Trembling With Fear – Summer 2023 Edition!

Summer is coming to a close…but it’s not over yet! We still have plenty of time for sun, water, cool drinks- oh, and all the wild and crazy things that can happen on a summer getaway. Not sure what I’m talking about? Well, dive into our Summer Edition to find out!

This year’s writers crafted engaging tales that cover many different types of summer experiences. Whether you’re camping, enjoying the beach, or attending afternoon at a festival, these stories will have you see your experiences in a new way. These tales have monsters, love and a bit of fun, so pull up your beach chair or gather around a campfire and dive into our Summer 2023 Edition of Trembling With Fear!

Happy Reading!


Shalini Bethala

Editor, Trembling With Fear

The clouds are circling, the air is cooling, and summer is officially coming to its close. Halloween might be just around the corner, but we want to go for one last tyre-swing-over-the-river! And so, TWF is proud to present the 2023 Summer Special. Shalini has chosen some absolute crackers for you, and I hope you enjoy them all. 

Remember, we do four special editions every year, and we’d love to feature you in these pages some time. Yes, YOU. Get the details over here, and then get those darkly seasonal cogs whirring for your next terrific speculative opus. 

Lauren McMenemy

Editor-in-Chief, Trembling With Fear

Halloween Time

The Passenger

By: Marshall I


On the first part of the journey there was nothing. Then there was a bang from the

AC unit, a loud series of cracks from the popper fireworks which the boy had stuffed into it while waiting for the man to come back and start the van. After the shock, the man laughed and the boy smiled.

The boy watched the world pass by along long stretches of road. Heat, bloom and smog hung low and burned his new body. The man told the boy not to breathe, and he held it as long as he could, taking quick shallow breaths when he could no longer. The resonances of the world would ring in his ears for the rest of his life. When the boy was tired he slept with his head hung in his seatbelt. Amber street lights washed over slicked roads, and droplets dripped down the van’s window. Time was a blur for the boy, waking at add hours on further stretches of road to out there, somewhere he’d never know. Something stirred in the man, a slow burn as the universe turned overhead.

Sometimes they listened to music, and that seemed to cheer the man. The boy was confused by the white noise and could not make sense of it. The man expected more from the boy, he never said that out loud and never would, but the boy knew. And this was how it was, and how it would go on.

Sometimes they stopped somewhere out there and slept under the stars. There was a meteor shower one night, and it seemed a lot was on the man’s mind. He was often sullen. The boy had seen this enough and wanted him to come back. The man would snap in response with his back turned, and the boy would feel small with the immensity of space falling around them. And the boy would wonder if the man felt the same way too.

The man said a joke when camping, about beans being a musical fruit as he cooked a can over the fire. Through the boy’s tired eyes the bent prism haze rose from the amber. The boy was wrapped in a blanket while they ate. The man was staring deep into the woods and the boy called out to him. There were eyes in the dark reflecting the light of the fire. Shadowy figures, steadily crowding among the bushes and trees, watching. They never spoke of it again.

There was darkness and light upon the face of that alien land, stretching out endlessly, swallowing the boy. He felt that there was so much he missed, context he’d never know, but he’d look for it in the man and sometimes he’d smile at the boy. The man would tell him stories, history that did not make sense. By the end they were trudging uphill, along slick steep roads, before reaching snow covered mountain tops. They had to stop for tire chains at a local town and the man fought a stranger with a teardrop tattoo. In his frustration the man blamed the child for not helping fasten the chains to the tires. They did not speak for a while. The boy felt this pattern and knew it would pass.

The boy practiced magic tricks once when the man left the van. He said he would be right back and fought a stranger in the parking lot. The boy thought that maybe they had known each other for some time. The stranger saw the boy in the vehicle and the man seemed further provoked by this. The boy learned how to make a pencil look like rubber.

They played in the snow one day. The boy slid down ice hills on a narrow strip of wood. The man seemed distant and did not watch.

Often times they ate in the van, but sometimes stopped somewhere to eat, once at an international house of pancakes. The man seemed as though he had something to say but couldn’t find the words. The boy told the man he could see through his hands and the man looked sullen. The boy could tell things weren’t the same but there was nothing to say that could change it. The boy ate and colored some paper while the man looked busy in himself. Then they were back on the road again.

“A duck walks into a bar, orders a beer and says add it to my bill.”

The boy smiled.

At the ranch, the boy is gone and the man is home. He walks through the empty house, to the boy’s room and sits on his bed. From the closet a superhero toy plays a recording, “is it just me or is it cold in here?”

Marshall I

MRI has traveled most of his life but has no place to call home and is intrigued by the underlying strangeness of our alien reality.

Halloween Time

It Came From The Lake

By Don Money


“Not a good idea?” Jeff chastised me in a whisper behind our cabin. “Was your first clue when you discovered a creature that looked like it crawled out of a nightmare and picked it up, or when we saw it grab that raccoon with its tentacles and cram it in that razor hole of a mouth?”

