Trembling With Fear 06/20/21
By the time you read this, I will be in Wales, and possibly settled in. I’m writing this rather quick editorial on my last night in Southampton to ensure that TWF stories are published as usual.
I will warn you that I may not respond to emails for a week or so as I get our internet established. I’m hoping to use hotspots but if you don’t get any response, then that’s why. Normal service should resume after 21st June.
Before we go to the stories, here’s my usual weekly reminder to check out the submission guidelines for TWF. Also remember we are currently closed to short stories (unless for one of the Specials) but open to drabbles, unholy trinities and serials.
The first story this week in Trembling with Fear is Tommy Pitman is a … by James Rumpel. Apparently a traditional tale of childhood jealousy when the new kid comes in and takes the spotlight, it has the feel of similar tales Peter and the Wolf and Matilda which also deal with the consequences of lying. Here though, there is a nice twist at the end.
Beer Run by S.D. Vassallo is a fun story which might put others off their beer and also a hint not to take wives for granted!
Last House Ever Left by Steven Holding is a nightmare which finishes with a touch of hope. Nice last line showing not telling.
The Devil’s Stepping Stones by Alyson Faye is a poem about forgetfulness and its consequences. Atmospheric.
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
Just like Steph, I’m also preparing to move. We’ve closed on the purchase of our new house and the sale of the current one is in the works so we should be set as to when the madness begins shortly. (Who am I kidding, anyone who has moved knows that the madness is already in full swing.)
At any rate, last week I gave an update on Trembling With Fear. Our main artist is working on a super secret amazing project that I’m not allowed to talk about but is keeping him a bit busy. He believes that he should have time to get our covers done soon so, fingers crossed! Editing is done so we’re down to art. Speaking of Trembling With Fear – we are looking for a huge influx of drabble at this time. If you’ve got some, please send them in!
Tommy Pitman is a . . . by James Rumpel
Tommy Pitman is a rat fink.
Ever since I came to this school, I did really well. I was the most popular kid in sixth grade. Everybody liked me, even the teachers. I got better grades than anyone. That all changed when Pitman moved into town last month. I didn’t notice it right away, but slowly some of my friends started spending less time with me. Mrs. Fernholz began to talk about how good his schoolwork was. He was taking over. I had to do something.
Tommy Pitman is a cheater.
I started spreading the rumor after he got an A on the science test. There’s no way he knew all that junk about bats and snakes. I told Mrs. Fernholz that I saw him looking at cheat notes during the test. She made him stay in from recess.
“Can you believe that jerk? I hope Mrs. F gives him a week’s detention,” I said to Neil Berger and a couple of my other friends.
“Are you sure you saw him use notes?” asked Neil. “He was studying the science terms all morning on the bus. If he studied that hard, why would he cheat?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he’s too stupid to learn the stuff.”
At the very end of recess, Mrs. Fernholz came out and pulled me away from our game of touch football. She asked me if I was certain that I had seen Pitman cheat. She said that he had aced the retake and that she had watched him closely. She was certain he didn’t use any notes on the second test.
There wasn’t much I could do. I told her that I wasn’t completely sure and that I might have been mistaken. She gave me a speech about not being jealous and trying to get along with everyone. All I could think about was how I wasn’t done with Tommy Pitman.
Tommy Pitman’s family is a bunch of criminals.
Neil and the gang shook their heads when I told them my theory. “Why would you think that?” he asked.
“Isn’t it obvious. They live in that creepy old brick house by the river; the one with the big fence around it. If you live behind a fence, you’ve got to be hiding something. Besides, doesn’t he look like a crook.”
Jerry White, who hardly ever talked, grabbed my arm and whispered, “Tommy’s mom and dad aren’t crooks. My mom took them an apple pie when they moved to town. His family runs the new funeral home on the edge of town.”
“Well, that’s still something bad. His parents touch dead people.”
Tommy Pitman is a vampire.
The rest of the gang laughed at me when I told them what I had figured out. Jerry wasn’t playing with us that day; he was hanging out with Pitman and his guys.
“No, think about it. He lives in a creepy house and his parents are undertakers. He’s got dark hair and knows all about bats and stuff.”
“If he was a vampire, he couldn’t come out in the sun,” said Neil.
“Maybe he uses a lot of sunblock or maybe that isn’t really true about vampires,” I replied. “Nobody knows all the vampire rules.” I was going to say more, but I stopped when I saw Pitman walking over to our group.
“Hey, Allen,” he said as he stopped right in front of me. He was about a foot taller than me and crossed his arms as he looked down. “I hear you’re spreading more rumors about me. I don’t know what your beef is, but you need to cut it out. Just quit making up stuff, okay.”
