Trembling With Fear 01/19/2020
Welcome back to Trembling With Fear, January certainly seems to be whizzing by. Thanks to keen-eyed readers for letting me know Richard Meldrum had managed to unofficially sneak into TWF last week instead of Alyson Faye’s story. Apologies to Alyson.
I hope your writing year is going well, I’ve only just found the time and energy to start a new short story which is tough when I’m supposed to be writing a story a month for my writing group. How do you motivate yourself in these dark winter months?
It’s good to see others have no such issue with writing and are continuing to send us their stories. TWF wouldn’t be here if you didn’t!
The first story this week in Trembling With Fear is a Rain-Faded Photograph by DJ Tyrer. The opening paragraph is a good example of showing and not telling, capturing the mood and atmosphere perfectly. Even before you get to the explicit statement about taking a life, you already know this is what’s happened. This well-crafted story continues in the same vein, painting feelings, pulling you inexorably along to the end.
My Place in the Family by Will H. Blackwell, Jr. is a neat little exercise in twisting perceptions and thereby creating horror.
Dark Space by Edmund Stone is the stuff of nightmares and plays on common fear.
Something Good to Eat by Clint Foster is a straightforward trick-or-treat tale with a nice twist at the end. In this particular version, there is a heavy emphasis on trust given to a person due to their appearance.
Valentine’s Special Call for Submissions
Ahh, Valentine’s Day…a celebration of undying love and romance, a time to do something special for the one you love. But it’s not all hearts and flowers, is it? For the upcoming Valentine’s Special, we’re looking for stories that crawl upon the underbelly of romance…obsession, crimes of passion, and love that continues perhaps long after it should. Relationships that have run their course. Evil deeds done in the name of love. Love letters to the damned.
Need to get rid of the foul taste of bad romance? Pick up your poison pen and write about it. Send us your short stories, drabbles, and Unholy Trinities that reflect upon the dark side of love.
Stories can be sent directly to Catherine at [email protected]
I’m hitting the final 2 weeks of a major project launch at my day job. After that, I honestly feel I’ll be able to breathe a bit again!
In the meantime, I just wanted to remind you that WIHM is next month! We’re still looking for women who work in the realm of horror publishing (authors / reviewers / bloggers / editors / publishers) who would like to contribute guest posts to the site. If this is something which would interest you, please do reach out on our contact page or at [email protected]
A Rain-Faded Photograph by DJ Tyrer
He felt awful. He felt as if there were something crawling about in his guts, gnawing at him from within. Guilt.
John glanced at his speed, keeping it low. He’d been driving this route to and from work for years, knew it by heart. Maybe that was the problem. He’d grown careless, like disrespecting a lover whose presence has grown too familiar. This was his first day back along this road in a month. He’d been taking taxis, but the toll on his wallet was growing too high and the counsellor had said he needed to confront his fear.
“Get back on the horse.” As if you could compare what had happened with taking a tumble!
“I never should have listened,” he told the empty car, but he knew he hadn’t had much choice.
Then, he was turning the corner and he felt a surge of panic. His foot pushed down on the brake pedal and the car slowed to a crawl. The twin beams of the headlights caressed their way across the tarmac and along the grassy verge until he saw it: A pile of bouquets and wreaths.
This was where it had happened.
He steered onto the roadside a little way past the mound of flowers and engaged the handbrake.
He sat breathing deeply for a while, trying to regain a little composure.
John considered phoning work to tell them he’d be late.
He released his seatbelt, then opened the door and slowly levered himself out.
The morning air was chill and damp. The road in front of him sparkled under the lights of his car. Behind, the hazard lights sent odd shadows flickering across the scene. There was just enough light to make out where the memorial lay.
Slowly, he walked towards it. He should’ve brought something. Or, would that have been construed as offensive? He had no idea how you were supposed to act when you took a life. Careless driving, they’d called it. His lawyer had argued it down to some points on his license and a fine. But, fancy words couldn’t heal the ache he felt.
The woman had been little more than a blur when he’d skidded round the corner and a lifeless sack of flesh when he’d stared back at her while a passerby screamed into their phone for an ambulance. Then, he’d read the newspaper report, a tiny article that barely seemed sufficient for the enormity of what had happened, and had realised she was a wife and a mother. He felt sick at the thought.
He approached the makeshift memorial. A bunch of withered flowers was tied to a lamppost with a rain-faded photograph. The lamp was as dead as the woman. Around it, more flowers were gathered. Some had been blown away down the road. He started gathering them and returned them to their proper place. It was a gesture he felt compelled to make, yet was a hollow one.
Nothing he could do could undo what he’d done. He growled at his impotence, the injustice of it all.
There was no point. Ifs were useless.
He turned away and started to walk back towards his car, but the soft sound of a rustle behind him made him halt.
There was no breeze.
