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.

“Certainly, Daniel. Take any available seat. I have one empty, if you like.” I pointed.

He climbed stiffly into my sixth chair, today resembling a wooden barstool, and nodded at my other clients.

Blippo, a regular from Fruitti48, pulled one of his own chubby fingers and emitted a pleasant aroma in greeting. “Hey there, Earth-child. Ever been healed by a Vi’hun before? Oh, you’re in for a treat. Just hold still while Minta’s tendril attaches to your forehead. There. Now we’re all wearing matching hats.”

While my embedded translator filled my ear with Blippo’s chatter, information flowed through my tendril from Daniel’s brain into my own. The human had cancer—painful, but no longer deadly if one could afford a Vi’hun. I mixed a cocktail from the bottles around me, emptying one of the flasks which sat on ice. Mass-produced carbon-based stem cells had a strong cucumber taste, and when mixed with something sweet, became quite refreshing.

I slid the milky grey drink across the bar. “Drink up.”

As he sipped, I used our physical connection to direct the stem cells into his bloodstream, differentiating into antibodies as they floated, to target specific antigens presented by the cancer cells. Amazement flowed from his body into mine as his tumor pain faded. We shared a pleased expression, Earthling smile to Vi’hun luminescence, before he turned to answer a question from the Relgroi beside him.

Katia sauntered through the saloon doors then, the human’s long dark hair and brown eyes gleaming. The chatter and bio-feedback from my clients faded into white noise when I saw her. She passed me a tablet, her usual wink missing.

“Hi, Minta. Can I have your digit-print, please?”

I pressed my finger inside the square to sign for the delivery and awaited her first joke.

She bit at her lower lip, brown eyes cast downwards as I dried a flask with my cloth.

“Everything okay?” I didn’t need a spare tendril to see her disquiet.

The Earthling shook her head. “When are you on break?”

“About half an hour,” I said, proud I used her own time measurement, even though her translator would have converted drizbol into minutes.

She nodded. “I’ll wait. If you could grab any other Vi’hun who are free, I’ll talk to you all then.”

I’d hoped she meant to speak with me alone—don’t be silly, Minta, why hope?—but I sent out the thought to my kin.

When my break approached, I disconnected myself from the creatures around me. “Gyl’lha, you have one more drink after that. Don’t leave. Daniel, come back in two weeks, okay?”

Vi’hun sat cross-legged or kneeling on the floor of our turquoise staff room, waiting for Katia to speak. She met each of our eyes, brown eyes to silver, and suddenly I knew what she was going to say. Perhaps we all guessed from her reluctant posture and sorrowful expression.

“I wanted you to hear from a friend before the dispatch comes through. There’s been an attack on Vi’hai, on Farmer Zonne’s personal compound,” she said. “Many Vi’hun—most—were killed. I’m so very sorry.”

None of us asked how she knew. Katia and her team were the only group willing to fly to war-torn Vi’hai regularly on our behalf. Our employer paid for enough Sun Yams to sustain us, the only food our kind could eat, and which only grew within Farmer Zonne’s highly-secure plantations. Katia ensured regular deliveries to the Healixir Lounge and other Vi’hun centers, and in turn we healed those in need.

Outwardly, we made no sound at her news. That was not our way. Inside our shared minds, we keened. Faces sprang into view, kin we’d left behind with tears and embraces. Our tendrils reached out and connected with others, sharing grief and strength. My older sibling, Jaela, took hold of my hand and squeezed.

Katia’s kind gaze lingered on me. To other species, Vi’hun were nearly identical, but with Katia, I felt seen. A single note of music rang amidst the wailing inside me, a life preserver in a storm, and I hung onto that small sound, clung to its echoes before they faded into silence. She left us to mourn.

I thought to release soothing neurotransmitters, the way I would for a client, before I reminded myself that Vi’hun could not heal themselves. We passed the news to the others still working, found solace in knowing that though we were less in number, we were not yet extinct. One day we would be. Our numbers dwindled, a price many of us chose to pay for freedom. I’d thought the choice easy, once. Now…I fought the urge to place a hand on my flat abdomen, made a fist instead. The desires of my body—a mate, budi—were meaningless. I had grown up squinting through the blood-mist that permeated the air on Vi’hai, trying to see the stars, and now I lived among them. Achieving such intangible dreams required fleshly sacrifice.

