Trembling With Fear 02/03/2019
February already and thoughts are turning to spring – just as winter decides to go all out on a number of you. I’ve seen Stuart’s tweet with Jack Nicholson’s frozen image from The Shining so I know he was suffering and I counted myself lucky we don’t experience such things over here. When we do get a few flakes, it is pretty much a national crisis. I hope for those of you sharing Stuart’s situation that the thaw comes soon. Which has now triggered another thought. I’ve read many dark stories set in a ‘snowmageddon’ situation or seen films of this ilk but you don’t find many set in the thaw. Any takers?
Our stories this week start with Fishgiggles by Catherine Kenwell which recounts a person’s disjointed thoughts, implying – as you read – an element of madness, or was it concussion brought on by the blow to the head? Then there is the character’s lack of food as she waits to be rescued adding to her situation, someone marooned or lost waiting to be rescued, this again can cause a person to suffer delusions. Regardless of what caused her situation, it is the playing with words which we enjoyed and here I think the simplest thing is to share the comment I sent back to the author, ‘There’s this whole air of madness and surrealism around it and the way she plays with language as she considers her position is wonderful’ or as I said to Stuart, ‘excellent weirdness’. We were really pleased that Catherine chose to share her delight and playfulness in language with us via this story.
Dark Water by Richard Meldrum is an excellent tale of misdirection. He sketches an image of something mysterious beneath the water, a swimmer nervous and edgy, allowing imagination to take hold (as it already has done with the reader) and then the reveal. The moral here is, I think, don’t let your imagination run away with you …
Late by David Rae is a short but chilling story with a skilfully created atmosphere using the senses to draw the reader in. The cold literally seeps out of his lines as the ghost of past crimes appears.
Campfire Songs by E.N. Dahl brings us a killer in an original form, stepping away from the trope of serial killer or monster from the lake to something in a way far more powerful. The effect of music is often used in stories but here it is an entity in its own right.
Thank you to all the above writers for their terrific stories and ongoing support for TWF.
I’m not sure about the rest of you but it’s taken me some time to discover the areas of horror which work for me in my writing, ie where I feel most at home. I have no intention of pigeonholing myself as I love writing gothic, industrial and folk horror and all three have delivered some success to me. Folk horror has gradually come to the fore in my recent writing and I have started reading more about it, a current read being Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies. In one of its essays, it talks about the British Public Information Films, particularly those of the 1970s, which is a blast from my past (the 70s were a pretty dark time all round, I still remember the power cuts!). These films are available on YouTube and are pretty horrific, especially when you consider a large number were aimed at children. Take a look at the one with Donald Pleasance narrating, I would have been about 9 years old then and it has stayed with me. If you’re stuck for inspiration, I would think some of these shorts would be a good place to look!
A serious tip here – try and move away from standard tropes, seek out the rarely used, bring us originals. There are so many monsters out there but somehow we all gravitate towards a handful. Give us other creatures of the dark. Give us new monsters.
Stop Press: a Facebook post on Wednesday showed Iron Faerie Publishing are still actively seeking submissions for their Gods and Goddesses anthology, closing date 18th Feb – they haven’t received many at the moment.
Keep writing, keep submitting.
Welcome to the first ‘Trembling With Fear’ of the month. Being February, love is in the air! However, that isn’t something you’ll find much of in today’s stories.
We are always looking for more ‘Trembling With Fear’ stories and these days are hoping to see more submitted for our special editions, Unholy Trinity compilations, and Serial Killers! Please be sure to read our submission guidelines and get those words in!
The five letters feel nonsensible, carved by stick into the low-tide sand. She’s sure that’s the word to describe her predicament. She doesn’t remember everything, but she remembers words. She thinks.
How long has she been here? She doesn’t know for sure. She started drawing lines—one for each of four days, then a diagonal across the four—in the hard sand when the waters were low. But each time the tide came in, it washed away the lines and her memories. So it could be one day. Or a hundred. The days have been washed out to sea.
Each day is the same—either that, or one day keeps repeating itself, over and over. It’s inconsequential, really. She sleeps, when she can, in a tiny rocky cave, perhaps better described as a shaded alcove or a nook in the rock. Enough to shelter her when it rains, which it does every time that ‘the light is over there’, she thinks it is ‘afternoon’. After noon. She would need to know noon. She thinks it is when the sun is overhead, but if the sun isn’t visible, the day is simply as long as it is light.
A series of jerry-rigged rain-catchers gather water to quench her thirst. Massive palm leaves, a couple of broken coconuts, a conch shell. These are her pitchers and drinking vessels. It is almost enough.
There are seven coconut palms but not much else here. She used to shake the trees, but now she lets the hard fruit fall on its own after one hit her on the top of her head and made her hair bleed. The saltwater helped heal the wound but it stung like hell every time she bathed in the sea.
