PseudoPod 544: Under the Rubble

Show Notes

“This story is dedicated to Takeo Murata, Ishiro Honda, and Rod Serling.”

The horror of an earthquake is something you’d never wish on anyone. In 2015, in the span of three weeks, two severe earthquakes struck the nation of Nepal. The damage was so great that much still hasn’t been rebuilt. If you’re moved by this story, please consider a donation to relief efforts. More can be found at

Go check out A River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey and Greedy Pigs by Matt fn Wallace.

Under the Rubble

By John Wiswell

The world trembled until Samantha opened her eyes. She groaned, then coughed and spat dust. Every hitch of her chest made breathing harder, and there was something on top of her, crushing her left breast. She looked at it, but the air was too dark to see anything, so she tried pushing it away and found her arms could barely move. It felt like a metal bar pinning across her chest and biceps, digging into her skin, so she braced her elbows against the floor and heaved. The bar budged just an inch, but the inch was all it took for her to take the deepest breath of her life.

Dust poured out of the blindness, filling her nostrils with a stinging sensation, clinging to her perspiration, and giving the darkness a cloying texture. The illogic of drowsiness sagged away as she forced herself to breathe normally, and she realized for the first time that this wasn’t her apartment. Her eyes scanned for a window and failed to find one. This wasn’t the middle of the night. Where the hell was she?

Oh Saints, the store. She’d only ducked in for some milk and maybe one of those chocolate bars with the air bubbles in it. She’d been reaching for her wallet when the earthquake hit and everything crashed. Was she still in the store?

She called, “Hello? Anyone?” Her words bounced back at her. She couldn’t see her confines, but they were cramped. She kicked her legs and found hard debris in every direction, walling her into this nowhere. She groped around herself for anyone. Where had the clerk gone?

“Oh, thank goodness,” said a miraculous voice. It sounded young and so calm. It had calm to spare, calm it spent on sounding tickled that Samantha was alive. “Someone else is up. I thought I heard coughing. Are you okay?”

“I’m pinned under something.” Samantha tried to sit up, but the bar refused to budge. She was forced to remain lying on the floor, her neck aching, head tilting up against something tall and stiff behind her. It was probably the checkout counter. She asked, “Can you come get me?”

“Afraid I’m stuck as well. The ceiling came down and formed a little cave over the greeting card aisle. It hit the older lady right in the head. I don’t know if she’ll be okay. I can’t see, but I felt her bleeding.”

Samantha knew what sounded wrong about this kid now. His voice carried the pain of someone who thought the TV news sounded bad, not the pain of someone whose corpse might soon be the subject of it. He sounded like a junior correspondent, live from under the rubble.

She asked again, “Can you get to me?”

“One moment,” he said. Rustling rose from the direction of her left foot. It could have been three or thirty feet away. Her eyes kept reaching for perspective, but couldn’t find it. The other survivor groaned with effort before calling, “Cement and beams are blocking both ends of the aisle. I’m lucky it didn’t fall in here. I wonder if architects build these aisles so they’ll be safe like this.”

Samantha squirmed. Every time she wanted to stop it felt like it would take one more twist to escape, forming a series of one-more-pushes that never worked. At most she could force herself a few inches back. Her neck bent painfully against the checkout counter and she slid up, but that brought the bar to the bottom of her ribs, allowing no breath at all. Her eyes bulged with the effort and saw nothing.


She gasped and relented, easing the bar down and bracing it with her wrists, elbows against the floor. Her arms ached from it, but at least she could breathe.

“I’m afraid I can’t get to you. These beams are too heavy.”

“Are you sure?”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” The answer came so quickly that she was shocked by its untruth. Yeah, she’d almost asphyxiated in the rubble of a quake and Saints knew if anyone else was alive, but she was doing just swell. She said, “There’s a bar on me. On my chest. It’s… It’s hard to breathe.”

“It’s on your ribs? So you’re on your back?”


“Is there anyone near you, ma’am? Someone who can assist?”

