Trembling With Fear 03/01/20
March in the UK is still wet and still windy. I’ve spent most of this week watching the news showing clips of Shrewsbury, a town in Shropshire, slowly drowning. Shrewsbury isn’t far from my parents’ home and when visiting, we often go there. Strange to see cars in the car park we normally use completely submerged. Piling on the slightly apocalyptic feel, we are also getting updates at work now about the Coronavirus as schools are one of the areas where any contagion can spread like wildfire. We’re ok and I’m not too worried as the risk in this country is currently low but I have bought the hand sanitiser! Doom and gloom abounds but there is always wine and the stories at Trembling With Fear.
Our lead story this week is My Girlfriend is a … by David Berger is a darkly humorous vampire story. Lightly told and mixing vampires and accountants, the sophisticated and the naïve, this is delightful entertainment. A very fresh take on an old trope which I thoroughly enjoyed. I must admit to spending time trying to remember what blood group I am to see where I fitted into the distribution table at the start. I’m fairly certain I’m A+.
Lest Ye Be Vexed by G.A. Miller is a salutary lesson for those who eavesdrop. This worked particularly well because of the evidently oblivious nature of the main character. This is a good way to build an element of tension – you know something bad is going to happen but they don’t.
Lost Pet by Radar DeBoard introduces a devil dog with the same endearing qualities which dogs display towards their owners. They just take a slightly different form.
This Too Shall Pass by RJ Meldrum is a tale of transition but whilst it leads to a world of horror, it is actually told as a straightforward process with terror noticeably absence. It subverts the expected trope of change.
Thank you again for all your stories. Keep writing and submitting.
I know I usually let Steph handle the story introductions, but I did want to weigh in that things are going to be a little more lighthearted at the start with David’s vampire story. It’s a fun little tale that should leave you with a smile on your face.
Speaking of stories, we’re not behind but could always use more! We’ll have some big news when it comes to Trembling With Fear over the next month, but I can’t narrow down exactly when that could be happening yet.
Unrelated to Trembling With Fear, I believe we just had a fantastic job at celebrating Women in Horror Month and would love to hear what you thought and if you feel we should make any changes for next year!
My Girlfriend is A… by David Berger
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Vampires! I hate vampires! I mean I really hate ’em. Can’t stand ’em. I end up spending a lot of time around ’em, but they make me crazy!
Okay, okay, I know. I know the facts: They have a super-rare, genetically inherited form of anemia that makes them photophobic, often grows their canines and often makes them kind of tall and pale. And makes them crave human hemoglobin!
And I know that the government uses all kinds of stuff to “cure” it: bone marrow transplants; chemical substitutes; animal blood; all that stuff that doesn’t really work. And all that supernatural stuff about garlic, crosses, that’s bs. A stake in the heart or a silver bullet will kill them – but they’ll kill anyone. I mean, was the Lone Ranger really a vampire hunter? Or maybe with that mask he was one of them! Just kidding.
But I hate ’em. I really freakin’ hate ’em. I can’t stand ’em. They’re boring. All they want to talk about is being vampires. Vampires this and vampires that. Try to get one to talk to you about global warming or chess or … anything.
So, naturally … my girlfriend’s a vampire. But it’s okay: She’s great. Let me tell you about her.
I met Carole in one of those clubs where you go down some steps and you’re in the dirty, cobwebby basement of some building and the furnace is still blasting in another room. How was I supposed to know what kind of club it was? I’m originally from Cleveland. We don’t have those there. Or if we do, they’re underground, like gay clubs used to be. (And to answer your question: Yeah, there are gay vampires.)
So it’s real dark in there. Just candles on the tables and a couple of lights above the bar. The music wasn’t too loud. Not much dancing. Once I got used to the darkness, I saw some really good-looking women: most of them tall, pale and thin, which puzzled me at the time: I guessed they were models or something. A lot of the guys seemed the same way. But sitting in a corner by herself, lookin’ all bored and lonely, was a pretty woman with short, curly blonde hair. Sort of a girl-next-door type. (I’m from Cleveland, remember.) And I went over to her and introduced myself. I’m not shy.
“Hi. I’m Eddie Wallace. Can I buy you a drink?”
She looked at me kind of funny. “And I’m Carole Springer. Sure.”
“So what’re you drinking?”
“Just get me an O-Plus. I’m not really into it tonight. And tell Freddy to oxy it.”
So I went to the bar and I said, “Two O-Pluses, please. With oxy.”
The bartender says, “One of them for you?”
“You sure you know what an O-Plus is?”
“Sure. It’s a drink. Some kind of drink.”
