Trembling With Fear 11/15/20
Nice to report on some good news this week with regard to one of our regular writers, Patrick Winters. He has not only gone through major surgery but is also out of hospital and writing. I have no doubt we’ll see more from him soon.
NaNoWriMo is ongoing for a number of us. I’m not far off finishing and I’ve found that whilst I’ve meandered, the writing is pushing me towards the final focus the book will take. What I’ve written so far is not wasted and will simply be re-ordered. When I get stuck, my attituded is to write the scene that’s on my mind – even if it’s not linear, eg it would fit earlier or suits the ending more. My folk horror world is developing nicely!
Remember if you have publication news, events or are offering work services after suffering income drops/job loss due to covid, we have our Friday roundup of the latest indie releases. We have moved away from the ‘pandemic’ label as this feature will continue as an additional support to writers as covid eventually – hopefully – dies off. And sometimes, it’s just nice not to see a reference to the pandemic for a change! Feel free to send info/links to us!
Trembling With Fear this week, leads with The Haruspex by Harris Coverley. An historical setting, it shows us the horror we commit ourselves, through our beliefs, with no recourse to any horror tropes. The characters and their roles in the deaths and sacrifices described came through as very believable, because of its grounding in fact. Refreshingly different.
A Man’s Kingdom by Ryan Benson shows that sometimes a solution to a problem does not go to plan. A few nicely placed clues to inform the ending.
Archer Avenue by Darlene Holt allows us to see the truth behind a rhyme which was always regarded as nonsense. Using children and rhymes always offers a lot of scope in horror.
Special by Phil Slattery has a nice touch of dark humour at its end.
Enjoy the stories and send us yours!
I hope you’re all having a great weekend (or whatever day it may be as you read this one.)
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Thanks for your time and I hope you have a great read and week ahead of you!
The Haruspex by Harris Coverley
It was decided that the only means left to see off the advance of Vile Rome was to adopt some of their methods and merge them with our own, and we would have to hope that Tannit and Ḥammon would not punish us for any sacrilege.
Ten infant boys were offered up before the two Suffets and the Council of Elders. One amongst them was chosen by the highest priest, in communion with the goddess, and delegated to me, for I was regarded as the supreme of my profession in all of the remaining realms of Qart-Hadasht.
The others were returned to their families, grateful for such mercy, and I took my charge outside the city, away from any impure influence, where I raised him in relative solitude. The Suffets sent their servants with the finest of food to nourish us, and an Elder even volunteered to come and teach the boy how to play the nebel.
I studied him as I studied the ways of prophecy in Vile Rome, and prepared myself for that ultimate day, the boy not knowing what greatness he would be the conduit of. Even as I understood what was to come, I grew to love him almost like he was my own progeny, and I do believe still he loved me also, even saw me like his own father. We had such pleasurable days together, and he seldom disobeyed, although he knew punishment by my hand was harsh.
When he reached the age of ten, and we were both summoned by the Council to the Tophat, I admit that I had the insolent thought of absconding with the boy to the sandy lands of the interior, but I swallowed my impudence and did as commanded.
I met the assembled Council, headed by the two newly elected Suffets, in the court of the Tophat, underneath the icons of the Lady and the Lord. They were accompanied by the general Azrubaal and several of his men, who looked upon me and the boy with great repugnance for they did not care for Romish ways, even if undertaken by their own people.
They all gathered in a circle, and I instructed the boy to follow me to the centre. Two priests of the lower caste came forward and held him to the floor by the shoulders. As he struggled and pleaded for an explanation, I drew the knife, given to me by the former Suffets ten years earlier, and, giving thanks to the Lady and the Lord, thrust it into his abdomen, and ripped it down to his groin, his screams piercing me in return.
The lower priests then rolled him onto his side, the boy now silent but cursing me with his eyes as the last of life drained out. I threw away any sentiment, and began to remove his bowels for scrutiny.
Years of Romish learning had taught me how to read the signs within the viscera of the chosen sacrifice, whereas we descendants of the Kana‘an had always killed our charges and then deposited them in the sacred pyres since the times of the ancestor god Malcam.
I spread his hot entrails out across the floor of the court, and began my studies. As time went on, Azrubaal and his men became restless and demanded a revelation, but the Suffets managed to calm them as the Elders looked on in distaste.
