PodCastle 552: The Watchers

Show Notes

Rated PG.

The Watchers

by Shelly Jones

He did not know why he had agreed to marry her. For a long time he thought it was because she would hum at everything she did. She hummed while cooking. She hummed while cleaning and sewing. She hummed when she raked leaves and shoveled dirt and chopped firewood. She even hummed, or so he thought he heard over his own grunting, on the few occasions when they had consummated their union. Her humming was an intoxicating low rumble, a contralto line that lingered in the room even after she had left it. He remembered the first time he had heard her. They had been to a funeral service for the local baker, he with his mother and she alone, for all of her relatives had died when she was young. He had known this, of course, but it never really struck him until he saw her alone at the wake. How many other services had she attended as a girl for her family? She wore a grey smock and a thick wool coat, the color of new potatoes. While the other mourners stood silent with their heads bowed, clutching handkerchiefs or wordlessly mouthing prayers, she rocked gently, pushing her weight from one foot to the other and hummed a low, idle tune. But no one minded. No one thought her rude or obscene, though, for some reason, he feared they might. He could imagine an old, dour woman spitting on her, the thick mucus sticking to the wool, and calling her names for dancing and singing at the funerary rites. But no one seemed to even notice her. She was as much a part of the scene as a catbird in the tree or a period at the end of a sentence. Why, then, had he noticed her? (Continue Reading…)

PodCastle 551: The Blue Widow

Show Notes

Rated PG-13, for betrayal and vengeance.

A word from host Setsu Uzume: In the host outro for “The Blue Widow,” I talked about how being a professional means you can get away with stuff. I meant that in terms of modeling more liberating and inclusive behaviors; not using your power to oppress other people. It’s an important distinction.

The Blue Widow

By J. P. Sullivan

It was good tea, all things considered, and I really did admire his efforts at being a good host — but the fact was, I was there to kill him. This was, unfortunately, something of a trend in the profession.

He spoke with the confidence of his kind. “You’ve made a terrible mistake.”

“You’ve poisoned me,” I agreed.

That gave him pause. “You knew?”

“It was a necessary professional consideration,” I told him.

He didn’t have much to say to that. A clock ticked somewhere in the back of the parlor. A very fashionable parlor, full of the most fashionable things. Flock wallpaper, teakwood furniture, a sideboard from somewhere in the unpronounceable east. Beyond the damask curtains I heard carts and voices echo over widening streets. Master Zaleski was a well-heeled fellow.

He was also a monster. (Continue Reading…)

PodCastle 550: The Last Exorcist

Show Notes

Rated R for strong language and violence.

The Last Exorcist

by Danny Lore 

Author’s Note: This piece was commissioned and then declined by a prominent magazine. The only information that has been altered/omitted are locations, as those have been deemed a national security risk. Re-post and share at will.

Naheem is our last great exorcist.

When you point this fact out to him, he barely blinks. It is a title he accepts, not with humility or even resignation, but with frustration. “We should have dozens like me out there on the streets,” he argues, “hundreds. It’s why we’re in this mess.” (Continue Reading…)

PodCastle 549: Fixer, Worker, Singer

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.

Fixer, Worker, Singer

by Natalia Theodoridou

Fixer Turns on the Stars

The sky creaks as Fixer makes his way across the steel ramp that is suspended under the firmament. It’s time to turn on the stars. He pauses a few steps from where the switches and pulleys are located and looks down. He allows himself only one look down each day, just before sunset: at the rows of machines, untiring, ever-moving; at the Singer’s house with its loudspeakers, sitting in the middle of the world; at the steep, long ladder that connects the Fixer’s realm to everything below. He’s only gone down that ladder once, and it was enough. Fixer caresses the head of the hammer hanging from his belt. Then he walks to the mainboard and turns off the sun. The stars come on. He pulls on the ropes to wheel out the moon. There. Job well done. (Continue Reading…)