Happy Christmas everybody, those who read TWF, those who submit to us and those who do both. We really appreciate the tremendous support for this corner of Horror Tree over the past year, it’s grown to the extent we are regularly scheduling ahead of ourselves, especially for the longer stories and serials.

During the festive period, many of us will have a few weeks with our family, probably over-indulging, whilst sneaking in not a little reading and writing time. My own Christmas Day tradition is to read my Christmas book after I have fed everybody. I ignore everything, including Xmas telly, until I finish.

If you’re looking for additional Christmas reading, you can’t go wrong with Alyson Faye’s latest release, Christmas Terrors: A Mini Collection of Dark Fiction, available on amazon. Alyson is an excellent writer, particularly of the gothic, and has been extremely supportive of so many writers online, whether reviewing, sharing news or promoting.

Over to Trembling With Fear where the first story is Red Eye by G.A. Miller brings us carnage on a plane. A different setting for a change amongst the submissions – something I always like but don’t experience very often. A nicely-paced dark thriller, it hints at greater horrors to come and in fact could serve as the start of a longer piece.

Prone to Misinterpretation by John H. Dromey includes an unfortunate accident leading to a person’s worse nightmare. The accident itself is certainly original – and very unlucky.

Lights Go Out by Kim Plasket uses repetition to add a nice creepy effect to this distortion of reality.

Morning After by Robert Allen Lupton gives you the perfect (but terrible) pun as its punchline. Read it and weep!

Before I leave this penultimate TWF editorial of the year, I would like to add an additional thought. One for those, who for whatever reason, struggle at Christmas. They may be fighting depression, battling loss or illness, homelessness or family breakdown or any one of the other myriad problems modern society poses. If you know anyone in this position, please give them a moment of your time if you can or support one the many charities who do so much on our behalf.

Wishing you all peace at Christmas and in the New Year.

Steph

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

What a whirlwind of a week. Star Wars, a Pentatonix concert, a flat tire, Christmas prep, a reprint acceptance.
I want to hibernate for the next 2 weeks and things are only going to be picking up!

At any rate, I just wanted to throw out a reminder that we’re always on the lookout for new fiction and drabble to feature in TWF! We’re also contemplating a separate anthology call this year but it is still a bit early for us to be sure that will be happening.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Red Eye by G.A. Miller

The eastern sky was getting lighter, a velvet prelude to the coming sunrise, of which the control tower offered a generous view. Another slow night on graveyard shift was finally coming to its end. 

A blip on the radar screen brought the air traffic controller’s attention back to the task at hand. He keyed his microphone and called.

“TransGlobal two one seven, this is PVD tower, over.”

Ed Agosto tapped his fingers on his console, waiting for a response. His shift would be over soon, and he wanted to bring this flight in so he could prepare to hand off to the first shift controller. The speaker mounted over his desk remained silent.

“I say again, PVD tower calling TransGlobal two one seven, over.”

Joe Flynn looked up from his desk, one eyebrow raised.

“Something wrong?”

“I’m getting no response from TransGlobal two one seven.”

Joe got up and walked to Ed’s console. Glancing at the radar, he reached over and keyed Ed’s microphone.

“TransGlobal two one seven, this is tower supervisor. Be advised we’re not receiving any response from you here. If you read me, reduce your altitude by 100 feet, over.”

Joe and Ed watched the radar as the aircraft complied and dropped 100 feet on their approach. Joe nodded.

“TransGlobal two one seven, we verify your reception and will bring you in. Tower supervisor out.”

“Ok, bring them in as soon as you can before something else on that bird goes wrong. I believe runway 9 should be clear for immediate approach.”

“Copy that, Joe. I’ll get them home.”

Joe walked back to his desk, waving to Tony Russo, the day shift supervisor walking through the door with his impossibly large thermos of coffee in hand as always.

“Morning Joseph. Quiet night?”

