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Author Topic: Pseudopod 91: Caesar’s Ghost  (Read 10022 times)

Bdoomed

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on: May 24, 2008, 05:44:16 AM
Pseudopod 91: Caesar’s Ghost

By Eugie Foster

Read by Cat Rambo

I saw my dead ferret, Caesar, last night in my living room. I’d dozed off watching re-runs on TV and woke up to the tickle-prick of whiskers against my hand. When I looked down and saw him, I picked him up and settled him under my chin. We’d always slept like that on the couch, him nestled against me, a warm weight rising and falling as I breathed.

I closed my eyes and remembered; Caesar was dead. I sat up, bang, and he was gone.

I told Richard about it the next morning at work.

“I think my ferret’s haunting me,” I said, hoping to start things on a light note after our rocky parting the previous evening.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Kathy,” he snapped back.

It was the first time he’d ever been sharp with me. An awkward silence sprang up and clocked in for the long haul.


This week’s episode sponsored by Audible.com, who has extended their generous offer of a free audiobook download of your choice from their selection of over 40,000 titles.



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

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Kaa

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Reply #1 on: May 24, 2008, 04:39:17 PM
First of all, I loved this story.  The whole idea of it resonated with me deeply, probably because I have lost my two long-time companions, Taz and Gremlin (both cats) in the last few years.  And who doesn't want to see something really gruesome happen to a guy who can step on a tiny, helpless kitten?

But weirdly, I know I have heard this story before.  I was predicting every scene.  I'm fairly sure I didn't read it in Revenant, though. Weird.

I don't know about others' reactions, but it makes me think. Read about a guy who's mean to or tortures people, and we react with disgust, want him punished and preferably locked away.  But read about a guy who's mean to or tortures animals?  I don't know about the rest of you, but I want him dead.  Preferably in the most gruesome way possible.

So, yeah. This story really resonated with me. Except I didn't think his death was gruesome enough.

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DarkKnightJRK

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Reply #2 on: May 25, 2008, 07:44:57 AM
Yeah, it was kinda predictable, but it still kept my interest. I lost my dog when I was a kid and my current is well on her way, so I can somewhat relate to her emotional trauma in the story, which kinda saved the story from being completely bland in my ears.

Plus it's the first Pseudo that felt more like a horror story since Sons of Carbon County, so that's awesome. :)



sirana

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Reply #3 on: May 25, 2008, 08:19:54 AM
Yeah, did anybody not see that coming? Not a very original story.



cuddlebug

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Reply #4 on: May 25, 2008, 09:11:43 AM
A good story, but it could have done things differently.

Actually, as I listened and the different animals started to appear I expected children, babies or other women to show up, too. Isn't that sad? That probably says more about me than about the story. A few months of listening to Pseudopod and I already tend to predict the worst to come up in the stories. Yay, well done PP.

But back to the story, I enjoyed it, even though it developed very slowly and did not seem so much like a horror story at first. The reading was superb, BTW.



eytanz

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Reply #5 on: May 25, 2008, 06:17:21 PM
My reaction was exactly the same as Kaa's, from the "this seems familiar" to wondering about my reaction to an animal torturer.

I wish that I was allowed to have pets in my flat.



JoeFitz

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Reply #6 on: May 26, 2008, 01:35:00 AM
I was very disappointed by the fiancee = psycho turn for the story. The _only_ man who has ever loved her proposes to her, then "loses patience" when she sees a dead kitten. He isn't scared, horrified or embarrassed - instead, he loses touch with reality and punches her in the face so he can tie her up and "explain" the rumors about him while cooking dinner.

To help things out: in the story, he obviously enters a dissociative state when he commits violence - his eyes goes unfocused as he chokes her until the oven timer brings him back. Unless he's faking that (and nothing in the story suggests this) I'd guess he would probably end up in a psychiatric facility, rather than prison, if he had a half-decent defense attorney. Torturing such a mentally ill person to death seems a fairly extreme punishment. Such a character in a story smacks of ripped from the headlines serial killer cliches.

