Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Remy’s Town
by Megan Neumann

by Andrew Hook

Her Robot Babies
by Brent Knowles

Beyond the Reach of Proof
by Seth W. Kennedy

Here Is a Fighter
by Eric Del Carlo

Invasive Species
by Kurt Heinrich Hyatt

Deciphering an ET Opening Screen
by Marilyn K. Martin

I Once Was Lost
by Edward Morris

by Melanie Rees

Respect of Headwaiters
by Tais Teng

Toy Soldier
by Leon Chan


A Case Against Saucers
by John McCormick

Atomic Light Bulbs
by Popular Mechanics




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips



Remy’s Town

By Megan Neumann

PEOPLE TALKED ABOUT LIVING IN THIS town like it was something shameful. I didn’t want to know how people talked about me. They probably called me things like fat slob. Or the loser who still lives with his mom. Never left the trailer, that one. He’s lazy and worthless.

Or maybe they said nothing at all.

I never heard what they said about me, but Mom was always good about telling me what was said about everybody else. She’d come home from work, her hair reeking of grease from the griddle, the smell permeating the trailer. I’d grow both hungry and disgusted from it.

“Now, Remy,” she’d start out.

She’d talk like it was some story of intrigue, but it was always just mundane gossip.

Gossip was all there was to talk about in this town.

“Let me tell you what Amber did,” she’d say, her eyes wide, her lips pulled into a grin.

I’d listen intently, desperate for news of the world outside the trailer. I couldn’t wait to hear what had happened.

This was, of course, before the Game, before I knew what had occurred even before she said it. This was before I could tell Mom exactly how her night went.

The first time I mentioned something I’d seen in the Game she was frightened. Someone like her jumps to conclusions when you mention things you should have no way of knowing.

“Remy, have you been seein’ things? In your mind, I mean.”

“What sorts of things, Mom?”

“Like pictures of people and their goings on.”

“No, Mom,” I said, finding myself strangely amused. “I haven’t seen any pictures in my mind.”

“Then how’d you know Sharon ran off with Daryl like that?”

“Probability,” I said, shrugging. “Mostly probability.”

“Mmm,” she said, nodding. “Must be a damn psychic. Who’d have thought?”

The Game started four years ago. Though I no longer thought of it as a game, it did start out that way. I developed it because, what could I say? I was lonely. I hadn’t left our home for ten years and had no plans on leaving anytime soon. I never thought the Game would become so much more, so much my world.

I built it as a simulation, one that was based on this little town. I knew everyone in this town through and through from my mom, gossiping the way she did. I know I’m not terribly creative, but creating original characters with realistic personalities is hard. Isn’t it enough that I coded the whole damn thing myself?

The Game was built so that I could control the characters. I kept a log of their actions, and those actions were processed to form a sort of memory and personality.

I built the town piece by piece, starting with the diner where Mom worked. That’s what I knew best. Then I added the 7-Eleven. Mom and the manager, Bob Harris, liked to trade stories of what they’d seen in their workplaces.

I had five characters at first: Mom, Amber (a waitress who worked with Mom), Bob, Sammy (a regular at the diner), and, of course, me. That was the only difference between the real world and the Game—my presence.

I tried to keep my character from interfering much with the actions of the others. Most of the time, I’d keep myself out completely, letting the events take place as they happened in real life. Then afterwards, I’d throw myself into the mix just to see how it would change everything. Sometimes it made no difference at all. Sometimes it changed a character’s day or week. But nothing major. After the change happened, I would go back and erase it. I didn’t want my appearance changing the characters permanently.

I had been building it for three years, slowly allowing the characters to play themselves. I’d speed up the time in the simulation when I got bored. When I did that, things would happen faster than they were happening in real life. That’s when I started to notice the similarities.

One day, Mom came home and said, “Jesse decided to drop out of school today. Tried to get a GED, but failed.”

“I figured he would do that,” I said.

“Why do you say that?” Mom asked. “You’ve never met Jesse. His family only moved to town two years ago.”

