Trembling With Fear 07/25/21
Please note: We are temporarily closed to short flash stories (unless for one of the Specials) but open to drabbles, unholy trinities and serials. We hope to reopen later in the year once we have caught up with the publication of those already accepted.
As we continue to bask in the glow of summer (poetic version) or melt in the pressure cooker (reality), life has taken a tiny step forward. If you live across the border in England that is, where some restrictions have been lifted. Here in Wales we have to wait a bit longer. And even then, some things will remain for the duration of the pandemic.
Regardless of the politics and personal views on the matter, I think looking back over the behaviour of both government and individuals will certainly feed into the stories we write. To be restricted in what you do, where you go, who you can see, touch, hug is a degree of micro-management of personal life I never thought we’d experience. Writers and poets have a part to play in exploring and developing these themes, holding up examples of ‘what if’ for society to consider and use as a challenge to the law-makers, ensure that what we are told to do is for a genuine reason and not dictatorship by the back door.
Writers – authors, poets, journalists – are dangerous creatures, it’s why many non-democratic governments imprison them on trumped up charges. Writers have a place as social commentators and freedom fighters as well as entertainers. And genre writers, especially horror, hold a unique place in that they can really dig deep into the psyche and explore the darkness that could so easily erupt in a world of ‘what if’. Use your anger, your frustrations to birth a story and give the world a wake-up call.
There have been people asking if books set in a pandemic will be popular, will people read them. I’ve not been put off. But in particular, I think there will be a growth in dystopian literature as we try to work out exactly how we feel about this lived experience and what we can or can’t tolerate, the polarisation of views, the censorship and self-censorship of speech. Life has become a tightrope and I think horror writers are perfectly poised to explore this world of extremes. I love dystopian work and it would be great to see a touch more at TWF.
The first story in this week’s Trembling with Fear is The House of Dennis Eath by Tom Hook. I’m glad my experiences of house buying did not feature a character such as Mr. Eath and I don’t think I’d have signed on the dotted line but sometimes the price is just too good. Or is it? Lovely chill in the last sentences directing the reader to think only one thing.
Desert Vengeance by Ken MacGregor is a great story for this heatwave – or not, if you consider the consequences. Nicely brutal.
Kraken by Elyse Russell paints a picture of roiling ocean life, some great imagery here.
When Darkness Falls by Dee Grimes brings us another monster of the deep. Terrific description of the creature also shows its intent – without telling. Lovely.
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
This week, we’re trying something new on our newsletter! I’m trying to step back a bit in preparation for having help for it while I’m away for a couple of weeks coming up. So, Holley Cornetto will have written this one and it’s worth checking out! (She’ll be doing a few of the upcoming ones as well!)
All of this year’s Trembling With Fear copies are now available both in physical and digital format which you can find below! Please, if you’ve ordered these or previous installments, do leave a review on Amazon!
The House of Dennis Eath by Tom Hooke
Mr Dennis Eath had been kind enough to tell me about the murder that had taken place in his house long before he’d put it up for sale. The wispy strands of grey hair that entwined five or six centimetres down from his chin bounced jovially as he spoke of the mystery. Like strings, to which no puppet was attached. Never having been one for ghost stories, I found the man’s pathetic little beard more interesting than his tale. But I let him get on with it, conscious of the fact that any rude interruption might cause him to up the price from its current (and uncommonly reasonable) standing.
It was a large space, the house, with an equally large garden. Plenty big enough for my wife, Kate, and I to raise Marlo and Elsa, our children.
My family had been unnerved by Mr Eath from the moment his spindly fingers crept around the frame of the front door. His mannerisms were affectionate in a way we found disturbing. To give you an insight, Mr Eath dropped his handkerchief whilst giving us a tour of the living room (remarkably spacious, so it was), and when Marlo picked it up for him, Mr Eath felt the need to bend down, place a frail hand on my boy’s forearm, and tell him: “You’re a gentleman.”
The eight-year-old pulled away, shaken. I gathered as much from the fearful look in his eyes, and his inability to stop rubbing the contaminated forearm when Mr Eath wasn’t looking. I was also told I was a “gentleman”, with just as much gruff emphasis, on two occasions: Once when I held a door open for Mr Eath, and again for offering to take his empty teacup from him and place it on a nearby table. On neither occasion, did I feel a gentleman; more a vagabond.
