Trembling With Fear 01/24/21
January sees me still surrounded by boxes – the whole move process is crawling but I am still more than happy to be ‘where’ I am. We’ve been just about keeping on top of things in the absence of an additional editor to take on the Specials/Serials and Unholy Trinities. Please get in touch if you think this role is for you. It is fun working at TWF but it is a commitment, this is a week-in, week-out role so please bear that in mind when you get in touch!
I’ve been able to move one project forward this week and you might have seen Daughters of Darkness mentioned online a little bit. You will know the writers from Horror Tree/TWF – Alyson Faye, Ruschelle Dillon, Theresa Derwin and me. We’ve combined and put a selection of stories together and this forms the inaugural publication (due out in February) for the Black Angel Press which Aly and I will be running – we hope to post submission announcements in Horror Tree. It shows that the Tree is a place which can grow all sorts of things. If any of you have formed collaborations with others on these pages, let us know – we’d love to see what you’ve come up with (this is a platform for us all to share!).
Here’s something from Janine Pipe. The One That Got Away, the latest Women of Horror Anthology from Kandisha Press is out Feb 1st. Janine is a contributor to this book – which has a foreword by Gwendolyn Kiste – and if you’d like a copy signed by Janine, get in touch with her here https://twitter.com/disneynine.
Author pictures are a bane of our lives. But there is one man out there who can create fantastic images with a difference. Check out Max Stark’s work and get in touch https://twitter.com/Max_Stark8.
Our first story in Trembling with Fear is Ghost Vision by Alex Ebenstein and takes a common physical problem, turns it into an obsession and then deals with it in the most horrific manner. His first line is also a good example of the sort of opening which draws you in and draws you on. ‘I used to see ghosts’. Immediately you want to know more, why has that changed?
Among the Dead by Zach Hennis takes a boy and makes him something more. I enjoyed the playing with italics – as well as giving emphasis, it played the part of a punctuation point, affecting the pace in a unique way.
Next by Melody E. McIntyre plays on an ‘oops’ moment, in this case a hurried visit. A family is being reunited in more ways than one!
Soon by Toshiya Kamei is a story which I am sure will resonate with many in the current pandemic. The ending however, is ambiguous. Ominous or hopeful? Your choice.
Enjoy the stories and send us yours!
Next month is Women in Horror Month and we’re eagerly looking for guest posts from readers, writers, and any other women in the publishing industry who would be interested in contributing a guest post. Please reach out to contact at horrortree dot come at your earliest convenience!
As to this week’s stories, we have some great work for you to enjoy. While everything is enjoyable, much like Steph, I quite enjoyed how Hennis was able to provide a well-paced fully fleshed out story in 100-words!
Finally, I have some cool news for you in case you missed it! We’re once again featured in The Write Life’s The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2021!
Ghost Vision by Alex Ebenstein
I used to see ghosts.
Out of the corners of my eyes, that’s where they lurked. I didn’t know they were ghosts, not at first. The frightened, unsettled core of my gut thought maybe, but the rest of me believed the very thought crazy. Had to be medical. Or mental.
I let it go for a while after I first noticed them, tried ignoring those faintly threatening, ethereal wisps. Fear and anxiety eventually forced my hand. I asked WebMD.
Certain I had cancer, I asked my doctor.
I didn’t come out and say I have cancer. I didn’t want to be that patient. No, instead I told her I was seeing things. Which was true. Not all hallucinatory and schizo, but there nonetheless, in my peripheral. The things I saw, I told her, would come and go rapidly and randomly. A flash across my vision. They were there, but I could never pin them down, never keep them in my sights for long.
My doctor listened and nodded. When I finished she said, “Those are floaters.”
New flashes now, this time across my mind’s eye. Images of corpses, bloated and waterlogged, rising to the surface of a scummy lake to release their rotten redolence. The original homes of the ghosts?—I wondered.
“Eye floaters,” she clarified.
I shook my head clear of the disturbing visions. Questions took their place, which the doctor saw on my face. She explained.
Small imperfections floating around in my eyeballs, within the vitreous—those were floaters. The doctor said the imperfections, microscopic fibers, tend to clump, and can cast shadows across my retinas. She said those can look like cobwebs, and dart in and out of focus. Despite all that, she told me it was a common issue and not to worry. They won’t cause any other harm, and they’re not a symptom of worse conditions.
