The beginnings of a wonderful horror story

Who knew? That stupid article about how to interrupt a woman wearing headphones has real legs, and is stirring up a lot of irritable snarling all over the place. One of the most interesting kinds of responses, though, is the horror story. This reaction by Alexandra Petri is beautiful, and sent chills down my spine.

You can talk to anyone, you tell yourself.
It is only a woman, you tell yourself.
But you know that it is not.
Women were something different.
Your comrade made the awful mistake of talking to the Woman Who Is Reading A Book On The Subway. You watched it happen.
He made her look up from the book and her basilisk eyes fell on him, unblinking, and he melted.
You still remember the screams.
They were so horrible that the city lay awake for days trying to forget them.

Yesterday half your comrades were ordered to shout “Smile!” at the Woman Who Is Walking.
And the woman did. Too wide.
So wide that her mouth engulfed the street and became a vast cavern.
Six of your friends were devoured.
You could hear the unladylike slurping sounds from blocks away as you beat a hasty retreat between the Scylla of the Woman Who Has Put Her Bag Next To Her On A Bar Stool and the Charybdis of the Woman Who Is Just Jogging.
You did not attempt to speak to either of them.
They passed you.
You were left unscathed.

You are about to talk to the Woman in Headphones.
My God, I pity you.
You are close now. Almost in range.
Before The Woman and behind her the ground is littered with shoes and hats and pick-up manuals and AXE body spray.
She sits patiently gnawing on a thigh bone.
You do not think she is single or looking.
You cannot make out the words she is listening to.

You know how this will go.
You know what the headphones mean.
You know what will happen when you ask her to remove the headphones.

Read the whole thing. It’s bone-chilling beauty. Like women, apparently.


  1. quotetheunquote says

    Thanks for pointing me to this, Dr. PZ, it is indeed great. I liked her preface particularly:

    When a fish swims up to you with a barrel and rifle already attached, sometimes it almost feels wrong to go out of your way to shoot it.

    Many smileys on that….

    (Reading the actual poem, though, I can’t help thinking of the Holy Handgrenade of Antioch… would it work?)

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I like it, if only…
    but but but, doesn’t that feed off the misogynistic idea that women are scary monsters (and not human)?
    while perfectly appropriate response to that PUA shithole, it could well backfire.
    {see. the fact even I thought of it, proves it …. uhgh}
    I prefer to think women are such inhuman creatures except with enough tolerance to let PUAs get away with shite, restraining their powers to prevent being rounded up and ex-ter-mah-nate-ed.
    If all men thought so, maybe they’d be more polite and considerate, and not so domineering.

  3. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    That was a thing of true beauty.

    slithey tove, nope, don’t spoil it. Don’t make me take off my headphones *toothy grin*

  4. starfleetdude says

    Wincing at the Beautiful
    by Paul Hostovsky

    So my friend Phil is telling me how
    he can’t get a date
    how he loves women and how
    they’re always giving him looks
    so I ask him what kind of looks
    so he winces at the beautiful
    braless young woman passing by
    at that particular propitious moment
    giving her a look of such
    longing and longevity
    that she returns his look with a look
    that kills his entire family tree
    from the roots to the unimagined
    blossoms of the great grandchildren shriveling
    on his shriveling bough
    and I think I’ve diagnosed his problem now
    and I think of quoting some lines from Rilke
    but on second thought I think
    a sports metaphor might serve him better
    so I steer the conversation round to basketball
    and the three second rule
    which says you can only stand inside
    the key for three seconds
    before they blow the whistle
    they’re just blowing the whistle on you Phil
    for breaking the three second rule
    for standing there with your eyes
    popping out like basketballs
    it’s a game like any other I tell him
    then I ask him if he wants to score
    and now that I have his attention
    I throw in those lines from Rilke
    I tell him that beauty is nothing
    but the beginning of terror
    we’re still just able to bear
    and the reason we adore it so
    is that it serenely disdains to destroy us
    and he winces again and this time
    it’s at the beauty of those lines
    or maybe their truth which hits him
    like a three-pointer now
    that Rilke hits all the way from Germany
    at a distance of a hundred years

  5. Akira MacKenzie says

    A woman who uses a dudebro drinking skull is hot! Any chance she might ask me out?

  6. Crimson Clupeidae says

    “Before The Woman and behind her the ground is littered with shoes and hats and pick-up manuals and AXE body spray.”

    Bwahahahaaaaaa….off to read the rest.

  7. enkidu says

    That was brilliant. A summary of Western mythology since 2000BCE (approx). Loved the Acteon reference in lines 34-35, given that some lines run on to the next line, if you get my meaning.

    Quote from Starfleetdude was also great.

  8. gijoel says

    How to pick up girls at a funeral.

    The tears down her face and the drooling mucous coming out of her nose are a strong indicator that she’s interested in you. Don’t let the priest tell you otherwise. Most girls are grateful for the attention whilst they go through a distressing, and possibly traumatic, experience.

    How guys fail at picking up during a funeral.

    Having the shit kicked out of you by the other relatives.
    Getting arrested
    Having a conscious

  9. laurentweppe says

    Completely off topic, but since I didn’t see it mentioned here yet…
    Apparently we know which shape the real Skynet’s killer robots will have:

  10. Alex the Pretty Good says

    The webcomic Maximumble had a great take on this subject as well.

    (for those who don’t know Maximumble, it’s a gag-a-day webcomic and probably the only comic I know that has truly gender-neutral characters where only if it is relevant for the story, the subject of gender is actually brought up)