Archive for the ‘horror’ Category

When I heard there was going to be a horror-themed book signing at The Stanley Hotel, I decided I needed to participate. My first signing experience at Behind the Mask in Nashville was staggeringly disappointing and left me resolved to never try such an event again. The main failure of that experience, as I saw it, was that I was mistakenly positioned with all romance writers with an all romance audience. I did not fit; my audience was not there. However, surely a signing staged at the infamous haunted hotel that inspired Stephen King’s The Shining would be where I belong… right?

I would be willing to visit The Stanley Hotel any time. I first entered the famed walls when I attended The Stanley Film Festival, which was a fantastic experience. Estes Park is gorgeous (and only a short drive away). The location definitely helped convince me to go for it. Even if the signing turned out as unsuccessful as the previous, at least the trip would be easier and still amazing.

Another perk of a local(ish) venue was the availability of my entourage. When I chose to go to Nashville, the fact that I could visit the Corpsewax Dollies (my belly dance troupe) encouraged my decision. They were able to attend the signing and save me from the soul-crushing monotony and disappointment. Then I was able to go participate in a show before returning home.

In Colorado, so close to home, I was able to enlist a group of support to join me on the entire trip.

I brought Graphics Smith, the artist who drew several of my book covers and does cross promotional collaborations with me. I brought Pratique Photography, the photographer who makes all the bloody pictures with me. She also dressed up as the “twin” to my Grady sister costume. I even brought a Jack and Wendy to join in the cosplay. If ever there was a place to dress up as the cast of The Shining, this was it.

The night before the event, I hung out alone in the hotel (not The Stanley) while my entourage soaked in the hot tub. As I tried Kava for the first time (so pleasant but tastes like shit, by the way), I was overcome by a crippling wave of impostor syndrome. I do not experience impostor syndrome often, yet this flare seized me. As I slipped pictures of myself into sleeves for Pratique Photography, I kept thinking, why would anyone want to buy pictures of ME, hang me on their walls? That rapidly dissolved into, why would anyone want to buy the words I write? What am I even doing here?

Thankfully, the wave of insecurity and self-doubt was flattened by the sedative effects of the Kava, yet the thoughts lingered and teased at the edges of my brain nonetheless. It is always challenging to put myself out there with my art, something I truly care about, a tender and sensitive part of me. Any of my recent adventures ruffle the edges of that doubt. Submitting a book or a story, posting pictures from a photo shoot, belly dancing onstage, speaking about my writing in front of kids, displaying my wares on a table and asking people to invest their time and money in what came out of me.

The next morning, we gathered my massive amount of stuff and headed to the event. The Stanley was just as gorgeous and interesting as I remembered. Every step caused the film festival to echo in my memories. We set up my table early, my deadly assistant Pratique Photography working her magic on the setup. Then it was hours of milling around and waiting with the other authors, typical to these events.

I didn’t really take the time to assess the other tables or the other authors. I chatted with several but never evaluated their wares. I was focused on the upcoming customer traffic. I’m typically more engaging and social, yet after the madness of October, I kind of just wanted to be more introverted, especially in preparation for being “on” for the attendees all day.

VIP attendees entered the room first, people who had paid for the event, invested to attend early and have access before anyone else. This was truly the best opportunity to sell some books and art. Yet things, unfortunately, seemed familiar, reminiscent of the last signing. A few people recognized Pratique and I as the Grady sisters from The Shining; we took some pictures. People were friendly and approached my table.

But then they were horrified.

It seemed very strange to me. My horror and the associated art do not appear to be that hardcore of horror on the surface. The Waning, for instance, definitely goes there, but you would never guess that from just the cover. Yet no one got close enough to read the blurb on the back. Phil had drawn horror movie killers, and we made magnets with little poems I wrote. One was Jack Torrance. How was that upsetting at the fucking Stanley Hotel?

I have been in horror a long time. I never mind or judge if it’s not someone’s flavor, just as I expect people to do the same for my love (obsession) for it. Yet I expected this event and this venue to have my audience. I anticipated horror readers and horror movie lovers. And even if I did not find that group, I didn’t expect people who were unnerved or appalled by a bloody cleaver on a cover or a picture of a pig heart.

And yet.

The hours passed (slowly). I talked with people, took a lot more pictures with strangers, made some author friends. I passed out a lot of bookmarks; most people cringed when they looked at the images on them. In the end, it was much more successful than my previous signing. I have no complaints about how much art or how many books I was able to sell. One always wants to sell out, but any sale is awesome. And, like I said, more sales than last time.

Instead, I was nagged by the reaction to my offerings, by still not being able to locate my audience. Maybe they don’t attend book signing events, even at The Stanley Hotel. Or maybe people just do not want the art I collaboratively create and the books I write. But I honestly just feel like my audience was not there, and that was disappointing. My minions later reported that the majority of the other books were of the paranormal romance or fantasy persuasion. If that was the desired genre, I was equally misplaced here as I was with all romance readers.

All in all, the trip was awesome. I had a great time with my entourage and relished their support. The book signing event was fun and productive, even if I deeply felt the absence of my audience. The time in Estes and at The Stanley Hotel was well spent.

Before and after the signing, we took our costumes around to take pictures in the hedge maze, in front of the hotel, on the staircases, in the hallways. It will always be fun to terrify people, especially by simply walking quietly in a blue dress.

I have no regrets about attending the event. However, once again, I don’t think I’ll do a book signing event again. My people, the audience I am searching for, are not there. I just need to get more creative in finding them outside my personal life and beyond the internet.

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
goodreads.com/author/show/11032481.Christina_Bergling
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling
instagram.com/fierypen/
amazon.com/author/christinabergling

Oh, October. October has always been my favorite month. I look forward to it whisking me away from the misery of summer every year, heavily laden with its Halloween festivities. However, I’m skidding out of this October on my face barely a shell of a person. Is there too much of a good thing? I think I can now safely say, yes. October 2019 nearly killed me with all the awesome things.

