Posts Tagged ‘post-apocalyptic’

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Escape Pod 465: The Sky is Blue, and Bright, and Filled with Stars


The Sky is Blue, and Bright, and Filled with Stars

by Edward Ashton

Dot reaches the summit of Mary’s Rock just after six, maybe an hour before sunset. It’s a clear, cool September day, with a scattering of tiny white clouds in a royal blue sky, and a soft, steady breeze from the west that brings the faint smell of burning things up from the ruins of Luray. She drops her pack at the top of the trail, pulls out a water bottle, and scrambles up the last thirty meters of broken granite to the high point. The trees on the north side of Thornton Gap a half-kilometer below are just showing the first hints of color, tiny flecks of red and gold mixed into a sea of dark green. Off to the west she can see the smoke now, rising from what looks like a brush fire far down the valley. She sits down, leans back against a waist-high block of stone, and drains half of her water in one long, lukewarm pull.

She’s been here once before, when she was years younger and there were still a few people raising goats and vegetables down in the valley. It was winter then, and she spent a crystal-clear, bitterly cold night out on the overlook, bundled into her mummy bag, sleeping in hour-long snatches, waking each time to a different dazzling pattern of stars and station-lights. The beauty was almost overwhelming, and she vowed then to come back some day, to see what it was like to spend a night on the summit when she didn’t have to worry about hypothermia.

As the sun begins to redden and dip toward the horizon, Dot climbs to her feet and makes her way back down to the overlook, a flat half-circle of stone maybe forty meters across, hanging out over four hundred meters of empty space. A hawk rides the breeze, floating almost stationary out over the drop. It looks at her, dips one wing, and falls like a stone, chasing something down below. Dot retrieves her pack, pulls out her food sack and her alcohol stove. She’s low on fuel. Four more days, maybe five, and she’ll be cooking over an open fire until she can find some more. As she measures out her supper, she realizes that she only has a few days worth of beans and noodles left. No point in cooking when you’ve got nothing to cook, and she’s at least a week’s walk from the nearest resupply. She sighs, and pours a third of what she’d taken back into the sack. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 456: To Waste


To Waste

by Luke Pebler

When I wake, it is not yet hot.  But it will be soon.

I am already thirsty.

I get up from the cot and go to the machine.  I put my dick into the intake cup, and when my pee flows into the machine it clicks on automatically.  I stretch and reach out to snag my camera by its strap.  I review the shots I took yesterday while I finish going.  The machine whirs while it does its work.  I wait, still looking at photos.

When the machine beeps, it has produced almost eight ounces of clean warm water.  I sip some of it, just enough to wet my mouth, and put the rest into a second machine.

When the second machine beeps, it has produced five ounces of hot coffee.

I crouch in the corner of the room, where the rising sun cannot find me.  It is still cool here.  I inhale deeply, wanting not even the steam of the coffee to go to waste.  I sip.

When I look up, the boy is in the doorway, watching.  I do not know how long he’s been there.

“He wants you,” the boy says.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 450: Valedictorian


Valedictorian

by N. K. Jemisin

There are three things Zinhle decides, when she is old enough to understand. The first is that she will never, ever, give less than her best to anything she tries to do. The second is that she will not live in fear. The third, which is perhaps meaningless given the first two and yet comes to define her existence most powerfully, is this: she will be herself. No matter what.

For however brief a time.


“Have you considered getting pregnant?” her mother blurts one morning, over breakfast.

Zinhle’s father drops his fork, though he recovers and picks it up again quickly. This is how Zinhle knows that what her mother has said is not a spontaneous burst of insanity. They have discussed the matter, her parents. They are in agreement. Her father was just caught off-guard by the timing.

But Zinhle, too, has considered the matter in depth. Do they really think she wouldn’t have? “No,” she says.

Zinhle’s mother is stubborn. This is where Zinhle herself gets the trait. “The Sandersens’ boy — you used to play with him, when you were little, remember? — he’s decent. Discreet. He got three girls pregnant last year, and doesn’t charge much. The babies aren’t bad-looking. And we’d help you with the raising, of course.” She hesitates, then adds with obvious discomfort, “A friend of mine at work — Charlotte, you’ve met her — she says he’s, ah, he’s not rough or anything, doesn’t try to hurt girls — ”

“No,” Zinhle says again, more firmly. She does not raise her voice. Her parents raised her to be respectful of her elders. She believes respect includes being very, very clear about some things.

Zinhle’s mother looks at her father, seeking an ally. Her father is a gentle, soft-spoken man in a family of strong-willed women. Stupid people think he is weak; he isn’t. He just knows when a battle isn’t worth fighting. So he looks at Zinhle now, and after a moment he shakes his head. “Let it go,” he says to her mother, and her mother subsides.

They resume breakfast in silence.


Zinhle earns top marks in all her classes. The teachers exclaim over this, her parents fawn, the school officials nod their heads sagely and try not to too-obviously bask in her reflected glory. There are articles about her in the papers and on Securenet. She wins awards.

