Trembling With Fear 04/25/21
Submission calls are the bread-and-butter of Horror Tree’s pages. HT posts only those calls which offer payment but makes exceptions for charity anthologies. We also give charity anthologies the top slot on our Friday Indie Bookshelf Releases post but naturally, they will only stay there for a certain amount of time – for the moment. If a charity anthology needs a signal boost, get in touch and we’ll share them here as well – or why not write an article about your anthology and the charity if you haven’t already done so and send in to Horror Tree?
This week, I spotted Kenneth W. Cain asking in general, for a boost for these three lovelies. Horror Tree and TWF are more than happy to oblige. One of Us is raising money for the American Transplant Foundation, Survive with Me is supporting the American Indian College Fund and Coming Through in Waves is helping the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. With some big names, I’m sure you’ll enjoy them and you’ll be doing good at the same time.
On a somewhat sadder note, I would also like to extend Horror Tree’s condolences to writer, poet and wonderful person, Cindy O’Quinn who recently lost her husband of 28 years, Tim Weikel. Cindy has become a good online friend via twitter and as part of a safe little corner of that platform has shared, and shown, her caring personality. Our thoughts are with Cindy and her family.
Before we go to the stories, here’s my usual weekly reminder to check out the submission guidelines for TWF. Also remember we are currently closed to short stories (unless for one of the Specials) but open to drabbles, unholy trinities and serials.
This week Trembling with Fear starts with Seeing Hands by Hunter Lu. An unusual story, it substitutes the familiar trope of hearing voices with seeing hands as a way for the subconscious to get its message across to their deaf owner. In this instance their message is a challenge, do you obey orders and follow the herd or not?
At Least she doesn’t Steal my Food by Collin Yeoh brings us a poltergeist and tales of ghostly bad – or should I say, gross – habits.
Homecoming by April Yates is a nice piece of misdirection, sends your emotions one way and then pulls the rug from under your feet at the end.
Recreant by Zachary Harris is a story of faith, or lack of it, and what carried this piece was its terrific sense of atmosphere and the priest’s emotions.
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
I haven’t really mentioned it too much in public quite yet but I am likely moving soon. So, to say that I’m in a sudden unexpected time crunch to pack up the house and get it ready for showings is a massive understatement. (This is an unexpected but good situation.) Needless to say, expanding Horror Tree with some of the new features is going to be rocky over the next month. I’m hoping to have a Trembling With Fear update for you asap though I am a bit behind. More as soon as I have something solid for you! (At the very least, I’ll be on a brief break from my MBA program soon which may help!)
Seeing Hands by Hunter Lu
He was microwaving a sausage and egg burrito when he saw the Hands again, dead still, palms open like a starfish, hovering in the air unattached to any form like a pair of flesh colored birds.
They were perfect as usual, smooth with a healthy glow, the platonic ideal of human appendages, possessing the airbrushed, ageless perfection of a hand model. Each fingernail was beautifully flawless, harboring not a speck of grey grit or crumb of leftover lunch. The Hands likely belonged to a woman, he thought, although it could be a man’s. He could only guess since the wielder of the Hands possessed no body to gender.
His wife entered the kitchen and gave him a kiss on the neck.
Do you want any coffee honey? She signed in ASL.
Yes, thank you babe. He signed back.
He last saw the Hands 6 months ago, before his new medication. These will stop the voices, or signing hands in your case. Can’t expect a born deaf man to hear voices, his psychiatrist signed as he pressed a bottle of pills into his hands.
The Hands first appeared two years ago. He was in the Company bathroom when they warped next to him at the urinal. He had screamed and tried to bat the Hands away like they were pestilent flies. Of course, his hands went right through the Hands since they weren’t physical hands, just mental hands and he felt sheepish thinking about the whole silly Hands incident now. Over time, he grew to tolerate them. In a way, they were old associates, only with spontaneous interactions, similar to guest appearances on an old sitcom.
Usually, he saw the Hands when stressed, like when he forgot his wife’s birthday or the time he accidentally overcooked a pair of steaks on the grill or the time he didn’t laugh hard enough at the flying chunks of Enemy bodies, a big no no, at the Company BBQ during a highlight video of the YEAR’S BEST DRONE STRIKES.
His burrito was done and he walked with it to the dining table. When he sat down, the Hands floated towards him.
Good morning. The Hands signed.
Good morning. He signed back.
I’m sorry about your dreams. But you must see.
I’m tired Hands, I don’t want to see. I want to sleep.
What is an Enemy? Who is the Enemy?
The kids rushed into the dining room before he could answer, but he would have to wait because he didn’t want his family to know he was seeing the Hands again and confess that he had stopped taking his pills because they were causing him to throw up in the middle of the night, forcing him to run to the toilet, body in cold sweats, heart in a stampede, his mind still fresh from nightmares so vivid he felt trapped by them even in the consciousness of daylight, those horribly immoral night terrors where he felt just the slightest, microscopic germ of sympathy for the Enemy when he should only feel hatred for these vermin, these roaches.
His kids took their seats at the table. They were nine and seven, both boys. Bright, wonderful kiddos, both with thick mats of luscious wheat brown hair and caramel colored eyes. When they sat down, they started to play fight, pinching and punching each other.
His wife placated them with two bowls of sugary cereal.
Don’t disturb your father. Big day at the Company, right honey?
Yes, babe. Big day at the Company.
Really? What’s going on, Ddad? Signed the oldest.
We’re testing a New Weapon, son. One that’ll melt the Enemy.
