Trembling With Fear – Halloween 2019 Edition!

I’m certain that many of us rate Halloween at the top of our favorite nights of the year. There’s something about nights getting longer, trees emerging as skeletons after their vibrant pageant, and the general sense of…well…decay, that is so appealing. And then, when goblins and ghouls and specters creep through our neighborhoods, we acquiesce to their demands, lest we face the trickery they threaten.

My October highlight (in addition to All Hallow’s Eve) is the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, and one of our favorite parts of the nine-day schedule is the International Short Films event. This year, we enjoyed indie horror and sci-fi films from Australia, Canada, the US, Portugal, and the UK. I love the short film format – to be able to jolt, shock, and intrigue an audience within two to 10 minutes is quite remarkable.

And this year, after working on Trembling with Fear, I found myself thinking about the ways in which our drabbles and short stories offer the same jolts, shocks, and intrigue. It’s fascinating how so few well-chosen words can impact an audience. I also find myself imagining how well our drabbles and short stories would translate to the screen.

Some of these films were produced for around $500, and while they may lack high production quality, they captured the audience’s attention in less than 60 seconds. Have you ever thought of your short stories making it to the film festival circuit? I have one drabble in particular that I’m considering offering up to a filmmaking friend of mine, to see if we could shoot something with no money but a lot of heart.

I encourage indie horror writers to attend a horror film festival and check out the short subjects. A quick internet search offers info on festivals like Blood in the Snow (Canada), Screamfest (US), Frightfest (UK) and many others. I bet you’ll come away inspired!

Now, on to our Halloween Special! We received many tales of terror featuring all things witchy, ghostly, and downright creepy. A persistent alarm around poisoned treats takes a strange turn in Bad Candy; pumpkins come alive with disastrous results in The Patch of the Spinning Pumpkins, Ol’ Spooky, and The Pumpkin Patch. One night of trick-or-treating leaves a young reveler with the story of a lifetime in Chocolate Fingers, and zombies come out to play in The Night of the Dead and the Afflicted.

As always, our contributors outdid themselves and were wonderful to work with. I appreciate the feedback and the connections we’ve made, from far and wide.

So now, grab a glass of mulled wine, apple cider or pumpkin spice latte, and settle in to be thrilled and chilled with this year’s Halloween Special.

Catherine Kenwell

Editor, Trembling With Fear

It is All Hallow’s Eve and we’ve once again made it to a night full of trick or treat! Today, we’ve got quite a few treats lined up for you that all fall into what you would expect from the season.

There is candy, the undead, and so much more to enjoy in the words below. So turn out the lights, snuggle up in a dark room, and enjoy some festive reading!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Spectre

by Beth Anderson

 

When she was alive, she hadn’t appreciated what it meant to feel. Not emotions, those had accompanied her across the spiritual divide. But sensation, to touch. She missed it so. Years of drifting through the house, a bundle of dead nerves in a useless, immaterial body, hoping for one substantial moment. To sense once again the fine oak grain of the railing on the second floor landing, burnished smooth by generations of hands. The sticky heat of a Texas summer, enveloping her like a damp cocoon on the nights she slept on the screened porch. The feathery brush of the leafy fern set in the entryway, grasping at her skirts as she entered and left. Everything around her in this godforsaken house was as close as a baby to its mother, and yet as far out of reach as the stars in the night sky.

But she would not leave until she had the sense of it again. Another day of waiting for darkness, enduring the endless indignity of watching strangers pass in and out of what used to be her home. Watching them eat off what used to be her china (though what passed for breakfast these days didn’t approach the meals her coal-skinned Ruby used to cook: glistening slabs of bacon, tangy with salt, and flaky, buttery biscuits; homemade peach preserves and coffee so strong and black it burned all the way down to your belly). Watching them sweat into the faded velvet settee in her living room as they laughed like simpering apes, and watching them rub their plebian hands across the 12-foot carved oak headboard in her bedroom. The one James had brought her from New Orleans as her wedding present. The one she had looked at as she died.

James had come back, after, with a new wife, a wife who was able to give him children, not the pathetic half-formed creatures her body had rejected and spit out. She had watched him, and his wife, and their children – watched and mourned her stupidity in letting go the life that could have been hers, and all of the sensation that went with it.

Later, his descendants had carved up her house into little rooms and welcomed outsiders who stayed for a day or two or a week. They called her the Lady in White, these noisy intruders who came to see her, pretending to be scared but secretly hoping for a show. Once, she had thought they could help and she had tried to touch them, clawing and grasping as they passed through her halls and slept in the shadow of that great oak headboard. A few times they had remarked upon a hazy shimmer, the wispy outline of a lady’s shape, an iciness in the air. But she had felt nothing.

She no longer cared about them. Her satisfaction lay elsewhere.

The time was coming now, in the quiet, hopeless dark before the sun crept over the horizon. She drifted across the bed, over sleeping strangers, and took her place beneath the doorframe that had once divided her bedroom and dressing room. The glass in the panel above had never been replaced after she’d broken it for the noose. She had expected someone to hear the brittle crash of pieces skipping over the floorboards, to come and pull her down before she succeeded. Expected her James to come back home once she’d shown him how much she loved him. But no one had come. Not until it was too late.

In that last moment, just before her life winked out, in realizing that she was really going to die, she had been overcome with a frenzy of fear and pain. She had never felt more alive, right before her death. Surely, if she tried hard enough now, she could feel just the tiniest sliver of her final excruciating moments: the raspy fibers of rope cutting into her neck, the gauzy kiss of her white cotton nightgown, the fiery pain in her left foot when it jerked against the doorframe, the desperate whistle of her last ragged breath.

The memory of her terror excited her. But she must take care, do everything right so she could finally be released from her senseless ordeal. With movements as precise as those of the fine gold watch she had given James on their first anniversary, she meticulously recreated her death as she had every night for almost a hundred and fifty years.

And she felt nothing.

Roaring in despair, she tore across the room, with her nightgown billowing around her legs like a furious cloud. She spared one impotent shriek for the strangers sleeping in her bed before disappearing through the wall and out of sight. The woman sleeping under the shadow of the twelve-foot headboard shivered, and without waking, nestled against the warmth of the loving husband who lay beside her.

Beth Anderson

Beth Anderson is a pop culture junkie, tech nerd, writer and night person. Her work has been published in Akashic and the forthcoming Furious Gravity. She currently resides in Austin with her husband and two daughters. Find her on Twitter @bandersonmedia.

Chocolate Fingers

by: Aurora M. Lewis

The fingers on my right hand are gone, there are only stubs.  How many times have I been asked what happened to my fingers, too many times to remember.  As I got older and we moved to another city, I was apt to say anything, no one believed the truth.   I told them my fingers were cut off with a paper cutter in my 6th-grade classroom; they got stuck in a washing machine my mother rented, tasking me with pushing wet clothes through the wringer; or worse, my mother took thalidomide before I was born, and my fingers didn’t develop.  My fake stories regarding the loss of my fingers were believed and garnered a great deal of sympathy. How I really lost my fingers is akin to tales told at campfires in the dead of night.  Those listening with eyes bugged in mortal fear, their mouths agape, holding themselves tight, jumping at the sound of every snap of a cracking branch, or the hoot of an owl.

It was the Halloween of 1973; I was 12 dressed in what I thought looked like Cleopatra Jones from the movie.  I desperately wanted to go Trick-or-Treating with my best friends Carol Belle and Rene, but my mother insisted I take my 7-year-old brother, Frankie, dressed as Batman.  When Carol Belle and Rene heard Frankie had to come with us, in unison, they shouted, “Oh, no, not Frankie!” leaving me standing there alone on the sidewalk with my kid brother.    He was more than a nuisance and was always saying, “Gimme some sugar.” Whenever he saw one or both of them.  He was such a pain in the butt. Carole Belle, Rene, and I were in junior high school and wanted nothing to do with an annoying kid like Frankie on Halloween night.

Looking down at Frankie, I saw the disappointment on his face.  I grabbed him by the scruff of his fake leather bomber jacket, jerking him to come on and get this Trick-or-Treat thing over. We walked for blocks, passing many of my friends darting across the streets, ringing doorbells, with or without lite porch lights.  We ran into Carol Belle and Rene a couple times who looked at me, snickering, and ran on.

“I thought they were your friends?” asked Frankie.

“Shut up, twerp!” I shouted back.

Both Frankie and I had quite a haul even if everything unwrapped or homemade was going in the trash as soon as we got home and sorted our treats.  It was getting late, and I was tired, I wasn’t having any fun with my kid brother. Mom told Frankie and me to be home no later than 10 p.m., looking at my watch it was after 11..  My greedy little brother had to try to get candy from every house in what seemed like 100 blocks. The streets were becoming deserted except for a few rowdy teens running down the street whooping and hollering it up.  I crossed my fingers, hoping they wouldn’t look in our direction, luck was on our side.

As Frankie and I made our way home, he saw a house we missed.  It was sitting far in the rear of the front lawn, and the porch light was still on.  Frankie looked up at me, his big sleepy eyes silently asking if we could go to one more house?  Something inside of me said no, but I said yes.  We walked quickly to the house that was unlike any other in our neighborhood.  All the other houses were Ranch style homes, this one had a pointed thatched roof with a large red bougainvillea growing over it and a crumbling, brick chimney.  In the dark, we could see the lawn was brown and the bushes overgrown.

Midway to the door I stopped, grabbed Frankie and said, “Let’s go home, I think we have enough.”  A kid can never have enough, he whispered as he ran up on the rickety wooden porch and rang the doorbell.

