Serial Killers: I See the Lake. 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.

I See the Lake. Part 1

I visited the lake many years ago and only once. I’ve lost many memories between that day and this one, can’t tell you what my ex-wife said for her wedding vows, don’t remember what those damn nurses fed me yesterday. But my summer in the ranges has a stick that won’t go slipping and when I close my eyes, I see the honey-baked colour across the sky. Close my eyes a little harder and I feel the desert’s hot breath on my neck. The lake remains firm in my thoughts but, boy-oh, I’ve tried hard to forget. I’ve tried.

I was fifteen and wasn’t too thrilled about our family vacation that year. “Why can’t we go to the beach-house at Salando like every summer? Why are we tenting in the desert like hicks? Why do you hate me?” You get the picture.

My folks ignored my bitching and off we went to the piss-hot California mountain ranges– ma, dad, my twin sisters and me. It was a long drive and I wasn’t mighty pleasant to be around, ma used to say I went five years straight without cracking a tooth. Funny to think about now, considering the ol’ fart box I’ve become. Oh ma, I do miss you.

Anyway. We arrived and I thought we’d parked on Mars. Seemed the ranges spread out forever, a sterile blanket of sand made lumpy by boulder fields and rolling dunes. In the distance I saw patches of forests scattered on the base of the mountain, each one half a mile long and looked like acne marks along the clay slopes. We set up camp besides a mini canyon of stacked rocks, a spot where the dirt winds whipped our necks with gusto and even the tumble weed looked thirsty. I whined about sand filling my socks until Dad turned purple.

“Enough Tom,” he slapped my backside. “This trip is our way of re-connecting with nature. You know, hippie shit.”

Remember, it was the sixties. My folks liked to believe they were members of the new age because they listened to Bob Dylan and allowed me to grow my hair to my shoulders.

Dad tried his hardest during those itchy summer days. He dragged my city ass on hikes, this way and that way over the dunes. We stopped for breaks between the patches of forest, the trees were our sanctuary from the brutal sunshine, but we never ventured far inside the greenery. I can’t rightly say why. Nearing the end of another day’s trudge, I slipped pass the rows of trees for a splice while dad sat out in the sand. That’s how I found the lake, one hand on my tool while dehydrated piss covered the tree bark. I noticed, past the shrivelled bushes, the forest just, well, it dropped. I poked my head over the edge and saw a second level, a lower forest hidden by rugged shelves of rock. And at the bottom, glistening at the centre of it all, and a little smaller than a football field, was the lake. There was no one around to see me crack a tooth.

We walked back to camp in silence. I considered telling dad about the lake and decided, no. To hell with my family. In my cruddy little head, the lake was a matter of finders’ keepers.

While Dad slept off the hike that evening and Ma read the twins ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ for the fiftieth time, I left camp.

I lit a joint on the walk there, tried to puff smoke rings and coughed my damn heart out. When I reached the forest and strolled through the opening in the trees, I was close to happy.
Strange little lairs, those forests. I’ll try explain best I can but keep in mind, I’m no grand storyteller. The trees wore that flaky type of bark that dropped brittle in the dirt, the branches arched high and looped together. No traces of sand either, the ground turned from desert floor to mud in a snap. It felt strange. After spending so many days amongst the single sand-tones of the mountain range, facing a thick greenery seemed wrong, like a bright smudge on a white shirt.

It’s hard to believe looking at me now- just look at this gut- but I was wide as a rope back then and moved like a grasshopper down the rock shelf, used overhung trees as a Tarzan swing. By the time I reached the bottom, the sky was blossoming.

I still think of that lake as one of the most beautiful sights of my life. You might’ve seen photos but the black and whites don’t compare, I promise you. I stood beside water so pure, I could see right to the bottom where long grass swayed like human hair. Diamonds of light sparkled the surface, in a sunken place where no light should rightly reach. The lake was a lord-mighty pool of flowing glass and no leaf or tree root or speck of mud touched it.

You may think I’m exaggerating, that the weed was working magic on me. I don’t think so. Suppose I got no way to prove it.

My shelf of rock— and I call it mine because it damn well was mine— was a lip hung over the water. I stopped there and stripped down to my whities before sucking out one last puff. I almost flicked the roach into the water but hesitated and aimed for a shrub instead. You know, I often wonder how everything would be different if I’d thrown that stub into the water instead. Best not to think about it.

I remember clearly that last childish moment, running fingers through my hair to keep bangs out my eyes. Then, without thinking, I did what every California kid does at Salando Beach; I tested the water. I planted my butt on the rock and, slowly, tapped my toe to the surface.

Slow wasn’t slow enough.

The searing cold took a bite and I yelped backward. I’d never felt a cold like that and never have since. It was a cold that burnt, seared my toes and jumped up my leg through to the bone. I was a jittered rat, scrambling on my butt away from the water. My hands shook so fierce that, when I grabbed my foot, my damaged toes rattled to a blur.

Three of my toes were glowing red, the skin shrivelled like they’d spent too long in the bath. My big toe bled and when I squeezed my foot tighter the blood oozed out in thick blobs. I tried wipe the blood away and, boy-oh, that stung to hell and back. See, the entire nail on my big toe was gone and I was wiping the fleshy under-part. I hissed at the gaping. My whole foot throbbed.

