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



I Once Was Lost

By Edward Morris

CLUB GOTHAM WAS BARELY OPEN, WAKING up in the middle of 82nd Avenue at Interstate Boulevard like a rhino slow to rouse from the effects of the previous night’s trank-dart, puzzled as to why it has come to in the middle of traffic with people looking at it and approaching.

One of them was me, twisting rain out of my tweed cap and smoking. No line. It was five p.m. I was here on business.

My business, that was. The business of poets and thieves, or more precisely thieves who craft poetry from the shape and nature of their specific grift. It keeps my brain busy, and my hands.

Evidence of the night before was still visible in the far corners where the illegal-alien night crew had swept it almost out of sight (Antareans, most of them, and probably new as hell. Green around the gills, you might say.) No line, but getting in had taken a little bit of fast talking.

“Hi. I was here last night. I think I remember you. I was pretty hammered.”

A sneer. “Yeah, I ... uh, I think I remember you too. Didn’t I cut you off?”

“Probably. Look, do you guys have a Lost and Found?”

“You bet. Behind the long bar in front. Big refrigerator box that says it. We get a grip of lost-and-found stuff. What’d you lose, my friend?”

A sigh. “A very sophisticated piece of electronic hardware. Only one turned in. It’s black, looks like an antique tablet phone, only one-piece, with no glass pane and about a bazillion plugs.”

An evasive answer. I had absolutely no idea what the thing did, or where it came from, or even what it was called. Just what dear Liesel, an old crony of mine who worked Coat Check at Gotham, told me in a brief ping after Last Call.

Herein lay the acting exercise inherent in the grift. The key to the next twenty minutes or so was the mark not knowing that.

I knew about their refrigerator-box already, sitting in the back of Coat Check. From Liesel, of course. Boxes like that had been my bread and butter all over town for the past seven weeks. Lost and Found. In some cases, I had learned to become the surrogate part of “Found.”

I liked to think of it as redistribution of wealth, in a kind of Social Darwinist sense that got one back on the Social Darwinists who could pay that kind of cover in the first place, for being careless. Now I waited. My cap still wasn’t dry. This bouncer was taking his time.

Finally the door at the other end of the long bar swung open. The big bald bouncer in his unmarked black Fred Perry shirt and pressed black pants came bulling out, looking relieved as he held my latest golden goose.

Now I got to see what “It” was. Maybe enough for what I wanted. Maybe, for five minutes of my life, ever ... enough for what I wanted. A shattered, broken part of me inside cried when it thought that. But I keep that part of me away from the rubberneckers. Bad for business.

I made with the Sigh Of Relief (tm), the guarded look when I glanced back up, the imperious nod. “Good,” the grin was as self-contained as it was self-satisfied. “Supposing you can tell me,” he whipped It behind his back, thinking he was being cunning (I’d already seen it through his fingers.) “What it is, what it does and what all the plugs are for?”

I thought fast, grinning. “I’m a civilian contractor, sir, for the Federal government, and I don’t get to say, that information is on a need-to-know basis very often, but ...”

One scarred paw handed the device over. “I did six years in the Marines. You civvy-rats need to be a lot more careful with your gear. Which is not on a need-to-know basis. Because you need to know it.”

He thought he was dressing me down. I did pretty well at looking humbled. “Sir, yes, sir.”

That made him smile. “Don’t call me sir. I work for a living.”

“Sarge, then.”

He nodded his assent. “Two tours in the Congo.”

“Welcome home.” I held the device. Its black top end came up into a tessellated pyramid like one of those Escher pencil-drawings I always used to see in stoners’ apartments. The rest was exactly as described.

The bouncer was convinced. “I didn’t think anyone would come for that thing. Like a beer? I’ll give you half price. This sixer’s not so fresh. Waste not ...”

“You bet.” I nodded when he produced a large, long-necked bottle of German weisbier to attach something to the noun. He popped the cap on the lid of the ice bin by the well, handed mine across and cracked another for himself.

I knew the price. I’d been there at night. I handed him a twenty and just shook my head.“Good lookin’ out.”

He pocketed it as he spoke. “I’m not actually on the clock. Just came down to pick up my check and drink. And maybe win a bet or two I have with Gutterball ... he’s our cook ... about your little toy, there.”

I waited, making myself take long pulls on my beer with long moments between them. This was getting funny, but the tapeworm that perched in my soul and never stopped clamoring for scraps was wide awake now. Screeching.

“I was shithouse drunk. Left the zipper open on my kit-bag from work. I think I dropped it in the Men’s room.”

The bouncer nodded slowly. “Are you ... like, Department of Defense, or ...”

I looked from one side to the other, very carefully, as though we were being monitored. “I’m not supposed to say, but yeah. I’m one of their little lab rats who makes things. They don’t let us out much. We tend to play hard.”