“No,” she said without checking. She hadn’t thought to check. The counter blocked pretty much everything and there was no room to shimmy on either side. She listened for breathing around her, and heard a subterranean grinding that she didn’t want to think about. The only plausible human being nearby would be the clerk, and he had probably been crushed on the other side of the cash register, and if she thought about him anymore, she would definitely die under here.

“No,” she said. “Definitely no one around.”

“Okay. I have a lady in the aisle here. She was the one who saw the monster and screamed. The roof hit her pretty bad.”

Samantha paused over ‘the monster.’ It had been a monster of an earthquake, though.

She asked, “How bad did she get hit?”

He said, “Her hair is sticky and part of her skull feels loose. I wrapped her up in my shirt and don’t want to touch it more. I check on her every once in a while to keep her air passages clear.”

“Are you an E.M.T.?” That kind of luck made Samantha lick her lips, not even minding her tongue coating in dust.

“No, ma’am. I just read the internet a lot. Can you hold out?”

Her mind swam with the idea of rescue. Of firemen and cranes. Volunteers swarmed in these kinds of disasters and worked all hours.

The kid called again, “Ma’am?”

“I…” It took one word to realize the air was escaping her. Just thinking about rescue workers made her breathe faster, and suddenly she forgot how to breathe slowly. How did you forget something like that?

She said, “This bar is crushing me.”

“You’re lying on your back with a thing on your chest? You can’t move it?”

“Too little. I need help. It’s too heavy.” There was a new rustling sound, like the other survivor was exploring his aisle, or rolling around in it. She asked him, “Can you find a way to me?”

“If you can scoot back, maybe you can get your knees under it and breathing will be easier.”

She let the anger into her voice. “I’ve been trying.”

“I’m testing something,” he said. His voice sounded like it was coming from a different direction now. A different angle. “You’re on your back with it on your chest, and not much room to move. That’s fine.”

“It’s not fine. My chest feels like it’s going to burst down here.”

“I got into a position like yours. We can figure it out. If you scrunch your shoulders down and your neck up, then pull your knees as far as they go, how far can you scoot?”

“I don’t know.”

“Can you try it?”


“Are you sure?”

No, Samantha wasn’t sure. She wasn’t sure of anything except the pain in her chest and arms. She said, “Hold on.”

“I’m just trying to help, ma’am.”

“Don’t call me ‘ma’am’.”

“I’ll make you a deal. I won’t call you ‘ma’am’ if you try this. Okay?”

She wanted to laugh. To laugh far harder than she should with this bar crushing her wrists and ribs. Her arms trembled under the weight.

“Alright,” she consented. She took as deep a breath as she could, as good a final breath as possible, and leaned up, raising her shoulders and curling upward until her neck popped. Her knees trembled upward, but not far enough, and she moaned when they touched the bar. There was no way they could get under it.

The voice said, “Ma’am. You’re fine.”

Samantha was abruptly sure she was going to die sitting under a cash register, and ten feet from a front door she couldn’t see.

The calmness voice grew colder. “Ma’am. You’re fine.”

“I’m not.”

“Are your knees up?”

“They aren’t.”

But they were. It took a few moments to realize it. Her shoulders rubbed against the checkout counter, her head probably resting against a cigarette ad. The pain in her neck abated and the bar was digging at the tops of her shins. Her legs wobbled slightly, holding a miraculous angle where it didn’t even hurt. If she ever saw light again she’d probably find them covered in welts. She could deal with that.

She stammered out, “I… I… it worked.”

Her buddy said, “That’s super, ma’am. Congratulations!”

“Thanks,” she said, rubbing her eyes, mixing tears with stinging dust, wetness welling from a mixture of pain and the crap in the air. Eventually she asked, “Who are you?”

“I’m Hansel. I live over on Robin Row.”

“Never been.” She caught herself making a face, even though he was a wall of rubble and a hundred miles of darkness away. Saints, was she actually feeling embarrassed? Was that possible today?

