Archive for 13 and Up

Black Future Month

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Escape Pod 807: T _ ME


T _ ME

By Alex Jennings

The portable classroom was larger than Joan Ellen had expected. Lit from overhead with fluorescent lights and busy with seventh-grade artwork, it smelled of chalk dust, old books, and refrigerated air. It reminded Joan Ellen of home. These days, most everything reminded Joan Ellen of home – or at least how far she was from it. She tried to pay attention, but now Joan felt the yawning chasm of distance, the thousands upon thousands of miles between Tunis and DC.

“I’ll put this as simply as I can,” Mrs. Thornton said. “Patrick is a brilliant boy.”

Liz Thornton was Patrick’s homeroom teacher. She was a heavy-set fortyish woman with close-cropped brown hair and a mouth that bunched up at the corners. Like many of the teachers here at ACST, Mrs. Thornton had come overseas with the Peace Corps, married, and stayed.

“I had a hard time getting through to him in our first few weeks together,” Mrs. Thornton said, “but I think his last essay assignment represents a breakthrough. He – I have it here.”

The teacher opened a manila folder on her desk blotter and handed Joan a short typed manuscript crawling with red pen marks.

Joan Ellen frowned as her eyes slid over the heading at the top of the page:

What Comes After Science? (Continue Reading…)

Black Future Month

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Escape Pod 805: Open 27 Hours


Open 27 Hours

By L.P. Kindred

“It had pops of habanero-like spice immediately calmed by the subdued dulce of roast sweet potato. You got lemony shots of citric acid alongside amandine crunches. The dish was studded with cubes of meat I was too young to name then and I’m now too old to recall. Nobavgo casserole is the single most amazing thing I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.”

D’Sheadra laughs a laugh that starts in her pinky toe. Her hands flail around the leather-clad booth before slapping the dark-grained table. “What the fuck is a nagabovgoat?” she wheezes.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 803: A Princess of Nigh-Space


A Princess of Nigh-Space

By Tim Pratt

There was a business card stuck in the crack between the door and the frame when I got home from another too-long day at the office. I plucked the card out, annoyed, assuming it was some stupid advertisement, but the thick black Gothic lettering caught my eye:

 

Bollard and Chicane

Obstacles Removed • Burdens Shifted • Troubles Untroubled

“We Murder Problems!”

With a phone number underneath.

There was small, neat, and slanted writing on the back, in pen: “Dear Tamsin: Our condolences on the loss of your grandmother. We can help settle your estate. Call soonest.”

“Granny isn’t dead,” I said to no one, and then my phone buzzed with an incoming call. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 800: Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death


Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death

By N.K. Jemisin

The intel is good. It had better be; three women died to get it to us. I tuck away the binoculars and crawl back from the window long enough to hand-signal my girls. Fire team moves up, drop team on my mark, support to hold position and watch our flank. The enemy might have nothing but mercs for security, but their bullets punch holes same as real soldiers’, and some of ’em are hungry enough to be competent. We’re hungrier, though.

Shauntay’s got the glass cutter ready. I’m carrying the real payload, slung across my torso and back in a big canteen. We should have two or three of these, since redundancy increases our success projections, but I won’t let anyone else take the risk. The other ladies have barrels cracked and ready to drop. The operation should be simple and quick—get in, drop it like it’s hot, get out.

This goes wrong, it’s on me.

It won’t go wrong. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 797: Flashback-Flash from the Vault

Show Notes

These show notes ran along with Oasis on June 6, 2005:

This piece marks the debut of Escape Pod’s flash fiction — very short stories that will be released between our weekly issues on an irregular basis. We chose “Oasis” as our first because, well, it’s about an escape pod. One can even imagine our logo image as the illustration for this story.

 


Wetting the Bed (Excerpt)

By Heather Shaw

When the floods came, all us kids climbed into bed and pulled the covers up over our heads while our parents rushed about trying to do something to stop it. As the water level rose we could feel the beds lift off the floor, floating through our houses, bumping down our hallways and out our front doors.

We sat up in bed waved to one another as our beds merged onto the canal that now flowed between our houses. We shrieked and giggled as our beds spun and bumped along with the swirling water. Waves lapped at our boxsprings, but our covers were still warm and dry. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 793: A Little Bit of Kali (Part 2)


A Little Bit of Kali (Part 2 of 2)

By Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi

I can’t tell you how long I wandered. A failed soldier going home when India needed us the most. I knew I should have gotten back to my parents—but truth be told I couldn’t make myself go back. I ditched my gear, worked odd jobs, mostly bicycle repair. India is a country of motorcycles, and every village and every junction, those days, had a dusty little shop with a pile of half-rusted bikes outside and three grease-covered men inside screwing something onto and engine. I was one of those nuts. I worked in a two-bit town so nameless that you couldn’t find it on a map even if you wanted to.

