Trembling With Fear 5-12-24

Greetings, children of the dark. ‘Tis a dark week in TWF Towers as yours truly deals with a death in the family on the other side of the world, so it’ll be short and sweet this week. Let’s dedicate this edition to the strong women who move mountains for a better life for their family. I’ll miss you much, Granny M. Rest in peace.

Anyways, this week’s TWF menu is really quite devilish, thanks to the Armenian flavours brought by short story writer Robert Nazar Arjoyan. That’s followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • Siân O’Hara’s lovesick lament
  • Liam Kerry’s airborne issues, and
  • Weird Wilkins’s poetic darkness

Quick reminders:

  • We’re technically open for the summer special edition, but Shalini won’t be looking at those subs for a few months yet so maybe hang on to them—early entry does not guarantee a spot!
  • We’re not open again to general short stories until July, so any we receive before then will be returned unread.
  • I know quite a few are still waiting to hear the result of your subs to the last short story window; I’ll get to you ASAP.
  • And we’re always, always looking for drabbles, Unholy Trinities, and serialised serial killer stories! Like, 24/7 needs. Details over on the submissions page.

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

First things first, please support our latest sponsors!

First: Order a copy of Backwaters on Amazon! “Like Flannery O’Connor, but with toxic mermaids and body horror.” — CARLTON MELLICK III, author of Full Metal Octopus and The Haunted Vagina

Second: Get 99 horror stories that range from quiet horror, hinting at the things buried there in your psyche – the thing that will come out to play after dark, and visceral horror that leaves no doubt what lies in a bloody heap in the middle of the floor. This UNHOLY TRINITY combines three of L. Marie Wood’s horror collections, Caliginy, Phantasma, and Anathema.

Order a copy today directly from Mocha Memoirs Press or Amazon!


We’re SO CLOSE to having new things to share with you. Internally, I’ve been really working on catching up on a lot of outstanding small items and getting us setup for success with new expansions and side-projects. I just wish it was all coming together a bit quicker so I have something to share with you. Please note our new sponsor above and pickup a copy of Backwaters today! 

Now, for the standards:

  • We have Patreon who raised their monthly donation; THANK YOU! The more Patreons we get the closer we are to lowering even more the amount of ads we have to display! WHEW! (We should also be cutting back when the new theme eventually gets launched.)
  • Belanger Books has a cool new Kickstarter worth checking out! They’ve previously had some neat open calls that we’ve shared so wanted to let the authors and readers who follow us know about it!

Offhand, if you’ve ordered Trembling With Fear Volume 6, we’d appreciate a review! 🙂

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Robert Nazar Arjoyan

Robert Nazar Arjoyan was born into the Armenian diaspora of Los Angeles. Aside from an arguably ill-advised foray into rock’n’roll band-ery during his late teens, literature and movies were the vying forces of his life. Naz graduated from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and now works as an author and filmmaker. Find him at and on Twitter @RobertArjoyan.

The Devil and His Leaves, by Robert Nazar Arjoyan

Andy always trespassed on his sister’s kindness. It was a flaw and a worry he could never completely put down. His brother-in-law would bitch about this later—what didn’t that man bitch about?—but Andy was certain that his nephews were fast asleep, unaware of their mommy’s absence, and this picture afforded him a modicum of ease. 

“Are you sure you wouldn’t like a cup of coffee?” asked Andy.

“Yes, positive. There’s a twig in your hair, do you know that?” replied Mina.

“Better off, anyway, nobody comes here for coffee.”

“Two twigs, actually.”

“They come to cram or dry out their drunk.”


“Late night shit.” 

“Bro! I’m still in my fucking PJs because you dragged me out of bed. Talk.”

Andy took hold of his straw’s paper wrapping and began to twirl both ends nearer to each other, mirroring the microcosmic entropy accordioning within.    

How should he tell her what he had to tell her?

“What is going o—”

“Can I get you two anything?” A rail thin waiter sauntered by with pad and pen.

“Two coffees,” ordered Mina. She might as well have told the old timer to beat it, prick.

“And mozzarella sticks, please!” shouted Andy at the emaciated waiter’s back.

Mina gave Andy a look that hadn’t altered one iota across thirty-six years or two continents.

“Why am I the only other dumbfuck sitting here at the Conrad’s patio? Please speak.”

