Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Carillion’s Schemes
by Michael Hodges

by Edward H. Parks

It Don’t Mean a Thing
by A. Miller

Morning Glories
by Jude-Marie Green

Take a Good Look
by Holly Schofield

Fifty Kilograms
by Jim Stewart

Jupiter Hero
by Rob Pearce

Breaking Eggs
by Justin Woolley

To Hunt a Sky Eel
by Daniel Ausema

Gone Fishin’
by Thomas Canfield

Archangels of Heaven
by Leslie Lupien


Faster Than a Speeding Bullet
by Eric M. Jones

A Turn to the Dark Side
by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




Morning Glories

By Jude-Marie Green

DR. DIANE FRANKEL VOMITED into yet another airsick bag. Her assistant, Sam, held it with two fingers and passed it along to the muscular soldier in the next seat. The soldier shifted his machine gun and tossed the bag out the open helicopter door.

Diane retched again.

“How’d you manage it?” Sam said. He kicked at her wheelchair, folded up and stowed under the bench. “Live testing, I mean. It couldn’t have been funded. If you worked for a big chem company, maybe you could have pulled off this kind of test. You’re a university scientist. The powers that be expect R&D out of your lab, not any kind of product they’d have to spend money on for distribution. How were you able to field test this?”

Diane coughed. “My grandfather.” She wiped her face with a handkerchief. Sweat or tears? Sam thought both.

“I told him to cast the seeds on a mine field. That village is surrounded, lots to choose from. I told him to expect vines spreading everywhere but the flowers only bloom over the mines. They’ve been designed to feed off the explosive signatures. The chemicals that make up the mines.”

“They pinpoint the mines?”

“Yes. In three or four months, you can safely dig out the mines.”

Diane wiped at her eyes again.

“I didn’t expect the rapid growth. Not in that arid ground! Or that the vines would be so aggressive.”

“People died, Diane. Your creation killed people. That’s not doing good.”

“Just one person, Sam. Just my grandfather.”

“Gbee,” the buff soldier said. He smiled and pointed down.

Diane cleared her throat. “We’re here. My grandfather’s village. Biggest concentration of landmines anywhere in the world. Perfect spot for the tests. We’re doing a good thing here, Sam.”

Transparent plastic separated them from a 200-foot drop. Below, on the ground, grew an incredible field of flowers. Deep green foliage everywhere was topped by enormous white morning glories blooming in the day’s early sunshine.

The helicopter buzzed the road leading into the village. Men lined the verge. Moments later the helicopter set down on the road, a good distance from the field of flowers.

The soldier smiled but did not offer to help Sam as he struggled to open the wheelchair. Diane pushed his hands away and shoved down on a latch.

“Get the bags,” she said. She slid across the door lip and dropped into her chair.

“There’s the welcoming committee,” Sam said. He set a last duffle bag on the asphalt road then stood up straight, stretching his back.

A man dressed in white shorts and a Hawaiian shirt approached the helicopter. A pack of children trailed him.

“Welcome back to Gbee,” the man said. “Is this a new assistant? I hope he’s better than the last one!” The man held out his hand for Sam to shake. “I am Djeff.”

“Sam. I, um. You speak English?”

“I speak English as well as Portuguese and of course Kimbundu. I have even lived in big American cities. Manhattan and San Francisco.” The skin around his eyes crinkled into deep canyons. “Tiny compared to Angola. More things, more people, less room.”

“No, it’s just Diane said she had no one here she could talk to. That’s why we had to fly all the way over here ourselves. Diane!”

“Ahh, we are familiar with Doctor Diane’s playful ways. You haven’t been her assistant long, have you?”

“I’m not her assistant.”

“Oh. Yet you are here.”

Sam shrugged helplessly.

Djeff laughed. “How was the trip?”

Diane wiped her mouth. “I’ll never ride in a helicopter again.”

“How will you get home?”

Diane laughed. “Yeah, that’s an issue. But we’re not going home yet. I saw the people in the road. So, Djeff, what’s happening here?”

