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 J. 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



It’s the Last Ice Shelf!

By Anthony J. Langford

DR. BALE AND HIS TWO CHILDREN TAKE off on a solar chopper from the Seafarer Cutting Edge over the sleeted Southern waters towards the isolated landmass that is Antarctica. Bale looks down at the perilous grey crests but all he thinks about is the hotel’s debut. The first true test. Being the prime investor the glory will be all his. He’s been meticulous with research and development. There’s no doubting it will be a success.


He likes his entrances a touch dramatic and selects the final transport of the day to make the journey across the frozen landscape. Nine-year-old Ramin and eleven-year-old Jemima are in awe of the coastal mountains, though for him, the hotel’s position is purely economic. No one wants a view of vague pale topography. May as well look at a painted wall. And for a brief time, he considered it. The tourists might come, in part, to see the diminishing ice shelf, but only a fool would build on it. The entire venture was extremely expensive as it was, but a few donations in the right places can drill many an ice bore.

The other investors, select officials, management and their offspring make up the remainder of this first weekend of guests. The official opening will not be until the following Friday with the affluent members of the public, the necessary media hoopla, with a few backroom perks and some very attractive, remunerated, overexcited visitors. Bale was relieved that the debacle over the hotel’s name had finally been put to rest. His handpicked project team had delivered a fiasco; Precipitation Point, Hotel Ice Break, the unimaginative South Pole Oasis, the barely pronounceable Gondwanaland Wigwam, and the worst of all, the Frigid Haven, which sounded more like an Irish brothel. In the end some computer freak or telemarketer presented Terra Australis Incognita. There was a meaning behind it, something to do with the early explorers, Bale didn’t know or care. It possessed that exotic flavor and he took it for his own. And why not? He’s the one fronting the bill.

“Circle around,” Bale says into his headset, in sight of Shackleton Range, the mountains seemingly designed just for them. He had been to the hotel many times, of course. He was there when the generators were ground into being. What an orgasmic moment that was. As is this dioramic perusal. It isn’t as though he wants to value the moment with his two children. It never crosses his mind. It is simply masturbatory in context. He is a dedicated enthusiast for “self-service,” and always has been. In part because no one else can live up to his expectations. And yet, he demands that he first earns the privilege and thus, creates the recipe for his success. His affliction with this particular pleasure once bothered his wife, but she ceased complaining after their children were born. He refused to hire a nanny, not for his children and she was kept far too busy. As far as he was concerned, she was fulfilling her purpose and he severed his counterfeit devotion to her. Another objective reached.

An hour later they are in the Presidential Suite.

“Open,” Ramin says and the curtains peel aside, allowing the white to slice in.

“Jesus!” says Dr. Bale.

“Sorry, Father. Dim.” The glass darkens.

His sister Jemima says, “You’re the dim one Ramin.”

Ramin stares evil. “Watch it! Or you’ll be skating across thin ice. Ha ha! Get it?”

“You two control yourselves. You’re supposed to be admiring the view. It cost me enough.”

Ramin analyses the spotty distance. “What’s that? Is that penguins?”

Bale drops an ice cube into his Scotch and ambles over. “Damn well better be.”

Jemima says, “Can we go out and see them?”

“That’s on tomorrow’s agenda.”

“Where’s the rest of them?” Ramin asks.

Bale scrutinizes. “That’s the lot.”

“That’s not what the brochures say!”

Bale places a firm hand on the boy’s shoulder. “They were here when we first arrived. It’s not my fault if they got cold feet.”

“Was that ... is that a joke, Father?”

Jemima looks faint. “So where’s the rest?”

“Do you have to ask so many questions, Jemima? Infuriating girl. Infractions all right? Fractals. Something like that. Dirty water. Does it matter? It wasn’t like this in the planning stages or I would have reassessed. But don’t worry. Certain people have paid the price.”

Ramin, eyebrows up. “They’ll be getting jobs in waste purging, Father?”

Bale sniffs his Scotch. “They won’t be getting any jobs.”

“Yeah, Jem germ. You’re so stupid.”

“Father!” she complains.

“Are you two always like this? I’m sure your mother is sick on purpose.” He downs the Scotch while the two youngsters glare at each other with homicidal thoughts.

“Ramin, make me another Scotch. Then prepare for dinner.”

