300 episodes

PodCastle is the world’s first audio fantasy magazine. Weekly, we broadcast the best in fantasy short stories, running the gammut from heart-pounding sword and sorcery, to strange surrealist tales, to gritty urban fantasy, to the psychological depth of magical realism. Our podcast features authors including N.K. Jemisin, Peter S. Beagle, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Jim C. Hines, and Cat Rambo, among others.



Terry Pratchett once wrote, “Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.” Tune in to PodCastle each Tuesday for our weekly tale, and spend the length of a morning commute giving your imagination a work out.

PodCastle Escape Artists, Inc

    • Fiction
    • 4.8 • 36 Ratings

PodCastle is the world’s first audio fantasy magazine. Weekly, we broadcast the best in fantasy short stories, running the gammut from heart-pounding sword and sorcery, to strange surrealist tales, to gritty urban fantasy, to the psychological depth of magical realism. Our podcast features authors including N.K. Jemisin, Peter S. Beagle, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Jim C. Hines, and Cat Rambo, among others.



Terry Pratchett once wrote, “Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.” Tune in to PodCastle each Tuesday for our weekly tale, and spend the length of a morning commute giving your imagination a work out.

    PodCastle 696: Tend to Me

    PodCastle 696: Tend to Me

    * Author : Kristina Ten

    * Narrator : Nicola Seaton-Clark

    * Host : Summer Fletcher

    * Audio Producer : Peter Behravesh

    *

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    Lightspeed





    Rated PG-13

    Tend to Me

    by Kristina Ten

    Nora is a serial becomer. She has become many things in her life, though rarely on purpose. The first time, it just sort of happened. The second time, it was a coincidence. Now, it is a habit she cannot seem to break.

    In the past, she has become a rock climber and a scuba diver, a beekeeper and a gardener and a mechanic specializing in European cars. For two months last summer, she was a stand-up comedian. Her senior year of college, she amassed New England’s largest collection of antique coins.

    Nora has no interest in any of these things. She has, in fact, an acute fear of heights and depths and stages. Exhaust fumes make her sick, and she is allergic to bees.

    But Nora cannot help herself: she is prone to absorbing the interests of whoever she is dating. She is caught in a pattern. She cannot get out.

    “How wonderful that you two share hobbies!” say friends of the couple, whatever couple she is part of at the time.

    Or: “You must never run out of things to talk about! I wish my Philip and I had so much in common.”

    It is not an equal exchange, Nora knows, nor a lasting one. Do you think the rock climber asked about her interests? He did not. While they dated, she scaled sheer cliff faces in his presence, then went home to her apartment and sank weeping to the floor. She spent hours flat on her belly, clawing at the horizontal surface beneath her calloused palms. All the jargon she had learned—quickdraw, hand jam, pitch—tumbled out of her mind. Alone, she was completely vacant. The next time they saw each other, he would fill her all over again.

    The same with the comedian: she pantomimed laughter for him until her cheeks ached, then went home and stared at her blank expression in the mirror, as if trying to commit it to memory.

    The same with the gardener, the beekeeper. Nora is trapped in malleability. It is an uncomfortable transformation each time. She wakes up tired, eats a bowl of bland cereal, then she goes to meet her lover and she becomes.

    Currently, Nora is dating an amateur acupuncturist. They met at a bar, where he told her a bad joke about why acupuncturists shouldn’t be trusted, something something something because they are a bunch of backstabbers.

    He turns out to be neither of these things: a backstabber or an acupuncturist, professionally speaking. He is sincere and loyal, and he performs acupuncture only at the hobbyist level, though he hopes to get an apprenticeship soon. For now, he practices on himself often, on her less often, and most frequently on the bumpy, porous skin of grapefruits.

    When Nora becomes this time, she is reclining on his living-room sectional, the amateur acupuncturist focused on the cap of her knee.

    “Do you feel anything?” he asks, inserting a fourth needle experimentally. “More relaxed, maybe?”

    “Sure,” she responds, feeling nothing, though maybe a slightly less dulled version of the nothing she usually feels.

    Suddenly, a patch of rough, faintly green skin blooms in the space between the needles. It is thicker than the surrounding skin, and when she pokes it, it has a bit of give.

