The claxon blares three times: all clear. We file out of the underground shelter and up the serpentine lava tube. Our semi-annual hibernation drill, bureaucratic gibberish for run down to the emergency shelter and hide, is now monthly. I’m all for avoiding nuclear annihilation, but I wish the drills weren’t scheduled so close to lunar sunset.
I jostle my way toward the front of the long line headed for the surface modules. It’s been fourteen Earth days since I’ve talked to my best friend. Sure we could have emailed or texted, even from two-hundred and thirty-nine thousand miles away, but that would be cheating. We’re the Interplanetary Morse Code Club. Sally is President, Earth District; I’m Vice President of Lunar Operations. It’s a small club. (Continue Reading…)
Otto scanned the grassy countryside for any sign of marauding vegetables. The steeple he and Darby were in wasn’t quite thirty feet tall, but it was taller than any other building in Peanut Town, so it offered an unobstructed view of the surrounding farmland. There were acres and acres of genetically engineered, perambulatory peanut plants shuffling around in scattered groups, probing the rich soil for nutrients with their roots. Everything looked perfectly safe. Peaceful even.
“Hey, genius.” Darby said acidly. “North is that a way.”
“Oh.” Otto said, as he turned around. He refocused the binoculars he was using, and then he saw them: vegetablemen. The same strain that had so annihilated Manhattan that even the rats had given up on the place. There were about three dozen of them scattered over the gently rolling hills. They lumbered toward the town slow and heavy on their long, stout, green stalks. They were still far off, but he could tell from the coloring of the peels around their thoraxes that they were the same cultivar that the king had sown on Manhattan.
Otto lowered the binoculars. He swallowed hard.
“Well?” Darby asked. “Is them the ones from Manhattan?”
“Those are they, yes.” Otto confirmed, as he tugged at his collar. He hated hot weather. It didn’t fit his wardrobe.
The Kingdom Coffee Missionary Handbook tells Paulo that he should always put his guns away during a door approach. He’s heard this hundreds of times before, but the Handbook speaks with a voice of authority, deep like a luchador’s, strong like a drill sergeant’s, calm like his abuelito’s. It slides in just under his ARgog’s selectively amplified environmental audio. 450 bonus points if the contact is completed without violence, calculates the Handbook, 900 if there are no deaths. Each death harms the public image of the Kingdom, the Handbook tells him. Paulo nods agreement. Way better to spread the faith on the no-kill difficulty setting.
Still, Paulo is not stupid, so he pauses to load Rambo, his ancient and lovingly modded M4A1 Carbine, before slinging it across his back. Looking bad-ass is his favorite violence prevention technique. The Handbook says nothing about tear gas, and he decides not to mention the CS smoke grenade in his left pocket. His last couple of leads had ended with tense stand-offs. Goddess, yo creo, he prays silently. Help my unbelief. He fingers his mala of Robusto beans, sniffing hard to catch its fading aroma. (Continue Reading…)
Aerbello — the shape one sees in the movement of wheat, blown by wind. The shape of wind, written in sheaves.
I left me, without really leaving. Well, not I myself, but Eva. She told me she was leaving me, as we made love in our bedroom. It was clear she didn’t mean immediately.
Cova — any place a crow could be. A crow-sized void, unoccupied by an actual crow.
She said we weren’t good for each other, we weren’t helping each other to grow. She said my God obsession had gotten to be too much. She said her presence in my life was redundant.
“Please don’t go,” I said. “If you go, my heart will be a cova.” I couldn’t understand, and it hurt me. It felt as though I had swallowed a razor blade, without realizing.
Monstrance — a vessel, in Catholic tradition, in which the consecrated Host is placed, to be exposed for the adoration of the faithful.
Without knowing why, I had started making a list of words that meant God, or related to worship, or words I thought could describe God. I found I was transcribing large portions of dictionaries, encyclopedias. I couldn’t explain it, I just felt compelled. I was probably obsessed. I wasn’t a believer but neither an unbeliever then. (Continue Reading…)
Amy is a writer, reviewer, librarian, and crazy cat lady. Her work – including the “Mr. Featherbottom” series – has appeared in numerous anthologies and publications, including Abyss & Apex, Daily Science Fiction, Toasted Cake, and Podcastle.
