[Preview] SU 011 The Night Cyclist by Stephen Graham Jones

SU 011 The Night Cyclist by Stephen Graham Jones

In this podcast we preview episode eleven of Story Unboxed in which we unbox and analyse ‘The Night Cyclist’ by Stephen Graham Jones.

Listen to the full Story Unboxed Podcast on The Night Cyclist by Stephen Graham Jones

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Michael David Wilson 0:07

Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson and every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. We chat with masters of horror, about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now today is a special preview episode of story on Bob's the horror podcast on the craft of writing. And we are jumping in to a classic tale from Stephen Graham Jones. It is the night cyclist and what a treat. In the full episode Bob and I spoke for almost three hours here you're getting about an hour of preview. So listen to it. And if you like it, you know become a patron on patreon.com forward slash, This Is Horror. So only $3 and you get to hear all of these conversations or ladies, analyses of various films and various stories including the lottery by Shirley Jackson. The night they missed a horror show by Joe R Lansdale the box by Jacques Kantian. Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Also jump into films Rosemary's Baby Texas Chainsaw Massacre raw Day of the Dead. So, lots to enjoy. But before we get into this episode, as always, a little bit of an advert break.

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Michael David Wilson 3:07

Okay, well with that said it is time for the preview of story unboxed where we are analyzing the night cyclist by Stephen Graham Jones on This Is Horror. Welcome to Story unboxed the horror podcast on the craft of writing. I'm Michael David Wilson. I'm joined as always by my co host, Bob Pastorella. How are you today Bob?

Bob Pastorella 3:39

I'm doing great Michael, how are you doing?

Michael David Wilson 3:42

I'm good. Thank you. And in fact we have just got off to cool with Richard kids smile we had a fascinating hour long in fact over an hour coming up to 90 minute conversation with him. And we're having a bit of an epic Sunday because here we are we've got more coffee and we're ready to unboxed a nice cyclist by non avid and Stephen Graham Jones.

Bob Pastorella 4:13

Yeah, that's very exciting. I never read the story ahead and on my Kindle and I guess you know life happens other stories come along I regret waiting so long to read it. It is a it is a you know of course Stephen Graham Jones it's a treat. You know, always doing you know, so yeah, I've gotten over the regret and now I have the experience and really ready to discuss

Michael David Wilson 4:47

it. Yeah, and I mean any time we read Stephen Graham Jones That is a treat and this is no exception. This is a novelette out from the tour line. And let me tell you Tor consistently put out great novel Lance and great novellas. And this is a story that takes a familiar trope. And in classic Stephen Graham Jones style completely does something different with it. And we've said this before on story on Bob's staffers sodas, but in case you are new, in case you are unfamiliar with the format, we are going to spoil it, we are gonna spoil the shit out of it. And we all want to say so if you haven't read it, read it first. And then listen to the episode because we're going to analyze it, we're going to talk about it, we're gonna say, what worked for us. And that's how we like to do things here on story unboxed. And it's available for free, you can get it on the website, tor.com. Or, if you want to support Stephen Graham Jones and tour if you want to throw a little bit of coin a little bit of money, that way, you can get it on Kindle, and in the UK store, just 99 P So under a pound and certainly worth a lot more than that.

Bob Pastorella 6:28

No, yeah, it's the length of the story. When you look at it, especially if you if you check it out on a website, or if you check it from the thing you're gonna see, it's, I think it's like 35 pages long. And but do not let that detract from your experience. Because it took me like three nights to read it. Not that it's a difficult or complex story. But it is it is a it's it's dense, as in there, there's a lot of story there. And I think we're gonna, you know, kind of get into to exactly how, you know, he right, he wrote it and what, you know, I guess from our standpoint, what he was trying to do with the story. So don't let that you know that. For some people that might feel like that's a small word count. Trust me, it's, there's a lot of story there. There's a lot. And it's an I think it's an important story, too. It's a definitely a story of, you know, using point of view to your advantage.

Michael David Wilson 7:43

And, as is increasingly the case with the stories that we unbox, I mean, this is one where there's so much on a sentence by sentence level. And this is something that is to be read slowly and is to be, you know, pondered. And, I mean, let's start with that opening line. And what a strong line it is. There must be no compulsion to hide the body is in line two, otherwise, I'd have never found them. And so straight away. You've got this kind of foreboding that we've seen in other stories we've unboxed before by people like Joe R. Lansdale, and David J. scow. And there's something very sinister going on. And you have so many questions going around in your mind. So whose bodies are they? Who wanted them to be found? Who didn't hide them? Who is this person who has just stumbled upon the bodies?

