Posts Tagged ‘loss’

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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 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…)

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Cast of Wonders 303: What You’re Missing


What You’re Missing

by Allison Mulder

“Something’s missing.”

The words slipped past Anya’s lips, not for the first time. Most days she could keep them buried under other, safer thoughts. But on quiet, peaceful days like this one, when she’d successfully coaxed Colton past the fences to the off-grid hills, the words had a nasty habit of wriggling out to warm themselves in the sun.

“Of course something’s missing,” Colton said, staring back toward the sprawling gray city. Sun sparkled off the high chain link fences between the hills and town. “No Wi-Fi, no cell signals. The power grid’s scrapped out here. If it bothers you, let’s head back.” He fiddled hopefully with his loose tie, obviously ready and waiting to tighten it.

Anya shook her head, enjoying the unfamiliar feeling of unbound hair swishing against her cheeks. “Not what I mean.”
(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 292: Little Wonders 17: True Selves

Show Notes

February is Women in Horror Month, an international initiative which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre. Check out the hashtag WiHM9 for plenty of suggestions. Or if you have the stomach for stronger fair, our sister show PseudoPod.

You can find all our own Women in Horror episodes here!


Silver Things

by Dagny Paul

The first time Leah turned into a fish, she had been small, maybe four, and she’d been sitting with her daddy on the rock that overlooked the lake. He had turned to her with his stubbled smile and his bright blue eyes and asked her if she’d wanted to dive. She didn’t know how to swim, she’d said, and he had said that’s okay, sweetheart, because we’ll be fish.

He’d stripped off his shirt and pulled her to her little feet, and before she’d even had time to think about it they had jumped. She’d never hesitated, never worried. He had never let her down.

Until now. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 289: Blood and Water (Staff Picks 2017)

Show Notes

Every year in January, Cast of Wonders takes the month off to recharge, plan the year ahead and highlight some of our favorite episodes. Throughout the month, different members of the Cast of Wonders crew will present their favorite story of 2017.

Our final Staff Picks episode for 2017 is hosted by editor Marguerite Kenner.


Blood and Water

by Jason Kimble

The year we turned nineteen, the boy I loved disappeared under the waves of Lake Michigan, but he didn’t die. I never told anyone. That he was alive. That I loved him. That he

My fingertip goes white as I smash down on the delete key and the cursor devours my words.

The broken swimming trophy lies sideways on the kitchen table. I stare at it as I dial, ignore the cat mewling, exiled, on the other side of the door. I count the rings of the phone at my ear. Seven rings (for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone) before Mr. Gravere picks up.

“Why are you calling, Mike?” Gravere says.

“It’s about a book,” I say. “I … think that I loaned it to Andy, before–”

“That wasn’t his name.” I can’t decide if the ice sheathing Mr. Gravere’s voice is better or worse than his scalding anger at the funeral.

“It’s special. A first edition. Return of the King. My mother–”

“So special it took you five years to notice it missing?”

“It’s just … ” I turn the gilded swimmer in my hand.

“I told you when he died, Michael: you’re not welcome here. Live without the book. I’m living without a whole lot more.” Mr. Gravere hangs up. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 283: Single Parent (Staff Picks 2017)

Show Notes

Every year in January, Cast of Wonders takes the month off to recharge, plan the year ahead and highlight some of our favorite episodes. Throughout the month, different members of the Cast of Wonders crew will present their favorite story of 2017.

This week’s episode is hosted by audio producer Jeremy Carter.


Single Parent

By Sarah Gailey

The monster in my son’s closet is so fucking scary.

Here’s what happened: Jack screamed in the middle of the night and I came running because I’m his dad and that’s what dads are for. He’s been doing that for a month — screaming like someone’s in his room murdering him with a screwdriver. And even though there’s never, not even once been anyone murdering him, I couldn’t just let him scream his little head off all night. If I didn’t come running, his mom would have risen from the grave just to come and slap me upside the head.

I know what you’re thinking, but the monster in the closet is not his mom. It is not my dead wife, come back to watch over him and protect him. This isn’t that kind of a story. It’s a fucking monster, okay? (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 280: Cateye Gleaming in the Dark


Cateye Gleaming In The Dark

by David M. Hoenig

Today…

James Riordan thinks that eighty four is a pretty fine number. It’s round, for one thing. It’s made up of what should be a lucky seven of dozens, for another. And he’s had time to get used to it, since it doesn’t look like he’s going to get around to eighty five.

The watery light of a cold February morning enters tentatively, as if unsure of its welcome. It rises slowly from the floor, up the starched white linens of his bed and creeps onto the homey red and blue quilt which insulates his thin frame. Even though he watched its hesitant approach the whole time, he seems surprised when it’s finally there, because he’s had to split his attention between it and breathing. The effort clearly tires him, because his eyes drift closed.

He wrestles his hand from under the sheets and up to his chest where he takes weak hold of a small leather bag which hangs on a thong from his neck. While he still has to strive for breath- oxygen supplemented by the twin-pronged, plastic life-giver across his upper lip- a smile settles across his achingly exhausted features.

He was not always so.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 264: Little Wonders 14: Lyrical Beauty

Show Notes

The Little Wonders theme “Neversus” is by Alexye Nov, available from Promo DJ or his Facebook page.


