Trembling With Fear 07/03/2022
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!
So this is my last editorial for Trembling With Fear. After five years it is time to hand over the reins to the wonderful Lauren McMenemy and Chris McAuley who will bring fresh ideas and more energy than I currently have(!) to the weekly zine. I have enjoyed my time here and made some wonderful friends and read many fantastic stories. To see the support that has come in for the zine over this period and to watch it flourish has been a privilege and to know that TWF is often the springboard for new writers into publication has also been something very special. I would also like to thank boss Stuart and fellow editor Amanda for their support during this time, would like to just state that without Amanda joining us about a year or so ago, I would have buckled sooner! Thank you to everyone who has ever written in to me, sent me their stories and news and shown me that our community will never run dry of stories and heart. – Steph x
Last week you met Lauren McMenemy to TWF’s editorial team. This week it’s the turn of Chris McAuley:
I’m an Irishman who was kidnapped by a Canadian and now straddle both countries. I write because I enjoy it and it has brought me into contact with some wonderful people. I suspect that’s part of the reason that our contributors pen stories as well.
I am probably mostly known for my work with Dacre Stoker (the great-grand nephew of Bram Stoker) in the StokerVerse. A horror universe that we both created together. Through it I have gained experience writing novels, copious short stories, video and tabletop games, audio dramas and even directed some Hollywood names. I also work in the genre of Science Fiction with franchises like Doctor Who, The Terminator and partnered up with Captain Kirk himself – William Shatner for a comic book series. I also worked in comic book art, colouring and inking comics and my day job is linked to video games.
I write in a visceral style; my first printed work was in the Judge Dredd universe. I like my stories to be pacy and action packed. I find that the specifics of violence can really make readers wince and can make a memorable impact. It has to be meaningful and judiciously implemented, shock for its own shake quickly dissipates.
If you want to find out more about my projects check out my official website : https://www.dark-universes.com/ and the Stokerverse on Facebook : @stokerverse
It is so strange knowing that this will be the last Trembling With Fear that Steph will be scheduling for us. I’m so glad that she isn’t leaving Horror Tree as she has been the backbone of our fiction endeavors!
As mentioned the last couple of weeks, we’re a bit low on drabbles at the moment so if you have 100 words of speculative fiction that you’d like to send our way, we’re very open to it! 🙂
We’ve broken 475 subscribers on our Horror Tree’s YouTube channel and are inching toward 500! I’m very excited about this as it is still an area we haven’t focused on enough and have been expanding our content on (with more to come!) If you’re interested in seeing what is in store, please, do subscribe and check out a couple of videos!
As always, I hope you had a great weekend.
Great-Grandpa by Edward Turner
His breath is always wet, as though there is something dripping deep inside him. In and out, in and out. Each breath coated in a dampness that pierces my thoughts.
We can hear him all the way down here. Mom dropped us off about an hour ago and said not to worry.
Never to worry.
My brother tells me thatMom grew up in another time. A time without questioning, a time without even the internet.
We sit together on the couch. The coffee table before us is empty but for two large doilies splayed out like flowers. Their lace covers the wood of the table in white.
Our great-grandmother is in the kitchen preparing snacks for us as she always does, though we won’t be able to enjoy them.
I hear that raspy laugh reflecting down the wooden steps. Mom said that great-grandpa has taken to listening to old comedy records. I turn to Timothy and ask, “Do you think there is anything on those records we’d find funny?”
He shakes his head. He is a full three years older and wiser than me and he adds, “I don’t think there is anything in this house at all that we’d find funny.”
He’s probably right.
The slow boiling of the teapot can be heard over the silence of the living room. She always prepares her tea. She tells us one day we’ll try it and we’ll never turn back. She uses a small batch of hot water where she dips a ball of loose black tea leaves. She even grinds them herself.
Waiting for the long process of her tea making, it feels like a timer leading to our doom. The sun lights the dust as it drifts across the room. I heard once that dust is nothing but skin flakes making their way through the air.
I pray this is not true.
She peeks in suddenly and says, “Would you like to come help me, Amanda?”
“Of course,” I say and get up from the couch. The plastic cover crunches as I get to my feet. I can feel Timothy’s eyes on me as I cross the room.
My tummy rumbles as I take in the scent of baked cookies. Mom has learned over the years that it is best to starve us before we get here.
She hands me a long oval plate covered in another of those doilies. On top are some cookies. No doubt they are wonderful and my stomach tells me so by growling. If only I agreed with the voice of my stomach.
Mom always says, “You’ll get used to it, your aunt and I did.” She’ll boop my nose then and say, “It could always be worse sweetie.”
I am not sure there is much in this world worse than the dread of waiting here now.
I use my back to open the swinging kitchen door and step into the living room to place the oval plate of cookies onto the table.
Timothy looks up at me and takes a cookie. The chocolate chips are half-melted and they stick to his lips and his teeth. I sit down next to him and ask, “How can you eat them so easily?”
