Trembling With Fear 2-18-24

Greetings, children of the dark—greetings from Derbyshire, where I’ve been immersed in ghost stories and hauntings for the last few days. I made it to the UK Ghost Story Festival again, which is always a highlight in the calendar. I’ve come here because I’ve been coming here for the last few years, but also I’m hoping this little side trip to the dark side will leave me brimming with ideas to get back to the writing. That’s my goal this year: just play around with fiction again. No pressure, no goals, no Big Ideas. Just playing around. Getting my mojo back. Seeking the muse, who I’m hoping enjoys trips to the outskirts of the Peak District. 

So while I’m haunting the Midlands, let’s serve up this week’s trembling menu. Jennifer Lee Rossman takes us into the deepest reaches of space. That’s followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • Michael Davis’s medical experiments, 
  • Ria Hill’s personal grooming issues, and 
  • Alejandro Gonzales’s work woes.

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I spent a lot of time reviewing fiction for Trembling With Fear and prepping formatting for our overdue SR release., my friends!
Somehow, I was also actually able to get some writing in this last week. First time that I’ve had the mental space to do that in months. Very happy to look forward to a rejection slip (as I’d be surprised if any of my first writing back is up to where it used to be!) 
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

Jennifer Lee Rossman

Jennifer Lee Rossman (they/them) is a queer, disabled, and autistic author and editor from the land of carousels and Rod Serling. Their work has been featured in dozens of anthologies, and they have been nominated for Pushcart and Utopia Awards. Find more of their work on their website and follow them on Twitter @JenLRossman

Alone, by Jennifer Lee Rossman

Once upon a more hopeful time, humanity outgrew the confines of their solar system and set out to discover once and for all whether we were truly alone in the universe.

In the intervening centuries we determined, again and again and in all variations imaginable, we were most certainly not alone. Uncountable alien species, the spectrum ranging from microscopic worms to bipedal people with advanced civilizations, and even some borrowing from both ends.

But nothing like the… thing, being, creature… encountered by the exploratory vessel Hendricks in an otherwise uninhabited region of space. Everything else, everyone else, had a steadily corporeal form—a body, if you will. Solidity.

This was different. This was something altogether ethereal and shifting.

Or it had been. It was dead now, after phasing effortlessly through bulkheads and walls and even crewmembers, only to perish upon contact with the magnetic field around the handheld MRI.

In the universe of aliens, it was perhaps the most alien lifeform humanity had encountered, something beyond our capacity to understand which had existed undisturbed for perhaps millennia. And now its dead corpse was in cold storage in the cargo bay.

Or it had been.




“It was there, it was dead,” the human officer insisted, her voice steady but her façade beginning to show the signs of cracking nevertheless. She chewed at the dry skin of her lower lip between sentences, her fingers constantly picking at the embroidered lieutenant ranking that decorated the edge of her lilac-gray sleeve.

“Yes, so you’ve said,” Gimlin acknowledged. “Lieutenant… what was it, again?”

“Patty. Well, Patterson. Ruth Patterson. People call me Patty.”

He nodded slowly, watching Patterson subconsciously press her back against the wall beside a row of shelving. “Word of advice. When dealing with an entity that can phase through solid matter, put some space between yourself and anything it might come through.”

She took several steps forward, glancing over her shoulder.

It wouldn’t make much of a difference. Beings like that, they moved too fast, there wouldn’t be time to get out of their way.

But at least now, she might see it coming.

“You’ve seen these before?” Patterson asked.

Gimlin nodded again, stepping over the threshold of the freezer to examine the table where the body had been kept. No residue, no sign whatsoever left behind.


“Outside the door,” Patterson answered. “No one came or left, at least not that way. Maybe through the bulkhead, maybe back into space—” She stopped talking when he turned to look at her, started again a second later, “What are they?”

That was the question, wasn’t it. In all his uncountable years studying, tracking, hunting them, he still couldn’t find the words in any of the languages he encountered throughout the galaxy to describe them.

“Something very old and very dangerous,” he said finally.

“How many have you caught?”

Gimlin made his way out into the corridor bathed in the red emergency lighting, motioning for her to follow.

“This will be the first.”




Gimlin didn’t sleep, not when he was on a hunt, but on his second day aboard the Hendricks he found himself suddenly aware of new, fantastical memories, as of having just woken from a dream.

It was the being, the entity, taunting him from inside his own mind with visions of the unimaginable. Dimensions and physics and colors withheld from mere mortals such as him.

It always went this way; he couldn’t fathom why, but then he couldn’t fathom most things about the entity. He would chase it across galaxies, cosmic cat and mouse, and when he got close, it would tease him, tempt him with the unknowable.

If he could catch the thing, meld with it, he knew—somehow, he knew—he would share in the knowledge and power.

And just when he got close, just when he thought it was within reach, that’s when the deaths began.




He saw the deaths as they happened, felt them, as if it was him, not the entity, killing the crew. He heard the screams long before the emergency alerts sounded, but could never get to them fast enough.

It used to bother him that he had grown accustomed to it, that the gruesome bodies left behind no longer turned his stomach.

Lieutenant Patterson appeared not to share Gimlin’s numbness to the carnage, her eyes fixed on anything and everything but the ensign strewn across the floor of his quarters.

