This week gave me very much a typical writer’s day. On Wednesday morning I woke up to a rejection (one of those which gets past the first round and then loses out rejections), went to work and came home to the cover reveal for my first standalone novella. I’m sharing it here because I love it and if you’re curious, the cover artist is Kealan Patrick Burke. Wednesday was definitely a day of lows and highs for me, the latter being plural because of the news Slipknot are bringing Knotfest to the UK. StokerCon and Knotfest! The US is spoiling us. Just hope I can get tickets for the latter, otherwise I will be sad. At least all of this is keeping me away from thinking about the political state of our country. Whichever way people vote, I hope things finally settle.

Over to Trembling With Fear is 2031: The Toys, They’re Bleeding by Patrick Hueller is a scary, but all too possible, futuristic take on parenting and the conflict which arises between two parents as to the approach to use. In this case the focus revolves around toys. In today’s society it’s video gaming which has become ultra-realistic blurring the lines between reality and pretend. The future of 2031 has stepped away from the screen and back to toys but even here realism prevails but at what cost to a child’s mental development, a parent’s attitude to their child, themselves. A chilling and original story.

Dinnertime by Amber M. Simpson is probably a story which will resonate amongst many put upon wives (and a few husbands). The demand for dinner on the table, that yell of ‘where is it’, can trigger all sorts of impulses, most of which remain unacted upon but here the wife does not take the comments kindly. A well-sketched picture of marital disharmony.

Hotel Silk by Terry Miller uses the trope of the dare to spend a night in a building with a sinister reputation. Unlike most characters they appear to survive to see the morning whereas most stories would have killed them off in the dark. Changing tropes slightly, tweaking them to make sure it’s not the same old same old is another trick writers can use.

The Train People by G.A. Miller is a very good piece of writing which flows so naturally as it tells a story within a story. The final line gives us the twist and adds the ‘chill’ factor.

Thank you to all, for writing and submitting to TWF.

Steph

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Short and sweet from me this week. Things are CRAZY at the day job with the end of the year quickly coming at us (not to mention around the house to prepare for the holiday season.)
For the site, we’re going to start cover hunting soon for next year’s anthologies! That is the only big news I have for the time being.
On a personal note, I’ve had a few new short stories and drabble submissions accepted as of late!
Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

2031: The Toys, They’re Bleeding by Patrick Hueller

Red geysers shoot from arm sockets and decapitated necks. Bat-Man® has a weeping wound on his torso. G.I. Joe’s® leg, snapped and dangling, drips and drains. 

What had been scratched plastic are now abrasions, scabbing over. What had been nicks are now welts.

“Take that!” the three-year-old boy—his name’s Tom—says. “And that!” 

He slams the figurines into each other. They spurt red ooze like they’re ketchup packets.

#

“I think you should take those toys away,” Jennifer says.
Not this again, Doug thinks. “I’m not taking away his Christmas present on Christmas day.”

They’re in the kitchen, watching Tom play on a seventy-inch monitor. Similar monitors are fastened to a wall in every room. Each of them is connected to a camera in the playroom. 

“That’s your son, Doug. Aren’t you even a little worried?”

 For God’s sake, why did she think he’d had the monitors installed? Now they could give Tom the illusion of independence while still monitoring his every blink and twitch in vivid hi-def.

They watch Tom whip Bat-Man® across the room.

“He’s going to stain the walls,” Jennifer says.

“No he’s not,” Doug says. “The blood washes right out.”

It’s remarkable stuff, this “blood.” In many ways it looks and even acts like the real deal. Dries and congeals. Crusts over. Even cracks and leaks anew. But unlike real blood, you can remove it with one swipe of a damp paper towel.

“Well then why did you put the plastic on the carpet?” 

“Why clean the carpet every time he plays if we don’t have to?”

The plastic had come in the box with the toys.

“It’s just—all that blood . . . ” Jennifer says.

“For the last time, it’s not real blood.”

Earlier, he’d fished the box out of the trash and showed her the ingredients. The blood was more akin to Kool-Aid® than plasma.