As soon as Frankie rang the bell, it opened.  I joined him on the porch, standing a little behind him.  An old woman who looked just like a witch out of Hansel and Gretel opened the door.  She stood no more than 5 feet tall; her hair was a tangled mass of gray stray, reaching her waist.  Her skin was neither Black, White, nor was she Hispanic or Asian.  I couldn’t tell what she was, although she had a greenish tinge to her that I attributed to the glow from the porch light and surrounding trees.  She peered at us with deep sunken, pale grey eyes, breaking into a big toothless smile.  She slightly cackled as she opened the door wider, revealing only darkness behind her.

“Well, what have we here, two Chocolate Babies?”  she hissed through her toothless grin.

“Trick-or-Treat,”  both Frankie and I said, barely above a whisper.

“I love chocolate,”  the old woman said, ignoring our request for a treat.

Again, we implored, “Treat-or-Treat!”

The hag’s boney hand with long yellow nailed fingers reached out and took Frankie by his small hand.  She shook her mangy head in disapproval and dropped Frankie’s hand before I could pull him away. Just as quickly she grabbed mine and with a greedy smile, SNAP, my fingers were broken off, leaving a flow of blood running to the porch.  I screamed in agony as she quickly stuffed my fingers into her mouth, mumbling, “I love chocolate fingers,” and slamming the door shut. Frankie was crying uncontrollably as we ran to the sidewalk.  I felt faint, falling to my knees, then collapsed into darkness.

I awoke to a siren and flashing lights.  An EMT was bandaging my hand, sympathetically asking what happened? I looked around for Frankie, who was sitting in a police car. He was still crying, and I heard the words, “Witch ate Audrey’s fingers,” through Frankie’s sobs. The EMT gave me a shot, he and another EMT loaded me onto the ambulance. I became drowsy and passed out before we reached the hospital.

When I opened my eyes, my mother was looking at me, tears streaming down her face.  A policeman was next to her writing in a small tablet.  Frankie was sitting in a chair near the window, tears running down his chubby cheeks.  I told my mother and the policeman several times what the old woman had done, but no one believed Frankie or me.  My mother and the policeman went out in the corridor.

“My kids don’t do drugs!” my mother shouted.

“I understand Ma’am,” the policeman said and then continued, “The kids’ story doesn’t make any sense.  The house where the kids said they were is empty.  It appears no one has lived there for years.  The only thing we saw was a big grey cat sleeping on the porch.”

I was finally released from the hospital after five days.  My hand stayed bandaged for a lot longer.  I was the talk of the school, even my friends Carol Belle and Rene didn’t believe me, so I stopped telling the truth.  Frankie and I never went Trick-or-Treating again, nor do either of us eat chocolate candy.

Aurora M. Lewis

Aurora M. Lewis is a woman of color in her 60’s, having retired from the Finance Industry. In her late fifties, she received a Certificate in Creative Writing General Studies with Honors from UCLA. Her poems, short stories, and nonfiction have been accepted by; The Literary Hatchet, Gemini Magazine, Jerry Jazz Musician, The Blue Nib, Pilcrow and Dagger, Lucent Dreaming, and Flash Fiction Magazine to name a few.

Links: FaceBook, Aurora M. Lewis
twitter, @auroralewis5

The Patch of the Spinning Pumpkins

by Jon Moray

It was on Halloween night a year ago, that Conrad lost his best friend, Cecil, in the community pumpkin patch. On a dare between teenage friends, Cecil ventured into the dark wooded area while Conrad and another friend, Tommy, waited for him a short distance away. They heard his annoying laugh as he ventured further in, and then a sharp shriek, followed by deafening screams. And then heart dropping silence. The kind of silence that made you wish you could instantly relive the moment and do things differently.

A two-week manhunt followed, with many neighbors joining the search to no avail. Cecil was never found. Adventurous teenage kids was the common explanation from the townsfolk for their trek to the pumpkin patch that night.

It was in search of Cecil’s medallion that led Conrad back to the patch on this Halloween night. The medallion was sterling silver, three inches in diameter, with a winged angel adorning the front, and an inscription in Latin on the back. The medallion hung from a long, dark blue lanyard that Cecil wore everyday.

The huge full moon with passing clouds did little to illuminate the deep black pumpkin patch. Conrad pounded his chest to get his courage up, drew a deep breath, and stepped in. The only sounds heard were his feet crunching the autumn leaves. He passed the first row of pumpkins confidently, until trees bristled behind him. He turned and saw fog slinking about that emitted an eerie moan. With an elevated heartbeat and sweat beading his forehead, he turned back toward the trail where he was greeted by a long, lanky, smoky figure with yellow, glowing, marble eyes.

“You shouldn’t have come here, especially on this night,” the ghoul murmured, in a soft but spooky tone, as its jagged arms flared slowly about. As Conrad felt the gloom of doom, a group of pumpkins illuminated simultaneously and began spinning on the ground, tossing loose dirt about. The lighted pumpkins suddenly began rolling towards Conrad, rapidly picking up speed.

Conrad turned to run, but the shadowy figure extended its arm out and swooped up his body. With its other limb he swatted the pumpkins away into the forest trees; the impact smashing them to pieces.

Conrad looked closely at the figure and noticed the somber look in its eyes.

“Who are you?” Conrad stammered, looking up at its towering, flowing frame that exceeded eight feet in height.

Before the spirit could answer, a quartet of spinning pumpkins, much larger than the first group, with sharp talons protruding from its heads, zeroed in on them. Their twirling produced a whirlwind that knocked Conrad back several yards and into a tree, rendering him dizzy. The protective spirit whipped into action, shielding Conrad from harm, as flames spiraled from its eyes, melting the pumpkins one by one, reducing them to pits. As Conrad staggered back to his feet, the one remaining pumpkin slashed within inches of his face before the spirit whipped it away with its outstretched limb.

“We are only about thirty yards from the end of the patch, but we may encounter one more challenge,” alerted the spirit.

Suddenly, a deep, intimidating, baritone deep sound came near the end of the patch. Conrad’s eyes grew twice its size, as a massive pumpkin spun towards them. So massive that it flattened trees on each side of the trail. The spirit was dwarflike in comparison to the orange ball of fury. The night owls took shelter in the undamaged oaks, setting the final battle scene with harmonious ‘hooing’ and looking on with bulging eyes.

“Who dares to penetrate the Patch of Spinning Pumpkins on this Halloween night?” bellowed the Imperial Pumpkin, with an echo that shook the trees and trembled the earth. The spirit spied the medallion glistening from the pumpkin’s stem, stretched out its arms around two large trees and slammed them down on the massive pumpkin, briefly startling the enemy. The spirit then clutched Conrad and put him high up on a tree branch, temporarily keeping him safe.

The Imperial Pumpkin continued its progress and spun on top of the spirit, gradually intensifying its speed. The spirit’s eyes dimmed as the pumpkin reduced its rotation to let its weight bury Conrad’s protector into the ground.

Hope waned until Conrad impulsively jumped on top of the pumpkin and held on to the stem for dear life. He managed to grab the medallion and use the lanyard to choke the stem. His actions were potent as the pumpkin began to spin away out of suffocating desperation. The momentum rolled it off of the spirit as Conrad tightened the choke hold.

The spirit recovered enough to wrap its arms around the pumpkin and slow its motion. Their teamwork overwhelmed the evil patch dweller, as the Imperial Pumpkin finally succumbed to defeat, rolling over to its side and to a complete stop. Conrad slid off of the pumpkin and into the spirit’s waiting arms.

Conrad slowly caught his breath as they came to the end of the patch. As they stepped across the threshold, the spirit morphed into Cecil.

“The evil spirits consumed me last year on Halloween night,” Cecil said, and went on to explain he only takes the shape of a tall, gruesome ghoul on to defend people against the devilish spirits that inhabit the Patch of the Spinning Pumpkins.

Conrad apologized for the dare, but Cecil waved it away.

“One of us was going into the patch that night, if it wasn’t me it would’ve been you,” Cecil responded.

Conrad sadly nodded with eyes focused on the medallion.

“The medallion is now yours. It is a symbol of our friendship and the experience we had in this pumpkin patch,” Cecil said.

“ Do you mean the Patch of the Spinning Pumpkins?” Conrad asked.

“Only if you enter it on Halloween night,” Cecil answered, and slowly faded away.

Jon Moray

Jon Moray has been writing short stories for over nine years and his work has been published in several online and print markets. When not working and being a devoted family man, he enjoys sports, mind-bending puzzles, and the science fiction genre.

Footage Lost, Footage Found

by Kevin M. Folliard

The weekend before Halloween, Zeke and his friends met at Disc Depot, the used DVD store. Nash instructed everyone to select two movies, and keep it under 10 dollars.

“Why can’t we just watch Netflix?” Jessica asked.

“Because,” Nash insisted, “this here is the good stuff.” He gestured to rows of DVD spines on the shelf, beneath a sign that spelled “HORROR” in warped bloody font. “They don’t stream all these classics from the 80s and 90s! Trust me, we’re gonna find some gems.”

Zeke tentatively browsed battered old cases, as the girls giggled over retro clothes and hairstyles on the backs of the box art. Grotesque hand-painted cover art adorned seemingly endless sequels and remakes. My Bloody Hook, Denizens of the Cellar, My Bloody Hook 2: Bloodier Hook. Images of screaming teens and dark entrails on rusty weapons made Zeke queasy, and he found himself wandering to the other sections.

Zeke would start to slide a movie free, and Nash would stop him. “That one sucks, buddy.” “That’s the remake. Do they have the original?” “Hocus Pocus is not horror.” “Ghostbusters is not horror, but you’re getting warmer.”

“But I like those movies,” Zeke said. “They’re scary enough for me. It’s what I always watch on Halloween.”

Nash placed his hand on Zeke’s shoulder and pressed a copy of Friday the 13th against his chest. “You’re grown up now, for Crissake! Practically 16! Time to be a man.”

The girls giggled. “Will scaredy-Zekey make it through the night?” Jessica teased.

Behind the glass counter, the 40-something cashier grinned and rubbed his pudgy chin.