“We sent kids in to dig out the mines.”

“Djeff! You promised me!”

“It’s the way of things there, you know that. The kids didn’t find mines under the blossoms, they found yams. And the yams are special.”

“Yams? What are you talking about? Aren’t these our vines?”

Djeff shrugged. “These grew where your grandfather scattered the seeds, Diane.” He waved a little girl forward. “This one can tell you about it. She was your grandfather’s favorite niece.” He grabbed the child’s shoulder and turned her to face Diane.

The child’s left arm ended just after the shoulder. The left side of her face, forehead, eye, cheek, and ear, had suffered melting and scarring.

“Family?” Diane said.

“Little girl was our best at clearing mine fields. Of course her luck ran out but she survived. She might have gone to the Red Cross Prosthetic Center in Huambo, but we couldn’t afford to send her. Now she helps where needed. She’s dug up most of the yams in your grandfather’s field.” Djeff let her go.

The child stared at Diane and especially at the stumps where Diane’s legs ended. She touched them, not on the skin but on the leather stump caps. The girl’s hand had the same familiar color as the skin on Diane’s leg.

“What’s your name, honey?”

The little girl did not respond. Diane glanced at Djeff.

He shrugged. “Her name, that’s between you and her.”

“I have to call her something.” Diane pointed to the girl. “Chloe. My niece? He never mentioned her.”

“He took her in after the accident. We take care of our own here.” He paused and glanced at Diane’s legs.

“And yet he sent me to Baltimore,” she said.

“He knew what he was doing. You have returned with a cure for landmines.”

She shifted her buttocks. “Yes, now, what about my grandfather? Did the vines kill him?”

Djeff indicated the village. “Let’s find a good place to talk.”

Diane rolled ahead, crunching vines under her wheels. The little girl trotted close to her wheelchair. She ran forward and stomped a tangled bit of vine to clear Diane’s path. The smell of red dust and green sap combined in a comfortable mélange. Diane breathed deeply. So much like her office in the botany department.

They settled in a tree’s shade.

“Djeff, your village: I’m so sorry. I didn’t expect the plants to spread so quickly.”

“You’re sorry? Diane, don’t you know what you’ve done here?”

She nodded. “Yes. Overrun the cropland with morning glories, maybe killed my grandfather. We’ll burn them out, of course. Sam brought some chemicals that work on kudzu and should work here. But can you ever forgive me?”

Djeff laughed so hard he fell backward onto the low mat of green vines. “Forgive you? You really don’t know what you’ve done.” He pointed to the field.

“That’s a landmine field. One step on a landmine and poof! They are gone. Look at our children. No, look!”

Children in the minefield prodded the ground next to the morning glory flowers. Vine tendrils wrapped around the children’s stick-like legs and tickled their arms. The children pulled away easily. Other children scraped the dirt up under these flowers. They plucked orange-skinned yams out of the ground and stacked them at the field’s edge.

“They’re not attacking,” Diane said. “That’s standard nutational movement, just very fast!

Sam said, “Nutational? You think the morning glory vines are just seeking support? What if the kids stand still?”

Djeff laughed. “A child stand still?” He shook his head. “No, our children are safe. Put away your chemicals. We don’t need them. Your experiment in our fields has proved a success.”

“Humph. Morning glories belong to the potato family, but these vines weren’t designed to produce tubers. That never happened in the lab.”

“Ah, the yams.” Djeff stretched his legs out. “We have tried but we cannot eat the yams. They make us sick. Stomach ache.”

Diane stared at the field. “I need to see one of these wonders. Chloe, fetch me a yam.” Diane mimed a large round object. The little girl stared.

Djeff said a Kimbundu word. The girl smiled broadly and scampered off.

“You should learn our language, Diane.”

“I should learn a lot of things. Right now I want to learn about these so-called yams of yours.”

The girl returned dragging a sack full of bright orange tubers. She laid them on the ground in front of Diane’s wheelchair.

“Sam, open one up,” Diane said.

Sam opened his Swiss army knife to its biggest blade. “Too small,” he said.

