Trembling With Fear 07/17/2022
Erm… howdy. Yes, yes, I know – you were expecting someone different. And no, I’m not a shapeshifter who’s taken the form of Chris McAuley, nor have aliens kidnapped him (at least, not to the best of my knowledge). Alas, Chris’s life has gotten rather sparkly and busy since he stepped up to be my co-editor as Steph stepped down, and the latest MAHOOSIVE development in his world means he’s had to bow out of ours. Sad times. Rest assured, you have definitely not heard the last of Dr McAuley; for now, you can always head to the StokerVerse if you need a dose of his horribleness.
…which means I’m now riding solo. Hi, my name is Lauren and I’m your new sole (soul?) editor at Trembling With Fear. I said my thanks to Steph last week for all she has done for this zine, and she’s still very much a part of this site. (Remember to check out the indie bookshelf!)
It’s been damn, devilishly hot here in London Town this week, which has made focus and motivation incredibly difficult. At least my native Australia is built for handling heat; this country just has no idea what it’s doing once the temperature goes about 25C/75F. I remember being amazed, my first summer here, when the rails seriously melted and stopped the trains. The houses? They’re made to trap the heat inside, and nothing is air conditioned. And it’s only going to get worse next week; I might have to set aside some time to write that climate crisis-driven dystopian horror I’ve been thinking about.
For now, though, it’s about YOU and what you’ve been thinking about. We’d love to hear more from you, so please do send in your short stories and drabbles. Go dark, go beyond, and let us have it!
This week we have a short from Dave Musson with a distinctive style and traumatic technology.
For the quick bites, we have three delicious offerings:
- Critic, by Chris Chapman, does what many artists have wanted to do, I’m sure
- Monkey King, by Mike Radar, enters the simian mind
- And finally, Self-Help, by LJ McMenemy – aka yours truly – asks how far you’ll go for self-fulfilment
Next week I hand the reins over to… Oh no, wait. It’s me again. All that’s left to say then is: Over to you, Stuart….
FIRST – A quick note from one of our TWF editors, Amanda Headlee: Who wants summer to last longer? We do at the Horror Tree! This year, we’ve extended our Summer Specials submission period by an extra month so that we can collect even more hellishly hot and campfire creepy stories. Send us your tales of horror about backpacking, road trips, glamping, beach adventures, summer camp… anything summer-related goes! You may even want to write a drabble as a summer vacation postcard as a “wish you were here” [insert evil grin].
The submission window is open until August 31st to submit drabbles of 100 words and short stories up to 2500 words.
Now, onto our other editing news; Lauren pretty much covered it above! Steph and Amanda will be providing any support she might need though, I’ll be honest, I’m pretty sure Lauren is more organized than I am so I am not too concerned.
As to site news this week, we’re slowly planning on starting up on working on the new layout in the last week of July and first couple weeks of August. More news to come!
Just a reminder: the new editions of ‘Trembling With Fear Year 5‘ And ‘More Tales From The Tree 4‘ are both fully available at this time. Also, last month we lost 3 Patreons recently. Thankfully, one new one has stepped up to really help out! We’re still behind, though, thankfully, are much closer to where we were at. I will say that, if you’ve been thinking about becoming a Patreon, now would be the perfect time!
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’re under 15 subscribers away from hitting our current goal for the Horror Tree’s YouTube channel! Once we hit 500, I promise that I’ll stop plugging it for at least a month! 😉
As always, I hope you had a great weekend.
Too Late, by Dave Musson
Finally, the light on Paul’s new printer turned blue and it made a pleasant ding! noise.
“Aha!” said Paul, grinning. “Got it!”
He walked to the bottom of the stairs and shouted up, “Dylan!”
A few seconds later, his seven-year-old appeared, that beautiful, kind, and hilarious kid that had somehow been the product of Paul’s loins and nurturing.
“Yes Daddy?” Dylan said.
“I’ve finally got the printer working – can you try sending something to print out for me please? You should be able to connect to it from the WiFi.”
Dylan smiled. “Ooh yes!” he said, and darted back into his room.
Paul heard the sounds of fingers hitting a keyboard, then a few clicks of a mouse, before the sounds shifted back to his study, as the printer whirred into life and started to chug, chug, chug as it made whatever was on Dylan’s screen right now appear on paper.
The printer gave a final flourish and another pleasant noise – this one almost like a satisfied sigh of a job well done – before going quiet. Paul went over to it, picked up the sheet of paper it had spat out, and read it.
HELLO DADDY 🙂 was printed in bright blue letters.
Paul started to chuckle.
Dylan came tanking down the stairs, full of beans.
“Did it work Daddy?” he asked as he ran into the room.
Paul simply held up the sheet and showed his son. Dylan started to laugh, and Paul followed. It was good laughter, it was real laughter, it was the kind of laughter you’d like to bottle up and keep forever.
The next day, Dylan was at school and Paul was sitting working in his study like usual and, like usual, was in deep concentration – ploughing through this month’s sales report. When he was in that zone – when he practically fell into the screen and became one with the numbers and charts found there – very little could shake his attention. He was so familiar with the sounds of his study and the daytime quiet of the house that only a new noise would break through.
A noise like his new printer, which announced itself to Paul with that pleasant ding! from yesterday.
Paul looked up and frowned and the machine started that chug, chug, chug of printing. A few moments later, it spat out a sheet and sighed its satisfied sigh.
Paul reached over and looked at the sheet.
HELLO DADDY 🙁 it said, in bright blue letters. Paul started to smile, thinking that somehow Dylan had triggered the thing to send something to print as a midafternoon surprise for his old man, when he spotted something that stopped the smile midflow.
The smiley…it was no longer smiling. It was showing the unhappy version.
“What the?” Paul asked the room, when the printer started whirring again – chug, chug, chug until a final spit and sigh.