It was toward the end of our negotiations that Mr Eath told us of the murder. Myself and Kate were chatting with him in the kitchen, whilst Marlo and Elsa enjoyed the garden, which bore the fruits of a good spring making way for an even better summer. Allegedly, the owners before the owners before Mr Eath were a man and woman, and, later, just a man. Grown tired, had this man, of his wife, and one day killed her. Then, one night, buried her. Her remains were rumoured to be beneath the property somewhere.
“A ghost”, Eath told us. He claimed never to have seen her, “but, oh yes, she’s still here. I reckon her body’s in that garden,” he smiled, nodding towards the wooden decking where the children were playing. “Sometimes, I hear her knocking.”
Telling us such a story before I’d signed on the dotted line wasn’t the most effective business manoeuvre I’ve ever been swindled by, but the offer was too good to pass up on. And, as I said, I did not believe in ghosts. I left my signature right below the seller’s, which, I noticed, read, ‘D.Eath’, in some sumptuous font.
Thankfully, that had been the final dealing we’d had with Mr Eath. A month later we moved into our new home.
Early one evening that same summer, my perception on ghost stories altered. Marco had been creating an incessant racket. He was sat on the decking at the far end of the garden, tapping his shoes. The echoes worked their way into the house, weaving past furniture and through doorways, disrupting my wife’s reading. So, she asked me to go outside to tell our youngest to be quiet.
He sat there in a camping chair, reclined slightly, holding one of his comic books. He stopped the banging as I approached, his foot teasing just above the decking.
“Marlo, everyone can hear you stomping on the floor,” I said.
“She started it!” the boy protested.
I had hoped that, by this time, he’d have stopped taking me for a fool.
“Elsa is sleeping at Ellie’s tonight, Marlo. She’s no –’
“Not Elsa,” was all he said.
His response was corroborated by a much harder, much more vicious banging noise. From beneath the decking.
Tom Hooke is a Construction Project Management student from Leicester, England. He won his first writing competition when he was eight, and had his first short story published before finishing primary school. Before starting University, he began dedicating more time to the craft, his most recent success being the flash fiction story he wrote, which a website uploaded to their page earlier last year. If he’s not studying, reading or working on his writing, he’ll be in the gym – unless it’s cheat day, in which case he’ll be in his room, waiting for his takeaway to be delivered.
He is not on much social media, but his LinkedIn is linked here:(5) Tom Hooke | LinkedIn
The sun is overhead, too bright in his eyes. He’d close them if he could. They’re painfully dry. Still, he could see movement peripherally.
The shuffle-scrape of talons against the sand grates against his eardrums. Vulture. The word inspires revulsion. Sounds vile, like throwing up.
The bird —big— leans over, cocking its head to regard him with one eye, blocking the sun.
Sweat soaks his armpits and groin, pooling between shoulder blades. The paralytic is just wearing off.
Lightning-quick, the bird plucks out his right eye.
Finding his voice, he screams, scaring the vulture away.
It comes back. And feeds.
Ken MacGregor writes stuff.
He has two story collections, an award-winning young adult novella, and a co-written novel. He regularly contributes to HorrorTree. Ken has curated two anthologies.
When not writing, Ken drives the bookmobile for his local library. He lives with his kids, two cats, and the ashes of his wife.
When her eyes opened for the first time in thousands of years, vibrations ripped through the sea. Rogue waves swallowed ships, and chasms opened into black, gaping maws. Fish and whales danced in pain and fear as she unfurled. Over her head hung a maelstrom; beneath her body lay the ruins of Atlantis. Their citizens had paid the price when last she rose. Now, her wrath was tenfold. Divers had interrupted her sleep. She reached her terrible arms to the submersibles and wrapped them round thrice. She crushed them and pushed off the sea floor. Time to surface and destroy.
Elyse Russell is a writer who enjoys working on short stories, poetry, and graphic novel scripts. Look for her on Twitter at @ElyseRussell13 (BraveLittleTeapotThoughts).
When Darkness Falls
Under a jetty where the waters teem with murk; patiently, I wait. I’m as wide as the jetty is long, my skin viscous, and my serrated tongue is stained with remnants of organs. My suckers are clogged with shredded bone and slowly decaying flesh−some of it, my own.
When dusk settles over the placid expanse my tentacles pulse with hunger. And I listen for the fall of unwary feet, as they tread the worn slats of wood, my eyes blinking rapidly, under scaly hoods. When the lake’s surface breaks from an exuberant dive, my belly ripples with excitement−supper has arrived.
Dee is from Barbados and writes poetry and stories featuring humorous, dark or social themes. Her work has been featured in ArtsEtc Winning Words publications and in the “Beneath” anthology by Ghost Orchid Press. She can be found on Twitter as @DHGrimesbb
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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.