Trembling With Fear 7-9-23

Hello, children of the dark. Summer has kinda disappeared on this side of the pond (it threatens a return, don’t worry!), which has got me thinking more about the light and the sun and the green open fields and the seaside settings. Why is it we see so little dark fiction set in the daylight? 

I know the very name of it – dark fiction – tends to bring to mind claustrophobic spaces and midnight jaunts and something hiding in the shadows. And these stories are our bread and butter here at TWF. 

But just because it’s usual doesn’t mean it’s the only thing possible. 

Think of something like Midsommer, which brought horror crashing into the eternal sunshine of the Nordic summer. Or Picnic at Hanging Rock, with its Valentine’s picnic gone awry. Sunshine and BBQs and boat trips can actually be rife for dark tales. What would you do with a prompt that required a summer story fit for Horror Tree’s shelves? 

While you ponder that, I’ll remind you: we’re still open for submissions to our summer special! Yes, there was theory to my madness (and also I’ve just come from a class about “summer frights” so it’s on my mind). As we say on our submissions page: “We’re looking for horror on the beach, at a B&B, on a cruise, backpacking, road trips, glamping, end of the pier. What about a drabble as a holiday postcard: Wish you weren’t here?” 

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. Successful stories could also make our annual anthologies, so there’s double the chance at publication!

But for now, let’s get to the reason you’re all here. It’s time for this week’s offerings on the TWF menu. For this week’s short story, Henry Martin is left behind deep under the ground, with horrific consequences. This is followed by three delicious quick bites:

  • Cassandra Vaillancourt heads for open waters,
  • Patrick Norris spies on the kids next door, and 
  • G.B. Dinesh survives a plane crash.

And finally, a quick reminder that we are reopening to short story submissions in a few weeks. Get those darkly speculative flash fiction tales ready for us!

Over to you, Stuart.

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

So, had a great Fourth of July with the kids. Our new puppy also, thankfully, has 0 care in the world when it comes to fireworks. I’m sure having two young boys that run around the house constantly has helped her not be surprised by loud noises. Our elder pup also is good with fireworks so it was a great extended weekend of fun with family and the doggos. 

I’m in the last two weeks of my current MBA class. The next semester is going to likely be as challenging as this one has been if not more so, however, I’m in the home stretch. It is putting me massively behind on things. My goals in between semesters are to finish up the TWF print release, finish reading the Best Of stories, and finishing fulfilling a couple of our Patreon edits that are almost overdue. Past that? I can’t say I have much in mind quite yet. 

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

Henry Martin

Henry Martin is a retired computer Engineer, born in England in 1941. After retirement he decided to take up writing, which he won prizes for at school. He is married with a 44-year-old daughter. Henry was educated at Simon Langton Grammar School in Kent. When he left school, he worked for the National Coal Board Scientific Department. In 1967 he emigrated to South Africa, where he worked for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. He returned to Europe in 1992 and now lives in Belgium.  

Left Behind, by Henry Martin

I tried opening my eyes before I realised they were already open.

Blackness. A blackness so deep it was oppressive, engulfing me like a death shroud. There was something supernatural about it. I was alone. Panic surged through my body.

I raised my back from the hard wall it was pressed against and strained all my senses against the foreboding gloom. 

Am I dead? Have I gone blind? Where am I? Who am I?

A thousand disjointed thoughts ripped through my head in a fraction of a second. My mind blank, as barren as the void surrounding me.

I stretched out my arms in front and to both sides—nothing. Loose gravel and bigger stones covered the ground where I sat. A wild scream burst from my throat.


No answer came, nor any echo. Even the sound had died and the silence was deafening.

I strained my ears, but the only noise came from my shaking body on the surface I sat upon, and the wild pounding of my heart. There was only a living black hole. My head hurt, and I touched it.

“Ouch!” — My fingers found a damp patch on the back of my head and the seeping wound matted my hair. 

The total absence of light wrapped me in a cloak of terror.

Then, my hand encountered something on the ground. I picked it up and memory came flooding back. A helmet. My light. I found the lamp on the hard hat and despite turning the knob to turn it on, it remained black. I shook the battery on my belt, still nothing. Where is my teacher? Where are my friends? I stumbled and fell when they told us to turn off our lights. 