When our workday was finished and our clients disembarked, we programmed the Healixir Lounge ship to dock at Fruitti48’s largest compound. A dozen of us walked through trampoline streets packed with laughing, bouncing creatures, while music throbbed into our cells. Fruitti48 kept their gravity weaker than normal, and if we jumped high enough, it could feel like flying. Most of the others wanted to dance until first dawn, until their skin glowed yellow with exertion, until the memories of their loved ones were shaken from their bones. I did not want to forget, and so I wandered with Jaela to a massage parlour.

We lay side by side as the gelatinous masseurs spread over us, soothing and warm. One of my tendrils emerged from the head-wraps we wore in public and tapped the side of Jaela’s head until she sighed and connected it with one of her own.

“If we hadn’t left,” I thought, “maybe we could have done something.”

Jaela shook her head. “We would have died too. If not in this attack, then years before. You remember what it was like.”

How could I forget? Since before I’d budded, Vi’hai had been the ideal battleground for warring species—meeting on the Vi’hai flatlands protected their own societies and Vi’hun healers were included in the price. Farmer Zonne kept us in stalls like cattle, the ground swamped with body fluid and offal, where we were made to resuscitate the same soldiers in never-ending battles until we were killed ourselves or died from exhaustion. Zonne had never supplied base elements, and like monsters we were forced to strip the stem cells from the ones we were healing, knowing that we were harming as much as we were healing. The misery Vi’hun shared as we stared across the battlefield at the wooden stalls on the other side, knowing that as much as the armies battled each other, it was Vi’hun who always lost. How many of us died, collapsed beneath the strain of healing to enrich one man?

My body tensed, and my masseur honked in consternation, kneading my shoulders harder. This was an experience I would never have had, if Zonne hadn’t let us leave once the Alliance stepped in.

“Thank the stars,” I murmured out loud.

“Thank the stars, and thank Captain Katia, who keeps us fed.” Jaela pulsed a flicker of amusement at me. “You should ask her for dinner sometime.”

“I am nothing but Vi’hun. There is nothing about me that might catch her eye.” And yet I remembered her lingering gaze on my face, wondered if she winked and joked with others in every center she delivered Sun Yams.

“Brave enough to risk your life, but not your hearts, eh, little sibling?”

I disconnected my tendril and turned my face away. Pleasurable experiences abounded in this life, but there were some I would never deserve.

The Trans-Galactic Lounge resembled an Estroprival paradise the next time Katia came in, days earlier than normal. The shifting swathes of colored silk disoriented my eyes and she was in front of me before I noticed her. She sat upon an empty seat and nodded at my clients. One of the Mystu fluttered its wings at her, and the other puffed out bulbous protrusions from its throat lewdly, but the Earthling didn’t seem to notice. Her hands trembled. I gave the Vi’hun version of a sigh and disconnected my tendrils from my clients as soon as I was able.

“I’ve sent a message,” I said. “All available Vi’hun are headed to the break room now.”

We walked there in silence, dread a cold grip around my chest. We settled on the floor and connected to each other. Afraid.

Katia sat down with us. “Things are… not good.” She rubbed at her eyes. “Farmer Zonne has refused to sell any more Sun Yams to the Vi’hun outside of Vi’hai. He lost too many of you, and can’t keep up with armies’ demands. He wants you all home to bud.”

No one had ever been able to grow Sun Yams, not a problem while Zonne was willing to trade. This was what our kind had feared, ever since the Alliance had convinced him to release those of us who were willing to leave. The Yams were a tether that kept us leashed to his mercy. Years ago, he made us choose between freedom or offspring. Now, we faced another: submit or starve.

“Can no one intervene?” Jaela asked beside me. “We have saved thousands of lives. Powerful ones. Surely someone will speak on our behalf?”

Katia shook her head. “Zonne began refusing Sun Yam orders earlier this week. Every major compound has contacted him since then, but he will not negotiate. He claims that he will destroy every Sun Yam plant on his land if any action is taken against him, which would kill all of you. The Alliance spoke of darker solutions, but with the Vi’hun who are loyal to him, he is nearly indestructible.”

“If there was another way to grow Sun Yams…” one of us said. “If we can get some seeds…”

Jaela spoke. “Have you ever seen the plants? The seeds are embedded deep into the trunk, and you have to pry them out with a blade.”