Here is my October in review, otherwise known as my excuse list for being so dormant on here and behind on all things writer-ly.

I kicked off the month on October 1st by going to see The Shining in the theater. The theater screening was a surprise but perfectly timed for my Halloween costume cosplay and the upcoming sequel release. I then continued my Stephen King binge by going to see IT Chapter Two in the theater for the third time later that week.

I countered my sluggish inactivity in a theater recliner with 13 miles of activity when we descended Pikes Peak the first weekend. Two years ago, we began our initiative to hike Colorado 14ers by ascending Pikes Peak, the mountain in our backyard. The next year, we returned to the same trail but only went up to Barr Camp (about halfway) and back. The trail was gorgeous, as usual, the perfect euphoric fall hike. And descending was so much better than dragging myself up.

That same weekend, while my calves were still knotted up from the miles, I did a horror photo shoot with the Mistresses of Macabre. I struggled to hold poses with my depleted muscles, but hopefully some good shots come out of it. At least, for once, it was fake blood free.

Next, I went to Denver to see Goblin in concert, performing the live score as they showed the film Deep Red. I had seen Goblin live before, a few years ago. They played a collection of their songs while projecting scenes from the associated movies. I really enjoyed watching the full film and having the music live. It was a great show. Following the movie, they did also play some classic hits in front of movie clips.

Then it was the event of every October the past three years: the Telluride Horror Show. I love going up to the mountains in the fall to watch horror movies and hang out with horror lovers for three days. My husband abandoned me for a different obligation, but otherwise our party grew. We also augmented the experience with cosplay from The Shining. It was ridiculously fun to walk around the fest and make friends dressed as one of the Grady sisters. I even got to write reviews for Daily Dead again.

After traveling for the Horror Show, we immediately traveled again for a surprise wedding in Tennessee. I got to reunite and celebrate with my dark sisters in the Corpsewax Dollies. There was a lot of love, partying, and dancing.

We couldn’t leave our children out of the horror fest, so we had to take them to see The Addams Family. I ended up enjoying it more than I expected, and the kids loved it.

We went equally hardcore on group costumes for the annual Creepy Crawl 5K. Our entire, large group dressed up as characters from Mario Kart, complete with cardboard box karts. The kids joined in as turtle shells, stars, and banana peels. My youngest spent three miles shoving me off the icy trail. We won best family costume.

We hosted our annual Halloween party, thankfully at not at my house this year. I dressed up as a Grady sister again but with less conviction than at the Horror Show. Instead, there was a mountain of food, drinks, kids, and good friends.

Despite a Colorado snow storm, I attended a book club that had read my novel The Rest Will Come. The weather greatly reduced the turn out (and I actually did a second makeup session today), but it was still a good experience. It is always surreal to me that an entire group of people read my book and want to talk about it, but I love to hear their opinions and questions, the outside perspectives.

I returned to the theater for a fourth time (not counting the 10 movies in Telluride) to see a sneak screening of Doctor Sleep. Stephen King and The Shining were apparently my theme of the month.

In addition to all these activities, I did my typical 31 Days of Horror movie watching with accompanying bingo and Hallowear posts. Horror movies and festive clothing every day.

Then it was finally Halloween itself. I took the day off from my day job to fully participate. In the morning, I talked at one school. Three 5th/6th grade classes crammed into a classroom to ask me questions about horror and writing. Then, in the afternoon, I spoke at another school. At this middle school, I gave a speech in front of 600+ students (the entire school) in the gym.

I don’t have a problem with public speaking. However, I am much more comfortable when there is not a stage or microphone, somewhat ironic since I dance onstage. The scale of it was intimidating. Then the microphone didn’t work. I messed up my speech a couple times. But then it was awesome. The kids asked questions until we ran out of time. Several of them thanked me or told me about their writing as they left the gym. One girl approached me to tell me how much hearing I struggled as a child helped her. It was amazing. I can honestly say I love these moments of talking to children, baring my soul for them a bit in hopes that impacts at least one of them.

Having survived all that, I bundled up my kids to take them trick-or-treating. Then I watched my traditional movie (Trick r Treat), and my month came to an end. Everything was great. I did so many things, awesome and fun things with wonderful people. I fully appreciate how ludicrous it is to say there was too much fun in October. I cannot think of anything I would sacrifice, but engaging in all the awesomeness while still working the day job and being a mom and doing regular life might have finally crossed the line into too much.

That is a bridge I will cross next year. Of course, next year, I will be refreshed and excited and back to saying yes to everything. For now, I am taking November to recover. Back to work, back to routine, a little vacation in there. I am also using NaNoWriMo as an opportunity to edit my latest novel. I recently completed the first draft and read over it during our travels to Telluride (an apt time since I included Telluride in the story and it was the perfect opportunity to fact check).

Writing my last novel was a bit of a struggle. I was initially infatuated with the idea, but then it fizzled in drafting. Yet I remained committed to finishing it. Then I kept getting sidetracked by short stories. I would make minimal progress then shelf it to write a short. When I returned to it, it would take time to engage with the story again. All of this left me insecure about the book. I was convinced it was boring and terrible. I was relieved to find that I did not hate it upon first read.

November is the time to get back on the normal track and also get this book edited.

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
goodreads.com/author/show/11032481.Christina_Bergling
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling
instagram.com/fierypen/
amazon.com/author/christinabergling

For the past three years, October has meant the Telluride Horror Show for me. It became our tradition when the Stanley Film Festival left Estes Park to become the Overlook Film Festival. Our tradition has now grown to include more people in our condo each year.

