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Cast of Wonders 305: All Systems Go


All Systems Go

by Gerri Leen

The spaceport at Norn Five is a shining ode to order, automation, and interstellar travel. State-of-the-art communication ports dot the walls, offering instant access to loved ones, bosses, or eccentrics offering revolution at bargain prices.

Travelers move across the floors, various forms of locomotion taking them from point A to point B. Walkers tends to be the most common, but there are also floaters, crawlers, slitherers, and the odd vaporous beings that just sort of waft.

And working around it all are the units of the robotic char force. One in particular moves slowly along the wall, sucking up the residue left by one of the slithering public. It gets stuck for a moment when it hits a point where one being’s slime has mixed with another’s, making a sort of glue of the noxious kind. The bot revs forward, then backward, sucking up goop up as it goes, spritzing solvent onto the floor and then wiping it up so no one slips.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 304: The Temple of the Whale


The Temple of the Whale

by Karissa Sluss

Late in the morning I find Terren in our palm tree shelter, packing his few possessions: his bone knife; a collection of coral carved into various whale poses; a square of cloth he uses as a blanket on rare, cool evenings; a flask of water; a day’s supply of food, enough to carry him until he reaches the village. His intent to leave me is clear.

I rub away budding tears and cough to clear the warble trapped in my throat. Stiffening my spine, I square my shoulders, a defense against the urge to melt into quivering lump. “I see you’ve made up your mind.”

Terren rearranges things in his satchel to keep his hands busy, to keep his attention occupied. A poor pretext to keep from having to face me. “I have.”

“And you’re set on going now? It can’t wait another day?”

“Safaro wants to leave tomorrow, at first light.”

Safaro is a peddler, a tinker who regularly visits the village at the other end of the tombolo connecting our small tied island. He has seduced my son with exotic trinkets and tales of travel and adventure in the big, grand world thriving beyond our self-imposed cloister. Terrren is almost eighteen. How can I expect him to resist?

“Who’s going to help me fish and forage?” A petulant tone creeps into my voice, something I would never allow under other circumstances, but I’ve temporarily misplaced my dignity. “Whose breath will lull me to sleep at night? What will I do with myself?” I haven’t been a wife for a long time. If Terren leaves, I’ll have no one left to mother. I’ll merely be a caretaker for the legacy of a ghost.

“You’ll still have the temple,” he says, but mutters something unintelligible under his breath.

“What did you say?” I put a hand to his arm to encourage him to face me.

Terren tosses his satchel over his shoulder. His eyes glitter, hard black stones reflecting a challenge. “I said you still have the temple, but I think you should let go of Bailene, too.”

I gasp and give into the tears I’d been trying to resist.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 303: What You’re Missing


What You’re Missing

by Allison Mulder

“Something’s missing.”

The words slipped past Anya’s lips, not for the first time. Most days she could keep them buried under other, safer thoughts. But on quiet, peaceful days like this one, when she’d successfully coaxed Colton past the fences to the off-grid hills, the words had a nasty habit of wriggling out to warm themselves in the sun.

“Of course something’s missing,” Colton said, staring back toward the sprawling gray city. Sun sparkled off the high chain link fences between the hills and town. “No Wi-Fi, no cell signals. The power grid’s scrapped out here. If it bothers you, let’s head back.” He fiddled hopefully with his loose tie, obviously ready and waiting to tighten it.

Anya shook her head, enjoying the unfamiliar feeling of unbound hair swishing against her cheeks. “Not what I mean.” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 302: Restoring the Magic


Restoring the Magic

by Ian Creasey

When I had climbed high enough that my breath came in great panting gasps, and the sheep in the valleys looked like tiny flecks of fallen cloud, I heaved off my backpack and looked for the best spot to plant the final sapling. Birch and goat-willow dotted the exposed slopes, hardy species that withstood the storms and chills of the High Tatras. My oak required a more sheltered home. I saw a south-facing escarpment, and scrambled across to investigate. The grey rock felt warm under my hand, retaining the heat of the autumn sun. Behind an outcrop, in a small gully, the wind dropped to a light breeze. I pulled up tussocks of grass to inspect the soil, and found it damp but not sodden, thin but not barren. An earthworm crawled away into the moss and leaf-litter. Instinctively, I felt that a dryad would thrive here. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 301: Ana’s Asteroid


Ana’s Asteroid

by M.K. Hutchins

I raced Cornelius home after school, through the corridors of the Platinum Phoenix. He took the right hand side, I took the left. The dents in stainless steel walls made our reflections wobble.

