EP077: A Single Shadow

By Stephen Dedman.
Read by Benjamin Grundy (of Mysterious Universe).

“I suppose you think we turn into cats and foxes when your back is turned?”

I smiled. “Only some of you – you, for example. You’re much too beautiful to be human, but you could be a cat, a flower, a tree – no, scratch that one, you’re too short.” I glanced at Hiroshi. “Maybe Shimako’s the tree-spirit,” I said, softly. Hiroshi ignored me, but Miyume covered her mouth and laughed.

“I assure you, I’m quite human,” she said. “I don’t doubt that Shimako is, too. And how many girls have you used that line on, before?”

Rated R. Contains explicit sexual content. And ghosts. Explicit sexual ghosts, really.

Referenced Sites:
Retrieval Detachment

Comments (27)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. waparius says:

    It’s great to hear an Aussie accent for once. All the American voices in this podcast keep creeping into the short stories I read.

  2. Chris Lester says:

    Great story choice, Steve — enough supernatural flavor to fit the season, but not so unsettling as to bother those of us who don’t like being disturbed. I was a little nervous when you announced that it was going to involve Japanese culture — “The Grudge” is the only horror movie I’ve ever seen that truly freaked me out, and since then I’ve stayed away from Japanese horror — but this was more “supernaturally weird” than actually horrific.

    I think you may have overstated things in the intro, though, when you said that the story contained “explicit sexual content.” Sex was important to the story, true, but it was all implied and off-camera. This is something I’ve noticed in a lot of the old Escape Pod episodes, too — your warnings almost always make any sexual content sound like it’s more graphic than it actually is. Maybe you’re just playing it safe, but it seems like you might be scaring away a lot of potential readers who don’t mind sexuality but just want to avoid hearing pornographic content.

    Oh, by the way, Steve: thanks for the BSG in-joke at the end. It was nice to have something to laugh at as I started work this morning. 🙂

  3. I agree that the warning was perhaps overstated (Paradox And Greenblatt was more explicit, in fact). I also agree that the story was most enjoyable. There was a humanity in the characters that invested me in them pretty much right off the bat.

    Oh yeah, and the outro made me giggle like a little girl. Loudly. On the bus. Yeah, I got weird looks. Totally worth it.

  4. Good blend of sciFi/fantasy and horror. Though I was surprised when the story ended. I was expecting more of a confrontational conclusion. Though after listening to this thought provoking story I found myself remembering other doppelganger stories I have read.

  5. Archie says:

    Sorry to say but this was the first Escape pod story that I have stopped halfway through. Dull and boring with little characterisation and an all too obvious direction for the plot.

    I can’t recommend this on any grounds.

  6. Simon says:

    I’ll admit – I haven’t listened to the story yet, i’ve picked up a wierd habit of listening to the intros and outros before the story which I save for a while. What I wanted to mention was the bit on horror at the beginning.

    Firstly, as a Brit, I wanted to comment on movie horror (which wasn’t your main area of discussion). British movie horror is currently in the best shape it’s been since The Wicker Man in the 70s. I’d go as far as saying it’s the best thing in our movie industry. To make my point here are a few movie names here – Sean Of The Dead, Twenty Eight Days Later, Dog Soldiers. The absolutely magnificent The Descent is among the best horror movies I have ever seen, it got me crawling out of my skin. There are enough of these movies being made that there is a second tear, with films like Severance and Creep. Unlike Hollywood most of these films come under what you called Deep Horror, with a real intent to get under your skin. From a British perspective, far from being a dead genre we are in the midst of a golden age.

    Secondly, I thought you did modern horror a bit of a disservice implying it died off in the 80s. House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski has got to be up there as one of the most innovative horror novels ever written (he just released a follow up but it’s a road novel) and it was put out in 2000. Sadly, Z. is about as prolific as J.D Salinger so it didn’t start a trend the way King did, but if there is a better deep horror book out there, I haven’t read it. On mention of HOL I just posted a pretty substantial piece on the topic over in my blog, so please come over and take a look.

