For the first time in my career, I am considering putting one of my stories in the drawer.

The drawer is a metaphor writers use to describe where they put unfinished manuscripts, incomplete stories, and abandoned books. It is where you put the works you have given up on. Works go stale in the drawer, if they ever see the light again.

I love the novel I have on the chopping block. However, I am concerned that my intentions will not come across properly and that will undo the book. In my mind, the story works, but my faith on whether it will do the same in the world is shaky.

The intention of the book, what I think the story is about is exploitation. The many levels and layers of exploitation. Female exploitation to include suppression and forced prostitution. Racial exploitation like colonization and slavery. Family exploitation like abuse.

I did not feel I had the knowledge or license to tackle historical fiction or even fiction about these issues set in the real world. I definitely do not know enough to capture the experience, and I lack the generational experience. It’s not mine.

However, large parts of my story are influenced by these things. I have reactions to them, and I have things to say about them. So I created a fantasy world very similar to our own, where I wasn’t trying to capture how people felt in real world events but instead having them react to events I concocted. I wanted to be in control so I wasn’t trying to walk in the skin of real people. But what I created does mirror the real world–and not subtly.

My protagonists aren’t “white” because I didn’t want a white savior story. The core of the story is two young girls, socially invisible and powerless in a corrupt place.

However, colonization and slavery are in my narrative in hopes of paining how evil and perverse the exploiters are. The same with how they treat the girls and anyone unlike themselves. I won’t bother to deny that the people and situations are modeled after the real world, a real past I did not live.

Such is fiction.

I have struggled with which details to lift and how to personify these people. I didn’t want to make them purple or some true fantasy color. I didn’t want to invert the skin color of our world, as if to say it would be the same if the shoe was on the other foot. I also didn’t want to avoid racial differences as if I was shying away.

I have thought about all these things, debated all these things in my mind. I just don’t know how I want to approach them while still expressing my story. It took root in my mind for a reason, and I don’t want to lose it in an attempt to tread softly.

My doubt is that the text and its interpretation will not match my intentions. I fear it will come across as appropriating. My definition of appropriation is taking experiences or cultures for your own benefit. Trying to get published and sell books definitely would be to my benefit.

But if topics become off limits, how far away is that from censorship? Can parts of fiction belong to people? Can we always infer the writer’s social commentary? I know what my statement is, but it can never read that way to everyone. Where is the balance?

Of course, I have the deep seeded desire to be told I’m a good white person, that I’m different that all the bad ones. But I know I’m not owed that, that no one is obligated to pat me on the head and pacify me. This internal debate here is not me asking permission; this is me trying to process things “aloud”.

Between being a woman and often working in sectors still dominated by men and trying to explain racial inequity to my mixed children, this idea was born. With no intentions or agendas. Yet in this stage of revisions, I have to evaluate the novel from other points of view.

Christina Bergling

Like my writing? Check out my books!

  • Followers – You never know who is on the other side of the screen. Followers is a mystery and thriller that blends women’s fiction with horror.
  • The Rest Will Come – Online dating would drive anyone to murder, especially Emma.
  • Savages – Two survivors search the ruins for the last strain of humanity. Until the discovery of a baby changes everything.
  • The Waning – Locked in a cage, Beatrix must survive to escape or be broken completely.
  • Screechers – Mutant monsters and humans collide in the apocalyptic fallout of a burned world. Co-authored with Kevin J. Kennedy.
  • Horror Anthologies

When I said things have been wild and complicated, a lot of what I was referring to is my most recent Alopecia flare. I didn’t want to make this blog my Alopecia blog, so I have been waiting to post about it. These changes have been the last year or so, and the story is not over, but I couldn’t wait any longer to write about it.

When I was waiting for the situation to accumulate, I never imagined it would be like this. I never thought it would be this severe and take over my life.


I had my first Alopecia Areata flare when I was 17 years old. It was one of the most stressful times in my life. Two spots appeared, one at my temple and the other climbing up from my neck. Neither were very large. At their biggest, perhaps a quarter. I remember my sister snarkily pointing the first out. I didn’t believe her until I ran my fingers along the deviation in my hairline in front of the mirror.

I went to a dermatologist and got steroid shots in the spots. To my pre-childbirth, pre-tattoo skin, it was excruciating. Particularly the one at my temple. But the hair came back with only one treatment, and it was behind me.

For a couple decades.

My Alopecia returned with the pandemic and lockdown. Small spots appeared, maybe 4-6 of them. As far as I could tell, they were behind my ears and in my undercut. They may have been more widespread, but my hair was so thick and I couldn’t go to the salon so I would have never noticed unless I was hunting for them.

After lockdown lifted, mad with freedom, I scheduled an undercut tattoo. Premeditated impulse.

The tattoo unexpectedly was as effective as the steroid shots. My dermatologist theorized that the trauma/healing of a tattoo distracted the immune system from my hair the same way other treatments would. As my skin healed, it once again seemed to be behind me. I guess, in my mind, I always assumed it was something that I would get over and be done with. I never really knew about how Alopecia flared, how it was forever.

It came back again. It was not decades this time. Months maybe. It started slow, a small spot behind each ear, one at the back of the head. When they steadily spread, I reached out to a dermatologist again.

This Flare

This flare has been different than any of my previous ones. It has not responded to treatment. And it just keeps spreading and getting worse. The hair poured out of my head. I held chunks in my hands. Nothing I ever imagined dealing with.

The spots crawled across my scalp. I ignored them, downplayed them, listened to people as they said I shaved half my head anyway. It sounded nice. With my thick, long hair, I told myself it would pass again.

The steroid shots brought back tiny patches of hair. They were like tiny islands in the smooth ocean of flesh. And the sea kept rising.


The loss accelerated. It exploded. Literally. An explosion of hair cascading from my scalp. It was wound in my fingers. It was stuck to my shower wall and sinks. It was clogging my drains. It was filling my trash cans. It was tangled in the carpet and choking the vaccuum. I had no idea I could lose so much hair and have any left attached to my head.

It was every time I touched my hair, the worst when I washed or brushed it. And every strand was traumatizing. Every strand felt like it was being plucked out of my heart. Pieces of myself falling away. It was the evidence of me losing to my body with every breath and movement.

The bald spots climbed over the bottom and back of my head, meeting nearly in a band. Once I lost that ground, I extended my undercut above my ears. It felt like a retreat; it felt like a surrender. But it let me keep my hair, gave me a hope at hiding the loss. I told myself I was meeting my body and my Alopecia where they were. I was compromising. Yet it still felt like giving up.

Then it was no longer spots. My bangs began to thin, so I had my stylist move them back to thicken them. Then continued to rain down. After shaving two thirds of my head, I continued to lose handfuls. Every day, it was breaking me down. I could not focus on anything else. It was only the loss, only the failure.

To escape that daily trauma, I gave up. I reasoned that even if the hair grew back, I would have to start over anyway. It would never return smoothly. I imagined a fluffy fuzz branching out through the surviving long strands, the patches of regrowth sticking up on my head. No matter what I did or what happened, I would have to start from nothing.

So I truly surrendered, and I shaved my head.

I have been going to the same stylist for YEARS. We met when she saved me from a botched bob. She first suggested my undercut. We tried an array of cuts and colors. I let her do what she wanted to do with my hair, and her art shown. At the time I started really losing my hair, it was damn near perfect. It was what we had been growing and working toward for years. It was smooth and healthy. It was the exact style I wanted. It was great for dancing. I remember thinking how much I loved my hair.

Right before it started to go.

Even though I could have easily shaved it off myself at home, I went to her. She had tried so hard to save my hair along the way, so it seemed right to end it together. We cried; we laughed. I cried A LOT. The entire experience was surreal, like there was no way I could be in that moment, losing all my hair. It felt like it was happening to someone else.

Then I was bald. As upset as I was by it, it was done, and I turned to adapt to it.

I thought this was it, time to deal. Only it hasn’t been it. Somehow, I have continued to lose.

I noticed a stripe in my eyebrow, so thin my husband assured me it wasn’t loss. I noticed that hairs I had plucked out on the right side never returned. Then the right brow continued to thin before its sibling followed.

The eyebrows were more upsetting to me. I hated how I looked. I could scarcely look in the mirror. I took to makeup to fill the blank flesh, but I became paranoid about it. I wouldn’t go anywhere without eyebrows.

None of my hair grew back. I buzzed my head and shaved parts of my body in October. None of it grew. I continued to lose of my head, leaving only a stubbly patch at the top. Yet no more shaving my armpits or legs. No plucking what was left of my eyebrows.

And most recently, the eyelashes. Like the eyebrows, it started as one questionable spot before making itself undeniable. Now I am the same way about my fake eyelashes as I was with the eyebrows. Sticking them on, constantly adjusting, glue in my purse for touch ups. Anything to not advertise my loss.


Once hair loss is clearly Alopecia, you’re referred to a dermatologist. I showed this flare to my primary care, and she immediately referred me out. My case was clear.

My dermatologist is the only one in his practice who handles hair loss. He is not my favorite. He started off very flippant about the whole thing. It did not seem like he was minimizing, but it did feel like he was not on the same page as me as to the severity or how fast it was progressing.

Until I showed up looking like a naked mole rat after just a few weeks. I went from having 1/2 of my hair still intact, long and well past my shoulders, bangs to not even eyebrows.

We have tried all the basic treatments. Steroid creams. Some other creams. Steroid injections. I extended my scalp tattoo.

Nothing had any effect. It just kept getting worse. And so fast.

After the last appointment (when we got on the same page about how bad it is), the current plan is to try the new JAK inhibitor that came out last year, Oluminant. It is supposed to selectively suppress your immune system to prevent it from attacking the hair. The clinical trials had good results, and people I’ve seen in online support groups seem to be enjoying success.

I didn’t want to do pills. I didn’t want to do immunosuppressants. The potential side effects are terrifying. Like, is my hair worth risking a stroke? Oluminant has only been on the market for less than a year. Thought it did well in trials, that speaks nothing of the real population. It’s like buying the alpha version of tech. All the bugs. So when it was just the hair on my head, I wasn’t going to do any of them.

