Pseudopod 84: The Sons of Carbon County

By Amanda Spikol

Read by Cheyenne Wright

It was truly a wretched sight. They walked, little more than
shambling, for it was the last thing that they possessed the will to
do. Eyes grim, fixed and hollow, almost lifeless, they still kept on.
Johnny Jones watched them go by, fetching up a silent prayer that
Bryn was inside, resting, and wouldn’t have to bear the sight of them.
His child was within her, so big these past few weeks, and he knew
seeing this might drive her into some kind of fit.

The mules tripped to a sullen halt and the cart behind them stopped.
At this, the slow procession came to life. One woman, thin hair tied
back with a strip of burlap, and one little boy missing three fingers
from his left hand, burst into tears. Weariness and exhaustion still
bleeding from their eyes, the other women clustered around her like
mother hens. The children only stood mutely by while the boy bawled
angrily at the sky. Johnny ran forward. He was strong, he should

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April 4th, 2008 3:37 pm

To all those of Welsh (or Polish) origin I bid you forgiveness over my poor accents. I was more concerned with keeping characters identifiable.

and to Alasdair — it’s pronounced Shy-Anne. No worries brother

Amanda Spikol
April 4th, 2008 3:55 pm


That was an amazing reading! Thank you for bringing those characters to life just like I imagined them.

April 4th, 2008 4:11 pm


Awesome. I’m really happy you liked it. It was a blast to read for as well.

Mari Mitchell
April 4th, 2008 4:20 pm

I found this one dry.

I think Cheyenne did a fine job. Not easy with some many different voices to keep track of.

This remind of King’s Graveyard Shift.

I’ve been inside three caves. It is a forigen place.

April 5th, 2008 1:48 am

wow, amazing!
this is why i love pseudopod!
yeah, not the most original concept in the world, but extremely well written.

Mr. Wright, you should be proud. i really hope to hear you again soon.

David Bullock
April 6th, 2008 1:28 pm

GREAT reading. Regardless of the accuracy of the accents, they made it more like listening to an audio drama than just a reading.

April 6th, 2008 4:48 pm

Someone’s been channeling Sean Connery.

The only way out is in.
I hate when that happens.

April 7th, 2008 3:28 pm

This was the best pseudopod story I’ve heard, both for the story and for the reading. Congrats!

April 10th, 2008 6:27 am

FINALLY, another zombie story! THANK you!! The reader seemed to be channeling Sean Connery, but I didn’t mind.

April 10th, 2008 6:31 am

Whoops, somebody already mentions the Sean Connery-esque accent! Sorry didn’t read the comments before posting. Still, nice reading. More zombie stories (the carnivorous dead type, rather than friendly dead people who don’t realized they’re dead) are quite welcome.

April 15th, 2008 7:49 pm

I love zombies, and this one worked pretty well as a zombie story in a completely different time period. As for the reading, well… I really want to like it, but I had a tough time penetrating a couple of the accented characters. I was unable to completely follow some of the dialog as a result, and I really have to take a few points off for that.

April 19th, 2008 8:08 am

Also enjoyed the story – but sorry, the only accent I could relate-to (and understand) was the eastern-european one! A shame that this character had the shortest lines. Welsh IS pretty difficult – but this version was impossible!! :-)

April 19th, 2008 4:21 pm

Eugh. Not a fan of zombies. They’re just too cliche to me. Loved the accents, though; I thought it gave a tone to a story that it wouldn’t have had otherwise.

April 19th, 2008 4:41 pm

Wow, was that a well performed story! (that’s a statement, not a question). Thanks, Cheyenne. It took me a few minutes to really get an ear for the accents, but it really helped distinguish the characters once I did. And your reading voice is great to begin with! Good story, with an ending worthy of being called so. It was neat to hear a zombie tale not set in the present time.

Well done all around.

April 23rd, 2008 11:35 am

Finally, a good zombie story!
Well written and performed.

Ernie Breiner
April 24th, 2008 10:51 pm

Amanda, you must be a Carbon County native. Or maybe just a fan of the Molly Maguires movie starring Sean Connery… Anyway, thanks for the story set near my home. I’ll never be able to go near the mines again without watching my back for zombies.

Amanda Spikol
April 25th, 2008 12:48 pm

Thanks Ernie!

Actually, I was born in Chester County – but PA history is one of my biggest hobbies. If I can get a publisher to bite, I have in mind a collection of short horror stories set in PA.

May 5th, 2008 9:20 pm

I clean offices early in the morning (college life is full of fun activities), and usually listen to my podcasts there. This story had me very concerned about how long I left the lights off.

Thanks for making my morning somewhat exciting for a change!

May 6th, 2008 8:46 pm

LOVED this one. Started off slow,then punched me in the gut!

June 15th, 2008 12:36 am

Fantastic story – well written, but I have to say Cheyenne Wright’s voice really brings it home – more narration by Cheyenne Wright please! :)

June 16th, 2008 2:39 pm

Great story!

I like good old-fashioned straight forward horror stories, and this one hit the spot.

And, though its been said, I liked the fact that it was set in the past, and in a cold, dark, mine. Man, I’m gettin’ the willies again just thinkin’ about it!

July 5th, 2008 6:21 pm

This was a good solid pulp story. Well-written, well-paced, well-read (although occasionally, when not doing an accent, the narrator had, perhaps, just a bit too much of a theatrical delivery to the lines, usually a deadpan, gravelly inflection at the end that implied “I’m reading in scary voice”). Special kudos for the “crawling through pitch darkness in a mine, followed by zombies” moment and the nicely handled ending.

If Pseudopod continued to ‘cast stories of this quality, I wouldn’t find myself so endlessly frustrated with the story choices and quality and wondering whether I should keep donating. More steps in the direction of “Carbon County” would help.

Minor criticism – in the end, the story is a typical zombie story (Romero style) that gains its interest from the setting and not the content. Nothing happens in it that is anything more than what you get in any average Romero-derived Zombie story. More should have been made of the grinding, hopeless lives of the miners, the slave-level existence they lived and how that resonates with the zombies later. That would also have been the opportunity to actually bring in the Molly Maquire aspect and not just use it as a story trinket, a throwaway of interesting historical detail that provides flash and variation but little substance (still it was appreciated, as my Irish family roots in the US start in that exact area of Pennsylvania and possibly have ties to the Molly Maquires).

Compare and contrast to something like Mort Castle’s “The Old Man And The Dead” which uses a historical setting and zombies as well, but unfolds it into an examination of Ernest Hemingway and the destructive aspects of machismo. Not that I wanted a zombie version of a John O’Hara (born in Pottsville, PA – a location tied to the Molly Maquires) but the responsibility of the writer is to give the reader something more than what they’re used to, and that means more than finding a different setting.

But, as I was reminded in an email from the editor, this is intended as pulp. And as pulp, this was quite good.

Thanks for listening

“I am alone on this road strewn with bones and bordered by ruins! Angels have their brothers, and demons have their infernal companions. Yet I have but the sound of my scythe when it harvests, my whistling arrows, my galloping horse. Always the sound of the same wave eating away at the world.”
Gustave Flaubert, “Dance of the Dead”

July 9th, 2008 11:03 pm

aw mom, zombies again?