Archive for September, 2012

PodCastle 227: The Yew’s Embrace

by Francesca Forrest.
Read by Stephanie Morris.
Originally appeared in Strange Horizons. Read the text there.


We could still see the old king’s blood in the cracks in the flagstones beneath the new king’s feet when he announced to us all that this was a unification, not a conquest, and that we had nothing to fear from the soldiers that fenced us round. The new king said that my sister the queen would become his wife and that he’d make the old king’s baby son his very own heir. That’s how much he loved and honored our people, he said.

A month later, on a stormy day when the rain blew in at the windows and puddled on the floor, and we were huddled round the hearth, spinning by the light of oil lamps, the king burst in, soaking wet. Eyes a-glitter, he told my sister that he had caught Lele, the wet nurse, down by the stream at the edge of the grove of the gods, drowning the baby prince.

“She said she wouldn’t permit him to grow up under my authority,” he said. “I tried to save him, but I was too late.” He held up his dripping hands. River weed clung to his arms above the elbows.

“She’ll be punished, though,” the king continued, and you could see his whole body trembling like a struck bell as he spoke. It was anger, red anger, that caused him to shake. None of us dared to move. “I’ve ordered her flayed alive in the grove of the gods. It will stand as a lesson,” he said, catching us each by eye, one by one, lingering on my sister. “No one may cross me. I will show no mercy to those who oppose me.”

Rated R for violence.

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PodCastle 226: Hand Of God

by Erica Satifka.
Read by Dave Robison, co-host of The Roundtable Podcast.
First appeared in On the Premises, read the text there.


From the roof of his house, Andrew can see everything in the town of
Pandora. Right below is his yard of wispy yellow grass that breaks at
the touch. A little ways down is the dead creek, a stinking, mucky
place. And above him, always, is the hand of God. Briefly, he trains
his flashlight on the underside of the hand, studying the lined,
grayish flesh. Then he stares back toward the outskirts of town,
peering through his binoculars at the mushroom farmer’s trailer.

The farmer makes a drug. Andrew’s not supposed to know about the drug,
and he certainly isn’t supposed to take it. But the farmer’s daughter
goes to school with all the other kids, so word gets around. He must
have mixed a new batch. The townspeople are lined up all the way back
to the old Sunoco station, their headlamps making a broken ant trail
in the ever-present dusk.

Rated R for drug use, disturbing imagery.

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PodCastle 225, Giant Episode: The Cage

by Jeff VanderMeer.
Read by MarBelle, of the Director’s Notes blog, audio and video podcast.
Originally appeared in City of Saints and Madmen.

“Tell me about the cage,” Hoegbotton said suddenly, surprising himself. “The cage up there”—he pointed—“is it for sale, too?”
The boy stiffened, stared at the floor. Outside, his father, brother, and two sisters were being burned as a precaution, the bodies too mutilated to have withstood a viewing anyway..
A reflexive sadness ran through Hoegbotton, even as he noted the delicacy of the silver engravings on the legs of a nearby chair and the authentic maker’s mark stitched onto the cushioned seat.
He smiled at the boy, whose gaze remained directed at the floor. “Don’t you know you’re safe now?” The words sounded ludicrous.
The woman turned to look at Hoegbotton. Her eyes were black as an abyss; they did not blink and reflected nothing. He felt for a moment balanced precariously between the son’s alarm and the mother’s regard.
“The cage was always open,” the woman said, her voice gravelly, something stuck in her throat. “We had a bird. We always let it fly around. It was a pretty bird. It flew high through the rooms. It— No one could find the bird. After.” The terrible pressure of the word after appeared to be too much for her and she fell back into her silence.
“We’ve never had a cage,” the boy said, the dark green suitcase swaying. “We’ve never had a bird. They left it here. They left it.”
A kind of rapturous chill ran through Hoegbotton. The sleepy gaze of a pig embryo floating in a jar caught his eye. Opportunity or disaster? The value of an artifact they had left behind might be considerable. The risks, however, might be more than considerable. This was the third time in the last nine months that he had been called to a house visited by the gray caps. Each of the previous times, he had escaped unharmed. In fact, he had come to believe that late arrivals like himself, who took precautions and knew their history, were impervious to any side effects.

Rated R for sexuality and disturbing imagery.

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PodCastle 224: The Navigator and the Sky

by Ian McHugh.
read by Darren Kelk, of ScifiSurplus.com.
Originally appeared in Giganotosaurus. The story text is available here.


“Sing, Kio Lea! Sing!” Tapa O heard his wife urge, even over his own exhortations to his nephews and grandsons to paddle.

The young men bent their backs. Sluggishly, the big double-hulled canoe moved out of the harbour. Huddled on the platform that joined the twin hulls, a pile of shadows beneath the platform’s roof, the men’s wives tried to quiet their crying children. The sail hung slack, dyed orange by the light of the fires ashore, its turtle motif half-hidden in its folds.

Kio Lea’s voice rose at last. Tapa O put a hand to his chest, feeling the song in his heart and lungs, the pulse and breath of the world. His granddaughter’s voice belonged to the days of the ancestors, he was fond of boasting, when mankind still had one foot in the realm of the gods.

The Wind arrived, the goddess leaning into the sail as she inhaled Kio Lea’s song. The canoe surged forward. The young men gave a ragged cheer, the sail with its painted turtle filling out proudly above them.

Tapa O hauled on the tiller, bringing the canoe around. His eyes roved the heavens, mapping the tracks of the stars without needing to check the brass cylinder of the star compass at his feet. The Wind was a slight thickening of the air around the sail, distorting his view of the constellations directly overhead.

Rated PG.

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