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Cast of Wonders 504: Shrine to the Ink Goddess


Shrine to the Ink Goddess

by Monte Lin

Dana Liu took her weekly ten-minute walk to what she called the Shrine to the Ink Goddess. Stepping through the copse of trees that separated the apartment complex and the storm channel, she arrived at a large, hollowed-out eucalyptus tree, split into three parts ages ago from a lightning bolt. She ducked down and sat in the middle, placing an empty inkstone next to her, and took out a beat-up metal food container with a warm zòngzi, the twine still tightly wrapped around the bamboo leaves. With her multi-tool, she snapped the knife through the twine, unfurling the leaves. She grimaced at the soggy bottom (microwaving never seemed to heat them right).

“Ahem. You know you shouldn’t be here, Dana.”

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 503: Oshun, Inc


Oshun, Inc

by Jordan Ifueko

“For the last time, Bola: I’m not going to sleep with your dentist.”

“But it would only kill him a little bit.”

“Bola.”

“And even if he does die …” Bolajoko’s toothy smile reached all the way to her cowrie shell earrings. “At least he’d get a taste of heaven beforehand.” (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 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…)

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Cast of Wonders 472: AP Practical Literary Theory Suggests This Is A Quest (Or: What Danny Did Over Spring Break)

Show Notes

The Annual Migration of Clouds is a “cli-fi” post-apocalyptic novella by author Premee Mohamed. It takes place in the distant future, after the climate crisis has entirely disrupted life as we know it, and a mysterious mind-controlling fungus has wormed its way through the scattered population. The story focuses on a choice: Reid, a young woman who carries this parasite, has been given a chance to move far away, to study in one of the few communities sustained by pre-disaster technology, but her mother is ill, and in a world where the planting season is planned down to the minute, every body counts. It’s not easy for her to leave her loved ones behind. To set her family up for life, Reid decides to take part in a foolhardy and dangerous mission. To accomplish this task, she must ask others to put great trust in her, but she can’t easily separate her own thoughts from the parasite’s will, making it difficult for her to even trust herself.

If you’re not yet familiar with Premee Mohamed, you’re sure to hear of her soon. She’s an Indo-Caribbean scientist and author based in Edmonton, Alberta, where this book is set, and a rising star in speculative fiction. Premee is a biologist and works in the field of climate science, so the depiction of Reid’s parasitic passengers is eerily plausible, and the climate disaster scenarios in the book are grounded in modern-day research predicting an all-too-likely future.

Yet there’s still hope to be found here: rather than doubling down on the hardships of life-after-technology as so many gritty apocalyptic novels do, this book’s focus is on connection and friendship, the things that bind us together. It shows the world moving forward after terrible hardships — including natural disaster and plague — and reflects upon the importance of community, our duty to take care of one another, and our collective ability to get through difficult times. In other words, it is exactly the sort of book we need right now.

 

 


AP Practical Literary Theory Suggests This Is A Quest
(Or: What Danny Did Over Spring Break)

by Isabel J. Kim

Danny died on a Tuesday which was a real bummer because he was supposed to go on a road trip on Wednesday with the gang, and if he was dead then there was no way his mom was going to be cool with him going. Instead, Danny would have to spend the next three weeks on a mythic journey to regain his life from the demons that dwell below, play dice against a three-headed chthonic judge sitting on an opalescent throne, or ask his mom for one of the GET OUT OF DEATH FREE cards she got comped from work.

And then he’d be grounded for, like, six months.

Danny spent ten minutes lying on the asphalt feeling sorry for himself. Then he sighed and picked his broken body up off of the street. He took out his phone and called the gang.

The dead don’t text. They lack the fine motor skills. Fumbling, he poked his way to a group call.

“Bad news, gang,” Danny said when his friends answered. “I’m dead.” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 471: The Storyteller’s Wife


The Storyteller’s Wife

by Eugie Foster

Janie Harper felt strange driving home with the sun so high, the tawny-gold of noon instead of the cool, buttery silver of early evening. Ten years of nine-to-five drudgery, lost weekends sacrificed to project deadlines, corporate double-speak, and mind-numbing boredom. All gone.

