Author Topic: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark  (Read 6760 times)

Bdoomed

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Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« on: December 21, 2013, 06:11:38 AM »
Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark

by Andrew Marinus

“Whispers In The Dark” is unpublished, but won a writing contest on the Cracked/PWOT forums and can be read here.

ANDREW MARINUS is a freelance contributor to Cracked.com, has been published at Black Petals, and has had a story published in an anthology by The Horror Zine.

Your reader this week – Graeme Dunlop – is Pseudopod’s Audio Producer and one of the brilliant people behind CAST OF WONDERS.



“So the guy we found under the stairs starts screaming and when Roger shakes him it doesn’t help, and when Roger slaps him it doesn’t help, and when Roger beats the shit out of him he *still* doesn’t quiet down, so we leave him there on the floor. Maybe he’s Seen, maybe he hasn’t, it comes down to the same — don’t wanna be truckin’ with someone who can’t keep their mind from spilling out of their mouth.

It’s getting to be around three-thirty, near enough to twilight that this’ll be our last street-cross for the night. It’s been an unproductive five hours; the part of the city we’re in’s got mostly just office buildings and parking garages — not much food to be found. Still, Allen found a few bags of chips left behind by a raided vending machine, so that’s something. As we get ready to head outside, we split up the chips equally between us, so that if only one of us makes it, their fair share will be with them, and not with a gibbering lunatic or a fleshless corpse. Just before Roger opens the door, Allen puts on his facemask. I leave my eyes uncovered, figuring the darkness’ll be enough. Maybe this makes me less crazy than him.

Maybe.

The blackness outside is mercifully total; clouds have smothered whatever light the moon might be able to provide. We head out, turn East, and get into formation: me on the left; Allen on the right; Roger in the middle; about a metre between each of us. We start walking. Between each step we freeze for about five seconds, listening. It rarely helps, listening, but each of us can remember at least one time when it’s saved someone, so we keep doing it. Mostly what we hear is the low night breeze and, every few minutes or so, screams or laughter off in the distance. When it’s laughter, it goes on for quite awhile before stopping.

When it’s screams, it cuts off pretty quick.

It’s been less than a month since… *since*, leave it at that… and I’ve already started to forget what it looked like outside during the day. Right now, the three of us are walking across a four-lane street between two office buildings, I guess, but it’s hard to imagine the open streets and the twenty-storey towers like you used to be able to *see* them. Nowadays, “the streets” are just the blackness around you, the clapping of your shoes on the road, and the smell of cold pavement.

Twenty steps across the void between buildings, I actually *hear* something, a kind of low rasp, like a dying asthmatic, and I whisper:

‘Stop.’”



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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Just Jeff

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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2013, 11:43:10 PM »
Obvious and excellent implementation of no-see-'em horror, and off the top of my head I can't think of a story with an interrupted ending that does it better than this.

Thaurismunths

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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #2 on: December 25, 2013, 09:46:04 AM »
I love the protagonist's almost total ignorance of the monsters.
Like it was said in the outro, there is no fighting these things. There isn't even the ability to identify them. All they can do is hold on to a few superstitions about how and what these things can do, and keep going.
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Unblinking

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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2013, 10:23:34 AM »
I liked it.  It made me think in some ways of They Go Bump, though in this case the monsters are not EXACTLY invisible, but functionally speaking they are pretty much invisible, and in this case I never doubted the existence of them.

 The setup of the story really leaves no way to fight them, they've tried everything, cataloged every attempt.  Maybe if they used some kind of sonar machine or other kind of non-visible-light sensor?  But the fact that camera images drive you made just as easily as the real thing makes me think it's going to have the same effect with other sensing mediums.  Maybe if you walked around swinging a machete everywhere you go as you walk?  Maybe that would work for a while, but sooner or later you're still going to touch one or touch its corpse after you kill it (which may have the same effect). 

And it was clear from the beginning that no change to the status quo would be occurring here, so looking back it probably should have been boring, but it never was to me. Maybe because as I thought of ways they could try to work around the situation the narrator was already explaining the reasons why those attempts didn't work.

So in the end the story isn't about the mad situation they're in, but about the ending of one person's choice about what to do in the face of such madness--to try to edge around it and put off the painful quick ending, or embrace the madness.

It says something about a story to make the choice of insanity the preferable option.  In his situation, I believe I would go outside with my eyes open.  It seemed a not unpleasant sort of madness, and I would curious to see what these damned things looked like even if my mind was gone afterward.  And it seems pretty clear that humanity isn't going to recover from this anyway.

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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2013, 08:18:46 PM »
I too enjoyed this story. I liked being left with the question, what would I do?

I'm with Unblinking though. Rather go out laughing, knowing what the end is going to be, than die screaming at a truly faceless terror.

Of course, going at it with a machete might be equally rewarding, at least until the flesh melting thing started.

Moon_Goddess

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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2013, 10:05:23 AM »
I guess I'm the odd ball, I didn't enjoy this one.

Partly cuz I don't like the unwinnable scenario, I'm quite aware of the reality of it, but I don't like it in fiction.

Another part is the intro said something like "Don't look at the Christmas trees" which the longer I listened to the story felts more and more like a spoiler and I got more and more frustrated by being spoiled, and then it turned out to NOT be a spoiler so then I felt cheated.   

