Trembling With Fear 10/08/2017
Guidelines. All publications, on whatever platform, have submission guidelines. They tell you how to present your work, what their content should be, what is and is not acceptable and … they give you a word count. At present TWF posts flash fiction of 1500 words and under and drabbles of exactly 100 words. Occasionally slightly longer pieces of flash get through but the word count is not that much higher than what is asked for. Unfortunately though, we have started to receive stories whose length is far greater than that which we accept and, even though the story may be good, we have to reject them because they are too long. We feel really bad when we do this because, as writers ourselves, we know what rejection feels like and these are rejections which could have been avoided. Please, when you submit, whether to TWF or any other publication, read the guidelines.
While we have a few drabble and shorts in the queue, we can always use more! Remember to submit something creative today! 😉
‘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.
“It was an amazing discovery,” said Jordan with a huge smile, showing arctic white teeth. “Finally we had indisputable proof that aliens exist and they have visited our planet.”
“Great. Just take a few steps back Jordan and we’ll get another shot of the big guy,” the director said.
Jordan complied and Hannah, finding herself standing beside Jordan, breathed in the woody scent of his expensive cologne. A strange giddiness came over her. Hannah had watched every episode of They’re Coming, the sci-fi series Jordan starred in. She kept telling herself she only had a crush on his character Max, not him. She didn’t know Jordan Riley the actor; the celebrity who lived in Hollywood and had just been nominated for an Emmy. But when she was introduced to Jordan this afternoon she almost forgot her own name. He was so ridiculously good-looking. She found herself gazing up at his smiling, bronzed face and gaping like an imbecile.
They were in a research laboratory within the Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane in Turin, Italy. The room was filled with half a dozen scientists in lab coats grinning like little kids about to open the best Christmas present ever and a documentary film crew. Never in her wildest dreams had Hannah imagined she would be part of a discovery like this. She, Hannah Kemble, forensic anthropologist and sci-fi aficionado, was going to see and touch an actual alien.
The wreckage of a spaceship was found recently in the Italian Alps and frozen inside was an alien–humanoid and about seven feet tall. The alien’s face was completely covered by a metallic helmet and his neck and arms were decorated with gold jewelry. Harriet Bloomsbury, a British Egyptologist, was the first to point out the helmet looked more like the head of a jackal than that of a dog as people initially thought, and the strange weapon found with the alien resembled Anubis’s Was Sceptre. After that, the media dubbed the alien Anubis.
Anubis had been entombed in his spaceship under tonnes of snow in the Alps for possibly thousands of years. Now he lay in a refrigerated capsule with little oxygen to replicate the high altitude environment of the Alps and thereby ensure he stayed preserved. The scientists only had a short time to examine him.
Anubis was carefully removed and placed on a long, stainless steel table. Looking at his frozen body Hannah was pleased. He appears to be in excellent condition. Hannah carefully examined the helmet. It was tapered at the bottom, therefore, clearly not designed to be pulled off. If they attempted to do so it would seriously damage the alien’s face. On one side of the helmet was a small round nub. Hannah pressed it with a gloved finger. Nothing happened.
“Try holding it down,” said Pete, the English paleontologist standing next to her.
She tried again. This time pressing it for a few seconds. The helmet retracted with amazing speed and collapsed into a slim line at the base of the neck. Pete gasped and clamped his hands over his mouth. Someone swore. The alien’s face was the stuff of nightmares. Hannah tried to appear calm, but like everyone else, she was shocked by the gaping wide mouth full of piranha-like teeth. The eyes were very small, like bats’ eyes, and the nose was merely two slits. On the side of the head were protrusions that looked like curved fish gills. Hannah couldn’t be sure if they were ears or something else.
“Wow, just incredible,” said Jordan, coming closer.
“Close-ups. I want close-ups,” called out the director.
Hannah stood aside as the tall Australian cameraman got his shots.
“Shit!” he yelled jumping back. “Its eye moved.”
A few people laughed.
“I swear it moved!” he said looking around the room wild-eyed.
The director shook his head, his mouth a grim line.
“Hey, people! Only one minute before we’ve got to put this guy back in the freezer,” said a perky biologist with a short bob and funky red framed glasses.
“I’m just going to take a tissue sample now,” Hannah told Jordan moving closer to the table.
Aware of the camera trained on her, Hannah kept the scalpel poised just above the closest arm for a moment. She cut downwards, piercing firm skin, then suddenly stopped. A groan escaped her lips as her whole body seized up. The pain of her muscles and tendons spasming took her breath away. Suddenly everyone in the room began convulsing as though they had been electrocuted. Hannah hit the floor hard. She felt the sharp blade of the scalpel slice her arm but couldn’t cry out. She was paralyzed. They all were.
What the hell happened? Why can’t I move? Hannah and Jordan lay opposite each other on either side of the table. Hannah looked at Jordan and saw his gaze roam all over the room like he was following an erratic fly then settle on her. They stared into one another’s eyes like locked-in patients who had no idea how to communicate.
