Tag: "love"

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.

###

EP555: Monstrance of Sky

AUTHOR: Christopher Mark Rose

NARRATOR: Alethea Kontis

HOST: Norm Sherman

about the author…

Christopher Mark Rose is a fledgling writer of speculative fiction. His story “A Thousand Solomons” won first place in the 2015 BSFS Amateur Writing Contest. He participates in the Baltimore Science Fiction Society Critique Circle, and has finished a first draft of a novel. He hopes to write stories that are affecting, humane, and concerned with big questions. His day job is in the JHU Applied Physics Laboratory, where he designs flight firmware for NASA missions. His work is flying now in NASA’s Van Allen Probes, and will be in the soon-to-be-launched Solar Probe Plus spacecraft.

about the narrator…dcon-parade-2014

Alethea Kontis is a princess, author, fairy godmother, and geek. Author of over fifteen books and contributor to over twenty-five more, her award-winning writing has been published for multiple age groups, across all genres: science fiction, fantasy, horror, humor, contemporary romance, poetry, graphic novels, Twitter serials, non-fiction…the works.

A former child actress, Alethea hosted over 55 episodes of “Princess Alethea’s Fairy Tale Rants” on YouTube, and continues to host Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow every year at Dragon Con. She enjoys audiobook and podcast narration, speaking at middle schools across the country (in costume, of course), and one day hopes to make a few more movies with her friends. Alethea currently resides on the Space Coast of Florida with her teddy bear, Charlie.

 

Monstrance of Sky

By Christopher Mark Rose

Aerbello — the shape one sees in the movement of wheat, blown by wind. The shape of wind, written in sheaves.

 

I left me, without really leaving. Well, not I myself, but Eva. She told me she was leaving me, as we made love in our bedroom. It was clear she didn’t mean immediately.

 

Cova — any place a crow could be. A crow-sized void, unoccupied by an actual crow.

 

She said we weren’t good for each other, we weren’t helping each other to grow. She said my God obsession had gotten to be too much. She said her presence in my life was redundant.

 

“Please don’t go,” I said. “If you go, my heart will be a cova.”  I couldn’t understand, and it hurt me. It felt as though I had swallowed a razor blade, without realizing.

 

Monstrance — a vessel, in Catholic tradition, in which the consecrated Host is placed, to be exposed for the adoration of the faithful.

 

Without knowing why, I had started making a list of words that meant God, or related to worship, or words I thought could describe God. I found I was transcribing large portions of dictionaries, encyclopedias. I couldn’t explain it, I just felt compelled. I was probably obsessed. I wasn’t a believer but neither an unbeliever then.

EP553: Water Finds Its Level

AUTHOR: M. Bennardo

NARRATOR: Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

HOST: Norm Sherman

about the author…M. Bennardo

Matthew Bennardo lives in Ohio. He co-edited the science-fiction anthology Machine of Death, which was a #1 bestseller on Amazon in 2010.

He is a partner with Ryan North and David Malki ! in Bearstache Books, the imprint which publishes Machine of Death. A second volume in the series was published in 2013 by GCP.

Matthew has also sold short fiction to markets such as Asimov’s Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed Magazine, and Shimmer.

 

about the narrator…

Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali lives and works in Houston as an oncology nurse. She is married and the mother to three brilliant artistic children. She writes because she loves to and also because she has a story (or two, or three…) to tell.

 

 

 

 

Water Finds Its Level

By M. Bennardo

“Would you still love me if I were exactly the same,” he’d ask, “but was a Civil War re-enactor?”

“Shut up,” I’d say.

“What if I were exactly the same,” he’d say, “but refused to eat anywhere except McDonald’s?”

“Shut. Up.”

“Or what if I greased my hair with pomade and went tanning every week?”

That’s when I would give him the death-ray glare. “If you want me to stop loving you right now,” I’d say, “you can keep asking those stupid questions.”

“You know why.”

“But it doesn’t work like that,” I’d say. “You can’t do those things and still be exactly the same in every other way. If you did those things, you’d be somebody else. So just shut up because I don’t want to think about it.”