I nodded but I was already planning my next attack.
Tommy Pitman is a demon.
Neil and I were sitting by ourselves on the swings. Everybody else was playing keep-away with Tommy’s gang.
“I figured it out last night while I was watching a Halloween movie marathon. He’s got special powers. How else do you think he’s been stealing all my friends? Think about it, his name is Pitman. Get it, PIT MAN.”
“Maybe he’s nice to them and doesn’t spend all of his time making up lies about people.” Neil jumped off the swing and started walking towards the rest of the kids.
Right then and there, I knew I had to step up my game.
Tommy Pitman is a killer demon.
When Jerry White disappeared, everyone was scared. He had gone to bed one night in late October and wasn’t there the next morning. All his parents found in his room were a few drops of blood and some yellow powder. The police searched the whole county for a week. They never found him.
We had a couple of days off from school. We got to go back on the day of Halloween. The town wasn’t going to allow trick or treating that night because of Jerry’s disappearance. I blamed Tommy and made sure to tell everyone what I thought.
“The yellow powder has to be sulfur. Tommy has to have done it. I know he’s a demon. I bet he takes someone else tonight.” No one would listen to my warnings.
I had to sit by myself at lunch. Pitman kept staring at me. He had this evil look in his eyes.
After school, I took the short cut through Meyer’s Woods to get home. It was drizzling and starting to get dark. I was about halfway through the trees when I heard footsteps behind me. I stopped and turned to see Pitman running toward me. He did not look happy.
He stopped about five feet from me and shook his fist. “Allen,” he said, “I have had enough of this. You’ve been badmouthing me since the day I moved here. You’ve called me a cheater and a vampire and a killer. You need to stop.”
I smiled. “Do you know the one thing I haven’t called you. I’ve never said you were a poisonous monster from outer space.”
“No one would believe that,” he said.
“I know,” I replied as I exposed my fangs and prepared to pounce.
James Rumpel is a retired high school math teacher who enjoys spending some of his free time trying to turn the many odd ideas circling his brain into stories. He lives in WIsconsin with his wonderful wife, Mary.
She decided too late to close the fridge. The thing that squatted inside grabbed her. It yanked and pulled her into the appliance. Her bones popped and broke and her body contorted as she snapped to fit. Then she was in and the door swung shut.
In the living room, George glared in the direction of the kitchen.
“Alice,” he called out.
“Damn, I’ll get the beer myself.”
George scowled, got up and plodded into the kitchen. The misshapen thing that looked like Alice squatted on the top shelf of the fridge. It smiled and waited.
Last House Ever Left
He never knew where they disappeared to.
Like a setting sun that didn’t return, he awoke one day to find everyone had gone.
Wandering empty streets, bellowing “hello”, it was quickly apparent he was alone.
The endless rows of deserted homes nearly broke him. With no power, each tower block became a monolithic tombstone: a testament to every missing tenant. Stadiums were mausoleums; the city a silent cemetery and the architect of his fear.
Months became years. Until, one night, he reached the final house, the sight of which sent him totally insane.
In its window.
A guttering candle flame.
Steven Holding lives with his family in the United Kingdom. Most recently his work has appeared in the collection DARK MOMENTS YEAR TWO from Black Hare Press and the TWF anthologies TREMBLING WITH FEAR YEAR 3 and MORE TALES FROM THE TREE VOLUME 2. You can follow his work at www.stevenholding.co.uk
The Devil’s Stepping Stones
‘The devil’s stepping stones,
where children fear to roam,
for on the other bank
there lies hell’s home.’
Beneath the roots,
beneath the mud –
its flesh is bark
its innards blackened bog
it sleeps on skulls’ strata
saturated in blood.
Centuries ago its name was known,
but memories fade
warnings waft away.
In this modern age
of smartphone and satellite
your every step
your every byte
is logged and stored –
the demon feasts on our decay
stores us, as we degrade.
We are beta
to its alpha.
We have forgotten
how to be afraid.
Alyson lives in the UK; her fiction has been published widely in print anthologies – DeadCades, Women in Horror Annual 2, Trembling with Fear 1 &2, Coffin Bell Journal 1 and Stories from Stone and in ezines, most often on the Horror Tree site, Siren’s Call and The Casket of Fictional Delights. In May 2019 Night of the Rider, was published by Demain, in their Short Sharp Shocks! E book series and reached the amazon kindle top 10 best seller lists. Her work has been read on podcasts (eg Ladies of Horror), shortlisted in competitions and published in charity anthologies. Future work will appear in anthologies from Things in the Well, Mortal Realm and Twisted Wing Publishers.
She performs at open mics, teaches, edits and hangs out with her dog on the moor in all weathers.
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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.