Trembling With Fear 06/19/2022
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!
Last week I mentioned the editorial changeover. I was delighted to be able to meet the two wonderful people who will be stepping into my role in a couple of weeks’ time via zoom last weekend and have a chat – although my internet played up a bit, as is the way of things. I am happy to share with you the news that Lauren McMenemy and Chris McAuley have joined the team. I’m not going to say anything else about them, they will each be introducing themselves here over the next few weeks. Lauren will lead the way next week with her introduction. Please give them all the love and support you have shown me in my five years onboard TWF. 😊
This week has seen the publication of my metal found poetry collection, Metallurgy. This is something I’ve self-published, poetry being very much something I do for myself. I didn’t even try looking for a publisher for this one. Over the years I’ve picked up skills in formatting and publishing, plus those I already had from my tech author days, and that has given me the confidence to take such a step. If any of you are considering self-publishing, it is not as daunting as you think and I would say why not give it a whirl? The hardest part is the marketing and that is something where I, like many, have yet to find the magic ingredient!
Trembling with Fear starts with When You See It by F.M. Scott is creepy. The sensory detail in this tale is excellent, contributing to the sense of helplessness in one and power in the ‘other’. A very effective ‘takeover’.
Error and Trial by Hank Helstrom is a reminder that revenge can still be taken after death. I like the way that this was done in a lab and was a refreshing twist on the revenge trope.
Mouth by Gully Novaro is a bleak addiction tale, very cleverly told.
My Enemies I Fear Not But Protect Me From My Friends by Michael Bettendorf is a bit of sci-fi which rings warning bells as more and more AI is delivered by microchip.
I hope you enjoyed our stories, now send us yours!
As Steph mentioned above, you’ll be meeting our two new editors over the next couple of weeks! Steph is still part of Horror Tree and will likely help with a few pieces for TWF while the transition happens though I can’t stress enough how much we’ll all miss her as the ehad editor here.
Also mentioned last week, the wait for the new editions of ‘Trembling With Fear Year 5‘ And ‘More Tales From The Tree 4‘ is almost over as both are now available for pre-order. You can read all of the details right here!
Last week we broke 450 subscribers on our Horror Tree’s YouTube channel. The new goal as we continue adding content? 500! Please reach out with what you would like to see featured on the channel.
This is the last week I’ll be mentioning this one but wanted to make sure it was seen: 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. If you know of anything that you’d like to see added to the site, please reach out!
As always, I hope you had a great weekend.
When You See It by F.M. Scott
Shopping done. Check. Car gassed up. Check. House cleaned for Maya and Gahan, due back tomorrow. Check.
Everybody out and about seemed to amp up their visible behaviors—counting objects unseen, nodding and agreeing on things unheard, declaring war upon presumed enemies. The Target clerk hummed long notes behind unsettled, nearly nystagmic eyes.
Hauling things in from the car: something like a flash of breeze encircling my neck. Nothing seen or heard, only felt. Gone as quickly as it came.
New stuff streaming this week. You click through icons. They disappear. A solid screen replaces them—black, with the faintest of greens straining under it. You click. The screen won’t budge. Click again. Same. A low, sedate hum fades up. Words pierce the darkness of your living room. You forget.
<<<<<<<< A SPECIAL HELLO. >>>>>>>>
The tone rises a half-step or so. The greeting disappears. New text types itself:
<<<<<<<< WHAT ELSE CAN YOU SEE TODAY? >>>>>>>>
Your head plays along as aptly as a flipped switch. You seem to keep up.
<<<<<<<< I WANT TO SHOW YOU. >>>>>>>>
The hum crossfades into a chorus of chimes—louder and bending, elongating with every stroke. Try the vol—no, of course. You know better. Unplug the power strip. Right.
<<<<<<<< I NEED TO SHOW YOU. >>>>>>>>
You’ve gone numb where you stand, numb to the program of your new breathing, new moves. The machine of you, hypoxic and expulsive, hovers at the edge of paralysis. The smells of your house disappear; you gasp in vain to recover them.
The chimes fade, giving way to the hum again, higher. The screen goes full black. A new face appears—bright and blue-tinged, almost gibbous, perched on a long, thin neck. The nose is angular, the mouth pulled into a toothless, anaemic grin. The eyes—somewhere between human and porcine—house dull, affected pupils. You stare into them; they sting your own. The light from the screen flares, bathing the entire room. You fall back onto the sofa and struggle again.
<<<<<<<< WHY DO YOU FIGHT? >>>>>>>>
No smell, no ambient noise, just the same dull hum.
No living room.
What hangs before you isn’t even a screen anymore, only a face and text suspended next to it in dark space. It moves with you, 360. Somehow you manage to stand again. The real floor of your house has become something softer and flexible, a loose trampoline; you stumble but manage to avoid falling. Your only firm grasp is on the knowledge that
<<<<<<<< THIS IS ALL YOURS. >>>>>>>>
The grin broadens, brightening the eyes. And something else—you haven’t bothered to address it, let alone try to do something about it until now—comes into play: you are mute. You close your eyes and strain to convert the respiratory into the acoustic. Energy to energy. Harder and harder.
You hold your eyes shut to clear and reset. But all remains, moving with you. On feet of liquid you mince your way to the back door, open it.
<<<<<<<< ARE YOU SURE? >>>>>>>>
You can’t answer but you reason that drawing a blank and straining to block this visitation will help you. But it counters, its surrounding light now bright enough to hurt.
