Trembling With Fear 09/02/2018

September already – where has the summer gone? I’ve been fortunate to have had 6 weeks off from the day job but I’ve found every day has been pretty much packed with writing, beta-reading or editorial tasks (for different projects) and occasional time out with my family. Thank goodness they’re older and relatively understanding. Not sure how I’m going to cope going back to school …

Anyway, back to TWF which this week received submissions from its youngest contributor. With only a little work needed – he provided a very clean copy which made me happy – we will be hopefully publishing his tales in the not too distant future. How old? 15. Young, yes, but it shows there are no age barriers at TWF with contributors from both ends of the spectrum. If your writing is good that is all that counts.

Now, websites. Just to let you know I’ve been umming and aahing about a new website following Stuart’s articles and have taken the plunge and upgraded (a bit). I’ve moved from my free weebly site to WordPress https://stephanieellis.org (although not gremlin free yet!), although as a total WordPress newbie it’s going to take a bit of time getting used to. This week I also did my usual peek around the web and dropped in on Andrea Allison at http://southern21.blogspot.com/ to find her celebrating the publication of two of her drabbles in Chronos, An Anthology of Time Drabbles (Shacklebound Books, edited by the prolific Eric S. Fomley). Great fact to know: she has had a story published alongside Wil Wheaton and Orson Scott Card in Stories of Strength, an anthology to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

I’ve also found out some of you have set yourself some real challenges. Robert Allen Lupton has been writing a drabble a day for www.erbzine.com, a site honouring Edgar Rice Burroughs. So far he’s written 106. I’ve not read them all but would recommend ‘If You Don’t Mime, It Doesn’t Matter’ from June 14th.

My editorial top tips for contributors this week:

  1. Avoid using ‘that’. Learned this very early on in writing career. If a sentence reads fine without it, delete it. Everybody overuses it – including me.
  2. Try and avoid repeating the same word in close proximity. A thesaurus is good. I spend many happy moments at www.thesaurus.com, and yes, I have a copy of Roget …

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

With our monthly round-up yesterday I’m a bit drained on anything new to share. So, I’ll just say please make sure to comment on any ‘Trembling With Fear’ post whose authors that you’ve really loved to share what you’ve enjoyed about the work and be sure to share their stories out to social media as well so they know what you love and why!

‘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

Conspiracy

It was their weekly coffee. Two middle-aged ladies, meeting for a drink and a chat in their local café. They’d been friends for decades, ever since university. Amanda often wondered why they’d stayed so close; they didn’t really have any shared interests. Maybe it was because they lived in the same town. Maybe it was because they were both single; Amanda had been widowed in her thirties, Linda had never married. No matter the reason, their weekly meetings had become routine.

Linda had always been a little odd, but as the years passed, she’d become downright eccentric. She was always coming up with new, crackpot theories. Today it was about doctors. Amanda patiently listened without comment.

“It’s the doctors that give you cancer and those horrible diseases. How many times have you heard about a perfectly healthy person dying a few weeks after a routine checkup? They walk in, healthy and fit, and then the doctor diagnoses some dreadful disease!”

“Well, yes, I’ve heard that a couple of times. But I don’t understand why you think it’s the doctors causing it. Those people were just ill without knowing it.”

Linda gave her friend a condescending look.

“Oh, Amanda, you’re so naive. I’ll tell you why. It’s the doctors, they have special toxins, poisons. Bacteria. They’re paid by the drug companies to infect you, so they can make more money! It’s a global conspiracy.”

The conversation was getting a little too much, even by Linda’s standards. Amanda spoke, trying to inject some sanity into the topic.

“Linda, you know I work at a doctor’s surgery. You think I wouldn’t have noticed a little thing like that?”

“Of course not! You’re not in the loop, the doctors keep it to themselves.”

“I handle all the orders, including the drugs. I would have noticed.”

“Don’t be silly, Amanda. The poisons aren’t going to be sent through the normal routes.”

Amanda sighed inside. It was aliens last month, now this. She wondered for the umpteenth time if she could simply stop talking to her friend. Would Linda let her?

The next day at work, Amanda thought it would be funny to mention Linda’s theory to her boss, Dr. Lansing. His eyes flashed in annoyance and some other emotion Amanda couldn’t quite identify. It almost looked like fear.

“How ridiculous!” he snorted.

“That’s what I told her.”

“I hate hearing nonsense like that.”

“I know Dr. Lansing. I tried to tell her. She’s always getting these silly ideas, she spends too much time on the internet. She believes all that silly nonsense and then insists on spreading it around. It was aliens last month.”

He picked up a piece of paper from Amanda’s desk.

“She is clearly delusional. Disturbed. Write her name and address. She needs help.”

Amanda hesitated. Lansing detected her reluctance.

“Amanda, anyone who believes such nonsense is obviously mentally ill. She needs some intervention before it gets worse. Don’t you want to help your friend?”

Amanda wrote down the required information, with a sense of disquiet. Linda wasn’t ill, just eccentric, but she supposed Dr. Lansing knew best.

Linda didn’t answer when Amanda phoned the next week to arrange coffee. That was worrying. Amanda went round to her house, but there was no response. Had Linda decided on a spur of the moment trip? Surely, she would have let Amanda know. Amanda briefly thought about phoning the police, but decided she didn’t want to make a fooL of herself. Linda would turn up.

It wasn’t until the next week that Amanda saw the headline in the local newspaper.

Local woman, Linda Evans, found drowned

Amanda felt an overwhelming sense of grief. Only now, after this, did Amanda realize how much her silly friend had meant to her. But amidst her tears, Amanda sensed something wasn’t right. The article reported that Linda had died while swimming in a nearby lake. Her clothes had been found at the scene, indicating she’d decided to take a dip. The weather had been unusually warm. There had been no suicide note; nothing to suggest it was anything other than a tragic accident.

“Well, that can’t be right,” she said to herself.

Amanda knew something about Linda that no one else knew. She’d discovered it by accident at university, when Linda had been hysterical after being pushed into a swimming pool by some of their classmates. Linda had told her that she’d always been terrified of water; she’d never even learnt to swim. Linda would never have decided to go swimming in the lake, not in a million years. Amanda was reminded of the note she’d written for Dr. Lansing. There couldn’t be a connection, could there? Surely the timing was a coincidence. It had to be. She thought back to the expressions that had flashed across Dr. Lansing’s face. Anger, then fear. Despite herself, she began to wonder.

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.

Addicted

Paul shot the junk into his veins. He felt the warm embrace and relaxed his body to enjoy the high. An odd feeling pried his eyes open. The demons stood all around him arguing over who had rights to his eternal soul. His body refused to respond to any movement request. Terror held him immobile. Flashes of acrid smoky light accompanied the visions of arguing devils. The demons left one by one until only two remained. He could not hear the words, but watched the smaller one disappear. A gnarled claw reached out to drag its prize back to hell.

Arthur Unk

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

Amongst marble and the dead

As we descended into the abandoned cemetery’s derelict crypt they told me to take the lead. I was growing accustomed to it.
“When did you find this place?” They asked me.
“Found it years ago, I was just waiting for a rainy day to bring all of you.”
The moment the stairs ended, the marble door slid shut. I calmly reached into a coffin and retrieved my centuries old hand-axe before turning back to them. They beheld my true ghastly visage in shock and silence.
I wryly responded to their terror:
“Philosophy’s not the only way to open someone’s mind.”

B.B. Blazkowicz

B.B. Blazkowicz is a horror fiction writer currently tied to a chair in an Antarctic research facility. A bearded man who smells of Scotch says one of us is assimilated. If you are reading this please send me transportation to your densest population centers.

