PodCastle 181: Still Small Voice

by Ben Burgis.
Read by David Rees-Thomas.
A PodCastle Original!

Jack slipped on his invisibility shawl as he entered the café. Henry sat at a table by himself, reading a handsomely leather-bound book.

A few patrons looked up at the sound of the door opening and closing, then turned back to their business when they saw no one there. Under his cloak, Jack luxuriated in the artificial cool of the café.

Outside, it was a sweltering summer day, the kind of day that felt like all five of the Gods had lit five flames behind the clouds and the heat from those flames drowned out even the heat of the suns. It was the kind of day when even the wild dragons stayed out of the sky. Inside, it felt cool as autumn.

The heating and cooling control of the Island’s cafes and taverns, half-magic and half-mechanical, were one of the things Jack had almost forgotten to miss in his years in the West.

Henry turned the pages of his book, running his finger over the lines in a picture of intent fascination. Jack sat down across from him. Henry looked up, then shook his head and went back to the book.

Jack giggled. Henry looked up again. He closed his book, placed it ever so gently on the table and stood up. Jack forced himself to be quiet. Henry glanced to the left and then to the right, his lips set in a frown of deep suspicion. Then, at last, Jack took pity on the man and pulled off his shawl.

Henry staggered back. His chair clattered to the floor. Patrons at other tables turned to stare. Jack doubled over with laughter.

“So.” Henry picked up the chair and, with a show of dignity, sat back down. “I take it this is one of the Western marvels you wrote me about?”

“It is.” Jack folded the shawl as he spoke.

Henry stared at him. “How are you doing that? Can you see it?”

“Not a bit. I can feel it. If you stare at the damn thing for long enough, you can make out a sort of outline, but I find it’s best to remember where you left it.”

Rated R for profanity, sex.

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