Dr. Thaddeus Begay had been expecting a dying child in the exam room, but no one had said anything about a woman half-dead from starvation. He stepped inside and muscled the door shut—like the rest of the clinic, it was made from metal reclaimed from the original dropship, and like everything else in the colony, it didn’t quite fit right.
“Good morning,” Thad said.
“Hello there,” the woman said. Her tone was probably meant to be cheerful, but to Thad, it sounded like it took significant effort.
Thad frowned. His nurse must have made a mistake. A woman had burst into the clinic without an appointment, the nurse had said, demanding help for her sick child.
But the woman sitting on the examination table with her child was thin to the point of starvation. Cheeks deeply sunken; the outline of her ribs and collarbone sharp through her tank top. Her hair, like her shirt, was thin and plastered against her flesh with sweat. On her lap sat a little boy of about a year and a half, had jet-black hair and deep brown eyes, and cheeks that were flushed with a painful crimson rash. Still, he looked healthier than his mother.
Thad dragged a stool over to her. It squealed across the faint outlines of the struts and tie-downs and internal dividing walls that had once honeycombed the massive storage container that now served as the colony’s clinic.
He glanced back at the chart—her name was Suzanne Buenaventura. He glanced at her vitals, and nearly gagged when he saw her records from the colony ship. She’d been more than 215 pounds when the dropships had landed. Sitting on the exam table, she didn’t look like she’d top 110. “And what seems to be the problem this morning, Mrs. Buenaventura?” (Continue Reading…)
I eased myself down off the running board of the ’28 Hudson sedan then laid a hand on the hood in mute sympathy for its overheated pistons. A quick buttoning-up of my topcoat and a tug on my fedora and I felt ready to approach the farmhouse.
The old woman on the veranda watched me as I drew close. Fly-away gray hair surrounded a narrow, clever face, faded housedress atop rubber boots, she was as much of a hodgepodge as I used to be. The late model Stewart Warner radio perched on the windowsill shimmied with “The Spell of the Blues”. I hummed along as the saxophones swooped and soared.
The old woman fingered the jumble of items on her lap as if looking for a weapon and I stopped a few feet from the bottom step of the porch. (Continue Reading…)
Otto scanned the grassy countryside for any sign of marauding vegetables. The steeple he and Darby were in wasn’t quite thirty feet tall, but it was taller than any other building in Peanut Town, so it offered an unobstructed view of the surrounding farmland. There were acres and acres of genetically engineered, perambulatory peanut plants shuffling around in scattered groups, probing the rich soil for nutrients with their roots. Everything looked perfectly safe. Peaceful even.
“Hey, genius.” Darby said acidly. “North is that a way.”
“Oh.” Otto said, as he turned around. He refocused the binoculars he was using, and then he saw them: vegetablemen. The same strain that had so annihilated Manhattan that even the rats had given up on the place. There were about three dozen of them scattered over the gently rolling hills. They lumbered toward the town slow and heavy on their long, stout, green stalks. They were still far off, but he could tell from the coloring of the peels around their thoraxes that they were the same cultivar that the king had sown on Manhattan.
Otto lowered the binoculars. He swallowed hard.
“Well?” Darby asked. “Is them the ones from Manhattan?”
“Those are they, yes.” Otto confirmed, as he tugged at his collar. He hated hot weather. It didn’t fit his wardrobe.
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. (Continue Reading…)
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?”
“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.
Help support the Pseudopod Kickstarter to support pay for narrators (… and get this awesome Tiki mug with a donation of $40 or more).
about the author…
John Shade was born in Central America and grew up all across the U.S. as a Navy brat. He received a B.A. in creative writing from the University of Houston, and an MFA from the University of Southern Maine. He is also a graduate of the Viable Paradise writer’s workshop on Martha’s Vineyard.
His work has appeared in Gold Dust Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, and Giganotosaurus, among others. He writes short stories, novels, and comics, and now lives in Houston, Texas, with his wife, daughter, a cat, and a dog. He tries to stay out of the sun’s way when summer comes around.
about the narrator…
Amber Pracht has bachelor’s degrees in American history and print journalism. She enjoyed a brief career as a copy editor, and she is currently keeping busy taking care of her three young children and their many activities while volunteering in her community. She lives with her husband, Adam, and their children and many pets in Lindsborg, Kansas.
A Prayer at Noon
by John Shade
It was a day into the third sun when the patchwork man rode into town.
I remember the dust scrabbling at my eyes, and the folk that had gathered on the sidewalks to watch him plod past on a chugging, nearly-spent machine horse. As he came to me, the stitched segments of his face shifted into a new configuration, a hinted smile or frown, and his torso swung around, my breath seized. I’d been around men before, but he was something different. Something more. He was ugly, though, with a wiry frame and a large head set on top, wads of crusted hair sprouting between the seams across his skin. He rode toward us, confident as anything. I braced as he reached down, but he plucked my little sister, Ester, from the crowd instead. The town went silent but for the constant shuffle of wind-blown sand.
