Archive for 17 and Up

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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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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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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Escape Pod 529: Of Blessed Servitude

Show Notes

This is a story set in the same world as “To the Knife-Cold Stars,” which ran in Escape Pod in February 2015.


Of Blessed Servitude

By A. Merc Rustad

The sacrificial cross threw a long shadow across the road at Bishop’s dust-caked boots. He halted sharp at the sight of it. Wind hummed through wildseed bushes strung along the ditch, yellow buds as bright as radiation seals. Bishop clenched his jaw and looked along the shadow to the cross itself. It gleamed in the sunset, a steel post with a fused crossbeam, packed dirt the color of old blood at its base. And the cross wasn’t empty.

Well, shit. 

The offering was a pretty one—young, work-muscled body, a day’s stubble scuffing his jaw. He’d been shackled naked to the cross, arms spread against the top beam. The dusty wind tugged unkempt hair across his eyes.

Bishop slapped the film of red dirt from his duster, his shoulders tense, and checked his knives from habit. He knew he shouldn’t have traveled past Providence Circle. If chokevine hadn’t overrun the only bridge across Unrepentant’s Canyon, he’d never have come near this territory. He’d never have come within sight of the town of Blessed Servitude.

He hadn’t been home in ten years.

“You should get off the road, stranger.”

“Mighty courteous of you to warn a man,” Bishop said. He shouldn’t look at the man chained against steel, shouldn’t stir up old memories. He never saved the offerings, and he didn’t try.

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Escape Pod 527: Plural


Plural

by Lia Swope Mitchell

The aliens come in peace, as they always do, bearing gifts and a banner printed with hopeful messages. Universal understanding, sharing and collaboration, the usual thing: three-hundred-year-old language cribbed from the Bebo time capsule. We install them in the quarantine tank and let them alone. We’re still processing the previous group.

The predecessors were large, their plump thigh muscles well marbled with fat. We’re dressing them in herbs and slow-roasting them, and the flavor is good, rich and unctuous, the fibers softened by their long voyage in low-G. The rest we’re making into sausage, confit, and stock. We’ve been lucky this year, with three groups since spring. Sometimes we go a long time without meat; at least real meat, better than the crawlers and birds, tiny dust-flavored things full of bones.

These new ones aren’t impressive, as aliens go. Maybe reptilian: small and sweet-fleshed. Ten forlorn figures in blue smocks, they sit on the sterile-sheeted beds and do not speak or gesture much, exchange only occasional glances. From this we conclude that they communicate telepathically. After a few hours, though, one falls ill, probably from some unfamiliar bacteria. Greenish saliva drips from its mouth onto a pillow. Soon enough they might all be infected, and already this is no great harvest.

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