Before I say anything regarding TWF, can I just take the opportunity to wish my lovely husband, Geraint, a very Happy Birthday today. It’s due to his tolerance and support that I have been able to give so much time to TWF and all my writing endeavours.
Back to TWF:
So, that was the week that was. Trembling With Fear finally emerged onto a more public stage and found itself on the shelves of the mighty amazon, keeping company with both Brian Keene and Charles Dickens. Dickens is one of my favourite authors, I started reading him at 11yrs (I had his Christmas books for Christmas – naturally – and I still have them, complete with name and address proudly written in the front) and have continued to return to him ever since. If you want a masterclass on character creation, just read his stories. He has created some of the most wonderful and memorable characters in print, and I don’t mean just the good guys. What about Bill Sykes, Fagin, Uriah Heep or Madam Defarge? The latter features in my favourite Dickens story, A Tale of Two Cities and that last scene when Carton approaches the guillotine, whilst trying to comfort a young girl also heading for execution, gets me every time. And what worse horror was there than The Terror of revolutionary France?
If you’re stuck for an idea, a setting, why not examine history’s pages? We recently published The Rise and Fall of the Parricide Punisher by Michael Carter which I loved. I honestly would like to see more dark fiction stories set in times gone past, there is so much scope. I had a story published in an anthology a few years back called Ungodly, which featured cannibalistic puritans and I had great fun writing that. Let’s shelve the standard tropes for a while, no more running in the woods unless it’s Birnam Wood (Shakespeare himself shamelessly pillaged history … and rewrote it!) or hiding in the cellar, unless perhaps it’s an abbey during the Dissolution. Find the real story, blend the facts with your imagination and create a new horror.
The last week has been a whirlwind of madness. ‘Trembling With Fear: Year 1’ is out in the world and we’re mostly caught up with our current submissions! A slew of posts have been scheduled and we’re pretty well mapped out for much of the upcoming year. Once things calm down a bit more from the release of our first collection, I’m going to be making time to sit down with Steph (digitally) and plan out what we’re doing for next year!
We’ve got a pile of ideas we’ve casually brought up over the year to make things even better and just have to sit down and knock out the details! Offhand, we’re slightly low on drabbles so if you’ve got 100 words to spare, feel free to send them in!
‘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.
The Purest Art
There is a house of dubious repute burrowed into the space between two abandoned factories in one of the more seedier parts of town.
In this place sits the Curator of an attraction that draws a significant number of visitors each evening. Viewers from diverse cultural and social strata, contrasting in appearance and manner and nature, rubbing shoulders and hips, each breathing in the smell of the others. The air becomes a soupy mix of sweat and grime and soap and perfume. They all come to look.
And see. And gape.
The street is sodden and the air carries the stench of burnt plastic. Rats scurry in places unseen eating other unseen things.
The house has a spire that spikes out of its west side and a steepled roof on the other which cuts into the sky like a razor. It has no path and no gate and certainly no door.
Word is spread of the attraction from lips to ears. Whispers.
The lawn is so unkempt and overgrown that the grass reaches to the Viewers chest. It has the shape of wheat. Feral cats hunt vermin in its depths. The rustling of the undergrowth gives away the prey’s whereabouts. Their shelter betrays them.
The Viewer pushes through the grass and up the wooden porch steps which creak with the weight of each heavy step.
The Curator knows the Viewer has arrived.
Shadows fill the hallway, almost pitch black, insulated from moonlight by floor to ceiling red velvet curtains. Up the stairs to the top landing. Resplendent in his tuxedo and top hat, the Curator waits outside the viewing room. He stands silently in the dark. He only gestures to the doorway, to the curtains that hang there in lieu of a door. Pulling a black silk handkerchief from his pocket, the Curator ties it across his eyes and when it is secure he leans to the side and pulls the curtains apart.
A solitary wooden chair faces the far wall. The Viewer is guided to it and there he sits.
It isn’t really an artefact or a work of art. It is a unique thing. A curio.
The Curator closes the curtains and the Viewer is alone to look upon the thing he has come to see.
There is no roof here. The empty stars wheel overhead, the night sky illuminating the room.
The wall has an image scratched into the brick work. An eternity of fingernails clawing at the masonry and plaster has created it, carving the matter into something else. It takes the general shape of a circle but it consists of squares and triangles and other complex shapes and criss-crossing lines.
It is not a circle. It is a hole.
The Viewer stands for a closer look.
The scratches have gouged so deeply that the surface of the circle has smoothed out the brick work.
Closer still. The hole fills the Viewers vision. All he can perceive is the hole. All he can comprehend is the hole. It is black inside the hole. The Viewer pushes his face against the surface, but there is no surface, only a gossamer thin membrane that splits under his touch. The Viewer pushes his head through. It is not a circle. It is a spiral of scratches. A funnel gouged into reality. Or out of reality. The skin of the world is unpicked. Transition occurs.
