Posts Tagged ‘Women in Horror’

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Cast of Wonders 261: Twice

Show Notes

Theme music is “Appeal to Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available from Promo DJ or his Facebook page.


Twice

by Imaani Cain

 

In the beginning, there was a world and the world was Marya.

In every photograph littering my parents’ mantle, there are the two of us, smiling tightly under the heavy gaze of the camera. I am always standing just behind her, my hand cupping her shoulder. She is looking up at me, her own tiny hand reaching up to grasp at mine. Each of us is holding tight enough to be painful: afterwards, when we are finally allowed outside to play, we compare battle wounds. They faded almost instantly but we spent the night recreating them, stifling any winces we might’ve ordinarily made. We created a game out of it, racking up points for endurance and creativity.

“Minus five points if you flinch,” Marya would whisper under the covers, after we had faked being asleep so that our parents would not disturb us. She would cup her hands around one of mine and then bend my fingers gently backwards, watching my face intently for any changes. I wore a splint for the next few weeks but had not moved at all. Marya set it herself, her mouth curling with pleasure.

“Add five if you hold your breath,” I would say when we darted across the busy intersections, weaving around cars. I would make her do it twice, holding a plastic bottle of water captive until she made her way back to me, collapsing on the lawn with her chest heaving.

“Doesn’t it hurt?” the counselors asked her. They were all the same: terrified of Marya and what little they’d heard of her, and, to an extent, of me. This one, a solid-looking young woman with a stubby ponytail, would be no different.

“Doesn’t what,” she said, staring at her feet. A week ago, we had traded off pressing the tip of an iron to her ankle in hopes of recreating a tattoo of a daisy that an old babysitter had. We’d only managed four misshapen petals before being stopped, but it wasn’t the worst piece of artwork we had attempted to create.

“Your injuries,” said the counselor, sighing. In therapy, Marya was distracted more often than not, always picking at the scabbing flower or craning her neck to peer outside, where I would sit and wait for the session to be finished. I was not supposed to distract her, Marya had told me seriously, but she smiled every time I jumped in front of the window and waved at her.  “They must have hurt,” the counselor added, “Marya? Are you listening to me, Marya?”

Marya turned her face to the counselor, blank and polite. Her face was open but betrayed nothing. It was a look we had practiced in the mirror and then on each other, thinking of ways that we could convey disgust without being too apparent. We did not give anything away that was not to each other.

“I want to ask about Maryam,” the therapist said. She was the fourth and newest one, and sat through their sessions on the edge of her seat with a placid expression. She had denied the briefing packet from previous clinicians, insisting on starting fresh. This was the only differing aspect from Marya’s transcriptions that she made for me: since I was not allowed in their sessions, she detailed every aspect of them for me to memorize. As the two of them usually spent their time in silence, they were usually boring reports filled with doodles.

“Time’s up,” Marya said tightly, and would not say a word more.

 


 

“You’re a danger to yourself,” our parents told Marya sternly at dinner. I had managed to avoid the lecture by pretending to be ill, but Marya performed an accurate mimicry of their displeasure afterwards, harrumphing and pretending to swirl around wine inside her imaginary glass. She was not as adept at it as I was, because it was not an innate talent, but she tried her best.

“We worry, sweetheart,” she cooed at me from the top of the jungle gym. We had stopped going to school weeks ago–first, without anyone knowing, and then in a way that was more or less sanctioned. The only stipulation was that Marya was meant to see the counselor every week, an hour that sucked up time that could have been spent doing anything else. Marya’s time belonged to me in sections now, and it left me feeling pinched and anxious. To counter this, I ushered her towards the park, which we owned in all but name. All of it felt solidly ours, made better by our former classmates giving us a wide berth, their eyes watching us uneasily.

I laughed. “Do it again!”

Marya smiled hard enough for me to see the dimple in her chin. I grinned back at her, feeling the dimple in my own. “We worry, sweetheart,” she simpered, fluttering her eyelashes. She puckered her mouth in a moue of surprise and dismay, the way our mother often did when she was forced to speak to us.

“Again.”

“We WORRY,” Marya bellowed, puffing her chest out. “sweet-HEART!”

