Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


How to Build the Perfect Woman
by Timothy Mudie

Sound of Chartreuse
by Nancy S.M. Waldman

Finding New Roads
by Allen Demir

Smart Home Blues
by Mark Ayling

Drone Dreams
by Hayden Trenholm

Game Changer
by Iain Ishbel

Safe Bet to Appelane
by Derrick Boden

Aquilonia, My Zelky
by Barton Paul Levenson

Shorter Stories

Princess Zenla and the Encyclopedia on Mars
by George S. Walker

See No Evil
by K.S. O’Neill

QSFT7mk2.7853 Has a Name
by Kurt Hunt


God From the Machine
by KJ Hannah Greenberg

And Bugs on the Menu
by Carol Kean



Comic Strips




How to Build the Perfect Woman

By Timothy Mudie

SHE IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN I have ever seen, and I love every part of her. I see those parts all around me, every day, in places you would never expect. The hands of the perfectly-coiffed blonde in front of me at the coffee shop a week ago, delicate and long-fingered, extending a credit card. I’d never seen my woman’s nails painted before, a lush red. There’s no need for that in the lab, of course. When a lanky dark-haired woman sat down two tables away from me at lunch one month ago, I could tell instantly that her calves were from my woman, and when she crossed her legs and her pencil skirt rose slightly above the knee, I thrilled to realize that her entire legs had come from my woman. I know her pieces anywhere. Just yesterday I glanced at a redhead whose Mercedes pulled alongside mine in after-work commute traffic and from just the healthy glow of the skin on her face, I knew that she had my woman’s liver.

And all of this is just in the city where I live. Cambridge is a moderate size city, especially if you include Boston and the rest of the metro area, and it is a fairly rich city, but it isn’t New York. It isn’t Los Angeles. It isn’t Paris or London or Beijing. Sometimes I fantasize about traveling to these giant rich cities, about how many pieces of my woman I could see there.

Each day, however, I see what may be the one non-rich woman to possess a piece of my woman. I walk into the office, all glass and steel and white marble. Clean. There, at the reception desk sits Jody, who as a child lost her left foot to diabetes. Just eleven months ago, after working at Autotomous Solutions for three years, human resources approved the operation to give her my woman’s left foot. Today, she wears a many-strapped tan low-heeled sandal, which I see as I pass the desk, glancing over and giving her a smile. I hope that she doesn’t notice my gaze drop, linger on her perfect toes, the exquisite arch. It is a little treat before I scan my ID and enter the lab area. Before I see my woman.

On the way, I stop in the break room and deposit the square, soft cooler-bag, in which I carry my lunch, into the refrigerator. This section of the building, despite undoubtedly being the most important part of the company, is small, just three offices, the break room—barely larger than a closet—and the lab itself. But this is fine; I am aware of my worth without needing to have it constantly reinforced for me. I am not an ostentatious man.

“Good morning,” I chirp cheerfully to my coworkers—Doctors Landon McHugh and Joshua Hunter, both fine doctors, though some jealous competitors for their jobs might have sniffed that they only went to second-tier medical schools. (I went to Hopkins myself.) My spirits lift with each step into the observation area abutting my woman’s room, averting my eyes from her until I have said my good mornings, drawing out the suspense, tantalizing myself. “How is our lady this morning?” (I say “our” lady, but she is not theirs; they don’t see her the way I do.)

“Morning, Mark,” McHugh says. “Vitals are looking good, everything’s regrown and healthy and ready for harvest.”

Hunter takes a sip of his coffee, which, as always, he had brought from home in a stainless steel, vacuum-insulated mug, which he claims keeps his coffee hot for the entire workday. Oh, the many wonders of modern science. He says, “It’s a light day actually. Organs of course, eyes, and that’s it. We might actually have time to get some paperwork done.”

“Or eat lunch somewhere other than our desks,” McHugh chimes in.

“The impossible dream,” I drawl, eliciting chuckles from both of the other doctors. Finally, I give in and glance over through the wall-filling Plexiglas window into my woman’s room. She lies there, flat on her back, arms at her sides, white sheet draped over her smooth and naked body almost seductively, revealing only the slightest curve of her breasts, knobs of her knees. From this angle, I cannot see her face, but picture it in my mind’s eye: the bright blue eyes—though, naturally, they are nearly always closed— the just-smaller than “ideal” nose; the pouting lips, puckered as though awaiting a kiss. I suppress a shudder.

