Trembling With Fear 8-27-23
Hello, children of the dark. I’m running a bit late this week (sorry, Stuart!), so I won’t do my usual rambling unfurling of my mad mind. I’ll just say hi, I’ve finally got my ticket to next month’s UK FantasyCon—spurred on by the fact I’ve now joined the British Fantasy Society as its PR and Marketing Officer—and I hope to meet a few TWF-ers while I’m there! Make sure you come and say hi if you see me. I’ll be the one in the corner that looks like me.
But for now, it’s time for this week’s offerings on the TWF menu. Our short story this week is a tasty bit of cosmic horror—thanks for this one, Patrick O’Malley! Patrick also marks the first of our new short stories now we’ve reopened after a year’s publishing backlog. We’re really trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again, but please don’t be shy about submitting your stories!
Speak of which, our timely cosmic horror is followed by three delicious quick bites:
- Adam Ehrenberg picks up a hitchhiker,
- Caroline Jenner gets magical, and
- Engilbert Egill has unfinished business.
BTW if you happen to be in the UK and in the vicinity of the Midlands town of Derby next month, be sure to check out this awesome event: the Paracinema Cult Film Festival happens 22-25 September!
Over to you, Stuart.
School has started up again, and I’m taking more classes than I have before, so, unfortunately, expect my usual complaint of not having much time. That being said – I’m closing in on the finish line of my MBA. I’m not there after these two classes, but I’ll be VERY close. Side note: I have everything I need now to get the TWF final covers formatted and am sending that over to our artist this weekend so expect some real news on that front SOON! (Finally! WOOHOO!)
Pat O’Malley lives in New York where he loves to write the kind of absurd/weird fiction that he and his friends would want to read. His short stories have appeared in print and online publications such as The Great Void Books, The Dark City Crime & Mystery Magazine, The Weird & Whatnot and more! Several of his short stories have also been adapted into audio stories on talltaletv.com. You can follow him on instagram.com/Patomwrites and read all of his stories on https://medium.com/@
Chronovore, by Patrick O’Malley
Listen. Do you hear that? Time is passing us by.
Most people believe that when the present turns into the past it disappears into the ether, like footprints near the tide. If only that were true. No, the terrible truth is that yesterday is gone because the chronovores ate it.
From the dawn of time, when the first seconds of the universe ticked into the next, the chronovores were there, hungry and waiting. Swarms of floating, sharp-toothed mouths, gobbling up wasted moments and what-ifs. They have many names—Langoliers, Clockroaches, Hounds of Tindalos—but all of those trace back to what they are: “those that eat time.”
Exact descriptions of them are impossible. To say the creatures have bodies would be inaccurate. From what is known, portions of their “bodies” exist outside of standard dimensions.
Time as we know it is like a tube. Inside, a current flows in one direction left to right. These time-eaters live outside the tube inhabiting the angles of time.
Disturbingly, the flow of time is meaningless to them. The creatures can come and go from any point in the tube they want. Most remain in the past as there’s plenty of wasted time to feast on there.
Individuals or objects whose time has been devoured by these multi-dimensional predators are transmuted into various states of their history. Records indicate that Earth’s prehistoric dinosaurs had their time eaten by chronovores, transforming them into the buried fossils they were destined to become.
Few sentient species know these creatures exist. Hidden on the far edges of the Milky Way there is a planet known as Zilxik. A marble of teal seas and crystal mountains. This is the home-world of the Zilxikians, one of the most technologically advanced races in the cosmos.
They are aware of the chronovores.
For centuries, these silver-skinned humanoids have stealthily launched probes across the galaxy gathering data on a never-ending search for greater cosmic awareness.
It is through this research that the silver people have learned of and have begun collecting blasphemous and forbidden knowledge from the darkest corners of space. Written by long-dead races that predate even the Zilxik, these sinister tomes speak of nightmarish creatures like the chronovores, their hunger, and their ability to crawl across the centuries.
These stories are fascinating. Close examination of such an organism’s temporal biology could reveal secrets of the fabric of time. Unlocking the nature of spacetime was one puzzle that the bold scientific minds of Zilxik were eager to solve.
