I thought I was on holiday but so far I think I’ve been working harder than I do in my day job! Firstly, Trembling With Fear. A little while ago, the always supportive (although occasionally scary) Kim Plasket asked about themes for TWF. We do have calls out for Halloween and Christmas on our submissions page and this year we also had Valentine and Easter specials – these were included pretty much on the hoof. Anyway, talking about it with Kim, we mulled over a summer holiday themed submission call and I was going to start asking people to send in their vampire bucket and spade stories or zombies vs lifeguards or whatever beach type horror you could come up with. Then I realised the snag. Unlike last year, we have now scheduled a number of stories in advance so any summer stories might not get published until the depths of winter which isn’t our intention. So, regardless of any ongoing submissions for TWF bear in mind you can submit for the following ‘specials’:
Summer Fun(!) – for publication next year. Something for you to work on during long winter nights.
Although there are reading dates given in the submission page for the first two calls, I am more than happy to receive them before these dates. If you want to submit work for any of these calls, please indicate it in your email subject line, eg TWF Submission – Halloween. The usual guidelines apply.
If anybody has any ideas for other themed specials they’d like us to do, just get in touch. If we get a large enough number of submissions for the specials, they will probably have their own separate anthology.
On another note, I came across this tweet from TWF Contributor Douglas Prince (@darkness_doug) the other day and it made me smile.
#writingtips The use of proper spacing is essential for proper comprehension. It’s the difference between saying: a bigfoot is a legend, or saying: a big foot is a leg end.
I could do with more writing tips like these. Does anybody have any more? Send in your favourites.
Dark is my Playground is something else I’ve been working on over the past few days. It is a compilation of dark verse and nursery rhymes (a labour of love!), a mixture of published and unpublished verse which has been lurking in a folder for a long time. I finally plucked up the courage today and put it up on amazon at https://amzn.to/2mJEQIq (UK) or https://amzn.to/2OjEPY3 (US). It’s only available in Kindle format for the moment but I hope to look at sorting a print copy in a few weeks when less pressured. The aim for me was to actually press publish – it took a lot for me to go ahead, that horrible old self-doubt really holds you back at times. Although I have had work published it’s always been with the comfort blanket of being surrounded by others in the anthologies and magazines. To step out on my own is, for me, pretty daunting. Should you take a look at it, it’d be great to get some feedback.
Now I’ve got to go back to a certain little editing job I’m carrying out for The Infernal Clock. Our DeadCades anthology (horror stories for every decade) is on track and features a number of TWF writers, only a couple of stories left to look at but all is good. I’ll have to write a guest post about that at some point and you’ll be able to spot a few of TWF’s usual suspects in its lineup.
Just remembered there’s also a submission call whose closing date is 29th July which I wanted to go for …
Did I say I was on holiday?
‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.
Agnes And Cat
With the soft click of the back door, Agnes grinned as she turned to face the undergrowth. The thick twist of decaying trees lay beneath her at the bottom of the garden stairs. However, the dark swamp didn’t deter her. Gathering up her skirts, Agnes descended the stone stairs, the palms of her feet rubbing against the fuzzy moss. With every step, Agnes slipped into the dark, the thin fingers of the tree branches reaching out to her until the cool, dark forest encased her.
The branches twisted and interlocked above her, smothering the grey sun and curving upwards like a dome that only a child such as she could fit through. Immune against fear, Agnes took another step, feeling the soft, black soil between her toes.
She found them at the centre, gathering at the peak of the domes, like pink, white and blue stars in a black sky. They squeaked with glee when they saw her, their wings easing them down to her level. They carried tiny lanterns, flowers and pieces of fruit. Their tiny exoskeletons barely able to carry such items. Agnes could see their smiles, the tiny lines on their thumb-size faces sparkling with an innocent beauty.
Agnes grinned at the fae, their stick-like figures dancing like dandelions in a soft breeze. Her grin faded as two tiny yellow dots protruding from a mound of soft moss. Humming in curiosity, Agnes slid her foot towards towards the mound, slowing her pace as it scampered back against the wall of the dome. The fae squealed and dived down towards her skirts, pulling at the hem in an attempt to steal her away. As she reached the cloak of moss, they retreated to the top of the dome, watching as Agnes bent down to level herself with the glowing, yellow cat-like eyes.
She reached out to pinch its moss coat, revealing its silky face and squashed nose. It dug its head back into the moss, frightened of the child and ashamed of its grey, matted skin of fur.
“It’s okay,” Agnes whispered,
With a low groan, it pushed forward, the moss sliding from its body like a snakeskin. The tiny fae squealed as it grew in height, the top of it’s fuzzy head brushing against the dome, standing several inches taller than Agnes with his sleek, muscular legs. Its long arms started at its hunched shoulder and ended near it’s large, furry feet. The fae retreated upon view of the creature, disappearing into the undergrowth with their gifts and light.
Agnes ignored them, reaching to take hold of the creature’s plate-sized hand, barely able to wrap her hand around one of its clawed fingers. Its eyes glowed in the surrounding darkness, staring down at her as she smiled until it dared to smile back, convinced that it would not frighten her with it’s long teeth.