“What is wrong with you,” I yelled. I fancied yelling. Seemed like a good idea to yell.

I leant over expecting to see a snapping animal in the water. Instead, I saw a tiny leaf floating alone on the crystal surface. Except it was no leaf, but my toe nail.

I didn’t see a speck of blood, the nail was clean and it danced in circles on the water, moved by a breeze I couldn’t feel. I tried to stand, still watching my severed nail twirl, and fell on my knees.

“I hate this fucking place.”

I stood on the second try. My toenail made an abrupt stop, dead still for only a second, and then sailed out into the lake’s belly. The ripples around it pulsed and in a sudden rush of feeling, I wanted to swim. A mighty thirst dried my body and every stringy tweak of muscle screamed to be swallowed by water. A terrifying feeling, I’ve got no shame in saying, and I shivered in the evening heat, because even through the wanting — crave seems the better word — I knew the water meant pain. I scrunched my bleeding toe and winced at the reminder.

And then my toe nail caught fire.

I thought I’d lost my mind. I glanced away into the trees, blinked hard to clear my eyes, but when I turned back the nail was still on fire, a slim flame rising above the water. I squinted every which way and the flame stayed true. Pretty sure it was growing too, turning into a thin and flickering cylinder of fire.

I’ve spent fifty years with open-eyed dreams questioning that flame. I had no doubts back then. Back then my eyes were strong and my mind young, full of stone conviction, and as I watched the fire and nail float further, I knew the lake was to blame. I damn well knew the water was the culprit in the same way I knew my sisters apart. That lovely and putrid water destroyed my nail. How dare you touch me, that’s what I heard the water say and I wanted to run. But you know what? At the same time I wanted to swim. Damn right I was scared.

I didn’t run. I took a limped step forward and watched the sailing fire, no blinking allowed.

The sun completed its dive behind the trees. I’d been standing on my rock slack-jawed and half naked for several minutes, long enough to age me. Laughter snapped me awake. On the opposite side of the lake, where the water became a shore over hardened dirt, three women emerged from the trees. They draped their arms around each other, walked as if they shared the same footsteps. The fiery nail stopped its sail and I had a maddening idea that it heard the women too.

They stopped far too close to the water. I opened my mouth to yell and for the first time I noticed my feet. I’d been inching myself forward on the rock and now my blood-soaked foot hung over– try imagine meat dangling above a waiting shark. I jolted backwards on my heels, landed real hard on my good foot. I came this close to falling face-first-ass-last into the water. Thinking about it churns my insides.

I looked up and the women were a hopscotch jump away from the shore. An image flashed of each one diving into the water and skin falling off their faces, blood spreading and then dissolving into pristine blue water. I imagined the lake conquering their bodies, I imagined their bones being used as a dead raft for living flame.

“Don’t go in the water,” I called.

No one heard me. I was drained and frightened and thirsty for the lake, but inhaled deep to try again.

Ash Tudor

Ash Tudor is a horror writer from Perth, Australia who hides from the sunshine while she scribbles dark tales. She has a degree in ancient history and is a trained ancestry researcher, but now devotes her time to creating nightmares. Her debut short story released last year on Writer-Writer and her work has been shortlisted in several competitions. Currently Ash is writing a collection of short horror fiction and hording werewolf teeth in her attic.

Find Ash on Twitter @AshTudor888

Trembling With Fear 08/04/2019

Well, that first week of my holiday went quickly. I could talk about the horror of a stomach bug which knocked out my poor husband and sent him to hospital (thankfully better now) and then wiped out myself and my eldest but I won’t, it’s just too gruesome. Instead, I’ll share some publication news from TWF stalwarts (and I am particularly pleased for these two as they have been writing and publishing with us for so long). R. J. Meldrum and Kevin M. Folliard have joined me in the Short Sharp Shocks series of books from Demain Publishing.

Richard Meldrum’s novella, The Plague centres on a small Russian village, whose children are struck down by a plague, or is it a curse … An interview about Richard and his book can be found here.

Kevin M. Folliard’s Candy Corn is a Halloween tale featuring a sociopath, a lobotomised husband, a teen outcast and a basement. Perfect horror fodder. An interview about Kevin and his book can be found here.

Both are available on amazon at only 99p and both are now lined up on my kindle for me to read, although I am only on p. 436 of Chuck Wendig’s 780 page monster, Wanderers …

And by the way, it’s purely spooky coincidence that both Richard and Kevin feature in this week’s TWF.

I also have a little publication news of my own and this is for charity so I’m dropping it in here (I was pretty chuffed as this was a blind submission). Water, clean water, is something many of us are used to and take for granted. Sadly this is not the case in some parts of the world and Things in the Well Trickster’s Treats 3 Seven Deadly Sins magazine of flash has been created to raise money for this cause. Find more details here, either to buy the mag when it’s out and enjoy a bit of creepy reading, or give to the cause directly.

Over to Trembling With Fear, which, as always is free to read and to submit to (remember to check out our submission guidelines, especially with regard to word count!).

First up is The History of Crossword Puzzle Horror Fiction by Reed Beebe. And the first thing I would say to this is a wow for originality. Totally new to me. This flash piece gives us stories within a story and shows how just a few words, carefully chosen can create terrific effect, as can unique formatting. I did suggest to this author, perhaps we should try it ourselves and see who can come up with the most original set of clues!

