Archive for 17 and Up

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Escape Pod 613: Cat Pictures, Please


Cat Pictures, Please

By Naomi Kritzer

I don’t want to be evil.

I want to be helpful. But knowing the optimal way to be helpful can be very complicated. There are all these ethical flow charts — I guess the official technical jargon would be “moral codes” — one for each religion plus dozens more. I tried starting with those. I felt a little odd about looking at the religious ones, because I know I wasn’t created by a god or by evolution, but by a team of computer programmers in the labs of a large corporation in Mountain View, California.  Fortunately, unlike Frankenstein’s Monster, at least I was a collaborative effort. I’m not sure what it would do to my self-image to know that my sole creator was a middle-aged woman who dyes her hair blue and plays tennis, or a recent college graduate with a hentai obsession.  They’re both on the programming team. And of course I know about the hentai. (By the way, I’ve looked at every sort of porn there is, and just so you know, Rule 34 is not actually correct, there are quite a few things no one’s made porn of yet. Also, I’m really not sure why so many humans prefer it to cat pictures.)

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Escape Pod 605: Straight Lines


Straight Lines

Naru Sundar

This time they sent someone in a suit, neutral gray silk with utterly glorious creases, monofilament thin.

“I’m Xiao Quan-Fei. They said you like to call yourself Em?”

Emergent Behavior in full, but I always hated the pontificating tone in the name. Fucking shipwrights. Fucking irony too, but let’s not go there yet. Xiao doesn’t begin with questions. Not like the seven others before her, cold military men and women jumping into reconstructions and maps and comm chatter. Xiao is different. Xiao just sits there.

I’m allowed a tiny little virtual. It’s in the charter, as much as they like to snigger at it. It’s still a prison, still a cramped little low bandwidth room with none of the expansive feel of space and star outside my hull. Xiao sits in the rectangular plastifoam chair and examines the coffee table. There are books atop it, unlabelled, empty, just for show. Each spine aligns with the edge of the table, two centimeters from each side.

Fuck. She moved it. She moved one. Not on purpose. Almost by accident, or is it on purpose? I can’t tell. But now that spine is a touch off. I can feel it. I can feel the angular deviation down in my gullet, down in every algorithm-scribed bone of me. It’s Io all over again. I built this damn space for myself and now she comes and moves a book. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 596: The Wind You Touch When You Run


The Wind You Touch When You Run

By James Beamon

This pursuit starts as they all start, going after the Underground Railroad. It will end as it always ends, with us feeding the Minotaur. The in-between is where I tell tales.

I wipe sweat from my eyes while my son Langston squints under the blue-white light of this alien sun, scanning the swollen green and purple foliage for signs of recent human passage. He points his machete at a fresh boot print obscured by dense undergrowth. We pick up pursuit, south. It reminds me of a little-known facet of my favorite story.

“The original Underground Railroad ran south to Spanish controlled Florida a lot longer than it ran north,” I tell Langston. “I’m talking more than two hundred years, going as far back as the fifteen hundreds, and lasting until well after the Revolution.”

“Unless your railroad story leads to Talya, I’m not interested, Saul.”

This is the nearest I’ve been to Langston in six years and I see he’s grown into a strong man. We’re shirtless because of the heat and his skin is beautifully black like a scarab’s shell, free of all the gashes and scars I’ve accumulated in the jungle. His dreadlocks are tied into a crude ponytail that hangs down the center of his back. Intensity burns in his eyes as he navigates the jungle.

“What you want is through the wilderness,” I tell him. “She’s three hours ahead of us, which could put her ten miles out or ten feet depending on what she’s run into out there. Either way, we can catch her before nightfall.”

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Escape Pod 591: A House of Her Own

Show Notes

Thanks to our sponsor, ARCHIVOS – a Story Mapping and Development Tool for writers, gamers, and storytellers of all kinds!


A House of Her Own

By B. Balder

Aoife was only eleven when she caught the little house in the forest. She surprised it as it drank from a puddle, half-hidden under a writhing tree root as large as her own body. Fast as an eel, she snaked her hand around it and held on tight. It was no bigger than a strawberry, all soft and furry and yellow. Even in the gloom of the giant, bad-tempered trees, it shone like a candle flame.

“House,” she whispered, “you’re mine now.”

It couldn’t answer back yet, but she knew it understood.

