Author Topic: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics  (Read 7485 times)

Bdoomed

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Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« on: September 01, 2013, 02:03:26 AM »
Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics

by Norman Partridge

“Apotropaics” appeared in CEMETERY DANCE #11 way back in 1992, and has been reprinted several times. Norman Patridge says “I’ve always thought of “Apotropaics” as a signature CEMETERY DANCE story–it’s the kind of piece that set Rich’s mag apart from the others. It’s a story about observations, and what we know and what we think we know… and where those things can take us..”

NORMAN PATRIDGE Halloween novel, DARK HARVEST, was chosen by PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY as one of the 100 Best Books of 2006. Author of six short story collections, including LESSER DEMONS and JOHNNY HALLOWEEN, Partridge’s fiction ranges from dark suspense to horror to the fantastic. He can be found online at Norman Partridge.com and he also blogs at American Frankenstein. A new novella, “The Mummy’s Heart,” is coming soon in HALLOWEEN: MAGIC, MYSTERY, & THE MACABRE edited by Paula Guran.

Your reader this week – Matt Franklin – is an emerging game developer and vocal talent currently clawing his way up the ladder of an MMO publisher while working freelance projects with fellow creator Pauline Lu, who was his Audio Director for this reading. He can be found tweeting via @angusonair [angus on air].



“‘C’mon and I’ll show you.’

Ross scooped up his cap and we walked the short distance to Palmer’s cornfield. We hopped the fence and blazed a trail between two rows of dead cornstalks. I was surprised that Mr. Palmer hadn’t plowed the field and planted another crop. Todd’s dad was usually real quick about that kind of stuff. My dad always said that Mr. Palmer was a hard man, a man who didn’t brook nonsense. That was the way Todd’s dad managed his farm, pushing its crop potential to the limit, and my dad seemed to think that was the way Mr. Palmer handled his kids, too.

But something had slowed Mr. Palmer’s clockwork pace. Maybe for once he hadn’t had enough time, or maybe he’d wanted a vacation of his own, or maybe….

Maybe anything. Who knows why things happen? I mean, really? People say things. They do things. But who ever knows? Really?

Ross pushed between two tall stalks that crackled like ancient parchment. I followed. We cut through a couple more rows and came to the center of the field.

And there it was.

A naked mound of dirt, dark clods dried gray and hard in the hot sun.

A grave, I thought, shivering. It wasn’t an ordinary grave, either, and not just because it was in the middle of a cornfield. Imbedded in this grave, punched into it like it was some weird pincushion, were dozens of stakes and knives, their hilts barely visible. Tent stakes, survey stakes. Boy Scout knives, ordinary silverware, putty knives, and fancy stuff that must have been pure silver.”




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?

flintknapper

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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2013, 04:27:05 PM »
I have been really liking most the stories as of late. This one, however, was a slight miss for me.

It was a solid setting and the dialogue of the children in the late 50s or early 60s was completely believable. In fact, I thought the author did an awesome job with what he wrote. My only issue is that I do not think he took it far enough.

The idea of the kids coping with a truly horrific act by staking the "vampire" is creepy, but there isn't any fall out.  What happens when people in town notice the boy is missing? or the vampire burial is discovered? I thought it would have been cool if the author had gone there.

It was very reminiscent of It or Stand by Me, I just wanted the author to go that extra step and flesh out some of the consequences.


adrianh

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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2013, 07:02:17 PM »
Quote
The idea of the kids coping with a truly horrific act by staking the "vampire" is creepy, but there isn't any fall out.

No fall out ?!?!

The kids aren't getting ready to stake the vampire. They're getting ready to stake the raped sister because they think she's turned!

Quote

It can’t come back, can it?”

I shook my head.

Dave picked up his drumsticks and thrummed them gently on the practice pad, but he couldn’t find a beat. “It’s hard,” he said, and he almost sounded like Ross. “It’s hard to know what we should do next.”

I looked at them, and I was with them, and I wanted to help them.

I looked at Todd. He couldn’t do it. He was the son of a hard man, and he’d been broken.

Dave couldn’t do it. He was still in love. If he heard Janet say how sorry she was, he’d never forget it.

Ross couldn’t do it. Not on his best day. Not ever.

“She won’t get up,” Todd said. “She won’t eat….”

Dave started to cry.

Gently, I slid the drumsticks out of his hands.

I opened my new knife.

Sometimes people say things. Sometimes they do things.

But nobody said a word, and nobody moved, while I sharpened the stakes

I think that counts as fall out!

(or.... am I the only one who reads it that way...)

zoanon

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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2013, 07:15:55 PM »
damn, good story.
I definitely got that they were about to stake the sister, although my mind went to kinky period sex rather than rape... I guess rape makes more sense.

flintknapper

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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2013, 08:10:22 PM »
Quote
The idea of the kids coping with a truly horrific act by staking the "vampire" is creepy, but there isn't any fall out.

No fall out ?!?!

The kids aren't getting ready to stake the vampire. They're getting ready to stake the raped sister because they think she's turned!

Quote

It can’t come back, can it?”

I shook my head.

Dave picked up his drumsticks and thrummed them gently on the practice pad, but he couldn’t find a beat. “It’s hard,” he said, and he almost sounded like Ross. “It’s hard to know what we should do next.”

I looked at them, and I was with them, and I wanted to help them.

I looked at Todd. He couldn’t do it. He was the son of a hard man, and he’d been broken.

Dave couldn’t do it. He was still in love. If he heard Janet say how sorry she was, he’d never forget it.

Ross couldn’t do it. Not on his best day. Not ever.

“She won’t get up,” Todd said. “She won’t eat….”

Dave started to cry.

Gently, I slid the drumsticks out of his hands.

I opened my new knife.

