Trembling With Fear 05/10/20
This bit is going to stay here for every week until the pandemic is over. Thank you to everyone in the health services across the world, to everyone who is keeping us going from delivery drivers, to checkout operators, from armed forces to public services. When this is all over, I hope those who used to look down on so many of these, many occupying some of the lowest pay brackets, reassess and give them their due. Keyworkers should be valued and whilst songs and claps might be nice, let’s see something more tangible for them further down the line. Thank you again from everyone at TWF.
One thing I’ve noticed in submissions in recent times is that only a few stories have used the coronavirus as a backdrop. Perhaps because this real-life horror is too close to home, causing all sorts of miseries if not health wise, then certainly financially. When times are bad, I tend to cope with a bit of gallows humour and other members of my family have done so as well (and when I say bad times, I mean the worst it can be). So if you’re stuck for a story idea, send me something like this. Let’s make people laugh – or even better, cringe and laugh at the same time.
A little publication news this week, this time from Robert Allen Lupton who has just published his third collection of fantasy, science fiction, horror and adventure stories in Strong Spirits. Available in paperback, Kindle and on Kindle Unlimited.
Also look out for Alyson Faye’s poem “Raven Girl”, included in Air, Sylphs, Spirits & Swan Maidens, ed. Rhonda Parrish, pub Tyche Books. I’ve read her poetry, so would highly recommend.
Last week, I mentioned Kev Harrison’s novella The Balance (pub LVP Publications) being lined up on my Kindle to be read. I’ve finished it and it is excellent, plus amazon has got its act together and you can now get it at amazon.co.uk and amazon.com.
Over to Trembling With Fear. The first story this week is The Hallway by Nathaniel Friedman. It’s hard to creep anyone out with a tale about a hallway when we’ve all seen The Shining. This story manages it. The mood of the main character in his retelling, his sense of fear, the dread built from memory and now carried into the everyday, all these aspects combine to create a very chilling piece.
Marbles by Alyson Faye is a lovely mix of innocent childhood nostalgia and warped adult behaviour. What other hobbies could be twisted into a story?
Tatianna’s Treasure by William Landis has a treasure hunt with bait. The difference here is what happens when the explorer thinks he’s found it.
Terminus by Liam Hogan is an original take on what happens when your journey reaches the end of the line. Refreshingly different and with a killer punchline.
While it isn’t there quite yet, a new Horror Tree logo is coming soon! It is super exciting to be able to share this with you soon.
Outside of that, things are chugging along behind-the-scenes with TWF.
– Anthology progress is SLOWLY happening.
– We’re shoring up ideas for a related project that has been in the works for a while.
– Our Patreon level is inching closer to our next goal of being able to pay all of our contributors which will be followed by some ways to improve the site, and the next stretch goal after that is to pay a small token payment for our drabble submissions! We’re still a way off but we are getting closer!
As a side note to all the readers out there, we’re running a nifty giveaway over the next couple of weeks to pick up a copy of two collections you might just be interested in!
The Hallway by Nathaniel Friedman
It wasn’t the longest hallway I had ever seen, but it was maybe pretty damn close. And all lit up by bare bulbs, flickering freakily and sending prickles right up and down my back where the lady left scratches last night. Not that I’m not used to that stuff in my line of work, but jeezus, you’d think these guys took an architecture course in creepy the way they laid this thing out.
And all this was to say I was trying my damn best not to think about what was at the end of that hallway. Now that was something I hadn’t seen before, and something I damn well hoped I wouldn’t see again. The slick, rusty looking floor, the limbless bodies stacked up like so many old mattresses…shit, it was almost enough to make a guy lose his appetite.
But I was just here to clean up. And so I hefted my gas can, flicked my lighter, and headed down that long, long hallway. Usually in situations like this I try to say a little prayer, save myself a couple millennia in the heavenly washing machine, but today, mum was the word. I’d taken off my shoes, for chrissake!
And there was the smell again. A good strong glass of whiskey can make me forget a lot of things, but that damn smell comes back at the strangest times, tickles in the back of my throat and grabs me by the collar and it’s like I’m right back here in this hallway. Walking real soft, and nobody knows I’m here, but I can feel someone watching.
And because it’s a memory, of course I know what happens next. The footsteps. And I stop and I think to myself, maybe just a little cool sweat trickling down my forehead, “Shit, he said nobody would be here.” In this business you listen to the money no matter whose hand it comes out of, so maybe sometimes the hand belongs to a damn liar. But then I stop and think a little more and I realize which end of the hallway the footsteps are coming from.
This is when it gets bad, real bad. The wife and I don’t sleep in the same bed no more, because she says I can keep my damn sharp elbows to myself and the rest also. The lady doesn’t mind, but then she never stays long. You ever woken up vomiting? You ever woken up bleeding and you know nothing touched you?
