Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Curfew Tolls the Parting Day
by Joseph Green and Shelby Vick

Probing For Aliens
by Clayton J. Callahan

Love and Death at 300,000 Metres
by Louis Bertrand Shalako

Hurry Up and Wait
by Holly Schofield

by Eric Del Carlo

by Eoin Flynn

Monologue for Two Voices
by Robert Pritchard

Sleep, Mr. Teasdale, Sleep
by J. Richard Jacobs

In Deep Shit
by Django Mathijsen


Politics and Story Structure in Science Fiction
by Erin Lale

A New Flu Pandemic
by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




In Deep Shit

By Django Mathijsen

I DIDN’T DRIVE DIRECTLY to the camp. If I’d done that, the tax tracker in my car would have given me away. Those days, all cars in Britain came with mandatory tax trackers that recorded their GPS locations in real-time. The data was sent to the tax office, where the road tax levy was calculated based on the mileage and the roads chosen.

I was aware of such facts, because I’d had enough time for meticulous research and planning. Every step had been well-considered. It had taken a year, for example, for me to sell parts of my stamp collection in order to accumulate the necessary euros. Pounds were useless for what I was going to buy. Since the last currency reform, all pound notes and coins were equipped with memory chips that recorded their location, as well as the identity of the person holding them.

Fortunately, my job as the assistant registrar has accustomed me to meticulous work. Before any wedding ceremony can take place, it’s my job to inspect the chastity belts that aspiring spouses are required to wear from the age of twelve. I study their onboard computers and check all their parts: the locks, the hinges, the leather straps and everything else. If I find any evidence that the belt has been tampered with or that it has been undone at any time, then the marriage license is revoked. The Reconstituted Church of England has stipulated a few obligations and requirements that have to be fulfilled before people can get married and claim the relevant tax exemptions and procreation benefits. Regularly cooperating with the “Underage Vices Investigation Command” had also taught me the methods used by the police for tracking down criminals.


At half past eight in the morning, I drove into the underground car park beneath the shopping tower. I needed a parking space directly under a security camera and adjacent to an elevator. That meant that only two spaces in the whole car park would do for my purpose. The first one turned out to be occupied. I was horrified. The next Saturday matinee wouldn’t be until next month. Fortunately, the space on the second level was still free.

I strolled into the elevator and went up to the floor where all the sandwich bars were. With a cup of coffee and a tomato sandwich, I waited until the shops opened up.


At half past eleven, I was back down again. After a quick shopping spree I had bought two bags full of empty stamp albums. My heart was pounding in my chest when the lift doors slid open. People were crowding in front of the elevator. I couldn’t help grinning. The church matinee was always well-attended.

Against the stream of matinee visitors, I walked back to my car. I made sure the camera could see me putting my bags into the boot. Then I struggled through the stream of people again to get to my car door. I opened it, sat down in the driver’s seat and closed the door. Now, no camera could see me.

I took off my coat. It was cramped but I managed it. Kicking off my shoes was no problem. Taking off my Sunday trousers without raising suspicion was more difficult. I unzipped them, covered the opened fly with my hands and spied around. The passing matinee visitors were talking animatedly amongst themselves. I braced myself and pulled the trousers down. The old jogging pants I wore beneath them slipped right down too. My member was suddenly exposed. I immediately pulled my old woolen sweater over it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any underpants left from the time when clothes weren’t equipped with identity chips. Keira, God rest her soul, must have chucked them all away years ago. I peered around. Apparently, nobody had noticed my little indiscretion.

I put my hands onto the steering joystick and kicked off my Sunday trousers. A passing lady with a cane smiled at me and made the sign of the cross. I gave her a friendly nod back. After she’d passed, I grabbed my old, rubber boots from under my seat. They were so stretched out that my feet easily slipped in. I stored my phone bracelet and wallet necklace in the glove compartment. Wriggling about in the car, I grabbed my old duffel coat with the bag of euros in its pocket from the rear seat.

I had to open the car door very slowly. I nodded politely at passing visitors. Behind the opened car door—still in the camera’s blind spot—I donned my coat and pulled the hood that was attached to it over my head. I shuffled with the matinee crowd to the elevator, my head bent forward, looking away from the cameras.

“Do I get another one of those nice little wafers?” a toddler yelled out.

“Miriam!” The man holding her hand turned red in the face. “We are going to honor Jesus.”


I shivered. The cold air was blowing through my clothes. The temperature was around freezing. But that was good. It meant that without raising any suspicion I could hide under my hood from the cameras that were hanging on all the lampposts. With each step I could feel the arthritis in my right hip. I had to hurry. It was a two-mile walk. And in two hours, when the matinee would have finished, I would have to be back on time to mix with the crowd shuffling out again in order to inconspicuously slip back into my car.

I held my breath as I passed a scanner. The alarm didn’t go off. I heaved a sigh of relief. Apparently, it didn’t attract any attention that my old clobber lacked identity chips. It made me feel invisible. Nobody looks at an old drifter walking by, as long as he keeps walking. That was just as well. After all, the police could arrest me for not wearing any identification. My cover story was that I was taking a walk to get some fresh air because I’d become unwell in the crowd. But that would not explain my worn-out clothes, or why I was carrying a bag stuffed with euros in my pocket.

I walked quite well on my old boots although I hadn’t worn them in at least twenty years. They felt like a pair of trusty, old friends. I was happy I hadn’t thrown them away. Without my old threads, all this wouldn’t have been possible. Icicles were hanging from a window frame. Inside, women having coffee together were talking and laughing. I felt lonely. But I also felt excited. My clothes were a cocoon that had enabled me to step out of society. I was a prisoner who had escaped the shackles he’d been living in for fifty-nine years. I felt free, but hunted.