Anyway, that’s what he’d told Jennifer a few minutes ago, when Tom started drinking right from an arm socket. 

“Does he know it’s not real?” Jennifer says.

“Of course,” Doug says. 

“There’s no part of you that thinks this is unhealthy?” Jennifer asks.

He watches Tom make explosion sounds as he hammers Bat-Man® against the plastic-covered floor. Blood splatters the boy’s arms.

“Of course not,” he says.

It wasn’t as though Tom was the only kid in the country slurping up Kool-Aid® blood at this very moment. Doug had had to camp out in line hours before the store even opened. He’d scratched and clawed and wrestled another parent for one of the last boxes. 

This morning, Tom had been so excited about the gift that he’d begun hyperventilating. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” he’d said.

“Die! Die! Die!” he says now. 

He’s still chanting as he gets up and begins spinning. He whirls around, giggling at his own lightheadedness. He’s holding the decapitated G.I. Joe®, whose blood splashes concentrically around the room.

“Just a phase?” Jennifer says.

“Of course,” Doug says, but there’s uncertainty in his voice, and Jennifer picks up on it.

“Real things bleed to death,” she reminds him, as if he of all people needed to be reminded of that.

“G.I. Joe® isn’t real . . .”

“Does he know that?” Jennifer repeats.

For the first time, Doug turns from the monitor and looks at Jennifer. At her button-looking eyes and her fuzzy body.

“You’re not real, either,” he says.

 “Do you think I don’t know that?”

“I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“I’m just a teddy bear. I don’t get offended.”

But Doug can tell that she’s exactly that. “You’re not just a teddy bear,” he says.

Which is true. Jennifer’s a Sleeping Bear®, which means she is blessed with artificial intelligence and carefully calibrated emotionality. Sleeping Bears® were all the rage when Doug’s wife did the Christmas shopping last year.

“Don’t do that, Tom,” Jennifer whispers.

The boy has collected blood in his cupped hands. He sticks his nose in the puddle and blows. The blood bubbles and sloshes, much to Tom’s delight.

“Maybe I should go in there and talk to him,” Jennifer says. 

She sounds just like his wife. Always trying to explain everything to a three-year-old. Actions and consequences. Those were the only methods that worked with a little boy. Frankly, they were the only methods that worked with adults, too. It wasn’t until his wife stormed out of the house this morning that she truly got his attention.

“We didn’t get you so you could talk to Tom,” Doug says to Jennifer.

They got her to bond with the boy. And they got her to leave him. “No one needs to die,” the Sleeping Bears® ad had said, “to teach your child about death.” So far, he and his wife had followed the instructions on the box exactly. Doug hadn’t even rolled his eyes much. After all, that was one thing Doug innately trusted: protocol, orders. 

Slowly, incrementally, after many soothing talks, Jennifer’s hibernation periods were programmed to get longer and longer. A few years from now, the bear would close her eyes and never open them again. “Teach your child to think of death as a permanent hibernation!” the box said. 

It was sissified nonsense, of course, but Doug had done his best to keep his objections to himself and his eye rolls to a bare minimum. He couldn’t endure losing Ellen, too.  

But now he realizes he was kidding himself all along. One way or the other, everyone leaves. The more blood, the better. There’s no finality to a bloodless departure.  

As he watches Tom yank off yet another limb, he considers the possibility that something really is wrong. What if his boy truly is messed up? What if he’s responsible?

Actions, consequences. It was the only way.

“What are you doing?” Jennifer says.

“Your job,” Doug says. 

It’s the same tone he took a few hours ago with his wife, after Tom opened his present, after she went ballistic, before she deserted him like everyone else. 

“This isn’t the plan,” Jennifer gasps.

Doug has her fuzzy neck in the crook of his arm.

“He needs to see,” he says. 

Doug squeezes, clenches, jerks his arm. He looks at the monitor, at his giggling, bloodied boy, and waits for the heaving to stop.

