Summary: The Science Fiction Podcast Magazine. Each week Escape Pod delivers science fiction short stories from today's best authors. Listen today, and hear the new sound of science fiction!
AUTHOR: Andrew Kozma NARRATOR: John Meagher HOST: Mur Lafferty The Librarian is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums. For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Andrew Kozma’s fiction has been published in Albedo One, Drabblecast, Interzone and Daily Science Fiction. His book of poems, City of Regret (Zone 3 Press, 2007), won the Zone 3 First Book Award. He currently, and for the foreseeable future, lives in Houston, Texas. about the narrator… John is the writer/narrator of Tales of the Left Hand, an ongoing fantasy series offering “swashbuckling, intrigue, and a dash of magic.” Links to audio, print and ebook formats of his books are available at www.talesofthelefthand.com. In his secret identity, he’s a graphic designer living in Northern Virginia with his wife, daughter and two cats. The Librarian By Andrew Kozma People call Matt a librarian, but he doesn’t mind. He takes care of the books, so the name makes sense, even if most of that care involves cleaning up their shit and piss, and feeding them nutritious glop in those moments between hits. If he can convince them to eat. If they aren’t so taken over by ledge they don’t move for months at a time, muscles withering like grapes on the vine. Matt feels more like a drug dealer, even though he is, at best, an enabler. The libraries spit out blue wedges of ledge for anyone to pick up. He’s tried to get rid of the the libraries before, herding them away from the centers of human population, but no matter how far he drove them, a few days later they’d return to where they’d been, their stubby little crab legs clicking on the concrete. And because the libraries follow demand, the streets outside Heyman’s are littered with the little fuckers. He’s just thankful they don’t come inside—some latent biological programming keeps them from entering buildings. Matt stores the books in what used to be Heyman’s Department Store, a four-story monstrosity which probably took up an entire city-block on Earth, in whatever city it was taken from, but here it’s lost among randomly scattered skyscrapers, row houses, suburban nuclear-family homes, churches, clubs, and sports arenas. He thinks of it as a temple. Or a museum. He tries not to think of it as a tomb. Most of the time, he’s the only non-ledged human there. And most of the time, when he’s not cleaning up after or feeding the books, Matt sits at a desk at the entrance of Heyman’s. He reads the Daily Record, a thin newspaper that carries only the barest of actual news, but is stuffed with tons of useless gossip. There’s a crossword inside that uses words taken from the alien races in the surrounding ghettoes, and though that’s the only reason he subscribes to the Record, he reads the whole paper before doing the puzzle just to prolong the pleasure. “How the day goes?” a lamppost asks. The alien’s glowing head is featureless and too bright to look at directly, but Matt knows it has to be Joking, the only one of its kind to be here every single day, showing up like clockwork at ten am. “The day goes jokingly.” The lamppost bobs its head in laughter, strobing the room in shadows. Matt isn’t sure Joking understands what it’s laughing at, but the lamppost has studied human ways well enough it can tell when it’s supposed to laugh. Since Matt’s isolated from his own kind for the most part, he appreciates the veneer of comradery, however false the reality. Matt records Joking’s name and the alien presses down its signature with a crystalline arm-stalk and the lamppost slides into the main section of the library, hundreds of tiny feet tapping in a continuous stream of sound. Out through the front windows, behind the array of hopeful libraries, the traffic is constant. Humans make up most of the passersby, but there are enough aliens to make it interesting. Who knows where they’re going or what t[...]
AUTHOR: Laura Duerr NARRATOR: Andrea Phillips HOST: Tina Connolly Unit Two Does Her Makeup is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums. For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Laura Duerr is a writer and social media coordinator from Vancouver, Washington, where she lives with her husband, their rescue dog, and too many cats. She is a lifelong Pacific Northwest resident and has a BA in Creative Writing from Linfield College. Her other stories have appeared in Shoreline of Infinity, Mad Scientist Journal, and the anthologies “Candlesticks & Daggers: An Anthology of Mixed-Genre Mysteries” and “Fitting In: Historical Accounts of Paranormal Subcultures.” about the narrator… Andrea Phillips is a game designer and author. Currently she co-writes the serials Bookburners and ReMade. On her own she’s written the novel Revision, pirate serial The Daring Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart, and the novelette The Revolution, Brought to You By Nike. You can find Andrea on Twitter at @andrhia. I mean, if you like that sort of thing. Unit Two Does Her Makeup By Laura Duerr Doctor Spencer has brought me an artist. My eyes on the outside of the building register the identity of everyone who enters, including her: Suzanne Chantal Salinas, age 26, licensed esthetician and makeup artist, amateur painter. I cut the feed after .3 seconds. The security feed could tell me more, but I have learned that it is impolite to collect extraneous details about a person unless they prove to be a security risk. Given that both Suzanne Chantal Salinas and Doctor Spencer are smiling, and appear to be in companionable conversation, the artist is not a risk. I observe them enter the building accompanied by a brief burst of cold — it is 37.1 degrees outside. When I view them through infrared, they are glowing red faces encompassed in green and blue jackets. I have been monitoring the interior temperatures; Unit One has made appropriate adjustments to climate control. We are keeping the building comfortable. The visitor stamps her feet, brushes sleet from her black curls. They shed their jackets, blooming gold and scarlet on infrared. Unit Three has mobile security platforms posted by the front door and the elevators. They do not react: they are faceless, they don’t feel cold, the visitor has clearance. The artist’s heart rate is elevated. Her cheeks are flushed, and not just from cold: she’s nervous about meeting me. She keeps looking at the security platforms. Perhaps she fears my platform will look like them, featureless and alien. I chose my face. Unit Three chose hers, too, in a way. Our platforms serve different purposes, and the faces we built reflect that. They talk as they cross the foyer. I could listen to them — I can already hear them, I have constant data from the cameras — but I do not. I prioritize what I listen to. Doctor Spencer has taught me the difference between listening for the sake of security and listening for the sake of eavesdropping. Eavesdropping is, to my understanding, an abuse of one’s surveillance abilities. If I eavesdrop and discern the reason for her visit, it will disappoint Doctor Spencer and distress the visitor. And I prioritize making a good (relatable, friendly, approachable) impression. Doctor Spencer and my visitor enter the elevator and I enter my platform. With my platform’s eyes, I see my reflection, and I see them with my other eyes in the elevator, halfway to my floor. I also see data on one of the classrooms on the 10th floor: productivity is slipping. The ambient temperature in Mr. Barker’s seventh-grade classroom is 4.2 degrees above normal, causing drowsiness. I forward the report to Unit One while I tidy my platform’s hair. My platform was maintained recently, but the technicians never know[...]
