alban Lake), and EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness (Otter Libris), and issues of Sirens Call, Hinnom Magazine, Ravenwood Quarterly, and Weirdbook, and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor).

DJ Tyrer’s website is at http://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/

The Atlantean Publishing website is at http://atlanteanpublishing.blogspot.co.uk/

Throw Away The Key

Irae came from the orphanage with two gifts. Most adoptions don’t have much more than clothes, but their newest addition brought a book and a trunk.

She knew how this would end. She tracked the days, marked oddities, took note of when loving smiles became frowns. When compliments became jabs. When the father bought a gun. When the son used it.

Eight days. One day, she’d find a family that wouldn’t go mad from her presence. One free from evil. She wrote a note: Free to a good home, put it on her trunk, climbed inside, and shut the lid.

 

Kevin Holton

Kevin Holton is a cyborg and fitness junkie from coastal New Jersey. He’s the author of At the Hands of Madness (Severed Press), as well as the forthcoming novels The Nightmare King (Siren’s Call Publications) and These Walls Don’t Talk, They Scream (HellBound Books). He also co-wrote the short film Human Report 85616, and his short work has appeared with Sci-Phi Journal, The Literary Hatchet, Radiant Crown Press, Pleiades, Rain Taxi, Mighty Quill Books, and Thunderdome Press, among others. He can also be found acting, blogging with The Bold Mom, or talking about Batman.

You can find more of his work on his website, Patreon, Amazon

I Never Met A Turkey I’d Call A Friend

They gobble and wobble as they walk through the wood.

You may love the taste but they are up to no good.

We claim to devour them just for sandwiches or Thanksgiving.

But we have to slay them for humanity to continue living.

You think that they’re dumb and can drown in the rain.

But their true origins would drive anyone insane.

Experiments by demonic beings who visited the Earth.

A failed attempt at evil to which they gave birth.

If we let them, the turkeys would grow and eradicate us all.

Each nation no matter how great or small.

Stuart Conover

Your Horror Tree Host, Author, A Father, And General All-Around Crazy Person! (Or just read the bio below!)

Trembling With Fear 03/04/2018

Don’t we Brits just love our weather and with the ‘Beast from the East’ and Storm Emma, it’s certainly given us something to obsess over. The world has turned white and the UK has gone into hibernation, very sensibly in my opinion as this allows lots of writing to be done, books to be read and tea to be drunk. Note I had actually made it into work on Thursday, but got sent straight back home again. I did try …

So, the snow day for me has meant: tweaking a rejected story and sending it out once more to another market (ever the optimist) and working on my own collection of short stories as well as thinking about those stories submitted to TWF – which brings me to a new feature we hope you will enjoy either reading or perhaps writing – or even better doing both. What is this new element, I hear you ask? Serials. A little while ago we received a story which we were told was part of a serial but had been submitted as the author felt it stood on its own. To a certain extent it did but we still asked to see the rest and enjoyed the way the story unfolded over 5 instalments, each about 1500 words in length. At the moment, Stuart is looking at adapting contracts to incorporate this element but once that’s done you will see this story appear. It may be an occasional feature depending on how many submit in this format, or it may become a regular aspect of TWF. If this is something that appeals to you, why not give it a go? Especially if you’re snowed in and have nothing else to do …

We may introduce other features in TWF over the next year but it will be a step-by-step process. Extra features mean extra workload and in terms of submissions, don’t be surprised if at some point we put out an appeal for readers to help us work through these or to carry out other roles that would really support us at TWF. I know a number of you have already offered so when the time comes you might find us getting in touch.

From a bitterly cold Southampton,

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

A minor update to our Year 1 anthology will be coming in our March 1st update! (I did say minor, didn’t I? No cover reveal, TOC, or release date quite yet but I’ll tell you where we are!

‘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

Dogs Of War

“Dogs eat corpses, you know,” the drunken soldier snarled. “Wild dogs, they’ve got no respect for the dead. They tear the fallen up. They don’t even wait until the body is cold. They lap from a wound. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes.

“I’ve had to kick them away,” he said as though the horror were still fresh in his memory.

He slammed his crested helmet down on the bar and demanded an another ale.

