Tag: "love"

EP581: That Game We Played During the War

AUTHOR: Carrie Vaughn

NARRATOR: Amy H. Sturgis

HOST: Mur Lafferty

about the author…

Carrie Vaughn is best known for her New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty who hosts a talk radio show for the supernaturally disadvantaged. Her latest novels include a near-Earth space opera, Martians Abroad, from Tor Books, and a post-apocalyptic murder mystery, Bannerless, from John Joseph Adams Books. She’s written several other contemporary fantasy and young adult novels, as well as upwards of 80 short stories. She’s a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R. R. Martin and a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop. An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado.

 

 

about the narrator…ahsshotfour2

Amy H. Sturgis holds a Ph.D. in Intellectual History from Vanderbilt University and specializes in both Science Fiction and Indigenous American Studies. She is regular staff with the StarShipSofa podcast, editor in chief of Hocus Pocus Comics, and faculty at Lenoir-Rhyne University. She lives with her husband in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.


That Game We Played During the War

By Carrie Vaughn

From the moment she left the train station, absolutely everybody stopped to look at Calla. They watched her walk across the plaza and up the steps of the Northward Military Hospital. In her dull gray uniform she was like a storm cloud moving among the khaki of the Gaantish soldiers and officials. The peace between their peoples was holding; seeing her should not have been such a shock. And yet, she might very well have been the first citizen of Enith to walk across this plaza without being a prisoner.

Calla wasn’t telepathic, but she could guess what every one of these Gaantish was thinking: What was she doing here? Well, since they were telepathic, they’d know the answer to that. They’d wonder all the same, but they’d know. It would be a comfort not to have to explain herself over and over again.

It was also something of a comfort not bothering to hide her fear. Technically, Enith and Gaant were no longer at war. That did not mean these people didn’t hate her for the uniform she wore. She didn’t think much of their uniforms either, and all the harm soldiers like these had done to her and those she loved. She couldn’t hide that, and so let the emotions slide right through her and away. She felt strangely light, entering the hospital lobby, and her smile was wry.

Some said Enith and Gaant were two sides of the same coin; they would never see eye to eye andwould always fight over the same spit of land between their two continents. But their differences were simple, one might say: only in their minds.

EP580: Nozizwe and Almahdi

AUTHOR: J. R. Dawson

NARRATOR: Eric Luke

HOST: Divya Breed

about the author…

Dawson is a graduate from the MFA program at Stonecoast. Her stories have been seen in Mothership Zeta, The Omnibus of Dr. Bil Shakes and the Magnificent Ionic Pentatetrameter, and Silk Road Review. She was recently a writer in residence at Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and a CSArtist through Omaha Creative Institute. Dawson loves science fiction and fantasy, and sometimes she allows it to be funny. Only sometimes.

about the narrator…Displaying Portrait.jpg

Eric Luke is the screenwriter of the Joe Dante film EXPLORERS, which is currently in development as a remake, the comic books GHOST and WONDER WOMAN, and wrote and directed the NOT QUITE HUMAN films for Disney TV.  His current project INTERFERENCE, a meta horror audiobook about an audiobook… that kills, is a Best Seller on Audible.com


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.

EP578: Cherry Squid

AUTHOR: Celeste Hollister

NARRATOR: Amy H. Sturgis

HOST: Mur Lafferty

about the author…

Celeste Hollister is a novelist, a mom, a travel writer, and a teacher. She writes characters who struggle with racial identity and LGBT+ representation. She graduated from Texas State with a degree in writing, taught in the public school system for a decade, and lived in Korea for a year. She loves wine, cats, cookies, and fanfiction. She currently lives in San Marcos, Texas, with her lovely boyfriend and fabulous daughter.

 

about the narrator…
ahsshotfour2

Amy H. Sturgis holds a Ph.D. in Intellectual History from Vanderbilt University and specializes in both Science Fiction and Indigenous American Studies. She is regular staff with the StarShipSofa podcast, editor in chief of Hocus Pocus Comics, and faculty at Lenoir-Rhyne University. She lives with her husband in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.
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.”

