Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Quarantine Summer
by Rebecca Birch

Calling Time on Candy
by Mark Patrick Lynch

Revenge in Shanty Town
by Seth W. Kennedy

A Boy’s Apocalypse
by Eric Del Carlo

How to Be a Foreigner
by Karen Heuler

Could They But Speak
by David Steffen

Bob’s Day Out
by Mark Bondurant

Everybody Comes to Rick’s
by Tim McDaniel

Equations in the Mirror
by Therese Arkenberg

by R.W. Warwick


If We Find ET What Will ET Be?
by J. Richard Jacobs

Regarding Fermi’s Paradox
by Eric M. Jones




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




Shorter Stories

Samantha’s Piano

By J.D. Mitchell

SCATTERED CLOUDS AND A CHANCE of ice threatened to interrupt the festivities. What was left of Salt Lake City—the East Wall of the Temple—would fill up quickly. The ruins had held the festivals ever since the Rise Up, and would again. But perhaps not today?

The Lucians, in their long robes and dreadlocked beards, cursed the winds, and moved the solar panels into the sun, prepared to meet the arrival of Tourists. While a vindictive wind crossed the salt flats, the feeble rods secured the solar panels. A storm of light soon erupted from the reflected flashes that bounced off the panels. The Solar Sea crackled with the charge of energy.

Samantha noticed the storm of light, but it didn’t distract her enough to stop her games. She’d always played hide-and-seek with the urchins in the fossil-burner graveyards. She knew more about the impossible machines that once burned the earth for fuel then she would ever care to find about her parents, her ancestors, her origins. But she’s grown up to learn enough. About the festivals. About the Tourists who came to the East Wall. About the date the festivals arrived on.

She only knew about her birthday, and today was that special hour.

Samantha was twelve, and her hair had fully turned a peculiar color. Red streaks made her a red flag. The Lucians would’ve called her a witch if that curse was still in vogue. But the energy-priests saved their curses to keep the Gasoliners away.

She quit her games with her fellow orphans and walked to the festivals. She expected the Tourists would give her a wide berth. They always did. Good riddance, she thought.

She watched the parade of Tourists, who always arrived by land and by air. Not sea—the Cascadian Freehold controlled the basin’s waters. Along with the other Western Powers, the Othered Americans added their numbers to the travelers. First, came the steam-wagons. Next, other craft. The re-engineered Pliocene megafauna made the best draught animals for the overland journey across the Great American Desert. Such was the genius of the Plains.

Then came the airships. Some glided in from the American Orient, the survivor cities of the Rise Up. But most came from the Western Powers, and in great streams of colors and the distinctive pageantry of steam contrails, they emerged from the shattered sunset’s direction and moored tendrils of hempen ropes to air-wharves and docks.

Samantha walked through the crowds of stinkers. Music blared from the hands of adventium organ grinders. Deserite flautists danced on rugs. She tried to steal birthday snacks, but every vendor beat her with sticks.

In the throes of dejection, she heard a strange sound come from the docks, an instrument she’d never heard before. It sounded as if plates of different sizes broke upon hard surfaces. Or the shatter of glass. Then silence.

An old airship lay a few feet off the ground. Its auxiliary balloons held it aloft in the air. The hull was wood, a deep red color, and smoke from its single had stained its dual-mast sails.

A face of a girl popped over the wooden railing and greeted Samantha’s curious looks. A pair of goggles lay on the strange girl’s forehead. Close-set eyes and a tiny mouth—that opened.

“You ever been on an air-streamer before?”

The first thing to come to Samantha’s mind lay somewhere between the first time to ever talk to a girl her age and the sound of this girl’s voice—it was delicate. Similar to the crashes Samantha had heard before. Fragile. But the strange girl’s voice also possessed a make-believe quality. Almost as if the strange girl put on a grown-up’s voice, as someone would try on a coat, jewelry, and makeup. Dressup.

So Samantha didn’t quite trust her.

“Not really. I mean, seen them from the ground. So I guess, I’ve seen them, plenty. Where’s it berthed from?”

