The pain has become a good friend at this point, as the weeks have spiraled seamlessly into months. The burning edge on my nerves has become the peripheral of my normal, the baseline of my perception.

It hurts. It has hurt. It always hurts. Perhaps, it will always hurt.

The pain swallows the time, devouring the days whole spent cringing, wincing, and compensating. I do not even remember what it is like to stand up without a grimace or sneeze without a high-pitched whimper. The injury has become part of me; defeat is an adaptation.

The pain burns so vividly. As if my hamstring is being peeled from my pelvis and out the back of my leg in a long bloody line, the tendon quivering like a strummed guitar string. As if boiling water is pouring down the back of my leg in a terrible waterfall that pools prickling in my foot. The fire encapsulates my entire hip before dripping and flowing down my leg until my toes are tingling and my knee buckles. The intensity washes my nerves so blindingly that my entire body seizes involuntarily around the sensation, igniting more angry points of pain.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Strangled breaths shoved from pursed lips. Desperate gasps outside my body.

Until the wave passes. Until the pain recedes back into the injury and the temporary paralysis of it releases.

The pain is always there, always on the edge of the incoming signals to my brain. Any movement can anger the beast. It lies in wait when I sit, exploding upon me when I dare to stand. It coils in my trunk, spiraling out into my limbs when I lean at the wrong angle or look the wrong way. It fractures the world when I sneeze.

The problem is at my root, reaching diseased branches up through my body before forming a sharp nest in my brain. The barbs and edges interfere with the neural firing, deform my reactions and perceptions, warp my personality as it has to arch and bend around the intruder. I would recognize my words and actions as foreign, if I can see anything but the pain. I only know that everything incoming stimuli is now an irritation. It all just adds to the cut of the pain.

I feel trapped within my own damaged body. My bones, wrapped in frayed nerves, form my cage, bind me in the ever-whining flesh. Each flare of pain, each restriction of movement is another barred door between me and functionality. I crave the freedom to move without thought and consequence. I want to just exist, able to do the things I want. I find myself obsessed with healing, with the idea of the other side of this injury. I fantasize about when I am all back to normal again, yet every day without improvement is just a punch in that fixation.

The confined and claustrophobic feeling in my chest tangles and dances with the physical experience of the pain. The two marry and breed into something larger and something darker, something with teeth and fangs that sets upon my mind.  I feel the hot and angry tears escape from my eyes as all the sharp points sink into the soft parts of me. I ugly cry with abandon and despair.

So I run. Literally. And I dance. And I workout like nothing is wrong, adapting and compensating around the injury. Flinching silently, breathing through it, adjusting the movement. It hurts less when I move, or so I tell myself as the endorphins reduce the size of my assailant. I take any escape when my body is quiet and my mind can process any other sensation.

Yet the pain does not relent. When the movement stops, it flares back into place.

Overnight, it changed. Consistently uncomfortable had become tolerable; flashes of pain at movement had become normal. I had packed my life up around the problem and made it work. Then I went to sleep.

With each restless turn, it felt worse. The pain spread deeper over my lethargic muscles. More angles had sharp edges or ignited the fire under my flesh. I found the one neutral position, face down with straight and immobile legs, and I sheltered in it for sleep.

When I did wake, I floundered in the pain. It overwhelmed me, blinded me, surged up over me until I could not move. I struggled to roll over to slam into my limitation. I clawed to sit up and discovered the pain formed a wall to prevent me. I could not move, and when that realization broke upon my mind, I felt the panic bloom in my chest and spread like wildfire over my nerves.

Through a flurry of whimpering and straining, I wrangled myself up from the bed, even to standing unsteadily. Yet when my body unfolded completely upright, there was the pain again. At its highest peak. I clawed at the texture of the paint on the walls as I started to collapse under its weight. My leg was too weak to stand against it.

My husband gathered me, sobbing panicked and disheartened. He dressed me and iced my leg and consoled me until I could move again. Then he mocked me mercilessly to make me smile.

The pain recedes and leaves me washed up on the original shore, still holding my hand like that constant friend.

As some of you may recall, I recently talked at a couple schools about writing. It started out innocently enough, just volunteering at my daughter’s school as part of their readathon and helping out a friend teaching Technical Writing for the first year. Then a teacher with whom I often share the zumba dance floor heard about it and asked if I would speak to her class too.

I agreed, of course, thinking talking to another high school class would be easy. Especially talking about horror writing versus technical writing. The middle school aged group had gone so well, been so engaged and fun, that I was willing to try again. Plus my editor always insists that any promotion or publicity is good. After all, I thought it was just one more class.

Oh, no. No no no.

At some point between the request and fulfilment, it became like a real thing. By the time we were finalizing details, I was slated to speak in an auditorium all seven periods of the day, talking to 29 classes totalling about 900 students.

Insert my utter panic.

I am not entirely sure why I was so intimidated. I definitely do not enjoy public speaking; I do not have any particular talent for it. It makes me nervous to stand up in front of a group but nothing close to anxiety. I got over it every time I had to stand up in front of soldiers to train them, even when I had no idea what I was talking about.

The auditorium, the size of the audience, and the multiple speeches surely upped the ante, but as scary as they could be, these were all good things.

So, like a true writer, I gooogled the word count I needed for a thirty minute speech, and I wrote the entire thing out. I showed up at the high school, my nerves vibrating under my skin, with my entire speech printed. I even wrote it in my speaking voice rather than my writing voice (because they are very different).