The Best Busker in the World

by R.K. Duncan

“The best busker in the world never plays in the same place twice.  He is too busy searching.  But maybe, just maybe, you will hear him once.  If you hear him, you will have to see him, even if the first notes of his music drift to you from streets away, completely opposite from wherever you intended to go.  Once you hear a single note, it will draw you along like an invisible string, tugging at the knot in the center of your chest where you keep your secret fears and disappointments.  Wherever you find him— a dusty back street in a sleepy town, a bustling avenue in the rush-hour of a big city, a lonely campground haunted by only a few brave souls and stubborn wanderers— the sight will burn itself into your memory almost as deeply as the music.”

The old man sighed, and leaned back in his chair.  The corners of his mouth turned up, but the young woman couldn’t call it a smile.  His eyes were too sad for smiling.  They had been the first thing she noticed about him, catching her eye as they passed on the train platform.  She paid attention after that, more and more once she started digging, and those eyes had never changed.  They drew her irresistibly toward him, and his rich, careful voice held her there and pushed all other thoughts to the far corners of her mind.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 258: Victory Music

Show Notes

Mermaid UK: http://www.mermaidsuk.org.uk
The Trevor Project: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

Theme music “Appeal to Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available from Promo DJ or his Facebook page.


Victory Music

by Daniel José Older

One of my favorite moments ever was when the boy called me an Arab and you said, “She’s Sikh, fucknut” and then when he said “Oh, like hide and go-“ you broke his nose. I heard music playing, I swear to God, and it was victory music, your music: A dusty, unflinching beat, lowdown and grinding. It didn’t matter that my family’s not even technically Sikh anymore since my parents went born-again and I’m just whatever. I smiled for days after that moment, Krys. Days.

But so much has happened since then, so much gone wrong.

After that day I found you on the hill at the edge of campus. There’s a fence that cuts right through the summit of the hill and the other side is all wilderness and you and MagD would sit against that fence and watch everybody and murmur quietly. Used to want to hang with you guys so bad before you stood up for me and I finally got the guts to walk up there and just say Hey. And then it was us three, and MagD used to hate it when we called her that but she probably loved it too, and wherever she is now she probably introduces herself that way, with that big toothy grin on her that looks perfect and so out of place on her serious face.

Anyway, now you’re dead.

Is what they told me. That you died. I’m not trying to rub it in: I need to say it again and again so it feels true finally, because it’s been months and I still don’t believe it. In part because you were SO alive, so flesh and blood, and the thought of you not is just…it doesn’t fit. But mostly I don’t believe it because I still feel you, my friend, all around me. And anyway, that’s what I’m getting at, I wanted to tell you that you’ve saved my life at least twice. And once was after you died.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 255: Doors

Show Notes

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


Doors

by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

It had been three months since I’d taken my brother anywhere. The last place we’d gone together was our mother’s funeral. Since then Zack had been difficult, more so than usual, refusing to put on his shoes, shushing me when I asked him to do his chores, even screaming and pounding his fists when it was time to drive him to the recycling facility where he sorted paper as part of a program for developmentally disabled adults.

But he had agreed to visit the county fair, though in the car on the way he had bruised his knuckles knocking on the window glass, an old habit Mom and I thought we’d broken him of.

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 253: Single Parent

Show Notes

Theme music is “Appeal to Heavens” by Alexye Nov, available from Promo DJ or his Facebook page.


Single Parent

By Sarah Gailey

The monster in my son’s closet is so fucking scary.

Here’s what happened: Jack screamed in the middle of the night and I came running because I’m his dad and that’s what dads are for. He’s been doing that for a month — screaming like someone’s in his room murdering him with a screwdriver. And even though there’s never, not even once been anyone murdering him, I couldn’t just let him scream his little head off all night. If I didn’t come running, his mom would have risen from the grave just to come and slap me upside the head.

I know what you’re thinking, but the monster in the closet is not his mom. It is not my dead wife, come back to watch over him and protect him. This isn’t that kind of a story. It’s a fucking monster, okay?

(Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 250: Blood and Water


Blood and Water

by Jason Kimble

The year we turned nineteen, the boy I loved disappeared under the waves of Lake Michigan, but he didn’t die. I never told anyone. That he was alive. That I loved him. That he

My fingertip goes white as I smash down on the delete key and the cursor devours my words.

The broken swimming trophy lies sideways on the kitchen table. I stare at it as I dial, ignore the cat mewling, exiled, on the other side of the door. I count the rings of the phone at my ear. Seven rings (for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone) before Mr. Gravere picks up.

“Why are you calling, Mike?” Gravere says.

“It’s about a book,” I say. “I … think that I loaned it to Andy, before–”

“That wasn’t his name.” I can’t decide if the ice sheathing Mr. Gravere’s voice is better or worse than his scalding anger at the funeral.

“It’s special. A first edition. Return of the King. My mother–”

“So special it took you five years to notice it missing?”

“It’s just … ” I turn the gilded swimmer in my hand.

“I told you when he died, Michael: you’re not welcome here. Live without the book. I’m living without a whole lot more.” Mr. Gravere hangs up. (Continue Reading…)