Losing my eyebrows and eyelashes changed what I was willing to gamble. So here’s to trying pills. I just have to clear the bloodwork and insurance first.

Because somehow as my body kills its own hair, this is all cosmetic.

I also got my first round of eyebrow tattoos. I had looked into microblading and was told my tattoo artist did that. But when I went in, she was setting up ink and a gun, so I went that route instead.

It hurt like a BITCH. Not as bad as my lower back or my collarbone. However, the face is quite sensitive. Whenever the needle moved toward my nose, my tear ducts just emptied.

But she did amazing work, borderline magical work. From a distance, I don’t think you would ever guess they were entirely fake. I need to return to make them a bit thicker and fill them in, but I have absolutely no regrets. Having eyebrows again, putting down the pencils reduced my depression remarkably.


If this experience and my feelings about it were a fire, the reactions of others would be a downpour of accelerant on top of it. I am an empath. Childhood trauma has made me keen on reading people. Everything said and unsaid, every mannerism and behavior cross referenced against the baseline means something. It all speaks to me in a silent language.

This skill is useful. I make a great unofficial psychologist. I do well with customers and networking at work. Yet, at times, all this subtext, all this extra information hurts.

Times like now.

I have a great support system. I have people who are there for me, who care about me, who are willing to help me. And people are all very supportive… at the beginning. When the hair falls out and it’s new and the start of it all, they are all there with full cups of sympathy. Yet as it drags on, as it becomes every day, they fade.

Just as I began to process things, as they began to really hit me and become my life, people started to move on with theirs. And why wouldn’t they? It’s not their life. It’s not in their day-to-day. They have processed it at arm’s length and moved on. Just like anyone would.

I am just acutely aware of when that line is crossed, when my pain becomes redundant static to a person.

I can also read what they don’t say about it. I can see how much they pity me. I can feel how grateful they are not to be me. In all their awkward flinches, the way they just feel bad for me disgusts me. It makes me more insecure than being bald ever has. I never wanted to be that person. I never wanted to be looked at that way.

And the toxic positivity. I hate the words just and at least.

It’s just hair.
You can just wear a wig.
At least it’s not from cancer.
At least you can just wear makeup.

Poison fucking words to minimize my experience and make me feel weak to be grieving. I realize how asinine it is to be grieving over hair. I know how much worse it could be. My feelings don’t give a shit. They twist me up in knots just the same.

I appreciate the intention. And I know trauma makes people uncomfortable and they don’t know what to say. Often, there is nothing right to say. So I’m not mad at them. I hate the words, not the people trying to help or comfort. I’m mad that I have to be here at all to have these reactions.

I don’t want to be brave. I don’t want to be told I’m beautiful even without hair.

I want someone to crawl into the hole with me, hold me in the dark and say fucking NOTHING. But most people avoid that hole their entire lives. They may be looking down at me extending a hand, but I don’t want to be seen in the blinding light up there. I just want to keep sinking.


I have shaved my head. I have tattooed my scalp. I have tattooed on eyebrows. I have bought fake eyelashes.

I am trying.

The obvious solution that is always thrown in my face is wigs. And I have tried them. I shaved my head in October so, with Halloween, prime wig season. I picked up some cheap, ridiculous ones to try. I am ridiculous, and I also thought it would be easier if I didn’t feel like I was trying to get away with being bald. Sheer white or glitter red would obviously be a wig.

So I tried one in public. I wore a stark white bob out to a show. My head felt warm for the first time. I didn’t think about people staring at my scalp. I noted the weird glances, but overall, I felt okay about it. Then two of my friends drunkenly read me down about how horrible of a wig it was.

I appreciate honesty. I always want to know the truth rather than have my feelings spared. But I didn’t ask. And I definitely didn’t ask to keep hearing it. I was too raw to receive criticism. I was like a baby fawn trying to stand, and it was just a kick over. I was too weak and sensitive to receive the honesty I usually demand.

I haven’t really wanted to try wigs since.

I did wear one for Halloween and a dance performance that was well received. My Morticia.

However, the feeling of the long hair, the way it brushed my shoulders and swung from my head, was extremely triggering for me. I was acutely aware of all the ways the hair felt and how strange it now was, how much I didn’t have it anymore and missed it. It highlighted the loss. It tickled the basic sensations I was missing. This was also when I was quite tender, so I could barely handle it.

Wigs also feel like faking it to me somehow. I am over disclosive and have no filter. I advertise most things about myself. I find that putting on a wig or drawing on my eyebrows feels like lying. The disguise makes me more insecure than the ugly truth.

My entire life, when I put makeup on, a hateful and insidious voice whispers, just putting lipstick on the pig. Putting a wig on that has that voice screaming about trying to pass a pig as a person.

Instead, it’s hats. My hat collection has exploded. Usually, I rock a black beanie in the Joe Pesci in Home Alone vibe. But hats are where I hide. I know they don’t erase my lack of hair, but I feel more comfortable with just that layer of cloth.


In short, I am not coping well. If that was not already obvious.

I am a fucking mess. My depression and insecurity have filled me with every impulse to become a hermit. I have lost myself and I’m grieving, all the while feeling stupid and weak for being so affected by just hair.

Every time I get a foothold on adjustment, the Alopecia is like, “but wait… there’s more!” I settled with losing my hair… then the eyebrows. I managed that… now the eyelashes. Every addition kicks me back farther than where I started. I don’t think I would be okay even if we stopped at my head, but the constant kicks make it harder to even know where I am. Eventually, I will run out of hair, but by then, I may be an emotional disaster.

If I’m not already.

Mirrors are the worst. Maybe even more painful than pictures (obviously I still take plenty of pictures) and people’s reactions. I could be having a great day, feeling comfortable in myself again, allowing myself to interact with people and be happy, letting myself feel good. Then I see a fucking mirror. I see that stranger, all that hairless flesh, and it’s all ruined. I start all over again.

I’m a very social person. I’m an exhibitionist. I take a shit ton of pictures. I am a dancer and perform on stage. I like to be seen. Shit, I need to be seen. Now, I don’t want to be. I want to cover my massive bald head and fake eyebrows and fake eyelashes and hide.

The lack of socialization is already hitting me (hard) in just these few months. It’s not who I am to not be with people. It is definitely not who I am to not share what I have going on unfiltered. But I can’t keep saying the same thing, and I can’t take their eyes full of that damned pity.

The isolation is amplying my depression exponentially.

When I shaved my head, I told myself I was done performing. I had already worried that I had gained too much weight to be on that stage, and I was convinced I was not at the same caliber as the other performers in the shows. But I loved that public expression of art and needed the community.

I am trying to force myself back in. I changed almost all of my profile pictures to bald pictures. I signed up to perform a duet later this month. I am making plans out in the world. I don’t want to… but I have to.

It seems trivial to resign from life over hair loss. Just hair. But I would love to see how everyone who said that felt with chunks of hair in their hands, throwing hats across the room as they cried on the floor.

Losing control of my body and how I physically express myself has fucked me up. I can’t keep trying to deny it. If I ever want to get over it, I have to accept it and what it is doing to me.

I have already written a horror short infected by this experience. Now to find a place to release it into the wild. If nothing else, I can hide in my words.

Christina Bergling

Like my writing? Check out my books!

  • Followers – You never know who is on the other side of the screen. Followers is a mystery and thriller that blends women’s fiction with horror.
  • The Rest Will Come – Online dating would drive anyone to murder, especially Emma.
  • Savages – Two survivors search the ruins for the last strain of humanity. Until the discovery of a baby changes everything.
  • The Waning – Locked in a cage, Beatrix must survive to escape or be broken completely.
  • Screechers – Mutant monsters and humans collide in the apocalyptic fallout of a burned world. Co-authored with Kevin J. Kennedy.
  • Horror Anthologies

Fuck 2022.

2019 was an unpleasant year for me. Since then, every year has leveled up the bullshit. Even having the audacity to make things global.

This post is brief and mostly pictures because much of it is personal and tender bruises to poke. I also just don’t want to talk about it. This year could largely be summarized by dance and medical adventures. With a lot of life sprinkled in between.

I hit the last year of my 30s. It feels like the pandemic swallowed half the decade. I celebrated with goats and yoga.

I attended Telluride Horror Show, of course. The festival was great. However, the experience resulted in some family drama. I have always had tense and complicated relationships with my close family. I was taken off guard when the same sort of issues arose in my chosen family. It hit harder. But I guess people and core dynamics are all the same.

I returned to a bit of horror modeling, which felt like an old glove sliding on.

I danced and performed a lot, basking in expression and community. I’m not very good, but I do keep finding a spot on the occasional lineup. The events at Club Q hit very close to home, a place I know and have danced at, a community I’m a part of.

And more than me, my family is constantly dancing. It’s a lifestyle for us.

I have had a sprinkling of minor health issues for a while. However, they seemed to culminate this year. They have developed from insignificant and inconvenient to barging into my daily life. I don’t want to go into a detailed medical history, but so many acute conditions have taken over.

I’ll write about it later, but the most recent and noticeable is losing my hair. It has been more traumatizing than I realized it would be.

As part of these health changes, I lost many of my coping mechanisms (unhealthy as they may have been). So I dealt with ink therapy. Getting tattoos seemed to be a way to exercise some control over my body again.

Author-wise, I did finish another novel (using NaNoWriMo to focus) and worked on the previous. I wrote a few short stories. “Enjoy Your Show” is published in The Horror Collection: Sapphire Edition. “Elves Watching” is up on Meghan’s Haunted House of Books.

So pretty productive for a shit show year.

I also finally got back out there and did some vending and signings. None were wildly successful, but I did see more action than most of them.

There were plenty of bright spots in a dark year, plenty of life and memories being made amidst the stressors. I told myself over and over during the year to not let the bad things take over, to not let them steal this time from me that I would never get back. I’m not sure how successful I was, but I did try.

I know the new year is just an arbitrary date on the calendar we made it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t treat it like a fresh start, year after year, and hope it actually takes one year.

