Today I’m happy, although it’s raining outside and it’s my son’s 21st birthday and he is away at uni. It is half-term which means a week off from the school in which I work and that gives me time to write something of my own instead of editing somebody else’s, to make a dent in my TBR pile instead of TWF submissions. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy this side of things but I do need some ‘me time’ and luckily my workplace, being a school, gives me that every six weeks or so. My target this half-term was to write and complete a short story and sub it somewhere, anywhere. Today I finished it and proofed it several times including a thorough search for errant spaces (Kim Plasket 😊), then I sent it away. I know some people advise ‘resting’ a story, which I do on occasion whilst others say ignore that advice – something else I do as well. Today I sent it away, no resting, no beta reads. I just pressed ‘Submit’. I was happy with my story and even if the magazine rejects it, I know I will still like it. And I think that’s ultimately what I want to say about taking writing advice. By all means read it and take it on board but you know your writing, the story you want to tell and it’s up to you to choose what to do with it. There are so many rules in the writing world, you just have to break them occasionally. But do remember to proof-read, I have had more than one contributor using a ‘steak’ rather than a ‘stake’ to do damage to a person. It doesn’t quite pack the same punch …
We hope you had a lovely time last week as we did! Now that time for hearts (broken or in love) has come to an end, we have some new works for you to enjoy! As always, remember to leave a comment so the author whose work that you enjoyed can get some feedback!
‘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.
Sailors lost at sea didn’t find as much comfort in the glow of a lighthouse’s beacon as Rob did in the sight of the house with smoke billowing freely from the chimney and soft light twinkling through the windows. It was dark and the cold cut through his clothing, even as thick and warm as it was. He had set out too late and had rode for too long; there was no way he was going to make Slick Stone before the temperature dropped below what he could stand and there was no way he could make a camp fire anywhere near warm enough to be of use. Rob had no choice but to trust the mercy of whoever was inside that house.
He got off his horse and walked the remaining few feet up to the porch steps. The ankle-deep snow crunched underfoot and there was a thin coat of ice on the steps. Once he was safely on the porch, he knocked three times; it was so warm inside, he felt the heat floating off the wood.
An old man with a mustache like a dust bunny and leathery skin opened the door. He asked Rob, in a deep and booming voice, “Can I help you?”
“I sure do hope so, sir. I was hoping for a place to bunk tonight and somewhere to put up my horse. I’d pay you for the trouble, and if the only place for me to sleep is in the barn, well, that’s better than out here in the freezing cold.”
The old man nodded his head and jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “Ain’t got a barn. Stable out back, but not much of one. You can hitch your horse up there. No other animals out there right now.”
“I thank you, sir.”
“When you’re done, step on inside. Got some stew over the fire, some whiskey, some coffee.”
“Sir, you’re an absolute saint.”
“I’ll leave the door unlocked for ya.” The old man offered a weak smile and ducked back into his house, shutting the door behind him. Rob made his way off of the porch and led his horse back to the stable. Once the animal was safely in place, Rob made his way into the house.
The warmth inside was thick like gravy. There was a coffee table and a few other furnishings, but Rob was entirely focused on the roaring fire and a rocking chair by it, directly across from where the old man sat. Rob slipped his soggy coat and boots off and took his seat. He held his hands out to the fire and rubbed them together. There was nothing he loved more in life at that moment than that fire.
“So, what’s your name, sir?”
“Fool’s errand to be traveling out in this weather, Rob.”
“Yeah, I suppose so.”
“Any man on the road in this snow is either desperate to run away or run to somebody.”
‘Well, outlaws don’t take a break for the winter.”
“You a lawman, then?”
“I chase down bounties.”
“Sounds like dangerous work. Your wife and children must be worried sick.”
“No wife and child to be worried.”
“Well, then, all men should be so lucky.” Lawry chuckled and rose from his seat. “Let me get you some utensils so you can have some of that stew. You want some whiskey?”
“That would be right good, yes.”
Lawry got up and pulled a bowl and spoon from the cupboard, then retrieved a bottle of whiskey from a nearby cabinet. He handed the to whiskey to Rob. “You can finish it,” he said. “Not much left.” While Rob sipped on the whiskey and felt his insides warming even more intensely, Lawry ladled some thick and meaty stew out from the pot hanging over the fire. He handed it to Rob, who set his bottle down long enough to shovel several spoonfuls of stew into his mouth, unbothered by the searing heat from the still-smoking meal.
“This is good,” Rob said between smacks.
“My mama’s recipe. Has a little bit of red wine in it. Not much of a wine drinker myself, but it’s damn good in cooking. Mama was a Frenchwoman, so she ought to know.”
“Well, your daddy was a lucky man to have a woman who could cook like this.”
“Oh, that ain’t even half as good as when she made it.” Lawry leaned back in his chair and pulled a pipe and a pouch of tobacco out of his pocket. He filled his pipe, then reached back into his pocket for a book of matches to light it. Lawry took several puffs from it, then turned his attention back to Rob. “So, this man you’re running down—he must be worth a lot of money.”
