Trembling With Fear 12/01/2019
Belated Happy Thanksgiving to my American cousins. Obviously we don’t celebrate that particular holiday over here, it’s just used to alert us to the Black Friday sales which has imported itself into our consciousness. From there it’s the short leap to considerations of Christmas and I can’t believe this year is almost over. Where did it go? In terms of TWF, I think this has proved a very successful year. We have had a greater number of submissions allowing us to schedule stories months ahead of time. I have also been very pleased to have seen stories from LGBT+ writers (we could do with more though), women performing on a pretty equal basis to men AND what delights me even more are the slowly increasing numbers of older writers. It shows TWF is home to all and if you think the group you identify with is not represented enough – well, you know the answer! Write and submit.
The first story in Trembling With Fear is Mother Knows Best by Ashley Millette shows us how the desire for parental approval can trigger so much horror and mayhem. We all saw it in Psycho, now we have a daughter taking centre stage. If you have children, be careful how you parent! This story was particularly satisfying because it was also a love story, albeit somewhat warped. It does prove however there is someone for everyone.
Jack in the Box by Kevin M. Folliard is a creepy, atmospheric tale, and cleverly demonstrates a literal building up of childhood fears.
No Fear by R. J. Meldrum has a victim who is not a victim. What walks in the dark can sometimes be more than you bargained for. Good example of the old twist in the tale.
Plague of Nations by B.B. Blazkowitz cheats death and ‘lives’ to regret it. The idea of a separate self ‘I know what it did that night’, from which you cannot be parted is quite chilling.
Thank you to all, for writing and submitting to TWF.
For all of our readers in the United States, I hope you had a Happy Turkey Day and are now broke from Black Friday or Cyber Monday plans! It’s always great to be bloated and cheerful as you watch your debt skyrocket, amiright?
On a more serious note, I do hope that most of you had a great weekend.
As always, we’re open for more help these days as well as more holiday submissions, drabble, and more!
Mother Knows Best by Ashley Millette
Adelaide stood on a pedestal in front of a floor length mirror, twisting to either side to examine her new dress. The lights in the fitting room were dim, masking the rows of dresses lining its perimeter. A passerby wouldn’t know what lurked behind the walls of the innocuous brownstone. In the 1980s it had been the popular Beatrice’s Bridal Shop but over the years it had traveled down the family line and fallen into disarray. Now it served as the final resting place for long forgotten gowns, slowly eaten away by gypsy moths and time.
Somewhere nearby a lock clinked and a door creaked open. Adelaide heard something heavy thump against the wall as Carl made his way through the darkness toward her. They hadn’t gotten around to replacing all of the lights yet. A sly smile slid across her face as he entered the spacious fitting room, his reflection fracturing and reforming as he made his way past a myriad of mirrors lining the bare walls. Grunting, Carl slid a large sack from his shoulder and let it fall to the ground.
“Darling, fix this won’t you?” Adelaide gestured toward the seam under her left arm, which had started to split open. Carl said nothing but was at her side instantaneously. Adelaide assessed herself in a mirror that rippled in the middle, evoking a fun house effect that made her stomach bulge and her legs shrink. She glowered at the manipulation and looked away, instead inspecting Carl’s hands as they reset the stitch in a flurry.
The doctored image had jolted her and she could no longer keep thoughts of Mother out of her head. Mother could be so cruel. She just wanted Adelaide to be better she had said, to be smarter and prettier. And Adelaide had tried. She earned straight A’s and glowing reviews from teachers. But it wasn’t enough. And so Adelaide decided to enter the Tuscaloosa County Beauty Pageant. If she could win, she could prove to Mother that she was pretty.
Adelaide prepared for weeks. From the local thrift store she procured a dress. It was old and tattered but a soft pink that illuminated her mousey brown hair. She fixed it up as best she could. From Mother’s jewelry box she had borrowed a pair of diamond earrings that glistened like the sun. Adelaide had never been one for fancy hairdos but she curled and sprayed and pinned until every last strand was in place. She left a note for Mother on the door before she left for the pageant. I have a wonderful surprise for you, she had written.
But it was not wonderful. The judges were cruel like Mother. They had ripped her apart, piece by piece. Judge #1 hadn’t liked her dress. It belonged in the dumpster. Judge #2 didn’t like her earrings. They were cheap and fit for a harlot. And judge #3…oh how she hated Adelaide’s hair. You’d be better off with a wig, she had said. Any wig. Adelaide was turning to flee the stage when she saw Mother in the audience. Mother always looked so pretty. But she shook her head in disappointment, as she often did, and a single tear slid down Adelaide’s cheek.