Christina Bergling

Like my writing? Check out my books!

  • Followers – You never know who is on the other side of the screen. Followers is a mystery and thriller that blends women’s fiction with horror.
  • The Rest Will Come – Online dating would drive anyone to murder, especially Emma.
  • Savages – Two survivors search the ruins for the last strain of humanity. Until the discovery of a baby changes everything.
  • The Waning – Locked in a cage, Beatrix must survive to escape or be broken completely.
  • Screechers – Mutant monsters and humans collide in the apocalyptic fallout of a burned world. Co-authored with Kevin J. Kennedy.
  • Horror Anthologies

To continue catching up on posts and topics… November!

Once again, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I don’t get too deep into the event, but I do use it as an excuse to track my work and set lofty goals.

And I made it!

This year, I did not start a fresh story. I rarely do. Usually, I have something in work. In this case, I had to return to a novel in progress, review what I had, then continue writing.

Returning to a project is always interesting. I had been revising a different, unpublished novel, so my brain was living in that world. Coming back to the WIP novel, I had to switch worlds. And as I read, I remembered all the details that brought it to life.

Like coming home to old friends.

Once I was reacquainted, it was just a matter of continuing the story. Only I had no idea where I was going. I had a premise; I had a map to get about halfway. Then… nothing.

This story is my first “monster” novel. The majority of my work focuses on the monster in someone, everyone. To do this, I avoided the archetypal monsters (vampire, werewolf, etc. etc.) and attempted to invent one. Time will tell how successful I was. I blended these monsters with haunted house lore. The typical small town urban legend about a creepy house and its history.

So I got my victims into the house with the monsters right about the time I returned to the story. My month began with figuring out where the hell I was taking them.

I did not end up where I expected. Hopefully, that’s a good thing.

The novel is still raw and, no doubt, will need heavy changes and development. But I made it in November. I even threw in a couple short stories that month, one of which was published in The Horror Collection: Sapphire.

A real successful month in the middle of my current shit show life.

Christina Bergling

Like my writing? Check out my books!

  • Followers – You never know who is on the other side of the screen. Followers is a mystery and thriller that blends women’s fiction with horror.
  • The Rest Will Come – Online dating would drive anyone to murder, especially Emma.
  • Savages – Two survivors search the ruins for the last strain of humanity. Until the discovery of a baby changes everything.
  • The Waning – Locked in a cage, Beatrix must survive to escape or be broken completely.
  • Screechers – Mutant monsters and humans collide in the apocalyptic fallout of a burned world. Co-authored with Kevin J. Kennedy.
  • Horror Anthologies

Every time I vanish from the interwebs and writing, I say life has been wild and complicated. And it always is. Yet, it seems like every time that happens and I get back on top of things, life seems to level up on the challenges. Here we are in December, and I haven’t even written about October! I had the Father Death chapters to cover my absence, but now it is plain to see.

So let’s play catchup. Let’s talk about the Telluride Horror Show way back in October. My memory is well past faded, so forgive less detailed opinions and reviews.


Ah, October. The most wonderful time of the year. Halloween, horror, and the Telluride Horror Show.

The trip is more than the festival for us. It is a tradition, and it is a vacation. As always, we prepaid for a weekend of sitting and eating with a hike. This time, we tried Little Hawaii.

The hike was easier and shorter than we usually do but gorgeous — as the mountains and Telluride are in the fall. It was a great start.

Then it was all movies and all horror the rest of the weekend.

It was a solid lineup of films this year. Of course, there were good and bad, but the ratio favored us. Since I currently have the memory of a Pomeranian puppy, here is a (brief) summary of what I saw.

Ice Cream Man: Somehow I had never seen this cult classic. I loved it. Clint Howard serving ice cream before and answering questions after made it all the better.
A Wounded Fawn: This was like two movies smashed together. The first was interesting and entertaining. It really reminded me of Fresh. But then the second half wandered off in an incongruent direction and lost me. The ending credits were hilarious but not enough to right the ship.
Something in the Dirt: I’m usually not too dazzled by Lovecraftian/cosmic horror. However, these filmmakers have my number. The Endless was great, as was this one. The movies stays with mostly two characters, and that tight scope had me locked in that apartment with them.
Christmas Bloody Christmas: This was like Silent Night, Deadly Night meets Terminator. With gratuitous violence and cheesy holiday cheer, it was pure entertainment. A great one to watch with a night fest crowd.
Mad Heidi: Swissploitation is all I have to say. This movie is utterly ridiculous but, in so, just hilarious. It is great for mindless entertainment.
V/H/S/99: The V/H/S franchise has been hit or miss with me. The first is great; then the rest are less impressive. Until this one. I enjoyed all the segments. Each section is different, but all are well done and entertaining.
The Harbinger: OH MY FUCKING GOD! To say this was my favorite of the fest is an understatement. It is likely my favorite movie of 2022. It is definitely one of my favorite horror movies. On the surface, it is a well made, engaging horror tale. Yet it is so deep and nuanced. It hits on so many levels.

The only screening that was utterly unenjoyable were the high elevation (elevated horror) shorts. We walked out of that one.

Of course, in addition to the movies, we made sure to cram in social events. The ice cream social with Clint Howard. The pig roast.

As every year, I made time to go to the campfire tales, author summit, and book signing. Part masochism and part inspiration hunting, I enjoy just listening to other authors. This year, I was introduced to Alma Katsu and have since read two of her books.

We also did trivia, but this year, we utterly lost our asses. The questions just get harder, and we had no surprise film makers on our team.

Overall, great movies and great weekend. Until October, Telluride!

Christina Bergling

Like my writing? Check out my books!

  • Followers – You never know who is on the other side of the screen. Followers is a mystery and thriller that blends women’s fiction with horror.
  • The Rest Will Come – Online dating would drive anyone to murder, especially Emma.
  • Savages – Two survivors search the ruins for the last strain of humanity. Until the discovery of a baby changes everything.
  • The Waning – Locked in a cage, Beatrix must survive to escape or be broken completely.
  • Screechers – Mutant monsters and humans collide in the apocalyptic fallout of a burned world. Co-authored with Kevin J. Kennedy.
  • Horror Anthologies

Previously on… Father Death (21)


Stu walked along the beach. The dry sand depressed between his toes, and the neck of a beer bottle dangled in his fingers. His wavy hair bounced on the sea breeze. The sun prickled on his smooth and warbled skin, the lines and scars that drew his features thankfully into a new face.

The tropical air radiated warm, but it was autumn. Stu could feel the falling edge that only existed in his mind. His body clocked the approaching anniversary. It tracked it every second of every day. Just as he saw Billy’s disappointed face every morning when he opened his eyes.

Stu took a swig from the bottle and continued to walk along the shoreline. The waves rolled softly in a steady and persistent roar.

Maureen had been dead for three years. Billy and the others had been dead for two years. Stu Macher had been dead for two years too.

“Steve! Steven!”

Stu turned to his new name. The figure moved down from the modest beach house, approaching him across the sand, blonde hair whipping around her face.

“Steve, what are you doing out here?’ she asked as she reached him.

“Just walking, babe.” Stu took another swig and reached out to encircle her shoulders.

“Javier is here. He’s waiting for you inside.” She pressed her lips to his neck.

Stu glanced over her head, out at the water. His thoughts wandered across the waves and up to Woodsboro. He saw Maureen splayed out on her bed, Steven gutted and taped to a pool chair, Casey swaying from her tree, Kenny reaching for his gaping neck wound, Dewey collapsing into a pile on the porch, Gale slumped in the news van. He saw Billy bloody and collapsed in failure on the hall floor.

And he saw Sidney.

Heat radiating up through his scalp brought him back to the beach.

“Thanks, Court.” Stu laced his hand in Courtney’s and followed her up the sand to the small beach house.

Courtney. Just as beautiful of a cover as Tatum was. She even kind of looked like Tatum, if Stu had drank enough.

Blue, sun-bleached paint curled and peeled back from the siding of the small structure. The boards were rough as Stu grabbed the railing to ascend the stairs half-sunken into the sand drifts. A wind chime sang softly against the sea breeze.

Stu pushed the door open. Javier sat at the small, wooden kitchen table, twirling a small glass of clear liquid between his fingertips. Two large men in black stood beside him with their arms crossed, guns holstered on their belts.

“Javier, my man!” Stu burst into the room and jumped as he raised his hand for Javier.

Javier looked from Stu to his outstretched hand before extending his own. They shook. Then Stu dropped into the opposite chair.

“What brings you to my casa?” Stu asked.

“You haven’t shown up to work for me.” Javier stroked the rim of the glass with his fingers and watched the liquid quiver.

“Yeah, man, I thought my debt was paid.”

“I got you out of California, knowing who you are. I set you up here on this beachside paradise, gave you an easy gig. And you’ve done a good job for me for almost two years.”

“Gracias, amigo.” Stu smiled.

“Your debt is settled, but you are not out. You are not out until I say you are out.” Javier lifted glittering dark eyes to Stu.

Stu’s smile fell from his lips.

“You work the resorts for me. All the white girls and white boys trust a gringo like you, even with that face,” Javier continued.

Stu reached up and brushed his fingertips along the faint scarring of his cheek. “They’re getting better.”

“Let’s hope they don’t get too much better. Otherwise, Jimmy will have to rearrange your face again. Don’t want any of those Americans recognizing you.”

Stu shrugged.

“These tourists see that golden hair and hear your California talk and instantly trust you.” Javier poured the shot into his mouth and replaced the glass. “They party with you and buy from you. And no one looks twice because you look like you belong, because you’re goofy and make everyone laugh. You’re like a cartoon. I can’t give up that arrangement.”

“But Javier—”

“Look, Stu.”

Stu’s eyes widened, and he whirled around to locate Courtney, to make sure she had not heard his long-dead name in the room of the beach cabin.

“She is outside,” Javier assured him. “You are safe as long as you are with me. You are Steven as long as you are with me. Keep working the resorts, and I will leave you here living in peace.”

