Archive for August, 2022

They hiss “narcissist”, the word flattening to slip between their teeth, yet that is not the right word. That is not the correct disorder.

My reflection has always been a stranger. In my dark youth, she mocked me, tormented me. Yet, once she lost her teeth, she remained an other. Even now, after these decades together, I study her, mesmerized by any capture or reflection.

I have no solid sense of my physical form. My consciousness feels too expansive, too malleable to align with the flesh. I know my mind, could recite the wrinkles between memory, emotion, trauma, and motivation. The paths are deeply carved and familiar. Yet my own appearance eludes me, shifts and changes in the photos and mirrors that transfix me.

I do not take the pictures to worship my form, rather to trap it in an image so I might get acquainted with it. So I might know myself. Then inevitably to scrutinize it, to evaluate each curve and angle and compare it to my twisted expectations.

Would I feel like her if this changed or that?
Is this what I look like to other people?

When I glimpse a me I like, a me that seems to resonate as true, I post it. Not to be showered by likes and comments but to be seen, to pin it into existence, to hope that it is me and someone else agrees.

***

It has been a while since I have posted an update, particularly a personal one. I have been happily distracted with posting Scream fan fiction.

The mini post above has a touch of truth to it, a vein of accuracy. Maybe it always has but especially now when I find myself at odds with my body. I suppose I have always struggled with my body due to my profound ungratefulness. Now, it has rewarded me by undermining the care it used to take of me.

I won’t delineate the details because they ultimately don’t matter and I have a medical chart to hold them. For a couple years, my comfort in my flesh steadily declined. In tandem, my mind stumbled downward, lost in the dark sea in my chest (ahem, Mid-Life Terminus).

Recently, my doctor has finally found some treatments to reduce the more dire symptoms. Suicidal depression, constant discomfort, bloodless digits have been quelled for the most part. Yet that calm allows the smaller, more superficial ailments to shift into focus.

And so, even without the pain, my body does not feel like mine. Even more than usual, I do not recognize what I see. I don’t feel right in my skin, like I belong in a different form. I want back what I never appreciated.

This all has me confronting my vanity, what I consider to be defining and important about myself. My mind tells me one thing, but my emotions refuse to heed it. The expectations I have do not align with reality, and I cannot seem to accept the gulf in between.

So what is the point to all this whining? Nothing. It is all just a little context to the small piece that spilled out of my head. Sometimes, we like to hear where things came from.

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

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

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 (9)

5

“Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit,” Stu breathed from the passenger’s seat like a mantra.

“Wooooo!” Billy called out the open window. The crisp air whipped through his air and made the night feel more real.

Stu planted both palms on the dashboard and turned a dazed expression to Billy. The light from the road carved his face into grave shadows.

“We did it,” Stu said. “We fucking did, man!”

“Again,” Billy corrected. “We fucking did it again.”

The tires spirited them away into the night, away from their crime. Stu’s nausea sank back into memory behind them, pooled around Casey’s guts in the grass. Billy drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, unable to temper his elation.

“Where to now?” Stu asked.

“Alibis. Getting you to Tatum.”

Stu’s face fell before he plastered the smile back in its place. “That’s right. Where are you going?”

“I’m going to swing by Sid’s house.”

“She know you’re coming?”

“Nope.”

“Her pops in town?”

Billy reached over and slapped Stu in the arm. “You know he is. It’s kind of important to this whole thing that he is right now but won’t be in a couple days.”

“Right, right.” Stu glowered and rubbed his arm, sinking down into his seat.

“What are you going to tell Tatum about where you were before this?”

Stu slipped his hand under his seat and extracted a couple VHS tapes. “Just picking up some scary movies to watch. Lifted these out of Randy’s car.”

“Nice.” Billy nodded in approval, and Stu’s smile spread.

Billy rolled to a stop outside Tatum’s house. Stu glanced to the lighted wrap-around porch then back to Billy.

“See you tomorrow, man.” Stu beamed and then hopped from the car.

Stu bounced up the sidewalk in leaping steps as Billy pulled away from the curb. Billy saw Tatum open the door and wrap her arms around Stu before he drove off down the street.

Billy relaxed into the driver’s seat, leaning back into the upholstery and draping his wrist over the top of the steering wheel. Stu had executed his plan without bungling it. Now, Stu was a fully vested participant, more than an accomplice, no way out anymore. He was following the script, just like Billy needed him to.

Billy tilted his head toward the window and let the breeze slip through his hair and massage his thoughts. As he pointed the car toward Sidney’s house, his mind meandered back to that night. One foot of his consciousness toed into that memory at the sight of Sidney, at the right glance from Stu, but perhaps the most from going to the Prescott house. Where he could retrace the steps of the crime itself, breathe in her stale smell even a year later.

The pleasant nostalgia climbed his limbs as he wound up the hillside streets to the Prescott house. He parked in the same spot he and Stu had that night, hidden from the streetlights and the windows. He wasn’t supposed to be there again. Echoes and similarities crashed over him. He could be treading his own footsteps from that night as he crept toward the looming and lighted house. He almost stopped to savor the sensation of it, to live in the throbbing thrill.

He also resisted the urge to find the same entry point and burst through the sliding glass door in a full reenactment. He was here for Sidney—not her mother this time.

Avoiding the garish stretch of the ludicrous exterior lights, Billy slipped to the side of the house, away from the street and under Sidney’s window. He stepped back towards the trees until he could see over the railing to glimpse the light in her open window. Then he continued around the back and heaved himself onto the back deck. Laying soundless footsteps on the planks, he ascended to her window and crouched low, listening.

The faint sound of keyboard clicking drifted into the night. Easing up slowly against the siding, Billy peered through the window. Sidney perched on her desk chair, glancing between the monitor and keyboard as she typed. Somehow, her dutifully doing her homework irritated Billy. He had just been out gutting and hanging their classmates as she sat in her room doing what she was supposed to. He wanted to climb through the window and ruffle her perfection. Tear down her perfect life, the façade with which she surrounded herself.