“You’ve talked about him,” I said, not mentioning that I had known Jesse for over a year. I had followed him in my simulation as he asked out Amber, got rejected, wrecked his truck, and then finally, deciding school was nothing but a waste of time, dropped out, opting instead to get a job at his uncle’s furniture repair shop. He’d make good money there.

“Have I? I guess I have,” Mom said. “I guess I’ve mentioned everyone in the town, at some point or another.”

That wasn’t strictly true. Initially, there were holes in the program. There were people I didn’t know. Things happened without an obvious explanation. These holes were filled over time with Mom’s input and better algorithms.

Whenever there’s a hole in the simulation now, the program runs thousands of simulations, sorting by most likely. I fill in the details later, so that the actual reason for the occurrence is logged correctly.

Now, 99.3 percent of the time the simulation sorts the possibilities correctly. I have a 99.3 percent chance of determining what will happen in this town.

Some people might think I’m a creep, but what do I care? I’m apart from the world, living my life on the couch, in this trailer.


“Now, Remy, let me tell you,” my mom said the night I ran the simulation that would change everything. “Horace has been working nights up at the plant for weeks now. But he shows up in the diner tonight. Do you know what he says to me?”

“That he quit his job?” I suggest, knowing that’s exactly what had happened. Horace had, in the simulation, gotten fed up with the long hours and little pay. His wife was sick of it too. When Nadine was sick of something, you had better listen. She had a fierceness to her that refused to go unnoticed.

“What?” Mom said. “No. No, he’d never do that. He needs that job to keep Nadine’s medical bills paid. No, he came into the diner tonight because he said the plant is shutting down.”

“What?” I asked. This was not something the simulation had determined. The plant was the town’s number one source of employment. Without it more than half the town would be out of work. But the simulation would not have predicted something like that. The inner workings of the plant were not part of the Game. The people had always been the focus. It was always the people. Now, you can’t say anything to anyone about it!” she said squeezing my arm with her bony fingers.

“Who would I tell?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Remy! Someone on that Internet of yours, most likely. Who knows who you talk to on that thing all day?”

No one would have been the answer to that question.

“Don’t say a word. Not a thing to anyone! It’s top secret, Horace said. He’s not even supposed to know, but the supervisor likes him. Told him to take some of his vacation time to look for work elsewhere before he gets canned. Supervisor told him he might as well use up his vacation now ’cause he ain’t going to be compensated for it, nope he won’t!

“Now can you believe that, Remy? Can you?”

I shook my head. “No, Mom, I really can’t believe that. When is it shutting down? Did he say?”

“In just two weeks! That’s no time at all. And without warning to anyone else. What’s going to happen to our little town now?”

I shrugged. I honestly had no idea what would happen to our happy, little town, and that frightened me.

“I have some stuff to do,” I said. Normally, I’d spend hours with her in the evenings, chatting about the town, making notes in my mind on what had happened. I would normally check the simulation for accuracy afterwards. The Game was my life, the only thing I had.

I needed to enter some new parameters. I needed to program in the plant closing in two weeks. It would take a lot of coding and probably a while to process. Each entity within the game would be changed.

Mom looked hurt when I told her I needed to be alone. Then she looked suspicious.

“You’re not going to tell anyone about what I told you are you? I keep my word, and Horace made me promise it wouldn’t get out.”

“I’m not going to tell a soul,” I said, starting up the console of the Game. She patted my shoulder and smiled. “We’re going to be OK when this happens, you and me. We don’t have to worry. The diner will keep on. Don’t be afraid.”

“I’m not,” I lied. I wasn’t afraid for Mom or myself really. I was mostly afraid of losing the accuracy of the Game. I had already played simulations three weeks into the future. All of that data would need to be erased, the simulations redone.

I was busy coding when I realized Mom wasn’t there anymore. She must have left the room. This didn’t surprise me; I sometimes forgot about the real world when I was lost in the simulation.


It was light out when I finished coding the changes for the plant. I stretched my arms and yawned. I’d been up all night working. The thing would need to be compiled and restarted, so I hit compile and scheduled a restart. Then I closed my eyes, pleased and content. The town would be fine now. I had been worried for nothing.