The teachers were overwhelmingly welcoming. They were genuinely excited to have me there and have me speaking, and that felt amazing. I began to tell myself I could do this; I was going to do this. Under my nerves, I knew the itching anxious feeling was normal, part of it that would pass.

It was intimidating up on that stage, under those lights. My husband mocked me beforehand, saying I could not possibly be jittered over talking to some high schoolers when I have belly danced in front of hundreds of people over the years. Speaking has always just been so different from dance, a different part of the brain and my emotions. Plus, I think I am better at dancing than public speaking (it would not be hard).

That first period was rough. I clung to my printed speech like my life depended on it. I awkwardly paced the stage like a sedated jungle cat. I lived for the cough drop keeping my ill throat lubricated.

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But I made it.

I kept my speech rather basic. I introduced myself, explained I was a horror writer there to talk about writing. I started with how I was inspired to write in elementary school and sort of chronologically walked through my writing career. At this point, I could see the gaping yawns and bobbling heads.

Then my speech took a hard turn. I pulled out my battle with depression, my failed suicide attempt, my bipolar diagnosis, How to Kill Yourself Slowly. Then I suddenly had their attention. I could almost gauge the shock when my narrative changed–sort of, did she really just say that? Is she really talking about that?

I cannot tell my writing journey without including those aspects. My writing, my work does not exist without my broken brain that produces it or my unsavory life experiences that have shaped it. It would feel inauthentic for me to leave it out and speak about my books sterilely.

So I poured out my black, little heart all over the auditorium stage, and I talked to these high schoolers the same as I would to anyone else (minus the normal slathering of curse words and a few punches pulled to stay in bounds on hot topics like suicide). To my mind, if I could decide to try to kill myself at 12, how could I talk to them like children who had never experienced anything? Age 17 was the most formative in my life, and that is right where they are right now. It had to be the raw honesty.

After that chunk, I continued on my little story of being published and being an author as a side job, all the basics of my books and what they involve. Then I opened it up for questions.

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Q&A is my favorite part. I enjoy the questions; I do far better with them than giving a speech. The interaction keeps me out of my own head. The kids were really fun to chat with. They asked me a range of questions, from the canned questions their teachers expected reports on to just random things like my favorite color or favorite Walking Dead character (Negan, currently). They asked about my family, my kids reading my horror writing, why I would write if it didn’t make money, all the things I might write in the future.

After many sessions, I had kids come up and talk to me one-on-one. Some wanted to talk about their writing or being sent to the counseling center for it (been there!). Some wanted to talk about their favorite book franchise. Some just wanted to talk.

I think I got better and better with each delivery of the speech. I at least became less dependant on my notes. Though it was just utterly exhausting. By the last two periods, I was giving my speech while sitting on the steps to the stage. Maybe not very professional but it is what I needed. I do not know how teachers do it.

Overall, I think it went really well. I ended up enjoying the experience completely. The teachers were awesome to work with. The kids were fun to interact with. It was surreal to walk the halls and have them whisper about who I was as I passed. The pseudo celebrity experience is still just strange for me. Mostly fun though.

I think I started to forget that getting published really means something. It has been two years, nearly exactly, since Savages was released. It took me months to come to happy terms with the fact that it actually happened, that the dream had come true. Yet in those two years, I have become complacent with my new reality, writing and promoting every day, comparing myself to every blindingly successful author. This experience reminded me that it is something, that it does matter. Even if just to me, it matters.

It is also awkward for me to consider myself now a public speaker, talking to kids about anything. Part of me wonders if I have anything worthy to say to an audience, the same part of me that wonders if I have any writing worth publishing. Yet I keep writing, so I will keep doing this as well, as long as I am invited.

I have already been invited back to this school, and ultimately, if my silly little talk inspires one kid to write or deal better with being depressed or anything, I will happily continue to do it for free. And if it helps me sell books, all the better.

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
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SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

This October, a friend on Twitter invited me to participate in #31DaysofHorror, in which you strive to watch one horror movie each day. Initially, I thought I would participate here and there, as I could. I should have known better. Once I started, I became obsessive as I always do. After the Nightmare on Elm Street in theater marathon added 7 movies to my total in one night, I decided to go for 50 movies in the month of October.

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And I got to 51.

Honestly, it was a blast. It was a lot of horror. Daunting at times, mind eroding at others. Yet ultimately, it was fun to indulge in so much of the holiday horror spirit and be able to share it with plenty of awesome people online. My poor, little mind may never recover, but I will definitely be doing it again next year. Probably even harder, if I know myself at all.

So I give you my 51 movies of horror in October. Happy Halloween!

 

 1_wyrmwood Wyrmwood

A bunch of interesting ideas that lacked the execution to really make them work. I wanted to like it, but it needed more development and polishing.

 2-cabininthewoods Cabin in the Woods

One of my favorite horror movies. A refreshing spin on horror lore, archetypes, and the genre in general.

 3-wearestillhere We are Still Here

Simplistic, well executed horror. A well balanced and creepy haunting story.

 4-28dayslater 28 Days Later

A movie that changed the zombie genre. Always amazing.

 5-28weekslater 28 Weeks Later

The overproduced and Americanized sequel that pales in comparison to its predecessor. Fine movie, disappointing sequel.

 6_ghostsofmars Ghosts of Mars

Bad, just so very bad. But I do love John Carpenter. And Ice Cube.

 7_headless Headless

We found this movie on a list of most disturbing horror. It was definitely graphic and gross and depraved–but all with purpose. I really enjoyed it.

 8_humancentipede2 Human Centipede 2

More graphic,  more twisted, and more disturbing than its predecessor. Who knew it was possible? Yet still well done.

