By Frank Oreto
Read by Jesse Livingston
“Find yourself a nurse,” he remembered his mother saying as they prepared for her act. “They always have jobs and they like to take care of men.” It was good advice but even Sharon’s patience had an end. Danny thought he had almost reached it. He borrowed the three hundred from her. Told her he was done gambling.
“Does that include poker?” she’d asked.
It was a good question. Danny didn’t think of poker as gambling. He learned to cold read rubes in his mother’s mentalist act. His card-sharp father taught him to make the cards dance – when the man was sober enough to hold a deck.
Poker wasn’t gambling. When you gambled you might lose. Danny knew all about losing. He was down twelve grand to Rod Renshaw due to a string of sporting misjudgments that climaxed when the Steelers had the bad grace to win the Super Bowl but lose the point spread. That was gambling.
By Livia Llewellyn
Read by Philippa Ballantine
All the signs of life are here, but this neighborhood has long been dead. They’re the only family left, and even they’ve fallen apart, like rotting meat from the suburban bone. She walks down the driveway, her low pumps clacking against the blacktop. As she steps into the street, her heart races; and now she catches the faint whine, a sonorous metallic song calling out in reply. After all these lonely years, it’s returned.
From the far end of the cul-de-sac, a sixteen-year-old girl emerges from the tangled overhang of rhododendrons framing a long-abandoned house. She saunters into the street, tanned hips curving back and forth in waves as she moves. Though autumn hovers in the air, she brings perpetual summer, shimmering all around her in rippling waves. One hand touches a lock of black hair, then tugs at her striped tube-top — for a single sublime moment, a caramel-colored areola peers into the rising dark. Megan feels the decades burn away like ash in the girl’s heat.
“Hey, spaz,” Kelly says. “Got a light?”
“You didn’t change,” Megan murmurs. “Thirty years, and you’re just the same.”
“Yeah, I never change.”
“But I have changed. Can’t you hear?” Megan presses her hand against her heart. “It’s like it’s inside me now, like I’m the engine, too.”
“Oh really? You’re the engine?” Kelly slips a cigarette into her mouth. “Are you sure?”
“You’re not taking her. It’s my turn.”
Kelly runs a long tongue over wet lips. “She’s already taken — it’s what you made her for, right?”
By Lee Thompson
Read by Dave Thompson of PodCastle
Jim grinned. “If we cut his legs off, how far do you think he can crawl before he dies?”
Sometimes soldiers come back from war full of demons, like my older brother, Jim. He slapped my shoulder, grinning, his eyes shiny as the dark still water in Sullivan County’s gravel pit. I took a step back, sent stones rolling, and rubbed my arm. Sunlight soaked through the high trees at the edge of the property. Jim looked at Robert on the ground. I didn’t want to. Didn’t want to look at Jim either, but sometimes we do what we least want anyway, God knows why.
Jim grinned. “What do you think, Gabe?”
“I don’t know.”
By Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Read by Christiana Ellis
“It scares me,” she said finally.
“That he’s dying.”
She turned to look at him.
“He’s filthy rich, you know,” Ramon said as he smoked a cigarette. Normally he wore gloves to avoid staining his fingers, but he had foregone such formalities in this remote corner of the state.
“I don’t want to marry him.”
“I said he was rich.”
“Maybe he will not want to marry me.”
“He better, and you better please him. There’s more money here than we’ve ever had.”
“Then you please him.”
Ramon grabbed her by the jaw, fingers digging into her flesh, and pulled her forward.
“I’ve had my share of old, ugly bitches in my bed. Sores and wrinkles and grey hair. All to keep you fed and dressed.”
“To keep us fed and dressed,” she muttered.