Author Topic: Pseudopod 188: The Dark Level  (Read 6596 times)

Bdoomed

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on: April 02, 2010, 07:28:35 PM
Pseudopod 188: The Dark Level


By John F.D. Taff
Read by Ian Stuart, voice actor for hire!

Monday morning came, and Jim wondered at the fact that no other cars followed or preceded him into the garage. And yet, as his car swirled down the ramps, he noticed that almost every parking space was filled.

He’d gone slowly down three levels looking for space “1103” before it became so dark he was forced to turn on the headlights. He barely made out a “321” in dirty yellow numbers on an empty space to his left, between a Thunderbird and a Stanza.

As he wound deeper into the building, his eyes became adjusted to the dim light. Still, he did not see a single person; no one pulling into a space, climbing out of a car, filing toward the bank of elevators.

Motes of dust sparkled in his headlights as his car swept through the aisles. The parked cars wore the dust like sequined dresses.

His car curled around the last corner, and he barely saw the numerals painted onto the dingy wall as his headlights raked across them.

Level 11.




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eytanz

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Reply #1 on: April 02, 2010, 07:39:13 PM
Oh, compared to some downtown underground parking lots that I've been to, the one in this story sounded positively appealing ;)



Scattercat

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Reply #2 on: April 03, 2010, 05:32:14 AM
Cute!  An even eviler version of the Mall from "Reaper Man."  I liked it.

Two quibbles:

1) Was it REALLY necessary to have the "camera pans back" moment after he stuffed money in the box?  That scream he never heard made me roll my eyes with the sheer 80s cheesiness of it.

2) Who on Earth didn't pick up on the pitcher plant analogy, at the very least directly after he almost fell in the one pit?  Did we really have to have him remember his high school science class?  I dunno; I saw the basic outline of the plot the second he spotted a "brightly lit sign" that was out of place in the terrible neighborhood, and when his dessicated jacket stung his skin, that pretty much established that he was in the Sarlacc Parking Garage.  I get impatient when stories spend time explaining things I already know.

Otherwise, it did more or less what it says on the tin.  I like a good monster story.



yaksox

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Reply #3 on: April 03, 2010, 02:19:23 PM
Good story and _great_ read. I remember this guy's voice from another story, either here or on EP. It may seem like a strange compliment but the way he read it made it sound like he wrote it too.



nathonicus

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Reply #4 on: April 06, 2010, 10:45:31 PM
I have to agree that the scream after he signs up was pretty weak - suspense is maintained when we see someone and we don't yet know whether what they are walking into a death trap or just a normal place after all. The scream removes suspense rather than adds it, leaving us rolling our eyes with "don't go in there" sentiment.

That said, I REALLY liked the story.  I especially enjoyed the end pan-back, where he roasts the little plant in sign of victory, oblivious to the spreading horror behind him. One of the few "villain's not really dead" moments I've actually ever liked.

Well done.



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Reply #5 on: April 08, 2010, 01:24:12 PM
Ooh, this one was creepy and dark in all the right ways and Ian Stuart did a fantastic job of it, as always.  Seriously, that guy could read Twilight out loud and I might actually be interested.  Never mind, I'm exaggerating, even he couldn't save that...

Anyway, I really liked it.  Parking garages already creep me out, and now all the more reason for it.  I did think it odd that he parked in the complete darkness and headed to the elevator, fully aware that he had no light source to find his car with after work and not even guessing that there's a power outage stopping the elevator.  I guessed pretty early on that the garage was going to eat him, right when he described the garage entrance looking like a mouth with car teeth.  But even so, the ride was well worth it, and the surreal nature of the trap kept it interesting--the cars seemed to actually be cars, since they had people's stuff and cigarette lighters and things inside them, yet the beast could apparently mold them to some extend, dropping the floors out, melting the steering columns etc...



Listener

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Reply #6 on: April 08, 2010, 02:24:40 PM
I had the distinct feeling I'd read this before. I never have, but it called on some horror tropes -- pitch blackness, buildings that are alive, fire saves the day -- which somehow lessened my enjoyment. Plus, the whole "scream" thing Scattercat mentioned. Though that was a lot more prevalent in fiction written before 2000, when genre awareness was less likely to be had by the characters (at least in my estimation of what I read from 1985-2000).

It was a decent story. I just kept wondering when it would end.

Reading was good.

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pitmonkey

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Reply #7 on: April 09, 2010, 04:40:27 PM


2) Who on Earth didn't pick up on the pitcher plant analogy, at the very least directly after he almost fell in the one pit?  Did we really have to have him remember his high school science class?  I dunno; I saw the basic outline of the plot the second he spotted a "brightly lit sign" that was out of place in the terrible neighborhood, and when his dessicated jacket stung his skin, that pretty much established that he was in the Sarlacc Parking Garage.  I get impatient when stories spend time explaining things I already know.


