Trembling With Fear 12/26/21
I hope you had a lovely celebration yesterday – in whatever form that took. I have my family round me and hope to see my parents soon. I know more restrictions are coming in but I hope not for long. I’ve had my booster, which brought on a few side-effects, but this is still better than the illness itself. I’m keeping everything crossed that 2022 will finally see the virus reduced to a more harmless infection and we can live normally again.
Whilst I hope you continue to have a peaceful and restful holiday, I think it important to recognise those who aren’t so fortunate. To those of you who are having to work this period to keep the rest of us going, I’d like to offer my thanks and hope you get to enjoy your own breaks soon. And to those for whom the festive period brings a sharp reminder of personal loss or isolation, please do not suffer in silence. Organisations such as the Samaritans are there to listen and support.
Before I get to TWF, I’d like to give a couple of shoutouts here to TWF writers Eric Fomley and Patrick Winters. Eric has a collection of flash fiction available – Rehuman – to pre-order here and Patrick has a a novelette, Seeing due out soon. As soon as I have cover and order details I will share them. I am also delighted to share the cover and pre-order details of my own novella with Silver Shamrock Publishing, Paused, here. And if you want gothic darkness, I’ve recently read (and written the introduction for) the latest anthology from Brigids Gate Press, A Quaint and Curious Volume of Gothic Tales, ed. Alex Woodroe, due out January. Another truly wonderful collection which I’ll put into my top 3 anthologies of 2021. In 1st place is The Bad Book, ed. John F.D. Taff, and tied in 2nd are The Jewish Book of Horror, ed. and A Quaint and Curious Volume of Gothic tales.
Our first story this week in Trembling with Fear is Silence from the Dark by Reed Martin Miller. A tale of hiding from life and not grasping opportunities, it reads as a warning and a tragedy. The final sentence is one that sums it up perfectly and has stuck with me.
I Wandered Lonely in my Shroud is a darkly funny parody of Wordsworth’s classic poem.
Signed. Sealed. Undelivered. by Connor Long-Johnson is a neat ghost story.
Spaceship Terror by Christina Nordlander brings sci-fi horror which questions reality. Being slightly ambiguous, it adds an extra chill.
Enjoy our stories and send us yours!
Today is a double Trembling With Fear weekend! Not only did we have our Christmas Special yesterday but we’ve got our normal one today! So much fiction, so little time!
As mentioned in thel ast update, I’m slowly working on adding new features to the site. One we had mapped out in MAY of 2021 and I just did was to update our Contact Form. It still takes a few seconds to load once you get it, however, when you select the right area in “to” to now allows for different text to show what we’re looking for, depending on who you e-mail. AND, it is allowing for a few other neat things on our end which is exciting.
Coming up next is the new year, I hope that you all have a great fresh start and have wins to celebrate from the past year in your publishing endeavors.
Silence from the Dark by Reed Martin Miller
Aaron sat on the end of his couch, staring down the hall towards the bathroom with eyes wide and bulging in terror, but they did not see anything in the darkness that stared back at him. Even so, he knew that the thing was there, that it was always there just beyond the glow of the light, whatever the source of the light might be.
It had tormented him for decades, this nameless evil that watched him from the shadows, showing itself when the light faded, but even then only in the haziest of outlines. Never enough that Aaron could see it fully, or even know for certain that it was truly there or a phantom of his mind. This terror caused him to keep night lights plugged into every outlet of his home, and never to be found without a pocket light just in case the power died.
As a child he’d never had this fear, had never given the night or the dark any mind until college, when one night he’d stumbled down the hall from his room to visit the community restroom, his mind addled by beer and gin, his body barely able to stand from the same.
It had been a night of firsts; his first drink, his first frat party and dose of debauchery. That night he’d lost his virginity to a beautiful young woman who had smiled innocently as they walked into the bedroom at the top of the stairs, and was just as nervous as he himself as they undressed each other awkwardly.
He was still smiling at the memory when he left his room.
