Trembling With Fear 05/24/20
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 all who have been keeping us going from delivery drivers, to checkout operators, from armed forces to public services. As we move out of lockdown, I hope their contribution continues to be recognised. Thank you again from everyone at TWF.
On the personal front I’ve been lucky to be able to go into work for a number of weeks now preparing my new library for the eventual return of the students. Not quite at the furnishing stage but it’s been a proper work out on the lifting and shifting front – 6000+ books stock-checked! It’s been tiring but in its own way it’s kept me sane, and given an ‘almost’ normality to my days. This won’t go on forever but it’s helped.
Something I’ve noticed on social media concerns motivation and suprise at the sudden lack of it when given that long desired bit of time to actually get on and write. I think when you have worries over health, finances or the world in general, you shouldn’t be suprised at all; these are big, and valid, concerns so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get round to doing what you always said you were going to do.
But how do you keep motivated when you write? I’m in a good place at the moment, getting on pretty much every day with my main WIP and noticing the sense of panic that it’s not going to work or the story is all over the place has gone, even though I haven’t written the ending yet. I have a strange – and scary – sense of calm with this one, I know the ending is there, lurking in the back of my mind and will appear when it’s ready, everything I’m weaving into earlier chapters now is building up to it. It is the strangest feeling, this surety. However, there have been, and will be again, times when I need an extra bit of motivation and that is when I turn to the words of others. I picked up a copy of The Horror Writer from Hellbound Books, the other week and have just finished it. Edited by Joe Mynhardt and including essays and articles from a variety of authors including Stephen Graham Jones, John Palisano, Stephanie Wytovich and so many others, there’s a lot in there to give you that proverbial ‘kick up the backside’! I would certainly recommend it.
TWF contributor publication news this week comes from Justin Boote. His first novella with Terror Tract, Badass has just been published and is available on amazon.co.uk, amazon.com. I’ve downloaded it and I’m sure Justin would smile if I told him to find the amazon.co.uk link, I typed in ‘Badass Justin Boote’. If you’ve read some of his stories in TWF, you might agree this is a good description of him!
We lead this week’s Trembling With Fear with a chilling ghost story, Daisy’s Swing from Kevin M. Folliard. The house, the surroundings are all painted in careful detail, immersing you in the environment of that room so you are as much ‘there’ as the main character when they experience their ghostly encounter. Slowly the history of the room and the house is revealed until you realise the innocence of the title of the story is anything but and leaves you with goosebumps.
Payback Time by James Bates is probably a scenario imagined by many but never actually put into practice. How many of us have revenge fantasies but never – thankfully – carry them out? Revenge can provide so many storylines.
The Last Song by Lionel Ray Green is an offering in a slightly different format and no less powerful for that. Bleakness and despair mixed with a note to a family pet, makes this a moving little story.
They Whisper by Maura Yzmore is a mini cosmic horror and challenges ideas of belief. Usually, people regard you as mad if you claim to hear or see ghosts. Not in this case, that is accepted. It’s what those very people themselves don’t accept which provides a touch of irony in this story and adds an extra kick.
Well, I was able to get our new logo on the site and a couple of our social media accounts. I’ll slowly be moving in into position everywhere in the coming week!
I’d just like to quickly share that we were a bit behind on Unholy Trinity and Serials though feedback and contracts should hopefully be getting straightened out over the coming week. As to the anthology? We haven’t been able to make any movement on that for a week or so. I’m really hoping that next week we’ll be able to make some more solid progress. My apologies on this delay.
Daisy’s Swing by Kevin M. Folliard
Last November, my friend Carol closed on a four-bedroom farmhouse. She’d used her divorce settlement to kickstart her dream of running a cozy bed and breakfast in the Vermont countryside. Excited for her venture, I drove to meet, celebrate, and help clean the house.
The purchase had been a short sale, and the house came fully furnished. The previous owners even left boxes of possessions in the attic. Carol, as enamored of antiques as hospitality, was eager to keep as much of the house’s history and charm as she could.
I stayed that night in an east-facing room with a beautiful four-post bed, mahogany bureau, and elegant cherrywood rocker. Draped over the chair was a technicolor afghan, and on one wall hung crocheted art of Carol’s house, with the word “HOME”—the “O” swapped for a swollen pink heart.
I set down my suitcase, sat, and rocked for a moment. The room overlooked an emerald tortoise shell of a hill, sprinkled with canary-colored leaves from an ancient oak. Strung from a sturdy branch, a hemp swing wallowed in the breeze.
Suddenly, inexplicably, I knew the room had belonged to a girl named Daisy. The name just blossomed into my mind.
