Trembling With Fear 1/8/2023
Hello, children of the dark. I’ve had the strangest day, so forgive me if this week’s intro is a little… odd. You see, I was woken this morning by a crackle of static and a slow, low, barely audible voice: “Hello? Can you hear me?” As I came to consciousness, I realised there were wires all over me, and a machine on the wall told me it was recording.
It’s ok – I was just finishing up an overnight sleep study, but my word it was the strangest encounter I’ve had in a while. I’m still waiting to see if any psychic or telekinetic powers develop, but I guess at least the photo of me wired-up made a few people giggle.
After all that, I’m a bit tired – ok, I’m a bloody exhausted – so I’ll jump straight in if that’s ok with you?
Here is this week’s menu. Our Trembling main course concerns some danger in the dark depths of the deep. This is followed by three delicious quick bites:
- Kerry E.B. Black wonders if ambition is worth the cost of entry,
- Regina Beach spins a drabble from a Welsh myth, and
- Robyn O’Sullivan takes her final journey.
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.
The new year is upon us and we’re finalizing our plans for moving to a new host and working through our new layout. A ton of updates are on the horizon and I’m thrilled to be sharing them with you as they go live!
As always, I hope you had a great weekend.
Shadows of the Deep Sea, by Eric Fomley
A red prompt flashes on my sonar terminal and I can’t make sense of the readings. The deep sea pod is equipped with the most advanced technology the U.S. military has available and it’s freaking out. I’m in the Bermuda Triangle, tethered to the USS Flounder submarine that’s hovering a few hundred yards above me. I send a ping followed by a transmission.
“Hey, are you guys getting any of this? My sonar is getting squirrelly.”
There’s dead air on the headset and I double check that my transmission sent.
“Flounder this is Barracuda, come in.”
“USS Flounder, come in please.”
I hear a crackle in my headset but I can’t make out any voices. I’m close to the sub and there’s only open water between us, I don’t know what’s causing the hiccup. Part of my brain starts to linger on all that Bermuda Triangle bullshit, but the rational side of me thinks maybe the Petty Officer running comms is pranking me.
I look out the viewport and can’t see a damn thing. It’s pitch black, but I realize the lights of the sea pod are on, I should at least have some semblance of visibility, even if it’s only particles swirling in the pale darkness.
I’m starting to get nervous. It’s one thing to have technical problems on a submarine with a crew to help figure it out, it’s an entirely different problem to be dangling a few hundred yards in the darkness below, completely alone. If my pod’s issues got worse, I could be in some serious shit.
I send a chat to the sub and outline my technical issues. I label it high priority so it skips the initial comms Officer and goes up the chain.
I wait a full minute. Still nothing. Several of my other instruments start acting up. Interior lights shut down and there’s a query on life support system malfunctions.
Fear starts to kick in, no matter how much I try to stay calm. I doubt there’s any way the Flounder knows about my issues and I can’t just sit here and watch all my systems shut down. I increase the illumination on the pod to maximum settings.
There’s thick black around me, like I’m enveloped in muck, shadows, or swirling ink. I tilt the pod upward and try to propel it toward the submarine. I launch light pods in every direction, thinking the added illumination will help. I see something dart past the window and a shiver jolts my spine.
The ink starts to clear and I wonder if I’ve spooked a squid. A shark swims past the window, fast, followed by a school of fish, in clear retreat from the water above.
I feel stones in my guts. Something tugs the tether, hard, and the pod yanks upward. The restraints on my body pull tight and I can hardly breathe.
When the blackness disappears fully my mouth drops open.
A shadowy creature, larger than anything I’ve ever seen, is hovering over the Flounder. Tentacles protrude from its face. Red eyes glow like bright LEDs. Its massive hands wrap around the submarine I’m tethered to like a child’s toy held by an angry god.
I feel like I’m gonna puke. The hairs on my arms and neck raise and I’m powerless to say or do anything.
The creature rips the sub in half. There’s a rumble, followed by a small explosion that’s instantly absorbed by water. Electrical surges spark and flash like white lightning as debris floats or sinks from the mutilated sub. Some of the debris falls toward my pod and I grab the control stick to maneuver around it.
The creature has half of the submarine in either hand when it’s eyes look down at my fully illuminated pod swaying through debris.
