Welcome, one and all, to the first 2020 edition of TWF. We had a bumper year last year and I am in no doubt we will repeat that over the next twelve months.
I haven’t really made any resolutions as such, although my youngest asked me what my aims for the decade were. That was easy to answer, to get a couple of novels which have been drifting around for a while, into publication. If I achieve nothing else, except that, in my writing endeavours, I would be happy. I certainly don’t want to tie myself to resolutions for a mere twelve months. I think we all put too much pressure on ourselves as it is. I will continue to take my writing career seriously however, but I will write because I want to and because I enjoy it.
On the announcements front, I caught a tweet by Hailey Piper (@HaileyPiperSays) announcing her debut novel in 2020, The Verses of Aeg from Bronzeville Books. If you want a recent example of her writing, try this excellent bit of flash, Crones in their Larval State over at The Arcanist.
Now to Trembling With Fear where our first story is Drought Demon by Will H. Blackwell Jr is an appropriate piece of all-too real horror. You only have to have caught the news images recently of large swathes of Australia currently burning (my aunt and her family lives in the affected area and I’m hoping they’re ok) plus the fires which seem to crop up in the US also. The personification of drought as a demon, a malevolent force creeping forward, biding its time is beautifully drawn. Poetical language and techniques abound to create a rich and very dreadful, image of the drought demon.
Injured Prey by Radar DeBoard is a warning about taking the tablets … and possible side-effects, or not.
Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! by G. A. Miller gives us one of the last lines which makes us laugh on the ‘gross’ scale. Very cleverly done using this notorious chat show setting.
Morgan’s Organ by R. J. Meldrum is an ‘after-death’ revelation and proves appearances can be deceptive. This is a quiet horror, the darkness being in what emerges ‘after the fact’.
I’ve already written a few of these but I just can’t stress enough that I’m quite excited to see what TWF will be bringing you over the course of the next 12 months.
Hopefully, we’ll have a few surprises to throw into the mix as well!
As for goals this year? I’d love to work on making our Patreon account and the site valuable enough for our contributor count to go up enough to pay the entire staff and possibly raise what we’re now paying for short stories! Personally, I’m hoping to complete some of the novels and novellas that I’m extremely close to finishing up and getting them submitted to publishers.
What are your goals for the year?
Drought Demon by Will H. Blackwell, Jr.
It has been dry many times before, here in this far-west finger of Oklahoma—lying, almost like an afterthought, above the equally barren Texas-panhandle—I mean prolonged, damaging, dry-spells in which even the most ‘arid’ wheat-varieties didn’t make crop.
But, this time is different—worse—much worse!
There is a kind of strange stillness out there, this time—a nefarious calm, just sitting there, not far in front of the death left behind in its oven-like wake.
I can sense it, out past the toxic, tallow droppings of the far-yard’s last, living chinaberry-tree—beyond the scattered heaps of brittle cicada-shells.
I am becoming increasingly aware of this ‘presence’ in the closing distance—cruel and crouching—inching forward, among the prairie’s remnants of blue-grama and buffalo grass. It stretches from where level land rises into the ambiguous horizon—like some flat joke of a mountain—to, now, disturbingly near the borders of my sprawling property.
But what does one really see out there? Nothing? Nothing, is precisely what one sees!
No matter! I know it’s there—this deceptive, potentially fatal, void—this slowly encroaching, hollow body—is definitely there!—regardless of what’s not seen!
And, it is patient—Oh, so patient!—this pale, diffuse corpus, unfurling, yet hiding in plain sight—and now, with time seemingly on its side. It is as surely there, as anything obviously resident—as surely as the tumbleweeds, that stack up against the fencing.
This insidious, vacuum-like presence—still all but invisible—is so cleverly, perfectly, staged—temporarily perched quietly, but threateningly, in a potentially dangerous position—like some huge, transparent vulture, wings spread wide, on a low limb of a phantom tree. It expands just ahead of a dead-zone, already consumed, trailing back in the prairie-rise as far as one can see.
But within it, now, a centrifugally growing, nebulous ‘substance’—an ominous haze, like some interstellar gas-cloud blocking stars at night—is suddenly making it more difficult to see, through it, beyond it—as it gains its own being—its own life.
Why, I’ll bet it’s even humming its own, inaudible, hideous tune—just waiting—wanting—wanting to suck the life right out of me—like viscous, yellow juice, pressed slowly from the abdomen of a June-bug.
It edges closer still. I can feel its desiccating presence—its unseen, dehydrating tentacles.
The depressingly tabled, fallow fields sense it too; I can tell. But they offer no protection. There is nothing out there left standing, at least that can be seen—no line of cottonwoods, anymore, to break the dry wind that stirs, angrily, then dissipates.
Even the dust-devils—as common this time of year as the orange-dirt itself—are afraid, and have ceased their swirling patrol over the diminished landscape. They turn now only within my mind—the brain’s increasingly lonely expanse—a kind of spinning memory that funnels revolving, powdered silt into static, granular, ever-more-useless gray-matter.
It’s hard even to think! My mind has gone numb, in the awful dryness.
Breezes, only sporadically coming through, lift into the air from the heat, tilting the rusted rooster-vane above the barn-eaves—causing it to creak, and rock awkwardly—sometimes making a squawking sound, almost as if alive. Or…..hell…..
