Pseudopod 019: Through the Many Corridors

By Douglas F. Warrick

Read by Ben Phillips

It was weird, wasn’t it? Weird how little it impressed him. It was an alien world, after all, a whole new planet, a landscape that held only a vague familiarity with the world he’d been born in, the atmosphere he’d inhaled for twenty-nine years. Maybe that’s it. It was just congruent enough to orient yourself, to fool yourself into thinking you were okay here. Up was up, down was down, you could breathe the air. But you weren’t okay here. You were drawn into this landscape by a different artist using a different pallet and a different technique and you just weren’t okay here.

Art took the cigarette out of his mouth and pointed up ahead. “Chalkie.”

It was at the very edge of the road with its long doughy fingers wrapped over the top of the metal barrier. Its skin was dry, dusty, cracked and curling like old paint, and dull white like chalk. Its tiny black eyes were set deep into its face, which was long and snoutish and bald. Even when nothing on this planet seemed to reflect the glow of that big red moon, the bleeding moon, those eyes picked it up like deep black wells.

01
January 5th, 2007 6:08 pm

ohmy. this is officially the worst case of the creepy-crawlies that a story has EVER given me.

Worse than the triangles and eyes in Infection.

thanks, I think. ^_^

02
January 5th, 2007 10:58 pm

Hey, thanks, Vee! I’ll proudly take that as a compliment!

03
January 5th, 2007 11:22 pm

Hmmm… Is anyone else having trouble with the file? For me, it cuts off about five seconds into Ben’s narration.

04
January 6th, 2007 2:04 am

Same here.

05
SFEley
January 6th, 2007 2:45 am

Sorry about that, folks. We had tried to fix an error with the sample rate that was reported to us this afternoon — it was causing the Flash player to sound really wacky — and it looks like the “fixed” file we uploaded had bigger problems.

For right now I’m restoring the original version so that your downloads will work properly. Please try downloading again. We still need to fix the sample rate thing, but we’ll make sure we test the hell out of it before we make it live.

Thanks for your patience, and sorry about the confusion.

06
Rendall
January 6th, 2007 6:03 am

Thanks Pseudopod.

The new file works fine.

07
January 6th, 2007 10:28 am

Wheee. I am officially taking Audacity out of my will. Everything should be fixed now. Sorry about all the screw-ups.

08
Courtney
January 7th, 2007 2:17 am

Wow… awesome job! Very cool Mr. Warrick! Creeped me out! Congrats on another excellent piece! :)

09
January 7th, 2007 7:13 am

What a great little story, and well narrated too. Good on You Pseudopod.

10
January 7th, 2007 11:57 pm

I had the weirdest reaction to this story. My mind just refused to parse it for some reason. I just couldn’t focus on it and kept losing the thread of what was going on… I’m not sure if it was the story or the narrator or just something about my frame of mind at the time.

I think I’ll have to give it another listen…

11
January 8th, 2007 3:25 pm

Ok, now that I’ve heard it, I have to say that this was the creepiest story I’ve heard in ages–talk about making your skin crawl!

This is something that should be made into a short film, like John Carpenter’s Masters of Horror series.

12
January 8th, 2007 4:52 pm

Wow! Thanks, Dennis!

13
January 8th, 2007 6:33 pm

“And speaking of . . . “

Mur is queen of the segue.

Bottom line: I dug it. Click on my name to read a more detailed review in my blog.

14
January 8th, 2007 7:00 pm

Doug, that was awesome! You rock, man!

15
David Carron
January 8th, 2007 10:43 pm

That had to be one of the best podcasts here.
Awesome!

More, more, more!

16
Chris
January 9th, 2007 8:17 am

Wow. I am one of the only people who didn’t really care for it.

I mean, the concept was good, but it just kinda didn’t hit me really. The ending didn’t get me. It sort of dissolved in the end.

Thanks for the story though!

17
January 9th, 2007 8:48 am

Sorry to hear you didn’t dig it, Chris. I’m glad you listened to it anyway!

18
phignewton
January 10th, 2007 4:09 am

now thats how its done! …. set up the human normalcy, add sense of dislocation/wrongness, create canthartic release of horror… and having the editor fellow run over the harmless alien critter on purpose and be the first to suffer a hideous fate… verrry nice, one really apreciates it assa reader/listener when the form is followed correctly.

19
January 10th, 2007 12:56 pm

Another sci-fi horror, this time more in the vein of Alien. I’m good with that.

Ben, your readings are fantastic. They always sound very noir-esque.

I liked your story, Doug. Ratscum (sp) has gotta be one of the nastiest names I’ve ever heard. Well done. The chalkie circles reminded me of China Mieville’s Iron Council some, which isn’t a bad thing either. I just wished your story had gone on a little longer — the ending came too quick for me. Keep up the good work everyone.

20
January 11th, 2007 9:45 am

I’m with you Chris, this was one of my least favorite stories. I think you put it best with “The ending didn’t get me. It sort of dissolved in the end.”

Well written for sure, but the ending just sorta…well…ended.

21
January 11th, 2007 11:00 am

I’m sorry to hear you disliked it, Tony. Thanks for complimenting my writing, though.