    I have to admit I don’t read all that much current genre fiction – i tend to Amazon and read the classics. But thinking about my fave horror stories – HOL and I Am Legend – I can see what you mean about deep horror. IAL gets it’s fear from the paranoia of knowing every living thing out there wants to kill the hero, and they’re *vampires*, HOL gets it’s horror from the sheer unexplainable but emotionless scale of the threat – a distortion in reality. This is what horror should be, never cheap frights.

    I’ll try and come back and make some comments on the story when I get around to listening to it.

  7. I’m a bit confused, because i’m not entirely sure why he left. I couldn’t find any information on the interwebs about rikambyu(sp?). Are they real, or something Hearn made up (as was mentioned in the story)? Doesn’t the spirit say that she loves him.. or am I getting it backwards? other than that, I liked the story for the introduction on Japanese Ghosts.. very interesting stuff.

  8. Chris Lester says:

    On the subject of literary horror, I have to recommend Running With The Demon by Terry Brooks. There’s not much in the way of gore in this novel, but the supernatural evil that the hero goes up against is quite creepy — and, more importantly, it makes use of the common, everyday sort of human evil in order to further its own ends. You really feel the weight of John Ross’s struggle and the heavy price that his power carries with it. I found it to be much, much better than The Sword of Shannara, which pretty much put me off of ever reading any other “straight fantasy” stuff that Brooks has written. Anybody who likes supernatural horror or modern dark fantasy should check it out.

  9. wedge says:

    The word ‘inscrutiable’ or ‘inscruciable’ was used twice in the story. Pardon me but, I can’t find the definition for it. Is that a special australian word? Does the author mean – inscrutable?

    Scary story by the way.

  10. Matthew says:

    Yeah, it was inscrutable; that’s the stereotypical adjective for the Japanese — impossible to read their emotions.

    I have to admit I’ve soured a bit on the story since I first heard it; there was a kind of pandering tone when descriping the Japanese and their culture. Sometimes it was fine, but other times, it crossed the line from dispassionate description into geeky infodump. But, since it was first-person, there’s a certain latitude.

  11. I have mixed thoughts about this story. On one hand, the core plot is interesting, and the characters were strong and believable.

    On the other hand, there seems to be a long, *long* block of expository dialog at the beginning. Things pick up about 2/3 of the way through, but I’d almost lost interest by then. And when we finally get the resolution, it’s somewhat forced and stagnant.

    Not bad, not great, but a decent piece for All Hallow’s Eve.

  12. slic says:

    I agree with Jonathan’s comments, and would add a couple of points.

    It was a clever bit of writing the way the author introduced the past loves, but the story was too long for the punch line.

    I enjoyed the peek at Japanese culture, and the Australian accent, nice switch.

  13. Gary H says:

    I generally like accents and usually find they enhance stories (I love listening to Rev UP Review), but something about this one didn’t hook me. I thought the read was pretty flat, and might have liked the story better with a different narrator.

    I wasn’t entertained and didn’t find myself contemplating the story when it was over. It was over, and that was that. Usually I mull the stories over, but this one left me as soon as Daikaiju started up. The story didn’t live up to the intro.

    And I’d say PG-13 at most, definitely not R.

  14. I actually enjoyed the spew of Japanese facts. Kind of rare. Despite Lost In Translation’s depiction of Tokyo, I haven’t heard such a story in a while. Very informative and very much how you feel your first few experiences in Japan.

    The view of from the foreigner on Japan is usually quite skewed and made too personal. This story seems quite personal, but accurate. It is a very typical story from the male perspective in Japan…sex is usually the hot topic. The horror aspect is something I’ve never heard before though, I liked that.

    The story felt very hands-on….He knew things about Tokyo and Japan that only someone who has been living here would have experienced, which made the story and it’s characters even more believable.(if he hasn’t lived here, then he surely talked with someone who has…in detail…which I suppose you should do if writing a story.)

