Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Talus Slope
by Joseph Green

Who Benefits From War?
by Hayden Trenholm

Those Magnificent Stars
by Clare L. Deming

A Soldier Undreams
by Bret Carter

Eating Disorder
by Len Dawson

My Shaigetz
by Marcy Arlin

Two Timing
by Rik Hunik

To Dance With the Girls of Ios-5
by Ted Blasche


Psychology and Science Fiction
by Ann Gimpel, Ph.D.

Get Up and Go Somewhen
by J. Richard Jacobs

In Time For Evolution
by Eric M. Jones




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips



Two Timing

By Rik Hunik

“THIS IS AWKWARD,” said the police detective. “I was just coming to tell your wife that you were dead.”

“Obviously there must be some mistake,” Tim said, letting his irritation show.

“Apparently.” The detective backed away a couple of steps and ran his narrowed eyes the length of Tim’s body, as though verifying its presence. “A body was found. We ran the DNA and came up with your name and address.” His eyes came up, met Tim’s without blinking. “Apparently you’ve done some classified research.”

"Highly classified," Tim said. “How was he killed?”

The detective looked away. “I’m not at liberty to say.”

“Where was the body found? I have a right to know.”

The detective shook his head, a hint of a smile curling his lips. “Not if it isn’t your body. May I come in?”

“Do you have a search warrant?”


“Then you can’t come in.” The detective said nothing, he just stood there looking, so Tim closed and locked the door. Let him look at that. Something had gone drastically wrong and he hadn’t even turned on the machine yet today. How much did this cop know? Was he just a cop? Was he lying about the body being found?

He knew he had no twin, so the only explanation for a dead body with his own DNA was that somebody had duplicated him with an extremely illegal use of a modified matter transmitter. Tim was pretty sure he could do it himself, but he couldn’t think of any reason he would want to.

A second explanation occurred to him. His colleague and frequent collaborator, Bill Cryder, had suggested a way to modify the matter transmitter to send something back in time. What if he traveled back in time and arrived dead, or was killed when he arrived? That would account for a duplicate body, but it would be easy to avoid that situation by not traveling back in time, which should be easy to do since he hadn’t yet modified the transmitter, and now had no intention of ever attempting to do so.

But the body had already arrived back in time. So what if he duplicated himself, then sent his other self back? If that self died it would account for the body the detective told him about. Too bad he hadn’t been able to get more information from that detective.

His cell phone buzzed in his pocket, he pulled it out, flipped it open, said, “Hello.”

“They’re cracking down hard.” The voice came through an electronic filter that made it sound flat, mechanical, hard to identify, but Tim knew who it was. “They’re on to me. You better lay low for a while.” The line went dead.

The general public knew about the existence of matter transmission, but were misled to believe that it was expensive, unstable, and dangerous to use. While it was true that matter transmission was prohibitively expensive for practical purposes, there was no truth to the claim that it was unstable or unsafe. Still, the government was convinced it was dangerous enough to suppress, so if they suspected he had his own matter transmitter and receiver, and was conducting forbidden experiments with them, they wouldn’t hesitate to terminate him.

Before Tim went down to his secret basement laboratory he detoured to his bedroom, dug in the closet and pulled out the snub-nosed .38 revolver he had bought years ago, when he was more nervous and less self-assured than he usually was now. He snapped it open. Six shells, ready to fire. Not terribly accurate, but effective at close range.

With the gun hanging from his hand, Tim headed downstairs.

As Tim finished locking and barring the laboratory door his receiving chamber activated. Usually that only happened when he was sending something to himself, or, more rarely, his friend and co-conspirator, Bill, was sending something, but the phone call indicated that Bill was already on the run and Tim’s place was a high risk, so he wouldn’t be using his equipment to send anything here, and Tim hadn’t sent anything to himself, which left only the government with the required equipment.

Were they sending an assassin after him already? Tim left the lights off and crouched in the green glow of instrument panels, with the gun held in both hands, pointed at the curved door of the egg-shaped chamber, while he counted down the seconds, waiting for the cycle to finish so the door would open.

The safety latch clicked as it released and hydraulics hissed as the door slid aside. When it was about half open the man inside said, "Don't move," and Tim saw him raising his hand to shoot.

Tim was so startled his finger twitched ever-so-slightly on the trigger and a bullet exploded out the end of the barrel and nailed the sucker in the chest. Damn. He’d used this gun so seldom he’d forgotten it had damned near a hair trigger.

Tim turned on the lights and saw that the man sprawled on his side on the floor of the chamber was unarmed, he had only been reaching out. In his mind Tim replayed the man's words and figured he might have been trying to say, “Don’t shoot.”

Still shaky from the adrenaline, Tim rolled the body over with his foot and stared down at his own features, the dead body of his future self. Was that his destiny? How far in the future had he come from?

Then the idea came to him. He could rewire and reprogram the matter transmitter in just the way the government was afraid of, and use it to send the dead body to a distant location without a receiver. It cost exponentially more in energy, the location wasn't precise with his equipment, and living things couldn’t survive the trip, but it would do for his purpose.

