Trembling With Fear 11/21/21
Please note: We are temporarily closed to short flash stories (unless for one of the Specials) but open to drabbles, unholy trinities and serials. Please also remember to read our guidelines, especially on word counts!
By the end of the year, we will have caught up on all our short story publications for TWF. With that in mind, I feel it safe to reopen at the beginning of December – but please do not send before this!
This week I’ve been getting things ready for the UK Ghost Festival in Derby next weekend. I’ll be around for a panel and event but most of the time I’ll be at a table in the Quad (with wonderful husband, Geraint, manning it during any absence) selling books. If you’re around come over, say hello, perhaps pick up a book or two. Alyson Faye will be with me and we’re selling copies of Black Angel Press’ Daughters of Darkness I and II in addition to our own books which we’ll be more than happy to sign.
Reading has been Morning Star by Karl Ove Knausgaard (almost finished!) and The Fiends in the Furrows II. The latter is an excellent collection of new folk horror stories which I really enjoyed. I’ve also been reading editions of Hellebore Magazine which deals with folk horror and the occult. It’s a lovely little mag, informative and interesting and I’d recommend.
I’m also looking at some special Indie Bookshelf Release Posts leading up to Christmas and I’m going to try and create a charity one. If you know of, or have been part of, any charity anthologies released this year – and I’ll say last year as well, due to covid – please let me know and I’ll add them to post.
Our first story in Trembling with Fear is The Rat Goes Underground by Rodolfo Boskovic is a grim tale recounting the consequences of selling people out. What was particularly enjoyable about this one was the ‘voice’ of the narrator, its fluid tone, the sense of being ‘in confidence’, which draws the reader in naturally.
Grandpa’s Girl by S.C. Fisher is a slightly ambiguous ghost story but one which reinforces a family bond from beyond the grave.
Reversion by Alyson Faye is a lovely gothic poem with some gorgeous imagery illustrating decay across the passage. Evocative.
Short Order Supervillain by Brian Maycock has an ending which equates human life in a shocking manner to an everyday product. This sort of blunt statement is a good trick to add in an extra level of horror.
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
We’ve been having some huge issues with our mailing list the past two weeks. I believe it may be resolved this week. If not, I’ll likely be juggling around room in the budget to go back to our old newsletter provider. So, that’s been fun. Thankfully, there are some great stories to cheer us all up below!
The Rat Goes Underground by Rodolfo Boskovic
They call him the Rat. It’s an unfortunate name–not even original. You open a hole in the ground, you’ll find a dozen Rats.
There were four ‘Rat’s in the juvenile institute he grew up in, but what can a man do? You can’t control public opinion. To the Rat’s thinking, all you can do is be yourself and let the cards fall where they may.
When he was young, he was the funny guy–the guy people went to for a quick joke with a side of blow. As he found out, that ain’t no way to make a living. Cops bust you, they take your things and lock you up, no matter how many jokes you got. So, he decided to go straight behind the scenes. No need to sell drugs if you can sell out your friends. Way more money in that. Things were good for a while–now, not so much.
One loud-mouth cop talked to another in front of somebody they shouldn’t have, and the Rat’s double-dealing was through. Public opinion was out: The Rat is a rat. Surprise! Surprise!
For half a sec the Rat thought his cop friends would have his back, but nope. No loyalty among thieves, looks like. So, the Rat is on the run, at least for the next little while. He’s waiting for the dust to settle where no one would think to find him: the bone yard.
What do most rats do when the boat is sinking? Run? Ha! Well, not this rat. He’s going to stay put. He’s got people looking for his mug in train stations and airports all over Boston, but in the bone yard he hasn’t seen a soul in days–it is goddamn January after all. People love their dead relatives a whole bunch more when it’s warm out.
Here’s where he’s at: Three feet of snow, no heating, not much food, and frostbite all over. So, it’s not looking so hot. Ha-Ha.
As long as nobody comes here looking for him, the Rat can make do.
“Rattie-boy!” a voice shouts from close-by. “We know you’re out here somewhere, buddy!
Okay, new plan! The Rat’s gonna find a hole to dig himself in for cover.
Slipping out of the mausoleum he’s been sleeping in, the Rat drags his limp leg over some wet snow. His frostbitten toes outgrew his shoes, so he’s been doing without.
The men have flashlights out looking for him. He can see at least six of them–all guys he knows. Killers. Whatever, the Rat is nothing if not prepared. There’s a fresh open grave he’s been eyeing for just such an occasion. A minute or so of crawling through the snow and–Bam! He’s in.
“Come out, come out, Ratty!” a silhouette shouts. “We won’t hurt ya!”
