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Author Topic: Pseudopod 358: Apathetic Flesh  (Read 6502 times)

Bdoomed

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on: November 03, 2013, 03:21:36 AM
Pseudopod 358: Apathetic Flesh

by Darren O. Godfrey

“Apathetic Flesh” was first published in the anthology BORDERLANDS 2 (1991, edited by Thomas Monteleone), and was later reprinted in THE BEST OF BORDERLANDS (2005).

DARREN O. GODFREY hails from southeast Idaho. His stories have appeared in, among other things, THE MUSEUM OF HORRORS, BORDERLANDS 2, BORDERLANDS 5, Gorezone Magazine (the old sister publication of Fangoria), Black October Magazine, and QUIETLY NOW: An Anthology in Tribute to Charles L. Grant. His story “Recess” has been selected for Mort Castle’s ALL-AMERICAN HORROR OF THE 21ST CENTURY: THE 1ST DECADE. Meanwhile, he’s finishing up a novel he started 20 years ago.

Your reader this week – Bill Ruhsam – blogs at Evil Eyebrow.



“If you were to stop and think about it, you wouldn’t really be able to say why it is you watch these films; though, as a child, you enjoyed being frightened, and some of the movies did that; and as a teenager you enjoyed being shocked (and perhaps a little revolted) and the “splatter” films fit that bill nicely. But now, at an ancient and creaking twenty-seven years of age, the movies – horror, splatter, or otherwise – no longer seem to have any effect on you. Nil.

But still you watch them.

And think about it is something you never do anyway, so, tonight, you merely chew stale popcorn and gawk at the silver screen where the lead zombie (nicknamed Harley) effortlessly tears a young woman’s head from her quivering white shoulders, delicately tongues one of her eyeballs, sucks it from its socket. Harley chews it, apparently savoring the taste, and the only discomfort you feel is the rock-hard lump against the small of your back, a special feature of all the seats in the Chief Theater. No point in moving. So you don’t.

Until it’s over (completely over; every last credit read and recorded in your junkshop mind), at which time you stand and brush salt and popcorn bits from your jeans.

‘Well, that was fun,’ you say to no one as you step into the aisle and make for the glowing green EXIT.”



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2013, 07:25:34 AM by Bdoomed »

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Unblinking

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Reply #1 on: November 04, 2013, 02:33:17 PM
Hmmm...  Not very often I'm the first commenter.  King Under the Mountain Something Something.

Honestly, I was hoping that someone else had read this so that I could see if they got it.  Because I certainly didn't.  I was interested enough as the story was going on,  and at no point during the body of the story did I feel like I didn't comprehend what was happening.  But then the ending happened, and my reaction to the whole thing was "Wait, what?"

I had some theories as the story went on--perhaps the boy is an alien (supported by the mention of The Cat From Space) or that the boy is an incarnation of the narrator (supported by the mirrored pain in the narrator's chest when the boy cut himself open).  But that's about as far as I got, and in the end I just didn't get it.



The Far Stairs

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Reply #2 on: November 05, 2013, 09:27:34 PM
I had pretty much the same reaction. I was into the story for most of the way (great narration, too), then I felt confused by the ending. Did the child sacrifice himself so that the narrator could feel again? I think so. Was the child always part of the narrator (some kind of inner-child)? I'm not sure.

Maybe the clue is in the name of the child. It's either "Von Meadows" or "Vaughn Meadows."

"Von Meadows" would mean something like "from the meadows" or "from the fields," which could suggest a wild spirit.

"Vaughn Meadows" is the name of an actor from the 1950s who starred in a few television shows, including an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. It was called "The Blessington Method." Here's the IMDb summary:

In the not too distant future (1980, to be exact) life expectancy has increased dramatically and JJ Bunce provides an essential service. He approaches John Treadwell and informs him that his elderly relative, now in her 80's and who lives with him full-time, will live at least another 32 years. Bunce's offer is quite simple: he will dispose of her for a fee. Initially Treadwell rejects the suggestion out of hand but at home, the old lady is becoming ever more demanding. In the end, he accepts Bunce's offer but he does wonder what his own children might do when the time comes.


