Here we are in February, and another ‘Women In Horror’ month. Whilst we only feature one female author this week, generally the numbers balance out well over the year for the sexes. However, I am well aware more still needs to be done to promote female – and those who identify as female – authors.
If you need a little reading material this month, why not try someone new within this WIHM label? I’ve just ordered Whispers in the Dark by Laurel Hightower (JournalStone) or you could try Hailey Piper’s Benny Rose, The Cannibal King from Unnerving, or Deborah Sheldon’s Body Farm Z. Many more titles will be suggested over the coming month by sites such as Ladies Of Horror Fiction, Night Worms, Ginger Nuts of Horror and of course Horror Tree itself. Remember – the first rule of writing is to read! You have our blessing, go forth and turn the page.
Our first story this week in Trembling With Fear is A Perfect Day for Sailing by Karter Mycroft. A take on the idea of the Marie Celeste, an abandoned boat is found with no sign of the occupants. Using a person’s ego is always a good way of leading them to take more risks than they should do, whilst bringing in the supernatural never fails.
A Looking Glass Tale by Alyson Faye is a lovely gothic tale lending the moral don’t take a razor to a mirror.
Along with the Trees by Radar DeBoard is a reflective piece about the horrors of our use of pesticides and the damage to the environment. An on-trend story. I’m actually surprised how few stories reflect society’s concerns. Using fiction to raise the red flag to our behaviour should be done more.
Cause of Death by RJ Meldrum will certainly make you question your use of the underground. Take note of your fellow commuters next time you travel. An everyday event for so many could become something else completely.
Ahh, Valentine’s Day…a celebration of undying love and romance, a time to do something special for the one you love. But it’s not all hearts and flowers, is it? For the upcoming Valentine’s Special, we’re looking for stories that crawl upon the underbelly of romance…obsession, crimes of passion, and love that continues perhaps long after it should. Relationships that have run their course. Evil deeds done in the name of love. Love letters to the damned.
Need to get rid of the foul taste of bad romance? Pick up your poison pen and write about it. Send us your short stories, drabbles, and Unholy Trinities that reflect upon the dark side of love.
Stories can be sent directly to Catherine at [email protected]
Yay for small updates!
On top of that, our Women in Horror Month specials have kicked off and at this point, we’re scheduled through the 20th with more still coming in. We may even go back to being able to double up a few days if things keep progressing!
Thanks for the influx in drabble after last week’s call. We always can use more but that helped shore up the end of February!
A Perfect Day for Sailing by Karter Mycroft
Someone called the Coast Guard at 0900 because they thought they saw a sailboat drifting past Malibu with no one aboard. Seaman Jacob Charles and Petty Officer John Beeker responded aboard the powerboat OLE-3, and located the vessel in question at 1045. The ship was identified as the S/V Bellingham, a 33-foot remodeled schooner registered to a Mr. Painter of Ventura. It was abandoned.
The initial investigation lasted an hour. Charles and Beeker tied off the OLE-3 to the Bellingham’s hull, boarded the vessel, and dropped its anchor. They split up to search the deck and cabin. Topside, Charles paced from stem to stern, looking for signs of an accident or a struggle. He checked the radio next to the helm and found it in good working order. A couple of fishing poles lay half-assembled near the prow, but otherwise the deck was in fine shape. It was a beautiful day, too, calm and sunny with a light breeze coming in from the northwest. It had been that way all week.
“You find anything?” Beeker reemerged up the ladder.
“Clean as a whistle up here,” said Charles. “You think she just came loose from her mooring?”
Beeker shook his head grimly. “I saw fresh clothes down there, jewelry, and perishables in the kitchen. And this.” He lifted his hand with a jingle. He was holding a dog collar.
“I think there was a whole family aboard.”
Charles couldn’t help feeling impressed by Beeker’s deductive reasoning.
Beeker stepped over to the gunwale. “Something’s up here. I’m gonna radio Forensics. This is above our pay grade.”
Charles wiped his brow. “I’ll follow you in a bit. I want to look around some more.”
“You should leave that to Forensics.” Beeker climbed back aboard the OLE-3.
Charles knew he was right, but he stayed aboard the Bellingham anyway. Normally the calls they got were so routine it made him feel like he never accomplished a thing. But this was a real, honest-to-god abandoned ship. What could make an entire family vanish, in calm waters, with a full stock of supplies and a working radio? They were missing something, maybe something he could uncover before Forensics arrived. How many times had they rejected his applications, saying he lacked practical experience? This could be his big chance.
He climbed down to the cabin. It was tidy, no sign of struggle or fire or anything else out of the ordinary, except some thin scratches on the wood floor, probably from the dog. The sea rose and fell beneath him, giving the cabin a woozy bob as he approached the beds. There were three of them, one double-wide and two smaller ones. All looked like they’d been freshly made that morning.
The kitchen sat in a nook next to the beds. Everything was secured, not a single pan out of place. Charles checked the drawers under the stove. Canned fruit, bags of rice, a couple empty packages of meat. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but he was sure he didn’t find it.
On his way back, he checked under the beds. There, underneath the double, he did find something: a little wrinkled notebook, bound with twine. His heart raced as he undid the knot.
