Trembling With Fear 02/16/2020
It doesn’t take much to distract a writer from their current WIP. I’ve tried to keep up with a novel but have discovered so much can get in the way. This week has seen an evening spent on TWF/Horror Tree admin, the next evening spent on (an accepted) short story edits and a blurb rewrite, then by Wednesday, it’s back to TWF to write this editorial and reread the week’s stories so I can comment on them. Tomorrow evening (Thursday) I hope to flesh out the short story I wrote last weekend for a writing group – this is a once-a-month commitment I have to fill. Will I get back to my novel by Friday? I don’t know.
Much as I try to manage my time, it seems to just vanish in the ether, especially as after work I’m just too exhausted and so only have a window of a few hours before I need to sleep. Oh, and I’ve been reading as usual. How on earth do people manage their time? I’d love to know. On the plus side I’ve got half-term coming up so the light might be glimmering at the end of the tunnel. If only I could apply my NaNoWriMo discipline all year round but I know I wouldn’t be able to handle the pace.
The first story in this week’s Trembling With Fear is Fair Warning by David Summers. It initially reads as if it is a child’s story written for children, but this is deliberately misleading. As you read, you come across a couple of seemingly innocent comments from the child about not liking being bossed about by his Grandma or his father, now dead. This is a turning point and I liked how these signposts were created using a simple and effective word choice. It is this careful choice throughout which shows so much, my favourite being this phrase which sums up the child’s character: ‘He wished he could make some tears, but he still didn’t know how.’
Forever is a Very Short Time by K.B. Elijah gives us a contract with the Devil with an unfortunate, and tragic, twist on the usual trope.
Joel Hann by John Lane reads like a news report, a breathless recount of a hitchhiker’s journey. This was a refreshing change in tone and presentation, especially as the very nature of the its ‘voice’ made the strange appear almost normal.
Mom by Patrick J Wynn brings us the unfortunate consequences of trying to escape something only to have the plan rebound.
We JUST had our Valentine’s Day special and are already back with another installment of your weekly dose of Trembling With Fear!
Women in Horror Month is moving along quite nicely and we’ve got a few faces who contributed guest posts who are interested in delivering more articles as well. This is fantastic news and hopefully means we’ll be giving you an even more rounded site going forward as we throw even more articles into the mix!
Also as a quick update, I’ve made it clear in the past that we run primarily thanks to support from our Patreons. Recently, we had a couple people reach out to ask how exactly we were spending the money on the site and staff. (I think because our payment to authors of TWF started for this year when it wasn’t in our previous Patreon budget until much later down the road.) I’ve eliminated taking any direct payment myself in order to do this and streamlined how exactly we currently use these funds to support the site for anyone who was curious.
Fair Warning by David A. Summers
Little Robbie didn’t like staying with Granny way out in the country, and he really didn’t like Granny telling him what to do, like she did this morning.
All he wanted was to get close to the baby birds that were in a nest under the bushes beside the house. He could hear them making little cheeping sounds, and he just wanted to look at them. He’d seen pictures of baby birds with their mouths open so wide they looked almost like flowers, all orange and yellow on the inside, but now he wanted to see for himself.
He hadn’t decided what he would do after he saw them. He would think of something fun, but first he had to look at them with their little beaks open wide. So he got down and crawled up to the bush, and then started to push the leaves aside.
That’s when Granny came up behind him and said to stay away from the nest because the mommy bird wouldn’t feed her little babies while Robbie was there. “If she doesn’t feed them, they’ll starve, so we have to leave them alone,” she said. Then she patted him on the head, and told him he was such a handsome little boy, with his black shiny hair and those beautiful eyes to match. “But now go play somewhere else,” she said.
Robbie didn’t say anything, but he told Granny with his eyes that he didn’t like being bossed around. He especially didn’t liked being bossed by someone old like Granny, all wrinkled and smelly.
He wished Mommy would come back from her trip and take him home. Robbie had wanted to go on the trip too, but Mommy said the trip was just for grownups, which meant she was going with Roger. Robbie didn’t like Roger, and wished he’d go away so it would just be Robbie and Mommy, like it has been ever since Daddy died. He hadn’t liked Daddy either. He’d been really bossy.
Later that day, while Robbie was sitting on the porch swing looking at an old comic book, he saw Granny go over to the bushes and look down, like she was making sure the baby birds were okay. Then he saw Granny put her hands over her mouth and start saying, “oh no, oh no, oh dear God, no.”
When she did that, Robbie knew Granny had seen the baby birds all stomped into a gooey mess, with their little feathers and beaks mashed up together. Robbie wanted to smile, but he thought it would be more fun to act like he didn’t know why Granny was so upset. He’d thought about cleaning off the bottom of his sneakers so there wouldn’t be any feathers stuck to them, but then decided not to.
Robbie thought Granny would start yelling at him, and maybe even grab him and start shaking him. Thinking about this made him tremble with excitement, and he hoped Granny would do it. Instead, Granny stopped saying anything and just stood there, looking out toward the pasture where her old horse was wandering around, munching on grass.
