Pseudopod 85: Living in Sepia

By D. Richard Pearce

Read by Cat Rambo

“I saw the kids this morning,” he said suddenly, as if he knew it was on her
mind. “They’re growing like weeds.”

“Yeah,” she nodded vaguely, dumping out the last of the birdseed, “William
is just like you. He fell in the canal this morning.”

He laughed at this, and then started walking away toward the barn.

“You wanna come for dinner?” she called out after him, already knowing the

“Cain’t,” he yelled back.

She stood there as he disappeared, then turned back to the doves. Some were
coming out now, eyeing her warily as they pecked at her offering. Suddenly
she heard squawks from the salt cedar brush, and saw a crow taking off,
eggshell and a bloody squab hanging from its beak.

This week’s episode sponsored by, who has extended their generous offer of a free audiobook download of your choice from their selection of over 40,000 titles.

Mari Mitchell
April 11th, 2008 5:58 pm

I felt the reading was a little rushed. I like my reads a little slower so I can savory the words and let the story sink in. Also the ‘s’ seemed a little harsh. Almost a too hollow depth to it as well.

Although I found the story to be well written, the tale was not my cup of tea. It is not that I found the welcomed incest distasteful; I just like my horror to be something more than something I could read in a newspaper.

This in no way implies I found the writing poor. The writing is what made the story but basic idea, I simple did not care for.

I liked the closing remarks to more interesting. That stirred my imagination.

Mari Mitchell
April 11th, 2008 6:02 pm

This week I would “feed the pod” saltine crackers and cheese with plain tea.

So I ask others: based on this story, what would you “feed the pod”?

April 11th, 2008 6:42 pm

I enjoyed the story, though there were some faults. I agree with the above commenter the reading seemed rushed. Also, I would add that the story itself seemed a bit short. The climax seemed so hasty that I really didn’t have time to consider the father’s (questionably supernatural) role.

April 13th, 2008 4:44 pm

More depressing than horrifying. Far too common (real) an occurrence, faithfully reported inspires no chills; just anger at the waste.

April 14th, 2008 8:52 pm

Sorry, I didn’t care for it. The story was depressing, way too easy to see where it was heading, and there was not one chill to be found. Pesudopod is “the Sound of Horror” not “the Sound of mental illness.”

April 16th, 2008 3:20 pm

I’m not usually one to make comments, but I have to say, I was particularly disappointed in this week’s story. The writing was fine, as long as you ignore the predictability of the story. “Really? Her dead incestuous father is talking to her? Surely we’ll get some twist to make it not so, or at least some unpredictable element. Oh wait, she’s gonna kill her kids? Who’d have thunk?”
I assume, or at least hope, her father being dead wasn’t supposed to be huge twist or anything, but isn’t a “it turns out that a character is actually dead!” element one of those things you always see on red-flag lists for rejections?
I did like Cat Rambo’s reading though; it felt quite natural and unstilted. Not that she seems naturally crazy, or that other readers are necessarily lacking in such areas. Maybe I just noticed it because I liked her voice so much more than the story.

Evo Shandor
April 17th, 2008 7:35 pm

I agree with most of the posters.

The father being dead was obvious early on, and 75% of this story seemed to be how awful this woman’s life was, then we flip gears for the last 25% and she kills her kids in a scene that is not graphic enough to be revolting or laced with enough emotional conflict to be stirring.

Did not like this one.

April 19th, 2008 7:56 am

I thought this was a brilliant story and one of the best of the entire psuedopod collection. I found that the pace of the reading suited the content very well and the mental state of the protagonist was conveyed in a compelling and understated way. The sheer normality of insanity was captured plausibly and realistically in the plot and in the narrative.

I was perplexed at the other comments on this page and surprized to discover that my reactions are so different from others. Perhaps horror with zombies and ghouls is easier to enjoy than the types of horror that REALLY might be living next door. To you.

Thank you psuedopod for a chilling start to my weekend!

April 19th, 2008 4:17 pm

I liked this story a lot, actually. Since I was absorbed in other things while I was listening to it, the stuff people seemed to think was obvious took longer to sink in for me. Psychological horror is probably my favorite kind, so… I thought this one was better than usual.

I actually thought the killing of the children /was/ graphic enough to be revolting, maybe because killing children is always more disturbing to me than the death of anyone else.

April 19th, 2008 5:48 pm

Err….this site really needs a new editor.

April 21st, 2008 3:54 pm

Scatterbrain, this story wasn’t my cup of tea, but if you want Ben Phillips and Alasdair Stuart, you’ll have to pry them from my cold dead eardrums/buds.