#

When people asked where I met Roger, I always told the truth. “We met in the Collision,” I’d say. Then they’d give me that look that people used to give you when you told them you met somebody online. The look that said you must be reckless or naive or desperate, and that no good would come of it.

It got better over time, of course, once more people understood. Once they had to understand. By the time it was all over, I was the weird one–still living a single life, still just one of a kind.

And Roger–I guess they understood him better.

EP551: The Most Absurd Dance at the End of the Worlds

AUTHOR: Holly Heisey
NARRATOR: Andrea Richardson
HOST: Alasdair Stuart

about the author…

Holly Heisey launched their writing career in sixth grade when they wrote their class play, a medieval fantasy. It was love at first dragon. Since then, their short fiction has appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show, The Doomsday ChroniclesClockwork Phoenix 5, and Transcendent: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, and has been translated into German and Estonian. A freelance designer by day, Holly lives in Upstate New York with Larry and Moe, their two pet cacti, and they are currently at work on a science fantasy epic.

 

 

 

about the narrator…andrea-richardson

Andrea Richardson is a British singer and actress. With extensive stage and film performances to her name, she began narration and voice over work in 2015, and really enjoys using her existing skills in a different way. She lives in London and has a busy social life with amateur dramatics and working with her jazz band, Jazz Mondays.

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Absurd Dance at the End of the Worlds

By Holly Heisey

It was the end of the worlds, and Mr. Jamison and I were arguing over peas. Not the mush you get in a cafeteria, but peas that smelled like grasshoppers and summer. Real, in the shell, peas.

Mr. Jamison detached his monocle and peered down at the pea pods on my outstretched hand. He made a huffing sound that poofed his drooping moustache. He looked like a side character in an old John Wayne movie, stuffed into fussy clothes.

“It is an altogether sensible looking vegetable,” he finally said. “But how will they help us to program the Back Button?”

He motioned to the collection of brass pipes and gauges that hulked on the sturdy worktable. Afternoon sunlight slanted from the warehouse windows and gave the Back Button a purposeful glint. If we could figure out what that purpose was, we could save the worlds.

I picked a pod off my hand and held it to the sunlight. “I think this pod is like the shape our worlds are taking now. The brane that contains the one hundred and nineteen realities is stretched thin and long, and our worlds are lined up inside of it.”

EP549: The Battaile of the Mudde

AUTHOR: Anthony Tardiff
NARRATOR: J. J. Campanella
HOST: Adam Pracht

 

about the author…

Anthony Tardiff punches sharks while walking through high desert away from towering explosions, and he doesn’t even look back.

He is married to the most beautiful woman in the world, and has three very young boys who are honestly rather cute because they take after their mother.

He is an instruction librarian at a university library in the beautiful Inland Northwest, and he contemplates mountains on his daily commute. (Mountains speak profundities.)

He is also a science fiction writer.

 

about the narrator…campanella

Campanella is a scientist, teacher, and writer who
lives in beautiful Northern New Jersey with his
family and collection of singing potatoes. He has been a well-known story narrator and scientific voice-of-reason on the StarShipSofa Podcast for the last eight years. He has his own story website as well — Uvula Audio– where he narrates different books in the public domain, as well as tales from his own specially touched brain-pan.

by Anthony Tardiff

“Dude, can you come over?”

“I’ve got homework,” I said, staring at the mounds of it spread across my desk.

“It’s kind of urgent.”

I sighed and swapped my phone to my other ear. Vincent’s voice had that edge-of-panic quality I’d come to recognize. “Don’t tell me,” I said. “You melted your mom’s toilet again.”

“No.”

“You turned Mrs. Nedry’s gardenias fluorescent again and she called the UFO hotline.”

“No.”

I closed my eyes and groaned. “Your homework ate your dog again.”

“No. Worse.”

Worse? My eyes popped open. It had taken us three hours to hunt down and kill the homework. His mom had not been happy at what the chase had done to the house. She still wondered where Brandy had gone. What could be worse?

“It’s” — Vincent’s voice dropped to a hoarse whisper — “a girl.”

