The summer is over and I am back at work in my real life job. Students have come back bringing with them books I loaned for the summer, one loved the first two books in Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin series – which I had only just bought – and can’t wait to read the other two (thank you Monster Librarian for recommendations!), others are asking, yet again, for me to stock Stephen King. Horror still has its place in the heart of the young and YA horror is a definite market for writers.
Acceptance odds! We all know the odds are against us when we submit and lately editors and publishers have shared the number of submissions for various calls with writers. I don’t know how many of you submitted to the Miscreations anthology edited by Doug Murano and Michael Bailey, but they recently posted they had received just short of 900 submissions – for 5 slots in the book! I don’t think anyone will feel too bad about rejection for this one simply because of the numbers involved!
Trembling With Fear’s first story this week is NY and Howie by David Berger and is a Lovecraftian story featuring Lovecraft himself. Familiar names are referenced but the tone is lightened considerably with the banter between Lovecraft and his jailer Nyarlathotep; the dialogue is wonderfully irreverent throughout, the same lightness of touch applied to all characters. Recognisable tropes and phraseology are all used to terrific humorous effect and the writing is excellent. This is a writer having fun with his subject and reminded me of the way Terry Pratchett wrote. And yes, there’s a great last line. David Berger has submitted a few pieces to us now but is relatively ‘new’ in terms of publication credits in the horror industry – I really think he has a style which should (and I believe will) receive wider recognition.
Food Baby by Catherine Kenwell was gruesomely relatable as my some of my family (including me) suffered a horrible bout of gastroenteritis in the summer. I am just so glad we didn’t share the same outcome.
The Drabbler by Terrance Mc Arthur starts with the definition of a drabble (something which a few submitters tend to forget) and discusses a famous drabbler’s writing history which in the end becomes a drabble in its own right, fiction becoming fact. Clever way of playing with the form.
Simulation by Andrea Allison uses an original setting and is one which I actually thought was a great idea followed closely by now why didn’t I think of that! I think, but I may be wrong, this is the first escape room story we’ve received.
The slowness issues from last week on the backend of the site are worse than ever! It appears that an update to Divi which we use from Elegant Themes is the culprit. Unfortunately, due to massive use of their post builder (which is why we got the theme in the first place) I can’t just switch or we’d lose ALL of the Trembling With Fear formatting as well as guest posts and other such things.
I’m hoping for an update but it is making updating the site make me want to throw my laptop out the train window. Fortunately, for all of us, you can’t open a train window.
On the upside, I really do think I have the contracts figured out and have just needed to find time to make one last update and shoot the details over to Steph. The problem? My time is CONSUMED by trying to get our standard posts in place with how slow things are.
My apologies on delays.
NY And Howie
Howard Phillips Lovecraft, known to no one as “Howie” (but sometimes addressed at “HPL), sat, chained to a chair, in a dank, mossy chamber carved from the living rock of somewhere. Lovecraft had been secured in the chamber for aeons, and only occasionally fed, given water or allowed to go to the bathroom. He was far from comfortable but equally far from despair.
A door opened in one of the walls of the chamber, the wall Lovecraft was facing. A tall, slim figure, dressed in gold, with the golden, young face of an antique pharaoh, entered the chamber. It was Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos, rarely addressed as ‘Ny.’
“Howie,” the beautiful youth said. “How’s it going?”
“Hey, Ny,” Lovecraft replied. “What’s it today? Rack, wheel, hot coals, or maybe a little water boarding for a change of pace?”
“None of those, Howie,” the beautiful one replied. “Today, something a bit different. Maybe it’ll work. Maybe it won’t. Maybe we’ll get you to open up today, get it out of you.”
“Fat chance that,” HPL snapped back. “It’s been an infinity of time that you’ve been torturing me, and I haven’t given you anything worthwhile.”
“True Howie, true,” Nyarlathotep said. “But this time’s, as I said, a bit different.”
“Oh, how so?” the prisoner asked.
“This time I’ve got some help, Howie old boy.”
“Again? Who is it this time? Nodens, that loser? Or your doorman, Yog-Sothoth. Or maybe Cthulu, the Big C himself? It’s been a billion years or so since I looked at his tentacley visage. Nothing new there.”
“No, not the Mayor of R’lyeh. Someone real special. This time you break, Howie. This time I’ve got you!”
There was a timid knock at the door. Nyarlathotep turned. “Come in, dear,” he said.