I could spout the same euphoric babbling I do every year. How I love the autumn drive across Colorado. How beautiful the mountain town of Telluride is. How the small festival has a fantastic community feel and atmosphere. How the films rarely disappoint. How fun it is to interact with filmmakers. BUT all of that has been true since Telluride Horror Show #8 (and remained true this year). Though I was disappointed to see no snow.

This year, in particular, the movies were particularly strong. Most years, there are some weak selections or ones that are not quite my flavor, but I was not disappointed. I did not enjoy one film, but I knew that going in from the synopsis in the programming guide.

Here is what I watched this year:

Making Monsters: A fantastic little film that felt like Hostel for the more digital age. The plot and the acting are on point. Great watch.

The creature shorts: A solid selection of short creature horror films. While one or two fall flat, none are bad. My favorites include Pathosis and It Came in Through the Window.

Mutant Blast: Stupid, stupid ridiculous movie, but it’s Troma so obviously. The main two characters are strong and engaging, but I could not get past the bullshit. Others in my party thoroughly loved it though.

Z: See my full review on Daily Dead.

1BR: THE FAVORITE! See my full review on Daily Dead.

Daniel Isn’t Real: Another movie about an imaginary friend (following Z) with a very Fight Club vibe. I love the character dynamics, but the ending wanders off a bit too far. A weak end but still a decent flick.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil: Still just as funny 10 years later!

VFW: The mindless splatterfest I needed after a cerebral day. The characters are good enough for you to care about, and the gore is strong enough to keep your attention. Entertaining as hell.

The Deeper You Dig: A solid supernatural slowburn. Though I nodded off in a couple scenes, I was quite tired. Needs to be viewed on the right mood.

Extra Ordinary: Hil Arious. My friend nearly pissed herself laughing in the screening. The lovable character are so funny, and I can’t wait to watch it again.

We didn’t really get to participate in much beyond the movies. I was too jealous to listen to other authors read their works by the fireside. We ran out of time to walk down to the pig roast. However, we absolutely did make time for trivia.

…and we won it!

Congratulations are not entirely in order though. We hovered solidly in the middle of the pack until the final Jeopardy round. One of us was the only person who knew the lost footage from Event Horizon was found in a Transylvanian salt mine, so we were the only team to gain points while every other team lost. And that launched us to #1.

I’ll take the win however it comes. Trivia has never been my strength.

Our group also decided to increase our festive participation. We dressed up as the cast from The Shining—Jack, Wendy, Danny, and the Grady sisters. I never really miss an opportunity to go all in on a theme and dress up, but this was an exceptionally good environment in which to dress up as iconic horror characters.

Having someone who can pass as my twin only made it better.

It was endlessly entertaining to creep people out, speak and move in unison, and take pictures with a whole bunch of strangers. A good costume is always an awesome icebreaker to make new friends, not that that is hard to accomplish at a fest. We dressed up during the day on Saturday then again for the Last Call party on Sunday night. The Grady sisters are much more fun intoxicated, in my opinion.

Then it was over. The weekend flew by faster than usual. It was a blur of movies; then we were packing the cars back up to drive home. We even quickly overcame car issues to get on the road. I spent the long commute reading over my new WIP novel for the first time. Since I didn’t hate my work as much as I anticipated, it helped to ease the hard drop back into regular life.

If only we could always live at the Horror Show. If only it could always be October.

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
goodreads.com/author/show/11032481.Christina_Bergling
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling
instagram.com/fierypen/
amazon.com/author/christinabergling

2018 was a wild and busy year for me. Most of all, it was the year of the horror anthology. Take a look at what 2018 looked like for my publications.

Publications

January: “Jack Frost,” “You Don’t See Me,” and “Grand Slam” in 100 Word Horrors
June: “After the Screaming Stopped” in Graveyard Girls
August: “Upgraded” in Demonic Household
ChristinaBergling_Upgraded_DEMONICHOUSEHOLD.jpg
August: “Personas” in Colorado’s Emerging Writers (nonfiction)
August: “Look What You Made Me Do” in Colorado’s Emerging Writers (fiction)
August: “Whole” and “Under the Rapids” in Ink and Sword Magazine
September: “Duende” in Collected Christmas Horror Shorts 2
October: “Zoltara” in Carnival of Horror
October: “Freaks” in Carnival of Nightmares
CON Banner.png

Festivals

I attended my first author book signing event, Behind the Mask in Nashville, TN.
IMG_20180224_092557_244.jpg
As has become an annual tradition, I attended the Telluride Horror Show.
IMG_20181014_195501_940.jpg
My reviews for The Dark, Terrified, and Mega Time Squad are published on Daily Dead.
My other festival reviews are on my blog:
The year also saw me launch into some collaborations with other authors, a horror photographer, and an artist and return to performing as a belly dancer. It was a full, busy, and successful year.
Looking to 2019, I hope to add more books to my publication list, including a new novel. I also hope to be able to release more from my new collaborations.
I cannot thank you all enough for the support you give me. I wish you the warmest holidays and the best new year. And if you’re in the mood for some festive horror, check out my 12 Days of Christmas Horror

After having surgery this month, I spent an unprecedented amount of time on the couch. Yes, I used this time to catch up on writing blogs and movie reviews, BUT ’tis the season for holiday horror.

Allow me to present the 12 Days of Christmas Horror, twelve horror movies I indulged in this holiday season. I tried to travel the globe a bit like St. Nick here, taking in the naughty and the nice. The Scandinavians still have holiday horror nailed. This is just a sampling of the wonderful, horrible fruitcake of festive horror out there, but enjoy what you will and Happy Holidays!

1. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

I decided to start strong with Silent Night, Deadly Night. I didn’t discover this gem until a couple Christmases ago, and I haven’t had the heart to indulge the rest of the slasher franchise. We all know how the 80s slasher franchises took a nosedive after the first installment.

