Pseudopod 011: Killing Jars

By Matt Wallace.

Read by Ben Phillips.

His three judges, each face lit by two candle flames, are suspicious, and in and around them It seizes on that suspicion. It craves blood the color of their priestly robes.

He lies, the divine’s voice sounds inside his own skull, though it is not him speaking. The devil that dwells within him spits upon the one true God’s deliverance. He will destroy you. They will see the Holy Church to ash.

“Heresy! Heresy!” Words of fervor and hot spittle that teem like maggots in the divine’s beard.

And this pious man feels the power of a tyrant, terrifying and intoxicating and It pushing him closer towards the moth-to-flame lure of that feeling. When they haul Reimbauer towards the vaulted ceiling, a gothic mockery of ascension, spiked collar around his neck peeling the top layer of flesh with every spasmodic jerk of his head, red veined salmon pink beneath.

November 10th, 2006 3:24 pm

I can’t tell you how much I hated this story. From the tired old Mysterious Being who feeds on FEEEAAARRR AND PAAAIIIIIINNNN, to the goriness and finally to the totally avoidable mispronunciations throughout the story, I was totally unimpressed.

YMMV. :)

Simeon Weinraub
November 10th, 2006 9:09 pm

I have to agree that the old MacGuffin of the entity that feeds on fear and pain is a tad trite… I also have to agree that some of the problems Ben had pronouncing some words in the reading were distracting. But, this was one of the best written story I have heard on Pseudopod.

Jason McDowell
November 10th, 2006 9:21 pm

This story was exactly what I’ve come to expect from Matt Wallace. It was outstanding. From the masterful use of the english language to the originality of story, Mr. Wallace I applaud you.

I’m a big fan of Matt Wallace, I’ve listened to all of his work on Variant Frequencies, and I’ve never seen an aspiring author more deserving of serious attention and dare I say, publication.

While the “mysterious being” (as the above reader calls it) may be nothing new, there’s nothing wrong with an old story that has a new twist. It was given a whole new twist with the MRI machine. Those machines are scary enough without supernatural interference. And the eye…disgusting, but admirable.

All in all, a well written story. I highly recommend it.

Kim Frankenfield
November 11th, 2006 12:33 am

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to “Killing Jars”. The gruesome descriptives painted incredible pictures in my mind while the story was being told. I liked the insidious “It” with its twisted need for pain and agony…

Mister Wallace, I think you spin a wicked, wicked tale. Excellent job with this story and those over at Varient Frequencies.

Simeon Weinraub
November 11th, 2006 1:14 am

Yeah, I guess this is the thread where I say ” me too”, too often. Or, maybe I was called away to dinner before I finished my thoughts. But, since Jason already said the rest of what I was thinking… Yeah, me too, what Jason said.

Susie in GA
November 11th, 2006 8:36 am

This was my fav. short story so far. I really enjoyed it.

November 11th, 2006 10:10 am

Matt — Well-written and effectively grimace-inducing at times. A little heavy on similes for my tastes, and Dane comes across as so cynical that the story is not as emotionally engaging as it might be with a more sympathetic lead. It’s still a fairly powerful tale, and a good job overall.


November 13th, 2006 4:57 am

It was a story of two parts for me, the first part was the long looooong set-up to explain our hero had a real problem with claustrophobia and then there was this nameless thing around… I don’t have a problem with that per se, but you know that this story is going to come down to the guy being in an enclosed space and the monster doing nasty things and it took so long to get to that point that I found it really frustrating.

That said, the sadly much shorter section with the guy under attack from the menace was a lot more interesting and exciting/scary. It was a shame we couldn’t have more of that and less of the Inquisition stuff.

November 13th, 2006 10:03 am

I really can’t comment on the writing here, I always listen to these as I work, and I have to think it was the narration that left me completely bored. I kept realizing I hadn’t listened to it in several minutes and had to back up to understand what was going on. This kept happening until right now, with 17 minutes left in the story, I realize I don’t care what’s going on. This narrator might well be suited to many things, but this seemed like an extremely aggressive story, and probably would have been best served with a more over the top aggressiveness to the narrator.