AUTHOR: Carrie Vaughn NARRATOR: Amy H. Sturgis HOST: Mur Lafferty That Game We Played During the War originally appeared on Tor.com in March 2016. Discuss on our forums. For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Carrie Vaughn is best known for her New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty who hosts a talk radio show for the supernaturally disadvantaged. Her latest novels include a near-Earth space opera, Martians Abroad, from Tor Books, and a post-apocalyptic murder mystery, Bannerless, from John Joseph Adams Books. She’s written several other contemporary fantasy and young adult novels, as well as upwards of 80 short stories. She’s a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R. R. Martin and a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop. An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado. about the narrator… Amy H. Sturgis holds a Ph.D. in Intellectual History from Vanderbilt University and specializes in both Science Fiction and Indigenous American Studies. She is regular staff with the StarShipSofa podcast, editor in chief of Hocus Pocus Comics, and faculty at Lenoir-Rhyne University. She lives with her husband in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. That Game We Played During the War By Carrie Vaughn From the moment she left the train station, absolutely everybody stopped to look at Calla. They watched her walk across the plaza and up the steps of the Northward Military Hospital. In her dull gray uniform she was like a storm cloud moving among the khaki of the Gaantish soldiers and officials. The peace between their peoples was holding; seeing her should not have been such a shock. And yet, she might very well have been the first citizen of Enith to walk across this plaza without being a prisoner. Calla wasn’t telepathic, but she could guess what every one of these Gaantish was thinking: What was she doing here? Well, since they were telepathic, they’d know the answer to that. They’d wonder all the same, but they’d know. It would be a comfort not to have to explain herself over and over again. It was also something of a comfort not bothering to hide her fear. Technically, Enith and Gaant were no longer at war. That did not mean these people didn’t hate her for the uniform she wore. She didn’t think much of their uniforms either, and all the harm soldiers like these had done to her and those she loved. She couldn’t hide that, and so let the emotions slide right through her and away. She felt strangely light, entering the hospital lobby, and her smile was wry. Some said Enith and Gaant were two sides of the same coin; they would never see eye to eye andwould always fight over the same spit of land between their two continents. But their differences were simple, one might say: only in their minds. The war had ended recently enough that the hospital was crowded. Many injured, many recovering. In the lobby, Calla had to pause a moment, the scents and sounds and bustle of the place were so familiar, recalling for her every base or camp where she’d been stationed, all her years as a nurse and then as a field medic. She’d spent the whole war in places like this, and her hands itched for work. Surely someone needed a temperature taken or a dressing changed? No amount of exhaustion had ever quelled that impulse in her. But she was a visitor here, not a nurse. Tucking her short hair behind her ears, brushing some lint off her jacket, she walked to the reception desk and approached the young woman in a khaki uniform sitting there. “Hello. I’m here to see one of your patients, Major Valk Larn. I think all my paperwork is in order.” Speaking slowly and carefully because [...]
AUTHOR: J. R. Dawson NARRATOR: Eric Luke HOST: Divya Breed Nozizwe and Almahdi is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums. For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Dawson is a graduate from the MFA program at Stonecoast. Her stories have been seen in Mothership Zeta, The Omnibus of Dr. Bil Shakes and the Magnificent Ionic Pentatetrameter, and Silk Road Review. She was recently a writer in residence at Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and a CSArtist through Omaha Creative Institute. Dawson loves science fiction and fantasy, and sometimes she allows it to be funny. Only sometimes. about the narrator… Eric Luke is the screenwriter of the Joe Dante film EXPLORERS, which is currently in development as a remake, the comic books GHOST and WONDER WOMAN, and wrote and directed the NOT QUITE HUMAN films for Disney TV. His current project INTERFERENCE, a meta horror audiobook about an audiobook… that kills, is a Best Seller on Audible.com Nozizwe and Almahdi By J. R. Dawson She was a princess and he was a prince, and they had been genetically made for each other. The science had been precise down to their anatomical make-up, the blood and the speed in which that blood pulsed through their perfectly symmetrical hearts. His name was Almahdi. He had been named this because of the way the consonants and vowels hit the shape of her ear. Her name was Nozizwe, because she would indeed be the mother of nations. They would meet at a grand ball on the space station, in the neutral zone between their two new colony kingdoms, in their eighteenth year. So that meant, while other children got to spend their first eighteen years enjoying their robo-dogs and trying to set their parents’ fireproof space suits aflame and going to camp on the moon, the prince and the princess did nothing fun. In fact, their daily activities were about as far from fun as daily activities could get. “You were made out of love,” Nozizwe’s father, the King, instructed her — age three — from his throne. “Therefore, you must love. Now, what does it mean to love, Nozizwe?” Nozizwe, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, farted loudly. “Take this seriously, Nozizwe!” he said to the three-year-old. But as she grew, she understood her need of love was created out of fear. “This cannot be like Earth,” her father, the King, told her mother. “This cannot fail.” To clarify what that meant, to not be like Earth: Earth was a total shit storm, both figuratively and literally. Figuratively, Earthlings numbered about nine billion and had never figured out how to share a living space without murdering each other. Literally, Earthlings had gotten so bad at war and thunking each other dead, that the environs had started to fail as well, and soon there were grand tornadoes and hurricanes and tsunamis, and with the over-abundance of refugees and under-abundance of facilities, the Great Shit Storm of the Rusted Era took place and to most was the mark of Earth’s end. So it made sense when the King said, “This cannot be like Earth.” But this was a lot of pressure on Nozizwe. She could not screw this up. Everyone else had done their part. The doctors in Almahdi’s colony kingdom had him born at midnight exactly six months before she was born. Her mother’s doctors delivered her at six p.m. right on time, six months later. The two babies had scents lathering their cribs so when they finally saw one another, they would smell their own childhoods. To prepare them for their meeting, they were told in great detail what the others’ strengths were, and when news came of Almahdi’s weakness at the sword, Almahdi was taught finer arts such as sewing, and Nozizwe was taught hand-to-hand combat and feminist ideals. When Nozizwe showed a love for food, Almahdi was taught how to cook good meals, and Nozizwe was taught how to say, “Thank you.” Nozizwe started to enjoy flowers,[...]
