Archive for Episodes

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Cast of Wonders 81: Little Tear


Little Tear

by Philip Meeks

A war had ravaged the city where Little Tear danced for strangers.

In her gilt cage at night she’d hear the sounds of sirens, crumbling stone and worse. Feel the shudder and cracking of timbers beneath the shelf where she was stored. The fall of dust like kisses from the dead followed by a silence so deep and terrifying you could almost hear it.

Some nights, after raid time, Little Tear would hear one of her many sisters sob. Squilly with the sewn on beak perhaps. Zarilla with the purple plumes. Or Moya, the one with the missing arm. Little Tear’s three special favourites. The most damaged. Tucked away in their own cages elsewhere on the shelf they’d shed their sorrows whilst shivering from their fears and there was nothing Little Tear could do to comfort them but call out a soothing word or few, or coo. But mostly she chose not to. And she never cried. Not even when buildings nearby succumbed to the sky bird’s heinous deliveries.

Instead she chose to clasp her eyes and concentrated on her thinkings. Those that would lull her to a shallow slumber. The ones she only ever dared remember when she was betwixt the world of awake and not.
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Cast of Wonders 80: Small Magics


Small Magics

by Alethea Kontis

Minna tried to stand still in front of the mirror, but it wasn’t working. Effie jerked Minna’s hips from side to side, trying to adjust the bustle of her sateen French cream walking dress. Minna stared at the print of the Luck etching she held, then closed her eyes and pressed it to her breast, wishing with all her might for the magic she had given it to seep back into her.

“Would you like some glue?” Minna’s eyes snapped open as her friend’s voice sounded in her ear, dark and exotic as the Greek gypsy girl herself.

“See, now,” said Minna, pointing at their reflections, “your head looks better on this dress than mine does.” Minna folded the Luck etching and tucked it inside her sleeve, desperate for its closeness.

Effie noticed. “Luck doesn’t always mean the good kind.”
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Cast of Wonders 79: Loma’ai


Loma’ai

by Jessie Bishop Powell

When people asked about Johnna’s dark skin and hair and her grey-violet eyes, her mother Manda said, “She was my surprise baby.” Those traits, especially the eyes, belonged to the Auric tribe, whose standing with the ruling council was never stable. So the askers usually pretended to think Johnna was descended from her stepfather, even though she looked nothing like him or her younger siblings on that side.

Her father, when Johnna saw him once a year, was more honest. “Pfft. Accident,” he said. “The caravan leader had a fetching daughter, and I had a terminal problem keeping up my drawers.”
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Cast of Wonders 78: The Giant Who Dreamed of Summer


The Giant Who Dreamed of Summer

by Jess Hyslop

What’s this–another visitor? How tiresome. I thought I had seen the last of you when the guards departed. I thought I had finally been left to meet my end in peace.

Wishful thinking. I thought I was beyond that, too.

Well, you must excuse me if I do not get up. These chains, you see…

What is such a tiny thing as you doing here all alone, anyway? Do your parents know that you are up here? I doubt that they’d approve. The hillside is steep and treacherous, and there are all sorts of dangers for a little flake like you. How your mother will scold if you tear your skirts! How your father will tut if you scrape your dainty ankle! How they will weep if you tumble from a bluff! And, my, how they will curse and stamp and rage if you end up in the belly of a starving frost giant.

I jest, child. Despite what you have been told, we giants do not eat people. It is only in your stories that such loathsome things occur.

Nevertheless, you should run along. Your parents are doubtless sick with worry, and I do not want to be blamed for your disappearance. Your King has made me miserable enough already. The last thing I need is to suffer more of his so-called justice.
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Cast of Wonders 77: The Long Cut


The Long Cut

by Tom Howard

“Do you want me to drive for a while?” my mother asked from the front passenger seat. It was the middle of the night but, unlike my older sister, I couldn’t sleep. The desert streaked by just out of sight of the headlights. Off in the distance I could occasionally see a cluster of lights. I often wondered if there were kids like me asleep in their beds in little houses. Kids who didn’t have crazy fathers who insisted on driving everywhere because planes and trains were too expensive and buses were too slow.