There could be some parallels in terms of children and adults disposing of each other, but maybe it's just a coincidence. Hmm.

And what was the black arm-band all about?

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Cheshire_Snark

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Reply #3 on: November 06, 2013, 12:00:23 PM
Yeah, I was a bit stumped too (though I loved the reading and the image of the creepy kid in the beach-towel). I guess now the narrator will find another lonely person to haunt and eventually sacrifice himself to?

At the first mention I thought the black ribbon was going to be around his neck! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3PIkV2anqk



The Far Stairs

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Reply #4 on: November 07, 2013, 01:11:20 AM
At the first mention I thought the black ribbon was going to be around his neck! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3PIkV2anqk

I immediately thought of that story, too! It creeped the HELL out of me as a kid.

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Sgarre1

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Reply #5 on: November 07, 2013, 01:37:30 AM
It's a variant of detail in Washington Irving's "Adventure Of A German Student".  It also made the rounds as a fairly popular legend/urban legend.



Cutter McKay

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Reply #6 on: November 08, 2013, 01:53:26 AM
Add me to the list of head scratchers. Unfortunately, I also found the text stiff and the narration stilted, so this entire production was just an all around miss for me.

S'ok, you can't please everyone all of the time, right?  :-\

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pitmonkey

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Reply #7 on: November 08, 2013, 04:34:46 PM
Add me to the confused listener category.  Not even Mr. Stuart's outtro helped me much.  If I ever get to Nottingham, perhaps he will explain it to me over a pint. 

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albionmoonlight

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Reply #8 on: November 08, 2013, 05:45:05 PM
My take (which might very well be wrong) is that the black band was sentient.  It was the creature speaking as the boy.  And it is some kind of alien and/or otherworld technology here to learn about us.  It chooses hosts who are socially isolated so that it can take them over without other people noticing or missing them.  Then, when it tires of one host (the boy in this case), it chooses another.



Kaa

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Reply #9 on: November 08, 2013, 06:44:55 PM
Add me to the head-scratchers list. I really thought it was going somewhere like the boy WAS him, or the black band was the mechanism...and then the ending. *shrug*

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Cutter McKay

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Reply #10 on: November 08, 2013, 10:59:37 PM
Add me to the head-scratchers list. I really thought it was going somewhere like the boy WAS him, or the black band was the mechanism...and then the ending. *shrug*

That's what I expected, to find out the boy was an earlier or alternate version of him.

I forgot to mention I really had a hard time with the 2 Person   POV. I'm not against stories told in 2P, but I like there to be a reason for it. I found no purpose here and was highly distracted by it.

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Scattercat

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Reply #11 on: November 11, 2013, 08:15:54 AM
I have to agree with most of the commentary thus far, unfortunately.  I kind of enjoyed the story, but was left unfulfilled by the lack of closure at the ending.  I'm not sure I quite grok the metaphorical construction, either.  Protagonist is socially isolated and depressed, which apparently attracts a demon/alien who hangs out with him for a while for no real reason, then lectures him about not feeling anything and how good that is, then tortures him to death and I guess takes him over?  Or something?  So I guess there's some sort of external limit on how little you can care about things?  Except then why the harping on how he's making himself unhappy?  But if the issue is his own apathy, why is there this little kid thing acting weird at him?  I dunno.

I mean, I like inexplicable weirdness, but this felt like it had some kind of structure or theme it was shaped around, and I just didn't see how it all fit together.  Earlier today I read a story called "Holiday" that had a similar narrative structure (unhappy loner meets childlike Other who ruins/disrupts his life), but that one had a clear resonance between its imagery and its themes (and really I highly recommend it.  It's from like 2007 or so.  I found it in one of the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies.)

I enjoyed the non-sequiturs of the little kid, but I just didn't see this one cohering at the end.

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TimWB

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Reply #12 on: November 14, 2013, 09:37:17 PM
I couldn't get to the ending. The main problem I have with second person POV is when "You" does something that makes no sense, it jolts me out of the story completely. In this case, "you" should have called the cops when a shivering child appeared on the doorstep at 3 am.



