Trembling With Fear 10-29-23
Hello, children of the dark. Quickly, because I’m still prepping for my vampire extravaganza and I’m already running late with this week’s edition (sorry, boss!).
I know I promised last week that Stuart and I would revisit the short stories submission windows, but truth is we just haven’t had a chance. (Well, I haven’t yet poked him – see previous paragraph about time.) Will try to sort out our approach before the next issue.
And before we jump to this week’s TWF menu, it would be remiss of a dark fiction zine to not wish you all a happy Halloween, blessed Samhain, and all other celebrations of the dark. May the veil part as much as you desire on Tuesday night.
Now, to the matter at hand: Emma Burnett brings us one helluva dark futuristic speculative tale. Honestly, this one is magnificent, and it’s followed by three delicious quick bites:
- Victoria Savage tackles a take on a TikTok trend,
- Amanda Brimley needs to find a recluse, and
- Leigh-Anne Burley likes broken things.
PS the TWF Halloween special is ready to go; keep an eye on these pages in two days’ time!
Over to you, Stuart.
Here we are, standing at the edge of October, teetering on the brink of the extraordinary. The leaves have donned their most vibrant hues, and the air is alive with whispers of the coming Halloween. I’m brimming with anticipation and excitement, ready to share with you a collection of tales that embody the spirit of this captivating season.
October is a month of transformation, a time when the world around us shifts into a tapestry of color and shadows. Did you know that October was once the eighth month of the Roman calendar, and its name is derived from ‘octo,’ meaning eight? It’s a month that, historically, has been a bridge between the harvest’s abundance and winter’s quietude, and it’s the perfect backdrop for the stories we’ve curated for you in this week’s ‘Trembling With Fear.’
The stories are ready, the shadows are deepening, and the stage is set for a journey into the heart of the season. Are you ready to step into the dark?
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.
Emma Burnett is a researcher and writer. She has had stories in MetaStellar, Elegant Literature, The Stygian Lepus, Roi Fainéant, The Sunlight Press, Fairfield Scribes, Five Minute Lit, Microfiction Monday, and Rejection Letters. You can find her @slashnburnett, @slashnburnett.bsky.social, or emmaburnett.uk.
Under the Neon Signs, by Emma Burnett
The neon signs flash on and off, on and off. Flickering lights reflected down the narrow alley between the crowsnest buildings, so tall the tops of them were hidden up in the heavy clouds. Red, green, yellow. Flash, change. Blue, purple.
Xavi danced through the puddles, leftovers from the rain that had poured down the buildings an hour earlier.
“Dad, can I have a Brobot?” he asked, glancing up at one of the signs.
“No, Xavi. You don’t need a Brobot.”
“I do, though. The sign says they’re good for the development of young minds, like.” Xavi pointed up at a flickering neon advertisement. “I need one, probably.”
“Maybe for your thirteenth birthday,” his father answered, stepping around a puddle.
“I can’t wait two whole years!” Xavi splashed again, the ripples in the puddle reflecting the lights from the billboards mounted above them.
“Waiting is good for the development of young minds, too.”
Xavi clicked his tongue, and kicked a puddle. Then he looked up again. The advert had changed. Different colours poured down on them. “Dad, what’s it like to die?”
“I dunno. I guess it’s nothing. It’s like nothing.”
Splash. “The signs say it’s nice, like.”
“I suppose it’s not bad. They say you don’t remember anything at all. You die and then you wake up in a regenerator.”
“I don’t really like going to sleep in new places,” Xavi scowled. “I get worried, like.”
“You wouldn’t remember anything bad. You just wake up and you’re all better.”
“You don’t remember how you died?”
Green. Yellow, purple. Blue, red. The signs flashed and flickered, and the narrow alley led into another, and another. The rain started up again, fat raindrops hitting their heads and adding smaller ripples to the puddles.
Xavi jumped into the reflection of another neon sign. “Dad, do you have Animus Insurance?”
