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Cast of Wonders 430: Where a Heart Would Fit Perfectly


Where a Heart Would Fit Perfectly

by S. Qiouyi Lu

Penny looked in the mirror and frowned. No matter which way she turned, her dress seemed too sequined, too flashy, too… ridiculous. And her makeup felt garish even in the dim light backstage. But that was how all the dancers were made up—the stage lights would wash their faces out otherwise.

Just grin and bear it, Penny told herself. At least you’re getting paid this time. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 424: Like Faded Joy


Like Faded Joy

by Ashley Bao

We were born during a lightning storm, thunder cracking a whip through the hospital walls. Lei came first, not even crying when her head popped out. She pulled me by the ankle, and I tumbled and bawled as I left the comfort of the womb.

Our mother cursed in Mandarin when the nurse brought in the paperwork for the birth certificates. We were one month early, and she hadn’t picked out names yet. Our grandmother, our wai po, piped up from her stool next to the bed.

“Xiao Lei, Xiao Yu. Little Thunder, Little Rain. The thunderstorm brought them here tonight,” wai po said, leaving no room for argument.

Our mother wrote the names in crisp English letters. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 423: For He Can Creep – Part 2

Show Notes

Extract from Jubilate Agno


For He Can Creep

by Siobhan Carroll

Part 1 – Part 2

Jeoffry is in pain. The bite the devil gave him throbs fiercely. It is in the wrong place to lick, and yet he tries, and that hurts too.

Poor Jeoffry! Poor Jeoffry! the poet says. O you brave cat. May the Lord Jesus bless you and your wounds.

Jeoffry’s ears flick back and forth. Worse than the pain is the heaviness in his chest that comes from having lost a fight. Jeoffry lose a fight! Such things were possible when he was a kitten, but now—

I can feel the paper calling to me even now, the poet sighs. O Jeoffry, sleep here and grow well again. I must to my task. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 422: For He Can Creep – Part 1


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…)

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Cast of Wonders 421: We Sang You As Ours


We Sang You As Ours

by Nibedita Sen

The new egg was going to be a boy.

Cadence had overheard Mother Reed and Mother Piper saying so in the kitchen, last night, after they were done singing to it. She didn’t know how they could tell–it looked just like her little sisters’ eggs had. Maybe a bit bigger than theirs had been at three days old, but otherwise the same: fat as a pumpkin and ribbed like one, flushed with the faintest hint of venous blue. It looked like the dead jellyfish that would sometimes wash up on the beach, plump and gelatinous, clear near the surface and fibrous white at its heart, making you want to dig your fingers in, or maybe take a bite. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 420: Devil’s Bridge


Devil’s Bridge

by Frances Hardinge

“That man.” Lauren peered across the street, eyes narrowed. “He was outside school when we came out. I think he’s following us.” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 419: Little Wonders 26 – Fathers’ Day


The Last PoMatic
by Amanda Helms

Rain dripped down PoMatic!365’s chassis and occluded its camera. Running its tiny wiper over the lens, it continued the Standard Enticement Protocol.

“Step right up, folks! No visit to Blue Seas Boardwalk is complete without a customized poem from PoMatic! Love poems, haiku, sonnets, sestinas, free verse, all tailored to you, from a simple scan of your identichip! No two poems are ever the same!” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 416: The Wolf and the Woodsman


The Wolf and the Woodsman

by T Kingfisher

Here. Listen.

I’ll tell you a story.

Listen.

Once upon a time there was a girl. She was probably about twelve or thirteen, but that was an age when children were older than their years and expected to do real work and help with the harvest, so perhaps she was only nine or ten.

Her hood wasn’t red. Red dye is expensive and doesn’t hold well, and nobody who had to dye it themselves would make a red cloak for a child who could be expected to outgrow it by autumn. That was added later because it alliterated. It wasn’t a riding hood, either—the only horse she ever rode was the broad-backed giant that drew her father’s plow. Still, we make do. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 415: The Witches of Athens

Show Notes

A statement from Cast of Wonders on the ongoing protests against police brutality and anti-Black racism. As you will no doubt be aware, protests are ongoing in the U.S. and across the world, drawing attention to police brutality and the ongoing injustice Black Americans are forced to endure.  Cast of Wonders supports Black Lives Matter and wants justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery & all victims of police violence.

If you want to learn more about the realities of racism and how you can help tackle it, we have some suggestions for further reading for children, teens and young adults:

 


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 414: Encore! Flowers for the Dead


Flowers for the Dead

by Jamie Mason

“ … out the windows on the left you’ll see the recent construction across the tops of the factory and high-rise buildings where the more powerful Infernals have established themselves as a kind of informal aristocracy. Originally called Morningside, this neighborhood was abandoned when the factory closed. But when our City passed laws regulating the Infernals, many moved here because of their restrictions on to employment, welfare, housing and healthcare. The majority live at street level, in poverty. High crime rates, addiction and violence remain ongoing concerns among this population of supernatural beings …”


Kyle transforms his thirty-seventh cigarette butt into a geranium as Sick Willy talks to the police.

“Oh yeah she slummed around with us. A lotta rich kids do. Come and walk on the wild side, spend a night in the shelter before running home to mom and dad. Figured she was no different.”

“Oh she’s different all right.” Harriman, the cop, flicks an irritated glance at Kyle as a geranium drops to the sidewalk. “Different enough to wind up dead.”

“She was a nice kid.”

“The murdered ones usually are. When was the last time you saw her?”

Kyle remembers. It was night before last at the park where they went to score dope from a Grower with power over the Earth elementals. They watched him stick a few seeds in the ground, incant and, five minutes later, hand over a bag of fresh rich buds. Kyle, Sick Willie, Trad, Gryphon and Kimberly, the new girl. The rich girl. The dead one.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 413: Little Wonders 25 – Hearts in Boxes


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 412: Eight to the Eighth


Eight, to the Eighth

by Liam Hogan

Spider was fed up. Fed up, and upside down. She hung from a web in the darkest corner of Witch’s cottage, swinging back and forth in the most fed up manner she could fashion.

Each time she swung she scowled with all eight eyes at the torn open envelope with the Royal crest on the side table below. Witch’s gilt-edged invitation to the Palace Ball, the social spectacular of the year, had arrived that very morning.

Spider knew exactly how things would go. How the annual event always went. Witch would not, of course, RSVP. If pressed, she would say how terribly busy she was, and how she definitely hoped to make it, but she really couldn’t say for certain until much closer to the date. But she wouldn’t RSVP later on, either. Instead, Witch would turn up at the Summer Palace of the King and Queen of Freyen-Noyen, on the night of the Ball, invitation in hand, and claim she’d found herself unexpectedly free of an evening and she trusted her gracious hosts wouldn’t mind her unannounced attendance? (Continue Reading…)