Trembling With Fear 03/15/20
Oh, the coronavirus, it has so much to answer for. To see so many in Britain go into stockpiling mode and triggering shortages was depressing. It just goes to show how much it’s become every person for themselves these days, no thought for the vulnerable who need the goods or those who can only afford to buy day-to-day. By clearing the shelves like this, people are triggering the very shortages we could have avoided. Supermarkets are finally rationing certain items but I really wish they’d done that as soon as this behaviour kicked in. And toilet roll? Makes you proud to be British.
I will say this is a disease which worries me in that my parents fall into the at-risk category by virtue of age and I know people with underlying health issues who are more vulnerable, but I’m just trying to keep it in perspective and keep reminding myself flu is a bigger killer. I know it’s also going to have difficult economic effects which I don’t make light of. But most will survive this and you have to tell yourself that. Try not to let fear run your life.
On a more upbeat note, I was really excited to announce last week my signing with Silver Shamrock Publishing for my novel, The Way of the Mother. This will come out in October and marks a huge step forward with my writing. A mix of folk horror and dark fantasy, it’s a tale of grotesque characters, ritual and survival and I had great fun writing it.
Accompanying me on this publication journey are many other members of the Horror Tree and Trembling with Fear family. Check out the following:
G.A. Miller is offering his three kindle books on amazon free for one day only on Sunday.
Patrick Winters has a story, The Faoladh, in Neon Druid: An Urban Celtic Anthology
Robert Allen Lupton’s story, Flash of Fire, is in charity anthology Amongst Friends. Proceeds to fire relief in Australia.
Alyson Faye has a story, End of the Month, in the Horror for Hire anthology from Emerald Bay Books (due out May 2020). Not content with that, you can find also find one of her tales in Flash of Fire (see above) and in COLP.
This week, Trembling With Fear starts with Boring as Hell by RJ Meldrum. Horror doesn’t have to be blood and guts or ghosts and creaking floorboards. Horror can be found in the knowledge that sheer mind-numbing boredom of office work, the day-to-day drudgery, is going to go on forever. This is true hell and sadly I think this story may actually speak to many. On a more positive note it might serve as a springboard for change. Although for George, that change looks somewhat worrying.
Devil’s Bridge by Mike Rader has some wonderful imagery – ‘Midnight, the moon washed his clothes white …’ Poetic and greatly adds to the atmosphere.
Hold On by G.A. Miller is a tale of horror which suddenly appears in the very place where you would expect to find reassurance.
Swag by Dale W. Glaser shows us what could happen if you don’t get your laundry done. Love this Lovecraftian tale with a moral. Show it to your teens!
It sounds like more and more people might end up stuck at home either by force or by the plague so it seems like a good time to set some writing goals. If you find yourself in a job or school that might make it mandatory to take some time off, now is the time to put together a plan. It sounds like it could be up to 8 weeks of mandatory closures in some areas. While I can’t see the US actually enforcing this with how much capitalism controls our lives, some might end up lucky. If you could be one of them – put together a writing plan! Imagine you’ll have 1-8 weeks ahead of you. What would you want to get written? What writing realistic writing goals would you set for each scenario? Plan them out and commit. You might just end up seeing it happen.
For the rest of us, it is an exercise in what you really want to write at the moment and could guide your writing time to be more productive if you need a goal to work on.
At any rate, this week we’ve got some great stories for you. I hope you enjoy checking them out!
Boring as Hell by R.J. Meldrum
The clock ticked away the minutes and hours. It was the loudest noise in the office, but George barely heard it; the sound had long since faded into his subconscious.
The office was large. He wasn’t sure how many people worked there; everyone was tucked into their own individual cubicles. The cubicles were arranged so the workers couldn’t see each other, but some flaw in the layout allowed him to see the girl next to him. He couldn’t see much, just a tuft of brown hair, the edge of a shoulder, the hint of a skirt. He’d never seen her face. He’d never spoken to her, but watching her gave him some comfort. She felt like a friend.
Every day in the office was the same. His in-box was always full when he sat down. It was his job to empty it. He processed orders and dockets. Goods received, goods shipped. It was the same endless routine, but today something was different. George put a completed invoice into his out-box and then paused. He felt more alert, more thoughtful. It suddenly occurred to him he couldn’t remember how long he’d worked in the office. He couldn’t remember how much he got paid. He couldn’t remember what he did when he left the office. Where did he live? Did he have a family? Sweat broke out on his forehead. Was he having a stroke? Was it a brain tumor? He stood, his head spinning. He stumbled over to the cubicle where the girl worked.
