Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Running Tangent
by Dale Ivan Smith
and K.C. Ball

Food, Glorious Food
by Joey To

by Dave Creek

by Siobhan Gallagher

An Island in Your Arms
by James Patrick Riser

Rim’s End
by John Walters

by Holly Schofield

Ooze Love
by Andrew James Woodyard

Shorter Stories

Deus Ex Machina
by Erin Lale

It’s, Like, So Boring at the End of the World
by Amy Sisson

by Robin Wyatt Dunn


Making Sense of it All
by Libby McGugan

Is There Life in Space?
by Peter Cawdron



Comic Strips





By Siobhan Gallagher

DAMN FROGGERS. THEY WERE COMING in droves from their war torn planet, seeking asylum. Problem: the nearest planet was colonized by humans half a century ago. Bigger problem: those bleeding-hearts in the capitol decided to welcome the froggers. Our world is your world.

The hell it wasn’t. But I kept it to myself and put a plastic smile on as another ship docked and unloaded its mucusy passengers. I stood behind my station, scanner screen flickering. Been at it for five hours and it didn’t look like traffic was going to lighten up. A speaker overhead droned for the billionth time that day: Please step onto a terminal station for a quick health inspection. Thank you.

And step up they did. One frogger—maybe male, but then again, they all looked the same—faced me on the terminal, its beady obsidian eyes on either side of its head stared at me. Always gave me the shivers. The scanner materialized a 3D form of the frogger’s body: bipedal humanoid with massive gut, thick neck, and wide flat head. The scan revealed active cultures churning in the frogger’s bowels, crawling on its slick skin. Froggers were best buds with these microorganisms, couldn’t live without them. Just watching those yellow dots dance all over the 3D form made me want to toss up lunch.

The frogger sneezed.

Sneezes were awful enough, but from a frogger, it was a snot rocket. My station’s window took the assault: large globs of spittle smacked hard enough to make it shake, and stuck there.

“Apologies. Must’ve caught something,” the creature gurgled, removing a handkerchief from its Hawaiian shirt.

Well, the scan said the frogger was clean, so no worries. And no concealed weapons. That was the real concern.

I nodded to the frogger. “You’re free to move on.”

As the frogger turned away, my smile broke into a grimace. And thank you for leaving all that crap on my station.

I pushed a button and a large windshield wiper came down. Swish, Swish. The gelatinous snot smeared across the glass, making it much worse. All this technology and it still didn’t work right. So I went old school, grabbed a squirt bottle and rag from under the station’s tabletop, came around to the window. Had to keep it presentable or the supervisor would have my ass. Wouldn’t want to offend the froggers with unkempt stations, now would we? Even though they left slime trails everywhere.

There must’ve been fumes in the air, ’cause I started to feel a little woozy. Almost tripped on myself while walking back behind the glass. I leaned on the control panel, took deep breaths to clear my head. C’mon, you can hold out for a few more hours of this and you’ll be gone. Overtime? Hell no. Wasn’t worth the pay.


It definitely wasn’t the fumes. By the end of my shift, I’d developed a headache. Must’ve been from listening to that speaker all damn day. I bought some injectable analgesic on the way from work, shot them in by the time I reached the door of my apartment. The relief was instant.

I walked inside. Alyss was reclined in front of her computer interface, face frozen in serenity, plugged in. I let her be, probably in the middle of a big transaction between firms, and grabbed a beer packet from the fridge. Yeah, yeah, it wouldn’t mix well with the medication, but it was ritual to have a beer after work. I sat down, sipped on the beer while watching the news projected on the wall. And of course the news—human news—was about the froggers. Interviews, podcasts, blogs ... all focused on those oversized amphibians.

Sleep seemed better than watching this crap.


Chomp. Crunch. Chew. Chomp. Crunch. Chew.

It was in my ears. Awful bone grinding noise, like some dog gnawing, gnawing, gnawing. We didn’t even own a fucking dog. So what was it? I got up off the couch, headed toward the sound; it was coming from the kitchen. Garbage disposal? That thing was always on the fritz.

I entered the kitchen—and halted. There, sitting at the kitchen table, was a witch. Her barkskin sagged from a thousand years; stringy bits of hair barely covered her scalp. Pieces of meat snagged on her fishhook teeth as her jaws worked their way around a femur.

The witch spotted me, eyes turned into snake slits. “What?” she said in Alyss’ voice.

I blinked. Then rubbed my eyes. It was Alyss sitting there with a frozen dinner, fork idle in her hand as she gave me the weirdest look.

“Is something wrong?” she asked.

I took a deep breath. No more drinking while on medication.

“No, no. You just look nice today.”

Alyss patted her messy bun and frowned. “I haven’t even taken a shower yet.”

“Still look nice.” I sat down at the table across from her. “So how did the deal go?” Better to get onto another topic and put this all behind. Just a stupid trick of the eyes—and ears.

“Oh gosh, Barnes is so difficult to work with. Always asks for too much—” Suddenly, she put her folk down and leaned in.

Now it was my turn. “What?”

