Trembling With Fear 07/16/2017

‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

My Name is Jacob Hoffman

With daylight dulled by thick pewter clouds, the city is unusually bleak this afternoon. It’ll be dark soon. Just my luck.

Why the hell did I agree to cover Mavis’ shift at the bar? I should’ve known better than to say yes. I should be inside by now, locked up safe and sound.

She wasn’t supposed to tell me her name. It’s too personal. Too human. We don’t do that around here. Not with the disappearances.

The rain begins again. Shivering, I skulk down Twenty-Ninth Street.

There haven’t been any incidents in a while. I don’t know whether that means we’re safe, or that death’s overdue and looking to return with a vengeance.

Maybe there won’t be any problem, I tell myself. The rain’s been sporadic, so maybe the sewers won’t be too full yet. Maybe the creatures won’t surface tonight. In my gut, I know that isn’t true. They’re coming. And I’m alone and out in the open— a prime target.

I pause to shake off the fat raindrops which rests on my shoulders. I pull my coat’s collar tight against my throat.

With every passing minute, the pedestrians dwindle until it finally seems like I’m the only one outside in the whole damn city. The rain keeps pounding down. It’s just a matter of time before the sewers begin to flood. After that, the creatures will emerge. I shudder at the thought.

As the orange streetlights flicker on, my pace quickens. I’ve got a dozen blocks to cover before nightfall and time’s running out. Lightning flashes. Thunder cracks.

There’s a faint scrape, like footsteps, somewhere nearby. Behind me, I think. I go a little faster.

The sound follows me down Thirty-Second and by Thirty-Third I decide to try and lose whoever, or whatever, is tailing me. As soon as my foot strikes the pavement on Thirty-Fifth, I make a left, then a right, then a left again. Half a block here, a full block there, a quarter of a block somewhere else. It doesn’t matter where I’m headed as long as I’m moving forward.

It stalks me. My throat tightens with panic. The sky darkens and I push forward. Still, it follows me, so I sprint.

Somewhere along the way I turn a wrong corner and run into an alley. It’s a dead end, but I discover it too late. I round the corner and my face slams against cold hard metal. Everything fades to black.

My eyes flutter open. Blood seeps from my brow. It drips down the bridge of my nose and lingers on my lips.

My body throbs. Soggy and shivering, I see my breath in little puffs. For a moment, I forget about the noise and the creatures and why or where I was trying to go. There’s only the searing pain in the back of my head and the sharp ache on my face.

In a puddle of runoff and dumpster drippings, I lie flat on my back, sprawled out, waiting until everything around me stops spinning. I stare up at the bulb shining above me. Behind it, the sky is impenetrable and black.

As I struggle to my feet, my legs feel gelatinous and wobbly. The light flickers above me. Hoping to catch my breath, I stand and lean against the brick wall.

From one of the back corners of the alley, the sound returns. I whip around to face it, but the light above me fizzles out. The drizzle stops. The air is still and humid.

At the opening of the alley, footsteps slam against the wet concrete, trying to escape. Someone flees from the beasts, but with every step, the stranger leads them right to me. The steps crescendo.

My stomach drops. There’s no time to escape, so I press myself between the wall and dumpster, hoping the garbage covers my scent.

The footsteps end with a thump—like the sound of a body landing on pavement. A woman’s scream pierces the air. I freeze. Muscles stiff as stone. The scream echoes against the walls of the alley, creating a discordant choir—singing agony and terror in rounds.

At first, there are words “No! Stop! Please! Don’t”, all the usual things people cry out when they’re begging for mercy. But after several seconds, the words fall away and in their place come other noises.

Eventually, the echoed screams fade to a whimper which tapers off into a tiny gargle, then stops altogether. It isn’t until after the screaming’s stopped that I wish it would continue. Screaming means pain but silence means death. I don’t know which is worse.

The creatures grunt and suck and slurp. As I witness the unholy sound of her flesh being sliced and shred, acid creeps into my throat and vomit fills my mouth. The noises turn into crunching as the creatures gnaw on her bones. Their nails click on the concrete as they leave.

