Archive for the 'Stories' Category
Pseudopod 398: Prince Of Flowers

by Elizabeth Hand.

“Prince of Flowers” was Hand’s first published story. It appeared in Twilight Zone Magazine in 1988, was subsequently reprinted in The Year’s Best Horror and has appeared in various anthologies since then, as well as in her story collection LAST SUMMER AT MARS HILL. “Much of the story is drawn from my own experiences working at the Smithsonian Institution in the 1970s-1980s. I was at the National Air & Space Museum, not the National History Museum, but spent as much time in the latter as I could. In those days, a Smithsonian ID badge allowed you to access all areas — not any more, alas.”

ELIZABETH HAND is the author of numerous award-winning novels and collections of short fiction, as well as a longtime reviewer and critic whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Salon, and many other publications.

Your reader – Christiana Ellis – is an award-winning writer and podcaster, currently living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her podcast novel, Nina Kimberly the Merciless was both an inaugural nominee for the 2006 Parsec Award for Best Speculative Fiction: Long Form, as well as a finalist for a 2006 Podcast Peer Award. Nina Kimberly the Merciless is available in print from Dragon Moon Press. Christiana is also the writer, producer and star of Space Casey seasons 1 and 2, an audio-drama miniseries which won the Gold Mark Time Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Production by the American Society for Science Fiction Audio and the 2008 Parsec Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Drama. In between major projects, Christiana is also the creator and talent of many other podcast productions including Talking About Survivor, Hey, Want to Watch a Movie? and Christiana’s Shallow Thoughts. Space Casey Season 2, available at will have just completed by the time this posts.

As mentioned by Al, please consider throwing a few bucks to the Bobby Lombardi Fundraiser.


“As she opened the box, dried flowers, seeds, and wood shavings cascaded into her lap. She inhaled, closing her eyes, and imagined blue water and firelight, sweet-smelling seeds exploding in the embers. She sneezed and opened her eyes to a cloud of dust wafting from the crate like smoke. Very carefully she worked her fingers into the fragrant excelsior, kneading the petals gently until she grasped something brittle and solid. She drew this out in a flurry of dead flowers.

It was a puppet: not a toy, but a gorgeously costumed figure, spindly arms clattering with glass and bone circlets, batik robes heavy with embroidery and beadwork. Long whittled pegs formed its torso and arms and the rods that swiveled it back and forth, so that its robes rippled tremulously, like a swallowtail’s wings. Held at arm’s length it gazed scornfully down at Helen, its face glinting with gilt paint. Sinuous vines twisted around each jointed arm. Flowers glowed within the rich threads of its robe, orchids blossoming in the folds of indigo cloth.

Loveliest of all was its face, the curve of cheeks and chin so gracefully arched it might have been cast in gold rather than coaxed from wood. Helen brushed it with a finger: the glossy white paint gleamed as though still wet. She touched the carmine bow that formed its mouth, traced the jet-black lashes stippled across its brow, like a regiment of ants. The smooth wood felt warm to her touch as she stroked it with her fingertips. A courtesan might have perfected its sphinx’s smile; but in the tide of petals Helen discovered a slip of paper covered with spidery characters. Beneath the straggling script another hand had shaped clumsy block letters spelling out the name PRINCE OF FLOWERS.

Once, perhaps, an imperial concubine had entertained herself with its fey posturing, and so passed the wet silences of a long green season. For the rest of the afternoon it was Helen’s toy. She posed it and sent its robes dancing in the twilit room, the frail arms and tiny wrists twitching in a marionette’s waltz.”


Pseudopod 397: Gut Check

by Toni Nicolino.

Toni said of “Gut Check”: “Every day, human beings endure misfortunes big and small: we’re bullied, hurt, betrayed; we lose parents and children, we lose jobs, we get divorced; we miscarry. They’re widespread problems that happen to ordinary people—except that we’re anything but ordinary. Because we survive. And that alone takes guts.”

