Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Peace Bug
by Stephen L. Antczak

Shipping Error
by Robert Dawson

In the Garden With the Little Eaters
by L Chan

Species of Revenge
by Lance J. Mushung

To Live if it Kills Me
by Andrew Darlington

Freddy Norberg’s Fantastic Flight
by Finry

Death Egg
by Kim Daniels

by Sean Monaghan

Shorter Stories

Love in the Time of Alien Invasion
by Samuel Marzioli

They Call Me Wizard
by Robert Lowell Russell

Reverse Logic
by Sierra July


Let’s Fry Chicken Little
by Carol Kean

UFOs and Rockets
by Preston Dennett



Comic Strips




In the Garden With the Little Eaters

By L Chan

THE GARDENER’S CALLOUSED HANDS SLIPPED down the rake, pushing it a few millimeters to the side. Too late, the damage was done, the waves in the sand no longer flowed. The lines were broken. He sighed and started again, rubbing his hands dry against the rough weave of his robe. The sweat smeared gunmetal blue over the brown cloth.

The little eaters had been busier than usual. They were far too small to see, far too small to feel. The blue was the first sign that they’d been eating. The gardener rang the bells. Three notes hung in the air; they reminded him of birdsong, but the birds never approached the garden. He saw them take flight in the distance, where the forest had reclaimed the land from the graveyard of skyscrapers and megaplexes. He saw them but he never heard them sing. When the gardener looked back at his hand, the blue had faded, leaving the veiny leather of skin pickled by hard work and bright sun.

The day’s work was complete. The rocks stood tall over wavy lines in the glittering omnisand, the tiny stones orbiting the mountainous rocks like planets. The gardener scooped up a double handful of the omnisand and poured it into the open mouth of the Maker Machine. The Maker Machine hummed, its pocked surface shaking, and burped out a procession of food bars and packets of crystal clear water.

The gardener had a name once. Just like the Maker Machine. Just like the little eaters. But names were for other people, and other people were in short supply. There weren’t any for kilometers in any direction; except down, deep underground. Names were far simpler now. There was a garden, so he was the gardener. The Maker Machine ate omnisand and made things. The little eaters ate everything else.

The sunsets were still brilliant; he’d seen more of them since the fall. The little eaters had done something to the air. It was sweeter and a full draught no longer tapered off into a cough. The gardener munched on the food bars, washing the chewy bar down with tepid water. Food bars had everything a body needed, except taste. Or perhaps the little eaters had taken that from him as well. The ground shimmered with the toil of the little eaters, slowly vibrating his day’s work away. The gardener threw a chunk of food bar on the ground and watched as the gunmetal blue of the little eaters coated it. There would be another mound of omnisand there the next day.

The gardener did not reminisce. There were holes in his memory, sudden flashes of pain and emptiness. Like a rotten tooth, painful to probe, easy to ignore. He thought it an effect of the solitude. Sometimes, on the darker nights when the clouds hid the moon and the only light he had was from the tower, he wondered if the little eaters hadn’t climbed into his ears and eaten the very memories from his head.

He didn’t know where the little eaters came from, whether they were weapon, experiment gone wrong, or some diabolical master plan. The past leaked in flashes, sometimes. Hoverships falling from the sky, their wings turned to sponge. The bridges breaking. And the people. The people were the worst. Bubbles of gas from still waters, hinting at rot or worse beneath the rot.

The gardener had a mission. He rang the bells; he kept the little eaters at bay. In the middle of the garden of omnisand and rock stood the tower. It was slim, five paces in diameter and stood only four times his height. Now, in the twilight of all things, it was the tallest structure for kilometers. The top of the tower throbbed with a dull red light, dull and angry, the colour of inflamed flesh. Inflamed and suppurating like the world, overrun by the little eaters.

The gardener shaved himself with the razor edge of a knife from the Maker Machine. The knife reflected the red glare off its opalescent surface. The same tough material as the tower. Neither metal nor mortar. The little eaters had trouble with stubborn material, but they would win in the end. It would take more than a hundred days for the little eaters to digest a knife and the gardener had already used more knives than he could count through his vigil. He had marked the days with notches on the wood of his shack, till the beams and pillars were covered with them. Then he marked the passing of days by the collapse of the buildings in the distance, the monoliths bleeding streams of blue omnisand as the little eaters eviscerated them, from inside out.

The tower was only the tip of the sanctuary. The gardener didn’t know how many sanctuaries there were, sunk deep under the surface. Not many and not enough. He remembered the riots over the last few spaces for the desperate gambit to hide away in the hopes that the little eaters would someday starve. But not for a long time. There were plenty of people left topside.

