Ageism. Does it exist in the writing industry? I’m only considering the issue (again) now because I had an uplifting moment last week when I received a story from an 80-year-old author. Prior to that I had been seeing nothing but ‘young’ pictures of writers online. Anyone who is anyone making their name, especially female, it appears, is someone at least half my age (and yes, I know, everybody looks young as you get older, the scariest being the doctors!). They all look ‘on trend’, go-getting, on the way UP. Me? I’ve got lines and wrinkles and quite a lot of me is beginning to sag these days (hence the trips to the gym – I will not go quietly into that good night!). It makes you feel a little as if you don’t belong. And I think this is a creeping danger that needs to be stopped.
I have read quite a few tweets etc online where organisations, competitions and the like are trying to promote and support new writers, the next generation of writers and so on. All laudible, however the implication, and sometimes not implicit, but explicitly stated, is that that the new writers are all young. Writers however, do not all start at the same point in their careers. Some don’t write in their childhood, or their 20s or 30s, some might not even write until much later. These older writers are still ‘new’ however and should be allowed the same support and promotion as those who are much younger. If you are going to support ‘new’ writers it has to be age blind.
Over to Trembling With Fear which leads this week with A Jarful of Teeth by McKenzie Staley is a cautionary tale of what you could find in an abandoned house. Is it abandoned? Is it haunted? Or has the previous occupant, imprisoned for murder, been released and returned? The build of tension, the references to Kiren’s own, not quite perfect life, keeps the reader from guessing the outcome too soon. Including objects from a more innocent time also adds a poignant touch. A jar of baby teeth says a lot without having to explain anything. A clever use of an object to show, not tell.
Premiere Day by Jacek Wilkos is a warning. Be careful when accepting a freebie – but it is also a novel way of appearing on screen. It was nice to move away from the usual settings of bedrooms and kitchens and woods to somewhere different. This writer is in Poland and I hope we see more submissions from those in Eastern Europe.
Traces by Alyson Faye is a mini gothic masterpiece. She makes full use of the tools of the poet’s trade to create a dark, brooding image of a neglected graveyard, a ‘giant’s maw’ of teeth, ‘the broken, the chipped, the lost and the untended’ eating up its environment.
Eyes Open by Stacey Jaine MacIntosh is a first person piece which I would actually consider reading to some of the students I work with. When they regale me with their tales of free-running and parkor I cringe. They look up to a certain You Tuber by the name of Ally Law, a peer of my son’s, and someone who I worked with briefly in junior school and saw around senior school for a little while. If you see what he gets up to online I think you’ll agree this story might be how it all ends.
(Not quite over the hill yet and I still have all my own teeth so I won’t end up in Alyson Faye’s graveyard just yet!)
Good news! I think we’ve got the new set of contracts figured out. Those of you who have been waiting for them should ideally be getting them starting in the coming week (unless testing fails or we find a glaring hole in them which needs to be addressed!)
I did add borders around the drabble below which weren’t previously included. Please let me know if you feel this looks good and is something we should continue doing in future installments of Trembling With Fear!
Outside of this, I’ve been massivey behind this week so no real updates on the site or TWF here. More to come soon! I hope 😉
A Jar Of Baby Teeth
The smell of rotten wood reaches its arms out to me. If I breathe through my nose it burns my sinuses, if I breathe through my mouth, the taste makes me gag.
“It’s not safe, Kiren,” Momma used to say. “Better to stay home.”
Not like my father passed away on the kitchen floor, when Momma’s screams were heard down the line of identical houses.
I find a broken window at the side of the house. Glass shards crunch underneath my boots as I approach. I roll my sleeves over my palms and hoist myself through.
Inside is far darker than the summer day outside. Dirt and dust float around the air and fills my lungs. I cough into my elbow.
I enter through a dingy kitchen. The doorway leads to a long, dark hallway. I can hardly see the floorboards ahead.
I slow down my steps and pause at pictures hung on the wall. One shows a dark skinned woman and her two kids. Their smiles so large that it can’t be real.
Momma’s rants about the abandoned house at the end of the meadow, right before the woods forever engrained in my mind.
“What are you doing in my house?”
I gasp and stumble away from the picture. A woman stands farther down the hallway. She’s the daughter from the picture. Much older, getting close to her last years at least. How did she get here?
“Have you seen my dad?” the woman interrupts. “I can’t find him.” She hobbles towards me. Eyes glazed over, irises moving rapidly from left to right.
I take several steps back. “I—I don’t know.” Ahead, the front door is boarded shut. I turn and take off to the kitchen. Not sure why my blood pulses through my veins with a burning heat. My fourteen-year-old body can take a woman of her age.
The woman appears ahead. Her white hair sticks out at all angles as she peers down at me.
“I don’t know,” I say, “but… I’ll help you.”
The woman cocks her head. “You will?”
I nod. “Yeah, just tell me what to do.”
The woman shakes her head. “You can’t do anything. I’ve already done enough, just need to finish…” She paces between the entryway of the kitchen and the wall. “I have to find him.”
“What happened to your family?” I ask.
The woman waves her hand my way. “They’re dead. He just got away.”
The inside of my throat swells. My pulse throbs against my temple. “What’s your name?”
The woman still stands in the way of my exit. Her hand shakes as she brushes a stray hair from her eyes. “Charlotte.”
