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.

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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 650: Luella Miller

    PodCastle 650: Luella Miller

    Close to the village street stood the one-story house in which Luella Miller, who had an evil name in the village, had dwelt. She had been dead for years, yet there were those in the village who, in spite of the clearer light which comes on a vantage-point from a long-past danger, half believed in the tale which they had heard from their childhood. In their hearts, although they scarcely would have owned it, was a survival of the wild horror and frenzied fear of their ancestors who had dwelt in the same age with Luella Miller. Young people even would stare with a shudder at the old house as they passed, and children never played around it as was their wont around an untenanted building. Not a window in the old Miller house was broken: the panes reflected the morning sunlight in patches of emerald and blue, and the latch of the sagging front door was never lifted, although no bolt secured it. Since Luella Miller had been carried out of it, the house had had no tenant except one friendless old soul who had no choice between that and the far-off shelter of the open sky. This old woman, who had survived her kindred and friends, lived in the house one week, then one morning no smoke came out of the chimney, and a body of neighbours, a score strong, entered and found her dead in her bed. There were dark whispers as to the cause of her death, and there were those who testified to an expression of fear so exalted that it showed forth the state of the departing soul upon the dead face. The old woman had been hale and hearty when she entered the house, and in seven days she was dead; it seemed that she had fallen a victim to some uncanny power. The minister talked in the pulpit with covert severity against the sin of superstition; still the belief prevailed. Not a soul in the village but would have chosen the almshouse rather than that dwelling. No vagrant, if he heard the tale, would seek shelter beneath that old roof, unhallowed by nearly half a century of superstitious fear.

    There was only one person in the village who had actually known Luella Miller. That person was a woman well over eighty, but a marvel of vitality and unextinct youth. Straight as an arrow, with the spring of one recently let loose from the bow of life, she moved about the streets, and she always went to church, rain or shine. She had never married, and had lived alone for years in a house across the road from Luella Miller’s.

    This woman had none of the garrulousness of age, but never in all her life had she ever held her tongue for any will save her own, and she never spared the truth when she essayed to present it. She it was who bore testimony to the life, evil, though possibly wittingly or designedly so, of Luella Miller, and to her personal appearance. When this old woman spoke—and she had the gift of description, although her thoughts were clothed in the rude vernacular of her native village—one could seem to see Luella Miller as she had really looked. According to this woman, Lydia Anderson by name, Luella Miller had been a beauty of a type rather unusual in New England. She had been a slight, pliant sort of creature, as ready with a strong yielding to fate and as unbreakable as a willow. She had glimmering lengths of straight, fair hair, which she wore softly looped round a long, lovely face. She had blue eyes full of soft pleading, little slender, clinging hands, and a wonderful grace of motion and attitude.

    “Luella Miller used to sit in a way nobody else could if they sat up and studied a week of Sundays,” said Lydia Anderson, “and it was a sight to see her walk. If one of them willows over there on the edge of the brook could start up and get its roots free of the ground, and move off, it would go just the way Luella Miller used to. She had a green shot silk she used to wear, too, and a hat with green ribb

    • 41 min
    PodCastle 649: The Plague-House

    PodCastle 649: The Plague-House

    * Author : Maya Chhabra

    * Narrator : Eleiece Krawiec

    * Host : Setsu Uzume

    * Audio Producer : Peter Behravesh

    *

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    Originally published in Anathema.





    CW: Plague, illness, and death





    Rated R.

    The Plague-House

    by Maya Chhabra

    When the plague returned in a rash of aching joints and toxic, pink-froth coughs, Catia did not wait for it to sneak into her family’s home. Armouring herself with sweet oils and talismans of cracked agate—nothing that exorcised fear or released paralyzed feet for another step could truly be called useless—she stalked off to confront it where it lived and died.

    Between their freshly painted townhouse and the low, sprawling warehouse appropriated last month by the faceless, vaguely incompetent entity that served as Sanitation Commission, three blocks spread before her like the southern plains amidst a dust storm. The street cleaners stayed home these days, and the promenade might as well have been a gutter.

