Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Consulting Editor


Who By Fire
by Jeff Samson

Shit Eatin’ Dog
by Bob Sojka

Joshua Who Could See
by Elizabeth Streeter

Calliope Muse
by Rebecca L. Brown

Waver of the Image
by Joe Occhipinti

Salvation of Sam
by Ellen Denton

Three Into Two Won’t Go
by Ann Gimpel

3rd Dragoon Regiment and the Liberation of Contagor’e-Mare
by Don C. Ciers

Collector’s Item
by Doug Donnan


Journey Through the Center of the Earth
by Eric M. Jones

Mars: A New Look at the Old Hump
by J. Richard Jacobs





Comic Strips



Shit Eatin’ Dog

By Bob Sojka

THE ALIEN, BOITOLENEAUS, belly low to the sparsely vegetated grey gumbo soil, observed patiently from behind meter-high bushes covered with insolently hued clusters of blossoms. Although searching for gases, the squat little marooned explorer had been attracted to the shocking colors. They seemed to defy the thick unwelcoming night fog at the edge of the dim light cones that seeped downward from a rank of poles beyond the ancient grove of moss-laden river hardwoods.

The spacecraft’s gazetteer and botanary had sparse entries for this location, and only a few features were identified with earth names. What mattered more was that the air was promisingly redolent with a blend of organic volatiles emanating from the profusion of living and decaying carbon-based life forms all about.

Near the water’s edge was a dew-dampened gravel path straddling the enormous river, which struck the alien as obese and resentful as it crept languorously between levees toward the clumsy looking tide locks that the earth creatures had erected. In another two hours, the sun would rise diffidently into the sky, simmering the stew of volatile vapors that the alien sought.

After three nights of scouting, the alien found what it had sought—a concentrated source of the raw material for fuel synthesis and substrates for bionic regeneration of its disabled spacecraft’s critical systems. The concentrated source was a small building just off the gravel path.

It, for there was no equivalent such as he or she that properly applied to the squat coarse-bristled intergalactic four-legged hairball, had been considering how best to gain entrance to the building for two days and nights—ever since the instrumentation in its neck-ring identified methane in the gases emanating from the building.

Tonight the alien decided to approach the building and attempt an entry, with hopes of deploying its gas-collecting equipment. It moved out cautiously onto the low damp mat of green filamentous vegetation. As it neared the edge of one of the illuminated areas, a group of bipeds came strolling down the gravel path. It had observed the same three on previous nights. It couldn’t be sure whether they had seen it. Although it had determined that these creatures’ demeanors were non-threatening, the little quadruped chose, at least for now, to retreat to its hiding place.

The bipeds wandered around the clearing for a while, communicating in spurts of indistinct sounds and gestures, and occasionally ingesting a liquid from a silicon dioxide container they shared among themselves. Eventually, as on previous nights, they settled down together on a structure that seemed to be designed for bipeds to rest upon. The alien waited for nearly a half hour until it was sure the bipeds were not paying attention to its position.

With a bit more haste, it ventured toward the small building again. As it approached more closely, it detected a measurable increase in the concentration of methane diffusing from the building. This encouraged the alien to approach what appeared to be the entrance portal. Just as its front legs touched the gravel path leading to the building, the alien became aware of a slinking sound nearby in the filamentous vegetation.

A large carnivorous reptile was slithering toward it in a stealthy fashion. The alien turned toward the reptile in a defensive posture. The reptile reacted to this change in the alien’s posture by rising slightly higher on its stubby legs and launching forward in an alarming burst of speed that the alien would not have thought possible from its original assessment of the creature. The reptile’s jaws opened, revealing rows of large jagged teeth that would undoubtedly inflict severe damage if the alien were unable to adequately defend itself. Alarmed, the alien contemplated what it feared would be an unavoidable confrontation with the reptile, which was easily thirty times its mass.

