Trembling With Fear 12/19/21
Christmas is drawing in. We’ve actually put our Christmas tree up, a bit later it seems than many folk but I don’t like to do it too early – which can cause disputes with my youngest who does like to put them up at the beginning of the month. But she’s not home yet so we’ve been able to delay! The decorations look good though and it’s nice to be able to celebrate in our new home and helps us to put the whole covid issue to the back of our minds for the moment. We’re currently waiting for our booster jabs.
It’s been lovely seeing the short flash stories coming in now that we’ve opened up again. However, can I please remind folk that the length is generally 800-1500 with some flexibility, ie we do take stories of around 500 or 1800 words but prefer people to hit the range mentioned. Anything longer is just not for us unless you wish to be considered for a serial. In this case, send in your longer story split into instalments which match the word range.
Trembling with Fear starts with Oxi by R. Wayne Gray is a story with a warning and some nice touches of dark humour. The setting of a site which disposes of medical waste is one ripe for exploitation and the Gray does this in full, pretty much revelling in the possibilities. What other workplaces could you bring to TWF?
On the Factory Floor by Hillary Lyon has some nice touches of humour with assumptions made in the workplace which actually disguise something more chilling.
Search Party by Tom Trussel takes us into the forest and thus into the realm of folk horror with a clever twist.
Walking in Stories, Stalking in Dreams by Steven Holding talks directly to the reader and challenges your reality.
And finally, have a peaceful and restful Christmas – and thank you for supporting TWF and Horror Tree so strongly.
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
Another year is closing in! I know that the holiday season tends to either be fantastic or horrible for everyone so I do hope that those who have it rough are able to seek out comfort in friends.
In case you missed it, we’re currently giving away multiple digital copies of the anthology ‘Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth, And Babies’ edited by Deborah Sheldon!
New changes and expansions are in the works! We did make one minor addition for the writers who love the calendar view on the site. You’re now able to subscribe to it! Details can be found here.
Oxi by R. Wayne Gray
Headlights briefly lit the worn bricks of the outer warehouse wall, glaring off the metallic font of a sign reading Direville Medical. A pickup truck rolled by, tires flattening debris as a shadowed figure in the truck’s back dropped two dark bags near a shallow loading dock. The truck rolled on, and darkness settled back over the alley.
It didn’t last long. A metal door at the side of the loading dock squealed open, bright light stabbing into the alley in a narrow arc. A figure in a lab coat shambled through the door, glancing at the receding truck, down the other direction, and back. The figure offered a feeble wave, snagged the bags, and dragged them through the door. The silhouette of a cat peered out, jumping back as the door closed with a rusty clang.
From the inside, the warehouse didn’t look much better. It had once been painted red, but all that remained were flaking, faded lipstick strips. A sewer grate with exposed bars – thick water sluggishly flowing towards treatment plants in the city – covered the floor near a small incinerator. A few chairs, a table, and a couch were scattered around the dimly lit space.
The man set the trash bags down near the incinerator and pulled a cigarette from a pocket reading “Les.” He was tall, bordering on emaciated, with thinning red hair and a craggy face that put him in his early 40s. The face screwed up, and he gave a light kick to one of the bags, sending the cat hopping back a pace or two.
“First dibs, Mr. Whiskers,” said Les. He fired up the cigarette with a thin butane lighter. “You know the rules.”
Mr. Whiskers meowed in agreement, perhaps impatience. Les slipped the lighter into his pocket, cigarette dangling from his mouth. He pulled daintily at the knot of the first garbage bag, trying to tease it loose.
“Let’s see what we’ve got here, hmm?”
Les got the first bag opened and started pawing through it. He pulled out wads of cotton, cloth, a bloody sponge that he curiously sniffed. A partially-gnawed human finger exited the bag. This he lobbed in the direction of Mr. Whiskers. The cat sniffed it, batting the finger with a hesitant paw.
Les yanked his hand from the bag, a hypodermic needle dangling from one finger. He pulled the needle out and threw the syringe back into the bag, thrusting his hand fearlessly in after it. Les grunted.
“Here we go…” he said, pulling out his newest treasure. It was a pill bottle, a large one, coated in blood and yellow… something. Les shook the bottle, grinning as the contents rattled.
Les wiped at the fluids obscuring the bottle. Someone had written on the label with a black marker, big letters almost wiped illegible, all except for one small bit towards the bottom.
“O-X-I… holy baloney, Mr. Whiskers. OxiKontin! I loooove my job!”
Les wiped his hands on the lab coat and fumbled open the top of the bottle. The pills he shook out were round, white, and slightly convex. They held no markings.
Les tossed a pill to Mr. Whiskers and tucked the rest of the handful into his mouth. He petted the cat – who had apparently filed the pill under edible – and stood.
“Break time, Mr. Whiskers. Let’s let these kick in.”
Les headed for the couch to wait for the fun to start.
Half-an-hour later, Les was off the couch, his face drawn, a hand clutching his mid-section. He walked slowly to the incinerator, opened the door.
“I dunno, Mr. Whiskers. Maybe we got a bad batch or something,” he said as he reached for one of the bags. He stopped, his eyes sweeping the lab.
The cat lurched out from under a chair, his legs and head under the control of some maniacal puppeteer. Eyes wide, Mr. Whiskers panted rapidly. But that was nothing…
Mr. Whiskers had two tails. One was full, covered in fur, sticking straight up. The other was thin, hairless, weaving drunkenly.
