For our US readers, Turkey Day has come and gone. We hope you all gave into gluttony and got stuffed on whatever it is you enjoy munching on! Following that was Black Friday, the darkest holiday of all in our nation, as we worship at the alters of consumerism. Hello debt!
At any rate, I’d like to take this moment to give thanks to all of you. Without our growing readership Horror Tree wouldn’t still be expanding! Without our spectacular Patreons, Horror Tree wouldn’t have been able to afford to keep the website going! Without our amazing authors, Trembling With Fear wouldn’t have become such a hotspot for Sunday morning reading.
So thank you. Each and every one of you!
‘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.
“Mama, may I go outside today?” Sammie wanted to go pet the sheep in the pen one more time before their wool was sheared. They were so fluffy. One sheep in particular would even let Sammie hug him, so she’d decided they were friends and named him Abraham.
Sammie stood outside Mama’s door, waiting for the answer. There was a long pause. “May I go outside, please?” Sammie called, remembering her manners.
“After your chores,” Mama said, her voice slightly muffled through the closed door.
“Thank you, Mama!”
Sammie’s wool skirt swished around her shins as she ran down the hall to the kitchen. Her limp was almost gone now. The wooden slats creaked beneath her bare feet. She was sad that after tomorrow the sheep would be cold, but she wasn’t too sad since she’d be getting a new skirt soon. Hers was too short now that she was almost ten years old. It had lots of patches and more stitches than her brother Billum did in his back. She’d counted.
Sammie glanced at the paddles hanging from their hooks on kitchen wall, easily finding the newest one. It stood out because it was clean. The handle wasn’t black from Mama’s sweaty hands and the board didn’t have any blood stains yet either. It still smelled like a fresh-cut log. Across the top in cursive letters the paddle read SAMANTHA and Sammie was proud of how nice it looked. She’d written it herself.
In the kitchen, the evening lantern was already put away, and the clapboards over the washbasin were open. The sun shined on the orange tomatoes set on the window sill to ripen. For a moment, Sammie was tempted to eat one since the tomatoes weren’t squishy and gross inside yet, but she didn’t. She wasn’t a wicked girl.
She wasn’t allowed to boil water by herself, and Mama was doing penance in her room, so instead of hot porridge Sammie made gruel. It was cold and gross like tomato slime, but it wasn’t for her so Sammie didn’t care too much. She’d already eaten her breakfast.
Above the paddles on the wall were Bible verses. Sammie picked Exodus 23:25—her favorite one there. Billum had written them but his cursive wasn’t as good as hers. Just like she’d been taught, Sammie poured the gruel into the burl bowls and blessed each one. “And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water, and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.” Her voice echoed slightly in the washbasin as she prayed.
Carrying the bowls on a tray, Sammie opened the door to the basement. The iron hinges squeaked. The old steps were just as noisy and so steep Sammie had go down sideways, almost like a ladder. She’d only ever dropped the tray of bowls once, and she wanted to keep her other littlest finger, so she went carefully—slowly, like syrup sliding down the inside of a jar. Finally, she felt the cool dirt beneath her feet. She wiggled her toes just for a second because it felt good.
Sammie set the tray on a small table at the bottom of the stairs. Next to the tray sat a shuttered lantern with colored light peeking out. She opened the spotlight’s cover and a brilliant explosion of light like rainbow lightning burst forth. The lantern took no oil, yet it always worked and was much brighter than any other lantern Sammie had seen. Mama said there was a sliver of God’s Grace inside, given just to their family from the Lord himself.
With the lantern in one hand and a bowl of gruel in the other, Sammie padded over to the corner behind the stairs. None of the cells had a door that Sammie could see, only a brick wall with a small gap at the bottom just wide enough for the bowls. Sammie stopped to listen, but like usual it was quiet. She wondered sometimes if maybe the boy inside had died and been replaced with a new boy, or if there was even a boy in the cell at all like Mama said. Sammie never heard any sounds come from inside. Maybe the boy had decided he was done living and crawled into a corner, like how Mrs. Callow’s dog had crawled under the porch and never come back out again. But Mama said that demons couldn’t die, only be contained.