TONI NICOLINO’s short fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies, including Morpheus Tales, the Pill Hill Press Big Book of New Short Horror and Daily Flash Publications’ Daily Frights 2012. She has also been published in Reader’s Digest, Woman’s Day, Women’s Health, Women’s Wear Daily, CosmoGIRL!, ELLEGirl, Budget Living, OK! and Zink magazines. She lives in Manhattan with her husband Anthony, their daughter Charlie, and their three cats..

Your reader – Stephanie Morris – is a librarian-in-training, a voracious biblio- and audiophile, an occasional writer of short stories, and a voice and stage actor. She has narrated short stories for PseudoPod, PodCastle, and Cast of Wonders, guest-blogged on subjects ranging from creative writing to zombie turkeys, and performed Shakespeare in a handful of weird churches. She is currently working toward a degree in Media Studies, which is really just a sneaky way for her to discuss her favorite fandoms in an academic context. She blogs at scribbleomania.


“The sun had ducked behind the overgrown trees on Twining Avenue, and she checked the time on her cell phone. She’d been meandering for almost thirty minutes, and if she went any further, she wouldn’t have the energy to trek back. She turned around and started the journey home, feeling strangely fearful of the sudden darkness. The streetlights hadn’t yet been activated and the lack of illumination made her uneasy. She picked up the pace, wondering if her protective new-mother disposition had heightened her sense of self-preservation. More likely, the recollection of her unpleasant childhood had caused the unrest.

She turned the corner onto another darkened block and tried to steer her thoughts to a more optimistic topic, like her pregnancy, but she couldn’t shake her disquiet. Bad memories seemed to follow her tonight, and Rae developed the uncomfortable suspicion that she was no longer alone on the street. She slowed, determined to eliminate the possibility that something tangible—and perhaps threatening—trailed behind her. But before she could turn around, confirmation came in the form of a blow to the legs. Pain exploded in her right kneecap and she fell to the sidewalk, her mind leaping to that day in the seventh grade when she’d been pushed in the hallway. Instinctively, her arms thrust forth to break her fall, but her fight-or-flight instincts were numbed by surprise and fear. Her attacker took advantage of the temporary shock and thrust a bare arm around her neck; the stranger smelled vaguely of cigarettes and barbeque sauce, and just as it registered that it was in fact a man—and not her bad thoughts—which had been stalking her, a cold, hard object was pressed against her temple.

“I’ll shoot if you scream,” he said, and despite the warning, Rae couldn’t help herself. The scream had formed in her throat the moment her legs had been bashed, and even though it felt like the act had transpired minutes before, in reality, only seconds had passed. The cry was on her tongue now; it was a high-speed train moving at breakneck speed, too fast to stop, and as she opened her mouth to let it pass, a white light blinded her. The pain came next; it crawled over her skull like cracks in glass, and then everything went black.”


Pseudopod 396: The Buchenwald Man

by Benjamin Sonnenberg.

“The Buchenwald Man” is original to Pseudopod. “Some events are so truly evil that they can never be avenged. That being said, it is important to continue to learn about the past, evil and all, as studying history is what helps us to separate ourselves from animals. ”

BENJAMIN SONNENBERG will be attending Towson University next fall, where I will be majoring in history, with the goal of becoming a history teacher and writer..

Your reader – Dave Robison – is on a mission to have his narrations permeate all of cyberspace until every PLAY button clicked produces the sultry tones of his buttery man-voice. To that end, he has achieved an Escape Artist’s narration trifecta, narrating tales for Escape Pod, Pseudopod and Podcastle, as well as countless other audio fiction podcasts and a few audiobooks. He’s also performed in several FullCast productions, most recently for Gail Carriger’s Crudrat. Dave is the founder and co-host of the newly re-launched Roundtable Podcast where writers and authors brainstorm story ideas in their endless quest for literary gold. You can find the archives and all the latest episodes at You can him on Twitter @WritersPodcast and on Facebook at roundtablepodcast. He’s also working with on a shared-world collaborative novel with Colin F. Barnes (author of the Techxorcist series), Sarah Chorn (headmistress at the Bookworm Blues review site), and Alasdair Stuart (this generation’s incarnation of Spider Jerusalem). The novel is titled CHASING THE DEVIL: MEMOIRS OF A RELUCTANT PIRATE and will be serialized beginning in early 2015. Learn more at