@BBblazkowicz

https://toiletwineconnoisseur.wordpress.com/

Everyday Things

I stood on the platform and sipped my coffee. The train was pulling into the station.
A couple were on the wrong side of the platform; the train doors only opened on one side. They dashed across the track. The train’s horn blared. They were too close. One of the girl’s shoes caught in the rails. She fell, sprawling in front of the behemoth. Her companion, not noticing, ran on. I saw the expression of terror on her face, just before the train sliced her, squashed her…dismembered her.
I stood on the platform, ignoring the screams. Everyday things. Everyday horror.

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.

Trembling With Fear 08/26/2018

This week I bring you news of a new feature to be included in Trembling with Fear. In the past we have had a few writers (notably Justin Boote) who have submitted 3 drabbles together, linked by a common theme. Normally we have accepted and spread out the drabbles over a few months. Recently we received a submission of 3 drabbles, which were very good, but being so closely linked would have lost their edge if we’d spread them out as normal. To combat this issue, we have created the Unholy Trinity. You can submit 3 drabbles on a common theme (or perhaps showing the continuation of a story) and these will be printed together under the Unholy Trinity title. (Stuart will be sorting the logistics!).

 

Sticking a pin in the list of authors published by TWF resulted in DJ Tyrer being selected this week for a visit. On dropping in on his site (https://djtyrer.blogspot.com/), what was the first thing I read but the sentences ‘Are you infested with parasites? Do you crave the crawling sensation of invasive inhabitants beneath your skin?’ Yes, ugh … but it kept me reading and it turned out to be a pitch for an anthology containing his work called To Be One With You, where he is found keeping company with the likes of Paul Kane and Marie O’Reagan. His site is bristling with tabs showing the sheer extent of work he is involved in – poetry, stories, gaming, non-fiction and is worth taking a look at. Seriously, where does he find the time? He certainly wasn’t having to power walk back and forth across a part of the New Forest so youngest daughter could get a ‘blurred’ shot of moving feet for her photography coursework – these are the things which I stop writing for (and which I will always stop for when it comes to family, although I’m not sure what she’s going to get me to do next …)

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Anthology Update: Still working around the cover! It’s gone back for revisions and hopefully after: Success?!

As Steph mentioned above, we’re digging this Unholy Trinity of Drabbles that a few writers have been sending in and if that seems like your thing, please do work on getting us a set! 🙂

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

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

The Ringing

The ringing. The constant infuriating ringing in her ears. Wouldn’t stop. Never stopped. Despite the days-long blizzard in which all sound was silenced by the thick quilt of snow. She was safe, inside. But even the snap-crackling of the wood fire couldn’t dampen the shrill shriek in her ears. It was all that registered in her head. It accompanied her as she attempted to concentrate on reading the 700-page novel she’d picked from the shelf when the snow began. It was a bit of a literary slog, but it was the best option to keep her occupied.

She’d hoped her husband would have caught the train from the city before the storm began, but his last text message had indicated he didn’t think he’d make it. Thousands of people were stranded, and she assumed his phone battery died when she didn’t hear from him again.

This was the third day of the storm. The highways had been closed, and no plows were attempting to clear even the county roads. Electricity had been out for almost twenty hours. In the cold, the fridge and freezer contents would survive. She’d cooked toast over the fire. Crunchy and scorched around the crusts. It hurt her teeth. She had food, and heat. But the ringing. The incessant ringing. Like a million telephones and doorbells and fire detectors running rampant in her brain.

She was reading by candlelight. Thankfully, she’d stocked up on the scented three-wick candles from the fancy store at the mall. Her living room was cathedral-like in its flickering light and tang of incense.

Her phone battery had died out after the first day. She would have welcomed the sound, any sound, of YouTube or podcasts that might mitigate the squealing in her ears. But for the fireplace, she considered the house was silent. Other than the ringing.

She slept and read. Dozed, then replenished the firewood. Dragged the thick quilt from her bedroom to the chesterfield in front of the fire. Opened and finished a bottle of wine. Slept some more. Found some Southern Comfort in the back of a kitchen cabinet. Shuddered at its sweetness but drank it anyway. None of this silenced the deafening bells in her ears.

On the fifth day, the snow subsided. The electricity flickered, then resumed its regular role. The fridge hummed back to life, adding to the cacophony in her head.

She folded up the quilt and prepared to dig her way out of the house. The snow had drifted to the top of the front door, making her route to the shovel impenetrable. Even the window at the top of the door was caked with white. In the kitchen, she grabbed a large stainless serving spoon and a plastic ladle. Her tools for escape.

She forced open the frozen door, pulling with all her might. Began carving and scraping the hardened snow. As she picked away at the icy mass, she fell back against the door, exhausted. Something sharp hit her lower back. She turned, and noticed keys hanging from a chain, in the lock.

Furiously, she scraped and scraped at the snow.

She hit something hard. Dark blue. Fabric. Protruding from the ice. She dropped the tools and dug with her hands, faster, following the line of the fabric. First, she discovered her husband’s corporate logo on the jacket sleeve. The ringing in her ears screamed; the blood pulsed in her head. She continued. Digging, scratching, clawing. The blue changed to red. A mitten. Frozen. Against the doorframe. Against the doorbell.

She collapsed. Her heart stopped. But the ringing. The ringing did not.

 

 

 

Catherine Kenwell

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

Sweet Tooth

An evil, demonic spirit can seep into anything, even a device. On a remote subway stop in Brooklyn, there stands a vending machine. It sells chips and candy. It seems old, but it’s brightly lit and the candy looks insanely appealing to a weary subway rider at the end of a long day. But when you reach in for your chocolate bar or bag of corn chips, metal teeth bite down on your arm. The hopper expands much like the jaws of a snake and you are drawn into the churning stomach of the machine, almost too astonished to scream.

Gregory Von Dare

Greg Von Dare has been writing for many years and is a published journalist, author and dramatist. He loves sci-fi, mystery and horror stories, and rarely sleeps soundly.

Ephemera

We stood together in the wet sand, our hands clasped as the bracing cold of a retreating wave buried our feet in a shared grave. I gave my free hand to her smooth, brown collarbone, delighted at so benevolent a jailer.
She pondered the infinite horizon. “Fancy a swim?”
“Not really,” I replied, exploring the fine hairs on her neck and enjoying their response.
“What, then?”
“Let’s stay here until it ends.”
She turned to me, brushed my cheek with the back of her hand, and smiled.
A flash of static. Our cortices returned to their jars.
Back to storage.

Brian Koukol

Brian Koukol, raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles, now makes his home among the salt breezes and open spaces of California’s Central Coast. A lifelong battle with muscular dystrophy has informed the majority of his work, which is written with the aid of voice recognition software. His work has appeared in LitMag Online, Phantaxis Magazine, and The Society of Misfit Stories, amongst other places.

Website: www.briankoukol.com

Wish

The wind heightened, grey clouds unfurled. Fallen leaves danced between trees and headstones.
Three people stood forlorn at a graveside.
The priest stooped to scoop up a handful of soil.
A lady held a delicate handkerchief to a teardrop.
And the groundsman rested awkwardly on his shovel.
Uttering final words of remembrance the priest scattered soil onto the coffin of a man whose final wish was to be buried alongside his wife.
The service drew to a close. The groundsman gripped his shovel.
Branches swayed.
Two solemn male figures strolled dutifully back to the chapel.
A man’s dying wish fulfilled.

Gary Hazlewood

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

End of the Pier

The End of the Pier show had made the news, was said to be a real experience and the family wanted to see it. So here they were.

“Roll up, roll up,” cried the man at the entrance.

They entered the tent. It was a full house.

“Tonight, Ladies and Gentlemen, we off you a unique experience, something you will never see again. I give you … drumroll, please … THE END OF THE PIER.”

