Archive for 13 and Up

EP336: The Speed of Time


The Speed of Time

By Jay Lake

“Light goes by at the speed of time,” Marlys once told me.

That was a joke, of course. Light can be slowed to a standstill in a photon trap, travel on going nowhere at all forever in the blueing distance of an event horizon, or blaze through hard vacuum as fast as information itself moves through the universe. Time is relentless, the tide which measures the perturbations of the cosmos. The 160.2 GHz hum of creation counts the measure of our lives as surely as any heartbeat.

There is no t in e=mc2.

I’d argued with her then, missing her point back when understanding her might have mattered. Now, well, nothing much at all mattered. Time has caught up with us all. (Continue Reading…)

EP335: The Water Man


The Water Man

By Ursula Pflug

The water man came today. I waited all morning, and then all afternoon, painting plastic soldiers to pass the time. Red paint too in the sky when he finally showed; I turned the outside lights on for him and held the door while he carried the big bottles in. He set them all in a row just inside the storm door; there wasn’t any other place to put them. When he was done he stood catching his breath, stamping his big boots to warm his feet. Melting snow made little muddy lakes on the linoleum. I dug in my jeans for money to tip him with, knowing I wouldn’t find any. Finally I just offered him water.

We drank together. It was cool and clean and good, running down our throats in the dimness of the store. It made me feel wide and quiet, and I watched his big eyes poke around Synapses, checking us out, and while they did, mine snuck a peek at him. He was big and round, and all his layers of puffy clothes made him seem rounder still, like a black version of the Michelin man. He unzipped his parka and I could see a name, Gary, stitched in red over the pocket of his blue coverall. I still didn’t have a light on; usually I work in the dark, save the light bill for Deb. But I switched it on when he coughed and he smiled at that, like we’d shared a joke. He had a way of not looking right at you or saying much, but somehow you still knew what he was thinking. Like I knew that he liked secrets, and talking without making sounds. It was neat.

Seemed to me it was looking water–a weird thought out of nowhere–unless it came from him. He seemed to generate them; like he could stand in the middle of a room and in everyone’s minds, all around him, weird little thoughts would start cropping up–like that one. My tummy sloshing I looked too, and seemed to see through his eyes and not just mine. Through his I wasn’t sure how to take it: a big dim room haunted by dinosaurs. All the junk of this century comes to rest at Synapses; it gets piled to the ceilings and covered with dust. If it’s lucky it makes a Head; weird Heads are going to be the thing for Carnival this year, just as they were last, and Debbie’s are the best. Her finished products are grotesque, but if you call that beautiful then they are; the one she just finished dangles phone cords like Medusa’s hair, gears like jangling medals. Shelves of visors glint under the ceiling fixture; inlaid with chips and broken bits of circuitry, they hum like artifacts from some Byzantium that isn’t yet. Two faced Janus masks, their round doll eyes removed; you can wear them either way, male or female, to look in or out.

Gary was staring at them, a strange expression on his face. Like he wanted to throw up. (Continue Reading…)

EP333: Asteroid Monte


Asteroid Monte

By Craig DeLancey

“You don’t look like an omnivore.”

I was supposed to spend the next several years working side-by-side with this bear monster thing from an unpronounceable planet, and the first words she speaks to me are these.

“Excuse me?”

“Your teeth are flat,” she hissed. “Like a herbivore’s.”

I had been waiting in the tiered square outside the Hall of Harmony, main office of the Galactic police force officially called the
Harmonizers, but which everyone really called the Predators. Neelee-ornor is one of those planets that makes me a believer. Cities crowd right into forests as thick as the Amazon, and both somehow thrive with riotous abandon. It proves the Galactic creed really means something. Something worth fighting for. Something that could get me to take this thankless job.

So I waited to meet my partner, as I sat on a cool stone bench under a huge branch dripping green saprophytes. The air was damp but smelled,
strangely, like California after the rain, when I would leave CalTech and hike into the hills. I almost didn’t want her to show, so I could sit and enjoy it. I really knew only three things about her. She had about two e-years under her belt as a Predator. She was a Sussuratian, a race of fierce bearlike carnivores evolved from predatory pack animals, only a century ahead of humanity in entering Galactic Culture. And she was named Briaathursiasaliantiormethessess.

God help me.

I rose awkwardly every time a Sussuratian passed, only to sit again after it walked on. Finally I gave up, and then a moment later a Sussuratian bounded out of the passing crowds, and addressed me with this comment about my eating habits. I sprung off the bench and bowed slightly. “I am Tarkos.” We were talking Galactic. But my Galactic is pretty good, really. Better than hers, I was betting. Her name, however, was a Sussuratian name, and in that language a human larynx was hopeless. Well, here goes. “I am honored to meet you Briaathursiasaliantiormethessess.”

She was about six feet long, with short dark fur that had black and green and gold patterns in it reminiscent of a boa. She was a quadraped, and walked on all fours, her claws clicking. Now she sat back on her haunches and put her front hands together, threading the seven claws on one hand through the seven on the other. The effect was a Kodiak holding a bouquet of knives. Her four eyes — two large green ones set below two small black ones — fixed on me. “I am called Briaathursiasaliantiormethessess,” she said. (Continue Reading…)

EP331: Devour


Devour

By Ferrett Steinmetz

“I want some water,” Sergio says.  The bicycle chains clank as he strains to
put his feet on the floor.

Sergio designed his own restraints.  He had at least fifteen plumbers on his
payroll who could have installed the chains – but Sergio’s never trusted
anything he didn’t build with his own hands.  So he deep-drilled gear mounts
into our guest room’s floral wallpaper, leaving me to string greased roller
chains through the cast-iron curlicues of the canopy bed.

