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PseudoPod 811: No One Really Lives Alone

No One Really Lives Alone

by Lesley Hart Gunn

When the priest comes to your house to vanquish your demons, draped in ancient symbols with pockets of holy water oozing from her like sap, don’t ask who sent her. She’ll mark your doorstep with a small crucifix that she draws in the air with a careful and deliberate flourish, and you won’t be able to stop yourself from staring at the indiscernible thing hanging above your door long after she steps over the place where you used to keep a welcome mat. 

She won’t worry herself with introductions or niceties but will take a deep breath as she takes in the state of your living conditions and begins knocking on the floors, walls, and ceilings, calling out to the lesser imps that stay between the rot in your baseboards and sagging drywall. You can tell her not to bother, not to worry about the little things. It’s just the gnawing of rodents or insect damage. Nothing an exterminator can’t handle. She’ll knock and whisper her way down the hall, stopping to lick the walls, to taste the residue of the burnt offering you served up on the floor. She’ll find the leftover ashes since you didn’t bother sweeping them. She’ll ask you if you live alone, which is a trick question, because no one really lives alone, and she knows that. She knows what hides in cupboards and closets, watching and waiting. That’s why she comes.  (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 810: Her Face All Teeth

Her Face, All Teeth

by Greg Stolze

Denny did not want to spy on the confessional, but at the same time, he did. He wanted what he did not want, or he did not want to want what he wanted. As a Catholic, he should have been well-equipped to deal with this.

Unfortunately, he was also well-equipped to spy on the confessional.

Denny had a quiet body. He could sit very still for a long time. He’d gone hunting as a child, and impressed his dad by watching, over the rifle barrel, until a deer revealed itself. Denny’s little brother Bart always got excited when a deer appeared. Bart shot too soon, scaring the prey away. 

In the war, Denny’s still body had let him set up somewhere and wait, and watch. He was mistaken for part of the landscape until someone or something came into view, and became a good shot, and caught a bullet. When he took those shots, his face didn’t change but he felt it. He really didn’t like seeing people die, even enemies. But, as his father had said when Bart got upset about his bad shots, there was no point being a big baby about it. (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 809 : A Pearl as Red as Sin

A Pearl as Red as Sin

by R. A. Busby

 The baby bit hard into my flesh and held there.

It dug into the left side of my womb with a pinprick pinch, sharp and determined. Lying in bed, cheek hot against the old pillowcase redolent of hair and bleach, I imagined the embryo floating through a warm-wet universe, a creature small as a salmon’s egg with tiny biting jaws that tore into the dark walls of my flesh and ate itself a cave to grow inside.

It nestled there, a pearl as red as sin.

But whose? (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 808: Food Man

Food Man

by Lisa Tuttle

Dinner was the real problem.

Mornings, it was easy to rush out of the house without eating; when it wasn’t, when her mother made an issue of it, she’d eat an orange or half a grapefruit. At lunchtime she was either at school or out so there was no one to pressure her into eating anything she didn’t want. But dinner was a problem. She had to sit there, surrounded by her family, and eat whatever her mother had prepared, and no matter how she pushed it around her plate it was obvious how little she was eating. She experimented with dropping bits on the floor and secreting other bits in her sleeves or in her pockets, but it wasn’t easy, her mother’s eyes were so sharp, and she’d rather eat than suffer a big embarrassing scene. (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 807: The Bleak Communion of Abandoned Things

The Bleak Communion of Abandoned Things

by M. A. Blanchard

I accept the house in lieu of a settlement. I don’t want Ashley’s dirty money. The house is the least ill-gotten thing she owns, an isolated property she won in a card game and forgot. We’ve never even been there. I’m hoping that the lack of shared memories will make it a perfect place to hole up while I try to get over her and get on with my life. I’m comforted by the fact that the house is supposed to be haunted. I don’t think I’m quite ready to be alone. 

The ghost doesn’t waste time playing coy. The air temperature drops as I cross the threshold. It’s the kind of April morning that makes sweaters feel stifling, but my breath hangs in the musty hallway like a cloud of damp cotton wool. The door slams shut behind me. It’s fine. I’m used to slammed doors. Keeping calm is the best way to handle fits of pique. I shape my face into a mask of serenity, relax my shoulders, amble further inside.  (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 806 : Garden Empire

Garden Empire

by Chris Matson

I’d bought the house only the week before, when I was still in possession both of my teeth and of my job as the Head of Machine Learning for an Auckland-based startup. A two-story villa with a section of native bush so dense that it baffled the city noise into a murmur.

After David called to tell me I was being pushed out, I wandered in a daze out of the house and into the cool heart of the garden, where I slumped against a tree fern and watched a bumblebee clamber about a lavender bush. Its bulbous shape evoked the image of a furred twitching brain – my brain, I idly imagined, always seeking nutritious data. But where would it feed if the lavender sickened? Would it throb unhappily to a dark corner of the garden, to dine on sullen fungal growths or the entrails of a dead mouse? My mind’s eye would not hold the bee’s gentle fur in the same scope as a rodent’s cadaver, and the bee flickered into a fat black fly, and the fly multiplied into a swarm. Bees, entrails, flies … Mother had often warned me to be on guard against unhealthy mental progressions, and I realized that without a job I would need something appropriate to occupy my teeming mind.

I needed a hobby. (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 805: The Fifteenth Green

Another night at Saunderson’s; a chilly night in early May, cold enough for the fire that roared and flamed cheerfully on the wide hearth that had heard so many strange tales! Saunderson, with his broad red cheerful face and ready grin, had tonight more than ever the air of hiding some surprise that, given the right moment, he would spring upon us—his air of suppressed importance held mystery, his portentous nods and winks at various special cronies as he presided over the familiar Round Table, its shining mahogany laden with good things, meant a new and interesting Something in the offing—or I did not know Saunderson! The newcomer sitting on his right, however, did not look promising—not the sort of fellow, one would have said, to adventure into the strange regions of the Occult . . . a long lean brown man, shy and rather speechless, eloquent apparently on one thing only—Golf. (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 804: Flash on the Borderlands LXI: Dead Man’s Party (April Fools’ Version)

Show Notes

“The Tentacle and You” was originally published in Nature Futures back in 2019.

“Backers” is a PseudoPod Original

“Your Honor, My Undead Client Opposes the Application to Probate His Estate” is a PseudoPod original.

“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.

Day one

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. (Continue Reading…)