Trembling With Fear 08/02/20
August already, and I know many are beginning the countdown to Halloween. Me? I prefer to hang on to the summer vibes a bit longer as August is my one month of the year of ‘freedom’. I’ve just been on a very short visit to Shropshire and Wales to visit family. Surreal seeing Mum and Dad and not being able to hug them, they made up for it by giving us cake! Over in Wales we were unable to visit my mother-in-law due to the first reported instance of covid in her care home. They are back in lockdown but we are keeping quietly optimistic as they have been so good in controlling things in the home. We were also able to have a socially distanced meetup with my sister-in-law and wife-to-be on the seafront. A bit breezy but a nice catchup.
I’m still reading – after all that’s the best way to learn to write, isn’t it? You can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader. I finished The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones whilst in Wales, it was raining so what else could I do? It took me a little while to get into but worth it in the end. I’ve also read 324 Abercorn by Mark Allen Gunnells which is a great ‘feel-good’ horror and I’m halfway through Relics by Tim Lebbon. After that I hope to make a dent in my ebook TBR pile where I have Catherine McCarthy’s Door and Other Twisted Tales collection waiting for me amongst others. Give Catherine a read if you get a chance, she is one of the terrific authors in the charity anthology Diabolica Britannica. So much reading, so much learning!
Charity Spot. The charity anthology, We are Wolves, is due for publication in the autumn. Raising profits for money to help survivors of sexual abuse, it has been collated by Gemma Amor and Laurel Hightower and will be published by Cina Pelayo of Burial Day press. With a cast of names including those just mentioned as well as Hailey Piper, V. Castro, Samantha Kolesnik, Sadie Hartmann and so many others of that calibre, it’ll be one to watch out for.
If you want to find other great books to read, remember to check out the reviews on Horror Tree itself.
Very Short Story Time! It seems the very short story slot has caught on! Remember this is very much a ‘just for fun’ section. We have a few for you this week:
Will H. Blackwell Jr.
I was smitten!—her radiance concealing the feathers and talons—until, she took flight.
“I was playing in the sunlit attic studio when I smelled smoke.”
Birthright by Steven Holding
Twilight. Dogfight. Bad bite. Take flight. Not alright. Night-time. Bright moonlight. Skin-tight! Frightening sight!
Now to the meat of TWF. Our first story this week in Trembling With Fear is Happy Meal by Tiffany Michelle Brown. Envisage a creature dining out, sucking up their favourite drink, enjoying their food – but what are they eating or drinking? The sense of taste is fully engaged in this particular tale, not just examining the flavour of the food itself but its seasonings, its emotions. All of this heightens the dining sensation, human weakness and human frailty become a distinctive bouquet. Taste is an underused sense in writing and it’s nice to see it take centre stage here, alongside that of smell – a change from sight and sound.
Mind Movie by G.A. Miller gets into the head of a writer and a reader. This is actually me as a reader, seeing that movie in my head, the words disappearing from the page. But hopefully not with the same outcome!
Time for Change by Radar DeBoard brings your sins chasing after you. Playing on a persons’s guilt can manifest itself in so many ways.
Victim by R.J. Meldrum turns an apparent stalker situation on its head. Using standard tropes and then a little twist and you get a completely different outlook.
Enjoy the stories and send us yours!
I am super thrilled to say that we’ve got the artwork for Trembling With Fear fully figured out, we’ve just got a few minor manuscript changes to make and I believe that the preview copies will be ordered. For once, I think this process might have ACTUALLY HAPPENED before this update has gone out. I can’t even express how excited I am that we’ll finally be moving forward here.
Moving on with good news, while our YouTube still doesn’t have someone who has volunteered to help us out, we do have someone who may soon be helping out with our Instagram. More on that soon!
Finally, we have a new Patreon and are SO close to our next target goal. It may be a few months away still but we’re closing in (and can, I think, start fulfilling some of it soon!)