AUTHOR: Alex Yuschik NARRATORS: Trendane Sparks and Adam Pracht HOST: Tina Connolly Texts from the Ghost War is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums. For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Alex Yuschik is a PhD candidate in Mathematics at the University of Pittsburgh studying set theoretic topology. Aside from math and writing, Alex likes ghosts, burritos, and video games, which when all put together sounds like a pretty great party. Alex is also the proud owner of a Shiba Inu named Kebab. about the narrators… Originally born in Texas, Tren eventually escaped and wound his way through a mystical series of jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area where he has worked as a software QA Tester for both graphics drivers and video games, a freelance mascot performer, and several jobs on a PBS kids’ show. For most of his life, people have told him that his voice is a pleasure to listen to. But since being a werewolf phone sex operator can get boring, he decided to use his powers to entertain a broader audience. Adam Pracht lives in Kansas, but asks that you not hold that against him. He’s currently unemployed, so if you need a full-time writer, editor, narrator, marketer, PR guru or, frankly, someone to pull your weeds if you offer health insurance… drop him a line. He was the 2002 college recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy award for writing about the disadvantaged and has published a disappointingly slim volume of short stories called “Frame Story: Seven Stories of Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Horror & Humor” which is available from Amazon as an e-Book or in paperback. He’s been working on his second volume – “Schrödinger’s Zombie: Seven Weird and Wonderful Tales of the Undead” – since 2012 and successfully finished the first story. He hopes to complete it while he still has the hang of the whole living thing. 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. excuse me, I have to go talk with my squadmates now find out which asshole is pranking me today oh joy That must be challenging. kid, you don’t even know As all you fox pilots are assholes. hey look chung sol, this you? if so kindly expect four shits in your main turbine tomorrow you know I’m on overtime Heavens, now you’re endangering the topiaries. Why are you pacing in that thing? Stop. how dare you care about less about me than topiaries, chung sol what about our unit oath huh I’m hurt And I’m not Chung Sol. then who are you who else could be such a shit to me knowing what week it is I requested your number from the butler. I asked for the mech labeled with a five who kept threatening my roses. You can call me Hyeon. I What? If you don’t like it when I take time to type a response then don’t the same thing. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tear up our grounds. That’s all. Did you fall asleep in that cockpit? Or are you ignoring me? I keep this up as long as you like. I’ve been told I’m terribly persistent. Seven Sparrows Sleeping Hyeon-jin, I humbly apologize for my uncouth address. If I’d known I was texting a member of S3 I would have behaved with all the courtesy and respect you are due. Don’t call it S3, it’s my House name. I understand I am in no position to make requests, but please don’t allow my thoughtless actions to reflect poorly on my Nine. They are excellen[...]
