Trembling With Fear 01/14/2018
This week it’s all facts! Interesting actually (sorry, formatting got a bit lost in cut and paste) 🙂
As you may have read from Stuart’s Horror Tree update, the anthology is underway and I am currently formatting it up into a presentable document.
Following on from my comment about seeing a relatively equal amount of submissions from both sexes to TWF, I thought I would actually find out what the real statistics are – bear in mind I have only been an editor for six months so will have a slightly skewed perception of what has been sent in. Having compiled the anthology I have discovered the following:
Total Number of (Successful) Contributors to TWF 2017: 107
Of these 41 were women (38%) and 66 (62%) were men.
There is a slightly different picture when looking at the number of stories submitted:
Total number of stories published = 212
Of this 76 (36%) were women and 136 (64%) were men.
(As an interesting footnote to this, the number of authors using initials rather than their own first names showed an equal spread which surprised me.)
Amongst these contributors, a number submitted and were published, numerous times. The award for most successful author in this field goes to RJ Meldrum with 14 stories (7%) of the total published. Our top female was Alyson Faye with 9 stories (4%) of the total published.
Our Top Ten is as follows:
RJ Meldrum 14 stories published
Justin Boote 8
Robert Allen Lupton 8
Kevin Holton 7
Mathias Jansson 5
Stuart Conover 5
Liz Butcher 5
This was an interesting study and something I feel reflects the need for more women to submit – and to submit more often.
We’re 2 weeks into the New Year! While we don’t have an official call for darker Valentine’s Day stories for next month, if you’ve got some horrifying tales of love and loss they might get priority on what we pick! All month long! Just a head’s up.
‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.
He had not slept well. He always felt like when he laid his head down it might be for the last time. Especially after too many pain relievers. They might put him in a coma. Last night he was anxious about his alarm not going off. That he might miss his flight. There was no reason to be anxious. He had set two alarms. But at the moment he was about to drift off, eight hours ago, something snapped in him and forced him awake. He then began to be anxious about being anxious. Sleep was felled by wave after wave of panic attacks, until finally, maybe two hours ago, his body had succumbed.
And now after the second alarm went off, he felt wide awake. But he knew that, the moment he opened his mouth to speak, it would seem like the words were being projected in slow motion. People would stare at him with a mixture of confusion and pity. Why couldn’t he translate his thoughts into words?
Coffee would fix that. He poured the grounds into the basket and the water into the reservoir. He loved the smell. But he would have to put away the dishes. He hadn’t budgeted time for that. Ten minutes. Could be the difference between making and missing the flight.
He flung the dishwasher door open. The mugs, and glasses, and bowls, and plates were all arranged together, and the silverware separated by fork and knife and spoon. That made it easier to put them away. He could save maybe a couple minutes.
He pulled the long sharp knife from the top rack and, turning, slipped on some water that had spilled from the coffee basket. As he fell the knife plunged into his neck. Blood gushed out. Should he pull it out, or would that release more blood? He was alone. No one would arrive before he bled out.
His arm stretched out and, the knife pointing away from his body, he inserted the utensil into the wooden block. The wave had passed. He had done this so many times without stabbing himself. Just be slow, cautious. Don’t treat it like a cereal bowl. That made him smile.
He opened the container of raspberries. He ate one row a day. Raspberries had less sugar in them. His triglycerides were high. He could get pancreatitis. His kidneys could fail. He could get cancer. The moldy ones might poison him.
He ate a bowl of cereal. Next would be the pot of coffee. He could do nothing else, so he sat on the couch, the mug in his left hand, his phone in his right. He arranged his Facebook feed chronologically and scrolled through it. He had gotten to where he could dismiss an uninteresting post in milliseconds. Maybe a millisecond. He hadn’t timed it.
His mother had posted two nights ago that her weight was down to 103 pounds. He thought he felt his heart sink a little. It was difficult to tell. He had tried to harden himself against these feelings. He tried to remember if that was significantly lower than the last time he had seen her. He had argued with her over her diet before he left. Too many sugary sodas and candy bars. And he refused to get her fried chicken. But what was the point? She was dying. The oncologist and hospice nurse liked to constantly remind them. So let her have what she wanted. She always seemed to quickly erase the memories of their arguments. He had bent over, just before he left, asked for a kiss, and felt her soft lips on his cheek. It made him happy. Until he realized there were a finite number left. She asked him to cover her legs. Moving towards skin and bones. Black-and-white footage of concentration camps. It was boiling in the room, but she was always cold. He would have the visions until she was gone.
