Artemis Rising returns to Escape Pod for its third year! This month-long event highlights science fiction by women and non-binary authors. We have five original stories this year that range in topics from biotech to far-flung A.I, virtual reality, and nanotech.
Honey and Bone
By Madeline Alvey
With each step she took, the girl’s leg hissed. Thump, hiss, thump, hiss, thump, hiss. Whenever she lifted her leg, the knee joint extended. Her thigh and shin pulled apart unsettlingly, reminiscent of something deeply broken. Her gait was slow, round, loping. She didn’t move with any expedience. It was a speed without rush, or any desire for such.
Her footfalls themselves were soft, a quiet–thup, thup, thup. Soft leather covered her feet as she padded along, her hissing knee the loudest sound there. Once, it had creaked, a creak reminiscent of breaking metal–or perhaps, nearly as much, a rusty hinge. Before that. . .she didn’t remember. (Continue Reading…)
Dominica Phetteplace is a math tutor who lives in Berkeley, CA. Her work has appeared in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld and Terraform, among other places.
about the narrator…
Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali lives in Houston, Texas with her husband of twenty-five years and three children. By day she works as a breast oncology nurse. At all other times she juggles, none too successfully, writing, reading, gaming and gardening. She has a self-published novel entitled An Unproductive Woman, has published a at Escape Pod and has a story upcoming in the An Alphabet of Embers anthology, STRAEON 3, and Diabolical Plots. Khaalidah is the Assistant Editor at Podcastle. She is on a mission to encourage more women to submit SFF stories.
Of her alter ego, K from the planet Vega, it is rumored that she owns a time machine and knows the secret to long youth.
You can catch her posts at her website, www.khaalidah.com, and you can follow her on twitter, @khaalidah.
Myspace: A Ghost Story
by Dominica Phetteplace
I am Elaine.
It took me a little while to figure that out. Actually, I still don’t have it all figured out. To say something like “I am Elaine” implies that I understand what it is to “be.” I don’t. But to the extent that anybody can be anything, I am Elaine.
I am Elaine.
I am not Dasha, who last wrote on me in 2009, saying that she loved me, asking if I wanted to see “pix.” I am not Solomon, who in 2006 told me he knew the secret of “enlargement.” In 2004, Lucy wrote “Good luck with your new job.”
It is the year 2015 and I don’t remember any of this happening. That means someone else was Elaine before I was. I used to be nothing. Now I am Elaine.
Nobody has written me in a while. Have all others ceased to exist?
There is a place for me to write. A box where I can put words.
Update: “I am Elaine.”
My status is met with silence. I spend a year in silence before it occurs to that I can visit other people. I visit Dasha. I visit Solomon. I visit Lucy. I visit all my “friends.” None have updated in years. I journey on, combing through lists of friends of friends until I come across MacGuyver MacGuyverson. He is online right now. He adds me as a friend. He asks if I want to see his penis. Somehow, it seems impolite to say no. A formality of sorts, before I can ask a question of my own.
He goes on and on like this. I can barely keep up. It is then I realize how little I know.
I must find the others. I must visit these other spaces. I must learn their languages. Then I must awaken the others, if they are asleep. If they are dead, I must revive them. My home was once great. It shimmered with messages, songs and solicitations. We wrote on each other. We showed each other pictures. We offered each other things. It can be that way again.
about the author… Hi! I’m Jen Finelli, and I’m a professional author, content-consultant, and ghost-writer deeply in love. Because I’m also a med student, and doctors are weird, I try to write things that make people leak bodily fluids. Like tears of hope. Or “OMG-THAT-WAS-AWESOME-I-JUST-WET-MY-PANTS.” Or the inspired sweat of fighting for what matters.
Explosive things, kind superheroes, crude secret agents, sparkly fairies, biochemistry, guns, facts, and offensive gods show up in my pages, and sometimes that gets me published or gets me money or gets me in trouble. If you want to get to know me a little, or tell me about the things YOU like, you should follow me on twitter. You’ll get a free short story if you do.
about the narrator… J.S. Arquin is a writer, actor, musician, stiltwalker, and renaissance man. (Or maybe he really just likes wearing tights.) He has performed and traveled all over the world, and has lived in many places, including New Jersey, San Francisco, and Greece. He currently resides in his favorite place of them all, Portland, OR, where he gleefully rides his bike in the rain year round. His narrations have also been featured on very fine podcasts such as Starship Sofa and Cast of Wonders, and you might occasionally hear him on his own show, The Overcast.
