PseudoPod 772: Flash on the Borderlands LVII: The Loving Gaze of the Abyss


“There’s nothing in our eyes — As lonely as a moon”


Five Films Reviewed by Dr. Frankenstein’s Creature

by Evan J. Peterson


I. Little Pine Eye
Pinocchio, 1911

In Collodi’s original tale, the unborn log feels the burn of the scalpello, crying out. Some endure chisel and adze just to look human. We massage the grain to soften it to flesh, but the termites are already in. The nose dry-rots off of the face. Carpenter ants take off with our lips shared in their pincers. Pray, fantoccino, that some blue, asphyxiated fairy will hear your mulch of tears hitting the earth floor and pity you, grant you mortality. Pray to live long enough to die a man. How many paths to that eternal forest fire? Choking on an acorn, or boiling in your own sap, soul divorced from stump, but take comfort. Recall that fire is a miracle, the gift of Prometheus who, like Film, stole light. Fire blasts your shadow into sudden cleansing drama, a flood of shine into a darkened wood.

II. All the Electrical Secrets of Heaven
Frankenstein, 1931

The lab apparatus goes like a Catherine wheel, slinging its chips of light. This body isn’t dead; it has never lived. Hogwash. Every fragment had its day. Now they rest, waiting. The doctor and his cripple rob the graves. Frankenstein throws his spade of earth in Death’s face. And the creature! A flat-headed numbskull, a droop-eyed ghoul with one sunken cheek. What are the lives of a few rabbits and dogs? Daisies tossed into the lake. The trapper stumbles, mouth slack, presenting his sopping offspring. The toothless mob gathers, calling for death. No wonder at such anger; their sky is but a wrinkled backdrop; their roles but pomp and prop. Strickfaden saves nothing, resurrects everything. Raise a glass to the Hollywood ending. Here’s to a son to the House of Frankenstein. A living one this time.

III. Creature of the Night
The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975

I crashed the theater tonight and popcorn flew. I thought I dreamed the picture; it melted like a tab of LSD and everybody loved me. A monster flexed like Flash Gordon in gold briefs. I tore off my disguise and leapt before their screen. I lost my virginity in the back row, my stitches out and all. My girl (I guess she was a girl) sang, “Hot patootie, bless my soul!” so I did. I sucked her earlobes and spluttered cool. By then Sarandon’s eyes were as big as my fists. She made love to the monster! The doctor died for glamour! See—?
You people break the laws of science for love. You slay each other with pickaxes for love. So I’ll make every one of you love me.

IV. Dyscephalus

The Elephant Man, 1980
My head, but not my head. A knobby pumpkin spinning on a pole, a Harryhausen puppet. Putty, sticks, and wire. My greatest discovery: the latent medical anomaly: dyscephalus. I coined it myself, “the disorder of extremities in which the subject’s head, seemingly attached, is clearly not the head belonging on that body.” Lately, I’m devising means to shuck it and release this handsome, sweating face beneath. A hospital is no place for secrecy. A slow melt, revealing the actor embedded in all that wax; or yank a stiff corner of gauze to unwrap the death mask; or else worms to eat away the outer onion. Medicine is messy. O head, dear head, throne of sense and senses, you hateful helmet! Why can’t I pull you off?

V. Rebirth Is Always Painful

Re-Animator, 1985
Today we play the meat card. The sticky. Today innards uncoil like vines and seize you by the ankle. The best elixirs always glow ever notice? like teenage lightning. We bless the syringe and push into epidural space Flush of bioluminescence: hormone geyser: phosphorescence Howling like a newborn, dragged back from the cold and liquid Afterworld for another go at breath, a second death. Today we press some flesh. Today we peel up the toenail. Ancient question: when dead folks walk, do they know poetry? Or is it all just hunger, brains, and meat? Don’t fool yourself—a zombie does feel pain. It’s the pain itself that has ceased to hold meaning.


Advice I Wish I’d Been Given When I Was a 12-Year-Old Girl about to Watch The Exorcist for the First Time

by Chelsea Davis


Keep telling yourself, “It’s only a movie.”

Keep telling yourself, “What happened to that 12-year-old girl is not going to happen to me.”

