Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


This is the Hardest Thing I Do All Day
by Alexandra Grunberg

by Fábio Fernandes

Sixteen Tonnes
by Robert Dawson

It’s Not What You Think
by Davyne DeSye

Dreams of Clay
by J. Rohr

Mundane Applications
by Philip Margolies

by Eric Del Carlo

My Parking Space is Near the Door
by Gustavo Bondoni

Shorter Stories

Clothes Make the Man
by Peter Wood

For All Time
by Simon Kewin

You Belong to Me
by Tom Borthwick


More Than “Zarathustra”
by Dennis W. Green

When Words Divine
by John McCormick



Comic Strips




Clothes Make the Man

By Peter Wood

PETROV FOUND HIS SEAT ON THE packed Earth/Mars transport. He crammed his duffel bag—containing his computer cube, toiletries and spare underwear and socks—into the overhead crevice and sat down.

Everybody—including him—wore cookie-cutter silver utilitards. Petrov hated the lightweight form-fitting outfits. They were just one more way that everything had become generic. Mars might be different, but he doubted it.

The Flight Sergeant, a twenty-something brunette, actually looked good in the skin-tight utilitard. Frowning, she held a hand sensor over Petrov. It blinked green. He checked out.

She crossed her arms and stared up the aisle.

A man wearing an old-styled blue suit with a pink paisley tie ambled towards them. He clutched a battered leather satchel.

The Sergeant clipped her words. “Sir, your baggage is too heavy.”

“Security approved it.” The man gave an aw-shucks grin and pointed to a silver sticker on the handle.

With a harrumph, the Sergeant stomped away.

The stranger sat down and nodded at Petrov. “I’m Craig Jackson.”

“Dimitri Petrov.”

“What takes you to Mars, Dimitri?” Jackson asked.

Petrov considered telling the long story about how he hated being alone in the house since his wife left him. Instead he gave the simpler version. “I work for an air filtration company.”

Jackson brushed back long gray hair. “Until Mars gets a viable atmosphere, you have job security, eh?”

“Sure.” Petrov hated talking about work. He glanced at the holovision menu. Nothing but the same tired government-sanctioned programming. Feel-good comedies or dramas with hard-working families.

“So what do you do?”

“I’m a physicist, or was,” explained Jackson.

“Aren’t they banned on Earth?”

“Too bad there aren’t any Westerns on holovision,” Jackson said, changing the subject.

“Yeah.” Petrov loved Westerns when he was little. John Wayne. Gunsmoke. “Aren’t they banned, too?”

Jackson shrugged. “Probably. You know, Westerns are almost science fiction.”

Petrov turned to Jackson. Interesting conversations were rare. “How do you figure that?”

“Cowboys are out on the range for months. They come into town and get supplies. They can fit whatever they need in saddlebags.” He patted his own bag. “And they always wear finely pressed clothes.”

Petrov tried to remember when he got rid of his suits. The utilitard itched. There wasn’t even room for a t-shirt underneath. Individual personality was discouraged.

Jackson continued. “Where did cowboys keep their extra clothes and supplies?”

Petrov sighed. “They’re just movies, right?”

Jackson laughed. “Sure, they are ...”

Petrov studied Jackson’s clothes. Unlike utilitards, suits couldn’t be cleaned with a good rinse in the sink. “You’re going to wear that suit the whole time you’re on Mars?”

Jackson shook his head. “No. I have a few extras.”


Jackson slapped the satchel.

“Okay ...”

“You know, this is an old saddlebag. You wouldn’t believe what fits in here.” Jackson cracked it open. “Take a look.”

Inside, Petrov saw a rack of tailored suits. “How in the—?"

“Did you know that an atom is over ninety percent empty space ... nothing. My bag removes the nothing. It’s like a shrink/expansion ray from old science fiction.”

“That’s absurd!”

“Yes. Isn’t it wonderful?”

Petrov wasn’t sure.

Jackson continued. “In the old west a man needed luggage to be self-reliant. He couldn’t run into town for every little thing.”

“I guess they paved over the West.”

“On Earth, you mean ...” Jackson shut the bag. “Look, you have to help me.”


Jackson lowered his voice. “I only bought myself a few minutes. Security will realize I’m not supposed to be on board.”

Petrov’s heart raced. “What?”

“You checked out. We know you’re not a big fan of Earth government. Things are better on Mars, you know.”

“I wish they were.”

Jackson laughed. “You’ll see for yourself soon.” He glanced up the aisle. “When I’m gone, can you take my bag?”

“Where exactly are you going?”

Jackson patted the bag. “In here.”

“How?” Was the man a lunatic?

Jackson stepped inside the saddlebag. Soon only his head stuck out. “Hand me your bag. You can’t have two,” Jackson whispered.

“They’ll just look inside.”

The Sergeant returned. A uniformed marshal followed.

“I’ll shut the flap from the inside. They’ll just see the outer pocket,” Jackson said.

Before Petrov had time to think, he handed Jackson his duffel bag. Even if helping Jackson was foolish, it was the first unconventional thing he had done in years.

Jackson disappeared into the saddlebag.

A moment later, the Marshal peered over mirrored sunglasses at Petrov. “Where’s the man who was sitting here?”

“I don’t know,” Petrov said.

“Can we see the bag, sir?”

Petrov handed him the saddlebag. He hoped nobody noticed how much he was sweating.

The Marshal fished around inside. “Nothing illegal in here.”

The Sergeant frowned. “Jackson was just here.”

“That Nonconformist won’t get far.” The Marshal returned the bag to Petrov. “Sorry for the inconvenience, sir.”

Petrov felt more alive than he had in God-knew-how-long.


Wearing the white Seersucker suit Jackson gave him, Petrov emerged from the restroom of the Martian tavern.

Jackson and his friends sat around a large round table. The men’s suits were a rainbow of colors. The two women wore sundresses of brilliant pastels.

“You need this.” Jackson handed Petrov a red polka dot tie.

Petrov fumbled his way through a half-Windsor knot.

A woman stood up and handed Petrov a foaming mug of beer.

“Try a John Carter Red,” Jackson said. “Local brew.”

Petrov sipped his beer. It was full and robust, a far cry from the government-approved Patriot Lager bars on Earth sold. He looked at the limp utilitard hanging over his arm. He wouldn’t be needing this. He tossed it in the trash.

Jackson fished it out. “This might come in handy.”

Petrov frowned. “Why the hell would I want to put that on again?”

Jackson reached under the table and pulled out the satchel. “Because, Dimitri, we need somebody who’s not on the No-Fly list.”

Petrov didn’t want to return to Earth, but after years of schlepping in a dead end job, he needed to do something meaningful. How many more people on Earth just wanted a little color in their lives? He took the saddlebag. “I get to keep the suit, right?”

Jackson slapped him on the back. “Sure, buddy.”

Petrov polished off the beer. “I’m gonna need a refill.” END

Peter Wood is an attorney from Raleigh, North Carolina. He has had stories published in “Asimov’s,” “Daily Science Fiction,” “Stupefying Stories,” and “Every Day Fiction.” His previous story for us was “Taking Flight” in the 12-APR-2015 issue.


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