Trembling With Fear 01/29/2017
‘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.
We’re closing out the first month of ‘Trembling With Fear’ and submissions are still coming in strong. I hope you’ve been enjoying reading these as much as I’ve been enjoying putting them together!
By: Ryan Neil Falcone
My god—they’re going to bury me alive!
Phil Kersey’s mind churned with turmoil moments after awakening to find that he was lying in a coffin, unable to move. That he had no recollection of how he came to be in this predicament was as disconcerting as the paralysis itself. Even his eyes were unresponsive; in an attempt to get his bearings, he slowly took stock of his surroundings using his peripheral vision. The room he was in had the unmistakable décor of a funeral parlor.
This was a funeral. His funeral.
The shocking epiphany was interrupted when the open space above his coffin was suddenly occupied by a looming figure. It took a moment for his unfocused eyes to coalesce on the somber face of his brother-in-law. Curtis was his daughter’s godparent, a frequent golfing partner, and an even more frequent drinking buddy. More importantly, he was also a doctor.
I have to signal him … let him know that I’m not dead…
He first tried to speak, then to lift his hand to get Curtis’s attention, but nothing happened either time. Instead, he remained silent and motionless as the gurney the coffin laid upon was pushed down a lengthy corridor. From the way his head was positioned, he could see that the man pushing him was his wife’s oldest brother, Perry, a mortician. His heart began to race when Perry began to discuss perfunctory burial arrangements with his wife.
How had he gotten here? What the hell had happened? It took the full measure of his concentration to block out the blinding intensity of the migraine he was experiencing, which shrouded his memory.
I’m a pharmaceutical sales rep. I have a wife and a daughter and drive a red Porsche. My wife calls it the “mid-life crisis-mobile” and complains that the vanity license plate is tacky… I was driving home from a sales conference when…
He shuddered involuntarily. Something about that specific memory was frightening.
Why couldn’t he remember?
Roads thick with ice and snow… his attention instead focused on the redheaded woman sitting next to him in the passenger seat…
No… his wife had brown hair… someone else …
His attention snapped back to the present when he heard his wife ask for a final minute alone with him before they loaded the coffin into the hearse. She waited until the others left the room before reaching into the coffin to pluck off his sunglasses.
“I know you can hear me,” she began, the distinct lack of pity in her eyes causing a shudder to ripple down his spine. “Curtis assures me that you’re awake, you only look dead. The reason you can’t move is because I drugged you with tetrodotoxin—an extract from puffer fish toxin. The proper dose can paralyze an adult man for hours, even though they’re fully conscious.
“Since your condition wouldn’t fool medical professionals, I needed to enlist my brothers to exact revenge. Curtis was the one who pronounced you dead at the hospital. Perry made sure that you weren’t embalmed when they brought you to the funeral home—because I want you to be awake to experience what comes next.
“I’m going to bury you now,” she continued, roughly stuffing the sunglasses back down onto his face. “But not in our family plot—I’m going to plant you next to where she’s buried. The toxin won’t wear off for another few hours, which will give you plenty of time to think about what you’ve done.”
Her face tightened into a disgusted sneer as she threw a fluorescent, Halloween glow stick into the coffin. “Goodbye, Philip—may you rot in hell.”
A shriek of claustrophobic terror echoed in his mind after she slammed the casket’s lid shut, sealing him inside.
Jarring around inside the casket as the hearse traveled toward the cemetery, he tried to make understand what his wife had told him. Her chilling words echoed in his mind, but none of what she’d said made sense. Their marriage was far from perfect, but what could he have done to deserve such a fate? Surely she wasn’t capable of murder… if she went through with this, she’d have blood on her hands.
Blood on her hands …
Oh god …
All at once, the memory that had previously eluded him came back in full, vivid detail.
Red Porsche … snow covered roads … his fingers tapping on the steering wheel to the song blaring on the radio … wedding ring moved to the pinky finger of his left hand … the designer sunglasses he was wearing were a gift from the redheaded woman riding next to him … his gaze descended, stopping to admire the toned contour of her legs…
Not his wife … someone else … Bethany Milton, a coworker with whom he’d been having an affair … the fling had started casually, but it hadn’t been long before he was spending late nights at the office and going out of town on “business trips” in order to spend time with her …
Making a quick stop for a clandestine encounter at a hotel one the way home from a sales conference… distracted by the memory of what they’d done… being startled when the windshield was illuminated by the headlights of an oncoming car …
Slamming on the brakes… skidding out of control on the icy roads… Bethany’s terrified scream before impact silenced by the sound of twisting metal and shattered glass… upside down in a ditch… his shock at seeing Bethany with shards of glass protruding from her face… blood streaming down arms outstretched over her head, trickling down onto the tattered remnant of the Porsche’s convertible top …
The horrid recollection was chased away when he felt the coffin being lifted from the vehicle. He again tried to shout for help, but his paralyzed body betrayed him yet again, and he remained silent even as the coffin was lowered into the grave. Moments after the casket came to rest at the bottom of the hole, the first shovelful of dirt careened loudly against the coffin’s lid. The noise eventually grew fainter as more and more dirt was piled on. When it faded entirely, he was left with the horrific realization that he’d been entombed.
I have to get out of this coffin! If I could somehow force the lid open…
His panic gave way to hopefulness when he felt his face twitch. Now that he was thinking about it, he could also feel his chest now rising and falling as he breathed. He again tried to move his hand… and finally succeeded. Whatever his wife had poisoned him seemed to be wearing off. But was it too late? Would he run out of air before the paralysis wore off?
