Category: Trembling With Fear

Unholy Trinity: “Frank Harrow, Discount Occult Detective” By Joshua Ginsberg

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.

 

Frank Harrow, Discount Occult Detective

Got a supernatural crisis on your hands, but short of funds? More people than you could possibly imagine turn to Frank Harrow and The Four-Pointed Star Discount Occult Detective Agency to get the job done. Frank Harrow is a name you can trust. Mostly.

 

New Business Maybe

 

Frank Harrow appraised the couple through a hangover fog and five o’clock shadow that was getting on to midnight. At least they’d called ahead, giving him time to run a load of laundry.

He read the subtext of misery and desperation in their story and etched in their faces. It was all that ever brought folks to The Four-Pointed Star, Discount Occult Detective Agency.

“We just need to find our son,” the willowy blond said.

“…wherever, …whatever, he is now,” her dark-haired wife finished.

Frank didn’t want the case, didn’t like it. But he needed it.

“Give me twenty-four hours.”

 

Meeting at the Greenwood

 

It was for a favor that Frank had come to seek his former partner.

He refilled their rocks glasses, watched his old friend lift it to his blackened lips.

“Hey, remember that ghoul that couldn’t keep a low profile?”

Dylan laughed a cloud of dust. “Dumbass kept snatching bites from Hollywood Forever. Look folks, there’s Judy Garland! Oh, wait, there goes Valentino.”

The laughter faded. “Look Dylan, I got a new case, maybe. Can you run a background check for me?”

“Yeah, but you still owe me,” Dylan replied, poking a bony finger through a bullet hole in his shirt.

 

Case Accepted

 

The couple sat waiting on Frank’s decision.

“I’m different from other firms,” he began, “in that I’m a lot less money and a lot more still alive. I plan to stay that way.”

He gauged their reactions.

“Discount don’t mean free. Cash only, upfront. No credit, no souls, no exceptions. You want some other kind of help, there’s a crossroads down the way…”

 

From the cavernous, candle-lit cellar of a decaying mansion nearby, four hooded figures watched the deal conclude through an ancient mirror. 

“He’s taken the bait,” grinned the high priestess.

And the darkness whispered a promise of vengeance.

 

Joshua Ginsberg

Joshua Ginsberg is the author of Secret Tampa Bay: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure (2020), Tampa Bay Scavenger (2021), Oldest Tampa Bay (2022), and co-author of Secret Orland: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure (2023). His work has appeared in numerous print and online publications including Trembling with Fear (The Horror Tree), The Chamber Magazine, The City Key, 365 Tomorrows, and Atlas Obscura. He currently lives in Tampa with his wife, Jen, and their Shih Tzu, Tinker Bell.

Trembling With Fear 3-24-24

Greetings, children of the dark. How goes your new season? Yep, we just celebrated the spring equinox here in the northern hemisphere, and as much as I love the dark stuff, I’m really looking forward to longer days and less need for jumpers. I grew up in Australia, after all; I just can’t get my head around layering and dressing to constantly be adding and removing warm bits!

More important than my need for sun, though: today marks the last day of Neurodiversity Celebration Week. It’s a worldwide initiative that “challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences”, aiming to transform how neurodivergence is seen within the organisations that rule our lives (work, school, daily life), to recognise the “many talents and advantages of being neurodivergent”, and to help create “more inclusive and equitable cultures that celebrate differences and empower every individual”. At least, that’s the deal according to the official blurb on its website

Why bring this to TWF on the last day of the week? Well, because neurodivergence awareness shouldn’t be confined to a single week. Because we should all be better at inclusivity across the board. Because in the last 12 months I’ve been diagnosed as a high-functioning ADHDer with strong autistic traits, including sensory processing disorder and dyspraxia, and I’m still figuring out what that means for me while also trying not to beat myself up for not knowing sooner. (Heck, they just didn’t diagnose girls in the 80s when I was in primary school!) And, importantly, because we in the genre fiction community are surrounded by neurodiversity. There’s something about fantasy, horror and science fiction that resonates with the different, the traditionally ‘othered’ of society. And I really, really love that about our community. And I want to celebrate it every day. 