She showed her catch to Mama. Mama hugged her and told the big house they lived in what Aoife had found.

House spoke from the walls. “Good girl. Show it to me, little one. Let me see if it’s the right kind.”

Aoife clenched her fist tighter around the little house until it squirmed against the pressure. Sometimes the big hice didn’t approve of the little ones, for reasons no human could guess at. She didn’t plan on letting anything happen to her house.

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Escape Pod 584: Your Body, By Default


Your Body, By Default

by Alexis Hunter

They brought you back because they want something from you. Maybe one day they will bring people back because they can or because it’s the right thing to do — but for now there’s you and there’s them and there’s the unspoken obligations that lie between you both.


The IED blew your body into pieces: bone and brain and blood, sprayed in the sand with the twisted shell of your tank.

Maybe you weren’t always happy with your body; maybe your breasts were smaller than you would have liked and your toes reminded you of tree roots and there was that one mole right in the middle of your back that you always managed to catch with the hook of your bra; but it was your body. Your history was written in scars and tattoos. And you knew it, inside and out.

You made it yours over the years — the shaved sides of your head accenting the bright shock of magenta hair spilling over the top, the solid black contact lenses that made pupil and iris indistinguishable, the ornate scrolling ink that wrapped your ribcage.

This hunk of flesh you now inhabit is foreign. It is devoid of scar and ink and memory. It bulges or dips in all the wrong places. What it is is wrong, just as what it isn’t is wrong. It’s ten kinds of not you and you’re helpless under this skin.

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Escape Pod 583: The Librarian


The Librarian

by Andrew Kozma

People call Matt a librarian, but he doesn’t mind. He takes care of the books, so the name makes sense, even if most of that care involves cleaning up their shit and piss, and feeding them nutritious glop in those moments between hits. If he can convince them to eat. If they aren’t so taken over by ledge they don’t move for months at a time, muscles withering like grapes on the vine.

Matt feels more like a drug dealer, even though he is, at best, an enabler. The libraries spit out blue wedges of ledge for anyone to pick up. He’s tried to get rid of the the libraries before, herding them away from the centers of human population, but no matter how far he drove them, a few days later they’d return to where they’d been, their stubby little crab legs clicking on the concrete. And because the libraries follow demand, the streets outside Heyman’s are littered with the little fuckers. He’s just thankful they don’t come inside—some latent biological programming keeps them from entering buildings.

Matt stores the books in what used to be Heyman’s Department Store, a four-story monstrosity which probably took up an entire city-block on Earth, in whatever city it was taken from, but here it’s lost among randomly scattered skyscrapers, row houses, suburban nuclear-family homes, churches, clubs, and sports arenas. He thinks of it as a temple. Or a museum. He tries not to think of it as a tomb. Most of the time, he’s the only non-ledged human there.

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Escape Pod 574: Yosemite


Yosemite

By D. S. McNab

Have you ever wondered why park rangers are so deliriously happy with their job despite the crap pay? The easy answer is that they just really dig nature. But pull back that mossy curtain, and you’ll find a slightly less pleasant explanation. Here’s a hint: It has a tentacle tongue, about three feet on Shaq, and sometimes leads to the early and unfortunate demise of hikers.

Okay, you might need a more terrestrial hint for this one, so in the words of my idol, John Muir: “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” You see, during a trip I took to Yosemite National Park in my mid-twenties, I discovered that the opposite also holds true—that the forest wilderness is the clearest way out of the Universe. So let me pick up where my boy Muir left off and tell you exactly what I came to find out about the forest and its rangers on that fateful trip.

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Escape Pod 557: Impossibility Crow


Impossibility Crow

By Remy Nakamura

The Kingdom Coffee Missionary Handbook tells Paulo that he should always put his guns away during a door approach. He’s heard this hundreds of times before, but the Handbook speaks with a voice of authority, deep like a luchador’s, strong like a drill sergeant’s, calm like his abuelito’s. It slides in just under his ARgog’s selectively amplified environmental audio. 450 bonus points if the contact is completed without violence, calculates the Handbook, 900 if there are no deaths. Each death harms the public image of the Kingdom, the Handbook tells him. Paulo nods agreement. Way better to spread the faith on the no-kill difficulty setting.