The red-eyed MC cackled as the timber cracked and tumbled into the sea, taking the audience with it. These humans, he loved to oblige them.

Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis writes speculative fiction stories which have found success in a variety of horror magazines and anthologies. Her first novella, Domnuill-dhu has recently been published in Dark Chapter Press’s Bloody Heather anthology. She is also co-editor at The Infernal Clock and at Trembling with Fear, the online magazine branch of Horror Tree (the online writer’s resource). She is currently awaiting decisions from publishers following submission of a novel and a novella.

Samples of her writing can be found on http://stephellis.weebly.com/ and she is on twitter at @el_stevie.

Trembling With Fear 08/19/2018

This week I’m in editor mode on behalf of TWF (I could have waffled on about how brilliant Combichrist were at Bloodstock last Saturday, but I’ll spare you).

When submitting to TWF, could I ask that you check the Submissions page. This provides word count guidelines, what we accept and the like. It does not yet mention dark poetry or serials but we do take these. (Gojira were also excellent although I missed a bit of the end of their set due to bad back and being wet and cold …)

Could I also ask that both drabbles and short flash pieces be sent in as attached documents in .doc/.docx format (.txt or .rtf) rather than in body of email. I don’t worry too much about simultaneous submissions as we don’t get many of these; however, if you have submitted elsewhere, please could you indicate this when you send your story in. It will not prejudice your chances but it will make us alert to the possibility of it being withdrawn. If we get a large number of simultaneous submissions in future, it may be that we do change our stance but until then don’t worry about it.  (Alestorm were also a good bit of piratical fun although Health and Safety stopped the show at one point as something was happening in the mosh pit, all good though and nobody died).

This week, the author I decided to check out is Justin Boote. He has a habit of sending in drabbles in threes, usually on a related theme, usually about bugs or something gross. I couldn’t find a website for him but I did find this story published in the Horror Zine, October 2017 https://www.thehorrorzine.com/Fiction/Oct2017/JustinBoote/JustinBoote.html. Reading it, it confirmed his love of such horrible topics and this particular story (excellent by the way, as were Power Trip, great metal band from Texas) is one you should all read. It’s about one of those fears we all have.

PS. Gojira and Combichrist were the best.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

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

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

What Lurks Behind The Wall

The man can’t remember how long it’s been. Days, months, weeks, years… he lost his calendar a while ago before everyone started dying.

Lately, he resorts to scratching marks into the purple plastered walls of his sixth floor apartment. A collection of at least a dozen scratches are engraved in the wall near the small, wooden dining table that sits against it. After he dines on a small, evening supper, he will take his dinner knife and carve a single line into the plaster, watching as the dry wall dust sprinkles down to the grey carpet under him. Another day passes and he retreats into his bedroom, not having to turn off the lights since the lightbulbs in his apartment died a few days ago.

He lays in bed and tries to ignore the anxiety that creeps into his mind. The pessimistic thoughts flood his brain as he feels heart race. You’re running out of food, it says. Running out of light, entertainment, time, air, your will, your sanity…

The tears begin to flow from his eyes as he tries to remember his childhood.

He pictures in his mind the little wooden cottage that overlooked Turtle Lake. The sun would blaze down on his brother and him as they jumped and played on the hot, beige sand beach and would then cool themselves in the cold, turquoise water of the lake. He pictured the glow of the setting sun on the horizon of the lake. His mother would joke that the sun was going for a swim in the water.

It’s memories like that that keep him going in this dead world. They give him company while he is trapped in his home. Helps him remember the good old days before the plague. Before people began rising from their graves and preying upon the town. He hears them from behind his heavily locked apartment door. Their decayed bodies were like an echo from the past, haunting him night and day.

When he had seen his first dead body it had been in Vietnam during the early ‘60’s, and the body had belonged to his brother, Steve.

Steve had been shot in the stomach during their raid on a Vietnamese village a couple months before they were scheduled to return home. While the man hadn’t seen it happen, he had seen when they carried his brother to safety and laid him down on the grass. The men in his platoon, Rooster, Georgie, and even Lieutenant McKinley, had looked with grim faces at the gut wound that bleed heavily, the blood seeping into the soil under him. It was as if they could smell the metallic scent of death on him, like bloodhounds. The man took his brother’s limp body into his arms, holding him close, his own shirt absorbing the warm blood. Brushing the filthy, light hair from his brother’s face, he could see the cold stare of dead eyes look up at him.

In that moment, his skin had crawled at the sight. No tears had come since he was too much in shock. It continued to make him feel guilty years later. How could he not cry for his own brother, kiss his forehead before the soldiers of his platoon had robbed the body from his arms? He realized why the men kept quiet after witnessing death. It made them remember that at any moment, they could be the one to step on a landmine and explode into a million severed limbs, or being riddled with bullets from a M/50 submachine gun as their blood drained out of their body and sunk forever into the Vietnamese soil beneath them.

Grief crippled him as he had sat quiet, staring up at the blue sky. Then, the anger pulsated in his chest and exploded from him as he let out a ferocious scream that echoed through the Vietnamese jungle. He had screamed until his throat was dry and hoarse then rested against the cold ground under him for a moment in thought.

The man, who had been twenty-one at the time, wondered why no one would acknowledge the scene that had just played in front of all of their eyes. How could they ignore the horrific nature of what happened? His brother had been the nicest, most humble person in the world, and well-liked amongst the guys.. How can a well liked man like him just die and be forgotten? He wanted someone to tell him it was going to be okay. He wanted someone to tell him that now.

He still heard that scream at night. The echo of it in his head. He would dream about those glassy, dead eyes staring at him from the darkness of the wild jungle. Antagonising him. Then, he would wake, sweat trickling down his forehead, pyjamas sticky with it and the blankets tangled in his legs. Back to reality, which was even scarier.

He would wake in the morning to the sounds of the dead outside, their fingernails scraping against the outside hallway of his apartment building.

It had been that way for so long he was able to tune them out as he prepared his meager breakfast of a single banana that was slightly brown and the last little bit of milk in the carton. Soon there would be no food left and the man would have to plan something.

He pictured the silver revolver in its decaying leather holder hidden away in the first drawer of his nightstand.

Could he leave the safety of his home with it? Shoot his way through a flood of dead corpses while they clawed at him with sharp and filthy fingernails, white eyes that hungered for his blood? Did he even have enough bullets? He must have a box or two somewhere, under layers of dust.

Could he even run from them with his bad leg? He would have to think more about it.

For now he didn’t want to think about anything that involved venturing outside.

He sees as the morning sun sends a natural, yellow light into his living room, streaming through a sliver of an opening in the brown curtains. He keeps the curtain drawn in fear that the dead who walked the streets would see that his apartment was still occupied, and come running to pound down his door and dine on his blood and flesh.

Before the plague, back when things were normal, he would have had the T.V on, watching the weather channel while he ate his breakfast. Now, he felt as if he even coughed loudly the monsters outside in the hallway would hear and know he was there. So the T.V, radio and alarm clock remained unplugged.

His entertainment came from the stockpiles of novels he had on his bookshelf in the hallway between the bedroom and the living room. Most of them were of the western genre and some were non-fiction novels on government conspiracies and biographies on musicians, like Willie Nelson.

He would try to lose himself in the novel’s story without letting the sounds of the corpses moans outside. But that was easier said than done.

Sometimes he would pray for a pair of earphones to block out the eerie sounds, or for his ears to fail on him so he would be deaf. Anything to keep from hearing the sounds of grisly moans, hisses, the high pitched screeching of their nails against the plaster walls, trying to claw inside. They would grow louder at night especially, their shrieks ear splitting and causing goosebumps to tingle on the man’s skin.