April 21st, 2008 6:08 pm

“You got a pretty mouth.”

Boring, predictable, depressing and not horrific.

The audio quality was also very poor. Warbling, hissing, crackling, and popping do not a good audio tale make. Alasdair, your bit about short answer/long answer even repeated itself.

This episode is not a high point for the ‘cast.

April 25th, 2008 12:19 am

I agree with Rosaleen. I thought this was an extremely horrifying story, the more so because it was realistic. I suspect it will stay with me long after other things I’ve listened to have faded away. My only complaint was that in the final scene, the husband did not manifest a realistic level of concern for the dying child in his arms (the one she shot). That jarred a little on my reality-radar. It seems like the husband would be trying desperately to save the kid, not calmly trying to talk the gun out of his wife’s hand and saying, “We need to get you help.” Seems like he’d be saying, “We need to get our son an ambulance.” Other than that, the story felt dreadfully real. Anyone who truly “enjoys” it is a little unhinged, but it was arresting.

May 1st, 2008 9:52 am

Not a good story. This was Standard Fare. The reading was pretty good. She did read it fast, but most of the start of the story was a meaningless exposition of the economic history of the town. Really? We need to know how long the town has been here? Why not discuss the effect of the bond issue passed 43 years ago?
For the idea behind the story:Why is the bad person doing these things? Is it the reason actual people have for doing bad things? For money? Revenge? Wrath? Worked into a corner by bad decisions and the lack of courage to do the right thing until they see only one violent way out? No, the person is crazy. Oh. Okay. so the simple, easy reason. And the same thing every bad guy in every “horror” movie does things. They are crazy. Rich and crazy. So what.
But I did like the writer’s Hell’s Daycare on this cast.

May 6th, 2008 9:13 pm

Eh, I kinda liked it, but it took me too long to realize what was happening. It was all a blur. 6/10

June 17th, 2008 1:15 pm

I can’t add much to what has already been said. I like Cat Rambo’s voice, but the reading was hurried and the audio quality make it sound like it was recorded on a $5 cassette player using the built-in mike. I must admit, I didn’t see the dead father thing till near the end but, looking back, I was wondering how he got into town to meet her for lunch. Of course, that’s easy if you’re a ghost (or a figment of someone’s imagination). I didn’t like the murder of the children, but that kind of thing goes on a lot more these days. And I’m not sure that all of the perps are necessarily psycho, either, like the character in the story. That makes it even scarrier.

July 5th, 2008 6:37 pm

As opposed to last week, this was just not very good. Yes, horror encompasses a lot of things but just because a story has no supernatural element does not automatically make it “psychological horror”.

Positives first – nice landscape descriptions (if a tad overdone), nice actual setting (stories that admit to the financial downfalls of towns and people are always appreciated, as most genre stories seem inhabited by comfortable, upper-middle class individuals with well-paying jobs, something becoming less true as the economy goes south) and kudos for at least approaching the sticky-wicket area of psychological truth, rarely touched on, where the victims of incest are acknowledged to have more complicated feeling for their abusers, due to familial links, than just absolute hatred. Oh, and thank to the writer for seemingly not intending the dead-Dad thing to be a twist or reveal. Saved you a lot of needless work and saved us the internal groan.

But, in the end, the story seemed pointless to me. Mentally ill women talks to dead father/molester and finally cracks and kills (barely developed) hubby and kids. As someone said, you can hear similar stories with the same outcome on the news every month and, if such a scenario even requires fictionalizing, there needed to be much more there. But I’d question even that first assumption (that such scenario requires fictionalizing).

Thanks for listening

“For great changes in the human mind are terrible. As we realize them we realize the limitless possibilities of sinister deeds that lie hidden in every human being. A little child that loves a doll can become an old, crafty, secret murderer. How horrible! And perhaps it is still more horrible to think that, while the human envelope remains totally unchanged, every word of the letter within may become altered, and a message of peace fade into a sentence of death.”
Robert Hichens, “The Return of the Soul” (1895)

Molly M
September 4th, 2008 6:43 pm

I liked it. I thought that the the descriptions of I.V. and how the desert can make you hard, or crazy or lost were very chilling.

My Grandpa worked for the Palo Verde Irrigation district. He could have been one of “somewhere in between” men described in the cafe.

I also liked the pace of the story – it made me feel dread.

So there were a couple of audio glitches – in my head those actually worked into the story. The desert is so dry and staticky, it just worked for me.