A valid point was raised in a recent email concerning submission of comments on the TWF part of Horror Tree. This reader could not see where to enter comments to respond to a story. All you need to do, once you have clicked on ‘Read Trembling With Fear’ from the menu, is to click on the TWF header itself (written in red). This will take you to the actual page for that edition alone. Scroll down to the bottom of that page and you will see the comments box.

Last week, Alyson Faye alerted me to a new site which aims to promote the work of women writers. Ladies of Horror Fiction exists to ‘bring about a multi-dimensional way to support women (either cisgender or those who identify as female) who either write in the horror genre or review in it.’ The site contains a directory of women writers to check out, various features and challenges and a podcast is in development. They can also be found on twitter @LOHFiction.

 

I honestly look forward to the day we no longer need a ‘special’ month or initiatives like these because that day will mean women are viewed as equals in the world of horror writing. In the meantime, however, many thanks to those who do bang the drum on our behalf.

 

As always, TWF is a home for one and all and if you see an area of under-representation in our publication, write us a story to help fill that gap. Everyone is equal here.

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

A few TWF updates!

The proof copies are in and are being hastily reviewed for errors so that we can finally go live, it has been a long wait but one I hope that everyone will feel was worth it!

Also, we’re not fully scheduled until the year’s end but we’re pretty close. Steph and I are having ongoing (if very spaced out, mostly my fault) talks on how we’re evolving TWF going forward. More to come on that!

‘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

The City

Night fell across the borderlands. The rider paused there for a minute, waited for the grey grass to whisper a memory. Instead, the reeds rustled, possessed, like wraiths.

Silent fields.

They were a bad omen. His mother had gone to work with wordless wheat once before. She’d never come home again.

The rider lifted his visor. He judged himself still beyond the watchman’s gaze, there, a mere a step outside the thin embrace of the city. He decided it would be best to seek refuge within. True, a stranger among strangers was a bad omen, but the road behind haunted him, in all the ways empty things do. He could no longer suffer its company. So he coughed, kicked the side of his horse, and rode down into the valley. The bones of long-abandoned towers rose out of the dirt to greet him.

The rider kept to the roadway, galloping at speed. Once, through trees, he saw a campfire, but he resisted the temptation to approach it.

Wandering fires.

Another bad omen. His father had stamped a few flames into the dirt once before. He’d never come home again.

On the other side of the phantom forest, the rider reared to a stop. There, where the first defences were destined to be, stood the wasteland.

Moss crawled all over the city, feasting, stripping flesh from bone bit by bit. The growth infected towers, bridges, statues. Even the walls, a hundred feet tall, had been consumed by the sickness. Black, moist, glowing—the wretched organ pulsed and breathed.

“Easy girl,” the rider said, as his horse wrestled beneath him.

The rider held his breath and passed into the mouth of the city, where only a skeleton of a gate remained. It hung open now, eternally, as if it was laughing, or screaming.

It was clear the city was making a last stand, though from exactly what, the rider couldn’t tell. He weaved his way between rubble, pausing only once, when he met the body of a man cloaked with blood. A misfortune left behind in the retreat. It would be a bad omen to leave him unburied. The rider passed him by though, because he was dead, and he’d long distrusted men of that persuasion. In fact, he was almost glad to press further into the carcass of the city. Of course, had he understood the true nature of decay, he’d have realised most things rot from the inside out.

The rider shivered beneath his cloak. Around him, the city shone with a ghost-light, a morgue-light, a light so dead it couldn’t cut the shadow. From the cracks of the highest window, pales eyes hunted him, selfish in their pursuit. Worse still, they saw everything. They saw him unarmed and they saw his fear.

The rider turned from the nightmare and urged his horse forward. Instead of obliging though, she paused in the middle of the street as if, after all the years, she’d lost the will to go even one step further.

“On,” the rider said.

The beast pretended not to hear.

The rider glanced over his shoulder. Behind, the little eyes watched with renewed interest.  The boldest among them, hungry for something more than darkness, dared even to follow.

“On.”

The horse threw back her head and snorted.

“On!”

The rider kicked the horse hard. He placed the blow in an old war-wound, a spot intimate as murder. At last, she lurched forward, stumbling down the path.

The rider’s heart emptied inside him. The horse was his last friend, the bearer of his worldly burdens. Years before, they’d founded their relationship on silence. He always wondered was the horse mute, or like him, wary of words.

Dangerous things—saved for curses and prayers.

The rider breathed a sigh of relief as the horse settled beneath him. The kick had been a last resort. Or maybe a strange kind of mercy.

A thrice-disobedient horse.

It would have been a bad omen. His brother had ridden off to battle on the back of one before. He’d never come home again. Or at least, not as the man who’d left.

Ahead, a worm-eaten palisade wall loomed out of the darkness. A single figure bobbed up and down along the battlements. The silver tip of his spear paraded above him.

The rider snapped his reins. Again, the horse resisted, even as the eyes multiplied on all sides. He imagined they must have made quite a sight, cantering up to the gate with the hosts of hell licking at their heels. The sentry waved for him to stop.

“Who goes there?”

“Rider.”

The sentry smiled, but the expression was wrong, like he’d have been naked without it. “I can see that. What business brings you to the city?”

“Rest.”

The sentry grinned. “Rest of what?”

The rider clenched a fist. “Shelter.”

The sentry squinted at the sky. “I hadn’t noticed the rain.”

