One editorial plea this week. Please can all stories be sent in as attachments as per our submissions page. A drabble sent within the body of an email does not guarantee an ‘immediate’ read – even if it is short and right in front of me!
Now for the wonderful stories in this week’s Trembling With Fear.
Black Khakis by F.M. Scott is at the shorter end of our word range but shows what can be done with this length of story. Allan is a stressed office worker and also a writer. He has created a ‘character’ who, I suppose, you would regard in the same light as certain extras you see in a film, those who make a brief appearance and flit out again. We’ve all used them, they usually make a point of some sort or signpost something about the main characters or storyline, then they get killed off or discarded. Now, however, the character, who happens to wear black khakis, has had enough, feels he deserves more. I like this story because it can be taken a couple of ways. It can be read as a little revenge tale, where a downtrodden character finally stands up for himself, or it can be seen as a manifestation of the stress undergone by Allan. Either way, imagination has conjured up the man in black khakis and put the writer in this predicament. Will imagination get him out of it? We are told, as writers, that when a character comes to life and does their own thing regardless of what the author’s intention was then the story is working. In this case, a character coming to life is a lot more worrying.
Exploring by JA Hammer gives a perfect pen portrait of a setting, so clear you can see the place, that little hideaway a child loves to find and explore … The idyllic first paragraph contrasts with the shorter, sparser description of the interior but which is in its own way just as perfect, going from sunlight to a world washed in sepia tones. And then the flight with a last sentence which has a double meaning created by some very clever word play. Stephen King in miniature.
The Unthawing by CR Smith is another short piece with some excellent imagery. A dystopian world bound by snow hints at winged predators waiting for the return of humans to the cities which have long been deserted. Nothing is stated explicitly but there are subtle indicators that a dire outcome awaits man should he return to this particular urban setting.
Forget Me Not by N.O.A. Rawle is told mainly through dialogue. A scorned girlfriend seeks revenge on her ex-boyfriend via flowers which are not the innocent bouquets that they seem. Her wish appears to be granted but then she in turn receives an unexpected gift which gives a nice twist or pause for thought at the end. I enjoy stories with a twist or clever come-uppance and we haven’t had that many lately. The few we have had have unfortunately included rather flat or too-often used examples which have resulted in their rejection. If you have a twist make sure it’s not cliché.
I managed to see Pet Sematary last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. I also saw The Silence on Netflix having read the book by Tim Lebbon. The book was excellent but I was disappointed that Netflix switched the setting from the UK to the US. I know it’s because of the ‘market’ but it took away a lot of the tension generated by the scenes which took place in the more ‘confined’ space of the UK. It also lost a lot of the nuances in the relationships between the main characters, making them less involving which was a shame. The US has missed out on the chance to see a lot of beautiful Lake District scenery. For this one, I would say skip the film and read the book, most definitely read the book!
Now reading Pyschoville by Christopher Fowler, wonderfully dark. A great satire on suburban life and the prejudice and bigotry to be found there. Not finished yet but the body count is on the way up! (You can tell I’m on Easter break by the way my reading rate goes up!)
I had a write up of all of this week’s tales as Steph was on vacation but she swooped in at the last moment with a write up that put mine to shame. So… I deleted them so you could go off her words instead of mine. Enjoy! (Trust me, you’ll enjoy it better this way!)
We’ve had a nice influx of drabble after this last week’s newsletter. Thanks so much!
We’ll be getting initial responses to everyone in the coming week once Steph is able to catch up from her time off. I’ve been spending quite a bit of time on drabble myself lately. I have the writing itch but no time to put pen to page outside of 100 words at a time (or usually 150ish that have to somehow be cut by a third…)
‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.
Allan noticed the figure standing at the back of the room, a human outline in pale gas flame blue, beyond the sea of heads bobbing in conversation. As quickly as it appeared, the figure vanished. Probably some lighting effect, tossed off by the staff of an eccentric coffee joint. Allan saved his work, closed his laptop, and paid up. A stacked agenda of multiple priorities awaited him at the office.
He got into his car and headed down Sixth.
Sharply, from the backseat: “In a hurry this time?”
Allan jerked the wheel and nearly sideswiped a parked car. The face in the rearview mirror smirked—a thirtyish male face, on a head of dark brown hair, attached to an average-sized body clad in black khakis, top and bottom.
“The fuck?” Allan spluttered.
“Oh, I don’t blame you,” the passenger chuckled. “But I’m not going anywhere, except where you are.”
“Who are you?” Allan shouted. The man smiled and moved his eyes about.
Allan whipped the car around onto Rockford and lurched to a stop in front of some old apartments. “Look,” he said, his voice defeating the quivers and entering genuine pissed-off territory, “if you’re trying to carjack me, you kinda suck at it. And you’re getting out of my car, right now.”
The khaki man smiled. “Am I, now?”
“Yes, you are.” Allan got out and jerked open the back door. The stranger didn’t budge. Allan sighed, grabbed him by his epaulets, and yanked him out. He hit the pavement on his belly and rolled.
