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Escape Pod 837: Philia, Eros, Storge, Agápe, Pragma (Part 3 of 4)


Philia, Eros, Storge, Agápe, Pragma (Part 3 of 4)

By R.S.A. Garcia

Storge

Now

She woke when he rose from the pallet, his naked body barely visible in the faint light from the approaching dawn. The tension in his body made hers go still.

What is it?” she signed.

He held up a warning hand for her to stay where she was before he crept out the open doorway. She sat up, dragging on her shirt and following him into the main living space. He crouched next to the locked front door, unlocking it with one hand while keeping his back against the wall. His eyes widened when he saw her, and he shook his head.

An insistent vibration in her arm distracted her. She glanced down just as he got the door open and crept outside, closing it behind him.

Green lights chased each other in a circle under the skin of her wrist.

Fuck. He was trying to protect her.

She ran for the door and dragged it open.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 836: Philia, Eros, Storge, Agápe, Pragma (Part 2 of 4)


Philia, Eros, Storge, Agápe, Pragma (Part 2 of 4)

By R.S.A. Garcia

Eros

Now

For several days, she lay on Dee’s pallet while he slept somewhere in the room outside. Every few hours she would check the Kinnec, but it remained resolutely purple.

Dee brought her food, water to wash, and fresh clothes. He apologized for not having an entertainment node and shared his hololibrary instead. He spent a lot of time outside, or moving around in the kitchen, doing chores. He was an excellent cook who scaled and gutted fish out in the yard with glittering flashes of his nimble knife. He was fond of ground provisions, which she usually shunned at home but enjoyed here because he often roasted them over an open flame.

During the day, he left the front door open to let fresh air in and allow her a view. She watched as he worked in the garden, lean muscles rippling under brown, sweat-sheened skin.

Whenever he broke for a drink of water, he’d pour the last of it over his head. She would follow the trail of the water down his bare chest until it disappeared under his loose work pants. On the third day, after he wiped a hand over his face, he caught her looking. She didn’t drop her eyes to the holobook she was reading, wondering idly what he would do.

He dropped the dipper back into the barrel near the stairs, gave her a quick wink and went back to work.

She had to give up reading, having lost her place in the book and any interest in the tale.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 835: Philia, Eros, Storge, Agápe, Pragma (Part 1 of 4)


Philia, Eros, Storge, Agápe, Pragma (Part 1 of 4)

By R.S.A. Garcia

Brother-Adita paused at the top of the ridge and rotated one eye to take in the shells climbing the path behind them. They gestured beyond them with a limb, a habit picked up from their young, excitable sibling.

“Quarter-march, west-north-west,” came their voice through the Kinnec.

“Acknowledged,” the other two shells replied.

Metal clacked against stone as the scouting party made their way over the rocky terrain until a half-crumbled hillside came into view above them. Freshly fallen boulders lay cracked and scattered on the flats below a large irregular hole. The hole was dark, the opening blackened and fused from heat.

A recon drone unwrapped itself from the diplomat’s shell.

“Unnecessary,” Brother-Adita said. “Shell destroyed. Only core remains.”

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 834: Anticipation of Hollowness


Anticipation of Hollowness

by Renan Bernardo

Having an obsolete best friend meant I had to put up with constant warnings about her plight.
“Software needs to be updated,” Lyria said and stopped abruptly on our way to the Algae on Wheels. Her hands slumped and stiffened against her sides. “Software will shut down unless updated.” A few meters ahead, the floating algaewich rickshaw honked twice, announcing its imminent departure.

“Well, Lyria,” I said, chuckling, “you’re way too predictable. Have I told you?” I waved to Roberto, the algaewich vendor. He was gliding the rickshaw away across the street. Its buffed surface reflected the rosy skies giving way to the darkness of night. Roberto flashed a wide smile when he saw me. He steered the Algae on Wheels into a parking area designated for bicycles, rickshaws, and the like.

“Janet, about predictability, I would like to—”

“Shush, friend. There’s our man.”

I ran. Lyria followed me as she always did. Her feet clanked unevenly on the asphalt.

It tastes like algae, but it’s hidden among slices of bread! advertised a small hologram floating in blue and yellow around the roof of the Algae on Wheels, sometimes crossing through the round solar panel on it.

Lyria tried to keep up with me, but her legs were old, marred by time and use, unable to run without making her look like an unwieldy dancer. Nothing about her age was new for me. Her alerts had been warning me about her obsolescence for more than two years.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 833: The Heroine Kokofe


The Heroine Kokofe

By Ife J. Ibitayo

Kokofe awoke an hour before dawn, crusty-eyed and groggy. She wobbled to her feet and washed her face. Her simuclip projected her reflection before her eyes.

Already dressed, her pink all-weather blouse draped over her delicate frame. Her bird-thin cheek bones jutted out of her light brown face. The glow from the simuclip in her hair coated her skin in an unearthly off-white haze. She brushed her teeth and applied some blush. Don’t want to look like a ghost before I hunt a demon, she thought wryly. At least that was what Agba ceremonies used to be about, killing the demon without to put to death the demon lurking within.

Much to her surprise, the pleasant aroma of frying sweet potato wafted into her bedroom. She hefted her backpack and stepped out of her room.

“It’s been a long time since you cooked,” Kokofe said as she took a seat at their dining table.

Baba stood over a frying pan simmering on their portastove. “It’s time I remember how to. You won’t be in our home much longer.”

Kokofe bit her lip. “Yeah.”

