Trembling With Fear 04/08/2018
Submitting work for the first time is a huge, scary step. Trembling With Fear has received a number of stories from first-timers, some have been published, others have not quite made the grade but we have tried to give constructive feedback and this is something we will continue to do. We want to actively encourage writers who have not taken that first step to send us their work. Everybody has to start somewhere and what better place than here? It might take a number of attempts before that first publication appears – it’s the nature of the beast after all – but time spent honing and crafting is never wasted time. So, written something? Never sent anything out anywhere before? Take the plunge and send it to us. And whilst you’re here, read the other articles on the site, check out the author interviews, the book reviews, you’ll find a community of people who have all trod the same self-doubting path as yourself but have pushed on regardless. Join us.
We accept drabbles (100 words exactly, excluding the title), short flash stories 500-1500 words (we can be flexible though) and now serials (where instalment word lengths can range from drabble to short flash).
We’ve got a nice mix of authors this week in both names you’ll recognize from the site as well as a couple of new ones. Fun reads all around and hopefully these will help start your Sunday off right!
I came to know Jim Murphy around the time his toothache first appeared. He seemed a rather simple man. Kept to himself, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though when it came to the toothache I’m certain his introversion was his biggest adversary. Each day, Murphy would stumble up the stairs to his apartment, let his cat out on his deck, and turn the television on. Then he’d go to the wicker bowl atop his refrigerator and fish out his favorite snack: a salted nut roll.
Then, one fateful day, this daily allowance of delight brought indescribable agony to Murphy when he bit down and a shockwave of pain seared through the left side of his face and nestled into the crook of his neck. After a few moments to recover, Murphy stumbled to his medicine cabinet, plucked out a bottle, and ingested 800 mg of anti-inflammatory medication. Then he laid down on his couch. He turned off the evening news and tried to sleep. Nobody’s pain mattered more than his, anyhow.
Murphy called his dentist’s office the next morning.
“I waj’ in about a week ago, an’ I ha’a caffidy fiw’d, an’…”
Though she’d been rather patient with his idiot speak, it was clear the assistant had no choice but to interrupt.
“Who was the doctor you’d seen previously?”
“I’m afraid I can’t get you in with Dr. Feist until tomorrow afternoon. Will that work?”
Murphy caved as usual and accepted. Then he hung up the phone and walked through his kitchen. He dropped five anti-inflammatory pills into his palm and took the dosage without concern. He stayed in the kitchen and rummaged for toothpicks, finding them spilled out in the back corner of his silverware drawer. With his typical hesitation, Murphy slid one between his pursed lips and poked at the irritation. The sharp needling brought, as he’d hoped, instant relief. He moaned while picking in reckless ecstasy, savoring the taste of blood with a strange gleam of fascination in his eyes.
Murphy returned home from the dentist’s office, his only prescription being to ice his mouth and take more anti-inflammatory. Grumbling, he walked to the hidden cupboard next to the stovetop fan and opened it, retrieving a bottle of cinnamon whiskey. He took one pull, grimaced, and added another before settling in on his couch. He sat with his hands on his knees and waited, counting the seconds for the liquor to take effect.
Before long, he beat his fist into the soft cushion of the couch. He spat out something unintelligible. Then he heaved an unbecoming sob and stood to retrieve a steak knife from the kitchen. Upon finding it, Murphy slid a finger inside the nearby whiskey bottle, gathered some of the liquor, and dabbed his gums.
Waiting hardly long enough for his mouth to numb, he set to sawing at the flesh just below the tooth. A tiny chunk fell loose into his mouth. He rolled it around with his tongue, then spit the pink gob out on the floor. He put a hand to his jaw and reacted as if he’d felt something move beneath it. He knocked at his cheek, like one might at a stranger’s door.
An idea struck Murphy then. He stumbled to his bathroom and dug through the cupboard beneath the sink, finding his needle-nose pliers. He pivoted like a clumsy drunk and fell back on his toilet. He slid the pliers into his open maw and tapped each tooth until he found his antagonist. Spewing forth foul utterances, he tightened the grip on his tooth like a grim soldier. Then he yanked. All he got for it was a new kind of misery.
