Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Joy Ride
by Jude-Marie Green

Barnegat Inn
by Brian Biswas

Captain Quasar and the Kolarii Kidnappers
by Milo James Fowler

by Michael Hodges

Discord in Paradise
by Leslie Lupien

(225-50) Agnes
by Mark Ayling

It’s a Long Road to the Sky Train
by Michael Andre-Driussi

Not Her Kind
by Peter Wood

Down Courthouse Wash
by Steven L. Peck

Blink Twice
by Rebecca Birch

by Sean Monaghan


Mad Max, R2-D2 Return
by Adam Paul

Sixteen Shades of Ice
by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips



Not Her Kind

By Peter Wood

LUNDRA DID NOT LOOK FORWARD to the endless drunken yammering about the Invaders from Earth that would fill her tavern in a few hours.

For now, she enjoyed the quiet of mid-morning after the villagers had passed through for their morning rituals.

Her only customer so far was Qantz, the local the Invaders had appointed Governor. Nursing a drink, he swiveled in his chair and faced her. “The Visitors are leaving their base.”

Lundra positioned chairs around a table. “It’s just talk.”

“It’s more than talk.” Qantz shrugged. “I thought you might want to know.”

Lundra bent down and picked up a tankard some drunk had dropped last night. “Fine. I know.”

“I think they can’t go home. A ship from Earth hasn’t arrived in months,” Qantz said.

Lundra stared at him. “They’ll go home when they empty the mines.”

Qantz shook his head. “Something new is happening.”

“Uh huh ...” Lundra turned her attention to the hodgepodge of wine behind the bar. She needed to lug more from the storeroom. She had better things to do than waste her morning gossiping with somebody who started drinking before lunch.

Still, she couldn’t fault Qantz. If deadening his brain with alcohol helped the man cope with losing his wife in the plague, she envied him. She was not so forgiving.

The front door opened. Lundra clenched all twelve fingers into fists as the two soldiers from Earth strode into her tavern.

Qantz hopped to his feet and flashed a salesman’s grin at the Invaders. He held up an almost empty mug of Bazul. “Just finishing my breakfast.”

“Governor.” A tall redhead with closely cropped hair that exposed her rounded ears nodded.

Qantz did what he did best—socialized. “Check out the farmers market in a few weeks when all the crops are harvested, ladies.”

A hint of a grin crossed Red’s face. “Ladies?”

Lundra wiped down the bar.

“I’m sorry, um ...” Qantz stopped.

Red laughed. “Ladies is fine, Qantz. Or you can call me Major Sexton or just Major.”

Qantz continued. If part of being Governor was spinning stories and making people forget—at least temporarily—what had happened, then he was good at his job. “The fruit from the drafel tree will enormous.” He made exaggerated hand gestures.

Red smiled. “I’ve tried that fruit. It’s like an apple.”

“Ah,” Qantz said.

“You’d like apples,” Red said. “They’re about the size of drafels, but so much sweeter. And, you can make the most amazing pies.” She rapped the bar. “Do you make pies from the drafel, Lundra?”

Lundra was surprised an Invader remembered her name. “I don’t have time for baking.”

Red’s smile was full and inviting. “Well, that’s a shame. Life shouldn’t be all work.”

“I used to have help in the tavern before my parents died,” Lundra said.

“I’m sorry,” Red said. “I’m really sorry.”

Qantz coughed. “I heard a rumor that you might leave your base, Major.”

Red’s eyes opened wide. “Nothing escapes you, does it, Qantz? Yeah, the next few weeks we’ll be moving into more permanent homes.”

So, Qantz hadn’t just been gossiping. “Where?” Lundra asked.

“The hills, the woods. Land your village isn’t using.”

Lundra doubted their plans were so benign. If the soldiers left the base, they would probably take the best homes for themselves and force Lundra’s people to build new dwellings elsewhere. “You want us to take our skillets and cook in the caves?”

“I didn’t say that. We’re not going to make things any worse.” Red sighed. “We can’t live on MREs and rations forever. I suppose I’ll have to finally visit this market of yours, Qantz. You’ve been telling me about it for five years.”

Qantz laughed.

The front door opened. Lundra caught a glimpse of the soldiers’ metal vehicle on the muddy street.

A straggler, unusually late for the sacred morning cleansing, rushed inside. He stopped at the communal basin and dunked his head into the Kule—the wine the temple priests had blessed.

“That’s disgusting.” The second soldier, a squat brunette with matted hair, crinkled her nose. Her left eye, a lazy eye, gazed off into space. She pointed to the basin. “What the hell’s in there?”

