Trembling With Fear 09/30/2018
Time is flying by and it’s tough to catch a breather but here we are, another Sunday, and … finally I have a proof copy of the TWF 2017 antho. This arrived on Thursday, one hour after I received my proof copy for the DeadCades anthology, so you can all guess how I’ve been spending this weekend! As you read this, I can guarantee I will have gone through both books and both should be on track for publication. DeadCades (which includes some lovely TWF authors, not least a certain Stuart Conover!) is slated for 1st October. It’s neck-a-neck with these two at the present, I can’t believe how they’ve managed to converge in my life!
More important things now. Happy Birthday G.A. Miller, TWF stalwart and all-round supportive writer. Read his work today, Test Case in TWF, or pop over to his blog and find out about the publication journey of his novella, Spirit of the Dead, and his upcoming collection of short stories, Thirteen.
Last weekend I joined the HWA having finally sold a story at the right value (The Way of the Mother, in The Fiends in the Furrows folk horror anthology)! Will it be of benefit to me? Hopefully so. Any obvious benefits if you’re considering it? So far, the most obvious thing is the chance to promote your work and make connections. Had a quick look to see who else was a member and it was nice to see a number of familiar names. If you are a member, let us know what you’ve found the most worthwhile aspect of HWA.
What will I be doing once the two anthologies have been released into the wild? Going back to those Horror Tree articles about getting an agent and making a concerted effort this time (only subbed to one before). Even mulling the idea of #pitdark as it is in the middle of half-term and I might just have time …
I lied last week. My proof copy was in, Steph’s was ordered and never made it to her place for some reason. I’ve got another on order which I’m hoping will be there soon! I’ve already found two changes to make (1 was quick, one is quite time consuming but is being done.) PROGRESS!
‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.
It was just past midnight when I rang the doorbell at the small, nondescript house. He answered right away, ushering me in to the tidy living room and motioned to the sofa as he moved to the recliner opposite. He was a tall, overweight man, yet he moved gracefully, hinting at an athletic past.
The window behind the sofa was open, a gentle breeze coming in, the backyard well lit by the full moon above. He settled back in his chair, then jerked his arm away from the armrest.
“Ow! Shit, that burns! Do me a favor and close that shade, willya?”
I reached for the curtain rod and slid the heavy drape across the window, cutting off the fresh air and the bright moonlight coming in and falling on the chair he’d taken. I took a small digital recorder out of my leather bag and set it on the coffee table after pressing the Record button. I settled back in the overstuffed cushion, listening as he spoke.
“Hey, thanks for that. You know, those old movies were fun to watch, but they got a lot of it wrong, lemmie tell ya. For example, that full moon tonight? Supposed to be the best time for the monsters to come out and do their thing, right?
Staying out of the sunlight is legit, that shit will fry your ass in no time flat, but guess what? The moon doesn’t make light of its own. It reflects that sunlight, and that stings! Not as dangerous as the direct sun, more like a hot burn, but I wait for the clouds before I go out to feed.”
He leaned forward in his chair, clearly agitated.
“I’ll tell ya what you came to ask me about. I’m a friggin’ vampire now. No idea how or when or why, but somehow, I wound up dead and hungry. I got my first hint when I woke up after dark one day and the heart rate monitor on my watch showed two dashes where the numbers used to be. The rest of it, I’m figuring out as I go.”
My quiet nod of understanding seemed to reassure him as he sat back and sighed, settling down again.
“Problem is, there’s no instructions, and there ain’t no teachers either. Can I turn into a bat or a wolf or mist? Hell, I dunno, but if I can, I don’t know how. You’re a writer, you ever see a ‘Dracula for Dummies’ book anywhere? The feeding, now that’s easy. You get close to someone, you can hear their blood rushing and heart pumping and the dinner bell starts clanging, believe me. The feeding takes over all by itself.”
“You call it ‘the feeding’, then?” I asked, and he nodded as he continued.
