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Cast of Wonders 158: This Is Your Problem Right Here by David Steffen


This Is Your Problem, Right Here

by David Steffen

“This is your problem, right here.”  The plumber’s deep voice resounded from beneath the maintenance hatch by the main pool at Cascade Reef water park.  “You’ve only got one troll left. For a pool this big, you need fifty minimum, seventy-five if you want everything to run smoothly.”

“Pardon?” shouted Anita Westegard, the owner.  “I only have one of what left?”

The plumber appeared beneath her.  His arms were covered to the elbows with green slime.  “Trolls. See?” He held one grimy hand up toward her holding a tiny skull.  It was almost human in shape, with two thick tusks and curved ram’s horns. “Poor things must have been starved to turn on each other like that.”

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Cast of Wonders 157: The Seal King (Part 2) by Jennifer Noelle Welch


The Seal King (Part 2)

by Jennifer Noelle Welch

Rattle rattle rattle rattle rattle…

Lou’s forehead hurts where it rests, mashed against the keel, and tracing the source of the sound, her brain awakens with a pinch. The coat is wrapped around her shoulders, and somewhere a steel cleat is vibrating. Raising her head, she remembers. The skiff, the size of a tiny teacup, spinning lazily towards the horizon. Are those really the first stars? had been her last thought, before her eyes swam and the darkness swallowed all.

In the stern, the seal king hugs his curled legs, shuddering uncontrollably, his eyes locked on her face.

“You did it,” she whispers. “How did you…”

Forming the words, he seizes, his voice fluttering into her head instead. S-swam. I had t-trouble pulling you back in. I’m s-sorry. He nods at her side, and Lou finds a bleeding scrape above her hip.

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Cast of Wonders 156: The Seal King (Part 1) by Jennifer Noelle Welch


The Seal King (Part 1)

by Jennifer Noelle Welch

The girl with apricot-colored hair sits on a dock the color of driftwood, her back against a stone wall retaining the land against the push and pull of the sea. Buoys bob and clang. On this small peninsula on the shoulder of the Atlantic, close-set fishermen’s cottages cluster together for comfort. When the wind rakes the swells into whitecaps, yellow foul-weather waders lift on the clotheslines.

It is early September, and the saline haze of summer still hangs ripe and full over the harbor. Louellen, or Lou, as she is called, pulls the frayed cuffs of her father’s coat farther over her hands and presses her spine against the afternoon of too-busy family and heckling high-school classmates. The splashing kids have cleared the dock platform and small swimming beach for another season, leaving her mind to dance with everything and nothing.

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Cast of Wonders 155: Aisha Bets Her Life on Magic by Jarod K. Anderson


Aisha Bets Her Life on Magic

by Jarod K. Anderson

Aisha Gonzalez was half asleep when the ceiling pressed against her nose.  She made an unconscious move to brush away whatever was touching her and smacked the textured surface of the ceiling hard with the back of her hand. She started awake, scraping her forehead. She barked out a scream and shoved hard at whatever was hovering over her.

Aisha’s mattress receded from the ceiling, bumped against her box springs, then slowly floated upwards. She watched the ceiling move closer with wide eyes, then raised her foot and pushed off back toward the floor. She rolled onto her stomach and looked over the edge of the mattress. She was still in her little studio apartment. Her work clothes from the day before were scattered on the floor next to her humming box fan. Outside the French doors that led to her rickety little balcony she could see the lights from the Speedway gas station next door. The mattress rose and gently pressed her back against the ceiling.

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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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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 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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