EP390: Cerbo un Vitra ujo : Escape Pod

If you are curious about what happens when I write horror, this is one of the stories. This is, in fact, the story that I won’t let my parent read.

It’s on Escape Pod, if you want to listen, read by Veronica Giguere. They also have it in text form.

Here’s a teaser:

Grete snipped a diseased branch off her Sunset-Glory rosebush like she was a body harvester looking for the perfect part. Behind the drone of the garden’s humidifiers, she caught a woosh-snick as the airlock door opened. Her boyfriend barreled around Mom’s prize Emperor artichoke.

Something was wrong.

The whites showed around Kaj’s remarkable eyes, a blue-green so iridescent they seemed to dull all the plants around them. “Mom and Dad got me a Pass to a down-planet school!”

The blood congealed in her veins. Kaj would leave her. Grete forced a smile. “That’s the outer limit!”

“I didn’t even know they’d applied. Fairview Academy—game design.” His perfect teeth flashed like sunshine against the ink of space.

Listen or read the full story at EP390: Cerbo un Vitra ujo : Escape Pod.

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12 Responses

  1. Clemm

    This was one of the most disturbing stories I have ever read.
    I read it months ago and had no idea what I was in for as I was just reading it among other shorts you have done. I almost put it down as I thought it was going to be a mushy teen love story, but I knew there had to be more.
    As sick as it made me, I couldn’t put it down till it was finished. I literally sat still for at least five minutes after it was over, my mouth hanging open (not hyperbole), completely stunned by what was now oozing around in my brain. It still gives me shivers!

    I would love for you to expound more on how this was inspired by HCA’s The Snow Queen and what your process was for developing it into this.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      The main characters in Snow Queen are Gerda and Kai, so there’s the obvious name connection.

      The basic plot structure of the Snow Queen is that Gerda and Kai are best friends and play in the rose garden together. One day, a goblin comes and steals Kai’s heart (Go to gaming school!) and tempts him away.

      Gerda goes on a quest to find him, and keeps seeing people that she thinks are him,[lady with his eyes, the doctor] only to discover that they’re not.

      She finally discovers that he is in the Snow Queen’s palace (the clinic) and enters to try to save Kai. She finds him, cold and heartless, in the middle of a lake playing with ice shards (medically induced coma.) He Greta runs to him. He doesn’t recognize her and her tears melt his heart, saving him. (Though the saving here is rather darker).

  2. Clemm

    Thanks for the response. It’s fascinating to see where the two plots connect. I was shocked when you revealed the inspiration on Writing Excuses, but it did seem like a very dark fairy tale when I reflected on it.

  3. BenjaminJB

    Am I right in translating the title as Esperanto for “Brain in a glass jar”? What inspired you on that title? And why put it in another language?

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      Yes, you’re right on the translation. Jason Sizemore at Apex approached me to write an SF horror story. I pitched a couple of ideas, one being the retelling of “Snow Queen,” which I called my “brain in a jar” story. The original idea was that Kaj had to keep selling pieces of himself until he was nothing but a brain in a jar.

      By the time I finished the story, that idea had been put aside, but I could not think of a title. Eventually, I translated it into Esperanto because in the future everyone speaks Esperanto… well. In a possible future. Anyway, I stuck it on there and sent in the story, knowing full well that the title would be changed.

      Jason liked it.

      So the thematic reason for the title is that I was stuck with the working title.

      1. BenjaminJB

        I like the Esperanto for a story about body-part swapping: it’s a universal language, Cronenberg-style.

        And now that I know the Snow Queen angle, I guess I can drop my tortured attempt to fit it into commedia dell’arte character system. (Innamorati separated by il dottore? Throw in some clowns and it’s not that crazy a comparison…)

        1. Mary Robinette Kowal

          I was working on a Pinocchio retelling in the same world that you could apply the commedia characters too.

          If I ever finish and publish it.

          The other thing about this story is that it’s very early career for me. I wrote it in 2006 and it was my fifth sale.

  4. LaShawn

    Good God, woman.

    I mean…good…*God*…

    I posted a longer thing over at the EscapePod forum, but I had to come here and comment. This has got to be one of the most horrible and brilliant and horrible and brilliant stories I ever read. I…wow…

    The Snow Queen is one of my favorite stories. I didn’t even recognize the structure until you pointed it out, and then It. Was. So. Obvious. It blew my mind. Repeatedly.

    I owe you a drink the next time I see you. I would love to pick your brain over it. Pun intended. 😀

  5. Francisco S. Wechsler

    Actually, the title should be: Cerbo EN Vitra Ujo.

    (The Esperanto preposition “en” corresponds to the English preposition “in”.)

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