“I’ll beat you this time!” Cornelius called from behind. He was eleven — two years younger than me.

I laughed. “I doubt — ”

But my feet slipped out from under me. I skidded across the floor. Like all the other kids on this asteroid mining colony, my clothes were sewn from surplus mylar blankets — slick stuff. I crashed into a sealed-off door. There were plenty of unused corridors like that, leftover from better days when the Platinum Phoenix actually had passengers. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 300: The Death Knight, the Dragon and the Damsel

Show Notes

This week’s episode art is from Le livre et la vraye hystoire du bon roy Alixandre. It details Alexander the Great battling against two-headed, eight-legged, crowned dragons with multiple eyes along their torsos (Royal MS 20 B XX, f. 78v). It dates to between 1420 and 1425 CE.

Music attribution: Village Consort by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License.


Escape Pod’s Flash Fiction contest returns to the Solar System this year, running April 15-30, 2018.


The Death Knight, the Dragon and the Damsel

by Melion Traverse

Cold afternoon light stretched in thin patches on the stone floor of the great hall. Jaw and guts tight and trembling, I stood at attention with twenty other squires, armor clean and new as our hopeful futures. For four years, we had trained with sword and shield under the patronage of Duke Amlick. Four years tinged in blood and exhaustion. All for the hope that one of the knights roaming among our lines would pick us from the group like a hound pup plucked from its litter. Twenty squires and only twelve knights—Duke Amlick believed his knights ought to have options. Eight of us would go home with tails between our legs.

One by one the knights claimed their squires and I watched my companions go to their new lives, eyes bright with the glory they would win. I stood with eyes half-closed against the fear that I would be left. I, Cori Forsmire, from one of Duke Amlick’s oldest houses, would have to sell my sword as a common guard. What was I going to tell my father? (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 299: All Them Pretty Babies


All Them Pretty Babies

by Alexandra Renwick

Esmè step careful in the pretty grass. Grass on the hillside is green just how she like it; not all yellow, not all brownish purple like grass past the base of the mountain.

Them grasses, them yellow and purple grasses, make Esmè think on her old mama, who yell and slap and bite and kick at her. Only good thing Old Mama ever done for Esmè, she done let Esmè know just how ugly Esmè is. Ugly enough to stop her wind-up watch, say Old Mama. Ugly enough to stop a train, like train what done stopped on other side of the mountain when them bio-bombs fell so close, sent that train bucking like nasty old three-headed milk cow so it buck right off its track and into the gully.

Of course, that train done crashed long before Esmè was born. That train done crashed without Esmè ever having seen a train a-go full of people, with all them people’s pretty jewelries and pretty clothes, and them pretty little babies bouncing on they’s laps. No, Esmè never seen a train a-go, but she sometimes climb down into the gully, ignore bruised grass and glowing sludge, and she play in that wrecked train what now filled so full with all them clean, clean bones, and she think how pretty all them ladies and gentlemens must’ve been; so pretty that if ugly Esmè lived back then they would’ve chased her off with sticks like Old Mama done when she got so sick-and-tired of looking at Esmè all day long. That’s what Old Mama done told her: I’m so sick-and-tired of your ugly face. Now get gone, girl. Go try the other side of the mountain. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 298: Pocosin

Show Notes

From the author: Pocosins are a type of raised peat wetland found almost exclusively in the Carolinas. The name derives from an Eastern Algonquian word meaning “swamp on a hill.” They are a rare and unique ecosystem, today widely threatened by development.


Pocosin

by Ursula Vernon

This is the place of the carnivores, the pool ringed with sundews and the fat funnels of the pitcher plants.

This is the place where the ground never dries out and the loblolly pines grow stunted, where the soil is poor and the plants turn to other means of feeding themselves.

This is the place where the hairstreak butterflies flow sleekly through the air and you can hear insect feet drumming inside the bowl of the pitcher plants.

This is the place where the old god came to die. (Continue Reading…)

Announcing Assistant Editor Alexis Goble!


We’re pleased to announce that Alexis Goble, long-time slush pile wrangler, has taken the editorial leap and will be joining Katherine Inskip as co-assistant editor of Cast of Wonders.

Alexis cut her teeth this year as assistant editor for 2018’s Artemis Rising showcase, working with Katherine and Dani Daly, who will remain Cast of Wonders’ community manager while focusing her energies on StoryTime Soap Company (check them out!)