She gets angry with the fish that insist on talking to her when she pulls them from the shallows. They shimmer and giggle until she fillets them, and then they begin to admonish her for being the outsider. You’re going to die here anyway, they whisper. Why do you need to bake us in the sun? We belong in the water, they hiss. We live in the water. You can feast on our siblings, but you’re the one who’s messing up the natural order…the one who doesn’t fit. Close to shore, a silvery chorus trills a song of warning as the fish dart just under the surface. You’ll see, they giggle.
She believes she is thin, now. The sundress she wears is clean enough but dusty with dried salt, and it sags like an empty sack. All those times she wanted to be ten pounds lighter; now, she imagines, ten more pounds and she’ll disintegrate into beach sand.
Once, when she thought she might be found, when a lone plane flew overhead, she carved SOS into the hard sand and waved her arms in the air. SOS. Sauce. Saws. Sews. SOS, she pondered. Fuck our souls, it’s the body that wants saving.
Her mind is bending, but its elasticity is stretched to breaking point. She is slowly going mad. Mad. Madeleine.
Was that her name? Or did she know a Madeleine from school? No, she remembers Madeline, that little red-headed girl from the books. Books. Booooooks, she repeats the word out loud. It sounds foreign in her mouth. Was that her voice? She doesn’t remember how she sounds, but at any rate, she no longer thinks what she hears is her.
She folds and extends her bones to lying position, corpse pose, from yoga. Hands out to the side, feet and legs relaxed. Closes her eyes. Yo. Ga. Yoga. It sounds weird, reminds her of something. Yoda. The wise guy. Try not. There is no try. She must do. What must she do? She must do the twist, the hokey pokey, turn herself around.
She is stretched out on the cool hard sand left by the ebbing tide. Her feet are being tickled by quiet licks of sea; now the water is up to her ankles. The sun is over there now, but still hot.
Exhaustion seeps through her skin. She opens her eyes every so often, when she feels the sun dip further away from her. It is almost gone. Now, she sees the spotlight moon. The tide is rising. She feels the water lap further up her body, reaching her knees, then hips. She is still. She feels her body slowly merge with the shifting sand. She imagines the fish, with their tiny nibbling mouths, coming out to feed at night. The mean fish, the chastising ones. The ones who pick on her. The fish she will no longer need to catch or bake or eat. The fish that was her food. Fish. Food. Fish food.
She senses laughter starting to gurgle in her chest, but her expression is unchanged and she remains silent.
Fishfood. Fishfoodfishfoodfishfood. It sounds funny, it just does.
It must be funny. Because now, she hears giggling.
Cat Kenwell is an author and mediator living in Barrie, Canada. After 30 successful years in corporate communications, she sustained a brain injury, lost her job and joined the circus. She is currently writing a book on her experiences with post-concussion syndrome.
Counselor Jimmy strummed his guitar, singing the same tunes he always had. People back home said Lake Delilah stored evil in its depths, so that camp closed. Six other camps closed because children kept going missing.
He played his acoustic tunes as The Anguish slinked over, taking a seat on the bench next to him. They sat by the fire, enjoying the soft music and cool breeze. Blood cooled on the killer’s lips.
Nobody figured out that the camps weren’t cursed. The curse lay in the music, ancient rhythms reformatted, damned melodies posing as camp songs.
Jimmy just kept playing.
E.N. Dahl is a novelist and award-winning screenwriter from a shady corner of the USA. She’s the author of Nova EXE, among others, and her short work has appeared with Thunderdome Press, Transmundane Press, Sci-Phi Journal, Helios Quarterly, The Siren’s Call, The Literary Hatchet, and many others. When not reading and writing, she can probably be found doing yoga or watching horror movies.
It was a lake swim for charity. Standing at the edge, she peered into the dark water, imagining all sorts of underwater creatures.
She lowered herself into the water, feeling the cold liquid surround her. She started to swim, but quickly fell behind the main group. Suddenly, something touched her foot, wrapped itself round her ankle. It felt like a tentacle. She panicked, thrashing to free herself, but it maintained its grip. She quickly became exhausted. Unable to stay afloat, she slipped below the surface. The strand of weed that had wrapped round her leg, floated innocently to the surface.
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.
Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/richard.meldrum.79
I’ve slept in the room before without any trouble. I’ve slept in it many times. I’ve never noticed anything strange. I would be asleep now, if only it wasn’t so cold. I get up and walk to the cupboard looking for a blanket.
I can see it, the patch of darkness, but I tell myself it’s nothing, there’s no such thing as ghosts.
I’m so cold, and the patch of darkness keeps moving. I’m dreaming this. I must be. A child’s cold hand slips into mine.
“You shouldn’t have hurt me,” it whispers. It’s too late to say I’m sorry.
David lives in Scotland. He loves stories that exist just below the surface of things, like deep water.
He has most recently had work published or forthcoming in; THE FLATBUSH REVIEW, THE HORROR TREE, LOCUST, ROSETTA MALEFICARIUM, SHORT TALE 100 and 50 WORD STORIES. You can read more at