Hansel said, “It’s right off of Fifth. Near Godot’s Cakes.”

“Oh. Okay,” she said in the universal tone of not really knowing what she was agreeing with but wanting the topic to change.

“I was the blue boy in the greeting card aisle. Blue Hawaiian shirt? I was picking something out for my aunt before baseball practice. She loves cards with cats on them. Her birthday’s coming up.”

“Blue Hawaiian shirt,” she repeated. She might’ve seen one of those before everything turned upside down. Neon blue with stark yellow palm trees and ugly as sin. She couldn’t conjure his face; had she gotten a look at it? No, she’d only seen him from behind on the way to the milk. But at least she had a Hawaiian shirt to put with his name.

“Well, hi Hansel. I’m Samantha Pears.” She re-thought her introduction, and added, “Black hair, buying milk at the counter.”

“Black hair and the tweed skirt, or black hair and the pantsuit?”

So this Hansel was observant. She groped her legs, feeling all the tears in her trousers.

“The pantsuit, which needs to go to the drycleaners.”

When Hansel chuckled, she chuckled with him. It was the kind of light laughter that weighed heavier than side-splitters, the kind that melted thoughts of never sitting up again, or choking under rebar, or never getting out from under tons of convenience store debris when you could barely lift this much, and how much air was there left? Her thoughts spiraled away from her.

Hansel said, “Pleased to meet you, Ms. Pears.”

“Call me ‘Samantha’.”

“Pleased to meet you, Samantha. So did you see it? You were right by the exit.”

“The cave-in? I’ll never forget it.”

Although she didn’t remember much. There hadn’t been much before there was nothing. All these parts of the ceiling denting and lunging down in unison, glass crackling, light fleeing as the world rushed into her face.

Her friend in the greeting card aisle asked, “What did you see?”

She chewed her cheek; the pain was pleasant, interrupting panic before it could really grab her. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Sorry, ma’am.”


“Samantha. I was just curious if you saw the monster.”

“The quake? Yes, everything shook and broke.”

“It wasn’t a quake.”

“Excuse me?”

“I saw it.”

“What did you see?”

Maybe a tank? A bomb? Had terrorists hit their city? That was crazy. There was no way.

“I was looking at the birthday cards, which face the windows. They used to, anyway. I was looking for one with cats on it, because my aunt loves cats. I saw it over the racks.”

“Saw what?”

“A foot.”


“It took up the entire window. It was scaly, with claws the size of lamp posts.”

“You saw a foot in the window? I was right next to it, Hansel.”

“It took up the whole window, and the whole street. It had three toes and was scaly, and there was a car stuck between two of the toes. A van. A red van. The foot was green or grey. I can’t remember. How silly is that, ma’am? Forgetting the color.”

Samantha gaped at the darkness. “You didn’t see that.”

“I saw it over the racks of greeting cards. The lady in the aisle with me saw it, too. She screamed before she was hit.”

“Everybody screamed.”

“She screamed at the foot. We were looking at it together.”

“For the two seconds before the roof caved in? You’re sure it wasn’t wreckage? Asphalt and dust kicked up from a main exploding?”

“It didn’t look like those things to me, ma’am.”

“For the split-second you saw it?”


Samantha rubbed at her knees, which were beginning to ache. They felt like splintering wood. “What did this foot belong to? A dinosaur?”

“I don’t think dinosaurs were ever that big, but I guess it could be a new one. It could have been a monster or a dragon. Some kind of god.”

“A god with a van stuck between his toes?”

“So you saw it?”

“No! I was standing right next to the window and I didn’t see anything.” Yelling made her suck in too much soot from the air and she gagged. At least he stayed quiet until she finished throwing up.

Then Hansel asked, “Did you look out the window, ma’am?”

“No. I don’t know. Look. I was looking at the clerk who was selling me milk, okay? And don’t call me ‘ma’am’. I’m Samantha Pears.”