It was Mr. Painter’s log. Like any good sailor, he kept a record of each departure and arrival, and notes on each day at sea. Charles sat down on the double bed and skimmed the first few pages.
It was all painfully ordinary.
20150808 – Saw dolphins today.
20160214 – Bad clog in the head. Returning early.
20170328 – Took a long nap. Woke up to high winds. Had to strike the mains.
He flipped to the most recent entry.
20190716 – Departed Oxnard at 0830. Brought Shelly and the boys. Visiting Grampa in San Diego w/ pit stop in O.C. Beautiful weather, everyone excited. Never been happier.
Charles felt like he knew even less than before. Mr. Painter had known exactly where they were going, he hadn’t noted any problems, and the log showed nothing but pure intentions. Now the whole family was gone, and Charles didn’t have a clue why.
He sighed and flopped back on the bed. If he’d been a real investigator, he might have devised some theory, discovered some hidden detail, and cracked the case. But he had no theory. He had an empty ship and an empty skull. When they returned to base he would go back to writing tickets to party boats, and eventually Forensics would solve the mystery and all the glory would be theirs.
The cabin rose and dipped, almost in time with his breathing. The hull gave a slight groan, almost like a yawn, which made Charles yawn in turn. He tucked the log in his pocket and rubbed his eyes. At least he’d found some evidence, even if it was lousy evidence. Maybe Beeker might be impressed with him, for once.
He realized he’d become very tired. He should have gone to meet Beeker on the OLE-3. But the bed was so comfortable, and the sea so gentle, and his brain started inventing sleepy excuses. Maybe he should stick around a while longer. At least until Forensics showed up, so he could show them where he’d found the journal. Get some face time with the real detectives. Good career move. He should get off the bed at least, he knew, to keep from tampering with evidence. But it was just so cozy, rocking him like a baby in its mother’s arms.
In moments, he was asleep. The Bellingham swayed over the gentle sea, and Charles started to snore. A layer of cloud passed over the sun, and the light coming in the portholes on either side of the bed changed from yellow to gray. The ship bobbed and swayed and Charles snored and snored.
The portholes blinked.
A rumble came into the cabin. The hull of the Bellingham exhaled and its polished wood panels began to change shape. One by one they came loose from the floor, bending like fingers around the bed, bearing it down to the seething compartments below. A faint ray of sun returned to the portholes as the ship slid Charles off the bed. He gave a loud snore, only partly rousing. The hull twisted, raising rows of groaning, jagged wooden teeth. Charles stirred, opening his eyes just in time to see the light was all gone, as the ship bent its sneering planks down onto his body, sank into his flesh, and ate him.
A Looking Glass Tale
Julie spotted the vintage mirror at the auction. It was damaged, but she was certain the frame was high Victorian.
“Lot of mould on you.” She pushed her face to the surface. Inside something hunched and bony backed away.
For all her labouring she couldn’t erase the black mould.
“I’ll have to resilver you.”
Julie gloved up, got out her razor and began to scrape. The creature sniffed, smelt her sweat, scratched at its prison’s walls and greeted Julie with a deathly handshake. Grabbing the razor, the demon used it to skin his saviour alive.
She was a perfect fit.
Alyson lives in the UK; her fiction has been published widely in print anthologies – DeadCades, Women in Horror Annual 2, Trembling with Fear 1 &2, Coffin Bell Journal 1 and Stories from Stone and in ezines, most often on the Horror Tree site, Siren’s Call and The Casket of Fictional Delights. In May 2019 Night of the Rider, was published by Demain, in their Short Sharp Shocks! E book series and reached the amazon kindle top 10 best seller lists. Her work has been read on podcasts (eg Ladies of Horror), shortlisted in competitions and published in charity anthologies. Future work will appear in anthologies from Things in the Well, Mortal Realm and Twisted Wing Publishers.
She performs at open mics, teaches, edits and hangs out with her dog on the moor in all weathers.
Along With The Trees
John stared at the withering tree. He found it harder to breathe, with him taking in deeper and deeper breaths. He lightly placed his hand on the decaying bark.
Years ago, the pesticides had truly done their work. The chemicals had destroyed the bugs and the crops had thrived; for a time. Then the pesticides ate away all the harvests. They started to destroy the trees next. As the resources disappeared, so did humanity. Until John was the only one left.
The last man on earth standing before the last, dying tree. Gasping as he took in his last breath.
Radar DeBoard is an aspiring writer who just wants others to find enjoyment in his work. Even though he lacks publication and experience, he hopes his work will have an impact. He has a passion for horror and finds it the most interesting genre to write.
Cause of Death
Sometimes, as I stand on the platform waiting for the underground train, I wonder about all the lives that have been lost at this station. In the last five years, there have been sixteen deaths. The authorities aren’t sure if they were murders, suicides or accidents. At rush hour the platform gets very crowded and the CCTV is useless. I won’t ever tell, but I know the cause of ten of those deaths. I like to have a little fun on the way home and it’s so easy, just a gentle nudge. But I wonder, who killed the other six?
R. J. Meldrum is an author and academic. Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010. He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Smoking Pen Press and James Ward Kirk Fiction. He is an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.
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