Trembling With Fear 06/10/2018
I was feeling a bit stuck for an editorial this week but a submission from an Australian author made me think I’d seen an increase in stories from down under in recent times. This got me to thinking about where in the world our writers come from so I did a quick study. Note all figures are taken from those who have been successful this year, ie those we hold contracts for. I have not included those currently going through the submission process or who may have been rejected, nor have I based it on the number of stories a writer may have had published. Figures are derived purely from the names currently held in the ‘Accepted’ Folder for 2018
So here we go:
United States – 57%
United Kingdom – 26%
Canada – 7%
Australia – 2%
Spain – 2%
Portugal – 2%
Sweden – 2%
Germany – 2% (although now living in Ireland)
Note: in the case of Spain, Portugal and Canada, these include ex—pat Brits.
Drabbles: Male v Female update
United States – 53%
United Kingdom – 20%
Canada – 15%
Australia – 3%
South Africa – 3%
Australia – 3%
Portugal – 3%
Republic of Ireland – 3%
Short Stories: Male v Female update
(The gap between men and women for both drabbles and short stories is purely down to how many submit in the first place and acceptances are based purely on the quality of the story but men definitely sub more than women.)
As an avid follower of the ‘Walter Presents’ programmes which are shown on Channel 4 (I watch them via the ALL4 app on my tv) I would love to see more stories from writers in Europe. The programmes I’ve seen are often quite dark and come from Scandinavia, Belgium, Germany, France amongst others and are extremely good quality; their reach even extends to South America although I tend to go for the colder climes, it was my love of Scandi noir that led me to WP in the first place. If you’ve not heard of Walter Presents, I would highly recommend them. Go here http://www.channel4.com/collection/walter-presents or @WalterPresents, you don’t even realise you’re following subtitles after a while.
One of our regular authors has also been pursuing a collaboration with another writer in Africa and the result of their work is currently going through the review process.
So … even if you feel your English is not all it could be, please send it in. If I read it and like it then it is something I am usually happy to work on with an author; much as I do for relatively new writers. There are no borders at Horror Tree.
The anthology is actually closing in to being ready. However, we’ve come across a major stumbling block for contracts that might hold things up. Figuring out the logistics of getting this resolved in a timely manner ASAP. Everyone involved in the 2017 one should be getting an e-mail relatively soon with a quick revision.
‘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.
That dreaded midnight hour on February 26, 2018 was almost upon him.
For the first time in his three-year career as a Hong Kong Tramways driver, it was Andy Chan’s first night shift on route #108 Happy Valley Eastbound on this day. Right across the Happy Valley racecourse was the Hong Kong Cemetery on the west side of Wong Nai Chung Road, where many taxi drivers had experienced the occasional customers paying with seemingly legitimate currency, which later turned out to be hell money. Well, at least tram drivers do not directly handle cash or any form of payment. He would rather not encounter any ghosts, thank you very much.
Stopping in a busy intersection in Wan Chai, Andy hung a tin bucket filled with water at the front of the tram. Some people looked puzzled by his action, but the older locals knew. One street vendor even wished him good luck. He pressed a button to indicate Not In Service on the LED route display board instead of #108 Eastbound. As he started his route, the tram crawled slowly south on Wong Nai Chung Road in a speed just barely faster than jogging.
You have to slow for them if you see them coming, Sam Wong, a colleague, had advised him before he started tonight’s shift. But for Buddha’s sake never ever stop or get off the tram!
The tram just passed Queen’s Road East. Andy’s heart began to race. He glanced at the time on his watch, which was now midnight. He was starting to get gooseflesh, hard like the stubs on his five- year-old son’s Lego bricks. He closed his eyes momentarily after passing Dorsett hotel. The cemetery would come up on his right any second now.
(Why did I become a tram driver?)
An image of his father’s angry face suddenly surfaced in his memory. Angry he could take; but there was so much disappointment in his father’s eyes that Andy had to quit working for his old man. It wasn’t the charred barbecue duck. You’re just not reliable! His old man had said.
