Trembling With Fear 08/09/20
Time is ticking by and the news keeps reporting about schools opening in a few weeks. That will probably be the case but it is serving as an unwelcome reminder my holiday is beginning to pass quite quickly – so I’d wish they’d keep quiet!!
Much of my writing lately has been focussing on building up my next poetry collection and I’ve a fair number now but I am getting twitchy and really missing not working on something novel length. It didn’t help that as I researched my family in the Victorian East End, I felt the tug back to the world I created in Asylum of Shadows. Reading Poor Law records for my family, knowing they were in and out of the Workhouse, sometimes dying there, started me thinking. It also gave me an extra source to use for research purposes and I would recommend a subscription to ancestry.co.uk (or .com), not just to track down family but to research from primary sources to give your work an extra authenticity. And I am also desperate to get back to writing about my unholy trinity of Tommy, Betty and Fiddler from the Five Turns of the Wheel novel. I feel haunted. Do the characters you create haunt you?
A quick reminder here that the Infernal Clock Inferno callout for LGBTQ+ submissions is still ongoing. It closes 15th August, so please get your stories in, there are several slots available! Details here https://horrortree.com/taking-submissions-infernal-clock-dantes-inferno/. The only change I would throw in to this, is that we have plenty of Circle Eight stories now, so it would be a good idea to avoid that particular bit of Hell.
TWF Contributor Promotion Time!
This week has seen a few releases. First up is someone who has always proved entertaining – and master of the occasional gross-out – Justin Boote with his new collection, Fear is Forever. He’d like to give a shout-out to the Red Cape Publishing team and Peter for doing the cover and formatting. Grab a copy here.
I’ve combined forces with TWF writer Alyson Faye and we’ve put four of our gothic stories together in Shadow Bound, A Gothic Quartet. It’s out on kindle and will be available as a paperback in the near future. This little venture is very much for people to grab a taster of our work and so we’ve kept prices as low as we can. It’s available here: http://mybook.to/ShadowBound.
Note: I used Booklinker for the first time to create the buy link for Shadow Bound. What I didn’t realise is that it shows you how many have clicked on your book. That has now become a new obsession 😊
Plus the boss has been busy and you will find Stuart Conover inhabiting the pages of this little lovely, The Dark Frontier with his story, “The Hard Cases”. Western horror is definitely on the up tick. You can snag a copy here.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned Mark Anthony Smith’s latest collection, Keep it Inside and Other Weird Tales because it’s not due out until October; however, just in case I forget, I’ll mention it now! For more information go here. (And if I’ve already mentioned it, this is a bonus!)
Very Short Story Time! Remember this is very much a ‘just for fun’ section.
Evidence by Steven Holding
Monsters exist. He’s sure of this. The things he’s thinking of are proof enough.
Trembling with Fear this week, leads with Visitation by a. stump. Reading this story, its details of setting and build-up of atmosphere put me very much in mind of those small-town scenes featuring youngsters, so beloved of a certain Mr King. It felt very cinematic in quality and I could just see it being shown on the screen, a perfect little film to be viewed via the page.
Compulsion by Mike Rader takes you to church and gives you his blessing. Every step is one you are drawn to take with the character, a perfect pacing.
Sardines Sarnie by Steven Holding. Firstly, ugh I can’t stand sardines and a sandwich – even more gross but fear not this is sardines of another kind. Nice settling of dread over this child when realisation dawns.
The Spirit of the Harvest by Patrick Winters is a rural delight and anyone who knows me knows I have a soft spot for a touch of folk horror. The countryside brings its own sense of ‘other worldliness’ and is a place I feel has the greater capacity to touch the soul and pull it on – for good or evil.
Enjoy the stories and send us yours!
We’re pretty much ready to order proof copies. There are a couple of MINOR adjustments left but honestly, everything is good to go aside from that. HURRAY!
