Trembling With Fear 2/19/2023
Hello, children of the dark. As you read this, I’ll be on my way home from the much-talked-about UK Ghost Story Festival. A proper debrief shall be forthcoming, but let’s assume I’ve had a fabulous time, met some wonderful spooky writers, and am on top of the world. Manifest that sh*t.
Truth be told, I’m ever so slightly bricking it. I’m running two workshops over the weekend, as well as interviewing two incredible writers in Emma Stonex and C.J. Cooke. This is not like the last time I went to this festival; that time, I was purely a spectator, soaking it up. It was actually my first outing post-lockdowns, and everything felt like an adventure. This time? This time, I have to be a Proper Professional and sound like I know what I’m talking about.
Wish me luck!
For now let’s turn to this week’s menu. For our Trembling main course, Oliver Baer stumbles across a very strange house. This is followed by three delicious quick bites:
- Kellee Kranendonk takes a bloody trip to the funhouse,
- Warren Benedetto makes good on marriage vows, and
- David Berger keeps to the zombie accord.
Over to you, Stuart.
I know we’ve been talking about setting up the new hosting and layout since December now… However, I have solid progress to report on! While the physical site itself isn’t there yet, we’ve taken a recent backup (which is, rather large after being live for over 11 years) and have it now living on the new server. By the time you read this, I should have also been able to review the first draft of the new layout. At the very least, the speed on the back end. Wow. Night and day, folks. It truly is going to make those of us who work on the site super happy being able to make updates that don’t require nearly as long to format a post as we’ve been struggling through for the past year and a half.
I love that I get to tell you that we’re FINALLY seeing some progress here!
For those looking to support the site, we’re always open Ko-Fi donations and always have our Patreon going.
As always, I hope you had a great weekend.
The Laughing House, by Oliver Baer
There are buildings that have personalities. I’m not talking about the people in them or the interesting architecture which when looked at in a certain light evokes feelings – I’m talking about buildings that literally breathe, move and sometimes even talk. I encountered one such place on one of my late-night rambles.
These midnight strolls cleared my head and helped me gather the facts of the day. I was feeling good, I was close to an arrest on the drug case I’d been working on for months. Enjoying the summer weather, I decided to take a walk through a part of the city I had never truly explored. It was a balmy night, one of those nights that feel like late spring rather than summer. I weaved my way up the avenue.
After about 10 blocks, I crossed the street. I felt an icy chill pass me. Strange considering the evening’s weather, I thought. Even stranger still, what heat the evening had intensified in waves. Now my chill turned to sweats as goosebumps dripped beads. The heat waves started forming vague shapes which lashed out at me. I tried running away but they were always in front of me, pushing at me, cornering me, until I shut my eyes and froze right where I was. I reasoned – not unlike most children, for that is what these phantoms had reduced me to – that if I shut my eyes they would go away. How I wish that were true!
I stood there feeling their cold clamminess press into and around me. A slick patina of sweat mixed with whatever ooze was coming from the heat specters as they pushed, pulled and lifted me in every direction imaginable. I dared not open my eyes to see where I was going. Minutes later, it stopped. As I opened my eyes, I saw that they had shoved and carried me halfway down the block to a building, a ramshackle structure that was imposing in its state of decay squeezed in between two tenement buildings. Its various windows were either broken or boarded up. The windows closest to either side of the building had frames with sagging tops, lidded eyes watching the street below. The roof seemed oddly angled as if it were trying to slide off onto the building next to it. The lower half of its steel door made up of burnt glass blocks, a row of rotten teeth in the edifice’s mouth. A foul wind came from the door, knocking me down. The steps I was on – for you had to walk down to get to the door – fell out from under me. I slid towards the door covering my face and screaming, for I was sure I would go through the glass. Imagine my shock and further terror when not only did the door open by itself but the walls and floor started rippling forwards; I was now floating down the hall towards another door.
I’m not sure what happened next for it seems too horrible for even Hell itself. As I neared the door at the end of the hallway, the floor wave jerked me up and as I reached its crest the wall reached out to smack me through it. There was a horrid gulping sound, my head snapped, my nerves sang and I saw the stars align in the blackness of space. A rectangle of hazy red light grew until it blotted out the stars. My ears rang with the sound of slams.