Thank you all, each and every one of you! I hope you enjoy today’s fiction and if you’re digging anything in particular please do leave a comment!
Happy Meal by Tiffany Michelle Brown
She watched the two men fumble with the body the way high school boys grapple with bra hooks—nervous and tepid at first and then with a strange, uninhibited abandon. The men had approached the corpse with slow, careful steps and copious swearing; now, they crouched on their haunches and hovered over its head, breathing in death and trying to figure out what the hell had happened to their friend.
One of the uniforms lifted a dead wrist with a ballpoint pen. Gravity took hold, and the limb flopped to the pavement like a beached fish.
“Leave it, Stevens.” It was the tall blond one with a square jaw and bowed legs. The thing in the bushes breathed in his delectable scent—expensive bamboo linens, passionate lust, the orangey balm of self-confidence, a sprinkling of good luck clover. It took exceptional restraint for her to keep her fangs sheathed. She chewed and sucked on the straw between her lips, savoring the scarce, albeit satisfying remnants of her last meal, which the uniforms were now inspecting. The dead man’s happiness had been delicious.
“We should call this in, Briggs.” The other one. Baby-faced, dark hair, an impressive build. Unlike his partner, he smelled foul—like crisp divorce papers and hot plastic, a credit card swiped much too often, an endless line of zeroes. And could she detect a whiff of porn addiction?
“He was one of us,” Briggs said. “You want lab coats crawling all over him and then keeping their secrets because of bullshit department protocol?”
Stevens shrugged his meaty shoulders.
The monster in the bushes shook her heads in disappointment. What a waste. He’d be a spectacular snack if only all that human meat were seasoned with vacations to Tahiti and financial stability and less self-loathing…
“If this were me on the sidewalk,” Briggs said, rising to his feet, “I’d want us to take a crack at figuring it out, not them.” He ran a hand through his hair and moved toward the dead man’s shiny, black shoes.
“He’s awfully pale, like he’s been drained or something,” Stevens said.
All eight of the monster’s eyes widened and she could feel her hearts beating all in different, stunted, terrified rhythms. Perhaps she’d underestimated the foul-smelling one.
“He’s dead, you idiot. Dead bodies go cold and pasty. No one stays rosy.”
“I’m just saying.”
“Look for something helpful.”
The monster relaxed and continued to gnaw thoughtfully. The dead man’s blood was gone from the straw, but the habitual motion of chewing kept her calm.
“There’s, um…” Stevens started and then stopped.
Briggs peered up from where he’d been examining the soles of the dead man’s loafers. “What is it?”
“I’m not sure. There’s something on Alvarez’s neck.”
Briggs stood and strode over to Stevens in three long steps, a graceful spider. The monster in the bushes imagined the cop’s muscles rippling beneath his uniform, so taut and juicy. His fragrant blood made her swoon a little.
“What the fuck is that?” Briggs asked, peering down at the dead man’s neck.
“It looks like a puncture wound. Scabbed over,” Stevens offered.
“Perfect circle.” Briggs massaged his mustache with his fingertips. “Cigarette burn? Metal skewer? But not a goddamn drop of blood on the pavement. Maybe that wound happened somewhere else?”
The monster smiled—as much as it could smile in its current form. Briggs’ confused conjectures were so cute.
“Any gang murders reported lately with a signature like this?” Stevens asked.
“Not that I know of. Could be something new. Slick if a tiny hole like that can kill someone.”
The monster sat up a little taller, preening. How stupid they’d feel if they knew their friend—Alvarez, was it?—was killed with something as pedestrian as a straw. Sharpened and reinforced with alkaline moonbeam, mind you, but really quite “normal” to humans.
Stevens turned from the body, puttered a few steps, and lost his breakfast on the pavement.
“Jesus,” Briggs said. Then the disgust on his face melted into curiosity. “This wound—it’s picking up the light.” He leaned in closer. “Silver.”
Stevens crouched down by the body. “You’re right. It’s…shimmering. What the hell…”
The monster’s gut tightened. She should have been more careful, should have checked for metallic residue at the entry point. But hunger made her lose control.