This time, the rider didn’t answer. As expected, it robbed the sentry of his armour. He soon called for the gate to be opened.

 

***

 

“Something got you spooked?” the sentry said, when the gate had been firmly locked once more.

The rider huffed and dismounted. “Eyes.” He gestured upwards. “Blinking. Following.”

The sentry knitted his eyebrows. He craned his head over the battlements. “Do you mean the stars?”  he said.

The man didn’t wait for the rider to answer. He bowled over, mouthing half-words, choking with laughter. His spear knocked against the fence, rhythmically, a sure sign it mocked the rider too.

The rider responded with a grunt. With some effort, he tied his horse to a fence nearby. Then, ignoring her idle protests, he headed in search of a local inn, a place where the laughter would at least be mocking itself.

He trudged away so fast though, that he didn’t hear the sentry behind interrupt himself a second too soon. He didn’t smell the danger, even as it lay thick amongst the fog at his feet. He didn’t see the sentry remove his helmet, revealing the old frown hidden beneath.

But the sentry saw everything. He saw the rider unarmed and he saw his fear.

 

Kyle Malone

Kyle Malone is an emerging writer of speculative fiction based in Cork Ireland. Previously, he has written for the award-winning Motley Magazine. Currently, he writes for the review website Comicbuzz. His work is forthcoming in Deep Magic and Books Ireland.

Deadly Goliath Frog Plague

Will the sun ever rise? Not very clear

Doomed to uncertainty, nothing’s there

Bodies dropped like flies, eaten up inside

Bewildered, panicked

Hollow inside

Mass infections, threatening mankind

As we all struggle to survive, a worldwide decay

Deadly, murderous, hazardous

Manslaughter

The croaking

The lonely eyes

The sounds of the night when somebody dies

Afraid of the dark

The pieces all fall apart

No love from God

No blood on my door

Faith transcends

A plague awaits

Taking victims to Nevermore

The nighttime calls out my name

Fantasy and reality are the same

What a beautiful disaster

Home once again

Made a comment

Idealize

The word “Idealize” describes who she is and her perception of things (most of the time). She is a young, friendly, ambitious student living in Cameroon who aspires to be an author one day and spends her free time in between the stanzas of her own poems. Idealize is mostly inspired by word prompts on Twitter and WordPress. Her poetry and short stories are available at www.Idealizeblog.wordpress.com and www.twitter.com/IdealizedH (@IdealizedH) for all eyes and critics. So, come along, everybody’s welcome.

Arthur Unk

Arthur Unk lives and works in the United States, but dreams of a tropical, zombie-free island. He hones his drabble skills via the Horror Tree Trembling With Fear (Dead Wrong, Flesh of My Flesh, The Tale of Fear Itself, and others yet to come) and writes micro/flash fiction daily. His influences include H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and life experience. You can follow his work from all around the web via his blog at http://arthurunk.com or read his many, many micro-stories on Twitter @ArthurUnkTweets.

Full Moon

I can’t live like this anymore. First, I was bitten, under the glare of a full moon. I was just out for a walk in the woods. No big deal. Now every thirty days, I do the biting. How many people have I killed or worse, turned? No more. One slice through the jugular and it’ll be over. Must die before the moon rises tonight. I’ll miss my family and Becky. They can never know what I’ve become. Just raise the knife and do it. Too late! I can feel the change coming. Next month I’ll do it for sure.

Terry Lee

I have been writing occasionally for over ten years, completing various short stories. Days I spend providing IT support and training.
Nights are spent writing, when my imagination (hopefully) blossoms . I am currently writing a novel, which I plan to have completed in 2018. I write for my own pleasure, these being the first works that I have submitted for publishing.

The Go-between

Frayed cap, bald head; his badge of honour – few lived to lose hair – Giles made his way up the hill. He remained useful because of the Mobile; it still received texts, but it was the camera that really mattered. Since the Whimper, things changed imperceptibly. No great fires or alien invasion. The monsters were already here. Known to the small-folk by the cryptic name The Gypsied, they called themselves simply: The Facts.

Giles approached the wagons, gorge rising, the humming Desktops inducing his Pavlovian tremor.

He opened the door, knowing what was in the pictures, and hooked up his phone.

Syreeta Muir

Syreeta Muir is a poet and writer with an interest in interpreting nature and trauma in unusual contexts. Currently she is writing poetry, short fiction, flash and micro fiction via Twitter #vss365 and #FrightWriters, and modding on Facebook group [email protected] She is also an active member of a small online writer’s collective who call themselves the Obscurities. You can find her on Twitter as @hungryghostpoet.

Mardan’s Disdain

Chains bound Mardan as they marched him to the gallows.
He would not cower before the executioner but did sneer at the onlookers who had come to witness his death.
They would not get the satisfaction of seeing their fear mirrored upon his face.
The dread lord had pillaged the island for years and held them all with contempt.
As long as he drew breath, Mardan would know nothing but hatred for the commoners.
In the distance, the sigil of his cutthroats could be seen.
A smile spread across Mardan’s face.
His death wouldn’t be the one celebrated this day.

Stuart Conover

Some say that Stuart Conover is a prophet. Some say that he is a mad man. Some say he just spends far too much time putting random things about himself into his bio when there is a chance to include a drabble in Trembling With Fear. No one can be certain but what we do know is the man loves coffee and requires at least one a day just to draw breath.

Coffee. It is a strength. It is a weakness. *Channels his inner Gary Oldman*: The Coffee Is The Life!

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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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