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Escape Pod 507: The Call of the Sky


The Call of the Sky

by Cliff Winnig

The army hospital’s underground floors reminded me of Pluto Base, a place I’d never actually been. I’d never even been off-world, but I remembered those claustrophobic beige corridors. Two years before, I’d synced with a bunch of my alts home on leave after basic training. Today for the first time I’d be meeting one who’d seen combat. More than that, one who’d become a hero, the only Teri Kang to survive the Battle of Charon.

We wouldn’t be syncing, though. Not this time. Not ever. Before she’d escaped the doomed moon — the moon she’d given the order to destroy — she’d been bitten. That’s what the G.I.s called it when Hive nanobots infected you: being bitten. Like it was a zombie plague or something.

Hell, it might as well be. Soon the only other Teri Kang in the universe would lose her fight with that infection, and the army docs would euthanize her. Under the circumstances, even coming home had been an act of courage. A lot of G.I.s who got bitten went AWOL rather than face the certain death of returning to base. Not for the first time, I wondered if I had such courage lying latent within me.

Flanked by MPs, I followed a nurse down hallway after hallway till we arrived at my alt’s room. Well, the room next to it, since she was quarantined. A smartglass wall separated me from the sterile chamber where the other Teri Kang would live out her last few hours.

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Escape Pod 429: The Little Black Bag

Show Notes

This episode contains a sound effect provided by user gcmax at freesound.org.


The Little Black Bag

by C. M. Kornbluth

Old Dr. Full felt the winter in his bones as he limped down the alley. It was the alley and the back door he had chosen rather than the sidewalk and the front door because of the brown paper bag under his arm. He knew perfectly well that the flat-faced, stringy-haired women of his street and their gap-toothed, sour-smelling husbands did not notice if he brought a bottle of cheap wine to his room. They all but lived on the stuff themselves, varied with whiskey when pay checks were boosted by overtime. But Dr. Full, unlike them, was ashamed. A complicated disaster occurred as he limped down the littered alley. One of the neighborhood dogs–a mean little black one he knew and hated, with its teeth always bared and always snarling with menace–hurled at his legs through a hole in the board fence that lined his path. Dr. Full flinched, then swung his leg in what was to have been a satisfying kick to the animal’s gaunt ribs. But the winter in his bones weighed down the leg. His foot failed to clear a half-buried brick, and he sat down abruptly, cursing. When he smelled unbottled wine and realized his brown paper package had slipped from under his arm and smashed, his curses died on his lips. The snarling black dog was circling him at a yard’s distance, tensely stalking, but he ignored it in the greater disaster.

With stiff fingers as he sat on the filth of the alley, Dr. Full unfolded the brown paper bag’s top, which had been crimped over, grocer-wise. The early autumnal dusk had come; he could not see plainly what was left. He lifted out the jug-handled top of his half gallon, and some fragments, and then the bottom of the bottle. Dr. Full was far too occupied to exult as he noted that there was a good pint left. He had a problem, and emotions could be deferred until the fitting time.

The dog closed in, its snarl rising in pitch. He set down the bottom of the bottle and pelted the dog with the curved triangular glass fragments of its top. One of them connected, and the dog ducked back through the fence, howling. Dr. Full then placed a razor-like edge of the half-gallon bottle’s foundation to his lips and drank from it as though it were a giant’s cup. Twice he had to put it down to rest his arms, but in one minute he had swallowed the pint of wine.

He thought of rising to his feet and walking through the alley to his room, but a flood of well-being drowned the notion. It was, after all, inexpressibly pleasant to sit there and feel the frost-hardened mud of the alley turn soft, or seem to, and to feel the winter evaporating from his bones under a warmth which spread from his stomach through his limbs.

A three-year-old girl in a cut-down winter coat squeezed through the same hole in the board fence from which the black dog had sprung its ambush. Gravely she toddled up to Dr. Full and inspected him with her dirty forefinger in her mouth. Dr. Full’s happiness had been providentially made complete; he had been supplied with an audience.

