Trembling With Fear 04/04/21
So I wrote off last week because my covid jab reaction but that’s all done – although my eldest is now suffering a response to her own vaccination. But like me, she says a day or two of discomfort is a small price to pay!
And this week, TWF has some great news in the form of the wonderful Amanda Headlee who has stepped up to take on the role of Unholy Trinity, Serials and Specials co-editor. You do not know how much of a relief this is as it really helps lighten our workload.
My writing life has seen a couple of short story rejections and a poetry acceptance whilst I continue to work on my sequel to Five Turns. Always the pantser, I have become very non-linear. I’ve written about 2/3 of the story with about 5-6 chapters to go but I’ve actually jumped to the last chapter and am writing that as I suddenly saw how it was all going to end. I even had my last line. This may not be the way we’re all told to do it but it’s my way and being able to see the end clearly brought back a bit of fun to the process – although it’s sadly not fun for those involved. I’m beginning to think my writing process is a bizarre form of dot-to-dot.
To submit to TWF, please check out the submission guidelines here and do include your bios with submissions as we no longer hold them on file. Also remember we are currently closed to short stories but open to drabbles, unholy trinities and serials – plus our specials accept all forms.
First story this week is Trembling with Fear is Boneyard by R. Michael. A gothic piece which slips from one setting to another through eerie mists and strange-coloured skies. I enjoyed this partly because of the scene setting but also because I felt the nature of that setting, its isolation and almost abandonment, reflected the emotional turmoil of the main character.
Final Visitor by Radar DeBoard is face-to-face with Death. A strange sense of peace accompanies this visit which is a change to the usual terror induced by the Reaper.
Tennyson’s Terror by Mike Rader is a poem which parodies a certain Lady of Shallott and gives us a fun haunting in said vein. I am always open to poetry by the way, and for info, we treat them as drabbles on the site for contract purposes even if they don’t fulfil the 100 word drabble requirement.
Welfare is our monthly offering from R.J. Meldrum – I think you’ll see one from him a month for the rest of the year! A nice little dark offering as always.
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
Introducing Amanda Headlee – TWF’S New Co-editor for Serials, Unholy Trinities and Specials!
My Twitter profile indicates that I like writing, cycling, and the macabre—not necessarily in that order. It’s true, I have an equal obsession with all three. And it is even better when I can combine them. Trust me this has been done…
The Jabberwock fascinates and terrifies me. He’s my first monster and the inspiration for my love of horror and fiction. As a child, I found the best way to connect with literature was to reconstruct existing stories and sending the characters on new adventures. Sadly, those tales are awful and not unique. They shall never see the light of day. Writing infected my brain at a young age and has since then flowed through my veins. I’m happiest when I’m scribbling away or riding one of my bikes.
My debut novel, Till We Become Monsters, will be released on June 1, 2021. It’s been a few years in progress and finally seeing the light of day. A dream come true and the first of many more novels to come.
If you want to connect with me or find out more, you can find me here Www.AmandaHeadlee.com and on twitter and IG as @amandaheadlee.
I would also like to give a huge shout-out to Amanda Headlee for joining the team as our new Specials Editor! She will be handling the submissions of both serialized stories, Unholy Trinities, and our special calls.
Speaking of Trembling With Fear, as always, Trembling With Fear is looking for Drabbles, Unholy Trinities, and serials.
Things are pretty busy this week so I’ll keep it short and sweet, just no, changes are coming! 😉
A huge shout out to our Patreons this week! I love you all! (In a totally platonic and not strange kind of way!)
Boneyard by R. Michael
Anne ambled along a narrow dirt road that was little more than an overgrown path. The moon shone brightly in the clear night sky, surrounded by countless glinting heavenly bodies. The air had a slight chill, but it was still warm enough for her to walk without a jacket.
She loved the night and found walking in the dark calming. Earlier that day she received a call from her mom that her father was diagnosed with colon cancer. Though he was far from young, she still expected many years left with her dad. Now, Anne faced the real threat of him dying soon. On top of that, the company she worked for had been cutting back jobs every couple months, resulting in an increased workload and mounting stress.
Eventually Anne came to a gated cemetery. Something inexplicable drew her toward the burial ground, and without thinking, she lifted the rusted latch and stepped within the iron boundary. Rows of headstones greeted her in the eerie half-light of the moon.
A gentle breeze tossed her shoulder-length, light brown hair. She paused and took a deep breath, basking in the stillness. Anne’s head pivoted to the left side of the graveyard, where a soupy, gray mist floated toward her. Soon the entire area was enveloped in the dense fog.
