Happy holidays to me! It all started so well, a half-day Friday, get home and instead of slobbing on the sofa, straight into a short story I’m working on. Finished that, wrote a poem for a new collection and then … I picked up a book. I’ve brought a whole pile home from school (a variety of YA reading) to add to the TBR piles dotted around the house. So, did I continue with the writing – not quite. On Wednesday, I spent several hours working through the short I’d done on Friday as I’d had it critiqued but other times I have stuck to the reading. Every time I finished a book and flicked through another to decide which to read later I just got sucked in … but the joy is I’ve got the time to do it! No timetables and I might even take my watch off!

Other reading matter obviously includes TWF and this week’s Trembling With Fear starts with What Glows at Night by Karen Crawford which plays on childhood fears to perfection. Yoruba, the doll provided by Timmy’s mother to comfort him instead becomes the focus of his terror whilst the real threat to the boy is woven into the story as an undercurrent, a minor incident compared to the imagined cause of his horror. As the night progresses, his terror increases, hysteria mounts and this keeps the tension building obliterating everything else in the real world, adds to the pace of the story. How many of us have had to deal with an hysterical child? That continued upward trajectory is something we’ve all either experienced or witnessed (and dreaded!). When Timmy realises that Yoruba had, in the end, protected him, the writer neatly subverts this with a very light touch.

It’s Not Mine by Radar DeBoard is a twisted bit of dark verse, there is some clever phrasing which sends your mind in one direction, ‘It had always been there for me/with balance and support’, only for the reader to be fooled completely and discover delusion and a gruesome intention in the final line.

Priorities by Jack Deel is something writers will all experience from time-to-time but hopefully without the land-sharks. A nicely paced study of the danger of a writer’s overwhelming focus.

The Game by Patrick J. Wynn is ostensibly about that favourite(!) childhood game Monopoly and I can state now I recognise all of those issues. My sisters would often nab the dog before me and I hated the iron … But it’s not all about Monopoly, the end gives it a good twist.

Now there’s a certain Wanderers by Chuck Wending begging me to open its cover … and perhaps a glass of wine. Oh, happy holidays indeed! 

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I’m officially back from vacation and have absolutely NO IDEA how I have all of next week’s posts scheduled! Playing catch up from a week off of my day job has been quite literally consuming all of my free time.

Yet, here we are! 

There is some great fiction this week and the only downside is the photo I selected for our short. That’s on me, I was rushed. It works but I could have found a better one to set the mood so I apologize.

Hopefully, next week, we’ll have the new contract system sorted and I can start telling you all about that! 

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

What Glows At Night

Her eyes glowed amber in the dark as the closet door creaked open with a slow and steady groan. Timmy stared from his bed, frozen with fear as a sinister shard of vaporous light spilled out across the floor. A shadow emerged, and he shot up, clutching a pillow to his chest. An icy sweat began to coat his shivering skin.  His vision blurred as the shadow crept under the bed, then disappeared back into the closet. Timmy held his breath. He slid a foot out from under the covers and nudged the door shut with the tip of his toe. With eyes darting back and forth, his mind was working overtime.

 

How did she get inside the closet?

 

A rumbling sound began to sweep the room. An undulating murmur that rose to a crescendo of muted shouts and pleas. But Timmy couldn’t understand the words above the pounding rain playing hammer time against the window. The truth is, he didn’t want to listen. He was afraid they were coming from that ‘thing’ in the closet. Yoruba. She was trying to scare him because Momma wasn’t home.

 

You can’t scare me. You can’t scare me. You can’t scare me.

 

Timmy mouthed the words, hoping to still his trembling nerves. Momma had left hours ago to pick up a pizza for dinner. Where was she? When she’d left, Yoruba was sitting in a chair by the door. It’s where she always sat. Formidable. A gatekeeper. Momma had said she was there to protect them, but to Timmy, Yoruba looked like an evil witch.

 

He made himself small in a fortress of blankets, pulling them up to the edge of his nose. He covered his ears to deaden the sounds. With Yoruba by the door, Timmy had felt like a prisoner. Now that she was in the closet, if he could muster the courage to unlock the front door, he could run upstairs to Grandma’s apartment.