Bob Pastorella 9:03

Yeah, you get your you get the whole introducing the conflict in the main character in the antagonist, or, or a guess the other main character in one sentence immediately. And that's, you know, basically there's no dicking around here. Bam, there

Michael David Wilson 9:29

you go. Yeah.

Bob Pastorella 9:31

Yeah, I'm gonna, I'm gonna set the hook and I'm gonna pull that first line. I'm actually kind of take the line and kind of put a spin on it to kind of just pulling me in right now.

Michael David Wilson 9:41

Oh, yeah. And then that third line, it was a Tuesday night. And, you know, that is really juxtaposing the sinister with the absolute mundane. I mean, do you get much more normal you get much more me Love the road than a Tuesday night. It's just the start of the working week. But there's nothing Kixeye in it's not meant to be anything going on on a Tuesday night.

Bob Pastorella 10:17

Interviews, I know going through and looking at the third paragraph, we get a very quick character study. And then the whole, the whole story is is, you know, centered around this main character. This this nameless Narrator whose head we're in. And, you know, we So we've established that there is some type of conflict, there is a you know, someone who has found something, and we're kind of, we're kind of stepping back and looking at the big picture here. So we've got like, kind of this, I guess, this very subjective beginning. And now we're going into an objective look at the main character. And not just you, right is the juxtaposition lol, I love that. And it's done so quickly. And I guess, I guess he felt like, he had so much story to tell that, hey, I just gotta get the, you know, this thing rolling. And, and not not messing around. And, but at the same time, he has this luxury, you know, of being now to explore this character.

Michael David Wilson 11:34

Right, and in this third paragraph, I mean, we get somebody's seasoning, we get some other flavor of this story, because two of the things that are peppered into it are that the the main character is a chef, and that he is a rider. So that you're gonna get throughout, you're gonna get a vernacular to do with both of those pursuits. And you're gonna see that these are two things that he is extremely passionate about. And, of course, as soon as they mentioned, the level role of knives, I made a little note, which is along the lines of, you know, when you introduce a gun, who is like, introduce a roll of knives in Act One. You've got to use them in Act free and well, we told you we're spoiling it, and they use them all right.

Bob Pastorella 12:42

Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's, you know, it's a thing. It's like, it's out there. It's an F. It's in that, you know, basically it's the Ford Senate's, and he were, of course, Stephen Graham Jones is he's so good, that he knows that, you know, that this is going to come back later. Yeah, the question that you have is how so he's, he's using a, a timeworn method of, you know, developing a story and just slapping it right there in your face. And, you know, to me, that's one of the most important things about writing is you gotta have some confidence in Stephen Graham Johnson. He's one of those writers, that's extremely confident, he's going to come at and take a trope and move it kind of off to the side a little bit and come at it from a different angle at a different slant than what you seen before. And, you know, it's cool, because that word compulsion in the first sentence, you are compelled to read this part of the story, which is not boring at all. And it's about a character, and it's about something that you can relate to. This is like, extremely skilled, and he just does this stuff. Like it's, you know, just rolling off the tip of his tongue. And, you know, it makes me very envious of the, the amount of skill here, you know, stuff that, you know, we can only hope to work on, but it just comes naturally to Steven.

Michael David Wilson 14:23

Yeah, I'll tell you something house that's interesting with that first line, as a bit of ambiguity, is it an instruction or is it an observation? There must be no compulsion to hide the bodies?

Bob Pastorella 14:41

Right there is, you know, immediately I was thinking on the lines of this character was the one who was actually hiding the bodies. That was my immediate thought. And but our but he had no compulsion to do so. He wasn't compelled the house had the bodies. So the My immediate thought was I'm going to be reading about the person who has didn't care if the bodies were found or not. The second Senate's actually strengthened that for me. Because I'm immediately thinking, okay, maybe I'm dealing with someone who has kind of like, a split personality or dissociative personality, you know, suddenly, where it's like, the not only is the person who didn't have any compulsion to hide the bodies, but he's also the same person who found the bodies. Yeah. And I was like, okay, so this is, okay, I'm interested, I want to know more about this person. You know. And I don't know if that was a conscious effort on Steven, we haven't talked to him about the story at all, we can only we can only interject our own, you know, subjective notions about it. But I kind of feel like that's, that was, that's a very interesting way to start a story and kind of plant a seed that isn't really there. But at the same time, that seed as you go along, it begins to germinate and grow. And it it changes into something else and transforms.

