Trembling With Fear – End Of Summer 2022 Edition

Hello to all of you summer beach bums! I hope you all had an enjoyable couple of months. As the Labor Day holiday has passed in the US, that means it’s time to start decorating for Halloween! I am ready for autumn. This summer has been exceptionally hot in the northwest US. Air conditioning has been my best friend since June, and I barely went outside. It’s been a depressing couple of months for someone who is an avid cyclist and hiker and all-around nature lover. I, for one, am ready to see summer end and usher in the most wonderful time of the year! My house may or may not already be decorated for Halloween at the time of this writing (newsflash: it’s the first week of September and the spooky décor abounds!).

While seeing summer end is a beautiful sight, we cannot allow the season to go without flair in our Horror Tree style! We’re celebrating the end of summer with several deliciously macabre tales and drabbles. Story treats of summer adventures or daily summer life gone wrong with ghosts, serial killers, sharks—oh my! This delightful collection is tastily topped off with candy and cannibalism.

Stay out of the water. Don’t stop at any strange sweet shoppes. Avoid camping in haunted woods. Don’t speak to any hot summer night apparitions.

Stay cool,



Amanda Headlee

Editor, Trembling With Fear

First off, my humblest apologies for this going up late. One of our little hiccups on the editorial changes over at Trembling With Fear, and I should have been making more of a point to have this go live. 

At any rate, another summer has come to an end. It has been kind of a crazy year, and we’re now officially in the season that so many horror writers love – Halloween! Now, we’ve clearly shifted to covering all forms of speculative fiction at the Horror Tree but we grew from our dark roots and that love of the horrifying has grown with the site, so it would be remiss to not mention that the spooky season has begun! 

But before you finish packing away your shorts, sandals, and shades – we do have one last pilgrimage with the sun to share with you as we close out 2022. So please, enjoy our belated Summer Special for 2022! 

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Ghost Stories by Chris Kester

I popped the top off of three cold beers and closed the lid to the ice chest. This was my favorite part of every summer. We worked hard all year in school, and it was time for our annual campout to begin. It was special this time, though. We were seniors now, and no matter how much we tried to act like we could keep the tradition alive, I think we all knew this was the last time we would be doing this. Jimmy choked hard after taking a huge hit from the bong, and I walked up next to him just in time.

“Here, man. Wash it down with this.” I handed him a brew and passed the other one to Mike before taking my seat on the opposite side of the crackling fire. I took a sip and exhaled deeply while looking around the fire at my friends.

“What is it, Aaron, looking for this?” Jimmy smiled as he held up the bong towards me.

“Nah, man. It is just… This is it…  You know? Time for a whole new chapter. You’re going to UT, Mike’s leaving for a college that’s two states away, and I’ll be here at community college.” I took another sip and stared into the burning fire, feeling a bit down after voicing our futures out loud.

 “Well, why don’t we tell some ghost stories for old times’ sake? That’s always been one of our favorite traditions, and we’re right here around the campfire! I know one of you guys has a good one to start. Jimmy?” Mike said.

Jimmy sat the bong down and took a long drink from his beer. He looked pensively toward the fire. “Nah, man. Why don’t one of you guys go first… I’ll sit on it for a minute.”

His reaction struck me as strange. Jimmy seemed so serious and withdrawn with the topic. Usually, he was all for rattling scary stories off left and right. He once swore that it was a ghost who moved the ketchup bottle in his refrigerator and would hear nothing of our claims that it was definitely just a family member.

I decided that I would start, determined to show them that I wasn’t really down in the dumps. “No problem, I think I got a pretty good one. The other night, I woke up to take a leak. I was walking down the hallway when I heard a loud thump from the other room. I stopped in my tracks, and when I did, a cold chill surrounded me. I totally freaked out and ran back to my room without even going to the bathroom.”

Mike laughed. “Oh, come on, Aaron. That noise could have been anything. It was probably your cat.”

“Alright, alright. I’m not gonna lie, the sound was probably Mittens jumping.   But it scared me like crazy, and one of us had to get these stories started, right?” I chuckled and then shot a challenge back at Mike. “Why don’t you go next? Since you’re such a hard-to-please skeptic tonight.”

Mike replied snidely to this with an upturned nose and holding his pinky out off the side of his beer. “Gladly, peasant.”

I motioned a quick jerk with my free hand and responded sarcastically. “Oh, please. Bless us with your incredible stories.”

“Alright, so a few weeks ago, I was at the gym late one night. I was the last one there, and the staff was waiting on me to finish so they could close up. I went to take a quick shower and then heard the water turn on in the stall a few doors down from me.

I was a little freaked out, but I finished up my shower. On my way back to the lockers, I looked under the bottom of the door while walking by. I couldn’t see anybody’s feet, there was nobody there at all, but the shower was running. I was so freaked out, I hurried up and got dressed, and left. I didn’t see another person in the locker room that whole time!”

Now I was the one who was laughing before coming back with a quick-witted response, “Dude, you know that was probably just one of the staff members, right? They probably just went to the other room to use the toilet or something. That story was WEAK!”

Mike looked a little shocked by my statement at first, but then just laughed it off and took a swig of his beer. “Yeah, I guess I didn’t think about that. You’re probably right. What about you, Jimmy?”

