Thank you for all the lovely birthday wishes I received on Facebook this week. At my age, it is just another day, although the students were somewhat shocked that I didn’t have the day off. As usual, I always get birthday books so my TBR pile has now gone back up, supplemented by Stoker winner The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste and Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (they say vary your reading, which is what do – but still no to romance/chick lit, I can’t, I just can’t – I’m only just about coping with some YA romance in dark fantasy ). Pleased to hear Paul Tremblay won a Stoker for his novel The Cabin at the End of the World. He was present at Edge Lit last year so I managed to get a book signed. Really looking forward to attending Stoker Con next year when it comes to the UK, although before then I’ll be going to Edge Lit in Derby in July. They’ve got a good line up again – Tim Lebbon, Sarah Lotz and Neil Spring amongst others. If you can make it, I would highly recommend the day.
Now to this week’s stories:
Trembling With Fear’s lead story this week is Third Time’s a Charm by Robert Allen Lupton written in the style of a fable. The insects as we know, are supposed to be amongst the most successful of all living creatures on this planet. What we didn’t know was that apparently they were also ‘in charge’ of our world. They had created the ‘Pig People’ as their food source but as that species develops, they are subjected to pesticides, immunity of the population from disease and so on, so that the insects lose their food supply (sound familiar?). Then they spot the apes, something tells me we all know how that’s going to end. A very clear warning to all of us from Nature’s side.
Too Frightened to Move by CR Smith initially appears to be an excellent description of the fear we often feel when listening to a storm from the safety of our beds but she then finishes with a very creepy last line hinting that much more is going on. This turns a place of safety into a place under siege. A good twist away from the expected.
Old Wives’ Tale by Maddison McSweeney takes us back to the folk tradition of the witch (or crone) who can transform herself into an animal to do harm. I enjoyed this because again, it touches on an area of horror – whether folk or dark fairytale or tradition – which is so often overlooked in favour of a mad killer. Perhaps we could have drabbles that are pretty much ‘potted’ Grimms. That would be interesting.
Vow of Chastity by DM Burdett was something you found yourself believing in despite it being totally implausible. Quite often, I will read something and decide there’s no way this could or should happen. With story, I just accepted it – a sign of good story telling – and a perfect last line.
Quick anthology update. We’re in the very final round of updates on the text for the books. The digital cover has been completed. The full cover needs a final page count to be completed.
After that, we’ll, of course, need to order a couple of copies to verify everything checks out on the print edition.
We’re almost there people! One of these years we’ll get a quick turn around.
Offhand, we had a new Patreon sign up in the last week. I want to send out another personal thank you for helping keep this site going! We’re inching towards our next goal, and I’m excited for us to be moving forward!
Third Time’s A Charm
The Ant King called a meeting and all the insects attended. The roaches, beetles, flying insects, biting bugs, and stinging wasps answered his call. They flew, crawled, swam, and marched to the conference.
The Ant King said, “There are too many people. They carry too much water in their bodies. They poison us, they destroy our homes, and they eat too much food. This has to stop.”
The Roach Queen said, “It’s your fault. You bred the bony animals for food. You let them get out of control.”
‘Not true,” said the Ant King. “The mosquitos and fleas were supposed to keep their numbers under control.”
The Mosquito King said, “Not our fault. They created potions to protect themselves. They kill my children by the thousands.”
Queen Flea agreed. “We do our best but their medicines protect them.”
The Ant King pointed at the moths. “If you’d eaten the papyrus like I told you, they wouldn’t have learned to write. That was the beginning of the problem. But no, your larva didn’t like the way it tasted. You brought this on ourselves.”
The Beetle King said, “It’s not the moths’ fault papyrus tastes like so bad. My people eat almost anything, but no one likes papyrus. We have to do something. They’ve modified some of the plants so we can’t eat them. They treat their waste and their dead with chemicals and we can’t eat them. We’re starving.”
The Ant King shouted for order. “I know. That’s why we’re here. We need a solution, not a blame session.”
The Queen Bee of all queen bees said, “Millions of my people die every day. We’ll do our part.”
The Chief Locust said, “My people want war. We’ll breed like crazy and destroy their crops.”
The Beetle King said, “Their power is in their inventions. We’ll crawl inside their machines and destroy them.”
“They have billions of machines, but our numbers are endless. If we lose a life every time we kill a machine, we’ll win,” said the Gnat Prince.
The Ant King laughed, “We’ll show them what it means to have a bug in the system.”
Electricity arced from the computer server and David jumped. He spotted the short immediately. He used plastic tweezers to remove a roasted caterpillar. He slapped his neck and looked at the crushed bee in his hand. Bees swarmed him and he dropped the damaged module. An army of ants crawled over his body and into the thousands of servers.