After his parents are murdered by a man dressed as Santa Claus, Billy is raised (and abused) in a Catholic orphanage. Christmas and Santa haunt Billy into his teenage years. When Billy is asked to dress up as Santa at his toy store job, he finally snaps. With customary 80s gratuitous violence and nudity, Billy slashes his way through his issues.

Santa’s Verdict: Nice

2. The Children (2008)

Visiting your family over the holidays is often unpleasant when you’re an angsty teenager, but it is made much worse when your younger siblings and cousins are infected with a virus. A virus that drives them to kill all the family around them. The Children is a British thriller than plays on the innate terrifying nature of children and the pressure we all feel at family holidays. The violence is a fantastic mix of graphic and suggestive that leaves you wondering what you’ve seen and what you imagined. But any time a movie kills children, it’s a guaranteed jaw drop.

Santa’s Verdict: Nice

3. Krampus (2015)

A festive horror comedy, Krampus is a family favorite in our house. When family time causes Max to lose his Christmas spirit, the monstrous Krampus arrives to punish one and all. The movie has just enough fright to get my kiddos to jump and plenty of ridiculous comedy.

Santa’s Verdict: Nice 

4. Better Watch Out (2016)

Luke has the hots for his babysitter and a plan to make a move in this home invasion thriller with a twist. The movie is flawed but entertaining enough. It makes me think Home Alone as a horror movie. I always wanted to see what would really happen if you flung a paint can at someone’s head. Better Watch Out offers a pretty detailed portrait of young white entitlement gone psychotic.

Santa’s Verdict: Nice 

5. Dead End (2003)

Dead End might be a stretch as a Christmas horror movie, but it is a horror movie set on Christmas Eve so I’m counting it. On their way to the grandparents, the Harringtons take an unplanned shortcut that ends in disaster. The French horror balances family drama, horrific deaths, and light humor. I particularly enjoy the ending.

Santa’s Verdict: Nice enough

6. Red Christmas (2016)

The sins of the mother come home on Christmas Day in this Australian Christmas horror. Diane has managed to gather her estranged family together for the holiday, but she never anticipated being joined by a cloaked stranger claiming to be the child she attempted to abort 20 years prior. The premise and acting are ridiculous (and also horrible), but the gore is on point.

Santa’s Verdict: NAUGHTY

7. Black Christmas (1974)

The original Black Christmas is often cited as one of the first slasher movies and definitely credited with launching the subgenre. I know it’s the first killer POV that really sticks out in my mind since the shower scene in Psycho. This movie is a holiday and horror classic that I think still holds up today.

Santa’s Verdict: Nice

8. Black Christmas (2006)

Oh, early 2000s horror, what a mangling you did on this remake. The Black Christmas remake scarcely preserves the premise of the original then drops the rest of the film into early 2000s horror tropes. Mental institute escape, check. Dumb hot girls, check. Unnecessary killer backstory, check. It’s more of a gorefest (and obsessed with eyeballs) than the original, but otherwise, it falls entirely short.

Santa’s Verdict: Naughty

9. Sint (Saint) (2010)

We discovered this Dutch Christmas horror last year, and it immediately joined my mandatory seasonal viewing. Sint paints a very different portrait of St. Nicholas as a murderous bishop who takes and punishes rather than leaving presents. The horny teenagers give it a very Halloween vibe to begin with, but then it launches off into its own Amsterdam Christmas, ghost revenge carnage.

Santa’s Verdict: Nice

10. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

In the Finnish province Lapland, a British research team uncovers the tomb of something ancient, something that can slaughter hundreds of reindeer and rob Pietari and his father of their livelihood. They attempt to trap the wolf that killed their income but discover something else instead. Rare Exports is smart Finnish horror that provides an excellent rendition of a much more feral and evil Santa Claus.

Santa’s Verdict: Nice

11. Santa’s Slay (2005)

Santa is not really a good-hearted elf. Instead, he’s a demon who lost a bet, resulting in him being punished by spreading joy to children for a century. Full of ridiculous celebrity cameos, atrocious one-liners, terrible effects, and awful acting (from actors I have seen act well), Santa’s Slay is the lump of coal in your Christmas horror stocking.

Santa’s Verdict: Naughty

12. Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

Anna and the Apocalypse mixes a teenage musical with Christmas AND zombies. Anna is just working through her teenage issues with song when the zombie apocalypse drops on top of the holidays with a sharp mix of comedy and gore.

Santa’s Verdict: Nice

BONUS SHORT! Treevenge (2008)

In Treevenge, poor, innocent pine trees are just trying to live out their lives peacefully until a group of violent humans come to mutilate them and tear them from their home. In this wonderfully awful short, the trees take their revenge upon their fleshy oppressors.

Santa’s Verdict: So naughty it’s nice

BONUS! Dead Snow (2009)

OK, Nazi zombies in a Norway is not exactly Christmasy. The characters may even be on an Easter ski trip, but it looks like winter. It is also one of my favorite horror movies, so I’m adding it as another bonus to my 12 days. In Dead Snow, a group of students head to a cabin for a ski getaway when Nazi zombies start popping out of the snow. The film is fantastically gruesome and so much fun.

Santa’s Verdict: Nice

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
goodreads.com/author/show/11032481.Christina_Bergling
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling
instagram.com/fierypen/
amazon.com/author/christinabergling

We’re baaaaaaaack!

Last year, I stepped up my #31DaysofHorror (watching a horror movie every day in the month of October) experience by adding bingo to the game. This year, I am returning to the same haunt with a new board, fresh with different horror movie tropes and cliches!

Will I top my record of 50 horror movies last October? Will some devoted soul beat me to bingo blackout? Join in and find out! Please, read the rules below, download the board and play along!

