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Escape Pod 863: A Shoreline of Oil and Infinity


A Shoreline of Oil and Infinity

by Renan Bernardo

Conchinha
Charging… 87%
Energy source: light
Message:
Good morning, Vitória. The water is cold today. Brrr.

 

Vitória switches off the feed from her lenses and pats the tatuí’s shell, kneeling before it.

“Hey, Conchinha.” She brushes off the excess of crusted oil from the bot, scanning her fingerprint to open its main compartment. A wave breaks on the shore, sprinkling on her face and the bot. “Let’s see what you have here.”

The tatuí whirs—almost purrs. She plucks out the cylindrical cell from its rounded back. More darkened water. She doesn’t read the full report, but she can guess what it contains pretty well. Heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, hydrocarbons… All there is to know in Barra Nova’s waters these days. Layers of oil expand across both sides of the straight shoreline, coating the once gilded sand, patches of darkness suffusing the air with the stink of hydrogen sulfide that in the past made the kids call that beach The Coast of Broken Eggs. André’s kids—Vitória always thinks of them as her stepbrother’s children, though not one of them was his by birth.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 862: The Pill (Part 2 of 2)


The Pill (Part 2 of 2)

By Meg Elison

(Continued from Part 1)

The Pill sold like nothing had ever sold before. The original, the generic, the knockoffs, the different versions approved in Europe and Asia that met their standards and got rammed through their testing. There was at last a cure for the obesity epidemic. Fat people really were an endangered species. And everybody was so, so glad.

One in ten kept dying. The average never improved, not in any corner of the globe. There were memorials for the famous and semi-famous folks who took the gamble and lost. A congressman here and a comedian there. But everyone was so proud of them that they had died trying to better themselves that all the obituaries and eulogies had this weird, wistful tone to them. As if it was the next best thing to being thin. At least they didn’t have to live that fat life any more.

And every time it was on the news, we sat in silence and didn’t talk about Dad. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 861: The Pill (Part 1 of 2)


The Pill (Part 1 of 2)

By Meg Elison

My mother took the Pill before anybody even knew about it. She was always signing up for those studies at the university, saying she was doing it because she was bored. I think she did it because they would ask her questions about herself and listen carefully when she answered. Nobody else did that.

She had done it for lots of trials; sleep studies and allergy meds. She tried signing up when they tested the first 3D printed IUDs, but they told her she was too old. I remember her raging about that for days, and later when everybody in that study got fibroids she was really smug about it. She never suggested I do it instead; she knew I wasn’t fucking anybody. How embarrassing that my own mother didn’t even believe I was cute enough to get a date at sixteen. I tried not to care. And I’m glad now I didn’t get fibroids. I never wanted to be a lab rat, anyway. Especially when the most popular studies (and the ones Mom really went all-out for) were the diet ones. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 860: Solo Cooking for the Recently Revived


Solo Cooking for the Recently Revived

by Aimee Picchi

I hide my right hand behind my back when Jamie steps into the rehab center’s kitchen. Like all the rest of the reintegration counselors, he’s a Survivor. And Survivors always stare at our scars.

“Let’s start with our motto,” Jamie says.

The class intones: “Food is life.

My friend Myra hitches her thumbs on her belt, cinched to the smallest hole, and rolls her eyes.

“And?” Jamie prods.

To cook is human,” we finish.

Every time I say it I imagine the motto will fix me, erase my scars and everything else that happened in the last year. Get me one step closer to Carter. I once confided my belief to Myra and she laughed. That motto’s not for our benefit, sweetie, she had said. It’s so they can believe we’re still just like them.

Jamie gestures for me to join him at the front of the classroom, the home-ec lab inside a former middle school. About twenty of us are lined up at ovens and sinks and Formica countertops where students scratched blocky initials inside of hearts. I don’t want to think about what probably happened to the kids.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 859: Pen Pal (Part 2 of 2)


(Continued from Part 1)

Pen Pal

By Grant Canterbury

 

August 8, 2005

Meliari Thulissia

General Delivery

Tharsis Station

 

Dear Thu,

 

Well I officially graduated from high school! And I have been itching to get out into the world for a long time but right now honestly I am not liking the look of it. We had been planning to go to Disneyworld after graduation but we did Disneyland again instead. That was fine actually. Mom and Dad decided Florida was not such a great idea because gulguthroi. And I had to agree with them. It has gotten really bad. They have chameleon skin and they hide in shallow water which is everywhere down there, and they are basically eating up all of the wildlife in the Everglades. And also people. And especially folks who used to own skipperjacks, it seems. Apparently the deep soulful looks that made them popular at pet stores were more like, um, imprinting on future prey. And their big raspy tentacles also work okay at opening doors in the middle of the night. There are like thousands of people who have disappeared. Oh yeah, they made it illegal to own skipperjacks, of course. And so a bunch of pet stores, crooked or dumb, went and dumped theirs in the nearest creek. Christ. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 858: Pen Pal (Part 1 of 2)


