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Escape Pod 813: A Consideration of Trees


A Consideration of Trees

By Beth Cato

As a xenoarbitrator, I was accustomed to working with concepts and situations deemed peculiar by most of humanity. Often, though, my own species confounded me most of all.

“I fear you misunderstood my advertisement.” I stood in Mari Kane’s miniscule parlor on Bradbury Orbital Station. My felizard partner, Petey, twitched in his nest atop my silvering crown braids. “I usually mediate between different species. You need a private investigator to look into a suspicious death–”

“Rainbow Charm Corporation owns the local investigators. Madam Alameda, you’re from off station. I couldn’t find any corporate affiliations in your history. You’re the independent investigator I want to hire.” A pleading note crept into her voice.

“I appreciate your confidence in me, but–”

“Bradbury Orbital is property of Rainbow Charm.” Petey spoke directly into my mind via our neural bond, his four-inch-long body flexing as he hummed in thought. “That’s a Thrassi-owned firm. This could be a cultural misunderstanding.”

“–this still isn’t my purview,” I finished, speaking aloud to both of them at once. “I study stories, new and old, and use them to bridge misunderstandings between different kinds of lifeforms. If you had a Murkle as your neighbor, for instance, who began screaming nonstop if rain lasted for more than a day, I could explain why and advise the Murkle on more appropriate responses.”

Honestly, I would have preferred to work with a screaming Murkle about then. Humans had been decisively immoral in every one of my recent jobs–cruel to fellow humans, and other kinds of life, too. Jaded as I felt, I had to wonder what crime her husband had committed to end up dead. (Continue Reading…)

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 799: No Strangers Any More (Part 2)


No Strangers Any More (Part 2 of 2)

by Ian Creasey

Royal Roundup — “ROSE’S NEW BOYFRIEND? Just days after the end of her relationship with Captain Gerrard Calderwood, Princess Rose has a new companion. Is this interplanetary diplomacy, or something more? Centuries have passed since the days when political alliances were cemented with royal marriages, but perhaps the old tradition is due a revival. Was the break-up with Calderwood so bitter that it soured her on the entire human race?”

Conspiracy Channel — “It looks like David Icke was right after all. He always said that the royal family were secretly a race of shape-changing lizards. Now Princess Rose has come out into the open and admitted her true love for her own kind!”

Goggler — “Princess Rose is stepping out with an alien. Presumably, Earthmen aren’t good enough for her. It’s a slap in the face for all Englishmen, but she’s probably upset and confused. Here at Goggler, we think she just hasn’t met the right guy yet, and we want to help her out. Yeomen of England — do you think you’re good enough for Princess Rose? Write and tell us, explaining exactly why you’re suitable. How would you prove yourself? Which monsters would you slay first?”
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 798: No Strangers Any More (Part 1)


No Strangers Any More (Part 1 of 2)

by Ian Creasey

One of a princess’s many duties is to make polite conversation and avoid controversial subjects. Screw that, thought Rose. At the banquet after the first day of the conference, there was only one topic on everyone’s mind, so she raised it. “Are these aliens really going to buy the moon?”

The man opposite her laughed. “Are we really going to sell it?” Subtitles in Rose’s vision identified him as a European Union diplomat, an expert in international law, and a family man with a wife, four children, and a mistress.

As everyone else at the table chimed in, Rose’s visual overlay filled with a cloud of identifiers and titbits, until she tweaked her filters to display only the most relevant tags.
“I think we should sell,” said a Russian four-star general. “Let them have the moon. Best place for them! Then they’re not wandering around down here, eh?”

The Brazilian ambassador scowled. “Have you seen the size of their ship? It’s enormous. There could be millions of them in there.”

“The ship is big because it travels between the stars,” another lawyer said. “The crew is only a few hundred —”

“Sure, that’s what they say,” the ambassador retorted. “But who knows what’s really inside? And if they unload it all onto the moon, do we want to see that looming over us every night?”

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 796: One Hundred Seconds to Midnight


One Hundred Seconds to Midnight

By Lauren Ring

I wake before the plane lands. It’s static-dark, the kind of hazy late night where the air itself seems full of shadows and my eyes refuse to focus. For a moment I feel as though I am stuck in my dream of great heights, dangling weightless above the earth in a kaiju’s monstrous claw, but the steady thrum of the engine grounds me in reality. I’m still high above ground, but the only kaiju on this flight are the profiles tucked in my folder from this afternoon’s insurance pitch. Next to my travel receipts are dozens of photos of those hulking beasts. Their files are neatly sorted, alphabetized by incident location and color-coded by average damage severity. That folder is as close as I have ever gotten to a kaiju.

(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 787: Ascend, Exalt, Love, Propagate, Rise!


Ascend, Exalt, Love, Propagate, Rise!

By Sarah Kumari

The Glory smolders through Jehanne’s bloodstream, pulsing its encouragement.

The rivals who have survived along with him–officially ‘Fellow Eminents’ now that selection is over–twitch and moan as their addiction is quenched. Within minutes they are preening, flexing their muscles, stomping, or singing to Mother Elethra.

Jehanne’s training allows him to douse the call, to batter it down with a deliberate shifting of delta waves. He visualizes his metabolism disassembling the compound at industrial speed. This works for the moment.

In the crowd that fills the EverReach company spaceship, Indrine, the rebel woman pretending to be Jehanne’s mother, clutches the hand of the girl playing his sister. They are mixed in with the family and friends of the other Eminents along with villagers and unrelated Fervents that have made the pilgrimage.

The crowd prays collectively, feverish in their good fortune, for the EverReach company will reward the kin of Eminents for two generations.

If Jehanne succeeds in his true mission, his family will be slaughtered. (Continue Reading…)