raging river

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Cast of Wonders 501: Across the River


Across the River

by Leah Cypess

When the sorcerer walked through the town gates, I was standing with my friends Reuven and Yitzchak in the square, which was not where we were supposed to be. Reuven should have been in the study hall, where his wife had directed him to go. Yitzchak should have been at the market, helping his father. And I should have been resting my voice, since that evening, for the first time, I was going to be allowed to lead the prayers in synagogue—an honor I had been hoping for and practicing for, but that I now, somewhat nervously, wished was not coming so soon. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 500: Ysarin


Ysarin

by Simon Pan

On days when I came home crying, my grandmother was always there with her song.

It was a tune friendly and old as the roads that crossed Mazael: the sort you shared while you watched the land roll away on horseback, or sitting at a moonlit fireside among familiar faces. I would lean against my grandmother on our rickety porch and breathe in her scent as she sang to the street.

Magic lay in that song, the notes so delicate you could tell a story about each one. As the beginning strands of music twined together, I would be transported to a place that let me forget the ache in my chest, a city of an entirely different skin than our Lenniel. A place of worn streets and thatched roofs wrapped in the smell of woodsmoke and fresh ale. A sunset, a fire, the sky on fire and the streets ablaze with torchlight.

“This is our song, dear,” she would say as she smiled down at me. “Don’t listen to the other children. We will always have our home with us…” Her fingers would press against my chest just above my heart. Somehow she knew the exact place where her spell took root. “Here.”

Even after so many years, that is how I think of home. Sitting there on that porch with the wind stealing my tears and carrying away the sound of magic. (Continue Reading…)

A fairy in a jar

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Cast of Wonders 498: Field Biology of the Wee Fairies


Field Biology of the Wee Fairies

by Naomi Kritzer

When Amelia turned fourteen, everyone assured her that she’d find her fairy soon. Almost all girls did. You’d find a fairy, a beautiful little fairy, and catch her. And she’d give you a gift to let her go, and that gift was always beauty or charm or perfect hair or something else that made boys notice you. The neighbor girl, Betty, had caught her fairy when she was just nine, and so she’d never even had to go through an awkward adolescent stage; she’d been perfect and beautiful all along.

Not all fairies were equal, of course. Some of them would do a much better job for you. The First Lady Jackie Kennedy, for example, had caught the fairy queen. Or so almost everyone said. “So keep your eyes open,” Amelia’s mother told her.

“I don’t want to catch a fairy,” Amelia said. “If I did catch a fairy, I’d keep her in a jar like my mice and study her.” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 497: Hurricane Season


Hurricane Season

by Avi Burton

Amaya smelled like the ocean. Most Florida girls did, when they returned from the beach with new tan lines and salt-crusted hair, but Amaya was different. The ocean-brine was under her skin, a part of her that was ever-present, unignorable. She wore jasmine perfume to cover it, overpoweringly sweet, but I could always smell the salt underneath.

We met at the beach— she always seemed to be there, sitting silently and watching the tides. I was crouched over a tide pool when I heard the slip-slap of her lavender sandals approaching.

“You’re new, right?”

I looked up and saw her silhouetted in the sun, smiling down at me, and nearly fell into the tide pool. Her swimsuit had a spotted pattern that made her look like the selkies I’d read about in mythology books— lean-boned girls with dripping hair and fur coats, who belonged to the ocean and only haunted the land. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 495: And I Will Make Thy Name Great


And I Will Make Thy Name Great

by Louis Evans

Abraham, the potter’s son, was sweeping out the workshop late one night, the air hot, the sweat beading on his brow, the kiln still radiating the baking heat it had absorbed over the course of the day.

This was when he heard the voice.

“Boy!”

Abraham looked around.

No source of the voice was apparent. No person had stepped into the shed, nor were the flames of a djinn visible. Four copies of the idol of Suen, god of the moon and chief among gods, were cooling on the shelf opposite the kiln, and sometimes Suen spoke to believers, but the idols were not yet consecrated and certainly could not host the presence of the god. No raven perched in the workshop’s eaves, croaking out an imitation of speech. Abraham was baffled. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 492: Stillwater


Stillwater

by Valerie Kemp

Nothing ever changes in Stillwater. Nothing. I get up every morning at the crack of dawn, in the blazing heat, and drive our pick-up all over, delivering eggs and milk and whatever else my daddy feels like selling, to the good people of Stillwater, population 413.

