Trembling With Fear 11/20/2022
Hello, children of the dark – and it really is getting dark out there, huh? I sat down to start writing this at 4pm London time, and I needed the light on despite sitting underneath a skylight. I’m never sure if I like the cold, dark, rainy short days or the long, bright sunny ones; the truth is probably both, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
These long, cold nights are, of course, perfect for curling up with a good story or three, whether you’re reading or writing them. And given I’ve been getting up on this soapbox every week asking you to write and submit to us, I thought it was time I give an insight into what happens once you press “send” on the form.
With the size and age of this site, you might think there are loads of us behind the scenes – alas, no. The Trembling With Fear team is myself, Stuart (the founder of Horror Tree), and Amanda, who looks after the specials, unholy trinities and serials. We all volunteer with this site alongside our day jobs, and it’s very much a labour of love.
An important note to start with: Before you submit and we get involved, please double check your story fits our submission guidelines. We do not accept stories with hate speech, rape, killing/torture of kids or pets, and more. We also don’t accept reprints, so if you submit something to us that is subsequently accepted for publication by another site, please let us know and withdraw your story.
When you pass Go on the TWF board, a few things happen behind the scenes. First, one of the team will see the email come in and log it on our all-powerful spreadsheet (designed by former TWF editor Steph Ellis, it is the one true spreadsheet to rule them all). That person will also send you an email to say we’ve received it, and we’ll get back to you soon. How long that “soon” is will depend on a lot of things, but we aim to get back to you within a few weeks.
Once your story is in the system, we all read it and make our comments. Once we reach a consensus, we’ll email you to let you know the outcome. This will be one of three things: we accept it; we thank you but won’t be able to publish it (and we always try to give feedback in this case); or we like it but feel it needs more work before it’s suitable for our site. If we ask you to revise your piece, it is always up to you; it’s never an order, and you have the prerogative to say no thanks and we all move on. But if we’ve asked you for revisions, it means we like your story and want to help you improve it for our audience. It’s important to remember that all sites and publications have different audiences, and you might want to try to find a different home for your piece as it is. That’s always an option!
That email is not the end of the road. If and when we accept the piece, we’ll ask you to sign a digital contract giving us the right to publish it, and once that’s signed by both parties we move to scheduling the story. What that magic date is will depend on how many stories we have waiting in the queue. For drabbles, it will usually be fairly prompt because we publish three of those every week. Short stories are another matter as we only publish one each week, and it will depend on the time of year you submit and are accepted; I’ve learned in my short time in this chair that there is a definite ebb and flow to these things! At the moment, we’re closed to short stories because we had an absolute rush of submissions between summer and Halloween; when I looked at the schedule to get this week’s pieces ready, I saw we are full right up until early summer 2023. That’s a long time to wait for publication, which is why we’re closed for a while.
But don’t worry; we’ll always send you a note in the week before your story is published so you know to keep an eye out for it. We share published pieces on our social media accounts, and in our newsletter, too. Find details of how to follow these over on our contact page.
And that’s the long and the short of it; it’s a fairly standard process, but we get a lot of first-timers submitting to TWF so I hope that helps to settle some nerves. I promise, we don’t bite! For now, take some inspiration from those who’ve been through this process: this week’s Trembling main course sees Charles Cole have some serious issues in the bathroom. This is followed by three delicious quick bites:
- Helen De Cruz ponders what they see
- RJ Meldrum hears a whisper on the wind, and
- Don Money has trouble in space
If these stories inspire you to get writing, you’ll find details on how to submit to us over here. Remember, we’re currently CLOSED to short story submissions, but are always seeking drabbles – that’s a complete story in exactly 100 words, and a real test of your craft. We’re looking for anything darkly speculative – it doesn’t have to be a super gory horror story; we don’t get enough dark sci-fi and fantasy! And I’m very much in the mood for gothic tales as the nights draw closer…
Over to you, Stuart.
Last week I said things were crazy, imagine how crazy they are now that we’ve gotten a new chocolate lab puppy named Cocoa!
Crazy doesn’t even begin to cover it.
So, what did we do this week?
– Found out the sad news that Amanda Headlee will be stepping down as our TWF Special Editor at the end of the year. We’re already talking about a couple of candidates to help out.
– We’re currently making a major push for more author interviewers! If you love to talk to authors, please reach out!