Further reading of these texts reveal how to cage such predators, which leads to today. In the dimly lit corridors of a floating crystal pyramid on Zilxik, a group of astronomers, scientists, and mathematicians are gathered around a large hologram. Countless flowing corners and angles twist and shift like a kaleidoscope. Cloaked in robes tailored from star clusters, the Zilxikians stare with golden eyes at the pulsating shape.
This is the Tesseract cage, years of careful design and calculations come to fruition. It is a shape whose existence blips between the here and now. In a few seconds, the Zilxik plan to lure a chronovore from whatever point in spacetime it lurks into the floating construct here in the present.
Once it has materialized within the tesseract, the cage will spring colossally heavy dwarf star chains across the target. Naturally, portions of the clockroach and tesseract will continue to flicker in and out of dimensions. Though by occupying the same space at the same time, the tesseract will lock the chronovore in quantum entanglement.
Immobilized, the mysterious organism will be ready for study and to reveal its secrets.
The danger is clear and present, but the Zilxik built their culture under the belief that any pursuit of knowledge as great as this is worth the risk. They are unafraid of the unsettling stories they have read about the chronovores. The Zilxik were not present in any of them. Had they been, the narrative in the ancient records would have gone differently.
These time-eaters are no different from any other interplanetary beasts that need to be caged. Primitive-thinking creatures such as these do not deserve the power they wield.
The silver people will make much better use of such an incredible ability. The entire history of the galaxy, from start to finish will open to them. It will be like reading a book and jumping in at any page.
Today, the Zilxik become the masters of spacetime.
A flat panel glowing with mysterious glyphs floats in front of each of the gathered figures. One by one, the Zilxik place the palm of their four-fingered hand on the floating panel in front of them until a loud hum echoes through the corridors of the pyramid.
The sound is a beacon they have meticulously composed. The high-pitched frequency replicates the abstract sound of time passing. If the pitch was slowed and made millions of decimals lower it would sound not unlike gears turning inside a clock.
They wait patiently.
Soon the malleable prism begins convulsing at an alarming speed. The shape folds and stretches itself into several complex and intersecting angles. From the point of origin, each line is pointed exactly at twelve degrees.
Lightning crackles around them. A great gust sweeps through the chamber. The Zilxikians shield their golden eyes as large plumes of smoke begin billowing in the chamber.
The view of the tesseract becomes clouded by the creeping smoke. Where is that smoke coming from? Before they can register what’s happening, they all hear a steadily growing sound coming from the smoke.
The noise is difficult to identify. One moment it sounds like a growl then a moaning coming from far away. Whatever it is, it sounds alive.
The silver scientists are on high alert. There it is! In the smoke, they can make out the visuals of figures unknown to the tesseract having appeared twisting and flailing within the shape.
The chronovore is here! Activate the cage! Prepare to witness quantum entanglement!
Dozens of silver fingers hurriedly tap on the glyphs floating in front of them. The frequency of the luring beacon is replaced by a shrill buzzing sound. A crisscrossed webbing of lights springs on the cage and foreign presence, netting them together.
The gathered Zilxikians watch in awe as the glowing net constricts. A strobe light flickers through the thick wisps of smoke. Images of what’s inside the amorphous prism change with each second. Even the Zilxik do not possess the words to describe what’s caged within the tesseract.
The experiment is a success! The Zilxikians have lured and captured a chronovore from the edges of time. The secrets of spacetime are theirs!
Lightning crackles around them. The moaning sound from the tesseract amplifies sharply. The panels in front of each of the scientists begin flashing an alarming red.
They are unafraid. They have taken every precaution. Tighten the dwarf star chains! The neon webbing appears to struggle against several forces pushing against it.
The howling sound is becoming deafening, rattling the nerves of the Zilxikians. Something is wrong. Accelerate the Tesseract’s shifting! Activate the reserve containment fields!
A waterfall of blue glyphs surrounds the struggling shapes. Back-up security comes online. Less than a minute later its system crashes.