A little confusion. If she sees dead pets, then a ferret was microwaved? Was that Caesar or the "mirror image" ferret we meet at the end? That felt like a big cheat that the only man she loved had a "mirror image" ferret that he tortured so she can think she's mourning her own pet (and going nuts) when it was his dead pet she was seeing. Which ferret was which?

Every word from PF's mouth after the reveal felt hollow and fell flat to me.

Ghost pets was a neat idea and I think something could have been done with the story without turning to this. I dislike it so much because I was really drawn into the story, until the reveal.

For the record, I do have pets and love them very dearly.

Also, can't resist
Coming Soon: the Seventh Sense - I see dead pets.



Kevin David Anderson

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Reply #7 on: May 27, 2008, 06:04:13 PM
I enjoyed this one - and I don't have pets - in fact I don't much like animals, but Ms Foster's witting built such a strong character that I was sucked in. 
 
I'm reading so many comments lately in both the forum and on the story comment side, about how such and such story is not horror - This or that one doesn't qualify as horror. 
 
So, does anyone have a really good definition of what horror is?   Or are genre definitions organic, always in transition – bending with the times? 
« Last Edit: May 27, 2008, 08:11:18 PM by Kevin Anderson »



MacArthurBug

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Reply #8 on: May 28, 2008, 02:03:15 AM
This felt more like a horror story written for kids. Not terrifically scary, predictable etc. The pacing was good, but I'd like something a little diffrent- personally.

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Chodon

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Reply #9 on: May 29, 2008, 11:27:03 AM
This felt more like a horror story written for kids. Not terrifically scary, predictable etc. The pacing was good, but I'd like something a little diffrent- personally.
I have to disagree.  Nothing is quite as horrific, low, disgusting, or vile as violence against children or pets.  The descriptions of the tortured animals really got to me in the way horror should: a punch in the gut kind of sick mixed with a little cold sweat.  There is no way I would let my kids listen to a story like this.  Then again, I have a major soft spot for pets (see pics of my beautiful hellhound in the cute pet pictures thread).

The overall plot of the story I didn't find especially predictable.  I have a way of just going along with a story and not thinking "what's going to happen next?" when I'm listening.  Maybe that's why.  Overall, I loved it.  My one complaint was with the sound editing.  There were a couple times I could hear shuffling papers or something and it kind of pulled me out of the story.  It was early on though, so I was able to dive right back in.

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cuddlebug

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Reply #10 on: May 29, 2008, 12:01:41 PM
This felt more like a horror story written for kids. Not terrifically scary, predictable etc. The pacing was good, but I'd like something a little diffrent- personally.
I have to disagree.  Nothing is quite as horrific, low, disgusting, or vile as violence against children or pets.  The descriptions of the tortured animals really got to me in the way horror should: a punch in the gut kind of sick mixed with a little cold sweat.  There is no way I would let my kids listen to a story like this.  Then again, I have a major soft spot for pets (see pics of my beautiful hellhound in the cute pet pictures thread).


I have to agree with Chodon here, the description of the pets was pretty horrific and made me slightly nauseous (nauseated?). The kind of torture and cruelty depicted in the story was definitely something that made me shudder. But it seemed like it took quite some time to get to the gruesome part. And the beginning it did not feel like horror yet, but it certainly did as the plot progressed.



DKT

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Reply #11 on: May 29, 2008, 03:56:52 PM
Sound editing that Chodon noted aside, I really liked this story.  And I really liked Cat Rambo's reading of it.  And I really didn't expect to, even though I like pretty much everything I've read of Eugie Foster's on some level.  This one left me incredibly sad -- the image of the pets with her at the end, and Caesar saying goodbye, no longer able to stay with her nearly choked me up.   Damn you, Pseudopod!


DKT

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Reply #12 on: May 29, 2008, 03:58:42 PM
I enjoyed this one - and I don't have pets - in fact I don't much like animals, but Ms Foster's witting built such a strong character that I was sucked in. 
 