EP546: Recollection

AUTHOR: Nancy Fulda
NARRATOR: Trendane Sparks
HOST: Alasdair Stuart

  • Recollection originally appeared in CARBIDE-TIPPED PENS, an anthology edited by Eric Choi and Ben Bova, TOR Books, December 2014.
  • Discuss on our forums. 
  • For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia
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about the author…

 

Nancy Fulda is a past Hugo and Nebula Nominee and has been honored by Baen Books and the National Space Society for her writing. She has been a featured writer at Apex Online, a guest on the Writing Excuses podcast, and is a regular attendee of the Villa Diodati Writers’ Workshop. Her fiction can be found in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and other professional venues.

(Photo courtesy of www.nancyfulda.com)

 

 

 

about the narrator…

Originally born in Texas, Tren eventually escaped and wound his way through a mystical series of jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area where he has worked as a software QA Tester for both graphics drivers and video games, a freelance mascot performer, and several jobs on a PBS kids’ show. For most of his life, people have told him that his voice is a pleasure to listen to. But since being a werewolf phone sex operator can get boring, he decided to use his powers to entertain a broader audience.

Recollection
by Nancy Fulda

The dream is always the same. You are a tangled mass of neurons, tumbling through meteors. Flaming impacts pierce your fragile surface, leaving ragged gouges. You writhe, deforming under bombardment, until nothing is left except a translucent tatter, crumbling as it descends. Comets pelt the desiccated fibers. You fall, and keep falling, and cannot escape the feeling that, despite your lack of hands, you are scrabbling desperately at the rim of a shrouded tunnel, unable to halt your descent. Glimmers crawl along the faint remaining strands, blurring as you tumble…

You awaken to warmth and stillness. Gone are the soulless tiled floors of the seniors’ home. Sterile window drapes have been replaced by sandalwood blinds. Fresh air blows through the vents, overlaying faint sounds from the bathroom and from morning traffic on nearby canyon roads. You clutch the quilted blankets, stomach plummeting. This cozy bedroom, with its sturdy hardwood furnishings, should be familiar to you; but it isn’t. Two days, and still nothing makes sense. You feel as though you’re suffocating. Tumbling…

Your wife has heard you gasping for air. She comes running, nightgown flapping behind her. Her face is creased in overlapping furrows. Your mirror tells you that the two of you are a match: the same fading hair, the same shrunken hollows along the eyes. Laugh lines, she calls them, but you cannot manage to see them as anything except deformities, in your face and hers both.

“Elliott?” She grabs your hand and kneels at the bedside to look in your eyes. “It’s me, Elliott. Everything’s fine. Everything’s going to be ok.”

Her name, you recall, is Grace. She told it to you two days ago, and is irrationally elated that you are able to repeat it to her upon demand, any time she asks. You feel like a trained puppy, yapping for treats, except there aren’t any treats.

There’s just Grace, and this room. And before that, the seniors’ home. And before that…? You’re not sure. You flail at the bedside for your notebook, thinking it might offer continuity. But there are only a few shaky scribbles, beginning the day before yesterday.

Grace pulls you upright, propping pillows against your spine. She fusses over you, adjusting your hair, prattling off questions. She seems to think you’re in pain, but you’re not. Not any more than you’d expect of a man with joints and bones as old as yours. She tries to kiss your forehead, and you recoil.

It’s a cruel gesture, pulling away like that, but you can’t help it. She’s a stranger, and despite the anguish in her eyes, it feels wrong to pretend otherwise. You can’t feign love. You won’t. Not to please her, not to please anyone.

EP545: Murder or a Duck

AUTHOR: Beth Goder
NARRATOR: Amy H. Sturgis
HOST: Alasdair Stuart

about the author…

Beth Goder worked as an archivist at Stanford before becoming a full-time mom to wonderful twin girls. Now she enjoys writing speculative fiction stories about archives, memory, records, and the relationship between the past and present. She has a degree in information science from the University of Michigan and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

about the narrator…ahsshotfour2

AHS holds a Ph.D. in Intellectual History and specializes in the fields of Science Fiction/Fantasy and Native American Studies. She lives with her husband, Dr. Larry M. Hall, and their best friend, Virginia the Boston terrier, in the foothills of North Carolina, USA.

Murder or a Duck
by Beth Goder

George called out, “Mrs. Whitman, you have a visitor.”

