Trembling With Fear 05/26/2019
I’ve seen a few comments on Facebook recently from fellow writers struggling to free themselves from the depression that comes from rejection and the frustration of not being able to break through when you know your writing is good enough. I’ve also seen the responses of others who commiserate and offer nothing but support and good vibes. It’s that feeling of solidarity which I love in our community. There is no shame in rejection, it does not always reflect on the quality of your writing, is often subjective or could be the right story at the wrong time, a great story but not the right fit. So many reasons, the majority of which take nothing away from your writing and do not reflect on you as an author. Do not be ashamed to admit rejection, instead be proud that you are writing and submitting, that you are continuing to hone your craft. You have us all in your corner, cheering you on.
Now to this week’s stories:
Trembling With Fear’s lead story this week is Scruples by Catherine Berry is a wonderfully atmospheric piece. Horror in the middle of nowhere, a good Samaritan who makes a mistake, the apparent innocence of children. Harmless, aren’t they, the little ones? Nothing is explicitly stated, except right at the end, yet all is told. The hints, tension and pacing are all spot on.
First Date by Lionel Ray Green is a tragic tale and one that is horrible to consider. The desperation of an abused woman frees her from one horror, only to succumb to another unseen. A clever use of twisting the impulse to survive.
Overcast by Patrick Winters has ruined my harmless hobby of finding images in clouds. The narrator in this also gazes up at those fluffy white bundles but they are not innocent. They are the death that is too come. A good example of taking something regarded as innocent and fun and painting it black.
Sisterly Love by Scarlet Berry takes sibling rivalry to a different and tragic level. A cold, calculating child is always scary. Seems to be a trend in this week’s stories!
I’m still slammed at work at the moment. I’d like to personally say welcome to our new Patreons and let everyone know that we should have edits for the upcoming TWF anthologies done this weekend! If all goes well, covers and preview copies will be ordered this next week! Hurray~
The highway had flooded, forcing Sam to detour onto an old back road; but at least the rain had stopped. She’d driven through gloom for hours, adding to the depressing atmosphere of the desiccated scenery. There wasn’t much to see except overgrown fields and an occasional dilapidated farmhouse.
“Why won’t this detour just end?” Sam griped, flicking the radio off as the signal fizzled with static.
Movement further up the road caught her eye. There, on the right near the edge of a field, dirty and ragged, something strange was coming out of the grass. It looked like a kid.
Slowing as she drove by, Sam turned in her seat to get a better look. Sure enough, there was a child under a mess of tangles and grime, carrying a baby. She watched the child make an aborted move towards the car, only to shrink back.
What were they even doing out here? Driving at a crawl, Sam looked for some sign of other people. A sick feeling slithered up from her stomach, burning her throat. There was nothing.
“Hell,” she sighed, pulling off the road. She watched the kids in the rear-view mirror, torn between a creeping feeling of unease and a nauseating guilt. It wasn’t safe to pick up hitchhikers; but those were kids. Grabbing her phone, Sam told herself, “Okay. Okay, first thing.”
A quick call to 911 had an operator promise a patrol car would be sent. Sam was told to stay in her vehicle and wait until they arrived.
Half-turned in her seat, knee against the center console, Sam alternated between watching the kids and scanning the area. Thirty minutes had passed since she’d called and it was starting to get dark.
The children hadn’t moved from their spot near the road. Occasionally, the older one would stare at the car before slowly looking away. The kid seemed to be wilting, struggling under the weight of the baby. Sam watched, stomach twisting, as the kid used a knee to try pushing the baby higher. From what she could see, they looked half-starved and desperately in need of care.
“God, this is a bad idea,” she grumbled, biting her lip as she eyed a bag of snacks on the passenger seat. A bottle of water and half a box of granola bars. It wasn’t much, but the kids probably needed it. Leg bouncing with nerves, she closed her eyes. The cops had to be there soon.
Glancing out the back window, she watched the older child wobble, almost drop, and said, “Screw it.”
Keys clutched in one hand, bag in the other, Sam stepped out of the car, looked around, and slowly headed towards the kids. She made it to the back bumper before the older kid noticed her, head snapping up so hard Sam winced in sympathy.
“It’s okay,” she said, trying to be soothing. She hoped they didn’t notice the slightly panicked edge in her voice. “Help is coming, but I have some food if you guys are hungry.”
She waited a beat. Two. Three. The kids did nothing as Sam opened the bag, angling it to show them the food.
“I’m going to come a little closer and put the bag down, okay? Then, I’m going to get back in my car. The food is for you.”
Slowly, watching in case they startled, she took a few steps and put the bag on the ground. The baby’s face was hidden, but the older child watched, eyes fixed on Sam, unblinking.
“It’s okay,” she assured, as the children edged towards her,“you can eat.”
