Trembling With Fear 04/12/20
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 public 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.
The sun is still shining but I will admit to now beginning to feel a little trapped, although my restrictions I think, have been more to do with a bad back than anything else. The latter however, is getting better so I’m sure my mood will lift. What has made me smile during these days are the continued check-ins from S.D Vasallo on twitter with a large group of people which has turned into a daily foodie (& drinks!) thread. Much of this is down to the clash between US and UK terminology, eg biscuits and gravy! 😊
Publication News I’d like to draw your attention to this week is the short story release, Peace of Mind, by Lionel Ray Green, out now on amazon.co.uk and amazon.com. I bought a copy the other night as Lionel has contributed consistently quality stories to TWF and this longer tale did continued in the same vein.
The first story this week in Trembling With Fear is Accident at the Laboratory by Michael Jess Alexander. This brings some much-needed dark humour for your enjoyment. Read the story and then match to the final paragraph. Wonderful stuff.
502 Bad Gateway by Alyson Faye is a clever little warning to those who lose themselves so completely in a game, it proves to be their downfall. Tech and horror in any form is a good combination and has a lot of scope.
The Diner by G.A. Miller chooses its words carefully to paint a perfect image of a greasy spoon. Makes my stomach turn picturing all that layer of fat. This imagery got me more than the last line!
Under its Skin by Mike Rader, shows that death is not necessarily immediate and brings us change with a different setting, this time Australia’s Kakadu. More different places please!
Captain’s Log. Star Date -302720.17240943137.
These are the voyages of one group of writers helping other writers slowly losing their grip on sanity.
A journey into madness interrupted by work, children, and the occasional bout of restless sleep once exhaustion gives way to the blessed darkness we call home.
The only thing that can save us… More serials and Unholy Trinities! Yes, folks, we’re still open for fiction to check out and these are what we’re pretty low on at this moment.
I hope that you’re all surviving out there, not sick, and keeping your spirits up enough to get some words down on paper. I’ve actually found this to be the least productive in my writing in the last three years. Not for a lack of ideas or motivation! Just, time.
At least the weather in Chicago is looking to be warming up so those of us in the midwest of the US have that going for us!
Until next week my friends, enjoy this delightful set of fiction.
Accident at the Laboratory by Michael Jess Alexander
Ray Zerlinski didn’t move. He knew what had just happened. He could feel where the laser had split him—above the eyes, horizontal along the brow. The upper tips of his ears fell off and the wounds began to bleed.
I’m going to die, he thought.
The lab was quiet. An occasional bird song or rustling breeze were the only sounds that broke the silence.
Ray thought of Sandy and June. This afforded him a necessary calm. Sandy, he knew, would be in the park with June taking advantage of the warm fall weather. He thought to call Sandy on her cell but knew that it would be premature. Getting his head straight was his first priority.
Slowly, carefully, he raised his hands to his bald head and held it in place. He remembered the duct tape he kept in a drawer across the lab.
He baby-stepped across the room and did his best to ignore the blood running from the tops of his ears. It pooled in the pit between his thumb and palm at both hands.
He made it to the drawer without incident. Standing before it, he contemplated his next move.
As nimbly as he could, Ray released his right hand from his head. He focused on his left, making sure he didn’t overcompensate for the freedom of his right hand and budge his alignment.
He opened the drawer, felt for the duct tape, and brought it to the counter above the drawer. Little tape remained. He nearly bent his head down to see but caught himself. Turning only his eyes to the tape, he saw it was unlikely to fit the circumference of his head. Still, it was better than nothing.
He felt along the roll and found the end. Picking it loose with his thumb and fingernail, he focused on keeping his head upright and as still as possible. After he got a decent grip, he held the loose end and brought the roll between his knees. Clamping it tightly, he carefully pulled the strip longer. He released the roll from his knees, raised the end of the strip to his head, and started pressing it slowly along the split. It only went half way.
Ray turned away from the counter, his right hand still free, his left still holding the un-taped side of his head. The lab was dark. From one of the windows he saw the sun setting. He inched to the light switch and flicked it on.
Now was the time to make a phone call. Ray knew better than to call directly for emergency services. Imagining the difficulty in trying to relate what had happened to a pair of skeptical EMTs, he pictured one of them knocking the top of his head off by accident before he could get across the delicate nature of his predicament. And while Ray ached to speak to Sally, he knew it would be wiser to contact James, his boss. James wouldn’t question or panic over what Ray had to tell him and would not waste precious time in getting Ray the help he needed.
