Trembling With Fear 05/17/20
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.
This week saw me age by another year, a day where I took a break from working in the library to work from home. Like most of you I love buying books and when you’ve still got some budget to spend, what better work can you do from home than spend a happy morning trawling online for the titles students asked for or the ones I’ve noticed recommended online (thankyou as always Ginger Nuts of Horror Young Blood feature, Monster Librarian and those reviewers flagging up YA dark fiction.)
My writing time has taken a dip since I went back to work, the old tiredness at the end of the day preventing too much engagement but I am plodding on with my main work, the novel now stands at 65,000 and feels more solid. I’m trying the little and often approach which is seeing it progress.
As to publication news, I’m sneaking in a mention for Stuart here, I noticed his tweet re acceptance in Black Hare Press’ Ancients anthology. Congratulations to him, especially as he has 5 drabbles in each of the 10 anthologies in the series! I’m amazed he fits all this in with everything else he does.
Also included in the same anthology(ies) is the eternal Patrick Winters. He’s been subbing some outstanding work to TWF, and posting news of other submissions and acceptances over on Facebook – where he also jokes about his chemo treatment. It makes you put your own trivial problems in perspective. Check his work here http://wintersauthor.azurewebsites.net/Publications/List.
Our final bit of publication congratulations goes to Ruschelle Dillon, whose novella, The Stain, is due to be published by Black Bed Sheet Books. Keep an eye out for it.
Over to Trembling With Fear. Our first story is The Road Less Travelled by G.A. Miller. A creepy story where a road leads a couple astray. The contrast between what the characters see and what their brain tells them is true is cleverly played out, allowing the supernatural to contrast with reality in a really chilling manner.
Parlour Trick by Jack Deel brings us a bit of sci-fi fun with an excellent twist.
Please Sir, Can I Have Some More? by Theresa Derwin is a nice bit of satire and uses language to create some great imagery, particularly that which describes the Finance Minister.
The Kegger by Katie Gill turns a saying into a literal reality. Maybe that is a form of prompt other writers could try playing with?
Last week I mentioned a new logo for the site and over the course of the next week, unless there are any hiccups, it should be rolling out to the sites!
My apologies for the lack of updates this week. Work has had me SLAMMED and I was barely able to get this post and the newsletter updated as is! Hopefully, I’ll have some breathing room next week.
The winner has yet to be announced but our most recent giveaway has come to an end. We have two more scheduled at the moment, two I need to follow up on, and likely more to come on top of that in the near future! (Interested in donating books, a kindle, or something else writing-related to sponsor one? Do reach out!)
The Road Less Traveled by G.A. Miller
Bob twisted as he settled into the passenger seat of the small sedan, grunting at the sharp pain in his knees and right hip.
“I am so sorry,” Anita said, “Next time we take a road trip, we’re renting a bigger car.”
They’d just explored Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park on the Maine coast, walking the trails at the summit of Cadillac Mountain, exploring a number of scenic lookouts, and all the walking, along with the cold ocean wind, was taking its toll on Bob’s joints.
“Fuck you, Arthur,” he grumbled as he locked his seat belt in place.
“Yeah. Arthur Itis, that miserable bastard.”
Anita made a sympathetic sound as she backed out of their spot and began driving slowly toward the road that would bring them down from the summit to the loop road in the park. Her phone was connected to the car and the map was up on the display panel, but the automated female voice advised them that the GPS signal had been lost.
“Coverage is terrible up here,” Bob muttered, “That thing drops the GPS constantly now.”
“I think all the carriers have trouble up here, not just ours.”
“Well, at least we know we just have to get onto Route One and head south, so we can use the road signs instead of the phone. Old school, no sweat.”
Bob realized that as crowded as both the mountain and the harbor trails had been, he’d seen many people using their phones to take pictures, but didn’t recall seeing anyone actually talking on them.
They finally reached the loop road and saw that the park rangers had closed the road heading up, which didn’t surprise them after passing the long line of cars waiting to get to the parking lot as they headed down. Anita took a right and followed the loop road to the park exit, where they saw a sign pointing to Route One.
The GPS had regained signal and had them turn right again, and everything seemed to be in place. The GPS showed them heading back toward the motel, the compass in the dash had them heading due south, even the late afternoon sun was shining brightly in from the passenger side.
As they passed a route sign on the road, Anita shook her head.
“Did that sign say North?”
“I didn’t catch it. What is the compass showing?”
“Compass says south… and so does the GPS.”
“Sun’s on the right, which is west, so everything says we’re heading south. I’ll watch for the next road sign anyway.”
“Are those crows over there?” Anita pointed to her left, and Bob looked past her to the left side where a flock of large black birds were standing, all facing the road.
“They’re pretty big… I think they might be ravens. I believe ravens are bigger than crows, but I’m no expert.”
“They’re all watching… oh damn, we just passed another sign and I didn’t see it.”
“Neither did I. I was checking out those birds, and you’re right. It looked like they were all watching the car as we passed them.”
The bright autumn colors of the trees were beginning to soften as the sun lowered, causing Bob to swing the sun visor over to the side window so he could continue watching for the next road sign. As he did, he caught sight of something moving through the woods, not far from the road.
“Damn, whatever that was, it was big. I’m thinking moose?”
“I don’t know hon; I didn’t see it.”
