Trembling With Fear 6-30-24

Greetings, children of the dark. Two bits of (I hope!) good news for you all for this final day of June. 

First of all, the team has now made its way through allllll the spring short story submissions, and you should’ve heard back by now. If you haven’t, check your spam before you chase us! Thanks to everyone who submitted to the spring window; we had about 6 times as many submissions as we had spaces to fill, so please don’t be disheartened if you didn’t get good news from us. We had to make some difficult decisions. 

Related to that good news (and the flipside for us, kinda!): the summer submissions window opens tomorrow, 1 July. You’ve got two weeks to get your darkly speculative short stories to us for consideration. Please, please make sure you check our submissions guidelines first; we can tell when you don’t, and it doesn’t put us in a good mood. Also note that, as has been the case for at least the last 18 months, we are veering very much towards the speculative side of fiction. That means real-world horror like torture p*rn, serial killers, crime, etc etc, will need to find a different home (and there are plenty out there for this stuff). Instead, send us your supernatural and paranormal tales, your grimdark, your space horror, your dark fantasy/folklore/fairytales, your eco-horror—basically, anything that falls under “speculative”, or stories set in something other than the real world as we know it in our day-to-day. 

Finally, thanks to everyone who responded to our call a few weeks ago for more hands on deck to help steer the good ship Horror Tree. The boss has been chatting to lots of great people, and I myself am excited to say we’re expanding the TWF Towers team—even getting a new admin helper, which will hopefully mean you don’t have to wait so long for responses from us. It’s going to be a game-changer. I’ll introduce you to them all once we’ve had a chance to do a proper kick-off amongst ourselves, but as a little teaser: Horror Tree representation on this side of the pond is about to get a major boost!

For now, though, let’s tuck into this week’s menu of dark speculative fiction. Our centrepiece, from Simon Kewin, contemplates whether that image in the mirror can truly be trusted. That’s followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • Weird Wilkins’ universal contemplation,
  • Jacek Wilkos’ fairytale flip, and
  • Jameson Grey’s quiet warning.

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Hi all! 

This week and next are going to be a lot of behind-the-scenes work. The short story I was hoping to finish for an upcoming deadline? Sadly, it won’t be finished. However, a lot of progress on Horror Tree shenanigans and I’m excited for the future! 

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! 
  • If you’re into digital copies of books, don’t forget to order Shadowed Realms on Amazon, Which will go up once the paperback goes live! 

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

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Simon Kewin

Simon Kewin (he/him) is the author of over 100 published short and flash stories. His works have appeared in Analog, Nature, Daily Science Fiction and many more. He’s also the author of the Cloven Land fantasy trilogy, cyberpunk thriller The Genehunter, steampunk Gormenghast saga Engn, the Triple Stars sci/fi trilogy and the Office of the Witchfinder General books, published by Elsewhen Press. In 2022, he was an SPSFC semi-finalist, had a short story shortlisted for a Utopia award and won the Tales by Moonlight Editor’s Prize for his fantasy novella The Clockwork King. He lives deep in the English countryside. Find him at and at @SimonKewin on X.

The Girl in the Mirror, by Simon Kewin

Amelia had always hated the mirror.

It sat in the corner of their playroom. Her younger brothers, the twins Georgie and Edward, paid it no attention. They racketed through their ridiculous games as if it didn’t exist. But not Amelia. Whether she was dressing her china dolls, reading a book by the sputtering gaslight, staring out of the window, the mirror was always there, watching everything she did.

Sometimes she caught glimpses of movement in it even when she was alone and sitting still. A shadow passing across its face that had nothing to do with the glow from the hearth. When she looked up to catch a glimpse of what was there, the mirror returned to showing her the still playroom, her own pale features staring back at her. Nothing moving.

It was part of an old vanity table, its drawers holding musty, unused blankets, its legs shaped like those of some animal as if the whole thing might leap for you at any moment. The mirror’s silvery surface was tarnished and dim, which was why it was in their playroom rather than the downstairs parlour. It’s not good enough for best, but it’s a shame to throw it out, her mother had said. To Amelia, it looked as though some disease had infected the mirror, the black blotches around the edges creeping inwards like rot. Sometimes, peering into the shadowy corners of the room, she thought she saw the same patches of decay there, too.