So let’s take a moment to raise a glass, our fists-of-triumph, our hugging arms, and celebrate the neurodiverse writers and readers of the genre fiction community. Go forth and seek them out, or share your own stories, and let’s do what we do best: support each other. For example, in my other life as publicity and marketing officer at the British Fantasy Society, I published a few pieces this week from member writers sharing their stories, like this one from E.M. Faulds on late-diagnosed ADHD, and this searingly honest one from David Green about autism and writing and the way a lack of understanding can really hit hard. I am so proud of them for sharing their stories in such an open and vulnerable way. Head over and check out their blogs, then check out their works as well because both are fabulous humans. Here’s to the neurodiverse writers and readers of speculative fiction: We are many, and we are awesome. 

But enough of that. Let’s get to the reason we’re here (as important and, I’m sure, as much as you love my weekly ramblings!).

This week’s TWF menu centres around regular contributor DJ Tyrer’s adventures with mirrors. That story is followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • Cassandra Daucus’s supernatural helper, 
  • Paul Fletcher’s warning to runners, and 
  • Alan Moskowitz’s vampiric pursuits.

To finish, two quick event plugs. Writing the Occult: The Fae is coming up on 6 April, with a whole globe full of amazing speakers. Never fear if you can’t make the whole day—it IS long—because we’ll record it all, but only for ticket holders. Early bird price ticket prices end (I think!) today! After that, the price will rise to £40+bf, with sales ending the day before the event. Tickets here. (Yes, I’ll probably plug this every week until the event.)

Also: I’ve roped Stuart into being on a panel at the next British Fantasy Society online event day. The whole day is about “the book journey”—all those things besides the writing!—and I’ll be moderating the panel on marketing with the boss man, Jenn Hanson-dePaula from Mixtus Media, and indie writers and promo machines Beverley Lee and Nicole Eigener (aka Nicoverley). It’s free for BFS members, and just £5 for everyone else, plus it will also be recorded if you can’t make any/all of it live. Details are over here.

OK, enough from me. Before the stories come, as ever, it’s over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

 
We have a new site sponsor for the month, so if you’re looking to pick up a new book, I highly suggest The Dark Man, by Referral and Less Pleasant Tales by Chuck McKenzie!
 
***
 
 
We made some changes in the past week, which hopefully have had ads decreased a bit on the site and made everything a bit more readable. We’re still fine-tuning it, but it should be much more readable now. Fingers crossed. On top of this, we’ve made some progress on Shadowed Realms. We’re in our final area of formatting, and fingers crossed, we will soon be able to release it to the world! 
 
And now the regular announcements:
  • Don’t forget – Trembling With Fear Volume 6 is out in the world, and if you’ve picked up a copy, we’d love a review! Next year, we may be looking to expand past just the Amazon platform. If we do that, what stores would you like to purchase your books from?
  • ATTENTION YOUTUBE WATCHERS: We’ve had some great responses so far but are open to more ideas – What type of content would you like to see us feature? Please reach out to [email protected]! We’ll be really working on expanding the channel late this year and early into next.
  • For those who are looking to connect with Horror Tree on places that aren’t Twitter, we’re also in BlueSky and Threads. *I* am also now on BlueSky and Threads.
  • If you’d like to extend your support to the site, we’d be thrilled to welcome your contributions through Ko-Fi or Patreon. Your generosity keeps us fueled and fired up to bring you the very best.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

(more…)

Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Nine

  1. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part One
  2. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Two
  3. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Three
  4. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Four
  5. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Five
  6. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Six
  7. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Seven
  8. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eight
  9. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Nine
  10. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Ten
  11. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eleven – Finale

 

 

Part Nine: The Vanity of Mankind

 

The strands of colorful biomass lightly clung to Jeffrey’s face as he lifted his head from the rocky floor. His vision gradually focused enough for him to realize he was in the cave where Alan had caught him. A dim lantern cast orange rays on the cold stone, and the pit beside him seemed to swallow the light into a bottomless void. He could hear Alan shuffling about behind him, but Jeffrey was too late to feign unconsciousness before Alan realized he’d awoken. 

“Ah, how do you feel, son?” Alan rolled Jeffrey over onto his back with the heel of his boot. 

“W-What the hell is this?” Jeffrey asked, still suffering the fog of two strikes to the head. 

“You know, I’m not sure if I’m getting careless, or if it’s just your sheer fucking tenacity, but I haven’t had to do this before.” Alan leaned against the cave wall in exasperation, looking down at Jeffrey. “Most people leave well enough alone.” 

“What is this place? Why-” Jeffrey was cut off by Alan’s interjection.

“See, kid, any questions you have are honestly pointless. You know why you’re here.” 

