Valentine’s Day. The ultimate Hallmark holiday which has taken over consumerism to allow us to show our love, lust, and obsessions over one another. Also a holiday created to possibly adopt and take over the pagan holiday Lupercalia. It’s that one on February 15th where an order of Roman priests would sacrifice a goat and dog, take their hides, drench them in the sacrificial blood, and take to the strips to lightly slap women and crop fields with them to increase fertility and harvest yields.

So that was a thing.

With the crazy shenanigans which gave birth to what is now a consumer-driven holiday in mind I’m sure you can expect some fun readings in the works below about love and loss.

Enjoy!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Dear Valentine (A Twisted Valentine’s Day Love Story)

Dear Valentine,

How could you?

When you suggested we try some role-playing for Valentine’s Day, I thought you’d taken it a little too far. I didn’t think you were into cosplay, and honestly, it’d never really turned me on. And then when you brought home that Roman Emperor costume a few days before the 14th, I began to reconsider. The more I thought about it, well—I just knew I’d get to play your concubine, and you’d make me do very naughty things that your wife would never do.

I agree our affair had gone a little stale; it wasn’t nearly as much fun as when we only had the odd afternoon to sneak into bed. But then your wife kicked you out and you moved in with me. It happened quickly, and the excitement dulled soon afterwards. I often wondered if you’d go back to your wife if—rather, when—we decided to call it quits.

But this—this was something new. When you said you’d had to special-order my costume, I was even more intrigued. Something special, you said. Something I’d remember for the rest of my life.

After you’d left the next morning, I had to take another look. I trailed my fingers over the metal breastplate, and imagined it cool and hard against my skin. Your toga was a deep purple silk, with gold embroidered wreathes dancing at its edges. I took it in my palms and drew it across my face. I inhaled, imagining the ecstasy of our clandestine Roman encounter. And the sword and sheath…it was heavy, like solid gold, in my hand. Carefully, I pulled the sword from its metal sheath and ran my thumb across its blade. I hoped you’d hold it up to my throat and force me to be subservient. I’d never imagined this type of thing…but now I simply couldn’t stop.

For two days, I peppered you with questions and asked how I should prepare. I guess I got a little sulky when you wouldn’t tell me, but I thought my lippy pout might encourage a hint from you…it certainly used to get your attention, in fact, you used to like it. You didn’t bite; instead, you became increasingly irritated with me. But I was determined to make our Valentine’s Day as naughty as possible, and I kept imagining how aroused you’d be once you saw me as your concubine.

On Valentine’s Day morning, my costume still hadn’t arrived. You kissed me and told me not to worry, that it was being delivered to your office that day.

I busied myself around the house all day, chilling champagne, putting fresh sheets on the bed, enjoying a luxurious sweet-smelling bath. I was ready to be conquered.

You walked in with a strange, excited smile. I ran to you and grabbed the gift-wrapped box from under your arm, giggling with nervous anticipation. Impatient now, I undid the ribbon and clawed apart the wrapping. I lifted the box top and pulled the tissue paper aside to discover only a white linen tunic and a rusty-red cloak. A pair of leather, fisherman-type sandals. A large, wooden crucifix on a jute cord. This wasn’t at all what I’d imagined—where were the silks, the slippers…the jewelry?

I know I must have looked disappointed as I tossed my costume to the floor. Well, I was a little irked…this wasn’t sexy at all! How did you expect I’d respond?

Trust me, you said. Put it on. We’re about to pretend today is the first Valentine’s Day ever…it’ll be exhilarating, I guarantee you. Now, I want this to be a surprise, you explained, so I’m going to dress in the bedroom, and you can use the bathroom to get ready.

I grudgingly picked up the tunic, the cloak, the sandals and the crucifix and slowly shuffled to the bath. This wasn’t at all what I expected. But I hoped we could still create a mood and save the evening.

First, I pulled the tunic over my head. It fit well but was rough against my naked chest; optimistically, I convinced myself I wouldn’t be wearing it very long. Surprisingly, the cloak was the right length, and the sandals were my size. Clearly, you’d put significant thought into this. As I slipped the crucifix over my head, I looked at my reflection in the mirror. What a strange juxtaposition this was, my ill-prepared whore’s makeup and these religious togs. I wondered if this was meant to be what St. Valentine actually looked like.

I exited the bathroom, a little unsure of what was to happen next. But when you saw me, you smiled that strange smile again, and drew me closer. Let me look at you, you said. Yes, you’re perfect. It’s perfect.

