Genres: , , ,

Cast of Wonders 276: A Secret of Devils

Show Notes

Southern Gothic recommendations:


Theme music is “Appeal to Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available from Promo DJ or his Facebook page.


A Secret of Devils

by Cassandra Khaw

The devil came to Georgia on a Saturday night. Atlanta, specifically. His arrival was heralded by no omens; he took a bumblebee-black cab to the city’s heart, a little suitcase in tow. His attire was sharp enough to kill, of course, but you expect that sort of thing with the devil.

“Where we going?” asked the driver.

“Where we’re needed” came the reply.

So they drove until they met a woman who’d been bleached of all her sweet. Single mom, two kids, a bag full of grief. Her children were home in a no-bedroom apartment, doing their homework by the light of a sitcom rerun. She was on her way back from the second shift of a second job, eyes bruised by the punches life had thrown.

The devil rolled down his window and grinned. “I’m Lucifer and I’m here to give you what you want.”

(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 262: My Friend Fishfinger by Daisy, age 7

Show Notes

Theme music is “Appeal to Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available from Promo DJ or his Facebook page.


My Friend Fishfinger by Daisy, age 7

by David Tallerman

Fishfinger is my bestest friend in the whole world. And she says I’m her bestest friend too, even though she doesn’t have any other friends, but I’m still the best anyway so that’s okay.

Her name isn’t really Fishfinger, that’s just what everybody at school calls her, because they say she smells like fish and she looks a bit like a fish as well. And she does too but I still like her and anyway they all smell too so there. My mommy says it’s mean and I should call her her proper name but Fishfinger says she doesn’t mind, she does when other kids call her it because they’re mean and they don’t like her but I’m nice she says and I’m her bestest friend so it’s okay. But really her real name is Samantha.

Fishfinger hasn’t lived in my town very long, her and her mom and her dad, who I call them Mr and Mrs Fishfinger but that’s not really their names but I can’t spell their real names, they used to live in another town near the sea and that was called Innsmouth. Fishfinger says it was nice there and no one was mean to her at her old school because she wasn’t different there, and nobody said she smelled like fish, and but then they had to move but she doesn’t know why they did.

(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 235: Isle of the Dancing Dead

Show Notes

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


Isle of the Dancing Dead

by Rick Kennett

“Is it true,” said young George as he filled in his first grave, “that the best place to hide from a ghost is in a cemetery?”

“Yes,” said the grave-digger, shovelling. “Most times you’d be right aholding to that notion. But not here. Not in this particular cemetery. Not with the Chenoweth Grand Tomb not five hundred yards behind you.”

“A haunted grave?” George turned about, studying the lawns and masonry. “Which one?”
(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 217: Boys’ Night


Boys’ Night

by Rebecca Birch

Walter Ocherman rolled along the two-lane highway at five miles an hour under the speed limit, scanning the road’s left-hand side for the turn-off to his uncle’s old pumpkin farm.  Marked by nothing more than a dilapidated sign-post that might once have been green, the overgrown dirt road hidden between two poplars was easy to miss on a good day. The fog that rolled in off the river made finding the place harder, but nothing was going to wipe the grin off Walter’s lips.  Today was Halloween and his ex, Minnie, had agreed to let their son come out to the farm with him for the night. Their first boys’ night in almost a year.

>He glanced at Jason, who had spread his twelve-year old self over the back seat an hour ago, his straw-blond head pillowed on a stuffed pumpkin Walter had picked up at a yard sale to help set the holiday mood.  His steady zzz-snerk snore could have been annoying, but Walter got so few chances to hear it that he turned off the radio. The news was depressing anyway, trying to settle a fog over more than just the river valley.

Walter looked back at the road just in time to glimpse the turn-off.  He slammed on the brakes and torqued the wheel, holding his instinctive curse-word behind his teeth.  His 1984 Civic’s gears squealed a skull-piercing protest and the right front bumper just missed colliding with a poplar.  A sudden pressure in the back of his seat told him Jason was awake and braced.

Walter brought the car to a dead stop, his heart thudding.

“Jesus, Dad!  If we die, mom’s going to kill you.”

(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 214: The Price of Stories (Banned Books Week)

Show Notes

Learn more about Stop Hate and their work to challenge all forms of hate crime and discrimination based on any aspect of an individual’s identity.


