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Author Topic: Pseudopod 412: Rule Of Five  (Read 5501 times)

Bdoomed

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on: November 17, 2014, 04:48:43 AM
Pseudopod 412: Rule Of Five

by Eleanor Wood

“Rule Of Five” first appeared in Bete Noire in May 2012 and hasn’t yet been reprinted. “Obsessive compulsive disorder is far from the trivial, quirky condition it’s often made out to be. It’s a serious psychiatric disorder that can massively impact the lives of its sufferers. Through this story, I wanted to explore it in a psychological horror context whilst trying to convey the pressure and intensity of living with OCD.”

ELEANOR WOOD‘s stories have appeared in Bete Noire, Plasma Frequency, Bastion, and Crossed Genres, among others. She writes and eats liquorice from the south coast of England, where she lives with her husband, two marvellous dogs, and enough tropical fish tanks to charge an entry fee.. She blogs at Creative Panoply.

Your reader is Alasdair Stuart. Read what’s on his mind at The Man Of Words.



“Adam clicked the light off. He clicked it on again. Off again. On again, once more, and then, finally, off. Sighing, he closed his apartment door and turned the key before unlocking it, opening it just to check that the light was off (it always was, by the very nature of the Rule of Five), and closing and locking the door once more. He walked, in elongated steps, the five paces to the head of the stairs, and then trotted down them briskly, counting them in his mind. Fourteen steps, of course. There would always be fourteen, unless he failed to count them. But in that event, the number of steps would be the least of his worries.”



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

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


Unblinking

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Reply #1 on: November 17, 2014, 03:17:26 PM
Ooh, this one was super good.  It was clear from the beginning that this was a story about OCD, but I thought it did a good job of convincing me of the very real internal tension inherent in the disorder and what it might feel like to go through it even though I've never had OCD--in certain matters I can sometimes have weird little rituals that make little sense to anyone but me, but they don't give me any angst if I can't follow them.

I liked that it acknowledged that the rules normally hadn't been followed when they couldn't be--like in a rush at the bar.  I don't think it's mentally possible to keep everything in fives--you can't count your breaths and heartbeats in fives while you're doing other stuff, for instance.  And I was sure that he was going to break 4 more glasses to match the first broken one (and then lose his job).

The enforcing stranger was a nice horror twist to the whole idea, lending more credence to the whole idea. 

This might've just been me, but did anyone else imagine the stranger to be Strider?  It felt like Strider to me, with the whole lurking mysteriously and alone in a dark corner of a bar and watching with undue scrutiny.



SpareInch

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Reply #2 on: November 19, 2014, 10:59:25 AM
This might've just been me, but did anyone else imagine the stranger to be Strider?  It felt like Strider to me, with the whole lurking mysteriously and alone in a dark corner of a bar and watching with undue scrutiny.


Yes...

It's just you.

I can see what you meant though. Although I was envisioning more of a Le Carrie-esque shady MI5 officer.

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albionmoonlight

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Reply #3 on: November 19, 2014, 08:21:18 PM
A friend of my father in law had OCD, and some of his stories were terrifying.  In general, he had the tools to keep it in control, but when he could not, it completely took over his life.

I also really liked the reality of the shadowy stranger.  I don't know if it was meant as a twist, but it surprised me.



Dwango

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Reply #4 on: November 19, 2014, 08:59:45 PM
Reminds me of when I used to have to sleep on only my right side at night.  Never lay on your left side, as bad things could happen.



adrianh

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Reply #5 on: November 20, 2014, 11:05:28 AM
The enforcing stranger was a nice horror twist to the whole idea, lending more credence to the whole idea. 

The entrance of the enforcing stranger was where I lost interest in the tale ;-)

For me the horror of conditions like OCD is that there isn't an external enforcing agent. Bringing in the vaguely supernatural punishing stranger took the heart out of a really nice piece of pure psychological horror for me.

I found it much, much more horrifying when the protagonist had to follow the rule of five because he had to follow the rule of five because he had to follow the rule of five because he had to follow the rule of five because he had to follow the rule of five…

Following the rule of five otherwise scary man will get you… not so much.



Unblinking

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Reply #6 on: November 20, 2014, 02:42:31 PM
The entrance of the enforcing stranger was where I lost interest in the tale ;-)

For me the horror of conditions like OCD is that there isn't an external enforcing agent. Bringing in the vaguely supernatural punishing stranger took the heart out of a really nice piece of pure psychological horror for me.