“Gentlemen,” I say, looking each in the eye, “I believe it’s time to get to work.”


My woman is strapped to a table—not the one she lies on now, but the same in all appreciable ways—tilted at a sixty-degree angle, staring straight ahead, her blonde hair ringing her face, curled toward her chin at the tips (she has, sadly, been shaved bald now). Her eyes flash fear, of course, but mingled with something else. Defiance? Anger? Disgust? Even at the time I was not certain, and though I’ve watched this video hundreds of times, I’ve never exactly been able to parse it.

“I don’t know how,” she says, softly, pleadingly. “It just happens.”

A voice off-camera—my voice—asks her if it hurts, and she nods. Every time? She nods again.

Though the camera never shows my face, I can remember the moment with perfect clarity. The grimace of compassion that passed over my face, the first flickers of love tickling my heart and stomach, that same love reflected in the beautiful woman’s eyes. A sign of how imperfect video is at capturing emotion: though I know it is there, love doesn’t show in my beautiful woman’s eyes, just the same fear and something hurtful. But I remember the moment better than the video shows it. It is, after all, the story of how we met.

I keep the sound on my computer monitor low so that no one passing by my office will hear, and so I lean a bit closer to my computer monitor to make sure I miss nothing. A surgeon wearing blue scrubs and a matching surgical mask steps into the frame, a scalpel in hand. My beautiful woman, now anesthetized, wears a modified hospital gown that covers none of her arms past the shoulder, and only extends to about mid-thigh. The surgeon stands to the side so that the camera can clearly see my woman, then draws the scalpel in a vertical line down her thigh, beginning where the gown ends and continuing until he reaches the knee. A deep cut that blood weeps from, though he purposefully does not yet cut deep enough to sever her femoral artery. The wound closes up almost instantly. By the time he reaches the knee, the cut on her thigh seals, scars over, and is already fading from bright pink to the woman’s natural peaches-and-cream skin tone.

Work still needs to be done today, so I fast forward the video, catching glimpses and clips of that first in-depth examination. First her right index finger then each of the remaining digits clipped off with a bone cutter and growing back like a lizard’s tail, but so much faster, identical to the amputated fingers save for no longer having red nail polish. The surgeon removing her arm, and it regenerating just as quickly. A wide incision in her lower torso being held apart by retractors while the lead surgeon removes a kidney, then a piece of her liver, and finally her entire stomach. The camera gazes over the cavity, watching the organs regrow, popping into existence from the severed nubs and expanding like balloons. The sides of the cavity visibly strain to reattach to each other, skin and blood vessels and muscle tissue and a thin layer of yellow fat growing constantly. It is a two man job to keep the cavity open while the lead surgeon performs his extractions. Eight hours of this. But she sleeps through it all. No one had any desire for her to suffer unnecessarily.

Knuckles rap twice on my office door. I sit up straight, click off the video, and call for the person to come in.

Hunter steps through the doorway and stands across from my desk. He makes small talk, asks how my day is going, and finally gets to his point. “Looks like the surgery is all done for the day, so we’re ready do the final check, get some readings, and hit the road.”

Though I strive to maintain an equitable atmosphere, nominally I am in charge. Doctors McHugh and Hunter cannot simply run the daily diagnostics and leave without first consulting me. But I’m no taskmaster either. “Why don’t you two just head home,” I tell him. “I’ll check in on her.”

I wait in my office for fifteen minutes, giving the doctors ample time to gather their belongings and exit the building. Then I wait another fifteen, in case one of them gets halfway home, realizes he has forgotten something and turns around. While waiting, I load a hidden program on my computer, and when the half-hour has passed, I execute it. The security cameras will now be recording a falsified tape of me walking the hallways to the labs, running evening diagnostics on my woman, and exiting the building. In another hour, the program will finish and they will resume recording the actual goings-on. By that time, I will be safely in my car, headed home.

The security cameras will not record me removing a set of scrubs from the cooler in which I carry my lunch and changing into them in my office. Nor will they record me carrying that cooler down the hall and entering my beautiful woman’s room.