 9_humancentipede3 Human Centipede 3

What. The. Fuck. The franchise completely went off the rails into ridiculous and just awful.

 10_whatwedointheshadows What We Do in the Shadows

Interview with the Vampire meets The Real World. Just hysterical and wonderful.

 11_yourenext You’re Next

One of my favorite newer horror movies. So well done and all about the survivor.

 12_thepurgeelectionyear The Purge: Election Year

Perfect watch for this election year. Chock full of social commentary and blood.

 13_letmein Let Me In

Potentially my favorite remake. I adore Let the Right One In, and this one manages to live up to it.

 14_thefog The Fog

Creepy and classic.

 15_vhs V/H/S

A very clever horror anthology that made me nauseous. With the shaky cam filming rather than the content.

 16_finalgirls The Final Girls

A horror comedy I have loved since first seeing it at The Stanley Film Festival.

 17_hanselandgretel Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

I was very skeptical of this selection but found it gory and very fun.

 18_nightmare A Nightmare on Elm Street

Just as brilliant as it is classic. This one may contain my favorite death scene in ALL of horror.

 19_freddy2 A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

The homoerotic sequel that does not make a whole lot of sense.

 20_freddy3 A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

The second best in the franchise; the sequel that should have followed the first.

 21_freddy4 A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

Eh. An acceptable chapter.

 22_freddy5 A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

Terrible. Just TERRIBLE. I only watched it because it was in the theater in the middle of the marathon. I would have napped through if I didn’t have so many Monsters.

 23_freddy6 Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare

The humor is on point, and Freddy is awesome, but the rest of the movie was just crap.

 24_freddy7 New Nightmare

I am utterly torn on this one. I love when horror makes fun of itself, and the premise is clever. Plus a great cast reunion! Yet I hate what they did to Freddy when he leaves the screen.

 25_freddyvjason Freddy vs Jason

A great Freddy movie. Just fun.

 26_feast Feast

Funny and creepy and gross but enjoyable.

 27_inthemouthofmadness In the Mouth of Madness

Amazing. Required for both horror fans and writers (like myself).

 28_theguest The Guest

Unnerving and well balanced. A perfect blend of suspense.

 29_vhs2 V/H/S 2

The entries in this anthology might be inferior to the first collection, but the filming did not make me sick, which made it easier for me to participate and enjoy.

 30_evildead2 Evil Dead 2

When the franchise really embraced itself.

 31_armyofdarkness Army of Darkness

A little bit of ridiculous fun with the undead.

 32_dragmetohell Drag Me to Hell

Campy and gross. Very fun.

 33_americanmary American Mary

Sexy horror and depraved fetish. Basically, me in a nutshell. One of my very favorite movies.

 34_otis Otis

Funny and twisted. When revenge becomes a family affair.

 35_talesofhalloween Tales of Halloween

Not the best Halloween anthology I have seen (clue: it’s Trick r Treat) but still a festive watch.

 36_deadsnow Dead Snow

Nazi zombies. Nazi. Zombies! So good.

 37_vhsviral V/H/S Viral

I hated the final chapter in the franchise. It’s like the filmmakers got financing and did not know what to do with it.

 38_halloween Halloween

The Halloween classic that started it all.

 39_halloween2 Halloween II

A direct continuation of the first.

 40_halloweenh20 Halloween H20

The third and only other entry I recognize in the Halloween franchise. I love watching Laurie decide to face her demons.

 41_candyman Candyman

Clever twists on the haunting convention.

 42_leslievernon Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Absolutely brilliant horror comedy that comes after every horror convention and archetype.

 43_theconjuring The Conjuring

As my husband always says, creepy as balls. And balls can be pretty creepy.

 44_thereanimator The Re-Animator

The B-rated Lovecraftian classic.

 45_scream Scream

My VERY first horror movie!

 46_scream2 Scream 2

I am still accepting that they killed Randy.

 47_scream3 Scream 3

I do like the jabs at horror and Hollywood, but really? What?

 48_scream4 Scream 4

My favorite of the sequels. I like the critique of nouveau horror and reboots.

 49_saw Saw

Another genre changer. Gritty and raw and original.

 50_silenceofthelambs The Silence of the Lambs

One of my favorite movies (not just horror). Hannibal Lecter is the best serial killer.

 51_trickrtreat Trick r Treat

THE Halloween movie. This film embodies everything I love about the holiday in one anthology. Our post trick-or-treating tradition.

What horror movies did you watch in October? Any Halloween traditions? What’s your favorite scary movie?

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling

SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

halloweenghosts

As the sun retreated from the sky and the last rays of light died in the air, Marla’s small body began to materialize on top of the cracked asphalt. Her hips appeared first, the round bulbs of her pelvis spiraling out of obscurity as spinal vertebrae sprouted to climb up to her shoulders and bare skull. The tiny skeleton curled on the street in the fetal position, with her eye socket rooted to ground.

The skeletal fingertips twitched and jerked against the rough blacktop as the skull softly swayed side to side. As the bones began to animate, muscle and flesh blossomed along their edges like moss, overtaking the form as veins and arteries snaked up through the tissue. Hair budded from the fresh scalp until the wily mass of strands draped over Marla’s little shoulders.

Within seconds of dusk, the entire child body returned to the street, complete with the torn clothes. She lifted her head slowly from the pavement, her ejected eye clinging to the ground before popping up to dangle along her shredded cheek. Her right hand flopped half detached as it dropped from her bloody forearm. She stood on crooked legs with flaps of flesh shaved down and hanging over her knees.

