Trembling With Fear 09/26/21
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!
This week has been quiet – thankfully – and I’ve continued on with my latest novella. At the moment, I am still writing it longhand. There will come a point when I transfer it to pc and go from there but for the moment, the notebook is keeping me focussed and I am not dipping into social media too much! I had planned for most of it to be set on the streets of Victorian London’s East End but whilst it started there, it has now gone underground to the massive vaults that lay beneath the warehouses back then. My characters are down there and not showing any sign of coming back up soon! Having this book to work on has been a great antidote to a few rejections I’ve had lately!
Delighted to see Were Tales – A Shapeshifter Anthology appear this week. Yes, I’ve got a story in it but I want to give it a plug a) because there are a huge number of wonderful indie authors in the TOC b) it includes poetry c) finishes with a bonus non-fiction piece, One and Done, from Cindy O’Quinn, which everyone should read in these covid times (and when you’ve read it, pass it on) and finally d) because this is Brigids Gate Press first publication. Steve and Heather Vassallo set up their new press this year. They are not necessarily focussing on one specific genre – which is great news for those who want to try other areas to work in – and have been both enthusiastic and professional. If you are looking for a home for your work, keep an eye out for this publisher.
Our first story in Trembling with Fear is Clozapine Daydream by Jim Graves is a bleak story of psychosis and effectively terrifying use of the character of Humpty Dumpty. Using a nursery character usually regarded as innocent and harmless really heightens the darkness of this tale.
After Dark by Stephanie Parent is the story of someone at war with themselves, trying to be someone else, but then they are summoned home.
Beneath the Waves by Toshiya Kamei brings us the Namazu, a giant catfish from Japanese mythology which causes – well, I’ll let you read for yourself. More monsters from other cultures please!
Tools and Weapons by Ryan Benson is a sci-fi thriller in a drabble. This sort of pacing allows you to put the character under huge pressure – and what can go wrong when that happens?
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
Today’s thanks goes to our Patreons who I feel I have not been thanking enough lately! While our advertising has gone up a bit, it is still the Patreons that are the heart and soul of keeping the site running as a fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL battle station! … Oh, wait, no that was the Death Star. You HAVE been keeping us running though and for this I thank you!
We made a small update to our calendar view of upcoming open calls. Previously, if you opened a calendar item you could export it to your calendar only if you used Google Calendar or iCal. NOW, we also have Outlook integration!
We’ve had a few users reach out about this very thing so I’m thrilled to be able to add the requested functionality! Expanding on this. Do you use our calendar religiously? Do you wish it was more filterable? Consider becoming a Patreon & mentioning that. We need another $89 a year to add an advanced filter bar where we could have it filter on anything from genre to length to pricing!
Just as a reminder, last week our store unofficially relaunched! With it going live we also added the sticker that so many were requesting after I showed off a prototype I got on my laptop and they’re available in 3 sizes! You can get the logo in our current style, sepia, grayscale, and red! (Thanks to those who ordered them early!)
Finally a couple of reminders:
- 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.
- 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 weekend!
Clozapine Daydreams by Jim Graves
Jeremy Sutter lay on his bed, waiting for the medication to take effect. He had an episode today. That’s what they called it at Meadow Haven, an episode. It was a polite and less disturbing way of saying he tried to slit his wrists.
He couldn’t remember how long he had been there, not that it mattered, it wasn’t like anyone missed him. He was out-of-the-way there, the hidden flaw in a perfect family. Jeremy was the youngest of three; his sister was in her second year of medical school, while his older brother had just been offered a position with one of the largest law firms in Manhattan. Jeremy, however, was the one his parents didn’t mention at social functions and only in hushed tones in their own home.
Jeremy tried lifting his arm but the restraints held him. Raising his head and looking down, he could see a hint of blood coming through the gauze bandages on his wrists, and pulling on the restraints wasn’t helping matters. He rested his head back on the pillow, closed his eyes and whispered, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I have no soul for you to keep; All the tears that Jesus shed, have fed the monsters in my head.”
