Posts Tagged ‘mur lafferty’

EP319: Driving X


By Gwendolyn Clare
Read by Mur Lafferty
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First appeared in Warrior Wisewoman 3
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Driving X
by Gwendolyn Clare

Carmela wouldn’t have stopped if she had known that the kid was still alive.

She spotted the body lying under a creosote bush, maybe ten yards from
the road, and she hit the brakes.  She grabbed the roll cage of the
old dune buggy and pulled herself up, standing on the driver’s seat to
scan in both directions along the unpaved road.  A dust devil twirled
a silent ballet off to the southeast, but hers was the only man-made
dust trail in evidence for miles.  She raised her hand to cover the
sun and squinted into the bleached, cloudless sky–no vultures yet,
which was good, since vultures attract attention.  Minimal risk, she
decided.

The dune buggy itself wasn’t that valuable, but the newer-model solar
panels powering it would be enough to tempt any sane person, and the
carboys of potable water were worth a small fortune out here.

Carmela swung out of the dune buggy and jogged over to check out the
body.  It was tall but skinny, with the not-yet-filled-out look of a
teenager.  Pale skin, a tint of sunburn, brown hair cropped at
chin-length.  The girl was lying face down in the dust, so Carmela
rolled the body over and checked her front pockets for anything of
interest.  A month ago, she would have felt ashamed, but scavenging
was the norm down here; after all, dead people don’t miss what you
take from them.
(Continue Reading…)

EP308: Kill Me


By Vylar Kaftan
Read by Mur Lafferty
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First appeared in Helix, 2007
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Rated inappropriate for seventeen and younger due to language and violence.

[Note- we do not have the ebook rights, but you can read it at Transcriptase!]

Kill Me
by Vylar Kaftan

I’m sitting cross-legged on a rock in west Texas, somewhere north of El Paso, bleeding into the dirt. The pose feels like a meditation. I’m fascinated with the knife mark on my left thigh, a shallow slash from hip to knee. It’s surrounded by bruise clusters that look like flowers of broken skin. In the silent desert, I hear only the soft clicking of the car cooling down. Then his urine splashes against the rock behind me, and I hear his zipper when he’s done. The night breeze is icy on my back, drying the blood into clots. He did me well, I admit, glancing up at the full desert moon. If my body survived–which it wouldn’t–I would be scarred, possibly disfigured. The welts on my back throb like electricity, and everything–the moon, the desert, the wind–is alive with me.

He walks in front of me. I look up at the man who brought me all the way from Denver. He looks like a black dog, matted and angry, and growls like one too. My eyes travel to the cluster of thick hair springing from his shirt neck. He folds his arms over his chest.

“The night’s almost over,” I remind him.

He scowls. “Get in the trunk.”

I hesitate–he paid me to do the shy-girl act, a popular one–and he grabs my arm. He hauls me over the rear bumper into the trunk of his ’33 Axis. He slaps me once across the face–not as hard as I expected–and crumples me into the tight compartment. He slams the trunk closed, catching my hair in the door. I try to pull free, but it’s no use. I don’t think he meant that part, but he doesn’t seem to notice the long trail of hair hanging out of the trunk. The car door opens and the ignition starts. I tug on my hair once more and then relax, concentrating on where I hurt, where my body throbs with pain.

As many times as I’ve done this, I still try to experience it all. Because it’s not every day you experience death. Only every three months.

EP300: We Go Back


By Tim Pratt
Read by: Mur Lafferty
An Escape Pod original!
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Rated appropriate for younger teens and up – occasional adult language.

Episode 300! Wow!

We Go Back
Tim Pratt

My best friend Jenny Kay climbed in through my window and nearly stepped on my head. If I’d been sleeping a foot closer to the wall, I would’ve gotten a face full of her boot, but instead I just snapped awake and said “What who what now?” and blinked a lot.

“Oh damn,” Jenny said in a loudish whisper. “When did you move your bed under the window?”

