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Cast of Wonders 138: Things We Leave Behind by Alex Shvartsman

Show Notes

Welcome, everyone, to our Banned Book Week special. Banned Book Week is an annual event every September that aims to raise awareness about censorship and to celebrate the right to read. Many local libraries and bookshops hold events to highlight and discuss the social, political and legal issues around literature. You can find out a lot more at the Banned Book Week website, or at another of my personal favorite websites, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, where you’ll find lots of resources including free posters for holding your own event.

To celebrate, Cast of Wonders is proud to present Things We Leave Behind, written and narrated by one of our veteran authors, Alex Shvartsman. You’ve heard Alex’s work previously in The Field Trip; You Bet, and our short Christmas tale Nuclear Family. Excellent stories, each.


Things We Leave Behind

by Alex Shvartsman

Some of my earliest memories are of books. They were everywhere in our apartment back in the Soviet Union; shelves stacked as high as the ceiling in the corridor and the living room, piles of them encroaching upon every nook and available surface like some benign infestation.

Strangers came by often, sometimes several times a day, and browsed the shelves. They spoke to my father, always quietly, as though they were in a library. Cash and books exchanged hands in either direction but there was little haggling, both parties reluctant to insult the books by arguing over their price like they might with a sack of potatoes.

I learned to read at the age of three. My parents showed off this talent proudly, bribing me with candy to sound out long, complicated words like “automobile” and “refrigerator” in front of their friends. I found it more difficult to pronounce the harsh Russian R’s than to put together the words written in Cyrillic block letters on scraps of paper.

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Cast of Wonders 135: Flowers For The Dead by Jamie Mason (Part 2)

Show Notes

We dedicate these episodes to the memories of Kimberly Proctor and Tyeshia Jones.


Flowers for the Dead

by Jamie Mason

Part 2:

The acoustics of the concrete stairwell magnify sounds ten-fold, a hundred-fold as Kyle climbs. His breath, his footsteps, the squeak of his hand on the steel railing reverberate, echoing up and down the depths of the great man-made cavern as he rises floor upon floor toward the Magician’s penthouse. I must be crazy, he thinks. The raw magnitude of The Magician’s sorcery is so powerful, the force of his will such that he must avoid contact with others, spend the majority of his time locked up in this tower lest he bend the world to his will with a stray thought. The light from improvised torches causes the spiral sigils and vaguely sinister runes inscribed on the walls to flicker and undulate like dancing demons. Kyle pauses. Stares up into the half-lit darkness. Then plods on.

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Cast of Wonders 134: Flowers For The Dead by Jamie Mason (Part 1)


Flowers for the Dead

by Jamie Mason

Part 1:

“ … out the windows on the left you’ll see the recent construction across the tops of the factory and high-rise buildings where the more powerful Infernals have established themselves as a kind of informal aristocracy. Originally called Morningside, this neighborhood was abandoned when the factory closed. But when our City passed laws regulating the Infernals, many moved here because of their restrictions on to employment, welfare, housing and healthcare. The majority live at street level, in poverty. High crime rates, addiction and violence remain ongoing concerns among this population of supernatural beings …”


Kyle transforms his thirty-seventh cigarette butt into a geranium as Sick Willy talks to the police.

“Oh yeah she slummed around with us. A lotta rich kids do. Come and walk on the wild side, spend a night in the shelter before running home to mom and dad. Figured she was no different.”

“Oh she’s different all right.” Harriman, the cop, flicks an irritated glance at Kyle as a geranium drops to the sidewalk. “Different enough to wind up dead.”

“She was a nice kid.”

“The murdered ones usually are. When was the last time you saw her?”

Kyle remembers. It was night before last at the park where they went to score dope from a Grower with power over the Earth elementals. They watched him stick a few seeds in the ground, incant and, five minutes later, hand over a bag of fresh rich buds. Kyle, Sick Willie, Trad, Gryphon and Kimberly, the new girl. The rich girl. The dead one.

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Cast of Wonders 133: A Well-Lit Dungeon by Mark Mills

Show Notes

Starburst Magazine’s Bookworm Podcast.

Can We Watch It Again podcast.

Emma Thompson’s Donor’s Choose project.


A Well-Lit Dungeon

by Mark Mills

Lord Hanvord of Proustof was for a very short time one of the richest men in the world. A load of gold of monumental proportions was discovered in the southern part of his kingdom which increased his treasury a thousand-fold.

Lord Hanvord’s first act after hearing the news was to arrest the owner of the land for treason and confiscate the mine. There was much grumbling of the eight remaining noblemen in Proustof and Lord Hanvord began to have doubts over condemning the man to die.

The night before the beheading, he visited the condemned man in the dungeons. At this point, the castle itself was a disheveled mess, with moss growing in the royal bedroom and three families of foxes who dwelled between the cloak room and kitchen. The dungeon, as one might expect, was the pits.

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Episode 132: The Collector by Jameyanne Fuller


The Collector

by Jameyanne Fuller

Maddie died that night fifty years ago. Car accident. Drunk driver. Fifty years and worlds ago, Maddie Collins died, and the Thief couldn’t think about her, not tonight, not ever again.

