Pseudopod 87: A Place of Snow Angels

By Matt Wallace

Read by Elie Hirschman

Joshua was seven when he saw the white city.

It was his first deep trek across the Mojave tundra with Dedimus, hours spent listening to the snowreaver’s hover jets pulverize powder and ice, his tiny nostrils filled with the tonic ozone smell of its ionized plasma engines and he could barely move in the half-dozen layers of insulation Mida added to his parka., and somewhere under all of that Dedimus preaching, always preaching, about Joshua’s bond to the ever-growing winter, his future, his responsibility. By the time they reached the Santa Monica coastline, Joshua’s ears were ringing and he was hungry, and despite the arctic chill he found he was sweating.

They stood on the shore and looked west. At first there was just the ocean, slow moving and rough-hewn gray, like unfinished sheets of steel. The frost shifted in heavy curtains above them. Then morning broke and the tide changed. Twenty miles off the coast, the white city blazed as pure and broad as the horizon itself. There were walls rising higher than any structure Joshua had ever seen. There were parapets. There were stalactite spires that stabbed the frosty fog billows.

Joshua never saw anything like it, not in pictures or among the small holographic images Mida used to teach him.

“Who lives there?” he’d asked Dedimus.

“No one,” the old man told Joshua. “That is the fata morgana, an illusion created by the cold. Like any worthy opponent, winter tricks your eyes, draws you into falsehoods.”



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


01
Mari Mitchell
April 25th, 2008 5:03 pm

Wahoo! I am first.

I feel this more Sci-fi than horror. That aside, it was a great tale.

I write this as I sit in Mojave, Ca. It is a lovely spring day but it won’t last.

So listened to each and every pod here. All of them.

Feeding the Pod snowcones

02
April 28th, 2008 4:40 pm

Matt Wallace Matt Wallace Matt Wallace!!!!! More, please.

That said, I agree that there was a lot of SF in this one, but I’m good with that. The horror was mostly more subtle which is fine by me — but it was there. Dog fetuses growing in blood? Candy-striped (read: blood-striped) arms? Fantastic imagery.

I don’t need to be in the gore splash zone every week and pieces like this are very welcome.

03
David
April 29th, 2008 1:59 am

Personally I enjoy a blend of scifi and horror. The future isn’t always a pretty place.

04
April 30th, 2008 7:55 pm

A great mix of Sci Fi and Horror.

Outstanding witting!

05
Saltheart Foamfollower
May 7th, 2008 2:15 am

Good story, great ending. I love the limitless possibilities it opens up for Joshua’s future. What will he become – saviour or tyrant? It reminded me distantly of the ending to 2001 a Space Odyssey (the book even more than the film).

Just don’t anyone mention Anakin Skywalker :-)

06
Sgarre1
July 5th, 2008 8:27 pm

These are the kind of stories that make me feel, at 40, like I’m a cranky old man.

Not good. In a way, worse than “Wild Y” because that, at least, was attempting to be vaguely OTT and comedy-pulpish (although it failed miserably). But this story is direly serious about… nothing at all.

First of all, SF, not horror, because of it’s overall fascination with the genetically engineered child and his amazing powers and the future they live in, etc etc. Occasional disturbing images do not a horror story make.

Second, not even SF but comic book, which, as a life-long comic fan, I use in the derogatory sense here. Corners cut, assumptions about basic personality made (he’s a snowboarding superkid in the future that’s just like you, pretty much, except for the weather control powers and the genetically engineered pet), fetishization of “marvelous elements” over character and content.

It just struck me as something written by someone who watched too many episodes of DRAGONBALL Z and read too many X-MEN comic books and took them seriously as source material, instead of the fun, disposable junk they are. The “mean old mentor” character talks like he’s from a fantasy novel even though this takes place in the future.

And, of course, the central character is a “golden boy”. In an attempt to make the “golden boy” character more interesting (since it’/s been around forever), the cliched directions are A – make him reluctant (“I never asked to be your savior” – the emo kids just love that!), B – make him inept (good for comedy), C – make him a mistake (They read the prophecy wrong!!! one of those “last minute twists” that everyone thinks they thought of first) or D – make him far worse than the evil guys controlling him or the good guys trying to save/stop him ever realized (the trick is to make him seem blank and uninteresting at first, then you can use him to solve the problem of “how do I get rid of the bad guys?” problem when he goes all Caligula).

Well, “Golden Boy” here just strikes back at his surrogate dad and goes off on his own. He’s kinda A. but even then, who knows, or cares? Because he’s not interesting or believable as a character. Everything happens [i]to[/i] him until he decides to walk. The best line in the whole thing was his realizing that his powers, when finally tapped into, were far too easy to use when they should have been large and ominous. Good moment – but still too comic bookish.

I don’t read much/any sci-fi and this type of story is the reason why. Is this the sub genre of SF that’s replaced “space opera” as it’s nadir?

It also just seemed like a set-up for a novel I don’t want to read that can then be pitched as a movie for teenagers I wouldn’t want to see. Y’know, the mentions of Matt Wallace’s “Failed City” thing had me kinda interested, the editors said it was good and the title was promisingly loaded with potential. But is Matt Wallace considers a story like this a passable submission, I’ll probably pass.

Thanks For Listening.

“A serious adult story must be true to something in life. Since marvel tales cannot be true to the events of life, they must shift their emphasis towards something to which they can be true; namely, certain wistful or restless moods of the human spirit, wherein it seeks to weave gossamer ladders of escape from the galling tyranny of time, space, and natural law.”
H.P. Lovecraft

07
Molly M
September 4th, 2008 9:56 pm

I’m glad I stuck with this one. I really didn’t get hooked by the beginning. But only the very beginning. I quickly fell into it.

I really liked the reading as well.

And the phrase “a swarm of frozen fairies flocking to form…”, I loved that. :)

I also liked the imagery, as DKT said. The dog fetuses? Creepy… and kinda cool.