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



If You Could Choose One Day

By Simon Kewin


Piotr’s three friends began to push the merry-go-round, sending it spinning faster and faster. Piotr laughed with helpless delight. The old carousel squeaked and creaked. He clung on, the playground whirring by in a blur of faces, trees, faces again. When it was going as fast as it could he steadied himself, clutching the steel handles, then threw himself off. He landed in a tumbling heap on the grass. His friends—Danny and Roger and John—whooped with laughter at the sight of him. Piotr laughed along with them. He tried to stand but his head spun so much he succeeded only in walking in little circles before collapsing back to the ground.

“My go,” said Danny. “Push me, now. Even faster.” Danny was a year older than the rest of them, two inches taller. If they got into a fight, Danny was the one who saved them, wading in with his fists pumping. Although in truth he was the gentlest of all of them and couldn’t even bring himself to kill the fish they caught in the stream in the woods. But if it came to it, there was no one Piotr would rather have at his side.

Piotr lay back on the grass and closed his eyes for a moment, his head lurching, his stomach fluttering pleasantly. The sweet smell of the freshly cut grass—it was always freshly cut—filled his nose.

“Come on, Piotr,” Danny called again. “It’s my turn.”

Piotr opened his eyes. The world had stopped jerking around quite so much. The perfect blue sky above was as perfect and blue as ever. Beyond the swings, over the treetops, grey clouds gathered on the horizon. Piotr ignored them. It never rained. Not here.

He worked his way to his knees, giggling at the way his limbs refused to do what they were told. Finally, he stood. He was looking the wrong way, away from his friends, out of the playground.

Across a wide stretch of green grass, some distance away, stood a figure. A man, he thought, dressed in a long black coat. Just an oblong of darkness, like a rip in a picture revealing what lies beneath. The sight of the figure sent a shiver through Piotr, despite the warmth of the sun. The man didn’t belong here. No adults came here. Occasionally his mother’s disembodied voice called for him to come home when it was getting dark, but that was all. This was their place.

“Piotr? Come on. Come and push.”

Piotr turned back to his three friends. Danny now sitting on the green merry-go-round. Roger and John ready to start pushing. Roger who could run faster, climb a tree higher, kick a ball farther than any of them. John who knew everything: how to make a bow-and-arrow, how to ride a bicycle no-hands, how to tickle a trout from the water.

None of them had noticed the distant figure. For a weird moment, Piotr felt like he was looking at an old picture of the three of them. His childhood friends. The moment passed. Just the dizziness. He still didn’t feel quite right.

“No,” he said. “I have to go home.”

“But there’s hours yet,” said John. “Come on, let’s spin Danny so fast he goes flying off.”

Piotr turned away, back to the man. The figure was closer now, although still stationary, standing there watching them. Piotr couldn’t see his face but had the weird feeling he knew who this was. He began to back away, keeping his gaze on the man. He had to get away, he knew that much at least.

“Piotr?” said John. “Come on.”

“No. I have to go. I’ll see you tomorrow. Same time as usual, yeah?”

He turned and ran, past the merry-go-round, vaulting the sandpit with a single leap, around the see-saw and away up the grassy slope that led to the woods. His house was just the other side of the trees. He would be safe there. At the top of the slope, beneath the shadows of the first branches, he turned to look back. His three friends were still down there, sitting in a circle, unmoving. The man walked among them, paying them no attention. On up the slope towards Piotr, walking briskly now.

Piotr turned and fled.


At home, his mother looked surprised to see him so early. “Piotr? Are you ill? Have you hurt yourself?” She came over to inspect him with a practised eye. Then, satisfied, she hugged him close, engulfing him in her warmth.

“I’m fine,” he said when she’d released him. “I was hungry. What’s for tea?”

His mother shook her head. “You boys. You eat like horses. Where do you put it all? It’s hot-pot. Your favourite. You’re all flushed, have some water while I put it in the oven.”

Piotr sat at the wooden table in the middle of the kitchen while his mother bustled around, stirring pots and clattering dishes, carrying out an endless stream of activities that made no sense at all to him. The delicious smell of the lamb stew began to fill the room. He breathed it in, savouring it, his stomach rumbling. He was hungry. He looked out of the open window at the square of blue sky. Everything was well. Something troubling had happened, but it was gone now.

After they’d eaten, he sat by the fire and watched the flames. He loved to do that. Faces appeared and disappeared in the shifting glow of the coals. At some point he must have slipped into sleep because he began to imagine the heads talking, trying to tell him something. He thought he was on the point of making out what, when he felt someone taking hold of him, lifting him.

He started awake. But it was only his father, carrying him in his strong arms upstairs to bed.



“There was someone at the playground today. A man. I’ve never seen him before. Except, I knew who he was. Or thought I did.”

“Hush, now” said his father. “It’s nothing to worry about. Let’s put you into bed, eh?”


“And tomorrow you can go and play with your friends. At the playground.”


His father placed him gently under the covers and kissed him on top of his head. Piotr lay for a moment, listening to his father descending the creaking stairs, before sleep came again, dissolving his thoughts away.


He awoke. It was fully dark now. No noise from downstairs. He could hear nothing and see nothing. Yet a sound had woken him up, he was sure of it. A sound somewhere in his room. Someone had spoken. What had they said?

“Dad?” he called out. “Mum?”

