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Author Topic: Pseudopod 97: Mrs Branson Calling  (Read 7325 times)

Bdoomed

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on: July 04, 2008, 07:20:14 AM
Pseudopod 97: Mrs Branson Calling

By Johnny Compton

Read by Phil Rossi

He checked the slip of paper in his pocket yet again. Kayla: 555-6213. She had drawn a smiley face encircled by small hearts after the last digit. She was young, a few weeks past her twenty-first birthday if she had been honest with him, and chances were it would not develop into anything serious, but she seemed nice and Shaun was a hopeless sucker for a nice girl. Maybe it was the alcohol applying a rosy tint to his immediate memories of her. Then again, maybe he genuinely was enamored with her, and she with him. Hell, she must have seen something she liked in him; she had even bought him few drinks. A small gesture, but he had been out before with girls who were undoubtedly interested in him but hadn’t bothered to pay for their own drinks, much less buy him one. So maybe…



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koda

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Reply #1 on: July 07, 2008, 01:41:56 PM
Meh... not so much. =(

I have a terrible imagination - except when it comes to crap that scares me.  I don't like it when I get bored with the storys’ direction and then start creating alternate endings. 

I am a horrible writer, damnit! =)

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Listener

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Reply #2 on: July 08, 2008, 12:54:50 PM
It's a shame the reading was so good*, because the story didn't hold me at all.  When seen through Alasdair's outro, I understood it a little more, but I didn't really care at all about the characters and I was confused -- was Shawn at Kayla's (?name) when he checked his pocket and reviewed the number, or was he at home?  He said he should be going home, and then he was suddenly there, but why would he be calling his friends to pick him up?

Anyway, I think this was striving for the tone of "Brothers", one of my favorite PP stories, which is horror that doesn't scare or horrify you but nonetheless fits the bill as a suspenseful, good story.  It just didn't succeed.

But bring back Rossi for more readings.

* Except for the voice of Mrs. Branson.  It sounded like he was trying to do an impression of President Bush.

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Cerebrilith

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Reply #3 on: July 08, 2008, 12:57:55 PM
Some good creepy imagery in this one, especially Mrs. Branson's physique early on.  I kept expecting horrible things to happen to Shaun that never quite came, but I enjoyed the anticipation of it.  The ending with Mrs. Branson turning to dust left me wondering just how old she really was and what was different about her and/or her son.  The story ended with me wanting to know more about what was going on.  This was a good story.



wakela

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Reply #4 on: July 09, 2008, 12:16:27 AM
You don't see a lot of low socio-economic, urban settings in horror.  Probably because the writers don't know too much about it.  So I like it that the author was doing something new in that regard.  Though a few words of description about the building would have helped put me there.  I kept imaging a more middle-class apartment building.

The descriptions of other things were good and interesting, but I had a problem with how the story was put together.  Like others, I was having a hard time determining where we were and what time it was at the beginning.  Was he going out to meet the girl, or just coming home?

Based on the initial description of Mrs Branson's breathing, and then the physical description of her body, I imagined a victim of some supernatural horror lying in heap on the elevator floor.  So Shaun's apathetic reaction seemed unnatural at first.  Though the description of her body was great. 

A lot of story time is dedicated to non-scary (and not too fascinating) activities and introspection.  The pace should have been quicker and more intense.  No time to think back on that nice girl he met or chat with the annoying neighbor.  And I was expecting a chilling payoff at the end rather than a sweet one.   I thought the ending was fine if it hadn't been on a horror podcast.  But I think Shaun needed to be punished for his initial refusal to help Mrs Branson.

The reading was very good, though the southern accents seemed out of place.



Void Munashii

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Reply #5 on: July 09, 2008, 12:30:07 AM
  I had a hard time keeping focused on this one, but I liked it quite a bit more than last week.

  I like that PP periodically runs this sort of story, where the horror is not of the bogeyman jumping out at you with an axe variety, but the very real horrors we may all experience in our lives. the idea of being the only witness to the death of someone alone and seemingly unloved is very scary in a very real sense.

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birdless

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Reply #6 on: July 09, 2008, 02:06:02 PM
You don't see a lot of low socio-economic, urban settings in horror.  Probably because the writers don't know too much about it.  So I like it that the author was doing something new in that regard.  Though a few words of description about the building would have helped put me there.  I kept imaging a more middle-class apartment building.

The descriptions of other things were good and interesting, but I had a problem with how the story was put together.  Like others, I was having a hard time determining where we were and what time it was at the beginning.  Was he going out to meet the girl, or just coming home?

Based on the initial description of Mrs Branson's breathing, and then the physical description of her body, I imagined a victim of some supernatural horror lying in heap on the elevator floor.  So Shaun's apathetic reaction seemed unnatural at first.  Though the description of her body was great. 

A lot of story time is dedicated to non-scary (and not too fascinating) activities and introspection.  The pace should have been quicker and more intense.  No time to think back on that nice girl he met or chat with the annoying neighbor.  And I was expecting a chilling payoff at the end rather than a sweet one.   I thought the ending was fine if it hadn't been on a horror podcast.  But I think Shaun needed to be punished for his initial refusal to help Mrs Branson.

The reading was very good, though the southern accents seemed out of place.
I think i agree with everything wakela said; i just wanted to expound a bit on the confusion from the Southern accent. That jarred me a bit, too. I had been picturing NY or some place up north because of the cold weather (not that we don't have it down here—it's just not a usual descriptor of the South). Sure, she could have been a transplant, but it just seemed unnecessary and confusing in the story.



philrossimusic

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Reply #7 on: July 09, 2008, 11:29:16 PM
Thanks for the compliments on the reading. :) 

As for the Southern flavor--for whatever reason, I'm not really sure why--I pictured the apartment complex in some humid, dreary, and rundown southern sprawl.  I thought the tale certainly had it's peculiar charm and I did enjoy reading it. 


