Trembling With Fear 06/09/2019
I have developed a twitch just below my eye, it manifested over the past week or so, and I have worked out it is linked to my current submissions status which seems to be set at ‘permanently waiting for an answer’. I have a fair few works out, and a number of those should be feeding back about now but so far the silence is deafening. It’s always that last bit of waiting that seems to stretch out longer than all the months leading up to it and is the hardest bit, for me to cope with. Or perhaps the twitch is the sign of something more sinister …
Part of me figured stress might be the underlying cause, the combination of real life work and writing life becoming a bit much so I allowed myself a little time off and spent last Friday binge-watching Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens. It is terrific and I can’t recommend it highly enough (and yes I’ve got the book). Then I rewatched the original The Omen on Sunday. I haven’t seen it for a good thirty odd years – and writing that I now feel old so I’ll shut up.
This week’s stories in Trembling with Fear start with Find the World’s Center with Feelers by Donna J. W. Munro. This is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I have read for some time. Her use of language is fantastic, the imagery startlingly apt for the atmosphere generated. Elegant and descriptive, the story feels almost gentle on that quiet night as the main character takes what turns out to be his last walk. This tranquillity is in contrast to the horror of what is to come, the sheer acceptance of it. And then at the end, the reader, is directly addressed, is warned ‘As she flows toward you, here and not here, fascinating and terrible, as her lips press the eternity of love and hate she holds for us all into your little, finite mind, you’ll burn away.’ A powerful sentence which does ‘burn’ itself into your mind. In truth, I could I have picked out many examples of the quality of the writing but I’ll just say go and read it for yourself. Powerful, emotive, and with gorgeous imagery, this may be a horror story, but it is also a poem.
Don’t Open the Door by Les Talma brings back, literally, a serial killer’s past when the dead rise, this is his day of reckoning. The idea of the killer being surrounded by his victims knocking at walls, windows and doors to get in immediately conveys an overwhelming sense of being trapped, of no way out. Simple but effective.
Playground by Patrick Wynn is a perfect description of a normal afternoon. Children are playing, parents are nearby and all is right with the world … until the last sentence which completely flips the reader’s perception as to what is going in. The art of the twist is alive and well.
Rainy Afternoon by Scarlet Berry written with a child’s voice is a recognizable story of sibling arguments, the viciousness bubbling below the surface, the dare … Then it finishes with a sense of underlying evil, the hint of worse to come, an ending which I love. Children behaving like this is a horrible thought, they should be sweet and innocent, not murderous.
Still slammed at the day job. That being said, Steph and I (MOSTLY STEPH!) were able to finish up the print copies of the next Trembling With Fear anthologies! I’ve got proof copies on order, and while everything looks good online I’m just waiting for them to come in at this point before we can unleash them upon the world!
*Insert evil laugh here.*
With my time being extremely limited, getting these out into the wild will clear up some of it so I can hopefully keep everything on the site flowing better (I’ve been sitting on a book review for nearly two weeks just from a lack of time of being able to schedule it!)
On a side note, I also join Steph above in recommending ‘Good Omens.’ I was fortunate to get an advanced copy (my first early review from Amazon Studios!) to review and as I’m on my fifth copy of the book can attest that it lives up to the high quality of the novel.
As always, we’re looking for more Unholy Trinities, serials, and anything else you’ve been writing as of late. I hope you all have a great weekend!
Find the World’s Center With Feelers
It was evening. Just before the sky turns that deep grey of the dying day where the yellow moon shines pale and the stars begin to peek through the gathering of night’s darkness. I walked at this time every day. Nerves. A sour stomach and shaking fingers overcame the peace of ending every day, so my feet found the street. As I walked through my neighborhood, my heart lurching and nerves firing, my eyes took in every light, every movement, every threat. Others walked from pool of light reflecting on the wet pavement, cast from the sheer lamp above to pool of light, steps slacking and shuffling in the cottony night’s humidity. They smiled with a sweetness, a calm that belied a lack of alarm. A lack of knowing.
They didn’t worry like me.
