Trembling With Fear 17/11/2019
Another week has shot by, made to go all the faster with the commitment that is NaNoWrimo 2019. In number terms it’s going well, almost finished, but whilst I had big plans to do a thoughtful psychological post-apocalyptic tale(!), it seems to have gone into creature/pulp fiction territory, not an area I’ve explored before. I suppose I should expect such things if I don’t plot. I hope everyone else has managed what they intended – unlike me!
When not writing, I’ve also been following the revelations of the goings on at ChiZine; their contractual misdemeanours, the abuse of employees, it’s all come crawling out of the woodwork in big style. I’m shocked that all this has been going on for so long, facilitated perhaps by a culture of silence and of fear. Brian Keene is featuring this issue on his podcast this week and I will certainly be listening at some point. It’ll be interesting to see if there are any other publishers who have behaved in a similar manner. I hope not. Remember the HWA has a Grievance Committee which can help members suffering such issues.
Here’s a bit of TWF writer news: Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology is due to be published on February 18th and features Alyson Faye and Charlotte Platt. Available to pre-order on amazon.
This week’s lead story at Trembling With Fear is Monsters Three by David Berger. This is an absolute delight with its humanistic exchanges between famous monsters of old, those creatures once famous for their roles in early Japanese films and now seeking alternative sources of revenue. Lovely understated humour and a monster story told in an original way.
Breathless by Tiffany Michelle Brown is one of two scarecrow tales this week and scores highly on the ‘creepy’ factor with its rural setting and sense of isolation.
Just a Scarecrow by Radar DeBoard is a very simple story, straightforward but the matter-of-factness really casts a dark shadow over everything.
One Black Sheep Wreaks his Retribution on the Sleeping Flock by Steven Holding reminds me of the sneaking sympathy I have often felt for Judas and the Devil. Their stories had already been defined, cast into the role of bad guy before they’d even come into being. They never had a chance, so, what do you do? This is a story of revenge but builds a touch of sympathy for the black sheep.
Thank you to all, for writing and submitting to TWF.
Another week has come and gone! Things have been busy (as usual) but the backend of the site had sped up and isn’t erroring out nearly as much as it was for about 2 months there. I’m still feeling a bit behind BUT feel that progress is being made on catching up!
While not there yet, we’ll have a few fun announcements soon so stay tuned. In the meantime, my limited free time is being spent on working to update our newsletter and make a few additional changes on the site (small, likely unnoticeable.) Thank you all for your continued support!
Also, for those who don’t subscribe to the newsletter, we’re currently looking for some help for the site if any of the following sounds up your alley!
– A new interview coordinator!
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Monsters Three by David Berger
(Names have been redacted for purposes of confidentiality.)
ANNOUNCER: We bring you the latest news from Tokyo. The highest military authorities of our defense force have informed us that the seamount called [REDACTED]’s Sunken Island has risen once again from the depths of the Sea of Japan. And, oh, this just in, two great monsters, once known as the Flying Monster, and the Thing, have arrived on the island and have dived into the crater of Mount Kaiju. What does this mean?
We take you now to the secret mountain laboratory under Mount Fuji of Professor [REDACTED], famous expert on all monsters. Professor, what can you tell us? Are those three terrible monsters going to attack us? Is there danger? What are the authorities and the Army going to do about this?
PROFESSOR [REDACTED]: No. I don’t think there is any danger at this time. Our super-missiles are ready to defend Tokyo as never before. And our monster biologists assure us that these three monsters are in a quiet period. They are harmless for now. But vigilance is always necessary.
ANNOUNCER: Thank your for those expert assurances, Professor [REDACTED].
Deep in the heart of the rising seamount off the coast of Japan, three of the mightiest monsters of all time have met for an important discussion. The great [REDACTED], host for the occasion, provided a spread the finest monster delicacies that could be found anywhere: sautéed sperm whale; giant squid au gratin and cricket livers. He and his guests, [REDACTED] and [REDACTED], ate and drank enormous amounts, and then they settled down to business.
“So [REDACTED], what’s the occasion?” [REDACTED] roared quietly. “It’s been decades, and we haven’t exactly been in touch since the three of us whacked three-headed [REDACTED]. Nowadays your son is impersonating you and making a bundle off it. Neither Sister [REDACTED] here, nor I, have worked in a while. So what’s on your mind?”
“Yeah, [REDACTED], wassup? [REDACTED] said, breathily. “Somehow a monsters’ soiree doesn’t seem to be your speed.”
“You’re right guys,” [REDACTED] said, his huge back plates glowing slightly. “Tokyo’s been rebuilt, and their missile defenses have got AI, so that’s probably out. And, by the way, that’s my grandson, not my son, in New York doing his thing.”