– UK Readers, we’re currently giving away 3 Copies of ‘Origins of The Wheel of Time’
– I’ve been working on a new home office for awhile. 3 pieces of furniture have been stuck in THE SUPPLY CHAIN SHORTAGE and have finally arrived. So. Erm. More on that soon! I’m streamling my entire setup to help with both my day job AND Horror Tree. So, neat!
As always, I hope you had a great weekend.
In and Out, by Charles C Cole
My wife had recently left me due to “reasons.” I was drinking more than was healthy. Sometimes the stuff stayed down and sometimes it didn’t. “Heaving” had never been a more integral bodily function. With increasing frequency, food, drink, bile, and old swallowed emotions came rushing up and out. Sometimes I fought back. I discovered mouth and throat abilities heretofore unknown to man.
Invariably, after stumbling for the commode, I’d close my stinging eyes tight to the results of my discomfort and self-flagellation. I’d reach blindly for the handle, flush, wipe my face with a convenient dishtowel, clean my mouth with a still-damp toothbrush, and start over.
Except once: when I missed, when the combined pain and pressure scared me to the extent that I had to see for myself, to make sure that I had not just disgorged a vital organ or turned some significant portion of me inside-out. What lay before me on the bathroom rug was an uninflated, prone, naked, puke-covered version of me. I gasped with alarm. He, in turn, inhaled with the full force of life itself, filling up quickly like a human-shaped water balloon!
“Shut up!” I said.
New-me pushed his chest up off the floor with his forearms and called out: “Towel, please!”
I threw him the washcloth in my shaking hands. He scrubbed his face fiercely, even sticking his tongue out and wiping it. “Robe!”
There was a white terrycloth robe hanging on the wall, a rarely-used Valentine’s gift from a couple of years before. I pulled myself up by the sink and tossed the robe at New-me, He pulled it over his shoulders and around himself, then reached over the edge of the tub to turn on the water for a shower.
“Get me some clothes! I don’t care what! T-shirt, underwear, socks, belt as well, but not the leather belt you made at camp. And close the door!” I did as I was told.
While he showered, I sat in a ball in bed, with my back against the wall and both knees pulled up to my chin, held firmly in place by my arms wrapped around my legs. I was a wreck, but at least the heaving had stopped.
He opened the bathroom door a crack, scooped up the clothes, and shut the door behind him.
“Dude!” he shouted, but that was all. Was he scolding me? Appreciating his reflection? Was he having an epiphany? The door finally opened. He’d done a hasty job of drying off; I could see where his shirt had stuck to his still-wet skin. He was brushing his teeth. But he still looked ten times more refreshed than I felt. No circles under his eyes and better posture.
“What happens now?” I asked.
“Reboot. Fresh start. You’ve had it hard, my friend. Time to enjoy a break for a while.”
“Are you taking over?”
“Isn’t that what you want?”
“I wanted the past out of my system,” I said.
“Great thought! Lousy execution! I’m the present. You’re the past.” He excused himself and spat into my sink. I followed as far as the door. When he lifted his head, his teeth sparkled like coins in a fountain. The effect was unnatural, obnoxious. He didn’t seem to mind my staring. Maybe he expected it.
“How do you feel?” he asked.
“I bet; it’s been tough. You gave it your best,” he said, glancing in the shower. “We’re gonna want to scrub in there.”
“You can hang out. Or go on a road trip. I’ve got this. No need for both of us to get stressed out.”
“I got us this far,” I said, a little defensive. “You wouldn’t be here without me.”
“Of course. Don’t be so clingy. Let it go. You’ve earned it. Take the credit. And spend it on a new adventure, while I fight the daily grind.”
He slinked by me into our bedroom. He seemed to be noticing my scattered clothes, my overflowing trashcan, the empty pizza box on my desk. He picked up a shirt from the foot of the bed and inspected it by sniffing. When it “passed,” he looked at me: Why here?
“I was gonna wear it, but it’s missing a button,” I explained.
He grabbed a random hanger and returned it to my closet. He picked up another shirt, this time on the carpet below my mirror. Per his shaking head, this item didn’t pass the sniff test. He headed to the laundry basket in my bathroom.
“It’s clean,” I explained. “I wore it out to dinner on a date and took it off as soon as I got home. I’m a very neat eater.”
“I can smell the marinara,” he countered.
I blocked the doorway with my body. “Stop! This isn’t gonna work! I can pick up after myself. I can fight my own battles.”
Then I suddenly grabbed my stomach with both hands and fell to my knees. I started hyperventilating and moaning.
“You okay?” he asked, concerned.
