Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Quicksand House

Go To
Tick and Polly have lived their entire lives in the nursery of their parents' house. Even entering the corridor beyond is forbidden, since Nanny claims it is infested with creatures called "creepers" who are dangerous to children. Their parents are too busy to have visited them even once, but Nanny assures them that they're bound to come and pick the children up at any time, especially now that Polly has grown her antlers and started turning into a young woman. Of course, Nanny has been saying that for years now...

When the machines providing light and food begin breaking down, the siblings - along with their newborn sister Leech, recently arrived down the baby tunnel and so young that she's still only a lamprey-like creature who needs to suck Tick's blood to survive - must venture out into the house in search of their parents. Along the way, they explore a world that seems to have gone badly wrong and try to survive long enough to puzzle together their origin.

Quicksand House is one of many works of Bizarro Fiction written by Carlton Mellick III.


This book contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: The children's real parents are more neglectful than actively abusive, but the birthing mother is this taken to eleven. She plans to eat them.
  • After the End: After several different ones, actually. The end of Earth which necessitated the colonisation of a new planet, the failed terraforming of said planet that caused a mass exodus off of it, and most recently the gradual breaking-down of the systems of the house which is threatening the "civilisation" of children being continually hatched, grown to adolescence and then consumed by the birthing mother that has existed since the adults left.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: This trope seems to be in effect once it's revealed that the Nannies are robots. Nanny Warborough goes on the fritz and attacks Polly, and Darcy reveals her Nanny drove her out of her nursery when she was young. Like most things in the house, there also just seems to be a sinister air surrounding them. It ends up being Averted though; the Nannies genuinely do love their charges and want to protect them. The odd behavior is only because of malfunctioning due to years without repairs.
  • Advertisement:
  • Big Fancy House: The biggest and fanciest ever, large enough to be more properly considered an entire country beneath a single roof.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Adolescent girls grow antlers and claws and have violent psychotic fits where they attack everything in sight. This is all perfectly normal and nothing to worry about.
  • Bizarre Alien Reproduction: We don't get any details of the actual process, but apparently humans require three sexes to reproduce these days. Though the third one is technically a sort of biological machine called a "birthing mother" which takes in the genes of the father and mother and generates endless eggs from them. Babies then hatch from eggs in the form of lamprey-like slugs who feed off of the blood of an older human, and which slowly grow into (mostly) the same humanoid shape as modern-day humans. The babies are so ugly that parents prefer not to look at them, which is why they are raised by nannies and their older siblings.
  • The Bully: Mike is constantly picking on Tick. He was programmed that way. Having a school yard bully is considered a necessary part of a well-rounded upbringing.
  • Child Hater: All adults despise children on sight, except for nannies. Because they're actually robots.
  • Crapsack World: It's revealed that the world before everyone evacuated was this. Only the obscenely wealthy could reproduce, and they lived in country-sized mansions where they basically treated their many children like servants. There were cities outside the mansions, and some children opted for a harder life in the cities just to get away from the rule of their parents. Oh, and that's not even getting into the fact that breeding was only possible through "birthing mothers," who were treated as subhumans and locked up in the basements of these mansions.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Darcy isn't quite sane, but she's actually perfectly right about one thing: the mother isn't to be trusted, and going to find her is a bad idea.
  • Deceptively Human Robots: Robots look extremely human, but they still have circuitry and wiring under the skin, and they can break down in strange and unsettling ways if not given proper maintenance.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Much of the book is essentially a surrealist version of what it feels like to be a ten-year-old boy. Your older sister is going through weird physical changes and throws violent outbursts. You used to be the baby, but now you've got a younger sister who's hogging all the attention and who you're forced to cater to. And you're gradually starting to realise that the world is a lot less orderly and benevolent than you've led to believe and that the adults don't actually have everything under control.
  • Everybody Lives: Amazingly enough, every single named character is alive at the time of the Distant Finale. Even the birthing mother is apparently still alive, since new children continue to be born, and while Nanny's body was destroyed, Tick managed to salvage the chip containing her memory and personality, letting her return at least temporarily by borrowing another nanny's body.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Polly spends most of the story wearing an eyepatch made from a doll's face.
  • Eye Scream: Polly gets one eye punctured and ripped from its socket when Nanny attacks her.
  • Femme Fatalons: All women have them from puberty.
