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




Water Finds Its Path

By Robert Lowell Russell

FOLEY SHOULDERED THROUGH THE crowd waiting outside the town’s barbed wire fence. Riot-armored deputies flanked the local foreman while the man scanned credentials. Dozens pressed around him, vying for his attention.

Squeezing through a gap, Foley shouted, “Medical! Do you need medical personnel?” From behind, a foot tangled his, and a hard shove pitched him forward, sending him skidding over the dirt.

The deputies used their stun-guns like pry bars to force a pocket into the throng. Work-worn leather boots stepped before Foley and iron hands clamped his wrists, lifting him from the dust.

“You a doctor?” The foreman placed his sun-reddened face near Foley’s. “Seem kinda young.”



“Well, there’s a problem with my—”

The foreman stepped away, letting the pocket collapse.

A stray elbow clipped Foley’s jaw as he tried to escape the crush of people. He emerged, spitting blood and dust.

Anna was there, and she took him by the arm, leading him to an old bucket she’d found on the side of the road. She wet her thumb and wiped grit from his face.

“Did you get the job?” she asked.

Anna never could play the straight man. The smile filtered from her brown-black eyes to twist the dimples on her cheeks.

He didn’t feel much like laughing, but he did anyway. She held his hands, never minding the sweat, and for a moment, it felt to him as if the sun’s blaze changed to the dappled cool of a forest.

Prying his eyes from hers, he forced the ache behind his ribs down into his rumbling stomach. “We’ll just try another town.”

“Sure. Let’s see what’s close.”

He hopped from the bucket, trying to remember how it looked to walk with a spring in his step.

Approaching the info-booth, they passed Lil in line at the way station. The white-haired woman nodded to them, and when it was her turn at the spigot, she held her palm over the sensor. “Gin, please.” When her bottle was full, she took a sip then spat. “Goddamned machine gave me water again, Henry!”

Henry chuckled inside the booth. When the elderly man spotted Foley with Anna, he dropped his hand from the screen. “All yours, son.” He pulled his hat from his head and bowed to Anna with an elaborate flourish. “M’lady.”

She giggled, a sound that still startled Foley whenever he heard it. Giving his hand a quick squeeze, she went to chat with the older couple.

The booth’s screen read: [Logoff YES/NO?]. Foley glanced over his shoulder, then tapped NO. He double-tapped the icon for Keaton (pop. 8,457), a town eighty miles west. The [WANTED] list advertised the usual agri-temp positions but nothing else. He double-tapped a town to the south, Dixon (pop. 9,123), then sighed—more temporary positions. The map showed a handful of smaller towns scattered off the main road, their names grayed. When he tapped them, the display flashed NO DATA.

Foley turned at the sound of children laughing.

In case anyone had forgotten, Lil was demonstrating the proper way to wrestle an Everglades alligator. She thrashed on the road, waving her arms as the gathered kids encouraged the pantomimed battle. Anna clapped and cheered along with them.

He watched until a chime from the booth demanded his attention. Sifting through menus, he tried to glean what information he could about the medical facilities in the two nearby towns. He scanned names, specialties, and board certifications. When he found what he wanted, he logged off.

A trickle of people kicked dirt as they moved toward the roller station. The waiting, double-decked vessel looked like two airliner cabins stacked on massive wheels. A sudden glare forced him to shade his eyes.

Yards away, a girl in her early teens tucked something metallic into a pack. She was all angles and knobbed knees, her hair, dirty blonde. She wore a faded green dress and loose sneakers. When her eyes met his, she smiled and raised her hand.


The driverless roller crept west past the bones of towns, its solar-powered motors humming in the sun. Some houses lay open to the weather, dust trickling through their shadowed doors. Plastic sheeting covered other homes in an attempt to preserve the past. On cracked earth lawns, grills and swing sets beckoned.

Now and then, Foley spotted green fields in the distance with guard drones circling above them like vultures. Near the crops, wide signs warned away trespassers. Through the lens of the heat shimmer, he could make out details: corporate logos and the seals of distant cities announcing to all, and to no one, who owned the acres of soy and corn.

Inside the roller, booth style seats lined each side of the vessel and a wide aisle cut down the middle. In evenly spaced rows, six adults could face one another with a certain degree of intimacy.