“You’re doing well, Bruce,” he lied, trying to smile – but his lips were
already desiccated, pulled too tight at the edges.  Not his lips at all.

I slowed him down; I had soft lawyer’s hands, more used to keyboards than
Allen wrenches.  Yet we both knew it would be the last time we could touch
each other.  So I asked for help I didn’t need, and he took my hands in his
to guide the chains through what he referred to as “the marionette mounts.”

(Continue Reading…)

EP330: The Ghost of a Girl Who Never Lived


The Ghost of a Girl Who Never Lived

By Keffy R. M. Kehrli

I am Sara’s second body.

My first memory is of Sara’s resurrection in a room that smelled of cotton balls and hydrogen peroxide.

“That’s funny,” a man said.

The world felt raw, sore, and new. Under my back, my butt, my fingertips, I could feel every thread in the sheets beneath me. The blanket over my stomach scratched. Padded straps crossed my arms.

“What’s funny?” This voice was a woman’s.

“Got another error message,” the man answered. “Have you ever seen that one before?”

I felt the sheets with Sara’s fingers, and the texture conjured memories I didn’t have. I should have known where I was and what I was there for, but I couldn’t catch hold of the fleeting thoughts. In the dim light of the room I could only see the ceiling.

“Let me see.” I heard a frenzied clicking. “It failed twice?” (Continue Reading…)

EP328: Surviving the eBookalypse


Surviving the eBookalypse

By Randy Henderson

I entered the City Public Library wearing my plastic replica chainmail and sword, and my suede “book jacket” with a laminated author’s license clipped to the collar.

Before me stood a fully automated checkout kiosk for scheduling author recitals. The library floor beyond that was filled with neat rows of author cubicles, each with a desk and chair. Most were occupied. The air was filled with the soft tickity-ticking of keyboards, and the smells of coffee, “New Book” scented air fresheners, and Cup o’ Soup. Heads popped up over cubicle walls in response to the clacking of the door, then disappeared again when they saw I was no customer or potential patron.

I understood their disappointed expressions too well. This was not at all where I thought I would be two years after publishing my first e-book.

A woman’s smile caught my attention. It was like cherry-haloed sunshine, floating between her neon blue hair and her black lace dress. She emerged from a cube in the Romance section, walked up to me, leaned in close and sniffed at the air. Then she said with the hint of a Mexican accent, “I smell a transfer from Bainbridge library, no? An MFA boy, if I’m not mistaken?”

“That obvious?” I asked.

“Lucky guess.” She laughed, and flicked my author’s license. “Says so right here.” (Continue Reading…)

EP326: Flash Fiction Special


Poppies and Chrome by Sylvia Hiven

Rabbi Aaron Meets Satan by Tim Lieder

Fine-Tuning the Universe by Merrie Haskell

Narrated by Mat Weller, author Richard E. Dansky, and Mur Lafferty

EP325: Bad Dogs Escape


Bad Dogs Escape

By James Patrick Kelly
Cast:

 

/SFX/ CLOCK TICKING, FADE TO

/SFX/ DOGS BARKING IN DISTANCE

SAM: Like?

BECCA: Like.

SAM: (growls like a dog, sexy)

BECCA: Like?

SAM: Like.

/SFX/ DOGS BARKING IN DISTANCE

BECCA: Lick?

SAM: (giggles) Like.

BECCA: (howls like a dog)

(Continue Reading…)

EP317: Boxed In


Boxed In

By Marc-Anthony Taylor

My sister had me boxed when I was four. She said she would have had it done to herself but she didn’t want to risk losing me, that it was the only way. I think she just hated the idea of renting her body out to the rich folk in the domes. Don’t get me wrong, she did good by me, I didn’t have to work till I was nine and in that time she studied hard and became a data-pimp herself.

It was the only way she could keep us housed and fed after mum and dad had died.

It must have been hard for her, if mum and dad had made it she might have made something of herself. If she hadn’t have had to look after me she would probably be in a dome herself by now.

She once told me she had big plans; that she wanted to make things better. My only plan was to make enough cash to get us both out of the business.

I never noticed the tiny implant at the base of my skull, the nano circuitry must be some of the best though, the tattoo circling my right eye is almost perfect.

Kara controlled who, what, when and where. She made sure we got paid, and that I didn’t do anything too bad. She was a clever cookie.

My sister looked after me. She did good. (Continue Reading…)

EP316: Site Fourteen


Site Fourteen

By Laura Anne Gilman

“Nereus Shuttle Four to Gateway Station, you have control.”

Robinachec nodded confirmation as though the pilot could see him.  “Roger that.  Bringing you in.” Palming the flat-topped lever, I watched as he moved it gently back towards him, pulling the bullet-shaped transport into the shed, an external framework of metal beams just large enough to hold two minisubs, or one shuttle.

Robinechec has nightmares sometimes about something going wrong here.  Forget the fact that it’s the safest maneuver in the entire procedure; he still talks about waking up in a cold sweat because he screwed up.

You’d never know it to watch him.

When you’re six hundred feet down – well below the twilight zone, in the bathypelagic or ‘deep water’ zone– your perception shifts.  Nothing as arcane as the chemical balance in your brain changing, although there’s some of that, too.  No, it’s more the realization, slow sinking into your brain, that there’s not damn-all between you and dying but a duraplas shield and some canned oxy-blend.

You realize that, really process the concept, and you’re okay.  If you can’t, you get the screamin’ meemies and they cart you Topside where you spend the rest of your life on solid dirt, carefully looking anywhere but ocean-ward.

Not everyone’s cut out to be an aquanaut. No shame to it.  Even now, only about a third of the applicants make it into training, and more than half of them dry out before graduation.