Marla stood straight in her broken body, eye wagging with each movement, under the growing moonlight. The headlights of a large truck blazed up over her. She turned the eye still in her head to the vehicle before it drove through her in a swirling puff of steam. The edges of her form wavered before snapping back into shape.

ghostinheadlights

Marla turned unaffected by the truck driving through her, or the staggered series of cars that followed. She moved instinctively to the southwest corner just as she did every year. She stepped onto the curb, with one shoe on and one bare, scraped foot, as the contorted figure of her mother shambled toward her through the streetlight.

Abigail’s head cocked at an extreme angle, and her spine warped in sympathy. Blood had poured from her gaping headwound, drenching her face and clothes in a waterfall of red. Her feet splayed out in divergent directions, causing her to hobble even slower than the twisted corpse of her daughter.

“Hello, my beautiful girl,” Abigail whispered in a rasp as she wrapped her arms around her shattered child. “Welcome to our night.”

“I missed you, Mommy,” Marla said as she cuddled into her mother’s blood-soaked sweater.

“I missed you, beautiful.”

Abigail took Marla’s destroyed face in her hands, allowing the suspended eyeball to roll along her palm. Marla smiled sweetly with the facial muscles she had left.

“Don’t look at me like that, Mommy.”

“I’m sorry, baby. If I had known you hadn’t buckled your seatbelt, I would have never left the parking lot.”

“You don’t have to say that every year, Mommy.”

“You just had to get a new costume that night.”

“The one I had looked stupid.”

“No, it didn’t, but I wanted you to have a good Halloween.”

“It’s OK, Mommy. We can have another good Halloween tonight.”

“What should we do tonight?”

“I want to go see Daddy and Jakey.”

“No, baby. We don’t go see them.”

“Why not?”

“The same as every year. We don’t know how long it has been. It would make me sad to go and see Jake all grown up or your daddy as a grandpa.”

“It hasn’t been that long. Jakey will still be little. Just like when we left.”

“We don’t know that, Marla. We don’t go see them. Now, come now. Let’s do something fun.”

“Can we borrow bodies?” Marla perked up, and the tear in her cheek deepened as she grinned.

“Oh, that sounds like fun. What do you want to do with them?”

“I want to go trick-or-treating! But, this year, I want to be the momma and you be the kid.”

“Are you sure? It’s way more fun to be the kid.”

“No. It’s better to be the grown up.”

“That’s what all kids think. Until they become grown ups. But I suppose you never have to worry about that.”

“I still want to be the momma.”

“OK, baby, you can be the momma. You can even pick the bodies.”

“Yay!”

Marla leaped in excitement then took her mother’s hand in her attached arm, her other hand waggling loosely on threads of traumatized flesh. The two mangled forms moved unseen through the darkness as scurrying trick-or-treaters began to flood the streets.

ghostsonroad

Marla let her eye move over each group of figures in the night. The child body would have to be young to still have an adult escort. She watched a parade of tiny princesses march down the sidewalk, mothers snapping pictures with their phones like paparazzi. She looked over a group of unchaperoned tweens running by giggling under their masks.

Finally, she caught sight of a young boy marching down the street. He smiled euphorically under his pirate’s eyepatch, swinging a hefty bucket of candy at his side. Behind him, his mother weaved absentmindedly as her eyes fixated down on the glowing screen of her phone. She gripped a large travel coffee mug tightly with the other hand, taking compulsive sips every couple steps.

“Them,” Marla said, pointing confidently, knowing the living could not see her.

“The pirate and his mom?”

Marla nodded enthusiastically, her hanging eye bouncing up and down.

“Well, I’ve never been a pirate before,” Abigail laughed. “OK, darling, you know what to do.”

Marla stepped in the path of the distracted mother and placed her palms together out in front of her. As the woman turned Marla’s fingertips into mist, Marla swung her arms, as if swimming in the water, and dove right into the mother’s chest. Somewhere behind her, Abigail did the same to the young pirate.

“This feels weird, Mommy…I mean, son,” Marla said moving her arms in the strange new skin.

The living flesh felt awkward, heavy, confining. Marla and Abigail took a moment to shift and fidget, finding their bearings locked back under the bars of the bones. Marla took an awkward step forward and nearly toppled over. She realigned herself over her feet and brought the hefty cup to her lips. The acidic taste of the liquid bit her tongue, and she immediately spat it out.

“Eeww! What is this?” Marla held the cup out to her mother in the pirate costume.

Abigail reached the young boys hand’s forward and took a sip.

“Oh,” Abigail said, knowingly. “That is not coffee at all. That’s wine.”

“Wine? Why would she have wine in a coffee mug?”

“Because being the kid is more fun, dear,” Abigail laughed.

The two moved forward in staggering steps until walking became more familiar. With each passing house, they moved more naturally until they strode like all the other living people. They approached the next house with the porch light on and hesitated at the base of the driveway.

“What is it?” Marla asked, awkwardly juggling the coffee mug and oversized smartphone.

“I haven’t trick-or-treated in decades. Even in decades when I was alive. I’m nervous, I think.”

“That’s silly, Mommy. Son. Just go up there; ring the bell; and say, ‘Trick or treat!’”

“OK, I’m going.”

“What do I do?”

“While I trick-or-treat?”

“Yeah.”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“Yes. You follow me and stand here waiting for me. That’s it. Just don’t drink that cup. You’re having enough trouble walking in that body already.”

“Maybe the kid does have all the fun.”

“Told you.”

Marla watched her mother toddle up the concrete in the little pirate body and stood drumming her fingers on the cup she was not supposed to drink. When Abigail disappeared around the edge of the house, Marla took a deep sip on defiant principle then winced as it burned down her throat and pooled heat in her stomach.