“Last week,” I said, sitting up in bed. “I wanted a change.” If you can’t rearrange your life, you can at least rearrange yourself, and if your mom won’t let you dye your hair blue, you can make do with rearranging your rooms.

Jenny Kay dropped from standing to sitting in one motion, making my mattress bounce, and landed cross-legged and totally comfortable. “Hey,” she said. “So I need to borrow your ring.” I couldn’t read her expression in the dim moonlight from the window.

I looked at my right hand, where a thin silver ring looped my index finger, catching what light there was in the room and giving back twinkles. The metal grew cold against my skin and tightened a fraction, almost a friendly little squeeze. The ring — which wasn’t really a ring — could tell when I was thinking about it. “Uh,” I said.

Jenny nodded vigorously, a motion I felt in the jostling of the mattress more than I saw. “I know! I know. But I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. I mean, you’ve had the thing for more than a year, and I’ve never asked once if I could use it, right?”

I glanced at my closed door — no glow under the crack at the bottom, which meant my parents had gone to their separate beds and turned out the hall light — and switched on my bedside lamp. Jenny was dressed in jeans and a sweater, all in dark grays and blacks, not her usual aggressively flamboyant colorful mishmash style at all. Good for sneaking into people’s windows, I guessed.

I sat up against the headboard, because when you’re about to annoy your best friend, it’s better not to be flat on your back at the time. “I wish I could,” I said — not one hundred percent true, but Jenny was a fourteen-year-old genius, not a human lie detector. “But it’s, like… part of me. You know? I’m part of the mechanism. I can’t just take it off. It’s linked into my, what’s it called, socratic nervous system?”

“Somatic,” Jenny said gloomily. She was almost as good at biology as she was at math. “The part of your nervous system that controls movement, which sort of halfway makes sense, I guess.”

I shrugged. “So, there you go. The ring’s not something I wear. It’s something that wears me. Or we wear each other. What did you want it for?”

(Continue Reading…)

EP296: For Want of a Nail


By Mary Robinette Kowal
Read by: Mur Lafferty
Originally appearing in Asimov’s
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Nominated for the Hugo Award for Short Story, 2011

Rated appropriate for teens and up for language.

For Want of a Nail
By Mary Robinette Kowal

With one hand, Rava adjusted the VR interface glasses where they bit into the bridge of her nose, while she kept her other hand buried in Cordelia’s innards. There was scant room to get the flexible shaft of a mono-lens and her hand through the access hatch in the AI’s chassis. From the next compartment, drums and laughter bled through the plastic walls of the ship, indicating her sister’s conception party was still in full swing.

With only a single camera attached, the interface glasses didn’t give Rava depth perception as she struggled to replug the transmitter cable. The chassis had not been designed to need repair. At all. It had been designed to last hundreds of years without an upgrade.

If Rava couldn’t get the cable plugged in and working, Cordelia wouldn’t be able to download backups of herself to her long-term memory. She couldn’t store more than a week at a time in active memory. It would be the same as a slow death sentence.

The square head of the cable slipped out of Rava’s fingers. Again. “Dammit!” She slammed her heel against the ship’s floor in frustration.

“If you can’t do it, let someone else try.” Her older brother, Ludoviko, had insisted on following her out of the party as if he could help.

“You know, this would go a lot faster if you weren’t breathing down my neck.”

“You know, you wouldn’t be doing this at all if you hadn’t dropped her.”

(Continue Reading…)

EP293: A Small Matter, Really


By Monte Cook
Read by: Mur Lafferty
An Escape Pod original!
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Rated PG for violence

A Small Matter, Really
By Monte Cook

Only the Catholic Church of Osirus would have enough money to afford not one, but two black holes. Standing within the majestic narthex, Maria McNaki imagined the vibration of complex machinery under her feet, despite the fact that the nanosensors laced into her flesh revealed nothing other than the passing of the people in the crowd and the chanting coming from deeper within the cathedral.