    She looks up at the amateur acupuncturist. “Is that supposed to happen?”

    He examines the patch thoughtfully.

    • 19 min
    PodCastle 695: Black Wings, White Kheer

    PodCastle 695: Black Wings, White Kheer

    * Author : Rati Mehrotra

    * Narrator : Suna Dasi

    * Host : Summer Fletcher

    * Audio Producer : Peter Behravesh

    *

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    PodCastle 695: Black Wings, White Kheer is a PodCastle original.





    Rated PG-13

    Black Wings, White Kheer

    by Rati Mehrotra

    The wings knock against the closet door on full moon nights, trying to escape. The sound terrifies Sarita, because if it wakes Amit, he might think there’s an intruder in the apartment. He might arm himself with something (what? Sarita settles on the kids’ baseball bat), throw open the closet door with a warrior’s scream, and pound the old bones of her once-beautiful wings, reducing them to a pile of dust.

    Blood and feathers, why does she torment herself like this? Amit is a sound sleeper. He snores with his mouth open, spread-eagled on his back, taking up three-fourths of their bed. Besides, the wings can take care of themselves. Does she not know this better than anyone else? Far likelier that Amit will be the one in need of rescue.

    Still, she cannot help but think of the promises she’s broken, along with her wings. The recipes she’s forgotten. The family she’s left behind. And all for what?

    A small snuffling sound alerts her to the presence of her younger daughter in the corridor outside the door. For them, she thinks as she scrambles out of bed. For them.

    Ayla stands with her thumb in her mouth, her eyes large and anxious in the dark. At the sight of her mother, the thumb falls out, and she puckers her face to cry.

    “Hush, darling.” Sarita swoops down on Ayla and lifts her up. “What are you doing, awake at this hour?” Although she already knows, has known for a while. Ayla is only five, and Sarita had hoped desperately to have more time than this. To have a normal life, safe from hunters, even if that normalcy came at the cost of freedom and so much else. It isn’t fair. Chia, Ayla’s sister, is older by two years and—so far, at least—perfectly ordinary.

    “My back hurts,” says Ayla tearfully. “And I had a bad dream.”

    “Oh sweetie,” murmurs Sarita, “dreams are not real,” hating herself for the lie. But really, what choice does she have?  Is she going to explain the blood-soaked history of her family to a five-year-old? Is she going to say, honey, I used to have wings. You’re hurting because you’re growing them too—rather earlier than I did. And if I don’t cut them off, evil creatures will come for you, just like they came for my mother. And they will do things to you that are too terrible to contemplate.

    No, that is obviously not an option. Nor can she try sending Ayla back to bed; that will just bring the dreams back, stronger than ever. So Sarita does what she always does when one of her children is scared or upset. She cooks.

    She goes to the kitchen of their tiny tenth-floor apartment and sits Ayla down on the counter.

    “Guess my favorite childhood dish?” she says.

    Ayla beams, delighted with this turn of conversation and the indefinite postponement of sleep. “Chocolate cake?” she hazards.

    “No,” says Sarita. “That’s your favorite. Try again.”

    “Chocolate pudding?”

    “It’s not chocolaty at all. Though it is sweet.”

    Ayla scrunches her face in concentration. “I know,” she shouts. “Ice cream!”

    “Hush.” Sarita gives a quick glance at the corridor behind. “You don’t want to wake Papa, do you?”

    Ayla shakes her head, pursing her lips tight.

    “I’ll tell you my favorite dish,

    • 44 min
    PodCastle 694: Excavate

    PodCastle 694: Excavate

    * Author : Melody Gordon

    * Narrator : Cherrae L. Stuart

    * Host : Summer Fletcher

    * Audio Producer : Peter Behravesh

    *

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    FIYAH Literary Magazine





    Content warning for racism, oppression, and intergenerational trauma.





    Rated PG-13

    Excavate

    by Melody Gordon

    The airplane hatch opened and the Pearsons, with guns on their hips and jetpacks on their backs, gathered as a family to look out at the plantation.

    They were flying low to the ground. Too low. The hot air whipped at their jumpsuits and the ground rushed underneath them at a frightening speed. Danielle, the youngest and smallest Pearson, stood between her father and her big brothers who were glued to the floor like big brown pillars, watching the scene blur past. Danielle was shaking and sweating everywhere, from the bandana holding her braids back all the way down to the soles of her feet.

