Archive for Rated PG

PodCastle 284: The October Witch

by Francesca Forrest

Read by Steve Anderson

Originally published in Kaleidotrope. Read it here!

“Need a lift?” It’s a woman in a pickup truck, maybe Josh’s age, maybe some years older, from the lines on her face. She’s probably been driving this truck since she was fifteen and hasn’t ever left these mountains.

“I’d appreciate it. Just back to the gas station would be great.”

The woman shakes her head. “It’ll be closed by the time we get there. My husband can drop you back in town tomorrow morning—assuming he gets back home tonight; otherwise I will. I’m Audra.” She offers a hand.

“I’m Josh. Pleased to meet you. And thanks.” He climbs in the truck. Audra tells him she works in town at the supermarket and that her husband is a lineman who’s been busy these past two days, restoring power after that amazing thunderstorm (the one that washed out the road where Josh’s car now sits). When she hears that Josh is in a master’s program, studying folklore, she grins.

“Then you must’ve heard about the October witch. I’m surprised you got in the truck with me.”

“October witch? No, I think I missed that one,” says Josh, returning the grin, wondering whether Audra’s spinning a line or if this is a real folktale he’s about to hear. “I guess she comes out on Halloween? And maybe, what, grabs drivers off the road?”

Rated PG. Happy Halloween!

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PodCastle 283: Right Turns

by Tim Pratt

Read by Marguerite Croft

Originally published in Faultline.

We talked, in our tiny apartment, with the kitchen so small we couldn’t even pass each other on the way to the refrigerator, with our pipes that howled and clanked when we tried to turn on the hot water. I’d just gotten a promotion, and though it meant less teaching and more administrative work, there was also more money coming in. The housing market was good, for buyers. There were a lot of great places to choose from, but none we liked more than the labyrinth house.

“I don’t see the downside,” my husband said, leaning against me companionably in bed. “Really, the whole thing is just more space, square footage we’re not even paying for. The labyrinth could be extra storage, even.”

“What if there are bugs? Rats?”

“Then we brick up the entrance. Looks like it’s been done before, so we can do it again.”

We bought the house. We moved in. We didn’t go into the basement often, just to do laundry, and we didn’t go into the labyrinth at all. Not at first.

I’m not sure when my husband started his explorations. I didn’t find out for a while.

There are a lot of things from those first months I don’t remember.

Rated PG. We guess.

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PodCastle 280: The Devil and Tom Walker

by Washington Irving

Read by Wilson Fowlie (of the Maple Leaf Singers)

Originally published in Irving’s collection Tales of a Traveler. (You can read the story here.)

It was late in the dusk of evening that Tom Walker reached the old fort, and he paused there for a while to rest himself. Any one but he would have felt unwilling to linger in this lonely melancholy place, for the common people had a bad opinion of it from the stories handed down from the time of the Indian wars; when it was asserted that the savages held incantations here and made sacrifices to the evil spirit. Tom Walker, however, was not a man to be troubled with any fears of the kind.

He reposed himself for some time on the trunk of a fallen hemlock, listening to the boding cry of the tree toad, and delving with his walking staff into a mound of black mould at his feet. As he turned up the soil unconsciously, his staff struck against something hard. He raked it out of the vegetable mould, and lo! a cloven skull with an Indian tomahawk buried deep in it, lay before him. The rust on the weapon showed the time that had elapsed since this death blow had been given. It was a dreary memento of the fierce struggle that had taken place in this last foothold of the Indian warriors.

“Humph!” said Tom Walker, as he gave the skull a kick to shake the dirt from it.

“Let that skull alone!” said a gruff voice.

Tom lifted up his eyes and beheld a great black man, seated directly opposite him on the stump of a tree. He was exceedingly surprised, having neither seen nor heard any one approach, and he was still more perplexed on observing, as well as the gathering gloom would permit, that the stranger was neither negro nor Indian. It is true, he was dressed in a rude, half Indian garb, and had a red belt or sash swathed round his body, but his face was neither black nor copper colour, but swarthy and dingy and begrimed with soot, as if he had been accustomed to toil among fires and forges. He had a shock of coarse black hair, that stood out from his head in all directions; and bore an axe on his shoulder.

He scowled for a moment at Tom with a pair of great red eyes.

Rated PG.

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PodCastle 279: Thorns

by Martha Wells

Read by C.S.E. Cooney

Originally published in Realms of Fantasy

We reached the landing above the Hall.  Below, Electra’s husband, Mr. John Dearing, was personally receiving a guest, a young man in the act of handing his greatcoat to the butler.

There were no guests expected, and just before the dinner hour is not considered an appropriate time for casual calls, yet Dearing was greeting this presumptuous fellow as a prodigal son.