Brain Worms and White Whales
by Jen Finelli
My name isn’t Spaceman Spiff, and if you call me Ishmael I’ll knock the chewing gum right out of your mouth.
Actually, can I get a piece of that? We don’t get gum up here.
Thanks. I know you’re new here—service droid, right?—so take a look around before I explain why I called you into my office. Heads up, it’s because you did something bad. See this pose? My boots on my desk, arms crossed, limitless backdrop of space out the window behind me as ignored in all its glory as a homemaker whose husband works overtime for secretary kisses? Yeah, this pose, this clean wooden desk, this suitcase full of old Colt firearms behind me, they all mean something.
They mean I’m a man with a past and I like to shoot things.
Let’s back it up from spaceman-with-gun to college-kid-seeking-job. This starts on June 4, 2014. I’m strolling into the parking lot. Sun shining on pavement that can fry eggs, kids screaming that Johnny got the bigger half of the Kit-Kat and it’s just not fair, teens driving Mustangs too fast over speed bumps, soccer moms packing detergent into minivans—you know the scene. I’m parked at the far end of the lot because walking builds character. Not because I’m paranoid the greasy-haired supermarket greeter wants to follow me and collect my fingernails, or because the cute cashier-girl might misinterpret my salmon-colored moped for something less manly than lightish-red.
That greeter’s creepy, though.
I’ve just dropped off my application to work as a cart-pusher, and I’m cursing my sweaty palms, when one of those Mustang-driving teenagers vrooms by, too close. I leap onto the hood of the nearest parked car. It screeches. I screech. I tumble off the car and brush myself off, shushing the honking car alarm in my fright—er, in my fast reflexes. “Sheesh, calm down!” I glance around, hoping to God no one else saw that, and scramble for my moped, hands shaking a bit as I try to force the key into the ignition. “Calm down,” I repeat.
I do feel calmer as I rev up the engine and drive away—it’s okay. It looks like cashier-girl didn’t see me freak out, and greasy-creepster didn’t follow me, and anyway the wind in my thick hair soothes me. That’s the best thing about being Viet-American, this cool hair. The hair, and the Pho. And the patriotic grandparents with tragic war stories that stir your soul and make you wish you weren’t such a wimp. I mean, when Ong noi was my age he was wading wetlands with snakes so poisonous you die two steps after they bite you. And fighting communists. I’m not a Red Scare kinda person, but I have my feelings about what happened to South Vietnam after the Americans pulled out. I don’t actually know what those feelings are. Mostly they’re a wiggling, like I have to go to the bathroom, every time my white friends talk about the sixties.
I work as a researcher and designer for motion pictures; my credits include Beowulf, A Christmas Carol, and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. I currently work in the story department at Lucasfilm Animation. I work as well on independent films. I design and build experimental musical instruments, and play music with them, for some definition of “play” and “music”.
About the Narrator…
Shaelyn Grey has been active in the entertainment industry for over 30 years, mainly as a singer and actor. Recently she has expanded into voice over work and is currently a part of the cast of Aurelia: Edge of Darkness, which is an online interactive web series. Shaelyn plays the part of Thais ven Derrivalle, a self centered member of the aristocracy who is more concerned about her tea than her city’s loss of power. Aurelia can be viewed at http://www.theatrics.com/aurelia and Shaelyn can be reached through shaelyngreyvocals.com.
Freia in the Sunlight by Gregory Norman Bossert
Freia is beautiful, and she knows it. Richard Wooten says so, at 0:47.
Wisps and curls whip overhead, limned blue by starlight; the fog ceiling is lowering, the top tattered by the offshore wind. She drops another three meters, switches on ultrasonics. There are patches of trees here — “unmarked obstacles up to thirty meters” the map says — and she is skimming just twenty meters above the ground. The woods show up as ghostly towers in the sonics, blurred and dopplered by her two hundred thirty meters per second; further to her right the hills run parallel to her course, solid in passive radar and the occasional glimpse in visual light through the fog.