I found myself in a room. I assume it was the one behind the door the ripples had been pushing me towards. There were figures in this room, but some of them weren’t all there and some were there too much. Some of them had parts cut off, others had too many parts, and still others were taking spare parts – unlike anything we know as human – and sticking them onto other figures. It was less of a sticking and more of a stabbing despite the gelatinous substance being mixed with the blood welling up around the part being affixed to the poor soul’s body. Others were having parts amputated and then put in a separate pile from the inhuman parts. Their distorted cries were met with an attempt at speech from one tormented soul to another.
I struggled to leave, to get away from this infernal body part swap I was thrust into. My legs held fast to the floor. I leaned down, hands clasped around one leg and pulled. There was a ripping sound, a feeling of tearing flesh and one leg was freed. A quick check seemed to indicate it was still attached, but when it reached out to step, it was so wobbly I nearly fell on my face. As I righted myself, the misshapen figures took the opportunity to surround me, sticking out attached parts in infernal greeting. A glass was shoved into my hand. It held a dark viscous liquid that gleamed with a light that came from I knew not where. A hand that was not a hand but a multitude of tendrils pressed the glass to my mouth. As the tendrils neared my face, I tried to move my head and body away from its mass to no avail. I tried to scream as I noticed the eyes and mouths on the end of alternating stalks. The sound was reduced to gurgles as the liquid from the glass passed my lips. A metallic tang mixed with saltiness coated my tongue. I heard the stalk mouths whispering, “The parts are infused now. We can begin.”
The walls of the room undulated and I heard a chittering sound coming from inside them – was the house laughing at me? Its glee ricocheted around me in a staccato rhythm. Flashes of light danced to the beat of laughter. The strobe and sound increased to such intensity my nerves were an opera. My brain numbed itself to the onslaught. A darkness overtook me. A skyscape of eyes peered sightlessly down at me, the limbs that protruded from some of their lids flopping up and down as they blinked in time. Mouths resounding with hysteria formed a warped quadrilateral that moved towards me. Then I was back on the street with the summer sun shining on my face. I got up and went on my way. An image of myself with multiple spines floats through the mist that is now my mind. Did I take part in the fiendish activities of the night before? Is that what happened when I lost consciousness? I seem to have only one spine now so perhaps that was just a residual from the drink they thrust upon me. It probably had a hallucinatory effect and I’m still reeling from it. The brightness of the day burned the path back home for my hazy mind.
The next day, the jangling of the phone matched my nerves. Not the start I wanted or needed. It was the precinct; I was called to a sight that gave me pause. A pause that sends chills up one’s spine.
There was a report of a disturbance at the corner of the street I was on last night. I approached the site; there was a large explosion followed by an unearthly scream and a loud thump as something flew by me. It was a head; its eyes wide and mouth agape in recognition. I cursed and rubbed my eyes. This can’t be.
Upon arriving at the scene, I saw only rubble and pieces of what I thought were twisted metal instead of the house. I tried to question people in the area as to the source of the explosion, but no one was seen going into the structure or coming out. I started to pick my way through the rubble; I saw then that what I thought were pieces of twisted metal were not metal at all. They were pieces of human beings shaped into supporting structures and strengthened in much the same way as carbonized steel. One beam had branches coming off it. Upon closer inspection, these branches were made from spines. At one point, there was a shift in the rubble near me and a shadow stretched forth towards me. As it touched me, I felt a clamminess and a fell whispering in my mind. I jerked myself away, stumbled over the rubble and raced back towards the avenue in terror.
I cannot tell you what horrors it related to me in that moment. But I swear it is still around looking for a way to make itself whole. Looking for something that will complete it. Looking for a place that it can hole up until it can enact its terrible revenge. I can tell you that it laughed at me just like the house did last night. So be careful where you walk at night and take note of the houses on the street. They may hunger for more than your company.
Oliver Baer was the editor for Cthulhu Sex Magazine and Two Backed Books. He mostly writes dark poetry and horror stories with the occasional blog post, review, essay and play. His story, “Insubstantial” is in the just-released anthology, Even In The Grave. He has two books out, Letters to the Editor of Cthulhu Sex Magazine and Baer Soul. He was the writer for Deena Warner’s Halloween Card project in 2021. He also has a CD of poetry set to music, Gathering Souls by A Conclave of Baer, which became a show in NYC. He has appeared as an indescribable horror from the depths and his likeness has appeared on tv and film. He can be found in the virtuality on social media: @obaer on Twitter and at www.facebook.com/obaer3, on Amazon at Amazon.com: Oliver Baer: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle and much of his work can be found at tentacularity.wordpress.com
My brother grabs my hand as we walk into the darkness. A flash of light reveals a bloody face, skin torn, eye hanging from a socket. I scream. My brother’s fingers grip tighter. Maniacal laughter peals out. I move on. Nothing here is real.
