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PodCastle 745: A Beautiful Memory

Show Notes

Rated PG-13


The music for the promotion intro is “Sneaky Snitch” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

 

Hey everyone, Alasdair here – hope you’re doing okay. The summer months are upon us, which means two things – hat weather for yours truly, and the part of our year when costs are high and support tends to dip. We know things are tight everywhere at the moment, and that includes us. For those of you who support us already, thank you so much. We hope you’re enjoying the great new CatsCast episodes. If you’d like to join them, we’ve got tons of options for you at Patreon and PayPal. Even a one-off at Ko-fi makes a big difference, or check out our great new swag store – maybe like me you need a hat! It all adds up, and helps us bring you the best in free audio fiction every week. Thanks, and enjoy this week’s episode.


A Beautiful Memory

by Shannon Peavey

 

On Thursday, a windsor-knotted businessman paid Anna three times her normal asking price for a quartet of thought-birds. She normally sold two at a time, because their growth was so slow. But he insisted. A bird of each flavor: contentment, melancholy, joy, fury.

“A few of the guys at work have taken up competitive birdsong,” he told her as he wrote the check. He had sharp breath, with the whisper of a three-martini lunch. “But they’re just using finches or sparrows. This one guy’s got a bunch of pigeons. Seriously.”

“I see,” Anna said, and stroked the melancholy bird’s head with one finger. It let out a sad little trill.

“So what do these things eat, anyway?”

“Seeds,” she said. “They’re just birds.”

She gave him the same form she gave all new customers — with a list of proper birdfoods and signs of good health: the dos and do-nots of birdkeeping. She didn’t tell him that holding the melancholy bird would make him feel like his heart would break, or that listening to the joyous bird could induce midlife crises. If he’d come to her, he should already know.

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 744: Double Feature! I Will You Back to Time and Space; The Ocean-Eyed Boy

Show Notes

Rated PG-13.


The music for the promotion intro is “Sneaky Snitch” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

 

Hey everyone, Alasdair here – hope you’re doing okay. The summer months are upon us, which means two things – hat weather for yours truly, and the part of our year when costs are high and support tends to dip. We know things are tight everywhere at the moment, and that includes us. For those of you who support us already, thank you so much. We hope you’re enjoying the great new CatsCast episodes. If you’d like to join them, we’ve got tons of options for you at Patreon and PayPal. Even a one-off at Ko-fi makes a big difference, or check out our great new swag store – maybe like me you need a hat! It all adds up, and helps us bring you the best in free audio fiction every week. Thanks, and enjoy this week’s episode.


I Will You Back to Time and Space

by Dafydd McKimm

 

You are ten years unborn on the evening of the day that will soon become known as G-day. I am washing dishes in the kitchen of our newly bought terrace, cleaning the residue of dinner from our finest boot-sale porcelain. I bring two glasses of wine over to the sofa, where your mother is yawning contentedly, and touch my glass gently to hers. The clink sings through the stuffy air.

“Cheers, fellow homeowner,” I say.

Your mother grins, takes a sip of her wine. Then her eyes focus on something behind me. Her glass falls; she screams; and I turn to see them for the first time: two hulking things, arms thick as tree trunks, barrel-chested, those beetle-browed primate eyes focused so intensely on us. I shout, curse, push your mother back, my head ringing like the resounding clink of the wine glasses but an alien moment ago.

Soon enough, we find out the gorillas aren’t just there for the two of us. They’re everywhere, following every living person, and they’re here to stay.

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 743: Ribbons

Show Notes

Rated R


Ribbons

by Natalia Theodoridou

 

Monday’s lover tugs at Jan’s ribbon with his teeth. Jan doesn’t yell at the lover to stop. The guy just received bad news from the front — a friend lost to a bomb, perhaps, a sibling blown to bits; Jan doesn’t ask. He tells the lover, instead, to be careful: We don’t want my head rolling off now, do we? We’ve all heard of them, after all, the stories of women taking it off and their heads falling to the ground.

Monday’s lover nods and keeps his teeth to himself. Says he’s never seen a guy with a ribbon before.

What can I say, love? Jan tells him. I’m special. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 742: The Morning House

Show Notes

Rated PG-13


The Morning House

By Kate Heartfield

 

“This B&B is frankly unacceptable,” Dad says. “I want to go home.”

Sylvia freezes, runs through all the things she shouldn’t say.

You are home, Dad.

