Trembling With Fear 06/06/21

And waiting and waiting … will we ever make it out alive? Déjà vu from last week but took a big step signing contracts. We also have a date for our second jabs for the AZ vaccine. Freedom beckons from afar.

I took a smallish break last weekend and allowed myself to read with little bits of writing thrown in. I finished Cynthia Pelayo’s The Children of Chicago, and also read Josh Malerman’s Malorie and S.H. Cooper’s The Festering Ones. All different and all excellent. The Festering Ones is the first in a series and I am really looking forward to the next when it appears. If you’re going to write, you’ve got to read – there is absolutely no way around that one. It’s the easiest and the best way to learn anything about writing. If you don’t read, then why are you a writer?

Back to my main project and my novel, Reborn, is now just over 70,000 words. I have written all the chapters and am reading through and weaving in a few viewpoints before I let it rest and get a few other projects up and running – poetry, novella, book cover design – think I might have forgotten something there!

Note to all – rejection sucks and you deal with it, but occasionally it can send you plummeting into a bad place despite all your other successes. That happened to me a few days ago but I’ve got a good friend with common sense who put me right. Make sure you have someone so you can help each other through these eternal highs and lows. They are worth their weight in gold. Thank you, Alyson Faye – and everyone else, go and read her work.

Before we go to the stories, here’s my usual weekly reminder to check out the submission guidelines for TWF. Also remember we are currently closed to short stories (unless for one of the Specials) but open to drabbles, unholy trinities and serials.

This week Trembling with Fear starts with Patty’s Party Time by Patrick Winters. This is great fun. Yes, we all love our children and would do anything to protect them but haven’t we all secretly wished for a little revenge on the brattish and selfish behaviour some display around us (though this is often the fault of poor parenting) or wanted to just stop the normal, but irritating tantrums? You can indulge those feelings in this tale quite safely knowing that no one is harmed. Parental catharsis on paper!

Chair by Mike Rader is written as if having a straightforward chat, despite the subject under discussion and the setting and uses the old ‘if only’ to good effect.

Sacrifice by Kim Plasket is a murderous tale but there is a hint of the outsider looking in, wanting to be part of something however that is achieved. That little desire to ‘feel useful’ throws in a surprising vulnerability to the writing.

Under by Patrick Winters gives a new shape to that thing lurking beneath the water, the something which brushes your skin. Is it a monster or something else? This tale brings an unexpected pathos to the trope.

Enjoy our stories and send in yours!

Steph

 

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

By the time you’re reading this. We should have our initial uploads of the next physical installments of ‘Trembling With Fear’ into KDP! Now, that isn’t to say things will be ready to go as there usually is a pile of editing after the fact to make it all work right, but we’re getting closer my friends!

On a personal note, one of my short stories (which is very much not in the style I usually write in) was picked up as a reprint! “Sarah and the Clicker” had previously been released online and now has found a home in actual print in the collection (This IS an affiliate link which means Horror Tree would get a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you) –  ‘Second Hand Creeps Vol.1,’ which I’ll be honest is pretty neat. 

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Patty’s Party Time by Patrick Winters

“Everyone screams for Patty!”

The slogan for Patty’s Party Time was memorable, to the point, and accurate. And for being one of those knock-off family entertainment restaurants, it managed to do quite a business.

It catered to children—be it a certain type of child. Parents would happen across its advertisements via choice internet searches and hear about it through whispered recommendations. People from all over would wind up taking their kids to the establishment, some coming in to partake of the fun, while others would just leave their children there for hours, knowing they were in the hands of Patty’s attentive employees. Sometimes, the parents wouldn’t come back at all.

The restaurant’s offerings were many and varied. There were any number of things to keep a child’s mind and body occupied, guaranteeing some memorable experiences for their pint-sized patrons in the process. And today, many memories were being made.

The joint’s gaming cabinets were all full, though the kids in the seats weren’t playing, so much as they were being played with. They were strapped fast into their seats, heads restrained and fixed to stare ahead, eyelids taped open. They were helpless, made to watch all manner of chilling sights and terrible deeds that played out on the screens before them, inspiring madness in their little minds.

Squeals rang out from the Ball Pit, which was filled with a roiling mass of human eyeballs. Children were being thrown in by the dozens. They struggled to keep from sinking down into the gelatinous horror that was swallowing them up, a thousand dead stares watching as they were pulled under, into a deep, immeasurable darkness that some never crawled out of.

