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

Miley Chen

Miley Chen is a Junior in highschool, whose father has been freaking her out with stories by Steven King since she was six.

Matriphagy, by Miley Chen

When I am told that I will give birth to a god, I cry. The Fathers say it should be our honor as shrine maidens, but I can’t help the tears that run down my face. Gods are born hungry after all, and powerful gods are born hungrier still. 

My flock of Sisters never thought the god-child would “grace” us. We were the least pious, the least respectful, and the most curious. In retrospect, maybe that is why the god-child chose us, so our questions could be punished with brutal answers.  

There is no better sacrifice to a god than its mother, so I will be the first offering. If I leave, I will never hear the clamor of the capitol or smell the sweet aroma of nectarines in summertime. I will be called a traitor for thousands of generations. If I stay, the Fathers will feed my Sisters to the monster and allow the god to gorge itself upon my family in all but blood. I wonder if my Sisters snuck out into the sea of stargazer lilies tonight; they were always beautiful illuminated by the moon’s light. 

I take a step.

By the end of the first day, I want to vomit. My legs are sore, my vision is blurry, and my stomach aches.

By the end of the second day, I find an alcove that will serve as my grave. My resting place will be unmarked, and I think the Fathers would tell me to pray. They would tell me to pray for the salvation that their last rites would have given me, but I prayed all my life, and I still have a god in my belly. 

At the beginning of the third day, I want to vomit for an entirely different reason. My back aches, I taste the acid in my mouth, and I hear something tear. My water must’ve broken, it’s broken, IT’S BROKEN—someone is screaming.

I’m screaming

I try to stand, but I slip on something and everything feels sickly, slickly, wet. As I roll over, I see my stomach writhe. The spatter of sickly yellows and pinks and reds mark the site of a terrible consecration. Claws chew through my stomach like mealworms, and there’s a squelch, squelch, squelching. A god is peeling itself from me, recklessly carving out chunks of my flesh as it tries to climb out. It gnaws and clutches whatever it can reach, desperate to suckle on the sap of my flesh or play with my sinew and skin. As I begin to shut my eyes, my stomach jerks. The babe just stops. Its arms, the same as a human’s, are flailing around in the open air, and I feel its legs kick, kick, kicking inside of me. The infant divinity is like a butterfly stuck halfway out of its cocoon.

I don’t know why, but I timidly cradle the god. In response, it reaches for me, clutches my hair and wails. I do not know how long this goes on for, but eventually the god’s wails turn into raspy gasps and silent tears. This is wrong. Gods are unstoppable. I should not see fear in my god’s eyes. A baby should never have so much fear in their eyes. 

It’s crying. My baby is crying.

He shivers. There is nothing I can offer except for myself, so I poke and prod and pull at the many wounds in my stomach until I can swaddle him in my intestines. My baby seizes them like a beloved doll, seeks my blood as if it was a warm blanket, screams when it’s not enough. I should be screaming too, but his grip feels like a hug. He is beautiful, so beautiful surrounded by a crown of flowering daisy yellows and rose reds, swaddled in sweet baby pinks. He is so beautiful, but he is starving, and I am not enough. 

The capitol is close by.

My baby shivers and calls out “mama!” He would be different, stronger, if I brought him to the capitol, free to gorge himself and free from the Fathers’ influence. I can hear the screams of the capitol, smell the rotting bodies. My baby is screaming, and he will smell too. Thousands will die. My baby is dying. 

I think of my Sisters, and I see them drowning in a sea of red.  

I take a step toward the capitol.

The Last of the Chosen

I sing as I brush the snow from my baby’s woollen cap, hiding her face from the mountain’s cold. The frozen god’s claws stretch down towards our village. Hunger etched in stone.

There are cracks, husband declares. 

There were none yesterday. 

I nod and my song changes to one of ritual. Words our ancestors used to lock away destruction.

Weeping, he holds our child and hands me the knife.

I think of all the things I’ll miss; my daughter growing up, first love, her children.

Its enormous head turns. 

I complete the pact, and plunge the knife into my heart.

Steven Patchett

Steven Patchett is an Engineer, Father and Writer in the North East of England. His works have been published in the National Flash Fiction 2023 Anthology, Ellipsis Zine and Trembling with Fear. He can be found on Twitter (@StevenPatchett7) and BlueSky (, being encouraging. 

Next Spring the Roses Will Be To Die For

She tends to her garden only at night, beneath the moon’s cold sallow glare. 

Careful not to be seen by wandering eyes, but unable to avoid the stares of the wild.

Ploughing and digging, sometimes with her bare hands, savouring the blood drenched soil against her exposed skin. 

She buries the limbs, leaving the head for last, and fills empty eye sockets with seeds that will become spring’s next blooms. 

Each plant grows according to the traits of their host below.  

Pairing each one with the right body is the secret. 

Absolution comes when new life blossoms.

Until next spring.

Samantha Lokai

Samantha Lokai was born and raised in the Caribbean before moving to the United Kingdom. She writes dark fiction, incorporating elements of neo-noir, gothic, folklore, horror and suspense. Her work has appeared in the award-winning Strand Magazine (Dec 2022 Special Holiday Issue), Dangerous Waters: Deadly Women of the Sea anthology (Jan 2023, Brigids Gate Press), and Crimson Bones, an anthology of gothic horror (Brigids Gate Press, June 2023). When not writing, Samantha can be found indulging in her love for books, nature, and her curiosity for the strange and unusual. You can connect with her on Twitter @samanthaslk1 for updates on future publications, or visit her website for more information.

Customer Satisfaction

The heavyset, deeply wrinkled, and impossibly ancient Slavic woman stretched back in her wicker chair at the kitchen table, belched, and wiped her lips with a cloth napkin. Having finished her meal, she pushed aside her plate, turned on her laptop and went to the website from which she had selected her home repairman. 

Her hut shifted slightly on its spindly legs.

She gave her service technician four stars. He’d done a fine job of patching the roof, but he asked so many questions. Also, she found him just slightly too salty.

Of course, that could have been the sauce.

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 (Horror Tree), The Chamber Magazine, The City Key, 365 Tomorrows, Atlas Obscura, Travel After Five, and on his own blog, Terra Incognita Americanus. He currently lives in Tampa with his wife, Jen, and their Shih Tzu, Tinker Bell.

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