“So you didn’t look out the window to see if it was there or not?”

“I didn’t need to look out the window to know our building wasn’t knocked over by a dinosaur.”

“Are you sure you didn’t look outside?”

“No. I didn’t.”

“Because you sound very agitated. Perhaps you want it to have not been a giant foot. That kind of denial is sometimes indicative of traumatic stress disorders.”

She hissed dust out of her face. “I’m in denial?”

“A third of my RSS feed is psychology stuff. The human mind is fascinating.”

She wanted to kick him. Wanted the dying woman trapped in the greeting card aisle with him to kick him. And perhaps Hansel sensed that, for he said nothing more. Samantha thought it was out of politeness.

She said, “We shouldn’t talk anymore. We need to conserve air.”

“That’s a good point. We’re in a conundrum: research suggests if we don’t talk we may become fixated and hyperventilate to death, while reason suggests speaking very little will conserve air. Which do we do?”

How dare he respond with so many words when they could suffocate down here? Samantha shifted. Her shins felt like they were bleeding now. She hoped they wouldn’t break.

“Probably,” he continued, “the best thing to do is moderate. Talk some, then rest some, so nobody gets too worked up.”

“Sure. Let’s rest some.”

Like magic words, it made them quiet for a while. Samantha felt bad, being quiet at the teen who had coached her through a panic attack under this bar. She tried to merge that helpful teen with the dinosaur theory nut.

It didn’t work out and she tried shifting her knees for any relief under that bar, and eventually spoke just to get her mind off the immovable. She said, “There were reports of small earthquakes lately. The city put out an aftershock warning or something, I think.”

“They did a special about it on TV that my aunt recorded. She’s great.”

“So you see, Hansel? It was a quake.”

“Seismologists all over the net were confounded. The severity and patterns of the quakes had never hit our region before, and there are no fault lines around.”

“They can only ever be so accurate.”

“They said that on television. One doctor also said the new models for predictive seismology were getting much more accurate, up until two months ago when our quakes started. He called it a total anomaly that bucked the model. What if—”

As though the convenience store wanted him to shut up too, it lurched. The floor jumped, and Samantha threw up her arms to defend herself against debris. Stray pebbles fell and the tremor ended immediately, though its tune played on with the blood banging in her ears.

That calm voice pried in. “Are you alright, ma’am?”

“Yeah. Are you?”

“These have been happening for a while. Have you been awake for many?”

“None,” she thought out loud. She was kind of glad for that.

“They seem random. Not normal for any aftershocks I’ve heard of.”

Samantha covered her face even though there was nothing to hide. How many aftershocks had he heard of? Couldn’t he be a little considerate and sane with what they were going through?

Hansel said, “I’ve counted at least a dozen. Like the unpredictable quakes in the last two months, it seems to me that all these really short aftershocks could be the result of something gigantic moving around.”

“Come on.” She wanted to taunt him about his dinosaur god, but couldn’t bring herself to say it out loud. That would legitimize it somehow.

He said, “So you think they are, too?”

“No. That wasn’t a footstep. That’s crazy.”

“Then what do you think it was, ma’am?”


“Have you ever heard of Omori’s Law?”

“I don’t want to hear about it. Earthquakes are real. They’re something you see.”

“I saw the foot.”

“Listen: I didn’t see it. Nobody saw it. A quake is real because it’s something you can see.”

“A quake is an invisible wave in the ground. Even if it wasn’t invisible, it would still be underground where you couldn’t see it. All we see is the top layer moving.”

“Okay, fine,” she snapped. “So what did we do to make this magic dinosaur god attack us?”

“I don’t know. Maybe one of those countries that tests nuclear weapons underground woke something up. Maybe it came from the sea. Maybe nature is angry at us. I don’t know what would motivate a monster because I’ve never met one before. All I did was see a giant foot kick over the building.”

She slammed the brakes on this conversation. Either he’d put a lot of thought into this or deserved a career in improv. His tone was so collected, like a news pundit reporting from the scene. He could host a stupid seismology special.