No, don’t argue. Never argue. Rule number one. Don’t dismiss. Get into his world, because he can’t get into yours.

Don’t you remember? You bought this house before I was born. You and Mom.

Don’t mention Mom, for God’s sake. Maybe today he doesn’t know she’s dead.

I know you think it’s a bed and breakfast, but this is actually your house. We all live here, now. Me and Kayla and David and you, together. Remember, Dad? Remember? We moved in with you, in March, after the diagnosis. But this is still your house.


(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 741: Between The Island and the Deep Blue Sea

Show Notes

Rated PG-13


Between The Island and the Deep Blue Sea

By Jaxon Tempest

 

No one knew how the island floated, but everyone knew it shouldn’t.

Four thousand square miles of concrete bones and metal veins, a million people circulating daily, and yet it sat in the middle of the Atlantic like a feather on a still pond. Even those with the most rudimentary understanding of physics would cry bullshit. Everyone had their theories, of course. Some called it an act of God, others a miracle of science, and a small yet loud minority called it a 10G interface meant to hack into their minds as a part of the new world order. When the three clashed, normal family dinners and rail rides to work turned into a three-ring circus of physics, theology and conspiracy theories.

I watched their interactions with a subdued smile. They were wrong, but their commitment to their ideals was adorable.

In rare instances, the three sides of the debate came together — when outside forces got involved. They came in the form of greedy foreigners with deep pockets and silver tongues. The Bahamas was no stranger to such people, even before the sea rose over the islands. They promised investments and jobs and economic boosts, then took all their money and fled the country at the slightest inconvenience.

It wasn’t different now. Instead of exploiting the sun, sand, and sea, they exploited the island’s secret, chased it like a cryptid. They came with cameras, diving equipment, and promises to uncover the mystery. Despite the warnings from the locals, they dove into the tongue of the ocean.

I killed them all. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 740: Beck’s Pest Control and the Case of the Drag Show Downer

Show Notes

Rated PG-13


Beck’s Pest Control and the Case of the Drag Show Downer

by Abra Staffin-Wiebe

 

I was sitting at the kitchen table, eating breakfast and arguing with my daughter, when my work phone broke the silence of our discussion.

Not happening, I signed, quickly swallowing my last bite of peanut butter toast so I could talk on the phone. Bedbug infestations are a no-go.

Moooooom, she answered, holding the word for emphasis. You promised!

“Beck’s Pest Control,” I answered my phone. “This is Beck. How can we help you?”

My mind was still on my argument with my daughter. I had promised, a month ago. You can’t break promises to kids, not even when they ambush you in a moment of weakness. And I confess, I was proud of her grasp of strategy.

Annie’s a smart, observant girl. She waited until I came back from a rough call. She ran me a bubble bath. She let me soak away the last traces of puke and ectoplasm. She waited until I settled into my armchair with a cup of hot chocolate, also provided by her. Then she’d sprung her request on me.

“Yeah,” a male voice answered me. “José Hernández said you might be able to . . . fix my problem?”

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 739: ‘Til Death

Show Notes

Rated PG-13


‘Til Death

by C. J. Lavigne

 

My dear Clarinda,

They tell me that when you heard of my wedding, you shattered a goblet, fell to the floor in a swooning fit, and did not arise for three days. I hear that the entirety of the manor was wreathed in black. Really, darling, it seems a bit much. I’m fine.

I know it’s not the choice you would have made. If it’s any consolation . . . in the moment when I found myself there, caught between the noble prince and the eternal night, I did think of you. It was all very dramatic, Jordan standing there in a shaft of brilliant light, his hand outstretched, begging me to leave Gareth’s side. I was glad he’d thought to break the window boards, or that whole scene would have been significantly bloodier; I could feel Gareth, pressed against my back, and his fingers were gentle on my shoulder but his teeth were bared.

Your voice was there, I promise. I heard you say think of the sunlight and death is what gives life meaning and he has loved you since childhood and, yes, all of it was true. So please don’t feel guilty; don’t think “if I’d only been there” or “she was confused” or “I could have changed her mind.” I wasn’t confused. You didn’t change my mind. But I know you, and I knew you would have tried.

We are very different people, you and I.

I hope, though, that we can still be friends. I assure you, I retain all of our life’s affections, and I wish you only the best. I won’t visit; Gareth tells me it will take time before the bloodlust abates, and I do not wish to frighten or harm you. But write back! Just give the parchment to a spider, or a bat — leave it on the windowsill, if you like. They will know it’s for me.

