Trembling With Fear 08/22/21
Please note: We are temporarily closed to short flash stories (unless for one of the Specials) but open to drabbles, unholy trinities and serials. We hope to reopen later in the year once we have caught up with the publication of those already accepted. Please also remember to read our guidelines, especially on word counts!
Peace is restored, the dust has settled (and been hoovered up!) and the house is almost normal. The past week has seen completion of my novella, which is now resting before a final read through and then out to beta readers, but mostly all things Daughters of Darkness II (from Black Angel Press). This collection of four women writers is due out October 1st and is a format we will probably continue in the future. There are so many talented female writers out there who barely get a look in when it comes to publication in the horror world, we hope can provide a boost for some.
I’m quite pleased that Horror Tree has consistently published the work of women writers and if it appears we’re going through a ‘male’ phase, then that’s because there were no submissions by women at that time. One thing I’ve noticed is that a few of our male writers send in batches of drabbles which we then spread out over the year – some of them are even scheduled into next year. I have yet to see any of our women in horror writers doing this as regularly! Remember you can send in three drabbles at a time (they don’t have to be for the Unholy Trinity) and these can be followed up quite quickly with a further submission. You don’t have to wait! Just bear in mind we spread out your submissions over the year. 😊
G.A. Miller leads the stories this week in Trembling with Fear with his The Timekeeper dwells on our preoccupation with time-whether it be past, present or future. I particularly liked the idea of the hourglass as it was revealed to him and the implication of treading on grains of sand when he walks to the door. A nice touch of showing.
Boo Hag by Elyse Russell is a nightmare poem with a last line which is so blunt and matter of fact it adds a great contrast to the murderous intent of the hag.
Soul Song by Catherine Berry uses the sense of sound to full effect in creating this atmospheric little piece.
Thaw by Ken MacGregor misdirects you at first, makes you think the worst of the protagonist, especially with his murderous attitude towards family and lover – until you discover his reasoning.
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
Hello all! Last week I reported on issues with our calendar view and contact page. Both of these should now be resolved! I’m still playing catch-up but should have some more for you soon.
On huge bonus for those who like to feature the site and have either had their open calls or original fiction appear here, we now have graphics for that!
Finally, If you’ve purchased ANY of our Trembling With Fear releases, please do leave a review. You can get to ALL of them easily from this link!
The Timekeeper by G.A. Miller
Paul Mattingly moved through his home like a shadow, the lights all out and the ticking of the clock in the kitchen the only sound at all. He looked through the sheer curtains again, careful not to move them at all, knowing that motion would be visible to someone watching.
His forehead was beaded with perspiration, despite the cool temperature in the house.
He’d been following the story in the news, the sensational headlines proclaiming that a serial killer had made his way to their area, identifying him by name and displaying a very familiar looking artist’s sketch of his appearance.
He’d called the sheriff who had involved the feds, and agreed to testify against Julian Deveraux in exchange for witness protection and a new life. They’d agreed to send a marshal to pick him up, but it would take a while to arrive at his remote address. This was the worst part, waiting for the marshal to arrive and hoping that Deveraux hadn’t learned where or even who he was.
Paul was exhausted, having been up for two full days now, so he fetched a hardback chair from the dining room to sit and wait in. He knew he’d be out in seconds on his sofa. The duffel bag containing the few things he deemed essential sat beside his sandals, next to the door, ready to go, his bare feet tapping anxiously in anticipation.
The memories flooded back again, as clear as the dark door he stared at. How he’d opened that restaurant door and walked to the vacant hostess desk, glancing into the busy room and seeing Julian Deveraux pulling a woman’s hair back to expose her neck just as he drew a glittering straight razor across her throat. Her blood fountained out onto the table as Deveraux looked up, his eyes burning into Paul’s face for a moment before Paul yanked the door open and ran back outside.
Deveraux ran out just a moment later, looking up and down the street, the razor in his hand dripping the woman’s blood onto the cold sidewalk. Sirens broke the calm of the evening then, and he trotted into the parking lot. Paul heard a car door close, then an engine start, the car easing out and merging into traffic seconds later, not attracting any undue attention. Paul waited until he was satisfied that the car had to be well out of sight before he emerged from beneath the trash bags he’d pulled over himself when he’d curled up on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant.
