Archive for Rated R

PodCastle 290: Maxwell’s Demon

by Ken Liu.
Read by Aki Gibbons, of the website Okinawa Blue.
Originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

February 1943

Application for Leave Clearance, Tule Lake War Relocation Center

Name: Takako Yamashiro

Question 27: Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered?

I do not know how to answer this question. I am a woman, ineligible for combat.

Question 28: Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any and all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance to the Japanese Emperor or any other foreign government, power, or organization?

I do not know how to answer this question. I was born in Seattle, Washington. I have never had any form of allegiance to the Japanese Emperor, so there’s nothing to forswear. I will swear unqualified allegiance to my country when my country frees me and my family.

Rated R for violent content, specifically war atrocities.

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PodCastle 286: The Calendar of Saints

by Kat Howard

Read by Amal El-Mohtar

Originally published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Read it here!

The first time I used a blade to defend a point of honor, both the blade and the honor were mine. I was perhaps eight, and Rosamaria Sandro had accused me of copying her mathematics exam. The next time we were in the salle, I told her I would prove her a liar with my blade. She stopped laughing at the idea when I hit her for the third time with the blunted end of my sword and made her tell our mathematics instructor the truth. The pomp and ceremony of today’s events have nothing in common with that juvenile scuffle but the blade.

The blade, of course, is what matters. It is as sharp, as edged, as fatal as truth.

The subject of this Arbitration stands to the left of the dueling grounds, tiny white teeth sunk so deep into her lip that it, too, whitens. Her fiancé hovers close by, as if to shield her from the events or perhaps from their consequences. I wonder if he will put her aside if I am defeated. I want to think that he will stay with her, that his protective posture is a sign of genuine attachment rather than a signal of possession. Laurelle is beautiful, and wealthy. The things that have been whispered about her would never have been said so viciously if it were otherwise. So it is possible he stands at her back because of reasons other than love, but I do not wish to believe in them.

Rated R. Contains swords, which are sharp, edged, and fatal.

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PodCastle 282: The Sunshine Baron

by Peadar Ó Guilín

Read by Rob Haines

Originally published in When the Villain Comes Home.

Ah, Borquil, lucky Borquil. Many the balconies of his gilded mansion: north over the spice market; east where he sipped tea at dawn; west for opium. And south? Great Borquil _never_ looked south.

The sun shone on the Northern capital as it did every day. Borquil had seen to that. Had grown rich on it: the famous Sunshine Baron! By night, a gentle rain would patter over the fields and fill a few cisterns before sliding gently seawards on the Farg River, sweet-natured these days, ‘though its name meant “angry” in the old tongue.

“I calmed it all down,” muttered Borquil. “Me. They should be more grateful.”

The northerners _had_ shown gratitude at first. The king loved him. Whole provinces voted him honours and over the years, as Borquil grew plump and the nightmares disturbed him less and less, aristocrats welcomed him into their homes. “A foreigner no longer!” they said amongst themselves. “He is truly one of our own!” Sure, they found it odd how he refused to travel more than a day south of the Farg river,
but they too were rich enough to have ghosts they’d rather avoid. As the saying went: “no man lies in his own poop.”

But now, how inconvenient for poor Borquil! Revolution had come to the Kingdom of the North. His aristocratic friends were losing their heads in the streets outside. And the mobs had come for his blood too. The double doors leading to his courtyard splintered and buckled under a battering ram. He had perhaps an hour to live.

Rated R: Contains violence, disturbing themes and situtations.

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PodCastle 281: The Wanderer King

by Alisa Alering

Read by Amy Robinson

Originally published in Clockwork Phoenix 4, edited by Mike Allen.

We steer clear of the mines–that’s Fixer territory. The Wanderers are dangerous, too, ever since they came fighting back around Day 30. But there’s always been less of them–less in all, and less because they scatter through the woods on their business instead of fixing to the towns and mines.

We step along to the city, fitting the crown on all we come across. We sleep in the darkest part of the day when the sky dips to dark blue. At first, in the country, there aren’t many heads to try. But we come up on the city, and we slow. We even try it on Fixers because Pansy says the King is the King and it doesn’t matter whose body he’s in. “The King is for all,” Pansy says. “Anyone can carry the King.”

Rated R: Contains Disturbing imagery and violence (welcome to the apocalypse!)

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PodCastle 277: A Hollow Play

by Amal El-Mohtar

Read by Tina Connolly (of Toasted Cake). Check out Tina’s upcoming novel Copperhead, the sequel to Ironskin!

Originally published in the Glitter & Mayhem anthology, edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Michael Damien Thomas, and John Klima.

