Trembling With Fear 5-5-24

Greetings, children of the dark. I’m writing this fresh off my happy place: a f*cking awesome gig in a great venue. Live music is a real lifesaver for me, and totally helps to replenish the batteries – something that’s much needed right now. (My therapist says I’m totally burned out and need a break, but when has that ever stopped me 😂)

I’d love to hear more about how you get creatively recharged – drop a comment below, or hit us up on social media! I’ll leave all the tagging details at the bottom of this week’s missive.

But before we get to the good stuff, I’ll repeat this plea:

Our drabble cupboard is looking awfully bare right now. Thanks to everyone who saw the plea and sent some in—it’s all much healthier now, and you definitely hit that arbitrary goal I set last week. Thank you! But it’s a neverending task, and a very hungry beast. We need more, and more, and more. Bloody insatiable! Keep it up, keep subbing, keep being brilliant. 

And speaking of submissions, I’ve noticed a few subs for the summer special starting to drip through. That’s great, but you’ll be waiting a while for any sort of feedback—Shalini won’t even start thinking about the summer special for another couple of months. Maybe keep them on the backburner for a little while longer? 

Anyways, this week’s TWF menu is inadvertently on a theme, for the most part. We start with the beautiful lamentation on loss (until it’s… not) that is Chip Houser’s short story. That story is followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • Alan Moskowitz’s apocalypse,
  • Evelyn Morgan’s denial, and
  • Sean MacKendrick’s escape

Feel free to jump onto socials and have a chat – about your creative recharging, the stories you’ve read this week, or just to say hi!

  • Twitter: @horrortree / @novicenovelist 
  • BlueSky: /    
  • Instagram & Threads: @horror_tree / @lozthewriter 
  • Mastodon is just me! @[email protected] 
  • Or follow HorrorTree on Facebook

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear


First things first, please support our latest sponsor! 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!


Thanks for taking a moment to read that and hopefully order a copy as well! Okay, I’ve made some real progress on my two overdue outstanding items and hopefully that means you’ll be seeing some changes soon. Also, there has been further discussions internally on a few ways that we’re looking to expand the site and we’ve brought on a new book reviewer, interviewer, and am back in talks on someone who may be helping with our YouTube channel. More on everything, soon!

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

Chip Houser

Chip’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Bourbon Penn, PodCastle, The Drabblecast, and other markets. Red Bird Chapbooks published “Dark Morsels”, a chapbook of his micro and flash fiction, in 2023. He’s a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, has an MFA from UMSL, and is a practicing architect. To offset his purportedly dark fiction, he draws very silly, brightly colored things. Find out more at, on X @chazzlepants, or

Dreams of Me, by Chip Houser

I remember the rush of excitement as Mom painted my new room, laughing and talking to me, sunlight streaming through the window.

What a wonderful room, a wonderful color!

I remember her putting my crib together on the floor and hanging the mobile above it.

I’ve been dreaming of you my whole life!

I remember her in the rocker in the corner, stitching squares of fabric together, telling me all the things we would do together. I remember the smell of the fabrics, their textures when she rubbed them in her hands, against her cheek, across her stomach. I remember the warm feeling as she draped the finished quilt over the edge of the crib, her laughter as she set the pastel plushies of the mobile spinning, her anticipation as she turned out the light.

What fun we’re going to have together!

I remember the two of us together, endlessly laughing, playing, and hugging in her dreams.

I remember her curled up on the rug, sobbing.


My room is different now. The quilt is folded at the foot of a bed, a ceiling fan with flower-shaped glass shades has replaced the mobile, the curtains are closed against the sunlight. A life-sized doll stands in the corner next to the rocker. The doll looks just like Mom imagines I would have looked at five. It’s wearing a yellow Easter dress, wide satin ribbon around the waist, brown bangs pin-straight, long hair pulled back in a matching ribbon and a big bow. When the breeze from the ceiling fan stirs the doll’s hair, it almost looks alive. It’s not, it’s just a pretty thing Mom talks to when she misses me.

She sits on the bed at night, rubbing the patchwork quilt, smiling at the doll through silent tears.  Some nights, when she’s especially sad, Mom sits in the rocker and brushes the doll’s hair. While she brushes, Mom tells me stories. What she was like as a girl, all the things she did, all the things we would have done. Her palm settles each stroke, her love racing along the synthetic strands like electricity and pooling inside the dark hollows of the empty doll.

One day, when I’m free of this world, we will be together again. Together forever.

Her smoothing hand is everything to me in these moments.

Eventually, she kisses the doll’s head and turns off the light.

I love you, sweetie.