Others were busy running the gamut that was the Maze, a jungle gym of enormous height and greater mischief. This winding construction was filled with trapdoors, compressing walls, nibbling rats, and a good number of dead ends, among other nasty surprises. It would provide a rush to anyone who was forced inside, to be sure.

Still, even more were kept busy with other activities, assisted and supervised by the pale skinned, black-uniformed employees of Patty’s Party Time, who saw to their roles with utter glee and devotion. There were the shrunken-head claw machines, the prizes having been supplied by losers past; the Chick-Ka-Boom, where kids were made to squash chirping chicks with great metal mallets; the Shocker, which would send a number of volts through whoever was holding onto its handles; and so, so much more.

Every child was there for a different reason. Bad behavior. Bad manners. Bad grades. Bad luck. 

Adam Tucker was there for his birthday, something his parents had rued ever since he’d come crying out of his mother’s womb; and this year, they’d wanted to celebrate it properly.

Adam had been calling out for his mother and father for the last hour, but they were nowhere to be found; they’d already returned to the comfort of a quiet home. The only ones around to hear his begging had been Sally and Preston, two Patty’s employees that had been put in charge of making his special day so very special, indeed. They now stood at his sides, smiling down at him from the chair he was tied to. They’d placed him at one of the long tables that made up the dining area of the restaurant, affording him a good spot before the stage where the rusted animatronics of Patty’s Revue would give their shows. The metallic performers were still for now, their scaly, multi-armed, fish-faced bodies hanging limp with instruments in claws, waiting to perform their cacophonies again. A pair of great and ornate doors loomed behind them, blacker than night and making up the backdrop of their stage.

“Heya, Adam!” Preston said, his stark white face hovering in front of the boy’s. “Are ya ready for some more fun?”

Sally started clapping and jumping in place. “Oh, I think he’s ready for a lot more fun!”

Adam shook his head, eyes darting between his captors and a groan creeping from his lips. He tried to pull his arms and legs free from his chair, but they were bound tightly, with no give.

“Well, he better be ready, because this party’s just getting started. In fact, I think it’s time the birthday boy had his . . . cake!”

Sally let out a squeal and started whooping and dancing as Preston brandished a kazoo from his pocket. He gave it a long, earsplitting toot, and a moment later, a line of Patty’s employees came stomping into view, grinning and singing as one:

Cake time, cake time,

We’ve made one just for you!

Cake time, cake time,

It tastes so good, it’s true!

Have a seat, kick up your feet,

Don’t cry or make a fuss!

Ready your tummy for something yummy,

Now have some cake on us!”

The crowd of employees cheered and clapped as they surrounded the boy, one of them setting a large platter of what looked like chocolate cake in front of Adam. But as he got a good look at it, and as the smell hit him, he realized it wasn’t chocolate icing that it was covered in.

The ‘cake’ was the most macabre Adam had ever seen. It was two tiers of lumps and lopsidedness, looking more like a great mound of clay than a baked good. It had a runny, yellow icing piped atop the layer of brown waste, swoops and loops providing nonsensical designs and trims across it. The candles placed upon it were just as shoddy, being thick stumps of pale, crooked wax, some with the tips lit, some not. However, as Adam took in their detail, he came to realize that the unlit candles didn’t have wicks at their tips—they had nails . . .

“Happy birthday, Adam!” Sally cooed.

Preston laughed and bunched up his shoulders. “Ready to dig in?”

Adam groaned and shook his head again, his breath hitching in his chest.

“Well, too bad!” Preston said, grabbing hold of Adam’s hair. “Eat up, kiddo!”

And then Adam had his head shoved into the reeking, dreadful excuse for a cake, his face rubbed through it like a dog in its mess. He clenched his jaw and squeezed his eyes shut, trying not to cry out as the employees around him laughed and cheered. Finally, after what seemed like forever, Preston pulled him up for air. 

Adam spat and coughed, fighting to catch his breath and trying not to hack from the overwhelming stench upon him.

“Better than Betty Crocker, right?” Preston giggled, and the crowd of workers laughed along with him. 

The tolling of a bell rang through the restaurant at that moment, a deep and reverberating knell, and all the employees’ faces went wide with wonder and anticipation.

“It’s time!” Sally beamed. “Another show of Patty’s Revue is getting ready to start! And lucky you, Adam! This birthday boy’s gonna get to meet Patty herself!”

