Trembling With Fear 12-10-23
Hello, children of the dark. This last week has been a bit fraught on the Horror Tree socials, so I just wanted to take this opportunity to address what’s been going on on other parts of this site.
You’ll have heard and seen Stuart talking about how super-overloaded he is right now, between MBA and job and family and running the behemoth that is Horror Tree and all his other extracurriculars. Having hit a particularly tricky patch of deadlines, he had taken a few articles from long-time and trusted contributors on trust, not giving them the usual review. Unfortunately, one of these articles turned out to espouse the virtues of using ChatGPT to edit your work, which is very much against everything we stand for—and, quite rightly, caused a Twitter furore as writers felt let down and disappointed in the site they’d trusted for more than a decade. As soon as Stuart realised what had happened, he jumped to attention, addressed the issue, took down the story, and made his views on the matter clear. But some still weren’t happy with this, so I just wanted to make it 10,000% clear:
Trembling With Fear does not condone nor accept work that has been generated by AI, including in the editing process.
This of course becomes more nuanced when you start to consider the tools we use everyday that are driven by AI—things like Grammarly, for starters. But the spirit remains true: if you ask AI to write your story, then you tidy it up and submit it under your name, you’ll be banned. If you write a story then input it to AI and ask it to edit it for you, you’ll be banned. Human endeavour is what we’re looking for here, and is what we celebrate and embrace.
With that out of the way, let’s just jump straight in with this week’s dark and speculative TWF menu. Our short story offering from Laura Stone is totally twist-tastic. Then we’ve got three fabulous tasty morsels for dessert:
- Joshua Ginsberg goes meta,
- Lauren Kessinger waits in the asylum, and
- DJ Tyrer returns to the nursery..
Finally, submissions are now closed for the Christmas special. TWF special editions editor Shalini is going through the (frankly) huge amount of stories we’ve received, but you’ll likely hear from her much closer to the date of publication as to whether you’ve been successful.
Over to you, boss.
ATTENTION YOUTUBE WATCHERS: We’ve had some great responses so far but are open to more ideas – What type of content would you like to see us feature? Please reach out to [email protected]! We’ll be really working on expanding the channel late this year and early into next.
Hide, by Laura Stone
“Eighteen, nineteen, twenty… Coming, ready or not!” I called out, voice lingering like a promise.
I ran through the house stifling a giggle, feet barely touching the ground.
I do love a good game of hide and seek.
Taking my time, I clomped up the stairs, savouring every second. I knew they would hear my heavy footsteps, the scrape of nails along the bannister. I wanted to make it fun for them.
I checked the linen closet first, opening the door so hard I nearly ripped it off its creaky hinges. I always did have a flair for the dramatic. There was plenty of room to hide within the darkness. Nothing but silence and dusty towels greeted me—but I wasn’t deterred.
“I’m coming to get you!” I called out in a sing-song voice, delighted because I knew it to be true.
A scrape, muffled whispers, a tiny whimper…
Carefully, I skulked across the landing to their bedroom, so slowly. Floorboards creaked with every step, the empty hallway echoing my breath. Twin eight-year-old girls; only moved into the building a month ago. We’ve been having so much fun together every night since, playing our favourite game.
I nudged open the bedroom door, taking in the empty beds with their covers hastily pushed back. My heart sang at the sight.
“Wherever could they be?” I called out playfully as I entered the room, dragging my feet with every exaggerated step. My shadows danced strangely in the glow of a floral-patterned bedside lamp.
I made my way over to the twin beds before coming to a standstill between them. The room was deathly quiet, the kind of silence that waits, the space between breaths, between heartbeats. I paused, stretching out the delicious moment, the budding hope that they would win, that I would pass them by.
With shoulders slumped in defeat, I turned as if to leave and heard a tiny gasp.
From under the left bed.
Lightening quick, claws scraping over floorboards, I dropped to the ground and met two sets of wide, terrified eyes.
“I found you!” I roared in triumph, bearing my teeth in a parody of a smile. The one that makes animals flee and mad men cackle.
They clung to each other and screamed and screamed and screamed…
By the time their parents burst into the room, I was safely hidden in the wardrobe. Of course, Mum and Dad checked it like any good parent would but they didn’t see me. No one does if I do not wish it.
