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PodCastle 790: ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL: “The Mermaid’s Tea Party”

Show Notes

Rated R

The Mermaid’s Tea Party

by Samantha Henderson

The mermaid barely slowed her breakneck pace as she approached and ran herself halfway up a yellow beach, belly-down and arching her back so her torso was almost upright. At the same time, she flung Cassandra casually upon the sand, half-knocking the breath out of her. Cassandra gulped for air, then scrambled as best she could up the beach, out of reach of the mermaid’s grasp — or so she profoundly hoped.

The mermaid watched her and made no move towards her, a nasty grin on her face.

“I’ll find the tea, and you’ll make us a party,” she said. “Then, maybe, I’ll bring you some food.”

Cassandra stared. Then the import of the creature’s words struck her and she looked around, beginning to panic. The island was perhaps a mile around and very flat, save where white ridges were raised above the surface. A large wave would have swamped it. A few trees she recognized from picture books as palms clustered off-center, a green haze underneath them. There was not much else.

Nothing to eat, certainly.

The sand clung in a fine film to her dress and bare legs, and itched. Miss Murchinson would have been scandalized.

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PodCastle 789: “(emet)”

Show Notes



by Lauren Ring

i. detection

When protesters take out the power at her Silicon Valley office, Chaya is at home, watching a golem pull dandelions.

The morning air is clear and cold. Chaya can hear her computer pinging alerts at her from inside her farmhouse. As soon as the dandelion patch is gone, she wraps her knee-high figurine in satin, pressing the cloth against its soft clay midsection. She lays her golem gently down by the riverside. A single tap on her phone activates the preprogrammed subroutine that wipes the alef from its forehead, leaving only the letters mem and tav every instance in its code of emet, truth, becomes met, death.

She slips the bundle into the water, watching the satin flutter away in the current as the golem returns to the wet sediment. All that is left of Chayas creation are smears of ochre on her fingers and lines of code on her hard drive.

Chaya wipes her hands on her jeans and heads back to her daily bug tickets, ready to find out the days fresh disaster. Working from home has its perks, but maintaining her plot of land would be impossible without the help of her golems.

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 788: An Anklet Broken

An Anklet Broken

by Chaitanya Murali


There is a man I am meant to love. He is the son of a sea-merchant, wealthy and well-connected. A friend of Karikalan, the Chola King.

And this man is my husband and a wastrel.

A sin it is for me to say these words, think these thoughts, but what else do you call a man who has pulled you from the sea and married you, only to then leave you for a courtesan?

Who bears a child on that courtesan, only to then leave her on the suspicion of her infidelity and come crawling back to you for forgiveness?

“Please, Kannagi. I was wrong to leave you — I know this now. The gods have punished me and left me destitute. I know now that I cannot live without you. Will you take me back?”

Left him destitute?

“Please. I cannot go back to my family penniless. I cannot bear that shame.”

What of my shame, Kovalan? Does that mean nothing to you?

But my mouth smiles, the expression warm and genuine, a beacon for this beleaguered cretin.

“Of course I will take you back; you are my husband, are you not?”

I reach down, unclasp the anklet around my right leg, and hold it out to him.

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 787: Flash Fiction Extravaganza – Bargaining

Show Notes

“The Greenhouse Bargain” is rated PG

“Shattered Pearls of Celadon” is rated PG

“War Doesn’t Know What It Wants” is rated PG-13

The Greenhouse Bargain

by Tanya Aydelott

He sent my mothers ghost to deliver the terms of the bargain.

I accepted; there was no choice. When I asked what to expect, she said, Ten good years.

The Whipstitch Man had visited me twice, once to take my sister and once to collect my mother. The second time, he caught me tucking my fingers into the cold pocket of his patched-metal coat. His pinch-hold on my mothers elbow tightened as he gave me a choice: I could keep the silver Id tried to steal, but I would also have to keep my mothers ghost. She would never journey to the underworld. And when I, too, passed, we would stay and watch all the sunsets and sunrises together, forgotten and scavenged by whatever horrors lived in the night.

Or I could trade places with him. He would steal time from my human life, and then he would give me eternity.

