Trembling With Fear 06/21/20
This bit is going to stay here until the pandemic is over. Thank you to all keyworkers who continue to keep us going during the pandemic. As the UK and Europe moves out of lockdown, I really hope that eventually we can get some sort of normal going around the world.
As for me, I’m done. Not in a bad way, but a good way. By end of Monday, the novels I’d been working on in recent times and some earlier ones, were out on their way to publishers to see if perhaps they have some merit. Four in total. I always meant to do something with them but just never really got round to it. Those earlier ones I’d sent out once or twice, got positive rejections but then I moved on to writing the next and never sent them out again. I’m terrible that way, even with shorts. There are some I will send out but a number of others will sit on my spreadsheet, unloved, and waiting for me to do something with them. I tell others to send things out again if rejected but I’m awful at taking my own advice.
What am I going to do with all this ‘free time’? Not much 😊: a poetry collection, a poetry/flash collaboration, an Infernal Clock anthology, another collaboration with 3 other horror writers and all the other things gone by the board as I focussed on the novels. Amongst that there will also be edits for The Five Turns of the Wheel coming out in October from Silver Shamrock. It is going to feel surreal when I get to add that to the Pandemic Book Launch roundup further down the line! And I’ll make sure to put the TWF anthologies up there as well at some point. These are in progress and I don’t think are far off publication ready. Stuart can confirm status but I did a bit of formatting this week for the More Tales and Serial Killers and they were pretty much there.
If you’re running out of new reading material by the way, remember to check out the roundup on Fridays and see what’s coming out. I’ve been waiting for a certain Devil’s Creek by Todd Keisling which is finally out but hasn’t been delivered yet – it gives me time to finish Neal Stephenson’s Fall or, Dodge in Hell which is a mere 883 pages! Do you get the idea I like ‘giant’ books. Reducing my TBR pile is another ‘to do’, although with Waterstones reopening, I should really go and offer my support …
This week’s Trembling With Fear starts with Let’s Twist Your Head by Kristen Reid and takes a situation many of us have suffered and turned it into something to dread. Nightmares, sleep paralysis, night terrors, whatever version you consider, we’ve all suffered one or other of them at some point. That makes it personal to the reader because you take a commonly shared experience and ratchet it up a level in terms of horror. I’ve woken up in the middle of the night on more than one occasion and seen a ‘shape’ sat at the end of the bed, although they didn’t turn round and go for me! Having that experience however, brings the story closer to home. A useful technique when engaging the reader.
Believe by Janine Pipe questions your belief in yourself, do you trust your intuition and risk looking a fool or do you deny it and pay the consequences. The question of faith is something which has challenged humans for centuries.
Humanity 2020 by Zoey Xolton is a reflection on recent events. Remember those early days, the sheer selfishness of so many? Writing is a useful tool to hold a mirror up to ourselves. Trouble is, we might not like what we see.
Sick Boy by Patrick Winters combines the horror of loss and the horror of haunting. A sad and also chilling tale.
As mentioned last week, our site wasn’t showing authors on the front page – that has been corrected! (Nothing of my doing outside of the fact that the theme released an update that included it!)
For ‘Trembling With Fear’ news, we’ve made a lot of progress on the anthologies this last week (a little from me, a LOT from Steph!) We might finally be on track to getting these out the door and into the world! We’ll see soon. Also, thanks for the new drabbles which have come in. We’re always looking for more drabble, serials, and Unholy Trinity so please keep up the great fiction 🙂
In case you missed it last week, we’ve recently added a new shirt and new tote to our store. These both feature the new site logo. We’ll likely be adding a hoodie and potentially a few other items down the line as well.
I haven’t thanked our Patreons here as of late so wanted to give a quick shout out to help the site continue running. It is directly your support which keeps our doors open!
Let’s Twist Your Head by Kristen Reid
Every night, there is a familiar heaviness on my feet at three in the morning. I’ve gotten used to keeping my blanket clutched tightly over my head, because I’ve looked at the end of the bed before, and I have seen what sits there.
When I first noticed the strange feeling of something at the end of my bed, I tried to shuffle my feet underneath the blankets to pull them free from the tight covers, but it was as if someone was sitting on top of them. My room was illuminated by the television playing a screen of gray that lingered on into the night without a broadcast. It was just enough light to keep the room from being pitch black. I sat up to examine the end of the bed—to see why my feet had become stuck underneath some heavy presence. My squinted eyes, trying to grasp onto forms in the darkness, landed on the figure of a man—a man who was sitting on my feet at the end of the bed with his back to me.
If he was an intruder that had broken into my home, I hadn’t noticed a sound of forced entry. My mind ran dizzy with the fear of torture, fears of dying, fears of a mad man, fears of how to escape this horrible dimension of reality that I had found myself in. Terrifying stories on the news about robbers and killers breaking into a house and what they had done to the inhabitants were no longer a distant worry… it was now my turn.
As I quickly tried to pull my feet free from underneath the man in hopes of fleeing my house or finding some kind of a weapon to defend myself, he slowly turned to me—his neck twisted around and his hands placed firmly on the edge of the bed. I was suddenly stuck in place and time, unable to force myself to leave the room or even the bed for that matter. As the gray light of the television swept over the man’s features, my soul finally ripped out a scream.