Today, raindrops explored their way down the window-pane where Amelia sat sewing. She hated the mirror, and because of that she hated rainy days. When it rained, Nanny refused to take them to the park. They weren’t even allowed into the garden because it was muddy and they’d catch their death. The three of them had to play indoors, spend the whole day in the playroom with their books and dolls and toy soldiers and the old looking-glass watching them. And the endless hours would creep by, counted off in the reluctant ticks of the grandfather clock in the hall.

It was all so dreary. With sudden anger, filled with an energy she didn’t have a name for, Amelia threw the sampler she’d been sewing onto the window ledge beside her. What was the point of it? What was the point of any of it? She stood. Georgie and Edward were rolling around on the floor, fighting. Pirates or knights, she couldn’t tell which. They could be so maddening at times. Always playing together. Always happy. Their games so pointless. Life had been so much better before they came along.

She turned her back on them and stepped towards the mirror, approaching it from the side as if to sneak up on it, trying to catch out the shadow that moved around in there. More of the silver backing had peeled away around its edge, framing the room as she peered in, as if the mottling was slowly blotting out the world.

It was the face in the mirror that Amelia really hated. The face that stared back at her. There was malice in those eyes, deep down. If you stared closely enough you could see it. But the girl in the mirror, the shadow thing, was clever. It never made a mistake, never revealed anything to anyone else. If she asked Georgie or Edward about it, they only laughed at her and looked at her funny. It’s a mirror, stupid. It’s just you. Don’t you know anything? But they were wrong. The mirror girl was someone who looked exactly like her, that was all. That was how she – it – had been hiding all this time. Standing there, openly watching.

Amelia did what she often tried, attempting to trick the reflection by pulling a sudden face, turning her head quickly to catch it out. It never worked. It would always be her own features there, quietly staring back out, the only differences the mocking look in the eyes and perhaps the slightest smirk of triumph about the mouth.

The urge to do the unthinkable, smash the glass, surged through Amelia. With an effort, she resisted it. What would her mother and father say if she committed such a terrible act? What would they think of her? The look of triumph on the other girl’s face was unbearable. In her frustration, Amelia hauled the coverlet off one of the seats to throw over the mirror, sending cushions cascading to the floor and casting the mirror girl into darkness.

The boys, alarmed at her sudden movement, paused mid-tussle to look up at her, waiting to see what would happen.

She said, “Come on. Let’s go and get a drink of milk.” Her voice sounded odd even to herself when she spoke, almost as if it wasn’t hers. She turned and marched from the playroom, down to the kitchen to ask Cook for the drinks. Georgie and Edward, not speaking, followed her. They could always be distracted by the possibility of food.

When they returned to the playroom ten minutes later, all was as they’d left it – except that the coverlet no longer obscured the mirror. The girl in the glass stood there in her own doorway, staring openly as Amelia looked on. Someone had come in to reveal the mirror while they’d been away, her mother or one of the maids. Although nothing else had been touched; the cushions still lay strewn about on the ground, the clutter of the boys’ games untouched.

Amelia’s heart fluttered like a trapped bird in her chest. It was too much. She strode across the room, up to the glass so that her nose was touching it, touching the other girl. The glass was cold and hard on her skin. Her breath misted the mirror. She could feel the spite of the girl in the glass, a spite that had always been there. She knew it wanted her to do bad things. Hurt herself. Hurt her brothers. Silence them for good.

She couldn’t stand it any longer. She had to do something. She was starting to see the mirror in her dreams. In her nightmares she was the girl in the glass, trapped there forever, unable to break through, watching the real world through a window of marred glass.

She whispered into the mirror so the boys couldn’t hear. “I know you’re watching me in there. I know what you are.”

The thing in the mirror mimicked her moving lips but didn’t reply.

