Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Rules Concerning Earthlight
by Dale Ivan Smith and K.C. Ball

Waters of Lethe
by Ian Sales

Return of the Mayflower
by Gerald Warfield

Life Out of Harmony
by Rebecca Birch

Our Old Crossed Stars
by Travis Knight

Another Time in France
by Sylvia Anna Hiven

His Special Birthday
by Chet Gottfried

Sucks to Be You
by Tim McDaniel

8 Minutes, 15 Seconds
by Levi Jacobs

by Steve Rodgers

One-Way Ticket
by Milo James Fowler


Cool Facts About Cats
by Eric M. Jones

A Real Krell Brain Boost
by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips



One-Way Ticket

By Milo James Fowler

JOE AIN’T NO HERO. He just wants to die.

The kids they call him “Roadkill” on account of how them Horrors sucked him up into the sky to have their way with him, then dropped him in the middle of a street full of traffic. Must’ve gotten run over five or six times before them cars and trucks stopped to see what they’d hit. But Joe he just stood up without a bone broke in his entire body and not a drop of blood leaking out. His back’s hurt him something fierce ever since, but otherwise, he’s right as rain.

That’s not to say life’s been a bed of roses—unless all we’re talking about is the thorns.

“Every time we strike back, they just hit us harder.” Kiara she’s on the verge of tears, hunkered down in the booth across from Joe. She’s a big girl, but she carries her extra pounds like they’re no trouble. “We’ve been the cause of so much death ...”

“No.” Joe’s got to stop her right there. “We ain’t the killers. They are.”

Marko shrugs, half-sitting beside Kiara, half-stretched out into the aisle like he’s gonna run at the first sign of trouble. But it’s quiet this time of night; Shaky’s Diner is empty and so is the street outside. Curfew, the military-types call it. Joe knows it’s just the calm before the storm.

“Either way, there’s less of us now to fight back.” Marko blows out a sigh and shakes his shaggy head. He’s a pimply kid as tall as he is scrawny, but he’s also a brave sonofabitch. “Maybe we should just dig in for a while. See how things pan out. The jarheads been talking about some kind of new weapon.”

“Ain’t nothing can stop the Horrors.” Joe looks at them each in turn. “Whatever they did to me, it’s made me just like ’em.”

“Lucky,” Kiara mutters.

“Damned,” Joe counters. “I’ve tried gettin’ shot, stabbed, poisoned—”

“Run over,” Marko says.

“If I can’t die, neither can they. Not by any means we know of.”

“Where’s the logic in that?” Marko winces like he does when things don’t make no sense to him—and that’s been going on a lot these days. “Just cuz you was abducted don’t mean they made you like ’em. You’re still a human being, for crying out loud!”

“Yeah?” Joe grabs a fork from the table setting and plunges it into his own face. Kiara lets out a yelp, then claps both hands over her mouth. Marko stares goggle-eyed. “Do I look real human to you?” Joe tugs out the fork, and his skin heals over like a sinkhole moving in on itself.

“Sure, they changed you,” Marko says low like he’s in a library. “That don’t mean you’re exactly like ’em.”

“Maybe not. But I’m pretty sure if we find something that can kill me, we can use it on them and start seeing some real results around here.”

Kiara frowns. “But then you’ll be dead, Joe. There won’t be a we no more.”

“You’re the future. Me? I’m old, girl. You don’t want me hangin’ around here forever.”

“How old are you, Joe?” Marko narrows his eyes.

“How old do I look?” Joe sits up straight and puffs out his chest like a rooster.

Marko and Kiara glance at each other. “Maybe thirty. Forty tops,” she says.

Joe grins at that. “I might’ve been, back when they snatched me up. But that was near twenty years ago—long before they overran us like they done.”

“And you ain’t aged a day since.” Marko nods. “It’s some kinda miracle. Yet you wanna die.”

“Never said that.”

“You want us to figure out some way to kill you, then turn it on the Horrors—ain’t that it?”

“I don’t want to go up against them without you, Joe.” A tear or two spill out of Kiara’s big eyes, and she’s been doing so good at holding them back.

“Hey now.” Joe reaches across the table to touch her hand. “Them chalk signs you leave out there—” He nods toward the pitch-black street outside. “You’re building a resistance movement here. Folks’ll come swarming like locusts to grass to join up once they see them Horrors take a good kick in the balls.”

“There won’t be no swarm without you.”

