Trembling With Fear 3-26-23
Hello, children of the dark – well, it’s not so dark now, is it? Here in the northern hemisphere we celebrated the Spring (or Vernal) Equinox this week, marking the beginning of longer days as we head into summer. Nature is coming alive, the sun is gaining in strength. It’s a promise of much light to come.
We don’t often associate the darkly speculative with daylight, do we? Midsommar, obviously, was an exception, but I’m curious – what are your favourite horror or dark fantasy stories set mainly in the light? Let me know in the comments below, or tag HorrorTree on your favourite social media platform (there are honestly too many now and you’re all on different ones to tell you to head to the bin fire that is Twitter).
This week’s menu is traditional fare, with plenty of dark corners and dark thoughts. We do start with a breath of fresh air from Kevin M. Folliard as he tracks the life of a romance. This is followed by three delicious quick bites:
- Kellee Kranendonk is hiding under the stairs,
- Catherine Berry tries to forget, and
- Alejandro Gonzales has an unfortunate medical problem.
And finally: please send us more drabbles. Our machine is hungry. They don’t even have to be equinox themed! Delve into those dark minds and unearth 100 words exactly of your deepest fears.
Over to you, Stuart.
I’m still loving our new Trembling With Fear layout, and I hope that you are too!
By the time you’re reading this, the announcement has happened! Thanks to an idea from Holley Cornetto, she and I are taking submissions to a new Horror Tree anthology titled Shadowed Realms: The 2022 Indie Dark Fiction Anthology. In it, we’re looking for the best 1,000-9,000 word dark fiction published in semipro and token-paying markets in 2022! This reprint anthology will be paying 1 cent per word, and we’re very excited to start taking a look at your work!
At the time of writing this post, we’re 14 followers on Medium from 100 and would really love to hit the triple digits; please give us a follow! Once we hit that number, I’ll stop harassing you all for a bit 🙂
As always, I hope you had a great weekend.
Kevin M. Folliard
Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose fiction has been collected by The Horror Tree, The Dread Machine, Demain Publishing, Dark Owl Publishing, and more. His recent publications include his horror anthology The Misery King’s Closet, his YA fantasy adventure novel Grayson North: Frost-Keeper of the Windy City, and his 2022 dinosaur adventure novel Carnivore Keepers. Kevin currently resides in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL, where he enjoys his day job in academia and membership in the La Grange Writers Group. You can learn more about his writing at KevinFolliard.com
Aiden’s Confession, by Kevin M. Folliard
Aiden swept me into his charming whirlwind. My friends and family had never seen me happier. He had a story, a joke, for every occasion.
We met on Main Street in downtown Maplewood, Kansas. Aiden had glided by on his bicycle and shouted how pretty my hair looked. I shrieked, stumbled and grabbed a nearby telephone pole for support.
Aiden circled back and apologized for startling me. “It’s downright radiant though. Every strand, like a moonbeam.” He traced his finger down a lock of my hair. I’d just had it done that morning.
We got to talking, we got lunch, and 4 months later, we were married. My younger brothers became fast friends with Aiden and stood up as his groomsmen.
At Thanksgiving, we visited the family farm and announced I was 3 months pregnant. Everyone was over-the-moon at the dinner table. But as we did dishes, my mom murmured, “Pregnant 3 months? You’ve only been married 2 of those months.”
After dinner, Aiden and I strolled in crisp November air. We leaned side-by-side on the wooden fence and watched the sun melt into an orange stew over whickering stalks of corn.
“I never dreamed I could be this happy,” I said.
Aiden’s hand slipped from mine. He faced the farmhouse where I grew up. The white siding darkened in sinking sunlight. The dining room window glowed warm as an oven. “I never had a house like this,” Aiden said. “I’m not sure I can give you all that.”
“That’s not something I need,” I assured him. “We’ll have what God provides.”
“Everything all right?”
“Aiden? You’re happy. Aren’t you?”
“Oh sure. I love you.” A scowl tugged Aiden’s face. I’d never seen that look. “There are things I haven’t told you.”
He glared. His knuckles gripped and whitened over the fence post. “I killed someone.”
My blood froze. Our family dog Buster started barking from somewhere behind the house. I imagined him chasing squirrels, remembered how he used to catch them and leave them for us on the back porch. In that one moment, it seemed, the sun vanished.
“When,” I finally gasped out. “Why?”
“She made me angry and . . .” Aiden shook his head, turned away.
“Aiden,” I said. “If this is a joke, I don’t like it.”
Aiden’s scowl deepened.
“Please. Tell me this is a joke.”
Everyone loved Aiden. I loved him.
But did he have friends? Family? I pictured our wedding, where none of his west coast relatives RSVP’d. Were the addresses even real?