Pale lights begin to flash in the chamber. Movement everywhere seems to slow down. A deafening moan rocks the pyramid. Awestruck, the Zilxikians watch as the tesseract turns inside-out. Then, like a supernova, the shape bursts.
Emergency! Quantum entanglement breached! The chronovore has escaped!
The silver androgynous figures remained at their panels desperate to bring the tesseract back online.
Lights flashing continuously. Swarms of eyes bubble in the air. A long, invisible tongue licks their face.
They scream. A sound like the vibration of a wet finger tracing the rim of a glass. Then silence.
In a blip, the pyramid hovering in the sky they all stood in was now a sunken ruin. The cracked triangular stone structure lies half-buried in the teal sand below the other floating pyramids. A once-proud fortress brought to its inevitable end much faster than anticipated.
Inside things are worse.
Cobwebs and ruins. The chamber that once held the tesseract now resembles a crypt. Be careful where you step. All across the rubble were many small oozing chrome puddles.
The ambitious minds who set out to become masters of spacetime, their bodies transmuted eons backward to the primordial amoebas their race descended from. Centuries of evolution undone in an instant.
It still wasn’t enough. Those silver fools didn’t just fail. They’ve doomed us all. Their experiment, the Tesseract, did something to the monster they summoned.
Right now that chronovore is growing bigger. It remains in the here and now, biting away at our present. Think about it, hasn’t time felt like it’s been going faster lately?
Somewhere, lightyears away from Zilxik on the planet Earth, a young boy stares gloomily at a calendar hanging in his bedroom.
“Summer’s over already?!”
She saw him up ahead on the side of the road, his thumb in the air. She wasn’t sure if she should stop. After all, she was alone this time. But then again, she knew it couldn’t possibly be like the last time she had picked up a hitchhiker when she was alone. What a mess that was!
She pulled over, and he got in. “Thanks for stopping,” he said, closing the door. He looked at his seat and all around him. “What’s the plastic for?” he asked, looking at her quizzically. She already had her gun pointed at him.
Long Island native Adam Ehrenberg has been based in St. Augustine, Florida, since 2004, where he moved to complete his Bachelor’s Degree at Flagler College. He majored in History, with a Minor in Latin American History. He also has a Master’s Degree in Library Studies from Florida State University. While he’s new to writing stories, he loves to read, especially stories with a twist at the end. One of his favorite television series is “Tales of the Unexpected,” which whetted his desire to write speculative fiction stories. He hopes you enjoy his stories, because he is looking forward to writing more.
A Skein of Magic
The weather had changed. Where gentle breezes once billowed clothes to life, a new, stronger wind forced them into a tangle of sleeves and trouser legs. The cottage seemed to sway in the gathering storm, windows rattled in wooden frames, chimneys clung to thatch, tenacious in their rigidity.
Inside, she rocked slowly back and forth. The charm spoken in ancient words drifted from the runes scattered before her, settling on rafters, fluttering across ceilings, tapping at the doors, until they gathered in a murmuration of twisting, turning magic, swooping through the flue, dancing across the sky and into the distance.
Caroline Jenner has been writing since she retired. She has been published by Secret Attic, Pure Slush, Sweetycat Press, Free Flash Fiction and Syncopation Literary Journal. She came second in the 2021 Hastings Writing Room Two Halves Flash Fiction Competition and won the 2022 Hysteria Prize for Flash Fiction.
The bodies are dragged from the lake, mutilated monstrosities most must look away from. The camp’s attendees—still kids, really—are hysterical seeing their friends in that state. Some had been in the lake for a few years. It seems the infamous camp butcher’s hiding place is finally discovered.
Down by the lake, the sergeant hopes this discovery will finally bring that killer down. He wonders why I, the camp caretaker, didn’t contact him as soon as the kids found the bodies. We’re family, after all.
But I thought my great work wouldn’t see the light of day. It wasn’t finished yet.
Engilbert Egill is an Icelandic poet and short story writer living in Vestmannaeyjar with his fiancé and their two daughters.
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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.