An hour ago I had been, as usual, the first in our cabin to wake up. There was only so much snoring and sleep farting stink from ten boys I could take before I needed to escape, so I strolled down to the banks of Lake Arrihappe. 

I stood there skipping rocks when I heard a splashing sound down the lake a few hundred feet and decided to investigate. As I approached the place where the splashing was coming from, I couldn’t find the source because the reeds were high in this part of the lake. Kicking off my crocs, I waded out knee deep, parting the thick green reeds as I looked around trying to close in on the source.

At last, as I parted one last group of reeds, I found the source of the splashing. Bobbing up and down in the water was the strangest creature I had ever seen. Its body was just a giant bulb of a head, one big eye, and with multiple tentacles flailing around. The bulb head was a light brown color that transitioned to streaks of gray along the tentacles. 

The little thing seemed to be drowning so, without thinking, I scooped it up and carried it up on the shoreline. It was the size of the pumpkins that we carved every Halloween and seemed to calm down in my arms. A slimy tentacle arched up and caressed the side of my face, its one eye transfixed on me as its savior. How hideously cute this little creature was.

I carried it up and set him down in the shade of the trees behind our cabin, laughing as he playfully rolled around with his tentacles flicking out and back. I was thinking it was interesting how far his tentacles could stretch out when Jeff came around the corner. He jumped in surprise at seeing the creature there.

“Matt,” he said, “What the hell is that?”

“Calm down,” I told him, “I just rescued it from the lake.”

“I have seen enough horror movies to know that what you have done will doom us all,” Jeff said as he moved closer to the back wall of the cabin.

“You are being really overdramatic,” I replied, “Just look at it.”

The creature had rolled around to the edge of where the trees began to grow thick. A raccoon had emerged and upon seeing the creature began to hiss.

“See, look,” I motioned to Jeff, “he has made a nature friend.”

Just as the words came out, two tentacles flicked out and snatched the raccoon dragging it along the dirt. As the raccoon came close, the creature opened its mouth unnaturally wide and began to stuff the raccoon inside. The mouth was a dark abyss full of hundreds of razor sharp pointed teeth. Within seconds it was all over and the little creature made a happy cooing sound.

“Maybe bringing this little fellow up to camp was not a good idea,” was all I got out before Jeff started in with the whisper chastising. 

Now, I sit here pondering my next move.

“Well, what should I do?” I ask Jeff.

“It came from the lake, it should be returned to the lake,” Jeff says.

I walk over and pick up the creature. “I am going to name him Charlie,” I say. Little Charlie reaches up with a tentacle and tussels the hair on my head. I was nervous of the tentacles after what I had witnessed with the raccoon.

“Naming it is a big mistake,” Jeff cautions me. “That’s always a bad idea in the movies.”

“Enough with the movie comparison,” I fire back, “This isn’t some horror movie. So Charlie ate a raccoon, that’s no different if a wolf or mountain lion had done the same. It’s just nature.”

Jeff seems to be contemplating my words when Kevin comes around the corner and discovers us. Kevin was our cabin’s counselor and very much a butthole to all of us boys. The rumor around camp was that Kevin was there as a counselor to work off community service hours for some trouble he got in at a frat party he threw over spring break.

“Well, well, if it isn’t Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dumber,” Kevin laughs at his own joke. “What are you two weirdos doing back here?”

“Nothing,” Jeff says a little too quickly.

“Must be something,” Kevin sneers, “you two look pretty suspicious.”

When neither of us answer, Kevin reaches out and punches Jeff in the arm. Charlie stirs in my arms as if sensing the evil that Kevin truly is. The movement catches Kevin’s eye.

He walks over to me. “What the hell do we have here?” Kevin says looking over the bundle of bulb head and tentacles writhing in my arms.

“It’s nothing,” I reply, trying to spin away.

“Oh, this is definitely something,” Kevin laughs, “Looks like sushi for supper tonight.” 

He jerks Charlie from my arms and holds him out at arms length looking him over. “What in the hell did you boys find?”

As Kevin holds Charlie, I notice his tentacles have extended down an extra length. Suddenly two tentacles shoot out and wrap around Kevin’s head and begin to pull its body toward Kevin.

Kevin begins screaming when he sees Charlie’s open razor mouth closing in on him. A second later, Charlie chomps down on Kevin’s head and sends his other tentacles down Kevin’s body. It is the single most grotesque sight I have ever witnessed. Charlie slowly moves inch by inch down the length of Kevin engulfing him. The sound of Kevin’s bones snapping and his body being compacted makes me lightheaded.

Charlie’s size has more than tripled and he lets out the little cooing sound to show his satisfaction. A tentacle extends over and pats me on the back. Jeff and I look at each other unsure what to do next.

