Archive for Rated R

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PodCastle 663: Our Mortal Undressing

Show Notes

Rated R.


Our Mortal Undressing

by Hamilton Perez

I. Discovery

I suppose I’m chasing the wildflowers.

I first found them while digging for worms. It’s not very often an earthworm dies of old age, but this one called to me, bloated and weary, with its body caked in pollen and a belly full of decay. The soil was soft and moist to my mouth, rich with nutrients I had no need for, yet there was something familiar about it also. Like I’d loved and tasted this earth. Like it was a part of me, and I was a part of it. Slinking through the soil, something called to me, and not just the worm.

Over mineral and plant debris, rib bones and stones, I chewed my path downward. The others wriggled desperately away from me, until I found my heart’s desire curled up in the soft, fleshy remains of a lifeform already passed.

That’s when I remembered: No . . . she’d said upon meeting me, and nothing more ever again. As far as recognition goes, it’s not the worst I’ve encountered. She was a stubborn one though, suffering constantly yet refusing to leave. A deep gash sank through her belly, coated with red. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 662: La Camaraderie du Cirque

Show Notes

Rated R.


La Camaraderie du Cirque

By dave ring

Gather round, and let me tell you the story of Veronica’s Oiseau de Feu.

They were dark times, for me.  Every bloody day, Chuckles, Magda and Felix tried to trip me when I walked by, ugly faces snickering underneath their greasepaint.  My everything, Michel, ignored them, even when they pull that shit right in front of him.  It infuriated me.  He said it was to preserve “the camaraderie du cirque.”  I loved Michel.  But when Michel stood by doing nothing while those painted-mouth idiots tormented me, my love was lost in a rage that could turn a forest into cinders.

On those days, I screamed into my pillow: “Fuck the camaraderie du cirque!”  Though my pillow did just as little as Michel to salve my wounds.

Before my banishment from the tent, I used to lurk behind the cheap velvet curtains and watch Michel and Lars from backstage after all the tickets had been sold and the punters put in their seats.  Dear Michel and sweet, foolish Lars.  Our main act.  Under the lights, they gleamed.  They wore tiny silver posing pouches and white cords criss-crossed around their muscled limbs, like they’d been the pawns of bondage-minded sailors.  As if you could pull at a loose string and the two of them would fall apart into a sloppy pile of oiled pectorals, triceps and thighs. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 660: TALES FROM THE VAULTS — The Husband Stitch

Show Notes

Rated R. 

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 Kaitlyn Zivanovich. “The Husband Stitch” originally aired as PodCastle 409.


The Husband Stitch

By Carmen Maria Machado

(If you read this story out loud, please use the following voices:

Me: as a child, high-pitched, forgettable; as a woman, the same.

The boy who will grow into a man, and be my spouse: robust with his own good fortune.

My father: Like your father, or the man you wish was your father.

My son: as a small child, gentle, rounded with the faintest of lisps; as a man, like my husband.

All other women: interchangeable with my own.) (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 656: What My Flies Keep for Me

Show Notes

Rated R.


What My Flies Keep For Me

By Shaoni C. White

There’s a dead body on the floor. This is a bad thing. I’m having trouble recalling why that’s the case, but I’m sure it’ll come back to me soon. I fastidiously clean the blade of the knife on the shirt that the body is wearing, because the knife is my brother’s and it’s rude to return things you’ve borrowed in poor condition. That’s what the flies resting on the curve of my ear are telling me. They’re very helpful, although I dearly miss their compatriots. The world is jagged and confusing without them. I look around and see dozens of things that don’t seem quite right, and I can recall the shape of the insect voices that ordinarily remind me why they’re wrong, but I can’t summon up the words they would use to explain it.

Unsure where to put the knife, I carry it loosely in my hand as I step carefully over the puddled blood. “Cleanliness is essential,” hums a fly as it takes off and orbits my head. “It’s important to keep shared living spaces clean and tidy so as not to inconvenience the people you live with.”

Another fly agrees. “It’s bad to inconvenience people.”

“Can you help me figure out what to do next?” I ask, but the flies just hum their murmured endorsements of cleanliness and consideration. “Should I clean up the mess?”

Yes,” buzzes one. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 653: Why Aren’t Millennials Continuing Traditional Worship of the Elder Dark?

Show Notes

Rated R.


Why Aren’t Millennials Continuing Traditional Worship of the Elder Dark?

By Matt Dovey

In a generational shift that some claim threatens the fabric of existence and the sanity of all humanity, surveys show that worship of the Elder Dark is at a record low for one particular group—millennials.

Bob Rawlins is worried. “When I was growing up in the 1950s, I made my obeisance before the Manifold Insanity every night, uttering the invocations to satiate the Watchers Just Beyond and keep them at bay for one day longer. But young people now aren’t prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.”

