Archive for Rated PG

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PodCastle 779: TALES FROM THE VAULTS – Black Feather

Show Notes

Rated PG


“Black Feather” originally aired as PodCastle 123 

Black Feather

by K. Tempest Bradford

Exactly one year before she saw the raven, Brenna began to dream of flying.  Sometimes she was in a plane, sometimes she was in a bird, sometimes she was just herself–surrounded by sky, clouds, and too-thin-to-breathe air.  In the dark, in the light, over cities and oceans and fields, she flew.  Every night for a year.

Then, on the twelfth day of the twelfth month, the dreams changed.  They ended with a crash and fire and the feeling of falling.  Most nights she almost didn’t wake up in time.

Exactly one year from the night the dreams began, Brenna struggled out of sleep, the phantom smell of burning metal still in her nose.  She reached out for Scott–he was not there.  He was never there.  He had never been there.  She fell back onto her pillows and groaned.

Another dream of flying, another reaching out for Scott; she wished she could stop doing both.

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PodCastle 773: Housing Problem

Show Notes

Rated PG

Housing Problem

by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner


Jacqueline said it was a canary, but I contended that there were a couple of lovebirds in the covered cage. One canary could never make that much fuss. Besides, I liked to think of crusty old Mr. Henchard keeping lovebirds; it was so completely inappropriate. But whatever our roomer kept in that cage by his window, he shielded it — or them — jealously from prying eyes. All we had to go by were the noises.

And they weren’t too simple to figure out. From under the cretonne cloth came shufflings, rustlings, occasional faint and inexplicable pops, and once or twice a tiny thump that made the whole hidden cage shake on its redwood pedestal-stand. Mr. Henchard must have known that we were curious. But all he said when Jackie remarked that birds were nice to have around, was “Claptrap! Leave that cage alone, d’ya hear?”

That made us a little mad. We’re not snoopers, and after that brush-off, we coldly refused to even look at the shrouded cretonne shape. We didn’t want to lose Mr. Henchard, either. Roomers were surprisingly hard to get. Our little house was on the coast highway; the town was a couple of dozen homes, a grocery, a liquor store, the post office, and Terry’s restaurant. That was about all. Every morning Jackie and I hopped the bus and rode in to the factory, an hour away. By the time we got home, we were pretty tired. We couldn’t get any household help — war jobs paid a lot better — so we both pitched in and cleaned. As for cooking, we were Terry’s best customers.

The wages were good, but before the war we’d run up too many debts, so we needed extra dough.

And that’s why we rented a room to Mr. Henchard. Off the beaten track with transportation difficult, and with the coast dimout every night, it wasn’t too easy to get a roomer. Mr. Henchard looked like a natural. He was, we figured, too old to get into mischief.

One day he wandered in, paid a deposit; presently he showed up with a huge Gladstone and a square canvas grip with leather handles. He was a creaking little old man with a bristling tonsure of stiff hair and a face like Popeye’s father, only more human. He wasn’t sour; he was just crusty. I had a feeling he’d spent most of his life in furnished rooms, minding his own business and puffing innumerable cigarettes through a long black holder. But he wasn’t one of those lonely old men you could safely feel sorry for— far from it! He wasn’t poor and he was completely self-sufficient. We loved him. I called him grandpa once, in an outburst of affection, and my skin blistered at the resultant remarks.

Some people are born under lucky stars. Mr. Henchard was like that. He was always finding money in the street. The few times we shot craps or played poker, he made passes and held straights without even trying. No question of sharp dealing — he was just lucky.

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 771: Wapnintu’tijig They Sang Until Dawn

Show Notes

Rated PG

Wapnintu’tijig: They Sang Until Dawn

By Tiffany Morris


In the time of fever, the marks of the animals changed. Waterbirds shone with new radiance: a bright blue iridescence clung to their feathers, glimmering, soaked with the sacred oil of daylight. Their language changed along with their plumage: the chirrup chirrup from their open beaks had transformed into a lilting sort of caw. A shiver jolted through Pi’tawgowi’sgw. As she worked her way through the swamp, she discovered that the world, her world, was newly alive with alien tongues, each one bellowed with an odd sense of certainty. It was as if the creatures’ mouths had always known these sounds, that these new sounds belonged to them entirely. Each odd caw and chirp formed the words that the creatures had been born to speak. The nighthawks, for their part, now screeched owllike into darkening sky, swooping and diving over the water in search of the tiny silver fish they so loved to devour.

