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  • Writer's pictureChris Russell

The Blackening of Ren

Interregnum Episode - The Blackening of Ren

Hello, my survivor friends, how are we doing?

Have you resorted to eating bugs pried from the rotten mortar between the cinder blocks of the bunker wall because you have gone a whole 2 weeks without the sustenance of After the Apocalypse?

Well, we’ve got a treat for you then. A bit of grizzly victual in the form of a Sci-Fi horror short story, written, read into audio and produced by friend of mine and friend of the show Duane.

And, after the story, I’ll stick in a 10-minute chat we had about it and, finally take you out to the exit with some closing comments.

Note: For those of you blundering into the After the Apocalypse feed from another dimension or perhaps an alien spaceship, this is NOT an episode of the story itself. It is June 2023 and we just finished the last episode, episode 20 of season 3 at the end of May. We WILL be coming back with Season 4 and season 5 towards the end of the summer.

This is an Interregnum episode where I treat you to something new and different for a few weeks while Chris recharges his creative batteries by running the woods with Ollie the Killer Collie, or laying on the beach in Cape Cod, or drinking a few good craft beers.

As Steven Covey said, ‘you have to take time to sharpen the saw.’

So with any further Ado, (song from the sound of music?) here are a couple quick words from Duane’s C.V.

And I quote:

Duane likes to think of himself as an "almost acceptably ambitious creative". He has significantly dabbled over the years in acting, singing, stage production, game design and has even invested in the discipline of endurance sports as a way of expressing his zest for life - and thanks, partly, to this ATA challenge maybe, with some follow through, some sort of fictional writing can now be added to that list.

Duane – that is a sentence of Nabokovian proportions, 70 words! Way to bring it! Monologuing like a pro!

I will use my ownership privilege here to insert that Duane is one of our editors for the show and one whom I value greatly because he pushes me out of my comfort zone and calls me on my bullshit. We originally met through my old Running podcast. We’ve chewed dirt together at a couple races and I consider it a gift to be able to call him a friend.

Duane goes on the set up this story that you’re about to hear…

The genesis of this particular piece was in reaction to an internet challenge a few years back from a horror fiction community that was looking for stories written from a zombie's perspective.

Duane never followed through at the time, but the idea came to mind when the ATA challenge was put forth and Duane got right to work in finally "fleshing out" (sorry, pun intended) his thoughts in this regard. This piece turned out to feel more like an excerpt from what could be a more fully developed story. It will be up to the listener to fill in the blanks, for now, as to the before and after.

More than the obvious "Man gets bit. Man dies. Dead man eats people", Duane was interested in the physical and psychological dynamics of those critical moments when an otherwise healthy individual becomes aware that something unwelcome, something dark within, has begun to take over the reins.

So, rather than a "zombie" story, this may feel more like a "zombie to be" story. So, on that note, Sit back and enjoy?


So what did you think? I really got the Poe vibe from the story. The House of Usher and the Pit and the Pendulum type of atmosphere.

Here are a few of Duane’s thoughts on the story before we move into our conversation about it.

So perhaps the question is, what would the presence of "death within the living" cause one to long for?

In its simplest, survivalist form, could that longing be to take in or consume anything one perceives to be harboring the...essence of life?

Is this a state of development that can ever be reversed? Is there a force in life or relationship that is strong enough that, when wielded, allows for one to overcome such a dark invasion?

The piece you just heard was preceded with a quote from Edgar Allen Poe's Masque of the Red Death. It was meant to simply set the tone of hopelessness as a darkness fully settles in. If the story were to continue, perhaps the quote from the 1997 film, Jurassic Park, delivered by Dr. Malcolm, ..."life finds a way"..., would suggest an entirely different theme in addition to or even in replacement of the Poe quote. I guess that would be up to the author if he ever is able to muster the "acceptable ambition" to flesh it out. Thanks for listening.

One of the things that Duane and I talked about was not being afraid to take chances. I think we will fail to try something because we are afraid. Not necessarily afraid that we won’t be able to do it, but afraid of what people will think of us. We’re afraid we won’t be good enough in the eyes of others – and that keeps us from doing our best work.

And it’s a shame because we all have good work inside us. Worrying about what people will think is, ironically, not even about other people, it’s about our opinion of ourselves. So, if I were to have a message for you it would be to get over yourself and do the work.

Our job is to do the work. To set it free.

So go ahead, write that book, sign up for that event, get the hell out of the house and interact.

… OK let’s move you to the exit…

I will include All Duane’s links in the blog post on and in the show notes. Please reach out and say hi. Duane is also in our Facebook group if you want to give him a shout out there.

<Interview Here>

Chris’ Outro comments:

Great stuff Duane – I am in your debt. What have I been doing? Well I have been putting my ideas together for Season 4 – and I am enjoying the process. I’m training for a fall marathon – the Marine Corps Marathon. I’m collecting for a teen suicide charity and would love your support.

I watched a few Sci-Fi movies this week. And I did that amusing, or annoying, thing where I live commented on Facebook while I was watching the movies. A bit of Mystery Science Maddog action if you will. (There may have been beer involved.)

First was a movie called Cargo from 2009 – and these are my stream of consciousness drunk tweets.

· Why is there so much gravity in space?

· Whoop. German space sex.

· Space is a lot like Canada.

· Big beer and country music

· Why am I getting so many feminine care product adds? And makeup? Are you trying to tell me something?

· It’s supposed to be freezing but there is dripping water everywhere

· Castaway stowaway

· The AI did it.

· 2009 - a German space odyssey

· Midnight at the happy human storage units.

· This director watched 2001 a space odyssey way too many times.

· Hansel and Gretel space sim

· Ok that’s quite enough emotional running through the sim forest.

· Lost in space.

· Yeah. No. Newton would not approve.

· Why is there a fire axe on a space ship?

I also watched The Vast of Night from 2019 – which I wont give you the full drunk tweet list but I ended up with the alternate New title “Alien American Graffiti “ or “Close Encounters of the New Mexican Kind”.

Finally, I watched Arrival – the big budget Hollywood movie from 2016 with Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner (before he ran himself over with the snow machine). Apparently I liked it and gave it an A- grade.

That’s it folks, Watch the feed for more random hilarity over the summer. Check out Duane’s links.

And whatever you do…Keep surviving.

Duane’s Links:

· - Mostly posts on my acting and endurance adventures but would love to hear from any listeners.

· duanehes at yahoo dot com

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