Agnes buried herself in her covers, curling into a tight ball as the noise continued to fill the house like toxic gas. She couldn’t retreat into the forest as her parents blocked her path, their battle taking place at the bottom of the stairs. Agnes pressed the covers against her ears, the all too familiar crunch and snapping of knuckles against flesh causing her skin to shiver.
The bed beneath her began to shake, her parent’s rage and violence seeping up from downstairs. Agnes whimpered as the bed rattled her like a doll in an earthquake, tossing her from the safety of her covers and onto the hard-wooden floor. Agnes sobbed as she landed, ignoring the pain as a thick darkness oozed out from beneath her bed. A pair of oval, blood-shot eyes immerged, glaring at her with a wicked intention. Two pairs of thin, skeleton-like hands protruded from the darkness that stuck to the fae like a habit. Agnes screamed and pushed herself backwards using the heel of her foot until she slammed into the bookshelf. Her parents didn’t hear her screams, too consumed in their hate to bother with their daughter. Agnes dipped her head, pressing her nose in-between her knees as the growling mixed with the screams from downstairs.
“Cat!” Agnes wailed,
With a sharp bang, the window to Agnes’ bedroom flung open, the room trembling as Cat dived through. His claws ran along the floorboards as he landed, his roar overpowering that of the fae beneath the bed. Agnes felt like a precious jewel hiding in Cat’s shadow, her protector now fully grown, reaching almost six-foot. His arms bore long drapes of fur, like blankets attached to his forearms. His teeth remained the same, finger-length and aimed directly at the threat. The beast screeched and scampered back beneath the bed, leaving only the screaming banter downstairs to seep up through Agnes’ floorboards.
Agnes held her arms up for Cat, feeling the hard floor disappear beneath her as he gathered her into his embrace like a newborn infant. The screams from downstairs continued to plague her, causing her stomach to turn. She hid by gathering Cat’s arm drapes and placing them over her head and body. Cat smiled, rising to his feet to level himself with the bookshelf.
“Agnes, can you read me something?” Cat asked,
Agnes wiped her eyes before running them along the mostly empty shelf, fixating onto a book she had never read but always admired the cover. She pointed her index finger towards it, prompting Cat to sheath it from the shelf.
“I haven’t read it yet,” she mumbled,
“We can do it together,” Cat said, turning over the cover,
The book dropped from Cat’s hand as a violent pop blew the oxygen from the air. Several more followed like a firework show, the noise making Agnes scream into Cat’s shoulder. The shots faded into silence, the smell of death wafting from downstairs into Agnes’ nose.
“What was that?” Agnes whimpered,
Cat bent down, dropping Agnes before he lunged towards the bedroom door, dragging Agnes’ dresser across the floor. His five-foot-long arms clenched as he pulled the dresser in front of the door, growling with determination until the only entrance to the room was secured. Agnes held her breath, her heart pulsing in her throat as Cat heaved with exhaustion, his figure stretching taller to Agnes as she remained trembling on the floor. Agnes shivered as Cat’s yellow eyes widened, the thick hair on his back standing at attention.
“Agnes, you need to call for help,” he said.
One thing Agnes liked about funerals were the bells in the church. They were monstrously large, yet soft, their singing smothering conversation and giving her something to wonder at so people wouldn’t talk to her.
However, Agnes was lost interest in the bells, her attention fawning for the coffin. She hadn’t heard of a mortician until her first funeral, but she hadn’t decided that it was a profession built on lies until that afternoon. There was a man inside her father’s casket that Agnes didn’t recognise. His skin was tanned and blemish-free, his eyes glued closed to hide the pale blue and blood red behind them. He wore a fine suit instead of a shirt stained with alcohol and a pair of loose pants. The blazer of the suit even covered the bullet hole in his chest. The fine looking, middle-aged man in the coffin was, to Agnes, an imposter.
Fear kept a tight grip on Agnes, even as Cat stood beside her staring into the box. To Agnes’ surprise, he didn’t attract any attention whatsoever, it was as if he wants even there. She began to shake, the depth of death still a foreign aspect to her.
“What’s the matter?” Cat asked,
“When he gets up, he’ll be mad,” Agnes replied, “he’ll be really mad,”
Agnes dipped her chin down towards her chest, tears flowing onto her black blouse as she choked on her sobs. Cat placed his arm around Agnes, squeezing her opposite shoulder she leaned her into his warm, fuzzy neck.
Her tears attracted attention, her parent’s elderly landlord hobbling over to her as if the murky scent fed a strange addiction. She pulled a clean, white handkerchief from her purse, leaning down as she held it out to Agnes.
“It’s alright, dear,” she said, “God’s with him now,”
Agnes gaped at the handkerchief. She snatched it from the woman before crushing it into her palm, tossing it to the floor. The woman’s ignorance appalled her, the expression of shock on her face only fuelling Agnes’ bitterness.