He was already five in that night. Frothy head from the stein clung to his beard, capping it like an inverted mountain. He was maudlin, tearing up, acting out for attention no one bequeathed him in the dark, dingy tavern where hard men choked down hard drinks.

“I’ve seen things, you know,” he said loudly but to no one in particular, scanning the room to see if anyone was paying him any mind. “Believe me, I’ve seen things.”

Suddenly, the barmaid lunged forward and plucked out the soldier’s eyes. Her nails were sharp as talons. Blooded geysered from the sockets. The soldier groped around futilely, reflexively reaching for his sword, as he collapsed back off the barstool onto the filthy, sawdust-strewn floor.

She impassively studied the plump, egg-like eyeballs cradled in her palm. Nerve endings dangled off the ends like sprouts. They dripped little blotches of crimson.

“Good that you’ve seen things,” she said matter-of-factly, plopping them into an empty glass as she arched her neck, casually flipping her hair back into place. “Then these are worth keeping. I’ll add them to the collection.”

Another soldier slumped at the end of the bar straightened up.

His hand hovered toward his sword hilt, but he was more put on alert than roused to action by the sudden slaying.

“What the hell did you do that for?”

Her stony eyes softened, widened doe-like after a seeming flash of panic that may have flickered by too fast to be real. Her posture slackened after her body ostensibly rippled with fear, or at least a little shiver of something. She leaned toward the confrontational soldier, took a supplicating tone and addressed him as though he were a reasonable man who surely understood.

“Gotta feed the dogs,” she said. “They’re going to revert to being feral if I don’t quiet their howling and sate their hunger but soon. We’ve got few provisions what with the war rationing, and most of our customers are off fighting. He said dogs eat corpses and it just clicked. I saw we had a solution to our problem. It won’t be a problem soon.”

“By Jove that man served the Republic,” the soldier said with thunderous indignation.

“You don’t understand, those dogs need to be fed,” she said, with real, palpable terror in her voice. “Dear Lord, they need to be fed. Last night, why… ”

The barmaid, so nonchalant a moment after killing a man who had done little more than spout off, now seemed tense and deeply afraid.

“Wouldn’t be much good to you on the battlefield when he’s always stinking drunk anyway,” the barmaid reasoned. “He was a boozer. In fact he was probably a defector. Or maybe he was even just lousy in a fight. Think about it. He could have gotten you killed out there.”

The soldier adjusted his armor and wobbled uncertainly to his feet. His face was grim, his eyes steely.

“Look, all the ale you can drink for your silence,” she said pleadingly, sliding him a foamy pewter stein.

Suds slopped out onto the rough-hewn wood as the beer skated across the bartop.

Not necessarily pacified, the second soldier grabbed at the pint, reflexively. But quicker than he could process, she sprung again with a dagger that materialized out of nowhere, slitting his throat nearly from ear to ear, though he staggered back too much for a perfect incision.

He stumbled around, drawing his sword as his slit throat spurted like a fountain all over the bartop. His blade clanked down on the ground, clattering around feebly.

The soldier could barely keep his wobbly footing as blood oozed from his throat, leaving him weakened and confused. Dizzy, he heaved toward the back door with the last ounce of his strength, to make an escape. He tumbled into the alley. The moon cast everything in an eldritch iridescence.

He rolled around in the dirt and gravel and a dank liquid he suspected was urine, trying to get his balance back. He might be able to summon enough in reserve to rise back up to his feet.

That’s when he heard the snarling.

It was deep, guttural, more ferocious than anything he ever encountered.

The barmaid called out fearfully from inside the lit building, “I warned you about the dogs. I’m no saint but I’m no liar. Those dogs, they…”

He looked up in the pitch of blackness outside and couldn’t make out the phantasmagoria of fangs and mangy fur as his vision blurred and faded. Blood was just pouring out of his neck.

The barmaid was still shouting inside, but he couldn’t make out a word of it.

“They’re not dogs,” he exclaimed in surprise. “They’re not dogs. They’re…”

“We’ve got nothing to feed the dogs while you’re always out fighting your endless war,” she yelled. “We get the scraps, and we have no scraps left over to throw out to placate them.”

Panic blanched the staggering soldier’s face in the jet-black alley.

“They’re not… They’re not… ”

They drew nearer and nearer, and lunged.