“Are there more of you?” I asked between breaths. I moaned louder, sharper. He patted me on the back. “Help me!”
“I don’t know what to do.”
“Look! See if there’s another you coming. I can feel it! Reach in and pull him out! Please!”
“Let me.” He got down on my level and leaned forward. I could feel my jaw unhinge. I could feel the muscles in my tongue flex, thrust forward like a python and wrap around his head, then quickly pull him back inside. I fought the gagging instinct.
“Wait!” he mumbled.
With a couple of gigantic gulps, he was gone the way he’d arrived. My throat felt like I’d swallowed a cracker edgewise. I expected a continued struggle, to see ripples on my stomach. Just a little heartburn.
I pulled myself up by the edge of the tub and glanced at the drain. He was right about one thing: I was going to have to scrub my shower.
Charles Cole lives in Maine on land passed down by his great-great grandfather. He has been published in alongstoryshort, The Blue Crow, The Sandy River Review, The Café Review, everydayfiction, Black Petals, Altered Reality, and BewilderingStories.
The Visible and the Truthful
My best friend Cassie took out her eyes sometimes. Not gonna lie, it looked kind of gross. She kept them in a knitted pouch. Seated in the classroom with her arms crossed, blindly gazing out of fleshy holes, we recoiled and shifted our desks. She, however, saw a world of possibility, the hidden virtue of the worst bully. Whenever she opened a mediocre book, she discerned no lines on the page, but she savored its magic, adventure, what it could be. Over time, Cassie put in her eyes less and less, “What I can see without them feels more truthful.”
Helen De Cruz
Helen De Cruz is a Philosophy Professor, holder of the Danforth Chair in the Humanities at Saint Louis University. In their spare time, they play the Renaissance lute and archlute. They write fiction, and draw and paint. Their fiction has appeared in EscapePod, HyphenPunk, and 96th of October, and creative nonfiction in The Guardian, Aeon, and The Raven Magazine. They are co-editor, with Eric Schwitzgebel and Johan De Smedt, of the anthology Philosophy Through Science Fiction Stories (Bloomsbury, 2021).
The car was stuck on a lonely road in a forest. She stood on the road, hoping for rescue. Her cell phone had zero reception. From the darkness she heard singing. A hymn. Finding the source was her only option.
She emerged into a clearing to see a stone church, windows lit. She opened the door. The congregation inside were singing lustily. Not wanting to interrupt, she sat down. She soon joined the singing. She felt full of joy.
The next day they found her in the ruined, deserted church. She was dead, but her face was peaceful and untroubled.
RJ Meldrum is an author and academic. Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010. He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Smoking Pen Press and James Ward Kirk Fiction. He is an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.
Dokter Reese Parr, as the head Astrobotanist with the Genesis Project, knew results were expected of him. His team landed on the moon of Korvas two cycles past, ransacking the lunar landscape for botanical discoveries to enhance the financial coffers for the Project’s Board of Directors, collecting over five hundred new flora samples to be tested.
The dokter’s intellect was only rivaled by his arrogance, believing man the dominant life form in the galaxy. Korvas wasn’t impressed with the dokter’s accolades, it would recover what was taken from it. Sentient vines snaked along the ground seeking and seizing their prey.
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Lauren is a writer with various hats – journalist, copywriter, content marketer, fiction – and considers herself a storyteller at heart. She writes gothic and folk horror and is currently working on a novel set in the world of the Victorian occult. It’s the supernatural and the occult that really give her goosebumps, and a good ghost story or vampire tale with a rising sense of dread will always pique her interest (and yes, Midnight Mass hit many of her buttons). She also has a developing fascination with folklore, the old ways and our fast-changing relationship with the natural world; this sneaks into her writing, too.
In The Real World, Lauren has more than 20 years’ experience as a professional content creator. She’s established and led global content teams and editorial strategies, including setting up content newsrooms for some of the world’s biggest brands. She was a music editor for a daily newspaper in her native Australia (a good gig and the beach remain her happy places), though she’s been London-based for 16 years and works as an editor, proofreader, marketer, and writing coach. She’s also a mental health advocate; her Substack, How to Be Self(ish), tracked her year of sabbatical and self-care, and she continues to write it irregularly as a mental health companion.
You’ll find Lauren haunting south London, where she lives with her Doctor Who-obsessed husband and their aged black house rabbit. You’ll also likely find her hosting Writers Hour sessions for the London Writers Salon a few times a week.