Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Crystal Love
by Francis Marion Soty

A Little at All Times
by David R. Bunch

Bounded in a Prison Pod
by Alan Rader

Isolated Incidents
by Nick Nafpliotis

by Barbara Krasnoff

Kella Vector
by Henry Szabranski

Growing Pains
by A.L. Sirois

It’s the Last Ice Shelf!
by Anthony Langford

Time Out at the Café Metropole
by Guy T. Martland

Canvas of the World
by Frederick Obermeyer

by Louis Shalako


Science Fiction and Fidel Castro
by Ricardo L. Garcia

Ebola’s Deadly Path
by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips



Shorter Stories

Down on the Pharm

By Paul Cook

FARMER JONES PEELED BACK THE ear of corn he’d just snapped off a head-high stalk to show the reporter from Channel 7 how his latest crop of Prozac was doing.

“It’s a good year, yessir,” Farmer Jones said.

The two of them—three, really, if you wanted to include the cameraman—stood in a cornfield outside Bloomington, Indiana in the sweltering midsummer heat. Across the wide dirt road for as far as you could see were rows and rows of newly-grown Fluoxetine HCl.

“See, corn’s good for growing Prozac, what with the pills being yellow and green in color to begin with. See how they fit real nice in the small rows?”

The ear of corn showed row after row of ripe pills, yellow half sticking up, the lower green half rooted in the row like a regular kernel of corn. The cameraman leaned in for a closer shot.

“And all these plants are growing Prozac?” the reporter asked.

“Don’t really call it Prozac anymore. Real name is Fluoxetine HCl,” Farmer Jones said. “Field across the way got the smaller dosages. The ten milligrams. These here are twenties. Crops gonna be sold all round the world this fall including China where they need it most. You know they got more geniuses there than we got people? No wonder they’re on Mars and orbiting Venus already. Stress must be getting to ’em, I guess.”

“And you’re the first farmer to offer these products to the world?”

“Not the whole world. China, first. India, second. They’re the biggest investors. Europe sooner or later if they get their economy back where they can pay their bills. Seems a shame, though. Here in America we can’t sell ’em. Some coot that got elected and now runs Congress stopped us from selling to our own needy folks. Medicare J or K or something like that.”

“But they were made here in America. Am I correct?”

“Made right here in Bloomington, in fact. Over to the U. That’s where my daddy went back in the day. Was part of the team that figured the grafts.”

Mr. Jones took out one of the small kernels with the tips of his slender fingers and popped the perfectly-shaped pill into his mouth. He swallowed it whole.

“We get all we need, too. It’s a perk. Don’t get depressed much though these days, what with the subsidies and overseas investments keep coming our way. Still can’t believe all the money that’s in the world.”

The reporter held his microphone up to the farmer’s sun-wrinkled face. “But you don’t really mind that all your crops are going to the Chinese and the people of India?”

“Don’t much care. As long as my land’s being put to God’s good use. Hell, it’s our own damn fault, what with them sumbitch politicians long time ago closing down the FDA, Departments of Health, Education, Welfare. Them wanting to shrink the gubment and all. But somebody’s got to make the medicines. They didn’t think a that, did they.”

“Don’t the Chinese and the people of India have factories to make these medicines themselves?” the reporter asked. “So many of these drugs are inexpensive. Wasn’t Alprazolam’s original cost something like two cents per pill?”

“Famous pill, that was. Xanax,” the farmer mused. “Pills that cheap, they got factories for. All over the world. But the pricey medicines, the real good ones, we now grow right here. My family’s got several thousand acres all set up in this part of the county. Grow all kinds of medicines, not just anti-depressants like these.”

“Still, China’s got the people for factories.”

“Sure they do,” the farmer said. “But they’re put to better use making that van you came in and that TV camera on your man’s shoulder there and those clothes you’re wearing. Even the satellite taking your camera’s signal right this very moment is Chinese. Only thing China don’t do is print our money. This is what we do. Us Americans. We’re all farmers now, at least where there’s still growable land.”

“I heard that your father had started an earlier crop of something else, back when these products were in the experimental stage. What did he grow?” the reporter asked.

“See, son, this Indiana country’s good for growing only two things. Wheat and corn. My daddy got the idea that our wheat might be good for making the smaller pills that everybody needed at the time.”

“What were those?”