“But if we could get some—“

“Then you’d have to figure out how to make them germinate. Botanists from across the galaxies have tried every combination of elements that are naturally found in Vi’hai soil.” Jaela chuckled, but grim frustration pulsed through our joined tendrils. “Trust me, young Vi’hun, it is impossible.”

“The problem is the constant battles have spilled over everything,” Katia said. “Every dirt sample has metal shards, bone, blood. It’s impossible to sort out the natural iron content in the ground. The seedlings we’ve tried to steal can’t take the atmospheric change. We have no other options but to trade with Farmer Zonne.” Katia turned her hands palm up, as if to show us she held no solution.

We separated our tendrils then and closed off our thoughts, each of us considering our choices. My body seemed a yawning void, both from the prospect of impending hunger and my barrenness. All Vi’hun grew up knowing two truths: we could not heal our kind, and we could only bud with Farmer Zonne’s help. No one knew how an alien being could have developed such knowledge over an entire species, but I’d heard from others that Zonne had been a scientist first. He’d studied us, and then wiped out our databases and murdered our ancestors, leaving only ignorant children. They’d called him a farmer, growing crops of Vi’hun to sell. He and his loyal followers controlled knowledge, and Vi’hun, and eventually, all of our planet.

Jaela, who was older, told me how he’d given our parent a drink, and how I’d soon budded into being. What had he introduced into our genes to render our bodies sterile and our desire futile? The yearning for budi had been growing inside me for the last few years, enough that I’d considered returning home. I’d dreamed of caring for small versions of myself, of teaching my budi to make healing elixirs and happy memories, of seeing old stars through young eyes.

Now that the choice meant my life or death, reality woke me.  Would I return to my miserable existence, extending the lives of warlords and fools, if it meant I could create a budi or two of my own? Was it selfishness or common sense to survive in exchange for giving my offspring the same existence I had been desperate to escape? Could I abandon them if Zonne allowed me to leave again?

I was the first to stand up and head for the sliding panel. “I will not aid Farmer Zonne with his warmongering, nor will I bring budi into the same fate.” My voice was strong and bold, and I slipped out of the room before any could see the wetness on my cheeks. Though they never existed save for in my mind, I mourned my lost children.

Katia stopped by before she left. Over the heads of my clients, who chattered in blissful ignorance, she spoke. “I’m not going to let you starve, Minta.”

“Some things are beyond our control.” We exchanged a long look, impossible to put into words.

The distance between us made me tingle, as though the very hairs of my skin reached out to touch her. This made sense—after all, when one fears death, do they not cling more tightly to life?

Shouts penetrated the lounge. One of us wondered if we were under attack, until the entrance panels slid open and Katia’s crew came in, all five of them covered in blood. They carried a body between them, and I froze when I saw the long, dark hair trailing on the ground.  Blood bloomed like scarlet flowers wherever Katia passed, tourniquets and stumps where her lower legs should be. She was half-conscious, eyes rolling and lips grey, but she muttered to her team and they shuffled past my empty seats to the next table where Jaela gaped. I tried to hide the agitated flickering in my belly and turned around. Katia had asked her men to carry her past my bar. She didn’t trust me to save her.

They hefted their leader onto Jaela’s bar, pushing aside cocktails and horrified bystanders. There was an edge to their movements, an anger that felt aimed at us.

“They caught her sneaking onto Zonne’s farm,” one snarled. “She hadn’t even filled one crate of your cursed Yams before they blasted her legs off. We flew here as fast as we could, but she’s lost so much—.” He swallowed, and a hard glint sharpened his eyes. “She doesn’t have the credits to pay for treatment, but you’re damn well going to heal her anyway.”

Hurt spread among the Vi’hun within hearing.

“How dare you assume otherwise? Katia is our friend.” Jaela swiped her palm across her eyes and her lower lip trembled, but her tendril had already attached to the woman’s head.

I mixed drink after drink, stem cells and analgesics and compounds to re-grow arteries and nerves. The crew, seeing the bleeding slow and Katia’s grimace relax, acted as servers, delivering my drinks to their leader while I tended to my clients.

“Cheers, Minta.” Katia managed one of her winks, a butterfly’s wing fluttering amidst a field of snow.

I swallowed past the strange emotions that stuck in my throat like a tough piece of Sun Yam and smiled.