The door at the end of the long, long hall opens, and I see I was wrong. It wasn’t footsteps I was hearing, because they don’t have feet. They don’t have legs, or arms, or heads, just a bleeding gaping maw. But they’re still moving, crawling, sliding around in their own blood and gore. I can’t feel any part of my body except my hands, the one on the gas can and the one on the lighter. But I can’t move, I can’t breathe.
The way they move is like a worm. The back arcs up and the chest pushes forward and they keep sliding closer and closer across the floor. But the way they groan is like nothing else. Their cries are like babies, but their laughs are old as sin.
And this is where the guys at the bar start rolling their eyes, cuz how can they talk if they ain’t got heads? Well at the moment I’m not real interested in the technicalities. The facts of the situation are that I have a very long hallway with a door on each end, and I have a can of gas in one hand and a lighter in another, and I have the children of the damned coming toward me, and I have lost control of my arms and legs.
When they reach me, when they touch me, I feel a strange warmth. They’re still warm, bleeding, gurgling. I’m ice-cold, may have pissed myself. Still can’t move. They’re slithering around my legs, sliding against me and leaving their slick and their smell. I wait for them to pull me down, the stench so strong I can taste the flesh and the suffocation, and the bulbs could just be the pearly lights of Heaven, should I be so lucky.
But they keep going. They keep squirming down that damn long hallway, and that’s when I realize I left the door unlocked. The lighter. The gas can. But I feel a breeze on the back of my neck, the heat of the sun, and it’s too late. When I can finally move enough to turn my head, it’s almost dark and the door is swinging back and forth in the breeze.
I walk to that door and that sky and that fresh air like I’m walking to the electric chair. My socks are soaking in blood and piss and I’m still holding the lighter and the gas can. I reach the door and I look to the left. I look to the right. They’re gone.
And that’s why I’m telling you this now. And yes, I can see you looking at me like you think I’m too damn stupid to know I’m a loon. Everybody’s a loon in my business. I’m just telling you that they’re out there. And I think I know what they want.
Because you’ve seen them, haven’t you. Seen ‘em stumping down the street on mismatched legs, their heads a different color than their necks. You’re too polite to stare, but they’re looking at you, kid. Ogling those long, lean legs of yours. And the ones that have faces…they’re licking their lips.
As a kid marbles had been Josiah’s favourite game. His collection of the glass multicoloured spheres was substantial and the envy of all his classmates.
It was the only time in his life he’d ever tasted popularity. It had eluded him as an adult. Working in the morgue hadn’t helped his dating prospects much. Nor the chemical smell which clung to his hair and skin.
His marble collection, stored in the basement, however still gave him hours of innocent pleasure.
Josiah rolled one across the floor, watching the bloody tendrils spin.
The late Mr Waites’ eyeball stared back at him.
Alyson lives in the UK; her fiction has been published widely in print anthologies – DeadCades, Women in Horror Annual 2, Trembling with Fear 1 &2, Coffin Bell Journal 1 and Stories from Stone and in ezines, most often on the Horror Tree site, Siren’s Call and The Casket of Fictional Delights. In May 2019 Night of the Rider, was published by Demain, in their Short Sharp Shocks! E book series and reached the amazon kindle top 10 best seller lists. Her work has been read on podcasts (eg Ladies of Horror), shortlisted in competitions and published in charity anthologies. Future work will appear in anthologies from Things in the Well, Mortal Realm and Twisted Wing Publishers.
She performs at open mics, teaches, edits and hangs out with her dog on the moor in all weathers.
The article and map made it seem simple. There was a treasure hidden in a cave but anyone who went searching for it was never heard from again because roaming the island was a giantess named Tatianna who enjoyed eating men. He wanted that treasure though and he knew he could navigate undetected. He arrived at the island and stealthily traversed to the cave. He triumphantly walked in. It was wet inside, white stalagmites hung down; the floor was wet and squishy… Tatianna closed her mouth, and swallowed him down. She rubbed her belly. That article she wrote still worked.
“Next stop: the eighteenth century. The Enlightenment, American Revolution, discovery of photosynthesis!”
Harry had done the enlightenment at school. He slumped further in his seat as the time-train rumbled on.
“Fourth century BC! Alexander the Great, the birth of Greek Philosophy.”
“Fourteenth century! Black Death, the hundred years war! Make sure you’ve had your shots.”
It was cold and black beyond the window when Harry awoke, stiff-necked, the last passenger.
“Where are we?” Harry gulped. “The beginning… or the end of the line?”
“Does it matter?” the conductor grinned as the carriage went dark.
Liam Hogan is an award winning short story writer, with stories in Best of British Science Fiction 2016, and Best of British Fantasy 2018 (NewCon Press). He’s been published by Analog, Daily Science Fiction, and Flametree Press, among others. He helps host Liars’ League London, volunteers at the creative writing charity Ministry of Stories, and lives and avoids work in London. More details at http://
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Stephanie Ellis is a member of the HWA and writes dark speculative prose and poetry which has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her work includes the novel, The Five Turns of the Wheel and the gothic novella, Bottled, both via Silver Shamrock Publishing.She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org/ and on twitter @el_Stevie.