First thing this week is an embarrassing mum moment especially for my youngest daughter Rhonwen. I’d just like to say huge congratulations to her for passing her A-Levels and getting into Uni. She might not see this but you never know!

Now to a promise I made last week to Hailey Piper, author and contributor to TWF. She was promoting Black Rainbow Volume 1 on twitter, so I said I’d include a mention here. The work contains 25 creepy stories from LGBTQIA writers and is currently available on amazon. I have put it on my ‘Want to Read’ list at Goodreads and once I’ve got over the hurdle of financing my offspring in the first few months of uni, I can get back to getting hold of some of these books – yay! If you grab a copy in the meanwhile, let Hailey know what you think, or even better stick a review up on amazon. You can also connect with her https://haileypiper.com/. Hailey’s tweet actually came about because John F.D. Taff had agreed with another writer that there were not enough #LGBT writers around.

In addition, Robert Allen Lupton, another TWF contributor, has sent me a link to a website which publishes his Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired drabbles. He writes one every day (dedication!) and www.erbzine.com gathers them on a monthly basis.

Our first story in Trembling With Fear is Child’s Play by Melissa Reynolds is absolutely heart-breaking. First you are taken into the magical world of the child’s imagination and that all too recognisable sibling teasing, the older tormenting the younger slightly – as they do. But then the story turns dark and the elder sibling uses his make-believe to try and protect his sister, to shield her from horrific reality (showing the truth of the bonds – in general – between siblings, no matter how much of a pain they can be at times, they will always come through for you when it’s important).

The sheer innocence of the children and their world of make-believe utterly heightens the horror and the tragedy of the story. A perfect, but sad, read. And whilst we have our own instances of violence in the UK (particularly knife crime which I hope will get resolved), gun ownership in the US is still very much a puzzle to us in the UK.

Bloodstock by Jack Deel caught my eye initially because its title is also the name of one of my favourite metal festivals but it has nothing to do with music. It is a different take on the relationship between an animal and its keeper, and the extent to which one will go to look after their charge. I also liked the idea of a new type of enclosure or exhibit in a zoo – again a new setting which isn’t explored often enough.

Old Wives’ Tale by Steven Holding reads like a simple reminiscence until he brings in that last sentence, fits the beginning and the end together. Completely showing and not telling. Skilled writing.

Up by J.A. Hammer is a story I feel could be taken two ways, one where the character wants to protect her family, the other, where she wants to get rid of them. I do like stories that can carry off a touch of ambiguity, just a little hint that there may be another possibility.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

We’ve got some great stories for you this week that I think you’re going to enjoy! Not only are we working on our standard Trembling With Fear installments but our end-of-Summer special is coming along swimmingly! It will likely be released in one of the next couple of Thursdays depending on timing, schedules, and my ability to get it all together without losing my mind 😉 

I think we have our new contract system sorted. Potentially! We’re testing again this weekend. More soon!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Child’s Play

Jen drew closer to Mike and tilted her head toward him to keep their Mom from hearing. “What?  What do you mean brain eagles?”

“When you make too much noise an eagle comes and lands on your head. They use their sharp claws to pull back your scalp and then they peck out your brains.”

Jen shook her head. “You’re lying.”

“No, I’m not,” Mike said. “The brain eagles only drink the tears of their victims. So if you start crying, you’ll only make matters worse.”

Jen scanned the mall with wide eyes. “What about the butt bears?”

“Shhh!” Mike glanced up at their mom. “You mustn’t talk about them.”

“Why?”

“Well, are you wearing your protective gear?”

“No,” Jen held out her mini purse. “I only have this.”

“If you talk about the B.B.s,” Mike leaned in close and whispered, “whose name we shall never mention again—without protective gear they will show up and lick your butt.”

Jen squealed. “Gross!”

Mike grabbed her arm and made a show of searching the ceiling. “You’re going to call down the brain eagles, yelling like that. Quick! You have dark hair; you have to walk on the dark tiles so they don’t see you.”