  • Friend to All Children: Darcy loves children, and they love her. When Polly, Tick, and Leech break into her home and she's locked in a room with Leech, she opts to feed Leech with her blood instead of harming the baby like Polly and Tick were afraid of. Also, the epilogue reveals that she has a special touch with the children she and Tick interact with.
  • A Glitch in the Matrix: Tick's school experience develops more and more of them before finally crashing completely. Towards the end, it involves people being stuck in walls and uncontrollable vibrations in Tick's hand that spreads to everything he touches.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Every single character. To be specific, they're human with spliced-in genes of an alien race called Terramytes.
  • Hope Spot: The children finally find some adults, are given a rough explanation for what they've been through, and are told that they'll be put in something like an orphanage. It's particularly effective since it doesn't make for a wholly happy ending, but more like they've emerged into a World Half Full. However, Polly is quick to Spot The Thread and note that what they're being told doesn't fit with what they've seen with their own eyes. Sure enough, the adults are non-sentient simulations of people long dead and things are actually worse than they seem.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: Polly tells Tick to leave her behind more than once. He'll have none of it, to her annoyance.
    Polly: What did I tell you? I said stop trying to save me.
  • Lighter and Softer: In comparison to Carlton Mellick III's other works. While there are still horror and bizarro themes present, it's much less gory, graphic, and weird than his other books. And unlike many of his books, there's a relatively happy ending where the only downside is that the planet will be destroyed in 150 years. And even then, Tick reasons that in that timespan they may be able to signal off-world humans for help or find a way off the planet themselves.
  • Made of Iron: Humans are a lot tougher than they used to be, which is how Polly can survive walking around for days with her ribs sticking out of her chest. Not that it stops her from being in terrible pain the whole time, mind.
  • Mama Bear: Threaten Leech or Drool when Darcy is around, and you will be so sorry. The nannies are also like this.
  • Missing Mom: The children have never seen their mother, though they've been assured that she's in the house and they'll meet her some day.
  • Neglectful Precursors: The entire plot of the novel is due to an old man accidentally switching the birthing mother on, and then dying from natural causes before he could notice.
  • Offing the Offspring: The birthing mother in the basement of the mansion continually lays eggs and imprints in them a desire to meet their mother and where to find her. She then waits for the children to grow up and leave their nurseries in search of her. Once they find her, she eats them. She didn't always do this, but ever since the mansion was abandoned and she was left without any food she's taken to subsisting off of her own children.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Leech's real name is technically "Kjhg22yu76(y*&^m". Nanny is the only one who can even pronounce it, and even she decides to call her "Kajhug" for short.
    • Drool can't remember his original name, and so goes by the one Darcy gave him.
    • Tick's real name is "Rick," but only Nanny calls him that. Polly started calling him Tick because she thought he was an annoying blood-sucking parasite, and he held on to it because he thought it was an Insult of Endearment.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Mostly because they're alien ghosts. The creepers look vaguely like scorched human females with antlers and claws. They are blind and insubstantial in the light, but are perfectly solid in the dark. Oh, and they seem to hate children. A lot.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • Darcy is this to Drool, as she's been raising him ever since he was born. He even calls her "Mommy" at one point.
    • The nannies are this to the children throughout the mansion, being the ones responsible for raising them, although the nannies themselves are forced to maintain a certain level of distance so the children remain loyal to their (absent) biological parents. At the end of the book, Tick comes to the realization that Nanny Warborough was his true mother in all the ways that count all along.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: For most of the story, it seems like the only question is how long the protagonists are going to be able to hold out before they inevitably die from violence or starvation in a broken world that has no place for them. However, things get turned around at the last minute and the Distant Finale show that everyone's happy and alive and busy building a new society from the wreckage of the house. The only thing that might make it even a Bitter Sweet Ending is that the planet is still going to be destroyed in 150 years, but Tick reasons that they might find a way to signal for help or otherwise escape before then - and even if they don't, well, 150 years is still enough time to have a worthwhile civilisation in.
  • Teleportation: While Tick technically can't leave the house, he gets teleported to and from school every day. Except not. What he's been told is a teleporter is the interface of a virtual reality.
  • Unreliable Exposition: Much of what Nanny says is just flat-out wrong, either because she's been misinformed herself or because she doesn't think the children are ready to hear the truth.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Tick is very smart and brave for a ten-year-old, to the point where it borders of Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour. Might be justified as his own version of Polly's Bizarre Alien Biology.