He says, “One O-Plus and one, uhhh, rusty nail. That’s for you. You look like a rusty nail type of guy. ”
“I don’t like rusty nails. I asked for two O-Pluses, with oxy, whatever that is.” I said.
He said, “I know what you asked for. Trust me: You don’t want an O-Plus. And I won’t sell you one, anyway.”
“What is it?” I asked. “Some kind of drug?”
“Take it back to your friend at the table. She’ll explain it to you. That’s 50 bucks.”
“Right, and the rusty nail is on the house.”
Nothing ventured; nothing gained. So I paid him, and I watched him as he opened a refrigerator behind him with a key. He took out a tall silvery canister and poured out a maroonish-red liquid into a heavy cut-glass tumbler. Then, he got a small tank of oxygen and put the hose attached to the valve into the drink.
“Not everyone likes oxy,” the bartender said.
“Fancy that,” I said, fascinated by what he was doing. As the gas bubbled into the drink, it got a brighter red. Finally, the glass went into a microwave for 45 seconds. (I watched the timer count down.) I paid the man and headed back to the table with the drinks.
“Freddy wouldn’t give you two O-Pluses, would he?” Carole asked.
“No,” I said. “You know him.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Everyone knows Freddie. He owns the place.”
I handed Carole her drink and sat down. “Here’s to ya,” she said as she raised to the glass to me and drank half of it down.
“Whoa!” I said.
She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand; then she looked me in the eye. “You don’t know what an O-Plus is, do you, Eddie?” she sad. “In fact, you don’t know what kind of place this is, right? You don’t know who hangs out here.”
“It’s a club,” I said. “An average sort of dark, noisy club. You’re an interesting girl; I’m a regular guy.”
“One out of three isn’t a great score,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“Did you see the wrought iron ‘V’ by the door as you came in?
“Do you know what the ‘V’ stands for?”
“Victory?” I said, hopefully.
“Guess again,” she said.
“I give up,” I said.
“I’ll give you a hint,” she said.
“What’s O-Plus? I mean normally: if you read it in a magazine.”
“It’s a blood … . Oh!” I said.
“You got it, buddy,” she said, winking at me as she finished her ‘drink.’
“And you’re a … .”
“You pass the course,” she said, with another wink.
“So what do we talk about?” I asked.
“Well, I could tell you about the carvings on my coffin or the architecture of my grandfather’s castle in Transylvania if you like. Or maybe the difference between the toxic effects of sunlight in Spain and in Florida on us. Or we could talk about you.”
“I’m pretty boring,” I paused. “I’m … an accountant.”
“You’re kidding me,” Carole said. “Look, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
I dropped my chin, as if I was embarrassed. She took my hand. “Poor baby,” she said. “Spurned by society. So misunderstood.”
We both laughed. I noticed her touch was cool and her skin was unusually smooth, but then again she was a v … . (Couldn’t quite say the word yet.) So what did I expect?
“Do you want another O-Plus?” I asked.
She looked at me with a serious smile. “You sure you can handle it?”
“I can handle it,” I said.
“Okay,” she said.
Freddie looked at me skeptically as I arrived at the bar. “What’s the next step above O-Plus?” I asked.
“A-Plus’s the same as O-Plus,” he said. “Just a slightly different taste, which I know your friend doesn’t care for. Above that’s A-Minus.”
“Okay. An A-Minus and another nail.”
“That’ll be a hundred bucks.”
In for a dime; in for a dollar. I watched, again fascinated, as Freddie went through the moves to make the A-Minus. When I got back to the table, Carole looked at the drink and smiled. It was a slightly deeper color than the O-Plus.
“Well, well, well,” she said. “That’s interesting. And on the first date, too.”
“Is this a date?” I asked.
“It is now,” Carole said. As we continued to talk, her skin began to flush and her eyes became brighter.
“So I’m an accountant,” I said. “What does a vampire do for a living?”
“I do freelance IT. I mostly work at night, at home, for obvious reasons. I’m not usually out during the week. I’m between jobs right now. Isn’t that delightfully boring.”
“I work with a lot of IT people.”
“Yeah, but wouldn’t you prefer I did something mysterious?”
“I don’t know? Designing long, flowing clothes or making jewelry with mysterious dark stones and lots of clunky gold?”
“That would be intriguing. But I’m an accountant. Intrigue … mystery … not a big thing for me?”
“You’re not married, are you?”
“Was once, a long time ago? You?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “We don’t generally … marry.”
“But you all do have kids, obviously.”