Anne tried to get her bearings, and fortunately the haze dissipated as quickly as it came. Once it was gone, she saw the sky had turned orange and was dotted with puffy black clouds. The cemetery remained the same, but the surrounding landscape somehow morphed within a few short moments, and the mighty oaks and maples were transplanted by white pines well over one-hundred feet tall.
Just beyond the far end of the cemetery, Anne spied a stone castle, its ramparts riddled with holes. Six cone-shaped spires jutted skyward, one of which still held the tattered remains of a black banner. The top of the seventh tower had completely crumbled away. Swallowing a newly formed lump in her throat, she decided to investigate.
Anne cautiously followed the dirt path through the cemetery to a cobblestone road just wide enough for a single vehicle. A murder of crows flew westward, cawing madly to one another. Her eyes swiveled back and forth, taking in the new sights, awestruck and bewildered. Anne shivered and wrapped her arms tightly around her waist. With the abrupt drop in temperature came an intense loneliness that permeated this area. Aside from the castle, there were no signs of human life, just wilderness.
By the time she reached the castle entrance, more clouds drifted in from the north, yet streaks of orange still filtered through the black mass. The gate was rusted in large sections, and the top crumbled away due to countless years of neglect.
“I wonder who lived here, or where I am for that matter,” she mused, rubbing the pads of her fingertips along the oxidized metal. She gave one of the doors a gentle nudge, and the slab fell away from its hinges, dropping to the ground with a thud. Dark purple vines choked much of the decaying courtyard, but there was a less senescent staircase leading to the central tower.
Anne carefully ascended the stairs while simultaneously doubting the wisdom of doing so. The flight opened into a room with moth-eaten, crimson curtains. Unlit torches still hung on the walls, wrapped in cobwebs. Movement in the back caught her eye. Startled, Anne focused her gaze and saw a tall woman in a navy-blue gown with her hair tied in a beehive bun. Her skin was dark gray and peppered with ebony blotches. The being’s amethyst eyes surveyed the intruder.
“Hello there, stranger,” the gray woman said musically, slowly circling Anne. “Who are you, and how’d you get here?”
“I-I’m not really sure.”
“You don’t know who you are?” The woman’s lips spread to a sarcastic grin, adding to Anne’s unease.
The young woman gulped and eyed the castle’s inhabitant without answering.
“It has been a long time since I’ve seen anyone else.” While she spoke, her skin seemed to grow gaunt and sicklier. “There was a time when villages dotted the landscape, but one by one-” she cut herself off, “well, they are no more.” She ran the back of her fingers along Anne’s arm, sending a chill down the young woman’s spine.
“I should get back home. My family is probably wondering where I am.”
“But you’ve only just arrived. Mmm, your scent is unlike anything I’ve known before. It’s so sweet.” The woman licked her lips, and Anne could have sworn her irises briefly flashed orange. “I’d love to hear more about your home.”
“Who are you? What is this place?”
“Difficult questions to answer, and you still haven’t answered mine. I’ve been called many things, but Vermina suffices. This world is separate from but intertwined with your own, different but the same.” She forced a laugh. “I know it seems contradictory, but if it helps you to understand, those who’ve visited here call it the spirit realm.”
“If this is the realm of the dead, where are they? You said you hadn’t seen anyone in ages, but there must be others here. Besides, I thought you didn’t know where I was from.”
“Again, difficult to explain,” Vermina said coyly. “This is more than just a place of the dead. There are many layers of existence.”
“I really should go.” Anne turned to leave.
“But it is so nice to have someone else to speak with. You wouldn’t believe the loneliness I’ve felt. The isolation is maddening.” Vermina smiled eerily.
“I can imagine, but nevertheless, I must go.” Anne descended a couple steps before Vermina suddenly reappeared in front of her, grinning. Her maw was lined with inhuman, blackened, jagged teeth.
“Where are you going, my pretty little lamb?”
Anne tried to push past the being but was shoved backward. The heavens darkened further, and red rain dripped from the clouds’ bloated bodies. Glancing over the side, Anne decided the distance was worth the jump, and she rolled to the ground below.
“Gah!” Anne belted, cradling her right ankle. She glanced left to see an emaciated face with its tongue lolling out. She screamed and struggled to her feet. Dozens of bodies were sprawled throughout the courtyard, purple vines weaving through and around them. All had horrified expressions forever locked on their lifeless faces. Despite the pain shooting up into her knee, she hurriedly limped toward the cemetery.
“You cannot escape me, my dear.” Vermina appeared to her left and reached out with inky, claw-like fingernails. Anne side-stepped the hand and fled into the graveyard. The pallid lady attempted to follow but screeched and jumped back. Vermina glowered at Anne as the woman hobbled through the cemetery. The fog grew so thick she couldn’t see her hand in front of her face, but as before it lasted only a minute or two before the mundane sight of oaks and the simple dirt road out of the graveyard greeted her. Anne sighed in relief and called her husband, Mike, to pick her up.