 

Joseph S. Pete

Joseph S. Pete is an award-winning journalist, an Iraq War veteran, an Indiana University graduate, a book reviewer, and a frequent guest on Lakeshore Public Radio. He was named the poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest 2016, a feat that Geoffrey Chaucer chump never accomplished. His literary work and photography have appeared in 365 Tomorrows, Pulp Modern, Spirits, Flights, New Pop Lit, The Grief Diaries, Gravel, Perch Magazine, Synesthesia Literary Journal, Chicago Literati, Dogzplot, Bull Men’s Fiction, shufPoetry, The Roaring Muse, Prairie Winds, and elsewhere.

It Follows

He’d moved into the annex while they fixed the leak in his office.  The annex had been empty for years, used for storage.  He was alone.  His colleagues teased him about the building’s reputation.  It was allegedly haunted.

On the first day he worked late.  When he left, the corridor was in darkness.  Remembering the stories, he looked around, nervous.  A pair of red eyes stared back at him.  Heart pounding, he flicked the light switch to reveal a circuit breaker, its lights blinking.  Relieved, he exited the building.  The ghost that haunted the annex, alone for so long, followed.

RJ Meldrum

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

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

Poor Nathan

It was an accident. Her poor Nathan had just reached the top of the stairs. Then he was falling. She saw the whole thing from their bedroom door. He was coming up to bed, but his bad leg—he was so unsteady these days. She’d talked about getting one of those motorized chairs installed, but Nathan wouldn’t have it. He was so stubborn.

When she’d got to the bottom of the stairs, it was already too late.

Her poor, poor Nathan.

Yes, that’s what Joan would tell authorities when they came.

But right now, her husband was coming up the stairs.

 

 

Patrick Winters

Patrick Winters is a graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. He has been published in the likes of Sanitarium Magazine, The Sirens Call, Trysts of Fate, and other such titles.

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

Trash

“Run! Go on!”

Millie tottered on her stilettos. A baby giraffe trapped in a rubbish strewn back alley.

“I’m counting- 1 – 2 -3…”

An earring dropped to the ground.

Behind ‘Dial a Pizza’ amidst the rubbish bags, something feral scuttled.

Millie shrieked.

She’d been so much more alluring at the start of this evening, he thought.

“Don’t scream. Just run darling!”

His violence stalked her, sucking the oxygen from the night air.

Millie took a few steps. Stumbled. Fell. Chinned herself.

Did she smell of fear yet?

He kept a chart of how each of his prey responded.

Bedtime reading.

 

 

Alyson Faye

Alyson lives in West Yorkshire with her family and 3 rescue cats. She teaches creative writing classes, writes noir Flash Fiction and ghost stories. She is one of the writers in ‘Women in Horror Annual 2’, in Raging Aardvark’s ‘Twisted Tales’, her stories can be downloaded at www.alfiedog.com as well as being available on various sites like zeroflash/Tubeflash/101 words/three drops from a cauldron. Her debut collection, ‘Badlands’, is due out soon from indie publisher Chapel Town Books.

You can find out more on her blog- www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com

or at her amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01NBYSLRT

Trembling With Fear 02/25/2018

Rejection. I hate getting it for my own writing and I hate having to do it to others. BUT it is a part of a writer’s life and one you (and I) have to deal with. The most difficult aspect of my role I have found is sending out a polite—and hopefully appropriate—response. When I first started this, I decided to try and give feedback where possible so that contributors understand why we passed; to get a rejection without explanation doesn’t really help a writer; personally, I would like to know why something didn’t make it and then I could work on it. Most of the time at TWF, I have kept to this, and have only occasionally sent out an apologetic pass without any other explanation—usually when I am tired(!). What has helped me at TWF, and is something I have really appreciated, is the willingness of contributors to consider my comments and take them onboard; something I know can be tough as we are all subjective readers and what I think might be in contrast to the actual writer’s ideas.

If you don’t want any feedback should we decide to pass on your submission, please just say so when you send your story in.

And finally on this subject, I would like to applaud the sheer professionalism of the vast majority of those who have had to deal with a rejection from TWF. I also applaud their resilience and determination as many resubmissions are subsequently accepted – and that makes me happy. A reputation for such professionalism is also something which will stand any writer in good stead in the wider world of publication.