“Yeah. We do.” She paused. “Y’know, it must be the O and the A you bought me, because this is getting very deep very quickly.” She was talking kinda fast. “Yes, we have kids. But we’re not big on family life. We mostly have kids with each other, but occasionally with normies like you. It’s a recessive gene. We’re slowly dying out. The weirdest thing is when two normie parents have one of us. Not a good space to grow up in.”
“Is that where you come from?”
“Yup,” she said. “Let’s get out of here. My place?”
I took a deep breath. Things were happening very quickly. But a smart, pretty blonde on a weekday night. Even if she was a little strange. Wow!”
A cab to her place in a quiet neighborhood … never mind where. Up the elevator and into her apartment. No black candles; no weird statues on an altar; no strange-smelling incense; no coffin. It was a kinda normal-looking place, kinda small. There were heavy dark curtains over the windows. In a minute we were on the couch, kissing like you always want to kiss. It didn’t take long before clothes started to come off. Carole seemed to become both more intense and more dreamy as we went on. But suddenly, she pushed me away a little.
“Something first,” she said.
“What?” I asked.
She tilted her neck slightly to the left and widened her eyes. “You know,” she said.
“You mean … ?” I asked.
“Sure. Don’t worry. It doesn’t take long. It doesn’t hurt. It won’t turn you into one of us. But it’ll make me sooo happy. And you’ll like it too.”
Like I said before: In for a … .
It was like a long, slow, passionate kiss on my neck.
“She stopped for a second just after she started and said, “Oh my god: AB-Minus! Fantastic!”
It lasted maybe ten minutes. It was kind of nice, warm and almost sleepy. And when she was done, Carole looked even dreamier and more intense than before, if that was possible. We went on to make love in various ways for hours. It was the greatest … never mind.
Afterwards, we lay in a tangle of arms and legs on her couch, still half dressed, breathing together.
“You know something?” I said finally.
“What?” Carole said. She paused for a second.
“You really … .”
“No, please don’t say it. You know I’ll hate it when you say it. Puh-leese!”
“Okay. I won’t say it.”
“Thanks,” she said.
“But I’m thinking it,” I said
“I hate you,” she said, kissing me on the neck.
David Berger is an old guy from Brooklyn, now living in Manhattan with his wife of 25 years: the best jazz singer in NYC. He is a father and grandfather. He has been, among other things, a case worker, construction worker, letter carrier, high school and ESL teacher, a legal proofreader and a union organizer. Loves life, his wife and the world. Hopes to help the latter escape destruction.
David has been published by Verso with his graphic history of American bohemia: ‘Bohemians’, co-written by Paul Buhle and by DRABBLE for his works ‘Invisible Dude’and ‘Statuary’. His story, Ghoul Days, features in The Sirens Call ezine, Issue 45.
Lest Ye Be Vexed
The man in the booth behind me sounded sinister. A low, somewhat nasal voice, carefully modulated with deliberate pauses to imply hidden threats?
I can’t say.
I don’t know if he was on a phone or if he had a silent companion with him, but he was deeply unsettling.
I have no idea how he realized I was listening, but when I felt enormous pressure in my back, I looked down and saw the point of a blade poking through my shirt, dripping blood on my lap… and then that voice, much closer now, whispering “Never listen at a keyhole…”
G.A. Miller is a new voice in the chorus of horror authors, drawing his ideas from everyday, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors.
“Waggins, where are you?” Marcy hollered into the wooded area. “Where are you, you dumb animal,” she muttered.
She turned to see a large beast appearing from the trees. It opened its mouth letting an object fall from it and hit the ground.
Marcy looked down at the human leg that now lay before her. She stared up at the creature that looked down at her with large globs of drool and blood dripping from its jowls.
“Ah dammit bud,” she said with a sigh, “You’ve got to stop bringing me gifts. You always get dirty when you do that.”
Radar DeBoard is an aspiring writer who just wants others to find enjoyment in his work. Even though he lacks publication and experience, he hopes his work will have an impact. He has a passion for horror and finds it the most interesting genre to write.
This Too Shall Pass
The liquid burned its way down her throat. They told her it would, but the sensation was still overwhelming. Their hands held her, soothed her. They’d all been through it before; they knew what she was experiencing. The pain suddenly spiked and darkness washed over her. She felt herself slide out of consciousness.
She woke to find faces peering down at her.
“Yes, the transition was successful.”
The world looked different now, literally. Her eyes saw more colors, more shades. She felt the bloodlust grow. Her tongue felt the elongated canines. She smiled.
“Welcome,” said her new companions.
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.
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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 is an active member of the HWA and can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on Blue Sky as stephellis.bsky.social.