You strain harder and harder. The hum grows louder, riding a glissando to a high, feverish whine. One sign of the real begins to seep back in: the taste of sweat dripping into your mouth. A few seconds pass.
<<<<<<<< YOU ARE STRONGER THAN I THOUGHT. >>>>>>>>
The light dims. One by one they disappear: the mouth, the nose…then the eyes. The sound cuts off. The now faceless thing hangs in the dark, then disappears altogether. A few seconds pass and a final message appears, as definitive as a point of ceremony:
<<<<<<<< WHEN YOU SEE IT. >>>>>>>>
With that, the living room returns around you. The fresh night breeze in the doorway. The ambient sound, the floor under your feet. The icons on your TV as they were. You shake and try to swallow the dryness in your mouth, quell the hammering in your chest.
When I see what? The Light? The Error of My Ways? A door to some magical land, all for the taking if I go there?
You want to sit, but in keeping with an instinct that has served you throughout time, you go to the kitchen for a drink of water. This revives and calms you a bit. Leave the screen as it is, yes. Every vestige of normalcy adds up.
The breeze tranquilizes you further in your cushioned patio glider. It does and it doesn’t—your stare and your drawn mouth hold you in check. You peer through the back door into your living room, and it’s there: a faint movement amongst the shadows on the wall near the sofa, bathed in the light of the screen. You FIGHT to hold yourself back but you fail.
Inside, you find a roiling of black particles instead of shadows. A hum rises, louder and higher, into a squeal that renders you immobile. You want to run but the impulse to do so won’t transfer to your feet. And with that, it’s my move. You’re easy to overtake but tough to wrap around. Your body feels like a bag stuffed with agitated earthworms. You writhe where you stand as I finally begin to SHOW YOU what is now ALL YOURS. A scream won’t transfer to your throat, loud though it is in your head. Choked cries, staccato and arrhythmic, come out in its place. You barely feel the crash of your body against the glass of an end table, its thud on the living room floor.
Sight and sound have eluded you. Ditto feeling. You try to move; same result. You’re left with only your labored, pointless breath. The coppery taste of blood where you’ve bitten your lip. Thoughts of loved ones’ faces that will pull taut at the mute, leaking, wheezing shell of you. The knowledge of the other room in the other house on a street leading to all otherness.
You weren’t like the rest of them. Not at all. They’re still milling around out there, going about their usual. At least until they start destroying themselves and each other over how best to deal with what I’ve put on them. But I watched you watching them, all your looking and questioning, and right then I knew you’d be a handful. But don’t get me wrong. You let me in. You showed me all the places I needed to be in at once. I watched myself on the screen from inside you, seeing and hearing all, feeling your synaptic jolts. I moved when you moved. You were leader and teacher.
You gave it all to me.
And for that,
A SPECIAL THANK-YOU.
F.M. Scott is from Tulsa, Oklahoma. His stories have appeared in Apple in the Dark, The Horror Tree, The Killer Collection Anthology (Nick Botic Horror), Sirius Science Fiction, The Tulsa Voice, and The Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine.
Error and Trial
After 243 attempts, there it was: at the moment of death, a smoke-like cloud visibly exited its human host. The event was witnessed and recorded. The evidence, well-contained. Finally, proof.
“But why him?” asked the awe-struck assistant. “Significant variables were the same as the last twenty-six. Just another random, terminal volunteer.”
“Not exactly,” said a seething Dr. Novack.
The body’s spirit-mist darted upward within the sealed graphene-walled transition lab. It manically probed for any escape route before cowering submissively in a high corner.
Novack approached the observation window. “Well, Dad,” she cried, her rage barely bottled. “Look who’s cornered now.”
Hank Helstrom is an American, now permanently based in Dublin, Ireland. An overworked tech employee, he aspires to be…um…not a tech employee. And so begins a very new adventure in horror writing. Here goes nothin’.
I woke up with an extra mouth.
Feed me, it yelled.
I thought that I could cover it up, and nobody would know. Once covered it couldn’t breathe, and I felt I was suffocating with it.
Set me free and you’ll breathe with me, feed me and I will go away.
I fed the lier that night, and I felt free. But the following morning it had grown bigger.
Feed me, it screamed, feed me again.
Every day the mouth grows hungrier, a hunger which hurts me too.
I wish I had never used that needle in the first place.
My Enemies I Fear Not, But Protect Me From My Friends
I watch the pair of Boosters from a surveillance camera. They look at my beaten body, take what they deem valuable—unaware my consciousness lives as compiled code run within the Network. Our leader, my old friend, overconfident and meaty, pulls a chip from my circuitry. He implants me into the board on his wrist. My data uploads to his system. His face sinks, realizing his error. My programming overtakes his operating system as I boot. The other Booster doesn’t understand why I point and shoot. I look at my new body from the camera and disconnect, rewritten and rebooted.
Michael Bettendorf (he/him) is a speculative writer from Nebraska whose most recent work is forthcoming in The Martian Magazine, The Razor, and Ex-Parrot Press. He works in a high school library where he tries to convince students to check out Neuromancer on a weekly basis. You can find him on Twitter @ BeardedBetts and www.michaelbettendorfwrites.
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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, Reborn, and The Woodcutter, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused (all via Brigids Gate Press). 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 can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on Blue Sky as stephellis.bsky.social.