A few minutes pass. I relax and slowly exit the alley. I fumble to light a match. When it ignites, I discover I’m standing in a puddle of blood. A whimper rises in my throat. As I wade through the puddle, it soaks into my socks and wicks up around my ankles. The match slips from my fingers into the pool, and the alley plunges into darkness once more.

I take a deep breath, then I run. And I run. And when I think I won’t make it another step, I run some more. With twists and turns, I dash through the maze of open streets and narrow alleys. I’m going to make it home if it’s the last thing I do.

Up ahead, over a corner bakery, a street sign flashes Forty-Eighth. Finally, something familiar. It’s so damn beautiful I could cry. Relief courses through my veins like morphine. The acidic sting in my tired muscles melts away. I’m close.

I sprint until I reach Hamilton and Fifty-Second. I made it. The nightmare is nearly over. Not only have I survived— I’m home.

I stumble up the doorstep and fumble with my keys. They slip through my wet fingers and fall to the ground. As I bend over to retrieve them, I see a creature crouching on the fire escape, staring back at me.

It licks its lips and lets out a deep growl.

I try the key again, but my hand trembles so violently, I can’t do it. The creature snarls. For a moment, I’m paralyzed with fear and my thoughts jump to the woman in the alley.

The creature’s nails click against the metallic steps— slowly descending the fire escape. It lingers on the last step. Suddenly, it opens its jaws and clamps down on my leg—teeth piercing straight through one of my knees.

My free leg to kicks the creature’s face. It releases its grip on my limb and steps back. I pound my fists against the door, screaming, “Open up!”

Claws dig into my skin and rip open thick stripes of flesh.

“Help!” I plead, slamming an open palm against the iron grates of tenant 1A’s front window.

From inside, the curtains inch open to reveal a child’s face. His mother quickly covers his eyes, but she doesn’t turn away. The creature continues to devour me. I beg for mercy until words escape me.

The woman in the window makes no effort to help — she just stands there, silently witnessing my final moments.

As darkness settles upon me, I realize I probably should’ve told her my name.



Stephanie Villegas

Stephanie Villegas

Stephanie Villegas is a freelance writer living in sunny Southern California. She graduated with a degree in Religious Studies from UCSD, where she developed a deep interest in cultural beliefs and the paranormal. Among many other obsessions, she can’t get enough of Speculative Horror, Film Noir, vigilante comic books, and mechanical typewriters. Her Flash Fiction is published at Postcard Shorts and she anticipates the release of her debut novel later this year.

Occasionally, she blogs at

To Die For

“Look, it’s not even cooked.”  The diner poked at her food in disgust. “Ugh.”

“You asked for rare,” her companion reminded her.

“Rare does not mean raw.”  She looked around.  “Waiter, I need to see the chef now!”

“But madam …”

“Forget it.  I’ll go.”

She got up and marched into the kitchen, stepped over the bodies.  She hacked another piece off the chef, flashed it under the grill.

“If you want anything doing properly,” she said as she returned to her seat, “you’ve got to do it yourself.”

She smiled happily.  The food here really was to die for.

Stephanie Ellis

Stephanie Ellis is a TeachingAssistant in a Southampton secondary school but previously worked for many years as a technical author. Her genre fiction short stories have found success in Massacre and Sanitarium magazines as well as a variety of horror anthologies. She is also an active member of theFlashDogs flash fiction online community where most of her contributions are of the darker kind. Also, co-curator and co-editor at The Infernal Clock.

You can find out more about Stephanie at:

The Companion

I’m glad you’re here.

I know.

I didn’t know who else to turn to.

You can always come to me.

You’re always there.

I’m always here.

It’s beyond my endurance now; I can’t sleep.

I know.

You always understand.

I do.

Everything’s so dark.

I’ll find you.

Something’s moving around.

I know.

I can’t see.

I can see you.

It hears me.

I know.

It smells putrid.

