Funny the things that make you smile in your writing career. Last week, I discovered the Russian version of my name, courtesy of Oleg Hasanov, editor of the Horror Without Borders anthology which is out later this year. It’s a really strange feeling to see a TOC knowing you are on there but not sure exactly where … thank goodness for Google Translate! I also noticed Oleg announcing he’d been accepted into the Black Hare Press’ Monsters Drabble Anthology which includes a number of TWF writers, Stuart being amongst these. My worlds (and editors!) are colliding again, this time East meets West. Definitely no borders in writing.

Before I move on to TWF, I saw a post this week by Monster Librarian on Facebook saying how numbers checking out their site have dropped. This site provides readers with reviews and authors with a place to be reviewed amongst other things and is currently struggling to survive. I confess to not having checked out this site too often in the past but will attempt to do so now. I urge you to read the post here (scroll down to 6th May post) and show some support. It is a site run by volunteers for the love of the subject, like Horror Tree and so many others.

Now to this week’s stories:

What I loved most about this week’s lead story from Trembling With FearSuccumbing by Noel Wallace, was the author’s use of language. Rich and textured, it created some wonderful imagery right from the opening line ‘Skittering firework embers shed ruby streaks into the sky’ and continues in a similar vein throughout. I will confess to having to read through this story a couple of times to understand what was going on but the language used made me feel this story was perfect despite that. Sometimes a story speaks more to emotion rather than specific understanding, just like a painting. This story is a painting.

Farewell Texts by Kevin M. Folliard uses a technique which now often features on the news, often to detail the last moments of someone on the point of death. This drabble is very much a written form of ‘found footage’, bringing an immediacy to the reading particularly with its 1st person narration. Variety in format or viewpoint is something we always look for.

Fire Door by David Berger is a lovely bit of banter between Eddie and the demon. Despite the tormenting of Eddie, which he didn’t seem to mind too much, I enjoyed the ongoing attempt of the demon to ‘train’ him. Nice piece of dark humour.

Flesh Like Wax by Terry Miller brings us the invisible enemy, you know it’s there but aren’t sure what it is. The not knowing and seeing something which should not be has a habit of freezing the mind … and body. A chilling little description of a person’s last moments.

 Other stuff this week … I may be a bit older on the 15th!

Стефани Эллис

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

As always, I’m behind. (I’m sorry! This update is getting old, I know!) That being said, we made HUGE strives on getting the next anthology put together! The end is nigh!

Honestly, I just wanted to share that good news with you this week. Patreons should be getting an early preview look at the cover art SOON! Huzzah! (It won’t be too much in advance as likely once we have the cover we’ll be ordering a preview copy and after Steph and I check it out it’ll be up for order!) 

Also, this week we’d like to share a special shout out to our long-time contributor Richard Meldrum! With his Unholy Trinity being published on the site this Friday it will be his one hundredth-publication! That is insane, keep up the fantastic work!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Succumbing

Skittering firework embers shed ruby streaks into the sky. The naked branches of clustered trees framed and then obscured the show from sight. It was the silences in between volleys that tore at her nerves the most, the pauses that spurred her staggering into sprinting.

Her long dress had split up to her thigh, revealing flesh mottled with golden-blue bruises. She wanted to ruin the rest. Her fingers flexed over her collarbone. Would that she could, tear the pearl necklace and scatter it; but the beads would only turn into bread crumbs, into a bridge that leads to the worst ending within a fairy tale.

Won’t let him catch me. Won’t be caught. Can’t be caught.

Another firework whistled overhead. They wouldn’t keep his attention. Soon he’d return to the checkered blanket, the lukewarm wine and untouched food to find her gone.

He’ll wait for me. And when I come back, it’ll be the look. He’ll hold me inside it, hold me there until it hurts, hold me until I drown inside the black of his pupils, until I can’t breathe and–

 

She ran. The question of where was no more present in her mind than it is for any prey fleeing its predator. She ran until she had cleared the woods and found herself before a broad, black-watered fountain. The decimated remains of fall leaves floated in broken clumps. Branches cleaved the moon and starlight into a quivering stratum.

She tottered over to the fountain and gazed down at her reflection. At her red-rimmed eyes. The cheap foundation, smeared and flaked over swollen knots.

I won’t be caught. I can’t be caught.

Sudden motion caught her off guard: a beetle, crawling over her temple, feelers wriggling. When she batted at it, the creature toppled down into the water and fractured her reflection into trembling pieces.

She watched the beetle fight to keep afloat.

Can’t be caught.

“help”

Its legs splayed out and squirmed.

Can’t be caught.

Bile filled her throat.

“help”

She raised her hand and struck. Created a wave to pull the drowning thing under.

“ah”

Glancing down, her reflection held its jaw and smiled. An angry red welt blazed upon the reflection’s skin.

“i wanted him to stay with me”

It mouthed the words with the corners of its chapped lips upturned. Its eyes were slit into mirthful razors.

I’m hallucinating.

“i wanted him to hold me hold me” Its plaintive note sank like a nail between her eyes. “hold me hold me hold me hold me”

“Stop it, you’re hallucinating,” she snarled into her palm, but the reflection did not copy her, only continued to gaze up with mocking eyes.

“i wanted him to hold me down and”

STOP IT!