Hannah wondered if Jordan’s face was going to be the last thing she ever saw. She remembered the scene in They’re Coming where Max was lying in a clover field with his girlfriend Rosie and they reach out for each other’s hands just before the world as they knew it ended. Now here she was lying on the laboratory floor with him in the very same poses, but they couldn’t reach out for each other and there was nothing romantic about this. Blood trickled down her arm, warm and syrupy. It seeped into her lab coat and the t-shirt underneath. The sodden fabric stuck to her stomach.
Hannah could see Anubis’s right arm and a bit of his leg from where she lay. As she stared at him two of his fingers twitched. Oh my God. He’s defrosting. Did he do this to us? Her heart thumped in her chest like a desperate creature seeking escape. Her fear was so overwhelming it eclipsed the pain of the knife wound.
According to the primitive part of Hannah’s brain, it was fight or flight time but her body couldn’t cooperate. Her mouth felt tight and dry, and her breath came out in short puffs. Adrenaline was coursing through her bloodstream, but she was as helpless as a beetle lying on its back. She was desperate to open the door and run screaming, not stopping for anything. But the only things going fast were her thoughts, ricocheting like bullets.
Yesterday someone left a newspaper behind on one of the tables in the hotel’s breakfast room. Seeing it was in English Hannah swooped down on the newspaper like a seagull spying a chip and read it while she ate her toast. She remembered in one article Harriet Bloomsbury was quoted saying Anubis’s Was Scepter represented rebirth and the resurrection from death. Hannah would have laughed if she could. We’d been warned. We’d been warned and we didn’t realize.
The top floor of the building had been cleared because of filming, and everyone in the institute had been directed to stay away from that floor. No one was likely to find them anytime soon. Hannah was an anthropologist with medical training, not a biologist, but she knew that after hibernation there was only one thing animals wanted to do and that was eat. Anubis had been hibernating a very long time; he was bound to be ravenous.
The loss of so much blood left Hannah feeling dizzy, and her face had turned pale. She didn’t pray; she wasn’t religious. Hannah just desperately hoped that someone would find them. Come to the laboratory. Please. Someone come to the laboratory. It seemed like an hour had gone by to Hannah, but only ten minutes had passed when she heard footsteps.
A bowlegged Italian lady in her sixties with a bucket full of cleaning products in one hand and a cleaning cloth in the other stopped in front of the laboratory door. The heavy door had a small glass square in it. Maria was only 152cm tall, so she stood on her tiptoes and lifted her chin as high as she could to peer into the room. At first she thought the room was empty then she noticed Anubis on the table. To Maria, he was just a mummy. She pulled a face and swiftly crossed herself. Working as a cleaner at the Institute for five years, Maria was used to strange sights but mummies always gave her the creeps. Taking a step back, she read the sign on the door that said in English and Italian, “Filming underway – DO NOT DISTURB.” Relieved, Maria decided to start her cleaning on the floor below.
Wait! Come back! Hannah listened hard but she heard no more footsteps. Minutes passed and still, no one moved; they remained jumbled on the floor like discarded mannequins. Hannah stared into Jordan’s eyes once more as the silence was broken by the jarring sound of fingernails scraping against metal.
Diana Grove holds a BA (Hons) in Anthropology and Graduate Certificate in Writing, and lives in Perth, Australia. She has a penchant for stories that are dark and bizarre. Her story Robot Lover appears in the anthology Freak Pure Slush Vol. 13.
Billy Woods was tired but he couldn’t fall asleep because of the monster under his bed. He curled up under his favorite Batman blanket, dark eyes open as he watched for signs of encroachment.
He yawned, left arm slipping over the edge of the mattress, fingers dangling into the abyss. When he heard a dragging noise as the monster began to unfold and creep up on the limb, the ends of Billy’s mouth curled upwards in a cruel approximation of a smile. The monster below had taken the bait.
Sometimes the monster on top of the bed was far scarier.
Guy Anthony De Marco
The Ouija board lay forgotten in the dusty basement. I knew it was there; it beckoned me in the depths of night. My parents didn’t believe me when I told them; said God would punish my lies. When they sojourned to Dorset, I stayed home.
“No guests overnight, no imbibing spirits, no parties, okay?”
Down the dark steps I stumbled, following the summons I’d heard all my life.
“Finally we are alone,”
When the candle flickered and died, I broke every rule.
W-I-L-L Y-O-U L-E-T M-E E-N-T-E-R Y-O-U A-N-D S-T-A-Y A W-H-I-L-E? W-E
C-A-N R-U-L-E T-H-E W-O-R-L-D!
They will tell you about the calming sound of the ocean, or how the coastal wind waltzes with the waves and feels cool but not cold. They won’t tell you though about the fetid, curdled sea foam, the scent given off from the dying, stranded algae.
The seaweed was thick that morning, lumped especially high in one spot, a six-foot-long crescent of red and green sludge. Nicky could see that, but it was the smell that bothered her. Her husband grimaced as he saw her nose contort and scrunch up into a tight stub.
He should’ve buried that body instead.
Matthieu Cartron is a French American student at the University of New Mexico. His work has appeared in Trembling With Fear and 365 Tomorrows. He is in his sophomore year of college and writes for the New Mexico Daily Lobo.