What Scares Thriller Writer Donald J. Bingle?
Cold, Airless Death
I have two major phobias: suffocation and hypothermia. So the whole idea of, say, cave diving, freaks me out. Probably the scariest thing I ever saw on television was a PBS-type show about guys who shimmy down small holes in the ground to scuba through the acquifer in Florida to see where the water for various springs comes from. These guys are trailing their tanks behind them because the fit is too tight to wear them on their backs, they don’t know where they are going or if the space they are traveling through will be large enough to turn around and swim back against the flow to their entry point (assuming they can find it), and they have limited air/time. Even scarier than when The Amazing Race had people going under the ice of a frozen river on the North Korean border. At least they had a production team and the South Korean army ready to rescue them if things went bad.
Of course, I am unlikely to find myself cave diving or on the North Korean border unexpectedly, so the scariest real world thing that could happen is to get stuck in alluvial mud. Certain places, like the Cook Inlet in Alaska (where I have been and am likely to go in the future) have expansive mud flats at low tide. The mud is made out of alluvial silt from glacial run-off streams and rivers, so is near freezing year round. A feature of this mud is that when you step in it, the water in the loose mud can be expelled and the mud set instantly like concrete. Saw a news clipping about a husband and wife who drove their pick-up out onto the mudflats with a dredge to pan for gold. She steps out of the truck, sinks to her waist in the mud and can’t move. Husband can’t get her out, even with the dredge, so he leaps from the truck to shore to get help. Help arrives in force with paramedics, firemen, etc., but by then the tide has turned. A tidal bore (a wall of water marking the turn of extreme tides in some inlets) has marched into the inlet and washed over her. The freezing water is rising rapidly, so she is trying to breathe through a hose, while they consider amputation to get her out. Here’s the worst part: When they were forced by danger to the rescuers to abandon her, they weren’t sure whether she was still breathing or had already succumbed to hypothermia.
Managed to work alluvial mud into a Dragonlance tie-in story I wrote (“Dragon’s Throat” in The Search for Magic) and made a few choice comments about cave-diving in my latest novel, Net Impact, but writing about dying a cold, airless death didn’t make me feel any better.
Best known as the world’s top-ranked player of classic role-playing games for fifteen years, Donald J. Bingle is an oft-published author in the science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller, steampunk, romance, and comedy genres. He is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, the GenCon Writers Symposium, and the St. Charles Writers Group.
Editor’s Note: Best known as the world’s top-ranked player of classic role-playing games for fifteen years, Donald J. Bingle is an oft-published author in the science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller, steampunk, romance, and comedy. His story “Gentlemanly Horrors of Mine Alone” was the ninth story in Mike Stackpole’s Chain Story Project. Donald J. Bingle is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, the GenCon Writers Symposium, and the St. Charles Writers Group. You can learn more about Donald and his writing by visiting his website.