I place the cooler on the floor and take out two plastic packages, one containing sterile forceps, the other a sterile scalpel. We are as dutiful when performing surgery on my woman as any doctor in a hospital would be—though in all honesty, I doubt it matters considering her regenerative capacity—and so I scrub up, put on latex gloves, and only then touch the surgical instruments. Gingerly, tenderly, I hold the forceps around her right eye then press down into the socket. With the lids pushed away, her eye bulges, froglike. Blank and glazed from the drugs that keep her in a coma, but nonetheless the most beautiful eye I’ve ever seen. With the careful application of force and deft maneuvering of the scalpel, I pop the eye from the socket and sever the optic stalk. I place it into a special compartment of the cooler and repeat the process with her left eye. As soon as I snip each eye from the stalk, a new one grows. A fresh plump berry in early summer. By the time I finish packing up and ensuring I have left no evidence of my work, the eyes have fully regrown, at least on the outside; the complex network of nerves and rods and cones will not be complete for several minutes. I pass my palm over my woman’s eyes to close them, pausing for a fraction of a moment as I imagine bending down to kiss each of her eyelids.

After running a check on my beautiful woman’s vitals and confirming that she is as healthy as ever, I leave the building and drive home.


My project began as an accident. Although I suppose that if one subscribes to Chaos theory every occurrence in history can be attributed to accidents. A butterfly flaps its wings in Central Park, etcetera, etcetera.

But my project—my side project, I should say—did not just begin as an accident, but because of one. Once we had achieved success in forcing a human body to become self-replicating, the higher-ups (yes, there are people higher than me; suits) put my beautiful woman to work immediately. Placed her in a medically induced coma and began harvesting her parts as quickly as they would grow.

Too quickly, it turned out. Shoddily would be a better word for it. After just one month, I was checking my woman’s vitals at the end of the day when out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of color, out of place in her sterile white operating room. It was her pinky finger. Apparently, that day the surgeons had been removing her fingers from each hand, cutting off all ten, waiting for them to regrow completely—generally no more than a few minutes, though they would take longer the more times they were cut as her body succumbed to stress—and then repeating the cutting.

I plucked the finger off the floor and held it between my own index finger and thumb. It was still warm, still living, waiting for a body to latch on to. All this was by design of course; there wouldn’t be much point in creating a person who could regenerate if said person’s harvested body parts and organs were to die upon removal. These pieces of my beautiful woman didn’t just regenerate; they positively longed to attach to a body, to be part of something larger again. For as far as we knew, they live on, waiting to reattach indefinitely. One of the many breakthroughs realized at Autotomous Solutions. The only parts we could not remove whole were those that were themselves integral to the regenesis process: the heart to pump the blood; the brain to stimulate the growth; the spine to carry the signals. Remove too much of any of those, and the whole system shuts down. Then no more regenesis, no more beautiful woman. No more Autotomous Solutions. We generally avoided all three areas to be safe.

I sealed my beautiful woman’s finger in a plastic bag with some ice and carried it home in my pocket. For more than two weeks it sat in my freezer next to frozen, single-serving packages of chicken breasts and pre-sliced stir-fry vegetables. Finally, I came to a decision. Cleared boxes from one of the unused bedrooms on my house’s second floor. Set up a bed, a night table. Hung curtains and prints of famous impressionist paintings. I used my access to get security footage of myself checking my woman’s vital signs at the end of a workday and created the program to hijack the cameras with this footage. And then I took another finger.

It wasn’t the most efficient way to go about it, but I wanted to regrow that arm from the original finger. It seemed important to me. Once I had taken the fingers and attached them to a hand, however, the rest of the arm went more quickly. I simply amputated at the shoulder, chopped off the hand—which I incinerated—and attached the wrist of the hand I’d created to the arm. The ends had healed over, but once the open end of the wrist was attached to the open end of the arm, the tendons and blood vessels and bone and skin all connected. I was beginning to build my woman anew.

Recreating her torso was torturous, painstaking work. I struggled mightily to hold open her chest and stomach cavities long enough to remove organs. I put together her skull like a puzzle, carefully marking on a self-drawn diagram which pieces I had already removed and what went where. I took days, sometimes weeks off between harvesting pieces so as not to arouse suspicion by staying late every day. Slowly but surely, my beautiful woman came together.

The brain, heart, and spine were the worst. Each time I took an infinitesimal piece, praying that it would not be the one that put her over the edge, that ended her and me and everything we’d worked for. I put them together outside of her body and when they were whole added them in. The spine and the brain. The heart I kept out, waiting. I did not want her to wake up with pieces missing. Thankfully, I was careful enough. My beautiful woman became more than the sum of her parts.

I stand above her in her bedroom in my house, Monet’s haystacks and Degas’ ballerinas watching us. Truly lovely art even though they are only prints. I would have liked to purchase an original—and not to brag, but I could have afforded it, what with Autotomous’ generous salary and stock options—but they are all in museums.

