Trembling With Fear 6-11-23
Hello, children of the dark. This week, I’m deep in the healing phase of my multiple broken bones and feeling the frustration of things not moving fast enough. To rub salt in the literal wounds, the weather has been glorious here in London Town. We don’t get much sun, and I’m missing these few weeks that will no doubt be the English “summer’! My Aussie heart weeps.
That said, there is plenty to keep me occupied. Not only have I had plenty of your drabbles, children of the dark, to read and respond to, but I’ve also been planning and launching my very first online writing event! Alongside the UK con legend that is Alex Davis, I’ll be hosting a day about witchlit on 12 August. All the details are here – and be sure to check out the other things Alex has coming up. There’s his regular horror school (started this week), and a week-long celebration of folk horror for the solstice, as well as other things going on.
If the witchlit thing gets good interest (and it seems to be so far, touch wood!), I plan to expand it into a series of events looking at different aspects of writing in aspects of the occult and paranormal. What would you like to see us tackle? Maybe we can aim to take over TWF with tales of witches and vampires and demons!
None of that for you this week, though. Our short story comes courtesy of regular contributor Ron Capshaw, and has him delving into secret worlds of cover-ups and conspiracies. This is followed by three delicious quick bites:
- Stéphane G Perahim channels some hungry kitties,
- Josh Clark gets more than he bargained for, and
- Cassandra Vaillancourt finds a home-based “experience” is a little too real.
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? We have great need of these! Check out our submissions page for details, then send ‘em in to Shalini. Honestly, she’s lovely. She just has some dark reading proclivities.
Over to you, Stuart.
Before I tell you the MULTITUDE of things that have me busy this week and next, I will say that Steph has sent us a fully fleshed-out Trembling With Fear draft. Due to our editorial changes, we may very well be including everything in one book this year, though it is already likely that we’ll be back to two next!
So, what has been keeping me busy? Preparing for an office move that occurs next week for the day job. Oh, and someone also thought it might be a good idea to schedule our 50-person new hire session for the same week, and my team works on both of those projects. No pressure! My MBA class is also keeping me busy with a pile of assignments and a paper due next week. At least there was one bright moment in the sea of endless work. I took a half day to celebrate my oldest son’s 10th birthday and take him and some friends to see Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse! As a die-hard Marvel fan whose favorite characters have generally tended to be the Spider-People, I loved being able to share this with my son. (It was his idea too!)
Ron Capshaw is a writer based in Florida. His novel The Stage Mother’s Club was released last June by Dark Edge Press.
Elevator, by Ron Capshaw
Before pressing the button for the 58th floor, the reporter kissed the crucifix he wore around his neck.
I used to laugh at people who did that, Ely Jones thought. But that was back when I was a cynical reporter.
With a shaky hand, he pressed the button – but still jumped when the elevator began going up.
As was the building, the elevator was modern,but for some reason it went up in jerks rather than smoothly. Pages of translations and sketches fell out of the reporter’s shoulder bag, and he knew if he kneeled to pick them up the jerking would feel worse.
I may not get there, he thought. Then he said a prayer: Please let me get there. Let me at least see him in the flesh. Please grant me that.
The elevator now ascended smoothly.
He gathered up the pages and put them in order as if he was a lawyer preparing a summation to a jury.
Jones drew a deep, shaky breath before the elevator door opened. He stepped out and into yuppie America circa 1985. Everyone in the lobby was dressed the same – as if a power lunch would break out any minute. All the men wore midnight black double-breasted suits with red ties and white button-down shirts. The women either wore equally dark pantsuits or a white shirt and red tie and ankle-length black skirts. Even the frames of their glasses were black, and he thought most wore them to appear thoughtful.
The outer office secretary was professional enough not to wrinkle her nose at Jones’ very brown, very wet trench coat. She smiled with even white teeth and said, “Mr. Bolt is expecting you.”
A man that could only be security – who had shoulders and biceps so broad they threatened to burst through his black suit coat – came over. Please don’t let him frisk me, Jones thought. Because if he does, it will all have been for nothing. But the security man didn’t, and politely escorted him into the outer office of Alan Bolt, the 32-year-old head of Bolt Enterprises, a nuclear power company with offices from London to Nairobi.
Before the secretary buzzed Jones in, he took a deep breath and thought, Even if this doesn’t go my way, at least I tried to do one good deed in an otherwise sordid life.
The reporter opened the door and knew.
Alan Bolt had black, almost pupil-less eyes, and arched eyebrows under a jet black widow’s peak, like the one the pulp hero Doc Savage wore on those paperback covers. Seated behind his desk, his well-manicured hands flat on it, Bolt radiated a tigerish energy despite looking like he had been poured into that black business suit.
