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Cast of Wonders 396: Staff Picks 2019 – Bunny


Bunny

by Amy Brennan

You are crying.

Salty tears dripping into my fur and steaming off in the dry heat.

You hug me tightly, I feel your ragged breathing, your shivers as you hold in the sobs that want to be free.

I want to offer more comfort, but what am I? – Just bits of fabric with plush stuffing, a pink button nose and a pair of beaded eyes. I can do no more than be hugged, do no more than silently offer sympathy, wish to the legendary stuffed toys of the past – and to Veleveteen most of all – that I can do more.

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Cast of Wonders 393: Staff Picks 2019 – Soul Cleaver Clarence

Show Notes

Matthew told us, “This story began life as a PodCastle flash fiction contest entry. While it only made it to the semi-finals, Katherine Inskip commented that she’d love to see a longer version submitted to Cast of Wonders. Armed with this encouragement, I worked to fill out the characters, their struggles, and a plot. It took a fair amount of feedback and editing, but I was delighted that the finished story was one that Cast of Wonders was interested in publishing!”


SOUL CLEAVER Clarence

by Matthew J. Jarvis

“My dear dragon,” the princess announced as she held aloft Clarence’s topaz windflower, its gemstone petals glinting beautifully in the sun. “These are, without doubt, the finest sculptures in all the land!” Around him the humans attending the faire clapped enthusiastically. “State your name, dragon, and ask any favor in my power to grant, for you have truly won first prize.”

Clarence glowed with pride. “My name is–“

“SOUL CLEAVER!”

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Cast of Wonders 391: Staff Picks 2019 – Why I Spared the One Brave Soul Between Me and My Undead Army


Why I Spared the One Brave Soul Between Me and My Undead Army

by Setsu Uzume

I am loathe to admit that the ambush was masterful. Not only had the bounty hunters slain my contacts, but they had done so in the right order — dispatching the Ritualist before she had any corpses to animate. Had I come on horseback, they would have had me, too.

In addition to my dead allies and their hobbled wagon, I counted four hunters lumbering through the dark. Big lads, experienced and well-equipped, but given the style of their breastplates they had come from the west — tracking the cultists and not me. It made them slow and ill-prepared to face me in my glory. I whirled, my shadow splitting off to pierce kidneys and slice the backs of their knees while I led them a merry dance through dead leaves and bracken. One of them even turned, his blade slashing a wide arc, but shadows have no heads to remove. Him, I killed the quickest.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 390: The Tale of Descruptikn and the Product Launch Requirements Documentation


The Tale of Descruptikn and the Product Launch Requirements Documentation

by Effie Seiberg

Once upon a time there was an associate project manager named Jaime. She knew she was lucky to have this job – so many others in her graduating class were still juggling nanny gigs and catering gigs and tutoring gigs and so many side hustles they could’ve been a dodecahedron.

It was at a small company that ostensibly helped foreign students find scholarships for American colleges, but actually if you looked closely you could see that the company didn’t do much and was just a vanity project so the founder could say he was innovating and disrupting and other such nonsense buzzwords. Considering how little the company actually accomplished, Jamie was astonished that she was the one hundredth person to join the team. (Continue Reading…)

episode art - desert snow, for Luchadora

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Cast of Wonders 389: Luchadora


Luchadora

by Melissa Mead

When Alejandra was nine, her mother died of dehydration. When she was ten, Alejandra made her father bring her to the Luchadores’ barracks. The three ancient wizards who would choose the boy who would become the next Luchador weren’t pleased. They almost sent Alejandra’s father to the hellstone mines, where men died with their limbs charred black. Then Alejandra marched up to the eldest of the Magos, the one in flame-red silk, and demanded that he make the bull-man stop waking her up at night. The other two Magos, in silk as gold as the sun and as blue as the sky, gasped. The first wizard scowled.

“What do you mean, child?”