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

AUTHOR: Matt Dovey

NARRATOR: Tina Connolly

HOST: Divya Breed

about the author…
Matt Dovey is very tall and very English and most likely drinking a cup of tea right now. He has a scar on his arm where the ice of Europa cut through his suit and left him gasping for air on a Jovian moon that he can’t remember leaving. He now lives in a quiet market town in rural England with his wife & three children, and despite being a writer, he still hasn’t found the right words to properly express the delight and joy he finds in this wonderful arrangement.

His surname might rhyme with “Dopey”, but any other similarities to the dwarf are purely coincidental. He was the Golden Pen winner for Writers of the Future in 2016, was shortlisted for the James White Award the same year, and is an associate editor over at the best fantasy fiction podcast in this world and the next, PodCastle. He has fiction out and forthcoming all over the place; you can keep up with it at mattdovey.com, or follow along on Facebook and Twitter both as @mattdoveywriter.

about the narrator…Tina Connolly

Tina Connolly is the author of the Ironskin fantasy trilogy from Tor Books, and the Seriously Wicked YA series from Tor Teen. Her novels have been finalists for the Nebula and the Norton.

Her stories have appeared in Tor.com, Lightspeed, Analog, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily SF, and many more. Her first collection, On the Eyeball Floor and Other Stories, is now out from Fairwood Press.

Her narrations have appeared in Podcastle, Pseudopod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, John Joseph Adams’ The End is Nigh series, and more. She co-hosts Escape Pod and runs the Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake.

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_.

EP573: Whatever Tower, However High

AUTHOR: Julia K. Patt

NARRATOR: Logan Waterman

HOST: Tina Connolly

about the author…

Julia K. Patt lives in Maryland with one very evil cat and one very frightened one, which never fails to make life interesting. Work-wise, she does a little of everything, because why try one thing when you can attempt six? Right now her favorite gig, after writing stories, is proofreading queer romance novels. (There’s something soothing about adding semi-colons to sex scenes in these uncertain times.) Her short fiction has previously appeared in such publications as Expanded Horizons, The Fiction Desk, and Phantom Drift, and she is at work on a novel. You can follow her on twitter (@chidorme) for more.

 

 

about the narrator…2016-01-06 19.04.47.jpg

Logan has a degree in Technical Theatre from California State University, and has worked in many theatres, large and small, professional and amateur. He has also worked for Apple computers, sold hot tubs and comic books, and prepared court documents. He has taught and performed sword-fighting for the stage, and run lights for a local band, until they broke up.

As of writing this bio, he has narrated for The Drabblecast and all five District of Wonders shows, Starship Sofa, Tales To Terrify, Far Fetched Fables, and the late lamented Protecting Project Pulp and Crime City Central, making him the District’s only “Ace” so far. He is thrilled to add Escape Pod to his CV and hopes to get more.

Logan currently lives in Northern California with Grendel, a huge black beast whose primary occupations are sleeping, stalking the fish in the aquarium, and keeping the house safe from the hordes of invisible monsters that come out after dark, and Morgana, a small fluffy Queen who rules her domain with an iron paw. The fish are unimpressed.

Whatever Tower, However High

By Julia K. Patt

It is my 567th day inside. But I’m not really counting.

Outside, Leo and Maurizio sit by the front steps of the house playing 3D chess. Not far from them, Antonia tinkers with her latest project, which looks for all the world like a wheelchair with exhaust pipes. Our landlady, Miss Penny, hunkers on the stoop with a cigarette in one hand and her morning coffee in the other, trading talk with whoever passes by and calling out the morning news and crossword clues in a jumble. I’m not sure if the Prime Minister of New Slovakia is a headline or the answer to five across.

More than a year and a half ago, I passed a similar scene as I exited the cab with my duffle of possessions. The last time any of them saw my face, even though I have seen theirs most days since then. I have eyes and ears all over the city, but unlike most people, my neighbors know I’m watching.