“Oh, leave him alone,” Hannah said. “I think it’s cute that Zeke is scared.”

Zeke blushed. It was true. He hated horror—hated being scared.

But he liked Hannah. A lot.

The girls wandered down another aisle. Nash lowered his voice. “Trust me, Zeke. A horror marathon is the perfect chance to make your move. Big jump scare, Hannah hides her face against your chest, you put your arm around her. Perfection!”

“Just one problem,” Zeke whispered. “I’m going to be the scared one.”

“Your friend is right.” The cashier snorted laughter. “Fear brings people together.”

“Exactly,” Nash said. “You don’t want to be like this old guy, do you? No wedding band on his finger.”

The cashier glared.

“Happy endings come from big scary leaps of faith.” Nash shrugged at the balding man. “No offense, dude.”

“None taken.” A yellow-toothed grin crossed the man’s face. “Just remember, in horror, sometimes the happiest ending is a shared fate.”

The four teens ended up with a stack of eight films. The clerk rang up the movies one at a time and slipped them into a white plastic bag. He nodded with approval at each selection. “You kids are in for a treat,” he said. “Maybe even a trick. This is good stuff.” The man nodded at Zeke. “Hope you’re ready.”

They retreated to Hannah’s basement with bags of chips and popcorn. One-by-one, they worked their way through the stack.

Jessica and Nash melted together on the big cozy armchair. Zeke and Hannah sat on the couch, a full cushion between them. Movie-by-movie, counselors were eviscerated, careless babysitters strangled, severed limbs gushed prop blood, and hideous decayed puppets shrieked deathly warnings. Zeke wasn’t so much scared as grossed-out. More importantly, the dilemma of how to bridge the enormous gap between him and Hannah left him completely baffled.

Jessica and Nash laughed, flirted and teased through each film.

The plush pile of popcorn in the metal bowl dwindled to kernels and fluffy white flakes.

Outside, autumn sky darkened to tones of 80s synth scores.

“I can’t believe people used to watch this stuff,” Zeke said as another set of credits rolled to out-of-tune piano music.

Nash threw a piece of popcorn at him. “People still watch this stuff. We’re watching it!”

Hannah smiled from across the couch. “Are you not having fun, Zeke?”

“Oh, yeah, sure I am,” he said. “I guess I’m just not a scary movie guy, but it’s fun for one night.”

Oh, yeah, sure,” Jessica mocked. “I just wish I could get a smooch, gee whiz!” She and Nash burst into laughter.

Zeke’s face blazed with heat.

Hannah rolled her eyes.

Nash grabbed the white plastic bag. “And the next feature presentation is . . .” He slapped a drumroll on his thigh, then yanked out a nondescript case with a white label. “Some . . . movie I don’t remember buying?” He flipped it and puzzled at the blank back cover. “Huh.”

“Let me see.” Jessica snatched the DVD away. “I didn’t pick out this one? You guys?” She passed it to Hannah who shook her head. Zeke scooched closer—feeling the warmth of Hannah’s body as he took the case.

The plastic sleeve was splotchy. The case underneath nicked and dented. Yellowing masking tape had been applied under the plastic. Black marker spelled out: 10-31-2017.

Zeke popped open the case and found an unlabeled generic DVD. “I didn’t pick this out,” he said. “Maybe the guy gave it to us by mistake.”

Nash took the disc from his fingers and shrugged. “Let’s see what it is.” He slid it into the player.

“Hang on, what if it’s perverted?” Hannah said. “I don’t want to see that fat guy’s personal . . . whatever this could be.”

“If it’s too scary for you,” Jessica winked, “Zeke’ll protect you.”

Zeke blushed again. He had used the opportunity to examine the case to move closer to Hannah, but somehow it felt like his arm weighed a thousand pounds. Just slip it over her shoulder, he begged himself. Just do it! Grab her hand. Something!

Nash hit play.

At first, there was only blackness. Then a wave of rainbowy static crawled up the screen and unveiled a first-person POV shot. The camera trembled. Breaths heaved. Someone running. Someplace dark. Moonlight slipped through leafy shadows.

The hairs on Zeke’s neck bristled.

Tree branches lashed at the shaky camera. A guttural feline snarl erupted. The person collapsed, and a dirty hand groped in moonlight. For a moment, Zeke caught a glimpse of a black and blue banded fitness watch. He gasped.

A panther’s jaw, and wide white fangs carved across the screen. The main character whirled around. More snarling, shouting and jerky camera movements.

A loud whack erupted. Static-filled jump cuts bounced from one set of dark trees to another.

Colored lines undulated from the bottom to the top of the screen, and suddenly the character was huffing, stumbling through the stony rows of an arcane graveyard. Wisps of vapor poured between rectangular tombstones. The POV circled and landed on a luminous glow near a squat, skeletal tree.

Beings danced in a ring, glowing specters with pointed heads and robes. The specters’ bottom halves curled into smoke in lieu of legs. Their faces stretched and swirled like waxy white lava lamps. Bony fingers clutched blazing white lanterns.

One of the specters paused. The dancing ring halted, and the lead ghost pointed a clawed finger directly at the camera.

The main character shouted in surprise. Zeke gripped the edge of the couch.

The camera rushed frantically. Grisly wails grated through the speakers.

The main character stopped and screamed at a pale, full moon. A series of plosive sounds erupted as something dragged the character away. The view swirled from gravestones, to treetops, to the bony white moon. A ghoulish face snarled into the camera.

The character screamed amid strange otherworldly chants. Shivers raced up and down Zeke’s spine. A terrible dread sank into him. The screams cut into him. They were familiar. They were—he couldn’t even think it. He had to turn this off. He had to—

A tall lanky form sprouted high above the camera. Its bulbous head eclipsed the moon. Slivers of yellow eyes opened and serrated fingers like poison ivy reached down.

A piercing electronic scream vibrated, garbled, louder and louder, until the high, grating noise seemed to shudder across Zeke’s flesh.

Everything went black.

No credits.

No other scenes.

The movie stopped, and the disc ejected from the player.

Zeke’s stomach turned. He struggled for breath.

Stony silence filled the room.

Then the other three teenagers erupted with laughter.

“Lame!” Nash shouted.

“I’ve seen Halloween kids cartoons scarier than that,” Jessica said.

Hannah shook her head. “I hate found footage movies. They make me carsick. How did this dumb movie get in our bag?”

Nash shrugged. “It’s probably that cashier’s student film he slipped in to freak us out.” He flung the unmarked disc across the room like a frisbee and started to sort through the stack of movies again. “Next!”

“No.” Zeke’s voice shook. “No, that wasn’t a student film. The special effects were . . .” Everyone stared at him. He tried to calm his voice. “They were too good.”

“Dude. Are you seriously scared?” Nash chuckled. “Buddy, that was the lamest thing we watched all night.”

“I’m not scared, I just . . . I don’t like that it just showed up like that. When none of us . . .” Zeke shook his head. “You’re messing with me.” He took a deep breath.

“What do you mean?”

Zeke pulled back his sleeve and held up his wrist. “You guys that was my hand! That was my watch!” He showed them the blue and black band.

“Oh, come on, Zeke!” Jessica said. “You think you’re the only person with that watch? Like it’s that special?”

“It was my voice! I just . . . I just know it . . .”

“Zeke.” Hannah placed her hand on his shoulder. “The guy didn’t even talk.”

Zeke’s skin was still crawling. Hannah’s palm felt warm, calm against his shirt, and he was too shaken to enjoy it. “You know what. It’s late, and I think Halloween’s over.”

“One more movie! It’s only 11:00,” Nash said. “Your house is a 10-minute hike through the woods. Call your mommy and let her know you’ll be a little late.”

Jessica snickered.

Zeke scowled. “You’re a real jerk, you know that?” He grabbed his coat and headed toward the stairs.

“What did I do, Mr. Sensitive?” Nash called out.

Zeke marched up the steps toward Hannah’s front door. He opened it to crisp October air. Hannah grabbed his shoulder. “Hey! What was that all about?”

“I’m sorry, really,” Zeke stuttered. “I just know that movie was just another one of Nash’s stunts to make me look like his dorky friend. It’s like, I’m the butt of all Nash’s jokes, so he and his girlfriend can make fun of me, and after a whole day of that, it gets a little old and—”

Hannah grabbed Zeke’s collar, pulled him close, and kissed him. Zeke’s insides fluttered. She released him.

Zeke’s heart thumped heavy and hard. Instantly, his nerves settled.

“Let’s do this again next weekend,” Hannah said. “No Nash or Jessica. Just us. We’ll watch comedies, and hopefully, sit a little closer together?”

He smiled. “I’d like that.”

She squeezed his hand. “Text me when you get home, okay?”

Zeke nodded. They kissed again.

Leaves crunched beneath his feet as he crossed the vacant lot between Hannah’s house and the grove of trees that separated their two streets. Zeke hummed the theme music to A Nightmare on Elm Street. He laughed at himself. All those gory movies he sat through, and he had been most terrified of all to inch toward Hannah on her couch.

How silly it seemed to have feared touching her now that they’d kissed. Twice!

How dumb he had been to let found footage under his skin.

He pulled out his phone and texted Nash:

SHE KISSED ME!

Sorry I freaked on you. That movie just weirded me out.

After a moment, Nash’s response flashed across the screen:

How bout a thank you

Zeke shook his head. Yeah, Nash had set him up, sort of, but Hannah liked him in spite of Nash’s constant teasing. Or maybe because of it? Did Hannah feel bad for him? Did she think it was cute that he was afraid?

He texted back:

Thanks I guess.

Tell the truth. Did you slip that movie in to freak me out?

Zeke paused under the treetops and waited for a response. Words flashed:

YOU’LL NEVER KNOW

Zeke’s skin crawled anew. The response was not from Nash. It was a different number, with smeared, wobbling digits.