The Thief stopped in the shadows on the corner of Maple Street and Brookdale Road. He was tall and graceful, carrying himself with absolute certainty. This was the role he’d chosen for himself, after all, when he agreed to become Death’s assistant. The assistant before him was traditional, black cloak and hood, bloody scythe, shrieking as he swooped down on his victims and chased them towards Death itself. The Thief was quieter, modeling his actions on the books he liked to read as a kid. He liked that he’d added his own personal touch to the job.

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Cast of Wonders 127: Learning the Game by Michael Haynes


Learning the Game

by Michael Haynes

The man sitting at my left, Parl, groaned a curse while the stool to my right cooled. I’d be cursing, too, if my luck had been as bad as his. The stack of five-khorr coins he’d started with had shrunk to half its size in the short while we’d been sitting together.

I glanced over my shoulder. No one was walking our way through the bar—one of dozens like it in the frontier towns of the Jandar nations.

“That your whole bankroll?”

He shot me the “stupid girl” look I knew far too well. “Of course not.”

I nodded and pulled out a handful of twenty-khorr coins. As Parl’s eyes widened, I took another quick look around the room before leaning in toward him. “Here’s what we do. If I’m playing heads, I’ll cover the coin with both hands. Tails, with just one.” I mimed covering a coin with only my left hand. “Got it?”

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Cast of Wonders 126: The Perfect Prom by Kat Otis


The Perfect Prom

by Kat Otis

Everything was going perfectly.  My prom dress was a shimmery hunter-green ballgown that matched my eyes and I’d spent over an hour at the salon, getting my usually frizzy red hair tamed into elegant ringlets.  Theo’s jaw actually dropped at his first glimpse of my transformation from scruffy tomboy to fairy-tale princess. We were officially going together as friends, but he was as flatteringly attentive as a real date all throughout dinner and the dancing that followed.  A few people even proclaimed us a “cute couple.”

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Cast of Wonders 123: Taxidermy and Other Dangerous Professions by JR Johnson

Show Notes

Theme music is “Appeal To Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.


Taxidermy and Other Dangerous Professions

by J.R. Johnson

By late afternoon the day was hot, hot and hot, my feet burning up through flimsy red canvas shoes. My skin too, even with its built-in mocha café au lait sunscreen, out all day with no protection but a nondescript outfit topped with my stifling jean jacket. I kept that between me and prying eyes, always.

The last of my water went down warm and barely dented the void in my stomach. A police chopper flew overhead but I didn’t look up, just hunched deeper into my jacket before turning into the Joe’s Hot Dog Heaven parking lot. I was scared and running, sure, but the cops weren’t looking for me. No one was.

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Episode 122: Sundae by Matt Wallace


Sundae

by Matt Wallace

The old woman in the wheelchair has a brutal face and hands as soft as the mother of all children.

“You will be more than a warrior, little one,” she whispers in German, her delicate and wrinkled fingertips sewing a pressed metal button into his left ear. “You will be a guardian. You will protect more than tender flesh and frail bodies. You will be the sentinel that stands between the darkness and innocence itself.”

With eyes made of glass and wood he sees her thin, withered lips form the words. He cannot hear her; his ears, even the one with the signature button, were not made to hear, just as his mouth was not made to speak. However the small stuffed bear finds he understands her; the meaning of her words, if not the words themselves.

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Cast of Wonders 121: Little Wonders 5 – Trope Twists

Show Notes

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!

 


The Hero
By Jessica Holscher

Down a desolate and lonely dirt road, a young man walked toward the horizon.  With a sword at his back, he traveled for destiny. The famed fortune teller of the town he’d just left, Madam Mystic, told him he would defeat the three headed dragon and save the princess.  Without a moment’s hesitation, he headed for the beast to save the missing damsel.

Suddenly, a rustling caught his attention.  Surely, he couldn’t have already reached the monster.  He readied his sword and stood firm. The rustling grew louder and a female child emerged from the bush.

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Cast of Wonders 120: Master Madrigal’s Mechanical Man by Scott C. Mikula


Master Madrigal’s Mechanical Man

by Scott C. Mikula

I tried to shut out the crowd’s roar, but the thunder of a thousand feet pounding above us in the arena stands rose until I could feel the breastplate of the mechanical swordsman vibrate beneath my touch.  Master Madrigal gestured with his palsied hand for me to replace the automaton’s helmet, but I hesitated to examine the delicate inner workings. Just one small adjustment

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Cast of Wonders 116: The Feathered Cloak by Edward Ahern


The Feathered Cloak

by Edward Ahern

The trouble began when Rhys found the oak wardrobe. He stood barely four feet tall, but the free standing closet was twice that high. Its hinges were beaten brass turned brown with age. The carved wood was riddled with little worm holes. Rhys had never seen a piece of furniture so big and heavy, and he knew that if it fell on him he’d be squashed.

The wardrobe rested in a corner of a large, open attic. The attic was a jumble clutter of his grandfather’s collection of magic equipment. His grandfather had been a professional magician who had starred in New York and Paris and even Moscow.

The key to the armoire doors stuck out of the lock. It turned with a dry rasp. When Rhys opened the doors piles of theater costumes, tablecloths and curtains spilled out onto the floor. Their colors, once shocking bright purples and pinks, had faded over time into pastels.

I’m in trouble, Rhys thought. He pulled out the rest of the clothes so he could restack them and try and shut the doors. Under the cloth worms had eaten through one of the base boards. Beneath the rotted board he could see the shape of a box.

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