On a totally different note, I recently joined the British Fantasy Society, received my first copy of the BFS Horizons journal, opened it up, glanced at the contents and up popped a familiar nae. This time, DJ Tyrer who has contributed to TWF on more than one occasion—congratulations DJ—so that’s my reading sorted for this evening. I’m also coming across a number of you more on twitter, on certain flash fiction sites and it’s great. Yes, it’s a small world but it makes it feel like family.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I am overdue on an update for everyone on the status of the anthology and I apologize for that. The ball is totally in my court at the moment as Steph has done an amazing job at compiling it and I’ve just been a bit slammed. I promise, very soon we will have an actual update on this for you!

That being said, thanks again for tuning in every week. As always, please if you have any comments for the authors below be sure to leave a comment and let them know what you love (or not) from their work!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Las Ojas Cortan

Don Luis bent over the small altar that he’d been working on since early that morning, carefully arranging the statuettes, the candles, and the tiny bowl of offerings on the immaculate white doily that covered the dark, smoothly polished wood of the handmade dais.  He heard the tiny bell over the door ring as someone entered the bodega, but he didn’t turn around or look up from his important work.

“Pop, what are you doing?” His eldest son, Rodrigo, asked in an exasperated tone.

Don Luis sighed and straightened up, the small bones in his ancient back making subtle cracking noises with the effort. Don Luis was indeed an old man, his son Rodrigo, had just passed his 60th birthday. Yet, Don Luis was no less proud or cognizant, or vibrant in these, his later years, than he was when he was in his thirties. But his son believed the opposite, and spent what seemed to Don Luis an inordinate amount of time treating him as if he were losing his grasp on reality or admonishing him for holding onto the vestiges of the old ways. And Don Luis was sure that more admonishments were on the way due to the altar he’d just so recently and lovingly erected in his son’s store.

“Pop,” Rodrigo spoke again. “What are you doing?”  Rodrigo walked huffily around the counter to get a better look at what his father had put together between the small jars of Vicks and the packets of Bambu paper. It was a tiny altar, like the ones he always saw back home before coming to the ‘States. He took note of the statuettes of various spirits, the candles, and even the upside-down glass of water on a small, white dish.  What made it worse was that his father had put it up in the cat’s favorite spot, and even now the cat eyed him forlornly.

“Pop,” Rodrigo repeated. “I asked you not to do this.”

Don Luis waved his son’s words away with an impatient gesture. “It is a small altar, a blessing to bring success to your business,” he said.

“My business is already a success Pop,” Rodrigo explained. “How do you think I was able to afford to bring you here from the island?  And I didn’t bring you here all the way from the Dominican Republic so you can drag all of the old beliefs and superstitions with you. This is a whole new world Pop, and over here people put up altars to money – no one believes in this old nonsense.”

Don Luis shook his head and fought down the urge to slap his son for his disrespectful words.  “Cuidado hijo,” he said.  “This nonsense, as you call it, is more alive and more real than you can possibly know.  “Many times it was their blessings that kept us safe and helped keep us fed during lean times. The incense, the cigar smoke, the supplications … this altar, are the humble ways that we give thanks for all that they have done for us.  It is because of them that you have this store, and it was their hands that held up the wings of the airplanes that brought us here to America.”

Rodrigo looked at his father with a growing mixture of incredulity and sadness. He realized that his father was too married to the old ways to change now or even anytime soon. Back home his father had been a well-known and respected priest of the old religion, and people came from miles around for his sage advice and blessings. Rodrigo was sure that his father missed feeling important, and because his love and respect for his father far outweighed his own opinions and ideas of how the world worked – he gave in.

“Okay Papi,” Rodrigo sighed. “You’re right, you’re right … you can keep the altar. Besides, it’s almost Thanksgiving and we can always use the extra blessings.”

Don Luis’ face lit up and he smiled, giving his son a loving pat on his cheek. “I knew you would do the right thing hijo,” he said softly.  “Your mother would be so proud of you.”

Rodrigo found himself tearing up at the mention of his recently deceased mother, and awkwardly stepped away from his father while he tried to think of a reasonable excuse for hiding his tears.

“Uh, Pop,” Rodrigo said. “I’m gonna run downstairs and grab a couple of boxes of stuff we need for the shelves up here. You keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll be right back.”