Was Nash texting from another phone? Was the prank not over yet?

He went to text Nash back, when suddenly, the battery died. He tried to turn it back on. Nothing. It had been half-charged when he left Hannah’s.

Zeke looked up. The moon gleamed between treetops. Leaves swirled in a gust of wind. He slowly turned, unsure now if he was facing his street, Hannah’s house, or the forest preserves. Had he accidentally wandered deeper into the woods while texting?

He had crossed this grove hundreds of times going to and from his friends’ houses. How could he get so disoriented, even in the dark?

Zeke followed a trail, caked with woodchips and damp leaves. A dark figure hunched ahead, no more than a foot tall, with eyes like fireflies.

The animal strutted forward, shoulders shifting. Zeke realized with momentary relief that it was a cat, pitch black, stalking in silence.

“Hey, kitty,” Zeke whispered.

She bared bone-white fangs.

“Do you know the way home?”

The cat’s shoulders reared back. Ebony hairs bristled. She snarled.

“Sorry, I asked.”

Her growl dropped, deepened as she prowled closer. Her lithe body grew darker, longer. Larger.

Zeke rubbed his eyes. It had to be a trick of the moonlight. But the cat continued to swell. Her back puffed. Hairs sharpened into spines. Her snout pushed forward to accommodate longer, sharper teeth.

A panther’s growl erupted, and the beast sprinted.

Zeke bolted between the trees. The panther’s snarl drew closer. Her claws tore through woodchips and fall leaves.

A tremendous weight shoved him. He skidded on wet foliage and rolled onto his back. He held up his hand defensively and saw his black and blue smartwatch in the moonlight. Huge paws swiped. He cowered, curled his body inward. Pearly fangs and spittle glinted in moonbeams.

Deafening growls rattled his ears.

Zeke shouted and swatted in desperation. The back of his fist connected with some light furry thing that flew across the ground and hit a tree trunk.

He glanced up to find the little black cat, righting herself, glaring with lightning-yellow eyes. She yowled, hissed, and twisted away like a curl of smoke.

Zeke tensed. The animal disappeared in inky shadows.

Surely, he had felt the weight of an enormous animal knock him over. It’s that stupid movie, he tried to convince himself. It’s messing with my head.

His hand found a tall, sturdy object in the darkness. He used it to hoist himself to his feet, leaned on it, and slowly caught his breath. Then his other hand brushed the flat side of the stone and felt etching. Letters.

Zeke backed away. It was a tombstone, with words too worn to be read. He glanced between the trees. Somehow, he had ended up on the edge of a moonlit clearing. Beyond the skeletal branches, rivers of silver mist snaked between tombstones.

There was no cemetery in this forest. No gravesites anywhere near the narrow grove between his street and Hannah’s. So where was he?

Zeke turned to face the direction he was sure he had come from. Huge green-yellow eyes popped open in darkness. Not one pair of eyes, but dozens. A chorus of huge cats unleashed hungry growls. Zeke backed toward the clearing.

You can’t go that way, he thought. But whatever happens, don’t act out the movie. Don’t let those dancing ghouls see you. Do something, anything different.

Spiderwebs clung to Zeke’s neck as he shuffled away. One-by-one the cats’ eyes winked away. Their snarls softened, replaced by whistling wind.

He veered left, away from the graves, and pushed through thick brambles. Burrs stuck to his jacket. Thorns scraped his face. One shoe sank into mud. Cold water kissed his sock. Zeke emerged on the other side.

His heart sank. It was the same clearing from the movie. The same rivers of fog, churning through gray tombstones. The same moon glowing over the same ridge of trees.

Zeke reluctantly stepped forward, deeper into the cemetery. White light flickered around a bend. He knew what he would find there. He could feel the woods, the wind, the low lurking snarls, steering him, taunting him with the inevitable knowledge that he would round the bend and see the circle of pointy faced beings, chanting, twisting around the huge gnarled tree like a Halloween merry-go-round.

No, he thought.

The wind howled.

No. I’m not going!

Cats snarled. The white light around the bend grew brighter. He could hear the robed beings’ chants.

I’m not a stupid moron in some dumb horror movie!

The wind died down. The white glow faded. Leaves rustled as three figures emerged from the shadows. One of them lit a flashlight. “You did it,” Nash said. His light cast a strange glow on Hannah and Jessica.

Zeke shook his head. “What is this, you guys?”

“We did not mean to frighten you.” Jessica’s voice was cold, hollow.

“This was a prank?” Zeke glanced between his friends’ stony expressions. There was an emptiness in their eyes. Their skin shone paper-white.

“No,” he backed away. “You’re not them.”

“You are only afraid.” Hannah’s voice was smooth, hypnotic. “Let us guide you to the circle.”

“In the circle, all will be complete,” said Nash. “You’ll understand.”

Zeke trembled. Sweat beaded on his forehead. “What’s your name?” he asked Hannah.

Hannah’s face remained blank. “Girl,” she said at last.

Zeke shot through the foliage to the left again. His foot sank, deeper into the mud this time. Thorns dug into his skin. He tasted blood on his lip.

He emerged, again, in the cemetery clearing. White lanterns flickered. The chanting grew.

He tried to run again, in a new direction, but he ran right into the fake Hannah. She grabbed his jacket. Blood streaked from her eyes. “Girl wants you to go!” she wailed. “Girl wants you to be happy! To share fate with you!”

Zeke shouted and pushed her away. This place is using them to trick you. His lungs heaved as he tore through more brush. Don’t act out the last part! Find a way out!

Zeke’s feet sank in mud. Something—underground—grabbed his ankles. He shouted and struggled. Zeke reached down, shoved his hands into the murk and struggled to pry cold, knobby fingers from his leg. He stomped at corpse hands, grabbed the low branch of a nearby tree and pulled his legs free.

Then on impulse, he climbed the tree. Yes! he thought. Nobody climbs a tree in the movie.

He pulled himself up, one branch at a time, peeling at spider-webs in bare branches, clearing a path, until at least he was high enough that he could see the cemetery clearing, in every direction. A clearing to his right. To his left. One beyond that, and more beyond. All identical, like an infinite honeycomb pattern of graveyards.

And every cemetery shared the same centerpiece. That dancing circle of electric white priests, ghastly robes turning to smoke where their feet should be. Their fingers curled into gray claws. Waxy faces stretched up and down cone-shaped heads.

Each spectral ring danced around the same gnarled tree. Satanic symbols twirled above their heads like skeletal holograms. Zeke trembled, white-knuckled against the tree. There was no direction that wasn’t the cemetery cleaning. There was no way out of the movie.

There was nothing but the movie forever and ever.

All around him, rings of ghouls paused, faced him and pointed up at his tree. They all glided, carving paths in the mist.

From the circles of satanic symbols, lanky beings, with stalks for legs and hands of saw-shaped leaves sprouted, towered, crouched on knobby knees. Their pumpkin heads swelled into existence and stretched open to reveal triangular rinds for teeth.

A horde of white specters converged toward Zeke’s tree. The circle widened. Thickened. Their inhuman chants drifted to the treetops. And an army of pumpkin kings stalked on legs of thorny vines. Leafy claws stretched higher and higher.

Zeke opened his mouth to scream, but all that escaped was a garbled, high-pitched mess of noise, like scratching records and scraped glass.

*  *  *

Later, after Zeke’s mother came searching for him, Hannah returned to the basement. Acting on chilled impulse, she inserted the unlabeled DVD back into the player.

Somehow, she knew, she’d listen more closely, pay attention, and realize that Zeke had been right. That it was him in the movie.

But this time the found footage was different, and when the character reached up to fend off the panther, it was not Zeke’s smartwatch, but Hannah’s charm bracelet glistening in moonlight.

Kevin M. Folliard

Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, as well as adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, and more. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Street Fighter, or traveling the U.S.A.

 

Author Website: www.KevinFolliard.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kevinfolliard

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kmfollia

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kmfollia/

The Pumpkin Patch

by: Joe Slater

 

“Are you sure this is a good idea Adam?” Tommy looked on with a bit of fear in his face. “Of course! How else are we going to know about the great Pumpkinhead?” Tommy replied. “You know that Halloween is tomorrow and the great Pumpkinhead will come to give us special treats that no one else can give, like he’ll give us a piece of candy and if we leave it in our bag, the next day it will be like a hundred pieces! Wouldn’t that be so cool?” Tommy agrees with a big smile on his face from ear to ear.

The boys are so excited about Halloween. It is their most favorite holiday next to Christmas. They know that Halloween is just for candy while Christmas is for just about everything else. But here in Salem, Massachusetts, Halloween has a special meaning like nowhere else. Being that Salem is famous for the witch trials, many people from all around the country and state come to Salem on Halloween. The witching business is good here. You have tours, visits to witch houses and some of the residences claim to be witches themselves. Which brings us to Tommy and Adam. They know of a witch that lives in one of the few witch houses still standing. It’s located on Essex and North. A big black intimidating shelter of evil and disgust, it is owned by an actual witch, one who still practices all types of witchcraft. Adam wants to ask the witch what time does the great Pumpkinhead appear to children and where. Tommy is a bit hesitant about it. He often has nightmares of witches stealing his soul and other such things. Adam laughs such things off and sometimes entertains himself hearing stories of personal encounters with witches. Adam challenged Tommy to see if he wants to ask the witch about the great Pumpkinhead.

The two boys slowly and carefully walk up the stone laden path to the dark front door of the house. Adam, despite his lack of fear of witches and such, knocks on the door sheepishly. The two boys wait nervously. The door opens slowly and a tall elderly woman appears at the door. She looks at the two boys and laughs.

“You know that Halloween is tomorrow. Not, today right?”

“Yes, ma’am we do know that,” replied Adam.

“Then what can I help you with? Are you maybe interested in some witch magic?” She gestures with her hand as if to offer to put them under some spell. The boys stand watching her wave her hands with big eyes and open mouths. Adam looks at Tommy and then remembers what he came here to do.

