Trembling With Fear 09/05/21
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!
Time is flying and this is the first September where I don’t have to go back to school, something I can’t quite get over. Instead, I am looking forward to autumn with a quiet joy as most horror writers do, this is very often the time when our work gains more notice by virtue of Halloween (remember our Special, folks, if you want to submit to that) and those long dark nights.
This last week I was able to trigger the pre-order for the Daughters of Darkness II anthology which I wanted to match with Mary Shelley’s birthday of August 30th. As amazon says give it 72 hours – but I knew it was faster – I pressed the button halfway through the 28th. A few hours later it was live. I wish that amazon would allow you to set the date when pre-order is to go live, otherwise you end up telling people not to say anything if they notice so you can get a proper announcement done! As they say, timing is everything and that was pretty rubbish 😊 I also managed to get that short story done for the 1st Sept. Probably won’t be successful as I had to push to do it but at least I managed something. And it’s a piece I can return to in the future if it doesn’t hit the requirements.
Reading this week has been The Bridge by J.S. Breukelaar, a recent guest at Shotgun Logic. I didn’t do that podcast as it would’ve been 2 a.m. in the UK! I still read the book however. A deep, absorbing dark fantasy with elements of Greek mythology, I really enjoyed it. Next to read is Priory by Becky Wright. I have also developed a habit of reading a non-horror book – when I can – at the end of the day, to switch off from the genre and keep my reading ‘wide’. I’m currently revisiting Scandi noir with Hakan Nesser’s The Root of Evil.
This week, Trembling with Fear leads with The Run by Alec Thomson. A beautifully poignant piece, rich with atmospheric setting and gentle empathy for an end of life situation. What would a mother do for her son, or a son for his mother? A simple run becomes a last gift.
The Colony by Jonathan Worlde gives us a little sci-fi adventure in a place that appears almost too good to be true.
Omnipotent Apathy by Jake Fitzgerald takes us into the teenage mind, a seething cauldron if ever there was one, and gives it form. That last line is so true!
Our Sighting by Kevin M. Folliard is a nice example of be careful what you wish for? Do you want to prove the existence of aliens? Then go looking. But will you come back?
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
A week into the MBA program and my biggest accomplishment (aside from starting a short story and submitting a drabble) was to really catch up on Horror Tree backend work. E-mails have been responded to, short stories and drabbles read. A short story has been edited for one of our Patreons. Now, onto more things!
Trembling With Fear is open for our Halloween Edition until October 13th, so be sure to get your stories in! Full details can be found here.
Offhand, if you run a website and would like to write an article about Horror Tree or Trembling With Fear, we’d really appreciate that! Please reach out with any questions for facts in the article (who does what, when sections were started, etc), any promotional artwork, or with a link once it is live so we can feature it on the site and on our social media.
Have a great week everyone!
The Run by Alec Thompson
I went for a run. My first since all the bad news. Still early morning, the steam fog rose off the lake, drifting in through the tree-lined trail. Clouds of thin vapor curled through the dense cedar. It was a path I knew well—each rise and rill, each stump not cut flush to the forest floor, each blind curve and off-shooting game trail—I knew them.
No one. I expected to see no one as I jogged through a morning made from black and white stills. The low, rising sun over the lake cast obliterating shadows across the path, interrupted flashes of smoky spotlight. Flashes of the past year ran through my mind. My mother, her prognosis, six months…
As her health waned, I didn’t run. I couldn’t. I had more important things to think about, had more important tasks. The paperwork and noose-tight preparations for her final days. Which color urn—which design would carry her remains?
Have you been running, Scotty? She would ask, always interested.
Yes, Mom. I’d lie.
Good, I know how you love it. It’s good for you, you know?
Yes, I know, Mom.
People who run live ’til their hundreds—I saw it on the Doctor show this morning.
And on she would go. That parental parallel delight. It was only ever she and I. My father died when I was young, a tragedy to hear it. Lost to some stranger’s highway drunkenness. It was only the two of us after.
Here she was, still, concerned only for me. With her cancerous lungs. Never smoked a day in her life, she was proud to say. No cigarettes, made me change the air filters every month, had the school check for asbestos in her fourth-grade classroom—she’d been savvy back in her day.
Still…death within six months. That had been over a year ago. The Jacobs are a resilient people…
Thud, thud. Thud, thud. The drop of my feet slapping the ground. My old Asics, with a new pair of socks, still with that fresh packed-in-Sweden cushion.
