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




Death Egg

By Kim Daniels

HAROLD GRUFF MARCHED DOWN FIFTH Street in what some might say was an inappropriately jovial manner for a man who’d only just last week found out his liver was riddled with cancer. Clutched under his arm in triumph was a green sealed folder and inside was a cashier’s check for over three hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars. Harold had pinched every penny, cut every corner, took every deduction, and sacrificed almost all consumerist comforts building up what he affectionately called his “Death Egg.” In truth, it had been the cause of his third and final divorce, as those proceedings were terribly expensive, and because he’d failed to keep a wife three times now (his losses totaled near eighty thousand dollars when it was all said and done) he decided it’d be wise to refrain from the follies of marriage ever again.

As he reached the corner of Fifth and Clementine, he crossed over to Fourth and headed west towards P&G’s Institute of Reconception. He’d always been an avid walker—many were these days—but he was quick to remind folks that he’d been walking long before the habit had become fashionable. In fact, he’d never owned a car. And when the world went completely electric, he had maintained the habit. Harold did have a bike in his youth. It’d been a gift from his Uncle Saul, but he never rode it and in less than a week he’d sold it to his neighbor’s daughter for sixty dollars. His parents had been livid; they just couldn’t understand. You see, that sale led to the first deposit in his Death Egg stack. Now, at forty-five, he intended to cash it all in.

Harold chuckled to himself as he quickened his pace through the thickly populated sidewalk. The look on his Doctor’s face when he’d shook the man’s hand instead of asking for a second opinion, or wailing about how unfair life was, or whatever less prepared people tended to do when given a death sentence. He’d actually suspected he might be ill for a few months now and he’d decided to hold off on his checkup just in case they caught it too early and could actually cure him. What a waste that would have been! His condition had to be terminal or the doctors at P&G would turn him away at once. He’d done his homework well in advance. Terminal and inoperable. That’s what he needed and that’s what he finally got.

While other people pursued careers, spawned children, or otherwise coasted through life as if it would last forever, Harold had been determined from age twelve that real life couldn’t possibly start until one shed their mortal coils for a more divine existence nestled in the security and permanency found within a P&G Shell body. How could one go about the business of living if one was in a constant state of fear and anxiety over their inevitable demise? Harold firmly believed you couldn’t. But ever since he’d stumbled across an article entitled “Science’s Cure for Death (and, Yes, Taxes)” in one of his father’s copies of “Scientific American,” the fear dissipated completely. At twelve, Harold had seen the light. The rest of his mortal existence had been dedicated to saving up the large sum of money he’d need to buy his own Shell when death came a-knockin’.

In the distance, he could now spot the massive P&G Tower. Its topmost floors glowed a soft green, setting it apart from the other drab buildings surrounding it. The beacon called him to quicken his pace, which he did, but only for a few short minutes. After all, Harold was quite sick. Walking had been increasingly difficult over the last few months, but all that would soon matter little. In his new, virtually indestructible Shell, he could walk non-stop if he wanted. He’d never tire, nor thirst, nor require any sustenance other than an occasion tune up at P&G. He’d never have to experience that slight pang of winter depression, or the occasional longing for sex ever again. That was when Harold could really begin his living. Maybe he’d be an inventor? Or a world famous musician? Perhaps he could try his hand at science and even improve upon the already brilliant design of the Shells? He truly could do anything and no matter what path he chose, he knew the world would forever remember the name Harold Gruff.

Once he reached the entrance to the P&G lobby, he found himself entirely out of breath. Taking out a handkerchief, he blotted the sweat from his forehead. Yet another mortal inconvenience he would not miss. Pocketing the damp cloth, he straightened his brown, ill-fitted jacket and took a deep breath before pushing the large glass doors open.

The lobby of P&G was immaculate and tastefully decorated with a mix of natural elements and metallic adornments. Harold nodded in approval and marched to the front desk where a man in a much more expensive jacket than himself flicked his youthful hands across a projected keyboard.

Without looking up, he said, “Good Morning, how can P&G help you today?”

“I’ve an appointment with Dr. Ellison,” Harold explained, a little annoyed that the man refused to look up from his work and properly acknowledge him.

The well-dressed man continued to type and after a solid thirty second block of awkward silence, he looked up and opened his mouth to speak. At seeing Harold’s shabby attire and his untrimmed hair, the man let his jaw sink into a gape.

This angered Harold to no end. He was quite aware of his current appearance. He cut his hair himself whenever it got long enough to bother him because it was free. His jacket had been his father’s and he wore it because it had been free. His shoes he had in fact bought in a roundabout way. His second wife had purchased them for his thirty-second birthday (she had, to her credit, bought them on sale and that was the only reason he decided to keep the shoes). All this had been his sacrifice to the Death Egg and for his true life which, if this nitwit at the desk would hurry up, would begin posthaste.