Soon enough.

Billy bumped against the house as he lowered himself from the window. He reached over and sent a small flowerpot cascading over the railing. It shattered faintly below. Then he waited. He could hear Sidney press up from her chair and approach the window. Her hands appeared on the windowsill. Billy smirked before reaching out to snatch her shoulder.

Sidney released a short, sharp scream and recoiled from him.

“It’s just me!” Billy said, leaning in through the window. “Sorry. Don’t hate me,” he said as Sidney helped him climb through.

Billy looked down to notice the nightgown she was wearing. The flowered fabric bared her shoulders. Her perky breasts hinted beneath the thin cotton fabric as the bottom ruffle flirted with her thighs. His mind clouded for a second at the suggestion of all her flesh.

“You sleep in that?” he asked.

“Yes, I sleep in this.” Sidney’s head whirled between Billy and her bedroom door. “My dad is in the other room. You can’t be here.”

“I’ll just stay a sec.” Billy unfolded himself to standing.

“No! You gotta go! Go! Go! Go!” Sidney flustered a hand at Billy’s chest.

A knock fluttered on the door, and Sidney jumped again. Immediately, the door opened yet crashed into Sidney’s open closet door. Billy dove to the floor as Sidney sprinted across the room. Curling his legs in, he pressed himself against the trailing edge of Sidney’s bedspread as he listened.

“What’s going on in there?” Sidney’s dad asked. “Are you okay?”

“Can you knock?” Sidney said.

He did knock, Billy thought, laughing silently to himself.

“I heard screaming,” her dad said.

“No, you didn’t,” Sidney answered.

Yes, you did, Billy thought as he smirked on the floor.

“No?” Her dad’s tone softened. “Oh, well. I am hitting the sack. My flight leaves first thing in the morning. Now, the expo runs all weekend, so I won’t be back till Sunday. There’s cash on the table, and I am staying….”

Bingo. We grab him tomorrow.

“At the Hilton,” Sidney finished.

“Out at the airport. So, call if….”

“I need anything. Yeah, I got it.”

“I could’ve sworn I heard screaming.”

Hopefully, you’re about to, Billy mused.

“Have a good trip, okay?” Sidney dismissed her father.

“Sleep tight, sweetie,” her dad said.

Billy listened for the door to close. He grabbed a stuffed tiger from the floor beside him and popped it up on the bed.

“Close call,” Billy spoke for the tiger.

“Billy, what are you doing here?”

Billy eased up from the floor. “It occurred to me that I had never snuck through your bedroom window.”

“Well, now that it’s out of your system….” Sidney motioned toward the window.

Billy could feel her anxiety. She wanted him to leave. Somehow, that excited him more, being there when she didn’t want him to be. He strode past her, unfazed.

“I was home watching television,” Billy continued. “The Exorcist was on.” He waved his hands beside his head. “It got me thinking of you.” Billy moved around her room as he talked.

Sidney gave an amused shrug. “It did?”

“Yeah, it was edited for TV. All the good stuff was cut out. And it got me thinking of us.” He turned his eyes back to Sidney as he approached her. “How two years ago we started off hot and heavy. Nice solid R rating on our way to a NC-17. And now, things have changed, and lately, we’re just edited for television.”

Sidney’s face fell before she raised her eyebrows slyly. “Oh, so you thought you would climb through my window and have a little raw footage?”

Yes. “No. I wouldn’t dream of breaking your underwear rule.” Billy glanced to the side then back to Sidney. “I just thought we could do a little on-top-of-the-clothes stuff.”

Sidney lowered herself to sit at the edge of her bed. “Okay.”

“Yeah?” Billy offered a grateful smile that felt vile on his face.

“Yeah.” Sidney smiled brightly.

Sidney rose to kiss Billy, and he met her with his mouth. He pressed his lips against her again and again before guiding her back onto the bed. He laid Sidney down gently on the mattress, climbing on top of her.

“Hey,” she said on a soft laugh as they continued to kiss.

Sidney tangled one of her hands in Billy’s as their kiss deepened. Billy’s nerves throbbed in an agitated rhythm. The restraint was maddening. He did not want to be gentle. He did not want to wait. He was exhausted of both. He wanted to just take her. He needed her to finally want him. He felt those desires pounding through him with her breath against his nose, her fingers tracing his own, her body under his. He felt his self-control wobbling.

Billy slipped his fingers from Sidney’s and extended them down her thigh, pressing his hand to her warm, smooth flesh. His brain drowned in impulse as he slid his hand up her thigh, teasing at the hem of her nightgown.

Instantly, Sidney’s firm grip seized his hand and stopped his progress. Anger and rejection sliced through the haze and brought his mind back to a point. He had his mouth on her neck, but she turned away and started to buck him off.

“Okay, okay, okay. Time’s up, stud bucket,” Sidney said as she slid from beneath him. She sat up and pressed her palm over her mouth.

Billy could feel a pulse in his anger. “God, you see what you do to me,” he said exactly what he meant in a soft tone.

Sidney released a laugh and her smile again, brushing her bangs aside. “You know what my dad will do to you?” Sidney cast a glance to the door.

“Yeah, I’m going.”

Billy retreated backwards toward the window. Sidney stood from the bed and followed him, interlacing her fingers with his. Her touch mocked him now, but he treated it with feigned affection. He pecked her lips before pushing his legs out the window.

“You know, I appreciate the romantic gesture.”

Sure, you do, Billy scoffed in his head. “Hey, about the sex stuff, I’m not trying to rush you at all. I was only half-serious.” No, I was completely fucking serious, you frigid bitch.

“Okay.” Sidney cracked a relieved smile and brushed her hand down his arm.

Sidney leaned in to kiss Billy again. He attempted not to bristle at the touch and climbed the rest of the way out of the window.

“Hey Billy, would you settle for a PG-13 relationship?” Sidney called.