That decision is made when two more counselors, and Kevin’s closest friends, come to see what all the commotion is about. Without hesitation Charlie’s tentacles reach out grab the pair and smash them together and then it is the humans-for-food show part two.

As before, Charlie seems very content and has grown again in size, now as large as a small couch. 

“We have got to do something,” Jeff stammers.

“Maybe if we can get him back down to the lake,” I reply.

Before we can put a plan into action, a loud roar reverberates across the camp. Panic ensues in the camp as larger tentacles swing up out of the lake and begin to smash the cabins and drag campers into the water.

“Those tentacles look extremely familiar,” Jeff says, “Wouldn’t you agree, Matt?”

I wholeheartedly agree. “Do you think it might be his momma? Momma Charlie,” I answer.

A very large bulb shaped head emerges from beneath the water surface, its one eye begins to sweep across the campgrounds. Anything or anybody that had been left standing is being swept aside in the creature’s search. Our cabin is torn apart like matchsticks and Momma Charlie stares intently at us hiding behind its remains.

Charlie reaches out with his tentacles and lifts us up, setting us down protectively behind him. He then lets out a series of calls that are somewhere between a bark and a screech. 

Momma snaps back a couple of similar calls at Charlie then slides a long tentacle upon the shore and wraps it gently around the little creature and guides him back into the water. The enormous bulb head slides back underwater and we watch the wake of the water as she heads back toward the middle of the lake.

It looks like a warzone around us.

“Well, my mom will be happy, Jeff says. “She told me before the trip she wanted me to make some memories that I will carry with me for a lifetime. I’m sure after this, a lifetime sharing this memory with a therapist will be in order.”

“Well,” I reply, “my mom is not going to be happy. She told me before the trip not to get into trouble and cause any damage.”

Don Money

Don Money writes stories across a variety of genres. He is a middle school language arts teacher. His short stories have been published in a variety of anthologies including Trembling With Fear, with Shacklebound Books, with Black Hare Press, and in Troopers Martian, and Stygian Lepus magazines. Don can be found on Twitter @donmoneywriting.

Halloween Time

Dutch Courage

By Thomas Ray


Mark managed to get into lane one just as the slip road began, which was to the annoyance of the truck driver that he had just cut up. He turned into Hilton Park service station; Lucy was fumbling for her handbag on the back seat which was stuck underneath their tent (a behemoth eight-person monster for the two of them). The car decreased speed as Mark held off the accelerator, which was enunciated by the decreasing in tone of the whistling that came through the window seal of the aging motor. They pulled into a space that had a Burger King sign attached to the wall in front of them which got Lucy salivating.

“Just another hour to go,” said Mark as he slid off his sunglasses and perched them on the dashboard; their blue lenses casting a cool pattern on the black plastic. He ruffled his blond hair and stretched off the last three hours of driving while he remained in the drivers’ seat, as he pushed his arms into the air, his orange Netherlands football top lifted to expose his trim torso with only the faint trace of body hair that would take hold when he hit his thirties.

Lucy was standing outside the car and was managing to perform the sort of stretch that Mark wished he could do inside it; hands reaching to the clear blue sky. A white BMW passed their car, seeking the exit, playing All Around the Word by Oasis on their sound system to which Lucy gave an excited woop! and signalled to the occupants (their car, too, bearing all the hallmarks of people heading to a music festival) that she approved by jumping up and down on the spot; her yellow dress flowing in slight delay with her pogoing body. She loved this part of going to festivals; the excitement in the air and anticipation growing as you got nearer to the event as you crossed paths with other like-minded folks. This festival was beyond special, however; it would see the reunion of the Gallagher brothers at the Bushbaby Festival in Manchester.

Lucy ran over and gave Mark an excited hug and kissed him on the cheek in an almost comical, exaggerated manner that he couldn’t tell if it was genuine excitement, or if she was taking the piss. Either way, it was good.

They both loved hot British summers after a year of teaching at the same primary school. Six weeks of festivals, barbeques and time with friends; forget about lesson plans and marking books while the News at Ten scrolled across their TV screen night after night. It was all worth it for this; it may not be the most exotic of locations, but feeling the blistering sunlight on her skin at this motorway service station underneath a cloudless sky marked the start of that break. “Burger time?” she said in a half question/half instruction.

“Burger time,” confirmed Mark as he held her hand, locked the car, and walked down the steps to the automatic door that slid open with a diseased slowness.

The earthy freshness of the aroma emanating from Costa Coffee was enticing enough when they entered the bustling foyer but what was even more enticing to Lucy was the toilet and a super-size Whopper meal. Three hours without a stop was quite a long time for someone that made the New Years’ resolution to remain hydrated by buying one of those two litre bottles that marks the time at which a certain amount of water should be consumed. She looked at the empty bottle in her hand which only served to emphasise her full bladder. “I’ve got to go to the loo!” she declared to Mark.