Away with Words by RJ Meldrum gruesome but with such a funny twist, gives a whole new meaning to ‘cat got your tongue?’.

Let’s Do It by Kevin M. Folliard starts off with lines reminiscent of Cole Porter, love will surely follow. But no. The remaining lines all begin with ‘Let’s … ’ but become more sinister and chilling by the moment. Great build up of horror.

The Chatterbox by Scarlet Berry is one of ‘out of the mouths of babes’ stories, the passing on of family secrets which are best kept quiet, as revealed by the twist at the end.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Our new contract system is so close to being in place that I can taste it! 🙂 There is a lot of set up but we’ve been making huge strides on getting it into place. I’m hoping that it will be easier for everyone involved in delivery and keeping the system organized. 

On top of that, we’re scheduled pretty far out at this point on shorts but still could use an influx of drabble to help get us closer to the end of the year! 

For those who haven’t signed up for our newsletter, I just wanted to share a few of our standard inclusions.

We’re always looking for more help! From articles to interviews to reviews to those with artistic talent to web coders and beyond. If you’re interested in contributing and think you have something that would help out PLEASE don’t shy away from contacting us!
*I have a special interest in someone who would want to do Top 10 lists or crowdsourced Q&A articles which I could help provide a crowd for.*

Please reach out if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or requests for the site or mailing list! 

Also, in case you missed it, Volume 1 of ‘Trembling With Fear’, does now have a lower price over at Amazon if you haven’t picked it up yet. If you have, please do leave a review! 

I hope everyone has had an amazing weekend!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

The History of Crossword Puzzle Horror Fiction

On Halloween night 2009, writer Sayward Hart, sleepless and high on drugs, concluded that her paper’s crossword puzzle was alive and commanding her to commit murder. At least, that is the story she told the police. Regardless, the experience inspired Hart to craft a new form of fiction that would appeal to both horror fans and crossword enthusiasts — crossword puzzle horror fiction.

Hart wrote her first crossword horror piece — Crossword Crimes” — while awaiting trial. The story was published online by the now-defunct horror fiction site, Graveyard Picnic. The site’s readers encountered something unique:

“ACROSS
1 Sharp knife in the kitchen
5 Members of the family
7 Deranged intruders
10 Severed ears

DOWN
1 Creepy old house
2 Monsters under the bed
3 Giant spiders in an old fireplace
4 Pictures of missing kids
5 Empty graves”

Initial site comments regarding the piece were mostly positive. Some expressed confusion; “What the hell is this?” wrote one commenter. One commenter wrote that the story made him want to vomit, while another noted that she was more interested in the author’s pending criminal trial,

Over the next few months, Graveyard Picnic published more crossword horror stories penned by Hart, including the acclaimed “Crossfire” and “Across/Down.” Hart now had a growing following, aided by publicity from her sensational televised trial. Other horror authors soon took a stab at the form.

Writer Mick Hess had previously written and narrated short horror stories for his YouTube channel. Thrilled by the challenges of the crossword horror format, Hess enthusiastically crafted and self-published over thirty crossword horror stories, including his acclaimed piece Cross/Kill”:

“ACROSS
1 Gun on the table
5 Bullets in the chamber
6 Depressed friends
10 Sad parents

DOWN
1 Derelict hospital
2 Deranged doctors
3 Bone cutters
4 Frightened patients
8 Severed hands”

A growing interest in crossword horror fiction inspired filmmaker Toby Slim to produce the horror movie Crosswords; in the film, college classmates are murdered one by one, as clues regarding the killer’s next victim appear in a campus newspaper’s daily crossword puzzle. Despite its small budget and bad reviews, the movie was a profitable cult hit. The movie benefited from Hart’s highly publicized retrial, and marks the zenith of crossword horror’s popularity.

After her acquittal, Hart continued to write masterful crossword horror stories, along with Hess and a growing number of writers. Many critics remained skeptical of the new genre; neither a conventional horror story nor a proper puzzle, crossword horror struggled to find acceptance. With Hart no longer in the news, reader interest waned.

Hess, a tireless promoter, conceived the idea of a convention to celebrate the genre and rekindle interest. Booking a cheap out-of-season ski lodge in Colorado, Hess invited Hart and other noted crossword horror writers to attend a weekend of discussion and camaraderie among fans.

The event was well-attended; the lodge was completely booked, and the first days of the convention were delightful. But the attendees’ joy turned to horror when the mutilated bodies of Hess and Hart were found in the meeting hall on the last morning of the convention. Written in blood on a nearby wall was a crossword horror story:

“ACROSS
1 Guilty writer
3 Fingers missing
4 Toes hacked
12 Stab wounds

DOWN
1 Untalented huckster
2 Hands cut off
5 Cuts to the face
9 Missing teeth”

The murders of both Hart and Hess remain unsolved, but their deaths triggered a brief resurgence for the genre. Slim’s sequel to Crosswords, Crosswords: 2 Down, was loosely based on the convention murders; the film failed to achieve the success and cult status of its predecessor, and no subsequent crossword horror films have appeared. While several nonprofit online sites continue to explore the form, the crossword horror market has disappeared. Today, crossword puzzle horror fiction is largely remembered for its controversial creator’s gruesome death rather than its literary quality.