I clapped. “Bravo, bravo,” I said delightedly, and when I shoved her off the jungle gym, she laughed until the ambulance came.

 


 

The cast did not help. The plaster of it was a disturbing shade of neon green and there was no way to pry it off. Our parents spoke in quiet tones about admitting us to the local psychiatric hospital. “It’s like a vacation,” our father told us brightly, spreading out pamphlets on the dining table, “and you can come back any time, right when you’re ready.”

“Why are you always trying to get rid of me?” Marya howled, her face flushed with rage. I watched her from the top of the stairs, memorizing the shape of her shaking back. Marya, when she was truly upset, was a performance that I loved above all things. I was able to portray Marya’s moods brilliantly, but seeing her in a state of fury was rare enough that my mimicry was always slightly off.

“You are out of control,” our mother said quietly. “The burns, your behavior. You remember what you did to your old au pair? We should have sent you off then.”

Marya became unhappy and withdrawn in a way that I had not seen since the au pair disappeared. She would not move over when I slipped into her bed at night, instead jabbing her elbow in my stomach or chest when I tried to move closer to her. Her transcripts of her therapy sessions became boring for her to write down. She complained that scribbling constantly during the sessions made her hand hurt. Marya preferred talking to the counselor instead, who she called “Ann” in growing levels of fondness.

“Oh, she’s Ann now?” I said when she came outside. She had a sticker on the lapel of her coat, one presumably given to her by Ann, and a picture she’d drawn of the two of us. In it, my face–just like Marya’s, with its freckles and flared nostrils–was a hideous scribble of pencil. From my wrists sprouted things that might have been fingers but looked more like claws, all of them digging into Marya’s side. “What is this shit?”

“You and me,” Marya said, snatching it back. She folded it up and put it in her coat pocket. “Ann said I have talent.”

“Ann is a spaz,” I said desperately, “remember? You said last time, I remember. You definitely said you hated her.” I reached for her hand, feeling for the first time in ages that I needed permission to touch her.

“We’re too old for that,” Marya snapped. She did not look at me, but when I reached across to turn her chin towards me, she jerked away. I did not flinch. This was a new part of the game, I was sure, but I did not have the rules for it. She had done things like this before: created new aspects to our game without outwardly saying it. Instead of pinching or burning each other, she would ignore me, or only give me painful things to consider. Last night, she had walked home faster than I could, and locked the door to every room she had gone into.

“Says who,” I asked her, trying not to sound frantic. “Marya, says who?”

She rolled her eyes. “Nevermind. God, relax.” Sighing loudly, she slid off her glove and held my hand delicately, as if it was some disgusting thing she was too polite to recoil from.

It was impossible to relax. In our bed that night, I curled into her body like a comma, counting the ways that we matched. It was a comfort to realize we still looked the same, even as Marya tried to distance herself from me. She began to speak about returning to school, of trying out new programs that would allow her to “explore creativity”. She worked steadily at drawing, urged on by Ann and our thrilled parents. She mentioned wanting some sort of fading cream to cover up the scars on her ankle. She said she wanted to join a painting club.

In her sessions, she spoke about me. I crept inside the building and listened at the door, heard snatches of conversations that included my name. “What is Maryam like?” I heard Ann ask Marya, soft and slow.

“Just like me,” Marya told her. “She’s me, but different.”

“In what way?” Ann pressed. I could not see her but imagined her leaning forwards, her eyes beseechingly pathetic. “How did you meet Maryam?”

Marya’s voice was quieter than I had ever heard it before. “When I was really little, at the park. I was with the old babysitter, the one I told you about. The German one with the flower tattoo. Ulli.”

Behind the door, I made a fist. I thought of all the ways I would want to hit her when she came out, and then forced myself to move away from the anger. It was quiet for a moment, and then, Marya’s voice, in its trembling soprano, bleated, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

It seems unbalanced to realize that we would not have met without Ulli the German au pair. Ulli, soft and plump with her lilting German accent, here to study English and take care of Marya while our parents worked at their respective jobs. She liked taking Marya outside more than her other babysitters had, and was not overprotective. Ulli allowed Marya to paint her nails and watch cartoons past her bedtime. She let Marya roam the park and the surrounding wooded area by herself, as long as she was within shouting distance (but often times, not even then). She let Marya meet me.

