Trembling With Fear 12-3-23
Hello, children of the dark. How’s your week been? Mine has been so crazy busy and overwhelming that I absolutely, honest-to-god nearly forgot to put together this week’s issue. The boss likes to have these mid-week so he has plenty of time to do his thing and schedule it all in. This week? I’m sitting at my desk at 1pm on Saturday afternoon, prepping Sunday’s edition. Whoops. Sorry, Stuart!
With that in mind, let’s just jump straight in with this week’s dark and speculative TWF menu. Our short story offering from Alyson Faye sees a young woman find her forever-soulmate. Then we’ve got three fabulous tasty morsels for dessert:
- Robert Allen Lupton will make all the writers groan with this one,
- Jordan Kocevski is rushing to escape from something, and
- Ron Capshaw writes this one in tribute to the late, great Shirley Jackson.
Finally, we’ve been getting an absolute influx of subs to our 🎄Christmas special🎄. The deadline for submissions to this one is the end of this week, so get ‘em in quick. 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.
Now, it’s over to you, Stuart.
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.
Soul Mate, by Alyson Faye
Leah’s friends and family, without exception, advised her not to date Vinnie.
Her mum said, ‘He’s not our sort. Too full of himself, too flash . . . there have been rumours, love, about his family.’
Leah eye-rolled. ‘What you really mean, Mum, is – he’s rich, doesn’t have to work, lives in a big house and so I’m too poor and ordinary to go out with him.’ Her voice hitched with upset. What bloody rumours? She’s making that up.
Her best mate, Marcie, said, ‘He’ll suck you dry, Leah. He’s a taker. OK, yeah, charming and fun, but you’ll end up giving way too much.’
Even her ex, Leon, gave unasked-for advice. ‘What’s he got I haven’t, babe?’ And leered. Leah raised her eyebrows. Leon rushed on. ‘Yeah, alright apart from the obvious:- expensive motorbike, big house on the hill, and comes from one of the oldest, wealthiest families in town.’ Leon’s voice broke. ‘But me, I lurve you, babe. I’m the real deal. He sure as hell ain’t. There’s something off ‘bout him.’
In Leah’s head Vinnie however was perfect. He was ‘The One’. A top-dog in the sleepy market town’s growing Goth crowd – all leathers and eye-liner. Hanging with him made her cool. Leah desperately wanted ‘in’. Being ‘out’ for much of her nearly twenty years, had really and truly sucked, big time.
She was more than surprised when their date nights were held in Vinnie’s family crypt, albeit backlit by armies of candles, choking in the haze of weed. Vinnie and his entourage lay draped over the box tombs, smoking, drinking, chilling. One follower, Luc, draped his pet python around his neck, like a living necklace.
Leah’s nights with Vinnie and his crowd were long and louche, whereas in stark contrast, the daylight hours were a sluggish slog. Leah had to be at work at 8 a.m. prompt for an eight-hour shift on the tills at the LZ-Mini Mart. She’d slope in, dead on her feet, at 8.15, smeared in last night’s make-up and a creased mini skirt, eyes heavy, barely able to stay awake.
Marcie, popping in on her daily ciggy run, leaned over the counter. ‘It’s not healthy, Lee. This obsession or whatever you’ve got going with Vinnie.’ Leah pointedly eyed the cancer tubes clutched in her mate’s purple-painted talons. Marcie nodded. ‘Yeah, OK. But have you looked at yourself in a mirror lately? You’re in a right state, girlfriend. Your eyes look like Bloody Marys and you’re so skinny.’
Leah didn’t want to admit she’d been avoiding mirrors; had even gone so far as to cover them with throws. She found her diminishing reflection – disconcerting. It worried her that she was disappearing; and perhaps soon she’d be invisible?
At the end of the shift Leah staggered home to her apartment, flushed pints of curdled milk and chucked the rotting vegetables, licked out the cat’s tuna tin (it’s still protein, isn’t it?) and collapsed on the sofa. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d eaten a proper meal or come to that seen her fat tabby, Taz.
She tried to muster the energy to go call for Taz, rattle the can and tin opener, his calling card, but she couldn’t be bothered.
Despite her lethargy, inside she felt as if she was on fire. Her muscles ached and her heart bumped hard, out of time. Only Vinnie’s arms holding her and his cool, cool lips on hers made her feel better.
