Trembling With Fear 03/28/21
This is a very short intro as I’m writing it whilst suffering my covid jab after-effects. I went in with my husband on Tuesday to have a jab, walked straight in, needle in arm, handed a card, straight back out. Don’t think we were in there for more than a minute! The effects started early evening, muscles ached and started to feel queasy. That worsened during the night and the next day, Wednesday, was horrible – muscles ached, head ached, food tasted odd and concentration gone. Thursday was spent in brain fog mode but most of aches gone and so I was able to face the computer screen. So yes there might be side effects but they don’t last too long. My husband was a bit achey but not as bad. I await my second jab with interest (the Oxford Astrazeneca one if you’re wondering). I don’t want this to put people off, more to alert them this might happen but it will pass.
To submit to TWF, please check out the submission guidelines here.
Stories this week include:
Karma by G.A. Miller brings revenge in bloodthirsty form to one of those financial types we all love to hate, especially those who profit from the sufferings of others during a pandemic – and I think we know there are a number of those around these days.
Blue Plate Special by Catherine Berry takes us to a diner you don’t want to visit. The twist on the menu at the end was a nice touch.
Measure of a Man by Jami Fairleigh is a grim little tale, which tells us everything very much through inference. Skilful.
Pirate Video Curse of the Bargain Bootleg by Steven Holding is yet another contender for title of the year and mixes blood with fun, and the pun of the last line.
Enjoy the stories and send us yours!
ACCEPTANCE ANNOUNCEMENTS: We have PLENTY of room for drabble if you’ve got 100 words laying about. Let me rephrase that, please send drabbles in! We also have room for both Unholy Trinities and serialized stories.
That being said, we probably have enough SHORT stories in the queue to last us through 2021. So, we’re going to be extra critical moving forward on these. IF you’re looking to submit short stories to us this year, please try to keep an eye on our holiday themes as those will net you a much higher chance to be published on the site this year over 2022.
We’re not quite at a place with our Patreon pledges to add more short stories to the mix. I’m going to run some polls first to see if authors who are accepted would rather see a higher payout moving forward or more stories able to be accepted.
Karma by G.A. Miller
Max Baker tapped his Cuban cigar gently against the lead crystal ashtray on his desk, knocking the ash off the end, but his eyes never left the huge flat screen on the wall displaying his stock activity in real time.
He’d made arrangements to have multiple sales execute simultaneously on this day, a coordinated move to separate the divisions of the company he sat on the board of because those parts were worth significantly more than the whole.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Max Baker preferred to remain behind the scenes, never granting interviews or requests from reporters. He’d built his empire on transactions that met all legal criteria, but left any vestige of ethics far behind.
His critics often said he was the most soulless individual they’d ever met, a viewpoint he didn’t bother to debate.
He smiled then, a predatory grin, as the sale executed and the red lines on the board that represented his holdings spiked upward. This sale would multiply his investments, albeit ultimately resulting in the company’s collapse, causing hundreds, possibly thousands of employees to lose their jobs and health benefits during the height of a global pandemic, but that fallout never crossed his mind.
Those spiking lines were all that mattered. The rest of it, collateral damage, a part of doing business.
He’d invested his time and resources in this project over the past three years, first rising to a majority seat on the board, then imposing Draconian measures to improve the fiscal appearance of the company to investors, raising its market value to the offshore interests looking to step in, all the while planning to sell it off in pieces, funneling massive profits into his own pocket. He’d decided not to wait any longer, choosing to execute before the idiot in office collapsed, triggering an immediate reaction on the Street.
“Strike while the iron is hot, Max,” he murmured before taking another deep drag on his Cuban, “that’s always been the way to win.”
He turned his head slightly to exhale a huge plume of gray smoke, not wanting to obscure his view of the screen, but as the smoke cleared, he saw a small boy standing in front of the long leather sofa on the side of his office.
The boy couldn’t have been more than five or six years old, blonde hair in a bowl cut, a red T shirt over blue jeans and untied black sneakers on his small feet. What struck Max were the boy’s eyes, very light, ice blue, like those of a Husky, fixed on Max without blinking.
“Hey kid, who the hell are you?” he bellowed, “How’d you get in here? Go on, get the hell out, go back where you came from.”
Whoever sired this little bastard is out of a job before lunch, Max thought to himself.
The boy remained silent, his mouth slowly curling upward into a smile that never reached his eyes. They remained locked on Max; the icy stare made eerily sinister by his complete, unblinking silence. Something stirred, moving behind his sofa just then and two large animals of some sort walked out and flanked the boy on either side.