He waited for his visitors. Sometimes they came when he was outside for his one hour, daily dose of fresh air, but usually they waited until the halls were quiet and the residents were all tucked away, warm and cozy; and sedated. The staff at Meadow Haven never referred to their residents as patients, and they certainly never referred to Meadow Haven as a mental hospital – it was a recovery facility, with the cost of treatment keeping it highly exclusive.
Jeremy’s visitors were not your average visitors. For starters, no one but Jeremy could see them. He knew this because his visitors had told him so. At first, he had tried convincing the doctors that his visitors were real, but that led to disapproving looks and more writing in the little notebooks they always carried. He soon gave in and accepted that he was broken, just like Humpty Dumpty.
“Broken is broken. Can’t fix a broken egg,” Jeremy whispered to the empty room, “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t fix a broken egg.”
“It’s okay, Jeremy,” the first visitor said, “sometimes broken is better. If you’re broken, you don’t have to deal with the bullshit. That’s why Jack never went back up the hill, and Jill came tumbling after.”
“Jack and Jill,” Jeremy said, his speech slurred, “and you’re Humpty Dumpty.”
“That’s right, Jeremy. We’re both broken, aren’t we?”
“Can’t fix a broke egg,” Jeremy said, “but it hurts. It hurts all the time.”
“What hurts all the time, Jeremy?” It was the man in the white coat speaking now. The one who came with his visitors. The man in the white coat that no one else ever saw. “Tell me what hurts.”
“Life hurts.” Jeremy’s speech slurred badly now. He was getting sleepy. “It’s full of lies. There’s no Santa, no Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy. They’re all lies.”
“They’re all real here, Jeremy, anything you want is here,” the man in the white coat said. He got up from the chair and walked over to Jeremy’s bedside.
Jeremy turned his head to the side and looked up at the man in the white coat. It wasn’t the same man anymore. His face had changed, it was the face of Jeremy’s father.
“You’ve always been a disappointment,” his father said, “do you know that? Have I made that clear enough over the years?”
“Yes.” Jeremy’s eyes began to tear. “I’m a broken disappointment.”
Jeremy closed his eyes. His thoughts were sluggish. Confused. If he were a part of his father, and he killed himself, would he then be killing his father? Could he do that? Was that what he had tried to do all along? He didn’t know. His thoughts were beginning to speed up now. They were coming too fast. Too many at once. He opened his eyes and saw the room bathed in a dim glow, causing shadows to race across the walls. Jeremy’s father was smiling, as Humpty Dumpty – with his cracked shell – danced across the room. Jack and Jill laughed as they each tried to get hold of their pail. Jeremy felt dizzy, the room beginning to spin. He closed his eyes again but that only made his dizziness worse. He wished so much for it to end, for the pain to end.
Jeremy’s father stood over him, “You know, your mother wishes you were never born. You were an accident. We never wanted a third child. You’ve been nothing but an embarrassment to the family. She gave birth to two wonderful children, and then you, you slithered your way out of her womb.”
“Don’t listen to him, Jeremy,” Humpty Dumpty said, “he’s broken too, just in a different way.”
Jeremy turned his head away from his father, willing him to go away, but it was hard to focus. He could hear his mother crying, begging God to end the pregnancy. Jeremy was back in the womb, listening, as his mother prayed for his death. He screamed. He screamed for his own death. His screams filled his mind, but were silent to the ear. He turned and found his way out. He did slither, like an alien species invading a world filled with hate and violence, lies and deceit; a world where he would be treated as an abnormality, a freak.
“Twinkle, twinkle, little…”
Jeremy turned to see Humpty Dumpty sitting in the chair, his legs not long enough for his feet to reach the floor. He stopped singing when he saw Jeremy looking at him.
“That was a bad one, huh? You don’t usually stay out that long,” Humpty said. He slid down off the chair and went to the bed. With his gloved hand, he wiped sweat from Jeremy’s forehead, “Yeah, that was a bad one, alright.”
