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PseudoPod 774: Vanity, Vanity

Show Notes

The author had this to share about this piece: “Gothic rural horror and the amorphous disposition of evil have long preoccupied me. Moral and spiritual diffidence have weighed on my mind more recently. The troubling and self-reflective atmosphere of this past year, 2020, seemed a fit time to stew these themes together, to prepare us for whatever fresh plagues may descend. Keep well and be kind in the meantime.”

Vanity, Vanity

by Dan Fields

  1. Let the Day Perish

Lightning had started the fire. That was plain to anyone with sense. Who or what had called the lightning down was another question.

Just after the setting of the moon, a snake of blue fulmination struck the mill which, being made of and fairly stuffed with dry timber, lit the town beneath it. The blaze churned through the valley, jumping narrow bends on Beverly Creek. By sunrise, half the community was cooked and consumed.

The survivors faced ruin on the heels of grief. The dead became objects of suspicion, general opinion holding that the destruction was God’s judgment on some unconfessed evil. Dark speculation first fell on the character of Robertson the barber. Crushed under falling beams and burned alive for his neighbors to hear, he fell in death under scrutiny for his coarse morals. Young women gave damning accounts of him. Others affirmed that he’d spoken profanely in their hearing and was altogether “never a godly ‘un.” Most men kept silent on the point of the barber, whose regular company most of them had shared, yet they were keen enough to speak against the late Mrs. Beaudoin who’d worked one husband to death and worried a second into his grave with incessant ghoulish talk of the first. Cooler philosophical heads proposed a cause more obscure than common impiety, unwitnessed and thus requiring divine retribution. Never did grim conjecture fall on the hoary brows of the ancient or the children’s tousled heads. Only those of prime age for worldly iniquity went before the court of neighborly gossip. The rumors played out swiftly, for after a few perfunctory town meetings and bleak stock-takings, the unburned populace dwindled in a ghostly westward migration.  (Continue Reading…)

PseudoPod 773: The Floor Above

The Floor Above

by M. L. Humphreys

SEPTEMBER 17, 1922. — I sat down to breakfast this morning with a good appetite. The heat seemed over, and a cool wind blew in from my garden, where chrysanthemums were already budding. The sunshine streamed into the room and fell pleasantly on Mrs. O’Brien’s broad face as she brought in the eggs and coffee. For a supposedly lonely old bachelor the world seemed to me a pretty good place. I was buttering my third set of waffles when the housekeeper again appeared, this time with the mail.

I glanced carelessly at the three or four letters beside my plate. One of them bore a strangely familiar handwriting. I gazed at it a minute, then seized it with a beating heart. Tears almost came into my eyes. There was no doubt about it—it was Arthur Barker’s handwriting! Shaky and changed, to be sure, but ten years have passed since I have seen Arthur, or, rather, since his mysterious disappearance.

For ten years I have not had a word from him. His people know no more than I what has become of him, and long ago we gave him up for dead. He vanished without leaving a trace behind him. It seemed to me, too, that with him vanished the last shreds of my youth. For Arthur was my dearest friend in that happy time. We were boon companions, and many a mad prank we played together.

And now, after ten years of silence, Arthur was writing to me! (Continue Reading…)

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

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.

(Continue Reading…)

PseudoPod 771: The Human Chair

Show Notes

“The Human Chair” was originally published in Kuraku, October 1925, as “Ningen Isu.” As this story is in the public domain in its original Japanese, we thought a new translation would be a fascinating project that extends PseudoPod’s 1925 showcase from January of this year.

The Human Chair

by Edogawa Ranpo, translated by Allen Zhang

Yoshiko was accustomed to sending her husband off to work at ten each morning. Having at last gained her freedom, she would then make her way to the study which she shared with him and shut herself within its walls, whereupon she busied herself on a lengthy piece she was writing for the summer special edition of K magazine.

Elegant in stature and beloved by her fans, Yoshiko maintained a reputation enough that even her husband’s lofty position as the secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs paled by comparison. It seemed like every day that she was inundated with letter after letter from her innumerable worshippers. Today as well, as she sat down before her study desk, she made sure to glance through the fresh pile of letters from faceless admirers before beginning her work. Each one was as trite and uninteresting as the last, but Yoshiko, in her warm feminine consideration, would nevertheless read through every message directed to her, regardless of what it was.

After first dispatching with the simpler missives (a pair of envelopes and a postcard), she was left with what appeared to be a rather bulky manuscript sealed in a large envelope. Yoshiko had not received any notice of such a delivery, but even so, having an unsolicited manuscript sent to her was a fairly common occurrence in itself. The majority of such items were invariably dry, long-winded things. Despite this, Yoshiko determined to read the title at least, and so, slitting the envelope open, she retrieved the bundle of papers and looked at the first line.

It was bound with the usual manuscript stationery, as expected. What was unexpected was how it began. Where one would expect a title or author to be displayed, instead Yoshiko saw a line of greeting. “Dear Madam,” it read. Well then, she thought, this must be some form of letter after all. As she casually scanned the next few lines, however, she felt a strange sense of foreboding creep over her. Still, her innate curiosity aroused, she quickly read onwards despite her growing unease. It read as follows. (Continue Reading…)