The stone walls of the chamber slowly flowed with a liquid relief of gothic circuitry and religious hieroglyphic animations. The glyph depicting Setan as he tore the crucified Osirus-Christ into tiny fragments malfunctioned and remained static. Just as well. The petitioners around her made carefully devout hand signs over their hearts as they faced the ankh crucifix over the door into the sanctuary.

Religion was back in fashion this season.

Three identical priests stood next to the holy water fonts, welcoming the incoming congregation. Their white collars and black robes stood starched-still. Geneticists form-shaped all Catholic-Osirus priests into the gentle, fatherly form selected by church PR, but these three were special. The bright eyes and the shining hair indicated Aesthicel, the most expensive genengineering firm in the Earth system. This parish liked to spend money.

Perfect. That most likely meant that they were interested in obtaining more.

(Continue Reading…)

EP291: Shannon’s Law


By Cory Doctorow
Read by: Mur Lafferty
Originally appearing in Welcome to Bordertown (Available May 24!) Read it at Tor.com.
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Rated PG: language

[Update- HUGE apologies for former editing issues on this file. It’s fixed now!]

When the Way to Bordertown closed, I was only four years old, and I was more interested in peeling the skin off my Tickle Me Elmo to expose the robot lurking inside his furry pelt than I was in networking or even plumbing the unknowable mysteries of Elfland. But a lot can change in thirteen years.

When the Way opened again, the day I turned seventeen, I didn’t hesitate. I packed everything I could carry—every scratched phone, every half-assembled laptop, every stick of memory, and every Game Boy I could fit in a duffel bag. I hit the bank with my passport and my ATM card and demanded that they turn over my savings to me, without calling my parents or any other ridiculous delay. They didn’t like it, but “It’s my money, now hand it over” is like a spell for bending bankers to your will.

Land rushes. Know about ’em? There’s some piece of land that was off-limits, and the government announces that it’s going to open it up—all you need to do is rush over to it when the cannon goes off, and whatever you can stake out is yours. Used to be that land rushes came along any time the United States decided to break a promise to some Indians and take away their land, and a hundred thousand white men would wait at the starting line to stampede into the “empty lands” and take it over. But more recently, the land rushes have been virtual: The Internet opens up, and whoever gets there first gets to grab all the good stuff. The land rushers in the early days of the Net had the dumbest ideas: online pet food, virtual-reality helmets, Internet-enabled candy delivery services. But they got some major money while the rush was on, before Joe Investor figured out how to tell a good idea from a redonkulous one.

EP287 A Taste of Time


By Abby Goldsmith
Read by: Mur Lafferty
Originally published in Deep Magic, May 2004
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Rated PG: references to infidelity

Show Notes:

  • No feedback this week because of site issues!
  • Next week… don’t drink the water.

A Taste of Time
by Abby Goldsmith

1.

On the night she turned twenty-nine, Jane sat on her narrow bed, watching TV and drinking alone. She’d gone through a bottle of wine and was mostly through a second bottle. Tomorrow morning would be painful.

Or she could stop worrying about tomorrow. The ibuprofen in her cabinet kept popping into her mind. Jane wasn’t sure if all those pills chased by alcohol would be enough to end her life, but the idea of looking up how to commit suicide online seemed just too pathetic.

The front door of her tiny apartment creaked open.

Jane leaned forward, peering through her bedroom doorway. A black wine bottle stood on the floor, with a placard dangling from its silver ribbon.

Her gaze immediately went to the deadbolt. It was in place, as she’d left it.

Jane shut the TV off and listened for noises from the hallway. All she heard were the sounds of Boston traffic outside. Several weeks ago, after she’d come home to find her boyfriend screwing a fat chick on her couch, she’d had the locks changed. No one could have gotten in.

Yet the bottle sat mysteriously on the wooden floor.

At last, Jane crossed her apartment, checking every shadow for an intruder.

She picked up the bottle. The placard had gilded letters, making it a potentially expensive gift.

Tabula Rasa
Warning: There Is No Return

Jane flipped the placard over twice, but nothing else was written on it.