Jimmy had been oddly quiet for both of our stories where he just kind of zoned out as opposed to being his usual obnoxious self by interrupting our stories to ask questions or laughing hysterically… 

“Yeah, man. Why are you being so quiet over there? You are usually all into this part of the campout. You okay?” I said, hoping to break him out of his trance-like state.

Jimmy seemed to snap out of it by playing it off like nothing was bothering him.

“Oh yeah, sorry. I was listening. I have just kind of had a bunch of pretty crazy ones this past year. I’m ready to go, though, if you guys don’t have anymore.”

Mike responded before I could make a sarcastic reply. “Oh, you’re really hypin’ it up this year. You must have a good one for us. Come on then, let’s hear it.”

“Ok, well. I’m not really sure where to start. When I lay down to go to sleep, I hear footsteps in the hallway. You guys know it’s just my parents and me, and it’s not like them to be on that side of the house at night.

Sometimes I call out or go look out into the hallway, but no one is ever there… Just the sound of footsteps. And a few times, there has been a loud bang on my door as the footsteps pass by.” He shuddered and looked away as if gathering the strength to continue.

I could see that he was having trouble and asked, “Dude, are you alright? We can do something else, really. It’s no big deal.”

He shook his head and continued. “If I have my bedroom lights on when the footsteps start, they flicker–no matter how new the bulb is. The creepiest of all is that sometimes, when I’m lying down to sleep, I hear whispering in my right ear. 

Sometimes it is my name being said. Other times, there are words being said that are so evil and disgusting that I can’t even repeat it.” 

He sat back and looked at our shocked faces before finishing the story. . “I don’t know if this is related at all, but I’m having the same dream every night. There’s a face right in front of mine. Like they are on top of me in my bed and just staring at me a few inches away…

They don’t blink or move, and the dream seems to last the whole night. It almost reminds me of when I used to get sleep paralysis. Only this is something extremely weird and different.”

I tried to gather myself and not show my shock. 

“Holy shit, dude,” I said. “Are you being serious? I don’t even know what to say to all of that. I probably would have pissed my pants if any one of those things had happened to me.”

“Yeah, man. Wow. I had no idea you had been having all that stuff happen. Why didn’t you ever say anything at school?” Mike said.

Jimmy shook his head. “It’s just kind of weird, you know? Not the usual offhanded topic. Didn’t want people thinking I’m going crazy or something.”

He shoved the bong into Mike’s chest and laughed, trying to lighten the mood.

“Here, bro. I wasn’t trying to kill the mood or anything. We got a long night of partyin’ ahead of us. Aaron, do you still got that chill playlist on your phone?”

I took out my phone and unlocked it but then saw two dreadful words at the top of the screen.

“Damn, no service.” I shoved the phone back in my pocket and turned to Mike as I found it to be my turn in the rotation to hit the bong.

Mike coughed as he said, “I have one downloaded on mine. I thought we’d have no service here..”

As the music played, we were back to talking about the school year, girls, and retelling stories from years past, some going back to when we all first met. It was an incredible time that none of us would ever forget. Before we knew it, the campfire’s flames began to die down along with our stash of beer and weed for the evening.

As usual, I admitted defeat first, and said good night as I stood to head to the tent.  The guys gave me the usual breaking of the balls but were not too far behind me in heading to bed…


I woke to a loud screeching howl. A guttural and animalistic bellowing that sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. Mike sat up in his sleeping bag, and between us lay the empty sleeping bag of Jimmy.

I looked at Mike. “Shit man, is Jimmy out there?. What if he went to take a piss, and whatever’s out there is about to get him?”

Mike rummaged in his bag and pulled out a large hunting knife along with a couple of flashlights. He handed me one of the flashlights and crawled out of his sleeping bag. 

“Follow me, dude, hopefully, with the two of us running up on it, the thing will just run away.”

My heart pounded in my chest, but I nodded to him and followed right behind. There was no way around it. We had to find our friend.

When we stepped outside, we only heard the wind rustling through the trees. The campfire had snuffed out to nothing more than an ashen pile of charred wood. With the new moon, the only light within the complete darkness of the woods were our two flashlights skimming the trees.

Mike called out, “Jimmy! Where are you?”

We walked further from the campsite toward where we thought the terrible sound had come from, when the path of our flashlights shone on something I’ll never be able to forget. 

Jimmy lay on the ground before us, but he wasn’t right. His eyes were rolled back into his head, and his face had drained of all color. The smell of rotten eggs filled the night air.  His entire body violently shook, but his eyes soon righted, and when his gaze met my own, he cocked his head and let out a violent shriek.

The screech was the same that Mike and I heard while in the tent. The sound that tore from Jimmy’s throat was incredibly inhuman and made my blood run cold. In that instant, Jimmy jumped to his feet and dashed to the side with an unnatural speed away from the light of our flashlights.

“Oh my God, dude. What is wrong with him?” I whispered to Mike. The panic evident in my voice…


“I don’t know, man. Let’s find him, but be ready in case he comes at us..” He tried to sound confident, but his voice shook as much as my own. 