“It’s filed with Kule. It’s like communion wine,” Red whispered.

“So, why don’t they do it in a church?”

Lundra could tolerate the soldier’s arrogance no longer. Speaking out was foolish, but she spoke nonetheless. “We have churches. But food and drink are sacred and we honor the Goddess in places where we share the table.”

Lazy Eye frowned. “Excuse me?”

Red patted Lazy Eye on the back. “Take it easy. It’s okay.”

The farmer cupped his hand in the Kule and slurped the liquid. He raced out the door, late to tend his fields.

Lundra draped the ceremonial cloth over the basin.

Red and Lazy Eye sat down at a wooden table near the door. They reached into their packs and pulled out their usual fare—battered tins of potted meat.

Lundra didn’t understand why the aliens scoffed at the fellowship of the table. They brought their own eating utensils, not sharing the communal spoons and knives. When they tried local food they used alien bowls and cups.

Lazy Eye yawned. “I’m thirsty.”

“The owner’s name is Lundra,” Red said. “We’ve been here before, Sargent.”

Lazy Eye shrugged. “Whatever.”

“Could we please have a couple of drinks, Lundra?” Red asked.

Lazy Eye snickered. “Just don’t get it from the slop bucket.”

Red frowned at Lazy Eye. Tone it down, Sargent. You’re not helping.”

“It’s not a slop bucket,” Lundra said.

Lazy Eye snorted. “Huh?”

“She’s right. You should pay more attention at briefings.” Red unwrapped a fork from a cloth and stirred the oily meat mixture. “Nature makes the fruit and the Goddess transforms it. The faithful cleanse themselves in the Kule every morning and are reborn.” She laughed. “You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you, Sargent?”

Lazy Eye yawned again. “I really don’t care. I just want to get hammered.”

“You’re right about the cleansing. It begins all of our days,” Lundra said quietly to Red.

Red smiled. “We also do something like the cleansing.”

“The hell we do,” Lazy Eye snapped. “Could we just get the drinks already?”

Red flicked a scab of grizzle out of the tin. “I wonder if the Goddess would bless this. I think it’s lamb.”

“I don’t have any of your vessels,” Lundra said.

“Why not?” Red asked.

Lundra hesitated. She did not want to get Qantz in trouble. Bringing crates of the Invaders’ vessels to taverns was the Governor’s responsibility. The Invaders required every place that served drinks to have the special glasses that protected against illness.

“It’s my fault. I haven’t brought her any in a while,” Qantz volunteered.

“Bring the goddamned vessels,” Lazy Eye ordered.

Qantz scurried out the door.


Twenty minutes later Qantz returned. “Lundra, please open the door.” He clutched a case.

Lundra let him inside.

“Thank you.” Qantz dropped the case on the bar. “I had to borrow these from another tavern. The rest of the supplies are in my home.” He wiped sweat off his brow with his sleeve.

He brought two wrapped vessels to the soldiers. “What would you like to drink?”

“What’s that drink that’s like whiskey?” Lazy Eye asked Red.

Red smiled at Qantz. “Two bazuls, Governor.”

Qantz took the opague bottle from Lundra. He waited while Red inspected the vessels and peeled thick cellophane from each glass. When Red nodded, indicating the vessels were unbreached, Qantz poured the thick fragrant bazul. The glasses hummed briefly. According to the aliens’ customs, the drinks were safe.

Lazy Eye chugged her bazul. She turned to Red. “This is ridiculous. You know the rules. Every place that serves food and drink is required to have the vessels.”

Red chuckled. “Been memorizing the regs, Sargent?”

“I mean it. If you don’t do something about it, I will.”

Red patted Qantz on the back. “Governor, maybe you have too much on your mind. Your home is far from the village, isn’t it?”

Qantz nodded. “Miles from town.”

“He used to have a farm,” Lundra said.

“That doesn’t matter anymore,” Qantz said.

“Maybe the vessels should be stored in the village.” Red paused. “Lundra can keep them.”

“What if I don’t want to keep your vessels?” Lundra asked.

Red instead asked her own question. “Lundra, before I drink, I should praise the Goddess?”

“No, you do not praise the Goddess. You are one with the Goddess. You show this when you cleanse yourself at daybreak, but then whenever you partake of the gift of the Goddess, you also cleanse yourself.”

Red’s smile was playful. “But, I’m not supposed to dunk my head in bazul, am I?”

“The bazul is too expensive.” Lundra surprised herself with the joke.

Red held up her glass. “Can you show me what to do?”.

