Archive for Rated PG

PodCastle Miniature 101: National Geographic on Assignment: The Unicorn Enclosure


National Geographic on Assignment: The Unicorn Enclosure

by Sarah Monette

In the unicorn enclosure, all five unicorns are clustered along the fence, batting their long eyelashes beguilingly at a troop of girl scouts. The girls ooh and aah and argue about which one is prettiest, and the unicorns trail them patiently down the perimeter line.

These unicorns are captive-born (two from San Diego, one from Brookyn, one from Mexico City, and the stud all the way from Manchester in an attempt to maintain genetic diversity in North America’s captive breeding program); they’ve never hunted anything but sides of beef. But they’re too smart not to recognize their natural prey, even through plexiglas. The zoologists call the behavior I’m witnessing “playing,” in the same way a domestic cat “plays” with a mouse. Seen from the mouse’s standpoint, it’s not much of a game.

Unlike cats, unicorns seduce their prey. And evolution has brought them prey that wants to be seduced.

Even with FOIA, it’s hard to find accurate statistics on unicorn-related injuries and deaths. People don’t report them properly, the zoologists say, in the same way that battered spouses often don’t report their abusers. And it’s not just preadolescent girls, not just preadolescent boys, although certainly children who have not reached puberty are more vulnerable. One of the women whose portraits I took this week was the daughter of a man gored by a wild unicorn while hiking in Yellowstone. “Dad was too smart for that,” she told me grimly. “He was too smart for that, and it got him anyway.”

Some people say unicorns are the planet’s smartest predators. Some people say they’re smarter than human beings.

I must make some kind of motion, even though I’m not aware of it, because suddenly the boss mare’s head shoots up. She’s from Mexico; the blood of the conquistadores makes the spiraled groove of her horn deeper than is common in American or Canadian unicorns. Her head is beautiful, gently dished and short muzzled, her eyes large and dark and soft as smothering velvet. Even knowing what I know, even knowing that she would gore me for fun although I’m too old for her to bother eating, I feel the pull of her beauty, the pull that has the girl scouts wide-eyed and open-mouthed — the same pull that lures an ant into a Venus fly-trap.

The Mexican mare tosses her head, frustrated that she can’t smell me through the plexiglas; her mane whips in the soft breeze like the pennons of a conquering army. One of the girls, entranced, reaches out to try to touch, forgetting the plexiglas, forgetting what she must surely know, that the beauty she longs for is nothing but death.

All five unicorns lock on that outstretched hand, the stud’s lip lifting just enough for his teeth to gleam, vicious behind the delicate beauty of his face.

I take a deep breath — emerging from the dream I’ve been sharing with the ten- and eleven-year-old girls who can’t tear themselves away from the unicorn enclosure — and take the picture.

PodCastle 497: Six Jobs


Six Jobs

By Tim Pratt

 

1.   Exterminator’s Helper

I was eleven when a little man with watery eyes who blinked and sniffed all the time shuffled into my classroom, moving carefully, not brushing up against any desks or people. My teacher stood frozen with her hand pointed at a map of Africa, and the kids all around me were unnaturally still, too, stuck in whatever moment they’d been caught in when time stopped: note-passing, nose-picking, empty-space-gazing.

I held my breath at first, hoping this strange person in the gray suit looking at a scrap of paper in his hand wouldn’t realize I was still conscious, still capable of movement. I didn’t know what he was, or what was happening, but I’d read a lot of books and seen a lot of shows about fairies and monsters and magic, and being in the middle of a story like that was so scary I was afraid I’d wet myself.

He squinted around, peered in my direction, and bustled over. “You’re . . .” A glance at the paper. “Makayla?”

“Kayla,” I whispered.

A brisk nod. “Never saw the point of nicknames, but whatever makes you happy. I’m Sigmund. I need your help. Actually, all your friends and . . . so on . . . here at school need your help.” He rubbed at his nose and sniffled more. I wondered if he had a cold. “It’s not quite a save-the-world thing, but you can save this little part of your world. Won’t that be, um, fun?”

(Continue Reading…)

PodCastle 480: All of the Cuddles With None of the Pain


by J. J. Roth

read by a full cast!

Mother – Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali
Company spokesperson – Jen Albert
Jenny – Dagny Paul
Pinocchio – Graeme Dunlop
Annie – Setsu Uzume
Corolle – Eleanor Wood
Huggums and Bitty – Marguerite Kenner and Alasdair Stuart
Matt – Steven Capps
Alex – Matt Dovey

A PodCastle original!

Rated PG

What is a Reborn?

A Reborn is an artist-enhanced baby doll that looks and feels lifelike. Artists create Reborns as one-of-a-kind collectibles, often from ordinary play dolls transformed into art suitable for hands-off display – or hands-on cuddling.

While reasonably durable, Reborns are not children’s toys. Rough play may damage them.

Click here to read more.

J. J. Roth lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her partner, two school-aged sons, and two geriatric cats. She parents the kids and cats, practices law at a tech company, and squeezes writing into the interstices. Her work has appeared in Nature, Urban Fantasy Magazine, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and a number of small press venues. J. J. is an associate member of the SFWA and a member of the Codex writers’ group. For more information and updates, please visit her web site at www.jjroth.net, follow her on Twitter where she is @wrothroth, or find her on Facebook where she is JJ Roth.

PC 472: The Chaos Village — Part 2


by M.K. Hutchins

read by Heath Miller

A PodCastle original!

The ground under Rob’s feet shifted from sand to jagged shale and back again. The mountains folded into valleys, then spiked into cliffs. The green clouds turned into triangles and tried to stab him in the back, but crumpled and fell off.

Rob turned another page in his notebook, skimming his research notes. Thanks to the natural Order present in all humans, his own body and the things he held didn’t randomly transform in the Chaos. But despite pages and pages of lovely charts and neatly-labeled columns, he couldn’t say much more about Chaos than that.

Click here to continue reading.

This is the second part of a two part story. Don’t miss part one! Click here to find The Chaos Village—Part 1.

MK Hutchins AuthorM.K. Hutchins regularly draws on her background in archaeology when writing fiction. Her YA fantasy novel Drift was both a Junior Library Guild Selection and a VOYA Top Shelf Honoree. Her short fiction appears in Podcastle, IGMS, Daily Science Fiction, and elsewhere. A long-time Idahoan, she now lives in Utah with her husband and four children. Find her at www.mkhutchins.com.

Heath Miller NarratorOriginally from Perth, Western Australia, Heath Miller can be found in theatres, recording studios, comedy clubs, television sets, convention centres and YouTube videos—Heath currently finds himself living on an island off the coast of Maine with his partner, two improbably large cats, two dogs of wildly varying ages and temperaments, and a brace of chickens named after various saints from history. You can follow him on twitter at @zaboots.