Unholy Trinity: Woodland Encounter by Terrance V. Mc Arthur

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.

Mooned

“So, let me get this straight. You were attacked by an animal-like creature during a hunting trip, you say? Your bullets didn’t stop the thing, but when you clubbed it with the silver-trimmed stock of your rifle, that killed the beast, and it transformed into the dead body of your guide, right? Now, you usually go hunting away from the city when the moon is full, like it is tonight? I suppose that means you’re a werewolf, right?”

The clouds parted enough for a slash of moonlight to shine on a furry, toothsome face which snarled, “You might say that.”

Bitten

“Let me tell you about my trip to Eastern Europe. I went hiking on a break from college. While camping in the ruins of an old castle, just before dawn, I heard a twig snap. I turned to see a woman standing at the edge of the shadows. 

“‘You are a stranger, here?’ she asked. I told her I was traveling to see the world and find adventure.

“She said, ‘Let me give you a kiss for luck, to send you on your way.’ That was a century ago.”

“So, you’re a vampire?”

Two fangs glinted.

“You might say that.”  

Landed

The werewolf and the vampire faced off in the clearing, each confident of victory, feinting, teasing the other into making the first move. The two rushed together, powerful blurs of motion. Claws and fangs slashed, bodies bent, feet dug into the soft earth. Bellows and screeches frightened birds into flight. Rumbling echoes turned to grinding shudders that shook the trees. 

The combatants broke apart, discovering they were mired waist-deep and sinking steadily. Anger turned to panic as they struggled against the gripping ooze.

When the earth was still, the birds returned.

You can’t fight Mother Nature?

You might say that.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a librarian, storyteller, magician, puppeteer, balloon artist, basketmaker, and playwright. His work has appeared in more than a dozen anthologies from Thirteen O’clock Press.. He lives in the Central Valley of California with his wife, his daughter, and the ashes of a 21-year-old cat.

Serial Killers: The Last House. Part 1

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

The Last House. Part 1

Max Thompson was excited, more excited than he’d ever been in his nine years of life. Today was Halloween, and his parents decided he was old enough to go trick-or-treating with his small group of friends without their supervision. Truth be told, his mother was worried sick about him wandering freely, but his father assured her that he would not leave their specific block of the neighborhood. Max always remembered how his father winked at him right after he calmed her down.

Time dragged on that fateful October 31st. Max sat in class watching each minute pass on the clock. One minute closer to collecting a horde of candy, and yet still several minutes away from the chiming bell that told every excited child that they were free. The moment came. The bell rang out like a call to freedom, and the kids zoomed out of the room leaving a shocked, but amused, teacher.

Max lived close enough to the school that he did not need to worry about taking a bus. This was a race. He had to get home fast. He had to get his costume on as quickly as possible. He had to be one the first kids to start collecting candy or he’d be left in the dust by the rest of the town. He stretched his little legs as far as he could, trying to run faster than his nine year old body would allow. His excitement could not be contained, and he was determined to overcome any obstacle in his way.

The front door of Max’s house swung open as the excited child bolted inside. His mother must have noticed the still opened door, as she shouted, “Close the door, Max.”

Max stopped running; there was a disgruntled look on his face. But I’m so close. He froze up, hoping to avoid any further detection.

“Did you hear me, Mister? I know you’re excited, but that’s no excuse to act like you were raised by wolves.”

He glanced back and replied, “Not wolves, mommy. Werewolves.” He let out a wolf-life howl that, thanks to his prepubescent vocal chords, sounded more akin to a Chihuahua than a threatening wolf.

His mom let out a laugh as she walked into the entrance hall, and looked at him. “Well, werewolves are people part of the time, so they have to close the door too. Right?”

Max sighed, “Yeah.” His mother won this argument, but when that tends to be the case when a fourth grade kid tries to contend with the will of their parents. He turned around and walked back over to the door, slowly closing it.

“Thank you. Now then, can I have a hug before you get ready,” she asked with her arms open and a smile on her face.

Mom, this is the most important day of my life. Why are you doing this to me? He walked up and gave her a hug, all while rolling his eyes and making faces behind her back.

“Thank you, now go run along,” she said, watching her child fly through the hallway and up the stairs to his bedroom. She let an amused sigh when she heard the bedroom door slam shut.