31 Days of Horror Bingo Rules:

  1. Each day of October, watch a different horror movie. You are allowed to catch up by watching multiple movies in one day.
  2. For each movie, cross out a tombstone on the board. Only one horror cliche per movie!
  3. Blackout all 24 spaces in the 31 days.

That’s it. Simple. Let’s see who can overdose on horror movies first!

 

 

UPDATE: I made it! Blackout by October 24th. Here’s how the tombstones fell:

Foreshadowing: Who’s Watching Oliver
Creepy doll: IT
Improvised weapons: You’re Next
Revenge: Revenge
Bait: Upgrade
Gratuitous nudity: Tenebre
Reanimation: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse
Look behind you: Delirium
Ghost story: Sleepy Hollow
Rural horror: Never Hike Alone
Unrealistic death: Scream
Flashbacks: Terrified
Haunting: The Witch in the Window
Disfigured killer: The Dark
Dream sequence: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Aliens: Aliens
Stupid victim: After.Life
Final guy: Get Out
Ahab: Halloween 1978
Let’s split up: Halloween 2018
Pet scare: Pet Sematary
Bad acting: Scream 4
Urban horror: Bones
Stoner: The Thing

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
goodreads.com/author/show/11032481.Christina_Bergling
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling
instagram.com/fierypen/
amazon.com/author/christinabergling

This is some kind of white girl in a horror movie shit, I thought to myself as I crunched down the dark path through the woods, marching toward our cabin to fetch my daughter a blanket.

The waves of girlish screams of the Girl Scout bonfire faded behind me as the trees seemed to embrace me in solitude. The sounds of the camp dissipated at my back, and the swish of my jeans and crunch of my sneakers became the only sound in the darkness.

I pointed the penlight flashlight ahead of me, chasing its halo over the gravel. A vague anxiety scratched over the length of my skin, a physical echo of the bad idea I was currently consummating.

This is how dumb bitches like you die, the rational voice in my head echoed again, sending the anxious tickles on my hair follicles on harder edge.

Look, crazy, the other half of my brain chimed in, there is no random hobo living under the cabin. This camp is so high traffic and loud there is no way wildlife is hanging out here. Did you hear those girls screaming? You are fine. You watch too much fucking horror. Stop being crazy.

I breathed out deliberately, forcing the weight of my exhalation down to suppress my heart rate as it climbed foolishly in my chest. I reminded myself I was a horror writer. I evidenced to myself all the horrendous things I voluntarily watched. And read. And wrote. And told myself it was not foreshadowing of how I was going to die but rather healthy desensitization to not freak out in mundane situations like walking alone in the dark in the woods.

Yet my heart punched against my rib cage nonetheless.

Don’t be stupid, rational me began again. You can walk to a cabin in the dark at Girl Scout camp. You will be fine.

I continued scraping down the road, swinging the beam of my flashlight across the length of the road. I listened acutely to the how loud my denim pants had become in the void of the night. I articulated the twisted branches and fluttering leaves against the light of the moon. Suddenly, the brief hike seemed so long and wide.

Between the dark trees, I was finally able to make out the circle of lights from our cabins. I ambled down the small hill to make the turn and ascend into our campsite. Then I saw the large, shifting black shape.

That is not a bear, rational me said. You can’t see for shit far away. You’re just being crazy. Go get this damn blanket.

My muscles quivered half-tensed below my skin, but I pressed my own breath down on myself again and kept walking. What horror writer didn’t have an overactive imagination? Wasn’t I just thinking about all the ways I could die tonight? Wasn’t I just talking about all the horrible life decisions that should have killed me over dinner?

As I approached the farthest, lower edge of the cabin circle, the smell filled my nostrils. The odor was thick, wet, feral. It was not unlike the aroma of a cage at the zoo. Yet the pungency assaulted me in a wave. Then I heard the shape moving, foilage bending to its shape. From the symphony of bending branches, I could tell it was large. Its movements echoed around me, riding its smell into my twitching brain.

Then I saw the shape again, clear even in my hazed near-sightedness. It was a bear, low and wide. The culmination of the sight, sound, and smell lobbied a convincing case to my skeptical denial.

Fuck, it’s a bear, both sides of me decided in unison.

I stopped moving and froze in my last footsteps. I stiffened to silence my heavy steps and scratching jeans. I clicked off my flashlight as if the darkness could obscure me from the animal. My feet twitched forward toward the structure of the cabins then back toward the grouping of humans abandoned behind me.

It ran off, one side of me said. Go to the cabin and get the fucking blanket. You’ll be safe in the walls.

You don’t walk toward a bear, the other side countered. It was a fucking bear. Don’t be the dumb girl in the horror movie. Go back. Go back!

I hesitated and stuttered on the gravel another stupid minute before turning hard and walking fast back up the trail. I did not hear the trees creak behind me. I did not hear the audible angry breath of an animal at my neck. Yet my steps slammed quickened against the dirt, until I could hear the happy giggles of Girl Scouts in the swirling smoke of an fledgling campfire.

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
goodreads.com/author/show/11032481.Christina_Bergling
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling
instagram.com/fierypen/
amazon.com/author/christinabergling

Malignant

Posted: July 18, 2018 in horror, writing

(Short fiction originally published with the Kindle version of The Waning.)

Cancer made me beautiful.

During one of my numerous appointments following my diagnosis, my doctor informed me, along with a blur of medical terms and statistical percentages, that sugar grows tumors. Strangely, staring stage four death in the face, I was suddenly able to forsake my heroin-level addiction to Snickers and the like. I was able to unearth every stashed candy bar and introduce it to the nearest trash can. Previously, I could only gluttonously shame eat the diet infractions alone in the car before picking the children up from school. It was the only way to avoid having to share the treats.

