Trembling With Fear 04/18/21
Still in Southampton but now the house proudly displays a ‘Sold’ sign outside. It appeared by magic, though we haven’t had any updates from solicitors but I’m taking it as a positive. In keeping with this mindset, I’ve gone back to the gym after a long absence even before Covid. I am now aching. I will say that after seeing how clean and organised they are inside, I seriously can’t see why they weren’t allowed to remain open during lockdown. The gym is definitely cleaner and safer than those shops now heaving with returnees. By the time this has posted, I will also have gone into town for the first time – I need some Waterstones therapy! I hope everyone else’s experience of lockdown is improving.
Before we go to the stories, here’s my usual weekly reminder to check out the submission guidelines for TWF. Also remember we are currently closed to short stories (unless for one of the Specials) but open to drabbles, unholy trinities and serials.
This week Trembling with Fear starts with The Top Step by Benjamin Gardner. A ghostly, and somewhat surreal, tale. One minute, the main character appears a spectral figure, the next he is very human but performing an act of horrific self-martyrdom. This fluid quality creates an ambiguous but powerful feel to the story.
Everything You Wished For by Robert Allen Lupton is a perfect example of how the Devil will always win.
Hero vs Physics by Kaylie Night in similar vein to the previous drabble shows how carefully you need to choose your words when making a wish.
The Children Who Screamed by Christopher M. Palmer wreaks tongue-in-cheek revenge on annoying children.
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
The new contact form I mentioned last week is working splendidly!
For writers looking for something to do, I would like to point out that we’re currently taking drabble (stories at exactly 100 words not including the title) and guest posts on writing/editing/marketing/etc!
From what it sounds like we should have our final cover hitting our inbox this coming week for the next physical release of Trembling With Fear so I hope that we’ll be able to share that soon with everyone. (Starting, of course, with our amazing Patreons are the lifeblood of the site!)
The Top Step by Benjamin Gardner
Here I stand, at the top step.
It has been at least three days. I’m feeling somewhat faint but here I stand at the top of the old creaky staircase of the house that I grew up in. I have seen three days of the world go by through two large windows on the landing. I can see the morning light, high noon, and evening. I cannot sleep so I watch the darkness.
This house, the one that I grew up in, is in a mid-sized town. There are people all around; neighbors, acquaintances, officials, and workers, but none of them need to notice me. There are rabbits, hummingbirds, monarchs, and other beings that I can see from the windows, too. I can see the blossoms of a magnolia tree. Only the blossoms know me.
There are visitors but I do not know who they are; they stay hidden on the lower staircase but they speak to me and tell me stories. I’ve lost count of how many visitors there have been. Two people on the lowest step sang me a song about all of the trouble in the world. One person read a news ticker. One read a draft of a memo that he was planning to send out to his coworkers. The memo was about how no one was doing as much work as he was. I wished him to be happy, to be healthy, and to have ease of well-being before he left, practicing meditations of loving kindness towards him even though I really wanted to curse him the moment he started speaking.
The visitors must come in through the front door that I left unlocked before I decided to walk up these stairs. Had I left it unlocked? It seems like an oversight on my part. I wonder, though, how do they know that I am up here? I told no one of my plans. None of the visitors see the long nails that I drove through my feet into the top step to secure myself. Thin rivers of blood run down the sides of my feet and are slowly walking down the stairs. Eventually the visitors will see the blood.
The back door is locked. I have heard something up in the attic, but it has not come down yet. I hear it deep in the night; a soft, padded, step that seems to know that I am here and that I am here still. I hope that it will not come down until after I am gone. Perhaps it is kind, the thing that lives in the attic. Perhaps it is not a monster. I try hard to let the sounds go, not to fixate on them. I try to let the sounds from the attic be and know that they are temporary, that they are an illusion.