Marla would never grow up to understand adults.

She turned the cup over and dumped the wine in the street. The red liquid looked just like all the blood that had poured out from her head when she went careening through the windshield so many Halloweens ago.

“That was weird,” Abigail laughed as she skipped back with a heavier bucket.

They moved house to house, repeating the same pattern around dark, curved blocks. With each stop, Marla grew more anxious. She tapped the mother’s toe on the hard ground. She crossed her arms and wished she knew how to operate the phone she shoved into her back pocket. Other children began to grow scarce on the street.

“I think that’s enough now, Mommy,” Marla said. “I mean, son.”

“Oh, come on. I can get this kid even more candy. Look at all the porch lights on that street.”

“No, I don’t want to anymore.”

“Not having any fun, beautiful?”

“Next year, I want to be the kid again.”

“I thought you might say that.”

Abigail smiled and took Marla’s hand, strange in the reversal of the angle.

“Well, let’s go put them back where we got them, and we’ll have a little time before our night is over,” Abigail said.

They walked the borrowed bodies back along their meandering trail to the driveway where they started. Marla drew her energy toward her center then thrust it upward. As she appeared wispy and disfigured again beside the mother, she felt herself expand into the freedom outside of the flesh. She watched the mother return to the surface disoriented, looking confused at the empty coffee mug in her hand.

Taking her mother’s ghostly hand once more, Marla followed her through the quieting streets. Jack o’lanterns flickered with dying candles on the porches. Music thumped out from lingering Halloween parties. The light air would have been crisp and the leaves would have crunched under their footsteps if they could feel either.

Abigail led Marla back to her spot in the middle of the intersection. She did not think of the way she could hear the front end of her car collapse or the way she saw the body of her child go flying past her head and through the windshield. She never saw Marla’s actual body on the street; she never left the driver seat.

“Are you ready to sleep, darling?” Abigail said.

“Yes, Mommy. It was a good Halloween.”

ghostinstreetlight

Marla crouched down on the pavement and lined herself up just as she had materialized, still clinging to her mother’s hand like an afterthought.

“Yes, it was, but next year, you can be the kid again.”

“Sounds good, Mommy. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, beautiful. I’ll see you next year.”

Abigail bent down and pressed her lips to her daughter’s cracked forehead, even as the cars continued to drive through and over them. Before Marla turned to plant her eye socket back on the pavement, she watched her mother hobble away into the night, back to her place. With each step, a layer disintegrated from Abigail’s form, as if she was melting into wisps in the air. Marla faded too. She felt herself shedding coherency until she dropped her head, and they both blew away before the sun pierced the sky.

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling

SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

Earlier this week, I stood up in front of classes of 6-8th graders and talked about being a published horror author. The experience was pretty amazing, far more fun and impactful than I really expected.

The children were very excited to have me there and to broach the subject of horror in their classroom. I gave maybe a two minute introduction; then they asked me questions for an hour and a half. Hands still lingered in the air when the class ended.
davis-middle-school-classroom
I would have stayed and talked to them as long as they wanted.
They were hungry to talk about the darkness. We discussed the best zombie origin lore (they were thrilled I brought up The Walking Dead as inspiration). We talked about how often I kill my characters and why. We touched on depression in writing. They wanted to know about my process and inspirations and methods and future plans. I got a lot of “would you ever write about…” questions. They asked me pretty much everything.
When we were discussing my favoring of psychological horror, I told them I like to focus on the internal experience of my characters, their emotional journey. I told them I liked to torture my characters from the inside out. They asked me why and what scared me the most. I told them, my own mind.
bipolar-2
I stood in front of a class of 50 young strangers and told them I was bipolar. I never intended to go there, to bring up that part of my life, yet I said it just as naturally as I discussed my first writing unit in 4th grade.
And when they asked what I wanted to write about but was hesitant, I told them bipolar again.
I don’t love public speaking. Often when I stand up in front of a group to train them, my mind blanks out. I am always less eloquent standing in the front than I am on the page or even sitting within the group. Yet, this was easy. Everything about this interaction was simple and honest and comfortable.
As a bipolar person, you usually learn or are encouraged to keep your condition under wraps. Since mental issues are largely an invisible disability, you are supposed to play sane, medicate or hide your symptoms, and pretend you are just as well and normal as everyone around you. Especially when it comes to employers, as to avoid the possibility of discrimination.
shhhh
No one wants to be branded as crazy. Then treated that way.
I have failed at that approach the majority of my career. And I don’t regret it.
When I was in college, I did work study at the campus art gallery. Since art is a field where deviant minds are embraced if not celebrated, I was able to be honest with my boss, the gallery manager, about my condition. I was freshly diagnosed and in some of the most turbulent times of learning my disorder. It was formatively comforting to be able to struggle honestly and get support and understanding at work. When the gallery manager killed himself years later, a part of me died with him for all he had done for me at a time I really needed it.
However, when I joined the professional world, I tucked that away. I never really muted my behavior, just never volunteered the explanation. I let people think I was eccentric or volatile or emotional and just made sure it never interfered with the work.
There was no hiding in Iraq though. When I went to Iraq for three months for work, it was rough on me. As an unmedicated bipolar, I use routine to stabilize my cycles. Yet I had just moved across the country to a place I did not want to live; I was half the world away from my partner, who served greatly as a balancing influence for me; I was in a place that intimidated me in nearly every way possible. I was too busy trying to keep myself mentally afloat to even give half a care to what others could perceive.
iraq2
And more than just me, everyone seemed pretty raw over there. Aside from it being a warzone, many people elected to work there to avoid some sort of damage at home. And even for the most balanced individual, when you have no personal life and spend every hour with your coworkers, you can’t really hide much.
At least I couldn’t. Stateside management found my blog at the time and became concerned I was going to crack. My boss had to sit me down and assess my mental status. After nearly every single post went live. I chose to be honest with him and in him found another ally. He trusted me to be who I was and handle what I needed, and that faith was empowering.
After that, I did not care who knew or when.
I have been fortunate in my professional experience of my illness. I have been lucky enough to work for empathetic, equitable employers. I am also good enough at what I do that my work speaks louder than my other labels.
I blog under my real name now, linked very clearly to all my author activities. I talk about bipolar on the open internet and public profiles. In the end, being who I am and talking about it for other people in the same situation means more to me than the safety in secrecy. I have never done secrecy well in my life.
living-with-bipolar-disorder
I have been thinking about this a lot because of how it felt to have a conversation with these children and because of where my head has been the past week. I have been in a strange state the past few days, a mixed state. Mixed episodes, which for me is experiencing a blend of mania and depression simultaneously, are extremely rare. I think I may have had two other experiences in my life, both dating back to before my children.
It is hard for me to describe how the mixed state feels, which is saying something as I am a person who describes things for a living and a hobby. It just feels like EVERYTHING. I’m hyper sensitive, hyper aroused. Every sense is on full blast, cutting on edge. Colors are brighter; sounds are louder; my skin feels like it is going to vibrate off my bones. At first, it feels like amplified mania, but then there is the depression. I am perpetually on the edge. The pain is blended into all the highs. I feel amazing and horrible at the same time. I slam between elation and torture in milliseconds. Sensations and feelings fly around so fast I can’t even gauge them.
bipolarbehavior1
The peak of this particular episode was pretty intense for me. I got to the point where I could not physically hold still. My thoughts were racing. I had a song stuck in my head, but it was playing at triple tempo.  My nerves were so sensitive I could barely be touched. And, if I am being completely honest with myself, I loved it as much as I feared and hated it. I knew it was temporary; I knew it was a cycle. I let myself truly experience the intensity. Yet that was the crescendo. Even in my flurried state, I managed to put myself to bed and wake up more balanced.
It was a beautiful kind of pain, a sublime kind of suffering. When it passed, it was a relief, yet it also left a void. Everything felt dulled and quiet and disappointing even.
So as the vivid extremes recede, I find myself just introspective, locked in the internal cycle of evaluating my own mind. And how, on most days, I love the horror of it.