“You’re so pale. Are you sick?”

The back of my hand touched my forehead. No fever. “Don’t think so. Maybe I just need more sun.”

“Well, you have been busy at work.” She nodded, as though that answer satisfied her.

“No kidding. More froggers coming in by the hour, like an infestation. Soon, there won’t be any room for us.” I leaned back in my chair, the prospect a dark stain in the back of my mind.

“It’s just temporary.” She picked up what was left of her frozen dinner and walked over to the sink behind me.

Noooo, no.” I wagged my finger over my shoulder. “I can tell a visitor from someone who plans on taking residence here. They gaze at their surroundings, take their time to know the place, whisper about plans. Nope, this isn’t a pit stop for them.”

“Okay, so what? They’re not violent.”

“No, they’re just ...” I pictured froggers’ slimy bodies, webbed fingers wrapped around umbrella handles, marking their path under the sun, paths that contained ecosystems of microbes. Yellow specks everywhere. I shuddered. “... I dunno. I just don’t like it. Call it intuition.”

“Oh? Was it your intuition to buy that pool table you never use, and takes up a whole corner?”

“Hey!” I turned around. “I’m going to use it, soon. And it doesn’t take up the whole corner.”

“Sure it doesn’t.” She grinned as her eyes did a roll. “All right, I’m going to take a quick shower and then go to the store. Need anything?”

“Maybe more ibuprofen.” The slight tremors of a headache edged around my conscious.

“And you say you aren’t sick.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I’ll hop into a tanning bed.”

Alyss’ grin grew. “Okay, I’ll be back.”

I leaned into the chair a little further, closed my eyes, forcing aside the headache. Would I have to call in? God that better not be the case. Boss man would throw a fit, tell me to drag my sorry ass out there and scan these froggers if I wanted a job tomorrow. Worse, if they give my job to a frogger. And would Alyss want to stay with a loser? Probably not.


Another workday, another mucus-filled workday, another head-thumping, mucus-filled workday. Oh, the joy.

Something must’ve been going around, because a couple of co-workers had called in sick, which meant working overtime for me. On top of that, I overheard the boss man chatting it up with a young frogger about a job application. I knew it. They’d have our jobs in no time.

Maybe it was a mix of anger and tiredness, but I couldn’t even see straight by the end of my shift. I slipped into my jacket and stumbled off the terminal station. Obscure shapes zipped around, streets wiggled like live worms, the surrounding structures emitted a fog. And me apologizing every time I crashed into someone. Their faces were a smear, but I could feel their disapproving stare.

I made it to the next block and across the street. There she was. The witch. Sharp and clear amongst the sea of blurs, dressed in the rags. She glided towards me, gnarled branches for fingers, reaching, grasping. Her sulfur eyes held predatory glee.

Oh, God no! I backed up, backed into other people. No apology, just had to get the hell away. I fell, knees cracked against concrete. The witch’s hand inches from me.

“No, no. Don’t touch me!” I squeezed my eyes shut.

“Hey, son, are you all right there?” spoke a gentle voice.

I opened my eyes, blinked. A middle aged cop was leaning over me, brows furrowed, lips pressed together. People walked past us, but not without giving me strange looks.

I nodded, using the back of my hand to wipe sweat from my forehead. Still no fever, though my face was burning up.

“You haven’t been drinking, have you?” the cop asked as he took a device out from his belt.

“Uh, no, just tired. Long day at work.”

The cop cracked a smile. “Ah, I know the feeling. They overworking ya?”

“Uh, yeah.” I quickly nodded.

“Mind rolling up your sleeve? Need to check your blood content.”

I did as I was told, and the device pinched me. That was what I needed: a pinch to wake from this nightmare. The cop held up the device as it blinked several different colors before settling on a soft pink.

“High blood pressure, that’s about it,” said the cop.

I sighed. So no one had slipped me anything, just stressed. That was it. I was seeing things because I was stressed.

“Damn shame.” The cop clicked his tongue. “Need some help getting home?”


Alyss wasn’t home, and for that I was thankful. Meant I could actually relax, instead of explaining myself. Oh, why did a cop drive me here? Well, I freaked out in public. Why? Because I saw this old hag ... Yeah, that would’ve gone splendidly well.

Lying on the couch, I switched on the TV to drown my thoughts. Reminisced about the days when there wasn’t a flood of immigrants coming through, when I was allowed a full hour for lunch break, and didn’t have to worry about—

Tap, tap, tap.

I looked around for the source. The room seemed to have shrunk. The TV’s projection bright as the sun against the dark surroundings. Shadows crept and crawled along walls and floors, stalking me. They would whisper and giggle, say this or that, thread it into the air where it hung like an old odor. Seconds passed and it grew. Thump, thump on my eardrums. I slapped my hands over my ears.


Shadows were pushed back into their corners as the whole room lit up. A sigh escaped me.

I caught sight of my arms.

Dots. Yellow specs swarmed my jacket. I ripped the jacket off. They were still there, dancing on my skin.

