Trembling With Fear 7-7-24

Greetings, children of the dark of July. (July!?!) For those of you on the other side of the pond, I hope you’re enjoying your holiday weekend. If you’re on my side, well, I’m writing this the day before the election so all I can do is keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best!

It’s been great to see some short stories start coming our way again, so a quick reminder: we’re open to short story submissions to the general section of TWF for just one more week. Yep, we’ll close again on 14 July, so get in quick if you want us to consider your work for publication. But remember, these 2-week windows are not the only way to see your name in TWF—we also have our themed submission calls (currently considering the summer special, so hurry up if you have a dark summer-set piece for Shalini’s final round in the seat!), as well as our unholy trinities (three related drabbles as a set) and serialised stories (up to 15,000 words, able to be put into chapters for drip-fed publication). And, of course, we have an insatiable need for drabbles for these weekly pages. We publish three of those every darn week, so you can imagine how hungry that drabble beast gets! That’s plenty of opportunities. And, if I’m being honest, you’ll have a better chance of getting onto our pages with a drabble than anything else; our short story submissions are tightly-contested, and we get waaaaaay more submitted than we’re able to publish. Get cracking on those 100-word beauties!

For now, though, let’s tuck into this week’s menu of dark speculative fiction and kick things off with a creature feature courtesy of Kevin M Folliard. That’s followed by the short, sharp speculations of:

  • W.H. Vigo’s critter problem,
  • Debbie Paterson’s dark musing, and
  • Liam Kerry’s family business.

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

Hi all!

First off, I’d like to thank our upcoming newsletter sponsor for the next year! Please check out Charlotte Platt’s ‘One Smile More’!

Ena Sinclair, a Scottish mage and spy, abandons her role in a prominent Edinburgh college and escapes to London to avoid an arranged marriage.

But London is not safe: a mage killer is on the hunt…

Abducted by vampires ‘for her safety’, Ena is terrified the nest owner will drain her to fuel his power but also curious to learn about his magic. Taking this once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn more about what her college had warned were dangerous creatures, Ena finds herself fond of the nest, particularly their bonded leaders, Addison and Tobias.

As survivors of the Immortal War, the pair still navigate a schism in vampire society that they are trying to heal. They now seek a peaceful life and offer Ena protection until she finds her own path.

…and dark things await them all.

Ena’s college seeks to forcibly return her to Edinburgh, and a killer is still on the loose. Hidden resentments surface, and Ena pays the price. Magically unstable and isolated, she must rely on her non-magical training to avoid being turned or used as a weapon to harm the nest she has grown to care for.


Be sure to order a copy today!

Moving on, I hope all of those in the US have had a great 4th of July, and for those outside of the US, I apologize for our over. We’ve started moving a bit forward with our new staff, so you’ll be seeing some changes soon, and hopefully, the new theme will come sooner rather than later. I know that I keep mentioning, but I promise you that it is inching closer to launch! There is a LOT of customizations that have to happen to really make it our own.

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!
  • The paperback is now live! Please be sure to order a copy of Shadowed Realms on Amazon, we’d love for you to check it out!

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

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Kevin M. Folliard

Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose fiction has been collected by The Horror Tree, The Dread Machine, Demain Publishing, Dark Owl Publishing, and more. His recent publications include his NEW horror anthology The Misery King’s Country, his YA fantasy adventure novel Grayson North: Frost-Keeper of the Windy City, and his 2022 dinosaur adventure novel Carnivore Keepers. Kevin currently resides in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL, where he enjoys his day job in academia and membership in the La Grange Writers Group.

Stuck, by Kevin M. Folliard

While my boss enjoyed a honeymoon cruise with his third wife—a sappy millennial, half his age—I got stuck covering quarter end crunch. They island-hopped the Bahamas, while I met late-night deadlines for overseas clients. 

At half past midnight, I locked the office, packed my laptop, then as luck would have it, I got stuck in the elevator. The floor trembled, lights flickered off. The whole shaft swayed. Couldn’t have been more than a 3.0 on the Richter scale, but nevertheless, it knocked out power.

Wrapped in the blue glow of emergency lighting, I rested my aching back against the wall and flexed arthritic fingers. 

The perfect end to the least perfect week at my perfectly infuriating dead-end job.

After thirty minutes stuck between floors, the power hummed back on and off again, but during that five-minute surge, I managed to pry open the doors and climb onto the fourth-floor landing. Grease and grime stained my dress pants.

