Sixteenth Issue! Vile Monsters
Welcome to the sixteenth issue of the Flame Tree Fiction NEWSLETTER! This month there were so many great stories submitted for the Cozy Mystery and Horror flash fiction and we hope you enjoy reading our two favourites here! We're sorry that we couldn't pick all of them but thank you so much to all of you who took part. The themes for last month were Vile Villages and Snow Monsters!
This month's newsletter features:
- Original Cozy Mystery Flash Fiction: The Evil Inside by Dan McKeithan
- Original Horror Flash Fiction: Frozen by DJ Tyrer
- FLAME TREE PRESS - January Releases
- Science Fiction Announcement
Original Cozy Mystery Story
The Evil Inside
Lucas was dead. That is the most important fact of the story. Without it there is no story and without the story—no one is to blame for what happened in the River’s Edge Community that Christmas Eve. In all, before the week was out, the death of Lucas would result in the burning of the town. For all evil must be cleansed.
Lucas was a miser. He lived alone and worked alone. No one wanted to talk to him or about him. Even the simple act of a good morning to him would result in a curse word.
Lucas had no family or pets and he was the most hated man in the small community. He was also the richest. So, when Jacob found him lying on the floor of his office, a knife plunged into his heart, he immediately called for the police. That is, as soon as he searched the room for anything of value that could be sold. Of which there wasn’t anything.
Davenport, the local deputy, arrived and watched the body while they waited on the crime scene techs to arrive. Davenport searched Lucas’ pockets and wallet. Nothing of value in there either.
Marsha, the crime tech, arrived and searched the office for clues. No fingerprints on the handle of the blade, which meant premeditation. Marsha offered to search Lucas’ house for clues also. She found nothing of value there but took the bed sheets to sell to the thrift store.
Eddy, the baker, brought a pie—for mourning—to the closest thing Lucas had to a family—his neighbors. The neighbors—the Smythes—were clinking glasses and having a toast. They were celebrating the death. Eddy thought this odd enough to mention to Alice the blacksmith’s daughter.
Alice took a newspaper to the Smythes—who were still laughing and giggling. They were acting strange indeed. She delivered a paper to the Newtons and the Crosshatches—both of which wanted to know more about the Smythes.
The Smythes house was the first to catch fire. It went up fast and quick. No one could’ve lived through something that horrific. Theodore—the fire chief—told Lucky—the barber that somehow all their windows and doors had been boarded up. There was no way anyone could’ve escaped the fire.
Lucky told Mable—the door to door saleswoman—that he’d noticed that Theodore seemed pretty smug, and he paid with a crisp new twenty. Also, he was heading off to see Jacob Newton about some issues.
Mable mentioned to Epley—the priest—in confession—that she’d seen Jacob Newton hanging out in the bar with Lucas the day before he found his body. Jacob—a newly appointed lawyer for Lucas—toasted with him and Lucas smiled. The first time she’d noticed him smile or hang out with someone in public.
Epley told Glenda—his on-again, off-again girlfriend—that someone in confession told him that Eric Smythe was sitting in the back booth of the bar, asleep. But how could anyone sleep with all the commotion in a bar?
That night both Jacob and Theodore’s houses were burned to the ground, both were trapped inside their homes.
William—the self-appointed mayor—called for a meeting of the remaining families at the center of the town. No one showed. Not even Davenport. He had stopped investigating any crimes.
Arnold—the mortician—who seemed to have an uptick in cremations—told his assistant Glenda that Davenport was looking at cruise boats. He expected to come into some money soon and was ready to blow this village.
William appointed himself to investigate the fires. After a search of both Jacob’s and Theodore’s properties, he concluded the fires were an accident. He was going to step down as mayor and leave the village soon.
The next night William’s and Davenport’s houses were burned.
The village had a mass exodus. Everyone suspected everyone. No one trusted anyone. And everyone knew at least one other person that had an idea as to where Lucas’ money was hidden.
By the end of the week the few remaining people in the town met at the door of Arnold. His was the only booming business. He was the only one with the knowledge of who knew what and he was the only person present at all the scenes.
His funeral parlor was ransacked. Inside the workshop accelerants were found. Inside his crematorium clothes from many of the victims of the fires were found. Items that should have burned. In his desk the last will and testament of Lucas was found. The order of the beneficiaries was in the same order as the fires.
The village was gone. It was destroyed. The people moved out and away and had to live with the knowledge that gossip does nothing except burn the soul.
Dan Mckeithan completed his MFA in Creative Fiction from UC-Riverside in 2016, all while fighting off cancer. Prior to that he attended UCLA in Professional Screenwriting in 2002. Now his day job is running two nursing homes in North Carolina and when he’s not at home or off in Russia with his family he tries to get a little writing done. He is also a member of the Horror Writers Association and enjoys reading any type of horror stories.
Original Horror Story
“Help me. Help me.” I could see no-one through the blur of my vision, but there had to be someone, somewhere nearby.
Blood hung from my chin and my fingertips like pink icicles as I struggled through the hip-deep snow. My leg muscles were burning as I attempted to force my limbs through the packed drifts. Every lungful of air was like inhaling acid. I could hardly breathe. I could hardly think.
