Trembling With Fear 01/09/2022
Welcome back to Trembling with Fear, our online flash zine. Many thanks to those who have submitted stories to TWF – remember we can always do with more drabbles as we eat them up at a rate of 3 a week!
I would like at this point to politely remind folk to check our submission guidelines for appropriate word lengths and a reminder that we do not accept work in the body of an email. We have a process which progresses stories from initial reading to acceptance or rejection and which relies on the use of easily movable – and editable – documents; we cannot do this with emails. At present, I have copied and pasted such submitted stories to new documents but this does add to the workload. I have not automatically rejected such submissions – yet! Please help me avoid a breakdown and submit stories as a .doc or .docx attachment and not .pdf. If you do not have Word you can use google docs as an alternative. Thank you! 😊
The first story in Trembling with Fear this week is Hunger Pangs by Cecilia Kennedy. A strong, and grim, tale of pregnancy and cravings. I particularly enjoyed the ending paragraph which loops back to provide a distorted reflection of the first. The tragedy that transpires, whilst horrible, is something we know happens in the wild, and a reminder that basically humans are still animals.
Having currently run short of drabbles, we are publishing a three-from-one this week. Richard Meldrum has been a long-time supporter of, and contributor to, TWF and the Horror Tree. Richard has a talent for pinpointing common points of view or everyday ideas and turning them into story fodder. Here he gives us:
Forbidden develops the idea that the young always know better than their elders – at least in their own minds!
Obsession is another story which shows where curiosity could get you. You might get your answers but will they be of any use in the long run?
The Edge is a bleak and despairing story of literally living close to the edge.
Enjoy the stories and send us yours!
Happy New Year my friends!
Just a reminder – we lost about 300 subscribers when switching from Mailchimp to Sendfox is to add an opt in form on the main HorrorTree page again (top right if you’re in desktop mode or under the “more” section if you scroll down quite a ways on mobile. I’ve also added one to our contact page AND you can also subscribe directly to our newsletter right here. Our newsletter is compiled weekly by the extremely talented Holley Cornetto and contains our favorite posts from the week, more original free fiction from around the web, and any site news we have to share with you!
We also have a new perk coming to our Patreons soon which Steph is putting together. A perfect time to sign up! (Especially with having lost a couple on the new year.)
Hunger Pangs by Cecilia Kennedy
In the rocking chair, the swell of my sister’s belly rises and falls against the sunset, her growing middle a shadowed hill that sways. She knits while she waits, and I watch her, thinking about how far away such a thing is for me: settling down, getting pregnant, placing a rocking chair near the window.
In the rocking chair, my sister’s legs grow to the size of elephant trunks. I tell her to get up and walk around, which she does, but only sometimes. So I’ve moved in to help her while her husband’s away. She says it’s hard to sleep when the baby kicks, so she sits upright on the couch and watches television until the dark circles under her eyes turn purple.
“Do you ever just get hungry?” she asks.
I don’t know. I’ve never been pregnant, but she’s not craved anything.
“I suppose eventually you’d feel hungry,” I say.
She nods and turns her gaze back to the television. My stomach rumbles at the pizza commercial, but she just taps her belly to see if the baby will kick. She says if the baby kicks, it’s the closest to hunger she’ll get. And I try to tell myself that’s normal, given the circumstances.
The baby comes while my sister’s husband is away, which isn’t surprising. The nurses in the hospital try to give her turkey and mashed potatoes later on, but she doesn’t want any. Most of the time, the baby sleeps in the newborn area while my sister stares at the television in her room. I’m the first one to cuddle my nephew. He smells like vanilla and spring clover.
Playful, cooing sounds echo through the hall late at night, so I get up and check on my sister. She’s finally rocking the baby. She has no idea I’m watching her smile, and finally feeling like I could leave someday, even if her husband never comes back, and she’d be okay. She brings a chubby arm close to her mouth and nibbles on it, delighting in the giggles the baby makes. I shut the door and go back to my room.
Purplish marks spread like tiny petals on the baby’s arms the next day, and if I look closer, in the center, I’d swear I see teeth, but I shake the thought away. Instead, I focus on how healthy the baby looks. And now, I hear my sister singing in the kitchen as she fixes herself breakfast, and I’m grateful the hunger has returned—until I see her spit her eggs out into the sink and drown them with her cup of coffee.
The baby is stirring now, so she goes into the nursery to rock him, and I follow her. She strokes the baby’s arm until it tickles, and he laughs. Then, she pulls on the baby’s legs with one hand, while brushing strands of her hair back from her face with the other, so I can see her clearly. Her eyes are wide and starving. The playful nibbles become ravenous as the baby cries.
I try to stop her, but she looks at me with such desperation, that before I can lunge forward and snatch my nephew from her arms, she’s devoured him—skin and bones. Rocking back and forth, she strokes her deflated belly, while the sun rises behind her.
Cecilia Kennedy (she/her) taught English and Spanish courses in Ohio for over 20 years before moving to Washington state with her family. Since 2017, she has written and published short stories in journals, magazines, and anthologies online and in print in the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, and Nigeria. The Places We Haunt is her first short story collection. She is also a proofreader for Flash Fiction Magazine, an editor for Running Wild Press, an adult beverages columnist for The Daily Drunk, and she writes a weekly humor blog: https://fixinleaksnleeksdiy.
She left the village and ventured into the forbidden place. The elders said it was cursed, an ancient city destroyed by the gods. The sky glowed at night. No-one who entered ever returned. She ignored the advice, the elders were fools.
Emerging into a clearing she found herself surrounded by stone towers. She wandered for a while. A figure emerged; emaciated and covered in weeping sores.
“The ancients said curiosity killed the cat.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You’re the cat. It’s too late. The poison in the air has already killed you.”
She realized, too late, the elders had been right.
RJ Meldrum is an author and academic. Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010. He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Smoking Pen Press and James Ward Kirk Fiction. He is an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.
I was obsessed with ghosts; my life goal was to discover one and speak to it; to find out what it was like to be dead. The ideal location was the Wesley Mansion, the county’s most haunted house. I kicked down the planks nailed across the door and entered.
It was a success. I now know everything about the afterlife, but it’s a shame no-one will ever know. You see, the floorboards in the mansion were rotten and I fell quite a distance into the cellar. I had been dying to fulfill my quest and that was exactly what happened.
He crumpled the letter from the council and tossed it. A compulsory order to vacate his own home. Police next, he guessed. He didn’t care. He’d bought the house, knowing the cliff was crumbling into the ocean. There were only a few weeks left before the house slipped off the cliff onto the beach far below. He relished the idea, wondering if he’d be asleep or awake when it occurred.
He had nothing to live for anymore; she had died. Suicide wasn’t an option, but he was smart. Death by house wasn’t suicide, it was simply nature doing her job.
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Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative prose and poetry and has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her longer work includes the folk horror novels, The Five Turns of the Wheel, Reborn, and The Woodcutter, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused (all via Brigids Gate Press). Her dark poetry has been published in her collections Lilith Rising (co-authored with Shane Douglas Keene), Foundlings (co-authored with Cindy O’Quinn) and Metallurgy, as well as the HWA Poetry Showcase Volumes VI, VII, VIII, and IX and Black Spot Books Under Her Skin. She can be found supporting indie authors at HorrorTree.com via the weekly Indie Bookshelf Releases. She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on Blue Sky as stephellis.bsky.social.