On top of that, our Instagram followers should have noticed an uptick in new content. I’d like to send a warm welcome to Lucinda who is doing a fantastic job so far and likely we’ll see one other person joining too in order to help out! (THANK YOU!) Our YouTube still needs some help but, this is major progress that I’m thrilled about!
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!
Visitation by a stump
“Emerson!” Sherry called up the stairs, “Come down here! I need you to take a meal to Mr. White.”
Emerson plodded down the stairs despondently. “Aw, Mom, do I have to? I hate going to Mr. White’s. He’s creepy.”
Sherry scowled, “Emerson, he is not creepy. He’s a sick old man.”
“He has a hook for a hand!” Emerson shrieked.
“A logging accident doesn’t make a person creepy. Now, take this bowl of soup over to him before it gets cold.”
Emerson grabbed the orange Tupperware container from his mother and shrugged out the front door, moaning. The screen door slammed shut behind him with a crack of finality as his sentencing was complete. He put the bowl in the front basket of his bike and pushed down hard on the pedal to get a good start. The chain popped off the sprocket. “Darnit!”
“I heard that!” his mother was watching out the screen door.
“Sorry, Mom…” Emerson swung his leg off the bike and squatted down, his large belly forcing his knees apart. As he fumbled with the chain, he breathed heavily, muttering as his fingers became more and more coated with grease. Finally, he got a few links around the sprocket and lifted up the back wheel as his hand worked the pedal. The chain clicked into place and the wheel spun freely. He sighed. His stay of execution had been short-lived.
Mr. White lived unfortunately close to the parsonage that was Emerson’s home. Because of this close proximity, Emerson was often the delivery boy for meals, fruit baskets during the holidays, and cards on various occasions. Emerson wondered if his father had ever made a single pastoral visit to Mr. White, or if all of White’s pastoral care was done by proxy through Emerson.
The outside of the White house could’ve been called green or gray or even moldy. Bits of the original aluminum siding were still visibly off-white, but most of the house had been covered in ivy—either living green or dead brown. The roof shingles were mainly moss due to the surrounding pine trees that shrouded the home in a perpetual shadow of disrepair and neglect.
Emerson slowly crept up the creaky, mildewed wooden steps that led to the warped porch skeletoned with half-rotted boards. Each step had to be carefully planned to avoid falling through the porch to the dark creatures with gaping maws that surely waited below. As the boards groaned and squealed beneath Emerson’s weight, he wondered if anyone would know if he just ate the soup in the woods and brought the empty container back to his mother.
But for Emerson, it was too late. He heard the familiar thump shuffle inside the door. Emerson had never even gotten a chance to find out if Mr. White’s doorbell worked. It was as though the old man spent his days waiting at the window to open the door and lunge at any innocent soul brave enough to attempt a porch crossing. The knob turned and the door hung open about four inches. A growl emanated from the inside, “Come on in!”
As Emerson pushed the door open fully, the familiar odor of must and old cigarette smoke assaulted his sinuses. His eyes nearly watered and he gasped. “Set it on the counter,” Mr. White commanded as Emerson stepped through the haze. A single ray of sunshine infiltrated the deep shadow of the pines and beamed through floating dust particles to illuminate the threadbare green carpet that was bald enough in some patches to reveal the old, yellowed hardwood underneath.
Mr. White shuffled back to his ratty brown armchair as Emerson entered the kitchen. A dank pile of dishes sat piled in the sink, with a swarm of flies buzzing around. Sticky fly traps hung from the ceiling like ghoulish streamers from some long-defunct party for a dead man. Emerson set the fresh bowl of soup down on the counter next to a bunch of other Tupperware containers from his mother—the only bright colors visible in the entire room. The kitchen table sat against the wall, piled high with dingy newspapers and unanswered correspondence. An old, creased checkbook sat half exposed on the corner of the table. As Emerson walked past, he saw the last entry in the register was dated 1978. The single chair pulled away from the table was coated in a thick layer of dust. It was as though the room had been encapsulated for nearly a decade with entropy as its only occupant.
