Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Stone 382
by Sean Monaghan

A.I. Oh!
by Tom Doyle

Castle of the Slave
by Aliyah Whiteley

Home From Home
by Mark English

Aliens With Candy
by Michael Andre-Driussi

A Cumdumpster Kid
by Rebecca L. Brown

Harmony, Chaos, and the Reign Thereof
by Kyle White

Potential Killer
by Fredrick Obermeyer

Cinderella's Holo-Wand
by Sarina Dorie

Ears, Eyes, Nose ... and Throat
by Jez Patterson


Cargo Cultism
by Eric M. Jones

Coronal Mass Ejection by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




Ears, Eyes, Nose ... and Throat

By Jez Patterson

THERE WAS A SILVER NAME in the golden star on the white door, in a corridor that smelt of coffee, make-up and too much perfume. The handle was cool and smooth. One push down, one shove forward, and there was Nancy Presso, like a pig who’d stuck her snout in a pencil sharpener. Up on her feet, squealing about privacy and respect and professionalism. Yeah, like she’d know.

It was good to see her so pissed.

The hands came up, parted wide in a pincer movement, and then snapped forward so the fingers laced around Nancy’s throat. He could feel the pulse beneath his thumbs, smell her tangy perfume—now spiced with fear. Nancy gasped once, gargled, slapped at the hands round her neck. The pressure increased and the air started to actually taste of that fear.

Her legs buckled, but the fingers held on, held her up, until her head hung still.

All at once, the hands whipped away, as if magnetically repulsed.

The spell was broken for Henry too and he snatched off the eye, nose, tongue pads, peeled off the headphones and, of course, the gloves. His fingers could still remember the tubes in Nancy’s throat: swollen and trying to push that next vital fix of blood or air or whatever past them.

“Mum!” he shouted from his bedroom, where Nancy was on the walls—but only because she was in the cast pictures. “Mum! Julia’s killed Nancy! And I was there when it happened!”


Over eight million fans remotely experienced the apparent murder of Nancy Presso by her co-star Julia Hernandez in the Happyluck Studios. From as far away as you could generate an Internet connection and buy the various sensory-receptor devices necessary. A third of those eight million subscribers to Julia’s channel had the complete package Henry Papps subscribed to. The eye and gloves ensemble was the basic starter kit.

Happyluck was paying for counsellors—accessible via a hotline, because supplying eight million personal analysts would have exceeded even the West Coast’s supply.

“You know what they say about all publicity being good publicity?” Linh asked her producer, Raj.


“It’s bullshit.” She lit another cigarette, didn’t care she’d spent the last six months receiving intensive therapy to stop the filthy habit. “They’re actors! They’re only supposed to come up with this kind of shit when we’ve written it for them. You know the worst? No? It’s that real life has just become a lot more exciting than any of our damned storylines this season.”

She heard herself saying it, knew it was in bad taste, but as creator and executive producer of Long, Lonely Nights, her artistic pride had taken a punch to the gut. The show was currently off air due to the murder, of course. Ever since their screen story had Nancy and Julia fighting over Rick Jones’s character and then, off-set, Nancy had lured Rick’s body from the photo beside Julia’s bed into sharing hers, events had been running past Linh’s fingers like the cord from a kite that had just hit a hurricane ... And if kites could also explode mid-air, then hers had gone supernova.

“The studio also operates Julia’s channel. They’re desperate to distance what happened from the Real-Life-Relay technology,” Raj said. “They made more in subscriptions to Julia’s channel than they did in Lonely Nights’ advertising breaks last year. Everyone’s at it. Freaks me out. I took my daughters’ sets away last night and you should have seen the way they reacted. Talk about going cold turkey. I mean, if my kids want to live the life of a popstar, why not take singing lessons?”

He sighed, tapped at his keyboard to flick through updates concerning the various conspiracy theories that had sprung up since Julia had, incredibly, pleaded innocent to the charges. The eight million witnesses who experienced it with her didn’t seem to bother her defence team.

“You ever tried it?” Linh asked him.

“I got a tongue and nose pad when I went on a diet. The tongue stud was worn by some speed-eater in Texas. Visited all these incredible barbecue joints so I got all the taste, none of the calories. The chilli dogs got a bit too much though. You?”

Linh remembered the time Hank was away on business for a whole two months and they both got kitted out to transmit and receive. The nights were fun until Hank read her an article about transmissions security that said you could be sharing your sessions with a legion of invisible hackers. The thought of having a voyeur at your bedroom window was bad enough; one enjoying a full sensory experience of what you were doing with your husband was another. Eight million potential tongue pads, she thought, and felt quite nauseous.

“I tried the R.L.R. glasses out before Julia got hers fitted,” was the answer she settled for.