Djeff spoke another Kimbundu word. Chloe giggled and ran off again. This time she returned with a machete in her right hand.

Obrigada,” Diane said.

Djeff laughed. “Portuguese is a start!”

Sam hacked the tuber apart. The inside showed a thin crust of orange flesh bleeding white sap and coils of roots ready to burst forth.

“They’re all like that,” Djeff said. “They come from the ground ready to grow. The landmines feed them well.”

Diane’s hands twisted in her lap. “Djeff, I have to ask. How did my grandfather die? All I have is a photo of his body covered in vines. Surrounded by family, yes, but it looks like the vines killed him.”

Djeff shook his head. “Your grandfather had been ill for some time. He longed to join our ancestors and died peacefully. The vines took his body after he finished with it. The family takes great pride that the grandfather’s body nourished a plot of vines. They believe the yams he grew are very special.”

“Surely they’re not eating them?”

“No, they planted them. There, another former minefield.” He pointed to a field behind the rim of huts. That field also overflowed with vines and white flowers.

“Your grandfather always liked being useful,” Djeff said. He grasped Diane’s hand. “You can stay in his hut. Chloe lives there. She will keep you company.”

The day’s heat faded. Sam and Diane stayed under the tree, and Chloe with them, but Djeff had to leave.

“Join us for dinner later,” he said. “Now I have to be at home.” He took Diane’s hand. “Thank you.”

Djeff walked carefully through the matted green vines.


Her legs were flowers, no, brown twisted vines with flowers blooming riotiously from them. She danced on these legs, spinning faster in delirious heat. The blooms flew away and rooted in the red soil at her feet. White blossoms and green vines, red soil and orange yams pushing upward and she herself dancing.

Her own laughter woke her.

Chloe crouched beside her, worry in her clear eye. Diane looked down. Her legs were still missing.

“Diane?” Sam, smiling, peered through the screen door. “Heard you yelling, thought you could use some help. But I see your assistant has you well in hand.”

“I keep having these dreams, Sam.” She slid into her wheelchair.

Sam settled on her cot. “I was just dreaming of those vines, too. A dream of flying. Djeff said everyone here dreams of the vines. You don’t suppose ...”

“Hmm? Psychic vines? No. Big changes cause big dreams. They’ve lived with this terror of landmines for a long time. As for me, my subconscious may be trying to tell me something.”


Her leg stumps stuck to the chair’s plastic. She eased her thighs by rocking on the chair seat. “If I listen, I might be able to understand. I don’t know. I have to listen.”

Sam said, “You don’t listen very well. Probably a good quality in a researcher.”

Diane shook her head. “The vines did what we bioengineered them to do. They found something buried and assimilated its nitrogen. Producing all those tubers takes energy. And those fields of morning glory vines. Looks like the kudzu in South Carolina ten years after it was introduced. But the yams. I’ll have to think about that.”

Sam smiled grimly. “Kudzu. Now there was a great success.”

“We did a great thing here, Sam!”

You did an irresponsible thing, Diane. You just lucked out. I bet you think you’re a hero. Those vines could take over all the grazing land. All the cropland, too. They don’t produce food. You may have ruined these people!”

She waved him off. “Maybe, but they absolutely destroy landmines. There might be one or two little problems but that’s why we have a lab, so we can fix the small stuff while the big stuff works.”

Sam stood. “You’re fearless. You don’t care about the consequences! You just plunge ahead doing whatever you want.”

“Fearless?” Her mouth dropped open in shock but she quickly snapped it closed. “I’m terrified for these people, Sam. I’m afraid that at any minute one of these kids will step on a landmine and die. Or worse.” She rubbed her leg stumps where the brown skin ended in keloid scars.

Sam dropped his eyes. Silently, he backed out of the hut.

“It’s okay, Chloe,” Diane said. She reached for the girl’s hand. “He just doesn’t understand.”


She thought it was another dream. A dream of being tickled. She giggled and opened her eyes.

Sam stood over her.

