It’s been a long week. I’m now back at work, although not as early in the morning as previously – just as well as I haven’t been sleeping properly. I considered writing a book about it but Stephen King beat me to it with Insomnia! In amongst all that there’s been my work here and the gradual build up to the release of my novella, Bottled, by Silver Shamrock. Thank you everyone for the kind comments and support online at what is a nerve-wracking time. I would also like to throw in here, that if you are looking for a publisher, Silver Shamrock have been extremely supportive and professional all the way through.
A couple of editorial ‘asks’ before we go to the stories. Firstly, when you submit, please could you make sure indented paragraphs use the ‘indent first line’ feature in Word. Do not use spaces or tabs as this causes problems and extra work on formatting. You will have my eternal gratitude! I am also doing a bit of housekeeping and tidying up TWF author files ready for 2020. A number of you are regular contributors and I sometimes feel I might be using out-of-date bios. Please could I ask everyone to send in a bio with their next submission, even if they are regulars, so I can make sure all bios are current. Thank you!
Our selection of stories this week in Tembling With Fear kicks off with Sprox by Ryan Benson. This is a bizzare, but unique, story. I had to read it a couple of times because of its surreal effect but the feel and tone drew me in straight away. Stuart was able to recognise a lot of social commentary on the state of affairs in the US – which was something I don’t always pick up on being in the UK. Using horror as social commentary doesn’t always happen at TWF and is something we could see more of. Use horror to protest, use satire and dark humour – all is welcome.
A New Parent by Patrick Wynn has an excellent and very dark twist to one of the most innocent and joyful of scenes.
Hungry, Hungry Fools by Jackie Allison, maps the unknown. An exotic location, ancient and hidden entities, all add up to a chilling little story, particularly with its guardian an apparently harmless s woman.
Little Boy Lost by Alyson Faye brings us into Psycho territory with Robbie’s penchant for taxidermy and his relationship with his mother but she dresses it in gothic clothes. Neatly told and centring on a skill not often referenced in stories to create distinctly creepy images as you read.
Ahh, Valentine’s Day…a celebration of undying love and romance, a time to do something special for the one you love. But it’s not all hearts and flowers, is it? For the upcoming Valentine’s Special, we’re looking for stories that crawl upon the underbelly of romance…obsession, crimes of passion, and love that continues perhaps long after it should. Relationships that have run their course. Evil deeds done in the name of love. Love letters to the damned.
Need to get rid of the foul taste of bad romance? Pick up your poison pen and write about it. Send us your short stories, drabbles, and Unholy Trinities that reflect upon the dark side of love.
Stories can be sent directly to Catherine at [email protected]
Next week should mark the end of the current big push so I’m hoping that things will be back on track soon.
Outside of that, I’m currently hunting for covers for this year’s release of the TWF anthology and a few other fun things.
More to come soon! Until that time, I hope you enjoy this week’s stories.
Sprox by Ryan Benson
“We don’t have enough damn paste,” said a man in a white button-down shirt and modest gray slacks. He removed his thick black-rimmed glasses and wiped the sweat from his brow, leaving a bit of brown goop in its place. “Did you hear me, Daed?”
“Stop whining, Jonah,” said Daed, dressed in similar attire except with navy blue pants. “I’m sure Caasi gave us the correct amount.” Daed dropped to his knees as he spread the paste as thin as possible over the cracks in the grey wall.
Jonah returned to his desk, a meter away, and picked up a six-inch red rod. He placed it on his typewriter, and under the dim fluorescent lighting, the rod to Sprox process began. The small cylinder went into the left of the machine, and as Jonah typed, the Sprox formed at the right side of the device. Beautiful cube Sproxes.
“If THEY get through the cracks, THEY will make the Sproxes,” said Daed. “And demand fewer Sproxes in return.”
“I don’t see why Caasi couldn’t refuse to use THEM, instead of making us fill cracks,” Jonah muttered to himself.
“I heard you, and if you’re not careful, Caasi will too. You’ll be out on your ass. A lot of people want to work in this room. Look at Gregor.” Daed nodded to an empty desk. “He had a bug and never returned. His family owes Caasi too.”
“Somewhere else. Something else,” said Jonah. “Let’s get married.”
“I have the forms,” said Jonah. “We are around each other so much people would think we were in love.”
“Love? I guess that makes sense, but I can’t take time off.”
“We could do it here.”
“Jonah, I want to do it right. Big ceremony.” Daed paused. “Maybe I’ll ask Caasi.”