“Mr. Jones,” he said in a voice like thunder rumbling. “I’m glad we finally met. I loved that profile you did of me in Vanity Fair last year.”
Jones looked at the hand Bolt extended.
I can do this. I was once taken hostage by the Khmer Rouge.
Nothing happened when Jones shook Bolt’s hand, just skin to skin contact. With his other hand Bolt gestured for Upshaw to sit, while he sat down and leaned courteously forward. Jones finally found his voice.
“About a year ago,” Jones said,” I was covering an archaeological dig in Iraq.”
Jones handed Bolt the photo of the archaeologist running the dig, and asked: “Do you know Dr. Jules Cresson?”
Bolt shook his head politely.
Oh you know him, you fuck. I’m sure you “felt” every freak accident the moment they happened.
Jones reached into his shoulder bag, past the corked vial, and took out some photocopied pages then handed them to Bolt.
“Cresson mailed these copies to me, between the time he unearthed those lost pages of Revelations and when those wild dogs ripped him apart. Cresson knew I couldn’t read Latin but he told me who could translate the documents and verify their authenticity.”
Bolt kept smiling courteously.
“The scholar said they were genuine. He died soon afterward too – a hit and run that somehow decapitated him. I won’t bore you with all the details of the ‘accidents’ over the years. I have to admit I would have dismissed Cresson’s discovery myself since I never believed in the Bible. But when I saw the sketches John the Elder found time to draw during those Apocalyptic visions, I believed what was among us.”
Jones’ hand was inside his bag poised between the vial and the sketches.
“Do I really need to show them to you? All that is missing is your business suit.”
Bolt pressed the intercom button and said, “Now.”
The psychiatrist – the one from the New York State mental asylum who was treating Jones – came into the room along with the security guard. Before they could get to him, Jones pulled a gun and pointed it at Bolt.
Bolt held out his arm to the doctor and the massive security guard, saying: “It’s ok. Let him leave.”
Jones back-walked out of Bolt’s office, past the startled people in the lobby, and into the elevator. Before the elevator door shut, he saw Bolt’s eyes tightly closed.
As the elevator descended, the guard asked Bolt if he should alert security in the lobby about Jones.
“No need,” Bolt said, and walked back to his office.
They felt the crash of the plummeting elevator car even on the 58th floor.
The Last Meal
‘Is she gone yet?’
I strut on the measly body curled on the sofa. It whimpers.
‘How long has it been?’
I sit back next to my friend at the other end of the room. We wait. Her chest is quivering up and down. The motions are getting shallower, then stop.
We approach and pat it, for safety. I bite first. A cheek. Not a peep. My mate follows. We feast. Hopefully, the neighbour will call round before this dead feeder turns unpalatable. She’s old too, but she loves cats. She’ll do, for a while. We’ll just need to dispose of her harebrained chihuahua.
Stéphane G. Perahim
Stéphane G. Perahim is a middle-aged French lady who lives in Belgium and teaches English for a living. When she’s not surrounded by her young, charming yet snotty students, she writes detective novels and short stories, plays with rather lifelike and creepy dolls, runs half-marathons or works on improving her nascent skills at capoeira. Find her on Instagram @Nefisaperahim.
Clay struggled against his chains. “Let me go, freak,” the young man gasped.
“It will end soon.”
A mask dangling from his fingers, the gaunt man strode to the captive. “You sought to become someone new.”
“I didn’t mean this.” Clay twisted his face away.
“No need to struggle. You’ll forget the transformation.”
Chains rattled. Nothing but smoke and mirrors. He was going nowhere.
Placing a gnarled hand on Clay’s neck, the man smothered the mask onto his face.
Melding into Clay’s skin, consuming screams, it devoured flesh as it drew life from its host. Mask and man becoming one.
Josh is a writer, bookseller, and graphic designer. His short fiction has been published in Fresh Starts: Tales From the Pikes Peak Writers, Nom Nom from Black Hare Press, and received a Silver Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future Contest.
He has it all set: huge screen TV, extensive stereo system, huge collection of Vietnam War DVDs, some acid rock.
He puts on his old uniform from Vietnam. Just a couple of tabs of Acid, then the experience can begin!
Choppers and artillery cannons erupt in unison with wild guitar riffs and staccato drum beats. He sees music melding with furious firefights into a wild, crazy trip that totally sucks him in, deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole.
He’s suddenly stung by tracers.
The roar of a fighter jet is deafening…
Then everything wipes out in a napalm explosion.
Cassandra Vaillancourt is a trans woman making a transition from artist to writer. She works as a humble retail worker. She has previously been published in Horror Tree with her first short story, a dribble, and an Unholy Trinity. Her goal is to become more accomplished in the horror genre with hopefully a couple of books published in the future. She is on Facebook and 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.