Pseudopod 442: The Only Child

by Leslie J. Anderson

“The Only Child” is a PseudoPod original. “While writing this story I was wondering why death sometimes makes people feel special – touching it, escaping it, even causing it. Yet it’s not special. It’s something that happens to all of us eventually and it’s usually terrible.”

Leslie J. Anderson was born and raised in Michigan and now lives in Ohio with her husband and a puppy named Caper. For her day job she organizes words for a bank. Her writing has appeared in Asimov’s, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Strange Horizons, and Daily Science Fiction. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart and a Rhysling Award. She has a book of science fiction prompts, (called 100 Prompts For Science Fiction Writers) from Sterling Publishing. Her speculative poetry book, An Inheritance of Stone, was released from Alliteration Ink last year, and her urban fantasy novel, The Cricket Prophecies, was released in May by Post Mortem Press. For more information you can visit her website:

Your reader this week is Emily Smith. This is Emily’s third narration for Pseudopod. She is a part-time physician and full time mom in central California. While not narrating for Pseudopod or saving lives, she lives in constant danger of being eaten by cats, tripped by a baby, choked by a wisteria vine or smothered by wild birds. The wisteria vine is currently the most likely cause of her demise as it is the only thing not dependent on her for sustenance and her death dovetails nicely into its plan for world domination.


“Annabell Crowley lay on the dirt floor and looked up at Death. She remembered that a man had cut her throat. It was so hard to hold onto ideas. Her parents were already dead. Death had taken their spirits hours ago. She thought she should be afraid of him, but wasn’t. The human mind has amazing capabilities of adjusting to a new reality. The world was very peaceful. She looked up at Death, who looked back down at her. How funny that everything felt normal now. A man had cut her throat and she was not dead, even though that was impossible. Her arms lay at her sides. She didn’t have the power to raise them.

Death tilted his head. His skin was pulled close over his skull and his eyes were closed and sunken. Maybe he had no eyes at all. After looking at her for a long time he flicked the cigarette away and walked out the door. He was dressed in flannel and jean, with a brown hat. He had taken the hat from a hanged man because he’d liked it and it fit well. He stepped over Anna’s father.”