THE END.

Reed Beebe

After years spent hunting monsters and fighting ninjas, Reed Beebe now resides in a quiet village and passes the time writing fiction.  

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/ReedBeebe 

Medium: https://medium.com/@ReedBeebe

Away with Words

“Did you see Mrs. Jones at number four? Right old tart.”

He was barely listening. It was a constant monologue of inane gossip. From dawn to dusk, she never stopped.

Her tongue flicked out, ready to moisten her lips prior to another round. He reached up and sliced it off with the knife he held. Her face suffused with agony and humiliation. The stump flapped around, spraying blood. He smiled, holding her tongue.

“Finally, no more gossip. But let’s make sure.”

With great deliberation and a sense of ceremony, he reached down and fed the bloody morsel to the cat.

RJ Meldrum

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

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

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

https://twitter.com/RichardJMeldru1

Let’s Do It

Let’s get a drink.

Let’s get to know each other.

Let’s tell tales and unload.

Let’s forget about jobs and de-stress.

Let’s trust each other. No BS.

Let’s go back to my place.

Let’s have fun for a change.

Let’s take a chance.

Let’s be quiet for a while. A long while. A forever while.

Let’s wrap you up tight and take a drive.

Let’s agree this night was a mistake.

Let’s make it our little secret.

Let’s make this hole in the woods your special place.

Let’s watch the sun rise. And promise each other this won’t happen again.

Kevin M. Folliard

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

Author Website: www.KevinFolliard.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kmfollia

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

The Chatterbox

One fine day, little Jeanette told her grandmother, “My mother said that I shouldn’t let you pump me.”

 

Puzzled, her grandmother asked, “Pump? What does that mean?”

 

Jeanette replied, “It means to ask me questions about what’s happening at home.”

 

“Oh, I see,” said her grandmother. “What can’t you tell me?”

 

“I’m not supposed to talk about how Mama burned the chicken for dinner last night and I’m not supposed to talk about how we have lots of bills, but not enough money. Oh, and I am especially not supposed to tell you about the man sleeping in the freezer.”

Scarlet Berry

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

Unholy Trinity: In the Beginning … by G. Allen Wilbanks

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.

IN THE BEGINNING

From the moment they achieved sentience, the creatures had been savage. Simple tools quickly evolved into simple weapons. While many managed to die on their own with the proper passage of time, there were always those who chose brutality and the sudden, violent end it brought with it.

Death flitted from location to location, harvesting the souls released in the mayhem as he had been bid. He knew the new animals were a mistake, but the creator favored these ‘humans’. So, he would make no complaints. 

Besides, at this rate, they would not be around to vex him much longer.

THE GOOD OLD DAYS

Five people were going to die. Each of them in a different location around the globe. The cowled specter sighed as he calculated where he needed to be, in what order, and how quickly he would need to travel.

He missed the good old days, when human beings hadn’t migrated so far yet. A time when great plagues would ravage the populations and he could wave his scythe to harvest hundreds, even thousands of souls without ever moving so much as a single step.

He signed again. It was time to move. People were so much less considerate these days.

A QUIET DAY

It was a quiet day for Death. His cloak hung on the wall, and his scythe leaned in the corner, neglected. Most disease had been defeated and no wars raged today that demanded his attention. It was a day for rest.

A noise startled him to alertness. With a bemused smile, he realized he had dozed off while waiting for the rival gang members to spot one another in the subway. They had found each other while he dozed on the filth encrusted bench.

Ah well, he lamented as he rose to his feet. It had been a nice dream.

G. Allen Wilbanks

G. Allen Wilbanks is a member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and has published over 60 short stories in various magazines and on-line venues. He is the author of two short story collections, and the novel, When Darkness Comes. For more information, visit www.gallenwilbanks.com, or check out his weekly blog at www.DeepDarkThoughts.com.

Serial Killers: Hey! Part 6

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

Hey! Part 6

It was Sunday. 

Marcy Houghton had been laid to rest for nearly twenty-four hours. Audrey, meanwhile, hadn’t seen any rest for twice as long.

She sat in the shadows of her apartment, her knees to her chest, arms around herself, hardly feeling her own touch or the couch beneath her. The place was taking on a bit of a musty smell, the air thickening and tickling at the throat. Her pens and pencils still lay scattered on the floor at her corner desk. She hadn’t even thought to pick them up, or any of the other items she’d recently bumped into or jostled from tables in her aimless spurts of wandering. In the kitchen, a bowl of chicken sat on the counter, turning and taking on a rotten smell. Audrey had meant to cook it up the other day. She’d abandoned the effort before she could even get a pan out. Everything else in the kitchen had stayed in its place; Audrey hadn’t been eating enough to disturb much of anything in there.

It was another dreary day outside. Rain was on its way again. But Audrey didn’t think she’d live to hear its patter against her window. 

She’d held off thinking about this for as long as she could, the idea only ever falling upon her mind like a quickly-passing shadow, up until yesterday. But now she let it cast itself in full. There seemed to be no other option. She’d had the opportunity to divulge her secret, to confess and perhaps have some of her guilt relieved. She’d failed at it, and she did not see herself finding the fortitude to go to anyone about it again. She simply could not do it. 

