Trembling With Fear 06/30/2019
This week saw me able to announce a recent acceptance which means an awful lot to me. A poem of mine, Stringed Pearls, made it into the HWA’s Poetry Showcase Volume VI, edited by Stephanie Wytovich. Seeing my name amongst others I’ve long regarded as being way above me on the writing ladder was a real boost, especially as the waiting for so much else is just dragging … It also fits in to my intention to write more dark verse and I hope to create a collection in the coming months. I only joined HWA a year ago, Theresa Derwin recommended it to me, and I think it’s probably been the best decision I’ve made. The people I’ve met online, the writing groups I’ve joined, it’s been well worth it. This week you’ll see we have a new member of the editorial team, Catherine Kenwell (see below), but I’ll leave it to her to introduce herself and explain her role. I’m sure you’ll join me and Stuart in welcoming her on board.
Our first story this week in Trembling with Fear is Freedom Ain’t Free (You Gotta Bleed) by Lionel Ray Green and reminds us how much a totalitarian state hates those who defy or undermine their rule, focussing particularly on the creatives, such as in this case, a group of musicians – described here as ‘like a gospel choir on acid’ (wonderful phrase). This tale shows the clash between the inhuman human and those who will speak, or sing out for their freedom, often at tremendous risk to themselves. It has always been thus in our history and I liked the way this story finished with an element of hope, incongruously from a cyborg.
Birthday Baby by Catherine Berry brings a twist to a child’s birthday. Depending on your family background, this could all feel so perfectly normal – in a gruesome way. Taking something regarded as innocent and subverting it is a good way to ratchet up the horror.
Out on a Limb by Alyson Faye is one of those ‘desperate times calls for desperate measures’ story. A homeless man, with apparently nothing, becomes another’s way out of dire straits. How far would you go to solve your problems? A question so much of horror frequently asks.
Hello readers and contributors! I’m Catherine Kenwell, and I’m thrilled to be joining the Trembling with Fear team as your contact for Serial Killers and Unholy Trinities. We’ve received some trinities recently, and I know Stephanie has acknowledged receipt, but you’ll be hearing from me shortly, so look for my name in your inbox!
A bit about me: I live in Barrie, Ontario with my husband and furry family (and our resident ghost, who doesn’t approve of the artwork we hang and likes the cat best of all). When I’m not writing, I’m a qualified mediator and a jewelry designer. For years, I wrote corporate stuff—professional and technical articles and manuals, and I edited a national alumni magazine. Today I write what I want—which is dark fiction and inspirational non-fiction. I’m currently spearheading an anthology of short non-fiction stories from brain injury survivors, which is scheduled to publish in June 2020.
I’ve recently started writing drabbles and trinities, and I find they’re a perfect writing and self-editing exercise. Exactly 100 words, not 99 or 101, that grabs readers and engages them right to the conclusion—what a brain-work challenge, right? If you haven’t tried writing drabbles or trinities, give it a try and share your work. Remember…each ‘chapter’ of an Unholy Trinity must be exactly 100 words, for a total word count of…300!
We’ve recently received trinities that are either undefined as trinities—that is, the three 100-word drabbles are not clearly defined—or go far beyond the required word count. The very first thing I do is a word count, so keep in mind that submissions must contain three clearly delineated, 100-word drabbles that are related or tell a complete story. If you can’t count, they’ll be sent back without editing!
Serial Killers? Well, we have one in the hopper and I’m about to start editing it. But we’re always looking for more. Serial Killers are serialized stories that we’ll publish on an ongoing basis. If you’re unsure of what a serial should look like, read Rob Kotecki’s Plaything from this past February’s Trembling with Fear.
Well, folks, it has been another week and I am TIRED.
Steph and I have worked on finishing up the last of TWF so you should see an official announcement shortly! Hoozah!
A huge bonus this week is we’ve added 2 new ‘Trembling With Fear’ shirts!
As you can see above, we have another new editor helping out on the Trembling With Fear side of things. Catherine is going to be knocking out the Unholy Trinity and Serial submissions so please be sure to keep her busy! 🙂
We’ve put out some feelers on social media about the potential of adapting TWF into a podcast as well. So far, the results have been positive. If you have any thoughts or feedback on the idea please let us know.
Also, a reminder, do comment with praise on any of the stories you like in our weekly installments of TWF so that the authors can know what works and why!
Thanks as always for your time and for tuning in for another round of great fiction!
Freedom Ain’t Free (You Gotta Bleed)
Over the rip-roaring reverb of three Fender Stratocasters, Bleedin’ Freedoms lead singer Dawn Dewright wailed like a banshee into the microphone.
“Freedom ain’t free, you gotta bleed!
“Freedom ain’t free, you gotta bleed!
“Freedom ain’t free, you gotta bleed!”
The crowd of three hundred misfits and lost souls in the pit at Club Gonzo screamed along in unison like a gospel choir on acid.
It was the most beautiful sound Dawn had ever heard.