“I’ll get in line. What do you want?” he replied while he considered if he would rather eat or go to the toilet first.

“Whopper meal please, babe,” she said hurriedly and gave him a peck on the cheek and dashed into the hectic crowd of people.

“Super-size?” he asked after her. He didn’t get a response but knew the answer.

She scurried through the mass of people towards the toilet to be greeted with the largest queue that she had seen for some time. She estimated that it would be at least ten minutes before she even got in there, let alone actually sitting on the throne. Her eyes scanned the signage above the crowd’s heads, which now seemed to be a conglomerate of bodies, moving as one. She saw a door that had a sign screwed to it that read Staff Only a few yards away; staff members were walking in and out. They must have a toilet through there, Lucy thought, it’s either try my luck in there or piss where I stand in about three minutes time!

She bolted out of the queue and made towards the staff door, her place was quickly taken up by another woman who looked equally eager to relieve themselves. As Lucy quickly glanced through the circular window of the Staff Only door, she could make out two other doors on the right; the familiar sight of the male and female toilet symbols on a chrome door plate were a welcome sight. A female member of staff came out of the door and walked towards Lucy; she pretended to be doing something else other than anxiously wanting to be sat on the porcelain on the other side of that door. The staff member emerged into the bustling hallway and walked off in a hurry, seemingly late finishing her lunch break, as Lucy took advantage of the door remaining ajar and dashed to the staff toilet, the door swinging and locking shut behind her, drowning out the din of the crowd. Haven was further provided as the toilet door closed, giving an extra layer of sanctuary between the madness of families on summer breaks and her, now alone in a cool room, finally able to relive herself. She rushed into one of three available cubicles, locked the door, emptied her bladder and felt relief.

As she stood up, the edges of her vision suddenly darkened; she saw black roses bloom in front of her as her world tilted on its axis. She was aurally overwhelmed by a high-pitched tone that was interlaced with, what sounded like, knives being sharpened. Lucy was as close to passing out as anyone could get, almost like that feeling when you get out of a red-hot bath a little too quick, and barely stayed on her feet as her vision steadied and returned to normal. She flushed the toilet and unsteadily wiped the beads of sweat off her brow with the last square of toilet paper that was available in the dispenser. She unlocked the cubicle door, strolled over to the sink to wash her hands and noticed, in the mirror, that her eyes were bloodshot to hell; it would look like she had slipped away from Nick to smoke a quick joint (getting into that festival spirit a little early – why not? I’m not driving). She went to use the hand dryer but that was as lifeless as the decor in the staff toilet. Lucy left the room with dripping hands and was mindful to make as swift an exit as she could, back into the hustle of travellers that were tired and hungry. She gave a quick glance over her shoulder and could see that there was no one in the corridor and could hear no activity or approaching footsteps from the staff room area. She hit the door release button with an open palm that disengaged the magnetic lock and braced herself for the madness of screaming kids, queues and people shuttling around under the sick glow of fluorescent lighting.

What she was greeted with was a scene that scrambled her brain as it tried to make sense of the incongruence of what was in front of her now, versus what had been there only a few minutes ago.

Instead of a busy corridor, it was as if someone had hastily built a wall either side of the hallway, leaving the width of the door, and built a staircase in front of her where a wall had been. 

There was no noise. 

Not a peep. 

She could picture herself as the feature of some hidden camera show where she had exited the scene and a team of fast-moving production crew had placed precut plasterboard in the hallway which would be met with laughter and the big reveal in a couple of minutes once the novelty had worn off.

 She extended her arms out to either side where her fingers could just reach the walls that penned her in, albeit for the strange staircase that lay ahead. The wall felt solid and did not budge: it wasn’t temporary. Lucy reinforced this with a rap on the wall which was met with a solid thump that sounded as if there were miles of earth behind it.

Her disbelief gave way to panic as she turned around to try to get back into the staff area, but she did not know the code for the security pad. Her only other option was to climb the pine staircase that lay before her; it went up halfway and came back on itself. It was at the halfway point that Lucy could smell onions and cooked meat. As she turned on the landing to go up towards the smell, she saw an elderly lady at the top of the stairs, just before a white double swing door. The lady was dressed in a white evening gown and wore a wide brimmed hat that bordered on the ridiculous regarding its size, which also hid her eyes.

“Come on, Lucy. Let’s see where you end up,” said the woman, holding out a silk gloved hand in invitation.

Lucy froze on the spot; she was apprehensively agog at what was going to happen next while thinking about Mark in the queue for Burger King.

“My name is Lucille,” continued the lady, “we’re having a party and you may be invited,” she said with a grin that revealed pitted, tobacco-stained teeth.