“You didn’t fluoresce,” Katia muttered, her words beginning to slur. “That smile is fake.” She beckoned to one of the men beside her and whispered. The man reached into Katia’s pant pockets and pulled out seed after seed, each one stained with blood.

“I’ll get these to the labs.” He placed them in his own pocket.

“They’re ruined.” Katia’s face crumpled, a look I’d never seen from her.  “Our last chance and I’ve botched it.”

“I’ll wash them off, no harm done.” He squeezed his leader’s arm and strode off.

Jaela helped Katia sip another drink through a straw, and then let her sleep. My sibling’s body flashed three times in surprise and then, inexplicably, she turned to me. I imagined what secrets were passing through her tendril, what an honor it would be to save the life of someone who had sustained ours. I busied myself with preparing my ingredients for the next day and left for my quarters, waving away another Vi’hun who brought me dinner, the Yam sliced so thinly it was translucent.

“Give my share to Jaela.” She’d need it, to force Katia’s body to heal.

Katia had only regrown her calves by the next morning. Jaela was older, and had been used hard by Farmer Zonne—once she could have raised an entire army from the dead over the course of a night. The human lounged in one of my sibling’s chairs, half-grown stumps propped up on another, and smiled at me around the straw between her teeth.

“How are you, Minta?”

I nodded, my eyes focused on the polished metal of my bar. “Very well, thank you.” My stomach growled, wishing I’d kept some of the breakfast before I’d sent the plate to Jaela.

My sibling was grey with exhaustion. She hadn’t slept, afraid the tricky business of regrowing nerves and veins would end in a gnarled mess. Regrowing body parts was complicated, and not something that could easily be done in segments.

I welcomed my clients, healing them half-heartedly. My energy was spent trying to ignore Katia, who stared at me with such intensity, I fumbled flasks and clattered tubes.

Jaela was gleaming yellow beneath the lights that hung above each of our stations, and other Vi’hun began to discuss if it was possible to take over the healing outside of her hearing. It would be seen as a grave insult to offer, but my garrulous sibling had fallen silent, forearms against the bar for support.

When my first round of clients had finished, I went towards my sibling. “Let me take over. You don’t look well.”

Jaela’s eyes carried a wild light, and her face pulsed anger. “This is what Vi’hun do, isn’t it? We heal.”

“We heal, aye. But you’ve been through so much, pushed to exhaustion for decades. That takes a toll.”

She shook her head, a human gesture, but one that served better than ours. “Zonne took so much from us, but he cannot take what makes me Vi’hun. I heal.”

Katia lay a hand on her healer. “Please, stop. I’m worried about you.”

Jaela lasted past mid-day. Some of the Vi’hun had cast politeness to the wind and tried to force Jaela to remove her tendril. My sibling ignored their questions, then their insults, then their pleas. Jaela swayed, panting, over the bar.

I stood and fed Jaela forkfuls of Sun Yam, murmuring to her all the while. She’d refused my attempts to connect my tendrils with one of hers.

“You would leave me alone here, far from home, for pride?” I said. “Let me take over, and let us feel the warmth of the sun tomorrow.”

“She will end up without feet.”

“Then I’ll save money on boots.” Katia begged. “Stop, please, Jaela. It’s not worth your life.”

Another Vi’hun smacked a hand on the counter. “Don’t be a fool, Jaela. Another Vi’hun will take over. Remove your tendril!”

Jaela bared her teeth at us with her eyes clenched shut. “It’s too complicated to switch. Not at this stage.”

Katia’s eyes filled with tears. “This is my fault. If I hadn’t chosen her bar…”

“You did not know.” I made my voice gentle and low. If I spoke louder they would hear the tremor in it. My sibling was dying, and there was nothing I could do. I stared at her face, memorizing every crease and curve of her features, as if I was guzzling water to prepare for a drought.

My stomach rumbled with hunger. Jaela and I wouldn’t be separated for long. I followed her into this world and I would soon follow her out of it.

Something beeped and Katia pulled a transmitter from her vest. Her face underwent a gamut of expressions, and then she wept. I could not make myself leave Jaela and go to her. I was not the universe, yawning and limitless; I was a fragile urn cracking from strain, unable to contain any more grief—mine, or anyone else’s.

Katia caught her breath and swiped at her eyes, She waved her device at us. “The seeds have sprouted. Nearly every single one. They needed to soak in an iron-based blood to germinate. The botanists are using chemicals to increase their growth and yield. You will not have to return to Vi’hai unless you choose to.”