At home Adelaide had pleaded not to discuss the matter but Mother had chastised her anyway. “Let those judges be a lesson to you, darling. You must stop trying to be something you aren’t. You’ll never be pretty, you’ll only embarrass us. Trust me. Mother knows best.” They had not discussed it again.
Mother smoked too much and drank even more and soon she found herself in an early grave. She’d left Adelaide nothing. And so she moved in with Carl, the mute neighbor boy who’d watched from the shadows until the day Adelaide ran into Judge #2. She’d seen her through the window of a shop downtown and followed her home. She’d only wanted to talk but the discussion became heated quickly, Judge #2 yelling obscenities about ugly girls who don’t know their place. Carl emerged from behind an alley dumpster and with one swift thrust of a shovel crushed the side of Judge #2’s skull into the pavement. Adelaide knew she should be horrified but she wasn’t. Instead, she ripped the beautiful (and most importantly, real) diamond earrings from the dead judge’s ears and frolicked off into the sunset with her Prince Charming.
Judge #1 had been an easy mark too. And she had the most beautiful dresses. Adelaide couldn’t choose a single one so Carl made her a new one from the lot. Carl had no interest in running the bridal shop but oh, how he loved to snip and stitch. Judge #3 had been more difficult. She’d moved away with no forwarding address. But when they found her leading outdoor retreats in the Adirondacks Carl went to fetch her. Adelaide’s eyes flitted to the lumpy sack on the ground before returning to her own reflection.
“I’m almost ready my love!” she announced, excitement overtaking her. Carl had finished with the seam and stood silently as she smoothed the beautiful dress and adjusted her new diamond earrings. “And now, for the final touch…” Adelaide trailed off as she pulled her mousey hair back into a tight bun. She gestured to Carl who kneeled down and pulled the sack open. A pair of feet, clad in hiking boots, spilled out, followed by the rest of a limp body. He pulled at something attached to Judge #3’s head and, when it wouldn’t give, made a single snip with his sewing scissors.
Carl stood behind her and fitted the hair onto her head, tucking remnants of scalp neatly underneath the hairline. Adelaide turned back to the mirror, her elation bubbling over and erupting into a smile. The long black curls fell like a dark waterfall over her shoulders and a single red drop slid down Adelaide’s cheek. She brushed it away.
“I’m so pretty,” she whispered. “Just like Mother.”
Ashley Millette is a medical student desperately trying to nurse her creativity back to health after four years of biology and pharmacology. In her limited spare time she likes to read and write with a preference for the horror and fantasy genres. She enjoys trying to find new ways to mix medicine and the arts. You can read some of her previous works in New Realm magazine. She is currently working on her first full-length novel.
Jack in the Box
Moonbeams creep over the antique box on Scotty’s dresser—inherited from his late Great Uncle Barnabas. Invisible force churns the metal handle to the chimes of “Pop Goes the Weasel.”
Scotty grips his outer space comforter, dreading the impending SPROING!
Out pops Jack, pale-faced and crimson-eyed. His bear-trap smile snaps; hooked claws scrape the air. Jack’s munching accordion body stretches, bends, and recoils. The murderous little jester snickers and waves goodbye as he sinks back into his box.
The lid snaps shut. Midnight tomorrow, Jack will return.
The jester’s torso, Scotty knows, extends longer each night. Closer to the bed.
Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, as well as adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, and more. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Street Fighter, or traveling the U.S.A.
They had followed him for a few streets, but when he turned down the alley, they knew their time had come. They caught up to him in the deserted, dark street. John pushed his knife against his throat, almost hard enough to break the skin.
“Give me your wallet and your PINs.”
The victim laughed.
“I wouldn’t laugh,” said Trevor. “You should be scared for your life. My buddy will kill you.”
The victim laughed again.
“My dear young fellows. You can only fear for your life if you are actually alive.”
He opened his mouth to expose elongated incisors.
R. J. 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.
Plague of Nations
I dared to defy Death and prayed at the marble altar beyond the mountains. That night muscle spasms woke me and worsened every night after, culminating when my flesh stripped itself from my bones and moved entirely of its own accord. I know what it did that night, I felt it, even if I did not see it. Eighty years have passed since that shambling amorphous horror went out under the cover of darkness. Bullets fail to kill me; fire fails to set me free. I tried them all, yet when night falls my flesh rises to kill once more.
B.B. Blazkowicz is a horror fiction writer currently tied to a chair in an Antarctic research facility. A bearded man who smells of Scotch says one of us is assimilated. If you are reading this please send me transportation to your densest population centers.
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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 is an active member of the HWA and can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on Blue Sky as stephellis.bsky.social.