I was more daring then, more given to doing things that were bizarrely out of character for Marya. I would bite other children on the playground, and make up fantastic lies. I threw fits. I methodically broke all of the vases my parents brought back from their business trips, and destroyed the art sets I was given. I even screamed at Ulli, who Marya had loved and listened to unquestioningly before I had arrived. It was natural for me to act this way when I was first introduced to her life: I was there only there to overwhelm her, to suffocate the parts of her that remained, burr-like, in everyone’s memories.

Marya was thrilled. I was her identical id, free to destroy and create as I wished. It was magnificent, and since she was still at the age where it was appropriate to have imaginary friends, and her parents sighed over her “acting out”, but did not interfere. Marya began to refer to me as her other half, as Marya Martz the Second, which eventually became “Maryam”. In this way, I was my own person–but not quite.

“Wouldn’t you want to be Maryam the First?” Marya asked me, burrowed deep in our huddle beneath blankets. I bit softly at her shoulder, and then sharper, as if I wanted to draw blood, although I had stopped genuinely trying to harm her after a week. I had not expected to love Marya in the way that I did: ferociously and completely, in a way that I had only ever loved myself before. I did not want to consume Marya’s life, the way I knew I should have. I wanted to be an extension of her.

Ulli loathed my existence. She could not distinguish between us, but knew that there was something not quite right about how Marya would go from being docile and grinning to a sulking terror. She would look at both of us with the same barely disguised disgust, and began washing her hands immediately after touching us, as if she might catch some devastating disease.

“Despicable thing,” she would whisper at me when we walked outside, smoothing a hand over my hair, as wiry and spiraling as Marya’s. “You think I don’t know about your kind? You think I don’t know what you’re trying to do?”

The measures she took became less calculated over time: Ulli would pretend to splash and play with us in the pool and then turn and hold one of us under water, desperately chanting prayers. She burned sage in all of the house’s corners, and pressed the tiny silver cross that she wore around her neck into the side of our cheeks as we slept. She phoned her grandmother in Bavaria to ask for guidance, spoke to priests and anyone else she thought might help.

“What if Ulli makes you disappear forever?” Marya asked me worriedly. “What if one day I turn around and you just went out like a birthday candle?”

“She can’t,” I told her. “Don’t worry.”

After her therapy session with Ann, Marya was more withdrawn than ever. She ignored me on our walk home, and stormed up to her room, her back tight and dangerous. “Marya, c’mon,” I pleaded with her, “talk to me. Tell me what’s going on.”

“You want me to talk to you?” Marya sniped. “Why should I? Why should I even be around you, when you’re ruining my goddamn life? When you got rid of Ulli?”

My mouth opened and shut in a way I had never seen on Marya. I feel completely unbalanced: something I had not felt since she had first given me my name all those years ago. I felt entirely separate from Marya, my other half. Less of a facsimile and more of a shoddy replica, just a little bit off. “Ridiculous,” I sputtered. “You’re being absolutely ridiculous.”

Marya snorted. “You sound like Dad.”

“Fuck off,” I snapped, “don’t say that. I sound like you. I sound like you.” We were not playing the game anymore, but I wanted to hurt her. My god, I wanted to hurt her in a way I had not since we had first met on the outskirts of the park.

I had fought against so much of what I was for her. My first thought had been to consume her: a comfortable, natural thing to feel when faced with the original version of yourself. I had not destroyed primarily because of the wonder she had felt towards me, and the way love had seemed to spread through her body like roots. Like something healthy and strong.

The silence was thick. I looked at Marya, running through the list of things that made us the same: the spray of freckles covering our faces, the birthmarks behind our ears and our stiff, uncombed hair. I thought of how we had faint stretch marks behind the bends of our knees and an overbite that had not been entirely fixed by orthodontia. “I’d die for you,” I told her quietly.

Marya’s mouth tightened. “You’d kill for me,” she said. “It’s not the same thing.”

I tried to make peace with Marya, tried to show her all the ways I could be good. I copied the way she thanked strangers for opening doors for her, and the way she began to clean her paintbrushes methodically after using them. I did not speak to our parents at all, even when Marya reverted back referring to them as solely hers. I did not ask for impressions or for her to hold hands as we walked. It was supremely difficult, almost Herculean to do so.