Darren O. Godfrey

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Reply #13 on: November 16, 2013, 02:28:36 PM
Hi all, and thanks for giving my story a listen.  A few bits of information:

The black ribbon is, as the boy states before breaking it, "the tie that binds".  It binds him to life.  Though you can't discern it from the tale (and I didn't realize it myself when writing it), the boy, Vaughn, is a freshly re-animated corpse.  The black band, while it remains intact, gives him life.  He knows that when he breaks it, his body will return to its cadaverous state.

He has a mission to perform first: to show this man what he has become.  Numb.  Desensitized.

The black band now serves as a reminder to "you" that death is never very far away.  And that is why I chose second person, present tense.  As mentioned in the intro, this is not an isolated case.  There are other "black-band" children being dispatched, for various reason and to various individuals.  They may be coming to visit you, or you, or even YOU.

There are five black-band stories in all.  "Apathetic Flesh" in Borderlands 2, "Dysfunction" in Borderlands 5 (a.k.a. From the Borderlands in paperback), and "Sweet Scream" in Fusing Horizons (a small, now out of print British magazine).  "What's In a Name?" has yet to be published, and "The Representative" will not be published.  I threw it away.

I understand some readers's aversion to 2nd person story-telling, I don't much care for it myself (and will likely never use it again), but it seemed necessary in these particular tales.

Thanks again.



Jen

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Reply #14 on: November 19, 2013, 09:35:27 AM
I know that some people aren't fans, but I like it when the author chimes in, so thanks Darren! I think it's funny that you didn't realize the boy was a reanimated corpse while you were writing, because my brain said "zombie" the second the boy showed up with a funny accent, no memories and asking weird questions. I also realized early on that the black band was keeping him alive, and removing it would cause him to go back to death. (The boy says something pretty obvious at some point.)

I didn't really get the second half of the story (why was the boy's actions causing pain to the man?), but I enjoyed it overall. At one point I thought that maybe the author was also dead (actually dead, not just dead to the world), but I like Darren's explanation better :)



Darren O. Godfrey

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Reply #15 on: November 19, 2013, 01:21:54 PM
I know that some people aren't fans, but I like it when the author chimes in, so thanks Darren!

I did not know that.  I'm sorry if I've committed a faux pas, truly.

I think it's funny that you didn't realize the boy was a reanimated corpse while you were writing, because my brain said "zombie" the second the boy showed up with a funny accent, no memories and asking weird questions. I also realized early on that the black band was keeping him alive, and removing it would cause him to go back to death. (The boy says something pretty obvious at some point.)

For you, Jen:
While writing it, I'd no idea who/what the kid was, nor what was happening.  I simply put down on paper (this story was originally typed on a typewriter) what was unfolding in my head.  Later, I realized what was happening to this guy may also be happening to others, though for different reasons -- certain somethings gone horribly wrong with their lives that may need addressing.  After the fifth story, I realized where these "black-band" children came from, who'd sent them, and why.  (I won't explain here, but it was Mrs. Meadows, their adoptive mother, who started it all.)



I didn't really get the second half of the story (why was the boy's actions causing pain to the man?), but I enjoyed it overall. At one point I thought that maybe the author was also dead (actually dead, not just dead to the world), but I like Darren's explanation better :)

I think the boy was able, through the same black magic that animated him, to transfer the pain -- something the guy really needed to feel.



Bdoomed

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Reply #16 on: November 19, 2013, 06:06:32 PM
I know that some people aren't fans, but I like it when the author chimes in, so thanks Darren!

I did not know that.  I'm sorry if I've committed a faux pas, truly.

I think Jen meant the general trend of the thread so far.  We always love when authors stop by! Definitely not something to shy away from!

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


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Reply #17 on: November 21, 2013, 09:09:50 PM
I know that some people aren't fans, but I like it when the author chimes in, so thanks Darren!

I did not know that.  I'm sorry if I've committed a faux pas, truly.

I think Jen meant the general trend of the thread so far.  We always love when authors stop by! Definitely not something to shy away from!

Yes indeed!  It's great when authors stop by.