Lundra dipped her finger in Red’s drink and dabbed two drops of bazul onto Red’s face. The soldier’s skin was tender, not leathery like a fighter.

Lazy Eye smirked, but said nothing.

Red smiled. “Now I may drink?”

“Now you may drink,” Lundra said.


Red turned and faced the bar where Lundra washed tankards. The soldier’s voice slurred. “My grandfather was a farmer. He grew sweet potatoes in a place called North Carolina. He lived in a village called Spring Hope. My father—”

“My mother and father died from your sickness,” Lundra said.

“I’m sorry,” Red said. “I’ll never see my parents again.”

“Did your parents die?”

Red shook her head. “No, they’re still on Earth. But, I’m not allowed to return.” She leaned over and fingered Lundra’s hair. “The measles and chicken pox that killed many of your people was a horrible thing. Your world made us sick as well. Many of us died.”

“The men died,” Lazy Eye said.

“Women died too,” Red said.

“Jesus Christ. All the men died,” Lazy Eye said.

Red pulled Lazy Eye’s half-empty vessel across the table, out of reach of the drunken Sargent. “I think eight drinks is enough.”

Through the window Lundra saw Qantz stop his cart laded with crates of vessels. He gave a fresh drafel to the ox-like animal that pulled his cart.

Red turned again to Lundra. “The doctors say the rest of us are okay, but they’re still worried. So, we use the—” She held up the vessel in a mock toast. “We’re not allowed to go home.”

Lundra knew the soldiers were afraid of sickness, but never realized so many had perished.

“Yep, they’re supposed to keep sending us supplies. A ship hasn’t arrived in a while,” Red said.

Lazy Eye scowled at Red. “Earth isn’t sending more ships. Stop fooling yourself.”


At twilight Lundra lit the oil lamps. Black smoke billowed out.

Lazy Eye coughed. “Why don’t we get some electricity in here?”

Red leaned back in her chair. “Because we can’t. We barely have enough power for the base.”

Lazy Eye stood up, swaying. She picked up a used vessel and shattered it against the wall. “I don’t think these vessels even work.”

“The regulations say to use them,” Red said.

Qantz carried yet another box of vessels to the storeroom.

“Really? You didn’t seem too worried when that bartender stuck her fingers in your drink.” Lazy Eye laughed. “Screw the regulations. The regulations also say we’re only supposed to do an eighteen month tour.”

“You’re not the only one stuck here.”

Lundra saw a different side of the Invaders. Usually they were stiff and formal. Lazy Eye had argued with Red from the moment the two entered the tavern.

“I signed up to pay for grad school. I’m not career military. You think I was going to enlist again? I was a damned history major at NC State ...” Lazy Eye’s voice trailed off.

“Nobody’s happy about this. We have to make the—”

“Shut up. The sun will come out tomorrow. Behind every cloud... Jesus Christ. My fiancé’s on Earth.”

“I’m sorry.”

“My ex-fiancé.” She forced a laugh. “I guess I should have seen this coming, being a damned historian, right?”

“I’m sorry,” Red repeated.

“How the hell do they know I’m a carrier?”

Red’s voice was calm. “We’ve all been tested.”

Lazy Eye hiccupped. “If the women had died, the men wouldn’t be stranded here.”

“You don’t know that.”

Lazy Eye’s face looked pained. “God.” She staggered outside and vomited in the street.

Red unwrapped a vessel and walked to the bar. She filled it with water and went outside.

Qantz had large perspiration stains on his shirt. He walked to the bar and poured himself two drinks. Water and ale. He sat down alone at the far end of the tavern. He splashed his face with some ale and bowed his head.


Red grasped Lundra’s hand as she passed the soldier’s table. It tingled. Lundra pushed it back. Others were watching.

“We never expected that we couldn’t go home,” Red said. “We have to leave the base. We’re running out of power.”

“It’s a tragedy our world has been so hard on you,” Lundra said in a monotone. “How awful that it wasn’t what you expected.” Lundra laughed. “Everybody I know has lost somebody.”

“You need to understand something. We’ve colonized dozens of planets without ever getting sick. We’ve never infected the locals. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Lundra stared at Red. “Everything would be better if it made sense?”

Red shook her head. “That’s not what I’m saying.” She laughed. “This probably has all the eggheads on Earth rethinking their theories about how all the humanoids we encountered are descended from the same ancient space-traveling race. Of course, the Native Americans and Europeans traded off small pox and syphilis.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I don’t either.” Red stood up and stumbled out the door. Lundra heard Red yelling something outside before her voice disappeared into the night.


