Success in writing is something we all aspire to and when we achieve it, we want to celebrate and make that elusive golden moment last longer but … writers are their own worst enemies. When rejection appears, hot on the heels of success, what do we do? We dwell on failure and allow the success to fade into the background, tell ourselves we’re not good enough, nurse the embers of self-doubt back into a roaring fire. We need to get past this and make those golden moments last a little longer, and TWF can help you do that. Let me know of your successes, drop me a line about a shortlist, a win, a publication, even a wonderful rejection or taking the plunge in a new writing venture and I’ll include it in the editorial. Send in a photo as well if you have one. TWF has become a great little community and I’d like to celebrate that more in these pages.
I’d like to request some drabbles for those who don’t usually contribute. We’ve got a stockpile of our regulars at the moment (and try to only do one per author per month) and would like to expand what is available if possible. Thanks all!
‘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.
A Second Hand Haunting
“Used Tombstone for sale.” The ad drew her eye.
“Here read this Luke.” Roxy’s red painted fingernail jabbed at the newspaper.
Luke was busy feeding the seagulls, “Big buggers these gulls,” he muttered.
It was the third day of their mini holiday to Bridlington. Luke couldn’t wait to get home. His Roxy had done nothing but sulk, moan and eat since they’d arrived. Why couldn’t she just enjoy herself? He watched her forcing more chips between her pink glossy lips.
“I’ll ring up about it.”
Luke eye balled the nearest gull who losing the staring match, flew away. Around them couples huddled under umbrellas, swaddled in macs and plastic rain hats. The tinny sounds of the arcade blared out but no one was on the rides.
Roxy was dialling her mobile, eyes narrowed, chin stuck out. Luke recognised the look. He sighed.
“Hiya? I’m interested in buying the tombstone in the ad. Yeah. Right.”
She’d put on her posh phone voice, he noticed.
“OK, yes – 15 Havelock Street. We’ll be round soonish.”
She rang off and turned beaming to face Luke.
“It’ s a bargain at a fiver. Said to come straight over.” She stood up thrusting the chip wrappings aside.
Luke gazed at her nonplussed. “You’re kidding love? What are you going to use a tombstone for?”
Roxy shrugged, her eyes blank and her hair dripping round her face. “Garden ornament?”
“We live in a terrace with a yard!”
Roxy was teetering along the pier in her high heels, her mac clinging to her. Behind her something thin and grey slithered. Luke blinked hard.
It’s just the dirty rain water running down the drains, he thought.
They took half an hour to find 15 Havelock Street. It was a thin sliver of a house tucked away in a nest of others, which looked derelict but a faint light shone in an upstairs window.
“Hardly ‘Ideal Home’ material,” Luke joked.
Roxy ignored him and knocked on the front door. She’d barely spoken on the walk over. The door opened a crack; one eye and a portion of cheek appeared. One was bloodshot, the other grey and dirty.
“What do yer want?”
Roxy hesitated, “We’ve come about the ad.”
“Show us the fiver.” A bony hand wriggled through the gap.
Roxy flashed the fiver but held it too far away from the grasping fingers.
“OK then. You’d better come in.”
Luke didn’t want to go in. His gut feeling told him no. Roxy stepped forward and he had to follow her. Even if she could be a moody mare he loved her.
“It’s in here.” The woman was wizened, scrawny and unkempt.
She pushed open the door to the front room and propped against the dead icy fireplace was the grey granite tombstone of the newspaper ad; the room’s sole item, in a space bereft of any furniture or decoration. There were marks scratched on the stone, but worn and illegible.
“Looks old,” said Luke.
Roxy stood transfixed, staring wide eyed at the stone. She walked across the grimy lino to touch the granite with gentle probing fingers, whispering under her breath and shaking her head. Luke didn’t know what was wrong with her.
“It’s a good un,” announced the lady of the house.
“We’ll take it,” Roxy stated firmly. Luke couldn’t believe what he’d just heard.
“Hang on a minute luv. How are we going to move it?”
“Well very, very carefully and with respect.” Roxy replied. She didn’t have a smile on her face either. Her eyes looked shiny too.
Upstairs something thudded or landed on the bare boards. No carpets in this house. The old woman jerked her head upwards.
She looked rattled, Luke thought, Why?
“Better hurry and take it then.”
The sounds grew louder and more forceful. Luke realised something or someone was dragging themselves across the room. Stop, thud, shuffle, slither. Stop, thud, shuffle.
“Shouldn’t you go and help them?” he asked.
