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




Big Boost

By N.E. Chenier

EVER SINCE I’D MOVED into the Happy Haven on Porter Street, he’d been slouched on the staircase between the third and fourth floors. His thick body cocooned in an olive green blanket, he covered five steps. I had to hug the wall to slide past him when the elevator was broken—which was always. He had a weird smell: pumpkin and paint thinner and baby lotion. You may think that’s gross, but you haven’t lived in a dump like the Happy Haven. By comparison, the dude was pure perfume.

Despite the curfew, no one bothered to move him (there were more dire matters being actively ignored in the SRO to go harassing some bum). Once in a while, I would hear him whisper, “Please, please ...” like he was sleep-talking.

It had been one of those mornings, the kind that start at three in the afternoon. I was coming down off a wild, forget-my-ex night only I’d taken the rocky way down, with Melanie’s image on every rock. The early January cold gnawed through my jacket, and I hadn’t eaten solid food in two days. I grappled my way up the stairs and must have jostled the guy because he started grunting and flailing with his blanket.

“Whoa, man, I’m sorry,” I said, tried to help, lifted the edge of the green cloth and froze. Something shimmered. It wiggled, it sloshed without splashing, but it sure as hell wasn’t a pair of legs.

It looked like jellied pho noodles, that is if each noodle was the thickness of a fan belt and if the broth were gelatinous metal. As I watched, it withdrew with a dry hiss under the folds of a brown trench coat.

“I’m still hammered.” I peered at where the guy’s face should have been. Because he had it concealed under a stained fishing cap, I had to hunch to see it.

Not hammered. Dreaming. Make that nightmaring. In place of a head, there was a round dark field, gridded by indigo lines and rimmed by little finger-like things.

I slammed back up against the graffitied wall, bile boiling from my stomach. My head whirled, and my legs felt like they had turned into pho noodles themselves.

He started babbling. It wasn’t his usual please, please bit, but it still sounded like it came from sleep. And echoey, like one would expect from a voice coming out a deep hole in the guy’s head. “Eighty-three years. Come around again. Eighty- three years. The children grown up. Maybe eaten.”

If I’d had it in me to run, you better believe I would have. Of all the strangeness of the neighborhood, nothing had come close to this. I was used to all kinds of human-strange. This wasn’t human.

Still, something kept me there—and, no, not some kind of monster mind control. Melanie kept me there.

Melanie had crooked eyes and wrote poetry with her toes. She would have embraced this weirdness with the full force of her being. A desperate part of me knew staying with this creature on the stairs could be a way back into her life. A feeble hope. We'd already gotten to “Josh, please stop calling me” two weeks ago. Feeble or not, I ignored the flight instincts yanking me in four different directions.

The creature hummed, like a computer recalibrating. The hat shifted to cover the grid-and-finger face. “Please, sir, please, can you get me up there?”

I swallowed. “What, you need a ride?” I asked. Yeah, like I had a car.

“I haven’t moved from this spot on the staircase in eighty-three years, not since she rejected me.”

With a face like that ... I thought, but I said, “Um, wow, well, that’s some serious dedication.” Had Happy Haven even been around back then?

“I cannot move from this spot,” he said, sounding tired. “Here is where she abandoned me. Without impulse, there is no movement.”

After our break up, I hadn’t felt like moving either. “Where is she now?” I asked. “Married?”

Melanie wanted to get married, with the whole house-and-kids deal. Kids loved her. She wasn’t shy about climbing trees or doing somersaults in the grass. I think I could have gone there eventually. She didn’t want to wait for a maybe.

“How to explain this to your kind? Once upon a time in a palace as ancient as the world itself, the Empress sprawled upon a vast bed,” he intoned. “The frame of that bed is anchored in the ice of our world’s mantle.” He stopped the chant and said, “I say she but she is both one-and-many.”

“You’re an alien,” I said, shoving down the freak-out in progress. Would Melanie believe it? I had to get some solid evidence. I fumbled in my pockets for my phone. Unfortunately, the phone-camera shots got the image all grainy. The pictures looked like they were of some guy in a trench coat passed out on the stairs.