It took special eyes to see the full radiance of the swamp. In weaker times she’d thought of it as her swamp, but Pi’tawgowi’sgw knew it was a place too ancient and vast to belong to her, or to anyone; rather, she belonged to it, sprouted up from the water the way the humans had the land. She had heard it said in their tongue: Weji-sqalia’timk, literally, the place they sprouted up from. She’d watched the one with silver hair threaded together tell this to the small ones gathered around the edge of the water, their eager faces murmuring words she did not know. She belonged in the deep stillness of the water. The many creatures in the water with her were not like her. The humans were, at least, sort of like her — more than the fish that shared the water, anyway. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 770: The Dragon Killer’s Daughter

Show Notes

Rated PG

The Dragon Killer’s Daughter

by MacKenzie R. Snead


Gayamiza was no stranger to pilgrims, but these two were not welcome — an old man and his daughter, foreignness sewn into their clothes, engraved in the blades they carried. The city let them in, as it did all acolytes, but as if swallowing food it was not accustomed to and ’didn’t particularly like. It coughed and gagged, people on the streets looking the other way, mothers ushering their young indoors. There was something about this pair the city didn’t trust, something more than the peculiarity of the father’s beard and the daughter’s burning hair. Any village fool could tell that they carried misdeeds in their pockets, that their pilgrimage was dishonest.

The journey had taken months, and now the father was too tired to walk. His daughter pulled him down the narrow streets in a wooden cart, bumping across unfriendly cobblestones without so much as a stumble. The locals found her strength disquieting, staring from their windows as she pulled her father along like some aged product nobody would buy. Strength like that was not natural in a girl, and shouldn’t be encouraged.

The old man squinted through heavy eyelids at the shining buildings, stiffly adjusting himself atop the armor and longsword that served as his bedfellows in the cart. “Where are we?” he asked hoarsely.

“Gayamiza, Father,” his daughter panted, not turning around to look at him. “Don’’t you recognize it?”

“No,” he croaked after a moment. “I’ve never been here.”

She knew that wasn’t true. The countless times he’d ventured to this place when she was a child, only to return with bowed head to a home sunk deeper and deeper in disgrace and poverty. She tightened her grip on the handles of the cart and leaned forward with determination. Her father would know something other than shame before he died. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 757: TALES FROM THE VAULTS – Harlequin Moon

Show Notes

Rated PG


This episode is a part of our Tales from the Vaults series, in which a member of PodCastle’s staff chooses a backlist episode to highlight and discuss. This week’s episode was chosen by associate editor Hamilton Perez.

“Harlequin Moon” originally aired as PodCastle 393.

Harlequin Moon

by Jennifer Hykes

The man called Dirt was a master of riddles. It was his only gift.

He was not a riddler himself. From the time he could speak, he always called things exactly what they were and nothing else. He had tried, once or twice in his childhood, to craft a joke or to weave a pair of clever words together. But every time he tried to twist something sideways, he found that his tongue would not cooperate. So he stopped trying to be clever and went on his way, moving through his life in a straight line from day before to day after. He worked the fields on his family’s farm, he carted vegetables to market, he paid his respects to the temple gods at all the appropriate times. He grew tall and broad of shoulder, but even in the prime of his youth he moved with the deliberate calm of old age. He was not a riddler.

But he was a master at solving riddles.

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PodCastle 733: Flash Fiction Extravaganza – Rough Patches

Show Notes

“Water We Made to Breathe” Rated PG-13

“Secret Keepers” Rated PG

“A Partial Record of Enchanted Cheeses I’ve Fed My Wife” Rated PG

Water We Made to Breathe

By Marisca Pichette

When we were fourteen we went looking for the ocean at the heart of the woods. I remember the smell: earth and algae and damp, air thick as water. Our sweat mixing with the summer sun, our clothes in a pile on the shore. Max jumped in, his shoulders swallowed by green waves.

I could never tell Max’s parents why I came back alone. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 727: [NOWRUZ SPECIAL] “Two Siblings, Seven Fish”

Show Notes

Rated PG-13

Two Siblings, Seven Fish

by Rebecca Zahabi


Maybe this story started when Dad inherited the calabash; or maybe when my great-grandfather ran his thumb along its rugged surface, listening to the coins rattling within; or maybe even before then, when it was still green and growing, waiting to be plucked, carved and dried.