“Let me leave, and we can forget about all of this.” Jeffrey became agitated now as he regained his mental clarity. 

“What did you expect would happen, eh? Did you think you were going to sleuth out the case? Figure out what I was up to?” Alan paced the room now, muttering as much to himself as he was to Jeffrey. “Did you really think I didn’t notice what you were doing?” 

“What do you want?” Jeffrey pleaded with a grimace.

“Nothing you can give me, I’m afraid. You see, as much as you think you’ve learned, you’re still just as blind as you were to begin with.” Alan stopped and made eye contact with Jeffrey from across the pit. “Did you expect some book to open up the secrets of the universe?” Alan sarcastically mocked. 

“I found the knife, too,” Jeffrey defiantly rebutted. 

“Oh, I know you did.” 

“And it’s already being translated. They’ll be here soon.” 

“There’s probably nobody on their way. People don’t see because they choose not to.” Alan began pacing again. “And I don’t blame them. This isn’t what life should be,” Alan declared, gesturing to himself and Jeffrey. “Better to die ignorant than live with a scenic view of ten thousand terrors beyond your wildest imagination.” 

“Once they’ve translated the knife, they’ll know what’s going on,” Jeffrey vainly protested. 

“They might. But they won’t translate that knife any time soon.” Alan pulled the ancient blade from his jacket, caked with dried blood. “It’s a shame you had to drag others into this mess. Did you really think I would let those idiots fumble around with something like this?”

“What did you do?” Jeffrey cried in horror. 

“I retrieved what you stole. Action, consequence. That’s just about the only thing in this world that stays true no matter how much you know about this god-forsaken place.” 

“I-I can’t-” Jeffrey stammered in disbelief. 

“It’s funny, really. What’s written on this knife makes the book a bit… misleading,” Alan explained as he turned the knife over in his hands. “See, the fellah who wrote that text so long ago thought we could appease somebody- that we could survive if only we had the right help from ‘above’ or something. Complete nonsense!” 

“Then what is this?” Jeffrey asked again, despair creeping into his voice.

“The knife tells a more accurate tale,” Alan continued. “Mankind is so self-absorbed we can’t imagine a world without us at the very center of it. What a strange story we’ve concocted. This planet, Jeffrey- it’s not our home.” Alan stood beside the dark void and looked down. “It’s theirs.” 

“What are they, then?” Jeffrey pressed. 

“No idea!” Alan answered with a whimsical tone. “How’s a person even supposed to comprehend something like this? Kid, we weren’t made to know what these things are. These words, here,” he said as he pointed to the knife, “they tell the first part of the story. Whatever these things are, they’ve been here since the beginning- at least since the early days of this planet. This place was built for them, not us. We spend ten thousand years here and think this place belongs to us? Ha!” Alan scoffed. “We don’t belong here. We were placed here, son. Those ‘great ones’ you read about in the book- they put us here, and they aren’t merciful or kind. They’re cunning, cruel masters, and we’re just fucking rats to them.” 

“Then why did you kill that woman in the cave? The one I found a few months ago?” 

“Pal, I didn’t kill her. The people that killed her have a copy of the book and think they’ve figured the whole thing out,” Alan explained with a sneer. “They don’t understand there’s no stopping this. We can’t appease anybody- we were put here for one reason.” 

“And what’s that,” Jeffrey asked, slightly shifting away from the pit.

“This planet isn’t some paradise of biological flourishing, Jeffrey. It’s a feeding ground. They put us here to die,” Alan sighed as he shuffled back around the pit and knelt next to Jeffrey. “It’s not our home, it’s our grave.” 

“H-how do we stop it?” Jeffrey asked, still straining to rationalize a solution of some kind. “Why are we still here if…” 

“Don’t know, kid!” Alan interjected again. “You can’t figure this one out. There’s no mysterious formula. They’ll wake up when they wake up, and that’ll be it. They’re already stirring- have been for the past couple decades. Who knows how long we have? If I’m being honest, my theory is that they’re being held off until humanity is… juicy enough,” he said with a sly grin. “From what I can tell, we’re in some gladiator match to see which species fills up the planet fastest. Almost eight billion and counting, that’s pretty impressive. I think these things weren’t supposed to wake up the first time. Humans were too few back then. Whatever these ‘great ones’ are must have had to come and put the brakes on the feeding frenzy until dinner was ready, if you know what I mean,” he concluded with a chuckle. 

