Trembling With Fear 06/05/2022
Welcome back to Trembling with Fear, our online flash zine. We publish both new and established writers with many becoming familiar faces and being an ongoing open market, we are always after material. Submissions don’t have to be horror, they can be dark sci-fi or fantasy or some other aspect of the speculative fiction field. Nor are we averse to a touch of noir or a dark thriller. Humour is also welcome!
It’s been a manic week, trying to clear the decks TWF and Horror Tree wise before going to ChillerCon, then returning from the con to travel to Cardiff for a graduation ceremony, then back home and catching up with TWF and Horror Tree. My life is a loop!
I have written up ChillerCon for HorrorTree and you should find it in the articles section, there are even a few pics. If you read it, you will gather I had a brilliant time. Conventions can be a daunting experience, especially if you are new or on your own. I’ve been lucky, in that my husband always comes along for moral support – and he gets to know the folk I speak to online as well which is great. One thing I try to do is introduce people to each other, even if I’ve only just met someone and another person I know joins us, I will make sure to share names. I think such a simple little gesture of politeness automatically makes you feel part of things rather than someone ‘on the outside’. I still feel as daunted as anyone but would seriously recommend attending a con if you can. It relieves the isolation, makes you realise you have embarked upon a valid career, and gives your enthusiasm for writing a serious boost. Plus you make friends!
As I move into my last month at TWF, I want to say thank for the kind messages I am continuing to receive (remember I am not leaving Horror Tree completely as I will still be running the Indie Bookshelf Releases and helping with some admin aspects). Who will take over? That’s all in hand and I’m sure we’ll announce soon!
Our first story this week in Trembling with Fear is From Little Acorns by Sam Dawson. This is a well-executed treatment of a sensitive subject, bringing in the revenge factor served on behalf of the innocent. Apart from being extremely well-written, I particularly enjoyed the use of metaphorical language with regard to Brittanee and her mother and the trees. Metaphors, when used with subtlety, are a good way of showing and not telling!
Escape by April Yates includes blind dates and betrayal, murder and a clever nod to Rupert Holmes’ Escape (The Pina Colada Song) – without getting us into copyright trouble!
Judgement by Christopher O’Halloran is a prose poem delight. Rhythm and word choice carry this, carving emotive images with ease.
Single File by Ryan Marie Ketterer gives us some post-apocalyptic imagery – or does it? The clue is in the last line.
I hope you enjoyed our stories, now send us yours!
Last week I promised news on Trembling With Fear both staffing and the new release.
Well, we’re half way there (and living on a prayer!) The new Trembling With Fear pre-orders ARE LIVE! The staffing, we’ve figured out but are just getting everything in place and will be announcing the two latest editions to the Horror Tree family SOON!
We’re aiming to break 450 subscribers on our Horror Tree’s YouTube channel. If you’re into tubing, you should check us out!
We’re still prepping the layout changes and will be putting some major time into it later this month. A lot of the layout will be the same. If there are any changes that you would like to see though, please do reach out. Speaking of layout changes… Another piece of news from last week:
At the request of one of our readers, I’ve added an “Artwork” category, for those of you who are also artists or know some. I haven’t had the time to actively update all of our existing posts into it, though will be adding all future ones as they come in. This can be found quickly as the bottom option under “Non-Anthologies” on the main menu.
As always, I hope you had a great weekend.
From Little Acorns by Sam Dawson
“Come on, sweet. Come to Story Corner. Then you can tell me how it all started.”
Another teacher is pulling away the other girl, the one she’d been fighting with. Angry tears streaming down her unwashed cheeks, five year-old Brittanee looks up and into the face of Miss Swakeham (“call me Carol”), who gently places her hands on her shoulders, steering her away from the playground confrontation with long-nailed Stacey-Mae, and its goading spectators, to the calm that is the story garden.
It’s a treed patch of green, retained when the local big house was knocked down in the 19th century as the metropolis overran the area and a new school was needed. An unsuspected fragment of nature, a bower with high, honey-coloured brick walls, smelling of blossom and bloom rather than wee and weed, an oasis alongside the tarmac and brickwork of the school, the terraced houses that grew up around it, and the 1960s concrete estates which replaced them.
