This week, we thought it was about time I introduced myself properly now that I’ve had a few weeks behind the scenes reading and responding to all your stories. Like all of you I am a writer and that was what brought me initially to this wonderful site roughly 3 years ago. It was here that I found the majority of submission calls for various magazines and anthologies resulting in over 20 short stories published – to my ongoing amazement – and, as I am not the most prolific writer due to work and family pressures, I take this as a pretty good success rate. In addition, my first novella length story will soon be published in another anthology, again found at Horror Tree. And that is why I am here, it is my way of giving back to a site which has been invaluable in developing my writing career, not only in terms of submission calls but in the supportive articles which I refer back to when I need motivation when that horrible writer’s curse of self-doubt creeps in. I’ve been chuffed to bits (def. = pleased, UK) that others have supported TWF by sending us their flash pieces and drabble, and I have tried to be as supportive and helpful as I can with my responses. I know so well how frustrating it is to get a rejection and then have no idea why and as long as time allows I will try and feedback in my responses. Now I’d better go and check that inbox again …

Stephanie Ellis

Trembling With Fear, Horror Tree

‘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

Notes From The God Chair

Number 4 said she hated spiders.  Fuck, will she regret that.  He wondered how long.  Probably by next shift.  Maybe they’ll wait.  But she’ll wish she hadn’t let that slip.

 

Number 6 wanted something to drink.  She begged.  She raised her voice.  He sent her into the antechamber and then had the grunts take away her stool.

 

Number 2 casually mentioned that he was born with 6 fingers on each hand.  He’d had his extra fingers cut off.  His ancestors were from the West Indies, he said, as if that explained it.  He said the extra fingers were a sign of good luck.  The man asked “Then why did you cut them off?”  Number 2 had no answer.  Per the ordinance, the temperature increased 30 degrees.

 

Number 3 asked him to talk to her, about anything.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

The man was excited because this morning he’d tried a new way to work, and it had saved him 10 minutes.  On the 705.  Go figure, he thought.  On the map, that route looked like it went far out of the way.  The system never even suggested it.  But he tried it and he beat the system.  It made him feel good.  Empowered.

 

At the beginning of every shift, the man checked the envelope that waited for him by the chair.  Nothing out of the ordinary today.

 

He sat in the dark, watching the monitors.  An entire wall of them.  Different angles of the subjects crying and screaming.  Having deep dark existential crises, and sometimes simply experiencing normal everyday crises.  It was like having forty-eight windows into Hell.

 

While spending long hours in the dark room, at times he would begin to nod off.  Then he’d snap awake, terrified that someone might discover he’d fallen asleep. Two curators had been removed for “inefficacy,” never to be seen again.  Thankfully, the screaming kept him awake.

 

The man watched Number 7 and Number 9 as they were forced to assemble furniture in their respective cells.  At least they thought it was furniture.  The one who finished first got a sandwich and the other one got the fog.  As they nailed and screwed the bulky frustrating pieces together, they came to realize that they were building coffins.

 

He asked Number 8 if she had the chance, would she let Number 4 go.  Number 8 asked why.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

“If you press that button, someone gets hurt.”

 

No response.  Just the hollow eyes, not knowing where to look.

 

“If you press that button twice, someone gets seriously hurt.  But you get ice cream.”

 

“I don’t want to press the button.”

 

“Then no ice cream.”

 

“I don’t care.  Fuck you.”

 

Then there was Number 8…

 

“If you press that button, someone gets hurt.”

 

“Alright.”

 

“If you press that button twice, someone gets seriously hurt.  But you get ice cream.”

 

“I don’t like ice cream.  What happens if I press it three times?”

 

“What would you like to happen?”

 

“Can I choose who gets hurt?”

 

The man had grown to like this Number 8.  He wondered how long she would be around.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

Number 3 is gone after an extended breakdown.  She kept repeating that she wanted an apple.  She screamed for the apple.  When she was a girl, her mom used to give her an apple after school.  All she wanted was an apple.  An apple.  The episode began before lunch and was still going on when he got back, only at a much more shrill pitch.  Number 3 was done.  They carried her brain-fried remains from the cell.

 

The man found himself watching Number 8 more than the others.  He knew he wasn’t allowed to do that, but he couldn’t help it.  He was alarmed to discover that he was doing it without realizing it.  He silently promised himself to correct that in the future.  But he didn’t.  He was fascinated by Number 8…what she did when she wasn’t doing anything.

 

Number 1 isn’t moving.  The man wasn’t sure if she was still responsive.  Sometimes they just shut down for a time.

 

The man told Number 8 that she was the only one who never asked about the voice, and the person who spoke to them.  The man asked her why.  Number 8 simply shrugged.  The man told her the rules stated that no answer meant a 30 degree temperature change, either hot or cold.  Number 8 just grinned.

 

He didn’t put in for the temperature change.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

The veins on Number 2’s forehead were bulging.  It seemed like they’d been that way since this morning, and the man wasn’t sure what to make of it.  It looked bad, like his head might explode, or he was on the verge of experiencing some type of aneurism.

 

Number 2 didn’t seem more agitated than his normal state of perpetual agitation.  The man didn’t think he’d ever seen Number 2 smile.  The man asked Number 2 about the worst smell he had ever smelled.  The brief from the envelope instructed this, in hopes of finding a smell even worse for the person.

 

Number 2 said that the worst smell he’d ever smelled was the fur of a manicou being burnt off.  The man inquired further, and learned that a manicou is an animal like a possum.  In Trinidad, people put manicous into a fire to burn off their fur after they’re dead.  Then they can cook and eat them.  They say the manicou’s fur being scorched off is the worst smell in the world.

