Trembling With Fear 06/12/2022
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!
Well, I escaped unscathed from the plague that has affected a number poor souls at Chillercon. And my luck is currently holding as I nursemaid my son who sadly succumbed to covid following his graduation, he’s getting better slowly though. I spent a lot of last week playing catch up with TWF and we’re pretty much there. Things are also happening behind the scenes in terms of the editorial changeover. I’m really excited to see how they’ll take TWF forward.
One polite note before we go over to this week’s stories. Please remember that I do not go into my Horror Tree emails everyday and in fact have been trying to avoid weekends. Whilst I generally respond quite quickly, there are times when I’ve left the emails for a while on other days because I’ve already spent a few hours on TWF or other Horror Tree work and I simply get tired! Have pity on this old soul 😊
Trembling with Fear starts with Out of Gas by Ron Capshaw. This has a great build up, an apparent victim, a bigoted cop, a remote spot. You think you know where this is going, until you get to the punchline. Nice pace and sense of mood.
An Unintended Effect of Climate Change by RJ Meldrum plays with the effects of climate change. There are so many hidden consequences of its impact on Nature and this one brings something long hidden.
Lost Girl by Kevin McHugh is an illustration of the lengths a person will go for in terms of furthering their career. How far? You’ll have to read for yourselves!
The Devil’s Time by Mike Rader sets up a lovely bit of historical horror, not only in the nature of the witch-hunt, but also the personal vendetta’s which often drove it.
I hope you enjoyed our stories, now send us yours!
Yesterday, we also had a meeting with some of the new TWF editors and more will be revealed about them in the coming week!
We’re aiming to break 450 subscribers on our Horror Tree’s YouTube channel. If you’re into tubing, you should check us out!
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.
Out of Gas by Ron Capshaw
It was my own fault.
It wasn’t just taking a dirt road shortcut to my sister’s house. It wasn’t just not paying attention to the gas gauge.
It was expecting the cops to be different.
Look at him, I thought, as he got out of his police cruiser, and strutted over. Macho with a badge. Cowboy hat, sunglasses hanging on the outside of the front pocket of his highway patrol uniform. Enormous gun that seemed to slap against his thigh.
It was my past walking toward me. It could be the 1970s all over again, when the cops ran the town of Mullin, Texas; where they could search your car without a warrant (one of my friends was arrested on the spot for stating the cop was violating his civil rights); plant evidence, and arresting people for what we called DWB (Driving While Black).
By now, the cop had arrived at the driver’s side door of the car. I couldn’t make him out because he was shining his flashlight into my eyes even though the sun had yet to go down.
I got the sense of enormous bulk. Not fat. Just dense. Like a brick.
He rapped a knuckle on the window.
“Roll the fucking window down.”
I was 17 again.
I complied. I wasn’t about to get into an argument with a cop on a lonely dirt road at sundown.
The flashlight was still in my eyes.
From the nearness of his voice I could detect that he was leaning into the car, examining me.
He had seen my California plates.
“So, Mr. Hollywood. What seems to be the problem?”
Like his bulk, his voice sounded solid. Like you would hurt your hand if you tried to punch through it.
I tried for a self-deprecating smile.
“I ran out of gas.”
The cop grunted, sounding like a bull ape.
“That was stupid.”
I heard him reaching into his back pocket.
The fucker was writing me out a ticket.
“You should pay better attention.”
“You give tickets for running out of gas?” I said incredulously.
“Yep. Mr. California.”
A black-gloved hand came near my face holding the ticket.
I took it, and resisted the urge to crumple it into a ball and bounce it off his chest.
But this was Mullin, where men were men and cops were above the law.
“Have a good day.”
I should have kept silent, but I needed to show I still had some guts left. That life away from Mullin had given me a spine.
“You’re not even going to help me?”
The flashlight was turned off.
With the last rays of sunlight, I saw that he was bigger than I thought. His hat obscured his features like the Shadow’s, that 30s era avenger of evil.
This guy didn’t avenge anything. He didn’t have to. Because everyone was so scared of him or had him in their pocket that no one dared to give him anything to be vengeful about.