Keep telling yourself, “My body will always be my own.”

 

Keep telling yourself, “I mean, unlike her, my insides are never going to start spewing blood and other fluids on a regular basis, like a uterus possessed.” 

Keep telling yourself, “And if I do have to start bleeding, it certainly won’t hurt the way it seems to hurt her, the stomach clenching as though it’s trying to eat itself.”

Keep telling yourself, “Also, my skin would never blossom into blemishes and oils and scars that mar my face until it is unrecognizable, some demon’s sick idea of a joke.”

Keep telling yourself, “I’ll never hate the body that is mine so much that I’ll try to starve it into submission.”

Keep telling yourself, “And I would never hate the body that is mine so much that I’d projectile-vomit onto someone who’s just trying to hold back my hair and help me get through a rough night.”

Keep telling yourself, “My body will always be my own.”

 

Keep telling yourself, “And if my mom wants to get a ‘new friend’—because, let’s face it, it’s been a while since dad left, and she deserves to have a little fun—I’m sure the ‘new friend’ won’t be the creepy, pious type who tells my mom that I am out of control and it’s about time I had a little discipline, which he is more than happy to dole out with his crucifix and his pervy, grabby hands.”

Keep telling yourself, “I will not have to scream ‘YOUR MOTHER SUCKS COCKS IN HELL!’ to keep him the hell away from me.”

Keep telling yourself, “I’ll never fantasize about shoving him through my bedroom window, making him soar like a drunk blackbird three stories down into the street below, until he lies still, a jumble of limbs and blood and holy cloth.”

Keep telling yourself, “I would never masturbate on a crucifix just to get back at him.”

Keep telling yourself, “My body will always be my own.”

 

Keep telling yourself, “And look, even if this does all happen to me—because who am I kidding? I’m a girl, and it all will—at least I’ll always, always have inside my body that one deep, cool well of pride—my privacy.”

Keep telling yourself, “Because it’s only for girls on the screen that the most intimate pain always seems to attract an audience.” 

Start telling yourself, “No one will make a spectacle of my suffering.” 

Start telling yourself, “No one will make his triumph from our suffering.”

 

Then stop telling yourself it’s only a movie.


A Short Story in Seven Looks

by Sarah Turi Boshear


Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to this capsule collection from House of Fairchild. Please take your seats, silence your phones, and the show will begin.

 

Look 1: The Waif.

Our first look this evening is a thigh-length anorak in thin navy blue waterproof, accented at the left wrist and front skirt with fanciful hand stitched embellishment, as if it had been drawn on with a marker in painstaking precision over many a cold night where you couldn’t afford to go to sleep. Maybe because of the monsters outside, maybe because of the hunger in your belly. Precision and persistence are the saving graces of the artist. It is what drew this opportunity to you, when you made something special out of nothing. Take it off and hand it over, standing there shivering in your thin cotton camisole and your skinny jeans. This will do as a first offering but your Patron wants more, will make you more in exchange for… Well. Nobody breaks into this industry without paying their dues or at least starting a tab. Make the deal, bend the knee, take the job.

 

Look 2: The Drudge.

You are building a reputation, brick by brick, shit job by shit job, bateau tee by camel-colored sailor pants. In a sea of denim and black, you stand out in this sturdy but timeless pair of trousers. Sitting, standing, kneeling, in the office or on the set; you can last for hours without a wrinkle. Dress the look down with a t-shirt – you have to know your place, after all. But for those who are looking – and everyone is looking – the boat neck is simple and flattering, the darts are subtle and perfectly placed, and the blue and red pinstripes are embroidery floss, hand-sewn in perfect straight lines on all those nights that you still don’t sleep, listening carefully as your Patron watches from mirrors and glass, whispering instruction. Your debt racks higher and higher. It’s worth it. Whatever price your Patron demands of you later, whatever role you are to play in their mysterious plan, this is worth it.

 

Look 3: The Acolyte.

