Archive for 2020

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PodCastle 659: My Country is a Ghost

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.

My Country is a Ghost

By Eugenia Triantafyllou

When Niovi tried to smuggle her mother’s ghost into the new country, she found herself being passed from one security officer to another, detailing her mother’s place and date of death over and over again.

“Are you carrying a ghost with you, ma’am?” asked the woman in the security vest. Her nametag read Stella. Her lips were pressed in a tight line as she pointed at the ghost during the screening, tucked inside a necklace. She took away Niovi’s necklace and left only her phone.

“If she didn’t die here, I am afraid she cannot follow you,” the woman said. Her voice was even, a sign she had done this many times before. Niovi resented the woman at that moment. She still had a ghost waiting for her to come home, comforting her when she felt sad, giving advice when needed. But she was still taking Niovi’s ghost away.

Stella paused. She gave Niovi a moment to think, to decide. She could turn around and go back to her home taking the necklace with her. Back to her unemployment benefits and a future she could no longer bring herself to imagine, or she could move down the long stretch of aisles, past the dimming lights and into the night, alone, her mother’s ghost left behind—where do ghosts return to in times like this? Niovi would be a new person in a new country, wiped clean of her past.

Foreign ghosts were considered unnecessary. The only things they had to offer were stories and memories.

Niovi had prepared herself for this, and yet she had hoped she wouldn’t have to leave her mother behind. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 658: The Cursed Noel

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.

The Cursed Noel

By Tim Pratt & Heather Shaw

It was supposed to be a Very Zoom Christmas, but the internet went out on Christmas Eve, and out here, it usually took a couple of days to get going again. Travis didn’t expect things to happen any faster during the holiday. He could get a bar on his cell phone if he stood in the right spot in the cabin, but that wasn’t enough for a video call. He could always drive into town tomorrow where the service was better, but sitting in some parking lot in the cold, looking at the thumbprint-sized faces of his mother and sisters and cousins on his phone, all broadcasting from their own places of pandemic isolation, didn’t exactly sound festive.

Travis went to the window in the kitchen and looked out at the whitened evergreens. Loneliness settled onto him, like the weight of all that snow on those branches. The smell of his morning coffee was already dissipating in the chill air. The original plan, back when everyone thought the pandemic would surely be under control by the end of the year, was to fly to Chicago for the traditional giant gathering, but the Midwest was even more ravaged by the virus than everywhere else. So he was staying here instead, wintering for the first time in the cabin in the North Carolina mountains he’d inherited from his grandfather, and only used as a summer place before. The isolation hadn’t bothered him much so far, but like the snow in the song, the pandemic didn’t show signs of stopping, and it had all become a bit wearying. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 657: White As Soap

Show Notes

Rated PG-13

White as Soap

By Teresa Milbrodt

I’m not sure what to think when the people from the soap company call and ask about filming a commercial at my unicorn ranch.  They want to feature unicorns wild and free and running across the open prairie and all that other romantic shit.

“Unicorns have a great universal appeal,” says the director.  “They’re mythic and romantic.  That’s the sort of thing that will sell soap.”

“Oh,” I say because I sell unicorns and not soap.  After raising unicorns for twenty years I’ve learned that there is nothing romantic about them.  I also have a vague notion that doing a commercial could be classified as selling out, but I’ve also been told that the kind of people who talk about “selling out” are the kind of people who can’t sell anything.  What matters is if you can live with yourself in the morning.

I’m not worried about being able to live with myself, as my primary morning concern is if the unicorns will get fed, not only on that morning but on subsequent mornings.  People aren’t buying unicorns like they used to.  They’re considered a luxury item, even though I argue strongly against that idea.  Most people overlook the practical uses of unicorns as work animals–a unicorn is no more expensive than a good horse, and just as strong.  Unicorns owners and breeders simply have to be aware of unicorn biology and certain medical concerns like horn rot.  But I digress.

In the end it comes down to having more food for the blessing versus less food for the blessing, so I say yes.  The director says she and a camera crew will be out in two weeks.  She doesn’t sound pleased when I tell her that the nearest airport is four hours away, but this is Wyoming so what do you expect?

I say she and her crew should schedule three days to be around before they start shooting. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 656: What My Flies Keep for Me

Show Notes

Rated R.

What My Flies Keep For Me

By Shaoni C. White

There’s a dead body on the floor. This is a bad thing. I’m having trouble recalling why that’s the case, but I’m sure it’ll come back to me soon. I fastidiously clean the blade of the knife on the shirt that the body is wearing, because the knife is my brother’s and it’s rude to return things you’ve borrowed in poor condition. That’s what the flies resting on the curve of my ear are telling me. They’re very helpful, although I dearly miss their compatriots. The world is jagged and confusing without them. I look around and see dozens of things that don’t seem quite right, and I can recall the shape of the insect voices that ordinarily remind me why they’re wrong, but I can’t summon up the words they would use to explain it.

Unsure where to put the knife, I carry it loosely in my hand as I step carefully over the puddled blood. “Cleanliness is essential,” hums a fly as it takes off and orbits my head. “It’s important to keep shared living spaces clean and tidy so as not to inconvenience the people you live with.”

Another fly agrees. “It’s bad to inconvenience people.”

“Can you help me figure out what to do next?” I ask, but the flies just hum their murmured endorsements of cleanliness and consideration. “Should I clean up the mess?”

Yes,” buzzes one. (Continue Reading…)