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Escape Pod 728: The Cost of Wonder


The Cost of Wonder

by Leah Cypess

I’ll keep this one, I thought, that day at the fair, as the sunset cut a sharp line across the sky. Gina’s laughter rose in a crescendo of delighted giggles, and life seemed absolutely perfect: a sparkling gift of wonder and joy.

I could never afford a memory like this, but I wasn’t buying this one. I had made it, and it was mine, and I wanted it to last forever.

I’m not going to sell this day.

But even as I thought it, I was calculating, trying to guess just how much it was worth. I had known today would be magical; I had dressed Gina for the part, in a little denim dress and matching hat, both of which I’d bought with my earnings from last week’s trip to the playground. The hat flattened but didn’t tame her curls, and her round face was stretched by her smile. She squealed again as soap bubbles filled the air, trying to catch them with tiny, uncoordinated half-jumps, unaware of the iridescent globes settling all over her arms.

My heart swelled with a joy so potent it almost hurt, and I swore it again: I’ll keep this day for myself.

But the next morning Gina woke up sobbing, with a temperature so high she was hot to the touch. I had to beg the doctor to let me bring her in. He was busy, but he relented; I always paid on time.

It was, as I had feared, strep throat. I looked at the antibiotics prescription, which included the price, and knew the day at the fair was already gone.


(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 727: And Never Mind the Watching Ones (Part 2 of 2)


And Never Mind the Watching Ones

(Part 2 of 2)

By Keffy Kehrli

(Continued from Part 1, Escape Pod 726…)

Of course, if someone were systematically scrubbing the Internet of all references to the glitter frogs, then how do you explain the Tumblr gif sets? The audio recordings? The videos that don’t involve illegal firecrackers and animal cruelty?

Surely someone would have taken down the space frog conspiracy theory site designed by a person with only a very cursory understanding of HTML?

The site has a star field background with red, white, and blue text. The only thing less systematic than the wildly varying font size is the capitalization, which seems to occur at random.

tHe FRogS ArE NOT alIeNS, ThEY are GOveRnmENT sPiES!

DO NoT leT TheM FOOL yOU!

i HaVE THE uLTiMatE PrOoF thAt THE sHIp iN oRbIT iS FAkE

tHeRE ARE NO aLiENs

tHAt iS whAt THEY WanT YOu tO BeLiEVE

cIA and FbI haVE bEEN tRYinG tO ShUT Me uP FoR YEARS

NsA iS UsInG FROGs tO ImPLAnt TheIR InSTRUctiOnS In YoUR ChilDRenS MInDS

We MuST RISE UP BeFoRE iT iS TOo LaTE!!!

 

And so on…

This site has been up for at least a year now. If these sites were under surveillance, don’t you think it’d be down already? (Continue Reading…)

BREAKING! Escape Pod is a Finalist for the Hugo Award! As is Alasdair Stuart!


Twice means it’s not a fluke! We are thrilled to announce that Escape Pod is again a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine! Our excellent team’s work of fifteen years has led up to this recognition, and we’re so grateful to those who nominated us! We would be nothing without you, our authors who trust us to bring their stories to our audience, and our narrators who help us get the stories there.

In extra special news, one of our hosts and owner of Escape Artists himself, Alasdair Stuart, was nominated for the Hugo for Best Fan Writer! Congrats, Alasdair! Other Escape Artists staff or alum nominees include Sarah Gailey and Shiv Ramdas!

Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 global pandemic crisis, WorldCon 2020 has moved to a virtual convention. However, the con staff is working hard to bring the best virtual convention they can, which will hopefully include some of the Escape Pod team as part of programming. If you have a membership, please consider keeping it to support the con, be able to access the virtual programming, and to keep your Hugo voting rights!

Here’s the full 2020 ballot.

Congratulations to all of the finalists!

Thank you from the bottoms of our heart for your support!

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Escape Pod 726: And Never Mind the Watching Ones (Part 1 of 2)


And Never Mind the Watching Ones

(Part 1 of 2)

By Keffy Kehrli

 

Aaron

 

He is lying on the splintered, faded-gray wood of the dock, the fingers of one hand dangling in the slough and glitter frogs in his hair. His breath catches and he cups the back of Christian’s head. An airplane is flying far, far overhead. It sounds like the purring exhale of the frogs. Aaron wonders where it’s going.

When he comes, his abdominal muscles tense, pulling his shoulders off the planking. The frogs in his hair go tumbling nubbly ass over nose, their creaking noises gone silent. The orgasm is an adrenaline rush that outlines his body in nervous fire before fading, leaving a ringing in his ears.

Aaron stares up at the broadening remains of the jet contrail, sucking air like he’s been running rather than getting head. He thinks, like every time, that he should have liked it more. He wonders if there’s something wrong with his dick. Christian crawls across the dock and flops beside him, one arm draped carelessly over the baseball logo on Aaron’s T-shirt.

One of the frogs has come back. It puts a clammy little hand on Aaron’s cheek before letting out a croak. The others are scattered across the dock and they answer in identical voices.

“God, they’re so creepy,” Christian says. He picks up the frog. It kicks out its back legs and inflates its neck. It doesn’t ribbit; it freezes as though holding its breath. The two boys can see the delicate iridescent shading on the frog’s belly, the flecks of “glitter” — sensors of some kind, probably alien nanotech. They can see circuitry, visible under thin layers of skin.

“I like them,” Aaron says, reaching out to touch the frog’s nose with a fingertip. It opens its mouth slightly.

