Trembling With Fear 10/15/2017
Patience is a virtue so they say. But it’s tough when you’re waiting for a response to a submission. Do you get in touch with the editor or not? Do you, don’t you, do you, don’t you? Then suddenly you get an email, a yes and everything’s moving and … things suddenly go horribly quiet. That little voice starts to whisper in your ear, get in touch, withdraw your submission and again it’s do you, don’t you, do you, don’t you? Another email out of the blue, things are still on, just a slight delay, you are free to withdraw if you wish but we’d love you to continue … so you hang on. Silence again. By this time months, and in a few cases, a year or two has passed and you’ve almost forgotten about it when suddenly there’s a publication date, a contributor copy and somehow it’s all become real—at last.
The point of this? Writing is a long game and can be especially so when you are working with small presses but I would urge everyone to stick with them. These presses are often manned by only a handful of people or even just one person. They work the same sort of day jobs as everyone else, they have families and face the same time demands as us all. And yet they fit us in. They give writers a home for their work, perhaps the launch pad to bigger things. This is something I’ve always understood and appreciated. So I’ve learned to be patient, to hang on in and wait for things to come good. And that time waiting? It’s never wasted. Just fill it with more writing.
You’re Just His Type
On a break, the second day of his murder/rape trial, he notices you. Conferring with counsel, his over-the-shoulder peek into the gallery seeking friendly faces travels, lands far too long on yours. In your seat five safe rows away, his hard stare makes you shiver.
You do not know this hulking, bristly-faced rapist, jilted stabber of an ex-girlfriend. His case you choose at random, a court reporting course requirement: observe a week-long trial. “I’d choose a murder,” your professor had suggested. “Most likely to be lengthy and engaging.” You chose your murder straight from the front page of the News Journal, Law & Order style.
It’s close to lunch, when it first happens. An entire morning devoted to the graphic, blood-spattered testimony of the brutal rape and murder of Jenna Wollack, 25. You look at poster-sized photographs of 19-stab wounds inflicted on the victim on the concrete outside her apartment at 4:00 in the afternoon. This is when he looks at you, on this pre-lunch break — now that you’ve been acquainted with his handiwork. When he looks, his lips rub against each other in contemplation, and then the corners turn up.
The lawyer’s eyes dart from the legal pad to his client. Noticing the contact, he scowls and nods towards the bench directing his client’s eyes away. Released from his stare, your eyes drop to the floor, and you finally take a breath.
On the third day, you hear testimony from Jenna Wollack’s male neighbor describing “female shrieks so shrill they penetrated my walls and my maxed-out Manson.” He explains his decision both to race to open his door and then slam it shut as he saw the defendant, “20 feet away, soaked in blood, on top of Jenna still stabbing.”
“She wasn’t moving anymore. You see how big he is. He stopped and turned, was looking right at me. If I’d had a gun or something, but I – I just – I slammed my door and called the police.”
Judgy whispers of spectators in the gallery surround you as he leaves the stand, but you do not judge this witness. In this courtroom, surrounded by armed officers, he held you still with his eyes. You understand.
After lunch, before the jury comes in, he’s brought into the courtroom. As he stands there being unshackeled, he scans for faces, finds yours and freezes. Then his head tilts towards you, a playful nod. You look around you for any other possible targets, but none exist. As they turn him around to put him in his chair, you see a flirtatious smile.
The fourth day, his mother testifies about his fall, at two years old, from a kitchen counter. He’d landed on his head. After lunch, an expert medical witness testifies the fall severely damaged his prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that governs impulse control.
The judge calls for a 15-minute recess. It’s been a long time since a break. Most of the audience scurries out to hunt for bathrooms, water. You require no such relief, sit and process what you’ve just heard. The defendant’s lawyers are arguing in animated whispers behind their legal pads next to him when he turns toward you again. Then his lips move, and you realize he’s forming a word. It looks, to you, like “hi.”
Grabbing your purse from the bench at your side, you race from the courtroom and the building. A monster has chosen you. You’ve heard the symptoms of his disease and seen photographic evidence of its fatal consequence. You can no longer sit and pretend you aren’t aware.