I'm reading so many comments lately in both the forum and on the story comment side, about how such and such story is not horror - This or that one doesn't qualify as horror. 
 
So, does anyone have a really good definition of what horror is?   Or are genre definitions organic, always in transition – bending with the times? 


Hey Kevin, check this thread out.  It's pretty much what you're talking about, I think.


birdless

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Reply #13 on: May 30, 2008, 05:22:38 AM
So i've finally took the plunge into PP! And what a story. :-\ I'm an animal lover in general, and our Shih-Tzu is part of the family. We thought we lost her a little over a year ago, and i, at one point, experienced the exact wracking sobs that were described in the story. So, in a way, it hit a little too close to a very vulnerable spot. And I agree with the others that the violence done to the animals was definitely horrific! So, i probably wouldn't listen to this story again, but i did enjoy the creativity of the story.



Chivalrybean

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Reply #14 on: May 30, 2008, 12:07:24 PM

Also, can't resist
Coming Soon: the Seventh Sense - I see dead pets.


I was going to say Sixth Sense, meet Dr. Doolittle.

The story went somewhere I didn't expect, and not in a bad way, so I enjoyed it. Not a super fave, but not bad.

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Kevin David Anderson

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Reply #15 on: May 30, 2008, 02:13:05 PM
Hey Kevin, check this thread out.  It's pretty much what you're talking about, I think.

Thanks for the thread - seems like everyone has a different idea - no wonder there are so many sub-genres. 


contra

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Reply #16 on: May 31, 2008, 12:19:50 AM
Its rare I listen to Pseudopod.  mostly because I can't think of somewhere I'd enjoy listening to it.  I got a few, uncluding this one and just put them on my Zen.

I enjoyed the story.  I liked she thought she was going mad, while an insane person loved her.  She was worried about fantasy blending with reality, when other people had issues with it.

I felt she just began sitting back and letting things happen to her, but then she was emotional already, so I can forgive this. 

It was a good idea and done well.  Congrats.  i'll listen to Pseudo more often, but my search for appropriatness continues!

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Ben Phillips

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Reply #17 on: May 31, 2008, 10:21:10 PM
Its rare I listen to Pseudopod.  mostly because I can't think of somewhere I'd enjoy listening to it. 

I recommend sneaking into a cemetery after dark with a comfortable lawn chair and a flask of chartreuse.



petronivs

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Reply #18 on: May 31, 2008, 11:30:41 PM
I enjoyed this story muchly.  The only improvements I'd be able to offer would be introducing more of the ghost pets earlier. Other than that, I thought it was well done, with a sweet ending.



Chivalrybean

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Reply #19 on: June 01, 2008, 06:44:14 AM
Its rare I listen to Pseudopod.  mostly because I can't think of somewhere I'd enjoy listening to it. 

I recommend sneaking into a cemetery after dark with a comfortable lawn chair and a flask of chartreuse.

I listen at work... <--- read those dots as the ominous silence of the psyche of the human condition of being oppressed to work jobs that do nothing to give a sense of meaning to their existence, driving them to madness.

But hey, it pays the bills and I listen to audio fiction and podcasts all day.

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Listener

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Reply #20 on: June 04, 2008, 01:06:48 PM
I did not like this story.

Let me rephrase.

I liked the idea of a person who can see the ghosts of dead pets.  But when she goes to the shelter, if they ever put down any animals, imagine the flood of ghosts...

The serial-killer-fiancee thing didn't interest me.  The characters, for the most part, didn't interest me.  The ghostiness didn't interest me.  The idea of all the animal ghosts coming to her was a little interesting.

Also, the writing itself didn't seem very artful.  I kept hearing cliched descriptions and overuse of adjectives and sentence construction that I didn't really care for (ie: As she cleaned up the roses and glass, she checked the microwave... *headshake* is she eight feet tall so she can reach both?  Is the microwave on the floor?).  I might have been able to forgive the writing had I liked the story more -- I do, after all, read fanfic from time to time -- but in this case, neither the story nor the writing captivated me enough that I could ignore one in favor of the other.  I think this story needed more revision before it was published, if for no other reason than to get rid of some of the overused descriptions.

