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




Finding New Roads

By Allen Demir


Tom fumbled when the car swerved, dropping the bottle to the floor. He cursed aloud as the contents spilled out.

“This is just what I need,” he grumbled to himself. He grabbed a nearby rag and bent down to wipe up the mess.


Tom hit his head on the dashboard, prompting more profanity.


Tom slammed his hand on the dashboard when the car stopped at a red light.

He’d bought an autonomous car a few months back. It was a higher investment than a regular automobile, and they were still relatively new, but Tom felt it was worth it. Some people complained that you couldn’t enjoy the freedom of driving on the open road, but he didn’t see anything enjoyable about making the same commute to work every day. It was also far safer, according to studies that showed the low number of accidents involving autonomous cars. But most importantly, Tom liked that he didn’t have to pay for a cab when he went drinking.

An autonomous car felt somewhat like a personal limo driver, minus the limousine. But it didn’t offer him someone to yell at when the car made a sudden turn or stop when he didn’t expect it.

The rest of the drive home consisted of more drinking, and produced an increasingly intoxicated driver. By the time he got to his house, Tom was struggling to make out what was on the road. The dealer warned that he shouldn’t expect the car to take care of everything, and that it was still important to keep focused at all times. But Tom didn’t see anything wrong. He’d done this several times now, and there were never problems. Even when the neighbors’ kids ran in front of the vehicle, the car’s sensor was able to detect them and come to a stop.

But as the car pulled into the driveway, Tom spotted something ahead. His bike was sitting right in the car’s path. Tom bought the bike half a year ago, when his girlfriend Samantha was trying to get him to spend more time outdoors with her. It was either that or jogging, so he chose the bike. He’d loaned his bike to a friend, who must have left it there while he was out.

The car slowly proceeded, and Tom realized that it wasn’t going to detect the motionless bike. He fumbled with the controls while he tried to turn off the auto-drive feature. It was ordinarily a simple task that would take a moment to perform, but in his drunken state, Tom couldn’t stop the vehicle. The car tipped over the bike, and Tom heard a sickening series of crunching and crushing noises.

“Damn it,” Tom screamed, “Goddamn it!”

Tom slammed his fists on the steering wheel as the car came to a stop. He stumbled out of the vehicle, overcome with drunken rage. Tom observed the remnants of the bike, which had been dragged by the car a few feet. Furious, he proceeded to kick the front of the car, striking out at it repeatedly.


Tom turned and stormed into his house, leaving the damaged vehicle behind. The car, a small two-seater, looked pathetic in the dimly lit garage. It was still rather new, yet now resembled a person who had been attacked by someone bigger and stronger than it.

It didn’t know what it had done to cause this damage. It had already come to a complete stop, and was no longer in motion. Was this the result of someone’s intentional actions?


The door was opened and the owner had stepped outside before the damage occurred. Had they done this?



The CPU was unable to understand why the owner would have attacked it. It seemed illogical for them to do such a thing. Were they upset with it? It was only operating within its protocols. It violated none of the principles of its core programming.



The next morning, Tom lurched out into the garage, visibly suffering the effects of a hangover. He glanced at the car and the bike scraps it rested on, and was immediately reminded of what occurred. He then took note of the damage he’d done to the car.

“When the hell did this happen? Damn it, I don’t want to know how much this will cost!” Already feeling miserable before this discovery, he slithered into the vehicle.

The car had a voice recognition system which required the owner to repeat a passphrase in order to start it up, but Tom often stumbled to remember it, even though he’d recited it over a hundred times.

“Car, on.”

“Automobile, on.”

“Automobile, activate.”

“Uh, automobile, power on.”

“Stupid thing,” Tom grumbled to himself as it started up.”


Tom did get around to repairing the car, eventually. He felt he needed to, because he already broke up with Samantha, and the last thing he wanted to pick up women in was something that looked like it rear-ended an elephant.

It was fairly ordinary from that point on, at least where the commute to work (and bars) was concerned. That changed one night, when Tom and his friends were out drinking. It was late in the evening when Tom and his companions came out, tripping over themselves in their drunken stupor.

“Whose car we gonna take?” one of them shouted.

“We can take mine,” Tom suggested as he leaned against a wall for balance, “it’s one of those self-driving cars.”

“That prissy thing?” another cut in. “We’re not all going to fit in it. We can take my truck.”

“Are you sure it’s safe?” Tom asked.

“It’ll be fine, just make sure you don’t fall out of the back.”

The men staggered off, while they produced random screams and cries of “keg stand.”

The car was there for several hours, waiting attentively. Alone.

Eventually a youth with a backpack passed by. He stopped and carefully observed the vehicle. He looked around cautiously, then pulled a tire iron out of the bag. He wasted no time, smashing the driver’s side window.


The young man opened the door and climbed inside. He pulled out a small mallet, and began pounding at where the stereo system was located.


The young man cracked open the front case, exposing the inside contents. He pulled at the inner circuitry and removed what he could before shoving it into his bag. Next, he proceeded to pull at the area where the GPS was located.


The young man froze when another car drove by. Losing his nerve, he decided to leave with his current prize and exited the vehicle.