A voice came whispering on a cold sail of wind. It finally felt like autumn.

“I saw the Devil on the northwest corner of Glendale and Harvard.” 

Andy had on an open-throated shirt and he felt a breezy gale sneak inside, shimmying across the hair on his body. 

“Right in front of the oil change place.”

The temperature orbiting Andy began to drop, relief of confession mingled with the crisp, capricious air.

“He called himself my pale neighbor.”

Like the leaves it had snatched from his grasp only hours ago, so too did the capering draft steal Andy’s mind, dropping it on the banks of that frozen, faraway lake, where he and Mina danced as children and nearly died.

“He… he forgave me.” 

Mina sipped water with the only hand she had.

“It was very handsome of him.” 

“Little brother, are you using again?”

“No, Meen. I gave you that promise when Jonny was born.”

“Fine, but how am I-”

The patio door swung open with an arresting clang as the skinny waiter returned, yoked with stale coffee and fried cheese. Andy noted a sprinkle of stucco breaking off the adjacent wall where the man had struck the silver doorknob.

“Anything else?” he asked, sucking in a shiver and setting down the fare. 

“No, thanks,” Mina bit off, eager to seize Andy’s tale by the tail. She grabbed the steaming mug and drank, scrunching her mouth against the bilious heat.

“My God, they have not improved the coffee. Right, then, will you please enlighten me with mo—oh, shit, hang on.” Andy ate as Mina took out a vibrating iPhone from her coat pocket.

“Hi, honey. Yeah, we’re fine, I’ll be home soon. Yes.” Mina listened and blinked.

“Remember… remember we came here totally shitfaced after the System concert?” Andy mused, absent, weak, tired.

“Boys still sleeping? OK. Yes. I love you too.” 

“Think it was even the same waiter.” Andy turned round to confirm his suspicion.

“Bye. Uh-huh. Bye.” Mina hung up and wiped a water ring off the table. She placed the phone on the dry surface.

“Kris says hey.”

“No, he doesn’t.”

Mina chuckled as Andy shoved food and drink into himself.

“Drink, eat, shut up and talk now, come on. You say the Devil forgave you.”

Andy nodded, his mouth a slosh of caffeine and mozzarella.

“For what?” she asked, taking a stick of her own. 

Andy swallowed the mixture and raised his eyebrows. “For that.”

“For the… crappy food?”

“No, Meen, for your—for your hand.”

She stopped chewing for a second.

“And for Mom.” 

Mina took a napkin and spat out her food into its huddled pocket.

“Maybe… maybe he shouldn’t have, I don’t know, but he said I deserve it.” 

“Of course you do, Andy, we were stupid kids.” 

“Yeah, but it was my idea.”

“Honey, if this is some… Andy way of trying to… Look, I’m not mad at you—”

“You should be, though. You fucking should be. Weren’t for me, you’d be able to throw Jonny in the air or give Glen a really good tickle.”

Mina curled her lip, as if to confirm her brother’s divination.

“He really was pale too. Wasn’t red or anything like that. He was like a length of bone or, or a slab of snow… like the ice on Parz, even. The ice on the lake.”

“Or like Mom, after she jumped in and pulled us out,” Mina added.

We didn’t even get to know her, thought Andy, buried alone in an ancient country thousands of miles in the past. 

A group of high school kids broke the stewing silence between Andy and Mina by taking a table at the other end of the patio, their backpacks and laptops in tow.

“Did you see a black van in the parking lot, coming in?”

Mina remapped her entrance and answered, “No.”

With a swish of his head Andy said, “Come on.”

“Well, leave the bastard a decent tip because I’m never coming back here again,” she replied.

So heeding, Andy left their gaunt server the last twenty from his wallet. Mina pulled the twigs from Andy’s hair and tossed them into the nearby shrubbery.

“He made me shovel leaves into that van over there,” Andy announced, pointing to a Mercedes Sprinter, tucked into a far corner. “They were leaves from the woods, damp, crushed underfoot. They were those leaves.”

Mina and Andy reached the back doors of the van. The brother placed his hand on the knob and the sister braced.