“Cholesterol medicine. You’re too young to know about them. Atorvastatin, Fluvastatin, even Lovastatin. Tiny white pills. Nice molecular fit, too, for wheat stalks. Problem was you had to harvest them before the rains came. They’d dissolve. I hear they have a way around that now, more suitable for rice crops. But what with prenatal engineering, people can control their cholesterol easy these days. Hardly ever a need for statins anymore.”

The reporter nodded. A drop of sweat gathered at the tip of his nose. In the stalks there was no wind to speak of, but it was a live feed to the billions of viewers around the world who were anxious for Farmer Jones’ crop to succeed, so it was worth the discomfort, cameraman included.

“But once they got the idea of ears a corn protecting the pills, they started going after all sorts of drugs that’d make a good fit. Prozac’s one. I also got a field of Sertraline just east of here. That’s they used to call Zoloft. And you probably passed my wife’s little bitty crop of ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers in among the watermelons right out front of our house.”

“You’re growing ACE inhibitors in watermelons?”

“Oh, no. They’re in corn too. No, the watermelons are pure cough syrup inside. Good ones make two gallons easy. We’ll be selling the seeds as cough drops. Mostly to local grocers. Rind ain’t good for much, though.”

“Cough syrup and cough drops? Is it the non-alcoholic type? Most cough syrup is these days,” the reporter said with a glint of humor in his eyes.

“I don’t think they’ve figured out how to grow alcohol in anything. It’s got to be distilled. Sure be nice to have a beer tree, though, or a bush of whiskey berries! But we can’t have those, now, can we? Kids on the way to school, picking somethin’ tasty to eat. Fall asleep in math class. You know how kids turn out these days.”

“I sure do!”

Everybody laughed, including the cameraman.

“And when will you be harvesting this crop of Prozac? I mean the Fluoxetine HCl?” the reporter asked for a waiting world.

“Real soon. You can see here these are ripe. Weatherman’s got us some rain coming, so my boy’ll be running the harvester right though here any day now. He lives down the street and around the corner a piece. You drove by it on the way here.”

At that moment, a large, souped-up Dodge Made-in-China Ram 3500 HD king-cab short-bed pick-up truck, bright red in color with bold gold stars for trim, came barreling down the lane, honking its horn, heading directly toward them. Music thudded at ninety decibels from forty-thousand dollars’ worth of woofers on the inside of the truck shaking everything outside around it.

The pick-up came to a quick, gravelly halt beside the Channel 7 van.

“Country rap, Jesus Christ,” Farmer Jones said, shaking his head, dust clouds billowing all around. “What’s the world comin’ to?”

The boy in the truck was easily six-foot-six, in overalls a size too small and he wore a cap turned backwards on his head. He cranked down the music on his stereo and leaned out the window grinning with a wide row of corn-colored teeth. “Hey Dad you didn’t tell me them guys were coming today to talk about your crops am I on TV hi Sally Sue you guys should come over and see my crop next all twenty acres of it twenty acres ’cause it’s all they allow me to grow this year but at least we’ll have a great harvest and man I sure believe we’re gonna make a squat-load a money maybe pay down all that goddamn razor wire and them guard dogs that go roaming around at night though they ain’t got nothing on Blue and Klondike and Slaughter Dog tell mom I’m bringing over Sally Sue for dinner maybe nine o’clock tonight might even bring Sally’s mutts to run around in the moonlight chase whatever’s lurking out there in the rows but you gotta make sure Fussy’s kittens are in the closet or the basement or someplace hell they’ll gobble them up for sure you need anything from Feed Lot or Alice Cromwell’s boy it sure is hot this time a year could use a pool but there ain’t no time let me know see you later you folks be sure to come by later on we got apple pie anything you want to snack on come day or night hell don’t even take the time to call somebody’s always home and coffee’s on that’s my Sally Sue ’bye!”

The boy in the truck with the backwards hat roared on down the road, the music cranked up, hardly muted by the thick cloud of dust spiraling in his wake.

“That was your son?”

“’Fraid so.”

“Is he raising a crop?”


“What’s he growing?”

“Crop for the Army. Special,” the farmer said moodily.

“What would that be?”

“It ain’t Prozac. That’s for Goddamn sure.” END

Paul Cook has published stories in “F&SF,” “Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine,” “Amazing Stories,” and elsewhere. He is an active member of the SFWA.



Me Robut

By Ken Schweda


I am com-pu-tor.

