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Miniature 20: Okra, Sorghum, Yam

Show Notes

Rated G. Contains three princesses.


Okra, Sorghum, Yam

by Bruce Holland Rogers

In his vegetable garden, Old Kwaku planted collard and okra and cowpeas. He showed the second princess how to cut the weeds down with a sharpened stick.

“I don’t think I’m learning any wisdom,” she said. “And look at my hands! Imagine what they’ll look like at the end of the summer!”

“Here is part of wisdom,” Old Kwaku said, and he began to rearrange some okra pods while they were still on their mother plants. He pulled one and nudged another and coaxed a third. He moved this one and that one together and tied the pods together in the shape of a little green person.

“That doesn’t look like wisdom to me,” the princess said. “Oh, I’m going to go home and die in my father’s house, an old maid!”

 

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PC032: Senator Bilbo


Senator Bilbo

by Andy Duncan

Dear Americans,

Happy Election Day. As we all go to the polls and wait with mixed anticipation and anxiety for the poll results, PodCastle is happy to bring you into the electoral politics of another world — Tolkein’s — dealing with a trope all sides of the political spectrum can agree on, corrupt senators.

The rest of the world, I hope you’ll forgive our electoral America-centrism, and I hope you enjoy the story.

The Senator jotted down Appledore’s name without pause. He could get a lot of work done while making speeches – even a filibuster nine hours long (and counting).

“There are forces at work today, my friends, without and within our homeland, that are attempting to destroy all boundaries between our proud, noble race and all the mule-gnawing, cave-squatting, light- shunning, pit-spawned scum of the East.”

The Senator’s voice cracked on “East,” so he turned aside for a quaff from his (purely medicinal) pocket flask. His allies did not miss their cue. “Hear, hear,” they rumbled, thumping the desktops with their calloused heels. “Hear, hear.”

“This latest proposal,” the Senator continued, “this so-called immigration bill – which, as I have said, would force even our innocent daughters to suffer the reeking lusts of all the ditch-bred legions of darkness – why, this baldfooted attempt originated where, my friends?”

“Buckland!” came the dutiful cry.

“Why, with the delegation from Buckland. . . long known to us all as a hotbed of book-mongers, one-Earthers, elvish sympathizers, and other off-brands of the halfling race.”

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PodCastle Miniature 19: Cask of Amontillado

Show Notes

Rated R. Happy Halloween.


Cask of Amontillado

by Edgar Allen Poe

I said to him –“My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking to-day. But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts.”

“How?” said he. “Amontillado, A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!”

“I have my doubts,” I replied; “and I was silly enough to pay the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain.”

“Amontillado!”

“I have my doubts.”

“Amontillado!”

“And I must satisfy them.”

“Amontillado!”

“As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchresi. If any one has a critical turn it is he. He will tell me –”

“Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry.”

“And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.

“Come, let us go.”

“Whither?”

“To your vaults.”

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PC031: Colin and Ishmael in the Dark

Show Notes

Rated R. Dark as an oubliette.

The fifth of our Halloween features, continuing through October 31.


Colin and Ishmael in the Dark

by William Shunn

In the total darkness, the incessant drip! drip! of limewater on stone was the only sound to be heard. Steady as the beating of a heart, ceaseless as the motion of the stars, that sound filled the darkness, fed the darkness, became the darkness. It stitched the seconds together loosely into minutes, the minutes into long ragged hours, and the hours into great tattered sheets that flapped like ghosts in an unseen wind, leaving behind only gray threads of time to mark their passage as they unraveled. In all of creation there was only dripping water, and beyond the reach of its echoes the world no longer existed.

This changed only twice a day, when metal ground harshly against metal and the bolt sprang back from the rusted lock with the sound of a crossbow quarrel being loosed. This particular
day began like every other–the resonant creak of the hinges, the crushing reverberation as the door slammed shut, the tread of steel-toed boots crossing the damp stone floor and then pausing. “Breakfast, Ishmael,” said a voice worn into a sing-song by the repetitiveness its daily routine.

“Just put it there on the settee, will you?” This dry voice spoke wryly and precisely.

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PodCastle Miniature 18: Scar Stories

Show Notes

Rated R. A touch of horror.

The fourth of our Halloween features, which will be continuing through October 31.


Scar Stories

by Vylar Kaftan

We’re mixing punch when he asks us about scars.

“Everyone has at least one,” our guest says. “They’re always good stories, too.”

