Trembling With Fear 11/08/20
Focussing on the good news this week – and don’t we need it these days?! I’ve just downloaded the latest issue of Sirens Call ezine and noticed a number of TWF writers in the TOC: the prolific Radar DeBoard is literally book-ending the TOC, and we also see Will H. Blackwell, Jr, RJ Meldrum – the man gets everywhere!, the ever-wonderful Alyson Faye, Patrick Wynn and our reviewer, John C. Adams. Check it out and see what our writers are coming up with in other publications.
Congratulations to John C. Adams on the news of his recent engagement to Jimmy Graves and excellent news too from Patrick Winters who has just come through some major surgery. Here’s love and best wishes to both.
NaNoWriMo is also well underway. It’s one of those times where you can give yourself permission to ignore the housework and just write. I post my numbers and whilst I do tend to double-up whenever I can it’s not for competitive reasons – it’s just that there might be evenings when I cannot do as much as I want because of other demands on my time, eg TWF and Horror Tree work or I might be in a state of mental exhaustion after the day job(!). I’ve seen a few people posting that they’re also on NaNoWriMo. I hope they’re having fun with this and it’s going well.
The first story in Trembling With Fear is Scorch the Earth by Kevin M. Folliard and it reminds me very much of the Men in Black films. His writing also has a strong visual quality transforming the words immediately into that ‘movie in the head’. And I love this bit of dialogue, “You will be a crust of ash on the forest floor. Then carbon in the wind.” He also has a wonderful last line.
1 2 3 4 or The Consequence of the Numerical Sequence by Steven Holding is something different where certain numbers can be misinterpreted with horrific results.
The Opportunist by Connor Long-Johnson contains some nice misdirection and an excellent example of personification.
They All Fall Down by Radar DeBoard is something which, whilst set in a different era, could so easily apply to our own times. I like to see current circumstances or modern preoccupations reflected back at us, it gives the reader a vested interest in the tale and creates an immediate hook.
Enjoy the stories and send us yours!
HELLLO TWF Readers!
For the lovers of fiction out there we have some great stories today and for those of you participating in NaNoWriMo, I hope that you’re meeting all of your writing goals!
Just a quick reminder, the following sponsor is still supporting the site through the 15th so please do pick up a copy of the anthology if you haven’t already.
– ‘It Calls From the Sky‘ from Eerie River Publishing. This one was edited by A. Robertson-Webb and M. River.
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I don’t have much for you this week. My day job has me SUPER busy once again but I’ll try to have something more for you next week. Have a great one my friends!
Scorch the Earth by Kevin M. Folliard
7 a.m. Monday morning, Ranger Rell spotted grayish purple smoke. The strange plumes wafted over a ridge of trees on the eastern edge of the park. His initial thought was a forest fire, but it had been so wet lately.
No paths or roads led directly through this part of the preserve, so Rell hiked on foot. He tried to radio the fire in, but high-pitched static interfered. He’d get close enough to assess the situation, then head down road for a better signal.
According to the ranger blog he’d read at breakfast, last night, campers sighted a magenta streak in the sky—a meteor that cut over the mountain. People rarely camped out this way. Maybe thrill seekers, searching for the object, accidentally started a fire. Maybe the object itself started this fire.
An acrid stench burned Rell’s nostrils. As he approached the blaze, a mechanical hum vibrated, and a high quivering voice screamed commands. Yellow streaks blazed between the trees. Flamethrowers.
Rell hurried toward the commotion. It was a controlled burn, but who had authorized it?
People in white hazmat suits clustered in the center of clearing. They blasted fire at the ground. A tall man in a black suit yelped in a shaky language Rell couldn’t place.
“Excuse me!” Rell shouted. “Who are you people?”
In perfect sync, the flamethrowers cut out. Reflective hazmat helmets turned in Rell’s direction. The man in black craned his neck around, leaving his legs and torso stiff. The tight-lipped smile on his pale face stretched like rubber. Chrome sunglasses gleamed. Behind him, fire crackled in tall grass.
Rell halted. His head swam. Stomach churned.
The man in black’s torso and legs twisted to meet the direction of his face. He was sign-post thin. His fingers stretched close to ten inches. His black pencil tie flickered in a gust of hot air. The mechanical hum pulsed.
The man approached, folding his too-longer fingers. “Why are you here?” he asked in a scratchy, helium voice.
“I’m the ranger.” Rell’s heart pounded. “Why are you here?”
“We belong with the federal government.” The man produced a badge. The FBI identification appeared legitimate, though Rell struggled to read the agent’s name. The letters seemed slippery, as if they were changing shape behind the plastic sleeve. The pads at the end of the snaky fingers were oddly bulbous. The skin had a translucent, amphibious quality.
“The park is my jurisdiction.” Rell tried—failed—to steady his voice. Was this man ill? Disfigured?
“Everything is my jurisdiction.” Powdery makeup caked the stranger’s face. He had no defined lips, and only the slightest bump of a nose.
“You can’t be here without notifying the Parks Department.”
“We are cleared to be here. You should have been redirected. That road,” he pointed behind Rell, “is blocked off.”
