Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Just Like [Illegible] Used to Make
by J.R. Johnson

by Molly N. Moss

Archimedes’ Gambol
by Eric M. Jones

Cynthia 2246
by Mark Ayling

Where the Rivers Meet
by Vincent Knight

A Woman’s Place
by Guy Stewart

Mindship Decommissioned
by Karl El-Koura

Anna Who Reached for the Stars
by Janis Zelcans

Mad Dogs Raid Mars
by Michael Andre-Driussi

Blissful Twilight
by Jessica Payseur


A Case for Nukes
by John McCormick

Nuns in Space
by Carol Kean




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




Shorter Stories

Time Zones

By Robert Dawson

TEENAGERS ARE PRETTY WONDERFUL people. They are hard-working, tidy, enthusiastic, well-dressed, well-groomed, and polite.

Everybody else’s teenagers, anyway. Every parent wonders how they got the ones who sleep until noon in bedrooms out of Thrift Store by Tornado, sulk silently until they want to borrow the car, and know there’s a passage in the UN Declaration Of The Rights Of The Child saying they don’t have to wash dishes. Ever.

Over breakfast, Jean appealed to me. “Gary, hon, can you make sure Troy gets up in time for school? Maureen said in Pilates that Lindsey has a big math test today, and I’m sure Lindsey’s in Troy’s class. It’s my turn, but today’s the funding videoconference for the matter transporter project.”

“How’s that going?”

“Badly. The airlines and truckers are lobbying against it, and there are intellectual property problems. I suppose Bill meant well when he put a general public license on the matter coherence algorithms, but it makes financing the project really difficult.”

Bill Zimmerman and Jean were an item at MIT for a while, but they ended up “just friends.” Bill ended up marrying Betsy, and now they’re at CalTech, working with Jean on the matter transporter. The first long-distance test sent two American silver dollars from his bench in Pasadena to hers, here in Nova Scotia. One of them’s framed in Jean’s office; Bill has the other.

“So where does that leave you?”

“Well, it’s not dead yet, but the word from the money guys is that unless we can find a big new market beyond what the airlines are serving now, it’s stalled. We thought about cargo, but we can’t bring the price low enough yet to compete with electric trucks or container ships. There are some specialized markets—the provincial government wants us to ship lobsters to Europe—but that’s not enough. We need a killer app, and I hope somebody else has ideas, because I’m just about out.”

She got to her feet and kissed me. “So be a sweetheart and get Troy out the door, OK? I’ll need an hour to get my notes together, and the meeting’s at thirteen-thirty Greenwich Mean Time.”

“That’s nine-thirty Atlantic ? I don’t envy Betsy and Bill, on Pacific time.”

“I think it’s just Betsy at today’s meeting, but yeah. And Mingmei will probably just stay up late. Anyhow, thanks. Love you.”

“Love you,” I answered. She went out the side door, and a minute later I saw the car glide silently down the street. I looked at my watch and decided I had better make a first try at waking Troy. I put my coffee down and went upstairs.

Knocking. “Hey, Troy. Wake up. You have a test today.”

A groan. “Dad! I’m not awake.”

“Well, get awake. Your classes start in forty-five minutes. You have a test.”

“OK, I’m getting up.”

I went down, put some stuff in the dishwasher, and started it. Five minutes passed. I went back upstairs. “Are you up?”

No answer. I knocked. “Leave me alone! I’m getting up!” The voice came from exactly the same spot in the room as before.

Half an hour later, Troy came downstairs, and sullenly poured a cup of coffee. He sat around, drinking it slowly while I got more and more irritated.

Finally I pointed out that he had ten minutes to get to school. He said nothing. Five minutes later I repeated myself. He rolled his eyes. “The test’s been postponed. Ms. Rhodenizer has to chaperone the science fair team this week because Mr. Tilley is off sick.” Eventually he grabbed his backpack and wandered off. At the door he turned around and said: “In Biology they told us that teenagers have long circadian cycles, like 28 hours. It’s just not reasonable to expect us to learn at this time in the morning.” He left, leaving the door six inches ajar.

I closed the door, and thought for a long time about what Troy had said. Then I made a call to Jean, catching her moments before she logged on for her meeting.


One year later.

This morning, we came down to find that Pippa had made us breakfast: a cheese omelette with bits of this and that in it, toast, and coffee. She’s a kick-ass cook; I think it must have something to do with Britain being in the European Economic Community. I told her how good the omelette was.

“D’you like it then, Dr. MacDonald? It’s one of Mum’s recipes.”

“It was great. Thank you.”

“You're welcome. Can I leave for school now? I want to walk over, and enjoy the autumn leaves. They’re just super here in October. Is it all right if I don’t help with the washing-up?”

“Pippa! You cooked. Now scoot. Your lunch is on the counter.”