“Oh yeah. The feeding is easy, like I said. All you have to do is stare at them and they freeze right up. Tell them what to do and they’re like a friggin’ zombie, moving real slow, but they’ll do whatever you want them to.
The neck bite just makes sense. You bite into that big ole artery and the blood comes out like a flood, just like a busted hose. The hard part is keeping it from splashing all over, wasting it, but you get the hang of that pretty quick.
Man, does that blood pack one hell of a kick. You know, I actually get a bone when I’m feeding? Gal, guy, cute, ugly, it don’t matter. It’s all about the blood, not the container. One thing, though, I always feed on them from behind.”
“Oh? Is it easier to feed that way, from behind them?”
“Easier? I don’t know about that, I just don’t wanna look at them. I just wanna take what I need and move on.”
“Interesting. I’m getting a sense of conscience, of regret on your part. Tell me, do you have fangs that somehow come out when you feed? I don’t see any now. Can you control them?”
“Fangs? I guess so, I mean the biting is easy, but I never thought about it. They must come on their own, I don’t know. I’m too busy doing it to worry about the workings of it. Far as I can tell, I look the same as I did before, just a fat old guy wearing a T-shirt and beat up Levi’s. No cape, no tux, that’s just pure Hollywood crap, like the mirrors they make a big deal of. I can see myself just fine, and pictures come out just like they always did before. I tried one to see, because like I said… there ain’t no instructions.”
His frustration and confusion were evident, but I said nothing, just listened.
“I suppose I musta got bit myself, but I don’t know how or when that happened. Oh, all that jazz about being forever linked to the one that made you? Nope. I don’t know who bit me, and I don’t know how to bite somebody and make them change either. Everyone I ever bit was left drained and dead, not a one of them walking around as far as I know.”
“Well, since we’re talking about those old legends, what about religious symbols and artifacts? Do those cause you a problem?”
“Not at all, but then I gave up being a practicing Catholic a long time ago, so maybe that has something to do with it, I don’t know. I just know seeing a cross doesn’t bother me in the least. Don’t know about the running water myth, but then I wasn’t a swimmer before, so I don’t see myself testing that one anytime soon.”
“And that leads to the question, are you immortal?”
“Shit, I don’t know. Forever’s a long way off, and I’m still new to this, still trying to figure it out. Ask me in a century, OK?” he chuckled and continued.
“A stake through the heart or beheading me, yeah, those things would probably kill me, but then they’d kill you too, right? Don’t think those are just for killing a vampire. Never been shot, so I don’t know if that’s on the level, but I’ll tell ya one thing I sure didn’t expect. All the aches and pains, my back, my bum knees? All gone. They just don’t hurt anymore.”
“That’s something of a positive at least, compared to all you’ve shared.”
“Oh yeah, it’s nice to not hurt all the time.”
“Now, this feeding, as you call it, that seems to be the most significant part of the change from all you’ve said. I trust I’m not on the menu?” I laughed at his surprised expression.
“Nah, you’re good, no worries. I went out and fed before you got here. It’s nice to actually sit and talk to somebody about all this shit without them thinking I’m a friggin’ looney tune or something. You’re cool, let’s go on ahead.”
“All right. What’s the worst part of the whole transition for you?”
“The worst part is moving around, not staying in one place for too long, being so alone all the time. With the damned internet and cell phones, there’s cameras everywhere now, ya know? When I scope out a new area, I usually look for a loner first, and after I feed on them, I take over their digs as my home base until I have to move along again and start over. That’s what this place is.” He waved his hand at the room.
“It sounds like a very solitary life, almost like being a modern-day nomad of sorts.”
“Yeah, it is. I miss some people, sure. I miss my dog too, but the reality is, if I’d have stayed with them, they’d all be dead right now. My disappearing saved their lives, they just don’t know it. If that living forever stuff is true, best to not get too attached anyway. They’re only gonna get old and die on me, which also sucks.”
“Mind if I take a look around and see how you’ve set yourself up here?”
