Trembling With Fear 03/13/2022
Welcome back to Trembling with Fear, our online flash zine. We publish both new and established writers with many becoming familiar faces and being an ongoing open market, we are always after material. Submissions don’t have to be horror, they can be dark sci-fi or fantasy or some other aspect of the speculative fiction field. Nor are we averse to a touch of noir or a dark thriller. Humour is also welcome!
Good news from one of our contributors last week, Eric Fomley, who’s just put out his flash collection, Flash Futures. Eric has produced some outstanding work at TWF over the years so be sure to check out his book here. I’ve also added it to our weekly Indie Bookshelf Releases post – there’s nothing I enjoy more than being able to put the work of TWF writers on these pages! Remember this is a bit of free promo for writers, so if you have any upcoming releases to share, send me the book cover and link (if there is one, it could just be to a blog article about book if pre-order/order is not available).
My own reading has been varied lately. I’ve recently finished The Faithful Executioner by Joel F. Harrington. A recommendation to me from Coy Hall, it’s a great bit of historical non-fiction written in an extremely accessible manner. For a quick read, I’d recommend Rowan Hill’s In the Arctic Sun – a monster, isolation, vulnerability, paranoia, fractured relationships – what more could you want? I’m one chapter into Joe Koch’s The Wingspan of Severed Hands – and I am in awe of his use of language, a prose poem of wonderful weirdness!
First up this week in Trembling With Fear is Venison by Adrian Healy. An exploration of the food chain, it shows how it comes full circle and how in some cases you are literally, what you eat. With elements of self-delusion and ego feeding into the main character’s downfall, it illustrates perfectly man really can’t take his position at the top of the food chain for granted – there are other forces out that which are more than ready to put him (or her) in their place.
The Last Stand by SJ Townend has a touch of the War of the Worlds about it but in an updated environment. Some great imagery in this little slice of sci-fi – and with an important message at the end.
The Scream Machine by Quinn Parker takes us back to the fair and reminds me why I don’t like those rides. I’m always imagining what could go wrong and this one, well … at the end … I was cringing!
Trade Secret by RJ Meldrum shows it doesn’t pay to look too closely as to what goes into some things! The neat last line wraps it up without having to force the point. Word choice is everything.
I hope you enjoyed our stories, now send us yours!
Whew. Just like last week, I was able to get some more work done on a novella this week! Still slammed with family stuff, schoolwork for my MBA, and work. Progress is being made though!
I’ve started reading through our drafts of the next Trembling With Fear anthologies and so far, so good! I’m hoping to be able to sign off on my testing by the end of the coming week. Fingers crossed!
I’m also discussing a few ideas with Holley, who has taken over our newsletter, about a few ways to expand that I’m quite excited about. More on one or more of those soon!
Finally, I’ve made a bit of progress with the site redesign. It looks like we’ll be aiming for a Q2 release instead of the first quarter.
Not quite as much progress as I’d like, but it IS being made! 🙂
Venison by Adrian Healy
“You are what you eat.” Fred Burke listened to the woman. She interested him, marginally. She didn’t seem as boring as the others in the office.
“It’s the food, you see. Processed meat. They’re putting all sorts of crap in there now.”
Burke watched as she chewed. He could see saliva mixing with the avocado in her mouth. Her teeth weren’t bad. His were worse. Yellow stains. She spoke at length. He wasn’t really listening. How could she not notice that?
“Yes, I Know.” He interjected and nodded his head. Just enough to give the impression he was interested.
“Antibiotics. They’re pumping the animals full of it. And genetically modified corn.” Her mouth was full of sandwich. Burke was hungry and spooned mushroom soup into his mouth. She was right. Burke had known that for some time. He had researched it on the internet by watching some videos. Big corporations were messing with the food supply. Trying to poison the human race.
After lunch he didn’t do much work. He should eat better food; he made his mind up. At ten past four he left the office and started to walk down Kedzie street. There was a butchers. A sign said:
ALL TYPES OF MEAT. ORGANIC. FRESH VENISON.
Venison. That was Deer meat, right? Burke daydreamed. He was a hunter, creeping through some ancient forest. There! A Deer. Beautiful. The animal chewed peacefully. Sunlight spilled through the forest canopy and illuminated the beast. He aimed at the animal and cast his spear through the air.
Burke walked into the butchers.
“Venison please”, Burke said.
A burly butcher eyed him. “How much?”
“Enough for one”.
Burke watched as the butcher sawed through a hunk of venison. The butcher wrapped the bloody meat in some white paper and then put the limp package in a plastic bag.
Burke held the bag close to him as he walked down the city street. A homeless man asked him for some money. Burke ignored the man. He was on a different level to the people around him now. He had quarried his prey like a hunter. He had defeated the corporations who were trying to turn people into stooges. And they were everywhere he looked. He knew by the vacant look in their eyes. Stooges.
