Trembling With Fear 10/10/21
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!
Where has the time gone? Our supermarkets are full of Christmas goods and seem to have forgotten Halloween. In the UK, its popularity had grown for a while but it seems to be fading away again, and you will be hard-pressed to find much more than a few shelves of anything related to this celebration (in the areas I’ve experienced anyway). This is in stark contrast to our US cousins. When I was younger, Halloween meant carving turnip Jack-o-lanterns, reading ghost stories and shivering at the hoot of an owl. Being in a rural location, that was enough to create a spooky atmosphere and to this day made it feel more real to me than the modern version (in the UK) which focusses on slasher movie masks, cheap decorations, and sadly attracts some anti-social behaviour. Ho hum.
First this week in Trembling with Fear is Pink Balloon by James Rumpel. An accident brings trauma, but is it all just in the mind or is there something more diabolical afoot?
Do Not Enter by Sam Lesek brings to mind initiations, the tricks played on a novice employee. A nice twist to this trope.
Shrill by Steven Holding is a touching love story with a dash of darkness.
Space Scrap by Margarida Brei is an imaginative sci-fi which has you feeling sorry for the androids – which is no easy feat
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
Hey all! I hope you all had a great week. I’ve been slammed here between work, school, etc. Whew. Had a mini-hiccup. One of our Patreons left early this week. However, I love you all so much, within an hour of posting about it we had two new Patreons step up and surpass what we had lost getting us MUCH closer to our next goal level! THANK YOU!
A couple of reminders (this is the last week for one of them!):
- 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.
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Pink Balloon by James Rumpel
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Jason Sutter rolled over and wrapped his pillow around his ears. He considered going to the window but he knew exactly what he would see and what would happen. The pink balloon would stop its rhythmic tapping against the pane and float into the night like it had each of the last five times he had investigated.
He sat up in bed and grabbed the TV remote. This was to be another sleepless night. Jason turned on the television set, cranked up the volume, and flipped through channels until stopping on some inane infomercial. He stared at the ceiling, drowning in guilt and despair.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
“It’s your imagination,” continued Dr. Phelps, “a manifestation of your guilt. It emphasizes how important it is for you to come to terms with the accident. You’re still blaming yourself and the balloon dream is a self-imposed punishment. You need to accept the fact that there was nothing you could have done to avoid what happened.”
Jason sifted through the dozens of responses that exploded in his mind. It was his fault. The balloon isn’t a dream. He settled on the calmest and least argumentative option. “I want to let it go, but I can’t.”
“That’s just it,” said the doctor. “You can’t just let it go. You have to continue to talk about it but you also need to get on with your life. Have you started driving again?”
“No, I had my sister bring me. If I sit behind the wheel, I keep seeing her chasing that balloon.”
“There was no way you could have stopped in time.”
Jason shook his head. “I could have been paying closer attention.”
Dr. Phelps leaned in close, taking Jason’s hand in hers. “I need you to do something for me. On your way home, have your sister pull into an empty parking lot, someplace far away from anyone, and you drive for a short distance. Even a few feet will help. You were part of a rare and difficult accident. It won’t happen again. You have to come to believe that.”
Jason nodded. He knew the doctor was right. He couldn’t continue isolating himself. Maybe the balloon would go away if things went back to normal.
“Seriously, Jason, I didn’t hear anything.” Mary Sutter stared into her brother’s eyes. “You need to get some sleep.”
“You had to hear it. I know it wasn’t loud, but how could you miss the constant tapping on the bedroom window. I could hear it from the couch.”
Mary shook her head. “I agreed to stay in your room to help you figure this out. I didn’t hear anything. There’s nothing there. Just like nothing bad happened when you drove my car.” She paused. “Look, I get it. Everybody gets it. You went through something very traumatic. It’s not easy, but you have to get past all this.”
Jason wanted to argue. He knew there was a balloon. Mary just wasn’t listening close enough. Instead, he simply replied, “Ok. Thank you for staying here. You’ll still drive me to work tomorrow, right?”
She shook her head, “No, but I will ride with you. You can drive me to my place and then go on to work by yourself.”
A week later, Jason walked over to his neighbor’s yard. Rick was working in the garden but noticed Jason immediately and jumped to his feet to meet him.
“Hey, Jason, how’re you doing?” he asked, a look of concern on his face.
