Trembling With Fear 12/4/2022
Hello, children of the dark. As you read this week’s issue, our American readers will likely still be recovering from Thanksgiving. I hope you all had a wonderful week, whatever you choose to mark. Thank you for allowing our humble zine into your lives every week, and thank you to Stuart for taking a chance on this unknown 40-something kid this summer when Steph Ellis stepped down. It’s a lot more time-intensive than I could ever have guessed, but I do enjoy talking to our writers and working with them to polish their stories. So thanks also to you, brave creators, who take the time to write and submit work to us and the open calls we list on Horror Tree. I firmly believe creatives make the world go round, and without us… well, let’s just not go there.
Anyways. I’m an Australian in England and all this open gratitude is making me feel icky, so let’s move on. I’ll keep it short and sweet for this, our first issue of DECEMBER (how did that happen?!), but shall take the time to remind you our Christmas themed special edition is still open for submissions to both short stories and drabbles. Check out the submission guidelines here (it’s about half way down the page), then send over your most festively dark works for Amanda’s final edition as specials coordinator. Yes, next year you’ll have a totally new crew for TWF (well, apart from Stuart who can never leave or the whole site will fall apart). More on that soon, I’m sure.
In this week’s Trembling main course, Jake Jerome has a divorced father take his uninterested teen to the insect house. This is followed by three delicious quick bites:
- Christina Nordlander should’ve reconsidered that family walk
- Alan Moskowitz is on the hunt for revenge, and
- Ron Capshaw gets in trouble in space
If these stories inspire you to get writing, you’ll find details on how to submit to us over here. Remember, we’re currently CLOSED to short story submissions, but are always seeking drabbles – that’s a complete speculative story in exactly 100 words. I used to think WTF about that, but I’ve run some workshops on drabbles since taking over at TWF and I’ve quickly grown to appreciate the form.
Now it’s over to you, Stuart.
First off, huge shout out to Lauren. She is so on top of things she had this post set 2 weeks in advance in preparation for her vacation. I feel like I’m struggling just to get my day to day duties done as of late 😉
Next up, more congratulations are in order! Amazing work to all of my author friends and acquaintances who have made Ellen Datlow’s Recommendations for Best Horror #14-long list! A huge shout out for our very own -! Also, authors we’ve featured in the past include Lee Murray for a variety of her work including some found in ‘Tortured Willows‘, Angela Yuriko Smith, S.P. Miskowski, Jeff Strand, and Bruce McAllister!
- We’re still interviewing the potential replacement for our Specials Editor Amanda Headlee, with the holidays, communication from my side has been slow.
- We’re currently making a major push for more author interviewers! If you love to talk to authors, please reach out!
As always, I hope you had a great weekend.
Red Silk, by Jake Jerome
Ethan’s a few inches taller since our last weekend together. That was only a month ago, but the top of his head reaches my chin now. Thank God the human species evolved to have flesh instead of exoskeleton. I look in the glass display and watch the Peruvian centipede peel out of its shell–a process the tour guide calls ecdysis–and I can’t help but picture Ethan’s skin splitting apart and falling onto the floor like clothes that no longer fit.
“Fascinating, isn’t it bud?” I tap my finger on the housing despite the sign reading DO NOT TAP ON GLASS.
He’s outgrown more than just his body. The person standing next to me is no longer the boy that collected beetles in our backyard and said he’d grow up to be a bug doctor. An entomologist, when he discovered the word. Ethan stares at his phone and shrugs my hand off of his shoulder.
The tour guide says our group is tremendously fortunate to have witnessed the molting. She ushers us forward to a different display. A mother centipede is curled around her newborn hatchlings. There’s almost thirty, forty of them.
“Where’s the father at?” I ask the guide. The people around us snicker as if it were a joke. Ethan puts his head down.
“Great question, really,” the guide says. “After he deposits his sperm pads, the male centipede abandons the female, but that’s not the end of it. Do you see how she hugs her body around the babies?”
The crowd nods.
“She does that for protection. The male will sometimes return to eat them.”
Everyone recoils in disgust, but I stare at those chitinous plates of armor, the way each segment bulwarks her young from outside predators. Sarah built her own wall of protection around Ethan after the incident. Against me. It came in the form of divorce papers and a full year of restraining orders before the courts allowed monthly visitations.
This is Ethan’s first time out of town with me in almost two years. Every other visit was required to take place within Sarah’s line of sight. I couldn’t believe she approved this, so I wanted to make it special. Thought my little bug doctor would never forget a trip to the state’s largest insectarium.
“Hey, can you at least pretend to have fun?”
Ethan stares back at me and says nothing. Not even a snarky rebuttal. The more it drags on the more I wish he’d even scream at me, call me a deadbeat. That would hurt less than the silence.
“Ethan, I know you’ve moved on from this stuff, but I’m trying. I just, I don’t know where to start.”
A few heads turn around to look at us, but they spin back when the guide says we’re moving on to the next exhibit. The arachnid house.
This is what everyone came here to see.