“Of course, mi hijo,” Don Luis replied knowingly.

Rodrigo turned away, wiping his face with his shirtsleeve, walked to the back of the store, and then through the old door that opened to the rickety stairs that led to the basement storage room.

Don Luis turned back to the altar and said a whispered prayer, seeking solace in the familiar words.  The all too recent loss of his wife, Evelyn, and the sudden move to this new land was almost too much to bear. But Don Luis knew that he had to stay strong for the sake of his children – even though they were all grown now.  He took a moment to glance out of the large window that made up the front of the store and marveled at the autumnal scene outside. It was the first time that he’d ever seen the leaves on trees change into such beautiful, fiery colors before letting go and falling to the earth. This was truly a magical place.

The ringing of the bell over the door announcing that a customer had entered the store caught his attention and he turned around – and immediately found himself looking down the barrel of a large gun.

“Don’t say nothing, old man” the man holding the gun said. “Just give me the money out the register and you won’t get shot.”

Don Luis glanced in the direction that his son had just gone, but there was no one in sight.  Don Luis looked back at the man with the gun; he didn’t call out because he didn’t want the possibility of his son getting hurt.

“What the hell you looking at old man,” the gunman said. “Give me the damn money now!”

Don Luis knew what the gunman wanted, and so he reached out and struggled to open the cash drawer where the money was, but he had no idea how to work the new-fangled computerized cash register. He couldn’t open it.  His fumbling around enraged the robber, who with a loud curse ran around the counter and struck Don Luis with the gun. Don Luis staggered back and bumped into the altar, sending the carefully placed statuettes and candles crashing into each other.  Some toppled and fell to the floor, so Don Luis again turned towards the altar and with trembling hands attempted to repair the damage that had been done, blood trickling from the wound on his face where the robber had struck him and dripping onto the once white doily.

The gunman grabbed Don Luis roughly by the shoulder and spun him around, pointing the gun directly into his face. “Open the damn register old man, I don’t have time for this,” he growled.

“I don’t know … I don’t know,” Don Luis said haltingly, his mind disoriented, his heart racing.

“Don’t give me that shit!” The gunman hissed as he blindly pawed at the register with one hand while holding the gun on Don Luis with the other.

Suddenly the ringing of the tiny bell over the door announced the arrival of a customer. The gunman looked up at the person who had just entered the bodega, a look of shock and fear on her face.  He then turned back to Don Luis and his own face twisted into a mask of rage as he muttered, “Stupid old man.” And then pressed the trigger.

The gunshot sent the now mortally wounded Don Luis crashing backward into the altar once again, but as he fell he reached out and grabbed onto the gunman’s arm, pulling the surprised gunman towards him.

“Las ojas cortan,” Don Luis whispered in the gunman’s ear with his last, dying breath,

The gunman shook Don Luis off and, pushing his way past the startled customer still standing by the front door, raced out into the street just as Rodrigo emerged from the storage basement and saw his father  lying on the floor behind the counter.

Frankie, the gunman who had just killed Don Luis, fled from the bodega in a near panic. He ran for several blocks, turning corners and ducking through alleyways, until he came to a neglected city-owned playground almost hidden under the shadows of some huge overgrown trees.

He sat on a cold, concrete bench, gasping for breath and wiping the sweat from his face.  He was angry and scared; the robbery had not gone as he had planned. He didn’t want to shoot anybody, but the old man had pissed him off.  Why didn’t he just open the damn register?

Frankie realized that he was still holding the gun in his hand and he quickly tucked it away in his waistband.  The shooting kept playing over and over again in his mind, it was all so stupid!  And what was it that the old man said just before he died …?  Las ojas cortan?  What the hell did he mean by that nonsense?

A cold breeze suddenly kicked up, sending dead leaves scooting along the ground and shaking some loose from the canopies of the trees overhead. Frankie shivered, it seemed to have gotten colder than it was earlier, and he chided himself for not wearing a jacket over his hoodie.  He turned his face up towards the overcast sky and watched the slow-motion cascade of multi-colored fall leaves as they gently drifted down to the ground.  Several of the leaves drifted towards him and he nonchalantly ducked out of their way.  One however flew in a little closer than the others and lightly brushed his face … and it hurt!

