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Cast of Wonders 141: Reading Time / A House in the Forest


Reading Time

by Beth Cato

We began to burn the books, and Dad tried to kill himself.

Almost all of the extra furniture had been burned over the previous month, leaving the upholstery and padding from sofas and chairs heaped on the big bed in what used to be just Mom’s and Dad’s room. Me and Taylor stayed in that room all day since heat rises, and we wore so many layers of clothes that it was hard to go up and down the stairs. Anyway, with so many of the walls and rooms empty, the whole house echoed so their voices really carried from the downstairs library.

“I can’t do this, Vick, I can’t. Burning books, like Nazis?”

“We are not burning books like Nazis. We’re burning books to keep our kids warm and alive. I’ve torn apart everything else first. You know that. The books are last.”

Dad made some sort of weird moan like a whale from an old nature show. “I know, I know. But if we make it out of here, what sort of world will it be without books? What sort of civilization–”

“Tom. Listen to yourself. We’re one family. There are other survivors out there. You’ve said yourself that a nuclear winter isn’t supposed to last long. It’s a drop in temperature, nothing permanent.”

“I thought it would be over by now. The smoke and debris should have cleared the atmosphere.”
(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 139: Little Wonders 6 – A Little Laughter

Show Notes

You’re listening to Little Wonders, our thematic flash fiction collections. This episode we bring you A Little Laughter.

Special thanks to Kevin McCloud and the Free Sounds Project for providing music and special effects.


Continue?

by James Vachowski

Fog fades away.  Darkness lifts. I struggle to find my feet as vision returns.  The room is empty. Signs of a struggle.

She’s gone!

Off and running with no control of my body as I fly on a path towards revenge.  An unseen hand guides my movements. Of course I know who took her. Who else could it be but Ryoku?  Damn him! If only we had left when he first made his threats…but this is no time to dwell on the past.

Rushing forward, unable to turn back.

Through flat, muted ears, I can almost hear the timer that ticks down the seconds we have left.

My steel jaw clenches as I will the fury down into my tightened fists.  Rage funnels through them as I pummel wave after wave of Ryoku’s goons, henchmen, thugs, and anyone else foolish enough to stand in my way.

Down the stairs.

Through the alley.

Over the barbed wire fence, ducking a pair of rabid junkyard dogs.

Forward still, rushing onward towards my love, and vengeance.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 137: The Filigreed Cage


The Filigreed Cage

by Krystal Claxton

“I don’t understand why you’re doing this.” Valeria spoke in hushed tones, though no one other than Nolan was within earshot.

“Because I can.” Nolan’s fingers worked against the cuff on his wrist with a slim metal splinter.

“Nolan, please can we talk about this? Just wait a moment.” She glanced around the park. Beyond the walkway, short trees basked in the artificial light of the dome.

The cuff was a gift from the Overseers, one of many they had bestowed upon humanity since the Fail. It provided everyone with instructions and guidance. Her fingers nervously traced the intricate filigree of her own cuff. She remembered her tenth birthday, when she’d been blessed with the title of Wife and Nolan’s name had appeared in delicate scroll.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 136: Flotsam


Flotsam

by Rebecca Schwarz

I’m about to blast a Grunt when the game freezes. Mom’s commandeered the link, and now she appears, in her old chinos and a tee-shirt, among the rubble of the Axis bunker.

“Mom! Get off!” As long as she’s on, my avatar is frozen like an idiot and open to attack. I text Katya my situation although it should be obvious.

“Don’t speak to me in that tone, Ian!” Mom says. “Log off and come to the kitchen.”

There’s no point in arguing. I shut down my avatar and sign off. I hope Katya makes it to the next level. If not, no way is she partnering with me again, or sitting next to me at lunch.

The 3D shuts down, sucking the setting sun up to the foreground rubble. The wall fades to beige. I flop back on the floor. It’s always startling how small my room is when the screen is off. My toes touch the wall where the screen was, and when I stretch my hands up over my head, I can feel the curved join where the opposite wall becomes the floor.

I get up, slide the door open and yell, “What do you want?”

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 131: Survivor


Survivor

by Josh Roseman

Wen slumped against a crystal formation and stared up at the dark sky, lit only by greenish-gold auroras. Sweat ran down into her eyes and made her clothes cling in uncomfortable places. She wanted to sit down, wanted to take off the pack for a few minutes, but the last time she’d done that, her feet had ached even worse for the respite.

No. Better to stay standing.

She caught her breath before taking a measured swallow from the canteen that hung at her side. Gulping the water would be a mistake; in this state, she’d just throw up. Staying calm, that was the key.

One more swallow, though she ached to drain the whole thing, and then back onto its clip.

Wen’s borrowed comm pinged. Four hours to sunrise. Four hours until the witchlight above her head gave way to the burning white orb that would blast her with heat and radiation until she was nothing but a memory.

Four hours to live.
(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 130: The Phobos Monolith


The Phobos Monolith

by Preston Dennett

True to her nature, Vasia ran without fear or caution across the Martian landscape.  She leaped in huge graceful arcs that any dancer would envy. Naira did her best to keep up, but because of legs, and she quickly fell behind.  How she wished she could rid herself of the cursed robo-walker that encased her legs so she could run like Vasia. Her sister’s body was strong and healthy.  Naira, unfortunately, wasn’t as lucky. It was a miracle that their parents had even let them outside, considering how protective they were.

“Hurry up, Naira!” Vasia yelled.  “Wait ‘til you see. It’s just a little farther.”

Naira huffed along at a steady pace.  Vasia wanted to show her a patch of crystals she had found.  They would, Vasia said, make a nice addition to their collection.

