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PseudoPod 858: Flash on the Borderlands LXV: Fecundity

Show Notes

“On the Getting of Husbands and the Spawning of Children” previously appeared in Arsenika in April 2021

“The Chairmaker’s Daughter” is a PseudoPod original

“Concerning the Fantastic Native Flora of the Indo-Chinese Padma Valley” is a PseudoPod Original. The story is inspired by the giant flower found in Southeast Asia, canonised into Western science by Thomas Stanford Raffles and Joseph Arnold as Rafflesia arnoldii.

“The surface of Earth heaved and seethed in fecund restlessness. Earth was most fertile where the most death was.”

On the Getting of Husbands and the Spawning of Children

by Sophie Sparrow

Deep in the woods, where the sun’s light never reaches to break apart the shadows, through a thicket of brambles and stinging shrubs, there stands a house. It is not made of gingerbread, nor does it walk on chicken’s legs. But it is, for want of a better word, home.

(Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 857: Of Dark That Bites

Of Dark That Bites

Jess Whitecroft

“Where do we go when we die?” asked Bea.

She was in her car seat, a masterpiece of straps and safety standards that did less than nothing to assuage the mad patter of Lucy’s heart whenever she had to drive over Brassknocker Hill. The slopes were too steep, the roads too narrow. Recently someone had crashed into one of the low walls at the side of the road, opening a snaggle-toothed, hazard-lit gap in the stone. Nobody had gone over as far as she knew, but every time she passed the gap her heart leapt in her mouth and her head crowded with gory pictures. The smallest skid would do it. No time to even panic – just a roller coaster lurch in the pit of the stomach, a screech of tyres trying to grip, and then a blur of Cotswold green before the lights went out. Her skin was still crawling from a recent conversation with someone who was supposed to be a rational adult, and now here was her seven year old daughter coming in hard with the existential questions. (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 856: Them Doghead Boys

Them Doghead Boys

By Alex Jennings

Things got bad bad once the Ravels was gone. Five-Oh swooped down and arrested damnear eighty of them and after that wasn’t nobody on the corners slingin but things wasn’t no safer. Up at the corner of Brainard and Josephine there was a murder at five or six in the evening. I say “murder” cause what else you’d call it? Wasn’t even boys from the neighborhood. Ole Ronny was just riding his bike like he do and three boys started grittin on him and woofin at him, saying they was gone take his wheels. He said leave him alone, but they didn’t and he called down a piece of the night and it wrapped around two of them, caught em up and then dropped them down from real high, hit the third boy and he just lay in the street with his spine broke and ruined bodies piled on top of him and he didn’t die til later in the hospital. Wasn’t no shit like that when the Ravels was still around. Monster shit.

Vampires ain’t so bad. They’re predictable, mostly. Yeah, they need blood, but they only out at night and somebody got to give them permission. In the movies they need permission to come inside but in real life they need permission to get you at all. Anybody can give permission, though.

At least they got rules. Dogheads don’t need permission for nothing. (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 855: And The Water Said Kneel

And The Water Said Kneel

by V. Astor Solomon

The river claims her like a lover, like someone who needed her whole and open and honest. It feels like she’s supposed to expose her throat, to bow for the very water itself, or at least for the man who put her there.

She doesn’t want this though, she never has, not now and not ever. What she wanted was to kiss a man and have a nice time with him, maybe wake up in the morning to breakfast or just a cup of coffee and conversation. She wanted to walk away from an easy encounter with a little money in her pocket and go home so she can watch TV, or read.

What she got instead was sex in the woods, her back pressed into the ground as the stars lit up the night. His hand on her throat, and a blackout before she even realized he wouldn’t stop if she told him to.

And now the river surrounds her, envelops her, holds her down, keeps her under no matter how hard she pushes against the water. She’s not going to live through this, she knows that, and she can’t stop hating the man who put her here. More than that, she hates herself for letting him do this to her. (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 854: Bones in It

Bones in It

by Kristina Ten

Besides the vedma who lived behind the stove in steam room three, the banya in Grand Lake Plaza was the same as any other budget day spa on Chicago’s West Side. It had deep-tissue massages and signature facials, plus day passes for the communal baths and steam rooms. There was a cucumber water dispenser in the lobby, and a little sign on the front desk that invited guests to “nama-stay a while.” The robes and slippers were cheap, scratchy polyester, but enough people tried to steal them that the owners figured they couldn’t be that bad. Mother’s Day specials, wind-chime music through the speakers, punch cards to get your tenth foot rub free. Yes, the banya in Grand Lake Plaza was the same as any other day spa—except for the vedma who lived there, of course.

