Trembling With Fear 5-28-23
Hello, children of the dark. This week we’re scrambling a bit, because – as you’ll see below – Stuart got some big news and had some big headaches when it comes to this here site. So we’re keeping it short and sweet so we can make sure you get an issue this weekend and not… not get one?
So here we go. An update from the boss man is below, but let’s dig into this week’s tremblingly good menu.
In our short story, Matias F Travieso-Diaz takes us deep into the Amazon. This is followed by three delicious quick bites:
- Victoria Huntley waits in silence and grief,
- Fiona M. Jones hasn’t yet built resistance, and
- Kellee Kranendonk deals with my worst nightmare (spiders! argh!).
And a few reminders before I let you go:
- We love a drabble. Please send them to us!
- We also love three drabbles, connected by some form of thread. We call these Unholy Trinities, and our specials editor Shalini Bethala would love to see some more in the inbox.
- Ditto serials. Have you got a longer story that could logically be serialised into four parts? Check out our submissions page for details, then send ‘em in to Shalini.
- Finally, we still have submissions open for Shadowed Realms, the new Horror Tree anthology covering the non-pro markets. Details over here.
Oh – and as a final word, my current broken-bone-ness means I’ve personally been running behind on TWF emails and submissions. Shalini has been helping out, but I’ll get onto these things this week. Thank you for your patience.
Over to you, Stuart.
We’ve had a TON of site problems this last week. It seems to have been ironed out for not but it hopefully has moved up our timetable to moving to the new host. We almost made an emergency move over the week that we weren’t prepared for and would have lost us email for a week.
I had more to say this week, but, the site problems are pretty much eating up all of my attention, so hopefully it is all temporarily straightened out and this means that the move will happen sooner than later.
Matias Travieso-Diaz was born in Cuba and migrated to the United States as a young man. He became an engineer and lawyer and practiced for nearly fifty years. He retired and turned his attention to creative writing. Over sixty of his stories have been published or accepted for publication in paying short story anthologies, magazines, blogs, audio books and podcasts. Some of his unpublished stories have also received “honorable mentions” from a number of publications.
The Mapinguari, by Matias Travieso-Diaz
Here comes the Mapinguari singing aww
—”So Long Old Bean” by Devendra Banhart
For time beyond memory, a giant stood guard over the vast expanse of the Amazon River basin. His seven-foot body was covered by a thick, matted layer of greenish fur that had the texture of wild grass. He lacked a mouth, but had an eating orifice in the center of its torso, containing three rows of serrated teeth. His feet turned backwards, ending in claws that left groove marks on the ground. His rigid face was dominated by an enormous, single eye. As he lumbered about the wilderness, he occasionally uttered a deep roar that resonated like the sound of faraway thunder.
The primitive humans that inhabited the Amazonian jungle called him the mapinguari. When alerted of the cryptid’s proximity by his overwhelming stench, they shied away lest they be caught in the beast’s deadly grip. He, for the most part, ignored the two-legged apes and devoted all his attention to protecting the animals and majestic trees in his domain.
The mapinguari’s attitude towards humans changed when a new kind began to appear a few centuries ago. These were mainly pale creatures who set out to raze the jungle. The cryptid then started going after the trappers, the loggers, the cowboys, the farmers, and others who committed acts of desecration against the land. When he corralled a human walking alone in the forest, the mapinguari would seize the man’s body and bring it to the gaping mouth in his midriff, from which emanated an unbearable odor of decaying flesh that was the last sensation the man would experience before being crushed by the monster’s teeth.
As the number of his victims grew, fear rose in the hearts of those trying to tame the forest, and they reacted by organizing hunts to destroy the monster. The mapinguari, however, knew intimately each corner of the wilderness. Men would see him only when he chose to reveal himself, and this usually occurred when an opportunity for slaying one or more of them was available.
One day he found himself surrounded by an angry mob of settlers. They lunged at him with torches, and shot at him with firing sticks. The bullets, however, ricocheted off the dense fur of the mapinguari and the fire from the torches only left smoking patches on the cryptid’s skin, releasing a fetid odor that nauseated the men. The mapinguari then charged back at the humans and slayed most of them, letting only a few escape to serve as a warning.
In a later encounter, the mapinguari came upon one of the leaders of the men who were bringing down the forest. The man was armed with a rifle and a bull whip, and frantically used both weapons in an attempt to arrest the monster’s attack. However, as bullets whizzed by and the bull whip’s sonic boom resounded, the cryptid advanced rapidly on the man, hoisting him in the air and crashing him on the ground, an action he repeated until the man’s body had been reduced to a pulp. The mapinguari then bit off the head of the corpse and carried it away.
