Trembling With Fear 10/23/2022
Hello, children of the dark. I’m going to have to make it short and sweet this week as I’ve missed my deadline (sorry, Stuart!) and I’m prepping to go to the Scottish Highlands to spend a week with my work in progress. I do, however, have a very important announcement, and a bit of an explanation.
If you’ve submitted to us in the last few months, you’ve likely noticed that we (as in: me) am running behind on reading submissions an awful lot. To give you a peek behind the curtain, that’s because we have had an absolute storm of submissions coming in. That’s brilliant and great and I love that you’re considering us as a home for your work, but it does mean that our little team (we are but three volunteers!) has been a bit overwhelmed. It also means we have a monstrous amount of accepted stories waiting to be published.
Long story short, those who are getting accepted at the moment are being scheduled for March 2023. Yes, FIVE WHOLE MONTHS away. That’s a long time to wait for your story to appear online.
So, here’s the important bit: we’re now closed to short story submissions for the next few months while we catch up on this publishing backlog and ensure everyone gets a fair chance to see their stories published in this here ‘zine.
I know, I know – it’s crappy news. The upshot, though, is I know we have so many great stories waiting for your eyeballs’ attention. And we are not the only market out there; after all, Horror Tree itself was built to showcase amazing paying markets that are crying out for your stories. Head here for what’s currently seeking wordage.
This isn’t permanent. We will open up again in the new year, and will be clamouring to give a home to your great works of dark art. But we need to give it a breather or we’ll end up making you wait over a year to be published and that’s just… well, it’s a bit silly, right?
And we’re still very much looking for drabbles! Maybe the essence of your story could be clipped back to exactly 100 words? It’s a great exercise in tight writing!
For now, though, I bring you this week’s TWF tasting menu.
Our trembling main course has Robert Walton lead us to the war-torn frontlines. This is followed by three delicious quick bites:
- Santiago Eximeno considers what price familial love
- Alan Moskowitz searches for inspiration, and
- Cassandra Daucus gives us a glimpse into a final email
If these stories inspire you to get writing, you’ll find details on how to submit to us over here on our freshly-updated submission guidelines page. Drabbles only, please!
For now, it’s over to you, Stuart…
I am mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted this week. It seemed to come from all sides, from work to school to the kids. Oof. I. Am. Tired. I don’t have much to report this week, we’re still chugging along on everything without many major updates on changes. I did spend some time optimizing images that show up on all of our pages which might shave a ‘small’ amount of time from loading on the website. Fingers crossed! Also spent some time on adding more videos for our video player to keep things mixed up a bit. More to come on those as well!
With the new layout being delayed until next year, this is just a reminder that if there are any changes that YOU have been hoping to see, please reach out on our contact page!
What kind of changes is minor enough to look into adding? We’ll probably add a few more ways to subscribe to our newsletter in areas around the site. I’d also be looking to do simple yet streamlined things, such as last week’s announcement that the Trembling With Fear Submission Page now has the submission form directly on it. If there are things that would help you navigate the site easier, please, do reach out!
As always, I hope you had a great weekend.
The Road to Vitebsk, by Robert Walton
Inspector Dimitri Kirilenko stepped off the taxiway’s pavement onto a grass verge. Scanning the ground, he walked toward a gap in the airport’s wire fence. Freshly cut wire-ends shone in his flashlight’s beam. He raised his portable radio.
“The passengers are off the plane?”
“All in the terminal, sir.”
“I’ve found an illicit entry point. Take care with your search of the aircraft.”
“This is the final cargo compartment, sir.”
“Perhaps it is only thieves.”
“Sir! I’ve found . . . “
A white flash seared toward heaven. Kirilenko dove into the shallow drainage ditch that ran parallel to the fence. Debris howled, whizzed and fluttered past. He counted to ten and raised his head. Orange flames boiled through swirling smoke where the Sukhoi Superjet 100 airliner had stood a moment ago. Half a dozen people, including his assistant, had been on that plane searching for explosives. A foul curse rose in his mind but froze on his lips as a voice sounded in his earpiece.
“It was a big bomb.”
Kirilenko took a deep breath. “How is this possible?”
“I don’t know, sir.”
“How did you survive the blast?”
“I don’t think I did.”
“Please call me Olga now.”
Kirilenko took a deep breath. “Olga, where are you?”
“I don’t know. It’s very bright. The others…”
“The ones who were with me on the plane – they are running down a hill.”
“Running, you say?”
“Running and talking and laughing.”
“You…” Kirilenko hesitated. Perhaps he’d suffered a head injury and this was his hallucination.
“You are not with them?”
“Something holds me here, something down the road to Kyiv.
“A truck bomb.”
“Kyiv? The cathedral?”
“It is a feast day at St. Sophia. The square will be packed.”
Kirilenko switched his radio from his team’s frequency to that of the airport police. “I need two cars and half a dozen officers.”
The voice on the radio complained.
He watched fire crews pumping foam onto flames. “Do as I say. The threat here is over, but there’s another bomb. Have my cars ready in two minutes.”
Kirilenko settled into the front seat of a 4×4 truck as his driver pulled away from the curb. A similar car carrying three policemen followed them. Kirilenko stared at his radio and then switched to the team frequency.
“Can you tell where the truck is?”
“Thirty kilometers this side of Chernivtsi.”
He switched back to the police frequency. “I need a roadblock ten kilometers west of Chernivtsi. Use trucks, or buses. Pull your personnel 200 meters back from the barricade.” He patted the driver’s shoulder. “Faster.”
