Trembling With Fear 03/07/21
Last week I mentioned marketing and self-promotion. Well, that Sunday was a first for me as I took part in a podcast with lovely hosts Ben Long and Janine Pipe (also TWF writer!). Their questions made me think a bit because when you watch or listen to podcasts, you always get the ‘path to horror’ or the rites of passage that most writers seem to go through. I’ve heard a number of these now and that is not me, I have come to horror via different path. I read a lot of Enid Blyton as a kid, so many pony adventure stories(!), then moved on to my mum’s books and then to Dickens around 11/12 years, and into the world of literature and then to horror. I watched movies but listened more to darker music. This is still the case. I worried I would be regarded as an imposter and could have made up answers to ‘fit’ the expected mold but decided not to. I would be me, imperfect as I am. Don’t worry if you don’t fit the norm. Be yourself. Check out the podcast here and here.
Whilst I have also banned myself from buying books(!) before we move – still in solicitor limboland – I broke it just a tinsy winsy bit and bought the mobi of Kevin M. Folliard’s dark fantasy novella, Tower of Raven. Kevin is a regular contributor to TWF and is, as I said last week, one of my favourite writers and seriously should get a lot more recognition in the wider world. I regard him as on a par with Kev Harrison and Christopher Stanley. Go out, get his book(s) and leave him a review if you can.
This week’s Trembling with Fear starts with Wunderworld by Srijrani Ganguly. A unique story, which, as you understand what’s happening and who Ron is, leads to great admiration as to how well this is done. Srijrani takes you step-by-gentle-step through the apparent attraction, a steady pacing matching the dawning realisation of the main character. A fairground ride with a difference. Excellent.
Hemingway’s Haunts by Mike Rader provides an historic setting and literary ghosts. So many sites around the world could provide stories, yet they are not used – hint, hint.
The Lure by RJ Meldrum mixes children and horror. It doesn’t matter how many times you see the young in a horror setting, it always jars because of their ‘innocence’ and that primal urge to protect.
Three-Fifteen by G.A. Miller shows how it doesn’t matter what precautions you take to keep yourself safe, there might just be something you forgot.
This week we have another great round of stories and I’ve started trying to increase their visibility with some original art for our social media shares (and an increase in how much we’re sharing them!) I can’t promise this will be happening every week quite yet though it is my goal to shine more of a spotlight on them moving forward. Here is to trying at least! 😉
I’ve got a ton going on this week so am going to leave this one short and sweet. Have a great weekend everyone!
Just a reminder, if you are looking to submit new fiction to the site please read our Trembling With Fear Submission Guidelines.
Wunderworld by Srijani Ganguly
You can’t quite remember how you came to be here, outside this amusement park, in the middle of nowhere. You look at the sign right above you, the letters curving to follow the shape of the gate, and you sound it out in your mind.
Inside your head, as you gain entry into the park, you try to rationalise the spelling. Could it be, maybe, that the owner was German, or at least, whoever built the place wa—
You are jostled from your thoughts when someone pushes you in the queue. It disturbs your balance and throws your hands in front of you in reflex, but before you can turn around to admonish whoever bumped into you, you come to a more startling realisation: that you’re in line for something.
You hope for a gentler ride—tea cups that move around in circles, or even small cars that crash into each other. You hope against hope that it has got nothing to do with heights. You are deathly scared of them, although you can’t remember why. Please, you tell yourself, please, let it not be a roller coaster.
You keep repeating that line over and over again, for hours on end in the line, until you come to see what lies ahead for all of you, which is, of course, a roller coaster.
Through the immense trepidation filling your mind, you observe the odd structuring of it – how each individual car looks like a forlorn Norse boat, burning to follow the track. You squint your eyes in an effort to see things clearer, and for a second, taken altogether, the cars look like a series of sticks high up in the air.
There are still many people in front of you; still time for you to take a seat in a boat-car yourself, so you look around. It doesn’t strike you—it doesn’t strike many—that you could perhaps talk to those behind you or right in the front of you.
No, you look to your right and notice the picture board—the gallery of faces frozen in fear, taken during a decline in the ride. There are quite a few old people among the photographs, all with their eyes closed, an expression of peace lining their features, and you focus on them, rather than the younger specimens, who seem to be caught in a moment of utmost fear and despair.
For many long moments, you stare at the board, before three slow steps deposit you at the attendant’s booth.
He is an old man in your eyes. Dressed in a russet uniform with a badge that says his name is “Ron”. A walking stick lies near him, where he sits.
‘Do you have a coin?’ he asks.
‘I think. Maybe. I’m not sure,’ you reply.
‘Look inside your pockets.’
You do. And there is.
‘I used to know a “Ronald”,’ you tell him, as you hand him the coin. ‘I mean, I think. I’m not sure.’
‘Did you? And what has that got to do with me?’
‘Isn’t that your name? Isn’t that what “Ron” is short for?’
The attendant snorts. ‘No it isn’t,’ he says. ‘Now move along.’
You do. You sit inside the roller coaster, beside an old woman in a hospital gown, and pull the safety bar down. You’re somewhere in the middle of the ride, and for that you’re grateful. You don’t know what you’d do if you were right there at the front.
‘You’re holding the bar too tight,’ Ron tells you, appearing as if out of nowhere next to you. ‘You’ve got a death grip on it.’
‘I want to be sure,’ you say. ‘I don’t want to fall off.’
‘You won’t. Don’t worry about that. Just relax.’
‘Easy for you to say.’
