Category: Trembling With Fear

Trembling With Fear 04/11/21

It’s April and I’m still in Southampton, still surrounded by boxes, still waiting for the moving process to speed up. At times like this you need to distract yourself and so in addition to writing, I’ve been playing with graphics for promotional pics for an anthology I’m in which’ll come out in autumn from Brigids Gate Press. Were Tales, A Shapeshifter Anthology, ed. S.D. Vassallo isn’t just werewolves, there’s bears and all sorts, so I’ve been finding (free) photos and developing my skills(!) with a drawing tablet. It’s been a lot of fun. Even better, Steve’s started announcing the TOC which includes the wonderful Jonathan Maberry, so I’m pretty chuffed to appear alongside him.

It’s also National Poetry Month, a great time to challenge yourself whether to write more, or read more – and there are some wonderful dark poets out and about: Alessandro Manzetti, Linda D. Addison, Sara Tantlinger, Stephanie Wytovich, Christina Sng and so many others. I’ve set myself a challenge to write a found poem a day – currently based on the blurbs of books from my collection. A way of sharing poetry and book recommendations! I’ve been posting them over on twitter and Facebook. Found poetry is quite a good exercise as you are already provided with the words.

Before we go to the stories, here’s my usual weekly reminder to check out the submission guidelines for TWF here. Also remember we are currently closed to short stories (unless for one of the Specials) but open to drabbles, unholy trinities and serials.

This week Trembling with Fear starts with The Penitent Line by Aristo Couvaros is a powerful story about hypocrisy as well as love and forgiveness. Original and moving.

A New Beginning by Toshiya Kamei is a wonderful piece of Japanese-flavoured horror. We really enjoy having stories set within the folk lore of other cultures.

English 101 by Patrick Winters offers a different way to getting ahead, if only it was that easy!

The Eyes Have It by G.A. Miller gives us a warning about perhaps not looking too closely, that moment when you try and recall something could be your last.

Enjoy our stories and send in yours!


Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Between work, my MBA program, writing, Horror Tree, and a big piece of news that landed in my lap this week… I can’t even begin to tell you how crazy things have been.

So, obviously, there hasn’t been too much done on the site above the standard updates. My apologies as I know that we have a TON in the pipeline to start delivering to you soon and I’m chomping at the bit to be able to let you in on everything. Soon my friends, soon! I will say that we had a broken contact form for about a week there, we have a completely new one in place which will be modified slightly over the weeks to come as we allow for more features and customizations on it. While that might not seem like a big deal, the emails coming to us will be a LOT more organized depending on who you’re trying to get to!

In case you missed it last week, once again, please welcome Amanda Headlee for joining the team as our new Specials Editor! She will be handling the submissions of both serialized stories, Unholy Trinities, and our special calls.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree


Unholy Trinity: The Continuing Antics of Arnie Apples by Patrick Winters

Our church worships at the altar of the Unholy Trinity. Its gospels are delivered as a trio of dark drabbles, linked so that Three become One. All hail the power of the Three.

Patrick Winters brings us something new in the realm of the Unholy Trinity. He has written a serial comprising three Unholy Trinities of which this is the second. Come back next Friday for the final instalment!

The Continuing Antics of Arnie Apples


Out & About

Arnie wasn’t the best roommate. Leaving his things everywhere. Staying up all night. Pulling pranks on William.

He was worse in public. Stores, theaters, church. Wherever they went, Arnie looked for mischief. He’d whistle, catcall, and curse at passersby, stepping on their heels and tapping shoulders.

Sometimes, William was forced to apologize for Arnie. People would invariably ask who the hell he was talking about and get riled up. Then Arnie, upset at going unseen, would try to lash out. William could often hold him back, but sometimes, Arnie got a lick in.

Sometimes, it was more than a lick.


Butting Heads

Things might’ve been rough, but everything went straight to hell once William found Anna Carmichael in his closet. His neighbor was wearing her favorite tea dress, now ruined with cuts and blood.