Just as the little space-faring quadruped began assuming a squatting stance in order to leap at the reptile and deploy its own defenses, a large wheeled vehicle with an enormous array of multicolored lights rolled from the darkness of the gravel path behind the small building. It pursued the reptile for several tens of meters. The alien used this opportunity to quickly retreat to its original hiding place. Meanwhile, the reptile raced to the river bank and slipped into the river’s water, disappearing into the night.

The vehicle stopped. It shone a spotlight at the place on the bank where the reptile had entered the water. The vehicle remained poised in this configuration for ten or fifteen seconds. The alien could hear the internal combustion engine that powered the lighted vehicle and sensed the exhaust fumes, which it determined consisted mostly of carbon dioxide and several thoroughly oxidized hydrocarbons of little use to its needs.

The multicolored lights atop the vehicle abruptly extinguished. In another few seconds the spotlight also went dark and the vehicle continued rolling away down the gravel path, slower now.

These goings on stirred the three bipeds who had reclined on the small structure near the edge of the clearing. They roused from the structure and began shambling toward the building, as if intent on entering it. The small alien had wondered how difficult it might be to gain access to the interior of the building, but now perhaps, these three would do the job for it.

It was a small brick building with a rusted tin roof, just off the gravel path. As the alien watched, the three bipeds jimmied the entrance portal open. On previous nights, these three had been observed together, lingering in the shadows of the trees, drinking a liquid that its sensors detected had a dilute alcohol content. Each night they eventually took to sleeping on the resting structure under thin rectangular sheets of cellulose and lignin that were imprinted with images and lines of tiny graphic characters. The bipeds could be distinguished by their physical attributes, their garments, and the audible labels they assigned to each other when using sound to communicate.

Scrutiny of their physical appearance and analysis of their scents revealed that the bipeds were male earth humanoids, a species only ephemerally studied to date, despite their rudimentary progress toward civilization. One was tall, thin and pale-skinned, using the modulated sound designator “Salt John.” He dressed entirely in black. Two darker skinned ones wore an array of tattered garments. One of them was tall and fat, designated “Pepper John.” The other shorter and thinner, with what seemed to be an artificial leg, was designated “Thibodeaux.”

“Peeyew,” said Salt John. “How come we always gotta stay in deez ol’ stinkin’ latrines, Pepper? Cain’t you never fine us somewheres wid a flush toilet an’ no stink?”

“Beggar don’t be no chooser,” said Thibodeaux as he raked his little pile of twigs toward the door while Pepper John forced open the lock.

The alien was encouraged by detection of the artificial limb, since the augmentation could be evidence of greater technological advancement than it had previously guessed. It noticed that the short dark one used his augmented metal limb with great effectiveness to gather sources of carbon-based fuel and insulation, kicking and pushing materiel with the metal limb, moving it all toward the hinged metal portal of the building. The alien considered the possibility of communicating with the humans and training them to help access the methane source.

It approached the men as they pivoted the portal open, speaking in its native tongue. The greeting seemed effective, as the men immediately swung about to face Boitoleneaus. Two of them were apprehensive and backed away, raising their arms as if to protect themselves. But, Thibodeaux, the augmented one, stretched his facial muscles (known to indicate a positive emotional state), squatted low to the ground, looked at Boitoleneaus and made a clicking sound with the terminal digital appendages of one of his upper limbs.

“Ay, look at you,” he said. “C’mere, boy. You can warm up wid us. Dat’s it, c’mon.”

Boitoleneaus wondered if the augmented one was telepathic, having arrived at his familiar name, Boi, without even hearing it spoken. It swept the air for pheromones with its dorsal biochromatogaphic oscillating detector, but found no evidence of aggressive intention in the rich spectrum of complex organic gases emanating from the body and clothing of the humanoids.

“Atta boy,” said the augmented one, holding his terminal appendages toward the wet-bulb thermo sensor at the tip of the alien’s snout-like cranial extremity. “You got a funny bark, you know. An dat tail seen some better days, uh huh? C’mere to ol’ Thibodeaux, yessuh. Dat right.”

Boitoleneaus recorded the language fragments as the humanoids spoke, attempting to translate and interpret their audible communications. It also continued to oscillate its dorsal detector, even as the human lifted it off the ground. The closer the human drew it toward his thorax, the stronger it sensed emission of pheromones associated with tranquility.