Kate Suratt is a flash fiction author, novelist, and NASA program analyst. Her short fiction has appeared in Splickety Prime magazine.
about the narrator…
Christopher Cornell is a writer, musician (no, not that one) and software developer in Northern California. He is also the producer and co-host of the Unreliable Narrators podcast and creator of the upcoming audio drama series, E’ville. Also a film buff, foxhound wrangler and occasional editor. Skeptical of real estate shysters.
Captain Drake Learns His Lines
By Amy Sisson and Kate Suratt
So I was sitting there minding my own business and trying to choke down the rotgut Rick passes off as whiskey, when who should come sailing through the door but Jeanne Bixby –- yes, the Jeanne Bixby, the biggest telewave starlet this side of the galaxy. She’d covered that famous red-gold hair with a gauzy green scarf and wore sunglasses, but she had to take them off because the bar was so dim she nearly tripped over the Candalubian dozing on the floor just inside the doorway.
Candalubians can sleep anywhere.
Anyway, I knew it was her the minute she took the glasses off, but I couldn’t figure out what the hell she was doing in Rick’s Bar. She didn’t even have her contingent of red-carpet bodyguards with her, just a single H’Rak’tin wearing brass knuckles on all four hands.
On second thought, maybe that was enough. H’Raks are famous for what they can do with brass knuckles. (Continue Reading…)
Holly Heisey launched their writing career in sixth grade when they wrote their class play, a medieval fantasy. It was love at first dragon. Since then, their short fiction has appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show, The Doomsday Chronicles, Clockwork Phoenix 5, and Transcendent: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, and has been translated into German and Estonian. A freelance designer by day, Holly lives in Upstate New York with Larry and Moe, their two pet cacti, and they are currently at work on a science fantasy epic.
about the narrator…
Andrea Richardson is a British singer and actress. With extensive stage and film performances to her name, she began narration and voice over work in 2015, and really enjoys using her existing skills in a different way. She lives in London and has a busy social life with amateur dramatics and working with her jazz band, Jazz Mondays.
The Most Absurd Dance at the End of the Worlds
By Holly Heisey
It was the end of the worlds, and Mr. Jamison and I were arguing over peas. Not the mush you get in a cafeteria, but peas that smelled like grasshoppers and summer. Real, in the shell, peas.
Mr. Jamison detached his monocle and peered down at the pea pods on my outstretched hand. He made a huffing sound that poofed his drooping moustache. He looked like a side character in an old John Wayne movie, stuffed into fussy clothes.
“It is an altogether sensible looking vegetable,” he finally said. “But how will they help us to program the Back Button?”
He motioned to the collection of brass pipes and gauges that hulked on the sturdy worktable. Afternoon sunlight slanted from the warehouse windows and gave the Back Button a purposeful glint. If we could figure out what that purpose was, we could save the worlds.
I picked a pod off my hand and held it to the sunlight. “I think this pod is like the shape our worlds are taking now. The brane that contains the one hundred and nineteen realities is stretched thin and long, and our worlds are lined up inside of it.” (Continue Reading…)
Help support the Pseudopod Kickstarter to support pay for narrators (… and get this awesome Tiki mug with a donation of $40 or more).
about the author…
Anthony Tardiff punches sharks while walking through high desert away from towering explosions, and he doesn’t even look back.
He is married to the most beautiful woman in the world, and has three very young boys who are honestly rather cute because they take after their mother.
He is an instruction librarian at a university library in the beautiful Inland Northwest, and he contemplates mountains on his daily commute. (Mountains speak profundities.)
He is also a science fiction writer.
about the narrator…
Campanella is a scientist, teacher, and writer who
lives in beautiful Northern New Jersey with his
family and collection of singing potatoes. He has been a well-known story narrator and scientific voice-of-reason on the StarShipSofa Podcast for the last eight years. He has his own story website as well — Uvula Audio– where he narrates different books in the public domain, as well as tales from his own specially touched brain-pan.
by Anthony Tardiff
“Dude, can you come over?”
“I’ve got homework,” I said, staring at the mounds of it spread across my desk.
“It’s kind of urgent.”
I sighed and swapped my phone to my other ear. Vincent’s voice had that edge-of-panic quality I’d come to recognize. “Don’t tell me,” I said. “You melted your mom’s toilet again.”
“You turned Mrs. Nedry’s gardenias fluorescent again and she called the UFO hotline.”
I closed my eyes and groaned. “Your homework ate your dog again.”