The kiddos clapped their little hands and a gleam of joy crossed their beautiful faces.
Will they melt like mac and cheese? Signed the younger one.
The oldest giggled. More like…turkey gravy. Probably chunky too.
The New Weapon will be launched from the New Swarm Drones. They can melt the Enemy with precision. A swarm of fire ants. His children clapped at this answer and begged their father to explain more and his hands obliged to their loud cheers, silent to his dead ears but not his eyes, who watched the pride of lush nationalism sweep their little minds.
Now, now, kids, settle down. Your father has a big day, let him eat. Why don’t you tell your father about the drawing you made in class yesterday?
His oldest reached into his backpack and pulled out a drawing. A group of stick figures were standing in a playground. Each of them carried something in their hands: baseball bats, swords and other crudely drawn shapes of weaponry. One of the stick figures was on the ground, covered in angry red marks.
Mrs. Smith wanted us to make a presentation on the War. So, I drew this to represent the day me and my friends got an Enemy, a kid, like me. Super proud we got ‘em, since it’s so tricky you know? Since they look just like us. Only they think BAD, like evil BAD. That’s why they’re the Enemy, says Mrs. Smith. We must ALWAYS BE READY against the Enemy, she says, even if they’re “people” like us, with skin and bones and blood and mommies and daddies. But we can’t be soft, she says. Oh! And TO FORGIVE IS TO BE WEAK, of course!
The Hands floated above the children.
What is an Enemy? Who is the Enemy? Signed his old friend.
Stop asking me, he thought as his face grew red and hot.
His wife frowned. Honey, is everything ok? You seem stressed.
It’s nothing honey, it’s nothing.
She looked at the kids, who had gone back to their cereal.
You’re not…seeing the Hands again are you?
No, of course not.
Ok, but you remember what happened last time, you almost quit the Company because the Hands told you things. Like how the War is bad. Like how the Enemy should be treated like people. Ridiculous. We can’t have those thoughts in this house honey. You know that.
Yes, dear, I know.
You have to take your medication, honey. We can’t have any interruptions to our way of life. Why, how’re we going buy that new car or that video game system the kids want? The Company will provide if we follow orders.
You’re right, babe, you’re always right.
After that, breakfast was finished and he went to his car. It was his wife’s turn to take the kids to school and before she left in the minivan, she pressed a bottle of pills into his hands.
Be sure to take them, ok honey?
The Hands had followed her outside, hanging above her like an angel’s halo.
What is an Enemy? Who is the Enemy?.
His wife drove off with the kids, leaving him alone with the Hands. He was silent for a few minutes before he threw the bottle into the glove compartment and drove off to work.
Hunter Lu is a Chinese American writer and NYU graduate based in New York City. His short story has been published in The Bangalore Review and his nonfiction has appeared in Atlas Obscura, The War Horse, Edible Queens, Brooklyn Based and The Cleaver Quarterly.
At Least She Doesn’t Steal My Food
Her screams keep me awake at night. She’s scared off three of my cats. Every now and then, she throws stuff at me – keys, books, coffee mugs, a kitchen knife once. I’ve woken up to her bloodshot eyes looming over me, only to disappear in an eyeblink. Sometimes I look up and see her in her blood-soaked shift, muttering obscenities at me.
I can’t do anything about her. She’s thirty years dead.
But the rent here is super cheap! And honestly, she’s not even in my top five worst roommates. Lemme tellya ‘bout Brenda and her collection of toenail clippings…
Collin has wanted to be a writer all his life, and indeed wrote professionally for 15 years. That was how long it took for him to remember that advertising copy wasn’t what he wanted to write growing up as a lonely bookworm kid. He is now devoting his time and energy into writing things that have plots, characters, themes, genres, and that won’t be subject to demands like “please include more product benefits.”
Finally, I’m coming home.
It’s been a year since I’ve seen my family and they don’t know I’m on my way.
What a surprise it’ll be when they see me walking up the path.
When I was young, they always made me feel wanted. I understood that as you get a little older and you’re not as cute, that they’d dedicate less time to me.
But I never thought they’d leave me tied up by that roadside so far away from home, though.
I don’t intend on this being a joyous reunion.
I’m getting closer now, I can smell them.
Crashing through the wooden doors, an old priest turns to seal the entrance. Breathing heavily, Father Nicholas staggers to his pulpit. It’s been ages since this much has been asked of him. He’s forgotten the toll it takes on the body; on the soul.
The doors to the church begin to tremble and splinter. With his blood chilling and skin creeping, Father Nicholas watches in dismay as the doors explode inward, shattering the sigil. A shrouded, darkly tendriled figure steps over the threshold.
“Lord, forgive me. I have lost the faith in your word,” Father Nicholas thinks, “I have failed.”
Zachary Hennis lives in Columbus, Ohio. He achieved his B.A. from Ohio State University and his M.S. from Kansas State University. Actively on Twitter @SpectreDrabbles.
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Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative prose and poetry and has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her longer work includes the folk horror novels, The Five Turns of the Wheel, Reborn, and The Woodcutter, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused (all via Brigids Gate Press). Her dark poetry has been published in her collections Lilith Rising (co-authored with Shane Douglas Keene), Foundlings (co-authored with Cindy O’Quinn) and Metallurgy, as well as the HWA Poetry Showcase Volumes VI, VII, VIII, and IX and Black Spot Books Under Her Skin. She can be found supporting indie authors at HorrorTree.com via the weekly Indie Bookshelf Releases. She is an active member of the HWA and can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on Blue Sky as stephellis.bsky.social.