Trembling With Fear 09/27/20
The vice tightened this week with new restrictions across the UK as covid triggered the expected upswing. Whilst I obey whatever strictures are sent out (despite a differing viewpoint), I still find it extremely hard to reconcile to the almost authoritarian government which seems to have emerged in recent months. It’s certainly made me value personal freedom even more and I look forward to that being restored when vaccines and testing take control of this awful virus. My poor sister-in-law has had to rearrange her wedding and has been hit hard in terms of who can be invited – 15 guests in all and visits to family at Christmas are out. And lo – there has been panic-buying of toilet rolls and pasta – again! I don’t think 2021 can come quickly enough. I hope the US manages to avoid this upswing.
This is why we need stories. We need to escape and leading the charge this week is A Personal Heaven and Hell by J Sloan. This is a great piece of misdirection. As you read, you’ll be wondering why it’s in TWF, where’s the darkness? It read initially like a creation story, with an almost biblical feel at the start. Keep reading though and it turns all your misconceptions on their head. Cleverly done.
But Each Night by John D. Adams is a lovely little ghost story, delivering a chill.
Not my Fault by Kevin M. Folliard is a poem with a nursery rhyme feel to it. Its rhythm bonces along quite innocently – until you hit the last line.
Silent Witness by Lionel Ray Green uses a horror trope at the start and twists it so the image becomes an all-too-real moment of human heartbreak.
Enjoy the stories and poems and send us yours!
What a week. I know that every week lately I’ve been saying that I’m busy but it seems to be snowballing in how much work I have on my plate these days.
Totally okay. Yup. Absolutely.
So I’ve gotten a whole lot of no writing these days and the only reading that I’ve been able to make time for are your lovely submissions to Trembling With Fear. So, at least I’ve got some great fiction to read that is keeping me going!
Work is pushing forward on our future expansion plans but it is slow and will likely be awhile until we have a major announcement so I’m going to try and not bring that up for a bit.
I hope you’ve all had a great weekend and do remember to comment on these posts to share which stories you have enjoyed!
A Personal Heaven and Hell by JR Sloan
Jax strode through the lush paradise, as naked as when he was born, though he felt no self-consciousness at his nudity. He relished the feeling of the patches of cool sand amongst the soft green grass under his bare feet. White trees stood in twisted but beautiful forms, their branches extending out and covered in lavish green leaves. Bushes of berries were spread intermittently, and Jax knelt beside one and plucked a berry from the bush, plopping it into his mouth and smiling at the sweet but sour taste. He believed it to be a raspberry.
“What the hell is it doing?” asked a male voice. Jax continued moving as though nothing had been said, though he was suddenly aware of a burning pain in his chest.
A creek babbled nearby, the water slickly moving over the smooth and picturesque rocks, creating a glossy surface on the normally matte rocks. Walking up to the creek bed, Jax felt the pebbles sticking to the underside of his feet as he surveyed the watery indentation in the ground, searching for a pool deep enough he could soak in the water. Not seeing one, he moved further down, following the water as it tingled at his feet. Finally seeing a pool, he eased his body into it, feeling the refreshing cool on his skin.
“If you’d shut up, I could tell you,” came a female voice; his hand reflexively moved up to two holes in his chest, unsure of their origin.
Once again relatively unbothered, Jax closed his eyes and let his body relax, floating in the water. His limbs were sprawled out as though he were Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. The cool and crisp water felt foreign on his flesh; it rippled his thin hair, which was clinging to his scalp. Tilting his head backward, he opened his mouth and felt the water rush in, bringing his head back above the surface and swallowing. It was like how he had heard the legendary creek water in New England was like. Smiling, he brought himself to a standing position, mud forming around his toes.
“You done yet?” asked the male voice. Once again, it did not bother Jax, though a headache began to form, encompassing the entirety of his head but starting in the base of his skull in the back.
Jax climbed out of the water, dripping dry as he walked across the grass, feeling the warmth of the sun as he walked, laying down on a patch of ground in the grass. Once more he sprawled out, except instead of feeling the refreshingly cold water he felt the heat of the sun drying the moisture from his body. He lay contently, moving his head to the side to avert his eyes from the brightness above him. It was what humans did to sunbathe.
“Now I’m done,” said the female voice. “See what a little patience can do?”