Freshly scrubbed and gloved, I open my woman’s empty eye sockets and place in one eye then the other. There is only one thing left. Her heart. It waits, ready. Finally, after all these years of loving her from afar, I will have her with me. Be able to kiss her, caress her, to love her truly as she deserves to be loved.

My own heart pounding, I prepare to insert my woman’s heart into her chest. I slice open her chest—which, without the heart, spine, and brain all in position, will not heal—and lower her heart into place. Before I can even let go, the connections are being made, veins and arteries attaching, the heart beginning to pump, jumpstarting my woman’s life and regenerative properties. I barely get my hand out of her chest before it closes up.

I hold my breath as I look down at my woman’s blankly staring eyes. I have waited for this moment for years, ever since I first brought home her finger. This is the first time we really get to see each other. This is the moment my beautiful woman falls in love with me.

For hours, I wait, making no movement other than to shift my weight from foot to foot in order to keep the blood flowing. My beautiful woman breathes; her chest rises and falls. I imagine I can hear her heart beating. Her eyelids flutter, a series of rapid blinks, and close. Something is different about these closed eyes than the ones she has back at the laboratory, however. While those lids cover eyes that are as close to death as one can get without passing over, these pulse, beat, seem ready to open at any moment. The eyes not of a coma patient, but a slumbering lover. As at the defining moment of a fairytale, they open slowly, adjusting to the light, to the newness of the world. The smile on my face grows ever wider.

My beautiful woman opens her eyes. She sees me. She screams.


“Listen. Just listen to me. Why can’t you understand?”

I have been at this for hours, standing in my beautiful woman’s room in my house, between her and the door, which I have locked. The shades on the windows are drawn, but they lighten more by the minute. The sun will be up soon.

For much of the night she remained silent, staring, frightened. I attempted to explain to her just where she is, just what is happening without going into too much of the gory detail. Though I must have said it ten thousand times, I tell her, “I am trying to help you. You’re free now, you’re safe. We can be together, you and I.”

“But you still have ... me ... tied up in a lab. You’re harvesting my body! Using me for parts like a junked car.”

Some uncomfortable truths regarding my woman’s situation may have slipped out in the intervening hours.

“Doctor Seton—”

I hold up a finger and smile. “I’ve told you, darling. Call me Mark.”

“Mark,” she says, “please, if you have to keep me, this other me, at least let me, this me here, go. If you really care about me ...”

She eyes the door as she says this. For hours, she has been eyeing the door. Does she think I don’t notice? Does she think that I’m stupid?

“My God,” I say, “I’d never hold you against your will. What do you take me for? But it’s just not safe for you out there. You know that. Think how valuable you would be to other doctors. To competitors of Autotomous Solutions.”

“But I don’t want to—”

“Think of the risks I took! I could lose my job for this. I could be arrested.” All night I have tried to keep my voice level, but it raises now almost of its own volition. But perhaps a little forcefulness will sway her to my position, will show her just how much I care.

It doesn’t work. Instead, my beautiful woman sits hard on the bed and stares daggers at me. Anger! She is actually angry with me. And after what I’ve done for her. Yes, there is her original self still at the laboratory, but I can’t very well take that. What more can she expect from me?

While I ponder this, while we stare at each other in a decidedly non-romantic way, I hear faint knocking as though a neighbor is hammering on the wall. I ignore it, preparing in my head a new argument, an explanation of why living here with me is really the only reasonable option. Knocking again, louder, insistent.

“Stay here,” I say. “Stay quiet.”

I leave the room and lock the door behind me. The knocking gets louder, more constant, like it knows I’m approaching. Downstairs, it is so loud my head begins to ache, though likely that is at least partially due to the lack of sleep.

“I’m coming,” I call. “Do you have any idea what time it is?” And I fling open the door to reveal three men, one in a sharp charcoal suit the other two wearing paramedic uniforms, neon yellow jackets and all. Behind them idle two black SUVs and an ambulance.

“Gentlemen, I believe you have the wrong residence,” I say, swinging the door closed.

The man in the suit interrupts me with my name, and I stop the door mid-close.

“I’m sorry,” I say, re-opening the door, but keeping my hand on it just in case, “I don’t recognize you. Have we met?”

He smiles. Perfectly friendly, perfectly professional. No malice at all, and somehow that terrifies me. Smoothly, he pulls his wallet from his front pocket and hands me a business card with the familiar Autotomous Solutions logo. I see his name and the words “Security Specialist” underneath.