Lil sat with him on one side of a booth. Henry and Anna napped in the seats opposite. The young woman used the older man’s chest as a pillow while he buzzsaw-snored into her dark curls.

In a booth ahead of where they sat, a woman whom Foley had met the day before asked her husband, “What about Kansas City?”

Mr. Kovac regarded his wife in silence, letting the question hang. When he caught Foley glancing his way, he glared until Foley bent to tighten an already perfect lace.

“Go back to the rat maze?” Kovac asked. He paused, as if waiting for a punch line. “Live here, do this, do that,” he continued, enunciating each word. “You want more of that?”

Foley peeked to see Mrs. Kovac turn a darker shade of pink. She fussed over her children: a ten-year-old girl and a younger, soft-faced boy.

Lil pointed to a road sign proclaiming a town dry. “That meant something entirely different when I was young. You remember when the eggheads were still calling it the drought of the century instead of desertification?”

He nodded. “I couldn’t wait for summers. Every year, I decided that was the year I was going to jump off the high dive at the community pool. I always chickened out. My dad would say, It’s OK, kid, you’ll do it next time. Then the Water Diversion Act passed, and there wasn’t going to be a next time. So the day before all the pools closed, I didn’t think about it. I climbed to the top, took a breath, and jumped off the edge.” He smiled. “Best moment of my life.”

“I loved the cities,” she said. “But living in them now, it’s like you’re a fish fighting for air in a drying pond.” She nodded to Henry. “I told him we should go to a wet country, but he wanted an adventure on the open road, to feel the wind in his hair.” She snorted. “Eight miles an hour doesn’t whip up a lot of wind.”

“And he doesn’t have much hair.”

She laughed.

Foley left his seat to purchase a pair of ration bars from the roller’s vending machines with his dwindling supply of cash. The dried mangoes, jerky, and milk ’n cereal bars he’d packed for himself and Anna when they’d left Chicago hadn’t lasted long.

She was awake when he returned, and her smile made his heart pound. He handed her a bar and took a bottle of vitamins from his pack, giving them each a pill.

“One, two, three,” he said.

They swallowed the vitamins, Anna sticking out her tongue after. He rolled his eyes and let the pill he’d palmed slide silently back to the bottom of the bottle.

Henry stretched himself awake and pulled a ration from his own pack. Grinning, he also removed a plastic silver platter, a remnant of a child’s tea set.

“Your lembas, my dear.” He presented the food to his wife.

Groaning, Lil broke the bar in half, then took the smaller portion.

“Hi, I’m Chloe.”

Foley jolted in his seat.

The girl in the green dress stood next to him in the aisle. She held two L-shaped metal rods in one hand and sat down next to him, scooching him with her hips.

“How long have you two been married?” she asked.

Anna’s eyes went wide and she straightened herself in her seat.

Foley twisted the tarnished steel ring on his finger. “A week.”

The “wedding” had been Anna’s idea—she’d heard from someone that the towns preferred couples. She’d come to him and said, “I do,” then shoved a ring onto his finger. His hands had shaken when he’d given her a matching ring, completing the ruse. Blushing, she’d even pecked his lips to seal it properly, and Henry had opened a bartered tin of Spam, crying “Mazel tov!”

“You’re on your honeymoon!” said Chloe. She rested her fingers on Foley’s arm, gripping the metal rods with her other hand. “Was it a big wedding?”

“Huge!” Anna motioned for Chloe to sit next to her. The girl sat next to Henry instead and peeked around the old man’s chest.

Anna batted her eyes as she recounted the imagined event. She and Foley had ridden on horseback. There’d been swans and doves, centaurs and griffins, maids and groomsmen in shining armor.

Chloe sat, entranced, one hand resting on Henry’s arm, the other on the rods.

Mid story, Foley excused himself to use the lavatory, and when he returned, Chloe had moved to sit with Mrs. Kovac. The girl tried to coax a conversation from the woman but eventually gave up and made her way farther down the aisle, stopping to chat in broken Korean with a group of People’s Republic refugees.

“Is she a Dowser?” asked Lil.

“Think so,” replied Henry. “Though I’ve never seen one so young.”

“What’s a Dowser?” asked Anna.

“Like a fortune teller, I guess,” he replied.

Chloe spoke to everyone on the bottom deck, and when she climbed the stairs to the upper deck, Foley followed her.