“I’m good until Tucson,” said my dad. He and Mom traded off driving since we never stopped at a hotel because Dad said he’d never pay hard-earned money just for sleeping. “I could use another cup of that coffee if there’s any left.”

Mom unscrewed the lid from a battered aluminum thermos in a ritual that I’d seen her perform a hundred times.  She’d pour the dark, steaming liquid – rarely spilling a drop – into Dad’s big travel mug. He’d complain about how bad restaurant coffee was.  I didn’t wait for Dad’s expected comment. I just looked out the window. Where the heck were we?
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Cast of Wonders 76: Dragonomics


Dragonomics

by Lance Schonberg

A tiny echo of breath down one of the small ventilation tunnels pulled Kahruk from sleep. Keeping the cavern from becoming too stuffy in warmer months, the tunnels also had the disadvantage of being large enough to let in anything smaller than two cows walking abreast. But prey didn’t come to him very often so he kept his eyes closed, holding as still as possible. Something itched in the back of his skull.

Soft footsteps joined the breathing near the tunnel’s end. Only one set, but he wished his snack had waited another week.

Kahruk pried open one eye, watching through the tiniest slit he could manage. Something warm stepped into the cavern and took a few careful steps toward him, padding sounds absorbed by the gloom before reaching the dragon’s ears. Then it stopped and stood still for a dozen slow heartbeats before sitting down on the stub of a stalagmite and lowering something to the cavern floor.

Kahruk fought the urge to frown. Usually the only mortals foolish enough to approach so close were brainless young knights trying to make a name for themselves, brainless young thieves looking to get rich quickly, or on rare occasions, brainless young virgins demanding to be sacrificed for the good of their people. The virgins, at least, he was happy to oblige. The knights and thieves, well, he was happy to oblige them in the same way, if not quite how they hoped.

But no one had ever come to stare before. It was almost, well, rude.
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Cast of Wonders 75: The Field Trip


The Field Trip

by Alex Shvartsman

The obelisk towered over the surrounding ruins, the strange signs carved into its sides gleaming in the afternoon sun. It was mysterious, majestic, and very, very annoying.

I walked over and joined the other students. The group waited in an uncomfortable silence, sizing each other up nervously and trying to guess if any of the others had better luck in figuring out Professor Quilp’s puzzle. The stakes were high. Professor Quilp, one of Milky Way’s most notable scholars of xenoarchaeology, had room for exactly one new intern in his department at the Academy.  We five were his top candidates, and this was the final audition.
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Cast of Wonders 74: Gods of Stone


Gods of Stone

by Jeff Samson

What… what’s going on?  Where am I?

Whoa, take it easy.

Why can’t I move?

Just take it easy.

Where am I, I say!

If you’d just settle down.

Who… who are you… where are you… why can’t I move?

What do you mean, where are you?  I’m standing right in front of you.

Show yourself!

I said, I’m standing… 

I see no one.

…right in front…

Enough of your games.  There is not but a statue before me.  I say again, show yourself!

But I am showing myself.  That statue’s me, you fool.

What?

That statue’s me.
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Cast of Wonders 73: Mr. Nine and the Gentleman Ghost

Show Notes

Today we present Aidan Doyle’s story, Mr. Nine and the Gentleman Ghost, which was originally published on the Weird Tales web site. Aidan’s been with us before; he wrote Episode 31, Inksucker. Aidan is an Australian writer and computer programmer who loves travelling and has visited more than 80 countries. His experiences include teaching English in Japan, interviewing ninjas in Bolivia and going ten-pin bowling in North Korea. His stories have been published in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons and Fantasy.

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


Mr. Nine and the Gentleman Ghost

by Aidan Doyle

Elisabeth gave her invitation to the valet and received a gilt-edged program in return. It welcomed her to the Bearbrass Gentle Ladies Society Monthly Ball. The valet glanced at Elisabeth’s satchel and then escorted her into the ballroom.

