PseudoPod 804: Flash on the Borderlands LXI: Dead Man’s Party
“Backers”: “My wife and her friends are obsessed with podcasts about serial killers – something I find it hard to understand. My kids are fans of various chirpy YouTube personalities – something I find it hard to understand. This story is essentially me as an old, out-of-touch man in his mid-30s bashing the two together and seeing what falls out. I do suspect, though, that relentlessly cheerful vloggers might have some hidden dark sides to their personalities.”
“Everybody’s comin’, leave your body at the door”
The Tentacle and You
by John Wiswell
Congratulations on your new tentacle! You’re probably one of the first people in your entire civilization to get this gift, and we know how overwhelming that can feel. That’s why we’ve compiled a few tips to coach you early adopters through the first days of the rest of your lives. Welcome to the fold.
Already you should feel unprecedented vigor. Pursue whatever naturally drives you. Go body surfing. Wrestle a bear. Sky dive without a parachute. Do sex if that’s your thing. Thanks to the tentacle’s restorative properties, no injury or infection will last more than a few seconds. It’s pretty cool, right? That durability is going to help you over the next week.
The contact area of your tentacle may itch. Refrain from scratching or trying to remove it. Within the first three hours, the tentacle will have bonded with your nervous system such that agitation will cause it to override your motor control. Nobody likes walking around in public with deactivated arms. Spare yourself the embarrassment and embrace your new self.
You may notice yourself terminating unhealthy relationships without any of the remorse you’d always anticipated. Your priorities are the tentacle’s priorities, and it’s here to help your limbic system get in line. Enjoy the refreshing clarity of thought and renewed ability to focus on tasks. More than 99% of users find they complete their entire day’s work in half the time.
Worried about your boss taking advantage of your clarity and dumping extra work on you? The tentacle has your back. It will sense anyone observing you and alter your behavior to be suitably discreet. This is all between you and the tentacle — for now.
Your life has already turned around, and you’ll want to share the tentacle with everyone you see. It feels almost unbearable not to share it. But please consider restraint.
Try to expose the tentacle to a maximum of three people per hour. Your tentacle is secreting a lot of hormones at this point, and we know you’ll want to run out in public and evangelize its gifts. Don’t overextend yourself. Pick the people you care about the most, and implant tentacle buds into only one person at a time. Do so in private settings, preferably without surveillance equipment.
You love the tentacle and want everyone to share in the joy. We get it. We’re the same way. But you’re hardly the only one out there spreading tentacles. Bide your time. Soon enough, everyone will know.
For most of you, this will be a day of rest and exploring deeper relationships with your neighbors. Through the spore networks, you’ll discover you have more in common than you ever knew. Many say this is the feeling art and drugs were always trying to achieve. Together with your neighbors, drink in what you liked of your culture while it lasts.
Some of you may be confronted by pockets of so-called ‘resistance’. Late adopters of technology are always hostile to change, no matter how much that change improves the standard of living. Rest assured that no matter how much their activity escalates, you are fine. It’s physically impossible for them to harm you at this point.
To minimize the disturbance, simply point at any suspicious person and yell. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing. Your intuition is our intuition. Upon your cry, the tentacle will use the spore networks to alert all other users in a 100-kilometer radius and solve the disturbance through the wisdom of crowdsourcing. These late adopters aren’t a danger to anyone but themselves. With your attentive eye, they’ll get the tentacles they need.
Remember: if you see something, say something.
Last night you might have noticed that you have fewer appendages than you used to. It’s hard to imagine what they were ever for, isn’t it?
Today your husk will begin fully sloughing off. In most cases, this takes under an hour. Don’t worry about making a mess in this process. Ageing does it to us all. The tentacle’s symbiotic microbacteria will digest any discarded tissue while your new form finishes emerging.
So kick back (if you still have legs) and relax in the sun. A minimum of four hours is recommended to charge your photosynthetic batteries. You’ll know you’re ready when all of your body segments are swollen and you can slither comfortably. Don’t exhaust yourself slithering, though. Tomorrow’s going to be a big day!
