Pseudopod 68: Across The Darien Gap

By Daniel Braum

Read by Ben Phillips

Alexa shuffles on the dance floor with the seven others we’re traveling with. Her long black hair is coated in sweat and Costa Rican grime. She smiles and for a moment I can believe she is carefree, despite all our running and fear.

She keeps her distance from a short Indian man who is spinning in circles with his arms extended and eyes closed. A big, almost toothless grin spreads on his wrinkled old face. He’s definitely had a few shots of guaro too many.

I picked up the seven others between here and San Antonio to bring us to nine. Makes us easier to mask. Harder to scrye. Now we look like just a bunch of nobodies heading to the gap, leisurely. Not in a beeline. Nothing that will call attention to our pursuers.

December 14th, 2007 11:18 am

Wow! Great stories two weeks in a row! Thank you! :) And I really can’t get enough of Ben’s narrations…

December 15th, 2007 5:24 pm

I thought this story was okay. Maybe a C+ or so? I liked the concept and everything, but I was hoping for more backstory without just having to go along in the present and not understand a lot.

December 17th, 2007 1:44 pm

I kine of agree with Dom. Felt like… this was just a little subsection of a larger piece, rather than a complete story as a whole. Maybe a bit overpaced?

December 17th, 2007 9:24 pm

Yup, just echoing the previous comments. I’m becoming a HUGE fan of Ben’s voice; it fit this story as well as it fit with last week’s tale. It’s funny how a good reading can even make a mediocre story into something fun.

Maybe “mediocre” is too critical. The main character didn’t have much depth or internal motivation. The mood and setting of the story were quite good but the ending felt a bit like a ghost slapping me across the cheeks, that is, vague and lacking impact. If this was, say, the first chapter in a book, I’m not convinced I’d keep reading.

December 17th, 2007 11:19 pm

Thanks to Ben and Psuedopod for doing such a great job ! Thanks, Drea, glad you enjoyed the story !

Chris G.
December 18th, 2007 8:11 am

This is a story that absolutely begs to be read aloud. Ben’s pacing allows Dan’s words to build up, layer upon layer, tint upon tint. I saw it through a different lens that when I read it in Cemetery Dance, so fresh details jumped out at me. I love the concept of continents/hemispheres being magical “territories”, and that jungle, muggy and heavy, sure feels like my memories of Brisbane!

I disagree with a few of the other comments here, but each to their own. Thanks to Pseudopod for showing me this story in a whole new light, and thanks to the author for sharing it with us!

December 20th, 2007 7:44 am

Agreed, this story is really suited to being read aloud. What a great tale, the pacing is great and your narrator did a great job.

There are so many depths to this piece that the above criticisms fail to recognise, ie amazing setting, immediacy of the writing, no unnecessary infodumping, also the use of the setting as character. This is supreme writing, and that is all.

January 8th, 2008 5:58 pm

This wasn’t horror by a long stretch. It really should have been the first story to debut the extremely late podcastle.

Also, as has been said, there wasn’t enough information about the protag to discern any real motivation for him. I didn’t care about any of the characters at all because they were so thin and lifeless. I’d have loved to know more about why Sondra was the person to whom he ran, for example.

January 11th, 2008 12:41 am

Thanks Chris G. and Jason Fischer for your very kind comments. I’m so glad you enjoyed the story.

January 11th, 2008 12:49 am

Spork has raised an interesting point regarding what constitutes a horror story.

I’m constantly impressed by the wide range and depth of fiction that is categorized as horror. And I’m honored that my writing has been embraced by horror publications.

A nice definition of Fantasy I once heard is fiction that instills a sense of wonder. I’d like to think my fiction meets that definition.

There is a nice definition of horror up at the HWA’s website. But the exciting thing, for me at least, is the wide umbrella of stories that constitute the genre. From the more traditional, to those that are at the edges and perhaps blur the lines.

January 12th, 2008 12:34 am

Daniel, I like edgy and blurry. I like it so much I often remove my glasses while driving. You know what that has in common with horror? It scares the living crap outta me. You know what that has in common with my reaction to this story? Not a damned thing.

It’s a good story. It needs to be fleshed out into a novel in a series of novels covering everything in this magical world with all it’s strange and arcane rules. But, it didn’t scare me at all. It didn’t scare me like a midnight phone call does, or even like hearing a hushed whisper “did you hear about Lois?” I didn’t care about any of the characters enough to feel anything from pity to contempt to fear.

It’s good, but not good enough.

I’d rather there not be a pseudopod for a few weeks if it meant every story was a good horror tale rather than knowing that each week will be…filled.

January 12th, 2008 1:42 pm

I appreciate your comments and thanks for your feedback.