He relaxed more. “What does it do?”

“This is a prototype from YoYoMa-Futomaki,” I freestyled. “It’s not out anywhere, in the States or back in Japan, where they make them. It’s called an FNG-3000. Auxiliary power supply for an acoustic noise meter. Also capable of seriously damping all high-end noise above 120 db within half a block.”

That got his attention. “Wanna sell it?” he asked, lighting a cheap cigarette that smelled like sawdust. “My boss would kill for one of these, if we had the patches to run it on our sound system. I heard about those on Wired.”

I sighed. “My friend, this little prototype is worth more than your whole check for a year, before taxes. Which is also why I feel like an idiot for dropping the fucker. I owe you big.”

“Pity ...”

We finished up our beers in mostly silence, shook hands and got on about our days.

Now you make of that what you will.


In the alley behind the bar I confirmed my suspicions while pretending to drunkenly piss. There were no pores in the metal, my little battery-powered spectroloupe told me quietly, sounding confused when it did. This thing wasn’t from anywhere near Earth, and it ...

It made patterns, in the spectroloupe, soothing swarms of fractals that beckoned me, puzzle-cubes that, when unlocked with my mind, opened hallways full of little doors further and further back, and then—

“Shit!” Just as I yelped, the blade went back into the pyramidal top of the device with part of the tip of my thumb attached.

When it did, the device flashed bright green from within, showing me the shape of ... something else, but in my eyes. It showed me in my eyes, like I had wetware. All I could see what what it wanted to tell me: Breathing ... Something alive ...

A gout of blood from my truncated digit slapped across the surface of the pyramid, disappearing like water into thirsty soil. I was ...

Whole, standing in the alley, staring into the tesselations on the open face of the thing I just snagged from Gotham.

I examined my thumb from all angles. No blood. But there was a little white scar. Just behind me, an old Zebra electric, one of the first, shuddered by on whirling all-terrain tires. Somewhere, a crow cawed out. The city had no idea what just happened. Everything was still going on.

Fair enough. I doubted if anyone could hang a name on what just happened. Thinking quickly as usual, I pulled a paper shopping bag out of the gutter, wrapped the thing, shoved it into my pocket and went home to (after what I just saw) get hammered ...


Red. The table was red. The table in front of me was red and it was in the room where I was living now the room that was home the room the room gotta stay in the moment gotta stay in the moment what the fuck did I just ...

Got. To. Focus. Did. One. Line. One. Measly line of coke off. The red. Tabletop. Just. Now. Red. Tabletop.

Just now. Just. Now.

This has never. Happened before. Coke doesn’t. Do this, not one line, not this way. Somebody stepped on. This. I got ...

Burned. No I. Didn’t. I know the chemist. Squeaky. At the Stalag squat. The guy. With the unfortunate. Voice. Old Squeak would never. Piss. In the powder he makes. With. Some. Weird. Hallucinogen, No. This is—

All wrong, and the second I nervously remove the paper bag from my pocket and set it beside the straw and empty mirror on the red tabletop, the world goes back to real time, and I feel just a little bit up but not enough to be really wired.

Just a little more than before.

Especially now. The paper. Bag is. Breathing. It is lit. Green. From within, like some kind of firefly creature in a pupa. But fireflies hatch from eggs, they ...

No. It’s not. The bag’s just sitting there, just like it was in my pocket. Just. A bag. Squeaky, I am going to kick your ass so high the Mars miners will catch it when it lands ...

The phone plug rings in my earlobe, and I just about shit. I thumb it on, the whole side of my head bathed in its cool blue glow from within and without.

“Hi ...” I close my right eye. “Oh, Mr. Petros. Didn’t expect to hear from you so soon. Listen, can you talk on your phone?”

Of course!” the old Greek snaps through static. “I’m talking on it, aren’t I? Whattaya, smokin’ the crack?

“No, Anestis,” I say, loudly and patiently, “I mean are you on a secure line?”

Anestis quits yelling. I stand with my eyes closed, right where I am, and focus on the work, the deal, the move ... Things can be okay.

“This is an encrypted satphone, my friend,” Anestis continues proudly, “Costs the fucking Earth, but she is secure. What is happen?”

“How are you at moving off-Earth gear?” I can hear the skinflint little fence squirm, and clear his throat.

“My friend, we go back a long way, but I really cannot commit to ...”

“You can have half the final cut. This is my word. I break it, you break my fucking legs.”

The Augean stable of bullshit stops filling up in mid-stream. “Okay, my friend.” He never uses my name on the phone. Few people do. “Meet me, four-tooty, down at my bar. We do something. This one of your usual ... how you call it ... Lost and Found?”

It’s too early to lie. “Yeah. Some kind of Xeno tech gadget. We could both stand to make a pile of scratch if we get this to the right people. It’s some kind of ...” I struggle with the notion, hunting in the kitchen cupboard for a pack of cigarettes and trying not to look at the bag.