Stu squinted out the window into the blazing sunlight. He glimpsed Courtney’s blonde locks dancing in the breeze. Looking down to the woodgrain of the table, he plastered a wide grin on his face and offered it to Javier.

“Of course, Javi.” Stu stretched the smile until his scars threatened to pop. “I love working for you. I just thought we were square, man. When do you need me out?”

“Tonight. Jimmy brought the product for you.”

Stu leaned against the beachside bar and let the beer trickle down his throat. The club music throbbed around him, pulsating with flashing and strobing colored lights. Sweating, scantily clad bodies massed about the bar, clumped on the dance floor, spilled out onto the dark beach. Stu allowed his eyes to wander over the crowd and noted the glossy eyes where Javier’s product was already doing its work. His cargo pockets were already lighter as he hocked his wares through the eager and hungry party.

Money would make Javier happy, and Stu liked Javier happy. He appreciated the wordless nod of approval and lack of an ominous meeting with armed associates. He needed to not hear any names from a life left behind.

Billy had said everything would change. Billy said their lives as they knew them would be over. He was not wrong. Stu drained the bottle and planted it on the bar top.

A tan and muscled man in flowered board shorts with tall hair sidled up beside Stu. A rich, vacationing frat boy, no doubt. Stu assessed him with a calm sweep as the frat boy’s eyes darted to Stu then away.

“Hey, man,” the frat boy finally said, leaning in to be heard over the music.

“Hey.” Stu saluted with his empty bottle.

“I hear you’re the Candyman?”

Stu scoffed. Since you branded him the Candyman? No, his heart is broken.

“What? You got a sweet tooth?” Stu asked.

“Huh?” The frat boy offered dumb eyes.

“Buy me a beer, man.”


Stu palmed a baggy and tipped his hand to the frat boy. “Buy me a beer,” he said, slower.

The frat boy dissolved into the crowd with his purchase, and Stu perched on a stool to enjoy his next beer. Planting his elbows on the bar top, he turned his eyes up to the flashing screens hanging above the glowing rows of bottles.

Gale Weathers looked down at him.

Stu gagged on his beer and nearly spewed it across the bar. He coughed and sputtered around the choke, gasping to regain his breath.

I can’t escape this bitch.

He reached out and seized the bartender by the shoulder. “My man, my man,” Stu demanded. “Turn this up.” He pointed hard at the screen.

The bartender gave Stu a skeptical squint, keeping his narrowed eyes on him as he extracted a remote and pressed the volume key. Stu waved his hands up and up until Gale’s shrill voice penetrated the edge of the pulsating music. Then he slid a bill into the bartender’s hand to soften his gaze.

“We are approaching the anniversary of the Woodsboro Murders, which I detailed in my best-selling book, The Woodsboro Murders.” An image of the book cover appeared beside Gale’s face.

Stu rolled his eyes hard. His beer went sour in his mouth and his stomach.

“Two years ago, in Woodsboro, California, Billy Loomis and Stu Macher went on a killing spree, murdering five people. They had also killed Maureen Prescott the preceding year. Cotton Weary has since been exonerated for that crime, in part due to efforts made here on Top Story.”

Stu gaped at the screen, at Gale’s narcissist audacity. I bet in her book it says she single-handedly took down Billy and me. She saved the day! Stu’s stomach clenched tighter.

“Tequila!” he croaked. “Tequila, por favor.”

The bartender slid a shot glass in front of him and dumped the golden liquid into it. It overflowed onto Stu’s fingertips, but he did not notice as he slammed it down his throat.

“Mas! Mas!”

The bartender refilled the glass. Stu slapped bills on the counter, Javier’s bills. The bartender snatched them and drifted away before Stu could ask for more.

“In addition to the Woodsboro Murders in 1996, I, Gale Weathers, brought you a harrowing eyewitness account of the massacre at Windsor College just a few months ago.”

Stu lifted the shot glass to his lips and froze. He gaped at Gale, the shot shaking in his grip.

“Copycat killers Debbie Loomis and Mickey Altieri terrorized the campus as they patterned murders after the original murders. Debbie Loomis is the mother of Woodsboro murderer Billy Loomis.”

Oh, fuck, Billy’s mother. Stu stopped breathing. He pressed his empty hand to his lips. Billy would have killed to see his mother, did kill for his mother. Stu tried to grapple with how Billy would feel to know his mother had murdered just like him, in his name. Proud? Touched? Offended? Would he hug her or stab her? Stu honestly did not know with Billy.

Maybe they would find out now that they were both six feet under together.

“Woodsboro survivor Randy Meeks lost his life in the Windsor College Massacre,” Gale continued.

“Ah fuck, Randy,” Stu breathed. Finally got him. Bet he saw it coming too.

Stu pictured Randy pinned to his front door, slapping the woodgrain and calling for Sidney. He conjured Randy’s wide eyes with fear wavering at the edges when Stu finally let him see, let him know how right he had always been. Stu imagined Randy had that same look plastered on his dead face when the rigor set in.

Stu toasted the picture of Randy on-screen and tossed the shot down. The tequila sizzled down his throat and pooled in a burning puddle on top of his stomach.

“Just like the Woodsboro Murders, the central target for the Windsor College Massacre was Sidney Prescott. Sidney Prescott is the daughter of Maureen Prescott, Billy Loomis and Stu Macher’s original victim,” Gale continued.

Sidney’s face consumed the screen, her wide and bright smile mocking Stu. Her hair had changed. She had lost those annoying, quivering bangs and cropped it close to her ears. She looked more like a survivor now, and he hated her for it.

“Sidney Prescott could not be reached for comment.”

The picture of Sidney continued to burn on the screen. Stu glared into it, narrowing his eyes until she blurred, the way everything looked when he opened his eyes after she electrocuted him.

Survivor. She wasn’t supposed to be the survivor. She was supposed to be the one person in all of this who was dead. Her and her mother. Yet she was still alive. Even Billy’s mother couldn’t come back and get rid of her properly.

This was not how you executed a proper sequel. Randy must have been appalled before he died. Debbie Loomis and Mickey Altieri had gotten it all wrong. They had all underestimated her. But Stu would not do that again.

In his sequel, he would get it right. For Billy.


Christina Bergling

Like my writing? Check out my books!

  • Followers – You never know who is on the other side of the screen. Followers is a mystery and thriller that blends women’s fiction with horror.
  • The Rest Will Come – Online dating would drive anyone to murder, especially Emma.
  • Savages – Two survivors search the ruins for the last strain of humanity. Until the discovery of a baby changes everything.
  • The Waning – Locked in a cage, Beatrix must survive to escape or be broken completely.
  • Screechers – Mutant monsters and humans collide in the apocalyptic fallout of a burned world. Co-authored with Kevin J. Kennedy.
  • Horror Anthologies

Previously on… Father Death (20)


Stu’s breathing pressed back into his face from the inside of the plastic bag. His blood thumped steadier in his veins as his consciousness swam up to his sizzling nerves. He heard the plastic shuffling around his head but did not feel it against his face or shoulders. Willing his muscles to flex and move, he found them impossibly stiff and resistant. His breath just struggled in his face.

A chill tickled him deep below his flesh, coursing over him and making him writhe on his own skeleton. A skeleton that seemed singed and radiating. Before his thoughts coagulated into words, he imagined himself glowing in this strange, constrictive plastic space.

In your dreams. Sidney’s words echoed in his skull as her face flickered before him.

He jerked at her image. An involuntary and rageful spasm against the idea of her.

You sick fucks have seen too many movies. Sidney’s voice, again, tugged him more into his flesh, throbbing in hot pain. He saw her against the kitchen counter behind Billy.


Where is Billy? Stu’s voice surfaced in his mind. Where is Billy? Where am I?

He had been in his blood-soaked house, surrounded by the bodies of their victims. Billy had been overzealously carving him up in the kitchen and throwing the phone at the back of his head. He had tackled Sidney to the ground after she had attacked Billy. And now…

Stu scrunched his face but felt nothing. He heard the skin crack and split at the movement. Back in the recesses of his sinuses, he smelled a faint char. A liquid slid from his cheek to drip on the plastic under his head.

The pain settled over him, formed articulate shapes on his body. He recognized the buzzing feeling of his arms and legs as they pulsated in angry rhythms. When he lifted his hands along his body, the plastic sheath around him contained them. His blunt, half-numb fingertips traversed the crisp edges of his sweater and the warbled, blistered flesh of his face. It felt wet and disfigured. Stu snatched the digits away, horrified to translate the touch into an image, and pressed forward into the plastic.

Above his face, he felt the zipper sealing him into the bag. He traced it up until he found the flat metal at the top above his head. Worming a finger out around the shape, he noted the cooler temperature outside the bag, and tugged the zipper down in an awkward struggle.

As Stu parted the seam of the body bag, weak light permeated the crack. The dim beams felt like an assault, and Stu squinted against them. His vision blurred, and he blinked hard to bring the world into focus around him. Turning his head on the crinkling plastic, he glimpsed another long, lumpy shape stretched out beside him.


Wrenching himself up on his elbow, Stu’s muscles shaking and stuttering. Once he lifted his head, the world swam, and he gauged the gentle swaying below him. Tires rumbled under him as the van rolled down the road.

They think I’m dead, he thought. I’m the supposably dead killer. They’re taking me to the morgue under the hospital.

His thoughts crackled disjointed. He squinted his eyes again, the skin crunching and cracking. He gave his head a little shake, but then the entire van seemed to spiral around him. Snapping his eyes open, he sucked in breath through his nose. It whistled distorted, and he brought his fingers to the mangled flesh again.

Sidney. Fucking bitch.

Sidney was supposed to be dead. Gale and Dewey and Randy were supposed to be dead. He and Billy were supposed to be the survivors.

He turned to Billy’s body bag beside him. His plastic only jostled softly with the movement of the van. Something in Stu’s chest sank heavily, deeper than the tingling, the numbness, and the shocks of pain. The van felt surreal, like a nightmare. As if Freddy Krueger would turn around from the driver’s seat.

But it was probably him who looked like Freddy Krueger now.