No matter what anyone says, don’t worry: you cannot be late for this.
It’s not just intuition. Your biorhythmic clock will automatically adjust your mind to anticipate when and where you should line up for the departure. The starship won’t leave without you. You’re part of the next wave of humanity. How could we do it without you?
Upon boarding, slide into your nutrient tub and get to know your new neighbors. You’ll be packed together for several centuries. It might seem funny that the past six days felt like an eternity while the voyage amid the stars feels trivial. That’s perspective for you.
Snuggle up with your fellow tentacle-kin and reflect on how much your species has learnt in the past week. Everything you know could guide a million planets to utopia. In due time, you will help them all. You have so much to share.
by Owen Duffy
Launched: 3 April 2019
Ends: 1 May 2019
Raised: £12,707 of £10,000 target
Hey there, you beautiful people!
First of all, I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you all follow my work. Your enthusiasm is what keeps me going, so thank you!
But I need to get real for a minute. Doing this is hard. It takes time, planning and preparation. Now I’m at a point where if I’m going to keep going, I’ll have to quit my day job and commit to it full-time. I don’t have any sponsors or Big Corporate Backers, and making content for you guys takes a lot of time and effort. That’s why I’m hoping you can help me out.
I’m here to ask if you’ll consider contributing a little bit of cash to ensure I can keep this up. If you’ve never supported one of these campaigns before, it’s really simple. Just choose one of the backer levels below, and if I hit my funding goal you’ll receive some cool rewards. How awesome is that!?
£1 – My Heartfelt Thanks
I know times are tough right now, and if one pound is all you can afford, I’m really grateful to have it. In exchange I’ll send you some good vibes and a great big virtual hug.
£15 – Tote Bag!
100% natural hemp fabric with hand-printed Melting Eye logo. It’s kinda like a secret badge that lets you spot fellow fans!
£30 – Human Fingernail
It’s the first thing people ask when they hear about me, right? “What’s he doing with all the fingernails?” And you know what? I don’t even know! But back the campaign at this level and you can have one as a very exclusive souvenir.
Limited quantity: 0 remaining out of 32
Ships only to the UK, EU, US and Canada
£100 –Blooper Reel
Sure, people think I’m a stealthy predator of the night, but sometimes things go hilariously off-plan! Sometimes they run, sometimes they fight back, one time I slipped on my butt in a pool of blood. Back at this level for access to some of my funniest moments.
£5,000 – My identity!
Ok, this is the big one.
For one super-special supporter, I’ll visit you in person and reveal my identity! You can quiz me for 20 minutes on anything you like: my childhood (happier than you’d think!), how I got started, how I choose my subjects, my favourite pizza toppings…
Of course, once you’ve seen my face you become a little bit of a problem, which brings us to the best part: once our chat is done, you get to become a permanent part of the project! I’ll even take your suggestions on how it happens and where you’ll eventually be found.
I’m not going to lie; it’s scary putting myself out there like this. But with your help, I hope to keep doing what I do for a very long time to come.
Your Honor, My Undead Client Opposes the Application to Probate His Estate
by Clayton Hackett
Your Honor, we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation, to say the least. My client opposes the opening of this probate, as it is wholly inappropriate for his children to institute this action while he is, if not exactly alive, legally speaking, still able to exercise control over and enjoy the use of his own property. Yes, he may be dead from a certain technical standpoint, but look at him, Your Honor. You can’t tell that there is no heartbeat beneath that slightly sallow skin. He functions just as well as anyone, and a good deal better than the applicants in this very courtroom today, I might add. I don’t think anyone questions his mental capacity. The man is brilliant, and the applicants themselves have repeatedly referred to him both publicly and privately as “an evil genius,” even in their very own pleadings to this court. Unfortunately, our state’s probate code is rather ill-equipped at this point in time to provide clear resolution of these issues, since the law as currently written only recognizes this false dichotomy of “alive” and “dead,” when my client is clearly neither. Or both, depending on how you look at it. Moreover, to deprive my client of his property in this manner would be an unconstitutional violation of due process, and it is incumbent on the court to protect his rights until such time as we have clearer guidance from the state legislature.