I incline my head. Momma’s rants finally start to become useful. Charlotte Brandish, a seventeen-year-old killer. Her father survived, escaping through her own bedroom window.
“Where’s your bedroom, Charlotte?”
“Down the hall.”
“I’ll look for him there,” I say.
“Good idea!” Charlotte calls behind me.
Pink paint covers the bedroom walls. Its faded from time. The bed, neatly made with a wooden box at the foot. Wood splinters off of it. Hinges creak as I lift the lid.
Inside lays a jar of baby teeth, a class ring, and a pearl necklace. Dried out art supplies fill the rest of the space.
I run a finger over a paintbrush. Its bristles prick my skin. These things kept her in her room and away from the memories that refused to move on.
“Don’t touch that!”
I jump, the box falls from my hands and smashes at my feet.
Charlotte screams. She falls to her knees and hugs the pile onto her lap. Her bones creak and pop.
I stand still, even my trembling knees pause.
Charlotte’s back stiffens. She glares up at me, tears stream down her cheeks. “What did you do?” She pulls herself up, and the box’s contents clatter to the floor.
She shoves my shoulders. I wave my arms out to catch myself. My wrist hits the bedside table hard. I wince and yank myself away from her.
Charlotte screams and charges.
I scream right back as I throw myself out her bedroom window. I continue to scream through the meadow all the way to my back porch.
As I climb my porch steps Charlotte’s cries still reach me. I slam my back door.
I lean against the window and stare out at the abandoned house. It stares back at me.
McKenzie Staley runs a Youtube Channel for writing under the name McKenzie Staley. She is also a part of Ghost Author’s writing team.
McKenzie is from Pinedale, Wyoming and is currently enrolled in Full Sail University’s Creative Writing for Entertainment BFA program.
Keep your eyes open. Look straight ahead. Don’t look down. It was sound advice. I should not ignore it. A litany, repeating itself. I clung to it, until it lost all meaning.
If I looked down, I would fall. I knew that, but still it didn’t stop my eyes from roaming to that one spot on the ground. I had to get it together. Just a little bit further and I’d be back on solid ground. I couldn’t wait.
Climbing the tower hadn’t been one of my best ideas. Losing my footing, I slipped and with eyes wide; I fell.
Stacey Jaine McIntosh
Stacey Jaine McIntosh was born in Perth, Western Australia where she still resides with her husband and their four children.
Although her first love has always been writing, she once toyed with being a Cartographer and subsequently holds a Diploma in Spatial Information Services.
In 2011, she had her first short story Freya published in an anthology, twelve more have followed. The latest story, Morrighan, is available to purchase among all good booksellers.
Stacey is also the author of a self-published novel Solstice, and she is currently working on several other novels simultaneously
When not with her family or writing, she enjoys reading, photography, genealogy, history, Arthurian myths and witchcraft.
You can find her here:
The screening room was full. Sitting comfortably in their chairs, people were waiting impatiently for the mysterious film to start. They had all found strange movie tickets in their mailboxes, showing only the date and place – an old abandoned warehouse.
When the lights went out, the audience were surprised to see themselves appear on the screen. They waited, wondering what would happen next. Suddenly, a steel cable appeared, was stretched across the room and released. It sprang at them with great speed, decapitating them all.
Their brains recording those last images, the audience watched their death on the silver screen.
Jacek Wilkos is an engineer from Poland. He lives with his wife and daughter in a beautiful city of Cracow. He is addicted to buying books, he loves coffee, dark ambient music and riding his bike. He writes mostly horror drabbles. His fiction in Polish can be read on Szortal, Niedobre literki, Horror Online. In English his work was published in Drablr, Rune Bear, Sirens Call eZine.
You can find him at https://www.facebook.com/Jacek.W.Wilkos/
consumed by nature,
arrayed with gravestone teeth –
a giant’s maw filled with
the broken, the chipped, the lost
and the untended.
The stones chew the frothing summer grass,
reign proud over winter’s barren dirt.
Beneath – bones shifting, settling, decaying
whilst dead voices linger,
captured pre dawn
in the greying granite walls
glittering with grief.
Heard only by the corvids
garnishing the trees branches
in their black tattered cloaks.
a cacophonous choir,
the whispering of wraiths;
those lingering souls who suck up
the chilly silence –
a banquet for eternity.
Requiescat in Pace.
Alyson lives in West Yorkshire with her husband, teen son and 4 rescue animals. She has been a teacher, a carer, a road safety instructor and a lifetime film buff. Currently she teaches creative writing workshops and writes dark fiction, both short (flash) and long. Her short stories have appeared in print in the anthologies, Women in Horror Annual 2, Stories from Stone, DeadCades:The Infernal Decimation, Coffin Bell Journal 1 and Crackers. Her debut flash fiction collection, Badlands, was published in January 2018 by indie publisher, Chapel Town Books and her own Trio of Terror – Supernatural Tales (all set in Yorkshire) came out in December 2018. Her flash fiction has appeared in several charity anthologies and can be heard on several podcasts. Her fiction has won, or been shortlisted in several competitions.
Her latest horror story is out as an ebook from Demain publishing, on amazon, Night of the Rider.
Her blog is at www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com.
Her amazon author is at https://www.amazon.co.uk/l/B01NBYSLRT and she’s on twitter as @AlysonFaye2.