Trembling With Fear 6-2-24

Greetings, children of the dark of June. JUNE! How is it June already? I know, I know I’m a broken record but really: JUNE. Mid-year. Official beginning of summer. The summer solstice and longest day of the year are just around the northern hemisphere corner and I cannot fathom where the time goes.

Mainly it goes because we are So Darn Busy in TWF Towers, which is why it pains me to let you all know that our wonderful Assistant Editor Shalini—she who talks to you about specials, unholy trinities, and serials—is stepping down from her role to focus on Life Stuff. We will miss her and her endless enthusiasm for your creative works, but it does mean we are now seeking a newbie to move into TWF Towers. Could it be you? In fact, could one of the many roles Stuart is looking to fill at Horror Tree be something you’re keen on? Here’s what we’re seeking for the site in general (bearing in mind these are voluntary roles!)…

Assistant Editor for TWF 
You’ll be working alongside Stuart and I to get this publication out. That means dealing with submissions as they come in, reading and reviewing them, working with writers on their acceptances, sending out contracts, and preparing the posts for publication (using WordPress). Your remit would be specifically for the four themed special editions we do every year (Valentine’s, Summer, Halloween, and Christmas) so you’ll get a bit busier around those times, but you’ll also take care of the more regular Unholy Trinities and serialised stories. You might also need to support me on this weekly version every now and then, or jump in to help us with our never-ending submissions pile. 

Editorial Assistant 
This is a general helper to Stuart for the site as a whole. You’ll help to prepare site posts—that could be the open calls, interviews, articles, or anything else we’re publishing—so will need to be comfortable with WordPress. He could also very much do with a hand on the social media side of things!

Contributing writers 
The more people writing for Horror Tree, the better the tree is. We’re looking for people to take on interviews with authors, article writing (generally about the writing/book world), reviewing books, or anything else you’d like to pitch us. If you’re keen to join the team, you’ll need to provide examples of your work. This does not mean you need to be professionally published in other places; Stuart just likes to see your style!

YouTube Editor 
You’ve probably seen Stuart call this out most weeks in his TWF intro, but we’re very keen to build and grow the Horror Tree YouTube channel. At the moment we have the lovely Belinda doing a weekly recap of open calls, but we want more! Got ideas? Want to explore the world of dark speculative fiction while also experimenting with video creation? This is an opportunity to very much be creative and properly *own* the channel. Maybe even build your own empire around it?

Fancy tackling any of these? Got another idea for the wider Horror Tree world? Get in touch with us at [email protected] or using the site’s contact form here. We’d love to hear from you. 

Now to the matter at hand.

This week’s speculative fiction offerings are led by the glorious main course that is Callum Young’s Boy on the Pier. That’s followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • Don Money’s lumberjack lament,
  • T.M. McLean’s medical mistake, and
  • JL Royce’s snakey take.

Finally, a quick plug for the next edition of my Writing the Occult events: we’re talking about connection to the land on 15 June. All details, etc, over at —tickets are on sale now! We meet on 15 June, starting at 1pm UK / 8am ET, and you’ve got one week left to grab an early bird priced ticket at £35+booking fee (that’s about $45, and includes a recording of every session so you can dip in and out at your leisure).

Also—a big hello to all of you at StokerCon. I am not jealous. I am not jealous. I am not jealous… I am, however, part of the online programming! Hear my thoughts on authentic representations of mental health in horror as part of StokerCon Online

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

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Hi all! 

My kiddos are on summer vacation, and the first week has been nuts. The second week will have summer camps starting up for them, which will go back to allowing me some breathing room, but things are crazy. So, a few small updates. I do believe we have the plan for a new theme on Horror Tree in place. It needs quite a bit of work still but we’re on our way forward! 

Now, for the standards:

  • Thank you so much to everyone who has become a Patreon for Horror Tree. We honestly couldn’t make it without you all! 
  • Shadowed Realms is OFFICIALLY ready for pre-order and you can order it from Amazon right here!
  • I want to share a special shout-out to the open call we posted last week, ‘The Trouble With Time‘. It’s being put together by a regular fiction contributor to Trembling With Fear, and I really wanted to give it a small extra highlight for this speculative fiction anthology that will be dealing with time travel. If you’ve got a story idea that could fit, check it out! 

