Posts Tagged ‘death’

Escape Pod 558: Holding the Ghosts


Holding the Ghosts

By Gwendolyn Clare

Abby was in control of the body the first time a glitch occurred. She was “home from college for the long weekend”—that’s what the imprinted memories showed, at least—and her mother was pouring dollops of blueberry pancake batter onto the sizzling cast-iron griddle.

Her father had found an excuse to go into work on a Saturday morning, as he often did ever since Abby “went off to college.” She assumed this was her father’s strategy for coping with empty nest syndrome and tried not to feel hurt by his avoidance. Her interpretation wasn’t entirely incorrect, but of course she did not comprehend exactly how empty the nest was.

When Abby stopped living with them full time, the body stopped being Abby full time. Leasing the body was quite expensive, so this was the only logical decision. But Abby’s father could not reconcile himself to the idea that Abby only existed on the weekends when they rented the body, never mind that the techs would fabricate memories for her so that she believed she had experienced all the intervening days.

The body shouldn’t have known this. The body should only know what Abby knew.

“Do you want another one? We’ve still got some batter here.” (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 543: Rock, Paper, Scissors, Love, Death


Rock, Paper, Scissors, Love, Death

by Caroline M. Yoachim

ROCK

Rock crushes scissors. Nicole sat on a crowded bus to Spokane, knitting a turquoise scarf. The gray-haired man sitting next to her stared obsessively at his wristwatch. He was travelling with his son, Andrew, who sat across the aisle. She offered to trade seats so they could sit together, but both men refused. The bus wound around the sharp curves of Stevens Pass, and Nicole made good progress on her scarf.

Out of nowhere, Andrew’s father grabbed her and shoved her across the aisle, into Andrew’s arms. There was a loud crack, and a roar like thunder. A boulder the size of a car slammed into the side of the bus. Nicole stared at the wall of stone that filled the space where her seat had been. The red handles of her scissors stuck out from underneath the rock, the blades crushed underneath. Andrew’s father was completely lost beneath the stone.


Love shreds paper. After the accident, Nicole met Andrew for coffee. She returned his father’s watch, which had somehow ended up in her jacket pocket, though she couldn’t figure out how or when he’d put it there. Andrew gave her a pair of red-handled scissors, identical to the pair she had lost. She invited him for Thanksgiving dinner with her parents, since he had no other family. They took a weekend trip to Spokane, and when the bus reached the site of the accident, they threw handfuls of flower petals out the window.

Andrew was an engineer and a poet. He built her a telescope that folded spacetime so she could see distant exoplanets, and he wrote her scientific love poems. At their wedding, they gave the guests bags of confetti made from shredded strips of his poems, so they could be showered in love.


Rock destroys love. Two years into her marriage, Nicole suspected Andrew was cheating. He stayed late at work, went out late with the guys, took weekend business trips. He was gone more than he was home, and he got angry when Nicole asked him about it. She already knew what she’d see when she followed him out to Beacon Rock, but she had to see it with her own eyes, if only from a distance. She was surprised to see him with an older woman, rather than a younger one. She filed for divorce, and he didn’t argue.


Scissors cut paper. A few years after the divorce, Nicole sat in the swing on her front porch and cut love poems and photographs into thin strips. It was her therapy, letting go of the memories she’d kept boxed up after Andrew moved out. There was something satisfying about the snip of the scissors. Words flew everywhere. Eternal. Heart. Devotion. True. Paper piled up on the porch, and a breeze sent a few strips swirling. It reminded her of the confetti at their wedding, and suddenly cutting paper wasn’t as satisfying. She hurled her scissors into the front yard.


Death steals scissors. Nicole went out into the yard the next morning to get her scissors. She didn’t want to run them over with the lawnmower later, and she wasn’t quite ready to let go of the first gift Andrew ever gave her. The poems were gone from her porch, and she couldn’t find the scissors in the yard, even after an hour crawling on her hands and knees. The common link between the poems and the scissors was Andrew. Had he taken them? Against her better judgment, she drove to his apartment. The door was open, and there were cops inside. Andrew was missing, and he’d left a note. A suicide note.

The body was never found. Neither were her scissors.

(Continue Reading…)

Book Review: The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett


On September 1, my Kindle automatically downloaded my preordered copy of The Shepherd’s Crown. By September 3, I’d finished reading the final Discworld novel. How do I feel about this?

Empty. Satisfied, but empty. The book is closed on the Discworld, at least in this form, and… well… I don’t think I can wrap my head around that.

But anyway, here’s my review of the novel. Spoilers beyond this point for The Shepherd’s Crown by the late Sir Terry Pratchett, and for the rest of the Discworld.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 481: Temporary Friends


Temporary Friends

by Caroline M. Yoachim

The second week of kindergarten, Mimi came home with a rabbit. Despite numerous mentions of the Temporary Friends project in the parent newsletter, I wasn’t prepared to see my five-year-old girl cuddling a honey-colored fluffball that was genetically engineered to have fatally high cholesterol and die of a heart attack later in the school year.

“I named him Mr. Flufferbottom.” Mimi told me. I glared at Great-Grandpa John, who’d been watching her while I finished up my shift at the clinic. He shrugged. My gruff maternal grandfather wasn’t my first choice of babysitter, but he needed a place to stay and I needed someone to watch Mimi after school.

“Are you sure it’s a good idea to name him, honey?” I knelt down and put my hand on Mimi’s shoulder. “He’s a completely biological rabbit, and this kind doesn’t tend to live very long.”

