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




Aliens With Candy

By Michael Andre-Driussi

THE ALIEN BOUGHT ME SOME CANDY from the machine I’d been looking at. I was a nine-year-old girl from the interior, a rube in the coastal city, but I knew all about molesters, strangers who give you candy and then do something bad to you. I knew that rape was something bad that someone did to you “down there,” but I thought it involved a knife. I’d been hanging out at the corner store after school, not wanting to go to the apartment yet, looking at the candy that was ruby red and shaped like a corn kernel, but faceted like a jewel.

I knew nothing about the aliens except that they’d won the war. You have to remember that this was way back before we ever hammered out the biotech protocols. There were all sorts of tensions and even some violence. The aliens mostly kept to themselves and this was certainly the closest I’d ever been to one. He looked like a tall man, over seven feet tall, but the bone-white skin of his hands at the candy machine proved he was alien.

The candies sat there in the little trough, three shiny jewels, while I wondered if aliens were even really “strangers” in that sense ... I couldn’t let it go to waste, and so I took the candies.

They were sweet like cherries, leaving a slight tang at the back of my mouth.

“Can you please help me?” said the alien in a soft hissing voice by my ear.

The social conventions of a child are strange and strong. Having taken the candy I was obliged to do some small favor in return.

“Okay,” I said.

It was like I was under a spell. The shopkeeper, the worker pushing a broom, the few customers, and all the other kids looked at me like I was already dead, but they couldn’t fight it any more than I could.

We walked out of the store and down the street. He didn’t touch me or hold my hand but I was walking beside him.

“I’m looking for a friend’s place but I’ve lost his address,” he said. “It’s a building right around here, somewhere.”

We walked past the school that I hated after only two months, a place of pavement and painted lines for everything. I wanted to finish fourth grade at my old school, with the grassy field and the climbing trees and the big old library.

“I don’t know the place very well,” I said.

“That’s a cute dress you’ve got on,” he said. “Country fresh, straight from the interior. You new around here?”


We were at the traffic light. If I just turned right, the apartment was only five blocks away. I could run.

The light changed and we crossed the street.

Down the block we came to an apartment building. It was two stories tall, with the rooms all opening on a central courtyard that could have a pool, but didn’t. A stairway went up on the left in the open-air entryway, across from the bank of mailboxes. The stairs were light and airy, simple concrete steps like planks on a central metal strut, with wrought-iron handrails. It was a safe spot with no dark hidey-holes where bad things could happen.

The alien was squinting at the names on the mailboxes, his cat-like eyes peering through his glasses.

“No, that’s not it,” he said softly. “No ...”

I wondered if he really was looking for someone like he said. I wondered how many buildings we were going to try.

“Not here?” I asked.

“Maybe,” he said. “There’s one apartment I’d like to try. This way.”

That was it for me; there was no “maybe.” I turned and ran out the front of the building, glancing back once to see him starting to turn.

I ran down the block and pushed the button at the crosswalk. It was a warm spring day but I shivered a few times. I felt stupid, so unbearably stupid. Everything looked the same as before, which seemed strange. I got scared that he would come running after me and drag me back.

I crossed when the signal changed. Then I got scared that he might try following me to the apartment, so I looked back every few minutes, but I never saw him.

My mother asked me why I was late and I told her the whole shameful story, which is kind of surprising. She flipped out, called the police and everything, but I didn’t begrudge her doing that. The police couldn’t do anything but say they’d be on the lookout.

The next day in class was almost worse. One of the strange daily rituals at that place was the students had to stand up and say, “I like myself.” Down the line, each one saying it, unless someone said something like, “I hate myself.”

I was crying inside but there was no way I was going to say anything to those mean kids or that fourth grade teacher who wasn’t my fourth grade teacher. I hated that place, I hated my situation, and I felt bad about myself, but I said, “I like myself,” and sat down.

As the ritual continued I started to wonder why I had gotten away so easily, and then I was scared that something bad really had happened but it was so awful that I had blanked it out. How late was it when I got to the apartment, anyway?

Meanwhile the ritual came to a halt with a black girl who said, “I hate myself.” So the teacher talked to her about her feelings and helped her work out what the problem was. I can’t remember what it was but I thought it was trivial compared with my unspeakable thing.