“God doesn’t exist, stupid,” she spat,
With the wind at her heels, Agnes stormed from the church, the burning summer sun blinding her as she stormed from the veranda. She retreated into the shadows of the bell towers, Cat joining her once she collapsed against the wall.
“Don’t worry,” Cat said, “They’re burying him underground, they’ll probably only bring him back up for meals,”
Agnes sniffed and sunk sideways into Cat’s embrace, hiding inside his drapes as she cried into his shoulder. He stroked her back as he squeezed her tightly, rocking her back and forth,
“It’s okay,” he said,
Agnes sniffed, wiping her eyes with her knuckles before looking up to Cat, his yellow eyes gentle and thin.
“I love you, Cat,” Agnes said,
“I love you too,” Cat replied,
The funeral bells tolled a second time as Agnes wrapped herself deeply into Cat’s warm embrace. She pondered whether her mother would be coming back, the men and women in blue that took her didn’t seem too pleased with her. She knew the violence, and the negativity wouldn’t keep the trees from sprouting past the garden anymore. She wondered if flowers would grow if the soil would be rich after detoxing from the sickening toxicity of the house. Agnes wasn’t sure if she truly did want her mother back since she had Cat to protect her from the dark fae of the forest and the monster she’d continue to fear, no matter how deep she buried him.
Claire L. Smith
Claire L. Smith is an author, poet, screenwriter and artist. Her work has been previously published with my poetry and stories being featured in Death and The Maiden, Horror Scribes, Mookychick, Luna Luna Magazine, Rag Queens Periodical and more. She is also a writer/columnist with the horror-culture website Morbidly Beautiful, a Representative for the not-for-profit organisation Spreading The Love and enjoys spending her time looking through animal rescue sites and watching American Horror Story.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: https://smithlclaire.wixsite.com/author
The smell jolted him from sleep, acrid and dense. Smoke filled the room, gathering above like great dark clouds. The house was on fire! He panicked, the door wasn’t the best escape, the smoke seemed heavier in that direction. Frantically, he ran toward the window, hands shaking, throwing back curtains and ripping the blinds out of the way. He faced a concrete wall, where was the window? He clawed at it as the room was fully engulfed. The aliens nodded to each other, checking boxes of different human reactions, “What do you think? Murder or drowning for the next one?”
M.T. Moos is an aquatic microbiology professor by trade and an aspiring writer and potter. Her passions include science fiction and the strange. When she isn’t working, she can be found playing with mud and creating functional earthenware pottery while contemplating new story ideas.
Damned In The Dark
The bounty hunter stepped into the alley. He switched on night vision in his helmet and gripped the blaster close to his chest. His power armor glowed crimson in the darkness.
The gangster transported into the alley, henchmen materialized on either of his sides.
“Heard you’ve been looking for me?” The hunter asked.
“There’s a target I need taken care of. She’s the leader of the White Suns. The usual fee.”
The bounty hunter leveled his blaster and blew a hole in the gangster’s face, then shot the henchmen in quick succession.
“Sorry boss, White Suns doubled the ‘usual’ fee.”
Eric S. Fomley
Eric S. Fomley writes Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror short fiction. He is the editor of Martian Magazine and the Timeshift and Drabbledark anthologies. His work has appeared in various venues including previous publications with Trembling with Fear. You can follow his publication on his website ericfomley.com
I knew I was dreaming. It was the same as it always was. I was being chased through the woods by the man from my nightmares. My heart pounded, and I could smell the pine trees. Except this time, sick of running, I stood to fight. And fight we did. He kicked and screamed, cursed and yelled as my fingers closed around his throat and I choked the life right out of him.
I wake suddenly, out of breath, and look at my darling wife lying beside me. She was dead, the life choked right out of her.
C.M. Saunders is a freelance journalist and editor from Wales. His work has appeared in over 60 magazines, ezines and anthologies worldwide, including Loaded, Maxim, Record Collector, Fortean Times, Fantastic Horror, Trigger Warning, Liquid imagination, Crimson Streets and the Literary Hatchet. His books have been both traditionally and independently published, the most recent being Human Waste and X3, his third collection of short fiction, both of which are available now on Deviant Dolls Publications.
Find out more on his website:
Red Was His Colour
Red was his colour. Red rags, red mist, red-handed. Dawn had worn his brand for years on her crimson-slashed back and maroon-masked stomach, a heart in a bruise, bleeding. She longed for a change, anything to wash away the stain. She preferred ivory, its cold tone, its sense of peace; the grave-bound bones of the babies she had denied him wore this shade. Dawn made his new bed alongside them, earthy and shallow, ready for him to lie in it. She poured him a glass of his favourite red and added granules of ivory. A poisonous combination. Like their marriage.
Stephanie Ellis writes speculative fiction stories which have found success in a variety of horror magazines and anthologies. Her first novella, Domnuill-dhu has recently been published in Dark Chapter Press’s Bloody Heather anthology. She is also co-editor at The Infernal Clock and at Trembling with Fear, the online magazine branch of Horror Tree (the online writer’s resource). She is currently awaiting decisions from publishers following submission of a novel and a novella.
Samples of her writing can be found on http://stephellis.weebly.com/