Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Water for Antiques
by Robert N. Stephenson

by Sierra July

Skipper Jeremiah Dudd
by Mark Ayling

If You Could Choose One Day
by Simon Kewin

It’s the Martian Way
by Bob Sojka

Know, Oh Emperor
by L. Joseph Shosty

Abernathy’s Snowflake
by Aaron Polson

Lost and First Men
by David Barber

by Mark Bilsborough

These Undiminished
by Conor Powers-Smith

by George Sandison


Inside Death Valley
by Eric M. Jones

Is Global Warming Good?
by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips





By Sierra July

HIS FINGER LACED IN POISON burgundy, Lex shoved it into his mouth, sucked. He didn’t have long, but neither did they. He grinned at his surveyors upon his collapse, and then it was just a matter of playing dead. His limbs shivered convincingly enough, jiggling as though he were suffering a fit of laughter (ha ha!) clanking metal on metal, before growing stiff. His veins followed up to seal the act, constricting, holding color off from Lex’s face, ceasing his heartbeat.

Sound halted for Lex though he wasn’t aware. He hadn’t heard sound since yesteryear anyways. It was images that mattered to him, color that equated to even more. And they remained, bouncing behind his eyelids. No longer was he bombarded by the limited neutrals of black ceilings and grey floors and walls, white gloved hands and brown dirt hugging his skin. There were the purples, greens, reds.

He’d have still been smiling if he could. Yes, he had all the signs of a dead man, minus one inactive brain.

“Unplug him,” the Warden commanded the Guards.

The Guards responded as instructed, as programmed, as made. Stylized yet entirely plastic yes sirs filled the room as they got to work. The glass barrier engulfing Lex in his 8 ft. × 8 ft. box shattered and he was unwired, rewired, re-unwired since it wasn’t done right. Soon Lex was independent of the machine monitoring him, monitoring everyone, all eight billion people on Earth, again, minus one. Lex was one less of the conquered, one less victim of the Gatecrashers’ trials conducted for the heck of seeing their human lab rats squirm.

“Where did he find poison?” the Warden asked, moustache twitching. None of the Guards wanted to answer, but they were incapable of a shrug and not answering was a capital offense punishable by reprogramming. All the Guards gabbled at once. “One at a time,” Warden grumbled. “You, answer.”

Selected was a female Guard, immature in woman(less) form but still a mark of perfection as all Guards were. She answered, “There is no telling yet, sir. We are going to take a sample and run a few scans. But to tell you the truth, sir, I imagine it’s a concoction of the rust in his cell and his own bodily waste.”

The Warden cringed. “I need no speculation on your part, thank you. Just get that sample tested and get me the facts.”

She did. With the use of a handkerchief that ate up the saliva and lingering poison from Lex’s finger and the scanner in her iris (stare, blink ... stare, blink-blink), she discovered she was correct, give or take a couple ingredients. Rust and piss made (orange) poison. Mingled with dirt, the female Guard got her poison burgundy. Yet, one more scan (stare, blink) showed her that another element took part, a chemical. She gulped and fluttered her eyes as she turned off her scanner. “Sir, there are also trace amounts of Venetian spider venom in the man’s poison. One must have crawled into his cell. Not uncommon as they invaded this planet well before the Gatecrashers did. Their venom is a known tetrodotoxin.”

“And that is?” the Warden questioned.

“A neurotoxin that allows the user to feign death, sir.”

It’d be wrong to say that the Warden had no more questions, though he remained silent. The truth of the matter was he couldn’t ask any more with his jaw sagging open.

By the time Lex’s secret was debunked he was half away across the world, on his way to Rubbish.


Rubbish was just what it sounded like. People (Wardens) said, “I’ve got this heap of junk that I need to ship right off to Rubbish.” And so they did it. But not your average garbage got sent there, no. Plastic cups and bags, rotten food and animal turds weren’t of abundance, just human beings gone wrong, gone wrongly wrong, or dead in layman’s terms. Lex was among them.

Plunked down in the middle of a landfill of corpses, Lex awoke from his temporary slumber. His view was of mangled hair and eyeballs. There were more parts to the corpses, of course, but under the pressure of finding himself there, in a place only seen in Human nightmares, they were all Lex could see. He stood stark naked on the tallest of (hair and eyeball) hills and saw just where he needed to go—the spacecraft that had carted him there.

He ran, practically with his eyes closed, navigating on hope, willpower, and a superb sense of direction. In the midst of what might have been utter chaos to one person, flat-out hell to another, he powered on. That was the strength that the Guards couldn’t snatch from him, the strength that the Wardens couldn’t squelch. And behind his eyes, his eyelids became a canvas as he continued to paint with the colors he could only recall like a childhood memory. He was on the spacecraft before he’d laid down his final brushstroke.

