Trembling With Fear 02/12/2017
‘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.
By: RJ Meldrum
The soldier slid into the shell crater, gasping with the exertion of running. Despite the stagnant water and the company of shattered corpses he was happy to be there, protected from the bullets and shells that clipped the earth above him. He had no gun, his Mauser had been discarded during the flight from the Russians. He cursed his luck.
His battalion had tried to push forward that morning, attempting to seize a nameless village on the Russian steppe. All they’d taken with them were a few Spandaus; the officers had only expected to encounter infantry, perhaps a few mortars at worst. Instead they’d met armoured resistance; T-34’s. They were repulsed with heavy losses.
He’d got detached from his squad; somewhere in the scramble to escape, in the smoke, noise and dust, he’d taken the wrong turn and now he was behind the enemy advance. He was a dead man; the Russians would show him no mercy, just as he showed none to the Russians.
He daren’t even peek out of the crater. He could hear shouts in Russian, the thump of boots and the squeak of tank treads. Sliding to the bottom, he feigned death, praying he would be overlooked. He fell into a deep sleep, despite the cold and fear.
It was night when he woke. The world around him was silent, foggy and pitch black. He assessed his situation. Clearly the war had moved on. He had no idea if the Germans had advanced or if he was behind the Russian lines. Stranded, his only option was to try to make his way towards his own troops. But which way to go? The wrong choice would be fatal.
A snuffling from the crater edge raised the hairs on his neck. Feral dogs would often eat corpses and sometimes, if they were hungry enough, they would kill wounded men. He wasn’t wounded, but he had no weapon to defend himself with.
There was a familiar howl from above.
“Rudi?” he asked in amazement.
There was an answering bark, the sound of scrambling and then a dark shape jumped into his arms. He felt a warm tongue on his face.
“Rudi! It’s you. You found me!”
He felt a huge sense of relief. Rudi was a stray dog the soldier had picked up abut two months before. He’d been abandoned in a deserted village. Rudi loved his new master and followed him everywhere. Well, almost everywhere; the solider always left Rudi with the battalion cook when the troops advanced, the soldier didn’t want him in harm’s way.
“Rudi, do know the way back to camp?”
There was a bark in response. It sounded like yes.
“Let’s go, take me back!”
The pair left the crater and headed down the road. The soldier saw that the Russian advance had clearly faltered. The road was strewn with wrecked T-34s and corpses in brown uniforms. It made the soldier feel happy to see so many of the enemy dead; that meant his comrades had had the strength to counter attack. It meant they were probably still in the area. The soldier had a chance of surviving this night. He placed his hand onto Rudi’s back, feeling fur and muscle. It was comforting, it gave him the courage to keep going.
Suddenly Rudi stopped, his hackles rising. He was looking in the direction they were travelling. The solider strained to see what had alerted his companion, but it was just too dark. The silence was unnerving. There was a sudden clink of metal; the soldier recognised the sound, it was a rifle being loaded. Soldiers were moving in the darkness in front of him, but what uniform did they wear? Rudi bared his teeth. The soldier decided to trust him, moving off the road and into the undergrowth. He was just in time.
Only a minute or so later, two Russians crept past, their eyes nervously sweeping the road. Survivors, just like him. One clutched a rifle, the other a machine gun. The solider backed further into the undergrowth, fearing he would be spotted. His boot knocked against something metallic. The Russian holding the machine gun uttered a guttural curse and spun round to stare into the bushes. For a second he was clearly unsure about whether to fire, but then he lifted his weapon. Rudi, his body a blur, leapt from his hiding place and attacked. The Russian had no time to react before Rudi was at his throat, pulling and ripping. Huge spurts of arterial blood sprayed Rudi. The other Russian raised his rifle. He fired once, then again. Rudi fell to the ground. The solider, still kneeling in the undergrowth, knew the Russian couldn’t have missed at that range. Rudi was dead. He felt a huge surge of anger. Launching himself from the undergrowth, he smashed into the Russian, knocking him over. He grabbed a piece of metal and hit the Russian with all his might. It was over in seconds.
The soldier, his vengeance satisfied, turned to find Rudi; he deserved a decent burial. To his amazement, Rudi was standing, but his fur was covered in blood. Fearing the worst, the soldier knelt and held his companion, his hands running up and down the dog’s body. There were no wounds and the solider suddenly realised that the blood belonged to the Russian. Tears rolled down his face.
“I could have sworn he’d got you, Rudi. He was just so close. It’s a miracle.”
Rudi licked his face.
The rest of their journey was uneventful. The soldier found his comrades camped about four kilometres from the village. He called to the sentries and was allowed to enter, with Rudi at his side. He was greeted warmly, they thought he’d been killed. But the joy he felt at his safe return wasn’t to last. His squad leader took him to one side, his face serious.
“I have bad news, kamerad.”
“I’m sorry. Your dog was killed just after we left this morning. A stray shell hit the camp kitchen.”
