Archive for February, 2012

PodCastle 198: Urchins, While Swimming

by Catherynne M. Valente

Read by Diane Severseon (of StarShipSofa)

Originally published in Clarkesworld Magazine. Read the story here.

In the morning, she called me always by my name, Kseniya, and her eyes would be worry-wrinkled—and her hair would be wet, too. While she scraped a pale, translucent sliver of precious butter over rough, hard-crusted bread, I would draw a bath, filling the high-sided tub to its bright brim. We ate our breakfast slick-haired in the nearly warm water, curled into each other’s bodies, snail into shell, while the bath sloshed over onto the kitchen floor, which was also the living room floor and the bathroom floor and my mother’s bedroom floor—she gave me the little closet which served as a second room.

In the evening, if we had meat, she would fry it slowly and we would savor the smell together, to make the meal last. If we did not, she would tell me a story about a princess who had a bowl which was never empty of sweet, roasted chickens while I slurped a thin soup of cabbage and pulpy pumpkin and saved bathwater. Sometimes, when my mother spoke low and gentle over the green soup, it tasted like birds with browned, sizzling skin. All day, she sponged my head, the trickle ticklish as sweat. The back of my dress clung slimy to my skin.

Before bed, she would pass my head under the faucet, the cold water splashing on my scalp like a slap. And then the waking, always the waking, and hour or two past midnight.

Rated R: Contains some disturbing imagery.

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PodCastle 197: Destiny, With a Blackberry Sauce

by David J. Schwartz

Read by Daniel Foley

Originally published in Strange Horizons. Read the story here.

During my brother Mel’s final test to become a guard, he performed a flourish with his halberd and cut off his left foot. You wouldn’t think it was possible to slice your own foot clean off while you’re standing on it, but he managed. He says that he didn’t really feel any pain at first, but he did feel the tendon in his leg rolling up like a window shade.

My parents were mortified. My dad just set his jaw like he does when he can’t yell at us right exactly then, and my mom covered her eyes. Me, I watched the whole thing. There was a lot of blood, and of course Mel was screaming—they say you’re not supposed to, that it makes a bad impression on the test officers, but I’m pretty sure I would have, too. Then the healer came over and made an incision in the back of my brother’s leg. He reached in and found the tendon where it had gone into hiding and pulled it down to where it belonged, chanting the entire time. Mel was screaming a lot louder by then. Five minutes later the foot was reattached. It’s pretty much as good as it ever was, but Mel still has nightmares about the pain.

Not that I’m the least bit sympathetic. If you ask me, he did it on purpose.

Rated R: Contains violence and prophecies

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PodCastle 196: The Second Voyage of Sindbad the Seaman

Originally appeared in The Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Read the text in various places, such as here and here.
Translated by Sir Richard Burton.
Read by Wilson Fowlie (of The Maple Leaf Singers).


At last Destiny brought us to an island, fair and verdant, in trees abundant, with yellow-ripe fruits luxuriant, and flowers fragrant and birds warbling soft descant, and streams crystalline and radiant. But no sign of man showed to the descrier- no, not a blower of the fire. The captain made fast with us to this island, and the merchants and sailors landed and walked about, enjoying the shade of the trees and the song of the birds, that chanted the praises of the One, the Victorious, and marveling at the works of the Omnipotent King.

Rated PG.

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PodCastle 195: Lavanya and Deepika

by Shveta Thakrar.
Read by TCA Lakshmi Narasimhan.
Originally appeared in Demeter’s Spicebox. Read the text there.

Once upon a time, in a land radiant with stars and redolent of
sandalwood, where peacocks breakfasted on dreams salty with the
residue of slumber, a rani mourned. On the surface, the rani had
everything: a kingdom to care for, fine jewels to wear in her long
black hair, silken saris threaded through with silver and gold, and a
garden of roses and jasmine to rival that of Lord Indra in his
celestial realm. When she rode atop her warrior elephant, her subjects
bowed before her in awe and love. But one thing remained out of
reach–an heir. She longed for a small, smiling face to call her own.

Gulabi Rani consulted midwives, healers schooled in the art of
Ayurveda, and magicians. Knowing better than to refuse a monarch, they
plied her with charms and salves, medications and horoscopes. She ate
the roots and leaves of the shatavari plant as they recommended, and
drank creamy buttermilk while fastidiously avoiding the color black.
Yet her belly stayed flat. At last the healers admitted that, without
a husband, there was no hope.

But the rani did not want a husband. Nor did she suffer from a lack of
hope. After dismissing the healers and her servants both, she readied
a place in the garden. If no one else could help her, she would find
the answer herself. Surrounded by her beloved roses, garnet and pink
and ivory, Gulabi meditated for weeks on end.

Rated PG.

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