 

The noises subsided. Aside from the thundering bass of his beating heart, an uneasy quiet hung heavy in the suffocating air. He stole a glance towards the closet. Light was seeping through the cracks around the door-jam.  It was a ghost-like glow that built in intensity around its frame. A shot of adrenaline tore through Timmy’s body, slamming into his fingers and toes.

 

Please Momma, please come home.

 

His imagination began to run wild. What if Yoruba was trying to possess him? The idea sent Timmy into a panic.  He had to try and get out. The eerie glow illuminated a set of keys dangling from a nail on his bedroom wall. Just a stone’s throw away, they began to swing. Taunting him. Timmy gazed, spellbound as they rubbed against the surface. Slow. Hypnotic.

 

Shhhh. Shhhh. Shhhhh. Shhhh.

 

Stretching out his arm, he reached towards them to calculate the distance. What would happen, if he just got up and ran?

 

Shhhh. Shhhh. Shhhhh. Shhhh. They continued to sway.

 

Then BRRRIIIINNNNGGGG!

 

The doorbell shattered the dead silence and hurled Timmy’s heart right into his throat. It was a long shrill, urgent ring, followed by a rapid ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. The walls vibrated as the buzzer reverberated around the apartment until it sounded like desperate pounding. Was someone pounding at the door?

 

Then he heard a voice.

 

“Don’t answer it.”  The voice seemed so distant, Timmy wasn’t sure if it was real. Had Yoruba gotten inside of his head?

 

Determined to defy her, he swung his legs out of bed and gingerly slid to the floor.  That’s when he felt something brush against his foot.

 

“I said. Don’t. Answer it.”

 

It was a growl this time, an unearthly hiss. Yoruba was doing her best to keep him from going outside.

 

Timmy cried out, his voice primal and raw. “Who’s there?” 

 

The howling started up again. It seemed like a mix of low-pitched laughter mingled with the fear of chilling screams. Was it Yoruba or just the shrieking wind?

 

He ran from the bed, yanked the keys off the wall, and peered down the hallway, dizzy with fear. The sound of someone shuffling brought him to a stop. Holding his breath, he flipped on the light. And there she was. Sitting by the door with her blood red smile, staring him down with those glowing eyes. Timmy’s body went numb.

 

How did she get out of the closet and back to the front door?

 

“WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY MOMMA!?” He was nearing hysteria.

 

Dead still, Yoruba challenged him with a dark energy and an unrelenting glare. Timmy stared back, unsteady on his feet. He had never gotten past her menacing appearance. Now he was taking it all in. Her face was as black as coal, her mouth a jagged red-stitched grin. Large Hoop earrings hung long underneath a thick white scarf wrapped high above her head. And, her housedress, it was a wall of voodoo. Feathers, charms, torn pictures, and snippets of hair were pinned across her bosom like sacrificial offerings. But it was the freakish glass eyes that petrified Timmy the most. They gleamed demonic, a luminescent yellow that threatened to pierce his innocent soul. Ever since Momma brought her here, Yoruba’s very presence had haunted him at night.

 

How could you, Momma? How could you leave me alone with her?

 

Timmy gripped the keys in his hand as he took a step forward. Hell-bent, he convinced himself that black magic wasn’t real. The lights began to flicker, and in between the flashing of light and dark, Timmy could swear there were two sets of glowing eyes. He shook his head to clear his vision, only to find them both still there. Who did that second set of eyes belong too? Horrified, he took a step back. “LET ME OUT!” The words tore from his throat like a cornered animal. His instinct warning him, Yoruba was never going to let him go.

 

 “What did you do to my Momma?” He whimpered. Timmy fell to the floor in a heap of despair and began to rock back and forth.

 

You’re just a doll, you’re just a doll, you’re just a doll…

 

***

 

He awoke to a warm streak of blinding sun streaming in through the window. Through fuzzy eyes, he could see Yoruba sitting in the chair, and Kitty, the cat, curled up on her lap. With his face planted on unforgiving tile, Timmy realized he had fallen asleep on the floor. Disoriented, he sat up wondering if it had been a bad dream until he noticed the keys still clenched in his fist.

