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Cast of Wonders 451: Unnamed


Unnamed

by Monte Lin

Huìhuì Gāo’s homeroom teacher squinted at his roll call. He wore a slight smile that conveyed no joy. After a few seconds, he said, “Ms…?”

Her hand hovered over her desk, hesitant, ready to catch her name. Her teacher squinted and furrowed his brow and looked about the classroom, finally settling his gaze on her. “Here,” she said, her voice cracking a little. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 450: Little Wonders 28 – Metaphors & Allegories


Three monsters that are not metaphors

by Dani Atkinson

1. The kelpie is not a metaphor for depression.

“You’re kind of like a metaphor for depression, though,” I tell her, and she snorts angrily. Her hide twitches, dark and sticky as tar pits.

Just because she’s deceptively appealing, and wants to trap me and drag me down into cold grey waters, means nothing. Just because I am already drowning does not make it a metaphor. (Continue Reading…)

Cats Cast

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CatsCast 341: Bargain


Bargain

by Sarah Gailey

Malachai loved his work. He loved wandering among the trappings of enormous wealth and influence, seeing the baubles that humans excreted to express their status. He especially loved watching those wealthy, influential mortals tremble before the might of his inescapable superiority.

Malachai worked exclusively with those humans who had found themselves at the limit of how much power they could possess. They called him to bend the rules of time and space around their whims, so that they might be even more feared and loved by the other mortals. Their desires were predictable—money, knowledge, talent, authority. These were the kinds of people who hunted down ancient parchments with the Words of Invocation inscribed upon them. These were the kinds of people who did not concern their consciences with the compensation Malachai required for his services.

They appreciated a bit of theatrical flair.
(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 449: This is How You Remember (Staff Picks 2020)


This is How You Remember

by Phong Quan

I see the crowds before I see you, before I see even the flickering white of your flame. Your culture’s everywhere now—your music, your art, your words—but not your people, and not you, not in this tiny airport in this little place between San Diego and LA. So I hear the whispers—A Torch! A Speaker’s on the flight. Why here? There’s nothing here—and prepare myself to see you for the first time since the War. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 448: The Oak Knowers (Staff Picks 2020)


The Oak Knowers

by Wesley Jenkins

When the moon sits high, and our parents have passed out for sure, we gather in the grove to do our business.

We never call it magic. Magic is something magicians do, pulling rabbits out of hats. I guess witches turn princes into toads and sorcerers cruise from kingdom to kingdom, toppling regimes and screwing everything in sight, but we have never been so outrageous. For one thing, we believe in rules.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 447: Candy Wrappers (Staff Picks 2020)


Candy Wrappers

by Kaitlyn Zivanovich

The island is a circle. A magmic glow radiates from the lips of the volcano crater at one end—hot, and alive. On the other end the Visitor compound is white and cold, lit by the new false light. But it is darkness the island child seeks as she sprints through the garden of the dead, cradling her brother’s soul in her hands.

Mikmik dashes from night-shadow to night-shadow. She skirts around overgrown patches of soulseeds, left uncollected by their living. There is no singing in the garden. Jyn chatters and laughs in Mikmik’s palm, completely unchanged for all that he no longer has a body. “Faster!” he cries. The wind rushes over his soulseed. “Run, Mikmik, run!” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 446: The Half-Life of a Broken Heart (Staff Picks 2020)


The Half-Life of a Broken Heart
by N. R. Lambert

We hear the nursery long before we see it. Feel it too, despite the heavily insulated walls. Deep metronomic concussions roll down the corridor and crash through us. When we reach the entry, marked simply, “Hearts,” the door slides open and a technician ushers us through. The nursery is aggressively antiseptic–shrill LED lighting, a gleaming steel tile floor, and between them, bed after bed of hearts. A chamber of chambers, bumping and pulsing in sync.

“They do that on their own.” The tech says, smiling, glasses glaring back at us.

“We’ve even tried to offset them intentionally, quite drastically, but still…they always sync up somehow. It’s rather uncanny, don’t you think?” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 445: The Pop-up Artisan of Drink Me Café (Staff Picks 2020)


The Pop-up Artisan of Drink Me Café

by Marie Croke

I came to her coffee shop, but never bought anything–things like that the owner’s bound to notice. Figured my days were numbered as soon as she took note, but my mom ran me off and the cold drove me in and there’s only so many stores one can pretend to be shopping at before people start looking at you all suspicious-like.