Max the Vampire stepped out of his house around five-thirty with a smile on his face, and an adrenaline filled lust for adventure. A cool breeze blew by on that October night in his sleepy Camden neighborhood. He scanned the horizon, carefully searching for his friends, whose costumes he did not yet know.  His mother was nervously watching out the window, fearing her son would be kidnapped, killed, or abducted by aliens. No ridiculous notion was off the table as far as she was concerned. Max tried not to look back, knowing his mother’s face would make him feel guilty for not wanting her there with him.

As he looked out for his group up friends, he saw his dad’s station wagon pulling into the driveway. He winced as his dad’s engine belts whined and squealed. “You all set kiddo,” his father asked as he got out of the car.

“Yeah, just waiting for Ben and Tommy to get here,” he said barely passing a glance in his father’s direction. He had to keep a close lookout for his posse of trick-or-treaters.

“Hey, I thought vampires had to avoid sunlight,” his dad said walking from the car to the front door.

“I’m a special vampire, daddy,” he proudly stated.

“Oh, is that right? What about garlic? Can you have garlic?”

“Garlic’s gross,” he said, squishing his face to show his absolute revulsion.

“It is, huh? Well, do you like pizza? Spaghetti?”

“Duh,” he replied, still scanning the horizon.

His dad made a face. He knew his son was excited for his first solo adventure, but didn’t appreciate the child’s tone. Rather than scolding his son, he decided it would be better to embarrass him instead. He leaned in and whispered, “Those have garlic in them, champ.”

Max let out a small gasp, as though the world had come crashing down on his head. Both parents had schooled the self-proclaimed monster expert. His father laughed as he stepped back. “How’s your mom handling this,” he asked.

“Oh, you know. She’s crapping her pants in there,” Max replied.

“Hey,” Max’s father scolded, “I told you not to use that language.” Tommy and Ben introduced Max into the exciting world of profanity, or at least what passed for profanity in the fourth grade, and while he generally avoided using it at home, he slipped up every now and then.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized.

“That’s better. And don’t worry about your mom, I’ll take care of her,” he said with the same wink he gave him the last time his father defended him from the worries of his mother.

“That’s why you’re the best, daddy!”

“You’re damn right,” he said, opening the door.

“Hey,” Max felt victimized.

“What? You get to say those things when you get to be a hundred and fifty years old like me,” Max’s father laughed.

Good thing vampires live forever. Max finally saw his friends walking up. Ben, the shortest of the three boys was dressed as a generic super hero complete with a yellow shield adorned with two letters: S and B. Tommy was dressed as a slasher villain. Although Max deeply loved his parents, he wished they were a little more open minded to the world of pop culture. Tommy’s parents let him watch pretty much anything he wanted. Max’s parents still wouldn’t let him watch PG-13 movies.

“’Sup butthead,” Super Ben said as he and Tommy walked up.

“Looks who’s talking crap face,” replied Max, feeling rebellious after using that word again.

“It’s about time your parents didn’t come with us,” Tommy joked with a smug tone.

Ben pulled a crudely drawn crayon map from his pocket. Max saw the houses with their unique labels: candy, fruit, nothing. “This is the map we used last year. These are the candy houses,” he said pointing to a row on his map. “These two give out full sized candy bars, so we gotta go there.”

Max and Tommy nodded with excitement. “These jerks give out fruit. Mostly stupid raisins. We’ll avoid them, or we’ll get hit by the eggs.” In this neighborhood, giving out fruit was equal to committing war crimes, and the children would not let these adults live it down. Max and his friends committed themselves to remaining civil on this most sacred of holidays, but others in the town were not so forgiving. There would be satisfaction, one way or another.

“What about that house,” Max said as he pointed to a house on the corner. “You didn’t put anything on that house.” Max knew the house well. It sat right on the corner of Cambridge Road and Chapel Drive. It was a rundown house, and he never saw anyone walk in or out of it when he went through the neighborhood. Half the town’s kids said it was haunted, but don’t they always say that?

“Nobody lives there. Becky said she knocked on the door all night last year, and no one even came out. We don’t go there,” Tommy stated. That explanation was good enough for Max, who was ready to move on from planning, and go straight into acquiring his candy.

As the children wrapped up their planning session, Max’s mother walked out of the house, and looked down at him. She asked, “Can I get another hug before you go?”

He didn’t think anything could get worse after this.

Christopher Hall

Christopher Hall is an author at the beginning of his career. His background is primarily in history, and historic writing. He attended Wesley College for his undergraduate work, and Washington College to complete his MA in history. He currently works for the Delaware State Museums creating history and historical-fiction programs. He lives in Dover Delaware.