He was a striking figure. (The guest, I mean.  Dearing is a stout bewhiskered muskrat of a man, a fit mate for Electra.)  Blond curls, broad shoulders, a chiseled profile.  I felt a feather of unease travel down my spine; old instincts rousing, perhaps.  His garments, though somewhat the worse for travel at this rainy time of year, were of fashionable cut and fine cloth.

Frowning, Electra caught the attention of one of the footmen stationed at the bottom of the stairs, and called him up to her to ask, “Why, William, whoever is that?”

“Madame, they say it’s a foreign Duke, the son of the King of Armantia.”

“I see,” Electra dismissed the man and looked to me, her mild dove eyes vaguely troubled.  ”Oh, dear.  A prince.”

Rated PG.

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PodCastle 272, Giant Episode: The Tree of Life

by C.L. Moore.
Read by Dave Robison, of the Roundtable Podcast.
Originally appeared in Weird Tales, October 1936.

Over time-ruined Illar the searching planes swooped and circled. Northwest Smith, peering up at them with a steel-pale stare from the shelter of a half-collapsed temple, thought of vultures wheeling above carrion. All day long now they had been raking these ruins for him. Presently, he knew, thirst would begin to parch his throat and hunger to gnaw at him. There was neither food nor water in these ancient Martian ruins, and he knew that it could be only a matter of time before the urgencies of his own body would drive him out to signal those wheeling Patrol ships and trade his hard-won liberty for food and drink. He crouched lower under the shadow of the temple arch and cursed the accuracy of the Patrol gunner whose flame-blast had caught his dodging ship just at the edge of Illar’s ruins.

Presently it occurred to him that in most Martian temples of the ancient days an ornamental well had stood in the outer court for the benefit of wayfarers. Of course all water in it would be a million years dry now, but for lack of anything better to do he rose from his seat at the edge of the collapsed central dome and made his cautious way by still intact corridors toward the front of the temple. He paused in a tangle of wreckage at the courtyard’s edge and looked out across the sun-drenched expanse of pavement toward that ornate well that once had served travelers who passed by here in the days when Mars was a green planet.

It was an unusually elaborate well, and amazingly well preserved. Its rim had been inlaid with a mosaic pattern whose symbolism must once have borne deep meaning, and above it in a great fan of time-defying bronze an elaborate grille-work portrayed the inevitable tree-of-life pattern which so often appears in the symbolism of the three worlds. Smith looked at it a bit incredulously from his shelter, it was so miraculously preserved amidst all this chaos of broken stone, casting a delicate tracery of shadow on the sunny pavement as perfectly as it must have done a million years ago when dusty travelers paused here to drink. He could picture them filing in at noontime through the great gates that——

The vision vanished abruptly as his questing eyes made the circle of the ruined walls. There had been no gate. He could not find a trace of it anywhere around the outer wall of the court. The only entrance here, as nearly as he could tell from the foundations that remained, had been the door in whose ruins he now stood. Queer. This must have been a private court, then, its great grille-crowned well reserved for the use of the priests. Or wait—had there not been a priest-king Illar after whom the city was named? A wizard-king, so legend said, who ruled temple as well as palace with an iron hand. This elaborately patterned well, of material royal enough to withstand the weight of ages, might well have been sacrosanct for the use of that long-dead monarch. It might——

Rated PG.

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PodCastle 268: The Phoenix on the Sword, featuring Conan the Barbarian

by Robert E. Howard

Read by Graeme Dunlop (of Cast of Wonders)

Originally published in Weird Tales. Read it chapter by chapter starting here!

The room was large and ornate, with rich tapestries on the polished-panelled walls, deep rugs on the ivory floor, and with the lofty ceiling adorned with intricate carvings and silver scrollwork. Behind an ivory, gold-inlaid writing-table sat a man whose broad shoulders and sun-browned skin seemed out of place among those luxuriant surroundings. He seemed more a part of the sun and winds and high places of the outlands. His slightest movement spoke of steel-spring muscles knit to a keen brain with the co-ordination of a born fighting-man. There was nothing deliberate or measured about his actions. Either he was perfectly at rest—still as a bronze statue—or else he was in motion, not with the jerky quickness of over-tense nerves, but with a cat-like speed that blurred the sight which tried to follow him.

His garments were of rich fabric, but simply made. He wore no ring or ornaments, and his square-cut black mane was confined merely by a cloth-of-silver band about his head.

Now he laid down the golden stylus with which he had been laboriously scrawling on waxed papyrus, rested his chin on his fist, and fixed his smoldering blue eyes enviously on the man who stood before him. This person was occupied in his own affairs at the moment, for he was taking up the laces of his gold-chased armor, and abstractedly whistling—a rather unconventional performance, considering that he was in the presence of a king.

“Prospero,” said the man at the table, “these matters of statecraft weary me as all the fighting I have done never did.”