Running black-nailed fingers through purple-and-pink spiked hair, Dawn stopped singing and savored the moment. She listened to the crowd howl the chorus in perfect unison, filling her eardrums and soul with a kind of communal ecstasy only understood by the desperate and downtrodden.
Dawn knew this was a rare period of joy for the people in the audience. After all, they were risking their very lives to attend a Bleedin’ Freedoms concert since the government judged the band “a threat to the security of the State,” forcing the punksters to go underground with their rebel rock.
While the crowd continued to vibrate the walls with the chorus, Dawn glanced at her three bandmates, Lucky Jack, Billy Bellringer, and Willy-Nilly. They were like her brothers. She watched them play, feeling an irrepressible urge of love force tears to the edges of her eyes.
In that instant, her bandmates looked like gods with guitars. They were lost in rapture, fingers bleeding on their axes, eyes closed, hearts open, their long hair shaded black, blue, and green and swirling like kaleidoscopes caught in a tornado.
Tonight, they weren’t ordinary humans.
Tonight, they were a punk rock band called Bleedin’ Freedoms.
It felt like a grand finale, a defiant stand before the gates of Hell.
A joyous Dawn rejoined the chorus, screaming louder than anyone else before the moment of truth arrived.
Club Gonzo’s lights blinked twice and died, casting the old building into darkness.
The guitars and the crowd’s singing stopped like the crashing of waves against a rocky shore.
The double doors to Club Gonzo flew open, and a faceless cyborg soldier dressed in black riot gear from head to toe appeared at the entrance.
Backlit by a powerful spotlight outside, everyone could see the cyborg wielding a laser rifle and wearing a belt of thermite grenades around his waist.
Half human, half machine, cyborg soldiers followed orders without question while performing the dirty work of the government, so politicians and bureaucrats could claim clean hands.
A second figure stepped past the cyborg. He wore a silver duster over a black uniform. A white patch covered his right eye, and a gold circlet rested on his shiny bald head. He placed a bullhorn to his mouth.
“I am Protector Augustus of the Bureau of Crowd Control. You are under arrest for illegal assembly. Your sentence is fifteen days of behavioral modification classes and thirty days of hard labor. Form a single-file line at the doorway. I have a squad outside ready to scan and tag you for processing at Crowd Control Facility Number Six, where you will serve your sentence.”
“What gives you the right?” Dawn yelled from the stage.
“The Assimilation Act of 2112,” Augustus replied. “You have thirty seconds to comply.”
“Or what?” Dawn asked.
“You will be executed where you stand.”
Dawn looked at the cyborg with the rifle and grenades.
He looked like a menacing robot, but Dawn knew he was half-human.
Did he ever feel guilt or pride? Dawn wondered. Where did the machine end and the humanity begin?
“What say you?” Augustus asked.
Dawn turned and met the eyes of her bandmates.
Lucky Jack, Billy Bellringer, and Willy-Nilly responded with tight smiles and brief nods.
Dawn gazed at the crowd of three hundred.
Some looked frightened, others defiant.
“What say you?” Augustus repeated. “I will not ask again.”
A young girl with blonde pigtails sitting on a man’s shoulders caught Dawn’s eye.
The child, no older than eight or nine, smiled at her.
Dawn smiled back.
Then, in one lightning-quick motion, Dawn grabbed the dead microphone and started wailing.
“Freedom ain’t free, you gotta bleed!
“Freedom ain’t free, you gotta bleed!
“Freedom ain’t free, you gotta bleed!”
By the third chorus, Lucky Jack, Billy Bellringer, Willy-Nilly, and the crowd of three hundred had joined Dawn’s final act of defiance.
The noise was deafening.
Protector Augustus listened to the singing crowd for a moment before turning to the cyborg soldier.
“Yes sir,” the cyborg responded automatically to his name-number.
“Light them up,” Augustus ordered and started to exit the building.
Augustus stopped and turned back to the cyborg.
“Do you have a hearing problem, soldier?” Augustus barked. “I said light them up!”
Eliot-1922 slung his rifle onto his shoulder and pulled two thermite grenades from his belt.
Augustus walked outside.
Seconds later, the sounds of three hundred singing voices were replaced by tortured screams of anguish as the first grenade leveled the back half of Club Gonzo.
Eliot-1922 stepped outside.
“Finish them, soldier,” Augustus said.
Eliot-1922 stood at the entrance and watched the surviving concertgoers running and screaming in panic and pain.
“I said finish them … now!” Augustus ordered.
Eliot-1922 tossed in the second grenade and slammed the entrance doors shut against the explosion.
By morning light, Club Gonzo had burned to the ground.
By midmorning, the news media reported the headline: “More than 300 killed in tragic accidental fire at abandoned building.”
By noon, the story was dead and buried like the band and concert-goers at Club Gonzo.
The next evening, Protector Augustus sat in his office checking messages on his bureau computer.
His eyes stopped scanning at a message from an unknown sender.
In the Age of Security, unknown messages were rare since every piece of information was tracked and monitored.
“Computer,” Augustus said. “Open message thirteen.”