Trembling With Fear 09/29/2019

Think of horror and you think of monsters, of tales of fear and gore. But the horror industry has two faces, one which supports those in need and this week, I’d like to mention Things in the Well’s recently released charity anthology Trickster’s Treats 3: The Seven Deadly Sins. Between the covers you will find seven flash stories for each of the seven deadly sins, including my The Devil Inside. I received my copy the other day and have just started reading it, only just finishing the Lust section. I particularly enjoyed How (not) to Dump a Body by Nikky Lee and Soft Deadline by Angela Yuriko Smith – these are definitely tales to raise a smile and I look forward to reading the rest. The book was written for charity: water which helps provide clean water to those areas who need it. In addition to all stories being freely donated, editors Marie O’ Regan and Lee Murray plus several subeditors also gave of their time. Support a good cause and a very good read and buy it here.

Another release has been Horror Without Borders, Volume 1 flash anthology with my story, Silo, inside. I’ve started reading my copy with interest as I’ve been curious to see how the idea of horror differs across cultures and continents. Whilst we are open to all, TWF tends to see most of its contributors come from the West, reading these other stories is introducing me to established horror writers in different countries and I will be following some of them up. You can get your copy here. This small Russian press (Horrorscope) may even become a market for some of you.

On the downside of these publications, I had, like many others, a rejection for the Miscreations anthology; however, I like my story and will look for a home for it elsewhere. Rejection is par for the course for all of us, and yes it stings, but then you get up, dust yourself off, and go on.

Over to Trembling With Fear and the first story this week is Laughable Acts of Futility by S. Kearing. You never know fully the dynamics involved in a relationship and here, the girlfriend is very unaware of her boyfriend’s dark side. There is some clever misdirection in the initial thoughts of the boyfriend which makes his eventual actions more chilling. This in turn develops worry and sympathy for his girlfriend but, again, we have been misdirected and as we uncover her true nature, you think, well, maybe they deserve each other. Often misdirection is too clumsy, here it was subtle and effective.

Hell House by Cindar Harrell brings us a main character that is not human. It is dark, it is alive, it is a nightmare. This drabble makes a change to the usual human protagonist.

That Guy by Patrick Wynn twists reality, taking us from a well-recognised difficult morning start to a surreal switch. Playing on a person’s inner turmoil and turning that aspect into an imprisoned visible entity is something not often done.

To Rival Dionysus by Patrick Winters plays on an old myth, which has horrors of its own (if you’ve read The Bacchae). In this instance, a new element of horror is added, mixing modern tropes with old.

Thank you to all, for writing and submitting to TWF.

(I’ve been let loose on the website this week to get TWF published, see Stuart’s comment below. I apologise in advance for any mistakes – I made sure to wear my ‘L’ plates!)

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Due to a family emergency, Steph is fully scheduling the post this week. I should be back next week? Playing it by ear. Umn. We still need some drabble to round out the year in case you were holding back on sending any in. I hope all of you are having a great weekend.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Laughable Acts of Futility by S. Kearing

My girlfriend, Candace, is packing her bag for a ski weekend with her theater friends. 

There’s one girl in particular who I hope won’t be joining the slope-bound gaggle: Sheila Banks. I’d much prefer that Sheila stay behind. As I visualize her—doe-eyed and petite, with fine, wispy hair that she always wears pulled up from her deliciously slender neck—I begin to strain against my jeans. 

I put a couch pillow on my lap and ask, “So, who’s going with you?”

“The usual… Donna, Jeanette, Tammy…”

“Chrissy the Crabby Choreographer?”

She chuckles. “Nope.”

“Stephanie the Stinky Stagehand?” 

“I never knew you were actually listening when I spoke about my theater friends.” Candace stuffs a folded sweater into her bag. “And, no, Stephanie’s not coming.”

“Sheila the…?”

“Bane of my existence? No, thank god.”

I laugh and snap my newspaper. Behind it, I am smiling.

***

You wouldn’t believe how hard it’s been to catch Sheila in a place where she and I are completely alone. But on Sunday, she makes the grave mistake of leaving the teahouse through the back door. Wearing headphones. After dark. 

The headphones turn out to be an ace in my hole, since I can’t help but make noise as I approach her, the hard-packed snow creaking treacherously beneath my boots. I have Sheila pinned up against the brick wall between two dumpsters before she even knows what hit her. Dainty little thing that she is, her attempts to push me, kick my legs, and unfurl my fingers from their stronghold on her windpipe, are all laughable acts of futility. 

