Trembling With Fear 03/31/2019
I managed to get to the cinema this week with some family members to watch Us. I enjoyed Jordan Peele’s Get Out, so was hopeful this would be both good and ‘different’ to the usual horror fare. I remember all the hype about Hereditary but I’m afraid I was one of those who felt rather let down by the end result (I know many people loved it but for me it dragged and the end felt a bit of a cop out). Not so with Us. I loved it and I’ve had the song played when the Tethered replicate the Hands Across America event stuck in my head all week; it’s been tough avoiding humming it when I’m working with students! I’m certain I’ve heard it before somewhere but cannot identify it, it’s only a short blast and isn’t even included on the soundtrack which I’ve listened to on YouTube. Does anyone know what it is? The soundtrack is very good by the way and can be listened to here.
Trembling With Fear leads this week with Symbio-Trial by Louis Stendhal, a timely story as so-called advanced societies tackle both the obesity epidemic and the search for a cure for cancer. Josh Parker is obese and needs to lose weight, he also wants to do it in the easiest way possible, ie by avoiding exercise. As part of a medical trial he does actually lose the desired flab but at what cost? Unbeknown to him, the trial is really one which produces a cure for cancer. This story was a winner because it challenges the reader to think about whose life is worth more. How far could society go? How far should it go?
Herbie’s Eats by Hailey Piper is a great, informal blog style piece written with some underlying humour. Cannibalism is regarded as the norm and the restaurant attended by the food critic has received rave reviews. The absence of an answer as to how only positive reviews are ever achieved plus the selection process of the intended victim for the meals should surely have given the reviewer pause for thought. A good example of show, not tell.
Jiang Shi by Patrick Winters uses the simple technique of a repeated sound to build tension and a sense of ominous doom. Threaded through the story, the sound brings both the tale and Cheng to its expected, and inevitable, end. Clack, clack.
Salty by Kevin M. Folliard is very much a tale of pride coming before a fall. The huntsman taunts his prey as he tracks it, not paying much attention to other predators in the area. The dialogue in this piece gives Hayden a boastful, swaggering air. No actual description of the man is needed after this because you know you can see him perfectly in your mind’s eye. I also enjoyed the juxtaposition of the pig’s indifference to the violence of the hunter’s come-uppance at the end.
Three Blind Mice by Scarlet Berry builds tension well with the hiding of the sisters from their attacker. Using a nursery rhyme is a good technique to employ when writing something dark or horrific because it brings innocence and horror into stark contrast, thereby heightening the latter (and in terms of movies, how often have you heard children’s voices chanting a rhyme in a horror film – it really adds to the creepy element). In this case there is also an extra layer of violence as the rhyme is about to be enacted in real life.
This week, progress was made on some anthology prep and artwork changes. We’ll have more of that to debut with you asap!
If you’ve been thinking about dipping your toe into the world of drabble as of late, we’re a little light on those 100-word stories. While we’re scheduled out for over a month in them, it always helps to be prepared for the future!
Josh Parker sat across from me in my office that day, out of breath and lethargic. His corpulent body overlapped the wooden armrests of his chair. Beads of sweat dripped down his forehead, like rain droplets on a window-pane. He seemed eager to begin.
“So, what is the medicine exactly?” he asked, wiping his forehead.
“The medication itself is a living organism. It has been genetically modified to consume human fat cells as its primary food source.”
“How fast does it work?”
“In our earlier trials, our patients lost an average of five pounds per week. We are increasing the dose this time around in hopes of that average increasing to about seven.”
“And there is no exercise required?” he asked.
“Exercise would be in your best interest Mr. Parker,” I said. A smile began to creep onto his face, “But no, it’s not required for the treatment to work.
He let out a few spurts of thunderous laughter. “I can see it now, as a T.V. commercial. ‘Are you tired of eating tasteless food and doing pointless workout routines for no particular reason? Would you rather sit on your ass all day and do nothing as the pounds fly out the window like your motivation to exercise? Then call this number now,’” he said, chuckling.
“There are already commercials like that—but I assure you our product actually fulfills that guarantee.”
Josh slammed his hands on his knees. “Well, let’s get started then. How do we do this?”
“I’ll be administering thirteen injections into your body: two in the stomach, one in each arm, two in the chest, two in each leg, one in each side and one in your neck.”
“Does it hurt?” he asked.
“Have you ever had a flu shot?”
“A few years ago.”
“It’s just like that.”
Progress Log (Josh Parker P#304)
Injections of compound SBL-22 in subject were successful. Minor bleeding occurred in frontal cervical region; nothing serious. No visible side effects have appeared within the first few hours of injections. (end)
“Where do we go from here?” Josh asked, buttoning up his shirt to the rim of his neck.
