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Archive for October, 2011

PodCastle 180: We Were Wonder Scouts

by Will Ludwigsen.
Read by Christopher Reynaga.
Originally appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction.

My parents, Father especially, had little interest in the imagination. “Why would you read things that someone else made up?” he always wanted to know. We had no books of fiction in the house or a radio, and I didn’t have many toys.

What I had was Thuria, and it was better. In the shadowy crawlspace beneath my house where only I could fit, I built a kingdom out of discarded sardine tins, thread spools, and cereal boxes. A wide boulevard wound between four hills to a colander capitol dome. There, King Wemnon and his twenty wise councilors benevolently discussed and executed their national affairs. Sometimes they called the men to arms to repel giant invading animals, usually the neighbor’s cats. Often, they built elaborate fortifications along the frontier to defend against the evil Count Pappen and his massing armies. At least once, they sent lone heroes across the dusty wasteland to rescue poor Princess Annabella from the Tower of Eternal Woe.

A strange sensation of stretched time would overtake me when I visited Thuria, started by a sort of whispering trance, and I could perform whole epochs of its development in just a few stolen moments before dinner. Have you ever felt that way? It’s a feeling of total absorption, the kind that seems to hum and fizz against the edges of your brain.

Rated PG.

Discuss on the forums.

PodCastle Miniature 66: The Witch’s Second Daughter

by Marissa K. Lingen

Read by Jen Rhodes (of  the Anomaly Podcast)

Originally published in Andromeda Spaceways #49.

The flowers of the forest outside the witch’s cottage bloomed black, with little shiny purple leaves.  The villagers tried to say the blossoms themselves were deep purple, not a true black, but Garren was the second daughter of a witch, schooled from birth that she must never, never call things what she knew they were not.

Telven, Garren’s older sister, had the other half of the witch’s training, and that was to always, always call things what she knew they were not.  Telven called an carven oak a man and made of him a husband, who was solid and dependable though not, perhaps, as swift as some.  She called a cave a home, and made it cozy and neat, though she could not keep cheese in it more than two days for the mold.  She called their mother wise and listened to her council.

The way of the second daughter was harder.

Rated PG.

Discuss on the forums.

PodCastle 179: The Gateway of the Monster (Featuring Carnacki)

by William Hope Hodgson.
Read by Paul S. Jenkins.
Originally published in The Idler, January 1910.

“Two days later, I drove to the house, late in the afternoon. I found it a very old place, standing quite alone in its own grounds. Anderson had left a letter with the butler, I found, pleading excuses for his absence, and leaving the whole house at my disposal for my investigations. The butler evidently knew the object of my visit, and I questioned him pretty thoroughly during dinner, which I had in rather lonely state. He is an old and privileged servant, and had the history of the Grey Room exact in detail. From him I learned more particulars regarding two things that Anderson had mentioned in but a casual manner. The first was that the door of the Grey Room would be heard in the dead of night to open, and slam heavily, and this even though the butler knew it was locked, and the key on the bunch in his pantry. The second was that the bedclothes would always be found torn off the bed, and hurled in a heap into a corner.

“But it was the door slamming that chiefly bothered the old butler. Many and many a time, he told me, had he lain awake and just got shivering with fright, listening; for sometimes the door would be slammed time after time – thud! thud! thud! – so that sleep was impossible.

“From Anderson, I knew already that the room had a history extending back over a hundred and fifty years. Three people had been strangled in it – an ancestor of his and his wife and child. This is authentic, as I had taken very great pains to discover, so that you can imagine it was with a feeling that I had a striking case to investigate, that I went upstairs after dinner to have a look at the Grey Room.

“Peter, the old butler, was in rather a state about my going, and assured me with much solemnity that in all the twenty years of his service, no one had ever entered that room after nightfall. He begged me, in quite a fatherly way, to wait till the morning, when there would be no danger, and then he could accompany me himself.

“Of course, I smiled a little at him, and told him not to bother. I explained that I should do no more than look around a bit, and perhaps affix a few seals. He need not fear; I was used to that sort of thing. But he shook his head, when I said that.

“‘There isn’t many ghosts like ours, sir,’ he assured me, with mournful pride. And, by Jove! he was right, as you will see. “

Rated R.

Discuss on the forums.

PodCastle 178, Giant Episode: Braiding the Ghosts

By C.S.E. Cooney

Read by Kara Grace

Originally published in Clockwork Phoenix 3.

That first year, when Nin was eight, she wanted her mother so desperately. But Noir was dead, she was dead, and would always be dead, thanks to Reshka.

Reshka liked to say, “I’m not above keeping ghosts in the house for handmaids and men-of-all-work. There must be ghosts for sweeping, for scrubbing, ghosts for plunging the toilets or repairing the roof, ghosts to fix the swamp cooler and to wash and dry the dishes. But,” said Reshka, “but I will be damned—I will be damned and in hell and dancing for the Devil—before I summon any daughter of mine from the grave.”

So Reshka had Noir cremated three days after her death. Afterward, she prepared the funeral feast in Noir and Nin’s small apartment kitchen.

Rated R: Contains Some Disturbing Imagery and Sex.

Discuss on the forums.

PodCastle 177: The Fall of the House of Usher

by Edgar Allan Poe

Read by Eric Luke (of the Extruding America podcast)

DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country ; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was – but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable ; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the scene before me – upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain – upon the bleak walls – upon the vacant eye-like windows – upon a few rank sedges – and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees – with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium – the bitter lapse into everyday life – the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart – an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime. What was it – I paused to think – what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher ? It was a mystery all insoluble ; nor could I grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me as I pondered. I was forced to fall back upon the unsatisfactory conclusion, that while, beyond doubt, there are combinations of very simple natural objects which have the power of thus affecting us, still the analysis of this power lies among considerations beyond our depth. It was possible, I reflected, that a mere different arrangement of the particulars of the scene, of the details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to annihilate its capacity for sorrowful impression ; and, acting upon this idea, I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre by the dwelling, and gazed down – but with a shudder even more thrilling than before – upon the remodelled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows.

Rated PG.

Discuss on the forums.

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