She asked, “You don’t see anything crazy in what you’re saying?”

“I don’t mean to offend, ma’am, but denying what someone saw in favor of a thing you can’t prove sounds like where craziness starts to me. One moment. I need to check this lady’s breathing passages.”

“Are you always this…?”

Samantha trailed off, realizing what she was saying. She bit her upper lip and listened to Hansel huffing air into a stranger’s mouth. Of course the kid wasn’t always like this. He’d been through the same thing she had, and now was stuck in a greeting card aisle next a dying old lady.

Maybe a dead old lady.

Maybe, though Samantha couldn’t prove it and wouldn’t ask, he was checking the airways of his aunt.

The poor kid was in shock. Arguing with him about his monsters was downright cruel.

So she asked him something else. She asked, “How is the lady in your aisle?”

“She’s barely breathing. I’d like to get her to a hospital, if any are left.”

“How many times have you checked her airways?”

“Every few minutes. You have to make sure nothing gets in the mouth or throat. I read that even tiny particles can be dangerous.”

“You’re a good guy, Hansel.”

“Thank you.” Probably the smartest thing this boy did in his life was not end that sentence with a ‘ma’am.’ She congratulated him silently.

“You’re not normally like this, are you?”

“Me?” He paused. He rustled, and she strained to imagine him on a bed of upturned greeting cards. “I think I am. My aunt says I’m so pragmatic that I should see a psychiatrist.”

That didn’t change Samantha’s theory. She had a conclusion and he wasn’t going to change it. It hurt to realize it, and how much of any day was lived like that. So she changed the topic, asking, “So when do you think rescue is coming?”

“I was avoiding that. I don’t want to upset you.”

She couldn’t be upset right now. It just wouldn’t come. Three minutes ago she was sure she’d die and now she couldn’t think it. She was as calm as he sounded. Plus, even if he had something insane to say, he was just a shell-shocked teen.

She said, “I’m okay. It’s a good topic. Don’t you want to get out of here?”

“They may not come.”

“They will.”

“As I see it, if the monster is still in the city, the authorities are very busy.”

“An earthquake would keep them busy.”

“Many other buildings will be damaged. Thousands will need help. Rescue workers will start wherever they are. We have no idea how long it will take them to get here.”

There was grime on her eyelids. Rubbing increased the burning, so she tried pinching particles of dust from her eyelashes.

Hansel’s voice beckoned, “Can I admit something to you?”

“Please.” Him admitting the right thing would really help right now.

“I’m hoping the monster comes back and rescues us out of recompense for its actions. I’m hoping all these quakes were an accident.”

Samantha grazed her left eye with a fingernail, jerked and saw blots of color for an instant in the eternal darkness of the rubble. She spoke at the blots, “That would be nice.”

“If we’re down here too long I’ll try harder to get to you. Don’t panic over that, ma’am. Maybe I can roll some of the wreckage away and dig a tunnel. You were near the exit already, right? I can get to you and we’ll slip right out.”

Foolishly she tried to sit up. Something popped in her knees and she sucked air. It burned briefly, and she was thankful when it subsided and she only had the ache of the bar on her shins.

Sitting up was the first reflex of exploration. Making sure she remained slumped this time, she groped around. Her hand struck something metal on her left, which she followed until her reach ended, fingers finding a metal column running at an angle that meant it was likely holding her bar up on one side. The door would be somewhere beyond this column. If the register was behind her, the door was to her left. If she was right, it was only five feet to freedom. She squirmed a little, but couldn’t make it six inches in any direction.

Were they having quiet time now? She wasn’t sure.

Then Hansel said, “I am curious about something.”


“Can you feel air moving around you at all? A draft might indicate a way out.”

She hadn’t thought of that. If there were any sort of draft it would at least mean they wouldn’t suffocate. It might also mean rescue workers could hear them yell.

She licked her lips unconsciously, then consciously froze and tried to feel air moving across them.