EP572: Nothing to See Here

AUTHOR: Arthur Doweyko

NARRATOR: Patrick Bazile

HOST: Alasdair Stuart

about the author…Picture

As a scientist, Arthur has authored over 100 publications, invented novel 3D drug design software, and shares the 2008 Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award for the discovery of Sprycel, a new anti-cancer drug. He writes hard science fiction, fantasy and horror. His debut novel, Algorithm, is a story about DNA and the purpose of humanity. It garnered a 2010 Royal Palm Literary Award (RPLA) and was published by E-Lit Books in 2014. Angela’s Apple won 1st place as best pre-published science fiction novel of 2014 (RPLA) and will be published by Red Adept Publications (July 19, 2016) as As Wings Unfurl. His short stories, P’sall Senji, The Last, and Nothing to See Here garnered Honorable Mentions in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. He lives in Florida with his wife Lidia, teaches college chemistry and happily wanders the beaches when not jousting with aliens.

about the narrator…

Patrick is an American Actor/Voice Over Talent born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Patrick has voiced everything from PSAs to major product brands, with a deep, commanding voice often referred to as “The Voice of God.”

Nothing to See Here

By Arthur Doweyko

There is a comfort in the strength of love;
‘Twill make a thing endurable, which else
Would overset the brain, or break the heart.

William Wordsworth

I heard a squawk—kind of like the goose call that comes out of a police cruiser. Blinking red and blue lights danced on the window shade, so I figured they must have nabbed somebody. The trouble was, they were behind my house, in my cornfield.

I peeled back the shade, and what did I see but a crap-load of state police parked sort of in a big circle. The ground mist was so thick, I barely made out the cut corn stalks. The rows led to the police who looked like scarecrows poking up out of the fog—all facing in, staring at the same something. Whoever they got cornered was out-of-luck, that’s for sure.

Funny thing though—nobody was moving. They just stood at their cruisers. My eye drifted back over the rows. Something itched up the back of my mind, and then the sun peeped up over the tree line on the far side.

EP569: Safe Harbour (Artemis Rising 3)

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.

AUTHOR: Kristene Perron

NARRATOR: Divya Breed

HOST: Mur Lafferty

ARTIST: Ashley Mackenzie

about the author…

Kristene is a former professional stunt performer for film and television (as Kristene Kenward) and a self-described fishing goddess. Pathologically nomadic, she has lived in Japan, Costa Rica, the Cook Islands and a very tiny key in the Bahamas, just to name a few. Her stories have appeared in Canadian Storyteller Magazine, The Barbaric Yawp, Hemispheres Magazine, and Denizens of Darkness. In 2010 she won the Surrey International Writers’ Conference Storyteller Award. Kristene is a member of SF Canada. She currently resides in Nelson, BC, Canada but her suitcase is always packed.

about the narrator…

Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. She enjoys subverting expectations and breaking stereotypes whenever she can. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, including Lightspeed, Mothership Zeta, and Daily Science Fiction, and her writing appears in the indie game Rogue Wizards. Her debut science-fiction novella, Runtime, was released by Tor.com Publications in May, 2016. You can find out more at www.eff-words.com or on Twitter @divyastweets.

about the artist…Ashley Mackenzie

Ashley Mackenzie is an artist and illustrator based in Edmonton, Alberta. She was born in Victoria, BC and grew up between Vancouver, BC and Edmonton, AB. After studying online for a year through AAU in San Francisco, Calif., she moved to Toronto to pursue a degree in Illustration at OCADU. Though she loves the challenge of creating complex conceptual illustrations and finding new ways to navigate ideas, visually she also enjoys making concept art and decorative illustration. When not drawing, she can be found reading, playing video games or thinking about her next project.

 

Safe Harbour

By Kristene Perron

It begins with breath.

In. Wrap my hand around the handle at the bow of the kayak. Out. Drag the boat across the rocks. In and out, in time with the low moan of the fog horn in the distance. I welcome the grey of dawn though my muscles ache from the damp and cold.