“Hiya Tony. So far yes, mostly shipping runs, but we seem to have an issue in play right now.”

“Oh?”

“Ed has a red eye on approach, appears unable to respond. I verified they can hear us, so he’s going to bring them in on runway 9.”

“Good idea, get them down soon and safe.” Tony murmured as he squinted over at the radar screen, “Have you alerted the emergency crews to stand by yet?”

“Doing it right now,” Joe replied, the phone already in his hand.

Both men knew the drill. They should be able to safely bring the flight in but be prepared for the shit to hit the fan in case it did.

Joe and Tony began their shift handoff, both men watching Ed’s progress carefully as he guided the aircraft safely down onto the runway. There were emergency trucks on the sides of runway 9, but their assistance wasn’t necessary. The plane taxied smoothly toward the gates as all three men in the tower breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The boarding agent glanced out the window at the plane approaching the terminal and paused. Was that paint on the cockpit windows? What could have splashed a plane in flight? She walked to the window to see better and realized whatever was on the glass was on the inside, as there was nothing at all on the fuselage.

She walked quickly to the jetway door, locked it and then went to her desk and picked up the phone to contact security. Something was very wrong on board this airplane.

The emergency trucks made their way to the terminal from the runway as three men approached her desk. She caught the eye of the police officer leading the airport security men and nodded toward the large plate glass windows, not wanting to alarm the few passengers walking past her gate.

The men walked to the window and silently looked out at the plane. The sun was up now and lit the nose well enough for them to see the dark crimson splashes covering the cockpit windows. They walked to the agent’s desk and the officer in charge spoke softly to the nervous agent.

“Your name, miss?”

“Julie. Julie Mills. What is that?”

“We’re going to find out, Julie. I want you to open the jetway door for us and then lock it behind us. Do not open it for anyone but me, do you understand?”

“Y…yes. What do I tell the passengers?”

“The aircraft has a maintenance issue that needs to be checked. Mark the flight delayed until further notice.”

Julie nodded her head as she led the men to the door and opened it for them.

“Remember Julie, I’ll knock and identify myself after we clear the plane. Until then, this door remains locked.”

The men filed through the door and paused as Julie closed and locked it behind them. The officer keyed the mike on his shirt.

“This is Brant, we’re in position to check the plane.”

“Copy that, Brant, we’re covering the perimeter,” came the reply from one of the cars now surrounding the plane below. 

David Brant turned on his flashlight, drew his Glock and led the airport security team down the jetway to the closed aircraft door.

“Either of you boys know how to open this?”

“I got it,” one replied as he moved past Brant and operated the lever to unlock the door. He pulled it open and to the side as Brant swept the empty galley with his flashlight. Brant nodded and the man moved to the jetway controls to bring the platform up against the plane.

“Hello? Flight crew? Airport security boarding,” Brant called out as he walked slowly forward, ducking his head as he entered. He turned to his right to look down the aisle and froze in position, his flashlight held above his Glock.

“Jesus…” Brant whispered.

It was a slaughterhouse. The cabin lights were flickering, adding a strobing effect to the horrific scene he witnessed. Passengers and crew alike had been torn to pieces, dismembered limbs lying haphazardly in the aisle, on seats, wherever they landed when… when what? What the hell could have caused this bloodbath?

He backed up to the cockpit door, not taking his eyes off the aisle, and banged loudly with the handle of his flashlight.

“Captain? Captain, this is the police, please open the door.”

Silence. He glanced at the security officer.

“Can you open the cockpit?”

“Negative. I’ll call my supervisor on the jetway phone and get someone here.”

Brant nodded as he reached for his own mike.

“This is Brant. We have a situation on board this aircraft. I need crime scene and medical examiner forthwith. Also, keep eyes on the exterior and insure nothing gets out, K?”

“Copy… nothing? You mean no one?”

Nothing. I need one or two EMT’s and the M.E. is gonna need backup.”