“She’s right.” Marko nods. “You die, this whole thing falls apart. Our numbers are slacking off already. That last attack—”

“We’ve just got to hit ’em back even harder.” None of them would be forgetting anytime soon that civilian shelter off Market Street, vaporized by one of the Horrors’ passing air-cars. “Tell me about the jarheads’ weapon.”

Marko shrugs. “From what I’ve seen, it looks like some kind of radioactive plasma stream.”

Joe curses under his breath. “Won’t work.”

“You can’t know that,” Kiara says.

He stares her down and picks up the blood-flecked fork. “I’ve already tried radiation. My skin bubbles up like a cheese pizza, then settles right back down. And I’ve lit myself on fire, too. Hurts like hell and gets me blacker than coal, but I heal up just fine.”

“Why don’t you go to the jarheads?” Marko says. “Show ’em your powers. Then you could be their secret weapon!”

“I don’t work for the Man.” Joe sets down the fork. “I just want them freaks off my planet.”

“But what if you’re the only one who can kill ’em?” Marko leans forward. “Ain’t that worth goin’ to the Man and—”

“I been poked and prodded enough by them Horrors. Don’t need to have it done by my own kind.” Joe slides out of the booth to stand. “Now show me where the jarheads have stashed that new gizmo of theirs.”


Ever since the Horrors blasted the world with their EMP’s, there ain’t been no computers or communications between the central government and the military compounds they set up in every major city. Here in San Diego, the National Guard and the Marines joined forces and set up camp alongside Pacific Highway, just north of the international airport where all the planes in one piece sit grounded like ghosts in a graveyard. The jarheads are pretty much on their own here, despite the pony express style messages they send and receive by motorcycle couriers braving open stretches of empty highway. Some poor souls get snatched by the Horrors’ air-cars. Some don’t—the lucky ones, that is.

The Horrors are none too easy to figure out. They don’t attack in any sort of pattern. They come and go as they please, and nobody seems to know where their base of operations is located. That would just make things too easy, of course. Public opinion favors the idea they’ve got a ship in orbit, only nobody can see it because it’s got some kind of invisibility shield. Others say the Horrors have a nest out in the desert, and nobody can get close without being turned into a pod-person, brains jammed full of alien eggs to hatch into a whole horde of Horror babies.

Marko drives his Chevy pickup, a rusted old diesel manufactured long before the days of air bags and computer chips. It rumbles along desolate side streets and back alleys with no headlights on. Tonight, thankfully, the moon gives out all the light they need. Kiara she’s wedged in tight between Marko and Joe, and they can feel her jiggle with every bump in the road.

“So much for sneakin’ up on ’em unawares,” Joe grumbles as the Chevy groans around a corner.

“The MPs are clear over on the other side of town. We should have another thirty minutes before they get back to base.”

“You better be right about that,” says Kiara, thick arms folded across her ample bosom. “I don’t fancy spendin’ the night in jail with you two.”

“I don’t get the curfew anyhow. It’s not like the Horrors only come after dark. They attack whenever they damn well please!”

“It’s the Man’s way of pretending he’s still got power, son,” Joe says. “He can’t admit the whole country’s in the crapper. We’re at the mercy of freaks from a whole ’nother planet, but you’ll never hear him say so.”

Up ahead, a generator-powered searchlight mounted on a spindly tower sweeps the whole area. Marko kills the engine and eases the Chevy into a litter-strewn gutter.

“We’ll hoof it from here,” he says and throws open his screechy door.

Besides the roving light, everything’s dark. Marko’s got his trusty bolt cutters, and he leads the way through a hole in a barbed chain link fence, deep into shadows clinging to an abandoned aerospace factory. Joe brings up the rear, impressed by how fast Kiara can move when she’s got to.

Marko takes them to the north end of the base. Once upon a time, this was a marine recruiting center, perched right alongside Pacific Highway. As a kid, Joe used to think about joining up, but college got in the way of such plans—higher education and job training and the family he started with his blushing Nubian princess.

Ashes in the wind now.

Marko’s got his cutters out and he’s snipping through the compound fence. Joe and Kiara remain in shadows behind a concrete storage building. Marko pries the fence open and heaves the gap wide enough for Kiara to fit herself through, and Joe follows. Marko gestures them onward toward a pair of padlocked doors thirty yards down the concrete wall. He joins them and breaks through the lock. The door don’t even creak as he heaves it open.

It’s black as pitch inside, but Kiara she’s got her flashlight on, and it pierces the dark like a white spear.

“There,” Marko whispers and forges on ahead.

The thing on the steel table looks like a standard-issue flamethrower, the kind Joe’s father used in Vietnam to burn through the jungle and roust out ol’ Charlie. Nothing special about it.