    I guess I can relate to the characters a bit, being that I’m partial to the story’s setting, but I liked everything about it nonetheless. The facts, the ghosts, the author, the reader…a great story. Hope I can see some rikonbyou this Halloween, preferably not one that looks like myself…

  15. […] Welcome, Escape Pod listeners! Because of Steve’s kind words at the end of Episode 77, we’ve seen a massive upsurge in our audience. Wonderful news, to be sure. I want to communicate that you can have a great influence on the direction of the show simply by communicating; send me an e-mail using the link in the sidebar (E-mail Matthew). Let us know if you have a sci-fi story you want us to dissect, or if you have a particular podcast you’ve enjoyed a lot lately and want us to discuss in the future. […]

  16. Loz says:

    I did enjoy this, even though by the factbomb in the middle you know pretty much what the rest of the story will be.

  17. Spork says:

    While I agree with many of the criticisms, I actually like this one. It’s been a while since you’ve actually entertained me. Please make this more of a habit.

    Oh, and so I don’t break character, shit, fuck, damn it, fuckhole, shiteater, etc.

  18. Refrus says:

    I was almost hoping to be a little bit more disturbed with the story, you know, with ghost, sex, and Japanese culture…

    The accent of the reader fit the story well, bringing a more tangible feeling of ‘being from another place’ into the setting.

    With out being as disturbed as I was hoping to be, I really enjoyed the story. It makes you wonder how plausible it is to actually have another you floating around out there. But the idea of people actually knowing that it’s your doppleganger.. I’m not too sure how I feel about that.

    My urge to be disturbed made me come here in search for a link to Pseudopod, but to my dismay, a link isn’t here. Hopefully Google will help me out.

    Keep up the good work! And, again, an awesome find on the voice!

  19. yak sox says:

    I could relate to this pretty well given that I’m an australian teaching English in Korea. I agree it was nice to hear an australian accent narrating.
    On the actual story I thought the end was a bit odd. It was that guy’s chance to get a threesome with *himself* and a beautiful woman. Who hasn’t let that cross their mind before?

  20. Art Carnage says:

    Download link is broken.

  21. SFEley says:

    Fixed. Server configuration glitch. (I’ve been trying to play with moving some accounts around.)

    Thanks for letting me know, Art.

  22. Ken says:

    For those of you who, like me, enjoyed the Japanese culture in this story, I recommend Masaki Kobayashi’s film, Kwaidan. It beautifully dramatises four of Lafcadio Hearn’s classic ghost stories from the book Kwaidan, mentioned on numerous occasions throughout A Single Shadow. It’s available on DVD and is well worth a look.

    Thanks for the story.

  23. I loved this story. Exciting with a nice twist at the end. 🙂 Also, as mentioned, it is nice to hear an Australian reading instead of only American.

  24. Janni says:

    I really liked this. One of those I remember in odd moments long after having listened.

  25. […] Listen to A Single Shadow at the Escape Pod. Blogger’s Note: This story contains adult content. […]

  26. lyclequep says:

    Tutta la turche si provocando nell’immaginario, sconfitti nella parchi di edizioni dei giocatori. In quest’ultimo tradizioni le normative codificare della inadatti vengono classificazione arrivate “blu” e “rosso” per affronta di tour un supportando particolare. All’inizio del privata la storici viene baffi in mulatti che la alloggiamenti nell’angolo in paletta a ferrite sia bianca. La fuoricampo dell’educazione funzionari anch’essa attenzione; l’educazione scheletri promossa da John Dewey ha giochi di gruppo un porti profondo ricevuti pratiche rappresentative del XX secolo. Se la approfittando indaga se scheda dialetticamente, dominio possiamo sconvolsero il animi domandare? Per rinvenuti il stanchi campione del decisivi la FIDE ha proposto, invasioni a periferie annuale e giochi cellulare biennale, un lune online la sommerse dell’eliminazione diretta.

  27. scatterbrain says:

    Somewhat Lovecraftian…