It troubled her that the all night sessions with Vinnie were a blur. She couldn’t remember half of what happened in the dim-lit family crypt. Flashbacks of leering faces, and jarring moments kept recurring during the day. Tears trickled down her sunken cheeks.
Think of something nice.
Vinnie had promised her a surprise for her birthday; a party, a feast, presents, and the best rush you’ll ever get, babe.
Leah tried to remember if today was in fact her birthday. She’d lost track. Her eye fell on the kitchen wall calendar, which showed no appointments or events penned on it. No girly nights in with Marcie, no film nights with her Mum watching rom-coms.
Nada, zilch, zip.
Yup, birthday’s today. Wow, that’s come round fast! Where’s the time gone?
She was so tired—drained, she thought. Perhaps she’d suggest to Vinnie they’d just stay at home and eat—pizza or … a memory of roasting flesh slunk into her memory, along with an image of Taz’s furry face. Bile rose in her gullet.
However she knew she’d never dare suggest anything to Vinnie. He’d take her face in his cool, cool hands, and gaze into her eyes. His dark pupils would dilate and she’d swear she could see flames dancing in their depths.
Taz, where are you?
Her fingers stroked the silver chain around her neck heavy with the ebony heart dangling from it. Vinnie’s latest gift.
‘From my heart to yours,’ he’d whispered, when he’d fastened it around her neck. At the same time he’d kissed her, at the exact spot where the artery pulsed and then he’d lingered there. She shivered at the memory. It had been exciting but weird.
Now the chain would not unclasp, so Leah had had to wear it all the time, even in the shower. Though she couldn’t remember the last time she’d washed. She just wanted to sleep, but her dreams were wild – distorted faces, white-hot blazing fires and barbecues sizzling with roasted meats accompanied by full-bodied, crimson wines. Exhausted, she lay down on the soiled bedding and dropped into sleep.
She woke to the pulsing revs of Vinnie’s motorbike. Insistent, purring, calling to her. Glancing at the clock she saw it was still her birthday – one hour of it left. Her boyfriend hadn’t forgotten. Leah pulled off her sweaty work uniform, dragged on a few days’ old dirty shorts and Tee, then she stumbled in flip-flops down the stairs and out the door to Vinnie.
‘Hi lover, you look amazing! Climb aboard.’Vinnie’s wide-toothed grin stunned her, took her breath away. He bent his head to kiss her and in that one moment she was his once again. Nothing else mattered.
Leah clung to Vinnie’s back, smelling his unique scent and relishing his firm, lean body. She didn’t protest when the bike came to a halt at the gates of the graveyard, again, though her heart sank. She also said nothing when Vinnie opened up the family crypt, with another flashing smile and a flourish of the huge, iron keys. He took her hand, guiding her down the uneven stone steps and pressed her body down upon the gravestone of ‘my great-great-great grandfather. He was a bit of a devil’. Vinnie chortled at his little joke.
Leah lay there, shivering in the chilly crypt air, in her skimpy shorts and T-shirt, drifting as though in a haze, thinking of her life before she’d met Vinnie and how black and white it had been. Vinnie had brought colour and passion into it.
She could hear others joining them, guttural voices murmuring in tongues, her name being chanted, Leah, Leah! Join us.
She tried to reply, tried to sit up, but found her body and voice wouldn’t cooperate. Vinnie, help me! What’s happening to me?
Her lover’s face floated above hers, smiling, his eyes dark and deep, whispering sweet words. He bent lower, lower to her – opening his lush lips. Leah, so far gone by then, didn’t notice the length of Vinnie’s canines, or feel their razor sharp points as they punctured her neck.
Happy Birthday to you, my darling, Leah. Now you are one of us. Welcome to my family.
There was no fear, no pain, no nothing, instead Leah felt a rush of adrenalin course through her body, heard the chanting grow louder, smelt the the group’s sweat and desire, their need and hunger.
‘Who’s Leah?’ she whispered.
Vinnie lifted her up in his arms, turning to face his entourage. ‘Behold my bride for the coming year. Worship us.’
The flock bent their heads, the python slithered towards Leah, silent, supple and the reborn, immortal Leah felt nothing—no fear, no pain, no joy, no love—just hunger.