“Then why are you doing this? If it doesn’t matter what we do, why are you trying to hide it?” 

“Can you imagine what people would do? Mass panic. It would be chaos. It’s all I can do keep idiots like you from blundering into this. The government hasn’t figured it out yet,” motioning down the passage to the rest of the facility. They know it’s something bad, so they keep it a secret for now. Fortunately, they don’t understand yet that all their efforts are ultimately in vain. They can’t stop what’s coming.” 

“I swear I won’t tell anybody- I understand now,” Jeffrey pleaded, feeling he needed to negotiate his way out of this situation. “I promise I won’t-”

“Look, kid, I have no idea whether you’ll keep your mouth shut. This is me sealing the deal,” Alan motioned to the pit. “Now, go ahead and climb in.” 

“W-what? You can’t be serious,” Jeffrey exclaimed.

“Oh, just get down there already,” Alan waved a gun he had pulled from his jacket. 

“Okay! Okay!” Jeffrey held his hands up in surrender, edging closer to the pit. “Please, you don’t have to do this!” Sweat broke out across his forehead, and his arms shook as he looked into the darkness. 

“Go on now, no need to drag this out. You won’t even know what’s happening once it starts, I promise,” Alan described in an almost reassuring voice. 

Jeffrey looked over the edge, his hands pressing into the soft biomass underneath him. The darkness seemed to reach out of the pit and embrace him, unknown terrors awaiting him at the bottom. The daze of his confusion over the past weeks cleared away, and his will to survive mounted. Images from his dreams danced in the darkness below him, taking on a thousand shapes in his imagination. Hearing Alan fiddle with the gun behind him snapped Jeffrey into action- with a sweeping turn he latched onto Alan’s leg as he dropped into the pit. 

Unholy Trinity: “Jumping Ship” “In Charge” & “Tourist Season” by Evan Baughfman

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.

 

Jumping Ship

 

There was life for Benny back on land! A future! He had to save himself!

If the others were meant to survive, they would’ve dodged Benny’s blows, would’ve grabbed the life preserver before he did.

As desperate pleas submerged under dark, roiling water, Benny thanked God, clinging to his circular savior. 

Nearby, a keeling vessel slumped to its grave, bow jutting moonward. 

Torrents of screeching rats spilled overboard.

Frantic for a flotation device, the stowaways swam for Benny. Gnashing, red-eyed waves overtook him, smothering his cries.

Bobbing in the wake of disaster, Benny choked on vermin in search of sanctuary.

 

In Charge

 

Bright sunshine. Flourishing foliage. Wonderful hike.

A roar shook me, silencing birdsong.

A grizzly exploded from green cover, straight ahead. Charged.

I shouted, aimed a cannister of protective spray. 

Irritant struck the animal’s eyes, snout. Even so, the beast barreled forward, swatting me aside.

I soared into briar, dropping spray. Landed on my backpack, overturned tortoise, powerless in a thorny thicket.

The bear continued its race. Vanished between trees. 

That roar, however, still approached. 

Not a grizzly’s bellow.

Something else’s. Something larger.

Heavy footsteps found me. An impossible figure loomed.

Bears fled this fanged abomination, true ruler of the woods.

 

Tourist Season

 

Well past midnight, the newlyweds cuddled lakeside across from Congress Avenue Bridge. Pierre marveled at tiny silhouettes twirling in moonlight. Anais shivered in the Texas heat.

She said, “Sorry, didn’t come to Austin for rabies. Let’s grab another drink…”

“We’re perfectly safe. At dusk, there would’ve been a huge crowd here, watching a million-plus bats leave their roosts all at once.”

Four creatures banked toward the couple. Encircled gobsmacked Pierre and cowering Anais. Transformed into imposing pale figures.

“Love taking holiday here,” one hissed.

“So easy to blend in,” another agreed.

“So many tourists.” 

“So many new flavours to try.”

 

Evan Baughfman

Evan Baughfman is a Southern California teacher, author, and playwright. A number of Evan’s plays are published through Heuer Publishing, YouthPLAYS, Next Stage Press, and Drama Notebook. Evan has also found success writing horror fiction, his work found recently in anthologies by Critical Blast Publishing, No Bad Books Press, and Grinning Skull Press. Evan’s short story collection, The Emaciated Man and Other Terrifying Tales from Poe Middle School, is published through Thurston Howl Publications. His novella, Vanishing of the 7th Grade, is available through D&T Publishing. D&T has also published his novel, Bad for Your Teeth. More info is available at amazon.com/author/evanbaughfman.