When he had first heard those sounds he hadn’t believed that zombies existed. He had grown up with the movies like Night of the Living Dead, where the zombies walked slow and their eyes stared lifelessly at their prey.

He remembered the first time he encountered one.

It had been a Monday evening and he had a garbage bag tied up to take down to the garbage shoot. Opening his apartment door, he had stepped out and froze in fear. At the end of the dimly lit hallway, between the eggshell white walls and grey carpeting, stood a young man with a dead, white  eyes and green tinted, almost moldy looking skin. His breath was hoarse and he hissed at nothing, arms swinging limb by his side. But when the creature caught sight of him, it was like it was part animal, part man. It ran clumsily towards him and the man gasped in panic. Rushing back into his apartment, he had slammed the door shut just as the creatures fists began to bang upon it wildly. The man had locked his door, even sliding the chain lock in place, and had spend minutes staring at the tremors that shook the door.

Since then, he had remained in his apartment and kept the door locked.

The apartment has become so stuffy, hot and putrid smelling since he couldn’t take the garbage out or run himself a bath. Could he even trust that the water was good? What if whatever disease that the zombies had was in the water system of the building now?

He ignored his discomfort and continued with his book. By the time 6:00pm rolled around, and the light from the sun was disappearing, he had finished the final chapter and retreated back into his bedroom. Curling into his blankets, he fell asleep without issue.

He woke only an hour later when a series of loud bangs boomed from outside his bedroom door. His heart pounded along with the booms as he slowly rose to his feet and stood for a moment, thoughts racing.

They knew he was there in the apartment. Could they smell the scent of life in him, like the soldiers in his platoon could smell the scent of death? What would it be like to die by his enemies hands? Would he suffer?

His heads dropped down to the wooden nightstand by his bed and he leaned down, pulling open the drawer and began to load the metal cartridges into his gun. He walked down to the entrance of his apartment, the booms growing louder as he came closer.
Their fists banged violently against the door as it shook in response, the silver chain lock rattling wildly. Their shrieks, moans and hisses were growing louder from behind the door. How many were out there? Two? Four? A Dozen? The man’s arm shook with fear. The lock would give way soon and the door would collapse under the force of their bodies. They would flood in, a wave of dead eyes, sharp nails, saliva dripping down from their black gums and rotted teeth. Their nails would dig into his skin, rip his flesh apart and they would feast on his body parts like a pack of wolves feasting on an innocent deer.

His breathing shallow, heart pumping with adrenaline. He realizes he doesn’t want to die that way. Eaten alive by the dead. Who would want to die in such a horrible nature?

His eyes fall to the loaded gun in his hand, its silver body shining still in the darkness. I can’t live like this anymore. It’s a quick and painless way out of his suffering. Constantly being in fear was an exhausting way to live.

He points it up to his chin, hand trembling, heart racing, and thinks of the men he had fought beside. Or, at least, the ones he had bothered to keep in touch with over the years. Lieutenant McKinley had gone home to his wife and newborn daughter after the war and died of kidney failure ten years ago. His good buddy, Rooster, had been his roommate when they returned to New York. He had lived to the age of fifty before developing liver cancer from his life as an alcoholic. Georgie Kinborough, who had been one hell of a shot and one hell of a friend, was dead at the age of twenty-five after hanging himself from a tree in his parents backyard.

All of them had gone through hell, saw men die before their eyes, saved men from the cold hands of the grim reaper only to be robbed of their souls by him at young ages.

They were lucky. They didn’t have to suffer through the plague. Hear the sounds of the dead behind the fragile walls of their apartments. They got the sweet release of death before ending up as walking corpses. The man saw as the wooden frame of the door began to crack, light from the hallway streaming in as the shrieks of the dead pierced his eardrums. His finger touched the trigger and he let out a scream, similar to the scream that had echoed in his brain since 1961, squeezing down. The sound of the bullets squish as it flew through his chin and out the back of his head was the last thing he heard.

 

___________________________________________________________________________

 

The man is pronounced dead at the scene by the paramedics, who begin to clear out of the dim apartment with a stretcher and a medium sized body bag laid on top.

Brain matter paints the wall in front of the entrance. Blood runs down the wall and sinks into the carpet below, like tiny red rivers.

A detective enters with a policeman, who carries with him a manila folder pregnant with white paper documents. He takes them out and reads them out loud to the police officer.

“A veteran of ‘Nam. Has a history of PTSD. Christ… poor guy.”

“Say anything about dementia? My great grandma was about this guy’s age when she had to be put in a home.”

The detective flipped through the pages. “Doesn’t say anything about it in here… I took a statement from the landlady. She says she was concerned when she didn’t see him leave the building on Saturday. She said he always went grocery shopping on Saturday mornings. So she got a couple guys from the building to break into his apartment and check to make sure he hadn’t kicked the bucket.”

“Any family? Children? Ex-wife?”, The policeman asked.

“None. The landlady said he sort of kept to himself. Never really left other than to get groceries or take the garbage out.”

The detective stares sadly across the living room to a picture on a mantle over the T.V stand. It is a black and white photograph of two young soldiers, uniforms clean and unwrinkled. They have beret’s on their heads, light coloured hair sticking out from underneath. They smile at the camera, a bus blurred in the background on a street, and the detective figures the picture must have been taken right before they left their family.

He recognizes the young man’s face on the right. A round baby face, eyes alight with excitement, his slightly muscular body. Hints of those young features were in the dead, old man they just found.

The detective wondered what had been going on in his mind? How he had spent all that time alone in his apartment?

His eyes caught sight of the scratch marks engraved in the walls. The old man had been recording the days… but why? Did he plan to kill himself? The detective stared at them for a while, his heart growing heavy with sorrow at the thought of the old man counting down the days to his death. He had survived through the hell of Vietnamese jungles and bullets raining down at him, only to kill himself with no family left over to remember him. It seemed, in that moment, that the universe was a cruel joke with an even worse punchline.

Emma Knudson

Emma Knudson is a university student pursuing an English degree at Lakehead University. You can contact her at [email protected] or message her on her Facebook profile.

Best Seat in the House

A muffled voice announced, “Ring Master!”
The crowd cheered.
Poverty kept kids like me outside, so through a small hole, I stole a sparkle-eyed glimpse of the man in red coattails. His dark, hollow eyes gripped me. A sinuous smile, outlined with scarlet lips, opened to a cavernous blackness.
In the stands, the townspeople stood paralyzed.
Ring Master pulled in a breath. Particles in the air illuminated as they were sucked in. The audience’s mouths opened wide, as life made an exodus from their bodies, breathing energy into him.
Ring Master glowed, then looked in my direction. “Somebody hasn’t paid.”

Red Lagoe

Red Lagoe abandoned the nine-to-five to take care of her kids, but domestic life was a horror story itself. A mountain of stories piled in her head, waiting to be written, but the pile of laundry was far too precarious to ignore. With her sanity crushed beneath Mt. Laundry, she chose to ignore the avalanche of domestic responsibilities, while she sat down to write her first book.

Her short stories have been published with Flash Fiction Magazine and Toasted Cheese Literary Journal–placing in the 2016 Dead of Winter horror fiction contest. Red’s viral apocalypse novel Fair Haven was released in 2017…

…and her house is still a disaster.

www.redlagoe.com

https://www.amazon.com/Fair-Haven-Red-Lagoe-ebook/dp/B0717B2PJ7

Dead Tropes

The young man looked up from the manuscript he was reading and sighed. He took his red pen and scored two lines through the paper and scrawled “rejected.”
Zombies; so cliché, so predictable. It had been done to death. What a tired old stereotype.
Never the less, they smashed his door down and the shambling mass of undead decaying monstrosities ripped his head off and ate his brains, ruining his best hipster cloth cap.
“That children,” Grandpa declared, closing the book, “Is why, when the apocalypse comes, editors will be first to go. They don’t know when to be afraid.”