“You can’t do that, man. He’s obviously sick or something. We have to get him help. Maybe we can just take him down and tie him up or something?” I couldn’t bring myself to attack Jimmy–even if it might be in defense.

Mike held the knife in his hand, ready to strike should Jimmy suddenly appear. “Sick? Fucking sick? Really? Did you see how fast he moved? Did that look like he was sick?”

A branch cracked off to our left, and we jumped to face the sound. Mike casted his flashlight across the trees.  Jimmy stepped out from the trees, his eyes reflected in the light of the flashlights. The voice that came from his mouth wasn’t his own but two-toned–one shrill that sounded like the scratching of metal against metal. The other tone, deep and sinister sounding. The timber reverberated in my bones, and I swore the ground beneath my feet shook.

  “Your friend is ours, and once we are done with him, we shall be coming for you two next.”

Jimmy let out another ear-shattering howl and took off into the night. Mike and I stood there shaking. Neither of us spoke about what we had just witnessed. 

After I shook off my fear and was sure we were alone, I grabbed Mike’s hand. Wordlessly, we returned to the campsite. Mike stood with his back to the tent while I added wood to the firepit and relit the fire.

Once the flames were stoked, we said nothing to each other and just stared into the flames. There seemed to be a silent agreement between us that we were not about to traipse through the woods in the middle of the night back to the car. Nor were either of us going to sleep. We felt safer facing each other by the fire. 


The moment the sun’s light poked through the trees, we packed up camp, including Jimmy’s things and headed toward the car. Mike led the way, his hunting knife in his hands at the ready. 

We had cellular signal at the car and immediately phoned the cops for help, followed by our parents. Then Jimmy’s parents. The police did not believe our stories for a second. Our parents tried to be supportive, but we could see in their eyes that they felt the same. Jimmy’s parents were devastated for obvious reasons, and we did our best to assure them that we would be able to find him. He had to be in those woods somewhere, right? Although, I felt that they might have seen through to our disbelief the same way that we had seen through our parents.

The police found beer bottles and traces of marijuana at the campsite. That was all they needed to mark this one off as some kids getting all high and crazy in the woods. It completely discredited anything that we tried to tell them about what actually happened. Our parents were disappointed as well, and everyone started to think that he must have wandered off after getting too messed up and became lost.

The search went on for weeks. Jimmy’s parents put up fliers and went with the police to comb the woods for as long as they would let them.  

After a while, we all just kind of kept going on–without Jimmy. For Mike and I, we operated the next few years on autopilot with a hole in our heart where Jimmy was missing.

I’ve heard that these things never really go away. These experiences stay buried deep within you until something brings it back into your mind, and it’s like you’re reliving the situation all over again. There is truth to that. Jimmy was a brother to Mike and me. We were inseparable since Middle school. Things just haven’t been the same since our senior year when he disappeared. 

While losing Jimmy was hard to deal with, constantly remembering his final words is much harder to handle. Those words. The last words we ever heard him say haunt Mike and me. We live in constant fear of what will happen to us when they are done with Jimmy. 

I’m beginning to think that my time is coming much sooner than I anticipated. Every night this week, I’ve heard footsteps in the hallway. The lights have been flickering, and from time to time, the footsteps stop by my door, and it shakes with a loud bang. Last night I had the same fucked up dream that Jimmy described, and I kept waking up with whispering in my ear.

I called Mike to tell him the only thing I could think of to say. I held the phone in my hand, and as he answered, my voice cracked. “I’m next.”

C.D. Kesteris

C. D.Kesteris an author of fiction who does most of his work in the horror genre. He lives in Houston, Texas with his wife and two children. His first self-published work is a novella titled The Bunker. He also had a short story published in Dreadful Nostalgia: Tavistock Galleria 2 and a drabble in the Route 13 Anthology. Kester is currently working on his first full length novel about a supernatural entity that is tormenting a town in Texas. You can follow him on his blog at and twitter @cd_kester ( / Instagram @cdkester (

Buzzing by Dave Musson

“By the way,” Helen said, “don’t worry about the little dish of vinegar I’ve left out on the worktop – I’m trying to catch and drown the flies, it seemed to work last summer.”

“Good idea,” said Harriet, flapping her hand in front of her face as she did, “they’re so annoying at the moment.”

“Tell me about it, it’s definitely that time of year – hopefully the vinegar will work again.”

They were easily the worst thing about summer; the flies. Take those little bastards away and there was next to nothing for Helen and Harriet to complain about – their kitchen/diner with the big sliding doors that flooded the place with light and connected them to their small but much-loved garden, the thick tiles on the floor that kept cool no matter how hot it got, and the fact that they were both teachers, so had at least a few weeks where they didn’t have to worry about work.

Those flies, though. They were annoying little black clouds on an otherwise six-week silver lining. Once it had been warm for a couple of weeks in a row, they would show up, and would generally stick around until September.

They seemed to be particularly bad this summer – not surprising given it wasn’t even half-past August and there had already been two heat waves. The hot weather had burned woodland, devastated reservoirs, and supercharged the fly population. 