“Caasi? But I came up with the marriage idea. Remember? I’m the one that wanted more. You marrying Caasi does nothing for me.”
“I need more Sproxes. We live for our Sproxes. You know the deal.”
“You have enough Sproxes to afford rods to eat. What will you do with the rest?”
“Grow up, Jonah.” Daed grabbed his typewriter. He patched the wall with one hand and Sproxed with the other.
Jonah turned his attention to his rotary phone. Damn thing took forever to dial. He never had reason to call anyone, but a pushbutton phone would surely call out faster. Dreams of marriage returned to Jonah’s head. A quick look around the room revealed others who he’d intimately labored alongside. Love is love.
Settling on the raven-haired beauty, Iza, he made his move. Iza sat slightly above him in the room’s hierarchy, but she always seemed impressed with his rod to Sprox efficiency.
“Iza?” Ants filled Jonah’s stomach as he approached. Her well-ironed button-down white shirt and brown slacks caught his eye. Iza turned to him, but before either could speak, a brilliant glow filled the room. “Hello!” A grinning man in a blue pinstripe suit held his arms high like a conquering hero or game show host. Caasi returned.
“Excuse me, Jonah. Gotta talk to Caasi,” said Iza.
Before Iza could stand Jonah darted in front of her. “I’m first in line.” He stared at her and remembered Daed’s rejection. He couldn’t do that again. “First in line… for Caasi.”
Iza rolled her eyes. “Don’t upset him. I’m thinking of drafting a wedding contract with him. I know we’d—”
Jonah left Iza talking and marched to Caasi. “Sir?”
“Yes?” Caasi straightened the picture on the wall near his desk.
“I need to talk about my position in the room.”
“Do you like my art? Just bought it.” Pinned within the frame sat hundreds of destroyed Sproxes arranged in a haphazard pattern. More Sproxes than Jonah earned in a year. Hell, more Sproxes than he could produce in a year.
“I would like to explore advancement.”
“Advancement?” Caasi ran his hands over his jacket sleeves to smooth the wrinkles. “I’m not so sure you could handle it. Besides, you and Daed make a great team.”
“Sir, I’m feeling constrained by my place in the room. If I don’t receive an advancement, I request you scale back my quota.”
Caasi sat at his desk, pulling out a rod and biting off the end. The rod cracked like a crisp carrot. He held a rod out to Jonah, who waved it off. Caasi leaned back in his chair. Two of his assistants approached. One placed a bib around his neck, and the other began applying shaving cream to his face. After a few swallows, Caasi pointed the stump of the rod at Jonah. “What will you do when I reduce your quota? Idle hands are the devil’s playthings.”
“I figured I’d travel.”
“Sure. Take the rest of the day off and visit the file cabinets. See the copier. Clear your head.”
“I thought I might leave the room,” said Jonah as he looked at the floor.
One assistant dropped the shaving lotion, and the other gasped. Caasi stopped chomping on the rod.
“If I see other rooms,” said Jonah, “I’ll have a different perspective.”
Caasi shook his head. “No, no, no. Our perspective is all that matters. If their rooms were any good, THEY’d stay there.”
“I want to watch them harvest rods.”
“Rods? We turn them into Sprox.”
“But you can’t eat Sprox.”
“Jonah, a man can’t live on rods alone. Think of what the Sproxes bring.” Caasi waved his hand to show the room as if Jonah won it. All four gray walls.
“I suggest you apply yourself and prove how valuable you are to the room. If you’re dissatisfied with the job, you could reduce hours. But ‘could’ doesn’t mean ‘should.’ Someone would love to pick up your Sprox time.”
“I understand,” said Jonah. He looked at Caasi’s pushbutton phone. The boss had it all.
“Remember Josef’s breakdown?” asked Caasi.
Josef had received a reprimand without explanation. Jonah recalled the man rubbing his head bald as he completed stacks of HR forms. Rods sat unSproxed until two men took Josef away.
“We used some of THEM to finish Josef’s job,” said Caasi. “I don’t want to resort to that with you. Our room wouldn’t be our room with THEM. Besides, it took forever to eject THEM after we met the Sprox quota last month.”
“Why don’t we set a policy that makes it against the room to hire them at all? Or share some of our Sproxes, so they stay in their room?”
“First, they are called ‘THEM,’ not ‘them.’ Second, send Sproxes to other rooms? Give my hard-earned Sprox to some laze-about from another room? Next thing, you’ll want me to give you more Sproxes. Why don’t you share your Sproxes? No one is stopping you.”