Frankie yelled and jumped up in pain, putting his hand to his face. At first he thought an insect might have stung him, but when he looked at his hand there was blood on his fingers. His blood.

Frankie looked around at the ground; still expecting to find that the culprit was some sort of insect or maybe even an errant piece of sharp plastic. But the only thing he saw were the autumn leaves that littered the ground in their dead, crunchy, fragile multitude. He put his fingers to his face again and winced, it felt like a paper cut and it was still bleeding.

Unable to figure out what actually happened, and hearing sirens off in the distance, Frankie decided that now was as good a time as any to leave the playground and head home.

The playground was surrounded by a tall wrought iron fence with openings on either end.  He had entered through one opening and was now headed towards the other one, kicking the piles of dead leaves out of his way. Just as he neared the exit, he felt sharp stings in his feet and more in his ankles and shins. He jumped out of the pile of leaves and stared down at his feet, his imagination conjuring up visions of shards of broken glass hidden in the leaves. He yelped in pain and surprise when he saw that his sneakers and lower pants legs had been practically shredded, and blood was running freely from the various cuts and small wounds he had somehow suffered.

“What the hell …?  Frankie murmured to himself as he quickly hobbled away from the piles of leaves, eying them with a mixture of fear and suspicion. His feet, barely covered by the rags that used to be his sneakers, left bloody footprints whenever he placed them onto the ground.

“What the hell? Frankie asked again as he tried to comprehend what was happening. Just then another breeze blew yet more leaves from the trees, and Frankie watched with a mixture of trepidation and curiosity as they meandered down towards the earth. Several of the leaves floated in Frankie’s direction and he watched with growing apprehension as they ever so gently brushed against his arm … and sliced his arm open!

Frankie grabbed onto his wounded arm and howled in pain – it was the leaves! It was the damn leaves!  Wounded, in pain and confused, Frankie limped towards the opening in the fence, avoiding the leaves in his way.  He was going to get home as quickly as he could, and simply not touch any leaves, and by winter they’ll all be gone anyway. At the opening out of the playground, he noticed that the leaves didn’t seem to be hurting anyone else, he even saw children jumping in and kicking their way through the innocent looking piles of dead vegetation.

So it was just him. The leaves just wanted to hurt Frankie. The old man back at the bodega must have done something to him, or maybe he was just crazy. Maybe God was punishing him. Whatever it was, Frankie knew that he’d be safer in his apartment. So he hobbled his way out of the playground, determined just to get to home and settle his obviously jangled nerves with a beer or two.  Then he looked up.

Trees.

The entire block was lined with old maples, oaks, sycamores and ash trees, their ancient branches heavy with leaves that were just showing off the myriad hues of their fall colors. They were beautiful.

And deadly.

Frankie looked around wildly, there were trees in every direction, silent sentinels that had somehow passed judgement on him and were even now waiting to carry out his execution.  But no, Frankie wasn’t going out like that. He was determined to make it home alive, he’d run like the devil himself was after him – and maybe he was – and he’d make it home alive and well with maybe only a few cuts and scars to tell the tale.

So Frankie took a deep breath and let it out in a loud yell of defiance as he took off for the end of the block and his home.  Almost as soon as he started running, yet another breeze shook the leaves from the trees that lined the sidewalk. A strange crackling, hissing sound behind him caused Frankie to quickly turn his head and see a throng of leaves spinning rapidly at his heels; each one rolling along on its edge like a miniature buzz saw!  Frankie screamed and tried to run even faster, “Help me!” He yelled at the people who were just walking by enjoying the fine autumn day.  “Help me!” He yelled again, but his fellow pedestrians only stared at him curiously as he limped past them waving his bloodied arms in the air trying to fend off the leaves that were falling all about him and onto him.  He grabbed at some of the passersby and screamed desperately in their angry or frightened faces as they pushed him away or avoided him altogether.

Frankie looked up, his face bleeding from hundreds of tiny cuts, and saw that he was almost at the corner. Once off this block, he would be clear of the trees and their goddam leaves!  Frankie tried for one last burst of energy so that he could sprint the last few yards to the end of the block, but his lacerated feet and legs gave out and he stumbled to the sidewalk.

Frankie was exhausted, hurt and confused.  He still didn’t fully understand what was going on.  He slowly worked his way up to his knees, tears coming from his eyes as he cried in pain and futility. He wiped the blood and tears from his eyes and looked around him … millions of leaves of all colors and shapes were closing in and he knew that his own death was now at hand.