At closing Qantz sipped his most recent ale. He had been silent for hours, just watching.

Lundra sat down beside him. “A plague hit their base—”

Qantz nodded. “I know. I heard you talking to the Major.”

“She listens. I almost feel sorry for her,” Lundra said.

“I feel pity for all of them,” Qantz said.

Lundra stared at Qantz. “Why would you feel sorry for them? They haven’t gone through anything.”

“Suffering is suffering, Lundra. You can’t compare pain. What happened wasn’t their fault.”

Lundra stood and shoved her chair against the table.

Qantz grabbed her arm. “For the love of the Goddess, Lundra, why do you have to blame anyone? People get sick. It doesn’t mean anyone caused it. The Visitors didn’t come here to kill us.”

“They didn’t come here to help us,” Lundra said.

“You can’t dwell on it. It’s pointless,” Qantz said. “It’s been over two years since your parents died.”

“You want me to forget them?”

Qantz’s voice rose. “No, I don’t expect that. I haven’t forgotten my wife.”

“I see how you honor her every day in my bar by making friends with the Invaders.”

“I’m working, Lundra. We need to get along with the Visitors. What you’re doing doesn’t help.” He sighed. “Grow up.”

Lundra crossed her arms. “You drink with them.”

“I’m here all day to try to help everybody get along. Do you have any idea how many fights I’ve prevented? If I drink, it’s because what I do is not easy.” His voice became quieter. “And, it helps me deal with what happened to my wife.”

“Joking around isn’t work.”

Qantz shook his head. “Laughing when you feel like screaming is the hardest work of all.”


After even Qantz had gone home, Lundra pulled one of the Invaders’ cases from the storeroom shelf. She lost her grip and it slammed into her shin. She yelped in pain and jumped back.

The box hit the stone floor. Vessels cracked. She grabbed one and smashed it against the wall.

Damn the Invaders! Why should she protect them? What had they done for her? She yanked down case after case. She heaved the vessels against the wall.

She hated her parents for leaving. And, she was angry at herself.

Was Qantz right? Had she really wasted so much time?

She collapsed in a chair. She laughed for the first time in many months.


Lunda awoke, still in the chair. She walked to the window and glimpsed the bloated red sun rising above the horizon. Wagons passed to and fro on the dirt street.

The workers would be here soon to cleanse. She wrestled the basin from its stone base and shuffled to the street to empty yesterday’s Kule.

She dumped the Kule and noticed a sack of green on the planked sidewalk. It was Red, passed out.

Lundra rinsed out the basin with water from the village well. She filled it full of kule and went back outside to check on Red.

She nudged the soldier with her foot.

Red groaned. She blinked and looked up at Lundra. “Where am I?”

Lundra smiled. “You’re sitting outside my tavern.”

Red covered her eyes with her hand. “God, I feel like absolute shit. Susan took off in the jeep. I barely remember trying to walk back to base.” She rose slowly. “What did I tell you last night?”

“You don’t remember?”

“Some of it,” Red muttered.

“You told me that you couldn’t go back to Earth.”

“Jesus Christ.” Red closed her eyes and massaged her temples. “I shouldn’t have said that.”

“Would you like some water?” Lundra asked.

“Just, no Bazul, please.”

“No Bazul.”

They sat at a table. Red held her stomach and slowly sipped a tankard of well water. “My name’s Anne.” She glanced over to the storeroom and saw the shards of broken glass. “Good lord. Troops won’t be drinking over here, will they?”

“I guess not.”

“It doesn’t really matter. Susan’s probably right. The vessels don’t work. We’re just pathologically paranoid. We were using the vessels to drink alcohol for God’s sake. What sense does that make?” Anne smiled. “I haven’t had a hangover like that since college.”

“Let me make you some tea,” Lundra said.

“Thank you.”

Lundra heated water and added some herbs to a mug. She handed the drink to Anne. “Drink this. You’ll feel better.”

Anne took the mug “Lundra, Thank you.”

Lundra liked hearing Anne say her name.

“You should go back to the base and sleep,” Lundra said gently.

“I don’t want to go back just yet,” Anne said. “There isn’t a whole lot for me there.”

“You can stay here for a little while,” Lundra said.

“I’d like that.”

Lundra smiled. END

Peter Wood is an attorney from Raleigh, North Carolina. He has had stories published in “Asimov’s,” “Daily Science Fiction,” “Stupefying Stories,” and “Every Day Fiction.” His previous story for us was “Cheap” which ran in the 12-FEB-2014 update.


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