William went right to Arnie, begging for an explanation. Arnie said that he’d been bouncing a ball in the hall last night when the woman came out of her apartment. She’d given him a dirty look he didn’t care for.

William asked how that could be possible, when no one else had seen Arnie before.

Arnie smiled. “Found myself a way, while you were off with the Sandman.”


“Get Lost, Creep!”

William tried to remain vigilant, staying awake as best he could, keeping Arnie inside the apartment and out of trouble.

But it wasn’t enough. He’d nodded off twice, and Arnie slipped past him, bringing back proof of it both times. Fingers from one person, toes from another.

Finally, William had enough. He told his old friend that he wasn’t welcome anymore. Arnie declared there was no going back, he was there to stay, and maybe William needed to “move out.”

The two tussled. In the end, Arnie was the only one left in the apartment.

King of the castle.


Patrick Winters

Patrick Winters is a graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. His work has now been featured throughout several magazines and anthologies. A full list of his previous publications may be found at his author’s site, if you are so inclined to know:

Trembling With Fear 04/04/21

So I wrote off last week because my covid jab reaction but that’s all done – although my eldest is now suffering a response to her own vaccination. But like me, she says a day or two of discomfort is a small price to pay!

And this week, TWF has some great news in the form of the wonderful Amanda Headlee who has stepped up to take on the role of Unholy Trinity, Serials and Specials co-editor. You do not know how much of a relief this is as it really helps lighten our workload.

My writing life has seen a couple of short story rejections and a poetry acceptance whilst I continue to work on my sequel to Five Turns. Always the pantser, I have become very non-linear. I’ve written about 2/3 of the story with about 5-6 chapters to go but I’ve actually jumped to the last chapter and am writing that as I suddenly saw how it was all going to end. I even had my last line. This may not be the way we’re all told to do it but it’s my way and being able to see the end clearly brought back a bit of fun to the process – although it’s sadly not fun for those involved. I’m beginning to think my writing process is a bizarre form of dot-to-dot.

To submit to TWF, please check out the submission guidelines here and do include your bios with submissions as we no longer hold them on file. Also remember we are currently closed to short stories but open to drabbles, unholy trinities and serials – plus our specials accept all forms.

First story this week is Trembling with Fear is Boneyard by R. Michael. A gothic piece which slips from one setting to another through eerie mists and strange-coloured skies. I enjoyed this partly because of the scene setting but also because I felt the nature of that setting, its isolation and almost abandonment, reflected the emotional turmoil of the main character.

Final Visitor by Radar DeBoard is face-to-face with Death. A strange sense of peace accompanies this visit which is a change to the usual terror induced by the Reaper.

Tennyson’s Terror by Mike Rader is a poem which parodies a certain Lady of Shallott and gives us a fun haunting in said vein. I am always open to poetry by the way, and for info, we treat them as drabbles on the site for contract purposes even if they don’t fulfil the 100 word drabble requirement.

Welfare is our monthly offering from R.J. Meldrum – I think you’ll see one from him a month for the rest of the year! A nice little dark offering as always.

Enjoy our stories and send in yours!


Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Introducing Amanda Headlee – TWF’S New Co-editor for Serials, Unholy Trinities and Specials!

My Twitter profile indicates that I like writing, cycling, and the macabre—not necessarily in that order. It’s true, I have an equal obsession with all three. And it is even better when I can combine them. Trust me this has been done…

The Jabberwock fascinates and terrifies me. He’s my first monster and the inspiration for my love of horror and fiction. As a child, I found the best way to connect with literature was to reconstruct existing stories and sending the characters on new adventures. Sadly, those tales are awful and not unique. They shall never see the light of day. Writing infected my brain at a young age and has since then flowed through my veins. I’m happiest when I’m scribbling away or riding one of my bikes.

My debut novel, Till We Become Monsters, will be released on June 1, 2021. It’s been a few years in progress and finally seeing the light of day. A dream come true and the first of many more novels to come.