“Copy. Brant, what the hell happened up there?”

“I don’t know, but we need to contain it on this aircraft.”

Brant heard footsteps approaching and saw the security guard returning with another man in a suit.

“I’m Brant. Can you open the cockpit for me?”

“Yes, I can. I’m Joe Parker from TransGlobal. What’s going on?”

“One minute,” Brant held up his hand, “When you board, look at your shoes. Get the cockpit unlocked, then back out. You don’t want to look down the aisle, trust me.”

“Officer, I represent TransGlobal Airlines,” he said, shaking his head, “I need to know exactly what happened on board my aircraft.”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Brant said softly as he lowered his hand and allowed the man to pass and enter the plane.

Parker looked to his right at first class, did an immediate about face and gripped the open doorway tightly as he lost his last meal over the side of the platform. Brant hoped none of his men were standing below. He wiped his face with his handkerchief and tossed it over, not wanting to return it to his pocket. He faced Brant again, his face pale.

“W…what?”

“I don’t know. Please open that door and move back onto the jetway. I haven’t cleared this plane yet.”

He nodded and unlocked the security door as requested. He took care to look away as he made his way back to the platform.

Brant pulled the cockpit door open to an even more horrific sight. There were pieces of the pilot and his co-pilot everywhere in the small space, a strong copper like aroma from the spilled blood wafting out. The captain’s dismembered hand still rested on the throttle and the co-pilot’s head was in his lap looking up, a horrified expression frozen on his face for eternity. Brant pulled the door closed so no one else would see the slaughter inside.

“You three stay put. No one on this plane until I’ve cleared it.”

“Don’t you want to wait for backup?”

“No time. If you hear gunfire, close and lock this door and send for the Marines.”

Brant began the harrowing walk through the plane, one row at a time, carefully stepping around the pieces of human debris as he swept his light to illuminate the momentary shadows cast by the flickering cabin lights. His finger rested on the trigger instead of the safe position above it. He was sweating profusely despite the cool air in the cabin.

“Please,” he muttered to himself, “it’s a red eye, don’t let there be any children on board…” 

The carnage he witnessed was beyond description, yet none of the seats appeared to show any tears or damage, all the overhead compartments were closed… nothing out of place at all except for the human remains scattered everywhere. He lost count of how many times he had to choke back his bile as he checked the entire plane front to rear, unsuccessfully searching for survivors among the passengers. The cabin was silent, the only sound his own strained breathing.

When he reached the restrooms at the rear, he opened the doors slowly as he carefully aimed at the center of each empty opening. He reached inside the second one and took a handful of paper towels from the holder to wipe the sweat from his forehead then stuffed them in his pocket to avoid contaminating the crime scene.

Whatever had done this was gone, but how? He had opened the locked fuselage door, none of the emergency exits were open, restrooms were empty. Not a trace. He looked down at the floor and wondered if the cargo hold was accessible from the main cabin. He’d need to check when he returned to the others.

He carefully made his way back to the front, opening and sweeping the overhead compartments with his light and stepped gratefully out onto the jetway.

“Clear,” was all he could muster. He turned off his flashlight and slid it back into the loop on his belt but kept his Glock in his right hand. He glanced at the security men.

“Close and lock this door back up, please. This aircraft is a crime scene.”

“It’s Brant,” he said into his mike, “Request a SWAT team to sweep and clear the cargo hold. The cabin is clear.”

“Copy. How many ambulances will we need to transport…”?

“None,” he cut in, “There are no injured on board.” The silence told Brant his meaning had been understood. The two airport security men looked confused, frightened… and they hadn’t seen the unspeakable carnage inside.

 “Officer?” Parker had finally regained his voice, “Should I contact FBI or Homeland or…”?

Brant held back a dark laugh. This pencil pusher wanted to hand this off to the same government officials that managed to fuck up the spout on a gas can. Yeah, they’d handle this just fine, no doubt.