Without seeing any other option, Lucy advanced up the stairs towards Lucille but did not take her hand which was met with indifference. Lucille spun on her kitten heels, hitched up her dress with one hand and pushed open the glass panelled door with the other. Her pearls rattled as she walked through into a corridor that had the good-mannered rumble of civilised conversation on the one side and that smell of cooking meat on the other. Lucille paused a few steps into the hallway and gave a playful smile that said, come on, it’s OK! while signalling to carry on moving with a cock of her head.

As Lucy walked the distance of the hallway, she saw that the pine panelling of either side came up to about waist height which then gave way to glass. On her left she could see a grand dining area filled with huge tables, around which tuxedoed men chatted next to women in cocktail dresses; all were tucking into plates of, what looked like steak, under the light of chandeliers. On her right, Lucy saw a white and chrome galley kitchen through the greasy glass, manned by tearful chefs of all ages and races; the sound of sobbing was barely audible of the sizzling of meat and onions being fried as the staff shuffled around in a lifeless daze, flipping meat on the grill and plating up meals apathetically.

The ding of the service bell brought Lucy out of her stupor as she followed Lucille to the end of the corridor where there was a door being held open by the host. Beyond the threshold was a small room, boxed in on all sides by tall bookcases. She could smell cigar smoke. In the middle of the room was a mahogany desk with a peculiar machine placed there; it looked like a mixture between a ticker tape machine and a morse code telegraph with a red button on the right side of it.

“Press it,” motioned Lucille towards the button convivially, “let’s see what you’ll be doing.”

Lucy did as she was told, and out of the machine was printed a green ticket which was snapped up by Lucille with a laugh, “goodness; you’d better get changed for dinner!” she cackled while reaching for the back of the door and producing a crimson ballgown that hung there.

Lucy slipped into the gown while Lucille turned away; she had a thought of running for it, but where to? Mark had her handbag and phone; she couldn’t call for help.

Lucille led her into the dining room where there was a vacant seat at one of the many dining tables. A glass of wine was poured for her by a melancholic waitress, dressed in filthy black trousers and a stained white shirt; she couldn’t be any more than sixteen. A plate of meat and onions was laid on her placemat.

A man that reminded Lucy of a walrus tried to introduce himself to her from the other side of the table, but her attention was drawn to a bright orange flash that appeared in the window of the corridor.

“MARK!” Lucy shouted, standing up like a coiled spring being released, knocking over her wine as she tried to dart towards the door that Lucille had just bought her through.

“Sit down,” said Lucille forcefully as she clamped a hand on Lucy’s shoulder and rammed her back into her chair.

Mark looked equally as puzzled as Lucy was only moments ago and was led by another well-dressed lady to the room with the machine. Seconds later Mark reappeared in the corridor, only this time his bewildered look was replaced with the look of someone that had just received the most devastating news; he seemed to be overwhelmed with grief. His eyes were wide open, and his mouth gaped slackly as he was led by the lady past the door to the kitchen, towards a heavy looking black door that seemingly needed to be unlocked. The other lady was sympathetically rubbing Mark on the back the way that a mother might try to console their child after they have fallen off their bike while he looked at a red ticket that he held up to his tearful, bloodshot eyes.

As Mark slipped into the darkness that lay beyond the black door, Lucy burst into tears when she realised that he was neither getting dressed up for dinner nor dressed down for cooking or waiting duties; he was still dressed in his orange football shirt. A tall man in a stained apron went into the room and closed the black door behind him.


The well-dressed lady locked the door and walked towards the stairs.

“This isn’t steak, is it?” stammered Lucy, fully knowing the answer.

“No, dear,” replied Lucille.

Thomas Ray

Thomas Ray is an aspiring writer who has taken a change from doing a law degree and has moved on to a creative writing degree in their final year with the Open University in the UK. They work full time as a driving instructor and enjoy writing for pleasure in my spare time.

Halloween Time

Camp Chupacabra

By James Rumpel


My family enjoys camping. We go once a month, sometimes even twice. A couple of years ago, Dad bought a fancy thirty-foot Airstream camper. It’s more than big enough for me, my parents and my little sister, Susie. We usually camp at this run-down old county park. It’s about a two-hour drive to get there. It doesn’t have a lot of stuff to do. The lake is small and the beach is mostly pebbles and goose poop. There is a lot of wildlife for us to watch, mostly deer and squirrels and Dad loves the privacy. We usually have the whole place to ourselves, especially when we show up in the middle of the week.

That wasn’t the case this week, however. We pulled into our usual campsite on Thursday afternoon and had everything set up in less than an hour. All four of us were about to go for a hike on our favorite trail, the one that goes past a field that always seems to have a couple of deer grazing. Just before we left, an old-fashioned van, the kind hippies used to use in the seventies, pulled into the campsite next to ours. An odd-looking man climbed out of the van and waved to us. It took me a moment to realize that he wasn’t wearing a shirt; his entire torso was covered with tattoos.