Once on, there was the matter of staying hidden. Against a background that appeared to have captured the blue of skies yesterday, (before the mucky, murky ink of desolation glued itself above) camouflage was difficult. Still, man can close his mind so hard that he feels invisible; he can feel so invisible others see it as so. Or so Lex drilled into his conscience. Regardless of hows and whys, he made it to where he needed to be without a hitch, or almost where he needed to be: the entry to the ship’s control panel. While fiddling with the password protected lock on the door, someone turned the corner on his left, stopped, spotted him.

Not someone, something.

Blue-tentacle-sporting, six-eyed Gatecrasher is what it was. It was all Lex could do not to spew the contents of a fairly empty stomach. The cause of all this, the selector of the Wardens for their brawn, the imprisonment of everyone else for their brains ... Lex saw red. Blood was rushing behind his eyes. He blinked in frustration, holding his hand against a splitting headache, blindly throwing a punch. The punch connected and the Gatecrasher crumbled to the floor, stunned. Lex had been dealt a lightweight or a novice, either way it left him nowhere but where he’d been to begin.

He turned left and right, expectant of more Gatecrashers, whirled back to the control panel. Trapped, that’s all anyone was, slammed in a cell or a guild or a foundation, society. But Lex dreamed of Freedom, the sort he’d never had before. While in the corridor of an enemy spacecraft, he finished the painting in his head. The reds, the yellows, the oranges, warm. The blues, violets, greens, cooled his (hot) head off, diluting the unnaturally greedy blood red, awakening clear vision, clear mind. In that time, be it one second, one minute, one hour, Lex finished his masterpiece. Behind his eyelids were two pairs of blushed cheeks, eyes, two smiles twinkling with innocence, children. In between the young boy and girl, a woman with just as innocent of features, unsullied by Gatecrasher hands, untainted by Warden Authority and Guard servitude. That’s how he remembered them anyway, even if it was a fallacy. It was for them. It was all for them.

Lex grew more frantic. A painting behind his eyelids couldn’t be the last he saw of them. He had no way of knowing where they were, what had become of them, if the kids were calling out Daddy, the woman crying Honey now as she was defiled like a farm animal. He’d been handed to one Warden and them to another, all because he’d been late home from work. Work. Funny how that office building he’d frequented like a temple was on its last leg, just like everything else. What was it all for?

If he could do it all again ...

Another Gatecrasher rushed up on him, swifter, lither than the first. He had no time to respond other than to flinch. He expected a jarring punch, to revisit the black.

But nothing came.

He opened his eyes and saw the Gatecrasher doubled over at his feet. Not like the first, not unconscious, disabled, weakened and heaving. It had its orbs for eyes somehow beseeching.

“What is this?” Lex questioned, backing away. Gatecrashers: enthusiasts in sticking their tentacles were they didn’t belong, inflicting as much pain as possible, and then dishing out some more. Sympathetic, Gatecrashers were not. But this one, there was something about it.

The Gatecrasher scrambled along the floor, grabbing Lex’s leg. Lex grimaced, shook it off. But the thing tried again. “Help, you help!” It said. Deep voice: male, if that. “Help, you help!”

“Help what?” Lex screamed, losing all hope of keeping himself secret. He’d already forgotten the importance in that, the urgency. His veins popped causing him more pain on top of pain, but he disregarded it. “Help you after being invaded by your kind, having my family snatched from me, my Freedom squelched?” Lex pulled back a leg and aimed a kick at the thing’s head. Then he saw something.

Where is the possession of a soul? In the heart, the mind, or ... Lex couldn’t contemplate it, but he saw something behind the eyes, in the glow of the pupils, in the shade and sparkle of the irises. Something he hadn’t seen in any Gatecrasher he’d encountered before. Not in those looking over his Warden’s shoulder, not when he was being constricted and manipulated, not when the contents of his stomach had been displaced and his vision blurred, when his pores were too weak to be the dam that held the water within him in. When he was good as dead, no sympathy showed itself to him by way of Gatecrasher, Warden, or Guard. Now here, this one was different.

“What are you?” Lex asked.

“I am you. You are me,” it answered. Confusion whirred in Lex’s ears. Irritating gnat’s whine, unnerving bee’s drone, is what it sounded like. Con (fusion) trying to trick him, just a hoax, that’s what he considered, still staring into the thing’s eyes. But ...

Lex juggled his weight from foot to foot. “Are you saying you’re me from the future or something?”

The Gatecrasher shook its head. “You. One of you.”