Michael David Wilson 16:08

Yeah. And this is a story that, to the best of my knowledge, Stephen hasn't actually spoken about a lot. Because whenever we go into one of these episodes, I try and research as much as I can and find any literary criticism, but I couldn't find Stephen commenting on it at all. So it'll be interesting, after we've recorded this episode to maybe chat with Steven or drop him an email and be like, so these are some of the things we thought how far off the mark while we have a listen to, to His infinite knowledge. I mean, something that we will return to later, it's interesting that you mentioned this idea of a split personality, because there was a moment where I thought, I wonder if this chef and then night cyclist are one in the same. And I know that you wondered about that, too. But yeah, that's jumping ahead a little bit. So we will return to that later.

Bob Pastorella 17:19

Right. There's, there's a sense of that it could possibly be, I guess what they call like a doppelganger type situation. Yeah. Or if you want to grounded in reality, a dissociative or split personality. But it's subtle. It's very subtle. And I have a feeling that's kind of the effect he wanted, you know, the thing with suspense. And one of the key elements of suspense is skillful misdirection. And so it can be, you know, something blatant in your face, or it can be something very soft and subtle like this. And, and, you know, so there's, and like I said, it's amazing, because I guarantee, you know, these are things that I don't think Steven actually thinks about these things. They just happen, you know, and if you could bottle it and sell it, there'll be a lot more best sellers out there. So, you know, maybe he wouldn't want to bottle it and sell it.

Michael David Wilson 18:20

Maybe, maybe, but something in this third paragraph, and almost amongst the enjoyment of the chef and biking and these little details, there's something very sinister so he mentions that Dorian had moved out two months ago, so okay, we're, we're wondering who Dorian is probably someone he was in a relationship with, then that becomes clear. Okay, definitely was, and then he starts joking, and it's all very canceled. He was trying to master scent of all those other women with garlic and turmeric. And he said, it had been funny a running joke, at least until the new sous chef needed me to walk her through clean up again. And here is like, you're kind of caught with that, wham. You know, the affair catches you off guard and much the way it must have her and it's like, you know, this is really horrible that they did have this running joke. And then he fucking betrayed her.

Bob Pastorella 19:40

Right? The it took me a little second to actually realize that that he had betrayed her because he doesn't explicitly state it which that's, you know, classic, you know, Stephen Graham Jones style. But what you know, again, And we're dealing with a writer who comes in comes at stories from a completely different angle than what you're gonna expect. You know? It's, he just he, the character development is so quick. And so it's so relatable. Because we you know, we've all been in those similar situations and what would you do? You know? It's, you know, it's just amazing. I noticed too, I liked that when he was like, I was trying to mask the sin of all those other women with garlic, and tumeric. And I don't know much about tumeric. But I know what garlic is. And that plants a seed, you don't think about it? Right. Did it there, but it does plant a seed.

Michael David Wilson 20:55

Oh, wow. I mean, I know a lot about tumeric. I think that might be going off the topic here. I think as well, like I was saying it was it was almost as if we were joking along with him is like, yeah, yeah, that is a pretty funny image. And then he's like, Well, I kind of got you. Because then I did this to her. Ah, she is like, so you can't laugh anymore. And, I mean, then there was a line in the next paragraph, where he says what the cheating man says, in stories is that she didn't mean anything. But that's not right. That's not fair. What she meant for me, it was a way out. And then I started thinking about that. And I started thinking about, you know, the absurdity of when people say that someone didn't mean anything, who you had an affair with. And I mean, of course, like, what they mean is, to their current partner, you mean more to me than he or she does. Or they might mean, shit, I wish I hadn't been caught. Please don't leave me. But I was thinking about the absurdity of this cliched idea that, Oh, she meant nothing. However, your fam mean something, it could mean an escape, it could mean that you you just really enjoy sex, it could mean that you're not being fulfilled in some way. It could mean that there's something that this other person is giving you, or is bringing to the table that you wanted, and you didn't even realize you wanted. But so often you hear that cliche, she didn't mean anything. By the end, everything means something.