    “Before we go, I have one more thing.” Their therapist, Dr. Greenwood, said, projecting her voice over the wind. She stood behind them in a jumpsuit with a jetpack but no weapon. A shovel protruded from the top of her backpack and over her shoulder. “We’re only a few seconds away from the fields.”

    Danielle watched Vann, her eldest brother, grip the side of the hatch. Quincy, her second eldest brother, held the rectangle-shaped DNA reader with a trembling hand.

    “Everyone has a very important role. Remember, once we get down there and the clock starts ticking, we have one shot. That’s it.”

    How could she forget? They’d talked about nothing else for the last 72 hours. Danielle knew her job: She was responsible for the container in her hands, a two-gallon glass cylinder with a metal lid that would soon be filled with the spirit of one of their ancestors. Danielle’s job was arguably the most important job of all. More important than Dad and Vann’s job to protect them from Forresters. More important that Quincy’s job to find their ancestor. If Danielle failed, they all failed.

    “If you need me, I’ll be right next to you. Reach out. Ask for help. Try not to panic.”

    Her brothers couldn’t take their eyes off the ground. She looked over at her father as he clenched and unclenched his jaw. She glanced backwards at Dr. Greenwood, the only one with a smile on her face.

    “No matter what happens down there,” Dr. Greenwood said. “I’m proud of each and every one of you for making it this far.”

    Their trainer shouted from the front of the aircraft. “We’re here!”

    Danielle blinked and the grassy green stretches of land became a fuzzy white cotton field. Overgrown rows of cotton bloomed for miles in every direction. Lights flashed on the DNA reader. They turned on their jetpacks.

    “Are you ready?” Dr. Greenwood asked.

    “Yeah,” said the Pearson children.

    Their father stepped to the edge. He put his hand over the push-to-start accelerator on his shoulder strap. “Let’s go, y’all.”

    And he jumped.



    The $3,500 package included travel expenses, lodging, equipment, a DNA test, basic survival training, journals, food, drink, and unlimited sessions with licensed professional psychotherapist Dr. Keisha Greenwood. It was a four-day therapeutic retreat with the Excavation scheduled for the third day. There were photos–so many photos–of people leaping off planes, women wiping their eyes with tissues, men running across fields with guns on their hips,

    • 29 min
    PodCastle 693: Everybody’s Got a Hungry Heart

    PodCastle 693: Everybody’s Got a Hungry Heart

    * Author : Louis Evans

    * Narrator : Dave Robison

    * Host : Summer Fletcher

    * Audio Producer : Peter Behravesh

    *

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    Translunar Travelers Lounge





    Sexual content





    Rated R

    Everybody’s Got a Hungry Heart

    by Louis Evans

    Agent Heartbreak and the Misery Muse meet cute on a lonely-hearts cruise.

    Their gazes lock above the brunch buffet.

    She—let’s go with “she” for Agent Heartbreak, inaccurate though it is—she is a vision in a silk robe, bathing costume high to her neck and cut open just below her sternum, cheekbones like a jewel-thief’s kit. She is spooning a single deviled egg onto an undersized plate, objectively the most awkward food to serve at a buffet, but her muscular arms move it the way the hired dance virtuoso whirls an ingenue across the ballroom floor.

    He—let’s call the muse “he” although, at least by percentages, this is dead wrong—looks like nothing more than the most fuckable elf-prince of Mars. Iron-oxide skin, understated jewelry. His hair is platinum from root to tip and flows over his collar and down to his chest. His shirt is open to his navel. He is buttering a bagel.

    They stare deeply into each other’s eyes, which are utterly unalike in appearance: light and dark, wide and narrow, round and sharp. They do, however, have one commonality. To stare into either pair of eyes is to feel oneself drowning in a tank of cement.

    They hold each other’s gazes for a long, long time. Everyone on the cruise, from crew to captains, hold their breath. Every seabird wheeling in the sky and dolphin leaping alongside forgets to exhale.

    Finally as one they look away, the same quick flash of eyes that so coyly invites pursuit.