“Did you give me some of those maple biscuits again?”

“You bet.”

“They’re scrumptious—wish we could get them back home. Well, ta-ta for now; I’ll be back to get my kit after school before I teleport to California. You know, this is my very best stop. Except of course back with Mum and Dad in London on the weekend.” She danced out the door.

Tonight we have Vladimir, then Hiroshi, then Bill and Betsy’s daughter Kayla; and then it’s the weekend and Troy gets home. I’m looking forward to that.

It’s amazing how much better we get on when he’s here for two days a week, and properly rested. His school grades have improved, too, even though he's only in class four days a week, at a different school each day. And he’s learning Russian and Japanese.

Friday evening will be busy; there’s a teleblogger from “The National” coming to interview him. Daystretching has become the big social news story of the year, and even though tens of thousands of kids are doing it, around here Troy is the poster boy. Fair enough—it was partly his idea. He wears his fame well. END

Robert Dawson teaches mathematics at Saint Mary's University in Nova Scotia. He likes hiking, biking, and fencing. For more information, see his writing website.




By Jon Arthur Kitson

ILLARY PARTED THE CURTAINS and watched the Aborigine quartet. Each stood with a foot hitched, forming a triangle with their leg and thigh. Her friend Cobar trembled as he sang.

A fist-sized rock bounced at Illary's feet.

She didn’t look up.

“Go away, Tica.”

A girl dropped from the rafters.

“Almost got you."

Illary turned.

“Not even close.”

Cheers erupted from the seats above. Both girls peered between the curtains.

Coins rained on the Aborigines. The men pushed and scrambled, scraping silver into their hammocked loincloths. After a minute, the handlers herded them off.

An orchestra emerged across stage.

“I bet this time, they won’t throw you any coins,” Tica said.

The quartet lined up at the Tallier. Cobar’s eyes found Illary. They shared a smile.

A violin cried. The orchestra joined and the audience cheered.

Illary looked at Tica.

“Why don’t you learn an instrument? Join one of the orchestras?”

“A group?” Tica’s nose wrinkled. “And fight for coins—” She nodded at the Tallier.

A black robed handler wrote the machine’s results on each Aborigine's chest. Illary’s breath caught as he scribbled on Cobar—

—then released:

His number was the highest.

Two handlers grabbed the man to Cobar’s left. He struggled, but their massive hands locked around him. The tally on his chest—the lowest of the four—smudged as they dragged him away.

Illary flashed Cobar a smile. He shrugged.

“—no,” Tica smirked, “I’d rather have your solo.”

Illary glared.

“They always throw coins for the solos.” She kicked the rock. “Your aim’s going to have to improve if you want my spot.”

The tink of coins off brass started, followed quickly by breaking wood as the musicians fought. The audience laughed.

“Or maybe not,” Tica said. “There’s other reasons besides not enough coins to lose your slot.”

Illary shifted.

“What do you mean?”

“Isn’t the Peruvian Wedding Song supposed to be sung by a young girl?” Her pupils drifted to Illary’s chest.

“I’m fine,” Illary said, but her hand pulled at the fabric constricting her developing bust.

Tica grinned.

“If you wrap them any tighter you’ll pass out.”

Illary scanned the other girl’s body; still lithe and boyish.

“I’m fine,” she repeated.

A handler passed, guiding a blind guitarist. Yellow pus showed around the man's ruined eyes.

“The new Blind Willie Johnson,” Tica said. “I heard him screaming last night.” She laughed. “How long do you think before the infection gets him?”

Illary’s face scrunched.

“Just go away. I need to rehearse.”

“Plenty of time,” Tica said. “The Native American chant, the Samoan panpipes and two more orchestras; and the handlers always let the one doing The Fifth Symphony go at each other for at least ten minutes. Those guys are brutal.” She smirked. “Last week a flutist got decapitated.”

“No he didn’t,” Illary said, then admitted: “But his throat did get cut.”


Blind Willie came off stage. The guitar's sound hole jingled with coins his dead eyes couldn't see. Still, Illary envied him: No one was trying for his spot.

“Please leave me alone,” she said to Tica.

Tica settled against a stand support. “I’m good.”

Illary ignored her; warmed her voice as the next acts took stage. She hummed, letting verses slip out; the bands of fabric squeezed. Her eyes darted down, checking that the shoulder draping lliclla fell straight and formless.

Tica’s finger flicked at the tupu pin clasping the lliclla.

“Careful, you’ll pop it.”

Illary swatted the finger.

“Watch it.” Tica pulled back. “You wouldn’t want me to talk to the handlers?”

Illary’s stomach dropped. Beethoven's Fifth transitioned into a brawl.

“You wouldn’t?”

“Maybe,” Tica grinned. “Or maybe we can help each other out.”


