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




Calling Time on Candy

By Mark Patrick Lynch

WE WERE CALLING TIME ON CANDY. Things had just got to that point.

It was sad to see. But that’s always been the way when something like this happens. It’s the one thing that doesn’t change, even if everything else does. Sometimes it’s a surprise and sometimes not, but it’s always, always sad to see.

I heard about it over breakfast, from my girlfriend.

“Hey, Clay, you’re never going to guess. We’re calling time on Candy.”

“What, Candy Novak? You’re kidding.” I shook my head and pushed my eyeglasses to the bridge of my nose, blinked hard. “I thought she’d be around forever. Well ... years more at least. Candy. You’re sure?”

“I know. It’s so hard to believe, isn’t it?”

It was in the papers when they loaded that morning. Or rather it wasn’t, because remember—we were calling time on Candy.

I turned the smart-sheets, ignoring dancing emoticons and holo-logos, and tried to find stories about her causing scandal and getting caught. But she was invisible. Not a word, no picture, not a ping. Web trace negative.

She was gone, called time on.

“At least it was quick,” I said. But that didn’t make it easier.

Even her children and icon history were impossible to track. I found the same result everywhere, on info-screens and across the radio frequencies, network cells too; blogs went without mention of Candy and her life, tweet and chirp libraries without record. It was as if she’d never been.


Every so often I visit my friend Happiness and play games. I do it for myself as much as I do it for him. I go there whenever I need time out and a place to hide from the adult world.

Happiness is never going to grow old, not like you and me. Yes, his body will degenerate, yes he’ll continue to age, and yes his hair will thin and his golden curls grey. He’ll keep putting on the pounds and get cranky when his joints start to hurt. But his mind will stay trapped between childhood and adulthood, evading responsibility and making perfect u-turns at the prospect of change. He has pills and credit benefits to pay for treats. It’s an odd life he can’t break out of, lived in a structure tank.

It was to Happiness’s that I went after I heard about Candy. Half the country would be hung over that day. I wouldn’t be missed at work. So I punted through the streets until I arrived at the secure enclave and showed my pass.

His electri-pic mother opened the door and advised me he was upset, in mood negative.

He sighed when I walked in. It was easy to sense the cloud of despondency hanging over him. The electri-pic mother ushered me in his direction and returned to the kitchen, crackling with static as her image shorted at my “Off” command and she disappeared.

“Hello,” Happiness said in his gloomy drawl. He put aside the games and models he was tinkering with but didn’t get up.

“Hi, Hap.”

He waved me across the room, a twirl from his wrist rotating long delicate fingers with girlish nails, an oddly sexless gesture from too big a grown man. He was uncomfortable in his own body. He’d never played the physical games when he was a child, had always plugged in as a way to hide, unable to face or accept the world, and had wound up here.

I pushed through the mess of delivery boxes and Styrofoam packing. Invoices from his latest purchases floated on his sofa beside discarded chocolate wrappers; the info-screen was tuned to cartoons. With me there we weren’t breaking protocol by turning off his electri-pic mother. If I called her back on he wouldn’t be able to douse her. But there was no need for that. This was Happiness, after all, and his pills kept him stable in the tank.

“You hear?” I said as I cleared a space to sit. “We’re calling time on Candy.”

“Yeah.” Another sigh, though he’d never much cared for her. “I know.”

“Gem told me. She heard it getting dressed. A rumour on talkSHOWradio. Some guy called in all excited, said it was Candy, we were calling time on Candy. Jam Barracuda did twenty minutes while he’d chance and then it was done. She was gone. On to congestion and cutting the speed of the gondolas through Piccadilly Circus, and oh hey didn't you know the mayor’s an idiot.”

A grunt from Happiness, meaning: What do you expect?

His approach to everything was to erect a psychic barrier and keep out the real world; this wasn’t going to pass by his pills or disturb his equilibrium. It was like the Water Level and the Olympic Debt, in orbit around a planet he glimpsed but never visited.

Yet even Happiness couldn’t avoid Candy totally. No one could, however medicated or insulated. Like her or not, somehow she seeped in.


Candy, Candy everywhere.

We sat silently for a while.

“Game?” Hap said at last, dully expectant.

I nodded and we got to why I was really there, which was to forget I was an adult too, at least for a while. In the tank I could let my emotions slide and hook into a new game with Happiness, with whom I’d grown up and then grown beyond after he’d stopped, when he’d called time on himself.

The rest of the day passed in glaring pixels and stereo cacophony, electric immersion. Gaming. Being unreal. It took my mind off Candy and how we were done with her. At least for a while.

* *

The info memes did their best to fill the static, yet the expectation was for something more, someone else. Candy. But we’d called time on her and the sun was sinking over London Lagoon as commuters floated home, me among them, lagged with gaming reality shifts.