“After about two hours of lifting,slamming, grinding, and pulling, a body was found under the rocks. Stan was near the soldier who found it. The soldier had seen bodies before, they all had, and quite calmly yelled out to the corporal: “Yeah, there’s a foot here!”
Twenty men, including Stan and the corporal, immediately rushed over to oversee the excavation. There was a twisted, bleached white foot sticking out from the rubble. No one said anything about it. Instead, a few men jumped forward and grabbed the leg, while others used picks to tear away at stone that held the rest of the body down. Soon enough, and all at once, the bricks gave way and the body came free and into clear view.
It was a girl, about seventeen. It was a little difficult to tell, however, because her face had caved in quite badly. A few broken shards of teeth were lodged in her forehead, and both eye sockets were empty. Dust caked up inside the holes. The girl had been a blonde, and her hair was still tied into a fishtail. As they pulled it out, the body twisted and flopped loosely, allowing some of the dust and gravel to spill out of the eye sockets.
Stan did not shudder at this, and was surprised to see the same reaction in the others. Had he really thought he was alone in this chill? No, he was different from the others. They all had been inside the camp; this was nothing. They had seen ten-year-olds, even babies,piled in heaps like charcoal. This was nothing.”


Pseudopod 395: Fishhead

by Irvin S. Cobb.

“Fishhead” first appeared in THE CAVALIER on January 11, 1913 and can be read here.

IRVIN S. COBB (June 23, 1876 – March 11, 1944) was an American author, humorist, and columnist who lived in New York and authored more than 60 books and 300 short stories. He was born in Paducah, Kentucky, where he began as a reporter for the Paducah Daily News at the age of seventeen. He became the nation’s youngest managing news editor two years later. His career took him to media and artistic prominence in New York City, where his Saturday Evening Post columns reached over two million readers. He was such a well-known and well-loved figure that he hosted the 7th Academy Awards ceremony.

Our reader this week is a long-time friend of the show. He was born in the swamps of south Georgia where he was orphaned as a child by a pack of wild dawgs. He was adopted by a family of gators who named him Maui Threv which in their language means mechanical frog music. He was taught the ways of swamp music and the moog synthesizer by a razorback and a panther. He provided music for the second episode ever released across the PseudoPod feed: Waiting up for Father. He also is responsible for the outro music for the Lavie Tidhar story Set Down This.

Sword & Mythos can be ordered here.

Sounds used in the soundbed for this story can be found at the following links:

Marsh ambiance track


Fishhead’s Call:


“It goes past the powers of my pen to try to describe Reelfoot Lake for you so that you, reading this, will get the picture of it in your mind as I have it in mine.

For Reelfoot Lake is like no other lake that I know anything about. It is an after-thought of Creation.

The rest of this continent was made and had dried in the sun for thousands of years-millions of years, for all I know-before Reelfoot came to be. It’s the newest big thing in nature on this hemisphere, probably, for it was formed by the great earthquake of 1811.

That earthquake of 1811 surely altered the face of the earth on the then far frontier of this country.

It changed the course of rivers, it converted hills into what are now the sunk lands of three states, and it turned the solid ground to jelly and made it roll in waves like the sea.

And in the midst of the retching of the land and the vomiting of the waters it depressed to varying depths a section of the earth crust sixty miles long, taking it down — trees, hills, hollows, and all, and a crack broke through to the Mississippi River so that for three days the river ran up stream, filling the hole.

The result was the largest lake south of the Ohio, lying mostly in Tennessee, but extending up across what is now the Kentucky line, and taking its name from a fancied resemblance in its outline to the splay, reeled foot of a cornfield negro. Niggerwool Swamp, not so far away, may have got its name from the same man who christened Reelfoot: at least so it sounds.