November 13th, 2006 10:25 am

What exactly did I mispronounce? I like to learn from my mistakes.

November 13th, 2006 10:19 pm

The ending absolutely sucked ass. It should have ended with his rehabilitation, or with his realization that he is no longer afraid of closed spaces. Trading one phobia for another was just a chickenshit way out of the story without giving it a proper ending. Actually, it could have just ended with his loss of consciousness, or with the lawsuit, etc. It really just meandered at the end as if the author just play didn’t know how or when to quit.

Ben, you mispronounced dysplasia.

November 13th, 2006 10:21 pm

Oh yeah, one more thing. What purpose did the mysterious entity serve for the story?

Oh. Nothing.

Well. Isn’t that just a silly little bit of pretentious horse shit this story just didn’t need..?

November 13th, 2006 11:00 pm

. . . but did you LIKE it?

November 14th, 2006 10:15 am

Ben, I think it was more the slurring of words in certain areas than mispronunciations.

I also didn’t care for the ending or the mysterious, ambiguous “It.” The gore was okay, but if gore is what primarily carries the story, that’s a problem, in my op.

November 15th, 2006 3:24 pm

I disagree. It serves to advance the character in this case. Dane goes from having unfounded claustrophobia to a rational, well-founded fear of sharp items. This is absolutely brilliant because it fulfills so many goals in the tale: our hero develops, he learns something, he defeats the unnamed evil, and yet the lesson learned doesn’t lead to sunshine and daisies at the end. He’ll be physically damaged for life, and emotionally bruised. The state he is left in is at once hopeful, and terrifying. Does certainty, or uncertainty define good horror? I’d argue resulting to an ending that is “cleaner” makes for horror that has a more difficult task at suspending disbelief. I’m glad Mr. Wallace chose realistic uncertainty.

Ben’s reading was fine, except he ran his sentences together at times.

Matt: Since you’re reading this, I just want you to know how much I despise you :) I’ve been listening to your work for a while, and I agree with the comment another person here made, that someone needs to notice you. Every time I think my writing is “getting there”, I seem to come across one of your tales and I realize how far I still have to go. I do think you tend to clutter some of your work with needless verbal fat at times (“The Failed Cities Monologues” just aren’t doing anything for me — sorry), but when you tighten things up, you’re one of the best up-and-comers out there. I look forward to more of your fiction.

November 15th, 2006 3:27 pm

I think this is one of, if not the, best story released on Pseudopod so far.

I am a big fan of Matt’s work on Variant Frequencies.

As I told him at D*Con, No other writer has written things exactly as I thought it should be written.

It’s great reading a story like this and see an author’s creative license lign up exactly with, as a reader, I wish to see as I continue reading and the story unfolds.

I liked the torrents of gory graphic descriptions dotting the story.

The ending was great. Dane is a cynical broken individual, and when the story is over he’s still broken but in a differnet way. And the story is great reminder that horrible things can happen to the cynical, not just the sympathetic.

i could go on, but I just finish with well done, Matt.

Well done.

November 15th, 2006 10:15 pm

Ben, you mispronounced a few words, which I now can’t remember of course. Oh yes! “hessian” was one. You said “hes-see-en” when it’s pronounced “Hesh-en.” I think it’s a German or eastern European word, so don’t beat up on yourself. There was dysplasia, as mentioned above, and one other I can’t remember. One that I thought was oddly common to mispronounce.

Ben, I like you’re reading a lot, but this time some of the parts felt really rushed. There were also times where it seemed like you could have paced the sentence a little better, but went with what came out. Perhaps you were short on time. But being a horror podcast, mood and presentation are important.

But all in all, I liked the story. It certainly was soaked with an overwhelming sense of dread. The flash backs were a little weird, made me think, “and this is relevant how?” and never seemed to pan out.

And I have to mention that I love that Mur Lafferty has opened up a good bit. The first several episodes she seemed wooden and really lacked character and charisma, but the last three episodes have really brought out a personality that I really enjoy. Very fitting with the mood of the podcast. The sarcastic wit makes me think of the Crypt Keeper from Tales from the Crypt.