If you want to connect with me or find out more, you can find me here and on twitter and IG as @amandaheadlee.

Amanda Headlee

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I would also like to give a huge shout-out to Amanda Headlee for joining the team as our new Specials Editor! She will be handling the submissions of both serialized stories, Unholy Trinities, and our special calls.
Speaking of Trembling With Fear, as always, Trembling With Fear is looking for Drabbles, Unholy Trinities, and serials.
Things are pretty busy this week so I’ll keep it short and sweet, just no, changes are coming! 😉
A huge shout out to our Patreons this week! I love you all! (In a totally platonic and not strange kind of way!)

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree


Unholy Trinity: The Antics of Arnie Apples by Patrick Winters

Our church worships at the altar of the Unholy Trinity. Its gospels are delivered as a trio of dark drabbles, linked so that Three become One. All hail the power of the Three.

Patrick Winters brings us something new in the realm of the Unholy Trinity. He has written a serial comprising three Unholy Trinities of which this is the first. Come back each Friday to see where he takes us!

The Antics of Arnie Apples


Let’s Play!

William had created the Antics of Arnie Apples comic strip before the Second World War erupted, and now that he was out of the service and back home, he hoped to continue the series. To get back some sense of joy and regularity.

But things had changed. Arnie had changed.

The kindly, carefree goofball who adored apples and indulged in innocent mischief had disappeared. Now, whenever William tried to draw him, he came out disheveled, hunched, and leering.

And though his famous catchphrase remained, it read quite differently now; its glee was gone, and menace took its place:

“Let’s play!”


Old Pals, New Tricks

William’s headaches were getting worse. Had been since arriving stateside. They pounded away, incessantly, like little exploding mortar shells.

He crawled back into bed and passed out. When he woke up, he was sitting at his drafting table.

A little comic strip lay before him. It was of him and Arnie Apples, saying they were hungry, but penniless. They went to a store, asking for free apples–and hiding baseball bats behind their backs. When the grocer didn’t give them any, they beat him to a bloody pulp and ran off with a great big bushel.

It made William chuckle.


Knock, Knock

The strips kept coming, enough to fill half a year’s worth of newspapers. Some were an absolute hoot. Other times, he’d weep to see what his Arnie did in them.

Awful things. Bloody things.

But in the latest ones, Arnie was getting mopey. He said he was tired of being stuck in panels on a page. His answer to his problem was to “move in” with William. So, he packed up his bags and made for William’s doorstep.

When William heard a knock on his actual door, he opened it with hesitance.

“Let’s play!” his new roommate said, stepping inside.

Patrick Winters

Patrick Winters is a graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. His work has now been featured throughout several magazines and anthologies. A full list of his previous publications may be found at his author’s site, if you are so inclined to know:

Serial Killers: The Fisherman’s Ring (Part 2) by Christian McCulloch

  1. Serial Killers: The Fisherman’s Ring (Part 1) by Christian McCulloch
  2. Serial Killers: The Fisherman’s Ring (Part 2) by Christian McCulloch

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

Part Two

He pulled off the old man’s glove. There it was with the sign of the fish. Distinctive, everyone knew it, remarked on it.

All his childhood, Peter Alexander had believed his grandmother had gone to the heart of the mountain and promised the King of the Goblins a kiss if he’d make it personally for her. Later he’d discovered it was his ring of Office. The old man had worn it for forty years. He said that he’d never taken it off. The old man said the ring kept more than his body and soul together.

 Now, fairy stories aside, how was he going to get it off? His fingers had grown fatter. He put the old man’s cold, dead finger in his mouth and sucked. He tried sliding the ring to the knuckle. It wouldn’t even twist. He tried again and again until his mouth was dry. The ring wouldn’t move.

He refused to let himself cry when the realisation came upon him what he must do.

