Archive for Miniatures

PodCastle Miniature 61: The Jacob Miracle

by Katherine Sparrow

Read by Ann Leckie

Originally Published in Brain Harvest (Read the story here!)

Everybody underestimated Jacob Apple. He’d launched spells from the chaos camp for the last three years, and though he was by far the strongest witch in the world, so what?

He’d made Germany turn pink, and mice talked now. Every year on April tenth people in Chicago danced all day long. His spells had strength, but no substance. Everyone said Jacob didn’t know his why. Without a why, a witch is just a prankster.

Rated PG: Contains miracles. Or witchcraftery.

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PodCastle Miniature 60: Cranberry Honey

by Amal El-Mohtar

Read by Marguerite Croft

Originally Published in The Honey Month

There is fire in his wrists, fire in his walk, fire beneath his fingernails. He is red, redder than rowan berries, for rowan doesn’t bleed as cranberries do, and it is cranberries that he gathers and stews and crushes, cranberries in which he steeps his skin.

It is not white, he says, that is pure. It is not black. It is red, because it moves, it changes, and it keeps itself always. It is not static as fossilized wood, not delicate as new-fallen snow. When red seeks to be its truest self, it is in motion. It fears no change.

He has shrugged at Paracelsus, at Tarot cards, at accusations of devilry. Red is his religion. He squeezes berry juice onto his eyelids, swallows it nine times a day. He wants the redness to spill from him like a scent, that sleeping creatures might dream in garnet tones.

Rated R: Contains Adult Themes. And Lots of Red

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PodCastle Miniature 59: Rainmaker

By Benjamin Thomas

Read by Wilson Fowlie (of The Maple Leaf Singers)

A PodCastle Original!

I was eight then, which made her eleven. We lay on a grassy knoll. The earth dampened my flesh: buttocks, shoulders, elbows, and heels. It was late spring, and a light breeze chilled me in pleasant contrast to the tingling warmth of May sun on skin.

“I see a peacock,” I said. It didn’t look like a peacock, a bird, or even a fan. Clouds never really looked like anything, unless you squint just right.

“That one looks like,” Arida furrowed her brow, crinkling up her glass smooth face, “a circus.” The wind gusted.

“It does not,” I protested. “It doesn’t even look like a …” my voice caught. The panorama shifted subtly yet suddenly. I saw the circus; her circus.

The center formed an enormous tent. Crowds milled around it. They moved in less than real time, but at a steady pace. One person spit fire, another juggled. A bear balanced speckled ball in front of the main entrance. In those days, I had seen a few paintings, and none compared to this monochrome play in the clouds.

Rated G

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PodCastle Miniature 57: Apex

by Lauren M. Roy

Read by Laura Denson

A PodCastle Original!

Bronze-plated dragons with snapping shrapnel teeth guarded the landings. Those who weren’t eaten faced a wind-up Sphinx that spat out ticker-tape riddles. She hated it when they answered incorrectly; the Sphinx’ broken voice-recorder played back their dying screams for hours, until she went out and gave it a kick.

Rated PG: Contains riddles

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PodCastle Miniature 56: The Masque of the Red Death

by Edgar Allan Poe

Read by Eric Luke (of the Extruding America podcast)

THE “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal — the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.

But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince’s own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the “Red Death.”

It was toward the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence.

Rated PG: Contains, um, Death!

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PodCastle Miniature 55: Ghost Market

by Greg van Eekhout

Read by Kane Lynch

Originally published in the Paper Cities anthology

Every third Tuesday of the month, they hold the ghost market beneath the Washington Street Bridge. You have to get there early if you want the best bargains, before the sun has a chance to warm the day.

“Hey, you wanna be a red-hot lover boy?”

I shrug. “Who doesn’t?”

Behind a folding table, in a stall built of PVC pipe and crinkled blue tarp, she’s shaped like a Willendorf Venus in a Che Guevara T-shirt. “Some people are scared to be red-hot lover boys,” she says, showing me an apparently empty beer bottle sealed with wax. “I knew this one personally. He was my neighbor. He fathered seventeen kids. Energetic, you know?” She winks. “He was in the act when his heart exploded.”