For most of the year it remains securely locked. But when the summer sun gets past the obstacles of the high walls, and if the teachers are prepared to risk complaints of hay fever, asthma and allergies, they may bring the Reception class here for an hour once a week, (if it’s warm enough to sit on the grass) and read a story to them: a moment of peace and nature and the power of imagination.
Brittanee stops, hanging back. “Do I have to, Miss? I don’t like it there.”
The teaching assistant is surprised. She thought everyone liked the walled garden. “Whyever not, pet? And I’m Carol, remember, not ‘Miss’. I’m a TA, not a teacher. I’m like you, just a bit bigger.”
And that’s sort of true. She kind of sounds like Brittanee’s mum, without the swearing. She could almost be her big sister, except that she’s nice and soft and caring, which none of the real ones are. That’s why she feels bad about not wanting to go into the garden, which she knows all the grown-ups think is lovely. She pulls her hand from the other’s reassuring grasp.
“Jus’ don’t wanna,” she pouts, turning her back on the gate and crossing her arms.
Carol kneels beside her, putting her head near to hers, gently takes her hand again, and asks her to explain.
Brittanee feels silly to admit it, but somehow – since it’s her and not one of the other teachers or grown ups – she does. “It’s where The Bad Trees are.”
Carol doesn’t laugh at her. In fact she’s impressed by the little girl’s imagination. It appears she is the exception, the apple that actually did fall far from the tree – especially if you’ve met the heavyset, tattooed, monosyllabically threatening woman who is her mother.
“You’re a very clever girl, Brittanee. Children so rarely pick up on something like that.” The bell rings for the return to class. “Tell you what. You decide. We can go back to class with Stacey-Mae and the others, or we can take a little time out in the garden and I’ll tell you the tale of how the trees came to be the way they are.”
And so it is that, hand in hand, they enter the locked garden, with its fringe of tall trees, the immature saplings struggling to grow between them, and the warmly comfortable lawn.
Carol sits in a shady spot, with her back against one of the trees and motions for the girl to join her. “Come on, poppet, this is a nice bit. Plant yourself here.”
It’s pick-up time. Carol looks out for Brittanee’s mum. This is the tough part. Separating the parent from the other adults without them all noticing.
Mind you, she’s done it before.
But in the end the mother makes it easy, swanning up late when all the other children have been collected, appearing in a cloud of vape smoke and the same ketchup-stained pyjamas she had on at drop-off this morning.
Carol approaches her. She doesn’t dare call her by name, as she knows its second barrel changes with whatever going-nowhere cousin or thug she has temporarily taken up with.
She screws up her courage, tells herself that Brittanee was always a lost child, but that with her mother removed there’s a small chance that she might just survive, might transform, grow tall and straight, reach for the sun. One day, the girl might bloom.
“Ms….” She puts on her best how-lovely-to-see-you face and mumbles the second of the surnames, just in case. “Have you got a minute? It’s about Brittanee. She did something really bright and lovely today. I must tell you about it. Why don’t we go somewhere quiet?”
You don’t need to be an expert in body language to recognise that the mother’s head-down, feet-planted stance, is signalling: I’m not going nowhere, bring me my effing girl now.
But Brittanee was right, Carol has come from the same environment as she and her mum did. The appeal to maternal duty having failed, she moves closer, gives a conspiratorial look around, lowers her voice and speaks.
“I don’t know about you but I’m dyin’ for a fag. I confiscated a packet off a Year Six today. I’m meant to’ve give up, but one won’t hurt. Only thing, I mustn’t be seen smoking. Fancy going somewhere quiet for just one quick one, then you can have the rest of the packet?”
It works. The mother nods grudgingly, follows her as she moves towards the locked gate at the far edge of the playground. As they approach it, Carol keeps up a coaxing, reassuring commentary: “Bet you didn’t know we’ve got a story garden here. With trees. No one’ll see us if we stand among them. Like Brittanee did today. Ooh she’s special that girl. Sweet as a nut.”