Bob Pastorella 23:05

Oh, yeah, I would agree. The main thing that that I got out of that was this inkling, which is, as you go along, there's more and more confirmed that we have a character here who not only has commitment issues, but he know, he has commitment issues. You know, so, and I think that's important, because there's some people out there in this world that don't really realize that they have commitment issues, they have to be told by other people. So there's a level of, almost, to me, it's like an excuse for almost borderline deviant behavior, because you know, you have a commitment issue. And, you know, it's not saying that the character is bad, but everybody has good and bad aspects of their life. And not saying that he was embracing this, but he was, I guess, kind of expecting it to rears its ugly head. And when you're building a relationship, that's really kind of like the last thing in the world. It's like, I'm going to try to build a relationship with this person. Oh, but man, I don't really fully commit, so it's not going to be good for them. All right. So that's, uh, that's, you know, it's kind of I guess a word I would use on that would be sneaky. going.

Michael David Wilson 24:38

And I think the fifth paragraph for me like I felt Wow, that, that cuts really deep. It's just this idea of, you know, whatever you do, you know, you're ultimately gonna fuck up and you're gonna destroy things and it doesn't necessarily really have to be an affair or messing up a relationship for you to really connect with this paragraph, you can just notice of destructive patterns in your life. And the way that Stephen Graham Jones has put this really resonated when you're having self doubt. And when you're having more hateful days, this idea of building up a Jenga tower. And once the Jenga tower gets tall enough to look a little bit scary, I start pulling out blocks, seeing how far I can skeletonize my life, before it all comes crashing down again. And I think as well, it speaks to this idea of so often we can get comfortable with something. And we're in a situation of comfort, and then we start fiddling with it, altering it, pushing boundaries. And then we fuck it up, we take what was a good situation, and it falls down. I don't know how much you resonated with that, or, you know, what, how not spoke to you, maybe are a better person than me, Bob, I don't know.

Bob Pastorella 26:18

I mean, because I don't know, because I see as, as I've gotten older, you know, and I see a lot of myself and that because in relationships I've had that things, I mean, and then there's, there's two distinct time periods, I remember, with, with me with several years apart, where I've actually dated the same woman, you know, two different times. And the first time, I'm the one who was pulling out the blocks, and the second time, she was the one who was pulling out the blocks. And we and we always joke about it is, you know, because we believe that things come in threes, you know, and one of the, you know, the running joke is is the third time will be the last time you know, and is like that we both believe that our our time, you know, with one another you know, she had different things going on her life at different things going on my life. She says, you know, the, the third time we'll wait. And it'll be you know, we'll wind up getting together again, it'll be it'll sink, it'll finally sink. You know, because we will no longer want to, you know, to, to pull the pull the blocks out of the Jenga tower.

Michael David Wilson 27:48

That's a much nicer ending than what I thought you might be going for when he said, the third time will be the last time some fucking horror film. Last time.

Bob Pastorella 28:02

As I've gotten older, I've realized that, you know, hey, you know, here's the thing in a relationship, it's really, really easy to fuck it up. I mean, it's super Yeah. And if you know that you have a propensity to do that. And sometimes you become very comfortable in the fact that you can really screw up your own life, you know, and sometimes you feel like that, hey, maybe I'm meant to be in misery. And maybe that's the only way I can be happy is to be in misery, and to be lonely, and to ruin myself. And as I've gotten older, I've realized that, you know, a lot of the things that made me want to, you know, pull out the blocks was the fact that I was afraid of, of making a further commitment into something, okay. And as I've gotten older, I've realized that, that, you know, a lot of that shit really doesn't matter. You know, and you're, nothing's perfect. And if you want things to be as close to perfect as possible, you actually have to work at it. And if both people, you know, if I'm in a relationship, and she wants to work out as hard as I can, then we can work through anything, you know, and but when you're younger, it's easy to go, you know what, I really don't want to mess with this, I'm just going to sabotage it. And I think a lot of people kind of get into that rut, you know, and I'm one I'm pretty self reflective. So but it makes it easier for me to see that kind of behavior and other people now. And so you can watch from a distance and you can see some pretty traumatic shit go down. And it sucks and you kind of want to reach out to them. But you also realize, hey, you know what, you got to experience a little pain. And you're gonna see, you know what you've done and hopefully you'll learn. Some people never learn, you know, this guy has pretty much it It sounds like to me that he's self reflective enough that he knows that he's done this.

Michael David Wilson 30:05

Yeah, yeah, it was just the

Bob Pastorella 30:07

power to do it. And there's like, almost like a kind of a gleeful enjoyment in it.