The reading didn't seem to have been proofread -- I counted three distinct sound artifacts (mic bumps and the like) and at least one point where the reader messed up on the start of a word and didn't go back to fix it.  I have not liked any of Cat Rambo's readings that I've heard; the dust-bowl story from a few weeks ago, I just didn't like the story.  "Slant of Light" sounded like she was in a bathroom or tunnel.  This one was just not that great.  Her voice for the protagonist was too whiny, and her voice for Richard was too "I'm a woman, so here's an alto version of my voice so you know I'm acting as a man".  I think I'm Cat Rambo'd out... she wrote an EP and narrated a PC in the same week, and I know I'm a couple of weeks late on this story, but that makes three Rambos in a row for me.

And now, something humorous:

A few years ago, I hired this cool guy named Adam to work for me.  He had two ferrets, Waffle and Toast, and he said they were the dumbest pets he ever had.  They would stand on his desk chair, eye the desk, and then launch to the desk.  But their jumps were always lateral -- no arc -- so they would smash into the desk drawers, fall to the floor, and scamper away, only to try again later.  He loved those ferrets, though.

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wakela

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Reply #21 on: June 11, 2008, 12:10:30 AM
Meh,

I didn't find it predictable in the sense that I knew what was going to happen.  But as the story unfolded I didn't find myself surprised by anything.  And the end was a little warm and fuzzy (no pun intended...is that really a pun?) for a horror story.  Also, I found the guy character to be cliche serial killer, and the woman's character not particularly deep.

Good descriptions of the broken animals, though.



Boggled Coriander

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Reply #22 on: June 18, 2008, 01:50:29 PM
Just listened to this one.  I'll admit that I for one did not anticipate Richard turning out to be a psychopath.

Here's a thought I had: presumably the police are going to analyze the scene of Richard's death and reconstruct the sequence of events.  They have one heck of a job ahead of them if they don't take the actions of the undead pets into account...

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Sgarre1

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Reply #23 on: July 09, 2008, 02:42:38 AM
Funny, I just reread "Ricki Ticki Tavi" this week (okay, mongoose, but still) and "Shredni Vashtar" about 3 weeks ago. Odd, that.

Why was this not named "Great...Caesar's Ghost" or "Great...Just Great...Caesar's Ghost" - are there no more Perry White fans?

This seemed like a cute, touching, humorous fantasy story that got sullied by becoming a horror story.  Because a story with a ghost ferret can still be flexible, but if you want a ghost ferret AND a boyfriend/psychopath, that immediately makes it not only a horror story, but a particular kind of horror story, because that's asking a lot from the reader.  Less serious, more (much more) pulpy. So, it's a lot for the writer to juggle and the reader to swallow unless you keep it deliberately cartoonish.

I figured early on that it would come down to the the ghost ferret wanting to "protect" his mistress from her new boyfriend (since those are the two set-ups), but I still figured this would be light-hearted and the boyfriend would be a cad or something.  Or maybe, just maybe, the story would be about the boyfriend learning to live with the ghost ferret because he does love the woman and so it's about them both dealing with a new experience - her, the GHOST ferret, him the GHOST FERRET.  Surely, neither outcomes are horror but then there seems to be a lot of bleed from the other genre podcasts happening here, and they both could be fun in a John Kendricks Bangs or John Collier kinda way.

Well, we get dead ghost animals (a nice effect, actually, and presents another direction possibility - the narrator keeps seeing more and more dead pets - is she mad or just overly sympathetic?), which works, but then we get to the "madman just keeping it under control" and the story loses me there.  Then, it could only have ended as a Roald Dahl-esque, mean-spirited meditation on how we anthropomorphize pets and finished with the ferret finally getting comeuppance on his helpless owner (and that would have been too bitter and dark to mesh with the opening) to even have a chance of working for me.

