Pseudopod 328: The Suicide Witch

by Vylar Kaftan.

“The Suicide Witch” originally appeared in Daily Science Fiction, July 2012 and can be read here. She says “I wrote this story for the Codex Halloween contest. Codex is an online group of professional writers, and every year we trade “seeds” to spark new stories. My seed for this story was to write about a mortician who glues hair for special events. Clearly I have some funny ideas about how morticians live.”

VYLAR KAFTAN has published about 40 short stories in places such as Asimov’s, Lightspeed, and Clarkesworld. She’s the founder of a new literary-themed science fiction convention in the San Francisco Bay Area called FOGcon, which happens in March (click link under the name). She was nominated for a Nebula in 2011 and blogs at here. Her novella which will be out in Asimov’s in the February issue – it’s an alternate history in which the Incan Empire survives into the 19th century, and bargains with America for a smallpox vaccine.

Your reader this week – Rikki LaCoste – is the creator and co-host of the metaphysical and esoterically flavoured podcast, Kakophonos Internet Radio available for free from iTunes. At this time, Kakophonos is undergoing a further incarnation, so if you visit or search iTunes and cannot find it, check back again in a couple of weeks. His odd, informative, and provocative show often collapses into the silly and the absurd whenever it begins to get a little too serious. Rikki is a writer of strange articles on occult subjects, is a musician and the creator of Panthea, the co-creator of a cartoon strip about Aleister Crowley, a Hermetic Philosopher, a Ceremonial Magician, a summoner of daemons, and teaches piano to happy little children. He currently lives just East of Toronto in a dubious little house that emits strange sounds and eldrich odours all hours of the night..


“The suicide witch crushes glass in her leather gloves. Shards crumble like crackers over soup, filling her metal bucket. The witch’s fingers squeak together in the damp cellar air. Glitter escapes over the worktable’s edge, like white stars vanishing in the low torchlight. A peasant girl lies dead on a funeral board, her dress nailed to the wood in thirteen places.

The witch’s name is Yim, but none call her that. She lives under the noble house of Jiang in the province of Kung-lao, in a cellar with puddles like rice paddies. In the summer, fat flies buzz around her face until she swats them down. In the winter, her knees ache, and she coughs in the dampness as if she were an old hag. But Yim’s ragged hair is black without silver, and her face shows no lines. She can still see in the dark.”





Pseudopod 311: Flash On The Borderlands XIV: Resistance!

For Pearl Harbor Day, three flash pieces about fighting back …

No Further by Matthew Acheson

This piece was previously published in “Underground Voices” magazine and is one of two stories available to date from Mr. Acheson’s WHISPERS FROM THE NORTH saga, a series of linked short stories that sets the backdrop for his currently in progress fantasy novel.

Matthew Acheson lives in Orono, Maine. He earned his Bachelor’s in Computer Science and Ancient History from the University of Southern Maine, and has worked as an engineer in the telecommunications industry for over a decade. His fiction has appeared in Raygun Revival, Spinetingler, Digital Dragon, Morpheus Tales, and others. On some cold winter nights you’ll find him by the fireplace, entertaining his fourteen nieces and nephews with strange tales of supernatural horror and the fantastic. His website, Cryptic House, is linked under his byline above.

Read by Ian Stuart, who has something special in store for you in a few weeks!

“Their arrival was a terrible sight. The light from the full moon cast a strange, eerie glow upon the host of pale corpse things and their shrieking masters which stretched across the vale for miles in every direction. They swept the valley like a flood that left only ash, carrion and pestilence in its wake.”


The Conchie by J. Chant

Pseudopod is the story’s first publication.

Jayne Chant resides in a tiny town in Cambridgeshire with her husband, daughter and malevolent cat. Her first experience of the unmatchable thrill of a good ghost story was as a small child listening to her mother read Victorian ghost stories by candlelight..

Read by Kim Lakin-Smith, whose dark fantasy and science fiction short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies including Black Static, Interzone, Celebration, Myth-Understandings, Further Conflicts, PANDEMONIUM: STORIES OF THE APOCALYPSE, THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST STORIES BY WOMEN (“‘Field of the Dead”), and others, with “Johnny and Emmie-Lou Get Married” shortlisted for the BSFA short story award 2009. She is the author of the gothic fantasy Tourniquet; Tales from the Renegade City, the YA novella QUEEN RAT, and CYBER CIRCUS which was shortlisted for both the 2012 BSFA Best Novel award and the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel. Published on the 1st of December by Snow Books will be RESURRECTION ENGINES, an anthology of steampunk short stories inspired by classic novels from the Victorian period, containing her short story, “The Island of Peter Pandora” (a mashup of Peter Pan and The Island of Doctor Moreau), which has also been picked up for Best Fantasy 2013 from Proxima Books. She is currently working on an urban fantasy YA novel and a dark fantasy novel for adults.

“‘But last night I could not sleep. That unending thunder – I shut my eyes and all I could see were flames. It hurt to breath. It was Thomas I worried for. Then very late, after the clock struck three, Peter appeared and my heart leapt. He sat on the Ottoman at the foot of the bed, his back to me, his arm stretched along the bedstead.

‘I noticed a terrible stain on his back, and as I watched, it spread. I cried out his name, and for the first time he seemed to have heard, in all the nights he’s appeared. His head turned, only a little. I don’t think he wanted me to see his face. His fingers twitched.’

‘It was only a nightmare, Amelia.’

‘I crawled down the bed towards him. I said; my dear, my sweet child, are you in pain? His head shook from side to side. I reached out for his hand, and for a moment I felt his flesh. Cold and damp. And then he was gone. Completely. The room filled with the scent of honeysuckle, just like Vaughn house, where we used to summer, and Peter fished and climbed trees and played soldiers.’

Amelia’s hand shot out and gripped Elizabeth’s, far too hard.

‘It was a nightmare, nothing more,’ said Elizabeth, pulling her hand away.”


Bitter Tea & Braided Hair by Henry Lu

This story was first published on Fiction365 on May 4th, 2012.

Henry Lu learned English in a pre-podcast era, by listening to Voice of America when he was a teenager in Communist China. He also paints. You can look at his paintings on RedBubble under the name of “ArtPal”

Read by Tracey Yuen, who is involved in education and considers listening to podcasts a big factor in getting himself to “read” fiction and dabbles in photography, videography editing, page layout and narration.

“Incense smoke rises from the monastery into the low-hanging clouds of the same ominous shade, portending a quick-fire summer storm.

His standard-issue dark suit gives him away: even the Chinese tourists can tell he’s a plain-clothes. He watches the crowd’s every move, carrying the thermos mug that has earned him the “bitter tea” nickname. Like his Tibetan mother, he is addicted to Chinese bitter tea.

He pays close attention to the braided hairs of Tibetan maidens, determined to follow his Chinese father’s footstep in marrying one of them someday.”