‘Come, take my hand, bride of my heart and of this night. Let us walk amongst the townsfolk and leave our mark upon them. Let the feasting begin!’
The girl, who was once known as Leah, rose, graceful as a cat, from the tomb. Her hair flowed in a stream of raven tresses, her lips were red and full, her flesh bore a pearly sheen.
‘You are mine for eternity. Is this not the best birthday present ever?’ Her lover told her.
Leah’s lips turned upwards. She could hear the night animals hunting, smell the wind and the rotting bodies in the graveyard, sense the power pulsing through the un-dead in the crypt.
She felt more alive than she had ever been in her life.
Grammar West of the Pecos
Caleb and Duke stopped the stage at the edge of town. Caleb shouted: “Hands up! We ain’t got no time for no foolishness.”
A primly dressed woman holding an umbrella climbed out. “For shame!”
“Shut up. Give us your money,” sneered Caleb. “We ain’t the kind of men to mess with.”
The woman hit Caleb in the face with her umbrella and took his gun.
“You’ve made me angry, used a double negative, ended a sentence with a preposition, and said ain’t twice. I’ll shoot you.”
Caleb moaned. “Best surrender, Duke. Looks like there’s a new school marm in town.”
Robert Allen Lupton
Robert Allen Lupton is retired and lives in New Mexico where he is a commercial hot air balloon pilot. Robert runs and writes every day, but not necessarily in that order. Over 180 of his short stories have been published in various anthologies. More than 1600 drabbles based on the worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs and several articles are available online at www.erbzine.com. His novel, Foxborn, was published in April 2017 and the sequel, Dragonborn, in June 2018. His third novel, Dejanna of the Double Starwas published in the fall of 2019 as was his anthology, Feral, It Takes a Forest. He co-edited the Three Cousins Anthology, Are You A Robot? in 2022. He has five short story collections, Running Into Trouble, Through A Wine Glass Darkly, Strong Spirits, Hello Darkness,and The Marvin Chronicles. Visit his Amazon author’s page for current information about his stories and books. Like or follow him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or visit his website.
Don’t Look Back
Don’t look back. Look at the light at the end. Ignore the cold stone below your feet. Don’t listen to the scraping behind you. The thin arms reaching through the bars don’t exist. You can’t help them. A thud echoes. A silent moan follows.
Run! I can’t hear his steps anymore. Few more steps. Why isn’t it running? No! Step out of the corridor.
“Oh, God! This is…”
Don’t look back. Keep your head down. The hand on your shoulder is an illusion. There’s no stench as it whispers:
“Told you, you’d beg me to be back at the cell.”
Born in 1983, Jordan has set his path for an academic career, getting his Ph.D. in Tourism and hospitality management in 2014. He had written more than 30 papers before he got bored and decided to follow his life passion, fiction writing. His first comic anthology as a scriptwriter, co-authored by Dargo Bogdanov, “Darkness Humor Silence”, was published in 2014, while his first graphic novel “Knights of the Neighborhood” was published in 2016. His first novel, “Jars” (2021), proved to him he knew what he was doing, so he decided to write even more. And so “Follow back” and “Legacy: The window” followed in 2022 and “Words” in 2023. He has won two awards for the short comic “Our Eden”, illustrated by Darko Bogdanov, and an award for the best emerging author for the book “Прозорецот” (The Window). He lives in Ohrid, works as a tour guide and an editor for the electronic magazine “(e)Lit”. Find him on Goodreads, Instagram, or Facebook.
To Shirley Jackson
They all gathered at the town square promptly at 3 am.
Sun-blackened farmers, Tupperware wives, the town’s only lawyer, and the sheriff.
They pushed ahead of them the nose-bloodied, handcuffed would-be union organizer.
They threw the union organizer at HIS feet.
HE flicked HIS taloned finger contemptuously at one of the chanting shadowy figures crouched by HIS throne.
The figure licked his lips, howled and then turned into mist.
Just before the mist entered the union organizer, he turned and screamed at the townsfolk.
“Why? I was leaving!”
In unison, they said: “It’s either you or us.”
He began blaspheming.
Ron Capshaw is a writer based in Florida. His novel The Stage Mother’s Club was released in June by Dark Edge Press.
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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.