Tim and Bill had discussed the theory a number of times and Bill had come up with the hardware to make the modifications, but neither of them had tried sending anything nearly as large as a man’s body. When he had it programmed he dragged the inert body into the chamber and left it there, then closed the door and hit the button.

Static electricity made his arm hairs tingle and stand straight out and he felt the hair on his head trying to do the same thing as sparks jumped from his body to the outer shell of the transmitter. This was the kind of effect he would have had to endure inside the chamber just prior to a jump, if not for the shields and dampening fields, and the excess of power required to send the body without a receiver was distorting the field far more than he'd anticipated.

He tried to back away, out of the field, but his muscles didn’t respond. He was along for the ride, destination unknown. His muscle control suddenly returned and he took a step back, bumping into a wall. He had been caught up in the field and transmitted and now found himself in the receiving chamber, as he could tell by the symbol on the inside of the door.

Dammit, was this how his future self had travelled back in time in the matter transmitter? Somehow he’d assumed he had come from at least a day or two in the future, not just a few minutes. Now it was his turn to be shot.

Tim's future self had tried to warn him not to shoot, but that hadn’t worked. Tim would have to act first, shooting his past self before his past self shot him. He remembered where he’d been standing, dropped into a crouch, raised his gun and held it with both hands, aimed at that spot.

The safety latch on the door released, and as soon as the door opened a crack he saw himself aiming a gun at the opening door. He adjusted his aim up a hair and squeezed off a couple of shots at himself’s head. One shot missed but the other was effective and past Tim fell dead to the floor.

He had just killed himself for the second time. By not getting shot he had changed the timeline, but he’d just shot his earlier self, so how could he be here now if he'd killed his past self before his past self had a chance to travel forward in time at the normal rate in order to be sent back in time? Standing in the chamber with the door about to open he hadn’t had time to think things through, so now he’d gone and created a paradox.

But he was here now and he hadn’t been shot.

No time to worry about all the permutations of that. He had another body to get rid of, and the previous attempt hadn’t been very successful. Not that it mattered at this stage of the game. He had prepared long ago for a quick exit.

Tim loaded the body into the transmission chamber but this time he made damn sure, before he energized anything, that he was far out of range of any possible field malfunction or wild fluctuation.

With the body safely gone and no cops yet beating on his doors, Tim heaved a sigh of relief. A few minutes on his computer transferred all his liquid assets to a numbered account on the Cayman Islands.

He brought up the view from the security camera in front of his house and saw police cars and unmarked cars parked on the lawn and street. Cops, a SWAT team, and black-suited agents hurried across the lawn, coming for him. Close, but they still had to break through some reinforced doors to get to the lab. By then he’d be long gone.

He hurried to the transmission chamber, stepped inside and punched in a code that would send him to a receiver hidden in a remote area a couple of hundred miles away. He wondered if Bill would be there waiting for him, or if he had been caught before he could escape, or if he’d already fled from the hidden receiver.

He pushed the big “SEND” button and heard the machine hum into life as it started scanning him. Half a minute later the hum stopped and a big green LED started flashing the countdown from ten seconds.

His anticipation grew as the count hit one. The second dragged on impossibly long and a sinking feeling in his stomach accompanied the realization that something was wrong.

The door slid open and he found himself facing two men in dark blue uniforms, with round white helmets and mirrored visors. Looking past the black circle of a gun barrel, he saw a white patch embossed with the words, “TIME POLICE”.

Without preamble the slightly taller one said, “Tim, you are under arrest."

"For what? Causing a paradox?"

The cop shook his head. "You have been found guilty of using time travel technology to facilitate murder.”

“No,” he protested automatically. “It was an accident.”

“The first time, maybe. The second time was premeditated and deliberate.”

“No, it was self defense.”

“You didn’t even try to communicate. You’re guilty.”

“What? This is all the trial I get?”

“We know you’re guilty. You know you’re guilty. What more needs to be said?”

“I want a lawyer.”

“No lawyers. They only confuse the issue. The sentence for murder is death, to be carried out immediately.”

“You can’t do that. It would make you murderers too.”

“There is no need for us to do anything so crude. We can manipulate time and space and matter. Your death is already arranged.”

The door slid closed. Tim blinked and shook his head hard. Had that been for real?

The counter hit zero and the safety latch released. He reached for the gun as the door slid open but the gun wasn’t there. They had manipulated it away.

As the door slid aside he saw the big, round, dark hole of the gun pointed right at him by himself.

“Don’t shoot,” he shouted, but his throat was dry and it didn’t come out clearly. The gun muzzle flashed and the bullet impacted his chest and tore through his heart. He was dead before he hit the floor. infinity

Rik Hunik mostly builds houses to earn a living but has written dozens of stories, including science fiction, horror, sword & sorcery, mystery, humor, erotica, and fantasy, frequently combining genres. His work has been published in “Ascent Aspirations,” “Buzzy Mag,” and “Barbaric Yawp.”