Trembling With Fear 10-22-23
Hello, children of the dark. I don’t know about you, but I am bloody exhausted. And I know I say that pretty much every week, but it’s super bad this week. However, I have wisdom to impart—aka I must give you some updates on our submission guidelines—so bear with me as I muddle through this week’s issue. I’ll be fancy and put in some sub-heads to make this easier on your eyes.
Submissions for special editions
If you’ve subbed to one of our special editions, or sent over a serial or unholy trinity, you no doubt have met our wonderful Special Editions Editor, Shalini. We’re so lucky to have her. (I won’t mention that she took a postcard for my vampire event to see Anne Rice’s grave this week, because that would be in poor taste.)
Anyways, Shalini has been absolutely inundated with submissions for the upcoming Halloween special, so please be patient as she makes her way through them. Which leads me onto this little note…
Technically, our special editions have tight submission windows. We tend to wave things through if, say, a Christmas story is subbed in July; we’ll just file it away to review closer to the time. But given Halloween and Christmas come so close together, I just wanted to remind you that submissions to special editions will only be looked at a few weeks out from publication, regardless of when you submit it. This is because Shalini needs to look at the special edition as a whole to make sure there’s not, for example, three stories about pumpkins and none about witches for Halloween. So feel free to submit your special editions outside of the window if you want to, but please know that you won’t hear anything until about a week out from its relevant publication time. Patience, my children. Patience.
The avalanche of short story submissions
Which brings me to another submissions dilemma we’re having at the moment. About this time last year, we had to close to short story submissions because we were scheduled for many, many, many months and it wouldn’t be fair to accept any further stories at that point. Regular readers will know we reopened those submissions at the beginning of September – just six weeks ago. Dear children, you have been very, very busy submitting again—and we’re inundated. So much so, that Stuart and I are having serious discussions about perhaps making our short story openings happen in windows rather than perennially. Stay tuned for more news on that in future editions, but please be patient (again!) if you’ve subbed a short story to us in the last month. We are but a tiny team of volunteers, and we’re doing our best to get through a vast amount of stories.
Now, to the reason you’re here…
To the matter at hand: Kenny Togunloju tells us a ghost story as our main menu item this week. This is then followed by three delicious quick bites:
- Vincent O’Neill tries to get a refund,
- Nikki Stanier can be found in an old chatroom, and
- Ron Capshaw faces his demons.
And my final word: Fangs. I promise, this is the last time you’ll hear from me in these pages about vampires! My next event, Writing the Occult: Vampires, happens next Saturday, 28 October 2023. We’ve timed it so fangbangers across the Northern Hemisphere have a chance of attending at least some of it live (sorry, ‘Straya and NZ), and we’re also recording all sessions so you can catch up on what you miss. Recordings are only for ticketholders, though, and won’t be shared anywhere else, so if you haven’t joined the nest yet and want to, act fast! Tickets are over on Eventbrite, or full speaker details and bios are on this website. You can also follow @societyofinkslingers on Instagram for deep dives on the sessions.
Now it’s over to an (I think?) MBA finals-finished Stuart!
ATTENTION YOUTUBE WATCHERS: We’ve had some great responses so far but are open to more ideas – What type of content would you like to see us feature? Please reach out to [email protected]! We’ll be really working on expanding the channel late this year and early into next.
Kenny Togunloju currently resides in Seattle, Washington. He writes short stories, and novels, usually in the horror/fantasy genre. When he’s not writing, Kenny enjoys running and playing chess.
Ghost Story, by Kenny Togunloju
“Any of you ever seen a ghost before?”
Brad’s absurd question stilled the raucous sounds of our group. For a brief moment, the only sounds we heard were the gentle lapping of waves on the beach, and the crackling of the firepit.
“Whoa, Brad, that kind of came out of nowhere,” Courtney said with a half-laugh. Diana laughed too.
“Yeah, sure you haven’t had too many of those?” I added, pointing to the beer bottle in Brad’s hand.
Brad shrugged and took a swig. “I dunno. Maybe.”
“Maybe Brad’s trying to see some ghosts,” Theo said with a chuckle. “If you drink enough, you’re bound to see some.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Courtney said.