She listened, alert for any noise. Mystery had never been much a part of her adult life, and it gave her a strangely excited feeling. If the warning label meant something like _poison_, it seemed like a more dignified way to go than pills and alcohol.

Her reflection on the black surface of the bottle was disturbingly clear. There she was: Plain Jane, a frumpy woman with a double-chin and acne scars.

She unscrewed the cap and popped the foil underneath. A stringent smell wafted up, making her wrinkle her nose and salivate at the same time.

“Happy birthday, Jane,” she told herself, and swallowed a mouthful.

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(Continue Reading…)

EP282: You’re Almost Here


By Melinda Thielbar
Read by: Mur Lafferty
Originally published in Bull Spec Magazine
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Rated PG-13: This story contains one F-bomb.

A&E are offering us a prize pack for a random drawing! So US residents, please email feedback at escapepod.org and put CONTEST in the subject line. We’ll do a drawing next week!

You could win both of the following:

Space 1999: The Complete Season 1

In the year 1999, a spectacular explosion at a lunar nuclear waste dump sends the moon out of Earth’s orbit. In this seminal sci-fi series from producer Gerry Anderson, the men and women of Moonbase Alpha are suddenly propelled on a treacherous journey across the universe in search of extraordinary new worlds.

The Prisoner
Since its CBS debut in the summer of 1968, the masterful British TV series THE PRISONER has captivated American audiences. Now A&E presents a definitive aficionado’s edition of the cult classic which is considered one of the most innovative TV series ever filmed, for the first time in breathtaking Blu-Ray.

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 274
  • Next week… The grandfather paradox rears its violent head.

You’re Almost Here
by Melinda Thielbar

“Can I share your table?”

You look up to see your dream girl. Red hair, cream-colored skin, face just a little round, breasts just a little small. Not movie-star beautiful, not perfect just–nice. She smiles, and her cheeks dimple, and you’re in love. You gesture to the empty chair across from you with a grin of your own.

“Be my guest,” you say.

“Thanks.” She takes the chair and sets her coffee cup down. You close the notebook in front of you and open your mouth to say something—anything—to impress this girl.

Without looking at you, she turns in her chair, pulls a phone out of her pocket and bends over it. You watch her face in profile as she slips a pair of earbuds into her ears. Your mouth is still open, so you close it and look away. That’s when you see that every table is occupied. Men in suits, women in suits, a few people your age in khakis or jeans. They’re all looking down at their phones, laptops, or handheld game consoles. Sunlight streams in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, and you watch people passing by on the street for a minute. They’re all looking straight ahead, faces set the way they have to be in a city this size. When it’s this crowded, the only privacy you can give a stranger is not to notice them. That idea interests you, and so you open your notebook to jot it down at the bottom of the second-to-last page. As you’re writing, a chair scrapes behind you, and a guy in a navy three-piece moves past. He flips his phone open and then closed again, checking the time, and hurries out.

The girl across from you moves almost as fast as he does. “Thanks,” she says and flashes that amazing smile again before she grabs her drink and hops to the newly-open table. You write FUCK across the top of the second-to-last page of your notebook, tuck it into your pocket, and go get another coffee.

The barristomatic (you call it this; no one else does), takes your thumbprint and opens a menu with your recent drink selections. They’re supposed to be sorted so the one you drink most is at the top. For you, it might as well be random. You do something different every time. This one’s a half-pump vanilla, half-pump strawberry, soy milk latte with a lousy espresso bean that still costs more than all the other ingredients put together because it’s fair-trade and organic. You once enumerated every combination, ranked them from most to least expensive and calculated how long it would take to try all of them. Assuming they add nothing to the line-up (unlikely), you’ll have to live to be eighty (likely) and drink four cups a day (near-certain). The machine hisses out your espresso and steamed milk. The menu pops up a new screen “People who enjoyed this drink also liked…” You hit Done and taste your drink. It’s perfect and artless.