And now you have it: a Job, a Real Job, with a desk and insurance and all the free coffee you can drink. Granted, that desk is deep in the basement, so bring the sunshine in this midi-length, puff-sleeved goldenrod sundress, the bodice and skirt embellished with eyelet lace you’ve carefully hand-dyed, cut, and stitched yourself. You have to keep your eyes open after all – that shadowy figure in the corner can’t do all the looking for you. There’s a million other girls who want this job, who would walk all over you to get it. The eyelet lace is too soft, your Patron tells you in a voice like the scream of bones grinding together  – let them know you’re no pushover and layer up with this military inspired olive satin bomber jacket, with zippered pockets to keep your secrets safe and a fleece lining to ward off that growing chill you can never quite escape these days. When they ask you about that custom insignia patch with the strange sigil, laugh it off and don’t answer. No one can know about the dreams.

And then you get the Call from your Patron.

 

Look 4: The Backstabber.

This is how it’s done. Shiny sateen cigarette pants, high waisted with decoy pockets. This is how to get ahead, in a tuxedo-inspired blazer with wide sleeves, wide enough for stilettos, daggers, ninja stars, the objects of your destruction. The better to position you for the future, to thin the herd, put you closer to the top by forcibly opening a path upwards. A sheer black blouse with raw hems to finish the look – you’ll have to trust us on that one, as the model will not be opening her jacket to expose herself. The Plan proceeds. Enough said. Let’s move on.

 

Look 5: The Journeyman.

And now you’re really cooking with gas. Goodbye again to the tether of a desk and a 401k, you’re flying the world from one house to the next, phone buzzing 24/7. Say yes to it all – work and overwork keeps the nightmares at bay – and be ready for any challenge in this cap sleeve jumpsuit executed in a creamy linen/silk blend that never seems to wrinkle or stain, even as your dreams fill with so much blood and ichor you can feel it sloshing out of you into the waking world. Like you, this jumpsuit is filled with subtle darts and clever pockets – seen and unseen – that always seem to have exactly what a rising young star might need. Needles and pins, trims and notions, cutters and seam rippers and blades aplenty. Because there are more steps in THE PLAN, more names your Patron hisses to you when you can’t keep yourself awake any longer – or worse, when you are awake and you still feel their cold touch on the small of your back, guiding you into their desired position.

You try to find other solutions. That’s your saving grace now. You are trying very hard to hurt as few people as your Patron will let you.

 

Look 6. The Hunger.

You reach the top but it’s not enough, never enough. You have the title – someone has a better one. You take their spot – another house rises above yours and you and your Patron must jump and do battle to the top of the next little hill. Armor yourself in a corset-inspired blazer of pale gold silk that’s positively gothic in its deconstructed details; the high architectural collar tight around your throat, the cobwebby fraying at the cuffs, the whalebones piercing through the fabric in rows of delicate spines down your back. You and your Patron are bringing deconstruction back – they don’t know how literally. Beneath the jacket, a wool sheath dress in a navy like a black hole, that absorbs the light in a way that no shade of blue should. You are getting closer now, closer to the real prize, the real crown at the center of this awful maze you’ve been running for so long. THE PLAN will be worth it. It has to be.

 

Look 7. The Queen The Pawn

Your Patron has betrayed you. Behold your perfect dress, your crowning achievement, trailing destruction in its wake as your eyes are opened to the truth. A tiered asymmetrical gown like the ruin of empires. Every piece of dangling fabric ruched and beaded and tortured down to the very last threads, just like the nerve endings you’ve shredded, the pieces of yourself you’ve warped, the damage you have wrought on yourself and on those around you. 

The ruin was the point, your Patron coos like needles into your brain. The ruin was The Plan. No greater meaning or goal than this: to distract you with pretty objects and to launch you like a pipe bomb into the world, riddling them all – friend and foe – with the rusty shrapnel of your desolation. Setting the blight in so many people. Creating even more pipe bombs in your wake.

Weave it all together in a bodice and skirt so unforgivingly bodycon that the model can barely move down the runway, trapped in your creation. Look how well you have fulfilled my purpose, crows your Patron. Even as you confess, watch them rise to their feet and applaud you for bringing their suffering.

 

Please hold your applause and remain in your seats. 

Hold your applause. 

SIT DOWN.

 

Look 8. The Assassin.