She hates this. It’s easy to perform well; all she has to do is try. What she wants is to be the best, and this is difficult when she has no real competition. Beating the others doesn’t mean anything because they’re not really trying. This leaves Zinhle with no choice but to compete against herself. Each paper she writes must be more brilliant than the last. She tries to finish every test faster than she did the last one. It isn’t the victory she craves, not exactly; the satisfaction she gains from success is minimal. Barely worth it. But it’s all she has.

The only times she ever gets in trouble are when she argues with her teachers, because they’re so often wrong. Infuriatingly, frustratingly wrong. In the smallest part of her heart, she concedes that there is a reason for this: a youth spent striving for mediocrity does not a brilliant adult make. Old habits are hard to break, old fears are hard to shed, all that. Still — arguing with them, looking up information and showing it to them to prove their wrongness, becomes her favorite pastime. She is polite, always, because they expect her to be uncivilized, and because they are also her elders. But it’s hard. They’re old enough that they don’t have to worry, damn it; why can’t they at least try to be worthy of her effort? She would kill for one good teacher. She is dying for one good teacher.

In the end, the power struggle, too, is barely worth it. But it is all she has.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 448: Paprika


Paprika

by Jason Sanford

“Ah Paprika, you dance so well,” Satoshi exclaimed each bright-sun morning, his praise always pleasing no matter how many times Paprika heard it. And Paprika could dance, she really could. Not like some of the olds, who’d spent millennia shaping their locked-down bodies through graceful movements. But still she could dance. Ballet. The Twist. The Bhangra.

Sometimes she’d make herself as tiny as Satoshi’s hand and pirouette for hours on his workbench while he reformed nano into exciting, long-lost toys. Other times she’d dance full sized–child sized as Satoshi would say, although Paprika knew to never speak that depressing word to customers. Paprika would create a full-flowing lehengas skirt–always the brightest of greens–and she’d dance in the store window, spinning and spinning until she was so overcome with happiness she’d dance through the window into the outside world, leaping and spinning to imaginary partners, bowing and smiling to the boys and girls who never came, flying across the deserted streets and passing in and out of the empty but perfectly preserved buildings surrounding Satoshi’s shop.

But whenever any of the few olds left in the city visited, Paprika restrained herself by simply sitting at her table in the window display. Not that she was for sell–Satoshi always made that clear to any customer who mistook her for other than what she was. With her young girl’s body and innocent happiness, Paprika knew she helped Satoshi sell more than merely the bright toys which populated his store. She sold nostalgia. Happy memories of long-vanished childhoods.

And if nostalgia helped keep Satoshi alive, that was fine with Paprika.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 436: Into the Breach


Into the Breach

by Malon Edwards

I’m off my bunk and into my jodhpurs, knee-high leather boots and flight jacket the moment the long range air attack klaxons seep into my nightly dream about Caracara.

Muscle memory and Secret Service training kick in; I’m on auto-pilot (no pun intended) and a good ways down the hall buttoning up both sides of my leather jacket to the shoulder a full thirty seconds before I’m awake.

And just so you know, the ever so slight tremble in my hands and fingers is not fear. It’s adrenaline. I’m cranked and ready to put my foot all up in it.

A door to the right opens and Pierre-Alexandre falls in on my right flank, his steps brisk like mine. Our boots echo down the long hallway as we make our way from the underground bunker at Soldier Field to the bunker at Meigs Field.

What you think we got? he asks.

My reptile mind—that wonderful, hedonistic thing of mine—notices how lovely his make-me-jump-up-and-dance-like-I-just-caught-the-Holy-Ghost-in-church dark skin looks in the red emergency scramble lighting.

And yeah, I know. I’m going to hell for that.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 424: Biographical Fragments of the Life of Julian Prince

Show Notes

Sound effects for this story supplied by the following Freesound.org contributors: driet, lonemonkLittlebootklankbeeldstevelalondeblouhondalexmolbulbastreCorsica_S, and gmarchisio.

Mentioned in the episode: narrators Bill Hollweg & Mat Weller are also appearing together in Brokensea Audio’s adaptation of the Planet of the Apes UK Stage Show and would love if you would give it a listen here: http://brokensea.com/potauk/.


Biographical Fragments of the Life of Julian Prince

by Jake Kerr

In the early twenty-first century, author Lesley Hauge wrote an essay entitled “we are what we leave behind” to little fanfare. In the wake of the Meyer Impact in 2023, amidst the coming to terms with the shock and loss, the essay was rediscovered and rose to prominence with a new understanding that all we may know about half the planet is what they left behind.

Literary giant Julian Prince examined what–and more importantly–who we left behind. So it is entirely appropriate to examine his own life the way he examined those of the millions that died on that fateful day in 2023, by what he left behind–the interviews, the articles, his own words, and the words of others.

These are the fragments that make up the whole.  For most of us that is all we have, and Prince knew that more than anyone.

So… Julian Prince…  Julian Samuel Prince.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 418: The Dala Horse


The Dala Horse

by Michael Swanwick

Something terrible had happened. Linnea did not know what it was. But her father had looked pale and worried, and her mother had told her, very fiercely, “Be brave!” and now she had to leave, and it was all the result of that terrible thing.