Hours later, a police cruiser pulled up behind Sam’s car.
“Dispatch, this is Kyle. Quinn and I have found the car described in the 911 report. No immediate sign of anyone. We’re going to have a look.”
“Empty,” Kyle said, as they came around her car, flashlights shining through the windows. Turning toward the dark field behind him, he called, “Hello? This is the State Police. Can anyone hear me?”
“HELLO?” Quinn hollered, walking down the road. “We received a 911 call. If you need assistance but aren’t able to respond, try to make some kind of noise.”
“Think we should look around?” Kyle asked after a few minutes.
“I guess,” Quinn agreed. He stopped, staring the edge of the field just behind his partner. “What’s that?”
Flashlights shifted, landing on the kids huddled low to the ground, practically invisible in the long grass.
“Hey, kids” Kyle called softly, as he crouched down, “we’re Police Officers. Could you come out?”
Slowly, the kids crept onto the road; wet, muddy, and splattered in blood. The officers shared a look. A silent conversation passed between them. Quinn turned, closely scanning the area, hand resting on his gun.
“It’s okay,” Kyle assured the kids, holding out his hand. “It’s okay.”
“Kyle. Quinn. What’s your APB?”
The soft crackle of the radio joined the wet, crunchy, smacking that filled the air as the children feasted. They hadn’t eaten so well in years.
Lip dripping blood, Anna slipped into the water, dipping low.
Hurting and hiding but living.
The voice of her attacker, a first-date nightmare of a man, faded into the distance, his quarry lost.
Anna’s sigh of relief sent gentle ripples toward the shoreline.
A glint of moonlight drew Anna’s eyes to a weeping willow along the bank.
Anna felt a sharp tug on her leg.
At the same time, she discerned the source of the shimmer.
It was an aluminum sign cradled loosely by the tree’s branches:
DO NOT FEED THE ALLIGATORS
Anna disappeared underwater, from one predator to another.
Lionel Ray Green
Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. His short stories have appeared in the anthologies Alabama’s Emerging Writers, The Heart of a Devil, Fifty Flashes, How Beer Saved the World 2, Graveyard, Frightening, Tales from the Grave, In Creeps the Night, and 22 More Quick Shivers. His short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition All Hallows’ Prose and his short story “A Tale of Two Shards” was third runner-up in the WriterWriter 2018 International Fantasy Competition Phoenix Rising. His work has also appeared in The Poet’s Haven Digest anthology It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, in Issue 1 of Cross+Decay magazine, and in the 2017 issue of From the Depths magazine as well as in Trembling With Fear, an online feature of the Horror Tree website.
That one looks like a bunny, someone might say. Or a peace sign.
No, I could answer back. It’s my old friend, John Dearing, getting sliced in two by a sheet of falling glass.
I’ve always seen death in the clouds, you understand? Not sure how, but I do. Premonitions of demise, warnings of fatal accidents—all fluffy and floating along.
I saw my parent’s car wreck in a booming cumulonimbus; and I knew my wife would die of cancer, thanks to a wispy altostratus.
And that one there, passing by right now—what do you suppose it looks like . . . ?
Patrick Winters is a graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. He has been published in the likes of Sanitarium Magazine, Deadman’s Tome, Trysts of Fate, and other such titles. A full list of his previous publications may be found at his author’s site, if you are so inclined to know: http://wintersauthor.azurewebsites.net/Publications/List
“Mama, I want a sister,” I said.
“You already have one,” replied my mother.
“I want one that I like,” I responded.
I hated my little sister. She was a brat who tattled on me whenever I hit her. I was always having to take care of her.
One day I did.
It was laundry day. The washtub was filled with boiling water. We were alone for a moment. My little sister leaned too far forward and fell in; with a little help.
As my mother held her baby’s drowned, blistered body, I asked, “Now can I have a sister?”
Scarlet Berry is a Yooper. She’s been married forty years to the same man and they raised four children together. She is a mystery wrapped up in a conundrum, and loves to laugh; both evilly and happily.
Master of Lies
Pelo was known throughout the kingdoms as a man with a golden tongue.
A peddler of secrets.
He knew where your enemies slept.
But information hadn’t kept him safe.
Tied down, he asked, “What do you want? I’ll tell you anything.”
Lord Zenlan gazed upon him.
“I have use for your talents Pelo. But your tongue wags far too much.”
“You can trust me! I can keep a secret!”
“You were willing to sell out anyone for your life. No. Taking your tongue will only be the first step in ensuring your silence.”
The blade drew closer, and Pelo screamed.
Who does this guy think he is? Not Batman, that’s for sure!
I did hear he loved the ending to ‘Game of Thrones’ so clearly something is wrong with him. What that could be, we’ll never know!
Your friendly neighborhood editor-man wanted to throw a drabble into the mix last minute and hope you enjoy!