PC031: Colin and Ishmael in the Dark (Corrected)

By William Shunn
Read by MarBelle (of Director’s Notes)

The fifth of our Halloween features, continuing through October 31.

In the total darkness, the incessant _drip! drip!_ of limewater on stone was the only sound to be heard. Steady as the beating of a heart, ceaseless as the motion of the stars, that sound filled the darkness, fed the darkness, _became_ the darkness. It stitched the seconds together loosely into minutes, the minutes into long ragged hours, and the hours into great tattered sheets that flapped like ghosts in an unseen wind, leaving behind only gray threads of time to mark their passage as
they unraveled. In all of creation there was only dripping water, and beyond the reach of its echoes the world no longer existed.

This changed only twice a day, when metal ground harshly against metal and the bolt sprang back from the rusted lock with the sound of a crossbow quarrel being loosed. This particular
day began like every other–the resonant creak of the hinges, the crushing reverberation as the door slammed shut, the tread of steel-toed boots crossing the damp stone floor and then pausing. “Breakfast, Ishmael,” said a voice worn into a sing-song by the repetitiveness its daily routine.

“Just put it there on the settee, will you?” This dry voice spoke wryly and precisely.

Rated R. Dark as an oubliette.

Please visit the thread on this story in our forum.

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18 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    David said,

    October 30, 2008 @ 8:51 pm

    Interesting story, good reading love the interplay between the characters. Though the ending could have been better.

  2. 2

    Hyperion said,

    October 31, 2008 @ 3:58 am

    I enjoyed the story too. Very well done. “Colin’s” voice was perhaps a bit close to the narration voice, but that was a small matter. For a story where very little actually happens, and consists entirely of a conversation, my attention never came close to waning.

    I have to echo David that the ending could have been a little better. I loved the stomach punch quality of the O’Henry-esque twist, but it all happened so quickly that I was thrown a bit. I’m not sure if that was the story itself, or if even the storyteller sped up a bit, but the end came in a rush.

    This is a minor complaint. Conversational stories of this nature are very difficult to do, and William Shunn should be greatly applauded. I would give him two thumbs up, but sitting in the dark as I am, how could he ever tell?

  3. 3

    William Shunn said,

    October 31, 2008 @ 8:20 am

    Thanks to everyone involved for a great job on this reading. I’d like to acknowledge Scott Edelman also, who originally published this story in the September 1993 issue of Science Fiction Age.

  4. 4

    Directors Notes | PC031: Colin and Ishmael in the Dark said,

    October 31, 2008 @ 4:37 pm

    […] in time for Halloween PodCastle have released my reading of William Shunn’s creepy tale Colin And Ishmael In The Dark. I’ve had the opportunity to read for Escape Pod a couple times in the past, which only […]

  5. 5

    epilonious said,

    October 31, 2008 @ 5:23 pm

    Dark as an oubliette is right.

    Still, I was riveted the whole time. But part of me keeps thinking “this seems like an analogy for Graduate School”.

  6. 6

    Mari Mitchell said,

    October 31, 2008 @ 9:11 pm

    I thought this was okay.

  7. 7

    Amaster said,

    November 1, 2008 @ 2:15 pm

    I loved this story, it was almost the quality of an Edgar Allen Poe. It makes me wonder how much of what Ishmael said was actually real and if it was real, how much Colin knew of it.

  8. 8

    scatterbrain said,

    November 2, 2008 @ 5:36 pm

    Hmmm. It misfired for me in several different directions and the ending seemed too rushed and rather illogical.

  9. 9

    Me said,

    November 2, 2008 @ 8:39 pm

    I’ll admit, I listened to this one for a few minutes, then stopped as I just wasn’t interested.

    Then I went back and, properly listening this time, I really got caught up in the story. The twist at the end was good, I think it was a bit too quick, too.
    maybe it could have happened not quite at the end, giving a bit more sparring between the characters with this new knowledge.

