Trembling With Fear 08/29/21
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!
A quiet week in the scheme of things: final proof read of Daughters of Darkness II and upload to amazon, novella has been sent to beta readers and of course Horror Tree – always Horror Tree! My current target is to try and get a short story written for a submission call which closes on Sept 1st. Will I manage it? Hopefully.
I’ve also been looking at marketing, which I hate doing, but if any of you are interested, I’ve discovered Publishers Weekly has a free site for indie authors – BookLife. I haven’t gone into it all of it yet, beyond uploading my project, ie one of my books, in this case The Five Turns of the Wheel. This site allows me to submit my book to PW for possible review, although there are no guarantees. There is the option to pay for a PW review but that is something I never opt for – I don’t pay for reviews and I don’t submit to anything which charges a payment to read. If you want to check it out, go here https://booklife.com.
Our first story this week in Trembling with Fear is Eloise by Matthew Gorman. This is an atmospheric chiller incorporating what appears to be a dream – or is it? Crows are one of my favourite creatures that automatically brings menace to a piece and their role in this tale is a prime example.
Critic by Chris Chapman is a brutal response to those who delight in picking up on continuity errors. Be careful how – or where – you speak out!
On the Road Again by Dale W. Glaser is a bleak childhood tale which hides a lot in its telling, conveying so much without being specific.
Sealskin by Deborah Sheldon finishes on a last line which turns a thoughtful piece into something much more sinister.
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
Not much to report on this week. On the Horror Tree front, as many of you remember we were in Writer’s Digest’s Best Websites of 2021 in the May/June 2021 issue. Well, they’ve made it official online now as well by including us in the ‘Writer’s Digest’s Best Genre/Niche Websites 2021‘ post that has now gone live. NEATO!
Outside of that, on the personal front I have a drabble coming out in Black Hare Press’s ‘666’ anthology and have been getting a lot of words in for 2 short stories and a re-write of a novel that I’ve got in the works all while having started my next class for my MBA program.
Have a great week!
Eloise by Matthew Gorman
I’d seen dozens of pictures of the Sequim Witch Cabin throughout my life, but when I journeyed at last to the peninsula, there was little left standing. Just a heap of rotting wood being slowly reclaimed by the conifer forest.
The refuse of past visitors — old beer cans and food waste, the dayglow orange caps of hypodermic needles — nestled about me in the underbrush, and what remained of the original structure was covered in the crude graffiti of wannabe occultists.
Disappointing didn’t began to cover it.
After college, I’d tooled about for years, working odd jobs for quick cash, and spending my time exploring the strange, verboten places tucked away inside the uncharted recesses of the North American landscape.
Sometimes, I’d go with friends, or with a girl I was seeing, but mostly I’d just go it alone. There was a certain thrill in being left to rely solely upon one’s own grit and cunning should anything untoward occur.
I’d always wanted to make the hike out to the Witch Cabin, tucked back miles away inside the Olympic National Forest, and now I had. Four hundred bucks in travel expenses and a nasty, cold water shave in the fly-specked mirror of a rented cabin, and all I had to show for my efforts was this.
Old wrappers and rotting logs.
Irritated, I stepped through the spot where a door might once have been and unbuckled my belt. In the midst of those pathetic ruins, I proceeded to relieve myself as the crows glared reproachfully from the branches high above. Perhaps, I mused somewhat morbidly, I was pissing on the very spot the witch had sacrificed her infant victims.
By most accounts, the witch in question had been one Eloise Herrin, rumored to have died sometime in the seventies, though the County Clerk had no record of her burial.
Before her demise, she’d been blamed for a rash of infant kidnappings in the area, as well as for the untimely deaths of livestock, but she’d never been formally charged with a crime. It was of popular opinion that chickens would not come near her for anything.
Mad-eyed and unkempt, she was said to have sworn her allegiance to Satan, and would spit at or even upon anyone who wore a crucifix.
It might have all been bullshit, but the legend remained.
“How d’ya like that, Eloise?” I said, shifting my stream from side to side across the rotted floorboards. Venting my annoyance in liquid form.
From the trees, the crows began to squawk and cry. Four or five to a branch, like a row of burnt out Christmas bulbs. A few took wing and departed, but most of them remained.
My blood froze with the sound of their uproar. But a moment later, I felt foolish. They’d been startled by the sound of my voice, I reasoned, and nothing more.
Having seen all there was to see, I wolfed down a few handfuls of trail mix, slugged back some water, and headed for home. I’d kept my cabin for another night, and the bed there, however lumpy, sounded glorious about now.
