‘Names. I like names. I like to address someone properly so that I don’t appear rude; sometimes though, I’m left trying to work out how to respond to a submitter when I haven’t a clue what name they go by. Some emails have a straight paragraph about their submission only; there is no ‘Dear …’ or ‘Hi …’ and no signature at the end. What to do? Look at their submission, I hear you say, … that has contact details—doesn’t it? Um, not all the time. Longer stories tend to do better in this regard but they will occasionally have an author identified by initials only and as to drabbles, just a few submitters contain appropriate contact information. If the name is not in the submission itself, I look at the email address and sometimes work it out from that—but again, that can turn out to be a bizarre handle and leave me completely in the dark. And then there’s those who seem to have more than one pen name each consisting of a variety of abbreviations.
This may seem a small matter but it does cause confusion.
Please, please when you submit, let me know your name. I like names.
For the record, Steph had NO idea I was inserting that last image but I felt that it had to be done! 😉
Folks. We’ve only got a few Trembling With Fear installments left this year! If you’d like to be included (and we’re low on submissions!) please send them in ASAP!
‘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.
The Last English Speaker
Dr Ndosi crossed the well-manicured lawns of the clinic on her way to conduct yet another interview with the last lunatic on Earth. Coming towards her was Dr Zahirovic, his tie loose, sweat dripping from his forehead.
“Sawubona,” she said and smiled.
“Zdravo. Vreli dan, zar ne?” he replied, as he glanced at the blue sky above and fanned his face with his hand.
Of course she had no idea what he was going on about, probably something to do with the weather judging from his actions and his exaggerated puffing as he wiped the sweat from his brow. So she smiled again and despite knowing that he couldn’t understand a word she was saying, replied, “Noma kunjalo, ngifanele manje ngikhulume ngenyanga yokugcina. Hamba kahle.” Despite knowing better, she still hoped that one day the faces of her colleagues would light up in recognition, that they would understand that she had said she was going to interview the last lunatic on Earth, and they would then excitedly respond in fluent Zulu. But instead, Zahirovic smiled at her vacantly, looked again at the sky as if seeking further conversational inspiration before obviously thinking better of it and saying, “Zbogom. Vidimo se kasnije” and scurrying off up the path. She did not speak Bosnian but she had heard Zahirovic and his wife say it so often she took it to be some kind of valediction. She entered the main Clinic building, pausing briefly to show her pass to the Japanese guard on the door. Dr Mueller was sat waiting for her in the cool reception and as he saw her he raised his hand to get her attention before getting up, straightening his jacket and making his way over to her. “Guten tag,” he said and nodded. Ndosi had never had a proper conversation with Mueller for obvious reasons, their interactions limited solely to purely functional interactions clumsily facilitated by whatever translation software they tapped their thoughts into. Mueller was a pragmatic man however, so made no attempt at further niceties knowing that such interactions were futile. Instead, he beckoned Ndosi to come with him to the secure quarantine ward where the last lunatic on Earth was now living. Ndosi hated having to interview the crazy man. Despite not knowing what he was saying, the way he would scream and wail and spit at her was upsetting and frightening and a depressing reminder of the international genocide/suicide that had killed one billion in a frenzy of violence and gore. She braced herself for a moment before opening the door. The lunatic, known only as Dave, any family name being long forgotten by the maniac himself or anyone who had ever known him, was shackled to the bed, thick leather straps across his knees and chest, his wrists and ankles restrained with thick, leather manacles. He saw Ndosi and Mueller enter and from above the spit-mask he was forced to wear, his eyes blazed with hatred. Muscles strained against his bonds and the bed creaked and rattled as he snapped at the straps. “Oh look! It’s the fucking Nazi and his pet. Fucking let me out of here you fucking bastards!” Dr Van Den Berg acknowledged their arrival as he held the boom mic near Dave’s face while Dr Horvath busied himself with the recording equipment. “Let me out of here or I’ll fucking kill you” he screamed. “Or I’ll just kill you anyway, you useless fucking bastards!” The lunatic known as Dave continued to rant and rave and scream unintelligible abuse at her as she showed him pictures of atrocities committed in London, Sydney and New York back when there was a London a Sydney and a New York. At first, the international community was at a loss to explain what came to be known as “The Madness” in the UK, the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The enormous rise in murders, the streets literally flowing red with rivers of blood, the thoughtless brutality, the mass rapes. But these were just on the individual scale. When groups of murderers joined together there were riots and when the riots became larger and spilled out across national borders there were wars. Husbands killed wives, fathers killed sons, neighbours killed neighbours. That there was a reason for the Madness seemed obvious – its onset was so sudden it was clear that it was no natural phenomenon. The International Community tested the air, the water, searched in vain for some kind of viral or bacterial pathogen. Autopsies of those they found, whether they had been murdered or whether they