Pleased to announce that I will be able to shed my temporary role of Review Co-ordinator. Catharine Jordan has very kindly volunteered and I am in the process of handing things over to her. Lovely to see people stepping up for Horror Tree like this; now all we need is an Interview Co-ordinator. Who knows, I might be able to find a bit of time to write soon, writing has had to take a horribly consistent back seat lately and I was thinking NaNoWriMo might be an impossibility this year. I’m hoping that might now change. 😊

And still on a slightly personal note, Happy Birthday to my lovely husband, Geraint. He is usually on hand to provide either tea or wine when I’m working on either TWF or Horror Tree posts!

Freebie time. Thanks to Aly Faye for sending me a copy of Dimension6, a free Australian spec fig magazine featuring The Tea and Sugar Train, a suitably twisted (literally!) story by Deborah Sheldon. Download your own copy here.

Congratulations to Alyson Faye also for her latest crime novella publication, Maggie of My Heart from Demain Publishing. Available to pre-order from amazon here. I’m looking forward to giving it a read.

TWF writer S. Gepp currently has his book, revenge tale, Sins of the Fathers (pub. Grinning Skull press) out on amazon, as well as a stand-alone short story Rex the Rotten, via Alban Lake Publishing. When he dropped us a line about these, he said both works were as a result of finding the opportunities on Horror Tree (yay Stuart!).

Trembling With Fear leads this week with Anchovy Whispers by Kevin M. Folliard. Bizarre, surreal, gross. A story of how a person can be pushed to the brink. Descriptions of the slobbish houseguest, the congealing food, the anchovies are all written with such great relish you can practically smell that flat. Who wouldn’t sympathise with Kenny?

Death Walks In by Fayth Borden twists things round into a tale of deserved comeuppance. I really liked the idea of a mere mortal telling Death where to go.

Hole by Patrick J Wynn shows that not only can you make a mess of your life but sometimes you can also mess up something supposedly as straightforward as suicide. It was the dark humour of those last two lines which carried this story through to acceptance.

Sharps and Flats by F.M. Scott gives a new meaning to being absorbed by your music and is, in its way, another tale of madness of an obsession. A more literary tone is adopted for this drabble which suits its topic perfectly.

Thank you to all, for writing and submitting to TWF.

Steph

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

….And… Good morning, afternoon, or night depending on when you’re reading this! I hope that you’re ready for a fresh new batch of fiction to enjoy. We’re closing in on the holiday that horror authors love to celebrate year-round and I suspect everyone could use a bit of additional reading in their lives right now.

A quick update on the site, we may have a new review coordinator lined up but still could desperately use a new interview coordinator. Also, we’ve made some headway on the slowdown issues of our backend but still are working through it.

At any rate, enjoy the following tales my friends!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Anchovy Whispers by Kevin M. Folliard

When I open my bedroom door, the stink of Mitch hits me like a right hook. My roommate stayed up all night—like every night—generating a stench that would offend the Duke of Bumsville.

Three months ago, that slob moved in. Three months ago, he took over.

The Mitch stink is a hurricane of body odor, discarded gym socks, cigarette butts festering in a lidless kitchen trashcan, and a special ingredient—3 leftover slices of Savvy Sicilian anchovy and garlic pizza. In the small hours, drunk on Evan Williams, Mitch orders this pizza like clockwork. It pushes the stench into strange new territories, infusing the air with a salty, pungent kick of spoiling fish.

Mitch never falls asleep in his own room—a hoarder’s den of unpacked boxes and heaps of soiled laundry. He passes out to infomercials on the living room sofa. By now his rankness has soaked into the upholstery.

There he lays now, lawnmower snore thundering from bristly nostrils. Drool runs down his grizzled chin.

“Mitch!” I shout. “Mitch!”

He reaches, exposes the gold pit stain of his undershirt, scratches himself, grunts, and resumes his snoring. 

I open my mouth to shout again, but stop myself. Completely hammered like this, he could sleep through a marching band.

I scowl at the grease-stained cardboard box on the kitchen counter, where the usual 3 slices of thick crust garlic anchovy fester at room temperature. The cheese has congealed to hardened slime. Gray-brown fish cling to it like waxy leeches.

Bile creeps up my throat. I struggle to keep it down.

Mitch’s snores rumble like a volcano. A wet belch erupts.

And crimson hell-scape filters over the shitstorm that has become my home.

“PSST! Kenny!” a voice whispers. “Hey, Kenny!” 

It couldn’t be Mitch who continues to snooze.