“Now that you’re becoming a woman, maybe you should take over the Jaat Kahan Ho.”

“Gaya’s song?” Illary’s eyes skipped around the wings but didn’t spot the sari-clad woman. “After what she did to the last woman who tried to take her spot?”

“Horrible, I know,” Tica answered, but her eyes sparkled. “But if we team up, take her out while she’s sleeping, we can both have solos.”

Illary bite her bottom lip.

“You'd do that? Help me?”

“Sure,” Tica shrugged. “Then we’ll both have some coin; and I won’t have to scrounge for scraps anymore.”

“Oh Tica, thank you—”

The deep red folds of Illary’s pollers skirts spread. She wrapped Tica in her arms.

Then plunged a dagger in her back.

“—but I think I’ll pass.”

Tica crumpled. Her eyes went glassy as Illary hid the dagger in her skirts and retrived her flat monteras hat from a nearby beam.

On stage, janitors mopped blood and cleared splinters. The MC engaged the crowd.

“So barbaric,” his skull-fringe fluttered, “yet our fleet conquered their world in only three days.” A laugh snorted from his nasal slits. “Maybe they shouldn't have sent us the coordinates.”

The audience roared.

“Ironic,” the MC continued, “such violent creatures are also responsible for the sweetest music in the known worlds.” He looked to the wings.

Illary stepped out, a hand settling her skirts. A smear of blood stained the fabric, but blended perfectly beneath the arena lights.

“Now,” the MC said, “we continue the Golden Record Review with the Peruvian Wedding Song.”

Illary climbed to center stage. Voyager 2 hung above her, its wide dish antenna pitted by decades of micro-impacts. Thin auxiliary antennas stretched towards the stage. Twin dents adorned the spacecraft's sides where the Borlian scoutship’s clamp-arm had retrieved it from deep space.

The MC called to the crowd:

“Isn’t she precious.”

They clapped. Their dewclaws swayed and the arena quaked.

On the wall, Voyager's most revered cargo—the golden record containing Earth’s most definitive songs and compositions—shook. The screen beneath it flashed:

822 weeks at number one, and still counting!

Illary sang. END

Jon Arthur Kitson has had stories in “Mad Scientist Journal” and “The Flashing Type” anthologies, with fiction upcoming in “Stupefying Stories” and “Fiction Vortex.”



Hold My Hand

By Jez Patterson

I TOOK MY SON’S HAND AND WE walked the path up the final hill. The view at its top was always our favourite: the sweep of the South Downs, salt air from the Channel tingling the hair at our temples, long transparent ships that seemed unmoving at this distance, the waves caught with sun so the sea looked like the dappled windows in our bathroom.

Simeon was the one who gave us that last image.

I spoke to him as we climbed. Both actions were an effort, but I wouldn’t allow myself to fail in either. When I asked him a question, I kept it simple so he could answer “Yes, father” or “No, father.” Silence meant he didn’t understand or the phrasing of the question was wrong. I tried to be patient, but whilst the responses were a perfect match for his voice, they were always the same: such that their timbre, their resonance had already become as familiar to me as a ringtone.

At the top, I squeezed my son’s hand and closed my eyes to let sound, touch, smell choose memories over sight and knowledge. The sea was too far off to hear its churn, but it had sent seagulls to us.

Rark?” Simeon had asked me once, his forehead creasing its perfect smoothness, sucking back his chin in that quizzical way shared by only five-year-olds and spaniels. “Why are they saying rark?”

“It’s their name for us,” I told him in a rare moment of inventiveness. “Just like we call them seagulls.

“Rark?” he said, testing my theory, processing it and his entire face involved in the smile when he accepted it.

I felt my son’s hand and now he could only process questions like: “Are you too hot?” “Are you able to continue?” “Does your battery need recharging?” I sat down on the grass so I could hold my son’s hand next to my cheek, kiss its fingers, its palm.

I looked at, talked to his shadow. It gave the illusion it was actually Simeon standing there beside me.

The hand, part of his leg, some of his hair and a section of his jaw were all they could save following the crash. His mother and I were already living apart at the time, so my feelings towards her own death were more complex. I’d never blamed Julie for the end of our relationship but it helped in an unhealthy way to blame her for Simeon’s death. She had been the one behind the controls. Never mind the other driver had been chatting on his video phone, drifted into the oncoming lane. Blaming Julie numbed me to the business of proper grieving. And to proper acceptance.

“Are you too hot?” I asked my son, breaking from the shadow to see the temperature gauge on his chest had changed from a healthy green to orange.

“Yes, father.” I reached around the back of the neck, lifted his hair and pressed a button. It would mean Simeon’s hand would cool, lose its mock-human warmth, but the walk up the hill had been a strenuous one for his circuitry.

The light stayed orange but began to blink. When it was green again I could start him up once more.

