Archive for December, 2014

Sweet Success

Posted: December 23, 2014 in writing
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When I was in fourth grade, my teacher did extensive writing lessons. We wrote different formats of poetry. We even wrote and published our own short stories, which included printing and illustrating the pages then binding them together. It was in this class that I realized I wanted to be an author.

I always wrote. I kept a journal compulsively over the years. I wrote short stories that I would pass around to my friends in spiral notebooks between junior high classes. I placed in every writing contest to which I ever submitted.

Writing came easy to me. It was just what I did. And all I wanted to do.

I pursued writing in college, of course. I took every creative writing class they offered (beside poetry). I caused controversy when I made a satire out of suicide. It was just not enough for a career, and I surely could not make a living off of what I was producing and publishing.

After college, I faced a fork in my writing life. I was offered a job as a technical writer for a Department of Defense contractor and as a community writer assistant at a newspaper. It was write for salary and benefits or write for the hope of doing what I love eventually.

I chose salary and benefits; I sold my writing soul for comfort.

And I do not regret that decision, though I do sometimes wonder what if. I have financed a beautiful life; I have supported the growth of my family. I have been comfortable. And eventually, that comfort left me to be able to write my first book.

The seed was planted during my brief civilian deployment to Iraq (another side effect of the soul selling). I went to train soldiers on software but ultimately ended up just writing software user manuals in a trailer in a war zone. I didn’t see any action, but I was immersed into military wartime culture, exposed to things that never could seem so real on the news. My three months there changed everything, shifted every perspective I had.

Later, I nurtured this unconsummated idea with full season marathons of The Walking Dead (complete with my gothic belly dancers for company and lots of booze). The way The Walking Dead explored the survivors made me question the ideas of humanity I had seen in a war zone.

What would we become without all our civilization? What are we really underneath all the comfortable pretense?

And so my novella, Savages, was born.

The story infected me. I woke in the middle of the night to write sections and scenes. I lived inside it.

Then, on a whim, at the recommendation of a dear friend, I entered Savages into a contest from Assent Publishing. I placed as a finalist; I won a publishing contract. It all happened, and my dream since fourth grade was finally realized.

And a year later, after promoting and prepping and editing and reviewing, Savages is released!

SavagesCoverChristinaI cannot wait until next month, when I can hold the paperback copy in my hands. Maybe then it will feel less surreal than sales numbers on an ebook. Maybe then it will feel like I have finally made it to being a published author.

Find Savages on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Savages-Christina-Bergling-ebook/dp/B00R8YRBYY

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Winter Horror

Posted: December 18, 2014 in horror, writing
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The silence of the snow was smothering. The large, slow flakes and the mounds of fluffy powder appeared soft, but I only felt the edge of the cold infiltrating my layers, bristling against my contracting skin.

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My heart was beating so hard I could hear my pulse knocking in my ears. My heaving breaths plumed out in front of me in the dark night air. I could not hide them; I could not contain my own escaping heat.

It would find me. It would be able to hear me, to see me.

My fingers were trembling against the bark. I had not noticed I was clinging to the trunk of a tree desperately. I caught myself and tried to pry myself from its embrace, but it was just too sturdy, too constant against me. Yet my fingertips shifting against the rough bark made a small sound against the heavy night.

A sound it could hear.

I was at a loss with my frozen feet shuttering and sunken in the deep tree well beside my wooden pillar of feigned safety. I could feel the weight of the snow pressing down on my boots; I could feel the compound cold of the heaped snow penetrating the fabrics deeper and deeper. The cold was making a home in me, teaching my cells a new and frigid language.

Then I heard it, over my own heartbeat, over my own panting breaths, over the thick silence of winter: the slow deliberate compaction, the crunch as the powdered snow was smashed down under weight. Footsteps, slow and in the distance, moving closer.

If my heart could have seized in my chest, it would have stopped beating. I felt my entire chest contract, wrapping tightly until concave around the anxiety swelling in my belly. I froze and held the fog of my breath in my lungs until my lips began to quiver.

I could not hide in the dark with the way the moon ignited the snow blanketed on the ground and fluttering down through the air. I could not find refuge with the tree trunks and branches barren like skeletal limbs. Any step on the virgin snow would betray me, announce me to its keen ears.

It was waiting for me to make such a mistake.

The footsteps were getting closer. The methodical puncture of the untouched snow was becoming deafening. I sneaked breaths out of the corner of my mouth and tried to send the curling heat against the trunk of the tree so as not to broadcast it in the contrast against the black air.

I could not take it. I could not just wait for it to find me. It was getting too close.

My instincts swelled up inside me, reached out into my limbs, pulsing adrenaline through every vein.I shoved my palms against the abrasive tree trunk and began to run without direction. My feet plunged into the soft snow; my legs were swallowed up. I tumbled forward and clawed at the cold snow, digging my way forward sloppily.