“Sure. Everyone has Animus Insurance. Pull up your hood, or your hair will get wet.”
“Because your mother will get angry.”
Tongue click. “No, why do you have that insurance thing?”
His father gestured up at the sign flashing above them. “Just like the ad says. It protects your loved ones.”
“From, like, if anything bad happens to me. You and Mami get some money, my body will get sent to regen, all that.”
“Oh. Ok. But then you wouldn’t remember anything?”
The drops were getting bigger. Xavi stood in the dark and turned his face upwards, catching water in his mouth. The neon lights reflected off the water on his skin and his coat.
“Dad, can I get a PulseBlade?”
“No,” his father snapped. “Absolutely not.”
“What if I borrow one from someone, at school, like?”
“No one should have a PulseBlade at school. They’re seriously dangerous. You gotta stop asking for random crap you see on ads, Xavi.”
“They look cool in the vids though,” he stuck his hands in his pockets. “Everyone wants one.”
“You don’t need a PulseBlade. Now come on, it’s getting late.”
“Yeah, but I want one.” He kicked at the pool water, and droplets flew through the air. The puddle light refracted.
“No, Xavi. The answer is no. Now, enough. C’mon.”
“I knew you’d say that.” There was a slight humming as Xavi pulled the blade out from his pocket. He slid it between his father’s ribs. “Maybe next time.”
Xavi watched his father fall, watched the lights from the ads on the crowsnest buildings reflect off the new puddle growing to meet the others on the street. Blue, green. Purple, blue. Orange. Red.
After four hundred years, deciding what to eat for dinner never ceased to bore me.
Ms. Waller across the street had been looking exceptionally mouth-watering recently. But so much effort for such a small meal. Perhaps I could finally dig into old Frederick next door? No one would miss him. Still, such work.
I trudged into my kitchen and surveyed the smattering bits of humans still laying about my kitchen. Fingers, torsos, thighs, and such. It was a stretch to call any one individual piece a meal, but all together?
Well, I think kids these days call it girl dinner.
Victoria Savage is a speculative fiction writer based in the perpetually haunted city of Kingston, Canada. She spends her 9-5 fighting cybercriminals, and can often be found rewatching John Carpenter movies with her husband, Ben. Victoria enjoys befriending fellow readers and writers of speculative fiction. Find her on Twitter @vittoria_rosa, on BlueSky @victoriasavage.bsky.social, or on StoryGraph as vittoria_rosa.
The incantation to save Micah must be cast by a recluse, plucked from the top of a mountain. Where to find a hermit in 21st century America?
I climb until the wind moans and make camp. Come morning, I search. Day after day, I become familiar with the animal trails—where to set traps, where to find berries. My face blisters, I chop my hair.
Three seasons pass before it dawns on me: I am become the recluse I seek.
I run to Micah, but he is gone.
I… no longer care.
Eager for solitude, I return to my mountain.
Amanda Brimley is a mother, wife, writer, and runner. She enjoys myth, fantasy, and stories that involve trees. She currently lives in the woefully tree-lacking city of College Station, Texas. Find her on Instagram @amandabrimleywrites.
A burly man sits on a repaired chair beside a refinished table, gluing the handle to a gray pitcher. Cages hang from the ceiling, holding birds recovering from broken wings. Jed’s mercy killings shatter his heart when restoration isn’t possible.
In the spring, Jed captures lonely Jenny hiking alone in the Garden of God’s Park and takes her to live with him in his cabin. Jen’s broken heart is beyond his healing touch, so he strangles and buries the poor thing behind his repair shop. Jed likes to keep his broken things close. The birds want to fly far away.
Leigh-Anne Burley is published in nonfiction, fiction, and poetry in publications including Little Blue Marble, and Spaceports and Spidersilk. Leigh-Anne enjoys walking, reading, writing, knitting, and movies. Leigh-Anne Burley and her husband of 43 years live in Virginia. They have three children and six grandchildren.
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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.