Trembling With Fear 6-23-24

Greetings, children of the dark. I’m preparing this week’s edition rather early (much to the delight of the boss, I’m sure) because I’m about to do what no horror writer should ever do: head into the woods, alone, to stay at an off-grid cabin for a few nights. I know, I know. But hear me out: disconnection is exactly what I need right now. I’m so darn burned out I can barely think. So I’m taking myself off to commune with nature and do all manner of hippy/witchy things like talk to the trees and journal in a meadow. I will also, of course, be carrying a massive stack of books with me so I can make the most of the hammock they provide. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather, because these things are never guaranteed in England! And while you’re there, keep them crossed that I come back with a mountain of notes and cryptic clues to help me get back into my own writing, yeah? Then I can stop saying “if only…” and actually start doing.

And when I get back, this week’s column will be sparkly and ready for you to read online. Our menu of dark speculative fiction this week is ushered in by a trip through the apocalypse with Joshua Ginsberg. That’s followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • Cristina Mirzoi’s universal ruin,
  • RM Lubin’s creature rampage, and
  • DJ Tyrer’s basement dwellers.

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

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So for the past week there has been a ‘bit’ of a heat wave going on in my neck of the woods. We’re not being hit as bad as some areas, but, oof. Just ouch. You’re not here to hear about me complaining about the heat, though. So, what is new? On the personal front, I was able to submit a short story and am 90% complete with finishing up another one that I’m hoping to send out as well.

On the Horror Tree front, I’ve spent all of this week working on our future layout, talking to our soon-to-be-added new staff members, getting reading in for TWF submissions, and trying to keep up with posts! 

Now, for the standards:

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

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Joshua Ginsberg

Joshua Ginsberg is the author of Haunted Orlando (2024), 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 Trebling with Fear, 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.

Sand People, by Joshua Ginsberg

A rough bump brought Ado back to herself. Her thoughts crystalized and became more granular with each subsequent thump and rattle. She was sitting cross-legged in the back of a truck, Rayne was swaddled and pressed against her, as they made the slow trek from Green City (which had not been green for a generation) northeast across the sprawling wasteland to the promise of a new life within the fortified Canamerican city of Minnipeg. 

Predictably the wealthy had escaped first, before things descended into lawless chaos. Those of moderate means followed next. Eventually even the poorest who had remained behind, members of the southern tribes or Sand People, as they were called, were forced to flee. 

All the while, the merciless heat kept rising. It brought the first death to the land as it drained the lakes, wells and aquifers, and opened the door for the sand to come sweeping in. The sand, in turn, brought the second and final death, swallowing whatever was left and burying it under the scorching dunes. Not even the coyotes and vultures could long sustain themselves there, in the sunbaked waste that spread ever further north and east. Bottomless was Death’s hunger.

Ado recalled her and Rayne having been hungry as well. It was a week-long journey and within the first two days they and all the other passengers had finished their meager supplies of food and water. A jug of water, one jug, was set inside the cargo hold for them every morning, and the strongest and thirstiest fought for it. At first.

No one among them fought for water anymore. No one was hungry or thirsty. The time for that had passed, and now they were on the other side of it, where only the only thing that mattered now was reaching their destination. On this alone they focused as they rolled across the emptiness.

Rayne stirred briefly and Ado tried to brush the sand out of her hair. No matter how much she removed, there was always more of it.

She remembered setting out, under what she took as an ill omen. As they loaded themselves into the truck, in the distance she had noticed a body tied to a post, hands removed and hung from a cord around its neck. A thief. At first glance she thought perhaps it had been an effigy, but the carrion birds circling languidly overhead suggested otherwise. That was the last thing she saw before she had climbed into the darkness, packed in along with the others who were willing to trust that the money they paid would get them to safety.

There had been a waste bucket in the corner, the stink of which quickly became oppressive, then, mingled with the sweat and odor of herself and her fellow travelers, became unbearable. Ado made a makeshift facemask from a cloth she kept tied around her wrist and tried not to breathe through her mouth.

And then, somewhere along the way, there was what sounded like a burst of gunfire and they came to a sudden stop. They never learned what had happened, whether the truck had been hijacked by bandits, abandoned by drivers, or something else entirely. 

Minutes ticked into hours. Passengers used themselves up yelling and banging on the metal walls. The noise inside was deafening. But no one came, and that sour smell of living human beings packed too tightly into a hot metal box without ventilation, became something different. Something worse.

That was where she ran out of memory. Now, inexplicably, they were on a truck again, a different one than before. She was pressed side by side against the other passengers, just as she remembered. Even the dead man without hands was there with them now, head bent forward, staring unblinking into his own lap. No one was troubled by the obvious impossibility of such a thing. 

The back of the truck they rode in now did not smell of human, living or otherwise. No one made waste. None of them cried or whispered or made any sound at all.