While others around me rejoiced, I grieved again for the budi I would never have, the future I could not reach. How could I yearn so badly for something I wasn’t meant to have?

In the celebration, Jaela collapsed. Someone caught her, another Vi’hun taking a blade to the tendril still attached to Katia’s head. I hissed as the appendage was severed, but it was necessary: if Vi’hun died while attached to someone, the deep connection would damage the person’s mind. I knelt on the floor, gathering my sibling in my arms. Jaela’s hearts were fluttering birds, too weak to fly. My tears fell over their pale cheeks, and I remembered the fairy tales she would tell me as a child. “I am a princess and my tears will save you,” I thought.

Her slack mouth tightened for a moment in a smile. “You are a prince, and your princess is healed.”

“Don’t go, Jaela. Please. Heal yourself.” It was not the Vi’hun way, but I buried my face in her tendrils and sobbed.

“I’ve nothing left, little sibling. I’ve been used up, but I die free.”

Desperation claimed me. I couldn’t survive without trying everything I could. Otherwise the regret and the questions would eat away at me for the rest of my life. I sent my tendril to join with hers, ignoring the gasps and hands trying to pull me away. I clenched tighter to Jaela and pushed healing inside of her, into her struggling, weak hearts, filling her cells with my strength.

“What are you doing, Minta? Vi’hun cannot heal Vi’hun. Let go, or we will lose the both of you.”

I shrugged my friends’ hands away and clenched my teeth. “I will die trying, then.” How many of us had died while saving people who had used us as tools? Jaela had sung to me when I was frightened and had wiped my tears when I’d cried. My sibling had told me stories to distract me during the weeks our parent was sent to heal armies.

Almost, I could break through. Hearts steadied, blood moved, lungs filled, before I lost control again. I needed to be stronger, but I’d gone for days on rationed yams and had given up my last meals to Jaela. I dove in again, though my strength waned and my vision began to darken.

“You escaped Vi’hai so you could throw your life away?” another Vi’hun cried. “What was the point then?”

“The point…” Was that my voice, so weak and breathless? “The point is that my life is mine. To live or to throw away.”

Peace began to fill Jaela, a dreadful, encompassing peace that spanned inside her like the starry sky. “No!” I screamed, scrabbling at her with my fingers, clutching her body to mine as though it would keep her from leaving. I sent more healing, which sputtered and failed against the growing tide of silence within her.

Tendrils connected to mine. Five of them, attached to others, all of them filling my sibling with healing. Someone forced fresh stem cells down her throat, and we took those, rebuilding her tired hearts and replacing dying tissue with new. We’d been forced to leave family and friends behind, forced to fight against each other in a battlefield, and here, working together, we surpassed our limits.

My sibling breathed—how could they not, with all our people behind them?—and blinked open silver eyes.

“The rule,” Jaela said. “You broke one of the rules. You could have died.”

Awe passed through our connected tendrils. At what we had done, at the truth that was a lie.

I blinked. “We have proven one rule false. What then of the second?” I pressed my trembling hand against my abdomen and felt hope flare wild inside me. Why should Zonne know more about Vi’hun than we knew of ourselves? What if I could go inwards, see what my body needed, and create a cocktail?

Jaela was helped to her quarters to rest, and the other Vi’hun went back to their clients, marveling at what we had all just done. I gathered snippets of their emotions as they worked, but Katia had settled beside me inside the bar, hidden from view, and I couldn’t help but bask in this stolen moment of intimacy.

“I almost killed Jaela,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”

“You couldn’t have known.” I could afford to be magnanimous, now that my sibling survived. Boldness had not released me from its clutches yet today. “Why didn’t you stop at my bar? I was closest.”

Katia stared at her newly formed toes. “I didn’t want your tendril to read me.”

“No?” I remembered Jaela’s expression of surprise when she’d first connected to Katia, and how she had looked in my direction.

The Earthling shook her head and took my hand. Her palm was moist. “I just think new romances need a little mystery, don’t you?”

My skin flushed bright green. I was more than a Vi’hun among my kin. Someone found me worthy of courting; another of my beliefs that cracked and crumbled to dust today.

Katia took a deep breath. “What do you say, Minta? Want to do something fun tonight, if you’re free?”