Billy looked up from the windowsill. “What’s that?”

Sidney gripped the neckline of her nightgown then tugged to unhinge all the snaps lining the chest. The nightgown flew open for a brief instant, exposing her breasts in the soft light. Billy stood stunned as she covered and laughed at her own cleverness. He leaned forward onto the windowsill and cradled his forehead. Rage billowed up in his chest, but he concealed it with a choking grin.

“My God,” he said. “You’re just a tease.”

Billy dropped out of the window. He saw Sidney watch him for a minute then she receded back into the glow of her room. Seething, Billy slipped back into the night and away from the Prescott house. He no longer felt pleasantly enveloped in the memory of the night he killed the woman who destroyed his family. He was no longer riding the euphoric high of successfully executing two people. Those things were eclipsed by the fact that he was not enough for Sidney, that she did not want him enough. She continued to string him along in this game.

What had he expected? He had expected tonight to be different because tonight was different. He expected her to feel that in him and be seduced by its power. Yet she could not throw him out of her window fast enough.

Just as his mother could not run away from him fast enough.

All because of Maureen. Still.

Billy slammed the car into gear and sped himself home. He entered quiet, but only the grumbling of the television greeted him. When he padded down the hall, he found his father passed out in his recliner, still in his suit. Hank had loosened his tie before he poured his first drink. After several more drinks, Billy knew he forgot what he was wearing at all.

Billy retired to his room and flipped on his television as if he had been home watching all night.

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

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

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 (8)

5

“This motherfucker is so heavy!” Billy grunted.

“Well, look at him,” Stu replied. “He’s like a linebacker, man.”

Steve moaned as Billy and Stu struggled him through the field outlying Casey’s parents’ property. The lights of the house appeared small in the distance. The shape of the pool glowed in the growing dark. Their long black robes swished and tangled in the grass. As they approached Casey’s house, Steve shifted against the duct tape binding him.

“He’s coming to,” Stu reported.

“Get him in a chair.”

Billy and Stu shuffled around the edge of the pool deck. An eerie mist rose from the glowing water. Both scrutinized the lighted windows of Casey’s house for movement. They lowered Steve, and Billy gestured to one of the chairs beside the water. Stu hustled to it and lifted it to avoid scraping it along the cement.

“Hurry!” Billy barked.

Stu huffed and threw exasperated eyes back at Billy as he maneuvered the chair over. As Steve wriggled at Billy’s feet, fighting his tape bindings, his muffled screams rose from the ground. Billy replied with a swift kick to his ribs.

“Shut up,” Billy hissed. “There. Help me with him.”

Steve thrashed as they gathered him up and wrestled him into the chair. Billy reached into his bag and extracted the glinting knife, holding it up in front of Steve’s face. Steve’s eyes went wide, and he stilled, puffing panicked breaths out of his nose. Billy lowered the knife and cut the tape at Steve’s wrists. Then Stu tore off fresh tape and bound him to the arms of the chair.

Billy studied Steve’s eyes as Stu worked. Frantic, they shifted from Stu’s hands to Billy’s knife. They lingered the longest on Casey’s house, trying to press into the window. Billy stared at the fear pooling in tears at the corners of Steve’s eyes. When Billy stepped back and the blade moved away with him, Steve tugged on his new restraints and screamed against the tape again. Stu stepped up in front of him.

“Nighty night.” Stu smiled and punched Steve hard in the face.

Steve slacked against his bindings, slumping in the chair. His head rolled to the slide as blood trickled down over the tape covering his mouth. Billy and Stu both tipped their heads as they regarded him. Then each took an arm of the chair and lifted, grunting and scuttling until he was tucked behind the planter. With Steve out of sight from the house, they retreated into the darkness of the yard.

Crouching behind the plants, Billy lowered his bag. He sheathed his knife in a forearm holster then offered Stu another blade to do the same. He handed the cell phone and voice changer to Stu. Then they both extracted a mask. Billy held his mask in his hands, examining the screaming visage once more. Then they both turned their eyes to the house to see Casey move across the window.

Casey’s figure, cleaved in a cream sweater and purple pants, crossed their view as she moved between the kitchen and the living room. They could see the blue glow from her television as it anticipated an upcoming movie screening. She tucked her short blonde hair behind one ear as she walked. She floated through the house, ignorant, naïve, unaware. And that made her beautiful. Billy and Stu exchanged elated grins and nodded.

Stu stepped back and positioned himself where he could see the most windows. He hunched against a tree and clutched the phone and voice changer in his hands.

Billy pulled the mask over his face. An elastic band hugged the back of his head while the hood draped down over his shoulders. As the plastic of the mask pressed against his nose, the mesh eye holes darkened his view of the night. He listened to his own breathing as he moved back toward Steve.

Once Billy was settled, Stu took a deep breath and pressed the Call button. The call rang in his ear before he heard the phone ring in Casey’s house. He watched Casey move across the living room to retrieve the phone from the small table, television glowing behind her.

“Hello?”

Stu heard Casey’s voice in his ear and watched her hold the receiver to her ear, stretching the spiraled cord. He was glad he had caught her in the living room, in full view of the patio door windows. It was as if she was on a movie screen for him.

“Hello?” he responded, hearing the distorted version rendered by the voice changer.

“Yes?”

“Who is this?” Stu was not sure what to say, how to start this exchange.

“Who are you trying to reach?”

“What number is this?” Stu stalled. His mind raced with his heart.

“What number are you trying to reach?” Casey leaned into the phone, smiling.

“I don’t know.” He said exactly what he was thinking.

“I think you have the wrong number.”

No, I have exactly the right number, he thought. “Do I?”

“It happens. Take it easy.”

Stu watched Casey move the phone from her ear and heard the call die in his own.

“Shit!” he hissed.

Casey turned away to leave the living room as he redialed the call. The phone beckoned her again, and she turned to snatch it back up.

