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Cast of Wonders 86: Ieia


Ieia

by S. L. Bickley

Even after seven years living out in the country, Palfi didn’t know how to sense the seasons. But she knew the autumn equinox had not come yet, for she’d had no visitors in a week or so. People always came flocking when the seasons turned.

Autumn and its pilgrims could stay away forever, for all she cared. She didn’t need donations: she already had plenty of shelfbread, and plenty of wine, and a good store of donated silver which she had few opportunities to spend. And the only things a visitor might give her, apart from bread and wine and silver, were irritation and trouble.

She sat at her devotions nonetheless — partly because someone was sure to arrive the moment she abandoned her façade, and partly because the grove was a pleasant place, and Ieia, the goddess statue, was better company than most real people.
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Cast of Wonders 85: Patterns (Part 2)


Patterns

by Susan Oke

Kate

There’s no stopping Mikey in this mood. He grins at me, blue eyes bright in the moonlight, and a surge of excitement snatches at my breath. He always does this to me; it’s one of the things that I love about him. Blake and Hari stride ahead –– the Hulk and Spiderman –– full of restless energy. Mikey grabs my hand and together we run to catch up.

The fence is no problem; Hari flourishes his dad’s wire cutters, stolen for the occasion. Mikey holds back the heavy netting while I step through, his knuckles white against the wire. The ground is ridged with the aftershock of JCB-violation; lumpy shadows hint at equipment scattered around the excavation site. It’s cold and damp, and I can feel my hair starting to frizz.

I pick my way across what used to be the school’s sports field, and try to picture the site during the day: the thump and rumble of men-at-work, flashes of yellow, digger and men both, humped earth waiting to landslide, and that black lick of a wound in the ground, growing wider and deeper every day. But my snapshot glances taken on the way to the Science Block refuse to coalesce into a solid image. The shadows keep their secrets.
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Cast of Wonders 84: Patterns (Part 1)


Patterns

by Susan Oke

Kate

There’s no stopping Mikey in this mood. He grins at me, blue eyes bright in the moonlight, and a surge of excitement snatches at my breath. He always does this to me; it’s one of the things that I love about him. Blake and Hari stride ahead –– the Hulk and Spiderman –– full of restless energy. Mikey grabs my hand and together we run to catch up.

The fence is no problem; Hari flourishes his dad’s wire cutters, stolen for the occasion. Mikey holds back the heavy netting while I step through, his knuckles white against the wire. The ground is ridged with the aftershock of JCB-violation; lumpy shadows hint at equipment scattered around the excavation site. It’s cold and damp, and I can feel my hair starting to frizz.

I pick my way across what used to be the school’s sports field, and try to picture the site during the day: the thump and rumble of men-at-work, flashes of yellow, digger and men both, humped earth waiting to landslide, and that black lick of a wound in the ground, growing wider and deeper every day. But my snapshot glances taken on the way to the Science Block refuse to coalesce into a solid image. The shadows keep their secrets.
(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 83: The Dictionary’s Apprentice

Show Notes

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


The Dictionary’s Apprentice

by Sandra M. Odell

The narrow streets of Gretchentown echoed with barking dogs and late evening front stoop conversations as Johnny-J made his way to the rally grounds. He circled twice to be certain no one saw him before hurrying to the burn piles. The air was bitter with sulfur and char. He breathed in through his mouth.

So little remained of the day. He hadn’t been allowed to stand with the adults in the front row at the purity rally, but had seen enough of the burn selection as it was brought in to regret looking. Johnny-J salvaged what he could of the Lessonkeepers’ fervor: a woman’s startled profile; a sooty hand clutching a rifle; a bouquet of once pink roses. Tucking the pieces inside his shirt, Johnny-J hurried back the way he came, avoiding the stern bulk of the Elder Hall on his way to the tarpaper-roofed shack beyond the west cistern. Breath came easier away from the killing grounds.
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Cast of Wonders 82: Mr. Scampers’ War


Mr. Scampers’ War

by J. S. Bell

An explosion of leaves, a swirl of dust and the fierce jungle cat leaps from the verdant forest and is on the gazelle in one bound. Claws rend and jaws clamp shut. The gazelle dies with a bleat of terror.

“Aw, Scampers, you’re such a cute kitty!” A baby-talking voice rattles the jungle cat, causing him to freeze. “Killing your toy mousy like that. Izzat a fun game?”

The small Lap Servant’s speech impediment continues, thinks the mighty predator. Perhaps it’s a sign of a significant mental defect. Doesn’t she know, this is no game. Life is balanced on a razor’s edge between the ready and the dead.

Mr. Scampers cleans a paw, slightly mussed by the trek through the jungle under the sofa, and considers how best to respond to the Lap Servant. He chooses his default action: Ignore the human.
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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 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 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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