They left me behind!

My bladder emptied and the warm urine gushed out, soaking my pants. I tried to stand, but I wasn’t even halfway to upright before my head smacked against the roof of my prison. I tried to put the hard hat back on, but the wound on my head hurt too much.

Twisted fingers of fear clawed my guts. I screamed over and over.


I received no answer. Fervently, I prayed to God, but He chose to ignore me.

Kneeling, I felt my way around for a few minutes before opening my belt and dropping the useless battery to the ground. 

Coming on this school outing to Grimley Colliery had been a mistake. Left alone in a coal mine, half-a-mile underground. Why did they leave me? I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m only thirteen.

Bursting into tears, I curled up on the floor. Should I wait or try to find a way out? 

After waiting for what seemed like hours, my gut told me I must keep moving, so I crawled with no sense of direction. 

The air was hot and humid, sweat poured down my cheeks and into my eyes,

Sharp pieces of coal and rocks lying on the ground cut into my hands, but I kept moving.

I inched along on hands and knees until my head hit something hard. It was a solid metal door.

A massive padlock sealed the door, but rust flaked off on my fingers. I picked up a rock from the ground and struck it. Three of four blows and the lock smashed.

My questing hand contacted a huge handle, and I pulled at it until the door’s rusty hinges squealed in protest. The door opened a crack. A wave of indescribable stench washed over me. My stomach instantly revolted. I retched and then vomited.

My head throbbed. Pulling with every ounce of my strength, I forced the door wide enough to squeeze my body through it, tearing my clothes. In the distance was a faint blue glow.

The ground sloped downhill. The stomach-wrenching smell grew even more vile, but anything was better than the total blackness. My stomach heaved, but I kept moving in the direction of the light. As I got closer, the tunnel’s walls dripped with thick slime. It was high enough for me to stand.

Rising to my feet, I walked. My fingers crawled through my matted hair until they found the wound again, and I could feel it was still seeping blood. Instantly, my head throbbed as if something inside it was urging me forward.

The stench was getting ever stronger, and a faint sloshing sound made me shudder. 

I stumbled and fell to my knees. The sharp rocks dug into my flesh.


My knee hurt real bad. I put my hand on it and felt the warm blood. The throbbing in my head grew louder. The air was getting hotter.

My fingers scrabbled around until I found the thing I had tripped over. It was a piece of rusted rebar, around two feet long. It made me feel comfortable with it in my hand, so I carried it and kept moving.

After a few more minutes, I came to the end of the tunnel. I looked over the edge into the pit and something glowed with a bluish light as it lay in a pool of revolting slime. The thing partly emerged from the depths of the liquid. The noise in my head grew ever louder.

Had I every word in the dictionary, I would be unable to describe it adequately. Such a thing should not exist, yet here it was.

The monstrous creature filled me with revulsion and a desire to kill it, and at the same time, it terrified me. All the devils in hell had nothing on this thing.

It reared from the slime, a seething mass of tentacles, each one with eyes and mouths loaded with sharp teeth. It had smelled the blood. I could feel the creature’s hatred emanating from it in waves and I could feel its hunger for blood.

I screamed in panic and ran back up the slope. Raw terror gripped me in an icy embrace. My heart hammered in my chest. The horror was pursuing me. I could hear it. 

In my haste, I slammed into the metal door and fell. Squeezing my body through the door, ripped my flesh on the sharp edges. Once through, I forced it closed.

I could hear the sloshing sound as the creature came closer.

Fumbling in the dark, I pushed the length of rebar through the two holes where the padlock had been.

Terror gave me the strength to bend the rusty bar into a loop. As it bent, I could feel it crumbling. It would keep the door closed, but for how long? The piece of metal was thick with rust, as was the door.

I had to get out of here. Heart pounding, I crawled, my knees and hands bleeding. The throbbing in my head was excruciating.

A few hundred yards further, stones and rocks blocked the passage. I clawed at them and tried to clear them until my fingernails broke and my hands were slick with blood. The sound of the hellish thing slamming against the door made me work even harder. 