“This place reeks.” Kiara wrinkles her nose. “Like burned meat.”

Joe nods. “What’re they testing this thing on?”

Marko shrugs again. “Let’s just take it and go.” He struggles to lift the canisters, his hands twisting in the leather harness for some leverage.

“Show me.” Joe steps back from the table, and he’s just a dark silhouette against the searchlight’s glow outside the open door. “Let’s see what this thing can do.”

“Here? No way!”

“We’ve gotta know it works.”

“Can kill you,” Kiara says, and the tears well up again. “That’s what you mean.”

“Shine your light over there, girl.”

Kiara does so, and the glow of her flashlight falls on some kind of reinforced wall with a clear window at eye level and a hole about where the flamethrower’s nozzle would be if somebody were to hold it on the other side and poke it through, aiming it this way.

“Both of you get behind there, and you let me have it. That’s an order.”

Marko scowls at Joe in the flashlight’s glare. “They’ll catch us for sure if they see it go off.”

Joe glances outside. “Nobody around that I can tell. C’mon now.” He plants his feet and squares his shoulders. “Let’s get this over with.”

Marko and Kiara know better than to argue once he’s got his mind made up. They work together to haul the flamethrower off the table and buckle it over Marko’s skinny shoulders. He almost tips backwards, but Kiara’s there to keep him steady. They slip behind the protective barrier, and the nozzle peeks through, looking right at Joe. He braces himself.

“Fire in the hole.” He squeezes his eyes shut.

Cursing the whole situation, Marko activates the device. A stream of fire ruptures forth unlike any blast from any flamethrower they’ve ever seen. It looks more like Kiara’s flashlight beam, but one made of liquid fire. Gritting his teeth and clenching his fists on impact, Joe groans as his body burns to a pustulating crisp. He drops to his knees while the world fades away and pain rages through him like a broiling inferno.

He’s only vaguely aware of voices shouting and lights flashing. All he can do is shiver in agony the likes of which he’s never known as his skin starts doing its thing, sizzling and rippling, rejuvenating itself—an ability he never asked for, that’s for sure. He curses. The fool gizmo didn’t work. He’s still alive, damn it.

“Stay down!” an unfamiliar voice barks as he struggles to his feet. “It’s one of them, sir!”

“No!” Kiara she’s crying again. “He’s one of us!”

More shouts explode amidst the pandemonium, and strong hands clamp onto Joe, hauling him outside and throwing him to the ground. Marko and Kiara follow, cursing a blue streak as they hit the cracked asphalt right beside him. Joe fights his crusty eyelids, forces them open to find half a dozen marines with submachine guns trained on him and his friends. An antique jeep idles nearby with military police lights spinning. The searchlight on the tower has finally found something interesting, making things bright as day in this little corner of the world.

“One of you?” the marine scoffs. “So the aliens are looters too?”

“He ain’t no Horror!” Kiara says. “He’s human!”

Joe coughs and tries to speak, but his voice gargles as his throat continues to heal itself. His skin’s charred beyond recognition. He raises his arms over his head to show he’s no threat, but he sure looks and sound like one—as alien as any Horror.

One marine yells, and all six commence firing, the rounds punching through Joe’s burnt flesh and ricocheting off the pavement behind him. He collapses over backward like a rag doll. Kiara screams her fool head off. Marko curls into a fetal position.

“Cease fire!” The marine in command advances on Joe and nudges him with a boot.

Joe’s eyes open, their whites a stark contrast to his charred skin. “We’re on the same team here, soldier,” he rasps.

The marine staggers back in shock and awe.

“Sir?” A subordinate emerges from the storage facility. He’s got the flamethrower device in both hands, his muscled arms straining against the weight, and he’s holding it toward his superior like it’s some kind of evidence.

But that’s when a spotlight appears overhead, brighter than the tower’s and overwhelming in its strange, other-worldly quality. Time seems to stand still as harpoons from above puncture each of the marines—even the one with the flamethrower—and haul them up screaming into the light and the air-car beyond. The flamethrower hits the pavement with a resounding clunk.

Joe grates out “Run!” and Kiara and Marko don’t have to be told twice. They take off like sprinters in the summer Olympic games. But the air-car lets loose with its pulse cannon, and a shockwave hits the ground with such force that everything in its wake is vaporized: the whole compound, Marko, and Kiara. Ash is all that’s left behind.

And Roadkill Joe, of course. The flamethrower too, for some reason impervious to the Horrors’ blast. Was it constructed from alien materials? If so, how’d the marines manage to get a hold of such a thing?