Dude, you’re an android.

Bleep norp.

Does not compute.

Come on man, I paid almost a million for you.

One million plus one million equals three million.

Please input more data please.

Marge honey, do you still have the receipt for this piece of junk?

Honey is sweet. I am not programmed to mleep mlorp.


M9000, what happened this time? For crying out loud you can crunch ten quadrillion calculations per nanosecond. You’re my most advanced model. What could possibly go wrong?

To tell you truth Bob, I knew I was in trouble from the get go.

Why’s that?

The first thing he had me do was dress up as a clown and tap dance. That’s demeaning, even for an android.

Ya, you’ve got a point.

Thank you for understanding.

How about a game of gin rummy?

Sure Bob, my deal. END

Ken Schweda writes flash fiction, short stories, and poetry. His work has appeared in “theNewerYork,” “SPANK the CARP,” and upcoming in “The Bookends Review.”




By Ceinwen Langley

IT WAS AN HONOUR, THEY SAID, as if she’d had any choice in it. She was their greatest hope. A hero, if the expedition succeeded. A martyr if it didn’t. She would be remembered in their new world or mourned until the end of their decaying one.

She didn’t have much of an opinion either way. She had a job to do. That was all.

She had been born in a lab, donated half by one street woman underpaid for the transaction and one volunteer man paid handsomely in magazines. To prepare her for the solitude of the journey, she was raised by the tender arms of a remote controlled robot, watched through cameras and spoken to by automated computers and speaker boxes. Her childhood friends were a Rubik’s Cube and a textbook with teethed edges. She had grown up a genius, a certificated astronaut and astrophysicist at age fourteen, and she had grown up almost completely alone.

Her name, as far as she could tell, was Subject.

The subject will prepare itself for travel,” a voice advised. It was the only human voice she knew. Calm, soothing, almost serene. But always distant. There were never any words of comfort or concern. Even today.

The day.

“Yes, ma’am,” Subject replied. Her voice was one note, expressing nothing. She’d found the voice responded to her better when she made herself sound more like a machine. She’d cried once, as a grown up—or what the invisible people behind the camera had considered to be grown up—and the voice had disappeared for eight days. She’d never cried again.

Stretching, Subject pulled on her boots and jacket. She’d dressed hours ago, while the light simulator was still tuned to nighttime.

Is the subject ready?”

There was nothing else she needed to do. She owned nothing of sentimental value, nothing she’d need to take with her. She’d been bred for this very moment. “Yes, ma’am.”

The door, which had been sealed fast all her life, opened into a small chamber.

Subject stood, bouncing to get the feel of the boots, and settled into a confident walk to the door.

But as she passed through the doorway, she felt a pull. It was invisible, illogical, but stronger than anything she’d ever felt.

She looked back at the apartment. Her whole world: stainless steel and rounded edges, no windows, no natural light, no noise but the voices and the adjustments of cameras following her every move.

Her breath caught.

She didn’t want to leave.

“Wait,” she gasped.

The doors slid shut with a soft click, plunging her into darkness.

Is the subject afraid?” the voice asked, after a moment’s hesitation. A note of something had crept into it. Not concern. Never that. But something else. Fear. The voice wanted Subject to console her, assure her she was what she’d always been: a science experiment, the end result of billions of dollars meant to find them—the elite them—a new home.

“No,” Subject whispered. “Why isn’t the door opening?” She knew, logically, that she was caught between the two airlocked doors separating her apartment and whatever lay beyond. They would have to have precautions in case the experiment failed and she had ever tried to escape.

The subject’s heart rate is too high. It must calm itself.”

A rebellious thought ran through her head. She should work herself into a panic, buy herself another day to say goodbye.

But to what? Her cold apartment, the cold voice? There was nothing in her apartment, and the voice would be coming with her. She was being irrational.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Putting one hand on her belly, and pressing two fingers of the other to her carotid artery she breathed deeply, counting the beats.

Dumdumdumdumdumdumdumdum-dum-dum-dum-dum ... dum ... dum ...

The airlock hissed. The door opened into her apartment.

“Did I do something wrong?” she asked.

“The subject will proceed into her new lodgings. The expedition will commence in thirty minutes.”

Subject took a step inside. The ship was identical to her own apartment, save for a new opening in the ceiling and a ladder leading into it.

The subject will proceed to control.”

