PodCastle 315: Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy

by Jim C. Hines
Originally published in Unidentified Funny Objects 2, edited by Alex Shvartsman.

Read by a full cast!
Rish Outfield as the Narrator
Dave Thompson as Stranger
Big Anklevich as the Tumor
M.K. Hobson as Scaramouche
Wilson Fowlie as Jarhead
Marguerite Kenner as Kelly Kane
LaShawn Wanak as Dr. April Alexander
Nathaniel Lee as Officer Conroy
and Tina Connolly as The Halloween Princess
C.S.E. Cooney, Steve Anderson, Rish Outfield, and Peter Wood as various inanimate objects, reporters, fans, etc.

Stranger shifted in the armchair and forced himself to make eye contact with his therapist: a decapitated head floating in an oversized jar of blue-tinged nutrient fluid. Long gray-blond hair drifted like tentacles. The base of the jar was decorated in a red and yellow floral pattern, reminiscent of the Hawaiian shirts Jarhead wore back in his full-bodied superhero days.

“In all my time on this planet, I’ve never killed anyone,” said Stranger.
“I’ve never _wanted_ to before.”

Jarhead’s voice emerged, slightly mechanical, from a speaker below his chin. “Given your history with Scaramouche, it’s no surprise she knows how to press your buttons.”

Jarhead was a former speedster, a superhero from the seventies whose career on the east coast had come to an abrupt end when his nemesis strung a high-tensile wire across the road at neck height. Only the hyperquick actions of Jarhead’s sidekick Robogirl had allowed him to survive . . . if you could call it survival.

“When do I get to talk? I’ve got traumas of my own, you know!”

Stranger did his best to ignore the taunts, which was difficult, considering they came from within his own bowel.

“It’s talking to you again, isn’t it?” asked Jarhead.

Rated R. Contains F-bombs, potty jokes, superheroes, and cancer.

Please consider donating to the Clayton Memorial Medical Fund, Cancer Research Institute, CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, or The American Cancer Society.

Thanks for the stories, and for bearing witness, Jay.

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PodCastle 314: The Nameless Saint

by Willow Fagan
Read by Jen Rhodes (of the Anomaly Podcast)
Originally published by The Dark Magazine.

They all think that she is a cat lady: harmlessly crazy, smelly, alone. They have no idea that her house is full of cages, that she is a modern-day saint. They have no idea that she has sold her names for them, for the power to help them. Her names: her Christian name, her maiden name, and the name her husband gave her– these were all empty inheritances from people who left far too soon. They were a small price to pay for sainthood, for the chance to help them, the people who do not understand: the women who look away in the supermarket, the children who dare each other to climb over her fence, the men who will not stop manufacturing misery with their fists, their pants unzipped and crumpled on the wrong floors.
She collects their misery, keeps it safe from the world, the world safe from it, locked up in her house. Look, even now, when her bones pop every time she bends her knees, the nameless woman is crouched in the bushes beneath a stranger’s window.
The nameless woman holds up a glass bottle, empty save a slice of lemon anointed with her spit. (The lemon draws the misery in.) The misery in this house is subtle but lingering, like the smell of autumn leaves in the winter, like a fugue played slowly on a piano. Here, there is no man, only a woman with her silences, her long afternoons, her memories.
A waft of blue floats out of the window, like watercolor paint drifting in the air, and coalesces into the bottle. The misery appears midstream, a tiny, thin creature, dwarfed by its own delicate, intricate wings. The misery flaps its wings, struggling against the pull of the lemon. Though its wings are nearly useless, its will is not, and its movement slows. Impatient, she holds up the bottle to shorten the distance. As the misery is sucked into the bottle, and she twists the cap on triumphantly, a voice calls out, “What are you doing?”
Rated R: Contains Misery.

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PodCastle, Episode 313: This is a Ghost Story

by Keffy R.M. Kehrli
Read by Rajan Khanna
Originally published in Apex. Read it here!

Turn up the sound too late for the question.

He runs cigarette–stained fingers over the stubble on his chin and
leans on the arm of the leather couch. He crosses his legs, skinny
jeans worn and ragged. He’s still wearing old Chucks with the tread
half–gone, even though he could buy a thousand new pairs. He doesn’t wear the Mister Rogers sweaters anymore. Sometimes he still wears dresses for the fuck of it, but today he’s wearing a white t–shirt that looks like his kid doodled on it with four colors of Sharpie. A bloodied stick man holds a shotgun.

He licks his lips, and he doesn’t look at the camera, or at the floor,
or at the interviewer’s face. He’s focused on the space between, like
it’s a gulf or a fence or a wall. He says, “Yeah, it was pretty rough
for a while, you know. I kept saying things were getting better, but
really they weren’t. Eventually it was clean up or die, so…

“I started thinking about doing music for other shit, not because I
needed the money, but to fuck with people. Then I thought maybe I’d do a Disney soundtrack, but it’d probably end up like in Fight Club where the guy’s splicing porn into kid movies.”

Then the interviewer asks about _his_ kid, and he grins. “She’s
great,” he says. “I know that’s not very ‘punk rock’ of me, but
whatever.”

What are you looking at? This interview never fucking happened.

Rated R: Contains profanity, suicide, drug and sexual references, and rock n’ roll.

Discuss on the forums.

PodCastle 312: Enginesong (A Rondeau)

By Nathaniel Lee
Read by Bob Eccles (Check out his book Tiny Terrors!)
Originally published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Read it here!

I missed all the excitement the day the trains walked away. Just up and stomped away on great metal feet, to hear Eddie Hartford tell it.

“Trains ain’t got legs,” I told him. I had a pair of jackrabbits dripping on my belt, my hunting rifle on my shoulder, and a powerful thirst tickling my throat, so might be it came out harsher than it ought. Young Edward was always a sensitive soul, though, least when it came to slights against his manhood.

“What do you know, Bose? You wasn’t here. I’m telling you they walked away, and I dare you to find a man who’ll say different.” He tossed his head, hair flashing like copper, looking more like his mother than ever.

The town seemed in an awful tizzy, that was certain. I could see little knots of folks here and there, whispering rushed and dark like the ghost of a river. I could also see the marks in the dust, enormous circles pressed in the ground, as if God had dropped His pocket change. They were six, maybe eight inches deep, even in the hard-packed dirt along the thoroughfare. If I was to speculate on what a train’s footsteps might look like, I’d probably have speculated something near enough to that for spitting.

Rated PG. Ride those rails!

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