Trembling With Fear 03/04/2018
Don’t we Brits just love our weather and with the ‘Beast from the East’ and Storm Emma, it’s certainly given us something to obsess over. The world has turned white and the UK has gone into hibernation, very sensibly in my opinion as this allows lots of writing to be done, books to be read and tea to be drunk. Note I had actually made it into work on Thursday, but got sent straight back home again. I did try …
So, the snow day for me has meant: tweaking a rejected story and sending it out once more to another market (ever the optimist) and working on my own collection of short stories as well as thinking about those stories submitted to TWF – which brings me to a new feature we hope you will enjoy either reading or perhaps writing – or even better doing both. What is this new element, I hear you ask? Serials. A little while ago we received a story which we were told was part of a serial but had been submitted as the author felt it stood on its own. To a certain extent it did but we still asked to see the rest and enjoyed the way the story unfolded over 5 instalments, each about 1500 words in length. At the moment, Stuart is looking at adapting contracts to incorporate this element but once that’s done you will see this story appear. It may be an occasional feature depending on how many submit in this format, or it may become a regular aspect of TWF. If this is something that appeals to you, why not give it a go? Especially if you’re snowed in and have nothing else to do …
We may introduce other features in TWF over the next year but it will be a step-by-step process. Extra features mean extra workload and in terms of submissions, don’t be surprised if at some point we put out an appeal for readers to help us work through these or to carry out other roles that would really support us at TWF. I know a number of you have already offered so when the time comes you might find us getting in touch.
From a bitterly cold Southampton,
A minor update to our Year 1 anthology will be coming in our March 1st update! (I did say minor, didn’t I? No cover reveal, TOC, or release date quite yet but I’ll tell you where we are!
‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.
Dogs Of War
“Dogs eat corpses, you know,” the drunken soldier snarled. “Wild dogs, they’ve got no respect for the dead. They tear the fallen up. They don’t even wait until the body is cold. They lap from a wound. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes.
“I’ve had to kick them away,” he said as though the horror were still fresh in his memory.
He slammed his crested helmet down on the bar and demanded an another ale.
He was already five in that night. Frothy head from the stein clung to his beard, capping it like an inverted mountain. He was maudlin, tearing up, acting out for attention no one bequeathed him in the dark, dingy tavern where hard men choked down hard drinks.
“I’ve seen things, you know,” he said loudly but to no one in particular, scanning the room to see if anyone was paying him any mind. “Believe me, I’ve seen things.”
Suddenly, the barmaid lunged forward and plucked out the soldier’s eyes. Her nails were sharp as talons. Blooded geysered from the sockets. The soldier groped around futilely, reflexively reaching for his sword, as he collapsed back off the barstool onto the filthy, sawdust-strewn floor.
She impassively studied the plump, egg-like eyeballs cradled in her palm. Nerve endings dangled off the ends like sprouts. They dripped little blotches of crimson.
“Good that you’ve seen things,” she said matter-of-factly, plopping them into an empty glass as she arched her neck, casually flipping her hair back into place. “Then these are worth keeping. I’ll add them to the collection.”
Another soldier slumped at the end of the bar straightened up.
His hand hovered toward his sword hilt, but he was more put on alert than roused to action by the sudden slaying.
“What the hell did you do that for?”
Her stony eyes softened, widened doe-like after a seeming flash of panic that may have flickered by too fast to be real. Her posture slackened after her body ostensibly rippled with fear, or at least a little shiver of something. She leaned toward the confrontational soldier, took a supplicating tone and addressed him as though he were a reasonable man who surely understood.
“Gotta feed the dogs,” she said. “They’re going to revert to being feral if I don’t quiet their howling and sate their hunger but soon. We’ve got few provisions what with the war rationing, and most of our customers are off fighting. He said dogs eat corpses and it just clicked. I saw we had a solution to our problem. It won’t be a problem soon.”
“By Jove that man served the Republic,” the soldier said with thunderous indignation.
“You don’t understand, those dogs need to be fed,” she said, with real, palpable terror in her voice. “Dear Lord, they need to be fed. Last night, why… ”
The barmaid, so nonchalant a moment after killing a man who had done little more than spout off, now seemed tense and deeply afraid.
“Wouldn’t be much good to you on the battlefield when he’s always stinking drunk anyway,” the barmaid reasoned. “He was a boozer. In fact he was probably a defector. Or maybe he was even just lousy in a fight. Think about it. He could have gotten you killed out there.”
The soldier adjusted his armor and wobbled uncertainly to his feet. His face was grim, his eyes steely.
“Look, all the ale you can drink for your silence,” she said pleadingly, sliding him a foamy pewter stein.