    They do not look back. He finishes buttering his bagel. She eats the deviled egg, standing right there at the buffet table, and gets a big fat blob of mustard and yolk right on her chin.

    They stomp out of the dining hall by opposite exits. Though neither of them knows it, they are thinking the exact same thing.

    “Who the hell was that a*****e?”



    Agent Heartbreak is the crowning glory of a secret government research program. At least, that’s what her handlers tell her. When they come to her they wear sunglasses and thick mittens and noise-canceling headphones that render her voice flat and robotic. They are , always in pairs, and when they leave at least one of them is always weeping.

    Her handlers tell her that back in the fifties, after the war—they do not say which fifties, whose war—the government saw the rise of the three-headed dragon of the cosmetics/beauty/advertising industry and sought to conquer it. They tell her that for a decade or more men in plain grey suits and shuffling gait bombed fashion runways, advertising agencies, television studios, hair care counters, while apprentice models in fashionable shifts slit throat after bureaucrat throat, smiling smiles that never reached their eyes.

    After Armistice both combatants joined their energies toward a single purpose: the strategic use of sensuality. They bred It Girls and rugby players and hypnotists and lifeguards with each other, with the frantic enthusiasm of a child who finds that smashing two dollies’ groins together causes a different sort of warmth in its loins.

    And that’s how they made her. When the military-cosmetological complex loves itself very, very much . . .

    • 41 min
    PodCastle 692: When the White Bird Sings

    PodCastle 692: When the White Bird Sings

    * Author : KT Bryski

    * Narrator : Tatiana Grey

    * Host : Summer Fletcher

    * Audio Producer : Peter Behravesh

    *

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    Auger Magazine





    Disordered eating, food deprivation





    Rated R

    When the White Bird Sings

    by KT Bryski

    Bones show best in cold weather.

    Sharp lines cut under skin; bare branches crack against the sky; snow drives on snow. In a land wiped clean, only the essential remains.

    The village freezes, and hungers.



    Catja crouches at a stuttering hearth. Embers leak scant heat. She stirs a pot set amongst the ashes, a rusted iron belly filled with meltwater and oats and a segment of apple smoked long ago in the far-dead autumn.

    At her shoulder perches a white bird. A clever fellow he is, with plumage so bright it hurts and a hooked little beak. His dark eyes never blink, shining like apple seeds flung against the snow.

    “Go on,” the white bird says. “It’s all right.”

    Catja brings a spoon to her lips; she suckles clouded water, tentatively welcoming its weight and warmth. She hunts the oats one by one, holding each upon her tongue.

    She comes to the apple segment.

    “Wait,” says the white bird. “Save that for later.” His voice pricks needle-sharp and needle-bright.

    As she hesitates, he nuzzles her cheek, his feathers soft as dream. “Tomorrow, you’ll be glad you waited.”



    Glassy morning shatters. In stillness so deep, snowfall kisses the windowpanes. Though Catja and the white bird wake before dawn, they do not leave until nearly midday, for she complains of weakness.

    “Lace up your boots,” the white bird pleads.

    Her fingers tremble, wooden. It takes too many tries.

    “Put on your mittens.”

    How her head spins. She clutches the bedpost, black spots blossoming across the floorboards.

    “Without work, you cannot eat,” the white bird whispers.



    And so, the woods.

    The trees gape, toothed with icicles, famished in themselves. The white bird flits ahead, one more pale flash against the snow-blind expanses and snowbound branches.

    The very air cuts.

    Catja enters the glittering forest as she would a cathedral. The hard blue sky domes overhead; columns of birch and beech bend with the dying year’s melancholy. She dares not gaze skyward for long, keeping her eyes on her boots. The sun bites, and in such weather, tears freeze quickly.

    “To work,” says the bird.

    Catja peers through the thickets. Sloes show like bruises under a snowbank’s pallid cheek; she secrets them into a leather pouch. Between humped roots, she finds a squirrel’s forgotten cache: a few acorns, empty chestnut casings. And then—wonder of wonders—a branch of hawthorn berries, sugared with snow and gleaming like blood.

    Her stomach growls. Before she’s realized, she has a berry pressed to her lips.

    “Save it,” the bird says.

    “But I’m hungry now.”