“Father, is this going to be a dull business meeting?” Jemima says, hand on hip.

“Listen, you need to moderate your behavior. People look to me for guidance. And this is very important.”

“It does sound boring,” says Ramin.

The man shakes his head. “It’s time you two began acting like Bales. The world would be in utter chaos without people like us. As I’ve explained, there are two types. Those who lead and those who follow.”

Ramin hands his father the Scotch. “It’s okay, Father. I’ll show them. If Jem germ can’t.”

She shoots her brother a death pout.

“God help me,” Bales says, “Listen you brats, if you behave I may swing an early trip on The Submerger.” He had planned it already.

The children look to each other with creeping smiles.


“Don’t be idiotic. Tomorrow, depending on your performance.”

“Maximum attitude, Father,” Jemima says.

“No idjit,” says Ramin. “Its maximum aptitude!”

“That’s correct, Ramin. Jemima, no need to brown-nose. A Bale never capitulates, even when all is lost. Understand?” He would have to explain the intricacies of brown-nosing when they were older. Nothing wrong with getting a little shit on your face, as long as someone else wipes it off.

Less than ninety minutes later, while the one hundred and sixty strong guests eat, Bale makes his speech. It appears unrehearsed, but that’s the point. A brief dot-point scan and four Scotches are all he needs. And perhaps a piece of that Asian waitress flitting amongst the front tables. He detects the awe in her eyes.


After the applause fades, he makes his way to the kitchen. The staff is surprised to see him and are clearly unnerved. The Head Waiter rushes over. Bale demands a Scotch. The waiter motions to a female kitchen hand. Bale studies her as she locates the Scotch bottle and pours him a drink. She’s not up to his benchmark.
When the glass is in his hand Bale takes the waiter aside. He makes enquiries about the young Asian waitress he had observed. Coincidentally, just as the two men converse, she enters. She is attractive, strong featured and quite possibly, not long out of her teens. With a certain poise it seems she could be destined for better things, but right now, she is without power and therefore, easily manipulated. The waiter obediently approaches her. The girl does not appear enthusiastic, even after the waiter presents her with the roll of credit vouchers Bale had slipped him. He grins. The uncertainty is the only thing that makes life interesting, provided he gets his way in the end. And that’s a certainty.

Later when his children are asleep, Bale makes his way down to the kitchen where the remaining staff members are cleaning up.

“You can leave now.”

“Oh hello sir. We just have one more ...”

“Leave now or leave permanently.”

In a flash he is alone, but not for long. Just as he pours fresh but inferior kitchen Scotch, she appears, loitering coyly at the far end of the tiled workspace like a gunslinger. She may be Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese. Her background is irrelevant. It’s her body he wants. There’s a provocative manner about her. Yet she seems untouched. Just how he likes them. Her youth is scintillating. Or perhaps it’s the Scotch beginning to claim him. He knows he’s had too many but pours another. He raises his glass to her in offering.

She declines.

He downs half of it and motions for her to come closer.

She remains stationary. Not a tease. Insubordinate.

“Do you like working here?”

Bewilderment, then consternation moves across her face like a shadow. Did she detect a threat?

“It’s a genuine question,” he says. “I saw how efficiently you were working and I thought, there goes someone who enjoys her job.”

Her eyes narrow.

“I’m not trying to patronize you. I’m sure you actually detest it, but the method is in deceiving yourself. I can relate to that. Goes for anything. Business, relationships, marriage.”

“I like this place. The Antarctic, I mean.”

He nods. “I knew there was something you were passionate about.”

“I studied Ice Dissipation at University.”

“You’re not one of those enviro types are you?” His smirk does not hide his contempt.

“Certainly not,” she says. “I never completed my degree. I just want to travel, you know?”

“What I know is that we’ve had infiltrators here before. Those young men were dealt with very harshly. Just in case it crosses your mind, I wouldn’t recommend it.” The recipe for his success.

She shakes her head. “I like to meet different people. And experience new things. Same as everybody else.”

He sups his Scotch. “I’m arranging a trip for my children tomorrow. On the Submerger.”

“Yes?” She steps forward. “We must work for six months before we get to go. And it is very costly. I suppose you knew that already.”