The strange girl smiled rows and rows of ivory.

“Port Astoria.”

The name, like others Samantha had heard, meant little, and only added to the mystery of Othered America. Only the appearance of the ship meant anything to her. And the memory of the broken sounds, down below, in the ship’s secret hold.

“Can I come on your ship?”

The girl mimicked another practiced smile.


Samantha thought there was one other thing to say.

“It’s my birthday, you know.”

A genuine look broke out over the strange girl’s face.

“Then, you most definitely can!”

Samantha climbed over the wooden railing and landed with two feet on the deck. Her eyes took a peep. The hull of the ship was narrow, but ladders and portholes told her that more dimensions lurked below in the holds.

She also sensed a great span of time across the entire surface of the airship. Hints of hidden events lay in every ding and dent, every blemish and moldy corner. Weathered decks and faded paint possessed their own deep narratives. And to sense that Samantha, needed to know ...

The sound. She heard the sound again. Broken plates. Delicate silences between the crashes.

“What is that ...?”


“That sound.”

The girl couldn’t have been much older than Samantha. She moved effortlessly, as if wound-up and run by springs.

“Would you like to play it?”

The girl with the goggles grabbed Samantha’s hand.

“You have such big hands. Perfect to play.”

They walked down stairs, into a hold. Dark. Samantha felt the strange floor with her bare feet. Some kind of dried-up plant.

“Where are you taking me?”

Samantha could not see. She only sensed the strange girl, her breath on her neck.

“To your seat. You need to take your seat.”

“My seat?”

Samantha felt a tingle on the back of her neck.

“We’ve reserved a seat for you.”

A shaft of light came from a porthole and caught an object in its ray. In the middle of the room, a broken heap of wood and, what looked like broken stones. White and black. Like rows of teeth. Attached to them, a hair-nest of strings.

Samantha felt a warm draft.

“There’s always been a seat for you.”

Samantha touched what looked like a rock. Fingerlike. It depressed into a cavity. It let out a tinkle sound. She pushed another. It was lower. She felt the sound in her stomach.

“I don’t understand.”

The strange girl put a hand on Samantha’s back. For a second Samantha wondered if the girl meant to hold her down in the seat. That was until Samantha realized she sat down under her own power. And Samantha did so, partly by the gesture of the strange girl.

Samantha collapsed, lost in the effort to push the buttons that looked like teeth. She made sounds that crashed on the empty hold. She never realized the movements that took place around her. To her, time remained still. Things echoed in a void. And she realized that this ship had always held a place for her. She’d always been assigned this role. To play music. At this piano.

The strange girl left Samantha’s side and turned to walk back up the stairs. Even before she reached topside on the deck, she felt the tell-tale signs of the hydrogen-cell blasts, the rumble and rattle of old-timey engines. The “Odysseum” awakened. It had it’s player, a replacement for loss from so many years ago. The songs remained the same, however. END

J.D. Mitchell has been a writer since he played with Legos. He has also been a professional butcher and teacher. “Samantha’s Piano” is his first short story sale.



Last Supper

By Beth Cato

SHRILL SCREAMS AND YELLS carried from the street below. The steady percussion taps of gunshots vibrated through the window. Dahlia’s trembling fingers worked through the mash of eggs and cornbread. She was making her mama’s cornbread dressing recipe, same as she had every Thanksgiving and Christmas for thirty years, but today was no holiday.

Lit candles illuminated the food along the counter: yeast rolls, mixed nuts, the twins’ favorite chocolate chip cookies. Macaroni salad and deviled eggs waited in the slowly warming fridge. The gas oven—thank God she had gas in this apartment—cradled a ham that had cooked all night long, frozen as it was. There hadn’t been time for a proper thawing.

Dahlia had taken the clock off the wall. Couldn’t bear to stare at it, counting down the hours till that solar flare licked the Earth.

The high, obnoxious note of the car horn caused her to jump. She knew that sound. Thank God, thank God. A quick wipe of her hands, and she rushed to the window.

