Trembling With Fear 08/23/20
This weekend saw a very quick visit to Cardiff to make sure my son is alive. He is, I mean he’s 23 and adult but you never stop worrying if they’re eating enough! Good job the UK government has its Eat Out to Help Out scheme in place! On a more serious note and this is my shameless family plug time, as a musician, he’s lost all chance of live work at the moment. However, he is adapting and if any of you need soundtracks, compositions, recordings or whatever – you can find him over on Fiverr https://tinyurl.com/DylanEllis. This is also a good site to track down book covers by the way. If anyone here has a second string to their bow, eg creating book covers, book trailers, music or whatever, are experiencing tough times and are on such sites as this, let us know and we’ll share your link. (And if anyone’s putting on events next year in the UK, I will also be shamelessly plugging my eldest daughter, Bethan (who’s also lost all work this year). She has wide industry experience in this area, including with Live Nation, and will have graduated by then 😊, you have been warned!).
Book plug time. This is for someone I’ve come across on twitter and who is extremely supportive of writers and a lovely person. She has also come up with something unique for the Horror world which is why I’m mentioning it here. Cassie Lola Daley (of Lets Get Galactic) has created The Big Book of Horror Authors, which is a colouring and activity book featuring many well-known names in our industry. Due for publication 31st Aug, I can’t wait to see it and release my inner child. One of the best things when growing up was getting the bumper summer activity version of your favourite comic!
Has Cassie started a new trend? We see Horror Cookbooks occasionally. Finding another avenue when you’re feeling a little jaded can be just the thing to keep you going. I remember a story we published in TWF based on a crossword, another unique take. Cross-stitch patterns anyone?
Also watch out for Feral, an anthology of stories about feral children, edited by TWF writer Robert Allen Lupton. Due out Sept 1st, it features a number of familiar names from Horror Tree, including Alyson Faye, Catherine Thole Jordan, Richard Meldrum, Stuart Conover (and me).
Very short stories!
We have one this week, albeit quite a sad one.
“The note of your flatline was your cry of birth.” – Christina Nordlander
The first story this week in Trembling with Fear is The Part Where They Die by Nicholas Stillman. Never have two sides been more diametrically opposed leading to a polarisation which can only be overcome by direct conflict. Perhaps this should serve as a moral for our times, the inability to walk in another’s shoes, or perhaps more like the refusal to do so. What you sow, so shall ye reap. Hatred and rage scald the page in this powerful tale.
Everyday People by Matthew Miranda is the one which shows there aren’t always prizes for everyone and it is some of the imagery included in this, as if just a passing thought which gives the kick. Weaving the horrific into the mundane, that juxtaposition, gives it even greater strength.
Mothers and Daughters by Dale W. Glaser also uses the familiar but layers it over a more chilling subtext. Just because your family might be somewhat demonic or steeped in wicca doesn’t mean they don’t face the same sorts of problems normal families face!
William’s Birthday by Leilani Ahia uses the most innocent of settings, a children’s birthday party and breaks the strongest bond – that of mother and child. Again, innocence v horror is a powerful tool.
Enjoy the stories and send us yours!
So. First off my apologies for the lack of a newsletter last week to our subscribers. No, the evil Spam Filter Monster didn’t eat it. I had made all the edits for it to go live and didn’t resume sending after saving them. (You need to pause it in Mailchimp while making edits and I never unpaused it.)
OOPS! Already fixed that for this week.
As to the anthologies, we’ve got them SO CLOSE. By the time you read this I believe our last round of edits and uploads should be completed (I’m working on it the moment I’m done with this!) I’m hoping that means we’re finally launching in the next week or two.
I hope you enjoy this week’s edition of Trembling With Fear and as always, please comment as to which stories you like in the comments at the bottom of the post!
The Part Where They Die by Nicholas Stillman
“We find you guilty of youth,” the old man grumbled. “I sentence you to death by dragons.”
The cloaked judge looked too decrepit and senile to pass for a real one. Cory turned from him and glared into the huge rocky pit which formed the village square. It looked real. Although dragons didn’t exist, the stench of decay truly did, and it wafted up like heat from a volcano.
Cory scowled, and the seniors frowned. The whole sadistic village of them stood around the pit, probably just to dignify themselves for the day. The geezers who had surrounded him earlier stood just as close now, having marched him from the woods to his execution site without a moment’s stop in jail. Those eight or so machete men, bulbous in their faces and bodies, appeared ready to block him if he bolted. His skinny teenaged build produced more sweat than muscle, and his oily face shone like their oversharpened machetes. He eyed the crowd for his confiscated hiking gear, but found only hunches, overcoats, and porridge-colored jowls. They had let him keep his pants and dweeby undershirt–for their “dragons” deserved dignity too, no doubt.
“Do you have any final words for this community?” the pretend judge asked, for what else could he do to feel useful in his years of uselessness?
The ugly faces grew uglier as they smiled. Fleshy puffballs rose. Folds and frown lines sank, deep and dark like the pit. Cory kept quiet and gazed at the beautiful wrinkles beyond them, the cracked pavement that had led him here afoot. He couldn’t spot a single NO TRESPASSING sign along that overgrown road. The crones, after all, wanted outsiders for their hoity-toity trials. Their fantasies of self-importance went far beyond dragons.
The curmudgeons pointed their machetes at a large wicker basket caked with dried blood. It dangled from a pulley on a gallows which spanned one edge of the pit. Cory clambered inside, and though the stench squeezed his stomach, the death smell at least distracted him from the crumpled hags amassed on the hill.