I tried to get his face with the flash. The alien spasmed. I stumbled down to the landing. Could he hurt me? Eighty-three years of not moving, I reasoned, I was probably okay. I climbed back toward him.

The flash picture hadn’t captured him either: just a washed out oval, like the head of a blank mannequin. Damn.

Keep him talking, I thought and rifled through the menus on my phone for the voice record function.

“So, what? You had to get away after your girl—um, girls dumped you?” My second stepfather had been like that. He’d blow off to Thailand or Belize after each failed marriage. After he and my mom had separated, it was Morocco.

“You don’t understand,” he said. The blanket flattened. “In my world, only the males are mobile, but we require her command to move. She remains in the chamber.”

He wasn’t just being dramatic, then. “Wild. She’s like the queen bee and you’re a drone.”

“No,” he rumbled, as if offended by the comparison. “She is the brain. I am a hand. Without extremities, the brain cannot experience and interact with the world. Without the brain’s direction, the hand cannot move. Hierarchy does not apply.”

Great stuff. I thought of how Melanie and I used to pick apart old artsy movies, by line and by frame. “Then why did the brain dump her hand here?”

“Your world divides the genders into male and female by birth. We divide ourselves into movers and directors by choice. Female is analogous enough to her because she is that aspect of our kind that chooses to gestate.”

I thought of big gnarly alien queen bees pumping out black gnarly egg-pods.

As if he read my mind, he said, “She is our entire population of females. You could gather several Earths onto the plane of her bed.”

Okay, so I imagined a planet-sized queen bee.

He gave up. “Once upon a time, in that venerable chamber, I moved,” he said in his far-away chant. “I tended the children, each a polyp on her body. When ready, it becomes an itch, and we as her many hands go to scratch. We tear open the membrane with our teeth. She tastes the birth fluid through us and is sated. It sears the mouth, but with such nectar! And the backwash of her satisfaction is a double pleasure.”

My empty stomach roiled. I imagined boils swelling on a mesa of skin and jelly-noodle worms chomping at them. Gross and compelling at the same time. “So how did you end up here?” I asked.

“The directive of exploration.” The voice crackled with electricity. I couldn’t tell if it was happy or angry. “For centuries, we moved about our atmosphere. The storms on my world could shatter and swallow this little Earth. Once, it was thrill enough.”

“You can fly through space.” No space ship, then. Too bad.

“When she wishes it,” he reminded me. “She favored me with a mighty and perilous task.”

“Travel to new worlds,” I guessed.

The noodles under the blanket jiggled. I inhaled a gust of squash and fingernail polish. “Thrust into emptiness, I thought my form would scatter. It was horrible until she felt it as wonderful and held me together.”

“She poured her will into me. My body wrapped itself around motion!” Sound effects swelled within his narration—or at least what he translated into sound effects from the vacuum of space. Out of the head-grid came what I was sure was the chiming swoosh of a comet’s tail, the smashing of asteroids, the slow grinding spin of planets in their orbits, the wash of solar winds, all passing through the medium of the alien’s body.

“Oh, glorious! The experience eclipsed only by her intense response to it. And her focus! I thought I would implode with the concentration she exerted to get me to this warm and watery world.”

He basked in the memory, and I hoped like hell my phone had caught these “sounds” of the universe. Melanie had a lot of focus. She got things done. I always figured we complemented each other. She got impatient with me, though: Mr. Big Plans, no follow through. She wasn’t naggy about it or anything. At the end, I think it just made her sad. It would have been easier if she had been naggy.

The stairwell darkened. The auto lights went on—at least the one that was still working.

“Your gravity was a relief after the Drift,” he said after the cosmic sounds faded. “We played in the winds, so quaint and gentle. She propelled me. Eternal fulfillment was mine.”

The hat dipped, the blanket quaked. “Eighty-three years ago, she set me atop this structure and sent me inside.”

It had to have been a long time ago. The door to the roof was welded shut, fire codes be damned.

“Her desire swelled in me, and then she was gone. I’ve been inert before, when attention shifted to other limbs, other movers exploring. But never so long.”