If it had to be done, it had to be done quickly. He put his hand in his coat pocket and felt the cold, flat, ivory-handled penknife with the rounded corners. It opened with a startling click that could’ve sent a cave full of bats screeching into the full moon. He held the old man’s hand and separated the fingers. He placed the blade between the knuckle bone and the gold band, lifted himself from his heels and pressed down with all his might.

He’d not heard the bone crack or the air escape from the old man’s lungs. He suddenly had a wild thought.

‘So what was Peter doing with a sword in the Garden of Gethsemane? That’s what I’d like to know!’ He shouted into his Grandfather’s dead face. Well?’ He paused to pull out his handkerchief. ‘I guess that was the Nazarene’s last miracle, right? Putting the severed ear back on the Roman soldier.’

Peter Alexander placed the ring still attached to the finger in his handkerchief, folded it and stuffed it into his coat pocket.

‘I suppose you think that was bloody funny, don’t you! Asking me a bloody question just when I was… Well, I hope you’re bloody laughing now because I don’t think it’s one little bit funny! Now put your bloody glove back on so we can shake hands and say Goodbye!’ The boy slapped at his cheek and wiped his nose on his sleeve.

He closed the penknife and slipped it into his pocket. He sniffed loudly. He whispered, ‘It’s time, Grandfather. You do understand, don’t you? It’s not safe to stay any longer. They’ll be patrolling soon.

‘They’ll find you and take you someplace safe and warm. They’ll give you a burial, not a Christian one, of course. And I’ll sing hymns for you all the way to HER house.

‘I won’t forget you, Papa, I promise.’ The boy kissed the old man on his crown and threw his rucksack over his shoulder before the tears could fall and betray him.

He came to the end of the deserted street. He turned to make sure the old man’s shoeless feet wouldn’t give away his final resting place too easily. ‘Bye, Papa,’ he called out as if he’d ducked into the doorway for a sneaky cigarette. ‘Time to move on. Send me a sign if you think I deserve it.’ He turned away.

 He had twenty miles or more to go, another night under the stars. It wasn’t safe to travel inside the city at night. The Night Mobs would be out. Twenty miles of patrol cars, snipers in tower blocks, Scavs behind every tree, trolls under flyovers, Big Bad Wolves under red Biro scribbles …but – hey!  He felt like singing.

‘Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

The Big Bad Wolf?

The Big Bad Wolf?

Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

 – not me, not you, not us!’

By this time tomorrow, the boy would be in the city. He’d arrive at HER house by supper time. He’d tell her about the old man, not the doorway. She wouldn’t care. All she’d want would be the Property Ownership papers and the Last Will and Testament. He’d tell her that he didn’t know anything about that. He’d keep them safe, somewhere she couldn’t find them.

The old man had left him the house, the paintings, everything; most importantly, his unpublished manuscripts. He’d written into the Will that everything would come to him on his eighteenth birthday. He’d have to live with HER for a year. She’d want her Father’s ring, the Fisherman’s ring. He’d keep that too. He’d give her the finger.

Perhaps that was the sign he was looking for?

Christian McCulloch

Christian McCulloch is a prolific British writer with a colourful background. He’s been an International teacher in British West Indies, Singapore (Principal), Japan and Hong Kong, also 10 years in Special Needs in UK. He now writes full time. He has written 10 novels, 12 novellas and many short stories.

Trembling With Fear 03/28/21

This is a very short intro as I’m writing it whilst suffering my covid jab after-effects. I went in with my husband on Tuesday to have a jab, walked straight in, needle in arm, handed a card, straight back out. Don’t think we were in there for more than a minute! The effects started early evening, muscles ached and started to feel queasy. That worsened during the night and the next day, Wednesday, was horrible – muscles ached, head ached, food tasted odd and concentration gone. Thursday was spent in brain fog mode but most of aches gone and so I was able to face the computer screen. So yes there might be side effects but they don’t last too long. My husband was a bit achey but not as bad. I await my second jab with interest (the Oxford Astrazeneca one if you’re wondering). I don’t want this to put people off, more to alert them this might happen but it will pass. 