But for me, it started with an argument with my sister, Shadi. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 726: The Elixary of the Evanescent Market

Show Notes

Rated PG

The Elixary of the Evanescent Market

by Marina Ermakova

Iris eyed the interior of the carriage with caution as the train came to a screeching halt. Potions clinked against the clamps which held them in their travel positions, but didn’t come loose in a crash of shattering glass. A wheeled cart smashed against the wall it was tied to, yet failed to dislodge from its bindings and turn into a bludgeoning projectile.

There was still the other carriage, the one that served as a workshop instead of a storefront, but Aunt was inside of it. Aunt had decades more experience with combustible potions than she did.

Which meant that everything had arrived intact, and Iris could allow herself to relax.

The creak of metal hinges signaled Aunt’s arrival though the carriage door. The older woman set a brisk pace for the glass cabinets, bolted in place. Iris rushed to help in unclasping the vials, knowing they had a small window of time before the train announced its arrival to potential customers.

“You will be on your own, so remember never to open the orange potions,” Aunt lectured her. “I specifically color the dangerous ones orange.”

“I know,” Iris said, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. She was not going to magically forget everything she’d learned in the past few years just because Aunt didn’t remind her.

“And if a customer becomes unruly — ”

“Aunt, I know.”

Aunt stopped loosening one of the clasps and turned piercing gray eyes upon her apprentice. “Iris,” she admonished. “You may believe nothing will go wrong. Most likely, nothing will go wrong. But there is a real possibility of danger, and if that should happen . . . what would you even do?” A glint of concern appeared behind her eyes. “Perhaps I should stay.”

Alarm rose within Iris. “No, no, I’m sorry! I am taking this seriously. I even have a list of all your instructions written down.”

What would she do if Aunt decided not to visit her friend after all? If she continued to hover over the shop, watching Iris’s work, she would intercept customers before Iris could handle them! How long would it be before Iris had another opportunity for freedom, where her every move did not need to meet with Aunt’s approval?

Aunt’s sharp eyes raked over her apprentice’s apologetic form. “All right,” the woman finally said, the words like a weight being lifted. “Hurry up, then, and get this dreary place decorated.” (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 724: The Cinnamon Thread

Show Notes

Rated PG

The Cinnamon Thread

by Beth Goder

Anna is grateful to lie on the bed in the cool house where there are no expectations, no labyrinthine thoughts to swallow her in the night. Outside, the wrens muck about in shallow water. Waves rush up against the sand. Dusk seeps in through windows thick with salt lines.

She sleeps, dreamless, hearing the ocean trembling against the shore.

In the morning, searchers glide by, crowding through the hallway, meshing into each other and apart again.

One stops to examine her room, a man with a trim beard and thick glasses.

“Which room are you looking for?” he asks.

“I came here last night,” she says.

“Do you know how the house works?”

Anna shrugs. The night before, she came upon a tangle of threads in the entrance and followed the one that smelled like cinnamon, the scent like a tangible fragment of her childhood, the kitchen with the cracked red phone, her mother’s famous cinnamon cookies. The thread led her to this room, where she slept, pulled into quiet unconsciousness, pulled back by footsteps in the hall. The skein of thread is now in her satchel, wound tight, along with a pair of scraggly mittens and a kitchen device that is only good for coring apples, this detritus of her life that she isn’t even sure how she acquired.

“You’ll want to have a strategy.” He points to a beige door. “You could try by color or by size. You could try every door until you get tired.” He pulls a hair out of his short beard. “Yesterday, I hiked all day and tried the last door only.”

“What did you find?” (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 713: Candy Canes, Comics, and Christmas

Show Notes

Rated PG

Candy Canes, Comics, and Christmas

by Gary McKay

I met Marlene atop Lily Hill on December 17th 1983, two weeks after my tenth birthday. The news of the Harrods bombing — the IRA’s crime against Christmas — was all the talk in Ballykey that afternoon, but I was too young to understand. I’d popped out to get some sweets and on a whim, decided to climb Lily Hill while the weather wasn’t awful. This was one of my favourite places to read superhero comics in peace — at home, Ma told me I was filling my head with nonsense and at school, both the boys and girls teased me. It’s grown in popularity in recent years as a tourist destination, but back then, not many people came to Lily Hill, which suited me just fine.

I didn’t realise someone was already there until I rounded the final bend of the hill. It was a girl with short, blonde hair, dressed in a jumper and skirt. A necklace with a series of stars on it hung from her neck. I paused and considered retreating, but she’d seen me. The girl waved and skipped over before I could move.

(Continue Reading…)