Allan stared. He’d been in a few scraps, but he’d never manhandled anyone before.
The khaki man propped himself up on his elbows and began laughing. “Now that takes it, man. Really does.”
“Okay!” Allan bellowed. “You’ve apparently had your fun.” He thought of McKinney and Erland, the office wiseasses who seemed to needle him for no good reason. “If those guys put you up to this, you can tell them it tanked. Miserably.”
The khaki man sat up in the street, his laughter gone. “What guys? This is strictly between you and me.”
Allan looked away for a second. “Well, that’d make perfect sense if not for the small problem that I don’t know who the fuck you are!”
The man in black khakis rose and dusted himself off. His voice became dire. “Allan, I’ve been in your world longer than I care to admit. This, in spite of the fact that in your hands I never seem to make it further than a couple of lines before you either kill me off or kill the whole story.” He spat on the pavement. “The guy who, that’s all I’ve ever been. The guy who does what—flickers in and out, sits on his ass, maybe mouths a word or two, and wears the stupidest fucking clothes you can think of?” He spread his arms. “Get a good look, Allan, because this is me, every time you call me forth. It’s the same in the back of your mind. Like black goddamn khakis!”
He ambled toward the driver door and held out a hand. “Keys now, and get in. If I can’t have any better, then you don’t get to, either. Not until I say so.”
Allan obeyed. He didn’t care what might happen. He feared the man in the black khakis. He needed him.
# # #
F.M. Scott is from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he lives and writes. His work has appeared previously in Trembling with Fear, and he was a finalist in the inaugural Flash Fiction Contest sponsored by The Tulsa Voice and Nimrod International Journal. His short story “Isolated Drums” was recently published in the first issue ofThe Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine.
In the middle of a weed-choked meadow there were droning grasshoppers, a junkyard with old things, and a small held-together-by-spit-and-glue shack. Glimmers of sunlight flickered where rust hadn’t crawled yet, a lure through waist-high grass to a rotting, lopsided porch. Her heart pounded; she’d discovered a whole place by herself!
The door swung. Squeaked. There was a metallic scent in the air. A doorway, hanging open. A porcelain sink washed in mud. A mattress browned with mold. A russet knife. Then, a whimper of creaking wood. Another.
She turned, fled, running until breathing became pain, a knife in her side.
J.A. Hammer lives off coffee (mostly Dead Eyes) and stress in the wild concrete city of Tokyo, where zombies are living, using the train lines every day. If you see the name CoffeeQuills online, that’s J.A. Hammer’s alter-ego, and they’re mostly safe to talk to (bites will only happen in the name of science). The cake is not a lie (but you must get it yourself).
Forget Me Not
“A grave decision.” Her voice was as icy as the florist’s was humid.
The ad proclaimed ‘Love life poisoned? Sex life wilted? Forget Me Not’
“I tailor plants to your needs.”
I’d never been vetted buying flowers before.
“Darren dumped me.” I blurted, “When the Tempting Temp was hired.”
“Allergy? Cardiac weakness?”
“Me not him…”
“Aconite then – paralysis, heart failure — anonymous delivery?”
“Darren’s sick today, it’s Valentine’s too.” said TT, “But this is for you.”
The bouquet on my desk sported a Forget Me Not card with TT’s bubble scrawl, “To ease the pain. Darren xoxo.”
N.O.A. Rawle regularly burns the midnight oil to get the world in her head in print. A Brit located in Thessaly, her work appears in numerous anthologies and magazines in print and on the web. For more information, find her at www.noarawle.blogspot.gr, follow her on Twitter @N.O.A.Rawle or Instagram as noarawle and like her on Facebook as N.O.A Rawle.
All-encompassing white melds ground to sky as scientists search yet again for signs of a thaw. Trains remain frozen to tracks, vehicles entombed in snow, the river a glistening ribbon of ice.
A helicopter hovers above lines of skeletal trees. The outline of buildings slowly materialising from the white-out. The City is almost unrecognisable. Its population long gone, forced out by hunger, belongings abandoned, scattered to the wind.
Yet along the verdigris rooftops brooding creatures stir. Their grotesque faces keeping watch, waiting for the interloper’s return. And from stone perches encircling the City gargoyles wing’s spread in preparation of flight.
CR Smith is an artist and writer living in the UK. Her work has been published by Ellipsis Zine, Spelk Fiction, Visual Verse, Glove Lit Zine, Train Lit Mag and The Cabinet of Heed. It is also to be found in several anthologies including, The Infernal Clock, Drabbledark: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles, Chronos: An Anthology of Time Drabbles, the Trembling With Fear: Year One Anthology, and The Infernal Clock Deadcades Anthology. A poetry anthology, Fourteen, and a Stickleback pamphlet are due to be published in 2019 by The Hedgehog Poetry Press. Her artwork has graced both the cover of Déraciné A Gothic Literary Magazine, issue 2, and the inside pages of issues 2 & 3.
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- Taking Submissions: The Marshall - June 12, 2019
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