The vedma had long black hair and two wide mouths: one for talking, cackling, snoring, singing, and casting spells, and the other exclusively for eating. The first mouth had a wet, gray tongue that flopped wildly like a caught fish. The other had countless teeth, tall and pointed, which stretched in every direction like a dense forest. She crouched behind the stove, her many breasts sagging to the floor, pinked by the warmth of the burning coals, until it was time for dinner.

The former owners, Pavel Korneliev and Masha Kornelieva, had opened the banya in Oak Park on the last snowless day before the longest, coldest winter on record. The vedma moved in that very night. (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 853: Oni in the Box

Oni in the Box

by M.M. Schill

Now, Sobo was our late father’s mother. By our mother’s accounts she was mad, if not wicked. Gossip ran muddy in our family. One relative, now deceased, told me she was once the personal Tay? of the now equally dead Abetake Risu; former, and most honorable, Daimyo of Ouja-jo. Another cousin was far more grandiose in his anecdotes–better known as rumors–claiming that she was a river-witch that bedded Tengu in exchange for the Fortunes’ secrets. Notwithstanding, I never met her, or knew her as I knew our mother’s mother. As our father’s mother, she was distant; only slightly more distant than our late father was.

So, you can imagine our surprise when her steward arrived at our little hovel to announce that we were mentioned in her will.

Even still, knowing what I know now, I would not doubt my Sobo’s wickedness after seeing the long, hideous shadow she casts even now in death; maybe from the shadowy belly of Yomi itself. Perhaps even down in The Realm of Bloody Murder where wayward spirits are eaten, excreted, and eaten again by the Oni King himself. (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 852: Every Body Depicted Is Exploited

Every Body Depicted Is Exploited

By Elise LeSage

Everyone knew that Pamela was the only real artist there. The rest of us were just play-acting. The sensible ones, like me, figured out pretty early on that the program was a joke. Formulaic. Easy to phone in. Still, there were plenty of students who told themselves they had a shot at creating something beautiful, even as Pamela blew them out of the water again and again.

I joined art school because I thought it would be easy—or because I thought I would be good at it, I can’t remember which. I’d grown up reading comic books and, for a while, I had this dream of being a line artist. Then, I watched other illustrators finish in an hour what would take me five. I saw how many entry-level jobs asked for whole years of experience. I lurked on r/starvingartists, regularly. I managed my expectations. I began imagining a future of illustrating construction manuals, or safety pamphlets, or the fall leaves that rain down the borders of corporate e-blasts. I didn’t want these jobs, these lives, but still, they felt lofty. Maybe that’s why I started giving up.

I don’t remember meeting Pamela, but I do remember her first project: a wall-sized hole that might have been a painting, or might have been a projection; it was hard to tell. Either way, it had a flickering, 3D quality that made me afraid I would fall in.

Then, there was the greenroom vanity whose mirror made its subjects look like they were laughing. Some say it made a sophomore go insane—but that was just a rumor, probably. (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 851: Flash on the Borderlands LXIV: Purification

Show Notes

Candlemas: “February 2, 2023 is Candlemas.  I’ve always had a thing for microfiction -tiny, jewel-like figures, acting out their passion play to the chiming of a pocket watch. Repetition seems to polish such tales, not wear them down, till they shine like fairy stories, eternally recommencing in some corner of the mind.”

That so the superstitious find

No one least branch there left behind:

For look, how many leaves there be

Neglected, there (maids, trust to me)

So many goblins you shall see.


by Don Mark Baldridge

In silent, black and white; handcranked, 16 frames per second: A large piece of driftwood washes up on this cold and miserable island. The devout recognize something in it. Believe they can trace, in its gnarled whirls, the figure of the Virgin.

These simple people build a small chapel of rough fieldstone and enshrine it there -an upright, kneeling shape.

A hundred years later, the chapel has fallen into ruin. Crossfade to expired Fuji 16mm color stock, pushed slightly, grainy and handheld: The former fishing village all but abandoned, the sun closing in on the sea.

Two girls, foreign backpackers -long legged in bright shorts: orange, yellow- hike across the island. They barely share a language, communicating, instead, by helpful gestures.

A man in a low cap, driving an unmarked lorry, brakes for them, offering a ride. They climb eagerly into the cab.

But he attempts to take them beyond their turning, up into the hills, the coming darkness. He won’t stop to let them out -hardly looks at them- but accelerates up the incline. (Continue Reading…)