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PseudoPod 821: Celestial Shores

Celestial Shores

by Sarah Day and Tim Pratt

Britt drove silently while Ray gazed past her at the beauty of the rock-strewn ocean, beyond the sheer drop-offs and flimsy guardrails that separated the coast road from the end of the continent. They were farther north than he’d ever been in California, heading for Celestial Shores, a stretch of property that began life in the ‘70s as an intentional community and was now full of wealthy retirees with strong opinions about quiet hours and the evils of artificial light… and a few vacation rentals, one of which he’d snapped up at a reduced price on short notice as a way of apologizing for certain things without having to actually say he was sorry.  (Continue Reading…)

PseudoPod 820: Off the Road

Show Notes

This story is dedicated to my daughter Kaetlyn Nicole–one of the strongest women I know. Thank you for always listening when I read my stories out loud.

Off The Road

by Matt Ellis

They’re gonna try to tell you that hitchhiking is dangerous. Mostly men. They’ll throw ‘girl’ in there, possibly lumped in with ‘pretty young thang’ and close out the topic with a crooked wink smile. I get this a lot. I guess the days of Kerouac inspired hippies with a heavy wanderlust and a light wallet willing to extend the thumb to see the open road was somehow overshadowed by the endless list of inevitable horrors lying behind the thin facade of strangerly kindness. 

I blame it on Hollywood—back-lot bungalows full of coked-up Weinsteins ruining the simple things in life by stoking paranoia and creating a fear of everything for a box office money grab. Who are those studio types to tell me what to fear while they’re unzipping for the next pre-production casting couch diddle? What happened to my Meemaw’s generation? The one that climbed trees or drank out of sun-hot garden hoses? I say fuck it. You only live once. And I know better than others that life can be mighty short. You’re lucky if you even see it coming.  (Continue Reading…)

PseudoPod 819: Balloon Season

Balloon Season

by Thomas Ha

I’ve never gotten used to the sense of urgency of summer afternoons, that feeling of being drenched in the thickness of that still, blanketed heat, and trying to think of anything I’ve missed while checking the outside of the house. I make sure to test the plywood boards over each of the windows, and when I feel one by the kitchen shift an inch, I reach for the hammer tucked into my waistband and a few extra nails in my pocket. The banging of my hammer echoes through the neighborhood, joining others tapping away during the preparation for sundown.

It’s still early, but with every lock to check and entryway to reinforce, the hours evaporate faster than any of us like. It feels like I’ve only just started, and Jean calls from inside the house, telling me that it’s almost four, and that the kids are in their pajamas. 

I pick up the false door and lean it against the detached garage, positioning it until it is firmly front and center, then I bolt the side gate and go to the other end of the house. Jean holds the metal dog door up as I crawl back into the kitchen, winking at me as I wriggle onto the tile, and she slides the door down behind me. (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 818: Flash on the Borderlands LXII: Flash Fiction Contest 7 Winners

Overnight Home Companion

by Frank J. Oreto

Position: Overnight home companion for shut in. Must be able to read. Lack of imagination a plus. 

Salary: 250 dollars a night. I’ve never seen who pays. But the cash is there every morning at sunrise. A brown paper bag in the mailbox, twenties and tens. Good money, right? But I need to explain some things. I don’t want you coming in blind like I did.  (Continue Reading…)

PseudoPod 817: Tommy’s Field

Show Notes

From the author: “This story is loosely based on a real person, and when I first heard of the real-life “Tommy” I couldn’t help but think the dead would show their gratitude if they could. I’m a huge fan of Tales from the Crypt stories in which nefarious evil-doers get their come-uppance, but I also wanted to show — and then erase — the artificial lines society uses to divide human beings into varying degrees of worth.  

In the first draft, my outstanding critique group of David Powell, Vanessa Reid and Tony Sarrecchia, all pointed out I’d given my Tommy no reason for his compulsion to attend the indigent funerals. I found that reason in the pandemic and its heartbreaking stories of people dying alone in the ICU with no family or friends there to comfort them. I then had PseudoPod alum and ER/trauma nurse L’Erin Ogle read the revision to make sure that scene was accurate. Ultimately, the point of both the story and how it came to be is that none of us should have to do any of this life – even the end of it – alone. We all deserve to have someone give a damn. And while the motivation for the real “Tommy” differs starkly from the fictional one, I take comfort in knowing he is out there, tending his field.”

Tommy’s Field

By Nathan McCullough

Tommy found the graveyard peaceful.

It was a strange feeling to be sure, especially given what they were there to do, but with the world on fire, an afternoon with the dead seemed a welcome respite.