Jen hopped from tile to tile while Mike giggled.

“What are you filling your sister’s head with this time?”

He glanced up at his mom’s frowning face. “Nothing.”

“Well if this nothing scares her, you can be the one to get up with her tonight.”

“Yeah, Mom, you know I will.” He pointed to the play area. “Look, Jen, the protective zone! We can be loud and silly there with no worries. I’ll race you there.”

Mike dived and rolled onto the carpet. He flung his shoes into the cubby and ran screaming for the fake hospital. Here, in kid-land, all surfaces were foam and fit a hospital theme. Giant red foam heart? Check. Foam microscope? Check. Ambulance with a slide? Double check.

Jen crawled in beside him under the foam hospital porch. “Are you sure the brain eagles can’t get us in here?”

“Yes, pinky kitty made a dome over the play area.” He smiled at her. “I can go climb on top of the microscope to make sure the dome is holding. Would you like me to do that?”

She nodded.  “Be careful out there.”

“I’ll be fine. Pinky kitty loves people. I’m sure she built a super strong dome.” Mike scrambled to the microscope that stood as tall as his shoulders.  And he wasn’t no short baby. He was in second grade.  He climbed up, sitting on the eye piece. “It looks great out here. Let’s go slide.”

Mike chased Jen and another boy in an elaborate game of cops, robbers, and dinosaurs. The three of them dodged bumbling babies and their adoring adult shadows and streaked past their mothers who muttered and shook their heads.

Mike and Jen sat under the foam porch again, both panting and hiding from the boy who was currently the cop. Jen growled and showed her teeth.

“Listen close, dinosaur,” Mike said. “This here is my hideout and I have a gun. I’ll use it on your thick hide if I have too.”

Jen giggled, playfully shoving against his shoulder.

A scream tore through the mall. Mike froze, the terror and pain something he had heard only once before in his life. His friend, Abby, fell from the swing set at school and broke her arm. Her scream had washed over him and made goosepimples rise on his arms. The two screams matched. Someone was hurt.

Mike grabbed Jen’s arm. “Stay here, don’t move.”

Loud popping noises and screams filled his ears. He peeked out of the foam playhouse. Chaos reigned. A man with guns shot people. The ones who weren’t lying on the floor, ran screaming in all directions. He strained to look around the corner to where his mom sat, but another pop made him duck back inside the playhouse.

He pulled Jen flat on the floor. “Okay, Dinosaur. There’s trouble out there.”

“I want Mommy.” Jen sniffled.

“Me too.”

The little foam hospital turned fort was surrounded by more popping and screaming and running footsteps. Jen cried harder.

“The brain eagles are attacking, Jen. We have to stay really quiet because, remember, they like tears.” He lay close to her and threw his arm overtop of her. “Pinky kitty’s dome broke, but part of it is covering this hospital. We’re going to be okay.” He wiped away his own tears. “We’re going to be okay.” 

“But Mom—“

“I know. I didn’t see her, but maybe she found a piece of dome to hide under too.”

Jen sobbed.

“Shhh, dinosaur. We don’t want the brain eagles to find us.”

“I don’t want to play anymore, I want Mommy.”

Quiet fell. Mike turned on his side and pulled Jen’s face into his chest to muffle her sobs. “They’re going to find us,” he whispered into her hair.

She pushed against him. “Don’t care. Mommy, where’s Mommy? I don’t want you.”

Mike squeezed harder. “If you stop crying and stay really, really quiet, I’ll peek outside again.” But she didn’t listen or couldn’t. Mike clung to her. He didn’t know what else to do. There was nothing else a taller-than-a-foam-microscope second grader could do.

Slow footsteps circled their fort. Mike whimpered and crammed Jen’s face into his chest. Black shinny shoes and the legs of black pants appeared in front of the door.  The man knelt, his knee cracking.

“Over here! Two kids.” The man reached his hand in and Mike scrambled backwards. “I’m not going to hurt you, son. It’s over. I’m a cop.”