“Kenny, what’s with this guy?” The voice is slick as oil.

My eyes gravitate to the countertop. One brown anchovy wriggles on cold pizza, worming its headless body at me.

The anchovy whispers, “There’s foil and plastic wrap in the drawer, right?”

A second fish slides upright. “He could have packed us up in the fridge for lunch today. It would have only taken 30 seconds.”

An anchovy half, sliced between two triangles, slithers upright. “Because of him, we’ve been spoiling all night. We’re no good. Just like that fat slob Mitch. He didn’t even use a plate.”

“He never uses a plate!” I say. “He never cleans. Hasn’t washed a single dish.”

A susurrus of disapproving whispers floats from the box. More anchovies poke up, headless, slug-like bodies undulating. “What a pig!” “Complete idiot!” “Who would put up with this?”

The biggest, fattest anchovy snakes and flops onto the cardboard. It rears up. “We’re dead fish, cooked on a pizza, and we’re offended. How do you deal with this, Kenny?”

“I-I don’t know.” I struggle for breath, choke on the rot in the air. “He doesn’t even shower! It’s disgusting—it’s—”

“Kenny,” the fat fish states, slick as a card shark. “You gotta fix this.”

“I’ve tried! I told him a hundred times—”

“That meathead has the IQ of a sledgehammer,” the fat one says. “And the breath of an elephant seal.” The chorus of anchovies erupts into scratchy snickers. “What makes you think a guy like that can be taught basic hygiene?”

“Enough words, man,” another anchovy hisses. “It’s time for action.”

“He has no job!” I say. “He can’t keep making up his half of the rent. Sooner or later—”

“You spineless jelly!” an anchovy snaps. “Stop making excuses. Problems like Mitch don’t go away on their own. They need to be solved. Taken care of.”

Mitch snorts, scratches his thigh.

I gag on putrid oniony air.

Greased laughter erupts from the box. “He’s not going to run out of money, Ken.” “One of his lady friends loaned him 200 dollars last night.” “His sugar momma gave him 500 last week. He didn’t even wash his hands before he ate after counting all that cash.”

“No . . .”

“His parents emailed last night too: They’re wiring him enough to support him until he gets that big break.” The anchovies hissed with laughter. “Mitch is slippery like us.” “He greases his palms while doing as little as possible.” “He’ll coast, he’ll slip—he’ll slide—for at least another year.”

“No.” My eyes water. My stomach churns. I cover my nose and mouth with my shirt and approach the reeking, wriggling brown fish. “What do you know? You’re dead fish!”

“We know why guys like Mitch move in with guys like you, Kenny-boy.” The fat one’s neck scrunches with each syllable. “It’s because he knows you’re spineless. He can smell it from miles away.”

I shake my head. Tears burn my eyes.

“You’ll move out before you force him out.”

“Not true,” I whisper.

“Prove it,” the fat one says. 

Its pals snigger. 

“Get rid of him.”

My eyes travel from the thundering, snoring wreck on the couch, back to the grease-stained cardboard.

The fat anchovy slops forward and slithers onto the counter. It inches toward a pizza-stained butcher knife and taps the handle.

“Go on,” it whispers. “You’ll be the one cleaning this knife either way.”

“You’ll be sterilizing the whole place one way or another—” one anchovy whispers.

“—what’s a little blood?” the others finish.

The stench is overpowering now, searing my nostrils, numbing my brain, like I’m breathing sour paint-thinner.

“Don’t puss out, Ken.” The fat anchovy taps the knife. “We could have been leftovers. Now look at us.” “Every day you wake up to this.” “Mitch must pay.”

“He will.” I reach for the knife. The fat anchovy swirls back toward the box. “Do it,” they all whisper. “Do it!”

I grab the handle. Crusty sauce and strings of mozzarella cling to the soiled blade.

“Do it!” 

“Do it!” 

“Do it!” 

“Do it!”

Mitch snorts and snores.

I enter the living room.

The anchovies laugh as I tilt the blade toward Mitch’s swollen gut.

My hands shake. The knife trembles. My eyes swelter from Mitch’s rankness. “I-I can’t . . .”

“It’s okay, Kenny,” comes a hoarse whisper from the carpet. A half-eaten anchovy clings to a dropped crust, amid a sprinkling of crumbs. It tilts up. “I have a better idea. Easier. Safer. You won’t even have to watch.”

The carpet anchovy points one slick end toward a silvery rectangle with a greasy fingerprint. It’s Mitch’s lighter, dropped on the ground.