Helen and Harriet had gotten used to dealing with a few of them when it got warmer – it seemed unavoidable – but they’d never faced so many so early in the holiday. Based on previous years, they were in for, at best, a frustrating few weeks. It always seemed to be that, for every buzzing critter they killed, two more appeared in its place shortly after – a production line that had only been accelerated by this year’s hot spells. Thanks, climate change.

And, well, those flies were more interested in the humans of the household this time around too. Or, at least, that’s how it seemed to Helen anyway. Previously, she and Harriet had just been obstacles between the flies and the food they’d zoned in on. This year, though, it felt like the flies had their sights elsewhere.

Usually, they clustered around the food waste bin – understandably, especially during the peak time of year for nectarines, strawberries and other sticky treats – but now, it was like they were hiding until someone walked into the kitchen before buzzing onto that person’s shoulder, arm, or face.

That was the worst – when they got in your face. It felt like a violation, and you simply never felt clean again all day.

Still, at least Helen and Harriet had a vinegar trap now – good old cider vinegar, great for everything it seemed. Sore throat? Cider vinegar. Managing blood sugar? Cider vinegar. Trying to lose weight? Cider weight. And, it seemed, catching and drowning unwanted and uninvited guests in your kitchen – cider vinegar, with a small drop of washing up liquid on top.

Over the next couple of days, the vinegar caught a few flies – mainly the small fruit ones – but the really annoying and somewhat larger ones seemed wise to Helen’s plan.

They also seemed to have grown in number again – almost in response to the trap set out to claim their lives by drowning them in acid.

“Maybe you should get a zapper like your dad has – one of those electrified tennis racquets,” said Harriet, squinting and dodging the little aerial terrorists with quick jerks of her head, “I can’t take much more of these fuckers.”

“I will do,” said Helen, “at least it’s going to be cooler this week, hopefully some of them will buzz off.”

As it happens, the flies were less active in that week of cooler weather. So much so that Helen didn’t bother with a zapper. She thought they’d finally reached that point of the summer when, just as magically as the flies appeared, they were gone.

She was wrong.

On the morning it all blew up in their faces, it was hot again – another heatwave to blast the country before summer was done. Helen and Harriet were both sitting in the kitchen, already swelteringly hot before 7.30am, blearily drinking a coffee before it became unbearable to do so.

They were talking, and crunching their cereal. They didn’t hear the buzzing from the food waste bin, or see it trembling. They had no idea just how many flies had made their way here, angry at the attempt on their lives, and furious at those already killed.

When Helen dumped the skin from the banana she’d sliced over her corn flakes though, they found out.

The thousands of flies hidden in the food waste basket swarmed up, out and covered Helen’s entire head. The buzzing was like a chainsaw in extreme close-up, and the skin on Helen’s face was decimated in no time at all. There was barely any chance for Helen to bleed, the buzzing black mass was too busy biting, sucking and devouring. There was chance for Helen to hear – and feel – her own skin being eaten though. 

Seconds later, Helen hit the floor. She was dead.

Harriet bolted to the back door in a vain attempt to escape, but it was no good. The key wasn’t in the lock for the beautiful sliding glass door, and by the time she realised why the handle wasn’t budging the flies had found her. She died in a cloud of tiny black buzzing things that started on her face, stripping it clean with ease, before pulsing and throbbing down her throat, over her shoulders, and then onto her chest.

Five minutes later, the flies had disappeared and the kitchen/diner was quiet and still. Not even two dead bodies could tempt them to stay – they’d done their job. The summer was over and it was time for them to go back to wherever it was they came from.


Dave Musson

Dave Musson is a glasses-wearing, bearded human being from the middle of England who likes heavy music with loud guitars, watching rugby league, and reading creepy stories. He has more hobbies than he should really have time for; playing in a band, hosting a bunch of podcasts, writing, running regular Stephen King quizzes online, and running a Stephen King-themed YouTube channel. Dave lives at home with his wife, sons, and annoying dog – he made his debut as a published fiction writer in 2021's Welcome to the Funhouse, from Blood Rites. He was also a finalist in the Bellingham Review’s 2022 Tobias Wolff Prize for Fiction, and has been published on The Horror Tree.
Instagram: @davemusson

Amazon author page:

Goodreads author page:

Warning: Dangerous Path by Daniel R Robichaud

Kimiko glanced once more over her shoulder. Tears made a blur of the running trail. Apart from her own heavy breathing, fast footfalls, and speedy heartbeats, Kimiko heard the soft whisper of a woodland breeze and the crunch of boots upon gravel. 

She did not need to see his shadow or catch the glint of the summer sun on his hunting knife to know the maniac was coming. He was going to take that serrated blade to her throat just like he did the young man with the mesh shirt when she encountered them. 

That trail curved around a rocky rise. Scrubby pine saplings topped that rise, and a steep drop to the left would have been impossible to climb down with either speed or relative safety. The mountain was nigh-impossible to hike with the proper gear. Her shorts and running shoes were made for jogging, not off-roading. 

She caught her breath, mind racing with frantic plans and worries. It was a mile back to the Broken Brain Mountains ranches. She could have made it no sweat if she had not been pushing herself so hard this morning. Her legs were on the verge of cramping.

Crunch-crunch-crunch. Here came the maniac! Not a leisurely walk, but a steady hike.