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

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Callum Young

Callum Young is a PhD student at the University of Bristol. He has a keen interest in mental health – both personally and academically – and he explores these themes through his fiction. In his spare time, he is a keen hiker and gig-goer. Follow him on Instagram or Twitter

The Boy on the Pier, by Callum Young

My sister hated the pier at nighttime. As we walked along the shore, with our jackets closed against the winter’s cold, she glanced at it with increasing nervousness. She was grumbling about something, huffing on a joint, and the gentle red glow from its tip lit her frown in the darkness. She had always been the bravest of us both, jumping off cliffs at the cove around the headland; trespassing across barbed wire in the woods behind our house. Her fear tonight was conspicuous – more so because I felt nothing but contentment as our feet dug trenches through the sand. 

Words like ‘haunted’, and ‘demon’ danced on the wind as we walked. I had never heard my sister talk of such things. This was paranoia, surely. A heady mix of THC and filtered moonlight as we stumbled along the beach. She had never believed in ghosts. Even when we were children, huddling around campfires and telling stories with our torches beneath our chin. Even when the wind howled and the stairs creaked, and I shook with terror beneath the blankets. Even when the horrors were tangible: a raised fist, a cruel word, a bottle smashed on the countertop. She’d never been scared. 

But she was now. 

I kept walking. I hadn’t noticed her draw back, sit on the sea wall, and finish her zoot in peace. I was drawn forwards. I felt determined, like I had a point to prove. 

The pier was dilapidated. There was no use for such a thing in this tiny town, and it had never made the money which it promised. Within a year, it was abandoned and the sea had set to work. Now, it was little more than a row of wooden poles piercing the water, seaweed tangling anxiously around the rusted metal which had once held the structure together. Further from the shore, some boards remained straddling the ocean. They were visibly rotten, sagging under the weight of the moon’s glare. Atop them, a skeleton of wooden planks stood stark against the horizon, where they once supported a canvas shelter for holiday-makers who had never arrived. 

I looked closer. There was someone on the pier. I shook my head and rubbed my eyes, sure that darkness was playing tricks with my vision. But no. I was certain. A silhouette stood against the night’s blackness, illuminated by moonbeams like a spotlight from above. As I stared, the image resolved itself. It was a boy, perhaps twelve years old. A blue coat flapped in the breeze around him. Across most of his body, though, it appeared to hug his form as if it was wet and plastered to his skin. His hood was up, but I could tell from the angle of his head that he returned my gaze.

I hurried back to my sister to tell her what I’d seen. She told me to shut up, that she was cold and wanted to leave. I insisted, but she had already turned to walk the way we’d come. I looked back at the pier. From this vantage, I could no longer see him. The pier loomed like a beached behemoth, and it sheltered him from intruders like me. Nonetheless, as I turned to hurry after my sister, I felt his eyes on the back of my head. 


A psychiatrist’s office. The doctor talked about pills and therapy and I listened to him through a haze of antidepressants. He asked me questions, and I answered, all the while watching the boy through the window. He was on the lawn. His blue coat was still wet, stuck to his skeletal frame as if painted on his skin. The sun shone down on him, glaringly bright, and grass glittered with morning dew around his bare feet. They were translucent against the vivacity of the spring-time garden. 

He was watching me too. I couldn’t see his eyes, shadowed as they were beneath his plastic hood, but his head was tilted toward our first-floor window, and he stood motionless as I talked about my childhood. With his back to the window, the psychiatrist didn’t notice my absent gaze; it wasn’t so unusual in his line of work. And so we talked more, his words brushing harmlessly off my distant attention. 

The session ended. I approached the receptionist and booked my next appointment. She looked at me with sleepy concern – the sort reserved for a sad man amongst a sea of sad men. She cared, of course, but not enough to wake her from her morning lull. Politely, she bid me farewell as I signed the slip of paper on her counter, and turned away. Down a flight of stairs, I pushed through the front door into the chilled embrace of outdoors. 

I looked around. The garden shone back in its brilliance, offering its gaudy hello as I strode toward the car park a few streets away. Glancing toward the lawn, I looked for the boy. All I saw were two lonely footprints in the grass. 


Life continued as normal after that. I went to work, riding the bus under the morning moon. I met my friends in stuffy pubs; walked the shore with my sister and her drugs. I watched movies on my own. I read books and scrolled through Instagram. Yes, life was normal. Normal, except that he was there. Always there, on the periphery of the scene, watching intently. He was never close enough to notice, if you didn’t know to look. But he pulled my eyes to him. He was magnetic to me. 

On the bus: He sits at the back when I settle into my seat toward the front. I glance over my shoulder. His coat is soaked and droplets of water pool in the folds of his clothing. Beside him, an elderly woman reads a paperback, oblivious to her sodden companion. She catches my eye and frowns. She gets off at the next stop, glancing my way until she alights the vehicle.