Dear Paige,

So, I’m here, but Anna’s not , and I awesomely left Memoirs of a Space Woman at home in spite of knowing I’d have two hours to kill, so I figure I’ll just keep writing to you.

Cabaret! I have no idea what to expect. Have you ever been to a cabaret show? I wasn’t sure how to dress for it either—when I asked Anna she just laughed and told me to use my imagination—so I’m wearing the red top you gave me, the button-down one with the sleeves that flare out and curl from the elbows. I can’t believe I still have it—it’s been, what, ten years, three moves? It’s not fitting so great now—since I started taking derby more seriously (I’m EMILY THE SLAYER now! Strong like Buffy!) my arms have gotten huge, and you should see the butt on me—but it’s still pretty and I love it, and it still matches my favourite earrings best.

I should probably tell you more about Anna, since obviously there’s more to her than being trans and my co-worker. She’s really great, and really cute—she just cut her hair short last week and dyed it bright orange-red, so she looks kind of like Leeloo from The Fifth Element. She’s vegan(sometimes I swear she likes the fact that I’m not, because it gives her an excuse to play “Meat is Murder” on loop in the cafe for the duration of my lunch break, which no one notices, because it sounds like every other Smiths song except the good ones, which she refuses to accept no matter how many times I explain it), an amazing cosplayer, and getting into burlesque. She hasn’t performed in public yet, just for friends in her living room, but she’s been developing this number that involves a chef’s hat, mixed greens, and oversized serving implements.

We’re not dating or anything. I’ve only known her for about a month, though it feels like way longer—and I refuse to entertain a crush, because she’s been in a closed poly triad for a while and they’re kind of going through a rough patch that she hasn’t told me much about. So I’ll tell you more about this cabaret thing instead.

Rated R: Contains Cabaret, Roller Derby references, and F-bombs. Let’s dance!

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PodCastle 276: Juan Caceres in the Zapetero’s Workshop

by Derek Künsken

Read by Roberto Suarez (of the Trailerclash podcast)

Originally published in When the Hero Comes Home 2 anthology

Juan Caceres swayed triumphantly back into San Pedro Sula on a Wednesday.  Hours had passed, but the foggy, laughing dizziness from the ogre toe he had snorted had not worn off.  He stumbled from the bus station and weaved between angry white taxis jamming the narrow streets.  Old goblin ladies trundled wooden carts of soup, mango and tortilla.  They hissed and watched with yellow eyes, so that he could not sneak fingers around an unwatched tortilla.  His stomach ached.

Begging for food would not work, dressed as he was in all his goblin finery.  He traded his white school shirt for a stained t-shirt to a kid whose goblin sickness had wrapped his fingers in fine scales.  Another kid, huffing into a bag of ground pixie, traded Juan Caceres his old shorts for the school slacks.  Only the kid’s fingers had gone green.  There was still time for him.

“Get yourself some more ground pixie, brother,” Juan Caceres said.

The fingers of Juan Caceres the trickster were smooth and brown.  Goblin sickness might chase him, and thick-skinned police and fork-tongued social workers might roam the streets like predators, sweeping up unwary kids, but Juan Caceres was too clever.

Rated R: Contains Pixie Dust and F-bombs

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PodCastle 275: El Alma Perdida de Marguerite Espinoza

by Jeremiah Tolbert.
Read by Brian Lieberman.
Originally appeared in Lightspeed Magazine. Read the text there.

Marguerite Espinoza took her last breath as the sun slipped behind the Salt Mountains outside the expansive windows of her third floor bedchamber. Alvardo nearly missed the moment, eavesdropping to the gathered family’s whispered conversations. He had falsely predicted her passing four times in the past three days, but the passing was unmistakable. As Maestro Eusebio had said many times, “When the moment comes, you will know.” And he did.

The color from her eyes drained, leaving only pale white marbles that matched Alvardo’s own. Before the vessel could expel its final breath, Alvardo covered her lips with his own and inhaled sharply and deeply. There was no emotion in the act. It was a fact of his training, something that he must do.

The aching emptiness within his vessel filled with the sloshing of the elderly woman’s soul. The alma struggled against the barrier of his lips, then changed tactic and coursed to the back of his throat. Alvardo shakily retrieved the filter plugs from the pocket of his robes and lodged one firmly in each nostril. This is fear, he understood. The emotion had been described to him by the maestro.

But he also remembered this emotion, dimly, from a time that had been locked away deeply in some part of him. With the alma filling the crevasses within, memories awakened from his life before becoming the soulless custodio.

Fear was what he had felt scraping at his insides when he was just a boy and Maestro Eusebio had come to measure and examine him. To take him away from his parents, to separate him from his natural-born soul, then sell it off to some needy merchant family. Oh, yes. He remembered fear.