“This place has fifteen campsites,” complained my dad to my mom, “and that moron has to pick the one right next to us. I mean, every other spot is empty. There goes our privacy.”

“It’s okay, dear,” replied Mom. “We know he’s there. We can avoid him. Besides, I’m sure he’ll sleep in his van at night.”

“I don’t know,” said Dad. “Maybe we should pack up and go someplace else. There’s that state forest campground by the old strip-mining site.”

“Not that place,” I chimed in. “They don’t have running water and the pit toilets are terrible.”

“Yeah, they stink” added Susie.

“Okay,” sighed my father. “We’ll stay. But you all have to promise to stay away from that guy.”

My sister and I nodded in unison.

“Let’s get going. It gets dark pretty early this time of year,” said Mom.

“And I have a business call to make,” added Dad. “We’ll just take a short hike. Maybe we’ll spot some deer. That’s always nice.”


When we got back from our walk, Mom took Susie down to the beach to skip stones. I said I didn’t have any desire to walk on goose droppings or play with boring rocks. Dad walked out toward the camp entrance to make his business call. The reception was better out there.

I was sitting by the campfire playing a game on my phone when I noticed a strange smell coming from the adjacent campsite. I hid behind our camper and peeked around the corner to see where the horrendous odor was coming from.

The man, still shirtless, had erected ten-foot-tall poles all around his campsite. He was hanging burlap sacks from each of them. I also noticed that he had set up a tripod and camera in the center of his area. 

I remembered my father’s order to avoid the stranger, but as a thirteen-year-old, it was my right and duty to disobey. 

“What are you doing?” I asked while I sauntered into his camp.

“Putting out bait,” he answered, barely glancing in my direction.

“Bait for what? What could stuff that stinks that bad ever attract?”

“Have you ever heard of something called a chupacabra?” asked the man. He walked to his van and pulled out another sack while he spoke.

“Isn’t that supposed to be some kind of monster? There was an episode of Supernatural about one. They’re not real, though.”

“Well, I think they are and there’s one living somewhere near this campground. With a little luck, I’m going to get it on camera. This is going to be the perfect night for it. There’s going to be a bright full moon. The lighting should be excellent.”

I shook my head, “Why would you think there’s a monster in this boring place?”

“You don’t know about the deer mutilations?”

“The what?”

“The caretaker and a bunch of the people in the area have been finding mutilated deer for the last couple of years. Just last month, the guy who cleans this place found the remains of two deer on one of the trails. Something had ripped their hearts out. I believe a chupacabra is doing it.”

“Maybe it was a bear or something.”

The man smiled, “That’s just what they want you to think. I’ve done a lot of research. I can guarantee these killings are not being done by a bear.”

“So, how do you know it’s a chupacabra?”

“I don’t for sure. But whatever it is, it’s something unnatural. If it is a chupacabra, these bait packs are going to bring it. I read about how to make them on the internet.”

I thought the guy was crazy, but I did find his story and enthusiasm interesting. “What are you going to do if something does show up?

“I’m going to get all sorts of pictures. I’ve got a motion camera set up out here and I can film it through the window in the back of my van.” 

He hung a sack on the final pole and turned to face me. He scratched the back of his head. “You want to make sure you stay in your camper tonight. It might not be safe to be outside. Now, I’ve got to get back to work. I’ve got a lot to do.”

Once again, he moved to his van. This time he pulled out a cage with a couple of rabbits inside. “The more bait the better.”

Before I could say anything more, I heard my dad yelling.

I ducked into the woods and worked my way around to the back of our campsite. That way, when I stepped out from the trees, my dad wouldn’t know that I have been next door.

My mom and sister came back at the same time.

“Okay, everyone into the camper,” announced Dad. “It’s almost dark.”

“What about dinner?” asked Susie. 

“We’ll all eat later,” said my mother. “How about we start a game of Monopoly?”

“Not Monopoly,” said Dad. “We always start fighting when we play that game.”


The next morning was like every morning on our camping trips. I woke up laying under the camper, naked and confused. 

Before I could crawl out from behind the tire and start looking for some clothes, I heard the camper door swing open. My mother climbed out just as my dad emerged from the woods.

“Did you find, Susie?” asked my dad.

“Yes, I already carried her inside and put her in bed. Jack’s still sleeping under the camper.”

“I knew we should have left yesterday,” said my father.

“You can’t blame, Susie,” said Mom. “If that man had stayed inside his van, she wouldn’t have attacked him. She would have just eaten the rabbits and gone off to look for something else. She’s too young to have any control after she transforms.”

“I know, I know,” replied my father. “Still, it’s too bad. This was a nice, isolated place. Now, we’re going to have to find someplace else to last out the next full moon.”

“We’ll find something. We always do. No one’s figured out we are werewolves for decades.” said my mother. “Still, we better get out of here before anybody wanders across what’s left of the body.”

