Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Super Plunge Lady and the 3D Printed Rocket Car
by Erin Lale

by Daniel Huddleston

Portraits Hung in Empty Halls
by K.C. Ball

Mouse Trap
by Fiona Moore

Basket in the Sky
by Igor Teper

Worlds Less Traveled
by John C. Conway

Redemption of Colony Venturis
by Wayne Helge

Where the Grass May Be Greener
by Rob Butler

Double Time
by Rik Hunik


Do Beavers Rule Mars?
by Thomas Elway

Science Fiction at the Box Office
by Adam Paul




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




Where the Grass May Be Greener

By Rob Butler

THE WORLD WAS CLEAN. The nanobots saw to that. But there wasn’t much else positive to say about it. Stenson shuffled along familiar streets to the RTF building. Security guards and police watched him, or at least he assumed they did, from behind their shades and CCTV cameras. Everybody else on the street wore better clothes than his. They probably smelt better than he did as well but nobody let him get close enough to find out.

The girl at reception was new. He thought he detected a slight wrinkle of distaste cross her features before the broad greeting smile kicked in. Most women looked at him that way.

“Welcome to The Recreational Transport Facility sir. Is this your first visit to us?”

Stenson drew a deep breath. His first thought was to make some tetchy response. But he wasn’t at work now. It might be her first day in a new job. Why spoil it for her? She looked a nice kid. Somebody’s daughter. The sort of daughter he might have had.

He realised he should have answered by now. She was looking anxious.

“No. Not my first visit.”

“So you have a booking?”


“Do you have a favourite programme sir?”

Stenson handed over his ID. He knew pretty much how the dialogue would now proceed and he was right. The receptionist scanned his card.

“Programme 91827.”

“That’s it.”

She glanced up at him from the screen.

“You seem to have accessed that programme 137 times sir.”

“It is my favourite.”

“Ben Anderson. Home Counties. Summer 2016. A field near his cottage. Walking around the field and sitting on a bench.”

“Yeah. It’s peaceful.” He paused. “And reasonably priced.”

She remembered the Company smile and beamed up at him.

“Could I suggest sir that you might like to try one of our more exclusive opportunities such as a rain forest or a glacier? Although more expensive I’m sure you would find the experience a revelation. Computer records indicate that you could have visited one of our premium sites four times for the money you have already spent on your current programme. We do have some special offers at the moment ...”

“No really. I’m fine with the one I have. Thank you.”

“Of course, sir. Your choice entirely. That will be 34 credits. Shall I take that from your account?”

Stenson always winced. That was a week’s work and the reason he could only transport about once a month.

“Yes please.”

“All done, Mr. Stenson. I’m sure you know the procedure by now so I will wish you a pleasant trip.”

He ignored the implied sarcasm. “Thank you.”

Stenson headed towards the Transport Lounges. Here there were more beautiful people and winning smiles. As usual, they continued to try to sell him things especially more expensive Transports. As always, he declined.

Eventually he was on the couch with the pre-trip drug cocktail loosening his mind. As he waited for his consciousness to disperse he looked up into the Transport nodes positioned above his head and prayed as he always did that he would never come back.

“I am Ben Anderson, I am Ben Anderson, I am Ben And ...”


Jane Anderson had her hands full. One held a baby who was grizzling and needed a nappy change. The other held a mobile to her ear as she tried to explain to her boss why she was running a little late that day—again. On the stove something was starting to burn gently and the sink still held last night’s dinner things while breakfast dishes were stacked nearby. Upstairs came loud music from a teenager who was supposed to be getting ready for school.

Ben Anderson sat at the table studying the newspaper. He took occasional sips from a cup of tea. Suddenly he folded the paper and walked across to the door to put on his coat.

“Just going round the block to blow out the cobwebs.”

Horrified, Jane whirled around and fumbled for the mute button on the phone while trying not to drop either that or the baby. By the time she was ready to scream at him he was out of earshot and heading towards the field across the lane.


Ben didn’t really know why he kept doing this walk. It wasn’t particularly exciting. He had started it about ten years ago when he thought he ought to get a bit more exercise after the arrival of Josh had curtailed other sporting activities. However, it was merely a gentle stroll. He went across the lane and down a short path through some trees then wound round a field with a view across to the distant motorway. Bare grass and tussocks with an occasional grazing horse or two. Finally he sat on a wooden bench and gazed at the scene before returning home—usually to a frosty reception.


