“Something’s in there, crawling around inside.”
Rat King, by Lia Swope Mitchell.
I might be bending the definition of fantasy a little with this horror story, but I’d like to think it’s inexplicable enough to qualify. It comes from Pseudopod, and is the first story in episode 501, with two more stories following it. I may examine the other two in the future, but you can find them all here in the meantime.
In this piece of flash fiction, the narrator speaks to the audience as a character. What he speaks about is the specialized service that he provides: he takes dark secrets and keeps them safe inside of him. He goes into great detail about the process, and, in order to convince the audience to go along with his work, offers evidence.
First things first, I want to take my hat off to Rish Outfield’s narration. His voice, and his cadence, really sell the narrator as a character. Of course, the author’s narrative voice provides the foundation for him to spring from. Without Mitchell’s excellent sense of word choice and flow, I don’t think Outfield’s skill would have stood out as much.
The keystone behind this story’s quality is, I believe, the descriptions the narrator gives. The details are so vivid and grotesque that certain images remain in my mind’s eye, even from when I first listened to this tale over a year ago. And that is something I find impressive. There aren’t many tales that have such strong visual quality to them, but this is definitely one of them.
The plot itself is also done in an interesting way. We only know what the narrator is telling us–and he knows far too much, yet gives just enough information that you know exactly what’s going on and why the audience is there.
Once again, I have to admit my bias as a fan of horror and creepy tales such as this one. But even if you don’t like being scared, I think a lot of people can enjoy this one because it’s not scary. It’s just good, and a bit gross in an effective way. And although it’s short, the length works for it, not the other way around, and so I give it a firm 5 out of 5.
If you enjoyed this tale and want more by Lia Swope Mitchell, you can find her on her website here, and she has a list of where you can find her other works here. She also has a twitter, which you can find and follow here if you’re interested.
Obviously I won’t be asking you what dark secret you’d like to be free of. But would you ever take on someone else’s dark secrets?