Oh, those moments of rejection. I had a wonderful half-hour this week when not one, but three, rejections came in – just like buses! They were nice enough rejections and I have sent the stories straight out again but it was one of those moments when you wonder if you’re in the right game. However, I was cheered up by some lovely reviews for my latest offering, Asylum of Shadows in Demain Publishing’s Short Sharp Shocks! Series. Swings and roundabouts as ever.
Other good news was on a more personal front. As a librarian in a secondary school, I was cheered by the news that our library is being rebuilt – we have, unfortunately, been surviving in a temporary portacabin for a while. By the end of the year, I will be in a new building with a lot more room – lots of space for horror! This month’s book purchases included Shirley Jackson and Richard Matheson. I have also donated my copy of Alma Katsu’s Stoker nominated The Hunger. It’s interesting to hear the HWA is providing a list of recommended books for YA/teens, so that, combined with Gingernuts of Horror Young Blood section will certainly provide me with some inspiration. Reading is as vital to me as writing and I love being in a position to get the kids reading – and no, it’s not always horror. It’s great when they come in with their own books and you discover they are reading some of the latest books out there – one student came in with Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions which I also have. Moments like those make me happy.
And now for our own reading. The first story up this week in Trembling With Fear is The Old Man in the Window by G.A. Miller carries overtones of Stephen King’s coming of age stories. Childhood memories of a creepy guy in the corner house on Hemlock Street – great name by the way, it immediately points out that something dark is coming – who never moves from the window, return years later resulting in a trip down memory lane. What is particularly chilling is that after all this time, nothing has changed and whilst the main character appears to have escaped from something possibly demonic, that escape is not quite so clear cut. I do like stories which hint at a possible bad ending for all concerned without necessarily stating it explicitly, leaving it to the reader to work out what is going to happen. I know what I think the character’s decision is, do you?
The Monkey by Patrck Wynn is an end-of-mankind scenario. The almost hypnotic trance he is in as he watches the animals die conveys both fatalism and almost a complete separation of self from what is going on in front of him. Sometimes this absence of emotion, the dulling of the senses can carry as big an impact as including emotion itself, but this ‘void’ has to be clear and that’s what’s been achieved in this piece.
Tied to a Tree by Roxy Thomas turns a story which at first appears to be a stupid prank gone wrong into one where a particularly brutal form of justice is meted out following an apparent acquittal. A clever turnaround.
Philosophy by David Berger is a great speech delivered straight to the reader, forcing you to listen, to feel uncomfortable with his reasoning, his amorality. We always try to find the good in people and when confronted with one such as this, it is very disturbing.
Latest anthology update. We have to write a couple of forewords and obtain artwork and hopefully we’ll be all set, which reminds me, I should start building Trembling With Fear’s Year Three edition!
Between The Flu, a huge project at work, and a huge financial thing that came up I’ve been beaten down to just about nothing the last month. I’m honestly not sure how these posts have been getting scheduled. Magic? Desperation causing me to get things out and pretend at normality? Late night sacrifices to the Ancient Gods who went dark before the light came into the universe? Who knows! I honestly don’t 😉
That being said, I’m still horribly behind. I owe a forward and need to push for getting artwork towards the next TWF installments. On top of that, I need to reach out to all of our past contributors and these are all things that I’ve just not been able to get done. The flu is gone (even if the cough remains) so I’m hoping that during or after this next week (when a HUGE timesink of a project comes to a close at the day job which will relieve me of a pile of stress) that I’ll be able to get all of that finalized.
At any rate. We’ve got some great stories for you today though we’re looking for more drabble and a few more shorts as usual if you’d like to get into our extensive queue of work to be printed!
The Old Man in the Window
As kids, we add new words to our vocabulary all the time. We could define them, we could spell them, and we could say we know most of them.
Some words, however, are not truly known until they are experienced firsthand.
Freedom is such a word.
I knew freedom in the summer of 1968, when school let out and I spent the summer exploring near and far on my new bike. My grandfather got me a shiny new Schwinn Stingray bike for my twelfth birthday in late ’67, and as soon as the snow melted in ’68, I was out riding every free moment, strengthening my leg muscles and becoming as one with that bike.
I rode far and wide, well beyond my previous comfort zone, discovering places to explore and places to stay the hell away from too.
That house on the corner of Hemlock street, for example.
Every time I rode past that corner, no matter the time of day, he’d be there in the window, just watching.
I knew he was old, the little hair that remained on his head pure white, thin as a rail, always wearing a long-sleeved white button-down shirt, a pair of black suspenders holding up loose khaki trousers.
Today, I’d probably describe him as gaunt. Back then, he was just creepy.
Never moved a muscle, stood silently at the window watching, his face always set in a grimace.
I wondered if he might be blind, and stood there to listen to the world outside. I shared that idea with a friend and he suggested we find out by throwing an egg at the window and see if he flinched or moved away.
The thought of that icy cold expression bearing down on me and grabbing my collar as I tried to run was enough for me to take a pass. I told my friend I was curious, but not stupid, thank you very much. I told him to feel free to go ahead and let me know how he made out.
I wasn’t surprised that he never came over to proudly share the results of his experiment.