I love the podcast, thanks to everyone who contributes! Keep up the good work!

November 16th, 2006 2:19 pm

I was a tad concerned when I heard this one was going to be gory. Its not that I am bothered by gore it just seems pointless except in making people uncomfortable. I find gore incredibly boring or just disturbing, the point of horror is to be afraid. That said I found the particular story fairly entertaining. I just think gore is the easy way to go for horror and it eventually gets boring, one of the reasons everyone hated the new saw.

Kenny Park
November 16th, 2006 7:33 pm

First of all, let me agree with Adolfo in that this is the Psuedopod story that has excited my the most so far. And not because of the gore, but the language. I know there’s a note in the submission guidlines about plot being favoured over stylish prose for the purposes of fiction that is meant to be listened to rather than read, but the ‘needliess verbal fat’ as J Gillespie put it was the one thing I was missing from from the Pseudopod diet so far.

I also believed that Ben’s reading of the story was terrific. As an actor myself, the way he spat out the title and author got me sitting up: this wasn’t going to be a reading, but a _performance_. The gore and vitriol of the prose was perfectly delivered; Ben must’ve been sneering throughout.

As for the It, when Spork points out its seeming distance from the main plot, he’s summing up why I think it was a fresh take on that horror staple. The historical stuff parallelling Dane’s shitty-bitter life illustrated, for me, that line in Springsteen’s Nebraska when the mass murderer, when asked to explain his actions, replies simply that, “I guess there’s just a meaness in this world.” That Dane has no concept of the force that he’s defeated didn’t negate his triumph, as far as I was concerned. As John G pointed out, Dane’s personal victory was over irrationality, though it didn’t help him much.

I have to say, though, that while some commentators reacted negatively to the idea of the It, I had a similar reaction to the Empire Strikes Back references. For the record, I was at the right age when those films came out for them to be the biggest thing in life at the time, and I am among the very few who actually enjoyed the prequels. For some reason, though, I cringe when SF and fantasy stories make such references. I lost the story when Yoda made an appearence, but, thankfully, it was brief.

Also for the record, I have no interest in gore for gore’s sake, so _that_ had nothing to do with my love for this story. I present exhibit A: I haven’t seen _any_ of the Saw films!

November 17th, 2006 7:29 am

Oh god. This story made me sick.

Hoo, it was tough to finish. Well done.

November 17th, 2006 7:42 am

Actually, I stopped listening to this one off once the torture on the boat started. It absolutly turned me off.

Too far for my tastes. Hope this doesn’t presage where this podcast is going.

I’ve really liked all the stories prior to this one, though.

November 17th, 2006 4:48 pm

I’m a week behind on my podcasts, so I just had a chance to listen to this one. Tremendous! Excellent writing by Matt, and Ben’s reading was spot-on. Pseudopod team, keep up the great work in finding fantastic horror fiction for us to enjoy!


November 18th, 2006 5:33 pm

Overall I enjoyed this story, although like some of the other commentors I would have preferred a bit less of ‘IT’. Personally I prefer the mysterious monsters a bit more off screen so you can fill in more of the horror on your own. I find this more effective than having it laid on in spades, which is what I felt listening the flashback scenes in this story.

Having said that I don’t mind gore itself and found it just right in the final scenes of Dane trying to escape the creature. Fantastic!

November 26th, 2006 2:45 pm

I realize this is a horror podcast so basically anything is fair game, but I agree with Rob above. For me personally, this story crossed a line in its descriptions of the tortures and things happening to the human body.

I know you want to resist ‘ratings’ of any kind, but Mur’s intro where she said that people love gore…well, I hope that doesn’t indicate a new direction for Pseudopod, just for personal reasons.

