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Cast of Wonders 456: Armed With Such Stories, I Roamed Into The Woods


Armed With Such Stories, I Roamed Into The Woods

by Evan Marcroft

Never trust a wolf’s promise, Atticus, my mother once told me. Remember the tale of Smiling John and Baron Icepelt. They lie between fangs, and their promises will only ever lead you into their belly. She was full of such morsels of wisdom. There was a fable for every lesson I should know. Not all pertained to talking wolves, but this was most relevant to my task. Remember how Smiling John escaped. If you should find a wolf at your heels, throw meat behind you. Wolves are clever but lazy creatures. They will stop for the easier meal.

Armed with such stories, I roamed into the woods to save her life. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 454: The Fairy Queen


The Fairy Queen

by Lynn Buchanan

She made the first fairy by accident, with a twig she found under a hawthorn tree. It was a stick possessing the general shape of a human, with offshoots that resembled arms and legs, and a knot she called a head. Sitting in the shade of the tree, she wrapped a bit of twine around the twig’s torso, tearing off a piece of thread from the cuff of her sleeve and decorating the “arms” in tight white lines. With a ribbon pulled from her hair she clothed the stick, folding the silk into a tunic tied at the back with a bow. For hair she picked up a strand of leaves from the grass beside her, fastening the stem down the slope of the wooden face with three pieces of her own hair, pulled with a jerk and grimace from her skull and braided into a cord the color of sunsets. Last of all she attached to the twig’s back a set of butterfly wings, collected earlier that day from a trip to the garden. (Continue Reading…)

Barn owl at night

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Cast of Wonders 453: Langsuir


Langsuir

by Nadia Mikail

The langsuir is a woman who has died giving birth. Malay folktales have a multitude of women featured as wrathful, devious spirits: the hantu kum-kum thrives on the blood of virgin girls, desperate to maintain her youth even in death; the hantu kopek lures men to cheat on their wives, jealous that their afterlife contains no husband of their own; the pontianak goes after the people who have wronged her, tearing out their organs.

People usually shake their heads, they think: oh, well, that is the envious, terrible nature of Eve. Personally I think it is more how humans are treated in life that influences how they behave in death, and in this culture the women are angrier than most. (Continue Reading…)

magic butterflies

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Cast of Wonders 452: Little Wonders 29 – Flash Fiction Contest Winners


Porch Light for the Lonely

by Alyson Grauer

When the wide western sky is black, embroidered with thousands of silver stars, and crickets sing unseen in the dry grass, critters come to the porch of the old house. The rug has long since lost its color from years of harsh sun. The wrought-iron bench is rusted, enamel flaking away like tree bark. The mailbox is crooked, and the torn curtains blow gently in the wind. Though it’s the sturdiest house left on the block, it sits unlived in, untrespassed. Only the flies and spiders know how empty it truly is inside.

Many cats come: strays, abandoned pets, and feral. They drape themselves about the empty porch, meowing with quiet yearning. (Continue Reading…)

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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…)

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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 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 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…)