Billy watched Stu from his crouch, anxiety prickling along his skin. He forced himself to breathe against the mask and hear and measure the exhalations. He wanted to be on the phone. He wanted to be orchestrating the night. He’s already fucking it up, his mind kept chanting. He choked on the necessity of letting Stu do this. Billy was the director, writer, maybe even the leading man of his movie, but he needed Stu to play his part.

“Hello?” Casey answered again.

“I’m sorry. I guess I dialed the wrong number,” Stu answered.

“So, why’d you dial it again?”

“To apologize.” He had never apologized to Casey once. She was the one who needed to apologize to him.

“You’re forgiven. Bye now.”

Not so fast, bitch, he thought. “Wait! Wait! Don’t hang up!” Stu said.

“What?”

“I want to talk to you for a second.” I want to play a game.

“They’ve got 900 numbers for that. See-ya.”

The phone died in Stu’s ear again, and he watched Casey shake her head as she left the room, moving out of sight down the hall and into the kitchen.

“Shit!” Stu slapped his gloved hand against the tree bark. “Fucking bitch.”

Stu redialed.

Billy clasped his gloved hands and strangled them together, breathing harder against the mask. Steve rustled in the rousing edges of consciousness beside him.

“Hello?” Casey answered.

“Why don’t you want to talk to me?” Stu asked. Why did you dump me?

“Who is this?”

“You tell me your name, I’ll tell you mine.” Stu smiled as he found his footing in the banter.

“I don’t think so.” Casey shook something, and the noise drifted into the receiver.

“What’s that noise?”

“Popcorn.”

Stu heard the smile in Casey’s voice, even though she was out of sight in the kitchen. He remembered that smile. He remembered her movie nights. She was getting ready for Steve.

“You’re making popcorn?” He knew she was. He knew she always did when she watched movies on a date.

“Uh-huh.”

“I only eat popcorn at the movies.” Let’s talk about movies, Casey.

“Well, I’m getting ready to watch a video.”

I know you are. “Really? What?”

“Oh. Just some scary movie.”

You used to watch scary movies with me. “You like scary movies?”

“Uh-huh.”

“What’s your favorite scary movie?” Stu held his breath.

Yes, read the script, Billy thought as he released a calmer breath.

“Uh, I don’t know,” Casey said.

“You have to have a favorite. What comes to mind?” Stu asked. I showed you so many.

“Umm…Halloween.”

Stu smiled and leaned his head against the tree. He thought of watching Halloween with Casey, kissing down her flesh as Michael Myers executed teenagers. His excitement surged, and he breathed slow to calm himself.

“You know the one guy in the white mask that walks around and stalks babysitters,” Casey continued.

Stu knew the one. “Yeah.”

“What’s yours?”

“Guess.”

Tonight. Tonight was Stu’s favorite scary movie.

“Um… Nightmare on Elm Street,” Casey said.

“Is that the one with the guy that has knives for fingers?”

“Yeah, Freddy Kruger.”

“Freddy, that’s right.” Stu rolled his eyes. Everyone knew Freddy. “I like that movie. It was scary.”

Casey reappeared in the window as she moved from the kitchen back toward the living room. She held a stack of VHS tapes in her hands. Stu traced her with his eyes, feeling his heart hammer in his chest. His hands trembled around the devices, anxious for action.

“The first one was, but the rest sucked,” Casey continued.

“So, you got a boyfriend?” Or do you care about Steve as much as you cared about me?

“Why? You want to ask me out on a date?”

Stu watched Casey walk to the television and stack the tapes on top. He saw her flirtatious head tilt, the way her hip cocked and nearly lost himself to a flashback. She clearly cared for Steve just as much as she had cared for him.

“Maybe,” Stu said, gritting his teeth. “So, do you have a boyfriend?”

“Mmmm, no.”

“You never told me your name,” Stu pressed.

“Why do you want to know my name?”

“So I know who I am looking at.” Stu held his breath again.

Casey froze. Her head snapped up, and she looked away from the window. Stu saw the words impact her brain, and his body trembled at the resonance.

Billy peered over the plants to see her body go rigid. As planned. He smiled under the mask.

“What did you say?” Casey hesitated.

You heard me, bitch. “I want to know who I’m talking to.” Stu could scarcely stifle a giggle.

“That’s not what you said.”

Casey moved close to the patio doors and reached for the light switch. Light flashed and washed over the patio, over the spot where they had wrestled and taped Steve. Stu glanced at the edge of the light from his shadows, saw Steve and Billy still tucked out of sight. Casey’s eyes swept the pool, her face docile and oblivious. Then she flipped the lights back off.

“What do you think I said?”

“What? Hello?” Don’t give up yet, Casey. I’m not done yet. We haven’t got to play yet.

“Look, I got to go.” Casey’s voice changed, lost its melody and flirtation.

“Wait. I thought we were going to go out?”

“Uh no. I don’t think so.” Casey’s fingers fumbled down to lock the patio doors, fear contorting her features.

Stu saw her move to lower the phone. “Don’t hang up on me!”

The phone died in Stu’s ear, and Casey turned back toward the kitchen. Billy sprang up. Stu hesitated to see the ghostly face in the night. Then Billy waved him over with a firm hand. Sprinting over the grass, Stu grabbed one side of the chair. Steve grunted and struggled again as they swiveled him back into position between the pool and the house.

“Here,” Billy commanded from beneath the mask. “He has to be right in the middle when she looks out that window.”

With the chair in place, Stu redialed the phone. As it rang, Stu returned to his tree, and Billy moved around the perimeter of the house.

The itching returned to Billy’s palms as he moved around the side of the house. He looked to the empty rope swing hanging eerily from the massive tree in the front yard and the empty gravel driveway. The quiet, manicured, landscaped front yard only made Billy’s nerves writhe more furious beneath his skin. Billy crouched beside the front porch and waited.

“Yes?” Casey’s tone had changed. Stu remembered this clipped tone from when she dumped him.