Reelfoot is, and has always been, a lake of mystery.

In places it is bottomless. Other places the skeletons of the cypress-trees that went down when the earth sank, still stand upright so that if the sun shines from the right quarter, and the water is less muddy than common, a man, peering face downward into its depths, sees, or thinks he sees, down below him the bare top-limbs upstretching like drowned men’s fingers, all coated with the mud of years and bandaged with pennons of the green lake slime.

In still other places the lake is shallow for long stretches, no deeper than breast high to a man, but dangerous because of the weed growths and the sunken drifts which entangle a swimmer’s limbs. Its banks are mainly mud, its waters are *muddled, too, being a rich coffee color in the spring and a copperish yellow in the summer, and the trees along its shore are mud colored clear up their lower limbs after the spring floods, when the dried sediment covers their trunks with a thick, scrofulous-looking coat.

There are stretches of unbroken woodland around it, and slashes where the cypress knees rise countlessly like headstones and footstones for the dead snags that rot in the soft ooze.

There are deadenings with the lowland corn growing high and rank below and the bleached, fire-blackened girdled trees rising above, barren of leaf and limb.

There are long, dismal flats where in the spring the clotted frog- spawn cling like patches of white mucus among the weed-stalks, and at night the turtles crawl out to lay clutches of perfectly, round, white eggs with tough, rubbery shells in the sand.

There are bayous leading off to nowhere, and sloughs that wind aimlessly, like great, blind worms, to finally join the big river that rolls its semi-liquid torrents a few miles to the westward.

So Reelfoot lies there, flat in the bottoms, freezing lightly in the winter, steaming torridly in the summer, swollen in the spring when the woods have turned a vivid green and the buffalo-gnats by the million and the billion fill the flooded hollows with their pestilential buzzing, and in the fall, ringed about gloriously with all the colors which the first frost brings-gold of hickory, yellow-russet of sycamore, red of dogwood and ash, and purple-black of sweet-gum.

But the Reelfoot country has its uses. It is the best game and fish country, natural or artificial, that is left in the South today.

In their appointed seasons the duck and the geese flock in, and even semi-tropical birds, like the brown pelican and the Florida snake-bird, have been known to come there to nest.

Pigs, gone back to wildness, range the ridges, each razor-backed drove captained by a gaunt, savage, slab-sided old boar. By night the bullfrogs, inconceivably big and tremendously vocal, bellow under the banks.

It is a wonderful place for fish — bass and crappie, and perch, and the snouted buffalo fish.

How these edible sorts live to spawn, and how their spawn in turn live to spawn again is a marvel, seeing how many of the big fish-eating cannibal-fish there are in Reelfoot.

Here, bigger than anywhere else, you find the garfish, all bones and appetite and horny plates, with a snout like an alligator, the nearest link, naturalists say, between the animal life of today and the animal life of the Reptilian Period.

The shovel-nose cat, really a deformed kind of fresh-water sturgeon, with a great fan-shaped membranous plate jutting out from his nose like a bowsprit, jumps all day in the quiet places with mighty splashing sounds, as though a horse had fallen into the water.

On every stranded log the huge snapping turtles lie on sunny days in groups of four and six, baking their shells black in the sun, with their little snaky heads raised watchfully, ready to slip noiselessly off at the first sound of oars grating in the row-locks. But the biggest of them all are the catfish!

These are monstrous creatures, these catfish of Reelfoot — scaleless,slick things, with corpsy, dead eyes and poisonous fins, like javelins, and huge whiskers dangling from the sides of their cavernous heads.

Six and seven feet long they grow to be, and weigh 200 pounds or more, and they have mouths wide enough to take in a man’s foot or a man’s fist, and strong enough to break any hook save the strongest, and greedy enough to eat anything, living or dead or putrid, that the horny jaws can master.

Oh, but they are wicked things, and they tell wicked tales of them down there. They call them man-eaters, and compare them, in certain of their habits, to sharks.

Fishhead was of a piece with this setting.”