So, we’re finally about caught up on submissions. I’m hoping by the time you read this it means I’ve gotten back to everyone so if you haven’t heard on your sub, please reach out! I believe there might be a couple missing from when I moved around our e-mail. That being said, we could use a few new regular AND drabble submissions!

Also, I’m hoping next week that I’ll be able to announce a co-editor for TWF which will lighten my all too busy load as of late and lower our turn around even more! (A key step in some of the changes which we’ll be looking to make next year.)

‘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 Long Road to Immortality

It was dark. The road seemed to have been meandering forever. Her eyelids felt heavy and sleep was whispering sweet words in her ear that she’d already been half-seduced by. She’d passed through hill after valley, hamlet after village, and still her GPS pressed her to go on. The fuzzy white halos of light that were her headlights against the fog that surrounded the car had a comforting, relaxing aura about them, which only added to her wooziness.

Up ahead darkness loomed, somehow darker still. The car’s engine continued its purr, pulling her toward it. Closer now, she could see skeletal fingers through the fog. Trees, barren with the burden of the frozen winter. She zipped through the forest, her GPS still silent, its long, slender blue line still urging her on. The road narrowed and the tips of branches began tapping at her windows intermittently.

“In four hundred metres, turn left,” said the woman’s voice on her GPS.

She squinted, peering in to the murk. Could see nothing. Still she drove on.

“In one hundred metres, turn left,” the voice again. “Turn left.”

She slowed almost to a stop and could just make out a dirt track veering off to the left. She turned, the car bumping off the smooth tarmac on to bumpy earth and stone.

“Your destination is in forty metres, on your right,” came the voice of the GPS once more, the screen illuminated, clamouring for her attention to rate the directions she’d been given. She pulled in to the clearing on the right, swiped away the message on her screen and turned off the engine. She fastened her thick coat, pulled on her woollen gloves, tightened the scarf around her neck and stepped out of the car. She looked around. Nothing. No wait, a shape. She stepped towards it. Out of the gloom appeared a well. Old fashioned with a slate roof and a crank that could have been centuries old.

The wind blasted through the bones of trees that surrounded her as she approached the well. She looked back at her texts from him. ‘Meet me at these co-ordinates,’ the last one read. She looked around her again. Nothing. No-one.

She bit the middle finger of her right glove and tugged it off. Thumbed into the phone ‘Here’ and pressed send. The light started to dim, then brightened, a tick next to message. Delivered. She stamped her feet to keep the blood flowing in her legs. It was a frigid night. Then her phone buzzed, the screen brightly coming to life. She swiped up.

‘Do you still want to join the immortals?’ read the message in her preview.

She took her gloveless right hand from her pocket, tried to stop it trembling as she typed. ‘Of course. It’s why I’m here.’ Send. Since the first message left on her voicemail. The anonymously delivered envelopes of money that had followed. The secrets that had been revealed to her in those cryptic emails. Her ego, massaged like it had never been in her utterly unremarkable life to date, would not let her off this train now.

Another minute passed. The silence was deafening. Nothing stirred, but for the icy blasts from the north every few minutes. She looked over her shoulder to her car. Plumes of steam were still rising from under the bonnet. Then another buzz. She brought her phone to life, another message. ‘Coming,’ it read.

Then she waited. Paced. Reached out to touch the crank handle. Frozen, as she ought to have expected. She stepped backwards, almost tripping on an exposed root. Looked at her phone once again. Then she heard something. A cracking sound on the other side of the well. She tried to look, but could see nothing. Why hadn’t she brought a torch? “Hello,” she called out. No reply, but more cracking of branches. Closer. Then a figure – more of a shadow really – began to emerge from the woods.

“Hello Emily,” came the man’s voice. “You’ve come a long way. Thank you. Are you ready?”

Emily nodded. Then realised it was almost certainly imperceptible in the darkness. “Y…yes. I am. I think I am.” She shivered. She wasn’t sure if it was the cold this time, or the anticipation.

The man stopped at the other side of the well. She could begin to make out some of his facial features. “Go to the well Emily. Wind the crank.”

She stepped forward, put her gloved right hand on the dull metal of the crank and pushed. It wouldn’t budge. “It’s stuck,” she said, still trying to force it.

“It’s not stuck, it’s heavy. Two hands.”

She lifted her left hand and pushed the crank harder, it began to budge. Her muscles screamed and she felt herself starting to sweat at the weight of the bucket on the chain. It slowly rose, the effort required seeming to multiply every with every revolution. She heard creaking of the wood, but could not see in the cylinder of darkness that was the well shaft.

“Almost there,” he said in encouragement.

And then it rose up out of the darkness, that seemed to be broken like the surface of a liquid. In the wide wooden trough was a teenage boy. He was asleep. Possibly unconscious. It was difficult to see. He was wearing a filthy track suit, his hair was matted, his skin pale.

“Lock the crank, by pulling it down.”

She did as he said.

“Look down by your feet.”

She looked down. Could see nothing. Not even her feet.

“You’ll have to get closer.”

She looked at the man. His features, still out of focus in the shadows, remained impassive. She sighed and crouched, hearing her knees give off an arthritic click as she did so. She felt around with her hand, finding soil, leaves, twigs and then something solid. A knife. Her breath rushed from her. She tasted sick in her mouth. But she choked it back and stood, knife in hand.

“Now?” she asked, unable to form the rest of the question.

“Cut his throat.”

There was silence. The wind had dropped. She could hear her heart drumming, double-time in her ears.

“What?”