Adam’s tears cut through the muck on his cheeks as Preston and Sally angled his chair towards the stage. The other employees scattered, searching for other children to bring to the show. 

The lights lowered a tad and a hum rose in the air as kids were forced into seats.

Some funky bass notes struck up through the speakers to either side of the stage as the eldritch band of animatronics began to move. Their tentacles strummed at their guitars and their clawed feet beat the pedals of their bass drums. The singer of the band brought its one-eyed face up to a microphone, and its goofy voice addressed the crowd.

“Hey there, kids! Hope you’re having fun out there! We’ve got some grooves and tunes we’d just love to play for you! But first, we’d like to introduce you to a very special someone! Without her, we wouldn’t be here to rock and roll with you! She’s the Queen of Obscene and the Patroness of Pain! You know her, you love her! It’s . . . Patty!”

The music swung up into a grand flourish, and a giant spotlight sprang to life, illuminating the big black doors behind the robotic band. The employees all clapped and whooped as the doors started to creak open, and from the darkness beyond the threshold, a hulking thing came into view. It lumbered out onto the stage, roaring with an ancient might that chilled Adam’s blood and stirred his bowels. And as the creature rose to its full height, reaching out its many limbs in a show of power and terror—

Everyone screamed for Patty.

Patrick Winters

As for a bio, here goes: Patrick Winters is a graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. His work has now been featured throughout several magazines and anthologies. A full list of his previous publications may be found at his author’s site, if you are so inclined to know: http://wintersauthor.azurewebsites.net/Publications/List

Chair

The priest said as they strapped me in, “You’re going to a better place, son.”  I doubted it.  Not after what I’d done.

If only my pa hadn’t walked out, if only mom had quit the booze.  Everyone says I’m “disturbed.”  Cut up my pet rabbit, then old man Ronson’s dog.  Then people.

Police asked, “How many, Gayden?”  I wasn’t lying when I said I didn’t know.  Can’t recall names, either, we didn’t exactly get into conversations.  

The man is pulling the lever. 

Police said eighteen bodies were under the floor.  Sounds a lot to me.  

If only I could —

Mike Rader

Mike Rader is a pseudonym used by Australian author and poet James Aitchison.  As J J Munro and Mike Rader, Aitchison writes horror and noir crime.  As James Lee, he writes Asia’s biggest selling horror series for middle readers — Mr Midnight — which has sold over three million copies.  His work can be seen at www.flameoftheforest.com

 

 Sacrifice

The screams reach my ears as I stand by the window. Watching the lights go out in the neighboring houses. I wait for the killer to come to me. Each night he gets closer, his lust for blood will never be quenched.

His teeth are razor sharp. He uses them to rip the flesh off the bones of his victims. They are unwilling, I am willing to have my life taken in the most brutal of ways. I want to trade this life for something that will let me feel useful. As a sacrifice, I will have that power endlessly.

Kim Plasket

Kim Plasket enjoys writing horror and paranormal and has been published in a variety of places: YEAR ONE (Dark Moments), Demonic Carnival: First Ticket’s Free: A Dark Humor Short Story Collection, Demonic Household: See Owner’s Manual: A Dark Humor Short Story : A Fantastical FunnyAdventure, Forgotten Ones: Drabbles of Myth and Legend,  Scary Snippets: Christmas Edition; Valentines Day and Halloween, Shades of Santa 
The thrill of the Hunt: Buried Alive  : Urban Legends Re-Imagined : Cabin Fever,  Trembling With Fear: More Tales From The Tree, Once Upon Academy: Anthology, Debut Novel: The Forgotten Ones..

With more to come in the next few years….

Under

It’s dark. And cold. And I’m so scared.

Where’s Mommy? I called out for her. Why hasn’t she swum out to get me yet? I’ve been down here for so long.

And why won’t anyone else help me? They swim by, but it’s like they don’t even see me! I reach out to them. I grab hold and shake them, wishing they’d help. But they just sink down into the dark and leave me alone again.

I want my Mommy! I wanna go home! I wanna be warm and safe and cuddle up with Scruff again!

Please… someone help me…

Patrick Winters

As for a bio, here goes: Patrick Winters is a graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. His work has now been featured throughout several magazines and anthologies. A full list of his previous publications may be found at his author’s site, if you are so inclined to know: http://wintersauthor.azurewebsites.net/Publications/List

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Stephanie Ellis

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.

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