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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…)

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PodCastle 650: Luella Miller

Show Notes

Rated PG.


Close to the village street stood the one-story house in which Luella Miller, who had an evil name in the village, had dwelt. She had been dead for years, yet there were those in the village who, in spite of the clearer light which comes on a vantage-point from a long-past danger, half believed in the tale which they had heard from their childhood. In their hearts, although they scarcely would have owned it, was a survival of the wild horror and frenzied fear of their ancestors who had dwelt in the same age with Luella Miller. Young people even would stare with a shudder at the old house as they passed, and children never played around it as was their wont around an untenanted building. Not a window in the old Miller house was broken: the panes reflected the morning sunlight in patches of emerald and blue, and the latch of the sagging front door was never lifted, although no bolt secured it. Since Luella Miller had been carried out of it, the house had had no tenant except one friendless old soul who had no choice between that and the far-off shelter of the open sky. This old woman, who had survived her kindred and friends, lived in the house one week, then one morning no smoke came out of the chimney, and a body of neighbours, a score strong, entered and found her dead in her bed. There were dark whispers as to the cause of her death, and there were those who testified to an expression of fear so exalted that it showed forth the state of the departing soul upon the dead face. The old woman had been hale and hearty when she entered the house, and in seven days she was dead; it seemed that she had fallen a victim to some uncanny power. The minister talked in the pulpit with covert severity against the sin of superstition; still the belief prevailed. Not a soul in the village but would have chosen the almshouse rather than that dwelling. No vagrant, if he heard the tale, would seek shelter beneath that old roof, unhallowed by nearly half a century of superstitious fear. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 649: The Plague-House

Show Notes

Rated R.


The Plague-House

by Maya Chhabra

When the plague returned in a rash of aching joints and toxic, pink-froth coughs, Catia did not wait for it to sneak into her family’s home. Armouring herself with sweet oils and talismans of cracked agate—nothing that exorcised fear or released paralyzed feet for another step could truly be called useless—she stalked off to confront it where it lived and died.

Between their freshly painted townhouse and the low, sprawling warehouse appropriated last month by the faceless, vaguely incompetent entity that served as Sanitation Commission, three blocks spread before her like the southern plains amidst a dust storm. The street cleaners stayed home these days, and the promenade might as well have been a gutter.

Soon slim terraced houses gave way to commercial buildings; she lowered her veil and gasped, taking in the docks’ vivid salt air and pungent fish scent. Two wiry, homesick Eldasran sailors menaced a peacekeeper, and a lanky woman, face covered, tipped a burlap sack out of her cart and fled. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 648: The Beast Weeps with One Eye


The Beast Weeps with One Eye

By Morgan Al-Moor

After three days of breathless escape across the grasslands and no less than thirty of our people lost, the waters of the Nyamba river finally sparkled before my weary eyes. Every soul among the survivors — the last of the Bjebu — sobbed with joy, and even the faithless murmured their thanks to the Great Elders from between dry lips.

We dropped to our knees at the riverbank, panting like a herd of mad oxen. Some threw themselves into the water, swallowing and gasping. Others rolled on their backs, drenched in sweat and dust. Mkiwa, our chief huntress, climbed the great tree and perched above us, her spear thrust forth, the lion’s pelt hugging her shoulders.

I washed my face and arms in the cold water. Dirt had dyed my crimson khanga brown, so I rinsed its edges and tossed the veil around my head. I uttered a short prayer for those who had fallen along the road.

The grasslands stretched around us, bathed in the early rays of dawn — a rippling ocean of green in the fresh wind. The blue mountains guarded the horizon, gathering around their highest peak — Mount Wawazee, the abode of the Elders. I caught a breath of the dewy air. Deer grazed in the shadow of a far tree, oblivious to our clamor.

“Can we rest yet, High Sister?” asked one farmer.

“Are we safe yet, High Sister?” whispered one hunter. (Continue Reading…)