The doll’s perfect porcelain face floats in the blackness, glossy eyes and cheek dimples catching the night light. It is smiling but it isn’t happy, it’s just a doll, a pretty shell that collects Mom’s love. The doll doesn’t feel the love, but I do. That love is what keeps Mom and me connected.


Mom has nightmares sometimes. She thrashes about, cries out, wakes herself in a sweat. On those nights, she visits my room and falls asleep on my bed, or sometimes in the rocker. She never has nightmares in my room.


If she doesn’t visit me for a few nights, I take a tiny sip of her love, just enough to animate the doll. I step it awkwardly off its metal stand, porcelain forearms heavy, stitched joints swinging awkwardly. I lurch it down the hall to Mom’s room, where I watch her dream. She looks peaceful when she’s asleep. I know she’s dreaming about me, about us, together and happy. There in the dark, I remember the warm, safe feeling of being part of Mom, and I want that again. I miss being loved.


Mom hasn’t had nightmares for a while now. And lately, she spends less time in my room and more with her new friends. I hear her on her phone making plans. Sometimes they’re all downstairs together, talking and laughing. The distance muffles their words but not their joy.

Mom still visits my room most nights, she still talks to me, she still cries sometimes. But her voice has a different tone, and less love trickles into the doll when she brushes its hair.

Sometimes now when I watch Mom sleeping, I wonder if the soft words she mumbles are to me. I wonder if she still dreams of me, or if she’s dreaming of her new friends, laughing with them like she does downstairs.


One night, Mom’s friends stay later than usual. Their voices are very serious, and I hear Mom sobbing. I can’t hear what they’re saying to her, but Mom’s tears are for me. I need them.

Later, when they’re gone, she slumps on my bed. She’s still crying. I want her to brush my hair, but instead she mumbles like she’s half asleep.

They’re right. I know they’re right. I need to move on.

She seems so sad when she says it, which I don’t understand. Her friends are right. Then we can be together again just like she promised.


Mom doesn’t visit me for a whole week. This has never happened before. I’ve mostly been thinking about what her friends said. They know what Mom wants, and I will help her since she can’t seem to do it herself.

I walk the doll down the hall, dragging its metal stand. Mom is snoring softly. I have watched her dream of us for so long. I raise the metal stand high over the doll’s head. I remember Mom’s words, and I feel warm all over.

When I’m free of this world we’ll be together again, forever.

With the strength of her remaining love, I bring the metal stand down. It makes a terrible sound. The doll collapses in a heap on the floor and I float free. 

Mom’s body is shaking a lot, like it doesn’t want to let her go.

It’s okay, Mom! I’m right here!

Her body stops shaking.  I reach out for her, but I still don’t see her.

I’m here, Mom! Where are you?

I remember, she told me how it works. We’ll be together forever.


Three Hundred Days Later

I had secreted enough supplies for three of us for one hundred days, but when the sirens sounded, we ran for the shelter and Lorraine fell. Margaret tried to help her, and the horde took them both.

Now I watch the rotting corpses aimlessly crash into each other like macabre bumper cars. At least they’re not lonely.

It’s been three hundred days, and I must make a supply run at full dark or starve.


I am bitten. Upon reviving, my wife’s milky eyes gaze at me, her shredded lips managing a garbled, “It’s about time.”

Three hundred days wasted.

Alan Moskowitz

Alan loves writing genre drabbles for fun and sanity.

My Wife Is Not Dead

The man on the television is lying. My wife is not dead, don’t listen to him. He will tell you that she walked into the thick tree line behind our home and returned in a bag, the manner of death left unanswered. He is lying to you. The man will look at the camera and express his deepest condolences to her family. These are unnecessary. She stands there in the yard, her silhouette caressed by a blue glow. My trembling hand reaches up to the glass and calls out to her. She disappears into the dark with the breaking news.

Evelyn Morgan

Evelyn Morgan is an academic librarian with a penchant for reading, writing, and making obscure PowerPoints. She currently lives in Colorado with her roommate and two step-cats. 

Destination Unknown

“Be careful!” His face is red. 

I am being careful. I am always being careful. “Sorry.” I recenter our luggage on the teleport pad. 

He checks the coordinates I entered and gives a close enough gesture even though I was precise. “Let’s go.” He grabs my arm. “Stop being so fidgety.”

He initiates the sequence. In sixteen hours, we will rematerialize at a distant off-world resort. I jump off the pad at the last moment and alarms scream. 

He’s stuck on a solo journey while I run, unless the unexpected shift during dematerialization tears him apart. 

Either way, I’m free.

Sean MacKendrick

Sean’s drabble/micro fiction has appeared recently in publications such as Dark Moments, 101 Words, and (best of all) Trembling with Fear.

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