Stu craned his neck toward the driver’s seat. More cruel light poured in from the windshield, carving the seat into a haunting, warbled dark shape in Stu’s damaged vision. He could see the ball cap and jacket of the driver, not the brown fedora and striped sweater of Freddy.

Stu shimmied the body bag from his shoulders. It tangled in the frayed edges of his sweater before piling on the floor of the van. Stu remained crouched low, both to stay out of the eye-line of the rearview mirror and because his trembling arms resisted supporting him. He felt like Michael Myers coming back to life, reanimated with a second chance to finish things. Sliding from the bag, he hunched in the shadows beside the passenger’s seat.

The van bounced into the parking garage; the light from the windows brightened. The brakes squeaked softly as the vehicle stopped. Stu pressed harder into the back of the passenger’s seat as the driver opened his door and slid from the van.

Stu’s heart rate battled to the surface and pounded through his entire body, shaking the fried edges. Glaring through the windows the best he could, he pulled himself into the passenger’s seat. Before the driver reached the back seat, Stu opened the door and lowered his feet to the concrete. Reseating the door silently, he slithered under the van.

Above his head, he heard the back doors of the van swing open. The driver’s feet shuffled on the concrete. Stu watched the blurry boots turn one way then the other in nervous patterns.

“Shit,” the driver said. The low voice echoed in the empty parking garage. “Shit, shit, shit.”

Stu pictured his empty body bag beside Billy’s. It had to look terrifying, a frame out of a scary movie. A smile hesitated on his deformed cheeks.

The radio chirped above Stu’s head. “Get the Sheriff down here.” The driver’s voice cracked. “We have a problem.”

Stu felt his pulse pressing against the concrete below him. The boots shifted across the concrete. As they rounded the bumper, Stu slid from beneath the van. He crept along the ground and darted to the large green blurs against the wall. Gripping the edge of the dumpster, he heaved a long leg over the edge. He whipped over the side and lowered into the trash. The smell permeated his charred nasal cavity.

The door slammed open into the wall. Boots bounced on the floor, and voices filled the parking garage. The silent space crowded with chattering bodies. Their energy spilled over into the dumpster with Stu, yet he remained lowered out of sight, listening to them.

“Macher is gone,” the driver said.

“Gone? What do you mean gone?” Sheriff Burke said. “He’s dead. How can he be gone?”

“He’s obviously not dead then,” another voice countered.

All the voices hushed, and Stu pictured them huddled around the end of the van staring at his wilted body bag.

“Fuck!” Sheriff Burke exploded. “Well, where the fuck is he?”

Mumblings and murmurs failed to answer him. Stu cowered against the rim of the dumpster and hazarded a glance. Sheriff Burke stood at the end of the gaping trunk, his hands fisted against his bald head. He turned to the van then away into the parking lot then back again. Then he squared up to face all his officers fiercely.

“The media cannot catch wind of this. This is enough of a shit show.” He leveled his eyes and jabbed a finger at them. “This has been enough of a fucking catastrophe already. They are salivating over the massacre at the Macher house. Billy Loomis and Stu Macher are our killers, and Billy Loomis and Stu Macher are dead.” Sheriff Burke swiped a hand over his face, and Stu dropped back into the trash. “Now, find him!”

Boots shuffled on the concrete in manic patterns. Gurney wheels squealed as it approached the van. Billy’s corpse dumped heavy onto it. They wheeled it away and closed the van doors hard. Stu remained pressed in the garbage, sucking in slow and rank breaths. The garage fell silent around him until it was only his weak exhalations.

Dead, he mused. I’m dead. Just like Billy.

The weight returned to his chest to squelch his hammering heart rate. Dead like Billy.

This night had changed everything. This night had ended their lives as they knew them. Just as they had thought but not at all like they had planned. Stu strove to set aside the blooming feeling of failure, the familiar itching sensation. He did not have time to sink in that native quicksand. Even these local morons would search a dumpster eventually.

Stu peered over the edge of the dumpster, expecting to see at least one lingering officer. Surely, they would have left someone at this portion of the scene instead of scampering off frantic and disjointed to find their escaped killer. Yet his eyes found a vacant parking garage. The van stood alone in its parking spot.

If Stu was watching this scene in a movie, he would have laughed. Instead, he slunk from the dumpster and hustled to the exterior exit.

Stu pulled the hoodie low over his head, tugging on the strings to envelop himself. His raw flesh prickled at the stiff fabric. He flexed against the chill running down his back and rounded over the diner counter. Dragging the steaming mug of coffee under his face, he hunched over, squinting at the hanging television screen.

Gale Weathers filled the screen. Stu wrinkled his nose at her ghastly pink suit and the way it brought out the depths of the bruises on her face. No amount of makeup could hide all the trauma.

She probably doesn’t want to, Stu mused. Better ratings. Survivor ratings.

As Stu stared into her face, he saw her back in the news van, fresh blood trickling from her face, her head hanging limp on her neck. Appearing dead. She was supposed to be dead.

They were all supposed to be dead, but Stu had failed Billy. Now, Billy was dead.

Gale offered the camera her pursed-lip smile.

What a bitch. She really is eating this up. Loving every minute of it.

He saw her back in his kitchen, holding the gun in their faces, that same smug grin on her lips as the weapon trembled in her hand. But she had not foiled them. She had been a speedbump. Sidney had been their undoing.

“Good evening, welcome to Top Story,” Gale said from the screen. “I’m Gale Weathers, here with more eyewitness accounts of the murders in Woodsboro, California.”

Stu mashed his fists into the side of the hood. You’re supposed to be dead. There aren’t supposed to be any witnesses. Some random reporter is supposed to be saying Neil Prescott slaughtered everyone and only Billy and me survived.

“First, we need to honor our own fallen cameraman. Kenny Jones was killed on the job at the Macher house the night of the massacre. Kenny was a dear friend and colleague, and our hearts go out to his family.”

Huh, Kenny. Kenny was his name. Stu conjured the memory of Kenny’s eyes going wide when Stu’s blade parted his neck. Kenny pawed for Sidney in the van before collapsing to the dirt. He died so quickly, with barely any effort at all.

“Last week, five people were murdered by Billy Loomis and Stu Macher,” Gale continued.

Stu stiffened at the mention of his own name. He raised up on his stool and peered around the edge of his hoodie. The waitress continued to pour coffee into a wilted trucker’s cup, unfazed. The family at the far booth bickered unaffected. The two other patrons at the counter stared into the television and blinked slow. Stu lowered back down over his coffee.

“This brings the murder total for Loomis and Macher to six as it was revealed they were responsible for killing Maureen Prescott in Woodsboro one year ago. This new evidence will work to exonerate Cotton Weary, who was convicted for Prescott’s murder. Top Story has been proclaiming Weary’s innocence for the duration of the investigation and trial.”

Stu rolled his eyes and pressed his fist to his cheek, immediately recoiling away from the scabbed flesh.

“In addition to Maureen Prescott and our own Kenny Jones, Loomis and Macher savagely murdered Steven Orth, Casey Becker, their principal Arthur Himbry, and Macher’s own girlfriend, Tatum Riley.”

Stu sucked in a breath at Tatum’s name. He had not killed her, but he always knew Billy was going to. If he was honest with himself, he was surprised Billy had not made him to it. It seemed like a task Billy would want him to fulfill. Stu pictured Tatum’s face, remembered her in those tight red pants and the jersey baring her pale stomach. He listened to her reckless laugh.

“Six people lost their lives at the hands of Billy Loomis and Stu Macher,” Gale continued.

Should have been more. It was supposed to be more. All told, that did not seem like that high of a body count for a scary movie.

“But both Billy Loomis and Stu Macher are dead.”

All echoes and memories fell from Stu’s mind. His head became hollow to consume those words. The concept of his living death was perhaps as unsettling as the idea of Billy’s true death. He knew it was better to be left for dead, to be assumed dead, than to be lying beside Billy, yet Billy was not feeling the crushing weight that strangled him.

“Both men were killed by Sidney Prescott, Maureen Prescott’s daughter. Sidney Prescott has not responded to requests for interviews or comments.”

Sidney. Fucking Sidney. Billy had to put her at the center of it. Here she was, at the center of it.

Looking up at Gale’s face on the television, Stu saw Sidney rush around the screen and plant her hands on the back of the television to shove it down onto his face. The electricity shuttered through his bones at the thought. His muscles spasmed at the memory, and he wrapped his arms around himself. He glared up at the picture of Sidney imposed on the screen beside Gale.

Digging into his pocket, he pulled out the stranger’s wallet. He pulled out a few bills and slipped them under his cooling coffee mug. Then he palmed the foreign car keys and trudged out to the parking lot.

Continued on… Father Death (22) – THE END

Christina Bergling

Like my writing? Check out my books!

  • Followers – You never know who is on the other side of the screen. Followers is a mystery and thriller that blends women’s fiction with horror.
  • The Rest Will Come – Online dating would drive anyone to murder, especially Emma.
  • Savages – Two survivors search the ruins for the last strain of humanity. Until the discovery of a baby changes everything.
  • The Waning – Locked in a cage, Beatrix must survive to escape or be broken completely.
  • Screechers – Mutant monsters and humans collide in the apocalyptic fallout of a burned world. Co-authored with Kevin J. Kennedy.
  • Horror Anthologies

Previously on… Father Death (19)


“Bitch!” Billy screamed.

Feathers fluttered to the ground around him. He panted in his anger as sweat prickled on his skin. She was not going to take this from him. Not his perfectly laid plan. Not after he had come so far and gotten this close. He just had to find that bitch and finish what he had started with her mother.

He could still salvage this.

He breathed through the swell in his brain. He had to control himself. Things only worked when he controlled himself and when he controlled Stu. Settling his nerves, he retraced his more frantic steps back down the hallway. Halloween had returned to television. Laurie Strode cowering in a closet as Michael Myers punched through the meager door.

The closet. Billy hesitated outside the hall closet, eyeing it. He turned the knob and peered in then cast his eyes down toward the television.

Father Death burst from the hanging jackets and plunged the tip of an umbrella into Billy’s shoulder. The blunt end forced a painful wound through his flesh.