“Have you thought about what we discussed last time?” Ann said to her, her voice pitched low and sweet the way Marya had mocked in past therapists. This time she didn’t laugh at all.

There was the sound of Marya scratching at the woolly fabric of her tights. “Yeah,” she said miserably, and then, much stronger: “Yes.”

“‘Yes’ what?” I asked her after therapy. I jammed my hands into my pockets the way Marya did, directed my gaze from her the way she did to me. “Marya. You owe me this much. What did you say yes to?”

“Tomorrow,” Marya said, giving me a smile that was as thin and as fragile as a violin string, “will you meet me at our woods by the park? Just us. Just the Marya Martzes.”

The one advantage to being a Marya Martz, even when you’re second, even when you are at best a copy, is that you know exactly how she thinks. I was not stupid because Marya was not stupid, and I could not command myself to be. I’m sure that, in a sense, I wanted to wait for Marya in the woods by the park in a way that sweet and lamblike, ready to be told that I had served well as an amusement over the years but that it was time for me to go. To disappear like the flame of a birthday candle, to cease to exist because there could not be two of us. It would only make sense for me to be the one to leave, I knew she would say, because I had come second. We looked exactly alike, moved alike and had not been told apart by anyone since Ulli, but it was clear to her that I was the imitation.

I had never loved anyone more than Marya, not even myself, and when I buried her beneath the beech tree where we had first met, I sobbed in a way that felt wholly myself.

I walked home with my hands in her coat pockets, left a voicemail in our parents’ voice for Ann cancelling the therapy sessions for the near future. “Nothing to worry about,” I said, in my father’s deep timbre, “Marya has benefitted an incredible amount from meeting with you. She’s better than ever.”

I went back to Marya’s school where I terrorized my classmates quietly and effectively, but took up with a group that was social enough. I burned the pictures Marya had drawn of me, began kissing my parents on the cheek before I went to bed. I told them art had been a phase. I rolled my eyes when they said my name in hesitant tones. “We should leave that all in the past” I entreated, and they acquiesced gratefully, forgetting the whole thing

Marya began to fade from the photographs and I took my rightful place: the second best, the copy reigning triumphant.

In the beginning there was a world, and the world was Maryam.

Episode 217: Boys’ Night by Rebecca Birch


• Narrated by Dave Thompson
• Audio production by Jeremy Carter
• 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

Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

rebecca-birchRebecca Birch is a science fiction and fantasy writer based in Seattle, Washington. She’s a classically trained soprano, holds a deputy black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and enjoys spending time in the company of trees. Her fiction has appeared in markets including Nature, Cricket, and Flash Fiction Online. She is also a two-time finalist in the Writers of the Future contest. Check our her website, Words of Birch, or Twitter.

 

 

 

dave-thompsonDave Thompson is a teacher who lives in Southern California with his wife, three children, and eight chickens. He is an author, narrator, and sometimes Escape Artist who keeps getting pulled back in for one last job. (Actually, he always hopes it’s never the last job.) He’s lost NaNoWriMo twice and is the former editor of PodCastle. He doesn’t like to talk about himself in the third person, but he finds he is totally okay writing about himself in that way. Check out his website, follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 


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

Read along with the text of the story.

Episode 214: Banned Books Week – The Price of Stories by Shannon Connor Winward


• Narrated by Katherine Inskip
• Audio production by Jeremy Carter
• Banned Books Weeks 2016 photograph courtesy of Jeremy Carter
• 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


Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

shannon-connon-winwardShannon Connor Winward is the author of Undoing Winter from Finishing Line Press. Her poems and stories appear in Analog, Pseudopod, Strange Horizons, Star*Line, Flash Fiction Online, The Pedestal Magazine, Gargoyle and PANK, and have been nominated, placed, or earned mention for many nifty awards. In between writing, parenting, and other madness, Shannon is also an officer for the Science Fiction Poetry Association, a poetry editor for Devilfish Review, and founding editor of Riddled with Arrows Literary Journal (set to debut in early 2017). Learn more on her website.