“Since we’re talking family, whatever, how’s your boy?” [REDACTED] hissed, her wings quivering slightly. “He could puff that radioactive fire, even when he was an eft. Remember how you had to step on his tail to get him going?”
[REDACTED] blasted softly. “You didn’t hear?”
“No,” [REDACTED] susurrated. “Something happen?”
“After the fight with [REDACTED] and the [REDACTED], [REDACTED] was hurt badly. He never grew to full size, and he was never quite right in the head. Later on, he got mixed up in that Jurassic Park thing. He talked himself into a job doing special effects. Then, in one of the scenes, he burned himself very badly. He hadn’t been well; otherwise, he wouldn’t’ve gotten hurt. And they actually used his accident in a scene.
“He never regained consciousness. That same year his mother [REDACTED] died. She couldn’t bear losing him. We’d been separated for years, but we got together one last time to plan the funeral.”
“That’s rough, [REDACTED],” [REDACTED], said, her compound eyes turning red.
“I hate to ask this, but did he have insurance?” [REDACTED] boomed out.
“No. He had it, but he let it lapse, and the studio wouldn’t cover what happened – some loophole that he was only a consultant and shouldn’t have been on the set, and there was no negligence. His medical and funeral expenses put a big dent in my nest.”
“That’s rough, [REDACTED],” [REDACTED] growled. “I almost bought it myself last month. I was winging it over the Sea of Japan, peaceful as can be, when a freakin’ DPRK short-range missIle almost did me in. Talk about air pollution!”
“You know it’s not always about you, [REDACTED],” [REDACTED] spit angrily. “But since you bring it up, same by me. Resting in a quiet field in the USA, Oregon, I think. Taking in some sun to dry out my wings, and that freaking Roundup stuff almost rounded me up! Those chemicals are something else!”
“Speaking of pollution, I don’t even want to talk about the Pacific,” [REDACTED] rumbled with only a few sparks from his back. “Last time I brought the seamount up, it almost didn’t make it for the weight of the freaking plastic. Took me a whole day to burn it off.
“Either of you reptiles run into any of the old crowd?” [REDACTED] asked?
“Yeah,” [REDACTED] said.
“I was over the Galapagos about two years ago. I spotted [REDACTED], that freakin’ turtle.”
“I thought she was running a daycare center on Hakkaido,” the King replied.
“She was,” the Great Insect replied. “But they passed a law there saying only humans could run daycare centers. Broke her heart.”
“No good monster goes unpunished,” the Flying Monster rumbled.
“Changing the subject, why are we here, Old Glow?” [REDACTED] sort of hummed.
“Listen my airborne friends, our time is over. We got to pack it in. There’s younger, nastier monsters out there. Look at those bastards who came out of the Pacific Rim. Brutal mothers. I don’t mess with metal.”
“What about Mecha? You messed with him.”
“That was my cousin in a tin suit. Can’t act worth shit, but kids seemed to like him. He’s retired now. Got bad arthritis from wearing that thing. But let me go on.”
“Yeah, our time is really is over,” [REDACTED] hissed. “So what’s your proposition? I know you’ve got something up your sleeve, even though you don’t wear sleeves.”
“I do have something to offer. But you’ve got to keep it under your hats.”
“We don’t wear hats,” [REDACTED] grumbled.
“Okay. Let me burn it up for you. There’s a new theme park opening, called MonsterLand! And I’ve been approached by somebody we all know for us to be a part of it.”
“You’re kidding. Us! A freaking theme park!” [REDACTED] howled, shaking the chamber.
“You’re crazy,” [REDACTED] hissed.
“Wait a minute,” their reptilian host said, small flames coming out of his nostrils. “Don’t jump to conclusions.”
“Something called MonsterLand is a conclusion!” [REDACTED] roared, curling his leathery wings.
“Can I tell you what’s involved before you wreck my place or wrap it in silk?” [REDACTED] said quietly, the flames in his nose receding slightly.
[REDACTED] and [REDACTED] didn’t reply.
“Okay, it goes like this. It’s being built in Baha. We all show up for the grand opening in about a year. Then each of us becomes the resident monster for three months. What they … .”
“Last time I studied calculus, twelve divided by three was four. Who’s the fourth?” [REDACTED] rattled.
“Uh-oh,” [REDACTED] hissed. “I think I smell a big, hairy … .”
“Yeah, [REDACTED]’s involved. I admit it.”
“[REDACTED]!” the guests yelled out together. The whole mountain shook.
“That ho! He’s got movies; he’s got a Broadway show; he’s got a chunk of Universal Studios; and now he wants a theme park!” [REDACTED] hissed opening her spinnarets.
“That miserable, mammalian mother … .” [REDACTED] said, spreading his wings.
“Calm down, guys,” [REDACTED] said.
“You calm down,” [REDACTED] cried. “I bound you up in my silk once before, and I’ll do it again.”