For Stenson the start of the walk was the highlight. He had never seen one tree, let alone the dozens now arrayed before him. The only trees left in his world were in botanical zoos. He always encouraged Ben to reach out and feel the foliage. Vision and touch he had decided to experience but not sound, taste or smell—too expensive. Hence the drone of the motorway did not destroy his pleasure. Where Ben saw grass and scrubland, Stenson saw a green beauty he had only ever known in the pages of books or in recordings. And when there was wildlife, like the horses, or the fox he had once glimpsed, these were sensations he could feed on for days as he grubbed and toiled to get the credits for his next trip.

Now they sat on the bench, Ben and Stenson. They gazed across the slope absorbing every nuance of the landscape and the season: the clouds, the scenery, distant birds, insects, a ploughed field. Everything was magical to Stenson but he was now fighting to stay in Ben’s mind. Everything was a blank to Ben until eventually his eyes slowly seemed to re-focus. A frown. A shake of the head. A hand through his hair. A sigh. A glance in horror at his watch. Why was he here again? Jane would be going spare.

Hurriedly he made his way back home.


Stenson sat in a local bar protecting a glass from being refilled—he couldn’t afford that and the booze wasn’t worth drinking anyway. Every spare credit had to go to RTF. He skipped meals every day and his address would have sent shivers through his fellow office workers if they’d known where he lived. But they didn’t. Stenson did not go in for socialising. The advantage of this area was that his rent was cheap. It was also the only part of town where security was a little less intense. Hence this bar. Hence this dubious looking character heading towards his table.

Reluctantly Stenson bought his new companion a drink. He, in turn, pulled down the scarf that almost covered his face and downed it in one. Stenson had a brief glimpse of a scar and unpleasant eyes. The glass was tapped on the table meaningfully. Stenson ignored it.

“Does this stuff work?”

“Who knows? It’s new.”

Stenson frowned. “It’s a lot of money if it’s not guaranteed.”

“Take it or leave it.”

“How long is it supposed to keep me under?”

“Maybe twice as long as usual. Bit more perhaps.”


“So far. Just make sure they don’t take a blood test when you come round.”

Stenson nodded. “OK. I’ll try it.”

“Money in advance.”

“Fine. Is it safe to exchange here?”

His companion tilted his head slightly. Stenson waited a moment then glanced in the same direction where he saw a discrete camera.

“Outside. Second street on the left. Half way down there’s a blind spot. Give me ten minutes.”


When he got home and opened the grubby package Stenson found his month’s pay had bought one white pill. He realised he hadn’t asked when, or how, to take it. All he could think was to smuggle it into his mouth via a handkerchief and swallow it whole just outside the RTF offices and hope it didn’t work too rapidly.

Two months later he had enough for his next run. He duly took the pill and entered the RTF building. He felt ill and distracted as the customary preliminaries were processed and could not decide if this was just nerves at his deception or whether the pill was taking effect too early.

After what seemed twice as long as usual he was finally on the couch and drifting off. Everything seemed to have gone according to plan.

“I am Ben Anderson, I am Ben Anderson, I am Ben And ...”


The trees. That was where he first started the Transport experience. Here they were again. Touching leaves and bark. Today he felt more in control. He could make Ben stop for longer. He could move his head in directions he wanted to look, not just following what Ben was seeing. He could gaze into the wood spotting birds like sparrows, blue tits and blackbirds. All now extinct.

Slowly they circled the field. For a long time they sat on the bench. Stenson almost felt that he could force Ben to stay there but eventually they moved off. This was where the Transport normally ended but not today!

They walked back through the small wood. A cottage appeared, hugged by a garden, smoke drifting from the chimney, ivy crawling around the walls. Another artefact from history to delight Stenson whose own flat was a noisy concrete box without windows. As they approached the door, a young man came out and rode off on a bicycle, barely acknowledging them. And, inside, Stenson caught a glimpse of a woman. Ben’s wife?


He came to on the couch surrounded by four figures in white coats. Masks. Hidden faces.

“Mr. Stenson. Are you feeling all right?”

He struggled to sit up. “Of, of course. Yes. Why?”

“Your Transport was longer than usual. We had problems rousing you. This is all rather abnormal. You said on your Pre-Transport waiver form that you were not taking any medication. Are you sure about that?”

Stenson felt as if he had been asleep for a year. “No. I mean no, no medication.”

“Hmmm. I think perhaps we should take a blood test, just to check you out.”

Stenson finally got himself upright as the doctors began to take off their masks. “No! No. No need for that.” He clutched his head. “I’m sorry. I’m still a bit groggy. Yes I did take a pill. Sorry. I forgot all about it. Last night I had an R16 headache powder.” He grinned sheepishly. “Fraid I had a bit of a night of it. Too much to drink.”