Seeing that Naira was catching up, Vasia turned and began running again.

Naira watched as her sister soared upwards.  Then she landed and disappeared into the ground.  A small puff of dust geysered upwards and settled instantly.

“Vasia!”

Naira increased her pace and knelt down where her sister had disappeared.  There it was: a small black hole in the ground, just large enough to swallow Vasia.
(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 128: Robots Don’t Cry


Robots Don’t Cry

by George Edwards

I walked alone down a road with farms on all sides, cowboy hat on my head.

“Where am I Marco Polo?” I knew where I was, of course, but Marco Polo could see better.

He fed me all the data he could. He was one of the few satellites still orbiting earth after years of neglect.

“Thank you sir,” I said after his transmission ended. He gave me my exact location. I walked for hours.

A pick-up truck rambled up the road behind me, an odd noise for times like these. I stuck my thumb out.

The truck slowed and cracked its window. A grizzled old man was behind the wheel said, “Where ya headed?”

Using the friendliest voice in my bank I replied, “East, sir, to Auburn.”

He leaned over and opened his door for me. “Hop in,” he said.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 125: The Clasp


The Clasp

by Jarod K. Anderson

Our tribe didn’t have a word for the huge, winged race of reptiles who shared the cliff-faces with us. They were just “The Clasp.” Same as us. One tribe. One name. One shared livelihood as old as the great butte.

When I was young boy, before I knew better, I asked my grandmother if we were pretending to be like the big, scaly tribesmen or if they were pretending to be like us. After all, we didn’t look anything alike. When I finally made her understand my question, I hated the way she looked at me, like she’d tasted something bitter.

“There’s no ‘they’ or ‘us,’” she said. “We eat the same plants and insects, don’t we? We drink the same water, don’t we? All The Clasp warms our blood on the southern face and shelters from storms in the red caverns, eh?”

As we spoke, I remember a big male, in the gray raggedness of his shed, ambled along the ceiling of the cave where we sat. A curled sheet of semi-translucent skin fell between us, but I knew better than to mention the difference. I had learned. We would all be the same through sheer will and stubbornness.
(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 124: Old People Rules


Old People Rules

by Holly Schofield

So I’ve figured it out. There are eight rules for old people.

Rule #1: Old people try too hard

I didn’t think anything was wrong until Milanda hit ‘upload’. The app’s progress bar had crept almost all the way across the hologram before I noticed the target website was Dad’s.

The icon I’d designed, a grinning 3-D dragon, began blinking its large eyes, showing my app had activated my spyware.

“Hey, it really worked. Uber-crystal, Fran.” Milanda said. She shoved back her chair and turned to face me.

I was sprawled on her bed, painting my nails. “Swing Me Hard, Girl” by BlueLulz surrounded us—Milanda’s new bedroom wall paint, with  nano-speakers embedded right in, was super-crystal. I’d love to design something like that. Some day.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 120: Master Madrigal’s Mechanical Man


Master Madrigal’s Mechanical Man

by Scott C. Mikula

I tried to shut out the crowd’s roar, but the thunder of a thousand feet pounding above us in the arena stands rose until I could feel the breastplate of the mechanical swordsman vibrate beneath my touch.  Master Madrigal gestured with his palsied hand for me to replace the automaton’s helmet, but I hesitated to examine the delicate inner workings. Just one small adjustment

A cuff to the back of my head arrested my motion.  “We have spoken of this, Cetta,” said Madrigal. “There is no problem with the balance.”  He crossed his arms, tucking his useless right hand out of sight beneath his sleeve.

I persuaded my mother to send me to her uncle Madrigal after his illness, when I was just twelve years old.  The word apprentice was never used. Girls did not apprentice to craftsmen like Madrigal, and I don’t think he would have taken an apprentice in any case.  He referred to me as his hands. My deft fingers did the work his no longer could.
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Cast of Wonders 119: Pictures in Crayon


Pictures in Crayon

by Elizabeth Shack

At recess the Arks dot the sky like unwinking stars. Ally and her friends aren’t supposed to talk about it, eyes wide above the breathing masks that muffle their voices, but they do. Where they’ll go, what they’ll bring. Every kid Ally knows has a suitcase packed, just in case they win. Hers has photos from the zoo and a birthday card her little brother Rafe drew in red crayon. He called the scribble Mars.

The only time they don’t talk is after the monthly drawing, when no one can bear it. Some kids, somewhere, were chosen, but it’s not anyone they know. At recess no one looks up. Those nights, Rafe crawls into her bed. He doesn’t understand–at four he’s barely old enough to enter the lottery–but he knows something’s wrong. Their parents are crying, and Ally will keep him safe.

Ally lies awake with her arms around her little brother. In the morning she repacks his suitcase for next month and tells him stories about Mars.
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Cast of Wonders 118: Perihelion

Show Notes

Today we present Vajra Chandrasekera’s story, Perihelion.

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Perihelion

by Vajra Chandrasekera

Hold on tight, we’re coming around again.

This thing crumbles a little every time we hit perihelion. Almost lost my footing again. You okay? Good. We’ve got a moment to catch our breath, except we don’t breathe any more. Words stick in language like vestigial tails in the womb. Not that we have either of those any more, either.

We still have eggs, though. And if you’re ready to leave yours behind, now would be a good time. We’re about as far from the sun as we’re going to get.

No? It’s okay, it’s okay. Take your time. You’re all right, I got you. Don’t worry, all right? If you can’t bring yourself to make the jump, I’ll carry you. I just think you’ll like to look back later and remember your first time flying.

We’re all afraid the first time.
(Continue Reading…)