Theo turned to glare at her. “Why?”
Courtney huddled closer to the fire. “Because ghosts aren’t real, nimrod.”
Theo held up a hand. “Wait, hold up, how do you know that for sure?”
Courtney rolled her eyes. “Have you seen one?”
“No, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real,” Theo retorted.
“Many cultures over the world believe in some form of spirits,” Diana piped up. “Stands to reason that some of them stem from real life experiences.”
Courtney snorted. “And some people believe in Sasquatch. Doesn’t mean he’s real.”
“Okay, this is getting a bit too heated,” I said, figuring I’d better jump in before Courtney went into full war-mode. “It was just a fun silly question. Right, Brad?”
Brad shrugged and took a swig of beer. He said nothing, seemingly unaware of the fuse he had just lit. He was definitely wasted.
“Well, ghosts don’t exist,” Courtney said. “And anyone who says they’ve seen one is either lying or delusional.”
“I’ve seen one,” Jun’s quiet voice interrupted Courtney’s loud and abrasive one.
We all turned to look at him. I’d almost forgotten he was there. Jun had a way of fading into the midst of others. He was looking down, fiddling with his beer bottle, peeling off the label with his thumb.
“You.” Courtney pointed at Jun. “You’ve seen a ghost.”
Jun nodded. “Yeah.” He raised his head and looked Courtney in the eye. “It was a few years ago, when I was getting my spleen removed.”
Courtney scoffed. “Let me guess, you were high on pain medication.”
Jun shook his head. “No, this was before the surgery.”
“Wait, dude seriously?” Theo said. “What was it like?”
Jun’s eyes turned to stare at the fire. “She was a little girl, maybe ten years old. At first, I thought she was just a patient. She wore a hospital gown and carried a stuffed bunny with one ear missing.”
The fire seemed to glow a brighter orange as Jun told his story. Everyone leaned in to listen, even Courtney who still had an annoying smirk on her face.
“I was laying on my bed in the hospital ward when she wandered in,” Jun continued. “She said: ‘Help.’ I asked what she needed help with, but she shook her head and pointed towards the hallway. I didn’t understand what she wanted. So, I reached down to pick up the call button for the nurse. I only looked away for a second but when I turned back around, she was gone.”
“That’s it?” Courtney sneered. “Some weird kid with a deformed toy comes into your room, and you think that’s a ghost?”
“I’m not done,” Jun said. “A couple of hours later, I got restless, so I got up and walked around a bit. I was in the hallway when I saw her again. Still holding the stuffed bunny, she stood on the other end of the hallway, staring at me, before turning around and walking away. I followed her; I don’t know why. I just felt I should. We went down a series of hallways. Every once in a while, especially when we reached an intersection, she’d stop and turn around. When I got closer, she’d continue walking. It became clear she was leading me somewhere.”
Jun paused to take a swig of beer. We all listened with rapt attention. The firepit burned more intensely.
“Finally, we reached an empty room. The bed was bare. The windows were drawn. The room had some sort of… emptiness to it, as if something had been taken away from it. I turned to the girl and asked why she led me here. She pointed at the bed, and just said ‘help.’ At this point I was tired, and a bit frustrated. I kept repeating, ‘What do you need help with?’ but the girl kept pointing at the bed. I was about ready to give up and call someone when I noticed something stuck under the bed. I knelt down, I picked it up. It was a one-eared bunny. Exactly like the one the girl was holding.”
“I turned around, but the girl was gone. Instead, a nurse stood behind me asking me what I was doing in that room. I asked him if he’d seen the girl. Told him I wanted to return her stuffed animal. He looked confused when he saw the bunny. He said he knew the girl it belonged to, but she died a couple of days ago. And she’d stayed in that room during her hospital stay.”
“That rocked me. I thought to myself, had I just seen a ghost? I told the nurse what I saw but he didn’t believe me. He probably thought it was a prank. Who could blame him? I couldn’t even believe it myself. But at least, now I understood what she wanted. She wanted to be reunited with her toy. It took some persuasion, but I convinced the nurse to take the bunny so he could forward it to the girl’s family.”
