Posts Tagged ‘family’

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Escape Pod 675: Man of Straw


Man of Straw

By Russell Nichols

I pissed my PJs when I saw that scarecrow.

It was the middle of the night and everybody was knocked out. Marcus, my big brother who died the week before last, had his door cracked. I heard him snoring under the hum of the refrigerator. The carpet creaked under my feet as I stepped into the dark living room. I wanted to turn back, but I had to pee so bad and Mama told me Jesus didn’t shed blood for bed-wetters.

I never made it past the living room. Because that’s where I saw it: that stuffed body in our front yard, grinning at me through the window, face colored black, egg shells for eyes and straw sticking out the top of his head. My scream came out the wrong hole, wet and warm, streaming down my flannel Captain America pants.

I ran back to my room.

“The hell you doing?” asked my brother, Nick, on the top bunk. My adopted brother.

I was fumbling in pitch blackness, trying to change, trying not to think about what I saw, but couldn’t shake the image: that face, those eyes, the straw.

“N-nothing,” was all I could get out.

Nick reached down to cut on the light, catching me in my soaked boxers. “Damn, man, again? Marcus got you shook?” (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 674: And Yet


And Yet

A. T. Greenblatt

Only idiots go back to the haunted houses of their childhood. And yet.

Here you are. Standing on the sagging, weed-strangled front porch that hasn’t changed in twenty years. Every dip in the floorboards, every peeling strip of paint is exactly as you remember it. Time seems to have ricocheted off this place.

Except not everything has stayed the same. You have your doctorate in theoretical physics now, the ink’s still fresh on the diploma. Your prospects look good. You’re going start teaching next month, your first steps on the path to tenure. You have a grant for a research project you’ve been waiting for years to start. The secrets of the universe are a locked door and you might have the key. That is, if the house doesn’t kill you first.

You’re lingering on the doorstep, not quite ready to commit. There’s an early morning hush to the neighborhood, but it’s already ungodly humid and warm. The backs of your calves stick to your leg braces, your backpack is heavy on your shoulders, and your walking cane is slick from your sweaty palm, though you’re not sure if that’s because of the heat or because being back on this porch is doing terrible things to your heart rate. Even the dragonflies are smart enough to linger at the property line.

This is a terrible idea. Your hand is clenched around the doorknob and you’re listing all the valid reasons you should walk away.

And yet. (Continue Reading…)

Artemis Rising 5

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Escape Pod 670: The Scent of Lions (Artemis Rising)


The Scent of Lions

by Tara Campbell

“Congratulations, Mrs. Costa,” chirped the young Life Center nurse. “You’re ready to go home! Here’s your shield.”

Maria raised the infant in her arms high enough for the nurse to slip the slim, silver band around her waist.

“Let’s check the charge.” The nurse stepped back and smiled, nodding for Maria to switch on her shield. Maria shifted little Leon to free up a hand, causing her bag to slip off her shoulder.
“Oops, you don’t want to lose that,” cautioned the nurse, looping the strap back in place. She’d just rattled off the contents of the WellBaby Bag to Maria a moment ago: a blanket and hat, formula (to be used only “if all else fails”), diapers, home vaccination kit, a full power infant shield, and an emergency replacement shield.

The nurse stepped back and pushed her pink infospecs up the bridge of her nose. “Okay, try again.”

Maria slid a switch on the inside of her belt. She jumped slightly at the fizz of her shield activating—it had been over half a year since she’d last worn it—and little Leon’s body stiffened against her. She rocked him gently to comfort him. As the shield quieted to a low hum, he settled back into the crook of her arm.

Maria stretched her other arm out to reacquaint herself with the shield. The field of charged particles followed the contours of her body, moving with her and extending about a foot all around her. She looked up at the nurse again and squinted. Maria used to see through her shield just fine every day on the way to work. Now she found it hard to concentrate on the young woman’s face through the swirling, marbling effect.

“You’re not imagining things,” said the nurse. “Your shield strength is higher. We’ve given you an extra charge to make sure you and little—” The nurse hesitated, checking the display in her glasses. “—little Leon will get home safely. The shields in your bag have also been fully loaded.”

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 662: Another Day in the Desert


Another Day in the Desert

by Mame Bougouma Diene

“I’ll trip you first abba!”