A clown with a bloody knife jumps out. I scream again, backing away, falling to the floor. Where has my brother gone? When had he even let go of me? I scramble backwards. “Vince!” I scream, adrenalin buzzing in my body.
The fake clown hangs from its strings. The blood dripping from its knife is real.
Kellee Kranendonk has spent a lifetime writing. According to her late grandfather she was born with a pen in one hand and paper in the other. She’s certain that these days he would have claimed she was born clutching a laptop.
She’s had over a hundred published stories, poems and non-fiction pieces. Her work has received an honourable mention, she’s been a spotlight author and some of her pieces were to appear in a school book project, though that didn’t pan out. Kellee has been an editor, and has managed online writing groups. She lives in New Brunswick, Canada with her family and a variety of animals.
I like to tell myself I never knew what my husband was doing in the basement.
I like to pretend I never found the padlocked door, never heard the cries from behind it, never saw the fingers reaching from underneath.
I like to imagine he had a reasonable explanation. Instead, he told me the truth.
Now, as he prepares the implements for his next trip down the stairs, I approach him from behind and lift the knife. I’ll do what I have to. What I vowed.
Ever the supportive wife, I hand him the freshly sharpened blade.
“Use this one.”
Warren Benedetto writes dark fiction about horrible people, horrible places, and horrible things. He is an award-winning author and a full member of the SFWA. His stories have appeared in publications such as Dark Matter Magazine, The Dread Machine, and Haven Spec; on podcasts such as The NoSleep Podcast, Tales to Terrify, and The Creepy Podcast; and in anthologies from Apex Magazine, Scare Street, Eerie River Publishing, and more. His hobbies include sleeping, hitting snooze, sleeping some more, and naps. For more information, visit www.warrenbenedetto.com and follow @warrenbenedetto on Twitter and Instagram.
The Zombies Are Coming! The Zombies Are Coming!
“They’re coming,” Seth Reynolds said, running into the town square, where maybe a hundred folks were gathered. There had been rumors of Zees in the area. But now it was true.
“I seen a group of them coming down Route 17. Maybe 5 of ’em.
“What do they want from us?” Malvina George asked.
“We know what they want,” George Ziskin, the mayor said. “It was worked out in the Washington Accord. We give them what they want. Then they go. It was agreed.”
“For five, one arm, just one arm, from one adult. Then they leave us alone.”
David Berger is a 78-year-old New Yorker, living in Manhattan with his wife of 29 years: the finest jazz singer in NYC. He’s a father, with two sons and six grandkids. He’s been a caseworker, construction worker, letter carrier, teacher, proofreader and currently a union organizer and a writer. David loves life, his wife and the world. He hopes to help us all escape destruction.
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Lauren is a writer with various hats – journalist, copywriter, content marketer, fiction – and considers herself a storyteller at heart. She writes gothic and folk horror and is currently working on a novel set in the world of the Victorian occult. It’s the supernatural and the occult that really give her goosebumps, and a good ghost story or vampire tale with a rising sense of dread will always pique her interest (and yes, Midnight Mass hit many of her buttons). She also has a developing fascination with folklore, the old ways and our fast-changing relationship with the natural world; this sneaks into her writing, too.
In The Real World, Lauren has more than 20 years’ experience as a professional content creator. She’s established and led global content teams and editorial strategies, including setting up content newsrooms for some of the world’s biggest brands. She was a music editor for a daily newspaper in her native Australia (a good gig and the beach remain her happy places), though she’s been London-based for 16 years and works as an editor, proofreader, marketer, and writing coach. She’s also a mental health advocate; her Substack, How to Be Self(ish), tracked her year of sabbatical and self-care, and she continues to write it irregularly as a mental health companion.
You’ll find Lauren haunting south London, where she lives with her Doctor Who-obsessed husband and their aged black house rabbit. You’ll also likely find her hosting Writers Hour sessions for the London Writers Salon a few times a week.