Archive for Rated PG

PodCastle 303: The Wrong Foot

by Stephanie Burgis

Read by Renee Chambliss

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction. Read it here!

“You must know,” I began, “I’m not the girl you’re looking for.”
“Mm-hmm,” the prince murmured absently. “Very honored, yes, I understand, they all are. You needn’t tell me.”
“I didn’t,” I muttered.
The other man bit back a grin.
“Shhh!” Mama hissed. “Your Highness, may I offer you and your friend any–oh! Oh!” she squealed, raising both hands to her mouth. Her eyes misted over with tears of delight. “Oh, Sophia, it fits! It really fits!”
I stared. I blinked and stared again. But she was right. The glass molded to my foot as neatly–and as chillingly, for glass is a cold material–as if it had been made for me.
I regarded it as I would a poisonous plant that had thrown its tendrils through my bedroom window. The prince looked equally shocked, but more surprised than horrified. He stared at my foot. He wiggled the shoe. Nothing he did made any difference. The fit was absolutely perfect.

Rated PG.

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PodCastle 300: Ilse, Who Saw Clearly

by E. Lily Yu

Read by Wilson Fowlie (of the Maple Leaf Singers)

Originally published in Apex, 2013. Read it here!

Once, among the indigo mountains of Germany, there was a kingdom of blue-eyed men and women whose blood was tinged blue with cold. The citizens were skilled in clockwork, escapements, and piano manufacture, and the clocks and pianos of that country were famous throughout the world. Their children pulled on rabbit-fur gloves before they sat down to practice their etudes, for it was so cold the notes rang and clanged in the air. It was coldest of all in the town on the highest mountain, where there lived a girl called Ilse, who was neither beautiful nor ugly, neither good nor wicked. Yet she was not quite undistinguished, because she was in love.

One afternoon, when the air was glittering with the sounds of innumerable pianos, a stranger as stout as a barrel and swathed to his nosetip walked through the town, singing. Where he walked the pianos fell silent, and wheat-haired boys and girls cracked shutters into the bitter cold to peep at him. And what he sang was this:

Ice for sale, eyes for sale,
If your complexion be dark or pale
If your old eyes be sharp or frail,
Come buy, come buy, bright ice for sale!

Only his listeners could not tell whether he was selling ice or eyes, because he spoke in an odd accent and through a thick scarf.

Rated PG.

Thank you so much for being with us for 300 episodes!

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PodCastle 298: The Shadowcrafter

by Ken Liu

Read by Aki Gibbons

Originally published in Nine.

This story begins, as all of my creations do, in shadows.

No story is without its particular emphases and elisions, just as no woman goes about without her makeup.  Many women on our home island of Uchinaa (they call it _Okinawa_ here in Japan), and on the other islands that make up our Kingdom of Ruuchuu, copy the rumors of fashion in Nanjing and Beijing, in Kagoshima and Edo, and smother their faces with smooth creams and bright rouge, sweet-smelling powders and red lip wax.

But they do not understand the true secret of the art of enhancing a woman’s beauty, which now I will teach you.

A face is not a flat piece of paper.  Like the surface of our island, it has heights and depths, peaks and valleys.  That means shadows.

Rated PG. Includes war, and violence.


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PodCastle 297: The Tower of the Elephant (Featuring Conan the Barbarian)

by Robert E. Howard

Read by Graeme Dunlop

Originally published in Weird Tales.

The shimmering shaft of the tower rose frostily in the stars. In the sunlight it shone so dazzlingly that few could bear its glare, and men said it was built of silver. It was round, a slim perfect cylinder, a hundred and fifty feet in height, and its rim glittered in the starlight with the great jewels which crusted it. The tower stood among the waving exotic trees of a garden raised high above the general level of the city. A high wall enclosed this garden, and outside the wall was a lower level, likewise enclosed by a wall. No lights shone forth; there seemed to be no windows in the tower—at least not above the level of the inner wall. Only the gems high above sparkled frostily in the starlight.

Shrubbery grew thick outside the lower, or outer wall. The Cimmerian crept close and stood beside the barrier, measuring it with his eye. It was high, but he could leap and catch the coping with his fingers. Then it would be child’s play to swing himself up and over, and he did not doubt that he could pass the inner wall in the same manner. But he hesitated at the thought of the strange perils which were said to await within. These people were strange and mysterious to him; they were not of his kind—not even of the same blood as the more westerly Brythunians, Nemedians, Kothians and Aquilonians, whose civilized mysteries had awed him in times past. The people of Zamora were very ancient, and, from what he had seen of them, very evil.