 

There were alligators in the river where Number 2 played as a child.  He had to dodge them while he played.  Number 2 seems like the toughest one in this batch, the one who’s lived the hardest life.  This would probably lead most people to bet on Number 2 to outlast the others, but the man had been here long enough to know that things rarely worked out that way.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

When they were begging, he almost wanted to inform them that there was very little he could do.  He couldn’t question what was in the envelope next to the chair.  He followed the rules just like everyone else.  He had to.

 

The man turned up the white noise so none of them would realize he was gone while he ran to the bathroom.  It would be about 3 minutes.  It had never been a problem.

 

Shit.  Someone else has lost it.  Every fucking time he leaves the goddamn chair.  These screams had that distinctive last stage pitch.  Number 5.  But he’s hitting his head against the wall, which sadly for him, is not a valid way out, according to the big book.  The man put in for the sedation of Number 5.  Someone needs a rest.  Then the process will continue.

 

The room is dark, except for the small reading light by the God Chair, like a tiny beacon on the black sea.

 

Number 2 is making a stand.  He’s naked, and he’s yelling.  Oh Number 2, that’s so you, the man smiled, watching Number 2 punch the mirror and walls while defiantly shouting.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

The coffee was foul.  This whole area was disgusting.  The grunts never cleaned the area around the folding table with the horrible white powder that’s supposed to be milk.  They call it “hazelnut” to try to hide the fact that it tastes like freeze-dried human carcasses.  It doesn’t taste like hazelnut, and it doesn’t seem anything like milk.  Even if it did taste like hazelnut, like this world has seen an actual hazelnut in decades, the man didn’t want any flavoring at all.

 

The girl was starting her shift.  The man smiled at her with his eyes down and they made pleasant small talk in the dark corner.  He liked the girl, but he only saw her in passing when their schedules sometimes crossed.

 

The girl smiled.  Her eyes met his for a fleeting moment, “Sometimes I wonder if we’re the ones they’re really watching…”

 

Number 7 pulled off her own fingernail with her teeth.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

He tried yet another new way to work this morning, a variation of his recent experiments.  He took Cedar Road to a small street called Thorne which led him right onto the 705.  Taking the 705 saved him almost 10 minutes, again.  That was the third time this week.

 

The man was excited, because he thought he’d found his new way to work.

Steve Bevilacqua

Steve Bevilacqua is an author and screenwriter.  He has produced lots of TV shows for places like IFC and Vh1.  A web series that he wrote and directed was nominated for a 2016 Primetime Emmy (Best Short Form Series – it lost.)  Steve is a longtime resident of Venice, CA. 

Bloodlust

She was born a predator, easily catching mice and other pests. She had the skills, but spent most of her time playing, throwing them in the air and holding them in her teeth. There was a simple solution for that: starvation. Let the girl go hungry. Teach her that hunting wasn’t about fun.

Soon, our walls were mouse free. She’d even patrol the garden for squirrels. Once, she took down a groundhog.

I suppose I should’ve stopped her when neighborhood pets disappeared. Someone called the police.

The police are coming, but the blood will never wash from my daughter’s teeth.

Kevin Holton

Kevin Holton is the writer behind all sorts of work, ranging from dozens of short stories, to a variety of poems, and even a co-written screenplay. He also dabbles in book-length works, and has a YouTube channel reading some of his shorter pieces. When not writing, he’s a gamer, actor, athlete, and coffee enthusiast who probably likes Batman too much.

You can find out more about his work at www.kevinholton.com and support him at www.Patreon.com/TheHoltoning or www.amazon.com/author/KevinHolton.

Sympathy Dish

The widow Lady Adrianna was a woman of exotic tastes. She liked organ meats. Fermented fish entrails in Thai curry, cervelle de veau for calf’s brains, and sweetbreads of lamb pancreas. I ached to sample the mix of flesh and elixirs from her lips. Her husband’s palate was too simple, but he was lean like well-bred swine. After he died, I brought the Lady a sympathy dish. “It’s veal heart,” I said as we dined together. My eyes focused on her pale throat as she ingested the meat, complimented its tenderness. She bit into her husband’s heart again. Swallowed. Smiled.

Sara Tantlinger

Sara Tantlinger resides outside of Pittsburgh on a hill in the woods. She is the author of “Love For Slaughter,” has published pieces with Page & Spine, The Literary Hatchet, and the HWA Poetry Showcase Volume II, and she is a contributing editor for the Oddville Press. Find her lurking in graveyards or on Twitter!

In The Woods – On The Hunt

The sound of the crunching leaves could wake the dead. Ken walked through the forest, at night, searching for it. He’d seen it earlier today. It’s unmistakable dank, musky smell could make anyone puke. That smell would give it away at night. His rifle’s strap dug into his shoulder.

Leaves rustled in the distance. Something else was out there. He pointed the flashlight in the direction of the sound. He detected the same smell. It’s close. He readied his rifle. He heard a deep grunt from behind. He turned in time to see Sasquatch rear its arm back and swing.

Pernell Rogers

Pernell Rogers is a product of the supernatural world. In his mind, the real world isn’t real at all. All human motivation is based on fear, and it’s that fear that he tries to expose in his writings.

You can follow his work on Smash Words.

About Stuart Conover

Stuart Conover is a father, husband, published author, blogger, geek, entrepreneur, horror fanatic, and runs a few websites including Horror Tree!

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