Trembling With Fear 7/12/2019
Last week, some TWF writer friends attended the UK Ghost Festival in Derby, a weekend of panels, workshops and other activities. Sadly, I couldn’t go but from the posts I’ve seen it was well worth the visit. Aly Faye has provided Horror Tree with a write-up for this particular event and it will be published soon on the site. There are many cons and festivals going on all over the world of which many of us are unaware, or if we know about them, are not sure what they’re actually like. Getting an attendee’s view is invaluable when it comes to planning attendance, especially considering the cost of some of them. It’s also the ideal place to network and it’s nice to know how welcoming a con is; it can be nerve-wracking those first times. If you’ve attended a con or event why not write it up and send it in to Horror Tree.
The first story in this week’s Trembling With Fear is The Case from Hell by Meg O’Connor brings bureaucracy to the spiritual world and some lovely humour, juxtaposing real evil with cuteness. The line “This is Donovan Marshall from the Office of Beholding, Division of Depravity”, made me smile and then came the reincarnations including Hitler as a fruit-fly. The one reincarnation being investigated in the story and what they come back as, is the one you wouldn’t guess in a million years. Humour in horror is rare and this was done well.
From Within the Cracks by Radar DeBoard brings us an arachnophobe’s hell and a salutary reminder that Nature can get its revenge in so many ways.
It Knows by F.M. Scott turns reality inside out with some nice pacing to build the tension.
The First Lesson by Hillary Lyon teaches you appearances can be deceptive, everything is so normal and then that final line twists it round. Nicely done.
Thank you to all, for writing and submitting to TWF.
‘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.
The Case from Hell by Meg O’Connor
A cheery voice came over the office loudspeaker: “Attention all Beholders. Carol from Division 2-1-1 brought some great news to our attention this morning. Nelson Mandela was reborn yesterday at six pounds ten ounces to loving parents in Reno. This go around, he was named Reese Damon Fitzpatrick. That is all. Have a great day.” There was some static as the voice cut out.
Most of Donovan’s division remained silent behind their flimsy cubicle walls. Cheers echoed from down the hall, where those cheery bastards in 2-1-1 were probably cutting into a cake right this moment. They were the golden children of the Office with an inexhaustible supply of good news to share. They assumed all their beloved souls would be just as good as they were the first time around. Usually, they were.
But the opposite was also true, which was exactly why Donovan’s division—while less glamorous—was so crucial. 6-1-1. The Division of Depravity. Where the Beholders diligently searched for evil. It wasn’t easy to become a famous, respected Beholder in Donovan’s department, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t try.
He removed his spreadsheet from his desk drawer to make sure none of his assigned targets had been reborn in the last twenty-four hours. When a baby was born, a nurse scanned its forehead with a KarmaCatcher Digital Soul-Scanner and uploaded the results into the Beholder database. If there were no new hits, Donovan’s day proceeded as usual. He’d check on one of his active cases, the most nefarious of which was the soul of a bootlegger. Boring. Donovan might as well move over to 2-1-1, if this was all the action he’d see.
Donovan was so busy griping that he almost failed to notice the hit on one of his targets. Holy crap. He hadn’t gotten a hit in eight months. He squinted at the name. No way. No friggin’ way. His heart was pounding so fast he could hear his blood rushing in his ears like a geyser. Which hospital was the baby in? He checked the entry, then slammed his fist on the desk. His first interesting case in two years of working for the Office, and it wasn’t even human? He picked up his phone and called the point of contact.
“Humane Society of Hartford. This is Julie. How can I help you?”
Donovan ran his fingers through his hair. This was absurd. “Hi Julie,” he said, mustering every ounce of professionalism he could. “This is Donovan Marshall from the Office of Beholding, Division of Depravity. I understand you scanned a little dude with a KarmaCatcher this morning. Is that correct?”
“I scanned a bunch of little dudes,” said Julie. “Is there one you’re calling about in particular?”
Donovan rubbed his forehead. He could feel a migraine coming on. This was so stupid. “Um, yeah,” he said. “…Noodle?”
“Of course,” said Julie. “Is there a problem? Noodle’s a very affectionate kitten. Whose soul does he have? Someone famous?”
Donovan scrunched his eyes together. There was no reason to scare her. What could a cat do? “Nothing to worry about,” he said, then told her to call once the cat got adopted. When he hung up, Donovan called over to Frank in the adjacent cube. “Dude, didn’t you get a hit on Ivan the Terrible once?”
Frank’s coffee cup landed hard on the desk. “Dude. He was a goat, remember?”
“So did you do anything?” Frank was the only person Donovan knew who’d ever gotten an animal as a hit.
“Nah, I was too busy dealing with Hitler the fruit fly,” Frank said, and Donovan could practically hear the eye roll in his voice.
