Trembling With Fear 01/30/2022
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.
The preliminary ballot has just been released for the Stoker Awards, so I’d like to offer my congratulations to all those who appeared on it. And those who didn’t? Well, you still won by getting your work out into the world and read by folk. The recommendations are such a small snapshot of what’s out there that many are overlooked and as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I intend to make sure I recommend a few more this year!
January feels to be doing its usual trick of dragging on. I think it must be the longest month in the year. With the release of my novella, Paused – which has been generally well-received – I’m about 2/3 of the way through writing my next one. That, and a few other writing tasks, and Horror Tree, are keeping me very busy. Next time I look up, January might be over!
Up first this week in Trembling with Fear is Your Home is Where my Heart is by Caitlin Fortier. An exquisite piece of writing telling of loss and betrayal and jealousies. It brings in hints of the games the Greek (or Roman) Gods played with the lives of those who served and trusted them. Disembodied and dispossessed, this is a haunting tale.
After Hours by Brian Maycock is a scene that loops, purgatory cleverly written into a modern setting we all recognise.
Forgotten by B. Rae Grosz is a great piece of atmospheric writing, the way in which hope is woven in greatly accentuates the tragedy of the character’s situation. Lovely writing.
Undine by Robyn Pritzker brings us the chill of sea lore and hints of the mythological. Myths and legends provide a lot of material to mine for a modern audience.
Just a reminder that we’re only a few days away fromWomen 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!
Your Home is Where My Heart is by Caitlin Fortier
There is a woman eating breakfast beneath the place where my heart used to be. It has become challenging to keep a sense of where I begin and where the rest ends, but I always remember where my heart is. She spreads butter on her toast and swipes idly at the screen of her phone. I wonder what she would think if someone told her that she lives inside a frame of my much-altered self. I wonder if she knows she sleeps on top of my disassembled and rearranged body, a body that is dead, and yet I cannot leave.
I did try to die. I want to clarify that I am not lingering here on purpose, not foolishly clinging to a life that no longer is. At first, I thought it was merely an oversight and that any day Thanatos or Hermes psychopompos would walk through the front door and cut me loose from my body. Swollen and distorted. Grown hard. Sturdy. Expensive, probably. Imported wood brought from the old country a century ago, brought across waters I never thought I would cross. Maybe Death came to visit me but went to where She had rooted me into the earth instead of where I was taken, a simple case of mistaken address.
Sometimes, I try to appreciate it. I try to consider it a compliment that I was this valuable, this useful, this trustworthy that someone decided to build their home of me and raise their children here. I believe the current resident is the third generation to reside within what remains of my body. Mostly, it just feels like a violation worse than that which my transformation was saving me from.
There is no way to describe the sensation of growing beyond the dimensions you possibly could have had in your former life, of melting into the cycle of the seasons, the ebb and flow of the green, of finally letting your consciousness fade until you thought you could finally rest. Even a not-quite-mortal mind was never meant to be so unmoored from time, but the cycles of nature create a rhythm, a substitute heartbeat. I got used to being eternal and dreaming and part of something else that was alive and greater than myself. I hardly noticed when my hair was taken to crown champions and generals or when voices sang at triumphs, accompanied by lyres of laurel wood.
And then, suddenly, I was cut down at the level where my thighs used to be. Bark-stripped, split, planed and smoothed. Rearranged and put back together again in a configuration that no sane creator would ever inflict upon a living thing, held together with spikes of iron. My body is a phantom limb, and it bleeds forever in my mind, pierced and broken and never healing. Maybe that is what binds me here. Perhaps I have iron nails pinning down my soul. I don’t know. No one ever explained the rules to me.
In the stories she watches, the flickering back-lit ghosts in the box, the spirits and creatures and gods and monsters always seem to know the laws that govern them. There are always forces that bind them to the material world and things that will end them. Perhaps if I knew, I could understand how to end myself. Sometimes I pray for help, though I don’t think the gods can hear me anymore. I try not to let myself believe they might be dead now. That probably seems strange, that I should mourn those whose appetites and whims have put me here, but I can’t think She meant for this to happen. I have to believe this was intended as a blessing, as protection. The stories all run together in the disassembled and re-distributed architecture of my mind. Still, I have to believe. She would not forsake me on purpose, the goddess who answered my prayers once.
