So we’ve had one potential co-editor step up who I need to get back in contact with which means things for next year could be moving forward. BIG THINGS, assuming we end up on the same page. I’ll let you know more about that hopefully soon so I don’t have to be vague on any Trembling With Fear expansions.
For submissions, we actually had a few Drabble come in this week! We’re still low on them but I feel like I can breathe on next weeks for a very welcome change.
‘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.
“There’s no such thing as monsters, Champ,” Benji Friedman’s father, Issac, informed him from behind the Sunday Times.
The five-year-old was sure that there was something beneath his bed at night that meant to devour him and had just given a voice to his nocturnal concerns over Eggo waffles at the family breakfast table.
“They quite simply do not exist,” the Friedman patriarch added, shaking his paper out flat to punctuate his point.
Unable to get a read on his father’s face, hidden as it was behind a phalanx of newsprint, Benji looked to his mother for confirmation.
“It’s true what your father says, Ben, under-the-bed-monsters don’t really exist,” she said.
Even Nana, present for her monthly visit from the Willow Glen retirement community, nodded her old head in agreement from across the table.
But Benji was far from convinced. He’d heard the sound of strange scratching noises coming from below him last night. Like sharpened claws scrabbling across the faux wood tiles. And the noise had carried too much weight behind it, too much heft, Benji knew, to be the mere scuttling of some tiny house mouse or even the largest of rats. Whatever it was, it was not small.
“The thing is, Champ,” Mr. Friedman said as he folded up his paper and set it aside, barely missing his plate of syrupy remains. “You’re five. And five-year-old boys have very active imaginations. I should know because I was one once.”
“Oh, and it’s not just the boys,” Nana piped in with that croaky old voice of hers. “Why, this one here was so afraid of the ol’ Boogey Man that she would weep like the prophet Jeremiah every time we sent her off to bed,” she said, referring to Benji’s mother.
“I still remember that!” Mrs. Friedman remarked with the muted half-chuckle of someone slightly embarrassed.
“And do you remember what I used to tell all of you kids whenever you were scared of something in your room at night?” Nana asked her.
“I do, I do,” Benji’s mother said, reaching across the table to wipe a dribble of maple syrup from Nana’s furry chin. “You told us that all we had to do was to turn on the lights and that all of the monsters would go away.”
“It was all we could do just to get you kids down for the night. You, and your brothers, all of you were quite the handful, oh yes you were…” Nana said, trailing off into memory.
“Well, there you go, Ben,” Mrs. Friedman said, turning her attention back to her son. “If you find yourself getting scared then all you have to do is go and turn on the overheads. And you just leave them on for as long as you need, sweetie.”
“Sounds like sage advice to me,” Mr. Friedman said, disappearing behind his paper once again. “You just go ahead and hit the lights next time you start to worry about monsters under the bed again, okay, Champ?”
Of course, he’d said it in a tone of voice that suggested he’d be more than a little ashamed if Benji were to do any such thing.
With breakfast finished, Benji’s mother cleared the plates and then ushered him off to his room to get ready. They had a big day ahead of them. Nana wanted to stop by the farmers’ market and the antique mall, and afterwards she had an appointment with the eye doctor. His mom had to drive her, and Benji was forced to accompany them because his dad had a football game to watch and didn’t care to be disturbed.
But all throughout his boring day, sitting and waiting while his mother and his Nana cooed over shiny aubergines or vintage China patterns, Benji couldn’t shake the feeling of impending doom. When the lights went out that night, he knew there’d be something waiting for him.
When bedtime rolled around at last–and after the area beneath his bed had been thoroughly inspected and deemed monsterless–Benji’s mother tucked him in beneath his Boba Fett sheets and comforter and kissed him gently on the forehead.
“Now, you remember what to do if you start to get scared, honey? You just get yourself up and go turn on the lights, and then poof! no more monsters, just like that!” she said, smiling down at him in the dim light.
Benji nodded slowly in response, still incredulous as hell.
With that, his mother left his room and shut the door behind her. And once more, he found himself surrounded by darkness.
Terrified, Benji lay there completely still for what felt like well over an hour, listening only to the soft cycling of his own breath and the night wind rustling through the trees outside his window. He listened intently, waiting upon the horrible scratching noises to commence, but he couldn’t hear a thing from under his bed.
After a while, his eyes began to adjust to the dark and Benji was soon able to make out the lumpy shapes of his bedroom furniture in silhouette all around him. But nothing seemed untoward or out of place.
In fact, he was starting to wonder if perhaps his father hadn’t been right after all, and that this whole “monster business” was simply his imagination on overdrive.
Little by little, Benji began to relax, and soon his eyelids grew heavy as sleep’s siren call beckoned him downward into its arms. But just as he was all but set to be spirited away to dreamland, he felt himself jostled from his somnolence by a familiar noise. A noise like the sound of a rusty nail being dragged down the side of a corrugated tin shack.
The scratching had returned.
Benji felt his blood run cold and panic set in. He didn’t know what to do. He lay there frozen with fear, his tiny hands white-knuckled around two wadded clumps of bed sheet, too frightened even to call for help. Not that his parents, planted firmly, no doubt, before the blaring television downstairs would have heard him, anyway.
The scratching gave way to a low, slithering sound and then a sharp and violent hiss like water being poured into a pan of hot grease. And then something bumped up against the bottom of Benji’s bed hard enough to lift it momentarily from the ground.
A wave of adrenaline surged through Benji’s body and his heartbeat grew loud enough to hear. He remembered what his family had told him about the lights and wondered if it would actually work. If the darkness brought the monster, could the light really send it howling in defeat back to whatever nightmare world had spawned it? It had to work, he thought.