Trembling With Fear 3-17-24

Greetings, children of the dark, and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to the Irish diaspora. I’m fighting the urge to make comments about evil leprechauns and suchlike, and am thankful I’m feeling so drained from battling the mega virus from hell all week that I can’t think of anything Irish and witty to say. (The Irish are probably thankful for that, too!)

Speaking of the mega virus from hell—’twas not the plague; the test told me so—it is the reason I’m running a bit behind on TWF correspondence at the moment. A few of you have slid into my DMs to chase me on some things, and I can assure you I’ll get to it. Hopefully in the coming days. And yes, I said “hopefully”, because I have a lot to catch up on! I promise you, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. 

With those two ridiculous paragraphs re-read, I’m telling myself it’s time to cut my fevered losses and just jolly well get on with the show. So here we go.

This week’s TWF menu is some top shelf stuff, that’s for sure. Our feature short story is absolutely stunning—and its author, Miley Chen, is a high school junior, people!! I may as well throw in the towel now… 

That story is followed by the short, sharp (and somewhat gothic/folklorish, aka right in my wheelhouse) speculations of:

  • Steven Patchett’s chosen one, 
  • Samantha Lokai’s gardening tips, and 
  • Joshua Ginsberg’s award-winning service.

I hope you enjoy these offerings as much as I did.

To finish, two quick event plugs. Writing the Occult: The Fae is coming up on 6 April, with a whole globe full of amazing speakers. Never fear if you can’t make the whole day—it IS long—because we’ll record it all, but only for ticket holders. You’ve got one week left to get tickets at the early bird price of £35+bf; after that, the price will rise to £40+bf, with sales ending the day before the event. Get in quick before that price rise! Tickets here. (Yes, I’ll probably plug this every week until the event.)

Also: I’ve roped Stuart into being on a panel at the next British Fantasy Society online event day. The whole day is about “the book journey”—all those things besides the writing!—and I’ll be moderating the panel on marketing with the boss man, plus Jenn Hanson-dePaula from Mixtus Media, and indie writers/promo machines Beverley Lee and Nicole Eigener (aka Nicoverley). It’s free for BFS members, and just £5 for everyone else, plus it will also be recorded if you can’t make any/all of it live. Our panel will be up last, at 4pm UK time (11am East Coast / 10am Chicago for the boss’s diary). Details are over here.

And now it’s over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

 
We have a new site sponsor for the month, so if you’re looking to pick up a new book, I highly suggest The Dark Man, by Referral and Less Pleasant Tales by Chuck McKenzie!
 
***
 
 
We’ve had a lot of people reach out over the last three weeks about the notable increase in ads on Horror Tree. Not only do we hear you, we see it as well. The number of ads has skyrocketed. I went in with our ad provider and manually lowered it, but it didn’t have any change. I’ve got an open ticket with our ad network to troubleshoot the issue. I’m hoping that within the next week, things will settle down a bit on exactly how much is being shown. Fingers crossed this doesn’t drag on for a long time as we really can’t afford to lose our ad revenue, but we also won’t have any readers if they stay how they are. So… Hopefully soon. I’ve been in contact with them all week about the issue.
 
And now the regular announcements:
  • Don’t forget – Trembling With Fear Volume 6 is out in the world, and if you’ve picked up a copy, we’d love a review! Next year, we may be looking to expand past just the Amazon platform. If we do that, what stores would you like to purchase your books from?
  • ATTENTION YOUTUBE WATCHERS: We’ve had some great responses so far but are open to more ideas – What type of content would you like to see us feature? Please reach out to [email protected]! We’ll be really working on expanding the channel late this year and early into next.
  • For those who are looking to connect with Horror Tree on places that aren’t Twitter, we’re also in BlueSky and Threads. *I* am also now on BlueSky and Threads.
  • If you’d like to extend your support to the site, we’d be thrilled to welcome your contributions through Ko-Fi or Patreon. Your generosity keeps us fueled and fired up to bring you the very best.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

(more…)

Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eight

  1. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part One
  2. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Two
  3. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Three
  4. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Four
  5. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Five
  6. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Six
  7. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Seven
  8. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eight
  9. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Nine
  10. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Ten
  11. Serial Saturday: The Cavern’s Memory by Jacob Calloway, Part Eleven – Finale

