Author Topic: Pseudopod 393: West Gate  (Read 5004 times)

Bdoomed

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Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« on: July 06, 2014, 10:45:19 AM »
Pseudopod 393: West Gate

by Mitchell Edgeworth.

“West Gate” was first published in Allegory magazine in January 2013 and is still available in their paywalled archives. Mitchell notes: “The bridge does have a bit of bad mojo about it. It collapsed while under construction in the 60s and killed two dozen workers, and was notorious as a suicide bridge until a guy threw his daughter off it a few years ago and they put some fences up. It’s also a fairly ugly, modern bridge compared to the more famous Sydney Harbour Bridge (which crosses a beautiful stretch of water, whereas the West Gate crosses the port and then plunges into factories, industrial areas and the impoverished western suburbs.)”.

MITCHELL EDGEWORTH is an Australian writer currently living in London. He has fiction published or forthcoming in venues including Daily Science Fiction, Postscripts to Darkness and Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction. He tweets as @mitchedgeworth and keeps a blog at Grub Street Hack.

Your reader – Ron Jon – was featured in a showcase in Pseudopod 377: Showcase: The Dark Audio Tone Poems of The Spectre Collector. Ron has written and published children’s books; scripts and screenplays for animation and live action; musical lyrics and libretti. He is a student of strange phenomena/parapsychology, horror and children’s literature.
You can hear more of his work at The Spectre Collector Blog and The Spectre Collector Page. Also, be sure to check out the Killer Blood Shroom Cult hymns at The Fruits Of Madness.

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“A dozen helicopters were hovering around the distant city, all lancing their spotlights down on the same place – by his reckoning, somewhere near the Domain Tunnel or the Arts Centre. He could see no other movement. No explosions, no gunfire, no destruction. Had it been contained?

A few other people had left their cars and were standing at the barrier, staring at the city. Some were holding up their mobile phones, trying to get a signal. “Anybody know what the fuck’s holding traffic up?” a truckie asked.

“Some dickhead must have had a smash,” someone replied. “Nothing on the radio, though.”

“Nothing on the radio at all,” the truckie said again. He was visibly agitated, pacing up and down at the railing, his hands tucked into his armpits for warmth. “What’s the fucking government doing? That’s what I want to know. Where’s the army?”

“Didn’t you see those tanks go past before?””





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Seekerpilgrim

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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2014, 11:07:43 PM »
I REALLY enjoyed this story. I'm usually not a fan of the "Unknown Threat" scenario, where the argument is usually that the reader's/listener's/watcher's imagination will create something deadlier or more horrific than the author. My counter argument would be "then why don't I just write a story that I want to read myself ?" The reason to engage in someone else's work is to entertained and hopefully somewhat surprised. As fas as I'm concerned it's the author's job to tell me what's going on, to take me on a journey. After all, one doesn't buy an incomplete map or hire a guide who only knows bits and pieces of the way to your destination. Somehow, someway, however, this tale reaches a perfect balance between showing what the danger is and leaving the listener to fill in the details of the actual threat. We know it came out of the sky, someone described it as an act of God, it caused a power outage (either directly or indirectly) of an entire city which is being evacuated, it was dangerous enough for police and military to start shooting at it, and people started running, screaming, and jumping off the bridge when it (they?) got close. Aliens? Zombies? Demons? Kaiju? Any of these would fit here, and while I very much would like to find out what happens next, in this VERY rare case I'm fine not knowing. Kudos to the author for finding that sweet spot. Well done.
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kibitzer

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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2014, 06:27:02 AM »
I'll just say, the West Gate Bridge is a real place in my home town of Melbourne, and thus, this story creeped me the hell out.

albionmoonlight

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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2014, 02:32:17 PM »
Less is more.  Less is more when the less that you do get is well done.  And it was very well done here.

The detail of the child in the backseat pretending just a little too hard to be asleep will stick with me for a long time.

Great great story.

Whaletale

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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2014, 01:35:19 PM »
Absolutely brilliant story! The narration had me feeling like I was stuck on that bridge with them, frantically tuning into my radio and trying to figure out just what exactly was going on.  I loved how our narrator was a "real person" rather then the protagonist in a horror story, and that every time something scary or supernatural was about to happen he went "I'm outta here!" and backed away instead of running straight into the madness and chaos. As much as I really wanted to know just what strange alien/monster/government test/etc was afflicting the city, I think the author showed great restraint in explaining the situation enough to get our minds reeling with the possibilities, but never actually removed the curtain.

A minor thing that threw me off was that his car was telling him the temperature in Fahrenheit instead of Celsius. I kept trying to figure out why everyone was so cold in 60*F weather!  ;)

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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2014, 09:09:16 AM »
Great story, well told.  Like seekerpilgrim, I often want to try to know the basis of the story without having to guess, but I think the reason it worked in this story was because it wasn't ABOUT the threat.  It was about being on the outskirts of the area affected by the threat and what exactly that means.  The situation was such that there was still plenty to threaten them.

I think that if it were me I would've abandoned the car earlier once it became clear that people were abandoning their cars and walking.  Why?  Because, no matter what caused the blockage up ahead, if random people in a traffic jam are abandoning their cars and walking, that means the traffic jam is essentially permanent now short of finding a tank that can drive atop the cars or something.  If you feel threatened enough to be fleeing the city you'd be better off walking at that point.

The moment when the military turned on the civilians was dark and effective, if not entirely unexpected.  I happen to be playing through the old PC game Half-Life in which there's a similar kind of betrayal, where a research lab accident lets through monsters from other dimensions and the scientists are trying to make it to the surface where the military has come to rescue except, nope, they're just killing everyone.