A hand gripped his forearm suddenly, its grasp iron-tight. A face loomed out of the darkness right in front of him. The man from the playground. A stern look clouded his lined face. A face Piotr half-recognized. Who was this? Some uncle he didn’t know about?

“Piotr. You must come with me. I’ve come to take you away. Come now.”

Piotr screamed.


He awoke. His heart thundered away in his chest. A dream, just a dream. A nightmare. He was safe in his room, safe under his covers. He lay unmoving for a moment while his heart slowed. He was slick with sweat. He threw his blankets off his body to cool himself down.

When the blankets fell to the floor, the man was standing there by his bed, tall and straight, that scowl on his lined face. He grabbed Piotr by the arm.

“Piotr. You must come with me. I’ve come to take you away. Come now.”

Piotr screamed again. But this time the iron grip on his arm remained.


He awoke. He knew immediately he was really awake this time. It wasn’t the harsh light that told him, or the pumping and wheezing sounds of the machines keeping him alive. It was the feel of his own body; the useless aching weight of it. Back there he’d been so strong, so full of life. Here he couldn’t even lift a hand or make his eyes focus.

He tried to speak, his voice a thin croak. “Why have you brought me back?”

Blurred, fleshy shapes bobbed around in his vision. One grew as it came nearer. A face. It came into focus and there was the man, the man who had pursued him in the regression. He remembered now. Ivan, his brother. His younger brother, not even born at the time of his chosen memory.

“I’m sorry, Piotr,” said Ivan. “Your instructions told us you wished to be woken if ... certain conditions were met.”

Piotr took that in. Ivan was right, of course. Although he had stipulated only one condition.

“Who?” he asked. “Who has died?”

His gaze flickered around the other faces gathered about his bed. His eyes were working a little better now. Amelia, his daughter. Greg and Michael, his boys. Catherine, his sister, youngest of the three. They all looked so old. How long had he been in there? No Janine, of course. Even after all this time the realisation was a shock, a punch to the gut. How he had loved her. But his wife was dead. Long dead.

“No one,” said Amelia, concern clouding her face. “No one has died, daddy.” Her hand touched his. It felt good. Solid.

“Then I don’t understand,” he said. “My instructions were clear. Bring me back to tell me if anyone dies. Otherwise leave me be.”

He knew they didn’t understand, could never understand. He had made the mistake of telling them his choice of regression, thinking, perhaps, to show them he wasn’t favouring any of them. Instead, they all felt slighted. He couldn’t help that. He’d done all he could for them. And it all came down to Janine. He could have picked so many days. He’d been blessed. The two of them in their early days, lost in their private bliss. Later days with the children: Christmases and holidays and games. So many good memories. But in any of those memories, Janine would have been there: a reminder, however faint, that she had died. Really died. And so he’d picked the distant day from his boyhood. Before everything. A day he had all he needed to be happy. An uncomplicated happiness. It was wrong, maybe. A denial. But that was what he’d done.

He heard them whispering to each other, debating something. Ivan’s face reappeared in front of his eyes.

“The truth is, Piotr, no one has died. Not yet. But someone is going to. We tried to contact you without fully rousing you but it proved impossible. Your mind resisted and ...”

Ivan faltered. Amelia took over from him.

“The machines, you see, daddy. They monitor everything, keeping your body alive while maintaining the regression.”

“You mean ... me?”

“Yes. I’m sorry. A brain tumour.”

“How long do I have?”

“Three months,” said Amelia. “Six at the most, assuming you’re going to refuse the treatment. We thought about leaving you to ... go, without knowing. We’ve debated it for weeks. Eventually we decided we had to tell you.”

“Why? That isn’t what I wanted.”

Amelia shook her head. She looked suddenly furious. In truth, she looked like her mother when she was riled about something.

“No,” she said. “But it’s what we wanted. You can’t just expect us to stand here watching you die without being able to say good-bye. Without being able to say anything. You have no right.”

Piotr closed his eyes, trying to take it all in. He had missed them all. Missed them terribly. Now he was here he regretted his decision to leave them. How could he have done that? But back there, that happy day from his boyhood, he didn’t know anything about them. That was the simple truth. Didn’t know what he’d lost. Didn’t know about Janine, a little girl living hundreds of miles away he’d never met.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ve been selfish.”

Amelia gripped his hand tighter again. “Then you’ll stay, now? Let us look after you in the time we have? ”

He tried to reply, tried to make his voice work. He found he couldn’t make a sound. But he saw the look in Amelia’s eyes as he gave her his answer with a movement of his head.


Piotr stood at the top of the grassy slope, the shadows of the woods behind him. The grey clouds on the horizon looked larger than before. He ignored them. It never rained here. His three friends waited for him down on the playground. They called and waved to him. He wondered what he should say to them. But they wouldn’t, they couldn’t, understand. And he was unable to recall, now, exactly what he’d wanted to tell them. Some bad thing. But the sun was bright and they had the whole day ahead of them to play.

He set off, racing down the slope to them. He jumped onto the merry-go-round and called out.

“Push me! As fast as you can!”

Piotr’s three friends began to push the merry-go-round, sending it spinning faster and faster. END

Simon Kewin is the author of “Engn,” “Hedge Witch,” and “The Genehunter,” as well as many short stories and poems. He is a Member of Codex. His previous story for us was “Jumpjacker” in the 12-DEC-2013 update. He is signed to December House.


double dragon