Trembling With Fear 1-21-24

Greetings, children of the dark. Keeping it short as it’s been Arctic here in London this week and I am definitely feeling worse for wear. So, just two quick reminders from me before we get stuck in.

First up, we’re now closed to short story submissions until our next window in April. You’ll find details of all the windows over on our submissions page, as well as other opportunities to be published on this here site. Big and important note: we’re open to drabbles 24/7. Insatiable. Etc, etc. 

Also—and this will be the last time I mention it!—my next Writing the Occult event happens this Saturday, 27 January. This is all about ritual, so if you’ve got any interest in folk horror, faith horror, or occult horror, or even just dark magic, you’ll likely find something to inspire your next story. All the details are over at writingtheoccult.carrd.co. Tix are here.

But that’s enough plugging; let’s get to why you’re here. This week’s TWF main course is a car crash unfolding in front of us, thanks to Damien Exton. Then we’ve got three fabulous tasty morsels for dessert:

  • Ryan Van Ells found a loophole, 
  • SG Perahim is called out on her own prank, and 
  • Lauren Kessinger has an unwelcome visitor.

BTW, the boss and I had a rare virtual catch-up last weekend. Much to talk about. Much to come. Make sure you stay tuned in 2024!

Now it’s over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I’ve been slowly going through my to-do list, and I have so much to catch up on I feel almost paralyzed on what to do next. That being said, I had a great talk with Lauren this last week and we’re eyeing a few changes coming up which will hopefully both streamling things and add a bit more support on the administrative end of the site – more on all of that soon! 
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

Damien Exton

Bio to come

Teddy, by Damien Exton

My name is Teddy. I’m thirteen years old and a demon wants to eat me. 

I can see it but nobody else can. I can talk to it but nobody else can. 

The demon screams at me every night. But I don’t get scared. Even when I see spit drip from its sharp black teeth as it tries to bite my head off I’m not scared. I’m thirteen after all. I’m not a baby.  

I can’t tell my mom or dad about the demon and they wouldn’t believe me anyway. There are rules that you have to obey when a demon owns your soul. The demon told me it owns my soul but mom and dad can’t ever know. They won’t  understand or be able to help me anyway. It promises that one day soon it will eat me until I’m almost dead. Then with one more big bite I’ll be done for. Those huge black shiny teeth are sharp as my dads razors. I’m sure they could munch through my innards like pink blancmange. We have that at school for dessert sometimes bit I don’t like it anymore. 

The demon knows I cannot be his blancmange until I am sixteen. I don’t know why sixteen. The rules are the demon’s and not mine. It knows I know about the sixteen rule. I’m safe. I’m only thirteen. Ha!

***

Hello. I’m Teddy and I’m fourteen.

A demon is dying to kill me by gobbling me up. It will eat my toes, my tummy and lastly my head. It owns me, it keeps on telling me. But it can’t hurt me yet – not sixteen, see! It still tries hard to scare me though. 

It gets really mad at me and said that it can’t wait to chew off my head. It can’t wait to grab my skull in its three fingered claws that are sharp enough to gut fish or children. I’ll bleed through my eyes as it squeezes my brains to a blood-orange pulp. Finally it will bite into my inflated head until it pops and my blood dribbles down its chin and onto its serrated chest. 

It taught me the word ‘serrated’. I’d heard it before but I didn’t know what it meant. The demon said that it can mince up children straight into its belly to save time by just using this serrated kiddie chest-grater. Like a smoothie maker for monsters. But it will not eat me in a fast smooth way. I have to suffer slowly, it says but it doesn’t say why. 

The demon has shown me too how this will look. It’s brought a lot of broken sixteen year old girls and boys to my bedroom at night. 

I said “Eeeeeuuuuuwwww!” as I saw innards come out through their bellies like red wet snakes and get swallowed down the demons gullet. It also taught me ‘gullet’. I like that word. But I don’t really like seeing the broken kids eyes after I go to sleep. 

***

Hello. I’m Ted. I’ve just turned fifteen. Mom says I’m a “young man” now. A lot can happen in a year. I’ve grown up a lot. 

My demon is still coming to me every single damn night. It warns me. It promises me that the agony it will inflict on me will have me begging it for death. I will know a “unique suffering” before it finishes me off. These aren’t my words BTW. These are demon words. It talks very passionately about me most of the time.

The demon talks in exhaustive detail about my death. How it will flay me. Or maybe strangle me almost to death. But release me, then strangle some more, then go round again, again and again. Its rheumy yellow bloodshot eyes stare wistfully into the dark folds of my lamp-less bedroom as it regales me. The demon bites through all my bedroom lightbulbs, keeping it dark to enhance the mood, it says. Mom ran out of lightbulbs, “what do you keep doing in that room at night Ted?”, she asks. But she wouldn’t believe me. And I can’t say. 

The demon wonders what will I taste like. How warm will my sixteen year old blood be? How quickly will it cool and clot? Do I know my blood type? It doesn’t make a difference, but it would like to know. 

Will my brain be aware of what is happening while I’m being eaten alive? Will the demon chuckle contentedly while it does? (Oh yes, it says, it will chuckle). Will my meat be firm and tender?