“Really Mr. Stenson. You must have seen the instructions about alcohol and medicines. Nothing of that nature within 48 hours of Transport. You are a regular client. You must have been aware of that rule.”

Stenson spread his hands. “I’m sorry. Sorry. A work colleague had got a new job. I had to go to his leaving party. It was all quite sudden. I was looking forward to the trip so much I didn’t want to cancel.”

“You mean you didn’t want to pay the cancellation fee, more likely.”

“I’m really sorry. It won’t happen again.”

“It had better not Mr. Stenson or your Transport licence will be revoked.”


Nearly a year later Stenson sat in his room staring at ten white pills. He hadn’t told his contact that he was saving them up to take all at once. Maybe this would finally keep him under as he’d always hoped. If not it would surely kill him. Either way he got out of a life he could no longer stand. He had sold everything anybody might want. There wasn’t a lot. He had borrowed money from some very violent people at ridiculous interest rates which he could never pay back. If the pills didn’t kill him then his debts surely would. He just hoped the drug was still undetectable after all this time. This was his last chance.

The next morning he set off for RTF again. He felt light and loose. He had missed this so much but he’d had to abandon his regular trips to pay for the pills. His mind and body ached for the green world of the past.

Taking ten pills without being spotted as acting suspiciously was a challenge. He had swallowed six before he started and the others he took at well-spaced intervals where he thought there were few cameras. He felt even more light-headed by the time he reached reception. It was the same girl who greeted him but, naturally, she didn’t recognise him until prompted by information from her computer.

“Oh, Mr. Stenson. It’s been a while since you visited us.”

“Yes. I’ve been away on business.”

She raised an eyebrow. He knew she didn’t believe that. The dialogue played through as usual until she paused.

“Oh, I see we have a complication here.”

A dagger seemed to pass through Stenson’s heart. He forced himself to stay calm.

“A complication? If this is to do with the problems at the end of my last trip, I did explain at the time ...”

“No, no. Just to let you know that I’m afraid this will have to be your last Transport on this particular programme. The timeline is showing that Ben Anderson never goes on this walk again after this occasion.”

“Really? That’s rather odd. He’s been doing that walk for years.”

“So I see. This will be the 140th time you have joined him. Never mind, Mr. Stenson, I’m sure we will be able to find you a suitable alternative—although I must admit we do not have a lot in that price range.”

Stenson was breathing more easily now. “OK. Let’s sort that out next time.”

“Excellent. One more thing Mr. Stenson and quite appropriate perhaps as this is your last visit to this programme, we do have an offer on at present of two senses for the price of one. I notice you only have sight and touch at present. Would you like to take up the offer? Two additional senses would be eight credits on the special offer rate or I could do all three for 15 credits.”

Stenson smiled.

“That’s a very good offer. Thank you. I’d like to take all three but I haven’t brought any additional cash. Could you charge it to my account and I’ll pay next time?”

“Of course. There is a small additional charge for that facility. It would be 18 credits in total.”

“That’s fine.”


This time Stenson was barely aware of Ben Anderson. He seemed to have full control of his host’s mind and body. The new senses were almost overwhelming. He tasted berries and leaves from the bushes. He smelt the moist air, the tree resin, even animal droppings. Each exhilarating in its own way. The motorway noise didn’t disturb him either. He had never realised it was there before and now it dominated. Yet he simply marvelled that people could just get up and go out in a car; that private cars even existed.

On the bench he barely paused. He wanted to see the cottage.

As he approached and this time smelt the wood smoke, the same youth appeared and got on his bike.

“Hello Josh.” How did he know his name?

The youth grunted and pedalled off.

Stenson stood in wonder. How did he know his name? And inside the cottage was Jane, Ben’s wife. How did he know that? He grinned and walked in to a scene of chaos.

A cinder from the grate had set the rug by the fire alight. Jane was frantically stamping it out while holding a screaming toddler. Meanwhile a phone was loudly ringing and the sink was overflowing where the taps had been left running when Jane had smelt the burning rug.

Stenson rushed in and grabbed the child. “Whoa, here let me. You get the phone.”

He continued stamping out the rug, switched off the taps, soothed the toddler, put her in her playpen and started mopping up the flood on the floor.

He looked up as Jane finished her call. “Oh I’m so sorry to have left you with all this Jane. I should have been here to help you.”

He stood up as she came across to him. She reached out slowly and touched his hand. It was like an electric shock.

“Ben?” infinity

Rob Butler lives in Reading in the UK. He had a brief spell as a geomorphologist but primarily has worked in the IT industry. When time allows he’s either out cycling or writing fiction. His stories have appeared in “Noesis” and “Daily Science Fiction.”



eternal press