Trembling With Fear 8-13-23

Hello, children of the dark. I’m keeping it short this week because, as I write this on Thursday, I am still trying to hurriedly work on my presentation about witch tropes in pop culture for my event in less than 48 hours, aka the first time I’ve organised a writing event and sold tickets. Readers, I am rather anxious! But hopefully it will go smoothly—and if it doesn’t, hopefully the attendees are forgiving. The good news is, this one has been so well received that there will definitely be another edition of Writing the Occult, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, I’ve seen plenty of short stories coming into the coffers, which is great (I’m going to need a lot of reading time in the coming days!). Yes, we are now officially re-open to short story submissions, and you can find the guidelines and details on how to submit over here. Please use the website form to submit it rather than emailing us directly; it’s a good way to alert us that this is an important message rather than one of the many, many link-building requests we get into the inbox every day. And make sure you choose TWF from the drop-down menu!

But for now, it’s time for this week’s offerings on the TWF menu. Our short story course comes from Sarah Licht, and it is quite honestly the most innovative story format I’ve had the pleasure to publish since sitting in this chair—I’m only sorry the limitations of our system couldn’t do more justice to the format!. This is followed by three delicious quick bites:

  • Steven Patchett heads off to carve lovers’ initials,
  • Hana Carolina is inspired by a real abandoned mental hospital, and 
  • Emma Burnett catches her reflection in the mirror.

Over to you, Stuart.

PS – it’s my birthday tomorrow 🥳

Lauren McMenemy

Editor, Trembling With Fear

We’re still working through our readings for the physical release and best of anthology! Things are going well, more soon!

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.

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

Sarah Licht

Sarah Licht is a writer of nature, the surreal, and the sutures between them. Their work has been featured in publications such as Grim & Gilded, Landing Zone Magazine, and Screen Door Review.

Brightwell’s General Capability and Rationality Assessment-20

Name: Ashley Mannon
Patient ID:  50046
Date: 12-05-XX

For each of the numbered statements below, please rate to what extent you agree or disagree, with 1 being “strongly disagree” and 7 being “strongly agree.” Then, please, in as much detail as possible, elaborate on your response.


1 I have felt at peace during my time at Brightwell.

   2       4    5    6    

Elaborate: I’ve only been here for two weeks, so I can’t say whether or not I feel ‘at peace’ or not. Most people I’ve met said it took them a month or two to figure that out.


2 I have been treated with respect and dignity by the Brightwell staff.

1    2    3    4       6   

Elaborate: See my answer above.


3 I enjoy the company of the people at Brightwell.

1    2    3    4    5    6   

Elaborate: I haven’t been able to really talk to the other residents outside of mealtimes and group therapy. They always go back to their rooms right when it ends. The ones I have seen don’t seem unfriendly, but they never respond when I talk to them. Claudia was nice to me, but she’s long gone now.


4 I feel like I can communicate my needs to my doctor.

1    2       4          

Elaborate: Dr. Krenshaw tells me that I should open up more, but he never listens to me when I tell him that I’m perfectly fine. I think it’s easier for him to call me delusional than to accept what’s going on here.


5 I feel irritable more than twice a week.

   2    3       5    6   

Elaborate: It was only twice. The first was when one of the nurses added another yellow pill to my dinner tray last Thursday on Dr. Krenshaw’s orders. This is the third time they’ve done this, so yeah, I was irritated. The second time was when I found someone trying to get into my room. He said he was lost and thought that it was his room, but it has my name clearly printed next to the door.


6 I tire sooner than normal.


Elaborate: I think I’ve gotten used to my medicine. I can now stay up for a few hours after I take it. The group meditations each morning also help with that.


7 I often experience difficulties sleeping.

1    2       4       6    

Elaborate: It was better before the Woman in Red appeared again in my room at night. Dr. Krenshaw says it’s a hallucination, but I can still feel her fingernails on my throat. Now, if my meds don’t kick in, I can’t sleep at all. I won’t let myself.


8 I am suspicious of the people around me.

1    2       4    5       

Elaborate: I wouldn’t say suspicious, but I wish someone would tell me why I’m here in the first place. None of the nurses have said anything, just that my mother dropped me off with a few sets of clothes. I wish I could remember what no one else will tell me.


9 I have remained in contact with my loved ones.

1          4    5    6   

Elaborate: I haven’t been able to find a phone lately. A janitor said the storm last week knocked the phone lines down. I hope my mother hasn’t been trying to call. If she even knows that I’m here, that is. I don’t want her to worry.


10 I find enjoyment in my daily life.


Elaborate: I like the art therapy sessions each week, but my skills were nothing compared to Claudia’s. I wonder what happened to her. Dr. Krenshaw said she was discharged, but she didn’t seem like the type to leave without at least saying goodbye.


11 I feel at ease in my environment.


Elaborate: I’m not sure how to answer this one. When I’m around the other patients, I feel relatively at ease, but at night it’s different. I’m supposed to be alone, but the hairs on the back of my neck stand up like there’s someone watching me.


12 I recognize myself in mirrors.

1    2    3    4         7 

Elaborate: It’s not me I don’t recognize. It’s the woman standing behind me. I try to keep my mirror covered now, but the janitors always remove my towel.