I rushed into the bathroom, grabbed the soap and a rag. Scrubbed. Scrubbed the hell out of my arms till my skin was raw and peeling. But the dots wouldn’t leave, wouldn’t even fade.

In the mirror, I could see them spreading across my body, stealing it away from me, turning me, consuming me.

I gasped. Gagged. Fell silent.


“Joen? Joen!” Alyss’s voice woke me. My hand found the warmth of her recently shaved leg.

“Joen, what happened? What did you do to yourself?”

Took a while for my eyes to open, afraid of what I might see. But it was just Alyss. Normal Alyss in a lovely little skirt, sweater sliding off her thin shoulders. A few tugs and I could get it off her.

“Joen, say something.” There were worry lines around her small mouth.

“I’m fine.” I looked from her to the bathroom tile that I lay against, rubbed the back of my head where I must’ve hit it against the wall.

“No you aren’t.” She bent down and made to grab my hand—but her fingers. They were long, twisted, ended in daggers. I jerked back, scooted away from her grasp.

“What the hell?” She withdrew and stood straight. “You need to see a doctor.”

I violently shook my head. “No, no, no. No doctor. I’m fine, really.”

“Oh, you are so full of shit. I heard about the cop having to drive you back.”

Damn. I gritted my teeth. “If I have to see a doctor, then I’ll have to skip work—”

“Okay, so what? You can take sick days.”

“No, I can’t. They’ll fire me.”

“Then get a new job, geez.”

“With all those froggers? Fat chance.”

“You’re not well.”

“I’m fine.”

“Have you even seen what you’ve done to yourself?” She pointed—with her typical, blue nail-polished finger. I stared at the finger for a good minute, before looking down at my arms. On top of the angry skin were scratches, slashing and intersecting, as though I’d been assaulted by scissors.

“Put some lotion on it and it’ll be fine.” I shrugged and got up.

“No, I’m making an appointment.” She turned and marched out of the bathroom.

I couldn’t let her do it. Couldn’t let some doc peek inside my head and realize what a whack job I’d become. Seeing witches? Talking shadows? I’d be locked away, enslaved to drugs. I wasn’t stupid; I knew what went on in those places.

“Alyss, c’mon. I’ll take a day off, okay? Get lots of rest.” I walked out of the bathroom.

She was already on the comm.

“Dammit, Alyss.” I rushed toward her, hand outstretched to pull the plug.

She faced me, eyes flashed steely yellow. It sucked all the momentum from me. I crashed to the floor.

The room became hazy. Couldn’t make out the difference between person or furniture. Ghostly hands lifted me up, carried me, placed me in bed.

A face peered over me, round and cheery like a cartoon character. “Hello, Joen. I’m Dr. Jhovien. Alyss tells me you’re under the weather, so I came over. She also tells me you’ve been having headaches lately and working long hours.”

“It’s stress,” I whispered.

The face drew a little closer. “Oh, of course. Mustn’t become too stressed. Let me give you something to help relax.” The face disappeared, followed by the sound of ruffling through a bag.

Using all my strength, I lugged my body into the sitting position. I spotted the traditional white coat, and my chest closed around my heart, squeezing the life out of it. Fuck. What was I going to do?

The doctor turned around, smiling as he held a nine-inch needle. A droplet fell from the needle and burned a hole into the carpet.

Oh shit! I scooted away from the oncoming syringe. Even when my back met the wall, I pressed my whole body against it, willed myself to melt into the walls, into the shadows, to be gone, out of sight.

Fingers gripped my right arm.

“Hold still.” Alyss’s voice dangled in the air.

The fingers squeezed, cutting off circulation. But I wouldn’t look. I twisted out of the finger vice, lurched up. The witch blocked me, grinning along with the doctor.

I lashed out. The witch fell with a scream, knocked back into the doctor. And ... and ...


I woke up. Something buzzed in the background. TV, yes. Light airy voice gave the forecast: cloudy with a thirty percent chance of rain, high winds. Best wear a jacket.

“Breaking news. The amphibious people from Xynine have been put into quarantine ...”

I looked around. What a mess. Looked like a hurricane had come through the place. Broken furniture. Plastic splinters coated the floor, stuffing everywhere, scrapes of fabric.

“... they carry a microbe, which has mutated into a pathogen ...”

Red paint drizzled down the wall. No. Blood.

“... toxins in the nervous system affecting vision and hearing ...”

What happened? Where was Alyss? I tried to get up, but found myself glued to the ground.

“... if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you are strongly advised to seek immediate help ...”

Help? Hell, I needed help right now. I called out, my voice croaked painfully. Already I was out of breath. No wait, I heard something. Footsteps. Alyss?

Two figures dressed in biohazard suits and armed with stunners stepped into the room. I closed my eyes and sighed, a long and painful sigh. Guess I'd have to call in sick after all. END

Siobhan Gallagher currently resides in Arizona. She has published stories in “COSMOS Online,” “Unidentified Funny Objects” anthology, “AE,” and “Abyss & Apex.” Her previous story for “Perihelion” was in the 12-APR-2014 update.


hugo noms






jamie noble