“All part of the game, Conan,” answered the dark-eyed Poitainian. “You are king—you must play the part.”

Rated PG. Contains violence, and monsters.

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PodCastle 261: Oracle Gretel

by Julia Rios.
Read by Marguerite Kenner, of Cast of Wonders.
Originally appeared in May of 2012 as a handbound chapbook with illustrations by Erik Amundsen.


Gretel was in love with her boss. Ms. L. Thorne spoke in short, clipped sentences, and when she smiled, which was rare, it looked like the curved edge of a wicked blade.

At night, at home, while she attempted yet again to bind her flyaway curls into something more elegant, Gretel told Hansel all about what Ms. L. Thorne had done that day, and what she had worn. Hansel twitched his ginger tail, insouciant as only siblings and housecats could be. “Oh not Missilethorn again,” he said. “I hope you didn’t let that creature distract you so much that you forgot my food.”

“As if you need fattening,” Gretel said. “A witch will eat you if you don’t watch out.”

“You’re the only witch I know,” was Hansel’s rumbling reply.

“I am no witch,” Gretel said, but she was too much in the dreamy stage to be properly annoyed.

Rated PG.

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PodCastle 259: The Great Zeppelin Heist of Oz

by Rae Carson and C.C. Finlay.
Read by Nick Podel (recording courtesy of Brilliance Audio Books).
Originally appeared in Oz Reimagined: New Tales from the Emerald City and Beyond, edited by John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen.

Scraps, the patchwork girl, witnessed the wizard’s arrival. She sat beneath a tree watching the most spectacular show ever performed by a summer sky. White clouds swirled above an emerald colored sky like whipped marshmallow topping on a glass bowl full of lime jello spinning round and round and round on a potter’s wheel. She didn’t think it could get any more amazing when the clouds cracked open and sunlight burst through so blinding that she lifted one patchwork arm to shade her button eyes.

That’s when she saw the balloon.

Rated PG.

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PodCastle 257: The Queen and The Cambion

by Richard Bowes.
Read by Wilson Fowlie (of the Maple Leaf Singers).
Originally appeared in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction March/April 2012.

“Silly Billy, The Sailor King,” some called King William IV of Great Britain. But never, of course, to his royal face. Then it was always,“Yes, sire,” and, “As your majesty wishes!”

Because certain adults responsible for her care didn’t watch their words in front of a child, the king’s young niece and heir to his throne heard such things said. It angered her.

Princess Victoria liked her uncle and knew that King William IV always treated her as nicely as a boozy, confused former sea captain of a monarch could be expected to, and much of the time rather better.
Often when she greeted him, he would lean forward, slip a secret gift into her hands, and whisper something like, “Discovered this in the late king your grandfather’s desk at Windsor.”

These generally were small items, trinkets, jewels, mementos, long-ago tributes from minor potentates that he’d found in the huge half-used royal palaces, stuck in his pocket, and as often as not remembered to give to his niece.

The one she found most fascinating was a piece of very ancient parchment which someone had pressed under glass hundreds of years before. This came into her possession one day when she was twelve as King William passed Victoria and her governess on his way to the royal coach.

His Britannic Majesty paused and said in her ear, “It’s a spell, little cub. Put your paw in mine.”

Victoria felt something in her hand and slipped it into a pouch under her cloak while the Sailor King lurched by as though he was walking the quarterdeck of a ship in rough water. “Every ruler of this island has had it and many of us have invoked it,” he mumbled while climbing the carriage steps.

She followed him. “To use in times of great danger to Britain?” she whispered.

He leaned out the window. “Or on a day of doldrums and no wind in the sails,” he roared as if she was up in a crow’s nest, his face red as semi-rare roast beef. “You’ll be the monarch and damn all who’d say you no.”

Rated PG.

Special thanks to M.K. Hobson – our Guest Editor and Host this week!

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PodCastle 255: The Medicine Woman of Talking Rock

by Pamela Rentz.
Read by Ada Milenkovic Brown.
Originally appeared in her collection Red Tape: Stories from Indian Country.

Violet Spinks checked her to-do list for the ceremony: canoe, plants, medicine cap, trails. List-making might not be traditional, but no one would blame her for needing a brain prompt. She set the list in her medicine book and picked up the TV remote. She clicked through the channels and stopped when she spotted a young man with a torso like polished bronze. He shook out a bundle of black rubber cables and attached them to a shiny disk. The camera zoomed in on his brawny arms and legs as they worked the cables with the disk spinning in the middle. He looked like he wrestled a spider. A notice on the screen said three easy payments of $14.99 plus tax and shipping.

Rated PG.

Special thanks to Tina Connolly – our Guest Editor and Host this week! Her own podcast is Toasted Cake.

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