“I don’t feel well. I think I need help.”
She looked at him, her eyes dull and uninterested. Even in his distressed state, George saw she was significantly older than he’d imagined. Before she could respond, a disembodied voice echoed across the office.
“Will all employees return to their assigned cubicles.”
George looked up at the ceiling.
“Will all employees return to their assigned cubicles immediately.”
“Will all employees return to their assigned cubicles immediately!”
The woman stared at him blankly without speaking. George returned to his cubicle, still feeling unwell.
The next morning, he noticed the woman’s cubicle was empty. He felt a brief sense of disquiet, quickly forgotten, as the drudgery of the day’s work blocked all conscious thought from his mind. But in his subconscious, the questions from the previous day were still there, causing a spark of self-awareness in the endless routine and conformity. His neurons fired, his brain cells reviewed memories and observations. A revelation popped into his conscious mind.
“I know where I am.”
In the distance an alarm sounded and the disembodied voice spoke once again.
“All employees remain seated. All employees remain seated.”
The voice continued, but George paid no attention. He stood.
“I KNOW WHERE WE ARE!”
There was a soft voice at his side.
“Come this way, George. Please.”
The man next to him was a stranger. Dressed in a neat business suit, it occurred to George this might be his boss. He felt his arm being taken and he was led to a small, windowless office at the side of the main office. He’d never noticed it before. There was a table and two chairs. The man sat in one and indicated for George to sit in the other.
“This has only happened twice before, George. It is, if the word isn’t slightly inappropriate, a miracle.”
“So, tell me, where are you?”
“Go on, George, you were brave enough to shout it out to everyone in the office. Tell me.”
“I think…I think I’m in Hell.”
“And why do you think that?”
“It’s the same every day. The same boring, dull endless paperwork. I don’t know who I am, I don’t know where I live or what I do outside this office. I don’t speak to anyone. It’s the same routine every day. Hell isn’t fire and torture, at least that’d be interesting. Hell is this.”
The man smiled, then leant forward, his hand extended.
“Congratulations George, you’ve just been promoted.”
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.
I saw the man sitting on the wooden bridge. Midnight, the moon washed his clothes white, his beard twists of silver curls. He waved for me to join him.
I called, “Who are you?”
He spoke not a word. He pointed beyond the bridge to the cemetery wall, beckoned me to follow him, his eyes imploring.
I paced behind him, curious, uncertain. He slipped through a narrow gate, stopping beside an old stone tomb.
I froze. My name was carved into the stone above the door.
My companion opened the iron gate and shuffled into the depths. “Come, friend …”
James Aitchison is an Australian poet and author. He writes noir fiction and horror under the pseudonym Mike Rader. As James Lee, his children’s horror stories have sold more than three million copies in Asia. Visit his publisher’s website: www.flameoftheforest.com
The dense fog obscured the light from the moon and stars, so I took her hand in mine as we entered the path through the woods.
“No matter what, don’t let go, OK?”
We made our way through, the dry leaves and twigs cracking beneath our feet. We heard rustling nearby so we picked up the pace, wanting to get through to the road beyond.
I stopped to take a moment to breathe and get my bearings, but the rustling continued.
I turned to whisper to her to be quiet… and saw the thing now holding my hand.
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.
The thing is, I’d missed laundry day and was running late. I threw on the free, ugly t-shirt I’d gotten at that presentation on timeshares in Saint Villaret last month. Sure the logo was weird but how was I supposed to recognize it as the secret sigil of a malevolent elder god? Or that exposing it to sunlight would make the sky explode like a fiery ocean of liquid madness to herald the return of Zangooka the Unliving Doom? So sorry I inadvertently unleashed the apocalypse or whatever but it’s not like I could leave the house half-naked, could I?
Dale W. Glaser
Dale W. Glaser is a collector, re-teller and occasional inventor of fantasy tales, as well as an unapologetic t-shirt hoarder. He requires air, food, water and stories in order to survive, not necessarily in that order. His lifelong love of written words has manifested as a devotion to the English language almost exclusively, which is probably just as well because if he were to master any of the dead tongues that conceal ancient mysteries and invoke malevolent forces, we’d all be in trouble. His short stories have been published in magazines such as Weirdbook, Occult Detective Quarterly, and Outposts of Beyond, as well as anthologies such as Subliminal Reality, Eldritch Embraces and Carnival of Fear. He currently lives in Virginia with his wife and three children. He can be found online at https://dalewglaser.
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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.