A recent email with a contributor involved a discussion about how we actually made our decisions here at TWF and I thought it would be a good idea to share it with everyone. This way you know exactly what goes on.

So, who reads the subs first? That would be me. I read the story and log my decision on our tracker (I do like trackers 😊). Stuart then takes a second read with that in mind. We pretty much match over what we do/don’t like. Where one of us might be on the fence about something we usually give the other the choice of rejection or acceptance. I also note where I think edits are needed in terms of story development or clarification as does Stuart if he thinks something more needs to be considered. Once I’ve seen his comments, I then move forward with sending out acceptances, rejections, or requests for rework. This is very much a two-way process and I feel a good way of working as reading can be so subjective and this gives a story a proper chance by offering a healthy debate.

Now I know there’s plenty to read here at TWF but if you would like to see a few more quality drabbles, I would recommend popping over to one of our regular contributors, Kevin Holton’s sitehttps://kevinholton.com/blog/. They are really very good. I would also like to say that his story, Big Bang Bobby published back in April must rank as an absolute favourite of mine.

And a little update on story rejections. Had one this week (not Bingewatching Cure, still waiting), it was short-listed, nothing wrong with it, original little tale, enjoyed – just didn’t fit the balance of other stories in the anthology. They also said it was good enough to find another home. So there you go, remember it might not be your writing, just circumstances … now to find somewhere else to send it!

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Steff’s process above is about one hundred thousand times more organized then what I had previously had in place. I just wanted to make sure that everyone was completely aware of that.

‘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

Editor, Horror Tree

The Crimson Mirror

Jim Burcher contemplated his purchase as it lay on his studio workbench at the rear of his shop. He was unstinting in his self-deprecating curses at being an impetuous and careless fool.

Jim had been late to the auction, missing half the items he wanted, and being outbid on the rest. He’d almost resigned himself to a wasted trip, when he’d seen the last item to for sale was a mirror unlisted in the catalogue. A last-minute entry to the sale, probably to clear it out of storage.

On impulse and determined to come away with something, he’d bid a tenner and got it. His triumph however, was short-lived. It had looked fine from the back of the saleroom, but on closer inspection he realised his mistake. The frame was molded plaster, chipped and fractured in places, causing its coat of cheap gold paint to flake off. But it was the mirror glass itself that was the real disappointment. Not only was it ‘foxed’, his reflected image engulfed in a grey mist, but its surface was a web of crazed cracks. How it adhered to the silvered backboard he couldn’t guess.

A piece of crap. Another star item of object d’art for ‘Jim Burcher Collectables Emporium’. Jim liked to think his business was an antique-come-retro boutique. Others crueler in mind and spirit referred to it as a junk shop-come-scrapyard.

He decided, despite his bad luck to keep it and brought it back to work on that evening. Jim grabbed a late supper and a mug of tea and returned to his studio just before eleven hoping he might try and salvage something before retiring to bed.

He held up the mirror, tilting it around under the light and studied the damage to its glass surface.

It suddenly seemed to twitch violently, pulling away from his grip. He made a series of desperate frantic grabs trying to catch it before it crashed to the floor. In his fumbling attempts to grasp the frame, his hand rubbed across the cracked glass and pain bit through his fingers and palm as the jagged edges cut into his flesh.

Cursing and bleeding profusely, he dropped it, ignoring the crunch as it hit his wooden bench, and he ran for the bathroom.

After half an hour of washing, disinfecting and dressing his wounded left hand, he returned to his studio, determined to bin his dodgy buy and call it quits whilst he still had any limbs left.

What he saw on that bench defied reason, almost freezing his brain. A transformation had occurred in his reflective nemesis which appalled and fascinated him in equal measure.

The surface of the mirror reminded him of a diagram of some creature’s circulatory system. His blood, rather than forming droplets and smears on the broken surface, had seeped into its glazed fissures and had spread along their zigzag courses. The mirror was delineated into tiny glass sections edged with crimson.

