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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…)

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PodCastle 616: DOUBLE FEATURE! Telomerase; Mycelium

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


Telomerase

By Ian Muneshwar

You lost your first word when I began to lose my hair.

You brought a wicker basket to the hospital and opened it in the waiting room, taking out a blue-checkered blanket that you spread out over our laps. Inside the basket there was a book of Greek myths and two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into crustless triangles, just how you used to make them when the kids were young.

I told you that this was silly, that cancer was no picnic, but you just grinned like you had set me up for that very joke.

When the needle was under my skin, the nausea starting in the pit of my stomach, you opened the book. You read Hades with a seething hiss that made the child across the room giggle; Zeus was a grand baritone that reminded me of what you were like when we first met, all blustering, billowing confidence.

After the first few tales you got up, saying you had to get something. Your lips tried to form the last word, to tell me what it was, but you couldn’t make the sound. I asked you to spell it out, to write it down, but the word was gone completely, even its roots burned out of your memory.

You came back with tea in one of the hospital’s Styrofoam cups. You pointed at it and tried to summon the word again; your thin lips parting, the tip of your tongue pressed to the roof of your mouth.

Tea, I said. Hot tea.

Shaking your head, you picked up the book and started where we had left off. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 615: Field Reports from the Department of Monster Resettlement

Show Notes

Rated R, for a rowdy band of righteous monsters.


Field Reports from the Department of Monster Resettlement

by L. Chan

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: two ghosts, a pontianak and a manananggal are sitting around the third floor of a community centre after dark. The trick isn’t getting them to come to the support group, the trick is getting them to agree to be resettled.


I arrange swiss rolls, cream puffs and savory pastries in company lines that would have impressed a drill sergeant, but would the Assistant Director down at the department or my guests care? I don’t know. What do monsters eat anyway? Puppies. The blood of virile young men. Hapless neophyte civil servants.

The carpet used to be a garish orange and brown, pattern reminiscent of bolognese regurgitated by a dog. Greying fabric wallpaper went threadbare over dented dry wall. The hole by the door was the right size and shape for a fist. Goodness knows what they used this room for. At least the department got it cheap.

First job, first resettlement, first time I’m on my own, no more training, no safety net, no screwups. I’ve got the profiles of all the monsters printed out. Twelve point font, double-spaced, one inch margins, colour-coded plastic tabs for each profile by ethnicity. That’s the whole point of the policy. Have to mix them up, nobody wants all the jiang shi and kuei to be in one place, all the toyols and hantus to be in another. Not to mention those that we’ve imported into this melting pot. I accept the sugar coated logic pill, down the hatch with a cool draught of my own university education, not pausing to think about what’s at the heart of the medicine. It’s all good.

For a moment, there’s a stiff stage fright breeze, a whiff of the air beyond the curtains, that the monsters won’t turn up, that I’m going to slink back to the office tomorrow in some reverse walk of shame.

Then there’s a scratching at the dust speckled window. The manananggal is here. They’re coming, all good little monsters, every one. That’s Singapore for you. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 614: White Noon

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


White Noon

By Aidan Doyle

The dogs’ barking let me know I had visitors. I reluctantly left my chair by the fire, pulled on my boots, and took my thundergun from its place on the wall. I rarely had any visitors apart from Magnus, which was how the dogs and I liked it.

When I opened the cabin door, the sun’s brightness made me squint. The sky was bluer than a husky’s eyes. Most folks enjoyed summer’s months of continual sunlight, but I preferred the peace of winter’s darkness. Nobody but a lover expects things of you when it’s dark.

I walked across the crisp snow, my breath appearing as a mist in front of me. A ten-dog team pulling a sled with two people in it drew to a halt outside my cabin. The two figures stepped off the sled, one of them crouching down to check the dogs and the other striding towards me. I recognized Kristin’s loping gait before I could make out her face. She always looked as though she was in a hurry to reach tomorrow. It had been years since I’d seen my sisters.

Kristin wore a heavy coat with wanted posters stitched onto it. All of the villains had their faces crossed out. A pair of silver thunderguns rested in holsters by her side.

“It’s a fine day for sledding,” Kristin said. Her tone suggested that only the most inglorious of cowards would disagree.

“Fine day for staying warm,” I replied. (Continue Reading…)