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Cast of Wonders 71: Now Cydonia


Now Cydonia

by Rick Kennett

Cadet Cy De Gerch bounced forward into the desert darkness, raised her arms in a defensive posture and, as best as a fourteen year could, barked, “Halt! Who goes there!”

There was no one there. There never was.

Cy jumped back, a slow leap in the low gravity, to her original position on the perimeter, her vacsuit moving easy like a second skin, to watch and wait and break the boredom as best she could until relieved. Out there was the desert she had trekked the past two years with her section of Martian Star Corps cadets. Out there was the countryside of Mars – cold and red and a billion years dead, littered with rocks, pocked with craters, filled with myths and ghost stories, most of which Cy didn’t really believe. Sergeant Kreeng – Old Get-It-Right – had known what he was doing when he’d set them perimeter guard duty consisting mostly of doing nothing. It was, she knew, a discipline of the mind.
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Cast of Wonders 70: A Song for the Season


A Song for the Season

by Eliza Hirsch

The sun came out today, and for the first time in five months our song returned. It changes once every three years. This time, the melody sounds slower, a little bit sad. Long, low notes shake my chest when I stand too close to the forest’s edge. The last song was a bright, energetic tune; before that it was like water tumbling over rocks in a wild river. Each song was as unique as the girl who gave their life for them.

I worked in the garden, stringing twine for a pea trellis, listening to the song and basking in the warmth of the sun. Louder than the wistful tune was the sound of my younger brother, Allard, chopping wood along the side of the house. Our parents were in town, mother checking on the winter’s newborns while father delivered bread to neighbors. Spring had come at last, and we were happy to be outside.

We were not the only ones. Allard’s axe stopped swinging and fell to the ground with a thunk. I looked up from my knot work as he shouted out a greeting. A familiar voice answered him and I dropped my twine, eager to see the face I had missed so much during the cold months.
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Cast of Wonders 69: Cosmetic Procedures


Cosmetic Procedures

by Desmond Warzel

When I became a private investigator, it wasn’t for excitement, or for money. The work is humdrum, and whatever noir romanticism the profession ever actually had is long gone (though I’ve got a raincoat, a fedora, and a dusty bottle of scotch in the closet, just in case they’re called for). As for money, there isn’t much–and I don’t need it anyway. I’m a dilettante, and utterly unashamed of it.

It was an ego boost, pure and simple. I suppose I just enjoyed the idea that, when some poor desperate soul was in dire straits, stretched to the breaking point, with nowhere to turn, I would be the one he’d call.

Well, now I’m sitting at my desk, unable to take my mind off the lower right-hand drawer, and the unique item therein, and I have no idea who I should call.

I am, however, extremely open to suggestions.
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Cast of Wonders 68: Mercurial Skin


Mercurial Skin

by Raechel Henderson

Jodi kneels on the floor taking inventory of musty, used books when she feels someone approach and tower over her.  She doesn’t mind the interruption because the books are starting to whisper to her again. When she looks up she bares her neck to the customer.  “Your Lucy complex is showing again,” Victor, the shop owner and her boss, says from where he’s building new shelves into the ceiling. Jodi pays him as much attention as the books.

For an instant Jodi and the customer, a boy of sixteen or seventeen, take stock of each other, looking for indicators they might be people who share common interests.

The boy wears standard neo-goth attire–lots of black and dripping in chains–but his costume can’t hide his white-bread good looks.  He’d be better suited to a band or school or fast food uniform. Like her, he is an imposter. She imagines the two of them riding a train through the Carpathians under a full moon.  He mumbles something to her, more of a long sigh than communication.
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Cast of Wonders 67: Barsoom in June


Barsoom in June

by Brian L. Hurrel

Come in, Mr. Unger. Now, what’s all this fuss about? You’ve created quite a stir within the Astronomy Department.

I’m sorry sir. It was unintentional. I was setting up a spectroscopy demonstration for my Astronomy 101 class. I used the Talbot ECR 394 with —-

Long story short, Mr. Unger.

Well sir, I did a test analysis of Mars, and, well, it showed oxygen. Lots of oxygen.

Obviously there was something wrong with the machine or its calibration.

That’s what I thought too. So I tried a second spectroscope. The Marchand 227—

The Marchand always was a little quirky.

Yes sir, so I ran the same tests on the Dorushuk equipment and—

And?

The results were the same.
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Cast of Wonders 66: The Egg Game


The Egg Game

by S. R. Algernon

I never would have invented the egg game if our parents had taken us–that is, me and my little brother Donnie–on a real vacation. Don’t tell them that, though. Donnie and I will never live it down if we admit, even for a second, that our parents are capable of doing anything cool, even by accident.

It all started last summer, about a week after school let out. Our parents cast suspicious eyes over our glowing report cards and, with a sigh or two, agreed to take us on a trip to space. We were thinking of Lunar World or the Balloon Cities of Venus, but a week before launch day we found out that, no, we were going to the Sun Spot. The Sun Spot turned out to be a “floatel” resort just far enough out of the atmosphere so that our parents technically kept their promise. It spun like a giant bicycle wheel for gravity. Its elevators ran along the spokes, so that someone could get a workout at the gym on the one-point-five gee level, ride inward–or “up”–to the normal level for lunch and then continue on one of those floating zero-gee tai chi groups. It had all the stuff adults liked to do, but as far as Donnie and I were concerned, it might as well have been a bus station.
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Cast of Wonders 65: The Great Game, Part 7 – The Mustard Wyrm

Show Notes

The Mustard Wyrm is final installment of a series of stories called The Great Game by James Vachowski and narrated by Barry J Northern. To find other episodes in the series search for the tag The Great Game.


The Great Game, Part 7–The Mustard Wyrm

By James Vachowski

What is that infernal screeching?  In God’s Holy Name, child, leave that poor cat alone!

Eh?  Music?  So you say.  To these ears it sounded more like a banshee being skinned alive.  Do yourself a favor and quit now, while you still have your youth. Your talents clearly lie beyond the world of music, and I dare say you will need all available time to discover your true skill.  By virtue of your heinous display of what I can only assume was intended to be a strain from Schubert, it is safe for us to rule out the violin as your life’s calling.

Besides, any devotee knows there is but a single instrument worthy of mastery.  Which one, you say? Do you jest? Surely your music professor has taught you the wonder of the bagpipes?  No? Child, the pipes are the birthright of the Highlanders, the instrument of ancient Scottish kings! Here now, be a good lad and wrap that quilt round my knees.  Close the window as well. The night grows cold, and I fear we have tormented the neighbors enough for one evening, what with your attempts at harmony.
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Cast of Wonders 64: The Gloaming (Part 2)

Show Notes

Today we present Part 2 of The Gloaming by M E Garber. Be sure to check out Part 1, first, if you haven’t already.


The Gloaming

by M E Garber

At this time I knew the Rules One through Five. They were easy, almost ridiculously so. Except for the “Asking” part, which I found hard.

Rule One: What you truly believe will become real. What you truly disbelieve will fade.

Rule Two: Pride brings unwelcome notice, and testing by the true fey. Guard well against Pride.

Rule Three: The Question must be asked. A lore-tender may only divulge rules once his or her charge has asked after each of them. Some leading is permissible, but pure telling is not possible.

Rule Four: Names prove important in strange, unpredictable ways. Always be careful when Naming if you have the power of fey.

Rule Five: Protect your purity. Loss of that innocence, of purity in your thoughts and deeds, will result in loss of your fey abilities.

My own corollary to Rule Five: It’s well-known that unicorns only associate with pure fey innocents. So, to stay with Azim al-Liajli, I stayed as far from human boys as possible. Easy.
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Cast of Wonders 63: The Gloaming (Part 1)


The Gloaming, Part 1

by M E Garber

I forgot Rule Number 1.

I imagined the evil hordes, and they became real.

I did it. I believed in them, gave them their power and forms. They merely fed my fear and my inattention, directed my fertile imagination into the darkness of isolation. I followed, as blind as I could be.
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Cast of Wonders 62: The Quarrel of the Monkey and the Crab


The Quarrel of the Monkey and the Crab

by Yei Theodora Ozaki

Long, long ago, one bright autumn day in Japan, it happened that a pink-faced monkey and a yellow crab were playing together along the bank of a river. As they were running about, the crab found a rice-dumpling and the monkey a persimmon-seed.

The crab picked up the rice-dumpling and showed it to the monkey, saying:

“Look what a nice thing I have found!”

Then the monkey held up his persimmon-seed and said:

“I also have found something good! Look!”
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Cast of Wonders 61: The Great Game, Part 6 – When Stars Fall

Show Notes

To find the other episodes in this series, search for the tag The Great Game.


The Great Game, Part 6–When Stars Fall

by James Vachowski

Child! Quickly now, come here! Pull the drapes back, there’s a good lad, and roll me to the window.  See… there! That flash of light! 

What?  A meteor?  Don’t be a dunce, child, there’s no such thing. That was a star falling from the heavens, as sure as I’m alive. But draw the curtains now, if you please. A single shooting star is an omen of luck, but seeing several foretells death. I’ve seen enough death in my time, and I fear that my own summons cannot be too far off.

Ah, thank you. The stars are beautiful flashes of silver from afar, but terrifying when viewed up close. What? Of course I’ve seen a star up close, child! In fact, I’ve actually ridden in one!
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Cast of Wonders 60: The Swineherd


The Swineherd

by Hans Christian Anderson

There was once a poor Prince, who had a kingdom. His kingdom was very small, but still quite large enough to marry upon; and he wished to marry.

It was certainly rather cool of him to say to the Emperor’s daughter, “Will you have me?” But so he did; for his name was renowned far and wide; and there were a hundred princesses who would have answered, “Yes!” and “Thank you kindly.” We shall see what this princess said.
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