Somewhere between clean, organic, grass-fed eating and radiation, I wasted away to the slender, lean, emaciated body I always wanted. Everyone raved about how amazing and great I looked. Friends and acquaintances spouted those superficial compliments I had been craving since my first pregnancy. Yet none of them had any idea of the hideous decay blooming under the surface, of how ugly I was under the beauty I had always coveted.

I did not look like I had cancer, even as it was literally eating me alive. I made the mistake of confessing my diagnosis to someone. Once. A stranger, of course. I was not telling my family or friends, women in my yoga class, parents in the PTA, my children’s teachers. I got on the bike in spin class and peddled away with the other early morning gym rats, none of them able to see Death sitting on my handlebars, staring at me as he waited. It was my dirty little secret. Except I had told a hair stylist as if her chair was a therapist’s couch.

She could only respond with, “But you’re not losing your hair.”

My hair. Because that was the concern with terminal cancer. As if you had to be a bald zombie to be suffering. As if every cancer patient underwent chemo. As if my still full head of hair negated the perversion of my own cells against me.

It was easier to keep my fate to myself. I was not going to spend my last days as a charity case; I was not going to listen to a flood of false sympathy until it all went black. I was not going to watch my babies cry for me.

There was no saving me anyway. After radiation only seemed to accelerate my tumor growth, after the cancer had infiltrated the very marrow of my bones and every lymph node I had, the doctor even advised just enjoying the time I had left. I abandoned the small shred of hope I had been absentmindedly clinging to in his office at that last appointment.

There was no point in returning for a follow up.

Where did the cancer start? What did it matter? The first time the doctor told me, I did not hear him. Once the word “cancer” leapt off his lips, I could only hear a high-pitched ringing. The entire world was enveloped by that hideous sound, so loud it made my head swoon and the edges of the world seem fuzzy.

When the ringing receded somewhere as I stumbled to my car, it was replaced by the one resounding question: why me? What had I done to warrant this painful death sentence? What karma had earned me this level of punishment?

Shock struck me first, seizing me as I sat blank-faced in my car in that doctor’s parking lot after he so nonchalantly informed me I was dying. The words washed over my brain in waves that caused them to lose meaning. The sun blazed into my pupils, but my eyes were so out of focus and so swelled with tears I could scarcely notice. My keys were tangled in my fingers, but I could not find the strength to lift them to the ignition.

This shock was painfully temporary though. Then the heat started, the anger. There is no other word for it. First, it was a smoldering in my belly. My sickly, tumor-ridden belly. The warm radiated up beneath my skin; each of my nerves coiled and pulled taunt. My mind hardened as I felt the rage blossom across my very core.

Fucking cancer.

I felt betrayed by God, Fate, and every power in between. I felt ransomed by my own flesh that sold itself over all too easily to the will of the disease. Not a symptom, not a sign. Just a death sentence mere months before my fortieth birthday.

Happy birthday to me.

There was anger in every stage of my grief.

The anger changed me. The rage sustained me, fueled me. At some points, I was able to function on fury alone. Yet it perverted my mind; it was the cancer in my brain to match the cancer in my body, eating away at me one day at a time. I had more animosity than I had outlets to deal with it. It was violent, welling, and without direction.

I even started to feel a poignant resentment when I looked at my angel-faced children with their entire long lives sprawled out in front of them. When I screamed at my daughter for wanting to stay out past curfew for a movie with her friends, I knew I had to regain control over myself; I knew my defect was starting to show.

I could not waste my remaining time flailing around in my anguish. I just needed a focus, some way to consummate all the anger relentlessly pounding through me.

It was not fair. I did not deserve cancer. I could think of so many people just in my little life who had earned this demise much more exquisitely than I had. Like my coworker who slipped twenties out of her register and into her pockets every shift. Like my son’s math teacher who clearly spiked his coffee all day long and shepherded children while drunk.

Like my asshole husband who was pumping his dick into his personal trainer twice a week and strutting around our house so proud of getting away with it, as if I was stupid enough not to notice. As if he had ever invested a single second on self-improvement for me.

He deserved cancer. He was cancer, a tumor on our life, the malady infecting our marriage.

I decided I would feel much better about meeting my untimely end if he met his first.

I wanted to give him my cancer. I wanted those malignant growths eating away at his body like they were mine. Unfortunately, cancer requires such an orchestration of physical and environmental variables that I would be dead and rotting long before I could figure it out. I could load him full of my cancerous little cells, but his body might not react; they might not take root as swiftly and fully as they had insisted on doing inside me. If I reached the point I could give him my cancer, actually make him suffer as I was suffering, I could probably cure myself of it.

And then what would it matter?

But he had to suffer. His death had to be slow, painful. Like mine was going to be. It also had to be indirect. Getting caught didn’t ultimately matter in the scheme of my timeline, but I wanted to exit my children’s life with angelic light, not as their father’s murderer. They were going to be mad enough that I never told them I had cancer.

Poison. It was all too perfect of an answer. I would poison him the way he poisoned my life, the way he poisoned our marriage.

Focusing on his death made it easier not to think about my own impending doom. I could ignore the pain blooming from the depths of my nerves by concentrating on the misery I would finally be administering to him. It was the answer, and I felt in my tainted guts that it was right. He would get what he deserved, and I would get to vent all the wretched hate, resentment, and pain trapped in my cancerous little shell.

I had no idea how to go about poisoning someone; however, I did have the common sense to not jump on the internet and Google it. Search history and whatever my son would babble about before shutting the door to his bedroom, only the glow of the computer screen spilling out from under the door. It didn’t necessarily have to be untraceable; I would not be alive to question and detain. With the speed of government, even if someone suspected, I would probably be cold before they got around to really investigating.