I found it much, much more horrifying when the protagonist had to follow the rule of five because he had to follow the rule of five because he had to follow the rule of five because he had to follow the rule of five because he had to follow the rule of five…

Following the rule of five otherwise scary man will get you… not so much.

I hear where you're coming from.  For me, I thought it worked because the enforcing stranger is a tool to help a non-OCD person understand the tension.  A real OCD person feels real tension without thinking there's actually a stranger, but I thought the stranger might be a reasonable tool as part of the story to help a non-OCD person understand the tension.  

I don't think that the presence of the stranger is meant to be a thing that is actually present.  There is no stranger.  Or if there is, the stranger is in your brain.

On the flipside, perhaps it could be seen as spreading misinformation about the specifics of the condition.  I can see that, too.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2014, 02:44:12 PM by Unblinking »



albionmoonlight

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Reply #7 on: November 20, 2014, 04:31:27 PM
The enforcing stranger was a nice horror twist to the whole idea, lending more credence to the whole idea. 

The entrance of the enforcing stranger was where I lost interest in the tale ;-)

For me the horror of conditions like OCD is that there isn't an external enforcing agent. Bringing in the vaguely supernatural punishing stranger took the heart out of a really nice piece of pure psychological horror for me.

I found it much, much more horrifying when the protagonist had to follow the rule of five because he had to follow the rule of five because he had to follow the rule of five because he had to follow the rule of five because he had to follow the rule of five…

Following the rule of five otherwise scary man will get you… not so much.

I totally get and love non supernatural horror.  My favorite Pseudopod this year is the one where the doctor has to decide whether or not to let the old woman die of morphine withdrawal (too lazy to go find the title).  So I really understand your letdown at this story having added a supernatural element where one was not needed.

I, however, liked it because it managed to really surprise me.  Right when I had decided that this was not a supernatural story, then BAM a literal stranger comes out of the shadows and grabs the narrator around the throat.  Creepy.



Unblinking

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Reply #8 on: November 20, 2014, 06:24:08 PM
I totally get and love non supernatural horror.  My favorite Pseudopod this year is the one where the doctor has to decide whether or not to let the old woman die of morphine withdrawal (too lazy to go find the title).  So I really understand your letdown at this story having added a supernatural element where one was not needed.

I, however, liked it because it managed to really surprise me.  Right when I had decided that this was not a supernatural story, then BAM a literal stranger comes out of the shadows and grabs the narrator around the throat.  Creepy.

I thought that if the stranger wasn't real that could be a panic attack causing a combination of being unable to breathe properly and lack of oxygen making him hallucinate.



Fenrix

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Reply #9 on: November 20, 2014, 08:33:38 PM
I like OCD as a mechanism to convey horror. Well handled abnormal psychology is effective. Those who liked this one should pick up Stephen King's novella "N." The graphic series they adapted from it is another good way to consume it: http://youtu.be/i454o7ijabI

As for how I envisioned the stranger: I was more in line with the opening of Desperado, where it was described as not so much that the shadows grew around him, but that the lights dimmed for him.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2014, 08:35:19 PM by Fenrix »

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


Metalsludge

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Reply #10 on: November 23, 2014, 09:13:53 PM
While I appreciate the author's wish to convey something of how OCD can be a lot less trivial and quirky and a lot more horrific for those who deal with it, I have mixed feelings about describing it as some deep psychiatric disorder. I mean, much of current research points to how it's mostly a biological condition, albeit one that often happens to intersect with one's psychology cause it happens to occur within the brain. Part of the problem some sufferers encounter is the fact that, with most of us taking basic brain functions for granted, it is initially really hard to divide the OCD impulses from some real concern about something that is real. But a lot of people with it eventually grasp the difference and learn to deal with it objectively, even though it remains a hassle. Just saying. Again, I do appreciate dealing with the matter in a serious way though. I recall seeing advertisements for that series Monk with the actor mugging OCD traits for the camera, and cringing a little. The show itself may have been good, but that sort of thing left a bad taste. Quirky and cute it is not.   

That said, I actually rather like the idea of introducing the enforcing strange person, as this speaks to a fear that someone with OCD may very well have... that the tension IS based on something real after all. Oh noes!  :o   


Horror fiction is all about exploring fears, so it's fair game, I think, rather than feeling merely exploitative or something.   



laurasbadideas

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Reply #11 on: November 24, 2014, 11:12:39 AM
So, was I the only person who identified with the stranger?