Sometimes people say things. Sometimes they do things.

But nobody said a word, and nobody moved, while I sharpened the stakes

I think that counts as fall out!

(or.... am I the only one who reads it that way...)

Uff I didn't catch that at the end. That is actually whatI wanted. I just didn't catch it. I take back my criticism. I am going to have to relisten to the ending.

lisavilisa

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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2013, 10:25:55 PM »
damn, good story.
I definitely got that they were about to stake the sister, although my mind went to kinky period sex rather than rape... I guess rape makes more sense.



I think it was period sex. The girl whispered to her mom why she had to stay home, back then (and even now) "women's problems" is a ticket to get out of all minor obligations.

I think the blood also served as an extra way for the boys to be convinced it was a vampire scenario, since, being boys in the 50's, they would not know about periods until they were well into puberty.

Moon_Goddess

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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2013, 08:14:04 AM »
See I just took it as bleeding from losing her virginity, that happens sometimes.   But period sex is just as likely an explanation.
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lisavilisa

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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2013, 09:13:57 PM »
That would make for a better story.  It's just, if she was a virgin, then what where they doing on all those late night bike rides?

Sgarre1

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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2013, 10:19:35 PM »
Quote
It's just, if she was a virgin, then what where they doing on all those late night bike rides?

Well, this is set in the late 50's/early early 60s - spoonin? sparkin? neckin? pettin? heavy pettin?

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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2013, 05:40:36 AM »
This one was so amazing, it made me register just so I could say so.

Excellent, excellent, excellent!

I did slightly disagree with Alasdair's gloss on the meaning of the title, though. First and foremost, it's the "turn away" or "banish" meaning of apotropaic that seems most relevant to the story. The secondary "protective charm" meanings seem just that: secondary, and not hugely relevant to the story. The emphasis, the real horror of the story, lies in what is just about to happen to Janet.

Cheshire_Snark

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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2013, 02:18:24 PM »
... and what will happen to the boys once they realise what they've done.

Kaa

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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2013, 03:52:19 PM »
Wow! I really enjoyed this one. I definitely got that they were going to stake the sister, and I sat in my car for a few seconds afterward saying, "Wow!"

A major hit for me. Also, Matt Franklin knocked it out of the park.
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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2013, 09:45:00 PM »
I totally did not get kinky period sex from this. Too many bruises in bad places. Plus, even if that were the case, why would she voluntarily have said sex, if she knew that her family was coming back home? Doesn't make sense to me.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty strong piece. I was not too into it in the beginning, but the final implications of the children's decision was so unexpected, yet perfect in an absolutely twisted way that worked for me. A solid piece of horror.

Also, the narrator was super duper great. An excellent actor, and an excellent choice for this piece.


Cheshire_Snark

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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2013, 07:24:04 AM »
Yeah, I wasn't sure if it was innocent/inexperienced kids interpreting hickies and a little blood as something worse, or if it really was something worse...

BlueGildedCage

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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2013, 05:42:27 AM »
Oh wow.  Oh wow.  I loved this.  This was incredible.  The twist was so elegant; blending psychological horror into the true horror of what the boys witnessed.  Life horror; totally plausible, completely possible, utterly devastating.  This story was just fantastic.
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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #15 on: September 18, 2013, 01:03:00 AM »
Top marks, from the framing device (reminiscent of the drawing-room gentleman's club horror story genre, where everyone takes it in turn to tell a frightening tale) to the oddly chilling image of the shallow grave with knives shoved in it to the implied horror-that-is-to-come.  The worst I can say is that there really isn't any ambiguity about the supernatural here; only a young kid would have believed otherwise.  I don't think ambiguity was really the point of this one, though.
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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #16 on: October 09, 2013, 09:34:31 AM »
I guess I just have a speculative mindset, but I was kind of assuming that it was vampires as I was listening and that it was one of those kinds of stories where adults have found a rational explanation for something which kids can tell is supernatural.   A lot more scary if you didn't have that assumption, as these kids are about to attempt a well-meaning very painful and gruesome murder.

But...  I didn't find the manner of telling very compelling.  Things have happened, which are now being summarized from one character to another, and then the story ends before the next thing happens.  The story took place in a lull between momentous happenings, and I wanted something to happen in the present.

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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #17 on: October 10, 2013, 08:53:53 AM »
So... I was trying to figure out last night why I didn't question the vampirism in this story while I was listening to it.

I think that the reason is the way that the story was told.  The boy comes home, and is told "There's a vampire in town!  And these are the ways that we know."  Because of the horror venue, I think that the statement that there is a vampire in town told in such a declarative way made me accept it very easily, and when the facts of what had happened were spelled out piece by piece for most of the story I assumed that they were all leading up to a final confrontation in which they saw his vampire teeth and saw her body drained of blood etc...   

If the story had been told in the chronological order, I would've been doubting the hell out of all of their conclusions, but because their conclusion is stated upfront I found it easier to accept.  A case of horror-based confirmation bias I guess.


Gary

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Re: Pseudopod 349: Apotropaics
« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2013, 07:08:35 AM »
This one really hit the mark!
That the kids may have (probably have) completely misunderstood what they've seen/heard and are about to brutally murder the sister is a horrifying idea. The children suffering from "the sins of the father" as it were. The father's murderous reaction to finding this "Rebel without a cause", "de-flowering" his daughter ... may now result in the death of his daughter and what ever psychological damage to these boys when they realize what they had done.
... or maybe they don't do it or don't get away with it ... or maybe (just maybe, because this IS Psuedopod) the kid really was a vampire. That's the mark of a good horror story, it leaves you thinking about it afterwards. It has you  creating extra story in your own mind of "what's next" and in the case of this story, all of the possible outcomes offer just more horror.

Well written, wonderfully read.