You turn around and see someone sitting in the chair you just vacated. It’s a guy in jeans, probably another unwilling table-sharer. He’s sitting inches away from the red-haired girl. They’re practically back-to-back, both bopping to whatever’s playing through their identical earbuds, and neither one’s aware of the other. The guy’s t-shirt reads: “Steal This Shirt”. You put a lid on your coffee and head out the door.

Read More…
(Continue Reading…)

EP280: Endosymbiont


By: Blake Charlton
Read by: Mur Lafferty
Originally published in Seeds of Change
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Rated PG-13: Swearing (one f-bomb) and disturbing hospital images

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 272
  • Next week… Horticulture, dermatology, and love

“Do you know what day it is? What year?”

“It’s like mid August, 2017?” her voice squeaked. Jesus, had she really lost her mind?

“That’s right.” She smiled. “Don’t be scared. I just wanted to be sure.”

“What do you mean don’t be scared?” she blurted. “Sure about what? Jesus! How long have I been here? How many times have you seen me before?”

Jani held up her hand. “Slow down; it’s okay…I’m not an oncologist, but I’m following your case. The cancer responded well to the treatment. And our research suggests that the side effects are temporary.”

Stephanie started to protest but then stopped. A terrifying memory flashed through her mind. “Mom said they might take me to a hospital for the dead.” She didn’t know what that meant but the memory was clear. “She said you’d keep me here to fool me into thinking I’m still alive.”

Jani was holding up both hands now. “Slow down. The survival rates are scary but they’re far better—”

“You’re not listening. She said they’d take me to a hospital for people who’ve _already_ died. I have to escape before—”

Stephanie started to stand but Jani put a heavy hand on her shoulder and said “Lullaby.”

The word opened a bloom of orange light across Stephanie’s vision. A static hiss exploded into her ears, and she felt herself falling. There was a firecracker yellow flash and then…nothing.

EP279: Conditional Love


By: Felicity Shoulders
Read by: Mur Lafferty
Originally published in Asimov’s, Jan 2010 issue
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Rated PG-13: Swearing and disturbing hospital images

Show Notes:

  • Serious apologies – circumstances this week had me recording later than usual.
  • Feedback for Episode 271
  • Next week… A longer piece by Blake Charlton

The new patient was five or six years old, male, Caucasian, John Doe as usual.  Grace checked the vitals his bed sensors were feeding her board and concluded he was asleep.  She eased the door of 408 open and stepped in.

The boy’s head was tilted on his pillow, brown curls cluttering his forehead.  Sleep had flushed his cheeks so he looked younger than the estimate.  He seemed healthy, with no visible deformities, and if he had been opted for looks, it had worked—Grace would have described him as ‘cherubic’.  He wouldn’t have been dumped if nothing was wrong, so Grace found herself stepping softly, unwilling to disturb him and discover psychological conditions.

“Don’t worry about waking him, he sleeps pretty deep.”

Grace started and turned to the other bed.  “Hi, Minnie.”

The girl grimaced.  “I go by my full name now, Dr. Steller.”  Grace brought up her board to refresh her memory, but the girl said, “Minerva.  Had you forgotten they’re doubling up rooms?”

“Yep, you caught me.”

“Is the rise in numbers caused by a rise in opting?  Or is it a rise in surrenders, or arrests of parents?”

“Lord, Minn—Minerva, I don’t know.  Planning to be a reporter when you grow up?”

“No, a scientist,” Minerva said and smiled, pleased to be asked.

“Why the scalpel-edged questions then?”

“Just curious if my campaign had had any effect,” Minerva said, nodding toward the window.  The billboard across from the Gene-Engineered Pediatric Inpatient Center flashed a smog warning, then a PSA about eye strain from computer visors, but Grace remembered when it had borne a static image:  Minnie, one year old, a pink sundress exposing the stubs of her arms and legs.  _Babies should be born, not made._  The ad had stayed up until Minnie was eight, three years after her parents turned her over to GEPIC, and apparently she had seen it.  She was twelve now, with serious eyes and a loose ponytail, dark blonde.