Tagedouchet teased her father as she leaped over the long stick he swung at her ankles, raising a puff of sand with her sandals, the gritty substance drifting between her toes, and landed, folding her knees, narrowly dodging the swing of her father’s Takuba sabre.

She swung her stick at his knees. He parried with his own and hammered her with his curved sword. The old, wiry man was still strong. Her blade blocked his attacks, but her shoulder bent almost to dislocation. She used a break in his thrusts to roll over to the side and sweep him off his feet with a sharp spin of her long stick. He hit the ground without a word, rolled over, and leaped back to his feet.

“Told you!” she said, the thick turban wrapped around her face muffling her words in the evening sun, setting behind the dunes around them.

“It’s important for trainees to build up some confidence, and…”

The beating wings of a Han Industries helithopter cut his words short, leaving a shadow across the sand like a giant firefly.

They instinctively covered their eyes, closed their mouths and stopped breathing. Some people said it did little good — whatever radiation seeped from the uranium transported from the mines would trickle in — but they did anyway, perhaps more in disgust of the corporation than for protection.

Her father spit a gob of black phlegm into the sand at the thopter’s passage, traces left from his own years working the mines around Arlit.

“Let’s get going,” he said “the drones’ll start flying soon.”

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 659: Caesura

Show Notes

Termination Shock
Termination Shock

TERMINATION SHOCK is a new roleplaying game from Greg Stolze, chronicling your adventures as an ordinary human rescued from hellish war by disorganized aliens. What will you do as a refugee in a strange cosmos? Cling to your past, or find a purpose among inscrutable aliens? Will you just get by, or will you redefine humanity in the eyes of a million extraterrestrials? The choice is yours in this new tabletop game, on Kickstarter now.


Caesura

by Hayley Stone

Priya begins by striking the words love, hate, heart, and feel from the computer’s vocabulary, and blocks the internet. It isn’t with malicious intent. She does it on a whim, as with most things: fixing herself tacos at eleven o’clock at night, taking a right instead of a left turn against the advice of her GPS, showing up to her brother’s funeral in bright pink and yellow leopard-print high-tops.

“Your shoes look like they’re wanted for the murder of a Lisa Frank poster,” Demetri said when she first bought them, after nearly shooting Pepsi through his nose.

“You’re just jealous because I look fly, and you’d get shot wearing these around the city,” Priya said.

“Fly? So you’re a little gangster now, huh?”

“More than you.”

He did get shot. But it wasn’t over shoes.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 650: Some Things I Probably Should Have Mentioned Earlier (LIVE)

Show Notes

This is a live reading from Worldcon 2018.


Some Things I Probably Should Have Mentioned Earlier

By Laura Pearlman

Dear Kevin,

I’m sorry I waited so long to tell you this, but I really hate your vacation cabin. Everything about it creeps me out. The sound of crickets at night makes my skin crawl. They sound like impending doom: like a critical piece of equipment being worn down by friction, or a thousand tiny voices, hoarse from screaming, reduced to a raspy warning chant in some ancient language.

The crickets aren’t the only problem. The smell of so much wood in one place makes my eyes burn. And is it really necessary to throw pine cones into the fireplace? Are the burnt-wood fumes not overpowering enough? I used to lie awake at night fantasizing about finding whoever came up with that idea, grinding them up, feeding them to the crickets, and then gathering up the crickets, stuffing them into the fireplace, burning the cabin down, and watching from a safe distance. Upwind, of course.

Do crickets even eat meat? You probably know. You grew up with all this. That’s why you’re comfortable with it. I’m not; to me, it’s alien and disturbing. I wish I’d told you this the first time you took me there, right after we started dating. But your friends were having such a good time. I wanted to be the fun girlfriend who liked what everyone else liked.

It must seem strange that I’m bringing this up now, when neither of us will ever go back there. I mention it because saying I loved your cabin set off the chain of events that led us to where we are today. It wasn’t the first lie I’d told you, of course, but the others were just my cover story.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 648: A Handful of Dal

Show Notes

Visit The Drabblecast Reborn on Kickstarter here.