John turned. He couldn’t see anyone in the darkness. He’d half-expected to see someone there on the verge, brushing against the bushes that framed it; had dreaded it, in case it were a friend or relative come to lay another wreath, someone who might recognise him. But, there was no-one there. Nor was there the spooky glow of a cat’s or fox’s eyes. There was nothing that might have made the sound in sight.
And, there was no breeze.
He almost turned away, only he heard the sound again. It had come from the piled-up flowers. He looked at them; he could see they were moving, shifting. He shivered.
There was no breeze.
As he watched, the wreaths and bouquets seemed to fall upwards from the bottom of the pile to the top. The pile was growing taller and slimmer and, he realised, seemed to be taking on a shape reminiscent of a person.
John couldn’t believe what he was seeing and wanted to turn away, run back to his car. But, a horrified fascination compelled him to keep watching until the figure of a woman composed of flowers stood before him. There was a head, but no features he could discern, save those of a rain-faded photograph that perched somehow at the centre of where a face should have been.
The figure took a step towards him, faltering and horribly loose.
John gave a scream and turned to run.
Headlights flashed around the corner and seemed to transfix him with their beams.
Hands that were gentle and soft, yet had a grip like steel, seized him by the elbows and thrust him forward, out into the road.
A car veered towards him. Light blinded him.
In that second, John realised that, while there was nothing he could do to change things, there was, perhaps a sacrifice that might balance the books.
He felt himself flying.
DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree), All The Petty Myths (18th Wall), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), What Dwells Below (Sirens Call), The Mad Visions of al-Hazred (Alban Lake), and EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness (Otter Libris), and issues of Sirens Call, Hinnom Magazine, Ravenwood Quarterly, and Weirdbook, and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor).
DJ Tyrer‘s website is at https://djtyrer.blogspot.co.
The Atlantean Publishing website is at https://atlanteanpublishing.
My Place in the Family
My parents said, near my grandparents’ farmhouse, there was a well with water close to the top—that this well was special, because it had a ‘being’ in it, at a seemingly impossible depth. Because of the water’s preserving purity, they said, this ‘being’ could eventually be seen.
I looked, year after year, but saw only my own, deceptive reflection—nothing beyond that.
After many years of peering over the well’s stone-rim, I finally saw this ‘being,’ at the very bottom of the well. I realized, then, that what I had seen all along was me, down there, looking up.
Will H. Blackwell, Jr.
Will H. Blackwell, Jr. is an emeritus professor (botany), Miami University, Ohio, presently living in Alabama (USA), where he continues research on microscopic, parasitic, freshwater fungi. His fiction has been published in: Brilliant Flash Fiction, Disturbed Digest, FrostFire Worlds, Outposts of Beyond and 365 Tomorrows. His poems have appeared in Aphelion, Black Petals, Illumen, Scifaikuest and Star*Line.
I wake to a suffocating weight on my chest and darkness all around. I can’t breathe! Cursed consumption has taken my health. But I feel better now. I’ve been in a deep sleep but the fog has lifted and I’m awake. I reach forward into the night and my hand hits something solid. I retract, then lightly run my fingers over it, feeling the texture of wood. Where am I? I make my hand into fists and pound into the small space in front of me. No, it can’t be. I know where I am. “I’m not dead!” I scream.
Edmund Stone is a writer, poet, and artist who spins tales of strange worlds and horrifying encounters with the unknown. He lives in a quaint town on the Ohio River with his wife, a son, four dogs and two mischievous cats. You can contact him at edmundstoneauthor.com, Twitter @edmundstonehwr, or on [email protected]
Something Good to Eat
I always have the pleasure of opening the door for kids on Halloween.
“Trick or treat!” Their screams are music to my ears as I welcome them in finishing the fresh meat-pie in my hand, offering a warm, grandfatherly grin.
“Halloween’s my favorite time of year!” They believe me because of all the decorations, and though sometimes they balk at coming so far into a stranger’s home, they never turn back. They follow my outstretched hand, “I have candy inside, there by the basement.”
Soon enough they’re all inside. The heavy door latches and bolts.
Looks like I tricked them.
Scotty lay down at the banks of the shore.
The mask before him.
When had he been able to last remove it?
Days? Weeks? Months?
Memories blended together.
Blood splattered the mask.
He could still smell it.
Scotty’s stomach emptied.
He refused to acknowledge what he threw up.
What, or who, the mask had made him eat.
Blood permeated the air.
Scotty looked back.
The husks of three corpses lay there.
Drained, half eaten, rotting.
He backed away.
Hands touching the mask.
He wanted to forget it all.
Scotty just had to put it back on.
Stuart Conover, your local Horror Tree editor has included another installment in his ongoing Stairway To The Abyss series. This one circles back to a character who originally appeared in the short story “A Heartbeat in the Darkness’ which is a story co-written with Kerry Lipp and released in 2015 in the anthology ‘State Of Horror: North Carolina’.
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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 work includes the novel, The Five Turns of the Wheel and the gothic novella, Bottled, both via Silver Shamrock Publishing.She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org/ and on twitter @el_Stevie.