“Ah, my dear,” he said hoarsely. And then: “Preposserous accusation. ‘If that’s what you call evidence,’ I should have told them, ‘you better stick to your doctoring.’ I should have told them: ‘I was here before your County Medical Society. And the License Commissioner never proved a thing on me. So, gennulmen, doesn’t it stand to reason? I appeal to you as fellow memmers of a great profession–“‘

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Escape Pod 314: Movement


Movement

By Nancy Fulda

It is sunset.  The sky is splendid through the panes of my bedroom window; billowing layers of cumulous blazing with refracted oranges and reds.  I think if only it weren’t for the glass, I could reach out and touch the cloudscape, perhaps leave my own trail of turbulence in the swirling patterns that will soon deepen to indigo.

But the window is there, and I feel trapped.

Behind me my parents and a specialist from the neurological research institute are sitting on folding chairs they’ve brought in from the kitchen, quietly discussing my future.  They do not know I am listening.  They think that, because I do not choose to respond,  I do not notice they are there.

“Would there be side effects?” My father asks.  In the oppressive heat of the evening, I hear the quiet Zzzapof his shoulder laser as it targets mosquitoes.  The device is not as effective as it was two years ago: the mosquitoes are getting faster. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 292: In the Water


In the Water

By Katherine Mankiller

Yvonne looked up from her monitor, the beads in her cornrows clattering as Roger walked into her office.

Roger sat in the dark wooden chair opposite her desk. “Weren’t you assigned Alice van Buuren?”

“Oh, no you don’t,” Yvonne said. “You can’t have her.” Yvonne hadn’t been assigned Alice; she’d requested her. Alice was probably the only murder victim’s wife she would ever meet. They hadn’t even put the murder in the papers. Maybe they thought there’d be a panic.

“Please,” Roger said. “I’m just trying to save you some trouble. I’ve already spoken to her, and…”

Yvonne crossed her arms and glared. “Wouldn’t you raise hell if I talked to one of your patients behind your back?”

“She’s refusing modern therapy. What are you going to do, use the old-fashioned techniques your grandmother used?”

Roger had a lot of nerve mentioning Grandma. Yvonne glanced at the photo on the corner of her desk. Grandma Jackson had been a big woman, with braids down to her hips and skin like chocolate. Grandma Jackson smiled back at the camera, all reassuring good nature.

Roger said, “I think we should just wipe her and have done with it.”

“Too bad she’s not your patient,” Yvonne said.

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Escape Pod 269: Élan Vital

Show Notes

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 261: Only Springtime When She’s Gone
  • Next week… The future of corporate America

Creative Commons License

Élan Vital by K. Tempest Bradford is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at escapepod.org.


Élan Vital

By K. Tempest Bradford

The few minutes I had to spend in the Institute’s waiting room were my least favorite part of coming up to visit my mother. It felt more like a dialysis room, the visitors sunk into the overly-soft couches and not speaking, just drinking orange juice and recovering. There were no magazines and no television, just cold air blowing from the vents and generic music flowing with it. I’d finished my juice and was beginning to brood on my dislike for overly air-conditioned buildings when my mother arrived attended by a nurse.

I kissed and hugged her, automatically asking how she was, mouthing the answer she always gave as she gave it again.

“I’m fine, same as always.”

It wasn’t strictly true, but true enough.

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Escape Pod 213: A Monkey Will Never Get Rid of Its Black Hands


A Monkey Will Never Get Rid of Its Black Hands

By Rachel Swirsky

Papa and Uncle Fomba told me if I didn’t join the army, they’d kill me. They didn’t. They cut off my hands.

This was after U.S. forces marched on Syria, but before we invaded Lebanon. On every city block, posters of Uncle Sam entreated every Tom, Duc, and Haroun to get blown up in the name of freedom. Papa and Fomba gave me two weeks to enlist. I ran for Canada instead. They caught me.

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Escape Pod 116: Ej-Es

Show Notes

Blog of the Week:
Three Laws Unsafe


Ej-Es

by Nancy Kress

Mia didn’t reply. Her attention was riveted to Esefeb. The girl flung herself up the stairs and sat up in bed, facing the wall. What Mia had see before could hardly be called a smile compared to the light, the sheer joy, that illuminated Esefeb’s face now. Esefeb shuddered in ecstasy, crooning to the empty wall.

“Ej-es. Ej-es. Aaahhhh, Ej-es!”

Mia turned away. She was a medician, but Esefeb’s emotion seemed too private to witness. It was the ecstasy of orgasm, or religious transfiguration, or madness.

“Mia,” her wrister said, “I need an image of that girl’s brain.”

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