Jen struggled to go to the cop but Mike held tight. “Let me go,” she said. “I want to go to Mommy.”

The cop glanced over to the seats surrounding the kid area and rubbed his hand over his jaw and Mike knew. He just knew. He let go of Jen and slumped down.

“What is it?”

Mike slowly lifted his head and looked out the little window. “It’s okay Jen. I’ll take care of you. When you get scared at night, you can come to me.”

Jen moved away from him, within the Cop’s reach. Her dark eyes drilled into his. “The brain eagles got her, didn’t they?”

Mike slid back to the floor, too weak to do anything as the cop wrapped his arm around Jen and pulled her away.

“Yes,” he whispered. “They did.”

Melissa Reynolds

Mom of four, WVU student, cairn builder, and rescuer of discounted plants. 

Bloodstock

Night-mare, nuckelavee, helhest – whichever term you prefer, the last vampire horse will soon die of malnourishment, alone in her dark enclosure beneath Dublin Zoo. She is the last specimen of Earth’s ecto-ecology. If you want to see any kind of undead after she goes, you’ll have to travel to the Martian catacombs.

 

Over the years, I’ve grown fond of her. I would do anything for her, except let her out.

 

Various clergymen and ministers are on the way, intending to sing God’s praises as she dies. They won’t realise that I’ve locked them in with her, until it’s too late.

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.

Old Wives’ Tale

Upon the tabletop.

A pair of tan brogues.

He contemplates the snugness of scuffed leather, considers how many miles have passed beneath such well-worn soles.   

Echoing in his head, the shrill voice of his mother, scolding him for allowing such a thing to occur in his home. Hers was always a paranoid world governed by the strict rules of superstition; a fearful life, brimming with shadowy omens and markers of ill fate.

He thinks of his existence. The mistakes, the loss, the pain.

Then steps off the desk, as he finally accepts that she may have been right all along.

Steven Holding

Steven Holding lives with his family in Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom. His work had been published in FRIDAY FLASH FICTION, THEATRE CLOUD, AD HOC FICTION and MASSACRE MAGAZINE. Most recently, his story THREE CHORDS AND THE TRUTH received first place in the INKTEARS 2018 flash fiction competition. He is currently in the process of completing a number of new short pieces of fiction and is also working upon a novel. You can visit his website at www.stevenholding.co.uk

Up

Looking up the pull of my thoughts online, I found that “the lure of the void” was a series of whispers from the ground, or the water. One step… and that was it.

 

For me, though, it was the sky. Every day I sought my shimmering, rainbow castle. After blue nothing skies, I realized where it was. Cloaked, safely hidden in the dark storm clouds. Thinking about it calmed me.

 

I would find it. A hurricane was due in, and I’d built several balloons chairs in preparation for this day. I just needed to send my family on up first.

 

J.A. Hammer

J.A. Hammer lives off coffee (mostly Dead Eyes) and stress in the wild concrete city of Tokyo, where zombies are living, using the train lines every day. If you see the name CoffeeQuills online, that’s J.A. Hammer’s alter-ego, and they’re mostly safe to talk to (bites will only happen in the name of science). The cake is not a lie (but you must get it yourself).

Julia’s Mistake

When the dead had come back, Julia had only been a girl.

She wasn’t much older now but she wasn’t still a child.

She wouldn’t have survived if she was.

Julia climbed through the wreckage of Whole-Mart.

Her people had been scavenging the store for over a year.

There wasn’t much left that they could us.

Moments later the stench hit her.

Long gone was the rot of food.

This was a different decay.

One which wouldn’t stop on its own.

Readying her blade she tensed for the kill.

Too late, she realized there was more than one of them.

Stuart Conover

Dreamer. Word Warrior. Secret Savior of Earth’s Hidden Moon for the 6th year running. Stuart has a passion for the written word that he hopes you enjoy! Follow his work at https://www.stuartconover.com or, here! 

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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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