Many thanks to everyone for the ‘get better soon’ messages last week. I’m back in the land of the living, although I think I have now infected the rest of the family – so much for half-term! I’ve ploughed through all the TWF emails I could see that needed to be dealt with. I have sent acknowledgements, contracts and some publication dates but if any of you think I have overlooked anything, please, just get in touch.
Trembling With Fear starts this week with Good Fortune Can Be A Curse by CR Smith. A strong atmospheric piece in which we see the world through the inebriated senses of the grief-stricken Liam the Younger. Though a drunk, he has your sympathy, reading of him drinking at his daughter’s gravestone immediately provides context and understanding of why he is in this state, why he wishes he were dead. Then you are taken with him into the woods … The writer makes full use of sensory language, sights, sounds, touch – everything is employed adding real depth to the setting and tone. That particular aspect alone is something I always look for in a piece. Without engaging the senses, how can you engage the reader?
My Lost Teddy by Andrea Allison gives us a surreal nightmare image, horror juxtaposed against something as innocent as a lost Teddy Bear. The blood above and below added a strong visual element. This worked because strangely enough it felt like a ‘written’ photograph, a terrifying snapshot if you like.
Scrap It by Alyson Faye brings us a short revenge tale with great use of short, sharp sentences to add tension and pace. Nothing flowery, everything brutal against the equally unforgiving backdrop of a scrapyard. I don’t think I’ve read many stories set in a scrapyard at TWF so it’s great to have a different setting and one that could be used more.
Paper Clip by Steven Holding cleverly draws you in with that question. You’re just going to have a perfectly innocent little chat, you think, considering the merits of a harmless paperclip and then that image is distorted and you are left to visualise something which makes you cringe.
Now go and enjoy the stories and while you’re at it, perhaps send the author a comment about what you think.
My plague mask from last week must have not been effective as this week I’ve come down with it.
At any rate, we’ve got another great set of stories for you to enjoy this week! I’m hoping to have some news about the last and upcoming anthologies soon for you but I’ve been pretty much bed-ridden all week. I’m honestly not sure how I was able to get this post or all of next week’s open calls scheduled!
Good Fortune Can Be A Curse
Liam the Younger sits on the grassy knoll beside a row of headstones each bearing his surname, speaking to each in turn. He swigs gin from the bottle in memory of those he has lost. Wallowing in self-pity he pulls a lucky four leafed clover from his wallet. It’s stuck to a small square of red card and unless you knew better you would imagine it to be nothing of consequence. Years of wear have led to its disintegration. The only thing holding the leaf together now, are the layers of sellotape wrapped around it.
As he examines what remains, an image of an old woman slips into his mind, her outstretched hand offering up the token. It’ll bring you luck, she mumbled. And to be fair it had. It’s surviving that plays heavily on his mind. Becoming maudlin, he decides good fortune is nothing but a curse upon him, keeping him alive when he would rather be with his loved ones. Draining the bottle dry he considers disposing of his so called luck in the hope of redemption. For the umpteenth time, he passes out slumped against his daughter’s headstone.
Night has fallen by the time Liam the Younger awakens. The graveyard cast in fresh shadows, pathways vanishing, hedgerows whispering words of malice in his ears. His only guide back to the iron gate is the intermittent moonlight flittering through the line of trees. He stumbles through fluctuating darkness unnerved by the accompanying sounds — unidentifiable sounds — tripping over slant stones, staggering onwards until grass replaces gravel beneath his feet; grateful to have finally found the pathway leading home.
Unfortunately, in his inebriated state, Liam the Younger’s sense of direction has completely forsaken him. Instead of arriving at the iron gate as calculated, he finds himself in the depths of dank woodland. Low hanging branches scratch his face as he lumbers through the undergrowth, boots raking up the loose detritus, only his profanity to keep him company. Resting momentarily, he’s perturbed to hear movement behind him — or maybe to his side. His blurred vision barely makes sense of the forms moving in the moonlight dripping through the canopy. Huge creatures spread their wings drawn to the silver light pooling about him. Flapping his hands wildly, he fights off the bombardment.
In the far distance a warmer light glows. Liam the Younger imagines it to be the gatekeeper’s cottage, or better still the gatekeeper himself come to find him. Setting off at pace, zigzagging between tree trunks, he heads for the beacon. Confusion growing as it seems to emanate from the very centre of the wood. Not the outer edge where he knows the cottage to be. Nearing the source, he slows — chest heaving — to peer cautiously through a tracery of tangled branches. His befuddled mind trying to process what he sees before him.
In the clearing small rings of fire surround a felled tree trunk. Masked figures dance between them, circling, chanting in strange tongues. Taller figures brandish burning torches, flames glinting in their eyes as they twist and turn bestowing an unearthly presence. Naked bodies are everywhere, all covered in intricate designs. Trails of ivy following the contours of their flesh. While some gambol in the dew pond, enthusiastic couplings take place around the sloped edges; proclamations of desire drifting outwards.
A screeching owl takes Liam the Younger by surprise, his foot catching in the undergrowth throwing him off balance. His ensuing cries marking him out. Panicking — trying to untangle himself — he watches masked figures approach. Uncoiling tendrils creep across the ground, pinning him down until the masked men haul him forwards. Dropping him atop the altar sprawled out like the offering he is to become.
The trees bow and sway, rustling foliage accompanying the incantations, the ground vibrating, responding to the stamping feet. Three masked women step forward and slowly begin removing Liam the Younger’s clothing under flickering light. They paint his naked skin with potions of clay and ash replicating the patterns adorning their own. Once finished, they cavort around him, the masked men joining in throwing trails of ivy across the altar. Liam the Younger watches entranced from his prone position, his excitement rising, confident his lucky clover will protect him.