“How romantic,” I say, taking the bottle and holding it up to the gray-lilac sky. There’s nothing to see inside. “But that doesn’t sound like red-hot lover boy to me. It’s more like horny-old-man-who-wouldn’t-give-his-wives-a-break boy.”

Rated R: Violence and Disturbing Themes

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PodCastle Miniature 52: The Sphinx in Thebes (Massachusetts)

by Lord Dunsany

Read by Steve Anderson

There was a woman in a steel-built city who had all that money could buy, she had gold and dividends and trains and houses, and she had pets to play with, but she had no sphinx.

So she besought them to bring her a live sphinx; and therefore they went to the menageries, and then to the forests and the desert places, and yet could find no sphinx.
Rated PG: Contains Riddles, Greed, and Death

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PodCastle Miniature 51: Jaguar Woman

by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Read by Anna Schwind

Originally Published in Shimmer

The bearded Spaniard says little to her. He prefers to kiss her and mount her and have her pour his drink for him.

But the priests speak often, furiously. They show her drawings, they explain. The priests have images of martyrs drenched in blood, holding their own heads on a platter, their bodies pierced by arrows.

The priests make her kneel before their blessed Virgin and pray. She has prayed to others before and it is not so difficult to pray to new gods. It is more difficult to have lost her name. Even more difficult to have lost the jaguar shape.

But she does not remember much about those times either. It must have been years ago. She’s been the Spaniard’s mistress for an eternity. It has been like this forever, eating at his table, sleeping in his bed. Although it must not have been forever; she remembers there was a time when she could barely understand him and now his words are clearer although his meaning is the same.

Rated R for Violence, Including Gore

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PodCastle Miniature 50: Mario’s Three Lives

by Matt Bell

Read by Rish Outfield of The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine

Originally published in Barrellhouse

The plumber always dies with the same surprised look on his face, his mouth hanging open as he flies upward through the air before being born again at the beginning of the world. He’s tiny and frightened without his mushrooms and his fireballs, desperately banging his head against blocks, looking for more. Sometimes, between reincarnations, the plumber thinks he senses God trying to decide whether to give him another chance or to just bag the whole thing. He’s scared then, but who wouldn’t be? He prays for continuation and then God says Continue and the music plays that means the plumber will live again. Back in the world, he realizes that the God he senses between deaths is there when he’s alive too, guiding his motions. His triumphs are God’s triumphs but so are his failures. It bothers him that God can fail but he doesn’t show it. He is a stoic little plumber, looking for mushrooms and jumping on turtles. He is not a philosopher, or at least not until after the Princess is safe and he has the time to think things through. Still, sometimes when he’s alive and running or, heaven forbid, swimming, he realizes that the God Who Continues is possibly not the only god there is. Surely, that god isn’t the one who put all the collapsing platforms and strange, angry wildlife everywhere. At first he thinks it’s the Turtle King, the one who captured the Princess and started him on this whole adventure, but then he thinks, Who made the Turtle King? Not God, or at least not his God. Does this prove the existence of the Devil? He doesn’t know.

Rated PG for plumbers, philosophy, and good ol’ fashioned shrooms

(Hey! Look at us! Fifty miniatures!)

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PodCastle Miniature 49: Dead Letter

by Samantha Henderson

Read by Sarah Tolbert

The dream jerks me awake and I stare at the rough plaster ceiling.  My body is filmed with sweat, and the pattern of cracks above me looks just like Nevada.

The dream leaves me hollow.  An empty place like the inside of a drum stretched tight, a hollow place echoing with short sharp cries of dread or despair.

The dream forces tears from me eyes, crawling slowly, thick like worms, drying into sticky crusts of salt.

I blink once, twice, and emerge from the shadow of the dream.  The pit of of my stomach aches, as if punched, once, twice.

I blink three times and I’m out of it.  Out.

Rated PG for Waking Dreams (Not the Idealistic Kind)

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