A marshal slept in a booth near the top of the stairs. Security on the rollers was rarely an issue. No one could afford to be kicked off the transports—it was too far to walk between the distant towns. Agribusiness conglomerates had created the roller network to get pickers from crop to crop, but the towns had negotiated to allow anyone to use the transports at no cost.

The Braceros and other permanent riders tended to stay on a roller’s upper half. Extended families lived top deck, bringing what they could carry, sharing and trading what they couldn’t.

Ahead of Foley, riders smiled as Chloe moved down the aisle. An elderly woman clasped the girl’s hand, whispering something when she bent her head. The girl replied in Spanish, and the group sitting with the woman einfo boothrupted with laughter.

Chloe made her way to an empty seat and rifled through the contents of a backpack, lifting a wide, worn book with the AAA logo at the top. She spread a map across the floor, then held the metal rods in her hands and closed her eyes.

He sat in an empty booth across the aisle from her. The atlas was open to the Texas panhandle, and she gripped the short ends of the rods, waving the longer ends side to side like insect antennae. Shifting her feet, she rotated her body one way, then twisted back the other way. Eventually, the rods seemed to “catch.” She opened her eyes and stuck a finger on the map, laying the rods over the page.

Without looking from the atlas, she said, “Could you grab a pencil from my pack? The outer pocket.”

Foley rummaged to find the pencil and handed it to her. She marked the map with a small X. The page was lighter in spots where older marks had been erased.

“I thought you found water with those things.” He indicated the dowsing rods.

“That’s right. You can find water in all sorts of places: aquifers, springs ...” She patted his hand. “People.”

“Everything has its own vibration,” she continued. “It’s like when you can feel music, even with your fingers in your ears.”

“The rods look like coat hangers.”

She gasped in mock insult. “These are heirlooms! Passed to me by my grandfather and to him from his grandfather.” Chloe wagged a finger. “Used to be no one drilled a well without Elmer Durst’s say so.”

“What were you doing just now?”

“Working out where the pieces fit.”

“What do you mean?”

“When you do a jigsaw puzzle, how do you start?”

Thinking for a moment, he said, “I find the edge pieces, then work my way to the middle.”

“I don’t. I start in the middle where it’s jumbled, then figure out who belongs where.” She picked up the rods. “Water always finds its path.”

“So, do you know where I fit?”

“Families are harder to read. Life pushes and pulls folks differently. Sometimes people’s paths are the same, sometimes they aren’t.” Chloe studied him a moment. “You and the missus are ... complicated. What are you looking for, Foley?”

“Where’s your own family?”

She smiled at his evasion, then thumbed through the atlas, and opened it to another map. Chloe tapped a finger on a penciled X. “There’s my dad, give or take a day’s ride.” She flipped to another map. “And there’s my mom, give or take.”


When Foley returned to the bottom deck, Anna traded places with Lil and sat with him by the window. Together, they watched the sky turn orange and pink as the sun sank below the horizon.

The roller halted in the darkness, powering down its environmental systems. At night, the vessel’s dim lights and stale air made it feel like a tomb. Foley, Anna, and most of the other riders disembarked to make camp and sleep under the stars. A klaxon would warn them back aboard the roller before it resumed its route the next morning.

Some campers used dried grass, sticks, and scrap wood to build small fires—more for mental comfort than warmth. Most nights, Foley and Anna lay near one another on separate mats, usually in Henry and Lil’s company. This evening the older couple had excused themselves to find somewhere more private.

As he lay with Anna in the darkness, snores wafted from parts of the road. She rested her fingers on his palm.

They sat up at the crunch of shoes on asphalt, and Chloe appeared before them, lit by pale moonlight. The girl pulled the rods from her pack. “Would you like me to show you?”

Anna nodded.

Chloe led them from the clustered camps. They passed Mr. Kovac and his family huddled by themselves around an electric lantern. The man’s eyes tracked them as they moved by.

When Chloe stopped, she closed her eyes and twisted in place, swishing the rods side to side. When they caught, she marched off the road, eyes still closed.

He hesitated. “Is this safe?”

But Anna followed the girl immediately, and he scrambled to catch up. Together, they tiptoed through dried fields.

“Where are we going?” asked Anna.

“To find water,” replied the Dowser.