Mrs. Whitman strode from her workroom, her white hair skipping out of its hairpins. She straightened her work skirt, massaged her bad knee, then hurried down the hall.

“George, what’s happened to the lamp with the blue shade?”

“To which lamp are you referring?” George smoothed down a cravat embroidered with tiny trombones. Improper attire for a butler, but George had never been entirely proper.

Mrs. Whitman examined the sitting room in further depth. The blue lamp was gone, as were the doilies, thank goodness. An elegant table sat between the armchair and green sofa, which was infused with the stuffy smell of potpourri. Behind the sofa hung The Roses of Wiltshire, a painting that Mrs. Whitman had never cared for, despite its lush purples and pinks and reds. And the ficus was there, too, of course.

Mrs. Whitman pulled out a battered notebook. George’s trombone cravat indicated she was in a timeline where he was courting Sonia. A good sign, indeed. Perhaps, after six hundred and two tries, she’d finally landed in a timeline where Mr. Whitman would return home safely.

Consulting her charts, she circled some continuities and crossed out others, referring often to an appendix at the back. The notebook was worn, its blue cover faded. And it was the twelfth one she’d had since starting the project.

George cleared his throat. Mrs. Whitman didn’t even glance up. “You have a visitor,” he said.

“George, I need to ask you a few questions.”

George sighed, but made no comment.

“Has Mr. Whitman returned from his trip?” She always asked this question first, in the hope that George would direct her to the study, where she’d find Mr. Whitman reading a book or knitting socks.

“He’s due back sometime today.”

That was what George always said. Mrs. Whitman had been through it over and over again; she knew it was useless to organize a search until the evening, when everyone else would begin to worry.

Undeterred, Mrs. Whitman asked her control question. “Did you wear your navy suit anywhere this year?”

George raised an eyebrow, but said, “I wore my suit once to the Lacklustres’ evening ball, and again at the horse show for troubled teens.”

If the Lacklustres were holding a ball, then they hadn’t gone bankrupt yet, which meant she was in a timeline where Winston Tuppers hadn’t revealed Mr. Lacklustre’s banking fraud. And the horse show for troubled teens never appeared without a corresponding tea party later in June. Mrs. Whitman flipped busily through her charts.

“Which tea cakes are they selling at the market on Quill Lane? Chocolate? Lavender? Orange and cream?” she asked.

“There is no market on Quill Lane. It was torn down last year,” George said, a rare look of concern on his face. “Are you sure you’re feeling quite all right?”

“Just one more question,” said Mrs. Whitman, making a mark in her notebook. “Is it Sir Henry waiting in the foyer?”

“No,” he said. “Mrs. Lane requests your attention.”

Mrs. Whitman snapped the notebook closed. If Mrs. Lane was visiting, it could only mean one thing. She was either there to kill Mrs. Whitman or sell her a duck.

EP543: Rock, Paper, Scissors, Love, Death

AUTHOR: Caroline M. Yoachim
NARRATOR: Nicola Seaton-Clark
HOST: Tina Connolly

author Caroline M. Yoachim

author Caroline M. Yoachim

about the author…

Caroline M. Yoachim lives in Seattle and loves cold cloudy weather.  Her fiction has appeared in Fantasy & Science FictionAsimov’sLightspeedClarkesworld, and Daily Science Fiction, among other places.  She is a 2006 graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop, and her 2010 novelette “Stone Wall Truth” was nominated for a Nebula Award.  Caroline’s debut short story collection, “Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World & Other Stories,” is coming out with Fairwood Press in 2016.

narrator Nicola Seaton-Clark

narrator Nicola Seaton-Clark

about the narrator…

Nicola Seaton-Clark has worked professionally as an actress for over fifteen years in TV, film and radio. She started her career as a jazz singer and later a singer in a rock band. Her voice-over experience includes TV and radio advertising, singing jingles, film dubbing and synchronization, training videos, corporate films, animation, and Interactive Voice Response for telephone menus. She is also a qualified TEFL teacher and has extensive experience as a vocal coach specializing in South African, Australian and New Zealand accents. http://www.offstimme.com/

 

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Love, Death
by Caroline M. Yoachim

ROCK

Rock crushes scissors. Nicole sat on a crowded bus to Spokane, knitting a turquoise scarf. The gray-haired man sitting next to her stared obsessively at his wristwatch. He was travelling with his son, Andrew, who sat across the aisle. She offered to trade seats so they could sit together, but both men refused. The bus wound around the sharp curves of Stevens Pass, and Nicole made good progress on her scarf.