“Quit horsing around in there!” barked Mr. White, snapping Emerson back to reality. He quickly left the derelict kitchen and attempted to escape through the still-open front door. “That door won’t close itself! Shut it before you let all the flies out! Heh, heh, ack!” Emerson couldn’t decide if Mr. White was laughing or coughing. He pushed the door shut, sealing his own fate. “Sit down, Emerson!” Mr. White commanded. Emerson located his usual chair, the one that he thought looked the least moldy and stained.
“Be sure to tell your mother ‘thank you’ for whatever concoction she’s sent this time.” Mr. White took a long drag from the cigarette entrapped in his pincer claw that served as his right hand. “Yessir,” Emerson quietly responded, trying to look everywhere except to that horrible hook.
Mr. White continued, “I don’t like people. Never have, never will. I don’t mind you so much, but you’ve never overstayed your welcome. I can’t blame you. There’s nothing in this old house for someone like you.” He slowly lifted his hook to his face and examined the smoldering cigarette, contemplating each ash before putting it to his lips and breathing its fire into his lungs.
“But there’s something here for me,” as he spoke the words, tobacco smoke billowed out of his dark mouth through yellowed teeth. “Right over there, in that room.” The hair on Emerson’s neck stood on end as he turned to look where the hook was pointing—a room behind him with the door ajar. Barely visible inside was the corner of an old brass frame bed and a wooden dresser with an oxidized mirror on top.
“Been here quite some time. Overstayed its welcome. I know what it is, too. Or maybe I should say who it is. I know who’s waiting for me in that bedroom, and if he thinks I’m going in there, he’s got another thing coming.” Emerson couldn’t take his eyes off the door. Did a shadow just pass in front of the mirror?
“I know he’s waiting for me to close my eyes so that he can come out of that room, too. But I don’t plan on giving him the satisfaction.” He took a satisfied drag on the hooked cigarette.
“But Mr. White,” Emerson attempted to fill the eerie silence with argument, “you’ve gotta close your eyes sometime! You have to blink; you have to sleep!”
“I haven’t slept in eight years, and I don’t plan on sleeping tonight,” Emerson stared at Mr. White in disbelief.
“You haven’t slept in eight years?!?”
“Not a wink.”
“But how? That’s impossible!”
“When you have an uninvited guest in your bedroom, you don’t sleep, boy. He thinks he can wait me out, but he’s got another thing coming. Fifty years ago, a tree thought that it could take me out, but all it got was my hand. If this intruder thinks he’s stronger than a two hundred year-old white oak, let him try,” Mr. White chuckled with satisfaction as he sucked on the cigarette again.
“Gosh, Mr. White, why don’t you call the cops?”
“The police can’t do anything about this intruder. Only I can.”
“Who is he? Why don’t you tell him to go away?”
“Why don’t you ask him for yourself, Emerson?” Mr. White grinned through those yellow teeth, “He’s sitting right on the edge of that bed.”
A shriek pierced the dust-filled cigarette smoke as Emerson streaked out of his chair, ripping the front door open so violently that the knob cracked the plaster on the inside wall as it rebounded on its hinges and slammed shut on Emerson’s heels. He didn’t watch his steps and nearly fell as a board cracked under his feet. He half-ran, half-slid down the steps and picked up his bike, pedaling home as fast as he could.
A week later, Emerson found himself frozen at the foot of Mr. White’s steps with another Tupperware container in his hand. Since his last visit, the house had taken on an even more foreboding atmosphere, as though it was recoiling back into a cage of ivy and pine, hissing, “Don’t come in!” He stepped over the board that he had cracked during his previous escape and cautiously eyed the door, awaiting the familiar shuffle and twisting knob. The door didn’t open.
Emerson set the Tupperware on a dry-rotted lawn chair sitting next to the door and reached for the tarnished brass doorknob. It turned and the mechanism clicked. The door slowly fell open before him like the gaping maw of some dark abyss. The smoky must smelled more stale than usual. “Hello?” the word barely drifted out of Emerson’s lips as gooseflesh overtook his arms. He stepped inside onto the familiar, mossy carpet.
