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Cast of Wonders 461: Factory Mother


Factory Mother

by Sid Jain

The mushroom mycelia sundering in the pale, hot fermentation medium reminded Hanifa of her apartment building melting in Old Delhi: when concrete flowed like lava and spilled her life onto the streets.

“Hani, you with me?”

Hani blinked twice. “Yes, Gary.”

She stepped away from the sightglass, away from her memories. She was here, now, contained by the blistered grey walls of Mycagen Foods, in Durham, North Carolina. Here, the air didn’t slough the skin off newborns in their crib.

Gary, her night shift supervisor, rapped on his handheld tablet with his four fingers impatiently. “We don’t have all night, Hanifa.”

Well, Gary, she thought, learn to wait as I have. I’ve been waiting to be American for years. We all have our vigils to keep. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 442: Mothers, Watch Over Me (Staff Picks 2020)


Mothers, Watch Over Me

by Maria Haskins

Even in the dream, Maya knows her pup is dying.

She dreams of a lone mother-dog in the time before the packs, before the dens, before the sky cleared, before the flames on the horizon went out. Mother-dog walks through dust of the Forbidding, beneath the same skyfire that glows ever-brighter in Maya’s waking world, walking towards the towers, carrying a pup in her jaws.

In Maya’s dream, mother-dog is starlight and shadow, and the dirt glimmers where her paws touch the ground. Mother-dog does not speak, but Maya’s own voice ripples through the stillness of the Forbidding, stirring dust and silence:

Watch over me, mother. Watch over them.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 435: Volumes


Volumes

by Laura Duerr

It was a grim and drizzly morning in the Cascade foothills. The windows of the abandoned convenience store Priya called home were boarded up, but she could see the low gray clouds on her security feed screens. Rad counts were low, but even with radiation at relatively safe levels, no one would want to travel in these conditions. In better times, Before, this would be the perfect day for a good book and a cup of tea.

All things considered, Priya thought herself fortunate, because she could have just that. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 401: Mothers, Watch Over Me

Show Notes

The document mentioned in Katherine’s comments, “Expert judgment on markers to deter inadvertent human intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant”, can be found here.


Mothers, Watch Over Me

by Maria Haskins

Even in the dream, Maya knows her pup is dying.

She dreams of a lone mother-dog in the time before the packs, before the dens, before the sky cleared, before the flames on the horizon went out. Mother-dog walks through dust of the Forbidding, beneath the same skyfire that glows ever-brighter in Maya’s waking world, walking towards the towers, carrying a pup in her jaws.

In Maya’s dream, mother-dog is starlight and shadow, and the dirt glimmers where her paws touch the ground. Mother-dog does not speak, but Maya’s own voice ripples through the stillness of the Forbidding, stirring dust and silence:

Watch over me, mother. Watch over them.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 395: Staff Picks 2019 – Barter Queen


Barter Queen

by Sarah Pauling

Soledad lets Gabe do the introductions because most strangers see him as the more respectable sibling. His attentive green eyes stare from under thick lashes, and his hair lies flat even when it’s desperately in need of a cut.

“We want Queen Mary’s protection,” he says, brazen as anything. Soledad tries not to stare at the ground. Gabe squeezes her hand.

“What can you give her?” the man at the door asks. Huge firearms dangle from his sides.

“We got guns, for one thing. And we’re mechanics. We can fix things. Bikes.”

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 364: Remember to Breathe


Remember to Breathe

by Matt Dovey

Vikram watches with growing uncertainty as Isaac turns round and around, searching for a landmark in the heavy fog. Neon signs glow through it like stars, tinted green by the algae: it’s like a rainbow galaxy surrounds them, dotted with light. They may as well be floating in a nebula cloud for all they can see of San Francisco anyway.

Vik signs a question. Their face-masks muffle whispers, and they dare not raise their voices and alert any drones. They’re not stupid. Every SF kid knows sign language for fog running, and Vik has picked it up fast since moving here from Sacramento. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 343: Staff Picks 2018 – Ten Things Sunil and I Forgot to Prepare for, When Preparing for the Apocalypse

Show Notes

Every year in January, Cast of Wonders highlights some of our favorite episodes from the previous year. It’s a great chance for us to take a bit of a breather, and let you, our listeners, catch up on any missed back episodes with new commentary from a different member of the crew.

Today’s episode is hosted by associate editor Shawn Proctor.


Ten Things Sunil and I Forgot to Prepare for, When Preparing for the Apocalypse

by Shane Halbach

1. We didn’t prepare multiple contingencies

When Sunil and I made our plan, we always thought it would be zombies. I mean, we literally imagined nothing else. It just made sense.

Now that I think about it, there are tons of other ways the world could end: aliens from space, nuclear war, some kind of non-zombie disease, maybe nanobots or something. But even then, I wouldn’t have thought of portals to other worlds. I mean, I literally could not have imagined it. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 335: Skinned


Skinned

by Amanda Helms

 

So Jian thinks he needs a new skin.