Pen Pal

By Grant Canterbury

December Third, 1996

 

Meliari Thulissia

General Delivery

Tharsis Station

 

Dear Meliari,

Hello!!  My name is Mary and I am nine years old.  I got your name for a pen pal and they said you were the first pen pal on Mars.  This is the first time I have written a letter to Mars to.   So I will tell you about me and how things are here in Oregon.  And if you can tell me about yourself and what Mars is like that would be great!  I am interested in mars but I have never been there yet.  There is a book in the library that has pictures, I like the one with the little boats and orange trees on the grand canal.  I mean the trees are orange not that they have oragnes.  Here our trees are green except in fall.  Right now they have lost their leaves. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 857: Salvaged


Salvaged

by Adriana Kantcheva

I have her body. If I’d also had her life, would I have lived it in the same way?

I make the mistake of voicing my thoughts to Seven, who promptly activates what I call his melancholy setting. I can tell from how the blue signal lights in his communication subunit start blinking in a slow, hypnotic rhythm.

“Why are you thinking about her again?” he says. “You’ll never encounter her circumstances.”

I walk over to my porthole. The Salvagers’ wing of the space station blocks part of the view, but I see enough of Earth—all brown and beige and rust. “I also won’t encounter any answers if I can’t get around the firewall in your memory.” I wave at the wires I have so carefully rearranged in his data storage subunit, which is splayed open on my cabin table. But I’ve stepped back from my work, my ribcage tight with unease.

Humanity killed Earth. The Salvagers revealed to me that bit of history, at least. How and why, my alien benefactors won’t tell. I’m allowed to delve into Terran science and technology, but they’ve put a digital gag on Seven about history, culture, politics, or society. For my protection, they say. For the sake of a clean slate.
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 856: The Princess, NP


The Princess, NP

By Brian Hugenbruch

I sat in the Commander’s office at Hexa Station, in clothes that stank of subspace, and the only polite thing I could do to drown out the universe was compute obscene sums in my head. It didn’t stop the sounds from piercing my ears, though. Metal chairs scraping against plastic floors. A pulse generator’s low thrumming some twenty floors below. The whisper of air recycling through the prefab station. The universe was omnipresent. I could feel it all, and it never ever stopped.

Lullabies were my preferred method of soothing soul and stilling mind. I learned thousands of them in the earliest days of my Conditioning. Alas, people ask the wrong kinds of questions if one starts singing mid-conversation. Math was a precisely imperfect fallback. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 855: A Home For Mrs. Biswas


A Home For Mrs. Biswas

by Amal Singh

Once she saw the red sands stretch across miles, craters as big as the stadium her father played hockey in, and golden spires shimmering brighter than Amritsar’s Golden Temple, Aparna Biswas didn’t want to live on earth. Of course they were a far cry from her own backyard where, in summers, she would sit on a cane chair and watch the bougainvillaea bloom the shade of a bride’s blush,“string of pearls” flowers wrapped around the wooden railing on her porch, eating a succulent dussehri aam as a pair of ducks swam in the small pond she liked to call her Pacific. But those summers only existed behind a dim haze of memory. She would take a living planet over a dying one any day.

“Beta, I think I might find god there,” she said to her son, tearing her gaze away from the Mars hologram. “Build me a home on that planet and all will be mangal.” She chortled at her own joke. Puns on the red planet had filled the internet, and ever since Sunehri, her granddaughter, had taught her how to use a phone, she kept finding these odd little information trinkets.

“I might have to break all our deposits and still not be able to book a single one-way ticket, Maa,” said Nishant, her son. “Forget about building a home.” In his eyes too, there was a deep yearning to go to the Red Planet. He stood near the window of the living room of his Chembur apartment, looking at the once blue sky, blotted out by an eternal grey smog which was here to stay.

“But our PM said in his last speech there was a lottery system,” she said. “And you know how lucky I am.” It was true. Stories of Aparna Biswas’s luck were splattered on walls of Kolkata, and the gullies of Bombay.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 854: Pickled Roots and Peeled Shoots and a Bowl of Farflower Tea


Pickled Roots and Peeled Shoots and a Bowl of Farflower Tea

By Chaz Brenchley

 

there’s rue for you, and here’s some for me

 

Just that morning, she’d had a novice shave her head for her. He was a promising lad – no, more than promising, he was a promise halfway to being realised already – but still ridiculously young, all awkwardness and angles, nervous of his own body let alone anybody else’s. Let alone hers.

Of course he’d cut her. She’d felt the cold bite of the blade and then its sudden absence as he snatched his hands away, his suppressed cry of self-recrimination, the tentative pressure of a cloth to stem the bleeding. She raised a hand and laid it over his, pressing firmly, teaching him not to be shy. Not with her body, not with her blood. (Continue Reading…)

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