“Oh sure, knock yourself out. I know there’s food in the kitchen here, go ahead and grab something if you’re hungry. It’s only gonna go bad, right? I’m sure it hasn’t yet, the old sniffer works better now than it ever did before, that’s for sure. Ears do too, come to think of it. I don’t know if I can turn into a bat, but I sure as hell can hear like one now.
Didn’t really change my vision, though. Still need my glasses, although I do have much better night vision now. Good thing, considering I can’t go out in the daytime, right?”
“I’m fine thanks, I’m not hungry right now. Can I bring you anything?”
“No, no thanks. Tried regular food once, puked my guts out. I really miss my pizza, which was always my favorite, but that’s out now. You go on ahead if you change your mind, though, help yourself.”
“How does such a drastic change from everything you were used to make you feel?” I asked after a cursory look through the rooms, as I sat back down.
“How’s it make me feel? Sounds a lot like a shrink’s question, but I suppose it’s a fair one.
It sucks, that’s how it makes me feel. Maybe somebody on a power trip might dig it, but for me, it just sucks. I don’t take any pleasure in hunting and killing people, I just have no choice.
It’s not even about surviving either, it’s the hunger that takes you over, compels you, leaving you no choice but to feed. Say what you will about drugs, about smoking, whatever, this hunger is total, complete, and addictive beyond anything you can imagine, trust me.
I thought about refusing to feed, taking a walk on the beach at high noon, whatever, but it will not let me. The slightest thought of depriving the hunger makes it fire up even worse than usual. It’s like the only living thing inside a dead body, as weird as that sounds, and it takes over completely.”
“And there’s that hunger again, the center of it all. It seems that’s one part of the legend they got right, anyway. I expect that memory foam bed in the blacked-out room I saw back there is far more comfortable than a traditional coffin would be.”
“Yeah, that mattress is very comfortable. Hey, you watching the time? It’s gonna be sunrise before too much longer, and I’ll be packing myself away for the day. So, do you mind if I ask you about something now?”
“No, not at all. Go right ahead.”
“What exactly are you gonna do with those recordings you made? You said you’re a writer, didn’t you? What’s the book going to be called? I used to love reading before… well, you know. Before this. Anyway, I’d like to get a copy when it comes out.”
“It’s not going to be fiction, to be honest with you. More of a reference manual, and won’t be a public release, I’m afraid.”
“Wait, what? A manual? What kind of manual?”
I remained silent, and his eyes narrowed as he scowled.
“A vampire hunter’s manual, maybe? You have got to be shitting me! You mean, all along you were… well, son of a bitch. You’re good kid, real good. I had no idea.
So, what’s it gonna be? Is there a hammer and stake inside that bag of yours? That it? Or, are you…” he said, a mix of anger and fear in his eyes as he began to stand up.
I struck so fast, not even his enhanced senses could see me moving. I clamped down on his carotid, my extended incisors nearly shearing it in half in my fury. His blood, mixed with my blood this time, flooded down my throat once more, his violent spasms much stronger now because he’d been turned. My eyes rolled back, as they always do when I feed, consumed by the act itself. It didn’t take long at all, and this time he was dead, really dead, when I let him drop to the floor.
He was right about some of it, and his observations will be very helpful for me when the time comes for me to turn a mortal of my choosing, to better prepare them for their new existence. His clumsy efforts, made without any guidance, taught me the areas I’ll need to focus on when the time is right.
He was my first, a test case, no more. I observed him as he tried to acclimate and adapt, his carelessly discarded victims attracting undue attention. When I approached him under the guise of a writer interested in hearing his story, he didn’t recognize me at all, perhaps too grateful for the opportunity to unburden himself. I cannot say, but he didn’t pick up my scent either. Perhaps he needed more time.
No, the next one has to be a better choice, the more cruel and cunning as a mortal, the better. The vetting process is a very important consideration, more so than I’d expected.
And this time, I will oversee the transition and teach the next one how to flourish.
