I give no writerly advice this week, no pleas to read submission guidelines, nothing. What I do give, however, are my warmest wishes to everyone this coming holiday season. You have all been amazing this year, your submissions have increased, the quality has been terrific and our community – our family – is such that all are welcome, from novice to seasoned writer and in-between. In addition, I have seen this family supporting each other beyond the realms of TWF and that warms my heart.

I hope that the holidays are what you wish them to be.

Christmas to me is a tradition, a time to be with family if you can (and if you want to) and to step away from the everyday pressures of life BUT it should be the time you want it to be. Never conform because of the expectations of others, that way only misery lies. The one thing I have learned in my dotage, is to relax about things and not worry what anyone else thinks.

If you are having a difficult time, if you feel isolated, please feel free to get in touch. My Christmas Day consists of my family waiting for me to get up and put dinner on – although only when I’m ready(!) – and once they’re fed, I spend the rest of the day buried in my Christmas book but I do go online from time to time. I may be on the other side of the world to some but you can DM me on twitter (@el_Stevie), I’m happy to talk/keep someone company online.

On a final, personal, note. I would just like to wish Bethan, my eldest, Happy Birthday for Christmas Day. Twenty-five years old! And also Happy Anniversary to my long-suffering and ever supportive husband, Geraint, on 27th December (we married way back in 1996).

Merry Christmas all,

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Once again we’re back with a new installment of ‘Trembling With Fear’! You’ll be getting some special Christmas cheer from me on the actual day when our special Holiday edition of TWF drops so instead I would like to ask our readers if anyone has suggestions on a new ‘Trembling With Fear’ logo. We’re looking for something that could be used as full text as well as be shortened to “TWF” that is ideally custom made or a font that can be used on commercial products so we wouldn’t have issues with future anthology releases. We’re open to suggestions, thoughts, etc.!

Also, the well of Drabble is drying up and we need your words! If you have 100 to spare with a short drabble please do consider sending one 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.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Offering

Everything changes; nothing dies.

The shadows whispered it to me as I led on the alter, waiting for Sebastian to finish making the preparations. This was not how the date was meant to go down. I knew he was going to kill me, the knife was a bit of a give away on that front, but I hadn’t expected hallucinations to go with it. At least I could blame the concussion.

We aren’t a hallucination. We’re what waits in the darkness.

“Oh great, murder and demons to boot. Why are you even talking to me?”

“There’s no point trying to bargain, Leticia, I’m going through with it,” Sebastian called from over at his book, thumbing down the page. Trust him to be disorganised even at this stage. At least he was quiet with it. I had to say, I was surprised that he had managed to make it this far. The disused church was a good spot for a sacrifice, even if it was a touch hammy, and we were far enough out that it was unlikely someone would find us in time to stop anything. My hands were going numb from the bindings on them and I flexed my fingers against the tingling warning.

You have more power than your companion gives you credit for. Even if he did get the drop on you with that club.

“Serves me right for agreeing to go on a date with him, bloody creep that he is,” I said, trying to stretch up to see what was talking to me.

I wouldn’t have gone on a date with him if I’d thought he was this far down the wrong path. Sebastian Kerr had always been the odd one in our coven, a little too keen to get into the aggressive magic, the hexes, to argue for the darker side of grey. I had thought it was just the usual edgy rich boy, looking to tag his aggression onto some cause rather than look to self-improvement. Not like there wasn’t enough of them around already, nothing new. When he’d asked me to go to dinner to make up for a particularly vicious argument I thought that was a good sign.

“I won’t listen to flattery, Leticia,” Sebastian replied, gaze still buried in a book.

“Wouldn’t dream of it, Sebastian,” I called back, bouncing my head off the cold stone I was tied to. It was at least cool, chilling my back and thighs against the autumn heat. Bastard had made me get blood on my nice blouse already and now there would be dirt and sweat too.

We could give you options. Give you power. Wouldn’t you like to punish him for what he has done, is going to do, to you?

