Trembling With Fear 06/16/2019
Well, the twitchiness of last week has lessened. I’m still waiting on news of various submissions but I have had two acceptances which I think has helped – and yes I’ve had a rejection as well so pretty much a normal week for a writer.
On the reading front, I have been looking at teen and YA fiction for my library and trying to find horror with leading male characters. There has been such a surge in recent years of stories containing strong female voices that it has, as far as I’ve been able to tell, swung the pendulum to far that way and when a male student asks for a book, it is hard to find one to suit. Monster Librarian (https://monsterlibrarian.com/) is currently compiling a list for me and Darren Shan responded to a tweet with some suggestions but top tip to anyone out there writing YA horror – there is a gap for horror stories featuring male lead characters.
Now over to Trembling with Fear which this week starts with The Driver by Thomas Vaughn and focusses on the growing panic and increasing paranoia of a driver who suspects he has killed someone, albeit accidentally, with his car. This story cleverly picks up on those moments, which we have all experienced, when you are driving so automatically, that you don’t always remember the actions you have taken, the ‘gaps in the memory’ mentioned by Vaughn. Those gaps happen in other parts of your life as well, eg the walk home. You know you’ve done it but can’t remember doing it – and that realisation can be scary.
Go Back by Gary Hazlewood takes us to the liminal space between life and death. Forces on one side push against the force on the other and the person on the operating table is caught in the middle. Who will win in this battle of life and death?
Solitude by Patrick Wynn is good little example of being careful what you wish for – it might not turn out as you expect.
What a crazy week! While I was *FINALLY* getting ahead and almost have the TWF anthologies up for pre-order, I had a bit of a setback.
It is time to replace our car, about two years before we had planned for it in the budget.
Yes. That happened. Please send hugs. 😉
Also, send Drabble, Unholy Trinities, and Serials! We’re getting a bit caught up on those outside of those being scheduled further out from multiple submissions from our more proactive contributors 🙂
The driver noticed the tuft of human hair and broken headlight at the same time. He had just pulled into the carwash. The hair was wedged in the plastic covering over the bulb. Instinctively he looked around to see if anyone else was watching. Fortunately it was midnight, so the place was deserted.
He knelt and studied the damage, removing the hair with his fingers. It was long and honey colored. There was no doubt it was much too long to belong to anything else but human. The panic began to rise in his chest. How had it gotten there? He didn’t remember an accident. Reaching inside the covering he checked to see if the bulb was still intact and felt something loose. He retracted his hand and found that it held a human tooth. He stood and examined it in the light. It was very small—clearly that of a child’s. Now the panic constricted his throat as he tried to remember the drive to the carwash. There was simply no way he could have hit a child. What would a child be doing in the street this late at night? He tried to account for every moment of the trip, but there were gaps where his mind had wandered. It is almost impossible to remain aware of what you are doing every second of every day.
Retrieving a flashlight from his car he lay on his back and shined it along the undercarriage. He noticed at least three different places where bloody pieces of skin were wrapped around the control springs and brake housing. He turned off the light and contemplated the implications of hitting a child. There would be guilt and reproach. His life would be ruined.
In a sudden flash of hope it occurred to him that he might be washing the wrong car. He had parked in one of the stalls then walked to the coin machine. It was a common model and color so he sometimes approached other people’s cars in parking lots before realizing his error. Exiting the stall he stood back and looked at all of the openings. They were all empty except his. That was when he heard the sirens. He stood like an alerted deer, tracking their progress across the city. He tried to remember his route. Had he come in from the north or the east? They were both equally plausible. He gauged the sirens to be coming from the northeast, but he couldn’t be sure. The fog was playing tricks with sound.
With his mind racing the driver hurried into the stall and put coins in the slot, his hands trembling. The reassuring spray initiated and he returned to the front of his car. That was when he noticed the tooth was missing. Where the hell had it gone? He was sure he had put it on the hood—or had he? He looked around at the pavement to see if it had fallen. There was nothing. Now the fear migrated to his limbs and he began frantically washing his car, taking special care to blast the human remains off the undercarriage and into the drain.
When this was done he replaced the hose and studied the vehicle. He was somewhat comforted by the fact that it looked good as new. He began to calm down. Once he fixed the headlight it would be like the whole thing never happened. There was the problem of the tooth, but it had probably slipped to the pavement. Certainly no one would pay attention to such a small thing. He was thankful that the sirens had stopped.
Then he saw the bloody drag marks. Why hadn’t he noticed them before? Walking back into the parking lot he traced their progress from the road to his stall. There was something lying on the ground. He picked it up. It was a piece of bloody fabric. The color and design reminded him of something a child would wear. The panic returned.
How could he hit and drag a child without realizing it? Wouldn’t he remember doing such a terrible thing? But how can you trust your memories? We all die moment by moment only to be reborn into a new unreality. How can you be sure of anything when you are nothing but a transient observer, doomed to grapple with an alien world that is constantly changing? How can you trust a phantom self that died the moment it was born? The person who drove to the carwash was dead and now he was left to sort through this stranger’s crimes from inconclusive fragments of memory.
Looking at the bloody fabric the driver visualized the police investigating the accident scene, then noticing the drag marks. Soon they would follow them to the carwash. Driven by guilt and fear he stumbled back to his car, tossing the fabric onto the passenger seat as he got in and started the engine. Pulling onto the street he drove away from the carwash in the opposite direction from his home. He hoped he had been thorough when he washed the car, though a part of him wanted to go back and confess. As he contemplated that option, the ramifications were simply too awful to imagine. The best thing to do was look for a place to get rid of the bloody fabric. Perhaps he would drive by a dumpster. He reached over to make sure it was close at hand, but found that it was gone. Instead his hand closed on something else. He held it under the pulsing glow of the passing streetlights. It was the tooth. The driver pressed on the accelerator, fleeing toward a nightmare that rushed to greet him like an amorous lover—the two of them entwined in a never-ending cycle of death and rebirth.
Thomas Vaughn is a speculative fiction writer whose work encompasses literary horror, science fiction and dark magical realism. He is a byproduct of the debris field of rural Madison County Arkansas, a place he calls the archive of pain. When he is not writing fiction he is a college professor whose research focuses on apocalyptic rhetoric and doomsday cults.
The first face she saw was that of the old lady speaking silent words. As her vision cleared more faces came into focus, they too were speaking.
“Don’t go,” begged a middle-aged man.
The woman glanced nervously around. A surgeon bending over an operating table, a nurse stood beside a life-support machine awaiting the surgeon’s decision; her hand poised over a red switch.
The surgeon stared calculatingly at his unconscious patient.
“Please help us, you have to return,” the man requested.
An ethereal force was drawing the woman away. She turned, “Why?”
“He murdered us all! You must go back…”
With two novels to his name and when not watching soccer Gary enjoys writing short horror tales. He lives a hectic family life outside of a small town in the north of England.
All his life Henry just wanted to be left alone, people just seemed to get under his skin. In elementary school Henry had no friends and he didn’t want any. He always ate lunch alone, spent time at recess looking for bugs, frogs or other little creatures he felt comfortable with. Middle school, high school and college were much the same he only interacted with people when necessary. But after all this time Henry sat watching a bug crawl across the grass he finally realized being alone was an awful existence, it almost made him sorry he released that virus.
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.