He merely tipped his hat and went whistling back to his police cruiser.
He drove off, leaving me with my anger and self-loathing.
I should have at least talked back.
I should have flashed him my ACLU membership card and told him what a fascist he was, and how this incident would be gone over with a fine tooth comb by my lawyer.
I looked down at the ticket. He had actually written on it, “Driver negligently ran out of gas.”
Oddly, he didn’t write his name or badge number on the ticket.
I leaned back. The sun was down by now, and the crickets began chirping, and there was a gentle breeze I felt when I got out of my car.
“Fuck,” I screamed aloud.
My voice echoed. A wolf howled.
I hit my hazard lights, hoping some kinder soul would help me.
Then I thought about the body my friends and I found in the woods so long ago, before I wrote my way out of Mullin; getting a scholarship to UCLA; graduating; and then writing my way into the bestseller list.
The body had half his face shot off. We learned, not through the three sheet local paper, who didn’t report it (we suspected they thought deep down the cops did it) but through the highly-developed rumor mill of Mullin that it was a drug deal gone wrong.
That was credible. Because the only thing “big city” about Mullin (population, 2500 and rigorously segregated) was its drug culture. It wasn’t just rednecks smoking pot – we had heroin, even cocaine.
Drug deal or not, trigger happy cops or not, I was not going to remain in my car and lose half of my face.
At least on foot, I could hide in the woods.
I went to the back of my rental car and opened the trunk.
The rental company gave me a radio that could detect sound waves on Venus and plush car seats you could sink into. But they didn’t give me a gas can.
I heard tires crunching gravel.
He parked in front of me, and turned off his headlights.
He got out, the police cruiser buckling under his weight.
I left my hazard lights on, and as he approached they made him look like he was on the dance floor of a disco.
Hell had just frozen over. He was carrying a gas can.
He stood in front of me. Easily three inches taller than me and outweighing me by 50 lbs. Built like a linebacker.
He put the gas can down in front of me and stepped away from it.
“Sorry, for my rudeness,” he said. “I had to dump the body. Now let’s take care of you.”
An Unintended Effect of Climate Change
The collapse of the North Atlantic current brought chaos and death to the surface dwellers. But there was more to come. In the depths of the ocean, the change in temperature had another consequence. Lulled to sleep eons ago by the warm current, she woke, her eyes gleaming in the darkness. Her huge tentacles propelled her from the sediment where she’d lain. Her armour gave protection from the changing pressure and her body, the size of a city block, hurtled towards the light. After her endless slumber, she was starving. The surface meant food and she intended to satiate herself.
RJ Meldrum is an author and academic. Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010. He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Smoking Pen Press and James Ward Kirk Fiction. He is an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.
The place stank of mould and rot.
She cursed the Lieutenant for sending her on a wild goose chase. Six missing girls, with no real leads, and the best her department had was “guidance” from a late-night TV psychic.
Why would no one listen? This was supposed to be the case that made her career. That took her from the rank and file to a corner office. Yet here she was scrambling around the bones of a sewage plant, even though she had left the bodies in plain sight on the other side of town.
What more could she do?
Kevin McHugh is a code-monkey by day and a purveyor of the unpleasant by night. Having had several comics published by Future Quake Press he is now moving into prose. An avid fan of punk rock, cheap horror movies and even cheaper fast-food Kevin can be found pontificating either on Twitter – https://twitter.com/
The Devil’s Time
Night was Devil’s time in old Scotland,
When witches met in covens of thirteen,
When beggars cursed all who would not pay.
When innocent names could be slipped
Into a box in the church,
Damning one’s enemies to judement,
The guilty strangled, burnt to ash.
And look, here cometh the witch-pricker —
Paid six shillings for all found carrying the Devil’s mark,
And aye, one pound more for a guilty verdict.
Mike Rader is a pseudonym used by Australian author and poet James Aitchison. As J J Munro and Mike Rader, Aitchison writes horror and noir crime. As James Lee, he writes Asia’s biggest selling horror series for middle readers — Mr Midnight — which has sold over three million copies. His work can be seen at www.flameoftheforest.com
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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.