Trembling With Fear 3/12/2023
Hello, children of the dark. I sit here, at my desk, as some late London snow falls outside. As I write this, it is International Women’s Day, which falls during Women in Horror Month. And I, an international woman in horror, am still darn sick. There is a mega-cold doing the rounds on this side of the pond, and it is a horrid thing.
Still, today and this month we celebrate those who identify as women, both in our dark genre and further afield. This is also the time of year when we see those who don’t identify as women lamenting the spotlight being put here. And, to an extent, I agree – every month, every week, every day should be a celebration of women. And of our non-binary friends. And our trans friends. And our friends of colour. And basically anyone who experiences or feels marginalised out there in the world. Those who have historically been overlooked, whose time is Now.
To those people, I want to reiterate that these pages are a safe space for all, and I really truly would love to see you submit work through Horror Tree. Don’t be shy. Don’t second-guess yourself. Don’t think it’s not for the likes of you. Because it is for the likes of you.
And it’s also for the likes of those on this week’s menu. For our Trembling main course, Evelyn Michaels explores an impossible romance. This is followed by three delicious quick bites:
- Cassandra Daucus goes down to the basement,
- Alyson Faye channels an artist, and
- Ron Capshaw swipes right on the wrong profile.
And don’t forget, we have an insatiable hunger for drabbles – though a reminder that we are unfortunately still closed to short stories. It might sound like I’m a broken record, but we’ve had a few hitting the inbox recently. Yes, it’s been a long, long time and we still have many stories waiting to be published. We’re working on it, we promise. In the meantime, maybe one of the many open calls we list on this here site will prove a good home for your latest short story?
Over to you, Stuart.
I didn’t mention it last week as it felt like a passing thing; however, like Lauren, I’ve also been sick! Going on for about nine days now. It, thankfully, isn’t the big C. It also isn’t too debilitating though my brain does feel like my thoughts have been swimming through Jello, and I haven’t been able to get any real writing in.
I do have a MINOR update on the website update. We’re supposed to see the next iteration on Monday, the 13th. Fingers crossed!
I will have some news on one of our side projects coming REAL soon. Holley Cornetto, our newsletter guru, and I have been cooking up something special for you that we’ll be able to feature in the next two weeks. I was hoping to have launched it in January, as we’re already a few months into the year. However, it should still be exciting for some of the authors and publishers we’ve worked with!
Speaking of progress, early conversations have been happening for formatting for the next round of Trembling With Fear physical releases, and cover art has been selected. Not much to say here, but it is in the works!
We’ve recently launched some of our articles on Medium, and if you spend some time on the site, please give us a follow! We’re looking to reach 100 followers there. We’re already over half way to our goal!
As always, I hope you had a great weekend.
My Girlfriend Meant Literally, by Evelyn Michaels
I had been dating Mary for about two months when she told me about the marble.
We had already exchanged the l-word. At least, she had – she said she loved me, that she wanted to be with me forever, that she wanted nothing more than to spend every night of her life with me, in my arms.
I couldn’t say it back to her. Because obviously, how could I? She had never actually spent a whole night with me. How could I say I love you to a woman who desperately rushed out of the door after a few hours with me?
Oh we slept together – there was no problem in that department. The most amazing sex of our lives, we murmured to each other, our limbs and hair intertwined.
Then, as we would get drowsy and heavy, she’d jerk up, frantic, her jade-green eyes wide open in terror, start pulling on her clothes.
“Mary, come back,” I’d beg, “Sweetheart where are you going? Stay with me!”
She’d kiss me “no – I can’t. I have to go home. I can’t sleep over – I told you so”
“But why? You said you don’t have kids, or husband?” I couldn’t help the note of suspicion in my voice.
“I swear I don’t,” she would kiss me deeply. “I just can’t sleep over. It’s nothing bad, I swear. I have to go.” And she’d leave.
I believed her. And eventually, after she told me she loved me, she swore me to secrecy and told me the real reason why she wouldn’t stay.
Sitting close to me, snuggling up, she said: “Farid, please believe me. I turn into marble when I fall asleep.”
I smiled kindly. “Ok, Mary, whatever.”
“No, I’m serious. I turn to actual stone when I sleep. It started happening after an old boyfriend of mine” – she paused for a moment and swallowed hard – “tried to assault me while I was asleep.”
I fought down the shocking rage which flamed inside me. I drew her closer to me, kissed her and asked, “what do you mean my love?”
Tears spilled out of her eyes. “I don’t know why. I’ve researched – I’ve never dared tell anyone. At first it was cool. Then – that’s how I knew, I started dating again and it happened the first night I slept over with the new boyfriend, Barry. I was wakened by his screaming. He was screaming staring at me. I had turned into a marble statue when asleep – and as I wake up, I turn back to normal human flesh.”
I shook my head. I didn’t understand what she was talking about, but I realised it was some sort of trial of our love. I didn’t need to understand. I kissed her trembling lips. “Listen, Mary, I don’t care about that, ok? You could turn into a frog when you fall asleep and I would still love you.”
Her eyes lit up. “Oh, Farid!” she sighed. “You’ve never told me you love me before.”
I kissed her again. “I haven’t? How remiss of me. I’m telling you now. I love you, Mary.”
She started crying – I thought it was from joy, but thinking back to that night, I realise it was from relief.
