Trembling With Fear 12/05/21
I am pleased to announce we are now open for the short flash stories which lead each week’s TWF! Refer to our submission guidelines for further information.
After waiting for months for the UK Ghost Story Festival in Derby, it’s been and gone! I had a really good time despite the weather affecting attendance and the schedule and met some lovely people, including authors Simon Clark and Tracy Fahey – please check out their books. I also survived my first panel experience and I met members of The Dracula Society – which I didn’t know existed! Wonderful people and hopefully we’ll meet up again at Chillercon in Scarborough next year!
Whilst we were away however, Storm Arwen hit our home and we returned to some damage – broken window and garden fencing and gates, a tile and guttering – but overall liveable with. I feel so sorry for those up North who are still without power or water or both whilst I write this. I know one of our writers, Jimmy Graves, was affected in this way and I hope he’s now got the water back on! For ourselves, we are still trying to get the insurers out. And on top of that we seem to have wildlife in the attic – either mice, bats or squirrel. I suppose our run of good luck following our move had to come to an end! I don’t mind if it’s bats though. They’re harmless – and they are protected in the UK.
In other news, I’ve been sharing online a little of a project I’ve been working on with Cindy O’Quinn, a really talented poet and writer. We’ve created a collection of found poetry, Foundlings, based on the work of Linda D. Addison and Alessandro Manzetti. It should be out in February and comments coming back from the ARCs have made us so happy. A new anthology, A Silent Dystopia, is also out from Demain Publishing. Set in the world of Dave Jeffery’s A Quiet Apocalypse, and edited by D. T. Griffiths, it includes a story from me alongside many familiar names on the indie scene. It was huge fun to write in someone else’s world!
The first story in Trembling with Fear this week is Hunted by Deer from Will H. Blackwell, Jr. A monologue told in a slightly disjointed way following an accident, it brings with it an unawareness of their situation which adds a chill to the finale. It is also not a good idea to listen to that little voice in your head to justify your actions. The consequences can be disastrous! Excellent writing as always from Will H. Blackwell.
Genius by Patrick Winters reminds me a little of Jack and the Beanstalk where the slightly dim Jack doesn’t follow his mother’s commands. In this instance, a simple bit of wordplay turns the whole story in a similar manner. Neatly done.
Recipe for Horror by Mike Rader is a gorgeously gruesome take on Shakespeare’s witches from Macbeth. Wonderful parody.
Surprise by RJ Meldrum plays on the feelings of someone who knows they’re alone and anything else is impossible – or is it?
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
As you read this, I’m down to the final in my current class for my MBA. Knocking this out means I have a month and a half of time to breath (and even more as the next class should prove to be much easier.) So, no real updates for here. I am hoping that this newly about to be found free time does mean that I’ll be able to knock out the new layout that I’ve mentioned previously for the site. I’m hoping to be able to make it a bit easier to navigate moving forward. Enjoy the fiction and the weekend my friends!
Hunted by Deer by Will H. Blackwell, Jr.
The unexpected impact of the deer in the darkness was concussive—piercing—horns popping the windshield-glass like a sheet of stretched cellophane.
My head bobbed forward above the deer’s head (You know, Newton’s ‘action/opposite-reaction’ law), as pointed prongs-of-horn penetrated geometric spaces defining the steering-wheel, far enough to touch my chest—Deeper, I’d be dead!
Though shaken, dazed, my brain seems surprisingly analytical—but perhaps unreliably so, as in a dream (where thoughts only seem to make sense).
Truth and fiction are merging.
Did I have both hands on the wheel?—unlikely, with the cell-phone still in one hand. How fast was I going?—too fast, probably, but I didn’t see the speedometer-reading. From which direction did the deer come? What was the angle of impact? Why am I thinking of geometry—and even physics equations? like the one for ‘force:’ ‘F=MA.’ Well, anyway, the ‘F’ here must have been outlandish!
I mentioned the ‘action/reaction’ thing, didn’t I?—which I realize explains the rising bump (and small cut) on my forehead, from impacting the rearview-mirror above the dash.
I’m feeling more ‘numb,’ though, than in actual pain.
But I’m pretty sure I’ve got another nick or two on me somewhere. Arm? Leg? No matter—nothing serious, apparently—no need to bother with such now.
This deer—youngish, nonetheless a good 150-lbs—hit me, seemingly in ‘full-leap,’ coming out of roadside-shadows contorted by the headlights. I never saw it till impact. Bam!!!
I know it sounds ridiculous, but could this act have been intentional? Was it aiming for me—like, attempted ‘homicide?’ Had it been tracking the car, to wreak havoc?