“Sam. What?”

Vines scraped along her body, twining into her hair. Thin vines wrapped her leg stumps. Sam’s hands were full of vines that he ripped away from her.

She screamed.

Chloe echoed her screams. Vines crawled all along her side, from her damaged leg to her missing arm. They even caressed her ruined cheek.

“No!” Diane shrieked. She threw herself on the child and pulled at the vines. The questing vines retreated.

Diane hoisted herself into her wheelchair.

“Come here, Chloe.” She held the girl on her lap. The girl’s sobs slowed into whimpers

Sam held the screen open. “Come out here. You won’t believe this.”

Vines had made an incursion from the field. New-growth runners had invaded her hut. They’d retreated from inside but still climbed the outer walls.

“Jesus, Sam, they were climbing on us! Oh my god, they were ...”

Sam said, “Yeah, aggressive. Are you sure they’re not carnivorous? You’re okay, right? And all this is just another problem to solve when you get to the lab.”

“Of course. That’s what the lab is for.”

“There’s something else. You have to see this.”

They met Djeff on the road at the edge of the village. Children stood guard over a stockpile of yams. Men waited in turn to take two yams. Then they walked away down the road.

Djeff put a hand on Diane’s shoulder. “Those people in the road? They want your vines, Diane. They want to kill their landmines and be safer, too. It’s a very popular plant. I know you insisted we not share this miracle, but we could not keep it to ourselves.”

The pile vanished. The men who had not gotten a share subsided to the side of the road.

“There will be more tomorrow. And the next tomorrow. Imagine it, Diane! No more damaged children!”

“No more chance of exercising even a little control,” Sam said. “We might as well go home, Diane. No point in administrative oversight now.”

“You’re right,” Diane said. “Djeff, you must stop this. There’s no telling what kind of mutations these vines might develop.”

“It’s out of my hands. Your friend the prince? The one with the convenient helicopter? He insists that we distribute these yams to everyone.”

Sam’s hands fisted up. “What,” he spluttered, “are we supposed to do now? Jesus, Diane.” He rubbed at his forehead. “I liked what you did here. Despite breaking the rules. Despite doing it all the wrong way. Despite unleashing a predatory plant here. You have in fact done a good thing. But there’s no way to fix this.”

Diane nodded. “Yeah, it could be bad. Or it could burn itself out. Tubers don’t grow when it’s too hot. They need lots of nutrients, too. So come summer, if all the landmines are gone, the vines will just fade away.”

“You are blue-skying a best possible outcome, Diane.”

“Yes, and you think they’re going to become triffids rampaging across the countryside and eating people.”

“They could be doing that already, Diane. Your grandfather might not be the only one.”

Diane’s mouth dropped open. “Djeff! Djeff, how is the bird population? And small animals. Dogs? Have you missed any dogs lately?”

Djeff laughed. “Open your ears, Diane. Can’t you hear the morning symphony? Those are our birds. They haven’t gone anywhere.”

Diane said, “We’ll need to stick around for a while. Track the possible issues. Sam, I’ll need your help. We need to keep an eye on the spread of the vines; where have these yams already been sent? And chart animal populations. Birds. I need someone here to back me up, Sam. Someone smart. You.”

He laughed. “All the stuff you should have done from the beginning. I’ll stay with you here. Can’t wait to see how this comes out.”

“So we’ve converted you to the dark side! Chloe, I think he likes us.”

The little girl slipped her hand into Sam’s.

“What will happen to her?” he said.

Diane frowned. “I don’t know, but I have an idea. We could use an additional assistant. Maybe we can get the prince to send her to Huambo. Or Baltimore.”

Sam laughed. “Always pushing,” he said. “Never satisfied.”

Diane smiled. “Nope.” END

Jude-Marie Green is a Clarion West 2010 graduate. Her stories have appeared in “Abyss & Apex,” “M-Brane Science Fiction,” “Every Day Fiction,” “Insatiable,” and “Penumbra.” She lives in Southern California, amid palm trees and lots of birds.

double dragon