I study the slumbering behemoth. A white cigarette, unsmoked, lies nestled between the couch cushions at Mitch’s side. Fury pumps through my veins.

“Hey almost did it,” the carpet anchovy whispers. “For real! He was seconds from lighting up. He would have killed you.”

“Son of a bitch.” I grit my teeth.

“But who’s to say when or why he did it. Maybe you woke up this morning and Mitch was still awake, drunk out of his mind.” 

“And maybe you left for work,” whisper the kitchen anchovies.

“And maybe then he lit up,” the fat one says, “one more time . . .”

They all laugh. “You’ve got renter’s insurance, Kenny, don’t you?” “All your neighbors have jobs. They’re in no danger. They’re already out the door.”

Mitch snorts. Grunts. Rumbles.

“Think how fast he’ll burn up with all that whiskey in his blood,” the carpet anchovy says. 

I pick up Mitch’s lighter, metal greasy to the touch. I flick it, and a plume of blue flame dances. I can feel the heat, burning away the hideous particles in the air. The bits and pieces of Mitch poisoning everything. 

“Fire,” the anchovies chant. “Purifying fire.” “He has no prospects, Ken.” “None at all.”

I smile. “It’d be crueler to let him live.”

Kevin M. Folliard

Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, as well as adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, and more. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Street Fighter, or traveling the U.S.A.

Author Website: www.KevinFolliard.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kevinfolliard

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kmfollia

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kmfollia/

Death Walks in

So, Death walks into my hospital room. Guess I wasn’t pulling through this mysterious illness with the stomach pains and vomiting, after all.

Naturally my wife, Sandy, was having none of the intrusion.  Sandy deplored uninvited guests. 

Standing up she looked death in the face yelling, “NO!!  Not on my watch, bone boy!”

Atta Girl!

But, without warning, Sandy wrenched the pillow from underneath my head and pushed it over my face. Then she set her ample body on my head, pushing the pillow particularly over my mouth and nose.

Uh, OH!

Damn! I reckoned both found out about Nancy.

Fayth Borden

Fayth Borden has loved horror and ghost stories since she was a child, from listening to relatives share such stories they recalled from Sicily. She began writing horror stories and paranormal poems in her teens and has never looked back.  She is also an avid reader of the genre. She is from the USA and lives in an old Victorian Mill town rampant with ghost stories, ghost hunters, psychics…the lot. And she is located near Salem MA, the Witch City, which she often visits and keeps vigilant for any macabre tales often shared by declared Witches to tourists. So, that’s what she does.  And she enjoys all of it!

Facebook : Fayth Borden

Email: [email protected]

HOLE

Jerry tried to ignore the mess he’d made of the kitchen, his wife wouldn’t  have been pleased. For most of their ten years of marriage she’d not been pleased, a fact she threw in his face as she grabbed the kids and walked out the door. When he told her he couldn’t live without her she just laughed and slammed the door. He stared at the wall across from the table, his shadow dark against the wall except the one clean hole where the bullet had plowed through his head. With a laugh, he decided to give it another try.

Patrick J Wynn

Patrick J Wynn is an author of short stories that contain shades of horror, humor and are just a touch weird. His works have been published in Sirens Call, Dark Dossier, Short Horror and Trembling with Fear. You can follow him on his Facebook page and look for his short story collections on Amazon.

Sharps and Flats

I stumble over them every time at the piano.  I’ve never mastered their basic chords, let alone playing a whole song on them.  Those elegant sharps and flats—perched over the C-based octaves because they’re prettier, enjoying their status as color makers that give you a blue note, a suspended chord.  But I know they want more. They know I know. This time they pierce, attach to, suck at my fingertips. The pain sears as I play and listen and watch as the keys swell, growing fat with my blood.  And they won’t let me stop. I’m now their song.

F.M. Scott

F.M. Scott is from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he lives and writes.  His work has appeared previously in Trembling with Fear, and he was a finalist in the inaugural Flash Fiction Contest sponsored by The Tulsa Voice and Nimrod International Journal.  His short story “Isolated Drums” was recently published in the first issue ofThe Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine.

http://writprodsm.wixsite.com/fmscott

Facebook and Twitter @fmscottauthor

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About Stephanie Ellis

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 novella, Bottled, will be published by Silver Shamrock Publishing early 2020 and her ebook novelette, Asylum of Shadows from Demain Publishing is due to come out in print before the end of the year. Her poetry can also be sampled in the Horror Writer Association’s upcoming Poetry Showcase Volume 6. She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org/ and on twitter @el_Stevie.

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