Or, could this be a case of ‘doing itself in’—’animal-suicide by vehicle?’—It’s more common than people think.
I’m looking now into its large, soft eyes—for explanation—but they are vacant as a doll’s, though seeming to look back at me.
My eyes seem okay, but this is a surreal vision in the wisps of steam issuing behind the dashboard. I’m thinking, ‘cleverly,’ they should call it a ‘crash-board,’ then realized this wasn’t very funny, under the circumstances. I knew I was a bit dizzy, maybe a little goofy too—you know, some lame attempt at ‘humor’ perhaps lightening the ‘gravity’ of the situation.
The airbag hadn’t deployed (I never got around to that ‘recall notice’); but, if it had functioned, it would have been ripped apart by sharp, boney tines—sticking out like side-daggers from the shafts of deer-horn—probably exploding in my face (Good thing it didn’t work!).
These horns are solid!…bone! So, technically, we shouldn’t call them ‘horns,’ should we? No! These are ‘antlers,’ not horns! So, what am I now, a biologist? And who cares, anyway?!—However, the fact there were antlers meant the deer was male, and the few ‘points’ (coming to rest below my face) meant it was probably a little over two-years old. The bits of ‘velvet’ on the tines indicated ‘bone-skin’ still present, and that this-year’s antler-growth was relatively new—Maybe I am a biologist? I’m trying to remember…How do I know this?
No, wait! I know this from hunting, not biology—well, okay, the two are somewhat connected, aren’t they?
Anyway, you don’t have to be a scientist to see this deer’s neck is broken, tongue hanging out one side of its gaped mussel like a thick slice of bacon—dripping bloody saliva down onto my pants, amid the shards of glass. Something to eat?! Wait, what the hell am I thinking about? I don’t eat tongue—I eat—other parts—Yes!…Roast!…something or other?…What?…The word will come to me, if I keep thinking. But I am a hunter; I’m sure of that.
Free-associating, I’m recalling how I once ‘dressed’ an elk-carcass at some high-mountain hunting-camp…somewhere?
Now my mind returns to the present deer-body, dead-flopped over the car-hood (surely dented from impact, though it’s hard to tell from where I’m sitting).
You know? I’m considering, this deer is old enough to be ‘legal’—and, if I can remember the month we’re in now?—Yes, it’s in season! Definitely.
The steam has settled, and I can see that any lighter ‘spots’ are gone from the deer’s, now rather dull, pelage; it’s older than I thought, larger too (at least 175-lbs).
Okay, things are falling into place (no pun intended). I have, in final analysis, prevailed, haven’t I?
I may have been stalked, even wounded, but I’m coming out ‘on top!’ This creature has become mine! I own it!—my legal (more or less) possession. I can yet…win the day…uh, night.
If I can get the driver’s door open, and rope from the trunk, I can hoist it on a tree-limb, and gut and skin it here (with the robust serrated-knife I keep in the glovebox by my 38-pistol)—as if, I had actually shot it. I remember, I have a ‘deer-stamp’ on my hunting-license. And, well…I’m now thinking…no-one will question the caliber of the bullet…so…why not?…just…go ahead and shoot it?…say, in the already broken neck! Who’s to know when I shot it?—I mean, that the deer was already dead by then.
Buck…shot! (Yes, I know, play-on-words—awful pun!).
I can now go ahead and ‘section’ the muscle-meat, and wrap these still-warm ‘raw-roasts’ in plastic bags left over from runs to the grocery-store—I am often too lazy (sometimes a good thing) to bring in leftover bags, and other ‘stuff,’ from the car—thus, serendipity! And, I can put the meat in the freezer as soon as I get home.
Now I remember! These deer-roasts are called, ‘Venison!’ Why couldn’t I think of that earlier?—knocked ‘silly’ I suppose. I must have been temporarily like ‘a deer in headlights’—Really bad joke!!
Okay, so now, four hours after impact, job done! I have thrown the deer’s entrails into the woods for the coyotes to find. The valuable meat is packed, neatly—lined up in multiple bags, on the backseat, ready for transport.
With bottled water—and bar-soap I forgot to bring into the house—I have cleaned my hands/arms, adequately. Some additional blood is showing on my shirt—not sure of the source of this? Well, no worries! I’ll deal with it later.
Time to try and restart the car. Surprisingly perhaps, it starts right up!—running okay, just a little rough. A tune-up, some body-shop work, it’ll be fine! The fortuitous haul of venison will offset repair-costs—and this is way better than buying an ‘ordinary’ side-of-beef. Venison has that true gamey-taste, you know—takes a hunter to appreciate that! It’s not fancy, grocery-store food—and not everybody can abide that. But I surely can! I’m not too ‘rare’ to eat it (okay, another joke. But, after what I’ve been through tonight, I think I’m entitled!).