Dani says:

I would like to say that being part of the editorial team of Cast of Wonders has been incredibly rewarding, and I am both honored and humbled to have been provided the opportunity. I have learned a lot and interacted with some fabulously talented people, some of which I am now thrilled to call friend.

And head over to our forum this autumn, when Dani will be running the Cast of Wonders flash fiction contest.

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Cast of Wonders 297: Artemis Rising 4 – Where You Get Your Ideas

Show Notes

Cast of Wonders is proud to present the fourth annual Artemis Rising event through March 2018! We have four original stories for you this year, guest-edited by assistant editor Katherine Inskip and associate editor Alexis Goble. This year’s artwork by Geneva Barton.

Artemis Rising is an annual month-long event across all four Escape Artists podcasts, celebrating the voices of women, non-binary, trans, and marginalized gendered authors in genre fiction. The resulting lineup is an incredible collection that celebrates the strength, ingenuity, and brilliance of the artists, the characters they create, and the performers that bring these stories to life. It also features the hosting, editing and production talents of a rotating cast. Part of the project’s mission is to give opportunities and experience in these publication roles traditionally held by men.

Don’t miss the full month of Artemis Rising stories across the Escape Artists podcasts!


Where You Get Your Ideas

by Megan Lee Beals

Bells chimed in the empty storefront that waited for us at the top of the stairs. The boss closed her eyes and tilted her head to assess their tone.

“Iron, pitched low, minimal tuning. It’s probably high fantasy up there.”

I shrugged over the collection of banshee skulls I was cleaning for a future wind-chime. “Cool.” I was her subordinate, and the fantasy upstairs would need a young apprentice to cast aside before she could make a grand entrance as some wizened old shopkeeper.

Were it the eerie insectoid hum of space-opera, I’d answer as the rookie, but the roles are pretty much the same. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 296: Artemis Rising 4 – Canary’s Refuge

Show Notes

Cast of Wonders is proud to present the fourth annual Artemis Rising event through March 2018! We have four original stories for you this year, guest-edited by assistant editor Katherine Inskip and associate editor Alexis Goble. This year’s artwork by Geneva Barton.

Artemis Rising is an annual month-long event across all four Escape Artists podcasts, celebrating the voices of women, non-binary, trans, and marginalized gendered authors in genre fiction. The resulting lineup is an incredible collection that celebrates the strength, ingenuity, and brilliance of the artists, the characters they create, and the performers that bring these stories to life. It also features the hosting, editing and production talents of a rotating cast. Part of the project’s mission is to give opportunities and experience in these publication roles traditionally held by men.

Don’t miss the full month of Artemis Rising stories across the Escape Artists podcasts!


Canary’s Refuge

by Wendy Nikel

“Feels good to finally be off that blasted ship.” Ben breathes in so deeply that his shoulder rubs against my bare one, a touch so slight I wonder if I only imagined it.

The elevator rattles as it carries us down the mineshaft, into the depths of this planet whose name I can’t even remember. Maybe it doesn’t have one. Not that it matters. They’re all the same as far as we’re concerned: barren hunks of mineral deposits, surrounded by unbreathable atmosphere. They’re ugly, cold, and unwelcoming, without a thing to make us want to remain on their surfaces. Without a hope of survival if we did. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 295: Artemis Rising 4 – An American Refugee

Show Notes

Cast of Wonders is proud to present the fourth annual Artemis Rising event through March 2018! We have four original stories for you this year, guest-edited by assistant editor Katherine Inskip and associate editor Alexis Goble. This year’s artwork by Geneva Barton.

Artemis Rising is an annual month-long event across all four Escape Artists podcasts, celebrating the voices of women, non-binary, trans, and marginalized gendered authors in genre fiction. The resulting lineup is an incredible collection that celebrates the strength, ingenuity, and brilliance of the artists, the characters they create, and the performers that bring these stories to life. It also features the hosting, editing and production talents of a rotating cast. Part of the project’s mission is to give opportunities and experience in these publication roles traditionally held by men.

Don’t miss the full month of Artemis Rising stories across the Escape Artists podcasts!


An American Refugee

by Tiah Marie Beautement

I first spot the surfer as I run down the path that cuts below the lighthouse. I can’t believe it. The Point is full of holiday campers, so motors are banned on the water until eight a.m. and it is only six-thirty. I run down the steps; reaching the bottom of the peninsula, I find that the few souls that are awake are calm and content. Strange. But when I reach the part of the path that curves at the base of Inner Pool I realize why.

No sound. (Continue Reading…)