    Soon slim terraced houses gave way to commercial buildings; she lowered her veil and gasped, taking in the docks’ vivid salt air and pungent fish scent. Two wiry, homesick Eldasran sailors menaced a peacekeeper, and a lanky woman, face covered, tipped a burlap sack out of her cart and fled.

    No one paid Catia mind as she marched past, agate biting her left palm as she steeled herself to yank the warehouse’s hemp bell pull. No one except the burlap sack, which grunted and twitched as she stepped carefully around it. Catia looked away from the evidence; during the epidemic of ’74, she’d seen fathers slip poison into their children’s medicine, sons dump their parents’ not-quite-corpses into the bay ’til the edict requiring cremation banned the practice. That some were driven to burn the living she did not doubt, but of that at least she could claim no first-hand knowledge. Mercifully, this woman had abandoned her relative near a plague-house; Catia didn’t think the vanished figure had much to be ashamed of. At least this time, Catia didn’t have a child to shield as well. Not like last time, with Nicoletta. During plague outbreaks, Catia revelled in her infertility.

    She tugged the cord and it made an echoing, tinny noise. The sack coughed, and let out a kitten’s mew—the sound of an animal, or a very young girl, in pain. Catia looked at it, at the shape of tiny, contorted limbs poking through sackcloth.

    The sorceress who answered the bell found a figure dressed in bright green, carrying a small child with a crimson-stained bib. Catia didn’t think the girl’s half-Borran features, her hazel eyes and sweat-plastered auburn curls, much resembled her own. But the sorceress couldn’t see that, she realized.

    “We’re full up, madam. You should take your daughter home before she gets chilled.”

    “She’s not—” But the healer, callused as Catia had been by a surfeit of suffering, was already turning away. Nearing panic, she remembered her original purpose. “Do you need an extra pair of hands?”

    Eyes the choppy grey of rough seas met hers.

    “Take your kid home and come back quick as you can.”

    This time, when the sorceress called the girl Catia’s daughter, not even the beginnings of denial escaped her.



    The child frightened Pier Antonio. Not the plague—Catia kissed him on tiptoe when he waved off her apologies for inviting it in—but the child.

    • 24 min
    PodCastle 648: The Beast Weeps with One Eye

    PodCastle 648: The Beast Weeps with One Eye

    * Author : Morgan Al-Moor

    * Narrator : Laurice White

    * Host : Setsu Uzume

    * Audio Producer : Graeme Dunlop





    The Beast Weeps with One Eye

    By Morgan Al-Moor

    After three days of breathless escape across the grasslands and no less than thirty of our people lost, the waters of the Nyamba river finally sparkled before my weary eyes. Every soul among the survivors — the last of the Bjebu — sobbed with joy, and even the faithless murmured their thanks to the Great Elders from between dry lips.

    We dropped to our knees at the riverbank, panting like a herd of mad oxen. Some threw themselves into the water, swallowing and gasping. Others rolled on their backs, drenched in sweat and dust. Mkiwa, our chief huntress, climbed the great tree and perched above us, her spear thrust forth, the lion’s pelt hugging her shoulders.

    I washed my face and arms in the cold water. Dirt had dyed my crimson khanga brown, so I rinsed its edges and tossed the veil around my head. I uttered a short prayer for those who had fallen along the road.

    The grasslands stretched around us, bathed in the early rays of dawn — a rippling ocean of green in the fresh wind. The blue mountains guarded the horizon, gathering around their highest peak — Mount Wawazee, the abode of the Elders. I caught a breath of the dewy air. Deer grazed in the shadow of a far tree, oblivious to our clamor.

    “Can we rest yet, High Sister?” asked one farmer.

    “Are we safe yet, High Sister?” whispered one hunter.

    I yearned for a comforting reply to their fears, but I couldn’t offer what I didn’t have. After what I had seen in the past days, it was difficult to imagine that a haven still lay somewhere in this land. Our pursuers’ vicious beaks and manic caws had filled our senses for days now. Their furious small bodies had poured upon our homes and ripped through wood and clay and flesh until our village drowned in its own blood. We had fled, only barely escaping them.

    I raised a questioning eye to Mkiwa. A moment passed as she stared into the horizon, and then my heart fell as she grimaced and spun back to me with a look I knew well.

