Author Topic: Pseudopod 374: FLASH ON THE BORDERLANDS XIX: Blood On The Tracks  (Read 5749 times)


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Pseudopod 374: FLASH ON THE BORDERLANDS XIX: Blood On The Tracks – Departure, Transit, Arrival

Going nowhere... faster...

“Midnight Express” by Alfred Noyes

“Midnight Express” first appeared in This Week, November 3, 1935.
ALFRED NOYES (1880-1958) is primarily remembered as a poet, especially for his ballads “The Highwayman” and “The Barrel-Organ”. Aside from his poetry he wrote a large number of short stories intended to boost the national morale and small number of uncanny stories including this, “The Lusitania Waits” and “The Log of the Evening Star”. He published many novels including the post-apocalyptic THE LAST MAN (1940) and his famed trilogy THE TORCH BEARERS (1922-1930).

Read by Paul Jenkins – has narrated for Escape Pod, Pseudopod and PodCastle a number of times (he was honoured to be asked to narrate the very first PodCastle episode!). His science fiction podcast novel THE PLITONE REVISIONIST is available for free at His skeptical blog NOTES FROM AN EVIL BURNEE, and his skeptical podcast SKEPTICULE (aka “The Three Pauls Podcast“) can be found at the links.

“It was a battered old book, bound in read buckram. He found it, when he was twelve years old, on an upper shelf in his father’s library; and, against all the rules, he took it to his bedroom to read by candlelight, when the rest of the rambling old Elizabethan house was flooded with darkness. That was how young Mortimer always thought of it.”

“Destination: Nihil by Edmund Bertrand” by Mark Samuels

“Destination: Nihil by Edmund Bertrand” had its first appearance in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW HORROR #20 edited by Stephen Jones. MARK SAMUELS (born 1967) is the author of four short story collections THE WHITE HANDS AND OTHER WEIRD TALES (Tartarus Press 2003), BLACK ALTARS (Rainfall Books 2003), GLYPHOTECH & OTHER MACABRE PROCESSES (PS Publishing 2008) and THE MAN WHO COLLECTED MACHEN & OTHER STORIES (Ex Occidente 2010 and Chomu Press 2011) as well as the short novel THE FACE OF TWILIGHT (PS Publishing 2006). His tales have appeared in both THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW HORROR and THE YEAR’S BEST FANTASY & HORROR. He has a new collection forthcoming from Egaeus Press in 2014 and has been described by Ramsey Campbell as “the British Thomas Ligotti”: A description he is at odds with, since he shares few, if any, of Ligotti’s aims either as a contemporary philosopher or writer of weird fiction. He is also literary executor for the late Edmund Bertrand. “How I came to be Bertrand’s literary executor is a convoluted affair and too long to go into here,” explains Samuels. “In any case, it’s certainly ironic, given that Bertrand (an American citizen, but of French ancestry, as his name suggests) was a staunch Anglophobe. Bertrand was born in Memphis, sometime during 1957, and died in a mysterious hotel fire whilst attending a convention in England in 2007. His stories chart the far reaches of madness, and were never collected together in a single volume. His main influences were European authors such as Stefan Grabinski, Roger Gilbert-Lecomte, Dino Buzzati and Jean Lorrain.”

Read by Jorn Meyer – who is new to PSEUDOPOD with this story and who is available for narration or voice work and can be reached at

“There was no question now of keeping panic in check. Grey loped off along the aisle of the car in search of the conductor, or of the first person he encountered. A few rows further down he saw a man slouched in his seat, dressed in a rain mac and a wide-brimmed floppy hat that obscured his face. Grey hesitated before addressing the stranger, because he feared the face concealed in shadow. Would it be like that of the conductor? If it were, then he feared he would have reached a tipping point and might scream himself to death.”

“The Terminus” by Kim Newman.

A slightly different version of “The Terminus” appeared in the fanzine Sheep Worrying in 1981; this version appeared in Fantasy Tales in 1985. “It’s pretty much the earliest story I sold professionally.” KIM NEWMAN is a novelist, critic and broadcaster. His fiction includes THE QUORUM, LIFE’S LOTTERY and PROFESSOR MORIARTY: THE HOUND OF THE D’URBERVILLES; his non-fiction includes NIGHTMARE MOVIES and BFI Classics studies of CAT PEOPLE and DOCTOR WHO. He has written plays for the theatre (The Hallowe’en Sessions) and radio (Cry-Babies), is a contributing editor to Sight & Sound and Empire magazines and reviews in Video Watchdog. His official web-site can be found here. He is also on Twitter as @AnnoDracula and his latest novel is ANNO DRACULA: JOHNNY ALUCARD, fourth in the successful ANNO DRACULA series. His next novel, AN ENGLISH GHOST STORY, will be out in late 2014.

Your reader, Siobhan Gallichan, is a voice-over artist available for work at Listen to Siobhan’s podcast at The Flashing Blade or watch the show on YouTube.