They’d walked about ten minutes when a windmill loomed from the darkness. Chloe tucked the rods away and put her hand to a flaking water pump, then held out her fingers, letting the moonlight glint off the moisture. Kneeling, she scraped dirt from a buried pipe, then followed it a short distance.

“Blackberries!” she called.

The trio spent time picking berries from the bramble, and no one minded the occasional slurp, smack, or burp. The girls laughed when he cleaned his purple fingers with his tongue like a cat.

“Should we bring some to the others?” asked Anna.

Foley formed his hands into a bowl, and the girls placed two dozen or so remaining berries into his palms. Somehow they made it back to the road without him tripping and flinging the berries into the darkness.

While excited murmurs filtered through the camps, children darted from the night to snap berries from his hands like hungry birds. Moments after the last blackberry had vanished, a voice said, “No more, huh?”

Mr. Kovac’s eyes shone in the moonlight.


The westbound roller arrived at Keaton the next morning. A few dozen riders from a northbound roller were already shuffling from the town’s fence. The foreman had come and gone, and the chatter was that a family of five had been asked to join the community: the mother a civil engineer, the father a fiber optics technician. The few temp jobs cutting broccoli were gone, too.

Kovac, standing near Foley, spat into the dirt. “I’ve strung fiber.”

Foley and the others headed to the way station. Henry and Lil filled their own water bottles, then they topped off Anna’s and his canteens with their remaining ration.

Kovac was there again, waiting near Foley in line. The man scowled. “Why aren’t you scanning in for your allotments?”

“No reason to waste the water,” said Lil, pushing past him.

“Get any gin?” asked Henry.

Lil smiled and shook her head. Limping a little, she joined Anna resting by the side of the road.

Henry motioned to the info-booth. “I’m going to check my messages now, Foley.” He arched an eyebrow. “Coming?”

Chloe waited for them outside the booth. Opening her atlas, she pointed to an X in Florida. “You know this place, Henry?”

He put his hand to his mouth. “That’s where I met Lil.”

“You two should go back there.”

Henry glanced at the dowsing rods peeking from Chloe’s pack, then he turned to gaze at his wife waiting on the road. “One more adventure, back where it all started? That’s a heck of an idea.”

Logging himself into the booth first, Henry stepped away. “Lil!” he called. “I’ve had the strangest craving! Chocolate dipped frozen bananas.”

Foley used the booth to check on the nearest towns. Bailey (pop. 10,213) waited sixty-five miles to the north. He double-tapped the [Wanted] list, and his heart started thudding in his chest. [Miscellaneous Medical Personnel]. Two positions!

The klaxon for the northbound roller blared.

He ran to Anna who was hugging Lil. Both women were teary-eyed.

“We’ve got to get on that roller,” he said to Anna. “Right now!”

“There’s a job?” she asked.

He held up two fingers.

Lil grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him close, kissing him on the mouth. “You take care of her.” She motioned them away. “Now go! Quick! Like bunnies. Rollers don’t wait for goodbyes.”

Henry settled for a handshake.

Foley ran to catch Anna who was jogging toward the station. He pumped his arms, weaving past men, women, and children. When he tried to follow Anna across the roller’s gangplank, rough hands yanked him backward.

“Where are you going?!” screamed Kovac. “What do you know?”

Foley shoved him away.

Inside the transport, he spotted Anna ascending to the upper deck. Following her, he found her seated next to Chloe.

The Dowser pulled the atlas from her pack and flipped through the pages, stopping on a map with an X. She traced a finger along the highway leading to Bailey, and he smiled. No harm in getting a Dowser’s stamp of approval, he supposed.

Chloe shifted her finger to a dot off the main highway. “Talbot. That’s where you need to go.”

“You’re sure?” asked Anna.

Chloe nodded.

His face grew warm. Anna said something he couldn’t hear over the ringing in his ears.

No!” He spat the word with such force it shocked him. “No. There’s a clinic in Bailey. There’s a job. We’ve finally caught a break, and I’m not going to blow it. We’re going to Bailey.”

“But that’s not where you fit,” said Chloe. “You belong in Talbot.”

He flung his hands into the air. “You want us to go to the middle of nowhere because you got some kind of feeling with your magic coat hangers?” He laughed. “I’m already in the middle of nowhere because of—” He snapped his mouth shut.

“Because of me,” Anna finished. She stood and walked from him. Chloe trailed after her.