“Nooooooo!”  Frankie screamed out as the breeze whipped the leaves into a frenzy.  They spun and twisted around like a miniature cyclone, spinning around and around Frankie’s kneeling form until he disappeared from view and his scream died away.  After several moments, the leaves slowed down and fell away, revealing the unharmed and unmarked body of Frankie the gunman lying dead on the sidewalk as a crowd gathered to point, whisper, and take pictures with their phones.

The breeze, in due course, returned to the corpse of Frankie the gunman. Softer and warmer now, it sighed sadly and with a terrible finality, “Las ojas cortan … the leaves cut.”

Arnaldo Lopez Jr.

Arnaldo Lopez Jr. was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY., but he has lived in Queens, NY for about 23 years now. Before retiring, Arnaldo Lopez Jr had been employed by the MTA for twenty-eight years and was formerly employed as a dispatcher with the NYPD. Mr. Lopez is also a speaker and trainer, speaking on subjects as diverse as terrorism and customer service. He created the civilian counter-terrorism training program currently in use by New York City Transit and many other major public transportation agencies around the country.

As well as writing, Mr. Lopez is an artist and photographer, having sold several of his works over the years. As a writer he’s sold articles to Railway Age magazine, The Daily News magazine, Homeland Defense Journal, and Reptile & Amphibian magazine; scripts to Little Archie and Personality Comics; and short stories to Neo-Opsis magazine, Lost Souls e-zine, Nth Online magazine, Blood Moon magazine, and various other Sci-Fi and/or horror newsletters and fanzines. He was also editor of Offworld, a small science fiction magazine that was once chosen as a “Best Bet” by Sci-Fi television. His first novel, Chickenhawk, is the winner of two International Latino Book awards.

Arnaldo Lopez feels that the writers that have influenced him the most are – in no particular order – Lawrence Sanders, Ernest Hemmingway, Robert E. Howard, Harry Turtledove, Isaac Asimov, Dean Koontz, James Patterson and Stephen King.

Arnaldo Lopez Jr.

https://www.gofundme.com/dcgirls

author of the award winning thriller: CHICKENHAWK

Check it out at: www.arnaldolopezjr.com

Flesh Of My Flesh

“What do you think?”

“Fascinating.”

The man behind the window screamed silently. Skin peeled off in large chucks from his arms and face.

“The process takes about three hours.”

“What about the pain receptors?”

“I assure you he feels everything… and then some.”

Mounds of flesh grew at the unknown mans feet. He looked like an anatomy chart come to life.

“Even the eyelids?”

“Yes. One hundred percent flesh removal.”

“Does it kill them right away?”

“No, this virus only targets skin cells. He is still very much alive.”

“Fascinating.”

Arthur Unk

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

You can follow his work at http://www.arthurunk.com.

The Hookup

Today it’s you, the father of five escorted out with a box full of desk items, and the dude whose name now occupies a new body in a new Armani bought with a new Visa card number.

I’ll make him cut you off a mile from your house.  And I’ll see you both through the next steps.

The stressed trader and the raging thief.  The DUI widow and the Ponzi prey.  And anyone else who fits the bill.  You make it easy for me to bring you together, honest you do.

I love you all.  And I love my work.

F.M. Scott

F.M. Scott is from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he lives and writes.  He works in nonprofit development and public relations.  His stories are steeped in the horrors of our age.

You can follow his work at: http://writprodsm.wixsite.com/fmscott

Tickle

Another child’s body was discovered in the park near the jungle gym, arms splayed as though he’d been trying to make a snow angel in the sand. Deep grooves in the dirt suggested he’d been frantically digging into it with the heels of his red running shoes. His wide, vacant eyes stared skyward. Pallid lips stretched into a gaping smile.

Tickle tiptoed behind a garden shed still savouring the child’s last breath, bulging pink eyes wild from a fresh feed. Its rodent ears perked. The spindly creature smirked, alerted by a little girl’s giggles.

Thirteen nimble fingers itched to tickle.

Terri Ross

Terri Ross writes fiction and poetry. She resides with her husband in a small town in Ontario, Canada.

Pin It on Pinterest