The woman looked amazed. “Why in blazes would I do that? He don’t need my help now any road.”
Roxy was stroking the stone, “Grab one end Luke.”
Luke bent and did as Roxy said. The tombstone was not as heavy as he’d guestimated but still heavy enough. He felt his lower lumbar crack.
A low moaning cry could be heard coming from upstairs. When they lifted the tombstone, a flurry of bugs scurried from underneath, fleeing for the dark corners. Luke nearly dropped the stone when he spotted them.
“Um Mrs – er are you sure they’re OK upstairs?” He nodded to the ceiling.
The woman turned her tiny monkey face towards him and he shuddered at her toothless gape. Hadn’t she been to an NHS dentist in her life?
“Best keep moving if you know what’s good for yer.”
Roxy was labouring as he’d never seen before, edging along the narrow hallway, sweating whilst heading for the doorway. Luke wanted to rest and peek up the stairs. He sensed a presence on the top landing and now could hear a wheezing hiss, like a balloon deflating.
“Don’t stop Luke!” Roxy said, “Keep going.”
Above them came a thump, a rustle and the sound of a foot hitting the top wooden stair board.
“Nearly there. Hurry!” The old woman urged them on.
Roxy reversed out the open front door, chipping the woodwork but keeping her grip on the stone’s edges. Whatever was descending the stairs was halfway down. Luke could smell fresh earth as if the garden had been dug. Confused he looked down at the stone paving flags in the front yard. No sign of digging there. The old woman pushed them on like they were horses. As soon as his heel was over the threshold she slammed the door on him. While he paused for breath, he heard the sound of finger nails raking the wooden door before an eldritch screech pealed out. He shuddered.
Luke and Roxy slumped on the pavement gasping, both shiny with sweat. They cuddled the tombstone between them like a granite baby they wanted to adopt.
“Wonderful holiday this is turning into!” Luke couldn’t help himself.
Roxy white faced, eyes wet, hissed, “I had to have it. Look it’s got my name on it.”
Luke followed her pointing finger. He didn’t understand what she meant. He made out only scrawls and faint markings where years ago letters had been.
Roxy shook her head, her make-up had rubbed away. She looked both younger and older in the street lighting. Luke felt his stomach flip flop with love.
“Don’t mess with me. Can’t you see? It says ‘Roxanne Stewart -born 16 September 198- taken too soon from us- 29 October 20–’”
They stared at each other, confused and anxious. Behind their backs the house stood silent and seemingly uninhabited. Neither of them wanted to knock and ask the old crone for answers.
“Are you sure Roxy?” Luke didn’t know what to say. Roxy began to cry.
They sat huddled holding hands, encased in their own thoughts. Luke kept remembering the sound of stumbling feet and the smell of fresh earth. Who had been upstairs? Or what?
Looking at his distraught girlfriend, he came to a decision, “We’ve gotta get shut of it Roxy. It’s cursed I reckon.”
“What do you mean?” Roxy looked shattered, her skin waxy and stretched thin.
She’s just tired. Luke thought.
“We need a churchyard so we can hide it amongst the other graves.” He Googled the nearest church on his iPhone.
The trip to St James’ was long and tiring. They part carried, part dragged the stone, making numerous rest stops. The tiny church had a lovely location, near a local school and open fields. Between them they manhandled the tombstone through the long grass and wedged it face down in a corner, leaving it lying on its own. Isolated.
Roxy was on the point of collapse; her nails chipped and broken, her tights laddered and she was limping. Luke held her up on the walk back and hauled her into bed in the chintzy room at the B&B just before dawn. He half noticed a thin grey shape slither through the doorway after them, reminding Luke of the greyhounds his Dad betted on, but tiredness won. He let sleep smother him.
Hours later when he woke, the clock said 2pm and the rain was jack hammering the streets of Bridlington. He stretched and kicked out, every ache in his joints reminding him of the physical labour he’d done.
Roxy was a hump under the flowery duvet. He stretched out his hand but froze in mid gesture. He felt a chill coming from her body. Tugging off the duvet he found her lying on her side. Her skin blanched to the colour of candle wax and a grey caulk cradled her body. His screams brought the landlady to his door. The holiday was officially finished.
Alyson lives in West Yorkshire with her family and 3 rescue cats. She teaches creative writing classes, writes noir Flash Fiction and ghost stories. She is one of the writers in ‘Women in Horror Annual 2’, in Raging Aardvark’s ‘Twisted Tales’, her stories can be downloaded at www.alfiedog.com as well as being available on various sites like zeroflash/Tubeflash/101 words/three drops from a cauldron. Her debut collection, ‘Badlands’, is due out soon from indie publisher Chapel Town Books.