Jeremy felt the soft, warm glove against his skin. At that moment he didn’t care how much the doctors tried to convince him otherwise, he knew his visitors were real. Maybe it was the rest of the world – the world outside his locked room – that wasn’t real. Maybe the doctors and staff at Meadow Haven weren’t real. All he had to do was listen to Humpty Dumpty and things would be okay. Humpty had always been there for him, for as long as he could remember, Humpty was there when everyone else had given up and walked away.
“You’re wrong, Jeremy,” his father said. He was moving around the room now, moving on a conveyor, the kind they use in factories for assembly lines. His father’s hands were being swapped out for drills. “These are for you, Jeremy, we’re going to see what went wrong inside your head,” he said.
“I’ve always hated you.” Jeremy’s mother was now standing behind Humpty Dumpty, “You ruined our lives. How did you survive everything I did to get rid of you?”
“Ignore them, Jeremy,” Humpty said, “I’m your friend, right? Listen to me, I’m going to help you.”
It was too much to take at once. Jeremy screamed again, but this time it was heard. He saw a light come on through the tiny window in his door as he started chewing. He continued chewing as the door opened.
The large man stood just inside the door, his hand still on the key in the lock, staring in shock at the sight before him. Jeremy lay on a blood-soaked pillow, blood still running down the side of his face. He was choking on something. The man reached out with his free hand and slapped the large red button on the outside wall. A red light started flashing outside Jeremy’s door and a piercing alarm went off. The man let go of the keys hanging from the open door and rushed to the bed, trying to see what had happened.
Jeremy’s room was soon filled with medical staff, all rushing – in vain – to clear his airway of the bloody glove and his tongue which he had chewed off. There was no time to wonder where the glove came from, or to notice the pieces of broken eggshell beneath their feet.
Jim Graves is a writer of horror. Originally from Texas, he lived in Nashville, Tennessee for eleven years where he had contracts with Whistle Music Group and Alley Roads Music. He currently divides his time between Pennsylvania and the UK where he lives with his fiancée.
Lizzie had tried to become someone else. She moved cross-country, climbed into cars with strange men. Hoping she’d shake the old self like a snakeskin. But before she could master the magic trick, her mother got sick. So here Lizzie was, back home, leather-skinned.
A good girl might search the forest for some potion to save her mother. But Lizzie didn’t even want to save herself. She ran close to the trees where the branches were claws. Her clothes got in the way, so she cast them off.
A trail of breadcrumbs leading to the ravine.
No body was found.
Beneath the Waves
I get my dive gear on and slip into the cave. Darkness engulfs me, and an absolute stillness reigns. I can hear only my own breathing. As I float down to place the depth sensor, it comes for the submarine. A large inky mass. I can’t hear the explosion, but green hellfire lances through the black hold of the water. I frantically wave my flashlight. It’s a giant namazu. The lifeless bodies of my shipmates drift past. The giant namazu thrashes about and causes an earth-shattering tremor. The ceiling collapses and buries us. My daughter’s smile flashes before my eyes.
Toshiya Kamei is a fiction writer whose short stories have appeared in Bending Genres, New World Writing, and SmokeLong en Español, among others.
Tools and Weapons
Arthur dashes into the base’s darkened commissary, punching the ‘close doors’ button. Though retreating, he stares at the entrance. Would PROTECH find him?
His uploaded virus failed to disable the malfunctioning robot. The others battled PROTECH with phasers, and failed. Damn PROTECH’s shielding.
Anyone else alive? James? Benedict? Angela?
The doors explode open. A gun-toting silhouette enters.
In the shadows, survival overrides fear. Arthur snatches a knife off a table and punctures the unexpectedly soft chest.
PROTECH pauses. Recalculating? Disbelief?
Teetering, it collapses.
Arthur whimpers at the now illuminated body.
Angela—not PROTECH—gazes back, hands gripping her crimson chest.
Ryan Benson’s fiction has appeared in Trembling with Fear (Horror Tree), The Sirens Call Publications, On Spec Magazine, TERSE Journal, and Night Terrors Vol. 1 (Scare Street).
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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.