Trembling With Fear 7-23-23

Hello, children of the dark. You lot are keen beans, eh? Since we announced we’d soon reopen to short story submissions, a few eager beavers have snuck into the inbox already. It’s great to see enthusiasm, but please note anything submitted to us before we officially re-open next month will not be read. You will need to keep it and re-submit it when we open. We won’t be keeping hold of the pieces to add them to the list when the time comes – that kinda defeats the purpose of having submissions windows! 

Which brings me to the matter of those short story submissions. One of the things I love about the role I play here at is the ability to nurture and support new writers. So many of our submitters are taking that leap for the first time, nervous about how it might go – even nervous about having to write a bio because they’ve never done it before. I don’t want to lose that about TWF; it’s one of the great things about it…

However, I can tell you that we’re going to need to be much tougher on short stories in future. 

We’re all volunteers with lives and jobs and other commitments, so we don’t have the time to sit and go back and forth with writers multiple times to help stories to take shape. Whereas before we might’ve taken a chance on a writer that we could see had potential but needed a lot of nurturing, we may now need to send that writer on their way with some feedback but not a potential acceptance. If we don’t, we’ll end up with another year-long backlog of acceptances and will need to close again to subs, which we don’t want to do. It’s not fair on you, the wonderful community of darkly speculative humans (and other creatures). 

If we do face another onslaught – and part of me hopes we do, because it’s wonderful to see so much enthusiasm for genre writing out there! – we’ll need to consider other options. Like having a quarterly subs window. Or even an annual one. Who knows. It all depends on how the coming months take shape.

However, there’s still plenty of space for new TWF subs this week. We are always, always looking for drabbles, and it’s also the dying days to sub to our summer special. Get your summer shorts and drabbles in by the end of July via our submissions page, and our lovely specials editor Shalini will review and make her choices for our summer special edition.

But for now, let’s turn to the reason you’re here: it’s time for this week’s offerings on the TWF menu. For this week’s short story, Paul R. Panossian explores the abandoned cabin in the woods. This is followed by three delicious quick bites:

  • Matt Krizan is counting drips,
  • Ken MacGregor faces excitement in a pub, and 
  • Emma Burnett has a secret to share.

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

I’m officially in between MBA classes and The Great Reading has begun! There is a lot of progress on our two anthologies and I’m hoping the reading and proofing will be done in the next week as we’re really behind on our TWF release. 

For those who are looking to connect with Horror Tree on places that aren’t Twitter, we’re also in BlueSky and Threads. *I* am also now on BlueSky and Threads. Though, no promises on how active we’ll be on either until after this semester.

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

Paul R. Panossian

Paul R. Panossian (he/him) resides in Asheville, NC with his loving girlfriend/editor and their two wonderful cats. By day, he toils as a maintenance tech, but by night he is a scholar of the macabre. He has works published in The Literary Hatchet, Horror Tree’s Trembling With Fear, and Madame Gray’s Graveyard of Blood. He can be found on twitter at @paulrpanossian.

Perfume at Dusk, by Paul R. Panossian

Leaves crunch underfoot on an autumn evening. Smoky oak blends with sawdust on the breeze: a ghost of the creek mill whose wheel ceased turning many years past. The woodsman has passed too. His trees have been allowed to grow tall and thick on the land he left behind. 

A field opens up between the columns and a house presides like a forgotten temple above the desiccated stalks. It was once the woodsman’s, but now the paint is chipped, the windows clouded. A lone vulture swoops low over its crumbling chimney, riding a gust that sweeps dust over desolation. It perches with a flutter atop the roof to observe the figure wading through the lawn.

Up close, the house’s decay is more evident. Weeds snarl the cracking foundation and vines cascade down its front stoop. They drape the walls like a hoary quilt all the way up to the overgrown gutter. Twiggy saplings rise from the trough. Their intersecting limbs obscure a small attic window. 

A shadow recedes behind the fogged pane.

The screen door screeches wide in the wind and bangs against the rickety banister. Its springs have long since corroded so it does not swing back. Hinges creak as the front door opens a crack.


There is no answer, only the wind whistling through the opaque fissure.

The door yields with a push, and a crooked rectangle of light unfurls across the floor. An elongated silhouette steps onto the golden hardwood. 

It is cool inside. 


The sound falls flat in the stillness. Shapes solidify in what little sun filters through moth-eaten curtains: slumping furniture subsiding into forsaken corners, all shrouded in drifts of cobwebs and dust like a musty snow.

Timbers groan overhead and the darkness is touched with an oppressive chill. 

“Is someone there?”

The question dies in silence, but something sweet and oily trails the scent of mildew and aged dust. 

