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Escape Pod 866: The Sea Goddesss’ Bloom


The Sea Goddess’ Bloom

By Uchechukwu Nwaka

There is doubt in my heart.

Here, in the Blackwater, doubt is dangerous.

Doubt is rancid. Like slitting the mud-smeared belly of a catfish, only to find its guts blackened by pollution, then watching it spill back into the blacker waters of the creek. Blackwater is a literal name; it is not symbolic. These people do not care about legacies. The only thing that matters is continuity. Continuity does not require permanence.

At least Oba says so. Surely Oba cannot be wrong.

Yet I doubt. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 863: A Shoreline of Oil and Infinity


A Shoreline of Oil and Infinity

by Renan Bernardo

Conchinha
Charging… 87%
Energy source: light
Message:
Good morning, Vitória. The water is cold today. Brrr.

 

Vitória switches off the feed from her lenses and pats the tatuí’s shell, kneeling before it.

“Hey, Conchinha.” She brushes off the excess of crusted oil from the bot, scanning her fingerprint to open its main compartment. A wave breaks on the shore, sprinkling on her face and the bot. “Let’s see what you have here.”

The tatuí whirs—almost purrs. She plucks out the cylindrical cell from its rounded back. More darkened water. She doesn’t read the full report, but she can guess what it contains pretty well. Heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, hydrocarbons… All there is to know in Barra Nova’s waters these days. Layers of oil expand across both sides of the straight shoreline, coating the once gilded sand, patches of darkness suffusing the air with the stink of hydrogen sulfide that in the past made the kids call that beach The Coast of Broken Eggs. André’s kids—Vitória always thinks of them as her stepbrother’s children, though not one of them was his by birth.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 860: Solo Cooking for the Recently Revived


Solo Cooking for the Recently Revived

by Aimee Picchi

I hide my right hand behind my back when Jamie steps into the rehab center’s kitchen. Like all the rest of the reintegration counselors, he’s a Survivor. And Survivors always stare at our scars.

“Let’s start with our motto,” Jamie says.

The class intones: “Food is life.

My friend Myra hitches her thumbs on her belt, cinched to the smallest hole, and rolls her eyes.

“And?” Jamie prods.

To cook is human,” we finish.

Every time I say it I imagine the motto will fix me, erase my scars and everything else that happened in the last year. Get me one step closer to Carter. I once confided my belief to Myra and she laughed. That motto’s not for our benefit, sweetie, she had said. It’s so they can believe we’re still just like them.

Jamie gestures for me to join him at the front of the classroom, the home-ec lab inside a former middle school. About twenty of us are lined up at ovens and sinks and Formica countertops where students scratched blocky initials inside of hearts. I don’t want to think about what probably happened to the kids.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 816: Merely Players


Merely Players

by Erik Grove

Jester stopped his bicycle in front of the thrift store window and looked through the glass at the plastic fat man with a jaunty red hat and an army surplus gas mask. He’d been Santa Claus once, a long time ago before the world ended and everyone died. He could still do a Santa Claus laugh. Like a bowl full of jelly.

“Holly jolly,” he said and engaged the kickstand with his foot. He took a crowbar from his backpack and smashed the glass. He tossed the gas mask aside and went for the white beard on the mannequin underneath. He pulled it on and leaned back. The trick to a perfect Santa Claus laugh is leaning.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 800: Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death


Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death

By N.K. Jemisin

The intel is good. It had better be; three women died to get it to us. I tuck away the binoculars and crawl back from the window long enough to hand-signal my girls. Fire team moves up, drop team on my mark, support to hold position and watch our flank. The enemy might have nothing but mercs for security, but their bullets punch holes same as real soldiers’, and some of ’em are hungry enough to be competent. We’re hungrier, though.

Shauntay’s got the glass cutter ready. I’m carrying the real payload, slung across my torso and back in a big canteen. We should have two or three of these, since redundancy increases our success projections, but I won’t let anyone else take the risk. The other ladies have barrels cracked and ready to drop. The operation should be simple and quick—get in, drop it like it’s hot, get out.

This goes wrong, it’s on me.

It won’t go wrong. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 789: The Machine That Would Rewild Humanity


The Machine That Would Rewild Humanity

By Tobias S. Buckell

On a boat on the way to the Galapagos Islands to visit the world’s oldest tortoise, I got a call that the Central Park Human Reintroduction Center had been bombed.

I’d read somewhere that the point of travel was to see the thing yourself. To expose yourself to new points of view and to have new experiences. Before the call I’d spent two point seven seconds regarding the sweep of the Himalayas at the roof of the world and take a backup of my memory of the entire panorama. In Pattaya, I lounged at the beach and watched the aquamarine water lap the sand.

Ten years I’d planned this trip. A time to let my thoughts settle before the big push on the Central Park project.

My life’s work.

A mechanical butterfly perched on my hand with the message. To deliver it, the butterfly had wafted its way over almost two thousand kilometers of ocean boundaries, negotiated with air currents for overflight permissions, and applied for fifty different visas until it tracked my boat down.

The Institute had paid a small fortune to recall me from vacation. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 771: The Mercy of Theseus (Flashback Friday)

Show Notes

The Mercy of Theseus first appeared on Escape Pod on Episode 472 on December 19, 2014.


