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PodCastle 674: Pulling Secrets from Stones

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


Pulling Secrets from Stones

by Beth Goder

In the lakebed by the mountains slept stones full of secrets. Waiting memories. Dissipating memories. Rachel could feel the hum of them, their longing for closeness, pressing against her as the sun pressed down.

She slid down to the lakebed. Dust rose around her, obscuring her truck by the side of the road. The air stagnated, heavy and dry, baking itself into the earth.

Her memories were dying–the secret ones, the memories that let her touch the sky, the memories of how to cast a branch to find missing things, or summon a flower in her hand. All of her most important memories. Gone.

She pulled a geological survey map from her pack, jostling her water bottle and a squished peanut butter sandwich. Unfolded, the map stretched farther than her arms. Red marks showed where she had searched. Not much of the map was marked–perhaps half an inch.

Rachel hiked until she reached the edge of her last red mark.

She turned over a stone–memory shaped–then cupped it in her hands. Ordinary. The next stone was the same, and the next. The lakebed stretched for miles, with huge cracks like fractals in the dust. Endless.

Stones, stones, stones. None of them memories.

Wind brushed past, and for a moment, Rachel feared that the woman in the mountains had found her. This close to the mountains, the woman could feel the land as if it were her body–the sweep of wind along mountain backs, the plants that thrust themselves through soil, the intrusion of sun into shaded spaces. The woman in the mountains had described this connection to Rachel, back when she had described everything to Rachel. Before the anger. Before the woman had discovered Rachel putting memories into stones. Before the rift that separated them as no mountain could ever do.

When Rachel looked up, only the sun was above her. Her relief was empty. Dry.  As much as she feared the woman in the mountains, she wished to see her again.

And Rachel did fear her. The woman was like a crash of rain, an avalanche, soaking everything in her path. Unaware. But Rachel had come to love her wild kindness, her fierceness. The woman would mix the colors of the sunset beautiful and bright. She would send goats to look after the elderly, those who had no children. With a splash of soil and a whisper, she could cure sickness in trees, but never death.

The memory of the woman hung above Rachel like a dark sky, full and treacherous. Waiting.

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 673: Jenny Come Up the Well

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


Jenny Come Up the Well

by A.C. Wise

Jenny come up th’ water

Jenny come up th’ well

Ne’er let Jenny touch you

Or she’ll drag you down to Hell

 

The car had always been there, a 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass sitting on rotting tires in the woods behind the cul-de-sac where I lived. Even though its manufacture date meant it could only have been there since I was born, it felt older — like it predated the trees, like the woods had grown up around it. No one knew where it had come from, who’d left it there, or why.

It was called the Beater, not just because it was junked-up, tires dry to crumbling, stubborn, whip-thin trees growing up through the frame, but because kids went there to beat off.

A perpetually refreshed stash of porn could always be found in the glove box, which, like the car, no one ever admitted to leaving there.

It was one of the Beater’s many unspoken rules — the magazines were shoplifted, or stolen from underneath older siblings’ beds, but never bought. You never talked about the Beater directly. You never brought anyone to the Beater with you. Nobody went there under the age of twelve or over eighteen. If you took something away, you had to leave something behind. And that kept the Beater’s magic working.

Even though I was an only child and didn’t have to share a bedroom, I still went to the Beater. It was a rite of passage — sitting in the stuffy front seat, light coming through the cracked windshield, leaf shadows throwing patterns on the dash.

I gathered up images there and played them back later in the dark, spinning elaborate stories with the sheets pulled over my head and my fingers between my legs. The Beater existed outside time, outside normal rules. There, I could pretend the women displaying themselves for men were displaying themselves for me, and it felt like it could be okay.


(Continue Reading…)

Cats Cast

CatsCast 341: Bargain


Bargain

by Sarah Gailey

Malachai loved his work. He loved wandering among the trappings of enormous wealth and influence, seeing the baubles that humans excreted to express their status. He especially loved watching those wealthy, influential mortals tremble before the might of his inescapable superiority.

Malachai worked exclusively with those humans who had found themselves at the limit of how much power they could possess. They called him to bend the rules of time and space around their whims, so that they might be even more feared and loved by the other mortals. Their desires were predictable—money, knowledge, talent, authority. These were the kinds of people who hunted down ancient parchments with the Words of Invocation inscribed upon them. These were the kinds of people who did not concern their consciences with the compensation Malachai required for his services.

They appreciated a bit of theatrical flair.
(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 672: Rewind

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


Rewind

By Josh Rountree

MONDAY

The dust biker comes into the video store that afternoon looking for slasher flicks. He heads straight to the horror section, not bothering to remove his breathing apparatus, and pulls a couple of classics from the shelf. Friday the 13th Part III and the original Halloween.

“You like this kind of stuff?” I ask when he hands the tapes to me for checkout.

“Yeah, so?” His voice is a mechanical whine and the desert winds have rendered his gray body suit smooth and practically transparent. I can’t see his eyes through the scored surface of his goggles, but I can feel the edge in the way he’s staring at me.

“I like them too,” I say. “I’ve seen hundreds of them. Slasher flicks, I mean.”

“Yeah, so what’s the best one?”

I don’t even have to think about it. “You ever seen Sleepaway Camp?”

His neck makes a stretching, leathery sound as he shakes his head side to side. “No.”

I sprint to the back of the store, pull the sun faded VHS box from the shelf, and add it to his pile. “On the house. Just let me know what you think when you drop it off.”

“You aren’t charging me?”

“No, just a favor from one fan to another.”

He might be smiling but I can’t see through the grill of his mask. He looms there like Jason Voorhees, silent and unreadable. Dust rides the creases of his suit and he reeks of illegal petroleum. He’s s seven-foot shadow come to life, an abstract artist’s rendering of torn metal and melted rubber pooling along an endless broken highway. He exhales heavily and it sounds like the rattle of failing pistons.

“Do you have a bag?”

I bag up his tapes and he grunts his thanks on the way out the door. The front wall of the store is made of glass and I watch as he starts his bike and speeds away toward the shimmering red horizon.

I hope he likes the movie. (Continue Reading…)