Aiden had a million stories, but what was his history?
After a long agonizing silence, Aiden cracked a half-grin. “I’m sorry, darlin’. I’m joking of course. That was a terrible joke.”
Relief surged through me. I gasped and leaned on Aiden’s shoulder. He caught me. Held me.
“I ruined our perfect moment,” he whispered. “I’ll make it up to you.”
I clenched my fingers on his jacket, and the night grew darker.
Back inside, I sat by the fire and savored every bite of Mom’s apple pie. I focused on the perfect crunch of the crust, the scoop of melting vanilla ice cream blending with warm filling. In the dining room, my brothers had opened another bottle of bourbon. Aiden regaled them about a wild adventure he’d supposedly had in South America, while volunteering with a church mission. It was a story I’d heard already, about a lemur who’d stolen a Bible, but some of the details felt different. When Aiden had told it to me at breakfast three months ago, had he climbed a tree to bargain with the lemur? Or had it been the roof of the church?
A hand touched my shoulder, and I startled with surprise. The fork rattled on my dessert plate.
My brother smiled down at me. “What are you hoping for?”
My voice caught in my throat. I stared up like a deer in headlights.
“Boy or girl?” my brother slurred. “What are you hoping for?”
“Just a healthy baby,” I said.
“Aw,” my brother snorted. “That’s what everyone says. What do you really want?”
Aiden glanced back at us. His glasses glinted in the dining room light, and I could not see his eyes. What I really wanted was to see past those eyes, far past them, and know everything, no matter how much it hurt.
I lowered my voice, leaned close to my brother. “Get him drunk.”
That night, I drove. Bone white moon shone on winding country road.
Aidan leaned on the passenger door; his sour breaths steamed the window. “You know I was kiddin’, right?”
“I’d never hurt you.” He slurred, massaged his temple.
“I know, Aiden.” My left hand gripped the wheel. My right fingers rested over my belly. “We know.”
I swerved, sped, took a sharp turn. Tires squealed.
“Hell!” Aiden gulped. His hands clutched his stomach.
“Sorry, angel. Stray cat. You all right?” I drifted left, right, left.
Aiden gagged and coughed. “Pull over.” He rolled down the window.
I floored it. “It’ll be safer a ways up.”
“No time—” Aiden stuck his head out the window. He retched.
“Sorry, Aiden.” I jammed the gas pedal. Drifted to the shoulder, where a tall, sturdy telephone pole rushed toward us.
Aiden puked and puked.
“I’m sorry you’re sick.” Tears burned my eyes. “Wish you’d told me sooner.”
The pole smacked the side mirror. Aiden’s skull cracked.
His body slackened, and his headless form slumped. Blood spurted and poured.
“But I’m glad you told me.”
Tessa’s family has been acting strange. Tiptoeing around certain topics and offering constant comfort; everyone’s waiting on bated breath for her breakdown.
It’s because of her little boy. She remembers loving him dearly; cuddling, laughter, and soothing tears. Tessa knows her son is gone; but she can’t even dredge up the sympathy she’d feel for a stranger. Her sister calling her a heartless monster was more upsetting! Maybe, she was right.
Digging in her purse, a sharp shock seared Tessa’s fingers. Staring at the strange, iridescent receipt, hollow dread curled in her chest.
Services rendered: Emotional Extraction. Paid in full.
Catherine Berry loves whimsy, potatoes, and singing with her dogs. Her work has been published in several Trembling With Fear anthologies & the Trench Coat Chronicles. More of her work can be found at caterinaberyl.blogspot.com
Just a wart. That’s all it is, or so said the good ol’ hack of a doctor. What a lovely word hack is, by the way—because I’m about to hack a part of myself off.
I take a deep breath, look down at my aching foot, then look away, disgusted by the hardened thing sprouting from my body. Biting my shirt collar does little to muffle my agonized screams as the blade tears away at my calcified flesh.
A sickening pop engulfs the room, and I fall back on my ass, watching as a creature breaks through my rotten foot.
Alejandro Gonzales is a horror author with credits in Trembling With Fear, Bag Of Bones Press, Cerasus Magazine, and other anthologies and zines.
Under the Stairs
There’s something there. I feel hot breath, hear ragged chest rattles. But when I look, all I see is darkness beyond the stored lawn chairs and coolers. Then it growls. The furnace I think. No. Not unless the furnace has learned to throw its voice. Hot breath now on my face. And I see its eyes, glowing yellow. A form grows up out of the floor. A troll, I think, irrationally. It’s nothing more than a shadow under the stairs. But shadows don’t breathe. A gaping maw opens, drooling, snarling. The last thing I see are its bloody teeth gleaming.
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. Find her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
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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.