“I told you not to hang up on me.” Stu felt his resentment tangle with his excitement.

“What do you want?”

“To talk.” To fucking kill you.

“Well, dial someone else. Okay?”

The call died in Stu’s ear, but he grinned. He crept around the house to glimpse Casey in the kitchen. Smoke bloomed from the roasting popcorn. Casey lifted it, and Stu pressed Call. Dropping the popcorn, she snatched the phone to her ear.

“Listen, asshole,” she snapped.

“No, you listen, you little bitch! You hang up on me again, I’ll gut you like a fish. You understand?” Stu released an unmitigated laugh, and it sounded maniacal through the voice changer. The words were liberating, flowing out of him unfiltered. “Yeah.”

“Is this some kind of joke?”

Stu could hear Casey was crying now, and that only spurred him on. “More of a game, really. Can you handle that? Blondie?”

Casey sprinted from the kitchen, and Stu shadowed her as she ran down the hall checking locks. His heart pounded with glee and excitement as he moved. He rounded to the front and saw the top of her head peer from the glass at the top of the front door.

“Can you see me?” he mocked from the darkness.

“Listen, I am two seconds away from calling the police.” She was using a strong voice, but Stu heard her weakness, wanted to feed on it.

“They’d never make it in time were in the middle of nowhere,” he pressed.

“What do you want?” she sobbed harder.

“To see what your insides look like.” The words tasted so sweet Stu could not help but lick the air and the lips of his smile.

Billy stood and stepped up on the edge of the porch. He nodded his ghost face at Stu as he crouched down and moved to the front door. He rang the doorbell twice in a friendly way a boyfriend would. Then he slipped off the porch and back around the house.

“Who’s there? Who’s there? I’m calling the police!” They heard Casey say.

Stu immediately pressed the Call button.

“You should never say, ‘Who’s there?’ Don’t you watch scary movies? It’s a death wish. You might as well come out and investigate a strange noise or something.” He wanted to laugh but chewed it back as he hurried back around by the pool.

“Look, you’ve had your fun now. So, I think you better just leave or else.”

“Or else what?” Stu choked back more giggles. This was too much fun.

Peering through the patio door windows again, Stu watched Casey move back into the living room. She hunched over and clutched her stomach. When she turned her face, he could see the tears streaming down her pink cheeks. She looked even more beautiful to Stu now.

“Or else my boyfriend will be here any second, and he’ll be pissed when he finds out.”

Billy stood beside Stu. They both glanced over at Steve, bloodied and bound to the pool chair, and chuckled silently. Stu reached over to give Billy a gentle nudge.

“I thought you didn’t have a boyfriend?” he mocked.

“I lied, I do have a boyfriend, and he’ll be here any second. So, your ass better be gone.” She was reaching. Stu could see her body language wilting under her fear. She held her stomach tighter now.

“Sure.”

“I swear.” Casey stood and went rigid. “He’s big, and he plays football, and he’ll kick the shit out of you!” She shouted until she craned forward.

“I’m getting scared. I am shaking in my boots.” Stu let the sarcasm drip from his words.

“So, you just better leave.”

“His name wouldn’t be Steve, would it?” Stu glanced over at Steve again. Steve caught his eye, and Stu offered a mocking chin lift.

“How do you know his name?”

“Turn on the patio lights. Again.” Stu knew she would not be able to resist. He knew she believed him now, that she knew he could see her.

Casey pressed up against the glass. She reached out, and light washed over Steve. At the sight of her, he struggled futile against his restraints again.

“Oh god!” Casey shrieked. Stu could hear her through the phone and the glass in a terribly wonderful symphony.

Billy’s breath caught in his throat at her face. That was the look; that was the fear. All his anxiety settled. It no longer mattered who was on the phone, who was holding the knife. That was what he came here to see.

Casey immediately reached down and loosed the lock, opening the door to rush to Steve.

“I wouldn’t do that if I was you!” Stu snapped in his anger, anger at her willingness to run out to a killer for Steve.

Casey pulled the door closed and turned the lock again. Tears poured down her face as her free hand teased at the glass.

“Where are you?” she cried.

“Guess.”

“Don’t hurt him.”

Too late. “That all depends on you.”

“Why are you doing this?” Casey continued to cry and twitch her fingers at the window.

“I want to play a game.” I want to make you pay.

“No.”

“Then he dies right now.”

“No! No!” Casey wailed, her face contorting.

“Which is it?” Stu asked and waited for her reply. Casey continued to stare at Steve. “Which is it?” he asked again, leaning into the words.

“Wh-what kind of a game?” she stammered.

Stu smiled, grim and pleased. “Turn off the lights. You’ll see what kind of game.” Casey hesitated, and Stu shouted, “just do it!”

The lights extinguished again, drowning Steve in the darkness and his muffled protests. Casey pressed her forehead to the glass before sliding down the wall and crawling backward behind the television. Stu grinned in victory and moved closer to the house.

“Here’s how to play,” Stu started. “I ask you a question. If you get it right, Steve lives.”

“Please, don’t do this.” Casey’s voice folded under her cries again. The room got darker when she unplugged the small light on top of the television.

“Come on, it’ll be fun!” It already was fun.

“Please.”

“It’s an easy category.”

“Please.”

“Movie trivia.” Stu could barely contain his excitement, knowing how terrible Casey would be at movie trivia, not that it mattered if she got the questions right or not.

“I’ll give you a warm-up question.”

“Don’t do this. I can’t.”

“Name the killer in Halloween.” Stu recited from Billy’s list of questions, selecting from his shared past with Casey.

“No.”

“Come on,” Stu coaxed. “It’s your favorite scary movie, remember? He had a white mask, and he stalked babysitters.”

“I don’t know.”

“Come on. Yes, you do.” You came looking at his mask.

“No, please, “Casey whimpered.

“What’s his name?”

“I can’t think.”

“Steve’s counting on you.” Stu looked to Steve again, still wasting his time battling tape.