At first they were sympathetic to their children but frustration has begun to colour their words, making them unintentionally cruel.
“For goodness sake, it’s just a new house! You’re too old for this sort of nonsense,” Dad blustered.
“It’s okay, you two. Get back into bed. There’s no such thing as monsters,” soothed Mum.
The comforting lies you tell with ease, hiding in plain sight.
I had a good laugh at that one.
“What’s a drabble?” she demands.
“A story that’s exactly a hundred words long. Playing with ideas in a confined space. I bet I could write one.”
“How,” she says with a raspy cackle, “exactly, could you write anything?”
She’s right of course. From my cage, I can see the steel table with the cleaver and the box she keeps my fingers in. I assume there are other empty boxes awaiting toes, ears, eyeballs, tongue.
I don’t want to think about it.
Who the hell cares how long a story is anyway?
I don’t need a hundred words to scream.
Joshua Ginsberg is the author of Secret Tampa Bay: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure (2020), Tampa Bay Scavenger (2021), Oldest Tampa Bay (2022), and co-author of Secret Orland: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure (2023). His work has appeared in numerous print and online publications including The Chamber Magazine, The City Key, 365 Tomorrows, Atlas Obscura, Travel After Five, and on his own blog, Terra Incognita Americanus. He currently lives in the Town n? Country neighborhood of Tampa with his wife, Jen, and their Shih Tzu, Tinker Bell.
In the desolate asylum, Dr. Wallace pursued the secrets of the human mind. She delved too deeply, straying into realms of madness herself. Night after night, her sleepless eyes beheld shadows that whispered wretched truths. Madness clawed at her sanity, beckoning her to join the torment.
One frigid dawn, the asylum stood eerily still. The staff, driven to madness, vanished, leaving Dr. Wallace alone. Her descent into the abyss was complete, her cries echoing through the empty halls. Now, she welcomes newcomers, forever entwined in the asylum’s malevolent embrace, each a testament to the horrors lurking within her fractured mind.
Lauren Kessinger is a graduate student at Eastern Kentucky University with a love for writing. As a freelance writer, she’s passionate about crafting horror, comedy, romantic comedy, and H.P. Lovecraft-inspired tales. Despite being a 31-year-old student and soon-to-be mom, she hold steadfast to her dream of sharing stories with the world. Like Frankenstein’s creation in “The Modern Prometheus,” she eagerly awaits her own evening of inspiration to bring new narratives to life.
Return to childhood nursery; some might say a reminder of better times, but not it. Money was abundant, perhaps, toys – gifts in lieu of love – but nightmares, too…
Try to block them out, dark memories amongst the dusty playthings: Train set, teddies, action figures…
Try not to remember lying in bed, door between two rooms opened a crack, the shadows, movements… visitors come to play once more…
Now, as night falls black and clinging, pretend it wasn’t real, only… train begins to move, teddies shudder…
They’re here – drawn back, too.
Tonight, they will never let their playmate go. No escape.
DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree), All The Petty Myths (18th Wall), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), What Dwells Below (Sirens Call), The Horror Zine?s Book of Ghost Stories (Hellbound Books), and EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness (Otter Libris), and issues of Sirens Call, Occult Detective Magazine, parABnormal, Tales from the Magician?s Skull, and Weirdbook, and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor). You can follow their work on Facebook, on their blog or on the Atlantean Publishing website.
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Lauren McMenemy wears many hats: Editor-in-Chief at Trembling With Fear for horrortree.com; PR and marketing for the British Fantasy Society; founder of the Society of Ink Slingers; curator of the Writing the Occult virtual events; writers hour host at London Writers Salon. With 25+ years as a professional writer across journalism, marketing, and communications, Lauren also works as a coach and mentor to writers looking to achieve goals, get accountability, or get support with their marketing efforts. She writes gothic and folk horror stories for her own amusement, and is currently working on a novel set in the world of the Victorian occult. You’ll find Lauren haunting south London, where she lives with her Doctor Who-obsessed husband, the ghost of their aged black house rabbit, and the entity that lives in the walls.