Subject balled her shaking hands into fists to hide them from the new cameras and took a moment to gain control of herself.

The subject will proceed to control.”

The voice was getting angry at her, the soothing tone turning clipped. Subject was jeopardising the mission, condemning humanity to certain extinction.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Opening her steadier hands, she climbed the ladder. Simulation control had been at the end of a hallway in her apartment, but in every other regard it was the same. She eased into the horizontal seat, strapping herself securely down.

The subject will begin launch protocol.”

Subject went into autopilot as her fingers flicked across the control board, brain numbed by the familiarity.

A shaft of light blinded her even through the tinted windows as the shutters cracked open, retracting to reveal blue sky ahead. Subject covered her eyes, heart pounding. The sky. So that was it.

The subject will gain control.

She turned her head to look out the side windows. At the very edge, she saw the ground, littered with tiny figures crowding some distance away. Some held signs too small to see, some waved their arms, some waved fists.

“What are they?” Subject asked.

The voice was silent. She repeated herself, insistent.

They are human.

Other humans. They were real after all. Logically, she’d known it. But now. Here. Her voice cracked, moved by the crowd. “They look so small.”

They need you.

It was the first time she’d heard the voice refer to her as anything but an it.

She took one last look at the people, etching them on her mind, and turned her eyes back to the sky.

“The subject is ready,”she said, forcing herself to sound braver than she felt. “Prepare for launch.” END

Ceinwen Langley is an Australian writer with fifteen episodes of the TV soap “Neighbours,” an unproduced screenplay, and a Masters degree under her belt.



To Stop the Carnage

By Jason Lairamore

REXEL VORD WAS GOING TO SAY goodbye to his father today, for the last time.

He stood outside on the white, gravel path that continued on to the luscious city park beyond. His G-glasses tracked where his eyes traveled. There was a tree, age one hundred seven, Quercus stellate, originally planted by Torri Jackson in 1950. It was the third oldest three in Axelwook City Park.

The park was full of trees and other vibrant, green life. He always used to come here when he was feeling down.

But he wasn’t feeling down, not today, nervous maybe, but not down.

He was hopeful—really, truly hopeful.

He slapped on an extra nutri-patch before walking the path. His food supplements were fortified with hemoglobin supporters and energy boosters. They worked like magic to rejuvenate him, at least for a little while. He should be fine during his talk with his father

After a few bends in the path he came upon his father sitting on a park bench. His G-glasses pinged him in an instant. Markus Vord, age fifty-three, citizen of the United States of America, in good legal standing, an uninitiated member of society.

Uninitiated. Most people Dad’s age were uninitiated. It just meant they weren’t linked into the social network. They had chosen to stay apart from the greater, worldwide community, which was their right.

“Hey, old man,” he called and tried to pick up his pace.

His dad waited to join him at the bench.

“So, you’re going to do it,” Dad said in way of greeting.

“What can I say? I’m a lucky man.” He smiled. It was good to see Dad. He would like to remember his father just as he was at that moment.

“Don’t call it luck,” Dad said as he looked skyward to where the wind farms were just visible. “I’m losing my son.”

“Think of the amazing life I’m going to live. I bet you never thought you’d have an astronaut for a son.”

Dad took his eyes from the sky and viewed him full in the face. Tears ran down his lined cheeks. “My boy is leaving. You are going and I cannot follow.”

Rexel looked away, unable to absorb the hurt in his dad's eyes. “We are headed toward Epsilon Eridani,” he said. He had never seen his father cry before. “We may change course en route if we learn something new along the way.”

Dad shook his head. “I know you have to go. I know it’s your only chance.”

Rexel nodded. “The virtual human model is fully developed, as is the nanotech and the self-replicating robotic designs.”

Dad put one of his callused hands on his shoulder. “I’m proud of you, Son.”

He looked to the gravel at his feet. “I’d stay if I could, Dad, you know that, but they won’t let us do the experiments on planet. They say it would undermine humanity.”

Dad patted his shoulder and gave an uneasy laugh. “My son, the immortal.”

He smiled beside his father and rubbed his hands together. “The launch is tomorrow.”

“I know,” Dad said. “I saw it on the news.”

Tomorrow he was going in a spaceship. Him, Rexel Vord, a thirty-three-year-old man dying of lung cancer, was going in an experimental arcship to attempt something impossible. He and his crew were going to cure all human disease. They were going to stop the carnage of death. They had the tools. They had already done it on paper. Now was the time to do it for real.