David Rae

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

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

Davidrae-stories.com  

Something In The Water

The town had something in the water. I’d read about it before we moved in, but never realised how bad it was until I tried to wash my hands. Gareth laughed when I refused to drink the stuff from the tap, even got annoyed when I begged him to stop as well.

Eventually, I stopped mentioning it. Just wiped away any goo dripping from the faucet, called a plumber when the pipes cracked from corrosion. On sleepless nights I watched the gelatinous, yellow mass ooze out of Gareth’s open eye sockets and mouth, wondering when it would claim me too.

Maddy Hamley

Maddy Hamley is currently suspended in the space between jobs and cities, but still manages to spend far too much time writing Twitter fiction, sampling craft beers and single-malts with her husband-to-be, and occasionally cursing at untranslatable Bavarian proverbs in her capacity as a bilingual translator. Samples of her work can be found on Paragraph Planet, Sensorially Challenged Vol. 1, Drabbledark or the London Independent Story Prise website (recommended writer in 2018 Q2).

Website: https://madham.org/

Stujan’s Bullheaded Attack

Stujan’s father was displeased by his lack of leadership.
Not that he had shown his son how to rule.
Stujan would prove him wrong.
Dozens of Minotaurs had moved into their mountains.
Preying on those who came to trade.
Stujan snuck into their camp with handpicked warriors.
Ax in hand, he led his friends into battle.
They should have had the element of surprise.
Yet, the Minotaurs were ready.
Awake within seconds.
Weapons in hand.
Axes dug into steel and flesh.
Blood flowed.
Mostly Dwarven.
Stujan signaled the retreat.
Only half the warriors escaped.
The King would not be pleased.

Stuart Conover

Father of Two. Author. Philosopher. Rescuer of Dogs. High Priest to the dead Lord Cthulhu. Spinner of tales. Or, most importantly for anyone who reads this site, your friendly neighborhood Editor-Man©.

Trembling With Fear 08/12/2018

This Saturday, I am going AWOL from TWF and the writing world in order to attend Bloodstock, a heavy metal festival in the depths of Derbyshire in the UK. It is not as big as Reading or Download or other festivals but it does attract big names. I’ve attended on previous occasions when Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie were headliners. I’m looking forward this time to Gojira, Combichrist and Alestorm. Metal in a variety of forms-industrial, black, goth, doom-is something which goes hand-in-hand with my writing, the atmosphere it creates often feeding into my work. Music, and metal in particular, is actually more important to me than any horror film, perhaps because it allows my imagination a greater freedom. And the one thing I like about Bloodstock in particular, is the complete acceptance by everybody of everybody else. There is no posing or judging, just a wonderful time being had by all (of all age ranges!). So that’s my excuse for not writing this weekend.

Latest DeadCades anthology update for those interested in the Horror Tree/FlashDogs monster baby is that it is now out being read by the wonderful, and highly in demand, Christina Dalcher whose book Vox is coming out very, very shortly (I’ve got it on pre-order). Her book has received amazing promotion on tv and in the press over the past few months and life for her is a bit of a whirlwind but she has still found time to write an intro for us. If any of you dig deeply enough through TWF or even when we get our anthology out, you will find a story of hers in our pages. And her book, Vox, is based on the premise that women in the future are allowed to speak only 100 words a day – a verbal drabble, if you like!

I found a website the recently that might be of use to those of you who write longer works. Trying to visualise the size of your book in terms of what you see on the shelf is difficult but https://www.readinglength.com/ allows you to plug in the name of a published book and it can tell or estimate the number of pages and the word count, giving you something to compare your own work against.

Something else I subscribe to is Submittable’s newsletter Submishmash Weekly. This lists calls (not genre specific, quite often literary), has occasional job announcements, including ‘writer-in-residence’ offers, internships, news on grants and bursaries and the like. This newsletter is not just for writers and poets but also for designers, artists, and journalists. It particularly caught my eye this week because some subscribers are submitting their acceptance and rejection stats and Submittable celebrates both with them. I notice in the acceptances, Robert Allen Lupton (a TWF contributor, amazon author page https://amzn.to/2AQqwaY) was congratulated and then his name also appeared in the July top five for most rejections received. I’m wondering exactly what his submission rate is? Robert, let us know your secret!

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

The Trembling With Fear Anthology is getting CLOSER! We had some cover issues that we’re in the process of working out but aside from that, we’re actually golden! The entire book is formatted, uploaded, and looks GREAT!

I know that I WAS talking about a proof being ordered by this week but that has been pushed back to next. Still, progress. REAL PROGRESS! We’ve already got a few things in place to make next year’s anthology (potentially anthologies) a bit more streamlined!

‘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

Thanatos

The old woman lying in the hospital bed seemed to be made from paper and twigs. It was only when she tried to speak, dry and cracked lips struggling to form words in-between each laboured breath, that he realised that she could see him. Being recognised was a different matter.

He stepped into the room and closed the door behind him, shutting out the subdued murmur of the Oncology ward. She raised a trembling hand and motioned for him to come closer. He approached slowly, the soles of his shoes quietly squeaking as they rubbed against the linoleum floor, then lowered himself into the chair that was positioned by her bedside.

“You finally came,” she managed to gasp.

He nodded. She paused, fought once again to fill her lungs, then continued.

“I knew you would. How long has it been?”

He didn’t know. Time, he supposed, was paramount to her. He imagined it was the same for all of those in a similar position. The essentiality of every new day; the value found in each extra hour. He held little interest in marking the movements of the planets in minutes and in seconds. All he could offer her was a shrug of the shoulders.

She responded with the beginnings of a smile. It flickered across her face only to vanish as quickly as it had appeared. She began to cough; gently at first, until the hacking grew increasingly more violent. She rapidly lost control of her body, her insubstantial frame starting to buck and twist as if it were being exposed to a powerful jolt of electricity. As she struggled to slow her breathing, she reached out and grabbed for the PCA handset. Her twisted fingers jabbed repeatedly at the administration button. The morphine flooded her wasted limbs, causing her exhalations to subside. She looked up at him, a lazy tear rolling down one cheek.

“It hurts all of the time.”

Nodding, he placed his hand on her head and softly stroked her brow. A moment later he quickly slid his palm down her face, stretching his thumb and fingers until they clamped firmly across her mouth. Her resistance was barely noticeable; her movements weak and feeble like the last fluttering of an exhausted butterfly. He pressed down firmly, his other hand moving across to her nose, two of his digits pinching her nostrils tightly until they were shut. He watched silently until she finally stopped twitching.

Eventually he released his grip, wiping her saliva from his hands on the corner of her bedsheet. He stood up and headed back towards the door, the rubbery squelch of his shoes breaking the silence.

Back in the corridor the rest of the hospital quietly went about its business. Two Doctors stood huddled together examining patients notes on a clipboard. A nurse pushing a trolley passed hurriedly by, seemingly oblivious to his presence.

He took a deep breath, taking in the heavy smell of disinfectant, and then headed off towards the maternity ward.

Steven Holding

Steven Holding lives with his family in Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom. His work has been short-listed in several contests and his story, ‘Until The End Of The World’, was selected as the winning entry in the Writing Magazine 2016 annual short story competition. One of his monologues was chosen to be performed at Northampton’s Royal Theatre, while his adaptation of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was produced at Northampton’s Derngate Theatre in 2017. Other publishing credits include appearances in Ad Hoc Fiction’s weekly flash fiction ebook.

