Time for a celebration at last! Last week saw a break in my rejection streak with an acceptance into the final TOC for the Fiends in the Furrows anthology to be published by Nosetouch Press in September. I will also add that I received a rejection for a story the day before. As you can see, my writer’s life is probably pretty much the same as those of you who read this – although I get a very strong feeling that many of you are doing much better than me!

When thinking about the Fiends story, it made me reflect on that old saying ‘write what you know’. Something which I’ve often thought that if I followed would actually stop me from writing. However, in my recent dive into the world of folk horror I’ve realised that I am to a certain extent already doing this. In this recent story, my main character was based on a barman who used to work in my parents’ country pub (they managed it, didn’t own it). He didn’t kill anybody but he did maintain the hedges surrounding the carparks and two fields belonging to the pub. He used the old-fashioned method of hedge laying where branches were spliced and woven together, keeping the hedge healthy and creating a sturdy boundary to the land. I can still picture him now, slaving away over the wood, one of those little snapshots of memory that stays with you. So yes, I have a hedge layer in my story … but obviously with a twist. If ever you’re stuck for an idea, why not go back and see what memory you can turn to the dark side?

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

We’re brainstorming some ideas on making the drabble experience even better, possibly new details soon! (Unsure at this time if it is something that would happen soon or early 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

Servitude

Single people chafe at the existence of married couples that stay together despite the uncovering of one spouse’s unsavory deeds. The typical offenses are lying, gambling, and cheating. Well, I’ll tell you right now that there are worse things a spouse can do. I’ll also tell you that those things can actually solidify the nuptial bond.

I’m in the kitchen chopping, tenderizing, and marinating again. Lord knows I hate that I spend so much of my time in here. But it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

I do all the cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping. But Justin gets up at 5:30 in the morning, suffers through a hellish commute, and spends his days being inundated with phone calls, e-mails, and needy clients. Modern singletons frown upon my role in our traditional arrangement. But that’s because they don’t know how good it is to sleep in every day and waste zero closet space on business professional attire. They can’t fathom how wonderful it is to have the mortgage and bills be somebody else’s responsibility.

I place the meat in extra-large freezer bags. I put one of the bags in the bottom shelf of the refrigerator and the rest in the freezer downstairs. I return to the kitchen and tidy everything up. I get into the tub. A long bubble bath at 4:45 in the afternoon on a Wednesday is yet another perk that will never be enjoyed by the working singleton.

When I hear the front door creak open and the clunk of Justin’s keys on the console table, I feel a pulse of excitement in my deepest parts. Here’s another fact that the tragically unattached overlook: A lot of married couples remain fervently attracted to each other. The passion that my husband and I share hasn’t waned; in fact, each passing year has brought us an amplified interest in the nuances of the other’s evolving tastes. I hurriedly dress and join him in the kitchen, where he’s pouring two glasses of red wine (Perk #3,609: I always have a drinking buddy).

I give him a kiss on the mouth. “So, how was your day?”

“Pretty good. I finally closed the Wincek deal.”

“That’s awesome, babe,” I say, testing the waters by pulling a box of pasta from the pantry and some tomatoes and homemade broth from the refrigerator. “You must be starving.”

In no time his body is pressed against the back of mine. His parted lips warm my neck.

“I’m ravenous,” he whispers. “You know what I’m hungry for.”

“Maybe we should wait a few more days? Try to stretch out the time in between?”

His body tenses immediately. “Why would we stretch out the time?”

“We can’t have meat every night,” I admonish. “I’d have to go out two nights a month!”

“So go out two nights a month.”

I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised. After all, I’m the one who chose to share with Justin the spoils of my nocturnal activities. I had done so hoping that the profound intimacy we shared would make it possible for him to overlook my crimes. I had no clue that my biannual harvests would not only be tolerated, but encouraged to the point that I’d soon be out every ninety days. The thought of going out twice in one month simultaneously thrills and terrifies me.

“You don’t give a shit if I get caught,” I say. “Just as long as you get to have plenty of women.”