They didn’t shake in the corner of their room after every contact with another person.
They didn’t lay awake all night, eyes wide with terror thinking about the next day.
Why didn’t they see how the world peeled back at every edge? Every corner.
And what was underneath, breathed poison through the cracks and sipped in our scents. Eating the blind fools stumbling from trap to trap. Things with rows of teeth. Things with too many eyes. Things that moved in insectile jitters, cretinous shells scraping. How could the others not hear it?
My walking made the monsters within lay down, rest in the shade of forest. Watching but not stalking.
I turned and went into the park, hoping the stew of green might soothe my pain. The velvet of the breeze settled on my face and for a moment, I felt relief wash into my belly. For a moment, I believed I could make another day.
Every night I made this turn to feel human again.
Because no others took that turn. I stood beneath the sky, line of dark trees encircling me in the field like the walls of Jericho. Someday they’d fall. Someday everything fails. But for now, the monsters hadn’t found the note to shatter our defenses. Still they marched, taloned feet scraping, claws skittering across the wall looking for holds and cracks. How did the others not know?
I lay in the center of the field, staring up at the stars.
The eyes of the beasts stared back. Searching.
Behind me, shuffling steps, light as a flower’s kiss. My stomach’s calm turned as I did into a swirling, clenching fist.
There, at the edge of the trees, a lovely woman smiled a Mona Lisa question. Brown hair tumbled with a shimmer of moon on moving water. She stood, though she was never still. Hair fluttering, body rocking side to side like a hooded serpent. Beautiful in a way that shattered my peace. And her eyes.
They locked on me. Black orbs set in tan skin, shining with tears. Black as the vault of the sky between stars. Spider eyes.
I moaned then, from some place in me so old and deep, I didn’t recognize it as myself until my chest rattled in time.
The breeze stopped and shifted then, cool to hot as a summer storm, wet and full of promises. She took a step toward me.
The movement halted in a way that made little sense. As if her two beautiful legs didn’t move at all, but some other legs I didn’t see shuffled her forward— a hunching gate, hard as a horse’s trot. Like there were six or eight legs carrying her along.
My moan turned to a scream then. I didn’t want to. Didn’t want to attract her more than I had. Didn’t want my fear to spill out in the gasping, raving cry that filled the meadow and bounced off the trees.
She stopped for a moment, tilting her head. Her beautiful face took on the mocking expression of care a mother might cast at a fallen child. Mocking because something like her couldn’t care. Something so not human.
Her steps, now audible with clicks of joints made of something other than skin and bone, resumed and she drew nearer. Such a beautiful false face, smiling beatifically down at me, hands spread and arms out in a gesture of welcome. She looked so human. So perfectly lovely but for the eyes, how she moved, and now I could see, the horns that sprouted from her clavicles. Horn not like something on a deer or rhino, that might have comforted me. These were the horns you see on scarabs. Stylized hands feeling the world. Antennae reaching for information. For me.
I couldn’t help but scream, all the fear pouring from my mouth, all the horror I’d ever known.
She kept coming, because why would a scream stop her?
She settled in the grass in front of me, a flowing movement that folded her legs neatly in a triangle under her, though she floated above the ground.
Her arms came up around me and enfolded me in their softness, hands gentling me as they fluttered across my cheeks.
“Quiet, little one,” she said, though her mouth didn’t move. The smile locked her lips into a pleasant fiction. The antennae moved and turned toward me.
I felt like she could see through me, light falling on every cell, though the light’s warmth didn’t brighten my eyes. I felt it inside. And the minute the gaze of those horns perched on her chest shifted, my stomach calmed. The fear didn’t settle or dissipate. It ceased to be. In that moment, staring in the black of her predator eyes, I was lost.
“My queen.” Words without thought. Words older than the ring of trees. Maybe older than the stars.
They’d found a crack and sent in the mother of them all.
In her black eyes, I knew we’d named her.
Mother of Demons. Lilith.
Only now, with her locked on my soul, hands gentling me and rewriting my knowing, I saw that she wasn’t Lilith at all. What she was couldn’t be known completely here. Only pieces of her glory might be seen in this limited light, this limited sight.
