There’s a plant in the hedgerow whose berries glimmer like starlight. Gyn passes it every morning on her way to school. Its leaves are waxy beneath her hands, small as the new baby’s fingernails and greener than grass stains on knees. They leave her skin smelling of peppermint.
The berries are blacker than midnight, blacker than her new father’s hair, and Gyn first notices them as her mother stops noticing her. They like to hide under hawthorn leaves or in the joints of holly bushes, but their silver shine in the winter sun gives them away. She’s smarter than the blackbirds and the robins. She understands hidden things.
February is Women in Horror Month, an international initiative which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre. Check out the hashtag WiHM9 for plenty of suggestions. Or if you have the stomach for stronger fair, our sister show PseudoPod.
You can find all our own Women in Horror episodes here!
by Dagny Paul
The first time Leah turned into a fish, she had been small, maybe four, and she’d been sitting with her daddy on the rock that overlooked the lake. He had turned to her with his stubbled smile and his bright blue eyes and asked her if she’d wanted to dive. She didn’t know how to swim, she’d said, and he had said that’s okay, sweetheart, because we’ll be fish.
He’d stripped off his shirt and pulled her to her little feet, and before she’d even had time to think about it they had jumped. She’d never hesitated, never worried. He had never let her down.
After two hours of work, Daria got the space station’s recycler back online without Hugh there to help her. If he had just waited ten minutes while she tried resetting power. If he had let her double-check his gear before his spacewalk, like he was supposed to by all protocols.
“The best busker in the world never plays in the same place twice. He is too busy searching. But maybe, just maybe, you will hear him once. If you hear him, you will have to see him, even if the first notes of his music drift to you from streets away, completely opposite from wherever you intended to go. Once you hear a single note, it will draw you along like an invisible string, tugging at the knot in the center of your chest where you keep your secret fears and disappointments. Wherever you find him— a dusty back street in a sleepy town, a bustling avenue in the rush-hour of a big city, a lonely campground haunted by only a few brave souls and stubborn wanderers— the sight will burn itself into your memory almost as deeply as the music.”
The love of my life died on July third, 1983, at the respectable age of one hundred and nineteen. Oldest man on Earth, according to the good Doctor Hippen.
I can’t say his death came as a shock; when a man reaches that advanced an age, only the absolutely delusional would suggest he buy denture paste in bulk. Still, I hadn’t expected it to happen so suddenly.
We had just begun a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle (always the optimist, my Edgar). One moment, he was looking for a piece of the sky, and the next, he found a piece of his very own. How convenient that his death would coincide with Lasagna Sunday, the bane of his existence.
Once upon a time, in a valley in Lower Saxony just south of Meppen town, there lived an old woman and her two grandchildren.
Helene had been a weaver in her younger days, but over the years the damp of the fens had stolen into her joints, twisting her fingers until they grew as gnarled and useless as the roots of the scrubby trees that crowded the river bank.
Katarin and Klaus had come north with the Spring floods, refugees from the labor pains that accompanied the birth of French democracy. Their father had gone off to fight Napoleon, and their mother, always sickly and lovelorn, wasted away for want of him.
“Welcome to the Starlight Watch,” says Flashback. Red Diamond pops a thumbs-up. The Ocelot gives me what is probably a friendly growl. Statica pumps her fist in the air and grins, her edges blurring slightly. I grin back. “Thanks, guys!” I’m burning up with excitement. I’m joining the Watch! My absolute favorite super-squad! I couldn’t believe it when the Superhero Registration Office assigned me to replace Quantum, may he rest in peace. (Continue Reading…)
I’ll tell it like it never happened, Patrick. Like we were childhood besties swapping knock-knock jokes from the tip-top branches of our favorite climbing tree. That we donned towel capes and played at superheroes, that we took turns being sidekicks so nobody had to play the villain. That it went on like that forever. That we never entered the science fair, and my experiment with exothermic reaction never beat out your atomic clock. That you didn’t resent losing to a girl, because I was your best friend, and it shouldn’t have mattered.
And when The Agency recruited me young on the strength of my scientific promise, and I really got the cape and powers and sidekick, you withdrew into a mechanical exile of your own choosing, all wires and servos and circuit boards.
• Authors: D K Thompson and Shane Halbach
• Narrators: Tina Connolly and M K Hobson
• Audio production by Jeremy Carter
• The Four Stewpots is forthcoming in And Welcome Back, D K Thompson’s first collection.
• Her Path Lay Forward is a Cast of Wonders original!
• Discuss this story on our forum
• For a list of all our stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia page
• Come visit us on Facebook and Twitter
Dave Thompson is a good name to know if you spend any time around Escape Artists. (So is “California King,” or “Easter Werewolf”…) He’s a pretty awesome guy, even if he disparages pumpkin beer. He lives outside Los Angeles with his wife and three terribly photogenic children. While he can tweet up to 175 characters, he refrains from using this power for chaos. Together with co-editor Anna Schwind, he ran PodCastle for five years before stepping down to focus on his own writing in 2015. This story is forthcoming in Dave’s first collection And Welcome Back, which he successfully Kickstarted last year. You can find two of his audio book narrations on Amazon: Norse Code by Greg Van Eekhout and Briarpatch by Tim Pratt. Follow him online or on Twitter.