Ado and the others knew without having to look outside that they were drawing closer to their destination. They recalled somehow having been here before, many times before, in fact. Their memories no longer knew borders. All of their stories had become one story, and it was exodus on endless replay.

A voice crackled over the CB radio. “Driver fifty-two, checking your weight and it looks like you picked up a little something extra.”

“Shit,” a male voice hissed from the cabin. “Let me clear the hold.”

Brakes shrieked as the truck pulled off to the side of the road. The back door was unlatched and rolled up, filling the cargo hold with pale sunlight and fresh air. Ado and the others remained silent and still as the driver hoisted his girth into the hold and walked between them. “Don’t even realize it, do you” he asked the mute stowaways without expectation of an answer. He dug a brown paper bag out of the front pouch in his overalls and from it he scattered a mixture of rock salt and iron shavings. If some of the flecks of salt and metal pelted Ado and the others, they did not seem to notice.

Finished spreading the contents of the bag, he unrolled a scrap of paper and began reading in a language that neither he nor the passengers understood. The prayer had come with the bag which he’d purchased from a bruja at one of the fueling stations.

With each word, the passengers felt something inside them collapsing. They fought to retain their shape, but already something invisible and essential within them was dissipating back out into the heat and the dunes across which they had come. 

“Go on now, scat!” the driver waved and yelled at them in much the same manner that one might drive away rodents or insects.

Ado’s lips curved up into a faint smile before they ran down off her chin along with all of her other facial features. The child in her arms, the passengers alongside of her, all of them dissolved back into swirling heaps of sand.


A short time later, hundreds of miles southwest along a sun-cracked highway through the great waste, something began happening in the back of another truck. The sand that had accumulated on the metal floor began gathering itself into separate piles, which continued to grow. Each bump and thud of the tires shook loose sand from the piles, sculpting them into distinctly human forms, restoring them to awareness until they were once again twelve passengers hurtling towards a point they could never reach.

Starry Death

Inhale. Keep it in. Exhale. 

White clouds disrupt the darkness on the ultrasound screen, aimlessly bubbling through the void. 

Is everything alright, doctor? 

It appears so. 

What about that lumpy thing over there? 

A planet on the brink of death. There’s no reason to be concerned. 

Will it hurt? 

Just a light cramp. 

What about the people on the planet? 

Beneficial bacteria for your body. There are other planets where life thrives. You won’t miss them. 

What else? 

The explosion is imminent. Do you want to hear it through the microphone? Will they cry out? 

They won’t feel a thing.

Cristina Mirzoi

Cristina Mirzoi hails from a distant and mysterious place known as Romania. Her educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in Communication and a master’s degree in Religious Studies. With the ultimate goal of having her own oracle to foresee the future, she focused her dissertation on Divination in Classical Antiquity. The enchanting world of fairy tales and Greek mythology, along with the dreamlike prose of Ray Bradbury, are some of the things she loves. She dabbles in writing dark fiction.

The Madison Avenue Monster

Car alarms, sirens and screams alerted them to the excitement below. From the 7th floor window, they looked out on Madison Avenue to see a four-story tall monster rampaging down on the street. The details of the creature hidden behind thick shaggy hair.

 “I connect with that monster more than I do most humans,” said Helen.

“But he’s killing people and stomping cars,” replied a shocked Roger.

“As we would swat a fly or step on dandelions.”

“You’re a strange bird.”

“Did you just call me a bird?” hissed Helen.

Were those fangs? Roger wondered as he fled Helen’s office.

R.M. Lubin

R.M. Lubin is a writer of horror stories who lives near the ocean on the Central Coast of California with his wife and his constant companion – a dog named after his favorite type of booze. He is an avid reader, writer, and watcher of horror movies. @RM_Lubin (X/Twitter)

Basement Sounds

Strange sounds from beneath the floor, echoes from the basement. Thumps. Dragging. Scratching.

Could it be rats?

Cautiously open door, descend stairs, flashlight beam leading the way.

Shadows shift ominously amongst old junk and behind boxes, but there’s only silence now…

Maybe it’s nothing, after all…

Turn to go, freeze as boxes fall to the floor.

Approach, shine light about, still nothing.

Perplexed, turn off beam and listen in the deep darkness.

Something moves, shuffling, coming closer.

Flick on the beam as it leaps: Momentary sight of rat-like face and human hands as flashlight flies away.

Darkness. Pain. Then, nothing.

DJ Tyrer

DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Chilling Horror Short Stories (Flame Tree), All The Petty Myths (18th Wall), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), What Dwells Below (Sirens Call), The Horror Zine?s Book of Ghost Stories (Hellbound Books), and EOM: Equal Opportunity Madness (Otter Libris), and issues of Sirens Call, Occult Detective Magazine, parABnormal, Tales from the Magician?s Skull, and Weirdbook, and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor). You can follow their work on Facebook, on their blog or on the Atlantean Publishing website.

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