“‘Oh yes,’ Verdon told me, ‘disappearances from the underground are not uncommon. Every once in a while some unfortunate wanders off where he shouldn’t and meets with an accident. Sometimes our staff doesn’t come across the remains for years. Some people never do turn up. Those are the most interesting, I think. This pile.’

It was an impressive stack of manila folders. On the night of 9 October 1872 (which I like to think of as appropriately foggy) Mr Julian Selwyn-Pitt, a landscape painter, walked into Oxford Street station and was never seen again. Since 1872, fifteen thousand, eight hundred and twenty-four people had followed Mr Selwyn-Pitt into Verdon’s files. The figure was exclusive of all those whose disappearance was not reported and those, like Robert Webb, whose folders had not yet drifted down to settle in Verdon’s office.

‘So there are nearly sixteen thousand people lying around the tube somewhere?’”

Interstitial music is “Fearless Bleeder” by Chimpy, available from Music Alley.

Train sounds are from

Cave drips are from

Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2014, 11:28:37 PM by Bdoomed »

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

Just Jeff

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Reply #1 on: February 23, 2014, 03:27:55 PM
I enjoyed the first one and found the second boring. Third was the jewel of the lot; however, it seemed a line or two short. I want something showing the protag's transition from searching to waiting.

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Reply #2 on: February 24, 2014, 08:30:06 PM

All three of these stories were gold, in my opinion.

The first one was my favorite: genuinely "uncanny" with a slow, seeping dread. It reminded me of a far more sinister version of a Magritte painting. Even when it became clear what was going on, I was still on the edge of my seat (slightly dangerous since I was driving).

The second one had a great atmosphere of nightmare, and I loved the image at the end of the endless circular train hooked to itself. That's a version of hell I hadn't imagined before.

The third had an excellent dry wit running throughout. Nonetheless, the note it ended on was actually very creepy. I'm really glad it ended where it did with no explanation or further action.

Usually in a Flash on the Borderlands episode, there are one or more stories that don't really do it for me. However, this one knocked it out of the park. The doom park.

Jesse Livingston
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Reply #3 on: February 25, 2014, 07:12:14 PM
I enjoyed the first one and found the second boring. Third was the jewel of the lot

Pretty much my opinion as well.

1. I realize this was written many years ago, but I'm burned out on recursive stories.
2. Also burned out on "is this a dream" stories.
3. I loved the "sardines" conceit.

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I loved the imagery in these. The pinned book and its hidden woodcut, the creatures in the sacks, and the game of sardines.

I loved the circularity in the second where it appears that the passengers on the train start as the maggots, grow into massive grubs, then into the sack things, and then to try to reconcile and retain sanity.

I also found the dripping water to be an effective layer in the third story.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


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Midnight Express
I generally liked it for its creepy mood.  Had a classic brooding horror feel I liked.

Destination:  Nihil
It seemed to kind of skim over the parts that I found really intersting:  mostly the apparent progression from grubs to confused human beings as apparently part of a multi-stage insectile development process.  The real interesting part is, what's the next stage?  There has to be a next stage because the grubs didn't come from nowhere, and there are apparently only two adults on board right now.  Do they grow wings and fly away, only to come back and drop more bags of dirt?  Do they grow bigger and bigger and eventually make model train sets that run in circles forever to provide the centrifugal force that is perhaps necessary for the proper growth of the grubs?
I didn't really find it creepy or scary, but found it interesting to imagine what life cycle these creatures might have.

This one was hilarious and absurd.  I like it.  I wonder if that number is actually accurate on the number of people that have disappeared reportedly in the underground?  I'd have to guess that at a large number must've come back out before dying/disappearing because at some point it'd have to get crowded down there, wouldn't it?  "Sorry I'm late sir, the trains are running a little slowly on account of all the heaps of corpses on the tracks."


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The Terminus was really good.  I used to watch Cities of the Underworld on History Channel all of the time.  These are the perfect horror locations.

The man is clear in his mind, but his soul is mad.


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I agree with JesseLivingston.  This is a terrific clutch of tales.

"Midnight Express" reminded me of the great Cortazar story "Continuity of Parks" with its metafictional premise and threat.  Noyes carried it off well, using repetition to surreal effect.  Grounding the tale in childhood added to emotional power as well.

"'Destination: Nihil by Edmund Bertrand'": I join the supporting camp.  This quiet nightmare seemed to come out of the dark hive mind shared by Ligotti, Bruno Schulz, and the brothers Quay.  Lots of ominous power yielding to monstrosity and a sense of hellish universal order.

“The Terminus”: a fun fling from an appallingly young Kim Newman.  Already we see on display his love of London and his sharp sense of humor.

PS: listening to this podcast after watching Snowpiercer was fun.


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I have two Cortazar pieces I'd love to do - neither is "horror", exactly, but both are dark/weird. 


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Reply #9 on: December 11, 2019, 03:16:32 PM
Midnight Express is a classic. For anyone interested the BBC produced a reading of this story back in 1986. It was narrated by Joss Ackland of "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" fame and is most excellent.

Ackland's reading of "The Tower" by Marghanita Laski and "A Little Place Off The Edgware Road" by Graham Greene are also highly recommended.