She had tucked him in every night until he was seven or eight. Sometimes she read stories. Her voice was gentle and hypnotic. The room seemed huge. It was an old house. He still had dreams about it. The dreams made it difficult to remember the reality. Where certain rooms were, what was in those rooms. The floors creaked. May have been the ghost of the man shot in the house. Thunder exploded outside. It would split the house in half. Shadows danced on the walls of his room. Amorphous, flickering. They could have been demons. They were waiting under his bed for him to fall asleep before they devoured him. Or a vampire would fly from its cliff dwelling and tap tap at his window. Was it a woman? He sometimes fantasized about being seduced by a vampire. The teeth stimulating something within him. He tried to creep into bed with his parents. His mother would sling him on her shoulder and haul him back to his room. Check under the bed, latch the window, pull the shutter. All clear. She kissed him and said she loved him oodles and oodles. He loved her back. She was the most beautiful woman in the world.
He had dreams that his father was still alive. He would ask, where have you been the last twenty years? Hiding, his father would say. They seemed so vivid. He always woke up wondering if he were really dead.
Sometimes he felt he was being watched. It was a group of men in a room, wearing suits, regarding him on a video monitor. He couldn’t see their faces. Usually these visions came to him during the day, not at night. It was like his whole life was an experiment. Or they were guiding him to do the right thing, or to keep him out of harm’s way. An antique wardrobe crashed on top of him when he was a toddler. He thought then he might be immortal. No longer.
He stepped into the shower. He scrubbed himself with soap. He worried it would make him itch afterwards. He massaged shampoo into his scalp. Would the chemicals make his hair fall out? He rinsed it out. He had not bought a bathtub mat. Bending over to turn off the spigot, he slipped, and his head cracked against the tiles. He was paralyzed. Maybe the maintenance guy would find his body in a few days.
He stepped out of the shower. The news from the speaker was about the crazy dictator testing another nuke. A flash. Fifty thousand people dead. More dying over the coming weeks from the fallout. More bombs dropped. More people incinerated. Masses of
people stumbling forward, the living dead, their faces melting off.
The men in suits would fix the problem. They would gather around a table in a room and work it out. They always did. Until they didn’t. And he thought he could manage his fears without therapy.
Sometimes when people were talking to him, when they started going off on a tangent and losing him, he thought about punching them in the face. He wondered if they could see him twitch as he shook it off. He would never do it. He didn’t need to talk to anyone.
If it weren’t the bomb it would be a crazy guy with a gun in a hospital, a library. A baseball field. An airport. Wherever. Panicked people running to hide in patients’ rooms, behind bookshelves, dugouts. No escaping. He would find you. Plenty of bullets. The men in the room could fix it. They wouldn’t.
He pulled his suitcase into the hall. It was probably too heavy. He would have to pay $50. Or was it $75? That was food for one day. Maybe two. He always worried about running out of money. He never did.
He stepped into the elevator and pressed the button for the lobby. He was thirty floors up. The cable holding the car to the pulley snapped. He plummeted to the ground. The impact forced the lower half of his body into the upper half.
He strode out of the elevator. He was afraid he had missed the rideshare, but it was waiting for him. The driver was friendly. Asked where he was going. To visit family. My mother’s been ill. He knew he sounded panicked and nervous. Better to say nothing. He worried when he ran out of things to say. Sorry to hear that. I’m sure God will take care of her. It was a nice thought. It didn’t give him much comfort.
They pulled onto the highway. No traffic this time of day. They should make it in ten minutes. He gazed out the window. Fatigue hung on his forehead like a shelf. The retail complexes were painted against the beautiful blue sky. A tractor trailer drifted into their lane. It struck them head on. Shards of glass ripped through his face. The truck driver had been texting.
How many trips were taken every day without an accident? What if his trip were the outlier? He had to stay alive. He couldn’t die. He couldn’t do that to his sister. His father had died in a car. He imagined his father gasping for his last breaths. What if the deaths were meant to happen in reverse order, first him, then his mother, then his grandmother, who was over ninety? He feared most losing his thoughts. Death would be the end of thought. His thoughts revolved around fear.
His bag was half a pound over. They let it slide. He tipped them. He subtracted it from what he had budgeted for the day. He had lots of cables in his carryon, for his computer, his phone, his e-reader. The security people didn’t think he was making a bomb. At least they didn’t say so. How many other bags did they scan every day stuffed with electronics?
