Author Topic: Pseudopod 301: The Last Man After The War  (Read 2932 times)

Bdoomed

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Pseudopod 301: The Last Man After The War
« on: September 28, 2012, 09:46:40 PM »
Pseudopod 301: The Last Man After The War

by Erich William Bergmeier

Erich William Bergmeier is a freelance writer and translator. His work has appeared in M-Brane SF and A cappella Zoo. This story was originally published in Basement Stories, Issue #1, in the summer of 2010.

Your reader this week is Bob Eccles whom you’ve heard before both here and over at PodCastle. Bob has a collection of his own short horror stories out called Tiny Terrors. It’s available in the Kindle Store at Amazon.com.

The strangers arrived after dark. Raymond could hear them behind the cabin, the twigs cracking under their feet. He went to the bed and grabbed his shotgun and stood with his back to the wall. Quietly, he chambered a round.

“Who’s that?” he called out.

“Just people looking for a place to sleep,” a man replied.

Clara opened the heavy oak door and looked out through the screen. She saw them standing there in the half light; a husband and wife and their little girl. She looked at Raymond with pleading eyes, but he shook his head. Clara thought of their own children, how much she hoped that someone would open their door to them.

“Come in,” she said. “You must be freezing.”

The three strangers came up on the deck and skulked in through the door. They were thin and pale, and in the harsh light of the kerosene lamp the lines on their faces were as deep as dried up river beds. Clara motioned for them to sit down at the table while Raymond stood rigid in the corner with the handle of the shotgun pressed into his armpit. The man’s eyes moved around the room as he took stock of the empty shelves and the dishes stacked beside the sink. Clara had just finished putting the last of their food in the cellar before the family arrived and Raymond was thankful for that. It meant there would be no trouble.



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Fenrix

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Re: Pseudopod 301: The Last Man After The War
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2012, 11:51:52 PM »
I loved the mood of this one. Great post-apocalyptic dreariness like The Road but with awesome things like names and punctuation.
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Scattercat

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Re: Pseudopod 301: The Last Man After The War
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2012, 12:09:36 AM »
The title tricked me.  I kept waiting for Sandra to die and/or be revealed to be a memory/illusion.  :-D

I do wonder how much trouble he caused by trying to keep the food a secret in the first place.  Ford seemed at least slightly reasonable, and if you say, "Yes, we have more food, but only enough to last us for the winter, so the apples are the only things we can spare," well, what's he going to do?  Say "no" to free food?  Wrestle with the shotgun anyway?  As it was, Ford was all lasciviously dreaming of piles and piles of bounteous calories that didn't exist and decided to make a grab for them.
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Bdoomed

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Re: Pseudopod 301: The Last Man After The War
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2012, 12:00:25 AM »
I was so shocked that the story ended where it did. I'm unsure as of yet what I really think of the story. It seemed like such an abrupt ending for such a detailed setup. I'm not surprised that Ford was shot, just that there was no aftermath to the shooting. I think the reactions of the wife and daughter were a bit muted, though with the general emotional climate of their situation maybe not...
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Kaa

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Re: Pseudopod 301: The Last Man After The War
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2012, 08:58:20 AM »
I was so shocked that the story ended where it did. I'm unsure as of yet what I really think of the story. It seemed like such an abrupt ending for such a detailed setup. I'm not surprised that Ford was shot, just that there was no aftermath to the shooting. I think the reactions of the wife and daughter were a bit muted, though with the general emotional climate of their situation maybe not...

This exactly. Word for word, this was my impression. Thank you, Bdoomed, for putting it into words so I didn't have to. :)
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Fenrix

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Re: Pseudopod 301: The Last Man After The War
« Reply #5 on: October 03, 2012, 04:33:58 PM »
I was so shocked that the story ended where it did. I'm unsure as of yet what I really think of the story. It seemed like such an abrupt ending for such a detailed setup. I'm not surprised that Ford was shot, just that there was no aftermath to the shooting. I think the reactions of the wife and daughter were a bit muted, though with the general emotional climate of their situation maybe not...