“You will remain here with us during the trial for observations during the first six weeks. During that time, we will have you keep a journal so that you can document your experience.
“Are there any side effects to this?” he asked, scratching at the bandage around his neck.
“None that you need to worry about.”
Whoever owns the patent for this is going to be damn millionaire. I’ve lost sixteen pounds in a week. On top of that, I feel pretty good, other than an occasional headache or two. I have a few sore spots on my body, but the doc assured me that it would clear up in a couple of days. At this rate, I’m gonna be rockin’ washboard abs by April. Just in time for the final season of Game of Thrones. I’ll invite Becky over to watch it on the big screen. And right when Kit walks into frame, I’m going to flex so hard that my shirt will literally explode into a hundred pieces, she’ll look over all shocked—yet impressed, and I’ll be like, “Whoops, sure don’t make them like they used to.” Then we’ll make sweet love for days. (end)
Progress Log (SBL-22 T#2)
The drug’s effectiveness is working better than expected with the body weight in the Trial 2 subjects. The deterioration process appears to be delayed in males over 135kg. We are highly optimistic about the overall results of this trial. (end)
“How are you feeling today Josh?”
“On top of the world Doc. Other than the pain I’ve been telling you about.”
“Lift up your shirt and I’ll take a look.”
Josh lifted his shirt up to his shoulders. His chest and stomach were covered with oblong shaped splotches of green and black discolorations across his skin.
“That’s just a bit of bruising caused from the injections—it’s nothing to worry about.”
The weight loss is continuing to do fantastic. Thirty-four pounds and counting. The creepy religious morning nurse controls what goes on the T.V. in the rec room. If I have to watch another second of Fox News, I’m going to break that damn, Make America Christian Again coffee mug that she drinks that decaffeinated diarrhea out of. Other than that, I can’t really complain. Feeling a bit foggy-brained lately. Doc said it would improve as my blood glucose levels stabilized. I had to look up what glucose was, which somehow led me down the internet rabbit hole to something called “The Hoboken Squat Cobbler,” which was fifteen minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. (end)
“Something’s wrong Doc.”
“How so? Are you still having pain?”
“Yeah, quite a bit of it.”
“Where does it hurt?”
“On a scale of one to ten, how bad would you say the pain is?”
“Maybe a six—and it’s constant. It’s a dull throbbing throughout my entire body, especially in my stomach.”
“We can give you something for the pain.”
“I appreciate that and all—but aspirin isn’t going to fix this.”
“Don’t worry, Josh. We will give you something much stronger than aspirin,” I said, making a note of it in my log, “Any other issues?”
“I’m having trouble thinking and talking sometimes—it’s not too bad but it’s noticeable. And my pee looks funny.”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, when I went to flush the toilet earlier, my urine looked brown.”
“Brown? Like dark brown?”
“Let’s put it this way Doc, for a moment I was concerned that my rectal tract somehow got connected to my urethra—because I was almost certain that I was pooping out of my wiener.”
“Never lose that sense of humor Josh. It’s unusual at times, but it’s unique.”
“To the grave Doc,” he said, as a smile grew on his face. “Oh,” he muttered, bending down towards the floor. He lifted his pant leg up, exposing his ankle. “Should I be concerned about this? They are like two times their normal size.”
“That’s just a bit of fluid retention; nothing to panic about.”
Legs gave out on way to bathroom. Broke a tooth on sink when I fell. Nurse said I go home tomorrow. Tired. (end)
Progress Log (Josh Parker P#304)
SBL-22 has taken just a little over sixteen days to spread into subjects’ brain and liver. He is exhibiting signs of both severe short-term memory loss, along with rapid deterioration of motor functions. Our general hypothesis is that liver failure in subject will occur within seven days. The Harvesting Procedure of compound CT-63 will be scheduled for tomorrow morning. (end)
“Dr. Hyatt,” the man’s voice said through the doorway.
“Mr. Williams,” I said, standing from my desk, “come on in and have a seat. Care for some coffee?”
“No thanks,” he said, sitting down. “So, run me through how this works.”
“Alright. So, you’re into wine making if I’m not mistaken?”
“Okay—think of the SBL-22 like the yeast.”
“Now think of the fat cells as the sugar. After the SBL-22 consumes the fat cells of the host, it produces compound CT-63 as waste, just as yeast produces alcohol after it metabolizes sugar.”
“The CT-63 is what’s being harvested?”
“What could it be used for?”
