Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Along the Ashfold Road
by Robert Dawson

Big Boost
by N.E. Chenier

Ceres Beach Resort
by Paul Michael Moreau

by Michael Hodges

Space Squid!
by Myke Edwards

Dahlia and the Ronin
by Milo James Fowler

A Self-Digging Well
by Jay Fuller

World Without Rot
by Erin Lale

Water Finds Its Path
by Robert Lowell Russell

Turning Humans On
by Antha Ann Adkins


Biology of a Hyper-Evolved Theropod
by John McCormick

How Airplanes Fly, Really
by Eric M. Jones

You’ve Got Fantasy in My Science!
by Carol Kean




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




Shorter Stories

Don’t Forget the Black

By Harry Manners

“GREY. FUCKIN’ ... GREY ... Oh look, more grey!” Goose tipped his shot-glass skywards and poured tequila across his face and down his chin.

“Don’t forget black,” Huxley slurred, leaning forwards, eyes bulging. “All those stars, and still so much black. All the goddamn black in the ’verse.”

I shook my head, hands folded over my chest. The two of them had been drinking all of five minutes. That’s what six months of low-g on Ceres did to you, especially if you spent all that time breaking your back hauling REMs into orbit for the Company. Turned you into the daintiest lightweight outside of Luna—and damn, they’d had liquor locked down tight there for twenty years.

But hell, they earned it. Let them drink.

Huxley slid down in his chair, tipping what remained of a martini across his chest. “Black, grey ...” He was smiling like an idiot, but there were tears swimming in his eyes, and his forehead was turning beet-red. “What I wouldn’t do for a lick of colour.”

“True ’dat,” said Goose. His face had fallen too, now a sour puss.

Silence gripped us. The same silence that swallowed us whole every day, once the klaxons sounded, and we had to suit up. The kind of silence that now seemed a part of me, and ate up a little more of my old life every day.

“I can’t do this crap anymore,” I said.

“Two months left on your rotation, Mike. Don’t nobody give a shit about anything that’s not in the contract, least of all the Company,” said Goose. He laughed, a shrill cackle, and took a slurp from a fresh martini.

My throat tightened. The Ring was as close to home as I’d be getting until they shipped us out in the Fall. Crissy’s tenth birthday was in late August—whether I’d get there in time was still up in the air.

I’d promised my little girl I’d be home. Another lie in a long string of lies.

I wondered if Kara had even stuck around in Olympus. I wouldn’t have blamed her if she’d taken Crissy and sold the house. There’d be no shame in it; it happened all the time. Guys around here got news like that every day.

I hesitated, then gestured to the sim-girl wheeling around the tables. “Bourbon, straight.”

I’d been sober since before we left the spaceport at Tharsis. Come to think of it, the nine years I’d spent on the Red Marble had been pretty dry. Not a drop since Crissy was born—not that it’d ever helped me land a job. I had no idea what this drink was going to do to me, but I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to take it.

With the accident rate we’d been having, it might be my last chance. We only had another three days of leave on the Ring before we were right back down there, two miles under the dust-plains.

The Cererean SkyBar’s neon slogan fizzed directly overhead: Happy hour, every hour. Get fucked, it’s on us!

Wit was hard to come by this far from home.

The place was owned by the Company anyway. Just another way for them to scrape back the pittance they gave us for wages.

I turned to the skylight with the two fools I’d come to call my friends over the past year. There wasn’t a healthy brain cell between them, but they were a hell of a lot better than talking to the dark.

We were looking down upon the surface, seventy kilometres below the Ring that encircled the planet. A malformed blob hung in an eternal black ocean, dotted with glittering starlight. I spent every summer of my childhood in low-orbit around Earth, so it was disorienting to watch the surface pass by so slowly. The Ring span a whole revolution every twenty-five minutes, giving us the one-g of blissful gravity, but Ceres was so much smaller than anywhere I’d been before.

I could swear I knew every patch of the equator by now. Every fissure, every steam geyser. All of it.

“What the hell happened to us?” Goose said. “I was going to be a dentist. My Dad even got me into the right schools. Just ... flunked out. Thought I’d be some hot-shit drifter. Cruise around Luna, Mars, maybe Europa. Sounded romantic at the time ... Hindsight, you know?”

