Trembling With Fear 08/08/21
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. Please also remember to read our guidelines, especially on word counts!
This week I have actually had time to investigate some submission calls at Horror Tree for myself. I need to finish my novella, about 5000 words left to finish the first draft, but short stories continue to pull me back. There has often been an argument about whether writing shorts is useful as a career step or not. I am inclined to the former, it being not just a brilliant form to read but also a great way to develop your story-telling skills and, of course, to boost your profile.
In many branches of literature, names can be made on novels alone and yes, there are some within our own world of horror who are also able to do that. For the rest of us lesser mortals, ie me, I see it as both enjoyable and somewhat necessary. Horror is a niche market, hard to break into, but the short stories bring with them a growing recognition of your name. I also regard this as part of my ongoing apprenticeship. You may have a different view, but for now I’m going back to both novella and a certain black metal submission call …
The first story in Trembling with Fear this week is The Woods Out Back by Jason M. Tucker. A wonderful creepy chiller set in woods forbidden to two girls – but what happens when a parent tells you not to do something? Well naturally, they do the opposite. Its ending delivers extra shivers as you realise what has happened – although this is inferred and not explicitly stated. Skilfully done.
In Principle by April Yates brings us many everyday phrases, all perfectly acceptable, perfectly normal. Until it isn’t. Great use of the twist.
Willie by G.A. Miller is a tender ghost story, a tale of horror bringing its own comfort. Emotive.
Your Recent Application to Clone Me Program by Eric Fomley is certainly a dark way to bring bad news! So clever.
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
Hello all! We’re having some caching issues which are causing issues with both our contact form and our calendar view. I’m aware of it and will hopefully be looking into it over the next week. I just finished up another of my MBA courses SOOO… I’ve got some free time at the moment.
Just a reminder, our October Specials edition is open and we’re looking for Halloween-themed shorts and drabbles! You can find the details on our Submission Page.
Finally, If you’ve purchased ANY of our Trembling With Fear releases, please do leave a review. You can get to ALL of them easily from this link!
The Woods Out Back by Jason M. Tucker
“We aren’t lost,” I said, although the woods did feel different. Sort of like when you walk into someone’s house for a visit, but they aren’t home. You feel a bit like a trespasser. It was a bit like that.
“Well how long before we get back to your house?” Lottie asked.
I’d been in this forest a thousand times before and didn’t want to accept she might be right. Lottie knew me well enough to see through me, though.
“Come on, Jemma, admit it,” she said.
“Okay, maybe we shouldn’t have gone so far.”
“Especially since your dad said not to come into the woods at all,” Lottie said.
Her voice had an edge of concern mingled with frustration.
“Don’t worry. We’ll be home in half an hour. I promise.”
Lottie rolled her eyes. I understood. She was still my best friend, but she had changed as we grew older. She loved clothes, boys, and thinking about what kind of car her parents would get her when she turned sixteen. I still liked tramping through the woods.
“Jemma, are you listening? I don’t want to be out here all night.”
“Let’s go,” I said, heading off down a game path I thought would take me toward the creek.
The stream was good for brook trout. Dad and I used to come out each Sunday to fish. It ran next to a clearing with a ring of large stones, our spot. Dad believed it might be an old campsite.
We’d stopped going a couple of months ago. He never told me why, but he made me promise not to go into the woods. He’d gotten weird about it and would get upset whenever I pressed for an answer.
“I’m starting to hate this place,” Lottie said, batting at a group of flies buzzing around her face. “Your dad’s going to kill us.”
“You worry too much. They aren’t coming home until Sunday.” My parents were getting drunk and watching the horse races down in Saratoga. I’d be lucky if they were home by Monday night.
“Great,” Lottie said. “It’ll be days before someone comes looking for our bodies.”
“He specifically told us not to go into the woods,” she said. She held up her phone. “And this doesn’t work out here.”
“All we have to do is find the stream. We haven’t crossed it yet, so we head this way until we reach it.”
“What does the brook have to do with anything?”
“We follow it to the stone circle. Home is right down the trail from there. Come on.”
I pushed through the thick brush for twenty minutes with Lottie grumbling behind me before we reached the creek. From there, I followed it down to the stones and the old fishing spot.
I helped her up the small embankment and then scrambled my way up next to her. I was brushing myself off when I felt Lottie’s hand grip my shoulder.
“Look,” she said, whispering.
I followed her gaze and saw something impossible.
In the ring of stones at the clearing’s center was an old, weathered window frame suspended in midair four feet off the ground.