At his feet shone the single beam of sunlight, showcasing the million-billion particles of dust in the ancient house. He slowly stepped forward, daring his eyes to look up, but they didn’t. He haltingly moved ahead, tracing the well-worn path until he reached Mr. White’s armchair. He saw the old worn boots and traced his way up the denim pant legs to the stained flannel shirt. A smoldering cigarette was clenched in the hook. As Emerson lifted his gaze to Mr. White’s face, it looked like he had aged ten years. His eyes were closed and his mouth hung slightly open. The faintest breath snored out of Mr. White’s parted lips as his head began drooping in slumber. The hair on Emerson’s neck stood on end as he heard a thump shuffle and the front door click shut behind him.
a stump has always loved all types of fiction, but his penchant is for tales of suspense and the macabre subtleties found in everyday life. His passion lies in telling stories of the mundane, infused by supernatural oddity. He holds degrees in Sociology, Anthropology, and Divinity and is currently Editor In Chief of the magazine Sci-Fi Lampoon. He lives near Erie, Pa and can be contacted at [email protected]
Tuscan pines shadowed the ancient stone church. Red poppies bloomed blood-like in the field.
The iron door wasn’t locked.
A single candle flickered on a wall as I stepped into the musty interior.
In a glass tomb beneath the altar an Italian saint stirred. Her face was brown, waxy, her limbs emaciated, her skin the texture of paper.
She summoned me with a trembling hand.
“You have come to worship?” she asked.
Strangely compelled, without hesitation, I unlocked the front of the glass box. She lunged up at me, her bony fingers closing around my throat.
“Peace be with you…”
Mike Rader is a pseudonym used by Australian author and poet James Aitchison. As J J Munro and Mike Rader, Aitchison writes horror and noir crime. As James Lee, he writes Asia’s biggest selling horror series for middle readers — Mr Midnight — which has sold over three million copies. His work can be seen at www.flameoftheforest.com
Careering through corridors, stockinged feet happily slap upon wooden floors as the kid skids around another corner.
Finding the right place to lie low is imperative; the aim of the game giving urgent impetus to his actions.
The open door is one he’s never seen before.
Squatting in the stuffy cupboard, waiting for more players to squeeze themselves in, he squirms with excitement; contemplating being squashed between any of the girls he secretly has a crush upon.
Suddenly he senses a presence. And then another on the other side.
Too late, the realisation that he was the first to hide.
Steven Holding lives with his family in the United Kingdom. His stories have appeared both online and in print. Most recently his work has featured in the collections ‘TREMBLING WITH FEAR YEAR TWO’, ‘SPLASH OF INK’, and the anthologies ‘MONSTERS’ and ‘BEYOND’ from Black Hare Press. He is currently working upon further short fiction and a novel. You can follow his work at www.stevenholding.co.uk
The Spirit of the Harvest
She calls to me—the Spirit of the Harvest. Her voice is so very sweet. So very soothing. It echoes through the barren fields. Her fields. She wants me to help them grow.
She tells me what needs to be done. She says a dozen will do. If I plant them with the seeds, the crops will be bountiful.
Flesh and soil would become as one. Blood in the veins would become the blood of the land. And as the season stretched on, their spirits would feed hers.
I will do as she asks. I will help the fields grow.
Patrick Winters is a graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. He has been published in the likes of Sanitarium Magazine, Deadman’s Tome, Trysts of Fate, and other such titles. A full list of his previous publications may be found at his author’s site, if you are so inclined to know: http://wintersauthor.azurewebsites.net/Publications/List
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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 and Reborn, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused. Her novel, The Woodcutter, is due for release via Brigids Gate Press in 2023. 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 is an active member of the HWA and can be found at https://stephanieellis.org, on Twitter at @el_stevie, Instagram stephanieellis7963 and also somewhere on Facebook.