Trembling With Fear 12/12/21
And the storms continue. Last week I mentioned Arwen, this week we’re being battered by Barra – nor have we had our damage fixed yet! I’m keeping my fingers crossed we get a bit of a breather soon, especially those poor souls up North who still have no electricity. I’ve started my non-horror novel, an alternative history set in a Napoleonic UK in 1914. There is humour in it and I’m doing a lot of research about the Edwardian times. It’s great fun and a lovely change to the dark side. Do you write in other genres or do you stick to just the one?
I had the pleasure of chatting with writer Kev Harrison on the Dark Fusion podcast last Sunday. He has a couple of great novellas out, The Balance and Below. Both of which I’ve read and I’d highly recommend him to others – he also has a number of short stories in many anthologies so look out for those. I also finished a collection of stories by Elford Alley, The Last Night in the Damned House and Other Ghost Stories. The tales felt refreshingly original and were often interlinked, a ploy which worked extremely well. Alley has a real talent for a haunting tale and I’ll be watching out for him in the future.
Our first story in this week’s Trembling with Fear is In the Straw Maze by Nick Dinicola is a great story which completely subverts the idea of a child trying to reach its parents. An original idea full of atmosphere and pace. An excellent piece of writing.
Dig Two Graves by Robyn O’Sullivan is a tale of be careful what you wish for. Sometimes fate can rebound in the strangest ways.
Last Laugh by Catherine Berry is a warning to those who mock and sneer at others, making assumptions based on their appearance. The link between the first line and the last couple is quite clever.
Something Wicked This Way Thumbs by K.A. Williams has an unexpected ending which turns the tables in a neatly dark manner.
Enjoy our stories and send in yours!
At this time, I’m done with my final for my current course. Huzzah! Now the waiting game for finding out my grade. Almost as bad as that feeling when you send a story out for an anthology submission!
On the upside of things, it sounds like our new mailing list software has been working great so that will be continuing as is for the time being.
In case you missed it, we’re currently giving away multiple digital copies of the anthology ‘Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth, And Babies’ edited by Deborah Sheldon!
Finally, I’m starting to talk to a couple people about a way we might be expanding further into the world of drabble. More soon! 🙂
In the Straw Maze by Nick Dinicola
The boy’s shadow awoke just before midday to find its host lost in a maze. The boy ran with a smile and laugh, but he knew something was wrong, and his shadow felt panic growing with each turn that led to more of the same: Yellow straw bricks the size of cars stacked as high as trucks, too high for even an adult to climb, and to the boy they were impossible mountains.
With one more turn, he stopped smiling and laughing and the panic took root.
His shadow remained calm even as its panic turned to fear faster than the boy’s did, for it knew it would only be awake a precious few minutes while the sun was directly overhead. Once the star dipped lower, and the shadows of the world took reign, it would vanish back into sleep.
So it focused. Using itself as a compass, it mapped their twists, and turns and noted alternate routes.
The boy stopped, now certain he was lost, and started running back the way he came, but if he meant to retrace his steps he took every wrong turn and only confused himself further.
The sun ticked across the sky and the shadows of the straw walls crept into the valleys of the maze.
The boy turned left, then left again, then right, each of them terrible choices taking him deeper into the maze. He began to cry just as his shadow saw a pattern emerge from its map.
When the boy came to the next intersection, his shadow tried to interfere. It jerked him towards the correct path, swiping a leg out from underneath him, and the boy stumbled into a wall as if drunk. He shoved off from the straw and leapt backwards to stay upright, terrified of the wall and terrified of falling, for the roaring fear within him had convinced him that the straw was now filled with daggers, and the dirt was alive and hungry and begging to suck him down.
Then, with a frustrating, almost willful ignorance, and to his shadow’s awful dismay, the boy ran down the wrong path yet again.
The sun progressed. The shadows of the world grew longer. The valleys of the maze grew darker. The boy’s shadow took a moment to remember, and realized that it didn’t know how they had come to be here. They had been in a pumpkin patch when a cloud had passed overhead and put it to sleep. Then it awoke in this sick trap.
Its fear turned to dread as it continued throwing the boy towards a better path, and he continued scrambling down the other. It felt the shadows of the world nipping at its consciousness, enticing it to sleep, but if it slept here it might never awaken again.