“You – you don’t understand,” she sobbed, “how te-terrified I was of losing you. I love you so much. And the sleeping thing – I’ve never slept over with a man since Barry. He killed himself. He couldn’t handle seeing me turn into marble. It –it wasn’t my fault – he already had issues…”
I stroked her jet-black hair. “Shh- shhh, you don’t have to talk about it.”
But she continued sobbing and talking. “No, no, I ruined all my relationships because I couldn’t sleep over with anyone. They all said they didn’t mind at first, then they grew suspicious like you just did, thought I must be cheating on someone. And then I heard you sounding the same. I couldn’t bear it. So I’m telling you, it’s just because I turn into marble when I fall asleep. I’ve filmed myself; it starts from my legs and then the marble comes all the way up, and then when I wake up it’s reversed, from the top of my head going down, I turn back into human…”
I wanted her to stop talking about the marble and Barry and the other men she’d slept with before me. I held her closely, kissed her face which was wet with tears. “Please, Mary, please, it’s ok. I believe you. I didn’t mean to sound suspicious, I’m sorry. Stay over with me tonight, please. I don’t care about the marble.”
Her sobs gradually faded and she clung to me. Soon enough, our embrace changed from solace and comfort to passion. Our time together was the most joyful we had ever had. The burden of confession off Mary’s shoulders, she abandoned herself to pleasure like I have never seen in a woman, and probably never will again.
It was around midnight, I think, that we fell asleep, entangled in each other.
I jerked awake only a short while after, conscious of a heavy coldness pressing against my skin, my neck. Something stone-cold was against me, digging into my flesh. My right arm and leg seemed to be caged in something cold. I reached out with my free arm and switched on the bedside light, confused and groggy.
And then, in the harsh electric light, I saw a statue of a woman lying next to me, in white marble veined with jade-green and jet-black, her stone arms and legs interlaced with mine.
I gave a cry of terror, frantically trying to free my captive arm and leg. At the sound, the marble seemed to shiver, and flush of human colour started from the top of her head. I was trying to prise myself free, and just as I succeeded in pulling away and pushing her off, her eyes opened. I pushed her off the bed as I jumped backwards, she fell to the ground and I heard her cry out and a loud shattering sound.
“Mary?” I quavered, and slowly I went around to her side.
There she was, lying in two marble pieces broken on the ground. Only her head was of human flesh, her black hair spread back, her jade-green eyes wide open staring at me in agony, her lips open in her last cry.
Evelyn Michaels is the pseudonym of a horror story writer who wishes to keep their identity private.
A Flash in the Dark
I walk past the basement door and hear a cry.
“Ben, what are you doing down there?”
“I am looking for glue.”
“In the dark?” That’s odd.
“There is light here.” A flash sweeps the bottom stair. “Help.”
“Okay. But then you have to finish your homework.”
I pad down the stairs.
The thing has me before I can scream.
It wraps me up, lays me next to Ben.
The hours pass slowly.
My husband is home. His footsteps thump across the floorboards; it flashes its lure, bright and quick, and calls to him using my voice.
Inspired by H. P. Lovecraft, M. R. James, Shirley Jackson, Robert Aickman, and a ton of fan fiction, Cassandra Daucus writes soft horror and dark romance. She lives outside of Philadelphia with her family and three cats. She tweets at @residualdreamin. Tumblr: https://residualdreams.tumblr.com/
“Colour her red, paint her as dead. Tint those nails blue, for I was so in love with you.” Mickey sang the words whilst he laboured, his clothes blood-rusted, hands slick, as he imprinted thick gory daubs on the waiting nude canvas.
This was his dream, to reinvent the traditional ‘still life’, usually a platter of glistening fruit, or frozen flowers. He longed to give it heart and guts.
This would be the first in a series of masterpieces titled:– Ex-Wife Pieces: Heart and Bone.
He hoped the opening would be well-supported, the critics kind and his lawyer on hand.
Alyson lives in the UK; her fiction has been published widely in print anthologies – DeadCades, Women in Horror Annual 2, Trembling with Fear 1 &2, Coffin Bell Journal 1 and Stories from Stone and in ezines, most often on the Horror Tree site, Siren’s Call and The Casket of Fictional Delights. In May 2019 Night of the Rider, was published by Demain, in their Short Sharp Shocks! E book series and reached the amazon kindle top 10 best seller lists. Her work has been read on podcasts (eg Ladies of Horror), shortlisted in competitions and published in charity anthologies. Future work will appear in anthologies from Things in the Well, Mortal Realm and Twisted Wing Publishers.
She performs at open mics, teaches, edits and hangs out with her dog on the moor in all weathers.
I manipulated the personality quizzes of dating sites. I was self-deprecating rather than grandiose; forgiving rather than vengeful; agnostic rather than anti-Christian.
Suzie, a direct, career-minded health nut, was my match.
We met in the safety of Starbucks. We hit it off and were soon in her apartment.
She squeezed my hand and left momentarily. She returned in the latest Victoria’s Secret. She touched my cheek.
“I’m glad the dating site is thorough. I joked to my girlfriend that they ask you everything but your blood type.”
I said, grinning, “Oh I”m not discriminating about that.”
Growling, I pounced.
Ron Capshaw is a writer based in Florida. His novel The Stage Mother’s Club was released in June by Dark Edge Press.
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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.