Bearbrass had been a sleepy colonial outpost until gold was discovered in the nearby hills. Within three years, it had been transformed into the largest city in all of the colonies. Elisabeth did not think of it as necessarily an improvement.

A dozen chandeliers clung to the ceiling and paintings imported from the empire competed for space on the walls. An orchestra of more than twenty musicians waited on the stage at the far end of the room.

Mrs. Rittiker, the president of the Bearbrass Gentle Ladies Society, greeted Elisabeth at the entrance. She was a short, stout woman in her early fifties and wore a purple chiffon gown with a plunging neckline. “You’ve come without a chaperone again,” she said. “If I were half the gentle lady I pretend to be, I would be thoroughly scandalized.”
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Cast of Wonders 72: The Dun Horse

Show Notes

This is a substantially rewritten version of “The Dun Horse.” This tale was collected on the Pawnee reservation by George Bird Grinnel and published in 1889 in his book titled “Pawnee Hero stories and Folk Tales.”

An Indian named Eagle Chief (warrior name White Eagle) on learning of Grinnel’s mission said:

“It is good and it is time. Already the old things are being lost, and those who knew the secrets are many of them dead. If we had known how to write we would have put these things down and they would not have been forgotten. But we could not write and these stories were handed down from one to another. The old men told their grandchildren and so the secrets and the stories and the doings of long ago have been handed down. It may be that they have changed as they passed from father to son, and it is well that they should be put down so that our children, when they are like the white people, can know what were their fathers’ ways.

This is my homage to “The Dun Horse.” I hope you like it too.  ~EWA


The Dun Horse

by Edward Ahern

Long ago in the Pawnee tribe there lived an old woman and her grandson, a boy of sixteen. These two had no living relatives in the tribe and were very poor. The rest of the tribe despised them for having nothing, not even family.

The old woman and the boy always stayed behind when the tribe moved to new hunting grounds so they could search through the trash of the abandoned camp for things the other Pawnees had thrown away- shreds of buffalo robes, worn-out moccasins with holes in them and chunks of old bone and gristle.

One day as the old woman and her grandson followed behind on the trail of their tribe, they walked up to an old, bony dun horse which had been left to die by another band of Indians.
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Cast of Wonders 71: Now Cydonia


Now Cydonia

by Rick Kennett

Cadet Cy De Gerch bounced forward into the desert darkness, raised her arms in a defensive posture and, as best as a fourteen year could, barked, “Halt! Who goes there!”

There was no one there. There never was.

Cy jumped back, a slow leap in the low gravity, to her original position on the perimeter, her vacsuit moving easy like a second skin, to watch and wait and break the boredom as best she could until relieved. Out there was the desert she had trekked the past two years with her section of Martian Star Corps cadets. Out there was the countryside of Mars – cold and red and a billion years dead, littered with rocks, pocked with craters, filled with myths and ghost stories, most of which Cy didn’t really believe. Sergeant Kreeng – Old Get-It-Right – had known what he was doing when he’d set them perimeter guard duty consisting mostly of doing nothing. It was, she knew, a discipline of the mind.
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Cast of Wonders 70: A Song for the Season


A Song for the Season

by Eliza Hirsch

The sun came out today, and for the first time in five months our song returned. It changes once every three years. This time, the melody sounds slower, a little bit sad. Long, low notes shake my chest when I stand too close to the forest’s edge. The last song was a bright, energetic tune; before that it was like water tumbling over rocks in a wild river. Each song was as unique as the girl who gave their life for them.

I worked in the garden, stringing twine for a pea trellis, listening to the song and basking in the warmth of the sun. Louder than the wistful tune was the sound of my younger brother, Allard, chopping wood along the side of the house. Our parents were in town, mother checking on the winter’s newborns while father delivered bread to neighbors. Spring had come at last, and we were happy to be outside.

We were not the only ones. Allard’s axe stopped swinging and fell to the ground with a thunk. I looked up from my knot work as he shouted out a greeting. A familiar voice answered him and I dropped my twine, eager to see the face I had missed so much during the cold months.
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