Tina Connolly is the author of the Ironskin trilogy from Tor Books, and the Seriously Wicked series, from Tor Teen. Ironskin, her first fantasy novel, was a Nebula finalist. Her stories have appeared in Lightspeed, Tor.com, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and many more. Her narrations have appeared in audiobooks and podcasts including Podcastle, Pseudopod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and her Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake.
Shane Halbach lives in Chicago with his wife and three kids, where he writes software by day and avoids writing stories by night. His story Downsizing Pluto appeared in Cast of Wonders Episode 106, all the way back in December of 2013. Additionally, his fiction has appeared in Analog, EscapePod, The Year’s Best YA Speculative Fiction, and elsewhere. He blogs regularly, or can be found on Twitter.
M K Hobson has switched things up recently. While she continues to write, she has been dallying with a newfound love of photography. She’s also been traveling quite a bit, and as a matter of fact today’s story was recorded at Timberhouse in Ottowa, an urban castle and creative paradise. You can find her online and on Twitter.
The Little Wonders theme “Neversus” is by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.
You’re listening to Little Wonders, our thematic flash fiction collections. This week we bring you our final episode for 2014, and lucky number 150 – a pair of stories for the inspired by the Season of Goodwill.
Our first offering is The Secret Ingredient Is by Emmalia Harrington. Emmalia is a writer and librarian who is making her first forays into publishing fiction. She adores fantasy, science fiction and other speculative works, as well as historical fiction and non-fiction. When she isn’t writing, she’s sewing, knitting, cooking or otherwise trying to keep her hands busy.
The story is served up for you by Anne-Louise Fortune, an actor and performer from Manchester. She also finds time to write scripts and the occasional audio drama, and yes, fanfic, as well as taking photographs at ‘geek events’ for Starburst Magazine. On Sundays Anne can be found being the eternally exasperated ‘Producer Al’ for The Bookworm podcast, a part of Fab Radio International. You can also find her on Twitter and follow her adventures as she conquers her fear of heights by learning aerial acrobatics!
Speaking of cozy, our second story is Jamie Lackey’sChristmas Lights. Jamie lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and cat. Her fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the Stoker Award-winning After Death… She’s a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Her short story collection, One Revolution, is available on Amazon. She’s currently editing the anthology Triangulation: Lost Voices, which is open for submissions through the end of February.
You’re listening to Little Wonders, our thematic flash fiction collections. This episode we bring you A Little Laughter.
To start things off, we bring you Continue? by Cast of Wonders alumnus James Vachowski. You may remember James from The Great Game, a multi-part story we ran in 2012. He works as a quality assurance technician for an independent traveling circus, where he strives to ensure that your next ride on the Cyclone is in full compliance with most, if not all, applicable state safety regulations. When he’s not living his dream of seeing the world from the parking lots of local shopping malls and Moose lodges, he writes fiction. You can find James surfing all sorts of corners of the social media space, including Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon, as well as his website.
To narrate this story, we welcome back the dulcet tones of podcasting’s favorite infectious diseases doctor, John Cmar. John splits his time between treating horrors such as syphilis, and molding the next generation of doctors, while repeatedly washing his hands in between. When not herding his five cats or going fanboy over the space endeavors of his wife Moon Ranger Laura, John infectious various podcast and radio projects with his voice. He is the Chief Medical Officer and Bad Doctor in Residence at his personal blog, where he consults and ruminates over all manner of things.
Our next story is The Girl With The Piccolo by Charity Tahmaseb. Charity was a part of our last Little Wonders collection, Trope Twists, with her story Sleeping Beauty. She also has one of my favorite bios.
Charity Tahmaseb has slung corn on the cob for Green Giant and jumped out of airplanes (but not at the same time). She’s worn both Girl Scout and Army green. These days, she writes fiction (long and short) and works as a technical writer. You can find her on Twitter at @geekgirlX2, and at her Writing Wrongs blog.
Your narrator for this story is a new friend I made at LonCon this year, Princess Scientist. She has a new blog you can check out at Creeper Gazette. And I’m hoping she does her video advent calendar again this year, so check out her site around December. While you’re there, ask her about her Gordon Ramsey theory…
Finally this episode, we’ve saved what may be the best for last with Some Assembly Required by Terry L. Mirll. Award-winning author Terry L. Mirll has written three novels, a novelette, and numerous short stories as well as non-fiction articles. Most recently, his short story Astrafugia took first place in science fiction for Writer’s Digest magazine’s Ninth Annual Popular Fiction Awards. A native Texan, he currently lives in Oklahoma with his wife and three daughters. “Some Assembly Required” is his first publication with us, and we hope to read many more. You can find Tim on Facebook.