AUTHOR: Celeste Hollister NARRATOR: Amy H. Sturgis HOST: Mur Lafferty Cherry Squid is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums. For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Celeste Hollister is a novelist, a mom, a travel writer, and a teacher. She writes characters who struggle with racial identity and LGBT+ representation. She graduated from Texas State with a degree in writing, taught in the public school system for a decade, and lived in Korea for a year. She loves wine, cats, cookies, and fanfiction. She currently lives in San Marcos, Texas, with her lovely boyfriend and fabulous daughter. about the narrator… Amy H. Sturgis holds a Ph.D. in Intellectual History from Vanderbilt University and specializes in both Science Fiction and Indigenous American Studies. She is regular staff with the StarShipSofa podcast, editor in chief of Hocus Pocus Comics, and faculty at Lenoir-Rhyne University. She lives with her husband in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. Cherry Squid By Celeste Hollister It was the cherry squid that did him in. Outside his window, seventy stories up, the advertisement bloomed, melon yellow, racecar red. A shoal of squid rippled across the holo, a tangram pattern that morphed into a human face. Almost human, but with a Vrellan’s ruby eyes. Then a blush of shimmer-pink as the slogan scrolled onscreen: “Let’s All Share a Cherry Squid” in all caps like a scream. Fresh cherry scent wafted on the air. Then the ad faded to black before replaying, an endless loop of fragrance and light. “A stupid, looping nonsense,” Adam called it. The Mobius-strip of cherry squid peeled out from its backlit blue. I said, “I think it’s pretty.” “They try too hard to be like us,” Adam said. I edged onto the oval of his windowsill and watched the sun plait silver into the spillways. I said, “They are like us. The scientists say we share a common ancestor. We just evolved differently.” Adam crooked a three-pod stool against his vid-wall. He popped open a can of Dr Pepper, one from his dwindling cache of Earthly goods. He said, “You don’t believe that crap, do you? The whole Selkie Evolution thing?” The Vrellan face floated into view, its mouth wide as it chased the squid across the screen. “How can you not?” I asked. “His face is like ours. The eyes are the same shape. Even his teeth–” “–One,” he said. “You don’t even know if he’s a He. And two. They don’t have bones, Barbara. It’s all cartilage. Like a cuttlefish.” “So?” I said. “Really?” he deadpanned. “That’s your grand rebuttal? So?” I said, “I still think they’re pretty.” Adam sipped from his soda can. He said, “You think everything is pretty. Besides, you’re near the uptake land, tree-lined parks and all the quiet you can stand.” “Yep,” I said. “My neighborhood wins, and you know the reason why.” Adam’s nose twitched. “’Cause of Mercy,” he said. “They put families in the Sheon-ho,” I said. “You could’ve joined us. Mercy and me get the hive dome. You get the pod-apartment.” “For now,” Adam said. “We’ve been through this. Once they sort your daughter’s visa and she finally gets here, she’s gonna have to acclimatize to a whole new culture. Us all living together — major complications.” “Mercy’s 17,” I reminded him. “After moving to another planet, the living together thing is not that big a deal.” The ad splashed us yellow-white. Adam ground out a sigh. I said, “I did not ride all this way to hear you bitch about your view again.” Adam crushed his empty soda can. “Yeah,” he said. “Whatever.” # Weeks crawled by with no news of Mercy. Adam and I ambled along the tramway struts, fanning to cool our faces. Dense heat huffed from the tram tunnel, smelling of fresh fish and fry oil. Adam said, “My landlord gave me pa[...]
AUTHOR: Matt Dovey NARRATOR: Tina Connolly HOST: Divya Breed The Ghosts of Europa Will Keep You Trapped in a Prison You Make for Yourself is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums. For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Matt Dovey is very tall and very English and most likely drinking a cup of tea right now. He has a scar on his arm where the ice of Europa cut through his suit and left him gasping for air on a Jovian moon that he can’t remember leaving. He now lives in a quiet market town in rural England with his wife & three children, and despite being a writer, he still hasn’t found the right words to properly express the delight and joy he finds in this wonderful arrangement. His surname might rhyme with “Dopey”, but any other similarities to the dwarf are purely coincidental. He was the Golden Pen winner for Writers of the Future in 2016, was shortlisted for the James White Award the same year, and is an associate editor over at the best fantasy fiction podcast in this world and the next, PodCastle. He has fiction out and forthcoming all over the place; you can keep up with it at mattdovey.com, or follow along on Facebook and Twitter both as @mattdoveywriter. about the narrator… Tina Connolly is the author of the Ironskin fantasy trilogy from Tor Books, and the Seriously Wicked YA series from Tor Teen. Her novels have been finalists for the Nebula and the Norton. Her stories have appeared in Tor.com, Lightspeed, Analog, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily SF, and many more. Her first collection, On the Eyeball Floor and Other Stories, is now out from Fairwood Press. Her narrations have appeared in Podcastle, Pseudopod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, John Joseph Adams’ The End is Nigh series, and more. She co-hosts Escape Pod and runs the Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake. 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.” Mariana’s lips twisted in distaste. “You go. Talking with the ghosts unsettles me.” Her fingers drifted to the copper stud behind her ear, capturing the data that would allow her personality to be reconstructed in the event of death, like Cris & Helena’s ghosts. “This is too important to be squeamish about the holograms. We need to find out when they started feeling the effects and see if the timing fits these results. I’ll contact Michael and ask if he’ll grant us access.” “Oh, I’m sure he will if _you_ ask.” “If he does,” said Amira, “it will simply be because he is an excellent commander and cognizant of the necessity of my professional request.” She pushed Mariana’s chair in mock anger, enoug[...]
