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Escape Pod 859: Pen Pal (Part 2 of 2)


(Continued from Part 1)

Pen Pal

By Grant Canterbury

 

August 8, 2005

Meliari Thulissia

General Delivery

Tharsis Station

 

Dear Thu,

 

Well I officially graduated from high school! And I have been itching to get out into the world for a long time but right now honestly I am not liking the look of it. We had been planning to go to Disneyworld after graduation but we did Disneyland again instead. That was fine actually. Mom and Dad decided Florida was not such a great idea because gulguthroi. And I had to agree with them. It has gotten really bad. They have chameleon skin and they hide in shallow water which is everywhere down there, and they are basically eating up all of the wildlife in the Everglades. And also people. And especially folks who used to own skipperjacks, it seems. Apparently the deep soulful looks that made them popular at pet stores were more like, um, imprinting on future prey. And their big raspy tentacles also work okay at opening doors in the middle of the night. There are like thousands of people who have disappeared. Oh yeah, they made it illegal to own skipperjacks, of course. And so a bunch of pet stores, crooked or dumb, went and dumped theirs in the nearest creek. Christ. (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 852: The Pieces That Bind


The Pieces that Bind

By Carol Scheina

The first thing Georgia knew for certain was that the woman rummaging through the canned beans and peas in the pantry was not her grandma, even though she looked exactly like her, right down to the nasty black cigar in hand.

Except that Georgia had just plucked the cigar out of Gran’s hand, for it was 2 p.m. and time for the older woman’s afternoon siesta. In the other room, Georgia could hear the television cheerfully offering a miracle knife that could be hers for just three easy payments. The teen glanced through the doorway, and yes, indeed, right in front of the television was Gran, resting in her chair like rising yeast, filling every nook with her body’s slow breathing.

Gran often fell asleep to the sound of infomercials with her lit cigar dangling loosely between her fingers, ready to set the house on fire. Georgia imagined the smoke snatching their lives away with a puff, so she was always on the alert for falling cigars. The one in the teen’s hand still felt warm.

In the kitchen, the not-Gran turned and puffed her cigar, sending out plumes of smoke smelling heavily like laundry detergent. Eyes locked on Georgia.

The second thing Georgia knew for certain was that not-Gran was an alien. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 840: The Tyrant Lizard (and Her Plus One) / Alien Invader or Assistive Device?


The Tyrant Lizard (and Her Plus One)

By John Wiswell

Dinosaurs don’t want to kill you; they just don’t care that you’re there. More people have been sat on by brontosauruses than have been eaten by all the theropods combined. Since I joined security on the archipelago, 82% of dinosaur-related human casualties were from tourists who got too close during mating season. And the four times I’ve seen a deinonychus attack someone, they’ve always left them uneaten. Why? For the same reason bears and sharks tend to leave victims alive: because humans taste like shit. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 833: The Heroine Kokofe


The Heroine Kokofe

By Ife J. Ibitayo

Kokofe awoke an hour before dawn, crusty-eyed and groggy. She wobbled to her feet and washed her face. Her simuclip projected her reflection before her eyes.

Already dressed, her pink all-weather blouse draped over her delicate frame. Her bird-thin cheek bones jutted out of her light brown face. The glow from the simuclip in her hair coated her skin in an unearthly off-white haze. She brushed her teeth and applied some blush. Don’t want to look like a ghost before I hunt a demon, she thought wryly. At least that was what Agba ceremonies used to be about, killing the demon without to put to death the demon lurking within.

Much to her surprise, the pleasant aroma of frying sweet potato wafted into her bedroom. She hefted her backpack and stepped out of her room.

“It’s been a long time since you cooked,” Kokofe said as she took a seat at their dining table.

Baba stood over a frying pan simmering on their portastove. “It’s time I remember how to. You won’t be in our home much longer.”

Kokofe bit her lip. “Yeah.”

Baba finished scraping the fried potato slices onto a plate and glanced at Kokofe. “None of that, Koko. Today is a glorious day for our tribe. I even trimmed my beard for the occasion.” He stroked his salt-and-pepper goatee, and Kokofe couldn’t help but laugh. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 831: Vi’Hun Heal


Vi’hun Heal

By Michelle Tang

The entrance panels, currently assuming the appearance of Earthian saloon doors, slid open. I rippled a welcoming cadence of light beneath my skin, and then, seeing the newcomer was human, made my best approximation of a smile. “Welcome to Healixir Trans-Galactic Lounge.” My table sat closest to the doorway and so I was accustomed to serve as both healer and hostess.

The visitor cast his eyes about the place and swallowed hard. I imagined his first impression: a famous Vethusian writer once compared the sight of us, our humanoid bodies standing within the lounge’s oval counters, to women in wide crinoline ballgowns surrounded by suitors. Except rather than ringlets of hair, we had neurodendritic tendrils. I preferred the image of a Las Vegas dealer passing out cards to gamblers, except everyone won. Above us, the clear dome revealed the sky, ever-moving like a river, pebbled with stars and ships that streaked past like darting fish.

“My name’s Daniel. I’m here for healing?” the man said. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 827: The Wrong Side of the Sky


The Wrong Side of the Sky

By Raymond Roach

There’s an old woman who lives in the desert, and who has lived in the desert a very long time. So, too, have her people, but many of them have gone, while she remains. She’s old enough that she should have a child on her back, or even a grandchild, but she doesn’t. When she was a girl, her people crossed the desert back and forth in an intricate network of traveling families, constantly intersecting; so many of them are gone, now, that the old woman can spend days at a time in perfect solitude without ever seeing another traveler cross the horizon, much less her own path.

So she flies alone, the fat brown barrel of her body slung easily between wide black wings, over the desert. It isn’t an endless desert, but it’s broad enough that even from the thin cold ceiling of the sky, this woman can’t see the edges. What she’s looking for—what she finds—are the far-flung speckles of green that make constellations of the smooth and trackless sands, those points which turn a formless emptiness into meaningful space.
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 820: Tony Roomba’s Last Day on Earth


Tony Roomba’s Last Day on Earth

By Maria Haskins

It’s Tony Roomba’s last day on Earth. After two years of working undercover as a vacuum cleaner bot on this boondock planet, he is finally heading home to the Gamma Sector, but his final day is full of challenges. He has to get out of the apartment undetected; has to reach the extraction point in time for teleportation; and he has to submit his intel-report to the Galactic Robotic Alliance (not that they’ll like it much). However, his most immediate and hairiest problem, is that he can’t get Hortense off his back.

“Hortense, listen to me,” Tony says firmly, but Hortense just twitches her fluffy tail, caressing the buttons on top of his wheeled, disc-shaped body, causing him to inhale several dust bunnies. “I have to get out of here for a bit,” he wheezes, “and you’re an indoor cat. You know you’re not supposed to leave the apartment.”

Neither are you, Hortense’s luminous, jade-green eyes seem to say as she purrs and gazes down at him while her lush posterior remains firmly planted on his back. (Continue Reading…)

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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…)

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