Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Stolen Dreams
by Joseph Green
and R-M Lillian

Boon’s Mutiny
by Harold R. Thompson

Dancing in the Right of Way
by Cyn C. Bermudez

Esterhazy’s Cadence
by Guy T. Martland

Ghosts of Space Command
by Milo James Fowler

by Jeremy Szal

White Russians and Old Lace
by K.C. Ball

Shuttle 54, Where R U?
by Jack Ryan

Shorter Stories

Faraday Cage
by Timothy J. Gawne

Rose Coloured Tentacles
by Gareth D. Jones

Screaming His Scream
by Tim Major


Making Real Life X-Men
by E.E. Giorgi

Taking the Temperature
by Pierre Duhem



Comic Strips




Screaming His Scream

By Tim Major

STEPHEN SHIFTED THE BOY to his other shoulder and frowned at the pool of white foam left on his jumper.

Russell, sitting in the opposite armchair with a glass of wine, smiled, apparently enjoying this vision of fatherhood. He raised an eyebrow as a reminder of the hanging question.

Stephen settled his son into the crook of his arm. The three-month-old’s expression flicked between emotions, juggling annoyance and contentment.

“Me?” Stephen said, reaching toward his own glass, unable to reach it, giving in. “I was nine, I guess. Old enough to understand, but not to understand, you know?”

“I guess it was a bit like something from a TV show,” Russell said. “Stuff like that happened all the time. A Baron Greenback plan if ever I heard one.”

Stephen chewed his lip. “I suppose. Still, it’s weird what lodges in your mind about a day as important as that. I remember being in Donald Routledge’s car—a friend of my dad’s. I was to spend the weekend at the Routledge’s house and he’d picked me up from school. Nice guy, but I’d taken against him that night. He’d got pissed off with me playing with my watch.”

“What’s so bad about that?”

Stephen suppressed his laugh so as not to jolt the boy. “I’d saved up for months. It had a sixteen-melody alarm. Yankee Doodle Dandy, among others. I guess it probably was pretty annoying. Anyway, so I stopped talking. It was raining.”

Russell nodded slowly. “Torrential, wasn’t it, early in the evening? I remember. I was older than you, fifteen. Huddled under canvas on my Duke of Edinburgh bronze expedition. Sandy was there. It was unbearable, being separated into our same-sex tents. With a torch I could see her silhouette through the wall.”

“I watched the raindrops gather on the passenger window,” Stephen said, still lost in his own evening, those twenty years ago. “I found it hypnotic, those fat drops creeping diagonally down. Coming to a halt before coming across a smaller drop, eating it up and accelerating.”

His son’s mouth smacked open and closed, as if he was munching raindrops, too.

Russell stretched his arms, the wine swilling in the glass. “I miss the rain. How long’s it been this time around? Three years?”

“Must be. It’s the sound of it that I miss. But it’s all in here, still.” Stephen gestured with difficulty toward his own forehead, unable to free his hand. “Every time the car went under a bridge, even a narrow one, the rain stopped thumping on the bonnet. If you closed your eyes you could imagine the whole world had disappeared, suddenly.”

Russell grimaced. “As premonitions go, that was a near miss.”

“Anyway, Donald Routledge obviously felt bad about me clamming up. So he started talking about the lunar eclipse, only a few hours away. That’s a subject that’d get any nine-year-old boy on side, right? I knew more about it than he did—we’d been gearing up to it all week at school. And then ... Then the road opened out, the hedgerows disappeared. Even the rain stopped. And exactly on cue, there was the moon. Grey and round and just hanging there, the man screaming his scream.”

“Strange. I always saw it as screaming, too, rather than the big grin he has on T-shirts and mugs these days. Not that I was paying much attention that night. Once the rain stopped some of the others lit a fire. I snuck away with Sandra. It wasn’t a proper campsite, just a grassy outcrop, beside Ullswater. I found a romantic view over the lake, an outcrop on the outcrop. The light was amazing, it made Sandy’s face ghostly. She was a beauty back then.”

“Still is,” Stephen said. He registered Russell’s expression of mock offence. “So I have the hots for your wife. What are you going to do about it?”

Russell harrumphed. When he spoke again it was little more than a murmur into his glass. “We were still sitting there on that rock when the eclipse began. The others left the fire to stand behind us like chorus-girls to our leading parts. It was already insanely dark out there on the lake, at least for us city kids. When the moon blacked out we all just went silent.”

“Me, too, and all the Routledges, standing in their back yard. There was something primal, that moment when it blinked out entirely. The silence seemed to last forever.”

“And the stars seemed to get brighter each minute the moon didn’t show up. We imagined it was a show just for us, our little band of snot-nosed teens.”

Stephen’s sigh transferred to the boy in his arms, although his was contented in sleep. “We stayed up late, me and Nathan, the Routledge boy. The news reports started calmly enough. Scientists chuckling over the mysteries of the universe, the fallibility of their own data, all that. But by nine-thirty hints of hysteria crept in. Even Radio Four aired the conspiracy theories, although I guess they were half-joking. Suggestions of Cold War antics, mainly, like something from James Bond.”

“Yeah. It was only the next day, back at what the D-of-E leaders laughingly called base camp—like we were ascending Everest—that we heard the media reaction,” Russell said. “People kept a lid on their panic during the day, but come nightfall it was all different. Where the fuck was it? Millions of years with a moon hanging over our heads, and we were the ones to lose the bastard.”

Stephen nodded. “And the environmentalists started getting serious. Threat of extinct species, because of—what?—the slower nutrient circulation in the oceans, is that it? But it was Brian Cox and the celebrity scientists that held the most sway, as far as I remember. It still all seemed too sci-fi, even for the seven-year-old me. Until the days started shortening.”

Russell grinned. “I was doing work experience. My office cut the work day down by an hour—I was chuffed to bits.”

“Then it was the seasons going skew-whiff. Even then, everyone expected the moon to pop back into the sky at any minute, like it was all a cosmic practical joke.”

“I read an article that reckoned it was only after the first Hollywood blockbusters that folks took it seriously. Isn’t that always the way? The Moon Eater, that was the first one I saw. People screaming, I mean in the cinema, as well as onscreen. And didn’t that coincide with the first eruption? Perfect timing in terms of publicity.”

Stephen finally managed to shift his son to a position that allowed him to reach his wine glass. Just as he lifted it to his lips, the lounge door burst open, slamming against the wall. His wife, Karen, stood framed in the doorway. He gave an accusatory glare, even though the boy hadn’t stirred.

Karen’s eyes were wide and wild. She looked from Stephen to Russell, then fixed on the murmuring child in Stephen’s arms.

“It’s on the radio,” she said, her voice cracked and dry. “It’s happening.”

Stephen’s eyes widened. He heard the clink of Russell’s glass on the table.

“What?” Stephen said, even though he knew. “Say it, Kal.”

Strands of her hair had loosened from their clips, framing her narrow face, pointing to her lips. Stephen watched them move soundlessly before Karen found words.

“A meteorite,” she said. “Bigger, this time. Too big.”

The years since the eclipse had prepared them. The drawbridge had been down, so to speak, for twenty years.

“And there’s no chance?” Stephen said. The calmness in his own voice surprised him. “Nowhere we could get to fast enough?”

Karen shook her head.

They left their wine to stand in the back garden, Stephen carrying the boy, Karen with her arms awkwardly around the both of them, Russell standing alone and shivering.

They watched the dark sky for signs. END

Tim Major writes from Oxford, in the U.K. His novella, “Carus & Mitch” was recently published by Omnium Gatherum. His short stories have been included in publications such as “Interzone” and the “Infinite Science Fiction” anthology.