Kimiko bit down on the scream that threatened to force its way from her mouth. It would have been a useless effort. What could she say to make him leave her alone? Nothing. She hurried on, quick as she could. 

Ahead waited a gate she passed earlier without taking much notice of. It was a rickety-looking construction, three logs lashed together. Hanging across the front, a hand-painted sign advised:




Well, it can’t be half as dangerous as the creep behind me.

Kimiko stared at the overgrown trail the fence protected. It seemed all right—a reddish hue soil cut through the wilderness like the one she’d been jogging. Occasional boots or belts or clothing lay strewn along the trail: Remnants of childish pranks or the world’s strangest litter. Nothing screamed DANGEROUS. 

Crunch-crunch-crunch. Well, nothing but that.

Kimiko stepped over the gate. Splinters scratched her thighs, but then she was on the other side and hustling away, her shoes kicking down weeds and pumping against the dirt.

Without warning, her feet went out from under her. Actually, the ground she raced across dropped down almost six inches, vanishing from beneath her stepping foot and pitching her face first into red grit and gravel. Impact brought a dull crack and a flood of fresh pain from her right hip. Something broke. She clawed at the leg, unable to keep the scream locked contained anymore. It emerged like a ghostly wail, a distant siren.


The crazy bastard’s shape appeared at the gate. Kimiko scowled as he stepped over. 

The psycho was a tall, stark-looking man with leathery skin, and a raven black dye job. He wore his sleeves rolled up to the elbows to show off the hairiest arms she’d ever seen on a human being. His workman’s gloves were wet with the dead man’s blood. Gory patches dotted his gray workman’s coveralls like badges of honor. He wore an impassive expression, neither happy nor sad. He could have been a plumber getting to the next job.

Kimiko sat amongst rocks galore. She plucked one up and whipped it. Her softball skills were not the best, but she pitched whole games without walking batters. The first stone hit the killer in the chest. He paused. The second rebounded off his eye, and he lost all composure. His face contorted with fury, and he burst into a run—

Only to have the ground drop out from under him, too. 

Kimiko saw the earth contract, falling like the chest on an animal that stopped holding its breath. The freak was no more prepared for the shift than she had been. He also landed to the music of snapping bone. Not the hip; this came from somewhere closer to the foot. 

Kimiko blinked in disbelief.

Stones jutted from the red soil like bared teeth between parted lips. They clamped together around his ankle, biting through flesh and bone in a single snap. Hunting knife fell away. The killer stared at his leg stump with surprise. Whether his capacity for terror existed or not was debatable, but he did not have time to indulge such a sensation. The rocky teeth opened and closed once more, gobbling him whole.

Kimiko’s jaw dropped. Her mind raced, telling her to get up, to go. To get away from this place. Up she went and then dropped when the pain in her hip flared hotter than a supernova. She tried another time and collapsed in time for the earth to open another pocket over where the freak went down. The sound of released gasses, not dissimilar to a belch, preceded the ejection of a pair of gore-soaked work gloves. These joined the mess of discarded clothes littering the trail.

The ground now shifted beneath Kimiko. She howled, struggled to her feet, found her balance, and then a hole opened beneath her. She almost went in but kicked off against the wall. Fell. Clawed forward. Kicked up onto her feet. Hobbled as quickly as she could. The gate waited ahead. It beckoned. Teased.

The trail disappeared, yawning wide.

It played her. Used her to pull in the freak. Without another freak to lure, she was next in line.

“Hey!” she called, waving at the empty gate as though someone was over there. Desperate times, desperate measures, mother of invention, and all those other clichés. “Help! The ground is bad here!”

The earth ceased its chomping. She dragged herself up, shrieking for a nonexistent someone to get over here and help. The path seemed honestly puzzled. Did it have eyes, or did it rely on innate seismic sensing? Who cared so long as she could get away?

“Sure,” she called, “I will try to meet you halfway.” The ground rumbled, displeased. “But you need to get your ass in here and help.” The rumbling ceased. The maw sealed.

Did the ground understand her words? Or did it derive meaning from vocal tremors, from movements?

She made it to the gate, and its warning sign before a tremor in the earth sent her backwards onto her rear. No matter how much she tried, she could not get up. “Help me,” she pleaded with her imaginary friend.

Then, someone really did appear. A slim-looking guy wearing a park ranger uniform and a pair of mirrored shades astride an ATV pulled around the bend. Connected to the back of his ride was a wagon, which held the remains of the guy the psycho slashed. 

“Help me, Mister! This path is dangerous!”

“What are you—?” He gaped at her. “Ah, hell, ma’am, I’m sorry. But you saw my sign, didn’t you?”

“I was being chased—”

He shook his head. “Well, I’m sorry as hell, but that doesn’t matter. You crossed the line.” He dragged the corpse from the wagon, carried it to the gate. “We can’t be pulling dimwits out of there if we don’t want it roaming farther afield.”

The stranger dropped the corpse onto the ground, and announced, “All clear.” The earth promptly opened up and gobbled the offering. 

Then, the stranger wiped infinitesimal specks of grit from the sign, muttering how people needed to be aware that this was dangerous ground. If they didn’t heed the warning, well, that was on them.