The hatch to the attic hangs in the middle of the foyer. Its folding stairs extend to the floor. The metal loop that kept it shut has come down with the hasp, still latched together by a hefty padlock. Rays shine through the opening in the ceiling, catching on blue motes like tiny flakes of moonlight. The rays shift, are severed, then restored. Something has passed before the light.

There is no entreaty this time, no hesitation in the footsteps that cross the foyer.  

The stairs are steep, more like ladder rungs. Mounting them demands a firm grip. Their old wood squeals in protest of the heavy boots that thud upon them. Above, only the eaves are visible, shrouded in tattered webs. Broaching the ceiling is like stepping into winter, but the air is stuffy, as if the space has been gradually filled with frigid breath. Each movement brings on a damp ache that creaks in the joints.

Angled beams stream through opposing windows too small to permit escape. The fast-dying sun alights on frenetic five-line sets of scratch marks on the floor, translucent even through the dust that cakes the ancient grain.

That fragrance has returned, distant and sweet, reminiscent of pressed petals and passions left to fade.

Cold breath brushes prickly skin.

“Don’t go.”

It is the kind of velvety tone reserved for whispering between pillows, but the words are drenched in desperation. 

Icy fingers press against stubble, drawing it toward a pale face in the dark. Radiant eyes glow blue from deep within sunken sockets. Creases shimmer on a papery complexion framed by auburn hair gone stiff as late-season straw.

Thin lips part in expectation, and crystal eyes water.

Her exhale is like the night of a winter’s first snow, but beneath the dusting of years, a springtime hymn echoes; the long-forsaken promise of flowers waiting to bloom and starlings bursting with song. Old perfume fills the air like warm, wet grass. 

Pulses quicken, and muscles go slack beneath a pent-up frost breath that clings to one cheek like a morning dew. Her fingers come away red. There are no nails, just ragged stumps.

Liquid eyes harden to ice. Dry lips peel back from bared teeth and spindly hands curl into rigid claws. A heartbeat skips in a flash of white and crimson, followed by a hard tumble down the steps.

There is pain in the confusion. The room’s contours drift in and out like a fog. Far, far away, the door closes on the dusky gold of an autumn sunset. A pallid figure descends the stairs. Dust swirls in the gloom.

The vulture takes flight.

The woodsman has long since passed. They say he was a widower, but somebody lives there.

Somebody lives there.

Drip … Drip … Drip …

Drops of water splash onto my forehead, one after another. They trickle down my temples and over my ears, ever so slowly adding to the pool of water filling the bathtub. 

I don’t know how long I’ve been here, have long since given up trying to count the drops. I want to scream, but the sedative that keeps me immobile yet awake prevents me from doing even that. 

My captor hovers over me, a gentle smile on his face as he waits patiently to see whether I’ll go insane before I drown.

I can’t decide which way would be worse.

Matt Krizan

Matt Krizan is a former certified public accountant who writes from his home in Royal Oak, Michigan. His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications, including Factor Four Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, and Martian Magazine. Find him online at and on Twitter as @MattKrizan.

Full Moon Stranger

The door slammed open, and a naked man fell inside. There was so much blood on him it splashed outward when he hit.

The crowd got him cleaned up and into a large coat. “What happened?”

“First, I need six shots of whiskey.”

The bartender took pity on him and poured.

The man drank each in turn. With the last, he said, “One for each werewolf.”

“Good lord, man! Are you saying you slew six werewolves?”

Setting down the last glass, the man shrugged off the borrowed coat. “No. I brought them.”

His skin rippled. The door slammed open again.

Ken MacGregor

Ken MacGregor writes stuff. He has three story collections, a young adult novella, a co-written (with Kerry Lipp) novel, and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). He has written TV commercials, sketch comedy, a music video, poetry, and a zombie movie.  He edits stuff too. He has curated two anthologies, one of which was nominated for the Shirley Jackson award. A third is due out this year, co-edited with Douglas Gwylim. When not writing, Ken drives the bookmobile for his local library. He lives with his kids, two cats, and the ashes of his wife. Ken can be found at

It’s What’s On The Inside

It is a secret too big to keep pent up.

It has a life of its own. It wants out.

The secret pounds at your fontanelle, sealed too tight to let it through. It claws down from your grey matter, pushes against your uvula, dives into the ventricles of your heart. They swell from the pressure. It plucks at sinews, scrabbles past gristly cartilage. It enters your entrails, cramping, twisting, threatening expulsion.

Bones snap and tendons twang as the secret claws out of its meat cage.

Vacated, you crumple. Freed, the secret batters my cochlea, burrows into my folded surfaces.

Emma Burnett

Emma Burnett is a recovering academic. She’s big into sports, cats, and being introverted.

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