 

All my heart,

D.

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 738: The Bones Beneath

Show Notes

Rated PG-13


The Bones Beneath

by Vanessa Fogg

 

Four years ago, the bones began pushing up from the earth. Fay is now seventeen, and she feels the bones’ movements more strongly each year. It’s the end of winter, but not yet the beginning of spring. Snowmelt has turned the fields to mud, and the grass is dead and brown. The trees still bare, the air still chill. Mist in the morning, or her own breath white as frost.

She wakes in the darkness, dresses, and combs her hair. She puts the tea kettle on the stove, heats bread on the griddle beside it. Her father has already left for his job in the local government’s accounting office. Her mother lies abed late. Like many, Fay’s mother suffers spells of sleeplessness and dizziness at this time of year, and headaches that make her cover her eyes.

Fay leaves a bit of bread on a plate for her little brother when he wakes. She closes the front door behind her.

The bare field is on the outskirts of town, several miles away. But she can still feel it as she walks to school. She feels the movement of buried bones there, the remains of the little creatures of the earth — mice, voles, and moles. Things that once saw light, and things that stayed underground, blind and digging. Hidden things, forgotten things.

Deep underneath, the earth is frozen. But it’s thawing near the surface. Fay feels the twitch and shiver of waking bones in the dirt, like the wingbeats of new birds trying to fly. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 737: The Eight Hundred Legs of the Rio-Niterói Bridge

Show Notes

Rated PG-13


The Eight Hundred Legs of the Rio-Niterói Bridge

by Renan Bernardo

 

Have you seen pictures of the unfinished Presidente Costa e Silva Bridge, with its columns telling stories of falls and drownings like tombstones for the never found and the cemented alive?

I saw many in 1972, soon after Papai vanished during the bridge’s construction, mostly by peering over my mother’s shoulders while she flipped through documents and pictures, sobbing and wondering if some ferryman could’ve rescued Papai. Perhaps a fisherman saw a hand waving desperately for help in the water? How could she be sure without staring into the glazed, distant eyes of a deceased husband? After those days, I convinced myself I’d never look at pictures of the bridge under construction again, those tall columns with their gray, ominous girders jutting out of the stone like the last, frantic gestures of hands begging for help.

Except now, twenty years after the accident, I have pictures of the unfinished bridge scattered over my desk.

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 736: The Gorgon’s Glass

Show Notes

Rated PG-13


The Gorgon’s Glass

by M.E. Bronstein

 

There are people who try to blame Oken’s unhappy demise on the Gorgon, but if you read Oken’s notebooks carefully (and it’s my job to read his notebooks carefully), you know that he was already dying when he first met her. In fact, that is why he sought the Gorgon out; he needed someone to craft his “monument more lasting than bronze” — i.e. a brilliant thing to preserve his memory.

In his notes, Oken often revisits his first meeting with the Gorgon:

. . . Certain denizens of the township nearest to the Gorgon’s workshop attempted to dissuade me from seeking her out. They called her a witch. It is disheartening, though hardly surprising that her style of artistic production would elicit such reactions. I ventured into the Swamp anyway, and rather enjoyed my solitary escapade into the wilderness, until I found myself caught in circles and stumbled across the same lightning-blasted yew, again and again.

Then I heard a silken rustle, and beheld, in frightening proximity, a serpent — it unfurled from a ragged hole in the moss, a faint rainbow iridescence clinging to its scales. I stepped backwards in careless haste and a rock gave way beneath my foot; I fell upon my rear, something tore, and there was the snake, a line of wriggling calligraphy some demonic hand had written into the earth. It came closer and closer, and I realized with horror that my trousers were quite firmly caught upon a bramble. I struggled and cried out —

I could not die in such a manner (so many intelligent medical men had already foretold another end for me, and how impolite to contradict them!).

And then — the artist herself.

A slight creature with flyaway black-and-gray hair and a grimly set jaw. She wore a ragged shawl and a basket across one shoulder.

She stared fixedly at the serpent, then drew closer, careful not to make a sound, to stir any rocks, all the while untying her shawl — which she then tossed so that it fell across the beast. It writhed, confused by the sudden surrounding weight. The Gorgon pounced upon her quarry, bundled her shawl into a knot, and tossed it into the basket lashed across her back.

To think that so wild a creature should be my object! But there are mysteries and powers beyond our understanding that often choose strange receptacles for their dearest secrets.

(Continue Reading…)