PodCastle 334, Giant Episode: Quartermaster Returns

by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Read by Roberto Suarez

Originally published in Eclipse 1, Edited by Jonathan Strahan. Check out Prophecies, Libels, & Dreams – Ysabeau S. Wilce’s new collection coming soon from Small Beer Press!

When Pow walks into the hog ranch, everyone turns to stare at shim. At the whist table, the muleskinner gurgles and lets fall his cards. The cardsharp’s teeth clatter against the rim of his glass. The cowboy squeaks. At the bar, the barkeep, who had been fishing flies out of the pickle jar, drops her pickle fork. On the bar, the cat, a fantastic mouser named Queenie, narrows her moon-silver eyes into little slits. At the pianny, Lotta, who’d been banging out Drink Puppy Drink on the peeling ivory keys, crashes one last chord and no more.

Even the ice elemental, in the cage suspended over the whist table, ceases his languid fanning. He’s seen a lot of boring human behavior since the barkeep brought him from a junk store in Wal-nuts to keep the hog ranch cool; finally a human has done some- thing interesting. Only Fort Gehenna’s scout doesn’t react. He wipes his nose on a greasy buckskin sleeve, slams another shot of mescal, and takes the opportunity to peek at his opponents’ cards.

The bar-room is dead silent but for a distant slap and a squeal—Buck and the peg-boy in the back room exercising—and the creak of the canvas walls shifting in the ever-present Arivaipa wind.

Rated R. Contains lots of alcohol, some death, and some undeath.

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PodCastle 333: Argent Blood

by Joe L. Hensley

Read by Joe Scalora

Originally published in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1967.

April 13: Today I made a discovery. I was allowed to look in the mirror in Doctor Mesh’s office. I’m about forty years old, judging from my face and hair. I failed to recognize me, and by this I mean there is apparently no correlation between what I saw of me in the mirror and this trick memory of mine. But it’s good to see one’s face, although my own appears ordinary enough.

I must admit to more interest in the pretty bottles on Doctor Mesh’s shelves than my face. Somewhere in dreams I remember bottles like those. I wanted the bottles so badly that a whirling came in my head.

But I didn’t try to take them, as I suspected that Doctor Mesh was watching closely.

Doctor Mesh said, “You’re improving. Soon we’ll give you the run of our little hospital and grounds, except, of course, the disturbed room.” He pinched me on the arm playfully. “Have to keep you healthy.”

Rated R. Contains…well, blood.

Check out the Journey Into…Kicktstarter to support Ken Scholes writing an Edgar Allan Poe-esque story here.

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PodCastle 332: Zeraquesh in Absentia

by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Read by Amal El-Mohtar

Originally published in The Dark, February 2014. Read it here.

In the city of Zeraquesh, each shadow is the shape of candlelight held still. A citizen leaving the comfort of roof and walls can expect to attract several hauntings at every corner turned. Such ghosts may be shed only under the light of anglerfish refracted through a prism. Most households keep at least one about.

The hunter has armed herself with a calligraphic blade refined in the stomachs of freedom fighters and a gun whose bullets invert probability. It is the second upon which she most depends, though it fires only under very particular conditions, in a unique location: but that is all right, for her purpose is singular. Neither is it a weapon of blunt force, for manipulating potential is a subtle art. Everything has to align just right. The chamber contains two bullets, no more.

For the moment she uses the blade, which spills couplets and proverbs so ancient they will cut through any armor and slice apart iron as easily as paper. That is how she makes an entrance for herself through the ziggurat walls, in negation of propriety, law, and good sense.

But she is used to having her way. The percussion of her footfalls lends surety to her path and the firebrand of her blade keeps the hauntings at bay. She climbs spirals, steps across roofs on which stone phoenixes and kirin nest, pushes through windowpanes in which faces not her own are reflected.

Rated R.

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PodCastle 331: Drowning in Sky

by Julia August

Narrated by Abra Staffin-Wiebe (of The Circus of Brass and Bone)

Originally published in Fantasy Magazine‘s Women Destroy Fantasy! Special Edition, Edited by Cat Rambo

Ann tracked the seabed rising for days, or hours, or minutes that felt like months, before the jolt of the ship knocking against the harbour wall jarred her eyes open. Water sloshed in the hollows of the hold. The salted ribs of the ship were singing, as were the tin ingots stacked twenty deep at her back. Under the nasal whine of wood and metal Ann heard the slow, deep hum of earth and stone.

She didn’t need the sailors to tell her they had arrived. She flattened her shoulders against the ingots and took a breath. Then another. Her lap was full of dust. The limestone slab that had weighed down Ann’s knees at the start of the voyage was only a pebble. Ann rolled it between her palms. She could hear Tethys scratching at the wooden walls.

If she got up, she could get out. She could bury herself in the earth, her hands and her head and her humming ears, and she could damp down her hair with dirt and never, ever go to sea again. Tethys had promised, she told herself. Ann had walked up and down the distant shore, and Tethys had crept over the sand on a skim of foam, and Tethys had promised.

The trapdoor opened. Ann crushed the pebble between the heels of her hands and experienced a flush of clearheaded energy. Tethys broke all Her promises. But not this one.

 

Rated R. Contains sex. With Gods.

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