She takes the key from her pocket. “Here we are. Come on in and meet the elders.”
Sam Dawson is a journalist who lives in England. He’s been writing, and sometimes illustrating, fiction since 1997 (with a three-year break for a history book). His work has appeared in Supernatural Tales, The Black Books of Horror, Terror Tales, BHF Books of Horror and others. If you’re interested he recommends that you try his anthology Pariah & Other Stories, published by Supernatural Tales and available from lulu.com. But then he would, wouldn’t he?
He can be found on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21686706.Sam_Dawson and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sam.dawson.31924.
I sit waiting in O’Malley’s for the latest in a long line of guys who had answered my personal ad.
That first time had been magical. Why wouldn’t I want to chase that feeling of euphoria again and again?
My anticipation turns to horror though, as my own husband enters and sits down across from me.
His eyes flit to my bag of equipment, the handcuffs, the tarpaulin.
Reaching across the table to grab his hand, I try to sound as jovial as possible as I ask him.
“So, why’d you never tell me you liked Piña coladas?”
April Yates is a writer of dark and queer fiction, living in Derbyshire England with her wife and two fluffy demons masquerading as dogs. She should be writing, but is easily distracted by the squirrels in her garden and thoughts of lesbian vampires. Her debut novella, ASHTHORNE, a queer, historical horror-romance will be published by Ghost Orchid Press in Summer 2022. Her short stories appear in anthologies by Ghost Orchid Press, Black Hare Press, and Brigids Gate Press. She also suffers from a micro-fiction addiction, leaving them scattered across the web and in various anthologies. Find her on Twitter @April_Yates_ or aprilyates.com
My hearse with dirt wheels.
Curt substitutions dilute mass hysteria. Curbed murder of flocked cops rain atop my uncouth roof.
I sink beneath their judgement. Running from what I’ve done and what I’ve become.
Untouchable. Specter on the lectern before hellish friends and pious foes.
So it goes.
Ropes sewn from dashed hopes and crushed rattles, smashed prams and canned fingernails.
Peel this shell and find the rind I leave behind. Take my body; I’ve left my mind.
Beyond and behind the wrongs of your sentence. Your vengeance tastes of vinegar; use it to clean the blood I’ve spilled.
CHRISTOPHER O‘HALLORAN is a milk-slinging, Canadian actor-turned-author with work published from HellBound Books, Tales to Terrify, The Dread Machine, and others. His novelettes can be found in anthologies Howls from Hell and Bloodlines: Four Tales of Familial Fear. He is Editor-in-Chief, social media contributor, and Discord mod for the most active Horror book club on the web, HOWL Society (HOWLSociety.com). Fans of stories about vein-removal and Phoenix-women against the patriarchy can visit COauthor.ca for stories, reviews, and updates on his upcoming novel, Pushing Daisy. He lives with his wife, son, and horse/dog/cats in British Columbia, Canada.
It’s so far away, the sustenance. We can see it. There, in the distance. The bravest will attempt to collect it, to bring it back. If successful, it would feed our village for days. Without it, many will die.
The Makers produce the nourishment, but not for us. If they see us venturing, there will be bloodshed. The Makers, with their rubber weapons, massive and wide, coming down from above. The attacks are not enough to kill, only maim. Broken legs, leaving us stranded, ready for the next strike.
We begin our mission, single file, and hope they don’t see.
Ryan Marie Ketterer
Ryan Marie Ketterer is from Malden, Massachusetts. Her work can be found in The Cellar Door Forbidden Magic anthology (forthcoming) and in Dark Pine Press’s Devil’s Rejects anthology (forthcoming). She’s a fan of the weird and uncanny, and her writing draws most of its influence from the works of Shirley Jackson and Thomas Ligotti. When she isn’t writing stories, Ryan is writing code for a software startup in Boston, MA or training for another road race. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @RyanMarie47.
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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 and Reborn, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused. Her novel, The Woodcutter, is due for release via Brigids Gate Press in 2023. 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 is an active member of the HWA and can be found at https://stephanieellis.org, on Twitter at @el_stevie, Instagram stephanieellis7963 and also somewhere on Facebook.