She’d hated her job, hated her days spent watching the clock and wishing the hours of her life would speed away while she was trapped in her cubicle. But even with three months to prepare for this day, her last one, the morning had passed in a surreal haze punctuated by queasiness and a peculiar chill, like her stomach was lined with ice. She remembered nestling the glass-framed photograph of Tom, her husband, into the box the secretary had provided for her personal effects, but not carrying it to her car. And she couldn’t remember driving out of the concrete monolith of the parking garage, or if she’d obeyed the speed limit in the school zone, or even if she’d fastened her seatbelt.

At least her supervisor had known about Tom, about their situation, and had taken Janie aside before the pink slips went out. Janie, through her upset, had remembered to be grateful. She had needed the head start to make arrangements, to prepare herself and Tom for the now-uncertain future. But even three extra months hadn’t been enough time. No one was hiring: not for secretarial positions, not for retail associates, nor food service, and certainly not mainframe programmers who needed full health benefits. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 469: What If We Remembered?


What If We Remembered?

by Amadin Ogbewe

“Osi, my boy, you’ve got it all wrong. Magic is simply physics with a soul,” Epa Osadolor said to his audience of one, gesturing dramatically, his eyes wide.

Osi’s eyes and mouth were just as wide, his little face frozen in anticipation. His breath stilled. He knew better than to interrupt Epa Osadolor in the middle of a lesson, but found he couldn’t help himself.

“What is Physics?” he asked, unable to hold back.

“Oh, yes, I suppose it’s still elementary science to you,” Epa Osadolor said, snapping abruptly out of character. He scratched his puffy beard as he looked at the boy.

“How best to explain this?” he pondered aloud. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 464: Cats of Fortune


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 460: More Than One Zodiac in High School


More Than One Zodiac in High School

by Eliza Chan

“You were supposed to be a boy,” Amy’s mum said, attacking the raw duck with a cleaver. “The fortune teller said it was guaranteed. Aiyah, even then you don’t listen to your parents.” She tossed one half into an oven dish with a dash of salt, star anise, and cloves. Rice wine and soy sauce were massaged into the skin. And all the while, the other half was being surreptitiously dragged off the countertop by Amy’s dragon.

Her mum pushed the huge beast out of the way. “And born in the year of the dragon! Okay for a boy, but for a girl… no husband will want you! Too much fire to bear sons and every meal will be burned.” She clucked, exactly like her chicken spirit: tutting, fussing, and happiest when she had something to worry about. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 458: Little Wonders 31 – Acceptance


Rosie’s Ghosts

by Srikripa Krishna Prasad

They sway in front of the bay window, sunlight tinting their translucent bodies gold. Rosie watches from under her eyelashes, her book lying uselessly on her lap despite her attempt to focus. Don’t look, she thinks, shame burning her throat, but they are magnetic as they dance together, the short woman’s head fitting perfectly into the crook of her partner’s neck. Their laughter rings in the air; Rosie knows it intimately. She hears it often when they reminisce about their time in this house, when they touch each other, when they waltz impromptu around the room. The creature in her chest cries out for this joy, this bright love that has transcended even death, despite how much she tries to suppress it.

The short woman leans up, and the tall woman leans down, and their lips meet, their arms bracketing each other tenderly, like they hold something precious. (Continue Reading…)

magic butterflies

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Cast of Wonders 452: Little Wonders 29 – Flash Fiction Contest Winners


Porch Light for the Lonely

by Alyson Grauer

When the wide western sky is black, embroidered with thousands of silver stars, and crickets sing unseen in the dry grass, critters come to the porch of the old house. The rug has long since lost its color from years of harsh sun. The wrought-iron bench is rusted, enamel flaking away like tree bark. The mailbox is crooked, and the torn curtains blow gently in the wind. Though it’s the sturdiest house left on the block, it sits unlived in, untrespassed. Only the flies and spiders know how empty it truly is inside.

Many cats come: strays, abandoned pets, and feral. They drape themselves about the empty porch, meowing with quiet yearning. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 451: Unnamed


Unnamed

by Monte Lin

Huìhuì Gāo’s homeroom teacher squinted at his roll call. He wore a slight smile that conveyed no joy. After a few seconds, he said, “Ms…?”

Her hand hovered over her desk, hesitant, ready to catch her name. Her teacher squinted and furrowed his brow and looked about the classroom, finally settling his gaze on her. “Here,” she said, her voice cracking a little. (Continue Reading…)