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Author Topic: Pseudopod 126: The Ashen Thing  (Read 11948 times)

Bdoomed

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on: January 24, 2009, 08:53:56 AM
Pseudopod 126: The Ashen Thing

By Paul Mannering

Read by Ben Phillips

I dropped the half-eaten turkey on rye back on my plate and stared darkly at the new wheel-chair ramp, a big yellow exclamation mark visible from the sidewalk. Warning! Freak in Residence! Imagining the whispered concerns of our new neighbors was fuel for the fire of my self-pity. I was so lost in my gloomy fantasy that I did not notice the first tapping until it became a knocking, and then a scrape. As if someone had hit the wooden deck under my wheels and then dragged a hands worth of nails along it. I glanced around; Tammy had not re-emerged. I looked down. A glint of something wet. Something like an eye or wet flesh, staring up from the darkness under the deck. I twisted the steel rims under my hands and adjusted my position to look again. The thing was gone. I listened, and for a moment, I heard a sound like a wet blanket dragging on dirt, then Tammy re-appeared and the sound was lost under her footsteps and sigh of satisfaction.

“You done?” she asked, indicating my abandoned plate with one moisturized hand.

“Yeah, thanks,” I was still turning the fragment of a moment over in my mind. I had seen an eye. Someone was under our house. Crawling in the dust and dirt, under the decking, under the floors, slithering around the concrete pilings, the ducting of the central heating that terminated in black metal grills in our floors and doing what? Listening? Searching for a way to break in?



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

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


deflective

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Reply #1 on: January 25, 2009, 07:19:56 PM
gah! good job with this one



Zathras

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Reply #2 on: January 26, 2009, 12:17:17 AM
I'm undecided about this one.  I want to give it another listen in a couple of days before I get into what I think of it.



Sgarre1

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Reply #3 on: January 26, 2009, 11:37:24 PM
Solid monster story.

Extra points for not trying to explain what the thing was or where it came from, having an indeterminate ending and using a disabled character to good advantage. Also, plus points for the dog being neither hero nor villain, just a dog.

A few points lost for needing a little more editing - All that build-up, like an unimportant description of a picnic and a totally unnecessary sex scene, feels like padding when one reflects that the thing just shows up and attacks. Could have done with more tease from the actual threat.  The description of the creature, while starting nicely pulpy, went a bit overboard in the florid writing area (did the author really intend to use the word "fecund", meaning overly fertile, to describe some aspect of the creature?) and where were the editors when the paralyzed man with the severed spinal column feels the dog pass over his ankles (the bit where the dog is biting his foot was good, although written in a way that we can't tell whether this was painful for him or just distracting, given the fact that's he's crawling after his wife).

I'm unsure about the Giger reference.  Part of me thinks that any 19th century writer would just have easily referenced Bosch or someone and this is the modern equivalent of same.  Part of me thinks that modern society, at least in America, is so culturally fractured that almost any reference to anything outside of the main-mainstream comes off as a bone thrown to a niche group.  Undecided.

Nice monster story, though.

Thanks for listening.
“Demons are like obedient dogs; they come when they are called.”
Remy De Gourmont, “Pehor”



MacArthurBug

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Reply #4 on: January 27, 2009, 11:52:59 AM
I have a disabled uncle who I briefly was reminded of in this story. I kept picturing him being in the chair. That said- since I have a hard time liking said uncle I had a hard time liking lead character.  I'm glad my dog dosn't play fetch- and though my cat does- he dosn't drool.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2009, 12:50:08 PM by MacArthurBug »

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Oh mighty Mur the Magnificent. I am not worthy.


Poppydragon

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Reply #5 on: January 27, 2009, 07:48:39 PM
I really enjoyed this. I liked the fact that there was no real explanation, no neat summing up and that the monster really was monstrous. Yes there were a few overlong descriptive passages but they didn't spoil the overall nastiness of the piece for me. I liked the fact that the dog was simply a dog too. The touch of the normal emphasised the abnormal, making it more horrific.

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Kaa

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Reply #6 on: January 28, 2009, 05:33:03 PM
Whew!  This one was gruesome, horrible, disgusting, and made me cringe.

