Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Watchman, What of the Night?
by Eric Del Carlo

Enemy From Nowhere
by Jeffery Scott Sims

Dance by the Light of the Moon
by Milo James Fowler

Continue Program?
by Seth Chambers

Perfect Blue, Scorched Black
by Rachael Acks

Catastrophic Failure
by David Steffen

Twice Upon a Midnight Dreary
by Richard Zwicker

Screwed by Frankie Frog
by Tim McDaniel

Infinite (∞) LDK
by Ryu Ando

by Sara Backer


Time in a Bottle
by Eric M. Jones

A Real Death Star
by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




Screwed by Frankie Frog

By Tim McDaniel


The woman looked up from her book, tossing her dark hair out of her eyes. “Excuse me?”

Alan hadn’t meant to speak. He knew better than to strike up conversations with women. But the coffee shop was crowded, and the woman had taken a seat at his table, and when he noticed the nature of the oversized book she was reading the words just came out.

“The artists. I see you’re reading up on some of the Impressionists. I was wondering who your favorite was.” His eyes tracked the curve of her ear, the line of her cheek, the way her hair slipped over the back of her chair. He couldn’t help himself.

“Bazille.” With that, it was clear that she considered the conversation closed.

“Ah. You know he once shared a studio with both Renoir and Monet? Imagine being a fly on that wall!”

She glanced up once, then again, and this time her gaze stayed on him.

“I didn’t know that,” she said. “He didn’t seem to have done as many paintings as them, though. At least, not in this book.”

“He died young. It’s sad to think about all that unrealized potential.”

“Yeah.” Her gaze flickered back to her book, then back up at Alan. “You seem to know a lot about art.”

“I guess I’m supposed to. I got a Master’s in Art History.”

“Really.” She put her book down, but kept her finger in her place—guarded possible interest. “I guess you’ve probably seen some of these works in person, then.”

“A few. Not as many as I’d like.” Alan leaned forward. “I do appreciate the old guys, though. Somehow the confines they worked under, I don’t know, made their successes shine just that much more brightly.”

She smiled. “At least you can see what they were about,” she said. “It seems to me everything just kind of fell apart after Picasso.”

“I think there’s a consensus there, among the fans of the former schools,” he said. “Though I know we’re not being fair to the more modern works.”

“Do we have to be fair?” she smiled. “By the way, I’m Emily.”


“Alan. So, you’re an art historian. I guess you spend your days traveling to Europe and New York, authenticating works of art or something.”

“Well, not exactly.” He had to change the subject—and soon.

“So what do you do then, Alan?”

Too late. I’m screwed.

“There aren’t a lot of jobs in the field,” he said, “so while waiting for something to open up I’ve been working over at the Frankie Frog theme park.”

“Oh. Do you, what, consult with them on designs or something?”

“Ah, no. Actually, for now I’m doing a little acting there.”

“Like some kind of historical thing?”

He had to come clean. “I run around dressed up like Dandy Duck.”


“Yeah. I’m Dandy Duck. Loyal minion and plaything of Frankie Frog. Kids kick me, teenagers swat the back of my fake head, and senior citizens force me to hold their bawling and dripping grandchildren for photo opportunities. It’s a living.”

“I see.” Emily finished off her coffee and picked up her book. “That must be fun, though. It was nice meeting you, uh, Alan.” She made a show of consulting her watch. “Oh! I’ve got to catch my bus now. Bye.”

She escaped outside, and Alan watched her climb into a silver convertible. Not a bus.

And damn. Even her car was sexy.


“Hey! Dandy! Dandy!”

Alan bobbled his huge fake head, waved his arms in ecstasies of delightful surprise, and waddled over to the little twerps. A little girl hugged his leg. Well, that was kind of sweet. The smaller girl huddled behind her beaming and nodding parents. OK. But the slightly older brother had that look.

“Go on, Alex,” the mother said. “You can go shake Dandy Duck’s hand!”

The kid narrowed his eyes.

I’m screwed.

Well, nothing to do but walk into the chainsaw. “Hi there, Alex!”

The boy took two big steps, and on the third he brought his right foot up hard into Alan’s crotch. Alan doubled over. The girl who had been hugging Alan ran over to her mom, crying, and Alan heard daddy say, “Now that wasn’t too nice of you, Alex. Look at your sister! Come on, now. Let’s get our ice cream.

“And then you guys have time for just a few more rides.”

That’ll teach the little brat. Alan straightened up to wave goodbye. Fortunately, no one could see his red face, his sweating brow, his clenched teeth. He turned, and noticed that They were back.

Those damn aliens, ringed by the Secret Service-type guys that kept the overcurious at a safe distance. Half of the group that had arrived as ambassadors eight months before seemed to spend most of their time at the park, and they seemed particularly intrigued by its costume-wearing dducksuitenizens. Alan would see them just staring, looming over the crowd, following him as he made his rounds, shuffling along on their four stumpy legs, their arms dangling down from way up there. They could at least blink. Or find something else to be interested in. Why didn’t they hang out at museums or government labs or zoos? They never rode on any of the attractions, never ate cotton candy or caramel apples, never boxed kids’ ears and told them to straighten up, mister, or we’ll just go home right now.