Getting rid of the body isn’t hard. I took a job as a custodian in a thermal treatment center for the sole purpose of accessing the incinerator after hours. As Sheila Banks transforms into a pile of ash and shards, I almost cry, for my mental picture of her delectable fragility is being replaced by one of gray, powdery finitude.

The next few days, I wait. I wait with the sweetest anticipation.

***

On Wednesday, Candace bustles into our house, excitement crackling all around her. 

“Guess. What.”

“What?” I ask, folding my newspaper and laying it down on the end table.

I’m gonna be on stage Friday night. I am an understudy no more.”

“Oh? What about Sheila?”

“Get this: She’s been missing. For, like, three days.”

I take great pride in my ability to arrange my facial features into the contours of concern at will. “Missing? Jesus, I hope she’s okay.”

My girlfriend crosses her arms defiantly. “Everyone’s so worried about her. But I’m not. She was fickle and unreliable and she probably just ran off with that dirtbag boyfriend of hers.”

“You’re right,” I say. I get out of my armchair and pull Candace to me. “Let’s not worry about her. You deserve the lead in this play, and you’re gonna be great.”

Her body relaxes inside of my deliberate words and reassuring embrace.

“My name will be on the marquee,” she whispers happily.

“Yes, it will.” I drop a kiss on the crown of her head. “You’ll be a star.”

S. Kearing

S. Kearing is a lover of writing fiction, drinking coffee, and delving into all things dark, true crime, and psychological. Her work has been picked up by Horror Tree, Mojave Heart Review, Ellipsis Zine, Left Hand Publishers, Moonchild Magazine, The Sirens Call Publications, Spelk Fiction, Jolly Horror Press, Pixel Heart Literary, New Pop Lit, and other publications. She loves the #WritingCommunity on Twitter and would love to connect with you.https://twitter.com/SophieKearing

Hell House

Our new dream home quickly turned to one of nightmares.

It didn’t want us there. The walls moved, constricting us. The ceiling fell revealing gaping darkness. Creatures stared at us from the shadows, fangs glistening. 

My husband was the first to succumb. I found him in a pool of blood, body mangled and his terror-filled face fixed to something in the hole in the ceiling. 

I screamed out to the cursed house, but it just laughed in reply. I was swallowed by a swarm of death, my flesh ripping under the splintered teeth, eyes staring up blankly. Hell stared back.

Cindar Harrell

Cindar Harrell loves fairy tales, especially ones with a dark twist. Her stories are often fairy tale inspired, but she also loves mystery and horror. Her stories can be found in various anthologies. She regularly moonlights as another human, but no matter who she is, she is always writing. You can follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CindarHarrell/ which she promises to try and update more often.

That Guy

The alarm blares, after three tries I manage to hit the button. Tossing the covers back I stand up with a moan. Shuffling my way across the bedroom dodging clothes and shoes I make it to the bathroom. I lift the lid trying my best to hit the bowl and not the floor. Flushing I turn to the sink and look in the mirror. The screaming man is still there, he is pounding and pointing. I’m not shocked, he is here every morning since we switched places. I don’t blame him for being mad but I still hate that guy.

Patrick J Wynn

Patrick J Wynn is an author of short stories that contain shades of horror, humor and are just a touch weird. His works have been published in Sirens Call, Dark Dossier, Short Horror and Trembling with Fear. You can follow him on his Facebook page and look for his short story collections on Amazon.

To Rival Dionysus

He lurks in the safety of darkness, watching through the trees as the revelers dance and sing about a raging pyre. They writhe against each other and imbibe goblets of lush wine, offering libations to honor their patron deity, and their laughter rings through the night.

He was once a part of them — until they cast him from their numbers, and strange, nightly forces changed him into the accursed thing he is now. But his thirst, and his passions for flesh — those had not changed.

In truth, they’d only grown stronger.

When he rejoins his people, laughter turns to screams.

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.

Social Links:

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

https://m.facebook.com/ patrickwintersauthor/

https://twitter.com/Weird_Winters

Strut Your Stuff For Satan

“I said sashay,” screeched the demon, poking Kate with his pitchfork.

Kate tottered along the catwalk, trying to tune out the screams of those whose bodies she trampled, the knife edge of her heel tearing in and out of the carpet of flesh.

“And – vogue.”

She stopped, posed, felt her heels slice in deeper.

Kate glanced down. The stiletto had pierced her agent’s eye. She gave it an extra push.

