Archive for Rated PG-13

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PodCastle 679: Pull

Show Notes

Rated PG-13 with a content warning for end of life care.


Pull

by Leah Ning

 

I could already feel her mind tugging at mine from upstairs, a warm, familiar pull that threatened to separate me from my body. Are you there? the pull seemed to ask. Are you coming back?

I took her bowl of oatmeal from the microwave and tested it with a finger. It had to be a little cooler than she liked now. She couldn’t blow on it herself anymore.

That tidal pull came again, stronger this time, and I had to close my eyes for a moment to fight it. She was harder to resist now than she ever was. For one thing, she never used to pull this hard. For another, her pull had become the only way she would talk. Words escaped her more often than not now.

When the pull abated, I shuffled up the stairs, dirty white slippers whispering on linoleum that hadn’t been swept in…I couldn’t remember how long.

“I’m here, Amy, I’m coming,” I said when I felt her latch on again. She didn’t let go, but the feeling of building strength faded.

She looked at me from against her mound of pillows, her grey eyes watery. Thin lips nestled in a cacophony of wrinkles I’d watched the hand of time etch across her face.

I sat on the edge of the bed. “Oatmeal.”

She made a face.

“Well, I snuck some maple syrup in there this time. How’s that?”

This delighted her as it did every morning. She let me spoon the oatmeal into her mouth and I chatted idly while she worked it across her tongue and swallowed it. My mouth poured sweetness into her ears while my spoon poured sweetness into her mouth.

When the food was gone, she closed her eyes, smiling.

I didn’t notice her strength gathering again until it was too late. I scrambled for a handhold in my mind. The warmth of her pull cradled me, loosening my hold on myself with gentle mental fingers until I gave in and let go.

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PodCastle 678: Once and Future

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


Once and Future

Dan Micklethwaite

 

Early mornings, before the tourists show up, Gordon Barrow likes to lean against the hotel roof and watch the trains. There are two of them, each carriage as big as his size seven shoes, and they circle the village at a leisurely pace, with a gap of about nine or ten feet in between them. Today, nearing winter, steam wreathes the whole track, and the engines race onwards through each other’s ghost.

He takes out his hip-flask — with ‘Teesside’ engraved on it — and has a quick swig of the whisky it carries, telling himself it’s to keep out the chill.

He thinks of his father; looks at the church.

It’s one of many reminders of his childhood around here, in the stone of this village. Actual sandstone, dressed by actual masons, set down by school kids from his time and after. He’d personally laid many of the blocks in the hotel — formerly the manor house — which is why he often stands beside it. He feels sure that it will not collapse with his weight.

Some of the cars as well, they had been his. The older, tin-chassis ones. A Rolls Royce Silver Phantom that was the pride of his collection now rests by the door of the old village hall. A pair of Mini Coopers, one red and one blue, are parked half on the kerb a short way down the road. A rust-freckled E-type on a cul-de-sac driveway, with a figurine placed by the passenger door, to cover the void where it should have a wheel. An old cream and brown bus by the solitary stop; never driving its appointed route, but then never late either.

Timing is important.

Gordon keeps track of everything, due-dates for bills, for bank statements, electricity readings, in a series of pads on the desk by his bed.

Routine is important.

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PodCastle 677: Our Roots Devour

Show Notes

Rated PG-13 for violence, including child abuse.


Our Roots Devour

by Lora Gray

Momma always told us the Tree ain’t got a taste for our family’s blood. But it’s hard to keep my heart from hammering when I lay that blackbird, swaddled like a baby in one of Momma’s old blouses, against its roots. The Tree’s face is pinched and lurksome in the afternoon light. And those roots? They crawl out the river like spider legs, knots and whorls winking at me like we got secrets between us.

Maybe we do.

But I don’t rightly know how to share them, I don’t know how to Sing to that Tree. Hannah’s the one who got Momma’s voice, not me. 

I try not to think about what that blackbird’ll look like all chewed up and wrung round the Tree’s branches like an old dish towel when I run back up the gully and through the woods. I think about my momma, even though she’s dead and gone under the earth. And I think about Hannah in the cellar where Aunt Marylou put her, tied up and gagged, all her magic silent.

I run faster.

I only stop when I reach the edge of the woods, my side stitching, my bare arms sweaty and bramble scratched. There, across the tangle of grass that used to be our tomato garden, is Aunt Marylou’s house, that shack with the old barn leaning against it, rotted planks slumped on busted gutters. The hayloft window gapes like it’s surprised to see me there, crouched in the chicory.

One of these days that barn’s gonna fall right over and smash Aunt Marylou’s shack. Maybe Aunt Marylou’ll be there when it happens, sitting like she is now on her back porch in that rocking chair of hers. There’s a half-gone jar of hooch in her hand. It’s the strong stuff she trades Pickle Nelson for, and the turpentine stink pulls tears out the corners of my eyes when the wind shifts. She takes a drink. The hooch sloshes. The jar clinks.

There’s an axe in Aunt Marylou’s lap, the handle long, the blade shining, and she touches it. She prays. “Show me what You want me to do,” she says over and over again. “Show me what You want me to do.”

Closing her eyes, she lights her cigarette.

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PodCastle 675: Blush Response

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


Blush Response

by E. Catherine Tobler

No shit, there I was, behind the wet curves of the ebony Bugatti, watching Kasper cut through the rain like a knife’s sudden edge. He paced outside the automat, clothes wet like he’d been out there a few hours. His silver lighter slid between his rain-flecked hands.

It was too wet to smoke, the windows of the Bugatti streaming with rain that ran quicksilver when I slammed the trunk. It latched with an exasperated splatter and I brushed the wet from my charcoal trousers and straightened to study Kasper.

“Lola.”

Kasper was an ashen smudge amid the hues of gray that coated the world until he thrust his chin toward me in greeting. The clear light falling through the automat’s window caught the rosy colors that banded his cheeks and brow for a long-ago crime, exposing hues unnatural and alien. His left eye gleamed emerald, the other as flat and flint as Chicago around us.

I joined him under the dripping awning, rain tracing my melting jet pincurls while he rooted in his jacket for his silver cigarette case. The minute he opened it, the damp air blanketed the cigarettes and his lighter refused to catch.

“You’re late for your boys,” I said, “and looking like the gutters spat you out.” Sodden debris clung to his shoulders and his shirt was rucked out of his belt. His hair, slate parted to the right and gold to the left, was mussed like a lady’d had her fingers all up in it. But no lady would have her fingers all up in that.

“They in there?” His head jerked toward the automat window.

“You know they are.”

Kasper’s crew, the Rock Ghosts, was sour-faced and focused on the door to the powder room. I unbuttoned my jacket and shoved my hands into my pockets, the motion exposing the black leather holster at my waist. As far as Kasper knew, I was a bruno like him, someone known for keeping things right and proper and orderly. You needed a thing taken or reclaimed, we were also the people to see. Usually.

“You–” The word seemed too big in his mouth and he coughed. “I can ask you something, Lola? In confidence?”

He was going to ask me about the dame, because she wasn’t at the table where she should be. Where he should be, too, because he always saw to her, made sure she had her slice of sweet meringue.

“You can ask me something, Kasper.” I rocked back on my heels, enjoying his discomfort the way I would later enjoy stripping out of my damp suit.

“You seen Wonderly tonight?”

People didn’t much talk about Wonderly; she was a sin everyone desired but none wanted to confess. She was a creature that shouldn’t exist, not so much an angel you hear stories about, but more a creature that should not be possible at all, something no one could ever rightly make. You believe in God enough, angels seem possible. Not Wonderly.

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