So, no, not my kind of story.  The writing, separate from the plot, was nice in spots and a little OTT in spots.

Alasdair missed a chance to mention...

Gef the Talking Mongoose
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gef_the_talking_mongoose

...again?  I'm shocked!

Quote
Here's a thought I had: presumably the police are going to analyze the scene of Richard's death and reconstruct the sequence of events.  They have one heck of a job ahead of them if they don't take the actions of the undead pets into account...

Never think like this, it makes even awful movies like LEPRECHAUN seem even more hilarious if you consider what the survivors have to explain to the police!

Thanks For Listening

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Charles Fourier, “Elephant And Dog”
« Last Edit: July 09, 2008, 02:45:21 AM by Sgarre1 »



Myrealana

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Reply #24 on: August 20, 2008, 03:36:23 PM
I started listening to this one in the car, and then picked up my 5-year-old son at preschool. Obviously, PP gets turned off when he's in the car ;), so I didn't get back into it until the next day.

At the point I had turned it off, it was just a silly little story about a woman who thinks her dead pet is still sleeping on her pillow. I was thinking Is this yet another Pseudopod story with no actual "horror" in it whatsoever?

And then, I got to the microwaved ferret, and was, indeed horrified, though I knew it was a hallucination.

I was right with the narrator in her confusion about the dead animals until Richard lost it over the kitten, and then, I knew exactly what was going to happen from then on.

I thought Richard was a bit too psycho to seem that normal most of the time, but it was a satisfying story. Perhaps a bit too predictable, but overall, I enjoyed it, cheered for the animals, if not necessarily for the heroine, and was pleased with the final moments.

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Unblinking

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Reply #25 on: October 21, 2009, 04:57:59 PM
I liked the premise of this one with the dead pets coming back to save her and also to exact their own revenge.  It really hit home with the tortured animals, as I'm an animal lover.  I have 3 dogs who are still quite young, and thinking about them getting old and dying just makes me sick to my stomach.  Thinking about them being hurt or killed prematurely is even worse.  So... I probably won't be listening to this one again, for that reason.

My main complaint about it though was the guy turning out to be another Hollywood psycho.  Once he flipped it registered high on the "meh" scale, despite the otherwise interesting story.



Bdoomed

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Reply #26 on: October 21, 2009, 05:31:15 PM
I have 3 dogs who are still quite young, and thinking about them getting old and dying just makes me sick to my stomach.

I have 4 German shepherds, had 5 yesterday if u know what I mean, she was the fifth dog of mine to go, and even tho she annoyed me it's still sad to see a friend go. However sadly I am so used to it by now it's much easier to accept.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


Millenium_King

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Reply #27 on: July 19, 2010, 10:20:51 PM
This one gets a negative reaction from me.  It's not a strong negative, but I was just completely unimpressed.

1.  The boyfriend's transition from friendly guy to psycho killer is far too abrupt.  I realize it can SEEM that way in real life, but some inconsipicuous foreshadowing would have been nice.

2.  Who didn't see the ending coming?  Ghost of animal friend saves lady.  That was definately not a shock.  Played it straight right up to the last.

3.  Maybe this is just me, but I found this whole thing positively oozing with sickly-sweet sentimentality.  From the friendly critters all too happy to help in an all-too-human way (as if a ferret would know to bring you scissors) to the vengeful animal ghosts to the happy little parade at the end - this was pretty darn close to a Disney movie in my opinion.

4.  The language was lackluster.  Clumsy metaphor and nothing that stood out.  The pacing was good though, cannot fault it there.  The tension might have existed, had the ending not been foregone.  Not to be judgemental or imply anything here, but it felt like the author was simply not brave enough to have anything legitimately bad happen to the protagonist.

EDIT: forgot to add that the reading was GREAT, as was the outro.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2010, 10:28:22 PM by Millenium_King »

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