The Price of Stories

by Shannon Winward

Mother is not the real librarian. You think she has always been here, but that’s the magic working.

The real librarian – the one who issued your first library card, painted castles in the reading room and taught you about elephants – she never existed, now. That’s why you don’t remember.

But don’t worry; she’ll be back. 

Mother doesn’t come for the librarians.
(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 207: Millions Times Eight


Millions Times Eight

by Jake Walters

Mick looked at the letter to his parents sitting on the kitchen table.  It was from the school. Outside, he heard the sounds of children laughing and a ball bouncing on the street pavement.  It was late August, and in just a week, their summer freedom was going to be erased. Mick was starting seventh grade.

The letter had been opened and was sitting unfolded beside a pile of crumbs, likely left by his older brother, Chaz, before he ran outside to meet up with his own high school friends.  There was nothing unusual about receiving a letter from the school at about this time in the summer; a welcome back, hope everything is okay and that your summer treated you well and you had a chance to rest for the big year coming up kind of statement from the superintendent.

So Mick read it.  And that was what it was, in the dullest, most boring language imaginable.  Except for the very last paragraph, which read, “We are looking forward to working with our students this year, and we have some big surprises in store for all of them and all of you!  We appreciate your trust in Linwood Schools!” Something about the words did not match the style of the rest of the letter, which had been business-as-usual. Something about the exclamation marks at the ends of the statements sent a little shiver down Mick’s back.

(Continue Reading…)

Genres: ,

Cast of Wonders 202: Henkie’s Fiddle


Henkie’s Fiddle

by Vonnie Winslow Crist

Stirred by a bone-chilling wind, the lone tree in the unsanctified section of the cemetery rattled its bare branches. Duffy had the eerie feeling that Witchman’s Oak sensed what was to happen today. He chewed on the hard skin left by a burst blister on his right thumb and studied the tree.

By order of the Edgewater town council and with the mayor’s approval, Duffy was to remove Witchman’s Oak before Christmas despite local lore proclaiming the tree haunted. Personally, he thought it was a terrible mistake to cut down the oak if for no other reason than the shade it provided in the summer. Rousted by another cold gust, the huge iron bell hanging from a rusted hook embedded in the tree’s trunk clanked its agreement.

(Continue Reading…)

Genres: ,

Cast of Wonders 190: Home Isn’t (Staff Pick 2015)

Show Notes

Every year in January, Cast of Wonders takes the month off to recharge our batteries, plan the year ahead, and highlight some of our favourite episodes. As part of joining the Escape Artists family, this year we’re pulling out all the stops. We’re running 10 staff pick episodes over the month, each one hosted by a different member of the Cast of Wonders crew.

We hope you enjoy slush reader Katherine Inskip’s favorite story from 2015, Home Isn’t by Kelly Sandoval and narrated by Katherine Inskip. The story originally aired October 25, 2015 as Cast of Wonders 178.


Home Isn’t

by Kelly Sandoval

They tell him he’ll be happy when he gets there. It was wrong, what was done to you, they say. We’re making it right. You’re going home.

The kind ones, who call him Mark, are pleased. They have a party, with foods from his planet. He chews the edge of a gray leaf so bitter it closes his throat. He’s used to coke and animal crackers. You’re going home, they say. No more soda, no more sweets. No more rooms with white walls and bright toys. No more needles, treadmills, tests. Home.

They won’t tell him what home is, only what it isn’t. He pictures a toyless, colorless, cokeless expanse. He pictures fields of bitter gray leaves growing beside silver pools. He tries to picture others like himself, but he is the only one he knows. He populates his imaginings with mirror-reversed copies of his own face. Pale blue fur and liquid black eyes.

At night, he wraps his arms around his chest and makes low choking noises as he tries to cry. He’s never quite gotten the trick of it.
(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 186: A School Story (Staff Pick 2015)

Show Notes

Every year in January, Cast of Wonders takes the month off to recharge our batteries, plan the year ahead, and highlight some of our favourite episodes. As part of joining the Escape Artists family, this year we’re pulling out all the stops. We’re running 10 staff pick episodes over the month, each one hosted by a different member of the Cast of Wonders crew.