The Rat takes his chance with the grave instead. He’s three feet deep now–he’d be as deep as a corpse if not for the snow. During the day, he’d be screwed. At night, there ain’t no way they’ll find him. The hole is so dark, the Rat can’t even see his toes.
The men move about looking for him. He can hear them busting down the mausoleum, going through his last bit of rations–some soup and cheese. Can’t be helped. He’s just gonna have to find himself some grub in the morning. As long as he’s alive, he’ll figure something out.
“What we got here, boys?” A voice shouts above him. “I do believe our Rat has left us a trail.”
Fuck. His limp leg through the snow! Shit! He’s got to get out of here, he’s got to find somewhere new.
His legs won’t move. He’s got no feeling from the waist down. With his hands, he starts digging himself outta that hole, but it ain’t no use. His fingers have no strength in them. They’re black and blue!
A flashlight shines right on him. It’s so goddamn bright, his eyes tear up.
“Ha! Looks like you found yourself some like-minded individuals, Rat!” a voice above him shouts. “Why don’t I leave your new friends to it, huh!?”
Something hits him on the chest. He’s so weak, he barely notices. What’s this–wet and slimy? The little bit of rations he had left! They’re giving it back to him–trying to lure him out.
The light moves away. He hears footsteps crunching down on snow. They’re gone! Now he’s just got to get out of this hole.
He moves about, but can’t make any progress. Right next to his ear, there’s some kind of sniffling going on. At first he thought it was the snow under his weight, but it’s getting closer. It’s all around him now.
Something brushes against his feet. He can’t feel it, but his toes are brushed aside. His neck won’t move to look down. He’s got nothing left in him.
Little feet climb on his chest. They’re furry and quick. There’s more of them. Must be a dozen at least!
Red eyes, all of them searching, wiz about on top of him. Then, like a switch, the teeth come down. They start on his chest where the soup hit! The pain is excruciating! He tries to slap them away, but their teeth connect with his hand first. There’s too many of them! Way too many to count. They’re swarming him! The Rat tries to scream, but when he opens his mouth they go for his soft tongue!
As the snow falls, the Rat is quietly buried below with his fellows.
When the sun rises the next day, it melts the snow. The groundskeeper, making his rounds, looks into the hole. The morning shines down on bones so gnawed, he can’t tell they may have once been human.
Rodolfo is a writer out of Vancouver, Canada. He loves dogs and the idea of traveling again sometime soon. His short story “Backyard Mysteries” has recently been published at CommuterLit online magazine.
“Say ‘goodbye’ to Grandpa, honey.”
They couldn’t make her.
Mom frowned into the void. She glanced at Dad – indifferent, slumped in his chair. Grandpa was more of a father than he had ever been.
Grandpa was sunny summer days at the creek, PB & J with trimmed crusts, candy squirreled in long cardigan pockets. Home.
These days, she whiled away hours in Grandpa’s bedroom and held his misty gaze as much as his hand.
Screw cancer. It stole so much.
Determinedly, Emily shoved the Ouija planchette to ‘NO’.
Just let them try to make her leave.
Ivy infiltrates the cracks
with spindly skeletal fingers,
she listens to the stone
lions’ silent roaring.
Cascades of insects
her hollowed, naked skull;
weak wintry sunlight
strokes her femurs,
kisses her sternum.
The seasons consume,
and digest her.
Corvids onyx feathers
cloak her bones,
an H2O tiara;
spiders’ webs become
her bridal veil –
Oh, see how many years go past,
whilst lingering – loveless,
she wastes, withers,
slides into the cracks
between the walls
thin as paper
lost in the blink of an eye –
to the house’s embrace.
Alyson lives in the UK; her fiction has been published widely in print anthologies – DeadCades, Women in Horror Annual 2, Trembling with Fear 1 &2, Coffin Bell Journal 1 and Stories from Stone and in ezines, most often on the Horror Tree site, Siren’s Call and The Casket of Fictional Delights. In May 2019 Night of the Rider, was published by Demain, in their Short Sharp Shocks! E book series and reached the amazon kindle top 10 best seller lists. Her work has been read on podcasts (eg Ladies of Horror), shortlisted in competitions and published in charity anthologies. Future work will appear in anthologies from Things in the Well, Mortal Realm and Twisted Wing Publishers.
She performs at open mics, teaches, edits and hangs out with her dog on the moor in all weathers.
Short Order Supervillain
He does not even have a tv show to his name let alone a franchise. He turns burgers spitting fat with his fingers. His skin, impervious to bullets, knives, does not feel a thing.
Two days ago he went on a date, ended up killing, devouring.
The need for excitement builds and builds again, until he is walking away from the diner while it is consumed by flames.
He stands by the road trying to hitch a ride. He could walk out in front of one of the trucks, stop it that way, flip it like so much ground beef.
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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.