To submit to TWF, please check out the submission guidelines here.

Stories this week include:

Karma by G.A. Miller brings revenge in bloodthirsty form to one of those financial types we all love to hate, especially those who profit from the sufferings of others during a pandemic – and I think we know there are a number of those around these days. 

Blue Plate Special by Catherine Berry takes us to a diner you don’t want to visit. The twist on the menu at the end was a nice touch.

Measure of a Man by Jami Fairleigh is a grim little tale, which tells us everything very much through inference. Skilful.

Pirate Video Curse of the Bargain Bootleg by Steven Holding is yet another contender for title of the year and mixes blood with fun, and the pun of the last line.

Enjoy the stories and send us yours!


Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

ACCEPTANCE ANNOUNCEMENTS: We have PLENTY of room for drabble if you’ve got 100 words laying about. Let me rephrase that, please send drabbles in! We also have room for both Unholy Trinities and serialized stories.

That being said, we probably have enough SHORT stories in the queue to last us through 2021. So, we’re going to be extra critical moving forward on these. IF you’re looking to submit short stories to us this year, please try to keep an eye on our holiday themes as those will net you a much higher chance to be published on the site this year over 2022.

We’re not quite at a place with our Patreon pledges to add more short stories to the mix. I’m going to run some polls first to see if authors who are accepted would rather see a higher payout moving forward or more stories able to be accepted.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree


Serial Killers: The Fisherman’s Ring (Part 1) by Christian McCulloch

  1. Serial Killers: The Fisherman’s Ring (Part 1) by Christian McCulloch
  2. Serial Killers: The Fisherman’s Ring (Part 2) by Christian McCulloch

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

Part One

The old man’s voice was as thin as the paper blowing about in the doorway. The boy wondered what the time was.  It was late – too late for the old man.

‘We’ll rest here for tonight,’ he told his grandfather as he adjusted the scarf around his neck. He listened. There were no voices, no angry shouts, no revving cars, no strangled words coming from a loudhailer. Only the sound of the evening, brooding.

 If there were men after them, they’d given them the slip. Perhaps, they’d given up for the night.  They’d start again in the morning. He knew that.

For tonight, at least, they’d be safe. Tomorrow they’d make an early start to put distance between them and the Authorities who’d been sent to bring them before the Unholy Council.

Why had his grandfather gone against the Council? Him of all people! The man who wore the Fisherman’s ring!

He’d been a voice in the wilderness. ‘Speak your truth quietly and clearly,’ his grandfather had said.

Such a brave old man. He’d gone against everything but the truth, thought the boy. But what had he achieved? Now they were huddled in a doorway waiting for the darkness to hide them.

Nowhere was safe anymore. The only safety lay in… The boy turned his head. ‘Death’ was a new word for him. It fascinated but terrified him. If the old man was right, Death would be a release, a new beginning. He’d had plenty of years to understand about Death. The boy saw only uncertainty.

He covered his grandfather with his coat and pushed his thoughts to the back of the doorway.’We’ll leave tomorrow,’ repeated the boy, ‘when the weather changes.’ The boy took the old man’s hand. He gently pressed his body against him to keep him warm. He wondered if he’d be alive in the morning.


By morning, the old man was dead.

The boy, Peter Alexander, was aware of his death a little after the first rays of light crept up from behind the old, abandoned timber mill.

He was angry with himself for not keeping awake. He thought of the Man from Galillee being angry with his followers for not staying awake in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Master was angry and probably a little bit hurt because he knew their time together was so short. The boy suspected that all the hiding and skulking around Jerusalem had taken its toll on their nerves. They’d needed the rest just like he did.

It was brave of them simply being there, he thought. They could’ve stayed hidden and safe in the upper room in the House of Levi. It said a lot about their loyalty, their implicit faith in the man who called himself The Son of God.