“Michael. Michael Myers.” Casey’s voice turned resolute.

“Yes! Very good. Now for the real question.”

“No!” Casey lifted her head as the tears returned to her voice.

“But you’re doing so well,” Stu mocked. “We can’t just stop now.”

“Please, stop! Leave us alone.”

“Then answer the question. Same category.”

“Oh, please stop.”

“Name the killer in Friday the 13th?” Stu selected another of Billy’s approved questions. The trick question.

Casey’s head appeared in the window above the television. She bounced on her feet, excited.

“Jason! Jason! Jason!” she shouted.

Stu licked his lips in glee. “I’m sorry. That’s the wrong answer.”

“No, it’s not! No, it’s not! It’s Jason!” Casey stomped forward in front of the larger window, giving Stu a clearer vision of her angry face.

“Afraid not,” he pushed. “No way.”

“Listen, it was Jason.” Casey’s face hardened. “I saw that movie 20 goddamn times!”

“Then you should know that the original killer was Jason’s mother, Mrs. Voorhies. Jason didn’t show up till the sequel. I’m afraid that was the wrong answer.”

Stu relished watching her face fall, glorying in her disappointment and frustration.

“You tricked me,” Casey said, defeated.

“Lucky for you, there is a bonus round. But, poor Steve, I am afraid he’s out!”

At the cue, Billy pulled the knife from his sleeve. His heart pounded in a calm and purposeful rhythm as he took long strides toward Steve. He braced himself as he slashed across Steve’s stomach. Steve howled against the tape. Billy swiftly stuffed his hand into the open wound, feeling the warmth and the wet, and yanked out a fistful of intestines before riding the thrill into the shadows and around the house.

Casey appeared at the patio doors, and the lights switched on, illuminating the carnage. Steve’s eyelids fluttered as his head tipped back before he went limp in the chair. Stu drank in Casey’s horrified expression as she slid down the glass and retreated across her floor to tuck herself behind her television. Stu could not contain his laughter.

“Hey, we’re not finished yet,” Stu called. “Final question. Are you ready?”

“Please, please, leave me alone,” Casey begged.

“Answer the question, and I will,” Stu lied, greedy for her pain. “What door am I at?” He spoke slow and annunciated.

Casey’s head appeared above the television again as she looked around, confused. “What?”

“There are two main doors to your house, the front door and the patio door. Very simple,” Stu explained.

“I can’t do this. I can’t. I won’t.”

“Your call.”

Stu disconnected the call and pocketed the devices. He pulled the mask over his face. The plastic pressed against his grin, and his hot breath immediately filled the space. He grasped an empty chair and heaved it toward the house, sending it crashing through the patio doors he had been gazing through all night.

With the smashing of the back window, Billy punched a side window and slipped through the broken frame. Even through the mask, he could see the smoke thick in the house from the kitchen. He pressed against the wall. Casey’s footsteps pounded through the house as she sprinted. Billy’s fingers tingled with excitement as he clutched the knife and ran across the hall, searching for her.

Outside, Stu traced the edge of the house. As he rounded the corner, he glimpsed Casey slinking out of the side kitchen door. She pulled the door closed behind her, quiet and cautious, pressing her back tight against the house. The phone lingered in one hand as she clung to a knife in the other. He left her there and took the opportunity to slip through the destroyed patio door.

As Billy moved into the kitchen, the heat from the flames on the stove pressed at him through his costume. He pushed through the smoke, circling around the island in the empty room. Still no Casey and she could not have gone far. Not with Stu out back.

Billy crossed the kitchen and stood near the window. He allowed his eyes to trace the room then snapped his head to the window. He nearly startled to find Casey’s face on the other side of the glass. Casey screamed loud. His heart seized, but he punched his hand through the glass to snatch her wrist below her weapon. Casey continued shrieking as he bashed his head through the window toward her.

He felt the control at holding her wrist, tugging her closer, moving to pull himself through the window. Then the phone smashed into his face. The plastic of the mask plowed into his nose, and the world went bright then blurry. Billy toppled back onto the hardwood floor in a disoriented heap.

Casey’s shrieks and the sound of breaking glass stabbed through Stu’s hood. He tilted the ghastly face to see her dart from the side of the house onto the patio. She hesitated in front of the broken doors and Steve’s disemboweled corpse.

Guess he’s not better than me now, Stu mused as he grinned beneath the mask.

He kept pace with Casey from within the house, and when she rounded the corner, he threw himself through the small window. Launching his arms in front of him, he wrapped around her and snagged her shoulders. She tugged and struggled against his grip, but he turned her into him, wrapped under his arm as they used to walk together. Then he plunged his knife into her chest.

Casey crumpled from under his arm, tumbling back into the damp grass. Her hands flew to her spilling wound as whimpers poured from her quivering lips. Stu stood stunned over her for a second, absorbing the sight of the vitality flowing from her cut. As he straddled her, a strange blend of panic and elation surged through him. It had been so long since he had been this close to her, been on top of her. He had never been in control of her like this. She never did what he wanted like she was about to.

Casey threw up her arms to resist him, but the moment dissolved into a blur. Stu reached through the haze of her movements and her cries to seize her neck and stab the blade through the side of her throat. In a coughing gag and sputter of blood, Casey went silent. Stu stopped breathing to marvel at his own work.

Billy would be so proud.

The pain exploded through Stu’s body. His vision went red as his stomach curled into itself. Casey had thrust her knee up into his testicles, and he nearly vomited into the mask. Stu folded helpless into the ache. With a shove from Casey, he sprawled onto his back and wallowed in the blow. He could hear Casey scramble to her feet and move across the lawn as he waited for the waves to pass.

The headlights of Casey’s parent’s car swept over the lawn as it approached. Then the tires rumbled over the gravel before pulling to a halt. The car doors shut before parental chatter drifted in their direction. Casey staggered toward them, toward help. Stu dragged himself to his feet as he watched Casey extend her hand and cry out of a muted throat.

