Oh dear, the plague has returned (with Stuart still suffering, TWF is really a hotbed of germs at the moment). I’ve been unable to shake off a cough from my recent bout of illness, it had been getting better but now I’m back to square one and the ‘fluey’ feeling is also back. This means I will be keeping this week’s editorial short and sweet; I’m typing it up from my sickbed before I knock myself out with Night Nurse – there’s dedication for you.
The first story this week in Trembling With Fear is The Masked Rider Saves his Family by Max Sparber is a story in the vein of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds told simply from a child’s point of view. With a childish belief in the fictional Masked Rider, he tries to emulate his hero, acting out what the character would do when confronted by an alien. The sheer simplicity and naivety of the boy makes the ending that much more tragic and horrific.
The Death of Dave Harbour by Arthur Unk has cold desperation bleeding through the paragraph. Adjectives and word positioning, alliteration and some great phrases, eg ‘The baritone howls of the creature echoed off the ravine walls’ immediately build atmosphere and tension and creates a stark image in the reader’s mind.
Blood Brothers by Steven Holding one of those reunions in a cabin stories which lead to murder – with a neat, although psychotic, twist. Some great imagery in this story too, ‘Throat slit like a second smile’ being a particular favourite.
Sting by Steve Toase is sheer poetry. A lyrical folk horror, Sophia becomes an element of nature, creeping into houses and into dreams to bring about a living nightmare. Perfect use of language, what more can I say?
So that’s it for this week and now I lay me down to sleep (if I am going to have any chance of dealing with a full work day tomorrow!)Stephanie Ellis
With the flu out of my system outside of a persistent cough I’ve been able to make progress on a few things.
First off, we may have figured out the cover for the next volumes of TWF and I’ll update you on that shortly!
Secondly, authors who were in ‘Trembling With Fear: Year 1’ should have received an e-mail from me in the last week. Please respond asap!
Third and finally, a huge thank you to our Patreons! I’ve been brainstorming a few new offerings for you soon. Stay tuned!Stuart Conover
The Masked Rider Saves his Family
Manny was playing with his Masked Rider doll when his mother made a noise. He knew it was her voice but he had not heard that noise before. It was the sort of sound the dog made. Sometimes Zorro got caught underfoot and yelped slightly. It was that sound.
Manny set down his doll. It looked just like the Masked Rider from the television show, with a detachable plastic hat that was constantly falling off. Manny didn’t like that.
He stood and went to his door, peering out. Downstairs he could hear his parents speaking in quiet voices, urgently. “So soon?” Manny’s mother said. “They said it would be at least two weeks. How did it get here so soon?”
Manny walked to the stairs. Zorro was asleep at the top, so Manny stepped over the dog and padded downstairs.
His parents were at the living room window, looking out. In the distance outside there were flashes of light, like fireworks.
“I’m hungry,” Manny said.
Manny’s parents turned. His mother marched over and took his hand while father drew the blinds on the window.
Mother took Manny to the kitchen and set about making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “No edges,” Manny said. He did not like the crust.
“No edges,” mother said.
Manny watched as his father passed the kitchen door. Father was carrying a portable television. He went into his study and closed the door.
“You know what?” Manny asked his mother.
“What?” she answered, smearing peanut butter on bread.
“The masked rider was caught in cave last week and he was surrounded by bandits,” Manny said.
“Oh no,” mother said, adding jelly.
“I knew he could take them,” Manny said.
“Of course he could,” mother said, cutting the sandwich in half.
“He sure could,” Manny said. “They came in to get him and he took out his guns and bang bang bang,”
“Bang bang bang,” mother said. Then father groaned.
Mother put a plate with the sandwich on it in front of Manny. She turned and walked out to the study. The sandwich still had its crust on it.
Manny frowned. He took the plate in his hands and followed to the study. He stopped at the door. Mother was crying.
Mother and father were watching the television. There were explosions on it. Father spoke, very quietly.
“They’re saying they have a ray,” he said. “It burns up whatever it touches.”
“Can’t somebody talk to them?” mother asked, her voice thin and high.
“I think they’re trying,” father said. “They damn well better be trying.”
Manny laughed. Both parents turned, looked at him.
“You said a bad word!” Manny said.
“Go up to your room,” father said.
“But my sandwich,” Manny said.
“Go up right now,” father said very sternly.
Father stood and closed the door to his study.
Manny kicked the ground, angry. It woke Zorro, who stood at the top of the stairs, stretched, and then looked down at Manny expectantly.
“Come on Zorro,” Manny said. “Let’s go to my room.”
Manny went upstairs and into his room, the dog following. Manny slammed his door. He sat on the floor and ate his sandwich, feeding the crust to the dog.
Outside, there was a noise. It went boom. Manny stood up and looked out the window. There were people in the street outside. They were running.
Manny went to his closet. He put on his felt cowboy hat. He pinned his plastic sheriff star to his shirt. He pulled his plastic gun belt around his waist. He put his cap guns in the holsters. Finally Manny put on his plastic eye mask. Now he looked just like the Masked Rider.
Zorro licked Manny’s plate where Manny had left it on the floor.
The door opened and mother came in. She kneeled down in front of Manny and took his hands.
“Manny, we’re going to go down to the basement,” she said.
“Why?” Manny asked.
“It’s a game,” mother said.
“Can we take Zorro?” Manny asked.
“Not for this game,” mother said. “Zorro makes too much noise for this game.”
She stood and they walked out the bedroom. Zorro stayed behind, still occupied with the plate.
