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PodCastle 628: Vincent’s Penny

Show Notes

Rated PG.


Vincent’s Penny

By Chris Barnham 

May 1941

I’m a child this time. Five or six years old.

Fully clothed under a bed, on a wooden floor. I touch a hand to my throat, but there is nothing there. I examine my hands and arms, astonished by the smoothness of the skin. At last, I crawl out from beneath the bed and leave the room.

Light from a jagged hole in the roof, blue sky beyond, streaked with horsetails of cloud.  The floor is dusted with splinters of wood and brick. The window at the end of the hall has daggers of glass clinging to the frame.

Over the banister, more rubble and destruction below. Some of the stairs are broken, but I pick my way downstairs, helped by the fact that I am so light now, in this child’s frame. I could skip across a field of grass and barely disturb the dew. There is a door at the foot of the stairs. I turn the handle and push, but at first it does not move. Maybe the wall has shifted in the raid. I try again, ramming my tiny shoulder against the wood.

The door releases its grip and tumbles me outside.    (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 627: We Are the Flower

Show Notes

Rated PG-13. Includes copious F-bombs.


We Are the Flower

By Claire Humphrey

I didn’t clue in until I saw the ghost bike chained to a signpost on Adelaide, near a corner. I was stopped up close, and I looked down and the angles of the frame were familiar. A Cannondale CAAD 5, just like mine. You could even see flashes of the same red and yellow logo underneath the white spray paint.

It’s, like, a pretty iconic bike, and you see them around a lot. So nothing too weird, right? Only then I noticed the luggage tag dangling from the handlebar. The neon green stood out against the white spray paint, and where you’d write the address someone had written, in silver marker, MISS YOU, MC.

Which is my name, or at least what I’m called.

I paused there a moment, one shoe clipped in, the other out and braced on the curb, then I looked at the rest of the bike again and saw, under the paint, the shape of my Trogdor sticker on the top tube.

Just like the one on the top tube of the red and yellow CAAD 5 I was currently riding.

Got to say, it shook me. I knew in my feelings even though I didn’t quite know in my mind. So what did I do?

Well, honestly, I turned into a bird. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 626: DOUBLE FEATURE! A Sharp Breath of Birds; A Guide to Birds by Song (After Death)

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.

“A Sharp Breath of Birds” is a companion piece to Laura Christensen’s artwork “Swan Dive.”


A Sharp Breath of Birds

By Tina Connolly

You are two on the day you see your first personal bird. It is the sort of thing you barely remember later, at six, seven, twenty. And yet you cling to it as your first memory: a sleek black penguin waddling through your nursery, it in black, you in white lace, mended and re-mended because you will not stop pulling off the threads to suck. You remember, later, a surprising softness to its feathers. You remember that it went right on past, even though you lunged for it. Your two-year-old images end like this: dark, warm, comforting, gone.

At seven, you see the birds regularly. You incorporate them into all your pretends; there is always some princess carried off by a bird to a nest made of raven feathers and filigreed spoons and shiny bits of silvered foil. Alice from next door easily accepts all the bird imagery as a fact of life; surely everybody plays games with birds in them, and she finds you books with more; the seven sparrows, and the dove maiden, and the nightingale at sea. Sometimes the princess is rescued by Alice, or Alice by the princess, and sometimes both girls rescue themselves, and sometimes nobody rescues anybody and they settle down as gainfully employed bird-bandits and bring more spoons and candlesticks and hand mirrors to the nest until your mother puts a stop to that and the bandits have to put all the things back.

At twelve you swear to keep playing princess-bandits forever, swear it under a double moon with a flock of geese flying past.

At fifteen you, drunk, try to remind her of this. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 625: Salt and Iron

Show Notes

Rated R.


Salt and Iron

By Gem Isherwood

There’s a gash across her cheekbone, glass in her arm and her lower lip is twice the size it should be, but Dagna Müller is hardly a stranger to pain.

She slumps on the steps outside the tavern, feeling her nose to check if it’s broken again. Without sensation in her fingertips it’s hard to tell. She can’t bring herself to care much either way.

Her muscles ache from the weight as well as the fight: a dull hurt that courses along her shoulders and down her arms, turning to a chafing burn where the skin of her wrists meets the solid metal of her hands.

That pain never fades. At least the injuries provide some variety.

The tavern stands on the seafront, where barques and schooners are berthed like horses stabled for the night. The tide is low and the air reeks worse than an undine’s armpit; between that and the cheap gin in her belly it takes all of Dagna’s willpower not to retch.

Six months ago, she wouldn’t have lost a fight. If she hadn’t drunk herself halfway into oblivion she could have knocked all three of them out inside of a minute. Or at least noticed the bastards were cheating before they’d taken every last coin in her purse.

“Here,” a voice says from above her. “You’re a damn poor advertisement for my business.”

She looks up to see the landlord – an old mariner, face wrinkled from the sun and sea air – offering her an almost-clean rag. She takes it and dabs at her bloody face.

“I’ll pay for the damage,” she says, busted lip muffling the words.

“Oh yeah? With what?” He leans against the doorframe and folds his arms. “Them’s good hands for throwing a punch. Strong arms for throwing weight behind it too.”

“Four years on the merchant ships’ll do that.”

The glass splinters in her left bicep are leaking spots of blood like freckles. She’ll have to dig them out with a penknife later. It’s times like these she misses fingernails. (Continue Reading…)