“I didn’t, but I do now. I’ll look into it.” Fabrication is necessary in business. Why would he waste a costly enterprise on staff? “Why don’t you come closer? It’s very awkward having a conversation over this distance and I do like talking to you. You’re very intuitive. That’s why I didn’t patronize you. I can see that you’re intelligent.”

She looks down. “I don’t want to jeopardize my position here.”

“Don’t fret, sweetheart. I’m not going to attempt to have sex with you. What was going through your mind? I’ve got children.” He smiles and drains the Scotch.

“Oh, of course.” She is somewhat embarrassed and shuffles forward. “Sorry.”

He puts the glass down. “I just want you to stand there a minute. Come closer.”

She obeys. “Is this a game of some kind?”

“Everything’s a game. Most people are just too stupid to realize it. They bunker down on their pointless principles and pretend it has some higher meaning.” He reaches out and grasps her shoulder. “Don’t move.” He unzips his fly.

She flinches but his fingers dig into her sinews.

“I’m not going to touch you beyond this. I will arrange for you to be on the Submerger tomorrow. In addition to that and, more importantly, you can keep your job, even if you are a fucking enviro. But if you move I will have you fired. If you complain, I’ll have you up on charges as an infiltrator. You must watch. Do not turn away.” He begins masturbating.

She can scarcely comprehend what’s happening, let alone analyse a way out without compromising herself. Maybe he knows more about her than he lets on.

“I come from a long line of Bales. We’ve always been pioneers. This is the last ice shelf and I have brought it to the world. Let them have one last look. As long as they pay for the privilege. And if it goes, which it probably will, the Bales will discover other opportunities.” His tone becomes more erratic. “They are nothing without us, without me.”

She knows she should feel sick but all she feels is rage. It’s taking all of her preparation to hold it together. They hadn’t told her that it would be this difficult. Focus on the objective, you don’t matter.

“That’s you sweetheart. I’ll show you the way,” he says panting. “I’ll show you.” He ejaculates onto the tiled floor and her black shoes.


To reach the Submerger they must take a short shuttle trip from the hotel. An infrared turnstile identifies each person. The excitement of those present, the investors, management, and their children drowns out the safety instructions as they glide across the grey landscape, patches of rock already free of the dirty white ice, the temperature not what it was.

Dr. Bale yawns, his second caffeine having eluded him. He turns to one of the middle management sycophants grinning next to him and says, “Environmental concerns, blah blah. Let’s just get this over with.”

The man laughs, a tad too eagerly.

Ramin gives his father a stern look. “Maybe you wouldn’t be so tired, Father, if you didn’t drink so much Scotch.”

The sycophant hangs on every nuance. Absorbing.

“Fertile imagination these kids.” Bale resists the urge to smack his son across the face. “Prefer to go back, Ramin? I can arrange it.”

Jemima grins. “Please do, Father.”

Ramin turns in time to see the shuttle enter the metal dome. They slide to a halt and exit in accordance with status. Bales first. The shuttle empties behind them. Down metal stairs to a platform, air crisp, breath showing. They receive more instructions, the hurried version for the executives. A panel slides open and behold, the tall spherical Submerger, shaped like a teardrop. The children are wide-eyed with marvel. Bale is droopy, thinking only of coffee. And perhaps an afternoon nap. Alert enough to notice however, that the waitress is a no show. He will have to monitor her. Any hint of trouble and she will suddenly commit an unforgivable employee error.

The recipe for his success.

They file into the transport. The floor and part of the curved walls are made of thick, transparent Perspex, in order to maximize viewing pleasure. At the moment though, all they can see is the circular metal grille below, the only thing between them and the aqueous chasm. The guide ensures that all are seated and strapped in tight around the periphery. After securing the hatch and more instructions they are ready.

Bale senses claustrophobia swarming in. It’s all about control. He does not like situations without it. Are you scared? His father’s voice. The Bales are not claustrophobic! His father taught him that example. Hours in a storage box.

Weakness is for peasants!

I am not ... I am not ...

Bale fights it back the only way he can. The inner voice calming his child. The hangover has allowed his nemesis to creep in. Damn cheap commoner’s Scotch.

The guide is the last to sit and straps in.

The grate clanks, yawning.

The children become quiet, still excited yet edgy.

The submersible groans.