He thought of Yara, the high priest, who worked strange dooms from this jeweled tower, and the Cimmerian’s hair prickled as he remembered a tale told by a drunken page of the court—how Yara had laughed in the face of a hostile prince, and held up a glowing, evil gem before him, and how rays shot blindingly from that unholy jewel, to envelop the prince, who screamed and fell down, and shrank to a withered blackened lump that changed to a black spider which scampered wildly about the chamber until Yara set his heel upon it.

Rated PG. Contains violence.

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PodCastle Interlude: Wing (Miniature 78)

by Amal El-Mohtar

Read by Danielle Daly

Originally published in Strange Horizons. Read it here!

In a cafe lit by morning, a girl with a book around her neck sits quietly at a table.

She reads—not the book around her neck, which is small, only as long and as wide as her thumb, black cord threaded through a sewn leather spine, knotted shut. She reads a book of maps and women, turns every page as if it were a lock of hair, gently. Every so often, her fingers stray to the book that sits above her sternum, twist it one way, then the other; every so often, she sips her tea.

“What is written in your book?” asks the man who brought her the tea. She looks up.

Rated PG.

Editors’ Note: This week, we’re taking a small break and bringing you a miniature by one of our favorite authors. We’ll be back next week with a feature length story.

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PodCastle 293: The High King Dreaming

by Daniel Abraham

Read by Cat Rambo

Originally published in Fearsome Journeys.

The High King is not dead but dreaming, and his dreams are of his death.

The sun is bright in the blue expanse of sky, the meadow more beautiful than it had ever been in life because he sees it from above.  The banners of the kingdoms he unified shift in the gentle breeze: Stonewell, Harnell, Redwater, Leftbridge, Holt. The kings who bent their knees before him do so again, and again with tears in their eyes.  The Silver Throne is there, but empty. The scepter and whip lay crossed on its seat.  His daughter, once the princess and now the queen, sits at its foot, her body wrapped in mourning grey.  The pyre on which his body rests has no fuel beneath it. No acrid stench of pitch competes with the wildflower’s perfume. His beard is white, bright in the sun, and as full as frost. His shoulders are thick, as are his arms and his thighs.  His eyes are closed, but his lips hold the memory of a smile.  The blade Justice rests on his chest, weighing him down in death as it had in life.  His cold fingers hold it easily. He is like a statue of himself, and the legend still unwritten below him should be Grace and Power.

He does not recall what brought him low, nor does it matter.  He rose in an age of war when all nations stood against each other, and he forged peace.  The Eighteen Peaks, snowcapped and bright in the spring sun, have not looked down on bloodshed in a decade.  The keeps at Narrowford and Cassin store grain now.  Any child may walk the Bloody Bridge at Hawthor and return across it at nightfall.  Some lands he took at the point of a sword, some with a wise word, some by sharing grief with enemies who had expected their pain to draw forth only laughter, but with Justice in his hand and God in his heart, he remade the world into a better place than he had found it.

Rated PG.

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PodCastle 291: Seasonal Disorder

by Heather Shaw and Tim Pratt

Read by Christiana Ellis

A PodCastle Original!

I opened my freezer to get some ice for my first gimlet of the day and heard a tiny tapping sound coming from one of the ice trays. I thought about slamming the freezer door shut and running for my car in the driveway, tearing away to the southern hemisphere months early, but I still have some residual sense of responsibility, so I stood there and waited.

One of the ice cubes cracked, and a tiny bluish-gray hand broke through, grabbing the side of the tray. A creature about the size of a mouse but more-or-less human in form climbed out of the broken ice cube and flopped out to sprawl, panting, on top of a bag of frozen peaches I use to make blended drinks full of rum. “My queen,” it said. “You are needed.”

I sighed. “Why? The world has turned just fine without me lifting a finger for generations now.”

“The sun king.” The creature — you might call it an elf, some people do, or a sprite — rolled over and got to its feet, wobbling. “He… he…” Then the elf burst into tears. They’re delicate creatures in their way, my footmen and handmaidens, and they haven’t coped that well with unemployment. I hadn’t seen one in years, and I thought they’d all turned into snowflakes and icicles ages ago, but apparently a few of them were keeping the faith.

I picked the little beast up out of the freezer and put it down on the counter, then sat on a bar stool and pulled my light summer robe tighter around me, suddenly feeling a chill. I used to love chills, before I retired. Now I like it warmer. “Tell me,” I said.

Rated PG.