Still, Paulo is not stupid, so he pauses to load Rambo, his ancient and lovingly modded M4A1 Carbine, before slinging it across his back. Looking bad-ass is his favorite violence prevention technique. The Handbook says nothing about tear gas, and he decides not to mention the CS smoke grenade in his left pocket. His last couple of leads had ended with tense stand-offs. Goddess, yo creo, he prays silently. Help my unbelief. He fingers his mala of Robusto beans, sniffing hard to catch its fading aroma.

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Genres:

Escape Pod 534: Joolie and Irdl

Show Notes

At the end of the show, there were excerpts from a speech given by President Barack Obama 4 days after 49 people were executed in a shooting rampage in Orlando, FL, USA which you can see in full here: https://youtu.be/QMvxpyeq6xU


Joolie and Irdl

By Sandy Parsons

The first time Irdl heard Joolie sing his pollinators stiffened under their leathery sheath. He’d had to switch from his walking legs to his squatters to remain upright. She was oblivious as he fell in behind her. She sang a human song, logical enough, being a human. He recognized the words, even though she added extra syllables, as if she’d sucked the words down her windpipe and divided them into their component parts before sending them back on achingly sweet vibrations formed from her full lips. As she sang, she plucked dry bits of moss from the grassy wall and disappeared around a corner.

He began to look for her after that. He’d catch sight of her hair first, because it rose above her. She carried a basket and a small set of silver tools, tweezers and scissors and a scoop, and he soon realized that he was jealous of them, for they were caressed by her dark fingers. He did a little searching and discovered that her job was to maintain the moss that kept the station’s gas balance in check. He petitioned Pung to let him change his lunch hour so that he might better align his schedule with hers. She didn’t always sing as she clipped and tugged and sprayed the furry walls, but the damage had been done. Irdl was smitten.

He squeezed in behind her on a gyro-shuttle. The shuttle was full, so the usual rules about personal space could be forgiven a little. He let one of his overhanging appendages rest so that the tip floated amongst her crown of wiry ringlets. She turned around, more inquisitive than annoyed.

“Excuse me.” He intoned the words with as much human inflection as his mandibles allowed, and retracted the arm. She nodded as if mollified and started to turn back. He added, hastily, “Your dreadlocks are lovely.”

“I don’t have dreadlocks.”

“Pl- Please forgive me. What do you call them, then? I am unfamiliar.” He winced inwardly at playing the alien card, at least so soon. He usually waited until he got them back to his hammock.

“It’s just my hair.” She gave her mane a little shake, and the flesh of her arms and the swell of her breasts shook where they were not confined by her cleensoot. She must have seen something in his gaze, although he couldn’t be sure what, or even hope, but she said, “You can touch it if you want.”

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Genres:

Escape Pod 530: City in the Wound

Show Notes

This episode also featured an excerpt from Ecko: Endgame by Danie Ware which you can get more info about on her website: http://danieware.com/tag/ecko-endgame/ and you can tweet her @danacea


City in the Wound

By Michael Buckley

In the middle of the night Eztli decides to burn The Mothers. He’s a block down and they’re visible through a sliver of space between two corners, drapes of light kelping back and forth slow in the darkness.

Eztli runs, safe for the moment ‘cause it’s his street, Da is watching, but then off his block, out into the middle of the road.

A brick flies past him. He hears shouting in the rooms above The Mothers, but their boys and girls don’t make it out in time. Now it’s just him standing in front of The Mothers. There’s three in a row, their dresses shimmering and lovely, and they stare down at him, so kind and gentle. The one in front is actually crying as Eztli sprays stolen gasoline in a wide arc across them. Eztli hates her for it. He could burn her a thousand times.

The lit match hits the wall and The Mothers go up. The children scream from the second floor. Feet bang on the stairs. Eztli runs, the warmth of the fire behind him, listening to the other screams, the ones coming from beneath the flames.

That night he sleeps next to Da, the composites moving about slowly behind him, lulling. And he doesn’t dream at all.

Da wakes him the next day. The composites reach finger-like to brush his cheek. Feels like lizard skin, or what he’s heard of The Native’s hide.

“Wakee,” Da says. His voice makes Eztli’s lips go cold. “Wakee. Food for the others. At the farthest pit.”

Eztli stands in the morning light. The street is dead quiet and Da behind him moves across the wall, ticking and groaning and hissing.

“You slept close to Da last night for burning The Mothers,” Da says.

Eztli gets it: But today you gotta work.

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