Like Mama taught her, Sammie turned the spotlight so God’s Grace shined through the hole, blinding the demon before she slid the bowl in. Then she delivered the other bowls and returned to the kitchen to fix more gruel. She didn’t know how Billum collected the bowls since the cells had no doors, but bowls had been his chore and Sammie wondered if she’d have to collect the bowls herself now.
Feeding took over an hour like it always did, but she blessed and delivered the gruel to every single cell in the basement. Sometimes she heard noises coming from the cells—growling, screaming, whimpering. Some of the wickedest demons even cursed at her when she fed them. One demon tried to speak to her, but Sammie didn’t answer. She’d never spoken a word in the basement—never uttered a sound no matter what she heard, just like she’d been taught.
She knelt down before the second-to-last cell and a dirty hand with nails like claws shot out of the small opening. The demon grabbed her ankle and she dropped the bowl with a squeal. The holy light from God’s Grace flashed wildly across the basement as it swung around in Sammie’s panicked grip. She tried to pull her leg away but the demon’s grip was too strong.
“Wicked girl,” the demon said, its womanly voice raspy. “Delicious, wicked girl.”
Sammie screamed but her voice was lost in the sounds of the other demons howling and screeching like a hellish choir in Sunday school. The terror in her belly grew and Sammie knew the demon would pull her into the cell and gnaw on her bones for eternity.
The demon suddenly released its grasp and began laughing wildly, its horrible voice echoing off the cell walls. Sammie quickly picked up the fallen bowl, took it to the tray, and began to cry. She hadn’t blinded the demon first like she was supposed to. She’d been looking at the last cell instead. Sammie sat on the bottom step for a while until her sniffles were mostly gone and the demons had quieted. Then she delivered the last of the gruel.
A thin voice whispered through the cell’s hole as she pushed the bowl through. “You didn’t blind me with God’s Grace first,” Billum said. “And you made a sound down here, Sammie. Now the Devil knows who you are.”
She’d left the holy lantern on the table on purpose. She opened her mouth to say so, but was too afraid. Sammie got on her knees and glanced into the cell. In the lantern’s distant light, she could see her brother huddled with his face in the corner. He was naked and shivering. She could just make out the river of stitches on his back.
“Love shouldn’t hurt, Sammie,” Billum said, his voice cracking. “God’s love isn’t painful, no matter what Mama says.”
Sammie began to cry again. For a long time she just waited, but he didn’t say anything else. Finally, she got up and brushed her hands and knees off as best she could. She shuttered God’s Grace, leaving it on the table. She picked up the tray with the demon’s single bowl and began climbing up the steps.
Billum’s voice stopped her at the top of the steep stairs.
“I’m not sorry I broke your paddle.”
She sniffled, then closed the basement door behind her. After washing the bowl, Sammie walked quietly through the farmhouse. She looked out at the garden and animal pens through the sun-filled windows, and it made her sorry. Billum only had one window now with nothing to see on the other side and only demons to talk to.
Mama was still inside her room, reading one of her favorite passages, Psalm 34:21. “Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.” Mama’s voice swayed as she spoke. Sammie knocked gently and Mama’s voice grew silent.
“Mama,” Sammie called through the door. “I’ve finished my chores.”
There was a long pause—longer than usual—until finally Mama said, “You may go outside now, Samantha. Do not get dirty.”
“Thank you, Mama.”
Sammie put on her boots and went out the front door to visit Abraham and the other sheep, but stopped at the porch. She didn’t feel like going anymore. She wasn’t sure she wanted a new dress after all if it made the sheep cold.