I descended seven flights of stairs to sub-basement C—where I’d stuck my car that morning—then crossed the cavernous underground parking complex. I cut across swaths of empty spaces, between hulking concrete pillars, toward my lonely blue Buick, which appeared bluer—sadder somehow in all that emergency light.

Then, I heard something.

Skritchy-scratchy noises. Shuffles. Scrapes. I glanced around. Not a single car but my own. Not a soul in sight.

I listened. The shuffling died away.

I put it out of my mind. It hadn’t been a big quake, but this complex was getting on in decades. There was likely already structural damage, and the tremor might have made it worse. In fact, the firm had signed to move to one of the new high-rises that had been stalled in construction for the past year.

I thought about all the exhausted concrete slabs above and below me, getting ready to quit their job holding up cars all day.

Best to leave before I got stuck under a pile of rubble. 

At least this late, I wouldn’t be stuck in construction traffic.

I started my car and began the nauseating spin up the centrally-located parking ramps—there, a slim shadow arched in sheaths of blue lighting. I braked and glanced around. Had something fallen? Whatever had moved past the ramp hadn’t made a sound.

I observed shady corners, draped between levels C and B.

Soft shuffling continued, followed by the thin plink-plink of gravel trickling on the roof of my car.

The shuffles grew louder. With every scrape, more rocks plinked my roof. In red brake lights, speckles of cement snowfall trailed my car. My heart picked up. Was the ceiling collapsing?

I sped up.

It hadn’t been that bad of a quake, had it?

Scratch. Scratch.


My tires squealed around the corner as I reached ground level.

Scrape. Scrape. Scratch.

Rocks plopped in my rearview mirror. I rounded a row of pillars and accelerated toward the exit. 

Spindly shadows danced across the garage. Angular shapes flexed on either side of my car.

The hairs bristled on the back of my neck. Something’s above me, I thought. I hit the accelerator. Don’t stop to flash your parking badge. Gun it.

The orange arm of the automated parking gate glowed in my headlights, but so did something else. Strange blurry strands, barely visible in the shadowy garage.

The whole car jolted as I collided with an odd substance. The airbag burst. Sticky, clear fibers clung to my windshield. I floored the gas pedal. Tires squealed and scraped pavement. Smoke billowed. Burning rubber assaulted my nostrils, and I released the gas pedal. I’d hit some kind of strange translucent mess that now splattered the front of my car. 

The parking gate was less than ten feet away. I hit the gas again, and the back end of my car tilted up.

The shuffling overhead intensified. Whatever was above me now started scraping the roof. Thick, black stalks covered in sharp spiny hairs curled around my side windows. A pointed appendage bashed the windshield, leaving a firework of cracks.

“Holy hell!” I unbuckled my belt and tried to open the door—but it was stuck, the same, whitish-clear substance stretched across the door. I tried to roll down the window, but it wouldn’t budge. I squinted and noticed more of the stuff, faintly glimmering in blue light. Dozens of strands cut to and from edges of the parking garage, strung between concrete columns.

The spiny stalks reached down again, and my car tilted right. I pushed around the airbag and crawled to the passenger door. It opened partway, but ghostly filaments held it back. A clawed appendage jabbed down, and I recoiled. But as soon as it pulled back, I pushed as hard as I could, created just enough of a gap, and rolled out of the car.

Some of that sticky substance mashed my jacket as I tried to stand. I was pinned. I glanced up and saw a bulbous monster, hanging upside down, swiping hulking tarantula legs. It was a spider—twice as big as my Buick—with a furry mustache of fangs and spinnerets oozing near-invisible web onto the back window. 

I shouted. Struggled. Wriggled free from my stuck coat, and crawled away from the car, carefully avoiding taut gossamers of web.

There was no way out to the street. The entire exit had been splattered in orb-shaped webbing, which from my new angle, shimmered between my car’s headlights and the moon. I was stuck in the garage, but if I ran I could make it back inside the building. 

The spider stopped wrapping my car. It gnashed its fangs, then aimed eight globular eyes in my direction.

I ran.

It skittered after me. 

I glanced back to see it scrambling upside down, mandibles twitching.

I nearly tripped, but managed to keep going. The space between me and the entrance to the first-floor lobby stretched into a small eternity. The spider was too fast. But if I zigged and zagged down the parking ramps, maybe I could disorient it.

Chunks of ceiling crumbled behind me as the spider clawed closer.