I left a cavernous path behind me, leading straight to my pathetic attempt to flee. Steam curled like smoke signals into the night above my position. I was a blur of heaving breaths, scraping hands, and sloppy steps.

I was an advertisement for my own demise.

And as I broke from the twisted skeletons of the trees into a blank clearing of only windblown snow, it saw me. Our eyes met across the pall radiating from the white world, mine wide and crazed and its red and demonically glowing.

The beast cast a haunting shadow across the glittering snow, broad heaving shoulders, lean and powerful legs, gnarled and pointed antlers. Large puffs of smoke curled around its drooling muzzle and through its sharp rack as it grunted at me rhythmically. Even in just the moonlight, I could see the blood dripping slow and thick from the tips of the antlers.

Jacob’s blood.

Jacob’s screams behind me as I heard his ribs shatter and collapse, as I hear the air wheeze out of him.

I did not stay to watch as I fled to my lonely tree trunk in the dark.

It did not need to move; I knew this was the end. I could never outrun the beast in its habitat, as it hunted me so naturally. I looked up into the cold and distant stars then closed my eyes to hear the hoof falls escalate to a gallop towards me.

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***

This was a glimpse of winter horror. My book, Savages, paints a picture of apocalyptic horror.

What would be the scariest winter horror for you?

I could hear them waiting, their shifting feet crunching on the dead rocks and sticks around us. There was always audience around. This was not fighting in its purest conflict; it was fighting for sport. It was violence as entertainment. In what was left of the world, they had nothing better to do.

We fought to survive each day, but then we watched others fight to unwind.

The adrenaline was already reaching thin, excited strands down my veins. My heart was already fluttering into an agitated rhythm, just knowing what was waiting. I fought night after night, smashing my swollen knuckles into another face, for the food to fight the next day. Yet the anxiety never faded; the nerves never steeled.

Above the tremors starting in my muscles, I felt my stomach tightening and writhing, tugging down on my esophagus towards the empty pit in my gut. Vacant, hollow, fucking starving.

I tried to swallow the acid bubbling up my throat and focus on the plate that would be on the other side of this fight.

Then he was gesturing towards me, beckoning me to emerge from the shadows of the trees out into the light of the large bonfire where they could see me. I could see the shifting figures now, mumbling and cheering in anticipation. The fire crackled beside them, sending embers into the black sky. I breathed out hard into that dark sky and watched my breath curl in front of and away from me.

I clapped my hands together and swung my arms back and forth as I had always seen boxers do on TV, imitating numerous people probably dead and rotting under the twisted wreckage.

My opponent looked even more scraggly and desperate than I imagined myself. I had seen myself in the dusty reflection of a shattered window months ago, and it had terrified me. Yet even in that dilapidated state, I was not this emaciated, wild-eyed shell of a man.

He held his hands up in gnarled, shaking fists. I could have underestimated him had other ragged opponents not crept out of starvation to nearly pummel me into the dirt below us.

He did not disappoint. He came at me fast and direct, flying across the dirt and dead pine needles in a flurry of long punches. I lifted my arms defensively over my face and felt his arms collide painfully with my forearms. I let him burn it out. I let him pound his fists into my rounded back.

I knew none of our fatigued and deprived muscles could perform for long.

The crowd grew restless around us. I was not entertaining them. They wanted my fight, my pain to distract them from the dismal world all around us.

The pain rolled over me in waves. Each impact from his fists or his feet rippled through my nerves. My instincts screamed to react, to heed the whine of the patrons, to perform. But I had to stick to the tried and true method. I had to fight my impulse and wear him out. Then I could eat.

I felt his blows waning. I watched his bare feet as I curled under my defensive arms. His footsteps were staggering. He could see the finish line and was seduced by the thought of that food. My food.

When I saw one of his arms dangle at his side, I knew it was time. The audience had nearly given up on me. Stray conversations had started among the crowd; the energy had shifted away from us. When there was a pause in his assault, I stood up tall again and dove my fist into his lower jaw. I felt his jaw collide with his skull, heard his teeth snap together. He toppled back surprised and stunned.

And the crowd exploded in cheers.

They loved me once more; they always loved me when the momentum switched. They were drunk off the violence, wrapped up in the sport.

In a blur of exploding instincts and ravenous hunger, I was on top of him, pounding my fists into his face. I felt the flesh contort below each blow, felt his blood wetting my knuckles. With each strike, the audience became more alive. The world was just this moment, and they lived for what I was doing to this other desperate survivor.

I lived for him to stop moving and for the plate to be placed in front of me.

Finally, his arms stopped flailing up on me. Finally, his breathing dropped to sad sputter. He fell limp beneath me, and the fight was over.

I had won. Dinner was mine.

This is just a glimpse at what entertainment might become in the apocalypse. My upcoming novella, Savages, follows two survivors through the search for others in the apocalypse.