“Remy! Wake up!” It was my mom, standing over me, her hands on her hips. She took this stance when I was in trouble, but I hadn’t been in trouble in years.

“What is it?” I rubbed my eyes, my vision blurred.

“You’ve slept the whole day!” she said. “You were sleeping when I left work this morning, and you’re sleeping now. Look outside!”

I glanced out the window by my couch. It was dark out. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I was on my computer all night. I must have exerted myself.”

“Pfft!” she said. “I can’t imagine you exerting yourself.”

“Mom!” I was used to being bullied by kids when I was younger. They’d call me things like the blob or jellyroll. But Mom had always been supportive. She never said anything about my weight. Maybe she should have.

“I’m sorry, baby. I’m so sorry. I’ve just had a bad day.” She sat on the chair beside my couch. “You remember me telling you about Horace yesterday?”


“Well, come to find out tonight he’s gone and killed himself.”

“What?” I sat up. “Why would he do something like that?”

“Because of the plant closing, I guess. Maybe he figured he’d never be able to find anything else. Maybe it was Nadine and all the pressure she’s been putting on him to support her. You know she has that sickness and can’t get out much. She’s such a bully.”

I opened the laptop in front of me. The game had restarted after compiling. It should have noted that the plant was shutting down and only Horace and my mom knew about it. I had included the details of Horace using his vacation time to look for other work.

Sure enough, he had killed himself in the game too. He did it in his garage with the car running. I watched it replay the simulation. I knew I should have been heartbroken, but I felt very little for most of the characters in the game, even if they were real somewhere in the world.

I was pleased with the results of my changes, but I needed to verify everything with Mom.

“How did Horace die?” I asked loudly enough for her to hear in the back of the trailer. She was moving around in her bathroom, probably taking her hair down and wiping away layers of makeup.

She sniffed once; surprisingly, it was loud enough for me to hear it in the front of the trailer.

“You all right, Mom?”

She sniffed again. Then I heard the trumpeting blast of her blowing her nose. “Yeah, I’m all right,” she said, her voice shaking. “I’m just sad. I just talked to him yesterday, you know. Now what were you asking?”

She walked to the front of the trailer, rubbing lotion over her red and pockmarked face.

“How did Horace die?”

“Why would you want to know something like that? It’s a horrible thing to know.”

I shrugged. “Morbid curiosity.”

Her eyes became glassy. “His garage,” she said. “With his car.”

I nodded. I’d never had anyone die from anything but natural causes in the Game. Those often weren’t accurate because it was difficult to predict when a body would stop functioning in its old age. Many historical factors become important. Usually, when it did happen, there was a range of plus or minus ten days.

“Good,” I mumbled.

“What?” Mom yelled from the back of the trailer.


I felt a rush of relief, knowing my world wasn’t destroyed. I decided to speed up the simulation so that it ran several times faster than real life. Then I slowly made my way to the kitchen to eat. My body ached from being immobile, each movement seemed to strain my muscles and drain me of my energy.

Getting to the bathroom, sitting on the toilet, and then, worst of all, standing up again were the hardest parts of my day. Recently, I had trained my body so that I only had to do it once. I did all my business in one sitting, which was, I figured, aremy's town good use of time and not to be misconstrued for laziness.

I threw a frozen dinner in the microwave and stood in the kitchen waiting for it to finish. I couldn’t figure out why my body had gotten so big. If anything, it should be shrinking. I hardly ate; I had maybe one Lean Cuisine and a Diet Mountain Dew a day. I didn’t feel hungry like I used to. I stayed the same, though—the blob, the jellyroll.

The me inside the simulation was smaller, but only just. He could get around well enough, move through the town. He wasn’t so morbidly obese that people stopped to stare at him. This was one of the differences between real life and the Game.

When I sat in front of the computer again, the Lean Cuisine steaming hot in its tray, I slowed the simulation. It was a day ahead of real life. I clicked on Amber’s avatar and watched her at her house. She was my favorite character in the Game. I had a crush on her in high school, but she never knew I was alive. Nowadays, she was a good friend to my mom. Because of that, I felt she was a good friend to me.