Maybe it is alive!—brought to life, oddly, somehow, by the infusion of this drastic climatic circumstance—or perhaps by the tenuous, apparently supernatural being, gathering—ever-so-slightly coalescing at times—just outside the near-pasture.
Many things that were living here are now dead. No doubt! And yet, it is possible they are being merely altered to another state by this shimmering, surreal environment of heat, light and drought.
Are they being mummified, by such unnatural conditions, even as I attempt to ponder this insane situation?—bizarrely preserved—like human bodies left out in the sands of very-ancient Egypt, before the time of the pharaohs.
Or, maybe some dead objects, recently alive, are even in the process of returning to life?
Perhaps such transformations could occur!—a kind of dust-imbued ‘sea-change’ in the midst of this broad ocean of dry, cracked earth. Who knows?
Maybe my old redbone hunting-hound will come back to life?—or maybe the longhorn-steer that hung itself in bends of barbed wire last week—or, maybe that stray coyote shot near the waterless creek-bed.
I mean, this weird stuff gets to you after a while. Your mind starts playing tricks. You can imagine all kinds of things, while watching—waiting—for rains to come, that never come—a wait that stretches the minor pain of patience into a long plain of deepening frustration—into an anxiety, that turns rain into mirage.
But I tell you, that gaining abyss is out there—still stalking from a distance, but now closer—close indeed! It is a silent, merciless, parching predator that searches, seeks and enters—mind, body and soul, or what’s left of any of these.
I think it has already slipped through the thin perimeter of prairie-dog mounds, and is moving in toward fringes of the yard—or what used to be yard before the lawn-grass, and carefully hand-planted shrubs, dried up—no water left to irrigate! The well went mostly dry some days back. I can only get enough water for a strictly rationed drink.
It is so close, now, I see beyond it again—its swathe through the scorched farm-sections—the accruing squares and rectangles of burned-out rangeland.
It is near enough, that I feel the outflow of its hot breath, beginning to burn my flesh.
There is no doubt, any longer, of the brutally harsh intent of this lucent, protean beast—seemingly born from the margins of hell.
Maybe it is a lobe of hell, that has been secretly rising, perhaps for a while now.
If only I could clearly see it, where it comes from—its devious approach. If I could just take a picture, I could prove its existence, at least to myself.
Or, perhaps it’s better—until that singeing, widening, enveloping maw from Hades finally surrounds me—not to know the horrible truth, for sure.
So I think I’ll just try to savor these last moments, as best I can, and memories of this place in better—if often hard—times.
Will H. Blackwell, Jr. is an emeritus professor (botany), Miami University, Ohio. He presently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA, where he is an adjunct professor, Biological Sciences, The University of Alabama. He continues his research on microscopic, parasitic fungi, in freshwater environments. His fiction has been published in: Brilliant Flash Fiction, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Disturbed Digest, FrostFire Worlds, Outposts of Beyond, and 365 Tomorrows. He has poems in Aphelion, Black Petals, Blue Unicorn, Illumen, Scifaikuest, Slant, and Star*Line.
The noise of someone opening the door to the bedroom brought Louis out of his nap. “Hey babe,” he said, “Is it time to take another pill?” He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked towards the door to see his wife smiling at him.
“Those pills are really strong,” he giggled.
The creature ducked through the doorway, licking blood off its claws. It spotted the large cast on Louis’ leg.
“Are you feeling okay, honey?” Louis asked. The creature grinned at its next free meal of the day. It had been awhile since it had eaten a couple.
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.
Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!
Jerry Springer: “Welcome to the show, Tom. What’s going on?”
Tom: “Well Jerry, I’m here to confess to my wife. I ran into my ex the other day, one thing led to another, and we wound up having sex.”
Jerry Springer: “Oh boy, I bet she’s not gonna be happy when she finds out about that!”
Tom: “Oh hell no, she won’t. She might be almost as angry as the cops were.”
Jerry Springer: “The cops? Why would you having sex with your ex make the police angry?”
Tom: “Well, they said I was only supposed to identify the body…”
G.A. Miller is a new voice in the chorus of horror authors, drawing his ideas from every day, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors, often with horrific consequences.
His work has been published in numerous anthologies from a variety of publishers, and he’s just released his first novella, “Spirit of the Dead”, now available at Amazon.
John stared at the pipe organ.
“Such a shame. This was Morgan’s.”
“The organist at this church. He died last year. He designed and built this organ by himself. People came from miles to hear him play. The music was sublime, the tone perfect. No-one could work out his secret. When he died, the organ was locked, his will specified no-one else could play it. So, now it has to be replaced.”
John lifted the crowbar and split open a panel. Inside, glistening, sat human lungs, hearts and brains, all wired into the mechanics. Morgan’s secret was finally revealed.
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.
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- Trembling With Fear 02/02/2020 - February 2, 2020
- Unholy Trinity: Clockwork by Alyson Faye - January 31, 2020
- Trembling With Fear 01/26/2020 - January 26, 2020
- Trembling With Fear 01/19/2020 - January 19, 2020
- Unholy Trinity: Three More Bad Habits by Justin Boote - January 17, 2020
- Trembling With Fear 01/12/2020 - January 12, 2020