With his god-strength, the patchwork man tossed Ester into the air like an aerialist, and set her down to swelling applause. The dread was broken. Our prayers had been answered at last.
Bojan Ratković is a writer from Serbia, now living in Ontario, Canada. His work has appeared in Every Day Fiction, Liquid Imagination, Great Lakes Review, Fiction Vortex, and on the World SF Blog. He is pursuing a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Western Ontario.
about the narrator…
Steve Anderson has been acting on stage for more years than he cares to admit, and has worked for 10 seasons at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire–most memorably, selling pickles. These days, his main acting job consists of performing one-man shows and storytelling programs with his touring series, Great Tales Live.
He’s fascinated by Civil War history, and has led almost a thousand walking tours in Gettysburg. He performs as a living history interpreter along the Civil War Trails. He lives in central Pennsylvania with his beloved wife Rhonda and a varying number of cats.
Ride the Dragon
by Bojan Ratković
We were a band back then, in the bat-shit Wild West days of the game. We held our court at the Gentleman Boozer, the loudest pub on the big map. It was Haru, Flygirl, Black Boris, and me. And we had floaters, part-time comrades. Mostly kids who wanted to be like us, who did us favors. But Tony Rem was there too, the one that rode the dragon.
It’s hard to believe now just how big it was, when they launched True-Fantasy. It was the first MMORPG with MaTRiX immersion headgear―it jacked you in, made you really live it. Most of the players were funboys―kids who played for fun―and they paid the bills. But you could make RL coin if you were good enough―real life currency―and the rest of us wanted a cut.
Punchers punched the clock, putting in RL hours to work as barkeeps and innkeepers and helpdesk clerks. Gougers sold rare items for RL cash; there was a big black market and bigger gray area, and you could make a killing. We were glitchers―beta testers, top players. Exposing glitches in the game was our business, and admins paid top dollar to help them fix whatever bugs we could find. But it wasn’t about the money. All the top glitchers, the real cowboys, were after big scores. We proved ourselves by exposing the wildest glitches, the ones that got the map talking.
There was a group of mercenaries in the Boozer the day Tony came to us about the dragon. They sat across from us, up by the stain glass windows. They were the wrong kind of mercs, cutthroats. They helped the funboys on their quests, for a fee, but then they’d turn on them, cut their throats and take their items. And poof, back to beginner’s village. It wasn’t exactly legal, but they used proxies, rented avatars. Admins kicked them, they came back.
Tony strolled in like a breeze, letting the doors clap shut behind him. He walked over to the back and took the chair Haru wasn’t using, on account of his horse’s ass. Haru’s avatar was a centaur with a black leather jacket and shades, and his game was speed. He made his name by galloping vertically along the walls of the White Palace as the whole map watched. It took less than an hour for the admins to fix the glitch that allowed Haru to defy virtual gravity, but the stunt made him famous.
“I got the ticket, boys,” Tony spat out like he’d been holding it in for days. “The big one.” (Continue Reading…)
I’m an environmental scientist, writer and father of 5. My stories have appeared in over 40 publications and 26 languages.
about the narrator…
Andrew Clarke is a London-based musician, writer and actor who has created work for the stage, film and radio in an ongoing quest to work out how to make any money at all. He is currently writing the second series of The Lost Cat Podcast – which details the adventures he has had while looking for his lost cat – featuring monsters, ghosts, Old Ones, several ends of the world, some cats and lots and lots of wine. The first series can be found here: http://thelostcat.libsyn.com/ He is also currently demo-ing his latest album. The previous album, called ‘Bedrooms & Basements’ can be found here: Bedrooms And Basements, by A.P. Clarke
Squirrels, Foxes and Other Fine Specimens
By Gareth D Jones
It was still dark beneath the trees, though the sun had risen half an hour earlier. It was cool too – even in midsummer the park woodland stayed shady. Yorick settled himself into a comfortable crouch leaning against the bole of a tree and enjoyed the peaceful sounds of the early morning. Birdsong and rustling leaves and the pattering of tiny, unseen feet. Hard to believe they were less than a hundred yards from the streets of central London. The streets would be almost empty at this early hour – the reason Sandy chose such an unsocial hour to take his clients into the park – but even in rush hour the sonic mufflers that encircled the park would keep that noise at bay. A grunting noise reached his ears and Yorick peered through the undergrowth to a large, dark shape that stood less than twenty feet away.
It was a wild boar. A massive, ugly brute of a boar that glared at him in a most unfriendly fashion. It grunted again, switched to a challenging snort. Saliva dribbled from its jaw as it thrust a pair of worryingly large tusks in his direction. Yorick had no idea if the creature was warning him off or saying hello, but it did not, on balance, appear too friendly. He had no real knowledge of wild boar behaviour. He only worked with dead animals generally.
