Trembling With Fear 07/24/2022
Hello to you, brave creators. How are you doing? Here in London we’ve just had the hottest day ever recorded, and watching all the wildfires breaking out made me remember summers back home in Australia. There’s nothing quite like the smell of smoke on the horizon to yank you back to previous lives.
So I’ve been doing a lot of staying inside, sitting right in front of a fan (no aircon here!), and trying to make sure the bunny survives the heat. She did so well; as the weather broke last night, I sat with her watching my guilty pleasure TV (ahem, Supernatural) and pretended all was ok with the world.
A few days earlier, as the heat cranked up, I spent time on Zoom running some workshops on the art of the drabble. I find the teeny tiny stories are such a great way to hone my craft, to learn to make the hard edits, to spark creativity and curiosity. So, I brought that curiosity to my writing community at the London Writers’ Salon. I had more than 30 writers sit with me to examine some published drabbles (a few from this very publication, of course!), and to then work from visual prompts to create our own. Not everyone went dark – we even had some erotica! – but those that did have been encouraged to submit to Trembling With Fear.
You see, we have a never-ending hunger for drabbles and short stories, and I’d personally love to see what you all have in you, deep down in that dark place you don’t like to show too often. Tap into it. Let it all spill out. Then let me see the proceeds… <insert evil laugh>
Let’s take a look at those who have come before: This week’s short story sees Eric Fomley take us to the trees and the revolution with a tale of friendship gone awry.
For the quick bites, we have three delicious offerings:
- Emma E Murray’s Postpartum is simply heartbreaking
- Cursed Heart by Don Money warns us to treat our elders well, and
- Luminous Darkness by Catherine Berry will have you checking the dark corners twice
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.
I am on a quick vacation this week! Visiting a friend who I used to visit yearly and *waves hand in the air* it’s been a couple of years. So this one will be short and sweet. Not much in the way of updates, more in the way of reminders.
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 ***5*** subscribers away from hitting our current goal for the Horror Tree’s YouTube channel at the time of writing this! 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.
Infiltration, by Eric Fomley
“Javier should’ve been back by now,” Stu says. He’s sitting on the ground with his rifle on his lap, picking grime from under his fingernails.
I shoulder mine and use the scope to scan the tree line again, the edge of Mech territory. I think I spot movement in the trees but I’m pretty sure it’s just the thrum of my pulse behind my eyes. Sneaking into Mech territory always turns my nerves to shit.
“He probably got lost,” I say, but I know that’s not true. We’ve crossed this section of trees into Mech territory a dozen times. We always go one at a time, grab what supplies we can for the Resistance from the old city, and come straight back.
“Maybe something happened,” Stu says, voice flat.
I’m thinking of a retort when I see a figure emerge from the trees. I focus in with the scope. It’s Javier.
“Here he is,” I say.
Stu grabs his rifle and uses the stock to levy himself to his feet. We both aim down sights while Stu makes the two tone whistling noise that we’d made our signal. If all’s clear Javier will return it in the opposite order.
But Javier keeps walking toward us, same pace, and no whistle.
“Maybe he didn’t hear,” I say.
Stu takes his left hand from the rifle’s under-barrel and cups it around his lips, whistling louder.
My chest tightens. “Why isn’t he giving it back?”
“Like I said, something’s not right,” he says.
“Try it one more time,” I say. My palms are sweaty, my finger hovers by the trigger guard.
“I think you and I both know what happens next,” Stu says.
“Come on, man, he’s our buddy. Just try it.”
Stu licks his lips and gives it the final try. Javier is in eyeshot now, advancing toward us, and looking right at me.
“Come on, Javier,” I call, “you better not be fucking with us. Just give us the damn signal.”
He doesn’t. I grit my teeth. But before I can open my mouth to say another word Stu squeezes the trigger. A three round burst rips through the air. Javier falls on his face.
“No, damn it!” I scream. I don’t have my ear protection on and my eardrums ring.
I jog over to where Javier lies, jam my boot under his shoulder and roll him over. Dull, artificial eyes stare up from fabricated skin. Sparks fly from the hole Stu put in the middle of its chest. The hairs on the back of my neck raise and a chill courses through my body. Stu’s eyes meet mine.
“It’s a replica,” he says, “an infiltration Mech.”
Tears blur my vision as I look at the tree line through my scope again. Dozens of Mechs sprint from the trees. Fast.
Faster than we can run.
Eric Fomley’s stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Daily Science Fiction, and Galaxy’s Edge. More of his stories can be read at ericfomley.com.
Out the window, I watch the water darken from turquoise to cobalt. Through the windshield, sunlight dances on the surface above us. Shadows ripple across the hood as we sink. Darkness envelops us. The water rushes in whispers through every crack.
Linda is screaming in the backseat, snot running down her tiny face, flailing in the car seat. I hush her, finger to my lips, watching in the rearview mirror. I can’t bring myself to turn around.
I’m sorry. I just couldn’t do it any longer.
Hands calmly on the steering wheel, I sigh and wait for the impending silence.
Emma E Murray
Emma E. Murray writes horror and dark speculative fiction. Her stories can be found in anthologies like “What One Wouldn’t Do” and both Hundred Word Horror “The Deep” and “Beneath.” Her stories have appeared, or are forthcoming, in magazines such as Vastarien and Pyre. Find out more at her website EmmaEMurray.com or follow her on Twitter @EMurrayAuthor
I never should have teased the old homeless lady.
“Life is hard enough without you reminding me of my place in it,” she said.
I never should have laughed at her when she told me she was a witch.
She glared, “You shouldn’t affront powers you don’t understand.”
I never should have pushed her down when she said she would curse me.
“Your heart,” she said, “wants to be free of the cruel body it’s trapped in.”
Here I lie in bed, I can feel my heart scratching its way out from the inside. Soon it will claw itself free.
Don Money enjoys writing short fiction in a variety of genres. He is a middle school teacher who brings his love of reading and writing into his classroom for his students every day. He has had stories published in two anthologies. He can be found on Twitter @donmoneywriting or through email [email protected].
Air tasting of sweet despair promising something delicious draws him to the dilapidated shed; the smell a rich, tangy iron. A child stares; injured, starving, but unafraid. Death perfumes her skin. Her smile is luminous.
Whimsically charmed, laughing, he spares her.
Her memory lingers, unshakable and bright. Untapped potential or tantalizing morsel, he wonders.
Distantly she dreams of her family; screams, wet tearing, sharp cracking. She senses him in the dark, heavy and cloying.
Something warm and slithery, rich and tangy, slides down her throat. Bit by bit she feels stronger, better. Opening crimson eyes that mirror his, she smiles.
Catherine Berry loves whimsy, potatoes, and singing with her dog. Her work has been published in several Trembling With Fear Anthologies & The Trench Coat Chronicles. More of her work can be found at www.caterinaberyl.blogspot.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.