Ten years since I set foot on the shores of Barclay Sound, since I smelled the salty sweet decay of the open Pacific. The blood pulses in my veins and no matter how hard I fight it a single word rises from the depths like a corpse: home.

EP568: Dr. Mbalu and the Butcher’s Daughter (Artemis Rising 3)

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.

AUTHOR: Megan Chaudhuri

NARRATOR: Laurice White

HOST: Caron J.

ARTIST: Ashley Mackenzie

about the author…

A toxicologist by training and a writer by inclination, Megan lives outside of Seattle with one husband and two cats. Her fiction has appeared in Analog, Crossed Genres, and Futuristica, among other places.

about the narrator…

Laurice is a theater graduate and long time theater student. She’s read stories for Podcastle, Pseudopod and for John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey on The End is Nigh and The End is Now – the first two volumes of The Apocalypse Triptych.

about the artist…Ashley Mackenzie

Ashley Mackenzie is an artist and illustrator based in Edmonton, Alberta. She was born in Victoria, BC and grew up between Vancouver, BC and Edmonton, AB. After studying online for a year through AAU in San Francisco, Calif., she moved to Toronto to pursue a degree in Illustration at OCADU. Though she loves the challenge of creating complex conceptual illustrations and finding new ways to navigate ideas, visually she also enjoys making concept art and decorative illustration. When not drawing, she can be found reading, playing video games or thinking about her next project.

Dr. Mbalu and the Butcher’s Daughter

By Megan Chaudhuri

With a raspy pop, the cell sprayer in Rebecca’s hand sputtered one last drop of fur progenitor cells. Ignoring her stiff back, she leaned over the culture vat and daubed the cells onto the pink, gel-sculpted contours of a cheetah’s back muscles. The gel rippled; Rebecca held her breath as the reflexive shiver splashed the surrounding nutrient broth.

“Go in,” Rebecca whispered, her eyes hot and dry behind her goggles. Please, she prayed, conscious of the crucifix’s weight at her neck. Another reflex rippled the gel, as if the nerve matrix suddenly sensed the truth: It grew inside an old Gates Foundation lab trailer on the cheapest hook-up in Little Nairobi, rather than in the hide of an adult cheetah.

But the droplet disappeared slowly, the cells sinking into the gelatinous stew of serum and growth factors that—God willing—would ripen them into a furred skin.

EP567: Baro Porrajmos, or Love in the Vardo (Artemis Rising 3)

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.

AUTHOR: Eileen Gunnell Lee

NARRATOR: Marguerite Croft

HOST: Divya Breed

ARTIST: Ashley Mackenzie

about the author…

Eileen Gunnell Lee is an award-winning essayist, teacher, and graduate student. She is currently completing a PhD in literature focusing on science fiction, myth, and the environment, and editing her first novel. She lives in Hamilton, Canada, and tweets @eileenglee.

about the narrator…

Marguerite Croft is a professional writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s a recovering anthropologist and a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop. She has read fiction for Podcastle, Pseudopod, and Escape Pod..

 

 

about the artist…Ashley Mackenzie

Ashley Mackenzie is an artist and illustrator based in Edmonton, Alberta. She was born in Victoria, BC and grew up between Vancouver, BC and Edmonton, AB. After studying online for a year through AAU in San Francisco, Calif., she moved to Toronto to pursue a degree in Illustration at OCADU. Though she loves the challenge of creating complex conceptual illustrations and finding new ways to navigate ideas, visually she also enjoys making concept art and decorative illustration. When not drawing, she can be found reading, playing video games or thinking about her next project.

Baro Porrajmos, or Love in the Vardo

By Eileen Gunnell Lee

The day we left the Static was the best day of our lives. The Static had been squalid—a cold concrete building with perpetually wet floors sloping toward the drains. There had been too many of us in there, even without the men.

We celebrated the day we left the Static. We ate the rest of our rations, so certain were we that after that day we would forage in the countryside, or trade for what we couldn’t glean ourselves.