“He’s a normal boy,” Doug says, as though someone might be watching him on a monitor, as though they might want an explanation for his actions. “He’s going to be a normal boy.”

Patrick Hueller’s speculative fiction has appeared in places like Bewildering Stories and the anthology Fright Before Christmas. Foul, a YA novel he wrote under the name “Paul Hoblin,” was described by Booklist as “unbearably tense.” You can hear the audio version of his story “North Pole Coal” at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fv-XjjKukMA.

Dinner Time

“Dinner time!” Rose called, cracking open a fresh can of Alpo in the kitchen. “Come get it, Charlie!” 

“Goddammit, Rose!” Donald yelled from the living room, TV blaring. “Dumb dog can eat leftovers! Quit wasting good money!”

Charlie rushed into the kitchen and Rose bent to kiss his nose.

“Where’s my goddamn dinner!” Donald bellowed.

He was right about one thing, Rose decided; she needn’t waste good money. Her Charlie deserved better meat than canned Alpo, anyway. 

Grabbing a butcher knife, she went to the living room. It gleamed in her hand as she approached the back of Donald’s chair.

Amber M. Simpson is a dark speculative fiction writer with a penchant for horror and fantasy. She acts as assistant editor at Fantasia Divinity Magazine & Publishing, where she also occasionally contributes her work. Her fiction can also be found at Black Hare Press, KJK Publishing, Escaped Ink Press, Iron Faerie Publishing, and Things in the Well. While she enjoys creating dark worlds and diverse characters, her two greatest creations of all are her sons, Max and Liam, who keep her feet on the ground, even while her head is in the clouds.

Author Website: https://www.ambermsimpson.com
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorambermsimpson/
Author Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/ambermsimpson 
Author Goodreads Page: https://www.goodreads.com/ambermsimpson

Hotel Silk

The old, abandoned hotel was laden with cobwebs from spiders well-hidden from sight. Darrell and Carrie had been more than willing to spend the night on an easy bet. If they make it until dawn, they get two-hundred bucks. No problem.

They brought their own linens and replaced the ones on the bed in Room 1. Most of the rooms no longer had doors. It was no bother. They slept peacefully. 

Morning came. Darrell and Carrie awoke inside webbed cocoons. They struggled but the silk was strong and snug. All the spiders assembled for breakfast, each anxious for its fill.

Terry Miller lives in Portsmouth, Ohio right along the Ohio River. His work has appeared in Sanitarium Magazine, Devolution Z, Jitter Press, Poetry Quarterly, O Unholy Night in Deathlehem, and was nominated for the annual Rhysling Award from The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association which earned him a spot in the 2017 Rhysling Anthology. 

 

The Train People

“Dad?”

“Yes Joey?”

“Who are the train people?”

“Train people? Where’d you hear that name?”

“A big kid was teasing us in the schoolyard today.”

“Nothing to be afraid of, Joey. Years ago, the Garfield Bridge gave way when a train was going over it, and all the cars fell into the lake. They closed the station, which started a legend that a ghost train would pull into the abandoned station at night, and all the passengers that were lost in the collapse would get off and wander around the town.”

“Yikes!”

‘Oh, it’s not real.”

“Then… who are they?”

G.A. Miller is a new voice in the chorus of horror authors, drawing his ideas from every day, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors, often with horrific consequences. His work has been published in numerous anthologies from a variety of publishers, and he’s just released his first novella, “Spirit of the Dead”, now available at Amazon.

https://talesfrommiller.com/
http://gamillerdotblog.wordpress.com/
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100015787309417
https://twitter.com/GAMiller666

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About Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis is a member of the HWA and writes dark speculative prose and poetry which has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her novella, Bottled, will be published by Silver Shamrock Publishing early 2020 and her ebook novelette, Asylum of Shadows from Demain Publishing is due to come out in print before the end of the year. Her poetry can also be sampled in the Horror Writer Association’s upcoming Poetry Showcase Volume 6. She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org/ and on twitter @el_Stevie.

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