It just needed to work and be easily acquired. I kept it simple and cliché. I found old rat poison that still had arsenic in it. I didn’t even have to buy any; we had some stuffed in the back corner of the garage from that one spring early in our marriage that rats decided to take up residence in our ceiling. He had bought his own poison those years ago, and now it had come full circle. And I knew exactly where to put it.

I sprinkled this ancient rat poison in his protein powder, the bullshit supplement he drank religiously after “working out” with his personal trainer sex toy each session. I did not add a lot. Not enough to taste through the fake chocolate peanut butter flavoring. I was sure once he mixed it with almond milk or whatever the hell she told him to suck down, he would have no idea.

With any luck, he would share his delicious protein shake with the taunt little bitch.

And he didn’t notice. Day by day, he just got a little weaker, a little paler. His cocky strut deflated the more he began to double over with the nausea and vomiting or around the cramps from the diarrhea. I watched him brush his hair in the morning, squinting as he lifted the brush to the light in front of his face. A tuft of his hair had fallen out. I smiled out of the corner of my mouth as his eyes began to grow more and more sunken into his sagging face.

He looked like he had cancer more than I did.

I could not stop smiling. To myself, of course. After he had gone to another doctor’s appointment to find out why he couldn’t kick whatever flu or virus must have been going around. When the kids were at school and I had the house to myself, mixing up more special protein powder for my loving husband.

My anger seemed sated, my soul calmed. My life felt, at its core, righted. The sicker he became, the more alive I felt, and, ironically, the more acceptant of my incoming departure. I could go happily into that good night knowing he would not be having sex with a twenty year-old personal trainer on top of my grave, knowing my sister would be raising our children rather than him and my infantile replacement.

I cried at his funeral, of course. Such an unexpected cardiac arrest in such a healthy middle-aged man, especially one who used the gym so frequently. I called the tears out of my past. I thought of our wedding day long ago, when I actually loved him and he, perhaps, actually loved me too. I thought of him looking down with such full eyes when he held our first child swaddled in his arms. I thought of the life we were supposed to have back then when we started, before we all became cancerous.

And I cried for my own approaching death. I imagined my children here again so soon, my rotten body in the coffin instead of their unfaithful, poisoned father. I let the tears rain down my cheeks for the life of which I was being robbed, the high school graduations I wouldn’t see, the grandchildren I wouldn’t meet, the places I would never travel.

Only one destination remained for me, and that exit grew closer by the day. I felt my body growing weaker, more infected. I could feel the cancer itself as it spread deeper and deeper toward my center.

I just had to wait. I just had to let it come for me.

The tranquility did not last though. With my husband’s cheating body cold in the dirt, the anger returned. As I marched down the last aisle of my life, that same rejection, that same contempt at the injustice of it all flared up to consume me again, to eat at me more effectively than the cancer itself.

It took my husband one month to die. According to the doctor’s math, I had about three more months left. That gave me enough time to dispatch three more people who deserved an untimely death more than myself, three more times to find that justified peace before it all just went black.

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
goodreads.com/author/show/11032481.Christina_Bergling
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling
instagram.com/fierypen/
amazon.com/author/christinabergling

I’m officially in my mid-thirties; I should be professional and appropriate by now, right?

Um…

…right?

Honestly, I don’t know that I fit into the average subjective definition of either term. However, it has been an idea that has been wriggling around on the skin of my mind lately.

I am the parent of two young children. My partner and I are both very “outside the box” people, so he and I struggle with constantly trying to teach our children to behave inside the social box. This is the sort of contentious relationship I have with social norms and expectations, but by some miracle, I have managed to balance my rebellion into measures of social success thus far in my life.

Yet, as I delve deeper into being a horror author, I find the questions surfacing again. Most specifically, as I post images of me half naked and covered in blood on the wide internet.

Professionally, I have never had much of a problem. I’m reasonably intelligent and have done well through my career. I’ve performed high at my various jobs, though the jury is still out on the new role I just started. The issue is never my work or my work ethic; rather, I might be too much “me” at work. I’ve been scolded by a Master Sergeant in Iraq for cussing too much. I’m simply a very open person. So, my other career of dealing in horror is perhaps a little too public.

I see no issue with someone executing their day job then going home to dabble in any kind of deviant art. That does not mean everyone feels the same way. Our culture is very strange and hypocritical about female expression and nudity. We are bombarded with the imagery of naked women but then told a woman who is naked publicly is morally bereft. While I have yet to encounter any negative consequences for my blatant exhibitionism, I am ever aware of the threat.

I consider what employers, clients, or future employers might encounter when they Google me. I would like to think they could separate the art from the artist and focus on my qualifications, but I simply do not have that much faith.

Am I unprofessional because I am publicly and unapologetically me outside of the “office”? Do I get to be taken seriously when I am comfortable enough in myself to lay my mind and skin bare?

Working in IT, I harbor no illusions about the internet. After working with the government and military for so many years, I am well aware of how much of a delusion “privacy” is now. I know anything sent or shared or even simply residing on a computer with wireless capability is not private. I deal with this reality but simply having no secrets, having nothing that could be uncovered and used against me.

Plus, I have an exhibitionist streak about as wide as half my personality, so I would voluntarily be advertising it even if no one would ever have access to it.

Maybe I can be professional. I can do my job well entirely separate from any extracurricular activities, even if I do post them very openly, very accessibly to employers or clients. What about “appropriate”? The word appropriate itself causes my neck to flex and my lip to curl in a hint of a twitch. I have never wanted to be appropriate because of the many ways the society that manufactures the definition is simply…wrong.

But I’m also older now. Hi, Middle Age; yeah, I see you right there over the horizon. And, more importantly, I am raising children. Get into the box, kids, so you can understand it (and hopefully then jump right out of it and set it on fire).