Why do I say we saved the best for last? Because we asked Dave Robison to narrate the story for you, and he did so very much more than that. I won’t ruin the surprise, but you’re in for a real treat. Dave hardly needs an introduction in the wide world of podcasting, or to Cast of Wonders fans. In fact, Dave was involved in our very first Little Wonders collection, with Influx Capacitor. When he’s not busy with Writer’s Roundtable, he’s forwarding his life’s goal of being an Agent of Awesomeness armed only with a theater degree. Since arriving on the scene of audio fiction, he’s had the privilege of lending his voice to numerous dramatic readings for such notables as StarshipSofa, The Drabblecast, Tales to Terrify, and the trifecta of Escapepod, Pseudopod, and Podcastle. Say hello to him on Twitter when you get a chance.
This is Little Wonders, our collection episodes featuring flash fiction and poetry centered around a theme. This episode we bring you the conclusion of our flash fiction month: Trope Twists!
Our first twisted trope — and the story which inspired this Little Wonders collection — is The Hero by Jessica Holscher. Jessica is a freelance writer in Oregon who loves to write fun fantasy stories. She has two novels published by ASJ Publishing: Legend of the Phoenix and Kenneth Randall: Grower. She’s on Twitter as @jessholscher, and you can find out more about her on her Facebook page.
The Hero is narrated by the extremely talented John Cmar. John is an infectious diseases physician in Baltimore who splits his time between treating horrors such as syphilis, and molding the next generation of doctors, while repeatedly washing his hands in between. When not herding his five cats or going fanboy over the space endeavors of his wife Moon Ranger Laura, John infectious various podcast and radio projects with his voice. He is the Chief Medical Officer and Bad Doctor in Residence at his personal blog, where he consults and ruminates over all manner of things at Saint Nickanuck.
Next we have The Secret Life of Sleeping Beauty by Charity Tahmaseb. Charity has slung corn on the cob for Green Giant and jumped out of airplanes (but not at the same time). She’s worn both Girl Scout and Army green. These days, she writes fiction (long and short) and works as a technical writer. Her novel, The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading (written with co-author Darcy Vance), was a YALSA 2012 Popular Paperback pick. Her short speculative fiction has appeared in the Unidentified Funny Objects and Coffee anthologies, Flash Fiction Online, and elsewhere.
Next month, her YA novelette Just a Matter of Time will appear in Volume 3 of Sucker Literary Magazine. She’s on Twitter as @geekgirlx2, and her blog is Writing Wrongs.
Your narrator is Chloë Yates. Chloë has written several pieces for the excellent Fox Spirit Books, and her latest story, ‘Well Our Feeble Frame He Knows’, closes out Guardians in their Fox Pocket series. More of her work will be included in several upcoming anthologies, including ‘Tits Up in Wonderland’, which will round off the Missing Monarchs Fox Pocket and can also be heard in Episode 16 of Dark Fiction Magazine.
As well as ‘All Things Fall’ in the upcoming anthology Girl At The End of the World, Vol 1.
She writes humorous, if somewhat macabre, poetry. You can contact her through her website, while she wanders through Twitter under the sobriquet @shloobee.
She’s currently working on a collection of short stories for Fox Spirit and on her first novel. English born, she lives in the middle of Switzerland with her bearded paramour, Mr Y, and their disapproving dog, Miss Maudie.
Michael Strickland’sBigfeet is next. Michael has published a handful of other short stories in small indie outlets. In addition to Bigfeet, his story Pale Green Pants — inspired by What Was I Scared Of? in Dr. Seuss’ Sneetches and Other Stories — recently appeared in the anthology Green Eggs and Horror. By day, Michael wrangles words as a professional copywriter, and you can find him online here.
Michael says this story was created when a friend challenged him to reduce a screenplay idea into a flash story under 300 words.
Regular listeners of Cast of Wonders will recognize our next two narrators, the podcasting duo of Big Anklevich and Rish Outfield from the Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine. Dunesteef features genre stories brought to you as fullcast audio productions created by some of the most talented producers in the podisphere. After each story, Big and Rish treat you to scintillating, thought provoking, and often mind-numbing conversation…oh, sorry, I meant mind-opening…opening?…mind-expanding maybe…conversation related to the day’s story and other geek-centric topics. Check it out!
To bring our twisted tropes to a close we present Alexandra Grunberg’sJack and the Griffin Eggs.
Alexandra is a New York City based author and actress. Her work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Perihelion Science Fiction, and here at Cast of Wonders in episode 106, our Little Wonders collection “The Journey” with Treasure Hunter.
Her story Any Ending won third place in Fiction Vortex’s August Monthly Contest and her story Finale in Blue won third place in their October Horror Contest. She is currently writing a web series, HOUSED, in which she will also be appearing as a lead character. You can find links to her stories at her website.
Rish Outfield’s prior narrations for Cast of Wonders include episode 91, “Open 28 Hours” and the chilling “Cosmetic Procedures” from episode 69. We’re thrilled to have him back.
Theme music is “Neversus” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.