See. The real showstopper, every stitch closed, every seam finished in sweat, tears, and hours upon hours of hand sewing, snatched in those too-bright moments of sunshine when you weren’t looking, oh Patron mine. Pay no attention to the bow and arrow in the model’s hands. It is a metaphor. 

The wide newsprint legs of the divided skirt taper upwards to the curve of the hips and waist, accentuated by an oversized tie-front detail, which let me tell you is extremely hard to execute in paper. The tissue blouse ripples, every fold sculpted with fabric wire. Sometimes it looks like a wave of the ocean, sometimes like a wind blowing across a starry sky, sometimes like your death coming at my hand for what you’ve done to me. For what I’ve let you do to me. This garment won’t last but one trip down the runway and neither will I after this, I know that. But it will do for one final act, as one final piece of my art that you have had no hand in.

Don’t be alarmed, ladies and gentlemen, as I raise my weapon and take aim. I have only one silver and iron arrow and this is my show and I know exactly where you are sitting.

About the Authors

Sarah Turi Boshear

Sarah Turi Boshear is a writer and filmmaker based out of Los Angeles, California, where she lives with one man, two boys, a dog, and a cat. She likes reading, baking, tabletop RPGs, and competitive fashion reality tv shows. She can, on rare occasion, be found online playing games with the crew at Shadows of Archonia (@shadowsofarchonia on Twitch and YouTube)

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Evan J. Peterson

Evan J. Peterson is the creator of Drag Star! (Choice of Games), the world’s first drag performer RPG, as well as The PrEP Diaries: A Safe(r) Sex Memoir (Lethe Press). An author, critic, game writer, and Clarion West alum, his writing has appeared in Weird Tales, Unspeakable Horror 2, Queers Destroy Horror, Nightmare Magazine, and Best Gay Stories 2015. His serialized novel Better Living Through Alchemy is currently releasing digitally, chapter by chapter, from Broken Eye Books, and his first full-length poetry book, METAFLESH: Poems in the Voice(s) of the Monster, is now available from ARUS Entertainment.

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Chelsea Davis

Chelsea Davis is an Audio Producer for Pseudopod. She is a freelance writer and radio producer with an interest in all things weird, and has published stories on topics from cosmetic surgery to zombie musicals. You can fill your eye-holes and your ear-holes with her work by visiting her website, https://chelseamdavis.net, and can subscribe to her monthly newsletter about horror and comedy film at Shrieks and Howls. When Chelsea isn’t busy making stories, she studies them as a PhD candidate in English literature at Stanford University. Her research focuses on horror and the Gothic–meaning she gets to read, write about, and teach creeptastic stuff all the livelong day. Chelsea joined the PseudoPod team as an Associate Editor in 2015 and an Audio Producer in 2016.

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About the Narrators

Kara Grace

Kara Grace is a green witch who lives in Michigan but is always dreaming of running away to New Zealand and opening a crystal shop in the side of a mountain.  She adores the Escape Artists, and has been honored to read for them many times over the last decade. She hopes to branch out in the near future and is always open to new adventures or projects.

 

You are most likely to find her deep in the woods admiring and making friends with bugs and other wildlife, or underwater watching the sunlight filter through the surface. She is an avid gardener and is enamored with herbs and datura (moon flowers) in particular. She also enjoys moon rituals, creating herbal medicine, and hula hooping. She looks forward to a future where she can make a living using her voice to bring the written word to life, or alternately perfect a spell to turn herself into a fox and sneak away into the woods forever.

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Kitty Sarkozy

Kitty Sarkozy is a speculative fiction writer, actor and robot girlfriend. Kitty is an alumnus of Superstars Writing Seminar , a member of the Apex Writers Group, and the Horror Writer’s Association. Several large cats allow her to live with them in Marietta GA, She enjoys tending the extensive gardens, where she hides the bodies. For a list of her publications, acting credits or to engage her services on your next project go to kittysarkozy.com.

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Halloween Bloodfrost

Halloween is proud to represent the Trans and Neurodiverse community and has been a narrator for Escape Artists for nigh on a decade. Zhur began at EA with PodCastle’s mini “Blood Willows” and continued with PodCastle’s “Ties of Silver” (episode 187) before finding a happy and dark home at Pseudopod.

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