“No ma’am we just wanted to know about the great Pumpkinhead. We wanted to see where he would be at and when he would show up.” The woman opened her eyes wide and made a face of pleasant surprise.

“Oh! And why would you boys like to meet such a nasty fellow?”

“Well we heard that he likes to give out special candy on Halloween to children. We would like to meet him and get some of that candy.” The elderly lady stood there in the doorway and thought for a moment then she smiled to herself and then looked at them.

“How would you like to come in? I would gladly tell you all about him while I make a special recipe for tomorrow. Halloween is a big day for me too!” The boys looked at each other and Tommy whispered something in Adam’s ear. Adam turned and looked at the lady.

“OK if you don’t mind.”

“Of course, I don’t mind! It would be nice to have some company while I work!” She steps back and extends her arm indicating to the boys to enter. The boys slowly cross the threshold looking all around the house with a bit of apprehension. It didn’t look like what they expected a witch’s house to look like. It looked like a regular house in every way. The furnishings were modest and nothing unusual except for a boiling cauldron in a corner of the dining hall. There were shelves and shelves of jars, boxes, cans of all types of ingredients. Some of the glass jars had eyeballs in them. Some appear to be looking right at you.

“Have a seat, boys and I’ll tell you all about the great Pumpkinhead.” The boys approach the dining table and each choose a seat to sit down. “I hope you don’t mind my cooking while I’m telling it to you. Time is getting short and I have to have things ready for tomorrow.

“No, we don’t mind ma’am.”

“Good. Now let me tell you about Pumpkinhead, everybody thinks that he is a person but he is not. He is more of a spirit, so to speak. He isn’t a spirit of a person but rather something someone has created. Actually…I created Pumpkinhead.” She smiles at the boys with a sense of pride and accomplishment. The boys react with a “Whoa!” in unison.

“You see, Pumpkinhead was a spirit I created. He was inspired by Halloween. I decided that the holiday needed something that would take some attention away from us witches. I just thought that we were just too much in the spotlight when it came to Halloween so, I went to my recipe book over there and decided on something that I could do that was special for Halloween.” She points to a large battered book with binding that appears to be deteriorating. The cover appears to be made of some type of leather although one may even think that it may be made of human skin should one’s imagination take them there. The pentagram is imprinted on the front with wilted bloody red bookmarkers dotting the edges and making it appear that some poor creature has gotten trapped inside the book and has been squashed.

“I thought about what I was going to do and I decided on making Pumpkinhead. He was supposed to be jolly just like Santa Claus but I just couldn’t do it. He turned out to be mean. And why would he be mean? You may ask, well, he was mean because he was angry how the witches were killed. He didn’t like that witches that did nice things like creating him be killed. Witchcraft is not such a horrible thing as many would think it would be. It has a lot of good medical recipes that people use to be cured of all kinds of illnesses.” She reaches into some jars and pulls out things that look like straw and insects of all types. The boys could almost swear that they heard some chirping before the woman threw the insects into the cauldron. Then she took a pair of tongs and pulled out some eyeballs and threw them into the big black pot. It fizzled and made a lot of smoke that the woman just waved away with her hands.

“Eye of a newt,” she said, and turned to the boys with a smile but appeared with a touch of malice in her eyes. “So now in every Halloween, I bring back Pumpkinhead to celebrate Halloween and he makes friends with all the children in the neighborhood. Some of them go back with him from where he came from but that is not advisable. Children need to be with their parents and they have to go to school to be productive citizens of society. You know I hope that both of you boys will learn that witches are good and mean no harm to nobody.”

“No Ma’am we don’t think witches will harm anybody,” said Adam with a shy timid voice. Tommy just nodded his head in agreement.

“Ahh! That is so good to hear!”  When the witch said “ahh” she said it with such a trifle high pitch that made the boys sit up to attention and caution. “So, you see Pumpkinhead is angry because of all the things that happened to witches.” She pauses and looks to the ceiling as if she forgotten something. “Now for the treats part, I’m not too sure how to tell you this but that is entirely up to Pumpkinhead to decide who gets treats and who doesn’t. If you are good little boys which I’m sure you are, you shouldn’t have to worry about a thing. He will reward you with special treats that have special powers. Sometimes the treats multiply, sometimes they make you smarter when you eat them and sometimes they simply make you happier. I’ll be back in just a sec.” She goes to the back of the kitchen where there is a door and goes out. She comes back with this huge jack-o-lantern and heaves it into the cauldron with a loud splash. Lots more smoke comes out of it and temporarily fogs up the kitchen. Adam and Tommy just look at each other in shock.

“That was the main ingredient,” comments the witch. “He should be ready for tomorrow’s witching hour.” The witch cleans her hands with a couple of slaps and then reaches for a towel.

“And that’s when he will come. When the sun sets and becomes completely dark, but he will only physically show up during the witching hour. You know when the witching hour is, right boys?”

Adam and Tommy look at each other with thinking faces trying not to disappoint the witch by thinking that they don’t know the witching hour.

“I think it’s three AM ma’am,” replies Adam.

“And will your parents approve of being up at such an unearthly hour?” asks the witch, practically interrupting Adam’s answer. Adam and Tommy look at each other wondering what will they tell her. They whisper in each other’s ears and then Adam turns to the witch.

“For one night out of the year, it will be OK.” Adam pauses and then says, “I think.”

The woman belts out a cacophonous laugh startling the boys to almost making them stand up to leave. She looks at them with a smile that was more fitting on the face of a shark just about to attack.

“So, you think so eh?” she pauses “Are you sure that you are good little boys or not?”

“We are! We are!” Adam blurts out. “It’s just that we just wanted to know when he comes and where.” The witch laughs with her mouth closed, making hmm hmm hmm sounds.

“I’m just getting to that part my dearie.” She turns to the cauldron and sticks her index finger in it and then licks it off like taking the skin off a bone. She raises her eyebrows and says, “Almost done. Well, you already know when he comes, all you have to know where he goes.” She uses her nose as a pointer and points to the backyard of the house where there is a pumpkin patch. That’s where she got her huge pumpkin to throw into the cauldron. “Back there, is where he will show up. In the middle of the pumpkin patch. Are you willing to be there to meet him? Hmmmm?” The two boys look at each other and look back at the witch and silently nod with their heads. Again, the witch lurches back with a cacophonous laugh with her mouth wide open. “Then you have my permission to go there tomorrow. But, be forewarned, I don’t want to have any parents complaining to me about some certain little boys looking for Pumpkinhead do you hear me?”

“Yes ma’am” replied Adam. Both boys took their cue finalizing their conversation with the witch. “Thank you for the information ma’am. I think we should be going now. We still have to go to school tomorrow.” They both get up and turn to leave as quickly as they can without knocking over anything.

“Remember what I told you, no parents or there will be trouble for you!”

“Yes ma’am, I mean, no ma’am no trouble from us ma’am.”

“OK then just close the door on your way out.” She looks at them with a sly smile on her face as they quickly leave and close the door. She turns to the cauldron and notices a hand coming out. She quickly grabs a broom and whacks the hand back into the cauldron. “Not yet! You infernal creature! It’s not yet your time!” A gurgling OOOOHHHHH! can be heard coming from the bubbling cauldron.

 

*  *  *

 

The witch’s house was full at midnight Halloween.  All the witches in Salem were there in full force. The coven was active with the yearly festivity of incantations, spells and unearthly curses around the cauldron which was now boiling to the point of creating black smoke. Each of the witches took a turn in throwing something into the black smoking inferno causing it to rise and create more smoke. The entire house was beginning to grow dark because of the smoke.

A hand slowly rises to the rim of the cauldron. All the witches raise their hands in the air, urgent to communicate with the thing that is coming out. Another hand joins the one that is already holding onto the lip of the cauldron. A round orange lump appears to rise from out of the middle of the pot and continues to rise. It is attached to a chest that is made of corn husks and straw and it is standing on a pair of canvas covered legs. The straw seems to imitate the tendons of muscles and the fingers are made of sticks. The knuckles look like they are made of smooth stones. The creature continues to unfold itself and stands up inside the cauldron as if it was taking a bath in it. It stands about seven and a half feet tall and continues to grow. Its head, a ghastly jack-o-lantern with the most hideous smile ever to be put on display. Its eyes all aglow with flames coming out of its eyelets and toothy mouth. It reaches in the pot and pulls out a straw hat that it quaintly puts on its head. It slowly steps out of the cauldron still steaming with smoke and ashes floating menacingly in the air. It turns and walks out of the back door of the kitchen with all the witches looking on with excitement and enthusiasm.

At a quarter to three, Adam and Tommy slowly make their way to the middle of the witch’s pumpkin patch. “You know Tommy, this must be one of the dumbest things I have ever done. Imagine, standing in the middle of a witch’s pumpkin patch waiting for a Pumpkinhead to appear at three in the morning. If word gets out about this I’ll kill you.”

“If word gets out about this, my parents will kill me,” replied Tommy.

“Shoot, all you care about is your parents, what about your reputation? huh?”

The conversation quickly abates at the sound coming out from the middle of the pumpkin patch. Slowly a soft flame begins to glow as the shrubbery seems to be making space for something huge that is rising from the ground. The light begins to take the shape of two triangle shaped eyes and a toothy mouth. Tommy shines his flashlight on the object. It’s a living jack-o-lantern with a body that looks like it belongs more on a scarecrow. It gives a cackling laugh that sounds familiar. It’s the witch of the house. Adam and Tommy begin to run but it is too late. The reeds and roots in the ground come alive and wrap around their legs keeping them in place. The jack-o-lantern becomes bigger and bigger and it opens its mouth. It swallows both boys in one incendiary swoop. Their voices are muffled as they are being consumed. The belly of the Halloween beast swells and the witch’s voice laughs that infernal cackle that crawls up your spine. “Looks like they were not good little boys after all!” it says and begins to give that cacophonous laughter again.