Took a coffee cup out of the trash and did the mime thing actors did, pretending to sip while I turned pages in my library book. Whenever the owner came near–wiping down a table, picking up dirty napkins, delivering a latte–I got all stiff, shoulders tense, waiting for her tap on them.

“Excuse me.”

Like I said…

“What are you reading?”

“A book,” I muttered, hugging the book awkwardly with my arm. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 444: From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review (Staff Picks 2020)


From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review

by Marie Brennan

Dear Sirs–

I was fascinated by Mr. Benjamin Talbot’s brief notice, published in the 28 Seminis issue of your magazine, detailing his acquisition of a preserved specimen from a heretofore undocumented draconic species. As we all know, legends of the cockatrice date back many centuries, but I am unaware of any reputable examples collected before now, either dead or alive. This is a thrilling event for the field of dragon naturalism, and I heartily encourage Mr. Talbot to publish his discovery at greater length, including details such as the manner of its acquisition, the island or archipelago in the Broken Sea where such beasts may be found, and a thorough description of its anatomy. An engraving to accompany this article would not go amiss–though naturally a public presentation of his find would be even more desirable. I may dare hope that Mr. Talbot is even now preparing such an article for publication, whether in your magazine or elsewhere, for I have awaited further information with bated breath, and fear I will soon turn blue for lack of oxygen.
(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 443: The Witches of Athens (Staff Picks 2020)


The Witches of Athens
by Lara Elena Donnelly

There are two diners in Athens, Ohio.

The Court Street Diner serves tuna melts and satin malts in silver mixing cups. The Court Street Diner says it is stuck in the 1960s, but it is too hip to be a throwback. The waitstaff are young and enticing, dressed in gingham and high-waisted jeans.

The Union Street Diner is the older of the two establishments, open every hour of the day, serving breakfast twenty-four seven. Potatoes fried in sour grease arrive on thick ceramic plates, borne by pockmarked servers whose lives have passed like white bread through the conveyor belt of an industrial toaster, burnt and slow.

There are two witches in Athens, too, and each holds court in her respective diner. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 442: Mothers, Watch Over Me (Staff Picks 2020)


Mothers, Watch Over Me

by Maria Haskins

Even in the dream, Maya knows her pup is dying.

She dreams of a lone mother-dog in the time before the packs, before the dens, before the sky cleared, before the flames on the horizon went out. Mother-dog walks through dust of the Forbidding, beneath the same skyfire that glows ever-brighter in Maya’s waking world, walking towards the towers, carrying a pup in her jaws.

In Maya’s dream, mother-dog is starlight and shadow, and the dirt glimmers where her paws touch the ground. Mother-dog does not speak, but Maya’s own voice ripples through the stillness of the Forbidding, stirring dust and silence:

Watch over me, mother. Watch over them.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 441: For He Can Creep (Staff Picks 2020)


For He Can Creep

by Siobhan Carroll

Flash and fire! Bristle and spit! The great Jeoffry ascends the madhouse stairs, his orange fur on end, his yellow eyes narrowed!

On the third floor the imps cease their gamboling. Is this the time they stay and fight? One imp, bolder than the others, flattens himself against the flagstones. He swells himself with nightmares, growing huge. His teeth shine like the sword of an executioner, and his eyes are the colors of spilled whale oil before a match is struck. In their cells, the filthy inmates shrink away from his immensity, wailing.

But Jeoffry does not shrink. He rushes up the last few stairs like the Deluge of God, and his claws are sharp! The imps run screaming, flitting into folds of space only angels and devils can penetrate.

In the hallway, Jeoffry cleans the smoking blood off his claws. Some of the humans whisper their thanks to him; some even dare to stroke his fur through the bars. Sometimes Jeoffry accepts this praise and sometimes he is bored by it. Today, annoyed by the imps’ vain show of defiance, he leaves his scent on every door. This cell is his, and this one. The whole asylum is his, and let no demon forget it! For he is the Cat Jeoffry, and no demon can stand against him. (Continue Reading…)