To be absolutely certain of the soul’s safety, to allay his new fear, he slipped the oil-soaked cloth mask from around his neck and over his mouth. He needed this job to go well, and he would not take risks. Feeling the soul struggle and send out waves of feeling, he knew that he never wanted to be empty again. He could not truly avoid it, of course, but if he was successful here, it would be a small step towards earning the money to buy back his own soul.

Rated R for violence.

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PodCastle 274: Far as You Can Go

by Greg van Eekhout

Read by Dave Thompson

Originally published in Flytrap. (Which has just opened up again. Yay!)

I didn’t go to school because I was allergic to the neuroboosters, but that didn’t mean I was stupid. It just meant I had a lot of time on my hands. Mostly, I hung out with Beeman, scrap-combing all over Ex-Town and trading metal and electronic bits and whatever for food and goods and services. We were good businessmen.

Beeman was a robot, only it didn’t matter so much to me because all the skin on his face was torn away so you could see his plastic cheeks and hear the whiz-whirr of his eyes when they moved. This made him okay, because he wasn’t pretending to be a person or anything else he wasn’t. He wasn’t trying to be fake.

We were going over our day’s take the afternoon that I first smelled the Far-away. The grey outlines of the downtown towers faded into the sky like sick ghosts, and over our heads, police stingers whined, invisible in the haze. Beeman and I sat with our backs against a crumbled section of concrete wall. At my feet was a can of split-pea soup, not too far out of date, a couple of nine volt batteries, a coil of O-net cable, and two stainless steel rods that were maybe chopsticks.

“Good trade,” Beeman said, his words beginning and ending with a little click that I wished would go away. The click hadn’t always been there in his speech, but I figured his voicebox was a little broken.

“Except for the soup,” I said. “I’ll bring that home to my mom.”

“Your mom is fat and eats too much.”

“Shut your grill.” I banged the soup can against his head, but not hard enough to dent either. Beeman wasn’t trying to be mean. He just had some bad lines of code.

Rated R: Contains Robots and F-Bombs

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PodCastle 273: Excision

by Scott H. Andrews

Read by Jen Rhodes (of the Anomaly Podcast)

Originally published in Weird Tales.

We started immediately.  Scolast Giazla had a series of rabbits she’d infected by treating their grafts with offal.  I selected the most advanced sample, a brown spotted one with a cat’s striped forepaw, to perform the control.

I closed my eyes and pressed my palm to the rabbit’s warm shoulder. I focused on the weak energies simmering in its body, and the spherical image of its vita appeared in my mind.  A foreign strand wriggled across the round core:  the necrotia from the infection.  I reached my mind forward to grab it, but I couldn’t get a firm hold.  I tried twice, with no success.

We couldn’t use the control animal again or we would compromise the trials.  So I extracted all the remaining vita to extinguish the rabbit.  The rush of energy swirled in my head.  I felt a pang of shame as I remembered the Nüthren exumancers in their white shrouds. Those savages had no laws forbidding the draining of vita from living beings, even humans.  We only used vivomancy to save peoples’ lives.

I prepared the first trial with the hot water bath.  The feverish rabbit fell unconscious after a minute in the water.  Scolast Giazla lowered her knobby hand to its shoulder, above the septic graft.  The sinews quivered in her wrist.  She finally broke contact with a strangled gasp.

Rated R. Contains Surgery.

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PodCastle 271: Nightfall in the Scent Garden

by Claire Humphrey.
Read by Kara Grace.
Originally appeared in Strange Horizons, March 2012. Read the text there.

If you read this, you’ll tell me what grew over the arbor was ivy, not wisteria. If you are in a forgiving mood, you’ll open the envelope, and you’ll remind me how your father’s van broke down and we were late back. How we sat drinking iced tea while the radiator steamed.

You might dig out that picture, the one with the two of us sitting on the willow stump, and point out how small we were, how pudgy, how like any other pair of schoolgirls. How our ill-cut hair straggled over the shoulders of our flannel shirts.

You’ll remind me of the stories we used to tell each other. We spent hours embroidering them, improving on each other’s inventions. We built palaces and peopled them with dynasties, you’ll say, and we made ourselves emperors in every one, and every one was false.

If you read this, you’ll call your mother, or mine. They’ll confirm what you recall.

By then, though, you will begin to disbelieve it yourself.

If you think on it long enough, you’ll recall the kiss. I left it there untouched, the single thread you could pull to unravel this whole tapestry.

You’ll start to understand none of these things happened the way you remember. If you read this, you’ll learn how I betrayed you.

Rated R for sexual content.

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