Trembling With Fear 08/21/2022
Hello, children of the dark. I write this in the grip of searing pain, my foot propped up with pillows and an ice pack around my ankle. You see, I clearly subconsciously thought what I really needed for my birthday was a super sprained ankle, especially one that was twisted on the way *in* to London’s glittering West End to see a play. Happy birthday to me indeed.
But I’m so glad I persisted with the travel. I’m glad I gritted my teeth, ignored the fast-swelling mass that once was my ankle, and hobbled my way into the Criterion Theatre – because it is there that I experienced one helluva show. It’s not often that I come away from a play unsure what to focus my attention on; something usually stands out, whether it was a specific portrayal or the staging or an annoying audience member who was playing with their phone the whole way through. This time, though, I was dazzled by everything, for I was experiencing the wonder that is 2.22: A Ghost Story.
I’m going to be *that* person and say I honestly can’t tell you much about the play without spoiling it all, but it’s true. It takes place over one night in a single room in a flat, where two couples try to stay up until 2.22am to discover the source of a noise over a baby monitor. And I sort of lied earlier when I said I was unsure where to focus my attention because, as I reflect on it now, it’s clear: the writing is superb. It is tight as anything, wonderfully paced, gives just enough but holds onto so much for big reveals. Then again, I shouldn’t be surprised, because the writer of this play is Danny Robins.
He’s been called “the audio hero of all things spooky”, “a latter-day Alfred Hitchcock” and a “modern-day Van Helsing” by the UK press, but I’ve recently learned that Mr Robins’ work isn’t so well known on the other side of the pond, so let me point you in one direction for a starting block: the podcast Uncanny, which he produced for the BBC. It’s a simple concept – investigations into chilling first-hand stories of paranormal encounters, from ghostly phantoms to sinister folklore and UFOs – but it’s so well executed. He does the background, the interviews, the skeptic vs the believer theories – but he also gets the audience involved, asks for their theories, and comes back to the cases throughout the series. Again, the writing is tight and hits the mark.
Why am I telling you this? Well, because I like to share good things with total strangers, but also because I’m just 10,000% jealous of Danny Robins’ writing talent. I wish I could be half that good!
Now let’s get to the reason you’re all here, which is not to hear me ramble through the pain. This week’s trembling main course comes from frequent contributor Ron Capshaw, who takes us off to the dentist, Marathon Man-style.
For the quick bites, we have three delicious offerings:
- Charlotte H Lee ponders the unknown dangers of space
- Bill Diamond shows that we should be careful before we seize our moments, and
- Mike Rader takes us to the Australian wilderness, where no one can hear you scream.
If these stories inspire you to get writing, you’ll find details on how to submit to us over here on our freshly-updated submission guidelines page. As always, if you have any questions just contact us or get us on Twitter!
Over to you, Stuart…
My kids are back to school as of this last Wednesday, and it has been so amazingly quiet during the day. Had I not been flooded with meetings for the day job, I suspect I would have been much more productive than I was. Not as much progress on the new layout as I was expecting this week but it is still moving forward! Hopefully, I’ll have a larger update for you by next week.
To our UK readers, we currently have a great giveaway going on as you can win one of 2 copies of River of Ashes by Alexandrea Weis and you can enter to win right here!
A quick reminder that we’re now on MSN and would LOVE if you can throw us a follow on MSN!
As always, I hope you had a great weekend.
Is It Safe? by Ron Capshaw
“It’s just a movie,” Mom said. “They made it up. Dentists aren’t really like that.”
I looked out the car window, watching the leaves already turning in that brief Texas Fall season.
I counted the trees. Anything to take my mind off my dental checkup.
And that movie.
Mom looked sharply over at me, looking younger in her Betty Ford pantsuit that the elders of our church thought sinful.
Women literally “wearing the pants” in the family.
I’m sure by now they would have talked to Dad had not Mom, still startlingly pretty at 38, started a chain reaction of other women dressing like the former First Lady.
And they also didn’t talk to him because he owned the car dealership in town, and always put in a heavy contribution when the collection plate came around.
Still cutting her eyes at me, she said, “And had you been in your room like you were supposed to, you wouldn’t have watched that scene.”
I watched the film Marathon Man—like I watched all those other “children under 17 not admitted” movies—from the shadows made by the hallway leading into the TV room.
Mom and Dad kept quiet about them having “Showtime”, that sinful channel where you didn’t have to go to the theater to watch Hollywood’s latest; and risk being spotted standing in line by a fellow churchgoer. That was what happened to Yancy’s parents when he told us on the playground that Miss Snowden, who had the biggest yap in Mullin, saw them in line to watch Semi-Tough. That latest film full of sex and profanity by the “degenerate” Burt Reynolds.
That was how “Showtime” quietly invaded Mullin. Yancy told me that his parents now had that channel and could watch Burt Reynolds as many times as they wanted from the privacy of their living rooms. And like Mom’s pantsuit it started a chain reaction, albeit invisible, of “Showtime” subscriptions.
From my shadowed hallway I got to see what me and the other kids at Mullin Middle School talked about on the monkey bars the next day.
About how the Devil made that sheet of glass decapitate that British reporter’s head in The Omen.
About how John Travolta said “Fuck” on Saturday Night Fever.
None of that bothered me.
Until Marathon Man, when that Nazi dentist drilled into Dustin Hoffman’s healthy teeth because Hoffman didn’t answer the German’s question, “Is It Safe?” correctly.
That hit us middle schoolers of cavity and braces’ age too close to home.
Mom and Dad didn’t know I saw that scene until it was dental checkup time and I had a nightmare about that scene the night before my dental appointment.