They’d told Jill to be careful. Working as a biologist in the Amazon could be dangerous. Not to worry, she said. Then, a fruit bat nicked her skin but these were harmless. Now though, she wasn’t so sure.
After two months, she returned to England. She didn’t know why but didn’t like being here anymore. Her husband bothered her, irritated her. She was always thirsty, but water tasted horrible. People were horrible. She wanted to hit, kick, bite them. It was when her husband suggested a doctor, that she began foaming at the mouth, screamed, then lunged for his throat.
Justin Boote is an English ex-pat in Barcelona, Spain for over 20 years, working as a stressed waiter in a busy centrical restaurant, which does at least provide ideas for stories!
All my stories are horror/suspense/supernatural based, trying to combine the influences of King/Barker and James Herbert. To date I have several stories in various publications, and contribute regularly to Deadlights magazine, a wonderful e-zine and paperback publisher.
When not thinking of disturbing ways to avenge nasty clients at work, or writing, you can find me asleep, or at [email protected].
The door to the cellar was unlocked. It was never unlocked. Never. I stood, uncertain. That door always tempted me, but now?
I opened it. Stairs disappeared into darkness. No switch visible.
I took a torch from the drawer and went down the stairs. In its beam, the cellar was boringly normal: cardboard boxes, crates, old chairs. Boring!
Then, the torch flickered, died. Plunging me into darkness. But, I could see the rectangle of light at the top of the stairs. I ran for it.
The door slammed. I reached it. Tried it. The door to the cellar was locked.
DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree), All The Petty Myths (18th Wall), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), What Dwells Below (Sirens Call), The Mad Visions of al-Hazred (Alban Lake), and EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness (Otter Libris), and issues of Sirens Call, Hinnom Magazine, Ravenwood Quarterly, and Weirdbook, and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor).
DJ Tyrer’s website is at http://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/
The Atlantean Publishing website is at http://atlanteanpublishing.blogspot.co.uk/
Throw Away The Key
Irae came from the orphanage with two gifts. Most adoptions don’t have much more than clothes, but their newest addition brought a book and a trunk.
She knew how this would end. She tracked the days, marked oddities, took note of when loving smiles became frowns. When compliments became jabs. When the father bought a gun. When the son used it.
Eight days. One day, she’d find a family that wouldn’t go mad from her presence. One free from evil. She wrote a note: Free to a good home, put it on her trunk, climbed inside, and shut the lid.
Kevin Holton is a cyborg and fitness junkie from coastal New Jersey. He’s the author of At the Hands of Madness (Severed Press), as well as the forthcoming novels The Nightmare King (Siren’s Call Publications) and These Walls Don’t Talk, They Scream (HellBound Books). He also co-wrote the short film Human Report 85616, and his short work has appeared with Sci-Phi Journal, The Literary Hatchet, Radiant Crown Press, Pleiades, Rain Taxi, Mighty Quill Books, and Thunderdome Press, among others. He can also be found acting, blogging with The Bold Mom, or talking about Batman.
I Never Met A Turkey I’d Call A Friend
They gobble and wobble as they walk through the wood.
You may love the taste but they are up to no good.
We claim to devour them just for sandwiches or Thanksgiving.
But we have to slay them for humanity to continue living.
You think that they’re dumb and can drown in the rain.
But their true origins would drive anyone insane.
Experiments by demonic beings who visited the Earth.
A failed attempt at evil to which they gave birth.
If we let them, the turkeys would grow and eradicate us all.
Each nation no matter how great or small.
Your Horror Tree Host, Author, A Father, And General All-Around Crazy Person! (Or just read the bio below!)
- Taking Submissions: Claw & Blossom: Equinox: Stripes - January 28, 2020
- Guest Post: How to Submit a Short Story for Publication: The Complete 10-Step Process - January 28, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Horror USA: Hawaii - January 28, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Untitled Ghost Stories Anthology - January 27, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Horror for Hire - January 27, 2020
- Taking Submissions: In Darkness, Delight: Fear the Future (Volume 3) - January 24, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Untitled Local Oddities Cemetery Gates Anthology - January 23, 2020
- Taking Submissions: A Monster Told Me Bedtime Stories - January 23, 2020
- Taking Submissions: One Story - January 22, 2020
- Ongoing Submissions: Public Domain Fanzine - January 22, 2020