A Handful of Dal

By Naru Sundar

200g Dal
300ml Water
Ghee
Turmeric
Coriander seeds
Whole black pepper
Cumin seeds

Start with the dal. Wash it like one washes the feet of ascetics entering a temple: with love, with care. Shake loose the dirt and twigs that inevitably stow away alongside it. Perhaps this note will stow away with you onto the Yatra, a tiny mote of the past to accompany you on your grand journey.

Then, a finger of coppery ghee in the pot, and seeds of coriander fattening in the heat. Let the dal swirl into the now fragrant fat. Watch it flush as red and bright as the stones in Fatehpur Sikri that we marveled at once. Let turmeric dust it in gold, as bright as suns. Drown the dal in water quickly, before it blackens to ash—like the protesters in Chandni Chowk. Who can blame them, our people carry the sin of division under our skin, and the selection process for the Yatra was not immune.

You were chosen, Rajiv. I can only hope that when you grind pepper and cumin, you will think of your children’s children, fated one day to smell the air of a distant world. When the dal is ready, soft and lush and swollen, let everything marry. A tapestry of flavors, a gift from your ancestors to your descendants. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 641: Flash Fiction Contest Winners


The Toastmaster

By Kurt Pankau

“Burnt the Pop Tarts again?”

“Yes,” Toaster responded over wifi. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

Blender whirred with sympathy.

“Owner was upset,” said Toaster. “She picked me up and looked at my underside to make sure everything was okay.”

“That’s odd,” said Blender. “There’s nothing there but your crumb tray, though.”

“I know, and so does Owner. I don’t know why she did it. It was humiliating.” (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 640: Paradise Regained


Paradise Regained

By Edward Lerner

My head hurts. I expect it: this is winter. I want it to be spring.

Paradise does not ask what I want.

The winter is young, and I think the dogs are not yet so hungry as to attack me. Still, I hold tight to my spear. Dogs or no dogs, the spear helps me walk through the knee-deep snow.

Only trees show above the snow, and I do not know what is under. In winter, asleep, the plants cannot scream when I step on them.

Because they are asleep, Father told me. Long ago. Before Mother died. Before I left home. I did not understand what he meant. I do not now.

I think Father is gone, too. “Watch the flag,” Father told me, long ago, pointing at the tall pole that stood near Ship. “I will change the flag every day. Unless … I can’t. Then you must come. You must.” (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 636: Mother Tongues


Mother Tongues

By S. Qiouyi Lu

“Thank you very much,” you say, concluding the oral portion of the exam. You gather your things and exit back into the brightly lit hallway. Photos line the walls: the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu. The sun shines on each destination, the images brimming with wonder. You pause before the Golden Gate Bridge.

“右拐就到了,” the attendant says. You look up. His blond hair is as standardized as his Mandarin, as impeccable as his crisp shirt and tie. You’ve just proven your aptitude in English, but hearing Mandarin still puts you at ease in the way only a mother tongue does. You smile at the attendant, murmuring a brief thanks as you make your way down the hall.

You turn right and enter a consultation room. The room is small but welcoming, potted plants adding a dash of green to the otherwise plain creams and browns of the furniture and walls. A literature rack stands to one side, brochures in all kinds of languages tucked into its pockets, creating a mosaic of sights and symbols. The section just on English boasts multiple flags, names of different varieties overlaid on the designs: U.S. English – Standard. U.K. English – Received Pronunciation. Singaporean English – Standard. Nigerian English – Standard… Emblazoned on every brochure is the logo of the Linguistic Grading Society of America, a round seal with a side-view of a head showing the vocal tract.

You pick up a Standard U.S. English brochure and take a seat in one of the middle chairs opposite the mahogany desk that sits before the window. The brochure provides a brief overview of the grading system; your eyes linger on the A-grade description: Speaker engages on a wide variety of topics with ease. (Phonology?) is standard; speaker has a broad vocabulary… You take a quick peek at the dictionary on your phone. Phonology-linguistic sound systems. You file the word away to remember later.

The door opens. A woman wearing a blazer and pencil skirt walks in, her heels clacking against the hardwood floor, her curled hair bouncing with every step. You stand to greet her and catch a breath of her perfume.

“Diana Moss,” she says, shaking your hand. Her name tag also displays her job title: Language Broker. (Continue Reading…)