“Teacher said to pick good names for our rabbits,” Mimi said. “Besides, you put new parts on people, so if Mr. Flufferbottom breaks you can fix him.”

Replacement pet parts were readily available online, and the self-installing models could be put in by anyone who could afford the hefty price tag and follow simple instructions. But replacement parts defeated the purpose of the lesson — research showed that children needed to experience death in order to achieve normal emotional development. Aside from the occasional suicide or tragic accident, there weren’t many occasions to deal with loss. Schools were required to incorporate Temporary Friends into their kindergarten curriculum in order to get government funding.

The school couldn’t control what parents did, of course, but the parent newsletter strongly discouraged tampering with the damned death pets in any way.

“Mimi, sweetie, that’s not how it works this time — I know we get a lot of extra parts for Graycat, but your Temporary Friend is only until…” I tried to remember from the newsletter how long the rabbits were engineered to live. Six months? “Only until March, and then we’ll say goodbye.”

I expected Mimi to put up a big fuss, but she didn’t. She took Mr. Flufferbottom to the cage we’d set up in her room and got him some food and water.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 468: The Law of Gravity


The Law of Gravity

by Sam Ferree

That sunrise was the best they had made yet.  The air was cool, not cold, and the Termination was just the right shade of pomegranate red around the sun.  The light breeze smelled like oranges.  It reminded me of candy, not real fruit, just that imitation flavor that somehow tastes better than the real thing.

“I think Lauren’s dead,” Lukas repeated, his avatar’s young face contorted in disgust.  Lukas had chosen a runner’s physique, because, out there, he’d been a track star in college; why that mattered to him was beyond me.

“What do you mean you think she’s dead?” I asked.  We were sitting at Reel Café — a not-so clever pun, I thought — at the edge of the patio.  We had met there every Monday morning for years.

My coffee was cold and my cigarette spent.  Lukas had ordered his usual Earl Grey and a grapefruit, but he hadn’t touched either one.

Lukas shook his head.  “Her avatar is in Smith Field.  Just standing there, staring off at nothing.  It’s been doing that for weeks.  I spoke with a friend of mine, an administrator.  They’re shutting down her account because her fees are overdue.  She hasn’t been away from the Flat for more than two days in decades.  She’s dead, Noah.”

“So she’s been away for a few weeks.  That doesn’t mean anything.”

“But it’s a pretty good sign she isn’t coming back.”

The orange scent was fading and Lukas was silent.  I said, “Well, what do we do?”

“What?”  Lukas looked up.  Eventually, he shrugged.  “I suppose we arrange a funeral.”

I nodded, but said, “I don’t actually think she’s dead.”

“She is,” Lukas muttered.  His twenty-something avatar wore an old man’s bitterness.

I picked up my coffee.  The mug looked like it had been made by a five year old.  Everything about the Reel Café had that hokey-imperfection. When you sat in the chairs, you half-expected a distinguished looking gentleman to walk up and ask you to please not sit on the dadist art.

I dropped the mug. It shattered with a disappointing crack.  A nearby waiter started toward me, glowering and brandishing a towel like a gladiatorial weapon.

“Why did you do that?” Lukas asked.

“Just testing,” I said, knowing that Lauren would have been less than amused.   (Continue Reading…)

Book Review: “Death’s Daughter” by Amber Benson


Okay, I’m not going to lie to you: I got myself a copy of Death’s Daughter by Amber Benson because, hey, Tara wrote a book.

Yes, I know, I know, the actor is not the character. And yes, I’ve seen other work Benson has written, performed, and directed. I was kind of expecting a certain type of novel, and to a certain extent, I did get it.

I also apparently stumbled into chick-lit. How did that happen?

(Continue Reading…)

EP269: 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.

(Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 192: Sumo21


Sumo21

By Daniel Braum

“Oh great Emperor,” the gyoji said, continuing the ritual. “These two honorable warriors can not agree who will step aside, and who will join the sacred battle to return you to us. We would gladly send all our sons, but the Council of Infinite Japans says there may be only twenty-one. So now they must fight to decide.”

“May the best warrior join the fight,” the crowd answered in unison with the gyoji.

The gyoji stepped back. Asashoryu stared into Takanasuro’s expressionless brown eyes. The match would begin upon a tacit agreement between them. He kept Takanasuro’s mid section in his field of vision while focusing on keeping his own face blank. He knew the beginner’s lesson as if it were part of him; faces deceive and betray, but all movement starts at the hips.

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Escape Pod 191: This Is How It Feels


This Is How It Feels

By Ian Creasey

Nathan’s eyes stung as he remembered how Jenny used to do just that: the same jump down the stairs, the same windmilling of her arms as she landed…. The grief swept over him like a palpable wave, making him stagger backward.

“Dad?” Christopher kicked his backpack down the hall to the door. “You all right?”

“It’s nothing,” said Nathan. He rubbed the implant-port behind his right ear. It’s nothing. It’s not real.

But it felt real.

Escape Pod 146: Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk

Show Notes

Rated PG. Contains strong images of death and violence. Almost certainly not appropriate for small children.


Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk

by Ken Scholes

“Do you know what’s happened to the children?”

Edward swallowed. Suddenly, he wanted to cry. “Yes. They’re… sleeping?”

He hoped and hoped and hoped and hoped, grimacing as he did. He looked around.

Makeshift beds lined the room. Small hands gripped blankets, small eyes stared at the ceiling.

“No.” The boy frowned. “They’ve died.”

“Because of Something Very Bad?”

“Yes. And I need you to be a Very Brave Bear. Can you do that?”