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PodCastle Episode 289: Rumor of Wings

by Alter S. Reiss

Read by M.K. Hobson

Originally published in Abyss & Apex.

When the shore-men of the Liassen dockyards saw the blinded ship by the first gray light of dawn, they turned their eyes away, and put their backs to their work. When sailors saw that ship, the deep gouges and angry red paint where its eyes ought to be struck them harder. They blanched as they turned away, or they walked back from the docks, spitting twice over each shoulder. One old veteran, deep lines in his face from wind and spray, fell to his knees, and pledged two fine bullocks to the sea, should he survive his next voyage.

There were few sailors who believed that a ship’s eyes would see it through storm and past reefs, but there were fewer who would be
willing to sign aboard a ship whose eyes had been put out, and with red paint, no less. That was the way of sailors–they might have no faith in charms and good omens, but they had infinite belief in curses and foul omens. Whoever owned the ship with the blinded eyes would get no crew at all, even after the eyes were repainted, without some showy exorcism: A half dozen priests in heavy robes, with flute and cymbal, or perhaps some mountain holy man, or witch, or tamed demon.

It was all more or less as Alaneth had hoped, but she could not feel any great satisfaction as a handful of the shore-men were coaxed
aboard by one of the port officers, and set to lowering a length of sailcloth over the ship’s prow, to cover those blinded eyes, so that the other operations of Liassen’s harbor would not be so greatly affected. She was close, but she had been close before. It was too much to believe that this time her leads would prove genuine, that what she sought would not slip through her fingers again.

Rated PG.

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PodCastle Episode 288: Flash Fiction Contest Strikes Back!

This week we’re back with a special episode collecting the winners of our recent flash fiction contest! A huge congratulations to our winners – we’re looking forward to hearing more stories from them!

3rd Prize:
“Georgina and the Basilisk,” by Leslianne Wilder
Read by LaShawn Wanak

Georgina has not moved the newspapers in years, only let them pile one on top of the other, showing assassinations and exploding towers, skinny white girls with fake breasts- probably singers or actresses, wars in countries she doesn’t know. She’s too old to bother learning names or places. Twice a day, the woman who is not a real nurse comes to Georgina’s house to empty Georgina’s catheter bag and paw through Georgina’s silverware. The non-nurse barely speaks English. She insists she’s tidying, but Georgina knows she’s picking for cash, jewelry, heirlooms. The agency won’t send someone different; they use words like “false reports” and threaten not to send anyone at all. When the non- nurse leaves, Georgina sits alone in the stale heat of the old house with the basilisk.

2nd Prize:
“The Bear,” by Taven Moore

Read by Christiana Ellis

“I haven’t seen the bear in months,” I lie.

My lips curve into the smile of a sane woman. A smile practiced in a mirror late at night. White teeth against red lips. Just the right amount of crinkle at the edges of my eyes.

1st Prize:
“Wuffle,” by Chantal Beaulne
Read by Nathaniel Lee

The wizard entered the barber shoppe the way most did – with great effort, feet planted on either side of the doorframe, and assisted by the barber’s two beefy arms. Resisting their combined labour was the wizard’s beard. It clung to a lamppost outside, whining like a devildog sensing his oncoming castration.

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PodCastle 285: Dragonslayer

by Nathaniel Lee

Read by Elie Hirschman

Originally published in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show

Handel, the barman, tucked a pair of half-pennies into the pouch at his waist and turned to regard the boy as he approached.  The young man had the look of a servant of some kind, though he wore no livery or sigil.  Clean and healthy, at least, if a bit old for squiring or apprenticeship.

“Yuh?” Handel said by way of greeting.

The boy blinked pale green eyes at him, the color of mown grass.  “My master, Sir Timor, requires lodging for the night.  He begs a small room and four stalls in the barn.”  With a clink, the boy set down a golden sovereign on the bar.  Handel tried not to choke; the coin was enough to rent every room in the ramshackle two-story building.

“He has a fair… a fair few horses, eh?”  Handel’s voice was unsteady, but his hands made the coin disappear with barely a whisper of motion.

The boy shrugged.  “Don’t get too excited.  You’ll probably need the extra coin for the repairs.”  He headed for the door again.  “I’ll get him settled, and then I’ll come back for his meal.  Get some vegetables in it; I’m sick to death of meat.”

“Wait!” Handel had accommodated a fair few Knights and would-be Lords in his day, and this was not going according to the pattern.  “He’s staying in the barn?”

“It’s an oath.  Very important.” 

Rated PG. Kind of a Temple of Doom PG.

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