The boar pawed the ground. Yorick glanced up. There were branches just about within reach. He was fairly sure boars could not climb trees. Where was Sandy? His clients were supposed to be hunting boar and wolves. Why weren’t they hunting this one?
With a final grunt and toss of its head, the boar charged.
Escape Artists would like to draw your attention to a fantastic event happening next week at DragonCon, the Eugie Foster Memorial Award for Short Fiction. http://www.eugiefoster.com/eugieaward
This annual award will be presented for the first time in 2016—for works published in 2015.
The Eugie Award honors stories that are irreplaceable, that inspire, enlighten, and entertain. It will shine the spotlight on stories that are beautiful, thoughtful, and passionate. That change us and the field. The recipient will be a story that is unique and will become essential to speculative fiction readers.
The finalists for this award are:
“The Deepwater Bride” by Tamsin Muir
“Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong
“The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild” by Catherynne M. Valente
“Pocosin” by Ursula Vernon
“Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight” by Aliette De Bodard
To highlight how fantastic these authors are, we are re-running three stories on Escape Pod, PodCastle, and Pseudopod:
I grew up in Texas but I live/work/play in Northern California, like all writers my cat loves me particularly much, and my husband is a fantastic man. I work as a registered nurse at a Burn Ward, which is amazing and challenging in equal measure.
The things that interest me most are Disneyland (not kidding), esoteric philosophy books, alchemy as it relates to Jungian theories, William Blake, and Super Paper Mario.
Things you should know about me: I made a special side trip to that Snake Farm between San Antonio and Austin on a recent trip to Texas, I have quite a lot of tattoos — the peacock feather images featured on this website are all actually from my backpiece — and I can eat my weight in sushi.
about the narrator… Jonathan Danz is a writer currently working on his next novel about the daughter of a coal miner who embarks on a journey across parallel dimensions to find her father who disappeared under mysterious circumstances two years ago. Jonathan lives in West Virginia with his wife, daughter, two cats and his mountain bike. jonathandanz.com
by Erin Cashier
Those were the days Geo couldn’t walk through the market without stepping on someone else’s shoe. If money wasn’t tied to waist it was zipped, and anything dropped — paper, panks, crumbs — zipped too. Geo sold junk there: stripped wires, sharp green-squares, transistors like pills. “Someone junk, someone treasure!” Geo call. Men come over to see what Geo had, comb over findings, and Geo with stick, ready to slap at zippers. Stand all day, stand half night, then walk home to hard mat shared on second floor. Kick junk man out, eat food, sleep, till day begin again.
Geo hunt for junk at old places when junk run low. Sometimes old posters hidden from rain. Posters show things that not there. Happy men, metal cages. Men touching screens. Men smiling. Like said, old posters. No smiles now.
And sometimes, girls. Some cut out, but see where shape was left. Cut here, tear there. Reach out and feel where maybe curve had been. Hold nothing in hand. Imagine, if no one watching. Geo knew girls. There, but not there, like the sun, Never touch the sun, and never touch the girls, neither.
Jon yell, “Junk, junk!” Geo with stick, watching men come by. Man comes to table. Leans over. Clothing new. Business man? Tinker man? Jon’s boy watches man’s back. Makes sure no one else steal his money before Geo can.
Geo sees glint in man’s eye. He like something he see. Geo step forward. Geo like what Geo see. “You like?”
Man’s head bows. “No, no, nothing.”
Geo knows glint. Geo knows lie.
Man scans table, sniffs. “There’s nothing here. None of this is worth anything to me.”
“I’m an artist. I can maybe use this.” Man picks up three metal bits.
Geo grunts again, waits. Watches man’s hand reach for first thing he like. Glint-thing.
“And maybe this too. How much?”
Geo point to first pile. “Four panks.” Geo look at man clothing, hair, naked chin. Points to hand. “That, too expensive for you. Put down.”
Geo hold up zip-stick. “Too pricey! Put down!”
Man’s eyes narrow. Geo offend him. He think he can afford all junk here, all table, all tent. But he do what Geo say, sets glint-thing down. Geo pick it up: round, metal, cold. Geo ask for most expensive thing Geo can think of. “Worth one night.”
Man’s eyes widen. Anger blaze. But he cannot steal from Geo here. Whole tent junk men watching. Under table, Jon step on Geo’s shoe.
Man lean over table, snatch ball from hand. “Done.”
“Go to the third tower two days from now. I’ll let them know you’re coming.” Holds up metal thing from pocket. Light flashes. Geo is blind.
When sight come back, man gone. Geo works, goes back home, lays on mat. Feels junk man’s fear. Should Geo have bargained harder?