    The ravens were upon us. We had never lost them.

    I uttered a desperate sigh. Around me sat three hundred souls that had spent days venturing across the grasslands — those children playing in the water, and the old men who had seen no less than a hundred winters, and the farmers who could neither hold a spear nor a shield. I looked at our handful of weary yet fearless hunters, who I knew would die before they let harm chafe us. But what use was bravery in the face of sheer numbers?

    I dropped to my knees and pressed my hands to the moist grass. I drew in a deep breath and twisted my tongue and lips to match the breath of the earth beneath me.  “Heed my call, Ancient Land, and lend me your wisdom. My people need shelter.”

    The land sighed under my palms. The old voice filled my head. “I hear you, High Sister, and I have what you seek. Though the ravens fade into oblivion when compared to what lies here.”

    “I have lost many lives on the road, Ancient Land. Show me this sanctuary, whatever it may be.”

    “You stand upon the abode of the Keeper of Sorrows, and of him and this place, I shall speak no more.”

    My fingers dug into the dirt. “You must talk. By the will of the twin Elders, Arowo-Ara and Ufefe, Striders of Thunder and Lightning, I implore you to show your secrets.”

    The voice grunted in pain. I hated my cruelty, I hated to use the Elders’ names to threaten another being,

    • 1 hr 1 min
    PodCastle 647: The South China Sea

    PodCastle 647: The South China Sea

    * Author : Z.M. Quỳnh

    * Narrator : Z.M. Quỳnh

    * Host : Setsu Uzume

    * Audio Producers : Peter Behravesh and Z.M. Quỳnh

    *

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    Originally published in Genius Loci.





    Rated R.

    The South China Sea

    By Z.M. Quỳnh

    They are in the fragmentation of raindrops during monsoon season and the quivering of evaporating dew in the dawn of sea salt mornings. I am intimately familiar with them for I have always been surrounded by spirits. Our village was built around a cemetery abandoned during the war. That was where we migrated to when our hamlet was massacred and over a thousand lives lost. Ghosts were seen as regularly as any villager, wandering through the tombstones in our gardens, passing the evening dinner table, and swirling in the incense in our temples. I often caught a glimpse of them in the air as if in shards of broken glass. With them always lingered a scent.

    It was this same scent that permeated the air when we drifted into the crests of the South China Sea. It was intermingled with the smell of misery and remorse and the taste of sweetened rust, as if you plunged an abandoned nail into sugar cane and then sucked on it for days on end. I knew then that we had ventured into that ghostly stretch of sea in which the souls of people still lingered aimlessly, struggling against the powerful waves, gagging at the descent of salt water into their lungs, playing out their deaths over and over again as their hope for life somehow continued long after their demise.

    As soon as her swells began to coil around the boat, I felt the mood on board shift. Elders grouped together above us on the deck to set up a small altar. Damp joss sticks were lit and inserted into nicks in the wood and muffled invocations whispered.

    “Let us pass in peace dear sister, dear brother, dear mother, father.”

    From the darkness of the cabin below, I felt them pass through me, the victims of the sea, friends and family and strangers.



    Twice she had beaten me.  Swallowed my brother and sister, captured scores of people in my village, and betrayed my father.

    “I hate you.” I whispered to her.

    “Mine…” I thought I heard her whisper back to me.

    But it was only the sound of her salty tentacles rippling against the rotten wood of our fishing boat. My back was turned to her as I methodically dumped the mixture of bile, feces and urine that had been collected in the buckets kept at various corners of the small boat.  She felt uncharacteristically calm, a quietness that made me nervous. I averted my eyes from her, focused on my task. The mere sight of her caused such anxiety to well in me that I had taken to severe bouts of vomiting.

    She was nearly impossible to avoid though; her blue green eyes taunted me from all directions. Trying my best to shut her out, and preferring the familiarity of the contents of the buckets to her misleading beauty, I studied the mixture of bits of rice and undisturbed fish bones from the previous night’s meal. They were the markers of our life. So long as we breathed, these buckets would be filled.

    Leaning back, I dipped the first bucket into the warm waters, keeping my eyes on the deck in front of me, following the lines of the wood grain. I felt her tongue brush against my fingers, lapping at the blistering salt seared there.

