Archive for 13 and Up

Escape Pod 601: Wet Fur


Wet Fur

By Jeremiah Tolbert

You can tell the dog owners when they board the plane; they see the black cloud hovering in the first row and their eyes widen in shock, then narrow in fear, followed by a glimmer of a smile, a hope as they glance at so many occupied seats. A hopeful smile that seems to say: “not for me. Not for mine.”

Unease settles over the plane, like a heavy, acrid scent. A few passengers throw suspicious glances at you, and one elderly woman even stops for a moment beside you, opens her mouth as if to speak. You hold your breath. She closes her mouth and shuffles toward the rear of the plane

You breathe again. You try to ignore the man seated next to you. You focus on the safety talk.

When the flight attendant buckles her fake belt, she glances at the cloud off her shoulder, then smiles apologetically at her audience. Like it’s her fault, or perhaps the airline’s? There’s nothing she can do, or anyone else.

You sniff. You smell damp fur. You frown, wondering, perhaps, how that could be? You don’t know what strange links lie between memory and nose, but we do. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 599: What Glistens Back


What Glistens Back

By Sunny Moraine

Come back.

You hear the call as the lander breaks up around you. You’re aware of the entirely arbitrary concepts of up and down before you realize what’s happening, and then they’re a lot less arbitrary. Down is not so much a direction as a function of possibility, of what might happen to you, of what is happening now. You finally getdown as an idea.

Come back.

Look up and there it is, floating over you in stable low orbit with its backdrop of stars, long and sleek and lovely, all its modules and portholes out of which you spent so much time looking, and that voice clutches at you like it could hold onto you, and you almost start to fucking cry, and you’re panicking and taking huge gasping breaths and clawing at nothing, and you’re falling. And you can’t come back. So the universe goes away for a while, and when you blink again, that brownish pitted curve beneath you is just a little bit bigger.

“Sean, come back. Do you read? Come back?” (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 598: On the Fringes of the Fractal


On the Fringes of the Fractal

By Greg van Eekhout

I was working the squirt station on the breakfast shift at Peevs Burgers when I learned that my best friend’s life was over.

The squirt guns were connected by hoses to tanks, each tank containing a different slew formula. Orders appeared in lime-green letters on my screen, and I squirted accordingly. Two Sausage Peev Sandwiches was two squirts from the sausage slew gun. An order of Waffle Peev Sticks was three small dabs of waffle slew. The slew warmed and hardened on the congealer table, and because I’d paid attention during the twenty-minute training course and applied myself, I knew just when the slew was ready. I was a slew expert.

Sherman was the other squirter on duty that morning. The orders were coming in fast and he was already wheezing on account of his exercise-induced asthma. His raspy breaths interfered with my ability to concentrate. You really have to concentrate because after four hours of standing and squirting there’s the danger of letting your mind wander and once you do that you can lose control of the squirts and end up spraying food slew all over the kitchen like a fire hose.

“Wasted slew reflects badly on you,” said one of the inspirational posters in the employee restroom. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 594: The Spice Portrait


The Spice Portrait

By J.M. Evenson

They said my love for my daughter was excessive, that I made her weak by kissing her and singing in her ear at night.

They also said I killed her. (Continue Reading…)

EP587: Someday


Someday

By James Patrick Kelly 

Daya had been in no hurry to become a mother. In the two years since she’d reached childbearing age, she’d built a modular from parts she’d fabbed herself, thrown her boots into the volcano, and served as blood judge. The village elders all said she was one of the quickest girls they had ever seen — except when it came to choosing fathers for her firstborn. Maybe that was because she was too quick for a sleepy village like Third Landing. When her mother, Tajana, had come of age, she’d left for the blue city to find fathers for her baby. Everyone expected Tajana would stay in Halfway, but she had surprised them and returned home to raise Daya. So once Daya had grown up, everyone assumed that someday she would leave for the city like her mother, especially after Tajana had been killed in the avalanche last winter. What did Third Landing have to hold such a fierce and able woman? Daya could easily build a glittering new life in Halfway. Do great things for the colony.

But everything had changed after the scientists from space had landed on the old site across the river, and Daya had changed most of all. She kept her own counsel and was often hard to find. That spring she had told the elders that she didn’t need to travel to gather the right semen. Her village was happy and prosperous. The scientists had chosen it to study and they had attracted tourists from all over the colony. There were plenty of beautiful and convenient local fathers to take to bed. Daya had sampled the ones she considered best, but never opened herself to blend their sperm. Now she would, here in the place where she had been born.

She chose just three fathers for her baby. She wanted Ganth because he was her brother and because he loved her above all others. Latif because he was a leader and would say what was true when everyone else was afraid. And Bakti because he was a master of stories and because she wanted him to tell hers someday. (Continue Reading…)

EP580: Nozizwe and Almahdi


 Nozizwe and Almahdi

By J. R. Dawson

She was a princess and he was a prince, and they had been genetically made for each other. The science had been precise down to their anatomical make-up, the blood and the speed in which that blood pulsed through their perfectly symmetrical hearts.
His name was Almahdi. He had been named this because of the way the consonants and vowels hit the shape of her ear. Her name was Nozizwe, because she would indeed be the mother of nations. They would meet at a grand ball on the space station, in the neutral zone between their two new colony kingdoms, in their eighteenth year. So that meant, while other children got to spend their first eighteen years enjoying their robo-dogs and trying to set their parents’ fireproof space suits aflame and going to camp on the moon, the prince and the princess did nothing fun. In fact, their daily activities were about as far from fun as daily activities could get.
“You were made out of love,” Nozizwe’s father, the King, instructed her — age three — from his throne. “Therefore, you must love. Now, what does it mean to love, Nozizwe?”
Nozizwe, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, farted loudly. (Continue Reading…)

EP579: Texts from the Ghost War


Texts from the Ghost War

By Alex Yuschik

While I realize driving that mech likely takes all of your limited resources, please take care not to step on the roses.

what

Don’t step on the roses. I don’t care if we’re under imminent attack.