AUTHOR: Brian Trent NARRATOR: Ellora Sen-Gupta HOST: Mur Lafferty Karma Among the Cloud Kings was first published in Analog in March 2015. Discuss on our forums. For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Brian Trent’s speculative fiction appears in Escape Pod, Pseudopod, ANALOG, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Great Jones Street, Daily Science Fiction, Apex (winning the Story of the Year Reader’s Poll), COSMOS, Galaxy’s Edge, Nature, and numerous year’s best anthologies. The author of the historical fantasy series RAHOTEP, he is also a 2015 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award finalist and Writers of the Future winner. Trent lives in New England, where he works as a novelist, screenwriter, and poet. about the narrator… Ellora Sen-Gupta is a (currently Boston-based) biomedical engineer who often disguises herself as a voice over narrator and photographer among other roles. She has a great love of animals, miniatures, miniature animals, books and comics, exploring, tv cartoons, etc. Ellora is happiest when she is traveling the world with her family or friends but can also be delighted to sit home with her pets and some arts and crafts and/or Netflix. Karma Among the Cloud Kings By Brian Trent I. Fifty thousand feet above Tempest’s highest clouds, Antarag Vel-heth invites me to sit beside him in the lobby of Lindorm Refueling Station. It’s a desolate, littered expanse of tables, party-streamers, and plastic people with unceasingly flapping jaws. “What… what are they doing?” I whisper, sweating despite the room’s merciless air conditioner. “Eating,” Antarag winks. “Talking.” His pitted skin stretches like a weather-beaten tarp across a knobby skeleton and skull of aquiline protrusions. The plastic people have no food that I can see. One of them leaps up from its chair, arms raised in silent declaration while the others applaud with rubbery hands. Discolored mouths swing open and shut on cheap hinges. Antarag grins at me with pained, frank interest—I wonder when the last time he’s had a real, flesh-and-blood female visitor up here with him. He knows I’m from Bellcap 51. He knows we’re all Jains there, with our shaved heads, monastic robes, and vows of celibacy. Still, my eyes dart nervously to his holstered pistol. I ask, “What are they eating?” He taps his forearm gauntlet. Menu options unfurl in neon petals. “That one’s eating steak and potato pancakes,” he says, pointing to one guest whose plastic body appears to have been assembled Frankenstein-style from at least six different modular components. ”Those two girls are eating sushi—” he motions to a pair of androgynous mannequins who are miming the use of chopsticks, bringing invisible morsels to their skeleton jaws. “We’ve got blihabi caviar, fresh raspberries, Osirian felsacs, comet cakes, beef stroganoff, flame-roasted marrow. Name it, I’ve got it. Ten million foods from across the galaxy.” Antarg has lent me a spare visor; I fit it over my eyes and ears. The plastic people disappear and I now see them as they see each other: a revelry of beautiful men and women. The men are square-jawed and chiseled. The women are elegant and buxom; my eyes stray to the jewelry sparkling at their throats and fingers. Thudding music weaves among the sudden babble of voices. “A pretty girl like you, Preema, should have jewelry like that,” Antarag says, following my stare. He has changed, too: the sickly-looking Ladder Controlman is now a muscular brute in a diamond-studded suit. No longer balding, his scalp has grown a lustrous mane like a cobra’s hood. I lift the visor; the beautiful people vanish back into plastic monstrosities. One falls out of its chair, and the others erupt into silent apoplexies of laughter, clutching their plastic bellies, tilting their heads back like a nightmare of howling skeletons. “We do not wear [...]
AUTHOR: Shaenon K. Garrity NARRATOR: Cheyenne Wright HOST: Alasdair Stuart Red Kelly Owns the Moon is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums. For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Shaenon K. Garrity is a cartoonist best known for the webcomics Narbonic and Skin Horse. Her prose fiction has appeared in publications including Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Drabblecast, and the Unidentified Funny Objects anthologies. She lives in Berkeley with a cat and two men of varying sizes. about the narrator… Cheyenne Wright is a freelance illustrator and concept artist He is the color artist on the three-time Hugo Award winning steampunk graphic novel series Girl Genius, and co-creator of many other fine works; Including 50 Fathoms and the Ennie award winning Deadlands Noir for the Savage Worlds RPG. He has also produced graphics for Star Trek Online, the Champions MMO, and T-shirt designs for TV’s Alton Brown. Cheyenne lives in Seattle with his wife, their daughter, and an ever growing stack of unpainted miniatures. In his spare time he is teaching himself animation, and narrates short stories for a variety of audio anthologies where he is known as Podcasting’s Mr. Buttery ManVoice ™ Red Kelly Owns the Moon By Shaenon Garrity Nobody remembered how Red Kelly got his hands on the moon. He picked up a lot of things back then. You had to, working at the Westinghouse on a brazier’s pay. Red played cards, ran numbers around town, and, every other year, warmed hands for the Democratic machine in Pittsburgh. It wasn’t unknown for him to come home with an acquisition of mysterious provenance. Once he got the Kellys an entire patio table and chairs, with an umbrella and that. The umbrella was printed with the name of a restaurant whose owner had bet a bundle down at Duquesne Gardens. So it wasn’t surprising Red had the deed to the moon. It didn’t even come up until, well, must have been 1968 of course, when the two men in the tailored suits showed up at the Kellys’ doorstep in North Versailles. You don’t forget a thing like that, the whole neighborhood watching through their lace curtains. Red was still at work, so Blanche Kelly sat the men down in the living room, introduced them to the girls, and set up boilermakers. They were from the military, it turned out, which was a good opening since Blanche had been a WAC. She cut a deck of cards. At 4:30, Blanche pocketed her winnings, got in the car, and drove to the bottom of the hill to pick Red up from the bus stop. She left the girls to keep an eye on the men. Red went straight to the bedroom where he kept his old footlocker. He re-emerged with a yellowed envelope and ushered the men into the kitchen. A few minutes later the men tipped their hats to Blanche and were gone. Red came out and announced the Kellys were going to dinner at a fish place in the Strip. He sang all the way over: In Derby town, in Derby town, Two men were digging a ditch One was the son of an Englishman The other the son of a Okey-dokey diddlee-dum Maybe you think it’s a lie But you go down to Derby town And you’ll hear the same as I Blanche didn’t ask questions because a good Catholic wife wasn’t nebby. She just took it all down in her head. But the girls, who were teenagers and would never grow up to be good Catholic wives anyway, demanded to know. “They needed my say-so to go to the moon,” said Red. “The moon? They’re going to the moon?” Red gave them the hairy eyeball. The girls felt silly for asking such a dumb question. Everyone knew America was going to the moon. What else were they learning all that math for? “Why do they need your say to go to the moon?” “I own it.” And that was the end of the discussion. Which was a little funny, come to think, because when Red had a find like that he liked to gab about it. A little thing like a free tune-up fo[...]
