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





Going Underground

MY FRIEND GEORGE HAD A NEW wife and some money in the bank so he went house hunting in the Hollywood Hills. Sitting in the Palm restaurant, having a chilled tomato and onion salad, he told me of his regrets of not having bought a unique house he had seen.

The real estate agent had waltzed him through the modest 1950’s house showing him the view, the property lines, a couple of smallish bedrooms, a carport, and a kitchen. Following the agent around, George was unimpressed but shook his head approvingly as the agent pointed out the features. Suddenly, with a glint in her eye, the agent swung aside a hinged bookcase, and said ”Follow me ... I’ll bet you’ve never seen anything like this!”

She disappeared behind the bookcase and George followed. He found himself at the top of a long descending stairway. He started down and it soon became apparent that it did not lead to a basement. There were sconces on the wall for lights. The stairway went down perhaps twenty feet, was getting wider and was winding a bit. He and the realtor finally reached the bottom. The walls were very cool, but not damp. There was some sort of ventilation. They came to a small wine cellar door in a separate room off one side. They peeked in; it was empty and musty. The tunnel continued ...

“What is this?” he asked, frowning. Had this started as an A-bomb shelter and then just developed a life of its own?

The realtor said nothing and motioned him on with a wave of her finger. Now the passageway was as wide as her outstretched arms and sloped downward, occasionally coming to a step or a series of steps. There was a drip of water. Some of the sconces were burned out. How far had they gone, maybe fifty yards? This was certainly not below the original property. They had to have gone under the street and into the hill beyond. Was this a tunnel that connected to some other house? Still, the realtor was silent.

Now the tunnel widened. The realtor stopped and opened a junction box and threw some switches. Ahead the lights went on. Was that music? He thought he heard running water. The asphalt floor and concrete walls had become marble; he hadn’t noticed when.

Suddenly they came to a tarnished brass railing on a small balcony overlooking a chamber larger than the house somewhere above. Off to the side there were other small rooms, bathrooms, empty rooms. They went down more steps and stood on the floor of the main room. In the center was a large sunken pool surrounded by a dozen gold-painted swans spouting water into it. The floor of the pool was a mosaic image of lovers in a passionate embrace. There were concealed lights in little alcoves in the concrete walls. There were tiny lights twinkling from the domed ceiling.

The realtor pointed out the drapery rods. She said the drapes had been red velvet. Lots of red velvet and gold paint. There had been marble tables and chaise lounges, too. All gone now. The place was decayed and dank with a smell of old incense and perfume. Strange 1960’s smells. Mold—lots of mold. But it was apparent that it had been a magical place once. George found himself beyond words.

She looked at her watch and motioned George to follow her back up the stairs. “I wish I’d been to one of their parties,” the realtor grinned ...

I once lived in a townhouse in Brooklyn. Everything from the entryway to the top was our place. The landlord inhabited part of the first floor and the street-level basement. One day the landlord showed me around. Beneath the basement was a coal cellar, now empty and perfectly usable for living or storage. Beneath that was a furnace room, with a furnace now converted to natural gas. Gravity had once been used to slide the coal down a chute to the furnace from the coal cellar above it. Beneath that furnace basement was yet another basement. Beneath that basement was yet another basement called a root cellar. It had only a dirt floor with massive tree-trunk posts supporting the whole thing above it. So there was a lot more “underground” in that house that no one ever would have suspected.

In the 1950s, friends of our family built a house right at the mouth of an abandoned coal mine. Opening the rear door in the cellar led to twenty miles of passageways and underground lakes. This was certainly in keeping with the duck-and-cover psyche of those times. You have to question the radon problem, but we didn’t know about things like that back then.

Did these guys actually own the underground property? It’s a hard question. One supposes that you own the volume you can dig as long as nobody finds out—after all, everything is legal if you don’t get caught.

Mineral and water rights are different. You may or may not own what’s underneath your own property. In the American West, you may not own the aquifer water right underneath your property, but you might own the aquifer water under that one. Various aquifers can lay on top of each other.

For a short time this writer was the youngest member of the Pittsburgh Grotto of the National Speleological Society (my older brother was second youngest), which got me into many caverns and underground lairs on an almost weekly basis. I loved it. We eagerly explored almost every hole in the ground, old mines, caverns, rare dry fault caves. One of my favorites was a Pennsylvania quarry where they dug horizontally into the mountainside creating a dozen otherworldly gigantic rooms. These are now nuclear waste repositories, unfortunately.

There is certainly a lot more underground real estate than anyone talks about. Part of the allure of subterranean property is that it is hidden from surface view and remains private to the owners. I live in a small town that was once home to the American Optical Company. In the 1800s they built a web of tunnels leading from various parts of town to the factory so their employees wouldn’t have to endure the New England weather. These are entirely hidden and blocked up now ... liability or something.kokopelli

[Kokopelli's Cave B&B in New Mexico, at left, is built into the vertical cliffs of Tertiary Ojo Alamo sandstone, seventy feet below the surface. The Cave consists of a master bedroom, living area, replica Native American kiva, dining area, full kitchen and bathroom with rock walls incorporating a shower and Jacuzzi tub.]

New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and several other cities have buried history as well as elaborate buried infrastructure.

There are many advantages to living underground: Security is pretty good, from A-bombs, tornados or the zombie hordes, and energy requirements are very low for heating and cooling because the underground is close to a reasonably comfortable 15°C. Furthermore, it is economical over the long run. Building underground is a subtractive process, not an additive one.

There are many other environmentally sensible reasons, too: We wouldn’t have to use up valuable crop-growing land, for one.

There is plenty of space underground for everyone in areas where being outside is problematic—the arctic, deserts, mountains, etc. Recent improvements in lighting have made the dark less of a problem. Some solar collectors (or wind turbines) and underground LEDs work very well, as do fiberoptic light conductors, and illumination tubes.

Today there are “Preppers” (people preparing for the end of civilization) who desire underground real estate, as well as people who want a little different life style. Some homeless people, known as “mole people,” live in the sewers of major cities all over the world. There’s plenty of room for everybody.

Why are so few homes underground? At one time living underground had consequences like questionable toilet facilities, ventilation and of course, pitch blackness. Science has invented solutions to all these problems, so maybe the time is right to get your shovel ready.

Eric M. Jones