You can follow Steven’s work at his homepage: www.stevenholding.co.uk

Dragon Slayer

His cloak was fastened with a silver dragon pin. He was silent. Folk whispered that his kind burnt out their voices with poison, so they couldn’t share the horrors they’d seen. They pointed him to the smoking storehouse.

 

A great clamour of steel came from inside. The smoke petered out. Soon he walked out too, holding the dragon’s severed head high. They showered him in gold.

 

Later, in a seedy inn on the edge of town, he knocked back a foamy pint, the stitched leather ‘dragon’ head and smoke-bomb pouch lying at his feet. “To easy marks, and easier coin!”

Max Hallam

Max Hallam studies Creative Writing at Brunel University London. He lives in Hillingdon with his family, and can be found at @Max_Hallam on Twitter.

Saved By the Bell

The doctor declared her dead.  Cholera.  Her will specified a safety coffin with a cord attached to a bell, just in case the doctor got it wrong.  The cord was tied to her wrist.  The bell hung from a metal bracket next to the grave.

After the funeral he stared at the mound of earth.

“I always hated you.  I’m glad you died before me.”

His words clearly had some effect.  He saw the cord go tight, the bell start to swing.  Without hesitation, he pulled out the ringer.  The bell swung noiselessly.

“I told you, you died before me.”

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.

The Spider’s Kiss Goodnight

She kissed him behind the Ferris wheel as the twilight began to fade.

“It’s not my kiss that will hurt you,” she said, holding his face in her hands.

He held her awkwardly around the waist pretending the fresh rain scent of her hair wasn’t a turn-on.

“It’s the spider’s.”

From her finger crawled a long black spider that dreamily walked towards his neck. It bit him hard enough to draw blood, but not loud enough for him to scream.

He whispered “remember me” as the poison began to blur the fireworks and the carnival screams faded into the wind.

W. Tyler Paterson

  1. T. Paterson is a New England writer.  A graduate of Second City Chicago and a 5 year road warrior touring across the country, he is glad to be back in Stephen King country.  Author of the three novels Dark Satellites, Wotna, and the King of Cowards, he currently produces his YouTube Channel “How Would I End It?” pitching ways to tie up popular movie and TV franchises. Send him a tweet @WTPaterson

Trembling With Fear 08/05/2018

Lazy days of summer, eh? Lies, all lies. Since finishing the school year, my break has been pretty much non-stop in terms of getting things done. It might ease up, I’m hoping it’ll ease up …

Hmm, what can I write about this week? Rejection? Yep, got one of those from Cemetery Dance – but I was in the company of hundreds and I still like my story so will submit it elsewhere. Anything else? My self-published poetry collection (Dark is my Playground) briefly shared the Kindle shelf with Dante. That made me happy as his Inferno is something I have used in my stories or referenced in some way. More? DeadCades, the FlashDog/Horror Tree baby is almost ready. All stories in, except one awaiting its final edits. That means the bulk of my editing commitments are over and I can get back to work on my WIP. You’ll know when I’m writing as I tend to tweet the music links instead of actually getting on with things! What distractions do you use to avoid writing?

Now, for TWF people.  I went over to Lionel Ray Green’s blog at the weekend, and had a read of his ‘Horror at the Beach’ post, great fun. He also includes reviews (and is also part of the HorrorAddicts review team, somewhere else  I also lurk), news and interviews, so please go over and take a look. I also visited G.A. Miller’s website. I haven’t had a chance to look too much at the content BUT I was very impressed by the whole layout – extremely professional. I’m hoping to sort out a ‘proper’ website over the next month and I’ll be checking up on people and maybe pinching an idea or two …

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Hit some snags with formatting on the Anthology but it is mostly together. I SWEAR UPDATES ARE COMING!

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

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

The Digger

By day, I dwell in the hollowed-out shell of a rotting oak in the forest outside your town. There I curl and sleep against damp, mossy wood. Shielded from searing sun. Away from day people’s prying eyes.

I myself have no eyes. Children of the dark do not require them. Only hands and feet and teeth and snout to claw and dig and sniff and chew.

Day people count hours with numbers. But I know time only by darkness. When shadows are pure and pitch and ice cold, they seep into my flesh. It is then that I know you are asleep, and I emerge to dig.

Not one night goes by that I do not creep into the pitch and search. In the woods. In the park. In your yard. In your trash and sewers.

On dry summer nights, I claw through cracked crumbling soil.

In the winter, I chew through the ice and scrape apart frozen rock.

On stormy nights, I slop through muddy puddles, soak in glop up to my shoulders, and squish wet earth as I grasp for treasure.

I do not always find things, of course, but I dig for the thrill of searching.

Day people are quick to dismiss my holes. A gopher, a mole, a sinkhole. Any explanation that helps them sleep, while I dig so close to their primrose gardens and soft pillows.

The things you find in the ground will surprise you. Priceless coins. A diamond ring. Bones.

Objects tell stories. They reek of those who buried them. They drip savory day people feelings.

A day boy stole a box of rare coins from his friend’s grandfather. Too guilty to keep them, too fearful to confess, he buried the coins. At the bottom of the tree where I sleep is a pile of coins and bottle caps. The boy’s coins are colder than the other metal things I keep.

A day man gave his day woman a ring. She accepted, and later returned it. The man was too poor, not attractive enough for her. Too ashamed to bring the ring back to the jeweler, he buried it and drove away. The ring waited in the ground to tell its story to my hands.

The ring’s man will be forgotten.

But the bones in your garden told a tale so sad that I lamented I have no eyes for tears. I could not bring myself to drag the bones back into the woods with me. I left them there, out of respect. I visited them nightly. They whispered their stories over weeks and months.

Bones are more powerful you see than rings and coins. A piece of a day person’s soul remains trapped in a skeleton for hundreds of years.

To a day person, bones are quiet. But to me they are music.

You have asked me who I am, and I have told you, but I ask that you silence your tongue a while longer. I wish to know you. I wish to know why you put this other day person’s bones in the earth.

But you will need time to think in quiet darkness. I will take you there now, so that later—when I have all but forgotten—I might find your bones again and hear the tale.

Kevin M. Folliard

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

LINKS:

Author Website: http://www.kevinfolliard.com/

Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Kevin-Folliard/e/B0097S7T0A/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Superman

In every childhood fantasy, I was a superman.
Possessing powers only ever seen in dreams. Defying the laws of physics, travelling through space and time. A telepath, capable of placing my thoughts straight into a stranger’s mind. Destined to live forever; immortal, like a god.
A foolish youth, wishing for the impossible.
It was only as a man that I came to understand the true nature of art. The magic one can wield when a spell is really cast. Seven simple words, granting me the ability to do all that I yearned for.
I am the author.
Think of me.

Steven Holding

Steven Holding lives with his family in Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom. His work has been short listed in several contests and his story “UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD” was selected as the winning entry in the WRITING MAGAZINE 2016 annual short story competition. One of his monologues was chosen to be performed at Northampton’s Royal Theatre, while his adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland” was produced at Northampton’s Derngate Theatre in 2017.

You can visit his website at www.stevenholding.co.uk

Times Up

On wings and horror the devourer of souls was loose. It was the thing that evil ran from; power absolute. Yet, there stood a lone man unflinching and unafraid. This intrigued the ancient one.
“Tell me mortal, why do you stay?”
“I know that you are afraid,” the man replied.
The cosmic being recoiled from the tiny form. This was no chance meeting. The deepest pit of despair couldn’t contain the darkness inside him.
“Death you see, dear Sinthulas, comes for us all.”