The phenomenon amazed and disgusted him. He knew of the capillary action of fluids from old college biology lessons but to see it demonstrated, and with his own vital bodily fluids, was unsettling. There was a surprising weird beauty in the patterns defined in the ruined glass and the resemblance to veins and arteries was remarkable. It also dawned on him that the ‘foxing’ effect had vanished and if the tracery of fine scarlet lines was ignored, his reflected image was crystal clear. Even more intriguing was something was etched onto the inner surface of the glass. It was hard to define amongst the reddened cracks, but it looked like two words.

The mirror’s fall onto the bench had caused its plaster border to crumble away on one corner. Jim brushed away the gold paint and plaster debris and discovered a solid inner frame made of a dark wood.

An hour’s work with a variety of his tools revealed the frame in its entirety. He surmised it was red stained oak and of great age. Older than baroque or rococo periods. Perhaps late medieval. Whatever period, the quality of the carving was superb, if somewhat macabre.

The frame was bordered by two columns topped with Corinthian capitals and its other surfaces crowded with twenty carved heads of men and women, each being about an inch and a half in diameter and rendered in incredible detail. They appeared to have been drawn out of the fibres of the raw timber rather than chipped away by a woodcarver’s chisel and they were deeply disturbing. The torment depicted on the carvings chilled his heart, their features contorted in an agony of pain and absolute terror. Jim shivered, falling prey to some unspeakable feeling that haunted his reason, magnified by the shadows and loneliness of his gloomy studio.

Despite the grotesque element to this unusual antique, it was obvious there was money to be made. It was rare and ancient. It was a shame about the glass which would have to be replaced, but the frame alone would bring a fine price.

Midnight announced itself by the gentle chiming of the shop’s battered grandfather clock. Jim hadn’t realised how late it was and felt exhausted. He resolved to return to the mirror in the morning.

He turned to leave, switching off the lights and reaching out to close the door.

Some strange urge made him turn back into the room. There was a fluorescent glow emanating from the mirror, which he’d propped up on his workbench. Mesmerized with an unnatural compulsion, he walked towards it, drawn on by its bright light which pulled his gaze into the depths of the mirror. The radiance was stained with an ochre tint which coalesced around the words he’d seen earlier in the mirror’s glass. The letters became bolder, larger, emerging from the dark reflections of himself and the studio, crawling into words.

Sanguinis speculum

He knew enough to recognise Latin, but no translation came to mind. The glow increased, deepening in intensity, illuminating the darkened room in a throbbing scarlet light which oozed from the bloodied cracks in the mirror’s surface.

Jim found his limbs paralysed and beads of perspiration traced lines down his flushed face. Even the involuntary blinking of his eyes was stayed.

His vision was totally focused into the beating heart of the mirror in which only his image was reflected. Jim’s mind screamed with a stark true dread which took on a physical force, pulling, distorting and twisting his face into one of abject fear and utter horror. The mirror’s ruby-red fractures bulged and stretched, dissolving their own edges and flowing into the glass, becoming a solid unbroken surface of blood.

A whispering voice sounded in his mind, shouting its corrupt incantation. A voice of many tongues: all ancient and malicious. Hell’s own words of corrupted crimson magic.

A lesson in evil was being taught to Jim, the unwilling and unfortunate sacrificial pupil.

‘Sanguinis speculum.’ Mirror of blood.

With that final understanding he wept and tried to scream his fear and prayer, but no sound came from his mouth. The glass surface was now a pulsing pool of liquid crimson, its aura staining his flesh, blinding his eyes and reason. It dissolved him, consuming his body and spirit, absorbing his outer and inner self.

Only in his reflection did he exist at all, and only whilst his soul was digested. The remains of Jim Burcher became transformed and deposited in the shape of a screaming head, rendered in a wooden sculpture on the frame, now the colour of congealed blood. The light faded, and the room returned to silent darkness.

Jim Burcher’s disappearance was, over time, noticed by concerned neighbours and reported to the authorities. The police searched his shop with its attached flat and studio, but to no avail. The file remains open, the case unsolved, Mr. Burcher forever missing.

After a few years of legal processes, the property became subject of probate and the shop and its contents put up for sale by public auction.