 

 

 

Katherine InskipKatherine Inskip, assistant editor of Cast of Wonders, teaches astrophysics for a living and spends her spare time populating the universe with worlds of her own. She is addicted to chocolate and Japanese logic puzzles. You can follow her on Twitter or her website.

 

 

 

 


Learn more about Stop Hate and their work to challenge all forms of hate crime and discrimination based on any aspect of an individual’s identity.


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

Read along with the text of the story.

Episode 202: Henkie’s Fiddle by Vonnie Winslow Crist


• Narrated by Andrew Reid
• Audio production by Jeremy Carter
• Originally published in Potter’s Field 4
• 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


Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

Vonnie Winslow CristVonnie Winslow Crist is an author and illustrator living in a rural Maryland. She is editor of The Gunpowder Review and senior editor at Pole to Pole Publishing, a speculative fiction small press. Vonnie’s books include The Enchanted Skean (a Compton Crook Award Finalist), Owl Light, The Greener Forest, and Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales. Her short fiction has been published in Chilling Ghost Short Stories, Tales of the Talisman, Dia de los Muertos, Faerie Magazine, and elsewhere. Vonnie’s paintings have been featured on the covers of Bards and Sages, FrostFire Worlds, Outposts of Beyond, Illumen, and Scifikuest. A cloverhand who has found so many four-leafed clovers she keeps them in jars, Vonnie strives to celebrate the power of myth in her writing and art. You can find her work and portfolio online, or follow her on Twitter.

Andrew ReidBorn in Scotland, Andrew Reid is a teacher and author currently living in Sweden. He writes fantasy and alt-history, and harbours an unhealthy obsession with coffee. Not to mention being a damn fine Destiny team mate, if you’re looking for one. His first fantasy novel, Kingdom’s Fall, is currently available on Amazon. You can also follow him on Twitter and online.

 

 


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

Read along with the text of the story.

Episode 190: Staff Pick 2015 – Home Isn’t by Kelly Sandoval


Narrated by Katherine Inskip
Audio production by Rikki LaCoste
Originally published in Flash Fiction Online.


Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

Every year in January, Cast of Wonders takes the month off to recharge our batteries, plan the year ahead, and highlight some of our favourite episodes. As part of joining the Escape Artists family, this year we’re pulling out all the stops. We’re running 10 staff pick episodes over the month, each one hosted by a different member of the Cast of Wonders crew.

We hope you enjoy slush reader Katherine Inskip’s favorite story from 2015, Home Isn’t by Kelly Sandoval and narrated by Katherine Inskip. The story originally aired October 25, 2015 as Episode 178.


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

Click here to read the text of the story

Episode 178: Home Isn’t by Kelly Sandoval


Narrated by Katherine Inskip
Audio production by Jeremy Carter
Originally published in Flash Fiction Online.


Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

Halloween is here and what better time for a scary story. And much like the sweets and chocolates soon to grace the pumpkin buckets and pillow cases of eager trick o treaters, we have a fun-size story for you this week. We’ll leave it to you to decide if you want to check it first for pins and needles.

Kelly SandovalKelly Sandoval is a speculative fiction author, Seattleite, and Clarion West graduate. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Asimov’s, Shimmer, and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015. She’s currently writing Unveiled, a novel about the aftermath of the faerie apocalypse. You can find her online and on Twitter.

The story is narrated for you by our own Katherine Inskip. Katherine teaches astrophysics for a living and spends her spare time populating the universe with worlds of her own, which you can read at her blog, Trisigmatic. She’s on Twitter as well.

Hungry for more horror flash fiction? Then head to the Pseudopod forums where this very moment yours could be the deciding vote in the “two stories enter, one story leaves” ritual that is the flash fiction contest. The three winners will be purchased and run in a special Flash on the Borderlands. For those who comment on the stories, Pseudopod will randomly select a few lucky winners to receive copies of the excellent Women Destroy Horror by Nightmare Magazine. Horror stories and the chance of even MORE horror stories and commentary by participating in a thriving horror fiction community? The only thing more sure is that somehow, some way, your trick or treat candy will contain at least one of those strange honey nougat things…


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

Click here to read the text of the story

Episode 142: Marrow by Mav Skye


Narrated by Barry J. Northern

Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

This week’s installment in our annual horror story collection is Marrow by Mav Skye. Mav believes scarecrows have souls. They are rebels on poles, waiting their time to rise up as one and take over the world. In her spare time, Mav writes scary tales up in the attic of her hundred year old home. The stories are usually for adults, because adults like to be scared too! But this tale isn’t written for adults. This one is just for you, dear listener, and especially for Thor, Moses and Helena. Mav is the author of Supergirls, The Undistilled Sky, and a forthcoming horror novel, Wanted: Single Rose. You can find her online at her website, or on Twitter.