Thank your public education system system for doing a good job.  Ask 8 out of 10 city kids what a pitcher plant is and I bet you get a blank stare.  There are studies, the results are not a source of optimism.  Perhaps the author erred on the side of caution rather than have 60% of people not get it.  John Rogers said that 80% of the people who watch Leverage don't "get" the con.  Privately revel that you are perhaps more knowledgeable in botany than the intended audience.

This story reminded me of an exercise we had in 6th grade English.  There was a story about a man driving through a parking ramp looking for a spot.  The conclusion wasn't written and we were tasked with writing a possible ending.  This story is like the awesome ending I wish I'd come up with back then. 

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Scattercat

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Reply #8 on: April 09, 2010, 10:42:24 PM
I spent most of my time in school reading fantasy and scifi books.  Most teachers got used to it eventually and would just tap me on the shoulder when it was time for a test.  I guess technically that means I can thank the public education system for my storehouse of random trivia, in the same way that turtles can thank predators for their hard shell.

The relative state of the public education system aside, I disagree with the premise that an author should write to the lowest common denominator.  Just because incurious people don't take the time to find out about fascinating things like pitcher plants doesn't mean you should put it in the story, any more than "The Spirit of Nationalism" should have opened with a paragraph summary of Napoleon's campaign in Russia...



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Reply #9 on: April 10, 2010, 04:48:10 AM
This one really drug on for me.  The reading was very very good, but the story just didn't hook me (and I LOVE carnivorous plants!!)  I kept waiting for it to commit to absurdity, comedy or true horror, but it kind of just hung out there.  Nice ending though.  I think it would have been more successful as a much shorter flash piece with that ending to crown it off.



Monsata

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Reply #10 on: April 18, 2010, 11:19:23 PM
This story reminded me of an exercise we had in 6th grade English.  There was a story about a man driving through a parking ramp looking for a spot.  The conclusion wasn't written and we were tasked with writing a possible ending.  This story is like the awesome ending I wish I'd come up with back then. 

The story in combination with your post reminded me of a kid who didn't quite understand a small assignment from a Creative Writing professor I had some years back. 

He'd said to "make a place come alive", meaning to really get into detail, make your audience feel like they're there, and this guy wrote a few pages about a store that ate people.



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Reply #11 on: April 19, 2010, 01:45:21 PM
This story reminded me of an exercise we had in 6th grade English.  There was a story about a man driving through a parking ramp looking for a spot.  The conclusion wasn't written and we were tasked with writing a possible ending.  This story is like the awesome ending I wish I'd come up with back then. 

The story in combination with your post reminded me of a kid who didn't quite understand a small assignment from a Creative Writing professor I had some years back. 

He'd said to "make a place come alive", meaning to really get into detail, make your audience feel like they're there, and this guy wrote a few pages about a store that ate people.

Ha!  I love it!  That guy was a speculative fiction writer at heart.  That's one of the obstacles I've had reading literary stories, when you're used to reading science fiction and fantasy, it's easy to take colloquialisms and metaphors as literal truth when reading a story.



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Reply #12 on: April 19, 2010, 11:37:30 PM
Absolutely wonderful story - like a Twilight Zone epidode.

Absolutely wonderful read - it's really clear the guy is a professional.

Only criticism is that it's not terribly original (I'm pretty sure there's an X-Files episode that's almost entirely identical), but the execution more than makes up for it.  Maybe a couple little flaws in the word choice (hard to tell without having it in front of me in text) - but nothing serious.  All in all a solid 8 of 10.

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Reply #13 on: June 01, 2010, 02:30:06 PM
Great story.  The spore at the end was a nice touch.



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Reply #14 on: August 23, 2011, 03:41:24 AM
I would have listened to this one sooner if I had realized Ian Stewart was the narrator. The concept was great and the execution was good.

The relative state of the public education system aside, I disagree with the premise that an author should write to the lowest common denominator.  Just because incurious people don't take the time to find out about fascinating things like pitcher plants doesn't mean you should put it in the story, any more than "The Spirit of Nationalism" should have opened with a paragraph summary of Napoleon's campaign in Russia...

I liked the exposition in The Spirit of Nationalism, as that was a historical tale and helped to set the stage quickly. This one, on the other hand, could have done without the pitcher plant exposition. I don't need to know exactly what the monster does. We got enough detail about what it did. Even with that, I really dug the story.

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Reply #15 on: August 23, 2011, 04:38:13 AM
"Spirit of Nationalism" didn't have much historical exposition, though.  That was my point.