Alan found a bench and sat down. He wasn’t supposed to do that, but he did it anyway. He bent over, elbows on knees, and slumped, staring at the piece of squashed gum on the cement between his feet. He breathed. The pain was receding.

What a life.

“Do you want help?”

“Oh, I sure do!” Alan had answered before realizing that something was wrong with the voice—it was the voice of some kind of horn, shaped tones with too much air behind them. He smelled cinnamon and wet hair.

He looked up. Three aliens surrounded him, bent over, examining him. Alan stumbled to his feet. Time for a show. “Hi! I’m Dandy Duck! How are you guys today?” A Secret Service man glanced his way, then continued to survey the rest of the park through his dark glasses.

The alien spoke. “You are not.”

“Well, sure I am! Just look at me! You guys having fun?”

“It is a sorrow. Your suffering is our appreciation, and yet it is a sorrow.”

“Yeah, well—you guys want a picture with me?” What did a duck say to an alien?

The aliens just stared. Their eyes had no whites, so it was hard to tell what they might be looking at, but Alan could feel the weight of their attention. He walked away, waving at anyone else.

Frankie Frog came out of his blind spot and smacked into him. “No sitting on the job, asshole!”

“Someday,” Alan muttered as the frog waddled away. “Oh, someday, I’m going to kick his green ass all the way to Disneyland.”


“Well, yes, actually I do have quite a bit of experience in that area. In fact, in college I was the assistant art editor for the art department’s brochures, as you may have noticed on my resume. I’ve always enjoyed trying different layouts, going for different effects.”

“I see.” The jowly man behind the desk leaned back and polished his glasses with a little paper napkin from his pocket. “But no actual advertising experience?”

“Not directly in advertising, no. But I do believe that, in any publication designed to catch and hold the public’s interest, whether it’s a description of an upcoming art exhibit or an advertisement for a watch—”

“We don’t actually handle any watch advertising, at the moment.”

“Oh.” Alan took a breath. “Well, that’s just one example. Really, any product—”

“Yes, I understand the point you are trying to make. Our clients, however, tend to have very specific ideas of what they want in a particular campaign, though, and I’m really not sure that your experience with the art field will be of any great—”

“I like to think of my art background as really just—background. I mean, if it’s given me a sense of design, an idea of what possible avenues—”

“And what, exactly, are you doing at the park? I’m afraid I found your resume a little vague.”

I’m screwed. “I see. Yes, well, at present I’m involved in public relations, but I would really feel more comfortable in a role producing—”

“Public relations? Writing press releases, that kind of thing? You should have mentioned that in your resume—it’s actually quite a strong point in your favor. Tell me about that.”

“Ah, no, not in writing press releases. I’m more of a face-to-face PR guy, on the front line, so to speak.”

“I still don’t quite understand—”

“I’m Dandy Duck, OK? I walk around all day in a hot oversized suit that won’t let me breathe or stretch and kids yank at me and kick me. I have to wave and waddle and make stupid jokes and act like each snotty little monster is a long-lost beloved niece. I have to laugh at all Frankie Frog’s jokes. The enormous head gets goddamn heavy by the end of the day, and the suit pinches me in places I would rather not mention, you don’t want to know all that I have to go through just to take a piss. So you see why I am just a little anxious for a change!”

Alan breathed. For half a moment, it felt good to get it all out. Then he slumped in his chair.

“I can understand, Mr, ah ... well, if anything comes up here that we think might suit your, ah, abilities, we’ll contact you.”


Frankie Frog leaned close. “Check out that little honey in yellow. She came up to me for a hug and a picture, and I gave her little bun a nice squeeze! I bet she’s got an interesting expression in that particular photograph!”

Alan edged away, still waving at anyone and everyone. “Jeez! She’s what, sixteen?”

“Hey. You gotta grab what you can get, right? Guys like us don’t get a whole lotta choice.”

Alan decided to work the crowds down by the food court.


Ten minutes to go. Ten more minutes of waddling and waving.

Once the park was closed, Alan could waddle on back to his studio basement apartment and have a beer or zone out in front of the TV. Or maybe on the way home he could find a pawnshop and buy a gun and shoot himself several times in the heart and head.

It was a tossup.

The last kid was propelled by the last parent towards the exits, and Alan sat down on Paul Bunyan’s foot.

“Just kick me in the ass, Paul,” he said. “Kick me over to the next county, the next state, the next country.”

He rested his giant head in his hands for a moment. When he looked back up, he had to keep looking up and up, until he could take in the bottomless black eyes of the alien standing before him.

There were three of them, watching him from on high. One touched the translator thing that hung on a chain around its stomach.