Nor could she continue on like she had this last week: feeling these feelings, seeing what she saw, whether it was “real” or not. She had no answer to that bit—of whether she was being haunted by her conscience or by some other essence. Either way, it was unbearable. The truth she thought she could shoulder had broken the bones of her resolve and brought her low, and she didn’t believe she would ever stand straight again.

So, there was really no other choice at hand. Besides, maybe this way she could get some rest of her own. And that was sounding rather nice. The only question was how to do it.

After some debate, the complex’s roof finally came to her. Six floors high; a hop and a quick fall, and that would surely be enough to do it. 

Audrey sat there for another half hour, feeling like she should be crying, and wondering if she should leave some note; but she was beyond tears now, and her suicide would be statement enough.

She rose on shaky legs and trudged out of her apartment, still in her pajamas. She didn’t bother to shut the door behind her.

She took the stairs up. Nobody else was around to see her, the stairway echoing with her slow and lonesome steps. The door that led out to the roof should have been locked, but everyone in the complex knew how the custodians loved to have a view with their smoke breaks. When she turned its knob it popped right open. 

Marcy Houghton was up there, waiting for her. She stood by a vent, staring right at the door as it swung open, her features expressionless. Her skin had taken on more of a bluish tint, to fit the grave.

Audrey stepped out into the chill of the afternoon, precursory winds kicking up and blowing her hair about. The gravel covering the rooftop crunched under her bare feet, sharp edges digging into her skin. It was no never-mind to her, though. She inched along, keeping her sight to Marcy.

“I’m so sorry,” Audrey said as she passed the girl. 

Marcy said nothing to this. She just slowly turned about, watching Audrey as she neared the edge of the roof. Audrey looked down, a harsh wind nearly toppling her before she could make the leap herself. The hard sidewalk leading up to the complex’s main entrance stretched out directly below.

She turned around, the balls of her feet no more than an inch from the edge. She looked at Marcy one last time. 

“I’m sorry,” she whispered again. And then she leaned back.

Dana Danvers switched her grip on the pot as she stepped through the sliding doors of Holloway Home. She didn’t know much about flowers or their meanings, or what have you, but these had looked awful pretty to her at the store, and she hoped that her sister would like them.

Crocuses, she thought they were called.

She checked in at the front desk, getting in a quick chat with Marta, the receptionist, and then she walked on down to suite 19. The halls of the assisted living home were quiet, as always. Horribly quiet. Dana still hadn’t gotten used to it. The place was incredibly nice, to be assured; it could have easily been confused with a well-off motel, what with its spacious rooms and its welcoming interior. And the care its residents received was top-notch, especially around an area like this, so there were far worse places for Audrey to be. But that damn silence was just too much. Granted, there was only so much noise people here could make, suffering from traumatic brain injuries or dementia, as most were; but still, the place could do with some bit of liveliness. The stillness seemed like resignation to Dana; a compliance to just let the residents be and get them by rather than to bring them back to some greater sense of normalcy.

After the accident (that’s what it had to have been, in Dana’s mind) there’d seemed to be plenty of people who were resigned to let Audrey stay in her sad state. Doctors had said that the damage to her sister’s mind had been too great; that she would never walk or talk again, and there was little hope to anticipate anything more from further therapies or surgeries. “Your sister, as you knew her, is gone,” one physician had bluntly told her. But Dana refused to believe that. Her sister could come back. That’s why she visited Holloway twice a week: to see her, to talk with her, to pull her out of herself, God willing.

Before she could step into suite 19, an orderly caught her attention. “Audrey’s in the Rec Room right now, Ms. Danvers.”

Dana thanked him and headed off for the Rec Room. There may not have been many recreational things that her sister could do, but Dana was glad to know they didn’t leave her tucked away in her room all the time.

She turned into the wide white room and saw her sister to the left, sitting in a wheelchair, across from a TV. 

“Hey, sweetie,” Dana said as she stepped over to her sister. She knelt down beside her and held up the pot of flowers. “How are you today? I thought I’d bring some pretty flowers for my pretty little sis.”

A pang hit Dana’s heart as she said that. Though Audrey had been very beautiful once, she didn’t exactly fit the convention much anymore. Even after the reconstructive surgery, her cranium sported noticeable bumps and dips, and her left eye had sunken down in an off-kilter slant. 

A greater pang hit as the memory of that day came back, swift and terrible. Dana had been there to see it, to witness exactly what had left her poor sister like this. She had just been getting out of her car—the crock pot she’d bought for Audrey in her hands—when she saw her sister falling through the air, smacking and cracking down into the ground of the complex’s entrance. Dana had screamed. The crock pot had shattered as she dropped it, and she’d ran over to the crumpled mass that was her sister, her head split open, red coming out like—

Dana forced herself back into the here and now before the tears could come. She sighed and set the flowers down. “Well, have I got some gossip to tell you.”

Dana went into it, every bit of her life’s stories and happenings that’d taken place since her last visit, saying everything and anything she could think of, hoping that something would spark some sort of reaction from Audrey. After an hour of one sided conversation, though, Dana was out of things to say, and Audrey still hadn’t made a move or a peep. She just sat there, staring across the coffee table in front of her and towards the television, only the faintest glimmer of life in her sad eyes.

