Trembling With Fear 07/19/20
The last week of term, yay – almost there. The plan was, that as well as write, I would reduce my TBR pile but as I’ve been buying some more books recently and I vaguely recall pre-ordering others, I doubt that’s going to happen anytime soon.
If you want a free read in addition to this week’s offerings, I recommend going over to the latest Sirens Call edition, Issue 50. TWF Writers are well-represented in the contents: Alyson Faye, Richard Meldrum, Ryan Benson, G.A. Miller, Radar DeBoard, Will Blackwell and Patrick J Wynn amongst others. I love seeing people we publish doing so well across the industry. World takeover time!
As you all know we do a Book Launch roundup on Fridays and I have now added an ‘extra’ at the bottom to cover events. If you have an online event relating to your book launch let me know and I’ll put it there. I can also include any other online events, eg virtual cons you may be running or think might be of interest to people.
And yes, I’m going to mention the NHS charity anthology, Diabolica Britannica, again. This time though it’s to say a huge thank you to Ramsey Campbell who wrote a wonderful foreword. Not only did he take the time to do a thoughtful, and loving, overview of British horror, he also included a comment on every story in the book. Knowing someone of that calibre will willingly give up their own time to boost those further down the ladder is a perfect example of the concept of ‘paying it forward’, a trend I notice as being mainstay of the horror writing industry. If you’ve not read him, go and grab one of his books. I’ve not long discovered his writing and am slowly working my way through his back catalogue – I’ve not been disappointed.
New Editorial Feature – Very Short Stories! Here’s a new feature for you. TWF contributor Robert Lupton sent in a short story of only 14 words. I thought it would be fun to include it in the editorial:
The sign on the pearly gates read, “For sale. One used halo. Slightly tarnished.”
If you think you can write one in 14 words or less, send them in and I’ll share them. But I will only include one per editorial!
Summer Special Shoutout – remember we are after short flash stories, drabbles and Unholy Trinities for our Summer Special. You’ve still got time to dig out those buckets and spades!
At Trembling With Fear this week, we start with The Deer Hunter by Andrew Punzo. Something which apparently reflects on a father-son rite of passage, soon turns dark. The son certainly takes on board his father’s directions but where does that lead to for them? And for the boy when he becomes a man? What exactly does he hunt in the end? A taut, dark piece reading like a thriller. Love it.
Judgement by Scarlet Berry is a slow pace, with the drip feed, literally, of all your sins appearing before you. The target of this condemnation? You’ll recognise them by clever use of incidents and words associated with that person. Shown and not told.
Her Brother’s Keeper by Jessica Levai, is a spooky story about a curse, and brings back a fairy tale element I love to see.
Maneater by Christina Nordlander suspends moral judgement in her story, after all why not? Why deny your nature? Stories often focus on inner conflict but sometimes it’s just easier to remove that conflict and go with the flow.
Enjoy the stories and send us yours!
Sorry folks, no news on the anthology. We’ve got the covers sorted and are just waiting on the final copies. SOON! (Well, maybe not as I’ll be offline almost the entire coming week.)
In case you missed it last week, we now have enough YouTube subscribers to have our own custom URL! https://www.youtube.com/horrortree! Sadly, that hasn’t given me any free time to add more content to the channel. If making videos from existing posts using software we provide to you sounds interesting, do reach out 😉
The Deer Hunter by Andrew Punzo
Henrik kept his cheek tight to the cream-colored stock of his father’s rifle—the boom rolling over and out of snow-rounded hollows within the valley and the smell of burnt saltpeter hanging in the cold air. He forced himself to stay put. Follow through, he thought. Cheek down.
Another half-second went by and he snapped his head off the stock, breaking out of his iron-sighted tunnel vision to see more clearly the patch of snow mixed with dirt and churned-up leaves that marked the bullet’s impact. The white and brown was stained with large red splotches.
His chest was still thumping and as the boom escaped the valley he lifted his face mask and turned his ear in that direction. Silence.
He clacked the bolt as softly as he could, tilting the rifle so the spent .30-06 casing popped into his mitten. A new cartridge with a dull copper head was cycled into the chamber. Henrik put the empty casing in his pocket, squeezing his mitten-clad hand around its warmth, feeling that warmth departing the brass body until it was cold, and enjoying that feeling.
He knew—rather his father had told him—that when you shoot an animal, you must sit still for as long as you can, and then for fifteen minutes more when you can’t.
When Henrik was young he hadn’t shot any deer. He was too quick to lift his face from the rifle when he pulled the trigger, involuntarily moving the barrel a few fractions of an inch that translated to wild bullets careening off rocks or into old stumps. It was important to follow through. This his father had told him too, many times before the hunting accident.
He was older now, and although he still had the same tic he learned to consciously fight it. If he wanted to see the animal dead, he would have to follow through. He smiled as he fingered the cold casing and thought about what his father would say if he could see him now. His son, a marksman. A deadeye. Of course, his father would have to be able to speak past the gaping hole blown through his throat by the mushrooming metal of the bullet. Henrik smirked at the thought of a rising admonition slipping out from the wound as his father’s mouth moved in wordless frustration. He hadn’t missed since the accident.