She licked an index finger and held it up. Was that air wafting across it? It was impossible to keep her hand still. The trembling made it feel like there was wind in all directions.

Hansel asked, “Anything, ma’am?”

“Hold on,” she said. She squeezed her eyes shut against blindness and concentrated. Holding your hand still wasn’t hard. It was like putting the key in the lock of her apartment. Like flipping a light switch. A thoughtlessly little thing.

Booming resonated through the rubble around here and the world shifted. Her shoulders spasmed, fine dust slashing across her face and down the neck of her blouse. Hard bits of debris clattered all around her, and she refused to give a damn, sticking her fingers up into the hail, willing breeze to her fingers. She just wanted to go home, turn the key in the lock and turn on a light.

The aftershock ended. It could have been a bomb going off, or a missile striking a magic dinosaur god. Samantha didn’t change positions, keeping her finger up for drafts. The hairs on it stiffened, and she thought she felt a little something coming from her right.

“Ma’am? Are you okay?”

“Sure am,” she said. She adjusted on her right hip, preparing to give Hansel the good news, and realized that the bar over her legs had shifted off of her. Her shins hurt worse than ever, definitely bleeding, but it was the pain of relief. She slid back, only a few inches, but a glorious few that let her worm through the hail.

She felt the floor and her left palm sliced open on what was surely broken glass. That was okay, because broken glass would be next to a window.

Another quake hit, this one louder, the tiles beneath her crumbling. Something immense crashed down through the counter behind her, spraying splinters at her neck, several embedding in her skin.

Then it was over. Samantha shook and held up a hand. There was less than the width of her fingers between the top of her head and a hard strip of metal. Another steel bar.

She said, “I’m going to die.”

“No you’re not, ma’am.”

Samantha didn’t have a response.

Hansel said, “Take your time. It’s reasonable to take your time.”

“No it isn’t.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because I think I’m right near the door. The door or the windows.”

She reached down for a piece of the glass, as though holding it up would show Hansel. It pricked her thumb and she groaned at herself. How would she show it to him, anyway?

Her hands kept fumbling, finding nuggets of tile and cement. Beyond those was a hard vertical plane. A wall? It had to be, and her imagination conjured one when her eyes failed to see it. It was so straight and went up forever.

She groped around its sides, then slid her bleeding fingertips to the floor, then from the floor at the edge of the counter on over. This bit was tile, and more tile, and then a crack, and then… jackpot. Soft dirt and gravel, or whatever it was, something that gave between her fingers. She scooped at it like she wanted sand for a castle.

“I’m getting us out of here, Hansel! Dig that tunnel!”

“I’m on it, ma’am.”

There was cement two inches down. The entry was narrow and she could barely fit her hand under, but it did fit through. Maybe she could see light if she dug further. If there was light then there was an outdoors. If there was an outdoors, she could be heard yelling for help. Someone could hear. Someone would know to come. They had to.

She scratched at the cement. Her nails chipped against it, and again she was too busy to care when a quake hit. It made the floor jump. Blind, it felt like her hand was squashed flat as paper inside the crack.

She said, “Oh Saints, please don’t let it be broken.”


Her wrist ached. It was not flat or stuck, swelling, sure, but who cared about that? She could still move it, still work it, so it wasn’t broken. There was room to dig. She jammed as much of her good hand as she could through until she felt something cool. Cool air. It had to be fresh air. She withdrew her wrist and forced her face against the hole.

Was there light in there? She couldn’t tell. How couldn’t she tell? You didn’t forget what light was like. Your eyes didn’t forget how to see.

She screamed. Somewhere behind her, behind a dozen feet of concrete, Hansel said something, drowned out by her own noise. She tried to speak, tried to sculpt her sound into words, and panic ruined it all. She was a balloon of worry, punctured and emptying, unable to inhale any more, screams pouring out, begging to be heard.

Her arms trembled and she wanted to vomit in that hole of fresh air. But she wasn’t the only thing trembling. Was the world joining in? Did it see her?