The door opened, and a young woman stepped in. She had pale blonde hair, pinned up in a bun and pale blue eyes; her skin was pale; she wore a white, long-sleeved blouse, with lace at the neck and cuffs, a skirt that reached to her ankles and sensible shoes.
“Welcome,” the Crawling Chaos said rather grandly. He pulled a chair for her out of thin air. “Please sit.”
“That’s a cheap parlor trick, Ny,” Lovecraft said. Nyarlathotep smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
The young woman sat down in the chair facing Lovecraft, only a few feet away from him. He could smell her breath: Sen-Sen.
“I’m awfully pleased to meet you, Mr. Lovecraft. Maybe you remember me?”
Lovecraft squinted at her. There seemed to be a splinter of memory. “You look familiar,” he said. “But I can’t quite place your face. Since the Universe collapsed in the Big Crunch, and that abolished time, my memory’s been a little rusty.”
“I’m Daphne Müller, Mr. Lovecraft. My father owned a delicatessen you used to frequent on Rapelye Street. You remember? Müller’s Delicatessen? You used to like his liverwurst. I worked behind the counter.”
“Now I remember you, Miss Müller.” Unbeknownst to HPL, beads of sweat began to cover his upper lip.
“You were always very polite to me, Mr. Lovecraft, very gentlemanly.”
“Thank you for saying so.”
“I’ll leave you two to, er, sort things out, catch up on old times,” the Crawling Chaos said. And as he vanished through the door in the wall, the chains dropped of HPL onto the floor with a loud clatter, and Lovecraft had a momentary glimpse of his true form: a violent green blob of a million tendrils.
“So how did you get here, Miss Müller?” Lovecraft asked, standing up to address her.
“I, I’m not sure, Mr. Lovecraft. I recall being asked by a gentleman on the street if I was Daphne Müller. And when I answered, ‘Yes I am,’ he took me forcibly by the arm. That’s all I recall until I was in the antechamber to this room.”
“You woke up there?”
“No, Mr. Lovecraft. I was just there. It’s a lot nicer in there than here. Golly, how long have you been chained up here?”
“Quite a while,” the posthumously-well-known horror writer said. “Quite a while.”
“Oh, then let’s go in there. There’s even a bathroom where you can get a wash.”
“A wash, Miss Müller?”
“Oh, please call me Daphne,” the young woman said as she impulsively took the older man’s hand and led him out of the rock chamber he had occupied since the Universe was still expanding. Every million years or so, Lovecraft had been dragged into the antechamber where he had been fed, given water and permitted to use the toilet. (Nyarlathotep had been considerate in this latter regard and provided Marcal.) Previously, there had been a plain table and a chair where HPL had dined. These were gone and replaced by a wide couch.
Miss Müller, Daphne, sat down on the couch and pulled Lovecraft down next to her. “Oh Mr. Lovecraft,” she said. “I’m so glad to finally meet you outside of my father’s delicatessen.”
Given the circumstances of this utterance, the writer was a bit lost for words. Finally, he said, “Likewise, I’m sure.”
Then Daphne stared into HPL’s eyes as she put her hand on his shoulder and held him with surprising strength. Slowly, he put his hand on hers as much to loosen her grip as to touch her. Then, Daphne Müller pushed the surprised writer down onto the couch.
“Mr. Lovecraft,” she said, softly as she leaned over him.
“Miss Müller,” was the reply.
“Howard,” she said, starting to loosen her clothing and his.
“Howie,” she said, as both of them were naked.
As the two began to move together in a rhythm as old as time (and whose details would perhaps bore the sophisticated readers of this tale) Lovecraft began to hear the slow piping of a flute as a strange greenish light became to pulsate in the room. As they moved faster, the music also went faster and faster and the light shifted constantly. Finally, as their motion reached towards the expected end, Lovecraft closed his eyes, overcome and lost with the intensity of the moment!
Afterwards, they lay in bed for who knows how long. Lovecraft was, for a moment, completely without consciousness. From somewhere, the young woman, looking as resplendent in her nudity as HPL looked meager in his, fetched a lit cigarette and began to smoke. But slowly, as Lovecraft awoke, an awful suspicion began to rise inside him. Then, a door that Lovecraft hadn’t noticed opened and Nyarlathotep strode into the room.
“Lovely, Howie,” said Nyarlathotep.
“You tricked me, Ny,” Lovecraft said.
