‘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.
We’ve had a nice influx of short stories as of late, too much for me to quickly keep up with but I’ll be sending out a slew of responses hopefully this upcoming week! Drabbles, we’re sadly always low on. With the response we’ve had I’m exploring ways to expand TWF in the future and have a few ideas though a couple of them would require a co-editor of sorts.
We’ll see how that plays out. Until next time – enjoy some Sunday horror!
The Heart Song
By Timothy Rock
“I wanna stop, Mama. It hurts.” Desiree said. She was bent over the family washbasin, her hands plunged deep into the ice filled water.
“You’ll do no such thing.” Mama said “If you move those hands, I’ll whip you good.” There was the quick rapping of wood on wood; the spoon, Desiree thought, striking the table.
Mama marched across the room behind her. Desiree heard her heavy steps on the dirt, the opening and closing of cupboards, the rattling of jars and the clanging of pots; a frustrated grunt then a squeak of exaltation followed by the dry, scraping din of metal.
Desiree couldn’t take it anymore. Her hands felt warm and tingly, alive with cold fire. She removed them from the icy water.
The pain was quick and sharp. Mama grasped Desiree’s hands and submerged them back under the water. The wooden spoon was in her other hand. The pain on Desiree’s neck brought tears to her eyes.
“I know it’s hard, Dezzy.” Mama said. “It’s always hard the first time, but you need to do this. Only dead hands can find a dead heart. A few more minutes, then you can move.”
Desiree nodded okay and Mama disappeared again. The minutes passed. The quiet ruffling of sheets as Mama finished setting up, then: “It’s time, sweetheart. You can move, now.”
Desiree got up, her legs stiff and her hands heavy. Her normally dark skin was ashen and lifeless.
Papa lay on the table, dead, and naked save for a washcloth over his eyes and a towel to hide his decency. Mama stood over him, the Special Knife gripped in both hands.
Mama beckoned to her, and Desiree went. She was scared, but everyone is scared at first. That’s what Uncle Amos had told her. Uncle Jasper and Aunt Lily, too.
Mama placed the Special Knife on the table and pulled a small hammer from the inside of her smock. She gently stroked the gray stubble on Papa’s cheek.
“Your Nana’s Mama called it the Heart Song. The beat.” Mama said, her fingers searching over Papa’s ribs. “It’s the strength of your life force. The first time I introduced Papa to your Nana, she was out of her skin with excitement. Said she could hear Papa’s Heart Song through the walls. Said he had good ribs. ‘Singing ribs’. Acoustics like a goshdarned opera house.’”
Mama’s finger settled on a rib just below the sternum. When she was certain of her choice she brought the hammer down hard. The chosen rib snapped like dry wood.
“The Heart Song keeps on after you die. Like a band that continues to play even though its conductor has left.” Mama smashed another rib.
“But it can’t be found with living hands. No, only dead hands can find a dead heart.”
Desiree watched as Mama made the incision between the smashed ribs, burying the Special Knife to the hilt and opening a glaring red mouth.
“Your father loved you, Dezzy. He would have wanted this.”
Mama guided Desiree’s cold hand into her father’s broken ribcage. The heat was intense, like a vice. She pushed through it, glancing off tissue and broken bone until she found what she was looking for: a knot. Her fingers wrapped around her father heart.
“I don’t feel it.” Desiree said, panicking. Had she done it wrong?
“Just wait, dear.” Mama said.
Desiree waited, her hand gripping the soft tissue. Then, she felt it. A beat.
“I feel it, Mama.” Desiree said. It was picking up, becoming stronger with each thrum.
“Pull.” Mama ordered.
It only took one tug to pry the organ free. Desiree pulled it out into the open air. The heart beat in her hand like palmed thunder. It made her mouth water.
“Your father’s heart was strong, dear. It has a lot to offer to you. Take it.”
Desiree’s hesitation evaporated. She tore into the heart greedily. The taste was intoxicating. Her father’s heart seemed to beat on her tongue, between her teeth.
Mama said something, but Desiree couldn’t hear her. All she could focus on was the taste, the hot blood, and in the back of her head, a high, singing chorus.
Tim resides in central Pennsylvania, on the cusp of obtaining his bachelor’s degree. When he isn’t working at the bar or studying for law school, he writes, and he one day hopes to make something of it. His previous work can be found in the first issue if MYTHIC MAGAZINE.
Norman took Archie with him everywhere. The pub, the bookies, the Social.
‘He loves that bunny of his,’ the pub landlady said.
‘Like his other half,’ intoned Mike who worked at BetzRUs. No one saw Norman’s wife much. Archie was cuter anyway.
Flashing his winnings though cost Norman his benefits.
Worried, Mike dropped by with some supplies. A huge pot sizzled on the hob.
Beside it sat Norman. Alone. Stirring the stew.
Shocked Mike exclaimed, ‘Not Archie?’
Relieved he spotted the sleek rabbit snoozing nearby.
Norman laughed. ‘Course not mate. I’m not a savage. It’s the wife in the pot.’
Alyson trained originally in the UK as a teacher/tutor. She wrote a couple of children’s books which were published by Collins and Ginn. Now she lives near Bronte terrain in Yorkshire with her teen son, partner and 3 rescue cats. She writes noir Flash Fiction (some of which is published on line) andspooky longer tales (3 are available for download on www.www.alfiedog).She has a collection of her Flash fiction coming out soon from Chapel Town Books in the UK. She enjoys old movies, singing, and swimming. She is a confirmed chocoholic and is still hopeless at maths. Her blog is at http://www.
Bound to the stake, she grimaced as the flames licked her bare feet; not from pain, but for the farce she’d endured for months.
Now that it was over she saw no reason to pretend anymore.
The heat from the fire caused the skin to split along her legs, and she glared down at the gathered crowd as the skin fell away in chunks, revealing red, molten flesh.
They gasped in shock and horror as the fire danced up her body, igniting her true form to reveal itself.
She laughed as her scalp fell away to reveal her monstrous horns.
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.
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- Taking Submissions: The Nightscape Press Charity Collection Line Short Story Collections - August 20, 2019
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- Taking Submissions: Death and Butterflies - August 19, 2019
- Trembling With Fear 08/18/2019 - August 18, 2019
- Taking Submissions: Vestal Review – Web Edition - August 16, 2019