    The bird fluffs his feathers. “Very well, if truly you suffer…”

    Silence.

    She slips the berry into the bag.

    The sunlight richens with the failing of day, melting buttery gold down the snowbanks. Beneath her tattered coat, Catja shivers, and she’s about to ask the white bird if they can go home—but then, she stops.

    In the midst of the wood, a garden.

    Inevitable, perhaps, as the winter itself.



    Cragged grey stone cuts through the trees with a nursemaid’s primness,

    • 34 min
    PodCastle 691: The Healer of Branford

    PodCastle 691: The Healer of Branford

    * Author : C. A. Barrett

    * Narrator : Kat Kourbeti

    * Host : Summer Fletcher

    * Audio Producer : Peter Behravesh

    *

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    PodCastle 691: The Healer of Branford is a PodCastle original.





    Content warning for animal cruelty.





    Rated PG-13

    The Healer of Branford

    by C. A. Barrett

    After twenty years, Maud decided that it was safe to return to her hometown. She had never personally known a cat to live to the age of twenty, and even if someone had taken one inside and cosseted it into old age it would be too feeble to recognize her now. So Maud tied a scarf over her aching face and found a straight walking-stick. She went up to Branford by the old cobbled road. Her path rose alongside ample hills of heath spangled with flowers, bright purple and yellow reminders of the magic flowing underneath the soil. She saw a distant flock of birds wheeling in the air, and felt just as light. Branford, City of Magic-on-the-Moor, would be home again. Branford would take away her pain.

    She was almost at the city gate when a small orange tabby-cat sprang up from his napping. He leaped to the top of a hitching-post and stared at her, blinked twice, then cried out “Maud Coffand! Maud Coffand, the cats know what you did!”

    “I am not Maud Coffand,” she said, passing him. Maud pulled her scarf a little tighter around her face.

    “Then take off that scarf and show me your mouth,” said the cat. When Maud did not reply he hopped down and darted ahead of her. As they walked through the gate, the cat wove through the crowd’s feet, prancing with his tail straight and tall. “Maud Coffand! Maud Coffand has returned!” he called. Small cat-faces appeared in the corners of windows and from underneath stairs. By the time Maud entered Branford’s walls their eyes tracked her from every direction, glittering in the shadows like the vermin they were.

    “Leave me alone,” she said to the cat.

    “Did you think we’d forgotten? Did you think you could sneak in?” the tabby replied, slowing and nearly tripping them both as he turned his head. “We’ve told every kitten born here about you, Maud Coffand.”

    Maud looked around to make sure that no one was paying attention to the cat’s meowing, then leaned over him. “Leave me alone for today, and then I’ll go away again.”

    “You’ve come for just today? Oh, oh! You’ve come to see the Healer!” The cat relished this information, scrunching his nose as if swallowing a morsel.

    “Go!” Maud swung her walking-stick at the cat violently.

    It sprang away, out of reach. “Maud Coffand wants to see the Healer! Do you really think the Healer will heal you, Maud Coffand?”

    Maud stopped and lifted her foot. She grabbed her shoe by the heel, pulled it off, and threw it at the cat as hard as she could.

    She missed, but the cat still ran away, calling out “Maud Coffand!” as he went.

    Maud had to hobble forward and stoop to retrieve her shoe, leaning on her walking-stick. Some of the cat faces pulled back into their nooks, but she still felt their eyes on her, joined by the gazes of curious humans as the flow of travelers broke around her. She awkwardly pulled on her shoe. Maud put the walking-stick under her arm and clutched the scarf to her face, fingers tracing hard ridges under the cloth. She dare not let it slip. There were no birds when she looked up, but she did see two cats on windowsills, sitting like loaves with their feet and legs tucked under....

    • 37 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
36 Ratings

36 Ratings

AvantGarden___ ,

Brilliant

I always enjoy tuning in to discover new writers to follow. Excellent production values!

Phil Whole ,

Beautiful escapism.

A lovely mix of fantasy from across the board, with a great mix of narration. Thanks to the escape artist team, you do a fantastic job.

Cronan ,

Fantasy short fiction done well

Great fantasy stories with great narrators. Along with Pseudopod and Escape Pod, they're all the short fiction I need for my daily commute.

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