  10. 10

    Alina said,

    November 3, 2008 @ 1:32 am

    I agree with everyone else. The story was excellent but the ending was short and less the listener wanting. I had to the end twice just to make sure I knew what happened.
    The only other problem I have with this story is, is this really fantasy?
    Was there an element to this story I missed that would place it into the fantasy genre?

  11. 11

    Seraph said,

    November 5, 2008 @ 12:01 am

    I was totally loving this story … right till the end. Anti-climax city. It seemed somewhat out of character for Ishmael to ‘forget’ about the club.
    A shame – because up until the left-field bludgeoning it was freaking great.

    And is it just me – or did the phrase ‘bloody bastard’ seem to be a little over used ?

  12. 12

    LittleLotus said,

    November 5, 2008 @ 4:32 pm

    What a fabulous story. I was listening to it while working and as the story ended I realized I had stopped working and had been completely focused on the story. It was beautifully written and wonderfully told. The characters seemed dull at first but each took on a light of their own. I don’t know if I’d call this fantasy, but I loved it none the less.

  13. 13

    Blaine Boy said,

    November 8, 2008 @ 10:02 pm

    To Alina: The fantasy part was the third eye bit that Ishmael was talking about where he could see the rest of the world while stuck in his dark prison.

    That was an absolutely stunning piece of literature/podcasting/whatever. The reading was superb making Ishmael seem like a creepy, psycho killer kind of like Hannibal Lecter done by Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. He certainly had the intelligence and dominating sort of personality for it, but unlike Lecter he betrays his one “friend”. But Ishmael fell prey to the classic downfalls of the villain: overestimating himself, forgetting key details about his enemy, celebrating too early, etc.

    If anyone should care here are the elements a evil genius character needs: (1) Have a healthy amount of paranoia (i.e. a little before you go insane from it). (2) Never underestimate the enemy. Enough is never enough. (3) Always be thorough and detailed in weakening your enemy. (4) Make your enemy underestimate you. If they overestimate you, you don’t have a chance. (5) Make your weaknesses your strengths (like Ishmael adapting to the darkness). And I think that about covers it.

    So basically, it was awesome frigg’n story.
    See you in the next fantasy world.

    Yours faithfully,
    The Blaine Boy

  14. 14

    Colin and Ishmael in the Dark « Casual Pursuits said,

    November 11, 2008 @ 2:12 pm

    […] Episode 31 of Podcastle features a short work, "Colin and Ishmael in the Dark.”  Very good tale, and the first one I picked to listen to from the downloads.  Check it […]

  15. 15

    The Fix | From the Podosphere: October 2008 said,

    November 16, 2008 @ 9:21 am

    […] “Colin and Ishmael in the Dark” by William Shunn is a good story with only a hint of fantasy, unfortunately marred by the choice of narrator. We have an extended conversation between a prisoner and his jailer, conducted in formal tones with precise language—indeed one of the story’s themes is the power of storytelling. But MarBelle’s diction exhibits some characteristics (such as dropping the final “g” from words ending in “ing”) that, though perhaps suited to a more colloquial story, only jar here. […]

  16. 16

    Dave (aka Nev the Deranged) said,

    November 16, 2008 @ 3:43 pm

    Great story, dark and brilliant. I had no problem with the narrator’s accent, but he needed to pause a little longer between switching characters so that it was clearer who was speaking at any given moment. Aside from that, well read. Thanks, Pseudopod!

  17. 17

    Gia said,

    April 13, 2009 @ 9:36 pm

    I usually listen to podcast in my room in the dark, so this one got me excited.
    Somehow, this was creepier than almost anything that I ever heard from Pseudopod.

  18. 18

    Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Help out a small press: good reading for sale at Electric Velocipede said,

    April 20, 2009 @ 12:25 am

    […] History of the 21st Century”, a chapbook of stories by William Shunn, whose story “Colin and Ishmael in the Dark” we featured on PodCastle this […]

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