 

Kitty jumped down and started rubbing against his foot. He felt his skin prickle with a sudden sense of déjà vu. He began to rub Kitty’s chin when it bit down on his finger. “Ow!” Timmy yanked his hand away with a start. The cat stared up at him, with mischievous eyes. Amber eyes. Timmy jolted to his feet.  Why hadn’t he noticed that before?

 

The cat’s ears perked up at the jangling of keys. The doorknob turned, and Momma came flying in. Breathless, she pulled Timmy into her arms.

 

“Oh my baby, thank God you’re okay.”

 

Momma was crying and clutching him so tight, that his ribcage branded her skin.  She held Timmy out by his shoulders giving him a once over.

 

“Something awful happened last night, and the police, they wouldn’t let me in the building.” Momma sputtered through a flood of tears.

 

Her wet cheeks and thumping heart were making Timmy afraid again. He peered over her shoulder and noticed a police officer at the door. “W…w-hat happened?”

 

“The policeman wants to ask you a few questions.” Momma gave his hand a reassuring squeeze and turned Timmy around to face him.

 

“A bad man was knocking on doors last night. Two of your neighbors let him in, and he did terrible things.” The pallor of the officer’s face betrayed his measured tone. “Did someone knock on your door? Did you see anything, hear anything?”

 

Wide-eyed, Timmy could only nod, staring past him, unable to speak. The hallway was overrun with men in black coats and crime scene tape was everywhere. The officer quickly shut the door. But not before Timmy caught a glimpse of a bloodied child being carried out on a stretcher and adult-sized body bags lined up on the floor. His face went white, and he began to shake.

 

That could have been me.

 

He looked back at Yoruba, her sewn-on grin, now, a life-saving smile. Kitty was snuggled in her lap purring gently, until she locked eyes with Timmy.

 

Then she let out a hiss.

Karen Crawford

Karen Crawford grew up in the vibrant neighborhood of Spanish Harlem in New York City. 

She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she makes a living designing movie posters with her husband. 

She won an honorable mention on SHORT FICTION BREAK and was recently published in THE ACENTOS REVIEW. 

She writes to exorcise those pesky demons around her and within her.

It’s Not Mine

It thinks it has fooled me,

but I see through the disguise.

This imposter has invaded my life.

 

My nights are sleepless,

for fear it will strike.

It looks just like the old one.

 

I can see how it was easy,

for it to replace mine.

Something that I have trusted.

 

It had always been there for me,

with balance and support.

And now it was usurped,

 from under my nose.

 

I must strike now,

the hacksaw in my hand.

I’ll remove this sentient infection.

 

This thing attached to me,

is not my leg.

This hideous thing has to go.

Radar Deboard

Radar DeBoard is an aspiring writer who just wants others to find enjoyment in his work. Even though he lacks publication and experience, he hopes his work will have an impact. He has a passion for horror and finds it the most interesting genre to write. 

Priorities

I don’t care about the ‘land-sharks.’ I have a deadline, and that quake knocked out the broadband. Yeah, I realise they’re connected; I’m not stupid. You’re not listening – these edits are due tomorrow! I can’t get another extension!

 

They burrow. As long as we stay above ground-level, we’ll be fine. Calm down.

 

Yes, I’m serious. I have to keep going while I can – you think there’ll be any working computers at the evac centre, hmm?

 

It’s coming up the stairs? Jesus, can’t you just barricade the door? I swear, sometimes it’s like you’re not paying attention to anything around y–

 

Jack Deel

Jack Deel is the fiction-writing pen-name of Jack Fennell, a recovering academic from Limerick, Ireland. He is the editor of the Irish science fiction anthology A Brilliant Void, and his own short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Hell’s Empire and Chronos. He can be found at https://jackfennell.com, and on Twitter at @JFennellAuthor.

The Game

Ally circled the table mad that she was not included in her siblings’ game. She watched Anna hand out the money, Kenny took control of the property cards and Stevie lined up the houses and hotels for the others to purchase when they had the money. Anna chose the top hat, Kenny the ship and Stevie got the car. Ally watched as Anna set the dog off to the side as the table grew quiet. Ally screamed and shoved the board off the table, she ran around the room smashing lamps and turning over tables. She really hated being dead.

Patrick J. Wynn

Patrick J Wynn is an author of short stories that contain shades of horror, humor and are just a touch weird. You can follow him on his Facebook page and look for his short story collections on Amazon.

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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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