He brushed himself off and walked around the corner, just another passerby looking into the shop windows on the boulevard when the cruiser arrived, turning the corner at high speed before stopping in front of the restaurant. As the two policemen ran into the restaurant with hands on the butts of their guns, Paul jogged down the stairs to the subway station, anxious to be on the next train to anywhere else.
While the memory played on in his mind, Paul’s head began to tip forward and drop down, his eyes closing in spite of the uncomfortable chair he’d selected.
A moment later, he was looking up at a high concrete dome, thick beams of exotic wood lining the curved ceiling. In the center of the circular room, two thick beams came down from ceiling to stone floor, supporting the largest hourglass he’d ever seen between them.
The frame of the glass seemed to be made of the same wood, the flamed grain prominent even by the flickering light cast from torches mounted in sconces on the walls. The torches were the only source of light; the room having no windows that Paul could see. The hourglass itself was flawless, highly polished… and empty. There was no sand within the glass.
As he puzzled over the missing sand, Paul noticed a still figure in a large chair sitting in shadow behind the hourglass. He stood up and walked around the glass, seeing an old man with a long white beard, wearing a black robe over bare feet, calmly gazing into the glass.
“H… hello?” Paul’s voice trembled, echoing naturally in the domed chamber.
“Welcome,” the old man replied in a relaxed, conversational tone. “It has been a very long time since I’ve had a visitor here.”
“Where exactly is here? Where am I?”
“This is the Annex. I am Narmal, the Timekeeper,” the old man bowed slightly, standing as he spoke.
“But, shouldn’t there be sand in that?” Paul asked, pointing to the huge hourglass.
“Oh, there is sand in it. You cannot see it because it is your sand, but it is there, I assure you.”
“My sand? What does that even mean?” Paul asked, intrigued but confused. The old man nodded, clearly familiar with this sort of curiosity. He walked slowly around the side of the frame as he began explaining.
“Mankind has never truly understood time. They assign arbitrary numbers to it, to represent it in a manner that suits them, they use it to designate the days, the seasons… but it is so much more than they see. Time is the singular constant of the elements, never changing as the air and the fire do, always moving at the exact same pace, unlike the water. It amuses me when mankind speaks with such authority of past, present and future, because there actually is no present. By the time the word leaves their lips, it is already in their past, is it not?”
“I guess so… but why can’t I see my own sand?”
“To see one’s own time would reveal the precise span one has to call their own, which always has been, and always will remain a mystery. This is for your own good, you see, for to dwell on the inevitable as it approaches ever closer would overshadow what else might be accomplished if that concern weren’t so dominant.”
Paul was silent, the old man’s calm voice soothing, making perfect sense. He felt as if he’d somehow ascended to a higher plane, a place where the concerns he’d felt all his life were rendered meaningless by comparison.
He noticed the old man smiling at him.
“Ah, it appears that understanding is occurring, is it not? That is good, it’s very rare for a mortal to have so open a mind to these concepts. A welcome change, I can assure you.”
“I’m just taking it all in, but what you said makes perfect sense. I’ve never thought of it that way before, that’s all.”
“The mind has an extraordinary capacity once you allow it to open to new ideas and concepts. Most mortals seem to fear a loss of control if they put aside their preconceptions, which makes those who do, such as yourself, very rare indeed.”
“You keep using the word ‘mortal’. Aren’t you…?”
“I was once, a very long time ago as you measure time, before I came upon the Annex and became the Timekeeper. That transition changes things.”
“I have to admit, I’m fascinated by all this. I think…”
A loud banging sound interrupted him, Narmal looking over Paul’s shoulder at the source of the noise somewhere behind him.
Paul’s head snapped upright. He shook himself awake, having dozed off in his chair after all. He looked up at his door, where car headlights from his driveway cast a clear silhouette of a uniformed man knocking on the frame surrounding the opaque glass.
“Oh, thank God! He’s here!” Paul said as he got up and padded to the door in his bare feet. As he turned the bolt to unlock the door, he felt something gritty under his foot. How’d I get sand in here? he wondered as he turned the knob and pulled the door open.