He cried out in pain and surprise. The knife and gun tumbled from his hand, released in the shock. He turned to retrieve them, ignoring his injury, but his assailant drew the umbrella back and sent it through his chest again. Crying out, he collapsed to the hardwood floor.

From his drape on the kitchen counter, Stu heard Billy’s expletive. He knew Billy’s voice. He knew his tone. The painful edge on Billy’s cry conjured a surge of adrenaline in Stu. His body turned away from the pain and the dying and surged out of the kitchen. When he skidded into the hallway, he glimpsed Sidney standing over Billy’s fallen body, peeling off the Father Death mask and shedding the robe.

Stu released a battle cry before barreling toward Sidney. He tackled her like a football player, like Steven Orth. They rolled until Sidney landed on top of Stu and planted her knee in his groin. Through the pumping of adrenaline, he ignored her blow and punched her in the face. Sidney rolled away and scrambled to her feet.

Stu dove after her blindly, wrestling her over the couch. They collided with the coffee table and tumbled in a tangle of limbs and flurry of feathers. She fell to the ground, and he wiggled on top of her.

“I always had a thing for you, Sid.” A thing for killing you. A thing like Billy had for your mother.

Stu pinned her arms down. Sidney leaned over and sunk her teeth into his hand. Howling in pain, he released her. She snatched up a vase and smashed it against his head. His vision exploded in sparks, and he tumbled to the floor.

“Bitch,” he murmured from his back. That dark cloud swelled back over him as his mind swam.

Sidney scurried to her feet and rounded the television. Stu sputtered through the haze in his head, the weight returning to his mind. He turned his eyes up to see Laure Strode hunched in a closet clutching a butcher knife. Sidney planted her hands on the back of the television.

“In your dreams,” she said, shoving the television.

The television tipped from the stand and careened down onto Stu. The screen smashed into his face. His head went through the glass, and the electricity surged through his body. Stu screamed into the box as sparks and smoke swirled around him. His arms and legs flailed and twitched until he and the television fell still.

Billy heard Sidney’s steps move across the floor, nearing him again. Like any good scary movie, he knew to play dead. He knew to wait and see what she did. He was going to kill her. She just needed to be closer.

She crouched beside him and gathered up the discarded mask. What a stupid time to look at the mask, Billy thought as he kept his breathing shallow. He concentrated on remaining immobile. When Sidney gasped, he resisted the startle.

“I’m sorry,” Randy said. “It’s all right.”

Ugh, that fucker is still alive. How did I not kill this prick?

“Oh my god,” Sidney said. “Randy, I thought you were dead.”

You should be fucking dead.

“I probably should be. I never thought I would be so happy to be a virgin.”

Let me help you out. Billy punched his fist up through Randy’s face, sending him sprawling back to the floor. Snatching Sidney by the shoulders, he threw her down to the hardwood.

“Fucker!” he cried.

Billy lay his body alongside Sidney, pinning her down. She squirmed helpless under his weight. He wiggled one hand around the knife then slid the other one around her neck. Once he found her throat, he squeezed down hard. Her eyes went wide. He had her.

“Say hello to your mother,” Billy said.

Sidney’s eyes narrowed, her brow drawing down to tighten her features. Reaching up, she planted her finger inside the wound in Billy’s chest. Pain exploded across his mind. He could not contain the scream tearing from his mouth. He reared back and lifted the knife high to finally get rid of her, to finally be done dealing with her shit. If nothing else, he was going to kill Sidney Prescott tonight.

The bullet tore through his shoulder and sent him off Sidney and back onto the floor. He hit the hardwood, coughing and sputtering in his own blood. The pain enveloped him. It felt so much like failure. He pumped his legs to slide along the floor, away from Sidney. From hooded eyes, he glimpsed Gale standing over him with the gun.

That bitch didn’t die either. Did we actually kill anyone?

The lights grew halos above his head. In the swimming glow, he saw Sidney, Gale, and Randy step over him. He allowed his eyes to close, for the pain to wash over him in a wave. It could not end like this. This could not be the way his plan unraveled.

“Careful.” Randy’s voice seemed quiet and distant. “This is the moment when the supposably dead killer comes back to life for one last scare.”

He was the killer. This was his movie.

Billy opened his eyes and reached for Sidney one last time. Sidney pulled the trigger and shot him in the forehead.

“Not in my movie,” she said.

Billy’s head dropped to the hardwood with a thud. A trickle of blood snaked down his forehead from the wound. He lay splayed on his back, his hands bloodied and haphazard above his head. His body flopped on the floor, lifeless, like Maureen on her bed one year ago. Her daughter stood above him, still holding the gun as his plan spiraled away into the air around them. As he mirrored his initial victim now, they had indeed come full circle, just not as he had wanted.

Continued on… Father Death (21)

Christina Bergling

Like my writing? Check out my books!

  • Followers – You never know who is on the other side of the screen. Followers is a mystery and thriller that blends women’s fiction with horror.
  • The Rest Will Come – Online dating would drive anyone to murder, especially Emma.
  • Savages – Two survivors search the ruins for the last strain of humanity. Until the discovery of a baby changes everything.
  • The Waning – Locked in a cage, Beatrix must survive to escape or be broken completely.
  • Screechers – Mutant monsters and humans collide in the apocalyptic fallout of a burned world. Co-authored with Kevin J. Kennedy.
  • Horror Anthologies

Previously on… Father Death (18)


“Right here, asshole.”

Gale Weathers raised the gun and pointed it at Billy. A massive cut transected a blossoming bruise along her forehead, and blood trickled from the corner of her mouth. She still sported her red tailored skirt suit and shiny coat, yet her bare feet were soiled. The gun trembled in her hand.

“Man, I thought she was dead,” Billy said to Stu.

“She looks dead, man. Still does.”

“I’ve got an ending for you,” Gale interrupted. “The reporter left for dead in the news van comes to, stumbles on you two dipshits, finds the gun, foils your plan, and saves the day.”

“I like that ending,” Sidney chimed in from behind them.

Stupid bitch. Billy smirked. “I know something you don’t.”

Billy ambled forward unfazed. Gale squeezed the trigger, yet it remained fixed. She clutched the gun again, tipping it in her hand to look at it, eyes widening in desperation. Billy seized the gun and her other wrist and planted his foot in her chest. He kicked her hard, sending her flying backward. She sailed into the pillar on the porch, leaving the gun in his grip. Slamming hard, she collapsed in a heap on top of Dewey.

“Yeah, man.” Stu pumped a fist in victory.

“Yeah.” Billy stepped out onto the porch and crouched beside Gale’s body. “Aw, so sweet. It works better without the safety on.” He tipped his head to crack his neck then stood and pointed the gun down at Gale. “This is Gale Weathers signing off—”

“Baby, you’re going to love this.” Stu turned back to the kitchen to make sure Sidney was enjoying the show. “Shit.”

Sidney was gone. The corner where she had been cowering was empty. The gun was gone. Now, Sidney was gone. Stu’s thoughts surged then folded in on themselves. The pain swelled up over it all. It collapsed around the edges of his mind and hazed the edges of the world.

“What?” Billy whirled around and surged back to the kitchen. “Where are they? Where are they?”

Gaping at where Sidney was not, he turned to the floor where Neil also was not. His victim was gone. His fall guy was gone. His plan was gone. Panic flared up in him and immediately twisted into rage. They were not going to take it from him.

Beside him, nausea swelled over Stu. He teetered back into the fridge and wrapped an arm over his seizing belly as blood dribbled from his mouth. His legs wobbled unsteady beneath him.

“I don’t know, but I’m hurting, man.” Stu continued to cough blood into his hand.


The phone on the counter rang and snatched their attention, Billy from his rage and Stu from his pain. Then gaped it confused, as if they had forgotten the device’s purpose.

“Should I let the machine get it?” Stu asked.

Who would be calling? Who could be calling at a time like this? They are all dead or dying.

Billy leaned past him and snatched the receiver. “Hello?” He could figure out how to explain the call to the cops later.

The killer’s voice greeted him. “Are you alone in the house?” His voice, his words pirated.

Sidney. On the phone and voice changer in her father’s pocket. Billy’s vision went red.

“Bitch, you bitch, where the fuck are you?” Billy screamed into the phone, the knife clutched against the receiver.

“Not so fast. We’re going to play a little game.” That voice, his voice mocked him. “It’s called—” Sidney’s voice returned from beneath the mutation. “Guess who just called the police and reported your sorry motherfucking ass!”

Stu sank into the chair in front of the phone and puddled on the counter. He draped his arm long and rested his head upon it. His body beckoned for him to close his eyes, just for a second, to make the symphony of pain on his nerves stop.

“Find her, you dipshit, get up!” Billy planted the gun in his neck as he yelled.

“I can’t, Billy. I think you cut me too deep. I think I’m dying here, man.”

At the edge of the hurt, Stu registered he did think he was dying. The pain lulled him, coaxed him to just lie still, just close his eyes. If he did, he could be done disappointing his parents or answering to Billy. Tonight could be the end of this life without being the start of another one. It could simply be the end.

“Talk to her.” Billy pressed the receiver against Stu’s ear. “Talk to her.”

Stu drew himself up in his consciousness. He tugged his head up and grasped the phone, aligning it with his ear. Billy pressed away behind him, and Stu listened to him slink out of the kitchen.

“Hello?” Stu answered cordially.

“Oh, Stu, Stu, Stu.” Sidney offered him the same patronizing tone she always did. The tone that said she tolerated him because she had to, because Tatum was there. Only Tatum wasn’t there anymore. “What’s your motive? Billy’s got one; the police are on their way. What are you going to tell them?”

“Peer pressure. I’m far too sensitive.” No lie.

Billy stormed up behind Stu and snatched the phone from his grasp. “I’m going to rip you up, you bitch, just like your fucking mother.”

“You got to find me first, you pansy-ass momma’s boy.”

The reference to his mother set Billy alight. The phone flew from his enraged hand, bouncing off the back of Stu’s head. He did not see it. He did not hear Stu’s protest. He rampaged from the room.