But Joe’s got other concerns at the moment—one in particular. A dark silhouette plunges out of the air-car above, and at first it’s just a big black blob against the light. But as it hits the pavement, landing in a crouched, ready position, its form becomes all too clear: a pair of thick legs, four muscled arms, each with a handful of razor-sharp talons, slick, greasy green-and-white mottled skin—as much like mold as anything else—a flat face with bulging yellow eyes, and tentacles that wriggle and sway from its head like living dreadlocks. As soon as the thing lands, it locks its lidless eyes right onto Joe.

The Horror advances on him and twitches its head with curiosity. Joe’s recovering skin shivers, covered in gooseflesh, as he backpedals, crab-walking in reverse. But it’s useless. The thing catches him in two strides, just as Joe bumps into the abandoned flamethrower’s canisters. The Horror reaches out one of its long talons and traces the sharp tip down Joe’s neck and chest.

He flashes back to his abduction, seeing and smelling one of these things so close for the first time in over twenty years. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, and that’s a fact. But now he gets only one thought imbedded in his mind, a silent prayer repeating like a broken record: “God, don’t let it be female.” He can only imagine himself as a pod person, his brains jammed full of rotten alien eggs—

The Horror pukes thick black sludge into Joe’s face, and it smothers his mouth and squirms into his ears, nose and eyes. The stuff’s alive, clinging to him like a second skin. Joe falls backward and reaches out for the flamethrower, blindly tugging the nozzle and squeezing it. The first jet of flame strikes his own shoulder and he screams—tries to, but the sound’s muffled by the muck. The Horror makes a gargling sound that could be mistaken for a chuckle.

Joe turns the weapon on the sound, and the gargling changes into rabid shrieks. He can’t see the freak engulfed in fire, the flames eating up the ooze secreted by the Horror’s skin like gasoline. He’s got no hope the weapon will end the thing, but at least it might stall the creature long enough for him to wipe this damned goop off, hell-bent on slipping into his facial orifices.

The Horror’s quiet now, so Joe turns the nozzle onto himself, feeling like he’s dunking for apples in the fires of hell itself. But it does the trick; the sludge stops wriggling. Dropping the flamethrower to the asphalt, he scrapes off the stuff with his fingernails, taking some of his own skin with it, truth be told.

The only light comes from that air-car hovering above, silent as an angel of death. The harpooned soldiers are nowhere to be seen. Joe stumbles to his feet and buckles on the flamethrower harness.

“What’re you waitin’ for?” he hollers up into the light, so bright his eyes squint and shudder, caked with the remains of that alien goop streaking his face.

This time, it won’t be just one of the Horrors sent down to investigate. It’ll be a whole posse. Joe points to the charred remains of the one he killed. That’s right: killed. It ain’t gonna be moving again anytime soon.

“C’mon now, what else you got?”

The air-car’s light goes out quick as a flashlight snapped off, and the thing vanishes into the night without a sound. Joe’s left alone on the ash-covered pavement where a military compound once stood, just him and the lonely moon.

And the crispy Horror, of course.

He hefts the flamethrower hose in his hand and nods to himself. This thing can actually kill the ugly bastards. The marines finally did it, made a weapon that works against them. Yet it wasn’t able to kill him. Go figure. Maybe Marko was right, maybe the Horrors didn’t make him just like them.

He hoped to find himself a one-way ticket out of this messed-up world, and instead he ended up losing his only friends, not to mention those men and women in uniform who only wanted to protect their own kind from the Horrors. That’s not how any of this was supposed to pan out. But then again, things so rarely ever go according to plan.

Joe blinks his eyes, surveying the destruction all around him. What kind of weapon could do this? Some kind of high-intensity active-denial microwave?

He knows this much: he’ll have to stick around for a while and see what he can do—for Kiara and for Marko and for those soldier’s hauled off to who-knows-where for who-knows-what. Maybe even for the whole damned planet.

He shoots a little more of the plasma-flame into the alien corpse, just for good measure. But he’ll need to conserve what’s left. It don’t run off some magical, inexhaustible supply, that’s for sure. He’ll need to reverse-engineer the thing and the stuff inside it to see if he can make more. Might take some time to figure it all out, but truth be told, time’s something he’s got plenty enough of.

For now, anyways. END

Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day and a writer by night. He’s an active SFWA member with work published in “AE,” “Cosmos,” “Daily Science Fiction,” “Nature,” and “Shimmer.” He previously appeared in the 12-MAY-2014 “Perihelion.”


Yellow Glad Days




mystic doors