You had to sit still after the shot, even if you hit the vitals and had a blood trail ten inches wide. You had to stay put. Henrik knew his father was right. An animal knows it’s hurt, he told him, and it knows it’s dying. It just doesn’t know why. In the shocked silence after the trigger pull all it wants is to bed down in the nearest cover and curl up and hide. All you have to do is wait. But if it hears the snap of a branch or the crunch of the frozen topmost layer of snow, then it knows it’s being hunted and does what prey was born to do. It runs. Henrik remembered his father saying you’d be amazed how far an animal with both of its lungs shot out can go, and good luck finding it then, blood trail or not. He also remembered his father managing a few dozen yards; he had no trouble finding him.
It was a curious feeling, still, to think of it as the accident. The deliberate sighting, pause of breath, squeeze, explosion, impact, and the strange, wonderful feeling he felt watching his father fall, gurgle, fall again, and then crawl until he stopped crawling had all the indicia of purpose. But, when two walked in, and only one walked out, it was what the only one said it was. So it was the accident.
Henrik shouldered the rifle and climbed down from his treestand. In his white and grey bodysuit he was a ghost of the pale landscape. He walked over to the polluted snow and followed the stains and churned up leaves. There was a deadfall up ahead and he knew it would be tucked in there. It was a good shot. Pink, frothy blood. The lungs.
He stepped up the wall of broken, icy timber and, peeking over its edge, saw his prize. A man, about his father’s age, clad in a deer hunter’s safety orange vest and cap and curled up in a corner. His blank eyes stared as the blood pooling around his body began to freeze.
Henrik climbed down and walked around the deadfall, eager to get to the body before all of the warmth left it. When he turned the corner a gruff snort and a blur of brown startled him. He fumbled for his father’s rifle and raising it found himself sighted on a large, antlered buck, already halfway across the clearing from where it had been bedded down by the body. He pulled the trigger and raised his head expectantly. A distant tree limb exploded into cold splinters, and by the time he cycled another round the buck was gone.
As the echo of the shot fled the valley, Henrik thought he heard his father chuckle from behind him, making him feel slightly foolish.
Andrew Punzo lives near Newark, New Jersey and works in New York City. Andrew Punzo lives near Newark, New Jersey and works in New York City. His short fiction is forthcoming in Shadowy Natures, a psychological horror anthology from Dark Ink Books, and Breaking Rules Publishing’s Horror magazine. His short fiction has also appeared in Every Day Fiction, Tales From the Moonlit Path, and other venues.
You’ve been placed into this receptacle which will fill with water. Every droplet reveals a person whom you have hurt through your bad behavior. If you have led a good life, you will survive. If not, you will perish.
The first drops showed the images of his parents, siblings, and others that he recognized.
The water continued to rise as the faces of women, immigrant children, people of color, the elderly and homeless appeared.
“I don’t even know these people!” he yelled defiantly. “This is fake news! This is a hoax!”
Scarlet Berry is a Yooper. She’s been married forty years to the same man and they raised four children together. She is a mystery wrapped up in a conundrum, and loves to laugh; both evilly and happily.
Her Brother’s Keeper
It started after her little brother made a face at the witch in the woods. That night, drips from his nose plopped onto his dinner plate. He woke to find his pillow smudged with his right ear. His shoes could not contain his feet, which oozed out between the laces. Eventually his sister found an old rusty bucket in the garage and helped her brother pour himself into it. Now she drops his food into the liquid and watches it disappear, in between the hours she sits at the computer, searching the web for a way to break the curse.
Check out her website, JessicaLevai.com, for links and more.
I would prefer not to do this. I don’t know you well, but that doesn’t make this more morally right. You’re not bound to show mercy only to those you like. I have talked with you now. You don’t talk to beef cattle.
But this is a jungle. If I turn back, a hundred heads peek forth, a hundred eyes glow beneath the leaves. You are going to be someone’s meal, perhaps before nightfall. Why should I deny myself that little shot of energy? The others might hurt you more before it is over.
It might as well be me.
Christina was born 1982 in Sweden, but live in the United Kingdom since 2001. Currently, she works in HR at Cadbury outside Birmingham, and live with a husband and two cats. She has a PhD in Classics and Ancient History from the University of Manchester.
Her first success as a writer was going to the semi-finals in the Swedish televised writing competition Slutet på historien (“End of Story”), aired on SVT in 2007. Since then, she has published approximately ten short stories in various venues, most recently the one-sentence short story “Rowena” in Swedish horror anthology Berättelser från bårhuset (Swedish Zombie, 2019). She also dabbles in game development and visual arts.
A Head Start On Forgiveness
“Forgive me father for I have sinned”
“I know it’s only been a week since my last confession…” she paused, “But I’ve killed. Again.”
Shuddering she remembered the blood. It had been everywhere this time.
“I’ve told you before Susanne. The church doesn’t recognize killing an animal in your other form as the taking of a life.”
“When I shifted back I knew what I was doing. I enjoyed it. “
“Are you worried you’ll repeat your actions?”
“Father. You don’t get it.” She snarled, “I wasn’t asking for forgiveness. I was trying to give you a head start.”
As you can find Stuart’s bio on the majority of the posts on Horror Tree it felt like a good time to discuss something extremely important to him.
Tacos may very well be the perfect food delivery. It is handheld, portable, and can include any kind of food in it.
Not only that, but they’re super tasty.
So, do yourself a favor, go get yourself some tacos today. MMMM
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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 and Reborn, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused. Her novel, The Woodcutter, is due for release via Brigids Gate Press in 2023. 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 is an active member of the HWA and can be found at https://stephanieellis.org, on Twitter at @el_stevie, Instagram stephanieellis7963 and also somewhere on Facebook.