He shrugs, “If my stomach is full, I feel less queasy.”
I nod, I wonder about that. I do recall that the emptier my stomach is, the more easily the smell and sights seem to get to me.
Great-grandmother comes through the door, leading with her back the same way I did. She has a small tray with some tea cups sitting atop it. There is also the tea itself and a small pitcher of lemonade. I wonder sometimes why old people never seem to have any pre-packaged drinks.
She pours each of us a teacup of lemonade and a teacup of tea for herself. She then pours another for great-grandpa. She drops two cubes of sugar in and heads to the stairs to take it to him.
I take a deep breath and ask, “What do you think? Five minutes?”
“I haven’t heard him laugh for a while, if he is done with his record, it will be sooner.”
I feel the urge to cry suddenly, “I hate this Timothy, I really hate this.”
Great-Grandmother calls us after just a few moments and I cringe at the sound of her voice. We follow the sound of her voice up the steps until we get to the long dark hall where their room is the first on the left.
Great-grandpa sits in his recliner, it is an orange plaid color. It is older than I am.
I really love my great-grandpa, I just despise what he wants us to do.
He takes notice of us and says, “Good evening kids, so glad you’ve come to see me tonight.”
We both cringe and I am glad for a moment that he cannot see.
I am glad too that he never seems to notice our revulsion. I wonder who will do this when we are too old to be forced. Great-grandmother says, “Go ahead and get to work kids, the lotion is on the tray as it always is.”
I wonder if it’s ever her turn? She leaves the room just before we start, just as she always does. I dip my index finger into the lotion, just as Timothy does. We pull our fingers from the jar and wipe the excess off on the side just as he likes us to do.
I take a deep breath and look over at Timothy. He nods, and then we put our fingers into great-grandfather’s empty eye-sockets.
They make a wet sloppy sound as they go in. Great-grandfather moans as I hold in a gag. Worse than the sound of our fingers in the place where we are told there were never eyes at all is the smell that comes from the sockets.
The sound begins deep and then lightens as our fingers fall deep where there should be an eye. Another slight plop sound as they get to the edge and reach air again.
Great-grandfather smiles with his mouth empty of teeth as he mumbles, “Yes that is so good. More lotion please.”
Edward Turner III has been a writer in some form or another since the day before his birthday. Yeah, THAT birthday. You don’t even want to know what he used as a writing utensil. He has been published a few dozen places and lives in Northern Kentucky with his family.
Edward Mounsey, married with two children, spends another Sunday afternoon in the potting shed of his Ealing back garden.
The apple tree guards the window, its branches hard against the glass. None can see in.
Besides, his wife and children have grown accustomed to Mounsey’s boring hobbies.
Inside, softly whistling to himself, Mounsey has commenced dissecting the troublesome man from the next street. Blood flows down the drain, disappears into infinity.
The large trunk under the potting bench accommodates the man’s various body parts.
Mounsey reaches for a stump of chalk.
On the lintel he records his latest kill.
Mike Rader is a pseudonym used by Australian author and poet James Aitchison. As J J Munro and Mike Rader, Aitchison writes horror and noir crime. As James Lee, he writes Asia’s biggest selling horror series for middle readers — Mr Midnight — which has sold over three million copies. His work can be seen at www.flameoftheforest.com
I should have worn flats, I can’t run in heels.
He’s behind me, hanging back. Only his shadow slides past, eclipsing mine, then rushing backwards under the orange lights. I daren’t look back, so I listen to his furtive footsteps.
I turn abruptly into the park, to see if he’s really following.
And soon enough I hear him again. I feel he’s getting closer. There’s no sign of help anywhere, we’re all alone.
My heart is racing, I try not to hurry, my mouth is dry in anticipation.
I feel his rough hand on my arm.
I turn and pounce.
Steven Patchett is an Engineer, Father and Writer in the North East of England. His works have been published in Ellipsis Zine, Trembling with Fear and Retreat West. He can be found on Twitter, being encouraging. @StevenPatchett7.
The Death of Innocence
She stood in the kitchen, hands on hips. She knew there were some movies and things we hadn’t shown her.
“It’s okay,” she said. “I’m fourteen now. You don’t have to hide death from me.”
Her father and I looked at each other… and breathed a collective sigh. We strode past her, down the hall, and proceeded to pull the skeletons out of the closets. And then, we dug the bodies up from the cellar and those interred in the backyard.
Grinning, she whipped out the head of the teenaged neighbor, an accused rapist. ”Just keeping up the family tradition.”
Nancy Pica Renken
Nancy Pica Renken is a short story and flash fiction writer from Colorado who enjoys reading, ‘riting, and running. Her work has appeared in Wyldblood Magazine #8 and a number of anthologies, including 666 Dark Drabbles Anthology by Black Hare Press and Nightshade and Moonlight, a Dark Fae Anthology by United Faedom Publishing. When she is not lost in thought on a magical, open space trail or grooming her brush-junkie cat, she can be found at www.NancyPRenken.com.
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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.