“It’s not right,” Lottie said. She was shaking and starting to cry.
“Sure,” I said, but I was already moving closer to the window. It was strange, but I wanted to see what it was. If anything could scare Dad, this would be it.
Lottie grabbed at my sweatshirt, but I pulled away and walked closer. Apart from being held up by nothing, it looked to be normal glass in a wood frame. The clearing and woods were visible on the other side.
But the scene through the glass wasn’t entirely the same.
It was darker, with gnarled tree limbs and withered grass.
I touched the glass and stared through the window, fascinated, until two figures walked out of the dead woods.
They almost looked like girls, dirty and dressed in rags. They were holding hands and dancing to strange music I could faintly hear. When they spun closer to the window, I noticed they looked like twisted versions of me and Lottie.
But they were imperfect replications.
They had hollowed out eyes, replaced by little pinpricks of pale light. Their limbs were too long, their joints angled strangely. In a blur, they rushed up to the glass, dirty hands pawing at it, grinning mouths full of sharp teeth.
“Run,” I said, barely able to speak.
Lottie didn’t need urging. She had already taken off like a shot down the trail.
I turned around to run when the window creaked open. I glanced back to see long warped arms contort and twist as the other-girls pulled themselves through the frame.
I bolted, running faster than I’d run in my entire life.
Heart hammering and covered in a cold sweat, I eventually burst through the tree line and into the field. I raced to my house and didn’t stop until I reached the back porch.
I called out for Lottie, assuming she was already there. No answer. Had she gotten lost on the trail? Worry rose as seconds passed.
I’d convinced myself to grab Dad’s shotgun and go looking for her, monsters be damned, when I heard her voice calling to me from across the field.
I ran out to meet her. Dirt and grime coated her lavender hoodie. Twigs sprouted from her tangled hair.
We rushed inside and locked the doors. I told her to call her parents to see if we could stay at her place, but she said they weren’t home.
I watched the field until dusk and made sure dad’s shotgun was close. I kept the lights on all night.
I didn’t tell anyone about the other girls. Lottie didn’t need to know. And no one else would believe.
But Dad was right about those woods. We shouldn’t have gone.
Days pass. Lottie looks and sounds the same, but she’s different. She doesn’t talk about boys, clothes, or cars. She talks about taking me and our other friends into the woods out back.
Now Dad thinks it’s a good idea, too.
Jason M. Tucker
Jason M. Tucker is the author of Meat City, Lou vs. the Zombies, Wetwork, as well as a number of short stories across genres including “Enlightened by Sin”, which was on Ellen Datlow’s honorable mention list for The Best Horror of the Year Vol. 5. His story “Red Skies” is part of the upcoming tabletop roleplaying game Dark Era. A screenplay he wrote based on his short story “Coventry Greens” is currently in post-production as the short film The Greenies, which is set to premiere in April 2021.
I know nothing of plumbing, but the core principle is that liquids flow. I must not allow fluid to stagnate or congeal.
I don’t really understand electricity, but I gather you need to make sure the circuit remains unbroken so that electrical pulses can cox movement from inertia.
I have no training in carpentry, but I know you must cut, chisel, and sand to shape the parts needed.
I require many parts for this project.
I know many things in principle, I shall do my best to put them into practice.
I know I can bring her back.
April Yates lives in Derbyshire with her wife and two fluffy demons masquerading as dogs.
She should be working on her novella about the horrors of golden age Hollywood, but is easily distracted by the squirrels in her garden.
Find her on Twitter @April_Yates_ and tell her to get back to work, or aprilyates.com
As I sit down heavily in my old recliner, the cushions worn to fit, I hear the familiar tapping of toenails on the hardwood floor and look down.
He’s sitting patiently beside my feet, staring up with those brown eyes, his tail lazily sweeping the floor, raising dust specks that swirl in the afternoon sunlight.
I bend over and lift him up onto my lap, where he curls up. As I fully recline, he stretches up along my chest, his muzzle just below my chin.
The tears arrive with our afternoon nap, as I vividly remember the day he died.
G.A. Miller takes his ideas from every day, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors, often with horrific consequences. His lifelong bond with horror began in the late 1950s watching Shock Theater on TV and grew from there. When he picked up the first paperback edition of Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot” in 1976, there was no turning back.
Once he began committing his own demons to paper, he’s had numerous stories published in a variety of publications. His latest novella, “The Shopkeeper: Curios, Curiosities and Rarities” was submitted for consideration in the 2020 Bram Stoker Awards.
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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.