 

 

Part Eight: The Text of Terror

 

Having arrived home from the tavern on a night off work, Jeffrey collapsed into bed and fell asleep, drifting into his now-typical nightmares haunted by the ever-nearing shadow in his peripheral vision. To his relief, however, he was soon interrupted by Clara climbing into bed next to him. Contrary to what he expected, she reached over to him with a warm touch and pulled herself next to him. Surprised by her affection, Jeffrey turned toward her and returned the gesture by pulling her into his arms. The passion of her intimacy that followed further bewildered him, but almost immediately confusion gave way to desire, and the frightening forms of reality melted away. Jeffrey’s sleep for the rest of the night featured few of the terrorizing dreams, and he slept clinging to Clara’s hand as an anchor. 

As sunlight entered the room the next morning, Jeffrey lifted his head from the pillow and looked around the room. She lay next to him, buried in the blankets with her arm still extended toward him and clasping his hand. Sitting up in bed, he heard the apartment door open and close as somebody entered. The crushing anxiety of the past few months immediately rushed back into his thoughts, with images of a shadowy figure gliding through the apartment toward the door. Fright quickly turned to confusion in a matter of seconds when he recognized the figure who appeared at the bedroom door was Clara. 

“Who the fuck is that?” Clara cried out in complete shock.

“I….” Jeffrey could hardly form words in his state of equal astonishment. 

“What are you doing?” she exclaimed. 

“I thought… where-” Jeffrey gave up on his disoriented response as Lila sat up in bed beside him. She looked with confusion at Clara and then at Jeffrey as she pulled the blankets around her.

“We’re done, you piece of shit,” were Clara’s final words to him before she stormed out of the apartment. 

“Who was that?” Lila asked after Clara had slammed the door behind her. 

“That- that’s Clara… I thought that…” Jeffrey still struggled to piece together what was happening. 

“Shit, you aren’t married or something, are you?” Lila said with a hint of suspicion. 

“No, she’s my girlfriend. Or…” he corrected himself, “she was.” 

“Why the hell would you call me if you lived with your girlfriend?” Lila scolded with a casual attitude as she slid out of bed and began to dress herself. 

“I called you?” Jeffrey asked, entirely bereft of any explanation. 

“Yeah, you called me like an hour after I left,” she explained, grabbing her purse and phone from the nightstand. “You picked me up and we came back here. Were you really that out of it?”

“I didn’t drink at all last night,” he replied, probing his memory for any trace of what Lila was describing. 

“Well, then I guess you’ve got a strange sense of humor, because this definitely wasn’t funny to her,” Lila said with a slight smirk.

“I- I just don’t remember what happened.”

“Okay, buddy. You’ve got my number.” Lila had put on her shoes and begun to leave the bedroom. “Maybe figure this out before you call me again,” she advised as she waved her hand in a circular motion.

Jeffrey sat in silence for a bit after Lila had departed, trying to understand how he had lost so much memory of the previous night. Though he knew his hallucinations must be worsening, he was loathe to acknowledge that his perception was deteriorating more precipitously every day. After pulling himself from the stupor of confusion, he made his way into the kitchen and pulled the manuscript from his backpack. Finding his spot once again, he continued to probe the ancient words. 

Their many slender branches of bright and beautiful color crept across the ground, winding through the doors of our very homes and embracing us in our sleep. Life could not return to those wrapped in them, and their flesh soon disappeared from their bones. The insatiable behemoths drank of our flesh from afar with their ever-growing reach.

The text continued for many pages in which the ancient author recorded the names of those having perished, describing each household and how it came to its end. Every account began the same way: a member of the family began acting strangely, worsening to the point of madness. The madness would consume the home, finally driving husbands and wives and brothers and sisters to a crescendo of violence in which most or all members lie dead or maimed. Even before the rest of the community found them, the colorful tendrils had infested the home and engulfed the bodies.

Beasts we found, too, were overcome by the ravenous feasting arms which traveled far from their bodies, and no tool could break their almighty grasp. The madness spread among the people, driving us to ever greater bloodshed as the land became a cistern of unfathomable sights in which we were drowning. 

So few of us were left when the great ones arrived, and our souls were broken. Oh, how gracious are they that restored the veil to our eyes. Violent bolts of light struck the earth from dark clouds above, setting fires even among the rocks. Incomprehensible speech like thunder filled the earth from above, plunging our ears into numbness. The terrors beneath the rock returned to their depths and their branches of death soon withdrew. When the dark clouds had cleared, the stars returned once more to the peaceful lights we knew them once to be, and as they remain to this day. 

