Trembling With Fear 04/05/20
This bit is going to stay here for every week until the pandemic is over. Thank you to everyone in the health services across the world, to everyone who is keeping us going from delivery drivers, to checkout operators, from armed forces to emergency services. When this is all over, I hope those who used to look down on so many of these, many occupying some of the lowest pay brackets, reassess and give them their due. Keyworkers should be valued and whilst songs and claps might be nice, let’s see something more tangible for them further down the line. Thank you again from everyone at TWF.
Whilst staying at home, social media has come into its own as we all continue to adapt. Noticeable online is the coming together of the writing community to check in on each other – shoutout here to writer and reviewer and all-round Mr Nice Guy S.D. Vassallo for rounding people up each day! Check out his website here https://sdvassallo.com/ and connect with him on twitter @diovassallo.
Support is being shown also in terms of promoting books and uploading book readings for launches or simply sharing favourites. Jim McLeod’s Pandemic Book Launch on Facebook is now featuring live author readings, so head over there to listen, watch or sign up. I did my best to listen on Tuesday night but I had one of those heart-warming parental moments when my youngest decided to talk books with me! It’s her 19th birthday soon and whilst StokerCon has been postponed, it does mean we actually get to see her on her birthday (still discovering silver linings)! And she said she wants to bake her own birthday cake 😊
Look out for #Booktalk on twitter with people sharing readings of the books they love. The idea came from one of the biggest indie writer supporters around, master of the hustle, Gabino Iglesias. Why not thank him by snagging a copy of Coyote Songs? I loved it.
Before I dive into this week’s stories, I want to put a polite little plea out when submitting to TWF. One, can people please, please read our Submission Guidelines especially with regard to word length. Two, whilst I appreciate sometimes you want to withdraw a story, it is a little irritating to read stories, have them withdrawn then the same author sends in more stories, then withdraws those, then sends more in again. Please do not do that, it makes me sad.
Now to this week’s stories! Trembling With Fear’s first story this week is Hook Up by Rob McClure Smith. The scene is expertly painted, the atmosphere drawing in so you can almost smell the night air, feel the breeze. I loved the attention to detail which built this up and added to the immediacy of the piece. And what does go on after sun goes down? You’ll have to read it yourself, but it is chilling, especially the part where personal morality is challenged.
A Matter of Perception by Scarlet Berry uses a theme which we can all relate to, a trick which will always pull a reader in and get them smiling happily at the somewhat painful ending.
Luck of the Draw by R. J. Meldrum employs the law of probability. What are the odds the situation he describes will happen? In the great scheme of things, it’s possible and unfortunate for all concerned.
Unfortunate Dare by Radar DeBoard brings us one of those ‘how stupid can you be’ moments and you know what’s going to happen. Stupidity has often been a person’s downfall but will this one survive?
*Carves a line into the wall*
Another day has passed.
Countless now how many we have spent indoors.
Locked away from the sun and the rest of civilization.
We’re growing low on supplies…
Especially drabbles, serials, and unholy trinities! Make sure to send some in asap with details on each type available at our submissions page!
Seriously, I hope all of you are healthy and have been able to get some writing in. We’re still doing well on keeping things going and hopefully won’t have any interruptions.
I am absolutely swamped right now with work so I haven’t been able to keep up at all on the creative side (lacking nearly an hour and a half of a commute each day has cut into that free time.) That being said, I hope that the authors here are putting pen to page and creating something amazing for u all to read! For the readers who frequent our site, we once again have some great stories for you to check out this week and I hope you enjoy them. Please leave a comment with your thoughts below!
The Hook Up by Rob McClure Smith
The canal is different once the sun goes down. When darkness blankets the blue-black water strange night-sounds come out the trees along the riprap.
Fishing the canal at nighttime you might not notice that. You’d be too busy thinking about whether to use live or chunk bait, or wondering whether it’s better to bounce a jig on the bottom of a gulley or swim a lure through a rip, or checking the baseball score from Fenway on your cell-phone.
The man has been fishing for two hours under these stars. Now he double clicks his phone’s calendar application. Yes, this day one year ago it was he took the 25-pound bass from the Big Ditch. He smiles remembering the feeling he had when he dragged the fish out of his landing net and smacked its head on the shaft. What a beauty it had been. The old canal cranked keeper stripers all last year. But this summer not so much. Tonight there is no night bite on the slack tide. It is as if the fish have taken a long vacation from their summer haunts.
Nothing. Not. A. Thing.
The wind on the canal is soft and warm and ripples the surface of the water. The water in the canal is cold.
Suddenly something wallops at his recast and swallows the bait. The fisherman leans forward in the boat, excited. But it feels too big for a bass. Way too big for a bass. Must be an eel. His rod is curving fit to break.
He says, ”Goddamn it to hell.” But there is no one on the canal to hear him curse.
A pale and white thing is glistening down in the canal dark and now it rises slowly to the surface. The water breaks and the naked body of a young woman emerges. She floats facedown alongside the boat. Her yellow hair is spread out on the water, stranded.
