Pseudopod 017: Upon The Midnight Clear

By Stephen Dedman

Read by J.R. Blackwell

Music provided by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society

She was mercifully quiet for a while, as though thinking of something to say. “Must be difficult, though, travelling on your own. Dangerous, even.”

I laughed, probably for the first time since the plane landed. I’d heard that too often before, too. “Dangerous? This place?” She looked and sounded sincere enough, though it was hard to be sure with that make-up and accent. “I teach jeet kune do and self-defence. The scariest thing I’ve seen since I got here was Phantom of the Opera. I admit, I didn’t actually plan to be making this trip alone, but my fiance dumped me in November, and I was stuck with the ticket. I’m enjoying it more than I expected. So, what have you got around here that’s dangerous? Serial killers? Or just drunks?”

She was silent for a moment. “Are you superstitious?”

I laughed. “I’m not even Californian.”

“Do you believe in ghosts?”

“No.”

01
Matt W
December 22nd, 2006 9:30 pm

The story this time wasn’t bad, just kind of abrupt in the end. There was no real punch to it. That said, biased opinion.

I haven’t had any problem with any of the previous narrators, and if anything I’ve liked them all; when I quit noticing the voice telling the story, they’re doing it right.

In this instance, however, that was not the case. The reader seemed to have a lisp or some such similar issue with ‘s’ sounds. It really took me out of the story, and distracted me a lot from what was going on. I’m sure they’re a very talented person and all, but I would thank pseudopod to never, ever let this woman narrate again.

02
Joseph
December 23rd, 2006 1:15 pm

The ending . . . if left the story feeling very unresolved. Not in a horror-like “It’s not over!” sort of way, but a “Where did the end of the story go?” kind of way.

The song was hilarious. Absolutely loved it.

The narration didn’t bother me one bit, in contrast to the opinion stated by Matt W.

03
Jacob
December 23rd, 2006 1:23 pm

I really enjoyed the story, and the narrator did a great job. I didn’t notice any lisp. One thing is, I didn’t know the story took place in England until the end (probably because I wasn’t paying attention in the beginning). British accent for the Goth character would have lent more to the ambiance of the story.

I really liked the ending, since it leaves the question, “was she really crazy, killed her ex-fiancee that cheated on her, cut herself in a depression/suicide attempt while in some delusional state?” or “was Red Cap real?” I liked the former possibility since it makes the story much more dangerous and scary for me.

Anyway, I ‘m glad I discovered your website. Thank you thank you thank you!

04
Luce
December 23rd, 2006 3:10 pm

Loved this story. Although I have to raise an issue that came up on an Escape Pod comment a few weeks ago about pronounciation of British place-names. As a Brit it does jar a story for me when something just doesn’t sound right, in this instance Carlisle is pronounced Car-LYLE rather than CARLS-le

Apologies for this little niggle – keep up the good work

05
phignewton
December 24th, 2006 5:13 am

nothing wrong with the narration, as a horror story though…. i think it lacked the ‘now here comes the scary part’ that is required to put things in the proper frame of mind, doesnt seem right for demon santas to just pop up and start doing their thing, teh scary has to be properly invoked or she might as well be running to catch a bus…..

06
Kyle_Carm
December 24th, 2006 3:58 pm

I liked it. Good story and I liked the ending myself. Having her ex’s head in her backpack. The narration was also very well done I feel. Added to the story for me. And loved the closing song also.

07
December 29th, 2006 2:43 pm

I did like everything up to when the lead character makes it to the telephone box. Despite everything I didn’t get any sense of her being in danger any more, possibly it was that the author concentrated too much on what the lead was doing in there, the menace outside seemed to have been forgotten. Similarly, I didn’t feel the end was left open as to what had happened, it just… stopped.

08
January 1st, 2007 11:12 am

Couldn’t finish it. Saw everything coming a mile away. Maybe that’s just me.

09
Colin F
January 2nd, 2007 6:24 am

Just to be pedantic, Jonathan – if you didn’t finish the story, how do you know if you really saw what was coming? :-)

I certainly didn’t see the very end coming.

10
January 2nd, 2007 2:17 pm

Loved it. And I thought the narrator was fine. Better than fine, actually, I found her very easy to listen to. Although I never got that she was saying Carlisle. That didn’t detract from the story for me though.

phignewton, I’m curious if you’d heard of Red Cap before? I had, and maybe that’s why I didn’t miss the ‘proper frame of mind’ bit?

Loz actually makes a good point about the phone box seeming to be a much safer place than it should’ve been, but I didn’t think of that while listening. On the other hand, that kind of leads weight to the theory that it was all in her head and that she killed her ex.

11
January 2nd, 2007 2:47 pm

Colin, let me clarify. I refer to the constant allusions to Red Cap early on, at which point we’re just waiting on him to show up, the cliched phone-booth panic scene, and the like. This felt like “Scream” for the better part of the intro, through the initial attack. That has it’s own merit, but I don’t care for the style. Personal preference. I dug the description of Red Cap, but I found his arrival in the tale forced. I don’t feel obligated to finish a story when I find the first fiteen minutes or so this predictable. I realize I’m in the minority here and most people loved the tale. More power to them–it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

The back half of the story could have revealed Red Cap to be zombie Hitler — still doesn’t change the fact that if my interest isn’t held by half time, I’m not sticking around for the third quarter. Nothing a typical reader won’t tell you.

12
January 2nd, 2007 2:51 pm

Okay…there’s my stupid moment for the day. Everyone (especially you, Colin!) please understand that I POSTED THE ABOVE POST. For some reason I read “Name” to read “Subject” that time. Thanks — Sorry for the goof.

13
Chris
January 4th, 2007 7:23 am

I didn’t really dig it. I don’t know – I don’t like holiday-themed horror stuff.

All I can think of is Fran Drescher getting killed in Santa’s Slay.

Kudos for trying though, and decent twist at the end.

14
Pam M.
January 10th, 2007 7:54 am

I really like this story. It was a wonderful twist on christmas themes.

J.R. Blackwell’s performance brought me into the story. I loved the HP Lovecraft Historical Society music at the end. It was just right.

As soon as the story was done, I listened to it again.

I submitted the podcast feed to digg.com

15
January 10th, 2007 10:12 am

This worked for me for the most part. The phonebooth bit did bleed out the tension, which isn’t good. It should have ramped it up to 11. The head in the bag did make me laugh (in a good sinister sort of way). I especially loved that red cap was basically Satan Claus. Nothing wrong with a holiday theme and Santa can be creepy. He knows when you’ve been sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. Santa Claus, Jolly Old Elf, CIA Spook, or serial killer?

16
Mari Mitchell
April 8th, 2008 12:38 pm

I feel that the story would have worked better without the girl telling us about Red Cap. It gave it all away.

The Christmas carol at the was very nice.

17
Amber
January 19th, 2009 2:18 am

That is so sweet. Sweet as in: a well potent master piece of sweet. The carol, the head, the whole shibang. Sweet.