The Viewer screams.
“I can’t tell what it is.”
The moon rises behind him and the moon sets and the stars grind against the heavens. A deep humming fills the void.
They always scream. They cover their eyes but it doesn’t stop their minds from shattering. The blindfolded Curator fumbles along the wall till he finds the Viewer and he leads him back out of the room and down the stairs. He removes his blindfold there and takes the Viewer out through the hunting grounds, where a kingdom of cats wage war on the rat race, and out into the sodden street. The Viewer claws and foams and wails.
“I can’t see.” He tears at his hair and claws at his scalp until blood trickles over his forehead.
A car is waiting to take the Viewer home. The Curator lies him on the back seat of the car, he can no longer sit up. The Viewers head is full of realisation, or is empty like a void. The Curator whispers something to him before the car leaves.
“It is art. The purest kind. It is nothing and everything. The soul of the world.”
Whispers pass from lips and tongue and teeth to ear and mind.
Once upstairs he dons his blindfold again and draws the curtains closed and takes his place on the top landing.
A stretch limousine drops off another who has come to view. They push through the long grass where the cats hunt.
John Paul Fitch
Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, John Paul Fitch is a writer who lives in Perth, Western Australia with his wife and three children. He was shortlisted for the Australian Shadows Award for short fiction in 2014
They kept him chained in the basement.
Lydia skipped into the kitchen, hugged her mom.
“Mornin’, dearest.” Her mom, apple in hand, moved toward the basement door. “Be right back.”
“Mommy, why don’t we just let him go?”
“What fun would that be?”
Lydia busied herself with breakfast, interrupted by a scream from below. She raced downstairs, her mom dead on the ground, the bucket used for his bathroom in pieces, a chunk jutting from her neck. Blood everywhere.
Her dad trembled. “I’m sorry for the past. But please, let me go.”
Lydia stood tall. “What fun would that be?”
Nico Bell is a horror and dark fiction writer whose publications can be found in Drabbledark Anthology and Splickety. She is a book and movie reviewer, a podcaster and unapologetic WWE fan.
Links:Author Website www.nicobellfiction.com
Social Media www.twitter.com/nicbellfiction
Movie and Book Reviews: www.scificandscary.com
Old queen Bud-Ihm, spry on six legs yet almost blind in the ocelli, watches her home world vanish on the ship’s honeycomb screen.
An invasive species poisoned the fields and left Bud-Ihm’s offspring hungry, ravaged by mites, weaker and sicker with each generation. So she gathered her children, promising fragrant meadows under a different sun.
Bud-Ihm’s compound eyes darken. There are no fragrant meadows under a different sun. Her children will all die on this journey. But, without Bud-Ihm’s kin, the flora that sustains the invaders will perish and those who destroyed her world will starve. Bud-Ihm feels no remorse.
Solve et Coagula
Detective Bryant’s legs shook. A mile of track climbed from Middleton to the derelict chapel at Holcomb Scar and he’d raced here, pursuing his strange and alluring suspect.
Leaning against a wall, slick with rain, he cast about for a clue. Suddenly a slithering sound reached him and the woman swayed unnaturally through the chapel doorway.
Torchlight distorted her outline. Men in donkey jackets appeared, each bearing a sickle. They’d been expecting him.
Before the startled officer could react, the goddess yawned then loosened, enveloping him completely.
“Dearly beloved … ” his failing mind caught, as powerful enzymes tore him apart.
My exploring ancestors, I guess, were largely Homo Sapiens. I’ve traced a few of them to North Africa, Sicily, Italy and various strands of Irish, Scottish and English people. They teach me things. Writing helps.
The empty seats squeaked as the train tore down the tracks.
This express was never late as it hurled towards the end of the line.
Only one passenger sat silently in the car.
She gazed at the world, flying past the window.
There were so many places to stop and see that she’d never been to.
Each one of them a small regret to her soul.
Nearing the station, the conductor came and collected her ticket.
“Last punch” the voice barked while taking it.
“FINAL STOP” came over the intercom as they pulled into the station.
Purgatory awaited her arrival.
Emerging from the shadows once a month, the Stuart has reached back into the dusty brain of his to produce another drabble for your (hopeful) enjoyment. An author. A father. A husband. A coffee addict. A guy who has too much time on his hands while writing this mini-bio. Oh, and the editor of this little website which you happen to find yourself on right now.
To stalk him, head over to StuartConover.com today!
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- Taking Submissions: Triangulation: Extinction - December 9, 2019
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- Taking Submissions: Well Said, O Sheriff - December 6, 2019