Jason bowed his head. “Not great. It’s been tough.” He shivered even though it was a warm July afternoon.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” asked Rick.
After a long pause, he looked up at his neighbor. “I have a question for you. Do you ever see someone hanging around my driveway in the mornings?”
“It’s the weirdest thing. I started driving myself to work on Tuesday and every morning when I pull out of the driveway, there’s a pink balloon floating behind my car. It’s in the same place every day and it looks just like the one she was chasing.” A tear ran down Jason’s cheek.
Rick gently grabbed Jason by the shoulders. “I’m sure it’s just your imagination. Sorrow and guilt can do weird things to someone’s mind.”
“I know,” replied Jason, “my psychologist keeps telling me that, but the balloon looks so real. I was thinking maybe somebody from her family is trying to get revenge. You know, make me suffer for what I did. Maybe they have some sort of remote-control balloon. Have you seen anyone?”
“That seems pretty far-fetched,” said Rick. “You’re punishing yourself. It has to be your imagination.
“But it looks so real. It can’t be in my head.” Jason considered telling Rick about the nighttime balloon visits but held back. He already sounded crazy. Why make matters worse?
Rick shook his head. “I’ll keep an eye out. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help.”
The next morning, Jason hesitated before hitting the garage door opener and said a silent prayer, asking that the balloon not be there.
As the door rose, he saw heavy rain pelting the driveway. The wind howled, thunder cracked and a lightning bolt lit up the sky.
Yet, just a few yards behind his car, the pink balloon hovered unnaturally. It seemed unaffected by the wind and heavy rain. Maybe everyone was right and the balloon was just a manifestation of his guilt. It looked so real.
Weather be damned, Jason jumped from his car and ran toward the balloon. He was going to find out if the balloon was real. He reached for its string but it floated just out of his grasp. A second grab caused the balloon to drift further down the driveway.
He gave chase. After two more unsuccessful attempts, Jason finally got close enough to grab the elusive balloon.
His hands passed through emptiness. A flash of lightning illuminated the sky and standing before him, holding the balloon, was the shadowy figure of a young girl wearing blood-stained clothing and a diabolical grin.
He never heard the engine or saw the headlights.
James Rumpel is a retired high school math teacher who enjoys spending some of his free time trying to turn the many odd ideas circling his brain into stories. He lives in WIsconsin with his wonderful wife, Mary.
Do Not Enter
There were four walls and a ceiling on the other side of the door and its DO NOT ENTER sign. No crashing waves, as the custodian had heard, and only pin-drop silence in the place the senior nurses claimed to hear panicked shouting.
A ghost story to scare the new girl, she thought, why would a hospital have a single room filled with final moments anyways? Many rooms here saw someone’s end.
She clicked the door closed behind her. A joking knock would conquer the room’s reputation. Its hollowness rang out, and then the sound that froze her–
Sam Lesek is a writer of horror and dark fiction from Toronto, Canada. Her stories have been published by Scare Street, Black Hare Press, and Black Ink Fiction. Find her on Twitter, @SamLesek .
He wooed her with his wolfish wit-woo.
She was a sucker for his pitch; fell for him quicker than a whistle stop tour.
Next, a foolish promise, delivered during love’s first bloom.
“If you want me, put your lips together and blow and you know I will run to you”
Even after sixty years, his death arrived far too soon. She still needed him, be it spirit, soul or something else.
Dry mouth pursed into an “o”, she paused and pushed all the air from her lungs.
Then sat back, to patiently wait and see who or what would come.
Steven Holding lives in the United Kingdom. Most recently, his work has appeared in 666: A DARK MICROFICTION ANTHOLOGY from Black Hare Press and LEGENDS OF NIGHT: REAPERMAN from Black Ink Fiction. You can follow his work at www.stevenholding.co.uk
The Androids stiffened until Cyborg Beast passed. Surreptitiously, they crawled on silver bellies under the zinging fence. Beneath triple moons, the Lookout perched on a rusty wing. The other two silently lasered a hole. Swiftly they filled inflated hover carriers with coveted treasures from the spaceship’s belly. Lookout Android whistled like a high pitched tailwind the signal to depart.
Only two Androids escaped to boast while designing an apocalypse armament. Cyborg Beast enjoyed games with Broken Android tossing him into the air, speeding hither and thither with the limbs. It buried the bones in nuclear waste causing glowing and jiggling.
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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.