“A human,” Lex said in realization. His voice came out hollow, unmoved, a reversal of his true emotion. Emotions in motion, swirling, spinning, Lex got to his knees. There it was, one (two counting the crumpled) Gatecrasher, just inches from him, on the same plane, in near identical stance, submissive, broken. “What happened to you? How did you turn into ... into this?” Lex gestured at the tentacles, suggested without articulating the blue.

“Splice, splice, splice is nice.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Splicing, icing, I sing.”

Lex shook his head. It was useless, the thing’s speech was desecrated and now it was incoherent. He had no time, no time to wonder. People were being manipulated, he knew that, saw that, felt that. He needed out. He got up and got ready to fiddle with the control panel even if a wrong combination had Gatecrasher forces raining down on him.

Before he got a chance to touch the panel, his degraded yet nonlethal Gatecrasher reached up a hand and punched in at least eight or ten numbers in rapid succession. The door opened without a hitch, at the same time that a loud chirp echoed through the ship, an access granted notification. The Gatecrasher pushed Lex through the door as the fallen one was beginning to stir.

“Who were you?” Lex called out.

The Gatecrasher smiled (grimaced?) with its disfigured face, said “I was someone.”

The door slammed shut again before Lex could respond. He was alone with nothing but blinking screens, whirring dials, and still buttons. Loneliness had crept back up on him before he’d noticed its absence. But he was where he needed to be, at last. Victory! Rejoice! He ignored the little him in his head screaming You left a man behind and got in motion.

When was the last time he’d piloted an alien spacecraft? All of never, but he could learn. His top skill, learning, which meant adjusting, molding, morphing. He worried no more about what button did what, who could spot him and when. He pressed everything that struck him as important, essentially essential.

And he struck a chord.

A lurch announced that he’d achieved what a part of him had conceived as impossible. The ship was off the ground. He was flying. The screens before him lost their navy night sky color and grew transparent. He could see the real sky again. No stars, no moon, those were lost to Earth long ago. Nowhere on his home planet was safe. His family wasn’t safe. He didn’t want to think it, but he didn’t think he’d see them again.

No destination in sight or imagination, Lex decided to just keep going.

Navigation needed no hand from him; the ship apparently knew where it needed to go and could avoid obstacles (street signs, vacant vehicles, critters slinking in fog) without instruction. Hopefully, he wasn’t onboard the expressway to the homeland of the Gatecrashers. One thing was certain, soon the objects whizzing past would be asteroids and satellites.

Occasionally, angry knocks interrupted his silence, Gatecrasher hands and seething fury repainting his world (blue?) red. Lex grinned. No emergency open/shut lever to control panel? Suckers.

Soon his pursuers tired, or fled, or died; to Lex, it didn’t matter which. When the knocks ceased, the red evaporated and the world became grey again. Experimentation was the cause, he knew, knew like he knew pain and hunger. Experimentation corrupted human DNA, disrupted, destroyed extra(ordinary) senses, toggled them into something ... something—

Lex re-witnessed the un-Gatecrasher-like Gatecrasher shoving him to freedom, steeling him in safety and leaving itself to get molested by its subordinates. The last thing he’d ever recall: its eyes.

Its eyes, his eyes, their eyes ...

Lex, contemplating this, studied his skin, his skin shifting, earthen to blue.

He realized with clarity what he’d known all along in the back of his mind. The Gatecrashers couldn’t be touched. They were not just unbeatable; they literally couldn’t be touched without contaminating, poisoning the human flesh. His own body was against him, already on the enemies’ side. He shivered. How long, how long before he lost everything, even his reason?

Through tear-spangled eyes, his quivering hands stayed on the accelerator. Could he make it out of orbit? So what if he could. There were people on Earth’s neighboring planets. Some of them may not have been invaded yet, may never have to be. Earth was on the losing end of some bet but the others ... The image of his family slapped him again, so painful the tears fell.

He could land, request help at the risk of spreading the Gatecrashers’ disease. He could, but would that save his wife and children? Was there anything left of them to be saved? Save, rave, pave depraved—

He watched the Red Planet pass him. Jumbled thoughts tried to make him forget what he’d decided, tried to make him land. But he didn’t let them take control. With one final sob, one final memory of giggles and kisses and sunshiny mornings, he powered on. Wherever he rested later, he hoped, prayed, it was uninhabited.

He looked down at his hands, a darker, more permanent shade of blue. Now, truly, he didn’t have long. END

Sierra July is a University of Florida graduate. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in “Star*Line,” “Every Day Fiction,” and the “Fast-Forward Festival.” Her first novel, “Komori: Book One of the Utopia Trilogy,” is available on Amazon.


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