He approached her from behind, knowing they couldn’t hear her, knowing she wouldn’t make it to them. When he reached her, he flipped her to her back with little effort. With all the blood loss, she flopped to the boards of the porch. Stu positioned himself to finish her, and Casey raised a bloody and shaking hand. Her fingertips pressed into his face as she gripped the mask and pulled it from his face.

She looked up and saw Stu’s face, recognition breaking over her features. She did not even look that surprised. He was glad she knew it was him. He raised the blade high and stabbed until she stopped breathing.

The smoke detector chirped, and Casey’s parents called her name as Billy jogged around the side of the house, the bag bouncing at his side. When he reached Stu, Stu had already tugged Casey’s body off the porch. Billy could tell she was dead. She had that Maureen look. He cracked his neck to ignore the jealousy at missing that final flash of fear and control.

This was Stu’s turn. This was cementing Stu’s role.

Billy stared aghast at Stu’s exposed face.

“Put your fucking mask back on,” Billy barked.

“She pulled it off,” Stu said. “I was a little busy.”

“What if her parents came out here?”

“What are we going to do with her?”

Billy turned his ghost face from side to side, surveying the yard. When his eyes settled on the tree swing, he grinned beneath the mask. He bent down to seize one of Casey’s wrists and helped Stu drag her across the grass.

“Open her up,” Billy commanded as they reached the swing.

“What?” Stu asked.

“Open her up. Intestines spilling out just like Steve.”

Stu hesitated, his blank ghost face tilted up at Billy.

“You started it,” Billy clipped. “Now, finish it.”

Billy turned to the swing and swiftly sawed through each rope. The voices in the house grew louder, more frantic.

“Hurry,” Billy hissed. “We have to get her up before they get out here.”

Stu gagged and pressed the back of his hand to the mask. Then he staggered back to standing.

“She’s open, man,” Stu said, voice wavering.

“Get her up here then.”

Stu’s blank mask whirled up to Billy again, tilted in outrage. Yet without a word, he slipped his hands under Casey’s armpits and heaved her up. The two worked awkwardly with the floppy corpse until Casey hung suspended from the tree. Her intestines tumbled from her stomach to pile on the grass below, just as Billy had wanted.

Billy stared for a long moment before slapping Stu in the stomach and shouldering the bag. The two hustled into the dark field, disappearing between the leaves as Casey’s mom’s scream shattered the night.

Continued on… Father Death (9)

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

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

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 (7)

3

The morning bell split through the sunlight at Woodsboro High. Students loitered over the lawns and sidewalks, meandering into the entrances and clustering into conversation circles. Stu occupied himself by jumping on then off the metal railing climbing along the cement stairs. Billy leaned against the railing, his arms pinned across his stomach as he squinted at the crowd.

Billy caught sight of Sidney approaching from the parking lot with Tatum. She wore a short-sleeved shirt printed with small flowers and jeans, her backpack slung over one shoulder. Half of her hair was secured in a loose clip with her bangs left across her forehead and the rest of her hair brushing her shoulders. Billy’s heart seized at the sight of her. The customary flash of Maureen’s death mask flitted through his memory, but today, there was more. Today, the additional thrill of all that was coming tingled on his skin.

Stu launched from the railing and jogged across the grass to the girls. He seized Tatum around the waist. Despite her giggled protests, he dipped her back and planted a dramatic kiss on her mouth.

“Good morning, ladies,” Stu said as he bowed.

Stu moved his arm up around Tatum’s shoulders and drew her into him. Tatum’s blonde hair fluttered wild in the breeze. Her neon top clung suggestively to her figure.

Billy strode up beside Sidney. She offered him a gentle smile then leaned in to peck his lips. At the crinkle in her eyes, Billy saw her mother again. At her small grin, he saw the future they had planned for her. He wanted to grab her, take her right here on this lawn. Instead, he smiled back and took her hand softly in his.

Billy and Stu exchanged a conspiratorial look over the girls’ heads. A delirious smile consumed Stu’s face.

The group filed in through the front doors of the school and wandered down to their respective lockers. Tatum linked her arm through Sidney’s and escorted her away from Billy. Sidney cast her eyes back and smiled goodbye to Billy. Billy noted some plans for how Tatum would meet her end later.

Billy slouched against his closed locker. Stu reclined with him and gave him that same look, that look saturated with their plan. So many worthless classes and hours stretched out in front of them now, in the way of the next steps. They faced the day like children going to bed on Christmas Eve and trying to sleep.

“We should have cut today,” Stu mumbled.

“That would have been suspicious,” Billy answered.

“I don’t know how I’m going to focus.”

“You never focus,” Billy scoffed. “Fake it like every other day and keep running through tonight in your head.”

Stu nodded. The bell clattered through the hallway. They exchanged one more glance then broke off toward homeroom.

Stu stared at the back of Steven Orth from his desk. He had stared at Steve plenty of mornings since Casey, but this morning, he looked different. Stu could see all the blood pumping under his skin. He could see all the organs that could be dissected and removed. Every time Steve’s shoulders rose and fell with breath. Stu imagined stopping that motion.

The more he fantasized, the wider his grin grew.

“Mr. Macher, do you have anything to add to today’s news?” Mrs. Mays asked.

Stu startled, the smile sluffing from his cheeks. He turned his eyes to the teacher.

“No,” he said.

Giggles rippled along the class. Mrs. Mays blinked a little longer then resumed speaking. Stu did not bother to listen as he was already imagining how long it would take to remove Steve’s intestines with his hands.

During passing period, Billy waited in the hallway outside Sidney’s English class. He pressed one shoulder into the wall and crossed an ankle over the other. His empty backpack hung worthless from his shoulder. He had no use for books today. Each class was just motion, just playing along, just appearances.

