Author Topic: PseudoPod 541: Tessa Told Me  (Read 4395 times)


  • Pseudopod Tiger
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on: May 07, 2017, 09:04:02 PM
PseudoPod 541: Tessa Told Me

by Rob Kotecki.

“Tessa Told Me” is a Pseudopod Original. “I always like to say that there’s nothing more terrifying than the human heart.”

ROB KOTECKI is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. His recent horror short, TILLY played at a number of major film festivals and won the Audience Award at the Brooklyn Horror Fest this past year. Later this year, Rob will publish UNCLE GRIMM’S GRAVEYARD RHYMES, a series of sick and twisted nursery rhymes for adults. He can be found on Medium and on Twitter, @arthousepunch. Feel free to visit his production company at Volatile Media.

This week’s reader – Makenzi Newman – is sixteen and lives in Louisiana. This is her second voice-acting job. Makenzi writes her own stories, though has yet to be published. She has another narration coming up on Cast of Wonders!

Info on Anders Manga’s album (they do our theme music!) can be found here.

“She decided to shut her phone off before she did even more damage to her self-respect and offered to play with the kid. Noah wagged his head.
“Tessa says no.”
“Who’s Tessa?”
“She’s nice. She likes you, but she thinks you should go home.”
“Well, too bad for Tessa.” But he merely shrugged and went back to the game.
“She says too bad for you.”
Imaginary friend. Fine. At least the kid’s quiet.”

Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

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Reply #1 on: May 08, 2017, 02:46:42 PM
What caught my attention about this episode was how the main character/victim was made to be complicit in her own demise, something women are taught from birth. Women die from being too polite, from being conditioned to always put others' needs before their own and never hurt someone's feelings -- even if that someone is hurting them. One of the first things we are taught at women's self-defense classes is how to get over our deeply-ingrained conditioning, which acts against our own instincts for danger, and not to second-guess the act of defending ourselves to keep from being assaulted or murdered.

Throughout the story, Julie is painfully aware of the danger she's in, from a sort of tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement that her predicament is a total horror cliche, to the moment she realizes that the father has killed before and now means to do so again. Yet her lifelong conditioning as a female keeps overriding her survival instinct, telling her not to be a tease, maybe she's wrong about him, she should just let him rape her and deal with the aftermath later. Society has etched into her that she should be complicit in her own demise because she is a girl, a woman, and therefore whatever happens to her is her own fault. Her murderer is right and denying him his pleasure in killing her would be rude, so just go along with it.

I saw the story less about Julie as a victim of the monster father and his monster-in-training son, as a victim of a world in which her most basic, most animalistic instinct for survival was taken from her so that she could be put in this situation at all.

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Reply #2 on: May 08, 2017, 06:42:08 PM
It held my interest through the first half of the story. Nothing new about a kid with an invisible friend freaking out a babysitter, but it could still go interesting places. However, I was certain who Tessa was the moment the father stuck his tongue in the protag's mouth, and I didn't think there were any surprises or interesting choices after that.

One of Alasdair's concerns may get resolved, in that Tessa seems intent on killing the boy. (Well, I suspect that two babysitters disappearing pretty much means that the father isn't long for the free world, and that may very well be the change that keeps the boy from becoming a serial killer.)


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Reply #3 on: May 08, 2017, 07:46:05 PM
I'm curious if anyone else had the same reaction to the story that I did. I automatically assumed from the fact that it was a horror story that Tessa was trying to get rid of Julie -- and Noah -- for some reason.

I am quite baffled about the whole breath-holding thing and what Tessa's goal was. She seems to be simultaneously trying to save Julie and hurt Noah, who didn't actually do anything bad to her, as far as we know. If it was merely a misdirect, then yeah, it worked, but it made no sense to the ACTUAL story that was going on, so it doesn't work in the context of the story. I could argue that making Noah go outside was an attempt to get Julie out of the house, and Noah's just a weird kid so he did some of the weird stuff on his own.

Anyway...what I was going to say was that when I realized what was going on (the dad coming on to her), it turned the whole thing on its head in an instant. I got that 'Sixth Sense' instant-restructuring-of-the-story thing where I saw everything from the other side, and I liked that. Where I had been expecting the 'babysitter in the house with an evil ghost' trope, we now had a 'dad is murdering the babysitters' situation. Still horror, but an entirely different type of horror.

I totally get Alasdair's reluctance to put the story in the feed. And yet it DID give me that frisson, so I guess it did what it set out to do.

I invent imaginary people and make them have conversations in my head. I also write.

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Reply #4 on: May 13, 2017, 12:54:15 AM
There were so many misguides that they stumbled over each other.
Dad left the babysitter alone, possibly all night long, with a dismembered body stinking in the basement?
With the babysitter's parents presumably knowing where she was on a painfully rainy night when she would have no reason to roam?
After having texted and had that text ping off the nearest cell tower?


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Reply #5 on: May 13, 2017, 12:55:00 PM
I'm not the only one who thought the Narrator fit a little too well with this one, right? I'm like Alasdair in that I found this story incredibly off-putting, but I feel it might've been compounded by the fact that it ridiculously easy to put the narrator herself into the role of the ill-fated high school babysitter. Entire thing just made me uncomfortable and was hard to get through, which I guess is commendable in it's own right.


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Reply #6 on: May 28, 2017, 05:12:12 PM
After hearing the entire story, I wondered if Tessa was trying to coerce Noah into accidentally killing himself so that he could avoid whatever fate awaited him as the son of murder. Or perhaps she wanted to hurt her murderer, and she'd sussed out that the only thing he actually loved was his son. Either way, this story didn't resonate with me, which curiously gave me more of a reason to analyze it, wondering what about it had gotten the attention of the editorial staff.


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Reply #7 on: July 20, 2017, 05:10:20 PM
I thought the narrator did a fine job reading this story.  I didn't like the story itself, since it seemed like a couple of scenes from a forgettable horror movie.

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Reply #8 on: August 05, 2017, 09:01:26 AM
I also didn't "like" the story, and the fact that a teenager read it made it even more chilling.
But I thought that Alisdair's comments at the end were excellent.


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Reply #9 on: December 14, 2019, 01:42:20 PM
Too bad Tessa didn't think of asking the kid to play the old "Let's call 911 and report a weird smell in the basement" game. Fun for the whole family.

I didn't find this story as upsetting as the host. Maybe I'm a little desensitized after all the body horror episodes and that one about the "family" of musical instruments.


I thought that it was a great idea to have a young lady narrate the story; it added verisimilitude.  The ending was effective and  I  liked the "me too" aspect of the story.


 I don't think it was a good idea to have the babysitter discover Tessa's body. I think GraySky's comment above about societal conditioning is insightful. I also think that young people sometimes have too much faith in their elders. Both things can explain  why the girl did what she did up to the point where she actually finds the body. It's hard to think "Eh, maybe things will work out" once the rotting corpses start showing up. I also would have liked to see more foreshadowing of the father's creepiness earlier in the story.


Are we sure that the little boy is going to become like his father? I don't recall any evidence of it but I could easily have missed something. Why was Tessa trying to kill the boy? Afraid he would be like his dad? To remove the ability of the father to hire future babysitters? Pure vengeance?

p.s. This story would make a good prequel to EP 651: Coven of Dead Girls.