Michael David Wilson 30:14

I mean, this dude is remarkably self reflective. Like, he's, he's very aware of himself. And he's very aware of his flaws in a way that is perhaps unusual for someone with so many flaws.

Bob Pastorella 30:32

But he also, I mean, like I was saying, it's, there's a sense that it's almost not gleeful, but almost he knows he can do this, and he almost takes pleasure in doing it. That was the impression that I got, you know, and you can kind of analyze that sentence even more, there's some just really powerful imagery there, you know, the Jenga tower gets tall enough to look a bit scary. So you have your your life is is very, you know, fragile, and things can happen. And he pulls out blocks, how far it can skeletonize it. In other words, I can just strip all the stuff away. He uses that word skeleton, and also crashing down. Because eventually, what's going to happen is, is that if you remove so much from your life, that the structure itself is is bad, that you know, it's going to come crashing down again, this is a person who likes to rebuild themselves. How many times can you do that?

Michael David Wilson 31:40

Right? Yeah. And of course, there's a lot of violence and horrific imagery in skeletonize and crashing down. And that is, oh, very much deliberate. But I suppose something that I'm wondering is, do you think it's part of the human condition to want to pull the blocks out of a Jenga tower? And I just wonder if it's the As humans, we don't like things to be static, we like the ebb and flow. Or we just have that curiosity. It's like, well, how much can I push it? And obviously, in any relationship, whether it's romantic, or whether it's a friendship, or what have you? It's, you know, a negotiation. And it's something that you do have to be careful with. But I wonder, is there a built in frail, from pulling those blocks out, even though you know, that if you pulled a rung on out, it could all come crashing down? I don't know,

Bob Pastorella 32:54

there's a morbid fascination with that. And it's at a certain age, I'm thinking in a lot of a lot of ways too, and has to do with if you don't see any type of, of endgame, if you don't see anything that you're trying to accomplish, that you have, that your goals are lose. This guy's a chef who rides a bike. You know, next month, he could be working in office with a car. Right. You know, that's, that's the impression I have. It's like, he has no goals other than the right now. Yeah. Whereas as you get older, you start to get, you know, goals. You know, your goals can be very, very, very, very fundamental. I want to provide for my family, I want to get out of debt. I want to be able to pay for a life insurance policy to my family doesn't have to pay to bury me when I pass, you know. So you could have very fundamental goals. You could have grandiose goals, but this is a person here who's, you know, I guess for lack of a better word is aimless.

Michael David Wilson 34:07

Well, I guess, in some sense, but I think what we're talking about particularly, what we've been talking about with regards to the Jenga tower is the core themes of this story. This is about stability, or lack thereof. This is about you fullness or growing gold. This is about growing up and settling down. I mean, this is, in some sense, the definition of what we like to term the midlife crisis. You're aware that you're getting older, but you don't like it. You want to hold on to your youth. And I guess both in this story and the things in which you're saying, it's making me think that yeah, the more you have to lose, the less your life really to risk it. So if you're young and you're in an early relationship, you're not married, you don't have a financial dependency on one another, you don't have a child. If things come crashing down, it's gonna be painful. But it's going to be something that you can recover from, or it or at least it's going to be easier. But once you start having these layers, like let's say, a mortgage, let's say a marriage, a child, even just the strength of a longer relationship, even the fact that it's like, wow, I've been with this person, for 10 years, those memories, those shared experiences, they're going to be worth more than if you've been with someone for one year, it's going to just be harder for you to rebuild after that. And I think this is what he's getting to grips with. He's, I mean, throughout the journey of the story, he we start off with someone who is a frail seeker, he is someone who is clinging to his youth. And by the end, he's accepted that actually, he'd prefer to settle down and have stability, even if it means letting go of some of his youth.

Bob Pastorella 36:33

Right, where we're, we're seeing someone who's right at the cusp of, I guess, growing up, quote unquote, yeah, and who is faced with a choice. That is, he's put in a position where he has to make a decision. And he's put into, he's forced into a position. And, and I say, forced he, he has a gun again, done it all himself, because of the way that he is, you know, he's very, once he gets his mind set on something, it's like being a chef riding a bike, he's very passionate about things. And we find that he is passionate about discovery and about investigation. In but it's right, the way it is presented, it's like anyone would be especially noticing the things that he notices, because of what you know, because he is a cyclist. You know, and because he knows things about, you know, cycling for a long time. This has been something that's been doing since college. And so it's all everything is just so intertwined. Like I said, if you could follow the shit, you could sell it. It's just Oh, wow. I'm still amazed.