In the meantime, I took my son’s hand and shared our favourite view. It doesn’t get any sweeter than this, I thought, and hated the resignation that now coloured this pronouncement. I hung on to the warmth as it faded like the sun going down. Leaving me. Knowing all they’d handed me back was his shadow. END

Jez Patterson is a British teacher and writer, currently based in Madrid. His previous story with “Perihelion” was in the 12-AUG-2013 update. More at his website.




By C.R. Hodges

THE CAPTAIN SAT IN HER USUAL chair, reading. Her breathing was laborious, the air so rancid even I could taste it. She struggled to her feet and stumbled toward the inner airlock, the book under her arm. I followed.

The emergency claxon blared, as it had been doing every ten minutes since the explosion. An electronic voice, devoid of emotion, declared: “Please repair the oxygen reclamation system.” The oxygen reclamation system was beyond repair, submerged in a newly formed lake of molten lava. We had less than two days of marginally breathable air left, even with only one survivor.

Her pressure suit hung on its hook by the hatch. She allowed her fingers to glide across the silvered fabric. My suit should have hung next to hers, but it was buried a kilometer below the lunar surface, still on my corpse. The rest of the hooks were barren as well. As the inner lock hissed open, she reached for her helmet. Instead of placing it on her head, however, she merely rotated it slightly, squaring it off in its cubby. “They’re en route,” I shouted, “less than twenty-four hours out.” She knew this, even though my words went unheard.

The hatch slid shut behind her. She faced the control panel, legs unsteady, her skin an unnatural blue. One hand hovered over the keypad as the other brushed back her unwashed hair. Alone in the windowless airlock, she wept. She was not alone, but she could no more see than hear me. I wept as well but no tears formed.

Two loud bangs and the lights went out. Our secondary generator had been fickle for months; now it was the only source of power. In the absolute darkness that followed, her sobs tailed off and a tiny penlight flicked on. She was sitting on the deck, knees drawn up to her chest, reading again, a leather-bound edition of “Moby Dick.” How she had smuggled it all the way to the moon was a mystery. A privilege of rank perhaps.

A dozen pages later, I left her to her solace and drifted through the pressure hull, out onto the vast, gray moonscape. The sun was bright but I cast no shadow. The tangled ruins of the huge dome that had covered the mine sprawled before me, a deep tomb now, encased in fresh lava. We had journeyed here as explorers and scientists; mining had not been our intent. But the first white sapphire that we found in the lava tube had been as large as her fist.

Spurts of dust and gas still vented out of the ruptured magma chamber. Only the control module remained intact, where the captain had been that day, alone. I scanned the heavens for the moonshuttle, somewhere between here and Earth. Launched as an ambulance, it would return as a hearse, hopefully with one passenger. If they were not too late.

If she would let them.

Unable to discern ship from star, I reentered the airlock and peered over her shoulder. An obsessed captain who hunted a white whale until it consumed him, his crew and his ship. “Not the same,” I cried, again in vain.

The lights came back on with a crisp snap. She dog-eared the page, stood, and laid the book on the control panel. I darted outside, praying that the flare of the moonshuttle’s landing motor would somehow brighten the night sky a day early. But it was not to be.

The claxon blared, that damn electronic voice again. I retreated back into the airlock. She was still standing by the control panel, her gloveless hand poised above the keypad. A round of coughs so violent that she almost collapsed. Her right hand flailed out, knocking the book off the panel. Falling to her knees, she attempted to catch the book in its slow, end over end fall. It slipped through her feeble fingers and landed on the decking, the pages splayed out like wilted rose petals.

Read another chapter, I thought, desperately hoping she could hear my ethereal thoughts better than my silent voice. Read it cover to cover. She sunk down on her haunches before the book, staring at it. Read slowly. Panting softly, she picked up the book, cradling it in her arms like a newborn for a long moment. “Please.”

Instead she closed the book and stood it against the bulkhead, spine out. She rose back up on her knees and rested her cheek against the monitor, her skin a deeper shade of blue now. Her fingers settled on the keypad, then retreated to her collar. It took three minutes for her to undo her insignia and place it next to the standing book. Her knees sagged slightly, but with a grunt she pulled herself back up, head level with the keypad. She entered one digit of her code then paused. Another digit, and another pause, panting again. Eight more digits, the pause between each keystroke lengthening.

Three beeps. “Error. Please reenter your code.” That beautiful electronic voice.

Before I could cry out in joy, she had tapped her code back in. A single beep, a steady hiss. With a faint smile, as if she knew I was there, she struggled to her feet.

We waited, my hand overlapping hers. The hatch opened. She staggered out into the sunlight and collapsed. I followed. END

C.R. Hodges has been recognized in The Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2011. His work has appeared in “EscapePod,” “On the Premises,” and other publications.