“Cut his throat.”

“And then I’ll-“

“-and then you’ll join the immortals. Do it.”

She lifted her left hand to the boy’s head, tipped it backward, exposing the neck. His sallow skin darkened under the pressure from her hand. She raised the blade so that the edge was pressed against his neck. Her hand trembled. She let out a breath and steadied herself. Then she pressed and slid the blade along the line of his throat. Dark blood, near-black in the pitch of the woodland, began to seep from the wound, then flow faster. The glove on her right hand began to get heavy and warm as it soaked up the blood, running over the blade. Emily looked up. He was still watching from behind the well. The boy shuddered, spluttered as his lungs gave out and then was still.

Emily released her hands from him, let them hang limp at her sides. Felt the blood already beginning to coagulate on the fingers of her cutting hand. She couldn’t feel herself breathing. Was she breathing? Her mind was thrumming with what she had just done, but she managed to find a moment to focus. She looked directly at the man, or the shape of him, at least.

“And now?” She let her question hang in the icy air between them.

“Throw the knife into the well.”

She tossed the knife down behind the trough, heard the metal clanging against the shaft once, twice, before any trace of it was swallowed up by the darkness.

“OK.” She waited for a long moment.

“That’s it,” he said. “You’re immortal now. You’ll live forever.”

“I… I don’t understand.”

“Look up Emily, see your immortality.”

She looked up. Saw nothing but the spindly branches of trees, criss-crossed over one another, hatching out every last speck of sky above. She looked back to him.

“Really look, woman,” he said. It sounded like a taunt.

She leaned her head back again and then she saw it. Above and just behind her. A red light. A tiny LED. She felt the world enter a spin around her.

“Yes, it is,” he said. She could hear him smiling. “It’s a camera. Go-pro. Night vision. Why don’t you wave to your public?” He chuckled at his own joke. First I checked in to this location, then I started the live video broadcast, and then I tagged you. You’re a social media star, Emily. There are, let me see-“ He took his smart phone from the deep pocket of his long coat “-two thousand-and-thirty-one viewers.”

“But you-“

“Am not who I said I was. And an hour from now, will be someone else entirely. What’s that?”

He turned his head slightly, his eyes darting upward.

“Sirens?” she asked, though to whom she wasn’t sure. She looked back to the road. Nothing yet. She turned back in time to see the shape of the man melting into the shadows of the forest. She knelt. And waited. And wept.

Kev Harrison

Kev Harrison

Kev Harrison is a British author of dark fiction, living and working in Lisbon, Portugal. In the past year, he has had short stories published in anthologies by Jitter Press and 9Tales Told in the Dark. In the coming months, he has work awaiting publication in anthologies by MacKenzie Publishing and Lycan Valley Press. He is also working on his first novel.

Monsters

I never liked the well in our backyard. It scared me since the day we moved in. It smelled bad—like garbage and dead cats. The walls were covered in nasty moss, and it was in the water that mommy tried to pull up from the bottom.

And it was so dark down there. I knew there had to be a monster living in it.

I’m down here now, cold and waiting for the monster to get me. Mommy says that if I’m a good girl again, she’ll let me out.

I think the monster will eat me by then . . .

Patrick Winters

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 Patrick on his homepage.

Roses Are Red: Volume 1

The baby’s crying was coming from the garden. Strange, he thought, because they didn’t have children. Joanne couldn’t, she’d told him.

He donned his dressing-gown, and headed outside. The crying was faint, muffled. It was coming from the rose bush, but, he thought, beneath the roses.

Oh God. Could someone perhaps have buried…? A young mother perhaps?

He put his ear the ground. The sobs died away.

Frantic, he scraped away the earth until he came to a small bundle. Opening it, he saw a photo, and a child’s skeleton. He looked at the photo. It was Joanne, heavily pregnant.

Justin Boote

Justin Boote has lived for over twenty years in Barcelona, Spain, plying his trade as a stressed waiter in a busy restaurant. He has been writing horror stories for just over a year, and currently has 8 published in diverse magazines including for Lycan Valley Press, Deadlights Shotgun magazine, Zimbell House Publishing, Dark Dossier Magazine and The Horrorzine’s summer edition.

He is also a member of a private writer’s forum called The Write Practice where he has also acted as a judge on two ocassions for their contests.

He can be found at Facebook under his own name, or at [email protected].

Jagged Little Teeth

They gleamed in the dark

Those jagged little teeth

Chomping at the bit

Nibbling at your feet

They’re from under the bed

And scurry across the floor

Monsters in the shadows

Who live behind closed doors

They fuel our nightmares

And hide beneath the stairs

The knock at the windows

Scratching in the walls

Peace of mind is in the past

As soon as night falls

The clicking of their legs echo

As they approach their sleeping prey

A plague on the sanity

For those who’ve ended their day

They feed upon the happiness

On all who have dozed away

Stuart Conover

Stuart Conover is a father, husband, rescue dog owner, horror author, blogger, journalist, horror enthusiast, comic book geek, science fiction junkie, and IT professional. With all of that to cram in on a daily basis, it is highly debatable that he ever is able to sleep and rumors have him attached to an IV drip of caffeine to get through most days.

A resident in the suburbs of Chicago (and once upon a time in the city) most of Stuart’s fiction takes place in the Midwest if not the Windy City itself. From downtown to the suburbs to the cornfields – the area is ripe for urban horror of all facets.

Oh, he’s also the editor of this site!

You can find out more about Stuart over at his homepage.

About Stuart Conover

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