Michael David Wilson 37:58

Yeah, yeah. Can you hear me? And I mean, the following paragraph is all about those glory days, those glory years when he was in his prime when he was on the racing team, and we get the protagonist waxing nostalgically about you all the things that he was doing. And yeah, I think we, we do have times when we look back on our life, and we think that was the peak of value for perhaps that was the peak of my musical career or the peak of my writing career. Now, luckily, for me, I don't think I've reached the peak of my writing. But yeah, this is clearly when you're looking at a physical pursuit in a sport. There is unfortunately, a much shorter life. You often find that actually, by the time someone hits their 30s they're not so favorable to you know, being a professional football team, or to be wrestling or a weightlifter or whatever it is. The people that are really in their prime their late teens to mid 20s, I would say.

Bob Pastorella 39:32

Yeah, I would agree. This is a guy who's just not going to say he's kind of holding on to the glory days. He's extremely self reflective. He remains passionate about things that he knows. You know, it's, he's just kind of He reminds me a mean when I was I guess In college, and I thought that that everything you know would be, it's like he says, if college lasts forever, I'd be out riding just zoning out 40 miles per hour, choosing the line I was going to take, just like Coach was saying you have to choose your line, and a line and he chose was that and he's never really moved on from that. And everything else is just, you know, stuff that comes to him and bounces off of it. You know, but we're also we're sensing that this self reflection, I think in the back of his mind, he knows that he's going to eventually have to, to take on more responsibilities. I hate to use the word grow up, because I believe that my personal philosophy is is that you should maintain, you know, try to be as useful in mind and spirit and body as you possibly can. That would that's what leads you to happiness and lead you to, to not, you know, be so depressed about things. And, you know, I've always had this kind of useful thing. You know, it's like my motto is, you know, the way I live my life is I'm just a teenager, you know, caught in middle aged man's body. You know, you know, people talk about we're having a midlife crisis. Uh, you know, it's like, I've never, I've never got to the point to where I can have a midlife crisis. You know, because I've always tried to maintain some youthfulness. I'm not trying to recapture anything. It's just how I am, you know? Yeah. When people tell me, I need to grow up. I'm kind of like, oh, no, not really, I just need to be more responsible. Yeah, well,

Michael David Wilson 41:39

I wonder if a midlife crisis, it's not trying to recapture your youth as such, but it's perhaps something that's associated with guilt, and shame. So you're, you're doing things that you may have done in your youth, but you almost feel like you shouldn't, or you're too old. Whereas if you don't have that guilt and shame, isn't that just cold? Having fun as a middle aged dude,

Bob Pastorella 42:13

that can be I think that a lot of times that people go into a midlife crisis, that there's a, there's a sense of regret, that they maybe didn't do some things that they thought they should have done. And now that they're older, that those those twilight years, you know, they're, they're, they're getting into the end of their, their life during that downhill slope. And they're like, I better do this shit now. Because as I get older, I'm just not going to have the energy to do it. And so I think there's, there's a sense of regret there. No, but that's just me, I guess, I guess everybody's gonna have a different mindset about it.

Michael David Wilson 42:54

Maybe a midlife crisis is more just a realization that we are all impermanent. And we're not going to live forever, because there's a line that will be coming up soon. But I think when you're in your teenage years, and certainly up to mid 20s, you kind of feel like you're invincible, like, nothing can hurt you. But then as you get older, you realize that actually, I'm not immune to pain, I'm not immune to trouble. And if I don't get take care of myself, then actually, I'm gonna feel it, like this body is gonna start breaking down, there are gonna be consequences. Right? The following paragraph is also part of his honesty and his self reflection, that he knows that he actually ran during off on purpose. And he knows that in his current state, he would run the next story and off. So if he's going to be in a permanent relationship, he's gonna have to change his actions and his mindset.

Bob Pastorella 44:17

Right, you know, the thing that comes to mind is the fact that I don't think he's necessarily he's quite self reflective, but he's also, you know, he's, he's past a point of denial. And he's come to acceptance. And so in other words, he knows he has to change. He's accepted the fact he just hasn't changed. And which, I mean, the next step would be change. You know, so we're kind of we're seeing this this young person I guess, I don't know I'm you know, I'm I'm feeling that And then he is getting close to middle age because there's, you know, a couple sentences down. He mentioned that. But I mean, where's middle age? I mean, I'm thinking to I feel like this guy is maybe in the 30s.