Something a bit closer to Les caught his eye. It bobbed several inches in front of his face. Les adjusted his focus. It looked a lot like Mr. Whisker’s second tail. Except it was coming from Les’ nose. And it had little angry eyes.
The creature suddenly lunged, stabbing Les in the eye. Les screamed and dropped, his body writhing as he tried to pull the thing free from his eye. It had a good hold, but Les, stronger, won the battle as the thing tore away, a bloody chunk of Les’ blue iris still clenched in its many tiny teeth.
Les gasped, his remaining eye drawn to his stomach. He ripped up his shirt. Several masses pushed up on the skin of his abdomen, each a strained, white bump.
Les’ screams of horror turned to those of pain, and he fumbled with his belt, hurriedly unclasping it and dropping his pants. A thin tail waved in the gap between little Les and his pants, a brown whip that suddenly shot up and bit the hand holding his belt buckle.
Out of the corner of his eye, Les saw the creature from his nose lining up to take a shot at his remaining eye.
“Mr. Whiskers!” Les screamed, struggling to rise. He tumbled into the trash bags, hard, rupturing them and sending fractured medical waste scattering.
Mr. Whiskers had his own problems. The creature coming out of the cat was in complete control, dragging itself across the floor, Mr. Whiskers swept behind in a widening swish of red.
Les’ dimming eye lost focus on that, re-catching on a crushed pill bottle, the label hand written in black marker: “Accelerated-Growth ‘Demon Worm’ Eggs – TOXIC!”
His body weakened as the worms fed, his blood spilling, fainter and fainter movements that sent pills sliding through the grate – drip, drip, drip – and into the slow sewage river flowing towards the city.
R. Wayne Gray
R.WayneGray is a Vermont-based writer who has published in a wide range of genres and formats. His short scripts have placed in a variety of film festivals, including first place showings in? the Omaha Film Festival, Phoenix Film Festival, and deadCenter Film Festival, among others. His short fiction will next be seen in The Apocalyptic Monsters, a Wicked Taxidermy Press anthology.
On the Factory Floor
The workers gathered round the foreman. Mort, in dirty coveralls, shoved his hands in his pockets, fondling the small metal shapes he found therein.
“We have a big problem,” the foreman began. “Missing nuts and bolts. Customers getting hurt; sometimes dying because of this.” Mort jingled the shiny metal things in his pockets. The foreman glared. “Stop jangling the coins in your pockets, Mort.”
The boss droned on about being sued, but Mort wasn’t listening. He leaned over to a coworker, and said in a giggle-whisper heard only in the shadows of sepulchers, “These are not coins in my pockets.”
Hillary Lyon founded and for 20 years acted as senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. Her stories have appeared lately in 365tomorrows, Black Petals, Yellow Mama, Sirens Call, Pandemic: Unleashed anthology, Whodunit crime anthology, and the Tainted Love anthology. She’s also an illustrator for horror & pulp fiction magazines.
Another little group of hikers has gone missing in the forest. City folks failing the easiest challenge nature can present; follow the path to the rented cabin. The woods can be dangerous after dark. Us locals volunteer for search parties, again.
We walk line abreast, methodically searching. Our dogs rummage for scent between dancing pools of stark flashlight. Can we locate them in time?
A few miles in, the dogs mark the spoor, excited. We find the lost hikers. Cold and hungry, but relieved.
With our sacrifice in hand, the rituals can continue.
We’ll just say we never found them.
Tom Trussel lives in Norway with his wife, kids and assorted snow shovels. He is a life long fan of all three kinds of literature; Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy. He has only recently taken up writing, and is currently working to fill the obligatory drawer of unpublished stories.
Walking in Stories, Stalking in Dreams
Many mysteries, from the Mothman and the Yeti through to Bigfoot and Nessie, are thought of as mere myths.
The sceptics’ evidence? A lack of captured creatures. No corpses. No cadavers.
But does mist not exist just because it disappears? For that is what we are: a dream breed, conceived by God to be all the things you wish to be. A shadow race, slipping in-between realities as easily as changing tv channels.
But why so many varieties? Different shapes, different forms?
It all depends upon who is looking.
So, what is it you see, now you’re gazing upon me?
Steven Holding lives in the United Kingdom. Most recently, his work has appeared in HENSHAW FOUR from HenshawPress and HALLOWEEN FRIGHTS from Black Ink Fiction. You can follow his work at www.stevenholding.co.uk
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Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative prose and poetry and has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her longer work includes the folk horror novels, The Five Turns of the Wheel and Reborn, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused. Her novel, The Woodcutter, is due for release via Brigids Gate Press in 2023. Her dark poetry has been published in her collections Lilith Rising (co-authored with Shane Douglas Keene), Foundlings (co-authored with Cindy O’Quinn) and Metallurgy, as well as the HWA Poetry Showcase Volumes VI, VII, VIII, and IX and Black Spot Books Under Her Skin. She can be found supporting indie authors at HorrorTree.com via the weekly Indie Bookshelf Releases. She is an active member of the HWA and can be found at https://stephanieellis.org, on Twitter at @el_stevie, Instagram stephanieellis7963 and also somewhere on Facebook.