“Good girl, now you’ve got it,” shrieked the demon clapping his hands in delight.

“Naomi! You’re up next. Yeh, baby. Come strut your stuff for Satan!”

As above, so below.

Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative fiction, and has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, the latest being Transcending Nature in Snowbook’s Industrial Horror Anthology, Thread of the Infinite and Asylum of Shadows, part of Demain Publishing’s Short Sharp Shocks! Series. Her novella, Bottled is due to be released by Silver Shamrock Publishing early 2020. She is also an affiliate member of the HWA.

 Steph can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on twitter at @el_stevie.

Unholy Trinity: Aging Regrets by Ryan Benson

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.

Reclamation

The witch gazed into the looking glass. Wrinkles, veins, and burst capillaries.

She looked down at the supple skin—white as milk.

The knife passed over the surface, and seconds later, blood seeped from the trail, as if appearing de novo. 

Her soiled, moth-eaten tome detailed the map carving required to summon her Dark Prince.

Parchment of flesh. Ink of blood. 

Crimson rivulets dribbled over unblemished skin before dripping onto the dusty floor below. 

Screams echoed about the chamber.

“Hush,” the crone cooed.

Like the alabaster skin, the screams weren’t the witch’s, but after the ritual, she’d be beautiful again.

A Broken Home

The house stood vacant and lonely. Sordid rumors drove away buyers, and the once beautiful home fell into decline. 

Ruminations of revenge filled the house. Full of angry spirits it could scare or kill. But unsolved slayings bring attention. The city could raze the abandoned “Murder House.”

Paint cracked. 

Teens spray-painted and smashed windows (even the stained glass).

Pipes leaked.

Addicts left needles and waste where Persian rugs once lay. 

Shingles fell like autumn leaves.

Every day, the house regretted coercing the former owner into murdering his family and creating the current dilemma.

One bad moment can ruin a home.

Youth is Wasted

Reincarnation isn’t what I thought. My new body feels different. It’s been decades since I was last twenty-one. 

I’m the product of work started in sea slugs and finished in humans—the first clone with replicated memories (soul?) as well as DNA. 

What now? The doctor said my ninety-year-old self died weeks ago. Wish we met, but what would I do? Hold his (my?) gnarled hand? 

Should I visit my kids? Grandkids? They’re older than me!

No. I’ll run, laugh, and make love like I haven’t in years. 

I just pray I can forget what awaits me at the end.

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 09/22/2019

Wednesday evening/night is becoming very much my time for catching up with TWF. Work has been pretty draining of late and I’ve developed a tendency to fall asleep when I get home – hopefully just a phase but it does mean I don’t always check things as often as I normally do. If you haven’t heard about something for a while, drop me a line, especially on Wednesday and I’ll be able to give you an update (bear in mind the UK is about 6 hours ahead of the US). Weekends are also TWF but have been hit with family stuff, although that is settling as two of my kids have left for uni and the house is quieter. More time to procrastinate!

Speaking of procrastination, make sure to listen to This is Horror’s 300th podcast. I’m about half way through and it features Adam Nevill, Joe R. Lansdale and Josh Malerman amongst others. Entertaining and informative.

I recently heard that the Miscreations anthology from Doug Murano and Michael Bailey will be sending out decisions on story submission over this week, so good luck if you are one of the almost 900 who subbed.

Now to Trembling With Fear and the first story up is Deferment by DJ Tyrer. A young woman seeks to escape a troubled past only to have more than brush death. Each time the same stranger saves her, but is he truly her saviour or is he something more sinister. As events unfold, the reader has to reassess the stranger – good or bad, angel or devil. You’ll only find out at the end. And that is the sign of a good writer – keeping you guessing, forcing you to keep on to the end.

Fire and Ice by G.A. Miller is a telling. We often avoid pieces which don’t carry a ‘story’ as it were but there are exceptions and this is one of them. It’s an absolutely brutal depiction of pain and feels incredibly personal, as if the writer was using this as a catharsis. Raw, blunt emotion is a powerful weapon in a writer’s toolbox

The Guest by Eddie D. Moore is a variation on the theme of food which we all write and which are published quite regularly at TWF. The challenge these days is how do you introduce the ‘ugh’ moment. This example achieves it with a neat, understated last line.

Full Wife, Happy Wife by Alexander Pyles is another gastronomical delight as well as being a nice example of a revenge tale. Dark humour is also tinged with a hint of tragedy in the lives of others, sharing the recipe with others in her book club because ‘some of them could use it’. Tight writing at its best.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Whew. Busy week! Had a couple of drabbles accepted and made some real progress on actual writing for the first time in about a month. 

