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PodCastle 640: Mist Songs of Delhi

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


Mist Songs of Delhi

By Sid Jain

Rajaji had listened to three songs of the deceased that morning. He couldn’t help himself. Whenever he walked past a flickering portrait floating in the air — static, sanguine, and phosphorescent — the urge to reach out and touch the cloud with his fingers was more than he could resist. The cloud portrait would unspool itself into the departed’s soul song and fill the air around Rajaji with the lilting music of their lives.

The last of those three songs had left Rajaji in a heavy stupor. The voice of the departed sang but three lines in Urdu. The translation into Hindi seized some beauty as tax, but the words thundered in Rajaji’s heart in all the seven languages he knew:

I tolerated his passing as he had taken Hindustan as his second wife,

But my hummingbird had not yet learnt to fly when you clipped her wings.

O Tyrant, what sin did I commit that you saved me for last?

They rarely told the life’s story of the subject as if they were epic poems. No, most soulsongs captured a sliver of the lives, a representative snippet that encapsulated the life and times of those lucky enough to be turned into song by the Goddesses of Raagas.

And they were lucky. Seekers made pilgrimage from around the world to the temples of music in Delhi and Ajanta and even the little one in Calcutta. Germanic Persians, Frankish Egyptians, and some even traveling over ocean and continent from the Americas, hoping — praying — that they reach the temples still alive and with stories remarkable enough to be granted the gift of eternal music. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 639: Kiki Hernández Beats the Devil

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.

The destinies of two women — one, a soldier; the other, a princess — become intertwined in C. L. Clark’s debut, The Unbroken. This is a story about war, betrayal, intrigue, and some truly sexy fight scenes in a desert kingdom inspired by North Africa. The cover art was released on io9 in July. Check out this incredible debut by PodCastle‘s co-editor!

You can pre-order The Unbroken by C. L. Clark now!


Kiki Hernández Beats the Devil

By Samantha Mills

Kiki Hernández, rock legend of the Southwest, had seven devils on her tail.

They scurried through the roadside scrub, not even trying to sneak. She could hear their scrabble-claws and clacker-tails, their dripping maws and teeth. If they were trying to round her up for a crossroad deal-making, they were going about it all wrong.

That’s what happened when devils got hungry. They made mistakes.

Kiki hummed as she walked, watching eddies of dust form tornadoes on the road ahead. It was a swagger of a walk, born of a perfect record: Kiki 72, Devils 0. She would have been bored, if she hadn’t been so eager for an encore.

“Come on out!” she hollered.

They tumbled forth in a gray-green tangle of many-jointed limbs, an acrid smell preceding them: sulphur and grave dirt and candy apples stuffed with razorblades. Their voices tangled like a nest of snakes: Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Are you vengeful? Are you sad?

For a moment she felt it—the thirst like three weeks eating salted pork, the grief that could only end in retaliation—and then Kiki popped open her molded-plastic carrying case and pulled out her guitar: Mona Lisa. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 638: Slipping the Leash

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


Slipping the Leash

Dan Micklethwaite

It is 1958, and Aloysius Proctor has survived a war, and survived the clap, and he is married to Delilah, with whom he has fathered two beautiful children, both of them sons, and he is the second-ranked salesman in the premier automobile showroom in town, and he should be happy with life, shouldn’t he, or at the very least content. He should have put this behind him; buried it deep with his friends from the Corps.

You’re thirty-five, for Chrissake! — what his daddy had told him. You’ve got to grow the hell up! You’ve got to be a good family man, just like I’ve done.

The belt-buckle scar tissue burns Louie’s torso, scorches his forearms, singes his back. The shrapnel scars too, on his upper right thigh. He tries not to laugh. He tries not to cry. Tries not to think that he should have stayed home, and spent time with his kids just to prove that he loves them. Shouldn’t be toting this battered black case, with the scratch-marks tattooed on the stainless steel clasps.

Shouldn’t.

Should not. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 637: Ink, and Breath, and Spring

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


Ink, and Breath, and Spring

by Frances Rowat

The wheelbarrow thumped a jolt into Palwick’s arms with every third step as he led Mattish back to where he’d found the corpse, out in the northern reaches of the garden. The trees waved dimly at them under the grey sky, and the thin morning light crept across the rolling ground with its whispering carpet of dead grass. Out in the north of the garden, the wind never really stopped.

Mattish had sent for a page when Palwick told her about the corpse, and had scarcely said anything since. She certainly hadn’t offered to take the wheelbarrow for a little while.

The flat silver sun had cleared the trees and eastern wall by the time they reached the corpse. Palwick had found it on the ground, gloveless and naked. He’d wrapped it in his overcoat and set it upright against the bayberry bushes before going to find Mattish; he’d never dealt with a corpse before, but couldn’t stomach the indecency of letting it lie there.

Three birds squabbled in the air above it; two crows and something paler. As Palwick and Mattish approached, the smaller of the crows darted off, shedding a feather. The pale bird shrieked after it, a flat sound in the wet morning.

The corpse was a man who might have been a little taller than Palwick himself, but waxen and crisp as a rose petal. Its left hand was missing, and it had an oddly unremarkable smell, like laundry and a rasher of raw bacon. The skin left on it — Palwick’s coat hid the raw wound covering its back — had withered a little from the cold. He guessed it had been there a week or more, even if nothing had been at it yet.

Mattish glared at the corpse for a minute. When it failed to apologize and leave, she reached for its remaining hand. The joints were stiff, but she wrenched it palm up and examined it.

“Well,” she said after a moment, dropping the hand. “He’s soft-handed; unless he’s from inside, or new staff from somewhere else in the gardens, he must have come over the wall. The page’ll know.”

She started working the corpse free of the bayberries, glancing up as the birds wheeling overhead screamed again. Palwick stepped up to help. The bayberries smelled bitter and bright, and the thorns bit at his gloves. Their branches were pliant and strong, snagging the sleeves of his overcoat. “Might be easier to pull him out,” he offered after a moment. “You really think he came over the wall? With one hand?”

Mattish shrugged, pulling the bayberries free and keeping them away from the corpse with her elbow as she worked. She had thinner gloves than Palwick’s, but tough ones; the fingers were pieced and tanned leather, and she ignored the pricking thorns. “He might have been wearing more when he got in,” she said. “It’s still winter. If he snuck in and tried to hide in the garden, the cold might have taken him.”

Palwick nodded. Cold wet wind wouldn’t kill as fast as a winter storm, but it would cluster blood around your gut and heart and leave you stunned and sweating. Then you’d do something stupid, like strip from the heat, and then there was nothing left but to pray you were found sooner rather than later.

He’d found the corpse later, that was all.

Still. “I didn’t find his clothes.” (Continue Reading…)