AUTHOR: D. S. McNab NARRATOR: Erik Luke HOST: Divya Breed Yosemite is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums. For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… D. S. McNab, who previously worked in the creatively challenged world of finance, is a lover of all writing genres. However, sci-fi and fantasy hold a special place in her heart. When she’s not writing about magic and aliens, she’s working as a freelance editor or cuddling with her husband and two dogs in sunny Florida. Her work has appeared in Youth Imagination Magazine. about the narrator… Eric Luke is the screenwriter of the Joe Dante film EXPLORERS, which is currently in development as a remake, the comic books GHOST and WONDER WOMAN, and wrote and directed the NOT QUITE HUMAN films for Disney TV. His current project INTERFERENCE, a meta horror audiobook about an audiobook… that kills, is a Best Seller on Audible.com Yosemite By D.S. McNab Have you ever wondered why park rangers are so deliriously happy with their job despite the crap pay? The easy answer is that they just really dig nature. But pull back that mossy curtain, and you’ll find a slightly less pleasant explanation. Here’s a hint: It has a tentacle tongue, about three feet on Shaq, and sometimes leads to the early and unfortunate demise of hikers. Okay, you might need a more terrestrial hint for this one, so in the words of my idol, John Muir: “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” You see, during a trip I took to Yosemite National Park in my mid-twenties, I discovered that the opposite also holds true—that the forest wilderness is the clearest way out of the Universe. So let me pick up where my boy Muir left off and tell you exactly what I came to find out about the forest and its rangers on that fateful trip. # Ah, to be twenty-five again—young enough to still be spontaneous and delight in the simple pleasures of life, but old enough to rent a car without paying the underage driver fee. And that was pretty much my sales pitch when I asked my roommate, Matty, to go to California with me to celebrate the fact that we had just (as in ‘recently’ and ‘by the skin of our teeth’) graduated from college. But after days of driving around in a Smart car, with our kneecaps grazing our nipples, the ‘rental car’ reason started to chink away at that whole ‘delight in simple pleasures’ one. “Dude, I think I just felt my liver pop from having to sit like this for so long,” Matty complained. “First of all, livers don’t just pop,” I assured him before quickly adding, “Unless you have Animal-Balloon Liver Disease—which maybe you do. I don’t know.” “Are you serious?” he asked with scared-little-puppy eyes. This is probably a good point to mention that Matty and I barely graduated for two completely different reasons. While I’m a fairly brainy guy who just happened to enjoy getting high and reading Muir in the quad far more than going to class, Matty is—how you say—a dumbass. But he’s a loveable dumbass who doesn’t mind camping with me if there’s a forty in it for him, so we get along just fine. “I’m kidding, dude! You’re way too young for ABLD. Besides, once we get to Yosemite, we’ll have all the room in the world to stretch out.” “And drink,” he added. “Exactly, and drink. Trust me, you’re going to love this place.” # When we rolled into Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station about an hour later, we were greeted by one of those sweet-faced, overly enthusiastic park rangers I mentioned earlier. You know, the kind of guy who might have lied about his age to stay in the Eagle Scouts just a teensy bit longer. But I’m not judging. In case you hadn’t gathered as much from my Muir references, I really dig nature myself—just not enough to take a job where the average salary is less than the amount I owe in student loans. “Hi, fellas! Welcome to Yosemite[...]
It’s with mixed emotions that we announce our news: Divya Breed and Mur Lafferty are the new co-editors of Escape Pod. Our beloved Norm Sherman has stepped down from the big chair due to a variety of personal reasons. Benjamin C. Kinney has taken the role of assistant editor. Norm has been a force of nature at the Pod, steering it with a sure and steady hand. Everyone here at Escape Pod and elsewhere in the Escape Artists family is deeply grateful for his hard work, and sends him all their best. Mur and Divya look forward to bringing you the best, thought-provoking, and fun science fiction they can find. You can reach us at the new alias for Escape Pod editorial queries: firstname.lastname@example.org.
AUTHOR: Julia K. Patt NARRATOR: Logan Waterman HOST: Tina Connolly Whatever Tower, However High is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums. For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Julia K. Patt lives in Maryland with one very evil cat and one very frightened one, which never fails to make life interesting. Work-wise, she does a little of everything, because why try one thing when you can attempt six? Right now her favorite gig, after writing stories, is proofreading queer romance novels. (There’s something soothing about adding semi-colons to sex scenes in these uncertain times.) Her short fiction has previously appeared in such publications as Expanded Horizons, The Fiction Desk, and Phantom Drift, and she is at work on a novel. You can follow her on twitter (@chidorme) for more. about the narrator… Logan has a degree in Technical Theatre from California State University, and has worked in many theatres, large and small, professional and amateur. He has also worked for Apple computers, sold hot tubs and comic books, and prepared court documents. He has taught and performed sword-fighting for the stage, and run lights for a local band, until they broke up. As of writing this bio, he has narrated for The Drabblecast and all five District of Wonders shows, Starship Sofa, Tales To Terrify, Far Fetched Fables, and the late lamented Protecting Project Pulp and Crime City Central, making him the District’s only “Ace” so far. He is thrilled to add Escape Pod to his CV and hopes to get more. Logan currently lives in Northern California with Grendel, a huge black beast whose primary occupations are sleeping, stalking the fish in the aquarium, and keeping the house safe from the hordes of invisible monsters that come out after dark, and Morgana, a small fluffy Queen who rules her domain with an iron paw. The fish are unimpressed. Whatever Tower, However High By Julia K. Patt It is my 567th day inside. But I’m not really counting. Outside, Leo and Maurizio sit by the front steps of the house playing 3D chess. Not far from them, Antonia tinkers with her latest project, which looks for all the world like a wheelchair with exhaust pipes. Our landlady, Miss Penny, hunkers on the stoop with a cigarette in one hand and her morning coffee in the other, trading talk with whoever passes by and calling out the morning news and crossword clues in a jumble. I’m not sure if the Prime Minister of New Slovakia is a headline or the answer to five across. More than a year and a half ago, I passed a similar scene as I exited the cab with my duffle of possessions. The last time any of them saw my face, even though I have seen theirs most days since then. I have eyes and ears all over the city, but unlike most people, my neighbors know I’m watching. “Mornin’, Eric,” Leo says. He doesn’t call it up to me; instead, he says it to Vash. On one of my monitors, I see Leo’s hand come down, gigantic, to pat the little robotic dog on the head. Vash is my only physical tracer; I’ve dreamed of building the others, the ones that can read whole cities, but they would be much larger, too big to fit through the door of my apartment. “Good morning, Leo,” I say into my mic. I can hear the tinny echo up here on the fourth floor. “For the 1,394th time, there’s no need to pet Vash. He can’t feel it.” The old man grins at me. The curvature of the camera makes his nose look even more bulbous. And there’s a piece of rye toast stuck to his left incisor that looks huge from this angle. He’s missed a bit of his chin shaving today, not an uncommon occurrence. He and Maurizio both live alone in the building. “Bah,” Leo says. “I know he likes it. See? He wags his tail. Good dog.” I sigh. The program I wrote for Vash does have its ec[...]