“Mama!” Her daughter, Desiree, was a small figure five stories down. “We got Grandma.” Desiree’s husband, Lawrence, milled around the car.

“Power’s out,” called Dahlia. “Gotta use the stairs.” Another gunshot resounded, and she flinched. She felt so powerless. Trapped. Focusing on cooking helped, but she couldn’t understand why, at the end of it all, people had to be so terrible to each other. The raping, pillaging, the selfishness. None of it made sense.

But her family was here. Everything was right again. Desiree and Lawrence wouldn’t be able to carry the twins and Mama and everything else. “I’m coming down to help.”

Fear was a balled fist in her chest. Dahlia hadn’t left her apartment since the news broke. Even with the noise and awfulness, there in her cozy abode she could pretend it wasn’t really happening. Oh, Lord. She grabbed the dressing and tucked it in the oven beneath the ham. Peach preserves and juices burbled.

On a normal day, she would never leave her place with the oven on and candles lit. She hesitated in the doorway. Taking a deep breath, she grabbed a rolling pin and headed into the beyond.

The halls were quiet, awful quiet. The door to the stairs creaked with a sigh. The shaft downward was dark but for sporadic emergency light tracing the path.

Her family clustered at the stairwell’s base. Dahlia studied them, absorbing every detail. Lawrence, so pale and tall, his glasses halfway down his nose. Desiree, round as a muffin with a sugar-sweet smile. The twins, just two, all stubby legs and sleepy eyes. Mama, ninety, reeking of ammonia, her steely eyes bright.

“I’ll carry Mama,” said Dahlia. Lawrence hauled the twins and a diaper bag. Desiree carried her food offerings, her famous green bean casserole and pecan pie.

The procession was slow, their steps loud. Breaths echoed. Second floor, third. Mama was skinny as a stick but heavier by the step. Almost there.

The scream shuddered from above and froze Dahlia in place. God, no. Not this close.

“Hurry up,” she said, forcing her legs to move. They rushed upward. On the flight above, a metal door slammed. Rapid footsteps tapped downstairs.

A woman rounded the corner. A ripped university sweatshirt dangled from a shoulder, her face a mask of fear, glasses askew on her nose. God, she couldn’t have been older than twenty. The door slammed again.

“Don’t you try to run!” a baritone voice bellowed.

Dahlia was still frozen in place like a rabbit in the grass. She averted her eyes from the woman. If she could pretend this wasn’t happening, it wasn’t happening. The awfulness would slip by.

Mama’s bony hand encircled the rolling pin in Dahlia’s grasp. “If you don’t help that gal, I will,” said Mama, words rattling.

A man rounded the stairwell. Tall, thickset, his face a hard grimace.

“Don’t you worry, Mama.” She gently set down the old woman. Shame, fear, horror all tangled in a knot in Dahlia’s gut. She waved the woman close and pointed toward the man with her rolling pin.

“Now don’t you even think about it,” she said. Her fake bravado echoed up the stairwell. Lawrence stepped alongside, the kids gone from his arms.

The man growled and retreated, the fourth floor door slamming again. Dahlia stared after him. It was that easy? Her heart threatened to gallop away. The woman sobbed and Desiree shushed her and pulled her close. Lawrence scooped up the kids again. Together they continued up the stairs, Dahlia’s legs quaking.

Her home smelled of ham and bread and sweetness. They shuffled in. Dahlia set Mama in the recliner and leaned on the kitchen counter to hold herself upright. The twins tore towards the toy bin in the living room.

The stranger stood there. “It smells like Christmas,” she whispered.

That caused Dahlia to raise her head. “What’s your name, girl?” Lawrence and Desiree fussed about in the kitchen.


“Did he hurt you bad?”

Annie sucked in a deep breath. “No. Not yet.”

“Good. Good.” Dahlia looked towards the phone. It wouldn’t do any good now. “You’re welcome to our feast. Things will be ready in just a bit.” The words felt polite yet hollow. She felt hollow.