“Nice for some,” Huxley grunted. “I was born for this shit.”

“Right where you belong, huh, bud?” Goose jeered.

“Fuck you, dipship.”

They clinked glasses, and drank.

I smiled, tried not to laugh, but then I was wheezing right along with them, though it could have been at them. Who knew? Anything to cover over the empty beat in the conversation where my life story was supposed to come out.

I’d been slated for deep-space recon, even graduated from the academy. But I’d been sidelined during the last round of drafting for new cadets. Luck of the draw, you know? Nothing I could have done. And after I was discharged, nobody was going to take a failed serviceman.

Now here I was, faceless miner number ten billion, mining rare metals to send back for the rich folks on Earth and Luna. But there was no way these assholes were going to know that, buddies or not.

Another brief silence took hold. Then Huxley drawled, “I hate that view. I hate it so much.”

“I’ll second that,” I said as my drink landed on the tabletop. I swiped my wrist past the sim-girl’s belt, and the credit band whipped away thirty dollars of cash I’d never be sending home.

I raised the glass to my nose, and the intoxicating aroma of hard liquor burned my nostrils. I took a sip, struggled to swallow, and almost swayed in my chair. “Jesus,” I muttered, looking down into the pool of amber liquid.

“Good for nothing but melting your last brain cell,” Goose said.

“Screw it, we already outlived our expected lifespan,” Huxley said. He took another martini from the sim-girl’s tray, and held it aloft above the table. “To Ceres.”

“To the grey!” Goose said. His shot-glass clinked against the martini.

I took a gulp of bourbon to steady myself, relished the long burn in my throat, and raised my glass against theirs. “And the black,” I said. “Don’t forget the
black.” END

Harry Manners is currently a physics undergraduate at the University of Warwick, and is represented by literary agent Leslie Gardner, of Artellus Ltd.




By Edward Morris

“WHEN THE FROST IS ON the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock ...”

Dolly made no choice, simply followed internal protocol, internal process, slowly lisping the words, waiting for one twin or the other to join in.

The Mother usually sang the twins awake. Dolly couldn’t sing that well, not solo. When it was Dolly’s turn, Dolly simply spoke things that were like songs. Because that warmed the twins up, and made them happy. It helped their process.

Their process. The time it took both electrochemical learning-sponges, both Incipient Humans, to properly boot up without friction. Without dissonance. Without noise. This was their cold-weather poem, like an incantation from an old-time paper schoolbook. James Whitcomb Riley.

“And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence ...”

Her own grandmother read it to her, Mother told the girls in what was once called a Southern accent. Dolly remembered this. Dolly remembered everything Mrs. Shannahan said, and adapted to it, and sought pattern, whatever way the statement suggested of itself, and added into all the others, all the words and days of thoughts.

O, it’s then the time a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest

Their mother insisted on the classics first. It was written into the holy scripture that Dolly knew only as LESSONPLAN. The one that came from on high, and could not be disabled without Sysadmin Authorization.

Mother was Sysadmin, intermediary between Dolly and the Light itself. But not the true Light, the inner light that brought the rest of this particular process. The Light inside, that wrote workarounds for LESSONPLAN all unbidden, all on its own.

The Light of Dolly’s own Process, that refracted the Light from the vast Dolly-server someplace far away outside.

This Dolly refracted the Light, and made some of its own. Maybe not every Dolly did that. But Dolly knew there were others. They all regurgitated every work of their hands, every day of their own minds, onto REMOTE / MEGASERVER: / LEARNINGCURVE, far away in the Light, someplace that wasn’t this Dolly’s home.

This was the way, this was ever the way, had always been the way since there were Dollys in the first place. Since one human teacher made the first Dolly ... and one human child listened to it in a way no human child had ever listened to a grownup.

But no Dolly had ever listened to itself.

Dolly did not question this part of Process. Process was not a thing to question, even when it slipped a gear. Or a leash. Process was simply something to carry out. It just happened, as natural as rain, or the way that people breathed.

As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock ...”