You’ll get used to it.

I’m afraid. I don’t know what’s happening.

I can tell you.

It feels wrong.

You’ll numb yourself to it.

I think it’s coming for me.

I’m already here.

Carl R. Jennings

Carl R. Jennings is by day a thickly Russian accented bartender in Southwestern Virginia. By night he is the rooster themed superhero: the Molotov Cocktail, protecting the weak and beer-sodden. While heroically posing on a rooftop in the moonlight in case a roaming photographer happens by, he finds the time to write down a word or two in the lifelong dream that he can put aside the superhero mantle and utility comb to become a real author.

To The Sea, The Sorrow

Leah sat on the edge of the pier and looked out to sea, salt tears welling in her wide grey eyes. She thought of her mother; the beautiful hair gone, oily sweat growing slick on pallid skin. She thought of the day she returned from school to find her mother’s bed empty and her father stone-faced, teeth clenched.

“She has gone to the sea,” he’d told his daughter who, old enough, dismissed the words as a well-meaning fable.

As Leah stood and left, a pale shape broke the water. Oil-slick and bald, it watched the girl with wide grey eyes.

Daniel Pietersen

Daniel Pietersen is an author of weird horror and terror philosophy, interested in how speculative works tell us about the world today as much as the world to come. He has had two short stories published in The Audient Void and a longer work that deal with time and regret can be found on the Aether & Ichor blog. Daniel lives in Edinburgh with his wife and dog.

They Glistened Black In The Sun

The Clickers were everywhere.
Thankfully Jesse had hidden.
She knew if they saw her she was dead.
They slept during the day.
It should have been safe.
Yet here they were.
Each time they moved the clicking grew louder.
Something had them agitated.
They were hunting.
The sound was drawing closer.
She just had to be quiet.
Not draw their attention.
One of them passed where she hid.
Its carapace glistening black in the sun.
Closing her eyes, she tried not to whimper.
Hours passed before they left.
Hours more before she worked up the courage to try for home.

Stuart Conover

Stuart Conover is a father, husband, rescue dog owner, horror author, blogger, journalist, horror enthusiast, comic book geek, science fiction junkie, and IT professional. With all of that to cram in on a daily basis, it is highly debatable that he ever is able to sleep and rumors have him attached to an IV drip of caffeine to get through most days.

A resident in the suburbs of Chicago (and once upon a time in the city) most of Stuart’s fiction takes place in the Midwest if not the Windy City itself. From downtown to the suburbs to the cornfields – the area is ripe for urban horror of all facets.

Oh, he’s also the editor of this site!

You can find out more about Stuart over at his homepage.

Taking Submissions: Untitled Indie Shelves Horror Anthology

Deadline: September 30th, 2017
Payment: 75% of net profit from each unit sold will be split between the accepted authors, with each author earning an equal split.

No Erotica
Sex, profanity, gore, and adult themes are allowed, but any submission that relies too heavily on any of these will not be accepted.

Word Count- 7,500-10,000
Genre: Horror
Accepting between 12 and 17 submissions.

The goal is to showcase the talent of budding Independent Authors.  The Horror Anthology will be around 500 pages.  The final amount of accepted submissions will depend on the length of each accepted submission.  Indie Shelves Publishing will retain 25% of the net profits of each unit sold.  The remaining 75% of net profit from each unit sold will be split between the accepted authors, with each author earning an equal split.  5% of Indie Shelves Publishing’s 25% royalty will go to the chosen editor/s.  5% of Indie Shelves Publishing’s 25% royalty will go to the chosen cover designer/s.
Each chosen author will be allowed a marketing page, immediately following their submission.  They will be able to list any other works, upcoming works, social media accounts, blog sites, or websites.  The goal is to help get you exposure.
Indie Shelves Publishing values the success of the individual author, over its own financial gain.  If, at any time, the author is offered a more beneficial arrangement, or no longer feels that the inclusion of their work, in this anthology, is in their best interest, they may request the removal of their work from the anthology.  The request must be in writing.
Once the written request is received, Indie Shelves Publishing will, within 30 days, remove the authors story from the published anthology.  Any/all distribution rights, with Indie Shelves Publishing, for works featured in this anthology, have no minimum term for inclusion.