13 I have disturbing, intrusive thoughts.

1       3       5    6   

Elaborate: It’s only a thought if I’m the one thinking it, right? If so, no. If not, then why does it always sound like it’s coming from the other side of the room?


14 I often fantasize about acts of violence. 

   2    3          6   

Elaborate: It isn’t me, but Dr. Krenshaw seems to think it is. The Woman in Red only whispers about what she’ll do to me when I close my eyes, how it’ll be the same as what she did to Claudia. The good doctor said he couldn’t disclose where former patients end up, so it’s his word about what happened to Claudia against hers. I don’t know who to believe. 


15 I am aware of my surroundings.

1          4          7 

Elaborate: I sometimes think that I’m too aware. I see shadows begin to peck at the walls even when no one else does. It doesn’t help that Dr. Krenshaw has already alerted the nurses about his conclusions about me. Now, no one seems to want to listen to me.


16 I see things that no one else can see.

   2    3          6   

Elaborate: I’m only putting a 3 because she is real, the Woman in Red. She always appears with a long coat that rustles as it moves past my bed and leaves trails of scarlet fibers on the bed frame. The janitor didn’t say anything when he cleaned it up. I wonder if the doctor has told him about me too.


17 I hear things that no one else can hear.

1   2    3   4    5    6   

Elaborate: I doubt anyone would tell me if they heard her, but she comes to me at night, normally just watching me from the foot of my bed. But, sometimes, I hear her crying as she grabs at my neck like she doesn’t want to do it. Her sobs last until her face smooths over once more, and she releases me.


18 I trust my perceptions of reality.

1    2       4    5    6    7 

Elaborate: Now, more than ever, I know that I am right. No matter what the doctor or anyone else tells me, I have never been so sure of my sanity. 


19 I am distrustful of the people around me.

1    2       4    5    6   

Elaborate: If Dr. Krenshaw would stop increasing my medication each time I met with him, maybe I would trust him more. She hasn’t left despite his efforts to drug her out of me, so at least I know that I have my sanity. Once I convince the doctor of that, then he can let me go.


20 I understand that Brightwell is only looking out for me. No matter what.

1    2    3    4    5    6   

Elaborate: This should be self-explanatory. The nurses haven’t come over even as I’ve tried to flag them down. I see her eyes at the end of the hall, mournful and empty, reflecting the red of her coat. Just looking at her makes my throat ache. She’s still for now, but not for long. Never for long.


Doctor’s Notes: 

The patient has shown increased paranoid delusions since her admittance here that refuse to settle despite numerous efforts to medicate her. It is my professional advice to keep her here until she is of sound mind and no longer a danger to herself or others. I also advise her nurses to move her to a more secure wing. The number of scratches on her neck keeps growing by the day.

Physician Name: Dr. Harold Krenshaw

Names They Left Behind

I’d heard of a place where lovers could carve initials, in the mossy bark of a long dead tree.

He wanted to do this another day. 

But I insisted. 


It would be a declaration of our love, high on the hillside overlooking our home.

He suggested we put a lock on a bridge. 

But I laughed.


Ours was a whirlwind romance–we ignored everyone’s misgivings–the whispers about him were lies.

He said he forgot the knife. 

But I remembered.


I saw he’d already been there, freshly carved with my best friend’s name.

He begged that he could explain.

But I reacted.

Steven Patchett

Steven Patchett is an Engineer, Father and Writer in the North East of England. His works have been published in Ellipsis Zine, Dread Stone Press and Molotov Cocktail. He can be found on Twitter, being encouraging: @StevenPatchett7


The place was still there. Quiet, not even a whisper between the mould-covered walls, not a single footprint on the thick layer of ash covering the floor. The doors were gaping open, tiny rooms full of broken beds lurking behind crumbling coal black frames.

A staircase— once a route to the doctors’ lounge, a room with carved cedar panelling, a tall fireplace and intricate cornicing—now led only to the sky, cloudless, stars vivid and close.

The small bodies buried in the mass grave at the back were so deep within the ground, their cries so muffled, no one could hear.

Hana Carolina

Hana Carolina is a pseudonym of an Edinburgh-based creative and academic writer. Born in Poland, she moved to Scotland and studied literature, film and television for many years. Since then, she’s been working as a tutor, interpreter, researcher, and publishing academically while dreaming of writing dark stories about horrible people. Words in: Five on the Fifth, 100 Words Project, Every Day Fiction, and Crow & Cross Keys. Twitter handle: @HanaCarolinaSCO

The Mirror’s Son

It’s the mouthfeel that gets me. Not the little cuts in my throat, or the way the glass tinkles in my stomach. Not that it never fully breaks down, cuts on the way through my intestines, or when I strain on the toilet.

No, it’s how the shards feel against my tongue, the roof of my mouth, between my teeth. The texture of home.

Mother offers me another serving, heaping tiny dazzling shards onto my plate. She grins, and I catch my reflection in her incisors. I use my sleeve to mop up the blood, trickling from my mouth.

Emma Burnett

Emma Burnett is a recovering academic. She’s big into cats, sports, and being introverted. You can find her @slashnburnett or

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