“You want a change.”

“Oh, God, yes.”

“Do you want help?”

“Oh, now this is too much. Even aliens from a planet a kajillion miles away can see that I’m in the toilet. Yeah, I need help. I most certainly do need help. Whatever you can do for me, just do it! Give me a damn life! Can you do that?”

The aliens looked at one another, then moved away. Their guards moved with them as if on ten-foot tethers.

“No,” Alan said. “Didn’t think so.”


That evening his phone rang. Alan picked it up.

“Mr. Alan Sorell, please.”

“This is Alan.”

“Ah, Mr. Sorell. I’m glad to have reached you. This is Daniel Carstairs, from Dawnlight Advertising.”

“Oh—Mr. Carstairs! It’s good to hear from you.”

“Mr. Sorell, we here at Dawnlight have a sudden vacancy, and after contacting your references, we have decided to offer you a position here, dealing in layout and design, if you are still interested.”

“Really? Layout and design? Yes, I’m sure I can ... Yes, yes, I certainly am interested! When would you like me to start?” The aliens—it had to be the aliens. They had some connections they’d called on.

“I realize that it is short notice, but if you can start at nine a.m. on Thursday—”

Yes, it is short notice, but Thursday will be just fine.”

“We wouldn’t want to cause any trouble between you and your current employer.”

“No, no, the park administration will understand. That’ll be no problem.”

“That’s good to hear, Mr. Sorell. And welcome to Dawnlight!”

“OK, great! See you Thursday, then! Nine o’clock! Goodbye, and thank you again!”

The aliens, yes—they’d come through! They’d found a way to help him!

Alan sank to his knees and sobbed in joy.


His last day at the park. His last day, evening, hour. God, he never thought he would survive long enough to escape. And now that he knew he would be leaving, he could enjoy the waddling and waving, the stupid duck shoes and the giant head. Even the brats. Because this would be the last time.

And he would meet women at his new job, and later he would get married, and years from now he would bring his kids to the park. And if they kicked Dandy Duck in the balls Alan would smile and buy them ice cream and cotton candy and take them on another ride.

The sun was setting, and soon the nightly parade would begin. But Alan didn’t have to do that today. He was heading back to the locker room, and he would hang up the costume with its great sweat-slicked cavernous head and tight yellow leggings, leave it for the next sucker, and he would be gone.

A shadow fell on him. There was a voice that sounded like it came out of an organic saxophone. “We will help now.”

Alan looked up. He saw the aliens, but no Secret Service. “Hey, guys! Thanks, but—”


He woke up on a bench. It was night, the park closed. The lights were out, the music had finally stopped, the things that twirled and rocked and raced around little tracks all still.

“Whew. What the hell was that?”

Alan swung his feet to the ground. His bright orange feet. He felt a pebble under his right foot.

Now that wasn’t right. How could he—

He could feel the night breeze blowing on his forehead, lightly tugging the feathers on his arms. That wasn’t right.

The aliens were standing behind the bench. One spoke. “It is a sorrow,” it said. “Your desire is realized, but that which was art is now merely real, and no longer worthy of our admiration. Your unique culture is poorer.”

“You—you!” Alan pulled at his head. He yanked out a feather from his arm with pudgy orange fingers, and winced at the pain.

“No need for gratitude. We help, although we suffer the loss of art.”

Alan couldn’t get his breath. Then he finally took in a lungful, and let it all out. “You made me a duck? A real cartoon duck!”

The aliens said nothing.

“Change me back! Change me back, now!” Alan fell to his knees.

“It is not possible.”

“No, no, you can do it. You can! You can change me, so you can reverse it, right? Listen. Listen. I understand about the art thing. I know how you must feel, the loss of art thing. So you can change me back, and then the art will be fine. Right? Change me back. I won’t mind! I won’t! I want to be in the suit again!”

The aliens began bobbing up and down, coming down to a half-squat on their little legs, then straightening up again. “To do such a thing! Art has been damaged. To adjust the new form to reflect that which was damaged— unthinkable!”

“It’s thinkable! It is! Completely thinkable!”

“It is transgression. Unthinkable.”

“Unthinkable?” Alan’s voice was trailing off.

“It is sin. Unthinkable”

Alan breathed hard.

Unthinkable. The duckness was here to stay. He could forget layout and design, forget ever getting a girl or a life. His only choice now was to continue here at the park, or hire himself out to scientists for dissection. Maybe both.

He sat down.

But maybe, just perhaps, he could snatch one tiny little bit of consolation out of the hell his life had become. His potential squandered, his hopes for love made futile, he might at least find a petty gratification in causing someone else pain.

Someone really deserving.

“Have you guys met Frankie Frog?” END

Tim McDaniel has published stories in a large number of science fiction, fantasy, and horror magazines, including “F&SF” and “Asimov's.” When not writing, he teaches English as a Second Language in his home state of Washington.


star run


six questions