‘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.Stuart Conover
Down to a Sunless Sea
Beneath the playhouse were passages deeper still than any the theatre folk made use of. They lay below the lowest of the property stores in which were held all the sets of costumes and sundry items necessary for the staging of their plays. They lay below even the foundations, stretching down through the earth till they reached the level where water pooled and they could go no deeper.
None had descended the stairs in years. There was no need. Besides, legend spoke of horrid things that flopped wetly in the darkness and of the tall, gaunt phantom that stalked those passageways. Yet, down he dared to go.
He didn’t know why he went. Not exactly. Just felt a strange compulsion. It just felt right as he set foot on the damp steps and cautiously made his way down into the darkness, the wan yellow light of a candle stub his only companion.
The walls were carved with grotesque faces that seemed to turn and leer at him as he passed by, the candlelight flickering horribly across them. He shivered and crossed himself, although he wondered whether the sign had any power here, deep below the earth.
He followed twisting passageways that turned sinuously back upon themselves. He couldn’t bear to halt. It was as if a force were pulling him onwards, downwards. Something flopped wetly past his feet, but he dared not crouch down to discover what made the sound. He knew better than that. Knew to press onward.
Somewhere in the darkness, he imagined he could hear the distant echo of soft footsteps, sometimes nearer, sometimes further away. Did another wander here in these dark tunnels or did he but hear the echo of his own footsteps? Somehow, he knew that was not the answer and that he was not alone. The phantom they spoke of walked here yet.
After many twists and turns and slimy stairs, he found himself in a cavern standing on the shore of a still and silent pool. Restricted to the narrow circle of candlelight, he couldn’t tell if the water was of limited extent or not. For all he could tell, he might have been standing upon the shore of a sunless sea.
He stood there for some minutes as the candle flickered and died. He no longer feared the darkness.
Standing there, he gazed out across the water he could no more see, across that sunless sea. Above him, somewhere, the Play would be beginning, but here, he was the lead in one all his own.
In the distance, somewhere far across the water, he could make out lights. At first, they were small and faint. But the longer he stared, the closer they came and the brighter they glowed. He was certain he gazed upon a city on the far side of an underground lake.
And, as he stood there, he became aware of another presence, not far off. Someone standing upon the shore and staring out at that same city. He barely turned his head, loath to look away from the lights of the city. He thought the figure was tall and gaunt and arrayed in rags, with a face as blank as the masks of drama and comedy.
He stood there beside the phantom of the lakeshore until the two of them were one, merged in their desire for the distant city. A city which seemed to grow ever closer, the longer he looked at it. It was his home, he knew that now. It was what had called him down here, calling him home. And, O! How he longed for it! His heart ached for it.
It was nearer now. So near…
He couldn’t wait any longer, the pull was too strong.
He stepped into the water and waded out till it rose past his knees, his waist, his shoulders, his chin…
He would be home soon. Home, at last…
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), State of Horror: Illinois (Charon Coin Press), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), Tales of the Black Arts (Hazardous Press), Ill-considered Expeditions (April Moon Books), and Sorcery & Sanctity: A Homage to Arthur Machen (Hieroglyphics Press), 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/
Kindness in the Aftermath
Her mother’s hands bore purple welts, and lesions rimmed her eyes. Her breathing came shallow as the ochre dust that lay on everything, the skin of a new world forming in the Aftermath.
Payal ran from the house, throat dry from the dead air, eyes stinging and wild.
Soldiers choked the village and blocked the road, a wall of men and machines. Masked and hooded faces turned towards her; then all was muted shouting and pointed guns. Payal raised her hands and saw the marks. She understood.
Amidst the cruelty of this new world, they were doing her a kindness.
Rob Francis is an academic and writer based in London. He started to write speculative fiction in 2014 and since then has had around fifteen stories published in various online magazines and anthologies, including SQ Mag, SpeckLit, Theme of Absence, Every Day Fiction and You Are Here: Tales of Cartographic Wonders.
You can follow Rob’s work on his Amazon Author Page.
Drip… Drip… Drip…
The unsettling sound roused her from unconsciousness.
‘Where am I?’
The utilitarian room was cold and dark, save for a thin strip of light peering beneath the door at the top of a wooden staircase.
Drip… Drip… Drip…
Large, metal hooks hung from the ceiling; from one dangled the body of an inverted man. Blood ran down in gullets from his grotesque, grinning throat, coalescing at the scalp before finding its way to the awaiting drain.
Drip… Drip… Drip…
The door creaked open. “Oh, good,” her captor said, a wry smile upon his lips. “You’re awake.”
KM Zafari’s mind oscillates from silly to scary. Her stories have appeared in “A Long Story Short” magazine and Time (a Flash Dogs’ anthology).
Her work has also been produced as audio stories by both Mr Creepy Pasta and Chilling Tales for Dark Nights.
She won the Writer’s Digest Shortest Short Story competition in 2012, along with several other microfiction contests.
Although many things creep her out, the only things that truly scare KM are people.
And bears. Damn, they be scary.
The Very Best
On Valentine’s Day he gave Connie a bracelet that sparkled in the light, and she made him one her of her special dinners.
“That was delicious,” he said, giving her a kiss.
“I wanted to give you the very best,” she teased, delighted. “My favorite recipe for heart braised in wine; it seemed appropriate for the holiday.”
“It was,” he assured her after a moment, shrugging off the exotic choice.
Connie smiled. If he liked that, perhaps she’d cook him the liver or sweetbreads in the basement freezer. After she got rid of what was left of Roger, of course.
Catherine Berry lives and works in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. When she isn’t writing, she’s spending time with loved ones, caring for her malamute, or satisfying her many hobbies, like cosplay.
More of her work can be found at: her homepage.
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