“That can’t be. He’s with me now. He came and found me, just an hour ago. He protected me, saved my life. He brought me back to the camp.”
The squad leader pointed to a small shape, covered with a burlap sheet. A paw stuck out from one side. It was Rudi. The soldier looked down, there was no longer a dog by his side. He knelt by the body of his friend, feeling a grief that can only be experienced when a beloved animal dies. The words sung over the graves of fallen comrades came into his head. Ich hatte einen Kamerdan. As he wept a wet nose touched his hand. He reached out and felt familiar soft fur. The soldier smiled, grieving no longer. Amidst this hellish conflict he felt a brief moment of joy. He hadn’t lost his best friend. Rudi would be by his side forever.
R. J. Meldrum is an author and academic. Born in Scotland, he moved to Canada in 2010 where he now lives in splendid isolation in rural Ontario with his wife, Sally. His interest in the supernatural and ghostly is a lifetime obsession and when he isn’t writing or teaching, he is busy working to increase his collection of rare and vintage supernatural books. He has had stories published by Horrified Press, Sirens Call Publications and James Ward Kirk Fiction.
You can find out more about R.J. at http://wolfstarpublishing.com/meldrum/.
The Tender Spot
By: Andy Brown
I’d been picking at it for a week when it really started to throb.
Just a spot on my leg… More a boil, really…
I had to do something about it so I squeezed it hard.
It just throbbed more.
I squeezed it again and it burst open. Pus squirted out and poured onto my leg, yellow and foul smelling…
I dabbed at it with an antiseptic tissue, mopping up the pus and the blood.
There was a moment of huge relief as the throbbing lessened.
Then I saw the eyeball…
It looked out from the open wound… At me…
Andy Brown is a professional musician who occasionally dips the smallest of his toes into the huge pool of writing…A horror, sci-fi and fantasy fan since he was a tiny child, he still loves the genres although he could in no way be described as “tiny” any more…
By: Hillary Lyon
“Granny Gwen, who is the man in this picture?”
“Let me see, child. There’s your brother Montgomery, and Mommy,” Gwen said, tracing her finger along the old photo.
“But who’s that man standing next to Mommy? Daddy?”
“No, hon. That gentleman is Mr. Scratch.” Granny Gwen sighed and smiled knowingly. She returned the heavy silver frame to the gold-gilt Louis XV curio cabinet.
“Is he family?” The girl frowned. “And since when do I have a brother?”
“No, dear, he’s the devil.”
The little girl gasped.
“We made a deal and traded up. How do you think we got here?”
Hillary Lyon lives in southern Arizona, where she is the founder and editor
for Subsynchronous Press. Her stories have appeared recently in Black
Petals, 365 Tomorrows, Night to Dawn, Eternal Haunted Summer and numerous
horror anthologies. Since childhood, she’s loved all things frisson-y.
You can find out more about Hillary at: hillarylyon.wordpress.com.
By: Jennifer Canaveral
The newlyweds sat against a spruce tree, the glow of lunar light shining down on their weakened bodies. A romantic romp in the Alaskan wilderness gone awry after fresh snow covered their tracks back to their cabin. Two days passed. Still lost.
Her husband snuck their last energy bar without her knowing. He forgot it had peanuts. He forgot his injectable epinephrine.
His agonal breathing echoed throughout the forest, drawing shadows into the moonlight. Sets of yellow eyes emerged from the trees and surrounded the couple. They don’t eat humans, the wife thought, but they looked famished. They looked merciless.
Jennifer Canaveral is an aspiring writer from San Francisco, CA. She is a veteran of the US Coast Guard, where she served nine years. After spending time as a sailor and as a corpsmen, she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of writing. She has had a short story published through *Sanitarium Magazine* as well as a flash fiction piece on the website, Friday Flash Fiction. She currently lives in Kodiak, Alaska with her husband and three children.
The Real Bogey Man
By: Liz Butcher
Quillon crouched in the darkest corner of the room, hidden from sight.
Though weak, he knew the boy still sensed his presence. He could see him trembling under the bed covers, too scared to tear his gaze from where the monster hid in the shadows.
Quillon welcomed the fear, it strengthened him and as it came to him in waves, he felt himself grow stronger, taller.
The rapid pounding of the boy’s heart was music to his ears as he stretched his arms out, scratching his nails against the walls.
With a guttural growl, he lunged, welcoming the boy’s screams.
Liz Butcher resides in Brisbane, Australia, with her husband, daughter, and two cats, Pandora and Zeus. While writing is her passion, her numerous interests include psychology, history, astronomy, the paranormal, mythology, reading, art and music – all which help fuel her imagination. She also loves being out in nature, especially amongst the trees or near the water. Liz has published a number of short stories in anthologies and currently has a multitude of projects in the works including her upcoming novel, ‘Fates Revenge’.
You can find out more about Liz at her homepage.