They walked down the stairs. Father was there, holding open the basement door.
They went down together.
“Go into the shelter,” father said. “I’ll turn out the lights and follow.”
Mother and Manny went into the bomb shelter together. It was small and concrete and cool. They sat on the floor.
“This is the game,” mother said. “The game is to be as quiet as possible. No matter what we hear, we are going to be as quiet as possible. Can you do that, Manny?”
“I’ll protect you,” Manny said.
Mother choked for a moment. The lights went out.
“I know you will, little one,” she said. “But right now we need to be very, very quiet.”
Father came in. Manny heard him move the metal door across the entrance to the shelter. Father sat down. Father held them both.
“Quiet as a mouse, Manolo,” father whispered. “Quieter than you have ever been.”
There were more booms from outside. The house shook, and dirt fell from the ceiling of the shelter.
Everything sounded very distant, very deep, like it sounds when you put your head underwater in the bath. Like you are underwater and far away somebody is screaming.
Soon there were the sounds of barking. Zorro. Then heavy sounds from above the shelter, from upstairs. Zorro barked again, and Manny inhaled hard, like he was about to say something.
Father put his hand on Manny’s shoulder and squeezed. Manny closed his mother.
Another bark, and then a strange noise, like the buzz a television makes when you turn it on.
Zorro did not bark again.
More sounds. Movement. Something came down the stairs.
Manny could hear it moving around the basement. In the dark, he put his hands on his cap guns.
And then there was a sliver of light. The metal door to the shelter opened slightly.
Father’s hand was still on Manny’s shoulder, and father’s hand shook. Mother was pressed up against Manny, and Manny could feel her chest rising and falling, like when Zorro had been running and began panting. Her breaths came fast, but in a whisper.
The door to the shelter opened more. There was a hand on it. Or, not a hand. Something like a hand.
The door opened the entire way. Mother sobbed at what she saw.
Manny stood up and drew his cap guns, pointing them. “You go away!” Manny shouted. He heard a buzzing.
The room got very hot.
Max Sparber is an author from Minneapolis. His speculative fiction has appeared in “The Best of Strange of Strange Horizons: Year One” and “People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy.” Publications in 2018 include having stories anthologized in “Fangs and Broken Bones,” “Strangely Funny,” “Sanctuary,” “Black Buttons Vol. 3,” “Ye Olde Magik Shoppe,” and “Under the Full Moon’s Light.” Max is a member of the Horror Writers Association. He can be found at http://www.maxsparber.com/
The Death of Dave Harbour
The cold wind and ice blew against David’s frostbitten skin. Baritone howls of the creature echoed off the ravine walls. Teeth, fangs, and fur lumbered up the pass in pursuit. Jason and Kim were already dead; slaughtered savagely. David could taste death as the bile rose in the back of his throat. He slumped against a rock and pulled out his climbing tool. It would be useless against such a large creature, but the feel of it brought a sliver of comfort. Buring eyes appeared on the path ahead. David raised his weapon in faux defense and accepted his fate.
Arthur Unk lives and works in the United States, but dreams of a tropical, zombie-free island. He hones his drabble skills via the Horror Tree Trembling With Fear (Dead Wrong, Flesh of My Flesh, The Tale of Fear Itself, and others yet to come) and writes micro/flash fiction daily. His influences include H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and life experience. You can follow his work from all around the web via his blog at http://arthurunk.com or read his many, many micro-stories on Twitter @ArthurUnkTweets
Of the six that arrived, only two of us remain. Comrades since childhood; this secluded mountain cabin the perfect spot for our overdue reunion.
At the height of the storm the first corpse appeared. Throat slit like a second smile. Frantic discussion eliminated initial suspicions; no stranger could’ve possibly gained access. Despite denials, responsibility lay amongst our terrified group.
In the ensuing chaos, another was discovered, gutted. When the power came back on; two more, butchered and bloody. Simple mathematics revealed the truth. Facing my friend, I screamed “WHY?”
Until the cold steel in my hand made me question everything.
Steven Holding lives with his family in Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom. His work had been published in FRIDAY FLASH FICTION, THEATRE CLOUD, AD HOC FICTION and MASSACRE MAGAZINE. Most recently, his story THREE CHORDS AND THE TRUTH received first place in the INKTEARS 2018 flash fiction competition. He is currently in the process of completing a number of new short pieces of fiction and is also working upon a novel. You can visit his website at www.stevenholding.co.uk
Nettles emerged from Sophia’s every pore, unfurling just out of sight to button her skin white.
In bars drunken men plucked the leaves and folded them upon their tongue to prove their worth to no one in particular.
At night Sophia shattered their windows with leaf covered knuckles and crouched upon their beds while they slept. Slid the burn-hazel under their fluttering eyelids. Down their throats. Filled their dreams with snake bites that pierced cramped muscles, and limbs crumbling to stone with slow creeping gangrene. Dreams that did not fade with waking or the bite of the surgeon’s precise saw.
His work has appeared in Shimmer, Lackington’s, Aurealis, Not One Of Us, Hinnom Magazine, Cabinet des Feés and Pantheon Magazine amongst others. In 2014 Call Out (first published in Innsmouth Magazine) was reprinted in The Best Horror Of The Year 6.
From 2014 he worked with Becky Cherriman and Imove on Haunt, the Saboteur Award shortlisted project inspired by his own teenage experiences, about Harrogate’s haunting presence in the lives of people experiencing homelessness in the town.
He also likes old motorbikes and vintage cocktails.
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