“Well, I’d better get going now,” Dana finally said, feeling a little bit defeated as she rose to her feet. “I’ll put these flowers in your room for you.”

She leaned down and kissed her sister on the cheek. “I love you, Audrey.” 

If Dana could have given anything just to hear her sister return the affection, she would have gladly handed it over.

While it was true that there was very little of “Audrey Danvers” left in Audrey Danvers, there was just enough to comprehend her situation—to recognize her surroundings. To see.

And what she saw, day and night, was Marcy Houghton. The little dead girl would sit on the table across from her in the Rec Room by day and stand at her bedside by night. 

She never spoke a word; she just stared at Audrey. And that was more than enough to make Audrey scream for help, over and over again—but only ever in her head.

Patrick Winters

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

You can find him at:

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

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

https://twitter.com/Weird_Winters

Trembling With Fear 07/28/2019

Happy holidays to me! It all started so well, a half-day Friday, get home and instead of slobbing on the sofa, straight into a short story I’m working on. Finished that, wrote a poem for a new collection and then … I picked up a book. I’ve brought a whole pile home from school (a variety of YA reading) to add to the TBR piles dotted around the house. So, did I continue with the writing – not quite. On Wednesday, I spent several hours working through the short I’d done on Friday as I’d had it critiqued but other times I have stuck to the reading. Every time I finished a book and flicked through another to decide which to read later I just got sucked in … but the joy is I’ve got the time to do it! No timetables and I might even take my watch off!

Other reading matter obviously includes TWF and this week’s Trembling With Fear starts with What Glows at Night by Karen Crawford which plays on childhood fears to perfection. Yoruba, the doll provided by Timmy’s mother to comfort him instead becomes the focus of his terror whilst the real threat to the boy is woven into the story as an undercurrent, a minor incident compared to the imagined cause of his horror. As the night progresses, his terror increases, hysteria mounts and this keeps the tension building obliterating everything else in the real world, adds to the pace of the story. How many of us have had to deal with an hysterical child? That continued upward trajectory is something we’ve all either experienced or witnessed (and dreaded!). When Timmy realises that Yoruba had, in the end, protected him, the writer neatly subverts this with a very light touch.

It’s Not Mine by Radar DeBoard is a twisted bit of dark verse, there is some clever phrasing which sends your mind in one direction, ‘It had always been there for me/with balance and support’, only for the reader to be fooled completely and discover delusion and a gruesome intention in the final line.

Priorities by Jack Deel is something writers will all experience from time-to-time but hopefully without the land-sharks. A nicely paced study of the danger of a writer’s overwhelming focus.

The Game by Patrick J. Wynn is ostensibly about that favourite(!) childhood game Monopoly and I can state now I recognise all of those issues. My sisters would often nab the dog before me and I hated the iron … But it’s not all about Monopoly, the end gives it a good twist.

Now there’s a certain Wanderers by Chuck Wending begging me to open its cover … and perhaps a glass of wine. Oh, happy holidays indeed! 

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I’m officially back from vacation and have absolutely NO IDEA how I have all of next week’s posts scheduled! Playing catch up from a week off of my day job has been quite literally consuming all of my free time.

Yet, here we are! 

There is some great fiction this week and the only downside is the photo I selected for our short. That’s on me, I was rushed. It works but I could have found a better one to set the mood so I apologize.

Hopefully, next week, we’ll have the new contract system sorted and I can start telling you all about that! 

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

What Glows At Night

Her eyes glowed amber in the dark as the closet door creaked open with a slow and steady groan. Timmy stared from his bed, frozen with fear as a sinister shard of vaporous light spilled out across the floor. A shadow emerged, and he shot up, clutching a pillow to his chest. An icy sweat began to coat his shivering skin.  His vision blurred as the shadow crept under the bed, then disappeared back into the closet. Timmy held his breath. He slid a foot out from under the covers and nudged the door shut with the tip of his toe. With eyes darting back and forth, his mind was working overtime.

 

How did she get inside the closet?

 

A rumbling sound began to sweep the room. An undulating murmur that rose to a crescendo of muted shouts and pleas. But Timmy couldn’t understand the words above the pounding rain playing hammer time against the window. The truth is, he didn’t want to listen. He was afraid they were coming from that ‘thing’ in the closet. Yoruba. She was trying to scare him because Momma wasn’t home.

 

You can’t scare me. You can’t scare me. You can’t scare me.

 

Timmy mouthed the words, hoping to still his trembling nerves. Momma had left hours ago to pick up a pizza for dinner. Where was she? When she’d left, Yoruba was sitting in a chair by the door. It’s where she always sat. Formidable. A gatekeeper. Momma had said she was there to protect them, but to Timmy, Yoruba looked like an evil witch.

 

He made himself small in a fortress of blankets, pulling them up to the edge of his nose. He covered his ears to deaden the sounds. With Yoruba by the door, Timmy had felt like a prisoner. Now that she was in the closet, if he could muster the courage to unlock the front door, he could run upstairs to Grandma’s apartment.

 

The noises subsided. Aside from the thundering bass of his beating heart, an uneasy quiet hung heavy in the suffocating air. He stole a glance towards the closet. Light was seeping through the cracks around the door-jam.  It was a ghost-like glow that built in intensity around its frame. A shot of adrenaline tore through Timmy’s body, slamming into his fingers and toes.