Baba finished scraping the fried potato slices onto a plate and glanced at Kokofe. “None of that, Koko. Today is a glorious day for our tribe. I even trimmed my beard for the occasion.” He stroked his salt-and-pepper goatee, and Kokofe couldn’t help but laugh. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 832: Mouthfeel


Mouthfeel

by Phoenix Alexander

2050

After she left him, he found cells of hers between my bristles; grew a new her.

But she wasn’t the same. Of course there were the same teeth, in the same position, and the same size: molars, premolars, cuspids, incisors, all arrayed as they should be. But there wasn’t the familiar intimacy in my husking over them, mint-foamed, before she rinsed her mouth to make it clean and clear to kiss him. Thrown down onto the sink—the old her always put me neatly back in the slotted cup holder—I would see his eyes, because he faced me as he kissed her, before leading her to the bedroom, and I knew he knew she wasn’t the same, either.

Not that he should have misused his scientific equipment, on loan from the university, to create an adult human.

(Continue Reading…)

XO Reporting for Duty


Greetings, fellow Pod people!

I’m Valerie Valdes, the new co-editor here at Escape Pod. I’m extremely excited to be taking over the co-pilot seat from S.B. Divya, and I hope to ensure a continued smooth flight for all our passengers and crew.

But who am I? A riddle wrapped in an enigma? A miserable pile of secrets?

I’m a writer! My space (cat) opera trilogy starts with Chilling Effect, which was shortlisted for the 2021 Arthur C. Clarke Award. I also commit poetry and short fiction and the occasional essay, some already published, some forthcoming. I mostly write stuff that is fun, funny and at least a little satirical. Every time someone compares me to Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett, I hum the victory music from Final Fantasy.

Beyond writing, I volunteer as a municipal liaison for National Novel Writing Month, which means I try to help other writers get words on page or screen. I also play video games on Twitch a few nights a week, which I call “Mandatory Fun” because otherwise I would simply not stop working. I’m Cuban-American and I spent most of my life in Miami, which seeps into my work in myriad ways, especially the cussing. Right now, I live in Georgia with my husband, kids and cats, all of us currently suffering from seasonal allergies.

Perhaps the most important thing to know about me is that I possess a firm and unwavering love of spreadsheets, which I am told will serve me well in this endeavor.

What can you expect from my tenure here? This magazine is called Escape Pod, not Sad Reality Pod, so my preferences will lean toward escapist fiction. Send me your fun, quirky, hopeful and heartfelt stories. Make me laugh, even if I’m also crying. Restore a little of my lost faith in humanity, even if you’re showing me the violence inherent in the system.

With that, it’s time to buckle up and take off. I hope we all enjoy the ride!

-Valerie

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Escape Pod 831: Vi’Hun Heal


Vi’hun Heal

By Michelle Tang

The entrance panels, currently assuming the appearance of Earthian saloon doors, slid open. I rippled a welcoming cadence of light beneath my skin, and then, seeing the newcomer was human, made my best approximation of a smile. “Welcome to Healixir Trans-Galactic Lounge.” My table sat closest to the doorway and so I was accustomed to serve as both healer and hostess.

The visitor cast his eyes about the place and swallowed hard. I imagined his first impression: a famous Vethusian writer once compared the sight of us, our humanoid bodies standing within the lounge’s oval counters, to women in wide crinoline ballgowns surrounded by suitors. Except rather than ringlets of hair, we had neurodendritic tendrils. I preferred the image of a Las Vegas dealer passing out cards to gamblers, except everyone won. Above us, the clear dome revealed the sky, ever-moving like a river, pebbled with stars and ships that streaked past like darting fish.

“My name’s Daniel. I’m here for healing?” the man said. (Continue Reading…)

CatsCast 1: The Cat Lady and the Petitioner


The Cat Lady and the Petitioner

by Jennifer Hudak

Laurie stands in front of a door. It’s old but solid, as many old things are. Whatever paint once covered it has long since worn away, and the wood beneath is striped, and furred with splinters. It is her very first door, of her very first day, of her very first job.

Her ankles wobble over brand-new high heels, and her smart jacket is slightly itchy and entirely unsuited for the warm weather. She lifts one aching foot and then the other out of her stiff, uncompromising shoes. Her life stretches out before her, a long walk down an endless road hemmed in on either side by door after closed, splintery door.

Reaching out two pink-lacquered fingers and one pink-lacquered thumb, she delicately lifts up the knocker—brass, cat-shaped, with a tail curled in a circle. When Laurie raps the knocker three times against the base, the tail twitches underneath her fingers.

Read the rest on Patreon.

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Escape Pod 830: Rena in the Desert


Rena in the Desert

by Lia Swope Mitchell

It had to be a trick, Rena knew it. Even as she hit the brakes, stopped cold in the middle of cracked and empty Highway 50 and twisted around to check. Trick of the eye, trick of the mind, trick of some hidden enemy with evil agenda—the question was which. Rena hoped for the last. At least then the swimming pool would be real.

After ten hot days on waterless roads, though, she could be seeing things. The Solaire should’ve zipped across the Basin in eight hours, no problem. She’d expected to arrive at the Refugee Center in Tahoe by dinnertime, maybe talk to Jack that very night. But fifty miles out of Provo the battery ran down—that was as long as it could hold a charge. After a couple hours soaking up the sun it got going again, but now a scary shake vibrated the whole chassis whenever the speed nudged past thirty. Two thousand dollars she’d paid for this junker, to some creepy religious objector whose thou-shalt-nots apparently didn’t say shit about selling her a lemon. And here she was, creeping across the desert in fits and starts.

(Continue Reading…)