Via: Indie Shelves.

Taking Submissions: Furry Frolics

Deadline: October 1st, 2017
Payment: Contributor’s Copy

Thurston Howl Publications is now accepting submissions for its furry anthology, Furry Frolics (tentative title); Fred Patten, editor.
Deadline: October 1, 2017
Word count: 2,500-8,000; a little above and a little below will be acceptable

Humor has been a rarity in furry fiction.  We aim to change that!  Furry Frolics will friz your fur and tickle your tail.  We want your funniest fiction.

There have been stories with anthro animals mixing with humans in our civilization:  what would it REALLY be like for a furry in our world?  Having to wear clothing on top of thick fur?  The ever-popular “tails and doors don’t mix”?  Or having tails and wearing pants at all; or tails and chairs with no tail-holes?  Being in a stinky crowd with an animal’s enhanced scent?  Or: being the manager of a hotel that caters to all sentient animals, predators and prey, of all sizes?  (Think Zootopia.)

Funny-animal stories will be accepted, but try to make it a genuine anthro-animal story, not one that would work just as well if the characters were all humans.  Also remember that “funny” is not the same thing as “silly”, although if you can make it both, go ahead.  (What is the anthro equivalent of a pie in the face?  Remember that most mammals besides humans and horses don’t sweat.)

We will NOT accept:
Racism, sexism, or discrimination presented in a positive light.
Pedophilia or sex with characters under the age of 18 presented in a positive light.
Rape, torture, dubious consent, forced seduction presented in a positive light.
Snuff or Necrophilia presented in a positive light.
Bestiality presented in a positive light.
If you are in doubt, ASK. Better to ask then to get an outright rejection!

You can submit up to three stories, but we will only accept one per author (if any).
Reprints are fine, but you have to own full permission of the work in order for us to consider it.
We will not accept simultaneous submissions.
Payment: Authors will receive a free copy of the print book.
Send submissions in .doc or .docx format to  [email protected] .
We will inform all authors regarding decisions within a week or two after the deadline.
Tentative publication date:  January 2018.

Via: Thurston Howl Publications.

Taking Submissions: ‘The Heart of a Devil: Horror and Dark Fantasy Villains Anthology’

Deadline: August 10th, 2017
Payment: Payment will be one half-cent per word, with a minimum payment of $5.00 and a maximum of $15.00. Reprints are the same but with a max of $10.
Note: Reprints Allowed

Estimated to come out in time for Halloween.
Word Count:    500-10,500
Theme:    For this anthology, we want glimpses into the world of those we love to hate. Monsters, demons, murderers, etc. Are they as evil as they seem? What made them do those horrible things? What was their breaking point? Were they good once or has their heart always been black? A broader take on the fairy tale villains anthology.
Any time period and sub-genre are accepted, however there must be a villain/bad guy as the focus of your story.  Villains may be taken from fairy tales, mythology, folklore, monster legends, history, or entirely original.
Due to a large number of submissions for the new anthology that fail to meet the theme and/or guidelines, we have decided to give some extra clarification for what we are looking for.
This is NOT just a horror anthology about villains/evil people.
Get us into the heart of the villains. Make us question if they are really that bad. Help us understand why they do what they do. Show us that underneath their actions, there is something there that could make us empathize with their plight. Go beyond the darkness and evil and help us wonder what’s under the surface of those we love to hate.
Response Time:  Please allow up to one month. After that, if you don’t hear from us then feel free to give us a little nudge.
Payment: Payment will be one half-cent per word, with a minimum payment of $5.00 and a maximum of $15.00. Payments will be made by PayPal in USD. Payments will go out no later than four months after the publication date.
Editing: Yes, your story will be edited if we decide to accept it. After we go through and edit your story, it will then be sent back to you for final approval. In some cases, we may ask for revisions to be made. 
Reprints, Multiple & Simultaneous Submissions: Yes. Payment for reprints is a maximum of $10.
Guidelines for Submissions:
  • All submissions are to be sent [email protected]
  • In the subject line please type HORROR ANTHOLOGY SUBMISSION: [Your Story Title Here].
  • In the body of your email, please include your name and word count. If the story is under 2,000 words, please paste the text in the body of the email, otherwise please attach it. 
We will list all published authors on our site. Once you have a story accepted for publication, we will post a little author bio up on our site with a list of all published pieces (published by FDM).