Christina Bergling

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facebook.com/chrstnabergling
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SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

horror

When you tell people that you are an author, the inevitable first question is always, “Well, what do you write?” To which I nonchalantly answer, “horror.” I love seeing the reactions. Usually, it is either shock with an awkward stumbling or fascination. In any case, the reaction generally provides a pretty solid gauge on how the remainder of our interaction on the subject will play out.

morbidwriting

If the questioner remains interested, the follow up question is naturally, “Why horror?” Especially if we start discussing The Waning. Everyone seems to have a strong reaction to that book, one way or another. Most people can get behind zombies and the apocalypse like in Savages with how mainstream those themes have become. Not everyone can take captivity and seemingly endless (and some might say, pointless) torture, however. I have family members who could not even finish The Waning; it was too “dark.”

thewaning_swag

It is not an easy question to answer: why horror? With most things, you can get away with the canned response that you just like it. With horror, however, being so centered around darkness, pain, suffering, and all undesirable facets of life, people have a harder time understanding why someone would be drawn to it, would willing sign up to be disturbed. A common assumption is that you are damanged, broken in some way. Being not just a voyeur but a creator of such content makes you all the more suspect.

For multiple reasons, I have been ruminating on my own attraction to pain, damage, and even horror as well as introspecting on the patterns of my own mind. It is an easy assumption to correlate a comfort and enjoyment of negative things with damage or defect. Even just in my own personal instance, the preference seems innate rather than acquired. Cultivated, perhaps, yet it seems to have been a part of me as long as I can remember.

I have always felt the allure of horror. It resonated with my mind, spoke to something inside me. A darkness, maybe. Even in the youngest, happiest, most sheltered parts of my childhood, I found myself drawn to things like Halloween, fascinated by all the morbidity that surrounded them. Innocuous though the start, it grew into something else. A symptom of something deeper. I was always fixated and intrigued by pain, my own and that of others.

thedarkness

As a young child, I remember feeling so much. It was a perpetual and unmanageable swell of emotions, constant and unrelenting. I experienced the most intense happiness and infatuations, yet more than that, I had a well of pain and unhappiness. I felt such strong dark and negative feelings without seeming cause. And, in an attempt to figure myself out, I remember trying to find excuses for how I felt, trying to classify my emotions into the boxes I understood. Boxes, I would learn, that would never fit me.

Yet, as I grew older, it became more clear that the darkness was in me, not infecting from outside circumstance but inherent. The pain inflicted by external stimuli, though traumatic at times, never seemed to be as black or as consuming as the kind that blossomed from my center. Instead, I sought out excuses for how I felt; I manufactured circumstance to confirm what originated somewhere beneath and behind my consciousness. It took a lot of time and severing endless strings of denial to make peace with that part of me, to identify myself as the culprit under all the layers I created.