Thaurismunths

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Reply #8 on: July 10, 2008, 02:19:02 AM
Thanks for the compliments on the reading. :) 

As for the Southern flavor--for whatever reason, I'm not really sure why--I pictured the apartment complex in some humid, dreary, and rundown southern sprawl.  I thought the tale certainly had it's peculiar charm and I did enjoy reading it. 
Great reading... and, have you been hiding?

This story was good, though could have used more zombies.
I didn't seem to have the same trouble following the action that other had mentioned, but I did feel a little let down by the bitter-sweet ending. What was the point of the horrible visions if nothing bad was going to happen? Where's the murder? Bleeding walls? Bar full of corpses that look at you when you're alone??
In the end I think the whole thing was just the drugs that were slipped in to Shawn's drink.

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Sgarre1

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Reply #9 on: July 17, 2008, 01:29:19 AM
Well, this was a fairly well-written, touching piece.

Not horror, which seems to happen a lot around here.

Don't know why the woman turned to dust but I don't think it mattered (so then maybe it shouldn't have been mentioned?).  This all seemed kind of half-baked. I, again, liked the less-ambitious scale but it seemed like something was missing.

Thanks for listening

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JoeFitz

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Reply #10 on: July 17, 2008, 02:36:08 AM
I enjoyed this piece, but I think it would have benefited from being even shorter, to tighten the pacing. There seemed little need of the girl in the bar, the boys outside or the horny next door neighbour.

A pretty good PP.



DKT

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Reply #11 on: July 17, 2008, 11:04:15 PM
I'm pretty much with Listener on this.  There was some interesting stuff here, but a lot of the metaphors and similies didn't work for me, and in the end, really distracted me. 


Schreiber

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Reply #12 on: July 19, 2008, 07:26:58 AM
The story reminded me a lot of Harlan Ellison's "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs," which hones in on a single apartment complex and makes good use of a limited omniscient narrator in much the same way the author has done here.  In fact, I think it might have helped Mr. Compton to have taken a page out of Mr. Ellison's book.  Er, short story.

I hear what people are saying about tightening the pace of the story, but I actually think it could easily go the other direction.  The less time the story has to work with, the more crowded it's going to feel.  The neighbor, the girl from the bar, the possible hoods outside the building...sure, they seeem unnecessary, but without them it's just a story about a guy wandering through and around his apartment building and finally finding his way into Mrs. Branson's bedroom.  I think Compton might have had an easier time of it if he'd given the readers a week or so to get to know the narrator before forcing him into such a terrible position.



Chivalrybean

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Reply #13 on: July 20, 2008, 07:32:14 PM
Yeah, Rossi reads amazingly. The part with the elevator, where she backed out a bit, was just as creepy as the elevator scene in The Eye (the original Pang Bros. version). I found the fact that the guy took the time from his day to give some crazy creepy old lady a peaceful death, that made me like the guy.

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Listener

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Reply #14 on: July 24, 2008, 04:26:22 PM
Yeah, Rossi reads amazingly. The part with the elevator, where she backed out a bit, was just as creepy as the elevator scene in The Eye (the original Pang Bros. version). I found the fact that the guy took the time from his day to give some crazy creepy old lady a peaceful death, that made me like the guy.

That scene in the original Eye scared the poo out of me.

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csrster

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Reply #15 on: August 28, 2008, 07:21:09 AM
I assumed that she turned to dust because SHE WAS ALREADY DEAD. (Whooooooohaaaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!! cue creepy music.)
Not that that makes much sense, because then why was her door open and why did the sex-crazed skanky neighbour think she had heard the son visiting that day? But if she wasn't already dead, why was she quite evidently haunting the building? Can one also be troubled by the unquiet spirits of the nearly dead? That's a spooky thought.

So this story scores high on characterisation (Shaun's wrestling with his conscience, the skanky neighbour, the sketched-in abusive relationship between Mrs. Branson and her son), high on creepiness (the elevator, the footprints), but low on plot coherence.



Unblinking

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Reply #16 on: October 21, 2009, 04:47:25 PM
Meh.  There was just too many irrelevent and unexplained plot elements.  Why the drunken, lusty neighbor if she doesn't affect anything that happens?  Why does the lady crumble to dust?  Why the visions?  I sort of got the impression that the old lady was a zombie or a ghost or some kind of incarnation living on beyond its time trying to take care of her son, and in the end she realizes she needs to move on.  But if that's the case, why are disappearing incarnations of her appearing in the elevator and stairwells.  It just didn't make sense.




Millenium_King

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Reply #17 on: July 14, 2010, 11:56:30 PM
Very, very, very unimpressed with this one.  It was a weak, overused idea - both the person disintigrating instantly because they'd clung to life too long - and the stranger pretending to be the loved one of a delirious, moribund family member (and yes, Star Trek already did it too, Voyager to be specific).  I held out to the last, hoping for the twist which would save things - and, alas, it never came.

The language was good, but had no sense of timing or pacing.  Scenes which should have been punchy instead dragged on.  When a clipped fragment appended with a colon like ":Randy, her son." would have sufficed there was instead a looooooong sentence that conveyed the same information.  More attention to the changing in pacing conveyed by sentence length would have helped this one.  Well... it would have helpled the prose, anyway.  The idea and plot would have required much more to resolve.

Another sad fact about such well-treaded ground is that it invites comparison to the masterworks of said niche.  In this case, "Cool Air" by H. P. Lovecraft and "The Novel of the White Powder" by Arthur Machen - both of which pull off a similar idea, but with much more terror.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2010, 12:00:23 AM by Millenium_King »

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