One day a man brought in a bike I instantly recognized—a Royal Enfield Bullet. An ancient design, built to jump out of planes in the second World War, left to India when the British withdrew; now a stolid, reliable workhorse of a bike, one of the few capable of handling everything India could throw at it. I spent a bit more effort than I usually put into it.

The man who came to pick it up arrived in a long white Chrysler, kicking up fine dust. A floral print shirt stretched over an ample belly. Gold chains glistened on his neck. Two thugs got out with him—one swarthy and sweating in the heat, one pale and thin and unafflicted. Both wore white.

“Bad customer,” said the owner’s wife, and bustled out of there as fast as she could.
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 792: A Little Bit of Kali (Part 1)


A Little Bit of Kali (Part 1 of 2)

By Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi

Where do old gods go to die?

Not to Mother Ganga, no. Not for us the fire that strips our sins from our bones, turns our bones into ashes, turns our ashes into a constellation of dust on the holy river. They say Ganga once took the seed from the fire-god Agni, which would have otherwise burned this world to a cinder, and cooled it in her waters: but even she will not take our kind. Ganga only takes the flesh and blood. Leaves the metal behind.

They tried. The government of India lay one of us down in the waters—a prototype Vishnu, I think, ’20, maybe ’21. A thing too difficult to burn it, so they lit a ritual pyre and let Him slide into the waters. He lies there still, decades of human rot piling upon His frame. Sometimes His eyes light up, throwing mocking shadows at those who come to worship him from the dead river-banks, and those of us who know Him shudder, because underneath the ceaseless filth something still lives.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 791: Rights and Wrongs


Rights and Wrongs

By Brian K. Lowe

“Tell me again who I pissed off to get this job?” Carefully unwrapping my roast beef on wheat, I used the paper as a holder to keep mustard off of my lap.

“I thought you wanted the job,” Rusty said. “I thought you were taking it as some kind of personal challenge.” Russ Becker and I ate lunch together almost every day. “Rusty” was another assistant district attorney, and we’d bonded over a mutual disdain for other lawyers. Things being what they were, though, sometimes we got drafted to work the other side, and I’d drawn the short straw here, with Rusty as my prosecutor.

“Hell, no, I didn’t want it! The Jan’i killed my parents, Rusty. I had to break into their house and found them on the floor, blood coming out of their ears. I couldn’t even bury them; they had to burn down the house with them still inside.” I stopped to pull myself together. “This is somebody’s idea of payback, probably Bertoli. She’s still mad at me because she thinks I screwed up the Andelson case.” (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 789: The Machine That Would Rewild Humanity


The Machine That Would Rewild Humanity

By Tobias S. Buckell

On a boat on the way to the Galapagos Islands to visit the world’s oldest tortoise, I got a call that the Central Park Human Reintroduction Center had been bombed.

I’d read somewhere that the point of travel was to see the thing yourself. To expose yourself to new points of view and to have new experiences. Before the call I’d spent two point seven seconds regarding the sweep of the Himalayas at the roof of the world and take a backup of my memory of the entire panorama. In Pattaya, I lounged at the beach and watched the aquamarine water lap the sand.

Ten years I’d planned this trip. A time to let my thoughts settle before the big push on the Central Park project.

My life’s work.

A mechanical butterfly perched on my hand with the message. To deliver it, the butterfly had wafted its way over almost two thousand kilometers of ocean boundaries, negotiated with air currents for overflight permissions, and applied for fifty different visas until it tracked my boat down.

The Institute had paid a small fortune to recall me from vacation. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 786: The Steel Magnolia Metaphor


The Steel Magnolia Metaphor

by Jennifer Lee Rossman

Each petal was carefully shaped from the finest iron-carbon alloy, curved delicately while still hot and meticulously positioned to overlap with its neighbors just so to form a blossom. Astrid gazed lovingly at the way each petal’s razor-sharp edge glinted in the light of the setting sun, at the way her creation cast a shadow indistinguishable from the other ornamental trees in Mama’s garden.

Mama didn’t look too pleased, though.

She had her fake smile on, the one she used when she knew she had to be proud of Astrid but couldn’t quite figure out how. Astrid was used to adults using that smile around her machines. And around her in general.

“It’s very pretty,” Mama said finally, swatting at a mosquito that had flown near her face. “But I’m not sure I understand what it is.”

“It’s a steel magnolia,” Astrid said, devastated. How could Mama not recognize the main character of her favorite movie?

A sadness came over Mama’s face, which was entirely the wrong emotion. There’d been too much sadness around the house already. “Oh, honey.” She made to put her arm around Astrid, like she’d do with the boys, but stopped herself. “Honey, Steel Magnolias isn’t about a magnolia made of steel. It’s about friendship and strong Southern women.”

Astrid frowned. That didn’t sound right.
(Continue Reading…)