“Fuck!” Stu cried. “You hit me with the phone, dick!” Stu gathered the receiver back into his hand.

“Fucker,” Billy raged. He ran to the couch and tore through the cushions with the knife, sending feathers flying. “Where are you? You fuck!”

Stu listened to Billy’s screams and leaned into the phone. “Did you really call the police?”

“You bet your sorry ass I did.”

Stu grimaced, emotion flooding into his sinuses. “My mom and dad are going to be so mad at me.”

They were going to know. They were all going to know now. His parents were going to be more than disappointed about his mediocre grades or messy room or the fact that he just wasn’t motivated enough. They were going to see the real him, something they never wanted to be around. They couldn’t stand even a fraction of him for more than a couple days before they were in the air again. He could not fathom how they would react when they knew he was a killer.

Continued on… Father Death (20)

Christina Bergling

Like my writing? Check out my books!

  • Followers – You never know who is on the other side of the screen. Followers is a mystery and thriller that blends women’s fiction with horror.
  • The Rest Will Come – Online dating would drive anyone to murder, especially Emma.
  • Savages – Two survivors search the ruins for the last strain of humanity. Until the discovery of a baby changes everything.
  • The Waning – Locked in a cage, Beatrix must survive to escape or be broken completely.
  • Screechers – Mutant monsters and humans collide in the apocalyptic fallout of a burned world. Co-authored with Kevin J. Kennedy.
  • Horror Anthologies

Previously on… Father Death (17)


Stu jogged away from the house, leaving Randy quivering and clinging to the front door, still begging for Sidney. He rolled his eyes at how pathetic Randy was. He should have stabbed him on the couch before dispatching that cameraman. Yet then, he wouldn’t have been able to snicker in his ear. He wouldn’t have been able to enjoy telling Randy he was right.

Stu rounded the Jeep to obscure himself from sight, not that anyone would be looking after him. Especially not Randy. He hurried along the road, squinting into the night. The large puddles of blood caught faint glints of light. He started there and traced the bloody tracks of the news van.

The cameraman’s body slumped in a sad heap against the dilapidated fence. Stu glanced at it as he followed the road toward the trees. Skid marks drew across the asphalt. Stu chased them into the grass to find the news van pinned against a massive tree trunk.

Approaching the bumper of the trunk, Stu glaed at the square where Sidney had evaded him. He pressed his palm into the cool, smooth panel as he stomped through the tall grass. Peering through the open driver’s side window, he glimpsed the back of Gale Weathers’s head planted on the steering wheel.

Stu brushed his hands against his pockets, even knowing they were empty. No ghostly mask, no disguising robe, no knife. He felt much more exposed approaching Gale as himself. Whispering to Randy was not quite the same. Randy already knew. He sucked in a deep breath and glanced around the vacant night.

Stu reached through the window and grasped Gale’s shoulder. He tipped her back against the seat, her head flopping then lolling on her shoulders, sagging limp on her neck. Her mouth dangled ajar to reveal her perfect, white, straight teeth. Stu released a pent-up giggle. Sending his other arm through the window, he seized both her shoulders and gave her a firm shake. Her head snapped with the movement then drooped again.

“Well, that was easy,” Stu said to himself.

He released Gale to flop limp in the seat and turned back toward the house.

From the top of the stairs, Billy heard Sidney’s shouts. The door slammed. Then her whimpers floated on the air.

“Go away!” she cried against the door. “Leave me alone.”

Sidney was back in the house, and she was alone. It was time. Enough people were dead or would be shortly. It was time to wrap up this plan, execute this final elegant scene.

He drew a breath down into his lungs, feeling the blood on his shirt expand, and fluttered his eyes closed. Stabbed, left for dead, barely alive, crawling to save Sidney… he reminded himself and poured the character over his mind. This perfect boyfriend he had been feigning for over a year.

It all ended tonight.

Billy emerged and hobbled into the hallway.

“Sid,” he said, draping himself over the railing. He clung to the lacquered wood then skittered down clumsy and wounded.

He glanced down at the long case of wooden stairs looming below him, resisting the instinctual flinch before releasing his clutch and tumbling down. The edges and planes of each step bit and slapped at him as he rolled down the flight. He strove to relax into the fall as if he were focused on graver injuries. He skidded to a halt in a puddle at the base of the stairs.

“Billy?” Sidney rushed to him, her hands tentative over his body. “Oh, B—B–, are you okay? I thought you were dead?”

“I’m like a stuck pig, but I am all right.” Billy shuffled to his feet, leaned against the wall then against Sidney.

“You’re bleeding. Oh my god.” Sidney shouldered his weight, her hands playing about the fake blood.

That generally happens when you get stabbed. It was all working so well. She was seeing exactly what he wanted her to. The smile tugged at Billy’s cheeks, but he forced it from his face.

Billy hobbled to the front door. “We got to get help.”

“No, he’s out there.” Sidney threw herself across the door.

“Give me the gun.” Billy extended his hand and offered soothing eyes. Trust me, Sid. “Give me the gun. It’s okay.” It’s all going to be okay. It’s almost over.

Sidney handed him the gun with a reluctant hand and moved behind him. “Careful.”

Billy leaned into the doorknob as he turned the lock. Then he wrenched the door open. Randy immediately flew through the opening in a blur of his green shirt. He clutched Billy’s shoulder before dashing into the room, turning frantic eyes back to them.

“Please, help me!” Randy panted. “Stu’s flipped out. He’s gone mad.”

The sinister grin finally escaped Billy’s control. It unfurled across his face. The mask dropped, and he revealed himself to Randy. The fear he saw well up in Randy’s eyes showed that Randy saw him, but he figured that Randy had really always seen him underneath it all. Perhaps that is why he had wanted to kill him so bad all along. And the moment had finally arrived.

“We all go a little mad sometimes.” Billy leveled the gun at Randy.

“No, no, Billy,” Sidney shouted beside him.

“Oh fuck!” Randy knew it was coming, as he always did.

Billy pulled the trigger. The bullet tore through Randy, launching him backward and over the pointless table Stu’s mother kept in the center of the hall. The vase and flowers cascaded to the floor in shatters. Sidney rushed to Randy as he groaned on the floor. Of course, she did. Of course, she would.

It was all in the open now. Billy felt the freedom surge through him. They were here. They had made it to the endgame. He tipped the gun up and scratched the barrel along his scalp.

“Anthony Perkins, psycho,” he commented. Sidney turned disbelieving eyes to him. He loved that quivering look on her. She looked up from Randy’s body in trembling awe, just as Billy always wanted her to look at him. “Mmmm.” He slipped his finger into his mouth and sucked off the fake blood. “Corn syrup. The same stuff they used as pig’s blood in Carrie.”

The horrific realization on Sidney’s face was gorgeous. It contorted her features, making her look even more like her mother on the last night of her life. Billy nearly hardened again at the correlation. It had all come full circle, just like he had wanted.

Sidney whirled around, desperate, chaotic. Her hands spiraled from her body as she lurched toward the kitchen. Stu emerged, having rounded around the back of his property. She collided with him like a wall then cuddled into his chest. He leered down at her, but she was too distracted to gauge his menace.

“Stu.” She collapsed into his chest in a pitiful heap. “Help me.”

Stu flicked his eyes to Billy. They exchanged the thrilling sparkle of victory, the electricity of everything going to plan. Stu slid his hand up his body, positioning the voice changer over his wicked grin.

“Surprise, Sidney.” The device twisted his voice.

Sidney’s eyes widened. She shrank away from him. “No!”

Billy raised his eyebrows at her, mocking her with a shocked expression. She shoved Stu aside and threw herself into the kitchen. Billy ran around the hallway and entered from the opposite side, corralling her between them.

“Oh, now. Whoa!” He pushed the gun into her face. Stu chucked the voice changer, and Billy plucked it from the air in his blood-stained hand. His cheeks vibrated in his grin. “What’s the matter, Sidney? It looks like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Sidney’s legs buckled beneath her. She wobbled back and clutched the counter. “Why are you doing this?”

“It’s all part of the game, Sidney.” Stu loomed on one side of the island.

“It’s called guess how I am going to die!” Billy yelled through the voice changer and pointed the gun at her face.

“Fuck you!” Sidney dropped her hands from her hair as she yelled.

“No, no, no.” Billy’s voice softened. He offered Stu the gun and exchanged it for the knife. “We already played that game, remember? You lost.” Billy cornered Sidney, knife pointed at her face.

She had lost. She had lost so completely.

“It’s a fun game, Sidney. See, we ask you a question. You get it wrong—booyah!—you die.” Stu pointed the gun at her to mime a shot.

“You get it right, you die.” Billy shrugged.

Sidney raised stern, resolute eyes. “You’re crazy, both of you.”

Stu cuddled up to Billy’s back, amalgamating them into one threatening person in front of Sidney. He felt them together, in parallel. He had done everything he was supposed to; he had gotten them exactly where Billy wanted. Right here, to this moment.

“Actually, we prefer the term psychotic,” Stu said over Billy’s shoulder

“You’ll never get away with this.”

Billy tipped his head. “Oh, no? Tell that to Cotton Weary. You wouldn’t believe how easy he was to frame.” Billy teased the ends of Sidney’s hair with the blade.

“Watch a few movies, take a few notes. It was fun!” Stu’s face twisted comically.

“No!” Sidney melted and surged forward.

Billy caught her in his free arm. “Whoa.”

“Where are you going?” Stu laughed.

Where could she go? Cornered by both of them with a gun and a knife. This was the end of her.

“Why?” Sidney dragged herself up and slammed the counter again. “Why did you kill my mother?”

“Why?” Billy echoed. “Why?” He shouted, and Sidney and Stu both startled. Stu drew back away from Billy. “You hear that, Stu? I think she wants a motive. I don’t really believe in motives, Sid. Did Norman Bates have a motive?” Billy oscillated conversationally.

“No,” Stu answered.

“Did they ever really decide why Hannibal Lecter likes to eat people? Don’t think so!” His face jerked forward with his words. She cowered away. “It’s a lot scarier when there is no motive, Sid. We did your mom a favor. That woman was a slut-bag whore who flashed her shit all over town like she was Sharon Stone or something.”