Outside, requiring a drink, you wander a few blocks towards your favorite bar. It’s only 3:45. They won’t open until 5:00, but you’re a cute, young regular, and your ex-boyfriend works there. You know they get there early to deal with the liquor deliveries. Someone will let you in; you know it.
When you look in the window, you see him, Peter, your ex, unloading liquor at the bar. You knock on the window. He smiles and blinks perpetually wounded brown eyes you crafted with carelessness at a party with a boy and some coke in a bedroom. He lets you in, though, as you know he would, even hugs you before he pours your favorite red wine you don’t even have to request.
“You look pretty terrified. What’s up?”
You tell him about school and the trial and the murderer’s eyes all over you all the way to the “hi.” He listens to your monologue, wide-eyed and attentive. Then bizarrely he laughs.
“Roger Farish, you went to his trial?”
“Yes?” His amusement irks you.
“He was a dishwasher at Rainbows, big-ass, creepy motherfucker. Called you Wednesday Addams.”
It’s not Rainbows that confuses you. You remember the restaurant where Peter worked as a waiter while you were dating. Sometimes you even ate there by yourself, to be close to him while he worked. You never saw this Roger Farish though apparently he saw you.
“Almost fought that dude one day. Walked into the kitchen, him ranting about exactly what he wanted to do to Wednesday Addams. Good thing I didn’t, though, right?”
He’s smiling, but you’re not.
“You never thought to warn me about this, Peter, a psychopath talking about me like this? I just spent a week at his murder trial.”
Peter drops the smile.
“Oh, right, because you told me everything then, Jill. You kept no secrets.”
You stand up to leave. You thought the wound you’d inflicted on this boy might one day heal, but now you’re sure it never will. Walking out of the bar, you hear his angry truth.
“Of course, he would like you, Jill. You’re just his type.”
You don’t look back and won’t ever talk to Peter again. You’ll go to Roger’s trial tomorrow. It’s personal now. You need to know how it ends.
Kristin Garth writes a lot of dark stuff, some of it stories, a lot of it sonnets. You can read her prose and poetry in SCAB, Infernal Ink, Anti-Heroin Chic, Quail Bell Magazine, Mookychick, Digging through the Fat, Fourth & Sycamore, Mystic Blue Review, Speculative 66 and many other publications.
You can follow her work on kristingarth.wordpress.com.
It’s in the basement.
It won’t leave me be. I can hear it at all hours, moaning in the day and wailing at night. It’s driving me crazy, scratching its fingers against the old trap-door in the kitchen floor, wanting to get out and take my life. I hate it. It scares me and I hate it.
It’s scratching again, begging me to let it out.
I work up my courage and stomp on the door, shouting “Shut up! Just shut up!”
My son goes quiet again, at least for a while.
But it’ll keep on trying to get out . . .
Patrick Winters is a graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. He has been published in the likes of Sanitarium Magazine, The Sirens Call, Trysts of Fate, and other such titles.
You can learn more about Patrick at his homepage.
My life would be peaceful if I removed one person from it.
The one who whispers sinister words in my ear everyday.
The one whose dark eyes sparkle as tears fall from mine.
The one that keeps me in good supply of bruises to coat my body.
The one who isolates me, forcing me to tell my loved ones to never come again someday.
The one no one believes exists.
His long bony fingers curl to rest over mine as I raise the gun to my head. Just remove one person. One shot and the devil welcomes a new monster.
The castle sat on a high ridge. It was a cursed place. The villagers stormed the fortress, intent on finding the creature that dwelled within. They found the coffin. A man rose from the silk interior.
“You have come for me. In these modern times, with war, disease, famine, climate change and drought, you seek to destroy the smallest evil, yet you ignore the problems that will destroy your world.”
The villager in front, ripped open his shirt to expose his throat.
“Master, that is why we are here. Make us immortal, save us from the end of the world.”
R. J. Meldrum
R. J. Meldrum is an author and academic. Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010 with his wife Sally. His interest in the supernatural is a lifetime obsession and when he isn’t writing ghost stories, he’s busy scouring the shelves of antique book-sellers to increase his collection of rare and vintage supernatural books. During the winter months, he trains and races his own team of sled dogs.
You can find out more about RJ at his homepage.