Archive for 13 and Up

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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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Escape Pod 852: The Pieces That Bind


The Pieces that Bind

By Carol Scheina

The first thing Georgia knew for certain was that the woman rummaging through the canned beans and peas in the pantry was not her grandma, even though she looked exactly like her, right down to the nasty black cigar in hand.

Except that Georgia had just plucked the cigar out of Gran’s hand, for it was 2 p.m. and time for the older woman’s afternoon siesta. In the other room, Georgia could hear the television cheerfully offering a miracle knife that could be hers for just three easy payments. The teen glanced through the doorway, and yes, indeed, right in front of the television was Gran, resting in her chair like rising yeast, filling every nook with her body’s slow breathing.

Gran often fell asleep to the sound of infomercials with her lit cigar dangling loosely between her fingers, ready to set the house on fire. Georgia imagined the smoke snatching their lives away with a puff, so she was always on the alert for falling cigars. The one in the teen’s hand still felt warm.

In the kitchen, the not-Gran turned and puffed her cigar, sending out plumes of smoke smelling heavily like laundry detergent. Eyes locked on Georgia.

The second thing Georgia knew for certain was that not-Gran was an alien. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 851: Time Bomb Time


Time Bomb Time

by C. C. Finlay

pop

The sharp scent of ozone–sudden like heartbreak, raw as a panic attack–filled Hannah’s dorm room, from the paper-swamped desk across her rumpled bed to the window overlooking the quad. The lights flickered. Her heart skipped a beat.

“God damn it.” She prodded Nolon’s foot with the toe of her shoe. She wanted to kick him. “Tell me what you just did.”

“Nothing.” He was leaning over the weird device from his lab, tapping a code on the keypad.

“What are you doing now?” Anger pushed at the edges of her voice, but she held it in check. She wanted him to leave, but she didn’t want to upset him.

“Don’t worry so much–nobody’s going to get hurt.” He pressed his shoulder against her, didn’t even have to push–she flinched and bumped into the wall. He laughed at her, like it was a joke. “It’s not a time bomb.”
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 849: There Are No Hot Topics on Whukai


There Are No Hot Topics on Whukai

by Andrea Kriz

The day the dMods shut down Skeleton Caves, Esko put on her VR goggles and slipped into the Whukai space colony’s main chatroom to figure out what was going on. All the Whukains who made their living off the popular Terran MMORPG, d’Artagnan, had the same idea. Beside her, on top of her, avatars logged in—an absolute pandemonium of photorealistic, 8-bit, anime animals and humanoids and everything in between. The two main gold-farming clans had already started fighting among themselves.

“How many times did I tell you PKers,” the head of Esko’s clan screeched. “To leave the Terran players alone!”

“It don’t matter how many Terran players we killed,” leader of the rival HunterFam roared, “when you idiots kept giving us away by speaking Kainese! We. Must. Speak. Terran languages! That’s why all the Terran players reported us to the dMods!”

Esko tore off her VR goggles, tossing them onto her bunk. The interior of her sleeping pod, one toy block in a cluster of thousands, flooded back into view. A storm had kicked up outside, clogging her porthole with Whukai’s trademark scarlet soil. She didn’t have time to waste arguing over whose fault it was that d’Art’s most lucrative moneymaking method had been nerfed. She needed to come up with four hundred dollars for her parents’ chemo drugs. And this month’s rent.
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 846: Dandelion

Show Notes

Hey everyone, Alasdair here – hope you’re doing okay. The summer months are upon us, which means two things – hat weather for yours truly, and the part of our year when costs are high and support tends to dip. We know things are tight everywhere at the moment, and that includes us. For those of you who support us already, thank you so much. We hope you’re enjoying the great new CatsCast episodes. If you’d like to join them, we’ve got tons of options for you at Patreon and PayPal. Even a one-off at Ko-fi makes a big difference, or check out our great new swag store – maybe like me you need a hat! It all adds up, and helps us bring you the best in free audio fiction every week. Thanks, and enjoy this week’s episode.

Promo music:
“Sneaky Snitch” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Dandelion

By John Shade

Before the border wall, we scatter.

Dandelions.

The nanomachines grind us down and we float up and through the cracks, molecule to molecule, like holding hands.


Leena hesitates, is left behind. She stands apart on the wrong side of the wall. She presses her hand to the cool, shaded concrete. We feel it through the upload. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 845: Across the River, My Heart, My Memory

Show Notes

Hey everyone, Alasdair here – hope you’re doing okay. The summer months are upon us, which means two things – hat weather for yours truly, and the part of our year when costs are high and support tends to dip. We know things are tight everywhere at the moment, and that includes us. For those of you who support us already, thank you so much. We hope you’re enjoying the great new CatsCast episodes. If you’d like to join them, we’ve got tons of options for you at Patreon and PayPal. Even a one-off at Ko-fi makes a big difference, or check out our great new swag store – maybe like me you need a hat! It all adds up, and helps us bring you the best in free audio fiction every week. Thanks, and enjoy this week’s episode.

Promo music:
“Sneaky Snitch” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Across the River, My Heart, My Memory

By Ann LeBlanc

1.

I am Michelle’s artificial pancreas, stolen cleanly and carefully from her gut. The surgeons are quick; before I can finish my hard reset, they place me inside you.

I don’t even have time to say goodbye to Michelle’s other organs. I know her heart — and all its memories of Tobin — is dead. Did the taser kill the others too? Why am I the only one awake — alive?

I can’t say goodbye to Michelle, because she’s dead. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 840: The Tyrant Lizard (and Her Plus One) / Alien Invader or Assistive Device?


The Tyrant Lizard (and Her Plus One)

By John Wiswell

Dinosaurs don’t want to kill you; they just don’t care that you’re there. More people have been sat on by brontosauruses than have been eaten by all the theropods combined. Since I joined security on the archipelago, 82% of dinosaur-related human casualties were from tourists who got too close during mating season. And the four times I’ve seen a deinonychus attack someone, they’ve always left them uneaten. Why? For the same reason bears and sharks tend to leave victims alive: because humans taste like shit. (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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