He must’ve been one helluva guy to inspire such devotion. The boy wondered if His followers had thought of themselves as bulletproof because they were with Him.

He’d told them that He had to go to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Why the Garden? Why didn’t they stay where they were? The Nazarine must’ve known what was going to happen, Hadn’t He already told Judas Iscariot to go and do what he had to do?

The boy was surprised by his reaction to discovering his grandfather dead. He hadn’t wanted to cry. Perhaps that would come later. He tried to force a tear as a sign of respect but it wouldn’t come.

The boy took back his coat (the old man wouldn’t need it). He sat cross-legged in the doorway trying to understand – not about the old man but why the man from Nazareth told Judas where He could be found when He knew the soldiers would be coming for Him; a night of horror for all of them. The boy hadn’t given it much thought before. Now it seemed of the utmost importance.

It was still too dark and scary to move on.

The old man wouldn’t scold him for staying put until it was light, any more than he’d chastise him for leaving him behind to be found by the authorities, worse, the Scavs. The Scavs believed in nothing and were proud of themselves for not being fooled.

The boy wished he could believe in nothing. It would be so much simpler. He’d still be in his warm home with his grandmother. All was well with the world when his grandmother was there. She’d been gone for six months. Now, all was not well with his world. His mother resented his grandmother’s love for him. She resented the fact that the boy had beliefs.

They’d gone through a lot together, he and the old man. Almost as much as the Christ with his followers. The boy had checked three times during the night to make sure the old man was still breathing. He’d tried to feel for a pulse but he couldn’t feel his own fingertips. He’d held his hand next to his mouth but had given up for the same reason. Finally, he’d had to clamber almost over him to put his cheek next to the old man’s mouth. Even his cheek was too cold. The boy had breathed a heavy sigh of relief when he’d finally felt the old man’s shallow breath on his lips. After that, he kept up a running commentary of what they’d do and how far they’d get in the morning. But that was for his own benefit; to keep himself from letting his heavy eyelids close.

The boy wondered how many of the disciples had been brave enough to sneak out so late at night. There’d been twelve of them; pilgrims to celebrate The Passover.  The boy counted them off on his cold fingers.

‘There was Peter, of course, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Philip and Thomas. There was the other James, Simon – Judas …some friend he turned out to be, eh, Papa?’ Now the boy was struggling to remember. Had he said, James? Yes. ‘Bartholomew…’ Then there was the one he almost always forgot. ‘…Jude. That was it, Jude. He was the one who managed to live through the whole ordeal and went on to die of natural causes.’ The boy wondered if he’d die of natural causes like Jude. He wondered if he’d be like Peter and go on to do something big and important. Starting the Roman Catholic Church seemed like a pretty big thing to do. ‘The armies of darkness had got them all in the end, right, Papa? Not Jude,’ he said. ‘It was pretty bloody times back then. …bit like now, right?’

The boy was pleased with himself for remembering all the names. He was about to shake his Grandfather and tell him that he’d learned his lessons well. Then he remembered all over again that the old man was dead.

‘He sighed so deeply, he could’ve dropped a stone inside the hole it made in his heart’. It was a line from one of the old man’s novels. The old man was good with words, even if they did get him into trouble.

The boy kept talking. ‘What happens if your Spirit was ripped out of you before you even know it?  Like being shot by a sniper from the upper room of a barricaded Council Estate. Do you suddenly go cold? Perhaps, you stay warm longer because it would take time to register that you’re dead.’

The boy had seen a couple of dead bodies along the way. He wondered how many more he’d see before he’d get back to HER house.

‘In the movies, there’s always someone bitchin’ about never having told someone they loved them when they were alive. I’ve told you lots of times …every night when I was just a kid. I told you only yesterday. OK. Not how much I loved you but I still told you, right?’ There was a long pause.

‘There’s something I never told you – never told anybody …that’s funny, any body – maybe not. I’ll tell you now – not because you’re dead or nothin’. It’s because it sounds dumb when I say it in my head. You’re the only person I could tell without feeling a twat.’ The boy laughed. ‘You always said that when you put things into words, your beliefs get stronger and your fears get weaker.