“The compound itself is completely harmless to the human body—but, we have found it to be toxic to several types of cancer—including leukemia.”
“Leukemia. Is that what Charlette has?”
“And how was this discovered?”
“Like most great things—by accident.”
“How’s she doing by the way?”
“She’s hanging in there. Just turned ten last week.”
“Ten already? Do anything special?”
“I took her to that little Italian place she likes.”
“The one with those little buttery garlic rolls?” he asked, glancing at her picture on my desk. “Angelo’s, I believe.”
“That’s the one.”
“I like that place too,” he said. “What happens to the donors after the extraction?”
“They will be kept here for a few days for observation. When all their test come back normal, they’ll be sent home.”
“Well Dr. Hyatt, we’ll give you all the funding you need,” he said, shaking my hand. “And I sure hope this works. For human-kind—and your daughter’s sake.”
“As do I.”
Progress Log (Josh Parker P#304)
Subject’s Time of Death is 11:23am, 07-04-2018. Harvesting Procedure was successful before the subject expired. Subject, along with the additional thirty-six participants, are scheduled for incineration on the morning of 07-05-2018. (end)
It’s been said, in order to make an omelet, you have to crack a few eggs. Sometimes, although unfortunate—it can take dozens of eggs, to make just one omelet.
-Dr. Steven Hyatt
Louis Stendhal is a Science Fiction, Mystery and Horror writer from Chattanooga, TN. He currently lives in Twin Falls, ID, with his wife and ten year old son. He also does works of comedy and humor under his real name, Eric Baker.
GERALDINE’S QUICKIE FOOD BLOG
In a time glutted with brusque service, Herbie’s Eats is a shining example of friendly restaurants from a bygone age.
“Service with a smile, that’s our motto,” Herbie himself says. Asked his secret to keeping spirits bright amid stiff competition since the overturning of national anti-cannibalism laws, he added: “We have a careful selection process for who becomes food, and when customers are happy, we’re happy. Plus, we always get positive reviews.”
When probed as to how he manages this feat, he only smiled a little brighter and asked if I’d be interested in today’s special.
Hailey Piper was raised in a creepy patch of woods up north, haunted by ghouls and monsters. Today she keeps her childhood nightmares alive by writing them down.
Cheng stirred, the noise out in the alley rousing him from sleep.
When the ruckus kept up, Cheng threw off his covers and went to his window. He threw it open, peering down the alley.
He saw an old woman, hopping her way along the street, towards his house. It was Mrs. Huang — who’d died two weeks ago. She wore the hanfu and sandals she’d been buried in.
Cheng gasped — loudly. Mrs. Huang stopped her hopping, looked towards his window — and snarled at him.
Cheng quickly shut his window; but it was too late.
Patrick Winters is a graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. He has been published in the likes of Sanitarium Magazine, Deadman’s Tome, Trysts of Fate, and other such titles. A full list of his previous publications may be found at his author’s site, if you are so inclined to know: http://wintersauthor.azurewebsites.net/Publications/List
Hayden tracked hoofprints alongside the brackish outback creek.
He lifted his rifle.
“Piggy, piggy. Here piggy.”
Saliva mixed with tobacco behind his lip.
“Roast piggy. Morning bacon. Salty crispy bacon.”
A kingfisher screeched and warbled. Water lapped at Hayden’s hunting boots. Snuffling grunts sounded around the brush.
Hayden licked his lips, stepped into the creek, and waded around the bend.
Water erupted. Serrated jaws clamped Hayden’s arm. He screamed as an enormous saltwater croc yanked him into a death roll.
The creek reddened. Scaly tail swayed. And the pig watched with indifference.
But the kingfisher’s shriek was almost a laugh.
Kevin M. Folliard
Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, as well as adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, and more. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Street Fighter, or traveling the U.S.A.
Author Website: www.KevinFolliard.com
Three Blind Mice
The three frightened sisters huddled together on the closet floor. They could hear the sound of footsteps coming down the hall and wished that their parents would come home. He was back, and they were hiding.
The footsteps stopped outside the closet door. They could hear him breathing. He started to sing a song about three blind mice and a carving knife. The girls knew it was meant for them. Slowly, he opened the closet door. The sisters squeezed their eyes shut, praying that he wouldn’t see them.
He did, of course.
“This time I brought the knife,” he whispered.
Scarlet Berry is a Yooper. She’s been married forty years to the same man and they raised four children together. She is a mystery wrapped up in a conundrum, and loves to laugh; both evilly and happily.
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Stuart Conover is a father, husband, published author, blogger, geek, entrepreneur, horror fanatic, and runs a few websites including Horror Tree!