“That’s so not fair—!”

A fresh mouth spread in the soil beneath Kimiko. As she went down into the chattering stone teeth, down amidst the gnawed bones and gobbled remains, her brain formulated a joke about some paths being way scarier psychos than actual human psychopaths. She did not formulate an actual punchline before her ticket got punched, however.

Later, the earth belched up her shoes. They joined the gloves, each containing the pulped residue of meat and bone. Time, heat, insects, and the elements would remove these.

Daniel R Robichaud

Daniel R. Robichaud is a bisexual writer living in Humble, Texas. His fiction has been collected in Hauntings & Happenstances: Autumn Stories as well as Gathered Flowers, Stones, and Bones: Fabulist Tales, both from Twice Told Tales Press. He writes weekly reviews of film and fiction at the Considering Stories ( website. Keep up with him on Twitter (@DarkTowhead) or Facebook (

Flight by Zakariah Johnson

The low-slung car chugged over the state line on its ruined suspension, engine louder than a lawn mower, oil pan barely clearing the balls of hail strewn like polka-dots over the black highway. 

“They’re big as grapefruit,” said the woman driving.

The boy in the back seat wasn’t sure what a grapefruit was, but said nothing. He’d unbuckled his seat belt and rested on his knees to see out the rear passenger-side window. The car was older than he was, the only vehicle he’d ever been in besides the school bus and his daddy’s truck. The “Welcome to Indiana” sign along the highway hung sideways by a single bolt from a mass of twisted steel posts. The actual welcome center behind it was still smoldering where the tornado had leveled it. Cars with their hazards on were parked at random intervals along both sides of the road, most drivers staying put inside them. A few groups had fled their cars entirely and were sheltering in the ditches between the highway and the farmland beyond them. 

The mother and child drove under an overpass where a trio of motorcyclists were sheltering. Past the overpass, the boy gazed again at the endless fields of flattened corn; thick, green stalks snapped in half, the bent lower ends jutting from the ground like the arms of giant, dead insects. The boy turned and knee-walked to the opposite window behind the driver to confirm the destruction he saw encompassed the whole world.

“Buckle up, little man,” his mother said, but he ignored her and she didn’t press it. Instead, she shoved in the lighter under the CD player to heat it up—one benefit of an old-model car. When it popped out, she cracked her window and lit a fresh cigarette. The smoke blowing backwards made the boy’s nose tickle, so he moved back to the other side and fastened his seat belt across him. They passed a collection of tornado-ruined buildings, one painted red.

“That’s a big house,” he said.

“That’s barn, sweetie,” said his momma. 

“What’s a barn?”

“A house for cows and horses.”

“Will there be cows at grandma’s?” 

“No. She’s got something better though—two goats!”

The boy had never seen a goat, but he took her word for it they were better than cows. He hadn’t the experience yet to doubt anything she told him.

“Will Daddy be there?”  he asked. The woman didn’t answer right away. She drove around a piece of twisted wreckage on the road, then rolled down her window enough flick away the cigarette butt, then cranked the handle to raise the window again. 


“No, sweetie,” she said. “Daddy won’t be there.”

Hearing that, the boy relaxed a bit. He popped his thumb in his mouth and looked out the side window again. Through the corn he saw a flitting of white. First one, then two more, three! Then suddenly more than he could count.

“Momma, look at the deer! Why are they running so fast?”

“What?” She glanced out the side window toward the field just as two small herds morphed into one as dozens of storm-shocked animals bounded through the razed and broken cornstalks. Another trio of deer seemed to materialize on highway in front of her and she stomped the brakes and swerved to avoid them.

The boy grabbed the strap over the window to hold himself but still slammed against the inside panel with a thud as the car fishtailed. He saw his mother jerk her head around to check on him, then her eyes bulge in fear at something she saw behind them. 

“Hang on, baby!” she yelled, as she twisted back around and the car lurched forward with a sudden engine whine.

The boy used the chicken strap to lift himself up and crane his head to see out the back window. Right on their tail, he caught a glimpse of the driver’s snarling face under a ballcap just before the truck rammed into their back bumper. The little car lifted off the ground and the boy slammed into the seat in front of him. Untwisting himself from the tangled seat belt, he saw his mother wipe a bleeding cut on her forehead as she clutched the steering wheel. 

Back on his knees, he twisted again to look out the back, making eye contact with the enraged man behind them as the truck drew forward and bumped them again.

“Buckle up, now!” his mother screamed as the car veered sideways before straightening out. He heard a scraping sound as the undercarriage dragged the road going over a dip, jostling him as he struggled to get the buckle back into the slot. The day grew suddenly darker and the engine rattle he associated with car travel was overwhelmed by a roar from outside. Anticipating another blow from the truck, he grasped the chicken handle and looked out the window just as the herd of deer in the field beside him became airborne and the funnel cloud lifted them over the road. “Momma—”

He heard a high-pitched screech and at once their car was spinning, then throwing up twin jets of dirt on both sides as it plowed to a stop through the grassy verge dividing the east- and west-bound lanes as two deer landed in the road, one bouncing high, then landing again, its stomach bursting on impact, viscera shooting out like ribbons as the second came down head first, its neck bending back so its head touched its body as it hit and spread its insides over the highway. Another fell, then another, a rain of dozens of whitetails thudding and breaking apart on the road, on the shoulder, in the grass around them. The boy saw one struggling to rise on broken back legs, eyes bulging, tongue extended. He imagined its screams though he could only hear the roar of the wind as the air circled above them. More fell around them, two in the road, another in the ditch from which it raced up the side through the maze of twitching, shuddering carcasses, leaping the fence to the cornfield. His mother screeched again as another deer glanced off the hood of their stalled car. The wind stopped howling as two more fell into the road with a sound like water balloons hitting their driveway back in Pennsylvania. Then came a stretch of silence before the final sound of shattering glass. 