The Mercy of Theseus

By Rachael K. Jones

Greta and Jamal have three arms, two legs, and one working kidney between the two of them. The kidney belongs to Greta. Its twin went to her little sister three years back, and now she has a laparoscopic keyhole scar over her belly button to remember it by. She can feel it pull tight when she rolls her creeper beneath the chassis of the next project in the shop. Thanks to the war, Jamal has lost the arm, the legs, and the other two kidneys.

All his parts have since been replaced. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 751: More Than Simple Steel


More Than Simple Steel

By Aimee Ogden

Micah misses the adults most when he wakes up each morning. Part of him is still waiting for the buzz of an alarm clock and the smell of toaster waffles to coax him up from sleep. But it’s been four years, and there is no mother to nudge him awake.

He sits up on his mattress and scratches crust from his eyes. The bedsheets smell like sweat and grass; is it laundry day today? He’s the closest thing to an adult under the roof of Grand Avenue Elementary, and if he says it’s laundry day, then it will be.

Clothes on, shoes on. Everyone has to wear shoes all the time. That’s the rule, ever since Marco got tetanus last year and they all thought he was going to die. It was the worst sickness they’d seen since the flops cleared out all the adults. Micah doesn’t know what he’ll do when something worse sweeps through.

The door of the teachers’ lounge–he can’t stop thinking of it as the teachers’ lounge, even though there are no teachers here and not much time for lounging–clicks quietly shut behind him. Then he moves down the hallway, opening doors, calling names. “Fabián, garden. Jack, laundry. Vee, babysitting. Carrie, fishing.” (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 737: To the Knife-Cold Stars (Summer Flashback)

Show Notes

To the Knife-Cold Stars originally appeared on episode 480 of Escape Pod on February 7, 2015.


To the Knife-Cold Stars

By Merc Fenn Wolfmoor

When Grace opens his newly crafted eye, the first thing he sees is wire. Thick cords of braided wire snaking like old veins up the walls. It’s dim inside the surgical unit, but for all the black metal and mesh shelves, it feels clean, even in the heat. The air still has the unfamiliar taste of crude oil. Sweat sticks the borrowed clothes to his skin. He blinks, a flicker of pain in his head as the left eyelid slides down over cool metal buried in the socket.

He’s awake and he’s alive.

The anesthetic hasn’t worn off. It’s sluggish in his blood, an unpleasant burn at the back of his throat. It blurs the edges of his thoughts like too much bad wine. But it doesn’t dull the deep-etched fear still unspooling through his gut. He survived the demon, survived his own execution. It’s a hard thing to accept, even days later. He wants to touch the new eye, this machine part of his body, the forever-reminder what happened. Doesn’t dare, yet.

“Back with us, eh?” says a raspy voice muffled by a respirator.

Grace turns his head, slow and careful. He dimly recalls the wire-tech mumbling about whiplash in his neck and the horrific bruising along his ribs and back where the welts are still healing. “Guess so.”

The tech is a small man dressed in heavy surgical leathers that are studded with metal sheeting. Old blood speckles the apron and gloves; the metal and rivets are spotless. Only the skin on his forehead is visible under thick embedded glasses and a breather covering nose and mouth. “Nearly died on us, you did. Venom went right into the blood.”

The demon’s venom. Grace doesn’t reach to touch his face where the sunspawn’s claws took out his eye and split flesh to bone. He doesn’t look down, either. A new shirt and worn jeans cover whatever scars the demon left on his belly and thighs. He shivers in the heat. He doesn’t know if he can ever look at himself again; what will Humility think–

Humility.

Grace trembles harder. Humility will never see him again. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 729: Gaze of Robot, Gaze of Bird


Gaze of Robot, Gaze of Bird

By Eric Schwitzgebel

First, an eye. The camera rose, swiveling on its joint, compiling initial scans of the planetary surface. Second, six wheels on struts, pop-pop, pop-pop, pop-pop, and a platform unfolding between the main body and the eye. Third, an atmospheric taster and wind gauge. Fourth, a robotic arm. The arm emerged holding a fluffy, resilient nanocarbon monkey doll, which it carefully set on the platform.

The monkey doll had no actuators, no servos, no sensors, no cognitive processors. Monkey was, however, quite huggable. Monkey lay on his back on the warm platform, his black bead eyes pointed up toward the stars. He had traveled wadded near J11-L’s core for ninety-five thousand years. His arms, legs, and tail lay open and relaxed for the first time since his hurried manufacture.

J11-L sprouted more eyes, more arms, more gauges – also stabilizers, ears, a scoop, solar panels, soil sensors, magnetic whirligigs. Always, J11-L observed Monkey more closely than anything else, leaning its eyes and gauges in.

J11-L arranged Monkey’s limbs on the platform, gently flexing and massaging the doll. J11-L scooped up a smooth stone from near its left front wheel, brushed it clean, then wedged it under Monkey’s head to serve as a pillow. J11-L stroked and smoothed Monkey’s fur, which was rumpled from the long journey.

“I love you, Monkey,” emitted J11-L, in a sound resembling language. “Will you stay with me while I build a Home?”

Monkey did not reply.
(Continue Reading…)

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