‘You remember when we first lived in ‘The Hermitage’ and we had no furniture in the big room? Well, I used to go in there when you were at work. The room was so big, so empty, a total void, you might say. Wall-to-wall emptiness. I used to dare myself to go in there. I found a book, a book of fairy stories. It was old and thick. I couldn’t read but I used to look at the pictures; the three billy goats Gruff on the bridge with the troll hiding underneath; the Prince down on one knee, fitting the glass slipper on Cinderella, you know?

‘There was this one illustration. After I’d found it, I couldn’t go back into the room. Every time I tried, the illustration made me run away. I don’t know how many times. I knew that book was there, sort of lying in wait for me, even when I was feeding crab apples to the farmer’s horses, Bob and Bess, over the garden gate, remember?

‘One day I knew I had to do something about it. Squaring up to the Devil, you’d call it. So I… look, I’ll show you.’

The boy pulled the rucksack from behind the old man’s body. The corpse slumped backwards against the paint-chipped door. The boy righted the body with the same detachment as he released the catches on his rucksack and plunged his hand inside to rummage around under his clothes.

He shuffled beside the old man, placed the book in his lap, then blew into his cold hands and rubbed them together. He found the illustration easily. He was about to hold it up like a choirboy for the priest to sing the words to the congregation when he noticed the angle of the old man’s head. With one hand on his Grandfather’s shoulder and the other across his chest, he squared his torso. He took his face in both hands and adjusted it just so. Then pecked him on the cheek. ‘There you go, Papa.’

He held up the book. ”Little Red Riding Hood’, see? Underneath all those red scribbles is the Big Bad Wolf – you can’t see his long nose or pointed ears or his sharp teeth because I… you know. It scared me too much. I thought if I scrubbed him out with a red Biro, he’d go away. But you know what? …and I ain’t told nobody this, he’s still there. But now he’s hidden. I can choose to believe he’s gone forever or I can choose to believe he’s still waiting.’

The boy was silent for a long time.

‘You’re probably wondering why I’m still carrying it around with me – especially now things are the way they are.’

Another long pause.

‘It’s my childhood. You can’t rub out memories that easily. The Council can talk about, ‘purge’ and ‘cleanse’ and ‘purify’ but the truth is that the Big Bad Wolf is still there – behind the red tape.’

The daylight was upon them. Peter Alexander knew it was time to move on. His Grandfather had moved on.

‘You often said that Death was the greatest adventure in life. You often laughed and said you’d welcome it. You told me you’d no intentions of coming back to confirm that there was more to come. Let the buggers find out for themselves, you used to say.

‘People get what they ask for, I guess. If they’re dumb enough not to know they’re living a half-life by having no Faith then they don’t deserve to be given proof, Papa. You always said that if you believe and keep your eyes open, Truth presents itself. Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous, you said.’

Peter Alexander believed his grandfather. Strange things were always happening when they were together. He wondered why the old man had chosen to give up the ghost in a deserted shop doorway. He probably had his reasons. He’d keep his eyes open. His grandfather would find a way to send him a sign. For the moment, there were more pressing matters to be dealt with.

He had to strip the old man of any form of identification. He couldn’t allow the authorities to discover who he was. He couldn’t let the Scavs, the scavengers, find something that would prompt them to follow him.

First, he went through the old man’s rucksack. He kept up a running commentary to calm his nerves. A normal conversation was the best Eulogy that he could come up with.

‘The Scavs are going to think it’s Christmas when they find your best shirt. Papa. I don’t think they’ll want to hang onto your dog-collar, so I’ll be taking that with me. We wouldn’t want the Religious authorities asking what a nice old man was doing with a ministry collar in a shop doorway instead of lying in a soft bed when he was – you know – dead. I’ll dispose of it someplace where no one’ll find it – if that’s OK with you?’