DADDY this second sheet said, but already a third was following. Chug, chug, chug – the noises growing louder, and louder, and more intense, and more oppressive in Paul’s head.
HELP the third sheet said, and Paul’s blood went cold.
“This must be a joke,” Paul muttered, trying to convince himself of something he knew wasn’t true, but ran upstairs anyway to check Dylan’s laptop.
The laptop was shut, of course, and Paul darted back downstairs, coming back into his study just in time to hear the printer sigh again. He looked down, and saw a small pile of papers, which he picked up with trembling hands.
DADDY the first sheet said, then THE MAN, then THE MAN IN THE PIG MASK, then HE’S TAKEN ME, then SORRY, and finally HELP ME – all in that same cheery blue, which now looked a lot less wholesome.
His heart pounding, Paul fumbled for his phone and dialled his son’s number. It went straight to voicemail.
“Dylan, it’s Daddy,” Paul said, trying to sound as calm as possible, “This is going to sound very silly, but I’ve just had a weird feeling about you and want to know you’re ok. I’m sure you’re on the bus home and your phone is in your bag which is why you didn’t answer, but just call me as soon as you hear this, ok? Nothing to worry about, just your old dad having a wobble. Anyway, just ring me – love you Dylan.”
In a moment of sheer horror, the second he disconnected the call, the printer started up again – chug, chug, chug, then a spit and sigh.
One word this time, and a different colour too; NO, it said, in blood red.
Paul reached for his phone again, planning to call Dylan, Dylan’s best friend Nate, the school…anyone, when that awful chug, chug, chug of the printer started again.
Rooted to the spot, Paul felt the dread take over as he watched that final sheet of paper fly out of the printer with such force that it floated right off the desk and onto the floor. Suddenly aware of a terrible whooshing in his ears, Paul bent down, picked up the paper, and turned it over.
TOO LATE the blood-red letters said, and Paul dropped the paper like it was too hot to touch.
The printer sighed its satisfied sigh, flashed red three times, then switched itself off.
Dave is a glasses-wearing, bearded human being from the middle of England who likes heavy music with loud guitars, watching rugby league, and reading creepy stories. He has more hobbies than he should really have time for; playing in a band, hosting a bunch of podcasts, writing, running regular Stephen King quizzes online, and running a Stephen King-themed YouTube channel. Dave lives at home with his wife, sons, and annoying dog – he made his debut as a published fiction writer in 2021’s Welcome to the Funhouse, from Blood Rites. He was also a finalist in the Bellingham Review’s 2022 Tobias Wolff Prize for Fiction.
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dave–
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/
Light from a large screen bathed the seats below.
There was an audience of two.
In the darkness could be heard the words.
“They’ve made a mistake there. The blade entered the right eye but in the next shot the victim is grabbing the left side of their face.”
The person sitting behind replied to the retort by slipping a cheese-wire under the chin of the critic and pulling until the critic’s head rolled into his lap then hit the floor.
“You made a mistake there,” said the director. “You entered the screening with a head and you’re leaving without one.”
Chris Chapman is an aspiring author who currently resides in Scotland. Previously published in Malpractice anthology and Skive Magazine.
She stares at shelves full of happiness, wondering why it eludes her. Each box holds a memory; she closes her eyes and sees wide eyes, mouths contorted. Hears screams not as satisfying as the pleas for mercy, tastes tears so salty on her tongue. She inhales the stench of rotting, seeking the high.
It started with just one; now she can’t stop. She grins as she places the latest trophy in its jar, and picks up her phone. The game is losing its thrill; still, she swipes right. It’s a way to pass the time, and this itch needs scratching.
LJ (Lauren) McMenemy writes gothic and folk horror and is currently working on a novel set in the world of the Victorian occult. You’ll find her haunting south London, where she lives with her Doctor Who-obsessed husband and their aged black house rabbit.
High in misty Ubud, far from Bali’s beaches, tourists strolled through the famous Monkey Forest.
“Look, dear, such a cute little fellow,” drawled Harry from Iowa, his camera clicking.
“Don’t scare him, Harry,” his wife scolded.
Then she screamed.
Harry’s monkey was holding up a human skull. Harry’s camera flashed.
Wiryadi, the tour guide, ran forward. “No take photo! Is monkey king!”
Harry was still roaring with laughter when the monkey attacked. With one swing, it took out Harry’s throat. Blood gushed. Tourists fled. Wiryadi trembled.
From the forest the monkey said: “Bring me another tomorrow, Wiryadi.”
Wiryadi bowed humbly.
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
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Lauren is a writer with various hats – journalist, copywriter, content marketer, fiction – and considers herself a storyteller at heart. She writes gothic and folk horror and is currently working on a novel set in the world of the Victorian occult. It’s the supernatural and the occult that really give her goosebumps, and a good ghost story or vampire tale with a rising sense of dread will always pique her interest (and yes, Midnight Mass hit many of her buttons). She also has a developing fascination with folklore, the old ways and our fast-changing relationship with the natural world; this sneaks into her writing, too.
In The Real World, Lauren has more than 20 years’ experience as a professional content creator. She’s established and led global content teams and editorial strategies, including setting up content newsrooms for some of the world’s biggest brands. She was a music editor for a daily newspaper in her native Australia (a good gig and the beach remain her happy places), though she’s been London-based for 16 years and works as an editor, proofreader, marketer, and writing coach. She’s also a mental health advocate; her Substack, How to Be Self(ish), tracked her year of sabbatical and self-care, and she continues to write it irregularly as a mental health companion.
You’ll find Lauren haunting south London, where she lives with her Doctor Who-obsessed husband and their aged black house rabbit. You’ll also likely find her hosting Writers Hour sessions for the London Writers Salon a few times a week.