***

A week later, a milkman delivers some milk in front of the witch’s house. Two pictures are on the back of the container. The tall witch picks up the container and brings it inside. She pours some milk for her cat and notices the pictures on the back. It says in the top of the pictures:

***Missing two fourteen-year-old boys. Adam Hawthorne and Tommy Bradshaw. Missing since October 31st. Last seen at Bradshaw High School. ***

The witch gives a little smile and says to herself, “So, they weren’t good little boys after all.” She lets out a cacophonous laugh and the cat arches its back and hisses in response.

Joe Slater

Joe Slater was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of NYIT in Communication arts. Loves horror movies and enjoys reading horror books. A father of three and currently working as a station agent in the New York City Transit Authority. He runs into all types of people in his career serving the public. He looks forward to writing more horror stories in the future. Many of them will probably be about the subway system as there is no end to the things you may see down there! He is a proud New Yorker and this is his first story ever published. Thank you for the opportunity Trembling with Fear!

The Afflicted

 

by: John Bartell

 

The girl is crouching by a group of bushes. Jason assumes they’re lilacs but he doesn’t know for sure. He doesn’t know anything for sure anymore. A full moon is hovering halfway up in the sky, and it casts striped shadows on her back. Her hair is blond and it catches his eye a hundred yards away. A closer look reveals the glint of the shotgun she’s clutching.

Oh sweet Jesus, he thinks, she’s come to take me home and he stalks toward her, low to the ground, around the headstones, by the old, dying oak trees. As he reaches the Martin grave, a grotesque monument to a man long since forgotten, he pauses, watches the hunter. They come in pairs, so he scans for another and wonders if Igor is around, if he’s stalking the hunter too.

It’s time he thinks. This has to end now. Tonight. He had tried earlier, stepping out onto the highway as an eighteen wheeler screamed toward him, assuming that the driver wouldn’t swerve. Only he did, striking head long into a minivan packed with a family on their last journey together.  The impact threw the driver a hundred feet backwards.

The poor driver had no chance. Laying there, on the pavement, his head shattered, one eye hanging low, teeth gone, skull held together by thick, now bloody, hair. Jason stood over it for a moment, considered his options, then, mumbling that he has absolutely zero will power, dug out the other eye, and popped them both into his mouth. It made him feel weak, his inability to resist. But, on the other hand, fresh healthy eyes, topped off with a side of warm brains, it just couldn’t be beat and so he peeled back the layer of crushed skull and helped himself. “Best Halloween treat ever,” he said as slurped down the last juicy grey tendril.

Afterwards he headed back via the woods, crashing through underbrush and over fallen trees, emerging at All Saints Cemetery. Forgetting the day, the phase of the moon that would come, the hunters that would follow, he rested against his favorite headstone, the cold smooth marble soothing his itch of his rotting flesh.

And now this, the girl hunter, drawn by the myth of Halloween, the thought that on this day zombies and the afflicted take on an awakening and head to graveyards. Ridiculous, Jason mutters and trips over a toppled headstone, crashing loudly to the ground. A light beam hits him in the eyes as he stands. She cocks her shotgun. He moves toward her slowly, hands raised, walking in the open, the spotlight following him.

“I want to eat your brains,” he says, his voice exaggerated, like the normals think it should sound.

“Come and get me, zombie boy.” Her voice is loud and confident. This makes him happy. She won’t miss. His head will be shattered. His suffering will end. Peace will come. And the girl, she’ll put a notch on her gun and walk away, a swagger in her step.

She yells at him again. “Tell me your name, zombie boy, before I shoot you. Before I send you to hell.”

Hell, heaven, nowhere. It’s all the same to him. Anywhere will do. Anywhere without the affliction.

“Goodbye,” she says. The light is blinding him so he can’t see her, but he thinks he would have liked her if he had been a normal. She sounds like his type of girl.  A thought runs through his mind though, a thought of her brains, fresh, young, firm. Delicious. Please kill me, he thinks.

His eyes are shut. The shotgun fires. It’s like a cannon blast, roaring through Gettysburg. The light is gone. He breaths out and opens his eyes.

The hunter has her gun trained to the left now. Igor has shown up after all. He lies on the ground, a massive hole in his torso but his head intact, next to another hunter, another girl hunter. She’s moving but blood has been spilled. Jason can smell it. It’s staining her camouflage jacket. It would taste so good. He takes a step forward and the first hunter turns her weapon toward him.

Jason expects to be shot too but instead they simply stare at each other. The girl on the ground starts screaming.

“Professor,” the first hunter yells. “Professor.” The flashlight beam is shaking.

“Igor isn’t dead,” Jason says. “You need to destroy the brain stem, or else everything will just heal.”

The girl hunter on the ground is sobbing now. She’s been infected and she knows it.

“You should just shoot her,” Jason says. “Put her out of her misery.”

“There’s hope.” She shines her light on the girl for a moment. “Don’t give up Lisa. The professor’s going to get here.” She mutters a string of cuss words and calls out for the professor again, then the light comes back to Jason. “How do you know about the brain stem?”

“Everyone knows that.”

“Everyone but zombies. Zombies don’t know shit.”

“I’m an afflicted. So shoot me. Just end this all now.”

A large man with a goatee steps into the scene. He drops a backpack onto the ground. In his other hand he carries a rifle with a spotting scope on it. The first hunter grabs the backpack and scurries over to Lisa.

“I can end this now,” the man says. “And save your life while I’m at it.”

Igor moves a hand. He’s only a few feet from Lisa and the first hunter, who has put on latex gloves and has pulled out a syringe, holding it up, tapping it.

“He’s still alive.” Jason points. “Igor. He’ll kill them.”

“His name is really Igor?” the professor asks.

“It’s a nickname. I think his real name is Stephan. At least that’s what his shirt says.”

“And your name?”

“Jason.”

“You have cognitive ability. You’re an afflicted, not a zombie.”

“It’s just as bad,” Jason says.

Igor sits up. The first hunter has her back to him, holding Lisa’s arm, injecting a needle into her. Lisa’s eyes are shut. Igor’s eyes open wide and he shakes his head. His torso is shredded and his hands run along it, into the wounds. They’re healing. Jason can smell it, like sulfur and iron mixing together.

The professor says “I have a vaccine for the afflicteds. It’s in a clinical trial now. I can sign you up.”

“Will it cure me?”

“Absolutely.”

Igor sees Lisa and the first hunter. He moves his arms slowly toward them.

“What about your friend over there? Is he an afflicted too?”

Igor’s hands are inches from the back of the first hunter’s head.

“He’s a straight out zombie.”

The first hunter draws a pistol shotgun from her waist and turns toward Igor. She pulls the trigger. His head explodes and his body rocks for a minute then drops backwards.

“So are you in?” the professor asks and raises his rifle, aims it toward Jason.

“I don’t know,” Jason says.

The professor pulls the trigger. There’s a pain in Jason’s neck. A dart with a red tail has been impaled in it. He grabs at it but a darkness overtakes him before he can remove it.

 

###

 

When he comes to he’s laying on a bed in a room with white walls and white, closed curtains. He tries to move his arms but they’re restrained. The first hunter has her back to him. On her belt there’s a knife and the shotgun pistol. She’s at a counter, leaning over, filling out some paperwork.

“Jason,” she says, her back still to him. “I’m glad you’re awake.”

She turns toward him and pulls a stool over, clipboard in hand, and sits. “My name is Valerie,” she says. “I’m a grad student. Helping out the professor.”

“I’m an accountant,” Jason says. “Or was.” He looks up at her, feeling hope, something that he had all but given up on. “I loved it. I really did. All those numbers, the spreadsheets. Brining the balances down.” He sighs. “This vaccine, if it works.” He sighs again and rests his head back on the pillow.

She runs a hand along his forehead, palm flat, then fingertips pressing in, slightly. It feels good. Like something his wife would have done.

“I think I ate my wife,” Jason says.

“You did.”

“Will I go to jail?”

“Probably not. Should be covered under the medical amnesty bill.”

She stares at him. It makes him uncomfortable and he looks away. “This is going to work? The vaccine?”

She straitens up and her face grows serious. “There’s a chance that it will.”

“A chance?”

“I need you to sign this consent form.”

“What do you mean a chance?”

Valerie draws in a breath. “So far, eighteen percent of the subjects in the vaccine arm have shown signs of improvement.”

“Signs of improvement? What the fuck does that mean?” The smell of her brains, salty and savory, flood his nostrils. He wants to eat her eyes, both of them at once.

She brushes his hair back. “Take it easy, big fella. I just need you to sign the consent.”

“What do you mean by signs of improvement?”

She loses her smile. Her eyes grow solemn. Her hand runs along his forehead gently. “I wish it was better. I wish I could say that we had a one hundred percent cure rate. But this disease is complex.”

He feels relaxed. As relaxed as he’s felt in months. “I wish I hadn’t eaten my wife.” He closes his eyes and thinks back to the wedding ceremony, to the reception and to the dance with his mom. He wants to cry. “It’s really only eighteen percent?”

“Yes,” she says. “Now I need you to sign this consent form and then we’ll begin treatments.” She puts a pen in his right hand and slides the clipboard under it. “An X will do.”

Jason pushes the pen to the paper. “I guess there’s no alternative,” he says.

Valerie pulls the form away and leans in close to him. “There is one.” She looks up at the door then back. “There’s a camp,” she whispers, “it’s like an interment center. Out in the desert. They keep afflicteds there. They monitor them.” Again she looks at the door. “The professor doesn’t want me talking about it because he doesn’t want to lose enrollment in the study.”

“But what happens to them? At the camp?”

She moves in real close, by his ear. “They get better. It takes a while, but they heal. Then they get released.”