“I would never let you do it if I thought you’d get caught, Kev. You have an I.Q. of 166, for chrissakes. You’re literally the smartest person I know. Trust me, you won’t get caught.” His arms tighten around my waist. “And meat is the only thing I would ever want from a woman.”

A tear meanders its crooked path down my face. “I wish that were true.”

Justin turns me around and stops the flow of my words with a probing kiss. When he’s done, he takes my face in his hands and says, “It is true. As long as I can eat them, I don’t… desire them. You are my one true love, Kevin. I’ve never once cheated on you…”

The rest of his sentence hangs in the air with tacit magnitude: and I never will, as long as you keep killing, chopping, tenderizing, and marinating.

My throat is so constricted with emotion that I can barely swallow. This pain that wracks me—this knowledge that if I stop my murderous, culinary servitude, my husband might venture into a titty bar or a brothel or the bed of his wanton secretary—is something that I’ve signed up for. You see, I could tell that Justin was bisexual early on in our relationship. But I was so absolutely taken with him that walking away wasn’t an option. The second happiest day of my entire life was the day he proposed to me. The happiest day was the one on which I prepared my victim from the previous night just as I would a rack of lamb and Justin told me that he could taste my love for him in every bite.

Well, I won’t start letting him down now. I won’t let the miserable singletons reclaim me as one of their own. I am a married man, and I take my vows to love and obey my husband very seriously. If going out twice a month is what I need to do to ensure the longevity of my marriage, then that is exactly what I’ll do. I will obey. For better or for worse. Till death do us part.         

Sophie Kearing

I’m a night owl who writes dark fiction inspired by the works of Gillian Flynn, Elizabeth Brundage, Stephen King, Lionel Shriver, and Han Kang.

Pareidolia

Fear was all encompassing. Her identity had now become irrelevant. The only thing that truly mattered; that she was everywhere. On the surface of the soup bubbling on the hob. In the dripping condensation. Even within the pattern of the paisley wallpaper. Wherever Isaac turned, her grinning face was there.
The dread it instilled in him was absolute.
He had to get out.
Kicking open the door, Isaac bolted into the sanctuary of the garden. For a fleeting moment, he felt his terror subside.
Until he raised his head and gazed at the cloudscape in the sky up above him.

Steven Holding

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

The Darkness

The darkness speaks to me.
It whispers those things best left unsaid, of the secrets hidden in shadow, of the lies we tell ourselves while basking in the warm sunlight, of the lives we lead quietly, where no one can see.
It knows the unknowable, the myth from the fact, the things that lurk just beyond the range of sight, ever waiting for their window of opportunity.
It hears the movement of the air, the harbinger of change, the motion of wings, the echo of a rose petal falling unseen onto a wet paved road.
The darkness speaks to me.

G.A. Miller

G.A. Miller is a new voice in the chorus of horror authors, drawing his ideas from every day, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors, often with horrific consequences.

His published tales include:

“Bequeath” – Hinnom Magazine 001, Gehenna & Hinnom publishers.
“Shower Time” – The Edge: Infinite Darkness, Patrick Reuman publisher.
“Ear Wax” – Year’s Best Body Horror Anthology 2017 – Gehenna & Hinnom publishers.
“Nightmare” – Horror Bites Magazine, November 2017 Issue
“Just A Little Bloob” – Horror Tree Website, November 5th, 2017, Trembling With Fear column
“Rough Draft” – Evil Podcast Website, November 20th, 2017, November episode
G.A. lives where Lovecraft lived, due south of where King lives. Perhaps there’s something in the water in New England? One wonders…
http://gamiller.info/ and http://gamillerdotblog.wordpress.com/.

Writer’s block

I am written in the book of life. Literally. My hand is aching, my fingers bleeding, but I cannot stop writing, it will kill me. It all started the day I strolled around the flea market looking for some inspiration to solve a long writer’s block. Then I found that beautiful notebook with its alluring quote on the front: When you start to write in me, you cannot stop writing. It was true. My writer´s block is gone and I cannot stop writing, every time I try I feel my heartbeat slowing down and it feels like I am dying.

Mathias Jansson

Art critic, cultural journalist

Homepage: http://mathiasjansson72.blogspot.se

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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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