“Yeah.” Annie nodded and tugged her shirt straight. “I’d like that. This is ... this is like home. I tried to make it to my parents’ house, but my car ...” Tears filled her eyes. “Thank you.”

Dahlia nodded, unable to speak. The ham’s scent was so strong she tasted it on her tongue. The little ones giggled and ran by, making zoom-zoom noises with toy cars as staccato gunshots played in the background.

She would have ignored this girl. Been no better than those people shooting out there.

Dahlia looked at her loved ones around her, to where the clock should be on the wall, and prayed to God for mercy on her soul. END

Beth Cato is an active member of SFWA. Her stories have appeared in “Nature,” “Flash Fiction Online,” “Daily Science Fiction,” and “Stupefying Stories.”



Hyper-Centrifugal Space-Time Love

By Paul Lamarre


The doctor wants me to talk this out, in a log. I’ve been back a week, and they still won’t let me leave. I’m sick of all this, and need to see you. They say you come to visit every day. I bet you’re here now, just outside this room.

“Computer, stop recording. Doc, is this really necessary?”

“Yes, it’s good for both you and Lauren.”

“OK, computer resume.”

One in a trillion.

It was supposed to be five years of military service, but the anomaly grossly altered our lives in a way that became five seconds for you, and one hundred years for me.

What will this log do for our relationship? Who knows? What I do know is that for over nine decades, your beautiful face possessed me. It’s the only reason I kept going.

We’d planned for war, a five-year tour to the planet Nobolia. Go fight the Boket. Save the great Nobolians who gave us technology in exchange for recruits to fight their war. The great “Helpers” who gave us the portal that jumps to their planet.

The Nobolian’s call the portal “coiled space.” I never explained it to you before because it was an unnecessary detail. Soldiers walk through and come back five years later when their tour is complete. There’s no need to explain the physics of it all to spouses and loved ones. Hell, even the soldiers themselves never know the details. But our situation is different isn’t it, grossly different. Well, anyway, this is how the doctors explain it.

Imagine a Slinky. Grab both ends and stretch it. The ends are points A and B. The coil wire itself is space-time in between. Now coil it back up. It becomes a type of wormhole that manipulates space-time. Chambers on each end form a traversable void. Travel in-between is almost instantaneous. But, once in a trillion, points A and B touch. When that happens, in theory, the coil diameter expands exponentially. The improbable event is called a Hyper-centrifugal space-time coil anomaly. That’s what happened. This event instantly jumped me to a random spot in the galaxy. I was lucky. The odds of landing on a ship were phenomenal. That ship somehow collected me from coiled space. Something impossible happened that day, and I’ll never know how.

You asked if I remembered the day it happened.

It’s been a long time, but yes I do. We spent the whole night together. We shared the sunset over the ocean, a campfire on the beach and even had breakfast at a little café the next morning. We were ready to get on with it, to get it over with.

You said that five years couldn’t be so bad. Your voice trembled. “It’s not goodbye.”

We were ready, and at zero transit time I entered the Earth-side chamber. The cold gas thickened between us and you faded away within the smoke. You said you loved me. Then a piece of your golden brown hair dropped to cover one eye. The vision clung to me as the jump commenced.

You asked what the jump felt like.

It felt like a cold chill that instantly cracked my skin. The smells of ozone and citrus overwhelmed the chamber. That may sound funny, but it actually smelled like oranges. Pain followed, starting with a sharp tug at my spine then all of my bones fractured at once. My fingers were pulled from their knuckles. Ten toes molded into one leg as the portal drew and stretched me through. My hair tore from my body. The built-up tears in my eyes fizzled into small puffs of steam. My eyes opened to see metallic grey walls. My clothes, hair, and you were all gone. A massive hunger boiled inside my stomach. I turned to see no smoke, no oranges. In seconds, you and everything else had disappeared.

You can’t carry anything through the portal. A soldier’s gear is ready and waiting on the other end. I was supposed to be outside near a base camp. Doctors and techs should have swarmed to my aid. The anomaly changed that. I found myself alone in a small metal room. There were stars just outside a circular window. I was on a ship, a damn spaceship. One in a trillion.