Two weeks ago, pneumonia spread through the hospital. It took her under its dark wing. Doctor’s spoke to me of fluid in the lungs, like this was a thing they spoke of often. I thought of cobalt, liquid blue-black, the color of a disturbed sea. Of the morning fog over the lake.
She fought it. Fought the melting parts of herself. The broken cells within, shattered from the chemo, cells flooded with irradiation and medications closer to poisons in any healthy person. Two days ago, as she lay in bed with oxygen delivered through her nose, with the threat of intubation looming, I spoke with her in the room.
“I want you to have a good life, Scotty.”
“Hush. You’ll outlive us all.” I said.
“You’re not running. You’re not taking care of yourself. A mother knows these things.”
“I’ll do those things when you’re better.”
“No…” she said, then began coughing, and I gave her iced water through a straw.
“Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Yes,” she said. “Don’t be attached to these old bones. Angels don’t need old bones.”
I lowered my head.
She patted me on the cheek. Kissed me with dry, cracked lips. “If I get better, you go for a run, okay?”
“Okay,” I said.
And she did. She got better. The nurse called last night. The pneumonia abated. Some leftover fluid but it should clear up and then she could restart the treatments. Though not a miracle, the nurse spoke of things ‘miracle adjacent.’ That I should be thanking someone upstairs.
And so, I thought I could go for a run. I could do what she asked and get out of bed early. I drove the thirty miles out of town to the park on the lake. From my car I looked over the water in the dark, the cool air steaming off its surface. A localized mist over the still vastness. The warmth of my car held me. That moment, liminal, where I could stay in the comfort. I left the embrace, walked away from the car, and ran down the trail.
It was cold as I ran. Five minutes in I could feel my muscles buck from recent disuse. The warning signs of cramps and feet that would ball up in unbending arcs. I went on. The sun began to rise. Sherbet reds and oranges made their beginnings known behind the deep fog. But the time of color was yet to come.
A good run, I broke out of the initial torpor and trod on. Faster than a jog, slower than something usable in a marathon. I began to feel at ease. First wall down, thirty minutes in, and I was sailing over the ground as I turned past the two-mile marker. Past this, the trail wound down an untouched peninsula. Dense evergreen grew in incestuous mingling across the narrow plunge of land. Except for at the end there was a clearing with a primitive bench slapped together—a decorticated slab of oak. It, shrouded in a recess of the timberline, sat with sides facing both the trail and the lake.
I always took a moment at that clearing before the trail turned off and went down the opposite side of land. Sat and looked out at the lake. Watched its stillness and I would lose track of thought and go to a place beyond mindfulness. To a place of absent, inorganic thought.
There was a dark figure in the clearing—
My feet tried to stop. I skidded, then stumbled over a cedar bole sticking out of the path. Someone was sitting on the bench. I could feel the rabbit-beat of my heart. Blood turning cold, but burning…my heart burned, pistoned fire, as my vision corrected in the low light.
Sitting on the bench was a figure in a black dress and cowl. Sitting in profile, back to the lake. It raised a hand. Beckoned me. It wore a funereal dress. its face a mass of shadow under the boughs and wisps of fog—under the struggle of day to break. I walked closer and then a hand fell. I stopped.
Slowly, it brought its hand to its heart. Palm placed at its center. Everything froze in perfect tranquility.
My pants pocket writhed with vibration and chirruping. The suddenness of my phone’s ring setting off all my stayed anxiety, I fumbled for my phone, got it out and dropped it in the dirt. I got down on my knees and searched, swiping away pockets of pine duff and loose earth. I grabbed it, stood up and looked at the screen—the hospital.
I pushed the green answer button, and when I raised my head—the phone alive with some practiced, not ungentle voice—the vision on the bench was gone. I looked out through the tree-limbed window to the lake, half hearing the voice in my ear, and then I walked to the bench and sat.
Sitting, facing the lake, I thought of the trail and the tunnel of woods still dark behind me, and it filled me with dread. So, I looked to the stillness of the lake, to the drifting remnant steam. On the phone, the nurse continued asking if it were I, if I were there, if I could hear her.
“This is he,” I said at last.
