PodCastle 592: TALES FROM THE VAULTS — The Axiom of Choice

Show Notes

Rated R for language, violence and sexual content.

This episode is a part of our Tales from the Vaults series, in which a member of PodCastle’s staff chooses a backlist episode to rerun and discuss. This week’s episode was chosen by associate editor and forum moderator Craig Jackson, also known as Ocicat. “The Axiom of Choice” originally aired as PodCastle 221.

The Axiom of Choice

by David W. Goldman

The three of you have lingered outside the darkened club an hour beyond the show’s end. Your palms rest atop your guitar case, which stands vertical before you on the cracked sidewalk. Standing not quite as vertical, Paul steadies himself by pressing a hand against the club’s brick wall, just below a photocopied poster bearing an image of his face looking very serious. (DYNAMIC SINGER-SONGWRITER PAUL MURONI! says the poster. Your name appears lower down, in smaller type.) One corner of the poster has come loose. It flips back and forth in the unseasonably warm gusts that blow down the narrow street.

“But really,” says the guy, some old friend of Paul’s whose name you’ve already forgotten, “why should you two spend tomorrow driving way up the coast for one damn gig, and then all the way back the next day? I’ll fly you there tonight in my Cessna — tomorrow you can sleep in as long as you like.” His arms sweep broad arcs when he speaks, the streetlamp across the road glinting off the near-empty bottle in his grip.

Paul rubs the back of his hand against his forehead, the way he always does when he’s tired. You’re both tired, three weeks into a tour of what seem like the smallest clubs in the most out-of-the-way towns along the twistiest roads in New England.

Paul looks at you, his eyes a bit blurry. “What do you think?” There’s a blur to his voice, too. “I’m in no condition for decisions.”

PodCastle 591: His Giant Heartbeat

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.

His Giant Heartbeat

by Natalia Theodoridou

I smoke with my back to the caravan while I wait for B and his client to finish. It’s a drippy afternoon, deep in the fenlands. We’ve parked the caravan next to a mere, marshy and rotten green. The air smells damp, the ground is soft and uncertain, the kind that might swallow you up whole if you put your foot down wrong. There are birds, and frogs, and foxes, far away. I guess it’s peaceful. Two years since humanity flatlined — well, most of us, at least — and the rest of the world doesn’t give a toss.

I inhale. The smoke burns my lungs. I close my eyes and savour the pain — there are so few things one can enjoy these days. B doesn’t like it when I smoke. He clings to old ideas. I get it.

Eventually, the client steps out of the caravan. A balding, pale man in his fifties. He smiles a tiny smile. The poor guy looks like an embarrassed ferret. I beam at him as he hands me a hundred quid. He went for the ultrasound, after all.

“Come again,” I say. I catch a glimpse of scar tissue poking up from the collar of his shirt. Heart surgery, probably. Imagine the irony behind that story.

“Will you be here a while, then?” he asks.

As if. As if there is a here, outside a nothing town in the middle of nowhere marshes. “A couple of days. We’re on our way to a concert down near the coast.” I point at the posters plastered on the side of the caravan. THE AMAZING BEATING HEART. This gig is the biggest one we’ve been able to land in a while. B is a cult sensation in these parts, apparently. “You should come,” I say, trying not to cringe at my half-hearted sales-pitch voice.

The man mumbles a thank you something something and backs away towards his car. (Continue Reading…)

PodCastle 590: Labyrinth, Sanctuary

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.

Labyrinth, Sanctuary

By A.E. Prevost

Constance carves her timeworn tracks into the thirsty rock. With silent steps her footfalls smooth the stone, century into century, grooves and gullies growing green as time and seed take hold. Stone after stone, her hands build battlements and balconies, repair time-ragged trusses, stack spires towards the sun. Deep in the dark wood, with every aching year, her sanctuary spreads its restless roots.

Constance dreams of colonnades and courtyards, crafts finials from fingernails, weaves tapestries from hair. She climbs her spiral stairs into the storm-bruised sky, flings open feverish arms against the thrum of thunder, batters the balustrades with fists like driving rain. Constance lets rage run through her like the roiling storm, then huddles in the hollows and scratches broken nails across the thirsty roots that thrive between the cracks. So long as she keeps building, she is safe. Her moss-laced maze mirrors the spirals in her soul, and she repeats her one and only truth: in this, her sanctuary, no ill thing can befall her. (Continue Reading…)

PodCastle 589: The Horrible Deaths of Helga Hrafnsdóttir

Show Notes

Rated PG-13 for the horrible deaths we hope won’t come to pass.

The Horrible Deaths of Helga Hrafnsdóttir

By Christine Tyler

The day Helga Hrafnsdóttir went up the Ævilok tree, the entire village held its breath. From the time of her birth, the Ævilok that grew beside Helga’s home had sprouted the most horrible flowers. In the first week alone, anyone who touched the blossoms of her Ævilok saw visions of her blankets smothering her, her brother dropping her, and a fox dragging her out of her cradle and mauling her. During those days, Helga’s mother kept the doors locked, stuffed up the cracks, didn’t let anyone else hold the child, and barely slept. She watched over every yellowing bud, touched every bloom to see what new horrors she had to fend off. Once Helga survived the premonitions, the blossoms shriveled up and fell to the frosted turf. Thanks to her mother’s vigilance, Helga Hrafnsdóttir outlived all the ill fortunes of her infancy. But from that time on, everyone knew the girl was destined for a gruesome fate. (Continue Reading…)