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




Deus Ex Machina

By Erin Lale

CATHERINE WOKE UP IN A WHITE room. A soft whirr came to her, and she identified it as machinery running. Something started beeping. Beeping? Why would anything need to beep for attention, in this cyborg age?

Her new implant detected her question and immediately supplied an answer. She heard its voice, very much like her own but with a flat, emotionless affect. “Medical facilities operate systems with sound and light alerts so that multiple alerts do not cause bands to become subject to net crowding.”

So, her implant was working. She was not sure she appreciated having its voice sound like her own subconscious. She might have that tweaked later.

A man in a white robe came in. It was neither a doctor’s coat nor a patient’s gown. “Cat,” he said. “We have something special for you.”

“Who are you?”

“Your guide. Your new name is Katmer al Kattel.”

“What?” She was already slipping away. The white hospital room became a boundless white light. She stretched to include all things. The light loved her, and she loved all life. She had no body. Time did not exist. She was remade, and her body once more drew breath.

She saw her guide again. She was back in the room. “What was that?”

“The Mysterious Union,” he said. Then he turned and left.

“Wait!” She pulled out the hospital things on her arms and chased after him, not caring that she wore only a patient gown. He was not in the hallway. She had taken too long. Nurses descended on her and made her go back to bed.

“The guide. Where is the guide?”

The nurses did not answer. Had they seen him? Was he real?

In the days that followed, Cat thought about her experience a lot. It had been the most amazing thing she had ever felt. The memory was wonderful, but it was not enough. She asked her implant to find her guide, but it could not find him. When she went home, she sat down on her pink couch and petted her cat and thought about that light. She asked, “What is Mysterious Union?”

Her implant voice, which still sounded like herself, said, “Mysterious Union is a religious experience of oneness with God or the universe.”

“How can an atheist experience that?” Cat asked.

“Mysterious Union can be achieved by the human brain through meditation.”

“More information?”

“Initial studies on the brains of Tibetan monks showed ...”

Cat listened. She asked the implant to teach her this meditation. She spent all day, every day practicing, until her landlord sent her an eviction notice. Reluctantly, she went back to work. Her job bored her now. She used to love working for the senator. She had thought she was going to make a difference in the world. She no longer cared about the material world, though, and only wanted to return to the state of oneness. She barely paid attention to anyone, spending every spare moment practicing the meditation exercises, longing for that union again, but nothing worked.

One day she strolled down the street, on her way to buy groceries between work and home, a route she had traveled a thousand times. She was not paying attention because she was trying to meditate. When a man’s voice interrupted her, she realized she was in an unfamiliar green park.

“What was that?” she asked.

The man was dressed in green and red and yellow stripes and had long dreads, and one of them was inhabited by a pet mantis. “You want to visit the sky, spacey lady?”

The sky—where the light lived? Was this her guide in another form? “Yes.”

He asked for money. She did not quite understand, but she gave it to him. He handed her a toad. She did not know what to do with the toad. “Lick the back,” he said.

She licked the toad. She wandered away. Green and red and yellow stripes over everything now, swirls in the sky. She floated, and it was good, but it was not the Mysterious Union. It was just pretty.

She was at the river when she came down. That had been nice, but it was not good enough. She looked up at the sun, at that white light that burned forever. She wanted it inside her again.

Katmer al Kattel.” His voice! The guide’s voice!

She turned. It was her guide. She fell away from the world again. Her body stretched, and became infinite. Every molecule flew apart. The nuclei were stars, and the electrons were planets, and between them stretched the ever-expanding void. She was one with the universe.

She came to awareness writhing on the ground in ecstacy. She opened her eyes. Her guide was gone. She tried to spring up to look for him, but managed only to slide in the mud of the riverbank. She struggled to her feet, wet and bereft. He was nowhere around.

That had been wonderful! But it had ended. It had ended, and now she was here in the world again, literally in the mud of existence.

She walked around in a circle, looking for any clue as to where he had gone. Footprints! She followed them. She was not sure they were his. She was not sure he was real. He might be only as real as the voice of her implant inside her.

Her implant. Right. “Match facial recognition. Who was he?”

“Your guide,” said the implant.

“I know that.” She followed the footprints to a street, but when they went up onto a paved road, they stopped. She looked around. Everything was closed and dusty. Dark shop windows looked at her like the despairing eyes of the muddy material world.

She heard a voice calling. It was in a foreign language, but she followed it. It led to the only shopfront that had light inside. Light: but only the light of artificial lighting. Not what she sought. Even so, she went in.

Someone came over to her wearing a white robe. “Sister, you are not dressed decently for prayers.”

“I have licked the toad and rolled on the riverbank.”

“Here.” He went into a back room and came out with a shawl for her to wear, and she covered herself with it, although it was no doubt getting muddy from her unclean touch as well. “What is your name?”

Because he wore the white robe like her guide, she said, “Katmer al Kattel.”

She stretched. She was there again! Everywhere! Infinite! It was Mysterious Union, and then words fell away and she had no thoughts but love.

She came to awareness, and there was her guide! “You. I found you.”

“Yes, you found me. You found God. Do you want to experience the Mysterious Union again?”


“Will you do anything to experience it again?”

“Yes, anything!” What was she saying? Was she addicted to the Union? To the light? Oh, but she really would do anything to experience that again and again. “I would stay there forever if I could.”

“What if I told you that you could go to that light and stay there forever?”

“I want that.”

“Good. Good. Come with me.” He led her into the back room where the shawl had come from. He gave her a book. “You will go to work tomorrow with this book. Wait for the senator to come into your office. Then open this book. Tell him your new name. You will be with the light forever.”

“I will.” She took the book and left. She could hardly wait until tomorrow! For the first time since she had gotten her new implant, she was excited about going to work in the morning.

She put the book on her nightstand as if she were going to read it, but she told herself firmly not to open it until it was time. She was not going to mess this up. She barely slept that night. Her cat sniffed the book and mewed as if hurt and would not come into her bedroom again.

She brought the book to work in her purse. As always, she skipped the security screening out front by going in the staff entrance. She nodded absently at Joe, the guard assigned to the staff door desk, and went up to her office.

What would she read in the book when it was finally time to open it? She put the book on her desk and put her purse in the bottom desk drawer. She kept glancing at the book as the minutes ticked away. Why did she need to open the book when her boss was there? Why couldn’t she read it now? It didn’t matter. Her guide had been specific and she did not know if she would ever find him again or get another chance if she screwed this up. She could not risk losing her opportunity. She might very well be addicted, if it was possible to become instantly addicted after her first try.

The senator came in. “I’ve just heard something very disturbing in my intelligence briefing. What model is your new implant?”

That sudden switch to small talk was a bit of a non sequitur, but she did not bother trying to figure out why he was talking that way. It was time. “I am Katmer al Kattel.”

She opened the book. There was a flash of light. Light! But it was the wrong light. It had a beginning, coming from the book. There was a shock wave, pressure, a strange smell, and suddenly she hurt everywhere. It was not supposed to hurt!

Katmer went to the light. END

Erin Lale is the Acquisitions Editor at Eternal Press and Damnation Books. She was the editor of “Berserkrgangr Magazine” and owner of The Science Fiction Store. She recently edited “No Horns on These Helmets,” an anthology of Viking fiction.




robin dunn