Trembling With Fear 01/23/2022
Welcome back to Trembling with Fear, our online flash zine. We publish both new and established writers with many becoming familiar faces and being an ongoing open market, we are always after material. Submissions don’t have to be horror, they can be dark sci-fi or fantasy or some other aspect of the speculative fiction field. Nor are we averse to a touch of noir or a dark thriller. I’m currently reading John Connolly’s A Book of Bones, a supernatural crime which is ticking quite a few folklore boxes.
I recently had a chance to read Patrick Winters novella, Seeing. If you’ve read his work in TWF, you will know he is a great writer and this continues in Seeing, a haunted house with a touch of southern gothic. If you want a quick read, why not grab a copy here.
Our first story this week in Trembling with Fear is The Jangly Man by Dana Vickerson gives us a child’s nightmare. The use of a child’s voice, the expression of their fears, is something which always ups the sense of dread in a story.
Soul Stealers by Alyson Faye is a wonderfully dark poem which carries elements of folk horror alongside its chilling ghostliness.
What it may Hold by Sammi Leigh Melville feels initially like a story we’ve all heard before – until you realise exactly where the person (or entity) is; a nice twist.
What Lives in the Woods by Nick Watts has a fairy tale quality and like those contains a moral – heed the warnings!
Enjoy the stories and send in yours!
I’d like to note that historically, next month is Women in Horror Month! With that in mind, we’re quite eager to feature female women in the horror writing community throughout February and would love any guest posts that you would be interested in having us feature! Please reach out to us on our contact page today if you’re a writer, reviewer, editor, reader, etc and would love to have something featured on the site!
The Jangly Man by Dana Vickerson
Things always seemed to go to shit when Crystal Meyer’s husband, Alex, was out of town.
She was sitting in her bed, work papers strewn about and her tension headache ramping up, when she heard the crackly cry come over the baby monitor. She instinctively turned to Alex’s side to give him the “you see I’m busy so please deal with this” eyes, but of course the spot was empty.
Right, she thought. Business trip. Damnit.
She checked her phone: 3:02 am. Making an exaggerated groan for no one in particular, she pulled herself out of the warm nest of blankets and padded across the cool tile floor of the hallway between her bedroom and their daughter Sarah’s room. She opened the old, creaky door and looked in on her three-year-old.
The room was dim but not dark. Her daughter was sitting up in her bed crying, eyes shut tight, little hands gripping the stuffed gorilla she’d favored since she was an infant.
Crystal crossed the room in two steps and scooped up her daughter. For a few moments, Sarah was inconsolable, but eventually she began to calm and looked up at Crystal with her huge brown eyes.
“Bad dream again, munchkin?”
“The Jangly Man was here, again. I don’t like that man. He’s bad.”
“What kind of man?” She wasn’t sure what Sarah was saying, because she was still shaky from crying. “It was just a dream, baby.”
The toddler shook her head violently. “No, Mama. He’s bad. He was on the ceiling. He’s loud. He makes such loud, loud noises. I don’t like loud noises. I don’t like him.”
“Shhh… darling. It was just a dream. Let’s get back in b—“
“Noooooooo,” Sarah wailed, clutching Crystal tightly around the waist.
Crystal sighed. She was going to need a huge coffee in the morning. Sarah’s grip held strong, so Crystal began to sing. “Five little ducks—“
“No, Mommy,” Sarah whined, “not that one.”
“This old man, he played—“
“NO!” Sarah began to cry.
Crystal took a deep breath. She was so tired.
“Twinkle, twinkle, little star—”
“Yeah! That one!”
“Ok, baby.” She managed to get through the song three times before she heard her daughter snoring softly in her arms.
She let her mind drift. Where did she pick up the word jangle? After a moment, she realized where she had recently heard it. Her husband, Alex, had taught it to her. The estate sale, she thought.
Alex, Crystal, and Sarah had taken their golden retriever, Monster — Sarah’s choice of name, of course — on their normal Saturday morning walk. That had to have been three months back, she thought. A few streets over from their house, they came upon a line of people waiting outside one of their neighbor’s homes. They’d stopped to see what was going on.
A middle-aged woman in a bright pink pants suit and matching wrist bangles had brought out a large sign that read, “Estate Sale.”
“Want to take a peek inside?” Alex had whispered to Crystal. “Might be some good stuff in there.”
“I will never understand your fascination with other people’s junk. No thanks.”
“Aw, come on!” her husband had whined, which got the attention of their daughter, and soon both of them were anxious to get inside and take a look.
“Ok, fine,” Crystal relented. “I’ll wait out here with Monster while you two go paw through Mrs. Henderson’s ancient belongings. No telling what’s in there, the way that woman traveled the world. Just don’t let Sarah touch anything.”
