Archive for August, 2010

PodCastle 119: Bespoke

by Genevieve Valentine

Read by Tina Connolly

Originally Published in Strange Horizons. Read the Text here!

Martin Spatz, the actor, had gone Vagabonding in 8,000 BC and killed a wild dog that was about to attack him. (It was a blatant violation of the rules–you had to be prepared to die in the past, that was the first thing you signed on the contract. He went to jail over it. They trimmed two years off because he used a stick, and not the pistol he’d brought with him.)

No one could find a direct connection between the dog and the mice, but people speculated. People were still speculating, even though the mice were long dead.

Everything went, sooner or later; the small animals tended to last longer than the large ones, but eventually all that was left were some particularly hardy plants, and the butterflies.  By the next year the butterflies were swarming enough to block out the summer sun, and Disease Control began to intervene.

Rated PG: Contains Butterflies and Hurricanes. Happy Birthday, Ray!

PodCastle Miniature 54: A Spot of Bother, High Above the Undead Sea

by Kris Dikeman

Read by Simon Meddings (of the Waffle-On podcast)

A PodCastle Original!

Bits and pieces of passengers and crew lay in untidy heaps along the deck. Picking my way through the remains of the unfortunate purser, I stepped to the railing. The setting sun threw the airship’s shadow across the water. Amid the rolling waves, the mermaids kept pace with us, gliding effortlessly in a perfect Q-formation.

“Regard,” I said to the gore-spattered robot, hoping to distract him from his murderous frenzy. “The zombie mermaids of the Undead Sea. The dirigible’s shape triggers the decayed synapses of their putrefied brains, awakening memories of the briny dill pickles they craved in life.”

Rated R: Contains Zombie Mermaids, Killer Robots, Dirigibles, and Cigars

PodCastle 118: Sugar

by Cat Rambo

Read by Rachel Swirsky

Originally Published in Fantasy Magazine

They line up before Laurana, forty baked-clay heads atop forty bodies built of metal cylinders.  Every year she casts and fires new heads to replace those lost to weather, the wild, or simple erosion.  She rarely replaces the metal bodies.  They are scuffed and battered, over a century old.

Every morning, the island sun beating down on her pale scalp, she stands on the maison’s porch with the golems before her.  Motionless.  Expressionless.

She chants.  The music and the words fly into the clay heads and keep them thinking.  The golems are faster just after they have been charged.  They move more lightly, with more precision.  With more joy.  Without the daily chant they could go perhaps three days at most, depending on the heaviness of their labors.

This month is cane-planting season.  She delegates the squads of laborers and sets some to carrying buckets from the spring to water the new cane shoots while others dig furrows.  The roof needs reshingling, but it can wait until planting season is past.  As the golems shuffle off, she pauses to water the flowering bushes along the front of the house.  Placing her fingertips together, she conjures a tiny rain cloud, wringing moisture from the air.  Warm drops collect on the leaves, rolling down to darken pink and gray bark to red and black.

Rated PG: Contains a Rush of Sugary Sweetness (No Corn Syrup or Artificial Flavoring!)

PodCastle Miniature 53: Charms

by Shweta Narayan

Read by Claudia Smith

Originally published in Strange Horizons (Read Along Here)

Old Mrs. Farley waves the Daily Mail in Edith’s face and shouts, Did
you see this, dear? She always shouts. She’s half deaf, bless her.

That I did, Edith shouts back. She doesn’t add, When I put them up
this morning, stiff as I was from the cold, and again every time
another customer asks. Wouldn’t be Christian. Wouldn’t be good
business, either. But how the old biddy thinks the papers got on the
rack without Edith putting them there, the Lord only knows.

Mrs. Farley slaps the paper onto the counter, rotogravure picture up,
next to her packets of willow bark and powdered mummy. Edith tries not
to look at it. Fails. That smirking girl staring back with her
cigarette, that ugly short hair, the shapeless dress with its silly
fringes and its shameless show of calf, frivolous before the great
dark mass of Flamel Hall. Girls these days, says Edith. What they
wear. Her voice stays steady, but her eyes go to the headline.
SPELLCASTING SUFFRAGETTES! And below that some inane babble about the
wizards lost in the war, the London College opening its doors, that
child dancing right in as though she belongs. . . .

Rated PG: Contains Magical Higher Learning, Discrimination, and Charity