PC012: Barrens Dance


By Peter S. Beagle.
Read by Stephen Eley (of Escape Pod).
Introduction by Summer Brooks.
First appeared in Wizards Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy, 2007.

Carcharos. One tends to think of wizards either as bearded and severe, bearded and bumblingly kindly, or bearded and dark and vaguely sinister. Carcharos was none of these things. There were broad blond planes to his friendly face, and if his blue eyes were a bit small, they were yet as candid as they could have been. His hair was red-gold in any light, as though the sun were always behind him. When he spoke, there was a deep thrum to his voice, like the singing of a giant cicada. There was no one living in the Barrens who was not afraid of Carcharos.

Yes, there was. One person. But that comes later in the story.

Rated G. Contains strange animals and high magic.

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PC011: Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery


By John Schoffstall
Read by Heather Lindsley
Introduction by Rachel Swirsky
First appeared in Strange Horizons (full text at link.)

Featured intro Link: Postal Experiments

Christopher:

I received a letter from you today, expressing contrition for your past bad behavior and requesting a reconciliation with me. It was written in blue felt-tip pen, with big blurry spots that I think you intended to be taken as the marks of tears. However, when I burned the letter those spots did not produce the characteristic yellow flame that indicates the presence of sodium. I conclude that you made those stains with water drops, or some other aqueous liquid. Definitely not tears. Therefore, I am unconvinced of your sorrow, but reassured as to your guile, insincerity, and general incompetence.

Still hating you,

Jessica

P.S.: All further tear-stained letters will go directly into the In-Sink-Erator.

Rated R. Contains surrealism and wandering body parts of the naughty variety.

PC010: Magic in a Certain Slant of Light


By Deborah Coates
Read by Cat Rambo
Introduction by Ann Leckie
First appeared in Strange Horizons (full text at link.)

“If you could wish for something magical, what would you wish for?” Jeff asks Nora as he enters the kitchen.

Jeff has been gone all day, helping a friend fix the plumbing in his basement. There’s no “Hello,” or “How was your day?” Just Jeff, in the doorway, asking about magic. “It can’t be about yourself,” he continues. “I mean, like making yourself immortal. Or about world peace. It has to be—”

“Talking dogs,” Nora says.

Jeff smiles in that way he has that seems to change his face. He’s wearing faded jeans and a sweatshirt that’s been washed so many times its cuffs are all unraveled; it’s a change from pin-striped suits and crisp white shirts. “You know, Dexter made a dog talk once and it didn’t work out like he figured it would. That dog was annoying.”

“Well, I don’t know how to tell you this”—Nora chops onions under running water, then transfers them to the frying pan on the stove—”but I don’t rely on Dexter’s Laboratory for my scientific knowledge.”

“Talking dogs are not scientific.”

“Yeah, magical.” Nora turns the heat up on the pan and looks through the cupboards for the spices that she needs. She swears that they’re never where she put them, no matter how often she returns them to their proper place. “That’s what we were talking about, right? Magic? You tell me, what would you wish for?”

“Zeppelins,” he says without hesitation.

“Uhm, zeppelins actually exist.”

He stands in the kitchen doorway, slouched against the frame, and she knows that he will leave her. There is something in the way he looks, a shadow in his eye, that wasn’t there yesterday or even this morning. And it almost kills her, like being stabbed right through the heart, because he’s the only one she ever really loved.

“Zeppelins,” he says, crossing to her and putting his arms around her waist from behind as she turns back to the stove, “are a collective figment of the imagination.”

“Zeppelins are totally possible. Plus, you can ride in one.”

He kisses the back of her neck and it feels like the soft brush of sun-warmed honey. “Bring me a zeppelin,” he says. His words murmur against her skin as he talks and she can feel his smile through the small hairs along the nape of her neck. “Then I’ll believe you.”

Rated PG. Contains zeppelins. Of a sort.

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PC009: Wisteria


By Ada Milenkovic Brown
Read by Máia Whitaker (aka the Knitwitch)
Introduction by Rachel Swirsky
First appeared in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show

Dirt cake brought Dahlia back to thinking about Garner. Dirt was his element. When they had married and moved into his Great Aunt Euphemia’s shotgun house in Grimesland, there’d been nothing around it but dead grass and dirt. Garner had dug and planted and weeded. And little by little, year after year, it all turned green.

Till his heart attacked him.

Now, all that was left of Garner was leaves — sycamores, hydrangeas, weeping willows, and wisteria. It was all Garner. It had his stamp. She’d just never thought to look for his face in it.

Rated PG. Contains memories, wistful leaves, and sensuality.

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