“Untie me and I’ll show you the power I have to punish him.” I laughed, a mirthless thing as I tugged at the ropes he’d used. The absolute prick. “You want blood, right? That’s why he has me tied up on this thing.”

Yes.

“Let me out of my bonds and I’ll give you him.”

He would be less desirable than you are.

“Why?”

“Are you still trying to convince me?”  Sebastian shouted, knocking something off the shelf to shatter on the floor with a satisfying echo.

“Not at all, Sebastian,” I said, lifting my head to look around me. A lurking shadow stood by my feet, thicker than the darkness of the ruin. It was tall and skinny, sharp angles at every edge, with one long limb reaching along the stone slab to rest beside my hip.

Your power comes from within. He seeks a shortcut, to bargain. He can only offer you, against your will. If you come to us instead, with consent, we could do so much more. An exchange willingly given is so much more potent. It tapped a spindly finger beside me, a blink of power emanating from where it touched the marble.

“What could you give me?” I asked it in a low whisper, watching Sebastian move around the shelf and replace his lost item.

You could join with us. Become as we are, feed us and be fed in turn. Not all are like me, some of us pursue. Some of us hunt. You could see others like him, take them into the darkness. Change them.

I stilled my work on the ropes, looking at the creature looming beside me.

“How would I be like you?”

Agree, and I will change you.

“And him?” I nodded my head to Sebastian, who was tossing items into his fire at far too quick a pace. They wouldn’t mix properly like that, which he would know if he paid attention to my lessons.

You can do with him as you wish.

I let my head fall back and looked up to the shell of the roof above me, the dying light of the evening kissing it purple and blue.

“Will I ever get to be human again?” I asked, eyes going back to the talking shadows.

No, you will be with us until the end. But you will not leave this place as human if he kills you.

“And he will.”

And he will. It was said as a promise and I could feel the truth to it, just as I could feel Sebastian’s agitation leaking off him like electricity.

“Will you shut up, Leticia, I’ll be over to deal with you soon enough!” he shouted, turning to glare at me. The fire popped and fizzed, a sign of his ingredients separating, and he turned back to it.

“Alright,” I said, nodding my head to the monster waiting for my answer. “I agree.”

I am so glad, it breathed, leaning down to kiss the next words to my ear. I can just smell the potential. This may hurt, but only for a moment. It put its hand to my forehead, spindle fingers digging into the flesh at my hairline and dragging down. Thin cuts grew as it went, blood welling up and scenting the air. It dragged down my neck and over my chest until it stopped at my diaphragm and pushed in, under the ribs, to hold my heart. Well that was the blouse totally fucked.

The fingers clenched and I bit down on my lip to stop for screaming at the sensation, but it blossomed into a heat that kissed my ribs and up, snaking along my limbs and pushing out of my mouth and eyes. I felt the ropes burn off and pulled my arms down, marvelling as my skin turned from tawny brown to moss green, how my fingernails pushed out of their beds to be replaced by wicked claws. I heard the rattle of my teeth raining down and felt the satisfying stretch as more pushed though, sharp and set close together, clicking as I snapped my jaw shut.

I sat up and felt the world sway, felt my legs, now longer by half and muscled to match, stretched out before me.

“I feel dizzy,” I said, my voice ridiculous to my ears.

You will at first, Leticia, you are just becoming. Close your eyes. I did as bid, listening to the building echoing around me, the creak of the trees outside, the rustle of animals creeping past the invasive stones around us. It was peaceful, the world breathing with me, a blessed sense of tranquillity. And then I heard Sebastian: the hammering of his heart, the whispering voice he coaxed himself on with, the clunking steps of him pacing back and forth between the fire and his shelf.

He was horrendous.

“I want to make him stop,” I said, putting my hands to my ears. I found them larger than they were before and pointed to match my claws. Feeling my way up I found the beginnings of antlers, the brush of soft velvet meeting what was left of my hair.

Do as you feel is right, Leticia. Let your instincts be your guide.