Something seemed off about her avatar. She was sitting on her bed, staring forward. I increased the speed of the simulation to get past this, but she stayed there. She stayed in one spot for hours.

“What’s wrong with you?” I said aloud. Mom had fallen asleep in her bedroom, so it would be the simulation and me for the rest of the night.

The simulated Amber answered my question by rising from her bed, going to her bathroom, and starting a bath.

“There you go,” I said. “Take a nice long bath. It’ll make you feel better.”

She started to undress and the blurred image of her naked body filled the screen. I always blurred out the nudity in the Game. I’m not a pervert.

She took something from a bathroom cabinet that I couldn’t see. I zoomed in and saw it was the image of “Generic Object.” This was just a blank box for objects in the Game I didn’t have images for.

I looked at the logs of her activity to see what the actual object was. The log said, “Amber takes father’s razor from bathroom cabinet.”

“What the hell?” I said.

In the Game, Amber lowered herself into the tub. She made some motion with her hands that I couldn’t decipher. The movements of the characters were sometimes poorly defined, especially if it was some action I didn’t think would happen often.

I read the log again.

“Amber slits her wrists with a razor blade. Lowers bleeding wrists into water of bathtub.”

“What the hell?” I repeated. “Amber, what the hell?”

“Remy, what’s wrong?” Mom called from the bedroom.

I couldn’t answer. Amber had always been happy. Why had she done this to herself?


“It’s nothing!” I managed to say. I decided I must have made a mistake recoding the program for the plant closing. Something must have disrupted the characters’ personalities.

The only way I knew to find a flaw in the game was to rerun the simulation and monitor the log for the first occurrence of strange behavior. From there, I would be able to track down the specific section of code that caused that behavior.

I started the simulation over again from the time I inserted the knowledge of the plant closing. From there, I watched Amber go about her business. She finished work the same time as my mom and came home, went to bed, woke up and started work again.

Her life was remarkably boring, but I didn’t think it should end in the Game or real life.

That night at work, Mom, still sad over Horace’s death, told Amber about the plant closing, how nearly everyone in town would lose their job.

When Amber heard this, she turned away from my mother and gazed out the window at the town, which would soon fall into despair and poverty.

“My god. It wasn’t a mistake.”

I remembered that Amber’s father and brother worked at the plant. They had no other skills, no education. The family barely got by with the money earned by the two men and Amber. How would they go on then? And Amber had a terrible secret. She was pregnant.

That night Amber went to her room alone, paced back and forth, then laid on the floor, her body splayed out like a skydiver.

I knew in that moment she must have made her decision. She would not go on.

I sped up the simulation—she lay there for hours.

Then it got to the part I had seen earlier.

I needed to stop Amber from killing herself, but how? I couldn’t walk up to her house and knock on her door and make it happen.

“Mom!” I called.

“What is it?” she said. She rubbed her eyes.

The clock said it was three a.m., and briefly, I felt guilty about waking her. But this was important. “I need you to do something for me.”


I glanced at the clock in the simulation. It would happen at eleven the next night. Mom had only nineteen hours to change it. How would she? How could I tell her I knew what would happen in the future without letting her in on the whole simulation thing?

I figured out what I’d do as I spoke. “I’ve had a vision,” I said.


“A vision. I had one. You know how before I’ve known things, and you thought I was psychic, and I denied it? Well, I was lying before. I’m psychic, Mom.”

“Oh,” she said.

“Yeah,” I said.

She slapped her palm to her forehead. “I knew it! I knew it all along. I told everyone at work you had powers, and they never believed me. Well, they don’t have to believe, no they don’t. They can just keep on being skeptics, damn, cold-hearted non-believers that they are. Well, if Sammy ever laughed at me again I’d about had his throat between my fingers, I swear it. I—”

“Mom!” I said, trying to speak over her. She was on a roll. I might not be able to stop her if I didn’t interrupt her right away. “Mom!”

“What is it, Remy?”

“I need you to do something for me, remember?”

“Of course! What is it?”

