Pseudopod 034: Bliss

By James Michael White

Read by Mur Lafferty

He evaluated her for two months. Came from a well-to-do family. High marks in school. Brief modeling career that seemed destined never to rise above pinup calendars, low-circulation fashion magazines and catalogues. A history of self mutilation that went back to nineteen. Then, it had been called attempted suicide, but Dr. Mandrake was widely read and well educated. He knew about razors and cutting without intention to kill. Some did it for attention. Some did it for kicks. Some did it for ritual scarification significant only to themselves.

Bliss did it because she felt restricted in her skin. There was someone inside who was not the skin that everyone saw. There was someone inside who was not human, or perhaps more than human.

Schizophrenic, yes.

Paranoid, maybe.

Suicidal? No.

Jaye Sunsurn
April 20th, 2007 2:50 am

When I was much younger I watched a bad copy of a copy of a copy of a copy and probably a few more generations besides of the original faces of death…. it bored me except for one scene of a mortician folding the skin on a dead persons skull… that scene made me quite nauseous for some reason I nearly threw up on the spot, it also gave me nightmares for a few days. This story has made me relive that memory of that scene over and over again… a full body memory… I don’t think I’m going to sleep tonight… not well at least. Note this is a compliment…

April 20th, 2007 1:05 pm

eh. i kind of fell asleep listening. Worked for soothing background noise at work. Wasn’t particularly fond of this one but still love ya and will still be tuning in next Friday.

D.C. Burns
April 20th, 2007 10:46 pm

Fell asleep? Must not have been listening. This is terrific storytelling. He makes you FEEL it. I read this story in Talebones and tasted blood in my mouth. All of his writing that I have seen in various publications is vivid, and to hear it told was a particular treat.

April 22nd, 2007 12:12 pm

This is the first story that really made my skin crawl. Outstanding story.

Shane Kelly
April 23rd, 2007 3:49 pm

Yeah this one really did it for me, the writing and the characterization were really top notch. Really made me shudder.
More like this one please. I don’t know the author, does he have other good stories you guys can run?

April 24th, 2007 12:10 am

Bloody hell! I listened to this over six hours ago and my skin still feels bad on me.

Bliss convinced me!

This is the best of Pseudopod to date [although it might be the 2nd best had “Just Do It” been posted here instead of on Escape Pod.]]

Mr White, Mrs Laferty, thank you. Now, off to find that donate button.

April 24th, 2007 2:08 pm

That was great! I think it’s the first time I’ve had to take a break half way through a story to let me stomach settle!

April 24th, 2007 4:29 pm

That was one of the most bloody stories I have heard, it was worse than counting from ten.


April 25th, 2007 3:21 pm

im horrified and disgusted.

nice work!

April 26th, 2007 12:48 pm

I couldn’t stop twitching when she peeled herself. This is going to stay with me for a long time.

Outstanding horror.

Mr. Bernie
April 27th, 2007 4:41 pm

simply great
such pain, such feeling
great job Mur, for the reading
Mr. White thanks a lot for such a great story
this has to be the best story ever

April 29th, 2007 7:52 pm

Wow. Pseudopod hasn’t made me want to throw up so strongly until today, when I listened to Bliss. Very nice story. I was fully creeped out and very glad to be listening to this in the broad light of day.

Good selection with this one. Luck to the author.

May 2nd, 2007 4:28 pm

I have to agree with the majority of opinions here, this could be the best story yet. It was so vivid that I’m glad I was listening to it on a bright sunny morning to negate some of it’s power.

May 3rd, 2007 8:46 am

Well, I’m a big wuss bag. I had to stop listening about halfway through.

My getting grossed out by dissections is the major reason I didn’t go into medicine. That huge wimp-factor blot on my record apparently still lives on.

So I guess I’d have to say it was pretty a skin-crawling story, just not my cup of tea. I’ll keep listening!

May 3rd, 2007 2:22 pm

wow!! Much more disturbing than killing jars, fetal position or famine to feast. I’m stlll cringing in fear of being skinned. Very well done.

Ken Ryan
May 4th, 2007 11:09 pm


I just recently tried Pseudopod, and I just got finished listening to all of the back episodes over the space of about a week and a half. In spite of the relatively high doses of horror, this is the only episode that really bothered me.

Bliss could easily have been a girl I knew in college. Stunningly beautiful, smart, wealthy family, into art, professional modelling, music and cutting. I didn’t know it was called cutting back then. I sat suicide watch more than once, dragged her to the emergency room once, sicced the school counselor on her multiple times (in retrospect he was thoroughly incompetent), and so on. I eventually understood that she never put her life in danger (other than perhaps via infections) but I never understood her fascination with blades.

It was way too easy to put her in Bliss’s shoes.

Interestingly, after listening to this episode I think I have a better understanding of this girl than I ever have. I remember her telling me about the feelings and experiences; I made what I thought was the right noises in response but until now I never really understood what she was talking about.

Thank you Mr. White, Ms. Lafferty, for an outstanding story that affected me on levels it’s going to take me a while to sort out!

[I haven’t spoken to this girl in decades, but from what I gather she is doing fine.]


Matt Willis
May 5th, 2007 4:50 pm

Put me down with everyone else; it’s extremely hard to get me to really react to a story, but this one got to me.

I think it probably had to do with the fact that the characters were all developed to the point that it felt like they could be real people. Extremely good story.

The end was gratifying, as well.

Lynoure Braakman
May 10th, 2007 12:42 pm

I thought it was beautiful, in a way. But I have always liked pretty alien girls in fiction.

Stephen Heath
May 10th, 2007 1:31 pm

Fantastic story… My fiancee and I listened to it on a plane flight and we are still talking about it a week later! Loved it!

May 22nd, 2007 8:50 pm

I’ve just been getting into the Pseudopods and i absolutely adore Bliss. I think thats its a child story. But this is coming from the girl who went to a cadaver yesterday and had a blast.

June 7th, 2007 9:22 pm

I’m catching up on my Pseudopod listening this week, and I agree with others here–this is, I think, the strongest story you’ve run here so far. Well done.

June 10th, 2007 11:52 pm

You people actually liked this/were grossed out by this?!? It’s a stupid story that you peopel missed the point of. It seems most of you listen for the horror aspect and not the psychological aspect. If you did, you would realize how stupid the story is.

June 22nd, 2007 12:32 am

Now this, THIS is horror. Magnificent stuff. Disturbing, twisted, internally believable, and actually made me shudder, which is hard to do. The reading was great, the story was beautifully written and paced… superb.

June 22nd, 2007 12:34 am

And yes, the psychological aspect was very well done. Bliss’ insanity was very consistent and well-researched. Above poster is smoking crack, or trolling. I vote for trolling since he fails to state what point he sees aside from horror (and what else would bring you to a horror podcast?)

Dr. White
July 22nd, 2007 12:42 pm

A visceral tale simply but powerfully told. Bliss contains thematic elements which hint at both subtle deeper meaning and which also behaves like a blood splattering cudgel. Outstanding, world-class prose juxtaposes the subtleties with crude reality. Mesmerizing repetition innocently draws the reader toward a fantastic but horrific reality that is Bliss, and it hits its mark. Psychological layers peel away like living tissue in defiance of deconstructionism as the story progresses, and what is exposed is both basely human and transcendent. Dr. Mandrake devolves while Bliss evolves. A multi-layered ensemble of psychological horror, blood-curdling gore tempered by more than the need to shock, and the complexities of humanity have combined in a unique tale that begs, like Bliss, to grow beyond its confines.

Excellent work. I highly recommend this tale for those whole love the gore, and for those who love a more cerebral but creepy yarn.