And you, of course, were magnificent. The metal breastplate, your toga, your belt and gold sheath—it was perfect. But still, I didn’t understand the meaning of our role-play.

I asked you, why St. Valentine? Why wasn’t I your concubine, like I’d imagined?

You held me close, then led me to a kitchen stool. Sit here and I’ll explain, you said, and I did as requested.

Let me tell you the story of St. Valentine, you continued. And you proceeded to explain the relationship between Emperor Caligula and St. Valentine, and how Caligula tortured the saint for his insistence on marrying young Christians in love. In the end, you added, after horrible beatings, Caligula finally decapitated St. Valentine.

I can only imagine the expression on my face upon receiving the history lesson. You didn’t seem surprised at my reaction, though. I sat, puzzled and rather terrified by the tale.

Why would you tell me such a gruesome story? I asked. I think it’s horrible. And besides, this is Valentine’s Day—a day for love and romance! Where’s the romance in this entire…charade?

You stood behind me, and whispered in my ear. Well, you said, that’s the funny thing; it is romantic, strangely enough…see, my wife and I have been seeing each other again…and we’re getting back together.

I suppose I will never forget this moment, I thought. And then I heard the metallic zing of your sword being pulled from its sheath.

 

 

 

Cat Kenwell

Cat Kenwell is a writer, mediator and adjudicator living with a brain injury. Her work has appeared in Brainstorm Revolution and Chicken Soup for the Soul, and she is a contributor to Trembling with Fear. She’s currently writing a ‘real-life-horror-story’ comedy based on her experiences with PTSD and post-concussion syndrome. www.catherinekenwell.com

Sinking Hearts

Rose sat on the grassy ledge of the river, legs dangling over the side, throwing conversation hearts one-by-one from the bag and into the water. Primarily the “Marry Me,” “Soulmate,” “4Ever” ones, but never the purple ones no matter what the phrase. She was too selfish in her love for that flavor to get rid of them, even for this cause. And it was a cause—you do have to be mad to throw away your favorite candy. Maybe the fish would enjoy a treat. She’d give them an even bigger treat if Josh wasn’t careful.

Watching each candy plunge to its depths as the river rolled swiftly by, she tilted her head back and let the cool, damp air surround her. Winter’s leftovers melted into mud and puddles in anticipation of an early spring, but her heart was having a hard time thawing out these days. She crunched a few candies with the back of her teeth, letting the sugar give her a rush.

Josh had been gone for two days. He was drinking again. Heavily. Their little two-bedroom home in the woods felt lonely with just her cat for company, but worst of all, she didn’t even know if he was alive or dead. Of course, if he was there with her and drunk, she might be sporting a black eye too, for something as little as asking him to bag up the trash. It was an ominous feeling that put walls around her heart. Once, she had hopes for their future—a wedding, a child, a bigger place with city water and not just the backwoods rainwater collection method that never really got her hair clean.

It was Valentine’s Day and where was her romance? At the bottom of the cesspool of life; at the bottom of the river like the candy. She was angry because in the days before Josh left, he had been fighting with her again too. Addicts liked to scream at their loved ones as their carnal needs would rise, and she knew it, but she hated feeling so inadequate. The dinner was just a little overcooked. His t-shirt wasn’t folded correctly. She smiled too much. His ire rose and with it her anxiety. But he was always right of course, it was always her fault. She rolled her eyes.

Lost in the flashbacks of her mind, it took her a minute to realize something was moving across the river and into the brush behind the forest. Easily could be a hunter or fisherman, but there wasn’t really anyone out doing those things yet. Plus, she saw flesh. That’s what made her do a double take. It was about thirty degrees and she was cold in her jeans, flannel, heavy sweater, and beanie, which was situated over her long, curly, brown hair. She had the sleeves of her flannel pulled over her hands, cradling the open candy bag in her lap.

Chalking it up to it being a crazy in the trees (one would have to be crazy to be partly naked in the woods in this temperature), and hoping they weren’t contemplating jumping into the high rising river, she grabbed the bag out of her lap with her fingers and stood up. As angry as she was, she needed to walk. It was a mile back and she’d take her time with her thoughts. She turned around, the flesh flashing right before her eyes before she could register, and she screamed.

“Shhh-shhhh,” said a red-haired woman, wearing just a cream, sheaf dress. It had a strap just over the left shoulder, so the right shoulder was completely bare, freckles and all. Her nipples protruded through the bodice so she must be cold, even if she didn’t act like it in any other way. “You must stop screaming, Imma not gonna hurt you, lovey. But come with me. Quickly.”