At dinner, Carol confirmed that a girl named Daisy had indeed lived in the house. I couldn’t explain to her how I knew. The name seemed to just be there in the room.
“Well.” Carol took a long sip of red wine. “She died.”
I was afraid to press for more information.
“Perhaps, come spring,” Carol said, “I’ll plant daisies out front to honor her.”
I agreed it was a nice idea. We had exhausted ourselves lugging boxes for donation from the attic into Carol’s van, and we spoke little more about Daisy. I had sensed Carol didn’t want to talk more about what she knew, and I imagined we’d speak of Daisy again in the light of morning.
But that night, the house told me more.
Before bed, a tinge of cigarette smoke lingered in Daisy’s room. Neither Carol nor I smoked, and I hadn’t smelled it earlier. I put it out of my mind. Tomorrow we would scrub the room top to bottom, and that would be the end of the smell.
In the darkness, I felt eyes on my body. In my mind, I pictured a sallow-faced man with thin hair strung over tan square glasses. He reached for me. I felt sandpapery fingers on my thigh. Hot breath in my ear. A moan.
I shot up in bed.
Floor boards creaked under the rocking chair. There rocked a girl, 12 or 13, in a floral-print nightgown.
A splotch of shadow eclipsed her face. It looked like ink spilled and splattered. The girl stopped rocking. I had the distinct, clairvoyant sense she was looking right at me, but I couldn’t actually see her face. Through the dark hovering stain, I couldn’t even tell the color of her hair.
An intense fear filled me, but not of the girl. Of the man I suddenly realized had haunted her room each night. I opened my mouth to say something—anything—to comfort Daisy. To assure her that her suffering had ended. But before I could, the excruciating heat of a cigarette burn flared on my shoulder.
I cried, squeezed my eyes shut, and by the time I opened them, the girl was gone. No mark, no burn had been left on my skin.
Desperate for fresh air, I gave a shaky-legged stumble toward the wall. I slid the window up. The chill of night stabbed into the room. A mass grave of yellow lady bugs remained between the house and the windowsill.
Atop the hill, the swing rocked in moon beams, as if under the weight of an invisible child. I knew in that moment that Daisy had died swinging from the strong arm of the oak. The fact of it bloomed into my head, but not like a flower.
Kevin M. Folliard
Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose fiction has been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, Thrilling Words, and more. His recent publications include “Halfway to Forgotten,” featured on The No Sleep Podcast, and the Short Sharp Shocks! Halloween tale “Candy Corn.” Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor and active membership in the La Grange and Brookfield Writers Groups. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Super Mario Maker, or traveling the U.S.A.
She leaned over his naked body handcuffed to the bed and made the first cut, whispering, “One.”
He screamed. “One? What are you talking about?”
She put her finger to his lips. “Hush.”
She’d kept track of his lies over the years, his infidelities. Now he was all hers and it was payback time.
She sliced him lightly, enjoying the blooding running over his chest. “Two.”
She loved the sound.
She cut him more and more until his screams turned to tears, “Please, no more.”
She kissed his trembling lips, “I’ve only just begun.”
And cut him again.
Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories have appeared in many online and print publications. His collection of short stories Resilience is scheduled to be published in 2020 by Bridge House Publishing. All of his stories can be found on his blog: www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com.
The Last Song
“They say it’s the darkest before the dawn,
But they know the sun will soon follow night.
They’ve never seen the darkness after dawn,
Trapped in a world that knows no sun or light.
They’ve never heard the sound of their last breath,
While strumming a defiant ode to death.
They’ve never sung a dark duet with fear,
While singing the last song they’ll ever hear.”
Mom, Dad, I love you.
Be a good dog, Peanut.
— Lyrics by Jeff Tandy, found written in a notebook next to a human skeleton cradling a mandolin inside an unmapped cave in eastern Tennessee.
Lionel Ray Green
Everyone in my family talks to ghosts, but I thought the gift might’ve skipped me.
That was before we found UFO remnants in a cornfield, saw scattered bits of shimmering flesh. Before the black vans came.
They whisper to me, the dead aliens. I know where they’re from, how they found us, how they rejoiced when Earth emerged from the cosmic abyss.
But they have no use for us humans. I know when they’ll arrive, how many, the horrors they’ll unleash. I know we stand no chance.
They whisper to me, the dead aliens, amused that no one believes me.
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Stephanie Ellis is a member of the HWA and writes dark speculative prose and poetry which has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her work includes the novel, The Five Turns of the Wheel and the gothic novella, Bottled, both via Silver Shamrock Publishing.She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org/ and on twitter @el_Stevie.