In the pub: He sits by the door. His face is almost glowing in the faded light. It is as if his skin reflects the moonlight flowing through the windows. His hair hangs in a damp fringe across his forehead, plastered to his face in unruly strands. His lips are thin and pale, making it impossible to trace the curve of his mouth as he points his gaze in our direction. There is no drink on his table. I am facing him, my back to the bar. I raise a pint in recognition. He does not respond.

In my room: He sits at my desk, as I lie on my bed. Water pools on the hardwood floors; the room is rich with damp fug. I lounge with a book held open above me. I am lost in the plot, following the words with rapt attention. Only when I lower it, checking my phone or sipping a drink, do I notice him at all. He faces me with the same intensity as always. His skin sags around his hollow cheeks; his hands are calloused as they rest by his side. I raise the book again, returning to the world I had been lost in. 


One day, my sister talked of our brother. I had been too young to remember, she said. Too young and too innocent. Things at home were worse then, she told me. I wouldn’t remember. Perhaps, I couldn’t remember. The mind had a way of keeping things secret, of keeping us safe from the dangers of our past. But she remembered. And so did he. 

She talked of him. How he had been strong for us. How he had taken the beatings to keep us safe. How he had held us at night, promising we would be safe whilst he was with us. 

She talked of how he left us. How he fled the fists and the kicks and the broken glass. How, one day, he didn’t come to our bedroom, but instead disappeared into the night. How she had looked for him, only to find him on the shore with his feet in the sea and his pale skin glittering under the winter moonlight. She told me how she tried to take him home, how he must have been freezing, how she feared he’d get sick. 

She told me how he said no. How he told us both to follow him.

I asked her how he died. She told me that he drowned. That he jumped off the pier in the dead of night, under the moon’s watch, and was never seen again. I shook my head, but didn’t correct her. He stood by her side, watching me closely as I listened to her words.

I swear I saw him smile. 


Looking for another good size tree to fell, Joltklar waded across the stream, ax balanced across his shoulder. His attention was pulled toward the odd sight of the fallen tree wrapped in an iron chain, the forest growth attempting, but failing, to hide it.

Curiosity tugged at Joltklar as he unraveled the iron twisted around the tree. The chain came free, and to the lumberjack’s surprise, the tree rose on two thick trunk legs towering over him. A branch shot out impaling Joltklar. 

Without the chain’s enchantment, Copac would return to killing. His first stop, the wizard who bound him.

Don Money

Don Money writes stories across a variety of genres. He is a middle school literacy teacher. His short stories have been published with Trembling With Fear, Shacklebound Books, Black Hare Press, Wicked Shadow Press, Black Ink Fiction, Troopers, Martian, Stupefying Stories, Stygian Lepus, and Saddlebag Dispatches. Don can be found on Twitter @donmoneywriting.

Keep Them Away

Almost two weeks have passed since I made the biggest mistake of my life. It’s too late to make amends. They have already begun to close in on me. I’m looking now from my kitchen window, staring into the growing darkness as the sun sets, hoping not to catch a telltale glint of sunlight reflecting from a carelessly exposed stethoscope or scalpel.

I can do nothing but accept my fate. I imagine dozens of vicious, rabid general practitioners scaling my wall, eager to dissect me…

Almost two weeks since my last apple. The biggest and last mistake of my life.

T. M. McLean

T. M. McLean writes weird stories tinged with horror. His latest release, STINGERS (co-authored with Noel Osualdini), is a finalist in the collected works category of the 2024 Shadows Awards. You can pick up a copy of STINGERS and follow T. M. McLean here.

Sherrie Forest: IRL NSA!

Her stature was accentuated by the untidy nest of sable curls piled atop her head. They entered the dim hotel room, laughing, and he thought their first in-person date was going very well indeed.

Sherrie grinned, tugging down his trousers and shorts. 

“What’s the rush?” He toyed in her hair as she knelt and toyed with him. “Green? Frosted?”

His fingers sought for pins to release. “Ow!” He waved a bleeding finger.

Drawing back Sherrie smiled up at him and loosed her mane. The dozen green serpents nestled there writhed and struck, their mouths descending upon him along with hers.

J. L. Royce

J. L. Royce is an author of science fiction, the macabre, and whatever else strikes him. He lives in the northern reaches of the American Midwest, exploring the wilderness without and within. His work appears in Alien Dimensions, Allegory, Cosmic Horror Monthly, Fifth Di, Fireside, Ghostlight, Love Letters to Poe (Visiter Award winner), Lovecraftiana, Mysterion, parABnormal, Sci Phi, Strange Aeon, Utopia, Wyldblood, etc. He is a member of WWA, HWA, and GLAHW. Some of his anthologized stories may be found at:

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