They knew I saw it when I woke them up screaming. “IT’S SAFE! IT’S SAFE!”
But Mom and Dad were pragmatic about it rather than “Beating the Devil out of me.”
Dad, bleary-eyed from sleep said: “Serves you right.”
Mom, more the disciplinarian, said: “If I catch you hiding and watching another R-rated movie I will make you watch all of Marathon Man.”
By now, we were in the waiting room of the town’s only dentist, Al Margiotta, who, although “not from here,” and Catholic—he had to drive his family thirty miles to Waco to attend church because Mullin was Baptist only–was generally accepted by the town.
His dental assistant, Dottie Rogers – who was a senior at Mullin High and was already developing a butt almost as big as her mother’s – led Mom and me down the hallway and put me in the customer chair.
I looked around the room with its Mickey Mouse pictures and glowing white teeth chasing cartoon characters called “Cavities” away.
At least it doesn’t look like the dental/torture room in Marathon Man.
Nevertheless I turned pale and started shaking when I saw the metal dental instruments on the table beside me, and even shakier when Margiotta came in.
He saw me shaking and looked at Mom.
“Let me guess,” he said to Mom in his accentless voice that 10 years among the Texans hadn’t dented, “Marathon Man?”
“It seems like every kid in town has seen that movie. A dentist being a Nazi is bad for business.”
He put his hand on my shaking shoulder.
“Never even visited Germany, kiddo.”
He glanced over his shoulder at Mom.
“He’ll be fine. Believe me I’ve had practice in calming them down.”
Mom and the dental assistant left.
Just me and Mr. Margiotta.
He checked my mouth, probing around until my back arched off the chair.
“Yep,” he said, going over to the instrument table. “Somebody has a cavity.”
He put his surgical mask on and held up a syringe.
He must have seen my eyes widen because he said, “Relax Timmy. It’s a pain killer. Just a sharp stabbing feeling and then you’ll go numb.”
It was a sharp stabbing feeling and I did go numb.
My eyes must have gone calm.
“See?” he said through the muffle of the surgical mask.
He went over to the sink, and washed his hands.
As he put on his rubber gloves he said, “You know, I’ve known your Dad for ten years but he’s never given me a discount on a car like he does his church buddies or had me over to his house.”
Even if my mouth wasn’t numb I wouldn’t have been able to answer.
He leaned into me.
“Why do you suppose that is?”
I was able to barely shake my head.
“Do you suppose it’s because of this?” he hissed and jabbed a finger at his dark forehead.
He patted my shoulder and said, “I suppose you’re too young to know.”
“But I do have a question–” and for a moment he was out of my eyeline and then he came back holding a humming drill–
“Is It Safe?”
Ron Capshaw is a writer based in Florida. His novel The Stage Mother’s Club was released in June by Dark Edge Press.
The predator concealed himself in the shadows. A ravishing woman approached down the alley. She was slight and vulnerable. Easy pickings. His mouth watered in anticipation.
He blocked her path. Towering over her, his knife glistened. She didn’t flee. With a lecherous grin, he whispered, “Be quiet and you’ll live.”
The girl calmly said, “This is your unlucky day. You picked the wrong person.”
He was surprised, but dragged her into the dark. He heard a metallic zipping sound.
The thug turned and saw her skin peel away, revealing fangs and fur.
Before he could scream, she pounced and gorged.
Bill Diamond lives in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where he writes to try and figure it all out.
Ways To Go
I rub fog off the lifeboat’s window with shaking fingers. Its wounded mother races away, leaving us behind. Sudden incandescence blinds me. The shock wave knocks the lifeboat into a tumble. Inertia slams me against the thin bulkhead separating me from the vacuum of space. There will be no rescue. In time I will fall asleep and asphyxiate.
There are worse ways to go.
There’s a clang. The lifeboat judders. I scramble to the again fogged porthole. The stars have stopped spinning. An undulating shape floats past. I blow the porthole, letting vacuum in.
There are worse ways to go.
Charlotte H. Lee
Charlotte H. Lee spends her days pondering how best to smash all the boxes people want to keep the world in. It doesn’t matter whether it’s through telling stories to challenge others how we see life, or pushing herself to stretch her own brain in new ways. Her stories have appeared in Little Blue Marble, Metaphorosis, The Overcast, and others. You can find links to her published work at www.charlottehlee.com.
High Country Horrors
Mountains rolled. Cloud shrouded deep valleys. No sunlight penetrated this part of the Australian Alps. The rough shale rasped as the bleeding man scaled a ridge and scanned the horizon.
No help in sight!
No other human for miles!
Except the one who was pursuing him.
Then bushes rustled, the rifle fired, the man fell, mortally wounded, bleeding out into the bleak soil.
His pursuer loomed above. “Told yer, mate, that campsite is mine.”
Another deafening blast echoed over the empty hills.
The pursuer piled branches over his victim. “I tell ’em all, that campsite is mine. Nobody ever listens.”
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
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Lauren McMenemy wears many hats: Editor-in-Chief at Trembling With Fear for horrortree.com; PR and marketing for the British Fantasy Society; founder of the Society of Ink Slingers; curator of the Writing the Occult virtual events; writers hour host at London Writers Salon. With 25+ years as a professional writer across journalism, marketing, and communications, Lauren also works as a coach and mentor to writers looking to achieve goals, get accountability, or get support with their marketing efforts. She writes gothic and folk horror stories for her own amusement, and is currently working on a novel set in the world of the Victorian occult. You’ll find Lauren haunting south London, where she lives with her Doctor Who-obsessed husband, the ghost of their aged black house rabbit, and the entity that lives in the walls.