“You’re right. You start packing up our stuff. I’ll go next door and destroy the cameras.

I sat under the camper, trying to comprehend everything I had just heard. It explained so much. I now understood why I was never hungry in the morning during our camping trips and why I sometimes found pieces of fur in my teeth.

I knew chupacabras weren’t real.

The End


James Rumpel

James Rumpel is a retired high school math teacher who enjoys trying to turn some of the many odd ideas circling his brain into actual stories. He lives in Wisconsin with his wonderful wife, Mary.
Halloween Time


By Cassandra Vaillancourt

Jack could remember when he could hardly wait to hit the tropics and spend his life in paradise, but now he was tired of languishing in this tropic hell – this miserable rock in the middle of nowhere.

How long was it ten years? Seemed like a lifetime. Money was never a problem. There were always the tourists that he could hustle, some action, but still he had a burning desire to move on.

His immediate headquarters as well as home was a resort hotel that had seen better days. He was always flirting with the female staff, but the hotel’s manager would look the other way as Jack was always good for business. He was always able to lure the tourists in.

The only redeeming value this island had, Jack felt, were its women. It seemed a real pity that these nubile, young ladies would eventually grow old and fat. That thought didn’t stop him from pursuing every girl that caught his fancy.

He was in the village’s open market mentally appraising each girl that crossed his way. Suddenly something caught his attention. It was a local girl. He was surprised that he hadn’t seen her before.

There was something mysterious about her that made her different from the others. Jack soaked in her beauty. He noticed how her wrap-around dress silhouetted her firm young body. Her long black silky hair was accentuated by a fiery red Hibiscus tucked behind her ear.

It almost seemed like time had stood still except for her. She locked eyes with Jack and gave him a demure smile and a wink. Jack was so entranced that he didn’t see one of his girlfriends, a Polynesian Ariana Grande wannabe come up to him. The spell broke when Ariana punched his arm.

“Jack! What’s up with you?! I call for you. Everybody must’ve heard me but you!”

“I was thinking about work.” Jack grumbled, massaging his struck arm. “Planning some action… Say who is that young woman? The one with the red flower tucked in her hair?”

Annoyed, Ariana scanned the marketplace and saw a smiling laughing elderly woman selling cheap trinkets. She had a faded red flower in her hair. Ariana’s chagrin changed to amusement.

“That’s Happy Mary! You plan some action with her?!” Ariana responded in mock alarm. 

“NO! Not Her!” Jack snapped. “Can’t you see? She’s-“ She was gone. Jack was looking everywhere but the girl had vanished just as she appeared.

Ariana was looking at Jack. “Maybe you go out with her? Go ahead I’m not jealous.” She broke off laughing and went to join her friends.

Jack stormed off knowing that that little brat would not let him live it down. He drove back to the hotel. He was going to do a quick check at the nearby diving shop. He would pull a little cursory inventory and check the books.

Bobbie greeted Jack as he entered the shop. She was a transplanted California surfer girl who gave scuba diving tours and lessons. She gave him a list of what was needed.

“Jack, can you do something about these please? She pointed to the bleached white skulls in the glass display counter. The skulls were displayed with coral, seashells and rusted bullet shells. “I’m starting to get complaints about them.”


Jack reluctantly agreed. “Just put them in a box. I’ll be in the back office going over sales.” He didn’t have to tell her twice. At the desk, Jack was going over the books and checking sales. He smiled to himself thinking that it’s going to be a great summer.

He left later with the box of skulls, got into the company jeep and pulled out. He would do a little joyriding before adding the skulls to the rest of the war relics he recovered.

Hard to believe that this quiet island saw a lot of heavy fighting in the war. The island had plenty of war memorials: American, Australian and Japanese.

Jack loved the war tourists who would pay a lot for war booty he recovered or bought from natives. Those tourists would pay top dollar for skulls. He saw profits, but he incurred the wrath of Japanese tourists who came to recover their war dead. They warned him not to disturb the dead, that he was trespassing on sacred ground.

He drove along the beach until he thought he saw the mystery girl again, and he stopped. She was walking, almost gliding along the beach. The wind was blowing through her hair. She was looking out to the sea. The Sun’s golden rays gave her a shimmery aura. Jack closed his eyes for a second, and she was gone.

Back at the hotel Jack was in the lounge fending off the teasing from the staff. “I tell you it wasn’t Happy Mary! I know what I saw!”

“A real mystery woman huh?” Ariana asked. “If what you say is true, she sounds way too good for you!”

One bar tendered offered, “My grandmother used to tell me stories about mischievous spirits who would wander about to cause trouble. Maybe you attracted one.”

“Oh shut up!” Jack heard enough. “Spare me your ghost stories!” He made himself a Mai Tai and headed outside towards the pool. “I need some fresh air. Besides, this space is becoming too moronic for me!”

“You take care of Happy Mary. Ok?” Ariana teased. The others joined her in tittering laughter.

