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PseudoPod 780: Flickering Dusk Of The Video God

Flickering Dusk Of The Video God

by Luciano Maeano

A fresh burst of white noise roars through my head and jittery tracking lines wiggle and squirm through my vision again, even worse this time. The world stretches and distorts like in a mirror in a funhouse that’s no fun at all.

The girl behind the bar pushes my pizza and a sixer of sweaty beers forward, a look of disgust on her small-town pretty face. If this were a movie she’d be played by Lori Petty, circa a few very hard years after Free Willy. She was nicer to me yesterday, even nicer when I first came in four days ago. I know how I look, enacting this, our daily routine, in the same wrinkled clothes again. I know what she’s thinking.

I desperately shove my fingers into my eyes until pain stars flare up and drive away the other stuff, blink hard. Things are normal again, and I realize I know this girl. I’ve seen her before, and not just in the bar.

She’s on the tapes. (Continue Reading…)

PseudoPod 779: Trowel, Brush, Bones

Show Notes

Sites that help with and advocate for the safety for women:

Trowel, Brush, Bones

By Audrey R. Hollis

We arrive at the compound outside Huanca just after midnight. We are tired and hungry and altitude sick and irritated by the spotty signal. We keep refreshing our phones, which had guaranteed service, even in the mountains. 

We pile out things on our beds, claiming the top bunk, claiming the bottom bunk, claiming the place by the window. One of us shuts the door. One of us puts her bag on the bed and asks, have we heard? 

We have not heard. We have heard and had hoped it was not true. We have been hearing for years but those sorts of rumors go around about every professor and anyway, our boyfriend likes him. We have heard but we need the credits. We have heard, we know the girl (one of the girls), but we are going to be so careful.  (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 778: Live From The End Of The World

Live from the End of the World

by Frank Oreto

Highway 28 vanished and reappeared as the windshield wipers fought a losing battle against Hurricane Francis. This storm was Harriet’s big chance. She only hoped she’d live through it. The news van hydroplaned for a heart sickening moment, then the tires caught asphalt again. “Maybe this wasn’t my best idea.”

Pete, Harriet’s cameraman, sat hunkered low behind the van’s steering wheel, eyes slitted, chin jutting forward in concentration. He shook his head. “You wanted to be in front of the camera. Now you will be. Though I still don’t know why. Behind the camera is where the action is, and you’re good at it.” 

“Everybody needs a dream, Pete.” Harriet had started working for WRBC a year ago, her communications degree still warm. She rose rapidly from intern to assistant producer. Her coverage of the Hansen High Lunch Lady Strike was even up for a Murrow Award. But they never put her in front of the camera. And despite her achievements behind the scenes, in front of that camera was where she wanted to be.

When other girls were dancing around their rooms singing Katie Perry songs, Harriet had read news articles into a hairbrush-microphone in her best anchorwoman’s voice. Strong and confident, speaking truth to a world hungry for answers. She’d never lost that little girl’s dream, but desire and good elocution weren’t enough, at least not for the management of WRBC. You had to look the part. At almost six feet tall, with thick features and hair that frizzed at the barest hint of humidity, Harriet did not.

Then came hurricane Francis. Standing in gale-force wind and rain was the one on-air opportunity no one wanted. No one but Harriet Connors. (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 777: Flash on the Borderlands LVIII: Graveyard Smash

“Devil on your back, I can never die”

The Family

by Margaret St. Clair

“Perhaps David really loves her,” Mother said indecisively. “We wouldn’t want our boy made unhappy, you know.”

Kate threw back her head and laughed. The lamplight glinted brightly on her long, strong teeth. “Of course he does,” she cried in her raucous voice. “Of course he does. Desperately, enormously. Otherwise, why would he want to marry her?” From the ceiling of the dim, raftered room came the obedient echo, “marry her … marry her …”

“Kate’s always been in love with her brother,” Lance said from the other side of the room. Lance was thin; David had never known anyone as thin as Lancelot. “She really must learn to watch out for it. Our family name’s Vlchek, not Volsung, Katharine.”

Everyone laughed. A bright glance of understanding, of shared, familiar mirth rippled from face to face. Only Kate, rumbling in her throat, refused to see the joke.

“No offense meant, Katharine,” Lance said with a touch of haste. “None at all. But it was agreed long ago that David was the only one of us who could pass for more than a day in the outside world. He has certain qualities which make him remarkably, outstandingly, attractive to the opposite sex. There’s no occasion for heartburning. Whatever it is he does, he does for us.”

“But if he really loves her—” Mother repeated, staring down at the worn greenish webs on her hands. “If he really does …” (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 776: Papa’s Wrench and the Wind Chime

Papa’s Wrench and the Wind Chime

By Marianne Halbert

The patch of fog on the window, expanding and fading with each breath, was the only proof that I was still breathing as the school bus turned the corner. The driver slowed, and the brakes made a squeaking, squealing sound. It reminded me of the mice my brother used to feed to his snake. Of that sound they made before the fangs released a blessed silence. Most of the kids, including me, were sitting two to a seat. We were still a block away and had just passed the Dead End sign when I heard the wind chime. Dainty at first. It always sounded dainty at first. Then clanging as the breeze picked up. I knew what hung from that oak tree. We all did. And we knew what was making that sound.

Every time we drew near that house, I thought of this old album my mom put on the turntable at Halloween. Sound effects like creaking floors, screeching cats, and a thunderstorm played as a woman with an overly dramatic, yet convincing voice described a “dilapidated” house. It was only mid-September now, but I heard that woman’s voice in my head. I looked at the Monstrum place, with its drooping gutters, missing shingles, and peeling paint. I mouthed the word dilapidated, and the patch of fog on my window grew again.

The bus rolled to stop. The Monstrum kids stood motionless, waiting, behind a broken porch banister. They all had a certain look about them. Lanky, with long straight hair that had never seen a barber’s shop or a beautician’s blade. Some said they all wore black eye shadow on their upper lids, but I was among those convinced the lids themselves were a smoky black. The older ones wore gloves all the time, and spoke through practically closed lips. I watched the horde of them descend those warped front porch steps. In one motion, like a flock of birds, they moved across their overgrown front lawn. Dandelion seeds scattered on the wind, and a few of the Monstrum girls blew kisses after them. A shiver ran through me at the thought of those wishes being granted. Gunther, the oldest boy in the group, led the V formation. (Continue Reading…)

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PseudoPod 775: Miss Mack

Miss Mack

by Michael McDowell

When Miss Mack showed up in Babylon in the late summer of 1957, nobody knew what to think of her. She had come from a little town called Pine Cone, and had a brother back there who did ladies’ hair in his kitchen. Miss Mack was a huge woman with a pig’s face, and short crinkly black hair that always looked greasy. Her vast shapeless dresses of tiny-patterned fabric seemed always to have been left too long in the sun. She always wore tennis shoes, even to church, because, as she candidly admitted, any other sort broke apart under her weight. (Continue Reading…)

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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…)

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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…)