I was young once and of a shape the woman now lying asleep would perhaps recognize. Sometimes I dream—I think all souls must dream or else go mad—and in my dreams, I am running, still, on legs long and strong and sun-bronzed. There are sweet dreams of racing barefoot over soft mosses and bathing in cool rivers. With sisters whose faces I no longer remember, I chase the deer and live by what the forest provides. What She provides. These are dreams of sisterhood, of companionship, even of love.
There are also other dreams. In those dreams, I am also running, but here I am the quarry pursued. His face is beautiful and terrible, too radiant to look upon directly. I hate him. I hated him even before he caught me, before I was brought down, conquered by the work of swift flight. Always, the dream ends with him standing over me, the light of him blinding, with a smile that belies the violence it portends. On rare occasions, though, like this night, there are also her dreams.
I do not understand the things and people and words the woman who lives within me dreams of, but at least He is never there. She sees me now, and I wonder what she must make of me, this wild young woman with leaves caught in her hair and eyes that have watched empires rise and fall and rise again, taking her by the hand and leading her through ancient woods. I hold her in the shade of laurel trees, and for a few fleeting moments, I am whole again. It will not last. Tomorrow I will wake up, be trapped and in pain, and she will not see me. But at this moment, in this dream-place between worlds, she knows me. My gods are dead, and my body is not my own, but my soul runs free in dreams.
They are queuing round the block. The bouncer’s face remains impassive until a voice trickles through his earpiece.
He lifts the scarlet rope, lets a pretty girl in. Her eyes are dull. She has soiled herself.
It’s the drugs, he knows. They destroy young lives.
Someone in the queue is screaming in pain. Inside, the lights glimmer and the music pounds, and everything else can wait.
The voice is back. Says again: “There’s a body out the back.”
He lifts the scarlet rope. Allows another through, the blood still fresh on her face.
It’s one out, one in in purgatory.
Brian Maycock‘s fiction has appeared in outlets including The Drabble, Paragraph Planet and BFS Horizons. He recently completed writing a YA novel and is looking for an agent. Brian lives in Scotland and tweets as @maycockwriter.
When she was thirsty, she was parched. When she found an old tower, hidden buried in the ground, the word that came to mind was oubliette. And she hoped, when the rain started falling through the opening overhead, that it would be a deluge. She laughed as she tilted her head back to catch drops on her tongue, but they weren’t enough. She opened her mouth again for more and more, until she no longer remembered that it was her own voice echoing off the stone walls, no longer remembered anything but deep emptiness and waiting, mouth open, for more.
B. Rae Grosz
B. Rae Grosz (she/her) is a Pittsburgh-born writer. You can find her on Twitter @braegrosz and her TweetFic account @anotherStorying. She is also on Instagram @b.raegrosz.
When you hear wailing on the rising wind, you rush to the shore through sour fog to sink your teeth into kelp and flesh. Someone has piloted across the river bar again, from the sea into your evergreen glen. Sailors call this place a graveyard, cursing currents or tides for the wreckage, but the danger is you, changeable and ravenous.
As you reach your sisters, already gathered on the sand, somewhere far away, mothers mutter your names, fretting that you’ll lure their sons overboard. Some tall tales are half true: drowning is not what makes these mariners shriek so terribly.
Robyn Pritzker is a lapsed antiquarian bookseller with a PhD in Gothic literature, so she spends most of her time thinking about various hauntings. Her work can be found in anthologies by Ghost Orchid Press and Visual Verse, as well as in a forthcoming issue of Wilder Lit. When she’s not writing little weird things, she’s a learning technologist. Robyn lives in Edinburgh, and you can find her on Twitter @robzker.
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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 and Reborn, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused. Her novel, The Woodcutter, is due for release via Brigids Gate Press in 2023. 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, on Twitter at @el_stevie, Instagram stephanieellis7963 and also somewhere on Facebook.