Trembling With Fear 10/17/21
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!
Having finished writing my latest novella and sent it away, I’ve paused work on the other WIP – I’m about halfway through. I’ve decided to allow myself to focus more on what I regard as fun, in this case writing dark poetry and working on some ideas for a book cover. These in turn free up more reading time – in theory. Well, it’s a plan. I think it’s important to sometimes change things up a little so you don’t become stale or bored. If you find things becoming a bit of a slog, time out is always good!
First this week in Trembling with Fear is Beneath the Clean Cotton Mountain by Lindz McLeod. A man is instructing his son in survival and it’s one of those moments when you have to cram in everything you want to say to your child before they go. What this story also does, is feed in the emotion and the worry by the use of the little interruptions from the unheard, they are responses to the worries of the child and he has to deal with these quickly. This gives the well-crafted monologue it’s pace and tension.
Prey by G.A. Miller takes standard expectations and turns them on their head.
The Headless Man by Mike Rader is a great parody of the classic poem, The Highwayman, by Alfred Noyes. The original rhythm is very cleverly followed and the mix of headless man and vampire allows for some nice humour.
The Incubation Garden by Christina Nordlander offers up a dreamlike and dystopian setting. Will there be any escape?
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
This week has been mainly looking at ways to optimize and speed up the site. Progress is being made in a few areas but unfortunately, nothing O can demo quite yet! What I can do is say if you want to enter to win a copy of Trembling With Fear: Year 4 you can enter this contest!
Also, If you run a website and would like to write an article about Horror Tree or Trembling With Fear, we’d really appreciate that! Please reach out with any questions for facts in the article (who does what, when sections were started, etc), any promotional artwork, or with a link once it is live so we can feature it on the site and on our social media.
Beneath The Clean Cotton Mountain by Lindz McLeod
Kid, listen up and listen good; on the road to Tisarak, the only rest stops are the ones you create.
First, you gotta pull on your secondary gloves—primary gloves should only be removed at authorised stations and certainly never outdoors—and squeeze a 10cm diameter blob of gel out. If you don’t know what that looks like by now, measure it with a ruler. You’ll get used to doing it soon enough. More is always better. Don’t worry about running out of gel. Your mother and I will give you our stockpile. Don’t argue. You’ll need it more than we will.
Massage the gel into the secondary gloves, front and back. What do you mean, why? Yeah, I know you don’t touch your dick with the back of your hands, smartass. You’re not gonna feel so clever when your skin starts to bubble. It’s okay. C’mon. Finish writing it down. I’m not saying this stuff to scare you, alright? You need to be prepared and aware of every danger.
Okay, so where were we? Oh yeah—now you gotta wait the required twenty seconds and if necessary, wait another ten. What happens if you’re careless? Right, contamination. Good job, buddy. Okay now, once you’ve got- huh? Well, I don’t exactly know what the women do. It’s a lot harder for them, I guess. No, I never watched your mother take a piss. We took it in turns, one of us always stood guard. Can you focus, please? Thank you.
So, what do you do after the gel has soaked in and you’ve waited twenty or thirty seconds? The rags, exactly. And how many layers do you need? Okay—fuck, we need to go back, I didn’t cover where you should step off the road. No, I know you’re not a baby, but you’ve only ever been out there with me or Aunt Riley and this is totally different. Being alone out there, with nothing but the sandbirds watching you, and the air steaming inside your suit, cooking you up. It’s a special kind of hell. Your mind starts to wander. You won’t be able to help it. We can only filter the air so much through these masks and eventually the dust will get to you. Nothing to do with how strong you are or how tough your body is. Did I ever tell you that your Aunt Riley was one of the toughest fighters I’ve ever seen? She could put me in the dirt in thirty seconds. I once watched her take a group of magbers on, four against one, and swagger away without a scratch on her. Dust got her, same as everybody else. Can’t fight what you can’t punch.
What? Oh, sorry. I was saying—what was I saying? Well, it’s different for everybody. Stuff you’re afraid of. Stuff you only dreamed of, but you’ll start to see it with your own eyes. Red foxes, trying to lead you off the path. Trees—real trees, green trees—big, shimmering lakes, and—huh? A lake is a body of blue water. No, not in the shape of a human. I’m saying it all wrong. They just called it that, back in the day. I don’t know why. Well, I guess your old man doesn’t know everything after all. Big shock, huh?
Keep a civil tongue, kid.
Alright, so say you’re a hundred miles down the road to Tisarak. Pack of sandbirds four clicks to your left and something purring a click to your right. What are you gonna do? Say you can’t see what’s over the dunes. Well, yeah, I guess you could go look, if you were dumb enough to actually—you want to have your foot bitten off by a disray? You want to get caught by a luffer posing as a tumbleweed, just waiting to stick inch-long spikes through your calves? You want to die writhing in the dust under that damned black sun? Didn’t I raise you better than that? Come on, now. Think.
