Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


On the Road Again
by Michaele Jordan

A Prince of Blood and Spit
by Guy Stewart

by Brandon L. Summers

Little Ships
by Harold R. Thompson

Road Rage on the Hypertime Expressway
by Ken Altabef

Bug Out
by Cas Blomberg

By His Jockstrap
by Eamonn Murphy

Tamera’s Engagement
by John Hegenberger

Shorter Stories

From the Other Side of the Rubicon
by Sean Mulroy

To Be Carved
by David Steffen

Final Frames of the Eldrisil
by J. Daniel Batt


About That Colony
by John McCormick

Tesla and Newton
by Eric M. Jones



Comic Strips




Final Frames of the Eldrisil

By J. Daniel Batt

ACROSS THE DISCOVERY SHIP Eldrisil, there are 1,232 active cameras. The cameras record everything in front of them: sight, sound, memory, and thought. On the drive where the cameras dump their data, there are 1,232 single frames stamped with the timecode 17:23:52:22. 1,232 instances of a single moment. 1,232 final frames.

Camera 1117 shows nineteen-year-old private Michael Tinser burrowed into the access hatch on level 18, spot-checking a wiring short. His foot hangs in mid-tap, a song he had heard as he walked past the mess-hall now playing through his headphones. He can’t understand the words—only the line, “Katie be mine.” At least, he thinks it’s saying “Katie be mine.” He hasn’t heard the alarm nor the pounding rush of the crew racing through the hallway a few feet away.

The corridor is packed with running crew members. Camera 209 is aimed too high, the ceiling taking up half of the frame. The faces that can be seen are frightened, determined, or confused. This is a scientific mission. Alarms are rare. Their routines are scheduled and rarely disturbed. Camera 209 is scheduled to be fixed the next day by Michael Tinser. It was to be the first item on his list.

Camera 703 is a wide-angle of the mess hall. Only a few people are still seated. The rest are jammed against the doorways, rushing to their posts. At one of the tables sits Jenny Kavitz, her food untouched, her silverware still rolled in its napkin. Her hands are on her lap and she stares ahead, unmoved by the commotion around her.

Three-year-old Melinda is screaming, her hands pressed to her ears against the alarm. Behind her, just out of focus in Camera 212’s view, her teacher Darla Stans is rushing to calm the little girl, shouting, “It’s okay, sweetie.” Melinda is screaming from shock. The alarm is sharp and shrill and has scared her straight out of her nap time. Darla’s face is strained in panic. Darla has heard this alarm once before, five years ago, when there was an engine failure that resulted in twenty-two decks locked down due to potential atmosphere loss. Hearing it again, she knows she should be thinking of getting the kids to safety. The prevailing thought in her mind is her cat Gomez back in her quarters. She can’t remember if she’s fed him. And if he’s freaking out about the alarm. He hates loud noises, too.

Inside the ship’s chapel, Reverend Gordon is holding the hands of three other people, their backs all to Camera 567. The chapel is a small room and the four gathered make the room feel crowded. Behind them, on a wooden table, several books are laid open in display. The Bible. The Quran. The Bhagavad Gita. The Book of Mormon. Havamal. In the poor contrast view of the camera, the white of the paper overwhelms and obscures the black ink of the scriptures printed on them. Gordon’s gray hair is tied in a poor ponytail, her head bowed, and her mouth straining, repeating the word “Please” in prayer.

On the main deck, there are fifteen cameras. Every action of the senior command crew is recorded. Camera 9 is a high-quality tracking unit focused on the expedition’s director, Saijin Su. He is standing still, arms tight against his side, his eyes shut without tension. A bead of sweat has formed above his left eyebrow and his thin lips have gone dry. His mind is stuck on a memory of helping his grandfather bend the horseshoes in a musty Idaho barn.

Su faces the main screen fed by Camera 2. Camera 2 is a wide-angle multi-lens unit. Thirty-one seconds ago it was looking out at the green and blue marble named Gliese 561d as it rolled softly around its star, warm and ready for life—the focus of the Eldrisil’s scientific expedition. Now, Camera 2 shows the bright gray of an unknown ship, orders of magnitude larger than the Eldrisil. Su’s first thought was that it resembled a blacksmith’s anvil. His mind loped back to his grandfather’s anvil and he can still hear the ping-slam reverberation of the hammer on the iron, although half a century has passed.

Camera 6 rests on analyst Tina Pols’ astonished face as she sits only a few feet from Su. She doesn’t think the ship looks an anvil. Her wide eyes have never seen anything like it. She’s focused on the curled structures lining the ship that has suddenly appeared in their way. The curls are bizarre and she can’t think of an equivalent thing on their own ship. She thinks they resemble a series of small, scared worms and she wonders what they could be frightened of. The ship the curls adorn is the most frightening thing she has ever seen.

Gomez the cat yawns off in the corner of Darla’s quarters, woken from its sleep by the alarm. It doesn’t seem disturbed, just annoyed. Camera 608 gives a wide-view of Darla’s room. The room is in disarray. The bed is unmade. Clothes are scattered in front of the closet. Gomez’ food dish is empty.

In the view of Camera 82, there isn’t a single person. The camera is focused on a desk. The screen, left on after Dr. Lensen has raced away, displays the medical file of Jenny Kavitz. Highlighted in yellow, awaiting the doctor’s approval, is the line: “Pregnacy test results: positive. Twin boys. Father, crewman Michael Tinsler, not informed.”

Camera 79 is a port-side view and has focused on the three nuclear warheads launched at the Eldrisil from the unknown behemoth between them and Gliese 561d. The cone of the first torpedo is actually within focus, being only meters away. It has been painted red and the harsh, thin letters of the unknown enemy line the circumference. The words could be a warning. They could be a designation. They could be scripture. A prayer. A curse.

At 17:23:52:23, a frame later, every camera sends only the consistent chaos of crackling static. END

J. Daniel Batt is a member of the Space Settlement Board for the Lifeboat Foundation. His stories have appeared in “Bastion Magazine,” and the anthologies “Genius Loci” and “Visions of the Future.” His second novel is from Realmwaker Publishing.