“Hiya marshal, just let me gr…”
Paul never got to finish that sentence, the loud report of the gun launching its lethal payload into his forehead, through his brain, then out the back of his head, finally lodging in one of the stair risers behind him as his body dropped to the tiled floor.
Julian Deveraux smiled and tipped the brim of the uniform hat he wore as he turned and strolled back to his car, calmly backing down the driveway and into the road.
As Deveraux drove off into the night, Parone, formerly known as Paul Mattingly, rose up off the great chair and walked purposefully to the hourglass in the center of the Annex. He softly recited the words carved into the beam as he turned the great wheel on the frame and the hourglass rotated end for end, the first grains of pure white sand continuing their endless journey through the narrow throat of the glass to fall from the top to the bottom.
The new Timekeeper nodded sagely and returned to the great chair to begin his watch.
G.A. Miller takes his ideas from every day, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors, often with horrific consequences. His lifelong bond with horror began in the late 1950s watching Shock Theater on TV and grew from there. When he picked up the first paperback edition of Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot” in 1976, there was no turning back.
Once he began committing his own demons to paper, he’s had numerous stories published in a variety of publications. His latest novella is “The Shopkeeper: Curios, Curiosities and Rarities.
small shivers closed eyes
little pink mouse girl
I hear you
open window, come on in
summer breeze brings me
scrabble scratch climb shhh
crawl to bedside
touch you sleeping
wet warm breathe tiny bones
twirl hair around my finger
so soft pull it out
grasp haul climb bed
sit on your chest
struggle struggle squeak shhh
suck air through teeth
tickle the brain to find the fear
yes yes it feeds
you’re my worthless little mouse
and I eat and eat and eat
yes you give me shhh
crunch crunch ribs
should’ve closed your window
Elyse Russell is an author of speculative fiction and comics. Look for her first book in July of 2022 from Cinnabar Moth Press. Follow her on Twitter @ElyseRussell13 (BraveLittleTeapotThoughts).
She smiled, illuminated by the bright lights on the stage, parted her lips, and began to sing. Forbidden spells in the ancient art of necromancy were transformed into melodic lyrics. Dark magic hidden within swirling strings and hypnotic beats swelled and pulsed. Around the world speakers blared as the live concert streamed. Her haunting croon reached deep into the earth.
The dead stirred.
Coffins splintered. Mausoleums creaked open. Decayed hands clawed through dirt. The undead obeyed her call, driven to devour the warm spark of life.
She laughed, triumphant; as the dead consumed the living, her kingdom would only grow.
Catherine Berry loves whimsy, potatoes, and singing with her dog.
Her work has been published in several Trembling With Fear Anthologies & The Trench Coat Chronicles.
More of her work can be found at www.caterinaberyl.blogspot.com
Alan pried his stiff fingers from the hacksaw handle. He had to use the other hand. Letting it clatter to the snow, he stretched his spine and eyed his handiwork.
Nineteen heads, separated from nineteen bodies. Friends. Family. A lover. They had been.
Alan cracked the vertebrae in his neck. Despite sub-zero temps, he was sweating. He couldn’t rest though. There were at least six more dead. Temperature was rising. He had to find them before spring. Before they thawed out. Before they woke up hungry.
He flexed his hands to warm them, to find range of motion. He hunted.
Ken MacGregor writes stuff.
He has two story collections, an award-winning young adult novella, and a co-written novel. He regularly contributes to HorrorTree. Ken has curated two anthologies.
When not writing, Ken drives the bookmobile for his local library. He lives with his kids, two cats, and the ashes of his wife.
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Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative prose and poetry and has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her longer work includes the folk horror novels, The Five Turns of the Wheel, Reborn, and The Woodcutter, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused (all via Brigids Gate Press). Her dark poetry has been published in her collections Lilith Rising (co-authored with Shane Douglas Keene), Foundlings (co-authored with Cindy O’Quinn) and Metallurgy, as well as the HWA Poetry Showcase Volumes VI, VII, VIII, and IX and Black Spot Books Under Her Skin. She can be found supporting indie authors at HorrorTree.com via the weekly Indie Bookshelf Releases. She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on Blue Sky as stephellis.bsky.social.