Michael David Wilson 45:13

Yeah, I don't maybe he was early 40s. But I guess yeah, he's probably he could be anything from Elisa is to maybe mid 40s?

Bob Pastorella 45:29

I'd give him the 35 to 45 range.

Michael David Wilson 45:32

Yeah, I guess it depends how we define middle age, doesn't it? And like, do we? Do we literally think of middle aged as in, you know, your midpoint in your life? So then you could say with technology at the moment? Well, actually, that's probably going to put you between 50 and 55. If you have a very good innings. But yeah, I think most people when they talk about middle age, it's roughly the 40s. But yeah, like the 35 to 45 is a good indicator, because I think so much like when you're 25, you have that realization that okay, I'm not kind of a university student anymore. I'm not part of the youth for apps, and you're getting closer to 40. Certainly, I think, from like, my friends, they feel that wow, like, I really am starting to get on now. You know, I'm getting advanced in years, and it's scary. People would seem to be really scared, scared by the start of each new decade. Well, I mean, for me, as long as I'm achieving things and using my time wisely, I haven't been scared yet. of age, obviously. For things I can hit a nice cyclist, your end?

Bob Pastorella 47:10

Yeah, that was the motorized version.

Michael David Wilson 47:12

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Bob Pastorella 47:16

But you know, it comes down to and I love this sentence here. When he describes his bike, he's describing himself. And that, that's how that's how we get kind of an insight into the character by by a description of his bike. And it's just, it's so succinct. And upon reflection, that's when you that's when you get it. You know, the first time you read it, you're just like, Oh, he's just grabbing his bike. And then the second time you're like, oh, wait, no, this is a great way to just see the character in a mirror. But it's not America. It's like my bikes built for racing. Still, and always, yeah, impressive. bars down low. You have to lie on top of it. But for saddle can't afford like, I'm a time trial racer. And it's like, no, now I've got a physical picture of this guy in my head. And it not only does it describe him physically, but it also describes his mental state. That he's he is always trying to move things through things very quickly. And he's aggressive about it. And, and he's, he's also he knows he's aggressive about it. And he's going, you know, he's figured out the best way for him to be aggressive about it. Listen, this is no slacker.

Michael David Wilson 48:45

Yeah. Yeah. And it's interesting to know that he does concede the only concession to middle age I suppose, is the light clamp to the handlebars. So if we look at this paragraph, he is admitting that for practical reasons, he doesn't need that light. And this is almost the opposite to everything else to you know, built for racing still and always aggressive stance. And I think here we're seeing it's confessional that probably doesn't like admitting that he has to have that light. But it is a reality. And he said that it makes him feel old.

Bob Pastorella 49:38

Right, man, I like I like how he he takes that whole paragraph there. talks about he knows he doesn't like feeling old. He knows that that he needs to like though because of the route that he takes. And he you You get it, you get the sense of there's an internal conflict going on here in between reality with him. And the fact that he wants to maintain some sense of usefulness. And also this physical description of where he rides because this is like crucial stuff here. There are plenty of long dark tree tunnels of those two and a half miles, which if you're riding bike, that's about a, I'm thinking he's covering that area, probably in about 1520 minutes. Maybe 25, depending on weather and things like that. He loves He likes those the turtles have fun. And he says, but the dark isn't the thing to worry about. Because there's something going on.

Michael David Wilson 50:51

Yeah, and that was such an ominous lion and classic Stephen Graham Jones sign, it's like, the dark isn't the thing to worry about. Right. And so you're on the edge of your seat again, you know that something is coming. And, you know, the next paragraph we're finding out okay, there's some sort of conflict kicking off between motorists and bikers. The next bit that really hits this home and we've got a lot of short and sharp paragraphs, and then you have it. I saw them the body is two guys young floating in the shallows where the creek turns west.

Bob Pastorella 51:44

Yeah, and what what the what the motors had been doing what the soul battle has been doing is that on these bike routes, that they're putting large pieces of driftwood in the middle of the roads and that's what this is why that he has to have the light because if you if you hit one of those mean you're gonna get fucked up like he says you're gonna endo into the creek in Dover in and you know, causes damage to your body cause damage to your, to your bike, you can possibly get killed. You know. And this has been happening has been moved up from the mountains in the mountain area, where he lives and you know, and he tends to stick with you know, as he says asphalt and concrete. And they've been doing this and they put dead falls and rocks and spikes and in helmets are not riders are getting hurt. And now it is here. And they've been doing this for a week. No putting these pieces of driftwood in the roads up on the trails trying to stop the bike, the cyclists from coming through. And he finds these bodies because he has a

Michael David Wilson 53:06

headlight. Yeah.