He was still young–thirty-one when he first started driving trams–though initially he was only going to do it for a year. The pay was decent and the pension was not bad, though his father would rather have Andy take over the restaurant some day. Ironically, Andy was the one who gained a paunch after sitting in the driver’s seat all day (or night), while his father remained skinny, despite working with food fourteen hours a day, seven days a week.
(At least I still make more money than those college kids with degrees who are mopping floors at McDonald’s!)
When Andy opened his eyes again, he saw nothing; in fact, not a soul on either side of the road at this hour. A wave of relief washed over him. He even laughed aloud, albeit a little nervously. He never saw any ghosts in his life, and this yearly tradition was probably just like any other custom of a very superstitious society, nothing more. Not every driver even bothered to run this route on an empty tram anyway. He nearly resented listening to Sam Wong and the fearmongers at the hub, letting them scare him like this.
He turned on the radio. A monotonous male voice came on and reported the day’s news in Cantonese:
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the catastrophic fire that claimed close to 600 lives at the Happy Valley Racecourse. It all started when a roof collapsed, knocking over portable gas stoves food vendors were using. The fire spread fast and caused a stampede–people trampled over each other trying to escape. Charred remains of more than 590 bodies were eventually recovered, though more were believed to have perished. Buddhist monks were called in to perform a ritual after the dead were reportedly seen around the area after the fire, apparently begging for water…
Andy switched off the radio hastily, nearly knocking it off the panel close to his steering wheel. Why was the tram so slow all of a sudden? He stepped on the gas, but it was still crawling. He kicked the pedal in a moment of frustration–something he regretted instantly–for the tram suddenly stopped dead between the entrance to the racecourse on one side and the cemetery on the other.
The cold night air suddenly turned very hot and smelled like smoke. Andy looked to his left at the racecourse but there was nothing there. No one would be burning incense at this hour at the cemetery (it was closed), and just for confirmation, he looked at the sprawling cemetery but there was no smoke anywhere. In a place like Hong Kong, one would rarely have this opportunity to be completely alone, yet Andy felt like he was the only living soul in the area. He tried to find a logical explanation. Was the smell coming from the engine? If so, what an unfortunate time for it to happen, of all times, of all places!
But for Buddha’s sake don’t ever stop or get off the tram! Sam Wong’s words came to Andy’s mind for the second time tonight.
(What should I do now?)
Andy took out his cell phone, but despite the 5G broadband (among the first in the world, no less), he had no signal. The air brought in by the heat exchange smelled like that day he left five barbecue ducks in the oven half an hour too long in his father’s restaurant, an infamy in his family’s history. Then he heard footfalls–lots and lots of them. Every hair on his arms stood on its end, even though he was wearing a down jacket. He was a sitting duck (he thought of the charred barbecue duck again) and not even a single car had passed by. He could hear moaning, wailing, whimpering and screaming all around him, and yet, he still did not see anything. He pushed the button to make sure all the windows were shut and the doors were locked, just in case. In case they…
And then they came.
A teeming crowd–charred and melting–suddenly appeared out of nowhere and swarmed his tram. They flailed their burning arms and bemoaned the heat. They came for the bucket of water. He heard the bucket hit the tram and watched as the water spilled all over. The horde kept coming–some were banging on the glass of his front windows begging for more water. He feared the impact would eventually break the glass, so he did another thing he would regret in a few seconds–he honked the horn to scare them off.
The sound of the horn pierced the ruckus. But instead of inciting fear, it spurred the horde even more. He was completely surrounded and trapped inside the tram. The tram was shaking from side to side like the seats in a 3D ride at amusement parks. Andy had to hold onto his steering wheel to steady himself. He frantically looked at his phone again, but still, no signal. While he prided himself on being a manly man who had never shed a tear, a few drops had started to pool at the corner of his eyes, threatening to trigger a flood. He thought of his wife, his son, and even the angry face of his father, and feared he would not see them again.
