Trembling With Fear 10/27/2019
Writing is a game of swings and roundabouts and a chunk of this year saw very little in terms of return on my efforts although I was busy writing and submitting away in the background whilst congratulating and supporting others on their more visible successes. I will admit I found that hard, despite being genuinely pleased for them, because I allowed it to fan the flames of self-doubt and to make me think perhaps I was doing something wrong or simply wasn’t good enough. It didn’t matter that I knew I was writing different length pieces or subbing to other markets with distant closing dates or long response times, I still kept measuring myself against others and finding myself wanting. Now, however, I have seen some return, not just with a novella due out next year but also, alongside some other short stories, my first full pro-sale – I’m not allowed to say where for another week or so but I felt I had reached a defining moment in my career and the choices I made this year were the right ones. So to everyone out there who is building up their portfolio of work, often very quietly in the background and feeling little sense of achievement despite the stories they are creating, keep at it. You are laying solid foundations and you will reap the rewards. I daresay I will have other apparently ‘fallow’ months but they will not be empty, I will, like the rest of you, continue to create my own tales of darkness whilst keeping my fingers crossed they will one day see the light.
This week’s Trembling With Fear shines its own spotlight on Anima ex Nihilo by Andrew Johnston. Here is the resident neighbourhood grouch, the one who torments children and adults alike with his miserable outlook and grim nature. But was he what he seemed? Did he truly exist? Does the soul need a particular body to inhabit or can it slip out of one skin and into another? A cleverly constructed story highlighting how we can never really know someone or think we do but it turns out we have projected our own assumptions onto the individual.
Bloodlust by Nerisha Kemraj develops, initially, as an erotic drabble but, like most of the stories in TWF, it’s not what it appears. Wickedly done and I liked the touch of starting and finishing with a focus on the eyes.
Hungry by Belinda Brady brings us a zombie apocalypse. There has got to be an end for a person, zombie or otherwise, at some point. Here is just one tragic way to go.
To Sleep, Perchance to Dream … by G.A. Miller brings the bogeyman to life. Death doesn’t kill the nightmare, sometimes it lets it walk.
Thank you to all, for writing and submitting to TWF.
This week I spent a LOT of time trying to catch up on reading for stories and mentally preparing myself for the Halloween edition of Trembling With Fear. Whew. This is going to be tight, but it IS doable!
We’re currently looking to see if we can get an influx of drabble to help finish out the year (and beyond if possible!) If you’ve got something lying about, we’d be thrilled to see it sent in!
We’re also looking for more Unholy Trinities and Serials, but details on those will be listed out in the Halloween special.
Anima Ex Nihilo by Andrew Johnston
The coroner and the cops had to muscle their way through a block party when Mardak finally kicked it. You’d never seen people so happy to hear that an old man had dropped dead, although maybe it wasn’t morbid joy so much as long overdue relief. Folks in that neighborhood feared Mardak about as much as the Authority, if you can believe that, and not just the little kids. Those people were smiling, and smiles were a real rare commodity in those days. People didn’t just break them out for any old occasion, only when it was special.
It wasn’t just the folks around the old man’s home who were pleased – the Authority were giddy. Now why would the big bad government want to put eyes on some anonymous old crank? Maybe he piqued their interest. Maybe, when we went down to that neighborhood and the really old folks talked about how they remember old man Mardak when they were kids, and he was old man Mardak even back then…well, it made us curious. Death is a capricious bastard, but it doesn’t miss someone for hundreds of years but for that person doing a little dodging, and anyone who’s dodged the reaping that long must be special.
We had Mardak called for a hoarder type, expected to find him holed up with the wreckage of some ill-remembered past, engulfed in his own haunted world. When we finally kicked in his door, all that greeted us were dust and shadows. If there were any ghosts, they stayed tucked away in the woodwork and didn’t come out to greet us. People told us about strange noises issuing up from the basement, but there were no accursed engines, or terrible altars, or unnatural creatures lurking about. But for the floors being relatively tidy, you’d think that no one had lived there since they built the damn place. The rumor among the people living there is that the place grew up around Mardak…hell, maybe they were right, the crazy plebes.