“I don’t have anywhere near the number of Sproxes you do. You could give them more Sproxes than I own and wouldn’t notice any were missing.”
Caasi chuckled and placed his hand on Jonah’s shoulder. “You’re living in a fairy tale land. Frankly, I blame society today, not you. Look at my suit. It’s a little flare of me. We share the Sprox, and next, we’ll share everything. Don’t you like being an individual, Jonah?”
Jonah surveyed the room. A dozen or so people in white shirts buzzed about the room making Sproxes. He looked down at his white shirt—so many damn buttons.
“If you want to travel, why don’t you train to glow like me. I see beautiful rooms, and people love me. Not to mention the Sproxes.”
Glow? Sproxes, renown, and travel. Jonah could aim higher than Daed or Iza. Caasi even.
“Glow training is intensive and lasts at least four years,” said Caasi.
“During which you will make all payments on time.”
“But then I’ll have to keep my Sprox job here. I have zero time now.”
“I’ll give you the opportunity, but I can’t do it for you.” Caasi held up a rod. “Now, you’re a rod.” He winked. “After the glow, you’ll be a Sprox. Who doesn’t love a good Sprox? The sides, vertices, and angles—all equal.”
“You completed the glow while working?”
“Not exactly. My parents paid. Too bad you didn’t plan ahead like me, but fortunately, this is the room of opportunity. If a man has enough grit.”
“Thanks.” Jonah walked back to his desk as Iza crossed his path.
“Warm him up for me?” she said.
“What year is this?” said Jonah. Iza ignored him.
At his desk, Jonah found Daed patching the wall.
“What year is this?”
“Stupid question. Best not to watch the clock. Rod to Sprox. Rod to Sprox.” Daed smiled. “With a little pasting thrown in between your rod-to-Sproxing.”
“We need more paste.” Jonah sat at his desk and turned rods to Sprox, soothed by the clickety-clack of his typewriter and his daydreams.
I’ll be Caasi someday. I’ll show them. I’ll have the glow. The love. The art. The pushbutton phone. Sproxes to spare.
Ryan Benson previously found employment as a researcher/professor in Boston, MA. He now resides outside of Atlanta, GA with his wife and children. Ryan hopes to one day complete a novel, but until then he keeps himself busy writing short fiction stories. Trembling with Fear, Suspense Magazine, The Sirens Call, ARTPOST, Short Fiction Break, Martian, and The Collapsar Directive (Zombie Pirate Publishing) have published his work.
A New Parent
Joy sat down on the wooden bench and watched the children enjoy the playground. The children ran, and giggled as they flew high on the swings, climbed the bars or took turns on the slide. Joy smiled as she enjoyed watching the children almost as much as the children on the playground and she knew that she was going to be a great mother. Another woman waved to her little girl as she ran off to join the other children then sat on the bench next to Joy.
“Which one is yours?” The woman smiled.
“I’m still deciding,” Joy grinned.
Patrick J Wynn is an author of short stories that contain shades of horror, humor and are just a touch weird. His works have been published in Sirens Call, Dark Dossier, Short Horror and Trembling with Fear. You can follow him on his Facebook page and look for his short story collections on Amazon..
Hungry, Hungry Fools
Maya’s beloved home, the forest, bespoke ancient. Twisted tree roots snaked above the ground as if seeking something beyond the soil. The canopy cradled a diversity of life beyond comprehension.
Maya greeted three more cartographers, sent by the logging company, to map the largest trees.
“Real shame the last crew went missing. Lost map makers, who would think?”
“Who would think?” Maya smiled.
“We’ll come back, job done, guaranteed.”
Life came without guarantees, but Maya did her part to keep the better of fools safe. The men entered the forest. As long as the trees were hungry, Maya guaranteed food.
Jackie Allison is a writer from Pennsylvania who is also a spouse, parent, and dog toy medic. Franken toys worthy of a few more tugs litter her home. She’s happiest barefoot at the beach or in the forest. Her work has appeared in Funny Times and Chicken Soup for the Soul. www.jackieallison.life
Little Boy Lost
These days he was never short of company, not like when he’d been Momma’s precious little Robbie Richardson, who no one had wanted to play with.
He’d saved all Momma’s clothes too. They were vintage, just like his friends. He snickered at his wit.
Robbie pulled open the wardrobe door. Inside hung racks of dresses and nightgowns. It was a treasure trove of dress-up for the dead; for all those who sat waiting in his basement. The missing, forgotten and abandoned.
The evening course Momma had paid for in taxidermy, ‘cos young men need a hobby’ had really paid off.
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.
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