Trembling With Fear 6-25-23

Hello, children of the dark. I’m writing this on the eve of the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, and pondering life and goals and meaning and purpose as is one’s wont at these milestones. I also happen to be in the dip phase of my depression cycle, and these things are not great to coincide. 

(Sorry, this intro might be ponderous; feel free to jump to the stories!)

I’ve been considering my purpose for a while now, and coming up blank. I’m sure it’s there, and it revolves around creativity in some way. I am a huge believer in the importance of the creative arts to the world, though I seem to be a minority these days. But what does that mean at an individual level—particularly when at this individual level I am also bereft of motivation and in the midst of one giant hill of writers’ block? 

I’d love to know how you deal with these troughs, dear readers. What’s your magic wand when things get tough? How do you survive the dips so you can conquer the peaks? All suggestions welcome!

For now, though, it’s enough of the navel gazing; let’s get to the reason you’re all here. It’s time for this week’s offerings on the TWF menu.

Our short this week comes from the strange mind of Amanda Leslie as seen through her smart doorbell. This is followed by three delicious quick bites:

  • Ceferino Ruiz faces the end of the world
  • Francesco Levato faces a very lyrical end, and 
  • Fiona M Jones tries to find out what is at the end.

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Still feel like I’m treading water. Lots of short stories being read for our Best Of anthology and lots of work being done toward our release of the next Trembling With Fear. I have 3 weeks left of my current MBA class, and I’m honestly not sure if things will calm down until the program is done at the end of the year at this point. Fingers crossed! 

If you’d like to extend your support to the site, we’d be thrilled to welcome your contributions through Ko-Fi or Patreon. Your generosity keeps us fueled and fired up to bring you the very best.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Amanda Leslie

Amanda Leslie (she/her) is a queer horror and fantasy author living in Dallas, TX with her dog, two fish, and a tank full of aquatic snails. You can usually catch her with her face in a horror or true crime book with a nice cup of tea and her dog at her side.

There’s Motion at Your Front Door, by Amanda Leslie

There was a man at Mary’s door. 

She had been doing the dishes when the first alert that he was there came through — a soft chime on her phone that told her there was “Motion at Her Front Door.” With wrinkly, but dry, hands, she grabbed her phone and loaded up the doorbell camera, peering out at the man. He stood no taller than 5 feet in stature, a tweed jacket (Mary didn’t know they still sold them) placed around his shoulders, a mop of brown hair on his head which was frayed at the edges. A smile took place on his lips, soft and friendly, an obvious lesson from whatever company he was with. 

Mary took one look at him, spotted the clipboard in his hands, and could tell she had no interest opening the door whatsoever.

The man let out a single knock against her door. It echoed through the entranceway, sending reverberations through Mary’s entire being, loud enough that it seemed to shake the house. Or, maybe, Mary thought, that was just her anxiety and overactive imagination. He did it again and again and again, over and over, every time Mary jumping in panic that he was trying to break into the place or – even worse – he knew she lived alone and would be an easy target. With a shake, she picked up her phone again, her hands still dripping wet and bubbly. His smile was ever present, his hand still coming down like a hammer against her door, rapping as if his job was just to harass her. Her heart pounded in her ears every time he brought up his fist to knock until finally – finally, Mary thought to herself – it became too much work. 

The man sighed, dropped his clipboard to his side and at the same time dropped his smile, his lips forming an unnatural frown. Mary watched him turn and leave, walking to her neighbor’s house instead and, through the open window that overlooked her neighbor’s yard, heard him speak for the first time: 

“Your neighbor isn’t home, eh?” 

From the rest of the day into the night, she turned off all her lights, ensured she didn’t walk in front of any open windows, and even crawled through the foyer just to ensure the man didn’t see her. 