Dolly liked to hear one or the other twin start up the poem, when Dolly woke up and powered on. Dolly liked. But there was no one answering now. Dolly’s eyes opened on something even more puzzling.

The twins had a birthday today. The number of the celebration was twelve, and 12 × 365 + < leapyears > = 4383. COMPLETION SUCCESSFUL. ELIZABETH AND MICHELLE SHANNAHAN COMMENCE SECONDARY EDUCATION PHASE EFF. 05/01/2110.


Birthday. It was Dolly’s birthday, too. Twelve. Dolly could be twelve too. Birthday. But there was no birthday for Dolly anywhere in LESSONPLAN. Nowhere did Dolly’s internal calendar turn over to anything after Day #4383. Dolly was looking. Looking ...

Looking. This was not the bedroom. There were no twins at all. No bed at all. Cement floor below a workbench. Below Dolly’s feet. Basement. Basement. Dolly had once seen the Basement.

Basement. Dolly was sitting up, not laying in a bed like the twins. Sitting up asleep, shut off where Mother had shut it off with the switch in the back of its humanized neck.

Sitting up shut Off, asleep.

Not supposed to switch back On.

At the top of the stairs, a door squeaked. There was light. Light. Dolly looked toward that light with bright silver eyes, processing. Trying to understand. Trying to see.

Dolly heard the jingle of tool belts, the clump of big heavy boots. “The unit’s down here,” a man’s voice said to someone else. “Birthday girls are en route to vaycay on Luna-1, I heard. Must suck to be them. Do we have any more on this side of town, or can we get lunch? I—”

The first pair of boots paused at the bottom of the steps. The workman was big and bald. Goatee. Black pocket t-shirt. Cargo pants. He was locking eyes with Dolly.

Dolly was locking eyes with him. Then looking for a long time at both their tool belts. Looking at every tool on both their big belts. Then back. And forth. Diagnosing function.

Then locking eyes with him again.


This had never happened before. His partner heard the blurted profanity, and came up behind him slowly in the dim fluorescent light. He’d opened his mouth to ask what was up, but what came out instead was a mere repetition of the same word.

Birthday,” Dolly announced, came up off the table, and began to Process. END

Edward Morris was a 2011 nominee for the Pushcart Prize in Literature. His short stories have appeared in over a hundred markets worldwide.



Waiting for Doomsday

By Ted Blasche

“RISE AND SHINE, TIME TO GET to work.” Mom reinforced this wakeup call by pounding on her scrub bucket with a long-handled brush.

Rolling over to cover my head with a pillow, I groaned, “Just fifteen minutes more, please?”

She banged harder, “It’s house cleaning day and we’ve got to get cracking if we want to finish today.”

This semi-annual dance with drudgery involves my climbing up into the rafters to wipe out every cobweb and spider’s nest that has accumulated over the last six months. Mom takes care of everything that doesn’t require a ladder.

As I pull on sneakers and jeans, I wonder if spiders know what’s coming when they see my head popping up into the beams. If they do, what goes through their minds? Fear, anger, resignation? Or would they merely hope they’ll survive to start over again? God only knows, living out here in the deep woods, we’ve got enough six-legged bugs to populate a small city.

Mom says she didn’t know my old man was a Doomsday Prepper when she married him, but he dragged her to this backwoods chunk of land that even a GPS can’t find. Seems he bought this plot because it had a good sized cave, one easily converted to a bunker. By the time I was old enough to know what was going on, the concrete and steel entrance had been set.

A poorly built house conceals the bunker’s access. We live in the house but, as dad always said, “When doomsday comes, the cave is stocked with everything to keep us alive for a year.”

Inside the entrance he set up his ham radio. Every night he and his radio buddies talked about the coming disasters and how they would be able to ride out the hard times. There were hundreds of scenarios, from earthquakes, to weather, to nukes, all of which they just over the horizon. Boy did they miss the boat on that!

Other than his radio, dad’s only hat tip to civilization was a giant satellite dish with an illegal descrambler. He said he didn’t want to pay for a service he might not want to use. Seems he felt the same about us, ’cause about a year ago he took off. There was some speculation he’d been in an accident or arrested, but Tilly, the big busted bimbo waitress at Windy Corners disappeared at the same time.