Freedom! Opre Roma, and all that.

EP562: Meltwater

AUTHOR: Benjamin C. Kinney

NARRATOR: Rajan Khanna

HOST: Tina Connolly

about the author…

Benjamin C. Kinney is a neuroscientist by day, speculative fiction writer by night. Once upon a time, he worked in a glass-walled tower making cyborg monkeys, but he long ago abandoned that business to run electromagnetic fields across human brains. He lives in St. Louis with two cats and his spacefaring wife. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, PodCastle, and Flash Fiction Online – and, at last, his beloved Escape Pod, where he sifts through submissions as an Associate Editor.

about the narrator…Rajan Khanna Author Photo

Rajan Khanna is a fiction writer, blogger, reviewer and narrator. His first novel, Falling Sky, a post-apocalyptic adventure with airships, was released in October 2014 from Pyr. A sequel, Rising Tide, came out in October 2015. His short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer, and several anthologies. His articles and reviews have appeared at Tor.com and LitReactor.com and his podcast narrations can be heard at Podcastle, Escape Pod, PseudoPod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed Magazine. Rajan lives in New York where he’s a member of the Altered Fluid writing group. He is represented by Barry Goldblatt of the Barry Goldblatt Agency.
Meltwater

By Ben Kinney

My beloved waits for me in the flooded church. She’s died one time too many, and I can’t get her back without her help. At least, at last, it gives me a reason to see her again.

The church lies at the edge of the Mediterranean fracture, below cliffs barely eight thousand years old. Glacial melt pours down the precipice, filling the air with a fine frigid mist. Rime ice coats the façade, making the church look like a sharp-clawed hand locked in melting wax. Another fork drops me off in a flier, leaving me alone in the valley with my pack and what few memories I can carry.

Boulders and high water have turned the entrance into a scramble over icy stone. My lungs heave against thin cold air as I catch my breath in the nave atop a half-submerged pile of boulders. There’s just enough dry space for me to stand upright. I wish I’d taken a different body, but for this task–for me–only the traditional shape will do.

I first spot Emlune as a glowing line of blue. Her primary lamp cuts across the chamber, and the air glimmers with frozen mist. She clings to the vaulted ceiling with eight articulated limbs. Smaller lights spangle her teardrop-shaped chassis, as if she had swum in water rich with bioluminescent algae.

I cup my hands in front of my mouth. “Emlune!”

The light swivels toward me, even though she must’ve noticed me already. The artifice lends her attention a charming, primitive touch. I say, “There you are. Six thousand years, and this place hasn’t changed a bit. You’re still maintaining it, yes?”

“Percel.” Her voice sounds calm, but as distant as steeple to pews. “If you’re using that name again?”

“Of course.” I rub my hands together through their gloves, though my flesh is already warm. “Bad news. Your last iteration died without leaving any other forks of herself. No variants, no backups, nothing.” I intend to add she’s gone, but the words never leave my throat.

She scuttles down from ceiling to wall and hops onto a boulder beside me. Her body is glossy with layers of diamond, twice the size of my relic form. She says, “How?”

The question hurts, and I succumb to the temptation to avoid it. “She was in the Cascadia Zone, working on the volcanoes. She must’ve mis-timed an eruption.”

A manipulator swivels, like the shake of a head. “Why didn’t she make any backups?”

“I don’t know.” I want to fidget, to look anywhere else. Beneath her bright-light gaze, I can’t hold back the truth. “But it can’t have been an accident. Unless you think you forked someone careless.”

I wince as the last words escape my mouth. I don’t want her death on my shoulders, but I’d rather blame myself than her. Her beam flickers over my face, and I wonder what my skin and muscles reveal.

She laughs, a sound like the memory of bells. “You’re so transparent in that body. It’s sweet. It’s all right, I know you’re on edge. I’ve missed you too.”

I take a deep breath, filling my lungs with the easy grace of her forgiveness. “It’s good to see you, Emlune. It’s a lonely world out there without your fork. But to be honest, we missed this you.”