Melanie got sick of me, too. I patted the blanket. “Bummer.”

“What if something happened in the chamber? Which is worse, to be abandoned by your mind or to have that mind perish?”

We sat in the gloom, two jilted guys.

“There is the possibility she hasn’t forgotten me.” Hope reverberated out his finger-fringed grid. “Maybe we’ve reached the boundary of her influence. I crossed out of it, here.”

Over eighty years ago between the third and fourth floors of the Happy Haven? Hadn’t they re-carpeted in all that time? A glance at the matted pile suggested not.

“So, please, I beg you. It’s almost time. Our perihelion. This world rolls so quickly. Could you please take me up to the top?”

“To the top floor?” I wondered what that would accomplish. Besides, I didn’t relish hefting the alien up the stairs.

“The mountain.”

“But, I don’t have a car.” I looked at my phone. You have to stop calling me, she’d said, with a sadness that tore holes in my gut.

But, what the heck, right? How often are you the one that can help an alien? With my heart in my throat, I speed-dialed her number.

No answer. It wouldn’t let me leave a message, either. I attached the recording and crappy pictures to a text that said, “We need your help getting to Track Mountain.”

I got comfy on the stairs to wait for a response. This could change everything. Melanie comes, we save the alien, we share an incredible experience together. I’d show her that I could follow through on something. I didn’t know what. Maybe turn the recorded sounds into an album? She could write some lyrics.

The alien shattered my daydream with his whimpering. “I beg you. The time is approaching.”

My heart sank. Eighty-three years, and now he was in a rush. I pocketed the phone.

I squeezed my eyes shut and slid my hands along the floor under the blanket. I expected slime, but it was smooth like glass, but pliable. I got my knees behind the heave. It felt like hefting a bag of chunky stew. I swung him onto my back and started down. The way his parts wiggled against my skin creeped me out.

His head lolled over my shoulder. The hat had slipped off and some of the face-fingers brushed my cheek. I grimaced to keep from screaming. Out of the grid-field of his face echoed: “You see, the grasp exceeded the reach. I’m the grasp—”

“—And she’s the reach. Yeah, yeah, I get it.” He was light but awkward, especially with him squirming so much. I stooped to get the hat. Between the hat, the blanket and the coat, I had him more or less concealed by the time we reached the bus stop.

The change in my wallet didn’t cover a full fare out to the trailhead, but the driver let us on anyway. He eyeballed my burden.

“Art project,” I mumbled.

His nose wrinkled. “As long as it’s not toxic,” he said, half-joking.

Even with windows open, the back of the bus was swamped in the stink of baby lotion and pumpkin paste.


The switchbacks up the mountain would have killed me without the alien—or the hangover. I wheezed with every step. My skull couldn’t contain the swelling agony between my temples. Muscles I didn’t know I had spiked pain up and down my legs.

Every time I tried to rest, the alien thrashed and goaded me onward: The perihelion! The perihelion! Whatever that was supposed to mean. His protests pummeled my migraine, but I kept going.

Mountain runners sprang past us like bighorn sheep. I thought of pawning the alien off on one of them. They might have appreciated the added calorie-burning weight, and they’d get him to the top faster.

No, I told myself, I’m going to see this to the end.

It must have taken two hours to crest the peak. It felt like twenty. Track Mountain’s rocky top had been cleared of trees. I scrambled on the boulders to get to the highest point and hefted the quivering alien toward the sky.

Nothing happened.

“Just wait,” he said. “We should be coming around soon.”

What was soon for a guy who hadn’t moved in eighty-three years? My arms took up the throbbing in my legs.

Just when my arms could take no more, he started writhing like some crazed manta ray. “It’s true!” he cried. “There I am!”

Before I could drop him, he was gone. The olive green blanket sagged to the ground. It still smelled like pumpkins.

At that moment, my phone chimed out the ringtone of a call from Melanie. END

N.E. Chenier has been bouncing around the Ring of Fire for the last decade (San Diego, Vancouver, Nagoya, Thailand). Her recent stories have appeared in the anthology “Zombies for a Cure,” “Abyss and Apex,” and “Bards and Sages.”


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