Either I damned my mother and myself, or I damned myself to become a thing of metal and darkness how was I supposed to choose?

But the Whipstitch Man had no patience for my begging. The dead cannot survive in the world of the living and my mothers ghost was already beginning to sag. I shrieked that I would trade with him; I would take his place when my time came.

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 786: Double Feature! Scales; My Custom Monster

Show Notes

Rated PG-13


By M. Stevenson

The boy stands at the edge of the forest, bare toes digging into the cold loam. Mist curls between the trees like the breath of a living thing. As if the woods are alive.

Monsters live in this forest, so its said. Demons of scales and teeth and fur, creatures that will rend a child asunder until only the smallest bones remain. The thought wraps chilly fingers of fear around the boys nape. Its hard not to be afraid of what everyone says is real.

But there are other monsters too, monsters that he knows are real. He thinks of bared teeth and flying spittle, a face gone red with rage, a poker gone red from sitting in the hearth. The boys hand creeps to the shiny patches of skin on his bare forearm, scars where his flesh has thickened into silver scales. There are more on his legs, his back: places his clothes always cover. The monster grew more careful after the first time, when people noticed and she had to make excuses.

He was playing with the poker. He tripped and fell.

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 785: ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL: Biographical Notes to ‘A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-planes’ by Benjamin Rosenbaum

Show Notes

Rated PG

Episode 785 is part of our 15th Anniversary special and includes an interview with Ann Leckie, the first assistant editor of PodCastle.

Biographical Notes to “A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-planes” by Benjamin Rosenbaum

by Benjamin Rosenbaum

It is true that I had not accepted Prem Ramasson’s offer of employment — indeed, that he had not seemed to find it necessary to actually ask. It is true also that I am a man of letters, neither spy nor bodyguard. It is furthermore true that I was unarmed, save for the ceremonial dagger at my belt, which had thus far seen employment only in the slicing of bread, cheese, and tomatoes.

Thus, the fact that I leapt through the doorway, over the fallen bodies of the prince’s bodyguard, and pursued the fleeting form of the assassin down the long and curving corridor, cannot be reckoned as a habitual or forthright action. Nor, in truth, was it a considered one. In Śri Grigory Guptanovich Karthaganov’s typology of action and motive, it must be accounted an impulsive-transformative action: the unreflective moment which changes forever the path of events.

Causes buzz around any such moment like bees around a hive, returning with pollen and information, exiting with hunger and ambition. The assassin’s strike was the proximate cause. The prince’s kind manner, his enthusiasm for plausible-fables (and my work in particular), his apparent sympathy for my people, the dark eyes of his consort — all these were inciting causes.

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PodCastle 784: La Vitesse

Show Notes

Rated PG-13

La Vitesse

By Kelly Robson


March 2, 1983, 30 kilometers southwest of Hinton, Alberta

“Rosie,” Bea said under her breath, but the old school bus’s wheels were rumbling over gravel, and her daughter didn’t hear. Rosie was slumped in the shotgun seat, eyes closed. She hadn’t moved since Bea had herded her onto La Vitesse at six-fifteen that morning. She wasn’t asleep though. A mother could always tell.

Bea raised her voice to a stage whisper. “Rosie, we got a problem.”

Still no reaction.

“Rosie. Rosie. Rosie.”

Bea snatched one of her gloves off the bus’s dashboard and tossed it. Not at her kid — never at her kid; it bounced off the window and landed in Rosie’s lap.

“Mom. I’m sleeping.” Big scary scowl. Bea hadn’t seen her kid smile since she’d turned fourteen.

“There’s a dragon right behind us,” she said silently, mouthing the words. None of the other kids had noticed, and Bea wanted to keep it that way.

Rosie rolled her eyes. “I don’t read lips.”

“A dragon,” she whispered. “Following us.”

“No way.” Rosie bolted upright. She twisted in her seat and looked back through the central aisle, past the kids in their snowsuits and toques. “I can’t see it.”

The rear window was brown with dirty, frozen slush. Thank god. If the kids saw the dragon, they’d be screaming.

“Come here and look.” (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 783: Of the Body

Show Notes

Rated PG-13

Of the Body

By Eugenia Triantafyllou



When Osarah and I finally lie sweaty in our bed that night, I know that when the three moons align we will have a baby.