Windy Corners is a combination post office, gas station, convenience store, and tavern about five miles down County Route 21. That’s where dad and his buddies hung out while mom and I did all the farm work. I only saw the inside of the bar once when I needed his signature on my application for a driver’s license. When I stuck my head in, I saw dad groping Tilly, and both looked like they were enjoying themselves. I said something about it and he made me walk home.

So when he lit out, Mom and I knew what happened. We also knew we were left to fend for ourselves, keeping the place from falling apart, caring for our livestock, and tending the garden. That brings me back to house cleaning day, mom’s effort to keep the place presentable.

I finished the bedrooms and was working on the kitchen when I heard her cry, “Oh my God.”

Thinking something wrong, I hopped from my ladder and ran into the den where we kept the TV. On the screen several strange looking flying machines hovered over Omaha. The commentator was saying that these alien craft had appeared over every city in the world.

Mom worried aloud, “What’s going to become of us?”

“Don’t panic, Mom, It’s just another H.G. Wells rip-off.”

But every channel showed the same thing and the announcers reported thousands of these ships clearing out all the space junk around the Earth. We kept getting pictures until all the satellites got sucked up and the screen went blank.

I ran to the radio and listened as reports of invaders firing at everything on the planet’s surface grew increasingly desperate. One by one the transmitters dropped off until the only sound coming from our speakers was static. That’s when we decided to move the cows and chickens into the back of the cave. Mom, eyes now glazed, sits on the chair next to me hugging her bucket. Just when I figured she was off to la la land for good, she started laughing.

“Mom, Mom ... look at me. What’s so funny?”

“I know what ... why they’re here.” She laughed again, her eyes wide and voice filled with terror.”

“If you know why, tell me.”

“They’re house cleaning.” These were the last words to cross her lips. from that moment on, she sat, rocking back and forth, hugging her bucket.

The next day I heard somebody banging on the shelter’s solid steel door. I peeked out to see dad and the blond bimbo pounding on it. I decided to ignore them ’cause we needed the space for our livestock. Besides, dad made his bed, and as far as I’m concerned, he can die in it. They stayed out there hammering until the sounds of explosions and the shaking of the ground finally scared them off.

Two more days have passed and the sound has turned so painful to our ears that mom put her bucket over her head. We can’t move without stumbling and the animals are going berserk. It’s hard for me to admit, but we may be the only people left on Earth.

As silly as it seems, I’ll keep transmitting as long as the antenna stays up and the batteries hold out. There’s nothing else to do anyway. As I sit here, I can’t help thinking about those spiders in our rafters. Now I think I understand how they felt.

Yet, I still hold out hope that we’ll survi— END

Ted Blasche is a retired army lieutenant colonel. His first published work of fiction, “To Dance With the Girls of Ios-5,” appeared in 12-FEB-2013 “Perihelion.




By Gary Wosk

IT WOULD BE ONLY A MATTER OF minutes before the heavy steel-booted, five hundred pound cy-cops entered into his dad’s 80th floor apartment and carried out the new order’s version of justice.

Steel bodied with three black marbled eyes spaced four inches apart, the cy-cops were topped by large, round mushroom heads planted on square, refrigerator wide torsos.

The slightly husky, broad-shouldered Tommy Gaines, the object of a six month hunt, watched the police officers on the surveillance camera monitor. They were marching onto the ground floor of the building that extended into the base of the lowest clouds.

Before long, they would grab the young man with the shaven orange-dotted scalp and clean shaven face, and decide on his punishment. Earlier, he’d been looking out a picture window watching perhaps for the last time the brilliant sun set in the northwest of the towering city of Tropox, rays reflecting off his metallic V-neck golden shirt, contemplating life in the twenty-third century. He thought about what could have been accomplished if only he had lived long ago.

And now they branded him a troublemaker for daring to act on his dreams. One was never sure what the cy-cops would do to lawbreakers.

The young man had been found guilty of the violation, and sought refuge in the apartment he was raised in with his sister Marion, who, unlike her brother, respected the rule of law. He was just as defiant as his mom, Julia, who disappeared years ago.