I checked my readings myriad times, but I was ashamed to report what I had found amongst the guts of the boy: the coming war with the Romish was not to be in our favour. Indeed, it was to mean the destruction of Qart-Hadasht regardless of what we did.
Azrubaal and his men took this with the worst bluster, and insisted that Vile Rome could not dare bring defeat to our empire. Some Elders were fast however to remind the general of how much our great empire had withered within our very lifetimes, and asked me what we should do. I said that the only option was our immediate and absolute surrender, with the Romish receiving it benevolently if chance be ours.
To most of the Elders, the two Suffets, and of course Azrubaal, such an idea was utterly unspeakable. They could not go before the Assembly of the People with such news, as in the face of continued defeat and decline the oligarchs had weakened their grip over the public, and were reduced to little more than demagoguery.
The Tophat guards held back Azrubaal’s men as the Suffets agreed that I was to be exiled without delay from the city and its domains until my death, so as not to poison popular opinion. The boy’s body and his innards were to be offered to the pyre in the hope that the Lady and the Lord would not see our invocation of Vile Rome’s practices as insult foul enough to deny us victory and rainfall.
I did not resist my deportation, going west into the lands of the wilder Numidians. I lived there for ten years as a teacher, before getting a premonition that I should return to Qart-Hadasht, and would not be harassed for doing so.
As I arrived on the hill above the city, I saw the methodically burnt ruins that I once loyally called my home. I recall walking through the city’s shattered gates, seeing the piles upon piles of skeletons, their flesh long peeled away by the unforgiving sun, and feeling the alien salt between my bare toes.
Nothing for me there, I returned to my new home in the west, where I now wait to re-join the boy and the rest of my fellow citizenry in the next life, and dream that such a catastrophe will befoul Vile Rome.
A Man’s Kingdom
Tony had a coyote problem.
Vermin visited his country home (built away from rotten society) on consecutive nights.
His wife questioned his motivations. Coyotes feared humans and disappeared by morning.
But here, Tony ruled, even if he played the joker at work. At life.
Tony placed foothold traps and filled his wife’s red china bowls with poisoned water. On the return to his castle, a “well-hidden” trap clamped on his foot. Pain drove him unconscious.
Tony awoke, his devoted wife feeding him cold water.
He smiled until he saw her holding the scarlet bowl.
Stomach pains signaled his kingdom’s end.
Ryan Benson resides outside of Atlanta, GA, USA, with his wife and children. Ryan keeps himself busy writing short fiction stories and his first novel. Trembling With Fear (Horror Tree), The Sirens Call Publications, TERSE Journal, and the anthologies The Collapsar Directive (Zombie Pirate Publishing) and A Discovery of Writers have published his work.
“Don’t step on a crack or you’ll fall and break your back!”
The neighborhood kids chant as they leapfrog each crevice of Archer Avenue’s sidewalk, blissfully ignorant of the twelve children that had already gone missing.
But they play on, walking and singing, jumping gaps overgrown with weeds.
Until little Davey Brown thinks it’s funny to push Hannah Cole a moment before her leap.
The kids watch, horror-stricken, as the pavement rips open, revealing a grotesque tongue and deadly, pointed teeth. The mouth viciously swallows her up, then quickly reseals, muffling her screams as she’s lost to its cavernous depths.
Darlene Holt is an educator, writer, and language enthusiast. Her fiction appears in The Penmen Review and Sirens Call Publications, and her poetry appears in The Scarlet Leaf Review and The Drabble. She has an MA in English and Creative Writing and currently resides in San Diego, California, where she enjoys reading horror stories and spending time with her fiancé and cats.
I told my psychiatrist that last week I discovered creatures inside my head that keep shuffling about, fighting, screaming, and telling me to do horrendous things. He wouldn’t let me prove my point by using my pocketknife to peel back my scalp. He just grabbed my wrists and kept saying the creatures are imaginary. He was just jealous that they chose me and no one else to enlighten. After all, I couldn’t find any in his head or any of the others in the random sampling I took while walking back home that day. I feel kind of special now.
Phil Slattery is a native of Kentucky, but has traveled extensively and now resides in southeast Arkansas Currently, he writes mostly dark fiction, but he has also written poetry and non-fiction and he dabbles in other literary forms and genres as well. His fiction, poetry, and few non-fiction articles have been published in numerous magazines in print and online. He is currently finishing a sci-fi/horror novel entitled Shadows and Stars. Collections of his works can be found on 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.