Out of nowhere, Andrew’s father grabbed her and shoved her across the aisle, into Andrew’s arms. There was a loud crack, and a roar like thunder. A boulder the size of a car slammed into the side of the bus. Nicole stared at the wall of stone that filled the space where her seat had been. The red handles of her scissors stuck out from underneath the rock, the blades crushed underneath. Andrew’s father was completely lost beneath the stone.

#

Love shreds paper. After the accident, Nicole met Andrew for coffee. She returned his father’s watch, which had somehow ended up in her jacket pocket, though she couldn’t figure out how or when he’d put it there. Andrew gave her a pair of red-handled scissors, identical to the pair she had lost. She invited him for Thanksgiving dinner with her parents, since he had no other family. They took a weekend trip to Spokane, and when the bus reached the site of the accident, they threw handfuls of flower petals out the window.

Andrew was an engineer and a poet. He built her a telescope that folded spacetime so she could see distant exoplanets, and he wrote her scientific love poems. At their wedding, they gave the guests bags of confetti made from shredded strips of his poems, so they could be showered in love.

#

Rock destroys love. Two years into her marriage, Nicole suspected Andrew was cheating. He stayed late at work, went out late with the guys, took weekend business trips. He was gone more than he was home, and he got angry when Nicole asked him about it. She already knew what she’d see when she followed him out to Beacon Rock, but she had to see it with her own eyes, if only from a distance. She was surprised to see him with an older woman, rather than a younger one. She filed for divorce, and he didn’t argue.

#

Scissors cut paper. A few years after the divorce, Nicole sat in the swing on her front porch and cut love poems and photographs into thin strips. It was her therapy, letting go of the memories she’d kept boxed up after Andrew moved out. There was something satisfying about the snip of the scissors. Words flew everywhere. Eternal. Heart. Devotion. True. Paper piled up on the porch, and a breeze sent a few strips swirling. It reminded her of the confetti at their wedding, and suddenly cutting paper wasn’t as satisfying. She hurled her scissors into the front yard.

#

Death steals scissors. Nicole went out into the yard the next morning to get her scissors. She didn’t want to run them over with the lawnmower later, and she wasn’t quite ready to let go of the first gift Andrew ever gave her. The poems were gone from her porch, and she couldn’t find the scissors in the yard, even after an hour crawling on her hands and knees. The common link between the poems and the scissors was Andrew. Had he taken them? Against her better judgment, she drove to his apartment. The door was open, and there were cops inside. Andrew was missing, and he’d left a note. A suicide note.

The body was never found. Neither were her scissors.

EP535: Bluejay

by Edward Ashton
read by Josh Roseman

author Edward Ashton

author Edward Ashton

about the author… Edward Ashton is a clinical research scientist and writer living in Rochester, New York. His short fiction has appeared in dozens of venues both in print and online, ranging from Louisiana Literature to Daily Science FictionThree Days in April is his first novel.

narrator Josh Roseman

narrator Josh Roseman

about the narrator… Josh Roseman (not the trombonist; the other one) lives in Georgia and makes internets for a living. He has been published in — among others — Asimov’sEscape Pod, and Evil Girlfriend Media, and has work forthcoming (or already released) in 2016 from Abstract JamStupefying Stories, and The Overcast. In 2015, he released his first collection, The Clockwork Russian and Other Stories. When not writing, he mostly complains that he’s not writing.

 

Bluejay
By Edward Ashton

Micah steps from the shuttle and onto the tarmac, eyes slitted against the hard north wind that whips across the empty runway. The sky is a flat, leaden gray, with high thin clouds too light for snow, but too thick to let the sun come through as anything more than a vague, diffuse glow near the southern horizon. Micah hunches his shoulders against the bitter cold, ducks his chin to his chest, and pulls his coat tight around him. He hesitates, glances up at the desolate stand of dead trees at the far end of the runway, then walks slowly toward the terminal building.