The classroom door opened, and students filed out. Billy ignored the first anonymous faces, but he felt the flinch in his core when Casey breached the door frame. Casey clutched her books to her white sweater. She smiled wide as she giggled, her entire face crinkling sweetly. Her straight blonde hair curled around her earlobes. Stu did have a thing for blondes.

Seeing her face, Billy envisioned it twisting in fear like Maureen’s, screaming like Maureen did, bloodied like Maureen’s was. He plastered his memories over Casey’s present moment, and he nearly went hard.

Then Sidney stepped into the hallway, and he composed himself. He pushed up from the wall and offered her his hand. Sidney’s fingers slipped along his, and the heat of her skin enticed him more. His nerves blazed. The hair on his legs rose to rub against his jeans.

Sidney stopped at her locker and released Billy’s hand. When she opened the door, Billy pressed into her, guiding her face to his. He kissed her rougher than he intended and let his hand wander down her back and over her ass.

“Billy,” Sidney half-laughed, “what are you doing?”

Sidney pushed against Billy’s chest until he let her go. All the sensation in his body concentrated on her pressing him away. All that electricity reduced down to her rejection. Sidney grinned up at him, and he tucked his rage behind a guilty smile.

“You look beautiful today,” he said then clenched his teeth together hard enough to strain his jaw.

“Let me hit that,” Stu said, ducking under the bleachers.

“Shouldn’t you be running laps?” Randy answered in a plumed exhalation.

“Shouldn’t you be running laps?”

Stu gestured at Randy’s baggy gym shorts and stained tee. Randy looked down at Stu’s comparable apparel. Then both laughed, and Randy extended the joint to him. Stu pinched the joint in his slender fingertips and brought it to his puckered lips. He inhaled deep, his eyes going wide as he did, then held his breath until his sinuses tickled. Then he released smoke rings into the air above his head and marveled at them before returning the joint to Randy.

“Well done, sir.” Randy offered a golf clap before taking the joint.

“Now, this is what I call fitness.”

“Mental fitness is very important.” Randy sucked on the joint again and propped his head on the metal support as he released the smoke.

“Not going to catch me out there with the sheep today.” Stu reached for his turn.

“Your boy Billy doesn’t seem to have a problem with the flock.” Randy looked through the bleachers and jutted his chin at Billy, rounding the track in front of them.

Stu shrugged and sucked hard on the end of the joint. “Maybe he has things to run off,” he said in smoky words.

“Daddy issues.”

“Maybe that’s why Sidney picked him.”

Stu shot Randy a fierce look then burst into giggles. Randy joined him, and the laughter accelerated until Mr. Lambert’s ears pricked, and he whirled in the direction of the bleachers. Randy and Stu plastered their hands over their mouths and cowered in the shadows.

Billy unfurled himself along the grass. He tucked his hands under his head and allowed the sun to bake down on his closed eyes. Stu sat beside him, picking blades of grass and chucking them down the hill. The sounds of clashing pads, grunts, and shouts wafted up from the football field at the bottom of the hill.

“Bunch of butt-fucking jackasses,” Stu mused, squinting into the lowering sun.

“Casey left you for all that.” Billy grinned but kept his eyes closed.

Stu turned to him. “Ouch, man. Ouch.”

Billy eased up on his elbows and winked into the glaring light. He regarded the football team first, the anonymous jerseys circling over the striped turf in pointless patterns, then offered Stu a promising smirk.

“Don’t worry, buddy,” he said. “You get to show her tonight. We get to show all of them.”

Whistles screeched, and the team broke their lines to huddle in a massive, teeming circle. Billy and Stu took the cue and rose to their feet. The team throbbed as an organism below. The helmets clustered together as the boys placed their hands on each other’s padded backs. They bounced in a mass from one side to the other. Their grunts started staggered and unsynchronized then harmonized into one chanting voice.

Simultaneously, Billy and Stu burst out laughing. Billy lifted the back of his hand to shield his mouth. Stu hunched around imaginary teammates and bounced in a rhythm with the team.

“Hoo!” he shouted, slapping Billy’s shoulder. “Hoo! Are you ready?” He smacked Billy’s shoulder again. “Are you READY?”

Billy smirked and turned toward the team. “I’m ready.”

Billy and Stu walked side by side down the hill toward the team.

“Hey, Steve! Hey, man! Steve, over here,” Stu shouted from the hood of Billy’s car. He waved his hands over his head.

Steve rolled his eyes hard on an exhale and shouldered his duffle.

“Steeeeve, I know you see me, man.” Stu slid from the hood onto his feet.

Steve looked at the asphalt before turning towards Billy’s car.

“Look, I told you, Macher,” Steve said, punctuating his words with his hand. “Casey is with me now. She has been for a while. So, you can just fuck yourself.”

“That’s what I need to talk to you about. Casey, not the fucking myself,” Stu laughed.

“What about Casey?”

As Steve approached the car, Billy eased from the driver’s seat.

“Loomis, what the fuck are you doing here?” Steve hesitated, shifting his weight back on his heels.

Stu could not contain the grin. He tipped his chin down, but it spread up his face and crept toward his gleaming eyes. Billy allowed the metal pipe to slide down the back of his arm and into his hand as he waited to see what Steve would do. Steve shifted his eyes from Stu to Billy and back, his shoulder rising towards his ears.

“Relax, Steve, I just want to tell you.” Stu offered his palms.

“Tell me what?” Steve took a step forward.

Stu’s grin split wider as he leaned in to meet Steve. Billy lunged forward and struck Steve in the side of the head with the pipe. Steve collapsed in a heap to the pavement. Stu scanned the parking lot as he slung Steve’s bag over his shoulder. Billy shoved the pipe in his back pocket. The two quickly gathered Steve’s limp body and dragged him to the back door, shoving him through.

Billy started the engine, and Stu dropped into the passenger’s seat.

“We have a date for movie trivia with Casey,” Stu laughed.

Continued on… Father Death (9)

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

Christina Bergling

https://linktr.ee/chrstnabergling

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