Archive for October, 2010

PodCastle Miniature 56: The Masque of the Red Death

Show Notes

Rated PG: Contains, um, Death!

Masque of the Red Death

by Edgar Allan Poe

The “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal — the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.

But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince’s own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the “Red Death.”

It was toward the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence.

PodCastle 128: Something Wicked This Way Plumbs

Show Notes

Rated PG: Contains tentacles, and a whole lotta candy

Something Wicked This Way Plumbs

by Vylar Kaftan

It happened last year.  I’d come into the office early, because I was on deadline–and a month behind on bills.  To make things worse, my girlfriend had the flu, and I’d promised to be there by 5 to take her boys trick-or-treating.  So here I was in the men’s restroom, at 7:30 on Halloween morning.  I shook out a few drops, zipped my pants, and went to the sink.  It’s one of those two-faucet deals with handles on each side and a wide central spigot.  I turned the cold water tap.

Candy streamed out of the faucet like the entrails of a slaughtered piñata.  The sink filled with Skittles, candy corn, and jellybeans.  They rattled against each other as they spilled over the basin’s edge.  Startled, I turned the faucet off.

I hoped someone was playing a Halloween prank, because the alternative was disturbing.  Or maybe I wasn’t awake yet.  I glanced at the mirror.  In dreams you’ve always got weird things about your face, like snakes crawling from your eyeballs.  But I looked normal.  A bit scruffy, and my sleepy eyes were bloodshot.  Neither of these were a problem for a freelance writer–in some circles, they might count as street cred.  I looked at the sink.  Still candy.

I went to my office for a paper bag.

PodCastle 127: The Belated Burial

The Belated Burial

by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Being buried when one is fully conscious and keenly aware of the confines of her narrow house and the stink of cemetery soil, these things are terrible, but, as she has learned, there is always something incalculably worse than the very worst thing that she can imagine. Miss Josephine has had centuries to perfect the stepwise procession from Paradise to Purgatory to the lowest levels of an infinitely descending Hell, and she wears her acumen and expertise where it may be seen by all, and especially where it may be seen by her lovers (whether they are living, dead, or somewhere in between). So, yes, Brylee objected, but only the halfhearted, token objection permitted by her station. And then she did as she was bidden. She dressed in the funerary gown from one of her mistress’ steamer trunks, the dress, all indecent, immaculate white lace and silk taffeta; it smells of cedar and moth balls. Amid the palest chrysanthemums and lilies, babies breath and albino roses, she lay down in the black-lacquered casket, which is hardly more than a simple pine box, and she did not move. She did not make a sound. Not breathing was, of course, the simplest part. Miss Josephine laid a heavy gold coin on each of her eyelids before the mourners began to arrive, that she would have something to give the ferryman.

“She was so young,” one of the vampires said, the one named Addie Goodwin.

“Your sorrow must be inconsolable,” said another, the man whom they all call simply Signior Garzarek, who came all the way from New York for the mock-somber ceremony in the ancient yellow house on Benefit Street.

PodCastle Miniature 55: Ghost Market

Ghost Market

by Greg van Eekhout

Every third Tuesday of the month, they hold the ghost market beneath the Washington Street Bridge. You have to get there early if you want the best bargains, before the sun has a chance to warm the day.

“Hey, you wanna be a red-hot lover boy?”

I shrug. “Who doesn’t?”

Behind a folding table, in a stall built of PVC pipe and crinkled blue tarp, she’s shaped like a Willendorf Venus in a Che Guevara T-shirt. “Some people are scared to be red-hot lover boys,” she says, showing me an apparently empty beer bottle sealed with wax. “I knew this one personally. He was my neighbor. He fathered seventeen kids. Energetic, you know?” She winks. “He was in the act when his heart exploded.”

“How romantic,” I say, taking the bottle and holding it up to the gray-lilac sky. There’s nothing to see inside. “But that doesn’t sound like red-hot lover boy to me. It’s more like horny-old-man-who-wouldn’t-give-his-wives-a-break boy.”