Also, Ron Jon is an amazing narrator and I would love to keep hearing more of him.


A minor thing that threw me off was that his car was telling him the temperature in Fahrenheit instead of Celsius. I kept trying to figure out why everyone was so cold in 60*F weather!  ;)

Haha, me too.  Might not have hurt for the story to give the F or C explicitly. 

kibitzer

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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2014, 05:23:48 PM »
The story takes place in Australia. We're all Celsius :)

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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2014, 10:03:59 AM »
The story takes place in Australia. We're all Celsius :)

Right.  That's why it was confusing when the temperature in the story was apparently Farenheit.

edgeworth

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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2014, 03:48:15 PM »
Hi all, I'm the author. Glad everyone enjoyed West Gate. Just wanted to duck in and note that the story says it's three degrees outside the car, nine degrees inside, and Ron seems to pronounce that clearly. That's pretty cold in both C or F!

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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2014, 11:01:29 AM »
Hi all, I'm the author. Glad everyone enjoyed West Gate. Just wanted to duck in and note that the story says it's three degrees outside the car, nine degrees inside, and Ron seems to pronounce that clearly. That's pretty cold in both C or F!

Pretty different temps though, 9C is about 49F, which really isn't cold enough to need to run the heater assuming you didn't leave the house without a coat.  IMO.  While 9F is below freezing.  But I'm Minnesotan, so take that with a grain of salt.

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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2014, 06:07:59 PM »
A very entertaining story and fabulous narration.  Well done!

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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2014, 02:57:45 PM »
Less is more.  Less is more when the less that you do get is well done. 
==============

I'm a sucker for the unseen threat.  I enjoyed how the the helicopter's spotlights were aimed at something nasty (in the proverbial woodshed).  As a SCUBA diver, I was expecting FISHHEAD to unnerve me more than WESTGATE.  Keep em coming, eh.  And yes, this narration was spot on (making my skin crawl).
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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2014, 07:16:34 PM »
I've got nothing to add really; great story and great narration. The pacing in particular was brilliant.

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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2014, 02:56:10 AM »
Pretty different temps though, 9C is about 49F, which really isn't cold enough to need to run the heater assuming you didn't leave the house without a coat.  IMO.  While 9F is below freezing.  But I'm Minnesotan, so take that with a grain of salt.

That would be it, then; 3-9 degrees for an Australian is freezing.  ;)

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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2014, 03:47:22 PM »
The military destroying the bridge, I suspect to keep something bad from crossing it, and then people despairing anyway even after the bridge is out, certainly made me wonder what was so threatening. I'm afraid that my wonder at what could be the problem was stronger than my interest in the overall concept of being on the bridge in that situation though.

This is probably because such scenes have been acted out so many times before, from the old War of the Worlds book, and famous broadcast, to various modern monster and disaster movies, such that it's all overly familiar now. The idea does still hold a special chill though. Where will each of us be stuck when it all really does go down?

My father was high ranking in the government during the Cold War, so I grew up knowing that he had a special card that let him into the bunker if The End ever came, presumably leaving everyone else to die and such while the government had their Dr. Strangelove moment. Our family speculation though, was that the traffic jam to end all traffic jams would have prevented any of us, even those with special cards, from escaping if it did all hit the fan one day. I still fear that a West Gate Bridge moment may be in all our futures, eventually.

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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2014, 02:53:05 PM »
This has been one of my favorites so far!

Every now and then when reading disaster/apocalypse stories I wonder about what it would actually be like for me if I were in one of that situation, and figured I'd probably get stuck in the city and not be one of the survivors. Made this one extra tense and relatable.

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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #16 on: October 13, 2014, 09:45:50 AM »
I really dug the story. In my head it started as kaiju. Alternately, I considered zombies with the protagonist's brain damage and feeling of detachment as a symptom of his new nature. Regardless, the personal horror was great. There's the helplessness of entrapment. This was amped up with the struggle with his wife between staying or going.

Hi all, I'm the author. Glad everyone enjoyed West Gate. Just wanted to duck in and note that the story says it's three degrees outside the car, nine degrees inside, and Ron seems to pronounce that clearly. That's pretty cold in both C or F!

Pretty different temps though, 9C is about 49F, which really isn't cold enough to need to run the heater assuming you didn't leave the house without a coat.  IMO.  While 9F is below freezing.  But I'm Minnesotan, so take that with a grain of salt.

I have to pedant here to make some corrections.

As established in the first paragraph of the story, it was 49 degrees (9C)  INSIDE the car. It was 37 degrees (3C) OUTSIDE. Under some circumstances you can see your breath in the upper 40's. At 37 degrees you absolutely can see your breath. Add to the temperature the stationary nature of the situation, so movement is not assisting with staying warm. It was also mentioned that if the heat was not being run, the cold penetrated the car rather quickly. The problem is compounded with the characters being stuck on a bridge. Due to the lack of physical wind breaks, ambient heat is sucked off at a much higher rate than if they were on the shoulder in a wooded area. So yeah, it's five degrees above freezing two hundred feet in the air above a body of water.

TL;DR it's fucking cold outside and the engine has to pretty much run constantly to remain tolerable.
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davidthygod

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Re: Pseudopod 393: West Gate
« Reply #17 on: October 16, 2014, 05:48:04 PM »
The reader was outstanding.  Until the ending, I felt that this one was dragging badly until the last few minutes, but somehow the reader kept it completely engaging, where I am certain I would have checked out with many of the other possible readers for this piece.

I also want to give some kudos to Alisdair.  I felt his comments about the main characters escalating loss were stellar and spot on.  If this story is about anything, its about loss.  Alisdair, thanks for the perspective, I actually think your summation made me like this story much more than I had prior to hearing your words.
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