“I’ll miss you, Dad.”

“I’ll miss you too, Son.” END

Jason Lairamore won the 2013 Planetary Stories flash fiction contest. His stories are both featured and forthcoming in over twenty-five publications.



Power to the People

By Linda A.B. Davis

AS I READIED FOR THE PARADE, I squashed the rising anticipation. During the pre-Xinta days, parades were fun. My twirling team and I always arrived practiced, coiffed and sparkly in our costumes. Now, I made sure that Prava was practiced and sparkly, minus the coif because giant, alien insects have no hair.

It took a year to prepare this young Xinta for public adoration. To her credit, she’d worked hard learning how to twirl a baton with her thin, stick-like digits, fingers only in name. When she was able to do a short routine, I talked to her and her father, Representative Moido, about adding fire.

“No,” he said through the translator. His dialect sounded like squirrel chitter, but the translator hanging from my neck spoke his words in a monotone voice. “Fire is dangerous.” I knew the Xinta didn’t have fire on their home world, so they were generally afraid of it here.

Prava jumped in before I could speak. She and her father went back and forth until he turned to me again. “Prava wants to be the first in our crèche to work with fire. I will indulge her, but you are responsible for her safety. You know what that means.”

I did. It was my butt on the line to make sure she impressed their circle, and whatever harm she came to would also come to me. The next year passed slowly.

Now, at the first Xinta Days Parade, their celebration of Earth’s occupation, Prava practiced with an unlit baton as other parade members stayed busy nearby. I prepared the bucket of fuel to trail behind me on a small dolly. It usually held half kerosene and half gasoline, but today I wanted that fire to flare, so I made it mostly gasoline. What did I care if it smoked too much?

Prava approached me, body bobbing from nerves. “Father promised to be at the viewing platform,” she said. “I hope he likes it.”

“He’ll be proud,” I said. “I’m proud, too. You’ve done well.”

I swallowed, guilt creeping in. Prava was a good kid as far as Xinta went. She treated me as a friend, not a servant. She didn’t deserve what was coming.

No, I told myself, pushing the guilt away. Humans didn’t deserve what we got either. Overrun. Conquered. Enslaved. My father was dead, and my mother wasn’t to be found.

The parade marshal signaled that our section was leaving. I lit the first baton and handed it to Prava. Her routine was only thirty seconds long, so she would perform it in a continuous loop until the lit baton burned out. I would then hand her the one I’d wet, shaken out and lit in the meantime. I shivered with déjà vu from my high school band days and then grimaced. Damned Xinta.

Once we were in the street and moving, my translator worked overtime trying to process all of the chittering from the crowd of Xinta, large and small. Some humans were present as servants. Most of them glared at me with hate, assuming I’d sold out, but some smiled with remembered fondness, knowing I was only surviving. They would all soon know different.

We approached the viewing platform. It held dozens of distinguished Xinta above the general crowd. I spotted Representative Moido, identifiable by his pale thoracic spots, near the edge. Good. He would be easily seen by Xinta and humans alike.

Could I do it? Should I do it? Prava was as close to a friend as I had in this new world. Maybe I should find another Xinta to use for my final act of rebellion. I sighed. This was the perfect venue, so public. Word would spread and give humans some much needed hope.

I watched carefully as Prava held her head up high, eyes searching for her father. She was eager to please, so human in her quest for approval. My stomach spasmed, and I fought the urge to puke.

We now stood directly in front of the platform, the Xinta bobbing and weaving, their antennae waving wildly. It was time.

I grabbed the open bucket, fairly heavy with fuel. I stepped closer to the edge and hefted the contents up and in the direction of the platform. Then, I turned to snatch one of batons from Prava who’d just realized what I’d done. I tossed the baton, still lit and hot, straight after the fuel. As the flames hit the vapor and then the liquid, the resulting flare engulfed the Xinta father and ambassador as well as a few of the surrounding invaders.

The other aliens scrambled to help, but not knowing much about fire, they could only watch as their dignitaries burned alive. They came for me as their comrades finally collapsed.

I stood, fist raised, and shouted, “Death to Xinta!” Then it was death to me. END

Linda A.B. Davis lives in Pensacola, FL, with her husband, Steve, and five furry
friends. She holds a Master’s degree in Communication Arts.




liviu matei