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Author Topic: Pseudopod 78: In a Right and Proper Place  (Read 8458 times)

Bdoomed

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on: February 23, 2008, 09:56:40 PM
Pseudopod 78: In a Right and Proper Place

By Holly Day

Read by Christiana Ellis


Across the street lives a woman with snakes in her hair. She watches me from between the rotting drapes that keep the sun from melting her living room furniture. Her eyes glow in the dark, and she thinks I can’t see her, but I am not as stupid as she thinks.

I sit at the breakfast table and wonder if she has to feed each snake head individually, or if they’re just like hair, and just need a shampooing, now and then. I imagine her dipping her entire head into a cage full of frightened rats, the snakes in her hair darting this way and that, tangling around each other in their haste to catch the fat ones, the ones with the least demented testicles. Tiny bones crunch in my head as I close my own teeth on a spoonful of raw bran, orange juice instead of milk because milk always makes me sleepy.




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jodymonster

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Reply #1 on: February 25, 2008, 12:29:19 AM
On first listen, I loved it.  Beautifully written, well read.  The line about the outline of her fingers radiating out like the spires of a crown sticks in my head.  Gorgeous language.  And I'm left with a few questions- Did she have schizophrenia? Dementia? Or what? Or can the crossing guard really remove his head? What universe does this happen in?
I worked in an assisted living facility for years, and recognize some of her behaviors- hoarding(mail), paranoia, hiding, delusional thinking-but it's harder to be sure of those (outwardly easily observable) behaviors from her point of view.  I love unreliable narrators. And it makes me think (again) that no matter how hard a crazy person is to deal with, it's got to be a hundred times worse inside their head...  especially if they really aren't crazy at all. 
 I like a story that leaves a few questions, though I plan on listening again, in case I wasn't paying close enough attention. 
I really liked it.  Keep up the good work, Pseudopod; you have me falling in love with horror all over again...
Last but not least, I love the bit in the outro about normality being a consensual hallucination.  I know how you feel. ;)

"If you're going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you're going to be locked up." -Hunter S. Thompson


Kevin David Anderson

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Reply #2 on: February 25, 2008, 01:12:35 AM
A nice peek into the frightening catacombs of dementia. 

I was discussing ghosts and hallucinations with a few folks recently and I remember someone said, "Just because its happening in your head, doesn't mean it isn't real" 

I like this kind of horror - when the monsters are in your head, where are you gonna run?  Its not like you can pick up a surgical drill and go hunting. 
« Last Edit: February 25, 2008, 01:15:10 AM by Kevin Anderson »



DDog

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Reply #3 on: February 25, 2008, 04:33:36 AM
I really liked this one. It was fun and disturbing at the same time. I didn't think that maybe she was just nuts until I read the comments here. The paragraph about trolls just seemed kind of thrust into the rest of the narrative--does anyone have any ideas about that part?

I think my favorite image was the question about whether the snake-lady had to feed the snakes--something I never wondered about gorgons but should have.

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gelee

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Reply #4 on: February 27, 2008, 06:12:33 PM
Very intriguing.  I don't think this was was to my tastes so much, but I can't dispute the quality of the writing.  Good story.



wakela

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Reply #5 on: February 27, 2008, 11:32:52 PM
Neat imagery, but I could have used more plot, more tension. 



eytanz

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Reply #6 on: February 27, 2008, 11:37:17 PM
This one was a bit too abstract for me. Not bad, but not my cup of tea.



Anarkey

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Reply #7 on: February 28, 2008, 01:48:38 AM
I liked this one alright.  There was some pretty prose and some cool descriptions that I enjoyed.  I had two basic problems with it, however, one of which prevented me from really sinking into the piece. 

I couldn't get a handle on the narrator's age until almost the very end.  The clues may have been there and I missed them, but it was truly weird to think of a kid saying that stuff about the troll.  I don't know what gave me the idea the protagonist was young, maybe the simplistic thought patterns and the rather basic sentence structure (which I think were supposed to tell me senile dementia instead but I miscued, I guess), or the voice the reader was using.  Maybe that line about the milk making her sleepy, which I associate with children.  Something just telegraphed young to me and I kept having to readjust my mental picture.  I wish I'd definitively known her age sooner.

The second, less bothersome, catch was that I was never sure whether there was anything independently supernatural or whether it was all related to her dementia.  I'm pretty sure we're supposed to think not, but not completely sure, because many of the things that at first appeared to be dementia (the boy in the fridge, frex) were later made clear to the audience as part of her crazies, while others remained completely unexplained (the snakes in the woman's hair from across the street).  But I can live with that level of ambiguity.

I had a lot of weird thoughts about whether the woman thought she'd gotten rid of/killed/aborted her child or just didn't remember him because he wasn't a kid anymore.  Or maybe there was another child she'd lost?  It was hard to tell. 

There was a lot of thematic recurrence that I was interested in (milk, the safeguarding of children, life observed rather than lived, helpless transformations -- from childhood to adulthood, from adulthood to old age, from hostage to troll wife, and so on).  I would have liked a tighter knit to the weave, and to have had only those delusions which worked within the framework of the main themes to be included (the gorgon felt red herringy from a thematic pov, included in order to highlight the clinical symptoms mentioned upthread).

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Listener

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Reply #8 on: February 28, 2008, 01:27:27 PM
Feh.  The story didn't captivate me.  The reading didn't captivate me.  I figured it out after about three minutes.