I would have given anything to see you, even just a picture. The memory of your blue, watery eyes and that flowing piece of golden brown hair was all I had. But instead of being home with you, or even fighting on Nobolia with other humans, I was on a freighter. A ship I didn’t recognize with ugly, mean, reeking aliens I had never heard of or seen before.

They didn’t keep me long. After a thorough and extremely embarrassing interrogation, the aliens determined my lack of value and left me on the closest inhabited planet.

The stars were different from any I had ever seen. It was obvious that this wasn’t Nobolia. At one point I thought I might be on the Boket home world, but they would have killed me on site. It took a long time to figure my location and that I had travelled to the opposite side of the galaxy.

The stars are closer together in that area of the galaxy. Trade lanes and traffic routes between planets are common. I spent decades working, fighting and starting new lives, over and over again. I never loved again, but came close. A man can’t go a hundred years without some sort of companionship.

I shouldn’t have said that. Computer ...

“Don’t you dare delete that!”

“Ok, whatever, Doc.”

We committed to no secrets a century ago. I kept my word. You did as well, in the five seconds you waited.

You sense that I’ve changed, but can’t pinpoint it. For one, you and everyone else wonder how I still look the same. Was it truly ninety-nine years? Well, a race called the Varlek took me in for a while and they possess a rejuvenation technology. Java-Juve, I called it—guess what it tasted like? They administered the treatment twice. It takes decades off, but as you’ve noticed it left green rings around my upper arms, an unknown human side effect.

So how did I get back?

It took years to find out, but the Varlek were advanced at another science. They could travel through coiled space. It was incredible. I couldn’t believe it. It took a lot of credits and a lot of negotiating, but they agreed to help. My bioimplant gave them enough information to calculate the coordinates of Earth’s portal chamber. They have a moon in their outer system that generates massive amounts of geothermal energy. They harness that energy for the portal. All you need is a chamber at both ends and plenty of power.

It seems that the time difference we experienced happened due to traveling back in time as well as across the galaxy. Don’t ask how. Time isn’t supposed to work that way, and I should be dead. I guess that’s why they call these things anomalies.

From your point of view, I walked in the chamber and a few seconds later walked back out. Your love never changed. I could see it in your eyes, that same face from long ago. Even after one hundred years that small piece of hair was in the same spot.

The real question— Have I changed too much for you? My DNA degradation and cell-impact prove I was truly gone ninety-nine years. Not a night went by where you weren’t in my dreams.

Someone once wrote that true love remains just as strong over decades as it does over seconds. That’s absolutely true. That’s why you’re standing outside right now, waiting for me.

Yes I do still love youEND

Paul Lamarre was a nuclear engineer, serving aboard the USS Mississippi. He is a member of the DFW writers’ workshop and the Future Classics critique group.



A Savage Past

By D.A. D’Amico

DANA STARED THROUGH HER NEURAL interface at the improbable. In the three years she’d worked as a rescue specialist for the Cultural Contact branch of the Galactic Harmony, she’d never seen two generation ships rediscovered in the same sector of space. Not only were these vessels in the same sector, but by some crazy quirk the two ancient long-haul Seeder ships from vastly different species had somehow found each other in the empty wastes between the stars.

“We have to get over there. It might not be too late.”

Her companion, a HeqHeq materials specialist named Baor-sll-Heq, bent three massive leathery manipulator arms in a gesture meant to signify calm. Dana heard a smooth translated voice in her head.

“Peace, sister. We must wait for the Oudjji representatives before taking action. The Ousss are adamant about this.”

“I don’t care about the Ousss.” She closed her eyes and tried to concentrate. “People are my first priority, not politics.”

“Understood, friend Dana.” Friya, the Neom pilot, bobbed its long bird-like neck, its squat reptilian body swaying in opposition. It absently stroked the colorful proto-feathers along its main arm. Those hair-like tubes showed it hadn’t been long since the Neom had hopped down from the trees and achieved sentience. Dana felt closer to their race because of it.

