Author Topic: PC388 / 754: The One They Took Before  (Read 5929 times)


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on: November 03, 2015, 08:15:52 PM
PodCastle 388: The One They Took Before

by Kelly Sandoval

read by Eleiece Kraweic

First appeared in Shimmer Magazine, and recently featured in Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Read it here!

Rift opened in my backyard. About six feet tall and one foot wide. Appears to open onto a world of endless twilight and impossible beauty. Makes a ringing noise like a thousand tiny bells. Call (206) 555-9780 to identify.

Kayla reads the listing twice, knowing the eager beating of her heart is ridiculous. One page back, someone claims they found a time machine. Someone else has apparently lost their kidneys.

The Internet isn’t real. That’s what she likes about it. And if the post is real, the best thing she can do is pretend she never saw it.

After all, she’s doing better. She sees a therapist, now. She’s had a couple of job interviews.

She calls the number.

Rated PG.

Kelly Sandoval’s fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Flash Fiction Online, Shimmer, and other venues. She lives in Seattle, where the weather is always happy to make staying in and writing seem like a good idea. Her family includes a patient husband, a demanding cat, and an extremely grumpy tortoise. Find out more on her website,

Eleiece Krawiec has been involved in voice-acting and narration since 2007. Since her initial foray into audio drama, beginning with Star Trek: Excelsior, she has voiced roles for a variety of audio dramas: Misfits Audio (Strange Stories, 5 Minute Classics, Good Sam), 19 Nocturne Boulevard, Darker Projects and, several Star Trek audio dramas, including Star Trek: Outpost, in which she plays the (ongoing) role of Dr. Rachel Winston. She has also done narration for Well Told Tales, Drabble Cast, The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine, and Escape Pod. Eleiece lives in the New Orleans, Louisiana metropolitan area and is, in her day job, a legal secretary.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: October 24, 2022, 08:41:24 AM by Ocicat »


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Reply #1 on: November 06, 2015, 02:27:22 PM
My father was a smoker, and he quit many times.  He finally pulled it out about a fifteen years ago, but he told me he was still a smoker.  If he took a drag from a cigarette, it would be as if he never stopped.  That is kind of like what Kayla is going through, though no one ever came to my father offering cigarettes.

It feels more like what I would imagine being a heroine addict would be like, always wanting to go back to that first hit, always wishing you could have that feeling.  I don't know if I could say no if they had the offer in my face and I have to deal with that desire.  The author had me rooting for Kayla, and I feel so bad she can't play her music anymore.  They not only addicted her, they stole what she loved to do.  Kayla is fighting her monsters by just getting up each day and doing the tasks of life.  That's a true hero.


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Reply #2 on: November 09, 2015, 03:17:57 PM

I like how the Fae in this story were not the cutesy Disney versions of them, but were truer to their roots with their terrible glamour.  Something that is both feared and obsessed over.  I thought using it as a metaphor for addiction of any sort was apt and used very very well here.


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Reply #3 on: November 09, 2015, 07:43:25 PM
At the beginning, her not playing made sense.  If she played, they would find her, so she could not play.

Then they started doing things, they followed their patterns, came in three, took someone and...  they found her.  It was obvious they could find her even if she didn't play, so what did her continued refusal to play mean? 


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Reply #4 on: November 10, 2015, 05:58:08 PM
The aching loss in this one is so cold it burns.

The addiction and self-harm metaphor is omnipresent but subtle. I love how this is a modern intrusion of the fae on our world. And how all of their acts can be explained away with mental illness. No one saw anything but her, and all her experiences can be explained away with abnormal biochemical interactions in her head. Which could loop back to burning holes in her brain through addictive substances.

I think there's also another meta-layer about fantasy and reading that can be unpacked here, but I'll try to noodle that out next time I listen to this one.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


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Reply #5 on: November 13, 2015, 03:35:42 AM
God damn faeries. The only thing this story was missing was a cold iron bar.

Faeries are one of those tropes that I love to hate. They're so... awful. I only wish this smarmy monster had gotten its just deserts... but that wasn't the kind of story this was. What it was, though, was sad and creepy and beautiful.

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Reply #6 on: November 20, 2015, 01:12:49 AM
I think this one would have been right at home on Pseudopod, not that it wasn't great here.
I loved the feel of obsession and the internal feedback loop it creates, coupled with desperately trying to fight it.


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Reply #7 on: November 28, 2015, 11:48:11 PM
Joining in the chorus here, this was a really great and horrifying faerie story, and the addiction metaphor was a delicious cherry on the top. She got out, she was safe, and yet she couldn't stop looking for the forbidden way back.

At the beginning, her not playing made sense.  If she played, they would find her, so she could not play.

Then they started doing things, they followed their patterns, came in three, took someone and...  they found her.  It was obvious they could find her even if she didn't play, so what did her continued refusal to play mean? 

Two things. Mostly, I think the music is just tainted by the comparison to how the music was in the faerie dimension. Also, I think it's part of her "path to sobriety" if you will. Like a recovering alcoholic who doesn't watch baseball anymore because they used to get super drunk during every game. The association is just too strong.


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Reply #8 on: March 04, 2016, 05:06:26 PM
Podcastle is just killing me here...I'm batch listening and this is the best batch of Podcastle stories I've ever heard.

Addiction stories get me every. time. For me personally, nothing is sadder and more frightening. I just ache in my heart for Kayla. Even though she did the right thing, it's probably never going to get better for her. And if she tries really hard and struggles her whole life, well...she might just end up in the twilight realm again anyway. Some things are just too big to fight.

It occurred to me as I was listening that the fae are fantasy's answer to Cthulhu. Stay with me on this one.

The base of Cthulhu mythos / cosmic horror is that the universe is vast and uncaring, to the point that if it destroys you and your sanity it won't even notice. Who cares about you personally, when all of humankind is such an insignificant nothing?

Sure, faeries are prettier than Cthulhu. And even if you exist only for their pleasure, they at least acknowledge you exist. But the vast, uncaringness is the same: kill you, destroy your sanity, turn you into an addict...::shrugs::

Bugs on the windshield, man. Bugs on the windshield.


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Reply #9 on: March 18, 2016, 02:48:33 PM
Sure, faeries are prettier than Cthulhu.

I like the interpretation I've read in some versions of the Fae, like Pratchett and in True Blood, where the Fae's beauty is just part of their glamour magic, like a lure.


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Reply #10 on: October 24, 2022, 08:41:09 AM
This episode has been re-run as Podcastle 754: TALES FROM THE VAULTS – The One They Took Before