“Oh, not so much. But, when you’ve been a few months without any money coming in, even a dollar is worth a scrap of trouble.”
“I suppose so.”
“So, what do you do Mr. Lawry?”
“Oh, nothing much. I’m a carpenter by trade. A bit too old to be doing that, though. Mostly just fish and hunt and drink nowadays.”
Rob held the bottle of whiskey up in a salute. “Not a bad way to live.” He took a swig of liquor and a chomped down on another spoonful of stew. “What kind of meat is this? Deer? Bear? It tastes different.”
“Oh, it’s a little of this, little of that. I use what I can get ahold of, so I’m afraid I can’t tell you exactly what you’re eating.”
“Well, it’s good just the same.” He finished off his stew and sat back in his chair. “So, where am I gonna be bunking tonight?”
“I’ve got a spare room. No bed, but I’ve got blankets and a pillow.”
“That’ll work.” Rob chugged down the last bit of whiskey left in the bottle. He set the bottle down and started to ask Lawry if he could pay him anything, but his tongue felt thick and his vision grew blurry. He shook his head and took several deep breaths, but started sweating like a man with a gun pointed at his head.
“You feeling alright, son?” Lawry asked from behind a sly smile.
Rob tried to tell him that no he didn’t particularly feel well, not at all, but instead he slumped forward and crashed to the floor unconscious, his bowl of stew crashing down to the floor and splattering in all directions.
Lawry walked over to the corner of the room and lifted up a trap door. “Alright, y’all come out,” he shouted.
A moment later, two young men came up from the trap door. Their eyes were blood shot and their hair was matted and dirty, giving them the appearance of rabid feral beasts. One of them darted across the room and dropped to his hands an knees by Rob’s side. He sniffed his neck and licked his cheek. “He’s a big one, daddy,” he hissed at Lawry.
The other young man joined him and poked Rob in the side. “Nice and tender, too.”
Lawry crossed his arms over his chest. “Yes,” he said, a broad smile spreading across his face. “He’ll make a fine stew indeed.”
M. Brandon Robbins
M. Brandon Robbins is a school librarian and aspiring author. He lives with his wife and two turtles in Goldsboro, NC. He wrote the “Games, Gamers, and Gaming” column for Library Journal from 2012 until last year. This is his second published work of short fiction, the first being “Lost Phone,” which was published in the debut issue of Shotgun Horror Clips. Brandon is currently revising two novels with hopes of publication.
A Free Meal
My crockpot bubbles with the fresh kill from yesterday; my coworkers grin red as they lap up my unique cuisine. Suzy asks me where I got the meat; I wink and say hunting. Panic strikes for a moment when I hear the name of our supervisor, Pat; they know he never misses a free meal. A chill wafts into the common area, carrying the smell of brown sugar and fat throughout the building. Megan tells the others she saw him last night storming to my office with a stack of errors. Don’t worry, I tell them, he’s around here somewhere.
Matt Brandenburg lives in Kalamazoo, MI with his wife, two daughters, and two dogs. He has been dipping his toe into the pool of horror fiction for a couple of years, but only recently worked up the courage to try to swim. In his spare time he reads a lot, watches crazy horror movies, tends a moldy pumpkin patch, and listens to synthwave soundtracks. He is currently working on a novella and the start of a novel. He has recently started writing book reviews for Storgy Magazine(https://storgy.com/).
Coming Up Short
“What are you doing?”
“Checking my balance. I think I might be a little short this month.”
“How is that possible? You did all your collections, right?”
“I thought so. Crap. I’m missing like fifty souls.”
“Dude, you’re screwed. Management hasn’t been in a forgiving mood lately. How did this even happen?”
“I know. I ran into someone and dropped all my paperwork. I must have lost one.”
“Ran into someone? Let me guess. Amy from accounting. That girl is going to get you thrown into the pit.”
“Chill. I’ll work overtime. It’ll be fin … Ahhhh!!”
“I told you so.”
Andrea Allison currently resides in a small uneventful town located in Oklahoma after moving from a small uneventful town in Texas. She is an author who enjoys writing horror of all varieties and her work has appeared both online and in print.
Icy breath caressed his skin. He lay against cold stone. Each crest of chilled rock cut into his back, the flesh tearing from his skin as he writhed against the rope encasing his wrists. Darkness, blacker than he’d ever experienced, encompassed his being, shedding no light on his unknown prison. He smelled her, the intoxicating scent of roses overwhelming his thoughts. She gently traced the knife along his throat, reveling in the scream that grew deep inside his chest. He breathed harder as she immersed herself in his dying breath. She smiled, leaving him there to search for the next.
Meli Goodell has been writing since she learned to spell, but has just recently pursued publication with three micro-fiction stories appearing in anthologies in 2017. She is currently in the submission process for her first novel, Salvagium. You can read more about Meli and her adventures in writing at www.meligoodell.com