Episode Art: Bo Kaier Music by: "Fire in the Blood" sung by Ralph Stanley and Emmylou Harris
Strange Stories, By Strange Authors, for Strange Listeners
Please stop taking my half & half.
Let’s get this out of the way: I know you’re there. Don’t think I’m unaware of the scrabbling sounds, the walls creaking from your bulk, the way my razor in the morning is never exactly where I left it last night. Richard always said it was the building settling—as if a building, however old, could take apples out of the fruit crisper—but he was as wrong about that as he was about a lot of things beyond the scope of this note. And since he moved out I feel you’ve gotten bolder.
In the back of the shop I scrubbed three large cauldrons clean, stripping the seasoning from them because Master Aloz insisted on it once the trade caravans stopped coming at the end of summer. Tallow, he called me, on account of my paleness. I used a brush made of iron bristles instead of horse hair, scraping away the brown muck inside, various plant and animal parts rendered into sludge like droppings from a sick bull. My book lay on the floor beside the cauldrons. Sir Tannis and the Hydra. It seemed I wouldn’t get to read much of it today…
The bar is plenty kitschy: goofy statues made from coconuts everywhere and strings of shell beads hanging from the ceiling. I smile when I see a coconut sporting a pair of mouse ears made from scallop shells.
Tourists from all over the world are sitting around, ordering drinks non-stop because the sun is so hot at this time in Indonesia that you’ll wilt if you go outside and also because the drinks are so watered down. But that’s all right with me. I’m here to blend in, not to get drunk.
The horrible conclusion which had been gradually obtruding itself upon my confused and reluctant mind was now an awful certainty. I was lost, completely, hopelessly lost in the vast and labyrinthine recesses of the Mammoth Cave. Turn as I might, in no direction could my straining vision seize on any object capable of serving as a guidepost to set me on the outward path. That nevermore should I behold the blessed light of day, or scan the pleasant hills and dales of the beautiful world outside, my reason could no longer entertain the slightest unbelief…
The place was dark and dusty and half-lost
In tangles of old alleys near the quays,
Reeking of strange things brought in from the seas,
And with queer curls of fog that west winds tossed.
Small lozenge panes, obscured by smoke and frost,
Just shewed the books, in piles like twisted trees,
Rotting from floor to roof—congeries
Of crumbling elder lore at little cost.
I entered, charmed, and from a cobwebbed heap
Took up the nearest tome and thumbed it through,
Trembling at curious words that seemed to keep
Some secret, monstrous if one only knew.
Then, looking for some seller old in craft,
I could find nothing but a voice that laughed.
Don’t call me anything at all. Give me my pint of piss-poor ale and leave me be in this yellowed corner where men relieve themselves when they are too lazy to make three extra stumbling steps to the streets of Nantucket. I am done. Finished. Come to this hole to die—and if you insist on speaking to me, I’ll find a deeper hole than this dying excuse of a whaling town can offer…
"A powerful reading and good example of how a story can be transformed when told out loud and told out loud well.
The Drabblecast is an award-winning, illustrated, listener-supported audio fiction magazine, released as a free to download, weekly podcast. It features short stories at the far side of weird, including science fiction, horror, fantasy, and everything in between. It is hosted and produced by Norm Sherman. The Drabblecast is open to submissions and is a paying market.
© 2007 - 2011 The Drabblecast. Narrated and Produced by Norm Sherman and released under a creative commons license