Phillip E. Dixon
Phillip E. Dixon is a writer and musician. He earned his MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University, and a BA in English Literature from Pacific Lutheran University. He plays guitar and mandolin, speaks poor German, and is stuck in Las Vegas traffic right now.
Over the asylum’s outer wall and between the shadowy trees, he runs. In the distance, dogs bark in vicious glee as his pursuers comb the woods.
Reaching a road, he flags down the first passing car. A young woman, naively, offers the bedraggled man a lift.
Hand in pocket, he toys with the bloodied knife that was his tool of escape and plays out fantasies.
Engrossed in thought, he doesn’t notice the woman’s hand reaching for a taser and, then, it’s too late.
She finds a place to park, takes out a knife of her own, and begins to play.
DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree), All The Petty Myths (18th Wall), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), What Dwells Below (Sirens Call), The Mad Visions of al-Hazred (Alban Lake), and EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness (Otter Libris), and issues of Sirens Call, Hinnom Magazine, Ravenwood Quarterly, and Weirdbook, and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor).
DJ Tyrer’s website is at http://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/
The Atlantean Publishing website is at http://atlanteanpublishing.blogspot.co.uk/
As they gave chase, their tricorn hats and foam cutlasses dancing in the breeze, Patrick tried to remember where he’d buried it.
“Avast, ye maties!” he eventually bellowed, flipping up his eyepatch and scanning the sand. “Methinks me treasure is nigh.”
After handing each of his daughters a plastic shovel, Patrick cracked a beer and waited.
Finally, he saw them hoist a chest to the surface and open the lid.
Only it wasn’t the chest Patrick had buried.
“What’s this?” his youngest asked now as she held aloft a desiccated human head, gripping it by its scraggly hair.
I. E. Kneverday
- E. Kneverday is a writer of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, whose work has been featured in publications including Drabbledark and Exoplanet Magazine. His short story “Fromagegoria” won first place in Zeroflash’s July 2018 competition. His first book, The Woburn Chronicles: A Trio of Supernatural Tales Set in New England’s Most Mysterious City, is available now. Drop by Kneverday.com to learn more and say hi on Twitter (@Kneverday) and Facebook (facebook.com/kneverday).
What Would You Do?
“Marjory, what would you do without me?”
He said that at least once a day. George was fussy, controlling and above all, mean. She wasn’t allowed to spend any money on herself. She didn’t work, and the allowance from him only covered the groceries.
He came home one day to find the downstairs deserted.
“Tea’s on the table!” she shouted from above.
He ate without waiting. After he’d finished, she entered, dressed in an outfit that was new, designer and clearly expensive.
“Here’s what I’d do without you.”
George didn’t reply. The poison in his meal was very fast acting.
- J. 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.
Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/richard.meldrum.79
The disc spun but the clay in her hands refused to mould itself the way Mel wanted. She trickled more water around the sides to try and soften it up, make it more malleable. It still didn’t work. She picked up the lump in frustration and hurled it across the kitchen.
Get a hobby, he’d said, it’ll keep you occupied. Wrong.
Humans are mere clay, he’d said. Wrong.
Shared hobbies will bring us closer together, he said. She looked at the lump splattered far across the kitchen, thought of the rest of the body in the freezer. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The Woman. The Myth. The Legend. The Co-Editor of Trembling With Fear. Oh, and she’s a pretty amazing author as well (so says co-editor Stuart Conover who has taken over this bio today.) Steph has foolishly trusted me to keep her bio up to date! Mwahahaha! Seriously though, Steph has been knocking it out of the park lately with not only our very own Trembling With Fear but releasing her own collection ‘The Reckoning: A Collection of Dark Tales,’ having co-edited ‘DeadCades: The Infernal Decimation and had a short story featured in The Fiends in the Furrows: An Anthology of Folk Horror.’ You should really pick up a copy and review all of these today! 😉 Also, samples of her writing can be found on http://stephellis.weebly.com/ and she is on twitter at @el_stevie.