That night, Eloise came for me.
I found myself within a darkened forest, lost and bewildered. Each way I turned felt rife with the promise of danger. The sky, vast and empty, offered no stars to guide me, and I was beginning to lose all hope. I sensed that I was dreaming, but the night air felt cold upon my skin.
Far above me, the tapered crown of a Mountain Hemlock shifted in the breeze, the swaying silhouette of a witch’s hat.
I heard the sound of beating wings from somewhere behind me, and when I turned to look, she was there. Her body naked and pendulous, slathered in filth. Her limbs, barren tree branches twisting against the wind. I met her gaze, and saw the fire that lived within.
She snatched my jaw with one hideous hand, and began to squeeze. Tighter and tighter until the pressure and pain became unbearable. I stared, paralyzed, into those baleful, burning eyes as the bones inside my mouth began to crack.
I woke screaming with the taste of copper on my tongue.
It was daylight, and I was drenched in sweat. My body felt hot and cold all at once, as if I’d fallen prey to fever as I slept.
A sharp tap upon the cabin’s window nearly stopped my heart. I watched the shadow of a crow depart against the sunlit wall beside me.
Had it come and tapped its beak upon the glass? I wondered.
Tap! It came again. Then Tap! Tap! A pause, then several more to follow. I saw now that tiny objects were colliding against my window.
Were the crows dropping pebbles against the glass?
I threw back the covers and stepped from bed. My eyes squinting from the sunlight, I approached the window, hoping to catch them in the act.
Tap! Tap! Two more tiny objects hit the pane.
I peered out the window and saw that the trees around the cabin were filled with crows. Hundreds perhaps. And every one of them completely silent.
A shudder ran down my spine.
From the bristled boughs of a Douglas Fir, two birds took flight and traveled towards me. I saw that each had in its mouth something small and white.
Tap! Tap! They dropped their cargo deftly against the glass as they passed overhead.
I looked down to see that several of the objects lay scattered along the outer sill, and as I did, I saw the hairs of my chest had become a mat of crusted gore. It was only then did I register the pain.
The tiny objects were teeth, their torn and bloody roots still glistening in the sun.
One look into the mirror above the rusted sink only confirmed my horror. Eloise had punished me gravely for my disrespect, and she had taken them from me.
She’d taken every last one.
Light from a large screen bathed the seats below.
There was an audience of only two.
In the darkness could be heard the words.
“They’ve made a mistake there. The blade entered the right eye but next shot the victim is grabbing the left side of their face.”
The person sitting behind replied to the retort by slipping a cheese-wire under the chin of the critic and pulling until the critic’s head rolled onto his lap then hit the floor.
“You made a mistake there,” said the director. “You entered the screening with a head and you’re leaving without one.”
On the Road Again
I grew up riding in the backseat of Dad’s car every night, sleeping in motels from sunrise to mid-afternoon, doing Dad’s weird homeschooling until sundown. When I asked why, he explained we were monster hunters. Dad died when I was thirteen. It took a few more years to realize I’d never seen him catch a monster. I’d never bagged one myself. I left that nocturnal nomad life behind, got a job, a wife, a kid of my own. Finally I learned the truth: child-snatching monsters only spawn under the beds of children who sleep in the same bed every night.
Dale W. Glaser
Dale W. Glaser is a small town boy who went off into the wide world to seek his fortune. He never found it, unless you count a slip of paper inside a delicious cookie that read “Never argue with children, fools, or ill-tempered buffalo.” Since wild riches have proven elusive, he works a white-collar day job to pay the bills, and writes horror for fun. His stories have appeared in Electric Spec, Weirdbook, and anthologies such as Death’s Garden, Final Masquerade and Carnival of Fear. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their three children, and can be found online at https://dalewglaser.
When I was a young and carefree woman, I once smoked a joint and went on a boat ride to watch seals frolic in the surf. The seals were cute, but what struck me was how the ocean waves resembled the magnified skin texture on the back of my hand. Right then, I realised how everything in the visible universe is connected. Now, I’m an old and troubled woman. I take various medications. On the back of my hand, I see the ocean waves. The seals are there too. They keep coming back, even though I excise them with razors.
Deborah Sheldon is an award-winning author, anthology editor and medical writer from Melbourne, Australia. She writes short stories, novellas and novels across the darker spectrum of horror, crime and noir. Her fiction has also been shortlisted for numerous Aurealis Awards and Australian Shadows Awards, long-listed for a Bram Stoker, and included in ‘best of’ anthologies. Visit Deb at http://deborahsheldon.
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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.