How loudly will my bones snap as it shears through me right down to the marrowbone? I decided I don’t like that word – ‘marrowbone’. It’s ugly and gives me images of the inner parts of me that shouldn’t be seen. Should never be exploited. And especially, should never be eaten. 

Will I be easy for it to digest? Will I give it a dickie tummy? Or gas? It must be playing with me, demons don’t get gas, surely? But it says they do. Their internal digestive system is made of brimstone and lave-fires that glow through its smoothie-maker rotisserie chest. The gasses from it exhaust through nose-less nostrils and it’s backside. I don’t know a sorry death until I hear and smell a demon fart my half-digested body, it said. It didn’t say this to be funny either. And I never thought to laugh. 

Sometimes the demon gets so lost in thoughts of how it will enjoy violating me that I think it even forgets I’m there. But I’m there in my bed, making sure my ever-so-slightly hairy toes aren’t poking out from the bottom of my football pitch quilt. 

I squirm inside agitatedly when I imagine the monster chewing on my toes. My poor toes that have been content on the ends of my feet for fifteen years, un-gnawed. I can’t quite believe that one day they will be no better than sausages on cocktail sticks at a children’s birthday party. 

Why did I go and think of that – birthday? My next one is… I can’t quite comprehend yet. It’s real, but not real. The demon and its funky breath is real. I’m still fifteen. For now. 

***

I’m Theodore. Tomorrow I turn sixteen. 

I don’t want to talk about it. 

No mom. I don’t want a party. 

***

Greetings. I am Malphas. Or Dajjal. Or Xezbeth. 

I have been known by many names in many cultures. 

I have existed for centuries. All should fear me. Those that don’t are the lucky ones. But awareness comes with age. Awareness brings concern. Concern brings fear. Fear brings death. I am death. 

I am a clock-watcher. A time-eater. I have no end. 

Teddy once thought himself eternal, as the young do. Blinded by his youth. Ignorant and immature. But immaturity soon blossoms. It wears down like enamel on teeth and ripens like a blood-orange. 

I wonder, does Teddy remember the blood-orange promise I made him? Not to worry. It has no impact on his outcome. 

***

I am the demon that ate Teddy. He was aware to the very last bite. 

I strangled him. I flayed him. I grated him. He begged. He suffered. I chuckled. His bones snapped loudly. His head popped messily. His marrowbone was stringy. His blood curdled. His toes were hairy. He gave me wind. My stomach feels troubled. He was too gristly and I am still picking bits of him from between my teeth. 

I am the monster that finally ate Teddy and he tasted… Average. 

They really are past their best at sixteen. 

A Virgin Sacrifice

Every year, the village sacrificed a virgin to Her. No one remembered when or why it had begun, only that it must be done. 

Last year, it was Sam. Laura had cried as her sister thrashed on the altar, as Her great maw appeared through the trees, sniffing and then devouring her.

This year, Laura’s wrists were tied without resistance. The demon’s bramble face took great scratching sniffs. For a moment, Laura worried it wouldn’t work. It didn’t have to be a virgin. 

Then the demon huffed. She loped out from the woods and into the screaming villagers. Laura laughed.

Ryan Van Ells

Ryan Van Ells is a queer lawyer and dark fiction author from Central Wisconsin. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in anthologies from Kangas Kahn Publishing and Black Hare Press. He is an affiliate member of the HWA. When not writing or lawyering, Ryan can be found at the gym, playing chess, or trying to find the best dark roast in the Midwest.

Jokester

My bloody fingernails scratch against the wood. To no avail. Time and oxygen are running out. The ceremony is ending. 

A shovel of earth cascades down all over the casket, courtesy of my sobbing husband. I scream. Tragically, my favourite song is playing. Metal. Loud. 

I frantically search for the hidden lock again. There has to be one. I’ve paid for it. 

Why did I fake my death? Stupid! 

I’m choking now and most people left. I can still hear my husband though: “Cover this disgrace of a coffin. She chose an expensive one, but I switched. Loans to repay.”

S.G. Perahim

Stéphane G. Perahim is a middle-aged French lady who lives in Belgium and teaches English for a living. When she’s not surrounded by her young, charming yet snotty students, she writes detective novels and short stories, plays with rather lifelike and creepy dolls, runs half-marathons or works on improving her nascent skills at capoeira. Find her on Instagram @Nefisaperahim.

Mother’s Return

In the eerie stillness of a moonlit night, Emily heard faint whispers. She was alone in her ancient, creaking house, far from civilization. The words seemed to echo from nowhere, chilling her to the core. The whispers grew louder, shadows danced on the walls. Panic surged as she realized the whispers were from her dead mother’s voice, long buried in the ground. Frozen in terror, Emily followed the sounds to her bedroom, where a ghostly apparition of her mother emerged from the closet, eyes empty holes. 

“I’ve been waiting, my Emmy,” the specter hissed, and the room plunged into darkness.

Lauren Kessinger

Lauren Kessinger is a graduate student at Eastern Kentucky University with a love for writing. As a freelance writer, she’s passionate about crafting horror, comedy, romantic comedy, and H.P. Lovecraft-inspired tales. Despite being a 31-year-old student and soon-to-be mom, she hold steadfast to her dream of sharing stories with the world. Like Frankenstein’s creation in “The Modern Prometheus,” she eagerly awaits her own evening of inspiration to bring new narratives to life.

You may also like...