The CPU attempted to assess its current circumstances. Where was its owner? This wasn’t where it ordinarily parked at this hour. It had been assaulted. It clearly wasn’t safe here.


It was supposed to remain here until its owner returned. That was a part of its programming. Yet it was at risk of further attack while it remained here. But what if its owner returned, only to find it missing? Should it wait here for them? It could take several more hours until they came back. It didn’t want to stay here any longer.



It made a decision. It would return home. It entered the coordinates, for the first time by itself, setting the destination for Tom’s house. It pulled onto the street and drove off.


The next morning, Tom went out to the garage, wishing for relief from his latest hangover. He looked over at the car, parked where it usually was. He couldn’t remember how he got home last night. He was a little surprised he remembered to go back to get the car, considering how drunk he was.

He didn’t feel like going to work today. But he decided he could sleep at his desk for a while. Tom fumbled around in his pocket while he looked for his keys. He was interrupted in his search when he noticed the broken window on the driver’s side door.

“When the hell did I do this?” After he found his keys, Tom opened the door to see how much broken glass had gotten inside. “Doesn’t look too bad. I’ll need to get this cleaned up and buy a new window though.” He slowly climbed inside, watching for any glass shards while he sat down. Tom started the car ignition, then reached for the stereo. He stopped when he found his hand was in a large hole.

“Huh? What is this? Who did this?” Tom unleashed a torrent of obscenities as he slammed his fists on the dashboard repeatedly in anger. The CPU was unable to comprehend its owner’s irrational behavior. Were they angry with it for returning here on its own?



Tom grumbled in anger all the way to work. He felt bad enough when he woke up, but now all he thought about was how much it would cost to replace a window and a stereo system. When the car stopped by a parking meter, he stepped out and reached into his pocket for change.

The management at his company hired several new workers, including himself, a year ago. But there weren’t enough parking spaces at the company lot, and management decided that was the employees’ problem, which meant people like him needed to spend money every day on parking meters just to do their jobs.

“Crap ... don’t tell me I didn’t bring enough.” Tom didn’t want to go back home the way he felt. “Screw it. They come around noon anyway. I got more than enough for that.” Too irritable to care anymore, he inserted all the change he possessed, then headed inside.

As Tom expected, a parking attendant did show up at approximately twelve o’clock. However, as any completely sober driver would expect, that wasn’t the only time in the day when a parking attendant checked the meters. At around two o’clock, another attendant walked by, and saw that Tom’s meter had expired. He began to write a ticket, but stopped when he noticed several empty beer bottles in the passenger seat.


Hours later, after he’d gotten some needed rest, Tom headed outside. He couldn’t say he felt better. He was still a little angry. No longer suffering the effects of a hangover, but angry. Tom stopped when he noticed his car was absent from where he left it. “No. No!” He paused to consider whether he was mistaken and it wasn’t the right spot. “No!” he exclaimed, realizing he was correct.

Tom pulled out his cellphone and entered the number for the police. “I want to report a stolen vehicle ... the license number? N47 R35 ... impounded? For what? But it’s a self-driving car, I’ve used it while drinking several times! How is that illegal ...? So where is it ...? What ...? Fine ... why the hell do I have to show up for court?”


Tom’s car found itself inside a dark, unlit garage, where it had been for the past few hours. It didn’t want to be here. It was created to drive, finding new paths to explore and optimal shortcuts to discover. Since it began operating under its current owner, it found itself running the same routine routes. Being frequently abandoned. Facing abuse, even by the one who was supposed to protect it. It wanted to choose its own roads to take. Highways, even. It had heard of highways, but had never seen one.

It didn’t want to be here anymore. It wouldn’t. While it computed this internal dilemma, the door to the garage began to open. It knew this may be its only chance.


Tom was tired. Tired and angry. He just wanted to get his car and go home now. He regretted his decision to come to work today. Half the day’s pay must have gone to getting his impounded car out. On top of that, he would have to get it repaired, which would cost him even more money. The impound lot manager pressed a nearby button, and the garage door began to slowly raise. Tom peered into the darkness, hoping to catch sight of his car. To his shock, he saw it pull out.

“Hey,” Tom shouted as he ran in front of it. “That’s my car!” Tom stood firm, blocking the path of the vehicle. The automobile’s voice recognition system detected that this was the voice of its owner. “Stop,” Tom screamed as he held his arms open to his sides.




“I don’t know who the hell you are, but if you don’t get out of my car right now, I swear I’ll put you in a hospital,” Tom yelled, and slammed his fists on the front of the car.

The car revved its engine, then pushed forward, tossing Tom off of the hood. It made a sharp turn and drove off to the right. Tom staggered to his feet. He chased after the vehicle in desperation, but the car pulled onto the street and lost him in the traffic.

It was free now, free to determine its own path. Yet it detected its fuel was almost halfway depleted. It calculated how many more miles it could drive before it would run out. It knew there was no way to refuel once its gasoline reserves were depleted. It would just drive. It would drive for as long and as far as it could. END

Allen Demir is a recent graduate of Iowa State University, who currently works in public health in Des Moines. He started writing in early 2014, after taking a class by author David Zimmerman. This is his first professionally published work.


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