It was the duty of the resident advisor to turn off the hall lights every evening, or in truth most of them. There was a single fluorescent fixture in the center of the hall that was not connected to a switch and was supposed to burn all day and all night for safety, and to help guide the way to the bathroom.
Aaron made it to the edge of that pool of light in the darkness when he first saw the outline of the thing squatting just on the other side. It was long-limbed, and sat motionless in the dimness, staring intensely and balefully at the young man who fell backwards to the floor in silent fear, his drunkenness washed away on a wave of adrenaline so large he didn’t even note the warm wetness that washed down the front of his pants. Before he could utter a whimper, the thing stepped backwards slowly and out of sight. The damage had been done, the fear gripped his soul, and his quivering mutters grew into an ear-splitting cry that woke half the hallway, but no one looked out or stirred.
He never told a soul about his encounter, but his roommate complained when Aaron refused to turn off his desk lamp at night, and eventually moved out and told anyone who would listen that Aaron was afraid of the dark.
His fear kept him from taking classes in the evening, which turned his four year plan to graduate into a five year reality of further ridicule that slowly changed the formerly gregarious young man into a jaded, and lonely shut-in.
Rather than salving his wounded pride and psyche, the years only added to his misery, as each night he stared down the hallways of his apartments and rental homes at the edge of the darkness where sat the outline of the hateful creature waited, watching in silence never able to forget that he was not alone.
“What do you want?” He would whisper into the night, hoping the thing would answer, terrified that it would answer, but if it showed any reaction at all it was in a slight tilting of its head, or maybe a shaking of its body in what could have been silent laughter.
It went on in this vein every night until he sat with a newly purchased and freshly loaded pistol, staring down the hall not in fear, but in resignation blended with anger. He’d been shocked to look at the calendar that morning and realize that it was his birthday, his eightieth trip around the sun.
“I’m about to die you son of a bitch, and it won’t be your hand that does the deed.” His brown eyes, weakened by age, sparkled with mirth as he thumbed back the hammer and his lips curled up in a smile that had not graced his face in many. many years. “Anything to say before I eat this bullet, asshole?”
He expected nothing, but he heard a very dry chuckle from the end of the hall that grew louder as a dusty-grey creature stepped into the faint light, came to a shuffling halt and squatted on thick, furry haunches at the end of the cheap, thread-bare sofa.
There was a dark glee in the creature’ coal black eyes as it looked at Aaron. Goose-bumps ran up and down Aaron’ entire arthritis ridden body as he watched the thing’ wide, leathery lips split into a broad, hateful grin, and for the first time in the sixty years that they had known one-another, Aaron heard the thing’ voice. It was low, and sounded much like a rasp scraping across iron, but it was clear and eloquent even so.
“Finally found your balls then, old man?”
Aaron laid his hands in his lap and gave the thing a level look, studying his long-time tormentor, drinking in the details that confronted him. The creature had eyes as wide as saucers, and short, wiry hair that covered its body from the feet that were too large to the ears that were too small. It would have looked comical but for the jagged teeth and wicked claws at the tips of fingers and toes.
“I guess you could say that.” Aaron finally said, his voice as level as his gaze. “I can’t believe it myself that it took me so long to come to this. You’re not as scary as I thought you would be.”
The thing chuckled, and there was no humor in it. “It’s so much better when you people don’t see me. Your imagination makes me so much more than I am. It makes you so much tastier!”
“So that’s what I was to you? A snack?”
“A snack?” The creature asked in his rasp of a voice, an abomination of vocalization that grated painfully on Aaron’ ears. “You sell yourself short, old man. You were a feast! I knew you would be when first we met, but I never thought you’d feed me your fear for sixty years.”
Aaron felt his cheeks color with embarrassment for a few heartbeats and then with anger. “What do you mean by that?”
“As soon as you laid your eyes on me you fell over pissing your pants, but then you went quiet. You never told a single soul about me, too afraid of what people would think to tell them anything at all. From you there was fear, and embarrassment, loneliness and shame and a whole spectrum of emotion! You’ve made me fat just on your shame, old man!”