There had been something else at the garden before the earth had been opened up for the sanctuary. Ancient wood shaped into a gate, the bells and, tucked in a corner, away from the eyes of worshipers, the Maker Machine. Even the priests needed a modern convenience or two. But the priests were long gone by the time the gardener found the tower and the ruined shrine. The tower was already spalling off sheets of omnisand before the gardener discovered what the bells did.

So the gardener guarded the sleepers and tended his garden. He arranged the rocks and he drew waves and circles in a sea of omnisand. Night by night, a tide of little eaters shook the garden flat, erasing the work he’d done the day before. omnisandThe Maker Machine could assemble books, but severed from the sea of information that existed before the fall, the pages were blank. The gardener was not just a guardian by choice, but a prisoner of his garden. The chimes were the only thing that kept the little eaters at bay and the bells would not travel with him.

The little eaters ate voraciously, but not indiscriminately. Not the rake, too close to the trees; nor his robes, spun out of rough cotton. Maybe the little eaters didn’t eat things, but time, only choosing to eat the newest and freshest of the things tainted by the touch of man. And then on to man himself. These were old thoughts and they did the gardener no good. He went to sleep, like he always did. And when he woke up, the end began.


The gardener woke, as he had every day, with the dregs of a dream of music. He knew not the song in his dreams, save that it was beautiful. Birds welcomed the dawn in the young forest that had taken over the dead city. The gardener picked up the striker and sized up the first bell, hanging ponderously from its wooden frame.

The greenish brass of the striker hitting the side of the bell, the delicious shiver of impact travelling up his arms as the metal sang out the first note. His skinny arms were already blotchy with the work of the little eaters; he imagined the patches quivering and waiting. The second note followed. And then the dull clang of metal on metal. The gardener drew back and swung the striker again, so hard that the impact tore the pole from the nerveless claws of his hands. The last bell sputtered and fell silent. The gardener ran his callused fingertips around the lip of the bell. He knew what he was looking for. When he found it, he ran his fingers over it again and again, convincing his mind that it was there. A crack. There was a crack in the bell.

His world went white around the edges. He squeezed his eyes shut and took a deep, shuddering breath. He let the moist air out over his dry tongue and the whiteness resolved itself into fleeting specks around his vision. He rapped the bell again with his knuckles, eliciting nothing. He shrieked, the first sound from his throat in years, and lashed out at the offending item with a fist. Blood dripped on the floor from his torn knuckles. In a matter of moments, a film of blue scum had formed over the scarlet drops.


The little eaters were already on him, in him. He would never be able to outrun them. The gardener spent half the day with the Maker Machine, fuelled by fistfuls of omnisand, churning out tool after tool. He bound the dying bell up with extruded twine, hoping to pull the crack shut. The Maker Machine gave him tubes and tins of glues and cements. He filled the gap but the bell no longer sang and the little eaters no longer listened.

The ceramic knife remained an option. The little eaters hadn’t dulled the edge yet. It would part his skin with little more effort than it took to swipe the blade through the air. A matter of minutes was all it would take. The Maker Machine was not coded for poison, but he could order it to fashion him a noose. Unbidden, another old memory came back; men, women and children bleeding omnisand as the little eaters consumed them from the inside out, trying to scream without tongues. He wondered how much time he had left.


On the second day, the sun shone on a pristine sea of omnisand and he woke with the memory of music ringing so strongly in his ears that he half expected to open his eyes to an orchestra. Instead, he found the taint had spread across his skin. It was harder for the little eaters to get a grip against the human immune system, but they would win in the end. Ionic, covalent, solar, the little eaters hungered for it all. There was a design in their hunger, of course. Why else would they not eat his rake or his shack or the new growth of forest that thrived in the bones of the city? The little eaters had a will and he knew it.

A distributed networked intelligence. How did we forget how to talk to them? He shook his head. The old memories were coming faster and stronger. Snippets of fact, bleeding into other memories. It mattered not, the little eaters had won in the end. Just like they levelled his garden every night, just like they levelled the world across the long dark night of the fall. They would have him, and after that, the tower and the sleepers below.

The Maker Machine had grown a rich blue grey patina over the night. The gardener loaded handfuls of omnisand from the garden into the machine and called forth as much food and water as he dared. He called up a brand new knife for himself, in case the old one broke before he could no longer bear the pain. The light on the tower seemed an even angrier shade of red in the daylight, as the trails of the little eaters climbed up the iridescent walls. The gardener tried to scrape the gunmetal stains off with his knife. When that failed he rubbed the walls down with water to no effect. Then he clawed at the tower with his fingernails till they were ragged. The bloody trails were already filming over with blue muck by the time he looked back at the tower.


