Author Topic: PC491: Bullets  (Read 3375 times)


  • Castle Watchcat
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on: October 10, 2017, 11:01:40 PM
PodCastle 491: Bullets

by Joanne Anderton
read by A. J. Fitzwater

Previously published by In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep

Rated R for adult content.

It had once been a sheep, and it wasn’t dead yet. A mangle of smouldering wool, scorched skin, and cooked meat, breathing in puffs of hot ash. Outrun by flames, tangled in underbrush, or crushed beneath a falling tree, who could tell? Everything was charcoal now. I pull the mask from my nose and mouth and breathe the warm smoke in. Load the rifle, aim between what’s left of the poor thing’s ear and eye, and give it peace with the slow squeeze of the trigger. Try to ignore the shakes, the tears stinging my eyes. I’m soaked in sweat and covered in ash, but supposed to be grateful that I’m still alive. At this point, it’s hard to even give a shit that the house is still standing.

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Joanne Anderton writes speculative fiction for anyone who likes their worlds a little different. She sprinkles a pinch of science fiction to spice up her fantasy, and thinks horror adds flavour to everything. She has won the Aurealis, Ditmar and Australian Shadows awards.

A. J. Fitzwater is a dragon wearing a human meat suit, living between the cracks in Christchurch, New Zealand. She attended the Clarion workshop in 2014, and won the Sir Julius Vogel Award 2015 for Best New Talent. Stories have been published in venues such as Shimmer, Crossed Genres and various Crossed Genres anthologies, At The Edge, an anthology of New Zealand and Australian speculative fiction from Paper Road Press, The Future Fire, and more.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!


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Reply #1 on: October 11, 2017, 08:12:21 PM
I almost had to put this story aside this morning, listening to it while real-timing my brother-in-law's family having to evacuate from the massive fire at the gates of their home in Napa California.   They too have had sheep and other large animals on the property, so the opening imagery of walking about the burnt ruins to bring hard necessary mercy to the animals caught in the wildfire had a lot of sobering real-world mental overlays of actual houses that I've slept in and animals I've touched.

There are some of those days when everything else you hear seems to funnel back into the same thought train. The most recent episode of This American Life,  'Suitable for Children'  that I listened to a couple of hours after Bullets includes a memoir piece from a US soldier selected to stand and watch atomic explosions go off in the American Southwest, back in the day. Memories of heat, shock waves, being buried alive in collapsed trenches. And memories of seeing dying, blinded, suffering animals limping, crawling, twitching. Collateral damage of unbottling the Efrit.  Both the writing and reading of Bullets had left a strong emotional raw spot for me, of that up close suffering, that was salted anew from the soldier's memoir. 

My hearing of the 'cast took away parts of a Promethean allegory about there being both great possible benefits and terrible prices to be paid when doing business with fire. It can enable great steps forward, but you step away from watching it, even for a moment, at great peril.  Whether you frame it as laws of Chemistry and Physics, or as the amoral sensibilities of an Elemental entity, fire may have the energy to create, but the base brain-stem desire of fire is to combine fuel, heat, and oxygen to consume, and a Marmite sandwich will not likely be more than a snack to keep that deeper hunger at bay for more than a moment.


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Reply #2 on: October 16, 2017, 02:24:07 AM
Well noted, HR Duff & Stuff.  For many this will hit close to home.  My family is in Montana where wildfires still burn.  Oddly enough I think it made me appreciate the story all the more. 

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." A.Einstein

Michael W. Cho

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Reply #3 on: October 26, 2017, 06:37:12 PM
Intriguing premise and great writing. I especially loved the virtuosic narration. Great job, AJ!


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Reply #4 on: October 28, 2017, 09:28:01 PM
This hit me hard, as I had to put down a sick animal I loved very much recently. Innocence can’t be saved from harsh reality, when one’s resources are slim.

"To understand a cat you must realize that he has his own gifts, his own viewpoint, even his own morality."


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Reply #5 on: March 13, 2018, 07:34:05 PM
I liked the strange spirits, with their mysterious appearance and motivations. The main character was a tough lady.