“It’s Amber,” I said. Then I told her what I had seen in the simulation. She listened, silently taking in my words.

“My god,” she said when I had finished. “What can I do?”

“You need to stop her.”

“But how?” she asked, looking as panicked as I felt.

“I don’t know,” I answered. “We have until eleven tonight. We have all day to figure it out.”

I could tell her mind was turning over the information. She had a sharp mind, believe it or not. I got my smarts from her. She may have been only a waitress, but she knew how to read people, how to charm them. She was quick on her feet and with a quip. She could get herself out of difficult situations. I knew that much. When I saw her mind working this problem over, I knew she’d make it all right. Somehow, she’d make it all right.

“You said I had been the one to tell her, right?” she asked.

“That’s right.”

“Well, maybe I just don’t tell her.”

I sighed. My heart sank. “That’s only going to delay the inevitable. She’ll find out eventually.”

“Maybe hearing at a different time will change it enough for her. Maybe she’ll find out when she’s in a stronger state. Maybe something good’ll have happened to her before then, and she’ll not consider ending her life.”

She might have been right. I knew that. I would be able to plug this new situation into the Game and figure out what would happen if Mom never broke the news to Amber. I doubted it would change Amber’s mind, ultimately. If it delayed it, I might have more time to fix everything.

I smiled and said, “I think that’s good enough for now. Just keep quiet about what you know. Not a word to anyone. Now go back to bed. Thanks for helping me, Mom.”

Her brow furrowed, aging her in the dim lighting of the room. Dark shadows formed beneath each line on her face. She would not be with me forever. I had always known in the back of my mind, but I had never really accepted it as truth. What would I do without her? I could run a simulation and find out, but then I decided I didn’t want to know.

“What is it?” I asked when she didn’t get up to go to bed.

“How will you know I’ve stopped her? Will you have another vision?”

“Yes,” I answered. “I’ll have another vision. I always have more visions.”

This seemed to appease her. She rose slowly, her bones cracking.

“Good night, Remy,” she said, sounding strangely satisfied.

I realized I had made my mother proud for the first time. She thought her son was special—he had powers. If she ever learned the truth, it would devastate her.


I was too tired to modify the simulation to account for my mother’s change in behavior. I fell into a deep sleep instead and had the visions I claimed to have had already.

In my sleep, I saw the town as I had built it and the town as it was, side by side. Things happened concurrently: mailmen delivered mail, kids went to school, some dog pooped on a sidewalk. Then my simulation changed, their faces were not their own. I saw my face on everyone that walked by, every animal.

My face was hideous, a smiling, laughing mutated version of me.

When I awoke, sweat had soaked through my clothing and onto the couch. I stank but was too terrified to move and shower.

I glanced at the clock and saw it was past midday. Mom would be gone to work. I feared looking at the simulation because of the nightmare, but I knew I needed to.

I microwaved a frozen meal and played the simulation as I spooned bland mashed potatoes into my mouth. I hardcoded the change to make Mom keep quiet all day. Amber didn’t find out about the plant closing. She went home that night and had dinner like she normally did with her dad and brother. Things in her life were perfect. I felt a heaviness lift from my shoulders.

Amber would live another day.

I knew I wasn’t safe yet. She would find out soon enough. Then what? I sped up the simulation and took a nap, allowing the game to pass through several days of activity.


I could hear Mom in her room watching some late night talk show. She laughed loudly, and I felt deep love for her. She always made everything better. I opened my laptop, and the town was in chaos.

I’d only let a week pass, but thirteen people had died. Houses were going up on the market; people were leaving the town.

“What the hell? Why does this keep happening?”

I scanned through the logs since the time I had left Amber. There was nothing the day after except the announcement that Horace had committed suicide. Several characters in the game had broken down, cried when finding out. That wasn’t unusual.

The next day, though, an article came out in the town paper: the plant would close in two weeks. The reaction to this news by many of the characters was enough to note in the exception logs. I had it set to not log all character activity unless it was something unusual.

Normally, I had one or two pages of notes per day, but for this day there were twelve hundred pages in the log. I barely scanned through the first twenty pages before I gave up, feeling despair. People were doing drastic things.