The snow had come out of nowhere. Icy drizzle, the weather forecast had said, maybe rain. Not a mention of snow.
We were on the motorway when the first flurry blew across before us. Linda had squealed in delight, pointing out the window in excitement.
Another flurry came, heavier, thicker, difficult to see through. Linda was excited, but Janice grimaced and said, “Just what we need.”
There was a service station ahead of us; she wanted me to turn off, like other cars were doing, but I wanted to get to my parents’ before it became really heavy.
I should’ve listened to Janice. Or, maybe it wouldn’t have made any difference. I don’t know.
There were fewer cars on the motorway – I guess other drivers had more sense than me – and, it was growing more and more difficult to see them through the thickening snow.
Slowing the car, we crawled along until, sunk in a drift, it just refused to go any further, wheels churning uselessly in the deep snow.
“Well, we’re stuck,” Janice said. “I told you to turn off and wait.”
As if to kick me when I was down, the electrics chose that moment to die. It seemed like bad luck, but now I think it was more than that.
We sat there shivering, snow piling up on the bonnet and Linda began to sob. I think she sensed something before we did. All I was aware of was the growing cold.
“Something’s wrong,” said Janice, hugging herself.
I still couldn’t sense it, tried to laugh it off like a fool.
Snow began to pour into the interior of the car through the air vents.
Janice shrieked and I tried to close the nearest vent, only to yank my hand back in pain, as if I’d been stung.
“Get out! Get out!”
I didn’t know what was happening and couldn’t think clearly.
The door didn’t want to open, the snow was high against it, but I managed to force it, reached round and dragged my daughter out after me. Janice managed to get her door open, too, and slither out.
She was screaming; Linda, also. I might have been, as well, or swearing. I just remember falling back on the snow with Linda atop of me.
Pushing her off of me, I stood, only to double up in pain as if something jagged had struck me in the eye.
I rubbed at it. There was blood on my hand. I couldn’t see too well.
Around us, snow whipped up from the ground and swirled around us as if thrown up onto a breeze. It whirled about us and I heard my wife’s and daughter’s screams transform into ones of pain.
I grabbed for Linda, but couldn’t reach her, just felt a momentary warm splash upon my hand that transformed to ice. I couldn’t see Janice on the other side of the car.
Then, they both fell silent and the snow dropped. There was a mound where my daughter had been. There was a pinkish hint to the snow.
I turned away, howling, and felt my other eye sting with pain and found everything reduced to a blur as I felt viscous tears run down my cheeks.
Holding my hands before me, I could see the red stain of blood on them through the icy mist of cataracts, drips elongating at my fingertips into claw-like icicles.
I knew they were dead.
Why wasn’t I?
I could feel the chill moving into me.
I had to get away, moving as fast as I could through the deep snow. It felt as if ice were running through my veins. My guts felt as if they were frozen. The only warmth I felt was the burning pain in my limbs and even that was fading. I was growing numb.
It felt almost as if my mind was detached from my body, floating along in its wake in a fog of confusion. I tried to focus, knowing otherwise I’d be lost altogether.
“Help me. Help me.” There had to be somebody, somewhere nearby. There were other cars on the road, I knew there were.
Then, flashing lights appeared, like distant jewels shining through the haze. Help.
“Here,” I called, waving, or thinking I was waving; I don’t know if my limbs were obeying me anymore.
Voices, sounds of movement through the snow, as if far away.
I could see them, now, dark blurs against the white, coming towards me.
They stopped and I opened my mouth to implore them, but no words came out. I thought I was vomiting, but it was something else: An icy tide roaring out of me.
There were screams. Then, they fell silent and I could hear and see nothing more.
I kept moving, fighting against the cold.
My body felt so far away. So, so far away.
It was inside of me. Inside of me like a coiled snake ready to strike.
I kept going.
And, then, you found me.
You have to help me. Help yourselves.
It was in the snow, you see.
Now, it’s in me.
I can feel it coming.
The cold. I…
DJ Tyrer is the person behind Southend-on-Sea small-press Atlantean Publishing, based not far from the town’s famous pier, and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), and EOM:Equal Opportunity Madness (Otter Libris), and issues of Sirens Call, ParABnormal, and Weirdbook, and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor) and a comic horror e-novelette, A Trip to the Middle of the World, available from Alban Lake through Infinite Realms Bookstore. DJ Tyrer's website is: https://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/
FLAME TREE PRESS | January Releases
We are so excited to be announcing the release of two FLAME TREE PRESS titles! The first is a new to FLAME TREE horror called We are Monsters by Brian Kirk, it's set in a creepy mental asylum and a troubled psychiatrist begins illegally testing on his criminally insane patients which triggers a series of side effects! The second is a perfect winter read entitled Snowball by Gregory Bastianelli; A group of motorists become stranded on a lonely stretch of highway during a Christmas Eve blizzard and have to fight for survival against an unnatural force in the storm, they end up stranded in a house in the woods where a twisted toymaker with a mystical snow globe is hell bent on playing deadly games! You can order these now if they sound like your cup of tea.
Science Fiction Announcement
We're delighted to announce that Flame Tree has just signed a partnership with Joe Stech's Compelling Science Fiction Magazine to ensure its continued publication.
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