Bob Pastorella 53:09

And it's even says that on the shore, there was a large piece of driftwood they've been trying to dislodge to drag up the trail. It was too much for two people. But they were the only ones there. And the short sentences are important. They're they're paragraphs unto themselves. Where he he describes the bodies and he uses the words he uses are just so succinct. They just cut. And even then no my own while reading this story. At this point, I still did not know what we were facing. No, no, no.

Michael David Wilson 53:55

I didn't know at this point. And I mean, because I've got a lot of detailed notes I'll tell you as far as as like the penny drops, but I mean, here like we've got some clues. We've got some foreshadowing, really as quite a big clue that they were trying to move the driftwood. So that wasn't what got them. And then these sentences these one line paragraph, so we've got one of them was floating facedown in the water. The other was on his back. His fro was gone. Now no blood was seeping from him. No blood was seeping from me if you're sharp and sharper than we were. You might have got what type of crit? Yeah, I just got them.

Bob Pastorella 54:54

Mm hmm. Yes, it was math man. But no, yeah. I know we're on to something more. I can't even I can't even describe it.

Michael David Wilson 55:10

Well, the next part shows us a little bit more of our protagonists moral compass. Pick because the kids are on the news, but he admits here that he didn't actually report them. Right. So, I mean, we're already getting a bit of a picture of him. This is a guy who had no issue key and gone his partner because that was what he decided to do at the time. But now he's decided not to report finding two dead bodies. Two dead college students.

Bob Pastorella 55:57

Yeah, right now his moral compass for me is is not you know, is actually starting to lean to, to bad. Which is not a bad thing. You know, we, there's so many different facets to a lot more compass being one of those that can that can mean so much, but at the same time, this is not a guy who's who's I don't think he when he says I considered reporting them myself, but it was just a fluke, timing, being the one to find him. I decided, in other words, he was kind of indifferent to him. He felt that probably there was nothing that he could do. They were dead, you know. You know it, but he didn't want to be involved.

Michael David Wilson 56:51

Right? Where does almost apathy in the next week because he's talking about the citizens generally being concerned? And then we find out me, I was tired. This is very self absorbed. Right? Is that almost disinterested? Right, yeah, I just wanted to go home and watch some vape ID cop drama until the sun came up.

Bob Pastorella 57:24

Yeah, he's seen he felt that he deserved to come home after the day that he had. You know, and, again, we're faced with you know, he talks about his his life working nightshift, you know, so he comes in very, very late in the evening, and he sleeps till the afternoon. He does a lot of maintenance on his bike. It's his only means of transportation. And when you have a bike that's like that that's exposed to elements you have in it's your only means of transportation, you have to take care of it. But it's almost for some I could see how cyclists would feel like it's almost like a ritual religious type thing that they they have to do it. Because if you don't then you're going to be continuously just buying new bike parts and things like that. So you have to take care of your gear you have to take care of your of your bike. Anybody brings it back the same the same way soldiers in movies are always taking their weapons apart and reassembling them. Old cyclist, we like to perform or old our own maintenance. And in that one word, italicized paragraph, old. The new again remember, I was saying that there there's he is coming to a form of acceptance. And I think you know, so we're, we're seeing someone at the crossroad of a decision point in their life.

Michael David Wilson 59:13

Thank you so much for listening to the story on bots preview on This Is Horror. Join us again next time for another fantastic This Is Horror Podcast conversation. But if you want to get every episode ahead of the crowd, and become our patreon@patreon.com forward slash, This Is Horror. Not only do you get to listen to early bird episodes, but you can also submit questions to each and every guest. We got people like Brandon Boone at the no sleep Podcast coming up on Jason bargain, also known as David Wong, the author of John dies at the end. So head over to patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror I'll see if it's a good fit for you. Okay, before I wrap up a little bit of an advert break,

Bob Pastorella 1:00:06

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Michael David Wilson 1:01:11

As always, I would like to end with a quote. And this is a classic stoic quote from Marcus Aurelius. You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength I'll see you in the next episode, but until then, take care yourselves be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.

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