The sun on the third day found him shivering despite the early morning warmth. The little eaters were working themselves deeper. His only comfort on waking was that the music didn’t stop; it lasted for some moments while he blinked the sleep from his eyes. He was put in mind of one magical moment back when he was younger and had chanced upon a choir singing carols in the park. He had been transfixed then, hearing the voices soar above the distant sound of traffic, the singers mindless of the cold, the glitter of snowflakes on their cheeks and eyebrows. He felt the same magic, the same flutter in his belly. Then he coughed, a little one at first, building up to a crescendo with him bent over, his lungs cramping with every spasm. He spat out a mouthful of phlegm, yellow shot through with specks of blood. And at the back of his mouth, his teeth rasped on a gritty film of omnisand.

He struck the walls of the tower, dreaming that the sleepers below would wake and rescue him. The red glare from above was his only response. He was a ghost of the old world, a remnant of something dead and gone, yet he breathed and walked and tended his garden. He just didn’t know he was dead yet. He was a dead gardener and he ate the bones of the old world. For the hundredth time he wondered if the blueish omnisand underfoot had been a building, or a vehicle, or a person. If it had been a person, who would it have been and would it have made the food bars taste any different?

The Maker Machine sputtered and gave out a whine as it powered down, omnisand leaking from its orifices. Fitting that the machine, after having ingested so much omnisand, would finally be consumed by it in the end.

The gardener found his hands around the rake again. He dragged it through the drifts of omnisand, drawing a scalloped pattern around the tower. How quickly did the little eaters work in a body? Hours? Days? He could not remember. He felt a rattling in his lungs that hadn’t been there the day before, a sag in his step that had nothing to do with fatigue. Beads of sweat squeezed from his tanned brow and ran in blue rivulets down his face, but yet he felt a chill in his bones, as though the little eaters were stealing the heat from his core. He pressed on with the garden, because action was better than acceptance. Because even after he fell, there would be something of him left, if only for a matter of hours. Because he had nothing else.


The omnisand was smooth again. Whatever he had done, the eaters had erased in his sleep. In his fevered dreams, the music was loud, so loud that it seemed that he could have been in the middle of an orchestra pit. The music was beautiful, unearthly. In tone, it was somewhere between the wail of a voila and a choir.

He shivered despite the heat of the sun. If he closed his eyes, he almost found himself back in the park on that snowy evening, where the voices of the choir had him transfixed amidst the flurries of sparkling white. Instead of celebrating the nativity, the choir now mouthed the notes in his ears, that relentless alien sound building up higher and higher until it ended on three simple notes.

He opened his eyes. The bells were before him.

Tool or weapon, the little eaters had to be wielded. If they could be wielded, they could be stopped. He imagined his body, invaded by the little eaters, so close that he could feel them. Hear them. Hear them sing.

He coughed and spat out another wad of phlegm, this time equally parts blood and sand. He drew in a breath and exhaled it out through pursed lips. Three clear notes.

And the music stopped.


Trapped in a cycle; he built the garden, the little eaters unbuilt it. He thought himself the prisoner of the little eaters, but perhaps the reverse was also true. The two of them, ghosts from the world before, dancing for years after the lights had gone out.

His food was almost all gone by the time he was well enough to walk. He looked back on his handiwork, the most he had ever done with the garden. The blue omnisand twirled into spirals and whorls, waves upon waves. The large rocks stood proud, watching over the tower. He had taken his time with the tower, humming, whistling, until he could no longer see the gunmetal stains of the little eaters at work.

He’d worked on the garden through the night, guided only by the light of the tower. There was more to the song of the little eaters than the three chimes from the bells. For years they sang to him at night, and all he had for them were the three idiot notes. He felt a twinge of regret when he sawed the head off the rake, but he needed the support and was grateful for the company for the journey ahead.

He set off, humming the song of the little eaters to himself, the sun starting to rise on the completed garden for the first time. The glow from the tower was still bright enough to cast his shadow across the omnisand, not the angry scarlet that he slept by over the years, but something paler. For the first time, the garden remained. For the first time, the tower was changing.

The gardener did not need to look back to see the shimmer of the little eaters that followed in his wake. END

L Chan is a writer from Singapore. He specializes in science fiction and horror. He has been published in “Stupefying Stories” and in the “Daylight Dims” anthology. His previous story for “Perihelion” was in the 12-AUGUST-2014 issue.


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