The human began to stroke the pin fibers of Boitoleneaus’ UV-protective pelt with what it had learned over the last two days, was called a hand. As he did so, the humanoid’s tranquility pheromones grew even stronger and its audio sensors detected a reduction in the rate of pulsating pump-like sounds emanating from within the human’s thorax. Boitoleneaus’s translator could follow bits of their conversation now, continually filling in meaning of new words through use in context.

“Hey, Thibodeaux. What you got dere, huh?” Asked Salt John, prompting Pepper John to light a small candle he extracted from inside his long dirty canvas coat.

Thibodeaux rotated his body away from his companions. “All you talk about all the day long is you wanna try you new road-kill recipe when the Good Lord He provide somethin’. Dis ain’t no road kill, Salt. You be leavin’ us alone.”

Salt John took a swipe at the alien in Thibodeaux’s arms, trying to snatch it away. “Gimme dat shit eatin’ dog. What else he good fo’ we don’t eat him?”

Pepper John’s switch blade clicked audibly from the other side of Thibodeaux.

“You wants to eat a shit eater?” said Thibodeaux. “How smart dat makes you? ‘Sides, dis ain’t no road-kill, nah uh. An’ he keep us warmer widout no stinkin’ paper burnin’ and no smoke. You jus’ let him sit on you; or you holt him inside you shirt. We gots can food, you fool, but no can heat.” He drew two cans from his coat pockets and tossed them into the grundge-mottled sink across from the door.

“Where you get Dinny Mo Stew and Bush Bake Bean? You been shopliffin’ again, uh huh.”

“Use you slip blade on dem ones,” said Thibideaux pointing to the canned food, while his companions still eyed Boitoleneaus in his arms. “Dis lil boy gonna keep us warm tonight. Maybe all winter.”

Pepper John grunted a noise that the translator interpreted as meaning he wasn’t sure he believed that. He stepped up to a stainless wall receptacle, that for some reason had been bent to near uselessness, and unfurled what Boitoleneaus heard him refer to as his big chorizo. Asparagine-scented urinary steam rose from the crumpled basin.

“You gots to quit eatin’ canned asparagus,” said Salt John, wrinkling the flesh around his nose as he spoke.

Then Pepper John released a robust burst of flatulence that echoed from the feces-smeared cinderblock walls and brought raucous sounds to all their lips that the translator interpreted as an audible indication of ironic entertainment.

Boitoleneaus grew excited, savoring the enrichment of the atmosphere in the confined dwelling. Now it was getting somewhere. The expedition needed a methane source to power their ship back into orbit. It had no idea it might be as simple as harvesting gas and other volatile organics directly from the humans.

It had watched dozens of them enter and leave the small building for the past two days while hiding behind the local vegetation. Things would be far easier now that the desired organic compounds could be gathered at so much higher concentration from the humans themselves, rather than slowly concentrating them from the building’s weaker emanations.

It had no sooner thought this than it heard Salt John and Thibodeaux exhaust a simultaneous venting loud enough to scare out a four-centimeter long carapace-encrusted six-legged creature from behind a smudged reflective surface attached to the wall. The three men seemed to lose their composure, slapping the upper portion of their legs and making more of the raucous indications of irony.

Thibodeaux walked into the rust-blistered stall next to the urinal, still holding Boitoleneaus against his chest, sniffing the creature’s wet pelt. Boitoleneaus watched Thibodeaux drop his leg coverings to his ankles and sit on the hollow stainless steel pedestal surrounding the hole in the floor from which the weaker concentration of methane was eminating.

Apparently the human was oblivious to the slime and fecal bouquet that even now must be coolly caressing his rancid buttocks as he began grunting his way toward defecation. Boitoleneaus sensed the increase in methane content as the human began to excrete, and began struggling to free himself from Thibodeaux’s grasp.

“OK, OK, boy. You wansta git down while I finish the paper work?”