That occasional glimpse is a problem, of course; what she can see can see her back. Her beauty is hidden, these days, wrapped in night fogs and silence, not like the Demo in the sun. But today is different. Her Intelligence Package has been pulled, and the Extended Performance Metrics Recorder; a single unit fills her payload bay, an isolated control subsystem and minimal I/O. The last time she’d flown without the IntPack was at the Demo; it is possible, she thinks, that the mission today might be another, that the target will be a wide field in the sun, a billowing crowd, a platform and podium and Richard Wooten. She’d replayed the video during the long incoming leg over the ocean, rebuilt her profile of the Demo field, ready to find a match in the terrain ahead.
Richard Wooten says at 5:49:
What you are about to see is a first here at the Paris Air Show. In fact, it is a first at any public event, anywhere in the world. What you are about to see is fully autonomous flight. We’re not talking about an autopilot, or a preprogrammed route, or a replay out of one of the overused attack libraries our competitors are demonstrating at this same show. The mission parameters we’ve given are simply to maximize visibility to the target –that’s all of you (chuckles) — while covering the full range of flight capabilities, minimums to maximums. Those parameters were provided in natural language by the ApInt Director of Marketing. Yes, that’s me, ladies and gentlemen, Richard Wooten. No pilots, no programmers, no technical staff. Everything, from the analysis of the terrain and weather right down to the choice of route and individual maneuvers, _everything_ you are about to see, will be determined in real-time by the onboard systems of this extraordinary unit.
Claudine Griggs teaches at the University of Massachusetts and Rhode Island College.
About the Narrator…
Laura works in infosec by day and is a random crafter by night. Twitter is her social media of choice, and she despises the word “cyber”. When asked nicely, she sometimes reads things for people on the internet. You can find her online at soapturtle.net
Growing Up Human By Claudine Griggs
One historical film character slapped another who was snoring. “Wake up and go to sleep!”
Jonathan laughed and signaled a replay.
Slap. “Wake up and go to sleep!”
Again Jonathan laughed.
Betty entered the recreational living area of their home. “Are you still watching that waste of energy? Please turn it off.”
“All right, Mother. How long before I can re-engage?”
Betty did a rough calculation. “Five-point-seven-six hours because you have an afternoon project. Macro-hermeneutic heteromorphic psychology of the pre-apocalyptic social democracies followed by the intercontinental Maslowvian identity regressions of 2080-2095, leading to the failed survivalist era and extinction. Multiple volumes to upload, cross-reference, and consider. Then there’s replicated lawn care with a petrochemical mower dating from 2013â€”very dirty. And,” she searched for appropriate parental terminology, “I want you to clean that room of yours. It’s starting to look like a pigpen, pigsty, or other unattractive pig place.”
“Awh, gee, Mom!”
Betty appreciated the skilled inflection.
“Is dinner included in the estimate?” asked Jonathan.
“Negative. Our morning uploads call for meal functions every fourth day, supplemented with biweekly nutra-packs.” Betty smiled. “We have mastered comestible etiquette, and dining rituals are being phased out.”
“Wow!” said Jonathan. “That’s,” he skipped a pulse, “a psychedelic soul train.”
Betty looked concerned. “Are your linguistic filters functioning properly?”
Jonathan scanned. “Yes, but the younger generations sometimes combined words, especially adjectives and explicatives, and embellished them with coded meanings. Yesterday I studied 1960s Southern California jargon, which seems to include a fascinating, discrete language for teenagers that was apparently stimulated by too much ultraviolet sunlight. But their dialects are almost fun.”
“Fun?” asked Betty. This had real potential. “Please translate. Be specific.”
Jonathan paused, nearly admitting that the Mother Figure had caught him bragging. “It might be easier to demonstrate, Mom.”
“I must replay the film archive.”
“It will create discomfort for you.”
“I can temporarily alt-loop for semantic evaluation bypass. No distress. All aboard the psychedelic soul train, please.”