A sense of uneasiness, which has lurked deep in his belly since he boarded the shuttle, grows steadily as it becomes increasingly clear that he’s alone here. He hadn’t expected an honor guard, but he’d expected… something. As he reaches the terminal entrance, he looks back to see the shuttle wheel around and accelerate back down the runway. He pauses with his hand on the door. He can see through the glass that a half-dozen bodies are sprawled on the floor inside, perfectly preserved. He takes a deep breath in, then lets it out slowly as he enters the building. The scream of the shuttle’s engines fades as the door swings shut behind him.

As he climbs the frozen escalator to the arrivals lounge, Micah remembers the last time he passed through this airport. It was years ago, and he’d been on his way to visit a distant cousin in the North Country. He remembers stopping for a drink before heading to the rental car counter, intending to stay only long enough to take the edge off before a four hour drive, but instead spending most of the afternoon drinking crappy domestic beer and trading double entendres with the bartender. She was tall and lean and blonde, not young, but not yet old either, and her smile caught and held him long after he should have been on the road.

She’s dead now, of course. Lake Ontario was the epicenter. When the strike came, it was twelve thousand miles in any direction from here to safety.

EP534: Joolie & Irdl

by Sandy Parsons
narrated by Nicola Seaton-Clark

about the author… My fiction has been published in Nth Degree, Amazing Journeys, the anthology Unparalleled Journeys, Tabard Inn, State of Imagination, The World of Myth, and Everyday Fiction. Thank you for considering my work. I have degrees in physics, molecular biophysics and medical science and I work as anesthetist. I am a female, and have been acutely aware of that my entire professional life, including attempts at writing hard science fiction.

about the narrator… Nicola Seaton-Clark has worked professionally as an actress for over fifteen years in TV, film and radio. She started her career as a jazz singer and later a singer in a rock band. Her voice-over experience includes TV and radio advertising, singing jingles, film dubbing and synchronization, training videos, corporate films, animation, and Interactive Voice Response for telephone menus. She is also a qualified TEFL teacher and has extensive experience as a vocal coach specializing in South African, Australian and New Zealand accents. http://www.offstimme.com/

Joolie and Irdl
By Sandy Parsons

The first time Irdl heard Joolie sing his pollinators stiffened under their leathery sheath. He’d had to switch from his walking legs to his squatters to remain upright. She was oblivious as he fell in behind her. She sang a human song, logical enough, being a human. He recognized the words, even though she added extra syllables, as if she’d sucked the words down her windpipe and divided them into their component parts before sending them back on achingly sweet vibrations formed from her full lips. As she sang, she plucked dry bits of moss from the grassy wall and disappeared around a corner.

He began to look for her after that. He’d catch sight of her hair first, because it rose above her. She carried a basket and a small set of silver tools, tweezers and scissors and a scoop, and he soon realized that he was jealous of them, for they were caressed by her dark fingers. He did a little searching and discovered that her job was to maintain the moss that kept the station’s gas balance in check. He petitioned Pung to let him change his lunch hour so that he might better align his schedule with hers. She didn’t always sing as she clipped and tugged and sprayed the furry walls, but the damage had been done. Irdl was smitten.

He squeezed in behind her on a gyro-shuttle. The shuttle was full, so the usual rules about personal space could be forgiven a little. He let one of his overhanging appendages rest so that the tip floated amongst her crown of wiry ringlets. She turned around, more inquisitive than annoyed.

“Excuse me.” He intoned the words with as much human inflection as his mandibles allowed, and retracted the arm. She nodded as if mollified and started to turn back. He added, hastily, “Your dreadlocks are lovely.”

“I don’t have dreadlocks.”

“Pl- Please forgive me. What do you call them, then? I am unfamiliar.” He winced inwardly at playing the alien card, at least so soon. He usually waited until he got them back to his hammock.

“It’s just my hair.” She gave her mane a little shake, and the flesh of her arms and the swell of her breasts shook where they were not confined by her cleensoot. She must have seen something in his gaze, although he couldn’t be sure what, or even hope, but she said, “You can touch it if you want.”