AUTHOR: Arthur Doweyko NARRATOR: Patrick Bazile HOST: Alasdair Stuart Nothing to See Here was an Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. Discuss on our forums. For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… As a scientist, Arthur has authored over 100 publications, invented novel 3D drug design software, and shares the 2008 Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award for the discovery of Sprycel, a new anti-cancer drug. He writes hard science fiction, fantasy and horror. His debut novel, Algorithm, is a story about DNA and the purpose of humanity. It garnered a 2010 Royal Palm Literary Award (RPLA) and was published by E-Lit Books in 2014. Angela’s Apple won 1st place as best pre-published science fiction novel of 2014 (RPLA) and will be published by Red Adept Publications (July 19, 2016) as As Wings Unfurl. His short stories, P’sall Senji, The Last, and Nothing to See Here garnered Honorable Mentions in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. He lives in Florida with his wife Lidia, teaches college chemistry and happily wanders the beaches when not jousting with aliens. about the narrator… Patrick is an American Actor/Voice Over Talent born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Patrick has voiced everything from PSAs to major product brands, with a deep, commanding voice often referred to as “The Voice of God.” Nothing to See Here By Arthur Doweyko There is a comfort in the strength of love; ‘Twill make a thing endurable, which else Would overset the brain, or break the heart. William Wordsworth I heard a squawk—kind of like the goose call that comes out of a police cruiser. Blinking red and blue lights danced on the window shade, so I figured they must have nabbed somebody. The trouble was, they were behind my house, in my cornfield. I peeled back the shade, and what did I see but a crap-load of state police parked sort of in a big circle. The ground mist was so thick, I barely made out the cut corn stalks. The rows led to the police who looked like scarecrows poking up out of the fog—all facing in, staring at the same something. Whoever they got cornered was out-of-luck, that’s for sure. Funny thing though—nobody was moving. They just stood at their cruisers. My eye drifted back over the rows. Something itched up the back of my mind, and then the sun peeped up over the tree line on the far side. I threw on a pair of overalls and a flannel shirt, and jogged out to the back porch. “Hey, y’all. What’s going on?” They might’ve been about fifty yards off, but it seemed I wasn’t yelling loud enough for them to hear me. “I said, hey.” Nothing. My lungs weren’t all that strong and screaming was going to set me to coughing, so I stepped off the porch, and right away this trooper breaks through the fog, showing up like out of nowhere. “Sorry, Sir. Please return to your dwelling.” Dwelling? “What are you talking about? You know you’re on my land? What’s going on out here, anyways?” The guy was wearing one of them black outfits, helmet to boots. When he spoke, all I could see was his chin wagging. He raised a hand and pointed back to my house. “Sir, please move back. There’s nothing to see here.” I was close enough now to see a little better. A motorcycle lay in the field. And that’s when I saw the top of a silvery ball sticking up through the soup. It was twirling around. Reminded me of one of them mirror balls they use at dances. It dawned on me what might be going on. “Is that one of them UFOs?” A second officer came up to me, same outfit as the first, except he was carrying what looked like a shotgun. He waved it at me. “You’re Grady Pearson, is that right?” Damn. “How d’you know my name?” All I got was a blank star[...]