I smiled, and the intensity of my light bathed her face in a golden glow. “I am free. I will always be free.”

Host Commentary

Host Commentary

By S.B. Divya

And that’s our story.

The author has this to say: “This story was inspired by the pandemic, and my concern over thousands of health care professionals burning out or dying as they tried to save lives, while millions of people were forced to go back to work in unsafe conditions, and thus continuing the strain on the “healers”.”

And I have to say that I’m really glad Michelle sent us this story. It’s a beautiful example of how science fiction can tackle present-day issues while crafting an engaging story. We’re two years into the Covid pandemic, and anyone who’s paying attention knows that healthcare workers – and other frontline workers – have suffered greatly during this time. Being heroic takes effort and sacrifice. It’s easy to forget that our heroes are human and they have their limits.

I also love how the story weaves in themes of emigration, labor exploitation, and the military-industrial complex, on top of reproductive rights and cross-cultural romance. That’s a lot to pack into a short story, and none of it is done in a heavy-handed way. After all, the story takes place at an interdimensional galactic bar full of alien lifeforms. It’s the kind of fun setting you see in a lot of science fiction, but this story takes those tropes and turns them into a lens that examines some pretty hefty topics – an impressive accomplishment.

I’m going to miss discovering stories like these and sharing them with all of you. I promised a bit more about my retirement during the intro, so here it is. My situation ties in nicely with this story, in fact, because while I’m not a healthcare worker, my life has been impacted by Covid. I got sick in January 2021, before the vaccines were available, and unfortunately, it’s developed into what’s commonly known as “Long Covid,” a chronic condition that leaves me exhausted from minimal effort. What this means is that I’ve had to cut back on about 75% of the things I was doing when I was healthy. Keeping this bucket of bolts going is, unfortunately, one of those things. 

When I joined the crew of the pod in 2015, I had two flash fiction credits to my name. I knew very little about the publishing world, and even less about podcasting. Since then, we’ve been thrice nominated for the Hugo Award, and Mur and I have been finalists for Best Editor, Short Fiction. We put together an amazing print anthology for our 15th anniversary, and we’ve run special events like Artemis Rising and Black Future Month, which I’m very proud of.

Being an editor carries a lot of responsibilities, and I take those seriously, especially as one of the few BIPOC and gender noncomforming people to hold the position for a major publication. That’s why I’m very pleased to say that Valerie Valdes will be taking my place in the co-pilot’s chair at Escape Pod. Valerie is an amazing writer who embodies the spirit of fun science fiction that we’re known for. You’ll be hearing directly from her next week, and I’m sure you’ll agree that she’s awesome.

Escape Artists is very much my 2nd family. I’ve grown here, learned so much, and will miss this work dearly. As for Mur, getting to know and work with her has been an honor, and getting to call her my friend an even bigger one.

No story ever truly ends, though, and I hope you’ll continue to follow my adventures in writing, which is the one thing I’m continuing to do.

Escape Pod is a production of Escape Artists Inc, and is brought to you with a creative commons attribution noncommercial no derivatives license. Don’t change it. Don’t sell it. Do go forth and share it.

If you’d like to support Escape Pod, please rate or review us on your favorite app. We are 100% audience supported, and we count on your donations to keep the lights on and the servers humming. Last year, Escape Pod reached a total of two million downloads. That’s amazing, and we appreciate every one of you!

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Our opening and closing music is by daikaiju at

And our closing quotation this week is from N.K. Jemisin, who said, “Reconciliation is a part of the healing process, but how can there be healing when the wounds are still being inflicted?”

Thanks for joining me, and enjoy your adventures through time and space.

About the Author

Michelle Tang

Michelle Tang

Michelle Tang writes speculative fiction from Canada, where she immigrated to as a child. Her short stories have been published by Cemetery Gates (forthcoming), Flame Tree Press, and Dark Moon Books. When she’s not writing, Michelle works as an oncology nurse and likes to lurk on social media.

Find more by Michelle Tang

Michelle Tang

About the Narrator

Lalana Dara

Lalana Dara is Thai American, was born in New York, and spent 20+ years in life sciences and information technology.
She is a gamer girl, a foodie, and a wanderer. Usually not lost. Lalana is also known as Piper J. Drake, bestselling author of romantic suspense, paranormal romance, science fiction, and fantasy.

Find more by Lalana Dara