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Cast of Wonders 466: Badass Neon Sparkle Powers


Badass Neon Sparkle Powers

by Cara DiGirolamo

There’s a fine line between getting shit done and eating it. I’d crossed that line.

I’d spotted Mr. Khaki Shorts, Mr. Popped Collar, and Little Miss Ugg Boots weaving and laughing on their way out of the Blue Moon. It looked like nothing really, undergrads joking around, but the body language felt a little off. When Khaki Shorts pressed Ugg Boots into the brick of the darkened shoe store, and she cried out, I figured I’d say hi.

I never planned my heroing gig. I didn’t roam around in a mask and spandex or anything. But I work closing at a pizzeria in the heart of Collegetown, and walking to the bus stop at three, four am, you see things.

All heroing is, is just not walking by. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 465: In Real Time


In Real Time

by Avra Margariti

The kites frozen across the sky dapple the lawn like stained glass. Human statues dot the park, caught mid-motion: picnicking, dog-walking, sun-bathing. They might have been unnerving, once. Now, the utter stillness and silence soothes me like nothing else. In Frozen Time, scents are amplified tenfold. Grass, flowers, sugar. I drop a few coins into a vendor’s tip jar, then fill a clear bag with candy worms, chewing as I stroll down the small hill.

When a shape weaves between the stationary people, I think it’s only an optical illusion. A vase, two faces, now a vase again.

I blink, and the silhouette has drawn closer. It belongs to a kid not much younger than me in appearance, although there’s really no way to tell with people like us, who know how to manipulate time. The kid nods at me, casual like we’re meeting in the street and not in a frozen world, then steals a fistful of my candy.

“Who are you?” I ask once my tongue unglues itself from my palate. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 463: Loving the Falls


Loving the Falls

by Marie Vibbert

I was in love with falling water. If I stared at a waterfall long enough, it pulled me to jump in. I could read the signs about sharp rocks and imagine the looks of disapproval that warned me against it, but I was always going to give in some day. I did, in my senior year of high school, during the spring flood. The vitality of the river was over-the-top, the surface all surge and deft scoops. I imagined it’d be like sliding on silk, or caramel, or running my body over God’s six-pack abs.

It wasn’t.

The impact hurt; rock cracked my butt like the water wasn’t there, and then I was breathing water, sputtering. I panicked and flailed, realizing I’d made a terrible mistake. My love was unrequited, leaving me nothing but a slush of pebbles and twigs and the slick-as-snot bottom. No glorious view of the edge, no anticipation, no acceptance. There was a brief moment of stomach-less-ness, and then I hit a wall of concrete and died. (Continue Reading…)

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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…)

alien and human

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Cast of Wonders 455: Little Wonders 30 – Not So Alien After All


Toward the Sploff Zone

by Brenna Harvey

“Kids, you’re switching bodies today!” said Coach Sningarax.

Our whole gym class groaned.

“Why?” I asked.

“To build character! Now, what’s the number one rule of neuroswapping?”

Respect,” we droned in unison. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 449: This is How You Remember (Staff Picks 2020)


This is How You Remember

by Phong Quan

I see the crowds before I see you, before I see even the flickering white of your flame. Your culture’s everywhere now—your music, your art, your words—but not your people, and not you, not in this tiny airport in this little place between San Diego and LA. So I hear the whispers—A Torch! A Speaker’s on the flight. Why here? There’s nothing here—and prepare myself to see you for the first time since the War. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 446: The Half-Life of a Broken Heart (Staff Picks 2020)


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 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 440: Velocirapture


Velocirapture

by Jennifer Lee Rossman

Zairiss was going to kill the asteroid, the last of three the skywatchers insisted would annihilate all dinosaurs on her planet.

She had to; there was no other choice, not if she wanted to finally, officially, until-the-end-of-forever ask Jax to be a bonded pair. And she did want that, very much so. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 439: From Asteroids to Dust


From Asteroids to Dust

by Priya Chand

Geianti Carropus—Gen, for short—piloted her shuttle through the asteroid belt with deft claws. Gen was a deinonychus, a strong-legged predator whose ancestors subjugated prey across Earth. And now here she was, tail lifting as she whizzed past space rocks.

Leftover dust puffed across her viewport, but Gen knew her training facility’s asteroid field like all 300 steps of her family’s longest dance routine. She kept her sickle-claws from scratching the shuttle floor. Some things evolution couldn’t turn off, like the hunt—or the dance. Her shuttle had been recently re-sheathed in protective synthrubber—better not damage it. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 438: This is How You Remember


This is How You Remember

by Phong Quan

I see the crowds before I see you, before I see even the flickering white of your flame. Your culture’s everywhere now—your music, your art, your words—but not your people, and not you, not in this tiny airport in this little place between San Diego and LA. So I hear the whispers—A Torch! A Speaker’s on the flight. Why here? There’s nothing here—and prepare myself to see you for the first time since the War. (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…)