He ignored what were sure to be disapproving looks from the Braceros sitting nearby. There wasn’t time for fairy tales. He had to find their place, soon.

When Anna returned a few minutes later, her eyes were puffy. She sat close, resting her head against his shoulder. “Foley, when we left Chicago together, I didn’t really know you, but you asked me to trust you, and I came.”

Chloe looked tired as she sat in the seat across from them. “You can’t feel what I feel, Foley,” she said. “But it’s not magic. I told you that families were complicated. It took me a little longer to find your path.”

Anna took his hand. “Please come with me.”

He sighed. They’d been on the road for weeks, going wherever the rollers took them. Whatever decisions he made always turned out wrong. He squeezed Anna’s hand. “Of course I’ll come.”

It took five hours for the roller to reach the Talbot crossroad. When it was time, the trio descended to the lower deck and hit a panel to open a road-level hatch. The vessel slowed to the pace of a brisk walk, and they stepped easily to the asphalt. A faded sign read: Talbot, 5 Miles.

Seconds later, a voice called from farther down the road. “I knew I’d figure out your game,” said Kovac with a triumphant sneer. His wife ran beside the roller, helping her children off. “You’ve got some kind of stash out here,” he continued. “Something you don’t want anyone else knowing about.” He tapped his chest. “Well, I know.”


The pavement ended a mile from the main highway. Weeds and scrub dotted the gravel road leading to Talbot. The afternoon sun glared overhead while Foley and the girls walked side by side. Kovac followed ten paces behind, his wife and children trailing.

Chloe kept glancing over her shoulder. “I don’t know what to do.” She seemed close to tears.

When they spotted a sign announcing: Talbot, 1 Mile, Foley stopped. “I’ve had enough. You two keep going.” He turned to face Kovac. “Take your family back to the highway.”

The man’s face turned red. “You don’t tell me what to do!”

Chloe stepped in front of Foley and pulled the rods from her pack.

“Let me try again, Mr. Kovac,” she said. “I’ll find where you belong.”


Anna’s scream jolted him. The young woman’s fingers were tinged red. Blood dotted her dress between her legs.

Rushing to her, he guided her to a leafless tree on the side of the road. “It’s OK. Spotting isn’t unusual during your first trimester.”

Her eyes went wide. “You know?”

“I read your chart at the clinic.”

“The father—”

“I don’t care. You don’t want him to find you, right?”

She shook her head. “He’ll hurt me.”

“Enough of this garbage!” Kovac roared.

Foley turned to see the man wrench the dowsing rods from Chloe’s hands, then bend and distort the wire. “Quit stalling and—” Kovac screamed and clutched the sides of his head, then sagged to the road.

Foley scrambled to him. The man’s chest was still. Pointing to Kovac’s children, Foley said, “Run to town. Tell them I’ve started CPR.”

A mewl spilled past Mrs. Kovac’s lips.


Foley’s arms and back ached from the compressions. Kovac’s eyes were fixed on the sky. When strangers appeared around them, someone put a hand on his shoulder and drew Foley from the body.

He found Anna sitting with Chloe in the back of an old army surplus diesel. Kovac’s family huddled in a separate corner. He heaved himself aboard and asked Anna, “How are you feeling?”

“The bleeding stopped.”

“That’s a good sign, but we’ll still need to get you to a hospital.”

“He’ll find me.”

“Anna ... do you want this baby?”

She hesitated, then nodded.

Chloe held the ruined rods in her lap. He moved to sit beside her. “I’m sorry about your heirlooms.”

The girl offered a weak smile. “They’re just coat hangers.”

“Did you ... do something to Kovac?”

She didn’t answer at first. “That’s where his path ended. I couldn’t help him.” Tears welled from her eyes. “I’m not sure I want to do this anymore, Foley.”

The townspeople loaded the body into the truck. No one spoke as they rode the last mile to Talbot. At the town’s edge, a hover shuttle set down, and pair of EMTs darted from the craft. One checked Kovac, the other wrote on a data-pad, then they loaded the body onto the shuttle while Kovac’s family watched.

Foley and the girls stood away from the others, Chloe trying her best to straighten the rods.

“Can you use those for yourself?” he asked. “Find out where you belong?”

“I know where I belong. My destination never changes, only the path I take.” Closing her eyes, she swept the rods before her. When she’d finished, Chloe approached Mrs. Kovac. “Kansas City,” she told the woman.