He thought about his mother’s hair. It had grown back. Completely white. Curly. Sometimes she said she wanted to talk. But she couldn’t hear anymore. So she scanned her Facebook page. He sat and read. Or wrote stories on his computer. He walked around the streets composing them in his head, making notes in his phone. Unaware of his surroundings, a zombie. Connected but disconnected. Sometimes she groaned, in pain. They said there were only days left. He didn’t think she was ready to die. Her eyes would bulge out, and she would gulp for air like a fish on the floor of a boat.
At the gate, they were lining up to board. He was always in the C group. He wondered if he could conquer the fear. He thought about whether, as the plane started its ascent, as his heart began thumping furiously, when it leveled off, his heart now pounding, then hit a patch of turbulence and lurched, like it was going down, if the pain and the pressure would build in his chest, and then begin skipping beats, and he would start choking, and the flight attendants would run to his seat, unfasten his lap belt, yank him onto the floor, and begin pummeling his chest, but was it too late?
They were calling him to board. He was frozen. Maybe he had stood there for minutes. He had remembered that he would gain three hours on his life by flying westward. That made him happy. He didn’t think about losing time going in the other direction. He smiled. He boarded. He buckled himself into his aisle seat. The engine hummed around him. He drifted off to sleep. He would make up for the sleep he lost last night. No melatonin required. All time and space were erased. He could have been on the ground or at thirty thousand feet.
Turbulence rocked the plane. His heart began pulsating. He looked to his left. His arm was stretched across the armrest. A woman’s face was buried into it. She was biting into his arm. Red seeped from the punctures. The skin was honey-tinted. The plane jerked. It might turn upside down. Her hair was ebony, silky. The black-and-white photo of his beautiful mother at the beach, her lips so full. Pressed against his arm, drawing blood, so soft. It made him comfortable. Her head raised up. The neck extending above the seat, the eyes drawn to slits, the pupils barely visible through them. The mouth opened, sharp incisors bared. A ringed plastic tube flickered in and out of the mouth, The head and neck undulated in rhythm with the flickers. A tear trickled out of one of the slits.
They were saying something over the intercom. His eyes snapped open. Everyone was buckling in. How much time left? A text from his sister. The plane descended slowly, no, it was fast …
Matt Spangler recently relocated to New York, where he is pursuing his love of writing fiction and plays. He is new to writing horror, but his short plays have been produced in the Washington, DC, area over the last several years. His taste in horror fiction tends towards the more classic – Poe, Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, and so forth – but his aim is to push conventions more in his writing.
Guild members looked on with poorly hidden scowls. Her table was the busiest, she smirked, relishing their jealousy. Her pottery designs weren’t all that innovative, it was her colour patterns that were her secret, and really drove them mad. Swirling speckles, crystallized vibrant bursts, no one else seemed able to achieve.
Later, she dipped wares into glaze, prepping for another kiln load. A cooler sat nearby, filled with severed human limbs, waiting to be loaded amongst pottery bowls and cups. Vaporized flesh produces colours impossible to duplicate, but she doubted her guild friends would really want to know her secret.
Bess is hog slop now. Too much of a fighter, that one. When I found her, a blue-eyed-apple-cheeked dumpling working at the diner, I swore I’d marry her.
When I married her, I swore I’d treat her right.
When I treated her right, she spit on me.
When she spit one too many times, I grabbed my cleaver, kissed her goodbye, and hacked her into hog slop.
And as I filled that trough with greasy brown hunks of Bess, and a line of pretty pink pigs came squealing for supper, I realized what love truly is—just fattening and slaughtering.
Kevin M. Folliard
Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, and adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by Double Feature Magazine, Flame Tree Publishing, Parsec Ink, and more.
Standing at the window, she sipped her coffee from a black-and-white cup and stared at the snowman in her front yard. He wore a beige fedora on his head and a crimson scarf around his neck. Two polished azure stones from her shattered aquarium dotted his eyes. A pine cone nose poked from the middle of his round face. The snow continued to fall. She smiled because the snowman was missing his mouth. He could never hurt her with cruel, condescending words. Not like her husband did. But he was a snowman now, and she was free to live again.
Lionel Ray Green
Lionel Ray Green is a writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. His short stories have appeared in the anthologies “Fifty Flashes,” “How Beer Saved the World 2,” “Graveyard,” “Frightening,” “Tales from the Grave,” “In Creeps the Night,” and “22 More Quick Shivers” as well as the 2017 issue of “From the Depths.”