A week later my mother took me back to stay with my father and finish my school year. When she hugged me goodbye I could hear her heart beating very fast, and I knew she was upset, but it was the happiest day of my life.

It was a dream come true. There was my father, a scientist-turned-farmer like so many of them were. There was my school, and my teacher. There were my classmates and my friends. I didn’t tell anyone about the alien, and as I got back into the rhythm of my former life, the whole thing became a mild nightmare, easily forgotten.

But then it started to seem unreal, like I had made it up in order to scare my mom into sending me back. So I felt a little guilty, but mostly I was happy and relieved.

The place was the same old desert but now I saw it all a little differently. I could see how poor and simple we were, farmers and townies alike, compared to the city folk, but I had also seen the war damage in the city, the ruins that pocked their neighborhoods. For us the war damage was only at the military base, now a glassy crater that was miles away. Still, I could see that the area was dying, since the town had relied upon the base, but I thought it was a slow death of people moving away.

I didn’t really think that my mother would come back to live in the house and reunite the family. I just felt I had been granted a temporary reprieve. Deep down I must have hoped it would happen, though, that another dream would come true, but I didn’t pray for it. Maybe I should have.

The school year ended and my mother came to take me back to the coast. At the last minute I started to resist, telling her how much I hated that place.

“Don’t worry, we aren’t going there,” she said, soothing me like I was still a little kid. “We’re going to a different place, on the beach, and a different school.”

“A different school?” I said, trying to catch up with this new information. “Is it better?”

“I think so,” she said. “I hope so.”

During the long drive I pestered her with more questions about the place, figuring there must be a catch. Her answers made things seem even more incredible, and I started to get that giddy feeling of dreams coming true.

It was a house, then a big house, and finally a mansion. It was not a mile from the beach, it was not five blocks from the beach, it was actually on the beach. On a private beach.

I asked her about the job she’d found. She said it was secretarial/clerical: “Writing things down, typing them up, sending them, filing them.”

“Is it very far from this beach house?”

“It is in the same building.”

“Mom, are you a live-in maid?”

“No, no,” she said. “There’s a maid, but it’s not me.”

“Well, who owns this mansion?”

“A very nice alien.”

After hours of driving we stopped at the guard post of an alien enclave. The guard raised the gate and we drove in. There was a short entrance road leading to a stretch of beach mansions now belonging to the occupation force.

The mansion’s garage had been converted into servants’ quarters, with two apartments, one for me and my mom, the other for the maid and her kids. Our apartment had all of our stuff already in it. I put down my luggage and followed my mother into the main house.

When my mother introduced me to the owner she had to prod me to respond. She thought I was just being shy and tired, but the alien looked exactly like the one who had bought me candy. I didn’t tell my mother since I hadn’t seen many at all and they all looked alike.

We spent the summer settling in. The maid’s three kids, two girls and a boy, were all older than me but we got along well and played on the beach just about every day. The maid herself was friendly but kind of sickly.

The summer ended and the local school turned out to be much better than the bad school.

Linda the maid died the next summer and her kids were gone the day after that—“to live with relatives,” my mother said. Within a few weeks my father died when my hometown was razed during a police action. My mother wept that he had been too stubborn to get out while there was still time. A new maid with two young girls moved in.

One night my mother went up to the main house after dinner and was away all night. When I asked her about it at breakfast, she said she’d been working very late. She definitely looked tired. She got better in a few days.

The same thing happened the next summer, only this time she needed a week to get better and she seemed to lose her breath easily. I was worried about her but when I tried to talk to her about it, she snapped at me and said she was all right.

At the beginning of seventh grade I was nervous about junior high and a new school, but it turned out to be fine. Nobody ever said “collaborator,” or “quisling,” or anything like that, and I was relieved to find it was because we were all in the same boat, to a greater or lesser degree. The alien enclave had become the main economic force for the area, just like the military base had been for my old hometown.

As the school year flew by I felt a growing dread for the coming summer. All too soon the school closed and the vacation started. The days of fun in the sun piled up for me and my “little sisters” next door. The happy distraction of beach balls, sandcastles, Frisbees, boogie boarding, and swimming gradually wore away my fears until I nearly forgot them.

