Trembling With Fear 5-19-24

Greetings, children of the dark. Before we get to the good stuff, let me give a quick update on our progress with submissions: I think I’ve now contacted everyone who submitted prior to the most recent submissions window. There are a handful I had marked as needing to discuss edits, so if you haven’t heard from me yet, that’s probably you. Next up: reading all of those who submitted in the April window. It really does take a long, long time to get through all of your fabulous work! We are mere mortals and volunteer ones at that, but I do thank you for your patience with us. If you’ve found a home for your story since you submitted it to us and you haven’t yet heard, do let us know so we can take it off our reading pile and save us all some time and heartache.

And now to this week’s TWF menu. Jordan McClymont takes us into the Scottish wilderness for a frightful look up at the stars (and what’s down below, too). That’s followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • Emily Holman’s thunderous terror,
  • Hannah Foster’s creature in need, and
  • Ryan Van Ells’s single-minded maniac.

Finally, I announced the next edition of my Writing the Occult events this week: we’re talking about connection to the land for the week of the Solstice. There will be land myths, ritual landscapes, and spirits of place; how to use the land to spark fantasy creations or be the driving force in your story; how to connect when it’s hostile as well as beautiful; and we’ll ask how the climate crisis is impacting the writer’s connection to the land. All details, etc, over at—tickets are on sale now! We meet on 15 June, starting at 1pm UK / 8am ET. (Sorry, Antipodeans.)

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!


Okay, this week we’re running a giveaway for ten digital copies of Cretaceous Canyon by Deborah Sheldon and with that many to give away you have high odds of winning – enter right here!

On top of this, a bit of exciting news. We’ve once again been included in Writer’s Digest 101 Best Web Sites! Here is a scan from the magazine, and we’ll be sharing links once it appears online this year. Thank you so much for the love RD!

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

Jordan McClymont

Growing up working-class on the west coast of Scotland, Jordan McClymont is a queer writer who scribbles speculative fiction and screenplays between Film & TV gigs. Their micro fiction has published online at 365 Tomorrows and in a yet-to-be-released Shacklebound Books drabble anthology.

56°49’0.257″N / 4°11’2.267″W, by Jordan McClymont

I’m going to kill her. One more nineties Clubland classic, and I’ll do it, I swear. 

We rejoin the A9 again and this time I pick the music. If Iona’s so intent on dragging us out to the middle of God knows where, then I would like to do it with the smallest amount of decorum and man, does that woman have crappy taste. 

I watch hills twist and disappear. It all looks the same to me, but Iona loves it. ‘Look,’ she squeals, and I do. ‘Very nice.’ 

She’s harshing my mellow, but she’s my mate.

‘We’re here,’ she says, turning off and onto a road that barely deserves the name. We rise and fall into more dull hills, then snake alongside what is clearly a decommissioned railroad. 

The rental car’s struggling. Iona gives me that look, the one that tells me I was right. She just about manages to stall us into the layby and what is likely the car’s final resting place. ‘Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?’ I give her that look, the one that says I’ll throttle her.

My mouth hangs open when I see the amount of gear she’s brought. ‘One should expect the unexpected,’ she rhymes off, as if she’s made flesh. I forget to hold an overinflated sigh, but she just ties off that oversized backpack of hers and locks the car, giving me that signature cheeky-but-adorable grin of hers.

We cross railroad tracks long rusted past the point of remedy. Iona takes a quick snap, only to be disappointed with how it comes out. Then we’re balancing stone to stone like six-year-old girls again and I regret wearing trainers when my foot slips beneath the river’s surface. Iona’s heckling from the other side, feet safe and sound in leather boots.

 We climb the next hill and Iona checks her app. ‘This is it.’ She runs out, dropping her backpack onto a foot-deep patch of heather. ‘Scotland’s pole of-,’ she checks the correct word, ‘inaccessibility.’

‘Woo,’ I add, grasping at what enthusiasm I can. Then unprepared, with my mouth half open, Iona grabs half-a-dozen selfies of us both. ‘Don’t even think of posting them.’

She lifts her phone out of reach, and we leave this pole of inaccessibility. I pivot on the hill to change socks, not that’ll make much difference—the trainer is soaked right through. Burying the wet sock in my backpack, I glance up to see Iona unfurling a tent.

‘Just what exactly is it you’re doing?’

‘Weather’s perfect,’ she says. Then the penny drops, she’ll have to convince me. ‘There’s a lunar eclipse tonight. So, I was thinking, where better than here?’

I stare at ominous, migrating clouds and emit a deliberate sigh this time.

‘Come on, it’ll be nice.’

I weigh putting that soaking-wet trainer back on. ‘Alright, but you’re cooking, you little shit,’ I say, limping to help. 

She cooks us dinner on a portable stove, and we settle down for the night. The wind sounds much worse than it is, our tent contorting like a fly in a web. ‘I’ve set an alarm for the eclipse,’ Iona says.

“Wonderful.’ I stare at the taut polyester shifting in the dark, drifting in, then out and—

Sky, stripped of colour. River, red with blood. Dirt, grasping at bones. Fire, asking me in. I kneel, my back to a setting sun as a moon, long starved of sacrifice, rises to consume. Blinded by visions, I drive the dagger in.