had bashed their own brains out in fits of insane self-loathing, revealed nothing. It was then that a Chinese team had found Dave, trapped in the rubble of Tipton, unable to harm himself or others, shouting his hate and rage out to the ruins. He had been subjected to a battery of tests – psychological, toxicological, genetic – none of them finding any cause for the cause of his insanity. And it was then that Dr Lem posited his hypothesis; the cause was the English language itself. Lem hypothesized that neither thought nor culture was possible without language and that the reason the Anglo-Sphere had succumbed to mass insanity was that the English language itself, the means of thought for over a billion people, was in itself utterly schizophrenic, forever changing and taking elements from other languages, pillaging words and thoughts that were supposed to be used to express different personalities and cultures, and instead ramming them together, conflicting ideas and thoughts smashed together to express things that they were not intended to express. Surely, Lem claimed, madness could be the only result of such cognitive dissonance, linguistic schizophrenia on a global scale. So they had recorded literally hundreds of hours of Dave’s ravings in the years since the Madness had ended, sending the transcripts of his rants to international teams who would pick out words that shared etymological roots with their own languages. They would then be passed on to another team who spoke a different language who would do the same and on and on until eventually they could work out what he was saying. “You fucking bastards, I’ll murder the lot of you!” Mueller wrote down the word, “Murder”. “Mord”? he said under his breath. Van den Berg blinked and muttered, “Moord…..” The fact that the English language itself was the cause of The Madness has now been proven beyond question, although how it could cause such devastation in such a short period of time was still unknown and the sole reason for the continuing research into Dave. “Just come a bit closer and I’ll beat you to death!” “Dood?” repeated Van den Berg, growing pale and unsteady on his feet. And so now Ndosi had to listen to the unintelligible ravings of the last lunatic on Earth, recording his rants in a dead language so that those who were left could work out how this linguistic insanity manifested almost instantaneously across the globe. “Oh, if I was free, I’d show you bastards a million levels of pain.” “Pijn…” said Van den Berg, putting down the boom mic and rubbing his eyes. “Pijn….” At least one thing is clear, thought Ndosi. Despite the horror of the affliction, at least as the Madness is linguistic in nature, it cannot be infectious. Van den Berg muttered, “Pijn,” his face contorted with hatred, as he reached for a nearby scalpel.
I have had many short stories published in novellas, journals and Independent Press magazines, including Suspect Thoughts, Darkness Rising, Bizarro Central, Raw Edge and Ideomancer. My first collection of short stories, Ugly Stories for Beautiful People was published in 2007. A full publishing history and list of reviews can be found at http://james-burr.blogspot.co.uk/.
Smith watched with trepidation as the man before him left in a wheelchair, his leg in a cast. Smith was next in line. The room was well lit and clean. Biohazard and x-ray signs were dotted around. Nurses and doctors bustled around him, as he waited for his appointment. The technician arrived.
“Mr. Smith? Come this way.”
The private room was cool.
“Mr. Smith, our records show an outstanding balance to the government of $500. Parking fines.”
“Standard penalty is a wrist. Don’t worry, treatment is free.”
The technician reached back and lifted a small, but adequately heavy hammer.
R. J. 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.
Jack in the box
My name is Jim. I am six years old. My brother is a Jack in the box. His name is Jack and I have put him in a small box. When I cranks the handle, he pops up with a scary look. It was very funny in the beginning. But I do not like my new toy anymore. It has started to smell and his eyes have popped out. I also have a little sister. She is called Jane. I think I will cut up her into a jigsaw puzzle instead. Thousands of pieces and all will be blood red.
Mathias Jansson is a Swedish art critic and horror poet. He has been published in magazines as The Horror Zine, Dark Eclipse, Schlock and The Sirens Call. He has also contributed to over 100 different horror anthologies from publishers as Horrified Press, James Ward Kirk Fiction, Source Point Press, Thirteen Press etc.
You can find out more about Mathias at his homepage.
Out in the field, tied up on its pole, Harry’s scarecrow twitched. The button eyes were always open. It watched Harry’s ma creep out to meet her beau. It watched Harry’s dad following, shotgun prepped.
It noticed Harry wake screaming from a nightmare. ‘Mum!’
Fuelled by the memories of Harry’s love in its creation, the scarecrow hauled itself up from the mud.
‘I’m coming Harry,’ it slurred. With stiff legs it stalked the furrows.
Harry sat huddled. He heard a shuffle, then a stumbling on the landing.
‘Dad’s drunk again,’ he thought.
‘I’m here Harry.’
Lice crawled under the door.
Alyson trained originally in the UK as a teacher/tutor. She wrote a couple of children’s books which were published by Collins and Ginn. Now she lives near Bronte terrain in Yorkshire with her teen son, partner and 3 rescue cats. She writes noir Flash Fiction (some of which is published on line) and spooky longer tales (3 are available for download on www.www.alfiedog). She has a collection of her Flash fiction coming out soon from Chapel Town Books in the UK. She enjoys old movies, singing, and swimming. She is a confirmed chocoholic and is still hopeless at maths. Her blog is at http://www.