The path between the pastures was as hard as asphalt. On my right, sheep were grazing. On my left, a horse with a shiny, brown coat was eating from a trough. Poor animal, destined to spend his whole life outside in the cold. The horse snorted, leapt and suddenly galloped past the fence. Steam was coming from its nostrils. It came to a halt and looked straight at me. It was as if the animal was trying to tell me something. Its tail went up. A mucky odor exuded from the mound of brown turds that landed, steaming, in the pasture.

I heard a car approaching and stepped aside. I recognized the car as a gray Lexus, half a century old. A little girl with black pigtails was sitting in the rear seat. She had a runny nose and brown smudges on her cheeks. She looked at me with big eyes while she sucked on her chocolate bar. It made my mouth water. And I don’t even like chocolate.


“Hey, handsome, looking for some business?” the woman said. Her vocal chords sounded like smoke-dried beef. She was standing at the entrance of the camp near a dirty, white bungalow, adorned with artificial flowers. Her fat cheeks were painted red, her hair pitch-black and her sheepskin coat snow-white. She tore open her coat. The quivering folds of her skin were as gray as her pubic hair. “Only a thousand euros. Without a spunk-bag, two. Or would you rather ...”

She turned around and bent over. I closed my eyes and quickly walked on. I hoped Keira wasn’t looking down from up there.


“Smoking, shooting, snorting, shagging, swallowing ... Karling definitely has your thing.” He was rolling his tobacco, leaning on an old Mercedes. Two boys were tinkering under the bonnet. I couldn’t see any cars younger than fifty years old in the camp. Classic cars didn’t have tax trackers.

“Vitamin C?” I asked. Although there weren’t any cameras here, I cringed and instinctively tried to hide away in my coat.

“Sir has come to the right place,” Karling said. He pushed his beret back and lit his cigarette. “Crisps or chocolate?”


“Salt and vinegar, roast chicken, barbecue, mustard, smoky bacon ... I’ve got them all, except for chipsticks. They’re too dangerous. Three months ago, one of my mules snuffed it on the airplane after a bag of chipsticks burst open inside him. The doc said the bastard had a perforated duodenal wall.”

“Rumor has it that you have Cheese and Onion.”

“Ah, Cheese and Onion, the hard stuff.” He spat out some tobacco shreds. “Sir is a connoisseur.”

He opened the boot of the Mercedes. It was filled with fist-sized, brown bags. He pressed a bag into my hand. “First-rate Chinese import. Five thousand euri.”

“Identical to the ones we used to have in the old days?”

“On my grandmother’s honor.” The cigarette was dangling up and down in the corner of his mouth. “The Chinese can reproduce everything perfectly. Except for whores. They make them with three slits over there.”

He roared with laughter. I tried to smile when I handed him the money.

“A fag to go with it?” he asked, while he counted the money.

“No, thanks,” I answered.

“Chocolate? I have original Swiss brown.”

“Maybe next time.”


The precious little package had been lying under the kitchen sink for five days. It contained twenty-one of the savory snacks. I’d counted them thirteen times. The first three nights I hadn’t slept. The whole time, I was convinced I would be raided. But apparently all my preparation had paid off.

I opened the bag. My heart was pounding. I sniffed one of the crisps. It made my mouth water. I nibbled off a piece and closed my eyes while the little snack started to melt on my tongue. I felt like I was sitting on mum’s couch again, with “Spongebob” on the telly, the aroma of fresh coffee in my nose and chattering housewives from the neighborhood around the kitchen table. I slid the second crisp along my teeth, just as I used to do way back when.

I stopped after the tenth crisp. I so much wanted to reach out for number eleven. It almost hurt. But I was determined not to eat more than half the bag. And I was a civil servant. I could abide by the rules, even now, after I’d committed my first crime. I hid the little package of crisps behind the drain again.


It happened the next morning, twenty minutes after my usual visit to the toilet. I was just preparing my nettle sandwiches. As if hit by an earthquake, my apartment reverberated with the crash of the front door as the arrest squad forced an entry.


The man threw the little bag onto the plywood table. He straightened his necktie and gave me a searching stare. I sat still and focused on a coffee stain on the table.

He pointed at the little bag. “One quarter of that is pure fat, two thirds are carbohydrates and over one percent is sodium,” he listed the facts. “So tell me: were your arteries trying to commit suicide?”

I didn’t answer. What was it that I had done wrong?

“But do you know what the worst thing is?” he said.

Of course I knew. They’d been continuously telling us that for half a century now. I didn’t reply. I waited for him to give the inevitable answer.

“Monosodium glutamate, forbidden in accordance with the Obesity Act. It’s just as addictive as cannabis, alcohol or nicotine.” He threw the bag against the whitewashed wall. “After your first taste, you can’t stop eating anymore.”

“But if I enjoy it?” I peeped at the crisps that were lying around in the corner, scattered over the brown clay tiles. I was sorry I hadn’t eaten them all.

“We’re not in this world to enjoy,” he screamed in my face. “We’re here to serve God. Glutamate brought about your downfall.”

I looked at him perplexed. I didn’t understand.

“It was dead easy to track the traces back to your toilet when the sewer sensors detected glutamate residue this morning.”


Because it had been my first offence, I was sentenced to just six months in rehab. I’ve learned my lesson. Next time, I’ll answer nature’s call in the pasture. Right next to that horse. infinity

Django Mathijsen’s fiction has appeared in all current Dutch science fiction magazines. He has won more major Dutch science fiction story awards than any other author. His story about a space junk salvager, "The Astro-Dragon," won the NCSF Prize in 2009.