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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 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 400: Staff Picks 2019 – Knitting in English


Knitting in English

by Brit E. B. Hvide

Looping the thread over her needle, Kari caught the sun in her knit. It was an old spell: warmth trapped in rows of neatly patterned wool to stave off the winter wind. The first spell her pappa taught her. The only one she knew.

(Continue Reading…)

Text message from story

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Cast of Wonders 390: The Tale of Descruptikn and the Product Launch Requirements Documentation


The Tale of Descruptikn and the Product Launch Requirements Documentation

by Effie Seiberg

Once upon a time there was an associate project manager named Jaime. She knew she was lucky to have this job – so many others in her graduating class were still juggling nanny gigs and catering gigs and tutoring gigs and so many side hustles they could’ve been a dodecahedron.

It was at a small company that ostensibly helped foreign students find scholarships for American colleges, but actually if you looked closely you could see that the company didn’t do much and was just a vanity project so the founder could say he was innovating and disrupting and other such nonsense buzzwords. Considering how little the company actually accomplished, Jamie was astonished that she was the one hundredth person to join the team. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 382: No Matter Where; Of Comfort No One Speak


No Matter Where; Of Comfort No One Speak

by Kate Baker

Tucked behind the cracks in the plaster and the peeling, wallpaper print, we watch you draw a blade. You stand in the kitchen, holding the steel in your right hand. A finger slides down the sharp edge, testing its strength as you do calculations in your head. The slow creep of a smile indicates you are happy with your choice. Drawn away in visions to the future, everything is interrupted by a quick slip and slice as you drop the knife. We notice the dribble of blood, a bead welling at the tip, inviting a hungry mouth. You bring the cut to your lips and suck on it a moment and then examine the depth.

No stitches required. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 378: Banned Books Week – Common Grounds and Various Teas


Common Grounds & Various Teas

by Sherin Nicole

Mama’s fingernails are mesmerizing. They’re black and shiny as volcanic glass but not polished. Her skin is a deeper shade than North Carolina red clay, and her hair is pulled up high in two top knots. Long dreadlocks cascade down over both her ears. If she’s older than thirty  no one can tell. Right now, I’m giving her serious side eye. She won’t stop blabbering and babbling and telling her grifter tales.

“I told that man, you cannot sell me this bucket on wheels. It’s beneath me,” she says in an accent as brown as her skin. “He didn’t like that. Now, rather than me convincing him, he’s convincing me to lower the price. ‘Til I have mercy, I take this car from him for $45 and I let him buy the beers.”

I huff and turn away from her. “Can you stop now?” I mumble.

“I could,” Mama says, like she’s sharing secrets, “but I could also be swallowed and spit back out as something flavorless.” (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 377: Banned Books Week – This Is Not A Ghost Story


This Is Not a Ghost Story

by V. Medina

In the darkness of her bedroom, after her mother has gone to bed and she’s supposed to have done the same, she tells stories to the ghosts. She would do more for them but they never ask for anything else and she doesn’t know what more to do. They listen, gentle whispers all around her, urging her to continue, begging her for a few more words, just a little more of her time. They crave the stories she has to offer them and even when she is young, she feels the pull of narrative against her bones.

The ghosts are kind in their need, not pushing or screaming but quietly pleading, and she was not raised to deny anyone. She is the quiet kid, the good girl, the sweetheart. She knows her role, and it doesn’t matter what she wants because everyone already knows who she is before she ever gets the chance to show them.

People look at her, see the way she moves, the white cane in her hand, the way she holds books so close to her face. They all think they know her story, even before she says a word. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 371 – Knitting in English


Knitting in English

by Brit E. B. Hvide

Looping the thread over her needle, Kari caught the sun in her knit. It was an old spell: warmth trapped in rows of neatly patterned wool to stave off the winter wind. The first spell her pappa taught her. The only one she knew.