He took the bus. An attractive lady shifted uncomfortably beside him. There was no smell from the package. That evening he fried it in olive oil, with mushrooms. It oozed blood in the frying pan and parts of the slab of meat had a strange greyish colour. He relished it as he ate. He thought about the noble beast as it had wandered through the forest, wild; free. He would inherit the Deer spirit now; he would become Deer-like and through him the Deer spirit would become corporeal. A fair exchange, he thought. He chewed on a piece of broccoli.
In the coming weeks the changes started happening. He went to see a specialist about the hair growing on the underside of his arm
“Hormonal.” The specialist had said. “We’re seeing a lot of it these days. It’s dietary. Changes in the food. Genetic modification. The outcomes are, how shall I say; uncertain.”
Burke shaved off the hair. It didn’t seem like human hair, more like coarse animal hair. Within a few days he had noticed another patch. First on his stomach, then on his thigh. Then the thing with his toenails started. They became fused together. He started to walk funny.
“Are you ok Fred, something wrong with your feet?”, a nice lady had asked at work.
“Fine thanks. I sprained my ankle. Playing tennis you see. Part of my healthy lifestyle.”
He had strange dreams. Running through the forest. Then the things on his head started. Two little lumps at first, right at the top of his head. He stopped cutting his hair and started wearing a hat at work. Two women in the office whispered that he was going bald. One morning he woke up and the growths had spurted out of his skull, each about the same size as his thumb. The hair had spread all over his back and covered his stomach and legs. His toes had fused together. Then he had to start wearing his wellingtons as he couldn’t fit into shoes anymore. The woman next door told her daughter on the telephone that Fred Burke had gone crazy. He was limping around in wellingtons with a plastic bag over his head and his back was hunched over.
He had stopped going to work. They called him on the telephone at home but he couldn’t answer. He couldn’t speak any more. He could just make animal grunts and his fingers had begun to fuse together. One day he looked in the mirror and saw his whole face was changing shape. Where his nose and mouth were he was growing a large snout. He knew then, that he was becoming a deer.
He got in the car and drove toward the woods. He pulled his hood up so no one could see his deer-face. He passed the butchers where he had bought the meat, but it looked like it had been closed for years. Strange, he thought.
In the woods he was happy, free. It was good to be out of the office and live in nature. He mated with the female deer and it felt great. Then one day he saw something flash in the trees. The bullet hit him straight between the two eyes. As he died he felt his spirit splitting from the Deer spirit, but he couldn’t remember anything after that.
The hunter who shot him butchered him on the spot, leaving Fred’s antlered head, hooves and innards in situ. That night the fox licked Fred’s bones clean. The hunter sold the meat to a local butcher who had re-opened after being closed for some time. He hung a sign in the window which said:
ALL TYPES OF MEAT. ORGANIC. FRESH VENISON.
The Last Stand
It was a beautiful apocalypse.
A silent arrow, The Greys’ ship swooped down through the ionosphere on target. It froze above London City like an ominous, black iceberg.
From its base, one hundred-fold snaking tentacles unfurled, each tipped with a red, menacing eye. Both awesome and terrifying was the mechanical Medusa.
Robotic thunder cracked through the skies, over the city below.
“Give us your gold. Every scrap.”
Angry laser slices decapitated the Gherkin.
Sirens. Screams. Destruction.
Below on Earth, for the first time in history, all humans, all colours, all creeds, stood united, together as one, in a hopeless battle.
SJ Townend has been writing
evil lies dark fiction in Bristol for three years. She’s currently putting together a collection of horror stories, working title: SICK GIRL SCREAMS. SJ hopes her stories take the reader on a journey to often a dark place and only sometimes back again.
The Scream Machine
Elijah clung to the lap bar. Roller coasters weren’t supposed to break down like this. Not at the peak of the loop-de-loop, grinding, halting, steel screaming.
His safety mechanism failed, dropping him from the seat. Now only arm strength prevented a hundred-foot drop, ground waiting so far below, quietly unforgiving.
Some riders offered encouragement. Others, silence, paralyzed, afraid. Didn’t matter. Moving carefully, he brought legs up to ensnare the restraint, winding tight, as ancestral apes clung to branches.
Below, first responders finally arrived, fire trucks blaring, announcing, You’re saved.
Then metal groaned again as the wheels released from their tracks.
Bob had worked at the meat processors for decades, always on the sausage line. He blended the meat and spices, grinding the mix to fill the casing. He let no-one else near him; he had a secret ingredient he refused to reveal. The owner didn’t care; Bob’s sausages were prize winners.
It wasn’t until a new inspector arrived that the trouble started. She noticed Bob’s backpack on the floor.
“That’s not allowed.”
She looked inside; it was full of glistening, red meat.
The subsequent investigation revealed Bob’s secret ingredient and, coincidently, explained why the town had so many missing people.
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.
Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/richard.meldrum.79
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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 and Reborn, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused. Her novel, The Woodcutter, is due for release via Brigids Gate Press in 2023. 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, on Twitter at @el_stevie, Instagram stephanieellis7963 and also somewhere on Facebook.