They’ve got Mardak on the slab, now, but it’s a different sort of puzzle. The coroner has no doubts as to how the guy died – every organ was flooded with the body’s own poisons or just so withered that it was a challenge merely to find it in Mardak’s body. The question is not why he died but why he was alive. “Better organs in a rotting corpse,” the coroner said, like Mardak was already dead and just didn’t know it. The Authority medical techs figure he should have cashed out a good thirty years ago, but our man says it’s longer than that. He figures that Mardak was dead for a long time before we found him, walking around with some outside power keeping that shell moving around, and we’ve got to find that power and stop it before someone really dangerous figures it out. He figures that we’re real lucky that Mardak restricted his evil deeds to scaring and tormenting the neighborhood kids.
As for me, I wonder if Mardak was ever even alive. I wonder if he was nothing but a beast of will, some vile entity that decided it wanted to exist and then, a second later, sprang into being. Which means that I’m not sure Mardak is dead, either, or that death is even a concept he understands. That withered corpse was never the man, just an artifice. I’ll tell the Authority that we’ve closed the case, but deep down I’m sure he’ll be back in another skin suit, slithering into some dark corner of the planet. He’ll be back, all right, back to unleash his special brand of madness on our orderly world.
Born in rural western Kansas, Andrew Johnston discovered his Sinophilia while attending the University of Kansas. Subsequently, he has spent most of his adult life shuttling back and forth across the Pacific Ocean. He is currently based out of Hefei, Anhui province. He has published short fiction in Nature: Futures, Electric Spec and Mythic and will be featured in the upcoming Bad Dream Entertainment Horror/Humor Anthology. You can learn more about his projects at findthefabulist.com.
He quivered at her touch, her eyes were full of promise, his full of lust. While tying him to the bedpost, her tongue danced across his bare body.
Reacting excitedly as she stripped naked, he ignored the ropes digging into his limbs. He was in heaven. He kissed eagerly, but she too, could not hold back… biting into his tongue – playfully at first, and then in one swift movement she ripped it off.
Blood-curdling screams filled the sound-proof room. His eyes threatened to pop out of his skull as shadows danced around the candle-lit enclosure,while bloodlust glinted in hers.
I search the house all over and find nothing.
My stomach growls loudly, mad with hunger.
The zombie apocalypse had seen the dead roaming the earth, eating anything with a pulse. Streets were empty, food scarce, human contact a memory.
I stand in the kitchen, rubbing my forehead in frustration. Something drops to the floor. Blood drips down my cheek into my mouth. I pick the thing up from the floor and eat it. My hands dart back to my forehead, feverishly clawing for more.
I was turned here and I’ll finally die here; by eating my rotting, infected brain.
Belinda is passionate about stories and after years of procrastinating, has finally turned her hand to writing them, with a preference for supernatural and thriller themes; her love of both often competing for her attention. She has had several stories published in a variety of publications, both online and in anthologies. Belinda lives in Australia with her family and has been known to enjoy the company of cats over people.
To Sleep, Perchance To Dream…
The funeral had been exhausting, but Angela couldn’t sleep. Her fears and questions about her future swirled through her mind, not allowing the rest she needed.
When the bedroom door opened and her husband walked in, she sat up, shaking her head in disbelief as she spoke.
“Walt, I… I just buried you.”
He slipped his shirt off, the Y shaped incision from his autopsy starkly contrasting his pale skin in the dim light from the streetlight outside. He leaned over and kissed her forehead with cold, dry lips, then whispered softly in her ear.
“You can’t kill the bogeyman…”
G.A. Miller is a new voice in the chorus of horror authors, drawing his ideas from every day, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors, often with horrific consequences. His work has been published in numerous anthologies from a variety of publishers, and he’s just released his first novella, “Spirit of the Dead”, now available at Amazon.
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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.