Trembling With Fear 9-17-23
Hello, children of the dark. I’ll keep it short this week as we have some superb offerings for you on this week’s menu and my ramblings are not what you come here for. I have just three things to share/offer/beg:
First of all, I’m currently in Birmingham for the UK’s FantasyCon, so I’ll be sure to update on all the shenanigans in the coming weeks. Yesterday I was part of panels on marketing and on contracts, and today it’s my first British Fantasy Society AGM as the new PR and Marketing Officer. From today, that work begins in earnest! (And I’m definitely flying the flag for the UK’s horror and darker speculative writers.)
Secondly, if your dark leanings tend towards the blood-thirsty and fang-based, you might be interested in the second edition of my Writing the Occult events happening on Saturday 28 October. This time we’re talking vampires, and have a bloody good line-up of authors, essayists, poets, academics, and folklorists ready to inspire and give you something juicy to sink your (pointy) teeth into. Our guests include a wide range of emerging, established, and iconic writers, including Jewelle Gomez, Scott J. Moses, Katalina Watt, Beverley Lee, Nicole Eigener, AW Earl, Dawn Kurtagich, and more! All the details are over here, daily updates are featured on the Society of Ink Slingers Instagram/my own social accounts, and you can get your tickets here. It’s timed to allow those in the UK, Europe, and on both coasts of the US enjoy at least some of the programme. (It’s a bit late for Aussies, but don’t let that stop you!) Consider it a Halloween present to yourself.
And finally a quick reminder, at risk of my sounding like a broken record: if you’re looking for something to flex those creative muscles, do consider popping out a drabble or two, please. Our cupboards are looking a bit bare on that front—though we are very grateful for all the short story submissions we’ve been getting since reopening last month!
But for now, let’s turn to this week’s TWF menu. Susan E. Rogers is losing time. This is then followed by three delicious quick bites:
- Julie McNeely-Kirwan’s grandma returns,
- Georgia Cook embraces the ocean’s cruelty, and
- David Alan Owens seeks sweet agony.
Over to you, Stuart.
Trembling With Fear: Year 6 update: The first and second revisions to the cover have happened! We’ve got the back cover sorted, the spine sorted, and are just making some last-minute tweaks to the front. I’m really hoping that by the time you read this, it has already been finalized. Fingers crossed!
Shadowed Realms update: We’re SO CLOSE to out first round of answer. I swear, we are! Truly!
Susan E. Rogers
Susan E. Rogers lives in St. Pete Beach, Florida, transplanted from a social work career in Massachusetts. Moving was a catalyst for beginning her life-long ambition to write. Her other interests include genealogy and psychic spirituality, and she often twists these into her writing. She has written and collaborated on numerous genealogical articles. She self-published her first book in 2018 about her own psychic experiences. Since 2020, her short fiction has been published in anthologies and has appeared in several literary and genre magazines. You can visit her author website at www.susanerogers.com and social media pages on Facebook and BlueSky.
Slippage, by Susan E. Rogers
Will dreaded waking in the middle of the night. He rolled over and glanced at the clock – 3:09.
A weak line of pale light crept under the door and swept away two inches of shadow from the tile floor. Darkness devoured the rest of the tiny bedroom. Nina wouldn’t allow a nightlight because it kept her awake. He reached out to touch her but his hand hovered over her midriff then pulled back. She was a beast if her sleep was disturbed. She lay on her left side facing the wall and puffed out those little purring snores she insisted she never did. Her body heat felt too close in the narrow double bed. His lanky six-foot-five frame barely fit and his knees ached, bent in the same position for hours.
He needed sleep. In the two months since he moved in with Nina, he had lost the vitality that came with a nightly recharge. His energy level was low, and even on first waking he was still tired. He couldn’t concentrate at work and had no interest in anything—except Nina.