The dark freezing water is revealed. Ominous. Not yet ready to reveal its secrets.
Anxiety settles in, tendrils reaching out.

To everyone that is, except Bale. He has won the battle. For now.

The thick steel cable unwinds, lowering the Submerger slowly, like the last sperm finding its way into the canal.

Gloom encompasses, an immediate night.

The open grate diminishes overhead, like a train receding from the tunnel mouth.
Pitch, nightmarish black.

Jemima grips her father’s forearm. He doesn’t reassure her. She needs toughening, like the other fraidy-cats around them, some sniffling in fear. Still, he would have to demand that adequate lighting is present in this early stage. The attempt at a mysterious atmosphere is too frightening for children.
Floodlights shimmer outwards.

Everyone murmurs, more from relief, until the beauty of the spectacle seeps through their diminishing dread. The illumination reveals a colossal valley of ice; a terrifying, but stunning unknown universe. More impressive than any penguin visit.

Bale knew this of course. The penguins would always be a letdown. Declining population, etc. It doesn’t matter, as long as the tourists come. The Submerger would satiate any apparent qualms. Give them a circus ride and all the little people are content.

The waters are thick with slush, drifting particles.

Tiny amoebas investigate, then ignore.

A child presses against the limpid wall, astounded.

“Beautiful,” whispers Ramin.

Bale glowers. The boy is a trifle soft, but there is still time.

There is a faraway thud, as though on the surface. It did not come from the docking station. Or did it? Somewhere close. An unnatural sound. Not of nature. A giant net of ripples tracks toward them. It hits the Submerger, tilting it violently, a shifting metallic groan followed by a hush of terrified souls.

“Is this part of the ride?” Jemima asks.

deeBRRRRUWrrrr rr r!

Another muffled detonation. Much closer this time. Bale seethes. That’s what it is, isn’t it? A fucking explosion. Some incompetent asshole’s going to pay.

Outside, half of the world is closing in. The glacier is moving.

“What the hell’s happening?” Bale spits at the guide. “Why are we moving towards the ice?”

The guide rises to his feet. “We’re not.” They are being severely buffeted. Not without difficulty, he makes it to the controls. “Oh God.”

Detecting his mood, the occupants tense. The children are crying. Some shriek.
They can see the grate overhead, linked by the cable, their umbilical cord, but the station seems so far away.

Falling frozen pebbles turn to boulders. They pound the transparent roof.

Bale flaps. “I demand you do something!”

The glacier bears down hard against their embryo, Earth quaking.

The guide is thrown off his feet and smacks the back of his skull on the floor but everyone is beyond caring.

“Father?” Jemima tugs on his arm, the urge for reassurance in her eyes.

Bale knows what’s going to happen. It’s only seconds away. He unleashes his belt and heads for the controls. The guide is on the floor, not moving. Inept fool.
Bale waves across the controls. The visual display reveals they are already retracting, as fast as possible by the looks of it. He glances up to confirm, but the grate is no longer visible. A skyscraper of ice has blocked them in. “Damn it. How do I access the communications on this thing?”

The tips of the glaciers converge. Ice pounds against ice, sandwiching the cable. Metal shreds, unable to stand the enormous centripetal forces at play. The cable snaps.

All power dies and blackness consumes them. Without heating, the cold already begins to permeate the shell. They are left with the grumbling sounds of Mother Nature’s frozen vigor.

The Submerger oscillates, a mere drop in a torrent of fever sweat.

Bale is hurled to the floor.

Children howl. Adults shout, but their sounds are confined by the embryonic fluid.
Lying on the cold hard plastic in the dark, trembling with claustrophobia, Bale shrinks into a fetal position. His hand finds its way between his legs. For once, he is limp. There is no recipe for failure.

The Submerger is nothing now but a fluttering stamp in a whirlpool. It plunges beneath the dual glaciers as the bulk of the ice comes together with tremendous energy, a tearing heavenly crash.

The down current from the collision seizes them, mere sediment in an eddy. They corkscrew down and down, farther into the unchartered virgin womb.

Naturally. END

Anthony J. Langford lives in Sydney, Australia. His stories have appeared in “Vayavya,” “The Literary Yard,” “The Blue Magazine,” and elsewhere. His novella, “Bottomless River,” was published in 2012 by Ginninderra Press.


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