The country had been captivated with the discovery of the red widow: A new spider, native to Georgia, distinct for its bright crimson colored webs. Videos of the spider producing its gorgeous red silk were shown on national news outlets like CNN and MSNBC and went viral on social media. I saw it on Ethan’s page earlier this year, along with his comment: So amazing, looks like blood.
Our group ambles past the yellow orb spiders and Goliath tarantulas, heads nodding in sync with the guide’s voice. Nobody asks any questions in order to hurry along the tour.
Everyone claps when we finally approach the red widows.
The display occupies the entire back wall. Bright red gossamer webs are thronged from top to bottom across various shrubs and trees and other natural greenery. The silk shines under the lights like a tangible aurora. Each spider’s body like a black star.
The guide says something about the beauty of nature, and I stand here entranced, understanding those words aren’t just a cliché but the essential truth. It captures me, pulls me closer to the glass.
I turn around. “What do you think, Ethan? Pretty cool, huh?”
His face is closer to mine than expected. A tear falls from his right eye, both of which are reddened with broken capillaries. I open my mouth, but not a single word falls out. It’s then I notice the butterfly knife sticking out of my abdomen.
I fall back into the exhibit, and I slide down the glass wall. A trail of blood marks my dissent like slime from a slug. The crowd gasps, steps backward as if to disperse but unable to remove their collective gaze. Someone screams.
Ethan stands over me, a string of saliva hanging from his bottom lip. The signs were there his entire life. I ignored them–
DO NOT TAP
–and they all flash before me within a second.
How the beetles he collected as a child were missing their legs.
How Sarah now seemed uncomfortable around him, almost glad to send him away on our weekend trip.
How I once dislocated his shoulder. The incident that upended our entire lives. I hid the truth from her to protect him: I yanked Ethan up from the floor so hard because he was pulling Sarah’s beloved cat’s ears until it shrieked.
“Why?” I manage to say. Blood pours out of my mouth with the question. The tour guide shouts for help through her walkie.
“Hey,” Ethan says to the crowd. “Do you guys want to see another red web?”
His butterfly knife enters my forearm and travels down to the wrist. The flesh separates with ease. I no longer thank God for the lack of an exoskeleton.
“Look at this.”
Ethan’s fingers dig into the opening, hook underneath my major cephalic veins. He rips them out like loose threads in a shirt collar. I feel the tug, the disconnection. He digs and pulls until most of my arm’s veins, arteries and connected vessels are removed and hang weblike in the air between his fingers. Reminds me of when my own father taught me the cat’s cradle.
Some faint, others film on their phones. My consciousness fades, but I catch the last words I’ll ever hear my son say to me.
“You know Dad, this actually is pretty cool.”
At least it’s something.
Jake Jerome lives in Philadelphia, PA with his wife and two cats, Herman and Princess Penelope, who are his editors. Although, he’s beginning to suspect their incessant meowing isn’t constructive criticism. His fiction has been published in Black Hare Press, 34 Orchard, and Writer’s Digest Magazine. You can visit him at his website: jakejeromewriter.com
The Factory Grounds
Anaiyah walked along the fenced footpath. Little Triela rode on her kickbike, sometimes behind and sometimes rushing ahead, sometimes close enough for Anaiyah to dangle her arm around her shoulder. Jared paced a bit in front so she couldn’t see his face.
Triela tossed her bike and ran, giggling. Of course Jared didn’t care. Anaiyah pulled the bike back up.
They turned the corner. Triela wasn’t there. Jared yelled, Anaiyah tried to get her arm and shoulder between the bars of the fence, and they were too close for even a toddler to squeeze between, and she heard no reply.
Christina Nordlander was born 1982 in Sweden. She now lives outside Birmingham, UK, with her husband, and works for a car leasing company. She has published over 20 stories and other pieces, most of them on the speculative fiction spectrum, many of them in Trembling with Fear. She also dabbles in visual art and game development. Her most recent publication is “Untainted” in A Woman Unbecoming (Crone Girls Press, forthcoming), a charity anthology in the aid of reproductive justice. She also holds a PhD in Classics and Ancient History from the University of Manchester.
Link to her Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/user?
Link to her Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/
The dying sniper awakened to find herself hidden in the switchgrass, her Barrett M82 lined up for the shot.
The target, fat and entitled, dragged his latest victim, a terrified eleven-year-old girl, from the armored limo.
Her scope brought his doughy face up close, the crosshairs resting on his sweaty left temple. With an exhale and a squeeze she sent him a fifty caliber round of delayed justice for all the children – including her daughter – he had shattered.
The vengeance she bargained for delivered, she faded back into her body to wait for the Demon to come take her soul.
Alan worked as a successful screen and TV writer for over forty years. Recently retired to Denver he now writes short genre fiction for fun and sanity. He welcomes all feedback.
I boarded, hoping for something better than man.
As programmed, we landed on planet Orlock in System 5 to discover if life was there.
We were on the ground only ten minutes,
I was the only one who got back aboard.
I blasted off back to Earth.
I shed my slashed space suit and got into the hyper-sleep pod, hoping there would be no nightmares of what I left behind.
As the door descended and the anesthetic kicked in, I saw the cut on my hand.
I went under, feeling fangs protruding from my mouth.
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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.