Trembling With Fear 4-9-23
So, dear children of the dark, I have a confession to make. Regular readers will know of my tendency towards begging for drabbles. Yes, begging. I tried to cloak it in all manner of things, but let’s call a spade a spade. Truth is, we were running super short on drabbles; we had a few emails trickling in but it had been months since we had a regular run.
Turns out there was a reason. It’s our bad.
Thank you to the drabbler who poked me to ask if I’d received the submission, because that resulted in an investigation that revealed the darkest of worst nightmares for a digital publication: the well-oiled machine had come unstuck, and anything submitted via the website was not getting through to us in the system. Since, like, the end of January. (I *knew* it must’ve been quiet for a reason!)
All hail hero Stuart, who spent his Saturday poking around in the backrooms of Horror Tree HQ and managed to find the issue: a plug-in that had turned itself off. Rather than cry “sabotage!”, he got to work removing the clogs and all the emails came flooding in. And, embarrassingly, while I had been sitting here begging you all to submit drabbles, there were actually more than 70 waiting for us in the digital ether.
So, our most humble apologies. Occasionally we get a tech gremlin in the process that sends submissions from the website, through the various turns, until it reaches my email. But never have we had a wholesale clog that stopped the machine entirely. On behalf of the TWF team, I thank submitters for their patience, as ever. You’re all the best.
Let’s never speak of this again, yes?
Over to this week’s menu, Sam Lesek has something short for you this week but it truly packs a punch. This is followed by three delicious quick bites:
- Joshua Gage takes to the haunted high seas,
- M.S. Martinez makes a discovery on a desolate beach, and
- Robert Allen Lupton brings a fairy tale.
As a final word: did you see the amazing new anthology that Stuart and Holley Cornetto are putting together? If you had an awesome dark story published in a semi-pro or token paying market in 2022 then submit it to Horror Tree‘s new indie dark fiction anthology! Because why should the “best of” anthology fun be confined to the pros? Get the details here.
Over to you, boss.
So. Yes. As we’ve been getting a TON of e-mails sent in directly, it hadn’t been clear that our contact form e-mails hadn’t come through. We’re going to be busy combing through these (though are still open to drabbles in the meantime! I just can’t promise a fast turn around.)
Just as a reminder, we’re taking submissions to a new Horror Tree anthology titled Shadowed Realms: The 2022 Indie Dark Fiction Anthology. In it, we’re looking for the best 1,000-9,000 word dark fiction published in semipro and token-paying markets in 2022! This reprint anthology will be paying 1 cent per word, and we’re very excited to start taking a look at your work!
We hit over 100 followers on Medium! THANK YOU SO MUCH TO EVERYONE who gave us a follow! I won’t be begging you on this for awhile. 🙂
As always, I hope you had a great weekend.
Sam Lesek is friends with your sleep paralysis demon. She still plans her supernatural hang-outs using a flip phone that she refuses to let die until the year 2030. Thankfully, dark entities don’t mind SMS. You can find her on Twitter @SamLesek.
Shared Game, by Sam Lesek
The girl from the woods says that a wolf saved her from the cold. She tells the man that she was walking along the road to find help for her parents–that they’re asleep in their car and won’t wake up.
The two are retracing the bootprints she left behind in the hardened snow. Their breath floats in the winter night, cold air burning their lungs with each inhale. The man’s heart is still thudding in his chest, even moments after having abruptly spotted her in her pink parka by the side of the road with his headlights. He can’t imagine how scared and alone the girl must feel.
He asks if she can remember where her family’s car stopped after it swerved off the icy, country road. “Yes,” she says. “We’re getting closer.” The thin, needle-like trees tower above them as they continue, pine and spruce reach to pierce the inky sky.
She stops suddenly. The girl lifts a mittened hand towards a shadow wedged under an evergreen and whispers, “Over there.” The man squints his eyes. He can make out the metallic glint of the car, but no one in its front seats. No slumped over shapes behind the broken glass of the vehicle’s windows. Only the winter stillness until the evergreen’s silhouette shifts and shakes. Limbs and long, spidery digits reveal themselves, stepping out from the tangle of branches. The beast’s glowing eyes open as it clambers over the car towards them.
