Gothic Fiction, Pagham-verse, Podcast

Podcast S01E22 ~ Chapter 20 Up Now (Season Finale Next Week!)

Chapter 20 of The Crows is online today!

CW for another mild Rob Zombie chapter with horrendous family dynamics, mild xenophobia, parental abuse (including the long-awaited threatened lobotomy by parasites), zombies/treatment of dead girls like dolls


Links on my podcast page.

Chapter 20: If I Can’t Have You…

…in which Guy makes a choice and things get worse…

“Feed him, George,” his mother begged, “feed him his punishment.” 

Ricky could smell the soup now. His punishment meal. Bits of his mother were in that soup. Bits that would never live long enough to spawn properly but would love to feed on living flesh, living brain, before they wriggled their last dance. Turn your mind to scrambled egg, they would, holey as Swiss cheese, like a foreigner’s breakfast.  

His face prickled with an odd sensation. 

(Is this what fear feels like?) 

“No! No, no, now hang on, hold on a minute, feather, feather doan’ you be doing of it, doan’ you bleedin’ dare…”  

“Blank as water, ye’ll be,” his father gloated, scratching at his string vest. “Disremember your own name.” 

“My baby boy, back to me again,” crooned his mother. “Start all over we will, and you’ll be good as gold.” 

He cricked his neck to seek her out, a looming presence in black lace and shadow. “Mum…” His guts twisted. “I’ll be good now, Mum, I’ll do what you say. Doan’ let him do it, Mum, please, please, Mum, I’ll be good as gold.” 

She shook her head. “He’s lying, George. Listen to him! Why couldn’t we have had a girl, ruby-honest lips she’d have.”  

The soft, susurrus words cut him deep. 

You always say that,” he hissed down at his chains, scraping the chair on the floor.  

Fragments of a plan formed, shards of a broken mirror. 

He breathed through the pain. 

“I’ll get you another live girl, mother. I know one.”  

“You don’t know any girls,” his father scoffed.  

“I do.” He whipped his head around, the soup getting perilously close to his face now, borne by his father’s elastic, clawed hands. “Keep away, I’ll disremember ‘er, don’t.”  

The bowl paused, tilting towards him. Things bubbled to the surface, every bubble of scum alive with pale, kicking larvae-legs.  

“If y’ lie to me, boy, this goes in yer face,” his father warned, soft and low. “They’ll wriggle in how they like. Up yer nose, through yer eyes…” He sloshed the bowl on purpose, slopping a little of the living liquid over the rim. Something splashed on the bare skin of his hand. A sharp stab, like a horsefly bite, told him it was trying to burrow.  

Gritting his teeth, he shook his hand under the chain that bound his wrist to the wooden chair arm, the burning spreading where the metal protested.  

Behind him, his mother gave a soft little giggle not unlike his own. 

“Let me loose!” he shouted. “Let me loose, I’ll go and get her for you!” 

His father chuckled. “He thinks we’re stupid, Lettie.” 

“He’s not lying, George.” 

“He ain’t lying, no, but he ain’t coming back. You bet he ain’t.” 

Ricky swallowed as the wriggling soup-spot finally plopped off his hand onto the floor, unsuccessful, and lay there like a flat, yellow tick. “She’s got yellow hair,” he said.  

His mother went silent.  

“Let me go, I’ll go get her.” 

~ C. M. Rosens, The Crows, pp. 402-04

Ricky and his father both have strong Sussex accents and use a dialect that was prevalent in the 19thC because that’s how Beverley Wend and her sisters spoke. While the family have become more ‘Londonised’ and tried to get away from their local accents due to snobbery and middle-class aspirations, George Porter never saw the point and is very traditional and conservative in his outlook. He sees the family as top of the food chain and takes what he wants from everyone else. Ricky has absorbed all this and doesn’t have a clear idea of an alternative life in mind for himself, except one that involves The Crows.

As you can see in this extract, Ricky’s aromantic/asexual orientation isn’t understood by his father, and that’s a theme of the whole book too as far as his character arc goes. That feeds into George Porter’s characterisation and mindset, but also Ricky’s issues with his boundaries being pushed and his lack of awareness around other peoples’.

This chapter was hard to record because I’m not doing the accent, but it’s kind of preserved on the page as well as I could get it. If you want to hear the accent, I have a Playlist on Youtube.

Similar to the accent in Cold Comfort Farm (1995), the adaptation of Stella Gibbons’ novel. Gibbons made up the dialect words for the book, but Rufus Sewell does have a Sussex accent in it I think??

I hope that the lack of accent doesn’t detract from the enjoyment(!?) of listening.

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