“Let’s just wait, Mr. Parker. My command will make any necessary notifications.”

As they all moved back so the jetway could be moved and the door closed, Brant’s mind was spinning.

In addition to the what and why that he couldn’t answer, a new question nagged at him now.

He’d seen the cockpit. Who or what the hell had landed this flight?

Brant put his hand on Parker’s shoulder, turning him to the side to speak in confidence just as the fuselage door blew off the side of the aircraft. One of the security men was hit head on, crushing him against the jetway, the other decapitated by the shredded metal door hinges.

What the hell did I miss in… Brant thought to himself just as a black cloud flew out of the plane with gale force and David Brant thought no more.

G.A. Miller is a new voice in the chorus of horror authors, drawing his ideas from every day, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors, often with horrific consequences. His work has been published in numerous anthologies from a variety of publishers, and he’s just released his first novella, “Spirit of the Dead”, now available at Amazon.

https://talesfrommiller.com/
http://gamillerdotblog.wordpress.com/
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100015787309417
https://twitter.com/GMiller666

Prone to Misinterpretation

Multiple axe murder victims were discovered in a cellar room filled with body fluids and parts. How deep was the pile of blood and guts? The first detective on the scene found himself up to his neck in gore after he slipped on the slick floor.

Unfortunately, his forehead scraped the edge of the discarded murder weapon, and he added fresh blood to the mix. He lost consciousness.

The detective awoke in complete darkness. Suffocating. His oxygen-starved limbs refused to move. Worse still, he could not summon enough breath to call for help in getting out of the body bag.

John H. Dromey has had short fiction published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery MagazineCrimson StreetsMystery Weekly MagazineStupefying Stories ShowcaseThriller MagazineUnfit Magazine, and elsewhere, as well as in numerous anthologies, including Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree Publishing, 2015) and the Black Hare Press series of Dark Drabbles anthologies (WorldsAngelsMonsters, etc.)

​Lights Go Out

Darkness falls. The lights in the houses are on but there is something strange. The screams start, the lights go out. One by one around town, you wait for the killer to come home.

You are set to take him out, your guns are fully loaded. Knives sharpened and at the ready. The screams are getting closer as you stand by the door waiting. 

The lights go out, the door swings open. As you confront him you see your own face staring in shock as you pull the trigger. You drop dead as you wonder just where you went wrong.

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.

Morning After

Munch Khan, the leader of the Mongols, led his decimated horde through Indochina. He rode a tall horse because he was very short. 

The horde was like a horde of locusts and devoured everything in its path.

They accidentally started a forest fire and elephants, tigers, and water buffalo stampeded, Many Mongols were trampled, but some climbed to the safety of the jungle canopy.

In the aftermath, the diminutive Mongol leader followed an orangutan down a jungle vine.

A child working a rice paddy said, “He looks funny dangling there.”

His father said, “Stop it. That’s a little Khan descending.”

Robert Allen Lupton is retired and lives in New Mexico where he is a commercial hot air balloon pilot. Robert runs and writes every day, but not necessarily in that order. He has been published in several anthologies and his short stories are online at www.horrortree.com and www.crimsonstreets.com. His novel, Foxborn, was published in April. His collection of running themed horror, science fiction, and adventures stories, can be found in Running Into Trouble and Dragonborn, the Foxborn sequel.

 

www.amazon.com/author/luptonra

www.goodreads.com/author/show/15292457.Robert_Allen_Lupton

https://www.hometownreads.com/books/foxborn

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About Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis is a member of the HWA and writes dark speculative prose and poetry which has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her novella, Bottled, will be published by Silver Shamrock Publishing early 2020 and her ebook novelette, Asylum of Shadows from Demain Publishing is due to come out in print before the end of the year. Her poetry can also be sampled in the Horror Writer Association’s upcoming Poetry Showcase Volume 6. She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org/ and on twitter @el_Stevie.

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