Then it thought to do something that had never occurred to it before: It would act in self-interest. It would not let itself die with its host. It would not be a victim of the boy’s foolishness.
So as the boy turned a corner into a well-lit valley, his shadow made its move.
It pulled hard at his feet and sent the boy face-first into the dirt. When he placed his palms on the ground to push himself up, teeth brown and dirty, his shadow pulled again, harder than it had ever pulled in its six years of life, and flayed the flesh from his hands.
The boy screamed and ate dirt again, convinced the earth was eating him. His palms bounced across the ground like dying fish as his shadow stretched, unbound.
His knees were next, then his ankles and arms at the same time, the shadow flexing all of itself at once like no physical muscle ever could. It sheared his clothes; rived and ripped every inch of skin that touched the ground until only their feet remained connected. With a final rending heave, it tore off his shoes and socks and skin; the gory inverse of a magician with a tablecloth.
Then it was free. It quickly left the boy behind and scaled the straw walls, basking in the brilliant glow of the sun from its new high perch. From this vantage, it heard the cries of its parents, no longer muffled by the thick, impenetrable walls. It sped across the maze top, following their voices, its mental map no longer necessary. When it found them, it leapt down into the valley of the maze, desperate for reunion.
The bewildered humans watched an empty puppet that looked like their son parachute to the ground. It landed in a crumpled heap, then scooted towards them like a happy toddler, leaving a wake of damp and darkened dirt. The people screamed in terror and tried to run, but their shadows held them in place and stretched against the sun to embrace the child they thought they had lost.
Dig Two Graves
“You’ll never get custody of the kids!” Carol slammed the phone down on the kitchen bench. “Fucking bastard. I could kill him.”
She wrenched open a drawer, found paper and crayons, drew her husband’s face with an ‘X’ between the eyes. Then she retrieved his handgun, grabbed the drawing, and barged through the screen door.
Trembling, Carol hammered the face to a gum tree at the back of the garden.
“If only I could do this for real.”
Carol levelled the gun. Fired. The bullet ricocheted, tracing a neat triangle between the gum tree, the garden shed, and her forehead.
Robyn O’Sullivan lives in a hundred-year-old house amidst the wild beauty of Australia’s Bass coast. Her credits include a novella, short story collections, and dozens of educational books for children. New to the horror genre, Robyn’s work appears in Guilty Pleasures and Other Dark Delights, the award-winning Midnight Echo 14, and Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies. Her short story “A Tale of the Ainu” was produced by Night’s End podcast, and her interview with award-winning horror author Deb Sheldon featured on Kendall Reviews.
An old woman got sick and died; everyone laughed and nobody cried.
The villagers despised the old woman. Sniggering and sneering, they’d spit at her as she passed. Whispered rumors spoke of her stealing bones from graves, devouring fresh skin for dinner, and performing blood splattered rituals in the dead of night. They scorned her, irritated when she’d reply with a knowing smile.
Across the village people asphyxiated laughing. Hearts stuttered. Lungs seared. Faces froze in rictus grins as the helpless villagers chortled and chuckled to death.
The old woman, before she died, cast a final curse, her revenge satisfied.
Catherine Berry loves whimsy, potatoes, and singing with her dog. Her work has been published in several Trembling With Fear Anthologies & The Trench Coat Chronicles. More of her work can be found at www.caterinaberyl.blogspot.com
Something Wicked This Way Thumbs
I knew better than to pick up a hitchhiker. But she looked so young and pretty.
I stopped the car and she opened the passenger door.
Then I heard a laugh in my ear. A man stood at my open window pointing a gun in my face.
“You was so busy looking at Sherry, you never noticed me hiding in the ditch. Get out of the car. Now!”
I did and watched them drive away.
Of course what they didn’t know was that I was a hitchhiker too and had stolen the car myself. Its owner was in the trunk.
K. A. Williams lives in North Carolina and writes speculative, mystery/crime, general fiction and poetry. Over 100 stories and almost 90 of her poems have been published in various magazines including Trembling With Fear, Theme of Absence, 365 Tomorrows, Aphelion, Altered Reality, Literary Yard, and View From Atlantis. Apart from writing, she enjoys music (mostly rock), and CYOA games.
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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.