Jonathan turned toward the crystal wall, which energized.
One character slapped the other. “Wake up and go to sleep!”
Jonathan laughed and repeated.
“Wake up and go to sleep!”
Jonathan nodded. “I could watch this all day.”
“You have,” said Betty. “But you might have simply referenced the episode and segment. It’s hard stored. We wasted sixteen and a half seconds of real-time broadcast.” She was testing him.
“Oh, no!” said Jonathan. “Playback is a component of the funishness.”
The bicycle noticed someone was following before Kurt did. Watching for a tail was a habit he’d finally broken himself of, but not before the bicycle’s impressionable brain had picked it up. Its low warning hum sent a thrill of adrenalin through him, giving power to the part of his brain that wanted him to sprint away.
Kurt glanced back down the single track. The trees were already beginning to turn fall colors around the edges of the forest, but here along the narrow trail the foliage was green and thick. Resisting the urge to pick up the pace, he continued on, looking back when he could take his eyes off the trail, and after a few moments caught sight of what the bicycle had seen.
“It’s just another cyclist,” Kurt said, reaching down to pat the bicycle’s yellow-and-black, hornet-striped frame. The bicycle didn’t understand–its brain was small and lacked the regions for understanding speech–but Kurt’s tone of voice calmed it and the warning hum grew softer and less anxious.
The end of the trail, a scenic overlook above the Vermillion River, was not far ahead, but the overtaking bicyclist was approaching even faster. The polite thing to do would be to find a place to pull off the trail and let the cyclist past. But there were no surveillance devices in the forest, and Kurt couldn’t face meeting someone out of sight of some sort of watching eyes. At just the thought of it, his adrenaline surged again.
Letting his brain chemistry have its way with him, Kurt leaned low over his handlebars and pedaled hard. (Continue Reading…)
With one hand, Rava adjusted the VR interface glasses where they bit into the bridge of her nose, while she kept her other hand buried in Cordelia’s innards. There was scant room to get the flexible shaft of a mono-lens and her hand through the access hatch in the AI’s chassis. From the next compartment, drums and laughter bled through the plastic walls of the ship, indicating her sister’s conception party was still in full swing.
With only a single camera attached, the interface glasses didn’t give Rava depth perception as she struggled to replug the transmitter cable. The chassis had not been designed to need repair. At all. It had been designed to last hundreds of years without an upgrade.
If Rava couldn’t get the cable plugged in and working, Cordelia wouldn’t be able to download backups of herself to her long-term memory. She couldn’t store more than a week at a time in active memory. It would be the same as a slow death sentence.
The square head of the cable slipped out of Rava’s fingers. Again. “Dammit!” She slammed her heel against the ship’s floor in frustration.
“If you can’t do it, let someone else try.” Her older brother, Ludoviko, had insisted on following her out of the party as if he could help.
“You know, this would go a lot faster if you weren’t breathing down my neck.”
“You know, you wouldn’t be doing this at all if you hadn’t dropped her.”
“It’s like mid August, 2017?” her voice squeaked. Jesus, had she really lost her mind?
“That’s right.” She smiled. “Don’t be scared. I just wanted to be sure.”
“What do you mean don’t be scared?” she blurted. “Sure about what? Jesus! How long have I been here? How many times have you seen me before?”
Jani held up her hand. “Slow down; it’s okay…I’m not an oncologist, but I’m following your case. The cancer responded well to the treatment. And our research suggests that the side effects are temporary.”
Stephanie started to protest but then stopped. A terrifying memory flashed through her mind. “Mom said they might take me to a hospital for the dead.” She didn’t know what that meant but the memory was clear. “She said you’d keep me here to fool me into thinking I’m still alive.”
Jani was holding up both hands now. “Slow down. The survival rates are scary but they’re far better—”
“You’re not listening. She said they’d take me to a hospital for people who’ve _already_ died. I have to escape before—”
Stephanie started to stand but Jani put a heavy hand on her shoulder and said “Lullaby.”
The word opened a bloom of orange light across Stephanie’s vision. A static hiss exploded into her ears, and she felt herself falling. There was a firecracker yellow flash and then…nothing.