“But I don’t know if he ever did. I never saw the girl again. Although sometimes, I’m walking in a crowd, and I think I see her. Holding that one-eared bunny, glaring at me like I failed her. Because I did. I should have tracked down her parents myself. I’ll never know if she found peace. I know I haven’t.”
Jun stopped talking. Everyone was silent, except Brad who’d fallen asleep on the floor with a light snore.
Courtney spoke up, wearing a mocking smile. “There’s no way that happened, right?” Maybe it was my imagination but there was a hint of fear in Courtney’s voice.
Jun shrugged. “Believe what you want.”
“Maybe she wasn’t a ghost,” Diana suggested. “Maybe she was just another girl that the dead girl made friends with.”
Jun shrugged again. “Maybe.”
Silence again. A draft of cold wind blew, sending a shiver down my spine. The fire in the firepit was low. When did that happen?
Theo stood up, stretching. “Well, that was a cheerful story! I’m gonna call it.”
“Same,” Courtney stood up. She glanced at the sleeping Brad. “Someone better get this lightweight home before he rolls into the fire.”
“I’ll take him,” I said. I was his ride, anyway.
“Good.” Courtney turned to Diana. “Come on. Let’s leave the boys with their ghost stories.”
Diana gave me an apologetic smile. She, Courtney, and Theo walked away, leaving me alone with Jun and the sleeping Brad.
I cleared my throat. “So, was any of that true, or were you just messing with Courtney?”
A corner of Jun’s lips turned up in a smile. “Yeah, I was just messing with her. Court’s scared of ghosts. I knew it would freak her out.”
I chuckled. “Nice one.”
But as quick as it came, Jun’s smile faded. He stared out into the horizon, his forlorn expression illuminated by the dying embers of the fire.
—“You sold me a codex a few months back.”
—“We remember every item we sell. And they remember us.”
—“It got me into the cavern, but you didn’t say the vault was loaded with vampires.”
—“You lived, obviously. But the codex should have returned by now. Where is it?”
—“In the crevice where I ordered it to stay, just before they captured me.”
—“Somewhere they can find it?”
—“Only if I withdraw my concealment spell.”
—“It remembers us! It would lead them back here!”
—“So let’s talk about a refund.” I grinned, extending my new fangs. “I’d say I’m entitled.”
Vincent H. O'Neil
Vincent H. O’Neil writes horror, mystery, and science fiction. His Exile mystery series from St. Martin’s Press won the Malice Domestic prize, and his military science fiction series (written as Henry V. O’Neil) was published by HarperCollins. He also has a horror series with two books so far, Interlands and Denizens. His short stories have appeared in Bourbon Penn, Escape Pod, Mystery Tribune, Lovecraftiana, and other magazines. Learn more at his website, vincenthoneil.com.
Her Own Funeral
Her: I’m from Vegas too.
Her: Thirteen. Female. You?
Him: Seventeen. Male.
Him: Want to go to a funeral together?
Her: Um, sure.
Her: Who is it for?
Him: My dog.
Her: I’m sorry, that sucks.
Him: It’s at Toiyabe.
Her: I can’t drive.
Him: I’ll pick you up.
Her: 2665 Mesa Drive.
Him: Parents home?
Her: Almost never.
Him: Sounds good.
Her: Have you done this before?
Her: Met strangers online.
Him: A few times.
Her: It’s been okay?
Her: I get nervous.
Him: No need to be.
Him: I’ll see you soon.
Nikki Stanier was born and raised in Massachusetts and now resides in Jersey, Channel Islands. She has an MA in Psychology. She began writing when she was young and has used her knowledge of Psychology to deeply explore the world of horror through human experience, creating twisted tales of flash, short, and long fiction.
The daughter was accustomed to priests in her home, but there was something different about this new one. It wasn’t his height, easily 6’5, but his air of aristocracy.
The other priests, shell-shocked, parted as he went to the bedroom. The old woman had coiled like a snake there, snapped their comrades’ necks. In an androgynous voice, she bellowed: “Cowards! Face Me!”
The priest went in, and she recoiled fearfully: “Who are you?”
“I am Legion, For We Are Many,” he replied, “and you have exceeded your orders.”
The demon whimpered as he slammed the door so hard it cracked.
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 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.