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PodCastle 654: 8-Bit Free Will

Show Notes

Rated PG.


8-Bit Free Will

By John Wiswell

They exist, then don’t exist, then exist again. They are monsters where the game’s probability fields call for them, attached to every tile of the dungeon. They are invisible to the player, whether they are there or not, until combat. If they’re lucky, they’ll get the chance to die.

The player always gets to exist, has always existed, and may as well always exist. The Hollow Knight and HealBlob don’t exist again until the player starts struggling with the other enemies. Then the Hollow Knight and HealBlob are re-spawned, to die in battle and smooth out the difficulty curve. They don’t exist long enough to know they’re in love before the player strikes. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 653: Why Aren’t Millennials Continuing Traditional Worship of the Elder Dark?

Show Notes

Rated R.


Why Aren’t Millennials Continuing Traditional Worship of the Elder Dark?

By Matt Dovey

In a generational shift that some claim threatens the fabric of existence and the sanity of all humanity, surveys show that worship of the Elder Dark is at a record low for one particular group—millennials.

Bob Rawlins is worried. “When I was growing up in the 1950s, I made my obeisance before the Manifold Insanity every night, uttering the invocations to satiate the Watchers Just Beyond and keep them at bay for one day longer. But young people now aren’t prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.”

I remind him that human sacrifice was deemed unnecessary and illegal in 1985, and animal sacrifice in 2009.

“Well I don’t mean literally,” he says, though there’s a note of longing to his tone.

Bob is showing me round his inner sanctum, a converted basement given over to the worship and appeasement of the Unknowable Gods. He’s the Grand Dark Supplicant of his local chapter, and is continuing a long family tradition: men of his bloodline have been bound to the service of the Elder Dark since the days of the Pilgrims.

“Our ranks are already thin,” he says, resting a hand intimately on an idol of the Ten Thousand Staring Eyes. “I worry the world I’ll leave behind will be overrun by the gibbering horrors of the between spaces, ushering in a never-ending age of nightmares and insurmountable monstrosities. It breaks my heart to think of the Eight Palms golf course getting swallowed by a roiling pit of blackness. Hole five’s a real beauty.” (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 652: Apple

Show Notes

Rated R.


Apple

By L. S. Johnson

Her Names

They were twelve, and between them they encompassed Dawn, Dusk, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Seed, Blossom, Harvest, Maiden, Mother, and Crone; that is to say, they were complete. Thus, when a thirteenth fairy emerged from the breath of sun upon earth they were to a one confused. None of them had expected another sister. They waited for some time — perhaps there would be more? For they had come in pairs and trios before, and Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter had practically exploded out of the same minute point of light. But no one else emerged for some time.

Finally, they looked to Dawn, who was eldest, and she looked at the new fairy and sighed. “What are you?” she asked plaintively.

The fairy didn’t know. She was fifteen minutes old and quite astonished at existing.

“We have to call her something,” Crone pointed out. (When her trio had emerged from the breath of the sun and were asked what they were, Maiden had said “beautiful,” Mother had rolled her eyes, and Crone had said “wiser than you.”)

The twelve fairies looked around, trying to think of what this one, singular fairy could be. Time slipped past, and they had other tasks to do, but still they could not think of a thing.

At last Dawn, who had been up for some time and wanted to nap, gestured to the nearest object. “We’ll call her Apple,” she declared, “until she figures out who she is.” (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 651: At First Glance

Show Notes

Rated R for strong language.


At First Glance

By Shannon Peavey

On a narrow highway in western Texas, an old Ford pickup hurtles through a curve at eighty-five miles per hour. It slips a little on bald tires, but recovers and swings out to the straightaway, accelerating.

Two girls sit in the cab — one in the driver’s seat, one behind her in the back. The driver chews her lip until it bleeds. Her younger sister has a pair of dark glasses pushed up onto her forehead and her face pressed up to the glass until her nose squashes flat like a bulldog’s. She’s careful not to look up at her sister.

Somewhere behind them, there are posters with their names and faces, policemen canvassing neighborhoods. But they are miles, miles away.

“What the hell’s with all these armadillos,” Brynn says. “I mean, look at this road. It’s a goddamned slaughterhouse.”

Sam glances back in the rearview mirror. Just a quick look, and then back to the road. The air stings her split lip. “Get your greasy face off my windows.”

“You think they’d learn,” Brynn says, without peeling her face from the glass. “Isn’t there some sort of instinct? Species memory?”

“Their mamas didn’t teach ‘em right.”

“Maybe they think you’re gonna stop for them. Maybe they think you’re a merciful lady.”

“Nobody thinks that,” Sam says, and eases off the gas.

They don’t see any live armadillos for the rest of the drive. Only dead ones, splayed carelessly along the fog line. Sam’s mercy isn’t tested.

When they stop for gas, Brynn stays in the truck and drops her sunglasses back over her eyes. She stares at her knees and imagines the scene — the long-haul truckers in their cabs, maybe a family with kids on a road trip, harried mother telling them to be quiet while she fills up the car. Though really she can’t see a thing. The lenses of her glasses are smoked and neatly coated with black paint. (Continue Reading…)