And then I listened as she told the tale I already knew. Words telling of a resurgence, refilling fluid, of lungs so strained they could not perform any longer. She said they tried everything, all they knew to do, but still my mother had passed, this morning, some twenty minutes ago. As I ran along a trail in the dark…my mother died.
In the end, she found a way to show herself to me, for only me. The single parent giving all of herself until the very end—and then some. An acknowledgment of the mortal form of our bond severing. That where she was going, she would leave me to live my life, to be both alone, and never truly alone—or so I choose to hope. I choose to hope for her to still exist on somehow, in some way. Maybe even as she believed…needless of bones.
And now when I run, I stop and sit on that bench. In the cold of winter, the warmth of summer, with the wind blowing gales, or in its absence, the surface stilled to glass. I look up to the sky, to what light there may be, and hope that my mother lives on in brightness.
I do what any good son would. I run. I keep on living.
Tanya’s wedding was a first for the year-old colony. This wonderfully benign planet hosted verdant forests, sparkling rivers teaming with fish, was free of known dangerous predators and viral diseases.
Herbert, the team’s biologist, was in an overgrown neighboring field, studying a group of aging earthen mounds. Digging into the structures, he felt heat – a frightening anomaly – and heard an ominous rumbling from below. Upon unearthing huge exoskeletal remains, Herbert rushed to warn the party-goers.
The reception was in full swing, accordion playing, when giant rapacious arthropods burst from the mounds, attacking and greedily feeding upon the tasty wedding guests.
Jonathan Worlde is the fiction byline of Paul Grussendorf, who is an attorney representing refugees, a former professor of Clinical Law and consultant to the UN Refugee Agency. He served as an Immigration Judge in Philadelphia from 1997 to 2001. His legal memoir is My Trials: Inside America’s Deportation Factories. (Available on Amazon).
Jonathan Worlde’s neo-noir mystery novel Latex Monkey with Banana was winner of the Hollywood Discovery Award with prize of $1000. Recent short fiction appears in Antietam Review, The Raven Review, the 2020 anthology Ghost Stories of Shepherdstown, in Cirque Journal, Ab Terra Voices, Sirens Call, Trembling with Fear, and Stupefying Stories.
Paul is also a traditional country blues performer under the stage name Paul the Resonator, whose CD is Soul of a Man. (Available on Spotify, etc). He enjoys performing African-American blues for schoolchildren in Africa.
Omnipotent Apathy Or
We All Bought the Teenage Dream
The power was cute at first. Thirteen-year-old Catie Parker quietly saved droll rainy days over the school playground, turning clouds to sunshine. The girl could warp reality. Her mind’s wishes became the world’s command. As she grew older her self-control grew shakier. Inner demons screamed to life as secret lust became Sirens that devoured boys in the dead of night. Nightmares became reality, arms sprouted from bed and seized her sister’s throat. Catie could stop the beatings, but Mom looked so happy. So Catie’s wishes were bottled away. What’s bottled away explodes. Adolescence is an everyday apocalypse.
Born into an uneducated background, Jake Fitzgerald taught himself to read and write at age three. He knew he wanted to be a writer ever since he first snuck Naked Lunch past his mother at just fourteen. (at least that’s what one of his cover letters said) A massive fan of film, video games and music, when he’s not ring announcing for amateur boxing, he’s working on starting a film review blog. You can find him at [email protected].
Cold and sharp as an icicle, the voice pierced our minds moments before the otherworldly vessel appeared.
Love is irrelevant.
Hope is illusion.
Parting clouds bled into mist. The oval craft dropped through, and a turquoise halo shone down.
We clutched hands. Shared our terror.
It does not matter what you believe.
It does not matter if you will be missed.
You will not be permitted to scream.
The blue aura glowed brighter, hotter. Blinded us.
We had no time for regret.
Nobody to blame but ourselves.
Our UFO stakeout in the New Mexico desert had become a grim success.
Kevin M. Folliard
Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose fiction has been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, The Dread Machine, and more. His recent publications include his novella “Tower of Raven” from Demain Publishing, his 2020 horror anthology The Misery King’s Closet, and his YA fantasy adventure novel Grayson North: Frost-Keeper of the Windy City coming from Dark Owl Publishing December 2021. Kevin currently resides in the weterun suburbs of Chicago, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor and active membership in the La Grange and Brookfield Writers Groups. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Street Fighter, or traveling the U.S.A.
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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.