I lost my mind, dissolved into the darkness in my teenaged years. When I think back to the way the pain devoured and distorted my mind in those darkest days, I do not know how I made it to the other side. I do not know how I functioned. I do not know how I graduated high school early, how I held down jobs, how I kept my parents at bay, how I maintained any kind of interpersonal relationships, how I went to college. I cannot remember either. Every fragment and remnant of that period in my mind is a flicker in a blur of so many substances and unchecked moods.

bipolar_by_snook1092

I was a mess. Yet, in that mess, I was pure. I was honest. I was unrefined. And because of that, I am still irresitably drawn to that darkness. And anything that speaks to that caged and sedated part of me.

Like horror.

I am not saying one needs to be damaged and defective to enjoy horror. Nor am I saying that is the reason I respond to it on such an instinctual level. Horror, for me, is an outlet to part of myself. It confronts realities in our world and in our culture (and myself) that may not be pleasant but remain just as real. Personally, I enjoy the experience of that confrontation.

I can write a version of myself on the page who does not have her shit together, who relents to her broken mind, who is so inescapably damaged. I can empathize with a character on the screen in their worst and most tormented hour. I can toy with the darkness inside of me, letting my fingers play in the edge of the flame, without burning down my entire life.

I enjoy the flirtation with the dangerous part of me, my undesirable yet pervasive center. It is like having an affair behind the back of my sanity. Exciting and wild.

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Horror speaks to me in the language my base self understands. I am attracted to the pain the same way I used to actively seek my own, whether through self-destructive behavior or abject self-mutilation. All that is still inside of me, and my indulgence of horror is my safe, neutered way to still interact with it.

Ultimately, despite all my therapy and self-examination and understanding, I do not know why the darkness comforts me, why the pain seems native. I do not like that I find a grotesque familiarity in suffering. Could it be the damage of deformed neurotransmitters? Could it be the absense of adequate neurochemicals? Is it some association forged in experience that tumbled out of my memory? Is it something wrong with me, or is it simply me?

I spend a disproportionate amount of my life in depression. Not because my life is unsatisfactory but because that is half of the symptomology of my brain. Perhaps my affinity for horror is merely an adaptation to this. It does substantially decrease the burden to feel at home in my own sadness; it does help to surrender and wrap myself up in the black rather than fight or resist it. Maybe it’s my survival mechanism that I never knew I would need until bipolar blossomed across the wrinkles of my mind.

Regardless of causality and circumstance, independant of reasoning, I accepted myself long ago. I have embraced and actively cultivate all of these tendancies and preferences bubbling inside my head. I find joy in the darkest places and experience the breadth of a full spectrum of emotions. I live in extremes, for the better and worse.

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I am not sure if this post is ultimately about horror or bipolar or just some rambling about weird musings I have had lately. I know I’ve written about my attraction to horror before and our cultural attraction to it. To keep the answer simple, I write horror to get it out of my brain. For whatever reason, it breeds between my cells, and I express it. I feel better letting it out and indulging in it. It is just who I am.

 

poeminblood

 

 

Christina Bergling

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facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
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SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

EvilDead-HeroTitle-700x457

Like any good horror fan, I have enjoyed the Evil Dead franchise. Most recently, I indulged in Ash vs Evil Dead on Starz. So when we saw that Evil Dead: The Musical was being performed by the Equinox Theater Company in Denver over the summer, my friends and I immediately bought tickets.

EvilDeadFinalSmall1

The six of us incorporated the show into a birthday celebration and trekked to the Bug Theater down the streets of downtown dressed all in white. We purchased splatter zone tickets, naturally, and wanted every drop of carnage to be visible.

The first act began a bit slow for me. It might have been the fallout of spending a day drinking mead in the sun. It might have been the impatience for blood and carnage. It might have been my fixation on thinking the actors for Ash and Scottie should have been reversed. The first act definitely was not poor quality at all, but it was not as engaging as I needed. Some of the expected corny parts struck an eye roll rather than a chuckle.

However, the second act made up for any inadequacies I found in the first. With mundane requirements like plot establishment and character development out of the way, the play dived into the meat. Literally.

EDslider2

As a whole, Evil Dead: The Musical was just fun for our entire party. The rendition remained very true to its inspiration, keeping a balance of gratuitous horror and campy comedy. Many jokes and puns hurt as much as they tickled.

I was impressed by the Equinox Theater Company, though I do think Ash may have been slightly intoxicated for how many times he stumbled on his lines. He definitely could sing and throw himself across the stage in physical comedy to make up for it. My favorite portrayal was definitely Ash’s sister, Cheryl. The actress did a superb job of making her both hysterical and unnerving. I enjoyed every time she popped up from the floorboards. We also did not miss how she took Ash accidentally really slamming her face into the stage like a champ.

I was, however, disappointed in the splatter zone. Here, I was, dressed in a pretty white lace dress. I do not wear pretty. Or white. Or lace. I wanted that dress to get absolutely destroyed. I wanted to look like a horror movie survivor or, at the least, like I used to look after a heavy metal belly dance show or horror photo shoot. I wanted fake blood like this picture of the Detroit show.

splatterzone

Unfortunately, we ended up in the last row of the splatter zone. We were shielded from much of the carnage by the patrons in front of us. The lucky bastards. Then, much of the blood was actually just kool-aid. My husband even tasted it to confirm. It produced this watered-down, pinkish, sticky blood that barely showed up even on our white apparel.

I have interacted with a lot of fake blood in my day. From the bottles at the Halloween store to an amazing chocolate recipe I learned from a brilliantly twisted photographer. I was hoping a theater performance would step up the quality. The blood thrown not from a super soaker (hilarious, by the way) or the fertilizer sprayer was more legit though.

