PodCastle 309: Underbridge


by Peter S. Beagle

Read by John Michnya

Originally published in Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy, edited by Ellen Datlow

The legendary rain of the Pacific Northwest was not an issue; if anything, he discovered that he enjoyed it. Having studied the data on Seattle climate carefully, once he knew he was going there, he understood that many areas of both coasts get notably more rain, in terms of inches, and endure distinctly colder winters. And the year-round greenness and lack of air pollution more than made up for the mildew, as far as Richardson was concerned. Damp or not, it beat Joplin. Or Hobbs, New Mexico. Or Enterprise, Alabama.

What the greenness did not make up for was the near-perpetual overcast. Seattle’s sky was dazzlingly, exaltingly, shockingly blue when it chose to be so; but there was a reason that the city consumed more than its share of vitamin D, and was the first marketplace for various full-spectrum lightbulbs. Seattle introduced Richardson to an entirely new understanding of the word overcast, sometimes going two months and more without seeing either clear skies or an honest raindrop. He had not been prepared for this.

Many things that shrink from sunlight gain power in fog and murk. Richardson began to find himself reluctant enough to leave the atmosphere of the UW campus that he often stayed on after work, attending lectures that bored him, going to showings of films he didn’t understand — even once dropping in on a faculty meeting, though this was not required of him. The main subject under discussion was the urgent need to replace a particular TA, who for six years had been covering most of the undergraduate classes of professors far too occupied with important matters to deal with actual students. Another year would have required granting him a tenure-track assistant professorship, which was, of course, out of the question. Sitting uncomfortably in the back, saying nothing, Richardson felt he was somehow attending his own autopsy.

And when Richardson finally went home in darkness to the warm, comfortable apartment that was not his own, and the company of the sour-smelling old gray cat, he frequently went out again to walk aimlessly on steep, silent Queen Anne Hill and beyond, watching the lights go out in window after window. If rain did not fall, he might well wander until three or four in the morning, as he had never before done in his life.

But it was in daylight that Richardson first saw the Troll.

Rated R. Contains Trolls, and Adult Themes

PodCastle 308: Gazing into the Carnauba Wax Eyes of the Future


by Keffy R.M. Kehrli

Read by John Meagher (of The Tales of the Left Hand podiobooks)

Originally published in the What Fates Impose anthology, edited by Nayad Monroe.

My legs are tired from crouching, so I slide the empty backpack under my knees. Boxes and cellophane crinkle. Even though I’ve touched the wall, I try to shove my finger down my throat, but that just gives me a gag reflex with no payoff.

“Come on,” I mutter into the toilet bowl. The “clean” water ripples from my breath. “All I need are six numbers.”

The peeps finally come back up of their own accord, a flood of sweet foam that forms swirling pastel pink-yellow-blue mounds, floating islands of partially digested sugar studded over with flecks of pep eyeballs.

And then I’m standing at a track, with a wad of worthless receipts in my hand. The races are long over. There’s some guy sweeping under the seats, not looking me in the face.

Rated R. Contains F-bombs, Eating Disorders, and Peeps.

PodCastle 307: Out of the Deep Have I Howled Unto Thee


by Scott M. Roberts

Read by Dave Thompson

Originally published in Monsters & Mormons, edited by Wm Henry Morris and Theric Jepson

The wolf growled in his lungs, and Clark felt a bit of its frustration pass over his lips.  Fifteen minutes to dawn.  His fingers trembled as he worked the transmission into place.  

And then, he was done.

Too soon!  He realized it, and so the wolf realized it too, and he could feel it stretching within him, its claws scraping the skin beneath his fingernails.  Clark hunted for something to tighten, something to adjust, some bit of grease to wipe away.  His fingers tumbled along the skin of the motorcycle while his eyes hunted the corners of the garage.  Something to catch his mind, something to distract him…  There were the shadows scattered throughout the garage, the gleam of his tools in the overhead brights.  And the red of his toolbox, red as blood, as red as a predator’s tongue…

The wolf scrambled in his throat; his prayer came out guttural.  De profundis, Clark thought.  Out of the deep have I howled unto thee, O Lord.

Rated R. Contains violence, some of it self-inflicted. Happy Easter!

PodCastle 306: Flash Fiction Special – Tales of Strange Inspiraiton


“Beauty and Disappearance, by Kat Howard, read by Ann Leckie.

Originally published in Weird Tales, 2010.

The statues were disappearing from the museums.

Not as a result of theft, petty or otherwise, nor from careless misplacement. This was quite clear, as soon as the disappearances began, because the statues were not disappearing in their entirely. Rather, only certain pieces were lost.

The open hand of an elegant marble woman, outstretched as if in welcome, gone. The laurel wreath and lyre of an ancient poet, vanished.

Art experts and detectives were called in, inquiries made, vandalism quickly ruled out. The statues were otherwise undamaged. There were simply pieces, small fragments of beauty, missing.

“A Duet in Reyes,” by Caleb Wilson, read by John Michnya.

Originally published in A Journal of Sein and Werden.

One Saturday evening around the turn of the century the composer Arnauld Reyes was walking home along Vi Tuba when a tentacle of wind licked his hat straight off his head and over the rail into the Magoro River. He watched the hat sink as the current whisked it south, and then decided that since his route home was through the market square he would purchase a new hat on the way. At the market, he browsed several hatter’s kiosks until he found a hat which was identical to the lost one, but for a dark red velvet band–which, he hoped, would set him apart from the crowd. He bought it, placed it directly on his head, and continued home. He did not notice that, as he walked, several dozen powdery pink moths emerged from beneath the band and crawled into his ears.

While Reyes slept that night, the moths chewed his brain, severing certain synaptic connections. When he awoke, his brain had been split into two separate minds. At first the composers noticed nothing amiss. They breakfasted–during which their housekeeper was either very attentive or strangely shy–and walked to Zarbigny Park, where they intended to work on a suite of rustic dances.

“Ten Cigars,” by C.S.E. Cooney, read by Anna Schwind, Graeme Dunlop, Amal El-Mohtar, Norm Sherman, Tina Connolly, Ann Leckie, M.K. Hobson, Dave Thompson, Wilson Fowlie, and Peter Wood.

Originally published in Strange Horizons, 2013. Read it here!

“Not much is known of Danaus Incendiarius, family Nymphaidae, order Lepidoptera,” writes popular entomologist Aurora Bismarck. “Mentions crop up through history, usually signifying the birth of a great statesman or the ratification of a peace treaty. They are dark gray, with a wingspan of six to eight inches, and black markings that look like roses in bloom. Once, on vacation in Edinburgh, I was privileged to see a swarm. Director Amy Riedel had just won Audience Choice Award at the film festival. Her friends were laughing, passing around champagne and cigars. Suddenly the room was full of rare Incendiarius butterflies . . . .

Rated R. It May be Beautiful, but it ain’t Always Pretty.