The slightest of breezes puffed up his long black hair a bit but did nothing to cool him off. It was a hot Georgia day, about the only kind this part of the world seemed to have anymore. Between the four months without a haircut (the COVID cut they called it) and the cloth covering his face, he felt like his head might burst into flames. His body was only slightly more comfortable. He’d drawn the line at a suit jacket today and instead wore a short-sleeved button-down shirt and a tie. He felt like an IT guy in a bad TV movie.

He stared just beyond the gravesite, ignoring the activity to his left. Where his gaze fell, the dead rested, though most of the living didn’t know they were there. Hundreds of unmarked graves lay shoulder to shoulder holding Atlanta’s unknown, unclaimed or down and out. And their footprint on this patch of Palmetto earth was about to grow just a little bit bigger, like kudzu creeping into the road but stopping just where the tires pass by. (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 816: The Goatkeeper’s Harvest

Show Notes

From the author: “When I was seven, I spent the summer on my aunt’s goat farm, and it was quite the experience. Anyone who’s dealt with goats knows that they’re stubborn creatures. They get everywhere. They jump fences, knock down gates. And they look at you in a way that feels too human, like they know exactly what they’re doing. There’s also that way their jaws move when they masticate—side to side. It can feel disturbing—sinister, if you really pay attention to it. When I recently read about Shub-Niggurath, the Lovecraftian god who sometimes appears as a many-legged goat, I remembered my experience and thought, “of course goats aren’t really goats, it’s why they act like that!” and I knew I had a story. For the longest time I’d wanted to engage with the Lovecraftian mythos in a Nigerian setting. This presented the perfect opportunity. In drafting the story I wanted to stress one of the hallmarks of cosmic horror: that nothing is just and we are at the mercy of an indifferent universe. If reader reactions are any indication, I was successful.”

The Goatkeeper’s Harvest

By Tobi Ogundiran

The wind shrieks its displeasure as it rattles the house, rattles it like a child in the throes of a tantrum, and we, little gnats in this container of brick and mud, tumble from our huddle by the table. The awful shriek reaches a peak of fury, and within it I hear the abominable voices of Eleran’s children.

Ebun buries her face in my breasts, breath hot and moist against my skin. “I’m scared, Mama.”

I’m scared too. I’m scared of the wind and what it means, the dark and what it brings. I’m scared for the last bit of wood in the oven and how quickly it burns, the smoke thick in the air like an oppressive blanket, smothering us and smelling strangely of goat.

We all hear the sound: the frantic scratching of nails (or hooves?) on wood. Ebun stiffens against me; Teju’s eyes grow wide in his skull, and as one we swivel towards the door. (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 815: Stinkpit


by Liam Hogan

John Arnold’s traps were full; too many rabbits for one man’s needs. He could try selling a few down The Lamb for a fiver or maybe just a pint, though if he did he’d have to suffer the taunts of “gamekeeper turned poacher”.

It wasn’t accurate. It had been his dad, Bob Arnold, who had been the gamekeeper, for the estate that was now lorded over by a know-nothing Yank. Technically, Jack wasn’t poaching either, because Jack was a landowner himself. Only the gamekeeper’s cottage and its postage-stamp kitchen garden, passed down from father to son, having been unexpectedly bequeathed in the previous estate owner’s will. Unexpected, because who knew Old Man Farrington had a heart, let alone a soft spot for a long serving employee?

The local wags said Bob must have known where the bodies were buried, the Old Man’s second wife in particular. But she’d been thirty years her husband’s junior, so maybe she’d grown tired of waiting for him to die, something he always seemed on the cusp of doing, some ghastly wasting disease with an impossible to remember name. Little wonder the Old Man had become obsessed with the occult, or so the rumours said, when more practical remedies eluded him. (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 814: The Green Scarf

The Green Scarf

By A.M. Burrage

When the Wellingford family became extinct the days of Wellingford Hall as one of the great country homes of England were already numbered. The estate passed into the hands of commercial-minded people who had no reverence for the history of a great house. The acres around the old Hall became too valuable as building sites to be allowed to remain as a park surrounding a country mansion. So the fat Wellingford sheep were driven elsewhere to pasture, and surveyors and architects heralded the coming of navvies and builders.

All this happened many years ago. The old park became crossed and criss-crossed by new roads, and perky little villas with names like ‘Ivyleigh’ and ‘Dulce Domum’ sprang up like monstrous red fungi. Even these have since mellowed, and grown their own ivy and Virginia creeper, and put on airs of respectable maturity. The Hall itself, forlorn and abandoned, like some poor human wretch deserted in his old age, began slowly to crumble and decay. (Continue Reading…)