Again, I realize this is a bit like me going into an XXX rated theater and complaining about nudity, but I just prefer my horror sans over-the-top gore. It’d be nice if folks like me could have some kind of warning…

December 1st, 2006 4:12 pm

good stuff, i found it a bit confusing initially, as the rather ominous charcter is set up [depressed shop teachers are never good news] i was expecting something ghastly about psychos and such.. and instead it turned into a lesson on the cathartic qualities of sharp pointy objects, always usefull.

December 3rd, 2006 2:09 pm

Didn’t much like the story – way too gory. I liked it much less three days ago when I had to have an MRI. I kept a close eye on the MRI tech, let me tell you…

December 5th, 2006 6:53 pm

I believe gibberish was another mispronounced word, unless it’s supposed to be pronounced with a hard G, in which case I’m wrong.

The exorbitant gore was definitely a new twist to regular Pseudopods, and made me put my hand over my eyes during the scene in which Dane’s eye was disconnected from his face. I enjoyed the feeling in a twisted way, but share the opinion of the other readers who hope there won’t be this much gore too often in the podcast.

Personally I liked the intertwining style of the story with the background history of ‘It’ and the main plot itself. It’s always nice to know the “monster” in depth and really shows its pleasure in the MRI scene much more visibly to the reader (audibly would be the more appropriate adverb I guess). I think you know what I mean.

I hope to hear more of Matt Wallace’s work in the future.

I also enjoyed the way Ben Phillips read the story, and didn’t feel like he rushed it at all. It had a comfortable(for the ear) and suspenseful pace. If anything, I felt that the pauses, especially at the end of the story, were too prolonged and occurred far too many times.

And as a last note, I felt much more connected through Dane’s “cynicism” to the character, than to any of the previous, more “sympathetic”, characters. Maybe it was the pop-culture references.

And the ending with the acquisition of another phobia and the loss of his original one especially appealed to me. Since I was hoping for a happy one (i.e. Dane not dying and retaining his sanity), while still being horror-like, the fact that his new phobia basically ruins his life-long career, makes it perfect.

December 20th, 2006 11:12 am

Regarding mispronunciations, for the nit-pickers like me:

gibberish \gib”ber*ish\ (j[i^]b”b[~e]r*[i^]sh or g[i^]b”b[~e]r*[i^]sh)

dysplasia: I would not have guessed at that one. I have an antique Merriam-Webster’s that serves me well when I read Shakespeare and Poe, and I pronounced it the way it told me to. Maybe I should update my reference library to something more modern… I’ll consider it.

And Tony Bullard says, “You said ‘hes-see-en’ when it’s pronounced ‘Hesh-en.’ I think it’s a German or eastern European word, so don’t beat up on yourself.”

I won’t, especially since that means everyone in Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow” got it wrong too. Of course, those characters were backwards American colonists…

January 10th, 2007 9:52 am

This was great and though the mysterious it has been done and done and done, here it was done well. What really sold it for me though was the description of fear. That’s where the real horror was, not in the gore (though the gore was good). And to the people who weren’t into it, didn’t Mur warn us at the beginning? I thougt she did. Yup right there at 40 seconds in.

Mari Mitchell
April 2nd, 2008 8:22 pm

Oh look not one but two adverts for porn. Well whatever flaots your whatever.

Not badly written and but it did not appeal to me. Hey, I cannot like them all.

I dislike Dune, It, and other classics so, what do I know.

I think this would have more guy appeal.

January 17th, 2009 8:12 pm

I think the reading was fine, the only thing I didn’t like is that we didn’t find out how the “It” got there, that It was just there. Unless I missed it. Then I’m sorry. But I liked it very much.

August 9th, 2009 3:06 am

I’ve liked all of Matt Wallace’s other stories on Pseudopod. This one just left me completely flat. The It had so little connection to anything else, the gore was so flagrantly over the top, and the end so anticlimactic that I could find nothing to enjoy. Even the protagonist was just a bitter old man who half-deserved and half-wanted the appalling accident. The whole plot seemed to be constructed of happenstance and coincidence. That worked for “Magnolia” because Magnolia was saying something about coincidences and patterns. When the only payoff of the improbable sequence of events is a page and a half description of a man’s eye being ripped out, well… meh. A whole lot of meh.