It was his only chance.
Summoning every ounce of courage inside him, Benji threw back the covers and bounded from bed, the soles of his bare feet touching down upon the cold tile. There wasn’t much distance to cover and he was almost certain he could pull it off.
But as he ran for the light switch upon the far wall, a giant arm–impossibly long and almost skeletal in form but for a hideous layer of mottled flesh–shot out from beneath the bed and snatched him by the ankle. With a vice-like grasp, and its claws sinking deep into his tender flesh, the arm pulled Benji backwards, yanking him from his feet. He went down fast, his chin striking hard against the floor and pain blasting through his skull like a bolt of lightning. He attempted to scream only to find that the impact had caused him to bite his tongue nearly in two leaving his cries muffled by its mangled obstruction. And as his mouth filled with the copper taste of blood, and his fear reached a peak previously unknown, the monster began to pull him closer.
Benji thrashed about, his free leg kicking out into empty space, as he fought desperately to break the monster’s hold. His fingernails squealed against the vinyl tiling, looking for purchase, as it dragged his flailing form across the floor. He twisted from his belly and looked towards the place where he was being pulled. There in the dark below the bed was a circle of even blacker darkness, and as his body slid towards it he realized that it was ringed by rows of razor sharp teeth. A stench far fouler than any he’d ever smelled issued forth from this gaping maw, and thick ropes of saliva dripped from every tooth. Once again, he tried to scream, and once again, he found that he could not.
. And so, in the final moments of his all-too-short existence, while this monstrous dentition sunk deep into the marble white flesh of his naked thigh, Benji cursed his parents and their awful advice in the forefront of his screaming mind. He cursed his stupid Nana, too.
Why hadn’t they believed him about the monster? And why, WHY hadn’t they realized the simple flaw in their stupid, stupid plan?
Sometimes, you don’t make it to the lights.
Matthew Gorman is an author of horror and other speculative fiction residing in Seattle, Washington. His work has appeared in several anthologies including the latest Supernatural Horror anthology from Flame Tree Publishing.
Matthew is a huge fan of classic horror in the vein of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and Robert W. Chambers, as well as a steadfast acolyte of such modern horror luminaries as Clive Barker and Stephen King.
We are the secret ones who haunt your lore.
Our kind has walked beside you from the first,
Spawning your legends of a race accurst
Who feed and thrive on Death and human gore.
Unlike our cousin vampires’ sanguine thirst,
We crave the meat, the taste of human flesh,
The thrill of killing—and when kill is fresh—
The savor of the feast when blood has burst
Forth from the rend and bite of claw and tooth.
We roam your world, ne’er long in any place,
Looking enough like you that, face to face,
In passing, none can see the hidden truth:
Behind those lips that never smile, the fangs;
Inside those gloves, the curve of razor claws.
With many of your missing—we’re the cause,
And take the greatest pleasure from your pangs.
At each new hunting ground, we find a spot,
Secret and dark, to have our grisly meals.
The bones are picked clean, and the blood congeals.
Then—to be sure our kind are never caught—
What’s left is safely hidden in the ground
Of some deep nearby wood and buried deep,
Where Earth will long and long the secret keep.
And rarely—very rarely—are bones found.
We roam among you through this world of woe.
Few live who ever see us come or go.
When—if we meet—you see me bare my smile,
You have life left—for but a little while.
Frank Coffman is Professor of English, journalism, and creative writing at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois. A published poet, author, and researcher, his emphasis of late in literary criticism has been on the poetry of Robert E. Howard [edited Robert E. Howard: Selected Poems]. His weird/supernatural poetry has appeared in Spectral Realms, Skelos, and other journals. He is the founder of the Facebook site: Weird Poets Society. He has a keen interest in all of the genres of popular imaginative literature.
Yoshi awoke suddenly, unable to move, unable to scream. And scream he would’ve, for his wife hung above him—pale, moaning, and dripping wet.
She glared at him in mournful loathing, her mouth gaping, a choked gurgle coming out of her bloated throat. A torrent of frigid water came raging out of it, shooting across his face, down his nose, into his mouth.
Yoshi could not get out from under the horrid flow.
He died, drowned in the same waters that he had forced Akari under a month before, leaving her body to sink into the pond beside their hut.
Patrick Winters is a recent graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. He has been published in the likes of Sanitarium Magazine, The Sirens Call, Trysts of Fate, and other such titles.
You can find out more about him at his homepage.
Mother Knows Worst
Little Maisie was a bad seed.
She was evil.
That’s what her mother would say.
And Maisie believed her.
She came home bloody more than once, more than twice, with a skinned cat staining her lap.
Hunks of flesh turned up often through her hair and between her teeth; sometimes belonging to an animal and sometimes…not.
She was the neighborhood terror and a bane to the school bully.
Her mother said she was bad to the bone.
But which bone was it that made her bad?
Curious, she took out a kitchen knife.
And decided to start with her toes.
- Taking Submissions: Rigor Morbid 2 - February 24, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Future Tense: Love - February 24, 2020
- WIHM: Brene Brown and Monsters: Finding Connection in Horror - February 23, 2020
- WIHM: Lizzie Borden – Misunderstood Orphan Or Criminal Mastermind? - February 22, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Horror USA: Nevada - February 21, 2020
- Ongoing Submissions: Cosmic Horror Monthly - February 20, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Corners of the World - February 20, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Disturbia - February 19, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Every Day Fiction – April 2020 Themes - February 19, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Historic Fantasy - February 18, 2020