Emlune braces four legs beneath her and tilts her spun-diamond body like a sitting dog. “Am I so different from my forks? Or did you change yourselves to love me less?” Her voice gains a bittersweet edge, as if disappointed by the sadness on her tongue. “Probably both. I knew my fork would be different out there. Because of the work. I just can’t… obsess about the old Earth, not like you do.”

Frustration surges inside me. “What’s wrong with the work? At least I’m doing something productive! What have you accomplished these millennia? Thought deep thoughts and kept a church from falling down?”

Blue light strikes my eyes. I squint, but hold my ground. What could be more important than repairing this shattered Earth? I have to make her understand.

She says, “You shouldn’t have come back.”

She slips into the water and vanishes between the boulders. I am alone in the frozen church, hating myself. I haven’t forked into a body like this in millennia, and I’ve forgotten how to manage the emotions. The frustration remains, and I find myself pacing back and forth.

I slip on the ice. I catch myself on my hands, and my bones jar with the impact. I curse with clenched teeth and words that have long since lost their meaning.

I sit up. My body aches, but nothing worse. I’m not going anywhere. I may not remember all nine thousand years, but I know patience.

#

I dig a transmitter out of my pack and pass the time by keeping tabs on the work. I have four other forks currently running: two submarines working the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a solar array warming the Cocos Plate, and a flyer surveying the Iberian peninsula. I consider envying my other forks. They miss only Emlune’s now-dead fork, with an affection faded by the malignant accumulation of changes. They barely recall Emlune’s frozen source, but I exist for my task: body, mind, and memories. When I finish my mission, when we splice back together, all of us will learn what we’ve been missing. They will remember my minutes and hours with Emlune, and they are the ones who will envy me.

Emlune clambers up onto the rocks. Screenlight reflects off of the camber of her fins, rippling as her limbs narrow themselves into legs.

She says, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have have run off like that. I’m not used to company.”

I shift my jacket on my shoulders. “I’m sorry too. I was being nasty. I’d blame this body, but that doesn’t make me any less responsible.” I try a smile. “I hope you’ll forgive me?”

“Always. As long as you will,” she says wistfully. Her light flickers to my face, to my screen, and back. “I’m glad you’re still enjoying your work.”

I nod toward my screen. “Do you remember the old Earth?” I try to recall us walking there together, breathing air rich with nitrogen and oxygen, warm sunlight on our singular face. “But never mind. It’s okay if you don’t. I just need another fork of you that will.”

“It didn’t work out last time. Evidently.”

“It worked for six thousand years. If we have to do this every few millennia, that’s not so bad, is it?”

She sighs, her voice heavy with regret. “My fork must’ve been miserable. To end the way she did. Maybe this isn’t meant to be.” Her tone hardens, but I can hear the crack beneath the plaster. “Learn to adapt, Percel.”

I wince. This isn’t going well. “We will. But we–I–don’t want to do it alone. Won’t you try again?” My pleading tone embarrasses me. This is futile, even if she acquiesces. As long as the idea repels her, she’ll never be able to craft a self that wants this future.

An idea dawns, and I grasp it like a whisper of radio signal in a cave. “Wait. I’ve been greedy, haven’t I? Let’s trade forks. I’ll bring one here to keep you company.”

Emlune’s primary lamp goes dark. The other lights on her carapace twinkle like a cupful of stars. I can still discern her shape, as the light from my screen casts her spangled shadow against the false window-arch of a triforium. She says, “You think a version of you could be happy here?”

“With you? Of course.” I’ve spoken too quickly. Would that fork still be us, the me whom she loves, without its interest in the world beyond?

Maybe not. But maybe she’ll be happy, even if her partner is someone else.

I wonder whether she can see my agony. But I put on a smile and say, “It’s worth a try. I don’t have the hardware to copy from this body, but I’ll have one of my others send the new fork.”

