Archive for July, 2008

PC018: Illuminated Dragon

By Sarah Prineas
Read by Steve Anderson
First appeared in Strange Horizons (full text online.)

The neatly lettered sign hung askew. Shards of glass spilled out from the front window, and scraps of charred paper blew around the front door, which hung crookedly from one hinge. Rafe came closer and, shaking, peered into his shop.

Shredded papers lay everywhere, in drifts on the floor and the worktable. Any representation of human or animal, Rafe knew, had been hacked out and burnt; the hearth was choked with ash and half-charred pages. Across one wall was a splash of vivid vermilion. The other colors had been tipped onto the floor and ground underfoot. Rafe crept further in, shards of the broken window crunching underfoot. With trembling hands, Rafe opened the book.

The bestiary was missing from its wooden stand in the corner. Rafe fell to his knees, pushing tattered papers aside, searching for it. A shard of glass cut his hand, and he left bloody fingerprints on every page that he touched. At last he found the book underneath his worktable, and for a moment his heart leapt; it seemed to be unharmed. With trembling hands, Rafe opened the book. He looked at it for a long moment, then closed it and laid it gently on the floor.

Most of the destruction in the shop had been done by unsubtle thinkers, typical Men of Truth, all brutality and swagger and the knowledge that they were, absolutely and rationally, Right.

But someone else had done the book. Someone subtle, surgical. The pages were nearly untouched. Except that every illuminated picture, every dragon, pard, gryphon, or mermaid, had been carefully and neatly excised.

Rated G. Warning: contains mythical creatures such as dragons and mermaids. May be illegal in some jurisdictions.

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PodCastle Miniature 007: Tooth Fairy

By Jeffrey Valka
Read by Stephen Eley of Escape Pod
“Tooth Fairy” makes its debut in PodCastle. It was submitted as an entry in Escape Pod’s Flash Fiction Contest, February 2007.

“The first thing you need to understand is that there isn’t just one tooth fairy…there are hundreds of them. Thousands. To them, your baby tooth is precious as a diamond. They make tremendous piles and sit on them just like dragons sit on treasure. They can never get enough.” I pause for a moment to allow this information to sink in for her. “The next question you should ask me is this: where do the tooth fairies get the money that they leave under your pillow?”

“Where do they get the money?” she asks.

Rated PG. Contains adorable postmodernism.

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PC017: Goblin Lullaby

By Jim C. Hines
Read by Christiana Ellis (of Christiana’s Shallow Thoughts)
First appeared in Fantasy Gone Wrong (DAW)

“I’ve never seen a goblin infant,” said the elf, stepping closer.

“You thought goblins sprang fully formed from the rocks for you to slaughter?”  She jammed a knuckle into Jig’s mouth for him to suck.  His baby fangs were just beginning to pierce the gums, but the pain in her finger was better than listening to him cry.

“We slaughtered nobody.”  The voice came from below the outcropping.  The elf relaxed his bow and knelt, hauling his companion up onto the ledge. “You goblins attacked us.  We defended ourselves.”

Grell stepped to the edge and studied the woods below.  Goblin blood turned the earth a gruesome shade of blue.  Elves wove through the trees, making no noise save the twang of bowstrings and the ripping sound of blades tearing through goblin armor and flesh.  “Defended yourselves?  Next time, why don’t you defend yourselves over in the hobgoblin tunnels rather than sneaking onto our land to do it?”

The archer caught his companion by the arm.  “She’s an old woman, Jonathan. With a child.”

“She’s a goblin, Rindar.”  But he relaxed slightly.  He was bulkier than his companion, and the mane of red hair meant he was no elf.  Red stubble dotted his chin, though he was too young to grow a proper beard.  He wore a heavy mail shirt, with a green tabard depicting a white dragon coiled around a tree.  “If we let her live, she’ll lead another attack against us.”

Grell kicked the corpse of the goblin drummer.  “If you let me live, I’ll go back to the nursery and get some sleep.”

“I won’t risk letting you go free,” said Jonathan.  “Not until my quest is complete.”

Rated G. Contains not necessarily overlapping groups of heroes and good guys.

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PC016: Magnificent Pigs

By Cat Rambo
Read by Matthew Wayne Selznick
First appeared in Strange Horizons (full text at link)

The spring before it happened, I went upstairs and found my ten-year-old sister Jilly crying. Charlotte’s Web, which we’d been reading together at bedtime all that week, lay splayed broken-backed on the floor where she’d thrown it.

“What’s wrong?” I said, hovering in the doorway. As Jilly kept getting sicker, I tried to offer her the illusion of her own space, but remained ready.

“I was reading ahead because I liked it so much—and Charlotte dies!” she managed to gasp between sobs.

The big brass bed creaked in protest as I sat down beside her. Gathering her into my arms, I rocked her back and forth. It was well past sunset and the full-faced moon washed into the room, spilling across the blue rag rug like milk, and gleaming on the bed knobs so that they looked like balls of icy light, brighter than the dim glow of Jilly’s bedside lamp.

“It’s a book, Jilly, just a book,” I said.

She shook her head, cheeks blotched red and wet with tears. “But, Aaron, Charlotte’s dead!” she choked out again.

I retrieved the book from the middle of the room and set it in front of her. “Look,” I said. “If we open the book up again at the beginning, Charlotte’s alive. She’ll always be alive in the book.”

The sobs quieted to hiccups and she reached for the book, looking dubious. When she opened it to the first chapter, I began to read. “‘Where’s Papa going with that ax?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. ‘Out to the hoghouse,’ replied Mrs. Arable. ‘Some pigs were born last night.’”

Curling against me, she let me read the first two chapters. After she slipped away to sleep, I tucked the blanket around her then went downstairs to cry my own tears.

Rated PG. Contains child mortality. Those sensitive to these themes are advised to take caution.

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