At any rate, I’ve got a couple calls to put out real quick! On the site end of things, our review and interview coordinator has to step back to just doing interviews so we’re looking for 2 new coordinators (one for each of the above.) If that sounds like something which you’d be interested in it would involve chasing down reviewers and interviewers, scheduling both of them, and formatting posts (either on the backend of the site or in an email to me which I would post from.) If that that sounds like something you’d be interested in, please send an email in to [email protected]!

The second request is to all of the writers who contribute to Trembling With Fear! We’re getting a little low on drabble and would love to see an influx of writing! That is all. 

We hope you’ve had a great weekend!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Deferment

She screamed as the pickup whooshed past her, the wing mirror clipping her arm.

“Got you.” She fell back into the arms of the man who’d grabbed her. He helped her stand.

“Thanks.” She rubbed her arm: It hurt and was certain to have a huge bruise, but it didn’t feel broken. She flexed her elbow; sore, but it moved okay.

“I’m Sarah,” she said, turning to look at the man. “You saved my life.”

He nodded. “You’re welcome.”

The man was tall and slim and wore a black suit; if he was a businessman, he was from Wall Street, not this small burg. With sunglasses hiding his eyes, he looked like a film star or a stylish Mafiosi. She felt an unexpected tingle as he continued to rest a hand on her arm; as if afraid she might stagger back into the road.

“Can I get you a drink?” He released her.

“Uh, well, I need to leave town.”

“There isn’t another bus for two hours,” he told her.

“How did…?”

“How else would you leave town?” His lips twitched as if he were about to smile, but his face remained expressionless. “Come on, I’ll buy you a drink.”

He slipped his hand into the small of her back and she let him guide her towards the coffee shop. If she were with him, she’d probably be safer than trying to hide somewhere on her own till the bus was ready to go.

A bell jangled as they entered the shop and the half-dozen customers looked around at them, then looked away, uninterested.

“Two Americanos, please,” the man in black called, tossing some dollar bills onto the counter as they went past, leading her to a private booth.

A waitress brought their drinks over.

“How about a game to pass the time?” He took a packet of cards from the pocket of his jacket and began to shuffle the deck.

“You’re weird,” she said, then nodded. “Might as well pass the time.”

He dealt the cards. “Poker.”

“You’re not suggesting a game of strip poker?” Sarah asked. Why was she acting like this? She shouldn’t feel flirty, not now, but she did.

The man shook his head just a little.

“I’m not your type?”

“If I were looking for a lover, you would be exactly my type, Sarah.” His lips twitched again.

She felt herself blush a little. It almost felt as if life were worth living.

They started to play. She sipped at her coffee.

Suddenly, the man dropped his cards and half-turned his head. “We have to go.”

“What?” She looked around the wall of the booth, trying to see what was wrong.

“Come on.” He was already standing beside her as he took her hand and pulled her to her feet. As he led Sarah to the door that led to the washrooms, she heard the jangle of the bell and looked back: Two men had entered the coffee shop; she recognised them as Albie’s.

“This way.” The man in black led her into the ladies’ washroom and gave her a boost to the window. She managed to get it open and slithered through it. “Run for it.”

Sarah pelted off down the alley. When she glanced back, her saviour was just behind her.

She burst out of the alleyway and, once again, felt the man’s firm grip on her arms as he pulled her back before the cab struck her.

She threw her arms around him. “That’s twice you’ve saved me! Three times, if you count the coffee shop.”

She kissed his cheek. He almost twitched a smile.

“I know where we can go until the bus is ready,” he said, gently prising her off him.

They went via alleys and backstreets until they reached a scrap yard. Faded police tape flapped limply from a gatepost.

“In here.” He pushed a fence board back so she could slip inside.

“This place was in the news. Those three teens who were dealing crystal meth were murdered here. Albie had them killed.” She shuddered: The news report hadn’t mentioned her brother-in-law by name. She supposed the police knew he was behind the killings, but he was always careful to avoid incriminating himself. Just as nobody would ever prove he’d had Wayne killed.

“That’s right.”

“Why come here?” she asked as they headed for the shack that served as an office.

“I’m familiar with it and nobody will come here.”

Sarah shivered. Was he one of Albie’s thugs? Was this all just a ploy to kill her without witnesses?