He pulled all the clothes out one by one and meticulously went through the pockets. The boy knew that somewhere in the knapsack he’d find the old man’s favourite book of prayers. If it wasn’t sandwiched between the pants and the pullovers, he’d check the lining – the Scavs would. If he took away the old man’s shoes and warm coat, they’d assume that the Scavs had got to him first and wouldn’t overextend themselves trying to identify him. He’d kick all the contents of the bag into the back of the doorway to make it look as if he’d been violated.

He found the soft, leather pocket-prayer book. He sniffed it and wished he hadn’t. ‘I should’ve known you’d keep it close,’ he said, his voice catching in his throat, ‘It smells of you.

‘What were you thinking, you old fool? Did you think you were bulletproof like the disciples? I’ll bet you’re even wearing a cross around your neck and have a rosary hidden in your socks.’

The boy was right about the crucifix but wrong about everything else. He held the small, plain gold cross with the lightweight chain in the palm of his hand for a few minutes. It was a risk wearing it or even trying to hide it in his own rucksack. He couldn’t throw it away. He’d bury it inside the pages of the prayer book when he found somewhere suitable. He’d let the old man’s ghost tell him where to hide it.

He gave himself permission to cry when it was safely in the ground. Not before. On no account was he to cry before there was at least a couple of miles between them. ‘D’you understand?’ he said out loud.

When he’d stripped the old man of everything, he collected his ID and Residency papers, the Property Ownership documents and his Last Will and Testament. The old man had insisted that the boy should understand what was written in them the first night he showed signs of being sick.

The boy sat back on his heels. He was packed and ready. He wanted to take one last look at his grandfather’s gentle face. It would have to last him a lifetime.

The ring!

Jesus Christ! He’d forgotten about the ring!

Christian McCulloch

Christian McCulloch is a prolific British writer with a colourful background. He’s been an International teacher in British West Indies, Singapore (Principal), Japan and Hong Kong, also 10 years in Special Needs in UK. He now writes full time. He has written 10 novels, 12 novellas and many short stories.

Trembling With Fear 03/21/21

Time is moving at a very bizarre pace. On the one hand, it’s crawling as we wait to finish the house move – and it could still fall apart – and wait for covid jabs. On the other hand, it’s March already! Another week and we’ll be changing our clocks and our evenings will be getting lighter. Finally got my rejection for something I’d been waiting for almost 9 months for, ugh but I’ve put that behind me. My focus now is on that Crystal Lake Classic Monsters Unleashed anthology as I write my submission. Competition is going to be huge, I’ve done a couple of similar sub calls now and discovered there’ve been 900+, 1000+ subs but I still try. I hope you’re all giving these calls a go and not letting such numbers deter you too much, you never know …

To submit to TWF, please check out the submission guidelines here.

First story this week is Trembling with Fear is Mouse Ad Astra by Avra Margariti. A strangely lovely tale of impending disaster created from a child’s perspective. The small things important to a child add to a sense of sadness that such things should be.

Motel 40 by Zachary Hennis weaves a background tv commercial in with an event happening within that advertised motel. Very effective and original.

One of the Locals by F.M. Scott is a story told via an interview, complete with some scene description. A nice change of format.

Sudden Storm by Toshiya Kamei takes you to a forbidden place, another mythology. Seems the gods wherever you find them are jealous.

Enjoy the stories and send us yours!



Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Fun updates! Back cover details for Trembling With Fear’s upcoming anthologies have been written and we’re gearing up to move another step closer to the release. Huzzah! We’re that much closer to covers and formatting being finalized which really puts us on track for a MUCH EARLIER release this year!
As to Horror Tree, I’ve STARTED (very early stage) playing around with a new layout idea. We’re still at least 2-3 weeks away from letting the staff tear it apart and likely a month or more before our Patreons get the first sneak preview.
I hope that you’ve all got a great weekend going on and a fantastic week ahead of you!

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree