Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Carter’

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 497: Hurricane Season


Hurricane Season

by Avi Burton

Amaya smelled like the ocean. Most Florida girls did, when they returned from the beach with new tan lines and salt-crusted hair, but Amaya was different. The ocean-brine was under her skin, a part of her that was ever-present, unignorable. She wore jasmine perfume to cover it, overpoweringly sweet, but I could always smell the salt underneath.

We met at the beach— she always seemed to be there, sitting silently and watching the tides. I was crouched over a tide pool when I heard the slip-slap of her lavender sandals approaching.

“You’re new, right?”

I looked up and saw her silhouetted in the sun, smiling down at me, and nearly fell into the tide pool. Her swimsuit had a spotted pattern that made her look like the selkies I’d read about in mythology books— lean-boned girls with dripping hair and fur coats, who belonged to the ocean and only haunted the land.

“Yeah,” I said ungracefully, managing to catch my breath. “I used to live inland.” Swamp country, marsh and reed. Dark and jungled places, nothing like the deceptive brightness of the beach.

“Ella, right?” She held out a hand. “I’m Amaya. What’s inland like? I haven’t been there much.”

I shook her hand, feeling the callused pull of her palm in mine. I didn’t know how to describe it. “Covered,” I said. “You’re always in the shadow of swamp-trees or buildings. Not like here, where everything is so open and exposed.”

“You like it here?”

I shrugged. I liked it better now that Amaya was here.

“My family is from there.” Amaya told me without prompting, pointing out to the sea. The ocean looked like glazed glass, turquoise and still.

At the time, I assumed she meant the opposite coast, and craned my neck to see any kind of land. There was only ocean, rolling on.

“That’s far,” I said, picturing a map of the world in my mind— continents scrunched up like crumpled tissue, jagged edges carving into the sea.

“Really far,” Amaya agreed, eyes twinkling. “Sometimes, we go back. That’s what happened to my aunt. Ma says it was her time, and she just blew away.”

“What?”

“Do you remember that big storm that came in a few weeks ago? The one that almost tore the roof off the high school?”

I nodded. I’d watched in terrified awe from the car as the school roof slanted dangerously, clinging with all shingles to the brick that connected it, as the wind sunk its teeth in and tugged.

“That was my aunt,” Amaya confided. “They named the storm after her— Hurricane Marlene. When it’s my time, there will be Hurricane Amaya, and I’ll cause devastation like you’ve never seen before. I’ll tear the coast from the sea. Florida will split in half, like two slices of a sagging birthday cake. And then I’ll be gone, and out to sea. Poof.”

I could see Amaya becoming a storm. She had a certain kind of presence that I lacked— wild dark curls that blew in a halo around her head, a grin that dared you to ask what she was smiling about, can-cap bracelets that jingled when she walked and sounded like rain.

I didn’t say anything then, but I hated the thought of her going out to sea. I wanted her to stay and talk with me about hurricanes forever. Every day that summer we went to the beach and watched the ocean— the sea-birds diving into fractured waves, sun splintering off the water, all parts of the same and different whole. She tracked the weather patterns obsessively, drew wind currents over the heart-lines on her palm. I tried not to worry about it too much.

One day, Amaya asked me to come to the beach at night. She said we’d been friends long enough, and it was time for me to meet her family.

It rained as I walked: hot, drippy, Florida rain. The sky was muggy with gray-black clouds. I met Amaya at the base of a crumbling limestone cliff, a broad rocky outcrop with a walking trail that tourists loved. The white stone and sand crunched beneath my feet as I walked.

There were no tourists here now though, not in the ugly humid wet with clouds that smothered the stars. I glanced up at the flat-ironed sky. The rain slipped down my back. In the distance, thunder threatened. “Looks like a storm’s growing.”

Amaya squeezed my hand. “You’re not afraid of a little weather, are you, Ella?”

“No,” I answered, heart hammering in my throat. That wasn’t what I was afraid of. I could feel every point of skin-to-skin contact like an electrical wire sparking. Her hand was slippery in mine, and I clutched it tight, terrified to let go.

“Good,” said Amaya, “Let’s go storm-chasing.”

Laughing, she pulled me up the cliff, feet slipping in the sand. I followed after her, helplessly swept up. Around us, the storm bubbled and boiled, gray clouds cracking and unleashing a torrent of rain.

We reached the top of the cliff, and the path became narrow and sharp-edged. Amaya’s smile grew even wider as the water soaked through her skin. She tilted her head back and caught a few drops of rain on her tongue, savoring the taste.

“It’s her,” she called to me, voice distorted by the roughening wind. “You can taste it. Go on, try.”

Water streamed into my eyes as I leaned my head back. The drops I caught in my mouth carried a strange flavor, a little bit of sea and a little bit of something else— citrusy, sweet.

“Papaya,” Amaya explained, seeing my confusion. “Aunt Marlene always made the best papaya pie.”

I laughed— a habit. I couldn’t believe it. Here was a girl, and here was I, and we were standing on a cliff off crumbling stone and the rain tasted like papaya. That was what life was like when Amaya was around: peculiar but sweet. Miraculous in its strange, small way.

The wind screamed and tore at my clothes, whipping my hair into my face. Amaya screamed back, high-pitched and gleeful. “I’m ready, auntie! Come out, come out, wherever you are!”

Thunder rolled out above us, sonorous and unstoppable. Amaya spun out of my grasp and raced to the edge of the cliff, throwing her hands up to receive the rain. She seemed miniscule in the face of the rabid ocean, waves that reached with hungry lapping fingers up to the edge of the cliff. Salt-froth sprayed through the air. For a moment, I wondered if she was delusional, or desperate.

Then the agitated clouds rolled and shifted— flowed into each other, gray and black— and formed a face. A kind face, wide-browed, and eerily similar to Amaya’s, but older. I nearly fell to my knees and prayed. I realized with a jolt why people believed thunder to be God’s voice.

Amaya just laughed and waved. The face beamed down at us. It winked. Then the clouds melted in cotton-candy wisps, and the storm became faceless once again. The wind seemed to curl around Amaya for just a moment, like it was tussling her hair. Then the weather started behaving like a true storm again, vengeful and directionless.

“That’s Marlene. She always had the prettiest voice.” Amaya turned to me, brown skin glowing with rain, hair plastered to her forehead. Her grin nearly stretched off her face. “You see, Ella? I told you, we’re storm-creatures— oh!”

A crack of lightning flared behind her, and she startled— slipped— fell. I watched her flail, as if in slow motion, arms wavering as she tipped backwards off the cliff.

I lunged. Grabbed at her rain-slick hand. Caught it in my grasp. Felt her waver, felt her start to slide from my grip. I gasped and pulled, hauling Amaya up over the lip of the rock and back to safety. She collapsed trembling into my arms.

“Almost went back to the ocean,” Amaya said, voice adrenaline-giddy, face pressed against my chest. “Almost went back to Auntie Marlene.”

“Not your time yet,” I told her, panting. Her body shivered in my grasp.

“Not yet,” Amaya agreed, drawing closer to me. “There’s something I have to do first.”

She kissed me, then, as the rain sleeted down. Her perfume overwhelmed me. All I could smell was jasmine and the ocean, salt-sweet strange.


After that, it was a summer of storm-kissing— behind the beach house, in the sea as the waves torrented, hidden in a grove of swaying wild palm trees. Never in calm weather— never where anyone else could see. This was Florida, after all, and we still had to be careful.

It never stormed so much as it did that summer. Meteorologists called it unprecedented. I called it a miracle. Every muggy downpour and whirlpool-wind that I explored with Amaya meant that she hadn’t left yet, meant that she still wanted to stay with me.

The color of our youth wasn’t golden, but storm-gray. I learned to love the clouds of that color, and I learned to read their moods; when they would shift and when they would stay, when they promised rain and when they promised real roof-tearing storms.

My favorite weather was when the clouds and the ocean were the same bleak slate-blue, like mirrors of each other. Amaya’s favorite was when the sea had so many types of colors that you couldn’t choose just one. I loved that, too. I loved her.

Selfishly, stupidly, I thought it would last forever.

But the summer drew to an end and Amaya drew away from my grasp. She looked at me with a stormy sorrowful gaze and told me clearly that it was time for her to go.

“Where?” I asked, knowing the answer.

“Far,” she told me, and gestured out across the ocean. It was splintered today, a kaleidoscope of green and gray and blue. It matched Amaya’s eyes. “My family’s nomadic, you know. We have to move on, eventually.”

“But now?” I asked, reaching for her hand again. She pulled away. “It’s not the end of hurricane season. There’s still a few more months.”

She shook her head. “Ma says we have to pack up and go. When it’s time, it’s time.”

“Can I follow you, then? There’s nothing here to keep me grounded, I could go, I could migrate with you—”

“Ella.” She cupped my face with the palm of her hand. “I love you, but you’re not like my family. Not like me. You’re a storm-chaser, not a storm, and I don’t want you running to follow something that’s already gone.”

“Are you breaking up with me?” The stupid, childish question fell from my lips without a thought.

“I’ll come and visit you,” Amaya said, which wasn’t really an answer. “When the rain comes, I am thinking of you. When the thunder booms, I am telling you a joke and laughing. When the wind howls, I am whispering secrets in your ear. I’ll talk to you through the storm, alright?”

But I can’t talk back. The words died on my tongue. If I said anything more, I would cry, so I kissed her instead. I couldn’t tell if the saltwater on her lips was tears or just a part of her. I clutched her close, tried to keep her in my arms, but that’s the thing about summer storms— they don’t last long.


I saw Amaya one more time after that. I had started to trek regularly out to the cliff where we’d spoken to Aunt Marlene, even though it wasn’t the same without her there. I sat and watched the waves, coolly rhythmic against the rocky ledge.

That night, as I hiked up the soft-sand trail, I saw Amaya standing there. The weather was shifting, cloudy, moody but not tempestuous. Clouds spotted the blue-black horizon. She was small and shadowed in the moonlight, but still so, so beautiful.

Amaya turned, and waved at me. My heart leapt in my throat.

There came a crack of lightning out on the horizon, and rain began to pour down, heavy and dark. In the flash of it, Amaya was gone. Thunder sang sweet overhead.

I never saw her again— not in person.


It still storms here more often than it should. The palm trees bend in the wind, and the hermit crabs scuttle and hide under rocks. Every time the rain starts, I go out to the cliff that I cannot think of as anything other than Amaya’s. I wait for a hurricane that will shake the world and split Florida in two.

If the hurricane won’t come— and it hasn’t, yet— then I wait for a storm that will carry me away, like it took her, like it made her so wild and weather-y. But it’s just rain sleeting against my skin, and winds that pass right through, like I’m a ghost. I breathe in deep anyway, and inhale the briney scent of salt and sea.

Sometimes, though, sometimes— the storm smells like jasmine.

Genres: , , ,

Cast of Wonders 496: Excuse Me, this is the Quiet Car


Excuse me, this is the Quiet Car

by Cara Mast

The magic of the quiet car is best when everyone follows the rules.

I’m halfway through the math problem I’ve been mulling over when a sudden bleep-bleep-bring-a-ling in the quiet makes me jump, slamming my knees into the fold-down tray table. Ouch.

And then, as if the phone ringing wasn’t enough, the man across the aisle from me picks up. “This is Paul Whitford. Yeah, hey Jerry, what do you need?”

White- and grey-haired heads pop up from the seats ahead of our row, the usual crowd of over-65’s turning to look for the disturbance. I really just want to go back to my problem set. The train shakes audibly around us, more like a throat clearing than regular train rumbles, and I’m pretty sure that’s a warning at this point. I’d rather not find out. Much as I’d like to ignore this guy, he’s now made his business everyone’s business. (Continue Reading…)

Genres: , , ,

Cast of Wonders 495: And I Will Make Thy Name Great


And I Will Make Thy Name Great

by Louis Evans

Abraham, the potter’s son, was sweeping out the workshop late one night, the air hot, the sweat beading on his brow, the kiln still radiating the baking heat it had absorbed over the course of the day.

This was when he heard the voice.

“Boy!”

Abraham looked around.

No source of the voice was apparent. No person had stepped into the shed, nor were the flames of a djinn visible. Four copies of the idol of Suen, god of the moon and chief among gods, were cooling on the shelf opposite the kiln, and sometimes Suen spoke to believers, but the idols were not yet consecrated and certainly could not host the presence of the god. No raven perched in the workshop’s eaves, croaking out an imitation of speech. Abraham was baffled. (Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 494: The Day I Didn’t Get a Pet Nebula


The Day I Didn’t Get a Pet Nebula

by Effie Seiberg

On the day I turned nine, I didn’t get a pet nebula.

I’d really really wanted one, just like the one Shelly had. And I’d been talking about it FOR-EVER, so Dad could have the time to save up for the one in the pawn shop, and I’m not usually patient enough to talk about anything that long. I told him how responsible I was and how I could take it for walks and trim its dust wisps and everything. I made him breakfast when he got home from his shift a bunch of times, and even did the dishes after to prove how responsible I was.

“C’mon kiddo, you know that’s not possible,” he’d said, ten rotation cycles before my birthday. We were at the wobbly kitchen table and he was helping me with my physics homework after dinner, so everything still smelled like tacos with neutron star shavings and spray cheese. The chapter was all about distortions of spacetime, cosmic strings and black holes and whatnot. He leaned his head on one tentacle, like he was too tired to hold it up on its own. Even his work shirt looked tired, like the frayed thin patches were struggling to hold his tentacles in. “A pet nebula isn’t happening.” (Continue Reading…)

Cast of Wonders 493: One Day in Infinity


One Day in Infinity

by Beth Goder

Walrus reaches her hands down into a supermarket in Oregon, willing the roof translucent. Time is frozen like the fish sticks in aisle seven. She weaves her hands through shoppers, careful not to nudge the boy bouncing in the cart or the old man in front of the cake mixes. She breathes in the smell of cucumbers, a loamy quality that speaks of the ground they came from.

First, she removes salmonella from a carton of eggs, sucking out disease until only a swirl of white and yolk remains. She caresses the fish in the display case to tell them they are loved. Next, she sees if anyone is going to die. (Continue Reading…)

Genres: , ,

Cast of Wonders 492: Stillwater


Stillwater

by Valerie Kemp

Nothing ever changes in Stillwater. Nothing. I get up every morning at the crack of dawn, in the blazing heat, and drive our pick-up all over, delivering eggs and milk and whatever else my daddy feels like selling, to the good people of Stillwater, population 413.

I work my way in a circle from the edge of town, where we live, to the center. I endure all the little old ladies who like to pinch my cheek when they tell me, “Why Pruitt Reese, you are becoming more like your daddy every day!” Like that’s a good thing. (Continue Reading…)

woman with colourful wisps of light

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 491: Little Wonders 33 – Dreams & Identity

Show Notes

“In the Library of Longing” was first published by Daily Science Fiction, February 2021


Sleep Tight

by Mark Joslyn

You were right, you know. When you were a child.

I was hiding under your bed.

You knew it, even though you couldn’t prove it. Even after your mother kissed your cheek, and tucked you in, and told you there was nothing to be afraid of. Even after your father knelt and checked and told you there was nothing hiding down there. Even when you summoned up all your courage and looked for yourself, hanging off the edge of your bed, your trembling flashlight shining on nothing but forgotten socks and lost toys. You still knew, that somehow, someway, I was down there. (Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 490: Prophecy Girls


Prophecy Girls

by Sydney Paige Guerrero

Sen was the twenty-third Chosen One to save the world. She knew she would not be the last.

Sen remembered everything the history books would not mention: how suffocating the darkness felt, pressing against her and thrumming with life; the smell of sulfur and honey as the Darkling leaned in to devour her, teeth grazing her skin and drawing blood; how sharp the air tasted when her internal emergency systems kicked in after her human heart stopped beating; her hair clinging to her face, heavy and slick with the Darkling’s blood, as she lay gasping with half her body a mess of torn synthetic skin and frayed wires; the way Mr. Smith stared at her in horror as she staggered to her feet as if she were a newly-risen Darkling; the—

“Chosen,” Mr. Smith said.

Sen blinked. Sun-baked dirt gave way to hardwood floors and off-white walls, the blades of a ceiling fan that barely stirred the hot Manila air wiping away the image of a blood red moon. The familiar tang of iron was real enough in her mouth though, and Sen realized she had bitten the inside of her cheek so hard that she was bleeding. Taking a breath, she intertwined her flesh and metal fingers to remind herself she was still whole. (Continue Reading…)

Genres: ,

Cast of Wonders 489: My Hilt Itches


My Hilt Itches

by Sydney Rivers

‘Innkeeper, another round!’ roared the Hero. Cheers of approval came from the other men at his table, dressed in pungent furs and armour. They paired copious drinking with heaped plates of roast meat. That and the body odour was enough to make me queasy.

Of course, it didn’t help that I was strapped against the Hero’s back. My jewelled sheath did little to protect me from the nauseating sounds and smells emanating from him. Regardless of his company, the Hero always ate the most, always drank the most. How I would love to teach him the meaning of moderation with some choice insults and a good knock on the head.

‘Show us Excalibur!’ yelled one of the self-professed ‘warriors’, quickly echoed by the shouts of his peers.

Standing upon the table, the Hero yanked me out of my cosy covering. I was held high, displayed for the entire inn’s enjoyment. I was really getting tired of his perpetual bragging. (Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 488: Little Wonders 32 – the Power of Imagination


Interview with a Sixth Grade Science Fiction Food Stylist

by B Myers

A full excerpt from Gustatory Semiotics Review (Winter) follows.


It was our privilege to conduct this interview at the Matz residence in Saukinee, casually situated near our subject’s working environment—the Matz kitchen table. Kevin Matz, in his brief tenure as an originator of radical alterities in the foodsphere, has already reworked several well-known genre themes (via found objects, snack items, condiments, and food coloring) into novel tableaux formats. We found the artist a voluble if elliptical subject.


GSR: Kevin, let’s talk about the nearly complete canvas we see before us—Jelly Caravan. This installation, which will remain on exhibit until—.”

Kevin: About 5:30.

GSR: At first glance, this piece seems to represent graphically the terror of distances. Upon a vast expanse of black construction paper we see a tenuous line of objects. What is the significance or purpose of these objects you refer to as jelly galleons?

Kevin: The jelly galleons bring jellies from other star systems. Probably because the flavors come from the starlight. It’s hard to tell. No one understands the language of the jelly galleons. (Continue Reading…)

Genres: , ,

Cast of Wonders 487: Let the Buyer Beware


Let the Buyer Beware

by Michelle Ann King

‘Is it done yet? Is it done, Gran? Is it?’

Willa Rafferty ignores the hopping child at her elbow and peers at the box in her hand. Its roughly printed label–Environment Expansion Kit! Need More Room? Create Extra Magical Space With This Quick And Easy Spell!–is now smeared with small, sticky fingerprints.  ‘Wait a second, Chloe, let me–’

‘I’m Evie, Gran. Is that bug supposed to be in the bucket? Shall I catch it?’

‘What? Oh.’ Willa flinches as a large, black-shelled beetle skitters past her foot. Did that come with the kit? Must’ve done. ‘Shit. I mean, yes. Get the bug, Chloe. I mean, Evie.’

The girl cups the fleeing insect between her palms and drops it into the bucket. It lands with a splash and an aggrieved-sounding hiss.

‘Are we going to set fire to it now, Gran?’

Willa hesitates. Not if there are bugs involved, surely? Aren’t there regulations about not setting bugs on fire? (Continue Reading…)

Genres: ,

Cast of Wonders 486: Eight Arms to Hold You


Eight Arms to Hold You

by Angela Teagardner

Oscar woke with the sun. He turned one glassy eye toward the tiny window near the ceiling where rose-gold light crept in. It was barred with a lattice of steel–steel currently scalloped with red paper hearts–but at least it faced toward the rising sun. He’d learned to wake as soon as that light, or maybe just the warmth from it, crept across his sensitive skin.

He stretched his limbs, reaching almost to the edges of his tiny cell. Today was the day. Operation Puddle Jump was a go. (Continue Reading…)