Carlos pointed at the dark cloud. “Locusts.” The hoard blackened the sky. They ignored the pesticides and devoured the crops to their roots. They forced their way into people’s mouths and suffocated them. The insects packed their bodies into the air intakes of the equipment. The engines overheated and died.
The mosquitos and fleas found a diseased male, swarmed him, and filled themselves with his contaminated blood. They spread it widely and untold millions died. The people never found an antidote to the new pathogen.
In months, the people were reduced to primitive living conditions. Their cities, machines, and power supplies were only a memory, but the insects didn’t stop. The Ant King ordered, “Kill them all.”
The insects met again after the last person died from untreated malaria. The Roach Queen asked, “What do we do now. We have to breed new people.”
The Flea King hopped to the front and said, “Yes, we need new people to prey on. I move we begin immediately.”
The Bee Queen asked, “This will be the third time. Our ancestors tried with lizards and that didn’t work.”
A wasp woman interrupted, “The Pig People were a disaster. They turned on us and we had to kill them all.”
The Flea King said, “Doesn’t mean we quit trying. My children have been watching some small apes. The apes seem peaceful. They never fight. They just play in the trees, breed, and sleep. I believe they have potential. I suggest we develop them.”
After much debate and a fight between the Beetle King and the wasp woman, the insects voted to develop the apes.
The Ant King said, “So be it, but I want the apes under constant surveillance. Let me know immediately if they get out of control.”
The Flea King laughed, “They’re afraid of their own shadows. They won’t be a problem.”
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. He has been published in several anthologies and his short stories are online at www.horrortree.com and www.crimsonstreets.com. His novel, Foxborn, was published in April, His collection of running themed horror, science fiction, and adventures stories, Running Into Trouble, was published in October 2017, Dragonborn, the Foxborn sequel will be released in April, 2018
Old Wives’ Tales
The women of my village believed that cats sucked the breath from babes. I didn’t believe them until I saw my own child gasping for breath, a black cat perched on his chest.
I drove it out with a poker from the fire, slashing its eye. It escaped and fled into the woods. Pursuing the creature, I watched it slip through the open window of a shack where an old crone lived alone.
A maiden answered the door, a vision of the crone on her younger years. I gasped as she emerged from the shadows: she was missing an eye.
Madison McSweeney is a Canadian writer, poet, and blogger.
Her horror, sci-fi, and fantasy stories have appeared in Unnerving Magazine, Women in Horror Annual 2, The Fulcrum, Horror Tree, 365 Tomorrows, and Dark Horizons: An Anthology of Dark Science Fiction. She also has stories set to appear in Weirdpunk Books’s upcoming Zombie Punks F*** Off and forthcoming issues of Polar Borealis and Deadman’s Tome.
Her non-fiction arts and culture coverage has been published in a number of outlets. She blogs at madisonmcsweeney.com and tweets (mostly about horror, rock music, and the Canadian arts scene) from @MMcSw13.
To Frightened To Move
Trees swayed bending against their will, casting strange shadows across the slanted ceiling of our attic bedroom. We lay there, too frightened to move in case an arm or leg should escape the safety of blankets, taking it in turns to keep watch, our hearts thumping every time the billowing curtains revealed the smallest crack of light, as someone — or something — tried to get in; the window frame rattling, driving rain hitting the misted panes like pebbles thrown from the ground, a sudden flash of lightning illuminating everything, allowing a glimpse of the contorted faces pushed up against the glass.
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 recently appeared on the cover of Déraciné A Gothic Literary Magazine.
Vow Of Chastity
Urgent knocking woke Jaycee. She opened her eyes into the subdued light of the hotel room.
Dan, her husband, the surgeon, watched over her.
“Police! Open up!” More insistent banging.
She remembered the tangle of sheets, her yoga instructor, Dan’s angry face.
A heart monitor blipped next to her. “What have you done?” she breathed, terrified.
“I don’t like to share.” His smile didn’t touch his eyes.
The door exploded. Officers spilled into the room but faltered at the sight.
“A hemicorporectomy,” Dan whispered. “I amputated your body below the waist.”
Jaycee made a choking sound.
“No more screwing around.”
DM Burdett was born in the UK, roamed as an army brat, and now lives in Australia where she spends her days avoiding drop bears and killer spiders.
She has published a Sci-Fi series, had success with short stories, and is currently working on a YA dystopian series.
She has worked in software development for three decades and has published two children’s series on the subject.
A life of roaming the shores of Australia in her teardrop caravan calls to her but, until then, there always seems to be just one more software project to complete.
Website – www.dmburdett.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DMBurdett/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/dmburdettauthor