She thrust her hand into the fountain, crushing the water into ripples and foam, soaking her dress, catching grime in her fingers.

When her reflection reassembled, it was with cuts and bruises. Still, the eyes glinted merrily. Still, the lips, the bleeding lips, mouthed the words:

t-o -d-e-v-o-u-r -m-e

STOP”

She plunged both her hands into water. There they found not wetness, but flesh, a neck to squeeze, and so she squeezed it, squeezed against the flesh and blood and bone, until the water went still.

Upon withdrawing her hands from the fountain, she found them slick with black blood. The reflection’s face broke above the water with a plop. It bobbed slack-jawed, laughter still trapped inside its lifeless eyes.

Drawing back, she screamed. A fresh wave of fireworks erupted overhead.

I killed her!

Triumph or despair?

I KILLED HER!

She turned from the fountain and ran.

When she cleared the forest, the show had only just ended, firework smoke staining the sky, but there were no more picnic blankets to be found, no rows of cars or lukewarm coolers. Instead she found herself standing at the foot of a long, unraveling silk white carpet.

The carpet stretched out towards seven figures who stood gathered in the field. Dazed, she stepped onto the carpet. Her body pitched forward–or was she walking towards them, the scenery running fast beside her?

She came close. Six of the seven moved off into the grass. Whether they were shadow or flesh, man or woman remained unknown and unseen. The moonlight promised nothing.

As the carpet carried her down, her filthy feet smeared mud and water over the ivory silk. When she reached the six shadows, she cast her eyes down, terrified and abashed. They took no breath, only stood and drank her in with black, glittering beast eyes.

The seventh, the one waiting for her, gnawed at his fingernails, smiling even as he tore them bloody. The whites of his eyes were pitch-black, but this only served to enhance the beauty of his features.

The seventh’s stare swept over her dress, her bruises, her pulverized face.

Shame overtook her. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“For… for being…” A sob flexed in her throat. “…for being like this.”

The seventh shook his head. “Please. Give me your hand.”

The six shadows drew closer. Their combined anticipation was heavy, palpable. When she raised her hand, the seventh reached out without hesitation and squeezed her bloodied fingers into his own.

“Now, look at me.”

When she did, he caught her right inside his gaze, and smiled.

“You’re perfect.”

Noel Wallace

Noel Wallace is a published author, with poetry and prose featured in over ten anthologies, including semi-pro and professional markets such as Liquid Imagination, Deep Magic Magazine, and Mirror Dance Fantasy.

Website: www.noelwallace.com

Farewell Texts

Hope you get this text because I love you

Weak signal

It baited me with Stevie’s jacket

Lured me into the caverns

Don’t search

Too dangerous

Too dark

I hear its hundred legs shuffling

Chemical stench burns my eyes and nose

It’s huge

And fast

Stevie is gone

Please don’t blame yourself

Remember what you told me at the beach when I got scorched like a lobster and Stevie built his Great Pyramid sandcastle

You were right

The sunburn was worth it.

The creature’s coming

Battery dying

I’ll go down fighting

Have a sharp rock

I’ll go for the eyes

Kevin M. Folliard

Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, as well as adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, and more. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Street Fighter, or traveling the U.S.A.

Author Website: www.KevinFolliard.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kevinfolliard

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kmfollia

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kmfollia/

Fire Door

Eddie was in the lounge pouring a second cup. To his right was a fire door marked “NO RE-ENTRY.” Eddie heard a knock, turned and opened the door. The demon came in, grabbed Eddie’s head, twisted it off, swallowed it, crapped it out and stuck it back on Eddie’s head.

“You never learn,” the demon said. “Third time this week.”

“I need to be more alert,” Eddie said.

“Yeah, right,” the demon replied. “Bet I getcha once more before Friday.”

“No way,” Eddie said.

“Yeah right,” the demon said.  It backed into the stairwell and slammed the door behind him.

David Berger

I’m an old guy from Brooklyn, now living in Manhattan with my wife of 25 years: the best jazz singer in NYC. I’m a father and grandfather.  I’ve been, among other things, a case worker, construction worker, letter carrier, high school and ESL teacher, a legal proofreader and a union organizer.  Love life, my wife and the world. Hope to help the latter escape destruction.

 

Flesh Like Wax

Jack watched the steps leave fleeting indentations on the bedroom carpet, they were definitely not human prints. They stopped and remained at the side of his bed, a brooding presence huffed just inches from his face; a scent like a freshly extinguished candle. 

Jack’s voice escaped him through a muted scream, fear paralyzing. His body levitated with the deep compression of fingers pinning his arms to his sides. His intent to struggle failed to reach his unresponsive limbs. The creature huffed once more as Jack’s flesh dripped like hot wax, muscle and bone burning to ash at its impressioned feet.

Terry Miller

Terry Miller lives in Portsmouth, Ohio right along the Ohio River. His work has appeared in Sanitarium Magazine, Devolution Z, Jitter Press, Poetry Quarterly, O Unholy Night in Deathlehem, and was nominated for the annual Rhysling Award from The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association which earned him a spot in the 2017 Rhysling Anthology.

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About Stuart Conover

Stuart Conover is a father, husband, published author, blogger, geek, entrepreneur, horror fanatic, and runs a few websites including Horror Tree!

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