Suds slopped out onto the rough-hewn wood as the beer skated across the bartop.
Not necessarily pacified, the second soldier grabbed at the pint, reflexively. But quicker than he could process, she sprung again with a dagger that materialized out of nowhere, slitting his throat nearly from ear to ear, though he staggered back too much for a perfect incision.
He stumbled around, drawing his sword as his slit throat spurted like a fountain all over the bartop. His blade clanked down on the ground, clattering around feebly.
The soldier could barely keep his wobbly footing as blood oozed from his throat, leaving him weakened and confused. Dizzy, he heaved toward the back door with the last ounce of his strength, to make an escape. He tumbled into the alley. The moon cast everything in an eldritch iridescence.
He rolled around in the dirt and gravel and a dank liquid he suspected was urine, trying to get his balance back. He might be able to summon enough in reserve to rise back up to his feet.
That’s when he heard the snarling.
It was deep, guttural, more ferocious than anything he ever encountered.
The barmaid called out fearfully from inside the lit building, “I warned you about the dogs. I’m no saint but I’m no liar. Those dogs, they…”
He looked up in the pitch of blackness outside and couldn’t make out the phantasmagoria of fangs and mangy fur as his vision blurred and faded. Blood was just pouring out of his neck.
The barmaid was still shouting inside, but he couldn’t make out a word of it.
“They’re not dogs,” he exclaimed in surprise. “They’re not dogs. They’re…”
“We’ve got nothing to feed the dogs while you’re always out fighting your endless war,” she yelled. “We get the scraps, and we have no scraps left over to throw out to placate them.”
Panic blanched the staggering soldier’s face in the jet-black alley.
“They’re not… They’re not… ”
They drew nearer and nearer, and lunged.
Joseph S. Pete
Joseph S. Pete is an award-winning journalist, an Iraq War veteran, an Indiana University graduate, a book reviewer, and a frequent guest on Lakeshore Public Radio. He was named the poet laureate of Chicago BaconFest 2016, a feat that Geoffrey Chaucer chump never accomplished. His literary work and photography have appeared in 365 Tomorrows, Pulp Modern, Spirits, Flights, New Pop Lit, The Grief Diaries, Gravel, Perch Magazine, Synesthesia Literary Journal, Chicago Literati, Dogzplot, Bull Men’s Fiction, shufPoetry, The Roaring Muse, Prairie Winds, and elsewhere.
He’d moved into the annex while they fixed the leak in his office. The annex had been empty for years, used for storage. He was alone. His colleagues teased him about the building’s reputation. It was allegedly haunted.
On the first day he worked late. When he left, the corridor was in darkness. Remembering the stories, he looked around, nervous. A pair of red eyes stared back at him. Heart pounding, he flicked the light switch to reveal a circuit breaker, its lights blinking. Relieved, he exited the building. The ghost that haunted the annex, alone for so long, followed.
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.
It was an accident. Her poor Nathan had just reached the top of the stairs. Then he was falling. She saw the whole thing from their bedroom door. He was coming up to bed, but his bad leg—he was so unsteady these days. She’d talked about getting one of those motorized chairs installed, but Nathan wouldn’t have it. He was so stubborn.
When she’d got to the bottom of the stairs, it was already too late.
Her poor, poor Nathan.
Yes, that’s what Joan would tell authorities when they came.
But right now, her husband was coming up the stairs.
Patrick Winters 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.
“Run! Go on!”
Millie tottered on her stilettos. A baby giraffe trapped in a rubbish strewn back alley.
“I’m counting- 1 – 2 -3…”
An earring dropped to the ground.
Behind ‘Dial a Pizza’ amidst the rubbish bags, something feral scuttled.
She’d been so much more alluring at the start of this evening, he thought.
“Don’t scream. Just run darling!”
His violence stalked her, sucking the oxygen from the night air.
Millie took a few steps. Stumbled. Fell. Chinned herself.
Did she smell of fear yet?
He kept a chart of how each of his prey responded.
Alyson lives in West Yorkshire with her family and 3 rescue cats. She teaches creative writing classes, writes noir Flash Fiction and ghost stories. She is one of the writers in ‘Women in Horror Annual 2’, in Raging Aardvark’s ‘Twisted Tales’, her stories can be downloaded at www.alfiedog.com as well as being available on various sites like zeroflash/Tubeflash/101 words/three drops from a cauldron. Her debut collection, ‘Badlands’, is due out soon from indie publisher Chapel Town Books.
You can find out more on her blog- www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com
or at her amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01NBYSLRT
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Stuart Conover is a father, husband, published author, blogger, geek, entrepreneur, horror fanatic, and runs a few websites including Horror Tree!