“Fine, man. You don’t have to be an ass about it.”
Two weeks went by before the Humane Society called to say Noodle had been taken to his Forever Home and gave Donovan the address. He played it cool, waiting three days before visiting the young lady, hoping not to appear over concerned about a godforsaken cat.
When he arrived at suburban ranch, no one came to the door. Donovan rang again and waited. He could hear Frank’s glib voice in his mind, but he couldn’t shake the twisting in his gut. The knob turned when he tried it, which made his stomach churn more, but he opened the door a crack. “Miss Smith?” he shouted into the house. The only response was a tiny meow.
Donovan poked his head inside and immediately puked all over the landing. Miss Smith was in the center of her living room carpet, which had once been beige. There was no way a cat could have—
Donovan stepped over his own vomit to enter the room, never looking away from Noodles, who was batting a ball around the living room and paying him no attention. He peered down at the body. Miss Doherty seemed to have two rivers of blood flowing from her neck—one from each carotid.
Donovan stumbled backwards away from Noodle and tripped over Smith’s coffee table, falling on his backside. When the cat turned around, batting the ball cheerfully in his direction, Donovan saw that it wasn’t a ball. It was a human eyeball, mostly desiccated, the pupil occasionally rolling so that it met his own stare. A prickling spread across Donovan’s scalp and his vision spotted black. He fainted.
When Donovan came to, he was still in Miss Smith’s living room and so was Miss Smith. The only soul missing was Noodle. When Donovan turned around, he saw that he’d left the door wide open behind him.
Donovan buried his face in his hands, speckled with some of Miss Smith’s dried blood. He’d wanted to become a famous Beholder, and now the world would know that he let Jack the Ripper out the front door. He could only hope Noodle was microchipped.
Meg O’Connor attended Williams College in Massachusetts, where she studied philosophy and geology. After falling in love with how mud moves down rivers, she pursued her Masters in Geology at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, specializing in deltaic sedimentology. Now, oceanography is her trade but writing continues to be her craft. She lives in Slidell, Louisiana with an evil cat. Her most recent published work can be found in Anastamos Journal: https://anastamos.chapman.edu/index.php/portfolio-item/the-wisdom-of-water-foot-island/.
From Within the Cracks
First came the earthquakes. Hundreds of them occurring at the same time all over the world. They left behind destruction and chaos, destroying the infrastructure of entire countries. More importantly, the earthquakes opened gigantic cracks in the earth.
That’s when the spiders came. Billions of them, emerging from the cracks. The largest spiders that we had ever seen. The smallest ones being at least three feet long.
They came so quickly. Their webs covering everything in a few days. That’s when we learned that they were hungry. And with the human race almost in ruins, we were the perfect prey.
Radar DeBoard is an aspiring writer who just wants others to find enjoyment in his work. Even though he lacks publication and experience, he hopes his work will have an impact. He has a passion for horror and finds it the most interesting genre to write.
The tapping awakened him during the night—irregular impacts at the opposite end of the room. Almost a gnawing. He turned on the lamp. It stopped. Great, he thought, rats or mice. He got up, looked behind the dresser, and tapped the wall himself. Silence.
Later, the sound disturbed him again. Closer this time, from the wall beside the bed. He tore off the covers. Light on, sound gone.
After some violent dreams, he jolted awake, finding that he couldn’t breathe. This time he was doing the tapping—upside down, crushed amongst conduits and studs, and gasping in stale darkness.
F.M. Scott is from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he lives and writes. His stories have appeared in The Killer Collection, Sirius Science Fiction, The Horror Tree, The Tulsa Voice, and The Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine. A few of his drabbles were collected in Trembling with Fear: Year 2 Anthology.
Facebook and Twitter @fmscottauthor
The First Lesson
The professor observed the students sitting in rows before him: all dirty and disheveled; some sleepy, some looking wildly distracted. One girl drooled, never taking her eyes off him. He pretended not to notice.
“Good morning,” he said loudly. “I’m Professor Marburg, your Expository Writing instructor. No relation to the virus,” he chuckled. No response. This crop of freshmen are even more brain-dead than last semester’s, he thought ruefully. “Who volunteers to hand out the syllabus?” He wrinkled his nose. What was that foul smell?
Drooling girl rose, with cracked nails and bloodied fingers outstretched. Her classmates quickly followed suit.
Hillary Lyon is founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. Her stories have appeared recently in Night to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Sirens Call, and Tales from the Moonlit Path. She’s also an illustrator for horror & pulp fiction magazines. Having lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern Arizona.
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
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, Reborn, and The Woodcutter, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused (all via Brigids Gate Press). 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 can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on Blue Sky as stephellis.bsky.social.