Christian holds the frog closer to his face, eyes narrowed in mock anger. “If you’re going to watch, the least you could do is pay us, frogface.” (Continue Reading…)

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CatsCast 289: The Thing in the Basement


The Thing in the Basement

by Gerri Leen

You can hear it, in the basement, behind the metal boxes that your human puts her outer-coverings in just when they start to smell good—when the boxes are done, she brings out her things stinking of flowers or fruit. She’s lucky you know the sound of her voice, because her scent is all over the place.

You chirp to get her attention. A cat would understand the sound. “Alert! Something to hunt!”

But no. Your human is frightfully stupid. She goes on loading the boxes and turns them on. You hear the sound of water, but you can’t see it. You’d splash in it if you could. Your kind has played in water since cats first walked the earth. You’re the original longhaired breed. Your lineage was explained to you by your mother, who heard it from her mother, who heard it from hers.

“She’s a Turkish Angora,” you’ve heard your human say when she’s complimented on your silky white fur or your bright green eyes. As if she had anything to do with them? She thanks your admirers, nonetheless.

But the water perplexes you. You’ve whiled away more than a few moments down here trying to find it, so tantalizing, but right now it’s annoying you because it’s masking the sound of whatever’s down here.

You’re a mighty hunter. That’s what your human tells you, as if you need confirmation that you’re skilled at catching vermin. Doesn’t she realize this is why you stay with her? Why any of your kind do? The first cat to move in with humans was a visionary who could recognize an all-you-can-eat buffet in the granaries. A bunch of cats followed. And the rest is history.

(Continue Reading…)

March 2020 Metacast


Transcript

(Alasdair) Hi everyone, Alasdair here.

We’re not going to ask how you are right now, because we have a pretty good idea. You’re fine. You’re FINE. You’re the same version of fine as everyone right now, the one Aerosmith sang about. The one where you’re alternately anxious, terrified, furious and calm.

We empathise. We’re the same. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 725: Falling Through


Falling Through

by Steen Comer

Woke up again. Checked the news feeds. Everything seems to be about the same, though there is news of a presidential candidate who I don’t remember dropping out of the race. It’s really hard for someone in my position to take an interest in politics, so that’s not really a strong indication. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.

I went to work and the office was still there. My memory tells me I’ve had this job for a few months now, which is helpful. One of the most traumatic shifts I had, because it was one of the first, was showing up at my office job and finding that it was an auto body shop. Luckily I had a faint memory of another location and was able to get there only half an hour late. My boss didn’t even notice.

That was when I first started really thinking about the shifts. I had been seeing the small ones for a long time, but that was the first incontrovertible one, the first that I couldn’t explain away as an error of memory. I thought I was going crazy, of course. Spent a while like that. And, in a case like this, it’s impossible to be sure that I’m not crazy. But I’ve found a Practical Operational Paradigm, as Jonas was fond of saying.

Oh Jonas. First shifter other than myself I ever met. Last one I ever saw. I should get back to work. I don’t know why today I need to write this down again. Maybe it’s the sky. It’s a flat grey that could be anywhere. It’s the color of Claire’s eyes.

(Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 724: The Season of the Storm


The Season of the Storm

by Jonathan Edelstein

Twenty kilometers outside Nkoloso Station, we stopped for gas.

The Titan rover turned and Misozi steered for a group of outcroppings; there were more of those now that we were getting to the uplands north of Kraken Mare. She slowed and stopped beside one of them, a cairn of ice-rocks fused into a column half again my height.

“Elias!” she said. “Let’s cut some.”

My eyes flicked to the dashboard display. “We’re not low.”

“Never hurts to top it off, and we’ll be up there a couple of days.”

Misozi was like that. She liked her margins of error large, and she’d never be satisfied with the gauges at eighty percent when they could be one hundred. She wasn’t going to change, and her habits had saved our lives a time or two, so I didn’t argue. Instead, I opened the door and jumped down.

There was a toolbox on the rover’s flatbed with the word “Banda” scrawled on it in an ancient marker; Misozi opened it and took out an ice pick and hammer, and I did the same with the box labeled “Yaluma.”

A breeze was blowing and stirring the dust and ice particles on the ground, raising even more of a burnt-orange haze than was usual in Titan’s sky. Enough dust was in the air that I had to wipe the face-plate of my suit, and I had the sensation of being in a cloud. I leapt into it; a single bound, in gravity one-seventh of what I’d been born under, took me to the middle of the cairns.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 723: How Did it Feel to be Eaten?


How Did it Feel to be Eaten?

By Amit Gupta

“I was an elderberry,” I announced, glowing with pride.

“How did it feel to be eaten?” he asked.

It seemed an odd question, but a response came unbidden, so I voiced it, “It was an honor.” My words surprised me, but they felt true.

“The Queen of England ate me,” I added. How did I know this? Who was he? My cheeks flushed with embarrassment. I didn’t feel like a berry. Did berries feel embarrassed?

“I didn’t know she was the Queen at the time,” I admitted.

“Yes,” agreed the man who I could not see and did not know. “Let’s try another.”

I was in again and felt immensely powerful. I sparkled in the sun. The land beneath me rose, I stood, and I felt a caress on my shoulder. A child. We danced. I rolled, crested, and rumbled; she banked and cut on her board, gliding gracefully along me, her speed blowing droplets of me right off her wetsuit. We became one.

We reached the shore, and I crumbled, making room for others like me, and others like her.

That was a short one. (Continue Reading…)