“Yeah, we put her out of her misery because, let’s face it, Sidney, your mother was no Sharon Stone.” Stu pointed the gun and opened his hands around it.

“Is that motive enough for you?” Billy hesitated and toyed with the knife against his lower lip. “How about this? Your slut mother was fucking my father. And she’s the reason my mom moved out and abandoned me.”

Sidney’s mouth dropped open. Her eyes seemed to well with tears, if Billy could believe she cared that much. He stared into her as he watched the words resonate in her mind.

Stu lost his breath. His face went slack. He gaped at Billy. For an instant, he was back in Maureen’s bedroom, watching the rage seethe on Billy’s face. I had picked Maureen, not Billy, he told himself. Why didn’t he tell me? A blur of all their planning sessions, all the tasks he had carried out for Billy whirred through his head. Why didn’t he tell me?

“How’s that for a motive?” Billy continued. “Maternal abandonment causes serious deviant behavior. It certainly fucked you up. It made you have sex with a psychopath.”

Stu snapped back from the wound in his mind. “That’s right. You gave it up. Now, you’re no longer a virgin. Ooh! I said virgin!” Stu covered his mouth and squealed. “Whoops! Now, you got to die. Those are the rules.”

Billy seized Sidney and drew her to him, wrapping around her back. He played with the ends of her bloody hair and savored the fear and rage radiating off her. She felt the way he had felt these past months and years. He had finally succeeded in transferring it to her. And he drank up that success. This was how they were supposed to be.

“Just pretend it’s all a scary movie,” he said into her ear. “How do you think it’s going to end?”

Billy gestured to the hall with the knife. Stu exploded with excitement. They had finally reached the crescendo of his involvement, his masterpiece of contribution.

“Oh! Oh!” Stu shouted, clicking the safety on the gun and placing it on the counter. “This is the greatest part. You’re going to love this! We got a surprise for you, Sidney. Yeah, you’re going to love this one. It’s a scream, baby! Hold on a sec. I’ll be right back!” Stu dissolved into ghastly horror mocking and leaned with Frankenstein arms through the door.

Billy nuzzled deeper into Sidney and clutched her tighter. “You know what time it is, Sid? It’s after midnight. It’s your mom’s anniversary. Congratulations. We killed her exactly one year ago today.”

He had done it, and with Sidney helpless in his grasp, he savored that. They were all just where he wanted them.

“Attention!” Stu shouted.

Stu emerged, wrangling Neil Prescott. Neil hopped forward with his legs bound together by duct tape. The tape molded to his face, and blood trickled down over it. He looked wilted and defeated from his days in the basement.

“Oh, look! What do we have behind door number three, Sidney?” Stu shoved Neil into the kitchen and forward onto the floor. Neil fell to his knees at their feet.

“Daddy!” Sidney dove forward at her father.

Billy caught her by the shoulders and hauled her back to him. “Whoa. Hold it. That’s enough.”

Stu moved up behind Neil. The taxing days of serving as his warden were closing. He beamed in elation at feeling them spiral away into the past, flying away with this entire life behind him. Stu’s hand slithered into his pocket to retrieve the voice changer again. He brought it up to his lips once more, one last time.

“Guess we won’t be needing this anymore, huh?” He pushed the mutated words over Neil’s shoulder then slipped the device into Neil’s pocket. Then he dug into his other pocket to retrieve the cell phone. Just the feel of it in his palm brought thoughts of Casey’s tear-stained cheeks back into his mind. “And oh, look at this. Ring, ring! Won’t need this.” He stuffed the phone in with the voice changer.

“Got the ending figured out yet, Sid?” Billy jostled her in excitement. This was his plan, his brilliance laid at her feet.

“Come on, Sid. You think about it now, huh? Your daddy’s the chief suspect. We cloned his cellular. Evidence is all right there, baby!” Stu shoved Neil hard in the back until he toppled over to the floor.

“What if your father snapped?” Billy mused, slipping back into the fantasy he had been constructing for over a year. “Your mother’s anniversary set him off, and he went on a murder spree, killing everyone.”

“Except for Billy and me. We were left for dead.”

“And then he kills you.” Billy pointed the knife at Sidney’s chest, ready to press it through her flesh. Once she understood. Once she appreciated who he really was. “And shoots himself in the head. Perfect ending.”

“I thought of that.” Stu claimed his credit, his piece of the plan.

Billy pulled Sidney out of the way and stepped forward. He leveled his eyes on Stu. Stu’s heart thumped in dreaded anticipation.

“Watch this,” Billy said to Sidney. “Ready?” he asked Stu.

Stu was not ready. Stu hated this part of the plan. He was here to do the stabbing, not be stabbed. Why can’t I just get knocked unconscious and be left for dead that way? he thought. But he steeled his face. This was for Billy. He planted his feet and pressed his fists into his scalp.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m ready, baby,” Stu changed. “Right, get it up! Yeah, baby, get it up! Hit it!” His voice climbed with his anticipation.

Billy set his stance and stared into Stu’s eyes as he stuck the knife into Stu’s side. The pain blazed up Stu’s nerves. He had never been stabbed before, never cared to consider what it felt like when he plunged the knife into Casey or Dewey or that cameraman. His nervous system seized around the sensation, and his hands tingled as he balled them into fists to compose himself.

Stu folded in half then drew himself up with a hand plastered over the wound. “Good one, man!” Stu chewed back the pain. He would not look like a pussy in front of Billy. “Jesus!” Now, I can return the favor. He tilted his chin down and narrowed his eyes at Billy. “Oh, shit. My turn.”

Billy rolled skeptical eyes to Stu. Stu had followed directions. Stu had executed his tasks well enough to get them here. The victims were dead. Neil Prescott was bounded, gagged, and successfully framed at their feet. Yet Billy’s hand hesitated around the knife. If he did not hand it over, he would lose Stu, and the plan would unravel. He gritted his teeth and extended his arm toward Stu.

“Don’t forget. Stay to the side, and don’t go too deep,” Billy instructed. He seized a handful of Sidney’s jacket.

“Okay, I’ll remember.” Stu’s voice drifted off.

The pain continued to radiate through Stu, sending barbed messages up his nerves. It tickled that wound in his mind, that gap where Billy had not told him why they had killed Maureen Prescott. That massive detail he had not trusted Stu with. A seed of rage trembled in that hole. When Stu plunged the knife into Billy’s side, some of that rage pushed into it.

“Ah! Fuck!” Billy shouted. He turned into the island, shielding his injury. “Fuck! Goddammit, Stu!”

A warm pleasure crawled into the wound in Stu’s mind, a perverted sense of reciprocity. He could not prevent the satisfied leer from creeping over his face.

“Sorry, Billy. I guess I got a little too zealous, huh?” Stu dismissed, looking at Sidney.

Billy extended a bloody hand to Stu. Fake and real blood were no longer distinguishable. Pain cramped over his wound. The blood slid hot along his skin, but anger burned hotter across his forehead. He scarcely felt the pain under his rage. That now pointed at Stu. He should have stabbed himself. He kept his hand out and glared at Stu.

“Give me the knife,” Billy commanded.

Stu flinched internally at Billy’s menace. He forgot how terrifying he could be. “No.”

“Give me the knife. Now!” Billy’s voice shook the kitchen, and Stu surrendered the blade.

Stu turned to Sidney and regained his maniacal grin. “You see, Sid, everybody dies but us. Everybody dies but us. We get to carry on and plan the sequel. Cause let’s face it, baby, these days you got to have a sequel.” Stu’s hands spun in a flurry in front of him, spittle flying from his mouth.

My turn again, Billy thought. He seized Stu’s arm to steady him and brought the knife into his other side. Stu wilted in his grasp. Billy plucked the blade out and dragged up the outside of Stu’s arm, splitting his sweater then his skin.

“You sick fucks have seen too many movies!” Sidney said from behind them.

Billy hesitated for an instant to point the knife over his shoulder back at Sidney, keeping his eyes on Stu, reminding Stu of who he was.

“Sid, don’t blame the movies,” Billy shouted.” The movies don’t create psychos; movies make psychos more creative.” He spun Stu around and slashed the knife along his back.

Stu howled and arched against the injury. “Oh, stop it, Billy, would you? All right? I can’t take it anymore. I’m feeling a little woozy here!”

Stu’s head swam in the pain. His entire body chirped in panic as the blood dripped all around him. He surely would make a convincing victim now. Yet something else blossomed within him. When he glowered at Billy, he did not see his friend; he did not see his partner. He now saw the end of the knife.

Billy pressed the knife to Stu’s chin. “All right. Go get the gun, and I’ll untie pops. Okay?” Stu stared back at him, his blood dripping steady onto the floor. “Now!” Billy shouted.

“Okay.” Stu stared back and spoke softly.

Stu turned around. His head swooned with anger and a wave of dizziness. When he looked at the counter, the void on the white tile perplexed him. He stared at it, waiting for the gun to materialize again, waiting for things to make sense from under the pain.

“Um, Houston, we have a problem here.” Stu tapped his bloody fingers where the gun had been to verify its vacancy.

“What?” Billy turned from looming in Sidney’s face with the knife.

“The gun, man. The gun. I put it right there, and it’s not there.”

Billy stomped across the kitchen to look over Stu’s shoulder. “Where the fuck is it?”

Continued on… Father Death (19)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screamicon.webp

Christina Bergling

Like my writing? Check out my books!

  • Followers – You never know who is on the other side of the screen. Followers is a mystery and thriller that blends women’s fiction with horror.
  • The Rest Will Come – Online dating would drive anyone to murder, especially Emma.
  • Savages – Two survivors search the ruins for the last strain of humanity. Until the discovery of a baby changes everything.
  • The Waning – Locked in a cage, Beatrix must survive to escape or be broken completely.
  • Screechers – Mutant monsters and humans collide in the apocalyptic fallout of a burned world. Co-authored with Kevin J. Kennedy.
  • Horror Anthologies