“The Oudjji are hesitant. They believe we might find something unpleasant.” The delicate glove covering the eating appendages on the HeqHeq’s massive triangular head quivered as she spoke. “They have a reputation for a violent and evil past, and fear the memory of those times.”

“I want to speak with the Ousss pilot. We’re boarding. I promise not to touch the Oudjji ship.”

“That would be difficult, as the Oudjji ship entirely encloses the human craft.” The Ousss pilot appeared as a projection in the space between Dana and the hulking HeqHeq.

“At least let me send a probe,” she said.


Dana couldn’t read expression on the Ousss’s curved body. The Ousss were polymorphs. Their quiescent form resembled a daisy-shaped balloon, but they had the ability to reshape their hollow petals to generate manipulating appendages by the use of internal hydraulics.

“The Oudjji Cadre has just informed me of their arrival,” the Ousss said. “The Corijn of Faess, Commander of Oudjji actions in this sector, wishes to speak.”

The Oudjji appeared and began “speaking” at once, tapping its chitinous wrist tegument with a saber-like communication digit. “Greetings and Peace.”

“Greetings and Peace, Corijn,” Dana replied. Corijn was a Cadre rank, and it equated to the responsibilities of a father to his children, or a priest to his flock.

The Oudjji resembled two squid stuck head to head, with six tentacle-like appendages protruding from either side of its body. Its skin shone in bright splashes of orange and green, like an exotic tree frog. One tentacle from each end had been folded back, and tapped away against the tough wrist armor. The Oudjji had no vocal apparatus, but they communicated through a code rich with pitch and resonance.

“The Cadre will board first.” Corijn got right to the point. “When we have assessed the situation, the rescue team may enter.”

“But, Corijn ...”

“This is not open for debate.” The Oudjji cut her off.

“If it’s because of the past ...”

The Corijn scraped its blade finger against its wrist in the Oudjji equivalent of a sigh.

“My research has indicated that human colony ships were comprised almost entirely of farmers, average families hoping for a better future away from your overcrowded home system. The Oudjji political structure at that same time was divided into Castes. The Oudjji warrior Caste, the Tet, would have had a strong presence aboard a ship bound for a new and potentially hostile world. There would have been as many as two qCadres on board; twelve hundred trained military, each soldier armored, ruthless, and exquisitely trained. I fear what my people might have done when they encountered that ship full of soft human farmers.”

“But if they’re still alive we have to help them,” she said.

“We will.” The Corijn’s tapping slowed as he fought for patience. “You must understand. The era of colonization was a dark period for the Oudjji, filled with violence and brutality. Our ships were never provisioned adequately, and the Oudjji have no cultural taboo regarding sentience. A hungry Oudjji will eat just about anything ... if you follow my meaning.”

Dana shuddered. The real horror of the situation had just begun to sink in. “All the more reason to go now.”

“Agreed.” The Corijn vanished.

Dana watched as the slender needle of the Cadre vessel closed with the flattened potato shape of the human colony ship, and the seemingly random collection of pipe-like modules that had comprised the ancient Oudjji craft.


Seven hours passed before Dana heard the rapid low-pitched tapping that signified Oudjji anxiety, and her shoulders sagged. It must have been as bad as they suspected.

The Corijn appeared in her mind’s-eye. His squid-like arms swayed as if in a fierce breeze, a signature of Oudjji disgust. He signaled rapidly, as if in a hurry to distance himself from the entire affair.

“We will burn the Oudjji craft away from the human structure, and then vaporize it. There are no Oudjji survivors.”

“No survivors?” Dana said. “But there’s life. We’re registering biological signatures aboard the human ship.”

The Corijn turned. Before the connection severed, Dana thought she heard him whisper, “And we thought we were the savages.” END

D.A. D’Amico is a member of SFWA and HWA. His stories have appeared in “Daily Science Fiction,” “Shock Totem,” “Andromeda Spaceways,” and other markets.