After a while, Granny turned around and walked up on the porch where Robbie was sitting, and stood in front of him. She looked down at his sneakers, then started shaking her head, real slow.
Robbie didn’t have to wonder what to say, because he knew the words would come out just right if he let them. “What’s wrong, Granny?”
He could tell she heard him, but she kept shaking her head. Finally she said, “I just don’t understand.” Then she went inside. Now Robbie could smile.
A few minutes later, Granny came out holding a camera, so Robbie quit smiling and just watched her. Granny acted calm, but Robbie knew she was still upset, because she pointed a finger at him and said, “When your mother comes to pick you up, I’m going to tell her what you did. I’m going to show her pictures, too.” Then she walked over to the bushes and started taking pictures.
When Granny finished, she came back to the porch where Robbie was still sitting and said, “You’re only eight, but you should know better. What you did is wrong. Don’t ever do it again.”
Robbie looked at Granny and told her with his eyes that he was really angry now, even angrier than when she’d told him to leave the baby birds alone. Then he got up and started walking around the outside of the house, like he was bored sitting on the porch and just wanted to walk around and see everything, like Granny’s horse and all her chickens.
Once he knew Granny was back inside watching TV, he was able to look at the loose board at the top of the back steps. He wondered what would happen if the board came loose all the way. He knew Granny walked down the back steps when she went out to feed her horse and the chickens the first thing in the morning, even before it was completely light outside.
He was really glad to see Mommy when she came driving up. She ran to him crying, and hugged him real tight. She said she’d flown back the moment she heard what happened. She also said “what a big boy” Robbie had been when he called 911 and told them Granny had fallen down some steps and wasn’t breathing anymore. He was “so brave,” she said.
Robbie liked it when Mommy hugged him and said nice things about him, but he was careful not to smile. He wished he could make some tears, but he still didn’t know how.
After Mommy finished hugging him, Roger came over and tried to hug him too. Robbie didn’t like Roger touching him or even being there, so he told him with his eyes to stay away. If he didn’t, he’d be sorry. Just like Granny was sorry now. Like Daddy, too.
David A. Summers
After teaching psychology for about a decade and practicing law much longer, David A. Summers is now retired and living in Seattle where he writes short fiction, hoping that he’s not causing his Knox College literature professors, now long departed, to spin in their graves. His work has appeared in Thuglit, Out of the Gutter, Shotgun Honey and The RavensPerch.
His Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/david.summers.127
Forever is a Very Short Time
I made a deal with the devil, an eternity ago.
“A life for a life,” he told me, and I agreeably struck the bargain. The premature death of some rapist scumbag in exchange for immortality? What I could achieve with life as long as time itself!
Eternity was only an hour past.
Now, hot blood rushes down my throat, shreds of silk and flesh under my nails. I look down at my wife’s tear-encrusted face, her gentle smile lost to the animal inside me.
The devil didn’t lie. He never agreed that I could choose which life would be mine.
K.B. Elijah is a fantasy author living in Brisbane, Australia with her husband and two cockatiels. A lawyer by day, and a writer by…also day, because she needs her solid nine hours of sleep per night (not that the cockatiels let her sleep past 6am). She believes that if writing and reading aren’t fun, then something has gone wrong.
Her anthology of short fantasy stories with twists, The Empty Sky, is available on paperback and Kindle now at https://books2read.com/u/b6kY5x, while her contributions to the creepy collection of Brisbane-authored drabbles known as Sideshow Alley has recently released (https://books2read.com/SideshowAlley). Join her on Instagram (@k.b.elijah) or Twitter (@KBElijah1) for book reviews, promotions and downright cute cockatiel photos.
Beginner hiker, paranoid loner and descendent of Damarchus, Joel Hann, who carried enough food in Georgia to supply ten hikers, bitten by rabid Lycan wolves that snatched backpack in North Carolina, endured migraines and muscle spasms in Tennessee, grew fur, snout, paws and loped on all fours in Virginia, ripped open and devoured organs from family of Eastern Cottontail rabbits in Pennsylvania, bit the hands of male and female thru-hikers in New York and bit the hands of two police officers in Connecticut, has died during complications from several silver gunshot wounds he suffered on Maine portion of Appalachian trail.
By day, John Lane works for the aerospace industry. At night, John feeds his craving to write what’s in his head. His work has appeared in Spillwords, Fifty Word Stories, 81words.net, Friday Flash Fiction and The Drabble among other publications. John also completed a stint as slush reader for Freeze Frame Fiction. He is an Army and National Guard veteran.
I turn up the TV as loud as it will go, but it does no good. I try using the headphones using my hands to shove them down hard against the sides of my head shutting out outside noise, no success. Next I cover my head with a pillow and stuff cotton in my ears and when that doesn’t work I go to the basement and turn on all my power tools but nothing works I can still hear mother banging on the front door and screaming wildly. I guess she is still pissed that I killed her last week.
Patrick J Wynn
Patrick J Wynn is an author of short stories that contain shades of horror, humor and are just a touch weird. His works have been published in Sirens Call, Dark Dossier, Short Horror and Trembling with Fear. You can follow him on his Facebook page and look for his short story collections on Amazon.
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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.