I never saw that old man anywhere but standing at that window, yet his lawn was neatly mowed, the yard clean, no trash overflowing the steel barrels, no newspapers or mail sitting on the steps in front of the door.
If he had someone tending to these things, I never saw them doing it.
As summer made its way to fall, I forgot about the old man. He got put away in the back of the mental closet as my awareness of both music and girls mushroomed over those hot days.
Then came the purchase of a new house, moving to a new neighborhood, and the passage of time we call “life” that leaves us wondering just where all those years could possibly have gone to.
I sit now in this hotel room, fifty years later, typing these notes on a device I first saw on TV in a show called ‘Star Trek’. Now retired on a disability, I decided to go back and visit the old neighborhood and see if the years had treated it well.
The German deli where I used to get a soda and sandwich is now a Korean market, selling goods I can’t even pronounce, much less identify. Next door, the Polish butcher shop is now selling and repairing cell phones and tablets. The ethnicity of the area changed many times over the decades, the shops representing those changes. Last I heard, for example, that Korean market was a Bodega.
Changing times, indeed.
On a whim, I took a drive along my old bike route, the one that took me to the park, to the library, to the homes where my friends lived… and yes, past Hemlock street too.
I signaled, turned the corner and hit the brakes of my rental hard enough to tip over my bottle of water in the cup holder. A car behind me sounded an angry bleat of their horn, and I pulled over against the curb.
There he was, standing at the same window.
Looking exactly the same as fifty years before, those same black suspenders holding up baggy khaki trousers, and that grimace, the mouth turned down at the corners as before. It has to have been my shock and imagination that made me think he was staring directly into my eyes, as though he’d been waiting for my return after all this time.
As I shook my head in wonder…and a fair amount of fear…he moved for the first time ever since I first saw him all those summers ago. He raised his hand and gestured toward the front door, which was opening on its own as he did.
I earned another angry horn blast as I slammed the car into gear and pulled away from the curb without signaling and waiting for the coming car to pass. I never even looked. I just wanted to get the hell away from that house and that man as fast as I possibly could.
On the way to the hotel, I found a place that still makes deli sandwiches and stopped for one, adding a six pack of beer, then returned here to my room.
I wanted to eat, I craved a couple of those cold beers, and now I sit here writing in this electronic journal they recommended after the accident, to keep my mind busy and not allow depression to creep in over my condition. I had to wait for my hands to stop shaking before I attempted to type, a skill I never really had.
I’m debating… I’m either going to finish this six pack, get a good night’s sleep and then check out and head back home in the morning, or I’m going to get up early, stop somewhere for breakfast, and then go back to Hemlock street.
If that door opens again, I may just go in this time.
G.A. Miller is a new voice in the chorus of horror authors, drawing his ideas from every day, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors, often with horrific consequences.
His work has been published in numerous anthologies from a variety of publishers, and he’s just released his first novella, “Spirit of the Dead”, now available at Amazon.
Gill sat watching the monkey sway back and forth, he’d been watching the monkey for hours and knew what was coming. Suddenly the monkey wobbled, sneezed a red cloud, coughed wetly, wheezed and fell from the small branch it had been sitting on. Gill watched as the monkey hit with a wet thud next to the other dead monkeys. He stared down at the dead monkeys with a blank stare for a few minutes before turning away. He was now the last living thing in the city, he wasn’t sure how he felt about that since it was his fault.
Patrick J Wynn is an author of short horror stories with stories published in Sirens Call, Short Horror Stories and Two Sentence Horror. His works can be found on Amazon and his Facebook page,
Tied to a Tree
Distractedly entering the anteroom to the wolf enclosure the zookeeper noticed something dark near the base of the tree. Certain his wards were still in the feeding chamber he proceeded with caution. Noticing a man slumped forward he suspected that some stupid kids had dared one another to jump the fence. Recoiling from the coppery smell of the torso tied to the tree, he almost missed the blood splattered piece of paper tacked to the bark. Ripping the note free he read, “The judge may have acquitted him of animal cruelty, but upon appeal, Mother Nature has issued her vengeance”.
Roxy Thomas, an aspiring writer in the horror and paranormal genre by evening and a psychiatric nurse and safety specialist by day.
You can find her on Twitter https://twitter.com/roxythomas , Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pg/storiesbyroxy/about/?ref=page_internal ,
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/91462444-roxy-thomas and through my website/blog https://storiesbyroxy.com/
I’m not the hero here. I’m not a good person. The reason I’m writing to explain this to you. Yes, I saved those two girls. I killed him, yes. And I saved them, yes. But I didn’t kill him to save them. Are you clear on that? I killed him because he owed me money. I came to collect what he owed me. He laughed and wouldn’t pay me. So I killed him. If he’d paid me, I wouldn’t have killed him. I would have left him to kill those girls. There’s no morality here. There’s a lot of philosophy.
I’m an old guy from Brooklyn, now living in Manhattan with my wife of 25 years: the best jazz singer in NYC. I’m a father and grandfather. I’ve been, among other things, a case worker, construction worker, letter carrier, high school and ESL teacher, a legal proofreader and a union organizer. Love life, my wife and the world. Hope to help the latter escape destruction.