“Like a head-game. That’s what I got out of it. A mind-game. A video game for your mind. Half the heads in San Franpsycho city limits would be down at GameLabyrinth snappin’ these things up if we mass-produced ’em ourselves. Fuck, that thing took me some places, till I figured out what to do with it.”

I think a moment.“If your guys,” meaning a warehouse full of illegal immigrants sleeping on shifts and making less than American prison wages, “can replicate this thing, we got a short-term windfall on a leash. See you at four toot ... uh, thirty.”

Anestis says something I don’t quite catch, and rings off. My ear winks out with a peep. Far above on another floor, someone’s playing a violin on the fire escape. I don’t know the song, but it’s very sad.

I turn to look at the bag. The breathing green light is back. The bag is breathing. The light is heating.

Heating. Seething. Seeking. Breathing in time with me.

With me. And as we breathe, it heats. The light bleeds from green to white.

White spines of light, radiating whirling razor spines of light, firing from it without disturbing the bag, but when grids of them cross my flesh I am—

Quartered to pieces. My nose drops to the floor. My nose. My fucking nose. My feet walk away from me, and my guts turn and crash every which way, ragged loops escaping their prison, evacuating the machine that is me. My troubled head rolls. I still have feeling in my hands. But I can’t touch my face.

I can’t touch my face. My face. Is way over there.

I scream, scream, scream, but my vocal chords aren’t connected, every vein and artery neatly clamped off, as some balky machine winnows and worries me like a commercial dryer, and then ...


Anestis Petros was shaking me. I twitched and moaned in the back bedroom at his house, I could tell by the smell of the lilacs and the feel of that futon ... I opened one eye. “Am I alive?” I asked thickly. He cuffed me in the head, not hard enough to hurt.

“I been doped, man, some kinda bad that thing sends off waves or something, it ...”

The fence pointed to my right wrist. I looked down. My hand was gone.

No blood, no jetting stump, no special effects. Just gone. Like it was never there.

There was some kind of process going on here, a cyclic one that sped up. I was being conned, from somewhere, by someone. I was ... I almost had it, I was ...


... Waking up again. Marina Petros’ cool hands were on my face. “Ssssh.” She didn’t look a thing like Anestis, except maybe a little around the ears. Thank God. Twenty-two that year, I remembered madly. What the fuck was she doing home? She ...

... Looked pretty loaded. She was looking at the closed door that gave us privacy. Not a centimeter of her lush, dark purple lipstick was out of place. I wondered what would happen next, but the two brief drags she took from a tiny pocket hash-pipe were anticlimactic. She coughed through her nose on the last one, then handed it to me.

“Papa says you found something that’s killing you,” Marina whispered. The spangled shadow across her dark eyes, the complicated layers of her, the mythic heat of her olive skin ...”He’s calling his boys. And a scientist he knows, back home. You have me worried sick, Larry, you ... you know I always kinda—”

The taste of her sweet breath like wine and hashish and ozone ... She cut herself off. I could barely croak anything. I had a great big old embarrassing hard-on and I wanted to cry, or move, or do something.

But even having my eyes open was like coming off a three-day coke run, or a bad trip, or something so bad there was just no word for it anywhere. Marina must have sat on the bed. I must have said something. I must have done something. I felt something. She felt.

Great. I started. Tripping out again, but on her, as her mouth turned on mine, locked and caught like we were in zero-gee and it was the only point of contact she had.

The gorgeous fall of Marina’s soft, straight black hair was in both my hands, and those round, hypnotic breasts were pushing on my chest, practically to my chin, maddening through her ribbed black cotton sweater as she straddled me with her pelvis, her strong thighs, I ...

I looked across the room. The little black pyramid was on the dressing table, like it had been there the whole time.

I saw the white lights again.

And I fell apart in Marina Petros’ embrace.

Not in a good way.

I could see and hear just long enough to watch the lust on her face turn to fresh, bleeding trauma, fresh as the scratches she made with her fingernails as she got up and backed away, looking down ...

And then Marina was looking one place, then another place, then another part of the room, then under the bed. Looking everywhere I was. Screaming. Screaming.

Then clear light, and words no more—



Carbon-Based Hominid Primate Homo sapiens sapiens


Render potential: Calcium (Payout: 899.10)
Dihydrogen Monoxide (Payout: 22.79)

Silver amalgam teeth (Payout: 0.42)
Precious <untranslatable> (Payout: 50,790.17)


[ X ]


Edward Morris is an author of anthologies and novels. His stories have been collected in “Shock Theatre: Collected Speculative Fiction” and “Beyond the Western Sky.” He is also the author of the “Arkadia” and “Blackguard” series of novels.


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six questions