 

Please Momma, please come home.

 

His imagination began to run wild. What if Yoruba was trying to possess him? The idea sent Timmy into a panic.  He had to try and get out. The eerie glow illuminated a set of keys dangling from a nail on his bedroom wall. Just a stone’s throw away, they began to swing. Taunting him. Timmy gazed, spellbound as they rubbed against the surface. Slow. Hypnotic.

 

Shhhh. Shhhh. Shhhhh. Shhhh.

 

Stretching out his arm, he reached towards them to calculate the distance. What would happen, if he just got up and ran?

 

Shhhh. Shhhh. Shhhhh. Shhhh. They continued to sway.

 

Then BRRRIIIINNNNGGGG!

 

The doorbell shattered the dead silence and hurled Timmy’s heart right into his throat. It was a long shrill, urgent ring, followed by a rapid ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. The walls vibrated as the buzzer reverberated around the apartment until it sounded like desperate pounding. Was someone pounding at the door?

 

Then he heard a voice.

 

“Don’t answer it.”  The voice seemed so distant, Timmy wasn’t sure if it was real. Had Yoruba gotten inside of his head?

 

Determined to defy her, he swung his legs out of bed and gingerly slid to the floor.  That’s when he felt something brush against his foot.

 

“I said. Don’t. Answer it.”

 

It was a growl this time, an unearthly hiss. Yoruba was doing her best to keep him from going outside.

 

Timmy cried out, his voice primal and raw. “Who’s there?” 

 

The howling started up again. It seemed like a mix of low-pitched laughter mingled with the fear of chilling screams. Was it Yoruba or just the shrieking wind?

 

He ran from the bed, yanked the keys off the wall, and peered down the hallway, dizzy with fear. The sound of someone shuffling brought him to a stop. Holding his breath, he flipped on the light. And there she was. Sitting by the door with her blood red smile, staring him down with those glowing eyes. Timmy’s body went numb.

 

How did she get out of the closet and back to the front door?

 

“WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY MOMMA!?” He was nearing hysteria.

 

Dead still, Yoruba challenged him with a dark energy and an unrelenting glare. Timmy stared back, unsteady on his feet. He had never gotten past her menacing appearance. Now he was taking it all in. Her face was as black as coal, her mouth a jagged red-stitched grin. Large Hoop earrings hung long underneath a thick white scarf wrapped high above her head. And, her housedress, it was a wall of voodoo. Feathers, charms, torn pictures, and snippets of hair were pinned across her bosom like sacrificial offerings. But it was the freakish glass eyes that petrified Timmy the most. They gleamed demonic, a luminescent yellow that threatened to pierce his innocent soul. Ever since Momma brought her here, Yoruba’s very presence had haunted him at night.

 

How could you, Momma? How could you leave me alone with her?

 

Timmy gripped the keys in his hand as he took a step forward. Hell-bent, he convinced himself that black magic wasn’t real. The lights began to flicker, and in between the flashing of light and dark, Timmy could swear there were two sets of glowing eyes. He shook his head to clear his vision, only to find them both still there. Who did that second set of eyes belong too? Horrified, he took a step back. “LET ME OUT!” The words tore from his throat like a cornered animal. His instinct warning him, Yoruba was never going to let him go.

 

 “What did you do to my Momma?” He whimpered. Timmy fell to the floor in a heap of despair and began to rock back and forth.

 

You’re just a doll, you’re just a doll, you’re just a doll…

 

***

 

He awoke to a warm streak of blinding sun streaming in through the window. Through fuzzy eyes, he could see Yoruba sitting in the chair, and Kitty, the cat, curled up on her lap. With his face planted on unforgiving tile, Timmy realized he had fallen asleep on the floor. Disoriented, he sat up wondering if it had been a bad dream until he noticed the keys still clenched in his fist.

 

Kitty jumped down and started rubbing against his foot. He felt his skin prickle with a sudden sense of déjà vu. He began to rub Kitty’s chin when it bit down on his finger. “Ow!” Timmy yanked his hand away with a start. The cat stared up at him, with mischievous eyes. Amber eyes. Timmy jolted to his feet.  Why hadn’t he noticed that before?

 

The cat’s ears perked up at the jangling of keys. The doorknob turned, and Momma came flying in. Breathless, she pulled Timmy into her arms.

 

“Oh my baby, thank God you’re okay.”

 

Momma was crying and clutching him so tight, that his ribcage branded her skin.  She held Timmy out by his shoulders giving him a once over.

 

“Something awful happened last night, and the police, they wouldn’t let me in the building.” Momma sputtered through a flood of tears.

 

Her wet cheeks and thumping heart were making Timmy afraid again. He peered over her shoulder and noticed a police officer at the door. “W…w-hat happened?”

 

“The policeman wants to ask you a few questions.” Momma gave his hand a reassuring squeeze and turned Timmy around to face him.

 

“A bad man was knocking on doors last night. Two of your neighbors let him in, and he did terrible things.” The pallor of the officer’s face betrayed his measured tone. “Did someone knock on your door? Did you see anything, hear anything?”