Scrape. Scrape. Scratch.

I wasn’t going to make it. 

I panicked. Changed directions. Angled down toward level B.

I cut across the ramp, felt the bristles of its leg brush my back. 

And I leapt. 

Maybe I could make it to the other ramp.

I hoped. I prayed.

But the gap was far wider than my hopes or prayers.

I screamed and plummeted down the center of the parking complex. 

Concrete rushed past me. 

Sub-basement D zoomed toward my face.

I squeezed my eyes shut.

My whole body jolted.

My stomach somersaulted as I wobbled in midair. I opened my eyes to find that I’d landed in a jangled mess of web at the bottom of the parking garage. Blue light illuminated cavernous holes in the walls, tunnels that surely led to the site of all that new construction. Enormous spiders had burrowed into the garage. 

On all sides, bristly legs shuffled and scraped. Their forelegs clawed and widened their newly formed passageways.

I tried to calm my breathing. To find a way to loosen the web’s gluey grip. Every movement forced the strands tighter around my limbs. I managed to flip onto my back, but the effort stuck my arms behind me. Above me, my pursuer’s eight eyes flickered like blue candles. It floated between the parking ramps on glimmering rope, venom dripping from the hooks of its fangs and splatting my chest, burning like acid. Skin blistered and seared under my poison-soaked shirt and tie.

Chemical burns filled my nostrils. I rasped for breath. Couldn’t even scream. There was no way out.

Spider legs splayed over me. Fangs hooked toward my heart. I was stuck. 

But only—I hoped—for a moment longer.

Itchy and Scratchy

Karishma was convinced the rats in her condo were making her sick.

Her body was covered in patches of purple, stinking rashes. 

Food vanished from cupboards; holes filled her clothes. But the exterminators never found anything: no droppings, no holes in the walls. Some nights, it felt like rats scurried over her in bed. She’d look under her sheets—nothing was there. 

If rats weren’t causing her problems…what was?

Overwhelmed, she went to a hotel. 

In her cozy bed, the itching suddenly vanished. 

Relieved, Karishma turned off the lights. 

Closed her eyes.

Then the rashes began to bubble and growl.


W.H.Vigo is a Jamaican-Canadian horror and speculative fiction writer based in Switzerland. Their short story Captured Land was published in the dark fantasy anthology Fairy Tales from the Rock by Engen Books in spring 2023. Their debut novelette Beneath the Rio Cobre was published by The Great Lakes Horror Company the same year. Vigo completed the Horror Writers Association (HWA) Mentorship program for new writers in 2021, and is an active member of the organization. They have been a three-time panellist (2022 and 2023) at Canada’s largest horror event, Frightmare in the Falls, and a two-time panellist for HWA Ontario. Vigo specializes in the research of unconventional or lesser-known supernatural folklore, mythology, and urban legends from around the world, which they share on Instagram: @whvigo. Vigo is currently completing a novel-length manuscript.


The darkness lives inside our minds, ever ready to strike. We try to hide from it, distract it. It lingers in the recesses we have forgotten.

Sometimes we inherit it, have it passed on by one curse or another. Sometimes we create our own and find it even hard to escape.

The void threatens to swallow us. “Step forth,” it whispers, oh so sweetly. “Step forth and allow yourself to drown.”

And some of us do. We sink until we cannot swim. We drown in the void.

But not you. Never you.

Your story does not end in the void.

Debbie Paterson

Debbie Paterson is a 38 year old writer from Scotland. She lives with her partner, an elderly dog, two cats and a grumpy talking catfish. She enjoys cooking, reading and playing video games. She is passionate about games and books that tell a great story along with strong characters.

Surgical Enhancement

I’d been practising on a cadaver when my family entered.

“What a talent, just like his father!” My father encouraged, hugging me enthusiastically.

Over his shoulder, I noticed my brother walking with a drunken gait. Feeling something prick my arm, I withdrew, observing a hypodermic needle in my father’s hand. The room faded away.

When it returned, he held up a mirror, displaying his work. My brother’s arms protruded from my shoulders. His head jutted from my chest, held tight by purple, jagged stitching. We cried in horror.

“You’ll make a spectacular surgeon, boys!” Father beamed, proud of his creation.

Liam Kerry

Liam Kerry is a thinking enthusiast with a bad memorywriting helps him recall his daydreams. An anthology of his micro-fiction will be available later in 2024. Visit his website here.

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