“Unfortunately,” she said, “they will never go away. You’ll eventually get used to them, though.”
If I did worry about them, she warned, they would become more noticeable. And the worse I worried, the worse the problem would seem. It was a psychosomatic thing, apparently. So ignore them, she told me. Free my mind of nasty thoughts and worry. Ignorance is bliss.
I wanted to believe her, I really did. Believing her explanation would have made me feel better—to the extent that a permanent issue can, anyway. Her diagnosis even made sense. But…
But I knew better.
I don’t know why it took the doctor’s words to convince me otherwise, to yank the deep-seated fear of the ghosts from the pit of my gut into reality, but it did.
These were not eye floaters. These were ghosts.
How did I know? Because I could feel them. They had a presence. The way they wriggled and writhed. The way they moved in my proximity, slipping into focus from my peripherals, lunging at me. Taunting me.
My fear was constant, exhausting.
The only slight reprieve I could find was by closing my eyes. I assumed the ghosts were still out there, but I couldn’t see them with my eyes closed, couldn’t feel them the same way, either.
But that was no life to live, constantly forcing myself to keep my eyes shut all the time.
I tried to be brave. I tried putting up with the ghosts, hoping—naïvely—that if I showed them deference, they’d leave me alone. Of course they didn’t.
If anything, they seemed insulted by my submission. Infuriated that I failed to fight, failed to engage in all-out war with the specter army. They showed me by getting closer, striking at my personal space until I felt claustrophobic.
Their assault continued, lunge after lunge, but they had yet to touch me. I knew it was only a matter of time. The last ghost I saw got really close. Inches away, I’m telling you. Maybe less. I shudder to think just how close.
At once I knew it was time. The next attack would come with contact. I could not let that happen. And I could not go on like that, living in constant fear of the ghosts at the edge of my vision, lurking and waiting. Attacking.
I did not know what would happen when we did finally collide. Death? If only that was the worst possible outcome.
I had to take action. The plan was clear even. Carefully, I brought my pointer finger and thumb up to my eye sockets, one at each corner…
But I’ll spare you the gory details.
I will say, though, it’s easier than you’d think to remove your own eyes. The hard part was cutting them loose once they were out.
I couldn’t see, after all.
Among the Dead
Here among the dead, life is strangely quiet. That is, if you discount the snap and reverberation from the storm.
Standing over the grave, the boy thinks, “I should move on … The church, to shelter from the storm.”
Lightning strikes, illuminating the unmarked gravestone. The boy hears a quiet rumbling. He thinks it’s the storm, at first. Then, he’s sure. Not thunder; clanking metal, like shovel on stone. They’re close.
The boy turns from the grave, leaving his footprints in the mud. He sees lit torches through the trees. The townsfolk; come to see if the monster is truly dead.
Zach Hennis lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife, Kayla, and their puppy, Emma. Currently a dedicated public servant, he achieved his B.A. from Ohio State University and M.S. from Kansas State University.
I haven’t seen my sister in six long months. Today she came over to give me my birthday present. In her excitement to see me, she rushed right into my house without knocking.
She was through the door and across the threshold before I could warn her about the creature I had accidentally summoned last night. It was waiting in the living room. She had its attention before I could tell her to run, or about the bodies of my family at its feet.
“Call your brother and invite him over next,” it whispered once it was finished with her.
Melody E. McIntyre
Melody lives in Ontario and has loved reading and writing her entire life. Recently, she published her first piece of flash fiction with The Macabre Ladies. Her favourite genres to write are horror and mystery, but she will read almost anything if it has a good story. She studied Anthropology and Classics in University and remains obsessed with the ancient world to this day. When she isn’t working or writing, she loves hand sewing, biking and martial arts.
Nobody is home, but the hallway squeaks. The chilly afternoon air permeates the room. You sit at the desk and boot up your laptop. The screen comes on as a reminder of the monotonousness of your current life. Just like any other afternoon, you say hola to Mamá via Zoom two states away. Your savings account is pretty much depleted. But you’ll still live. You perform your own José José imitation to keep Mamá entertained for a short while. Juan Gabriel or Luis Miguel next time. When does this end? A roach scurries away from the bright light, squeaking “soon.”
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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.