“I haven’t heard about it,” he whispers.

“It’s top secret. I can get you in, though.”

“Take me,” he says. “Take me.”

Valerie moves to the door, locks it, then pulls the curtains apart and slides the window open. Beyond it is the night sky, the full moon now descending. She puts her hand on her shotgun pistol. “I’m going to undo your restrains.” She nods to the window. “Meet me in fifteen minutes at sixty-three hundred Maple Street. It’s a closed up appliance shop. The door around back will be open.” She unfastens the restraints and steps back, hand gripping her pistol. “One move toward me and I’ll blast you to hell.”

Jason isn’t listening though. He’s jumped off the bed and is now through the window, landing two stories below, the tibia in his left leg snapping, piercing the skin. He grunts and holds it with one hand, feeling no pain. The only perk of being afflicted.

When he makes it to sixty-three hundred Maple the backdoor is unlocked and he enters. It’s dark but he smells Valerie immediately. A flashlight beam cuts through and motions him to the center of the floor. He expected to see a room full of old useless appliances but the place is empty.

“Over there,” she shouts. It’s a rough voice now, not at all like the sweet comfort that she exuded earlier. “Hands up. I’m going to cuff you. And if you try anything, anything at all that makes me think you want to eat me, I blow your head off.”

“I wouldn’t think of it,” he says but it’s a lie. He wants to gnaw on her flesh, to suck the marrow from her ribs. He puts his hands up and thinks Resist the temptation. You need to get better.

She cuffs him then pulls him into another room, shuts the door, and turns on the light. The brightness is overwhelming at first but he adjusts. It’s an old conference room, with a whiteboard on the wall, a coffee maker on a counter and a small table in the middle. She pushes him into a chair and stands in front of him.

“Tell me,” she says. “At this moment, do you want to eat my brains. And be honest. Your answer’s important.”

He does and he tells her as much.

“I bet you do,” she says and leans in. “I bet you want to rip my skull apart and take my lobes in your hands and nibble on them.”

His breath grows short with the thought. It’s like a college coed standing there, naked, telling him You want to fuck me, don’t you.

“What are you doing?” he says. “I just want to go to the camp.”

“You ever eat a zombie?” she asks.

“They’re disgusting. Taste like mud.”

“No brainstems?”

“Just take me to the camp.”

She sneers. “You’re right about zombies. They taste like shit. And their brainstems. Forget it. Like picking meat off a sparrow’s breast.”

Jason wants to get up. He wants to leave. She pushes him back down as he starts to move.

“But an afflicted brain?” She leans in closer. “It’s like a Tootsie Pop. That enlarged brainstem surrounded by two juicy, irresistible lobes.” She closes her eyes and smiles.

“Can we just go to the camp?”

She snaps her eyes open. “There is no camp, you dolt.”

“Then what…”

“Smell me again,” she says.

He does and this time he absorbs the scent that he had missed before. The scent of an afflicted. One that had been hidden by his assumption that she was a normal.

“That’s right,” she says and pulls out a little Dremel power saw, holds it up to the light, and turns it on. “I’ve been using the dumbass professor to get my meals. And this,” she says as she presses the blade to his skull, where she had been rubbing in the hospital, blade now cutting bone, “this is going to be my best Halloween treat ever.”

John Bartell

John Bartell is an East Coast transplant, trying to make it in Texas. He’s been published in the Manhattanville Review, Sanitarium Magazine, Flash Fiction Press and in A. Lee Martinez’s Strange Afterlives Anthology. John has served two years as the president of the DFW Writer’s Workshop and is currently working on his writing while earning his keep as a microbiologist, which is probably the most glamorous job a person could have.

Bad Candy

by M. Brandon Robbins

Martha pressed the candy bar down with her palm. Peanuts, caramel, and nougat broke through the pristine milk chocolate coating and oozed out on all sides. When she was done, the candy bar had been rendered a flat disc of confections, no longer appearing appetizing but more like it had already been eaten.

Tom walked through the kitchen and pulled a beer out of the refrigerator. He shook his head at his wife as he popped the cap off using his wedding ring in a well-practiced motion. “Seriously, Martha, I think we would have noticed if somebody tampered with the candy.”

“You can’t be too careful,” she answered. “There are sick people in this world. They do all kinds of things just because they can.”

“You know it’s much more likely that somebody injected heroin into those things, right?” He took a sip of his beer. “You could stick a hypodermic needle through the wrapper and right into the candy and nobody would notice.”

“If there were drugs in it, a kid would spit it out because it’s nasty.”

“And when they bite down into a piece of metal, they won’t make any never mind about it?”

Martha unwrapped a chocolate-coated peanut butter patty. “It’s not just razor blades. It can be thumb tacks, or anything that some psycho would stick in there.”

Billy came into the kitchen. He had taken off his costume and put on his pajamas. “Mom,” he said upon entering, “can I have some candy now, please?”

Martha smiled at her son and gestured to the plate of broken, squashed, torn-apart, and crumbled candy in front of her. “Sure, baby. Anything from here.”

The boy looked at it wrinkled his nose. “Do you have anything that isn’t all messed up?”

“Oh, don’t be silly. It will taste the same.”

Billy picked up a flat disc that had once been a chocolate bar with rice puffs. He bit into it, and finding that his Mom was right, finished it off in two more bites. He scooped up some more candy.

Tom walked over and scrubbed his son’s hair. “Okay, sport, that’s enough. Your teeth will rot out.” Billy continued munching on his candy as he went in to the living room to watch a Halloween special.

Martha unwrapped the last piece of candy and broke it apart. Satisfied that there were no foreign objects within, she added it to the pile of desecrated treats. “There,” she said. “All done.”

Tom finished off his beer and dumped the empty bottle in the trash can. “So, our little boy is safe?”

“From evil candy-tampering monsters, that is.”

Tom snatched up what was once a peanut butter cup and popped the entirety of it into his mouth. He chewed it thoughtfully. “You know, smashing it really opens up the peanut butter flavor. It melts the chocolate just a little, so it’s smooth and creamy. You might be on to something here.”

Martha rolled her eyes and swiped at her husband’s shoulder. “Thanks for the positive review. Maybe they’ll add one more star to my restaurant now.” She got up from the table and headed into the living room to join Billy on the couch. “So, what are we watching?”

“The one where the pumpkin comes to life and starts eating people.”

“Wow. Quality family entertainment.”

Tom headed to the couch to join them, but just as he was about to sit, there was a knock at the door. He answered it to find a police officer standing on the porch. “Can I help you, officer?”

“Do you have any children at home, sir?”

“I do. My son.”

“Did he go trick-or-treating tonight?”

“Yes. What’s this all about?”

“Sir, I need to speak to you.” The officer gestured for Tom to join him on the porch.

Tom nodded and stepped outside, calling for Martha to join him. When she did, the officer greeted her and took his hat off. “What’s going on?”

“We’re going around town, trying to let everyone know about what’s been going on the past couple of hours,” the officer replied. “There’s been several children and a few adults rushed to the emergency room, and there’s already been one death.” The officer sighed and tried to look anywhere but at the concerned parents. “We’re afraid there’s some contaminated candy out there. We’ve managed to test a few samples—it was the only thing linking all the cases together, the fact that kids had been trick-or-treating—and we’ve found one piece of candy that’s been laced with antifreeze.”

Martha’s jaw dropped as she took in a sharp breath. “Antifreeze? What the Hell?”

“It’s sweet,” the officer explained. “A little bit in a piece of candy will go unnoticed.”

Tom furrowed his brown in disgust. “What kind of sick person does this?”

“That’s what we’re hoping to figure out, but there’s a lot of candy to go through out there. Did you hand out any?”

Tom nodded. “I did while my wife took our son out.”

“Well, I’m afraid that there’s going to be an investigator coming by in the next couple of days to talk to you.”

“Absolutely, no problem.”

“We’re just trying to rule out suspects.”

“Understandable.”

“For now, we want to keep panic to a minimum. Everybody’s going to be scared, I know, but we don’t want this to create hysteria. We’re trying to stop as many families out on the street as we can, but as the night goes on and the older kids finish up their trick-or-treating, we can unfortunately expect even more instances to pop up. We’re trying to keep the calm while we can. Hence, the word-of-mouth approach.”

Martha crossed her arms over her chest. “What can we do?”

“Has your son eaten any candy?”

“A few pieces. Don’t worry, he won’t have any more.”

“Keep an eye on him. If he shows any signs of poisoning—vomiting, nausea, slurred speech, a headache, feelings of fatigue or grogginess, or a lack of coordination—call poison control immediately. Dial 911 if the symptoms are especially severe. You might want to also look out for rapid breathing or if he’s having trouble urinating. If he has convulsions or a rapid heartbeat, call 911 immediately. If he loses consciousness, call 911. Understand?”

Both parents nodded.

The officer replaced his hat and offered his hand to both parents in turn, who shook it with a distracted grip. “Have a pleasant evening. Give it a few days and we can test your son’s candy down at the station.”

He stepped down from the porch and to the sidewalk, heading to the next house on the block. Martha turned to Tom and shook her head. “It’s terrible, just terrible,” she said. “Who would do such a thing?”

Tom wrapped Martha in his arms. “I don’t know. But you know what’s really scary? The police may never know. I mean, if whoever did this is smart, he wouldn’t have poisoned every piece he gave out, you know? It would be too easy to trace back to him.”

“You’re right,” Martha said, her eyes downcast. “I can’t believe there’s such a sick person here.”

“Well, you never truly know somebody.” He ushered her back inside. “Come on, let’s go back inside and keep an eye on our boy.”

When they had shut the door behind them, Billy turned around to face them. “Can I have some more candy?”

Martha tried to not look too panicked as she shook her head. “Sweetie, I’m going to be honest with you. Somebody poisoned the candy here in town. Several people have gotten very sick.”