Worse? My eyes popped open. It had taken us three hours to hunt down and kill the homework. His mom had not been happy at what the chase had done to the house. She still wondered where Brandy had gone. What could be worse?
Bojan Ratković is a writer from Serbia, now living in Ontario, Canada. His work has appeared in Every Day Fiction, Liquid Imagination, Great Lakes Review, Fiction Vortex, and on the World SF Blog. He is pursuing a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Western Ontario.
about the narrator…
Steve Anderson has been acting on stage for more years than he cares to admit, and has worked for 10 seasons at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire–most memorably, selling pickles. These days, his main acting job consists of performing one-man shows and storytelling programs with his touring series, Great Tales Live.
He’s fascinated by Civil War history, and has led almost a thousand walking tours in Gettysburg. He performs as a living history interpreter along the Civil War Trails. He lives in central Pennsylvania with his beloved wife Rhonda and a varying number of cats.
Ride the Dragon
by Bojan Ratković
We were a band back then, in the bat-shit Wild West days of the game. We held our court at the Gentleman Boozer, the loudest pub on the big map. It was Haru, Flygirl, Black Boris, and me. And we had floaters, part-time comrades. Mostly kids who wanted to be like us, who did us favors. But Tony Rem was there too, the one that rode the dragon.
It’s hard to believe now just how big it was, when they launched True-Fantasy. It was the first MMORPG with MaTRiX immersion headgear―it jacked you in, made you really live it. Most of the players were funboys―kids who played for fun―and they paid the bills. But you could make RL coin if you were good enough―real life currency―and the rest of us wanted a cut.
Punchers punched the clock, putting in RL hours to work as barkeeps and innkeepers and helpdesk clerks. Gougers sold rare items for RL cash; there was a big black market and bigger gray area, and you could make a killing. We were glitchers―beta testers, top players. Exposing glitches in the game was our business, and admins paid top dollar to help them fix whatever bugs we could find. But it wasn’t about the money. All the top glitchers, the real cowboys, were after big scores. We proved ourselves by exposing the wildest glitches, the ones that got the map talking.
There was a group of mercenaries in the Boozer the day Tony came to us about the dragon. They sat across from us, up by the stain glass windows. They were the wrong kind of mercs, cutthroats. They helped the funboys on their quests, for a fee, but then they’d turn on them, cut their throats and take their items. And poof, back to beginner’s village. It wasn’t exactly legal, but they used proxies, rented avatars. Admins kicked them, they came back.
Tony strolled in like a breeze, letting the doors clap shut behind him. He walked over to the back and took the chair Haru wasn’t using, on account of his horse’s ass. Haru’s avatar was a centaur with a black leather jacket and shades, and his game was speed. He made his name by galloping vertically along the walls of the White Palace as the whole map watched. It took less than an hour for the admins to fix the glitch that allowed Haru to defy virtual gravity, but the stunt made him famous.
“I got the ticket, boys,” Tony spat out like he’d been holding it in for days. “The big one.” (Continue Reading…)
Natalia Theodoridou is a media & theatre scholar based in the UK. Her writing has appeared in Clarkesworld, Crossed Genres, Strange Horizons, and elsewhere. Find out more at www.natalia-theodoridou.com, or just say hi @natalia_theodor on Twitter.
about the narrator…
Hugo Jackson is an author with Inspired Quill; his first fantasy novel, ‘Legacy’ is available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. He has acted and performed stage combat for years, having appeared in various film, theatre and TV productions, including The Young Victoria, Diamond Swords at Warwick Castle, Cyrano de Bergerac (Chichester Festival Theatre, 2009) Romeo and Juliet (Arundel Festival, 2005), The Worst Jobs In History, and Ancient Megastructures: Chartres Cathedral. See him at www.hugorjackson.com
That Tear Problem
by Natalia Theodoridou
“Now flex your arm,” the controller said. Her voice sounded dry and mechanical through the speakers.
“The real one or the other one?” I asked and immediately received a neuro-ping: You are real.
“Both your arms are real, soldier,” she said.
I always thought of her as a woman, but really it was just a voice. There was no way to tell gender.
“Right. Which one do you want me to flex?”
“The left one.”
I flexed my left arm. It’s one of the limbs they rebuilt after the accident. The Neuropage pinged me again, just in case: You are real. All this is real. I wondered if they figured out I had found the glitch. Was that what prompted this ping? But it couldn’t be; the pager was supposed to be entirely incorporated into the nervous system. No outside access available.