    • 29 min
    PodCastle 646: TALES FROM THE VAULTS — The Medicine Woman of Talking Rock

    PodCastle 646: TALES FROM THE VAULTS — The Medicine Woman of Talking Rock

    * Author : Pamela Rentz

    * Narrator : Ada Milenkovic Brown 

    * Host : Emmalia Harrington

    * Audio Producer : Peter Behravesh

    *

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    Originally published in Red Tape.





    Rated PG.

    This episode is a part of our Tales from the Vaults series, in which a member of PodCastle’s staff chooses a backlist episode to rerun and discuss. This week’s episode was chosen by associate editor Emmalia Harrington. “The Medicine Woman of Talking Rock” originally aired as PodCastle 255.

    The Medicine Woman of Talking Rock

    by Pamela Rentz

    Violet Spinks checked her to-do list for the ceremony: canoe, plants, medicine cap, trails. List-making might not be traditional, but no one would blame her for needing a brain prompt. She set the list in her medicine book and picked up the TV remote. She clicked through the channels and stopped when she spotted a young man with a torso like polished bronze. He shook out a bundle of black rubber cables and attached them to a shiny disk. The camera zoomed in on his brawny arms and legs as they worked the cables with the disk spinning in the middle. He looked like he wrestled a spider. A notice on the screen said three easy payments of $14.99 plus tax and shipping.



    Find the rest of this story in the Red Tape anthology. You can find it here.

    • 29 min
    PodCastle 645: God Damn, How Real Is This?

    PodCastle 645: God Damn, How Real Is This?

    * Author : Doretta Lau

    * Narrator : Andrea Bang

    * Host : Jen R. Albert

    * Audio Producer : Peter Behravesh

    *

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    Originally published in How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun? Published by Nightwood Editions in 2014, audiobook version of this produced by ECW Press.





    CW: strong language, including racist and misogynistic slurs.





    Thanks to Nightwood Editions for allowing us to reprint the text of this story and to ECW Press for allowing us to run an excerpt from the collection’s audiobook; this audiobook was produced as a part of ECW Press’s Bespeak Audio Imprint. You can purchase the print version of this book here and the audiobook here.

    God Damn, How Real Is This?

    By Doretta Lau

    My future self sends me a text message at least once a day.

    The latest: Hey, tricho-slut, get your man hands out of our hair. I have a Lake Michigan–shaped bald spot forming on the back of my head. stop plucking. it’s starting to look like a penis.

    Last I checked there were no Great Lakes of any sort blooming on my scalp, no Superiors or Hurons or Eries flooding my hair. Of late, these missives from the future have become increasingly more abusive. I wonder, when will I flip my bitch switch and hop on this negative self-talk train? In a week? In a year? I’d like to believe this use of misogynistic language is out of character and that maybe I’m being trolled by a bored identity thief. I file the thought as something for my present self to discuss with my now therapist.

    Another message flashes on my phone: That mole on your left arm that you’ve been ignoring? Get thee to a doctor.

    I peer down. My arm is presenting itself as blemish free. At times like this I wish I could send a text to my future self to make clear the murky. I want to address important issues such as: “Will I die alone? But that technology hasn’t been invented yet, or our future selves have circumvented its implementation for the good of humanity.”

    I call my local clinic and explain my situation.

    “This is Franny Siu calling. I can’t find this mole my future self is warning me about, but I’d like to make an appointment to see Doctor Chang.”

    “I understand,” says the woman on the phone. “Last week, my future self started blasting me messages about herpes. Today, she escalated to drug-resistant gonorrhea. I think she’s trying to tell me that my boyfriend is cheating on me.”

    “No sex for the hexed,” I say, unsure how to handle this kind of intimacy with a near stranger.

    “Come at two tomorrow afternoon.”

    “Great. See you tomorrow,” I say, and hang up.

    Despite this disruption, I still have time before my therapy session to stop by my ex-colleague Rita’s house and check on her. Rita has not left her house in months because her future self keeps divining death and destruction. As soon as she thinks of doing something — innocuous activities such as watching a movie or washing her feet — a new text arrives dissuading her from taking a...

    • 20 min

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