The man’s head was upside down on his body—a mouth forming a silent “o” in a way that made him appear to be matching my screams with his eyes nothing more than empty, black sockets. His hair hung from the bottom of his head in spindly, dark strings, and I noticed his clothes were ragged and from another period of time that had come and gone long ago.
“Let’s twist your head!” the thing croaked out—his voice halted by bits of swallowed air, “Let’s twist your head!”
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t cry. I watched as the man crawled up my bed and leaned over me—his eyes in front of my mouth and his mouth in front of my eyes.
“Let’s twist your head!” he growled with each word disjointed as it let his open mouth.
I sunk down further into the bed and pulled the covers over me.
“Let’s twist your head! Let’s twist your head!” His nails started violently ripping at my covers, like a mad animal feral and wanting of a taste of flesh from prey that was ever close.
But then it stopped. The heaviness of a body was no longer suffocating me. My lungs ached and burned from my rapid breathing and screams, but I finally forced myself to leave my safe blanket confines and peek out.
The man was gone.
The room was back to its previous normalcy with the television spitting out static. I felt around the bed, grasping at my feet and running around every inch of the room to look for an answer. I spent the last bits of the night searching the house, inspecting doors and windows and locks, but it was all intact.
The only trace of the madness that remained to keep me from chalking it all up to a night terror was the faint rips in my blanket as if sharp nails had sliced through the fabric.
I can’t remember the last time sleep found me, and I found it as a friend. I was a walking zombie during the night and day for months after the incident, and I only now find bits of sleep when I’m so overcome with fatigue that my eyes will not allow me to open them again.
The man visits me every night at three in the morning, at the end of my bed, sitting on top of the covers where my feet are underneath. I’ve learned through trial and error to never move them nor speak nor try to leave nor utter a single sound. In those nights that I do not make a noise and lie there as if I’m hardly a tangible existence, the man sits unbothered at the end of my bed, hunched over awaiting morning as much as I pray for it.
I’ve moved houses twice, but he follows. I stay in hotels, but he is there in the unfamiliar room as an unwanted, common occurrence. I have even slept in my car, but he sits on the hood of it, outside, the same way he sits on my bed.
I fear he will follow me to the grave—that even in my casket, he will stand at the end of it, and when I am only a soul existing as nothing more on this earth, I fear that he will continue on with me—his back turned to me, waiting for me to make a sound so he can reveal that wretched upside-down face.
He had always had the nightmares.
Never knew what they meant, where they came from.
Supposed they were the manifestation of an anxious mind.
He didn’t tell anyone about them, was embarrassed.
Now, he wished he had.
He could have prepared the world.
Holed up in a hastily forged ‘bunker’, he realised what they had been.
Somehow, he had foreseen what would happen to the world.
The fall of civilization.
The end of humans.
He had seen Them coming.
But he hadn’t believed.
Now, They came for him, just as they had for every last human in the world.
Janine has loved to write spooky stories and tales with a twist since she was at school. She is a huge fan of Stephen KING, first devouring Salem’s Lot at the tender age of just 9. Her work is heavily influenced by this. She also loves C J TUDOR and credits fellow Swindon horror writer Graeme REYNOLDS as an unofficial mentor. You can find her work on Ghost Stories the Podcast, Graveyard Tales and Tales to Terrify. She shares some of her original shorts and flash fiction on her blog, https://janinesghoststories.wordpress.com/, where she also reviews and interviews authors of horror.
Covid-19 spread across the globe like wildfire. One minute it was an update on the nightly News…the next? Mass hysteria. Before any one truly knew what was going on, panicked citizens around the world were resorting to their baser instincts.
People started hoarding supplies like animals: toilet paper, sanitiser, baby formula, groceries…stores were raped. Bare shelves became the norm. There were riots, stabbings and arrests. The worst of humanity was laid as bare as the shelves for all to see.
In the years to come, children would recall only the T.P jokes and the demons that haunted them in self-isolation.
Zoey Xolton is an Australian Speculative Fiction writer, primarily of Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, and Horror. She is also a proud mother of two, and is married to her soul mate. Outside of her family, writing is her greatest passion. She has featured in dozens of anthologies to date, and has recently celebrated the release of her debut short story collection ‘Darkly Ever After’. You can find further details regarding her various publications, including her short eBook series, the ‘Fast Fiction Collection’, on her website!
I can hear him breathing out in the hall, muffled beyond my door, but still harsh enough to make out. My brother’s had a distinctive way of breathing ever since his diagnosis. Quick inhale, quick exhale, pause, repeat. All the time, and forevermore. I don’t know how he puts up with it.
Poor little guy. Must not be able to sleep—
But then reality sets in. Hard and terrible.
I’m wide awake now, and I remember with no uncertain horror that my brother passed the week before last.
But now, I can hear him over my shoulder . . .
Patrick Winters is a graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. He has been published in the likes of Sanitarium Magazine, Deadman’s Tome, Trysts of Fate, and other such titles. A full list of his previous publications may be found at his author’s site, if you are so inclined to know: http://wintersauthor.