No food. No water. At last, completely exhausted, I gave up all hope. My mouth was so dry I could barely move my tongue and my limbs refused to function. I was alone here, abandoned and entombed. I gave up all hope. Curling myself up, I tried to cry, but there was no water for tears. All that I could do was to wait for death. Fear, exhaustion and dehydration caused me to fall into a merciful sleep, hoping that God would take my soul before the creature came and took it.

Two days later, the search team broke through the rockfall. They found Terrance Dulson, unconscious, dehydrated and barely alive. They transported him to the Infirmary.


Tom Oakcliffe picked up the News of the World, which had dropped through his letterbox a few minutes earlier. He checked the soccer results and then saw an article on page two. 

The Legend of Grimley Continues

by Laura Welsch – investigative reporter

Grimely Colliery is once again in the news. 13-year-old Terrance Dulson, the boy trapped down the mine for two days, regained consciousness on Friday. He woke shrieking in an unintelligible language. When a nurse tried to restrain him, he stabbed her six times in her throat, penetrating the carotid artery. She died before they could get her to the operating theatre. Then, he stuck the scissors into his mother’s right eye whilst she was attempting to help the nurse.

The children were on a school trip to see how their grandfathers had worked. Terrance was a quiet boy and he must have fallen unconscious at some stage, and the teacher and his classmates didn’t notice he was missing until they were back on the surface.

Police caught him as he ran naked and screaming out of the Infirmary. They sent him to a hospital for the criminally insane.

“Terrance was always afraid of the dark,” his mother explained when she recovered from the anaesthetic. “Being left alone down there must have unhinged him.”

Grimley has one of the thickest coal seams in Britain, and when it first opened it was one of the most productive. After a major roof fall which killed 5 men, the mine was reputed to be haunted by an evil presence. Men disappeared and some went mad, raving about an evil blue horror which drank men’s blood and devoured their souls.

The mine offered higher pay for men to work there, but there were always deaths and disappearances. It was one of the first mines to close and become a show mine for visitors.

Did Terrance wake some sleeping evil?


In the mine, the rusted rebar finally snapped, releasing the star-spawned horror that pulsed with ancient power and unholy life as it renewed its search for blood.

Fishing Trip

“Great idea to go deep sea fishing,” John grumbles. “Except, nothing’s biting!”

Ben pleads with him: “Please just give it a little more time. It will pick up, I promise! I’m told this is a great spot!”

“We’ve been here all day! Let’s go back!”

“But we’ve got beautiful weather and ice cold beer in the cooler. It’d be a shame to waste it.”

Before John can protest, their rods almost pull them overboard. The reels keep spinning.

“Spoke too soon?” Ben asks, struggling with his rod.

The last thing they see is the giant jaws rushing up towards them.

Cassandra Vaillancourt

Cassandra Vaillancourt is a trans woman who works as a humble retail worker. She is new to the publishing scene with Horror Tree as she is making the transition from artist to writer. Her goal is to become accomplished in the horror genre and to publish books. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tiny Hands

I would never have known if my children hadn’t noticed the absence of Katniss, our family feline. But I now found myself watching with horror the education offered at the night school across from our house. 

My stomach churned as I witnessed their graceful incisions and nefarious technique. As I gazed into the window, I saw their tiny hands could barely hold the instruments the teacher directed them to wield. I tried to pry my gaze from our feline’s demise, but then I saw the writing on the chalkboard: 

Serial Killer 101
Next week’s assignment: The family across the street

Patrick Norris

Patrick Norris is starting out as an author. He has spent his entire life enjoying authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, Michael Moorcock, and Jules Verne. He is excited to share his stories with other individuals who share the same interests.

Little Rossie

“Are you O.K., are you O.K., Rossie?” Auntie Ruth says, checking him from head to toe, and hugs his shivering body. Only little Rossie and his auntie have survived the plane crash.

“They’ll rescue us by sun-up, Rossie. We’ll find a way to keep warm in this snowstorm.”

“Auntie, I remember something I’ve seen on T.V.,” says Rossie, “something we can do.” His crimson lips break into a grin.

Auntie Ruth is confused, then blushes. “You surely can’t mean . . . ”

After much struggle, and with a full belly, little Rossie snuggles into the hollowed-out body and falls asleep.

G.B. Dinesh

G.B. Dinesh is a young writer and software developer from Chennai, India.

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