The three of them lived in a red wooden house with steep black roofs by the edge of the forest. From the window of her attic room, Linnea could see a small lake silver with ice very far away. The design of the house was unchanged from all the way back in the days of the Coffin People, who buried their kind in beautiful polished boxes with metal fittings like nothing anyone made anymore. Uncle Olaf made a living hunting down their coffin-sites and salvaging the metal from them. He wore a necklace of gold rings he had found, tied together with silver wire.

“Don’t go near any roads,” her father had said. “Especially the old ones.” He’d given her a map. “This will help you find your grandmother’s house.”

“Mor-Mor?”

“No, Far-Mor. My mother. In Godastor.”

Godastor was a small settlement on the other side of the mountain. Linnea had no idea how to get there. But the map would tell her.

Her mother gave her a little knapsack stuffed with food, and a quick hug. She shoved something deep in the pocket of Linnea’s coat and said, “Now go! Before it comes!”

“Good-bye, Mor and Far,” Linnea had said formally, and bowed.

Then she’d left.
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 414: Knowing


Knowing

by Matt Wallace

A grey pallor hung heavy over the landscape. Heaven’s fire had long gone out, leaving the sky a cold hearth. The ashen soot that covered it might once have been the burning ember of eons, but now its livid color irradiated the early dawn. It soaked every molecule of air like a pale leaden necrosis, existing independently of the season, fostering neither cold nor heat.

A caravan of old cars rambled through the grey morning, balding tires rolling over the broken disrepair of State Highway 24. Chrysler Imperials and winged hatchback Newports, Chevy Chevelles and Novas and flatbed El Caminos, Dodge Darts and Coronets, Ford Fairlanes and Falcons, Lincoln Comets and Continentals, Olds Eighty-Eights and Cutlass Supremes; early 1960’s vintages, all. They traveled toward Oneonta, the Northern New York town whose name was taken from the Iroquois word for a place of meeting.

The Earth’s reclamation of its wilderness in post-nuclear North America continued. Lush foliage blurred as the cars headed deep into the rural upstate, creating rich green wraiths in their murky windows that danced and swooped and curved. The lead car, a Dodge Charger that outshined the rest by miles, would reach Gilboa around breakfast time.

There the wind blew warm through the world’s oldest forest. There they’d been called.

There they’d find the Answer.
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Escape Pod 400: Rescue Party

Show Notes

All sound effects used in this episode were found at FreeSound.org on the pages of the following users: hdesboisswiftoidjobroSyphon64doubletriggercognito perceptuFreqManReadeOnlycsengeri

Performed by Graeme Dunlop as Alveron; Steve Eley as Rugon; Nathaniel Lee as Orostron; Mur Lafferty as Hansur; Paul Haring as Klarten; Alasdair Stewart as Alarkane; Dave Thompson as The Paladorian; Ben Philips as T’sinadree; Jeremiah Tolbert as Tork-a-lee


Rescue Party

by Arthur C. Clarke

Who was to blame? For three days Alveron’s thoughts had come back to that question, and still he had found no answer. A creature of a less civilized or a less sensitive race would never have let it torture his mind, and would have satisfied himself with the assurance that no one could be responsible for the working of fate. But Alveron and his kind had been lords of the Universe since the dawn of history, since that far distant age when the Time Barrier  had been folded round the cosmos by the unknown powers that lay beyond the Beginning. To them had been given all knowledge–and with infinite knowledge went infinite responsibility. If there were mistakes and errors in the administration of the galaxy, the fault lay on the heads of Alveron and his people. And this was no mere mistake: it was one of the greatest tragedies in history.

The crew still knew nothing. Even Rugon, his closest friend and the ship’s deputy captain, had been told only part of the truth. But now the doomed worlds lay less than a billion miles ahead. In a few hours, they would be landing on the third planet.

Once again Alveron read the message from Base; then, with a flick of a tentacle that no human eye could have followed, he pressed the “General Attention” button. Throughout the mile-long cylinder that was the Galactic Survey Ship S9000, creatures of many races laid down their work to listen to the words of their captain.

“I know you have all been wondering,” began Alveron, “why we were ordered to abandon our survey and to proceed at such an acceleration to this region of space. Some of you may realize what this acceleration means. Our ship is on its last voyage: the generators have already been running for sixty hours at Ultimate Overload. We will be very lucky if we return to Base under our own power.

(Continue Reading…)

Book Review: The Tyrant Strategy: Revenant Man by Jonathan C. Gillespie


I’m not a huge fan of military SF. But I am a fan of post-apocalyptic SF. I’m not a huge fan of augmented-humanity SF. But I am a fan of humans-aren’t-the-most-powerful-people-in-the-universe SF. So when author Jonathan C. Gillespie put out his new novel The Tyrant Strategy: Revenant Man I wasn’t sure if it was going to be my cup of post-apocalyptic, augmented humanity, military-style, humans-aren’t-so-great tea.

That’s an awfully complicated blend, by the way. Not too many people sell it.

(Continue Reading…)