The basket lowered slowly with his puny weight. The rope unwound from a large, wooden wheel. Its axle squealed like the young victims the villagers needed to hear, the whimpers which made the seniors feel like kings. Cory glared once more at their saggy faces and the crumbly homes behind them. The trailers sat like boulders in the dense brush, as insignificant as their dwellers who denied such humbleness. The hovels looked easy to haul and plop here, like the elderly recruits drawn in to replace the dying. The rock curtain rose, and the gray sky became a coin that never flipped for anyone.
Cory held in every death threat he could think of, even if venting them could lighten the basket. The self-proclaimed judges leered over him anyway, awaiting his screams like their favorite song. Only sweat cried out of him now, though, and he sweated out pure hate instead of fear. The shrinking sky pulled everything good away from him. He despised every evil face up there and even his old self among them, the naive kid who had sought to document their backwater village. He loathed every frame he had planned to film, every second of fascination and compassion once held for the monsters above.
The monsters below, whether wolves or bears, didn’t deserve a struggle from him. Every punch, stomp, and kick on Earth belonged on the feeble bones and brains of his murderers.
A mere drizzle of daylight reached the cave floor as reluctantly as the basket. Cory counted four wrenched-apart skeletons with crushed skulls for tombstones. By habit, he reached into his pocket as though for a final grasp of humanity. The villagers, however, had chopped his camera phone into minerals in front of him.
He saw hope: tunnels. One even had light of its own in dapples against the nothingness. Even the child-eating animals hated the elders, for the creatures had clawed to the forest to feed. Cory swung himself out of the basket, and in his very next step, vowed to kill every living human in the village. He envisaged himself reborn from the earth and cast in a new documentary. It started in bliss at the part where they die. He only needed for the beasts to have migrated or to lie dormant in other lairs.
They did neither.
The rotting smell pushed Cory’s back to the pit wall, but the monstrosities emerging from the tunnels made his back bleed. The Komodo dragons looked two feet taller than anything documented and ten times hungrier. The village had bred them to survive the region’s coldness–and its bears.
Cory decided he would struggle with them, no matter how vain. He hunched and prepared to wrestle, dominate, and then of course die. In his last and darkest fantasy, he rode one of the scaly giants out the tunnels and into the village.
The Komodo dragons closed in, sharing their vile breath with his. They stopped and stared, though, as did every lizard that jostled into the cave. Minutes later they still stood, entranced and enticed by an odor they had never smelled before. The tall figure before them reeked of an alpha they only knew from pheromones and instinct. The adolescent’s sweat smelled not of horror, but of hate.
Cory, what remained of him, didn’t know if the monsters would tear off elderly meat with their claws or just their teeth. Either way, the villagers would scream like children in the part where they die.
He glared at the tunnel with the light, and the dragons waited to follow.
Nicholas Stillman (stillmanscifi.com) writes science fiction with medical themes. His work has appeared in Total Quality Reading, Not One of Us, The Colored Lens, Bards and Sages Quarterly, The Martian Wave, and Polar Borealis.
The weather was a question mark, but the gray skies and rain held all throughout the ceremony. The graduates flit about, drinking bitter champagne, commiserating over years of exams: kill the ant, get a lollipop; kill the frog, here’s some ice cream; kill the kitten, win a bike. During the final exam, maybe half pause over their baby before lowering the pillow.
The ceremony ends with the announcing of internships. There’s the usual letdown. Confusion. Anger. Tears. This last lesson’s always the hardest. Nobody’s hiring for Antichrist or end boss or serial killer. All we need is people. Everyday people.
Matthew Miranda (they/them) writes about the NBA and EPL for Jacobin, SB Nation and FanSided. Their fictions and memoirs have been published in The Southampton Review, Carrier Pigeon and Postcard Shorts. They have been a finalist in the NYC Midnight Short Story contest and their flash fiction “Foul Ball” was a finalist for The Southampton Review Short Fiction Contest. This submission, “Everyday People,” is 100 words, original and unpublished.
Mothers and Daughters
With my mother, it was cats. Because she loved them ever since she was a little girl, she assumed all little girls loved them, and I must as well. But I never really took to the creatures as she did. I vowed if I ever had a daughter, I would never impose my predilections on her. The other day my daughter came home with a severed hand, dripping still-warm blood. She wanted help salting the relic. I smiled to myself, knowing she was asking to please herself, not me. Young witches should be free to follow their own crooked paths.
Dale W. Glaser
Dale W. Glaser is a collector, re-teller and occasional inventor of fantasy tales, as well as an unapologetic t-shirt hoarder. He requires air, food, water and stories in order to survive, not necessarily in that order. His lifelong love of written words has manifested as a devotion to the English language almost exclusively, which is probably just as well because if he were to master any of the dead tongues that conceal ancient mysteries and invoke malevolent forces, we’d all be in trouble. His short stories have been published in magazines such as Weirdbook, Occult Detective Quarterly, and Outposts of Beyond, as well as anthologies such as Subliminal Reality, Eldritch Embraces and Carnival of Fear. He currently lives in Virginia with his wife and three children. He can be found online at https://dalewglaser.
It only asks thrice. It asked Tara last month at the school fundraiser through writing on the bathroom stall. It asked Tara for the second time when she had come home to a fussy six year-old son. It came to her in her dreams that night, beckoning her forward. Today, standing as the lone adult in the midst of William’s birthday party, it asks her again.
She whispers gently, “Come in.”
Her body contorts into a foul shape and her eyes dull. It licks her chops and lets out a low, sorrowful moan that silences the screaming children. It’s hungry.
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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.