“It was open when I entered the park.” Rell reached for his radio.
“One of them slipped through,” a voice hissed from behind a hazmat mask.
The man in black frowned. “Shut up.”
Again, Rell grabbed his radio. “This is Ranger Rell, please come in.” Static. “We have a situation.” Static. “Some individuals are claiming to be federal agents.” Nothing. His voice came out small, fragile. “Please. Does anyone copy?”
“There’s a lot of radiation in the air. Could be interfering.” The strange man held up a stiff hand. The hazmat people turned away. Their flamethrowers erupted once again. Fire swept back and forth across something large poking from the grass.
“Radiation?” Rell shouldered past the man in black. “What’s going on here?” A flatbed truck was parked at the far end of the clearing. A huge, oval shaped object was covered by an enormous tarp.
Rell was about to ask how on Earth these men had managed to drive a truck through such dense forest. But suddenly he wasn’t quite sure what he was seeing. Like the letters on the FBI badge, the vehicle shifted in his vision.
Was it a truck? Or just a chrome rectangle that stretched through the trees and . . . bent into nowhere.
He smelled cooked meat. Charred things lay in the grass. Huge, black husks of creatures baked in streams of fire. They had long necks and sharp spines on multiple sets of arms and legs. Their blackened limbs curled inward like dead spiders. Narrow crocodilian snouts crisped between jets of flame.
“What in heaven?”
The wiry being snatched Rell. His willowy arm tensed like steel. “You were never here.”
Rell tried to speak. He tried to agree. He wanted nothing more than to never speak of this.
But his whole body froze. His tongue felt like a plug of cotton.
“You were never a ranger.” The vice-like grip tightened. With the fatty pads of his other fingers, the man in black removed his hat to reveal a huge, pulsating forehead. He took off his shades. Bulging black eyes swam with stars.
“You were never important, and you never will be.” The man’s voice drilled into Rell’s mind. Echoed on his bones. Behind the man, white hot shivers cut the earth. Rell’s eyes seared into empty windows, belonging to nobody.
“You were not meant for this moment, and so I am erasing you,” the man in black explained. “You will be a crust of ash on the forest floor. Then carbon in the wind.”
Rell sank into the pit of his mind. Through the windows of the eyes the canopy shivered and fire swallowed the faint outline of the man.
“By day’s end, I will be the final one who remembers you,” the man in black promised. “And then, I will smile as I choose to forget.”
Kevin M. Folliard
Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose fiction has been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, and more. His recent publications include “Halfway to Forgotten,” featured on The No Sleep Podcast; the Short Sharp Shocks! Halloween tale “Candy Corn”; and his 2020 horror anthology The Misery King’s Closet. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor and active membership in the La Grange and Brookfield Writers Groups. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Super Mario Maker, or traveling the U.S.A.
1 2 3 4 or The Consequence of the Numerical Sequence
After the ecstatic excess of the dancefloor, it’s back to hers to bond further over a mirror, razor and a rolled-up note.
Sniffing, she shifts her shirt, proudly displaying her sleeve.
He fingers the digits imprinted on her skin.
“Angel numbers,” she whispers “How guardians give guidance. Like seeing a clock at 11:11”
His hand unfolds in hers, palm marked with thick ink.
“This means completion” she continues, “An end to things.”
He grins, twisting his limb until his open fist is upside down.
Giggling, he tears off his top, triumphantly unfurling two dark feathered wings.
The screaming begins.
Steven Holding lives with his family in the United Kingdom. Most recently his work has appeared in the collections OCEANS and ANCIENTS from Black Hare Press and the TWF anthologies TREMBLING WITH FEAR YEAR 3 and MORE TALES FROM THE TREE VOLUME 2.
Smoke choked the air, and the harsh sound of batons drumming against shields filled the streets. The screams and shouts of an angry populace bounced off the walls—all echoes in a warzone.
She was in her element, all morning she had torn through the subway, broke into shops and homes and shattered boundaries.
She was a ghost, an apex predator, a silent assassin, she was on you before you knew it and by then it was too late.
More people spilt outside in protest, more meat for the grinder.
Her name was Corona, and she was having a blast.
Connor Long–Johnson, currently writing his thesis on the fiction of Stephen King at the University of Greenwich in London, England. He enjoys writing short stories in the Gothic, fantasy and Science-Fiction genres inspired by the stories of Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson. In June 2020 he had his first short story titled The Man in the Mirror serialised in Trembling With Fear. He can be found at cljohnson.co.uk.
They All Fall Down
The young man struggled to carry the rest of the firewood to his cottage. A sudden burning itch was overtaking his arms. He couldn’t help it anymore, he dropped the logs and began widely scratching his arms.
He screamed at the boils that were rapidly covering his arms. The young man’s screams were drowned out by the sounds of others in the village finding their own boils and sores.
The chaos was being watched by a man in a dark robe sitting atop the hill overlooking the village. His sickness had spread quickly. Leaving him time to appreciate his work.
Radar DeBoard is an aspiring writer who just wants others to find enjoyment in his work. Even though he lacks publication and experience, he hopes his work will have an impact. He has a passion for horror and finds it the most interesting genre to write.
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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.