Ironically, the spell was supposed to be easier to cast here at the equator, but more useless for the same reason: the sun was strong enough. She let a long leg dip into the pool, imagining the chill of it as snow. At fourteen, she’d never seen winter outside of the movies. Above her, a gap in the tall tembusus and rain trees showed a clear blue sky with rain clouds off to the east. The cicadas chirped, their call vibrating against her skin, comforting as an old blanket. The rainforest was always full of noises. Silence didn’t suit her.

Kari bit her tongue and focused on the yarn in front of her: knit, perl, knit, perl. She wasn’t good enough yet to try anything more complicated than a seed pattern, still dropping stitches and backtracking to pick them up again. But it was a start. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 368 – If Only a Word for All Things


If Only a Word for All Things

by Jameyanne Fuller

I hunched my shoulders and leaned closer to the automatic ticket machine. I punched in the date and time with tense fingers, chose the train I wanted, and stuffed some crumpled Euros into the slot. At any moment a carabiniere would take one look at me, know I was somewhere I shouldn’t be, and march me right onto the train back to Assisi. But I wasn’t running away, not really. I was going to Paris to find Maman and bring her home. We needed her home. Her and her magic words. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 365: Blame it on the Bees


Blame it on the Bees

by Rachel Menard

I can’t find it. Digging through my drawer, shoving aside patchy band shirts and pilled hoodies, I feel for the soft fabric of one, very important Sex Pistols tank top. My fingers hit the base of the drawer. No shirt.

Maybe it’s in my bed.

For the first few weeks, I slept with it wrapped around my pillow, cheek pressed to the chipping paint on the logo. That was when it still smelled like Haley, like strawberries and her baby powder deodorant. When I closed my eyes, I could see her in it, the way the soft cotton hugged her body. She’d left it here because we’d gotten caught in the rain on the way home from the skate park. I’d slid it off her wet skin, around her draping curls of strawberry blonde hair, and kissed the lingering rain drops on her shoulders. She tasted like salt and cool rain.

A pain hits me in the gut. I need that shirt. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 362: Hare’s Breath

Show Notes

This episode is part of our 2019 Summer Spotlight, showcasing the work of the year’s major award finalists.

Shimmer is a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine.


Many thanks to Shimmer for the use of their issue cover art for this episode.


Sweden Admit to Racial Purification (from The Independent)

“The so-called sterilization laws were instituted by the Swedish parliament in 1934 and 1941. Both allowed sterilization without consent under certain conditions. The reasons (indications) to perform sterilizations were threefold: eugenics (race/genetic hygiene), social and medical. Of the total number of sterilized individuals, 93 percent were women.”

From the report “Steriliseringsfrågan i Sverige 1935 – 1975” / “The issue of sterilization in Sweden 1935–1975,” issued by Socialdepartementet / Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, Sweden, March 2000.


Hare’s Breath

by Maria Haskins

1947, Västerbotten, Sweden

It’s Midsummer’s Eve and even this close to midnight there’s no darkness, only a long, translucent dusk that will eventually slip into dawn.

Britt and I are fifteen, and she has just come back from That Place, the one the adults won’t talk about even when they think I’m not listening. Something’s happened to her there, but I don’t understand what it is, and she can’t find the words to tell me. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 359: Tiger, Tiger


Tiger, Tiger

By Drea Silvertooth

Echo had always thought that when the world ended, she’d either be running with a motley band of survivors or instantly vaporized. Not a single book, show or movie had prepared her for being apocalypse adjacent.

In the Tropical Asia building, protected by thick glass walls and a ventilation system designed to keep air warm in the winter and sticky in the summer, she hid with her animals. Warty pigs snuffled through the decorative undergrowth, a siamang family sung like sirens in the canopy overhead, and the Malayan tapir and small-clawed otters had taken residence around the cement-bottomed stream that wound through the exhibit. There was still no sign of the sloth bear or the orangutans. Echo wondered if, while she’d been lying face down in the public restroom fighting for consciousness, they might have been evacuated. (Continue Reading…)