In the end, her slipup wouldn’t matter, though. Once the police department conducted an autopsy, they’d know the truth. When they cut Alvarez open, they’d discover the thin sheet of silver directly below his skin, injected just moments after she’d sucked out his insides. The silver lining was the only thing maintaining the dead man’s shape. Without it, he’d be nothing more than a pile of wilted flesh.
“Alvarez, were you doing some crazy drugs with that redhead you left the bar with last night?” Briggs posed the question directly to the dead man’s face. “She had a great ass, but you should have gone home to Kimmy instead, buddy. Look what happened to you.”
Okay, enough now. The monster spit the straw to the ground and covered it with sod using a slow-moving tentacle. They’re humans. They won’t figure it out, not in time anyway. Stop playing with your food.
The monster morphed into a puddle of liquid. It dripped down the sidewalk, traveling a few blocks before sliding behind a tree in a residential neighborhood.
Moments later, a striking woman with long legs and hair the color of an Arizona sunset emerged from behind the bark, a cell phone in hand. She dialed three numbers and brought the device to her ear. She explained to the emergency operator that her boyfriend had hit her, she was afraid, could they send an officer who was nearby? She glanced at the house behind her and gave the number. The woman thanked the operator in a shaky voice and hung up. She picked up a nearby rock, clocked herself in the face, and willed her fake skin to swell and discolor.
She leaned against the tree, hunched and crooked, trying to look like a victim, like someone Briggs and Stevens would want to save. She licked her lips and waited for the smell of bamboo, sex, bravado, and fortune to arrive. She’d start with the good stuff.
Tiffany Michelle Brown
Tiffany Michelle Brown is a native of Phoenix, Arizona, who ran away from the desert to live near sunny San Diego beaches. Her work has been published by Camden Park Press, The Sirens Call, Gympsum Sound Tales, and Dark Alley Press. When she isn’t writing, Tiffany can be found on a yoga mat, sipping whisky, or reading a comic book—sometimes all at once. Follow her adventures at tiffanymichellebrown.wordpress.com.
I’m a writer.
And I know that I should read like a writer, taking in all those “behind the scenes” details the author used, to peek into another writer’s toolbox, so to speak.
But, when I got my hands on this book I’ve been eagerly anticipating, all that flew out the window. I found myself reading quickly, trying to maintain an uninterrupted feed to the mind movie playing on the giant screen in my head. The images so crisp, the sound thundering around me… that is, until I reached my death scene.
I truly didn’t see that coming.
G.A. Miller is a new voice in the chorus of horror authors, drawing his ideas from everyday, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors.
Time for Change
“Spare some change,” the vagrant mumbled as he pounded his fist against the door. Natalie cowered in the corner of the bathroom as the beating on the door continued.
“It’s not possible!” she yelled, “I ran you over. I watched you die. You should be dead!” A fist burst through the door scattering wood fragments across the floor. Natalie was frozen with fear as the bloodied hand undid the lock.
The vagrant pushed open the door and slowly shuffled his broken legs towards Natalie. She could only watch as his bloodied body shambled towards her mumbling, “Got some spare change.”
Radar DeBoard is an aspiring writer who just wants others to find enjoyment in his work. Even though he lacks publication and experience, he hopes his work will have an impact. He has a passion for horror and finds it the most interesting genre to write.
He’d followed her from the gas station. Her right indicators blinked. He pulled over onto the verge. She turned into a driveway and drove up to an isolated house. There were no cars in the driveway. The house was dark. She exited her car, opened the front door and went in. Following, he found the door unlocked. He entered and carefully closed the door. His victim was standing with her back to him. She didn’t move. There was a sudden click from behind him.
“The door is locked. No escape,” she said.
She turned to face him, her machete gleaming.
R.J. Meldrum is an author and academic. Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010. He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Smoking Pen Press and James Ward Kirk Fiction. He is an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.
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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.