Archive for 10 and Up

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Escape Pod 876: Like Stars Daring to Shine


Like Stars Daring to Shine

By Somto Ihezue

When the boy opens his housing unit’s steel door and the incandescent lights pour into his face, he does not blink away. “Little suns” — this is what everyone calls them. The massive disks hover in the atmosphere, spilling streams of radiant light to the ground. The boy stares into the trees, mere meters from the door, and the forest encaving the unit stares back. A breeze finds him, whistling through the trees and into his dungarees. Threadbare with a Batman logo printed on them, the over-alls belonged to his mother when she was a child. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 875: The Hagfish Has Three Hearts


The Hagfish Has Three Hearts

by Monica Joyce Evans

The beacons were in the wrong place.

Noma swallowed her roasted squid and clicked, still staring at the sea. It was hard to be accurate on land, of course. She’d have a better sense once she got in the water. But the beacons had moved.

Which wasn’t possible.

She turned the squid in her hands. The water was quiet and gray under the brilliant blue sky, barely touched by the hot wind. There was always wind on the coast, cradling the thatched village and the ancient hotel and the fish market. Pairs of men and women were laying their silver catches in lines on the wet sand, amberjack and dorado and corvina. The inshore trawlers had left before dawn and were now cautious points on the horizon, keeping a respectful distance from the bright aquamarine line that marked where humans were allowed in the water.

Noma set her squid down and clicked again. Out past the trembling shoals of fish, the aquamarine line had shifted. Not quite aligned with the currents, or the tideline. Wrong.

She felt her hearts beating rapidly and took a moment to quiet them. Nobody could move the beacons, even if they wanted to. Nobody knew how. The whales could, but had no reason to do so. At least, none that Noma could think of. Whales were inscrutable. And unforgiving.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 871: The Contrary Gardener (Part 2 of 2)


The Contrary Gardener (Part 2 of 2)

By Christopher Rowe

(Continued from Part 1)

Even in the ‘Ville, even in a family of master cultivators, tickets were not easy to come by, so it was not unusual that Kay Lynne had never been to the Derby. What was unusual was her absolute lack of desire to attend the race.

Kay Lynne genuinely hoped that her instinctive and absolute despisal of the Derby and all its attendant celebrations was born of some logical or at least reasonable quirk of her own personality. But she suspected it was simply because her father loved it so.

“You managed to get two tickets this year?” she asked him, and was surprised that her voice was so steady and calm.

“Just this one,” he replied, turning his back on her before she could hand the ticket back. “I decided this year would be a good one for you to go instead. There’s a good card, top to bottom.” (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 870: The Contrary Gardener (Part 1 of 2)


The Contrary Gardener (Part 1 of 2)

By Christopher Rowe

Kay Lynne wandered up and down the aisles of the seed library dug out beneath the county extension office. Some of the rows were marked with glowing orange off-limits fungus, warning the unwary away from spores and thistles that required special equipment to handle, which Kay Lynne didn’t have, and special permission to access, which she would never have, if her father had anything to say about it, and he did.

It was the last Friday before the first Saturday in May, the day before Derby Day and so a week from planting day, and Kay Lynne had few ideas and less time for her Victory Garden planning. Last year she had grown a half dozen varieties of tomatoes, three for eating and three for blood transfusions, but she didn’t like to repeat herself. Given that she tended to mumble when she talked, not liking to repeat herself made Kay Lynne a quiet gardener. (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…)

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Escape Pod 850: Laser Squid Goes House Hunting


Laser Squid Goes House Hunting

By Douglas DiCicco

“This one has everything on your checklist.” I held open the front door of the four-bedroom colonial. It wasn’t quite big enough for my client, who left greasy marks on the doorframe as she squeezed through. “We can always get that expanded for you. We work with some excellent contractors in the area.”

A shriek from the living room told me Cynthia Whitecrest, the homeowner, hadn’t cleared out as I had politely but firmly suggested. I prefer to show a house on my own. The owners always think they’re better salespeople than I am.

“Hello, Miss Whitecrest,” I said with my practiced smile, ignoring the shriek. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think you’d be home. I’m showing the place to a potential buyer today. As I mentioned in my many texts.” The last part was snarkier than I’d meant to be, but Cynthia was already on my last nerves.

Cynthia cowered behind a tasteful sectional, white as a sheet. “Wh… wh… what is… that… creature…?”

Oh no. She was going to offend the buyer. I needed to do some quick diplomacy. “Miss Whitecrest, let me introduce—”

The client intervened before I had the chance. She dragged herself along the cherry hardwood floor, tentacles making a wet slapping sound with every movement.

“You cower before Laser Squid, terror of the depths!” (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 848: An Incident on Ishtar


An Incident on Ishtar

By Brian Trent

Her family tried very hard to never use the word “crazy” with her. So therefore, they didn’t say it was crazy that she was applying for a Venusian post as Tier 3 Balloon Specialist.

She tried explaining her reasons to them:

I have valuable skill-sets for the Ishtar colony.

They countered: you don’t do well with people.

Her response: there are only 612 people throughout Ishtar’s nine modular habitats. There are 2.1 million people here in San Antonio.

Venus is hell, Mom interjected, and you’re afraid of heights, Melissa! Do you hear yourself?

Venus is hell below the clouds but I’ll be living above them, sweeping along with the transterminator currents on oxygen-filled aerostat balloons that provide both breathable air and the lifting gases required. Statistically it will be safer. No chance of making another Terrible Mistake.

The smiling masks of her family fell away. Older sister Diane exploded at her. Is that what this is about? Are you out of your mind? You—

Melissa didn’t hear the rest. She marched out of her parent’s house and took the nearest PDT to the local office of ExtraPlanetary Colony Careers.

Why do you want to go to Venus? the interviewer asked her.

I have valuable skill-sets for the Ishtar colony, she replied.

They were quick to agree. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 841: Deepo 12


Deepo 12

By Jeff Hewitt

Nothing made Deepo 12 feel more alive than doing its job.

Its actuators sighed as another cassette slid from its workstation, tinted blastic masking the rainbow sheen of the wafers inside. Dim strip lights curved over the protective casing as it clicked into place.

Then Deepo 12 waited.

Meep. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 839: Universal Archive of Human History: FAQ


Universal Archive of Human History: FAQ

By Arturo Sierra

The Gran Gliese Universal Archive of Human History contains over 5.7×1035 books and an innumerable collection of shorter works. Moreover, it is continuously growing, thanks to additions from spacefaring traders such as the ones who ferried you here. We buy all works of the human mind that the interstellar pilgrims bring to Gran Gliese, often from the furthest reaches of the Sphere of Settled Space. The oldest files are as ancient as writing, meaning we store over a gigayear of human culture in our vaults. (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.

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