First, procedurally, I fail to see how the applicants were able to institute this proceeding, as I don’t believe they have obtained a proper and legal death certificate. If Your Honor permits this matter to proceed, we will need to take testimony from the applicants on how they were able to obtain the death certificate attached to their petition, without ever having been able to produce a dead body to the medical examiner. My client is ready to testify that he has never been to the county morgue, never been autopsied, and otherwise never submitted to examination by a medical professional who has pronounced him “dead.” Let it be clear that, for the purposes of this proceeding, my client emphatically denies that he is, in fact, dead.
Wait, I’m sorry, Your Honor. My client wants me to clarify for the record that he may have been to one or more morgues in the past, but not in connection with any of the matters relevant to our case here today.
Additionally, my client had previously been assured by sources he believed to be reliable that all of his heirs had been exterminated from the face of the planet, along with any descendants they might have had. My client is prepared to testify that, had he known his traitorous children were not only still alive but planning to pull a ridiculous stunt like this, he would have executed a new will to have disowned and disclaimed the ungrateful wretches from ever receiving the fruits of his allegedly nefarious labors.
I would also point out to the court that the applicants in this matter had to obtain a writ of possession to forcibly remove my client from his very own home. My client was working peacefully in his workshop, recombining and lengthening telomeres of the recently deceased, when these unruly police officers burst in like thugs, damaging his property and accusing him of violating the laws of God and man. My client is a brilliant scientist, and his work in both life extension and corpse reanimation has been a boon, not only to the university’s reputation, but to the greater intellectual community, nay all of humankind. And yet, the applicants improperly employed the local constabulary to invade my client’s private sanctum to have frivolous and baseless charges of theft and violation of a corpse filed against him, when he had, in fact, all the proper authorizations and permits to possess those cadavers. My client vigorously denies all allegations of criminal conduct and maintains that all such charges are brought against him in bad faith solely for the purpose of retaliation due to his public advocacy for certain policy reforms. If Your Honor so wishes, we are prepared to brief the court on any perceived discrepancy between his esteemed criminal defense counsel’s arguments that, being legally dead, my client cannot be criminally prosecuted. In short, while my client is technically dead for the purposes of analysis under the penal code, his cognitive and physical abilities render his so-called “death” inapplicable under the probate code.
And last, but not least, there are public policy issues that the court should consider. I think we all need to ask ourselves whether we really want to live in a society that permits, much less encourages, children to strip their parents of their possessions, nay, their very homes, even if the parents are undead. Do we want this supposedly evil necromancer homeless and out wandering the streets? Or do we want to make the sensible choice, where he and his legion of reanimated corpses — a small fraction of whom are filling the gallery of this very courtroom today — are all back safe in his own secure laboratory where they won’t be a danger to anyone?
We think the answer is obvious.
About the Authors
Clayton Hackett admits that he is an attorney, and his fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, the Alternative Apocalypse anthology, and the San Antonio Current. He can neither admit nor deny that he can be found on Twitter as @hackett. He otherwise denies all remaining allegations against him.
Owen Duffy is a journalist whose work has appeared in The Guardian, BBC News, VICE and others. He has also written extensively about tabletop gaming, because he’s a massive geek. He lives in Glasgow, Scotland with his wife and two sons and enjoys judo, heavy metal, spicy food and interesting beer.
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 https://johnwiswell.substack.
About the Narrators
Kaz is actually three tentacles in a trench coat, able to mimic human speech through an obscure loophole in Eldritch Noise Ordinances. By day, Kaz pretends to be a member of the terrestrial band When Ukuleles Attack.
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.
The Word Whore
The Word Whore hosted “Air Out My Shorts“, with Preston Buttons, for a ten year stint. The duo narrated unvetted works of listener-submitted short fiction —often absentmindedly, always drunkenly, and completely unencumbered by any relevant credentials— from 2005 through 2015. Rumors of a reboot of this ‘offbeat Canadian classic’ have been greatly exaggerated.