After a second round through this story I noticed something I missed the first time. There's something not right within Ford's family unit beyond just hunger. The girl being quiet and not making eye contact points to the potential of abuse . Add a creepy interpretation of Ford's compliment to his "daughter" and finish it off with her not mourning his death and I think we've got a compelling case. There's probably some other details that I didn't include.

In addition, we only have Ford's word that they're a family. Something hinky happened to the world, so the three visitors to the farm may have banded under a dominant male figure. They could be a family, but I find that point of information as reliable as the accuracy of Ford's name.
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Re: Pseudopod 301: The Last Man After The War
« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2012, 05:03:20 PM »
I enjoyed this story.

I agree with Fenrix that something is fishy about Ford's family. In addition to his daughter not talking, the way he said his wife doesn't drink anymore also seemed like a abuse or control thing.

Because Raymond's wife seemed to get along with the strangers, I did kind of expect a different reaction from her after Ford was shot.


eytanz

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Re: Pseudopod 301: The Last Man After The War
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2012, 02:40:56 AM »
For me, Raymond's wife was the key to the story. She was trying to keep a level of civilization - and civility - going on in a world where that's no longer possible. She knows - though we don't - why this is the case. But she's determined to try. Yet, as the ending shows, she was was not at all surprised when that failed. She knew Raymond tried his best to avoid the outcome, but ultimately, she knew that violence was a likely outcome, and she was neither angry nor shocked, just saddened.

I think that fact spoke volumes about the state of the world.

On the flip side, I found Ford's behaviour puzzling. Hunger is a powerful motivator, but he didn't act like he was starving. He acted like a bully, even though he was never in control of the situation, and he knew it. I guess he thought that Raymond wouldn't actually shoot him - but there were plenty of opportunities to get the best of Raymond without making an overt move while a shotgun is pointed at him.

Also, a diet of nothing but fish and apples is probably one of the healthiest diets one could choose. If coupled with an active lifestyle, and neither fish nor apples are too scarce, I'd expect someone living on it to look quite healthy indeed.

Fenrix

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Re: Pseudopod 301: The Last Man After The War
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2012, 05:00:12 PM »
Also, a diet of nothing but fish and apples is probably one of the healthiest diets one could choose. If coupled with an active lifestyle, and neither fish nor apples are too scarce, I'd expect someone living on it to look quite healthy indeed.

I took this statement in stride with an American perspective. "Healthy" is a good portion of something with pork or beef, two vegetable sides (mac and cheese counts), and a biscuit or other bread item. How long would it take for people to break old habits and mindsets after the world falls apart?
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Unblinking

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Re: Pseudopod 301: The Last Man After The War
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2012, 12:07:21 PM »
I was so shocked that the story ended where it did. I'm unsure as of yet what I really think of the story. It seemed like such an abrupt ending for such a detailed setup. I'm not surprised that Ford was shot, just that there was no aftermath to the shooting. I think the reactions of the wife and daughter were a bit muted, though with the general emotional climate of their situation maybe not...

Me too, it seemed like it was all building up, and then ended before finishing.

After a second round through this story I noticed something I missed the first time. There's something not right within Ford's family unit beyond just hunger. The girl being quiet and not making eye contact points to the potential of abuse . Add a creepy interpretation of Ford's compliment to his "daughter" and finish it off with her not mourning his death and I think we've got a compelling case. There's probably some other details that I didn't include.

In addition, we only have Ford's word that they're a family. Something hinky happened to the world, so the three visitors to the farm may have banded under a dominant male figure. They could be a family, but I find that point of information as reliable as the accuracy of Ford's name.

I definitely noticed that weirdness too, and I thought the reveal of the truth would be the point of the story.  So when it wasn't revealed, at least not that I could tell, it just left me confused more than anything.

Maybe I'm just too obtuse, but I wanted thetheme of the story to be more transparent to me.