Trembling With Fear 10/28/2018
This weekend saw me at the British Fantasy Society’s FantasyCon in Chester. A full two days of listening to author interviews, attending panels and book launches and finally meeting one or two people in real life as opposed to knowing them only via online contact – and of course I bought a few books. I returned home inspired and determined to get on with my writing and then promptly got sucked in to family stuff including spending the morning on Old Winchester Hill with bandages over my eyes as part of my youngest’s photography shoot (previous instances have seen me with a pillowcase over my head and a rope around my neck). I’m sure there’s a story in there somewhere. As a result, the only writing I’ve managed are the TWF editorials and the start of an outline for NaNoWriMo. 2000 words a day? At the moment, no chance, so instead I’ve been catching up on reading (easier to pick up and put down a book than the pen) and leaving a review here and there. Note that where I review books, it is very much as a reader, preferring to keep it short rather than give a full in-depth analysis. I think when we see people giving reviews, and how long some of them are, it frightens people off leaving their own as it becomes another area where we might not be ‘good enough’. It shouldn’t be like that, a simple ‘yes, I liked it’ or ‘no, I didn’t’ and maybe the reason is good enough.
I’ve also checked out another TWF contributor’s website. This time I’ve gone to Canada to Madison McSweeney’s site madisonmcsweeney.com. There’s a great range of pages to look at, plenty to read (I followed the link for her story The Beast & the Hummingbirds which appears in issue one of the Rhythm and Bones zine – I loved the fairy tale quality of this story) and some great music to listen to as well.
Things are a little crazy right now. I’m sure you’re expecting a ton of Halloween Shinanigans in this weekend’s edition of ‘Trembling With Fear’ but you won’t find a single one here. That’s because we’ll be releasing a special edition on the morning of All Hallows’ Eve! Yes folks, double the TWF enjoyment this week thanks to the festive holiday.
There is a moral to today’s story and it is something every parent should teach their kid. Name your story after the webpage your submitting your work to and it is more likely to be accepted. Joking aside, I almost didn’t even read this one due to the name but Steph insisted that it was good. As always, she was right. Enjoy!
‘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 Horror Tree
“The wise are silent, the foolish speak, and the children are thus led astray” – Algernon Blackwood
“They say this is the only one like it in the world.” The man said to the boy.
The boy looked at it, there some distance ahead of them, then back at the man. The boy said, “but there’s lots of trees in the world? Even ones that look a little like that, I’ve seen them down by the creek.”
The man looked down from the crooked tree to the boy, “there are lots of boys in the world too. But you are the only you, are you not?”
The boy smirked, toying with the idea, then said, “I guess so, I’m no twin like the two down on Bittacy Street.”
“And are those twins not then each their own person? Their parents didn’t give them the same name, did they? They don’t each do exactly as the other does? Do you think they think the same thoughts?”
The boy looked back up towards the tree, it was bent and though he thought it looked like other trees it certainly had grown differently, then he looked at the man and shook his head. As he did, the boy didn’t notice the leaves and boughs of the tree shake and rustle despite there being not the slightest hint of wind.
The man scratched his beard, thick as the scrub and foliage around them, “so this tree is like no other.”
“But you haven’t seen all the trees in the world, have you?”, chirped the youngster, “so how do you know there’s no other one like it? There could be another me, somewhere in the big wide world, far away in another country, and maybe we’ll never see each other and then always think we the only one.”
The man looked at the boy sternly; his thick, caterpillar brows drew together. As he pursed his lips they disappeared beneath his bushy moustache. The boy watched him tug at his beard. This time the boy heard the creak and knock of wood. As he was about to turn his attention to the sounds from the tree up ahead, the man spoke in a tone that suggested it was best the boy give the man his full attention.
“This is the only one like it in the world. Perhaps you simply need to take a closer look.” He put a hairy, knuckled palm on the boy’s shoulder and urged him forward, closer to the tree. The man asked, “what do they call those trees by the creek? The trees you say look like this one?”
Feeling the forceful hand, the boy trudged forward, thinking to what he’d been told he answered, “willows I think…weeping willows.”
“And do they weep?”
“I don’t know what weep means.”
“It means to cry. Do these willows of yours by the creek cry?”
The boy felt the gnarled fingers squeeze tighter and their pinch insisted he take another step towards the tree that was like no other in all the world. He answered, hoping that the answer would lessen the man’s forceful grip, perhaps even slow their march, “no, they don’t cry…can…can this one?”