I work my way in a circle from the edge of town, where we live, to the center. I endure all the little old ladies who like to pinch my cheek when they tell me, “Why Pruitt Reese, you are becoming more like your daddy every day!” Like that’s a good thing. (Continue Reading…)

woman with colourful wisps of light

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Cast of Wonders 491: Little Wonders 33 – Dreams & Identity

Show Notes

“In the Library of Longing” was first published by Daily Science Fiction, February 2021


Sleep Tight

by Mark Joslyn

You were right, you know. When you were a child.

I was hiding under your bed.

You knew it, even though you couldn’t prove it. Even after your mother kissed your cheek, and tucked you in, and told you there was nothing to be afraid of. Even after your father knelt and checked and told you there was nothing hiding down there. Even when you summoned up all your courage and looked for yourself, hanging off the edge of your bed, your trembling flashlight shining on nothing but forgotten socks and lost toys. You still knew, that somehow, someway, I was down there. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 490: Prophecy Girls


Prophecy Girls

by Sydney Paige Guerrero

Sen was the twenty-third Chosen One to save the world. She knew she would not be the last.

Sen remembered everything the history books would not mention: how suffocating the darkness felt, pressing against her and thrumming with life; the smell of sulfur and honey as the Darkling leaned in to devour her, teeth grazing her skin and drawing blood; how sharp the air tasted when her internal emergency systems kicked in after her human heart stopped beating; her hair clinging to her face, heavy and slick with the Darkling’s blood, as she lay gasping with half her body a mess of torn synthetic skin and frayed wires; the way Mr. Smith stared at her in horror as she staggered to her feet as if she were a newly-risen Darkling; the—

“Chosen,” Mr. Smith said.

Sen blinked. Sun-baked dirt gave way to hardwood floors and off-white walls, the blades of a ceiling fan that barely stirred the hot Manila air wiping away the image of a blood red moon. The familiar tang of iron was real enough in her mouth though, and Sen realized she had bitten the inside of her cheek so hard that she was bleeding. Taking a breath, she intertwined her flesh and metal fingers to remind herself she was still whole. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 489: My Hilt Itches


My Hilt Itches

by Sydney Rivers

‘Innkeeper, another round!’ roared the Hero. Cheers of approval came from the other men at his table, dressed in pungent furs and armour. They paired copious drinking with heaped plates of roast meat. That and the body odour was enough to make me queasy.

Of course, it didn’t help that I was strapped against the Hero’s back. My jewelled sheath did little to protect me from the nauseating sounds and smells emanating from him. Regardless of his company, the Hero always ate the most, always drank the most. How I would love to teach him the meaning of moderation with some choice insults and a good knock on the head.

‘Show us Excalibur!’ yelled one of the self-professed ‘warriors’, quickly echoed by the shouts of his peers.

Standing upon the table, the Hero yanked me out of my cosy covering. I was held high, displayed for the entire inn’s enjoyment. I was really getting tired of his perpetual bragging. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 487: Let the Buyer Beware


Let the Buyer Beware

by Michelle Ann King

‘Is it done yet? Is it done, Gran? Is it?’

Willa Rafferty ignores the hopping child at her elbow and peers at the box in her hand. Its roughly printed label–Environment Expansion Kit! Need More Room? Create Extra Magical Space With This Quick And Easy Spell!–is now smeared with small, sticky fingerprints.  ‘Wait a second, Chloe, let me–’

‘I’m Evie, Gran. Is that bug supposed to be in the bucket? Shall I catch it?’

‘What? Oh.’ Willa flinches as a large, black-shelled beetle skitters past her foot. Did that come with the kit? Must’ve done. ‘Shit. I mean, yes. Get the bug, Chloe. I mean, Evie.’

The girl cups the fleeing insect between her palms and drops it into the bucket. It lands with a splash and an aggrieved-sounding hiss.

‘Are we going to set fire to it now, Gran?’

Willa hesitates. Not if there are bugs involved, surely? Aren’t there regulations about not setting bugs on fire? (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 484: Langsuir (Staff Picks 2021)


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…)

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Cast of Wonders 483: Armed With Such Stories, I Roamed Into The Woods (Staff Picks 2021)


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…)