The veil now covers our eyes once more, and this frightful world is hidden from us again. Most now can remember the terrors only as a dream. Some even venture to claim it never was. But upon these pages I save the memory of those times for a future generation should our appeasement of the great ones cease. Yet shall these pages remain hidden from the many until then, for knowledge of this terrible truth is a burden too heavy for the soul to carry. A person cannot think rightly knowing these things. I write this now as even I forget. We must forget. We must forget.

Jeffrey sat back in his chair, gaze fixed upon the final words in the manuscript before him. The crushing weight described by the author fell upon him with a finality he had yet to experience. He felt he knew now what was in store for him; his hands trembled at the prospect that his fundamental picture of the world was but a veil. His resolve became all the more potent as his curiosity mounted into an obsessive, consuming desire: he wanted to see behind the veil

As evening approached, Jeffrey packed his things for work, stuffing the manuscript into his backpack. The building in the gorge had already fallen under the mountains’ twilight shadows. The break room was empty when he arrived, and it looked as though Alan hadn’t arrived either. Finding it a little strange, he asked the departing crew if they’d seen Alan at all yet. He was surprised to hear Alan had called out sick, as this would be the first time Jeffrey had ever noticed him take a day off. 

Alan’s absence didn’t linger long in Jeffrey’s thoughts as he grabbed a cart and began his cleaning route. Slowly progressing from one room to the next, his mind raced back and forth between obsession and fright. Down long corridors and through dimly lit labs he muttered to himself, recalling the haunting words in the final pages of the text. A suffocating anxiety broke over him in periodic waves between bouts of manic curiosity. Jeffrey wound himself up into a frenzy trying to imagine what lay behind the veil. The shadow that had stalked his dreams for months seemed to follow him down the halls as he cleaned. Each time he could feel the shiver run through his body he would spin around to try and catch a glimpse of what he knew was there but still evaded his searching eyes. 

Corner after corner he wheeled the cart, entirely losing track of time as he went about his routine. His hands shook and his eyes darted about. The sound of shuffling footsteps suddenly drew his paranoid attention, but he was too late to avoid the dizzying blow to the side of his head. Jeffrey’s knees buckled beneath him, and he braced himself on the wall with one arm to keep from falling, only to have a second strike to his head send him reeling onto the floor. The room shrank into darkness as he saw through blurred vision that Alan was standing over him.

Unholy Trinity: Tales from a Midnight Fire by Miguel Goncalves

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.

The Whispering Grove

 

Under the shadowy canopy of ancient trees, the campfire light flickered. Martha shivered, as she recalled the tale of the Whispering Grove. Legends spoke of the lost souls trapped within, condemned to eternal whispers. As the friends huddled around the fire, the wind seemed to mimic eerie voices, sending a chill through their bodies. Unnerving rustles approached, and in the trembling light, they swore they could glimpse spectral figures. The grove seemed with ghostly murmurs. As Martha finished the story, they all laughed but the whispers lingered, as if the grove’s tormented souls had now joined them around the fire.

 

Footprints

 

Around the bonfire, Jake took his turn sharing a yarn. In a nearby marsh, it was said that ghostly footprints appeared on moonlit nights. Intrigued, people ventured to the marsh as ethereal prints guided them to an old well. Fear clutched their hearts for as they neared the well a voice would be heard. Turning back in dread, they would notice that the footprints had vanished. People would panic, realizing they had no way back. And as they tried to find their way, they’d eventually hear the chilling voice again, calling them to it, and the bottom of the well.

 

The Camper

 

Amidst the crackling flames, Dorothy shared the tale of the cursed camper. One night, a couple camped beside the forsaken vehicle. They had scoffed at the warnings and tales of its last occupants’ mysterious disappearance. As they prepared to turn in; terror struck. They could see faces in the camper’s windows. The camper’s door opened, beckoning them in. When the search parties found their camping site they were nowhere to be seen. The camper had long been towed away, Dorothy whispered, but its haunting presence is forever tied to that fateful camping spot, the very same we now sit on.