The man’s grip slackened, the points of his fingers still held the boy fast but they were no longer pushing into him, trying to burrow into his flesh and bones. The man said, “I’ve never seen it cry. But I suppose it can. It wouldn’t surprise me. I don’t think it’s had reason to cry for a long, long time.”
Trunk and branch creaked and sighed like abandoned stairs under the steps of a ghost. The boy felt like he no longer wanted to be led any closer, but the man’s grip and his steadfast gait told the boy he no longer had much of a choice.
The man continued, “you ever hear the tale of Old Man Willow?”
The boy shook his head. The man stopped. The boy was grateful. There was a rustle of leaves that sounded like a hiss.
“Hm, I’m surprised. I thought a boy who knew about weeping willows would have heard of the saddest, and angriest, willow of them all.”
Not wanting to go on, the boy asked the first question that came to mind, hoping it would keep him at bay from the strange tree ahead, “why was he sad and angry?”
The man shrugged his heavy shoulders, his long and matted hair shifted as he did, “for the same reason any tree gets sad and angry I suppose.”
Sensing that that was the end of the tale of Old Man Willow, and sensing that with the end of the tale he would be made to march closer to the tree that was unlike any other, the boy quickly asked, “is this tree, is it sad and angry?”
“I think it can be. Perhaps it was, back when it had a reason to weep.” With that, the man began forcing the boy forward once more and the boy tried in vain to drag his steps and dig his heels. But the man showed no notice of this, he only pushed the boy forward. A groan came from ahead and the boy felt as if many things just below the surface, beneath the undergrowth, things that were deep down in the soil, were urging him forward now too.
“Then it can’t be a weeping willow then!” The boy cried petulantly, feeling that he would soon start weeping.
“I never said it’s a weeping willow, nor a willow of any kind.”
The boy tried to break away but the man grabbed him tightly by the wrist. He looked up at the man’s face, at the bushy beard and hanging hair. In the mottled shadows of the forest, the boy thought the small patches of exposed flesh on the man’s cheek and nose looked like grey and aged barked. And his eyes were the pale green of sun-starved lichen.
The man did not seem angry at the boy’s attempt to break free, he only held him tightly. Again, there was the groan of old wood and the rustle of excited leaves.
“Well then what kind of tree is it huh? It can’t be so special if it doesn’t even have a name!”
“It does have a name”, the man said and dragged the boy forward.
They were close to the tree and the boy tried feebly to free himself again, this time it wasn’t only the man’s hand and gaze that held him. Dark roots slathered with peat and dirt rose and coiled about the boy’s ankle like rotten wooden worms.
The boy began to scream but a vine dropped from the shadowy boughs and wrapped itself about his throat, choking his cry. The vine felt slimy and cold, again more like a worm than any vegetation.
“It’s called a Blackwood”, said a voice that did not belong to the man.
The boy felt himself yanked upwards by more vines, and tugged downwards by wriggling roots and still the man pulled him closer to the massive trunk. Everything worked together against the boy, in a way that told his aching and stretching young frame it didn’t matter if he arrived at the trunk in one piece.
The boy’s vision was going hazy as he desperately struggled to breathe, through tears and the blur of strangulation he saw that from all the branches, that extended outwards from the tree like a spider’s web, hung the dark vines. It was as if they no longer wished to stay hidden in the draping of leaves. Those that weren’t interested in him were all fashioned into dangling nooses, as if someone long ago had planted gallows from the bloody seed of a hanged man’s heart.
The voice that wasn’t the man’s, or perhaps it was only what the Blackwood’s voice sounded like when it came from barely human lips that differentiated the two, spoke again, “but little boys who follow strangers and know about weeping willows, have a different name for me…they never speak it…they never can…but I hear it all the same…”
The voice paused. The vines pulled the boy up, tighter and tighter, the roots did the same but dragging him down into the mud and the man, still clutching the boy’s wrist, walked right into the ashen bark like he was the tree’s shadow, and the boy felt the flaking strips of wood begin to absorb him. To gnaw him.
As the splintered jaws slowly worked on the boy’s arm like toothless, mossy gums, the voice spoke again.
“Yes…that’s the name they use…The Horror Tree…”
Aristo Couvaras is twenty-seven years old, of Greek descent (if the name doesn’t give that away) and who was born and raised in South Africa, where he still resides. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in both English Literature and Clinical Psychology, as well as a Bachelor of Law degree, both attained from the University of the Witwatersrand. He has an upcoming work titled The Natloer, set to appear in Things in the Well Publications latest anthology -Beneath the Waves- Tales from the Deep. Anyone wanting to contact Aristo can do so on twitter @AR1sto.
10 Days To The End
Day 1: We meet
Day 2: You sweep me off my feet
Day 3: It all starts to sour
Day 4: I hate you more with each passing hour.
Day 5: You tell me I am the only one for you.
Day 6: You fail to listen when I say I don’t care and
We are through.
Day 7: I tell you that I want to be free.
Day 8: You say I will be free when you are dead.
Day: 9: It took just a moment to separate your body from
Day 10: I am free forever.
Kim Plasket is a Jersey girl at heart relocated to sunny Florida. She enjoys writing mainly horror and paranormal stories and lives with her husband and 2 kids. When she is not slaving away at her day job, she can be found drinking coffee with fellow author Valerie Willis and planning the demise of some poor character. Currently she has several short stories featured in anthologies such as ‘Demonic Wildlife’ and ‘The Hunted’, also has a story in an Anthology Titled Fireflies and Fairy dust she also has had a story featured in Shades of Santa with more to come.
A Skinful of Booze
Drunk Steve laughed off reports of black ice. Skids and spins? He had them mastered. Turning up the radio before speeding off, he challenged himself to keep the car pointing in the right direction.
Nobody was around to see him lose control, skidding to a halt as the car wrapped itself around a tree.
Nobody heard his cries, or detected the rising terror in his voice, as flames engulfed the engine. Nor did they witness Sober Steve squeezing through the smallest of windows at speed.
They found him the following morning completely flayed, detached skin flapping like a crumpled parachute.
CR Smith is an artist and writer living in the UK. Her work has been published by Ellipsis Zine, Spelk Fiction, Visual Verse, Zeroflash and The Cabinet of Heed, and is to be found in several anthologies including, The Infernal Clock, Drabbledark: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles and ‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’. There are also upcoming pieces in the Trembling With Fear 2017 Anthology, The Infernal Clock Deadcades Anthology and Chronos: An Anthology of Time Drabbles.
The cave stretched away. Claire’s helmet light flickered. Expired. She was the last one left. They had once numbered five. Adrenaline-fuelled, they had burrowed into the earth’s bowels, seeking adventure.
A roof fall took the two sisters; a broken ankle resulted in one being left behind.
‘We’ll be back,’ their lips said, their eyes spoke the truth though.
Claire and Becky foraged on, shoulders straining, feeling the weight of millions of striations above them.
Water wasn’t a problem. The caves’ walls bled liquid. Hunger gnawed at their senses.
Sitting on her haunches, Claire sliced a slab from Becky’s flaccid flesh.
Alyson lives in West Yorkshire with her family and 3 rescue cats. She teaches creative writing classes, writes noir Flash Fiction and ghost stories. She is one of the writers in ‘Women in Horror Annual 2’, in Raging Aardvark’s ‘Twisted Tales’, her stories can be downloaded at www.alfiedog.com as well as being available on various sites like zeroflash/Tubeflash/101 words/three drops from a cauldron. Her flash fiction debut collection, ‘Badlands’ is out now from indie publisher Chapeltown Books – here’s the interview http://www.chapeltownpublishing.uk/2018/01/badlands-by-alyson-faye.html and is available to buy from amazon.
You can find out more on her blog- www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com
or at her amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01NBYSLRT
Her twitter handle is @AlysonFaye2.
Rolling it out was the hardest. Roll and turn, they said. Roll and turn. Sprinkle flour on the worktop and the rolling pin to prevent sticking. Roll and turn.
Puff pastry also required chilling to prevent cracking as it was rolled out. He looked at the square he’d cut from the mound remaining in the fridge, the blobs of fat between the layers. There had certainly been plenty of lard on this one’s owner. At least he wouldn’t have to put up with his irritating wheezing any more. The man should’ve gone on a diet, been less puff, more filo.
Stephanie Ellis writes speculative fiction stories which have found success in a variety of horror magazines and anthologies. Her first novella, Domnuill-dhu has recently been published in Dark Chapter Press’s Bloody Heather anthology. She is also co-editor at The Infernal Clock and at Trembling with Fear, the online magazine branch of Horror Tree (the online writer’s resource). She is currently awaiting decisions from publishers following submission of a novel and a novella.
Samples of her writing can be found on http://stephellis.weebly.com/ and she is on twitter at @el_stevie.
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Stuart Conover is a father, husband, published author, blogger, geek, entrepreneur, horror fanatic, and runs a few websites including Horror Tree!