‘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

My Name is Jacob Hoffman

With daylight dulled by thick pewter clouds, the city is unusually bleak this afternoon. It’ll be dark soon. Just my luck.

Why the hell did I agree to cover Mavis’ shift at the bar? I should’ve known better than to say yes. I should be inside by now, locked up safe and sound.

She wasn’t supposed to tell me her name. It’s too personal. Too human. We don’t do that around here. Not with the disappearances.

The rain begins again. Shivering, I skulk down Twenty-Ninth Street.

There haven’t been any incidents in a while. I don’t know whether that means we’re safe, or that death’s overdue and looking to return with a vengeance.

Maybe there won’t be any problem, I tell myself. The rain’s been sporadic, so maybe the sewers won’t be too full yet. Maybe the creatures won’t surface tonight. In my gut, I know that isn’t true. They’re coming. And I’m alone and out in the open— a prime target.

I pause to shake off the fat raindrops which rests on my shoulders. I pull my coat’s collar tight against my throat.

With every passing minute, the pedestrians dwindle until it finally seems like I’m the only one outside in the whole damn city. The rain keeps pounding down. It’s just a matter of time before the sewers begin to flood. After that, the creatures will emerge. I shudder at the thought.

As the orange streetlights flicker on, my pace quickens. I’ve got a dozen blocks to cover before nightfall and time’s running out. Lightning flashes. Thunder cracks.

There’s a faint scrape, like footsteps, somewhere nearby. Behind me, I think. I go a little faster.

The sound follows me down Thirty-Second and by Thirty-Third I decide to try and lose whoever, or whatever, is tailing me. As soon as my foot strikes the pavement on Thirty-Fifth, I make a left, then a right, then a left again. Half a block here, a full block there, a quarter of a block somewhere else. It doesn’t matter where I’m headed as long as I’m moving forward.

It stalks me. My throat tightens with panic. The sky darkens and I push forward. Still, it follows me, so I sprint.

Somewhere along the way I turn a wrong corner and run into an alley. It’s a dead end, but I discover it too late. I round the corner and my face slams against cold hard metal. Everything fades to black.

My eyes flutter open. Blood seeps from my brow. It drips down the bridge of my nose and lingers on my lips.

My body throbs. Soggy and shivering, I see my breath in little puffs. For a moment, I forget about the noise and the creatures and why or where I was trying to go. There’s only the searing pain in the back of my head and the sharp ache on my face.

In a puddle of runoff and dumpster drippings, I lie flat on my back, sprawled out, waiting until everything around me stops spinning. I stare up at the bulb shining above me. Behind it, the sky is impenetrable and black.

As I struggle to my feet, my legs feel gelatinous and wobbly. The light flickers above me. Hoping to catch my breath, I stand and lean against the brick wall.

From one of the back corners of the alley, the sound returns. I whip around to face it, but the light above me fizzles out. The drizzle stops. The air is still and humid.

At the opening of the alley, footsteps slam against the wet concrete, trying to escape. Someone flees from the beasts, but with every step, the stranger leads them right to me. The steps crescendo.

My stomach drops. There’s no time to escape, so I press myself between the wall and dumpster, hoping the garbage covers my scent.

The footsteps end with a thump—like the sound of a body landing on pavement. A woman’s scream pierces the air. I freeze. Muscles stiff as stone. The scream echoes against the walls of the alley, creating a discordant choir—singing agony and terror in rounds.

At first, there are words “No! Stop! Please! Don’t”, all the usual things people cry out when they’re begging for mercy. But after several seconds, the words fall away and in their place come other noises.

Eventually, the echoed screams fade to a whimper which tapers off into a tiny gargle, then stops altogether. It isn’t until after the screaming’s stopped that I wish it would continue. Screaming means pain but silence means death. I don’t know which is worse.

The creatures grunt and suck and slurp. As I witness the unholy sound of her flesh being sliced and shred, acid creeps into my throat and vomit fills my mouth. The noises turn into crunching as the creatures gnaw on her bones. Their nails click on the concrete as they leave.

A few minutes pass. I relax and slowly exit the alley. I fumble to light a match. When it ignites, I discover I’m standing in a puddle of blood. A whimper rises in my throat. As I wade through the puddle, it soaks into my socks and wicks up around my ankles. The match slips from my fingers into the pool, and the alley plunges into darkness once more.

I take a deep breath, then I run. And I run. And when I think I won’t make it another step, I run some more. With twists and turns, I dash through the maze of open streets and narrow alleys. I’m going to make it home if it’s the last thing I do.

Up ahead, over a corner bakery, a street sign flashes Forty-Eighth. Finally, something familiar. It’s so damn beautiful I could cry. Relief courses through my veins like morphine. The acidic sting in my tired muscles melts away. I’m close.

I sprint until I reach Hamilton and Fifty-Second. I made it. The nightmare is nearly over. Not only have I survived— I’m home.

I stumble up the doorstep and fumble with my keys. They slip through my wet fingers and fall to the ground. As I bend over to retrieve them, I see a creature crouching on the fire escape, staring back at me.

It licks its lips and lets out a deep growl.

I try the key again, but my hand trembles so violently, I can’t do it. The creature snarls. For a moment, I’m paralyzed with fear and my thoughts jump to the woman in the alley.

The creature’s nails click against the metallic steps— slowly descending the fire escape. It lingers on the last step. Suddenly, it opens its jaws and clamps down on my leg—teeth piercing straight through one of my knees.

My free leg to kicks the creature’s face. It releases its grip on my limb and steps back. I pound my fists against the door, screaming, “Open up!”

Claws dig into my skin and rip open thick stripes of flesh.

“Help!” I plead, slamming an open palm against the iron grates of tenant 1A’s front window.

From inside, the curtains inch open to reveal a child’s face. His mother quickly covers his eyes, but she doesn’t turn away. The creature continues to devour me. I beg for mercy until words escape me.

The woman in the window makes no effort to help — she just stands there, silently witnessing my final moments.

As darkness settles upon me, I realize I probably should’ve told her my name.

 

 

Stephanie Villegas

Stephanie Villegas

Stephanie Villegas is a freelance writer living in sunny Southern California. She graduated with a degree in Religious Studies from UCSD, where she developed a deep interest in cultural beliefs and the paranormal. Among many other obsessions, she can’t get enough of Speculative Horror, Film Noir, vigilante comic books, and mechanical typewriters. Her Flash Fiction is published at Postcard Shorts and she anticipates the release of her debut novel later this year.

Occasionally, she blogs at http://easypeasyfiction.blogspot.com/

To Die For

“Look, it’s not even cooked.”  The diner poked at her food in disgust. “Ugh.”

“You asked for rare,” her companion reminded her.

“Rare does not mean raw.”  She looked around.  “Waiter, I need to see the chef now!”

“But madam …”

“Forget it.  I’ll go.”

She got up and marched into the kitchen, stepped over the bodies.  She hacked another piece off the chef, flashed it under the grill.

“If you want anything doing properly,” she said as she returned to her seat, “you’ve got to do it yourself.”

She smiled happily.  The food here really was to die for.

Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis is a TeachingAssistant in a Southampton secondary school but previously worked for many years as a technical author. Her genre fiction short stories have found success in Massacre and Sanitarium magazines as well as a variety of horror anthologies. She is also an active member of theFlashDogs flash fiction online community where most of her contributions are of the darker kind. Also, co-curator and co-editor at The Infernal Clock.

You can find out more about Stephanie at: http://stephellis.weebly.com/.

The Companion

I’m glad you’re here.

I know.

I didn’t know who else to turn to.

You can always come to me.

You’re always there.

I’m always here.

It’s beyond my endurance now; I can’t sleep.

I know.

You always understand.

I do.

Everything’s so dark.

I’ll find you.

Something’s moving around.

I know.

I can’t see.

I can see you.

It hears me.

I know.

It smells putrid.

You’ll get used to it.

I’m afraid. I don’t know what’s happening.

I can tell you.

It feels wrong.

You’ll numb yourself to it.

I think it’s coming for me.

I’m already here.

Carl R. Jennings

Carl R. Jennings is by day a thickly Russian accented bartender in Southwestern Virginia. By night he is the rooster themed superhero: the Molotov Cocktail, protecting the weak and beer-sodden. While heroically posing on a rooftop in the moonlight in case a roaming photographer happens by, he finds the time to write down a word or two in the lifelong dream that he can put aside the superhero mantle and utility comb to become a real author.

To The Sea, The Sorrow

Leah sat on the edge of the pier and looked out to sea, salt tears welling in her wide grey eyes. She thought of her mother; the beautiful hair gone, oily sweat growing slick on pallid skin. She thought of the day she returned from school to find her mother’s bed empty and her father stone-faced, teeth clenched.

“She has gone to the sea,” he’d told his daughter who, old enough, dismissed the words as a well-meaning fable.

As Leah stood and left, a pale shape broke the water. Oil-slick and bald, it watched the girl with wide grey eyes.

Daniel Pietersen

Daniel Pietersen is an author of weird horror and terror philosophy, interested in how speculative works tell us about the world today as much as the world to come. He has had two short stories published in The Audient Void and a longer work that deal with time and regret can be found on the Aether & Ichor blog. Daniel lives in Edinburgh with his wife and dog.

They Glistened Black In The Sun

The Clickers were everywhere.
Thankfully Jesse had hidden.
She knew if they saw her she was dead.
They slept during the day.
It should have been safe.
Yet here they were.
Each time they moved the clicking grew louder.
Something had them agitated.
They were hunting.
The sound was drawing closer.
She just had to be quiet.
Not draw their attention.
One of them passed where she hid.
Its carapace glistening black in the sun.
Closing her eyes, she tried not to whimper.
Hours passed before they left.
Hours more before she worked up the courage to try for home.

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!