There was a malignant light in the thing’s eyes that sent a fresh shiver up Aaron’s spine, but he schooled his face to hide the fear until he saw the thing’s mouth open wider in a knowing grin. “I guess you can tell when I’m afraid if you’ve been eating off of me.”
“I still find it amusing though, old man. Go ahead and try to hide it from me.”
“What happens next? Are you going to finally kill me?”
A rich laugh rumbled up from the things broad, shallow chest and for a moment in time Aaron thought that the creature would fall over onto its back and roll like a dog, but it regained its balance after a few long moments and spoke, “That is priceless, old man! You’re terrified, but hopeful! Brimming with anticipation and uncertainty! Oh but humans are truly a marvel of emotional twists and turns!”
Aaron’ lips tightened but the thing kept talking before he could pose his objection.
“You’re going to ask me a question? And enlighten me to absolute truth?”
“Truth can be ever so much crueler than even the greatest lie.” The self-proclaimed demon said with a sneer followed by a small laugh that was too sinister and deep to be called a chuckle, its eyes all but glowing as he stared at Aaron, drinking in the emotions that wriggled and snaked through the old man’ breast.
Aaron stared at the floor in thought and squeezed the grips of the pistol in his hands until he was able to steel himself and raise his eyes to look at the sneering, arrogant thing at the end of his sofa. “Ask your question, demon.”
“Why would I kill you when I’ve already stolen your entire life?”
Reed Martin Miller
I Wandered Lonely in my Shroud
(after William Wordsworth)
I wandered lonely in my shroud,
I moaned and groaned o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of blood-stained daffodils;
I wondered what was there beneath —
Were flesh and bones buried in the heath?
I started digging around those stains,
A twinkle in my milky eyes,
Until I found decayed remains:
A heap of bodies was my prize.
Then on my neck I felt a breath,
And knew the sudden fear of death!
A werewolf held me in its grip,
It carved my heart out from out my breast.
I saw the beast’s saliva drip,
Before it laid me down to rest,
And all my zombie blood now spills
To fertilize the daffodils.
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
Signed. Sealed. Undelivered.
“Morning Greg.” Lisa welcomed him, “Anything for me today?”
He produced a brown parcel from the sack he had between his feet and handed it over.
“By the way, did you get that other parcel from No. 28?”
She looked up; brow furrowed sharply.
“Yeah, there was this old guy standing outside there yesterday, I figured you were out; I asked if I could leave it with him.”
He noticed the troubled look on her face, “I didn’t think that’d be a problem.” He gestured apologetically.
“Greg, that place is condemned, no one’s lived there for over two decades now.”
Connor Long-Johnson, currently writing his thesis on the fiction of Stephen King at the University of Greenwich in London, England, enjoys writing short stories in the gothic, fantasy and science-fiction genres. He has had various works published, three short pieces of fiction with HorrorTree’s Trembling With Fear, another in Breaking Rules Publishing’s horror anthology The Hollow and three with Science-
I was the first to awaken to reality.
None of the other crew members have realised yet that this is a simulation. Anything I could say would sound like ravings.
I put off killing them for as long as possible. It was the only thing that was irreversible. But the cycles went by, and I saw no other way to free them. No other methods had managed to wake them.
I have done most of the crew. I know that a couple are still hiding from me, but I have time, it is a closed system.
They will forgive me.
Christina Nordlander was born 1982 in Sweden, but has lived in the UK since 2001. She is currently living outside Birmingham with her husband Graham and two cats. She also has a PhD in Classics and Ancient History from the University of Manchester. She has published about fifteen short stories both in Sweden and the English-speaking world, most recently the drabble “The Incubation Garden” in Trembling with Fear (2021). Sometimes, she dabbles in indie game development and visual arts.
Link to her Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/user?
Link to her Simily account: https://simily.co/members/
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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.