“Paper work, dat right, uh huh,” laughed Pepper John responding to the chatter coming from the doorless stall.

“You be lucky dey remember to leave de Picayune want-ad fo’ you. Dis no Ritz Carton, Thibodeaux. No one gonna bring you perfume asswipe on a silver dish.” The ironic raucous sound filled the room.

“Yeah, an’ if you do,” said Thibodeaux “you ain’t gonna want the kinda tip I gonna hand you.” More of the sound.

“Dat right,” said Pepper John. “You pretty much known fo’ you small tip.”

With this remark the humans seemed to temporarily lose all self composure. Hooting and gesticulating and emitting concentrated bursts of pheromones indicating enjoyment.

Boitoleneaus watched Thibodeaux lift the corners of the skin surrounding his oral orifice while he stared at Pepper John through the open stall. It could see that his mood was so moved to pleasure that he slipped the grip on what Thibodeaux called his schlong (which caused some confusion with the translator software) as he erupted in another burst of the irony sound, accidentally spraying urine onto the floor between him and Boitoleneaus.

Boitoleneaus was thrilled. Not just methane but urea and traces of the coveted biurette molecule as well! It decided to waste no time. It stepped a few paces away from the one called Thibodeaux and rose erect on its hind legs. Its oscillating pheromone detection appendage, which housed its brain and nearly a quarter of its biological body, curled between its cyborg legs. Its thoracic protective cover drew away from the stored and collapsed harvest bladder, which now unfurled onto the greasy floor.

It aimed the harvest wand between Thibodaux’s scrawny legs and launched the razor edged insertion blades forcefully into his crotch, carrying the transfer tube’s pencil-thin plasma generation core twenty centimeters into the human’s body. Its micro nuclear pile energized the processing plasma that consumed Thibodaux’s body, withdrawing the desired organic gases and substrates, while a second tube squirted the unusable remaining slurry into the convenient receptacle just below the human. The artificial leg appendage clanked onto the floor. The entire procedure took under twenty seconds.

The faint plasma glow in the stall and intense vocalizations indicative of pain from Thibodeaux caused the other two humans to vocalize similar sounds of alarm. Just as Boitoleneaus retracted his harvest tube from the first human’s flaccid husk, which then fell into the hole below the stainless steel pedestal, dragging the tattered wardrobe with it, they emitted a burst of pheromones indicative of fear and ran from the small building.


However, from the traffic in and out of the building that Boitoleneaus noticed the day before, it was fairly certain that, if it waited patiently, other specimens worthy of rendering would be encountered.

In fact, the first two humans had hardly disappeared into the night when a somewhat more robust specimen carrying an electrical light source in his hand approached. In the distance Boitoleneaus noticed the rolling vehicle that had earlier frightened the reptile. The vehicle door was open and apparently this human had been inside it.

The new human stopped briefly to examine the broken lock before entering the portal to the small building. This one had some sort of head covering and was dressed in stiff blue garments festooned with metal buttons and some sort of brooch, perhaps a symbol of authority or rank.

As he approached, Boitoleneaus retracted the harvest implements, reconfigured the cyborg pelt and walked on all fours toward the building’s entrance. Once again the oscillating sensor appendage identified a supply of the desired organic constituents. Again Boitoleneaus vocalized the greeting phrase it had used upon encountering the previous trio of humans, while continuing to oscillate its posterior appendage to assess any change in this human’s pheromone emissions.

The blue-garmented human approached Boitoleneaus with the electrical light, leaned downward and spoke.

“Well, boy, what have we here? Was that you making all that fuss?”

Curious, thought Boitoleneaus, that the humans’ psychic ability could so easily discern his familiar name but generated no fear. Apparently humans were only able to read another being’s identity designator, but not one’s future

Bob Sojka is an alumnus of several recognized workshops (James Gunn, Clarion West, Odyssey, Kris Rusch/Dean Smith) and has sold stories, poems and book reviews to “Escape” (defunct), “NewMyths” and the anthology "Elemental." He is a retired soil and environmental scientist with over 260 career science publication credits.

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