So entranced is Liam the Younger, the sudden sharpness piercing his ribcage takes him unawares. Voices escalate as he writhes on the foliage-clad altar. His pleading cries floating upwards, muffled by the trees as a network of roots slither across him. Twisting, cutting into his skin. Tightening around his neck and torso. Squeezing the remnants of air from his lungs. Fixing his mouth in a silent scream. One root, whittled to the sharpest of points, slices its way into his chest, wrapping itself around his palpitating heart. Severing all ties to his body, sending blood spurting across the closest watchers. Another root forces its way into his nose, slicing through his brain while others enter each eye socket. The cracking of bones reverberates through the clearing.
The gatekeeper, Liam the Elder, mutters to himself as he picks up yet another empty bottle abandoned at the foot of his granddaughter’s headstone. He sniffs the residue of gin inside, slamming his boot down on the familiar piece of red card summersaulting across the sunlit grass.
CR Smith is an artist living in the UK often combining poetry with art. She has been published by 101 Words, Paragraph Planet, Ellipsis Zine, Spelk Fiction, Visual Verse, Zeroflash, Glove Lit Zine, Ad Hoc Fiction and The Cabinet of Heed. She also has work in several anthologies including The Infernal Clock, Flash, I Love You, Drabbledark: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles I & II, Chronos: An Anthology of Time Drabbles and the Saboteur shortlisted ‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’. Her artwork has appeared on the cover of Déraciné Magazine and also in Calamus Journal, Formercactus, Flash Frontier, Moonchild Magazine and Hypnopomp Magazine.Twitter @carolrosalind
My Lost Teddy
Her screams raised me from a deep slumber. Pools of blood lined my path. I knew what awaited me, but continued on my journey to the end. An imposing dark figure squeezed himself into my leather recliner as I took my place in an opposite chair. Blood dripped from above, but I dare not look for its origins.
We sat as silent opponents before he presented a tattered teddy bear with one eye, my treasured toy once lost. A childhood wish melted into a current one as his spoken words bellowed through the silence, “A loss paid with a loss.”
Andrea Allison currently resides in a small uneventful town located in Oklahoma after moving from a small uneventful town in Texas. She is an author who enjoys writing horror of all varieties and her work has appeared both online and in print.
You can visit her website at www.andreallison.com.
The jaws of the JCBs snap at Rian as she legs it across ‘Nelson’s Scrapyard.’ Her current home.
“I’m coming for you, slag!” Her ex’s voice. Rian burrows into the chewed-out carcass of a Mini.
Liam slips, feels metal rip through his jeans. “I’m bleeding! It’s your fault.”
Rian huddles, skinny shoulders shaking. Praying.
Liam limps, blood seeping. He can hear breathing, no, snuffling. He’s being tracked.
It comes at him fast. Long snout, foetid breath. Teeth. He shrieks.
A massive black shape sniffs out Rian. Licks her face. She strokes fur. “Hello Nelson. You got him then. Good dog.”
Alyson lives in West Yorkshire with her family and 3 rescue cats. She teaches creative writing classes, writes noir Flash Fiction and ghost stories. She is one of the writers in ‘Women in Horror Annual 2’, in Raging Aardvark’s ‘Twisted Tales’, her stories can be downloaded at www.alfiedog.com as well as being available on various sites like zeroflash/Tubeflash/101 words/three drops from a cauldron. Her flash fiction debut collection, ‘Badlands’ is out now from indie publisher Chapeltown Books – here’s the interview http://www.chapeltownpublishing.uk/2018/01/badlands-by-alyson-faye.html and is available to buy from amazon.
You can find out more on her blog- www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com
or at her amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01NBYSLRT
Her twitter handle is @AlysonFaye2.
The only thing worse than not knowing your purpose?
Not fulfilling it.
Imagine if everything was cursed with consciousness. What hell would the discarded child’s toy endure?
More excruciating still, to be so broken as not to function.
Like this paperclip, the metal manipulated, straightened, until it is useless.
Surprisingly, I empathise. I, too, was labelled beyond repair.
Until an epiphany. The realisation that such damage can reveal one’s true calling.
The tortured becomes the torturer. A piece of stationary an implement of pain.
Do you not believe me?
Open your eyes.
And take a good look.
Steven Holding lives with his family in Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom. His work had been published in FRIDAY FLASH FICTION, THEATRE CLOUD, AD HOC FICTION and MASSACRE MAGAZINE. Most recently, his story THREE CHORDS AND THE TRUTH received first place in the INKTEARS 2018 flash fiction competition. He is currently in the process of completing a number of new short pieces of fiction and is also working upon a novel. You can visit his website at www.stevenholding.co.uk
The snow hides much, muffles life. Jeremy was like the snow, a cold, creeping silence drifting along empty streets.
The door in front of him was unlocked, his last visitation.
“Meals on wheels,” he called.
He found Father Jack bundled in blankets.
“Here, let me help you,” said Jeremy, placing the food on a tray.
“Thank you,” said the frail priest, poor eyesight preventing him from recognising the once choirboy.
“No trouble,” said Jeremy.
He opened the back windows before he left, let in the cold. He wasn’t a killer, but Nature was. Holy communion could take so many forms.
Stephanie Ellis writes speculative fiction stories which have found success in a variety of horror magazines and anthologies. Her first novella, Domnuill-dhu has recently been published in Dark Chapter Press’s Bloody Heather anthology. She is also co-editor at The Infernal Clock and at Trembling with Fear, the online magazine branch of Horror Tree (the online writer’s resource). She is currently awaiting decisions from publishers following submission of a novel and a novella.
Samples of her writing can be found on http://stephellis.weebly.com/ and she is on twitter at @el_stevie.