AUTHOR: J. E.Bates NARRATOR: Trendane Sparks HOST: Alasdair Stuart Beetle-Cleaned Skulls is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums. For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… J.E. Bates is a lifelong communicant of science fiction, fantasy, horror and other mind sugar and screen candy. He’s lived in California, Finland and many worlds in between. about the narrator… Originally born in Texas, Tren eventually escaped and wound his way through a mystical series of jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area where he has worked as a software QA Tester for both graphics drivers and video games, a freelance mascot performer, and several jobs on a PBS kids’ show. For most of his life, people have told him that his voice is a pleasure to listen to. But since being a werewolf phone sex operator can get boring, he decided to use his powers to entertain a broader audience. Beetle-Cleaned Skulls By J. E. Bates Fine amber dust infiltrated everything in the Preserve. Each morning, I vacuumed it away with my ventral hose prior to opening my kiosk. I paid particular care to my curios: the fossils, the bismuth crystals, and the beetle-cleaned skulls. Forebears, especially the children, delighted in receiving my curios as gifts. Each successful transaction gave me a burst of surplus energy, expressed as pride. The mineral specimens I gathered from the talus behind the kiosk. I polished them right in the kiosk according to aesthetic principles. But I prepared the skulls in the subterranean machine rooms. They were created from deceased rhuka, a species of domesticated bovine. No other kiosk attendant created such skulls, and Forebears traveled great distances to receive one. They used them to decorate their caves. A biped appeared on my mass scanner, recognizable as a male humanoid. As the mass approached, I further identified it as the Forebear named Peggin. I recognized his adolescent gait, his subpar physique, and the idiosyncrasies of his heat signature, among other things. Other Forebears only visited my kiosk for fabricator requests or the occasional curio, but Peggin came almost every day. “Hey, Kruc,” he said, crumpling to a squat just inside the door. Beside him, one of the fabricators hummed, a pottery mold spinning into shape within its matter conversion field. I waggled a manipulator in greeting. “Hello, friend. Do you find the dust tolerable today? Would you like some clean, potable water? Have you resolved your dispute with Targ?” “Yes, no, and definitely not,” he said, voice listless and eyes shut. “He’s a beast. What am I going to do?” “You could carve,” I said, hoping to reduce his distress. “A new skull is ready.” Peggin decorated my skulls, carving geometric patterns into the white bone before painting them with pigments derived from local sediments. The whorls of red, yellow and blue formed pleasing patterns and increased their desirability in the eyes of the Forebears. “I can’t concentrate,” he said, head bent. “Kruc, can’t you do something?” “The Rapport strives to accommodate any reasonable request. What do you wish?” “Talk to him.” “Targ has made no recent fabricator requests. What would I say?” “Tell him to stop hurting people.” He set his jaw. “Or else you will hurt him.” “Self-governance is the guiding principal of the Preserve.” “Then get me out of here!” He punched the wall of the kiosk with a balled fist, but could not damage the titanium superstructure, only himself. “Forebears must remain within the Preserve,” I reminded him. “Then let me live in the kiosk,” he said, turning wide, black eyes towards me. His moist orbs reflected the communication bulbs in my faceplate. “Please! I can do more than carve. I can gather fossils, help with the fabricators. I can’t live with Targ anymore.” “I’m sorry, but it isn’t permitted,” I said. A slight energy deficit expressed my dissatisfaction. Peggin ceas[...]
AUTHOR: G. Scott Huggins NARRATOR: Jen Rhodes HOST: Tina Connolly What Good is a Glass Warrior? is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums. For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… G. Scott Huggins grew up in the American Midwest and has lived there all his life, except for interludes in the European Midwest (Germany) and the Asian Midwest (Russia). He is currently responsible for securing America’s future by teaching its past to high school students, many of whom learn things before going to college. His preferred method of teaching and examination is strategic warfare. He loves to read high fantasy, space opera, and parodies of the same. He wants to be a hybrid of G.K. Chesterton and Terry Pratchett when he counteracts the effects of having grown up. When he is not teaching or writing, he devotes himself to his wife, their three children, and his cat. He loves good bourbon, bacon, and pie, and will gladly put his writing talents to use reviewing samples of any recipe featuring one or more of them. You can read his ramblings and rants (with bibliography) at The Logoccentric Orbit and you can follow him on Facebook. about the narrator… Jen is one of the co-hosts of the Anomaly Podcast; an all women sci-fi and fantasy “geek chat” show. She is also a co-host on The Star Wars Stacks; a book review podcast. Both of her shows are available on iTunes, Stitcher Smart Radio and everywhere else on the interwebs. When she isn’t podcasting, Jen makes her living as a professional graphic designer, voice actress, and narrator. Jen has always been an introverted geek, but she’s definitely not the stereotypical nerd. In 3rd grade, during recess, she coaxed the entire student body into playing “V”. She led the Visitors as “Diana” until red dust, AKA: cherry flavored Kool-Aid mix, ended her reign of power. Without her leadership, the game soon ended. But she didn’t always play the villain. Jen was a real-life “playground superhero” who rescued kids from school bullies. Once a bully threw the first punch at Jen, they very quickly lost to a girl. “Hostile negotiations” were concluded without further incident due to the embarrassment felt by the aggressor. As a result, Jen became everyone’s friend—even the bullies were her buddies, once they were properly reformed that is. Jen is currently living happily ever after, in the Texas Hill country, with her husband and their little boy, Aaron.) What Good is a Glass Warrior? By Scott Huggins Like falling through rings of intermittent diamonds; White laser-circles of moon. Kinhang Chan Tzu chose those words to describe being me. Given that he was Earth’s poet laureate, and I am only my parents’ daughter, who am I to argue? I have never seen any of those things – he might be right. How can I know? Colors remind me of swimming. Like water, they surround you, but give you nothing to hold on to. I hold the release lever to the airlock in my hand. The inner door stands open behind me. I say a brief prayer. I pull the lever down. The soft wind of Langstrand rushes into the colony ship, smelling of forest and beach. Behind me, bulkheads close with soft bangs. All except the ones I’ve cut out of the circuit. No alarms sound. No lights flash. Quickly, I jog back to Cargo Bay One. Now there is only waiting. I crouch in a swirl of blue and black wind, and my polyfiber spear is a shaft of warmth in the ocean of air, heated by my fingers. Wind flaps against my father’s too-big combat jacket, making listening difficult. The only breathing is Uncle Jimmy’s, strapped in the gurney. “You there, Unk?” I whisper. “Lass? Where are you? It’s dark.” “Yes, Unk, it’s dark. What do you see? Anything?” “Too dark to see. Too dark for the Glass Lass. You should be in bed. Where are Don and Amy?” “They’[...]