Jax’s private Heaven turned to a private Hell instantaneously. Without notice, he was standing in the parking lot of a police station, two men and a woman beside him; one of the men wore the bars of a Captain. They were talking, but Jax was not sure what about as he focused in on something moving towards them.
A figure strode out of the dark on the other side of the fence, a white mask covering his face, the hood to his black sweatshirt pulled up, jeans torn and ripped and dirtied. His hand moved to his back pocket and he drew something, raising it and pointing it at the assembled officers. As he realized what the figure had pulled out, Jax shouted but it was too late, the first gunshot blasting out into the night. The female officer cried out in pain as the bullet flew through her chest plate, killing her as the Captain and the other officer drew their weapons. Both men fired back as the gunman turned his weapon on the Captain, firing three more shots. All three bullets hit the Captain and he collapsed to the ground. The remaining officer pulled the trigger of his firearm as the gunman turned away to make a run for it, the bullet grazing the mask and taking off part of the left side. Turning, the gunman looked at Jax before raising his gun one last time, firing two shots in Jax’s chest.
Jax awoke on a bed, naked as when he had been born, albeit this time he was self-conscious of his nudity. A woman and a man stood over him, and wires connected to the back of his head, light being emitted from his right eye onto a board. The gunman stood there, frozen in time, lines moving over his eye as the system struggled to recognize it.
“The wonderful thing with AI, Officer,” started the woman, “Is that we can playback what happened. Using this tech, we should be able to identify the man that killed the fellow officers talking with you last night in the parking lot. And as far as I can tell, Jax here had created his own Heaven. Everything we saw play out in its mind are things AIs can’t normally do.”
“Too bad we can’t bring back Captain Conner from the dead,” said the Officer, running his fingers across the holes in Jax’s chest where the two bullets had entered its body.
JR Sloan is a psychology student at West Virginia University and a sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writer. He is an avid builder of LEGO and a fan of hard rock and metal music. You can follow his work, including his progress on a dark-fantasy novel, at his website www.thetwilightsloan.net or on his Instagram, @the_twilight_
But Each Night
Each morning, it strikes: this feigned happiness that my ambitions smeared upon me. This house of fortune and silence. This family of large standing and small contempts. “Precious,” my new husband coos, my real name too plain.
But each night, when I mercifully shut my bedchamber door, I see Robert – alive, in his way, with tenderness.
His poetry strums my heart.
His fingers pass through my skin.
His ginger curls brush his gallows-kissed neck.
We make something like love, but far more intimate.
Hushed family whispers claim he long-ago murdered a woman he loved. I pray to be as fortunate.
John Adams lives near Kansas City. Publications: Australian Writers’ Centre, Bowery Gothic, Dream of Shadows, Fat Cat Magazine, SERIAL Magazine, Siren’s Call, Trembling With Fear, and Weird Christmas. His plays have been produced by Whim Productions and selected for readings at the William Inge Theater Festival. Web: https://johnamusesnoone.com/. Twitter: @JohnAmusesNoOne.
Not My Fault
It’s not my fault we hit a storm.
Not my fault the sails were torn.
I’m just the captain; I don’t make weather.
Stop complaining. This will get better.
It’s not my fault the hull was breeched.
Not my fault we sprung a leak.
It’s not my fault the current’s strong.
Don’t act like I was in the wrong.
I steered us to this island shore,
Away from circling shark fin horror.
I refuse to admit defeat.
It’s not my fault. We have to eat.
It’s not my fault the life raft sank.
It’s not my fault we’re eating Hank.
Kevin M. Folliard
Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose fiction has been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, and more. His recent publications include “Halfway to Forgotten,” featured on The No Sleep Podcast; the Short Sharp Shocks! Halloween tale “Candy Corn”; and his 2020 horror anthology The Misery King’s Closet. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, 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 Super Mario Maker, or traveling the U.S.A.
I’m visiting my father’s grave in Maple Hill Cemetery when I hear a child’s screams erupt.
I turn and see an elderly man in pale blue pajamas crawling like a zombie amid the granite headstones. His hands claw at the ground and the green grass. A rictus of desperation and determination etch his face.
A woman in pink followed by a policeman appears … but too late.
When the elderly man reaches his destination, he places his lips onto one of the grave markers and whispers, “Happy fiftieth anniversary, sweetheart.”
Outside the gates, an empty wheelchair waits, a silent witness.
Lionel Ray Green
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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.