I jump, gasping for air, hands racing to my abdomen. I’m a sweat-coated mess, but I’m whole. ‘Christ.’ I turn to apologise, only to find Iona’s sleeping bag empty, our tent open.

I step outside, look around, then up. ‘Okay, Iona,’ I whisper, ‘that’s kind of cool.’ 

Stars, thousands, placed at every discernible point. I’m overwhelmed by all the minute differences, a certain hue here, different over there, some dimmer, others brighter, some in clusters, some not.

I’m brought back to Planet Earth by a muffled moan somewhere to my left, back towards the patch of heather. ‘Iona?’ 

I tiptoe barefoot across ground that is sharp and dry, distinctly aware of the moon’s absence. Must be mid-eclipse. Struggling to make out the dim outline of the land, I move forward slowly, cautiously. Soon, a foot deep in heather again. Then the moon, full and white-blue, and larger than I ever thought possible, escapes the shadow that had been draped over it. It kills the stars in the sky, casting a light that I’m not too comfortable with. I vaguely recall my nightmare, craving my bed back in London.

There it is again, that noise. Deeper into the heather now, made fully visible in the moon’s indiscriminate glow. I step in something slimy, my frustration beginning to boil. 

I look down: something is there. Pale hands rise from the mud, reaching for me. I try to run, but my leg is snagged and I fall. I can feel them clawing. I try to crawl away, but they drag me back and with a handful of heather and a mouthful of dirt, I’m taken below. 

I fall and land hard, a searing pitch splitting my brain, then I’m pulled through the dark, stone slicing soft skin.

They discard me. My hearing returns. Chanting, a language I cannot place. One breathes outward and fire awakens, flames sapphire blue. My attackers are human no longer; far beyond decay and absent of scent – these creatures are ancient.

I make it to my knees, look to the centre and what appears to be some form of altar. ‘Oh god.’ And then I see her, limp to the side, eyes turned black. Blood pools around her and now I’m all salvia, throating a silent scream.

‘We should do a trip up north,’ Iona had said. ‘It’ll be nice.’ 

Blue flames cause the malformed shapes of the dead to dance against stone and latticed vines; they howl and raise a dagger coated with my friend’s blood.

And people ask why I’m a city girl.

A Stranger Calls

Thunder. My bones shake, a rattle like a Halloween skeleton. I hear a cat’s scream tear from my throat. When did I become so afraid? Black spiders, water-based, throw themselves with alien force at my windows, threatening to shatter my glass and enter, uninvited. My blood is on fire, and my skin is melting like a witch’s, saturated with salt. An iron cross sits at my throat, wondering if I’ll still be here tomorrow morning when pale, white light washes it all away from me.

I count the seconds between thunder and what’s next. One, two... Lightning strikes. It’s close.

Emily Holman

Emily Holman is a queer autistic author with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from California State University, Chico, and is currently working on a Master’s degree in Literature and Writing at California State University, San Marcos. She has loved writing ever since she was able to speak. Even when she was too little to write, she was still excited to ask someone else to write her stories down for her. Holman’s short fiction has appeared in Doors of Darkness by Terrorcore Publishing, “Into the Night” by Ghostwatch Zine, “The Ourania Review,” and “The Manzanita” by California State University, Chico’s English Graduate Council. 

The Creature’s Plea

“Pretend you’re looking at me closely,” whispers the winged creature from the other side of the glass case.

You lean closer, shocked, transfixed by his pleading expression. He stands slightly taller than you, his outstretched black wings trembling slightly, his motionless hands reaching outward.

The noise of the carnival crowd fades away as you listen.

“Please help me.” His eyes bore into you, golden and inhuman, full of pain. “Please get me out of here, before the Collector destroys me.”

You stand speechless for a moment. Then you nod silently. You will help him escape, the mysterious Collector be damned.

Hannah Foster

Hannah Foster hails from Nevada where she lives with her husband and an Aussiedoodle named Mabel. Fed on a diet of fantasy and Gothic literature, her imagination provides an endless supply of quirky stories. Her short fiction has been published in 101 Words, Diet Milk Magazine, and The Horror Tree.

It’s All For You

Even from three stories up, he saw me, the true me, like he always had. Like no one else ever had. The others haven’t noticed me yet. That’s okay. This is not for them.

The rope was tight on my neck. It tickled. I giggled, lost control, and cackled. I couldn’t help it.

My clothing, soaked, gripped my skin. Dampness dripped from my fingertips. Heady gasoline fumes burned my nostrils. 

The others saw me now. I didn’t care. I looked only at him. It was all for him.

I struck the match. A bright blaze. Burning. Encompassing Pain. 

I jumped.

Ryan Van Ells

Ryan Van Ells (he/him) is a queer lawyer and author of dark fiction currently residing in Milwaukee, WI. His work has appeared in October Screams, Drabbledark III, and various other publications. You can find him @ryanvanellswrites on Instagram and Bluesky, or @ryanvanells on Twitter.

You may also like...