Trembling With Fear 1/15/2023
Hello, children of the dark – and it really is dark out there, isn’t it? At least in the Northern Hemisphere (a wave and shout-out to my homeland, where it’s currently summer). It’s that time of year in London that is pure grey skies, driving rain, blasting winds and just cold, cold, cold. My Aussie bones can’t take it, so I’m a hermit once more (though less of the heater-constantly-on thanks to the energy crisis, and more wrapped up in my warmest jumpers).
Over this side of the pond, tomorrow – the third Monday of January – is known as “Blue Monday”, and is said to be the most depressing day of the year. There is a lot of debate as to the methods and origins of this “science”, with some claiming it’s just a misguided PR stunt, but whatever the origins, the idea has really taken hold in the last decade.
If you’re feeling down because of the weather, post-Christmas finances, low motivation and the pressure to take action on new year’s resolutions, maybe the concept resonates with you. Maybe it’s also taking its toll on your creativity, and you’re struggling to write. If that resonates, I ask that you hold on. The grey will lift, and soon the light will return. Find solace and inspiration in your community of writers and readers of the darkly speculative. And, of course, reach out if you need to talk to someone. There’s a lot of shit out there, but there’s also good to be found.
Dare I say, some of that good is in this week’s TWF menu? Our Trembling main course is definitely not one for the bug-phobic (thanks, Kellee Kranendonk!). This is followed by three delicious quick bites:
- Scott Bogart takes revenge on the bad guy,
- Robert Allen Lupton takes revenge on editors, and
- Ron Capshaw’s type of revenge is tbc.
If these stories inspire you to get writing, you’ll find details on how to submit to us over here, and we have an insatiable appetite.
Over to you, Stuart.
A HUGE thank you to Kangas Kahn Publishing for sponsoring this week’s newsletter! Please, if you’ve got a Halloween story in mind, do reach out to them! They’re paying 8 cents per word for 2000-5000 word Halloween stories! Details are on the link above.
We’re inching toward the new hosting and layout, which is taking up quite a bit of my time! (That, and my latest class for my MBA, has started up, which hasn’t helped matters.) That isn’t to say nothing is getting done that is new! I’ve added an automation for new subscribers of our newsletter to receive a welcome e-mail and wrote a script that will welcome our new Patreons as well, which I’ll be trying to record soon. (I may also add a video to our welcome letter.)
Oh, we’ve also had a few people ask about the return of Horror Tree merch. It won’t be happening with the new layout of the website, but we ARE actively working on bringing it all back (and adding more items as well!) More to come.
For those looking to support the site, we’ve recently launched a Ko-Fi and always have our Patreon going.
As always, I hope you had a great weekend.
Tickle, by Kellee Kranendonk
Something was crawling up my leg.
I’d come out to the bench by the lake this morning to enjoy the birds singing, the calm, glass-smooth water, and the smell of the forest all around me. I’d also started sketching the beauty before me.
Thinking a fly or an ant had found the warmth of my skin, I shook my leg. Ouch! Whatever it was dug in to hold on. I reached down to swipe it off. What my hand touched was much bigger than any insect or arachnid I’d ever seen.
I’m not afraid of bugs, but I jumped up and twisted to see what monstrosity had clamped itself onto me.
An eight inch long, brown, segmented thing hung from my upper calf. A hundred or more long, spidery legs jutted out from its sides, and long antennae wavered from its large round head. But it wasn’t a centipede. The thing had jaws like a stag beetle, and had sunk them into my flesh.
I stomped my foot in an attempt to lose it, but it hung on, digging its jaws in deeper. Pain flared up through my knee to my thigh. Steeling myself, I grabbed it and yanked. Several segments came off in my hand leaving the head with only a few segments. There was no blood. No fluid of any sort. What the hell was this thing?
The headless segments spasmed in my hand and I dropped them. They scuttled about the sand as though drunk.
Then I heard a wet slurp accompanied by a sharp crackle. I looked down and saw the creature regenerating. Section after section regrew itself, stubby legs popping out on each one, growing until they reached the same length as the others.
I reached down again to grab this thing by the head. As I curled my hand around it, one antenna lashed itself around my fingers, searing into my skin. It withdrew its jaws but before I could do anything else, it bit down on my wrist. I screamed again and shook my arm trying to dislodge it. Just as before it dug in harder. Burning pain raced up my arm. It swung its segments to gain footholds on my arm.
Each leg brushed against my skin before settling.
Thick blood ran into my shoe.
I grabbed it again, but this time I realized I could feel it pulsing. It wasn’t chewing on me, it was pumping something into me!
“Omigod!” I screamed. “Help! Someone help me!”
I ran towards my house – through the path in the woods, through my back field. Were any of my neighbours home?
As I ran the pain throbbed and my sight began to blur. I kept screaming in the hopes someone would hear me.
No one did. My driveway was the only one with a car in it.
I stumbled up the stairs. My leg was numb and weak, my sight more blurred by the minute.
I grabbed a steak knife from the block on my kitchen counter, then stood there gulping in air, trying to concentrate on what to do next. My leg trembled and my hands shook. I came up with a plan.