Osarah looks back at me. Smiling. The wetness of her face is lined by the cold light of the moon shining outside our window.

She can feel it too. She knows it like I know it.

“What shall we name it?” she asks. She takes my hand and gently kisses my knuckles one by one.

“I don’t know yet,” I lie. I hope she can’t feel my lie like she feels our child coming into existence.

I have thought of a thousand different names for our future children. Ever since our eyes first met. But right now, right at this moment when I should be the most happy, I am terrified.

Terrified of the moment when Osarah and I will hunt down the animal that bears our child and kill it. Will my aim be good enough to wound it without hurting our child? Will my hands shake as I cut its belly open and pry the baby out of its innards, slick with blood?

Osarah wraps her arms around me, sensing my fear. Her heat becomes my heat. Her cheek presses against my shoulder.

“It’ll be all right,” she assures me. “I’ll be there too.” Huddled like this, we let our minds travel to the valley, to a herd of sharpsnoots. Inside the belly of a special one, that’s grazing on the tender night leaves.

Ah, there! We both think. That’s the one. That’s our baby.

Now, we wait.

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 782: The Girl Who Never Was

Show Notes

Rated PG

The Girl Who Never Was

Harold R. Thompson


I met Kate Krimple at a downtown coffee shop. Kate’s new children’s book was called Tayo and the Wolves, about a dog who claims to have lived with wolves for a week. I was to provide the cover and interior illustrations. This was the first time we’d met face to face, and I was happy to find her warm and easy to talk to. In fact, our conversation came so easily that we moved on to talking about ourselves.

“Is Krimple your real name?” I asked.

I guess that was maybe a little too forward, but the way things were going I felt comfortable asking, and I was happy to see her smile.

“No, of course not. It’s Dugger, but Kate Krimple has a better ring to it.”

She tucked a lock of dark hair behind one ear, and I wondered how old she was. I’d read her official bio (in which she was definitely Kate Krimple and not Kate Dugger), but there’d been no mention of a birth date. Then I wondered why that mattered. It just popped into my head.

“How about you?” she said. “I like to know things about my artists and illustrators. Family? Kids?”

No, I told her, I’d been married, but . . .

“She passed away. Cancer.”

I gave her the same shrug I used every time.

“It happened quite a while ago,” I added.

She offered her condolences, and asked, “So no kids?”

I guessed, as a children’s author, she was always curious about her market.

“No, we never did. I always wanted to, but it didn’t happen.”

She nodded, but her smile had faded and I could feel a darkness creeping in and knew I had to lighten the mood.

“At least my house is tidy,” I said. “More or less.”

We moved on to other topics. When the meeting ended, we shook hands and I promised to show her some sketches soon. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 781: ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL: The evolution of trickster stories among the dogs of North Park after the Change

Show Notes

Rated PG


This episode is part of our 15th Anniversary special and includes an interview with Rachel Swirsky, the founding editor of Podcastle back in 2008.



The evolution of trickster stories among the dogs of North Park after the Change

by Kij Johnson

(It’s a universal fantasy, isn’t it?—that the animals learn to speak, and at last we learn what they’re thinking, our cats and dogs and horses: a new era in cross-species understanding. But nothing ever works out quite as we imagine. When the Change happened, it affected all the mammals we have shaped to meet our own needs. They all could talk a little, and they all could frame their thoughts well enough to talk. Cattle, horses, goats, llamas; rats, too. Pigs. Minks. And dogs and cats. And we found that, really, we prefer our slaves mute.

(The cats mostly leave, even ones who love their owners. Their pragmatic sociopathy makes us uncomfortable, and we bore them; and they leave. They slip out between our legs and lope into summer dusks. We hear them at night, fighting as they sort out ranges, mates, boundaries. The savage sounds frighten us, a fear that does not ease when our cat Klio returns home for a single night, asking to be fed and to sleep on the bed. A lot of cats die in fights or under car wheels, but they seem to prefer that to living under our roofs; and as I said, we fear them.

(Some dogs run away. Others are thrown out by the owners who loved them. Some were always free.)