Words displayed instantly in the air.
The message read: “Freedom ain’t free, you gotta bleed!”
It was signed “Eliot-1922.”
Lionel Ray Green
Lionel Ray Green is a horror and fantasy writer, an award-winning newspaper journalist, and a U.S. Army gulf war veteran living in Alabama. His short stories have appeared in the anthologies Alabama’s Emerging Writers, The Heart of a Devil, Fifty Flashes, How Beer Saved the World 2, Graveyard, Frightening, Tales from the Grave, In Creeps the Night, and 22 More Quick Shivers. His short story “Scarecrow Road” won the WriterWriter 2018 International Halloween Themed Writing Competition All Hallows’ Prose and his short story “A Tale of Two Shards” was third runner-up in the WriterWriter 2018 International Fantasy Competition Phoenix Rising. His work has also appeared in The Poet’s Haven Digest anthology It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, in Issue 1 of Cross+Decay magazine, and in the 2017 issue of From the Depths magazine as well as in Trembling With Fear, an online feature of the Horror Tree website.
It was a family tradition; when a child turned five they got to choose their gift. Her baby spent hours patiently searching until, finally, he appeared.
She watched as little feet hit the ground at a sprint. Their prey turned, surprised but unconcerned as the kid came near. The child struck, blade slicing through the artery near his groin. He jerked, falling back with a frightened bleat. Her baby pounced, stabbing viciously into his neck. Once. Twice. Carving deep, brutal, gouges.
Overflowing with pride, they stood over the corpse cooling on the street. Smiling tenderly, she cooed, “Happy Birthday, Baby!”
is printed in bold capitals above a grainy photo of my beloved. Her name is wrong though. That isn’t what I call her.
I tug at the top left corner. The grimy bricks cannot cling on to her. The poster and its protective sleeve come to me eagerly, and I reach inside to extract the innards. They stink of ink not flesh but I consume them anyway. Then let the unwanted plastic fall to a pavement shiny with rain. The sole of my loafer presses down, drowning it in a puddle.
The facsimile tastes bitter compared to the original.
Carmilla Voiez is a proudly bisexual and mildly autistic introvert who finds writing much easier than verbal communication. A life long Goth, she is passionate about horror, the alt scene, intersectional feminism, art, nature and animals. When not writing, she gets paid to hang out in a stately home and entertain tourists.
Carmilla grew up on a varied diet of horror. Her earliest influences as a teenage reader were Graham Masterton, Brian Lumley and Clive Barker mixed with the romance of Hammer Horror and the visceral violence of the first wave of video nasties. Fascinated by the Goth aesthetic and enchanted by threnodies of eighties Goth and post-punk music she evolved into the creature of darkness we find today.
Her website and blog can be found at www.carmillavoiez.com
Out on a Limb
Wedged in the alley behind Jez’s Tattoo Parlour, a sodden sleeping bag cuddled around him, the homeless man groaned and threw out a heavily inked limb.
“Mate, you’re gotta move,” Jez peered at the glorious multi coloured griffin rearing along the forearm.
He recognised the signature needlework of the late, great Rubinski, who’d moved from tattooing to graffiting derelict buildings. His work sold for millions.
Jez thought about his two mortgages and gambling debts. He went back into his shop, returning with his tool kit.
One hammer blow and twenty minutes with a saw, and Jez emerged a rich man.
Alyson lives in West Yorkshire with her family and 3 rescue cats. She teaches creative writing classes, writes noir Flash Fiction and ghost stories. She is one of the writers in ‘Women in Horror Annual 2’, in Raging Aardvark’s ‘Twisted Tales’, her stories can be downloaded at www.alfiedog.com as well as being available on various sites like zeroflash/Tubeflash/101 words/three drops from a cauldron. Her debut collection, ‘Badlands’, is due out soon from indie publisher Chapel Town Books.
You can find out more on her blog- www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com
or at her Amazon author page!
The hand moved slowly, juddering across the face, each movement the passing of a second, although not quite in the blink of an eye. Martin stared at the workings; this timepiece needed fine-tuning, needed opening up.
Martin laid a cloth across his bench, placed the tools ready and angled the light. Surgical precision would be needed for this procedure.
He picked up a sharp-tipped knife, inserted it into a gap and levered back and forth to remove the hand. Close inspection revealed the joint had rotted. Martin filed away the corruption and replaced the hand. His wife still didn’t blink.
Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative fiction, finding success in a variety of magazines and anthologies, the latest being Asylum of Shadows as part of Demain Publishing’s Short Sharp Shocks! series and The Way of the Mother in Nosetouch Press, The Fiends in the Furrows anthology. Her own collection of short stories has been published in The Reckoning and her dark verse has been gathered in Dark is my Playground. She is co-editor and contributor to The Infernal Clock, a fledgling press which has produced three anthologies to-date. She is also co-editor of Trembling With Fear, HorrorTree.com’s online magazine.
She is also an affiliate member of the HWA.
She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on twitter at @el_stevie.