Posts Tagged ‘death’

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Escape Pod 596: The Wind You Touch When You Run


The Wind You Touch When You Run

By James Beamon

This pursuit starts as they all start, going after the Underground Railroad. It will end as it always ends, with us feeding the Minotaur. The in-between is where I tell tales.

I wipe sweat from my eyes while my son Langston squints under the blue-white light of this alien sun, scanning the swollen green and purple foliage for signs of recent human passage. He points his machete at a fresh boot print obscured by dense undergrowth. We pick up pursuit, south. It reminds me of a little-known facet of my favorite story.

“The original Underground Railroad ran south to Spanish controlled Florida a lot longer than it ran north,” I tell Langston. “I’m talking more than two hundred years, going as far back as the fifteen hundreds, and lasting until well after the Revolution.”

“Unless your railroad story leads to Talya, I’m not interested, Saul.”

This is the nearest I’ve been to Langston in six years and I see he’s grown into a strong man. We’re shirtless because of the heat and his skin is beautifully black like a scarab’s shell, free of all the gashes and scars I’ve accumulated in the jungle. His dreadlocks are tied into a crude ponytail that hangs down the center of his back. Intensity burns in his eyes as he navigates the jungle.

“What you want is through the wilderness,” I tell him. “She’s three hours ahead of us, which could put her ten miles out or ten feet depending on what she’s run into out there. Either way, we can catch her before nightfall.”

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 594: The Spice Portrait


The Spice Portrait

By J.M. Evenson

They said my love for my daughter was excessive, that I made her weak by kissing her and singing in her ear at night.

They also said I killed her.


My mother did not believe in tenderness. She was gaunt, all teeth and hair, her face hard as a stone lion. “If she wants to be fed, she must work,” my mother said.

She hunched over a copper vat of bubbling breadbean stew, stirring to make sure it didn’t burn. Powdered white liverwort dusted her eyelashes and the edges of her black headscarf. A dozen vats boiled behind her, each with a different gaunt woman stirring it.

Three young girls carried large bundles of firewood and loosed their loads into the flames beneath the vats. They couldn’t have been more than six or seven, but their shoulders were already wide and knotted with muscles.

I looked up from my own copper vessel and snuck a glance at Damla. She was sitting in the crook of a juniper tree collecting berries. She had dark eyes ringed in lashes that curled upward at the outer corners like a cat’s and a black ponytail that spiraled down her back.

Damla was smaller than the other children, even the younger ones. She’d been premature at birth and struggled for every inch, but I was proud of her length of bone. By some miracle she’d survived infancy—many didn’t—so I still had hope she’d catch up to the others.

“She’s too young,” I said.

“Nonsense,” said my mother. “You started when you were five. Like everyone else.”

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 591: A House of Her Own

Show Notes

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A House of Her Own

By B. Balder

Aoife was only eleven when she caught the little house in the forest. She surprised it as it drank from a puddle, half-hidden under a writhing tree root as large as her own body. Fast as an eel, she snaked her hand around it and held on tight. It was no bigger than a strawberry, all soft and furry and yellow. Even in the gloom of the giant, bad-tempered trees, it shone like a candle flame.

“House,” she whispered, “you’re mine now.”

It couldn’t answer back yet, but she knew it understood.

She showed her catch to Mama. Mama hugged her and told the big house they lived in what Aoife had found.

House spoke from the walls. “Good girl. Show it to me, little one. Let me see if it’s the right kind.”

Aoife clenched her fist tighter around the little house until it squirmed against the pressure. Sometimes the big hice didn’t approve of the little ones, for reasons no human could guess at. She didn’t plan on letting anything happen to her house.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 584: Your Body, By Default


Your Body, By Default

by Alexis Hunter

They brought you back because they want something from you. Maybe one day they will bring people back because they can or because it’s the right thing to do — but for now there’s you and there’s them and there’s the unspoken obligations that lie between you both.


The IED blew your body into pieces: bone and brain and blood, sprayed in the sand with the twisted shell of your tank.

Maybe you weren’t always happy with your body; maybe your breasts were smaller than you would have liked and your toes reminded you of tree roots and there was that one mole right in the middle of your back that you always managed to catch with the hook of your bra; but it was your body. Your history was written in scars and tattoos. And you knew it, inside and out.

You made it yours over the years — the shaved sides of your head accenting the bright shock of magenta hair spilling over the top, the solid black contact lenses that made pupil and iris indistinguishable, the ornate scrolling ink that wrapped your ribcage.

This hunk of flesh you now inhabit is foreign. It is devoid of scar and ink and memory. It bulges or dips in all the wrong places. What it is is wrong, just as what it isn’t is wrong. It’s ten kinds of not you and you’re helpless under this skin.

(Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 579: Texts from the Ghost War


Texts from the Ghost War

By Alex Yuschik

While I realize driving that mech likely takes all of your limited resources, please take care not to step on the roses.

what

Don’t step on the roses. I don’t care if we’re under imminent attack.

Your mech is standing so close to them I’m cringing.

who is this?

I can see you typing and then stopping

don’t waste my time coming up with a lie, punk

Who I am or how I got your number is irrelevant.

no, it’s not

and, fyi, we don’t drive them, we pilot

gods, you’re probably chung sol trolling me

I assure you, I am not.

I am only here for the roses. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 577: The Ghosts of Europa Will Keep You Trapped in a Prison You Make for Yourself


The Ghosts of Europa Will Keep You Trapped in a Prison You Make for Yourself

By Matt Dovey

–then scooted her chair over to the microscope. Amira only needed a glance at the holographic zoom floating over the scope. The viral cells were replicating rapidly, budding and splitting at a phenomenal rate.

“Hey, Mariana, look at this.” Amira indicated the hologram, then was struck, at once, with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu: something beyond the familiarity of her lab and its clean white surfaces, or the flat icy plains of Europa beyond the carbonglass windows. And more than the déjà vu, there was a feeling of instantaneousness, that this moment had arisen out of nothing, that nothing was all that had been there before, that everything had just–appeared.

“Dios mío,” said Mariana. I’ve never seen growth like it, she’ll say. “I’ve never seen growth like it. What triggered it?”

Amira shook her head, trying to dislodge the sensation. “I don’t know. Perhaps it’s spontaneous after 36 hours in the oxygen atmosphere. We should go to the dorm, ask Cris and Helena’s holograms about their death yesterday.”

(Continue Reading…)

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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