I loved it! :)

I invent imaginary people and make them have conversations in my head. I also write.

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gelee

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Reply #7 on: January 28, 2009, 10:16:12 PM
This one had it's flaws, but I really liked it, mostly for the reasons Sgarre1 pointed out.  I'm glad I'm not the only one who caught that comment about feeling the dog on his ankles.  I thought it might be one of those things that the narrator would notice later..."Hey!  I can feel my ankles!" 



Kevin David Anderson

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Reply #8 on: January 29, 2009, 12:24:01 AM
A good old monster story.  And yet one more reason why I will never own a dog.  Loved the Giger reference.  Excellent read Ben. 


Brokensea

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Reply #9 on: January 29, 2009, 06:08:38 AM
This one had it's flaws, but I really liked it, mostly for the reasons Sgarre1 pointed out.  I'm glad I'm not the only one who caught that comment about feeling the dog on his ankles.  I thought it might be one of those things that the narrator would notice later..."Hey!  I can feel my ankles!" 

Being paraplegic does not mean you don't have sensation of touch in some instances.  It means you can't voluntarily move those muscles.  But according to the various 'plegics I've nursed over the years you can feel touch sometimes.  Everyone is different.



Sgarre1

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Reply #10 on: January 29, 2009, 11:27:17 PM
Would have been nice for that individual's detail to have been incorporated into the story at some earlier point then. There are almost no absolutes in the real world, of course, but generalized understandings are the stuff from which one is able to weave fiction. Exceptions to those generalizations should be noted (or dropped, if they serve no purpose).



Changwasteve

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Reply #11 on: January 30, 2009, 07:16:25 AM
I must be thick, because it took until a few minutes after the story ended to realize that the monster was meant to be a perverted mirror image of the narrator.  A paraplegic who feels dependent and useless faces off against a legless parasite that's sucking the life, and everything else, out of his wife.  The wife and monster die, while the paraplegic survives.  This is a really dark story, and not for the usual reasons.

I have to disagree with comments that the sex scene was superfluous.  First, it provided an interesting counterpoint to the narrator's sexual jealousy and fears of rape.  Second, it stopped me wondering whether he could still raise the flag, which would have been distracting.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2009, 07:20:17 AM by Changwasteve »



eytanz

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Reply #12 on: February 02, 2009, 11:18:29 AM
Mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, the buildup was very good, but like sgarre1 said, it felt like there a lot of the atmosphere was lost once the monster suddenly switched to full-out-attack-in-the-open mode. Also, the dog seemed to conveniently switch from being playful to being menacing at exactly the right moments - why did it stand on the urine pipe, or bite the hero, if he thought this was all just a game? And if the dog knew what it was doing, why did it let the hero attack the monster in the end?

For that matter, what did the dog live off? Did the monster feed it? But the monster itself has last killed a person four years ago, and though it may have hunted rats and stray cats and the like, were there really enough of those around to feed both itself and a dog that looked healthy and well taken care of?

But if there was one thing that really sort of bothered me about the story, it's the fact that the wife never reacted at all. We know she was still alive when she was dragged down the stairs, so why didn't she fight back? How could the monster drag down an adult human being - one strong enough to carry her husband out of a wheelchair - without her making any attempt to resist? Maybe she was already wounded or something, but the story never mentioned it. Instead, it makes several references to how it was the narrator's role as a man to defend his woman - I understood that this played with his ego and identity issues because of his disability, but it does make for an unfortunate implication.



alllie

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Reply #13 on: February 02, 2009, 12:37:04 PM
That was horrible. So gross and creepy I couldn't even finish listening to it.

I really don't like horror but with escapepod down I tried.

Just want to say that pseudpod is beautifully produced and narrated ...HORROR. Alasdair does a great job hosting. Just wish it wasn't HORROR. HORROR is HORRIBLE!



JoeFitz

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Reply #14 on: February 02, 2009, 09:46:32 PM
I must be thick, because it took until a few minutes after the story ended to realize that the monster was meant to be a perverted mirror image of the narrator.  A paraplegic who feels dependent and useless faces off against a legless parasite that's sucking the life, and everything else, out of his wife.  The wife and monster die, while the paraplegic survives.  This is a really dark story, and not for the usual reasons.