He was back the next day. Another notification. Another chime. With the same bright smile as before, he pushed his fist against the hollow wood of Mary’s front door. Her heart jumped at the loud noises he made, but, again, she didn’t answer. Instead, she stooped lower against her couch and attempted to make the typing on her computer quieter than it had ever been. Her fingers tapped against the keyboard softly, so softly she could barely hear it over the combined sounds of her quick, shaky breathing and the rasps against her door. He simply continued in the same way as the day before, his knuckles pushing roughly against the wood so hard that Mary was surprised he didn’t seem to flinch in pain or seem to have any splinters. 

She ignored it as the knocking continued on and on, spilling into her thoughts and twisting her mind into a pretzel of anxiety and fear. Her house creaked with a sudden jolt as the knocking ended, the wind hitting against her shutters in a powerful blast. If Mary wasn’t so sure every door and window in her home was locked, she would have thought it was a person upstairs with the way her house settled. 

No,” Mary reminded herself softly, It’s just your overactive imagination. Probably just squirrels on the roof.”

The next time she looked at the camera, he was gone. 

“There is Motion at Your Front Door!”

When it happened next, Mary was prepared. She sat at her kitchen table, the farthest place away from the front door — so he didn’t know she was inside — and brought up her camera app as soon as the notification popped up.

There he was again — same tweed jacket, same clipboard, same vicious and predatory smile as before, one that seemed to be friendly, but for all the wrong reasons. His black, deep eyes stared into her front door, almost like an endless void that light didn’t reach. A soft black hole in the endless sunshine of the day, beckoning her ever closer like a lure she just couldn’t resist. 

When she shook her head, his looks returned to normal and, when she blinked, his black eyes were gone. She realized it was just her nervous mind playing tricks on her, making him seem worse than he was. 

She had something to tell him — something important — and she was determined to get him to leave her alone. Notepad in hand, she pressed the button to speak with her thumb. A small chime, much like her notification sound, rang out through her patio. He tilted his head in response.

“We’re not interested.” Mary said in her gruffest voice, being sure to use “we” so it didn’t seem like she lived alone. 

“Ah, well, hello there!” He answered with the same smile. “No worries.” It seemed to grow bigger and bigger as he stood there, as if he was waiting for something. 

Mary shook her head, “Can you…. Leave? Please?”

After a long pause, the man nodded his head. He tipped his hat towards the camera and flashed her another smile, something she was sure the sales company had drilled into his head. 

“Yes, ma’am! My apologies for disturbing you.” Then, he turned on his heel and left, humming a tune as he did. 

That night, the knocking started again.

Mary jumped from the couch where she had passed out. She shook as she held her phone close, thin pajamas not helping as she shivered, eyes never moving from the door. 

“There is Motion at Your Front Door!”

“Please.” From Mary’s doorbell app, she could see her neighbor — the one the salesman had talked to  — slowly dragging himself up the walkway. He sounded haggard, out of breath. He hauled himself up and over the steps leading to Mary’s home, motion light above illuminating his face as he came closer and closer. Only half of his body made it over the step, but it was enough for him to reach the door. One of his hands came up, tacky and filthy with a black substance, and pressed itself roughly against the door. The knock resounded through the house, and, over the doorbell’s camera, Mary could hear him cuss to himself. He looked behind him a few times, glancing at whatever he was running from, before banging on the door again. “Let me in, let me in!” 

He banged once, then twice, then his hand fell to his side and he sobbed. 

Mary forced herself to watch, her heart beating painfully in her chest, hands shaking, as the once bright motion lights slowly dimmed and threatened to give way to a lifeless darkness. He bowed his head in a silent prayer as darkness descended atop him, crowding him. His bowed, broken looking legs pulled him onto the patio fully, where he sat against the door, waiting for the darkness to overtake the patio. 

The motion light fully turned off. 

Mary’s pulse skipped a beat. The only sound in the house besides her heaving breath was the television, softly playing the news that Mary had fallen asleep to. 

“There is Motion at Your Front Door!”