She looked down to see the woman was also barefoot, then glanced at her face again, searching for answers. She was frantically worried if she was mentally ill or high on some sort of substance. “Are you ok?” she finally asked her. “Aren’t your feet at least cold?”

“Imma feel nothing, dearest,” she said. “Imma used the natural world on ma feet and a chill in the air. Now cmon with me, I have something to show you. Imma Scarlet. I promise, you don’t have to be ah-fraid.”

Curiosity was getting the best of her, and she didn’t know what she really had to lose anymore, so she took her hand and followed along behind the half-dancing woman. “Life circles around and never begins but only defines and draws lines and then we dance,” said the woman. “Dancing is the best part.”

“Um—ok?” said Rose, looking confused but carrying on. “My name’s Rose. Nice to meet you, Scarlet”

“Oh I knows you Rose, lovey,” Scarlet said. “And what ta beautiful name tis, too.”

“Wh-hat?” Rose said. “How do you know my name?”

“Shhh-shhh, child,” Scarlet said. “We have more important things to discuss.” She started to pull Rose into a run. They ran down the side of the river, but at the shallow pass, Scarlet led Rose into the water with her, making them wade together across and into the forest. They continued to run; she pushed branch after branch away from her face with her free hand and was glad she had jeans on as a buffer against the dead mess of the forest. She had no idea how Scarlet was not being torn alive with bare legs and feet.

Finally, they came upon some sort of clearing, circular, and she could see candles and firelight flickering around her. Smoke like fog was dancing around the area making everything appear hazy, but she could see more flesh, more cream dresses and long hair, and arms waving in rhythmic movement. Light, soft chanting and a cadence-like drumbeat sounded, reverberating among the woodland amphitheater. Rose thought it was a scene out of one of her horror novels and stood in wonder at the display. Almost speechless, then verbally vomiting.

“Wh-what the hell is all this, Scarlet?” Rose said. “You ladies sure party different than us—back of pick-up truck, Bud Light, and Doritos, kicked back under the stars…or sometimes…”

“Shhhh-shhh,” Scarlet said. “Imma told you, I have things to show you and things to discuss. There won’t be none more of those lazy nights in the pick-up, make-up sex after he’s been missing on ya for days, kisses after he’s screamed bloody murder at ya for an hour. Enough is enough, and if ya don’t know what’s good for ya, we do.”

As they wound their way through the women congregated in groups and speaking in hushed tones and around those dancing to the beat, she saw they weren’t only dancing around a bonfire, but around a man upside down, naked and hog-tied with a gag in his mouth, being roasted over the main fire. His eyes were wide, hollow, and then all at once, alive and pleading as they locked on Rose.

She smiled over to Scarlet, then opened her conversation heart bag and ate them one by one. Every single one of them while she watched him burn.

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has twenty years of experience in the communication and marketing fields and is currently an author, writer, journalist, publicist, and an editor, primarily in the publishing industry, among many other things.

Breathe. Breathe., published by Unnerving in 2017, is her debut collection of dark poetry and short stories and was an Amazon best-selling paid title, debuting at #2 in Hot New Releases in Women’s Poetry and holding in the top ten of horror short stories. Her work has been called raw, honest, evocative, and beautiful by reviewers and readers alike. She has poems and stories featured in several other anthologies and magazines and was the co-curating editor for the gothic anthology Haunted are these Houses.

Born in England, America has now been her home most of her life, from where she continues to write from the forests of Ohio.

You can e-mail her at hookofabook (at) hotmail (dot) com and find her easily at her website Oh, for the Hook of a Book!, Amazon, or GoodReads. You’ll also find her on Facebook, Twitter (@erinalmehairi), and Instagram.

Stupid Cupid

Kevin scratched the starfish-shaped diaper rash on his left buttock with the head of his arrow.

“I’ll show them,” he told his short bow, temerity tinting the tone of his voice like the tangerine-colored stain on his diaper.

Kevin sat on a rooftop across the street, spying on a man and a woman through their window.

His target was the man.

The woman was in love with him, and the two were about to have sex for the first time.

It would be Kevin’s arrow that would transform the “sex” into “making love” for the man.

This was Kevin’s first mission as a Cupid, and it was the easiest of all missions, because it was a Valentine’s Day mission.

No way he could screw up this one.