“Poisoned? Like, they’re trying to kill people? Have they killed anyone?”

Tom moved forward and put his hand on Billy’s shoulder. “Everybody’s hoping it doesn’t get too bad,” he answered. Tom looked at his wife and winked. “But, I say that’s no reason we can’t have some candy.” He turned to a small cabinet in the living room and opened it up to pull out a platter full of all kinds of candy.

“Wow!” Tom shrieked.

“It was all leftover from our trick-or-treaters. It’s perfectly safe, so help yourself.” He extended the candy to Billy, who took a handful and promptly ripped the first shining foil package open to reveal a glossy chocolate shell. He bit into it, and a marshmallow filling spilled out over his fingers. He giggled and tried to lick it off of his hand.

Tom turned to Martha and offered her the candy bowl. “So, there room in your diet for Halloween candy?”

She smirked. “It’s not a diet. It’s a way of eating.”

“Uh-huh. Diet. So, candy?”

Martha rolled her eyes. “I suppose a piece—”

“Or seven,” Tom interjected.

Martha chuckled. “Yeah, a piece or seven won’t hurt.” She plucked a bag of gummy worms from the bowl and opened them up, chomping into the first piece as she asked Tom if he was going to have any.

“Oh no,” he answered. “I ate plenty waiting for you all to come home.”

 

#

Tom woke up to the sound of Martha retching. He crept to the bathroom door and found her on her knees over the toilet, clutching the sides of it as if doing so would keep her from falling off the face of the Earth. She looked at him and he saw that her skin was a pale blue, as if she was gasping for air. Before she could say anything, she whirled back to the toilet and retched once more. This time, she vomited up a disgusting bile. It splashed into the toilet in a steady stream. When she finished she gasped for air and looked back up at her husband.

“Well,” he smirked, “this brings back college memories.”

Martha vomited once more. “Tom, what’s going on?”

“Looks like you’re very, very sick.”

“I don’t understand. I didn’t eat any of the bad candy. All I did was eat some of our candy. How can I be so sick?”

“Maybe you ate too much?”

Martha tried to stand, but slipped back down to her knees just in time to retch once more before releasing another stream of vomit into the toilet. “I only had three pieces!”

Tom smiled. “No, I’m sure you had way more than that.”

“A few pieces of candy wouldn’t make me this sick,” she whimpered. “I just don’t understand.”

Tom bent down and felt her forehead with the back of his hand. “You’re burning up,” he gasped. “Are you dizzy? Short of breath?”

Martha nodded before just barely managing to say the word “both.”

Tom stood and crossed his arms over his chest. “Sure sounds like poisoning to me!” He placed his hand to his cheek in over-exaggerated concern. “I need to check on our little Billy!”

Tom rushed out of the room and down the hallway to Billy’s room. He strolled in and asked, “Billy, are you okay?”

There was no answer.

Tom pulled the covers on the bed back. Billy lay there, staring up at the ceiling with vacant eyes. His lips were blue and his skin glowed white. Tom rubbed his forehead to find it cool to the touch; he shook his body as if to wake him, but it was rigid and showed not even an involuntary response.

Tom walked back to the bedroom he shared with Martha. He found her slumped against the wall outside of their bathroom. She whispered, “Is Billy okay?”

Tom took a deep breath and shook his head. “We don’t have to worry about how Billy is doing,” he said. A smile spread across his face. “We don’t have to worry at all.”

Martha tried to stand. She fell almost as soon as she had made it to her feet. Tom did not move to aid her. He merely stood there and watched, his arms over his chest.

Martha’s breathing grew slow and shallow. Tears gathered in her eyes as she stared at her husband. She looked up to him and tried to crawl forward, but only managed to lay prone at his feet. “Why, Tom?” Her voice was hoarse and distant. “Why?”

Still smiling at her, Tom retrieved his cell phone from the nightstand. He dialed a number, and the recipient answered after two rings. “Hi lover,” he said in greeting. “It’s done. Now we can be together.”

M. Brandon Robbins

M. Brandon Robbins lives in Goldsboro, NC. His work has been published in Trembling With Fear, Rope and Wire, and Shotgun Horror Clips. His debut novel, Mr. Haunt, is forthcoming from Dragon Soul Press.

UHOLY TRINITY: THE LAST JACK-O’-LANTERN

THE PLAN

 

“They say Old Lady Norton is a witch,” said Dale.

“I don’t believe in witches,” replied Reid. “She’s just an old lady that hates kids. More bitch than witch.”

Dale sniggered at his friend’s wit. “Yup. Bitch is right. She hates kids so much she decorates for Halloween every year, but never hands out any candy.”

“All trick, and no treat,” snorted Reid.

“This year, she’s the one that gets the trick. Halloween night, I’m going to her house and smashing every one of the jack-o’-lanterns on her porch.”

Reid held up his hand. “Trick the witch bitch. I’m in!”

END

 

EXECUTION

 

Dale and Reid hid in the bushes next door to Ms. Norton’s house. The old woman had placed thirteen jack-o’-lanterns along her front porch steps. They glowed with internal light, revealing a different face carved into each one.

When the two boys were sure no witnesses were nearby to see them, they ran onto the Norton property, wielding baseball bats like weapons.

The boys began smashing the pumpkins with glee, howling and shouting epithets at the old woman who lived inside. Reid finished the row of gourds on his side of the porch and turned to find Dale had disappeared.

END

 

 

THE LAST JACK-O’-LANTERN

 

Reid searched the porch for his friend. Dale had been right behind him only a minute ago. The proof of his presence was all over the ground. Several pumpkins had been pulped and mutilated, their remains scattered everywhere. Only one intact jack-o’-lantern remained.

“I guess all those stories about witches spooked him. The coward probably ran off,” muttered Reid. “Well, I’m not leaving until the job’s done.”

Reid raised the bat in the air and swung with everything he had.

He heard Dale’s voice screaming as the bat came down. Then, as the last pumpkin exploded, there was only silence.

END

Gary Wilbanks

G. Allen Wilbanks is a member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and has published over 60 short stories in various magazines and on-line venues. He is the author of two short story collections, and the novel, When Darkness Comes. For more information, visit www.gallenwilbanks.com, or check out his weekly blog at www.DeepDarkThoughts.com.

Night of the Dead

Moon rises fat and bright above a graveyard of tumbled crosses. Tomb slabs shudder back as the dead feel the pull of the weakening veil and scramble forth to revisit places they knew in life.

Stumbling into a town they once knew, nothing is as it was all those years before: everything has changed and garish plastic pumpkins dot the streets.

Vague thoughts inflame rotten brains and the dead roar with rage, storming homes, attacking revellers. Screams mingle with their cries and costumed kids flee streets splashed with blood.

Then, dawn approaches and the dead stumble back to their graves.

DJ Tyrer

DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree), All The Petty Myths (18th Wall), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), What Dwells Below (Sirens Call), The Mad Visions of al-Hazred (Alban Lake), and EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness (Otter Libris), and issues of Sirens Call, Hinnom Magazine, Ravenwood Quarterly, and Weirdbook, and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor).

 

DJ Tyrer’s website is at https://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/

 

The Atlantean Publishing website is at https://atlanteanpublishing.wordpress.com/

Ol’ Spooky

Waking, everything felt wrong. Where the hell was he? Last thing he remembered: Halloween Fright Farm, a pint of Ol’ Spooky in hand. Had it been spiked? Was that why he couldn’t move? No. Something chafed at his wrists, his ankles–he was bound. He craned his neck, desperate for clues. The gloomy inside of a fairground tent, light filtering through dark fabric; in some places, not at all. Letters, in reverse. Painfully, he spelt them out.

 

P-u-m-p-k-i-n  C-a-r-v-i-n-g

 

He only started screaming when the trio of orange headed monsters pushed aside the canvas flap, green vines cradling serrated knives…

Liam Hogan

Liam Hogan is an Oxford Physics graduate whose award winning short story, “Ana”, appears in Best of British Science Fiction 2016 (NewCon Press). His horror story, “Groomed”, appears in The Twisted Book of Shadows, from Haverhill House Publishing. He lives and avoids work in London. More details at http://happyendingnotguaranteed.blogspot.co.uk

Halloween Treats

“You are super mom making homemade candy for Halloween. I mean even the party food looks ghoulish. When did you find the time for all this?” Heather asked.

“Moms always find time for their children,” Olivia said, pulling a tray of treats from the refrigerator.

“Yeah but that cake looks like an actual brain. No way you did that in between laundry and picking up the kids from school.”

“Heather, sweetie, you really need to stop asking questions. Paul liked to ask questions too. Where is he now?”

“Yeah. Where…is…he…” She eyed some intestines on a baking sheet.

Andrea Allison

Andrea Allison currently resides in a small uneventful town located in Oklahoma after moving from a small uneventful town in Texas. She is an author who enjoys writing horror of all varieties and her work has appeared both online and in print.

 

You can visit her website at www.andreallison.com.

Hello Ian

You always loved this season of the witch.

After spending decades scrawling tales brimming with spooks, how could you not? A time when your obsession with the macabre was legitimate; permission finally granted to indulge in everything disturbing and dark.

Fitting then, that you left this world on that very day.

One year ago.

I cannot lie, my life without you is a lonely one.

But, if these words that I whisper work their magic, maybe, on this night, when spirits roam, I will see you once more.

Give a joyful greeting, then say your name out aloud once again.

 

Steven Holding

Steven Holding lives with his family in Northamptonshire in the UK. He currently has stories featured in TREMBLING WITH FEAR VOLUME TWO, SPLASH OF INK and the anthologies MONSTERS and BEYOND published by Black Hare Press. He is working upon further short fiction and a novel. You can follow his work at www.stevenholding.co.uk

Become a Patron!

Stuart Conover

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

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. October 31, 2019

    […] 10-31-2019 “Footage Lost, Footage Found” […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This