“Mr. Pilecki. What can I do for you?” I ask, my voice level, my eyes looking at him firmly but calmly, even though inside my mind is racing, wondering what I might have missed, what sort of evidence I left behind, what line of code I flubbed when designing my camera hack. But I force normalcy. “Would you care to come in? I’m afraid I don’t have much to offer you, but I can get you a glass of water. Or I can put on coffee if you’d like.”

I step back, magnanimously opening a pathway for Pilecki. No need to act guilty.

He steps past me, the paramedics following, even though I technically did not invite them in. “Thank you,” Pilecki says, “but I don’t anticipate I’ll be here very long.”

Once inside the house, Pilecki turns back to look at me, eyes appraising, a hint of a smile playing on his lips. Waiting. I stare back, try to match his expression. His poise.

“So ...” I say, hoping he will fill the empty space with his reason for knocking on my door at just past sunup.

“Doctor Seton ...” he prompts. I’m not sure if he’s trying to force me into speaking first or mocking my attempt to force him to do the same.

I break first. “Is there something I can do for you, Mr. Pilecki? Otherwise, I should be getting ready for work,” I say, brimming with false bravado.

“Doctor,” he repeats in a chiding tone, “come on.” I bristle because what does he have to chide me for? What have I done wrong? I know why he is here—what other possible reason could there be?—but I resent the implication that I’ve done more than broken some corporate rule. My beautiful woman may technically be Autotomous Solutions property, but I am the one who created her. I gave the original her gift, and I have remade her piece by piece. What claim can they place? Knowing that I must resemble a sullen child, I nonetheless glare at Pilecki silently.

The patience of this man. He looks me placidly in the eye and waits. Why doesn’t he just come out with it? If he has something to accuse me of, then go ahead and accuse me. But I don’t say these things, merely think them and send my fuming thoughts at his beatific face.

A bang from upstairs. The woman knocking on the door or stomping on the floor. Rattling the bed frame. Trying to get attention because she doesn’t understand how good she has it, doesn’t understand what these people will do to her.

“Trouble in paradise?” Pilecki asks, cocking an eyebrow. When I don’t answer, he finally deigns to elaborate. “Look, Doctor, we both know why I’m here.”

“I’m sure I—”

“Please, don’t. Your program to override the cameras, it’s really very good. But someone noticed the pattern eventually. We’ve been watching you for a long time now. Monitoring your progress. Hoping you’d succeed.”

With a tilt of his head, he conveys something to the paramedics, who stride past us and toward the stairs. I begin to protest, but Pilecki cuts me off with a glance.

“This has been tried before, of course. Officially, I mean, recreating the girl. I don’t know what you did that made it work for you when it didn’t work for anyone else at Autotomous, but kudos. You play your cards right, this could be very good for you.”

He pauses for a moment and appears to be listening for something upstairs—sounds of struggle, perhaps—but hears nothing and resumes talking. I get the impression of a normally loquacious man whose work keeps him silent and intimidating. He seems to relish the opportunity to speak at length.

“So we’ll bring her back to the labs, get her set up like the original girl, and you can do this all again. Build another, I mean. As many as you can, I suppose.”

I open my mouth to speak, and as I do the paramedics tromp down the stairs, each with a hand on the elbow of my beautiful woman. She hangs her head, eyes on the floor. Drugged, based on the looseness of her limbs and neck. Still, she didn’t even fight. As if she wants to leave me even though I brought her to life. An utter lack of gratitude. I was going to say but, I love her. Now I wonder if she even really is the woman I love, or if I made some tiny, crucial mistake while putting her together. Something unnoticeable until she woke, but which made her an entirely different woman, not my true beautiful woman. That must be it.

Pilecki watches me watch her, which I do until the paramedics and my woman leave the house and the door closes behind them. “Plenty of other fish in the sea, Doctor,” he says.

He doesn’t know how right he is. Especially when you can grow more of those fish. When a multi-billion dollar company bankrolls your fishing trips, so to speak. I nod, reach my hand out to shake his, to agree to his terms.

Just think of all the beautiful women I will make. One is bound to be perfect. END

Timothy Mudie has been published in “Abyss & Apex,” “Electric Spec,” “The Colored Lens,” “The Worcester Review,” “Spinetingler,” “Fiction Vortex,” and other magazines and anthologies. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.


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