Your mech is standing so close to them I’m cringing.

who is this?

I can see you typing and then stopping

don’t waste my time coming up with a lie, punk

Who I am or how I got your number is irrelevant.

no, it’s not

and, fyi, we don’t drive them, we pilot

gods, you’re probably chung sol trolling me

I assure you, I am not.

I am only here for the roses. (Continue Reading…)

EP578: Cherry Squid


Cherry Squid

By Celeste Hollister

It was the cherry squid that did him in.

Outside his window, seventy stories up, the advertisement bloomed, melon yellow, racecar red. A shoal of squid rippled across the holo, a tangram pattern that morphed into a human face. Almost human, but with a Vrellan’s ruby eyes. Then a blush of shimmer-pink as the slogan scrolled onscreen: “Let’s All Share a Cherry Squid” in all caps like a scream.

Fresh cherry scent wafted on the air. Then the ad faded to black before replaying, an endless loop of fragrance and light.

“A stupid, looping nonsense,” Adam called it.

The Mobius-strip of cherry squid peeled out from its backlit blue. I said, “I think it’s pretty.”

“They try too hard to be like us,” Adam said.

I edged onto the oval of his windowsill and watched the sun plait silver into the spillways. I said, “They are like us. The scientists say we share a common ancestor. We just evolved differently.”

Adam crooked a three-pod stool against his vid-wall. He popped open a can of Dr Pepper, one from his dwindling cache of Earthly goods. He said, “You don’t believe that crap, do you? The whole Selkie Evolution thing?”

The Vrellan face floated into view, its mouth wide as it chased the squid across the screen.

“How can you not?” I asked. “His face is like ours. The eyes are the same shape. Even his teeth–”

“–One,” he said. “You don’t even know if he’s a He. And two. They don’t have bones, Barbara. It’s all cartilage. Like a cuttlefish.”

“So?” I said.

“Really?” he deadpanned. “That’s your grand rebuttal? So?”

I said, “I still think they’re pretty.”

Adam sipped from his soda can. He said, “You think everything is pretty. Besides, you’re near the uptake land, tree-lined parks and all the quiet you can stand.”

“Yep,” I said. “My neighborhood wins, and you know the reason why.”

Adam’s nose twitched. “’Cause of Mercy,” he said.

“They put families in the Sheon-ho,” I said. “You could’ve joined us. Mercy and me get the hive dome. You get the pod-apartment.”

“For now,” Adam said. “We’ve been through this. Once they sort your daughter’s visa and she finally gets here, she’s gonna have to acclimatize to a whole new culture. Us all living together — major complications.”

“Mercy’s 17,” I reminded him. “After moving to another planet, the living together thing is not that big a deal.”

The ad splashed us yellow-white. Adam ground out a sigh.

I said, “I did not ride all this way to hear you bitch about your view again.”

Adam crushed his empty soda can. “Yeah,” he said. “Whatever.”

(Continue Reading…)

EP577: The Ghosts of Europa Will Keep You Trapped in a Prison You Make for Yourself


The Ghosts of Europa Will Keep You Trapped in a Prison You Make for Yourself

By Matt Dovey

–then scooted her chair over to the microscope. Amira only needed a glance at the holographic zoom floating over the scope. The viral cells were replicating rapidly, budding and splitting at a phenomenal rate.

“Hey, Mariana, look at this.” Amira indicated the hologram, then was struck, at once, with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu: something beyond the familiarity of her lab and its clean white surfaces, or the flat icy plains of Europa beyond the carbonglass windows. And more than the déjà vu, there was a feeling of _instantaneousness_, that this moment had arisen out of nothing, that nothing was all that had been there before, that everything had just–_appeared_. (Continue Reading…)

EP576: Karma Among the Cloud Kings


Karma Among the Cloud Kings

By Brian Trent

I.

Fifty thousand feet above Tempest’s highest clouds, Antarag Vel-heth invites me to sit beside him in the lobby of Lindorm Refueling Station. It’s a desolate, littered expanse of tables, party-streamers, and plastic people with unceasingly flapping jaws.

What… what are they doing?” I whisper, sweating despite the room’s merciless air conditioner.

Eating,” Antarag winks. “Talking.” His pitted skin stretches like a weather-beaten tarp across a knobby skeleton and skull of aquiline protrusions.

The plastic people have no food that I can see. One of them leaps up from its chair, arms raised in silent declaration while the others applaud with rubbery hands. Discolored mouths swing open and shut on cheap hinges.

Antarag grins at me with pained, frank interest—I wonder when the last time he’s had a real, flesh-and-blood female visitor up here with him. He knows I’m from Bellcap 51. He knows we’re all Jains there, with our shaved heads, monastic robes, and vows of celibacy. Still, my eyes dart nervously to his holstered pistol. (Continue Reading…)