Jack just couldn’t get that mystery girl out of his head. It was dusk. Jack sat musing at a poolside table sipping his drink.

He played with the idea of catching the first plane out. Bangkok seemed like a good prospect to start over. He walked over to a railing pondering his dilemma until he thought he saw a glowing red flower.

It was her. It had to be her. He jumped over the railing. Soon as he landed on crushed coral ground, he could just see a figure heading into a nearby grove. Jack gave pursuit. He ran trying to catch up, yet it seemed that the girl was casually walking, almost gliding.

He cursed and fumed as he kept tripping and stumbling along the way. The chase seemed almost endless until he found himself at the beach. The only sounds were those of the waves crashing against the surf.

Jack heard giggling and saw his mystery girl emerging from a grove of palm trees. He felt a little intimidated as he was hunched over regaining his breath. She seemed to float towards him.

After regaining his composure, Jack was finally able to appraise her beauty when she got close. She gave a sweet smile. The night breeze was teasing her silky hair exposing her bared shoulders. Jack wondered if she might be Eurasian. The young woman never uttered a word.

“So you don’t like to talk?” Jack asked, “But you like to play, eh?” He grabbed her and they both embraced. Their lips locked into a long passionate kiss.

Jack began to gag and struggled to break free as he felt something rotten slide into his mouth and an overpowering, putrid stench assailed his senses. He broke away and keeled over coughing and choking.

He heard a coarse, gurgling laughter. Jack screamed as he looked up at the rotting remains of an armed zombie soldier. Malevolence glared from its helmeted, decayed features. “WELCOME TO HELL, BOY!” It roared, crashing the butt of its’ ancient carbine rifle on Jack’s terrified face.

The night exploded into shrieking daylight. Jack found himself nearly overwhelmed by swarms of screaming and hollering soldiers charging from previously non-existent landing craft. Some were blown up by explosions that rocked the land.

Jack tried to escape from this insanity. He tried to find his way back to the hotel. That’s all that mattered. He had to get back. Along the way he was knocked senseless by a flying, smoldering boot. Coming to, he recoiled in horror from the boot that smelt like cooked meat.

Instead of his hotel – his home -he saw a colonial mansion engulfed in flames. Whooping and hollering soldiers were shooting or bayonetting the burning figures trying to escape.

Jack shook his head screaming like a madman running into the jungle. Alone, he tried to breathe, to calm down. It was then he heard anguished crying.

It was the mystery woman, but she was bruised and bleeding. She was clinging to the torn remains of her dress. Jack ran up to help her, but she walked through him. Jack felt rage, indignation, helplessness and pain. Eternal pain. Jack went numb. He was shivering. He blindly stumbled aimlessly oblivious to the insanity around him. Everything went up in a huge explosion. He was flying.

The morning saw the hotel in pandemonium. Jack couldn’t be found anywhere. The manager was stressing out. The staff were searching high and low. Ariana got on her motorbike and went searching the island. She would try the beach, then the market.

It was early enough that there were very few beach goers. She cruised along the surf until she came upon a grove of palm trees. She saw who she thought was Jack, but he was different.

As she got closer and got off her bike, she was alarmed to see that Jack’s hair was shock white and he was sitting under the tree nodding back and forth, weeping and mumbling.

Ariana shook Jack, trying to get his attention. He didn’t acknowledge her. Just kept mumbling and stared wide eyed into the water at the barely discernable rusted hulks.

“JACK!!!” Ariana screamed and smacked him a couple of times. Nothing. She reached for her phone and called for help. She didn’t notice a fiery red Hibiscus swatted in Jack’s hair.


Cassandra Vaillancourt

Cassandra Vaillancourt is a trans woman and a veteran. She’s entered stories to the VA Veterans Art Show where she won 1st, 2nd and Best of Show ribbons for her work. Her short story “The War Wreck”, published in Trembling With Fear last month, was her first venture into submitting short stories for publication.


I awake, naked, sprawled upon itching sands, prickling skin bleached by an unforgiving sun, memory empty of reasons to be there.

Above, sky; blue, deep, and infinite like the foaming, choking water that’s spat me onto the shore. Screaming gulls circle, greedy birds dipping and diving, feeding on something dead tasty afloat upon the ocean.

Blinking, eyes burnt by ultraviolet light, brain pounding like the sound of explosions, I survey my surroundings. 

Choppers buzz like angry flies, ships sink, missiles rain down.

A mushrooming cloud.

Roaring, I remember, how my slumber’s been disturbed.

That I am the beast from beneath.


Steven Holding

Steven Holding lives in the United Kingdom. His story BROTHERLY LOVE appears in the forthcoming collection HOME SWEET HORROR from Black Ink Fiction, while his tale PULLING NIGHTS is featured in July’s issue of THE STYGIAN LEPUS. You can follow his work at

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