I still wouldn't have liked the Kobayashi Maru, even without the Christmas tree line in the beginning, but I would have enjoyed the story more.
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Varda

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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2013, 10:58:18 AM »
I'll go with the general consensus and say I liked this story. But I'll go against the general consensus and say that death by laughing doesn't sound necessarily pleasant or desirable to the alternative to me. You know when someone holds you down and tickles you against your will, and you're technically laughing, but really you're in horrible agony, and somehow the laughter makes it even worse? That's what I was picturing with the laughter in this story: the perversity of having laughter being the thing that happens right before you get slurped up like a milkshake by evil unseens. So bring on the jibbering unseen fear, and I'll even volunteer to carry everyone else's portion of chips while I'm at it. ;)
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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2013, 04:36:01 AM »
This is one of the first times I've ever had to go back and listen to a portion of the story again because the ending made no sense.  I'm still not sure I grok it.  I guess he was going insane because he thought too hard about the monsters and got some of their alien-ness in his sanity bowl?

Up until then it was nicely atmospheric, if unfortunately premise-bound to not have much in the way of plot movement.
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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2013, 09:26:52 AM »
This is one of the first times I've ever had to go back and listen to a portion of the story again because the ending made no sense.  I'm still not sure I grok it.  I guess he was going insane because he thought too hard about the monsters and got some of their alien-ness in his sanity bowl?

Up until then it was nicely atmospheric, if unfortunately premise-bound to not have much in the way of plot movement.

My take on it was that he didn't go insane because he thought too hard about it.  Rather, this situation with the monsters had kept going on unchanged for so long, with all of its inevitability that he found himself no longer able to keep himself in denial about his doom and decided to choose a fate and step into it rather than have it take him unawares.

The Far Stairs

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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2013, 02:16:51 PM »
I really loved this one. It's one of the best horror stories I've heard in a while.

I didn't have problems with the logic of it. I was just thrilled at what an original and frightening idea it conveyed. There have been many stories with similar concepts, but none I can remember that put them together in this particular way. The idea of having to walk through the dark with sanity-destroying monsters all around you was genuinely scary. Plus, the choice of death vs. insanity was interesting to think about.

The best part was that there was no explanation given for where the creatures came from or what they were. I liked how the narrator speculated that they might be some kind of tree but then dismissed it as ridiculous. Maybe a subtle dig at The Happening?

The other best part: THIS WASN'T YET ANOTHER ZOMBIE STORY. When the story began, it seemed to be heading in that direction, and my heart sank. Then it veered off into something far more creative and memorable.

In my opinion, zombies have become the anti-horror conceit. Each new story about zombies makes them less scary, and they were never that scary to begin with. The horror landscape has become crowded with zombies, over saturated with zombies. Zombies are knocking on your front door to hand you your mail. They aren't zombie postmen, they've just brought the mail from your mailbox to your door because they have nothing better to do and they want to feel useful. At this point, zombies are like a peanut butter sandwich on Wonder bread -- neither appetizing nor satisfying. For a while, they held some comedy value, but now even that's getting old. In my opinion, the best way to make your horror story immediately forgettable is to put zombies in it.

I don't like zombies, is my point.

We need more stories like this that illustrate a truly creepy idea we haven't heard a thousand times -- that create new mythologies to stimulate our desensitized imaginations. This is why I listen to Pseudopod. Nice job.
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kibitzer

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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2014, 12:59:05 AM »
In my opinion, zombies have become the anti-horror conceit. Each new story about zombies makes them less scary, and they were never that scary to begin with. The horror landscape has become crowded with zombies, over saturated with zombies. Zombies are knocking on your front door to hand you your mail. They aren't zombie postmen, they've just brought the mail from your mailbox to your door because they have nothing better to do and they want to feel useful. At this point, zombies are like a peanut butter sandwich on Wonder bread -- neither appetizing nor satisfying. For a while, they held some comedy value, but now even that's getting old. In my opinion, the best way to make your horror story immediately forgettable is to put zombies in it.

I don't like zombies, is my point.

For myself, I am absolutely fed up to the back teeth with zombies. They're flavour of the month and well overdue for retirement.

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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2014, 08:30:15 AM »
Kibitzer, good job on the narration. Some of your "white space" performance really struck me. There's several of the pauses that included a breath or exhalation that dovetailed perfectly with the story, lending it verisimilitude.
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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2014, 10:40:24 PM »
Kibitzer, good job on the narration. Some of your "white space" performance really struck me. There's several of the pauses that included a breath or exhalation that dovetailed perfectly with the story, lending it verisimilitude.

Thanks man :)

Cheshire_Snark

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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2014, 06:35:01 PM »
I didn't come away with the impression he'd gone insane at the end...

It seemed (to me) that whilst he intellectually was rather keen on waiting til dawn and the chance to go insane through seeing one of the Plants, his body had other plans and decided to flee the scene, walking faster than was prudent (but realising that at this point "slow" was just as likely to get you dead as "fast" and thereby just trying to either get to safety or death as fast as possible).

To me the "It was almost as if --" was the final thought before he walked into another Triffid-thing.

Many nights of my early teens were occupied with No Win Scenario nightmares with similarly unseen but patient horrors, and this story nailed that feeling of waiting dread perfectly. Many thanks, Mr Marinus!


davidthygod

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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2014, 01:50:46 PM »
I despise interrupted endings.  I feel like they
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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #15 on: January 13, 2014, 09:49:16 AM »
I despise interrupted endings.  I feel like they

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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #16 on: January 13, 2014, 07:09:06 PM »
I just listened to the Yellow Sign and this together. I couldn't help but feel that the "cut off" ending was a bit of a cop out (Did the narrator go insane? Die? Or just get interrupted?) compared to the other story (Where I at least knew it was all three.) I probably wouldn't mind the ending if there was more of an actual plot, but the story really just described the setting and ended. Still the setting was a very good one and I liked this overall.

albionmoonlight

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Re: Pseudopod 365: Whispers In The Dark
« Reply #17 on: January 21, 2014, 11:38:31 AM »
When I was a little kid lying in bed scared, I would imagine that there were a bunch of monsters in my room waiting to get me, and if I opened my eyes, they would pounce.

So, yeah, I totally get this story on a very base level.