(Please go away I gave you water already what more do you want please just leave me alone)
In a moment of panic, he hit the gas pedal again. To his immense relief, the tram jolted and started moving. The charred faces in front of him screamed, some fell as the tram ran them over. Andy shrieked–he would remember the sensation of his tram going over bodies for the rest of his life, and with each thump his tears fell a bit more freely. There was a lot of caterwauling from the dead, as the tram made its trip around the racecourse, passing Wong Nai Chung Road Crescent Garden and going north.
Once he passed the Happy Valley Recreation Ground, he could no longer see the racecourse. The air no longer smelled adust. He looked back in the side and rear-view mirrors and did not see the dead anymore. He wiped his tears and snot off his face with the sleeve of his jacket, erasing any evidence that he wasn’t such a manly man after all.
At the end of his route, Andy parked his tram at the hub and left the key for the next driver without a word. It was the last time he clocked out at Hong Kong Tramways.
Judith Baron loves to base her stories on actual events and folklore, especially from her homeland Hong Kong. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Western Ontario and currently lives near Toronto, Canada with her husband and child.
He tanned until his white skin turned a burned russet, his shameless smile full of white teeth and reddened eyes providing the only change of hue. More walking potato skin than human, his epidermis shimmered, oiled in a way he no doubt thought was bronzed, with a sure shot at the gold.
Coming in second-to-last didn’t exactly make him happy. Returning to his favored salon, he blamed them for his failure, demanding free sessions, extra oiling and massage. The managers exchanged a nod.
Once he lay inside the tanning bed, they tied the handles, sipping margaritas as he screamed, burning.
Kevin Holton is a cyborg and fitness junkie from coastal New Jersey. He’s the author of At the Hands of Madness (Severed Press), as well as the forthcoming novels The Nightmare King (Siren’s Call Publications) and These Walls Don’t Talk, They Scream (HellBound Books). He also co-wrote the short film Human Report 85616, and his short work has appeared with Sci-Phi Journal, The Literary Hatchet, Radiant Crown Press, Pleiades, Rain Taxi, Mighty Quill Books, and Thunderdome Press, among others. He can also be found acting, blogging with The Bold Mom, or talking about Batman.
Love To Love You Baby
It’s said there’s someone for everyone and I have always hoped that this was true.
Despite all the challenges, my belief in love never once waivered; my faith in Aphrodite was unshakeable.
This then, was my reward.
A perfect partner. My soulmate.
So, after proposing, and receiving a furious headshake for an answer, it could be said I took the refusal… badly.
They declined my hand in marriage. But I still took theirs.
And their tongue.
It’s also said that there’s plenty more fish in the sea.
I hope so.
I’m already angling for another catch.
Steven Holding lives with his family in Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom. His work has been short listed in several contests and his story “UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD” was selected as the winning entry in the WRITING MAGAZINE 2016 annual short story competition. One of his monologues was chosen to be performed at Northampton’s Royal Theatre, while his adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland” was produced at Northampton’s Derngate Theatre in 2017.
You can visit his website at www.stevenholding.co.uk
Your eyes burst open, as though pulled. It is ink dark. Your thundering heart thumps in your temples. Your eyes adjust to dim light, your ears to night’s near silence.
A vision blooms in your mind.
Of a dream?
What is that sound? A scuffing, like the stagger of one who emptied their fifth drink long ago and returned for more. A shadow looms, darker somehow than the darkness around it. It lumbers awkwardly, closing the distance to your bedside. You stare up to face it, mouth gaping, only… there is no face to face.
Only a dream?
Kev Harrison is a writer of dark fiction and English language teacher from the UK, living and working in Lisbon, Portugal. His nomadic lifestyle has previously taken him to various cities in the United Kingdom, as well as to Turkey and Poland. He has an unquenchable thirst for travel and is passionate about food, photography, and music, as well as fiction. He is a staff writer for This is Horror and has had short fiction published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including Below the Stairs: Tales From The Cellar from Things in the Well, Mummy Knows Best from Terror Tree Books and, most recently The Pale Leaves website of gothic and weird fiction and The Other Stories podcast. He has more stories scheduled for publishing in 2018 and is currently editing his first supernatural horror novella.