Unless that was a lie, too.
“Now the other one,” the voice said.
“How much longer is this going to take?” I asked, flexing my right arm. I could feel my legs getting fidgety. They always did that when I was strapped down for long chunks of time. Ever since the accident. Fidget fidget fidget. Even while I slept, the legs fidgeted. I would much rather sleep floating around, but that set off the security alarm. I had found that out the hard way, on my second day at the space station.
“The muscle-tone examination is complete,” the controller said. “Now on to the neural routine.”
“The neural routine. Of course.”
If she caught the irony in my voice, she didn’t show it.
“Attach the red electrode to your left arm. Good. Now let me know if you experience any pain.”
A moment passed, but nothing happened. “I don’t feel anything,” I said.
“OK. How about now?”
I waited. My eyes started to tear up. I felt the moisture form into little beads around my eyeballs.
“I don’t feel anything in my arm, but my eyes sting like hell. It’s that tear problem again,” I said.
Tears, apparently, don’t flow in microgravity. The little fuckers just stick to your eyes like liquid balls, refusing to let go before they get to be the size of small nuts. Bottom line is, you can’t cry in space. They always get that one wrong in the movies. Who would have known?
“You are reacting to an imaginary stimulus,” the voice said. “Your brain thinks you should be hurting, so your eyes tear up. Hold still. You can wipe them in a minute.”
Maybe the controller was a man, after all. Maybe it wasn’t a person at all at the other end, just a machine.
I waited for a ping, but got nothing.
“All done. You can unstrap yourself, soldier,” the voice said. “Same time tomorrow. Do not be late.”
“The Neuropage will make sure of that,” I muttered, but she had already signed off. She, it, whatever.
The first thing I did was dry my eyes. Then I freed my legs and stretched.
Time to eat, the Neuropage said. One of the scheduled pings. I ignored it and propelled myself towards my compartment. It would ping me again every few minutes. I knew it would get on my nerves–a pun? really?–and I’d have to eat, eventually, but it felt good to ignore it for a while. It was my small fuck you very much to the system. Harry would have tut-tutted at my attempt to play the rebel, he always did, but I think he secretly liked it.
I was raised in New Haven, Connecticut. I attended the University of Connecticut for a couple of years but left to marry my husband of more than twenty years. I have three beautiful children, who like most children these days, far outstrip their parents in intelligence and creativity.
My days, my concrete life, are spent caring for breast oncology patients as a registered nurse. I love working as an oncology nurse. It keeps me grounded and forces me to remember the transient beauty of life, and the importance of doing what one loves while one can. It also keeps God foremost in my mind as I journey through this brief life, that my choices might be according to His will.
My less ordered life (Don’t we all live multiple separate lives?) is spent mostly in my head. I am always attempting to order the multitude of ideas that rise unbidden in my mind when I least expect them. To some people this makes me look deeply spiritual and wise, to others I look angry. I assure, I am neither. Sometimes the voices of half-formed characters speak to me, begging to be recorded for posterity, that we might learn from them, or them from us. Sometimes the voice I hear is my own, reminding me of my obligation to this life. Unfortunately, I rarely have time for any of the voices creating the chaotic din in my head.
about the narrator…
Kaitie Radel is a music education student and aspiring voice actress, has been voice acting as a hobby for two years. In addition to this project, she has participated as both a VA and administrator in several fan projects such as The Homestuck Musical Project and Ava’s Melodies. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali
“Orani, tell Boris what is wrong.”
I told Boris about Enoch and our shared dreams, about how he abandoned me.
“He said I was frigid,” I confided, my head on Boris’s shoulder, his hand stroking my back.
Boris nodded, “What else?”
“He said that for all the credits in the system, I would never learn how to love.”
I’d been drowning in loneliness when I contracted Boris to help me recover from losing Enoch. After two years of long distance communication, Enoch had traveled from Earth to be with me, only to later decide it was a mistake. “You’re not the human being I thought you were,” he said, which was rich because he wasn’t a human being at all.
When I was spent of energy and tears, Boris lifted me into his arms, like steel support beams, and carried me to the bathroom. He undressed and washed me. He kissed my tearful eyes. He rubbed my skin with oil. With Boris I finally felt warm and safe.
“Orani, you are worthy and lovable. I want you to know this,” he murmured to me as he carried me back to bed. “I want you to feel like a little baby.”