G.A. Miller is a new voice in the chorus of horror authors, drawing his ideas from every day, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors, often with horrific consequences.
His published tales include:
“Bequeath” – Hinnom Magazine 001, Gehenna & Hinnom publishers.
“Shower Time” – The Edge: Infinite Darkness, Patrick Reuman publisher.
“Ear Wax” – Year’s Best Body Horror Anthology 2017 – Gehenna & Hinnom publishers.
“Nightmare” – Horror Bites Magazine, November 2017 Issue
“Just A Little Bloob” – Horror Tree Website, November 5th, 2017, Trembling With Fear column
“Rough Draft” – Evil Podcast Website, November 20th, 2017, November episode
G.A. lives where Lovecraft lived, due south of where King lives. Perhaps there’s something in the water in New England? One wonders…
“I’ll buy you a drink,” the man said as I autographed his hardcover. “I insist.”
So we sat at the hotel bar.
“They called your novel a triumph of suspense and cruelty. Nonsense! You have no imagination. If I’d written it, the killer wouldn’t have let the parents off so easy. Dumping the child’s body in plain sight! I would’ve left clues the kid was still alive: creepy phone messages, tapping at windows. Cultivate that desperate glimmer of hope. I’d drag it out for years.”
He stood. My phone rang. My wife.
“You really should get that,” he said, leaving.
Edward Karpp is a new writer with one story accepted for a horror movie-themed anthology from Hellbound Books. In his day job, he is a college dean in the Los Angeles area. His not-entirely-serious writing about misunderstood movies can be found at Senseless Cinema (http://www.senselesscinema.com).
Eat Your Greens
“No! I’m not gonna eat it!”
“Seamus, you will eat it!”
“Young man, I did not go all the way into town to get this and just let it go to waste! Besides, it’s good for you.”
“Why can’t we have something really good? Like some more mutton?”
“Because this is what’s for dinner, and if you don’t like it, you can just go hungry!”
“But, Dad, I don’t like Roman Catholic! They taste so—well, bleh!”
“Just a few bites.”
“Now! Or I won’t let you go out stalking the countryside with your friends tomorrow night!”
“Oh, all right!”
Patrick Winters is a graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. He has been published in the likes of Sanitarium Magazine, The Sirens Call, Trysts of Fate, and other such titles.
“Why don’t you give me flowers anymore?” asked the lady.
“I used to receive such beautiful bouquets almost every fortnight. But now, I can’t remember the last time you gave me flowers.”
“I’m sorry,” answered the man. “I’ve had so much going on recently I just haven’t found the time.”
“Do you still love me?”
“Of course I do, you’re always in my heart.”
The next day the man lifted the delicate vase, removed the withered stalks and replaced them with fragrant, radiant blooms.
Thank you, whispered a soft female voice.
The man smiled, slowly walking away from the graveside.
With two novels to his name and when not watching soccer Gary enjoys writing short horror tales. He lives a hectic family life outside of a small town in the north of England.
She wouldn’t shut up. Didn’t he have enough fish already?
Why did he have to use the bath when cleaning out the tanks?
Why did he have to store bait in their fridge?
Not his fault the lid hadn’t been closed properly.
He had one empty tank. Imagined the fish swimming around in it.
“Alright, love. How about a holiday to make up for it?
He’d already booked the tickets. There was good fishing to be had in Brazil if you had the right bait. He looked at his wife, patted the tickets in his pocket. One single, one return.
Stephanie Ellis writes speculative fiction stories which have found success in a variety of horror magazines and anthologies. Her first novella, Domnuill-dhu has recently been published in Dark Chapter Press’s Bloody Heather anthology. She is also co-editor at The Infernal Clock and at Trembling with Fear, the online magazine branch of Horror Tree (the online writer’s resource). She is currently awaiting decisions from publishers following submission of a novel and a novella.
Samples of her writing can be found on http://stephellis.weebly.com/ and she is on twitter at @el_stevie.