“What the fuck is this now?” Max whispered, gaping at the creatures.
These were nothing like any breed of dog or other kind of animal Max had ever seen before. Ears pressed flat back against broad heads, narrow slits for eyes and enormous jaws filled with large, thick teeth beneath a wide snout. Their short haired, jet-black bodies were very muscular, more so than he’d ever seen on an animal, and their paws all seemed to have only three toes, each sprouting a massive talon at the end. These things had no tails and their wide shoulders stood nearly as high as the boy’s head.
Max turned his chair slowly, very aware that his massive oak desk had no modesty panel on it and the boy would see any motion clearly. He always kept a loaded Beretta in the upper right-hand drawer of his desk, just out of his reach at the moment, and wanted to get to it without drawing undue attention. Whatever the hell these things were, their purpose was clear.
These things were killing machines.
As he moved, the… thing on the boy’s left growled, a deep rumble filled with barely restrained menace as the talons on its front paws dug into the hardwood flooring. Max froze in fear at the sound, not even reacting when he voided his bladder.
The boy opened his mouth then, speaking just one word, very softly.
The beast on the left bolted first, racing under the desk and sinking its massive jaws into Max’s right thigh. It bit down with enough force to shatter the femur as it shredded Max’s femoral artery, the blood fountaining out onto the beast’s head and shoulders. When Max threw his head back to scream out in agony while flailing in vain to reach the drawer, the second beast leaped easily onto his desk, tilted its head and clamped down savagely onto Max’s fully exposed throat. The bite tore through both carotid arteries before increasing in force, crushing his larynx, esophagus and jugular into little more than ground meat.
The force of the arterial spurts seemed to drive both creatures berserk, their blood lust driving their frenzied attacks wilder by the moment. Max’s mangled, dead body slipped down off his chair onto the floor, where the two beasts tore into him with renewed vigor, as the little boy quietly watched the carnage unfold before him.
The beasts shook their heads violently, tearing off chunks of flesh and devouring them entirely as they made their way to the entrails within, ravenous in their quest.
The boy smiled again, but this one was clearly genuine, his eyes sparkling with enthusiasm as the hellhounds did precisely what they’d been summoned to do.
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.
Blue Plate Special
Timothy didn’t remember sitting down in the luncheonette or even being hungry, but he’d cleaned his plate.
“That’ll be ten dollars,” the rail thin owner behind the counter said, wiping his hands on a red stained apron.
“Sure.” Timothy checked his pockets; his wallet was missing.
“Can’t pay?” sneered the owner, body warped and stretched, distended mouth brimming with needle-sharp teeth. He reached out a spindly, clawed hand, and grabbed Timothy, slicing into his skin. “We have ways of dealing with thieves like you.”
Kenny didn’t remember sitting in the luncheonette or being hungry, but the Timothy burger was delicious.
Catherine Berry loves whimsy, potatoes, and singing with her dog.
Her work has been published in the anthologies Trembling With Fear: Years 1-3 & The Trench Coat Chronicles.
More of her work can be found at www.caterinaberyl.blogspot.com
Measure of a Man
The cruelest thing my father ever did was hand me a hammer.
“Until you’ve confronted your mortality son, confronted and won, you’re not a man.”
I looked from the hammer to my father’s cold, remote face. If I walked away now, I might never have another chance.
Though only nine, I took the hammer, holding it gingerly. “How big should I make it?”
“How big of a man do you want to be, son?”
Sorting through the stack of milled lumber, I glanced at my father, using his height to help select the planks from which to build my coffin.
Jami Fairleigh is a writer, urban planner, and hobby collector from Washington. She is currently working on her first novel and shares her life with a husband, a trio of well-mannered horses, a pair of dubiously behaved parrots, and one neurotic dog. Her short fiction has been published by Terror House Magazine. You can find and follow her at https://jamifairleigh.com/
Pirate Video: Curse of the Bargain Bootleg
A car boot sale. The bounty? A crate of VHS tapes.
Like a treasure chest quest, X marks the spot for this X-rated title.
Critics claim this cult classic’s cursed. I set course for home.
Later, sipping rum, onscreen it’s boats, cutthroats, oceans of gore.
The booze makes me doze.
Waking, I look at my leg. It’s changed, replaced with a wooden peg. A hand is gone, a hook where there should’ve been one. Winking, I realise a patch covers one eye.
Checking my reflection, screaming the question, why am I a pirate?
You just aaaaarrrgghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!
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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.