The story is read for you, at special request from Mav, by our very own artist and producer Barry J. Northern.


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

Read Along

Click here to read the text of the story

Episode 140: Of Pumpkin Soup and Other Demons and The Ghost of Grammy Goneril


Authors: Natalia Theodoridou and Austin H. Gilkeson
Narrators: Katherine Inskip and Christiana Ellis

Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

It’s October, everyone. That means it’s time for our annual Halloween special. This year we’ve gone for a theme, presenting a collection of horror stories about endings, both figurative and literal. The dead and the undying. Spirits sea monsters. Apocalypses writ both large and small. Welcome to The End of the World.


We’ll start things off on the lighter side with two flash offerings. How about a nice warm bowl of soup to fortify yourself for the days ahead, with Of Pumpkin Soup and Other Demons, by Natalia Theodoridou. Natalia is a media and cultural studies scholar currently based in Portsmouth, UK. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Crossed Genres, and elsewhere. She is a Rhysling award nominee. She’s also a first reader for Goldfish Grimm’s Spicy Fiction Sushi, and next month the Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women will include her story The Eleven Holy Numbers of the Mechanical Soul. You can find her online as well as Twitter.

Pumpkin Soup is narrated for you by Katherine Inskip, another of my new friends from LonCon. Katherine weighs galaxies for a living, and builds worlds in her spare time. She is addicted to chocolate and Japanese logic puzzles. She’s not entirely new to podcasting and narrating fiction, but doesn’t have any projects to share. Yet…


The Ghost of Grammy Goneril is written by Austin H. Gilkeson. Austin is a Japanese government bureaucrat by day and a writer by night (and sometimes by lunch). His stories have appeared in Underneath the Juniper Tree and Spellbound. This story was originally published in the Halloween 2013 edition of Underneath the Juniper Tree. It was inspired by the Japanese Obon festival, and his memories of eating disgusting candy given to him by his otherwise loving grandparents. He is currently revising a novel-in-stories about the story’s main character, the wicked witch Mab Ipswich, and hopes to submit it soon. He lives in Chicago with his wife and son. You can find him on his blog and on Twitter as @osutein.

Your narrator is the wonderful Christiana Ellis, our own Nurse Withers from Camp Myth. Christiana is a writer and podcaster living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her comedic science fiction audiodrama, Space Casey, recently completed its second season, and her novel Nina Kimberly the Merciless is available in print, ebook, and as a free podcast audiobook. You can follow her on Twitter and Google+, and find everything she does at her website.


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

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Of Pumpkin Soup and Other Demons

The Ghosts of Grammy Goneril

Episode 101: Custom Made by Sylvia Anna Hiven


Narrated by Hana Mitchellova

Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

Today we present Sylvia Anna Hivén‘s story, Custom Made. Sylvia lives and writes in Atlanta, Georgia. Her fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Stupefying Stories, EscapePod, PseudoPod, and others. You can follow her on Twitter.

Custom Made first appeared in The Colored Lens, a magazine of speculative fiction, in February 2012.

Your narrator is Hana Mitchell. Hana is from the Czech Republic and now lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, daughter and retired greyhound. She runs the online business Pramskins which provides universal pram liners, prams accessories & strollers covers in Australia to make little ones more comfortable. You can visit her store here.

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

Read Along

Click here to read the text of the story

Episode 99: Little Wonders 3 – Scary Stories


Authors: Beth Hull, Ian Rose, and J. A. Ironside
Narrators: Alasdair Stuart, Barry J. Northern, and Ian Stuart

Listen above or download here.

Show Notes

You’re listening to Little Wonders, our collection episodes featuring flash fiction and poetry centered around a theme. And since it’s Halloween, that means it’s time for scaaaaaary stories!