22
que!
January 12th, 2007 1:12 pm

Sorry, I did not like this one, the writing was great, but the ending left me like… whaaa?

23
Chris
January 12th, 2007 5:58 pm

For the record, Doug, there was nothing wrong with the prose or pacing – both were quite good, in fact- I just felt that the ending could have used a little more “oomph” (Sorry for talking in such nebulous terms).

That being said, I do appreciate sci-fi horror, and I’d love more of the same!

24
Kerry
January 13th, 2007 1:37 am

Sweet action, Doug. I quite liked it. Especially the Chalkies…they remind me of a Chet Zar painting.

25
Kate
January 14th, 2007 4:32 pm

The story just petering out, the lack of ‘oomph,’ how nebulous it was — that was the horror. My initial reaction was “what???? Something’s got to happen.” But then think of eternity, or the rest of your life, in and out of those white walls and floors, that nothingness.

Great story.

26
Hysteria
January 15th, 2007 2:12 am

Unfortunately, count me in the group of people who didn’t get the story.

I knew where Doug was going roughly, and I knew that the Chalkies were going to figure into the story as kind of neo-Aztecs or native americans, taking their revenge on the earthers. Once the Chalkies started up, though, the story started to fall apart. I’m pretty sure that the intestines/tentacles coming through the wall was supposed to be a stereotypical “nasty revelation,” but it didn’t hit me as scary at all…more like “and then the tentacles grabbed people inside the building.”

The nebulousness of the end also didn’t work for me. I can see where Kate came from in comment #25, but nebulousness isn’t scary, to me. So he’s wandering in endless corridors forever…it’s kind of like the airport from Hell, you know? If there were something else to that, I could see the horror. If his skin was becoming chalkish, I could see the horror. If he kept being pursued by Chalkies to the end of time, certain in the knowledge that they would eventually find him, I could see the horror. But wandering around doesn’t do it for me.

Of course, it could be me. I loved wandering around the stacks in my college’s grad library. Wandering corridors would be kinda fun. :)

Final note: While I didn’t like the story overall, there was enough that I did like that I’d be tempted to try another short story by Mr. Warrick.

27
January 15th, 2007 4:10 am

Morning:)

Count me squarely in the half and half camp. I absolutely loved the set up, especially the mundanity of it. There’s a running joke where I come from (the Isle of Man, itself, to many, a running joke) that everywhere residents go looks, when it comes down to it, like the island. Other worlds when we get there will look like this one and probably feature airport departure and arrival lounges, unpleasant work colleagues and people in bars who wished they had better jobs. Brilliantly handled and observed.
Likewise the Chalkies themselves were a great conceit and whilst I can see the ‘and then the tentacles killed everyone’ criticism, they were convincingly ALIEN, which is very nearly impossible to do.
The one problem I had was with the ending. Again, I liked the mirroring of the opening and the disorientation but, if I can be frank, the story stopped as much as it ended. I still enjoyed it, but I felt the ending let it down a little.

That aside, I’d love to read/hear more of Doug’s stuff:)

28
Kyle_Carm
January 16th, 2007 11:46 pm

I’m like others here, the story really had me up to the ending then I was like Huh? I thought I missed something. Just didn’t close right for me. I had probably half a dozen ways I thought it was going to go and it just felt like it “just ended”. In fact I thought I must have had a bad download at first. Good reading and like I say I loved the build up to the ending just not the ending.

I do look forward to more from the author though.

29
January 17th, 2007 1:14 pm

Thanks again to everyone for their feedback. It’s nice to hear so many of you saying you’d read more from me given the chance. Hopefully there’ll be more to read soon!

30
February 13th, 2007 12:21 pm

Wow, Doug Warrick, that was an ultra-vivid.

Enjoyed it and will look for more.

Good words to you,

Jean

31
Randi Hambleton
March 10th, 2007 11:54 am

Loved the premise and imagery. I did wonder about the ordinary objects, ie laptop, cars, television , in a future alien world.

Can’t wait to read more.

32
Nora
May 18th, 2007 6:03 pm

…Yeesh. I’d been avoiding Pseudopod because I was afraid of being squicked or just creeped the hell out, and damn if my first taste of it didn’t do both. =) It’s a good squick/creep, though, because I genuinely shivered and I think that’s what good horror is supposed to do.

I liked the ending. The uncertainty of what happened — were the Chalkies eating them? Turning them into incubators for their eggs? Getting revenge? Just bored? — worked for me, because the unknown and unexplained is often much scarier than the known/explained.

I’m going to look askance at any weird little divots in my walls from now on. =P

33
Carol
June 23rd, 2007 2:54 am

Second Pseudopodcast I listened to. I must say overall this story was good, but the ending confused me.

The accent Ben gave Art reminded me of a character Stephen King would’ve written, I thought it was brilliant.

And the description of the tentacles hitting Marcus’ coworkers…wow. I think I actually shivered at one point.

34
Mari Mitchell
April 9th, 2008 5:46 pm

Not bad but not a huge WOW to me.

The reading was good. Nicely paced.

35
Amber
January 19th, 2009 3:17 am

I liked it. The only problem I have with it is the ending. Kind of weak compared to the rest of the story; the idea of it is good but the words just don’t fit to me. It’s still a really great story and I love it.