Harold cleared his throat and said, “See something you like, then?”

The man shut his flytrap and said, “Certainly not. Dr. Ellison is seeing patients in the Gillette Ballroom today. First floor, last room on the left. Have a seat in the waiting area just outside and you’ll be called.”

Harold didn’t thank the man as he turned his back to him and strode to the stairwell. He let the door clank shut with an awful bang that seemed to shake the floor beneath him. He took the stairs in pairs and in less than a minute he was on the proper floor and staring at oversized mahogany doors with garish lions’ heads for door pulls. He took the chair nearest to the entrance and waited. An infinity passed and Harold dropped off to sleep.

He woke to the sound of an irritated woman aggressively calling his last name. Harold bolted upright and onto his feet.

The woman had a clipboard propped up on her hip and she wore a light blue lab coat. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail and a pair of dainty glasses balanced on her nose.

She extended her hand and said, “Mr. Gruff, I’m Dr. Ellison. Won’t you step inside, please?”

All her previous severity had vanished and Harold took her hand and shook it eagerly before following her inside.

A large conference table, also of mahogany, took up the majority of the room. A small bar topped with several decanters of dark liquid occupied the northern wall.

“Please have a seat,” she motioned towards the table with a wide sweep of her hand. His disappointment at not also being offered a drink showed plainly on his face, but she made no move to rectify his dashed hopes.

Harold sat in the chair nearest the head of the table and Dr. Ellison took the seat across from him. After a few seconds of paper shuffling and the adjustment of glasses, she said, “So, Mr. Gruff. We, my team and I, have looked over your prognosis you sent over to us at the beginning of the week.”

She let that sentence hang in the air with the kind of dramatic flair Harold always detested. But he’d no plans on angering the one person still keeping him from eternity, and instead of huffing with a generous eye roll, he merely nodded his head heavily.

Finally, she continued, “And I just have a few questions I need to ask before we can proceed.”

“Ask me anything.”

“First Question,” she read from a light green page that matched the lights on the top of the building. “If you are approved, do you plan to commit any crimes either on U.S. soil or foreign?”

“Absolutely not.”

She checked a large box on the left side of the paper and continued, “Do you owe any large debts, either to banks, the government, private businesses, or individuals? Do you have any liens against any of your property or possessions?”

“No, on both counts.”

Another swift check.

“Are you currently employed?”

“No. I retired from the public school system last year.”

“And last, do you intend to seek employment after acquiring your Shell?”

“Absolutely! Once I’ve transferred out of this mortal body and into a Shell, I can finally start really living. I’m thinking I might get into science. Maybe invent something,” he boasted.

Dr. Ellison nodded in approval. “Well, I have great news for you today, Harold. P&G is pleased to approve your request to purchase a Shell.”

“That is wonderful! I’m thrilled you and your team found my diagnosis acceptably dire.”

She held her hand up as if to quiet his enthusiasm, adding, “That is assuming, of course, you have acquired the necessary funds.”

Harold placed the green folder on the table and slid it across. “I think you’ll find I’ve enough for the Genesis Model and then some.”

Dr. Ellison gingerly broke the sealed edge of the folder with her index finger and removed the check. After studying the slip of paper for much longer than required, she pulled out a sheet of her own and began scribbling something that Harold couldn’t quite read with his imperfect vision.

Once she finished, she flipped the page around so Harold could read it. Using the back of her pen, she pointed to the first item on her list and said, “You are right, Mr. Gruff, you do have more than enough to purchase our Genesis Model as it retails at just under the amount you’ve shown me.”

“However,” she continued, sliding the edge of her pen to the next line item, “There is also the transfer fee, which is listed here, and as you can see it is not inconsiderable. Then we have the connection fee here, the administration fee, the processing fee, and a small retainer fee as it does tie up much of our energy usage during the transfer. All this,” she paused to circle the substantial number at the bottom of the page, “bring us to our grand total.”

Harold’s chest ached at the sight of such an unattainable sum, and he imagined his cancerous liver having a nice long guffaw at his expense. Even if he’d kept at his meager lifestyle and vigorous penny-pinching, it would take him a whole other lifetime to save up that amount.

“Perhaps, uh, the Genesis Model is not the model for me. You have others that are more within my ... budget?”

Dr. Ellison smiled, “We have many models, Mr. Gruff, and I’m sure that if you give me just a moment to run the numbers I can find something suitable for you.”