The fisherman sits back in the gunwale, shocked and disgusted. He looks at the pale body in the water and shivers. All he can think of now is how this catastrophe is going to ruin his night’s fishing. He has to report this. He has to get this body ashore. The rest of his night will be spent in town answering stupid questions from stupider policemen. He might even become a suspect in this woman’s death. That’s how it goes. It’s all too much. It’s upsetting.
And if he were to cut her loose just? Who would ever know? What if this pale corpse were just to float away like dandelion seed into the night? He didn’t ask to catch this. She is dead after all. There is no harm in it. His decision is made. She is beyond hurting.
As he commences disentangling his line from the girl’s body, all the while careful not to touch it, he sees to his horror how her back gently rises and falls, the pulse in the blue veins.
”My God,” he says, leaning out of the boat and touching her back with his hand. ”Are you still alive?”
Her skin feels so strange to the touch. It is cold and knobby and pitted with pockmarks.
The fisherman feels sick to his stomach, a gnarled knotting, but reaches and grabs her arms and hauls the comatose girl around to face him.
She looks up and regards him curiously with fish pale eyes.
This woman has no eyelids. His hook has pricked her black lips and those lips seep a stuff that is thick and stringy like blood. But this blood is not blood. And this woman is not a woman. She is making the same sucking sound that the fish make thrashing underfoot on his boat. He has heard for many years that same desperate gasping, their life leaking out.
Terrified now, he attempts to pull away from her, but now it is she who grips him. Her grip is strong and vice-like on his wrists.
”Let me go,” he says, hoarsely. ”Please.”
She pulls herself up and him down until she can stare him dead in the eyes. He notices that she has no nose. He sees the sharp narrow teeth and a thin black tongue like a worm.
”Please,” he screams at the black sky.
But he has now left the safety of his boat forever and is with her in the water. The canal is cold and dank and smells of oil and urine. She grips him tightly still. He discovers how strong she is when she throws him flailing on his back and inches her tail slowly up to his groin. He is going under. Her tail feels sharp and sleek against him and dangerous as a sheet of iron. The water froths creamily around the deadly embrace. The fisherman opens his mouth to cry out and his lungs fill with water. His lungs fill and fill. And then they burst.
The boat floats empty on the night-tide. Inside it a cell-phone buzzes rhythmically, but there is no one to answer the call. In the morning other men will come here and find the rod and the net and all the lures of the fisherman caught in the riprap. These other men will shake their heads and click their cameras and remark how strange sounds come out the trees along the riprap
They will tell themselves the canal is different once the sun goes down.
Rob McClure Smith
Donna J. W. Munro has spent the last twenty-one years teaching high school social studies. Her students inspire her every day. She has an MA in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University. Her pieces are published in Dark Moon Digest # 34, Syntax and Salt, Sirens Ezine, the Haunted Traveler, Flash Fiction Magazine, Astounding Outpost, Door=Jar, Spectators and Spooks Magazine, Nothing’s Sacred Magazine IV and V, Corvid Queen, Hazard Yet Forward (2012), Enter the Apocalypse (2017), Killing It Softly 2 (2017), Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths II (2018), Terror Politico (2019), and several Thirteen O’Clock Press anthologies. Contact her at https://www.donnajwmunro.com or @DonnaJWMunro on Twitter.
A Matter of Perception
Ryan was sweating heavily. His dentist was drilling his tooth. “It’s a little cavity, so you won’t need Novocaine for this,” she’d said.
His pain increased as she drilled. “Oh, it’s bigger than I thought, but I’m almost done. After all, pain is just a matter of perception.”
Ryan endured the rest of the procedure, paid his bill and left.
At the end of the day, he returned to the dentist’s office. Ryan tied his torturer to a chair and grabbed the drill. He looked into her fearful face and said, “After all, pain is just a matter of perception.”
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.
Luck of the Draw
He stared at the girl in the seat opposite him. She was fast asleep, no doubt tired after a long day at work. The train bumped along, but she didn’t wake.
She could be my next victim
If she wakes by the time I reach thirty, then I’ll spare her
He started to count in his head. His mind clicked forward from twenty-nine to thirty. Her eyes flicked open, staring into his.
Luck is on her side. Fair is fair, I made a deal. She is spared
The girl stared at the scrawny man opposite her.
He’s my next victim.
R. J. Meldrum
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.
Brandon shivered as a blast of cold wind blew into the mausoleum. He took a quick look at his watch to see how long he had. Just over three more hours left.
“What a stupid dare”, Brandon muttered to himself. He whirled around at the sound of movement coming from the left corner of the mausoleum. The lid began to slowly move off the top of one of the concrete coffins.
The creature lifted itself out of its resting place. Upon seeing Brandon it showed its razor sharp fangs. Brandon pulled out a wooden stake, “Guess the rumors are true.”
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.
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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.