This terrible notion was immeasurably worsened moments later when the glow stick his wife had placed in the coffin suddenly winked out. Surrounded by suffocating darkness, a primal scream rose in his throat, growing louder as the use of his vocal chords finally returned.
Fueled by adrenaline, he began to thrash, ineffectually smashing his uncooperative hands and feet against the interior of the coffin. Sobbing, he lay trapped for what seemed like an eternity, screaming for help—his pathetic cries dying in his throat only when he heard a noise coming from outside the coffin. Straining to listen, a wave of warm relief spread throughout his body—somebody was digging him out!
A few minutes later, he heard scraping on the outside of his coffin. Relieved anticipation gave way to astonishment when the top of the casket splintered above him, pouring dirt inside until the flow was choked off by something slithering through the opening. He knew at once that it was Bethany; not even the absolute blackness of being underground prevented him from seeing how corpse-like her once beautiful face had become. The stench of decay overpowered the familiar scent of her lilac perfume, and he began to hyperventilate as the imaginary presence caused the few remaining strands of his sanity to fully unravel.
Gasping as the last of the oxygen in the casket was used up, the terrified man’s dying scream was cut short when the hallucinatory revenant encircled skeletal hands around his throat and began to squeeze.
Ryan Neil Falcone’s short stories have been published in numerous horror, sci fi, and fantasy themed markets including Stupefying Stories, Dark Eclipse, and Macabre Cadaver, as well as numerous commercially available print anthologies. He currently serves as a story editor for Dark Moon Books and Dark Moon Digest, and is an active member of Cornell University’s Irving Literary Society. His platform of work is summarized at:
By: Rose Blackthorn
“Mrs. Matthew Brentner. Kacey Brentner. Mrs. Brentner. Matthew and Kacey Brentner.” Kacey doodled the different versions of the name that would (she hoped) one day be hers, tongue-tip protruding from her mouth without her noticing.
“Kacey,” her mother called from downstairs. “Are you up there?”
“Yeah, Mom,” she called back. She set her notebook aside as she rolled off her stomach and sat up on the bed.
“Come down here, please. The police have some questions for us about that missing boy from your school.”
Kacey shushed the bound and gagged boy in her closet. “I’ll be back soon, Matt.”
Rose Blackthorn is a writer, dog-mom, and photographer who lives in the high-mountain desert, but longs for the sea. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared online and in print with a varied list of anthologies and magazines. Her poetry collection Thorns, Hearts and Thistles was published in February 2015, and the novelette Called to Battle: Worthy Vessel was published in October 2015.
More info can be found at:
By: KC Grifant
The quivering masses bobbed above the shipwreck, trailing a plum-colored cloud.
Maggie tapped on her underwater camera. With the warming ocean temperatures, jellies were reproducing at unprecedented rates, spawning never before seen species.
It was beautiful until tentacles wrenched off her snorkeling mask. She kicked upwards but felt both electrified and numb. Neurotoxins, she thought. Her mind glommed around an emphatic declaration:
Each flick of the buzzing tentacles onto her face imparted a new vision: massive jellies swallowed ships, clogged harbors, suffocated whole cities. Her throat gasped, desperate.
The continents sparkled with purple dust, the seas liquid amethyst.
KC Grifant is a New England-to-SoCal transplant who writes horror, fantasy and scifi, with a particular focus on emerging technologies, biomedicine and mythology. The founding co-chair of the Horror Writers Association’s San Diego Chapter, KC has written stories for the Lovecraft Ezine, Electric Spec and two anthologies, What Has Two Heads, Ten Eyes, and Terrifying Table Manners? and Frightmare: Women who Write Horror.
By: Amanda Bergloff
The moon appeared red above the crypt. She picked black roses and sang a song to the dead. A song without words, yet it was full of despair. It was melancholy and macabre.
He listened as he stared at the dark stars. When she turned to look at him, he found meaning and purpose in her soulless eyes. He reached out his cold hand, and they shared black-hearted whispers until just before dawn.
When the sky began to lighten, they walked to the crypt for their final goodnight. Madness awaited them as they joined with the mist.
Morbid phantasm….eternal tryst.
Amanda Bergloff is a speculative fiction writer who has had short stories included in anthologies published by World Weaver Press, Darkhouse Books, and Transmundane Press, along withe the e-zines, The Flash Fiction Press, 200 CC’s, Speculative 66, and Enchanted Conversation. She lives in Denver, Colorado, and collects books, toys, and comics. She paints and writes daily, and the inside of her mind looks like 1950’s sci fi pulp art.
By: Stuart Conover
Deep beneath the great pyramids, it sleeps. Entombed in worship, in sacrifice, trapped within its own shattered mind.
Within the earth, beyond the tunnel, stairs, and abyss below.
Buried in sand, darkness, and time.
It slumbers, a darkness held in check by dreams.
But all things that sleep eventually awaken.
Slumbering in silence the drums beat once more. Calling to it, to them. The believers once more practicing the ancient rights. Some for power and some to awaken the sleepers.
Woe to the world when the great beast opens its eyes and births once more the creatures of the night.
Stuart Conover is a father, husband, rescue dog owner, horror author, blogger, journalist, horror enthusiast, comic book geek, science fiction junkie, and IT professional. With all of that to cram in on a daily basis, it is highly debatable that he ever is able to sleep and rumors have him attached to an IV drip of caffeine to get through most days.
Oh yes, he’s also the editor at a little site known as HorrorTree.com
A resident in the suburbs of Chicago (and once upon a time in the city) most of Stuart’s fiction takes place in the Midwest if not the Windy City itself. From downtown to the suburbs to the cornfields – the area is ripe for urban horror of all facets.
You can find out more about him at: StuartConover.com.
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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!