Most were calling their relatives, complaining about the town and how they needed some place to stay. They were leaving.

Some just stayed at home, moping, crying, and feeling sorry for themselves.

Then Sammy, an old kook who claimed to have seen the face of Jesus in a near death experience, found a gun in the back of his closet.

Sammy had worked for the plant since he was sixteen. He had no other life. His wife had worked at the plant too. That’s how they met. His kids worked at the plant now. His two grandkids, well, likely, they’d also work in that wretched plant if it was still around when they grew up.

The logs said Sammy took the gun to the plant the day after he found out it was closing. He fired on his supervisor first. Then he walked up the metal staircase in the center of the main warehouse, climbing the stairs with purpose, each step stronger than the last.

He fired on the warehouse manager at the top of the stairs. The man had been yelling for Sammy to stop, for the love of god, stop.

Sammy didn’t stop.

After the upper management was gone, Sammy reloaded many times, killing a total of twelve. When he finished, he sat on the stool at his station, the same stool he’d sat on for thirty-one years. He put the barrel into his mouth and fired.

I played through the simulation even further. I saw Amber. Her behavior was noted in the logs because she wasn’t acting normally. She was killing herself, again. It was basically a replay of what I had seen before.

I shut the lid of my laptop.

My mom wouldn’t be able to help with this. It was too much for her. What could I do, though? I thought about going to the police, but what would I say? I could have told them that I was a psychic and have them lock me away. That wouldn’t solve the problem.

I thought I could take my computer, play the simulation for them. Would they believe that? Would they still lock me away for being crazy? Most likely, yes.

I knew I needed to stop this. I couldn’t live with this being the outcome of the lives of the people in the town. I loved this town, even though I barely lived in it. It was all I had.

I sat up all night thinking of some parameter I could change that would alter the outcome of everything. The only thing I could think of was not closing the plant, but I had no control over that.

Maybe Mom could get someone to stop Sammy? Take the man down before he could reach his gun.

I wracked my brain for a long time before I realized the solution to my problem was right in front of me, literally. My computer sat in front of me, and the Game had the answers to all my problems.

I needed to reverse engineer the situation. I would hardcode the outcome that I wanted in the game, and then let the simulation work out how the outcome had been reached. In the past, when I overwrote something in the simulation—like my mom not telling Amber about the plant—the simulation only went forward. I had never gone backwards. As the Game was in its current state, it was impossible to do. I would need to recode a lot.

I had two days to get it done. If I could work it out, all would be well in my town, and it would be worth all the effort.

I worked all night and into the afternoon the next day. Then finally, I got it. I had modified the program so that I could enter an outcome and allow the computer to generate the possible scenarios that led to that outcome.

The two outcomes I coded were Sammy being arrested before he could shoot up the plant and Amber not trying to kill herself.

The Game told me it would take several hours to load the scenarios, so I slept while it calculated.

Hours later, the computer woke me with a pinging sound, notifying me that it had finished calculating. I had hoped that there would be many scenarios to choose from. If some didn’t work or some were impossible, I would have many options. But the Game said it had only come up with one option.

I pressed enter on the keyboard so that the simulation would start.

I saw myself sitting in the trailer. I looked hideous on the screen, fat and badly dressed. My hair was overgrown and my fingernails were long enough to be visible through the poor resolution of my laptop screen. I looked down at my actual nails and saw that they were, in fact, too long, curving over my fingertips and stained brown.

“I’m hideous,” I mumbled. I continued to watch myself, though.

I saw myself moving around the trailer, slowly. I was looking for something, digging through drawers and cabinets. Finally, my simulated self seemed to find what he was looking for: a piece of printing paper. He walked to the printer, attached its USB cable to the machine, and started punching in some things into the keyboard. Then he printed out a picture onto the piece of paper.

I paused the game and zoomed in. It was “Generic Object” again. The logs, however, said it was a letter written by hand, though clearly not since it was printed from my own computer.