We hope you enjoy artist and founder Barry J. Northern’s favorite story from 2015, A School Story by M. R. James, and narrated by Alasdair Stuart. The story originally aired August 2, 2015 as Cast of Wonders 172.


A School Story

by M.R. James

Two men in a smoking-room were talking of their private-school days. “At our school,” said A., “we had a ghost’s footmark on the staircase. What was it like? Oh, very unconvincing. Just the shape of a shoe, with a square toe, if I remember right. The staircase was a stone one. I never heard any story about the thing. That seems odd, when you come to think of it. Why didn’t somebody invent one, I wonder?”

“You never can tell with little boys. They have a mythology of their own. There’s a subject for you, by the way–‘The Folklore of Private Schools.'”

“Yes; the crop is rather scanty, though. I imagine, if you were to investigate the cycle of ghost stories, for instance, which the boys at private schools tell each other, they would all turn out to be highly-compressed versions of stories out of books.”

“Nowadays the Strand and Pearson’s, and so on, would be extensively drawn upon.”

(Continue Reading…)

Genres: ,

Cast of Wonders 178: Home Isn’t

Show Notes

Hungry for more horror flash fiction? Then head to the Pseudopod forums where this very moment yours could be the deciding vote in the “two stories enter, one story leaves” ritual that is the flash fiction contest. The three winners will be purchased and run in a special Flash on the Borderlands. For those who comment on the stories, Pseudopod will randomly select a few lucky winners to receive copies of the excellent Women Destroy Horror by Nightmare Magazine. Horror stories and the chance of even MORE horror stories and commentary by participating in a thriving horror fiction community? The only thing more sure is that somehow, some way, your trick or treat candy will contain at least one of those strange honey nougat things…

 


Home Isn’t

by Kelly Sandoval

They tell him he’ll be happy when he gets there. It was wrong, what was done to you, they say. We’re making it right. You’re going home.

The kind ones, who call him Mark, are pleased. They have a party, with foods from his planet. He chews the edge of a gray leaf so bitter it closes his throat. He’s used to coke and animal crackers. You’re going home, they say. No more soda, no more sweets. No more rooms with white walls and bright toys. No more needles, treadmills, tests. Home.

They won’t tell him what home is, only what it isn’t. He pictures a toyless, colorless, cokeless expanse. He pictures fields of bitter gray leaves growing beside silver pools. He tries to picture others like himself, but he is the only one he knows. He populates his imaginings with mirror-reversed copies of his own face. Pale blue fur and liquid black eyes.

At night, he wraps his arms around his chest and makes low choking noises as he tries to cry. He’s never quite gotten the trick of it.
(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 172: A School Story

Show Notes

Do you love flash fiction? The Escape Artists podcasts are hosting their fourth annual flash fiction contest, starting with Pseudopod this year. The submission window runs from August 15th through September 15th. All the details can be found on their forum.


A SCHOOL STORY

by M.R. James

Two men in a smoking-room were talking of their private-school days. “At our school,” said A., “we had a ghost’s footmark on the staircase. What was it like? Oh, very unconvincing. Just the shape of a shoe, with a square toe, if I remember right. The staircase was a stone one. I never heard any story about the thing. That seems odd, when you come to think of it. Why didn’t somebody invent one, I wonder?”

“You never can tell with little boys. They have a mythology of their own. There’s a subject for you, by the way–‘The Folklore of Private Schools.'” 

“Yes; the crop is rather scanty, though. I imagine, if you were to investigate the cycle of ghost stories, for instance, which the boys at private schools tell each other, they would all turn out to be highly-compressed versions of stories out of books.”

“Nowadays the Strand and Pearson’s, and so on, would be extensively drawn upon.”

(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 143: Dagon


Dagon

by H. P. Lovecraft

I am writing this under an appreciable mental strain, since by tonight I shall be no more. Penniless, and at the end of my supply of the drug which alone, makes life endurable, I can bear the torture no longer; and shall cast myself from this garret window into the squalid street below. Do not think from my slavery to morphine that I am a weakling or a degenerate. When you have read these hastily scrawled pages you may guess, though never fully realise, why it is that I must have forgetfulness or death.
(Continue Reading…)