She was quaking, the world was shaking, and the ceiling rattled, the wreckage of the store overflowing with light too bright for Samantha to see. Was it daylight? It blinded her all over again, and she peered on instinct, to see through blindness. Amidst all the starbursts and sparkles in her eyes she thought she saw a clawed foot hooking around the sun, anchoring a titanic belly of scales. She raised her swelling hand to defend herself, or to reach for help, and the thing stretched out a second limb as though in greeting. It filled her world.



Ambulance Siren
FIRE ENGINE long approach and drive away
Metal Sounds » Door_Metal_Groans_Ext.wav
Towson EMF 366»creakingmetalchair.wav
Heatpress squeaking and creaking.wav
Drones » Metal Creaks_Groans.wav
remix of 108732__klankbeeld__creaking_metal_spokes_of_the_bicycle_wheel_06.flac
furnace creaks.wav
Creaking attic door. » Attic door creaking 2
Ambiance and Background » Creaking Metal Soundscape 2
Cracking Earthquake (cracking soil, cracking stone)
Disaster » Earthquake_Interior_MetalRattling_2.wav
Large Earthquake
Earthquake » Quake1.wav
Rumble Bass 2.wav
Rumble Bass.wav
TEC Machine/Complex Sounds » Low Rumble.wav
Cinematic Deep Bass Rumble
Staircase metal rumble.wav
Monster Pack » Monster Low Rumble 1.wav
Rumble » Rumble · fade in 10s

About the Author

John Wiswell

John Wiswell

John Wiswell is a disabled writer who lives where New York keeps all its trees. His fiction has won both the Nebula Award and the Locus Award. His works have appeared in Tordotcom, Uncanny Magazine, the LeVar Burton Reads podcast, the No Sleep podcast, Diabolical Plots, and the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, among other fine venues, and his works have been translated into eight different languages. This is his third time appearing on Pseudopod, following “Under the Rubble” in 2017 and “The Tentacle and You” in 2022. He adores Pseudopod and is so glad to be back. His debut novel, SOMEONE YOU CAN BUILD A NEST IN, will be published by DAW Books in Spring of 2024, and it follows a shapeshifting monster who makes the mistake of falling in love with the woman who’s hunting her. You can find out more about John and his works on his Substack, at

Find more by John Wiswell

John Wiswell

About the Narrator

Marguerite Kenner

Pseudopod Default

Marguerite Kenner (she/her) is a California transplant living in the UK city named after her favorite pastime.

She runs Escape Artists with her partner Alasdair Stuart, and practices as a technology lawyer in London. She loves to voice minor characters in podcasts and play video games, often where people can watch.

Her contributions to genre fiction include being a 2021 Hugo Award Finalist, editing Cast of Wonders from 2013 to 2019, project groups for too many industry orgs to count anymore, community organising, mentoring, and teaching business skills to creatives.

You can follow her adventures across various social media platforms.

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About the Artist

Shawn Garrett

Shawn M. Garrett is the co-editor of PseudoPod and either the dumbest smart man or the smartest dumb man you ever met. Thanks to a youth spent in the company of Richard Matheson, Vincent Price, Carl Kolchak & Jupiter Jones, he has pursued a life-long interest in the thrilling, the horrific and the mysterious – be it in print, film, art or audio. He has worked as a sewerage groundskeeper, audio transcription editor, pornography enabler, insurance letter writer – he was once paid by Marvel Comics to pastiche the voice of Stan Lee in promotional materials and he spends his days converting old pulp fiction into digital form for minimal pay.

He now lives near the ocean in a small metal box and he hopes that becoming a Yuggothian brain-in-a-jar is a viable future, as there is NO WAY he will ever read all the books he has on his lists, or listen to all the music he wants to hear. Everything that he is he owes to his late sister Susan, a shining star in the pre-internet world of fan-fiction, who left this world unexpectedly in 2010.

Find more by Shawn Garrett