Will still didn’t know her story, where she came from or much of what she liked. They met at the Taco Bell over on North Armenia. He was wolfing down his second Burrito Supreme when he saw her at a table in the corner, tearing into a Steak Quesadilla, strips of meat dangling from her teeth and red sauce dripping down her chin. He was instantly spellbound and living with her two weeks later.
She was breathtaking, with an aura of golden hair hanging to her hips and radiant tawny eyes with jet black irises that sharply reflected back to the viewer. Their lovemaking was sublime. Her kisses sucked him inside out. If he thought about it, she offered nothing else of relevance. He left the apartment each day before she got up and she came home when he was ready for bed. Their conversation was superficial and mundane. A month ago, he decided not to think about it.
I might as well go take a leak. He yawned and threw back the covers, pushed his feet into slippers and stepped into a void.
Next thing Will knew, he was lying on his stomach, half in and half out of bed, one arm hanging over the mattress edge, toes touching the floor, tangled in a web of sheets. Nina was on her back, her snores a little louder, approaching snarls. His gaze was captured by the sheen of her suntanned skin. He straightened the sheets without disturbing her and carefully climbed back in.
He rolled to his other side, pushed his hair back from his forehead and looked up – 2:09. He rubbed his eyes and blinked – 2:09.
Please, not again.
This was his third time experiencing this weird time thing.
Three weeks ago he woke to a glaring 3:09 that pricked his eyes. He snapped them closed and immediately felt himself floating through featureless space. When he next woke, the red digits announced 2:09. After another interlude of fitful sleep, 4:09, then back again to 3:09 after who knew how long. His brain screamed Awake! and refused to succumb. He stared at the ceiling, afraid to move, until the alarm went off at six.
Three days ago, deafening rumbles of thunder woke him, followed by raindrops thwacking against the window. The clock reported 3:09. After a few minutes, the thunder roared off to startle someone else and the rain trailed after it, letting him doze off. Roused again, he found himself distressingly back to 1:09. He forced himself to stay awake in the living room with old clips of The Three Stooges on some after-hours cable channel and watched the numbers tick off the TV’s clock minute by minute without any hiccups. Finally, he went back to bed and lay awake, suspended in a nondescript hole until he peeked with one eye – 5:09. Relieved, he finally managed to sleep. His next conscious thoughts, disoriented and surprised, were at 5:59, surprised that he beat the alarm.
With that morning’s coffee, he clicked straight to Google and searched—time travel, backwards time, time warps—you name it, any pertinent key phrase his brain could conjure up. Scientifically, he might have experienced gravitational time dilation (observable only for objects of enormous mass) or cosmic strings (existent only in theory). Time loops seemed possible, but there was no déjà vu. He wanted to credit a recurring nightmare, except there were no images. He simply felt disembodied between awakenings. None of the explanations defined these time knots, as he began to think of them, like badly tied shoelaces slipping undone over and over.
Now, lying on his back, listening to Nina’s slumberous growls, he was afraid to sleep but just as frightened to be awake. His brain couldn’t decipher the real time—his real time—whatever time that might be. His eyes grew grainy and he rolled over on his side to face the clock – 4:09. He didn’t feel like he’d been awake for two hours. He knew he hadn’t dozed off parading these previous episodes past his memory. Worse, he realized, time had slipped while he was awake and he hadn’t even recognized it. He resisted. His body quaked as his frantic mind teetered on the brink of paranoia. The gritty heaviness won and he melted into oblivion.
* * *
The incessant squawk of the alarm plucked Nina from the midst of a pleasant dream. She rolled over, annoyed that Will ignored the racket. She reached past his motionless back to push the snooze button on the clock that read 6:09. A faint puff of his breath tickled her arm. Feeling especially refreshed, she poked him in the top of the head. Nothing. She grabbed his shoulder and tugged him over on his back. No response. Gently, with her index finger, she peeled up the lid of his right eye revealing only solid white sclera, the left eye the same.