Arthur Unk

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

She Took Everything in the Divorce, so I Took Everything Out of Her

Janice loved that she got to perform her ex-wife’s autopsy. Slicing Lianna open didn’t quite make up for adultery and alimony, but that didn’t matter. Betrayed by her lover, with no family to mourn, Lianna’s corpse meant nothing to anyone.
Pulling out each organ and bone for fun, the mortician left a skin husk behind. Yet, as she began to embalm the skin, it clung to her, shredding through clothing. Too fast for her to scream, it adhered to her whole body, stretching, covering, consuming.
Once it took over, the new woman caressed her new body, smiled, and walked away.

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, or just follow him on Twitter .

Trembling With Fear 07/29/2018

I thought I was on holiday but so far I think I’ve been working harder than I do in my day job! Firstly, Trembling With Fear. A little while ago, the always supportive (although occasionally scary) Kim Plasket asked about themes for TWF. We do have calls out for Halloween and Christmas on our submissions page and this year we also had Valentine and Easter specials – these were included pretty much on the hoof. Anyway, talking about it with Kim, we mulled over a summer holiday themed submission call and I was going to start asking people to send in their vampire bucket and spade stories or zombies vs lifeguards or whatever beach type horror you could come up with. Then I realised the snag. Unlike last year, we have now scheduled a number of stories in advance so any summer stories might not get published until the depths of winter which isn’t our intention. So, regardless of any ongoing submissions for TWF bear in mind you can submit for the following ‘specials’:

Halloween

Christmas

Valentine

Easter

Summer Fun(!) – for publication next year. Something for you to work on during long winter nights.

Although there are reading dates given in the submission page for the first two calls, I am more than happy to receive them before these dates. If you want to submit work for any of these calls, please indicate it in your email subject line, eg TWF Submission – Halloween. The usual guidelines apply.

If anybody has any ideas for other themed specials they’d like us to do, just get in touch. If we get a large enough number of submissions for the specials, they will probably have their own separate anthology.

On another note, I came across this tweet from TWF Contributor Douglas Prince (@darkness_doug) the other day and it made me smile.

#writingtips The use of proper spacing is essential for proper comprehension. It’s the difference between saying: a bigfoot is a legend, or saying: a big foot is a leg end.

I could do with more writing tips like these. Does anybody have any more? Send in your favourites.

Dark is my Playground is something else I’ve been working on over the past few days. It is a compilation of dark verse and nursery rhymes (a labour of love!), a mixture of published and unpublished verse which has been lurking in a folder for a long time. I finally plucked up the courage today and put it up on amazon at https://amzn.to/2mJEQIq (UK) or https://amzn.to/2OjEPY3 (US). It’s only available in Kindle format for the moment but I hope to look at sorting a print copy in a few weeks when less pressured. The aim for me was to actually press publish – it took a lot for me to go ahead, that horrible old self-doubt really holds you back at times. Although I have had work published it’s always been with the comfort blanket of being surrounded by others in the anthologies and magazines. To step out on my own is, for me, pretty daunting. Should you take a look at it, it’d be great to get some feedback.

Now I’ve got to go back to a certain little editing job I’m carrying out for The Infernal Clock. Our DeadCades anthology (horror stories for every decade) is on track and features a number of TWF writers, only a couple of stories left to look at but all is good. I’ll have to write a guest post about that at some point and you’ll be able to spot a few of TWF’s usual suspects in its lineup.

Just remembered there’s also a submission call whose closing date is 29th July which I wanted to go for …

Did I say I was on holiday?

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

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

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Agnes And Cat

With the soft click of the back door, Agnes grinned as she turned to face the undergrowth. The thick twist of decaying trees lay beneath her at the bottom of the garden stairs. However, the dark swamp didn’t deter her. Gathering up her skirts, Agnes descended the stone stairs, the palms of her feet rubbing against the fuzzy moss. With every step, Agnes slipped into the dark, the thin fingers of the tree branches reaching out to her until the cool, dark forest encased her.

The branches twisted and interlocked above her, smothering the grey sun and curving upwards like a dome that only a child such as she could fit through. Immune against fear, Agnes took another step, feeling the soft, black soil between her toes.

She found them at the centre, gathering at the peak of the domes, like pink, white and blue stars in a black sky. They squeaked with glee when they saw her, their wings easing them down to her level. They carried tiny lanterns, flowers and pieces of fruit. Their tiny exoskeletons barely able to carry such items. Agnes could see their smiles, the tiny lines on their thumb-size faces sparkling with an innocent beauty.

Agnes grinned at the fae, their stick-like figures dancing like dandelions in a soft breeze. Her grin faded as two tiny yellow dots protruding from a mound of soft moss. Humming in curiosity, Agnes slid her foot towards towards the mound, slowing her pace as it scampered back against the wall of the dome. The fae squealed and dived down towards her skirts, pulling at the hem in an attempt to steal her away. As she reached the cloak of moss, they retreated to the top of the dome, watching as Agnes bent down to level herself with the glowing, yellow cat-like eyes.

She reached out to pinch its moss coat, revealing its silky face and squashed nose. It dug its head back into the moss, frightened of the child and ashamed of its grey, matted skin of fur.

“It’s okay,” Agnes whispered,

With a low groan, it pushed forward, the moss sliding from its body like a snakeskin. The tiny fae squealed as it grew in height, the top of it’s fuzzy head brushing against the dome, standing several inches taller than Agnes with his sleek, muscular legs. Its long arms started at its hunched shoulder and ended near it’s large, furry feet. The fae retreated upon view of the creature, disappearing into the undergrowth with their gifts and light.

Agnes ignored them, reaching to take hold of the creature’s plate-sized hand, barely able to wrap her hand around one of its clawed fingers. Its eyes glowed in the surrounding darkness, staring down at her as she smiled until it dared to smile back, convinced that it would not frighten her with it’s long teeth.

Agnes buried herself in her covers, curling into a tight ball as the noise continued to fill the house like toxic gas. She couldn’t retreat into the forest as her parents blocked her path, their battle taking place at the bottom of the stairs. Agnes pressed the covers against her ears, the all too familiar crunch and snapping of knuckles against flesh causing her skin to shiver.

The bed beneath her began to shake, her parent’s rage and violence seeping up from downstairs. Agnes whimpered as the bed rattled her like a doll in an earthquake, tossing her from the safety of her covers and onto the hard-wooden floor. Agnes sobbed as she landed, ignoring the pain as a thick darkness oozed out from beneath her bed. A pair of oval, blood-shot eyes immerged, glaring at her with a wicked intention. Two pairs of thin, skeleton-like hands protruded from the darkness that stuck to the fae like a habit. Agnes screamed and pushed herself backwards using the heel of her foot until she slammed into the bookshelf. Her parents didn’t hear her screams, too consumed in their hate to bother with their daughter. Agnes dipped her head, pressing her nose in-between her knees as the growling mixed with the screams from downstairs.

“Cat!” Agnes wailed,

 

With a sharp bang, the window to Agnes’ bedroom flung open, the room trembling as Cat dived through. His claws ran along the floorboards as he landed, his roar overpowering that of the fae beneath the bed. Agnes felt like a precious jewel hiding in Cat’s shadow, her protector now fully grown, reaching almost six-foot. His arms bore long drapes of fur, like blankets attached to his forearms. His teeth remained the same, finger-length and aimed directly at the threat. The beast screeched and scampered back beneath the bed, leaving only the screaming banter downstairs to seep up through Agnes’ floorboards.

Agnes held her arms up for Cat, feeling the hard floor disappear beneath her as he gathered her into his embrace like a newborn infant. The screams from downstairs continued to plague her, causing her stomach to turn. She hid by gathering Cat’s arm drapes and placing them over her head and body. Cat smiled, rising to his feet to level himself with the bookshelf.

“Agnes, can you read me something?” Cat asked,

Agnes wiped her eyes before running them along the mostly empty shelf, fixating onto a book she had never read but always admired the cover. She pointed her index finger towards it, prompting Cat to sheath it from the shelf.