I stood, uneasy on my new feet, almost hooves now, and stretched up to my new height. I slipped forward, silent as the shadows that had taken me in, loomed above the petty man who had brought me here.

“Sebastian.”

Charlotte Platt

Charlotte Platt is a young professional who writes horror and urban fantasy. She is based in Scotland and enjoys dark comedy, pugs and music. Her works have been published in Econoclash Review, Twilight Madhouse Vol 3, Unfading Daydream and Dissonance Magazine. She placed second in the British Fantasy Society 2017 Short Story Competition, was short listed in the Write to End Violence Against Women Awards 2017 and had her short story Currents made into a podcast for World Refugee Day 2018.

Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/user-257397335/currents-written-by-charlotte-platt-and-read-by-christine-kyte

 

Deja vu

One night I noticed a shadow outside my front door and I could see the door handle moving. In panic I turned the lock just before the handle started to jerk. Through the window I saw a madman with a knife rushing down the street. Next night I decide to take a long walk to relax. Just to be safe I took a big knife with me. When I returned and tried to open the door the lock was suddenly shut. Horrified I stared at the window. I could see a mad man staring at me. Scared I ran away.

Mathias Jansson

Mathias Jansson is a Swedish art critic, poet, cultural journalist and web editor.

Homepage: http://mathiasjansson72.blogspot.se

Trail of Hearts

She closed her eyes savouring the warmth, feeling it slide down her throat, thick and hot to fill her belly. The precious flesh infused her with life and an all-consuming purpose. She teetered for several hollow moments on the brink of darkness before the memories flooded back, once more assaulting her senses. Echoes of intense emotions, scenes from another life and time; and a face. Always a face. Staggering forward, one foot in front of the other, she continued on her lonely pilgrimage. She would find them all. She would find all the special people and eat their hearts too.

Zoey Xolton

Zoey Xolton is a published Australian writer of Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Romance and Horror. She is also a proud mother of two and is married to her soul mate. Outside of her family, writing is her greatest passion. She is especially fond of short fiction and is working on releasing her own collections in future. To find out more, please visit: www.zoeyxolton.com!

Trojan Horse

Johnson cradled the woman’s body. Nobody liked to watch this part, not even his partner, Weiss. He snaked out his cord-tongue, finger thin and yards long, an atrocity of cybernetic brilliance. The appendage dove into the corpse’s ear, digging, penetrating, latching onto the brain, bringing dead memories to life in his storage banks.

Corrupted files. His vision seethed. Error. Corruption. Error.

Muscles locked, then twisted. Johnson’s rogue hands reached for the gun at his hip.

“What are you doing?” Weiss drew her own.

“The trap has sprung.” Johnson raised his gun to his own head. “This program will be terminated.”

E.N. Dahl

E. N. Dahl is a novelist and award-winning screenwriter from a shady corner of the USA. She’s the author of Nova EXE, among others, and her short work has appeared with Thunderdome Press, Transmundane Press, Sci-Phi Journal, Helios Quarterly, The Siren’s Call, The Literary Hatchet, and many others. When not reading and writing, she can probably be found doing yoga or watching horror movies.

Homepage: www.ENDahlWriter.com.

Piecework

In, out. In, out. Ouch. The needle stabbed her finger, blood welling up and dripping onto the canvas.
Damn. She wiped off the mark. It was only a shroud but she prided herself on the excellence of her work, even when stitching in situ which was always difficult. The shape stirred but she ignored it. A few more stitches and that would stop.
But the surgeons needed more bodies for dissection. A knock at the door. Maria went downstairs, smiled at her visitor.
“Want a good time?”
In her head she was already cutting him according to his cloth …

Steph Ellis

And Their Stories Would Bleed Red From The Editing Of Stephanie’s Pen!” – Stu

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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About Stuart Conover

Stuart Conover is a father, husband, published author, blogger, geek, entrepreneur, horror fanatic, and runs a few websites including Horror Tree!

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