“That was your larvae did that, not you. You’re getting senile.”
“Where do you think they get their spinning talent? Don’t get me madder than I am, [REDACTED].”
“I’m this close to blowing the walls of this place out, [REDACTED]. So talk quick,” [REDACTED] blasted out.
“Listen, guys. This certainly was [REDACTED]’s idea.”
“The park or employing us?” [REDACTED] asked
“Us. The park is being built by the [REDACTED] outfit.”
“Figures,” [REDACTED] said. “I guess they’re bored with princesses.”
“We could end up being very grateful to him. Each of us does a three month’s stint. I’m telling you the money’s good. Really good.”
“How much?” [REDACTED] asked.
“A million a month.”
“Yen or yuan?” [REDACTED] chortled, waving her antennae.
“Dollars. Nice, big, fat, green US dollars.”
“And … ?” [REDACTED] growled.
“Less [REDACTED]’s twelve percent.”
“He’s such a ho!” [REDACTED] hissed.
“Always was,” [REDACTED] roared.
“And always will be,” [REDACTED] thundered, his back plates at full brilliance. “Are you guys in?”
“In,” roared the Flying Monster.
“In,” hissed the Thing.
“Cool,” [REDACTED] roared out, blasting his atomic flame.
“That ape’s still a ho,” the Thing hissed quietly.
“Yeah,” the Flying Monster whispered.
David Berger is an old guy from Brooklyn, now living in Manhattan with his wife of 25 years: the best jazz singer in NYC. He is a father and grandfather. He has been, among other things, a case worker, construction worker, letter carrier, high school and ESL teacher, a legal proofreader and a union organizer. Loves life, his wife and the world. Hopes to help the latter escape destruction.
David has been published by Verso with his graphic history of American bohemia: ‘Bohemians’, co-written by Paul Buhle and by DRABBLE for his works ‘Invisible Dude’and ‘Statuary’. His story, Ghoul Days, features in The Sirens Call ezine, Issue 45.
A juvenile prank. Nothing more.
Clarissa peered at the motley assemblage of rags, hay, and wood that mysteriously appeared in her yard. A raven dipped and perched on the thing’s dilapidated shoulder.
“It isn’t even functional,” Clarissa muttered. “Just creepy as hell.”
Should she call the police? Make a big show of taking down the scarecrow piece by piece to demonstrate her resilience?
As she considered her options, movement in the front yard drew Clarissa’s gaze. The raven was still as pond water, but the scarecrow’s arms were flapping furiously.
Outside, there wasn’t so much as a breath of wind.
Tiffany Michelle Brown is a native of Phoenix, Arizona, who ran away from the desert to live near sunny San Diego beaches. Her work has been published by Camden Park Press, The Sirens Call, Gympsum Sound Tales, and Dark Alley Press. When she isn’t writing, Tiffany can be found on a yoga mat, sipping whisky, or reading a comic book—sometimes all at once. Follow her adventures at tiffanymichellebrown.wordpress.com.
Just a Scarecrow
Tommy and Joseph made their way through old Mr. Barrelton’s cornfield. It was the fastest way for them to get home. The tall cornstalks made it easier to hide, and harder to be spotted.
The boys knew that if Mr. Barrelton caught them they would be in a world of trouble. The two moved past the old and worn scarecrow that was placed in the middle of the field.
It looked down at the boys as nothing more than intruders. It slowly, and with much effort lowered itself from the post. It wasn’t there just to scare away the crows.
Radar DeBoard is an aspiring writer who just wants others to find enjoyment in his work. Even though he lacks publication and experience, he hopes his work will have an impact. He has a passion for horror and finds it the most interesting genre to write.
One Black Sheep Wreaks His Retribution Upon The Sleeping Flock
They sold me the promise of eternal life, but like all miracles, it came at a price. Who’d do that to a child? Delivering false hope, expecting them to embrace such an abominable lie? Filling an innocent with more than just thoughts, then blaming them for the sin.
But if it is the Devil that is truly beneath my skin, so be it. Let them feel his caress through me.
So, I dosed the wine with LSD. Locked the church doors from the outside.
May they finally find their heaven upon Earth.
Before one flickering match brings forth the inferno.
Steven Holding lives with his family in Northamptonshire in the UK. He currently has stories featured in Trembling With Fear Volume Two, Splash of Ink and the anthologies Monsters and Beyond published by Black Hare Press. He is working upon further short fiction and a novel. You can follow his work at www.stevenholding.co.uk
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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 and Reborn, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused. Her novel, The Woodcutter, is due for release via Brigids Gate Press in 2023. 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 is an active member of the HWA and can be found at https://stephanieellis.org, on Twitter at @el_stevie, Instagram stephanieellis7963 and also somewhere on Facebook.