Alex had swept Sarah into his arms and bounded up the sidewalk. Crystal had made small talk with a few passing neighbors while she waited for her family to finish their treasure hunt. Just as Monster had started to get restless, Alex and Sarah had emerged from the old lady’s house making a ton of racket.
“Momma! Look! Momma, look at my pretty bracelet. It’s sooooo pretty!”
Looped through Sarah’s small hand had been a leather cord with three rusted bells fastened on top and intricate writing embossed in the leather that Crystal couldn’t read. Sarah had rattled them with glee.
The bells had agitated Monster. “Great,” Crystal had muttered.
“Aw, come on, it’s fun,” Alex had said, brushing her off. “Bells jangle, right baby?”
“I’m not a baby, Daddy. I’m a big girl! Look at my jangle!”
Alex had laughed and taken the leash from Crystal. “She’ll tire of it in a few hours.”
She hadn’t, though. She had rang those bells constantly for three days before Crystal got fed up and “lost them” in the back of the closet.
Sarah grew heavy in Crystal’s arms, and she looked around the room once more, feeling a little bit uneasy. She always felt like this in the dead of night, like there was something in the house. Too many horror movies, she supposed.
She hugged her sleeping toddler, smelled her hair — vanilla with a hint of sweat — and gently set her daughter back down in her bed.
As she walked back down the hall, she still had that sinking feeling that she wasn’t alone, the kind of feeling that made you bolt to your bed and jump under the covers. She made a mental note to get some night lights for the hallway. She never saw the monstrous black shape peel itself off the ceiling behind her as she entered her bedroom, but just as she was slipping back in between her sheets, she heard the loud, ringing bells and turned to see The Jangly Man.
Dana Vickerson is a writer living in Dallas. When she’s not crafting spooky tales, she is dissecting horror movies with her husband or teaching her girls how to bake. Her work will be published in 2022 by Tales to Terrify as well as the anthology The Halloween Book by Twelve House Books. You can find her on Twitter @dmvickerson.
They stalk me
an army of spectral scarecrows,
pus white, bone raw,
wearing others’ souls
as tattered cloaks;
Digging deep into
the filthy, feral earth,
trying to ghost myself,
to become one of the lost.
My sweat bleeds into
dark familiars breech,
reclaim the forest,
clawing at the ground,
spewing their own scents,
into their night cabal,
their clique of claw
and talon and tongue –
now we breathe as one.
Us ghosts cling, hover
and sing, in whispers
of white light, glimpsed
pre-dawn; we pray.
Alyson lives in the UK; her fiction has been published widely in print anthologies – DeadCades, Women in Horror Annual 2, Trembling with Fear 1 &2, Coffin Bell Journal 1 and Stories from Stone and in ezines, most often on the Horror Tree site, Siren’s Call and The Casket of Fictional Delights. In May 2019 Night of the Rider, was published by Demain, in their Short Sharp Shocks! E book series and reached the amazon kindle top 10 best seller lists. Her work has been read on podcasts (eg Ladies of Horror), shortlisted in competitions and published in charity anthologies. Other work has appeared in anthologies from Things in the Well, Mortal Realm and Twisted Wing Publishers. She performs at open mics, teaches, edits and hangs out with her dog on the moor in all weathers.
What It May Hold
I’m scared of the basement, and what it may hold. I hear clanking and scuffling when I press my ear to the thin layer which separates me from it. The damp air is getting to me, the cold is seeping in; my fingers are already bloodied from the clawing these formidable sounds have provoked from me. I imagine unspeakable things shifting in the shadows, crouched low in wait, whispering, plotting, biding their time until I venture forth. It’s dark here, and all I can think of is that basement, sitting over my head, calling down to me with its mystery.
Sammi Leigh Melville
Sammi Leigh Melville lives in Harrisburg, PA with her two cats, Charlie and Loren. She is the author of the YA fantasy book, The Fields, writes film reviews for The Burg, and performs longform improv, in an attempt to work storytelling into every aspect of her life (except for the cats. Okay, maybe she tells stories to her cats).
What Lives in the Woods
Imprisoned demons reach through sludge, awakened by the tittering of young lovers. Both ignored stories of the accursed things living in the forest; an implementation of only the most iniquitous kind. “There is nothing to be afraid of, my love,” the stable hand tells the princess. “Your father tells such fantastic tales. And if they were true, you would be safe with me.” The princess smiles and leans in. The impermissible kiss is halted by the snapping of twigs.
Prolonged fingers wrench back the young man’s head. Sharp teeth skewer soft skin, ripping away flesh…the hors d’oeuvre preceding royal meat.
Nick Watts is a writer trapped in the swamps of Florida. He spends most of his time reading, drinking bourbon and allowing Doyle to proofread his work. Doyle is his dog. Nick’s fiction has been featured in Hundred Word Horror: Cosmos, Infection from Black Ink Fiction and online at Filthy Loot as well as Horror Sleaze Trash. You can find Nick on Twitter @filthy_philtrum.
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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.