I remind him that human sacrifice was deemed unnecessary and illegal in 1985, and animal sacrifice in 2009.

“Well I don’t mean literally,” he says, though there’s a note of longing to his tone.

Bob is showing me round his inner sanctum, a converted basement given over to the worship and appeasement of the Unknowable Gods. He’s the Grand Dark Supplicant of his local chapter, and is continuing a long family tradition: men of his bloodline have been bound to the service of the Elder Dark since the days of the Pilgrims.

“Our ranks are already thin,” he says, resting a hand intimately on an idol of the Ten Thousand Staring Eyes. “I worry the world I’ll leave behind will be overrun by the gibbering horrors of the between spaces, ushering in a never-ending age of nightmares and insurmountable monstrosities. It breaks my heart to think of the Eight Palms golf course getting swallowed by a roiling pit of blackness. Hole five’s a real beauty.” (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 652: Apple

Show Notes

Rated R.


Apple

By L. S. Johnson

Her Names

They were twelve, and between them they encompassed Dawn, Dusk, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Seed, Blossom, Harvest, Maiden, Mother, and Crone; that is to say, they were complete. Thus, when a thirteenth fairy emerged from the breath of sun upon earth they were to a one confused. None of them had expected another sister. They waited for some time — perhaps there would be more? For they had come in pairs and trios before, and Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter had practically exploded out of the same minute point of light. But no one else emerged for some time.

Finally, they looked to Dawn, who was eldest, and she looked at the new fairy and sighed. “What are you?” she asked plaintively.

The fairy didn’t know. She was fifteen minutes old and quite astonished at existing.

“We have to call her something,” Crone pointed out. (When her trio had emerged from the breath of the sun and were asked what they were, Maiden had said “beautiful,” Mother had rolled her eyes, and Crone had said “wiser than you.”)

The twelve fairies looked around, trying to think of what this one, singular fairy could be. Time slipped past, and they had other tasks to do, but still they could not think of a thing.

At last Dawn, who had been up for some time and wanted to nap, gestured to the nearest object. “We’ll call her Apple,” she declared, “until she figures out who she is.” (Continue Reading…)

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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 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 647: The South China Sea

Show Notes

Rated R.


The South China Sea

By Z.M. Quỳnh

They are in the fragmentation of raindrops during monsoon season and the quivering of evaporating dew in the dawn of sea salt mornings. I am intimately familiar with them for I have always been surrounded by spirits. Our village was built around a cemetery abandoned during the war. That was where we migrated to when our hamlet was massacred and over a thousand lives lost. Ghosts were seen as regularly as any villager, wandering through the tombstones in our gardens, passing the evening dinner table, and swirling in the incense in our temples. I often caught a glimpse of them in the air as if in shards of broken glass. With them always lingered a scent.

It was this same scent that permeated the air when we drifted into the crests of the South China Sea. It was intermingled with the smell of misery and remorse and the taste of sweetened rust, as if you plunged an abandoned nail into sugar cane and then sucked on it for days on end. I knew then that we had ventured into that ghostly stretch of sea in which the souls of people still lingered aimlessly, struggling against the powerful waves, gagging at the descent of salt water into their lungs, playing out their deaths over and over again as their hope for life somehow continued long after their demise.

As soon as her swells began to coil around the boat, I felt the mood on board shift. Elders grouped together above us on the deck to set up a small altar. Damp joss sticks were lit and inserted into nicks in the wood and muffled invocations whispered.

“Let us pass in peace dear sister, dear brother, dear mother, father.”

From the darkness of the cabin below, I felt them pass through me, the victims of the sea, friends and family and strangers. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 645: God Damn, How Real Is This?

Show Notes

Thanks to Nightwood Editions for allowing us to reprint the text of this story and to ECW Press for allowing us to run an excerpt from the collection’s audiobook; this audiobook was produced as a part of ECW Press’s Bespeak Audio Imprint. You can purchase the print version of this book here and the audiobook here.


God Damn, How Real Is This?

By Doretta Lau

My future self sends me a text message at least once a day.

The latest: Hey, tricho-slut, get your man hands out of our hair. I have a Lake Michigan–shaped bald spot forming on the back of my head. stop plucking. it’s starting to look like a penis.

Last I checked there were no Great Lakes of any sort blooming on my scalp, no Superiors or Hurons or Eries flooding my hair. Of late, these missives from the future have become increasingly more abusive. I wonder, when will I flip my bitch switch and hop on this negative self-talk train? In a week? In a year? I’d like to believe this use of misogynistic language is out of character and that maybe I’m being trolled by a bored identity thief. I file the thought as something for my present self to discuss with my now therapist.

Another message flashes on my phone: That mole on your left arm that you’ve been ignoring? Get thee to a doctor. (Continue Reading…)