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.