A very good analysis of this story! It has its flaws, but overall it was well-executed.



JoeFitz

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Reply #15 on: February 02, 2009, 09:51:43 PM
The description of the creature, while starting nicely pulpy, went a bit overboard in the florid writing area (did the author really intend to use the word "fecund", meaning overly fertile, to describe some aspect of the creature?)

I cringed when I heard that word because it sounded so wrong. Perhaps the story had "fecal" or "fetid." Although fecundity can be pretty gross (as anyone who has seen a live birth can attest).




DKT

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Reply #16 on: February 03, 2009, 06:22:45 PM
I don't know if I could say I liked this one, because liked seems to be the wrong kind of word.  But it's one of the first stories in a while that made me go, "Oh, shit" when the wood went through his eye. And the monster actually killing the wife (the monster who did seem to be a perverse mirror image of the narrator) surprised me. And I really felt for both these characters.

It could have been trimmed some, I agree, but I'm not sure what I would cut. I don't think the sex scene should've been cut. It kind of nailed home the relationship between the couple to me.


Chadwicked

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Reply #17 on: February 04, 2009, 02:36:07 AM
Sit Booboo, sit!  Good dog.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2009, 02:39:40 AM by Chadwicked »

the remnants of tomorrow shattering my aspirations . . .


Zathras

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Reply #18 on: February 06, 2009, 07:05:35 AM
Sit Booboo, sit!  Good dog.

I thought the dog's name was Ubu?



gelee

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Reply #19 on: February 06, 2009, 12:50:58 PM
It was.  It was an acronym.  Can't remember what it stood for.

I know the behavior of the dog was a little inconsistant in the story.  I figured it was either:
A) Nuts.
B) Not actually trying to eat the guys foot, but just playing with it.  You know how dogs get sometimes.  The big ones can accidently cause some minor harm, especially with no feedback from the foot in question.



eytanz

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Reply #20 on: February 06, 2009, 01:06:11 PM
It was.  It was an acronym.  Can't remember what it stood for.

I know the behavior of the dog was a little inconsistant in the story.  I figured it was either:
A) Nuts.
B) Not actually trying to eat the guys foot, but just playing with it.  You know how dogs get sometimes.  The big ones can accidently cause some minor harm, especially with no feedback from the foot in question.

The inconsistency didn't bother me, as it was stated that the dog was insane. What bothered me was how selective his behavior was - he seemed to only take aggressive turns when it made a concrete difference.

There are plenty of possible explanations - maybe the creature was somehow controlling the dog - but there was no clear indication of this in the story.



Sgarre1

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Reply #21 on: February 07, 2009, 12:14:09 AM
Quote
It was.  It was an acronym.  Can't remember what it stood for.

Really? It wasn't an Alfred Jarry reference?  I'm shocked!



Chadwicked

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Reply #22 on: February 08, 2009, 03:57:42 AM

[/quote]

I thought the dog's name was Ubu?
[/quote]

Yeah . . . my bad.

the remnants of tomorrow shattering my aspirations . . .


gelee

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Reply #23 on: February 10, 2009, 02:29:20 PM
It was.  It was an acronym.  Can't remember what it stood for.

I know the behavior of the dog was a little inconsistant in the story.  I figured it was either:
A) Nuts.
B) Not actually trying to eat the guys foot, but just playing with it.  You know how dogs get sometimes.  The big ones can accidently cause some minor harm, especially with no feedback from the foot in question.

The inconsistency didn't bother me, as it was stated that the dog was insane. What bothered me was how selective his behavior was - he seemed to only take aggressive turns when it made a concrete difference.

There are plenty of possible explanations - maybe the creature was somehow controlling the dog - but there was no clear indication of this in the story.
True, but I don't think the writer could have tipped his cards without comitting an even bigger faux pas, such as the dreaded "Expository Monologue."



fuzzygnome

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Reply #24 on: February 12, 2009, 04:54:22 PM
Dunno why, just couldn't stick with this one.