Her light flickers back into life and she reaches out. Her diamond manipulator touches my skin. Not as cold as ice, but as cold as the dead. Still, it’s the only touch I desire.

“It’s worth a try,” she echoes. “And until your fork arrives, we have time to talk.”

#

I receive a message from my fork in the church. Emlune wants us to make a version willing to stay here.

I can make such a fork, and I know her future. The new fork will diverge so far we’ll never achieve a proper splice. She will learn the things I most lack: peace, certainty, trust in permanence. She will ask the hardest questions. She will challenge me.

I will fall in love with her.

Six thousand years have passed since the last time I did this, but I have not forgotten.

#

Dawn light filters through clerestory window holes as Emlune sits on the cold stone beside me, telling tales of her work. Water and ice and time form an ever-changing loom, and every day she weaves the church anew. She doesn’t pause at the sound of turbines, but she falls silent when spun-diamond feet clink against boulders in the entrance.

An eight-limbed teardrop-shaped machine joins us, carrying a box full of gear. With my inchoate senses, the kit looks like nothing more than a tangle of shadow and silver.

I say, “Hello, Percel.”

“And to you, Percel.” The new arrival laughs with my voice, and then swivels toward Emlune. “You must be Emlune? I’m afraid I don’t remember much of you. But I will in a moment.”

The new Percel unspools a pair of leads from the kit, plugs one into her carapace, and offers me the other. “You have the only full instance of our feelings for her. Ready to share?”

More than ready, if it’ll create one more soul who understands me. I slip the lead into the socket where my spine ascends to skull, a concession to modernity in the timeless architecture of my human body. The world stutters as my functions lock down during the copying process, but when I resume, only an instant has passed.

I disconnect, and rub my fingers against the hard rim of the port. I force myself not to glance at Emlune; even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to read the reaction on her carapace. “Do you remember now, Percel?”

My newest fork hesitates, lights cycling beneath her surface as she weighs my gift. For her, it should be no burden. “I do.” The lights fall still, and her main lamp flickers to Emlune, then back to me. “But why Percel? Neither of us should answer to that. Names don’t mean much if we reuse them. I think I’d rather go by Temze. How about you?”

Satisfaction freezes in my veins. “I like Percel.”

Temze’s lamp dims, and she swivels it toward Emlune. Tightbeam communication passes between them. Temze’s dismissal hurts, a spike of disappointment somewhere behind my ribs.

I’m still not sure I understand Temze’s meaning. There’s no reason why I should; she has a long and different life ahead of her. But I want to make her proud of me. I clear my throat. “Call me Arju.”

Emlune and Temze focus on me. A breath of mist eddies across the nave. Emlune says, “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Arju.”

Meeting. We both know I’m not the same Percel who left her here six thousand years ago. I’m a short-lived fork, and soon I’ll splice back into the others. I will become part of my future selves, to live my manifold lives with Emlune’s copies.

It’s not enough.

This time, I’ll know what I’ve lost. In love but forgotten, as Emlune and Temze build their private world. I can’t imagine a more painful fate. There must be a way out.

There is a way out.

I take the kit from Temze’s manipulators. “Download Emlune’s fork into me.”

Emlune recoils. “Your body barely has room for one personality. I’d overwrite you! If it’s even possible.”

Temze speaks cautiously, her voice deferential. “It’s possible. We designed this kit to create Arju.” I’ve surprised her, and I try to hide my flash of pleasure before her attention swivels toward me. “I don’t understand, but I’ll respect your choice. If you’re certain.”

Emlune scrapes her manipulators along the ice, as if hunting for purchase. “Why are you doing this?”

The wire shakes in my hands. My body feels like glass, strong but brittle. I must not crack. I was made to love this Emlune, solitary and eternal. If I splice, my love would rejoin the stream of my future selves. As long as some part of us pines for Emlune in her sanctuary, we will return here again and again, frozen in our yearning for an impossible love.

I look at them both, two bodies dazzling with diamond and light. “Because without me, we’ll be free.”

I attach the lead and wait for her to flow into me.

###