The man is reaching to grab the girl’s hand when she begins to puncture him with her makeshift blade, an icy shard that once was a fragment of windshield. The girl frantically stabs at the man’s stomach, the only part of his body she can reach with her height. His heat seeps from him as a pale ribbon as he collapses into the snow. She then reaches her small hands into his wounds and ravenously brings the redness to her mouth. The beast towers over them. Its lipless mouth stretching with satisfaction. The man’s final word is its name–Wendigo.
The girl’s face is slick with blood. Her pink parka now stained red. She looks over at her hungry guardian eagerly. “More,” she says.
Blind in the Eyes of St. Cainnech
Cook had outdone himself that night, and the captain and officers had feasted upon a meal of beef dumplings seasoned with dry wine and nutmeg in an aromatic butter sauce. The conversation had been raucous as only the conversations of men out to sea can be. Nobody had any premonitions or ill-feelings. Nobody had a vision, portents, or even dark omens.
And nobody saw the rocks.
The ghosts slipped from the waves, tendrils of salt and mist caressing the shattered timbers of the ship as the officers waved their white napkins to beg, amongst the cacophony and blood, for release.
Joshua Gage is an ornery curmudgeon from Cleveland. His newest chapbook, blips on a screen, is available on Cuttlefish Books. He is a graduate of the Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Naropa University. He has a penchant for Pendleton shirts, Ethiopian coffee, and any poem strong enough to yank the breath out of his lungs.
It was a grotesque thing we dug out on that desolate beach: just a mass of chiseled stone that suggested a shape more than depicted one. Some kind of half-human figure, but also some kind of prawn.
My companion cleaned it in the water, but I was terrified.
“Look, we better put it back,” I said, and he agreed.
“This isn’t something people should be seeing, or touching.”
He did as I said.
As he bent down to return the unholy idol to its seaside tomb, I saw, looming behind him, the dark silhouette of a half-human thing…
My name is M.S. Martinez. I am a professional translator, language teacher and poetry scholar from Brazil, and still a beginner in the field of fiction writing. My work tends to fall into the weird fiction or speculative genres, and my strongest influences come from Romantic and Gothic authors of the 19th and 20th centuries.
David’s mother, the Queen, paid the fairies to provide a changeling indistinguishable from Prince David. She raised them together and the changeling appeared in David’s stead to keep the prince safe from revolutionaries and assassins.
The changeling became wild in his teenaged years, sneaking out in search of wine and women while the prince remained in the castle. The angry queen resolved to destroy the changeling.
The changeling stayed home and tempted David to sneak out and meet a maiden in his place.
The guards awaited his return.
“Be you prince or changeling?”
“Liar!” they shouted and beheaded him.
Robert Allen Lupton
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. Over 180 of his short stories have been published in various anthologies. More than 1600 drabbles based on the worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs and several articles are available online at www.erbzine.com. His novel, Foxborn, was published in April 2017 and the sequel, Dragonborn, in June 2018. His third novel, Dejanna of the Double Starwas published in the fall of 2019 as was his anthology, Feral, It Takes a Forest. He co-edited the Three Cousins Anthology, Are You A Robot? in 2022. He has five short story collections, Running Into Trouble, Through A Wine Glass Darkly, Strong Spirits, Hello Darkness,and The Marvin Chronicles. Visit his Amazon author’s page for current information about his stories and books. Like or follow him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or visit his website.
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Lauren is a writer with various hats – journalist, copywriter, content marketer, fiction – and considers herself a storyteller at heart. She writes gothic and folk horror and is currently working on a novel set in the world of the Victorian occult. It’s the supernatural and the occult that really give her goosebumps, and a good ghost story or vampire tale with a rising sense of dread will always pique her interest (and yes, Midnight Mass hit many of her buttons). She also has a developing fascination with folklore, the old ways and our fast-changing relationship with the natural world; this sneaks into her writing, too.
In The Real World, Lauren has more than 20 years’ experience as a professional content creator. She’s established and led global content teams and editorial strategies, including setting up content newsrooms for some of the world’s biggest brands. She was a music editor for a daily newspaper in her native Australia (a good gig and the beach remain her happy places), though she’s been London-based for 16 years and works as an editor, proofreader, marketer, and writing coach. She’s also a mental health advocate; her Substack, How to Be Self(ish), tracked her year of sabbatical and self-care, and she continues to write it irregularly as a mental health companion.
You’ll find Lauren haunting south London, where she lives with her Doctor Who-obsessed husband and their aged black house rabbit. You’ll also likely find her hosting Writers Hour sessions for the London Writers Salon a few times a week.