 

Wide-eyed, Timmy could only nod, staring past him, unable to speak. The hallway was overrun with men in black coats and crime scene tape was everywhere. The officer quickly shut the door. But not before Timmy caught a glimpse of a bloodied child being carried out on a stretcher and adult-sized body bags lined up on the floor. His face went white, and he began to shake.

 

That could have been me.

 

He looked back at Yoruba, her sewn-on grin, now, a life-saving smile. Kitty was snuggled in her lap purring gently, until she locked eyes with Timmy.

 

Then she let out a hiss.

Karen Crawford

Karen Crawford grew up in the vibrant neighborhood of Spanish Harlem in New York City. 

She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she makes a living designing movie posters with her husband. 

She won an honorable mention on SHORT FICTION BREAK and was recently published in THE ACENTOS REVIEW. 

She writes to exorcise those pesky demons around her and within her.

It’s Not Mine

It thinks it has fooled me,

but I see through the disguise.

This imposter has invaded my life.

 

My nights are sleepless,

for fear it will strike.

It looks just like the old one.

 

I can see how it was easy,

for it to replace mine.

Something that I have trusted.

 

It had always been there for me,

with balance and support.

And now it was usurped,

 from under my nose.

 

I must strike now,

the hacksaw in my hand.

I’ll remove this sentient infection.

 

This thing attached to me,

is not my leg.

This hideous thing has to go.

Radar Deboard

Radar DeBoard is an aspiring writer who just wants others to find enjoyment in his work. Even though he lacks publication and experience, he hopes his work will have an impact. He has a passion for horror and finds it the most interesting genre to write. 

Priorities

I don’t care about the ‘land-sharks.’ I have a deadline, and that quake knocked out the broadband. Yeah, I realise they’re connected; I’m not stupid. You’re not listening – these edits are due tomorrow! I can’t get another extension!

 

They burrow. As long as we stay above ground-level, we’ll be fine. Calm down.

 

Yes, I’m serious. I have to keep going while I can – you think there’ll be any working computers at the evac centre, hmm?

 

It’s coming up the stairs? Jesus, can’t you just barricade the door? I swear, sometimes it’s like you’re not paying attention to anything around y–

 

Jack Deel

Jack Deel is the fiction-writing pen-name of Jack Fennell, a recovering academic from Limerick, Ireland. He is the editor of the Irish science fiction anthology A Brilliant Void, and his own short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Hell’s Empire and Chronos. He can be found at https://jackfennell.com, and on Twitter at @JFennellAuthor.

The Game

Ally circled the table mad that she was not included in her siblings’ game. She watched Anna hand out the money, Kenny took control of the property cards and Stevie lined up the houses and hotels for the others to purchase when they had the money. Anna chose the top hat, Kenny the ship and Stevie got the car. Ally watched as Anna set the dog off to the side as the table grew quiet. Ally screamed and shoved the board off the table, she ran around the room smashing lamps and turning over tables. She really hated being dead.

Patrick J. Wynn

Patrick J Wynn is an author of short stories that contain shades of horror, humor and are just a touch weird. You can follow him on his Facebook page and look for his short story collections on Amazon.

Unholy Trinity: Pantry Stew

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)

“What’s in the stew, Marjorie? It’s delicious, and a little…exotic.”

“Glad you like it,” Marjorie responded. “Just used what I found in the pantry.”

“Well, thanks for the invite. Where’s John tonight?”

“I thought you’d know…since you’re sleeping together,” Marjorie smiled. “Yes, I know, you’ve been having sex with my husband.”

I choked. Reached for my wine glass. Empty.

“More wine, darling?” Marjorie asked. “Go grab another bottle from the pantry.”

I opened the pantry door. John’s head and torso stood upright on a plastic tarp.

I reeled backwards.

“Where’s John, you asked? Oh, he’s inside you, darling,” sighed Marjorie.

(II)

I gagged. I couldn’t believe I’d eaten John…his legs, his…parts…and I had enjoyed it.

I swiped my forearm across my mouth.

“I think there’s an Argentinian Malbec on the shelf,” called Marjorie from the kitchen. “It would be divine with the pantry stew.”

I crept into the pantry, mesmerized by the grotesque statue that had once been my lover…his stiffness, his head cocked at an odd angle, his throat slit with what was clearly a confident prowess. Marjorie’s work? And John said she wasn’t exciting enough.

I eyed the wine shelf. A Malbec. Yes. Rich and exotic, just like John.

(III)

“I don’t blame you, darling,” Marjorie explained as she ladled more stew. “My husband was a tomcat. He had one hell of a reputation.”

“I didn’t know,” I replied. “It was sex, but I thought he…loved me.” I swallowed another morsel of rich ragout.

“Were you careful? I mean, with John’s gonorrhea and all…and darling, you did see his warts, right?”

I spit the stew bits back into my bowl.

“Well, darling, I’m sorry…” Marjorie sighed. “That’s why we hadn’t had sex in years! But at least he was good in the kitchen…you have to admit, he makes remarkable stew.”

Catherine Kenwell

Catherine Kenwell is a writer, mediator and adjudicator living with a brain injury. Her work has appeared in Brainstorm Revolution and Chicken Soup for the Soul, and she is a contributor to Trembling with Fear. She’s currently writing a ‘real-life-horror-story’ comedy based on her experiences with PTSD and post-concussion syndrome. www.catherinekenwell.com

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