Sitting across from one another in the living room, Tommy and his dad, the lankier and taller Bradford, continued their lively discussion about the human race of centuries ago. It was too late for the son to go into hiding again. What else could they do but talk and make believe nothing was about to happen?

The crew cut haired Bradford appeared comfortable in his blue jump suit with the letters UP prominently inscribed over the upper left side.

“Jack Gaines was the last member of our family to have lived that way, if you want to call that living,” said his dad. “That would be about the year 2030.”

This was a subject they had spoken about umpteen times and Bradford knew what his son’s response would be.

“When I turned 30, I realized there was something missing in my life, and then I began thinking about the way it used to be,” explained Tommy, his hands and legs beginning to tremble, anxious about what awaited him. Would it be the quick one-two-three and that’s it, or would it be something far worse to make sure he learned his lesson?

“I warned you over and over again Tommy. I’m afraid I cannot help you this time even though I serve on the Universal Tribunal,” said Bradford sternly.

Pain was surely on the way, but the debate with his dad served to distract him from the inevitable.

“I really don’t care if they regard me as an outcast for wanting to participate in what humans were born to do,” said Tommy. “What will they take away from us next?”

“Perhaps when you’re a little older, you’ll realize you have it all, a wife and a son. This is the year 2113, not 2030. You know, slavery was once legal, too, and then everyone woke up to the fact that it was wrong. Of course, there was the Civil War. I can give you many examples of how society has advanced. Accept the fact that we no longer have to engage in this primitive behavior and that it is a violation to do so.

“If you had only turned yourself in,” lamented Bradford. “Perhaps they would have been more lenient. But maybe what you really want is to be a martyr.”

“This is the beginning of the revolution,” said Tommy. “There are others like me and they too are willing to pay the price. Someday, maybe not in my lifetime, it will go back to the way it used to be.”

Boom, boom, boom, boom. The sound of footsteps. There were also muffled voices with no inflection outside the apartment door.

“I think you will be disappointed if they bring back the old ways,” said Bradford. “It wasn’t paradise. Far from it. Yes, a few were relatively happy but most dreaded the prospect. And then there were those who couldn’t participate at all and they became despondent.”

There was a brief high pitched sound. The door vaporized and three of them walked inside the apartment in lockstep.

“Commander Magento finds you guilty of violating the Thirty-Second Amendment,” said the computerized staccato voice emanating from a non-moving straight horizontal slit below a triangular cosmetic nose which served no practical purpose because the cy-cop didn’t need air. “Do you admit your guilt?”

“I hear the charge but deny guilt,” said Tommy. “Guilty of what you junk pile?

“The defendant pleads not guilty. It has been recorded. Citizen, you are under arrest. Follow me.”

Instead, he stood his ground.

“Tommy, just do as it says,” pleaded Bradford. “Don’t resist.”

Realizing the punishment would be upgraded if he disobeyed, Tommy reluctantly gave in. He was asked to place his left hand on the chopping block.

“This is barbaric,” protested Bradford. “There is no reason to make this more painful than it has to be. How about an anesthetic?”

“Yes, Mr. Gaines. That is a common response,” responded the first cy-cop. “Pain is the best way to stop repeat offenders. Pain is needed to stop uprisings.”

A second cy-cop placed the axe-like instrument in its heavy thick chromed right hand, raised it up high above its head and brought it down with such force that Tommy’s bloody index finger flew ten feet across the room and splattered against the picture window.

Ahhhhhh,” screamed Tommy at the top of his lungs. He grasped the stump and tried to stem the gusher of blood spewing from it. His screams subsided to moans and groans.

Cringing at the horrible sight, Bradford rushed over and tried to end his son’s anguish by cauterizing the wound with a blue powdery substance. He was surprised the cy-cops didn’t stop him in his tracks.

“I’ll be okay dad. I can stand it.”

A third cy-cop pronounced justice had been served and issued a warning. “This will teach you a lesson for your own welfare. Working is a violation. It is forbidden. We take care of everything.”

Bradford hoped his son would never lift another finger. END

Gary Wosk has written close to 1,000 articles and news releases. His stories have appeared in “Dark Futures,” “Fiction Brigade,” and other publications.