I stabbed the thing in the head. Once. Twice. Three times and it started to scream. Its jaws released but its legs still clung to me. Blood and chunks of flesh poured from the wound on my wrist. I slid the knife along its sides, the tip millimetres from my skin.
Finally I was free of it, its legs sticking out of my arm as it lay on the floor screaming. Furiously I yanked them out. But, like bee stingers and porcupine quills, they were barbed and tore my skin. I didn’t care.
Vision still fogged, I searched for my phone. Blood still ran down my leg and I turned to assess the damage. There was a crater in my leg and it was still growing. I looked at my wrist. Despite the haze in my eyes, I could see my flesh melting away.
What had that thing injected into me? Was I really melting, or was I just hallucinating?
As I stumbled across the kitchen, I heard the rustle of leaves and only then did I realize the thing had stopped screaming.
Where was my phone? I searched frantically. Where had I left it? I hadn’t taken it with me.
I checked my arm again. Was that wound still getting bigger?
I located my phone just before my leg gave out and I fell to the floor. Lying there I dialled.
“9-1-1. What is your emergency?”
He’d sat waiting impatiently in the confessional. He heard him enter. The screen opened.
“Forgive me, father,” he whispered upwards.
He sat in silence with his mind racing. The priest’s softly spoken words, vaguely audible, filled him with disdain and repulsion that quickly reached fever pitch. In his mind, images of the cross flashed in technicolor. He thought of the poor girl and how her life had been snuffed—erased to ensure their elicit veil of secrecy. But the droning of his words ended abruptly when the hammer cocked.
“For Emanuela Orlandi,” he’d said, seconds before smoke spiraled from the barrel.
Scott Bogart is a U.S. Navy veteran and retired police detective. His work has appeared in Fairfield Scribes Microfiction, Micofiction Monday Magazine and Friday Flash Fiction. He lives along the South Carolina coast.
No Matter How You Slice It
Death came for the editor, who said, “I’m busy. Leave me alone. I’ve got a hard deadline.”
“Yes you do have a hard deadline. Don’t make me take my scythe to you.”
“Sickle, not scythe.”
“Long pole, two handles, slightly curved. It’s a scythe. Sickles are short with semicircular blades.”
The editor shouted, “Sickle, sickle, sickle. Look in the dictionary. It’s a sickle, damn it.”
Death cut off his head and dragged his beheaded corpse to the river Styx. The ferryman said, “You don’t usually bring them in two pieces.”
“I know, but he just wouldn’t shut the hell up.”
Robert Allen Lupton
Robert Allen Lupton is retired and lives in New Mexico where he is a commercial hot air balloon pilot. Robert runs and writes every day, but not necessarily in that order. Over 180 of his short stories have been published in various anthologies. More than 1600 drabbles based on the worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs and several articles are available online at www.erbzine.com. His novel, Foxborn, was published in April 2017 and the sequel, Dragonborn, in June 2018. His third novel, Dejanna of the Double Star was published in the fall of 2019 as was his anthology, Feral, It Takes a Forest. He co-edited the Three Cousins Anthology, Are You A Robot? in 2022. He has five short story collections, Running Into Trouble, Through A Wine Glass Darkly, Strong Spirits, Hello Darkness, and The Marvin Chronicles. Visit his Amazon author’s page for current information about his stories and books. Like or follow him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or visit his website.
They still fought with swords. But rather than that castle roof, they were atop a zeppelin.
One wielded a silver blade.
The other, hideously fanged, only needed steel.
Suddenly, he stopped.
“This will go on forever. I don’t have much of a life, sleeping in the earth, hunted by peasants, always thirsty, but I’d like to find happiness where I can. I can’t do that if I’m always looking over my shoulder for you.”
“Surely you must want that too.”
The other paused and then threw his sword off the zeppelin.
He even waved when the fanged figure flew away.
Ron Capshaw is a writer based in Florida. His novel The Stage Mother’s Club was released in June by Dark Edge Press.
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Lauren is a writer with various hats – journalist, copywriter, content marketer, fiction – and considers herself a storyteller at heart. She writes gothic and folk horror and is currently working on a novel set in the world of the Victorian occult. It’s the supernatural and the occult that really give her goosebumps, and a good ghost story or vampire tale with a rising sense of dread will always pique her interest (and yes, Midnight Mass hit many of her buttons). She also has a developing fascination with folklore, the old ways and our fast-changing relationship with the natural world; this sneaks into her writing, too.
In The Real World, Lauren has more than 20 years’ experience as a professional content creator. She’s established and led global content teams and editorial strategies, including setting up content newsrooms for some of the world’s biggest brands. She was a music editor for a daily newspaper in her native Australia (a good gig and the beach remain her happy places), though she’s been London-based for 16 years and works as an editor, proofreader, marketer, and writing coach. She’s also a mental health advocate; her Substack, How to Be Self(ish), tracked her year of sabbatical and self-care, and she continues to write it irregularly as a mental health companion.
You’ll find Lauren haunting south London, where she lives with her Doctor Who-obsessed husband and their aged black house rabbit. You’ll also likely find her hosting Writers Hour sessions for the London Writers Salon a few times a week.