He ambled back into the kitchen and took another long pull from the whiskey, sputtering and making a miserable mess of himself. Then he reintroduced the pliers back to his mouth. He set the closed point just below the tooth and, with his free hand, he lifted the whiskey bottle and held it aloft, in line with the pliers handle. The first swing of the bottle was too hesitant. The second swing knocked Murphy clear unconscious.
Murphy emerged from his fog and pulled himself to his feet. Then he relocated his steak knife. He lurched into the bathroom, set the knife in the left corner of his lip, and sawed.
The skin cut quite easily in proportion to the pain. He bled heavily at first, though he was able to stave it off with a few minutes of tight compress. Soon enough, Murphy had more room to work. He reached beneath the sink once more for a small hammer and a flat-edge screwdriver. He placed the screwdriver in the tight groove between his molars, and knocked at the end of it with the hammer.
After nearly a minute of battling the onslaught, the tooth relented and cracked apart. There was no echo of death or delayed final ripple of pain; only the smell of blood and overworked metal. Murphy was free.
He spat out the few chunks of tooth into the sink and looked upon them with a strange mercy. While in his mouth, the tooth had been a pillar of mighty and destructive pain. There, in his sink, the fragments of rotted, yellow bone were so broken and small that they ought to have reminded him of someone he knew.
Some have asked how I know so much about a man I was acquainted with for such little time. Here’s what I tell them: One can get to know a lot about someone by living in the soft tissue of his brain. Right in the limbic system, where fear and anxiety live to torment until death do they part.
Yes, Murphy was the type who wouldn’t normally harm an insect. Yet sometimes, even the most righteous falls short. And the day Murphy poisoned my family for settling in his apartment was the day he sealed his fate. An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, as they say.
And so, if you wish to find me, that’s where I’ll be—the fat, wriggling bug inside Jim Murphy’s brain.
Erik Bergstrom lives in Minneapolis, MN. Most recently, he was published in Horror Bites magazine, and his latest story was published as a finalist in the STORGY: Exit Earth anthology competition.
I’ve been forgotten.
Once, I was great and terrible. The eye to all of little Sarah’s storming fears. I would scratch my finger against the floorboards, or chuckle in my dark way, and she would cower under the covers. And if ever I reared up to reveal my horrible self, she would scream.
But Sarah no longer screams. She has grown accustomed to staying quiet, and I’ve since withered, left to the dusty dark beneath her mattress.
Because she no longer fears what’s under her bed; she fears the bedroom door. She fears when it will open.
She fears him.
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, The Sirens Call, Trysts of Fate, and other such titles.
When Tony’s hair began falling, he wasn’t overly worried. Happens to all. Saves on shampoo and hairdresser’s, he liked to joke. It was when it fell in great clumps, he stopped joking. Within weeks, he was bald.
A wig took care of his hair problem, but not the tooth problem. Five dropped in only two months. I’ll eat soup, he would joke. When he lost them all, he stopped joking about that.
The doctors couldn’t find anything wrong. You’re just unlucky, they said.
It was when his eyes popped out he wondered about the nuclear power plant recently closed down.
Justin Boote is an English ex-pat in Barcelona, Spain for over 20 years, working as a stressed waiter in a busy centrical restaurant, which does at least provide ideas for stories!
All my stories are horror/suspense/supernatural based, trying to combine the influences of King/Barker and James Herbert. To date I have several stories in various publications, and contribute regularly to Deadlights magazine, a wonderful e-zine and paperback publisher.
When not thinking of disturbing ways to avenge nasty clients at work, or writing, you can find me asleep, or at [email protected].
I hear beautiful music through my headphones. Everything from violin symphonies to new songs strummed on acoustic guitars. The sound wraps around me and lifts me up as I sit and smile and hum to myself. Voices speak to me through the headphones too. Lyrical, plaintive words echoing in my ears. Shrill, fast-talking cadences, flowing in time with the beat. Sometimes the melody is soft. Sometimes it’s creepy, but I kinda like weird stuff.
Although, to tell the truth, the music’s style isn’t the creepy part. The creepy part is that my headphones aren’t even plugged in to anything.
Jennifer McCollom has been telling stories ever since she was a little kid running around pretending to be a jungle girl. She graduated from Southern Illinois University with a B.A. in English and has had her work published in Whatever Our Souls and Autumn Harvest Anthology. When she’s not writing novels, she occasionally posts poetry and stories on her blog nodtothemoon.wordpress.com.