However, the childish, chunky cherub was churlish because administrators at the University of Eros delayed his graduation, forcing him to suffer the humiliation of attending remedial education classes, or what the other Cupids called Diaper Day School.

That was where he and his other classmates were dubbed Stupid Cupids.

 “I’ll show them,” Kevin grumbled again, now using the arrow to dislodge a chunk of something soft and yellow from his swollen belly button.

Is that cheese? Kevin wondered before taking a nibble.

Yep. It was Gouda. I love cheese.

Kevin noticed the couple was undressing.

“Damn it, Kevin, focus,” he chided himself.

Kevin adjusted his tiny white wings, nocked his arrow, and aimed at the man’s heart.

Steady.

Breathe.

Kevin fired the Cupid’s arrow.

The arrow, invisible to humans, flew through the window.

Kevin smiled, exposing his two front teeth, which made him appear like a weird-looking beaver.

“Bull’s eye, bitches,” he boasted to the breeze, but his comment was directed at the University hecklers who were not there to witness his success.

All Kevin had to do now was sit back and enjoy the show before filing his report.

“What the Hades?” Kevin frowned, his brow furrowed like an angry, although still weird-looking, beaver.

The woman was getting dressed and leaving in a huff.

What’s happening?

Kevin answered his own question when he noticed where the arrow hit.

It was sticking out of the man’s crotch.

Of course, neither human could see it.

“I’m sorry,” the man pleaded as the woman walked out the door. “This has never happened before.”

“Damn it,” Kevin mumbled. “Who knew Cupid’s arrow could melt more than just the heart?”

Kevin stayed on the rooftop and nibbled on Gouda for the rest of the night, wondering how in the world he would ever live this one down.

Lionel Ray Green

Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. His short stories have appeared in the anthologies Alabama’s Emerging Writers, The Heart of a Devil, Fifty Flashes, How Beer Saved the World 2, Graveyard, Frightening, Tales from the Grave, In Creeps the Night, and 22 More Quick Shivers. His short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition All Hallows’ Prose and his short story “A Tale of Two Shards” was third runner-up in the WriterWriter 2018 International Fantasy Competition Phoenix Rising. His work has also appeared in The Poet’s Haven Digest anthology It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, in Issue 1 of Cross+Decay magazine, and in the 2017 issue of From the Depths magazine as well as in Trembling With Fear, an online feature of the Horror Tree website.

LINK:

lionelraygreen.wordpress.com

XOXO

Always wash your hands. The most important rule of using public restrooms. She fumbled with the automatic faucets sensor. Scarlet matter swirled the drain with each ration of water. Valentine’s Day had gifted her with a surprise date, and here she was spending it in the bathroom. A clear indication it wasn’t going well.

The man in the handicapped stall appeared to be on his knees “worshipping” the porcelain throne. Because that’s how she had positioned his body. He should have never followed her in. Feeling a tad discouraged, she leaned against the tiled wall and huffed. No matter how hard she tried, she kept attracting the same kinds of men.

The kind that couldn’t fathom being hunted while they hunted. She chalked it up to fragile egos. Egos they expected her to stroke. If any of them had bothered to pay closer attention to her, they would have known she wasn’t a fluffer for self-esteem issues. It was just her rotten luck she couldn’t get a more observant man on the hook.

Romance might be dead, but at least she had a date to observe this day of love and death with. Yes, death. How easily we tend to forget the massacre that birthed this holiday. Bloodshed was merely another method of celebration.

Disappointment lurked in the outskirts of her conscious mind as she regarded her suitor’s carefully posed form.  No. She thought, shaking the feeling away. Today would not be ruined. She tossed a small heart-shaped valentine at the man’s feet. It may not have been a love connection, but it was still fun. So very kind of him to show her a good time.

She touched up her lipstick and smirked before heading out the door. At least I have a type. She told herself.

 

Erin Moore

Erin Moore is an aspiring horror author. She hopes to one day scare the pants off of her readers for a living instead of as a hobby. You can find her on twitter at: https://twitter.com/Blue86X

A Perfect Night

“Tonight has been perfect. I can’t believe you cooked dinner for me.”

 

“Anything for you, my love. But the night isn’t over yet. One final surprise.”

 

“What? This is too much.”

 

“Well, I can’t quite return this gift. You’ll love it. I promise.”

 

“Alright. Lay it on me.”

 

“Close your eyes and put out your hands.”

 

“I give up. What smells funky and is squishy all over?”

 

“Open your eyes.”