As if he’d read her mind, the man said, “I know your brother-in-law well. Don’t worry, I mean you no harm, Sarah.”

“O-kay.”

They settled down on old wooden chairs either side of a rickety old table.

Sarah sighed. “I have to get out of here, start a new life. Not that I’ve any idea how: I’ve got money for my bus ticket and that’s about it. And, with…” She trailed off, then added: “I don’t know how I’ll manage.”

“You need cash.”

“And, how.”

He took a wad of bills from his pocket and laid them on the table. “There’s fifty-thousand there in twenty dollar bills.”

“I can’t take that!” she gasped, wondering what he expected her to do to earn it.

The man gave a shrug. “We never finished our game.”

He took out another pack of cards and began to shuffle the deck.

“I thought you left those behind: How many packs do you carry?”

His lips twitched and he said, “Shall we play?”

“Why not? There’s still over an hour to kill.”

“Tell you what, I’ll wager this.” He tapped the money.

“What against? I’ve got nothing.”

“How about you bet your life?”

“What?” Her earlier fears resurfaced.

“Without it, you can’t start a new life. How long till Albie’s goons catch up with you if you’re running on air? If you lose…” He left the outcome to her imagination. “But, if you win, you get this fifty grand to start over.”

“Sure, why not?” If he was going to kill her, he was going to do it regardless. If he was just joking or the offer was real, then why not?

He dealt the cards and they began to play. The cards were very much in her favour.

He folded.

“You win,” he said, sliding the wad of bills across the table to her.

“Really? No fooling?”

“Really. No fooling, Sarah. It’s yours.”

She took the money and slipped it into her handbag.

“Right, let’s get you both on that bus.”

They followed the back ways and he didn’t leave her side till she boarded the bus.

Sarah settled herself in an aisle seat near the back, hoping not to be spotted as the bus drove out of town. As it began to pull away, she leaned around her neighbour and got one last look at the man who’d saved her life. He watched the bus depart, eyes still hidden behind his sunglasses.

Her thoughts returned to his last words to her at the scrap yard: How had he known she was pregnant? Not even Wayne had known, before… She’d have to ask him: Somehow, she just knew she’d see him again.

 

#

 

The man in black slipped away, unseen. People only saw him if he wanted them to.

He felt no regret at throwing the game in order to let her live: It was merely a deferment. He would see Sarah again, one day, regardless, and her unborn son held so much potential. Everyone died, eventually, of course, but how they died was reflected in the… sustenance they provided, and Sarah’s son would offer them up in exquisite suffering.

His lips twitched the hint of a smile. He could almost taste them. Better, even, than those Albie gave him.

 

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 https://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/

The Atlantean Publishing website is at https://atlanteanpublishing.wordpress.com/

Fire and Ice

Fire and ice.

Yeah, we’re all familiar with the phrase, but let me tell you something. You don’t really know fire and ice until a cold steel blade pierces your skin and forces its way inside, slicing through anything in its path.

The cold metal shocks you then the heat of your body reacting to the unwanted intrusion flushes warmth to the area.

Your skin is warmed where the blood flows yet cooling everywhere else as you begin the slow descent into cold darkness, a pitch-black abyss with no tunnel, no light beckoning to you.

That is fire and ice.

 

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/GMiller666

Full Wife, Happy Wife

Jim was a good husband. I took another bite of dinner. The place settings were all laid out so impeccably. Streaks of maroon marred the white ceramic of the plates

 

Oh, silly me for noticing the table. Jim was such a goof, when he wasn’t hitting me. Son of a bitch had a helluv an arm. The bruises would last for days.

 

I sighed as I took another bite, this recipe is excellent though. I will have to share with the book club. I know some of them could use it.

 

Jim’s last good deed was as a good meal.

 

Alexander Pyles

Alexander Pyles resides in IL with his wife and children. He holds an MA in Philosophy and an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. His short story chapbook titled, “Milo (01001101 01101001 01101100 01101111),” from Radix Media, is due out fall 2019. His other short fiction has appeared in Drabblez Magazine, 101fiction.org and other venues. He is also featured in several Black Hare Press anthologies. You can find him at www.pylesofbooks.com or @Pylesofbooks.  

The Guest

The timer dinged. Peter smiled at his guest, and said, “It’s finally done.” He placed the roasting pan on the table and removed the lid. The smell of seasoned meat, potatoes, and carrots filled the room. Peter fixed two plates.

Peter sighed when his guest refused to look at the food. “If you don’t eat meat, at least try the vegetables.”

