Trembling With Fear 10/03/21
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!
The season has very definitely slid from summer into autumn, the past few days have seen more grey skies than blue and the wind has been howling more often than not. Despite the chill in the air we are holding out against putting the central heating on – knowing the bills are going to be horrible this year. One antidote is reading and I read a book set in the UK during the drought of 1976 – oh yes, I remember that well. The stifling heat described in those pages kept me oblivious to the cold around me for a while!
It’s been a good week for writing and for a few publications. I was delighted to see Scott J. Moses’ What One Wouldn’t Do hit the No.1 Hot New Releases on amazon. I’ve got a story in it, Cry Me A River, which has been very well-received but I think Scott deserves a huge amount of credit for this anthology. It’s his first and he has been very open about the trials and tribulations he went through to bring it into being. Considering all he has undergone, I hope this book brings him great success and a big sense of achievement. Creating, editing and formatting an anthology is no easy job.
Whilst I know Stuart is always giving a shoutout for more drabbles, I’d like to throw in we need more drabbles by women! Normally there’s a good balance but as I went through what we had, I’ve noticed a more definite leaning to the male side.
The first story in Trembling with Fear this week is Blood by Harry Wilding. This tale is told as much through its layout as its words, life ebbs away, blood drips and so do the words, pouring down the page like liquid. The flow is punctuated with the crime of which the victim is condemned, the crimes of others in our world also brought to book. A quite powerful – and poetical – way to tell the story. [Please note – it has been very difficult to replicate the formatting in the original document on WordPress but I’ve done my best, Steph]
Banned by R.J. Meldrum shows how a subtle alteration of wording isn’t always a mistake and perhaps, should not be questioned!
It’ll Be Different by Andrea Allison draws you in by demanding you sympathise with suffering but … is it all that it appears to be?
Pretty Bird by Patrick Winters uses a known safety device, the canary down the mine, and then adds an ‘aah’ moment amongst all the horror. I found it strangely touching!
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
I hope that everyone is having a great weekend so far!
As Steph mentioned, today our story is a bit visual on top of being an interesting read which makes it a bit more interactive than usual, mentally at least.
A quick update on the site, moving forward our guest posts are becoming a more personalized as bios located on those posts will target the actual writer and not Horror Tree (or once upon a time myself.) For those of you with multiple works featured on Horror Tree, it should also allow readers to easily find their other posts! While, it is currently going to be on posts moving forward, I eventually would like to update all of our old guest posts, blog tours, and WiHM posts as well. However, that will be quite time consuming so it could take a bit. (We’re talking late next year not in by the end of 2021. I, unfortunately, just don’t have the time to do this quickly.)
Finally a couple of reminders:
- Trembling With Fear is open for our Halloween Edition until October 13th, so be sure to get your stories in! Full details can be found here.
- If you run a website and would like to write an article about Horror Tree or Trembling With Fear, we’d really appreciate that! Please reach out with any questions for facts in the article (who does what, when sections were started, etc), any promotional artwork, or with a link once it is live so we can feature it on the site and on our social media.
Blood by Harry Wilding
‘As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will always be battlefields.’ – Leo Tolstoy, What I Believe
Jamie o p e n s his eyes.
The violent sterile light penetrates his eyelids
as he slams them shut again,
creating brilliant flashes, a private display of white fireworks.
gravity pulling him up, his limbs almost
He feels paralysed. An overwhelming sense of lethargy consumes him, the pain in his head intensifying to the point at which images from David Cronenberg’s Scanners flood his brain; the fireworks now firmly lodged behind his eyes.
Jamie hears a voice, low and indecipherable. He o p e n s his eyes again, turning his head to w a r d s the sound. Lifeless white walls surround him.
The unconscious naked man beside him looks, for an instant, as if he is levitating.
Jamie can see that the man—so he too—
A strap, around his completely shaved head, connects to the one that hold his arms behind his back. A woman
—tall, toned, pale, naked—
walks into his view from behind him, continuing to whisper an unknown language. She crouches down in front of the man, their faces now at a similar, albeit inverted, height.
She reaches behind him, pulls
down on a strap.
It forces his head
towards his tied arms.
The woman closes her eyes. Her stillness, her silence, it engulfs the room. Seconds, perhaps m i n u t e s, pass.
Until the knife
—suddenly, swiftly, mechanically—
slices through the stillness,
the jugular vein
Jamie lets out an audible noise—an almost comically camp gasp—as a waterfall of blood pours from the man,
crashing into the large basin
the white rapidly consumed by red.
‘We do not plan for you to wake up in this room, or, in fact, ever again.’
The woman’s voice sounds as young as it does old, weaved in silk.
‘I apologise for this oversight.’
She disappears again, somewhere behind Jamie.
‘What…’ the hell is going on? Jamie had wanted these words to sound assertive, threatening even, but he can barely even utter the first word.
‘Your understanding of these events will not help you escape them.’
She is in the corner of his eye, no longer holding the knife.
‘Who are you?’ Jamie closes his eyes tightly, his headache intensifying. ‘Why…’ the fuck am I here??
The woman smiles, very slightly.
‘This method, in which we put you to sleep prior to cutting your throat, is what you would call humane. A rather ironic word to characterise compassion and sympathy, hmm?’
The woman takes a couple of steps across the room. Jamie no longer has to awkwardly turn his neck to address her.