* *

I was pulled from sleep that night by a discomfort it took me a while to register as a sense of loss. Deep inside there was a hollow feeling, as if a surgeon had scooped out my innards and discarded them in a gleaming metal bucket. I had to remind myself it wasn’t personal, these things never are. Loss out of the ether.

The room was quiet and beside me the bed was empty. When I laid a hand in the depression where a body had recently lain I felt little warmth.

I found Gem out on the balcony, watching the moon shining on the water. She seemed hypnotised by the rise and fall of the anchored floats and gondolas. I heard the twisted creaks of the rigging binding everything together. A candle flickered on the railing, safe from a puff of breeze in a glass bowl. It was an indigo scene, coloured in gentle shades like her nightgown.

“Hey,” I said softly.

“Hey,” she said back at me. She pulled up her knees and slid her fingers together across them. I sat beside her. She leaned into me. I was surprised at how cold she felt when I lifted my arms to encircle her.

“Let me rub you warm.”

We didn’t say anything for a time, remaining that way, our hearts content to let things pass as they would. The moon moved some, more stars came out, and then clouds floated over; we heard voices along the walkway, laughter trying too hard, and then water lapping as something twisted in the depths. Breezes nudged the fronds of the balcony’s vegetation. But they faded too. The candle dipped.

“It’s late,” I said when I finally accepted Gem wasn’t going to fall asleep in my arms and let me carry her back to bed dreaming.

“Uh huh.”

“How come you’re out here?”

“Because,” she said, her voice tiny. “Thinking.”

“About Candy?”

She shrugged, and the movement rolled through us like a wave. I thought she wasn’t going to say anything more, but she turned to me. Moonlight made her moist eyes silver. “Why’s it so hard, Clay, when something like this happens? It was Candy. You know? It was Candy. I don’t understand why they had to do it to her, and to her kids—to us as well, to all of us.” She sobbed, her body wracking with the tears that had to come.

All I could do was hold her, because sometimes that’s all there is. I had no answers. The truth was we’d all called time on Candy, me and Gem included; it wasn’t just them, and this was what happened because of that.

When she stopped crying I waited a moment, counting out long seconds in my head. Then I tickled Gem’s chin, made her laugh despite her not wanting to, hugged her tight while she tried to spring my ribs in return. We knew there was nothing we could do to change things. What was gone was gone.

I stood and she came with me. Holding her hand I led her to bed and she nestled in against me, two half moons beneath cotton clouds till dawn.

* *

In the morning, over a listless breakfast, Gem scrolled through the frequencies, looking for something that would eat at the spaces where Candy had been. She consumed cereal mechanically while playing with dials and administering addresses. No one was talking Candy: this was the first complete day her name would go entirely unrecorded. And although everything else seemed normal, there were countdowns forming on less well-known nodes, countdowns the bigger sites and flocking points were picking up on.

She showed me.

“Something’s going to happen,” I said.

Eventually an announcement came from the official voice of the Prime Parliament. It was across all airways and fibre links, networking sites. Universal swamping. A new node being born, a big one. It was the only thing it could be.


“Yeah, yeah. But hang on. Don’t get too excited. It could be nothing,” I warned, not really believing that. “You know how these things go.”

Our sense of the city slowed around us. Even the put-put of the gondalas’ engines seemed to fade beyond the balcony, and we knew everyone was listening. Waiting for something other than silence to fill the space where Candy had been before we’d called time on her.

The Prime Voice spoke, feeding us statistics and happy news, positive thoughts and success information about hospitals and workers and border controls and the Water Level, before ending on mention of a new scandal, someone getting caught on the social scene. We could hear the announcer’s tone twitch, he was enjoying the knowledge that people lingered on his every syllable.

Gem released the most wonderful sigh of thanks as he got to it, and I reached across the table, felt her fingers take mine.

And at the party for the Hong Kong ambassador last night, Hope Crosswell, the 22-year-old daughter of Viscount Warsi,” the Prime voice said, “was caught in a clinch with an as yet unnamed young man. Ms Croswell, who is represented by the Totalus Promotions Organisation, was said to be ...

But by then we weren’t listening. We were tightening our grip on each other as the ping of a newspaper downloading to the smart-sheets sounded. The front-page swarmed with pictures and shout icons; shocker emoticons leaped about and scandal scent pervaded the atmosphere. Hope, Hope, Hope. Everything and everywhere was full of her. Hope.

I shared a smile with Gem. I think my eyes must’ve shone as brightly as hers. It was okay; we were okay; everything was going to be okay. Yes, we’d called time on Candy, but now we’d got Hope. I kept thinking that over and over again: we’d got Hope, we’d got Hope.

As the city around us bubbled to a frenzy of its old activity, I believed Hope would be enough.

Until we called time on her. END

Mark Patrick Lynch writes from West Yorkshire, in England. His stories have appeared in “Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine,” “Abyss and Apex,” “Daily Science Fiction,” and more. His book, “Hour of the Black Wolf,” was published by Robert Hale Ltd.


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