“I’m not hungry.”

Peter took a bite and followed it with a sip of wine. “You should try it. They pair nicely.”

His guest glanced at the bandage covering the stump where his leg ended and shook his head.

Eddie D. Moore

Eddie D. Moore travels hundreds of hours a year, and he fills that time by listening to audiobooks. When he isn’t playing with his grandchildren, he writes his own stories. His stories have been published by Kzine, Alien Dimensions, Black Hare Press, Nomadic Delirium Press, Fantasia Divinity Publishing and by dozens of online publishers. You can find a list of his publications on his blog, eddiedmoore.wordpress.com, or by visiting his Amazon Author Page, amazon.com/author/eddiedmoore. While you’re there, be sure to pick up a copy of his mini-anthology Misfits & Oddities

Welcome To Slaver Town

Fry Machete had taken out insurmountable evil in his day.

Nothing could have prepared him for what he found in Regal Snow, Texas.

He’d been there to cover Brisket Battalion for “Monsters, Munchies, and Mayhem.”

Instead, he found a creature that bewitched its customers.

Enslaving them to return, imagining the perfect life, and feeding off them.

It had feasted for decades.

Thankfully, the creature was no match for Fry.

Now he could get back to his cushy life as a star.

Just after he stopped into the new brisket place in town he was dying to try for the show.

Stuart Conover

Stuart Conover is a father, husband, rescue dog owner, horror author, blogger, journalist, horror enthusiast, comic book geek, science fiction junkie, and IT professional. With all of that to cram in on a daily basis, it is highly debatable that he ever is able to sleep and rumors have him attached to an IV drip of caffeine to get through most days. 

A resident in the suburbs of Chicago (and once upon a time in the city) most of Stuart’s fiction takes place in the Midwest if not the Windy City itself. From downtown to the suburbs to the cornfields – the area is ripe for urban horror of all facets.

Unholy Trinity: ‘I Don’t Want To See Him Impeached, I Want To See Him In Prison,’ Said Nancy Pelosi: Three Ways To Give The Speaker What She Wants by Marleen S. Barr

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.

I. Trump loved watching the sumo wrestlers during his trip to Japan. The fighting made him feel  comfortable. When Trump stood to give the participants a trophy, he looked inside and saw a roach wearing harem pants and pointed shoes. The insectoid genie told Trump that the trophy was her home. She asked him to make a wish. “I want to be a sumo wrestler,” said Trump. Wrestling attire appeared on his corpulent body. When the wrestlers bumped against him he bumped back. The feminist genie made sure that Trump spent the rest of his life imprisoned in the wrestling ring.

II. While taking an early morning stroll on the White House lawn, a staffer stubbed her toe on a small circular object emblazoned with the word “HILLARY.” The sparrow-sized emissary from the planet Hillary exited her tiny spaceship. When the staffer brandished a handgun, rays emanated from the Hillaryian’s eyes; the gun disappeared.  Despite the alien’s power, the staffer knew that she could not risk having Trump see a ship named “Hillary.” So she covered the ship with her scarf. The alien carried out her mission to extradite Trump to a Hillaryian jail where mini-me Hillarys placed him in solitary confinement.

III. No one was surprised to learn that Robert Mueller was a robot. When Robert De Niro offered to replace Mueller via reprising his Saturday Night Live impersonation, House Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler invited him to read Mueller Report findings on television. The riveted audience watched robot Robert appear, interrupt De Niro, and declare that according to “The Three Laws of Robotics,” he could not harm Americans. He explained that, although Attorney General William Barr had programmed him not to indict Trump, he was able to override the program. Then robot Robert stated that Trump should go directly to jail.  

Marleen S. Barr

Marleen S. Barr is known for her pioneering work in feminist science fiction and teaches English at the City University of New York. She has won the Science Fiction Research Association Pilgrim Award for lifetime achievement in science fiction criticism. Barr is the author of Alien to Femininity: Speculative Fiction and Feminist Theory, Lost in Space: Probing Feminist Science Fiction and Beyond, Feminist Fabulation: Space/Postmodern Fiction, and Genre Fission: A New Discourse Practice for Cultural Studies. Barr has edited many anthologies and co-edited the  science fiction issue of PMLA. She has published the novels Oy Pioneer! and Oy Feminist Planets: A Fake Memoir.  Her When Trump Changed: The Feminist Science Fiction Justice League Quashes the Orange Outrage Pussy Grabber is the first single-authored Trump short story collection.

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