“The bull with the man-face. He came when Mama died. He comes in the dark, and whispers to me.” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 388: The First, the Second, the Third


The First, the Second, the Third

by Katherine Kendig

In the winter, the mornings are colder inside than out. Lily sings at the window, her voice wending its way toward the barn, the willow grove, the creek, as pure as the snow it floats over. Her breath frosts as she sings, her gaze fixed on the horizon where the church is the only part of town we can see. Margot huddles in bed, her hair tousled over her face, shivering. Margot has never been able to stand the cold. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 387: The Rose Sisterhood


The Rose Sisterhood

by Susan Taitel

My Sisters and I await the next girl. She will be beautiful. We always are. We hope she’ll be the one to break the curse, that she will have the wherewithal to see our master as he truly is. To succeed where we all failed. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 386: Encore! Cosmetic Procedures


Cosmetic Procedures

by Desmond Warzel

When I became a private investigator, it wasn’t for excitement, or for money. The work is humdrum, and whatever noir romanticism the profession ever actually had is long gone (though I’ve got a raincoat, a fedora, and a dusty bottle of scotch in the closet, just in case they’re called for). As for money, there isn’t much–and I don’t need it anyway. I’m a dilettante, and utterly unashamed of it. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 382: No Matter Where; Of Comfort No One Speak


No Matter Where; Of Comfort No One Speak

by Kate Baker

Tucked behind the cracks in the plaster and the peeling, wallpaper print, we watch you draw a blade. You stand in the kitchen, holding the steel in your right hand. A finger slides down the sharp edge, testing its strength as you do calculations in your head. The slow creep of a smile indicates you are happy with your choice. Drawn away in visions to the future, everything is interrupted by a quick slip and slice as you drop the knife. We notice the dribble of blood, a bead welling at the tip, inviting a hungry mouth. You bring the cut to your lips and suck on it a moment and then examine the depth.

No stitches required. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 378: Banned Books Week – Common Grounds and Various Teas


Common Grounds & Various Teas

by Sherin Nicole

Mama’s fingernails are mesmerizing. They’re black and shiny as volcanic glass but not polished. Her skin is a deeper shade than North Carolina red clay, and her hair is pulled up high in two top knots. Long dreadlocks cascade down over both her ears. If she’s older than thirty  no one can tell. Right now, I’m giving her serious side eye. She won’t stop blabbering and babbling and telling her grifter tales.

“I told that man, you cannot sell me this bucket on wheels. It’s beneath me,” she says in an accent as brown as her skin. “He didn’t like that. Now, rather than me convincing him, he’s convincing me to lower the price. ‘Til I have mercy, I take this car from him for $45 and I let him buy the beers.”

I huff and turn away from her. “Can you stop now?” I mumble.

“I could,” Mama says, like she’s sharing secrets, “but I could also be swallowed and spit back out as something flavorless.” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 377: Banned Books Week – This Is Not A Ghost Story


This Is Not a Ghost Story

by V. Medina

In the darkness of her bedroom, after her mother has gone to bed and she’s supposed to have done the same, she tells stories to the ghosts. She would do more for them but they never ask for anything else and she doesn’t know what more to do. They listen, gentle whispers all around her, urging her to continue, begging her for a few more words, just a little more of her time. They crave the stories she has to offer them and even when she is young, she feels the pull of narrative against her bones.

The ghosts are kind in their need, not pushing or screaming but quietly pleading, and she was not raised to deny anyone. She is the quiet kid, the good girl, the sweetheart. She knows her role, and it doesn’t matter what she wants because everyone already knows who she is before she ever gets the chance to show them.

People look at her, see the way she moves, the white cane in her hand, the way she holds books so close to her face. They all think they know her story, even before she says a word. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 376: Banned Books Week – The Ways of Walls and Words


The Ways of Walls and Words

by Sabrina Vourvoulias

Solitreo

“If it were not for Thee, what would become of me?”

She’s not speaking to me when she says this. Her poetry nests behind a prison’s walls. I am an unknown noise on the other side of her door—the only spot where sound enters or exits her world—a sweep of bristle against wood, some transitory trace of life that has nothing to do with her.

She and her people are in cells lined along a corridor in the deepest reaches of the convent. On occasion the mentally disturbed have been kept here, tended to and made safe by walls so thick they are more than an arm’s length. These people, however, are all one family: a mother; an adult son; four older daughters; and this one, who has spent nearly half her life in here.

That was all the information the Dominican Brothers shared with me the day I started. Except that I must not attempt to speak to the girl or her family through their doors. The Brothers made me swear this before I swept even one stone.

In the language I share with jailer and jailed, my name is Bienvenida, though my Nahuatl name is different. By the Brothers’ reckoning, it has been 1,562 years since the death of God. (Continue Reading…)