The mapinguari then went to the village where that band of settlers lived. He was carrying as a trophy the severed head of the man he had just killed. He intended to confront the villagers with the gruesome evidence of his revenge, but could not do so because the village was deserted, its inhabitants having fled in fear of the cryptid’s attacks.
The mapinguari discovered, at the edge of the village, the hut of an old Indian woman who was too infirm to escape. She lay on a pallet, breathing laboriously, impending death showing on her features. For a moment, the mapinguari felt a touch of pity. However, he put feelings aside and addressed the woman in broken Tupi, the Indian’s language:
[He]: “Hail, human.”
[The woman]: “If you are Death, hurry up and finish your work. I suffered enough already and was left to die by all who knew me.”
[He]: “I am not Death, but a living creature. I have come to let your kind see how I avenge myself of their crimes against this land.”
[The woman]: “They are all gone.”
[He]: “Yes, but they will pay for their arrogance with their lives. I shall continue to chase and slay everyone I find.”
[The woman]: “Please do not take your vengeance on every one, deserving as they are of punishment. Just give them a warning. Maybe they will listen.”
[He]: “There will be no more warnings. You humans are destroying the world and deserve to be exterminated.”
[The woman]: “At least dump the head you are carrying on the village square. Maybe those who return will understand your message and act on it.”
[He]: “I do not expect they will change, but I will do as you ask.”
The Indian woman closed her eyes forever and the mapinguari walked away from her hut. He leveled every dwelling in the village save hers and left the severed head protruding from a sharpened stick, buried in the ground in the middle of the square.
The cryptid then retreated to the heart of the forest. He knew his mission might eventually have to come to an end, because he alone could not stem the tide of devastation that humans, like fire ants, were visiting on the Amazonian jungle.
Years have gone by, and a standstill of sorts has been reached. Development ground to a halt in the corner of the river basin patrolled by the mapinguari, but men continue their path of destruction everywhere else.
The cryptid now realizes that, other than protecting the sanctuary he has established, he cannot chase away the humans that continue to arrive. But he is not discouraged and feels that his fight must continue. If at the end all resistance fails, he will at least have the bitter satisfaction of knowing that, in destroying the greatest forest in the world, men are bringing utter ruin upon themselves.
The Lost Ship
Listening for footsteps, she went deaf in one ear, then two. Then she waited in silence, in her chair with the portrait of the young man—black curls, silk waistcoat, opal tie pin—above the fireplace.
He had floated among the ice floes all these years. Perhaps. The engines had failed, the ship had lost its way. It was possible.
In her later days of waiting she filled with water, soft swollen legs up on a stool. Then seeping bandages, then the draining.
It was when the tide was finally taking her that she heard it: his footsteps on the path.
Victoria Huntley works as a university teacher, she has a PhD in History and an MA in Creative Writing. She is currently turning historical research into different kinds of writing, including ghost stories.
Hal was gone for exactly five minutes, as we’d agreed. I stood staring at my stop clock until the sphere loomed back into view. What new technology or wisdom might Hal bring back from 3021?
The hatch opened.
“Hal,” I called. “Hal?”
I stepped inside. Hal lay in his seat, coughing. Spitting blood.
“I’m OK,” he choked. “Just a virus. Ebola19 they call it. Respiratory strain.”
“Hal… you’ve never heard of Ebola? It’s deadly!”
He stared at me, eyes bloodshot. “No way. They said—kinda like a cold—nothing much—”
“So they’ve built resistance?… But, Hal, we haven’t! We’re dead!”
Fiona M Jones
Fiona M Jones writes very short things, published worldwide in literary magazines and anthologies. Her work is linked through @FiiJ20 on Facebook and Twitter.
The silk spun around me. Thick strands of flexible yet adamantine rope, wrapping tighter and tighter until I couldn’t breathe. No matter how I struggled, I couldn’t free myself.
Then I saw her. Long black, hairy legs slipping easily along the gossamer labyrinth she’d created. Her eyes, nightmare black, staring eagerly at my trapped form. Exposed fangs, dripping saliva.
Or maybe it was poison.
She descended on me, straddled me, her teeth piercing into me, sinking into my innards, paralysing me with her bite.
She began to feed, savoring the taste of my unwilling sacrifice, her hunger sucking me dry.
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. Follow 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.