PodCastle 332: Zeraquesh in Absentia

by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Read by Amal El-Mohtar

Originally published in The Dark, February 2014. Read it here.

In the city of Zeraquesh, each shadow is the shape of candlelight held still. A citizen leaving the comfort of roof and walls can expect to attract several hauntings at every corner turned. Such ghosts may be shed only under the light of anglerfish refracted through a prism. Most households keep at least one about.

The hunter has armed herself with a calligraphic blade refined in the stomachs of freedom fighters and a gun whose bullets invert probability. It is the second upon which she most depends, though it fires only under very particular conditions, in a unique location: but that is all right, for her purpose is singular. Neither is it a weapon of blunt force, for manipulating potential is a subtle art. Everything has to align just right. The chamber contains two bullets, no more.

For the moment she uses the blade, which spills couplets and proverbs so ancient they will cut through any armor and slice apart iron as easily as paper. That is how she makes an entrance for herself through the ziggurat walls, in negation of propriety, law, and good sense.

But she is used to having her way. The percussion of her footfalls lends surety to her path and the firebrand of her blade keeps the hauntings at bay. She climbs spirals, steps across roofs on which stone phoenixes and kirin nest, pushes through windowpanes in which faces not her own are reflected.

Rated R.

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PodCastle 331: Drowning in Sky

by Julia August

Narrated by Abra Staffin-Wiebe (of The Circus of Brass and Bone)

Originally published in Fantasy Magazine‘s Women Destroy Fantasy! Special Edition, Edited by Cat Rambo

Ann tracked the seabed rising for days, or hours, or minutes that felt like months, before the jolt of the ship knocking against the harbour wall jarred her eyes open. Water sloshed in the hollows of the hold. The salted ribs of the ship were singing, as were the tin ingots stacked twenty deep at her back. Under the nasal whine of wood and metal Ann heard the slow, deep hum of earth and stone.

She didn’t need the sailors to tell her they had arrived. She flattened her shoulders against the ingots and took a breath. Then another. Her lap was full of dust. The limestone slab that had weighed down Ann’s knees at the start of the voyage was only a pebble. Ann rolled it between her palms. She could hear Tethys scratching at the wooden walls.

If she got up, she could get out. She could bury herself in the earth, her hands and her head and her humming ears, and she could damp down her hair with dirt and never, ever go to sea again. Tethys had promised, she told herself. Ann had walked up and down the distant shore, and Tethys had crept over the sand on a skim of foam, and Tethys had promised.

The trapdoor opened. Ann crushed the pebble between the heels of her hands and experienced a flush of clearheaded energy. Tethys broke all Her promises. But not this one.

 

Rated R. Contains sex. With Gods.

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PodCastle 330: DRINK ME (A Flash Fiction Extravaganza)

Presenting an Intoxicating and Delicious Flight of Fantasy Fiction for Listeners with Discerning Palettes! Please indulge in the following tastes:

“The Wine,” by M.C. Wagner
read by C.S.E. Cooney
A PodCastle Original!

It’s always the wine.  A glass at my elbow, or a servant tottering after, stoppered flask in hand.  Marvelous…  rich and dark or light and fruity by the season.  I could subsist on it alone, although I am always in place at the royal banquets, sneaking ladylike bites… and there’s the fruit of the orchard, clipped with slivered shears as I wander those primrose paths.

“I Wrung it in a Weary Land,” by Kenneth Schneyer
read by Dave Thompson
A PodCastle Original!

The tiny interior was cool, smelling of earth and the first hint of mildew.   Bottles lined the walls floor to ceiling; a few I recognized — a 55-year-old Macallan or a 2009 Chateau Margaux — but most were strange and whimsical, garnet or cobalt glass with labels that might have been Icelandic or Tibetan.  A single lamp on the far counter granted just enough light for me to read them if I got close.

“The Forgetting Shiraz,” by E. Lily Yu
read by John Chu
Originally published in the Boston Review. Read it here!

I had always found it strange that in a world as advanced as ours, in an age when we shot men to the moon and mapped the planets around alien suns, we still lacked a true anodyne. Alcohol’s soft fog burns off by morning, at best, and at worst holds a magnifying glass to what we try to forget: her name, her voice, her face, her smell. Nor do we have surgeries precise enough to slice off specific memories. Whatever form it took, chemical, neurological, or psychological, the inventor of the anodyne would be rich in a blink, and the journalist who broke the story would never want for assignments again.

“The Rag Man Mulls Down the Day,” by Amal El-Mohtar
Read by Marguerite Croft
A PodCastle Original!

At the edge of the world is a rag-man, a thin man, a man wisped in grey, with a great iron pot and an even greater stick. Morningtimes he leans on his stick and watches the light change, watches it flood your sky with fire and heat. But before it can get too hot, before it can burn your cheeks to a ruddy cinder, he raises his stick, tilts the sky-pan just so, and coaxes the great slow pour of it all into his iron pot.
 
While it gathers there, he mulls it.

“Behemoth Brewing and Distribution Company,” by Tim Pratt
read by Dave Thompson, Roberto Suarez, Mur Lafferty, Graeme Dunlop, M.K. Hobson, and Cheyenne Wright
Originally published in the Fortean Bureau

Brewery tours available by appointment only.

Rated PG. Contains alcohol. Lots of alcohol. But no hangovers.

Music for “Sasquatch’s Old Hairy Bastard Stout,” “Aztec Nectar Ale,” & “Giant Whale Ale” provided by DocWood, music available at  CD Baby  and Amazon.
Music for Angelic Effluvia Lager, Lo! Calorie Light Beer, and Deathly Pale Ale composed and recorded by Peter Wood, more music at  http://soundcloud.com/livingtheliminal

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PodCastle 329: Araminta, or, the Wreck of the Amphidrake

by Naomi Novik

Read by C.S.E. Cooney

Originally published in Fast Ships, Black Sails, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

Lady Araminta was seen off from the docks at Chenstowe-on-Sea with great ceremony if not much affection by her assembled family. She departed in the company of not one but two maids, a hired eunuch swordsman, and an experienced professional chaperone with the Eye of Horus branded upon her forehead, to keep watch at night while the other two were closed.

Sad to say these precautions were not entirely unnecessary. Lady Araminta—the possessor of several other, more notable names besides, here omitted for discretion—had been caught twice trying to climb out her window, and once in her father’s library, reading a spellbook. On this last occasion she had fortunately been discovered by the butler, a reliable servant of fifteen years, so the matter was hushed up; but it had decided her fate.

Her father’s senior wife informed her husband she refused to pay for the formal presentation to the Court necessary for Araminta to make her debut. “I have five girls to see established besides her,” Lady D— said, “and I cannot have them ruined by the antics which are certain to follow.”

(Lest this be imagined the fruits of an unfair preference, it will be as well to note here that Araminta was in fact the natural daughter of her Ladyship, and the others in question her daughters-in-marriage, rather than the reverse.)

“It has been too long,” Lady D continued, severely, “and she is spoilt beyond redemption.”

Rated PG. Contains Pirates.

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