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Escape Pod 854: Pickled Roots and Peeled Shoots and a Bowl of Farflower Tea


Pickled Roots and Peeled Shoots and a Bowl of Farflower Tea

By Chaz Brenchley

 

there’s rue for you, and here’s some for me

 

Just that morning, she’d had a novice shave her head for her. He was a promising lad – no, more than promising, he was a promise halfway to being realised already – but still ridiculously young, all awkwardness and angles, nervous of his own body let alone anybody else’s. Let alone hers.

Of course he’d cut her. She’d felt the cold bite of the blade and then its sudden absence as he snatched his hands away, his suppressed cry of self-recrimination, the tentative pressure of a cloth to stem the bleeding. She raised a hand and laid it over his, pressing firmly, teaching him not to be shy. Not with her body, not with her blood. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 853: 2022 Flash Fiction Contest Winners


Half-Lives

by Andrew Hiller

“Time traveler, eh?”

I shuffled my feet and smirked. The AI that stopped me was short, wore a unitard, mask, goggles, and a badge. I tried to edge away, but it blocked my escape and motioned for me to surrender my booty.

“What gave me away?” I asked.

“You said laser pistol instead of zapper.”

I sniffed and dropped a backpack full of looted tech. It thudded instead of clanged.

“Zappers, huh?”

“Well,” AI Cop laughed before returning to me my emptied property, “the last time I heard someone say laser pistol was in a historical.” I tugged my backpack tight, exposed my traveler, and his expression turned serious, “Should arrest you, but paradox y’know.”

“Yeah, that’s why I only travel into the future. Can’t cause a paradox to a thing hasn’t happened yet.”
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 849: There Are No Hot Topics on Whukai


There Are No Hot Topics on Whukai

by Andrea Kriz

The day the dMods shut down Skeleton Caves, Esko put on her VR goggles and slipped into the Whukai space colony’s main chatroom to figure out what was going on. All the Whukains who made their living off the popular Terran MMORPG, d’Artagnan, had the same idea. Beside her, on top of her, avatars logged in—an absolute pandemonium of photorealistic, 8-bit, anime animals and humanoids and everything in between. The two main gold-farming clans had already started fighting among themselves.

“How many times did I tell you PKers,” the head of Esko’s clan screeched. “To leave the Terran players alone!”

“It don’t matter how many Terran players we killed,” leader of the rival HunterFam roared, “when you idiots kept giving us away by speaking Kainese! We. Must. Speak. Terran languages! That’s why all the Terran players reported us to the dMods!”

Esko tore off her VR goggles, tossing them onto her bunk. The interior of her sleeping pod, one toy block in a cluster of thousands, flooded back into view. A storm had kicked up outside, clogging her porthole with Whukai’s trademark scarlet soil. She didn’t have time to waste arguing over whose fault it was that d’Art’s most lucrative moneymaking method had been nerfed. She needed to come up with four hundred dollars for her parents’ chemo drugs. And this month’s rent.
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 846: Dandelion

Show Notes

Hey everyone, Alasdair here – hope you’re doing okay. The summer months are upon us, which means two things – hat weather for yours truly, and the part of our year when costs are high and support tends to dip. We know things are tight everywhere at the moment, and that includes us. For those of you who support us already, thank you so much. We hope you’re enjoying the great new CatsCast episodes. If you’d like to join them, we’ve got tons of options for you at Patreon and PayPal. Even a one-off at Ko-fi makes a big difference, or check out our great new swag store – maybe like me you need a hat! It all adds up, and helps us bring you the best in free audio fiction every week. Thanks, and enjoy this week’s episode.

Promo music:
“Sneaky Snitch” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Dandelion

By John Shade

Before the border wall, we scatter.

Dandelions.

The nanomachines grind us down and we float up and through the cracks, molecule to molecule, like holding hands.


Leena hesitates, is left behind. She stands apart on the wrong side of the wall. She presses her hand to the cool, shaded concrete. We feel it through the upload. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 810: The First Doom (Part 1 of 3)


The First Doom (Part 1)

by DaVaun Sanders

Kyria Grazheen faced down every hollow-eyed stare in the mess hall as she flexed her hand, ignoring the pain lancing through her knuckles. Over fifty women and men surrounded her, former Cassad crew bound by nothing but a shared desire to lash out over their fresh despair. She knew their pain, but sympathy in the Known served a mercenary worse than swallowing a handful of irradiated rounds.

“That’s the last warning you’re gonna get.” Kyria’s brown gaze settled on the man at her feet. He cupped a hand over his jaw, glowering up at her through a puffy eye. He had the good sense to keep his mouth closed while she spoke, even if it meant swallowing a little blood. “One more fight in this outpost, and I’ll shut the broadcast down myself. You can listen to it in orbit like all the rest.”

The scowls deepened as more of the surveying crew set to rush her. Behind them, Shuster’s hand slipped under the bar. Kyria gave a slight shake of her head. He kissed his teeth in exasperation, refusing to budge. Perfect. The man’s grip rested on worse than the mess hall’s poisonous ale.

Kyria winced, flexing her fist again as another Cassad elbowed past his crewmates. Veins bulged along his musclebound neck. “You Arcadian vermin act like you’re the—”

Kyria pried the tooth out of her knuckle with a grunt. “Finally.” A few drops of bright blood oozed out, spattering on the mess hall’s grated metal floor. She peered down at the stocky man, an Element G dispersal engineer by the smell of him. “You were saying?”

(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 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 of 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 of 2)


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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