I read the letter’s text in the log. It was a suicide note from Sammy, as far as I could tell. I must have fabricated a suicide note that confessed to killing the others in the plant before Sammy killed himself.

My simulation examined the note and nodded in approval. Then he raised himself up to leave the trailer.

“What are you doing?” I said aloud. “You can’t go outside!”

He went out, though, moving down the sidewalk, and then down the street. I knew where he was going before he made it there. It was the post office. He was mailing the letter to the police. It would seem as though the letter came from Sammy, as though Sammy intended everyone to know his plan, but only after he had done it. However, his letter would arrive a little early. Sammy wasn’t known for his wit, and it would be assumed he had underestimated the post office of our town.

When the police would learn of Sammy’s plan, they would arrest him early enough to stop him.

Why couldn’t Mom take the letter off to the post office? I knew this was a cowardly thought, but I was, admittedly, frightened of being outside. Mom taking the letter would work just as well as me.

I had to program Mom taking the letter to see why it wouldn’t work. The results weren’t really surprising after I saw them. Each time, Mom took the letter, promising me she wouldn’t read it. Of course, she read the note anyway. She’d realize what Sammy was planning and try to stop him herself. She had known Sammy her whole life. No way was she going to let him kill anyone or even go to jail for thinking about it.

When she’d confront Sammy, however, he’d always do the same thing: kill her.

I sighed, realizing I would have to leave the trailer.

I watched the rest of the simulation to see how I could save Amber. My simulation left the post office and took a bus to Amber’s house. He stumbled out of the bus, barely fitting through the doorway. The other passengers pressed their faces against the glass, watching my fat self walk with difficulty down the sidewalk.

He was at Amber’s house.

“What are you doing, you dumb, bastard?” I asked.

He made his way up Amber’s driveway, knocking on her door.

She answered the door in her pajamas. She yawned and looked confused at the sight of me. I read the dialogue tags that went along with the conversation.

“Amber, it’s me, Remy. Molly’s kid. Do remember me? We went to school together.”

“Remy? Of course, I remember you. Molly talks about you all the time. What are you doing here? Are you all right? You look sweaty.”

“Amber, I know what you’re planning on doing”


“I know about the baby. I know what you plan on doing.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Amber moved to close the door, but Remy stuck out his foot.

“You’re not going to go through with it. I won’t let you. I’m here for you. I know I’m not much to look at, but I’m going to start getting out more. I’m going to take care of you. I’m actually pretty smart.”

The simulation ended with Amber shaking her head, but letting Remy into the house to talk.

My heart was pounding. I couldn’t believe the nerve of my simulated self.

When the simulation ended, it showed statistics for the likelihood of success. My heart sank. Normally, my simulations are at 99 percent, but this was only 40 percent. It was the only option listed.

According to the log, I would need to start right then and print out Sammy’s letter.

I didn’t move.

What would happen if I did nothing at all? Well, I knew what would happen, but so what? It really wouldn’t affect me that much. I could stay in the trailer and keep living like I’d been living.

That felt safer. My heart slowed. I felt relief.

Who needed all those people, anyway? They didn’t know me and didn’t care about me. Then I remembered Amber’s face in her doorway.

The trailer around me was a hovel, falling apart, sagging on the side where I spent most of my time. Seeing that Remy on the screen, the Remy who made promises to take care of a girl. That life sounded promising.

I started typing away on my computer, writing the code to simulate Sammy’s confession. I knew where the paper was so I didn’t have to spend extra time searching for it. I’d already wasted so much time being afraid; I couldn’t waste any more.

Forty percent wasn’t that great, but it was worth a shot. I printed the letter, folded it, and stuck it in an envelope. Then I opened the door to the trailer.

The air outside smelled strange. As it filled my lungs, I felt I hadn’t breathed in years. The light from the sun was blinding, but for the first time in a while, I could see in front of me clearly. END

Megan Neumann lives and writes in Little Rock, AK. She likes her fiction dark and occasionally sprinkled with humor. Her short stories have appeared in publications including “SQ Mag,” “Luna Station Quarterly,” and “FrostFire Worlds.


morris book


Buying from Amazon