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goatkeeper

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Reply #9 on: March 02, 2008, 10:45:45 PM
This story didn't work for me at all.  There was no clear story direction- nothing about the narrator drew me in at all- just abstract scene descriptions and light grossness that felt forced.  Is the narrator a male or female, young or old, troll or crazy?  Do we care?  It seems likely the author was trying to go for the crazy angle, which in the end leaves us with nothing but some imagery and a vague idea of some circumstances.
Ambiguity is like sanity I guess, too much or too little can be bad.



AliceNred

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Reply #10 on: March 04, 2008, 08:36:01 PM
I thought this was wonderful. The imagery. The madness. I like how it invited you to think and did scream what was happens.



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Ben Phillips

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Reply #11 on: March 05, 2008, 12:59:46 AM
The way I interpreted this, she is just an old lady suffering from both dementia (memory loss) and psychotic hallucinations.  Notice that none of the other characters ever seem to observe each other doing anything supernatural, or at least they don't react as such.  They had a crossing guard replaced for spitting gum everywhere, but no one seems to be hunting trolls, etc.  I think she's just a sad, paranoid-delusional old lady who doesn't remember her own family.



Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #12 on: March 08, 2008, 02:39:25 PM

I had a lot of weird thoughts about whether the woman thought she'd gotten rid of/killed/aborted her child or just didn't remember him because he wasn't a kid anymore.  Or maybe there was another child she'd lost?  It was hard to tell. 

...I would have liked a tighter knit to the weave, and to have had only those delusions which worked within the framework of the main themes to be included (the gorgon felt red herringy from a thematic pov, included in order to highlight the clinical symptoms mentioned upthread).

I kept waiting for "something to happen", but I'm not one of those who think that it's a mortal sin for a piece of this length to leave out action.  The horror here is that the world the narrator lives in is "real" and she can't separate the signals generated by her disorder from the signals coming from outside.  It is right and proper that the audience wouldn't be able to sort them out, either.

But the Gorgon, the headless crossing guard and the troll wife all tied together in an important way, I think, to tell us about her life... which can only be done through the filter of her dementia.  The troll wife section told me about her marriage; the crossing guard situation told me how authority figures had treated her (possibly, she sought help with her abusive relationship, and the doctor/pastor/friend told her the old line about "staying together for the children" and "he can't be that bad" - which could be symbolized by the removal of the head except when specifically protecting the kids); and the Gorgon is a fearful symbol for her, associated with betrayal.

Possibly, she had a perfectly normal life, but just buckled under the stresses that come with parenthood.  I know my wife and I have had times when just having to deal with being parents and all the associated trials felt pretty crushingly onerous.  I find it believable that an otherwise "normal" person would develop these kinds of paranoias as a perverse way of coping with life... after all, isn't it better to believe that you are beset on all sides by supernatural monsters than to believe that you can't handle plain ol' livin'?

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DKT

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Reply #13 on: March 10, 2008, 05:39:41 PM
That was certainly interesting, if for no other reason that it was of a different type of story we've heard here for a long time. 


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Reply #14 on: October 14, 2009, 08:29:19 PM
This one was interesting and I listened to it all the way to the end.  I think part of it is that one of my largest fears is contracting Alzheimer's, my mind wasting away while my body lives on.  I liked the surreal perceptions of her own reality, and particularly noted the things she DIDN'T point out, such as the fact that she thought she had a room full of rotting children parts but didn't think it odd that the room didn't smell like rotting meat.

Was her child kidnapped from her when she was younger?  The boy on the milk carton's name was Timmy until she renamed him Tab, and the picture of the unfamiliar people included a Timothy.  Or perhaps she taped Timmy's picture to the milk carton to start with (otherwise that is some oooold milk).



Millenium_King

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Reply #15 on: July 26, 2010, 09:53:45 PM
Before I make any other comments or finish the story, I want to say "Yes!  Wonderful opening sentence!"  I am engaged immediately.  I hope the rest lives up to it.

...and it didn't.  The story has engaging imagery, it's a fun look at madness or dementia - but there is virtually no plot.  The whole thing  is a series of little images and hints that (unsubtly) lead up to the final reveal.  It's a lot of effort to slog through the whole thing for such a trite payoff.

I really had high hopes for this one, but instead of a story where a madwoman matched wits with a medusa, it turned out to be a dull slice-of-life from a "nutty" perspective.

And, the unanswered question is of course: why didn't her family simply visit instead of calling and sending packages?
« Last Edit: July 26, 2010, 11:21:51 PM by Millenium_King »

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Unblinking

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Reply #16 on: July 28, 2010, 02:08:41 PM
And, the unanswered question is of course: why didn't her family simply visit instead of calling and sending packages?

Maybe her craziness made them uncomfortable about seeing their close relative transformed into someone else.  I know it was darned hard to visit my Grandma when she was in a home with advanced Alzheimer's--she never remembered who I was anyway, so she'd just get scared unless my dad was there too (who she usually recognized).



Marlboro

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Reply #17 on: December 21, 2019, 06:37:49 PM
It's been ten years since this story was posted and I'm kind of amazed that I'm the first to ask about this line:


"I imagine her dipping her entire head into a cage full of frightened rats, the snakes in her hair darting this way and that, tangling around each other in their haste to catch the fat ones, the ones with the least demented testicles."

wut?

« Last Edit: December 21, 2019, 06:50:36 PM by Marlboro »