 

Screams “What th-.”

 

“I deliver to you, my lady, the head of your lover. He will keep you company seeing as I wasn’t satisfactory enough for you. Goodbye, my love.”

Andrea Allison

Andrea Allison currently resides in a small uneventful town located in Oklahoma after moving from a small uneventful town in Texas. She is an author who enjoys writing horror of all varieties and her work has appeared both online and in print.

You can visit her website at www.andreallison.com.

Alas, my heart…

You told me how you loved me, how we would be with each other until

our dying day.

I guess you failed to see just how twisted I can be.

You once said how you loved my mind, it intrigued you like none other.

Now you say you want it to be over. As if I never mattered.

You stand there hatred on your face, how did I ever think I loved you?

I thought it was everlasting love.

I guess I was wrong, I pull the trigger. I loved you until your dying day.

Guess today my love ends.

Kim Plasket

Kim Plasket is a Jersey girl at heart relocated to sunny Florida. She enjoys writing mainly horror and paranormal stories and lives with her husband and 2 kids. When she is not slaving away at her day job, she can be found drinking coffee with fellow author Valerie Willis and planning the demise of some poor character. Currently she has several short stories featured in anthologies such as ‘Demonic Wildlife’ and ‘The Hunted’, also has a story in an Anthology Titled Fireflies and Fairy dust she also has had a story featured in Shades of Santa with more to come.

https://www.facebook.com/Kim-Plasket-Author-1388808427906955/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B074YCLRCF

Candlelit

Grandmother’s antique candelabra completes the mood for any romantic dinner. Its cold, gold curves and hooked arms shimmer to dancing licks of flame. The cherished heirloom remains a symbol to the matriarchal wisdom and beauty of our family.

On February 14th, 1950, Grandmother used it to bash the skull of my tyrannical grandfather.

In 1985, Mother ignited my deadbeat father’s alcohol-soaked shirt with its hypnotic fire.

Tonight, I’ve secured a vial of deadly ricin beneath a hollow candle. I’ll slip it in my clever husband’s anniversary champagne, collect the insurance, and tell our daughter the tale every night before bed.

Kevin M. Folliard

Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, as well as adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, and more. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Street Fighter, or traveling the U.S.A.

 

Author Website: www.KevinFolliard.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kevinfolliard

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kmfollia

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kmfollia/

Contaminated Hearts

Amber placed the candy hearts on the bench, checked that the coach’s room light was off and dashed down the hallway to the library. Rhythmically shelving books she barely heard the sirens, and feigned shock when Sandy rushed in sobbing “the entire volleyball team is really sick”. 

Sticking around long enough to assuage suspicion she rushed home, up the stairs past her snoring mom. The headlines were about ‘a tragic case of fentanyl poisoning in the suburbs”, nothing about the coach’s Valentine, nothing about field trip pictures. Was it too late to deliver a heart shaped pizza to the principal?

Roxy Thomas

Roxy Thomas, an aspiring writer in the horror and paranormal genre by evening and a psychiatric nurse and safety specialist by day.

She has published a personal essay in my city newspaper and non-fiction pieces on the topic of mental health in a small town weekly. She has been published in TWF and in CafeLit.

You can find her on Twitter https://twitter.com/roxythomas , Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pg/storiesbyroxy/about/?ref=page_internal ,

Goodreads  https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/91462444-roxy-thomas and through my website/blog https://storiesbyroxy.com/

Swipe Right

I liked your face so I swiped right.

I liked your style so I swiped right.

You flattered me to no end so I swiped right.

Your smile sent my heart to flutter so I

swiped right.

Your touch made me want you more, so I

swiped right.

You told me how you loved me so I swiped

right.

You turned out to be more twisted than I

could imagine so I swiped right.

My heart grew bitter as I saw who you really were.

With one final scream, I use my knife and swipe left.

Never again to swipe right.

Kim Plasket

Kim Plasket is a Jersey girl at heart relocated to sunny Florida. She enjoys writing mainly horror and paranormal stories and lives with her husband and 2 kids. When she is not slaving away at her day job, she can be found drinking coffee with fellow author Valerie Willis and planning the demise of some poor character. Currently she has several short stories featured in anthologies such as ‘Demonic Wildlife’ and ‘The Hunted’, also has a story in an Anthology Titled Fireflies and Fairy dust she also has had a story featured in Shades of Santa with more to come.

https://www.facebook.com/Kim-Plasket-Author-1388808427906955/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B074YCLRCF

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