At the auction rooms, the auctioneer smiled at the return of the sacred mirror. He reverently picked it up and greedily licked the stained surface, closing his eyes in ecstasy at its taste. His sharp tongue delighted in the texture it discovered in the grainy folds of the new head that had erupted from the wood.

He carried the mirror to his workroom where he positioned the mould around its dark carved border, then poured in the plaster of Paris, burying the frame under a dead white solidity. When it dried he would apply gold paint and it would be ready for sale again.

All he would need was a new bidder.

 

Martin Fuller

Martin P. Fuller is just the west of 60 and trying to enjoy a semi-retirement from being a law enforcement officer for over thirty-four years. He works part time delivering cars for a rental company and endeavors to join as many writing classes as time and finances allow. He lives in a small terrace cottage in Menston, Yorkshire England.

It was because of these writing classes that he started gain the courage to submit his work for publishing. He prefers darker stories especially if he can affix a twist in story although he has dabbled in some comedy and poetry pieces.

So far, he has had work printed in self-produced anthologies from writing groups but hopes for a story to appear in October in an anthology published by comma press. He is hopeful that people will like the twists and turns of his dark mind. Either that or recommend serious therapists!

A Feast for Maggots

My body is a feast for maggots. I watch them gorging on my flesh and rage at my impotence. I want to pick them out one by one and stomp on them. Instead I float above my broken, decaying body like a human-shaped balloon. I never believed in ghosts. I thought people who claimed to have seen them were just easily frightened and easy to fool. There was no afterlife. No choir of angels. But here I am. Maybe I should stop getting so angry. I could turn into a crazy poltergeist. I laugh, staring up at the night sky.

Diana Grove

Diana Grove loves to write weird short stories, and has an honours degree in anthropology and a graduate certificate in writing. She lives with a crazy lady cat in Perth, Australia. Her short stories ‘Robot Lover’ and ‘Anubis’ appear in the anthology Freak Pure Slush Vol. 13 and the zine Trembling With Fear respectively.

Stonestruck

Soaked in dusk, the boys stands, as if stone struck gazing at the sleeping angel on the family tomb. He is tired of playing hide and seek. He nestles under the angel’s wing. Snow falls, soft as goose feathers, quilting the boy.
“Jacob? Where are you, boy?”
Samuel’s lantern shows the ivy grown around his son’s wrists and ankles and the moss furring his cheek.
Nature is eating him.
Samuel lifts his son. An avalanche of bugs pour from his hair. Sweating his father heaves; only the boy’s torso rises. Beneath the angel’s wing the boy’s feet are stone clad.

Alyson Faye

Alyson lives in West Yorkshire with her family and 3 rescue cats. She teaches creative writing classes, writes noir Flash Fiction and ghost stories. She is one of the writers in ‘Women in Horror Annual 2’, in Raging Aardvark’s ‘Twisted Tales’, her stories can be downloaded at www.alfiedog.com as well as being available on various sites like zeroflash/Tubeflash/101 words/three drops from a cauldron. Her flash fiction debut collection, ‘Badlands’ is out now from indie publisher Chapeltown Books – here’s the interview http://www.chapeltownpublishing.uk/2018/01/badlands-by-alyson-faye.html and is available to buy from amazon.

You can find out more on her blog- www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com

or at her amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01NBYSLRT

The Fifth Swing

A little voice, wet with trauma and rot: “Get on.”
I wheel around. No one.
I turn back to what made me stop my dawn jog: five unoccupied swings in the schoolyard—four of them in mad, asynchronous flight. The one on the end is dead still.
“I said, get on!”
This time it’s there. About three feet tall, tiny wisps of hair. Fleshy fluid runs from its mouth and eye sockets, and down its striped shirt.
“It’s for you.”
Somehow I can’t run.
I go. I sit. I start swinging.
Back and forth, higher, higher, then everything starts to—

F.M. Scott

F.M. Scott is from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he lives and writes.  He was a finalist in the inaugural Flash Fiction Contest hosted by The Tulsa Voice and  Nimrod International Journal.  You can follow him at www.writprodsm.wixsite.com/fmscott

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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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