The attendant laughs at that. He enjoys people that have a little snark, who are even a bit rude to him. You have no idea about any of this, of course, and you feel unsettled with your almost-discourteous retort.
‘That’s true,’ Ron says, smiling and relieving you of your self-doubts, and walks to the end of the train. ‘Is everyone okay?’ he yells.
Murmurs of affirmations answer him.
‘Good,’ he says, as he walks back to his booth, to press a series of buttons to make the ride move.
There is a slight and sudden lurch of the car you’re in, and that makes you grip the bar in front of you tighter. You chance a look at the person next to you, but the old woman seems to be lost in drugs of some sort, painkillers most likely, and there is a beatific smile on her face. Her eyes, you notice, are closed, and so you take a leaf out of her book and shut yours as well.
You wait for the first steep fall, the first plummeting uneasiness in your stomach, but it never comes. This roller coaster moves quite gently, and you feel like you’re inside an actual boat on a river. There is a swaying, the motion of moving forward, but there is no sharp twist and turn, or a drop that utilises everything that gravity has to offer.
This goes on for some minutes.
Right towards the end, when you feel the ride slowing down, you open your eyes. You do it at the right moment, too, because just then the flash of a camera goes off and a picture of you is captured for eternity. The bright light leaves spots in your eyesight, oddly-coloured spots that seem to show incidents from your life—when you were a child, a teenager, an adult. You shake your head to disperse them, and look renewed at where your car has stopped.
Am I in a hotel lobby?
No, you’re not. But that’s what most people think, anyway. The floors are so polished, the ceilings so high and wide, that everyone thinks they have travelled to a posh boarding house.
With the rest of the travellers, you move out of the roller coaster and get in line again. You follow the queue as it walks towards another booth, where you’ll receive the photo that had been taken only a moment ago. You see everyone in front of you stopping to look at their pictures, most of them astonished to see it, and wonder if yours will turn out better than theirs.
You move along with nervousness, in anticipation of holding the memento in your hands, until at last, you face me.
My wife has told me, on many accounts, that I’m too gruff with our patrons; that I forget what the world outside is like. And so for her sake, even though it’s that time of the year and she’s off to her mothers, I try to be nice to you.
‘Hello,’ I say. ‘How are you? I am the owner of this place.’
‘Oh… this amusem—,’ you say and look back to see if you can catch the sign at the gate. You can, but only just. From where we are standing, the “W” seems hazy and vague, the rest of the letters more prominent.
‘I don’t…’ you turn to speak to me, ‘I don’t understand.’
‘That’s okay. You’ll be alright in a minute. Now, would you like to see your photo?’ I ask. ‘There is a map of this place at the back of it.’
‘Yes, of course. How much do I have to pay?’
‘There is no need.’ You have already given me your most valuable possession, I want to say, but I don’t. That’s another thing my wife has told me to be more gentle about.
I hand the photo to you—the close-up of your face wide in fear and dread, seconds after the snapping of your bungee rope and seconds before the cracking of your skull on the ground.
This is my favourite part of the job, and why I insist on operating a lowly booth despite my status in this setup. I hand the photo to you and watch as it all comes back to you, as your face falls with dread and crumples with hopelessness at your realisation of where you truly are.
I take a bite of your fear, mull it around my mouth to absorb its flavour and swallow it with relish. The taste of it is far sweeter than any fruit on Earth. Pomegranate or not.
Srijani Ganguly is a former journalist, with a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Limerick. Her short stories have been published in The Honest Ulsterman, Silver Apples Magazine, Fairlight Books, and other magazines. She currently resides in Dublin, and is a reader for a Scottish publishing house.
“Hemingway loved the Latin Quarter.” The walking tour guide led us up hilly narrow streets.
We paused outside 74, rue du Cardinal-Lemoine. “He lived here, in a fourth-floor walk-up. The toilet was a hole in the floor.”
And outside 39, rue Descartes. “His writing studio.”
Movement caught my eye. Three figures. A brash trenchcoated young man, neat moustache, wry smile. Two women, one short and round. The other, wiry, taller. I’d seen those old photos. Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and her lover Alice B. Toklas.
I watched. They vanished into a doorway. When I turned, my tour group was gone.
Mike Rader is a pseudonym used by Australian author and poet James Aitchison. As J J Munro and Mike Rader, Aitchison writes horror and noir crime. As James Lee, he writes Asia’s biggest selling horror series for middle readers — Mr Midnight — which has sold over three million copies. His work can be seen at www.flameoftheforest.com
“For Christ’s sake, would you look at that.”
He braked and pulled onto the verge.
“There’s a kid, right at the side of the road.”
It was dark, she hadn’t seen anything. He exited the car.
“Can’t leave her.”
He walked back a few yards to the small figure.
“You shouldn’t be out here, not at this time of night.”
The figure looked up. He saw red eyes, a small wizened face and elongated teeth. Despite her childlike size, she was undoubtedly far older than him. He belatedly realized it was a trap.
She attacked before he could run.
RJ 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.
My eyes opened, the clock on the DVR reading 3:01. The screen saver danced on the screen because I’d fallen asleep in the chair again.
I clicked the remote and the TV went dark. Checked the door locks and headed to the bathroom, and then a stealthy entry into the bedroom, being careful not to wake my sleeping wife.
I quickly stripped and slid beneath the sheet, my right foot hanging off the side. As I slipped my glasses off, the clock on the bureau moved from 3:14 to 3:15.
Something cold and wet slowly encircled my bare foot…
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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.