I sighed with my cheek in her hands, ready for destruction.
“I am yours,” I said to her, lost in the ancient gaze. Lost in the clutch of her beautiful claws.
“Ah little one, you will be my favorite toy,” she said. Then her lips, frozen things on her masterpiece of a mask found me.
What you see is only defined by the three dimensions of our eyes. But what you feel expands.
In that touch, I knew her.
I knew her and all my fears burned away.
Burned away because knowing hell is accepting it.
She ate my innocence, my shelter, in that kiss and opened me to the universe.
And now, I am to do the same for you.
Do you feel her approach in your guts? Soon you’ll hear the clicking of her dainty claws coming for you. The others hum from the void, a swan song for their queen. A song that sinks your feet into the earth as she presses through. Coming for you washed in beauty that cuts. In her black eyes shines the heaviness of history that brings you to your knees, screaming. Screams are her feast. As she flows toward you, here and not here, fascinating and terrible, as her lips press the eternity of love and hate she holds for us all into your little, finite mind, you’ll burn away. Those feelers will gather your pieces up and you’ll know.
She’ll eat us all and rip open the sky.
I’m not afraid. Soon you won’t be either.
Donna J. W. Munro
Donna J. W. Munro has spent the last nineteen years teaching high school social studies. Her students inspire her every day. An alumni of the Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction program, she published pieces in Every Day Fiction, Syntax and Salt, Dark Matter Journal, the Haunted Traveler, Flash Fiction Magazine, Astounding Outpost, Door=Jar, Spectators and Spooks Magazine, Nothing’s Sacred Magazine IV and V, Hazard Yet Forward (2012), Enter the Apocalypse (2017), Killing It Softly 2 (2017), Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths II (2018), Terror Politico (2019), and several Thirteen O’Clock Press anthologies. Contact her at https://www.donnajwmunro.com
Don’t Open The Door
There was a knock at the door.
It was a little girl.
Weird. How’d she get out there?
Wait, dirt on her dress, the deteriorated pallor of her face, the hollow stare…was she fresh from the grave? Or just lost in the woods?
No, he recognized her, he’d just buried her yesterday.
She sensed him behind the door, and started to claw, then pound it down like a maniac.
He backed away. But now there were knocks at the windows, the walls and the basement door. He had been busy, and now they were all coming back to get him.
Les Talma lives in NY. He’s drawn to quiet places, works in a library, and once did some of his best writing in a Dunkin’ Donuts at 2 am in NJ. Now he looks for similar quiet and productive places.
He also likes: horror movies, amusingly strange TV shows, comic books, fairy tales that are dark and delicious.
He scribbles things in notebooks, sometimes they end up as finished works.
He’s working on finishing a lot of things right now.
Sitting on the bench Lowell watched as the kids ran, screamed and laughed their way around the playground. Seeing the kids run and jump chasing each other brought back memories of his youth and it always brought a smile to his face. The boys pushed and shoved taking turns fighting for who would be first down the slide. Girls gathered around the swings giggling and laughing as they took polite turns on who was pushing and who was swinging. Lowell loved the playground and with the moms’ attention on their phones, it was the perfect place to pick out dinner.
Patrick J Wynn is an author of short stories that contain shades of horror, humor and are just a touch weird. You can follow him on his Facebook page and look for his short story collections on Amazon.
It was a rainy afternoon. I was bored. I sat on the couch, watching my sister sew.
“That blouse is uglier than you,” I said.
“If you don’t stop teasing me, I’ll stick this pin in your forehead!” yelled my sister.
“Go ahead and try!” I taunted. “You’d probably miss!”
She lunged at me with the pin, aiming for my forehead and stuck it in.
At first, we were astonished that she did it. Then she started laughing. “Go look in the mirror! You look so funny!”
I did and I laughed too. “Now let’s try it with the scissors!”
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.
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Stuart Conover is a father, husband, published author, blogger, geek, entrepreneur, horror fanatic, and runs a few websites including Horror Tree!