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PodCastle 620: When Hope Is Lost, Touch Remains

Show Notes

Rated R for steamy friction, physical and ethical.


When Hope Is Lost, Touch Remains

By Nin Harris

Chowrasta Market was where Maria had learned to love books — upstairs in the claustrophobic crush of second-hand book stalls, where the musty smell of old paperbacks was drowned in a panoply of aromas from the market downstairs: fish, the blood of poultry, and the musk-laden spore of murdered mammals. Her bookishness was all she was able to offer the men who occasionally fell in love with her. They drowned in her literary wit and her fragile insecurities until the time when, as with all relationships, one must drift away and make an end.

Sometimes the endings were congenial.

More often than not the congeniality masked a secret pain, a gnawing loss at the realisation that another hope had been proven false. Because what are endings but a betrayal of some hope? But then again, what are endings if they are not a culmination of choices made? (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 619: The Tale of Mahliya and Mauhub and the White-Footed Gazelle

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


The Tale of Mahliya and Mauhub and the White-Footed Gazelle

By Sofia Samatar

This story is at least a thousand years old. Its complete title is “The Tale of Mahliya and Mauhub and the White-Footed Gazelle: It Contains Strange and Marvelous Things.” A single copy, probably produced in Egypt or Syria, survives in Istanbul; the first English translation appeared in 2015. This is not the right way to start a fairy tale, but it’s better than sitting here in silence waiting for Mahliya, who takes forever to get ready. She’s upstairs staining her cheeks with antimony, her lips with a lipstick called Black Sauce. Vainest crone in Cairo.

She leaves her window open for the birds to fly in and out. If you listen closely, you’ll hear the bigger ones thump their wings against the sash. The most famous, of course, is the flying featherless ostrich. A monstrous creature, like something boiled. Mahliya adores it. She lets it eat out of her mouth. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 618: Odd and Ugly

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


Odd and Ugly

By Vida Cruz

I.

You come to my tree at high noon in July, sweating, panting, young. So very, very young. I can’t help staring at you: it’s like watching a walking, talking circular window with square glass stuck through it. I knew you’d come someday, but I’m still so stunned to see you that I disbelieve my own eyes. The small sack in one hand and the clay jar at your hip tell me that you mean to stay, too.

“Are you the kapre from the stories? The one with the shell necklace?” you ask, your voice high and clear. You set your jar down and gather your long, sweat-dampened black hair over your shoulder, away from your nape, as you glance up from under your straw salakot. Your eyes are the color of tablea chocolate bubbling in a cup. I’m startled that I remember so human a sensation. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 617: The Dead-Wagon

Show Notes

Rated R.


The Dead-Wagon

Greye La Spina

I

“Someone’s been chalking up the front door.” The speaker stepped off the terrace into the library through the open French window.

From his padded armchair Lord Melverson rose with an involuntary exclamation of startled dismay.

“Chalking the great door?” he echoed, an unmistakable tremor in his restrained voice. His aristocratic, clean-shaven old face showed pallid in the soft light of the shaded candles.

“Oh, nothing that can do any harm to the carving. Perhaps I am mistaken — it’s coming on dusk — but it seemed to be a great cross in red, chalked high up on the top panel of the door. You know — the Great Plague panel.”

“Good God!” ejaculated the older man weakly.

Young Dinsmore met his prospective father-in-law’s anxious eyes with a face that betrayed his astonishment. He could not avoid marveling at the reception of what certainly seemed, on the surface, a trifling matter. (Continue Reading…)