A dirty, white delivery van partially blocked the road a hundred meters ahead. Its rear wheels were mired in mud on the road’s northern shoulder. A man sat in the driver’s seat.
Kirilenko opened his door. “I’m going to have a chat with the guy in that van.”
“Shouldn’t we wait for the special weapons team?”
“No. There may be more bombs. If we take him alive, he may reveal where they are.”
“That van could hold a sizeable bomb.”
“I’ll be amazed if it doesn’t.”
“There will be a suicide pressure switch.”
Kirilenko nodded. “Don’t worry. This terrorist wants to kill hundreds, not just one.” He unstrapped his harness and laid his holstered weapon on the seat.
“You’re leaving your weapon, sir?”
“He’ll feel less threatened if he sees that I am unarmed.”
Hands raised, he paced slowly toward the van.
“What will you do?”
“Perhaps nothing. Perhaps quite a bit.”
He strolled closer to the van. The driver’s face – eyes dark, wide and staring – became visible. A scraggly beard softened a sharp chin. Kirilenko slowed. “You in the van, let’s talk.”
The driver remained motionless.
“The pressure switch is in his left hand.”
“If he releases it . . .”
Kirilenko stepped to the driver’s side. The window was down. “Your way is blocked and you’re stuck. Dying today would be useless for you.”
The man said nothing and did not move.
“You may walk back to the cars with me. I will protect you.”
The man defiantly raised his left hand.
Kirilenko was a big man, but he moved swifter than any snake and gripped the bomber’s closed hand with his. The bomber smashed at his face with his right fist. Kirilenko held on. The hard, lean fist pounded his forehead, cut his eyebrow. Kirilenko squeezed harder.
Suddenly, the bomber screamed – a sound to lift the hair of any sane man. He screamed and then fell back, motionless against the seat.
Kirilenko walked back to the parked police cars. “Olga, are you still with me?”
“You saved many lives today.”
“Thank you, sir.”
He stopped beside his truck. Four stunned policemen stared at the blood dripping from the heavy combat knife in his right hand. Many of his subordinates, he knew, had made fun of that knife, always in its sheath in his boot. No longer.
He held up the bomber’s severed hand, still gripping the pressure switch. He turned it, studied it. “I don’t need this any longer.” He tossed the hand into the ditch.
Red flame bloomed behind him. The explosion’s roar rolled to the nearby forest and then back again.
The blast’s pressure wave knocked them to their knees. Kirilenko rose slowly and watched the flames recede. “Stupid terrorist – he used too much explosive, both times.”
The policemen looked at him in frightened awe.
Olga’s voice whispered. “Good bye, Dimitri.”
“My work here is done.”
“But . . . “
A vision – almost as bright as an exploding bomb – bloomed in Kirilenko’s mind – sunny grass rippled and flowed down a slope to the sea. Olga flashed a smile and waved. Then she turned and walked toward waves of midnight blue.
Robert Walton is an experienced writer. His novella “Vienna Station” won the Galaxy prize and was published as an e-book; it is available for Kindle on Amazon. “Dogwood Dream” won the 2011 New Millennium fiction short fiction contest and was subsequently published by Steel Toe Journal. His novel Dawn Drums won both the Tony Hillerman best fiction award and first place in the Arizona Authors 2014 competition. He co-authored “The Man Who Murdered Mozart” with Barry Malzberg and it was subsequently published in F&SF. Most recently, his “Mansa Musa’s Wisdom” was published in Cricket Media’s February edition of Spider magazine.
Dulce looks so happy when she enters the sea!
We got her out of the wheelchair and we carry her across the sand. When her stick-thin legs hit the water, she laughs with excitement.
What a joy to see Dulce swim!
She dives under the water, jumps and greets us with a wag of her tail.
But we have to go home, so Mom helps us with the net and we catch her and drag her across the sand, back into the wheelchair. Dulce screams, but mom hugs her and whispers nice things.
With no doubt, this is mother’s love.
Santiago Eximeno (Madrid, Spain, 1973) is a Spanish genre writer who has published several novellas and collections, mainly horror literature. His work has been translated to English, Japanese, French or Bulgarian. His last book published in English is Umbra (Independent Legions Publishing, 2020). You can find him at www.eximeno.com or @santiagoeximeno on Twitter.
The Last Email Cole Bruce Sent to His Mother
London is fine but I got lost today. Ducked into a shop to ask for directions, ended up with a box instead. High on a cluttered shelf, it’s a wonder I found it. Looking at it makes my fingers itch; I had to have it. I would attach a photo but it’s too black for the camera to see. When the thing inside moves the box shifts in my hands. What do you think it is? When I figure out how to get it open I’ll let you know; it’s something special, I can feel it.
Cassandra Daucus lives in the woods and writes and reads soft horror. She tweets at @CassandraDaucus
The writer desperately needed inspiration for a butt-clenching horror story, but the blank parchment seemed to mock him.
He paced. He howled. He smacked himself on the head, “Think, you idiot!” It never worked but he did it anyway.
A walk! A brisk moonlit walk! That’s all he needed. Just to clear his head, nothing more.
He glanced at the empty parchment, the dripping quill; he could hear them snickering.
He threw on his cape and top hat, the cold scalpel tucked away in his satchel alongside his other implements.
He needed inspiration. He would find it in the streets.
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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.