I spin the pod around and try to disengage the tether. Orange prompts flood the screen. There’s an error, probably because the submarine isn’t responsive on its end to release the pod. There’s no one to call, everyone is dead or about to be. I’m too far underwater to call for outside help.
I feel the pod jerk backward, even though I’m pushing the throttle as far forward as it will go.
The pod is getting dragged slowly upward toward the monster. I can picture it in my head, dragging the pod by the tether as if it were a fisherman pulling in a cast net. Debris smashes into the side of the pod. The restraints are tight, I can’t move to look, but I hear water rush in.
Hot tears roll down my cheeks. Water laps at my boots. I sob with what air I can muster through my restrained breathing. All that’s left for me to wonder is if I’ll be crushed by the monster, drown, or both.
It’s there, shapechanging within its confinement, biding time until it can attack. It melds with shadow, all malicious intentions and cancerous contempt, ready to obscure aspiration – my aspiration.
I pursue playbills, mindful of time and placement, edging closer to communal illumination, until I stand center stage, bathed in spotlights. I beg the electrician to increase the wattage, arc electricity overhead like a contained aurora borealis, to fend its darkness off.
As castmates bow, humbled by audience approval, it pounces. I, their forgotten star, disappear, abducted under the unwavering ghostlight, enveloped in eternal obscurity, unheard but watchful, ready to attack aspiration.
Kerry E.B. Black
Kerry E.B. Black writes to calm the crazy currents crashing in her head. As a result, she has authored two YA novels and three collections of short stories. Many of her short works have crept into anthologies, magazines, and online journals. When not writing, Kerry sings songs with seniors, advocates for the disabled, and reads (and reviews) everything she can. She?s a member of the HWA and is a Rough Writer at Carrot Ranch.
Imagine a world without secrets. That was Wales after the Coraniaid invaded from Asia. They could hear every whisper carried by the wind. Short in stature, destructive and tricky, making plans to defeat them seemed impossible.
King LLudd called all members of the realm, men and Coraniaid, to gather at the court. We came, all of us. Would he call a truce? Admit defeat?
Neither. In secret, he bred blister beetles, whose secretions, diluted with water and sprayed from cannons over the crowd, killed the Coraniaid. Soaked with the bitter concoction, but unharmed, we whispered the secrets we’d long buried.
Regina G. Beach
Regina G. Beach is an American writer based in the Welsh valleys where she lives with her English husband. She usually writers about the arts, culture, travel, and wellness but she has a soft spot for myths and legends. Gina is obsessed with cats, The X-Files and tacos. Read more of Regina’s writing at reginagbeach.com.
The old woman hustled her bowed legs between the rusting iron gates and stepped onto the soil of the aged cemetery where the graves, like their occupants, were sinking into the earth. Clumps of headstones leaned precariously; their faces marred by countless years of neglect; the inscriptions barely legible. She trudged along muddy paths, uneasy, heeding the inner plea that drew her deeper into this place. And then she saw it. Her own gravestone, with a birthdate a century earlier. She reached out to trace her name. The slab fell and sank, disappearing beneath the ground. And so did she.
Robyn O’Sullivan lives in a hundred-year-old house amidst the wild beauty of Australia’s Bass coast. Her credits include a novella, short story collections, and dozens of educational books for children. New to the horror genre, Robyn’s work appears in several publications including, Guilty Pleasures and Other Dark Delights (the award-winning Midnight Echo 14), and Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies. Her short story “A Tale of the Ainu” was produced by Night’s End podcast, and her interviews with award-winning horror author Deb Sheldon are featured in various reviews.
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Lauren McMenemy wears many hats: Editor-in-Chief at Trembling With Fear for horrortree.com; PR and marketing for the British Fantasy Society; founder of the Society of Ink Slingers; curator of the Writing the Occult virtual events; writers hour host at London Writers Salon. With 25+ years as a professional writer across journalism, marketing, and communications, Lauren also works as a coach and mentor to writers looking to achieve goals, get accountability, or get support with their marketing efforts. She writes gothic and folk horror stories for her own amusement, and is currently working on a novel set in the world of the Victorian occult. You’ll find Lauren haunting south London, where she lives with her Doctor Who-obsessed husband, the ghost of their aged black house rabbit, and the entity that lives in the walls.