An EMT asked Foley, “You three coming, too?”

He shook his head and the shuttle lifted away.

Talbot was small. Junked cars, parked end to end, marked its edge, and the road ran through a gap in the wall. A courthouse and what looked to be abandoned stores, formed the town’s square. Scattered neighborhoods were visible just beyond.

A middle-aged man and woman cradling rifles blocked the gap into town. An older, white-haired man stood between them. “We’ll drive the three of you to Bailey, if you’d like,” he said. “But I’m afraid that’s all.”

Foley stepped forward. “My wife needs a doctor.”

“I’ll call the shuttle back,” said the older man.

“No,” said Foley. “We won’t go to a city.”

The man held out his hands like he wanted to push them away. “Whatever trouble you’re in, we don’t need it here.”

The armed pair locked rounds but kept their barrels low.

Foley took Anna’s hand, leading her forward.

“We can’t take you,” said the older man. “We don’t have the water.”

Speaking in a strong voice, Chloe said, “These are good people!” Her words rang in the air. “This is where they fit.” She lifted the damaged dowsing rods over her head.

For half a minute, the trio guarding the town stared at the Dowser, then to each other, then back again.

Finally, the older man shrugged. “Better come on in.”

He led them to an old five-and-dime lit by large windows and a skylight. A jumble of woodshop tools, old electronics, and random medical equipment filled the old brick building.

The older man disappeared into a back room, and Foley spotted an ultrasound machine amid the equipment when the store lights flickered on.

He guided Anna to a patched barber’s chair. Next to it rested a card table with a large first aid kit on top. She smiled as he brushed the curls from her face. Plugging in the ultrasound, he ran it through its warm-up diagnostics, then asked Anna to lift her dress.

He held his breath as he moved the paddle over her uterus. The image of the fetus appeared normal. Hearing the whum whum whum of its heartbeat, he let out his breath.

“It’s beautiful,” she said.

“Mind if I have a look?” The older man wore a white coat and a stethoscope around his neck. Rolling an office chair to where Anna sat, he moved the paddle across her abdomen, checking the image on the machine.

“About ten weeks?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Your baby looks strong and healthy,” said the doctor. “Too early to tell the sex. How old are you, darling?”


He nodded. “You just need some bed rest.”

Chloe kept Anna company while the doctor led Foley outside.

“Bull-spit that girl is nineteen,” said the man.

“I’m not the father.” Foley twisted the ring on his hand. “We aren’t really married. We haven’t even ... She’s so young.”

The doctor waited.

“Anna came to my clinic,” Foley continued. “She had that look—know what I mean? She was going to run.”

“So off you go with the damsel in distress?”

“I took a breath and jumped.”

“What were you?” asked the doctor. “An intern?”


“Good. Means you know how to get your hands dirty.” He put his hand on Foley’s shoulder. “There are no dragons to slay here, just splints and stitches.” He stretched his back. “At least until I can teach you more.”

The doctor turned to go back inside the building. “And son ...”


“The way that girl looks at you, I’m pretty sure you’re the father.”


The next morning, Chloe stood with Anna at the edge of town. Foley waited a short distance away.

“I found what you asked for,” said the doctor, joining him. The man handed him a package wrapped in yellowed paper.

“What is she?” Foley asked, looking toward Chloe.

“Couldn’t say,” said the doctor. “What they do sounds like hogwash to me, but one of her kind found the aquifer that keeps this town alive.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “Seems like everyone in this world is teetering at the edge of a cliff, daring their neighbors to jump. And you know some idiot will, just to be first.”

The man nodded to Chloe. “Maybe the Dowsers are here to buy us some time, give us all a chance to step back from the brink.”

Anna hugged Chloe. Foley approached the girls and drew two L-shaped, copper rods from inside the paper. They looked golden in the morning light, and Chloe’s face lit up when she saw them.

“They’re wonderful, Foley,” she said. “Thank you.”

He hugged her to him. “Promise you’ll visit?”


Then with a smile and a wave, the Dowser started back down the road. END

Robert Lowell Russell is a SFWA member and a member of the Writeshop and Codex writers’ groups. His stories have appeared in “Penumbra,” “Daily Science Fiction,” “Stupefying Stories,” and other places. He is currently pursuing a nursing degree.




peter saga