Is it appropriate for a 35 year-old woman to pose for pictures naked and covered in fake blood? Why not? After pregnancy and gravity have had their way with me, it is the time I have felt most comfortable in my body, given the least amount of fucks. The question sounds a lot like, am I skinny enough to wear a bikini? Now, is it appropriate for a mother of young children to do so? And more than that, be open with her children about it, share and explain the pictures. I am too observant to have not noticed the judgement on parents around me.

Is it appropriate to expose them to horror and art? I let them participate in their own bloody photoshoots, obviously without the nudity involved in some of mine.

My instinctual answer to all of these questions is: hell yes, it’s appropriate. It is my body to live in and reveal as I want. I provide my children with a safe and happy home and do not expose them to anything carelessly or without evaluation.  Yet I remain acutely aware of all the consequences I could be tempting in the distance. Maybe they never come, but it would be reckless to plunge through life so carelessly. I insist on living deeply, not stupidly.

Then, maybe the most poignant question: am I safe? I hate that I even have to write that, that it is a question that has to occupy such constant real estate in my mind, but the real world is dark and full of terrors. Like I said, realities of the internet. When will I interact with the wrong person? When will I post the wrong picture? When will I share the wrong detail? When it will be too much and the consequences will be more than social?

The more I find and express myself, the more I question what it will cost me. Everything in life has its price. My brain, especially the depressive mind, quietly catalogs all the ways it could go wrong in the background. I am happy being myself. Writing dark and twisted stories. Taking pictures soaked in fake blood. Dancing on the stage. Posting about the inner workings of my fractured mind. It feels right, within MY definitions of professional, appropriate, and (hopefully) safe.

I will continue my path unaltered and see where it leads. Sometimes, I just need to stop and unpack the doubts from my head.

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
goodreads.com/author/show/11032481.Christina_Bergling
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling
instagram.com/fierypen/
amazon.com/author/christinabergling

When I started “modeling,” I think I was chasing a way to feel positively about my appearance. In the wake of my most self-destructive phase, I needed to manufacture some semblance of confidence from the shattered pieces of my sense of self. I knew I could never be classified as conventionally pretty or skinny, but I wanted to make that art. I wanted to see myself differently, from the outside.

Over the course of this clumsy dabbling, I worked with photographers with whom I could collaborate, and our visions collided and amalgamated into what I considered my visual style.

But I never did feel better about myself.

My pseudo eating disorder raged. I would starve myself and not eat on days I did nude shoots, as if lunch or water made a perceivable difference. I would turn the pictures on myself, use them to catalog my flaws, use them as a qualifier of my worth. For as much as I have never prioritized aesthetics for any other person, the toxic tentacles of the damage in my brain always made me one-dimensional to myself. It was as if my physical body was an entirely separate entity from the rest of me, judged meticulously by only its appearance–by ever-sharpening criteria. I was never going to be “thin” enough or “pretty” enough because it was never about how I looked. Self-destruction had been driven out of my heart only to make a hidden home in my eyes and my flesh.

Yet I continued to play in front of the camera. The symptom was never the disease. I modeled until we moved back to Colorado from Tennessee. Then I was no longer dancing, I had no established relationships with local photographers, and I had another child. By this point, I resigned myself to simply being too old and the pictures being a closed chapter in my life.

Then I mentally evolved again.

Two major changes happened. Most importantly, perhaps at the root, I finally made peace with the damaged and self-destructive persona in me. I have been analyzing, flirting with, writing, and being her half my life. This time, I actually forgave her, forgave myself for what I did to us. I released that blame and those consequences that it felt so safe to hold.

Perhaps as a side effect to this or maybe as a tangent effort, I put my atypical bulimia to bed. In vain attempts to restore myself after my son, I spent years obsessing and fixating, starting and torturing myself, punishing my body to the point of multiple injuries. Then I discovered intermittent fasting.

I had attempted numerous diet and fitness paradigms, yet fasting slipped on like a glove. For all my anxiety about not eating and hanger, it was just what my brain and body wanted. Needed.

And impossibly simply, food was no longer an issue. The numbers were no longer an obsession. Just like that. It seems utterly unrealistic. I am neither the weight or size I “want,” yet I don’t care. I am happy. I am comfortable. I have finally grasped that confidence that launched the entire endeavor.

It is possible I have simply outgrown some of the fixations. Life continues to get bigger. Maybe I am old enough to just give no fucks anymore. Yet a part of me still fears this is a trap set by that self-destructive girl, a false summit. Feeling authentically good in my skin feels alien, so forgotten it’s almost foreign. I have reservations over so many years of struggle culminating in so seemingly simple a fix.

But I’ll ride this wave until it sends me crashing onto my face.

In this place, I have returned to modeling. Yet this time is not motivated by a search to find something in myself. This time is not a band-aid over the tear in my mind. I am not trying to prove to myself that I look worth something.

I am trying to look scary and disturbing.

I have launched into a new collaboration with members of my “commune.” The photographer is establishing her visual voice, and I am happy to play test subject. We both love horror and have already collaborated on one of my novels. With the addition of a blood minion, we are collectively chasing beautifully disturbing images.

Successfully so far.

The difference is where I am coming from. I no longer feel infected by that pervasive insecurity. I am no longer worrying if the wrong position creates a bulge; instead, I am making sure the fake blood is dripping right. I am able to look at the pictures and see the image rather than all the things I am not.

I have worked with some amazing photographers over years (and plenty not), but there is something unique about laughing your head off as your “sisters” ladle chocolate fake blood on you, about collaborating with women who have held you up most of your life.

The fact that the pictures are turning out is just a bonus.

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
goodreads.com/author/show/11032481.Christina_Bergling
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling
instagram.com/fierypen/
amazon.com/author/christinabergling