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PodCastle 381: The Vandalists

by Natalia Theodoridou
read by Ian Stuart

First published in Spark: A Creative Anthology Vol. IV.

It always starts the same way.

First, a tiny feeling of unease.

You breathe.

Then, the sweating. Your forehead, your palms, your back. It’s from the heat, you say, I should open a window, but the windows here are not designed to open. You turn on the air-conditioning until it’s blasting polar temperatures in your office. You breathe. You try to imagine you are inhaling fresh air. You’re choking. Your hands are trembling slightly. Then your cheekbones go numb. Your lips too. Your palms. Your field of vision is narrow, it turns into a long, dark tunnel. Through the tunnel you try to find the pills you’ve never admitted you keep in the top right drawer of your desk. You find them. You swallow two. Now the walls are shaking. A flame flares up right in the center of your chest and spreads to your entire body. You enter the tunnel and search for the door. You find it. You are looking for the escape exit. You find that one too–thank you, you say, to no-one in particular. You climb the stairs to the roof. Your breathing is quick, your head light. Like a feather, you think, because that’s the first cliché that comes to your mind and you love your clichés, treasure them. The buzz in your ears is blocking out all other sound. You open the roof door and emerge under the blinding sky. Your jacket feels tight. You take it off. Your tie is flapping around your neck like a noose. You loosen it. You walk to the edge of the roof. You bend your knee, plant it squarely on the cement. The thought crosses your mind–to jump, just so you can escape this panic. But with that thought the buzz recedes. Through the tunnel you look at the city sprawled under your feet, a forest made of concrete. The wind freezes the sweat against your skin. You think you hear the distant roar of a lion..

Rated R for adult themes, disturbing imagery.

Natalia Theodoridou is originally from Greece, but is currently based in Portsmouth, UK. She is recovering from a PhD in Media and Cultural Studies (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London). Her writing has appeared in Clarkesworld, Crossed Genres, Strange Horizons, and elsewhere. If you’d like to find out more, you can visit www.natalia-theodoridou.com, or just come say hi @natalia_theodor on Twitter.

Ian Stuart is the golden-voiced father of the equally golden-voiced Alasdair Stuart.


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PodCastle 380: Spirit Forms of the Sea

by Bogi Takács

read by Setsu Uzume

First published in Sword and Mythos.

Réka steps forward from between two tents. She looks dazed and one of her braids is partly undone; the guard must’ve found her asleep.

She frowns at the stranger and her eyes narrow even further in the morning sunlight.

He smiles at her the way he would smile at one of his younger sisters, or even one of his own children. My stomach turns. Then he lets loose his spirit form and it ascends to the sky, a majestic white horse not matching his pedestrian self.

Rated R.

Bogi Takács is a neutrally gendered Hungarian Jewish person who’s recently moved to the US. Eir fiction and poetry have been published in venues like Clarkesworld, Apex and Strange Horizons, where e also won last year’s Readers’ Poll in Poetry category with an animated poem, You Are Here / Was: Blue Line to Memorial Park. Eir website is at www.prezzey.net and you can follow em on Twitter as @bogiperson, where e also tweets SFF short story and poem recommendations by diverse authors on a semi-regular basis.

Setsu Uzume spent her formative years in and out of dojos. She also trained in a monastery in rural China, studying Daoism and swordplay. She is a member of Codex and SFWA. While she has dabbled in many arts, only writing and martial arts seem to have stuck. You can find her on the web at katanapen.wordpress.com, and on Twitter @KatanaPen.

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PodCastle 379: The Truth About Owls

by Amal El-Mohtar

read by Amal El-Mohtar

First published in Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories (Twelfth Planet Press, 2014), edited by Julia Rios and Alisa Krasnostein. Winner of the 2015 Locus Award for Best Short Story.  Reprinted in Strange Horizons (January 2015) and Jonathan Strahan’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year vol. 9 (May 2015). Read it here!

Owls have eyes that match the skies they hunt through. Amber-eyed owls hunt at dawn or dusk; golden-eyed owls hunt during the day; black-eyed owls hunt at night.

No one knows why this is.

Anisa’s eyes are black, and she no longer hates them. She used to wish for eyes the color of her father’s, the beautiful pale green-blue that people were always startled to see in a brown face. But she likes, now, having eyes and hair of a color those same people find frightening.

Rated PG.

Amal El-Mohtar is the Nebula-nominated author of The Honey Month, a collection of very short fiction and poetry written to the taste of 28 different kinds of honey. Her work has recently appeared in Uncanny magazine and in Lightspeed magazine’s Queers Destroy Science Fiction special issue. She’s 1/4 of DOWN AND SAFE, a new podcast discussing iconic British science fiction program Blake’s 7, along with Scott Lynch, Liz Myles, and Michael D. Thomas. She also reviews books for NPR, Tor.com, and Lightspeed, edits Goblin Fruit, and presently divides her time and heart between Ottawa and Glasgow. Find out more at http://amalelmohtar.com, or follow her antics on Twitter @tithenai.

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Flash Fiction Contest 4: Bloodlines

The original paraphernalia for the Flash Fiction Contest had been lost long ago, and the black box now resting on the stool had been put into use even before Old Man Stuart, the oldest man in town, was born. Mr. Lieberman spoke frequently to the forum members about making a new box, but no one liked to upset even as little tradition as was represented by the black box. There was a story that the present box had been made with some pieces of the box that had preceded it, the one that had been constructed when the first people settled down to make a village here.

Mr. Garrett and his oldest son, Nick, hold the black box securely on the stool until Mr. Lieberman can stir the papers thoroughly with his hand. Because so much of the ritual had been forgotten or discarded, Mr. Lieberman had been successful in having slips of paper substituted for the chips of wood that had been used for generations. Chips of wood, Mr. Lieberman had argued, had been all very well when the village was tiny, but now that the population was more than three hundred and likely to keep on growing, it was necessary to use something that would fit more easily into the black box.

The fourth incarnation of the Escape Artists Flash Fiction Contest is coming. Pseudopod is leading the charge this time. Every author may submit up to two original stories of 500 words or less for consideration. Submissions are open now until September 15. Head to Pseudopod’s special Submittable portal to exercise your civic duty in the lottery.

The competition will begin in October 2015. The three winning stories will be purchased and run as an episode of Pseudopod. Payment will be $30 so this will be considered a pro sale. Stories will be published on a members-only section of the forums, so first publication rights will not be expended by participating in the contest. It’s easy to be become a member. Sign up for a forum account and make a single post so we know you’re not a bot. This is a good thread to start with. From there, all the pertinent details will be posted under “The Arcade”. Visit forum.escapeartists.net for rules and details.

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