When she imagined smashing the glass, sharp slivers of glass flew through the room, long enough to slice through soft flesh. She imagined the boys lying unmoving in pools of blood. Perhaps that was what the other girl wanted. But she knew she had to do something.

“I’m going to smash the glass, now,” whispered Amelia. “You won’t be able to watch me then, will you? You’ll have nowhere to live. You’ll be dead.”

Still no reply. Amelia stepped backwards, thinking. She crossed the room. A lead weight propped the door open, so Nanny could hear if there was any screaming. Amelia picked it up. That would be her instrument.

The boys had returned to wrestling in the middle of the room, laughing and crying at the same time. They wouldn’t be harmed, would they? There wouldn’t really be knives of glass flying out. That was just her overactive imagination. Everyone said she had an overactive imagination. It would all be all right.

She caught the eye of the girl in the mirror for a final time. She, too, held a lead weight, preparing to throw it. There was a look of triumph on the other girl’s face. An evil grin, as if Amelia was finally doing precisely what she was supposed to.

With a cry of frustration, Amelia hurled the weight at the girl in the glass, shattering the mirror to flying shards.

The screams from the boys began a moment later.

The Lonely World

The stars are not quiet.

Alien races, myriad in number, spread far and wide.

Great empires rise. Alliances are formed and broken. Wars, unlike anything we could imagine, rage on for eons.

Yet when we gaze deep into the black, when we peer with all our might into the void between distant suns, we see nothing.

We think, in our naivety, that we are alone. 

Yet, in truth, there is something here, something on this little ball of dirt, which keeps them away. Something all know to fear, something not one species would dare disturb… And that something isn’t us.

Weird Wilkins

Hailing from the deepest, darkest pits of England, Weird Wilkins is a fresh-faced writer and lifelong horror fanatic. He writes firmly in the “weird fiction” sub-genre and has a particular passion for folklore, the supernatural and healthy lashings of body horror. Find him on Facebook or Twitter


The prince leaned over the sleeping princess and gently kissed her red lips. She raised her eyelids, revealing lifeless eyes.

“Aaaappleeees!” – she grunted, snapped her jaw and bit off the terrified prince’s Adam’s apple. He grabbed his neck and fell to the floor. He froze in a pool of blood. Not long until he opened his eyes.

The evil queen watched the whole scene in the magic mirror, laughing ominously. The pact with the necromancer who enchanted the apple was a hit.

Each of them will get what they want most.

She’ll rule the kingdom and he’ll build an army.

Jacek Wilkos

Jacek Wilkos is an engineer from Poland. He lives with his wife and two daughters in a beautiful city of Cracow. He is addicted to buying books, he loves black coffee, dark ambient music and anything that’s spooky. First he published his fiction in Polish online magazines, but in 2019 he started to translate his writing to English, and so far it was published in numerous anthologies by Black Hare Press, Black Ink Fiction, Alien Buddha Press, Eerie River Publishing, Insignia Stories, Reanimated Writers Press, Iron Faerie Publishing, KJK publishing, CultureCult, Wicked Shadow Press, Clarendon House Publications. Follow him on Facebook

Mother Knows Best

Annette always wondered what Tony Best hid behind his quiet, nice guy exterior.

Her mother, though, had not warmed to her new fiancé. “I bet he’s a mummy’s boy. Careful when you meet her–” she’d rasped through stale cigarette smoke “–or she’ll eat you alive.”

But when Tony invited Annette for family dinner, her future mother-in-law couldn’t have been more accommodating. She plied Annette with potent homemade wine from the moment she arrived.

Later, as Tony tied a groggy Annette to the spit roast, she remembered the other advice her mother had offered about men.

“Never trust the quiet ones…”

Jameson Grey

Jameson Grey‘s work has been published in Dark Recesses PressDark Dispatch and in various anthologies including Chlorophobia: An Eco-Horror AnthologyLet the Weirdness In: A Tribute to Kate Bush and Love Letters to Poe, Volume II: Houses of Usher. 

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