“I was walking home from the movies, not thinking about it but thinking about it, I guess, and I looked both ways to cross the street. Right, nothing, left, nothing, right again, nothing again, left again, and boom, there he is, standing under a street light. His head was arched back, stiff, but his eyes were on me, dead on me. Wait, please, let me tell it. I couldn’t move because I was terrified. It was the fucking Devil, you know? He had these very round cheekbones and a big smile. I heard him ask me to come closer but he hadn’t moved his mouth. Speaking Armenian. I turned around, like, is anyone else seeing this shit? But it was just the two of us. So I go, and the smell, that lube shop smell, is strong, maybe that’s just him, I have no way of knowing. All the lights in the shop are on but it’s way beyond closing. He shows me the van and tells me what to do. He felt… He told me he finally felt like being a help. She wasn’t there then but he promised she’d be here now.”

“Andy, wha-”

But he didn’t let her finish. If he did, his nerve would boil away and he’d abandon that car and tell himself the whole thing was some aberrant hallucination borne from years of unresolved grief and guilt and gloom. 

Andy burst open the doors. A hill of leaves met them, nearly touching the ceiling.

“Mom?” called the younger. 

The heap hissed with a shaky sussurence. 

Mayrik?” echoed the elder.

A hot wind turned on from somewhere and shot the pile out toward the siblings, whipping them with the forest floor. Mina started screaming and Andy joined her when a knotted branch lodged itself into his right eye. 

Finally, at last, he felt at home.

Lines and contours of a dripping woman, their thawing mother, were plucked free from the frenzy of foliage. The drenched figure stepped out of the van, her arms outstretched, much in the same way as when she saved her children and traded places with them.

“Oh,” intoned Mina, “oh, oh, oh”, a looping chant of disbelief and surrender. She entered the embrace and wept and wept and wept.

Andy wanted to apologize to her, but he couldn’t make his mouth move. He tasted the blood of his eye and moved toward the woman who’d twice given him life. Across the street, Andy saw his pale neighbor standing under another street lamp, his head crooked up toward the orange light, suckling the nighttime sky.

They tangled, a mother and her children, on a carpet of the Devil’s leaves.

Anatomy of Love

My heart thuds slowly in my chest, lethargic. It’s not beat right since your soft “let’s stay friends”.

I didn’t understand what went wrong, I still don’t, though I’ve tried. Studying bright new love, comparing to the steady pulse of longer partnerships. Even those that ended, looking for the same flaw your heart must surely show.

But I find no differences. The hearts all appear the same. I don’t understand, so I line them up, suspended in identical jars, neat labels underneath. One day, I will discover what keeps a heart in love. And then you will be mine. Forever.

Siân O'Hara

Siân O’Hara has long been an avid reader of SFF (thanks to her mother, and then a chance encounter in her school library). With other worlds only ever a daydream away, Siân started writing as a way to get her thoughts and feelings out of her head and onto paper. Find her on Bluesky or X/Twitter @SianEOHara.

Amania Muscaria

In the clearing, the most beautiful toadstool drew our attention— a perfectly formed white stem underneath a plump, red cap displaying large white circles. 

A group photo was a must. We practised our Instagram poses and set the phone camera to timer. As the shutter clicked, the toadstool breathed a sigh, raining spores, covering us in a thin green dust. 

“What a cool picture!” our party of four exclaimed in unison before posting.

Then the spores took over. We stuck to the ground, rooted, watching toadstools emerge from each other’s heads and shoulders. I pray that someone finds us soon.

Liam Kerry

Liam Kerry is a thinking enthusiast with a bad memorywriting helps him recall his daydreams. An anthology of his micro-fiction will be available later in 2024. Visit his website here.

Dead Dreamer

‘Neath churning waves
Down stygian depths
Senses Defied
And sense left bereft

Through a twisting city of sunken stone
Harbouring secrets from eons, lost and unknown

What the mind cannot fathom
What logic rejects
What fear consumes
What madness erects

Omens take form
Foretelling of fear and doom
An end to sanctuary
‘Neath a great gibbous moon

Those feeble of mind
And those bitter of heart
Gather in droves
Where oceans will part

Chanting echoes
A choir, a song
Fevered jubilation
In an alien tongue


When the stars are aligned
And he rises from the dead.

Weird Wilkins

Hailing from the deepest, darkest pits of England, Weird Wilkins is a fresh faced writer and lifelong horror fantastic. He writes firmly in the “weird fiction” sub-genre and has a particular passion for folklore, the supernatural and healthy heaping of body horror. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

You may also like...