 

Miguel Goncalves

Miguel Gonçalves was born in Porto, Portugal, in the 80s. He grew up on comics, fantasy books, horror movies, and rock hair bands. He’s been writing, mostly for himself, since a young age and his stories are a mix of horror, thriller, and serial killers, some venturing into the supernatural spectrum of horror. He’s the author of “The Scarecrow Man”, which was published in an anthology by Dark Pine Publishing and by itself as a mini book, and also has some stories published by Fábrica do Terror a Portuguese- Horror website (one of his stories also features on their anthology). He also had one of his drabbles published at Horror Tree. You can find him at https://linktr.ee/AngelusSanguis.

Trembling With Fear 3-10-24

Greetings, children of the dark. This week, I’ve mainly been pondering my life and trying not to make it morose or morbid. On Tuesday, I was honoured to be asked to speak to a university MA class about being a jobbing writer, which had me reflecting on an almost-30 year career across two continents and way too many different companies. And then on Wednesday, the All Creatives Now podcast released its recent interview with me where I spoke about something very similar. I’m not used to all of this attention. It’s a bit odd, to be honest.

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but this sort of reflection doesn’t tend to make me celebrate the wins—it’s more likely to make me lament the losses. And as I stood there, telling this university class about how I dreamed of being an author but was directed towards journalism so I could make a living, I started wondering about what might have been. What if I’d ignored the advice and stuck to my young guns? What if I’d tried, right out of school, to write books? And the truth is that I know I would’ve sucked. I had no life experience. I hadn’t lived. I had nothing to say: I came from a somewhat middle class suburban background, and hadn’t really fought for anything yet. Now, sitting in a different country and comfortably in my mid-40s, I feel more able to do it. I have learned a lot in 30 years of wandering the world of writing, and picked up a few tricks along the way. 

But I also need to work harder on recognising those wins. I need to recognise that I have things to teach, things to offer. That I’m not a bunch of tightly compartmentalised options; I am a singular, whole being with all the good and bad that entails. So, children of the dark, any advice on how I do that? 🤣

Enough of the therapy; let’s get to the point. (BTW, did you know I’m a coach and mentor to writers as well? Little plug there!)

This week’s TWF menu is kicked off by a not-very-nice character being not-very-nice—and it is delightful. It’s one for the geocachers out there, and it’s by Sabrina Fisher. That story is followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • Ariya Bandy’s dancing queen, 
  • FM Scott’s musical mindbender, and 
  • Don Money’s haunted hoodlum.

And finally, a shout-out to the lovely Nicole Eigener and Beverley Lee, a West Coast/UK duo who last week launched a book they co-wrote across the Pacific. A Conclave of Crimson combines both writers’ individual book worlds, and is an unapologetically queer vampire love story. It’s available now from here. Nicole and Beverley were guest speakers at my Writing the Occult: Vampires event back in October, and I’m so excited to see their combined work finally released to the wild.

Oh, and speaking of my Writing the Occult events, we’ve announced the speaker list for the next one. Our look at the fae on 6 April will not only consider the fairy in literature and lore, the dark side of fairy folklore, and, of course, the changeling, as well as hearing from Gabriela Houston how to take inspiration from folkloric creatures for your fiction, but we’ll also take a tour around the world to find out how the concept of the fae is manifest in cultures including Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, the Philippines, China, Iceland, Latinx, Greece, and South Asia. Event details are here, tickets are now on sale from Eventbrite, and I’d love to see you there.

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

We have a new site sponsor for the month, so if you’re looking to pick up a new book, I highly suggest The Dark Man by Referral and Less Pleasant Tales by Chuck McKenzie! Made a bit more progress on Shadowed Realms and we’re about to pass it off to who is putting it together for us, so more on that soon as well. Sorry for the lack of YouTube videos this week. Belinda was on vacation and while I had meant to put one together… It just didn’t happen. 
 
Don’t forget – Trembling With Fear Volume 6 is out in the world, and if you’ve picked up a copy, we’d love a review! Next year, we may be looking to expand past just the Amazon platform. If we do that, what stores would you like to purchase your books from?

ATTENTION YOUTUBE WATCHERS: We’ve had some great responses so far but are open to more ideas – What type of content would you like to see us feature? Please reach out to [email protected]! We’ll be really working on expanding the channel late this year and early into next.

For those who are looking to connect with Horror Tree on places that aren’t Twitter, we’re also in BlueSky and Threads. *I* am also now on BlueSky and Threads.

If you’d like to extend your support to the site, we’d be thrilled to welcome your contributions through Ko-Fi or Patreon. Your generosity keeps us fueled and fired up to bring you the very best.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

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