He says it like it’s no big deal, just a little epidermal clean-up, Oh ha ha how’d that peeling happen? But what he means is that he has to replace his rusting face. It’s harder to accept than a pinkie finger would be, or even a whole arm. His face is him, and Jian acts like tearing it off means nothing. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 230: Planar Ghosts (Staff Pick 2016)

Show Notes

Every year in January, Cast of Wonders takes the month off to recharge, plan the year ahead and highlight some of our favourite episodes. A different member of the Cast of Wonders crew will present their favorite story of 2016 each week in January.

We hope you enjoy former assistant editor Jeff Hite’s favorite story from 2016, Planar Ghosts by Krystal Claxton, narrated by Paul Cram. The story originally aired across two episodes in April 2016, Episode 205 and Episode 206. The story is presented here in its entirety.


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


Planar Ghosts

by Krystal Claxton

The walls around the town of Bootstrap are mostly old cars stacked one on top of the other and welded together. Outside Bootstrap, market stalls made from patchwork tarps and rusty pipes lean on either side of the wide gate. They are temporary places for the people who live inside to trade goods with the people stuck outside who need in.

People like Pup.

He looks up at the guard by the gate, who is thicker, but not much older. Probably grew up inside the walls. He looks as if he’s been well-fed, even during bad years. His skin is sun-reddened and spotted along his cheeks and the high bridge of his nose.

Pup offers his frayed duffle bag to the guard. The man kneels to comb through it with one meaty hand. Inside is Pup’s winter scavenge–a length of rope, a glass vial with lighter fluid, and three almost-full rolls of duct tape.

If this is enough to buy Pup in, he can work for water until summer is over. As the guard measures Pup’s worth, the one good pocket of his cargo pants seems heavier. Inside is something he’s not supposed to trade. He’s not sure what it is. Some Before thing. Probably the guard wouldn’t know what it is either.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 206: Planar Ghosts (Part 2)


Planar Ghosts (Part Two)

By Krystal Clayton

Pup sits up as the bolt groans in the wall and the door opens, yellow lamplight pooling in.

Alice moves the door only enough to let herself in. She’s carrying a flashlight that could double as a club and wearing thick socks that make her footsteps a whisper against the concrete floor.

“Hello, Pup.” Even though she’s whispering her voice seems too loud, too real.

Pup glances at the door without meaning to. She didn’t bolt it again. How far could he get before someone noticed?

“If I thought we could sneak out, I’d try. Nass has you locked down. That’s why it took me this long to sneak in.”

Pup angles away from her, crosses his arms over his chest.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 109: Nuclear Family

Show Notes

Today we present Alex Shvartsman’s story, Nuclear Family. Alex has been here several times before — welcome back Alex! Thanks for gracing us with an inventive seasonal story.


Nuclear Family

by Alex Shvartsman

Daddy said we couldn’t have a real tree this Christmas.

At first I was sad, but then Mommy said we would im-pro-vise.  I liked learning a big new word. It means use things we have in the house. Mommy and Daddy improvise all the time, ever since we couldn’t go outside anymore.

Daddy went upstairs to find some things to improvise with. I wanted to help, but Daddy said we all have to stay in the basement for a very long time, so we don’t get sick. I hate the basement. There’s nothing to do here. Mommy or Daddy go upstairs once every few days and bring things back down with them. Usually it is food and toilet paper and things, but sometimes they get a few books and toys and games from my room.  They run up and down the stairs as quickly as they can, because when they are upstairs they can get sick too.

This time Daddy was gone for almost five minutes, but he brought down a whole bunch of stuff. He put a tall coat rack in the middle of the basement to make the tree trunk and taped on some unwound wire hangers to make branches.  He gave me a green tablecloth and said to cut it into long, thin strips. Then we glued the strips on to the wire and put up a few ornaments. It didn’t really look like a tree, but Mommy said to use our imagination. I didn’t mind. Decorating the coat rack gave us something fun to do.

Then all of us had to take our radiation pills. I dropped mine and Daddy got really mad. He said that we already didn’t have enough to last us until it was safe to go outside and that we couldn’t waste any. He made me pick it up and eat it off the floor. Eww.

On Christmas Eve we moved the table next to the pretend tree and ate a holiday meal. Mommy made a big pot of spam stew and everyone was allowed to have seconds because it was such a special day. We even had sliced peaches for dessert. Mommy and Daddy didn’t eat very many, saying that it was a special treat for me. But they did try some because it was the last can and Daddy said he wasn’t sure when we would ever taste peaches again. Mommy shushed him. Then we sang every holiday song we could remember.

When I woke up in the morning Daddy was gone. Mommy said that he had to leave for a while but the way she was crying I didn’t think he was coming back. I got scared and Mommy told me to go open my presents.

There was some stuff under the pretend Christmas tree, but it was all toys from upstairs that I had from before. There was also a little box with Daddy’s share of the radiation medicine. Daddy is silly. Who wants pills for a present?