 

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PC030: Grand Guignol


Grand Guignol

by Andy Duncan

…today he brought me a sack of eyeballs of which, before God, not one was usable. Stress? Love? Syphillis? Who can say? I am saddened beyond speculation.

The instant I hefted the sack, I knew. A director senses these things. Yet to appease Charles, I dutifully hefted each eyeball, rolled it in my fingers, inspected it, flung it to the floor. Not one bounced — not one! Smack, smack, smack, like so many eggs. They surrounded my desk, gazing up at my shame.

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PodCastle Miniature 017: All Flee the Vocab. Quiz

Show Notes

Rated PG. Contains Lovecraftian references, and three dollar words.

An Escape Pod flash fiction contest submission.


All Flee the Vocab. Quiz

by Kristine Dikeman

She was about 12, maybe a little younger. It’s not so easy to tell with kids, especially girls. This one looked normal enough, pink puffy coat, blond hair up in a scrunchy thing, vinyl backpack with a cartoon character — an anthropomorphic block of ice — plastered across the side. She moved down the aisle of the lurching bus with the ease of a career sailor and plopped herself down next to me.

Pulling out a pack of well-thumbed index cards, she stripped off the rubber band and held them tight in both hands, staring hard, lips moving with grim concentration. Vocab quiz. I could almost hear the electric impulses zapping through her gray matter as she tried to soak in the knowledge before she reached school. Her lips moved softly as she repeated the words to herself.

I peeked over her shoulder.

    eviscerate
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PodCastle 29: Dead Languages

Show Notes

Rated PG. Contains vampires, ass-kicking, and hijinx.

UPDATE: Several listeners were kind enough to point out that there were errors in today’s audio file. A revised file has been uploaded, as of 11:10 pm ET, Oct 17, 2008.


Dead Languages

by Merrie Haskell

“I have a confession,” Annabel said, steering the car into the snow-dusted mall parking lot. “I have involved us in a crazy scheme.

“Oh?” I asked, suddenly alert to my get-away options. Crazy schemes and Annabel had been getting me into trouble since I was six, when she convinced me to steal all the crayons from the art room to melt into a giant ball of wax.

“I’ve gotten you the lead in an independent short film.”

“What?” I shrieked. I admit: not my witty best, but I was trying to be discreet in wrapping my fingers around the door handle and calculating the car’s speed.

Annabel locked the car and smiled with a vague and friendly sort of evil. “There’s no need to thank me.”

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PodCastle Miniature 015: The Voices of Snakes

Show Notes

Rated PG. Contains serpents and Greek mythology.


The Voices of Snakes

by Karina Sumner-Smith

At last the viper stirred, woken by his brethrens’ twisting and whispering. Rising, he said slowly, softly, “Yes, beautiful. Let us see the sun.”

He was the oldest, the largest and the cruelest, and from the very first day the mere sound of his voice had made her feel cold. Once he had tormented her, taunted her with words far crueler than the grass snake could ever utter; her ears and the line of her jaw, the curves of her shrunken breasts, still bore the scarred marks of his teeth and the memory of his venom.

She had endured decades of his abuse — decades thinking that she deserved such treatment — and then fought back in the bloody decades that followed. He was immune from her great weapon, but she’d found he had no escape from her temper, her teeth or her claws. They had a truce now, their enmity tempered by centuries together. Beautiful, he still called her, and she allowed him the entertainment of this tired mockery.

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PC028: The Tanuki-Kettle

Show Notes

Rated G. Contains objects and animals that refuse to remain in their platonic categories.


The Tanuki-Kettle

by Eugie Foster

As she opened the door, Hisa was surprised to see an iron kettle sitting on her step. It had a large, round belly and four stumpy legs. The spout was wide and curved like a fox’s mouth with two round, black eyes above it. And most curious, a pair of pointed triangles jutted from the top, exactly like a pair of ears.

“What an unusual teakettle.” Hisa looked, but there was no one about.

She set aside her broken pot and brought the new, iron one inside. She poured sweet, cool water into it. Where her old kettle took eight dippers of water, this new one required a full twelve to fill.

Hisa stoked the fire high and lifted the kettle to the hook.

“Mistress, I thank you for the drink, but please don’t put me on the fire.”

Hisa spun around, sloshing water on the floor. “Who said that?”

“It was I, mistress. The teakettle.”

Hisa stared at the iron pot in her hands. “Teakettles do not talk.”

“I’m only pretending to be a teakettle.”