“If that was a deer, they sure as hell grow them big up here.”
“Look, I see a sign coming.”
“Got it… says North Coastal One? What the hell? GPS still shows us heading south, about eighteen miles to the motel now.”
“Compass says southeast too, but does any of this look familiar to you? Shouldn’t we have reached that town with the shopping plaza by now?”
“Yeah, I’d have thought so. I don’t get it. I can see the electronics being off, especially with all the signal drops, but the sun setting to our right means we have to be heading south unless Maine is in the friggin’ Twilight Zone.”
They drove in nervous silence for a while, passing more signs advising them they were northbound, despite all the other indicators showing south. As they looked around, the GPS said they were less than two miles from the motel, but they were now the only car in either direction on the darkening road, surrounded by deep woods on both sides.
And there were more things moving in those woods now. Large things.
“OK, I vote we turn around and head back… what do you think?” Anita’s voice was strained, her nerves showing. She’d either seen or sensed something being very wrong here.
“I’m with you. I’m positive we’d have at least seen that restaurant from last night by now.”
Anita pulled to the side of the now empty road and checked all around. Not another vehicle in sight, so she began making a U turn and stopped abruptly.
“What the hell?” she exclaimed.
The road behind them was now littered with ravens, all watching their car. It seemed like they didn’t want them to turn around. Bob looked out the window to his right and spoke very calmly, hiding the tension in his voice as best he could.
“Honey, go on ahead and turn back now, right now. If those damned birds don’t move out of the way, just run them over. We need to get the hell out of here.”
As she gunned the gas and steered back the way they’d come, the ravens took to the air squawking angrily. Bob kept tilting his head to look behind them through the side mirror on his door.
“What are you looking for? Did I hit any of the birds?”
“No, not that. Remember that big thing I saw in the woods a little while ago?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“Well, I saw it up ahead when you pulled over, like it was waiting for us.”
“Honey, I’ve been doing over seventy miles an hour. It can’t move that fast.”
“I know that. And I also know a moose can’t stand upright on its rear legs either, but that son of a bitch was, whatever the hell it is. We seriously need to get away from this fucking place NOW!”
Anita’s face tightened into a grimace as she pushed the car up over eighty on the straight road, the setting sun now on her side. Her knuckles were white where she gripped the wheel, guiding them smoothly back and away from those woods.
The signs now said South, but they didn’t relax until they began seeing places they remembered passing on the way up in the morning. They eventually passed their motel and headed into town to have dinner. They parked in a small lot next to the restaurant and walked to the entrance where Bob opened the door for Anita and glanced back at the car as she stepped inside.
The single raven standing behind their car watched them silently, the breeze from the shore ruffling its feathers.
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.
You’re never supposed to take short-cuts through unsettled parallels, but the Captain was a pragmatic guy. We were in enemy territory; he decided to cut through Czajkowsky’s World, relying on second-hand intelligence.
“Sir, in that parallel, this valley is crawling with megarachnids,” Green said.
“Which only eat flies, Sergeant. Says so right here in the report. Don’t be a scaredy-cat.”
We were lucky to escape when it all went sideways; we never recovered the Captain’s body. It was true that the giant spiders only ate giant flies, but the report didn’t mention that they baited their webs with dead meat.
Jack Deel is the fiction-writing pen-name of Jack Fennell, a recovering academic from Limerick, Ireland. He is the editor of the Irish science fiction anthology A Brilliant Void, and his own short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Hell’s Empire and Chronos. He can be found at https://jackfennell.com, and on Twitter at @JFennellAuthor.
Please Sir, can I have some more
The Finance Minister began the debate; eyes narrowed, a mealybug of a man, sucking on the sap of a desiccated budget.
With an expensive parker pen, he scribbled through each line of potential expenditure.
He was half done, when Bennett cleared his throat.
“Well?” Reynolds demanded.
Bennett quivered in fear, lifted his glass, gulping down the last of his drink.
“You don’t think it’s excessive, sir?”
Reynolds grinned, showing rotten spinach-coated teeth, one grubby fingernail grasping the squirming weevil that tried to escape.
“The poor, son, deserve it.They won’t notice these buggers in the flour. Gotta cut costs somewhere.”
HWA member Theresa Derwin writes Urban Fantasy & Horror and has over fifty anthology acceptances, one in ‘Below the Stairs’ with Clive Barker.
When she became too ill to work, she accepted medical ‘escape’ to pursue a writing career. As well as physical disabilities she has cognitive function issues, and writing gives her an escape from her illnesses.
She’s had three collections published; has edited over nine anthologies. Her forthcoming books include ‘God’s Vengeance’ from CLP and collection ‘Sex, Slugs and Sausage Rolls’. She is the 2019 HWA Mary Shelley Scholarship recipient.
She blogs at www.theresaderwin.co.uk
I know that something’s wrong when I crack open the beer. It smells almost acidic. I instantly regret the moment I take a drink. I can feel my insides burn as bile rises up in my mouth. I try to hold it back—nobody wants to be the first to puke at a kegger. But it doesn’t work and I vomit up a mixture of beer, blood, and some sort of tissue, charred black and sizzling at the edges. The tissue worryingly smells like burnt meat.
Mom always said that alcohol was poison. I don’t think she meant like this.
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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.