The night visitors are beautiful and terrifying. I can’t see them most of the time but when I do they shimmer in blues and pinks and yellows that leave traces on my eyelids when I rest. They only chant or sing, I can’t quite decide what it is. A single long sound that goes up and down somewhat melodically. A melisma, I guess. It is hard to understand what they are singing, but it makes sense at the same time.
I do not know how long I will last here, but I think that is the point. It is a slow process, the transformation, and I need all of the time I can get to make it fully happen, fully accept the next phase, the next life. I am scared but I am also ready; my body will transcend into something new, something beyond life. An archetype and a martyr.
For now, though, I stand here on the top step, looking outside at each day and night that pass, preparing my meditations and the rituals that will take me out of this world. There is a weight to the silence that prevails when no visitors are here. I turned off the water and electricity to the house and I had no idea how quiet it would be without the hum of the refrigerator or the fan of the air conditioner. Each creak and groan of the house settling sounds like the earth itself. Here I stand, nailed to the top step, my place of contrition and repentance.
Sometimes it is only the sound of my lungs filling with air and my heart pumping blood through my veins. Sometimes I sing to myself songs from another world, songs of providence and potential.
Everything You Wished For
David read Faust and ‘The Devil and Daniel Webster’ to prepare himself before selling his soul to Satan. “Make me the smartest, strongest, and richest on the entire planet.”
“Sign in blood and affix your thumbprint. It shall be as you desire.”
David signed. Suddenly, it was night, a very cold night. There was no air to breathe. Overhead, the Earth’s western hemisphere filled the sky. He was on the moon.
Satan said, “Lovely view, isn’t it. You’re the smartest, strongest, and richest man for as long as you can hold your breath. Relax. Take your time. I can wait.”
Robert Allen Lupton
Robert Allen Lupton is retired and lives in New Mexico where he is a commercial hot air balloon pilot. Robert runs and writes every day, but not necessarily in that order. More than a hundred and seventy of his short stories have been published in several anthologies including the New York Times best seller, Chicken Soup For the Soul – Running For Good. He has published the novels Foxborn, and its sequel, Dragonborn. He has also published collections: Running Into Trouble, Through a Wine Glass Darkly and Strong Spirits. His third novel, Dejanna of the Double Star, was published in December 2020.
His edited anthology, Feral: It Takes a Forest to Raise a Child, was published September 1, 2020.
Robert has been an active Edgar Rice Burroughs historian, researcher, and writer since the 1970s. His contributor page on the ERBzine website is: https://www.erbzine.com/lupton/, and includes several of his articles and stories.
Hero vs. Physics
The door to the wizard’s shop flew open.
“IT DIDN’T WORK.”
The wizard looked up from his cauldron to the man in the cape, covered in blood. It was the man who had cashed in a wish the day before: super strength. Cliché.
“Tell me what happened.”
“She was falling. I caught her, but she died!”
“You expected the concrete would kill her, but hitting your steel arms would be just fine?”
The man stormed out in a huff.
The wizard sighed, returning to his cauldron. “The scarecrow was on to something, asking the wizard for a brain,” he muttered.
The Children Who Screamed
Once upon a time, there were a group of children who played every day, and most nights, in the cul-de-sac. No one at the time knew if they were siblings or just friends. They screamed a lot as they played.
They rode their bikes and scooters (and screamed). They played tag and hide-and-seek (and screamed). They swung (and screamed).
They screamed so much that one chilly night, when a dirty white van pulled into the neighborhood and five clown masked lunatics murdered them horribly in the street, the neighbors didn’t see a thing because they were used to the screaming.
Christopher M. Palmer
Christopher Palmer is a writer, avid reader, and software developer who lives in Huntsville, Alabama. He has published horror and SF short fiction in print and online and is currently working on his first novel.
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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 and Reborn, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused. Her novel, The Woodcutter, is due for release via Brigids Gate Press in 2023. 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 is an active member of the HWA and can be found at https://stephanieellis.org, on Twitter at @el_stevie, Instagram stephanieellis7963 and also somewhere on Facebook.