At that, Harold’s face brightened and his chest released just a bit of its growing tension. He didn’t need the Genesis really. Sure, it was top of the line, but he could still do anything he wanted with his life no matter which Shell he ended up in.

He watched nervously as Dr. Ellison pulled a small calculator from her front pocket and began a rapid succession of calculations that would determine his fate.

After several minutes of calculating and re-calculating, she looked up and asked, “Would you care for a drink while you wait, Mr. Gruff?”

“No, thank you,” he said. He didn’t think he could handle even the most tepid of tap water at the moment.

Several more silent minutes slipped by, but finally Dr. Ellison stopped. Removing her glasses she pressed her lips together solemnly.

“Is there really nothing? Not a single model I can afford?” he heard the desperation in his voice and it sickened him further.

“Yes and no. I’m afraid the only ones we have in your price range are not on the market yet and are just out of the experimental stage. Because of this, if you did want to go with one of these, I could waive all but the transfer fee and this would even leave you with a little money left over.”

“I’ll take it!” Harold said, jolting out of his seat. “I have to take it!”

“There is one more small item. These models ... they’re our new line for ... family pets.”

Harold sat back down and repeated the words “family pets” back to her.

“That’s right. Some people just can’t cope with the loss of their beloved animal companions and soon they won’t have too. We’ll have models ranging from feline to canine, to exotic animals that have long been extinct,” she explained. “They’ve tested very well in our focus groups.”

“So you’re saying I can have my eternity, I’ll just have to have it as a ... as a dog?”

“A cat, actually, our canine model is still just a bit out of your price range ...”

How could this be happening to him? He’d worked so hard. He’d skipped vacations and weddings, missed outings with co-workers, took his own lunch every day, stole condiment packets from the break room even! All to live out his true life as a robotic four-legged furball?

“Harold,” Dr. Ellison cooed, “Listen to me. It isn’t as bad as all that. Just think of all the press you’ll get for this. Why, you might even get sponsorships, and merchandizing contracts. P&G would, of course, get a small portion of that, but it’d be mostly yours. And you’d be the first ever human to animal Shell in history. It would be monumental.”

“I guess it would make some headlines,” he mumbled.

“Some? I will make sure you are the talk of the country, no, the world. Harold Gruff will be a household name!”

She did have a point. And he did want to leave his mark on the world. There was nothing he could do about money he didn’t have and at this point it came down to taking this option, and the possible fame that would come with it, or death in total obscurity. But the thing that sealed the deal was his faith. Faith that his real life, no matter the form it took, would be eternal bliss.

“Would I at least be able to talk still?”

“Certainly, Harold. I’ll personally see to it that the modification is added at no extra charge.”

“Okay, Dr. Ellison. Show me where to sign.”

Later than day, evening really, Harold Gruff was carried outside and set on the sidewalk in front of the P&G building with instructions to go straight home. Normally they would have kept him overnight for observation, but he didn’t have enough to purchase room and board so he opted out of the service. They had assured him someone would be by later in the week and the numerous rounds of interviews would begin.

The world around him felt so vast now. Looking up, he couldn’t make out the top of the tower any longer. Walking to the side of the glass building, he put his front paws against the freezing panes and stared into the reflection of his new feline face. For a cat, he thought himself rather nice-looking. Perhaps even more handsome than ever before. He had an interesting pattern atop his head and subtle stripes on his belly, though he could only guess at his coloring. Everything was in shades of gray, as he did not think to ask for the visual upgrade.

The sidewalks, still as crowded as they had been when he was mortal, were now a treacherous ordeal. The bustling horde didn’t seem to notice him as he bobbed and weaved between a sea of feet and legs. A high heel caught his back paw and he heard the crunch of plastic and wiring. Dashing onto the nearest trash bin, he examined himself for damage. A small dent could be felt under the fur, but there was no pain and the paw remained fully functional.

This was the busier side of the street; many of the corporations stayed open all hours. The other side, however, was almost vacant as it was littered with shops that tended to close at dusk. He leapt down and crept to the edge of the sidewalk to scan the street. The way was clear so he trotted onto the asphalt, his head held high with self-importance.

This would be the last day Harold Gruff was almost stepped on by a wayward shoe. He’d be famous by the week’s end. He imagined a massive spotlight shining down upon him, illuminating his bravery and his sacrifice. The light grew brighter, and Harold paused to take a heroic bow. His last thought before the car crushed him flat was that the cheering, like a horn blaring, really was too dramatic. People ought to learn a little self-control. END

Kim Daniels is an English Composition and Literature Instructor at the University of South Alabama. She has written for the “Lunar Children” anthology. She was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Contest in 2013.


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