Our first story is Come To Me, by Beth Hull. Beth lives in Northern California with her artist/scientist husband, their two children, and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. Beth writes young adult novels and the occasional short story. To learn more about Beth, her work, and the things that annoy her (windy days, ticking clocks), and scare her (black widow spiders lurking in the mailbox), you can visit her website or find her on Twitter.

Come to Me is narrated for you by podcasting’s Dark Overlord, Alasdair Stuart. Alasdair is the host of Pseudopod, the weekly horror fiction podcast by Escape Artists. He also co-hosts Escape Pod, their weekly science fiction show. He blogs about lots of things for lots of people, including himself, his website. You can listen to him talk about cooking things, reading things, watching things or training in things like martial arts and baking on Twitter.


When most people thing of young adult fiction, they think of fantasy with a heavy sprinkling of science fiction. Horror doesn’t seem to be a popular genre, and I can understand why: thinking about younger people in frightening or dangerous situations isn’t very comforting. When you think of Harry Potter, you probably think of the fun times Harry, Ron and Herminoe have, and you glaze over the very real danger they were in.

But growing up can be scary, with or without the presence of the supernatural. And unlike a book, you can’t put your life down and come back to it later. Learning how to deal with an ugly reality is an important skill.

Which brings us to our second story, Piper by Ian Rose. Ian is a web developer and former field biologist living in Portland, Oregon. He loves oceans and mountains and rain, and is very pleased to have found a place that offers him all of these, though he does have to visit his native east coast every year to fill up on bagels, pizza, and other bread products that Oregon just can’t seem to get quite right. He blogs here and can be found on Twitter. Ian also has a story about to be published by New Myths.

Your narrator is our very own Barry J. Northern. Barry is a game developer based in Bournemouth, England making freemium games for clients such LEGO and the BBC. His latest game is breaking all records on iOS, not surprising with a title like “LEGO Star Wars Yoda Chronicles”. It’s for younger kids, but if you fancy blasting alien brains check out LEGO Hero Factory Brain Attack. All this game developing has meant Barry hasn’t been as active in the podcasting and fiction world as he used to be, but he still works behind the scenes at Cast of Wonders. He also guest narrates on occasion at The Drabblecast and StarShip Sofa.


Ian told us the inspiration for Piper was, that in of all the fables and fairy tales I was read as a child, the pied piper was the only one that ever really scared him. Not only the power that the Piper, over both the rats and the children, but the willingness to use it was terrifying. He was a sort of avatar for all the threats and dangers in the world that Ian didn’t yet understand but still knew to be afraid of.

And speaking of things you should be afraid of, how about cowled figures rowing tiny boats on dark rivers late at night? Should you ever find yourself in need of such, maybe you shouldn’t pick the one with the skeletal face…

For our final scary short, we bring you The Boatman by JA Ironside. Jules Anne Ironside started writing as a child. She grew up in Dorset in a house full of books, fed on a diet of myths, legends and spooky tales. She particularly likes to take well known myths and turn them on their heads. Jules is a keen martial artist having taught karate for fifteen years now. In her free time she likes to read and add to her collection of dead or little use languages. She has had several other short stories published in the anthologies Reading is Magic and Stories for Homes both available from Amazon. Her next published story will appear in the A Chimerical world; Unseelie anthology. You can follow her on Twitter.

To complete our trio of narrators, The Boatman is read for you by the very talented Ian Stuart. Ian Stuart is a writer, poet and performer living and working in York. In the past he has worked for BBC local radio in Manchester and the Isle of Man, where he taught English. As well as providing voice tracks for hotels, businesses and foreign language courses, he is a tourist guide for The Ghost Trail of York. (I’ve been on his tour, you don’t want to miss it!) And Ian has been a resident voice artist for Pseudopod for some years. You can read more about his poetry and his dog, Digby, on his blog, The Top Banana, or follow him on Twitter.


The Little Wonders theme, “Neversus” is by Alexye Nov, available at MusicAlley.com.

Read Along

Come With Me: Click here to read the text of the story

Piper: Click here to read the text of the story

The Boatman: Click here to read the text of the story