‘I wish there was another option but, morally, this is the best way. The best way until we can synthesise human blood.’
‘Oh for…for fuck…’ sake, Jamie manages to laugh slightly. Do you think you’re a ‘…vampire?’
‘What you would call a vampire, perhaps. We do not call ourselves that.’
‘There were 53 of us, originally. Now, many more. We live among humans, easily blending in because we are, in fact, human ourselves. Just…enhanced. Or cursed. Depending on one’s perspective. A meteor in Siberia, at the beginning of the twentieth century, brought a virus with it. A number of us were infected, but its reach was not far and it can only be transferred via the usual reproductive fun. No neck biting necessary; though each to their own, of course. We have quite ordinary canine teeth.’
‘Yes. It was quite a surprise for us at the time, too.’
‘Why…’ do I have the honour of being ‘…one of your victims’, Bride of Dracula?
‘We did not pick you randomly, Jamie. You were in a prison cell prior to this.’
You select ‘…drink drivers…’ as your victims?
‘We both know, even if the police do not, that your transgressions are much more serious.’
Jamie closes his eyes and breathes deeply. A tear runs down his throbbing forehead to escape into the temporarily empty basin below.
‘The English word for you is
The next few seconds stretch out into eternity, the final word weighing down the silence. Eventually, Jamie manages:
‘Oh, but I do Jamie. I do. Unlike the average human, I understand that your urges are not your fault. But—unlike you—we need what we crave to live and to survive. We also take the bare minimum. You do not. You should do more to control your craving. And Jamie. James. You really should not enjoy it so much, and regret it so little.’
‘You can. But you will not.’
She walks over to the wall by Jamie’s side and opens a panel.
‘Even without your particularly nasty traits, I am appalled by how the majority of humanity not only treats each other, but the entire planet’
‘…eco-vampire…’ Jamie scoffs.
She takes out a syringe and a small bottle of fluid, before closing the panel again.
‘That would be an excellent twitter handle, thanks Jamie.’
Jamie glances over at his roommate, hanging from the ceiling like a Christmas decoration in April. The basin below him continues to fill with his former life force.
‘So, you will…slaughter me like, like…’
‘An animal? Like a human would slaughter an animal? In a way, yes; though you will not feel a thing. Many humans, of course, would say you deserve the pain’
—she fills the syringe with the fluid—
‘and the death.’
Jamie closes his eyes again as the woman takes a step towards him. He can still hear the blood pouring from his neighbour’s neck. The flow is no longer as intense. Behind his closed eyelids he almost likes, or at least accepts, the sound; a relaxing water feature in a human-made pond. Controlling this illusion, in his self-made darkness, shields him from the impending oblivion, the oblivion contained within the loaded syringe.
‘We’re better…’ than them, he manages to almost say.
‘The same argument used by your fellow white-skinned males in favour of their subjection over women and darker-skinned people, I remember.’
‘We are…’ better than animals though! Jamie repeats weakly.
‘Hmm. I have yet to come across any evidence for such a vague claim.’
The woman steps right up to him and crouches down, their faces now at the same, albeit inverted, height. Jamie remains within the relative safety of his eyelids.
‘До тех пор пока существуют бойни для скота, будут существовать и поля сражений.’
‘Tolstoy. Over one hundred years ago. Hmm. Yes, indeed.’
The waterfall, the water feature, has slowed; the last drops now dripping,
into the otherwise calm pool.
The woman closes her eyes,
bows her head.
Bob stood up from the barstool, but lost his balance. He’d been drinking since 5 p.m., downing numerous beers and shots. His arm, flailing, cleared the bar of a dozen glasses, which crashed to the floor in a sparkling shower. The barman grimaced.
“That’s the third time this week, eighth time this month. I swear you’re doing this deliberately. It’s not just the glasses, you’re scaring away customers. You’re costing me a fortune.”
“Should cut me off.”
“You’re banned from life from now on.”
“It’s ‘for’, dumbass.”
The barman stuck the icepick into Bob’s neck and watched him fall.
RJ Meldrum is an author and academic. Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010. He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Smoking Pen Press and James Ward Kirk Fiction. He is an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.
It’ll Be Different
“Sorry. I was wondering about your scars,” he said. “What happened? If that’s okay.”
“I was married before. I became a little too friendly with a guy I knew. I didn’t cheat but my husband didn’t believe me. He became very unstable until one night when I came home he…shot me….more than once and then shot himself. Doctors said I was very lucky.”
“Oh. Wow. I’m so sorry.”
“Can I have some more wine please.”
“Uh…sure. I’ll get another bottle.”
As he walked away, she whispered, “It’ll be different this time. He won’t cheat on me like all the others.”
Morris was taking a little breather when the canary around the corner started tweeting wildly, and a flash of dread flared in his mind. As he spun about to investigate, his fear morphed into revulsion.
Some huge, misshapen thing was lurking in the tunnel, hunched over and observing the bird in its cage.
Morris wailed, and the creature turned on him, lashing out with a roar. As Morris’ rent jaw fell to the ground, his fellow miners came running.
A slaughter followed, blood and innards strewn about.
Then the creature went back into the darkness, leaving the pretty yellow thing to itself.
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Stephanie Ellis is a member of the HWA and writes dark speculative prose and poetry which has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her work includes the novel, The Five Turns of the Wheel and the gothic novella, Bottled, both via Silver Shamrock Publishing.She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org/ and on twitter @el_Stevie.