That’s better. You stick to the path. You always stick to the path. Yeah I know we were talking about pissing; you never answered my question. Well, I guess you could do that, but the gun is only as good as your aim. The last thing Riley ever said to me was that you’d improved. Said you were better than me these days. I’d like to see you outshoot me some time, kid. What can you hit now? Two-forty? Two-fifty? Not bad. Can you do it while sprinting? Upside down? Okay, okay, no need to show off. You don’t have infinite bullets out there, though; the solar panel on your blaster produces enough of them during the day, but what happens when night comes, sharpshooter? What happens when you’re all out of protection? Yeah, exactly. Save what you need. Always have something in reserve. If worst comes to worst, you’ll need one for yourself.
Let me strap you in. That tight enough? Take a long drink before you head out. I wish you weren’t going, son, I really do. I’d have preferred to wait a year or two, but circumstances change. We’re in trouble now and I can’t leave your mother to—well, I just can’t leave her, is all. You understand, don’t you? We can’t afford to wait any longer.
Kid, listen up and listen good; I love you.
Lindz McLeod is a queer, working-class writer from Scotland, whose short stories have been published by or forthcoming in the Scotsman newspaper, Twist in Time, Cossmass, Wrongdoing Magazine, and more. She is represented by Headwater Literary Management.
The hungry pack approached the prone body, the alpha in the lead. They’d watched for hours, and the body never stirred, never moved at all. As they got closer, the familiar scent of death was clear and distinct so, as one, they relaxed their tensed muscles. As the alpha leaned in for a closer inspection, the body’s hand shot up and gripped the wolf’s snout, clamping it firmly closed. The pack began growling, moving in… and then, the body’s eyes opened. The pack immediately ceased growling, backing away and whining as they watched their leader turn from predator to prey.
G.A. Miller is a new voice in the chorus of horror authors, drawing his ideas from everyday, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors.
The Headless Man
(after Alfred Noyes)
The wind was a torrent of darkness above the city sprawl,
The moon was a ghostly galleon sailing across it all,
The alley a ribbon of moonlight between the Dumpster bins,
And the headless man came creeping —
The headless man came creeping, to multiply his sins.
He’d a gaping hole ’bove his shoulders, that was where his neck had been,
A coat all stained with wet red blood, and breeches so torn and mean.
He quivered and quavered a little, and a bone poked through one thigh,
And his evil laugh pierced the silence,
This demon broke the silence,
His laughter pierced the silence, under the grim night sky.
Up the fire escape he ventured and found a window open!
Knew his luck was in that ghostly night, just like he had been hopin’.
He lifted the sash and clambered in, and who should be sleeping there
But a lonely black-eyed vampire,
Bess, the lonely vampire,
Snoring away at midnight through all her long black hair.
And dark in the dark he hungered but then a floorboard creaked,
And through her long black tresses the lonely vampire peeked,
Her eyes were hollows of madness, her fangs drop’t one by one,
She rose to bite the stranger’s neck
Taste the blood fresh from his neck,
But where the man’s neck should’ve been, she found that there was none!
And still of a city night, they say, when the wind is in the streets,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon and vampires seek their treats
Amid the fire escapes and Dumpster bins, I say — what the heck!
A headless man is grateful—
A headless man is grateful, because he has no neck.
Mike Rader is a pseudonym used by Australian author and poet James Aitchison. As J J Munro and Mike Rader, Aitchison writes horror and noir crime. As James Lee, he writes Asia’s biggest selling horror series for middle readers — Mr Midnight — which has sold over three million copies. His work can be seen at www.flameoftheforest.com
The Incubation Garden
I came to the hotel to attend a writers’ retreat, but the tower was sun-wavering and almost deserted. Sounds in the corridors were the only sign of habitation.
A balcony over a city drowning in sun-haze. The window-box teemed with plants I didn’t recognise.
Parasites. Every plant was luxuriant with galls and altered sprigs of leaves, hosting other things in turn. Insects hobbled between the stems, carapaces gnawed. New antennae grew skinless-soft from their heads.
“Is everything all right?”
A uniformed young woman. I turned as if she’d woken me up. The wire of her earpiece was a slender vine.
Christina Nordlander was born 1982 in Sweden, but has lived in the UK since 2001. She is currently living outside Birmingham with her husband Graham and two cats. She also has a PhD in Classics and Ancient History from the University of Manchester. She has published about ten short stories both in Sweden and the English-speaking world, most recently the drabble “Like a White Snake” in Trembling with Fear (2021). Sometimes, she dabbles in indie game development and visual arts.
Link to her Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/user?
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Stephanie Ellis is a member of the HWA and writes dark speculative prose and poetry which has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her work includes the novel, The Five Turns of the Wheel and the gothic novella, Bottled, both via Silver Shamrock Publishing.She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org/ and on twitter @el_Stevie.