Midway through the story, I thought the stranger's stare would cause Adam to lose his ability to do his work competently, which would make him lose his job and would basically ruin his life. But during the time the stranger was staring, his internal monologue might have been something like: is that Bob? It's hard to tell without his signature glasses. He might have switched to contacts, though. If that is Bob, he's put on some weight. Lost some hair, too. Of course, it has been six years. But no, that guy's nose isn't quite--oh, wait, he's staring at me now. Does he recognize me? Maybe it is Bob after all. No, wait, Bob had that scar over his left eye, and this guy doesn't. Yeah, definitely not Bob. Which means the stranger could have completely ruined Adam's life without realizing it. Which made me wonder: how many times have I done the same thing?



Zieborn

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Reply #12 on: November 25, 2014, 04:04:57 PM
The enforcing stranger was a nice horror twist to the whole idea, lending more credence to the whole idea.  

The entrance of the enforcing stranger was where I lost interest in the tale ;-)

For me the horror of conditions like OCD is that there isn't an external enforcing agent. Bringing in the vaguely supernatural punishing stranger took the heart out of a really nice piece of pure psychological horror for me.

I found it much, much more horrifying when the protagonist had to follow the rule of five because he had to follow the rule of five because he had to follow the rule of five because he had to follow the rule of five because he had to follow the rule of five…

Following the rule of five otherwise scary man will get you… not so much.

I couldn't agree more.  This was my thought as well.  I was going to log on here and write how amazing it was to see a story that shows the real, actual horror (with a supernatural element of sorts) faced by people with a real mental health issue.  I was loving it right up until there really was a monster.  Kind of lost its teeth for me there.  

And I know OCD.  I battled mine getting worse for a long time.  I got it under control early, so it isn't too bad. When I was a kid I was at my absolute worst.  Prayers were the worst part of the lot.  By the end of it they were taking about an hour.  I didn't want to miss anyone, or any possible situation I should have asked for advanced intervention with.  Having it tied to religion is terrible, because you're taught to give real credence to the supernatural element of it.

 I've got it down to just checking all the doors, the stove, and the fridge before going to bed (like many a normal person), and an occasional need to check them again.  And sometimes the need to walk backwards over a manhole cover if I step onto it.  Or a blue parking space.  Sometimes.  I have been systematically breaking all my remaining little taboos since I noticed my autistic son patting corners he'd pass.  I can't have him see me doing weird things and then picking them up.  So far, I have broken pretty much all of them and am happy to report I am fine.  One last one is saying I am doing fine having broken them, as that is a "jinx."  So I'll type it again.  I am doing fine.  Come and get me scary man. I'll leave a light on for you.  :)

    



SpareInch

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Reply #13 on: November 25, 2014, 05:08:09 PM
And I know OCD.  I battled mine getting worse for a long time.  I got it under control early, so it isn't too bad. When I was a kid I was at my absolute worst.  Prayers were the worst part of the lot.  By the end of it they were taking about an hour.  I didn't want to miss anyone, or any possible situation I should have asked for advanced intervention with.  Having it tied to religion is terrible, because you're taught to give real credence to the supernatural element of it.

 I've got it down to just checking all the doors, the stove, and the fridge before going to bed (like many a normal person), and an occasional need to check them again.  And sometimes the need to walk backwards over a manhole cover if I step onto it.  Or a blue parking space.  Sometimes.  I have been systematically breaking all my remaining little taboos since I noticed my autistic son patting corners he'd pass.  I can't have him see me doing weird things and then picking them up.  So far, I have broken pretty much all of them and am happy to report I am fine.  One last one is saying I am doing fine having broken them, as that is a "jinx."  So I'll type it again.  I am doing fine.  Come and get me scary man. I'll leave a light on for you.  :)

    

Kudos!

When the scary man gets here, I'll hold your coat. ;)

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Maxilu

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Reply #14 on: December 04, 2014, 12:46:50 AM
I haven't been listening to Pseudopod for very long, only a few months or so, but I think this is the story that has freaked me out the most. I don't have OCD, but I do have severe social anxiety and am bipolar. I felt for Adam, and thought the author did a good job of conveying the terror that comes with an anxiety that one part of your brain is telling you is irrational, while another is telling you (in Adam's case) to complete the set of five or (in my case) run and hide and don't let anyone see you.

I really like the idea of mental illness as a vehicle for horror--that is, for the person with the mental illness. When you know that you can't trust your eyes, ears, brain, or feelings, the things that go bump in the night take on a whole new level of terror. And you don't even know if it's reasonable to be afraid.



The Far Stairs

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Reply #15 on: December 15, 2014, 07:29:11 AM
As someone once diagnosed with OCD, I loved this story. It really captured what obsession/compulsion feels like.

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