“One of the conspiracies doing the rounds is that someone else was wearing all Julia’s gear and killed Nancy. Wouldn’t have worked. Even if the different height of the vision line wasn’t noticed, there are still too many reflective surfaces in any room that would give the imposter away.

“The other favourite is the pre-recorded feed. That someone could have spliced footage in when Julia went to the toilet so the faked section wouldn’t jerk when it came on.”

The only time R.L.R. broadcasts were cut was when the subject entered the toilet. There were signal-mashing strips in the cubicle walls. At least, there were when the audience was ninety-percent adolescent girls and confused and adoring boys. This was also why Rick only got as far as a photo beside Julia’s bed. Non-channel Nancy had been able to offer substantially more.

Instances of pre-recording broadcasts to give the subject a break from transmitting their life around the clock had produced its own controversies. Subscribers were always on the lookout for these tricks now. Quite apart from continuity problems, there was the different lighting that occurred during the day. One broadcaster had run a repeat transmission of their star asleep, thinking they could get away with it and the star could have a night off to see his boyfriend. But viewers noticed it was familiar, and even those that didn’t experienced an unsettling sense of déjà vu—which inevitably proved to be just that.

“Who at the studio do they think did it in that case?” Linh asked.

“No one at Happyluck. The popular thinking is an obsessed fan. Did you not see Julia’s fan-forums before this happened? They were all full of anti-Nancy vitriol. The moderators reported death threats and a few even hacked into Nancy’s website and left some nasty messages.”

Linh had never involved herself with this aspect of the show. Story arcs and technical issues kept her more than busy enough. She had some ideas to rejig the first of these with regard to their two leading ladies abruptly leaving the show. The real challenge was going to be doing it without letting it appear the embarrassing smother-up it was.


None of the conspiracy theories mooted online were presented by Julia’s defence team. Instead, Linh was once more blindsided by a better story than her script team had ever dreamt up.

“Incredible,” Raj said as they watched Julia on the stand. “Brilliant ... but incredible.”

“I could feel them all, inside my head, pushing me to do it. They hated her, they didn’t understand that I forgave Nancy, wished her and Rick all the best in the world. It was all too much for me. Their awful, accumulative anger took hold of me, led me to her door ... made me do the terrible things I did ...” There were tears. On cue.

And ... cut! thought Linh cynically.

A behavioural psychologist had already compared the phenomenon to a crowd empowering an athlete to outperform their best, or driving a marathon runner to go beyond their normal endurance. Receivers somehow becoming transmitters? Julia hadn’t finished.

They’re all connected to me, sharing my senses. If I wear the gloves, I don’t even feel the things I touch as well as they do. And they can turn up their receivers to taste, smell, feel, see, hear things with far more intensity than I do. Only the earphones have a maximum setting—the rest don’t. I know they didn’t mean to do it. But it was like they weren’t just sharing my thoughts, but shaping them. Eight million voices in my head, urging me to do it. They made me kill her.”

It wasn’t necessary to prove the theory was true, just to satisfy the condition of reasonable doubt. And it was. Everyone loves a good story. Not murder, but involuntary manslaughter. Two years.


“We’re not subscribing to that!” Henry’s mother told him.

“But it’s Julia Hernandez!” Henry said, twisting the name so it wound like a police siren. “You know I’m crazy about her, mum!”

“She’s the one that’s crazy. Her and whoever’s letting her put all that stuff on again and go into prison wearing it.”

“But, mum!” Her name got the siren treatment this time.

“It was bad enough those reality TV shows in my day. That and people posting photographs and what-have-you every few minutes online. But this is just one step too far.”

She saw Henry wasn’t listening. He could tune out of real life far easier than he could take off that bloody R.L.R. gear. She knew he’d ask his father when he went to stay with him next weekend: playing them off each other again. Selling his love to the highest bidder. She’d lost this fight before she’d even stepped into the ring. If her son knew how difficult it was being a single mum for just five minutes ...

But who’d want to reality-relay her life? And, more pertinently, who’d pay to share the experience?


“Subscribers are triple what she had whilst she was working on the show,” Raj said. “R.L.R. are paying for everything themselves this time and the prison governors think the day-to-day exposure of what they do there will do them good.”

“Bet the studio wish they’d seen that one coming, got some of the action,” Linh said. “The world loves a starlet—but they go nuts over a bad girl.”

“Yeah, but who could predict things would turn out like this?”

Who indeed? thought Linh with a shiver, as the three-minute teaser ended and a SUBSCRIBERS ONLY banner slid across the screen. infinity

Jez Patterson is a British teacher and writer, currently based in Madrid. His previous story for us, “Comes the Shape of Things,” appeared in the April 2013 update.