Trembling With Fear 11/06/2022

Hello, children of the dark. It’s happened, again: I’ve succumbed to the plague of the age once more. That’s what I get for taking myself off to the wilds of Scotland for a writing retreat. And so this week’s introduction is truncated, lest I say something ridiculous in my covid brain fog. Just a quickie, really: WE NEED YOUR DRABBLES. The cupboard is looking rather bare.

Meanwhile, by the time you read this, parks all across the UK will be smouldering with the remnants of bonfires and fireworks. Yesterday marked Guy Fawkes Night, the celebration of that time a bunch of rebels tried to blow up parliament. I won’t say we could do with that right now because that would be incendiary, but I *will* say that is a bloody good story starter, should you want to get revolutionary in drabble form.

To the task at hand: Our trembling main course this week has Deborah Sheldon get poetic in the hospital. This is followed by three delicious quick bites:

  • Jameson Grey fights the zombie apocalypse
  • Mike Rader turns breeder of killer chickens, and
  • LJ McMenemy (that’s me!) ponders the date from hell.

If these stories inspire you to get writing, you’ll find details on how to submit to us over here on our freshly-updated submission guidelines page. Remember, we’re currently CLOSED to short story submissions, but are always seeking drabbles – that’s a complete story in exactly 100 words, and a real test of your craft. I’d love to see what you come up with! (I’ve been avoiding publishing my own drabbles that have been in the waiting room since Steph’s TWF days, but if you don’t sub more then you’re going to get more of mine.)

For now, it’s over to you, Stuart…

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I would like to wish everyone working on NaNoWriMo the best of success! Finish that novel, novella, editing, and extra word counts. Whatever your writing goal(s) is I am rooting for you!

We’re still setting up a Writers Job Board over at It ‘works’ though is still a work in progress.

With the new layout being delayed until next year, this is just a reminder that if there are any changes that YOU have been hoping to see, please reach out on our contact page!

For those looking to support the site, we’ve recently launched a Ko-Fi and always have our Patreon going.

As always, I hope you had a great weekend.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Flamingo-Pink Balloon, by Deborah Sheldon

The man in the neighbouring hospital bed

snored as if he were screaming; a constant argh

argh. Elsie cursed him, and wished for her homestead

but her hip wouldn’t heal, the prognosis vague.

Day after day, she endured argh argh, and then

one morning, he sat up and bellowed, “You rogue!

I’m at my end, blast you. Take the old grey hen,”

and fell back. Nurses wheeled his bed to the morgue.


Alone, relieved, Elsie watched out the window.

Across the courtyard, behind another pane

bobbed a balloon, as pink as a flamingo.

To mark a birthday, perhaps, with banned champagne

camouflaged in thermos flasks. There would be cake…

She felt a fervent wish for a visitor,

but she was old, kith and kin dead. Sharp heartache

momentarily held Elsie prisoner.


She pushed aside loneliness from long habit,

stiffened her spine, chose to look forward to lunch,

when something struck the window sill and grabbed it

with bony hands. Elsie’s insides seemed to bunch

in sudden fear. Somehow it was the balloon,

bright flamingo pink, that bobbed at her window,

set with features dark like the man on the moon,

its skeletal fingers tapping. A limbo


within which she understood the snoring man’s

final words had been addressed to this creature,

his curse was to include Elsie in his plans.

She was the “old grey hen”, of that she was sure

as she gazed into each black, bruised eye socket

of this balloon-headed monster. Tap, tap, tap

on glass. Soon, it would find a gap, a pocket

somewhere in the sill, float across the room, trap


her in its suffocation. Elsie, gasping,

looked away, glanced up at the dead TV screen

high above her bed, screwed into the ceiling,

and saw the reflection of its jaunty lean,

its spidery limbs, its giant head so close,

near enough to kiss. Yelping, she looked around

at nothing, an empty room. “Nurse, please, a dose!”

she cried. (Surgery must have had a profound


effect on Elsie’s anxious state of mind.)

Drugged, she kept her eyes shut. Allowed dusk to creep

around the closed slats of the room’s window blind.

At long last, Elsie felt brave enough to peep.

In the TV reflection, the monster leered. 

Elsie knew she was doomed, realised with unease

that her life, by this ghoul, had been commandeered.

She called for help, but argh was all she could wheeze.

Deborah Sheldon

DEBORAH SHELDON is an award-winning author from Melbourne, Australia. She writes across the darker spectrum of horror, crime and noir. Latest titles include The Again-Walkers, Liminal Spaces: Horror Stories, and Man-Beast. Award-nominated titles include Body Farm Z, Contrition, Devil Dragon, Thylacines, and Figments and Fragments. Her collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories won the Australian Shadows ‘Best Collected Work’ Award. She has won the Australian Shadows ‘Best Edited Work’ Award twice: for Midnight Echo 14 and Spawn. Her short fiction has appeared in respected magazines and ‘best of’ anthologies, and received various award nominations. Other credits include TV scripts, feature articles, non-fiction books and award-winning medical writing.

Hunker Down

Hunker in the bunker, they said, trying to make light of the so-called zombie apocalypse. 

They knew it was coming. They must’ve done. Otherwise, why have all these underground shelters in place? 

We’re in groups of 25, 50, 100 – safely secured in well-stocked bunkers while the authorities “deal with the situation”. One designated key holder per shelter (in this case, that’s me). Each bunker with a leader, each with a different person in charge of rations. 

Tempers are fraying. Everyone’s hungry.

I’m hungry.

Worryingly, my ankle hurts where I was bitten before we hunkered down. 

I don’t feel so good.

Jameson Grey

Jameson Grey is originally from England but now lives with his family in western Canada.

His work has been published in Dark Recesses Press magazine, Dark Dispatch, Medusa Tales, and in various anthologies including Chlorophobia: An Eco-Horror Anthology from Ghost Orchid Press and Let the Weirdness In: A Tribute to Kate Bush from Heads Dance Press.

He can be found online at and occasionally on Twitter @thejamesongrey.

Chicken Feed

I raised them to be killers. For their own good. Thousands of them. All locked away out of sight in a long sound-proofed shed. 

This guy, said he was an animal activist, demanded to see my poultry.  

“Animals matter,” he said piously. “We’ve abused them too long.”

“You think animals can’t defend themselves?” Laughing, I opened the shed door. Dark inside. Just the hush of depraved animals, scratching the dirt, hungry for flesh, thirsting for blood.

The Rhode Island Reds got him first, hundreds of them, dragging him away, pecking, pecking, pecking. His screams drowned in a fury of feathers.

Mike Rader

Mike Rader is a pseudonym used by Australian author and poet James Aitchison.  As J J Munro and Mike Rader, Aitchison writes horror and noir crime.  As James Lee, he writes Asia’s biggest selling horror series for middle readers — Mr Midnight — which has sold over three million copies. His work can be seen at

Making The Move

It was the couch that got my attention. He pushed it into me – not on purpose! – and I spilled Merlot all over my sweater. I mean, luckily a red sweater, but still. He was moving the couch, and it moved into me. It was that couch, and the wine, and the cheesy grin he flashed, and the sirens that came when the neighbours heard the gunshots, and the TV news crews in my face, and the police asking the questions, and the jury that announced guilty, and, well, that’s how I came to be here in jail. How about you?

LJ McMenemy

Lauren writes gothic and folk horror and is currently working on a novel set in the world of the Victorian occult. This ancient drabble is a bit of a departure from her normal style, and was written from a competition prompt. You’ll find her haunting south London, where she lives with her Doctor Who-obsessed husband and their aged black house rabbit.

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