“I haven’t read it yet,” she mumbled,

“We can do it together,” Cat said, turning over the cover,

The book dropped from Cat’s hand as a violent pop blew the oxygen from the air. Several more followed like a firework show, the noise making Agnes scream into Cat’s shoulder. The shots faded into silence, the smell of death wafting from downstairs into Agnes’ nose.

“What was that?” Agnes whimpered,

Cat bent down, dropping Agnes before he lunged towards the bedroom door, dragging Agnes’ dresser across the floor. His five-foot-long arms clenched as he pulled the dresser in front of the door, growling with determination until the only entrance to the room was secured. Agnes held her breath, her heart pulsing in her throat as Cat heaved with exhaustion, his figure stretching taller to Agnes as she remained trembling on the floor. Agnes shivered as Cat’s yellow eyes widened, the thick hair on his back standing at attention.

“Agnes, you need to call for help,” he said.

One thing Agnes liked about funerals were the bells in the church. They were monstrously large, yet soft, their singing smothering conversation and giving her something to wonder at so people wouldn’t talk to her.

However, Agnes was lost interest in the bells, her attention fawning for the coffin. She hadn’t heard of a mortician until her first funeral, but she hadn’t decided that it was a profession built on lies until that afternoon. There was a man inside her father’s casket that Agnes didn’t recognise. His skin was tanned and blemish-free, his eyes glued closed to hide the pale blue and blood red behind them. He wore a fine suit instead of a shirt stained with alcohol and a pair of loose pants. The blazer of the suit even covered the bullet hole in his chest. The fine looking, middle-aged man in the coffin was, to Agnes, an imposter.

Fear kept a tight grip on Agnes, even as Cat stood beside her staring into the box. To Agnes’ surprise, he didn’t attract any attention whatsoever, it was as if he wants even there. She began to shake, the depth of death still a foreign aspect to her.

“What’s the matter?” Cat asked,

“When he gets up, he’ll be mad,” Agnes replied, “he’ll be really mad,”

Agnes dipped her chin down towards her chest, tears flowing onto her black blouse as she choked on her sobs. Cat placed his arm around Agnes, squeezing her opposite shoulder she leaned her into his warm, fuzzy neck.

Her tears attracted attention, her parent’s elderly landlord hobbling over to her as if the murky scent fed a strange addiction. She pulled a clean, white handkerchief from her purse, leaning down as she held it out to Agnes.

“It’s alright, dear,” she said, “God’s with him now,”

Agnes gaped at the handkerchief. She snatched it from the woman before crushing it into her palm, tossing it to the floor. The woman’s ignorance appalled her, the expression of shock on her face only fuelling Agnes’ bitterness.

“God doesn’t exist, stupid,” she spat,

With the wind at her heels, Agnes stormed from the church, the burning summer sun blinding her as she stormed from the veranda. She retreated into the shadows of the bell towers, Cat joining her once she collapsed against the wall.

“Don’t worry,” Cat said, “They’re burying him underground, they’ll probably only bring him back up for meals,”

Agnes sniffed and sunk sideways into Cat’s embrace, hiding inside his drapes as she cried into his shoulder. He stroked her back as he squeezed her tightly, rocking her back and forth,

“It’s okay,” he said,

Agnes sniffed, wiping her eyes with her knuckles before looking up to Cat, his yellow eyes gentle and thin.

“I love you, Cat,” Agnes said,

“I love you too,” Cat replied,

The funeral bells tolled a second time as Agnes wrapped herself deeply into Cat’s warm embrace. She pondered whether her mother would be coming back, the men and women in blue that took her didn’t seem too pleased with her. She knew the violence, and the negativity wouldn’t keep the trees from sprouting past the garden anymore. She wondered if flowers would grow if the soil would be rich after detoxing from the sickening toxicity of the house. Agnes wasn’t sure if she truly did want her mother back since she had Cat to protect her from the dark fae of the forest and the monster she’d continue to fear, no matter how deep she buried him.

Claire L. Smith

Claire L. Smith is an author, poet, screenwriter and artist. Her work has been previously published with my poetry and stories being featured in Death and The Maiden, Horror Scribes, Mookychick, Luna Luna Magazine, Rag Queens Periodical and more. She is also a writer/columnist with the horror-culture website Morbidly Beautiful, a Representative for the not-for-profit organisation Spreading The Love and enjoys spending her time looking through animal rescue sites and watching American Horror Story.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: https://smithlclaire.wixsite.com/author

Analytics

The smell jolted him from sleep, acrid and dense. Smoke filled the room, gathering above like great dark clouds. The house was on fire! He panicked, the door wasn’t the best escape, the smoke seemed heavier in that direction. Frantically, he ran toward the window, hands shaking, throwing back curtains and ripping the blinds out of the way. He faced a concrete wall, where was the window? He clawed at it as the room was fully engulfed. The aliens nodded to each other, checking boxes of different human reactions, “What do you think? Murder or drowning for the next one?”

Melissa 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.

Damned In The Dark

The bounty hunter stepped into the alley. He switched on night vision in his helmet and gripped the blaster close to his chest. His power armor glowed crimson in the darkness.

The gangster transported into the alley, henchmen materialized on either of his sides.

“Heard you’ve been looking for me?” The hunter asked.

“There’s a target I need taken care of. She’s the leader of the White Suns. The usual fee.”

The bounty hunter leveled his blaster and blew a hole in the gangster’s face, then shot the henchmen in quick succession.

“Sorry boss, White Suns doubled the ‘usual’ fee.”

 

 

Eric S. Fomley

Eric S. Fomley writes Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror short fiction. He is the editor of Martian Magazine and the Timeshift and Drabbledark anthologies. His work has appeared in various venues including previous publications with Trembling with Fear. You can follow his publication on his website ericfomley.com

My Tormentor

I knew I was dreaming. It was the same as it always was. I was being chased through the woods by the man from my nightmares. My heart pounded, and I could smell the pine trees. Except this time, sick of running, I stood to fight. And fight we did. He kicked and screamed, cursed and yelled as my fingers closed around his throat and I choked the life right out of him.

My tormentor.

I wake suddenly, out of breath, and look at my darling wife lying beside me. She was dead, the life choked right out of her.

 

C.M. Saunders

C.M. Saunders is a freelance journalist and editor from Wales. His work has appeared in over 60 magazines, ezines and anthologies worldwide, including Loaded, Maxim, Record Collector, Fortean Times, Fantastic Horror, Trigger Warning, Liquid imagination, Crimson Streets and the Literary Hatchet. His books have been both traditionally and independently published, the most recent being Human Waste and X3, his third collection of short fiction, both of which are available now on Deviant Dolls Publications.

Find out more on his website:

https://cmsaunders.wordpress.com/

Red Was His Colour

Red was his colour. Red rags, red mist, red-handed. Dawn had worn his brand for years on her crimson-slashed back and maroon-masked stomach, a heart in a bruise, bleeding. She longed for a change, anything to wash away the stain. She preferred ivory, its cold tone, its sense of peace; the grave-bound bones of the babies she had denied him wore this shade. Dawn made his new bed alongside them, earthy and shallow, ready for him to lie in it. She poured him a glass of his favourite red and added granules of ivory. A poisonous combination. Like their marriage.

Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis writes speculative fiction stories which have found success in a variety of horror magazines and anthologies. Her first novella, Domnuill-dhu has recently been published in Dark Chapter Press’s Bloody Heather anthology. She is also co-editor at The Infernal Clock and at Trembling with Fear, the online magazine branch of Horror Tree (the online writer’s resource). She is currently awaiting decisions from publishers following submission of a novel and a novella.

Samples of her writing can be found on http://stephellis.weebly.com/

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