“Indeed,” the Crawling Chaos replied, almost gently. He turned to Daphne Müller, who was now glowing with more beauty than HPL had ever seen. Nyarlathotep bowed to her.
“Thank you, oh Azathoth, oh Great One,” he said. “I could never have succeeded without you, oh Sultana.”
“Doubtless not,” the woman said. “I overestimated you.”
“Forgive me,” Nyarlathotep said, going down on one knee. “But in any event, it’s done.”
“You tricked me, Ny” Lovecraft croaked out.
“Indeed I did, Howie. Finally got it out of you, finally broke you open, finally.
“Finally what?” HPL turned slowly and stared at Azathoth, who once again looked like Daphne Müller, fully dressed. “Finally what?”
Daphne Müller smiled with just the barest hint of Azathoth, the Great Old One, that she was, “Finally a Big Bang, my dear Mr. Lovecraft.”
I’m an old guy from Brooklyn, now living in Manhattan with my wife of 25 years: the best jazz singer in NYC. I’m a father and grandfather. I’ve been, among other things, a case worker, construction worker, letter carrier, high school and ESL teacher, a legal proofreader and a union organizer. Love life, my wife and the world. Hope to help the latter escape destruction.
David Berger has published:
- In 2014, Verso published Paul Buhle’s and my graphic history of American bohemia: “Bohemians.”
- In December of 2018, DRABBLE published my drabble, “Invisible Dude.”
- In December of 2018, DRABBLE published my drabble, “Statuary.”
The Sirens Call ezine, Issue 45, contains my story, Ghoul Days.
It had to be food poisoning. Nauseated and sweating, Shawn swallowed hard as his gut cramped. He’d been fine before lunch; now it felt like he was one wrong move from going off like a geyser.
His stomach gurgled ominously, skin stretched painfully tight. Shawn doubled over with a pitiful whine, clutching his middle. It distended, rippled, and roiled as something inside pressed forcefully against his flesh. He heard a wet tearing…
Shaking off blood and viscera, the slick, ridged, creature blinked milky eyes, crooning. It turned back to what was left of Shawn, snapping its teeth. Time to eat.
Catherine Berry lives in Michigan, sings with her dog, and loves potatoes.
Her work has been published in Horror Tree’s Trembling With Fear and in the anthologies Trembling With Fear: Year 1 and Trembling With Fear: Year 2.
More of her work can be found at www.caterinaberyl.blogspot.com
“Help me up, Zoe. Zoe?”
“Sorry Jack.” Flames crept up his body as she closed the door, sealing it tight. “Kate!”
“Get the boys to set up another simulation by Friday. Find new beta testers. Smarter ones this time. The client wants his puzzle rooms operational by the end of the month.”
“What about the bodies, ma’am?”
“Call Mr. Latham. He knows what to do. Transcribe my notes while I’m being stitched up in the infirmary. The biker bar room was too easy to figure out. Maybe add an acid element. We have to get this right, Kate.”
Andrea Allison currently resides in a small uneventful town located in Oklahoma after moving from a small uneventful town in Texas. She is an author who enjoys writing horror of all varieties and her work has appeared both online and in print.
You can visit her website at www.andreallison.com.
One hundred words: no more, no less. That’s a drabble. Caden wrote them. Lots of them. Scarywrite.com called him the “minimalist Michener,” putting “a massive novel’s worth of story into an itsy-bitsy structure.” Romance, Western, horror, mystery, humor: he wrote them all, 100 words at a time. This story’s goal was the ultimate scare, a blending of occult and paranormal, horror and gore that would shock and amaze the reader. He wanted a set-up that would lead the mind to a surprise conclusion that would stop hearts, a creature beyond the imagination. He typed faster and faster until the monster….
Terrance V. Mc Arthur
- Taking Submissions: One Story - January 22, 2020
- Ongoing Submissions: Public Domain Fanzine - January 22, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Best Vegan SFF of the year (Reprints Only) - January 21, 2020
- Ongoing Submissions: Infinite Worlds Magazine - January 21, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Guardians of Time - January 20, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Horror USA: Alaska - January 20, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Twenty Twenty - January 17, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Deep Magic – Short Stories, Novelettes, And Novellas - January 16, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Electric Spec May Issue 2020 - January 16, 2020
- Taking Submissions: Nothing Ever Happens in Fox Hollow - January 15, 2020