From some online research, it looks like other cities stepped up their splattering a bit. Maybe it was venue restraints (been there); maybe it was director’s purview. I just wanted MORE. More blood.

I did end up with a bloody dusting that looked a bit like spaghetti gone wrong, but I will take it. I took one shot right in the eye. It was fun to be so interactively part of the experience. Splatter zone again definitely. Splatter zone every time.

beforeafter

All in all, my experience of Evil Dead: The Musical was awesome; I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would recommend it; I would go again. Of course, I had complaints and things I would change but not enough to detract from the overall fun.

evil-dead-musical

After this, I wish I would have gone to see Silence! The Musical when it was running in April. More horror musicals!

 

Christina Bergling

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SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

Where have I been lately? What have I been doing these past months? Why have I sucked horrendously at this whole blogging, social networking business? Aside from my day job, my family, and my workout obsession, BOOK #3!

Technically, this is the third book I have completed in three years. Additionally, this third book is my first full-length novel, doubling the length of either Savages or The Waning. I wrote Savages when I only had my daughter and The Waning mostly while I was still pregnant with my son. The authoring process became much more complicated with two children, who are now old enough to have their own schedules, plus the addition of my own new fixations.

This book was also a unique writing experience because it was assembled from a collection of real life influences. I made people in my life into characters in the book (myself included, even more so than in Savages), and I used these people’s actual life experiences as suggestions for portions of the plot. These people were also involved in the process, both by providing me with inspirations and reading over the book itself to provide feedback. This difference made the process much more interactive. On more than one occasion, I sat and had heated debates about realistic ways to dispose of a body. It more fun than I expected, to share the experience and my craft.

So the process took longer than normal, both because distractions were more prevalent and because the process itself was different, but last week, I completed my submission draft. Now, the book is off of my laptop, out in the world in the hands of my editor, being evaluated for publication. My fingers, toes, and anything else I have are tightly crossed.

I have a couple new ideas batting around the edges of my mind, yet I also think I might need a bit of a BREAK to recoup my creative abilities. Maybe I’ll even come up with an entertaining blog post or two…

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
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SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

Depression Rising

Posted: April 27, 2016 in psychology, real life
Tags: , ,

I had felt it stalking me for days. Something dark on the edges of my mind. A weight steadily accumulating on my chest. The familiar sensation of my mind beginning to wobble and my emotions beginning to betray me.

On the yoga mat, in the space between my long breaths, on the massage table, in the silence beneath the pressure on my knotted muscles, my darkness swam up to run an icy touch along my surface. The depth of my mind plunged past my physical dimensions, and I got swallowed whole. And all I could feel is, it is coming.

I perched on the razor’s edge of a waning wellness, anticipant. I knew the trajectory ahead of me in its inevitability. I am familiar with my mind’s natural state; I am only permitted to vacation from it so long.

Then the large, black wave blotted out the sun, and I forgot there was a world beyond my flesh. I receded from my edges as my mind swelled with the poison. I heard it in my venomous thoughts, in each assault on myself. After the initial blindness passed and my pupil dilated to the dark veil, I saw only through distorted eyes; I felt only deformed and mutated feelings. I would say they did not match the external queues if I could have been trusted to perceive them. I let the darkness come; I knew it was pointless to fight.

My subconscious is a chasm filled with monsters who look like me and want to flay me apart slowly in tiny pieces. In the darkness, I felt the wall protecting me fall away; I felt them began to scratch over my mind, leaving slices in the matter and taking pieces as souvenirs. Yet the pain felt comforting in its familiarity. Somewhere I had been, somewhere I had lived, a place I knew in blind memorization.

I hurt, but I felt alive, more alive and infused with sensation than in any calm wellness or tingling mania. I was saturated by the pain, inflated by the emotion. My nerves were on edge and overstimulated, and my heart swelled up to meet my rib cage. I found my grimace inappropriately flirt with a smile. I felt suffering muddle against comfort.

And I waited.  I abandoned the world with my heavy muscles and paralyzed tongue. I let the darkness have me until I could sleep my way to more balanced brain chemistry.

 

Christina Bergling

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facebook.com/chrstnabergling
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SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com

By night, I might be a twisted horror-loving author… but by day, I am a mild-mannered (haha, not really!) solutions architect and technical writer, slinging XSLT, HTML, and CSS code and cranking out user help documentation.

coding-future

This very much makes me a person of multiple minds and multiple lives.

5-Coding-Challenges-to-Help-You-Train-Your-Brain

All in all, this also amounts to a severe amount of computer screen time every day. Somewhere in these glaring hours, I began to muse about what would happen if my two professions intersected. If horror became code, what would it look like?

coding

So much as the XSLT I write translates XML for viewing in HTML, I translated a bit of my favorite horror movie killers into XSLT. This may not be the most well-formed or correct portion of a stylesheet I’ve ever written, but hopefully, it is the right amount of geeky horror humor. (Sorry, I had to post it as an image to avoid it being read as code.)

Microsoft Word - Document1

 

(If the code is unreadable as an image, here is a PDF.)

Oh the horror!

codingHorror

What would it be like if your job was blended with a horror movie?

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling

SavagesCoverChristinaSavages

Two survivors search the ruins of America for the last strain of humanity. Marcus believes they are still human; Parker knows her own darkness. Until one discovery changes everything.

Available now on Amazon!
savagesnovella.com

TheWaning_CoverThe Waning

Beatrix woke up in a cage. Can she survive long enough to escape, or will he succeed at breaking her down into a possession?

Available now on Amazon!
thewaning.com