The woman and boy remained silent together as they watched the surviving deer struggle to regain their footing, some dragging themselves off the road by a single limb or two, others panting where they lay, others unmoving, others beyond recognition as deer by anyone who hadn’t seen them raining into the ground. After several minutes the sun came out. 

“Stay here, baby,” said the woman.

As his mother exited the car, he saw her lift a tire iron from between her seat and the driver’s door and hold it hidden flat against her arm. He looked out the back window as she walked toward the pursuing truck, which was stopped sideways in the road roughly four car lengths behind them. A living deer had penetrated the windshield of the truck and struggled to free itself from the cab. The boy watched as his mother looked in the driver’s-side window of the cab and drew her hand suddenly to her mouth. She glanced briefly back towards him then put her hands on her hips and stared at the struggling doe. Finally, she dropped the tire iron in the road and walked up to the animal. Pushing its head out of the way, she grasped the animal around the shoulders and yanked until it came free of the cab. Mother and doe fell into the road, then the deer jumped up and bounded away. His mother pushed herself up on one arm to watch it run. Then she picked up the tire iron and got back in the car.

“Buckle up, sweetie,” she said. “We’ll be at grandma’s in an hour.”

The boy looked back at the ruined pickup truck for a few moments, then turned toward the field, more interested in the fate of the rescued deer than in the fate of his father in the truck, a man against whom his child’s mind was already beginning to protect him by forgetting.



Zakariah Johnson


Zakariah Johnson pens horror, thrillers, and crime fiction on the banks of the Piscataqua. His recent work has been published in the anthologies “It Came from the Swamp: A Cryptid Anthology” (Malarkey Books 2022) and the Anthony-Award-nominated “Under the Thumb: Stories of Police Oppression” (Rock and a Hard Place Press 2021). Follow him @Pteraton on Twitter.

My Amazon page: Zakariah Johnson: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Summer Camp

The last night at summer camp was always eagerly anticipated by the campers. Many of the activities taught by the counselors throughout the week-long camp paled in comparison to the last night’s final event. 

Diet restrictions class, boring.

Avoiding distractions seminar, everyone always felt that it wouldn’t apply to them.

Pottery, total waste of time.

The moment had arrived, the camp director stepped out of the dark woods and gestured across the lake to the human camp. “Time for you little monsters to have your hunt. Be sure when you return to pick up your ceramics before you head home.”

Don Money

Don Money enjoys writing short fiction in a variety of genres. He is a middle school teacher and has stories published in two anthologies. He can be found on Twitter @donmoneywriting or through email- [email protected].

Sinister Shallows

Summery dusk paints Sydney Harbor gray.  Gray sky, gray water.  A storm brews. 


On the beach, a woman steps in, only knee deep.  A child, building a castle, watches, waves his spade.


Cool water brushes hot skin.  She luxuriates in the moment.


Another step.  Up to her thighs.  Her senses tingle pleasurably.  


A gray fin flashes.  The child drops his spade.


Two hundred and ninety pounds of power, eight feet long, strikes.  The immense bite force hacks straight to the bone, stains the shallows crimson.


The tiger shark carries her out.  


The child cries: “The shark got the pretty lady!”

Mike Rader

Mike Rader is a pseudonym used by Australian author and poet James Aitchison.  As J J Munro and Mike Rader, Aitchison writes horror and noir crime.  As James Lee, he writes Asia’s biggest selling horror series for middle readers — Mr Midnight — which has sold over three million copies. His work can be seen at

All Eyes on Me

Stanley slathered on sunscreen. He hadn’t bathed shirtless in years, but he joined a gym weeks ago. Everyone warned results take months, but he noticed gains when flexing.

Looking past his arms, he spotted a bikini-clad woman staring. Stanley smiled. Finally, attention!

Stanley chugged a soda, noticing every swimmer silently watching him flex.

He looked back at Bikini and flinched. She had noiselessly advanced six feet. Stanley’s heart jackhammered. He turned to see every swimmer now ambling towards him on the beach. A breath, Stanley knew belonged to Bikini, tickled his ear. He closed his tear-filled eyes. No more attention.

Ryan Benson

Ryan Benson resides outside of Atlanta, GA, USA with his wife and children. Ryan keeps himself busy writing short fiction stories and his first novel. Trembling With Fear (Horror Tree), On Spec Magazine, Night Terrors Vol. 1 (Scare Street), The Sirens Call Publications, and TERSE Journal have published his work.