So, what the hell?! I’m coming out of this okay—damned well, in fact. Why, shoot (bad choice of words!), I’m a frigging survivor!
After all, I’m concluding, ‘the hunted’ should never try and hunt ‘the hunter’—not a true weekend-warrior like me. No way!
Or am I just brave, from a distance, holding a gun?! Oh well, no time now for soul-searching.
So, I congratulate myself: I have turned the jaws of defeat into the bowels of victory!—or, something like that? Can’t remember the expression, exactly.
At least I am, now though, thinking straight! I’m certain of it!—But, the car?…for some reason…is…increasingly…smelling of…blood!—coming from?—Where!…exactly? The deer-meat is tightly wrapped, not oozing. So, what could it be? A gash, perhaps?—on me?!—or maybe I suffered a puncture-wound, after all?!
I suddenly realize I’m a little dizzy again, but not enough…I don’t believe…to account for…why…I am…all-at-once, driving—weaving—erratically? I seem to be curving around on the road…like…some kind of…freaking…sine-wave (oh, that ‘science thing’ again!).
I don’t understand!
Why is the car suddenly ‘acting up’ like this? It must be the car!—Maybe it’s in worse shape than I thought—maybe, the stabilizers? Or…the…
Or, am I…somehow…being…hunted again?
I thought…I just saw…another deer…cross behind me—or maybe…it was out in front of me. I can’t tell! Maybe I’m becoming delusional—like, from a concussion? Could my ‘minor’ head-trauma have been worse than I thought?
Or…does it have something to do…with…what’s inside the car with me? Yes, I think that could be it! There is something in the car!…something to do with…emanating from…the ‘presence’ of this ‘less-than-lawful’ deer-meat. But…this really doesn’t explain…
Why are the rows of muscle-packs on the back-seat…now…appearing to…move?…undulate!—rising and falling, like a succession of rabid fans ‘doing the wave’ at a football-game!
There is also a strange sound ‘growing’ inside the car…almost a kind of ‘coarse breathing!’ But, this can’t really be! Can it? Yet, it does indeed seem to be some sort of deep, resonating…‘chest-sound!’
But, more urgently, why am I…and ‘it?’ (this unwanted ‘presence!’)…together…now…going… quite rapidly…off…the side of…the……….
Will H. Blackwell, Jr.
He hid beside the mountain road, like Momma said, waiting for someone to fall into their trap. When a car zoomed by, popping tires on their spikes, he rushed in and grabbed the unlucky travelers.
He brought their captives to his momma–a young, foul-mouthed woman and a barking golden retriever.
His momma sneered at the hound and looked the woman over. “We ain’t eaten in a while. That changes tonight. Get rid of the bitch and keep the pretty one.”
He did as he was told–he threw the bitchy woman off the mountainside, and kept the pretty dog.
Patrick Winters is a graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. His work has now been featured throughout several magazines and anthologies. A full list of his previous publications may be found at his author’s site, if you are so inclined to know: http://wintersauthor.
Recipe for Horror
(After Shakespeare’s Macbeth)
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and zombie bubble.
Fingernails and body parts,
Lungs and ribs and human hearts;
Next goes in a slice of brain,
Some toes and tongues pluck’d from the drain;
Add a pinch of putrid flesh,
Let’s toss in a cockroach fresh,
And don’t forget a vampire’s eye
To finish off our gruesome pie!
Mike Rader is a pseudonym used by Australian author and poet James Aitchison. As J J Munro and Mike Rader, Aitchison writes horror and noir crime. As James Lee, he writes Asia’s biggest selling horror series for middle readers — Mr Midnight — which has sold over three million copies. His work can be seen at www.flameoftheforest.com
Entering her en-suite bathroom, half asleep, she glanced in the mirror to check her hair. In the reflection she saw the outline of a figure standing in her bathtub, hidden by the translucent shower curtain.
She backed up. In her bedroom she paused. She lived alone; there was no way someone was in her bathroom. She snuck a peek round the door. There was no figure.
Behind her, the closet door in her bedroom opened. The creature, realising it’d been spotted in the bathroom, had moved. This time it wouldn’t be seen until it was too late.
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.
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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 and Reborn, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused. Her novel, The Woodcutter, is due for release via Brigids Gate Press in 2023. 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 is an active member of the HWA and can be found at https://stephanieellis.org, on Twitter at @el_stevie, Instagram stephanieellis7963 and also somewhere on Facebook.