Within a minute or two after she hung up, the fog reappeared, forcing its way through the cemetery gates. “No, no, no,” Anne uttered. Her swollen ankle throbbed, but the pain couldn’t compare to the rising fear. Unlike before, the mist turned nearly black and brought an unnatural chill which penetrated the soul. Anne’s skin puckered to gooseflesh, and she rubbed her hands along her forearms.
Lightning cracked in the western sky, briefly illuminating the landscape, revealing Vermina’s castle in the distance. “That’s not possible! I got out!” she screeched, anxiously combing her fingers through her hair. When a second bolt arced across the sky, the castle disappeared. Swallowing, she gaped northward, bewildered.
“I can’t stay here,” Anne mouthed, limping toward where she guessed the road might have been. A haunting sensation hung over her. Looking back, Anne could see the silhouette of a woman prowling back and forth.
Minutes later, the fog subsided, and a blue SUV rolled in. As she swung her injured ankle into the vehicle, Mike gave her a sideways glance and asked, “What the heck happened?”
“I tripped over a big rock. I feel so dumb.” Just before the door shut, a laugh echoed, startling Anne. “Did you hear that?”
Mike’s brows furrowed. “Hear what? What’s got you all jittery?”
“Nothing. Let’s just get home.”
“If you say so.” He shrugged, dropping the topic.
Just before the SUV came to the end of the dirt road, Mike slammed on the breaks. “What the-” he gasped, cocking his head to the side. Anne looked up from her phone then dropped it. The sky to her right had grown an angry orange, and a pale woman stood in front of the vehicle, leering at the couple with elongated, sharpened teeth protruding from her rotting gums.
“Don’t just sit there, Mike! Step on it!” The vehicle rocketed forward, but before it could slam into the woman, she vanished.
All Mike could do was look at his wife wide-eyed, silently asking what she’d gotten herself into.
Anne didn’t know how to tell him what she had encountered. Even faced with the impossibility of what he had seen, she questioned whether Mike would believe her tale.
“Keep driving, and don’t look back,” she eventually said.
“For how long?”
“Until we don’t see her or that anymore.” Anne pointed to the castle, once more looming behind the cemetery, cloaked in an isolated tempest.
R. Michael lives in rural Minnesota and is happily married. He has one son and a border collie foot warmer. He has four books published on Amazon and has works published in “365 Tomorrows,” “Theme of Absence,” and “Ink & Fairydust Magazine.”
The room was completely silent as the window was thrown open. A loud wind swept through the room as a figure in a black robe floated in. The window automatically closed behind the visitor. It took a few steps towards a chair that sat in the middle of the room
with its back to the figure.
The skeletal hands of the visitor produced a large scythe from the inside of its robe. It took another step forward as a man slowly rose from the chair and turned around.
The man smiled and said to the figure, “I’ve been expecting you.”
Radar DeBoard is an aspiring writer who just wants others to find enjoyment in his work. Even though he lacks publication and experience, he hopes his work will have an impact. He has a passion for horror and finds it the most interesting genre to write.
On either side the river lie
Some graves that you should hurry by.
Some say they open to the sky
And ghosts come out to float on high
In search of souls they haven’t got.
And so one night there came a man,
Unsuspecting Joe McCann.
He saw the ghosts and off he ran,
But poor Joe’s fate was shot.
Out flew the ghosts and floated wide;
Joe’s Rolex crack’d from side to side;
They carried him on one last ride,
They dropped his body deep inside,
And they left him there to rot.
The moral of the story’s clear:
Do not go out at midnight drear,
Lest you find out that ghosts are near
And no escape you’ve got!
Mike Rader is a pseudonym used by Australian author and poet James Aitchison. As J J Munro and Mike Rader, Aitchison writes horror and noir crime. As James Lee, he writes Asia’s biggest selling horror series for middle readers — Mr Midnight — which has sold over three million copies. His work can be seen at www.flameoftheforest.com
“Angela Frampton, social work.”
She flashed her identity card at the pale, thin woman in the doorway.
“Zoe Lewis? I’m here for a welfare check.”
Zoe stepped back and let Angela enter.
“Three children. Malnourished. Judge ruled against an order for protective custody. Children returned with a supervisory order. May I see them please.”
Zoe walked to a bedroom and opened the door. It was dark inside. Angela entered. She heard the click of a lock behind her. She banged on the door.
“Lunch, kids!” said Zoe.
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.
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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 can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on Blue Sky as stephellis.bsky.social.