Via: Fantasia Divinity Magazine.

Ongoing Submissions: The Arcanist

Payment: $50

Welcome to The Arcanist!

We’re a new Medium-based literary magazine that focuses on fantasy and sci-fi flash fiction. We love magical worlds full of dragons and speculative looks at the future, and we think these two genres are important to our culture, which is why we want to give writers of these genres a new place to publish their work. One that pays them, too. (Yay!)

Since we’re brand new, we’re opening up submissions for our weekly publication schedule (we aim to properly launch within the next couple months).

So, let’s get on with it:

What We Talk About When We Talk About SF/F Flash Fiction

Fantasy and sci-fi stories are incredibly engaging for audiences of all ages. Look at the impact The Lord of the Rings has on pop culture or how Nineteen Eighty-Four still informs the masses today. These stories are important, entertaining, and thought-provoking. They deserve more platforms.

We are that new platform. There are many Medium-based lit mags out there, but rarely any that focus solely on these genres. Those days are over, friends. The Arcanist is a place devoted to SF/F content primed for a digital reader on the go. It’s also a place where writers can get paid for their work, which we feel is super important because, you know, bills and takeout are important aspects of life.

You Didn’t Even Tell Us the What You Want

Oops. But hey, now you know where we stand.

Anyway, we want stories that are 1,000 words or less. We know this is a tough task given the lengthy, world-building heavy nature of the genres, but we believe in you!

Here’s a breakdown: 1K words (or less), a proper story (with a beginning, middle, and end), and a good character (to love or hate or feel at least something about). These stories should rooted in sci-fi or fantasy. We understand that SF/F encompasses many different sub genres (like horror, for example) and we welcome those, too.

If you want a good guide on this type of writing, Faith M. Boughan over at Fantasy Faction has a great write up about common mistakes. Check it out here.

What Are Some of the Things You Don’t Want?

No hate speech, racism, or any other offensive materials. This is a no-brainer.

No extremely vulgar stories filled to the brim with naughty words. We’re not saying that those can’t be good stories, but they’re stories we don’t want.

No excessive gore or violence unless it is integral to the story. If it’s in there just to be gross, it’s not for us.

No fan fiction. We want originality.

No poetry.

We would also prefer that your story be published here first. If you have already published it elsewhere, we can look but it’s a tough sell.

Didn’t You Say Something About Payment?

Why yes we did. We pay our fiction writers $50 for accepted submissions. We will reach out directly to you for payment details upon accepting your story. We pay using PayPal or Venmo.

Okay, So How Do I Submit?

You can submit by following this link and filling out the simple form. We do not accept paper submissions of any kind. If you would rather email us, read the linked form and follow the instructions at the bottom.

Here’s that link again. Just in case.

How Long Until I Hear Back?

We give each submission a thorough examination, which takes time. Since we are just starting out, it’s hard to give an exact estimate. We promise we will get back to you, though, and request that you be patient!

Can You Wrap All This Up? I have Stories to Write.

Sure, here’s everything in a nutshell:

  • SF/F stories only (including their sub genres)
  • 1,000 words or less.
  • Stories must be actual stories. Not poems or elegant descriptions — actual stories that follow an arch.
  • You can submit using this form.
  • We pay $50 for the fiction stories we accept.
  • If you have any questions, drop us a line at editor(at)

Thanks for your interest! We look forward to reading your submissions.

Via: The Arcanist.

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