“I can be left on my own,” Gimlin informed her, stepping over some of the remains. There wasn’t much to investigate, in any event. He’d never found anything resembling a pattern, no indication of what the thing would do next or when it would leave in search of another ship.

Patterson pointed to her Security insignia. “Investigating deaths is technically my job. Unfortunately.” She hesitated. “Why do they kill people? Are they hungry, are they—”

“It.” At the lieutenant’s confused expression, Gimlin elaborated, “Not they. It. Just the one.”

“I meant the others. You said this happened before—”

He nodded. “Still just the one.”

“What? You’ve been chasing the same one your whole life?”

He didn’t answer. Not because he didn’t want to, although he didn’t, but because at that moment, he became aware of the otherworldly being’s consciousness just at the edge of his own. Of the sensation that came with traveling through walls, of lurking invisibly in the shadows of the solid world.

He saw and heard, through eyes and ears not his own, the chaos and bustle of the ship’s mess hall. Crew and visiting dignitaries representing varied species, all coming together to eat or otherwise consume their midday meal.

Camaraderie. Socialization. Bonding over mutual characteristics that transcended species and societies.

Gimlin—or rather the entity—was in the middle of it all, yet had never felt such a strong sense of exclusion, otherness, like he could never have what he saw before him.

He wondered, sometimes, if that feeling came from the entity or himself.

“Lieutenant,” he said as the other consciousness narrowed in focus around one diner in particular.


It would be too late, it was always too late, but he had to try. “Your captain is in danger.”




The entity, the being, the infuriatingly unstoppable thing from beyond comprehension, continued to taunt and tempt its hunter, taking more lives and in quicker succession than on any previous ship. With each one, Gimlin felt the connection between them grow more intense, until he struggled to distinguish between his consciousness and the intruding one.

Perhaps most disturbingly, he found himself growing complacent with this fact. More than complacent, content.

They needed each other, him and the being.

Which mind that thought came from, he neither knew nor cared to investigate.

That night, he saw Patterson through two sets of eyes—his own and those of the being, which he had, in a way, begun thinking of as his own, as well. She was standing right beside him, not in the next room or across the ship, but right beside him. Close enough to save, maybe.

Definitely close enough for Gimlin to step in front of her, intercept the being as it exited her body.

The lieutenant fell, limp and disassembled, and Gimlin wondered if perhaps he should spare a regretful thought for the mortal woman. It was hardly her fault she got in the way.

That fleeting consideration was wiped away immediately upon contact with the entity who had been chasing him, trying to lure him back to the timeless realm for as long as he could remember. She was only a mortal, after all, insignificant.

All of them. Molecules of fiber making up the threads of an endless tapestry.

It had tried to show him that, had spent so long numbing him to the idea of their lives, their deaths. Reminding him of all that he left behind on his foolish quest to break free of his confines and discover, once and for all, whether there were other entities such as them out there.

That question now answered with a resounding no, it was time to go home.

Patient 625

He sat defeated as warm crimson blood caked his face.   

“What am I doing wrong?” he repeated over and over.

The Doctor was relentless to prove the human head could survive detached from the body.  He reached for a towel to scrub the brain matter from his face, then tossed it back to the slaughter table.

He clapped his hands on his thighs and stood. His cold eyes met mine as I shrank into the corner of my cell. Slowly, he crossed the room, fishing the keys from his pocket.

“Looks like it’s back to the drawing board, Patient 625.”

Michael Davis

Michael Davis is a married father of 2 from Northwest AR and a long-time fan of the horror genre. His stories have been published by or appeared in: Frightmares A Fistful of Flash Fiction; Gothic Blue Book III: The Graveyard Edition; Gothic Blue Book IV: Folklore Edition; Gothic Blue Book V: The Cursed Edition; Blood Reign Lit; The Twelve Nights of Christmas.

It Is Deeply Uncool of That Bitch to Steal My Face

I know she says she’s only borrowing it, and she almost always gives it back without me asking, but still it sucks when I walk into class and no one wants to talk to me because of something I didn’t even have the fun of doing. 

She knows I’m pissed. I know because she’s not in any of her usual hiding spots. But I‘ll find her. I always do, and this time I won’t be so nice. This time, I have my belt sander.

It isn’t going to be me, but one of us is going to have to change.

Ria Hill

Ria Hill is a writer, librarian, and nonbinary horror. Chances of them devouring you on sight are very low, but never zero. They can be found online at and on various social media platforms @riawritten.

Employee of the Month

I smile in the mirror for two hours before work every day. That glint reaches my eyes now even when I’m thinking about maiming customers with a rusty spoon. I’m gonna quit today. 

“Paper or plastic,” I’ll ask before suffocating them while the fucking whale’s call that is Mariah Carrey’s greatest hit plays. Ho, ho, ho, and goddamn tiddle-fee-hee. 

A hot flash lights up my stomach; likely my ulcer. My taut smile snaps. Why, I’m late for work. 

“Paper or plastic,” I ask, heat searing my tender body. 

“Plastic,” they say. 

So I give them their bag. Maybe next time.

Alejandro Gonzales

Alejandro Gonzales is a writer living in Northern California with credits in Trembling With Fear, Bag Of Bones Press, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and elsewhere. He can almost always be found wearing a pair of groovy sunglasses.

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