Ray’s cell phone was where it always was when he was working in the lab—in the locker room across the hall. He never kept it on his person while he worked out of fear that he’d forget to turn it off, it would ring, startle him, and cause an accident not unlike the one that had him currently imperiled. Getting to it meant opening and maneuvering around two heavy doors.
Still gently holding his head, Ray slowly turned the doorknob with his free hand. He pulled, but the door wouldn’t budge. An expletive flashed in his mind. He pulled again, but it still wouldn’t open. Careful to quell his frustration, he let go of the handle and took a moment to breathe. He noticed an odd mark on the left side of the door. Gazing at it, he realized what the mark was—the path of the laser when it perfectly sliced his head. The beam had welded the metal door and frame together. He was stuck in the lab.
Ray sat upright against a wall. A day had passed since the accident, and considering how extremely fine the split was, he figured it would take about three more for his head to heal enough to stay together. He believed that his skin and brain would mend in this time. His skull, of course, would take longer, but he hoped that once his flesh healed, he would survive.
His left arm ached. He’d been holding his head for two days now and felt a disastrous muscle spasm becoming inevitable. To avoid this, he moved his left hand from his head.
Lifting his hand as slowly as he could, he felt a slight movement along the split. Some skin at the edge of the split had stuck to his palm, and about an inch of the split lay open and bleeding.
With his arms resting at his sides and blood flowing down the side of his face, he closed his eyes.
Just a little rest. I’ll stay awake. I won’t let myself sleep.
Straining to balance a heavy, white bowl of spaghetti on a platter, Ray stood in an unfamiliar restaurant. Within a dark haze at the other end of the room, a portly diner pounded on his table and clamored for his meal. Ray hurried his pace but lost his footing. The bowl flew from the platter, moved slowly through the air, and landed on its side. The spaghetti flopped out in a lump and rolled on the floor. Dinner was ruined.
Michael Jess Alexander
Michael Jess Alexander teaches high school English in Newcastle, Wyoming. His work can be found or is forthcoming in SERIAL Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, Dark Fire Fiction, and Jitter Press. Links to his stories may be found at michaeljessalexander.
502 Bad Gateway
One wrong turn and he was lost. Before him the grey landscape rippled for miles, fires danced on the pools of oil spills.
“Damn,” Ethan muttered, and he clicked at the mouse like a manic tap dancer.
He ran and hopped over the terrain, explosions of ash shot up around him. Black dots sped in from the screen’s edges; growing pincers.
Something nipped at Ethan’s sock.
Blood bloomed through the fabric.
Distracted, he failed to notice the queue of arthropods dropping onto his desk out of the computer.
Game Over! Bad Gateway!
Ethan’s screams brought his mother – more prey.
Alyson lives in the UK; her fiction has been published widely in print anthologies – DeadCades, Women in Horror Annual 2, Trembling with Fear 1 &2, Coffin Bell Journal 1 and Stories from Stone and in ezines, most often on the Horror Tree site, Siren’s Call and The Casket of Fictional Delights. In May 2019 Night of the Rider, was published by Demain, in their Short Sharp Shocks! E book series and reached the amazon kindle top 10 best seller lists. Her work has been read on podcasts (eg Ladies of Horror), shortlisted in competitions and published in charity anthologies. Future work will appear in anthologies from Things in the Well, Mortal Realm and Twisted Wing Publishers.
She performs at open mics, teaches, edits and hangs out with her dog on the moor in all weathers.
The cushion wheezed as he sat, the stool groaning when he turned to face the counter. Like every other diner on every other road, this one looked as though they’d long ago given up trying to clean. Instead, every surface had the luster of buffed grease, from the sculpted aluminum panels on the walls to his cup and spoon on the counter. Hell, even the paper napkin felt greasy.
He stubbed his cigarette out in a small ashtray, little sparks popping.
“Right witcha, hun,” the waitress said through a weary smile. He nodded as he opened his straight razor.
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.
Under Its Skin
Did I tell you how Roo died? Roo Riley? Murdered two backpackers in Kakadu.
We tracked him down just on dusk. Hiding in the mangroves, armed and dangerous. Told us we’d never take him alive. That’s when I saw the ripples. Then the crocodile’s snout.
“Roo! Croc!” I shouted.
“Bullshit!” he shouted back, just as the mighty jaws closed around his legs and tugged him into the black water.
We moved in, shot the croc. Then we saw it. The red pulsing shape in its belly. Roo’s heart. Still beating.
I fired off two rounds. The croc’s belly went quiet.
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
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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.