Then in the middle of summer my mother went away for the night, and when she came back she looked worse than ever. I got very upset and hugged her, as much for her as for myself, but this simple act led to the shock of my life when I felt through our contact that her body was missing something—a breast.

A dizzy feeling came over me as I held her at arm’s length. It was a terrible darkness, like that nightmare time when we’d first come to the coast. I must’ve looked pretty bad, since she tried to comfort me.

“Sweetie,” she said, “I gave it to him. It’s a little thing, really. It’s nothing.”

“But why?” I asked, sounding like a little kid.

“Let’s sit down,” she said.

So we sat on the couch, and I noticed the walls stopped closing in.

“This was the last time,” she said in a very quiet voice. “We will be okay now.”

“What do you mean, last time?” I asked. “What did he take before?”

“A lung,” she said, looking away. “A kidney.”

“Oh mom,” I said, my hands raised to cover my mouth.

“See? This is less than that, except that it shows.”

“But why?” I asked. Trying not to cry, I put my fists into my lap and asked, “Why would he do that?”

“I don’t know, really,” she said.

“Why would you agree to it?”

“For you, sweetie,” she said, looking deep into my eyes and patting my fist. “That’s the price for living here.”

“It isn’t worth it,” I said, which made her wince. In the past she would’ve gotten fiery mad at such sass, but now she was so weak she didn’t. That made me even more scared. “This is what killed Linda, isn’t it? What if we moved a mile from the beach, would that cost half as much? We should move even further, because you can’t take much more of this!”

“When I said living here, I meant living on Earth,” she said. “But mainly I do it so that no alien will ever do it to you. Linda’s kids are now safe for life.”

I was sickened by her faith in the aliens, as well as her suicidal, maternal self-sacrifice, not to mention our position as cattle for the aliens. It made me so mad that such things were being done at all, and without my knowing, and without my consent. I think all teenagers are naturally over-dramatic, but this was really grand opera, so I stepped into my role and played the part the best I could.

I felt weird, like I was waking up from a dream. The dream was the beach house and everything that had happened in the years since that day I’d met the alien. The reality felt like I was a scared kid walking those five blocks to my apartment, looking over my shoulder. My fears then were right, I had led the alien to my mom. It was all my fault, but maybe I could still make it right.

When I went up to the main house it was like I had turned round on the street and gone back to the apartment building where I had escaped the alien, where he was still waiting. I went into the main house and sold my own ounce of flesh.


Mothers and daughters are all like this. My mother raged. “Candice, how could you do this to me? You throw away my work for you!”

I told her she was worth more to me alive.

We moved to a small house on a hilltop about five miles from the beach. I didn’t have to change schools, and while we never had much money, we always had enough to get by.

The client rights movement was just beginning, and I was only a girl, but I practically wrote the whole thing myself. Nowadays masters cannot legally extract their clients to death, and top market prices are guaranteed to go directly to the client. We had been treated worse than farm animals, and I’m proud that I helped improve the human condition.

My mother lived another eight years before she finally died of the medical complications. I was able to extend her life and it was worth every day. I’d do it again, even knowing what I know now.

Maybe I was too young to do what I did, too young to understand. I blush to admit that I thought of what I sold as being like a pomegranate, one of two that I had been born with, and yet the childish image turns out to have been more accurate than not, since the pomegranate contains enough seeds to start hundreds of individuals. The potential of hundreds of little sister daughter selves is limited by technology and chance to only a few dozen.

And now we are three in my house on the hill. Echo and Image each had to buy her own way out, but they could not sell an ovary like I did since that is now illegal. Besides, they are as sterile as mules, making it easy for them to do as I say, not as I have done.

We look forward to the rest of us coming “home.” Shade, the oldest, is now at the same age I was when I bought my freedom. Umbra, the youngest, is the age I was when I took the candy. Those three little ruby red seeds. infinity

Michael Andre-Driussi is the author of “Lexicon Urthus: A Dictionary for the Urth Cycle,” and “The Wizard Knight Companion: A Lexicon for Gene Wolfe's The Knight and The Wizard,” and “Daughter of Plant and Woman” in Twisted Fairy Tales, Vol. II.






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