Smiling, she allowed herself a luxuriant stretch. Her hands reached toward the ceiling with fingers splayed, showing off her long, pointed nails. This one hadn’t demanded much investment at all, merely nine weeks of sharing a bed. He hadn’t asked so much as one question about where the time was going. She wasn’t sure he even noticed. No matter, it was done. She’d keep him for a few more days until he was depleted. He didn’t need time any more. Unlike her, who thrived on it. She purred as she leaned forward to kiss his open mouth.
Gramma By Firelight
I was only five when our farmhouse burned, but I already knew about Gramma Jo. Beneath her sweet perfume was rot.
Everyone blamed Uncle George for what happened. He smoked some and drank more, so maybe it was natural. But I knew better. It was me who saw Gramma Jo in the living room, tossing lit matches at the drapes, a smiling madness on her face.
Uncle George broke in to save me, but Gramma Jo stayed, howling with laughter until the roof collapsed. But she’s back now. I know it. Because downstairs there’s the odor of magnolias. And smoke.
Julie’s work has appeared in Spine, Sanitarium, Five South, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Writer’s Digest’s Show Us Your Shorts, Overtime, and Every Writer’s Resource, among others, as well as in three anthologies.
She floated above the water, the tips of her toes cresting the waves. She looked exactly as she had five years ago, when she’d walked from our home, down the pebbled beach, and into the waiting sea.
She opened her arms to me. “My love,” she called, in the cry of gulls and the wailing of distant storms. “My darling one.”
And at last I understood the true cruelty of the ocean; she who holds her dead so tightly, with such devotion. Who could resist her embrace?
To float forever amongst the lost and loved.
To sink, and welcome it.
Georgia Cook is an illustrator and writer from London. She has written for publications such as Baffling, Vastarien Lit, and Flame Tree press, as well as the Doctor Who range with Big Finish. She frequently writes and narrates for horror anthology podcasts such as ‘Creepy’,’The Other Stories’, and ‘The Night’s End’. She can be found on twitter at @georgiacooked and on her website at georgiacookwriter.com.
Agony comes in many forms, and the Karic masters developed the fine art of agony through centuries of experimentation and scientific study. Simple torture did not suit their fetishes. They sought lasting agonies, anguish to plague their victims for indefinite periods of time, and to provide endless gratification for themselves. Their many victims knew otherwise.
One day the Chief Master Jendai found himself at the feet of an upstart. “Ah my dear Master Jendai,” Mengit whispered, “I have longed for this day for a decade. Now it has come. I hope you enjoy your abuse as much as I shall.”
David Alan Owens
Dave’s work has appeared in Alien Dimensions Magazine, and High Strange Horror anthology. His drabbles have appeared in Flash Fiction Friday, Ariel Chart Literary Journal, and others.
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Lauren is a writer with various hats – journalist, copywriter, content marketer, fiction – and considers herself a storyteller at heart. She writes gothic and folk horror and is currently working on a novel set in the world of the Victorian occult. It’s the supernatural and the occult that really give her goosebumps, and a good ghost story or vampire tale with a rising sense of dread will always pique her interest (and yes, Midnight Mass hit many of her buttons). She also has a developing fascination with folklore, the old ways and our fast-changing relationship with the natural world; this sneaks into her writing, too.
In The Real World, Lauren has more than 20 years’ experience as a professional content creator. She’s established and led global content teams and editorial strategies, including setting up content newsrooms for some of the world’s biggest brands. She was a music editor for a daily newspaper in her native Australia (a good gig and the beach remain her happy places), though she’s been London-based for 16 years and works as an editor, proofreader, marketer, and writing coach. She’s also a mental health advocate; her Substack, How to Be Self(ish), tracked her year of sabbatical and self-care, and she continues to write it irregularly as a mental health companion.
You’ll find Lauren haunting south London, where she lives with her Doctor Who-obsessed husband and their aged black house rabbit. You’ll also likely find her hosting Writers Hour sessions for the London Writers Salon a few times a week.