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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…)

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Cast of Wonders 482: In Real Time (Staff Picks 2021)


In Real Time

by Avra Margariti

The kites frozen across the sky dapple the lawn like stained glass. Human statues dot the park, caught mid-motion: picnicking, dog-walking, sun-bathing. They might have been unnerving, once. Now, the utter stillness and silence soothes me like nothing else. In Frozen Time, scents are amplified tenfold. Grass, flowers, sugar. I drop a few coins into a vendor’s tip jar, then fill a clear bag with candy worms, chewing as I stroll down the small hill.

When a shape weaves between the stationary people, I think it’s only an optical illusion. A vase, two faces, now a vase again.

I blink, and the silhouette has drawn closer. It belongs to a kid not much younger than me in appearance, although there’s really no way to tell with people like us, who know how to manipulate time. The kid nods at me, casual like we’re meeting in the street and not in a frozen world, then steals a fistful of my candy.

“Who are you?” I ask once my tongue unglues itself from my palate. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 478: Cats of Fortune (Staff Picks 2021)


Cats of Fortune

by Ivy Grimes

When I was a little girl, I thought Aunt Dee had everything. She had her own trailer, a video game console and six games, dozens of heavy pink-and-purple necklaces, and a yard full of cats. Ten, to be exact. They were all different colors, like the shoes in a rich woman’s closet, and they drank water from the birdbath and ate kibble from old pie tins. Best of all, Dee had a secret she shared only with me—the cats were lucky. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 477: Three Monsters That Are Not Metaphors (Staff Picks 2021)


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 475: Miss Tansybaum’s Circus of the Moderately Peculiar


Miss Tansybaum’s Circus of the Moderately Peculiar

by T Kingfisher

By all accounts, Miss Tansybaum’s Circus of the Moderately Peculiar should not have continued to operate. They were a very small operation as circuses went, they had no rides and their menagerie consisted of a single geriatric lion and a handful of obscure species, such as the Sudanese Crooning Lizards, who were obscure for a reason. Sure, Brendan the Mono-juggler could keep a single ball in the air for hours, but you got tired of watching after the first few minutes.

Lord Maggothaunch’s Carnival of the Un-Ordinary should have crushed them out of existence in the first year–indeed, that was among the lord’s stated goals–and its failure to do so was a source of intense frustration for him. Did he not have scantily clad women and a genuine, if sullen tiger? Did he not have a genuine freakshow, with real live freaks, including a pair of dubious Siamese twins and a two-headed calf in a jar?

Miss Tansybaum did not have a freakshow (at least not in the conventional sense, although the less charitable would argue that the entire operation qualified.) Instead she had Sister Rosemary’s Curious Convent. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 474: Little Free Library

Show Notes

“Little Free Library® is a registered trademark of Little Free Library LTD, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.”


Little Free Library

by Naomi Kritzer

Meigan built her Little Free Library from a kit, because she wanted to make it into art. She sanded the wood and painted it with primer, then glued on the rocks she’d picked up from the Lake Superior shore over the summer and used acrylics to paint indigo swirls around them. When she mounted it on the post outside her St. Paul house, she decided to paint the post, too, and painted a fuchsia road, winding around the post to the box at the top, and outlined the road in smaller pebbles. There was a little bit of glitter in the fuchsia craft paint, and she decided that the book cabinet should have some of that, as well. Finally she screwed on the sign that said “Little Free Library” with the instructions: take a book, return a book. (Continue Reading…)