Just Keep Digging

Sitting on the beach among golden sand, I watch the crystalline waves. Spade in hand, child-like, I fill my bucket with tiny grains. Digging down, deeper, filling the bucket until it overflows—and yet I keep digging.

The sun beats down on the back of my neck, skin burning red in the heat—it will blister—and yet I keep digging. Deeper.

My spade strikes something solid. I look down—Could it be buried treasure?

Excitement flees, leaving only cold terror, as I move the sand aside and find a face staring sightlessly up at me.

A face the mirror image of my own.

Leon Lavendar

Leon Lavender is a non binary trans masculine writer and artist from the UK. Their work focuses on reinterpreting common tropes, often with a queer spin. In both writing and in art they are fascinated by what it means to be a monster, what it means to be human, and the line in between. You can find their writing in Ghost Orchid Press’s ‘Cosmos’ and ‘Rock Band’ Hundred Word Horror anthologies, and their work in other mediums on their Instagram and Twitter.


“Denver, nothing beats your grilling, what’s your secret?” Thomas inquired.

“Just an old family recipe,” Denver artfully dodged.

“Crazy how many people have moved away,” Thomas continued. “Your get-togethers once turned out the entire neighborhood. Now it is just down to our two families.”

Denver looked over to Thomas reclining in the lawn chair, “Funny thing about that, it looks like I can get enough supplies for one more cookout then my family will also be moving.”

“That’s too bad. Our family wouldn’t miss the last cookout for anything,” Thomas said.

“You don’t have to worry about that,” Denver smiled.

Don Money

Don Money enjoys writing short fiction in a variety of genres. He is a middle school teacher and has stories published in two anthologies. He can be found on Twitter @donmoneywriting or through email- [email protected].

The Night Creeper of Santa Cruz

Summer, and tourists flock to Tenerife.  Jorge Morales was there too.  Not as a sunseeker but a strangler.


The police tracked his crimes over ten years.  His identity was a mystery but they told the public they were closing in.


Jorge scanned the headlines, and with a scornful laugh, headed outside.


The sun dipped below the waterline as Jorge selected his next girl.  Briony McAlister.  She was still on the beach, alone, asleep.  A fatal mistake.


She woke to his friendly face, his invitation for dinner.  Why not, she thought.  And the police again would claim to be closing in…


Mike Rader

Mike Rader is a pseudonym used by Australian author and poet James Aitchison.  As J J Munro and Mike Rader, Aitchison writes horror and noir crime.  As James Lee, he writes Asia’s biggest selling horror series for middle readers — Mr Midnight — which has sold over three million copies. His work can be seen at

The Cruellest Cut

The beaches are a taste of paradise on New Caledonia, that faraway French colony in the Pacific.

The sharks, however, are a protected species.  


I took my mistress Eloise to the beach at dawn, crushed her skull, and quietly dismembered her with jagged cuts. 


I loaded her bloodied chunks into my canoe, took them out onto the bay, started dropping them overboard.  


The sharks became so frenzied I overbalanced.  I was screaming, thrashing in their midst, when the police cruiser saved me — but non!  


Gun in hand, an officer demanded, “Monsieur, why are there human body parts in your canoe?” 


JJ Munro

JJ Munro is a pseudonym used by Australian author and poet James Aitchison. As JJ Munro and Mike Rader, Aitchison writes horror and noir crime. As James Lee, he writes Asia’s biggest selling horror series for middle readers — Mr Midnight — which has sold over three million copies. His work can be seen at

What Lies Beneath

The panic spread up and down the beach, something was in the water. Swimmers and surfers fled to the safety of the sand. 

A man flying a drone with a camera over the surf yelled, “It isn’t a shark, it is something bigger. There are multiple things in the water!”

Tentacles shot out from under the surface, dozens of them snatching ahold of people and dragging them in. People tried to flee further from the water’s edge, but more and more were taken.

For centuries, the ocean had taken the worst from us. Now, it would take all of us.

Don Money

Don Money enjoys writing short fiction in a variety of genres. He is a middle school teacher and has stories published in two anthologies. He can be found on Twitter @donmoneywriting or through email- [email protected].

Sleep Away

“Nighttime’s scary.” Shawn hung from the top bunk. “Gotta be careful.”

On the bottom bunk, Gus gripped his pillow. “But everyone’s so nice. Except the counselors whispering behind my back.” 

“They want us dead, silly.” Shawn jumped down. “Last week Joey disappeared. He’d never run away!”

“What now?”

Shawn unrolled a blanket full of weapons, grabbing a hatchet. “Tonight, or never.” 

Gus tentatively selected a small knife. “Let’s escape.”

Shawn bolted from their hut to the counselors’ cabin, disappearing inside. 

Puzzled, Gus followed, but remained outside. “Shawn!”

Shrieks filled the night. Shawn emerged, covered in blood. “Tonight, or never, Gus.”

Ryan Benson

Ryan Benson resides outside of Atlanta, GA, USA with his wife and children. Ryan keeps himself busy writing short fiction stories and his first novel. Trembling With Fear (Horror Tree), On Spec Magazine, Night Terrors Vol. 1 (Scare Street), The Sirens Call Publications, and TERSE Journal have published his work.

You may also like...