Another chime, another notification. Mary whimpered, trying to keep her noises down. The motion light outside stayed off, though, so she was sure it was a fluke. If there was motion, then the light would have turned on, she was sure of it. 

Outside, there was a gunshot. She jumped again. Words tumbled out of her mouth, a soft prayer for safety. 

A knock. 

“Why won’t you come join us, Mary?”

Mary pulled up the camera. 

“… Apocalypse…” The news bleated softly behind her, drowned out by Mary’s cries as she watched the man at the door’s smile. It pulled up at his cheeks like fishhooks held it there, hanging off the sides of his cheeks, showing his gums and his teeth — sharp yellow things that seemed to wriggle and writhe in his mouth. Behind him, Mary could see her neighbor’s lifeless face.

The man raised a hand and gave a slow wave, as if he could see Mary watching him from the other side. His neck creaked and tilted and instead of stopping, his neck kept going and going, corkscrewing to the side and around. It grew impossibly longer until it was right up against the camera. His smile remained, twisted, knowing Mary was watching the entire display. With one, long hand that dragged against the ground, he wiped the black substance on her camera. 

“There’s blood on your camera, Mary. You should come wipe it off. I’ll leave you alone after. Promise.” 

She watched as his much too long limbs carried him off and away into the eternal night that surrounded her home. She waited a beat, then another, then another, until an hour had passed and she was sure she was safe. 

She didn’t hear the last part of the news broadcast. 

“Remain indoors. Do not go outside unless absolutely necessary. And, whatever you do, do not let these creatures inside.” 

Wrathful End

I watched as the night sky was split by a fiery sword. It plummeted into the earth and created a mesmerizing cloud of white debris. The ground beneath me shook as the night turned to bright, horrifying daylight.

I witnessed world-changing destruction lumbering towards me in slow motion. Trees, houses, families, all swallowed by a tidal wave of fire and smoke and earth.

I could feel my face grow hotter as I tried to scream.

Was anyone even listening to their prayers?

That was my final thought as the inferno tore through my body.

Then the world went dark again.

Ceferino Ruiz

Ceferino Ruiz is an author based in the Midwest U.S. Inspired by authors such as Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and Shel Silverstein, he spends much of his time writing horror fiction and poetry. His stories range from the fantastical to the macabre and everything in between. When he’s not lost in the dark corners of his mind, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two boys.

It Has Come To This

She knocked them out with a hammer–not full force, like a blow that would take someone to their knees, but a careful tap-tap, hesitant, almost loving. She wanted them intact, from enamel to root. There needed to be something left, tangible evidence of his existence. If she had to do this, she wanted some small piece of him to hold onto, to remind her, to strengthen her resolve.

When they had all been removed from the jawbone, she gathered the teeth into a pouch with a hand-stitched name on its side, then began grinding his bones in her mortar.

Francesco Levato

Francesco Levato is a poet, translator, and new media artist. Recent books include SCARLET (Spuyten Duyvil, 2023); Arsenal/Sin Documentos; Endless, Beautiful, Exact; and Elegy for Dead Languages. He holds an MFA in Poetry, a PhD in English Studies, and is an Associate Professor of Literature & Writing Studies at CSUSM. Follow him on Instagram @levato.francesco, or at


The TimePods return, but more and more come back empty. 

“Maybe the Travellers have discovered a happier time and place,” people say, “and they just stayed there.” So the rumour spreads: Somewhere in the deep past is your idyllic destination. Many are selling their houses for a spin in a TimePod, hoping to find Paradise. 

The missing have no way of telling what really happened: how the lightest touch upon the ever-fluid timeline can make you disappear. They haven’t stopped existing. They are there and here and everywhere—invisible, intangible… and lost. 

We are ghosts, they whisper, all around us.

Fiona M Jones

Fiona M Jones writes very short things, published worldwide in literary magazines and anthologies. Her work is linked through @FiiJ20 on Facebook and Twitter.

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